The Mobile Lawyer

has been moved to new address

Sorry for inconvenience...

The Mobile Lawyer -- One Lap, No Jetlag: December 2009

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Sick, sick, ill people

Dec 30, 2009 – The Courier-Mail, Brisbane, Australia page 5

“As two sisters lay dying in their burning car and their mother begged for help, onlookers filmed the accident on their mobile phones.

Four men risked their lives to rescue Debbie and Dave Bridge after their car and two other vehicles were hit by a petrol tanker near Batesman’s Bay in southern New South Wales on Monday afternoon.

The men, including the sisters’ uncle Frank Montgomery, who was traveling in a family convoy after Christmas celebrations in Victoria, were unable to reach the couple’s two daughters, Makeely, 13 and Jordan, 11.

‘There was a lot of people around on the northern end of the incident taking photos or filming it,’ said one of the four men, Blair McDonald.

Another witness, Emily Harrison, also saw people filming the crash.

‘It will probably be on YouTube. When we were walking away there was a girl smiling with her phone,’ she said.”

There is a special place in hell. A very special place in hell for these people.


Sunday, December 27, 2009

Photo of the Day: Zebras + H2O

From New-Old

Labels: ,

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Video of the Day: Mongolian music

Loved this guy and the sounds he could make. The combo of noises he can get from a three string (I think) instrument and his voice.... amazing.

Labels: , ,

Photo of the Day: Thailand Underwater

From Thai Underwater

Labels: ,

Friday, December 25, 2009

Photo of the Day: Open this door!

From New-Old

Stone Town, Zanzibar

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Photo of the Day: Sunsets

A few sunset (and sunrise) shots from the many I've taken on the trip. More later, but here are four for starters.


Friday, December 18, 2009

Photo of the Day: Hoi An

From Hoi An

Labels: ,

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Photo of the Day: Okavango Delta

From New-Old

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Avoidable mistakes

I have no been on the road for more than a year and think I have learned a fair bit about travel and backpacking.

The topic is avoidable mistakes that we've all made on the road. Learn from our mistakes. I hate top "10" (or whatever number) lists -- so fellow bloggers, post up as many mistakes you've made as you like. I think I'll go with three.

(1) Don't drive a car after dark in a rural Australia. This recent one is simple and was the impetus for me wanting to start this tag-along blog. I recently rented a car in Brisbane for the 3,000 kilometer drive to Alice Springs, to see Uluru and some of the Outback. I was told that kangaroos are a threat on the road, but was not told that they appear to swarm at night. You can certainly hit them in the daytime, but at night. . . it seems like a certainty you are going to hit one. Related tip on this topic -- car rental insurance is a scam, but get it here if you rent a car. Hitting the 'Roo in Oz

(2) I don't make many travel plans or do much research before I get to a place -- I like to wing it a bit -- but I have learned my lesson about visas. Check and double check. Do not trust guidebooks. If you have any doubts, go to or call the country's embassy you are trying to get into. Check the Thorn Three forum on and see what recent travelers have to say about the current requirements. I learned this hard lesson when I took a three day overland trip from Nairobi to the Kenya/Ethiopia border. Two of those days were hitchhiking on top of a cargo truck. Literally, on top. The U.S. Embassy in Nairobi incorrectly told me I could get a visa at the border. The Lonely Planet guidebook (circa 2005) said the same thing. Stupidly, I did not check with the Ethiopian Embassy in Nairobi. Turns out that you can't get a visa at arrival at any of the overland borders into Ethiopia, only the Addis Ababa airport. It was an incredible, incredible hassle. After getting stranded at the border, I tried to beg my way across and also tried to bribe the border agent. Neither worked and I eventually got lucky and hitched my wagon to a Brit in the same situation, with one difference -- he was very well connected. His friends got us across. Kenya/Ethiopia

(3) Carry U.S. dollars with you at all times. Guard them. Do not change them, if you can use an ATM and get cash that way. The Dollar is still the King out there -- though the current exchange rate is absolutely horrid. When in a crunch, everyone that will do something for you is going to want dollars to do it -- or at least they will take dollars. No one turns down the greenback. My particular problem was that I didn't know that until I had already run out in Ethiopia. After running out, I simply couldn't get more -- no one would change the local currency to dollars. In fact, the Ethiopian government wouldn't even take their own money for the visa fee; they only accepted dollars. Yes, they wouldn't take their own money. Luckily, I found a great cabbie that was able to buy some dollars for me on the black market, or I still might be trapped there. The Almighty Dollar

Funniest sign ever?

try not to laugh -- I dare ya.


Your first excellent wine

As I sit here in my cabin on the CAP Capricorn steaming through the middle of the Philippines on my way to Australia, I am writing this and drinking a bottle of fairly poor red wine. And looking forward to many weeks of excellent wine drinking upcoming in Australia and New Zealand.

Many of my friends and family back home have asked what I missed most in the year that I’ve been traveling. Frankly, the list is fairly short. I am a sports fan in the traditional fan sense, which means fanatic, so I certainly miss watching my teams play, especially since it appears that my beloved Texas Longhorns are going to play for the National Championship in (American) football in a few weeks. The game is going to be at the Rose Bowl. I went to the last National Championship game that Texas played in that very stadium a few years back. I sat in the end zone that Vince Young scored the winning touchdown, in what is quite likely to be the best football game I will ever see in my entire lifetime. If I was back home, I’d be back in Southern California rooting my team on at the Rose Bowl again. I am going to miss being at that game.

The two things that are currently foremost in my mind on my ‘miss list’ are two of my larger remaining vices after a long life of vice, good wine and a reasonably priced cigar. There have been a few countries that I’ve traveled through that have been able to fulfill my wine requirement: Chile, Argentina, South Africa, Hungary, and Germany. Unfortunately, there have also been large swaths of my trip where a good wine, like a good woman as the saying goes, is hard to find. Actually now that I think about it, I think the saying might be “a good man is hard to find.” Regardless, wine is an even tougher quest in most of the backpacker world.

The problem with finding cigars on the road is that it is very difficult to find anything but a Cuban cigar, and finding those is really only possible in major cities after asking dozens of people where a cigar store can be found. Cubans have the well deserved reputation of being the best cigars in the world. My personal all-time favorite cigar is a Montecristo #2. The issue with Cubans is simple: cost. They are way, way expensive. They are the best, but they simply aren’t worth the money. In Hong Kong, I smoked a nice Montecristo #2 in the Pacific Cigar Club (thank you very much for the invite Marc), bought his husband a Cohiba, and bought three Montecristo #4s for the boat ride and it set me back just under $100.

Now I love a good cigar as much as the next addict, but since I’ve yet to win the lottery, get a screenplay or book sold, or settled a good class action case, that’s a bit much to be spending. Back home, I smoke a good, solid Nicaraguan cigar: Padron. A box of 26 runs me about $120 or so. Given that I was on about a two cigar a day habit right before the trip, that is a much more doable budgetary item than buying Cubans, but it is almost impossible to find non-Cuban, and therefore reasonably priced, cigars out here.

A good bottle of wine is much easier to find than a good cigar and like I said, I simply cannot wait for Australia and New Zealand for that reason, among a few others. What prompted this particular meandering blog was my taking a sip of the wine that I’m subjected to on this voyage and having a flashback to the bottle of wine that turned me in a wine lover. My first truly sublime bottle of wine.

I have liked wine from close to the beginning of my drinking days. As most do with wine, I started with sweeter white wines, moved to drier white wines and finally made it around to red wines. That is where I happily reside now. So happily, in fact, that I am quite likely to eventually be the person at the AA meeting that stands up and says, “Hi, my name is Michael and I’m an alcoholic. . . but I’m just not going to be able to give up the reds.” I can easily imagine giving up beer, gin and bourbon, but a really rich, big, energetic, properly aged red wine? I simply don’t think I’m strong enough to say no.

In college, my very good friend, Doug, and I took some wine classes. As I recall, we ended up taking three or four of them. They were continuing adult education classes at the University of Texas that took place in the evenings, on campus, but taught by local wine distributors. Twenty years later, I can still recall two eye opening wines I had in the course of those classes: a Penfolds Grand Hermitage and my first Sauternes.

The Penfolds was my first massive wine. Big, muscular, and highly tannic. You took a small sip and it assaulted you. The flavors were so large. It is simply a big, big wine and one that needs to be cellared for a decade, at least, before it is truly drinkable. I remember our teacher opening it up and telling me that I would really enjoy it, because I’d shown a preference towards big, powerful wines in the preceding classes. He was right. It wasn’t ready to drink – it was far too tannic and the wine needed years to mellow out and let those flavors blend – but it was so easy to image what that wine was going to taste like when it grew up and matured.

Maturity is not an overrated quality in wines, politicians, dating partners or barbers.

Sauternes is a wine region in France and also a type of wine. It’s a white, desert wine. He explained that to us before he poured it and I said that I didn’t like sweet wines anymore (which is even more true now), but he told me to give it a try anyway. “It’s a desert wine, but it is not simply a sugary, sweet wine. It has more fruit flavor that you’ll ever taste in any other varietal.” I tried it. I loved it. Every wine lover that I’ve introduced it to (even if they also hate sweet wines) has agreed with my assessment.

It is the nectar of the Gods.

I was in Maine on time on a road trip with my brother and his then-girlfriend a few years ago. In Bar Harbor, we had dinner at a Cuban restaurant. After dinner I wanted an after dinner drink and asked for the drink menu. They had Château Y’Quem.

A brief explanation. There are five Premier Cru wineries in Bordeaux, France as determined by a centuries-old grading and rating process. Bordeaux rating system link If you like wine a bit, you have heard of these wineries: Lafite Rothschild, Margaux, Latour, Haut-Brion, and Mouton-Rothschild. All of them got their Grand Cru designation by making incredibly good, big, red wines that can be kept for decades and decades.

Château Y’Quem is the exception. They got the highest possible designation for wine making in Bordeaux, by producing a desert wine. They are the only Premier Cru Superieur wine – the only one. A bottle of a recent vintage will run you $400-500 or so. At this restaurant, they were offering an ounce for $60. An ounce, not a glass (which is about a four ounce pour). It wasn’t even a decision. It had to be done.

My brother is not a huge wine fan and he thought I was an idiot for paying that much for a few sips of wine. Then he tasted it. He wanted to save most of it for me, so he just took a small bit into his mouth. I’d told him to let it roll around his mouth for a bit, so he could taste all the different flavors. Then I saw the smile start on his face. His eyes closed for a brief second. He swallowed it, still smiling, and a wine conversion was in his eyes.

“Yea. Wow. Apricots. Apples. Cherries. You think Tangerines?”
“I think so. Did you get green apples or red?”
“Both. Is that weird?”
“No. It is the nectar of the Gods.”
“Brother man, can’t argue with ‘ya.”

All this being said, none of those wines was the one that I recall as my first truly sublime bottle of wine. After college, I moved to Washington D.C. and worked on Capitol Hill for about four years. My father had business in the area, so he would fly up every few months and we would go to dinner. One night, he had a small group of business partners to dinner and took them and me to the Georgetown Club. The Georgetown Club is a private dining club that is housed in four adjacent buildings, now connected. Two of the buildings used to be bordellos back in the day. It is a unique dining experience.

When you arrive, you are escorted to one of the many seating areas somewhere on the ground floor of one of the buildings. You sit down on one of the couches or chairs and your waiter comes up and takes your initial drink order. After bringing those drinks back, the waiter then verbally goes over the menu for the evening and asks for your selections. Your group then comfortably enjoys a few drinks in your personal living room until your food is ready. Then, the waiter escorts you to one of the private dinning rooms, where your initial course is already plated and ready for you.

I miss the Georgetown Club. Maybe I just miss the memory after so many years, but the concept is so comfortably civilized.

In any case, on this evening, our group was about ten people or so, and our dining room was one of the wine cellars. The waiter seated us and then asked if we’d like to order some wine with dinner. One of my father’s friends said he knew I was a wine fan, so I should order for the table. The waiter handed me a huge wine menu and told me he would be back in a few minutes for my selection.

The menu must have been fifty pages long. There were hundreds of wines organized by type, grape and region. I flipped quickly through to ascertain my general options and then came to a section in the back titled “Reserve Selections.” Now we were talking.

One of the reasons, as a wine lover, that I love the Georgetown Club concept is that it is a private club. Members pay an annual fee. I have no idea what that fee is, but I’m assuming it is fairly substantial, because one of the benefits of membership is that the prices one pays for wine are not ‘restaurant inflated.’ Every bottle of wine you buy at a normal restaurant is two or three times the price that you would pay for the same bottle retail, if you could find it. Wine is one of the highest profit margin items you can buy when eating out – ergo the push to buy a bottle when you eat most anywhere.

I looked at the reserve list and saw a number of names I recognized – Latour, Lafitte Rothschild, Opus One, Penfolds and so on. And these wines weren’t newborns. You could get wines bottled in the 50s, 60s or 70s. The prices for most were obviously out of the question -- $400-$1000 – even without ‘restaurant inflation.’

With one exception. There was a 1974 Château Marguex listed for $140. I had done a little reading about wines at that point. As I recalled, 1974 wasn’t a ‘great’ year for wine. I couldn’t have cared less. This was a twenty-year old First Growth Bordeaux for under $150.

The waiter came back over and asked me if I’d made a selection. I asked him if they still had the Marguex and pointed to it on the menu. He said, “excellent choice sir. I believe we have two bottles left. Perhaps given the size of your party, I should bring both.”

“O’ yes, I think that you should.”

He came back a few minutes later with two bottles of wine cradled in his arms like infants. As he blew the dust off the first bottle to show me the label, my father finally started paying attention and said, “Michael, what the fuck have you done?!” I promised him that it was an incredible bargain. I might have even said I’d pay for the bottles myself if he thought they weren’t worth it. Frankly, I doubt it, but one of the glories about old memories is that you always look much better in posterity in the history of your life contained in the bookshelf of your mind.

I do know that I got clearance from him or whoever was paying for the tab, because the waiter opened the wine and poured me a small sample to taste. It was the first red wine that I’d ever tasted that was finished.

Finished, at least as I use the term, has a specific meaning. Most every red wine that you or I have ever had in your life could use some years in a wine cellar. Red wines, at least the good ones, mature over time. The harshness of the tannic acids eventually falls out. The flavor of the wine becomes more balanced. Instead of hitting you in the face, the wine will tickle your pallet. Tease you a bit. Muscle and energy becomes subtlety and nuance. There is an elegance to a finished wine that simply does not exist in youth, though youth does have it’s own attributes.

There is a great line from Alas, Babylon that I recall that goes something like this: “Breasts are for boys. Legs are for men.” Huge young, muscular, energetic young wines are the large breasts of the wine world. I’m a leg man myself.

This was my first finished wine. It was done. It was ready. There was no bitterness or acid at all. The flavors simply melted in your mouth. The various flavors of the grape were there, forward, but not obnoxious. This wine had grown and matured in its twenty years lying down. It was time. And I was a lucky recipient that evening of its gift.

The group had a wonderful dinner, enjoyed our two bottles of our ’74 Château Marguex (and a few others after that), and as I recall, no one complained about paying the tab. But I do remember that I wasn’t one of the ones throwing a credit card down. Youth does have some benefits.

I’m curious from any other wine fans out there. Do you remember any bottle of wine in particular?


Photo of the Day: Sunset Elephant

From New-Old

Labels: ,

Photo of the Day: Bushman

From New-Old

Labels: ,

Travel Tip: Rental Car Insurance in Oz

My cargo freighter arrived in Brisbane, Australia on the morning of December 13th. I found my way into town and got a room at a local hostel. The owners were reported to be very helpful about travel plans, which was important to me, since I had no idea how I was going to spend my next couple weeks. I had a last-minute harebrained thought (par for the course for me) to rent a car and drive to Alice Springs to go see Ayers Rock/Uluru (Link Uluru).

There were a couple factors running around in my head. I hadn't driven on this trip, except for one day in Capetown. I am am American, which means I am addicted to driving -- and in my case, it is really true -- I love driving. I wanted the freedom of being able to pull off the road whenever I wanted. And I wanted to see some of the Australian interior, which even most of my new Australian friends haven't done.

I asked the two owners of the hostel, Wendy and Chris, about renting a car and whether it would be possible to get from Brisbane to Ayers Rock by the next evening, my 42th birthday. They said they thought it was about 2,000 kilometers and they would check on rental car prices for me while I pulled some stuff up on the internet about other options and made my decision. 2,000 kilometers is about 1,200 miles. That's a pretty easy two day drive in my book. Assuming I could get an early start on the 14th, sunset at Ayers Rock/Uluru might even be possible. Sign me up.

Chris told me that they couldn't get a hold of their friend with the good rental car deals until the next morning. They also pulled up the map to Alice Springs (the nearest town to Uluru) and it showed a distance of 2,500. Still feasibly doable in two days, but making sunset at Uluru didn't seem likely. As I went to bed on the 13th, in my head, I'd decided that if the rental fee was $50 or less per day, I'd go for it.

The next morning, I was told the rental fee for unlimited mileage was $54 per day. That included $18 per day for insurance. Now, I hate insurance. Rental car insurance is a horrible, horrible scam. One of the worst value things you can ever buy (right up there with extended warranties). Plus, I'm incredibly lucky. I was going to have the car for about 10 days and not getting the insurance would save me almost $200, which is real money for sure. I asked them if the drivers in Australia were bad enough where I should worry about insurance and they both said, "it's not the other drivers, it's the kangaroos." Apparently, there are kangaroos everywhere in the hinterlands and they regularly just jump across the roads and run into cars. Chris said that he has run into one before, but only one. He said it was a real risk though. He also pointed out that if a rock chipped the windshield, the insurance would pay for itself. If I paid the $200 for the insurance, the maximum I would be out in case of an accident would be the $330 deductible. If i didn't get the insurance, I would be maxed out at $3,000 in case of an accident.

I decided to get the insurance. Good idea.

Basically, I have no idea how people do NOT hit kangaroos, at least on the roads that I was on. I must have seen 200 of them in a stretch of a hundred kilometers at one point. They just sit on the side of the road. You have no idea when they will hop across the road. They are incredibly erratic and you cannot predict what direction they are going. Hell, I was lucky to hit only one of them, but it was a big one.

Vital tip. You simply cannot drive at night. During the day I haven't seen as many of them as the one night I drove (and hit one). For what it's worth, I haven't seen too many of them in the far interior, but they seem to roam in packs and I bet I just haven't run across any big packs in the last couple days. There have been at least 300 'roo carcasses I have seen on the road in three days. It is amazing.

As to the trip, it was a hell of a lot longer than 2,500 kilometers. Turns out that route was about 1,000 kilometers of non-sealed (meaning dirt or gravel) road. I didn't figure that out until I was about to turn down that way and looked at an atlas during a gas station stop. So I stayed on the main sealed road route and the total mileage is going to end up being about 3,500 kilometers each way from Brisbane to Uluru. I am writing this from Alice Springs -- it took me three full days of driving to get here. Uluru is about 450 more kilometers from here.

Putting that mileage into some perspective for my U.S. readers: 3,500 kilometers each way/7,000 total = 4,350 miles total. NYC to LA is 2,800 miles. So I'm doing NYC to LA then back to Houston. In about 9-10 days. Seriously.

Australia is big.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Photo (s) of the Day: Hoi An, Vietnam

Labels: , ,

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Photo of the Day: African plains

From New-Old

Labels: , ,

Picture of the Day: Namibia

From New-Old

Labels: , ,

Dream World on Anti-Malaria Meds

One of the listed side effects for the malaria medication I was taking in South America was vivid dreams ( That turned out to be fabulously true in my case. The dreams were so great, I am wondering if my doctor will prescribe me some more pills when I get home.

I made the mistake of not writing down the notes of these dreams when I woke up, so I can’t relate most of them, but I did wake up one morning on my ship taking me from Brasil to South Africa and jotted down a few notes from the last of them, as I was to switch to another type of anti-malarial in Africa.

One of my friends, I could not either recognize or remember whom, was telling me about their previous trip to South Africa. She was standing over a table on which was what appeared to be a board game, though there weren’t any pieces on the board. The board was a map of the world, like a Risk board. As she gestured towards the South Africa on the map she said:

“As you roll the two dice to see if you can enter South Africa, you should scream ‘Hello Grand' mum – you should have worn more eye shadow!!’”

I picked the dice, rolled them, and made a last second decision to audible to rouge instead. Gotta do it on my terms, of course. I rolled a 5 and a 3 and was permitted entry.

I thanked the official in the three piece suit that had appeared to grant me entry and turned back to thank my friend for her advice. She was gone.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Mongolian Hip-Hop


Photo of the Day: Volcan Pacaya

From Volcan Pacaya

best way to roast a little treat. . .

Labels: , , ,