Thursday, August 22, 2013

Who Cut The Cheese?

I did! Haha...

Two months ago I cut the cheese out of my diet. Initially, I had done it as part of my triathlon training. But after living without it, I realized that I am better off.

Cheese used to be a daily part of my lunchtime sandwiches. But I have since started to use hummus as a replacement for both cheese and mayo/mustard. Not only is it healthier but it also tastes great, as long as you like that Mediterranean flavor. Add a sliced cucumber to that sandwich and it becomes even more refreshing. 



Giving up cheese wasn't as hard as I imagined it would be, mentally. But physically...cheese is in everything (or at least could be). Just think of how many different types of cheese there are and all the combinations of food that goes well with cheese. Cheese is a binding element. It can unify the components of a particular dish. And it brings people together...around a pizza or fondue.

In a lot of ways, cheese and I are similar. We're found all over the world. We're fatty. We're smooth. And we get along with everyone...

But I've come to break that bond with cheese, and my digestive system, heart, and arteries thank me.

It's too bad this is off the table now...



Sunday, July 21, 2013

My 1st Triathlon

13 weeks ago I started training for my first triathlon by going to Everest Base Camp in the Himalayas. It was almost like when Rocky trained in Russia before he fought Ivan Drago in Rocky IV. The trekking into altitude was a great workout for my legs, and it really translated well to the bike and run for me.

In the 11 weeks since our 14 day adventure, I worked out 4-6 days per week. My trips to the gym consisted of swims, runs on the treadmill, and rides on the stationary bike. On the weekends, I would sometimes take my mountain bike for a ride.

Yes, I rode a mountain bike for my first triathlon. I am not 100% certain that I want to keep participating in other events, so I thought it wise not to spend for a costly road bike.

In the end, the training proved fruitful. I was able to compete in the Pequannock Triathlon today. I finished a 1/4 mile swim, 12 mile bike, and 3.2 mile run in 1 hour and 42 minutes. For me, that is an achievement, and I'm proud of myself for it.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

To Everest Base Camp AND Back!

It's been about 3 months since we trekked through the Himalayas to Everest Base Camp (EBC), but the trip is still fresh in my mind. It was AMAZING!

We took risks and were rewarded. We rose, and we fell. We were flexible, but unbreakable. We feared, yet we conquered. We set goals, and we achieved them.  We embraced an adventure, and we returned enamored by the experience, by the scenery, by the wildlife, by the people, and by the majesty of the world that we now know.

In truth, this was the most challenging activity we've ever accomplished, and we're thrilled to have done it. We flew into (by helicopter) and out of (by turbo prop plane) the world's most dangerous airport in Lukla, Nepal. We battled the rain, mud, and slippery terrain. We traversed steep inclines and declines, valleys, peaks, below and above the tree-line. We encountered dogs, insects, mountain goats, a variety of birds, donkeys and yaks. We braved the skin-burning winds and freezing temperatures. We struggled to breathe normally, and fought the symptoms of altitude sickness. But in the end, we can honestly say that it was all worth it.

Fast Fun Facts:
Time: 13 days
Max Altitude: 17,602ft above sea-level (after 9 days)
O2: 50% less than sea-level
Distance: 80 miles round-trip

Monday, April 29, 2013 - Everest Base Camp - 17,602ft above sea-level

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Re-Pack Your Backpack: Things You DON'T Need



After all that packing, none of us carried anything more than water, a jacket, an extra t-shirt, gloves, a hat, and maybe some snacks in our own packs. 

Our guide and porters highly encouraged us to empty our packs into their North Face duffle bag for the porters to carry. It was for the ease, safety, comfort, and enjoyment of our trek to Everest Base Camp. Plus, we had enough trouble with breathing, so 30 lbs on our backs would have made it worse. 

Since hindsight is 20/20, looking back at what I packed into my backpack made me realize how much of it was unnecessary. Here are my notes: 

- 3 pairs of underwear (94% nylon / 6% lyrca)
- 3 pairs of merino wool socks
- cleaning /baby wipes
- hand sanitizer
- deodorant
I am putting these things all together because you need to clean your private areas and feet often and change your underwear more often than not. You don't want to get caught in the wild with jock itch or smell too foul for your companions. 

- 4 dry-fit / moisture wicking short-sleeved shirts
- 4 dry-fit / moisture wicking long-sleeved shirts
Since it's important to layer up, having both short and long sleeved shirts is helpful. If I could do it over again, I'd change every 3-4 days. Luckily for those on the trip with me, I only changed my shirts ONCE! Hahaha. So from my perspective, I was doubly overpacked. 

- 1 fleece 
- 1 North Face outer shell jacket
- 1 winter hat
- 2 pairs of North Face convertible (to shorts via zip-off legs) pants
- 1 pair of leggings/tights
Without a doubt this is all necessary because it gets really cold above the tree-line. 

- 1 REI Travel Sack (sleeping bag) rated to 55 degrees; 
- sleeping bag liner that adds 15 degrees of warmth
- 1 pair of fleece pants & 1 (or more) pair(s) of athletic socks
Great for sleeping in since it's nice and warm. 

- 1 light pair of sneakers - excellent for walking to the bathroom in the middle of the night and/or for just hanging in the common room after a long day's trek. 

- 1 pair of basketball shorts - never warm enough to wear shorts, except in Kathmandu
- 1 running/baseball cap (with visor)
- 1 pair of sunglasses (in hard case)
- 1 small towel
- 1 pack rain cover -  extremely helpful as the weather is really unpredictable. It rained the first 2 days of our trek, so we were glad to keep our things dry
- 1 extra pair of boot laces - seems like our original boot laces were very durable, though if you bring extra you can always find a use for it in emergency situations
- contact lenses (daily disposables)
- chapstick - with the wind blowing and your heavy breathing, keeping your lips moisturized and protected from the sun is important. 
- anti-chafe stick
- toothbrush
- travel toothpaste
- laundry soap -  never did laundry
- extra ziplock bags and small plastic bags (for random use) - very handy for separating dirty clothes, random items, or even for use as a cover for your camera in the rain


- Potable Aqua - chlorine dioxide tablets - if I had known about the chlorine solution that you can purchase in any Nepalese pharmacy for 20Rs, I would never have bought all of these. 3 small drops and 30 minutes of curing time will make 1 liter of water potable. 


- 1 first aid kit with various OTC medications, bandages, mylar blankets, and moleskin (important for blisters) - with the variety of ailments and discomforts some of us experienced along the way, this kit become increasingly important
- 1 compass/thermometer - not really necessary, but nice to know the temperature as you climb higher
- matches & fire starter kit - absolutely no use
- 1 headlamp / flashlight - useful on the mountain and in Kathmandu at night, where there are no street lights
- 1 Swiss Army knife - wish I never brought it since TSA confiscated it even though it was packed in my check-in
- electric / current converter
- 1 padlock - the teahouse locks seemed to be ample, and it's not like anyone wants to steal any of your stuff anyway...you all have the same things. 
- sunblock - extremely important as you are basically walking towards the sun everyday; sunburn happens almost twice as fast in altitude than at sea-level
- insect repellent - I'm pretty sure there were no mosquitoes on the mountain, but maybe in Kathmandu

In terms of food, I feel like we were suitably fed along the way at each of the teahouses. I'd cut back on the snacks and bring the protein and electrolyte supplements. We ended up giving some of the snacks away to the guides and porters. 
- 9 small packs of freeze dried fruit
- 7 snack sized Welchs fruit snacks
- 14 CLIF bars
- 10 sticks of beef jerky
- 5 snack sized almonds/peanuts/cashews
- powdered Gatorade

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Kathmandu: A 3rd World City, Except For Cell Phones, Internet, and Wi-Fi

As we left Tribhuvan International Airport, the first thing I sensed was that the airport was going to be the most modern thing to visit / experience in Kathmandu. And for the most part, I was right.


Transportation & Infrastructure

Taxis are mix of new and old, manual transmission, compact cars. Unfortunately for us, the first taxi we found was likely twice my age, half my height, lacked air conditioning, and could barely hold my weight, let alone 4 of us with our 30 pound packs. I think we're lucky we didn't get a flat tire. It was as if they were made of some kind of super fortified rubber. And the road didn't help at all.

The roads leading to our hostel in the Thamel district of Kathmandu were narrow, uneven, bumpy, incomplete, dusty, and not completely paved. And it wasn't just the road itself you had to endure and navigate. It was a challenge of patience to deal with the traffic jam of pedestrians, motorcycles, mopeds, bicycles, and other impatient drivers. Sounds like Manhattan during rush hour...but not quite. The difference being, Kathmandu lacks simple traffic rules. Anything goes in Kathmandu. Want to make a U-Turn in the middle of a busy street? Go for it. Want to cross the street in traffic? Forget Frogger, just walk in a straight line; traffic will stop for you.

There was only one quasi-good thing we learned about the roads. One of our drivers mentioned to us that the government was in the process of widening the streets. But in order to do so, the land on which residences and businesses already stood had to be "reclaimed" by the government - a display eminent domain. Basically, people were losing their homes and jobs in the process.

Architecture

It's an old city. Many residences are attached. There are usually no more than 5 floors (there are no elevators). It seemed as if the building materials were limited, so structures were a mix of concrete, brick, mud, or wood. I found that door frames were significantly shorter, and steps were noticeably more shallow.

Electricity was conserved, and in some cases limited. There were frequent blackouts, especially at the bars and restaurants, which is why candles often decorated the tables. It was dual purposes - set the ambiance and aid in visibility when the power went out. And the nights were pitch black, save a passing car's headlights or a walk through the bar/restaurant areas. We were sure to carry a flashlight in the evenings.



Daily Life

It is likely for this reason (limited / unreliable electricity) that the days started at dawn for most people - to make use of every ounce of daylight. 

Just like these boys...wake up early, take a bath in the street, and get a haircut under a tree. 


Or go for a morning rickshaw ride, while the sun's rays are not beaming too strongly yet. 

And go to the butcher shops for some "fresh," street-side, non-refrigerated pork (or other meats and poultry) and various vegetables. 

And they make sure to do the laundry (by hand) early enough in the morning in order to get a full day's sun to dry all their clothes. 

Or... the not-so-inclined-to-do-anything usually just hang out...


Pollution

The toughest thing to accept and see is a polluted city, because you know that so many problems stem from a lack of environmental hygiene. Garbage is everywhere, in the streets, in the river, in front of peoples' homes and businesses. Some folks still burn their garbage in front of their property. It also seems like cars aren't equipped to regulate the toxins that they emit into the air. And the result is poor air quality, not just because of the dust, but because of the garbage and auto emissions. There's potential for respiratory disease, cardiovascular disease, water contamination, etc. And there are serious risks for the environment, human health, and even animal health (whom many depend on for sustenance). 


At the end of the day, the city is years behind any modernized, Western city. But the people are still friendly, helpful, hard-working, and happy. No matter what their obstacles seem to be, I didn't encounter any one person who was unwilling to help (even though food service was pretty slow everywhere we went, consistently - but that's besides the point). Nepalese people go about their routines just like anyone else, except they have less to worry about in comparison to people of a first-world country. Don't forget... religion is twice as important to them. 

I'm sure they all laugh about our problems as they read about us on their cell phones that are connected to the Internet via Wi-Fi.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Nepalese

What's in a name? 

I learned from our trekking guide, Deepak, that Sherpas were named for the day of the week which they were born. For example, our porters Lhakpa and Pemba's names mean Wednesday and Saturday, respectively. We also have a Nepalese friend whose name is Nima (adapted from Niyma), which means Sunday. Naturally, there are a lot of Nepalese with the same name.
(L to R: Deepak, Melissa, Joe, Lhakpa, Pemba, Carolyn, Jesse)

Appearance

A landlocked country, Nepal is bordered by China to the north and east, and India to the south and west. So there is no wonder why the natives of this nation do not have one particular appearance. The Nepalese are unlike the Koreans, Japanese, Indians, or Filipinos all of whom have distinct facial features. The Koreans with the half moon eyes, with fair, clear skin. The Japanese with slightly more slanted eyes with more pointed or defined nasal bridge. The Indians with their cocoa-colored skin and more Middle Eastern facial features and bone structure. And Filipinos with their Asian eyes, Spanish complexion, and flat noses. The Nepalese are chameleon-like in their own country.

Some Nepalese look very Indian.


Others look more Chinese.

Yet others have an interesting blend of the two.

Religion

The people of Nepal are predominantly Hindu, though there are many practicing Buddhists, and surprisingly more who practice both religions together. Apparently, in Nepal, it is difficult to distinguish who is a Hindu or Buddhist. Both celebrate the same holidays and perform similar, if not the same, cultural traditions.  

Fact: The Pashupatinath Temple is one of the most significant Hindu temples of Lord Shiva in the world and is even listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

Little-known Fact: Buddha was born in the Lumbini region of Nepal. 


Language

Nepali is the official language of the country, but because the Nepalese used to live under the caste system, there were many different dialects developed over time. Those in higher castes were unable to speak or understand the lower castes, but lower caste members were required to learn Nepali. Nepali is used as the common ground to communicate across all castes. 

To my surprise, many natives speak English, and they speak it well and fluently. Signs are in English. Menus are in English. Hotels have English names. Why? I think it all boils down to tourism. 

Tourism is the money-making industry in Nepal. People from all over the world come to visit the various trekking circuits that the Himalayas has to offer, and of course, visit the world's highest mountain, Mt. Everest. Even just making it to Everest Base Camp is a journey thousands of people experience every year. 

It is because of tourism that English language schools are all over Kathmandu. For the same reason, merchants and street vendors all speak enough English to make sales. And it is because of tourism that many, if not all, of the trekking guides can speak and write in English. In fact, the government is involved in the training of the guides. Each Nepalese seeking employment as a tour operator must learn to read, write, and speak. Naturally, this makes it easier to communicate with all foreigners, and in the end game, earn a living. 

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Tribhuvan International Airport & Elbrus Home

Towards the end of the 1.5 hour flight, as we approached Kathmandu from Delhi, and we watched the airplane's progress on the maps screen on the personal tv while in-flight, it seemed like we were flying directly into a mountain range.  At times I wondered how close we would get to the mountains and it even crossed my mind that we might land in the mountains. But after peering out of the window, we saw that the airport actually lays in a relatively flat, dry, barren area.

Upon landing (on the 2nd attempt - first try was aborted just a few hundred feet above the runway), the jet taxied towards what I thought to be the terminal gate, but I quickly realized that there was no such thing as a jetway and we were about to deplane via staircase onto the tarmac. As we disembarked the aircraft, I couldn't help but feel like we landed in something well short of a first-world country. We watched as our bags were being removed from the belly of the plane and loaded onto a cart that was a trailer to the bus we were ushered towards which would drop us off at the international arrivals gate.

Arriving in Kathmandu's Tribhuvan International Airport (KTM) immediately gives you the impression that you've landed in an old-world, third-world country. It is the only international airport in Nepal and only has 1 domestic and 1 international terminal, which connects the country to Asia, the Middle East, and some of Europe. And it's solitude in the country shows within the arrival terminal, baggage claim, and customs.

Just prior to reaching customs, there is an area where the window sills are lined with forms which you must complete and present to your immigration agent. It is here where people rush to fill out all the necessary information and attach their extra passport photos just to fall into 1 of 3 lines for processing. One line is for Nepalese nationals...empty. The other 2 lines are for foreigners.

As we approach the desk, I notice that there are 3 men sitting at 1 desk. The first man receives you, asks for how long you are staying (15, 30, or 90 days - Tourist Visa) and takes your payment for your Visa ($25 for 15 days, $40 for 30 days, or $100 for 90 days). Our trip was a total of 16 days, but the officer allowed us to pay for 15 days. The next officer receives your passport and scans to confirm that it is real and that there are no alerts on your identity. The last officer reviews the first two officers work, eyes your passport against your face, confirms your identity, returns your stamped passport with Visa and wishes you a pleasant day.

As we proceeded to retrieve our luggage from 1 of 3 old-looking carousels and exit the building, we stopped briefly by the foreign currency exchange counter to buy some Nepalese Rupees (NPR). With an exchange rate of $1 to 86Rs, you're getting a pretty good rate. Next to the forex counter was what ended up being a hassle. Two agents were feverishly trying to gain our attention and offered up lodging, trekking guides, tours, etc. Reluctantly, we stopped by to understand what they had to say.

We had in mind the name of a hostel where our friends had chosen to stay the night before. I inquired about this place, but it seemed that it wasn't on the agents' list of places to promote. I even asked about the Kathmandu Guest House whose owner is the brother of a doctor whom my mom works with at the hospital (3 degrees of separation). The agents kept saying that if we booked with them there would be a 10% discount. Unfortunately, we did not choose any of the options they kept trying to sell.

Instead, we joined our friends at the Elbrus Home, which turned out to be one of the best decisions we made. Although only a hostel, not a hotel, Elbrus Home was welcoming, warm, friendly, accommodating, inexpensive, and in a great location (walking distance to the shops in Thamel and even the Royal Palace; only a 40 minute walk to the Monkey Temple). Khem, one of the managers, and his brother were extremely helpful to us. They provided everything we needed, were so kind, and always encouraged us to take advantage of all the comforts that Elbrus had to offer.

For a reasonable $30 a night for a triple room with en-suite, you cannot go wrong. The rooms were basic but comfortable. A simple breakfast of fried eggs, toast with butter or jam, orange juice, coffee or tea, and bananas was included every morning, which you could take in the common room or more comfortably in the garden under some umbrellas. Rooftop seating that overlooked the Thamel district of Kathmandu was also available which we made use of to share cocktails. And a friendly conversation full of insight to the city and guide-like suggestions from the staff was more than enough to make the stay worth the few dollars we shelled out.

Unfortunately, after our return from the trek, we were unable to be accommodated at Elbrus Home due to capacity (see, they're popular), but they still picked us up from the airport and easily made arrangements for us to stay at their sister hotel, Avalon House, which is a 3 minute walk away from Elbrus Home on a side street away set back from the hustle and bustle of the main road.

Khem made it convenient for us (and financially beneficial to him and his colleagues, I'm sure) by connecting us with his friend Prem of Heian Treks & Expedition, where we eventually organized and purchased our Himalayan trek to Everest Base Camp.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The Layover - New Delhi, India


Two seasons of The Layover and nine seasons of No Reservations and not one episode on New Delhi, India. Why, Mr. Bourdain? Indira Ghandi International Airport has fallen into the top 50 busiest airports in the world by passenger traffic since 2008.

I suppose New Delhi isn't necessarily a layover city though. Most people who travel to New Delhi are there for the long haul, a true visit, a vacation. Unless...you're on your way to Nepal...which is where my experience comes in and this Layover begins.

Disembarking our Air India flight was a relief after a 14 hour flight on one of the most uncomfortable flights I've ever taken. It started out at JFK where there was no sense or organization. Passengers were allowed to board at random without heeding any type of group boarding protocol. The flight was subsequently 1 hour late. The seat which I was assigned was broken and felt as if I was sitting directly on metal, and the tv failed to operate. After switching seats 3 times to try to locate an operative tv, I gave up because I did not have any luck. The only saving grace was that the food was ok.

Arrival Time: 5PM
Time Remaining: 12 Hours

Upon our arrival in New Delhi, our bags had to be picked up and were not checked through to our final destination of Kathmandu, Nepal. As long as I've been traveling, I've not experienced this type of procedure for a layover. We learned that if we had decided to stay in the airport, our bags would have been transferred automatically. Nevertheless, with Tourist Visas in hand (yes, we paid to leave the airport), we decided to venture out into the city, through it's rough roads, dangerous drivers, motorcycles, mopeds, and tuk-tuks.

Since our residence for the night would be Hotel Krishna on Arakashan Road, we decided that dinner should be in the neighborhood. A short walk down to Connaught Place in the Indira Chowk section of New Delhi allowed us to find a restaurant called Veda. The dim lighting, mirrors, dark leather-lined seats / chairs, and red brick walls gave the establishment somewhat of a gothic feel. But the friendliness of the staff and especially the manager, Prem, made us feel comfortable and allowed us to easily warm up to the good food.

We ordered garlic and plain roti, chicken curry, mutton curry, garlic scallion chicken, and plain basmati rice. Each dish had a signature flavor. The roti was freshly charred. The chicken curry was velvety in its sauce. The mutton and its spices stood out in this curry dish. The garlic scallion chicken (my favorite of all the dishes) was full of herb and spice. And the basmati was our strong base. For some reason, basmati is probably my favorite type of rice out of all the rice I've eaten in my life. Kingfisher, an Indian brew, was a good lager to help wash down all the heat and spice.

Time Remaining: 8 hours

Dilli Haat is just a short metro ride away from the Connaught Place area. For just 15 rupees you can get on the metro at Rajiv Chowk and exit at INA. Unlike ground level, the subways are very clean and surprisingly simple to navigate. The cost is determined by the distance you need to travel. And the token-operated turnstiles make it very efficient. We learned that on every metro, the front car is dedicated to women, while the rest of the cars are co-ed. Marquee displays on the platform indicate when the next metro is to arrive.

Anyway, Dilli Haat is an open air market or bazaar. The entrance fee is only 20 rupees and within you can find food, arts & crafts, clothing, souvenirs, henna, silk, and a variety of other items for purchase. Each stall has something different to offer, but many stalls have similar goods. So make sure to negotiate your price if you find something you like.

Time Remaining: 6 hours

We probably could have spent more time out in the city, but with our next flight to Kathmandu at 7AM and 14 days of trekking ahead of us, it would be wise for us to get a few hours of sleep and arrive back at the airport at least 2 hours before departure.

If heading out to the city during a short layover isn't ideal, then there are plenty of things to keep you occupied in the airport. Here is a link to IGI's facilities. They even have showers or if that's not enough, you can check into the airport's hotel.

Obviously, a layover is not enough for me to make any kind of judgements on New Delhi. And I can't wait to really have ample time to be a real tourist here and take in all the sites, food and fare, culture, and society. In due time, I will be back.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

This is IT!

Today we depart for our 18-day vacation! First stop, New Delhi for 1 night. Looking forward to having  good Indian food. Then it's off to NEPAL and our trek to Everest Base Camp!!!

I'll try to update along the way!

Want an idea of what we're doing? Check out this video...



Monday, April 8, 2013

Preparedness - 10 Days Until Departure

Packing it all into a backpack and keeping it all under 30 lbs is quite a task. But it looks like we're successful so far. I've got a Gregory Baltoro 75, while my girlfriend has a Deuter ACT Lite 60 + 10 SL

Just to give you an idea of what we have, here is an inventory of my pack (not including what I'm wearing on the plane to/from): 

- 3 pairs of underwear (94% nylon / 6% lyrca)
- 3 pairs of merino wool socks
- 4 dry-fit / moisture wicking short-sleeved shirts
- 4 dry-fit / moisture wicking long-sleeved shirts
- 1 fleece 
- 1 North Face outer shell jacket
- 2 pairs of North Face convertible (to shorts via zip-off legs) pants
- 1 pair of fleece pants
- 1 pair of leggings/tights
- 1 pair of basketball shorts
- 1 winter hat
- 1 running/baseball cap (with visor)
- 1 small towel
- 1 REI Travel Sack (sleeping bag) rated to 55 degrees; 
- 1 pack rain cover
- 1 extra pair of boot laces
- 1 pair of sunglasses (in hard case)

The following items are packed in various ziplock bags: 
- 9 small packs of freeze dried fruit
- 7 snack sized Welchs fruit snacks
- 14 CLIF bars
- 10 sticks of beef jerky
- 5 snack sized almonds/peanuts/cashews

- contact lenses (daily disposables)
- chapstick
- cleaning wipes
- hand sanitizer
- anti-chafe stick
- deodorant
- toothbrush
- travel toothpaste
- laundry soap
- extra ziplock bags and small plastic bags (for random use)
- Potable Aqua - chlorine dioxide tablets
- 1 first aid kit with various OTC medications, bandages, mylar blankets, and moleskin (important for blisters)
- 1 compass/thermometer
- matches & fire starter kit
- 1 headlamp / flashlight
- 1 Swiss Army knife
- electric / current converter
- 1 padlock

Some of the items I have, my girlfriend does not. Likewise, she has some other things such as: 
- sunblock
- insect repellent
- sleeping bag liner that adds 15 degrees of warmth

Finally, the most important thing for us is to have our hydration pouches. We are each carrying a sleeve capable of storing 3 liters of fluids. This sleeve is inside our packs. 3 liters of water can weigh up to 6 lbs, so we've been sure to account for that weight in advance. 

Aside from what is in our packs, we are bringing a light pair of sneakers and/or flip flops and a point-and-shoot camera. My girlfriend is bringing our DSLR camera. 

That's just about it. It seems like a lot, but it's not really. And everything is light and rolled up / compact. 

It is really important to try to pack your pack multiple times to get the hang of it and to get the weight correct. It also is important to make sure the distribution inside your pack is right so that you are balanced while carrying it. We've made it a point to make sure to know how to use all the straps on our packs to our advantage (they all have a different job). The closer you can keep your pack to your body, the easier it will be to carry, manage the weight, and be comfortable.

I think we're ready!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Back In The Days When I Was Young, I'm Not A Kid Anymore


As a child you fear nothing and risk everything. You have nothing to lose. 
But as an adult, you fear many things and risk less because you know better. 

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

So Long, Farewell, Auf Wiedersehen...

Goodbye!

Today I sold Camy, my 5 year old Toyota Camry.



A side of me is sad to part with her, but I know that financially it made sense. I'll be saving on insurance, gas, tolls. But most of all, I will not be watching her depreciate while sitting in the parking lot enduring the variety of weather.

We just were't using her as much anymore. She had extremely low mileage (only 42k) for a 5 year old car. And so, I got a good price for her.

In the end, after all the math is said and done, it only cost me $190 per month plus insurance, gas, and tolls to own her.

She's served me well...

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Theories of Highway Traffic: Philly to NYC


For many years now, on any given weekend, I've made the 1 hour and 30 minute trip from Big Apple to the city of Brotherly Love by car to visit friends, eat, drink, and be merry. I usually leave on Friday evening and return home on Sunday afternoon. The weekends are always something to look forward to since most of the time they are fun-filled and action-packed. My only dread is the drive back.


It was only on my most recent return trip from Philadelphia that I had the opportunity to think about traffic in some kind of detail.

I'm sure that the first thought would be, "why don't you just leave early on Sunday morning?" Believe me, there have been many weekends where I would make the drive home early on Sunday morning, but lately, I've immersed myself more into what the city has to offer. I've been enjoying brunch at Green Eggs or Silk City Diner or even dim sum at Imperial Inn in Chinatown. I digress.

Anyway, if you leave early on Sunday, there's a high chance that you will miss any kind of traffic. And it's probably because people have been up late Saturday night and have slept in Sunday morning. Fantastic! But you do miss out...

On the other hand, leaving early to mid afternoon will guarantee an extra 30-60 minutes commuting time home. And there are a few things I've learned, observed, and analyzed during this drive.

  1. From the Delaware Memorial Bridge (which is the beginning of the NJ Turnpike) to Exit 8A, the lanes start at 2 and eventually broaden to 6. Obviously this accounts for the increase in volume of traffic. 
  2. Traffic notoriously exists between Exits 6 and 8A on the NJ Turnpike / I-95 (northbound). 
  3. Traffic painfully exists because people are stupid. 
  4. Traffic annoyingly exists because the highway was poorly designed in this section, because people are stupid. This is where the highway expands from 3 lanes to 6 lanes to create the Eastern and Western Spurs (which is not actually helpful until Exits 14, 15 and 16, but splits car and truck traffic).
  5. The fastest lane in traffic (based on my experiences) tends to be the... right. 
  6. The slowest lane in traffic seems to be the... left. 
  7. To some extent that may seem counter-intuitive, but here are some reasons why it is not: 
    • Everyone thinks you can speed in the left lane. This is only true when there is enough space in the left lane. If everyone thinks they can speed in the left, then their initial notion is to be in the left. 
    • While everyone is trying to make the shift to the left, there is a lack of exit room, hence causing some slowdowns and backups. 
    • As this is occurring, the middle and right lanes open up. Granted, it opens up a bit slow, but the tortoise did beat the hare, correct? 
    • The beauty of the right lane is that although there is incoming traffic from any on-ramps, those folks are quick to shift to the left, AND the off-ramps / exits are on the right. This makes for a much more wide open right lane. 
    • The middle lane has it's uses too. Like its position, the middle is the median speed lane. I like riding this lane when I see on-ramps. 

I've tried to prove my theory of the right lane to myself a handful of times, and the one test I perform over and over again works like this. Begin your observation in the middle lane. Select a car in your vicinity. Shift to the right lane. Continue to observe the position of the vehicle you've previously identified. More often than not, you will pass this automobile by many car lengths in the long run. 

I was once told by my high school Calculus teacher that mathematicians around the world were looking for a formula to explain traffic. They need to keep postulating. Because, obviously, the idea of traffic is constantly evolving as everyones' driving habits are different and you encounter numerous circumstances along the way. But I think I've SOMEWHAT learned to beat highway traffic. Or maybe I've just found a way to amuse myself along the way...

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Into Thin Air


In less than 30 days, my girlfriend and I, along with 4 other friends, will begin our ascent "into thin air" as we embark on our journey on the Everest Base Camp trek.

After a layover in New Delhi, India we will fly to Kathmandu, Nepal and transfer over to Lukla. It should be noted that Tenzing Hillary Airport (LUA) in Lukla is the most dangerous airport in the world (according to The History Channel's Most Extreme Airports). And here our journey begins at 2,800m (9,200 ft) above sea level.

It will take us about 9 days to reach an altitude of 5,364m (17,564 ft) at Everest's South Base Camp in Nepal. At this point there will only be half as much oxygen available in the air as compared to sea-level. The air will certainly be thin and it will be harder to breathe. By then, we'll have traveled 38.5 miles on foot, making the round-trip affair 77 miles over the course of 14 days.

We've each got about a 25 pound pack with only the basics and essentials. There's no room for anything else.

This is going to be the journey of a lifetime...
Next stop, EBC!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Internet-less Underground


NYC's intricate subterranean rail system has been lacking something for a long time. For a city at the forefront of development, our subway lacks what other major cities already have... Wi-Fi and cellphone service.

Why?

Is it because the wealthy of NYC don't even make use of this form of transportation? The rich all have the luxury to ride above-ground, and all taxis have live content. Do they not believe in investing in the people "below" them?

Is it because there are too many potential users that the bandwidth would be eaten up and cause slow transmissions?

Is it because the current infrastructure is unable to accommodate new technology?

Do antenna lack the ability to transmit signal below ground? How do they do it in the Lincoln Tunnel?

Or does the cost outweigh the benefit?

I know the MTA is making progress with the help of Google and Transit Wireless by providing Wi-Fi in some of the stations nowadays, but is that really enough for the tech-savy city? Shouldn't it be available on all the subway cars?

They say all 277 underground stations will have Wi-Fi by 2017... but shouldn't we be beyond this by that time? What will be the latest and greatest technology in 2017? Will our subways once again become outdated and trail modern civilization? Shouldn't we be thinking about how to stay leaps and bounds ahead of everyone else?


After-all, isn't this the greatest city in the world? 



Monday, March 4, 2013

My New York City Subway Riding Rules


1. Before boarding any type of public transportation, please ensure that you have properly bathed, brushed your teeth, applied deodorant, and put on a fresh set of clothes. The last thing any of us wants is to smell any foul odors while in close proximity of people in an enclosed, under ventilated subway car.

2. As you approach the turn-style to enter the subway, please prepare your MetroCard. Do not wait until you are directly in front of the turn-style before you dig through your purse. You know you're getting on the subway. Be prepared. Do not be the cause of traffic at the subway entrance.

3. Do not block the subway car doors while waiting to board. The doors will not open quicker if you stand directly in front of them.

4. Please let off all passengers before boarding the subway car. If they are getting off and you are getting on, they are closer to their destination than you are. Let them get there in time; don't hold them up.

5. If the particular car that you are waiting for is full, try to embark on a different car. Otherwise, wait for the next train. It will come shortly after. Conversely, if you are on a car which is already full, and someone tries to push their way onto that car, you have the God-given right to push them off. They can wait for the next train.

6. Make sure to hold on to something or remain seated while the car is in motion. Not only are you a hazard with the chance of stepping on or walking into people, but you also have the chance to accidentally grab something or someone when the car makes abrupt stops.

7. If you are standing and do not have anything to hold onto, the proper standing etiquette is to position your feet shoulder width apart, with one foot slightly forward of the other. This will enable you to balance in case of sudden motions forcing you in any direction.

8. Read your book, smart phone, newspaper, or magazine. If you have nothing to read, do not make eye contact with anyone.

9. If you do make eye contact with anyone by accident, just smile (and try not to be creepy).

10. Do not stare. If she is that attractive, grow your balls, pick up your tongue and say something nice. If you have nothing nice to say, turn around.

11. If you are using headphones to listen to music, please do not allow it to be audible by the entire car. Additionally, please be conscious of those around you who may "excuse" themselves to squeeze by.

12. If you must read the map, and it is behind someone or over their head, please let that passenger know so that it doesn't seem like you are staring directly at them with your head cocked forward.

13. If you have the intention of sleeping for the duration of your journey, please make sure to prop yourself against a bar / wall / seat-end. No one likes a leaner.

14. Do not pass gas. If you must flagellate, please disembark at the closest station, relieve yourself of toxic odors, and resume your journey on the next train.

15. When you are ready to disembark at your chosen station, please give your fellow commuters the courtesy of an "excuse me" if he/she is not coming down at the same station. Do not push or shove, unless their headphones are playing too loud.


Learn these 15 simple rules, and you will be fully prepared and never have fear of riding the NYC Subway.




Thank you for riding MTA's NYC Subway. Have a safe day!

Friday, March 1, 2013

Where has the time gone...

Wow! July 11, 2011 was the last time I posted. Time flies when you're having fun...


I'm making it a point to start blogging again. I've been wanting to evacuate my brain of thoughts, concerns, and questions for a while now. So this is my attempt to begin again...

Ready...

Set...

Jesse...

GO!