Tudor's Biscuit World, Philippi, Tygart State Park, Grafton, Clarksburg, Morgantown, West Virginia

Before I begin, if you have come here to want information on Tudor's Biscuit World, please scroll down to the middle of this post. I am writing about things in the order they occurred.

Okay, let's get started then. The plan for this holiday weekend was to not have a plan. As you can see, I have acquired lots of new toys and my aim was to test out the new gear in a realistic setting. It took a hell of a lot of planning not to have a plan, needless to say.

On Saturday morning I had to wait around for the delivery of my new sofa. I must say, it looks spectacular. Then I had to reattach my door frame, which had to be removed to get the sofa in the house. So I got started with my adventure late. Since I had no plan I headed west toward what is becoming one of my favorite states West Virginia. Unfortunately, in order to get to West Virginia you have to travel through Northern Virginia, a place I dislike and think is ugly. I stopped at one of those trendy upscale Mexican fast food places where the help was annoyingly perky and the customers looked like technical geeks married to SAHMs who own obscenely highpriced townhomes on the periphery of suburbia. This put a negative damper on my mood. Yuck. I left in a hurry, these folks are my worst nightmare. If I had bothered to marry and replicate this would have been my life.

After a 4 hour drive I found myself at Seneca Rocks. The GPS worked very well, I didn't really have to think about where I was going, I could see that I was headed into the heart of WV. Since it was Christmas Eve I did something I don't normally do, I spent the night on private property. The cement transportation company over at Judy Gap was very quiet so I parked the minivan on the back lot between two trailers and fell asleep at 6PM. The sun goes down early so there isn't much else to do. I slipped into my new 15 degree sleeping bag and felt very cozy, I thought it was okay because the temp wasn't supposed to be less than 25 degrees. I woke up at 4AM feeling very frosty, so I slipped the new bag in the old sleeping bag and warmed right up. Problem solved.

I got up Christmas morning to a hard rain. This pissed me off because I had absolutely failed to look at the weather report before I left. I got out of my car and nearly fell on the snowy ground that was frozen solid. This meant only one thing....hiking was going to be a no-go. Bummer. So I changed my no-plan vacation into a drive-around vacation where I take pictures with my new camera. Flexibility is the key to life. You may not have had a white Christmas, but I did.

I drove to Elkins and tried to get my boss's Verizon Wireless Card to work, but I was unsuccessful even though I tested it out before I left home. Basically, this multi-gadget programming thing turns into a nightmare if you have GPS,wireless and a few other weird applications on your laptop. But I was thrilled with the GPS, I took a few wrong turns and knew immediately that I was on the wrong road. At Elkins, it really started to rain, I headed north to Philippi. I learned quickly that Central West Virginians from yesteryear were architectual magicians with lots of time on their hands. Here is a picture of a beautiful covered bridge along my route and the courthouse.

It was raining cats and dogs at this point and I was getting tired. By the way, these West Virginians take their Christmas inflatables very seriously. By the time I got to Grafton I wanted to get off the road. The only place that was open were the churches. So I stopped in to the First Baptist Church, I figured the service was already half over so I would stay for the end of it. But in this church sermons last a long long time, the pastor was trying to convince the congregation that all their problems would be solved if they just accepted Jesus Christ as their lord and savior(and tithing probably wouldn't hurt either) I wanted to tell the congregation that it didn't quite work that way, their credit card debt doesn't go away, their husband will still be an alcoholic and their boss will still hate them, Jesus or no Jesus. But I didn't want to start trouble. The rest room was very nice at the church.

Finally the rain started to let up so I drove on to Tygart State Park, which was some type of Army Corp of Engineers project. It had a dam and some hiking trails so I got a couple of miles of soggy hiking in.

Afterward I got to see the sights at Grafton, I really loved Grafton. This is the kind of city where it's industry leaves and it just lays down and dies. This place was one step away from being a ghost town. It is a former railroad hub, but it looks very forlorn. I was ready to move right in. Here is a picture of what was once a very grand railroad station in Grafton, it must have cost a fortune in its time.

This is the kind of apartments and homes that is occupied now in Grafton.

Tudor's Biscuit World
I spent the night in Bridgeport and actually forked over money for a no-tel motel. I finally was going to visit Tudor's Biscuit World. About a year ago on some message board I started talking to a West Virginian about fast food. He mentioned that the worst fast food ever was at a set of outlets found almost exclusively in West Virginia called Tudor's Biscuit World. Only in WV could they come up with a fast food restaurant that is centered around biscuits. WV being one of the fattest states, I just had to experience this place. Since I knew Bridgeport had one of these restaurant jewels I just had to visit. I spent 3 hours doing aerobics with FitTV the night before to work off the necessary calories that were going to be replaced by the biscuits.

I approached the counter where I met Stewie. I asked Stewie what was good here a Tudor's, she said everything was good and from the looks of Stewie it looked like she had been indulging in the biscuits quite often. Although Stewie was very nice and didn't mind getting her picture taken, the food was worse than imagined. The biscuit was one of the worst I have ever tasted (how can you ruin a biscuit?), the sausage was sort of a gray hockey puck which was a cross between actual sausage and scrapple, and the eggs had such a coating of grease I could see myself in my reflection. Needless to say I am still constipated.

Once I left the Biscuit World it started to snow. I headed over to Clarksburg to see what was there. I tell you, some of this old architecture is out of this world. How would you like to live in one of these places?

I headed to Morgantown next. The city is very nice, very vibrant, all sorts of restaurants and a pretty decent outfitter right downtown. You get the feeling these folks know their way around a kayak. Morgantown also had a dam, and what looked like some sort of lock system.

I noticed the West Virginia towns that were off the highway were much better off economically, but had almost been ruined by the Big Box retailers and chain food outlets that had sprung up in the midst. I vote Grafton as my favorite West Virginia city so far.

Back to Peters Mountain, Pennsylvania

I wanted to go back to Peters Mountain near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania because it had been extremely hot when I had hiked up there back in August so I hadn't been able to get very far.

When I saw that the Mountain Club of Maryland had scheduled a trip up there I decided to tag along. I had agreed to go on Tuesday of last week when Maryland had just a dusting of snow. On Friday Maryland received a few inches of snow so I knew that Pennsylvania would have much more but I still wanted to go. 5 gung-ho hikers from the club assembled early on Sunday morning, we had to alter our plans for a 16 mile trek due to the snowfall and we figured we could still do an up-and-back from Duncannon.

The snow had fallen on Friday and we were hiking on the Appalachian Trail on Sunday. I guess Pennsylvania hikers aren't motivated in cold weather because nobody had broken the trail for us on Saturday. I figure there was 7-10" of snow, some of the drifts were up to my hip. Needless to say we were only able to go about 8 miles, I had forgotten my poles and wasn't exactly Speed Racer yesterday. The snow was pretty though. Perhaps I will never be able to make some serious distance on Peters Mountain, it just isn't in the cards for me.

West Side Hike

The West Side Hike that happened on Saturday went rather swimmingly. It was very cold for early December and the wind was blowing. But the sunshine was out so it was a pretty pleasant experience. We met at the B&O Railroad Museum

We had a nice tour of the Irish Shrine Museum courtesy of Wayne Schaumburg and then headed north to Madison Street. We walked around Druid Lake and then on to Round Falls.
Then we headed through Wyman Park and on to Hampden where we finally got to warm up and eat lunch.
34th Street was all decorated up for the holidays, those Hampden folks are on the ball when it comes to Christmas.

Afterwards we headed back through Dru Hill and got to take a rest at the Baltimore Conservatory. Then it was a straight shot south back to our cars. Pictures courtesy of Kevin White.

Ferry Bar Park

This hike was on Sunday and it only encompassed me walking about 50 feet but it was noteworthy in itself. I wasn't feeling so well that morning so I had taken myself out to breakfast. Afterwards I puked up my breakfast in a mall parking lot and I felt immediately much better. As I was driving home over the Hanover Street bridge I figured I would get some errands done at Wal-Mart. However, I as I came toward W-M I was inspired by outside forces to make a quick stop at Ferry Bar Park.

Ferry Bar is a forlorn little place. There is no admittance fee, no lifeguard, no paddle boat rentals, no rules, in fact, there is nothing so you don't have to worry about anybody telling you not to do anything. If you want to fish, go fishing. If you want to smoke crack, go ahead. If you want to get naked, I don't think anyone would complain. In short, Ferry Bar is a place where I feel at home. This picture was stolen from somebody else's blog but it gets the essence of Ferry Bar.

It's freezing and I didn't put on my coat. There is one other car parked next to mine but I don't see anyone else. I walk to the beach and I turn around. I see a man waving at me. I get closer to him and we start talking about the weather. He tells me he is from New Orleans. I see his car and on closer inspection I see he has been living in his car. I am delighted, I love people who live in their car. It is my dream to live in my minivan.

The man introduces himself as Robert. Robert lost his roof during the hurricane. Robert isn't going back to New Orleans. Robert seems like a smart guy. Robert grew up in Baltimore. Robert is going to stay in Baltimore where there aren't any big hurricanes. Robert says he might open a raw bar in Canton if he gets some money together. Robert says it is going to be a long while before FEMA will get its act together. Robert seems pretty happy.

I am glad Robert is here in Baltimore, I think he is going to be an asset to our community. And no, I am not telling you where you can find Ferry Bar Park.

Catoctin Trail, Cat Rock Frederick, Maryland

I wouldn't even bother to write about today except that it was so darned hilarious.

Today's adventure almost never happened. It started off with ActiveCham having a conversation with LazyCham this morning.

ActiveCham: For God's sakes, we've been lazying around in this house for 2 days. Let's get out of the bed and do something!
LazyCham: But this bed is so nice and toasty warm. Let's stay home.
ActiveCham: Our muscles are atrophying, get up.
LazyCham: Bed, bed, bed.
ActiveCham: Okay, we'll compromise, we'll take a quick daytrip to a trail that is really close to home and we will be back early.
LazyCham: Okay, but not too far.

I got up and was in the car by 9AM. I was so proud of myself because I remembered to pack the headlamp and emergency blanket. All I needed was some petrol and coffee and I was going to be off....until I got to the gas station. While pumping my gas I did notice that one of my rear tires looked very close to exploding, it was misshapen and bald. Okay, hike cancelled, off to the tire store.

I drove to Sam's Club and spoke to the tire guy. I am pretty sure I told him that I needed some new tars (have I lived here that long?). Tire guy was very nice and within 20 minutes I was sporting a new set of Goodrich's at a very competitive price. Thanks tire guy for the speedy service!

So now it is 9:40AM. On the way to the trail I had a little problem with my bladder. No not that bladder, the one that goes in my pack. So this involves another stop and I finally end up in the Catoctin Manor area at 11AM. I thought I was completely prepared for a day of hiking although a little late until I hit the trail.

I noticed a group of orange circus clowns with guns at the trailhead. I forgot, today is the opening day of firearms season for bambi here in Merryland and I had seriously forgotten to wear orange. I was dressed very fashionably head to toe in black, and, I might say so myself, I did look rather stylish but not noticeable in, let's say, fuschia or magenta which probably would have been a better color choice for the day. You never know which one of these hunting fruitloops are on the sauce and which one of them is working with their 3 year old on their first kill which is why you want to be as visible as possible.

I figured I would take my chances and head out anyway, there was a light dusting of the first snow on the ground from the night before. I saw probably 30 hunters but only one deer carcass. One hunter was complaining about his knees another whined that he was tired, and none of these unhappy hunters were more than a half mile from the trailhead. Every hunter I know in my personal and professional life is either an alcoholic or spends 11 month of the year in their basement making bullets. And yet the first day of deer season they start traipsing in the woods expecting to walk for miles and be able to drag a 50 pound carcass back to their cars.

One hunter even had the nerve to tell me I shouldn't be in the woods. I told him that shooting me would be a very very bad idea. What I should have said was, "Honey, I am out in these woods all year every year, if anything, you are on my turf. Maryland is still a blue state and I am sure my family would make that negligent homicide charge stick to you like a cheap suit."

Since it was cold and brisk I was able to make incredible time and did the 6 miles to Cat Rock in 1.5 hours, the trail has about a 1000 foot rise. I decided to go as fast as I could on the way back until I got to Bob's Hill overlook where I met another hiker named Jeb who was from Finksburg. I decided to walk with Jeb back to the car since if somebody fired at us I'd have a 50/50 chance of survival. Jeb, by the way, wants to make sure that I mention in the blog that he hiked the Grand Canyon 7 times.

The nice thing about being done early is that one has time to get a civilized meal in Frederick. I want to mention something about the wonderful little town of Frederick, Maryland. I've been hiking in this region for 23 year. When I first visited Frederick it seemed like every storefront was either empty or had thrift shop with the exception of Bushwallers and The Trail House. Over the last 23 years, the population of Frederick changed from a sleepy farm community to a suburb of a suburb of Montgomery County. Mind you, the place has the ugliest townhomes on the planet and a sea of hideous big box retailers on its outskirts, but there is no, if, ands, or buts, Frederick's downtown area is one of the most beautiful places on earth. Every storefront is occupied with wonderful restaurants, jewelry and crafts stores. And, best of all, there is not one chain restaurant in its 8 or 9 blocks. I don't know how the little city pulled that off but it was marvelously successful. If you ever want a great experience, visit Frederick.

White Oak Canyon Shenadoahs, Luray, Waterfall Mountain, Virginia

I lied about the biscuits. I wanted to have an adventure last weekend but I was ill. A smart move would have been to wait until Thanksgiving and have a 4-day extravaganza but the weather was to be stupendous and I was restless so I hastily planned a trip, more like I did no planning at all.

Basically what I did was throw a clean shirt and some socks in the car and drove off at 7AM Saturday morning. I've always wanted to hike Whiteoak Canyon in the Shenandoahs, I had heard some good things about the trail so I thought I should give it a go. Naturally it would have been helpful to have a map of the area and some food but you can't plan everything. On my way there I stopped in the Sheetz Station in Warren, VA to buy a sandwich and was helpful in performing a successful Spanish to Ebonics translation for a latino and the counter help. It was evident that Saturday was going to be a great day.

I then had the problem of finding the trailhead, I knew White Oak was near Old Rag so I headed off in that direction.. When I got to Old Rag Mountain in Virginia I didn't know whether I had found a trailhead or experienced black friday at Wal-Mart. I never saw so many crazed hikers in one spot in my life. I wanted to run screaming through the parking lot, "Boyscouts, this is not what hiking and the outdoors is about. Please run away from your troop leaders immediately and find a more peaceful mountain!" But I was pressed for time and I still didn't know where the Whiteoak trailhead was so I refrained from causing a scene.

After driving around directionless I stumbled upon a sign for the Whiteoak trailhead. Although there were a number of hikers there too, they were in good spirits and I didn't mind the company. This particular trail in the canyon has a whole bunch of waterfalls and here are some pictures that I took with my cell phone, as my digital camera is on loan. The first part of the hike was a 2000 foot ascent but it felt like 500 feet because of all the nice switchbacks and well maintained trail. I met a couple of guys, John and George, who had roomed together at East Carolina State and were off on a hiking adventure of their own. They gave me some trail mix which was much appreciated because, of course, I failed to bring any food with me other than my Sheetz sandwich.

Normally I avoid the Shenandoahs like the plague because I feel that when you get to a precipice of a mountain you should be treated to peaceful serenity and a beautiful view, not cars and fatties which is what you get here because of the easy vehicle access of Skyline Drive that traverses the range. Sure enough I arrived at the top and there was a large family of orbs at the Whiteoak parking...in sweatpants...standing next to their giant SUV. I was temporarily blinded but sallied forth anyway.

Not wanting to go back the same way I came I figured I would romp south on the white-dotted trail a bit. It was cold up there and I saw lots of ice, which should have told me something about what to expect during the night. I met one guy from Salisbury State University complaining about all the beer he had to lug around while backpacking. I told him that in this weather the last thing he should have in his backpack was beer but he was determined, I hope he didn't catch influenza or somesuch.

Now things were going swimmingly up to this point in my adventure. However, during this time of year you have to pay special attention to the clock since sundown is at a firm 5PM. If you don't get out of the woods early you end up with a grande problemo. Naturally I forgot to take my headlamp and emergency blanket (I always seem to forget to take my headlamp and emergency blanket). I thought everything was going to be okay because I had 3 miles left, it was 2:40PM and I hike at 3 miles per hour. So I figured I would be back at my car at 3:40PM. What I had failed to realize was that I had a 2000 foot descent in a 2 mile distance on the Cedar Run trail. This trail was hardly maintained at all, was straight down and it was treacherous, especially since I was on the east side of the mountain and had no light. To make matters worse I had met 2 souls on the trail that were lost so I had to get them off the trail too. I had no clue as to where I was going and had to deal with about 4 stream crossings which were no picnic.

I arrived at my car at 5PM on the nose. The sun had just about disappeared and I didn't want to start driving around so I decided to stay put and sleep at the trailhead for the night. There wasn't much to do at the trailhead so I decided to go to bed eary after eating my remaining half a sandwich. All I can say is that it was colder than a witch's tit there and I had a heck of a time trying to get some sleep. I felt incredibly sorry for all those trying to sleep in the shelters at the top of the Shenandoah ridge. Brrrrr.

This morning I woke up and decided to head into Luray, VA for breakfast. Virginia to me means country ham and I wanted a big slice. I found Uncle Buck's Family Restaurant in downtown Luray. That place had pork and steak and trout and country ham and biscuits and gravy on the breakfast menu. I was very hungry, the food was absolutely delicious. I had the ham but I was dying to try the breakfast trout. I bet dinner there is amazing.

I felt my legs getting a little stiff and I knew I wasn't up for another 10 mile steep hike, so I drove toward the Masanuttens to see what I could see. I found the Storybook Trail over at Waterfall Mountain, 1/4 mile of paved trail with an overlook deck, with signage of information about geology. This trail was all I could do, I just wasn't up for a rock scramble over at Duncan Knob. I learned all about sandstone, shale and limestone and about how mountains folded and crumbled, but most of the information has already leaked out of my noggin. All I remember was that all these caverns in the area were formed by shale dissolving away or maybe it was limestone. Either way, I'm not that fond of caves because I find them claustraphobic so I don't really need to know anyway.

After I got done over at Waterfall Mountain I couldn't think of anything else to do with my time since I was too stiff to hike, so I drove home.

East Side Hike

The East Side Hike was something I concocted when I was logging one of my many many miles that I trek through Baltimore City. I was over on the East Side last year and I thought, "Why am I the only white person around here? This place is so beautiful it has to be seen by the masses!" So I decided to devise a route that would be strenuous enough to attract hikers yet picturesque enough to be interesting. Soon after I came back from Peru I scouted my hike and was satisfied that it would entertain.

However, I wondered about how I would get the word out that I was offering this hike on November 5th. Being the creative and organized person that I am I placed word of the hike on two event calendars hoping to attract at least one other person. Those calendars were on Live Baltimore and the Baltimore Sun. I also handed flyers out at the Mountain Club of Maryland picnic.

I was a little concerned that nobody would want to come on my hike. The last week of October I received a call from an intern at the Baltimore Sun. She said she wanted some more details about the hike so I gave them to her without a second thought. Live Baltimore also asked for a few more details. By Halloween 4 people from MCOM had requested to go on my hike so I was glad that I wouldn't be alone. On November 2nd, Live Baltimore posted a link to my hike and my email box became full very quickly with people requesting more information. On November 3rd the Baltimore Sun published this article and my poor cell phone started ringing off the hook. I ended up with more people than I could count.

Anyhoo, here are some of the pics. We started at the Pagoda. The Patterson Park people were nice enough to open it up for my group. Then we headed north to the Brewery.
Baltimore Cemetery

Then we went to Clifton Park which was beautiful in the fall.

After that, Lake Montabello where we traversed the Jersey wall. Afterwards we went to Waveryly to enjoy lunch. Many hikers had a civilized meal at the Thai Restaurant

Guilford, pretty colors and so very peaceful.

The crowd creates a mutiny and demands we visit Greenmount Cemetery which was not on my original route. Turns out it was an excellent idea.

Hopkins Billings Building was beautiful against the afternoon sky. Then we returned to the Patterson Park area.

The nice folks over at REI gave me some give-aways. That was very nice of them. Everyone got a water bottle, key chain, carabener and coupon. Thank you REI.

Eidolon at Sideling Hill and Hiking Cacapon Mountain, West Virginia

Some of you probably thought I fell off the side of the earth. Have no fear, I have been busy at home.

I finally had some time to get away for a weekend and decided not to make a long trek to the hinterland. I guess I should explain my methodology on choosing places to visit. I own National Geographic's Back Roads Explorer which is basically the TOPO mays for the entire US. I wish they sold the TOPO maps for the entire world because I'd be the first one to plunk down the money for them. I take a good long look at the TOPO maps for the midatlantic region and then try to find a mountain that has some good elevation and, ideally, a hiking trail. Most of these maps were drawn by hand probably in the 1930s, so many of the hiking trails are obsolete or have been moved.

Once I arrive in an area I am then challenged to find the trail, if it still exists. I suppose I could do more but I am lazy and the search for the trail adds a dimension to the trip. So, on Saturday I decided to head toward Cacapon Mountain in West Virginia. I arrive in the area and decide to follow route 9 to see if I see a trail head. I stop at the Panorama Overlook to look at the map and I get a knock on my car window. Some guy is asking whether I am here for the Potomac Valley Audubon Society Hike. Being the flexible gal that I am, I replied, "Sure am. Where are we going?" It turns out the Potomac Valley Audubon people were planning a hike to a place called Eidolon which is about 350 acres that has been willed to the Nature Conservancy Trust over on Sideling Hill. So I tagged along. The place is quite pleasant and this is a picture of an abandoned cottage on the property. The NCT is attempting to get the Audobon Society to manage the property for them. The was the Audubon's first looksee at the place. I hope they can get the situation straightened out.

After we got done looking at the birds, bees, turtles, flowers and trees, I decided to get back on track and head toward Cacapon Mountain. I was instructed by the Audubon people to head toward the Cool Font Resort and use their trails to get to the mountain. The receptionist at the front desk at the resort was very helpful and gave me a lovely map. Maybe she thought I was a guest at the resort but, unfortunately, I was not going to plunk down the $895.00 weekend rate. The guests at the resort were all wearing matching teeshirts and looking very sporty, not many of them made it to the top of the mountain though. The trails to the top involved a 1000 ft. elevation change and I really enjoyed the hike. Here is a picture of the trail at the top of the mountain.

After the hike I continued on to Paw Paw and had dinner at the Sweet Magnolia Restaurant. Then I headed back to Maryland and deep into the Green Ridge State Forest to spend the night in the van. The moon was very bright and blasted light into my eyes during the night. That place is so peaceful and quiet.

IN the morning I decided to head back to the Western Maryland Rail Trail in Hancock after a hearty breakfast at the Park-N-Dine in Hancock. Here is a picture of that beautiful trail. It looks like Governor Booby has allocated some funds to extend this trail another 4.5 miles, more of our tax dollars spent wisely. Sometimes the government gets it.

It was a great weekend and the leaves are just starting to change up there. The weather was perfect. I noticed on the ride home there was an "Indian Springs Wildlife Management Area" west of Hagerstown. I am going to have to check that place out.

Colca Canyon, I learn once again you get what you pay for

Terry and I decided we wanted to take a bus trip to Colca Canyon. Colca Canyon is the second largest canyon in the world. Peru is also home to the largest canyon but Colca has gotten better reviews. We weren´t very discriminatory and we visited a young lady who was manning a bus trip booth in downtown Arequipa.

The travel tour sales lady seemed nice enough and described a 2 day trip including a tour of the canyon, 1 night´s hotel, one breakfast and all transporations and guide. All this for an unbelievable low price of $25. This was low even by Peruvian standards. Being the cheapskates that we are we immediately handed over the money and only afterwards did we share a second thought.

The next morning a minibus arrives at our hotel chock full of other unsuspecting tourists, mainly from Spain and a few from England. Things start off well enough but we found out too late that the roads from Arequipa to Colca are almost nonexistant. We looked lovingly at the large tour buses with good shocks on them as they passed us. The other tourists on the bus seemed nice enough but they could definitely outshine me, which is hard to do, when it comes to the nickle and dime routine. I have never seen anybody shave fractions of Solas down to the tenth on every single restaurant purchase.

Our tour guide claimed she had a handle on english but much of what came out her mouth sounded liked: "The terrorists in the mountains have trouble with adequate immigration" when she actually meant "The mountain terraces are difficult to irrigate." The entire trip I though Osama was behind the bus.

The hotel wasn´t bad, if you don´t mind mice waking you up every 10 minutes but it did have agua caliente which is a rare find in this neck of the woods. We had 2 lovely hikes in the mountains on this trip, one brit and one spaniard was faster than me, I need more practice. I finally got to realize my dream of soaking in a thermal bath which was nice.

I fly home tomorrow in the PM, I will have my last $10 massage from Miguel right before the plane leaves. I hate to leave that man. I will post some more pics when I get home because these computers in Arequipa suck.

Copacabana, Bolivia y Arequipa, Peru

Hola amigos:

Last we spoke I was on my way to try the Guinea Pig frito in Puno. They skinned me a nice one and it had a gamey flavor, sort of like bunny. The next morning we got on a bus and headed for Bolivia. We got some lovely stamps on our passports courtesy of the immigrations department at the border so now I have Bolivia, Peru, Jamaica and Brasil on my passport. I think the US immigrations people will think I am either a drug mule or serious partier.

Bolivia was wonderful, in the spirit of sounding like my mother, you have to hear about this place. We picked the best hotel in town, it was top of the line Ocean City quality with a beautiful view of the lake. Get this folks, including breakfast it cost us 70 Bolivars per night which works out to under $9 per night. Of course, during our stay we took the boat ride from hell to the island d'el sol y la luna. The little boat only went about 3 miles per hour, I could have kayaked faster. It was miserably cold, I had my winter gear, everyone else was dressed for summer and you could see them shake. When we arrived at the island we felt obligated to hike to the top, probably a difference of 1000 feet but we only had 1 hour to enjoy the island so we scrambled very fast. All you mcom hikers probably think that shouldn't have been so painful but we were starting out at 12,500 feet hiking up to 13,500 feet...needless to say I got a little winded. I was too miserable to take any pictures.

The little town in Bolivia didn't have too many tourists, of the few they had none were Americanos which was nice. We ate dinner at Cafe Bistrot where we had a spirited conversation about satanic Jorge Bush with owners Fatima and Roberto. Roberto used to live in the US and broke down in tears when he spoke about the situation in New Orleans. On a side note, I would tell you all exactly how I feel about that Idioto Supremo en la Casa Blanco but I don't want Homeland Security stopping me a la Cat Stevens when I try to reenter the US. I will save that for a later time.

The next day we crossed back into Peru and got on the local bus back to get to Arequipa. The guidebook said the Arequipa was unsafe and to beware, but everyone has been very nice and we haven't had any concerns, knock on wood.

This computer is not allowing me to upload my images easily so I am going to have to save the pics for another time, I have a great picture of Bob's lago, the mountains outside our hotel room and a rather blurry picture of my GPS showing 13,500 ft but I will post it anyway. Arequipa is a large city that is very business oriented. There are no Quechuan people here and I am watching everyone operate at a business pace for a change. There aren't that many tourists and we will stay here through tomorrow and then head out for a very touristy tour of Colca Canyon.

We also visited the Taca airline offices today and managed to change the airline ticket for the flight we missed in Lima to one for Arequipa to Lima on the night we need to leave so we didn't lose any money on that snafu. We felt pretty proud of ourselves to be able to navigate this entire mess while speaking espanol. So far since landing in Cusco I figure I will have spent maybe $300 for the two weeks here in Peru, including hotels, travel, restaurant meals 3x day and various tours. I would have spent more breathing air in my living room in Baltimore. Mom, Dad, friends, family, don't expect me to hang around in the Estados Unitos when I am ready to retire on my measely social security check in a few years. The Republicans always tell us that if we don't like it here we can leave.....thank you, I think I will.

I am at Bob´s favorite place....Lake Titicaca

After I finished the last blog entry I went in search of Terry on the main square Pisac. Terry had found a bunch of global expats holed up in Ulrike´s Cafe. We had a long talk with all of them, they all seemed to be seeking refuge from their busy lives back in Europe and Canada. We had a long chat with Birgithe Vestergaard from Denmark, she was cafe sitting while the owner was traveling. She was given free room and board to watch the place, this doesn´t seem like a bad deal to me, I am going to have to check into this hostal/cafe/business sitting option in foreign countries, it sounds like fun.

In the morning we got up and strolled around Pisac. This is a picture of the colorful wares available for sale. There were a lot of stalls, but not many customers, I don´t know whether these folks actually earn any money.

I had convinced poor Terry that the local bus was the way to go when it came to trans-Peru travel. I don´t think Terry was ready for what was to come. We made it from Pisac back to Cusco on a packed local bus, Terry was not pleased that a baby spat up on him. We then maneuvered to the bigger buses for transport from Cusco to Puno. We paid extra for the panaromic view seat at the front. The 6 hour bus ride cost a little over $6 each. I have also discoverd who the badly behaved travelers are and its not the Americans, it´s the Australians. In Pisac a group of young Australian women decided to wear tank tops instead of long sleeves like all the Peruvians, I thought that was a little inappropriate. But when they sat down at the outdoor cafe one of them took the cake, her thong was showing above her pant waist, with her fat ass cheeks hanging out....disgusting. If she had been American I would have given her an earful.

Now back to the bus. Peruvian bus seats are assigned. When our seater on the bus showed us our seats, there was an Australian man already sitting in them. He refused to leave. Begrudgingly he agreed after a few minutes of spirited conversation. He took the seat behind us complaining every minute, then was upset because there was no bathroom on the bus, then he complained that he couldn´t open the window. He just wouldn´t shut up. Again, had he been American I would have reemed him a new asshole. The Peruvian seater kept on moving him to the back, the Australian got what he deserved.

I think the beating the US is getting globally is having a positive effect on American international travel behavior, or perhaps we are in such a remote place the ugly Americans just aren´t here. The other American tourists here are extremely polite and most are attempting to speak espanol.

Terry was complaining that we weren´t doing enough touristy things and I was spending way too much time making him run up and down mountains, so I reluctantly agreed to go on a tour of Inca ruins near Puno called Sillustani. Puno is on Lake Titicaca and it has had a number of different tribes/societies/conquerors including the Incas and Spaniards. These ruins are on an island on a lake near Puno. After our tour of the ruins our guide asked us if we wanted to visit a Quechuan farmhouse.

At the farm we met Maria, pictured here. Her clothing is indicative of the way most of the native women dress, I´d say at least 25% of the women in Peru look like this. She is pictured cooking on her little stove, she uses alpaca dung as fuel and she doesn´t wash her hands after she puts some in the fire. The best part of Maria is her teeth, look at these beautiful chompers! Maria does not eat any sugar, coffee or tea. She is twenty years old and has never brushed her teeth, they are beautifully white. Many Quechans drop dead with the most beautiful set of teeth, very impressive.

Regarding my meals. I have decided that if I recognize a food option on a menu, I won´t order it. So far I have eaten something called "jumped back" which was delicious. Last night was a fish dish called Jerreny, I think. This morning we ended up in a hole-in-the-wall, our server spoke no Spanish, just Quechan, but she brought us something that I think was called Cornado (I think), a giant pile of carne, huevos and arroz for $0.60, delicous. Tonight I want my cuy frito.

Tomorrow we head to Copa Cabana, Bolivia on Lake Titicaca. Terry wants another stamp on his passport and will jump through hoops to get it. I have no idea whether Bolivia has Internet but we will find out.