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Catching up With Carole Terwilliger Meyers | The Berkeley travel maven talks flying, putrid sharks, and webcams.

Adventures are the spice of life. And for most, doing a little bit of planning before takeoff is key. That's where Berkeley's Carole Terwilliger Meyers comes in. She has made a career out of helping would-be wanderers make crucial decisions about their vacations — stuff like whether to take Maui's vaunted road to Hana (Meyers recommends spending the night somewhere along the way, not doing it all in one day — a strategy that's earned the trip the nickname "the road to divorce") or heading over to Molokai to view the still rustic island. Or just vegging by the pool, again. Whatever the final decision, travelers can trust Meyers' take. After all, she's been there, done that. And is perhaps a better person for it. The author of 18 travel tomes, Meyers also freelances for Sunset and other magazines and oversees the popular website Since she's such a seasoned road warrior, I felt it apropos to begin our convo by asking her about flying because, as T.S. Eliot once said, "The journey not the arrival matters."

Paul Kilduff: Obviously, you're on planes a lot. I fly a little bit, and I've got to say that if there was a way to be induced into a coma before boarding and revived upon arrival, that would be fine with me. Do you have any tips for making airline travel more bearable?

Carole Meyers: I think it's getting worse all the time. Most recently when I've flown I haven't been able to watch movies, because either I don't have the right earphones, or they want you to watch on your iPhone or iPad. I'm so confused by that. I've been trying to figure it out, but I haven't succeeded. I just accept that I am going to be stuck in this tube for a while, and I better bring something along to entertain me. So I've been bringing magazines — especially New Yorkers. Then I try to sleep. And I have to bring my own snacks now, too.

PK: With more and more people flying, every flight is packed as the airlines maximize as much space as possible. This makes flying pretty miserable, unless you're in first class. How much of that do you get to do?

CM: Rarely. I've done it a few times in my career. And recently, not at all. It's just too expensive. But there was a time when on press trips, they would put you in first class a lot. I've heard about that. I think I've been on one of those trips. But, because I have never really taken a lot of press trips, I missed out on some of that. I'm against separating people financially.

PK: You need to fly this new airline, Commie Air.

CM: I haven't heard of it. I think you're joking.

PK: That was a little bit of a joke there, yes. What about some of the weirder things you encounter? Like beer bikes? Have you ever done that?

CM: No, I haven't. That's on my bucket list. Maybe we'll see it around here sometime. It looks like lots of fun.

PK: So you would get on a long bike and pedal and drink beer with a bunch of strangers?

CM: Absolutely I would do that. One of the things that I have seen and would never do is be lifted by a crane up to have dinner in the sky. They do that in Las Vegas. There's probably some other places, too. You know what I'm talking about?

PK: No. I'm more of a dinner-on-the-ground kind of guy.

CM: This has been around for a little while.

PK: One of the huge things about traveling is all the new food experiences you're going to have. In Amsterdam this past summer, I had a raw herring sandwich with pickles and onions. Delicious. Ever try that?

CM: I'm not a good one to ask, because I avoid raw seafood. I worry I'm going to get sick from it. But what I have tried in Iceland was putrid shark; they have another name for it. People like to eat it there. They follow it with a liqueur that takes the edge off.

PK: Hold my beer. Putrid what?

CM: It's like rotten shark.

PK: Ewww. You actually put that in your mouth willingly?

CM: I did. Well everybody was doing it, and I thought it's only putrid; it wasn't raw. Maybe it was raw, too. I don't know. It was group pressure. I have to admit that once I had it in my mouth, it was so awful that I excused myself and had to spit it out. It was horrible. I was worried about what would happen if it hit my stomach. And in China, I have to say that I did travel in some areas that I don't think a whole lot of non-Chinese had been to. Some of the things that were served there I did not eat.

PK: Like what?

CM: Things that I couldn't identify.

PK:That's a good rule of thumb — if you can't identify what it is, maybe don't eat it. Thanks to your site, I've became aware of a phenomenon that I didn't know existed: webcam traveling. If you can't afford to do a lot of actual in-the-flesh traveling, you can do it virtually via live webcams set up all over the world.

CM: Yeah. I started that website quite a while ago because I was amazed by the idea that I could see something happening somewhere else in real time. The one that got me started was snow monkeys in Japan. And that's probably still one of the best webcams that I've encountered. It's fun when you're bored. Just go check out what the monkeys are doing. Sometimes they're in the hot tub, and other times, you find people cleaning it.

PK: How often do you check out The Big Texan Steak Ranch steakhouse's eating challenge webcam in Amarillo?

CM: I was just there and was amazed that they had that webcam going. That's a good one.

PK: If you can polish off the entire 72-ounce steak in an hour, it's free. If you can't, you owe $72.

CM: Yes, and not just the steak, but the sides.

PK: And you have to guzzle 12 beers. No. The fact that you can watch that live sounds like hours of fun. Can you think of any others? I'm always looking for new ways to waste time online.

CM: Take a look at the webcam traveler blog. I'm just looking at it myself. One of the things is osprey nesting in Richmond. They're there every year, and you can watch them by webcam. That's a really good way to waste a lot of time, because I'm so interested when they're nesting and the birds are hatching. I like to go there a lot. Another one is Hollywood Boulevard and the Walk of Fame. There's several on New York — Fifth Avenue and Times Square. Those are just some of the ones, but it's a lot of fun to scroll through.


For more Kilduff, visit the “Kilduff File Super Fan Page” on Facebook.

Photo by Sebastian Pacheco.

Carole T. Meyers Vital Stats

Birthplace: San Francisco

Astrological Sign: Cancer

Just do it!

Book on nightstand:
Castle Cats of Britain and Ireland by Richard Surman

Just back from:
Bishop, Mammoth Lakes, Los Angeles, and La Mesa

Off to next:

At top of bucket list:


Local blog:

Rest of the World blog:

The Big Texan Steak Ranch webcam: