So its 2006, and I can safely say that 2005 was a pretty spectacular affair. My travels took me from the bottom of the South American continent to the top of North America, ending the year in the middle of the two. I finally had the opportunity to embrace the Western Hemisphere, in all its spoils and superlatives.
I rung in the year at a restaurant in Buenos Aires. I was munching on venison carpaccio with raspberries; the town was absolutely shut-down by a major concert fire the night before which killed 300 people. Everyone stayed home. A city of 12 million deserted. My roommate and I ended up going back to the apartment of our waitress, who spoke no English and drunkenly commented to me on the balcony, "I am a mother." Then she pointed to her plants. I didn't know what the hell she was talking about, it was either heartbreakingly sweet or not what she was trying to say. Then we left, found a bar, ordered drinks. Left before the drinks came, walked halfway to another neighborhood, then went back to the bar for the digital camera we bought 4 days before, ordered drinks again after they brought us our camera, then left before the drinks came again. Then it was 6am. Woke up at noon and walked smack into the city morgue, a block from our hotel, where hundreds of polaroids of the body-bagged unidentified greeted our monstrous hangovers. Later broke into a city park and took pictures in fields of roses with no one to share them with. The entire city was closed for the first 3 days of 2005.
I concluded the year in a town of 200, tiny Santa Catalina, Panama, Central America's premier surfing spot. With the 7 other residents of The Cabanas Rolo - two Roman lads, two Japanese girls, a kid from Buenos Aires, Rolo and his wife, we ate cheap chicken and drank cheaper beer, then rolled to a party on the beach. A reggae band, a DJ, more $1 beers, and a town of chilled out Panamanians and a small community of international surfers, we just plain rocked out in the remote recesses of Panama's Pacific coast. The stars are better only in the middle of the ocean. I've never seen such an impressive array before.
In between these two days, 365 days apart, I:
1. spent a month crisscrossing Uruguay, Argentina, Chile, and Peru. Traveled by bus, plane, car, boat, horse, bicycle, train, subway, taxi, and golf cart.
2. took a busride from Rio Gallegos, Argentina, just north of Antartica to Lima, Peru. The 135-hour ride included many stopovers, but proved to be the most physically and mentally challenging traveling I have ever done. I have never heard of anyone who has made this kind of trek, especially in such short a time. My roommate and I traversed 40 degrees latitude in 17 days. Like boarding a bus in New York's Port Authority and riding it to Panama.
3. drove from Seattle through Washington state, British Columbia, the Yukon, and Alaska, making the drive in 3 days. Most people take five days just to do the section I did in 18 hours.
4. hiked the impressive Denail State Park and Wrangell-St Elias National Park. Not hiking I met gold prospectors, one-eyed pilots, squatters, hitchhikers, botanists, fishermen, and a slew of Midwestern retirees. Hiking I met moose, bears, wolves, and caribou, but not a single person. I spent three days above the tree line and only passed out once.
5. drove back to Vancouver and stayed for a week in a basement apartment just outside of downtown. Basically detoxing from Alaska.
6. drove to Chicago through Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota, Nebraska and Iowa. This brings my "Total States Visited" to 40.
7. visited the majestic Little Bighorn Battlefield, the depressing Wounded Knee, the cartoonish Mount Rushmore, the absurd Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.
8. participated in a rousing 4 car accident in Billings, Montana, which made the drive to Chicago (with no driver side window or door access) a tad miserable in the hot, thunderstormin' Great Plains.
9. chilled in Chicago for a weekend at the K-Man's house.
10. took a meager 19-hour ride back to New York on the good old Greyhound.
11. flew to Panama City, Panama and drove west to the Costa Rican border in a single evening.
12. Swam in the Atlantic and the Pacific in a single day.
1. The world's largest glacier (Nabesna Glacier, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park)
2. 9 of North America's 15 tallest mountains in a day (also Wrangell-St. Elias National Park)
3. The Andes
4. The Canadian Rockies
5. The extraordinary Mount McKinley
6. Machu Picchu
7. The Bridge of the Americas, spanning...
8. The Panama Canal
9. The world's largest motorcycle rally (Sturgis)
10. Flamingoes, ostriches, llamas, and wild horses in Patagonia (all within 10 minutes)
11. The world's second most polluted city (Santiago, Chile)
12 Arguably the world's worst road (The McCarthy Road, Alaska)
13. Kyle Hubert
14. what might be the gravesite of Crazy Horse, though its never been proven.
15. undoubtedly the gravesite of Jorge Luis Borges and Eva Peron in Buenos Aires' Recoleta Cemetary
16. the beginning of Interstate 90, in Tacoma
17. a tennis ball strike an eyeball at 100mph
18. the new Wong Kar-Wai film, 2046
19. a group of 11-year olds (3 of them students of mine) stage Oscar Wilde's "The Importance of Being Earnest" in Brooklyn Heights
20. The incredible Perito Moreno Glaciar, Patagonia, Argentina.
In the next few weeks I'd like to show you some of the pictures I've taken. I'd also like to recommend some places you should go. As far as 2006 is concerned, I'd like to spend the summer in Alaska, as I made a contact with an old miner who is looking for help prospecting a gold stake left dormant since WW2. I'm sure there is time for a stopoff in Panama sometime in the spring. And if Brazil doesn't beckon me back down there, a trip to Southeast Asia in December is hard to top. Let me know if you are interested. Guatemala comes highly recommended from the backpacking community. Colombia even moreso. You wouldn't have to twist my arm.
Also there is the small matter of tending to the ten remaining states I've yet to visit: Arkansas, Missouri, Kansas, North Dakota, Minnesota, Hawaii, Tennessee, Oregon, Kentucky, and Michigan. Aside from Hawaii, I'd say the others we can save for 2046.