I explore the world from Paris, Texas to Paris, France, and write about it for websites, newspapers and magazines.


RARE.US

I write frequently for Rare.us, one of the fastest growing web sites in the United States. I primarily write short, informative hits, in a way to get people useful information. My archives can be seen here


INDIGENOUS AUSTRALIA

CAPE TRIBULATION, Australia — The bright-green ant wiggled and twisted between my fingers.

I cocked an eyebrow at our guide, Juan Walker, who had just snatched one of the ants from the dozens swarming on the bush in front of us, put it in his mouth, and crunched down.

He nodded his encouragement, so I chomped on it, releasing a surprisingly tasty tangy lime flavor.

That was only one of the tips Walker showed us during a day spent exploring how aboriginal tribes have thrived for centuries in the jungles facing the Coral Sea between Cairns and Cooktown. Read more...

 

HOT AIR BALLOONING

FLORESVILLE — Standing still and looking straight ahead, there is no movement and barely any sound.

It isn’t until you look down that you remember you are hundreds of feet in the air.

“It’s like you’re just perched there, and the world is going by you,” said David Smuck, a member of the Central Texas Ballooning Association.

Balloons have been used for flight since 1783, when the first tethered and free-flight balloon excursions were taken in France. The Federal Aviation Administration listed around 2,300 privately owned hot-air balloons in the United States in a 2012 report. Read more...

 

BUBBLE SOCCER

AUSTIN — The ball caromed off Mike Livermore’s bubble and rebounded toward the other goal, bouncing once, twice, three times before settling in the back of the net.

After more than 40 years playing soccer, Livermore had scored his first goal — his first playing bubble soccer, that is.

“I played soccer for 42 years, and that’s my first time playing bubble soccer, and it was a blast,” said Livermore of Austin. “It’s a little hot when you’re inside the bubble, but a lot of fun.” Read more...

ROCKHOUNDING

MASON — Every little kid digs in the dirt.

For Angela Lands and other rock hounds like her, it’s what they found there that made a difference.

“I’ve been collecting rocks since I was little, not knowing what they were, just thinking they looked good,” Lands said while digging at a site here.

Eventually, she learned the types of different rocks, and this day she was searching for fluorite and quartz, two of the three most popular finds on the Llano Uplift.

For Texan amateur geologists, or rock hounds, the uplift is a bucket-list item. The uplift, a geologic granite dome under several counties in the Hill Country, is believed to be more than a billion years old, resulting in rocks rarely seen anywhere else in the state. Read more...

COWBOY ACTION SHOOTING

Sauk Valley Sam was holding his grub bowl near the kitchen window when a group of banditos sneaking up to the ranch caught his eye.

“Oh my soul, here they come!” said Sam, dropping his bowl and slapping leather. He took aim and fired at the banditos — which were represented by metal targets downrange.

For would-be Old West gunslingers who like to fire off a few rounds, cowboy action shooting is their version of Tombstone. Read more...

LAWNMOWER RACING

MARBLE FALLS — Andy Perdue gripped the steering wheel, inserted a key and pulled into traffic.

Within 50 feet, he was covered in dust as he ducked and dodged around other drivers, revving his engine to the red line to squeeze through narrow gaps.

It might not be the way every retiree treats his lawnmower, but for Perdue, it was just what he wanted. Read more...
For more lawnmower racing photos, go here. 

 

JOUSTING

McDADE — Thundering down a narrow lane at 30 miles an hour, 2,500 pounds of man, horse and armor drives a lance at another man doing the exact same thing.

A mighty crash later, two knights are staggering to their feet, two horses calmly step away, and the crowd is in full-throated abandon.

Casual visitors to renaissance faires and cultural celebrations may not always realize it, but competitive jousting is real, and it’s serious. Read more...

STARGAZING (Enchanted Rock SP, Texas)

As the skies darkened, Lisa Farmer leaned into her telescope, finally giving a little squeal of joy.

“There it is!” she said, pointing to the first planet in sight — Jupiter, low on the horizon.

As it grew darker over Enchanted Rock State Natural Area, dozens of telescopes pointed at the sky, examining details of the stars, moons and planets glowing overhead. Read more...

ATLATL (Ancient Spears)

AUSTIN — Squinting into the late afternoon sun, I saw my target, frozen in place and watching my every move. I gently reached back and then flicked my arm forward, snapping my wrist like a fly-fisherman. The spear snapped away from my hand, buzzing furiously through the air before burying itself in the ground. The stuffed deer target stayed in place, unmoved and unharmed. Read more...

ACADIA NATIONAL PARK (Maine)

MOUNT DESERT ISLAND, Maine — There are simpler ways to get to the top of a mountain. This moment of wisdom came to me after plowing through the fifth — or was it the sixth — thicket of scratching, clawing underbrush that was determined to take as much of my skin as it could. The simpler way would have been to follow the trail through Acadia National Park to the peak of Pemetic Mountain, with a gorgeous view overlooking Jordan Pond and the village of Bar Harbor beyond. Read more...

MONTANA

MANY GLACIER, Mont. — The elusive grizzly. The phantom elk. The slippery moose. All of them were front and center compared to the one thing we were missing: a clean and clear sky. Perched on the backbone of North America, five other photographers and I hoped to capture some of the vast natural beauty of Glacier National Park. For most of the trip, though, the skies were hazy, covered with wildfire smoke that had drifted in from Washington and British Columbia. Read more...

ITALY

ROME — Above, the crowd buzzes in anticipation. Below, in the spaces where men and lions prepared to do battle, the buzz is dampened by moss on the stone columns and grass growing from ground fertilized with blood. The Colosseum has always been a place for “bloody spectacles,” said our guide, Camilla Verdacchi, who led us to the basement of the great stadium, where we could look up at the crowd above. “It's really incredible how many people died here,” she said. “It was not the circus. It was not the theater — it was the amphitheater, a place for bloody spectacles.” Read more...

RUGBY

SAN ANTONIO — Two groups of men are pushing against each other in a huge mass, grinding across the field like a bulldozer tread. Suddenly, a ball pops out, a player picks it up and there's a mad pinball dash, the ball tossed from sprinting player to dodging player as tacklers close in. Read more...

MOUNTAIN BIKING

SAN ANTONIO — In December 2011, it was all Bobby Ludwick could do to ride a bike one block. A former champion rider, he had lost a foot in a car accident the previous February. After months of recovery, he got back on his commuter bike. “I went one block, and it took 10 minutes,” said Ludwick, a San Antonio resident. “At the same time, I said, 'I can do this. I can get back to this.'” Read more...

ARIZONA & UTAH

MOAB, Utah — Huddled together in the rain, we waited, hoping Mother Nature would raise her gray blankets just a little. The storm swept across the landscape in front of us, wispy tendrils reaching down to brush the mesa tops. But after an hour of waiting, one lone shaft of light snuck through the clouds and lit up the canyon wall. Read more...

FLYBOARDING

Rising out of the waters of Lake Travis, I'm on eye-level with the dock. Then the Jet Ski. Then the top of the nearby boat. Then the tree across the lake. Ladies and gentlemen, we have liftoff. “You kind of feel like a bird — you look up and realize 'I'm actually flying.' It's a feeling like no other,” said Bevin Baughn, a University of Texas student. Read more...(Subscription required)

TOPPS PRO DEBUT DAY

The grin on Tim Kane’s face was matched only by the size of the “30″ on the back of his jersey. Kane, winner of the Topps and Minor League Baseball “Make Your Pro Debut” contest, signed his one-­day contract with the Corpus Christi Hooks, the double-­A affiliate of the Houston Astros, on Thursday. Read More... (Note: A longer version of this story appeared in the July 2013 edition of Beckett Sports Card Monthly. I also blogged about it here.)

DEATH VALLEY

Taking the back way into one of the world's more dangerous places might be a questionable move. So would driving a tiny car over a one-way unpaved road that twists like a snake on a hot griddle. As we come down one hairpin turn and the little motor revs up to climb the next one, my traveling companion looks at the canyon floor hundreds of feet down and shrinks back in her seat. Read more...

PADDLEBOARDING

Gliding upstream, my feet inches above the water, I looked down and saw two small turtles swimming by. Craning to get a better look ... I promptly lost my balance and joined the turtles in Lady Bird Lake. Stand-up paddleboarding isn't walking on water, but it's about as close as you can get. Read more..

KITE FLYING

Lisa Walker and her grandson, Brett Johnson, were trying to convince Mother Nature to give them a little breeze. Read more (subscription required)

DISC GOLF

Mark Twain is said to have called golf, “a good walk spoiled.” If he had played disc golf, he might have enjoyed the walk more. Read more...

WILDLIFE ON THE TEXAS COAST

ROCKPORT — The great white bird stalked regally from one end of the pond to the other. Smaller birds followed in the wake of its high-kneed kick, but it paid them hardly any mind. Two boats nearby bristled with lenses and scopes, as birders eyed the majestic whooping crane. Read More...

STATE PARKS IN THE TEXAS HILL COUNTRY

The tiny heartbeat thrummed in my ear, a motorboat surrounded by feathers. The sparrow, cupped gently in a park interpreter's hand, was brought from face to face around the circle of onlookers. Read more...

CAVING

I’m in a tight spot. I’m wrist-deep in water, squirming through a passage on hands and knees. My helmet is bumping against the rocky ceiling. Then my headlight catches a gleam in the surrounding rocks, and for a moment I’m transfixed, my surroundings forgotten. Read more...

HANG GLIDING

We are determined to conquer “Mount Luling.” Burdened with gear, we trudge toward the top, the hopes of soaring from its mighty peak luring us on. Reaching the peak, we prepare ourselves for launch. Steadying our massive wings, we take one, two, three, four steps and launch. Read more...

RAFTING IN BIG BEND NATIONAL PARK

We’re witnessing a rebirth. Days earlier, the grass and trees next to the Rio Grande had been burned yellow and brown by the summer sun. Now, floating down the river on a surge of recent rainwater, the river banks were bursting with thick green sheaves of river cane. “This is the greenest it has been in three years,” our guide, Tim Reynolds, said as he paddled us down the river. Read more...

ZIPLINING

I’ve always wanted to be a cartoon character. Seeing the Road Runner zip across canyons on sheer speed was inspiration for many ill-fated banzai sledding runs as a child. At the moment, I’m more like Wile E. Coyote, however — looking down with a sinking feeling that I’m not going to make it to the other side. Zip-lining can occasionally inspire those moments, but everyone makes it to the other side. More often than not, they are whooping with joy at the sensation of flying over the hillsides. Read more...

WINDSURFING

For a split-second, I’m skimming over the waves. The wind carries me along, lifting me to the edge of flight. Then my arm shifts a couple of inches, and I stall out before back-flopping into the salty water of the Laguna Madre. Windsurfing is trickier than it looks. Read more...

BANFF

A snowflake drifts past my face, wheels over slab of chocolate cake and settles into my steaming mug before dissolving. I look up the mountainside at the glacier the snowflake blew off of — what I can see of it through the clouds creeping down from the peak. The sun lights up most of the steep-sided valley down to the azure jewel of Lake Louise, but the swirling clouds above promise more snow at any moment. Read more...

LLANO, Texas

"You aren't from here, are you?" I hadn't heard that phrase in years, but it caught up to me three times during a weekend in Llano. Each time, the quip was made with laughter and warmth, part of the welcoming atmosphere found all over town. Read more...

NEW YORK CITY

All my wife wanted for Christmas was Hugh Jackman in gold wrapping paper. At Christmastime in New York, wishes can come true. All that glitters: Once we heard Jackman, one of our favorite actors, was performing in a one-man show on Broadway, my wife and I decided it was time to sample the wonders of the Big Apple at Christmas. Read more...

SEMINOLE CANYON STATE PARK (Texas)

The shaman wove his web of magic across the cavern, and I followed. Visions of Mother Earth and her inhabitants danced across canyon walls in reds, yellows and whites. I could only grasp the edges of their meaning, now shrouded in history. Read more...

CASSIS, France

It's Wednesday morning, and Petit Casino, the local grocery store, is locked up tight. There's no point in it being open, with table after table of fresh fruit, vegetables, wine, fish, cheese, clothes and more only feet away. Read more...

BOSTON

The most important thing to pack when traveling? Adaptability. Even the best-laid plans of the most experienced travelers can go awry, so adjusting on the fly can turn a disappointing trip into something to savor. Searching for Freedom: We were looking forward to an afternoon of walking the cobbled streets and visiting historic landmarks before finishing off with a fine dinner. Read More...

THE WHITE MOUNTAINS, New Hampshire

Wooden barrels overflowing with homemade candy line the floors. Rocking chairs and benches sit on the open porch, inviting passers-by to come and sit a spell. Neighbors hail each other by name. Read more...

CHICAGO

At the crack of the bat, I'm leaving my seat, eyes following the ball as it loops toward the seats behind the first base dugout. Two steps forward, and the ball drops into the seats in front of me, takes a skip off the concrete, evades half a dozen hands reaching for it, bounces high in the air and lands in my hands. Read more...

SAN ANGELO STATE PARK, Texas

The beast's 200-pound head swung around, and it saw me. Chuffing breath in and out, it moved closer, nostrils flaring. Its mouth dripped strings of saliva. Horns up, it regarded me with one rolling white eye. With only a thin fence keeping us apart, I stood very still. Read more...

LAS VEGAS

Ninety minutes earlier, we weren't sure what we were doing with our evening. Now, my wife and one of her best friends are on stage, running their hands all over two strange men for the benefit of the audience and television cameras. That was our welcome to Las Vegas. Read more...