Movie Quest: Chasing an endless summer, finding a lifetime passion

By Budget Travel
October 3, 2012

A quirky movie by surfer Chris Molloy, 180 Degrees South, kicked off its world tour this spring. The film is a recreation of the now famous journey of Yvon Chouinard and Doug Tompkins, the self-proclaimed 'Conquerors of the Useless,' who drove from California to Chilean Patagonia on an extended climbing and surfing tour back in 1968.

If it sounds like any old hippie trip, it was. But, Chouinard and Tompkins were no ordinary hippies. Upon returning to the States, Chouinard began the outdoor brand Patagonia and Tompkins began The North Face. Then, inspired by the places they saw on their trip, the two put the proceeds toward conservation.

In some senses, that's the message of 180 Degrees South: Travel changes you, often in ways you'd never expect. The ostensible plotline follows professional surfer Jeff Johnson (and friends) as he drives, sails, hikes, and surfs down the Pacific Coast of the Western Hemisphere.

There is, of course, the requisite surf porn, with Johnson slashing up and down wavefaces in Mexico. And the requisite adversity: The 180 Degree South team shipwrecks on Easter Island after suffering a fearsome Pacific storm. But somewhere in between the breathtaking landscapes and wisecracking surf humor, the film makes its point—that places usually don't seem worth saving until you see them for yourself.

What places have you recently visited that you'd love to see protected?


Unlike Hollywood movies, 180 Degrees South is a scrappy independent film playing only on select dates and in special locations. Check out the online schedule. If it becomes popular, the film will be featured in large moviehouses and via Netflix.

— Cliff Ransom

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Mayor Bloomberg, Tear down this airport

Trash LaGuardia and rebuild it. That's what Chris Ward, the Port Authority chief, said recently. Ward's agency oversees the airport, and he thinks it can't cope with modern demands. Ward said, "LaGuardia should not be the gateway for domestic fliers into New York City. He added that the airport "should fundamentally be torn down and rebuilt." Good news: Three months ago, the Port Authority approved a $40 million contract to plan a re-design for the airport's largest terminal. LaGuardia's delays make everyone in the country late. About 30 out of every 100 flights out of this airport were delayed last year, with effects rippling across the nation. LaGuardia's terminals are chaotic, dirty, and over-burdened, especially when compared to Terminal 5* at JFK, JetBlue's recently renovated space. Pilots hate LaGuardia, too: Says one, after a typical take-off: The taxiways are asphalt so the plane sinks every time we stop. 40% power on one engine won't move the plane, so we have to gun it. Every plane is shaking every other plane trying to get going. They land on a crossing runway and with the IFR spacing restrictions, takeoffs happen half as often as normal. Why would rebuilding LaGuardia be good for the city? New York City could become a global showcase for transport. Redesigned runways would be safer and more efficient. Easy-to-understand, speedy rail links into Manhattan, would allow visitors to hop trains and shuttles that run into the wee hours. The city could exploit its position between China and Europe and create an infrastructure to support a truly 24-hour airport for a truly 24-hour city. It would make a positive first impression on visitors. Yet a wholesale rebuild isn't likely given our financial crisis. The Port Authority is low on cash, partly because the federal government puts limits on the so-called passenger facility charges that are added to plane tickets and are currently $4.50 per passenger, according to the Federal Aviation Administration's site. One solution: Privatize the airport. A private firm might much more quickly hand out the contracts to cutting edge design and architecture and engineering firms, reinventing LaGuardia more cheaply. What do you think? Should LaGuardia—invented as part of F.D.R.'s New Deal for about $600 million in today's dollars—be re-built from scratch, in phases? Or should we make do with what we have, which has been working well enough? Post updated on May 12 to add the quote from the pilot. CORRECTION: Post updated on May 14 to correct the name of JetBlue's JFK Terminal. Sorry.

Theme park news: Harry Potter, Star Wars, Legoland and beyond

Here's a round-up of rides and entire theme parks that have just opened, will open soon, or are expected in the years to come. Presented in roughly chronological order: World's first special-needs theme park just opened. Morgan's Wonderland, a 25-acre "ultra-accessible" theme park designed for disabled and special needs children and adults, opened last month in San Antonio, Texas, and starting on May 26, the admission gates are open seven days a week. Universal Studios' Harry Potter attractions opening June 18. Park-goers will finally be able to enjoy the highly anticipated Wizarding World of Harry Potter starting early this summer. There are already Harry Potter-themed vacation packages being sold too. August is the last chance to ride Disney's Star Tours. A party is being thrown on August 14 at Disney's Hollywood Studios to honor the Last Tour to Endor, and Star Wars geeks know what that means: The old Star Tours ride is closing. Fear not, however, for the ride will be born again sometime in 2011 as a 3-D adventure based on the pod race scenes from "Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace." Legoland is coming to central Florida. Plans are well under way for the world's fifth Legoland park to open in the Orlando area with 40 to 50 attractions by the end of 2011. Bonus: $5 kids' tickets at Sea World. From now through the end of 2010, with each full-price adult admission, you can get a child's ticket (for ages 3 to 12) for just $5. The money collected for kids' admission will be donated to a wildlife conservation project of your choice. For more details, check out

Travel Tips

San Francisco: A veteran cable car driver's best tips

Leonard Oats, a driver on San Francisco's cable car lines, has been riding the rails along Hyde Street for the past decade. Oats is also the multi-year champion of the cable car bell ringing contest, which draws crowds to Union Square every summer. Drivers are judged on rhythm, originality, and style—and there's even a category for amateurs. Try your hand at ringing an iconic cable car bell on Thursday, June 17, at the 48th annual contest. Oats drives on the Powell-Hyde line, possibly the city's most famous, which traverses the steepest hills from Powell in Union Square north to Fisherman's Wharf, going by landmarks like Lombard Street. We caught up with him to ask him some tips on how to get the most out of riding the cable cars—because he would know! What are your favorite parts of the job? The challenge of driving the car on the hills; getting to meet people from all over the world; and everyday getting to see the Golden Gate Bridge and the ocean. It's a great view and a beautiful city. I love it. What's the best stretch of your route? Lombard Street is by far your best view all the way down. You can see Coit Tower, Alcatraz, Angel Island, Treasure Island, the Bay Bridge, and Berkeley. Where's the best seat? When you're going down to the water on Hyde Street, the right side is the best if you want to see it all. On the left side, all you see is the Golden Gate Bridge. But remember, when you sit down, there might be people in front of you, so try to get on early. What's the best way to avoid the lines? The secret is, unless you absolutely have to have a seat, you can walk one block up from the turnarounds (like the one at Powell and Market streets, or the one at Bay street and Fisherman's Wharf) and get on there, where it's less crowded. That's what the locals do. [Editor's note: Very few locals actually take cable cars—they offer scenic views but are not very efficient.] Should people tip the driver? You certain don't have to, but we can accept tips. Just make it clear that you're offering a tip and not the fare. What mistakes or faux pas do people make? People make a lot of mistakes. First, you should pay the conductor in the back and not the driver in the front—I'm trying to drive! A lot of people think the cable cars are like a ride at Disneyland, but it's not. You have to be safe. When you get on, take off your backpack and put it by your feet. Otherwise, if it's sticking out of the car, it can get stuck on something and pull you right off. Believe me, it's happened. I think folks see people leaning out of the cars in the movies, but it can be dangerous. Locals do ride by "hanging off", but that just means they stand on the side. What are the best sites for visitors to see? A lot of people really like Alcatraz. I haven't gone, but my wife has, and she said it is scary. I was a sheriff before this and worked in a jail, so I don't really need to see another prison. But I do really enjoy the ferry trip over to Tiburon, where you can see the city from the water. I also like going to Twin Peaks, one of the highest points in the city. A lot of tourists don't know about it because it's a little bit tough to get to. But there are some city bus tours that go up there now, or you if you've rented a car, it's worth a stop.


Philadelphia: The City of Murals

On the buildings along the Schuylkill River, vibrant murals welcome visitors into Philadelphia. They've been peeking out from underneath bridges and along cement walls since 1984, when the city established the Philadelphia Anti-Graffiti Network, to redirect graffiti artists' energies toward enhancing their community. Over time, the nation's largest mural effort, the City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program, sprung up. Now, in collaboration with local photographer Jacques-Jean "JJ" Tiziou, the mural has been elevated to an all-new level—seven-stories high. At Philly's airport, a nearly 50,000-square-foot piece will cover one side of the parking garage stretching from Terminal A to Terminal F, with roughly 18 images of community dancers narrowed down from thousands. The City of Brotherly Love has a history of dance, and JJ Tiziou has been right alongside the movement to document it. The project will employ 35 artists and take 18 months to complete before its final dedication in June 2011. The energy of the design, entitled How Philly Moves, will be palpable at 60 MPH while driving past it on Interstate 95, and it will be clear why Philadelphia could as easily earn a new nickname—the City of Murals. 25 Reasons We Love Philly Tickets Now on Sale for Philly's Cleopatra Exhibit More Top Travel Blogs