Presidential Pandemic Pandemonium? Or...? How About an Epic Olympic Retreat!


I present you two distinct choices!

How you vote to spend the next ten minutes of your life will decide the fate of your day, your week, your month, your year, your life, our country, our democracy ... nay ... life on Planet Earth! As we know it!

In FACT! Your vote will literally decide the future of HYPERBOLE!

Vote once my friend, and vote wisely.

Repeat after me:

I, <insert your name here>, being of sound mind and body, hereby choose to spend the next ten minutes of my life:

A. Fretting about the Tumultuous Train of Presidential Pandemic Pandemonium barreling into the station that is our nation, at full speed and with no brakes!

B. Curling-up into the deep, warm trance of a voyage on the TourAlong Train, rolling along ... with soothing rhythm ... on tracks kissed by the morning dew



Sane people, like you, correctly voted for choice B! And to celebrate your success, pour yourself a big ol' cup of your favorite pandemic beverage, take a satisfying sip, relax, and close your eyes. Your TourAlong choo-choo train has arrived ...


In this edition, we conquer an Oregon volcano, relax lakeside in Montana, and explore Washington's Olympic National Park!

Best of all, it's presented in the ever popular picture-n-caption format for easy reading!

Let's go!

Shall we?

All aboard! Woo! WOOOOOOO!


At 29,029 feet, Mt. Everest is just slightly taller than Oregon's Mt. Bachelor (9,068 ft.). Mt. Everest, however, does not have a ski lift going to its summit. Take THAT, Everest! I bet you don't feel so tall NOW!

Our mission? To climb to Bachelor's snow line and ascend even higher into thin atmosphere, into ... the DEATH ZONE!

Our guides? My 8th grade math teacher, climbing mentor, long-time friend, and all around good guy, Gary Clark, and his better half, Lynn.

The date? July 3rd, 2020. No date in July will ever be more important or more celebrated!

NEWS FLASH 12.8.2020: NPR reports China and Nepal have revised Everest's height TWO FEET higher! The peak is now officially 29,031.69 feet above sea level! WaHoo!

Just when we began to feel comfortable gloating about our skilled alpinism and superior ability to acclimatize to the rarefied air, some guy (let's call him Jean-Claude) swooshed by. 

You see, SOME PEOPLE have to show off. Jean-Claude scaled Bachelor hauling his skis and boots with him, and THEN took the easy way down. What a wimp. 

Just as wimpy were the people who JOGGED to the summit for "fun." Get a life, LOSERS!

As proof of our conquest, the panoramic image above features Natalie, Lynn, and Gary. 15-mile-per-hour gale force winds, mind-numbing temperatures in the mid-forties, and air devoid of any oxygen made our summit celebration brief. In the distance, more of the Cascade's volcanoes are visible. Wikipedia lists 13 official volcanoes in the range, seven of which have erupted within the past 200 years! Of course, there are many lesser volcanoes in the range, but they're very old and live in a retirement home just south of Seattle. Can you imagine the smell of rotten eggs in THAT place? OMG! Eeew! 


Looks can be deceiving. Pictured here, Natalie's impressive multitasking talent is on display at Montana's Flathead Lake. How many simultaneous actions is she engaged in? Can you tell?

Two? Three? More?

How about TEN!

Let's go over the list, shall we?

1. Holding her phone
2. Holding the beach towel in place
3. Keeping the water in the lake
4. Maintaining the sun's safe distance from the Earth
5. Creating clouds
6. Directing the movement of the clouds
7. Overseeing the growth of each individual blade of grass
8. Stopping the chairs from changing color
9. Keeping Lilly, the Wonder Dog, on a sit
10. Sipping wine

I challenge anyone to top that!

Lilly, on the other hand, chooses not to multitask. There's no question that she CAN multitask, but she prefers to concentrate on one thing at a time. As clearly seen in the photo, Lilly is looking left. At that precise moment there was no dog, anywhere, looking to the left with more intensity than Lilly.

Good dog!


It's time to head to the dining car to refresh your pandemic beverage and grab a nutritious snack (I suggest Cheetos, the Dangerously Cheesy snack) and then find the seat reserved exclusively for you in the 
TourAlong Train's first-class cabin!

Hold on to your hats because the main event is about to begin: The TourAlong Train's EPIC OLYMPIC ADVENTURE!

What? A vacation in the middle of Terrifically Terrifying Presidential Pandemic Pandemonium?

Yes! And you know a vacation is EXACTLY what you need!

So settle into your reclining chair, soak in the view from the panoramic window and relax ... your experienced engineer is dedicated to keeping this train on track.


Before starting an Olympic-sized adventure on the TourAlong Train, you need an Olympic-sized meal ... prepared by Chef Simon!

This adventure's Welcome Dinner featured Katsudon and SPAM Musubi. Katsudon? I don't care what that is because SPAM Musubi features SPAM!* Made of a bed of sticky rice, a thin but potent layer of wasabi, and SPAMall wrapped in that odd seaweed stuffSPAM Musubi is to die for! GO SPAM!

And KUDOS to Chef Simon!

*Oddly enough, Wikipedia classifies SPAM as food! (

Every good adventure begins by leaving a port. On this trip, it's the port of Seattle! Home of a software company we love to hate, a turbo-charged caffeinated coffee shop, an unbelievably massive consumer products shipping company, and quite possibly the best band around ... Death Cab for Cutie!

Au revoir Seattle! It's time for the Olympic Peninsula and Olympic National Park!*

Olympic National Park was established a national monument in 1909, and then became a national park in 1938, featuring three distinct ecosystems: glaciated mountains, temperate forests, and Pacific coastline. Visiting the peninsula means rolling dice with the weather gods. You see, it rains in the Olympics, a lot! How much? How about 150 rainy days annually, dropping a total of 56 inches of precipitation (up to 400 inches of snow in the mountains).

As luck would have it, we arrived during a period of perfect fall weather.

*A special thank you to Natalie's dad and mom, Elwyn and Dixie Johnson, for inspiring this Olympic National Park TourAlong.

The four cabooses that make up this train may be stationary today, but they represent a long history of the Olympic Line extending from Discovery Bay to Port Angeles, transporting timber from the Pacific Northwest's forests to Seattle. These cars have had a varied life since the line's retirement ... and their current life? Welcome to Discovery Bay Cannibis! I'm pretty sure patrons of this "Canniboose" go on a wide variety of highly adventurous and colorful trips daily! 

Hurricane Ridge! Our first official stop on this TourAlong! At the height of the season, throngs of visitors gaze at distant Mt. Olympus, assuming it can been seen at all, depending on the moods of the weather gods. And from what does Hurricane Ridge derive its name? Silly me! It's the gale force winds and otherwise crappy weather that frequents the area all year long.*

Pictured above, Natalie and Simon hike the completely paved Hurricane Hill Trail. Don't let the pavement fool you though because this trail has some seriously steep sections.

*Except in this case, in which there was not a FREAKING SINGLE CLOUD IN THE SKY making taking interesting photographs a difficult proposition!

Like my mom always said, "Stay away from benches at Hurricane Ridge. You never know who's been licking them!"

The logging town of Forks may not be scenic, but its location is ideal for exploring the park's Rialto Beach and Hoh Rainforest. More importantly, the Twilight film series—cherished by teenage girls and abhorred by teenage boys—theoretically takes place in Forks. The fact that none of the five movies were filmed in Forks hasn't stopped the town from cashing in on the phenomenon. Looking for something to do September 9-12, 2021? Get yourself on over to the Forever Twilight in Forks FestivalAnd when you're planning your trip, make Woodland Inns your home away from home! As you can see, Simon and Natalie felt quite at ease on the porch of our cabin. Woodland Inns are brand new, extremely well appointed, and their attention to cleanliness appeals to the Todd in everyone!

Here's an uncommon sight on the Olympic Peninsula: A sunny day in the rainforest! This spot was a total surprise during a spur-of-the-moment drive up the Sol Duc River. But the best thing about this stop were the cascades ...

Salmon are pretty amazing fish. They can fly AND they taste great! My preference? That they filet and BBQ themselves as they fly ... into my mouth! We witnessed them engaging in their final journey as they flew upstream into incredibly tall and fast-moving cascades at the Sol Duc River Salmon Cascades. Flying into my mouth is SO much easier.

Some salmon like to show off, like this one, "Pinky," performing a Side Flappity Flop Double-Fly Flip Fling, first executed by Charlie the Tuna at the 1976 Oceana Olympics. Pinky received a score of 8.5 and was immediately fileted, BBQ'd, and guided to my mouth. 


What adventure into a rainforest would be complete without posing for a photo in front of a giant tree? The answer is NO adventure ever! And so it was. It's hard to imagine that, not so long ago, train cars of the Olympic Line were loaded with giants like this one, freshly cut and ready for consumption around the world. Today, Olympic National Park is a refuge for these remarkable lords of the forest.

Look closely! Those trees are lined up in a row for a reason: They have all grown from, and on top of, their fallen "mother tree." How cool is that!

Holy logs, Batman! The Welcoming Committee at Rialto Beach has gone out of their way to make us feel right at home, don't ya think? Beware ... BEACH LOGS KILL! Swimming and wading are dangerous! Riptides!!!

I'm surprised they didn't include what my mom always said: "Swimming at Rialto Beach right after eating will put your eye out!"

Sea stacks at Rialto Beach on another BORINGLY sunny day. Hey! Nobody's ever taken this shot! (seriously, click the link). I Googled fun facts about sea stacks and didn't come up with much, but I did see the question, "Where can sea stacks be found?" Now THAT'S a head scratcher! 

OK, I give up. What exactly IS this stuff? If you've been to the beach, you've seen it, but what exactly IS it?

Let's consider a few of the possibilities, shall we?

Is it? ...

Our nine-day trip to the Olympic Peninsula and Olympic National Park ended at Long Beach where we met up with lifelong friends, Hal and Mindi Logan. After playing the dice game Farkle many times via video chats since March, it was a breath of fresh air to meet in person amidst our collective reality of pandemic living and all of the joys of quarantines. On this day, though it was misty, there was no wind, which technically qualifies the day as "Sunny!" on the Washington coast!


Well there you have it! The TourAlong Train is rolling back into the station and it's time to gather your luggage and prepare to disembark. Thanks for coming along with us to a new spot. Will we return? Yes, we will! Olympic National Park is EPIC!

I hope this respite let you forget—at least for the past 10 minutesabout the Tumultuous Train of Presidential Pandemic Pandemonium we've been so thoroughly entertained by this year. Where THAT train wreck ends up is anyone's guess. As for me? I'm going to stick to making sure the TourAlong Train stays on track ... and that you're along for the ride.

There's more TourAlong news on the way!

Until then ~ Ciao!

You can now return safely to the world of HYPERBOLE!


Like the TourAlongWithTodd blog and want to keep up to date? Here are three easy options!
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No perch is too high or too fraught with danger for the intrepid photographer! Simon snapped this photo of me shooting surf and mist at Dungeness Spit near Sequim. 

On the other hand, the tide was coming in and bad thoughts began crossing my mind ... "Falling into the surf with a camera and iPhone during our first day on the peninsula would be considered poor form ... and wet too!" Simon forever captured my hasty retreat.


And now, it's time for another brief episode of FUN WITH NUMBERS!

This time, it's with AMAZON MUSIC!

We recently purchased an Amazon Echo Dot. You know, the fun little hockey puck device that surveilles everything you say in exchange for playing Amazon Music? Well, did you also know Amazon Music comes with 6 millions songs for free but if you pay Jeff Bezos $7.99 a month you get 60 million songs?

That's so AWESOME! Thank you Jeff!

But let's dig deeper via a math word problem, shall we?

OK! Here we go!

If an average song lasts four minutes, and you have 60 million to listen to, how long would it take to listen to all of them sequentially if you're riding on a train that left Seattle on a sunny Sunday at noon and arrived in New York City the following Friday at 1:00 p.m.? (Hint: Remember to take into account the four-hour time zone difference, the Daylight Saving Time charade we continue to put up with, and the fact that it's never sunny at noon on a Sunday in Seattle!).

And the answer is?

456 YEARS! (really, do the math)

I think I'll stick with six million songs for free! That's only 45.6 years of nonstop listening. I'd better get to work!

Stay safe... ~ Todd

Magical Mystery TourAlong!

There's nothing quite as magical as Portugal's lush tropical island of Madeira, or as mysteriously magnificent as Switzerland's Lauterbrunnen valley. Three weeks exploring these two unique versions of paradise is exactly what we need ...

Let's GO!

Oh! NO!

It turns out there are some things you just can't predict. Like the bottom of the stock market, or what a very stable genius might tweet in the middle of the night, or when the next pandemic will sweep over the world.

Like everyone, we hoped the outbreak of a new virus would be kept in check. By early March, the world was beginning to shut down. The inevitable decision was made for us when Portugal established a 14-day mandatory quarantine for anyone entering the country.

Madeira and Switzerland would have to wait.

It sucks to cancel an adventure that's so close you can taste it. But that pales in comparison to millions of people becoming seriously ill, suddenly unemployed, or worse. So suck it up, buttercup! Europe will still be there when this epoch is finally in the past. 


In this edition, we'll do a brief flyby of Madeira and the Lauterbrunnen Valley, and then we'll take a deep dive into big numbers. That's right, big numbers!

So come along on this Magical Mystery TourAlong ... won't you?

Grab a cup of your favorite beverage, maintain a distance of at least six feet from your screen, and wrap your breathing holes in a protective mask!

Let's GOOOO!!!!

(Don't forget to click the links! They're a BIG part of this TourAlong!)


Our Hike!

The Pico do Arieiro - Pico Ruivo trek was going to be the highlight of our stay on Madeira. Or maybe it would have been the food. Or maybe "glamping" in a yurt perched on a seaside cliff!

The Marco Polo travel guide to Madeira is a great source of information, but by far our favorite source is the Stay Classy VLOG series by Amalie and Joen. Originally from Denmark, this couple has a super fun way of presenting Madeira and all of Portugal. I invite you to take our hike from the comfort of your quarantined La-Z-Boy Recliner! Here's the episode: The Jurassic Park of Europe.

Or, watch Exploring FUNCHAL of MADEIRA (an endlessly charming city) for an entertaining introduction to Funchal, Madeira's main city.

It's way too easy to go down a deep rabbit hole with Amalie and Joen's seemingly endless series of travel videos!

(And seriously, the photo above is on the Pico do Arieiro - Pico Ruivo hike!)

(Image credit:

Oh Lauterbrunnen! How I Yodel for Thee!

The quintessential Swiss valley of Lauterbrunnen has become our spot in the Alps. It has everything: clifftop villages, glaciated mountains, verdant valley floors, and cows that produce fresh warm chocolate milk and creamy fondue cheese every morning! You didn't know that about Swiss cows, now did you!

Better still! In Switzerland, all the the women wear dirndls and all the men wear lederhosen!

And did you know all Swiss babies are born yodeling. They ARE!
"Yodel lay hee yodel lay hee yodel lay hee hooooo!" 

Heidi and Hans

Heidi and Hans are proof that all Swiss are young and good looking!

Like all Swiss women, Heidi gathers fresh warm chocolate milk and creamy fondue cheese from cows every morning. Her hobbies? Serving steins* of beer to thirsty travelers and making chocolate!

And Hans? Hans works in a bank where he hides stacks of cash rich people give him. His hobbies? Making watches and pocket knives!

Heidi and Hans let people like us visit their country because they can't help being polite and they like our money.

Yodel lay hee hooooo!

*Did you know the word stein is an English term for a beer mug and is not used in German speaking regions? I just learned this!


But enough of boring travel dreams ...

Let's take a TourAlongDeTour and get into playing with numbers!


Nothing Says 'Pandemic' Than a Mad Run on Toilet Paper!

Yep! We are smart people. After all, if you're going to be hunkered down for a month or so, you'd better have enough loo rolls to keep your bum hygienic, right?

How many do you need? 10, 20, 40, 800?

Well, it turns out there's an app for that!

Next time rumors of the world's demise pop up, let's all agree to consult the Use Calculator as a sanitation supply sanity check.

And guess what? According to the article from which I borrowed the image above, not only is toilet paper a giant waste of resources, but Americans use the most! Yes! We're #1 AGAIN!

We smeared the crap out of all other countries! U.S.A.!

But watch out ... Germany is nipping at our butts. Let's not let them wipe us off the top of the toilet paper pedestal!

Extra! Extra! Read all about it! Here's an update for you from Atlas Obscura: 
A Brief History of TP!

Have You Received Your COVID-19 Stimulus Money Yet? 

You know, your share of the TWO TRILLION dollars we decided to print? So, what IS two trillion dollars? What if you spent that amount, spread out evenly, over the course of your lifetime?

It turns out that there are 700,800 hours in a lifespan of 80 years. This means you'd have to spend $2,853,881 per hour ... or $47,564 per minute your ENTIRE LIFE!

To put it in visual perspective, our friends at Gizmodo have produced a handy graphic to get an idea of what 1 trillion dollars looks like. So look at their graphic and multiply it by two!

That stack of cash is really hard to imagine.

P.S., I hope we all live more than 80 years. So, let's go with 100 years! In that case, there are 876,000 hours in a lifetime. You'd have to spend just $2,283,105 per hour, or $38,052 per minute! Whew! What a relief! That's much more doable.

And Then There's Saturn's Rings!

The current thinking is that a moon 250 miles in diameter strayed a wee bit too close to the gas giant. Saturn's gravity pulled the moon apart, casting its 17 QUADRILLION TONS of (mostly) water ice into the rings we see today.

  • Saturn's Rings Fun Fact #1 - While the rings are 170,000 miles across they are typically just 30 feet thick!

Crazy stuff, that solar system of ours!

I invite you to take your own PlanetTourAlong via the five part series on NOVA!

But Now, Let's Get Small...


Very minuscule, tiny small things are what drives the device you're using to read this TourAlong. In the world of digital devices, small is measured in nanometers—or billionths of a meter.

The image above isn't dental work. It's a scanning electron microscope's image of computer chip transistors, or "switches." Each "tower" is just 5 nanometers across. A single computer chip sporting these bad boys packs 30 BILLION switches in an area the size of your fingernail! And THAT'S why your "mobile phone" is really a remarkably powerful computer! A remarkably powerful computer that we use for a myriad of silly things.

So how can we relate to a nanometer?

Grab a piece of paper to ponder and LET'S GO!

A typical piece of paper is .0039 inches thick. So, a stack of 10,000 pieces of paper is 39 inches high ... roughly one meter, or one billion nanometers. Divide one billion by 10,000 and you're left with 100,000. A piece of paper is 100,000 nanometers thick
Visualize this: If a nanometer was equal to an inch, that piece of paper would be 1.58 miles high!

Now, think about a single computer chip transistor that's just 5 nanometers across and compare it to the 100,000 nanometer thickness of a piece of paper.

Turns out ... it's kind of hard to relate to a nanometer!


Well, how about a 2.5 nanometer transistor? This technology is truly at the atomic scale, with atomic manufacturing techniques at work. After all, the size of atoms range from 0.1 - 0.5 nanometers! Or ... how about just making transistors that ARE single atoms!

Do You Want to Get REALLY Small? ...

And Now, It's Plank Time!

No! Not that kind of plank time, but Planck Time!

Scientists studying the birth of the Universe—what happened during the very first second of the Big Bang—use a unit of time to help them break that first second into small "slices" for study. T
hat unit of time is Planck Time ... and don't forget its cousin, Planck Length!

It turns out A LOT happened in that first second of time. I don't pretend to understand things like superstring theory or quantum effects on space-time, but what I can plagiarize is that Planck measurements were created to study gravity at the quantum level.

What is Planck time? What is Planck length?

The PhysLink website explains these this way:

Planck time is the time it would take a photon traveling at the speed of light to cross a distance equal to the Planck length. This is the 'quantum of time', the smallest measurement of time that has any meaning, and is equal to 10-43 seconds. No smaller division of time has any meaning. Within the framework of the laws of physics as we understand them today, we can say only that the universe came into existence when it already had an age of 10-43 seconds.

Planck length is the scale at which classical ideas about gravity and space-time cease to be valid, and quantum effects dominate. This is the 'quantum of length', the smallest measurement of length with any meaning. And roughly equal to 1.6 x10-35m or about 10-20 times the size of a proton.

So Just How Small is a Slice of Planck time?

And the answer is? ...

GET THIS: There are more slices of Planck Time in ONE second than there have been seconds since the Big Bang happened almost 14 billion years ago!

Let's wrap this up: Remember our Nanometer? You know, one billionth of a meter? Well consider that a proton's size is one MILLIONTH of a nanometer, and a Planck Length is 10-20 times the size of a proton (or 10 QUINTRILLION times smaller than a proton). Yikes! That's a pretty tiny distance!


There You Go!

And after all that, I'm hungry!

I think I'll grab a big ol' slice of that Planck Time pie, pour a hot Cup-o-Swiss-Cow Chocolate Milk, and add a plate of Madeira on the side!

Until next time ... dream about travel ... and think big ... and think small!

Ciao! ~ Todd


Like the TourAlongWithTodd blog and want to keep up to date? Here are three easy options!
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