Travel… I like to travel. Usually it’s a place with a great beach (Hawaii, Mexico) where my only decisions are whether to go into warm water or have another cocktail (usually the arrow points to the latter). This is a very narrow view of the world, but has afforded me wonderful conversations with alleged heretics, blockade runners, utopian community leaders, scary men with dark initiatives, victims of shipwrecks, seedsmen, and midnight ramblers. Some of which I call my friends.
The word travel derives from the French word travail, meaning toil. Only in recent centuries has traveling come to be regarded as a recreational pursuit. I don’t like to ” toil” and I don’t like to “pursue” unless it is for
a warm water beach and an excellent cocktail – so maybe a traveller I am not, but these following fellows surely are: John Ledyard, Richard Halliburton, and Duncan Hines (yeah, that Duncan Hines). All three have travelled different paths, some with larger legacies than the others.
John Ledyard was born in Connecticut in 1751. Quit Dartmouth so he could “ramble more”. Joined up with Capt. James Cook in the British Navy and saw the Cape of Good Hope, Tasmania, New Zealand, Tahiti, Hawaii, was the 1st US citizen to touch the western shores of the United States, toured Alaska, then the Bering Sea, back to Hawaii where Cook ran a foul with some of the natives and was stabbed to death, then all the way back to England. Then on to Paris, where he conceived a bold scheme of exploration with the then American Ambassador to France, Tommy Jefferson, and was backed with dough from the Marquis de Lafayette, on a mission to explore the American continent by proceeding overland through Russia, crossing the Bering Strait, head south through Alaska, then across the American west to eventually Virginia. That is a lot of walking especially on a solo. Sometimes I have trouble getting out of my chair and walking to the bar.
Well, Johnny didn’t make it. Went as far as eastern Siberia where he was arrested as a suspected spy on orders from Cathy the Great and sent back to Poland, then eventually to London where he decided to walk from the Red Sea to the Atlantic ocean. Things don’t always work so well for some of those ramblin types and it didn’t work out so well for Johnny. While in Cairo, he accidentally chugged some sulfuric acid and did the big burnout from within (never a good way to go). John Ledyard was buried in the shifting sand dunes lining the Nile, the location of his grave unknown today. Ledyard was described as a “mad, dreaming romantic” who in his day travelled to five different continents under the “common flag of humanity “. This guy went the road less travelled and might have gone further if he laid off the sulfuric acid cocktails.
Richard Halliburton was of the dashing sort. Very famous during his days, Richie made travel writing exciting with his globe trotting antics and dare devil deeds. Born in Memphis, Tennessee in 1900, a well bred upbringing and the soft comforts of home could not contain him. “Youth– nothing else worth having in the world…and I have youth, the transitory, the fugitive, now, completely and abundantly. Yet what am I going to do with it? Certainly not squander its gold on the commonplace quest for riches and respectability, and then secretly lament the price that had to be paid for these futile ideas. Let those who wish have their respectability – I want freedom, freedom to indulge in whatever caprice strikes my fancy, freedom to search in the furthermost corners of the earth for the beautiful, the joyous, and the romantic.” And Indulge he did.
Halliburton rode an elephant over the Alps (he named her Miss Elysabethe Dalrymple), flew a crimson red bi-plane upside down over the Taj Mahal (he called his plane the Magic Carpet), dove into the cursed Mayan Well of Death in the Yucatan, swam the length of the Panama Canal (was charged a $0.36 fee), lived on Devils Island, enlisted in the French Foreign legion, took the chief of Dyak headhunters for a ride in his plane and received a gift of 100 shrunken heads for his effort, was the first to climb Mount Fujiyama in midwinter, had a long affair with screen idol Ramon Novarro, built a glass and concrete house above Laguna Beach called ” the Hangover house” in the 1930s which is still there today, climbed the Matterhorn, and wrote about all his exploits in travel books and magazines which made him quite wealthy.
On March 3rd 1939 Halliburton began to sail a Chinese junk across the Pacific Ocean. The Sea Dragon was a gaudily decorated 75 ft.ship that looked better than it floated, and was more properly suited for a ride at Disneyland than challenging the Pacific Ocean. Leaving Hong Kong in route to San Francisco with a crew of 7, the “Dragon” ran into a typhoon. ” Southernly Gales…Rain Squalls…Leeward Rail Under Water…Wet Bunks…Hardtack Bully Beef…Having Wonderful Time, Wish You Were Here Instead Of Me.” were the last words coming from the Sea Dragon. The search turned up nothing. Richard Halliburton and crew had disappeared under the waves. He was 39 years old.
Duncan Hines was a road weary traveling salesman who worked for a Chicago printer. By 1935 and at the age of 55 Duncan had eaten a lot of good and bad grub across the US of A. Old Dunc and his wife Flo began assembling a list for friends of good restaurants around the country which became so popular he put the recommendations in a paperback and called it ” Adventures in Good Eating”. One such listing in 1939 read: Corbin, KY, Court and Cafe, open all year except Xmas 24 hr. service Sizzling Steaks, fried chicken, country ham Lunch $.50-$1.00 Dinner $.60 -$1.00 Good Eats ! Duncan claims he traveled 2 million miles across this great land and the phrase ” Recommended by Duncan Hines” became something to strive for. He started a newspaper article called ” Adventures in Good Eating at Home” with recipes acquired from the best restaurants he enjoyed. He even introduced Duncan Hines Bread to the world through the Durkee’s Bakery. Hines sold the rights to his name which was eventually bought by Proctor and Gamble. He never pretended to be a cake dude , but enjoyed the accolades of the most moistness of all the cakes. Big D died of the Big C at the age of 71.
Moist cakes, shrunken heads, and sulfuric acid cocktails are all a big reach for me. Now a traveller maybe I’m not, but I like three limes with my Anejo Rum and soda, warm water at my feet, and a good sunset. I sit having the docility of an old Springer Spaniel and in these days I am less excitable just more preoccupied. In my tiny narrow view of the world – the world for the most part, is a beautiful place. For me, these days, it’s perhaps more appreciated than trampled upon. Groove.