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My Trip To Old Faithful (Not That Old Faithful)

Earlier this summer, my wife and I journeyed westward to California "“ San Diego, San Francisco and Napa Valley. On the last day of our trip, for two reasons, we required an alcohol-free activity. First, we were pretty wine-tasted out. And second, I had to drive our PT Cruiser convertible 67 miles back to rental car return.

We saw a sign pointing the way to Old Faithful. For about ten seconds, my hungover geography would have made Miss South Carolina cringe. Is Old Faithful really in California? Why wouldn't anyone mention Napa Valley's proximity to Yellowstone?

Wait, there are two Old Faithfuls?

There are indeed. Since we'd never seen a geyser and had eight hours to kill, we put down the top and (PT) cruised toward Calistoga. Here's what we saw.

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Aside from the liberal use of quotation marks, the sign alerted us to the presence of special goats we hadn't expected. I still don't understand their connection to geysers. But it's a fun diversion for the kids, right?

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"With a Fainting goat in the herd if coyotes or dogs threatened the sheep, the sheep could run away while the Fainting goat fell over, providing the predator with an easy meal while the sheep escaped."

This petting zoo was PG-13.

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"They have a genetic problem with relaxing muscles. When they are startled or surprised their muscles lock up and the goat then sometimes falls over."

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Confused and slightly horrified, we moved on. Though at least we were safe should coyotes attack.

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We sat and we waited, not even sure we were looking the right way.

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We absolutely were.

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After a few minutes staring at the water, we took turns having our pictures taken. I'm glad we made the trip. But to steal (and bastardize) a line from Aaron Sorkin, the length of the geyser was way out of proportion to our interest in it. We hit up the snack shop and headed for the Pacific Coast Highway, the long and scenic way back to the airport.

No fainting goat chew toy for Bailey, but we did get her a special Napa souvenir.

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A souvenir she destroyed in roughly 30 minutes.

A few links and we'll call it a post:
"¢ More info on fainting goats.
"¢ The Old Faithful Geyser (of California) website.
"¢ The PT Cruiser convertible.

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©noisytoy.net via Wikimedia Commons // CC-BY-SA-4.0
The People of Texel Island are Professional Beachcombers
©noisytoy.net via Wikimedia Commons // CC-BY-SA-4.0
©noisytoy.net via Wikimedia Commons // CC-BY-SA-4.0

If you’ve ever tossed a message in a bottle into the ocean from anywhere in Northern Europe, it’s likely it ended up on Texel Island. Located off the North Coast of the Netherlands, Texel is at the intersection of several major currents, and close to several shipping routes. For the last 400 years, Texel residents have survived, in part, by scavenging items that have been lost at sea.

According to documentarian Sam Walkerdine in a piece for The Mirror, the practice has faded as other economic opportunities have opened up, but many residents still scour the beaches for lost items. One professional beachcomber, Cor Ellen, claims to have found over 500 bottles with letters inside—and has even answered some of them.

Ellen is one of the subjects of Flotsam and Jetsam (2012), Walkerdine’s 13-minute documentary on the Texel Island beachcombers (you can watch it above). In the film, a handful of Texel Islanders show off their best finds, and share their stories and strange observations. Ellen, for example, brags about scavenging crates of food, fur coats, powdered milk (“I didn’t have to go to the milkman for one year”), and even umbrella handles from passing cargo ships. Another beachcomber reminisces about finding something more personal: the collected photos and memorabilia of an English couple who had broken up and tossed their memories into the sea.

One of the weirder observations comes from Piet Van Leerson, whose family has been beachcombing for at least five generations: he claims that only left shoes wash up on Texel’s shores. The right shoes, meanwhile, end up in England and Scotland. (The shapes cause them to go in different directions.)

Beachcombing is such a big part of life on Texel, they’ve even opened several museums to show off their weirdest, funniest, and most interesting finds.

If you do decide to try and get a bottle with a letter in it to Texel, the residents have a few suggestions for you: drop the bottle somewhere off the coast of England, weigh it down with pebbles so it doesn’t get caught by the wind, and of course, remember to include a return address.

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YouTube / British Movietone / AP
A Film Tour of London in 1981
YouTube / British Movietone / AP
YouTube / British Movietone / AP

Earlier this month, the Associated Press began releasing loads of archival video on YouTube. A large part of that collection comes from British Movietone, which has uploaded thousands of videos of all kinds, including many newsreels.

I have scrolled through countless pages of such videos—most without sound and/or extremely esoteric—and I finally discovered a 1981 gem, This is London. It's a sort of video time capsule for London as it was in the late 1970s and early 1980s, comprising plenty of stock footage of all the sights, royals, and ceremonies you can imagine.

If you've been to London, this is a great glimpse of what it once looked like. If you've never been, why not check out London circa 1981?

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