The Worst-Smelling Towns In America

cattleLast week, I was in Eureka, California, for a couple of days with my parents and brother’s family. Despite the cute, historic downtown and an epic feast at the renown Samoa Cookhouse, our overwhelming impression of this coastal city is that it should be renamed “Eureeka,” because it stinks – literally.

The stench of … bait fish? Fish meal or perhaps cat food processing enveloped our hotel, and that’s just not an aroma that stimulates the pleasure center of the brain. It was like living in a bucket of chum.

My niece and nephew, 12 and 16, respectively, suggested I write a piece for Gadling on the stankiest places in America, and I’m more than happy to oblige. In addition to personal picks, my fellow Gadsters were only too happy to (cow) chip in.

Coalinga, California
Anyone who’s driven I-5 past the famous cattle stockyards knows exactly what I’m talking about.

Yellowstone National Park, and Thermopolis, Wyoming
These two famous attractions may stink of sulfur, but they’re worth putting up with the fumes.

Pago Pago, American Samoa
Think giant fish cannery.fishChinatowns, everywhere
Special mention goes to NYC on a breezeless summer’s day.

Greeley, Colorado
Let’s just say that being the home of one of America’s largest beef abattoirs has far-reaching consequences if the wind is right, which it usually is.

Gilroy, California
Depending upon your feelings about garlic, the nation’s largest producer of the stuff is heaven or hell (personally, I choose the former).

Cedar Rapids, Iowa
Its unofficial nickname is “The City of Five Smells,” due to the grain processing plants located there. Like roasting coffee, not always an olfactory pleasure.

Gary, Indiana
According to one Gadling contributor, this city famously smells like, “coke (a coal by-product), steel, and sadness.” Apologies to residents of Gary but this one came up more than once.

Got any picks of your own? We’d love to hear your votes for America’s smelliest town!

[Photo credits: cattle, Flickr user St0rmz; fish, Flickr user amandamandy]

How to Prevent Fish Smell

Photo of the Day: giant otter

Flickr user Max Waugh Photography was on a nature excursion in the Peruvian Amazon when he came upon this unique species of giant otter, popping its head above the glassy water surface. I love the photo’s close up details – the animal’s elongated neck, wiry whiskers and curious stare. With great nature shots like this one, it’s particularly important to get as close (as is safe) or zoomed in to your subject as possible.

Have any great travel photos from your recent journeys? Why not add them to our Gadling group on Flickr? We might just pick one of yours as our Photo of the Day.

Explore the Amazon with Google Street View

The Amazon River, now available on Google Street ViewYesterday, in honor of World Forest Day, Google rolled out a new addition to their popular Street View application. The Internet search giant updated the service with imagery and data from the Amazon River, giving would-be explorers the opportunity to travel along that famous waterway without ever leaving the comfort of their own home.

According to the official Google Blog members of the Street View team from both the U.S. and Brazil traveled to the Amazon Basin back in August in order to collect the thousands of images necessary for its inclusion into the system. That team worked closely with the Amazonas Sustainable Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to environmental conservation in the Amazon and the improvement of the quality of life for those living there. All told, they collected more than 50,000 still images, which were digitally stitched together to create the 360-degree panoramic views that are the hallmark of Street View.

The Amazon River is truly one of the great natural wonders of our planet. It stretches for more than 6400 kilometers (4000 miles) in length and at its widest points it can be as much as 48 kilometers (30 miles) in width. It is so massive in scope that it is estimated that approximately 1/6 of the world’s fresh water is contained in this one river alone making it the lifeblood of the Amazon Rainforest that surrounds it. That dense forest is home to thousands of species of plants and animals, many of which are found nowhere else on Earth.

I had the unique opportunity to visit the Amazon a few years back and found it to be a spectacular destination. The dense forests, diverse wildlife and miles of water are amazing to behold. Most travelers will never have the opportunity to visit the place for themselves, however, which makes the river’s inclusion in Street View all the better.


Book review: inyourpocket guide to Athens

Athens, guide to AthensThis was originally supposed to be a review of the Rough Guide to Greece. I really like the Rough Guides and two weeks before I set off to write my travel series about Greece I ordered a copy from Amazon. The morning of my flight it still hadn’t arrived.

Luckily I knew about the inyourpocket guides. I had never tried these free, downloadable guides to dozens of cities, and now looked like the perfect opportunity.

Their Athens guide is 68 pages. After discarding several ads, the kids section, the gay section, and an entire page on prostitution and strip bars, I was left with a compact little guide that fit easily in my laptop bag.

The guide is narrowly focused. The only sections covering attractions outside Athens are a few pages on Delphi and skiing. For Corinth and Sparta I had to wing it. In fact, I winged much of my Athens itinerary as well because I already knew what I wanted to see during the day and the local Couchsurfing community took care of my nightlife. I was reminded just how little we actually need guidebooks for short stays in countries where we have local contacts.

The inyourpocket guide to Athens has several things going for it–free, compact, and handy for grabbing at the last minute, or even after the last minute since you could always print it out at an Internet cafe. Despite its low page count it has lots of listings, giving a wide variety of options for dining, nightlife, and sightseeing.

There were a few problems, however. The maps were too small and coming out of a black and white printer were all but illegible. Luckily the Athens airport hands out good free maps. I also found a few errors of fact. The Athens War Museum is billed as a leading free attraction but actually costs two euros. The transportation section states that to get from the airport to downtown, you take a train and then change to the metro at Nerantziotissa station. Actually there are direct trains to Syntagma Square (downtown) to and from the airport. These are only announced in Greek, but you can spot them because they have an airplane logo and luggage racks. I was excited to hear that a famous souvlaki restaurant, Kostas, is at Pentelis 5, right next to my hotel, yet when I went there I found this address to be an apartment building and there was no restaurant in sight. Considering the guides are published five times a year and this was the Winter 2011-12 edition, these errors should not have happened.

Despite some flaws, I found the inyourpocket guide to Athens a useful last-minute stopgap and would probably try additional guides in the future. Hey, you can’t beat the price. If anyone has used their other guides I’d love to hear your opinions in the comments section.

Oh, and my Rough Guide to Greece arrived the day after I got back. Thanks Amazon!

Adventure vacation Guide 2012: Ecuador

Most Norteamericanos are hard-pressed to locate Ecuador on the map. Those familiar with this South American country the size of Colorado usually associate it with the (admittedly) spectacular Galapagos Islands. Yet Ecuador has so much more offer besides the Galapagos, and 2012 is the year to get your hardcore on. Why? Because the country’s adventure travel industry is blowing up–but it’s still affordable, especially if you opt for independent travel or book certain activities through domestic outfitters or U.S. travel companies that work directly with Ecuadorean guides.

Whatever your recreational interests, budget, or experience, odds are Ecuador has it: mountaineering, glacier climbing, and volcano bagging; trekking on foot or horseback; Class III to VI whitewater kayaking and rafting; sea kayaking, scuba diving, and snorkeling; surfing; remote jungle lodges and endemic wildlife, and agritourism. Need more convincing? Ecuador’s adventure tourism increasingly has an emphasis on sustainability. When it comes to protecting its fragile ecosystem and indigenous communities, Ecuador has become quite progressive for a developing nation, which hasn’t always been the case.

If you like a cultural or culinary component to your travels, there’s that, too. You can opt for an active, educational trip to indigenous-owned and -operated Amazonian eco-lodges, or play in the Pacific regions, which retain a strong Afro-Ecuadorean influence.

Agritourism is also hot in Ecuador, most notably at centuries-old haciendas, although there are also coffee and cacao plantation tours. Ecuadorean food is a diverse melding of indigenous and outside ethnic influences that’s regionally influenced: be sure to patronize markets, roadside restaurants, and street food stalls for some of the most memorable eats.

[flickr image via Rinaldo W]