I may not be the first person to photograph these 800-year-old Indian Ruins with their Teddy Bear.
But I don’t suspect there have been too many others before me who did.
A few years ago, I was hiking in Arches National Park. After several hours of trudging through the desert, I had finally arrived at my destination, and I wanted to stop and admire the view.
Another middle-aged couple happened to be there: a woman posing, while her husband snapped photos. They appeared to be German. (Europeans really love the American Southwest, a big chunk of the tourists in Utah are either French or German).
As I walked to admire the view, I heard the man abruptly tell me in his thick accent:
“Pleez do not valk there, ve are taking peek-chahs.”
The dude was basically monopolizing the entire scenic lookout, and apparently no one was allowed to walk there until he was done taking photos.
Normally, I wouldn’t mind, and would gladly have walked around…IF someone would have asked me nicely. But Herr Gunther didn’t so much as ask me, but ORDERED ME.
What a dink, I thought. Oh well…
Then another couple came by, somewhat younger, in their 30′s.
“Pleez do not valk there….”, Gunther ordered, again.
At which, the younger gentleman (let’s call him Hans) answered back, in the same German accent:
“Vell, you sir, can GO TO HELL!”
I was shocked, but delighted to hear this. (I wish I had had the fortitude to tell Gunther off!)
“Vell, I am taking peek-chahs, you do not stand in front of my photos”, Gunther answered.
“You do not OWN zee National Park! Ziss is Public Land!”, Hans man replied. Then he pointed to me:
“…undt you do NOT tell ziss Gentleman vere he can valk and vere he can’t valk, he has as much right to be here as YOU DO!”.
“Yah, but you do not interput my photos!”
“Vell, then you WAIT, until other people have gone!”
This exchange went on for several minutes, and kept escalating. (I suspect NATO was soon going to declare DEF-CON IV. )
Finally, Gunther’s beady little eyes bulged with rage, and he started to yell “You….F*#$ OFF”
“No…YOU F@#% OFF!”
At this point, I think the two men were going to come to blows. The women stood by, alarmed.
I think young Hans would have easily taken down Gunther, and Gunther knew this.
Puffing his cheeks, he sarcastically yelled out “Yah…Yah…Ziss is very NICE. VERY GOOT! YAH!”, and stomped off with rage.
(Looking back, I wonder why they argued in English..was this for my benefit, perhaps?)
Anyway, after the dust settled, Hans apologized to me.
He said he was sorry I had to see that, but he was sick and tired of seeing his fellow countrymen boss around other tourists like they owned the place. People like Gunther helped perpetuate the bad German stereotype, he explained. We’re not all like that, most of us are nice.
And he was. We ended up chatting for a good 45 minutes, long after Gunther had stormed off. These were kind folks. I spoke mostly with Hans, as his girlfriend’s English wasn’t very good.
Then it was time for my mandatory Bear Photo. I took Junior out the knapsack, and posed him in front of the sandstone arch, and took a photo.
Of course, I had to explain my whole Bear-Photo ritual to these strangers. Hans thought this was awesome! He and his girlfriend laughed and smiled. (Junior Bear often has this affect on people).
Looking at me, she then shyly whispered something into Hans’ ear.
“My girlfriend vants to know if she can also have a peek-chah vit the BEAH!”
“Of course!” I agreed.
And she seemed genuinely delighted as she posed with Junior. I had made her day.
More shy whispering, and Hans informed me that now she ALSO wanted to get a Bear of her own.
(Yes! Looks like I’ve made another convert!)
Then it was time to part our ways, and we said goodbye.
All in all, it was a good afternoon. I made some temporary friends, had a great hike, and somewhere in a photo album thousand of miles across the Atlantic, Junior’s posing with a nice blonde woman.
Tou*ron: noun. A tourist moron.
Video-Taping Life it Instead of Living It.
Imagine a beautiful fairyland of orange-red pillars of sandstone, colored so brightly that the rocks seem to glow from within.
That’s Bryce Canyon National Park, in Utah.
I was standing on the edge of the canyon, taking in all of nature’s glory, just before taking the path downwards to hike into this maze of wonders.
Except there was a traffic jam on the hiking trail. A bunch of Japanese tourists were walking single file, with their cameras all clicking away.
The best was the Touron woman in front of me, who was blocking my way, walking ahead at 1 m.p.h. while she videotaped her hike.
Apparently it was more important for this boson to view Bryce Canyon through a 1-inch view-finder, than to put the F$%*&ing video camera down and just LOOK at the scenery in real-time.
Eventually, I managed to squeeze by her.
Though I congratulate myself for not pushing her over the cliff as I did so.
Just Ignore the Mountain
Normally, I hate Touron buses and avoid them like the plague. But in this case, I had no choice.
Since they don’t permit cars past a certain point in Denali National Park, the only way see some of the sights is to book a space on the Touron Bus.
And you have to get there early, because the bus fills up quickly.
But this day was worth it. The weather was exceptionally clear and Mount McKinley was perfectly visible.
The bus driver told us this was rare: two-thirds of the time, Mckinley is covered in clouds. Today was the best day he’d seen all summer. We had truly lucked out.
We pulled over on the side of the road at a lookout, and got out of the bus to look at one of the most awe-inspiring sights I had ever seen.
Mt. McKinley (or Denali) was a white icy pyramid-castle thrusting itself 18,000 vertical feet upwards into a deep azure blue sky. I was looking at the roof of North America and felt I could almost touch it.
It was so beautiful, I almost wanted to cry.
Did I say we got out of the bus? Well..MOST of us did.
There was this 80 year old Touron Bat who couldn’t be bothered.
Her elderly son tried to plead for her to come out and take a look, but she couldn’t and wouldn’t.
While the rest of us were outside, Ooohing and Aaahing, she just sat there inside the bus. I don’t know if she even looked out the window.
What a waste of a bus seat.
What a waste of DNA, for that matter.
Promise me something, folks.
If I ever become that old and jaded, please shoot me.
Shittiest. Hiker. Ever.
There are several ways you can get to the top of Mt. Washington in New Hampshire.
If you’re ambitious, you can hike up the 4000 vertical feet to get there.
Or you can take the toll-road to the summit in the comfort of your air-conditioned car.
Or, if you’re too wussy to even DRIVE, you can even take the Touron Bus.
On top (next to the cafeteria/museum/post office complex), there’s 5-foot pile of rocks with a signpost.
It indicates the summit elevation of 6,288 feet above sea level, the highest point in the North East.
Almost everyone there (including myself) walked up to top of those rocks.
After all, I HAD to touch the summit. (Especially, as I’d just finished a grueling four hike, climbing up steep ravines and hopping from boulder to boulder to get there).
But this was too much for one Touron in flip-flops (who obviously drove to the top).
She refused to go up the tiny rock pile. She told her husband it was “too much”. She might sprain an ankle or something.
Oh boy. If she had been alive in 1803, I bet you Lewis and Clark would have just SNATCHED her up for their expedition, wouldn’t have they?
Whatever you do, don’t hurt Bambi
This happened when I was returning from a camping trip with a group of fellow students. A girl from our group insisted on stopping by a “Trading Post” by the side of the road.
This place smelled “Shitty Touron Trap” all over.
a) there was a 10-foot fake Grizzly Bear out front (This was Eastern Ontario, there wasn’t a grizzly within 2500 miles.)
b) any place that calls itself a “Trading Post” is, by default, a Shitty Touron trap.
(Come on…do they actually TRADE at these Trading Posts?)
“I’ll buy the Indian teepee made in China, in exchange for these beaver pelts”
(I somehow doubt these places work on a barter system, but I digress here).
Anyway, our friend was visiting from the UK, she didn’t know any better, so we humored her and all went into the store.
The merchandise was the typical ceramic birchbark Touron crap. Then I saw a string of wolf pelts hanging on the wall.
I commented to my friend that it’s a shame to kill wild animals like this, just to be sold as novelty items for the tourists.
Well, the store owner (a scowling 70-year-old Polyester Lady) didn’t like hearing me say this.
“Oh, yeah?” she said. “Well…these vicious animals attack and kill DEER…have you ever heard the sound a poor deer makes when it’s being mauled by wolves?…it’s HORRIBLE!“
I stood flabbergasted, listening to this idiot logic.
I was so mad, I starter to sputter, getting ready to give a piece of my mind to Jane F*cking Goodall here:
“Uhh….Oh my God…….theyr’e CARNIVORES…! ….This…this is what wolves DO…I can’t believe you’re saying this…you (sputter) ignorant…#$%&…what did you EXPECT they’d eat….You STUPID OLD B...”
Suddenly, my friend, seeing I was about to pop a gasket, grabbed me, and said “Okay, Friar, calm down…lets go.“
He had whisked me out of store, before I made a scene. He was chuckling too…I think he regretted not letting me blow up.
That was almost 20 years ago. The Trading Post is still there, but I don’t’ think I’ve been in there since.
If it’s any consolation, Grandam Wolf-Killer is probably gone by now. (Eaten by wolves, perhaps?)
Not just making a carbon footprint, but doing it with Size 16 shoes.
I forgot to mention there’s another way to get up Mt. Washington.
You can also take the Cog Railway. This is a steam train (circa 1890 technology) that still runs up the mountain, pulling up a few dozen tourists at a time.
What a freaking ABOMINATION.
Oh, come on, Friar. What’s wrong with a train, you might ask?
Not if you enjoy your peaceful alpine moments being interrupted by a steam whistle every 20 minutes, from an infernal machine that belches clouds of black coal smoke into the clean moutain air.
Not only that, but the smoke spreads out for miles into the Mt. Washington Valley, and obscures half the view you had spent 4 hours hiking to look at.
All this, just for the benefit of a few Tourons who are too stupid to hike, drive, or take the Touron Bus to the top of the mountain.
Al Gore must be weeping in his mansion, at this moment.
Hank Hill goes Canoe Camping
Algonquin Park in Eastern Ontario is one of the best canoe-camping areas in North America.
There are hundreds of miles of organized canoe routes and portages, and people come from the world all over to camp there.
When camping in the Interior, you pretty much have to carry in everything yourself. Mostly, you pack essentials like food, clothing and the tent.
But sometimes, it’s fun to make the extra effort and bring along a “luxury” item.
Like a few extra cans of beer. Maybe a hammock. Or a folding lawn chair.
I’ve brought my share of stupid things into the park. We all have.
The STUPIDEST thing I saw, though, were the two idiots with a full-sized BBQ in their canoe (including the propane tank).
The BBQ towered over their head while they paddled in sitting positions. I suspect their center or gravity was several feet above the water.
As I paddled by, I commented “I guess you’re not going to be portaging the BBQ, eh? “
“Uhhh…you guessed right“, they answered.
Dudes. You’re camping in the Interiour (i.e. the forest). Where there’s dead brush and dry kindling ALL AROUND YOU.
And even if you didn’t want to make a campfire, there is such a thing as a Coleman Stove.
WTF do you need to bring a PROPANE BARBECUE for?
Because they’re TOURONS…that’s why!!!.