The airline lost your suitcase? I found it… and I bought it!

When a piece of luggage gets lost in the United States, the airline keeps it for 90 days, as they try to find out who it belongs to. That’s why it’s important to have multiple name tags with your name on your checked luggage. The percentage of luggage that gets permanently lost is low, but with over 600 million passengers a year, that works out to a lot of luggage. So, what do the airlines do with the stuff?


They sell it all to this store. The Unclaimed Baggage Center buys it by weight, picks it up at airports around the country, and brings it back here to Scottsboro, Alabama. About 7,000 new items arrive everyday! Roughly a third is thrown in the garbage, another third given to charities or recycled and the remaining good stuff is retailed. The store is enormous, occupying an entire city block.


This is about a quarter of the entire store. Clothes comprise 60% of the offerings, but the diversity of the rest is incredible; hundreds of cameras, books, sunglasses, pieces of jewellery, sports equipment. I saw horse saddles, collections of VHS tapes and a diving dry suit. I was shocked to see underwear for sale, until I realized it was the lost cargo section; new products lost on their way to retail outlets across the country. Depending on the type of products, they are sold at 20-80% of retail value. This was my loot:

– 2 short sleeve shirts (what I most commonly wear while travelling);

– 2 polo shirts;

– Jared Diamond’s The World until Yesterday: What Can We Learn from Traditional Societies?, 2012, Hardcover;

– Lonelyplanet’s Korea (North and South), 2013 edition; and

– A new wallet large enough to fit bills bigger than Canadian and US $, like 50 euro notes.

Total damage, with tax: $28! Saving me enough money to be able to afford the steep ticket price to Tennessee’s star attraction:



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Nashville to Huntsville: Tow trucks and big rockets.

Right after getting my car at Nashville’s airport to begin my US road trip, I parked a block away from this intersection.


It seemed precious as I began my travels in the “Bible Belt”. Since I’ll be back in Nashville next month to return the rental car and fly home, I left without doing much visiting.


I did have time to notice that people here are very friendly, including the police. Although I couldn’t help but think the police may be too friendly. There is such a thing as too much information…


Chattanooga was very pleasant in May, with 28 degree weather. I remembered going to neighbouring Georgia for work, two years ago. It was August and to describe it as a sauna would be fairly close to reality. Ross’s Landing on the picture, the former name of the city.

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Road Trip! (And the postponement of my round-the-world voyage…)

After a short stay in Ottawa, I’m back on the road, but not on the road I was initially planning to follow. It’s a little strange to write about a trip I am not going to take, but I had been talking about it for a year, to a lot of people, so explanations are warranted.


My plan was to take about a year to circumnavigate the world, including crossing both the Arctic and Antarctic Circles, all without taking a plane. Cargo ships like this one, which I photographed on my way to Tristan da Cunha, were certainly going to be required, but trains were also in the plans. Specifically, the Trans-Mongolian railroad, which would have taken me from St-Petersburg to Beijing, through Mongolia. I was looking forward to the journey, which I was hoping to do over a few weeks, stopping along the way and perhaps even spending a few weeks in Mongolia.

Unfortunately, I recently learned that Canada was having a little visa war with Russia. I downloaded the paperwork from the Embassy and the process is a complete nightmare. Basically they took out the old paperwork, used Liquid Paper to cover the words “Soviet Union”, and sent it to the photocopier. Much easier for me at the moment to visit Saudi Arabia or North Korea, so I’m not going to Russia. I won’t hold it against the Russians because I think Canada started the war, but that’s a moot point for me.

This left me with the option of going from Europe to East Asia though the “Stans”. A journey that can now be done safely, as long as you chose wisely which Stans to go through. However, it is logistically painful and slow. Also, some countries like Turkmenistan have not yet been informed of the fall of the USSR and the administrative processes to visit have remained unchanged. So I decided to postpone the round-the-world overland (and sea) trip, until Russia and Canada settle their little dispute.


Instead, I have 4 trips in mind between now and sometime next year, and the first one is the shortest, a 45 day road trip in the Southern and Mid-Western USA. Since I visited all Canadian Provinces, I figured I should visit all the States of my neighbours to the South. By the end of the year, I should have visited half, having been on both coasts on many previous visits.

I flew into Nashville yesterday and, after an afternoon of getting myself organized, I am now heading to Chattanooga, on the border with Georgia. The itinerary is somewhat flexible, with the exception of a few festivals I don’t want to miss. By the end of June, I should return to Nashville, having visited up to 14 States.

I’ll keep you posted!


A bunch of random pictures from my numerous transits through Italy.

I am currently in Canada and, after a week of catching up on my taxes, other administrative issues, enjoying time with my girlfriend and planning my next trip, I just realized I never posted any of my Italy photos. I figure it’s because in my mind, I did not travel to Italy, I merely went through Italy several times, always on my way to one of the region’s mini-countries, the Vatican, Monaco, Malta and San Marino. But I have quite a few pictures, so here’s a small sample.

I had low expectations about Pisa – especially its iconic leaning tower – but I must say, I was impressed. I could not believe a stone structure could remain standing with such an incline.

The same tower next to the Duomo, just to show I am not trying to trick you with optical illusions.

Of course, the tower is constantly being held up by an endless flow of well-meaning tourists.

I found it annoying; I wish they would fix it for good.  Continue reading