It was on the second day in Iceland that I realized I should have been careful about over-excursion. Oh, sure, there was a small element of over-exertion. But as our Extreme Iceland van was still half an hour from Reykjavik at 8:45 p.m. and most restaurants in town — particularly those around our hotel — closed at 10, I thought maybe I had over-scheduled us.
We’d arrived at 7 a.m. the previous morning and blew through Customs (they’d get us on the way out), snagged an early check-in, went out for a two-hour walking tour of Reykjavik, then a couple more hours on our own. After dinner that evening, we went on a Northern Lights excursion that had us out until 1 in the morning (more on that later, or in a different post). And then we were up at 6:30 to grab breakfast and, at 9 a.m., head out for 11 hours of sight-seeing and something called a glacier hike. The next day, a tour of the Golden Circle. The day after that, Blue Lagoon and a snorkeling trip.
I’m typing this post out while hauling ass through the South of France on a TGV train, the arid, hilly countryside and villages filled with sandy-colored houses topped with red-tile roofs. It’s the sort of region in which you could film Western movies and the audience wouldn’t know the difference. (Just ignore the fact that if you climb the next hill, you’ll be faced with the blue waters of the Mediterranean.)
The Short Version Before I get into the details, some of you might just want to know the answer to the following question: If I only have time to hit one place in Kansas City, what should it be? That’s an easy answer. Joe’s Kansas City. Some people might say it’s touristy or mainstream, but these are the sort of people who start hating a band simply because it becomes popular. Joe’s is popular for a reason. It’s got perhaps the best ribs I’ve ever eaten, the pulled pork was delicious and the beans weren’t sickly sweet like they were at a lot of places.
My son Nicholas and I are celebrating his graduation from high school with a barbecue tour. Three years ago for his birthday, we did the Austin area. I wrote about that in fairly exhaustive detail shortly after the trip. Short version: Blacks, Stiles Switch, Franklin (where he fainted), Louie Mueller, and Salt Lick. (I’ve sense been back to Austin and tried Lambert’s, Freedmen’s and Iron Works.)
Last year, for his birthday, we went to Memphis. I didn’t write about that. It wasn’t because I prefer Texas cue to Memphis cue, though I do. It wasn’t because we didn’t have a good time or didn’t have interesting stories. We did. I just had a circus going on at work last year and the thought of looking at a computer during my off hours was more than I could stand.
But long story short, between Graceland and the Civil Rights Museum and one non-barbecue detour to Gus’s Fried Chicken, we hit Tom’s Bar-B-Q and Deli, Central BBQ, A&R Bar-B-Cue, Germantown Commissary, Payne’s and Rendezvous. We went to Cozy Corner, but it was closed because someone broke into the place the night before and stole all of the meat. Sad!
Anyway, I just wanted to mention Memphis in hopes that it’ll prompt me to write up the current trip. We made the 11-hour drive from Opelousas, Louisiana today and walked over to Fiorella’s Jack Stack and availed ourself of burnt ends, ribs, sliced beef, sliced pork and some of the sweetest baked beans you’ll ever eat.
Back in grad school, my friend Jason — who has a talent for pinpointing insecurities and emotions you didn’t even know you had — once asked me, “Do you ever have this feeling that they’re going to catch on to you? That they’re going to realize you’ve been faking it all along?”
I didn’t think I’d had that feeling before, but once he said it, I recognized it immediately. (Which is why Jason’s a good writer and possibly a hypnotist.)
I was reminded of that feeling once or twice at The Four Seasons in Bora Bora. For those of us born in a certain region and raised in a certain economic bracket, a place like The Four Seasons can be a bit overwhelming. And every once in a while I found myself expecting a security team to show up to escort us off the property. “Okay, Wheaton. The charade is over. Back to the trailer park with you. They’ve got a six-pack of Miller Lite and a box of wine waiting, we’re sure.”
Unless you’re using a nautical chart, you might have a hard time finding Hatchet Caye on a map. Go on, try Google Maps. Nothing? Now type in Hatchet Cay (without the e). That’ll put you in the general vicinity, 15 miles or so east of Placencia.
What was putting us in the general vicinity just over a week ago was a guy in an open boat, about fourteen-feet or so of fiberglass and not much else. The problem was, it was dark. And the running lights weren’t working. And the LED display in the GPS had quit. And the engine had stalled once on the ride. So there we were bobbing along somewhere in the Caribbean — three couples, Captain James and two other employees of Hatchet Caye resort — and I’m thinking the best case scenario is we bob around all night until someone finds us in the morning. Worst case is once the boat gets going again we run it right into a reef.