Andy Travels

Flat Battery

An excerpt from An Ozzy Roadtrip ’06

The Players:  Roy, Jonny B, the DJ, and me

The location:  Rutherglen, Australia

Ain’t this a bitch.  Picturesque sunset.  Eight shades of pink and orange and red blanketing the sky.  Miles beyond miles of sexy, tangled grape vines sprawling in every direction.  A crisp breeze exciting a plethora of natural, exotic aromas.  And then there’s me, half cocked on two plus bottles of wine dragging a busted bike down the road cussing the Ozzy swindlers who pawned it off on me.  Gonna be dark soon, still got three or so miles to go, I keep knocking my shin on this stationary pedal, and probably gonna have to pay an extra day’s rent for of my impaired bicycle – up until now I thought being wine drunk and irritated were mutually exclusive…

…Only a few days into a two month long road trip, we had just left the Blue Mountains,

Home sweet home for 2+ months...All you need is wicked love!

Home sweet home for 2+ months...All you need is wicked love!

the Beatles Van still had that new car smell, and the lone agenda item was to end up in Melbourne by the end of the week.  What to do, what to do – a question that would be answered with a help of a map, some local persuasion and sweet glass of red.  Rutherglen:  Ozzy wine country in the foothills between Sydney and Melbourne, Victorian heaven if you ask me.  Home sweet home of the Rutherglen Muscat and that delectable Tokay.  Rutherglen boasts all the tell-tale signs of a robust wine region – gorgeous valley, rolling hills, sun kissed grasslands, and an abundance of those happy grape vines destine to bring smiles to the faces of millions.

Pete and I had enjoyed a couple days in New Zealand’s Marlbarough vino region months earlier and discovered the bicycle as the choice vehicle for exploration around wine country.  Economical, somewhat safe, kinda legal, not to mention it’s just plain fun to ride around drunk on a bike – you can’t go wrong!  So after some brief haggling, directional guidance, and bicycle handling instruction the four of us were set loose in the land of vino on a mission to slurp up the local scene.

Action shot

Action shot

There are 20+ wineries in the area and you’d really like to see them all, but that just isn’t realistic in a day – especially when you’re sporting a solid buzz after numero uno.  I’d like to think my wine knowledge it pretty good, but the truth of the matter is my inebriated pallet has a hard time distinguishing anything besides good and terrible – usually (but not always) leaning towards the good side of things.  That doesn’t change the fact that bullshitting with vineyard owners is one of my favorite past times.  Something about that grape scent in the air really makes you feel as if you know what you’re talking about.  We hit six or seven different spots in Rutherglen, but the vino descriptions at Cofield Wines were by far the most memorable –

Our Sangiovese blends sour cherry flavours to enhance a medium body with drying tannins.  Should be accompanied with sparkling conversation, the endearing smile of a loved one, and an intimate snuggle close a gentle fire…

Priceless!

We were all sticking together pretty well throughout the day, but after the first 3-4 stops

Soaking it all up Ozzy style

Soaking it all up Ozzy style

young DJ starting lagging a bit.  As it turns out, heavy drinking and exercise don’t always mix so well – neither do booze and time management.  We found ourselves six or seven miles outside of town with about 30 minutes before it was time to return the bikes…time to hurry.  Jonny, Pete and I raced ahead and DJ brought up the rear.

I had been cruising pretty good all day, but something was starting to feel a little off.  I mean I could be wine drunk but I think my bike is running a bit sluggish…wait a minute…yep that’s a flat tire…perfect!!  After some fruitless jostling, my fate became imminent and it was time to walk.  Jonny and Pete were probably back by now, hopefully the DJ as well – and here I am a drunk guy with a drunk bike.  It was at the height of my groveling when a rusty old man pulled over in his rusty old truck – ‘having some troubles mate?’ – I excitedly explained my plight and my new friend graciously remarked that my bike would fit in quite well with the twine reels and gardening tools in the bed of the truck – ‘Jumper on in’ – Oh sweet relief!

As we cruised back along the rolling country roads, I elaborated on my predicament, and

The Ozzy traveling crew, taking advantage of Rutherglen's wine country

The Ozzy traveling crew, taking advantage of Rutherglen's wine country

excessively paid gratitude toward my benevolent chauffeur.  He was a sober, weathered, older gentleman who was happy to help out another human being in need, hell, he was headed that way any how.  With the windows down and dusk upon us, things were starting to look up again as another struggling biker came into view.  As we approached I noticed it was a recognizable figure.  Young DJ was bringing up the rear all right, still a mile or two out of town.

“That one of yours, mate?”

“Yeah, that’s actually my brother.”

“He gonna be all right?”

“Yeah, I think the wine may have just slowed him down a bit.”

“You got the flat tire mate – but looks like he may have himself a flat battery!”

“Ahhhahaha, I could kiss you for saying that!”

I managed to just think that last line except for the delighted chuckle.  I love the great stories that always seem to make there way out of wine country, especially the ones that forever allow you to give your brother a rash of shit!

Posted 4 years, 8 months ago at 9:11 am.

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Sweet Relief in Pisac

An excerpt from Mis Dias de Peru

The Location:  The Sacred Valley, outside Cusco, Peru

The Players: JB, Michaela, Caesar, and me

The Sacred Valley...Peru at its finest

The Sacred Valley...Peru at its finest

I really shouldn’t have drunk all that mate de coca this morning.  I mean, it’s delicious, nutritious and actually a real necessity at 11,000 feet with all that nagging altitude sickness looming around; but 5 cups right before a two hour car ride was probably a little excessive.  Now, I’m doing my damnedest not to think about it, but I really need to take a leak.  I got Caesar whipping around these mountain corners, slamming on the brakes, throwing down the gas, bobbing and weaving all over the broken alpine roads – really just ensuring we know he can drive like a true Peruvian.  If I didn’t know any better, I’d think he was deliberately driving like this to torture me and my poor bladder.  It is a full blown fact that I will wet myself if we don’t reach a toilet soon…

Caesar had pulled up to our hotel in his white Toyota station wagon a couple hours

post pee, up close and personal with the ruins

post pee, up close and personal with the ruins

earlier and has cheerfully been touring us around the Urubama Valley since.  We rode past the Sacsayhuaman, Q’enko, Puca Pucara, and Tambomachay ruins, and then got some nice pics of Cusco at up over 12,000 ft. all while enjoying some fun facts from Caesar in this smooth Spanish/Quechua mixed dialect.  My favorite part was that first peek of the Valley as you ride out of Cusco.  It is nothing short of spectacular.  The whole scene makes your body kind of tingle, and I can definitely see where the Incans were coming from when they named it The Sacred Valley. Michaela literally had to take a step back as vertigo began knocking her off balance.  The cool blue river surrounded by multicolored farmland on the valley bottom looks amazingly peaceful as it slices through the band of treacherous snowcapped mountains dominating the skies.  My eyes doubled in size and I heard a faint ‘wooow’ seep through my lips as I’m pretty sure I saw God when we came around that first bend and the Valley finally revealed her exquisite beauty.  In an area so rich with history and culture, Caesar has been foaming at the mouth, attaching interesting tidbits of info to every rock, plant, and mountain peak.  My Espanol has progressed to the point to where I’m picking up a good 60-70% of what he’s feeding me, but a lot of the stuff is location specific and I’m pretty sure he’s mixing some Quechua in there, so who knows.  Anywho, I’m translating and relaying what I can to the back seat for mis padres, Michaela and JB, to enjoy as well.

Pisac, which is where we’re headed and billed as the highlight of the day, is a quaint little

Overhead fortress view

Overhead fortress view

town known for its festive Sunday Markets and mind-blowing backdrop of Incan Architecture.  The Pisac ruins ascend from valley floor to mountain peak, equipped with all the bells and whistles of nearby ruin rival Machu Picchu, with a tenth of the crowds.  Displaying a level of ingenuity and creativity unsurpassed for its time, Pisac is the largest Inca fortress discovered to date – modern researchers still have no idea how construction of such magnitude was capable 500 years ago.  With all the legend and mystique surrounding the Inca Empire it becomes easy to believe there was some sort of Divine Intervention at play.  I’m doing what I can to soak all this up as we pull up to the base of the ruins, but it’s kinda tough as I got to pee so bad I got the sweats.

My momma and me in the Pisac ruins

My momma and me in the Pisac ruins

There are a couple tour buses around the base of the ruins; a few tents set up selling arts and crafts, food and drink, and some other just useless shit; and a decent amount of people milling around – but no bath room.  Well ok, there has to be an isolated area around that I can sneak into and relieve myself, you know in the middle of a magnolia tree, or behind a dumpster, I’ll even take a knee between a couple of cars, but no such luck.  Maybe I can hold it, we’ll do a nice little lap around the ruins and before long I’m sure I can find a nice secluded spot.  So we begin our self guided tour and I awkwardly lead the pack battling the urge to buckle over and do the ‘I gotta pee’ dance I was so good at in my elementary years.  A few hundred yards into our tour, I realize the secluded spot I fantasized about is just not going to happen; and I quickly come to the realization that if I am gonna pee, it’s gonna be on Sacred Ground.  But do I really need to be urinating on sacred ground?  Something about the idea is very unsettling.  I want to be respectful and I certainly don’t want to follow the lead of those original Incans who got turned to stone by some subterranean Andean spirit.  But then again the Incas had to do their business somewhere.  You would think they had a few designated areas but I’m not sure the excavators have gotten around to speculating on where the old John was just yet.  So here I am, surrounded by the raw beauty of the Sacred Valley, in a fortress built to honor the gods, whose construction may have been aided by the gods, and I am having one of the best pees of my life.  I have a shy bladder but there was no shyness in this session – just pure bliss.  JB helped out as my look-out to ensure a sense of privacy and after seeing the exorbitant relief on my face, he decided to join in on the action.  This way if I am damned, at least I’ll have my dear ole Dad to suffer with.

Relieved and refreshed we continued deeper into the massive fortress bouldering over

Pisac ruins overlooking the famous Sunday market spot

Pisac ruins overlooking the famous Sunday market spot

ancient stonework and up narrow stairways.  You try to get a grasp on how the Incas where able to erect such a large scale and intricate development and it’s just impossible.  A people so intelligent and ahead of their time, surely they had some designated bathroom facilities.  So for my second restroom break of the day I searched long and hard for an enclosure that resembled an ancient bathroom, and as I completed my business, offered up my apologies to the ancient ones if this was in fact someone’s bed — cause I know I’d be pissed if someone were peeing in my bed.

Posted 4 years, 9 months ago at 10:03 am.

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Snow White Ninja Rolls

An excerpt from It Snows in California?

The Players:  The Deej, the victim, and me

The Location:  North Lake Tahoe, CA, USA

KT-22/Lake Tahoe shot provide by and can be purchased at boncekimages.com

KT-22/Lake Tahoe shot provide by and can be purchased at boncekimages.com

Saturday numero uno in my mountain haven and the snow gods have decided to litter the landscape with those beautiful powdery snowflakes by the plenty.  The snow seems to bring out the best in everyone this time of year.  Spirits are high and optimism for an epic ski season is streaming through the area.  The boys and girls club in Kings Beach is having a charity dodge ball tourney and being new to the area, it should be a good chance to meet some good folks.  We’ll cross over the rather tame Prosser Pass on our drive; a chain controlled area which serves as the Truckee folk’s gateway to magical Lake Tahoe.  ‘Tame’ of course is a relative term in the Sierras; and I’m about get a first hand lesson in mountain driving and why it’s a good idea to wear your chains.

As we start our ascent nothing seems to be out of the ordinary on the road.  DJ is giving the run down on area, informing me of the highs and lows of Tahoe-land.  A couple inches of fresh snow has crowned the rough blacktop, so everyone’s moving fairly slow and controlling their vehicle in an orderly fashion – except of course for the SUV flipped over in a ditch up there on the right.  That sux…and would probably ruin your day.  I wonder what they’re gonna use to pull that thing out?  A vehicle flipped over like that has to be considered totaled, doesn’t it?  I mean the structural integrity of the frame is just spent.  Hmm, what is that coming out of the back window?  Is it moving?  Is that an arm?! – Holy Shit is somebody still in that thing!?!

My shoulder caresses the powder covered asphalt moments after the door

Truckee, CA shot provided by and can be purchased at bonceckimages.com

Truckee, CA shot provided by and can be purchased at bonceckimages.com

on our moving car magically opened itself.  Adrenaline and instinct take over as I slide into the ditch grasping my new friend’s forearm.  In a quick but controlled fashion, I help the gentleman out and away from the wreckage.  As expected, he is dazed and confused but has no visible injuries.  A couple more cars have pulled over by this point and we all work to calm the accident victim while trying to figure out what happened.  Turns out, it was nothing too crazy that caused the wreck; he simply didn’t have the proper equipment to be driving in such conditions and lost control. Even stranger is the wreckage scene:  a large, crushed SUV, miserably stuck upside-down on a busy road which could have easily killed or maimed a few people…but all is fine in the world.  The falling snow veils an eerie silence over the area, and the few people aware enough to have stopped are gathered in a very nonchalant, take-it-or-leave-it manner.  We stay no more than a minute longer and jump back in the car.

None the less, it was quite the humbling experience.  I decide I had better get some chains for my ride sooner rather than later.  DJ and I briefly discuss the whole series of events as we continue the drive over Prosser Pass – if for nothing else to confirm they actually happened.  Even though I feel bad for the guy’s SUV, he’s ok, I have learned a good lesson about driving in the snow, and with the adrenaline rush from the whole ordeal I will be a force to be reckoned with in the up coming Dodgeball event!  All and all, I suppose it’s not a bad way to start your Saturday.

Posted 4 years, 10 months ago at 7:37 am.

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Desert Domination

An excerpt from An American Road Trip 2004

The Players:  Sneaky Pete, Senor Meximelt, and myself

The Location:  The Grand Canyon

4/23/2009 – Desert Domination
Sitting in the desert as the sun descends into the horizon, the dry air blows chilly winds that accompany dusk.  The quiet beauty of the vast expanse pours a sense of nostalgia over me.  I’m taken back to this same desert, only its years before…

Inside the Grand Canyon shot provided by boncekimages.com

Inside the Grand Canyon shot provided by boncekimages.com

It’s July and the three of us – me, Sneaky Pete, and the Meximelt- have been blazing cross country in the baby blue Buick in search of some new adventures, a little leisure, and plenty of debauchery. There have only been a couple of setbacks thus far; namely the dirty run in Sneaky Pete’s eye had with an over-zealous bee and a near calamity with a pair of 8 ft. elk at 80 mph – otherwise we’re as right as rain and looking forward to the next leg of the trip.

The plan is simple:  knock around a bit at the Grand Canyon and end up in Vegas by nightfall.  After the mandatory 15 minutes of awe-stricken silence that accompanies your first gaze at the unbelievable beauty that is the Grand Canyon, we find the hike for us.  The stroll out to Plateau Point looked like a real winner and was accompanied by a couple of enticing precautions:  (1) Do not attempt to hike to Plateau Point in the summer; (2) Do not attempt to hike to Plateau Point without the appropriate dry weather equipment; (3) Do not attempt to hike to Plateau Point in a single day; (4) Only experienced desert hikers should attempt the hike to Plateau Point.  After all agreeing to enforce the Law of Quadruple Negatives, we get to walking.

The first three miles descend back and forth and back and forth and back and forth into the orange rocky ravine.  With temps reaching nearly 120 degrees Fahrenheit, you are first surprised by the absence of perspiration, only to realize you are being sucked dry as an overpowering parched sensation grabs hold.  That rush of heat that smacks you in the face when you open the oven door is the norm here and we drink at least a gallon of water at each of the three watering holes.  A fellow tracker informs us the uncompromising dryness of the air instantly evaporates your sweat – a phenomenon that is completely foreign to three southern boys accustom to the dripping humidity of Georgia.

That is one big Canyon

That is one big Canyon

It takes a little longer than expected to reach the river view, but it is most certainly worth it.  A peaceful, almost humble feeling seems to settle over your psyche.  With the raging Colorado River doing its thing below and a few thousand years of God’s most spectacular art work surrounding you, it’s hard to resist the urge to frolic around like a five year old soaking it all in.

That euphoria drains quickly when reality finally presents itself – the hard part hasn’t even started yet.  Three miles back on the canyon floor and then three miles up, shit, this is gonna suck.  As the upward journey begins and delirium takes over, a group of mules passes on our right toting a church group of some sort – lucky bastards.  A dusty, stank-ridden tail brushes by my face adding insult to injury, and I have to fight the impulse to smack that ass’s ass out of spite.  Every part of my body is sore, tired, cramped, miserable, and yet…strangely exhilarated.  Nothing like complete and total physical exhaustion to let you know you are still alive.

I begin losing site of the exhaustion as my body’s autopilot clicks on allowing me to ponder some of the finer points of life – I call it my Happy Place.  A place where cartwheels and beach scenes are aplenty, the beer is cold and the women are tasty, the party always goes on and the good times seem to never end – “GEEAAAHHHH!!”  Just as I’m starting to enjoy myself, a god-awful, pain-ridden shriek tosses me out the front window of my Happy Place.  The Mexican’s body has finally decided to strike back with an extraordinary leg cramp.  As he frantically tries to stretch his rebelling limb, a group of Japanese tourists gathers around snapping pics of his undeniable anguish.  Pete and I, berated and bewildered ourselves, join the group and while we want to help can do nothing but stare blankly.  I stare at my moaning compadre desperately seeking any sort of relief, then at the amused tourists pointing and laughing and shooting, and then back at ole Meximelt now beside himself in pain, then finally over to Pete who joins me with a confused shrug and delighted chuckle.  The whole scene is nothing short of hysterical.  With only about 50 meters to go in the hike, we take a seat while our fallen amigo licks his wounds.  The setting sun has now given the once bright orange rocks a deep maroon hue, the blistering heat has subsided, our Japanese admirers have begun trailing off and I can’t fathom a more appropriate way to enjoy the finale of our hike – a good day indeed.

The Grand Canyon stop a success, it’s now on to live it up Vegas style.  Sneaky Pete’s turn to drive. Thank God.  Just minutes down the road and I’m out cold…

Posted 4 years, 10 months ago at 9:27 am.

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Peculiar Scene

An excerpt from The N Zed Beach Days
The Players:  Me and Santa Claus
Location: Papamoa, New Zealand
Papamoa, New Zealand with Mount Maunganui in the background

Papamoa, New Zealand with Mount Maunganui in the background

The sand was soft under my bare feet as I enjoyed a nice afternoon jog down the beach. This stretch is a bit more peaceful and always has a little more action than the area adjacent to my place.  I live next to the nude beach that populates a barrage of elderly couples and homosexual patrons showing off their sagging bits and pieces…not very appetizing.  Anywho, the conditions were immaculate as the cool breeze off the ocean worked in perfect unison with the blazing New Zealand sun.  Jacko was passionately preaching to me about ‘Dirty Diana’ on the ipod.  There were kids frolicking in the water; surfers trying to find their break; sand castles being erected and destroyed – all the normal stuff you would expect to see at the beach on a gorgeous Saturday in the summer. Just as ‘Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough’ chimed in, I noticed an usually large gathering of people up near the dunes. It was mostly families with a lot of kids running about.  I didn’t think much of it until I spotted my old tubby buddy all dressed up in red.  Ole Saint Nick himself was sitting right in the middle of the group all decked out in his Santa attire.

Astro the Christmas Penis...another story all together

Astro the Christmas Penis...another story all together

I had to stop and look again, but sure enough the jolly old bastard had a delighted little kid sitting on his lap, making that list and checking it twice.  Santa at the beach – red nose, hat and all!  If I were him I would at least take off those boots and let my toes eat up some sand, but he was dressed to the T – what a trooper.  I knew it was going to be a warm Christmas down here, but it just never dawned on me that I would ever see Santa Claus at the beach.  I always thought he was the cold weather type – apparently I was wrong.  After an entire childhood spent in the northern hemisphere dreaming of a white Christmas, it was quite the peculiar scene.

Posted 4 years, 10 months ago at 4:19 am.

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