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.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Pic of the Day: Not What You're Thinking....

Every once in a while I take a shot that doesn't quite turn out as expected. There was nothing wrong with this particular CRJ jet, but the photo seems to indicate differently.

Rest assured, we made it safely to our destination.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Pic of the Day: A Sign of the Times

In my recent blog post entitled "I think these things when I stay at your hotel" 
( http://thumbnailtraveler.blogspot.com/2015/02/i-think-these-things-when-i-stay-at.html ) I mentioned how Housekeeping tends to ignore the posted placards and instructions regarding towel reuse and other things. The card clearly states "if you would like your linens changed sooner....Just place this card on your pillow.

I put this placard on the nightstand next to the bed. Not on my pillow. I returned to my room that evening with a very nice new set of sheets, and the towels I'd left on the rack or the sink replaced with fresh ones. But we try...

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Pic of the Day: A Signpost Up Ahead

Every once in a while I see a sign on the side of a highway which cracks me up. Sometimes for very little reason. This one did -- primarily because that's a frozen lake behind the sign and one would assume the problem takes care of itself.

Palisades Reservoir, Snake River, Wyoming.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Pic of the Day: STOP!

The ground crew guides an airliner in with a series of gestures using bright orange (red?) sticks -- they even glow at night.

The crossed X indicates the pilot is to stop where he/she is.

The hope is, they do.

(I've never seen one overshoot the mark -- but we've all seen the movie Airplane!, right? The 747 crashing through the plate glass window at the gate? Yeah, still haunted.)

Friday, March 27, 2015

Pic of the Day: Martinis and more Martinis

Yeah. If you haven't figured this about me already, let me shock you: I love martinis.

For those of you left standing; the Vault Martini lounge in Portland. Tito's vodka. A classic combination.

I'm considering a coffee table book...

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Pic of the Day: "Thank You For Flying..."

JetBlue pilots still take the time to make personal in-cabin announcements to the passengers. Wonderful touch, and sincerely appreciated.

Keeping the glamor of flight alive, even if on life support...

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Pic of the Day: EAT!

I take a lot of pictures of food. There are some people who believe in the power of suggestion.

Yeah. That's my excuse.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Pic of the Day: News from Above

I'm sure you've heard -- or perhaps been impacted by -- the recent congestions at America's West Coast ports. Looking at the lineup of ships from the shoreline gives you one perspective. Looking at it from above -- ships waiting to dock and disgorge their goods at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach -- gives you a much better idea of the scale of the delays.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Pic of the Day: Caffeination Nation

Morning cup of coffee at The Coffee Cabin in Alpine, Wyoming.

Essential food group, beautiful surroundings.

Sunday, March 22, 2015


"Life itself is the proper binge."
                                                - Julia Child

Over the course of the last few years I've written repeatedly about the experience of finding a cute little diner or burger stand or side-of-the-road eatery which is part of the fun of any road trip. Ditto when it comes to a more far-flung destination requiring air travel, it's still exciting to find that local joint, the local hangout where you can just sit back and absorb the atmosphere.

Which may have led to the misperception that we never "dine out" in the traditional and more expensive sense. As a foodie, small F in my case, it's a distinct pleasure to be able to afford the finer things in life such as a meal at the more high-end Restaurants, with a capital R.

Picasso, Las Vegas

In years gone by my wife and I have been fortunate to have visited and had dinner at the famous Tavern on the Green in Central Park before it closed. Likewise The Rainbow Room high atop Rockefeller Center. (I sincerely hope there's not a connection between our visits and the closure of such establishments.) In New Orleans we brunched at Brennan's, including, of course, the Bananas Foster au flambé.

In Seattle we've eaten at Michael Mina's RN74. In San Diego at DeMedici's in the Gaslamp. Las Vegas -- now a hotspot for fine dining -- we've been to Tom Colicchio's CRAFTSTEAK at the MGM; Bobby Flay's MESA Grill, as well as Spago, both at Caesars Palace; relaxed on the patio at Picasso overlooking the Bellagio's fountains; and eaten our fill of sushi at SushiSamba over at the Venetian.

Here in the LA area we've visited everything from the very famous Tam O'Shanter, to the late and lamented Brown Derby, to the ultra adventurous The Bazaar by Jose Andres at the SLS hotel in Beverly Hills.

Each of these, and many more, has been an experience. Some "old school" restaurants still exist, for an echo of how it used to be, while others are at the forefront of new cuisine. 

As anyone who reads this column regularly knows, one of my primary checkmarks for any experience has to be that it somehow reflects the locale. 

Sitting inside, does the place tell you where you are? 

Does it give you a sense of the local culture, community?

Is the restaurant in Las Vegas over-the-top enough to clue you in that you're in Vegas and not New York or Chicago? Is the cuisine locally-sourced or flown in from the wilds of Africa, directly to your table? Additionally, is the food good enough to deserve your dollars, or are they relying upon reputation or image or view to demand the premium -- simply because they're a part of the local firmament? 

Is the atmosphere one of fun and enjoyment, not a stuffy or trendy place bent more towards YOU being grateful for a table versus THEIR being grateful for your company? 

(I cannot stand restaurants that treat me as if I'm just damned lucky to be there. I live in MY world, in which THEY are privileged to have me and my party shower them with OUR money. If the host/hostess isn't happy to see me, I go elsewhere.) 

(That particular rule applies whether I'm in line at the local Souplantation or waiting for a table at New York's most recent culinary superstar. You may ask me to wait, but don't be arrogant about it -- I don't care how cool or busy you may be, appreciate that I walked in the door with a credit card in my wallet.)

I still think while traveling it's the out-of-the-way hangouts and locals' joints that are the more fun discoveries, but my wife and I do enjoy the occasional truly grand dinner -- and each, in their own way, is an experience which adds texture to the grand adventure. 

We can't afford to splurge often, but when we do it is going to be incredible.

Inn of the Anasazi in Santa Fe

Pic of the Day: The California Riviera

Departing Long Beach Airport we rose thousands of feet into the air, looking down upon the famous and magical coastline that makes Southern California one of the most popular destinations in the world. This shot was a sunrise with a particularly cloud-covered departure.

At the bottom the giant marina and harbor at Newport Beach, of the most affluent places in the world. Further off we see Laguna Beach, Dana Point and down the coast to San Clemente. From ten thousand and more feet it all blends together to make for a magnificent sunrise. It's a magical coastline, made more so by the early morning sun..

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Pic of the Day: Morning Operations

Morning hot air balloon flight over Albuquerque. We arrived at 6:00am and signed our releases. An hour later we had helped set up the basket and balloon and found ourselves aloft at some 3000' above the surrounding terrain. A spectacular sunrise over Sandia peak cemented the experience in our memories.

Friday, March 20, 2015


“When we're connected to others, we
become better people.” 

                                                                          ― Randy Pausch

If you're on the road enough and open to the opportunity, you can meet some truly fascinating people when you're traveling.

On an airliner you are confronted by the unknown. It is a lottery to determine who you will be seated next to, and even the best of circumstances can result in abject silence, with practically no words exchanged. Nothing unpleasant, just no communication.

Other times -- and this is where it's hard to gauge -- you might be seated next to a chatter mouth and want nothing more than to chew your arm off and move away.

So it really depends on the vibe and response you receive, and trying desperately hard not to be either the chatterbox or the cold fish yourself. I usually busy myself with my iPad during the boarding process. Posting Boarding Shots and other observations on either Twitter or Facebook, while the other folks are clamoring over the last remaining overhead spots.

I've had some real winners and some truly embarrassing losers sitting next to me. I believe I've already recounted the story of the woman who demanded a wheelchair, but also was capable of standing up in the airplane seat to rummage around in the overhead. Not once, but twice. Or the man who kept audibly texting with someone even though the attendants had noted, several times, that the doors were closed.

But this isn't about them. This is about the cool people I've talked to during our lives' brief cloverleaf, whether it was for one or maybe two hours max. Enjoyable chats, often entertaining and even educational in most circumstances.

On one flight, from Phoenix to Long Beach I began chatting with the woman next to me as we taxied from the terminal to the runway. I asked if Long Beach was her final destination -- you never know if you're seated next to someone visiting family, on business, or simply returning home. 

She shook her head and said "No, I'm just passing through. I have to pick up a laser and head for Fresno".

After a moment to internalize what she'd said, I told her a lot of us have that opinion of Fresno, but she probably wasn't going all Terminator on the place. She laughed and let me know she was a medical laser repair person, and that she travels the West Coast at a moment's notice to fix lasers in hospitals and plastic surgery clinics. With that we were off the runway and headed for Long Beach, talking the entire way.

On a short hopper from Great Falls to Salt Lake City I had the good fortune to sit next to a highly respected cancer specialist. As we talked about other topics, the subject of my wife's battle with Leukemia came up, and he was extraordinarily giving with his thoughts and support. Again, it was one of those situations where you don't want to intrude, but we had a wonderful wide-ranging conversation of which his advice was just a portion.
"Hi There, come here often?"

My automotive bent was satisfied on a flight from Salt Lake to Orange County when I found myself seated next to a dealership-relations executive from Hyundai. Both my wife and I drive Hyundais (mine is the red sports couple seen in some of my desert photographs), so it seemed a natural to talk about the operations and upcoming plans for the make. I was able to extend my appreciation for our local dealership as well as understand a bit more about where some of the models are headed -- nothing from an insider basis, but just details about what is publicly known. Again, a far-ranging and enjoyable conversation.

There's always the in-flight literature...
In any given year I may have a dozen unforgettable encounters on an airliner. It certainly helps keep things in perspective, and I was astounded recently that a two hour flight seemed very short because the conversation was so good. It may range from politics (which can be dicey but educational) to business, to personal anecdotes -- the man who is currently pursuing an advanced degree while living away from his wife, and was headed home for the first time in three months -- to people who have stories you would never have heard otherwise.

Air travel is nobody's idea of a picnic. Even if you're in First Class or a seasoned traveler there are aspects of flying you just learn to live with -- boarding, for example. So finding those moments when it can be made into something special are the precious ones, the ones we all seek and enjoy when they occur.

A chance encounter has been the subject of many a novel or film or storytelling. And for the brief time your life intersects with a complete stranger's, is the time when something truly enjoyable can occur.

Just saying'.

"A dream to some...a Nightmare to others!"

Pic of the Day: The Eternal Flame

John Fitzgerald Kennedy's grave site, Arlington National Cemetery. 

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Pic of the Day: Off the Rue Saint-Remi

A small side-street off the Rue Saint-Remi, the City of Bordeaux's wonderfully walkable shopping boulevard. Circa 2000.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Pic of the Day: Acrophobes Need Not Apply

An observation platform juts out from the north side cliffs overlooking the Hoover Dam (background). Hundreds of feet straight down.

I won't be doing this job any time soon -- even just taking the photograph gave me a little vertigo.

Pic of the Day: Cable Cars

The only "Mobile Historic Landmark" in America, Cable Cars are a fundamental part of the fiber of the San Francisco character. I cannot imagine it being the same without the classic "clang" of the bells, or a visual cue identifying the below image as unquestionably the City by the Bay.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Pic of the Day: The Eiffel Tower

It was our first trip to Paris. The night before we'd had a stunning dinner at a wonderful little restaurant which completely evoked the cliched but coveted image of a Parisian Bistro.

The next morning we caught our first train on Le Metro, riding to Trocadero station and the Palais de Chaillot. We ascended to the top of a grand staircase and walked up to this view -- our first ever -- of the Eiffel Tower. A profound moment, and one that lives in our memories.


Monday, March 16, 2015

Pic of the Day: Churchill, Manitoba

A side street in the northern Manitoba town of Churchill. We were there for a few hours waiting for our transfer out to the Tundra Buggy Lodge.

We wandered the streets for a while, reveling at the rugged beauty of the town before find lunch in a nearby diner -- where I promptly lost a crown while eating a cheese sandwich. Good way to start our adventure on the tundra!

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Pic of the Day: Kilauea

How many places can you go in this world and look down into a smoldering caldera?

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, for one. This is the prime vent for the Kilauea volcano. Less than a month after this shot was taken an explosion rocked the far wall, initiating a new eruption sequence in the park.