March 23, 2006

Arthur Frommer, the Empire State Building and 26 cents

Thank you, Arthur Frommer.

I clicked on "The Top 100 Travel Blogs" in the e-newsletter I get from Arthur Frommer's Budget Travel Online (sign up through the link in my sidebar at right) and found Ribbons of Highway listed in the Dispatches & Reflections category.

I'm honored, because Arthur Frommer has been part of my traveling life for nearly 30 years.

I took Frommer's Europe on $10 a Day, one of the first guidebooks in Frommer's seminal series, on my first foreign foray -- to France, to study at the Sorbonne, in 1978. I lived in Paris for six months and traveled all over Europe, using Frommer's book as my bible. It never steered me wrong.

More than just an old, out-of-date guide, the book represents a watershed mile marker in the journey of my life, and it sits today -- coverless, yellowed, marked-up and dog-eared -- in a place of honor on my travel library shelves.

I take it down now and then and, through its brittling, newsprinty pages, relive those days of vagabonding solo on a shoestring, a shoestring that Arthur Frommer had vetted for me in advance. I trusted his advice. I took the ferries, buses and trains that he wrote about, and I ate and slept in the cheap but clean places he recommended. It all went off without a hitch, and I became a certified travel junkie with a wonderfully incurable case of wanderlust that has brought me some of my life's greatest joy. To say that Arthur Frommer made me what I am today is not total hyperbole. Three decades ago, he turned a curious but inexperienced exchange student into a confident world traveler.

Tomorrow I'm off to the Big Apple for the More Marathon. (For more on More, see these posts: Tour de Central Park; Forrest Gump gone global.)

When I went to New York last year for this race the Marriot gave me room 26o2. Good omen. And when I opened the door to the room, there was the Empire State Building, emitting waves of New York power and energy and shooting them directly into my window. I propped my sneakers up on that 26th-story windowsill and let them soak up the good karma. Power Gel for my feet.

Good luck omens for this Sunday's race? On a recent run I found 26 cents -- a quarter and a penny, both heads up. Must mean something good. I wrapped them in tin foil and will carry them in my fuel belt. People dropped them, but God put them in my path.

Like Room 26o2, divine intervention disguised as serendipity.

I won't be blogging while I'm away, so here are links to a few archive stories you might like:

Switzerland: Horst and the summer snowballs
Boo from Bolivia: Spooktacular souvenirs at the Witches' Market
Tatopani: Balloons and boiled potatoes
India: Pipe cleaners and public shaving
The bear and the seven Sioux sisters
Dead Sea: A day at the beach

Enjoy the stories. And if you think of it, send good vibes in a general Central Park direction this Sunday. I thank you, and my legs thank you.