Travel by book – even better travel by beer!


Augustiner Bier Hall, Munich, Germany (photo taken during World Cup, 2006)

That whole book thing just opened up a Pandora’s box of opportunity.  And I don’t need any excuses to drink beer (they tried to make me go to rehab but I said no no no) – and only yesterday I was biking through beautiful hop fields in the Willamette Valley.    Beer is always on my mind.

I love books, food, beer, anything that captures a sense of place.

In Portland, there are two places that nail that sense of place beer-wise and German-wise – Stammtisch on SE 28th and their partner spot – Prost on NE Mississippi.  Prost is great and the concept of marrying German beer garden atmosphere with a cart food court is brilliant.  But Stammtisch just takes it one step further with the German food and dark wood paneling to match.

Stammtisch has rotating options for about 18 German beers and they always have one of my favorites – kolsch.  (Drinking kolsch in Cologne, Germany is a whole other post of true beer love) What makes these two places great and authentic is how they pour the beer.  Rinse appropriate glass with water – make initial pour – set beer aside for a few minutes to settle – then top it off and serve.

And with an order of sausage… teutonic heaven.

Sure you can drive over to John’s Market in Multnomah Village, and take a six pack home of any world beer imaginable, but I want to close my eyes and imagine I am back at the Augustiner waiting for a soccer game.


Travel by book

Santorini, Greece

Not ready to go to Myanmar for two years?  Not enough money to make that dream trip to Europe or SE Asia?

Thankfully there are books to fill the wanderlusting soul within you.  Travel books are a hobby (addiction) for me – books in general are one of the great joys (addictions) of my life. I am beginning to realize I won’t live long enough to read all the books I have in my bookshelves, on the floor, under the bed, in the basement, and the ones still in boxes from when I moved 13 years ago.  WTF??

But traveling by book is one way I fill my wanderlust.  And apparently others do the same.

There are online bookclubs (Around the world in 80 books on Goodreads) – people blog about it – – I am not alone.

The point is, reading is a powerful way to travel and learn and has inspired me in a thousand ways.  After reading Lawrence Durrell’s “Reflections of a Marine Venus” I put Rhodes on my bucket list/list of 100.  I had no idea what the Camino was until I read Jack Hitt’s book.  And I have read many more books about the Camino – because if you can’t go – read!

My favorite travel books combine history, art, culture and atmosphere – when you read these books you want to sit with a sheepherder in Greece on a mountain and drink ouzo.  Or you want to smell the foods and hear the sounds of a street market in say… Myanmar.

If you want recommendations I am happy to help – if you have suggestions I would love to hear about them.  My particular niche is Greece – if you are going or want to travel by book – ping me and I can give you some great suggestions.  But I would love to hear yours… (FB that means you!)

Photographing Big Trees

This video and National Geographic story came out a few years ago – but I was reminded recently of the absolute grandeur of the redwoods and nature in general.  And this short video demonstrates that sometimes it takes a whole year to adequately capture what nature does every day.  People can sometimes disappoint – but nature never disappoints.

West with the Night

Birthday Girls

Last night – we said a sad but so-happy-for-you goodbye to our friends Steve and Stacie as they headed west into the night from Portland to Yangon, Myanmar.

Staring down at our feet without words…(oh look PDX carpet!) – knowing that for this one sad moment, there will be many stories and adventures that make the teary moments worth enduring.  And we count the days until we are sharing a beer and laughing over stories and memories.  Our very own Ithaka…

“Hope the voyage is a long one.

May there be many a summer morning when,

with what pleasure, what joy,

you come into harbors seen for the first time;

may you stop at Phoenician trading stations

to buy fine things,

mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,

sensual perfume of every kind—

as many sensual perfumes as you can;

and may you visit many Egyptian cities

to gather stores of knowledge from their scholars.

Keep Ithaka always in your mind.

Arriving there is what you are destined for.

But do not hurry the journey at all.

Better if it lasts for years,

so you are old by the time you reach the island,

wealthy with all you have gained on the way,

not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.”

(excerpt from Ithaka  by C.P. Cavafy)

“Love the Journey” my friend Kathy tells me – and I shall.

Steve and Stac – please love your journey.  Our hugs and tears a launching point to adventure…

Deep Thoughts on the side of the highway

Roadside Theology

I was sitting by the highway yesterday thinking about this…

On July 22nd – my dear life friends Steve and Stacie will get on a flight to Burma, not looking back and starting their adventure of living and teaching overseas.  TWO YEARS!  A year ago I couldn’t imagine any of my friends doing it but when I did – I kind of figured (and hoped) it would be me.  Damn they beat me to it.  Along with that – two acquaintances are walking the Camino de Santiago this year.  A dream I have had for about 15 years.

Flashback to being a Powell’s employee and being able to “borrow” any book on their shelves as long as it was returned in the condition it was when I took it off the shelf – significantly augmenting the paltry hourly wage made there.  But has been one of the best jobs I have ever had – I basically bought books for people – while running all over the three story store.  I lost weight even though the new and now wildly popular Pearl Bakery had just opened a block away.  I could eat all the croissants I wanted and still lose weight!

Flashback II – the book was “Off the Road”  by Jack Hitt – go “borrow” it – it will get you pumped to walk somewhere for three or four months. Or pine about it for years and never go.

Simultaneous to this, after much reading and contemplation of my current state and under the influence of many espresso’s and a few IPA’s – I have decided to embark on my own state-side adventure, since I clearly have been too lame to actually quit my job and embark on my own adventure. I keep watching others do it.  Lame.

Walk with me won’t you as I attempt to un-lame my life.  One day at a time.

Welcome to Thistle Nation


Welcome to the state-side site to – Thistle elder Stacie Volz and her husband Stevie are traveling to Burma aka Myanmar for two years to teach!  20 years ago Stevie and I used what was then a newfound technology – emails – to stay in touch while I spent 8 months in Washington D.C. working at National Geographic.  We wrote each other almost every day, and on some days two or three times.  It helped me survive being 3,000 miles from my friends and family.  And bonus Stevie turned out to be a hilarious writer.  So welcome to his state-side site… and head over to his site to armchair travel with Stac and Stevie as they have the adventure of their lives.