Reno's big sister Las Vegas may get all the attention, however that doesn't mean visitors to Nevada should skip Reno. The city and surrounding area has plenty to offer -- besides just gambling -- without the overwhelming crowds of Vegas. Consider these offbeat sights and activities when planning your Reno vacation:

Be A Kingpin at The National Bowling Stadium

Offbeat Reno, Nevada: The National Bowling Stadium

This 78-lane bowling megaplex is a testament to how much the citizens of Reno love the sport. The National Bowling Stadium is the largest bowling alley in the world and as such plays host to all the big bowling tournaments. It was also used in the filming of the bowling comedy classic Kingpin. Go on by and test your skills at the "Taj Mahal of Tenpins."

Get Your Adventure On

Go karts, mini golf and the Ultimate Rush, oh my! Grand Adventure Land is a miniature amusement park located at the Grand Sierra Resort but open to the public, not just guests of the resort. The highlight of the park is a ride called the Ultimate Rush, a crazy combination of hang-gliding and sky-diving that is sure to get your adrenaline pumping!

Read More     Reno Has More to Offer Than Just Casinos

Visit the Birthplace of Denim

Levi's 501 denim blue jeans

Levi's denim jeans are an American icon known around the world and they got their start in Reno, Nevada. First designed by Jacob Davis using Levi's denim, the two patented the idea in 1871 and the rest is history. Although Davis' original factory no longer exists, a plaque commemorating this historic event can be found at 233 N Virginia Street.

Visit the Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Fame

I bet you didn't even know this one existed, eh? Neither did I before passing through Reno on a road trip with my off-road addict of a best friend. Turns out the Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Fame is located downtown inside of the National Automobile Museum, making it a great destination for all sorts of motor enthusiasts. The amount of stuff inside will amaze you! Definitely a must visit and a great way to pass an hour or two.

Offbeat Reno: The National Automobile Museum

The Offbeat Festival

2015 marks the first year of the Reno Offbeat Arts & Music Festival. This four-day festival is designed to highlight the burgeoning offbeat art, music and food not just in Reno, but found throughout all of Nevada. It will take place November 5th - 8th, 2015 throughout downtown Reno. Details and full lineup have yet to be announced, however you can find out more on the Reno Offbeat Festival web site.

  Bonus: Visit the Bunny Ranch

Offbeat Reno: The original Bunny Ranch

This infamous brothel gained nationwide attention after the HBO behind-the-scenes special about brothel life, Cathouse. Needless to say this is not a family outing, but for all you solo travelers out there eager for a unique experience, this is for you. Expect the night to cost you a couple hundred dollars, however it is possible to spend several thousand here, if budget is of no concern.

See More       Offbeat Travel Guides   United States Travel Ideas

  flickr   //   darronb   kenlund   bburky_   brewbooks   josefff

Published in United States

Certain locations are known all over the world for their biggest pastime. Las Vegas and gambling. Hawaii and surfing. New York City and sitting in traffic. And of course Nashville and country music. As anyone who has ever visited will tell you, country music is the soul of Nashville. To visit Music City even briefly and not experience its musical side -- even if, like myself, you are not a fan of country music -- is akin to heresy. Between history, food and nightlife there is something musical here for everyone, so c'mon and join me on a whirlwind tour of the authentic Nashville.

The Grand Ole Opry

The Grand Ole Opry House in Nashville, Tennessee

This is where it all began. The Grand Ole Opry is the weekly country music radio show. It has run for 90 years and all of country's greatest have graced its stage at some point in their career. As such, a visit to the Grand Ole Opry House on the outskirts of Nashville is a must for all first-time visitors. It will give you a sense of the history and spirit of country music. The offer daytime and post-show tours, as well as a backstage VIP special for the serious country music fans. After all, in the words of Garth Brooks: "No offense at all to the people sitting in the seats, but the real show is backstage. That's the Opry."

Bluebird Cafe

The famous Bluebird Cafe in Nashville, Tennessee

This unique little café is as known for their food as for their music. For over 30 years the Bluebird Cafe has been a favorite among Nashville locals, however few visitors stumble upon this hidden gem. It is the perfect place to enjoy an evening meal and an intimate show from one of Nashville's countless talented musicians. Of course due to the small size of the place, it's best to call ahead or place a reservation via their web site.

Legends Corner

Outside of Legends Corner on Broadway in Nashville, Tennessee

Now that you are well-fed, throw on your cowboy hat and dancing boots and get ready to go honky-tonkin' on Broadway, another Nashville must for first-timers. The giant ten foot guitar marks the home of Legends Corner, the perfect place to start a night out. Over repeated trips to Music City I've found that this bar consistently has the best live music and the strongest drinks -- a winning combination!

The Stage on Broadway

The Grand Ole Opry House in Nashville, Tennessee

Located just a few doors down from Legends Corner, The Stage on Broadway not only has great music but the cheapest beer on all of Broadway too! Maybe that is why this place is the more popular of the two with younger crowd. They have nightly shows from Nashville locals, both veterans and up-and-comers, and don't stop rockin' until 3am. However the coolest thing about the Stage has to be their giant mural of country music stars past and present.

  Ready to visit Nashville and get some country music in your life?

See More!   Nashville's Best Offbeat Sights & Activities

  flickr   //   Ron Cogswell 1 2   ckramer

Published in United States

Corpus Christi is a popular tourist destination both for Texans and travelers from all corners of the United States. However while most stick to the beaches and other water-based activities, there are quite a few spectacular yet overlooked sights and attractions located around town. For anyone seeking to do something different and get off the beaten path on their next trip to Corpus Christi, look no further than the following sights.

The Demon of Corpus Christi

Located near the heart of Corpus Christi is a three-story tall statue of a devil, affectionately known as the Demon of Corpus Christi. The irony of a gigantic devil statue in a city named after the body of Christ cannot be overlooked, and neither can the statue itself. Originally part of an amusement park ride in Pennsylvania, after the ride was shut down the statue was purchased by a local resident and relocated to Texas.

The Selena Memorial in Corpus Christi, Texas

The Selena Memorial

Selena, also know as the "Queen of Tejano," was an amazing singer who was tragically murdered in 1995 at the age of 23 by the original president of her fan club. A couple years later the Selena memorial opened, complete with a bronze statue of the Queen herself. It wasn't long before rubbing the statue's butt became known for bringing good luck. Whether or not this is true is still debatable, however this act has become fiercely popular among visitors of the memorial, both male and female.

Is this the Nina, Pinta or Santa Maria? Taken at the Museum for Science and History in Corpus Christi, Texas

Life-Size Replicas of the Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria

Back in 1492 Colombus' three ships famously discovered of the land that would become the United States. In 1992 full-size replicas of these ships were built and briefly toured around a few American ports before settling into their home in Corpus Christi in 1993. There they still reside, two at the Museum for Science and History and the third in the Corpus Christi Marina.

The South Texas Walk of Music Fame

Everyone knows that Austin is the "Live Music Capital Of The World" but few realize just how many amazing musicians came from Texas. Thankfully the up-and-coming South Texas Walk of Music Fame is paying tribute to some of the greats with ceramic tile statues. Notables include Selena, Reverend Horton Heat, George Straight and Vallejo, among dozens of others. Although it was founded ten years ago it still remains a rather small sight. However it is growing every year with the inauguration of six new musicians on the last Friday of June.

The statue of Harmon Dobson, founder of Whataburger, can be found in Corpus Christi, Texas

Whataburger Founder Statue

Every Texan knowns the beloved burger chain known as Whataburger. For those who have never heard of Whataburger, the next time you pass one on the highway be sure to stop in and find out what all the excitement is about. Sure, it may be fast food, but it is leaps and bounds above all those stereotypical chains whose product is lab-created instead of farm-grown. Few realize that the statue of Harmon Dobson, founder of Whataburger, is located in Corpus Christi.

More HoliDaze Offbeat Travel Guides   or browse the Corpus Christi archives

What other offbeat sights and activities in Corpus Christi would you recommend? Share your comments below.

See More       Offbeat Travel Guides   Texas Travel Guides

  flickr   //   qnr

Published in United States

Austin, Texas is known as the live music capital of the world and for good reason. Regardless of the time of year there are always an abundance of amazing shows to catch. The next time you are visiting Austin be sure to check out these venues:

The Continental Club

An Austin staple for over fifty years, the Continental Club has been graced by countless famous musicians, including Stevie Ray Vaughn and Hank Williams. When it first opened the Club was BYOB and within a couple years it was the first venue in town to sell liquor by the drink. Although it was briefly a burlesque club during the 1960's, nowadays the Continental Club is fun for all ages.

The Saxon Pub

This small, intimate pub is one of the newer ones musical venues on this list but it has already earned it's place as an Austin musical staple. Live recordings are frequently done here and guests never know which celebrities might make a surprise appearance jamming on stage with local musicians.

Antone's is the best spot for live music in Austin, Texas

Antone's

This blue's club is one of the best known spots in Austin to catch both up-and-coming and well-known artists. Founded by the late Clifford Antone, mentor to Stevie Ray Vaughn and noteable musicians, there is no such thing as a bad show at Antone's.

The Mohawk

Arguably most diverse venue on this list, the Mohawk is like no other. A favorite among the counter-culture crowd, both long-time Austinites and out of town visitors sweat by this bar. Although they do not serve any food, the famou food trucks East Side Pie's and Arlos can be found right out front and are the perfect way to grab a bite withou having to miss the music.

Spider House

Spider House is a coffee bar and cafe rolled into one that has been a favorite among Austin locals since it opened in 1995. The place has a uniquly Austin vibe and is definitely one of those locations keeping Austin weird. Their two outdoor stages are graced by talented local artists on a nightly basis.

SXSW performance at the Fader Fort

SXSW

Unlike the other items on this list, SXSW is not a venue but rather an annual week-long musical experience. Every year in March thousands of bands from around the world flock to the city and can be found jamming on every stage and street corner in downtown. Although the vast majority of the shows are free, the biggest ones featuring the most well-known performers usually require an SXSW wristband. Of course attendees should always be on the lookout for last-minute suprise shows featuring headliners that are announced via social media and free for those who are "in the know" and can make it there in time.

Of course these are but a fraction of the amazing places in Austin to find great music -- the city does not disappoint. Feel free to contact me if you have any further questions, Austin is my hometown and music is in my blood. Rock on!

Published in United States

Tokyo Clubs Far Surpass All Forms Of American Nightlife

Wow. That's all I can say. You cannot even begin to imagine what the clubs are like in Tokyo. They are absolutely incredible, like nothing we have over here in the west! It figures that as much as the residents of Tokyo love to drink, they should have some damn cool places to do it.

Clubbing in Tokyo, Japan

For starters, the biggest difference is the sheer size of the clubs there. Every single one is designed to span several floors, usually with different themes and different styles of music for each. Rather than have one DJ per floor there were usually multiple, sometimes as many as six or seven DJs will constantly rotate out while all sorts of lasers flare and animation is projected onto the walls, plenty of fog machines working at full blast, countless girls dancing up on various stages...but that really does not even begin to describe the scene or do it the least bit of justice.

Let's do this instead: Picture the best rave you have ever been to here in the States or even in Europe, you know back years ago when they were GOOD. Next take everything from it, the lights, sound, fog, lasers, music, the essence, every single last thing except for the plethora of designer drugs. Now drop that mass of madness into the middle of a skyscraper in the heart of Shibuya, let's say spanning across the third thru sixth floors, and well then my friend you have yourself a bonafide Tokyo club.

Most of these clubs are located either a couple floors below-ground or a couple floors above-ground, occupying a few of the lower-level floors of a commercial high-rise. All the floors will be linked by a bank of elevators but also a set or two of stairs. There is just so much going on and because often each floor is distinctly different in both decoration and music, the best way to experience it all is to keep moving around and mingle your way through one floor before heading on to the next. And repeat.

Clubbing in Tokyo, Japan

These amazing clubs do come with a price, however. The minimum cover charge you'll ever see is ¥2000 (roughly $25 USD; i.e. crappy show) and although most are between ¥3000-4000 ($35-48 USD), I did occasionally see some shows advertised with covers of ¥4500-5000 ($55-60 USD). Its not all bad though. Most of these clubs hand you a token after paying your cover, which you can then redeem at the bar for one free drink. That way you won't feel so bad about just spending $90 to get you and your girlfriend in LOL. ;)

The tokens themselves are fairly simple, usually nothing more than pieces of plastic or coins with the club name or logo on it. I brought back several of these with me actually...now if I could figure out what I did with them...

  One important tip though, at least for all you alcoholics: Through "painstaking" personal research I found out that if you display your free drink token up front, often the bartender will pour you a weaker drink, whereas not revealing it until your drink is fully mixed ensures a perfect pour. You're welcome!

Here is a handy feature and something which I am shocked is not more common elsewhere around the world, especially in regions with temperatures that vary significantly throughout the year. Every decent club in Tokyo that I explored is equipped with an enormous bank of small rental lockers immediately past the security checkpoint. Simple and traditional gym lockers, they are only big enough for a purse, a jacket or two, and maybe a set of shoes -- perfect for when the missus wants to wait till the last minute to slap on her heels or ditch them before the long drunken walk home. The cost is only ¥100 but offers a full refund if you make it back out in less than three hours. (Plus since you left early and didn't close down the club that night, you've saved even more LOL)

Not only does that make things more convenient in the winter by not having crowds in think bulky jackets trying to squeeze into an elevator pass through a thick crowd on the dance floor, but it also will help prevent anything from being stolen, misplaced, or even drunkenly left behind -- something that we have all been guilty of at one point or another. The solution is cheap, effective, helpful in multiple ways, and given how easy it is to install and implement, I am surprised that more places do not have a similar system in place.

The Sheer Level Of Service Provided At Some Of These Clubs Was Impressive!

Clubbing in Tokyo, Japan

They actually have numerous staff members who walk around occasionally looking for those super drunk girls, who are passing out while leaning against the walls or trying to lay down on the floor. The employees proceed to take them all out to the front entrance, where the entry staff is located. Out there is one guy whose sole duty is to take care of and watch out for the ladies that have had too much to drink and are completely FUBAR. He is proudly armed with roll of small black plastic bags, package of paper towels, even rubber bands to tie their hair up for them if they should happen to start heaving.

Can you ever imagine that back in the States?!? You would never see anything close to it! No one, regardless of their salary, would want to be the "throw-up guy" stuck taking care of the sick chicks all night, every night. It would just never happen. I believe that most Americans are too grossed out to help a stranger throw up in a small black plastic bag, let alone tie a knot in it for them and then toss it into the nearby throw-up can. Yes, that's right, there is a trash can for throw-up only.

But those guys at the clubs in Tokyo are all over it and I'll be damned if they don't always do it with a smile! Even if the boyfriend showed up to check on his lady, like I did one night when I noticed Mayu had been gone for too long, that proud little throw-up man would not let me help, insisting he had everything under control and to 'go back to the dance floor until I was ready to claim Mayu and leave.' It was fantastic! I pondered it for all of about half a second before saying thanks and making my way back past the lockers and towards the elevators. After all, might as well let Mayu rest and get through the worst of it downstairs while I reclaimed the buzz that I'd lost a few minutes before while hunting for her.

Now is that amazing or what? Have you ever seen or heard of service like that before? Where I come from, and everywhere I have been, its just unheard of to be that nice to strangers. But that is just one of the hundred reasons that Japan is my favorite country!

  Would you accept a job as the throw-up man? Share your thoughts below!

As I mentioned before the clubs don't open until 11pm or midnight so most do not start to get fully packed until 2am or 3am. But that last start frequently keeps the clubs open until 6 or 7am. As long as it is profitable, they won't close until the party is over. You can literally dance, drink, and party until the sun comes up. How fantastic! I would advise everyone who enjoys an active nightlife to check out the party scene in Tokyo for a week or a weekend -- but do it while still young so that you can actually hang!

Places To Visit In And Around Shibuya

The Clubs In Tokyo Will Make Your Jaw Drop

While exploring Shibuya I managed to find dozens of phenomenal clubs, cool little bars, amazing restaurants, and excellent places to shop. By day I got in my shopping and saw the cultural sights, but come nightfall I entered drinking mode. Every night I would hunt for a new club or bar to test it. I was not always successful, sometimes I would be lured in by previous haunts, but either way I got a lot of drinking done! A multitude of those venues are on the map below, for anyone who might be visiting Ebisu/Shibuya in the future.

While experiencing the nightlife of Tokyo be sure to also visit some of the big clubs in Shibuya, which are utterly amazing and very much worth investigating, despite their high cost. Club Atom is one of the clubs that I definitely recommend. We went there almost every weekend while Jared was in town visiting. It is located six stories up in this skyscraper, covers three independently-themed floors each with multiple bars, and is always packed full of cute local women! Club Harlem right next door is nice as well, but harder to get into on the weekends. The list goes on and on...

Nonbei Yokocho (Alley of the Drunkards)

And of course you cannot forget my favorite area Nonbei Yokocho, which translates as "Drunkard's Alley" or "Alley Of The Drunkards." I stumbled upon this place online and had to check it out for myself. Turns out that Nonbeiyokocho is just a few feet north of Shibuya Station. It is comprised of two parallel alleys that are home to around 50 miniature bars, usually only about 8 or 10 feet square with nothing more than four or five bar stools and a single bartender inside. Check out my photos from Non to get a better idea of just how small these bars really are.

There are a couple that are unfriendly to gaijin (durogatory term for a foreigner), but you will know those instantly as they will either not even serve you or hand you one beer but say that is all because "they are closing" or some similar excuse. If that should happen to you, no worries, just walk down to the next one and try again.

Nonbei Yokocho became like a second home to me while I was there. If I ever had a night where I was not sure what to do, I would start it at Non and before you know it the night would manifest itself. All of the best friends I made and best times I had originated from Nonbei Yokocho.

  For even more clubs check out the map below. Also marked cpl good restaurants and a universal ATM.


View Useful Places Around Shibuya in a larger map

Yep, the clubs over there are something else. Check out my article on the different locations around Tokyo for a better idea of just how much Tokyo varies from district to district. Below is a snippet from my old drunken ramblings on the original Shibuya Daze blog, provided for your amusement or, more likely, complete lack thereof:

...for any of y'all that have ever been to a rave, that is probably the closest thing I can compare it to -- but even that does not do justice to these kick-ass clubs. Let's try something: Imagine a rave, complete with a DJ, light-show, and fog machine, but now up the number of DJs to half-dozen and through in more lights and more fog machines. Take away all the people doing drugs and replace it with people getting drunk; Not too drunk though, most people here know when to stop. Now, still imagining, forget all the drama and arguments / fights that come up at raves and replace those with people all smiling, laughing, and telling stories. Now, still imagining, throw in a few huge bars offering great drinks at great prices, staffed with cute Asian ladies that refuse to take tips, and don't forget to add a couple more cute Asian women dancing up on the bar or stage. Then take this image that you have in your head, and put it on steroids, to really knock it up another few notches. That, my friends, is what all the clubs over here are like. It is unbelievable to say the least.

And, you know, while I was writing that I realized something else: in all the bars and clubs that Mayu and I have been to, we have not seen so much as one dispute or argument between people, not the slightest thing, whether it be between couples or just friends. Does not happen here. There is no drama whatsoever. Its the exact opposite of clubs back home, where there is always some drama or a fight about to break out, usually due to some drunken idiot. I am still amazed that with a city this size, and with that many people partying, that nothing happens. At least on the surface.

  Have you partied in Japan? Still thinking about a job as the throw-up guy? Apply below!

Published in Japan

Located in the Gulf of Nicoya, Tortuga Island is actually comprised of two islands with a combined total landmass of only about one square mile. But despite its small size, Isla La Tortuga is one of Costa Rica's most popular tourist destinations and a great day-trip. We went with Calypso Cruises in a group of nearly four dozen, but there was also another similarly-sized group with a different excursion company further down on the island.

Map of the location of Puntarenas and Tortuga Island, Costa Rica

The island is home to a total of 12 residents. They are native Costa Ricans who subsist entirely off renting out beach chairs, jet-skis, snorkels, and other beach- and water-related goods to the flocking tourists. As such you can expect to pay a nice price for everything. They even offer wifi: $15 for 15 minutes. Undoubtedly these islanders make more than the average Costa Rican citizen, but life there is not as perfect as it seems. As one island tico informed me, it is 9 guys and only 3 girls, so "we need more girls...tell more girls to come visit."

Tortuga Island, Costa Rica

Tortuga Island, Costa Rica

Tortuga Island, Costa Rica


The beautiful and nearly unihabited Isla La Tortuga!

The island itself is quite charming. It is comprised of a nice beach area with smooth sand but one end does have a rather a sizable amount of coral chunks and other small rocks mixed in with the sand. There are a couple small wooden structures on the island, one used as a kitchen, another as a bar, and yes of course a final one featuring a pair of restrooms. There is also lots of picnic tables and beach chairs set up in advance, although the beach chairs cost $7-8/hr through the local islanders, not your tour company -- but I'll get back to that shortly. The island is thickly wooded. Supposedly there is a trail you can take that leads through the brush out to a very picturesque area, or so I've been told.

We booked the trip through Calypso Cruises and it just so happens that their office/dock is located literally just a few dozen feet from Pearla del Pacifico, the only hostel/hotel in Puntarenas and hands-down the best hostel in all of Central America!

Calypso Cruises will have an air-conditioned van pick you up early in the morning from a few of the nearby towns -- San Jose, Jaco, Quepos / Manuel Antonio, Monteverde -- and transport you to Puntarenas, where you will be served a traditional Costa Rican breakfast. The CC boat is a two-story 71 ft long catamaran named Manta Raya that is equipped with two giant hammocks stretched between twin hulls and two fresh water pools. The lower deck houses the bar and lounge as well as dual restrooms / changing rooms.

Casting Off...

At precisely 9am the ship leaves port and begins the hour-long trek towards Tortuga Island. Along the way you will pass by local fishing boats out on the hunt, have fantastic views of the western coast of Costa Rica, and maybe even glimpse the occasional family of dolphins that will swim alongside the boat during the final stretch before Tortuga Island. They are fast and can be tricky to photograph though. Along the way you will also be served a light snack (most likely pineapple) and have the option of buying alcoholic beverages at the usual inflated tourist rates.

Tortuga Island, Costa Rica

Tortuga Island, Costa Rica

Tortuga Island, Costa Rica

Tortuga Island, Costa Rica

Tortuga Island, Costa Rica

Once disembarking the ship, you will have a couple hours to swim and/or sunbath while the staff prepares lunch. The bartender and booze from the ship is unloaded and set up underneath the trees, so after a brief ten minute or so pause, you can resume killing your liver with booze. For those of you who really like to drink, I recommend smuggling in a little liquor of your own. It is very easy to do and turns what easily could be a $200 on alcohol day down to just $40 or $50.

Tortuga Island, Costa Rica

Tortuga Island, Costa Rica

Tortuga Island, Costa Rica

Tortuga Island, Costa Rica

Tortuga Island, Costa Rica

Tortuga Island, Costa Rica

Tortuga Island, Costa Rica

Tortuga Island, Costa Rica

Tortuga Island, Costa Rica

Tortuga Island, Costa Rica

Tortuga Island, Costa Rica


The warthog and I become fast friends

The first group of snorkelers is also taken out shortly after arriving on the island. The remaining people mingle and drink on the beach, swimming and building sand castles (or at least attempting to). Calypso Cruises provides everyone with a very basic two-piece wooden beach chair, but there are also fancy reclining chairs covered in towels and protected from the sun by umbrellas -- those are the ones that cost $7-8/hr and are rented out by the dozen locals that live on the island.

The lunch is served at the picnic tables under the shade of the trees, in the fresh breeze of the ocean. It consists of wine, a ceviche appetizer, salad, vegetables, and bar-b-qued chicken, and will leave you completely satisfied. Be on the lookout for local wildlife that could come wandering by around feeding time, most notably the wild hogs. They are nice critters, surprisingly tame thanks to all the tourists -- you can even pet them! They feel a little strange, more bristly than I would have thought, kind of like a porcupine.

Tortuga Island, Costa Rica

Tortuga Island, Costa Rica

Tortuga Island, Costa Rica

Tortuga Island, Costa Rica

Tortuga Island, Costa Rica

Tortuga Island, Costa Rica

Tortuga Island, Costa Rica

Tortuga Island, Costa Rica

Tortuga Island, Costa Rica

After lunch the excursions begin. Included free are snorkeling and the banana boat, but extras like jet-skis are available only upon paying a hefty fee to the islanders. The second snorkeling expedition (provided there is enough demand) sets out after lunch, while meanwhile the banana boat is pulled out and the rides begin.

Finally as the afternoon winds down the catamaran is brought back to the shore and slowly the masses re-assemble on the boat decks. Due to the large group of people combined with the large amounts of alcohol consumed and topped off perfectly by the fact there is only two bathrooms on-board, expect bathroom lines to be in the ten to twenty minute range.

Arriving back at the docks, the fun is over. Usually at this point you would take your air-con van back to your city of origin, be it Jaco or Quepos or whatever, but we recommend instead you just walk a couple dozen feet to the east and spend a couple days at the Pearla del Pacifico (view photos). The whole trip, not counting van rides, lasts about eight hours but is definitely worth it -- if you don't mind being surrounded by tourists all day.

This guy is a bad tourist. Don't be like him.

Case in point: This nameless individual here on the left kept to himself all eight hours. I don't even know why he shelled out $125 for a ticket in the first place! I kid you not, this guy's earplugs never once left his ears! He had them on at the beach, on the boat, even while the band was playing at lunch! Seriously, WTF!?!? People, this is why I started the HoliDaze, this is why I am trying to convince people to open up their eyes and experience the world! It is people like this that confuse and frustrate me, and I'm sorry if that describes you. Get out and live! See and appreciate the world, before its too late.

Here are some more photos from the drunken cruise back to the pier at Puntarenas. And for videos, check out the HoliDaze YouTube page.

  What would you say to the guy listening to his iPod all day instead of enjoying the moment? Share your feedback after the photos.

Tortuga Island, Costa Rica

Tortuga Island, Costa Rica

Tortuga Island, Costa Rica

Tortuga Island, Costa Rica

Tortuga Island, Costa Rica

Tortuga Island, Costa Rica

Tortuga Island, Costa Rica

Tortuga Island, Costa Rica

Tortuga Island, Costa Rica

Tortuga Island, Costa Rica

Tortuga Island, Costa Rica

Published in Costa Rica

A common love for music, chiefly the Blues, inspired a friend and me to explore America's Deep South, in particular the Mississippi Delta birthplace of the Blues. As a vocal and instrumental form of music based on its distinctive twelve-bar pattern, the Blues has often been portrayed as the "devil's music" and as a vehicle that incites violence and other destructive behaviour. In the early 20th century the Blues was considered by many conventional types to be an unrespectable form of entertainment, especially when it began to attract white audiences during the 1920s. Since that era, the Blues has grown and evolved to become a major component of the African-American and even the wider American and generally western cultural heritage, largely because it encompasses much more than music. It is noteworthy that Blues poetry continues to be inspirational even though the rural lifestyle from which it sprang for the most part no longer exists. Several academic studies have been based on Blues lyrics, exploring its cultural significance (e.g. "The Mississippi Delta Blues" and "American Culture" at George Mason University). They include facets of geography, history, African-American studies, literature, poetry, and art, as well as music. Scholarly papers have even been written asserting the Blues' influence on many poignant issues of the day, ranging from gender roles to Africanisms manifested by Blues instruments and rhythms.

So, how did the Mississippi Delta become so instrumental with respect to the birth and development of the Blues? The mighty Mississippi River created a delta richly suited for agriculture. Plantations that began as lumbering operations were transformed into farms as soon as the land was cleared. Planting, maintaining and harvesting cotton and corn crops required massive work forces, which drew thousands of Africans, Southern Europeans, Russian Jews, Lebanese and Chinese to the region. All of these ethnicities contributed to a unique way of life emerging in the Delta but it was mainly work songs of black field labourers that gave birth to the Blues. The plantation workers needed an outlet, a place to gather, relax, perhaps have a beer or two, which led to singing and ultimately the desire to create music. This place was called the 'juke,' a word of West African origins meaning 'wicked.' It was from there that the Blues evolved. Thus, the three important influences on the development of the Blues were the river, the plantation and the juke.

Blues pilgrims from around the world regularly visit the Delta and my friend and I were subtly pulled by the tunes and visited there several times. We commenced our journey at Clarksdale, home of the Delta Blues Museum (along with the surrounding Mississippi Delta region, known as the "land where the blues began"). Clarksdale is situated near the famous intersection of Highways 61 and 49, coined the Crossroads, where legend of a down-and-out musician meeting the devil around midnight to trade an un-tuned instrument for eternal greatness was conceived. One of the first Blues recording artists, writer/guitarist/singer Robert Johnson (king of the delta blues, who mysteriously died in 1938 at the age of 27) is said to have sold his soul to the devil at this intersection. We also visited a former slave cabin on Stovall's Plantation just outside Clarksdale. It was the home of McKinley Morganfield, better known as Muddy Waters. Labelled the Father of Chicago Blues, Muddy Waters brought the electric guitar to the fore in the Blues world. He is also credited for inspiring the British Beat explosion in the 1960s and the format for what was to become the classic Rock & Roll combo: drummer, lead, bass and rhythm guitar.

Travelling onward from Clarksdale into the Delta, and frequently pausing at traffic lights to marvel at the cotton fields, certainly catapulted our imagination back into the past to a time when slaves suffered terrible hardships and expressed their feelings in musical form. To better understand this phenomenon, a visit to the Dockery Farm is a must. Dockery Farm was the quintessential Delta plantation. It was still wilderness in 1895 when Will Dockery started farming near Ruleville and Cleveland. This plantation employed over 2000 workers, several of whom were gifted with incredible musical talents such as Charley Patton and Willie Brown. Many consider this plantation as the true birthplace of the Delta Blues. Onward to Po' Monkey's Lounge in Merigold, Mississippi, one of the last surviving rural jukes, where we walked near-by cotton fields at sunset and could overhear the tunes echoing from its past. Slowly and ever so gently, as we reached the end of our journey through this marvellous delta, we took pride in having fulfilled our mission to visit each of its main icons. We had traced the mighty Mississippi River through some of its bends, toured the remains of the Dockery Farm and even experienced a juke in the cotton fields.

Like so many musicians also we had gone to Clarksdale and the vestiges of our Blues trip will haunt us (wonderfully) forever, as I am reminded each time I visit my musician friend’s house back in Sydney, where I get to hear a sample of the works that this journey has inspired in him.

Published in United States

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