Travel tips from the couch-bound |

Travel tips from the couch-bound

All this warm weather may be my fault. I couldn’t decide when to switch our bed sheets from the heavy winter flannel to the lighter cotton weave. If I move too early, we freeze for weeks between thin sheets. In the fall we swelter beneath the winter flannels for a month before the first cold snap.

The reason for my indecision isn’t my usual Clear Creek Ranch cotton-headedness. Rather, it is Analysis-Paralysis. A recent Wall Street Journal article directed me to mull the best bedding value for the money.

Those in the fabric world set great store on something called “thread count.” Why anyone who isn’t a mill accountant would actually count threads is a mystery. Perhaps to keep one’s mind off the price. The Journal’s “best value,” for one set of pieces of cloth you sleep between, was $300. At those prices I’d expect several years’ worth of weekly maid/laundry service and a nightly mint on the pillow.

So the warm weather is my fault, and it couldn’t be coming at a worse time. The town near the Ranch has fireworks stands set up to sell explosives and assorted pyrotechnics to “celebrate” our independence from England. We are happy, so let’s blow something up! Or at the very least, set it on fire.

I’d like to take a long vacation to extinguish these thoughts, but these celebratory detonations are scheduled for the height of our local fire season. The entire county is a vast dry tinderbox waiting to ignite. So I’ll spend the summer at the Ranch, minding the home-fires, metaphorically, I hope.

But don’t waste any sympathy on me. To paraphrase Henry David Thoreau, “I have traveled much in Clear Creek Ranch.” Granted, much of the traveling has been in circles. But a few of those circles include round-trips to the local library. The travel section, specifically, and the works of one Paul Theroux.

Last week I did a grand tour of the Mediterranean with Paul, completing an entire circuit of the coastline from Gibraltar in Spain, eastward to Syria – where we actually visited my cousin (“The Pillars of Hercules,” page 437 if you are checking), then on to Palestine, and then westward along the African coast to Morocco.

I did it in my pajamas in two-hour bursts from the comfort of my easy chair. No visas, no language problems, no tedious hours lugging dirty laundry from one country to another. No indigestion, and no terrorists.

Paul Theroux is an engaging travel companion. He tends to visit the homes or former homes of literary giants, Fitzgerald in France, Joyce in Slovenia, for example. And while he can be a bit whiny and impatient, this is offset by his endless flow of salient trivia.

I’ve taken two previous vicarious vacations with Theroux, one via railroad throughout the Republic of China (“Riding the Iron Rooster”) and another train ride to the southern tip of South America (“The Old Patagonian Express”), where we spent time with (the now late) Jorge Luis Borges in Argentina.

If the South American trip interests you, but choo-choo trains get on your nerves, pick up Bruce Chatwin’s “In Patagonia.” Like Theroux, he is an excellent travel companion, with a definitely dreamy/mystical bent. He is taking me on an intimate tour of Australia this week in “The Songlines.” So far it is unlike any package tour I’ve ever encountered.

If you have travel tips to share, send me a postcard. But don’t say “Wish you were here!” I’m staying home, with a fire extinguisher at the ready.


Mike Drummond is a Nevada County writer whose column appears on Tuesday. You can write him in care of The Union, 464 Sutton Way, Grass Valley, 95945; or e-mail him at

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