July 24, 2016

Running in Essaouira, Morocco

Goats… in Trees!

Headed to the beach in Morocco this summer? Our recent adventures along the country’s Atlantic coast brought us to the “Windy City of Africa” Essaouira. And, as is always the case, our thoughts rapidly turned to the eternal question of ‘where to run?’ without twisting an ankle.

[Read more...]

Update: Following the Known Unknowns

Exploring Azemmour.

Greetings from sunny Morocco. We fully planned this week on writing up a full runner’s guide to El Jadida, we really did. We did make a short stop there for five days earlier this week, en route from Casablanca to Essaouira. And we even did a few reconnaissance runs around our suburban neighborhood. We did not, however, find a place that we dared to open up to full throttle to do a five kilometer fast run. It happens sometimes, running for the first time in a strange place. You head for what’s usually a sure bet at finding a level, paved surface to run on, (parks or waterfronts are usually good bets) and end up watching your every step at what seems like a snail’s pace on crumbly pavement and rocky ground. [Read more...]

100 Words to Know in Any Language

Say what? (Photo by author).

Sometimes, we’re traveling so fast and passing through regions with several languages, that we never do learn them properly. Such is our current predicament in Morocco, a glorious mix of French, Arabic and a dash of indigenous Berber mixed in.

Now, we’ll admit that we’ve taken classes in both French and Arabic over the years… and forgotten nearly everything. Language is a perishable skill, and if you don’t use it, you tend to lose it. We’ve also taken Italian during our stint with NATO in the military back in our USAF days, and this helps a little bit in other Romance language countries. True story, we learned words like ‘broken,’ ‘scratched’ and ‘dirty’ in Italian before we learned the usual basics such as hello and goodbye. [Read more...]

Running in Casablanca

Scenic El Hank lighthouse at sunset.

Most tourists briefly transit the port city of Casablanca en route to further afield. And while the largest city in Morocco is more of the economic engine of the country than a touristic stop, it’s one of those towns that dot each region filling a vital role: it’s a place for trekkers and travelers to get things done.

And we did just that this week, as we got some key pieces of clothing replaced, after a through search of several malls in the town. I’ve been holding my old running shoes together with duct tape for the last few months, no lie. Not only are Bigfoot American size 12 shoes a rarity in Morocco, but apparently, duct tape is a luxury item as well.

Successfully finding a new pair of running shoes was an exercise in studying conversion tables online and guessing Euro vs UK vs US shoe sizes, an approximate but arcane art at best. I couldn’t really afford to be choosy, as we had to work from the subset of shoes that were at least a US size 11 ˝. Suffice to say, we have shiny new Asics… that are the very first running shoes that we’ve owned in highlighter yellow. Hey, at least they’ll never get lost in the shuffle… [Read more...]

Running in Morocco

Rocking the Kasbah along the Rabat waterfront…

It’s here. Remember a few weeks back when we wrote about keeping up a running regimen while traveling? Well, we forgot one of the most important moving parts of the whole shtick: where to run.

If you travel and stay at hostels and Air BnBs like we do, asking the doorman is typically not an option. Usually, our first run in a new town is strictly reconnaissance, a quick out and back look at the new environs. Sometimes, we’ll follow a local runner (without looking too stalker-ish, of course) to see if they know where to run. Parks and waterfronts are also often a good bet. And of course, we’re often Googling ‘where to run in (blank)’ the first morning in a new place. [Read more...]

Traveling Sick – Barfing Up Abroad

What’s in your travelling medical kit?

It’s a reality we plan for, nearly every excursion.

Sickness, injuries, and health issues are a fact of life, and an extra stress while traveling. It can also be extra stressful when you’re traveling solo, and there’s no one to run out to the local pharmacy and pantomime for you. We once spent the day sick in a tiny, barren hotel room in Darwin, Australia, with only our guide book for entertainment. We were barely able to make it around the corner for bottled water. [Read more...]

Travel and Skepticism: On a Ride Not Taken

Timeless wisdom…

Do you park your brain in neutral when you travel?

Indie travel really pulls you out of your element and plops you down wide-eyed in a new and strange place. More than ever, this is the time when you need to be alert to your new surroundings, not buried face-first in your smartphone… well, OK, in just about every country you visit these days, you’ll just look like about a 100 other people walking down the street starring at their phones. [Read more...]

Wandering Through the Medina

The alleyways of Assilah, Morocco.

This week, we’d like to talk about the importance of not having a plan.

Sure, we’ve talked about the virtues of careful planning during any impeding trek in the past, and how it can make or break a trip. What we want to address this week might be better termed as built in flexibility. [Read more...]

Crossing the Pillars of Hercules

Follow the arrow…

We’ve arrived.

As we mentioned in last week’s dispatch, our mission this past weekend was to exit Spain into Morocco, for a brand new 90 day reset on our visa… and of course, to explore brave new lands.

First off, everything went off with ‘nary a hitch. We ditched the rental in Gibraltar, pre-positioned ourselves in Algeciras, and caught the ferry across the straights of Gibraltar from Tarife to Tangier. Where invasion fleets and cannon balls used to fly, lies a now placid straight mainly plied by sun-seeking tourists. [Read more...]

Crossing Continents

The Pillars of Hercules beckon…

Image credit: Dave Dickinson

There’s an old adage that says no battle plan actually survives combat, and the same could be said of travel.

This weekend sees us on the move once again, getting ready and in position to jump across the straits of Gibraltar from Spain into Morocco. [Read more...]

Keeping a Running Regimen on the Road

How many pairs of footwear do YOU travel with?

How do you maintain an exercise regimen whilst traveling? And no, we’re not talking about skipping down to the hotel gym before buffet breakfast, although we’ve done that as well. We’re talking about staying true to a regimen while independently traveling. [Read more...]

Waiting for Mercury: Tales of Transits

Our humble station.

There’s another insidious danger that awaits unwary solar astronomers.

This coming Monday on May 9th, the planet Mercury transits the fair face of our host star as seen from our Earthly vantage point. Unlike, Venus, Mercury is tiny, meaning amateurs everywhere will be scrambling to make solar filters for their telescopes this weekend. [Read more...]

Book Review: The Nebula Awards Showcase 2016

On sale now.

Ready for some of the very best in science fiction? Every year since 1966, the Nebula Awards recognize the best of the best in all that is speculative fiction. It’s a tough call, sure, boiling and distilling down the field from all of the diverse and excellent sci-fi prose that’s out there. But the Nebula Awards compilation is always a rewarding and exhilarating read. [Read more...]

Adventures With Air BnB

Working by the fire…

Wow.

Let me tell you about our latest addiction. As long time fans of this weekly column know, we’re long time travelers. We’ve stayed in many a hostel and hotel of various configurations, and we’ve always thought that there should be another niche, something between a weekend hotel and a full on rental. [Read more...]

Where We’re At: Updates From the Road

We can now see Gibraltar from our workspace…

Well, our time in Jimena de la Frontera is just about at an end. It has been a great stay in a tiny Andalusian white pueblo town, a foothill village topped with a stunning 9th century Moorish castle. We suspect you’ll be hearing more about Jimena soon, as recent archaeological finds date the roots of the town back even further, to Roman times. Stone Age art found along the river suggest that humans were here even earlier, plying the region for thousands of years. [Read more...]

Astro-Image Processing: How Far is Too Far?

NOT a fake…

Image credit: Dave Dickinson

Alright. We’re going to touch on a hot button issue in astrophotography on this week’s soapbox rant. After years of watching the discussion come ’round, we’re going to add our two cents. When it comes to post-processing, how far is too far? When is an image no longer an accurate rendition of reality? [Read more...]

A Peek at Our New Tale, ‘Peak Season’

On Sale Now!

We couldn’t resist. Our latest science fiction tale is live and available on Amazon.com, and we thought this weekend that we’d harken back a bit and offer readers the first 1000 words free. You can read Peak Season and other original scifi tales by your’s truly in their entirety.

 

Peak Season

By

David A. Dickinson

 

I never thought that I’d find my most interesting and life-changing assignment as a new hotel manager in the backwater town Carbondale, Illinois. [Read more...]

Astronomy on the Go

A lucky shot from Seville, Spain…

(Photo by author)

Do you always remember to look at the sky, wherever you are? Sometimes, an astronomical event comes to us, but often, we have to instead go to it. Total solar eclipses or witnessing the northern lights from the high arctic comes to mind.

It’s easy to keep up astronomy as a daily pursuit when it’s the primary goal of an expedition… but what do you when it isn’t? [Read more...]