Sifting thru several gigabytes of digital photographs from my past trips during this COVID crisis has generated a great deal of nostalgia. But it has also made me realize that I am from a generation which bridged the era before and after the arrival of the digital age. Aliens visiting the desolate Earth 1000 years from now who dig up my miraculously surviving storage drive will wonder whether I even existed before the year 2004. The fact is I was already 32 by the time I got my first digital camera. And even then, it still took me some time before I realized you are supposed to actually take pictures of every second of your life.
Anything that happened in my life prior to 2004, I am pretty much relying on the survival of the synapses in my hippocampus. While the digital part of my life essentially began in 2004, not all of my most interesting or cherished travel adventures occurred after that monumental year. Which got me doing a little more coronavirus-time reflection.
Where are the Top 10 coolest places I’ve been which I have absolutely no photographic evidence of my ever being there? This topic of course will make this post rather heavy on the text so I will supplement with (hopefully) legal stock photos from the internet.
1. Mt. Katahdin, Maine
I have done the highest mountain in Maine not once, but twice. And what do I have to show for it? Nothing. Camped both times at the Chimney Pond Campground, accessible only by foot and also crossed the Knife’s Edge. These were stories I proudly boasted about for years.
2. Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
My first ever business trip outside the USA was near Santo Domingo. This actually occurred around 2005-6 and I don’t know what possessed me not to take a single photograph. Perhaps it was because nobody would let me leave the hotel for fear I would be mugged. But not even one damn Presidente beer picture at the hotel bar to speak of. Rode to work every day on an overcrowded bus like a migrant farm worker. One of the more surreal travel experiences of my life.
3. Orlando, Florida
Went to the Fiesta Bowl on January 1, 1992 to watch my Penn State Nittany Lions beat up on the Tennessee Volunteers. Spent New Years Eve at Disneyworld and also visited Universal Studios. Not even one shot of the fireworks. Who would have thought that evening would end up on somebody’s YouTube?
4. Los Angeles & San Diego, California
Went to the Rose Bowl on January 2, 1995 to watch my undefeated Penn State Nittany Lions blow away Oregon but still lose out on the National Championship. Supplemented that excitement with a visit to the Hollywood sign and touring around Hollywood and Beverly Hills before swinging down to San Diego and the Cabrillo National Monument.
5. Great Smoky Mountains, North Carolina/Tennessee
The first great road trip of my life was a trip from Pennsylvania to Texas with my grandmother at age 13. One of the stops on the way was in the Great Smoky Mountains including Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, and Cherokee. I have a few old photos taken during this trip but none from that area. However, I did find one that proves I was there. Oh yeah, I loved that shirt for a couple weeks. And the tri-band tube socks were a must and they had to match my shorts. I was a fashionisto.
6. Pike’s Peak, Colorado
An epic low-budget road trip with a relative who wanted to explore a job opportunity in Colorado Springs. Pennsylvania to Colorado with a one-night stopover in a dingy fly-infested road-side motel somewhere in Iowa. Ran out of gas in Kansas on the way back. In between those memorable moments, we drove to the top of Pike’s Peak, crossed the Royal Gorge bridge, camped one night freezing our butts off in some state park, and stopped for a few hours in Boulder. I was 17-ish. I honestly can’t remember the exact year anymore. The only thing I really remember about Pike’s Peak other than being covered in clouds at the top was the nauseating ride up.
7. The House That Ruth Built
I have been to the original Yankee Stadium several times in my teens and early 20’s. I hate the Yankees but it was an awesome place to watch baseball. The most memorable game for me was in 1998 when my beloved but lowly Philadelphia Phillies were beating the Yankees 8-5 in the bottom of the 9th and several rowdy, drunken Yankee fans standing behind me at the left field foul pole threatened to throw me onto the field if Tino Martinez hit a homerun with two runners on base. Click Play and feel my fear….
8. The Great Outdoors of Pennsylvania
There are so many beautiful and sentimental places in Pennsylvania that I loved growing up where I wish I could reminisce with some photos. Pine Creek, Pennsylvania Grand Canyon, Little Pine State Park, Golden Eagle Trail, Hyner, World’s End State Park to name a few.
9. New Orleans, Louisiana
On the aforementioned roadtrip to Texas at age 13, we stopped in New Orleans. I have seen the French Quarter. I am pretty sure of that. Pretty sure. One of my biggest regrets during my six years living in Houston was not getting back to New Orleans for a proper visit.
10. Grand Bahama Island
The first time ever outside the USA was around age 18 with a group of family friends. Rented a vespa and rode around the entire island, did a lot of snorkling, and had my first (and only) parasailing experience. Trust me, they happened. Also was the first time someone ever followed me home and tried to sell me drugs and prostitutes. Feels like another life at this point.
Looking at this list, I would say that I didn’t have it all that bad in the pre-digital age. The Mt. Katahdin thing really hurts as it would have made a helluva blog post. For now, if I don’t want to completely forget the time a moose stuck his head in my lean-to, I will either have to up my wine intake or reduce the amount of burgers and donuts I eat. I go with the wine…. and the blueberries. More blueberries please.