Don’t Miss Honduras!

Let’s get the negative out of the way. Yes, Honduras currently holds the title of being the ‘Most Dangerous Country in the World,’ yet there is much more to the country than one bad mark. Most people have done poorly on a test in school, I feel like that same bad experience is what’s keeping a cloud over the beauty that in Honduras. I only had time to scratch the surface, but with that tiny scratch I encountered so many great things. I was likely as fearful of entering Honduras as I was entering any country before it, it’s almost like crossing a state line at this point. A friend and I trekked through three cities and used San Pedro Sula as our transportation hub.

We hiked behind Pulhapanzak Waterfall

Pulhapanzak Waterfall (Peña Blanca): This was our first stop after we landed in San Pedro Sula. The bus ride to the area was via El Mochito at the San Pedro Sula bus station (we took a cab there from the airport), which is very similar to the dollar vans in NYC or the mini bus service in New Jersey. Vendors hop on and off the bus along the route and you can get fresh agua de coco, fried chicken or platanos. We were planning on using D&D Brewery as a landing place, but that didn’t work out so we just brought our bags to the resort at the waterfall and they watched things for us. Once we got the the park, which is about 15km from Lago Yojoa, we paid our entrance fees and hired a guide. Rafael was our guide and did a great job at getting us down to the waterfall and behind it. My friend can’t swim and was still able to do the waterfall tour. It takes about an hour and is worth the schlep. The bus ride there took about one hour and 45 minutes.

Getting ready to hand feed this lil guy (that I named Chippi)

Copán Ruinas: We got here pretty late at night after a very long taxi ride from San Pedro Sula, seeing as though the last bus to Copán Ruinas leaves around 3:30pm. Thankfully Hotel Brisas de Copán was very welcoming. We did have a reservation, which orginially with Hotel Acropolis across the street, but all the rooms were booked for the two nights that we needed. We proceeded to pass out and got up well after sunrise. We found a great breakfast at Copán Grills not too far from Parque Central. Baleadas, pupusas y licuados, they have a full menu that will fill you up for a great price. We found a tuk-tuk driver, Cesar R., that agreed to take us to the Ruinas, pick us up after and take us to the Canopy Tours location then drop us back off at our hotel for $7. Deal! The ruins are a great morning trip and we hired a guide to tell us about the ruins. There weren’t too many people at the site and there were some beautiful birds in the area. In the early afternoon I did the canopy tour, it’s worth the $45, which includes the bird park. I skipped the bird park, although there was a baby Guarda Barranco at the canopy start point that I helped feed. We spent the rest of the afternoon at a great restaurant and bar, Don Toño’s a few blocks from Parque Central. The owner was completely friendly and it was a great atmosphere.

Sunset over Bahia de Tela

Tela (Bahía de Tela): There are lots of buses towards La Ceiba that stop in Tela from San Pedro Sula. We got to Tela in the early afternoon and paid 60 lempiras for a ride to our hotel, Maya Vista. There are three stops for most buses in Tela and we opted for the second just in case. The hotel is basically the tallest building in Tela since it is at the top of a hill. The bay has great views and you can catch both sunrise and sunset on a clear day, unfortunately we had misty days. Here days are as long and calm as the beachfront. The restaurants close by 9-10pm and the streets are pretty desolate. There are tours that go to Punto Sal y Izopoo, but you need at least six confirmed people in order for the tour to go out so that was out of the question. I think there were maybe a dozen foreigners while we were here. If you are a seafood lover this is the place for you, while folks like me can’t get by on fresh cut coconuts and chicken. Tela was definitely a great place to end a whirlwind trip through Honduras. There are more mosquitos here than I recall encountering in other area. 

There are things that made each stop similar: the overtaking of vehicles on all roadways, vendors selling items on the side of every road, the love of Pepsi. As dangerous as Honduras is said to be I can say that I didn’t feel unsafe, even after seeing a corpse on the side of the road leaving Copán Ruinas. I’m sure there are tons of things I have forgotten, but I can only say that you should, ‘Visit Honduras,’ as it is a country full of beautiful people and places.

Desayuno! Baleada, licuados, pupusa y fajitas.

Desayuno! Baleada, licuados, pupusa y fajitas.

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Getting Married At Burning Man

Those that know me would likely say that, “I am a bit of a free spirit and spontaneous.” I assume I proved them right when I decided to get married at Burning Man and then actually followed through by marrying someone I had never actually met until our wedding day. There are certainly folks that would say that is insane, but I think it was great that way.

I asked potential platonic spouses to fill out an online form. Over a dozen people responded and a group of folks sat down with me at a bar to go through the responses, names/gender were redacted to make this unbiased. The group ended up selecting someone from NYC. A virgin burner who had kick ass responses to questions on the form. Date and time were set and we agreed to meet at Champagne Lounge (who graciously let us use their lounge space for the ceremony and short reception, down the road from my camp, for the ceremony. 

After picking up a fun looking ring and sending Facebook wedding invites to camp mates I figured everything would work its way out. MagicMan would officiate, Dogbrain would walk me down the aisle, Ice Brain was to be my ring gal… It was set. For some odd reason I thought it would be a bright idea to run my first 50K the same day as my first wedding. The few hours between the race and wedding were not pretty. Could I really go through with this after putting my body through five hours of running? As we say at camp, “It’s probably fine.” So when Ice Brain ran over and said someone in a white dress walked by I knew I had to get ready for the big show.

We physically met for the first time just before we were to walk down the aisle. The music started and we were all systems go. It was great! A ton of my camp mates were there to celebrate this unofficial, temporary union. Her mad lib style wedding vows were crowd approved. I received messages from folks after the burn that they stopped by my wedding, but didn’t get the chance to catch me after.

We spent a little time wandering streets and chatting. She went with me for my post 50K massage. On my birthday there was a balloon and a flask labeled, “Birthday Bourbon. -Your Wife,” waiting for me at my camp bar on my birthday. I definitely found a winner! My camp loved her and if she’s back for 2014 she’s definitely found a home with us.

Would I do it again? I’m not sure. It takes a lot to coordinate something like this on playa, especially since everyone operates on ‘Playa Time.’ Overall the experience was a win. I wish I had spent a lil less time sleeping and a lil more time hanging out and exploring with her, but it was still all smiles in my book. So the platonic marriage to a perfect stranger turned into meeting a superb being that I definitely need to schedule a date with.

My Honolulu Marathon Fun Run

I decided to run the Honolulu Marathon in late 2012 and I’m glad I followed through on the run. I stopped training and running in early November, after the NJ Trail Series 24 hour run that I completed (a race report for another day), so I wasn’t sure how I’d do on no training. I’ve had mild knee pain since my 81 mile run, which I haven’t had checked out yet. Reading other reports I knew there were three things to be aware of:

  1. The runners that stand at the start line watching the fireworks that kick off the run
  2. Diamond Head elevation
  3. The weather

The night before the race I had dinner at Auntie Pasto’s, which was delicious. If you are in Honolulu, it’s worth checking out. I’ve decided that two bottles of beer the night before the race shall serve as my pre-race “good luck” tradition. I opted for two Kona Brewing Company Longboard lagers this time. Since the race starts at 5am I needed to be up by 3:30am so that I could walk to the start with enough time to wiggle my way to the front of the start. laid out my race gear, drank my beer and off to bed I went.

The morning of the race I woke up, got dress, ate a quick snack and headed off toward the start line. My strategy for the race was simple, have fun! If I finished under 4:00 I’d be happy. I didn’t notice the humidity initially, although it wasn’t terrible overall. Florida still holds the crown in terms of humidity. The fireworks went off and some of us were off. I wasn’t as close tot he front as I wanted to be so I crossed the start line about 2:00 into the race. I ran with one of the reps for The Stick that I met at the expo. I’d see him pull up to me again around Mile 21 and I reminded him he needed to pick up the pace if he wanted to finish within his goal. There were small crowds through the first seven miles.

When we reached Diamond Head the road narrowed considerably. I decided to plow through the hill and run along the caution tape that volunteers were hold up. Hi-fiving them as a darted by was nice. For the next however many miles it was residential running, but nice to see folks out cheering, singing and playing instruments. I was able to catch sunrise early in the second half of the race, of course this was after I’d watched the front runner pass me (this is an our and back course). 21K – 1:53:39


Once the sun came up the cold sponges at aid stations REALLY came in handy. I took one at each aid station that offered them. More ‘Good Mornings’ and ‘Hellos’ to everyone I passed, including lots of police officers. I was having fun, as hard as it is for some to believe. Time ticked away and one thing I tried to do was learn the Japanese phrase I kept hearing. It reminded me of the word ‘Sabaidee’ which you hear a lot in Thailand. I later found out that is was something like ‘Gambatee.’ Anywho, back to running. Diamond Head was a little more annoying at Mile 24, but there was a bonus. A group of Hashers set up an aid station near the 40k mark, just before the downhill begins. They made sure folks knew they were doling out beer and I gratefully accepted. 2.2km left in this race, Woohoo!!!

As I neared the finish I saw a Minnie Mouse, I didn’t want to get costumed so at this point I made an effort to sprint through the finish. The only issue with that is quite a few people slow down just as they get to the clock…. Run through the clock, if you can, please! The mouse got under just before me, but that means I finished also. Second marathon completed in 3:57:08. As the volunteer handed me my finisher beads she said, “You don’t even look like you just ran a marathon. It looks like you could run another one right now.” I smiled, told her, “I just had fun” and headed to the finishers village. My knee was throbbing a tad bit, but I was able to walk on it.

Time for my 10 minute shiatsu massage and a few malasadas before spending the afternoon at Lanikai Beach. The finishers village was well organized and had a lot to offer, especially since there were only about 1,200 of us there at the time.


Overall the race was nice, as most say it could do for a little nicer view at some points, but it wasn’t terrible. The race director may want to consider making at least one seeded corral so that those who want to run the race can without having to run on dividers and such for the first few miles, the corral signs they use are completely ignored. There is no reason why people should be dodging walkers from the start gun/fireworks. I’d definitely recommend this race to anyone looking to run a destination race just don’t come in expecting a super fast course. Come to have fun!

Now to take a few weeks off and let my body recover from all this running!

What I’m Thankful For: Three Weekends Of Aiding Hurricane Sandy Survivors

November proved to be one of the months I was most grateful for. I can’t think of a more worthwhile and gratifying way to spend a little bit of my own time than helping those that were affected by Hurricane Sandy. 20121104_085245Like thousands of others, I originally planned on volunteering at the ING NYC Marathon. Instead I headed out to Staten Island on Sunday, November 4th with a ferry full of runners and other folks looking to lend a helping hand. That day turned out to be more rewarding than I could have imagined. I was in awe of the number of people that were willing to go into a disaster zone without a second thought.

20121111_111836We didn’t come with a real plan. We didn’t want anything in return. We were simply strangers coming together to help strangers in need. I guess you could say the feeling was euphoric. I definitely wanted to share that feeling with others so for the two next weeks I went out to Far Rockaway in the same manner. Myself and the folks who joined me worked at the homes of complete strangers for as long as we could. At sunset we headed to the bus stop and waited with volunteers and locals to get off of the inlet. The commute back to the train was the low point. Even then we made the best of the 1.5 hour long bus ride, which should have only been twenty minutes.

The smiles and hugs were the only compensation that we accepted. As we lifted floor boards, ripped out drywall and pulled out waterlogged insulation we tried to make light of a 20121111_150050really tough situation. One owner joked with his wife that he didn’t want to get the floor dirty as we trudged though muck while clearing his basement. What many people fail to realize is that these were working class people who were simply living the ‘American Dream.’ For many they spent a pretty penny to move to their communities and in a matter of hours everything was turned upside down. Suddenly you are tapping into reserve funds to pay for water removal and electrical rewiring. This was the last thing on anyone’s mind since everyone was comparing this storm to Hurricane Irene, which did minimal damage to New York City.

Beyond the tears and feelings of doubt you could see the light coming back to those that lost almost everything. The people in the homes I went to were much stronger than they realized. I immediately thought of the lines:

20121111_152448Through this place of wrath and tears looms but the horror of the shade
And yet the menace of the years finds and shall find me unafraid
William Ernest Henley
You think about what you would do in a situation like this, but you never really know how you will react until you are living through this nightmare. I am grateful that I was fortunate enough to sustain no damage to my home, but I am even more grateful that I was able to provide an ounce of assistance to a few people in Staten Island and Far Rockaway during some of their darkest hours.

20121111_162332

Merry Christmas.

Los Colores De Panama

As my flight prepared to land at Tocumen Airport I got my first glimpses of the red soil and a vivid green countryside. From the landscape to the people, everything in Panama appeared to be bright and full of life.There was color everywhere and I loved it.

Even the humidity being above 80% the entire time didn’t stop me from wanting to walk everywhere and take it all in. Of course I stopped to see the Panama Canal, explore the Parque Natural Metropolitano and wander through Albrook Mall. My deeper goal was to travel off the beaten path and find those hidden treasures. One of my first finds was a graffiti park near Escuela Santa Familia in Casco Viejo. The art may not compare to the works of Banksy or Nick Walker in some books, but it is beautiful, and the Pacific Ocean along the basketball court serves as a great contrast. The colors plastered on the surfaces also liven the school that it is adjacent to.

My second find in Casco Viejo were the homes. I should specify that although I liked all of the homes in the area I found that the older homes told a story. There was a contrast that was reminiscent of the tenement buildings during the early 20th century in New York City.  The buildings and its tenants were doing everything within their power to withstand the changes around them that would eventually force them out of their homes. In Casco Viejo you see banners on the streets opposing the gentrification that is pushing out the people that have inhabited this seawall peninsula for ages. Some mention that it is somewhat unsafe in Casco Viejo at night, but it is also worth noting that the President of Panama, Ricardo Martinelli, resides there. It’s just as safe as wandering around Paris, Brooklyn, Chicago, or Fes; simply use common sense.

My favorite treat was the cab ride from the Panama Canal. The driver took a shortcut through El Chorrillo, which has been documented as an impoverished neighborhood. Its history includes canal workers, Manuel Noriega, the US’  Just Cause invasion in 1989 and Roberto Duran. I stuck my cameras lens out to capture the streets  we were passing through without thinking and I’m glad that I was able to capture a part of Panama that will inevitably go through the same changes that are happening in Casco Viejo.

Cab rides for only a few dollars, ropa vieja meals for just about the same price and the Panamanian version of Walmart, El Machetazo. This city will give you a lot of bang for your buck. I equally enjoyed walking and shopping along Avenida Central in Santa Ana. If it weren’t for the humidity and lack of a winter season I would consider making Panama more of a mainstay. That and the fact that there is a clear obsession with American fast food chains, but with some effort you can find a fonda and enjoy an authentic Panamanian dish. I would recommend anyone interested in exploring Panama City to go for it, there’s more to this city than just the Panama Canal.

10 Things You Need On The Playa

For years I thought about going to Burning Man so that I could experience this ‘self reliance’ and radical expression’ that I heard so much about. In 2008 I finally subscribed to Jack Rabbit Speaks and lived vicariously through the newsletter and photos. Finally making it to the playa was surreal, for lack of any word in existence that could possibly describe it.

Like many virgins, I thought I was prepared. I mean, c’mon; I read the newsletter for years, I knew the principles, I had signed up to volunteer, I scoured the internet for tips and I checked my packing list twice. I knew I needed a tent (I doubt I would ever RV it, personal preference), food, water and a bicycle. You definitely need those things to survive on the playa. There were still things that I forgot, things I was glad that I packed and things I learned along the way. Here’s my shortlist, in no particular order:

10. Participation. Participate. Participate? Participate! This cannot be repeated enough. Just because you don’t want to join a camp or can’t commit to four hours of work a day as a ranger doesn’t mean that you can’t give back to Black Rock City (BRC). You can spend a few hours at Playa Info, get on stage in Center Camp, support an event or create your own event to share with the other citizens of BRC.

9. Lights At Night. There is nothing worse than literally running into some unlit being on the open playa after dancing it up at Disorient on Tuesday night. Be a dear and put some blinkies or glow sticks on your bike as well as yourself when you head out at night. Mutant vehicles and art cars may not see you stumbling across the playa and we would all hate for you to be that inevitable fatality that we have grown to expect annually.

8. A Vinegar/Water Concoction. Be sure to label the spray bottle that you put this mixture in. After spending hours exploring the playa your sweaty feet will thank you for keeping them from learning what playa foot is all about. Simply spray a little of this on your hands and feet and pat dry. Be sure to finish this ritual off with some lotion or sunscreen.

7. A Backpack. This sounds obvious, but it’s not. Couples tend to bring one bag and share the space. It’s not fun being the designated bag carrier with 2 water bottles, sweaters and other essentials strapped to your back. What would you do if that bag carrier of yours just so happens to wander off? Now it’s getting dark and your thirsty, what are you going to do? Don’t even let this become a potential situation, each person should have a backpack! It also makes it a little easier to get to the things you want when you want them instead of pestering the person holding all of your super cool stuff.

6. Earplugs. I even do this when I go to parties in the default world. Earplugs will help filter out the noise that will cause eardrum damage and it makes it easier to understand what the cute person in the elephant costume is screaming in your ear at Nexus. Want to get a few restful hours of sleep in your freshly pitched tent after a six hour entry queue? Pop in those earplugs and let the playa dreams roll.

5. Baby wipes. Some people feel icky after going seven days without a proper shower, but consider it a right of passage when you live in BRC. You can always head over to Nectar Village for a steam bath if you do not want to undertake creating your owner shower structure and in between make use of baby wipes to get your clean, quick fix. Remember that you’re only going to re-dust yourself two seconds after stepping outside. Save your water for drinking and your energy for playing, baby wipe the dust away.

4. Reusable Cups. It’s easy to just buy a pack of paper or plastic cups, but they’re wasteful and will become MOOP a lot quicker than you expect. Instead opt for a sturdier cup. Pimp out your favorite plastic reuseable cup or invest in a shatterproof thermos that you can attach to your bag for easy access.

3. Chapstick. I like to lovingly call the effects of chapped lips on the playa Playa Herpes. Just like the default world version, this is something that you just don’t want and your friends will probably stop sharing their cups with you. Do yourself a favor and buy a six pack in case you lose a tube. You can always gift an unused tube to someone that appears to be in need!

2. MOOP Bags. There will come the time when you are peddling down 4:00 between Engagement & Divorce (2011 street names) and you come across a half dozen used glow stick bracelets waiting to be picked up. Help keep the playa clean and carry a little bag to collect matter out of place. When you make it back to your camp empty out your travel size MOOP bag into your camp MOOP bag.

1. Your Own Personality. Just because some people choose to dress themselves up with EL wire before hitting the town each night doesn’t mean that you’ve got to do the same. Some folks prefer a simple floral shirt and cargo shorts when they head over to Center Camp for a coffee while you’ve got others that feel incomplete without their hula hoop, yarn extensions and green fur coat. Do what feels comfortable to you and just be yourself. You know the saying, Be yourself, everyone else is already taken.’ Keep in mind that this is also the time to step outside your comfort zone and try something new without the fear of being judged.

Keep in mind that there’s one thing you don’t need on the playa; a bad attitude. We all get tired, dusty and possibly dehydrated at some point during our short time on the playa, but that does not mean that Oscar the Grouch needs to make an appearance (unless that is planned ensemble for burn night).

Whether it’s your first burn or your 27th you’ve got to remember that you make the city and the city also makes you. Don’t forget the bacon. The gate opens in 193 days and the Man burns in 198 days. )'(

Will Burning Man Overcome Scalping?

Approximately 53,000 Burning Man tickets were sold by July 24th, 2011, making it the first year that the event sold out in its 25 years of existence. In efforts to combat the growing  scalping attempts the Burning Man Organization (BMOrg) has instituted a lottery system, which began yesterday.

There are already a few resale sites that are offering tickets ranging for $700-1610 a piece.  Keep in mind that the highest price tickets are selling for through the legal portal is $390. Resellers are also showing that tickets will ship between February 1st and August 24th although BMOrg has stated that tickets will not ship until some time after June 1st, without giving a specific date. In Coachella’s attempt to thwart scalper’s buying up all tickets they decided to host identical festivals over two weekends, with the same lineup. Of course burning two men, two temples and cleaning out the city and ushering in 50,000 people for a second week of Burning Man is highly improbable.

There are a couple things that BMOrg can do to try and combat scalpers before they become a cancer to the event.

  • Associate names with ticket numbers so you can track the movement of a ticket, even if the names are only virtually paired
  • Force purchases to resell their tickets through a BMOrg portal
  • Include verbiage to combat scalping in the Terms & Conditions

We first heard of the lottery/random selection system a few months ago and are now seeing if this system will be viable. There are tens of thousands of ‘burners’ queuing for a chance to be randomly selected for one of the 40,000 tickets being offered at the end of this month, potentially including those that did not receive a ticket purchase confirmation during December’s 3,000 ticket pre-sale.

For the next 13 days, at least, it’s a waiting game. Shortly after January 22nd the lucky 40,000 tickets will be randomly distributed to their very lucky recipients. Let’s hope that the far majority actually go to people genuinely interested in attending Burning Man and not looking to make a quick buck off of someone that has been saving up for this amazing place they call ‘home.’