Tuesday, August 29, 2006

 

Things To Come

Sliding right back into life has been, I'm surprised to admit, unnervingly easy. Jetlag has not been a problem, it was kind of fun to get behind the wheel of a car again after two weeks of letting someone else drive, and I'm trying not to be intimidated by the 500+ e-mails waiting for me at work.

I don't know what I wanted. Life to be remarkably new and fresh? (In a way I can't describe, I suppose it is.) To see things through new eyes? (Maybe I am, I'm just not getting it yet.) It's odd to think how everything's changed and nothing's changed; positive and negative volume become one and I can't tell which I occupy.

I'm sorting through 300+ photos that I took. I paging through the stuff I wrote whilst out and about (got a lot of writing done on my ferry trip around the outer Western Isles of Scotland). I'm processing. I'm remembering my commitments back home. In short, stuff is coming and it will be posted shortly.



Here's what you can expect in the weeks to come: the first few entries will be strictly chronological--here's where I was on this day, at this time, and here's what I saw and did. I figure I want to start with an overview, a canvas on which I can begin to illustrate. Once that's out of the way, once the context has been laid, I'll get into more of the travel writing aspect of the blog. Discuss the thoughts and feelings associated with blowing out my knee on only the second day of cycling. Muse about cultural insights. Sometimes the entries will be funny (I hope). Sometimes they'll be philosophical (I hope). And sometimes I don't know what the effect will be.

But it's all coming.





On the Great Glen Cycle Route near Loch Ness



Sunday, August 27, 2006

 

Home



Me at the top of the Wallace Memorial, Stirling, Scotland



I'm irritated.

I wrote a rather nice post in London and it's been eaten by Blogger. Grrr.

I'm home, back in the Twin Cities. Gimme a couple days to reorient and process and then I'll start posting, pix and all.

One final thought: if you could take a nightmare and give it physical coordinates, those coordinates would be 51° 9'42.78"N latitude, 0°10'39.10"W longitude, also known as Gatwick Airport. This is not a place that was EVER designed with terror alert crises in mind. Ugh.

But I'm back. More to come. Stay tuned.



Monday, August 21, 2006

 

Farewell to Scotland

Today will be my last day in Edinburgh. It's filled with a lot of mixed emotions. I'm looking forward to London, which has always played a central role in my dream to travel to the UK. I'll be hitting all the big sights and seeing shows and I think it'll be great.

But it'll be very sad to leave Scotland behind. I've grown very attached, especially to Edinburgh. With rare exceptions, the people have been kind and helpful. The scenery has left me speechless. The atmosphere is charged without being frenetic. When you dream about all the places you want to visit, it's so hard to think about returning to one spot because you worry you'll just never have the time, especially when there's so much else to see. But Scotland will definitely be a return destination for me. Count on it.

Of course, what I'll miss most of all are Roy and Ian. I don't know that I could ever devote enough blog space to describing the generosity, graciousness, and insight they've afforded me as hosts and tour guides. They've both filled my head with tons of trivia and Scottish history and I've simply had an amazing time with them. They've been my security blanket, providing advice and support whilst I was out on the road and it'll be very strange not to have that to fall back on when I'm in London.

I'll be writing more about Roy and Ian in upcoming posts. I'm trying to cram so much into each day that doing proper posts about the experiences and such just hasn't been possible yet. But, fear not, I've actually penned a few in my journal and once I'm back in the States and things have settled down, the posts will start flying. To give you a teaser, here are some titles of upcoming entries:

  • Publicists With Candy
  • The Evil That Men Do....
  • Monsters
  • Lord, Send Me A Sign...Because the Scottish Aren't Apt To Any Time Soon
See you in London!

Friday, August 18, 2006

 

Tired, sore, and hungry

Hi all.

I'm in Fort Augustus, a very cute town at the lowest end of Loch Ness. Just took a Loch Ness cruise. Saw the monster! Pix to come.

Unfortunately, this marks the end of the biking portion of the trip. My knee has swollen a bit and will be pretty unusuable by tomorrow. So I'm catching a ferry from here tomorrow to Inverness where I'll board the train back to Edinburgh and the welcoming arms of Roy and Ian. I still have a few great days with them before I head off to London. And hey, I only ended up missing two days of biking so that's not so bad, right?

It's been such an adventure and I can't wait until I have time to sort through all my thoughts and journal entries and start blogging about it seriously. Physically, I'm just wiped but mentally I'm still as giddy as that day a week ago (yep, it's a week tomorrow) when I stepped off the plane at Gatwick. I really need to leave the country more often.

I'm off to enjoy a nice haggis dinner (it occurs to me that I won't be able to find this in the States so I'd better load up on it now...of course, it isn't exactly the healthiest of meals either.

I'll try to do a proper entry Saturday night from R&I's.

Please remember: don't ping my cheese with your bandwidth.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

 

More Assorted Thoughts

  • Internet time is rare and precious.
  • Had more haggis. Still love it.
  • Hurt my knee. Biking is no longer fun. Today I added a sore back and shoulder to the list.
  • Thankfully, only two more days of biking before I'm safely back in Edinburgh in Roy and Ian's care.
  • Believe it or not, still having a fabulous time. A few misadventures but I'm improvising well.
  • I'm in Fort William today, Fort Augustus tomorrow, and Inverness/Edinburgh on Saturday.
  • Hope all is well for you. Pix and more (longer) posts to come.

Monday, August 14, 2006

 

Random Thoughts From The Rambler

  • Security wasn't that bad.
  • Valium rocks.
  • Kelly's super cool mom couldn't get me into first class but she got me a seat with no one sitting beside me; it was awesome.
  • Gatwick airport is insane.
  • King's Cross has Dalek toilets (pictures to come).
  • Roy and Ian are the most gracious hosts, generous to a fault, and, in a word, FABULOUS.
  • The Edinburgh Tattoo was beyond description. I'd go again in a heartbeat.
  • I tried haggis. LOVED it. No, seriously. LOVED it.
  • The bike trail between Airdrie and Glasgow is not attractive.
  • Had bangers and mash for dinner at a cute cafe in Glasgow last night. Most excellent.
  • The hostel I'm in is quite nice.
  • I'm off to explore Glasgow. Biking resumes tomorrow; on my way to Tarbert. I get to take two ferries!

Signing off for now. Hope everyone is well. I'll update as internet access and time permits.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

 

Countdown

I, Brian, am a recovering TV junkie. Seriously. You have no idea how much TV I used to watch. Nowadays, I limit myself to one hour a week (LOST) and the occasional episode of Family Guy. But back in the day…. TV was my crack.

I grew up with a disparate dichotomy of programming. The network junkie in me was weaned on a diet of Brady Bunch and Three’s Company and Happy Days and Gilligan’s Island (to this day, I can tell you which episode it is within the first five seconds of the opening scene). These were the programs that kept me entertained and laughing and explained that people lived far more interesting lives outside of central Wisconsin.

But there was another side to all this. The side of me that enjoyed PBS. Sesame Street and The Electric Company and Readalong. Growing older, despite an addiction to the fluff that primetime network TV offered, there was a part of me still drawn to PBS. Although I rarely had the patience to sit through Mystery or Masterpiece Theater, I would often tune it in just because it was different. It wasn’t like anything else I could find on the networks. What made it different? Those British accents.

That’s really when my love affair with the United Kingdom began. I couldn’t get enough of these people who spoke my language but sounded so much…better at it. They spoke of things like “lifts” and “lorries” and “flats” and while I had no clue what any of these things were, I knew I had to have one of all of them. The town where I grew up was pretty small (18,000) and I’ll never understood why I found the isolated, tranquil countryside shown in All Creatures Great and Small so alluring. (Note: You can find ANYTHING on YouTube…except the opening credits to All Creatures Great and Small.) Maybe it reflected who I felt I was, this bizarre loner kid, or maybe it reflected what I wanted to become. There was something about the simplicity of living in a small house among the rolling hills near a single lane road with a distant mist snaking across the ground…. I might spend the rest of my life writing and still never be able to explain why this drew me in.

Of course, there was Doctor Who. Blackadder. Fawlty Towers. Monty Python. Red Dwarf. Ab Fab. The list is endless. The more I saw, the more I knew I had to go there.


Unfortuately, this steady stream of electrons made me the child you always heard about—the one who had a hard time telling reality from what was portrayed on TV. I wanted to be a Brady. I wanted my parents to be as understanding as the Bradys. Sure, a lot of people wanted that. But I wanted it bad. And it was disillusioning to find out that Al and Gayle could only love me in their own way and not like Mike and Carol. Turns out, Al and Gayle were better at it. But I didn’t know that then. I only knew that my life couldn’t be like TV.

Here I am, boarding a plane in just over 24 hours to finally visit My Dream. I know that I’ll cry the second I’m out and about in all this. And now the doubt is setting in. How can the UK be anything like the ideal handed to me by PBS? How can any person I meet, any sight I see possibly live up to this grand illusion I’ve granted myself?

Or worse. What if everything I see there surpasses my ideal? What if it’s greater than my ephemeral mind could have ever concocted…and then I’m left without the language to express it? I’ll sit to blog about all I’ve seen and done and just come off like a buffoon. It could happen.

It’s all too much to worry about. So I won’t. I just want to enjoy the anticipation, the happy sting of the unknown in my gullet. I feel sorry for anyone for whom travel has become commonplace. That they don’t even think twice about boarding a plane for another country. Same old, same old. How can those people live?

I want to wiggle through a handful of change from my first purchase with a £10 note and try to figure out what each coin is. I want to see a policeman on the corner and squeal to myself, “A bobbie!” I want to bawl my eyes out the first time I climb aboard a big red double decker bus. I want to go kilt shopping (knowing I can never afford one) and hear the histories of the various tartans. I want to surrender my ideals and just take it in, for better or worse. And I never, ever, ever, want to not feel tingly all over when I think about going to another country. Fear, hope, excitement….

Bring it.
 

So....

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

 

This Bike Tour Brought To You By...



A question I've been asked most recently concerning this trip is: are you doing it for charity? It's understandable. Usually, when someone undertakes something like this, they're biking to raise money for AIDS research or a similar cause. I almost feel ashamed when I have to say, "No, I'm doing this just because I'm a completely selfish nutjob."

But no longer do I have to say that I'm biking across Scotland solely because I'm a completely selfish nutjob. I'm now a partially selfish nutjob with a purpose...and a sponsor! My trip is now officially the Project For A New Mythology United Kingdom Goodwill Tour!

My fellow writersnob, Quinn, is the editor of a faboo literary magazine called, what else,
Project For A New Mythology. It's a new endeavor that features fantastic work from burgeoning writers (the next issue, if memory serves, will feature work by Dale Dobson, a writer I waste no syllable gushing over). If you haven't already, check out Quinn's blog to find out more about his work (and read one of his great rants--my heart skips a beat when he takes Dan Brown to task).

Now, as I trek across the moors and mountains of Scotland, I will be carrying with me ambassadorial duties as a spokesman for PFANM. Quinn has generously given me several copies of his new magazine that I will be distributing to libraries throughout Scotland (and, I hope, London). Just a quick stop in to see all the pretty books, chat up some hunky librarian and tell them about this fine publication.


I'm in the process of writing some pitches to various media (in and around Quinn's home of Kansas and a couple national places) so hopefully we can get our boy a little attention. I mean, somebody schlepping your zine across a foreign country on a bike has got to be interesting to SOME reporter, right? We'll see what happens.

So you may now rest easy knowing that I'm not just doing this because it'll be a fantastic workout or because I'm a nutty loner. I'm biking across Scotland for the betterment of literature everywhere. I'm like Paul Revere.

Only gayer.

And shouting 'the British are coming' might be a bad idea.

And I look terrible in a three corner hat.

Project For A New Mythology. Ask for it by name at your local bookseller.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

 

A Not Unreasonable Request

Odd as it sounds for someone with a blog (odd as it sounds for a publicist), I am not fond of attention. I hate it. I have a hard time taking a compliment and I really hate cheerleading for cheerleading’s sake. This is not to say that I don’t appreciate support. I like knowing that my friends and family are behind me. Sometimes, though, they have a weird way of showing it.

My roommate, for example. He knows I hate flying. He knows I’m looking forward to buckling up and then promptly passing out, waking to the sound of screeching tires on the tarmac at Gatwick Airport. But he loves to “bully” me. Tells me that I should love to fly and that turbulence is fun. This does not help. At all.

I should expect this from him. His entire family is like this. Let me illustrate: a few years ago, he and I decided to take a vacation together. After much discussion, we decided to spend a week in Toronto. When I told my parents about the impending trip, they responded, “Wow, that sounds great! Are you going to go up the CN Tower? You’ll have a great time.” When Roomie told his parents, they waited exactly two heartbeats (the proper amount of time to wait as you’re preparing to register your disgust) and asked, “Why are you going there? There’s nothing to do there. That’s a dumb place to go.” (This is pretty much their reaction to ANYTHING Roomie tells them he’s going to do. He could say, “I just got elected President of the United States” and his mother would reply, “You’re just asking to be assassinated.”)

Granted, I have been uber-blessed with a very supportive and loving family. Roomie…I guess they love each other in a very demented way that involves constantly tearing each other down (not in a fun, “here I am poking at you because I know you so well” sort of way—these people give no quarter in their efforts to demoralize and undermine confidence; I’m sure Jonathan Franzen would be proud).

I really hate when people dismiss my loathing of flying. It’s irrational, yes. And I KNOW the statistics: safer than driving, blah, blah, blah. I’m so happy when people get excited about my trip but that all goes out the window as soon as they roll their eyes and say, “Your plane is NOT going to crash.” (See, all I hear in that sentence is “your…plane…crash.”) I feel no shame in the small bottle of pills I’m bringing on board to deal with this. Eight hours on a plane. Hang on, I need to repeat that. Eight hours on a plane. For our German listeners, Acht Stunden auf einem Flugzeug! The most I’ve ever done is around 3 ½ and on that flight, I’m pretty sure the flight attendants were very close to having me restrained.

I appreciate the fact that so many people are telling me they’re jealous about my adventure and that I’m going to have a great time. But please. Let us not discuss any air disasters between now and Friday. No jokes about turbulence. No eye rolling. No teasing. Absolutely no mention of
that TV show or that movie. Just good thoughts and happy vibes my way. Please?

Monday, August 07, 2006

 

"What do you say to a ramble through London?"--Sherlock Holmes


Although the majority of my time abroad will be spent in Scotland, traversing the mountains and moors by bike, I'll have 3 1/2 days in London toward the end of my stay. It's odd. Really. London has been THE DREAM. You know that one dream destination we all have. Well, I'm about to get mine. On Saturday. THE DREAM will be here.

And I'm only spending 3 1/2 days there. But, that's OK because this trip is all about the bike, as Lance Armstrong might say. I will have time to thoroughly wallow in all London has to offer in future trips (because there WILL be future trips). For now, I'm contenting myself with how much I can fit in in that time. Big Ben. Parliament. (I really want to take a bus around the cul-de-sac just so I can shout out,
"Look, kids. Big Ben! Parliament!") London Bridge. Crown Jewels. Tower of London. Buckingham Palace. You know. The basics.

Moncrief--well-traveled, brilliant Moncrief--recently tipped me off to this site that offers unique walking tours of London. I'm now very excited about doing one or two of these. I've got my eye on the Jack the Ripper tour, which I think will be creepy and fun. And, if you go on Tuesday (which I plan to do), the tour is led by Donald Rumbelow, a recognized authority on all things Ripper. That could be great fun.

So I'm taking nominations. Aside from the stuff I've listed, what other MUST SEES/DOS are there in London. Tell me one place I HAVE to eat. Tell me something out of the way that not a lot of tourists know about but it's still supremely cool. I wanna know!

Sunday, August 06, 2006

 

I'm Going To The Tattoo!!



Ian, tremendously lovely man that he is, reminded me that I should check ebay for Tattoo tickets. After I smacked my head, because sometimes I'm just a big bag of duh, I immediately went online and started bidding. I am now the proud owner of two tickets to the Tattoo for THIS Saturday night, August 12!!

BTW, I leave this Friday and I'm only freaking out just a little.

Also, I'm taking requests for postcards. If you'd like to receive one, email your mailing address to emohawk9000 at gmail dot com.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

 

Training Update #2--Downward Dog

Two or three years ago, I began experiencing problems with sciatica. These problems occurred shortly after I took up running as a form of exercise. I was doing quite well, able to pump out three miles a day without thought. But I’m convinced that the arrival of the sciatica, timed with my new hobby, was no coincidence. I don’t run as much any more.

For those who’ve never experienced sciatica, it is, quite literally, a pain in the ass. It’s a shooting pain that seems to originate in your buttocks and travels down your left leg. It’s quite excruciating. Sitting seems like a good idea but it really only aggravates the problem. (So a desk job is not a good thing.) Painful as it is, you want to keep moving—walking, preferably. The most insidious thing about this condition is, as I indicated, it only SEEMS to originate from the buttocks. Sadly, no amount of massage in that area of the body will help. It all has to do with a nerve that’s being pinched somewhere up your spine and it’s almost impossible to pinpoint. In my case, the problem became so that I had to seek physical therapy. This involved lying on a table with my hips in a harness that effectively pulled my lower half in an attempt to straighten my spine. After several weeks of this, the pain went away.

I talked to my physical therapist about ways to keep this from recurring. We agreed that running was probably not a good thing for me. She suggested sleeping with a pillow between my knees (difficult, seeing as I’m a tosser and turner but it does help). She also suggested yoga. Of course, this was just as yoga was really becoming popular and I initially resisted because I’m just not a bandwagon jumper oner. But, with the assistance of my boyfriend, I began to learn some simple poses that really went a long way toward making my back feel much better.

So I’ve been practicing yoga ever since. At certain points in my life, as time has allowed, it’s been a daily routine. At other times, such as now when things are hectic, I only manage a session or two a week. My normal routine lasts about 45 minutes. Now that I’m shifting the focus of my training for Scotland, I’m working at incorporating 15 minutes of stretching and yoga after each of my biking sessions. The hope, of course, being that this will keep me from cramping up.

I really enjoy the routine I’ve got. One of my favorite poses is called Warrior Two (pictured at right). But my absolute most favorite thing to do is to go from a cobra pose (those who know me really well are laughing their heads off) to child pose. That feels gooood.

Now, I’m not very advanced (headstands are a loooong way off) but I can definitely tell the difference it’s made in my flexibility and stamina. I can also tell when I’ve been slacking off because certain poses get harder to do. It’s nice to carve out a small amount of time to make this part of my routine again. My goal (fingers crossed) is to have time again in the fall to do my full 45 minutes every day. I can honestly say that few things make me feel better than to do that.

The plan is, as soon as I reach my destination at any given stop in Scotland, to drop and start with the yoga. I’ve found it’s particularly helpful to stretch once I’ve done anything past 30 miles (which is what the majority of my trip will consist of). If I can get back into doing yoga regularly, I’d like to explore more of the practice. Right now, it’s just a series of poses. I’d like to learn more about the history of the art, maybe study some meditation techniques. I think I’ve always been far too self-conscious to meditate. Maybe I can rectify that.

Om.