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Kilauea volcano on Hawaii’s Big Island is on a path to destroy the town of Pahoa, home to 950 people. I visited the volcano in 2011 with Photo Safari Hawaii, on assignment for Air Canada’s enRoute. My article explores what it’s like to take a photo lesson on an active volcano. The videos show a little slice of life there—especially the last one, which is of a local resident explaining life on the volcano. At the end of the post is a gallery of photos from my lesson.
Maui Brewing Co.’s Bikini Blonde Lager, which I first encountered on The Big Island, was found in an Alexandria, Virginia Whole Foods. And now it can be seen in my fridge.
Aloha is best in its liquid form.
And I’m spent.
2011 work highlights included having a full-page spread in The Wall Street Journal, trips to Israel and Rome, and Louisville.com becoming the city’s most-read independent website and winning a couple of big honors in the process.
Luckily my wife and daughter were able to join me on many of my trips. The latter turns two next week and already has visited 18 states and Washington, DC. We got her a passport this year, but it might be a few months at least before she’s able to get her first stamp—her little sister is slated to arrive in February.
Here are some of my writing and travel highlights for 2011:
- In January, Air Canada’s enRoute published my article about taking a poker lesson from two-time World Series of Poker winner Mark Seif and then hitting the tables solo in Las Vegas.
- Later that month I went to Israel, visiting Tel Aviv, Galilee, and Jerusalem. Turns out Jerusalem has some fun drinking venues.
- In February, enRoute published my article about photographing flowing lava with Photo Safari Hawaii on the Big Island.
- BlackBook added Louisville to its City Guide mobile app and website in March, publishing 100 reviews of bars, restaurants, and hotels that I wrote as the Louisville City Editor.
- Also in March, I spoke with Louisville’s Society of Professional Journalists about being a travel writer.
- Later that month, I visited the Rome Cavalieri, Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts; my article on a gladiator fighting lesson I took ran as an enRoute web exclusive and in Air Canada’s onAir frequent flyer newsletter in June.
- The attention the Kentucky Derby brings to Louisville has been great for my career: in May, The Wall Street Journal devoted the entire back page of its Derby-day edition to an article I wrote and interviews I conducted on city hotspots. And Fox News published my piece on five horse racing-related activities travelers to Louisville can enjoy on non-Derby weekend visit.
- In July, I visited Montana with my wife and daughter, the highlight of which was glamorous camping at The Ranch at Rock Creek
- Louisville.com won the 2011 Louisville Magazine‘s readers’ choice award for best local website in July
- I trekked around in 107-degree heat in Dallas for enRoute, scoping out the city’s art scene for a yet-to-be-published article on buying art.
- Indianapolis really impressed me—seriously!—when I took the trip 2.5-hours north in August. Super Bowl fans will find plenty more to do than just watch the game this February.
- Nantucket did likewise when I returned to where my family vacationed a couple of times when I was a kid. Don’t plan on reading anything about this trip: it was a family trip and I didn’t take a single note.
- In October, Louisville.com writers and readers stuffed the ballot box enough to earn second place for best local website in LEO Weekly’s, the city’s alt weekly, Readers’ Choice awards.
- Louisville.com was again an official media partner of the Breeders’ Cup, horse racing’s world championships, this November. In addition, BlackBook dispatched me to cover the Jocktails party, part of the run-up to Breeders’ Cup, and preview Downs After Dark, the sole night race of Churchill Downs’ 2011 fall meet.
- Also in November, Louisville Magazine published an account of my bravest assignment yet—eating at the Paula Deen Buffet in Southern Indiana’s Horseshoe Casino
- Louisville Magazine made a bold move when it let me write about why Kentucky isn’t that great a state for basketball (as well as break down the differences between Kentucky Wildcats and Louisville Cardinals fans) in its December issue. Expect letters to the editor.
- An eight-point 170-pound buck died because I shot him through both lungs. My hunt was televised on KET’s Kentucky Afield this December. Louisville Magazine will publish an account of my hunt in early 2012.
When I visited Hawaii’s Big Island during a six-week stay in the state in 2008, I had just one disappointment: I never saw an active lava flow (stupid nature, you erupt when I want you to). When I returned last August on assignment with Photo Safari Hawaii for enRoute, Air Canada’s in-flight magazine, however, the Kilauea Volcano cooperated. (Yes, that’s the same Kilauea Volcano’s that’s spewing lava 100 feet in the air today—that might be a bit too much cooperation.)
In February’s issue, I wrote about my day-long private photo ecotour with Photo Safari Hawaii:
Brian Ross, a fine art photographer and Photo Safari Hawaii’s owner, and Sian Olsen, one of his guides and the owner of Kohala Kayak, were not only excellent photography instructors, but their deep knowledge of the Big Island impressed as well. They were good company for 13 hours.
I’d taken a photography class previously with the Smithsonian Institution, but it centered on the mechanics of using the camera and got tedious. While they customize the experience for each group, Brian and Sian focus on the composition of fine art photography. This approach proved a lot more engaging—and provided plenty of fantastic photos of the Big Island, home to 10 of the Earth’s 15 types of climatic zones and the most diverse weather of any similarly sized area of land on the planet:
You can follow our travels on this map from the Hawaiian Style Cafe in Waimea, where I had a, um, great Hawaiian-style breakfast and turned on the MotionX iPhone GPS app at 7:28 a.m., to the Fairmont Orchid hotel, where I was dropped off at 8:52 p.m.
Access to the area where the lava from Kilauea Volcano was flowing was cut off during certain hours except for locals, some of whom still had houses there. One said we were with him and a security guard, who knew otherwise, let him drive us to where the lava was flowing.
It takes a certain type of guy to live near an active flow: in this case, think if Francis Ford Coppolla had cast Jack Nicholson as Dennis Hopper’s character from Apocalypse Now.
And it takes a different type of guy altogether to cultivate vegetation and create walking paths on top of the Kilauea’s volcanic ash: think Adrian Brody on speed playing the littlest nerd in Revenge of the Nerds.
In addition to Brian and Sian, mahalo to the Big Island Visitors Bureau and Jessica Ferracane and Becky Ryan at Irondog Communications for coordinating my visit, Jaisy Jardine at the Fairmont Orchid, and the local who got us close to the lava flow.
enRoute‘s Higher Learning section focuses on “an international crash course in anything from cheese making to scuba diving to ranching, told from a personal perspective but in such a way that it teaches the reader about both the activity and the place it’s taught. It’s a two-page section, 450-words (in English and in French) and includes a sidebar with suggestions for where to stay and eat.” If you have ideas for similar experiences, please let me know.
Photos: Zach Everson and courtesy Brian Ross and enRoute
Videos: Zach Everson
Map: Google Earth via MotionX iPhone GPS app
Just over a week into 2010, I became a dad. During the year I realized though that any concerns I had about parenthood—and my new editor-in-chief gig at Louisville.com, which I also started in January—impacting my travel were unfounded.
Here are my travel highlights for 2010 (and while my daughter didn’t go on all of these trips with me, she did make it to 14 states and Washington, DC in her first year):
- In February I visited the Ritz-Carlton Palm Beach and wrote about its teen club for Air Canada’s in-flight magazine, enRoute, and one of my rare visits to a spa for UpTake.
- A road trip to Milwaukee and Chicago in March marked my daughter’s first trip out of Kentucky; I talked about the experience on a podcast for UpTake and mentioned our Chicago hotel room’s wonderful view in enRoute.
- As much as I enjoy traveling, it’s nice when a big event comes to me. In May it was the Kentucky Derby, which I wrote about for BlackBook and oversaw Louisville.com’s best week of traffic ever (November’s Breeders’ Cup did well too).
- While family was the focus of my June visits to San Diego (brother’s wedding) and Kamiah, ID (to see my grandmother), I wrote about San Diego restaurant Jsix’s chef’s kitchen experience for BlackBook.
- In June I made it back to New York City for TBEX, a travel bloggers conference, and finally got to meet in person a lot of folks I’d only known on the tubes. They
were terribly disappointingexceeded high expectations.
- Coming from a small family (no aunts or uncles), my wife’s family’s annual reunion just outside of Morgantown, WV is a can’t miss—I’m serious.
- In Columbus, Ohio for my brother-in-law’s wedding, I stayed in a hotel where James Thurber use to live.
- In August I flew to the The Big Island of Hawaii on assignment for enRoute to take a fine art photography class with Photo Safari Hawaii.
- Later that month Las Vegas was the destination for another enRoute assignment, this time to take a poker lesson from two-time World Series of Poker champ Mark Seif.
- I wrote about looking out over Gerald Ford’s grave site from my hotel room in Grand Rapids, Mich. for UpTake and visiting the art fair with the world’s largest prize (if not the best art) for Gridskipper.
- On Columbus Day weekend we trekked to Watoga State Park in West Virginia for another of my wife’s family reunions (it’s a big clan).
- At Thanksgiving I returned to my hometown of Reading, Mass. for the first time in 17 months, the longest I’d ever gone without a visit; I reviewed the accommodations at my parents’ house for UpTake (executive summary: meh).
- For the second year in a row, I visited China with the Ritz-Carlton (this time it was Beijing); I won’t complain if trips to China with that hotelier become an annual tradition. Culinary highlights already have been posted on Gridskipper.
- It was fantastic to get back to Washington, DC and see our friends. I wrote our stay at the Ritz-Carlton, Washington DC about for UpTake.
- For the third time in four years, both my wife’s family and mine gathered in the neutral playing location of Deep Creek Lake Maryland for Christmas.
As I mentioned earlier, I was in Hawaii for a spell this winter. While Gridskipper’s correspondents are assigned to cover the cities in which they live, I figured 45 days in Honolulu qualified me as a kama’aina so I pitched the idea of of submitting some dispatches from the middle of the Pacific.
My then-editor, Chris Mohney, was agreeable. Here are my posts from Honolulu:
Writing about Honolulu led to a more enjoyable experience there, as I set about trying to get a deeper knowledge of the city. And while not the most useful post I’ve ever written, The Brady Bunch one was a blast to research.
For six weeks this winter I was in Hawaii (my wife was assigned there for work and freelancing usually allows me the flexibility to work from anywhere).
We were in Honolulu during the NFL’s Pro Bowl, so I pitched Will Leitch at Deadspin, the second most visited sports blog on the Internet, to see if he was interested in on-location coverage of one of sport’s most worthless events.
He liked the idea and asked me to write two pieces: one that ran before the Pro Bowl and covered the first few days of game-related hullabaloo and another that was posted the day after the game and reported on the weekends’ doings (which, yes, included something resembling a football game).
Here are the posts:
- “Fun” In The “Sun” At The NFL Pro Bowl
- We Watched The NFL Pro Bowl So You Didn’t Have To, But We’re Not Doing It Again
Make sure you read the comments too; as is customary on Deadspin, they’re hilarious. And from a writers’ standpoint, it’s an ego boost to have so much response to a blog post (even if most entries on Deadspin receive a lot of feedback).
Sometimes watching TV can pay off:
Growing up I wasn’t allowed to watch much television, but somehow The Brady Bunch (airing nightly on WLVI 56) was an exception. Thanks Mom and Dad—it made writing this Gridskipper post on the Brady’s trip to Hawaii easy.
I was surprised there weren’t any references to this three-part episode on line. For example, there are several websites dedicated to documenting where Lost has filmed in Oahu.
(And if you are looking for an idea for a website or blog post, I don’t think anyone has written about Magnum, P.I.)