Welcome to Portland

Welcome to Portland

[The following is a message from the Portland, Oregon Visitors’ Bureau.]

Welcome to Portland, Oregon, America’s Most Livable Liberal City.

If you’re planning to spend a few days in the Rose City, we at the Portland Visitor’s Bureau would like to offer a few friendly suggestions to help make your stay as pleasant as possible.

First, we might as well get this one right out of the way. In Portland, we’re slightly left of center in our politics. If you’re a lifelong Republican or you accidentally voted for Donald Trump, no need to apologize. But, you might want to rethink your travel plans. We hear Tulsa is a place you might enjoy, with its expansive plains and oil rig fields.

But if you’re someone who thinks Hillary should have been our 45th president, or better still, Bernie, or even better yet, Spider-Man, then you’ll feel right at home here. Our city’s motto is KEEP PORTLAND WEIRD. In case you thought that was Austin, Texas’ motto, you’re right. We don’t mind sharing.

One of our more iconic residents is The Unipiper. He can be seen pedaling around town on his unicycle, donning a Darth Vader helmet while playing the Star Wars theme on his bag pipes, as they shoot flames. In most cities, such a sight might be a bit unnerving. Here in Portland, we just wave and say, “Hi, Brian.”

We’re extremely laid back about most things – that’s because at any given time, roughly half of us are stoned. We don’t mind if you’re a couple hours late to work, so long as you remember to buy a latte for a co-worker when you stop at Stumptown Coffee on your way in. Continue reading “Welcome to Portland” »

Vacation Adventures for High-Strung Travelers

Vacation Adventures for High-Strung Travelers

Welcome, Tense Traveler.

Thank you for choosing High Anxiety Tours (HAT) to arrange your trip. We’ll take care of everything. Take a deep breath and relax. We understand that as a first-time international traveler, you may be a tad nervous about venturing into the unknown. At HAT, our mission is to ensure you have a 100% stress-free experience.

So, this is your first visit to Colombia. As travel experts, trust us when we say there is (almost) nothing to worry about. Word has it that the Colombian drug lords have no documented plans to kidnap or torture American tourists in the foreseeable future. Of course, their plans are subject to change without notice.

Before you leave for the airport, remember to go through a departure checklist so you can R-E-L-A-X while away. Did you …

  • Bring your passport?
  • Pack sunscreen?
  • Turn off the stove?
  • Get a sitter for your cats?
  • Refill your Xanax?
  • Are you 100% sure you turned off the stove?

You are now ready for a calm, peaceful holiday in tranquil Colombia– that is, if you make your flight. It is imperative to be at the airport a minimum of four hours before departure, in case of unforeseen glitches such as highway construction or a wildcat strike by baggage handlers. In rare instances, flights do take off a day or so early, to adjust for the time differences. The odds TSA Security will mistake your traveler’s trepidation for drug-smuggling jitters are 3-1, at best. So, don’t sweat. No, seriously, do NOT sweat! If they see you sweat, they’ll get suspicious and probably conduct a full body cavity search.

Continue reading “Vacation Adventures for High-Strung Travelers” »

Vancouver? – Ya’ Can’t Get There from Here

Vancouver? – Ya’ Can’t Get There from Here

[The following is a true story.]

Here’s a tip you might want to jot down: When your guests from Argentina want to hit the rails to Vancouver departing from Stanwood, Washington, the closest town to my home with a train station, you might want to make reservations. I didn’t – which caused the following chain of events…

It was the end of a very nice visit with Monique and Manuel. (Not their real names. Their real names are Maria and Jose.) I had already mapped out my day: Drop them off at the station to catch the 9:15 train. Get back home by 9:30. At 9:35 commence sleeping in the hammock. A perfect plan.

Except for one small miscalculation. I failed to make train reservations for my friends. I wanted to wave “Goodbye” from my car, but decided that might be rude. So, I walked them to the platform. That’s when I heard the conductor announce, “Passengers with reservations only! All Aboard!” Reservations? It’s a ten-car train hailing from tiny Stanwood. Who needs reservations? I immediately had my own reservations – something was not right.

There is a quaint saying: “The journey is the destination.” Except for that day when the destination was everything: Vancouver, CANADA – on CANADA DAY, the nation’s Independence Day – their biggest annual holiday after National Apology Day.

No biggie. We’ll just make reservations for the next train, right? Nope. It didn’t leave for another 10 hours. What about a bus? Sorry. The sole Vancouver-bound bus left 15 minutes ago. How about a taxi or Uber? Great suggestion, Tim. Problem solved – so long as my guests were willing to shell out 400 bucks (American) for a 178-mile drive.

I researched every transportation option I could think of: ferry, rental car, crop duster, Pony Express, you name it. None of them was feasible. And I had a gut feeling that my guests were not the hitchhiking type.

Continue reading “Vancouver? – Ya’ Can’t Get There from Here” »

An American Tourist’s Guide to Vacationing in Italy

An American Tourist’s Guide to Vacationing in Italy

Italy - coastal townPeople often ask me, “Tim, how do you know so much about other countries?” It’s true. I consider myself an authority on world geography. For example, did you know that Africa is not actually a country? Don’t worry. Donald Trump didn’t know either – and soon he’ll be our overlord, er, I mean, president.

I don’t like to brag, but I know many important things about the world’s nations, primarily from consistently losing in the board game RISK during college. (I always went for Australia. Bad strategy.) So this week, let’s discuss what you need to know about what is arguably the most popular vacation destination for Americans – that is, if you don’t count the country of North America. I am, of course, talking about Italy.

Let’s face it. You’re way too busy binge-watching Game of Thrones to read Rick Steves’ 874-page guide book on Italy that your wife asked you to read. So, I have done the work for you by highlighting everything you need to know. Follow my advice to the letter and you’ll have a wonderful time – and probably won’t get arrested. On a completely unrelated topic, Italian policemen have no sense of humor. This I discovered when I offered one 5,000 liras to try out his riot gear and Taser. [Travel Tip: When attempting to bribe a “poliziotto” do NOT offer liras. Seems they’re not appreciated ever since Italy transitioned over to the euro.]

History: Italy is an extremely old country. I mean seriously old. It’s amazing it can still stand after all these centuries. If Italy were a pet, it would have been put down decades ago. But it has an amazing history that dates back to well before the American Civil War. Its history can be divided into four periods:

The Roman Empire: The country was ruled by emperors called Caesars, who loved salad (in fact, a staple of every household was the Caesar salad). They wore amusing wreaths on their heads and long, flowing togas – just like the ones worn in the acclaimed film Animal House. They built elaborate marble temples to a bunch of pagan gods they stole from Greece without paying for them. And if you did not believe in these gods, you’d be executed. Continue reading “An American Tourist’s Guide to Vacationing in Italy” »

A Survival Guide for coping with air travel

A Survival Guide for coping with air travel

Airline travel - delaysWhen Orville Wright first took flight over the beaches of Kitty Hawk, NC in 1903, he couldn’t have imagined that a century later, millions of people the world over would be getting into shouting matches with ticket agents, security screeners and baggage handlers over the nearly universal frustration caused by his invention. Thanks for the 12-inch gash in the side of my Louis Vuitton suitcase, Orville.

Singapore, New Delhi, and Buenos Aires are just a few of the famous world cities I will probably never get to visit because I refuse to put up with the headaches required to fly there. Also because, like most Americans, I’m not sure exactly where those cities are on a map. (I think New Delhi might be in Belgium.)

But sometimes air travel is unavoidable. If you simply must book a flight, here are a few helpful tips to reduce your stress level. These just might help you resist your urge to strangle the Delta Airlines ticket agent in Concourse C.

Booking your flight – Choosing the right airline 

The first rule of air travel is simple: Don’t fly if you can possibly avoid it. But if you absolutely must fly, for example, to attend a family reunion, I recommend Qantas, the official airline of Australia. The last time Qantas had a fatality was in 1951. Of course, if your family reunion is in say, Chicago, you may need to make a couple connections through Sydney, Tokyo and New York. But you will arrive there safely, albeit two days later than the rest of your family, who opted for the nonstop on United.

Continue reading “A Survival Guide for coping with air travel” »