Posts Tagged ‘Tim Cahill’

      Into the heart of the my soul.


The campfire crackled in the cool evening air alongside the banks of the swiftly flowing river, as I read out loud from my pieced together notebook pages.

I wanted to get it right.


This was less of an attempt at hitting the perfect pitch for a personal travel essay, but more my chance to say what I really thought about him.


As they say, this time it was personal.


The “him” was Tim Cahill. And the fireside reading was my final assignment of our five-day white water raft trip and writing workshop hosted by Cahill, along with the highly regarded and world recognized travel writer Michael Shapiro.



     Yes, that's a Miller High Life in my hand.

             Enjoying the high life on Johnson Peak: Michael, Owen, Tim, and Frank


You may have read the earlier piece I did immediately after the voyage. That was about the trip. This story is about my longtime love affair with the written word that both inspired me to travel the world and attempt to write about it to move others.


The following is more-or-less verbatim from my chicken-scratched handwritten river trip notebook pages. I had to interpret a few passages that were scribbled during late night insomniac writing sessions.


As you will soon see, you could call this,


  *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

             My Ode To Tim Cahill 


Our 37-minute flight from the small airport in Salmon, Idaho, had me wondering if our trip to the storied Middle Fork of the Salmon River was going to be worth it.


Or, if our trip to the River of No Return would become the trip to the river of never got there.


While a white water raft trip was ostensibly the purpose of this flight, to one of the few remaining pristine rivers in this country, the impetus for my participation was similarly, crystal clear. I was there to learn the craft of travel writing from my longtime mentor and inspiration, the legendary Tim Cahill.


But first, we had to get there.


My initial cause for concern was when I noticed that our pilot, Jerry, was drying his hands from the air vent on the ceiling of the eight-passenger Islander aircraft, just as we were cresting the 10,000-foot jagged mountain range en route.


I thought, “Wait, our pilot has sweaty palms?!?”


Thus, I began to wonder, was this trip going to be worth it?


Then came our approach to the dirt landing strip at the Indian Creek put-in. A straight path to the runway was blocked by a small stand of ponderosa pine trees, necessitating the pilot to “crab” the plane in order to avoid them.


Then, to lose sufficient altitude to land the aircraft, the pilot had to make, not one, but two, hairpin banked turns that I thought would surely leave tire tracks on the steep slopes of the river canyon walls.


Was this trip really going to be worth it?


So began our five-day journey into the depths of the Salmon River canyon and to the heart of my 30-year relationship to the writings of Tim Cahill.



     Forget Waldo, where's Frank.


Between rambunctious river runs through foaming rapids, and daily gourmet table fare prepared by our tanned, young guides with their river-honed muscles, we wannabe writers got group and—more than ever dreamed of—personal one-on-one time with the master of the evocative travel adventure personal essay genre.


Cahill created a desire in me not only to travel to far off exotic locales, but a fantasy that I might write like him and make my readers feel like he made me feel.


This goes back to the early years, when Cahill was the founding editor of the groundbreaking Outside Magazine, when quality travel adventure writing was virtually unknown between the covers of a monthly magazine.


While growing up, our family car camping trips, and later as a Boy Scout, started me down the trail of adventure travel, it was Cahill’s writing that pointed a path to see beyond simply the mechanics of the travel. Cahill shown a light that allowed me to see how those special locations were not just places on the planet, but were the secret to my soul.



                      Secrets of the river: hot water, cold beer, good friends.


During my recent rafting adventure, I endured hours of writing in the middle of the night. Tim had done such a good job of inspiring my writing, my racing brain won the battle of not allowing me—though tired from hours of white water paddling—to close my eyes and get some much needed sleep.


So, was the not-really-all-that-harrowing flight getting there still worth it?


Hell, I got to hear the statured story teller, Tim Cahill, sing William Shakespeare dialog as a country-western song after consuming two fingers of straight Bombay Sapphire gin…O.K., it was four fingers of gin.

(I would know…I poured it.)


Yeah, you’re damn right it was worth it!


(Cue thundering applause, bring up the theme music, dim the river scene and roll credits.)


  *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Thus ended the recounting of my blessings how I spent six decades of getting to this special place in my life.


And after all that paddling, fly fishing, drinking, eating, drinking and, of course, writing, there was only one thing left to do.


      Too much fun.


Finally, here is a fantastic video of our trip put together by one of my new river friends, Mark L.


Where next, everyone?

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You kids are killing me.Nat Geo Adventure last cover

Or, at least my ability to hold my reading material in my aged, hairy-knuckled, wrinkled fingers.


Yes, I admit it.

I am one of the old dinosaurs who still reads a printed daily newspaper (actually, two of them) and subscribes to more travel magazines than I care to admit to.

I still have not gone to doing much of my reading online.


Among other reasons, I just get too distracted with, what, yet another Breaking News item that has one more Tiger Woods mistress coming out of the woodwork.

What are we up to, nine?


But, the changing world of travel writing has not really hit home…until today.


Via Don George’s Adventure Blog I discovered that,

“Last week National Geographic announced that it was ceasing the publication of National Geographic Adventure magazine with the current issue.”

Of all the printed travel magazines I read, this was my second favorite travel publication—after National Geographic Traveler.

(No word as of press time whether Traveler would take the same path as Adventure.)


The story went on to say,

“National Geographic is transitioning its Adventure brand from traditional print to a multi-platform model that will include newsstand editions, books, e-magazines, mobile applications and a robust Web site.”


“Include newsstand editions?” Wait, isn’t that what I pay them to mail to me every month?

Are they just boycotting the U.S. Postal Service?


And what exactly is a “robust web site” and how do I know if I have one?


Maybe “robust” has something to do with the pictures of a woman running along the beach in a skimpy bikini that they included in one story this month.


               Nice a robust as I have ever seen.


Their stated reason for this change is no big surprise,

“Given the current advertising environment and the opportunities we see in emerging digital platforms, we think the time is right to transition the Adventure brand.”


I guess unless the government is going to hand them over a few billion dollars of TARP funds as a bailout, who can blame them?


I have twice met fellow travel writer Don George—him being a legitimate professional one. Nice guy.


A few years ago, I took a travel writing class from him in San Francisco and then later, he served as conference chairperson at the well respected annual travel writers conference held at Book Passage in Marin County, which I attended.

One of my primary reasons to attend the conference was to meet and learn from the acclaimed and brilliant travel writer extraordinaire Tim Cahill (yes, I swoon at the very sight of his written word).

From his early days at Outside Magazine, Tim (which is what I would call him if he would allow it) has been an influential inspiration to me, not only to experience adventure travel, but also to write about it.


Ironically, Cahill is listed as one of the contributing editors of Nat. Geo. Adventure.

“Hey, Tim. If you need another writing gig give me a call and I’ll make a space for you over here at my robust Sand Dollar Adventures emerging digital multi-platform web site (as soon as I figure out what all that means).”


Also, probably lost in this transitional business period is the $17.97 I paid for my current subscription well into next year.


But you know what we are really losing as we see our printed media go the way of the VCR player and music CD’s?


Just wait until you are stuck someplace without toilet paper.

Good luck wiping yourself with your iPhone.

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As I wander around lurking through the plethora of online travel blogs, it appears that an occasional interview of someone with ostensible travel-cred is requisite to the appearance of a legitimate travel blog.

Or to paraphrase Billy Crystal paraphrasing Fernando Lamas,

“It’s better to look good than to be good!”

Tim...over here...

So with that in mind, here are the interview questions I put on to arguably the transcendent adventure travel writer of our era, Tim Cahill. Cahill can probably be credited with creating the modern genre of adventure travel and adventure travel writers, including those of the wannabe category, such as the author of this page.

One only has to go back and read years of his words in Outside Magazine to appreciate the true literary impact of his amazing story-telling ability. (This excludes the recent years where–in my not-so-humble opinion, the magazine–sans Cahill, has become a fashion and pop trend publication of the 20-something’s.)

As I mentioned in my previous post, I recently attended the nationally recognized annual travel writers’ conference at Book Passage in Marin County. Tim Cahill was there and–as was appropriate for his stature–was followed by a phalanx of admirers.

                           Hey, Tim...over here...

As the Sand dollar Adventures Proxy (SAP) I was able to penetrate the perimeter of paparazzi and pose the following questions to Cahill:

SAP: “Tim–have you checked out my blog, Sand Dollar Adventures? I write just like you.”

Cahill: “The Capri salad is quite good.”

SAP: “Did you really run a marathon in Dublin? Did you get an O.K. from your doctor first?”

Cahill: “Attending these writing conferences is a lot more difficult than it should be.”

SAP: “Is that really John Flinn, Senior Travel Editor of the San Francisco Chronicle, hiding behind that umbrella pole?  Hey John, have you checked out my blog?”

Cahill: “This is really well written; let me make a few notes on it.”

SAP: “Wow, I didn’t know you had a copy of my blog with you, Tim.”

Cahill: “Well Anabela, I guess it’s time to get back into the classroom.  There’s this one guy…”

SAP: “What…are you getting up? Where’re you going, Tim? Can I join you?”

For you many travel bloggers out there reading this compelling interview and wishing you could get this close to the iconic Cahill, don’t get the idea it is always this easy.

The interview ended with me typing this blog post late at night–Balvenie Doublewood 12 year old single malt Scotch whiskey in hand (three ice cubes only, please), wearing nothing more than my Fruit Of The Loom tighty-whities (hence the “Travel Writing Exposed” reference in the title).

Hanging with bona fide adventure travel writers; drinking hard liquor at all times of the day or night; sitting at my computer virtually naked–it doesn’t get much more mind-numbing evocative than that, Mr. Habegger.

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The regularity of my blog posts is beginning to resemble my regularity after eating too much fabulous French fromage:

Not as often as I’d like; takes too much effort to get out; and it feels better when I finally get something out of my system.

All right, that’s about enough of that analogy.

Lake Solano arch

I have been absent from the scene gathering great material and having great fun doing it.

I had a recent kayak trip that ended with lots of wine, so you know that has to be good.

And I have been busy preparing for a trip I had not expected which will take me to the other side of the planet. Part of that preparation included getting training into getting gassed, which you would think would come naturally.  But this gas is somewhat exotic and requires getting tanked.

More to come on both of those items.  But currently I am on assignment (I love saying that as it sounds like I am a real journalist) to a travel writers and photographers conference north of San Francisco.

I will have more to say about this later, but I got to meet my mentor in the genre of adventure travel writing, the iconic author who pretty much invented the style that many of us strive for but few achieve, that being of course, Tim Cahill. 

Tim’s past goes back from Rolling Stone magazine and then Outside Magazine (when it used to be good).

He has written and edited a wonderful collection of very memorable books and articles.

Tim and Don

Tim sat with another internationally known travel writer, Don George, and discussed the art of travel writing.

Cahill has a long background of participating and teaching at writers conferences and for some reason, apparently Tim’s critiquing has lead to more than one participant ending in tears. Based on some of the examples of writing that Cahill has been subjected to maybe it should have been Tim that ended up crying.

Of course, all of us wannabe travel writers wanted to hear Tim divulge his secrets for turning a travel trip into a travel story. Hopefully as the four-day conference progresses I will have an answer to this crucial question.

For anybody who has followed Cahill’s writing for twenty years will understand that Tim Cahill is no superman:

he just writes super.Tim and I

As to what happened to Don George’s pants; as far as I could make out, there is a back-story to a seersucker outfit that Don wears.  He had his seersucker coat on but no pants. 

It was not clear what happened to those pants but the good news is he was speaking from behind a podium.

Not that there’s anything wrong with no seersucker pants…I’m just not into it.

As a follow-up to the writers conference, today I had the absolute, incredible luck to have had lunch with the maestro himself, Mr. Cahill.  I learned in one hour than I will probably learn from a week of classroom instruction.  Truly a unforgetable experience and well worth the price of admission.

And for those who were worried about the state of Don George’s bare legs–that never were–today he found his seersucker pants.  While I won’t say he is as good looking as his writing and editing, he did cut a fine figure in his complete outfit.

Not that I was looking at his pants all that closely. 

Not that there’s anything wrong that practice…I’m just not into it.

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                                             Don't tell

As my audience of regular readers know–which according to NPR is me and my mom (and my mom is in Heaven and I am not sure they have broadband up there) I am a wannabe travel writer cum newbie blogger.

When I titled today’s blog I used a play on the old “3 R’s”, which, when I was growing up, meant reading, writing, and arithmetic (in which ironically only one of the three actually starts in an “R” but sounded out it was reading, riting, and rithmetic–hey, it wasn’t MY saying).

But when I asked my grown daughters, aged 26 and 28, if they knew what the term meant they both claimed lack of knowledge; the ol’ blank stare response.  I think about the time they were studying the subjects the third “R” it was called math and the term “The Two “R’s and an M” just did not have the same ring.

As to my own 3-R’s, somehow I figured that after reading enough Tim Cahill, with a little bit of writing, and some travel to exotic places that would certainly involve alcohol, likely rum, I would be well on my way to being a travel writer.

One exotic place I seem obsessed about travel to is the one place I can’t get to: Cuba.

I have no idea why I want to get there so badly other than to see a place apparently frozen in time, with classic American sedans and not a McDonald’s or Starbucks to be found–at least as far as I know.

Oh, in reality, I can get there. I recently read that around 20,000 to 30,000 Americans travel there annually-without the permission of George W. Bush.

But the truth is, I don’t speak Spanish–well, I can order another beer–and I really don’t want the IRS after my ass because I bought a burrito in Havana.   And after reading a recent bit in Outside I guess it really has a lot more of a romantic appeal than the actual trip might entail. Still…maybe some day…

In the meantime I will continue to read books about Cuba and the rest of the planet that I have yet to visit.

And I will continue to blog because they say that will make me a better writer (I know–it doesn’t show quite yet) and they say “you young people” don’t read books or magazines anymore and you do all your reading online (which is actually NOT what I hear a lot of young people tell me is true).

I discover new travel writing blog sites almost every day, some by professional travel writers.

As to writing for the printed word, I am trying, I really am, but those damn query letters…

All I can say, you really should respect the real travel writers that you read in National Geographic Adventure (or Traveler), Outside, etc. as I am convinced that it really has to be a job for them. 

I have to believe the allure of constant travel and late nights typing against a deadline is not all knocking back rum drinks in some far off bar while you flirt with a local beauty with the deep tan and the perfect hair.

Alright, writing travel  philosophy ramble is done for now.

In the meantime, while I sit here on the beach in Los Barriles on the Sea of Cortez in Baja Sur, I’ll be knocking back yet another rum drink while pretending I’m a travel writer and dreaming of that tall, dark-skinned, long dark-haired,…oh s#!t, my wife is giving me that look…how CAN she tell what I am thinking about…must be 30 years of marriage.

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