About Me

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Welcome to the online blog for traveler/writer/photographer Steven Barber. Come in. Relax. Take off your shoes and socks -- or any other article of clothing, this is the internet. Have a look around. I hope to intrigue, amuse, entertain, and maybe provoke you just a little. I love to find adventure. All I need is a change of clothes, my Nikon, an open mind and a strong cup of coffee.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Pic of the Day: Small Plane Warning

I have flown pretty much the entire spectrum of airliners in use by American airline carriers, and a few international ones. Boeing, Airbus, CRJs and Embraer. And I think a Cessna, once. In Alaska.

Big jets (747, A380), small ones (CRJ700, MD80), and almost  everything in-between. Each of them has their own personality, and each of them contributes something different to the in-flight experience.

But there is a sense of adventure -- fear? -- in flying a smaller aircraft. Particularly when it's a blustery day.

Below is a shot of the plane I took from Salt Lake City to Pocatello, Idaho. Pocatello is among the smallest of airports I've been to in the last few years, if not the champion. But it does echo more of a byegone era of commercial aviation when you enter a small terminal and march out directly onto the Tarmac to board a small plane. (It's a balancing act Long Beach Airport manages even today with significantly larger aircraft, while still reminding you of the adventure of flight in general.)

Small aircraft are not my first choice, but they do always promise that the trip will be a bit of an adventure.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Pic of the Day: Las Vegas High Roller

The view from the topmost arc of the Las Vegas High Roller, an observation wheel constructed by Caesars corporation to attract visitors to its new Linq hotel and entertainment district.

The wheel stands 550 feet tall -- the height of the Washington Monument.

From it you can see virtually every major Las Vegas hotel and casino complex, including (in this shot alone) The Flamingo, Bally's, Paris; Planet Hollywood; Mandalay Bay; The Excalibur; New York, New York; CityCenter; The Cosmopolitan; The Bellagio and a smidgeon of Caesars.

It's a stunning view, even when a lightning and thunder storm are blowing in...

Friday, November 28, 2014

Picture of the Day: Hemingway's Cats

Ernest Hemingway, commonly considered among the best -- if not the best -- American author of the 20th century, lived for quote doe time in the city of Key West, in the Florida Keys.

His time there is well documented, and both his house and several of his favorited bars are local tourist attractions.

If, by chance, you visit the Hemingway House, you will encounter dozens of cats -- the so-called "Hemingway Cats" -- descended from original pets of his. Many f them have a genetic disorder giving them six toes on their front paws instead of the usual feline five.

You can read more about them here: http://www.hemingwayhome.com/cats/

One of Hemingway's Cats' descended. Aloof, as a cat should be.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Picture of the Day - Tundra Buggy Lodge

   So...I've been considering how I can make this a more regular site for everyone. Rather than waiting the at-times couple of weeks between posts, how do I change the format enough to let you know there's a reason to drop by more often? 

The name of the blog is "The Thumbnail Traveler". The conceit behind it is using photographs to augment the writings, though to be perfectly honest I consider myself a photographer, not a writer.

So logic would dictate that the photographs herein would be the more important aspect, yes?

Beginning today I will be posting a shot a day, along with the background -- just a paragraph or so -- behind the picture. These are not portfolio level shots, they're merely photographs I have taken along the way. I have - no exaggeration -- tens of thousands of them. From places around the world. And the vast majority will never see the light of day under normal circumstances -- not for a lack of interest, but because they're simply not the sort of thing that shows up on an art site, or in an illustration. These are the "slices of life", moments in-between.

So, please come back on a regular basis. If plans hold, I will be posting daily, or nearly. Oftentimes I may choose an image I make while on the road, giving it more of an urgency than something I shot years ago. But, to me and hopefully to you, they're of some interest and truly live up to the moniker of The Thumbnail Traveler.

The luxurious accommodations....
First up: This is the hallway through the secondary "dorm" module of the Tundra Buggy Lodge, well outside Churchill, Canada. The lodge, a train of several massive vehicles chained together to form a small inn of sorts, is pulled out onto the tundra some thirty miles east of Churchill (later relocating even further out as the Hudson Bay freezes over). 

During the day, visitors are driven around the flat and frozen tundra in search of polar bears, arctic foxes and snowy owls, all of which we caught sight of during our adventure.

With some twelve bunks, it's a "sleeping train" compartment from which visitors can unwind and share a communal experience. Modesty not required.

It's an "edge of the world" adventure, not found much of anywhere else.

For additional information see the Frontiers North Adventures website:


Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving

"Thanksgiving Day. Let all give humble, hearty, and sincere thanks now, but the turkeys"
                                     - Mark Twain

In the next few days, millions of Americans will hit the road, the skies, and the rails to travel distances both short and vast to celebrate, in their own ways, the holiday of Thanksgiving. Steeped in tradition, everyone has their own way of celebrating -- or refusing to celebrate -- depending upon their own lot in life. Increasingly many of them are rushing to the stores to try to grab a perceived discount on a product, an effect of the increasingly insidious commercial practice of "Black Friday", which encourages Americans to forsake family in favor of rampant consumerism.

For those of us not rushing to the nearby WalMart, there are traffic jams, airport delays, long lines and insanity at the supermarket as you realize -- at the last minute -- that you forgot that one essential ingredient for the cranberry sauce. The tv set is tuned to a football game as soon as Uncle Bob arrives, and the men gather in the family room, while the women flee, probably in an enduring bastion of sexism, to the kitchen.

If I seem like I'm anti-Thanksgiving, I'm not. I love the holiday and love those things about it which make it a solid, important time to reflect and give thanks. (You may thank the God of your choice, or the people around you, or simply circumstances. You may also be highly resentful and spend your day being angry with the world. YMMV*)

But Thanksgiving is also a time of travel. According to AAA - the American Automobile Association -- more than 46 millions Americans will go more than 50 miles to celebrate the holiday. That's a lot of travel. And with gasoline prices down significantly, more people are looking to hit the road than in many of the recent years.

(The weather, particularly in the midwest and East Coast is promised to be brutal. Stay warm and safe, and be VERY careful on the road!)

CNN's 10 Ways to Survive Holiday Travel

This year, for me, has been a spectacular one in terms of travel. Both business and leisure. Road trips, flights and even a boat or two mixed in. In part, this Thanksgiving, I am thankful for the opportunity to do so. According to a recently published Skift report on the travel habits of Americans, 63% of my countrymen haven't done so in the last year. That's terribly sad. Travel is truly an important and influential way to educate and expand yourself, and for so many people to be missing the chance is a tragedy.


So, on this holiday, in which many millions of my fellow Americans, will shunt themselves fifty or more miles in search of family, turkey and "getting away from it all", I wish you, my friends, a wonderful day of giving thanks, surrounding yourself with love, or at the very least appreciating that you still are alive and have the opportunity to change things in the year ahead.

Whether you're on the road, in the air, gathering with friends or family or just your own quiet time on a beach somewhere, Happy (American) Thanksgiving

(*Your Mileage May Vary.)

Saturday, November 8, 2014

A Hole in the Ground

"But down in the underground
You'll find someone true
Down in the underground
A land serene
A crystal moon"
                                    - David Bowie

In the famous Leonard Bernstein song "New York, New York" -- from the musical ON THE TOWN -- there is a lyric referring to the New York subway. 

"The people ride in a hole in the ground." 
LA's Metro

It doesn't sound too appealing, and truth to tell, the New York subway is hardly anybody's idea of a nice way to get around. It's efficient, it's cheap, and it's ubiquitous. And anyone who has ever ridden it will tell you it's not a whole lot of fun. (Hole lot of fun???)

Underground railway systems have been with us for more than a century and a half, with London's Metropolitan Underground Railway -- The "Tube" -- initiating service in 1863. Given its head start, it's no wonder The Tube is an extensive network, allowing for transportation all around the London metro area. Other than New York's legendary Subway, The Tube is perhaps the most extensive underground network in the world. (I base this solely upon personal experience, so feel free to gently correct my education.)

I have written extensively about airline and automotive travel, and a few sidelines into cruising and above-ground trains, but it occurred to me that -- other than a sideways relation between the Eurostar train's sub-English Channel run and other underground routes -- I have never really mentioned the subway.

Atlanta's MARTA
While some cities boast huge networks of below-the-ground systems, others give it a passing glance, with the subterranean portions being short runs when otherwise above-ground transit requires it. Los Angeles is such a place. So is Atlanta. Chicago's "El" just takes the whole damned thing and puts the tracks above your head, not under your feet.

But a subway experience, despite all of the negatives associated with it, can at times be just another aspect of a city's personality. New York is in many ways defined by its subway. London's Tube can be an adventure unto itself. Paris' Metro is a wonderland down below, with its own carefully cultivated art and music scene.

New York subway entrance
Some people feel that traveling the underground trains is a bad way to "see" a city, and I can't disagree, based solely on the fact much of your views are, of necessity, dark. Or dark with intermittent flashes of fluorescence. In some cases they can be nervewracking for the uneasy tourist. I get that -- it feels as though you're being swept along, surrounding by largely uncaring commuters who have no other purpose than to get from point A to point Z. It can be an overwhelming experience.

But they ARE, in most cases, part of the feel of a city. Part of its culture and character. The New York subway is as much a part of the experience as is a New York taxi. 

I'm not saying you should only use the subway, but try it. See if it isn't a better way to travel. 

And even if it isn't, it's still part of the adventure.

Pigalle station on Paris' Metro