Last spotted in San Francisco, USA on March 28, 2003, 1:23 pm
Who is he? Where is he going? Where has he been? David Barrett / Quinthar
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In my attempt to explore every means of transportation possible (car, bus, plane, train, horseback, cruise ship, and now ferry), I headed to Cherbourg for the ferry to Ireland. Not having any information about this ferry, other than the vague rumor that it exists, I wander about town late that night asking when it leaves. Eventually I run into an Irish biker in an Italian restaurant and he informs me that as luck would have it, a ferry leaves the next morning - the only one leaving for several days. Happy to hear this, I think him for the news and am on my way. It's not until I'm about to set my alarm clock that I realize I have no idea when exactly it leaves in the morning. Eek! So, I get up as early as the front desk is open, on the assumption that I'm not the first person to catch this ferry so they must open early enough. I check out and start walking to the ferry terminal. Little did I know that the walk is really, really long, and incredibly boring. Not to mention, a huge stretch of this walk is in full view of the ferries, which I see are loading cars and trucks as fast as possible. I quicken my pace. The cars finish loading. The doors close. At this point, due to the strange layout of the port, I'm actually walking directly away from the ferries in order to get to the terminal. I watch nervously over my shoulder as the first ferry revs its engines, pouring black smoke into the air, and steams off into the distance. I'm still not to the terminal. The second ferry follows the first, and heads out to sea. Distraught, but nearly at the terminal, I figure I can at least get a good idea when the next ferry leaves, days later.
I walk up to the "Irish Ferries" counter (it seemed appropriate), only to find it closed. Dang, they packed up quick. I ask around the other ferries, but find that they don't take passengers. Really bummed at this point, I'm about to leave when one of the attendants suggests "Irish Ferries does a passenger service today, so you could check with them." "Didn't it just leave?" "Oh, no, it doesn't leave for a few hours. The Irish Ferries counter should open in a few minutes."
Sure enough, as if on cue, the counter's blast doors rumble open and a friendly Irish girl takes my order. To celebrate my good fortune, I even upgrade to the reclining seat.

The ferry is really pretty cool, though it's a lumbering beast. It's filled with a food court, bars, casino, duty-free shop, and even a movie theatre. After trying the various options (except the casino - I think I'd prefer to just toss my money overboard), I settle upon the theatre showing of Minority Report (a surprisingly good flick). After the movie I head down to the bilge where they stow away the sleeping quarters and my glorious reclining seat. At this point I find out that the seat, though indeed it does appear to recline, is vastly less comfortable than just the floor alone. That, and there's really no competition for the seats (as they're so uncomfortable, so it appears purchasing the upgrade was about equivalent to spending time pitching money overboard.
Here we clearly demonstrate the undeniable superiority of my minimalist packing strategy. As you may know, I made a controversial decision at the start of my trip to take nothing more than what I wore on my back and could fit in a leather knapsack the disapproving sale's attendant said looked like "an oversized tennis cover". It's small, it's light, slings horizontally across my chest, and it holds little more than my laptop and toothpaste. I've handled many different climates, occasionally hot, occasionally cold, but always free to move about without looking like some large turtle that had too much to eat. Most others, correction, all others that I've met on the trip have made a different decision, usually one or even two very large backpacks containing everything that anybody could never want to use.
The girl in the foreground represents perhaps 50% of the backpackers I see, with both a front and backpack. The remaining 50% of backpackers I've seen opt instead just for a single large b... [more]

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