Thursday, April 27, 2017

One Rainy Day in Rio

Ten years ago, a list of the new Seven World Wonders was announced. The process was gimmicky as hell- 7 year voting period, winners announced on 7/7/07- and skewed towards countries with large populations and readily available internet access. (Sorry mud mosques of Mali, better luck next time!) but considering only one of the original world wonders remained standing, we were due for an update. The new list includes the Great Wall of China, Petra, Machu Pichu, the Colosseum, Chichen Itza, the Taj Mahal and Christ the Redeemer. The Pyramids of Giza- the lone holdout from the original version got an honorary status but are not always mentioned because announcing the Eight World Wonders would have totally thrown off their marketing scheme. I have been to six of these babies (7 if you count the pyramids).

Last Saturday, I had the chance to cross the last one off my list. I got into Rio in the middle of the night and had most of the afternoon before having to board my return flight. All I had to do was forego sleep, hire a driver and get to the big ass Jesus and I'd be 7 for 7. The first two parts were easy. The eight hour flight home would provide all the sleep I needed. And as for getting around, I considered Uber'ing throughout the city but with a group of six, it was going to be tricky logistically so we hired two taxis for the day. Our driver, the wonderful Jerusa Silva, quickly drew up an an itinerary for us.

Monday, April 24, 2017

What to do when you end up in the wrong Ontario.

Imagine hearing that you are going to spend a week in Manhattan and Ontario. That's great news! Springtime in NYC is like no other. Anytime spent in Canada with it's friendly people, hot Prime Minister and abundance of vegetarian restaurants (even the hot dog cart vendors always have veggie dogs!) is always a pleasure. Hell yeah! Now imagine you take a closer look at the fine print and things are not as they seem. You are actually going to Manhattan, Kansas and Ontario, California. Not so great. This was my life.  I was on a tour of places named after much cooler places.  To quote a friend "Where next? Paris, Texas?"

I tried to make the best of the situation. I found out that the next town over from Manhattan, Wamego, had a Wizard of Oz museum and winery. Even better, there was a silo that the military had build for missile testing which had gone on to become the site of the country's preeminent LSD manufacturing lab and now accepted visitors. Score, score and score!! Rental cars were prohibitively expensive so I looked into public transportation. Here is where the plans derailed fabulously. After calling the museum, I learned that there was indeed a shuttle that runs from Manhattan to Wamego. The catch is that you need to call at least 24 hours before to reserve this public bus (?!). The catch to the catch, try and find a reservation link or phone number on their site ...I dare you. I eventually found a number, called on Saturday to make a reservation for Monday and was told that I was too late because they do not take reservations on the weekend. I needed to reserve for Monday on Friday. I was told this by a person, not an automated system. The person who spent ten minutes explaining this bizzaro system to me could have probably jotted down my reservation in two minutes tops. Long story short, Kansas is weird and no matter how hard I tried, I could not get to Wamego. Part one of this journey was a bust.

Next up, Ontario, which is essentially a strip-mall laden suburb of LA. Options: I could take an hour long commute into LA and hit up my usual spots or I could look for something new to salvage this boondoggle. Option 2 sounded better. I stumbled across the idea of visiting Joshua Tree National Park and a plan was born.