Category Archives: Travel

The American Budo Society 2019 Clinic Recap

As I mentioned the other day, I spent last weekend at the 2019 American Budo Society annual clinic near Kansas City, Missouri. I’ve already recounted the adventures I had getting there. The seminar itself was pretty good, too.

The great thing about this particular seminar was the huge range of styles and martial artists present. Sessions ranged from Aikido flow drills and shinkendo sword techniques to sport karate kickboxing and jujitsu grappling.

Me and StephenIRL at the 2019 American Budo Society Clinic

For me, personally, the highlight of the seminar, however, was a session taught by a man better known to the world at large as “Stephen IRL.”

Stephen is a two time national gold medalist in Judo. He’s also fought twice in professional MMA, and won both matches. In his day job, he works as a bail bondsman – AKA a bounty hunter. He had some fun stories to tell, but even better is that he actually live streams all of his arrests. His channel is pretty fun – you should check it out.

Stephen ran a course on Judo. I’ve been in the martial arts for almost twenty-five years now, mostly training in a style that combines karate, kickboxing, and judo/jujitsu. I still pick up a new techniques and tips and tricks from time to time. But it’s very rare at this point that I encounter something that fundamentally changes my entire philosophical approach to the art. Stephen managed to do that in about 45 minutes.

I had the good fortune to have Stephen join me at the large group dinner that evening, and got to spend a couple of extra hours picking his brain and swapping stories.

All in all it was a solid seminar, and I look forward to next year’s.

Everything went wrong after Cairo

I should have known the adventure was coming when I ended up in Cairo unexpectedly.

But let me back up a bit.

I spent this weekend at a martial arts seminar just outside Kansas City, Missouri. The seminar itself was great. The travel around it was an absolute adventure – and I mean that in the best possible sense. I spent fourteen hours on Friday making a nine and a half hour drive. Because it was that kind of day.

The first part of the trip passed rather uneventfully, if slowly. I found myself growing even more bored than I usually do when driving long distances by myself. Spotify did little to dull the tedium.

But my trip was not to stay boring!

Somewhere around Paducah, Kentucky, Google Maps informed me that I-57 north had become completely closed due to an accident. For those who care to check a map, this would’ve been between the intersection with I-24 at Pulley’s Mill and the intersection with I-64 at Mount Vernon, both in southern Illinois. By this point, the road closure would’ve been about an hour away – so likely to still be closed by the time I got there.

In its helpful wisdom, Google suggested an alternate route, basically running some lesser highways and a couple of back roads through southern Illinois over to I-55 north, instead.

I should’ve seen the folly of this plan when I ended up in Cairo. That’s KAY-roh, Illinois, not KY-roh, Egypt, for those who have never been there. I’ve been through several times. And let me just say this… if you’ve read the book American Gods by Neil Gaiman, then his description is pretty much spot on. The place is weird. Weird enough to end up in a Gaiman novel.

But my adventures only began in Cairo. Nothing of actual consequence this time actually happened there. Things didn’t get interesting until Thebes, just down the river (I am not making this up; this entire area is actually sometimes referred to as “Little Egypt.”)

At this point I was driving along Illinois 3. Google Maps wanted me to get to the bridge on Illinois 146 so that I could cross the Mississippi River.

What Google didn’t know, apparently, is that there’s been a lot of recent flooding of the Mississippi river. The bridge was fine. But the stretch of Illinois 3 Google insisted that I follow to get to the bridge…

Was closed.

Yes, I had been rerouted to avoid a closed road, only to run into a closed road. Irony. Lovely.

I tried several times to move far enough away from the closure for Google to route me around it. The problem was… Little Egypt is kind of, well, Bum F– Egypt (BFE). Go figure.

The very nice Sheriff guarding the closed road finally had to give me directions. I literally drove down one-and-a-half lane gravel farm roads, 10 miles out of the the way, dodging tractors bailing hay on the road, oncoming traffic (also people trying to route around the road closure, but in the other direction), and irate stares from the local farmers. Also, the car in front of me kicked up so much dust that I couldn’t see a thing – including the car in front of me.

Good times!

Actually, it really was good times. I had a blast. Sometimes life is more fun when it doesn’t go according to plan.

Tomorrow: details of the seminar itself, which was also great.

Flying Boutique

Last weekend my wife and I actually flew to Dragon Con. This may not seem like a big deal to many of my readers. Some of you, I’m sure, fly all the time. I have friends who do. Hell, I used to fly a lot myself. When I was a child my father traveled a lot for work. We used his frequent flier miles… frequently. But as an adult, I haven’t flown much at all.

I have four children. Flying a family of six is expensive, even when the individual tickets aren’t that bad. Even though our youngest can fly free if she sits on our lap, that’s still five tickets. It adds up fast. Also, it means we pretty much need to rent a van on the other end, and that isn’t cheap either. Oh, and then we get to our destination without car seats. The law isn’t too happy about that.

On top of that, our nearest airport is Huntsville International – consistently rated one of the most expensive airports in the country. And it really is that expensive.

Our frequent vacation spots also happen to be relatively close by. We typically travel to Atlanta for Dragon Con every year. That’s only a four hour drive. Between arriving at the airport an hour early, an hour in flight, and then time in the airport on the other end, it doesn’t actually save much time to fly there. Our other frequent vacation spot is Orlando. It’s only a ten hour drive. Flying actually would save some time… but it takes it from a full day trip to a half day trip, at best. That’s nice. But not nice enough to be worth the cost. I have family in the DC suburbs… but the math there is very comparable to Orlando.

pc12This time, however, my wife stumbled across Boutique Air and we gave it a shot. We had to drive an hour to the airport. On the other hand, we basically showed up and walked right onto the plane. Lines? What lines? There were eight of us on the PC-12 we flew on – and we were the only eight passengers in the airport. The TSA check took about two minutes. Boarding took another two minutes. In essence, we traded the TSA wait for no line.

More importantly, it was cheap. Round trip tickets for both of us were only $250. Given that it would have cost us $25 a day to park at the hotel in Atlanta and more or less a full tank of gas to make the trip, flying proved to be only twice the cost of driving. On the trip out, it meant that we could wait until very nearly the end of the work day to leave, saving me the use of some precious vacation hours. And since we didn’t need parking at the hotel, we weren’t worried about the late arrival.

The trip home probably didn’t save us much time, since we had to get to the Atlanta airport so early. But I got to spend most of that time reading instead of driving, and I would’ve taken the whole day off anyway. And since we had no kids this weekend, and weren’t really driving anywhere, being without a car was actually convenient.

I have no idea how viable the Boutique Air business model is. But it worked really well for us. I only wish they offered service to more areas.