On the List for Next Trip: Scotland and Wales

This great photo by Dave Dunford shows the majesty of Pen Y Fan.

It never fails – before the afterglow of my latest trip wears off, someone asks me "where are you going next?"

My official answer? "Hey, give me a chance to savor Korea and Japan -- if not the flavor of the boiled silkworms."

The truth is, I’ve already thought about my next trip. I’ve never been anywhere in the UK before, and as a soccer fan it’s definitely on my list. But where to go? Yes, London is the obvious choice -- which means it doesn’t really suit me.

But Scotland intrigues me. I can picture swinging further north and checking out some Glasgow hotels. There, I could take in Celtic versus Rangers if I timed it right. And I could finally bring my five-year quest to eat haggis to a final and successful conclusion (really, all my failed attempts to eat haggis are worth a post of their own).

What else might Scotland have for me? Well, the scenery looks spectacular. I’ve seen photos in FourFourTwo that really made me want to visit Scotland. Oh, and let’s not forget BrewDog, the crazy craft brewery that does insane things like release limited-edition beers stuffed into a squirrel carcass. Oh, and a little break from Arizona’s angry sun would be nice. Sometimes I forget that clouds and greenery occur naturally in other places.

Glasgow looks like a nice city for some strolling - with a warm jacket!

I could also head an entirely different direction -- Wales. Word is that it’s an up-and-coming destination with castles and hiking drawing visitors in. I’m sure I’d satisfy my itch to hear interesting new languages. I’ve heard bits of Welsh and really enjoyed its sounds and cadence.

And Pen y Fan looks like some incredible hiking. Better yet, the Pen Y Fan race in mid-July takes runners straight to the 2,907-foot summit in just 3.5 miles. A cool t-shirt or medal for finishing would put this right on the list with the Hi Seoul Marathon or the Miđnæturhlaup in Reykjavik.

No matter where in Cardiff I’d stay, it would be pretty easy to get to a Swansea City match to check out some Premier League action. And there’s still Cardiff City in the League Championship. Either way, I’m bound to catch some enthusiastic fans in a great atmosphere. Of all the hotels in Cardiff, though, I’ll admit the St. David’s Hotel & Spa wins some points for having the word "spa" in the name.

So, U.K., I might be headed your way soon. Save me some haggis and lobscows!

This post is featured by eurobookings.com, which helps travelers find hotels in Europe – at the lowest rate possible. Browse more than 140,000 hotels in thousands of locations in Europe and across the globe until you find the hotel that is right for you.

What’s Up With Wasted Dates?

You'll see this all over Phoenix in the late summer. (photo by Balaram Mahalder)

Don’t let the headline fool you. I’m not turning into a dating website (though I offer my friends lots of dating advice that they never take). But dates are on my mind.

The Phoenix area is full of big, beautiful, bountiful date trees. Come the end of summer, they begin to hang heavy with fruit. Before it ripens, though, landscaping crews scurry about. They cut the branches down and toss pounds upon pounds of growing dates into the trash. At grocery stores and farmers markets, these same dates sell for up to $10 a pound.

That’s right: Every date tree that gets pruned is a wasted opportunity -- to make money, to even feed some people. Sure, they’re tasty. They’re also a great source of potassium, iron and fiber. Yet they just wind up in the trash.

To the best of my knowledge, only Arizona State University is smart enough to harvest and sell its dates (and olives!). The university invited volunteers to prune the plants and take the harvest home. Sure, they’re not a revenue source. But at least the dates aren’t feeding and breeding legions of flies in a trash bin.

Every other municipality and property owner with date trees is squandering a great renewable resource. Considering our economy and the growing interest in being green, is there a better time to tap into an easy, ready-made source of urban agriculture?

I’d love to hear from our local city governments and property owners: Why do they allow this waste to continue? Help them do the right thing: Write to your city council representative. Knock on a nearby business owner’s door and say "hey, I’ll harvest ‘em." Figure out a way to harvest your own tree.

Gear Review – Tasc Performance

I have a reflex action every time I see someone sporting those oh-so-trendy Lululemon workout clothes -- a shake of the head. An eyeroll. A muttered-under-my-breath exhalation of "sucker."

Go to any yoga studio or CrossFit gym, though, and you’re sure to see people who paid upward of a hundred clams for the privilege of sporting that omega logo on their workout duds. Why they’re so willing to shell out when there’s a company like Tasc Performance, I’ll never know.

I picked up a bunch of Tasc’s bamboo gear during a blowout sale at Sports Authority -- back when Tasc was known as Thriv (neither name is very good, but I think Thriv fits the eco-friendly vibe better. Clearly, this company needs hard-core, visionary branding consultants.).

Here’s the deal: Bamboo fiber is allegedly less stinky when exposed to sweat than my typical synthetic gear. And it’s soft – like polish-your-camera-lens-with-it soft. I ran a wide range of gear through the ringer -- two fitted t-shirts, two pairs of gym shorts and a pair of fitted boxer-briefs. I didn’t pay more than $20 for any single item (on-sale, but retail prices were still reasonable).

All were ludicrously comfortable. And yes, I noticed that I smelled far less worse when wearing Tasc gear. Here are a few observations about each item.

Hybrid fitted SS Crew – The sleeves are a bit long, coming slightly below the biceps. But that’s no big deal. Perfect performance and fit for yoga, CrossFit, running -- just about anything that breaks a sweat. I can’t think of a single improvement.

Shorts – Off-the-charts comfort, but I want the exact same shorts with two changes: Lose the built-in underwear, and add pockets. Getting rid of the undies means they’ll pair well with the Ventilate compression shorts. Other than that, these are very close to perfect.

Ventilated compression shorts – I wish all my underwear fit this way. But I noticed immediate wear in the meshy area up-front. Nothing should develop a hole by its second use, so some quality control should be high on Tasc’s list.

Other stuff to note: Tasc’s website is a touch clunky; I’m hitting items in the drop-down menu that don’t seem to take me anywhere. The company could also improve and focus its social media efforts: Tasc needs to interact, not just talk about its products. Social media sells me on organizations. A strong social media can encourage me to try a product that I can’t otherwise get my hands on -- the unexpected find of cool bamboo stuff at Sports Authority was fortunate happenstance on both our parts. But I think Tasc needs to work the social media hard to get its name out there more. Especially vital since Tasc sells on its website.

I also wouldn’t mind seeing some pants for hiking and some for yoga, along with socks. This bamboo thing is for-real, and what body part needs anti-stink support more than our feet?

Tasc could use some Twitter followers. Get over there and get them talking!

Remembering a Favorite Veteran

Col. Cecil flew the F-4 Phantom II - is that not an awesome-looking machine?

It’s perfect – a cool-looking bag to stash guitar cables and assorted gear for going out to gigs. In its previous life, it was an Air Force pilot’s helmet bag. I hand $15 to the owner of the antique store and scurry home with my prize.

I rifle through it, discovering all its pockets and nooks and crannies.

Then I feel something – a small, leather rectangle. It’s stuffed into an inside pocket. I yank it out. It read, along with a stamp of senior aviator’s wings:

Cecil (Name Redacted for Privacy)
Lt. Col. USAF

(The actual wording may vary – I don’t have it in front of me right now)

I wonder who this is or was, and how his helmet bag wound up in an antique store. I have a vision of him that I don’t like -- that he sold his possessions because he was down on his luck. This helmet bag seems too cool a memento to give up easily. I wonder if I can track Col. Cecil down and return a bit of his better times in the form of his bag. I can find something else for my music gear.

And sure enough, I find him thanks to the Internet. I call. I explain that I have his bag and wonder if it’s something he regrets parting with. If he does, it’s all his.

As it turns out, Col. Cecil is doing just fine. He just had a bunch of memorabilia and gave that to his son-in-law for his antique store in Phoenix. Col. Cecil is in his 60s -- a former F-4 Phantom II pilot. Recently remarried, living in Texas. But he comes out to Arizona often.

On his next visit, we meet. Col. Cecil spins great stories about flying the Phantom (the afterburners of jealousy are aflame – I’d love just one ride in anything remotely resembling an F-4). He has me howling with his tale of showing up for a formal soiree at the Turkish embassy clad in a custom tuxedo made from camouflage material.

Something funny occurs to me: Will the next senior that irks me for driving 10 miles under the speed limit be the same person who once flew a jet at twice the speed of sound?

Matching Gone Wrong – His and Hers Lingerie in Korea

The thought of wearing undies to match my special lady friend's doesn't sit well with me.

I hope my eyes have malfunctioned. I rub them with my knuckles, blink rapidly, shake my head like a dog shaking water from its fur. And then I re-focus.

Nope. I still see them: Two mannequins, one male, one female. They wear matching lingerie.

I leave the storefront, amazed. And I fervently hope it’s an aberration.

But soon, another storefront. Another set of mannequins in his-and-hers lingerie. Out comes the camera – without proof, nobody will believe me. Being behind a shop window and armed only with the point-and-shoot hampers me (Go to this grrrltraveler.com post for better photos of matching Koreans, plus some other quirks. It’s a very fun post!).

This repeats itself several times a day during my stay in Korea. Once the horror wears off, the amusement sets in.

Then for the coup de grace. I’m at Incheon International Airport waiting to board my Asiana Airlines flight to Los Angeles. I take a short stroll -- and I notice a young Asian couple dressed in matching outfits. And another. And another. And another.

Several couples in, I started counting. Within five minutes, I arrive at my gate. During that time, the count hits 22. I whip out my compact point-and-shoot digital, surreptitiously trying to capture photographic evidence. The late-evening light and attempted stealthiness hamper my effort, and I barely get anything clear.

The winners: a couple wearing matching hoodies emblazoned with Marmite jars and the words "We Like It!".

I have to assume they are the target demographic for the matching lingerie.

Please, please, please – do not let this trend come to the United States.