Friday, June 22, 2012


I introduced myself to Phil Bowler in Healthy Living where he eats lunch and reads the newspaper every day when he's home.  My impetus was pure photographer selfishness: he had such a great face!  As we talked, the cornucopia of his interests just overflowed and I realized one interview could not possibly contain it.  So I asked him a series of questions and am posting his answers, in his own voice.  Since I met Phil in early Spring, he's recently completed a 25,000 mile from Hamburg, Germany to Shanghai, China and back on the container ship CMA CGM CORTE REAL, taken an extended Vermont to Florida road trip and is currently exploring Central Europe.  With his permission I would like to link some of his essays on economics to the blog soon.

"I always say that I was born very close to my mother, a long time ago, on a galaxy far away.  However, some recent research has indicated that it was in Amsterdam, New York on June 22nd, one of the longest days of the year.  It makes me act like the Energizer Bunny, always on the go.

"I grew up 'independently poor' with my mother, father and two younger sisters in upstate New York but have been in Burlington since 1961. I received a fabulous basic education in schools at Amsterdam and Broadalbin, New York.  I have been married and have two children and four grandchildren."I started working when I was 12 years old with a newspaper route of 130 papers for 6 days a week.  I helped out on local farms, worked taking care of ponies, shoveled snow and mowed lawns at a very early age.  During my high school years, I set pins in a bowling alley for 7 days a week, often setting over 400 games a week.  My first full time job was in Bridgeport, Connecticut at the Sikorsky Aircraft Division (Helicopters) of United Aircraft as an Aircraft Sheetmetalsmith. Loss of an enormous government contract caused a layoff of several thousand workers. I went to work nearby at Trio Industries, a commercial application architectural window, door and curtain wall manufacturer.  I started out as an Architectural Metalsmith and ended up as Chief Expediter. I came to Burlington, Vermont in 1961 and went to work in the Engineering Development Lab of General Electric as a technician.  In 1966 I went to IBM Essex in the Design Department and left there in 1981 as a Staff Engineer.  In 1976, I started buying apartment houses and was a landlord in Burlington and South Burlington for 27 years.

"In the summer between my Junior and Senior years I hitchhiked from upstate New York to Las Vegas to visit an aunt who was working there. There were no interstates back then and I spent about two months on the road.  I learned to read maps, make selections, and figure out the rigors of travel on a very limited budget.  I spent lots of nights sleeping on the ground. I loved what I saw in this country and hoped to be able to travel when "I grew up."  I am not sure that I have reached that point yet.  There is still a lot of kid and adventure in me.  A big motivator for me was reading William Least Heat Moon's Blue Highways.  I am also a member of the "Vermont 251 Club" and am a 251+ member because I have been to every town in Vermont.  I try to read extensively almost all non-fiction books on history, business, economics and travel.  I do several Sudoko and crossword puzzles everyday when I can.  I have been a mostly NASCAR race car mechanic (specializing in tires and race car physics) since the late 1960's and have been to race tracks from as far as 300 miles north of Montreal to Daytona and to many races all over the country.  I currently volunteer for the 12 Hours of Sebring (Florida) races.

"I struggled to complete my education, doing almost all of it at night or summer school while working full time and married with two children.  I graduated from UVM in 1970 with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration.  According to the records office at UVM at the time, I was the first person to ever graduate from there who did not go full time.  I received my Master of Business Administration at UVM in 1973.  I then started towards a Doctorate in Behavioral Psychology at UVM, mostly for engineering applications vs. clinical psychology and got 15 credits into that before starting the apartment rental business.  I have taken dozens of continuing education courses on a very broad spectrum of subjects at BHS and many other places.  I try to learn something every day.

"Since I have started to travel, mostly after retiring, I have been to every one of the 3143 counties in the United States, every continent including five days in Antarctica, and I have been to 63 countries and it will be 70 when I complete this summer's trip to Central Europe.  I have spent about a year of my life in Hawaii spread out over 6 years and over a year on the oceans and seas of the world traveling on container ships (84 days and 71 days), a Roll On/Roll Off car carrier (for 37 days), the world's largest sailing ship, the Royal Clipper (for 28 days) and two commercial cruise ships (for 67 and 66 days) and extensive travel on the Alaska Marine Highway Ferry System from Bellingham, Washington out to Dutch Harbor in the Aleutians and several other voyages with them.  I have been on every ocean and most but not all of the seas.  I have been through the Panama Canal once, Suez four times, the English Channel 6 times and Gibraltar 7 times.

I have traveled extensively through Europe by train, car and ferry. I have taken the cable car up and WALKED down Gibraltar.  Grandson William and I have been over or under every bridge on the Mississippi River and there were 221 of them at the time we did it.  I have been to almost all of the major Civil  War battlefields and hundreds of other smaller battles and skirmishes.  I have toured the Normandy D-Day battlefields and spent five days touring the Battle of the Bulge sites.  I have retraced Custer's route to the Little Big Horn and been to many of the Indian Wars battle sites (there were five Vermonters with Custer - they all survived) I have been the entire length of the Lewis and Clark Trail from Charlottesville, Virginia to Fort Clatsop in Oregon and done extensive research on Sacajawea and her son, Jean Baptiste Charbonneau.  I belong to the Vermont Historical Society and have been periodically a member of CAMP (Council on America's Military Past.)  I have traced the lives and locations of many artists including Claude Monet and Vincent Van Gogh and been to where they were born, buried and lived and to many of the world's best art, natural history, paleontology, science, military and many other types of museums.  I have compiled that in all my sailing trips I have sailed the equivalent of three times around the world, but not three total circumnavigations at once.  I have sailed across the Pacific twice, the Indian Ocean, Gulf of Aden and Mediterranean four times and twice westward across the Atlantic.

"The most important thing about anyone's life is good health. Without it you can do almost nothing and with it you can do anything.  So I make major efforts everyday in learning about health, exercise and nutrition.  I have written several essays on these issues, as well as some major treatise on domestic and world economics.  I love meeting and talking with people all over the world.  It is enlightening to learn all of the different variations in human culture.  I enjoy writing an almost daily travelogue when I am traveling.

"I look forward to not finding my name in the Burlington Free Press obituary column and wake up every day thankful for my health, freedom, friends and family. I look forward to my travel adventures both in doing and in writing about them.

"I hope for world peace but I realize that is an ever illusive goal.  Surprisingly, a lot of the conflict comes from differing religious/cultural beliefs where almost none of the alleged practitioners really practice what they preach or purport to believe in.  It has been that way for thousands of years of attempting to force 'our' religion/culture on 'their' religion/culture or some short offbeat variations to the same line of thought will in the long run prove catastrophic for everyone.  I don't see that changing in my lifetime, although I have seen snippets of the 'ideal life.'

"I have reported since 2006 that the world economy will NOT turn around and that Global Warming is very real.  Therefore I do not see life being as good for my grandchildren as myself.  I work every day on figuring how that can be turned around but have yet to come up with a successful answer.  But then the project becomes to convince others of whatever the findings are.  If you have not seen the video A Sea Change I would suggest putting it on your agenda. If this is true, the economy is but a whiff of problem on the longevity of the world."

True to form, amendments and corrections to this world traveler tale were made via Internet from Austria.  He writes a travelogue with history and commentary nearly every day.  Phil's latest post ends with this:

"My planning did not begin to imagine what there was to see here in Vienna and I am sure that I could have tacked on another two or three weeks here and still not have seen and felt it all.  As I wrap up Vienna, here on my birthday, and rejoicing at the nice birthday present I have given myself, I am thankful for my health, friendships and good fortune.  I leave at 11:48 for a three hour+ train ride to Salzburg, Austria, the birthplace of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and perhaps some more mountainous scenery."

June 12, 2013 Update.  Phil's planning a new adventure:

Dear Friends,

Several people have asked me about this tour and the logistics of it and "Why are you doing it?" I am always scouting for interesting trips and how to expand my knowledge of the world. I once took a 66 day tour aboard the Holland America MS AMSTERDAM from Vancouver to Long Beach, Ca. and then across the South Pacific to many islands and thence to Australia and New Zealand and then to Samoa and Tonga, Hawaii and return to Long Beach. I was with six wonderful traveling companions, five of whom I had sailed with before. So it was good to share and see familiar faces everyday. But I only met these people because I had ventured on a cruise where I knew NO ONE! But life is an adventure and I am trying always to step outside of my Burlington-centric World and see what life is like on the other side? It has always been a great and awakening experience and I have met many wonderful friends and travel companions.

Needless to say it is always and adventure and it is always fun to meet new people, hear about their lives, share their traveling experiences and have a wonderful time. I probably get more travel brochures from Holland America than my postman wants to deliver. I scan the brochures and rarely see something interesting. But somehow my eye caught on this route. WHY NOT?

So what does it have to offer? If I fly into Amsterdam Schipol, I will land at an airport where it is easy to get from airport to central city by train and then be in a wonderful city where the top Vincent Van Gogh Museum in the world is located. I can readily take the train to ROTTERDAM. In Rotterdam I can take a repeat short river ferry cruise to Kinderdijk which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and has a photographic panorama of operating windmills. Now that I have a MUCH BETTER CAMERA, it will be a photographic challenge. I have also taken a harbor cruise of Rotterdam, in and out of the multitude of ship channels but nowhere near all of them. I have been to Europort four times on a containership but it is right at the mouth of the river and not easy to get out of the massive port. It is the largest port in Europe. So an objective here is to sail out to sea past all of this massive shipping complex in an approximately 30 mile long ship channel. Rotterdam is the largest port in Europe and the second largest port in the world in terms of tonnage.

When I went on my Grimaldi M/V GRANDE EUROPA 4500 car carrier Roll on/Roll off, I spent a week at either end in SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND, our first stop. Both the Titanic and the Mayflower sailed from Southampton. I took side day trips to the Isle of Wight, Portsmouth, Salisbury/Stonehenge, Winchester, Bath and the magic little town of Hythe just across the river by a short ferry/narrow gauge electric train ride. T. E. Lawrence {Lawrence of Arabia} lived there for about two years. I may re-visit Hythe during the one-day layover there.

The next stop is LISBON, PORTUGAL. It is where Christopher Columbus returned to after his first visit to the "New World." I have tried to get there three times but was stifled by rail connections, not enough time in port at Setubal and held over in Portimao, Portugal for high tides of 5 to 6 meters, again missing Lisbon on a planned trip. I will, at some time, make an extended stay in Portugal and western and northwestern Spain.

We then sail on to GIBRALTAR. I will be my 8th time thru the Straits of Gibraltar. As you pass through the Straits, known in ancient times as the Pillars of Hercules, you actually sail into the Albaran Sea {I wonder if that is where Kellogg's makes their cereal} vs. the Mediterranean Sea. In 2011, while on a 10 week Spain tour, I took a local bus from Algeciras, Spain and went to Gibraltar. Once there, I got some Gibraltar Pounds and then took the cable car up to the top and WALKED DOWN! This time it will be cable car UP and DOWN! There is an incredible 360°, 32 mile panoramic view from up top and skeletons of the Neanderthal Man have been found on Gibraltar. Remember "Tariq's Mountain travelogue?}

Then on to MALAGA, SPAIN. Malaga is the birthplace of Pablo Picasso with his home and museum {no photos} there. It is also the entrance city to Grenada where Ferdinand and Isabella are buried, as well as the mammoth {bring your good walking shoes} Alhambra, where Washington Irving wrote {Tales of the Alhambra} and M. K. Escher copied designs of the mosaic tiles with their geometrically repeating patterns.

While aboard the massive CMA CGM CORTE REAL we stopped at the port of Marsaxlokk, Malta where for two days we loaded 6700 empty containers to return to China. Both days I took a one-hour local bus ride into beautiful VALLETTA. So it will be a food/internet site for me as I have already visited many of the small local museums.

The next port of call is KUDASASI, TURKEY {EPHESUS} where there is supposedly the largest collection of Roman Ruins and is allegedly the last place that Mary, mother of Jesus lived and is buried? But I have also been to her alleged burial place in Jerusalem? Tourism marketing is an amazing science. I have visited nearby Izmir and the mammoth bazaar/marketplace there.

PIRAEUS, GREECE, the entry port to ATHENS, is next on the agenda. We were scheduled to stop there on the GRANDE EUROPA but a stevedores strike forced us to go to Volos on the eastern side of Greece. So there will be many opportunities to try to catch up on some of these "missed" places. I hope to be able to figure out how to get to Athens and back to the ship?

We will then drop anchor off of PORT SAID, EGYPT in preparation for a daylight passage through SUEZ CANAL which will be my fifth trip through there. The Suez Canal entry actually starts around midnight. After sailing for a few hours we will drop anchor in Bitter Lake while the northbound ships pass. So it is a great opportunity to see almost every type of ship slowly sail by and offer great photo ops. We will exit at PORT SUEZ and head southward into the massive, warm water RED SEA, which is some 300 miles wide and 1300 miles long. If you have sailed on it, it is extremely difficult to imagine these massive waters "parting" for any reason? We are then in for a three-day sail including a stop at SAFAGA, EGYPT, entry port for LUXOR and "The Valley of the Kings."}. From about 3/4 of the way down the RED SEA to and through most of the INDIAN OCEAN, will be in the PIRATE ZONE, although no ships have been attacked since May, 2012. However, if you are trying to get me, I will be sleeping UNDER MY BED!

We will pass through the SEA OF ADEN and head northeast into the port of SALLALA, OMAN {pronounced UH-Man} to this surprisingly "modern country." Frankincense is a from here. {Where is Igor?} It is a very progressive Arabic country where women have equal rights and GERMAN is taught as a Second Language? I have already purchased Lonely Planet and CULTURE SMART-OMAN so that I get all of my ducks lined up before I fly! We will also have a stop in MUSCAT, the Capitol City. We will be in MUSCAT FOR TWO DAYS!

Prepare for MASSIVENESS! After a day or so at sea we will visit MUMBAI, INDIA for TWO DAYS. The metropolitan area population there is 21 MILLION! SO I will probably not get to see all of the sites. Ultra-conservative sister, Shirley has visited India and said that she loves it there. But I am not sure how I will adjust to the sites and SMELLS of which I have had many, many negative reports. But this will be a great opportunity to "Smell the Roses" and/or other. It comparable to New York City in metropolitan area but I suspect MUCH DIFFERENT? My exposure has been through "Gandhi," "Passage to India," and "Slumdog Millionaire." So you can imagine what I must be expecting? A change from perception to REALITY?

We next venture to GOA with a population of around 2 MILLION. Coming from relatively tiny Vermont most of these places are real eye openers. But if I don't travel, I will never experience these wonders of the world.

The next stop will be COLOMBO, SRI LANKA. I first visited there in 2006 aboard the MS PENANG SENATOR a 4554 TEU container ship. When we pulled into the harbor there was a dull gray patrol boat cruising there with a soldier standing behind a post mounted dual machine gun with a metal shield in front of it. The port was an armed camp with barbed wire 40 feet high with armed guards in towers about every 100 feet. Many of the crew went ashore there and decided to take a cab into town but I decided to walk because I could see the tower of the FLYING ANGEL CENTRE which was the Mariner's Center there run by the Episcopal Church. As I went through the gate with sharpened iron spikes facing me, I ran into the minister who was leaving for a short errand. As I entered the gate I was staring at the muzzle of a machine gun and several soldiers behind a sandbagged barrier. It was an armed camp. I finally got some postcards, stamps and went up to the Hilton Hotel for lunch with an armed soldier in the driveway. When all was said and done it was quite an experience. I got my first ride back to the port in one of those little three wheeled Tuk Tuk's or motorized ricksha with a covered top for only a $1.00 U.S.

From there we will move on to PHUKET, THAILAND. I tried to take a trip there aboard STAR CRUIES sailboat but I guess that the slow speed made them a sitting duck for PIRATES so that route was cancelled. The MS ROTTERDAM will be slightly bigger and may well have armed guards aboard. But after Colombo, we will be well out of the pirate zone.

The next stops are PENANG, MALAYSIA {"The Pearl of the Orient"} and PORT KLANG, MALAYSIA where I have been to the magnificent container port there three times. On my first visit aboard the PENANG SENATOR, I asked the Captain if he could find me a ride into KUALA LUMPUR, which he did through a friend of the agents. It was my first experience driving at breakneck speed in a right hand drive Ford Pickup with the driver yakking away on a cellphone. I was overawed by the modernity, cleanliness and very well dressed people there. We visited the architectural marvels of the PETRONAS TWIN TOWERS, which at the time were the tallest towers in the world.

We will then make a one day stop in SINGAPORE , the second largest port in the world! This will be my fourth visit there and I have spent some considerable time visiting the city and the SINGAPORE MARINERS CLUB where I may try to stay at the end of the voyage for a few days.

INDONESIA? Right at the top of your knowledge agenda, right? Well it is around the bottom of mine, although I have passed dribs and drabs of it while passing through the Straits of Malacca, the world's busiest shipping channel. There are lots of "dribs and drabs" because the country is made up of over 17,000 islands and I will probably not hit every one of them on this trip! Little did I know that INDONESIA is the 4TH LARGEST COUNTRY BY POPULATION, right after the United States. That and the fact that its economy is growing at an annual rate of 6% while ours is tumbling at warp speed made this a MUST on my agenda. It is also the country in the world with the LARGEST MUSLIM POPULATION. But you hear very little of terrorism originating here? It will be a gigantic psychological leap for me.

There are many beckoning places that we will be stopping in INDONESIA including TWO DAYS IN BALI {Population 4,220,000 - So much for serenity?} Other Indonesian places we will stop at are: LEMBAR-LOMBOK, SEMARANG-JAVA {Metro Population 1.5 million}, SURABAYA {Pop. 3.1 Million}, MAKASSAR, TANJUNG PRIAK {Gateway to Jakarta- Nation's capitol with 28 million - Metro Population}, and ULUNG PRADANG. It looks like an amazing "Shopping Cart" of parts of the world that I have not been.

I am contemplating perhaps an earlier departure and spending Christmas in PARIS, where I have never been in the winter and then by train to Amsterdam. I am also tossing around covering several ideas of return from SINGAPOR. This may include flying by EMIRATES to DUBAI {Perhaps with a layover in what would be my 77th country?} and then onward to CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA {sister Shirley says it is the most beautiful place she has ever been} JOHANNESBURG and maybe some more there depending on how further planning plays out? EMIRATES FLYS THE AIRBUS 380, which I would go on. I saw the second flight of the AIRBUS 380 while I was taking an AIRBUS PLANT TOUR at Colomiers, France in 2004. Probably from there the interminably long flight to New York and home to BTV? That part is speculative at this point. My two weeks on MONHEGAN ISLAND after return from Poland will give me plenty of time to meditate on those aspects and plan more?




  1. What a guy. Amazing.

  2. A little story about "HOG", his nickname while he raced with our team in the mid 80's. Leaving the motel early for the daytona speedway, we couln't find him. Wasn't in his room or anywhere on the hotel grounds. We couldn't wait any longer for him to show up so we headed for the track. A mile or so down the road, here he is, standing waist deep in a drainage canal taking pictures of a crane. He is one of the most interesting people i have ever met.
    Steve Henley (Shaw Family Racing)

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