• World Dracula Day – New Dracula book trailer

    Happy World Dracula Day (May 26th) to those who celebrate!

    On this most solemn of occasions, isn’t it time you learned the horrifying, true history of Vlad “The Impaler” Dracula, who somehow managed to be a psychopath and a national hero?

    (Hint: The answer is “yes.”)

    Buy or gift Backpacking with Dracula, my laugh-out-loud deep dive into the life of the real Dracula, augmented with travelogue vignettes of my time living and traveling as a Lonely Planet guidebook author in his home, modern day Romania.

    Not convinced? Check out this new trailer for the book and read some of the 69 (nice) reviews on Amazon, where the book enjoys a 4.6 out of 5 star rating.

  • Coin Hunt World – Legit? Fun? My impressions after two weeks of playing

    I’m naturally a suspicious person. I like my paranoia like I like my jalapenos: Just enough to burn a little. So, when a buddy told me about something called “Coin Hunt World”, all my scam alarms rang. Free cryptocurrency to play the equivalent of Pokemon Go? There’s no way that’s possible.

    Coin Hunt World

    And what, my regular readers must be thinking, does this have to do with travel? Keep reading.

    I’m more than two weeks into this little exercise now. I’m happy – and honestly a little surprised – to report that the pitch is accurate. Earn crypto while playing an entertaining game. In fact, as the next 2,000 words will attest, I’m a little over-the-top obsessed with it.

    There are three main perks to playing Coin Hunt World:

    1. TONS of walking and some biking (exercise!)
    2. A slow trickle of cryptocurrency earnings
    3. Like Pokemon Go, the Coin Hunt World community on Discord is full of good vibes and camaraderie

    If you’re using an Android phone and you want to download Coin Hunt World to check it out, please use my referral code. By using it, both you and I get free loot! (iOS users will have to wait – it’s still in beta and all the beta downloads have been used up.)

    What the hell is Coin Hunt World and why does the name sound so scammy?

    CHW is a geolocation game, which allows you to earn cryptocurrency while walking, running, biking, driving or, if you’re a degenerate sidewalk troll, skateboarding around collecting keys and using those keys to answer trivia questions that you unlock at “vaults.”

    Every time you answer a question correctly, you get anywhere from $0.10 to $100 or more in crypto, depending on the rarity of the vault. Ninety-nine percent of the time, you’ll be answering questions at the ubiquitous, $0.10 blue vaults.

    Currently the game pays out in Bitcoin and Ethereum, though other cryptocurrencies will be cycled in and out – including a brief, recent appearance by DogeCoin.

    You also earn in-game resources, namely “blueprints,” “resin,” and “paint,” which you can use to craft “cubies” (in-game avatars), which are already somewhat valuable and will be extremely valuable at some point in the future, presumably after the game is released worldwide. It’s currently only available in the US, Canada, UK, and it just launched in the newly christened crypto-haven of El Salvador.

    You’ll notice that there are no actual coins in the game itself, so why they chose this name, which to me screams malware, is a mystery. “Crypto Hunt,””Crypto Go” or even “Hungry Hungry Cryptos” would’ve been better, but as usual no one asked me.

    Coin Hunt World

    OK, you earn cryptocurrency playing Coin Hunt World, but how much are we talking?

    tl:dr Not a lot.

    Your earnings depend entirely on how much free time you have, how many keys/vaults are in your area and your stamina for collecting keys and visiting vaults. Again, most of the vaults currently in the game are the $0.10 blue vaults, so you have to visit 10 of those just to earn $1.

    Green vaults are lightly scattered and pay up to $1. Yellow vaults are very rare and pay up to $10. Red and purple vaults only appear at key locations for special events and they pay up to $100 and $1,000(!) respectively.

    On my hunting days, I have been logging 20,000 to 25,000 steps with some biking thrown in there, weather permitting (winter is coming), and I’m only getting about $35 a week in cryptocurrency, a mix of Bitcoin and Ethereum, though I’m still a relative newbie. Some OG players (i.e. those who started four, five, six months ago) are reporting earnings of up to $60 a week.

    So, you won’t get rich playing this game, but then again I played Pokemon Go for three years for zero riches, so clearly lack of revenue isn’t deterrent for people like me.

    Your playing mileage may vary depending on where you live. I live in downtown Minneapolis, which has a high concentration of keys and vaults. If you live in a less dense area, you aren’t going earn much – or you’re going to have to drive somewhere that has a good cluster of keys and vaults.

    Here’s a handy map to help you find good hunting grounds. NOTE: This map is user-generated data, so the accuracy is entirely dependent on players taking the time to update it. What I’m saying is you might find areas with a lot more keys and vaults than appear on the map and there’s always the possibility of hastily input inaccurate data by multitasking players.

    How exactly does it work?

    There’s a bit of a learning curve with CHW, and there are plenty of places to read up about it, but here’s the essence of the game:

    • Collect blue keys Keys are currently the game’s only “currency,” allowing you to earn crypto and use in the auction house to buy/sell cubies and resources
    • Use the blue keys to open blue vaults and answer the vaults’ trivia questions (categories include books, art, TV, film, celebrity, geography, general knowledge, sports, cryptocurrency, science and more)
    • Answer trivia questions correctly and you earn Satoshis (a denomination of Bitcoin) and Gwei (a denomination of Ethereum), as well as in-game resources (resin, paint, blueprints and/or more keys).

    Each color key can only open their same-color vault counterpart. Key denominations are pretty straightforward: Ten blue keys can be forged into one green key. Ten green keys can be forged into one yellow key and so forth. So yes, you’ll need a jaw-dropping 10,000 blue keys to forge one purple key. If that seems bonkers, rest easy; encountering a purple vault is about as likely as encountering a meteorite – at least for the moment.

    That’s the basic concept. Suffice to say the game has many layers. There are a lot of strategies, which will very likely change as the game evolves, and is made available to iPhone users and the rest of the world. In the mere two weeks that I’ve been playing, the game developers have been dropping news about upcoming changes/enhancements to the game almost daily.

    How is this legit? They’re just giving away crypto? Nothing is free, dude.

    If you’re wondering how Coin Hunt World is earning money while they give away crypto to, as of this writing, 70,000 players every week, the answer is they currently aren’t. They’re losing money. They have a business model for revenue down the road, but they’re wisely waiting until the game is more firmly established before they make that leap. They seem to be in no hurry.

    And yes, you have access to the crypto you earn. The game allows you to link your profile to your Uphold wallet (currently the only crypto wallet available in CHW) and your earnings are automatically transferred to your wallet every Tuesday. You need to have earned at least $10 that week for the Uphold transfer to occur. Otherwise whatever you’ve earned carries over to the following week.

    As for its legitimacy, one of the co-founders is Bill Shihara, CEO of Bittrex, one of the largest cryptocurrency exchanges in the United States. For me, that settled any worries I had about this being a scam and also explained how they were funding this, for the moment, money-losing enterprise.

    So, how do I earn actual cryptocurrency again?

    A couple ways. The quickest way is through answering vault trivia, opening “mystery boxes,” and giving your referral code to new players.

    When you refer a new player you get kickbacks when that player establishes their headquarters. (The new player MUST use your referral code link before they establish their headquarters.) The referrers also gets loot when the referee answers their first blue vault trivia question and other easy milestones.

    The referee will get two mystery boxes after they establish their headquarters, so there’s something in it for them too. Establishing your headquarters is one of the first things you do in the game, so be sure to get that code to whomever before they do that or you’ll both miss out on good loot.

    You can also get passive “income” in the form of keys with your “uservaults.” Each player is allowed to establish 10 uservaults. If you place these wisely, other players will visit them to answer trivia questions. Uservault usage pays out to the owner in a number of ways. These include blue keys, bonus higher tier keys (mostly green keys, but you might land a yellow in some instances), better chances for receiving resource boxes, leader board points and more.

    Players have an incentive to hit uservaults, versus the game’s default vaults, because uservaults pay out more in resources and sometimes extra keys.

    Early adopters are going to clean up with uservaults, because they must be placed at least 100 meters from other vaults. People getting started now can snap up popular, high traffic spots for their uservaults. The late-comers will have to place theirs in less ideal locations.

    Tell me more about the Coin Hunt World cubies

    This is a cubie. Aren’t they cute?

    Cubies are the Pokemon of the Coin Hunt World. You’ll want to collect as many as you can, the rarer the better. As I teased above, there’s an in-game auction house where players can sell and bid on cubies. There are common cubies, rare cubies, epic cubies, limited edition cubies and so forth. There are various ways to put in the work and craft these cubies yourself, but there’s always going to be a market for the rare and limited edition cubies. (Usually only available during special events.) And, again, these are expected to increase in value as cubies are given more and more features.

    Per the game’s developers: “…the world we are building will be operated by cubies, different cubies can do different things in this world, some cubies will be much better at certain things.” And “I believe cubies will outprice their resources once they have functionality ingame.”

    Bidding and payment for cubies in the auction house is done with keys. Keys aren’t crypto revenue, but having a stockpile of keys leads to crypto revenue through vault trivia. Also, you cannot purchase keys (at the moment), so having keys fall in your lap is pretty nice.

    The best comparison I can think of for CHW’s keys is V-Bucks for buying skins in Fortnite. These are extremely lucrative (and Fortnite skins don’t even have special abilities), so this is already a wildly successful model. There’s also an in-game store that currently only opens for special events and temporary sales.

    Eventually, non-fungible tokens (NFTs) will be available too, but there’s little information available on that right now. Whether in-game NFTs will have a similar market value as the public ones you read about, which are selling for bonkers sums of money, remains to be seen. My guess is a pretty confident “no.”

    Getting started in CHW

    Uphold account: Getting started in Coin Hunt World can be a bit tedious. The learning curve of the game itself aside, you’ll want to open an account at Uphold, so your crypto earnings have someplace to go.

    A Twitter account helps, but isn’t necessary: You’ll need this for the “photo quests.” If you already have a Twitter account, but you don’t want to spam your followers with CHW posts, just open a second account dedicated to CHW, like I did. Most Twitter smartphone apps allow you to toggle between several Twitter accounts, switching back and forth on the fly.

    Join the CHW Discord: Discord, the instant messaging app (available on mobile and desktop), links to your CHW account, so you can participate in relatively simple but lucrative “buddy quests” (which pay one yellow key, which, if you’ll recall, are worth 100 blue keys!), but also for the aforementioned community, camaraderie and information sharing that you’ll need to develop your game play strategies and follow new developments in the game. Some events require moderate cooperation with your local CHW community, so you’ll definitely want to keep tabs on that.

    CHW has a main Discord server for each country and most active cities/states have their own more intimate Discord communities. Staying isolated and playing alone will severely limit your progress and earning potential in the game, so even if you never post to the CHW Discord, you’ll at least want to read it – and use it to coordinate your buddy quests.

    Read the wiki: There’s a sporadically updated official Coin Hunt World wiki. Some of the information can be pretty stale. The running collection of trivia questions, so one can study up, is notably incomplete and even has some pretty glaring errors. That said, these updates are done by volunteers. Presumably, their time and dedication to the wiki ebbs and flows because real life.

    Is Coin Hunt World fun?

    For me, yes, absolutely. If you spent even a short amount of time playing Pokemon Go, imagine the enthusiasm you had for that compounded with the added perk of crypto earnings thrown in. It’s a double endorphin shot every time you answer a trivia question or complete a quest. 

    That said, there are some issues

    The GPS is almost unbelievably glitchy, particularly in dense urban environments, like my hunting grounds in downtown Minneapolis. In terms of tall buildings, downtown Minneapolis has only moderate building density, if that, so I can’t imagine the trouble people are having in places like New York or Chicago.

    But even outside downtown in sparse neighborhoods and parks, my cubie freezes, lags, jumps and wanders. I spend a significant amount of time trying to coax my cubie onto the spot where I’m actually standing. Sometimes, unsuccessfully. I hope the developers straighten that out soon or, if not, widen the access perimeter around vaults to account for the GPS drift.

    Additionally, playing CHW drains my phone battery faster than any app I’ve ever used. Running off the phone alone, I get in an hour, maybe an hour and a half, of hunting in before my phone dies. (Caveat: My phone is pretty old.) Being diligent about turning off the screen while walking from point to point has not helped much. If I plug in an external battery, I can get almost three hours of hunting before I need a recharge. So, if you wanna do Pokemon Go-style marathon hunts, you’ll need to carry around a second/third external battery.

    You said Coin Hunt World somehow relates to travel?

    Oh right! There are a few ways CHW supplements the allure of travel – or, depending on your passion for the game, the other way around. (The first person to open a purple vault for a $1,000 payout had to travel to Hawaii to do it.)

    There are or will be country-specific cubies, cubie “decorations,” and, one assumes, regional cubies, which you can only acquire while traveling (or the auction house). This enticement was wildly popular for Pokemon Go players, so I assume the same will be true for Coin Hunt World.

    Dedicated players can use the map to help them select a hotel at their destination in a dense hunting zone, so they can play during downtime.

    Last, but not least, is the social aspect. You can join the regional Discord server for wherever you’re going and make friends before you even arrive. The pessimist in me says that as these Discord groups grow, they’ll cease to be warm, fuzzy, inclusive places, but for the moment they are and it’s pretty great.

    Is this really a thing or will the next shiny geolocation app plunge it into obscurity?

    Based on the global popularity of Pokemon Go, and the global popularity of free money, I’m fairly confident this is going to be huge. There are lots of play-to-earn crypto games right now, but almost all of them have substantial minimum buy-in. As of this writing, Coin Hunt World is the best free-to-play, play-to-earn game out there.

    If CHW is so great, why haven’t you heard of it yet? The developers are conspicuously doing zero marketing at the moment. It’s pure word-of-mouth (and word-of-this-blog). There’s also the matter of the glacial iOS approval process. CHW may be a fringe game now, but getting it into the fidgeting hands of iPhone users and putting a little gas behind marketing is probably all it’ll take for someone in a cubie costume to appear on Good Morning America.

    If you have questions or reservations about the game, read the wiki and do a little Googling for independent research. Like I said at the beginning of this post, I was highly skeptical, but after a lot of reading and a few weeks of playing, I think something would have to go terribly wrong for this game to NOT be a global phenomenon.

    One last time, if you’d like to give Coin Hunt World a try, please use my referral code to score free loot for both of us. Or just scan the QR code below. Much appreciated!

    Coin Hunt World referral QR code
  • Blogger writes clickbait response to clickbait and you won’t believe what happens next

    Debateably famous travel blogger Leif Pettersen, best known for his tireless perseverance in the face of having no idea what’s he’s doing, banged out a scathing response to clickbait that he clicked on and immediately regretted earlier this week.


    Pettersen seems to have taken issue with the body of the clickbait providing none of the information promised in the title. He consternation mushroomed due to the clickbait enjoying a mystifyingly high position on Google search results. Our hero swears he read somewhere that Google was cracking down on this bullshit like seven years ago, but here we are.

    His annoyance went supernova when he encountered no less than three pop-ups while he was desperately scrolling through the article trying to find the promised information.

    The first pop-up invited him to join the site’s newsletter, which presumably delivers none of the information it promises straight to your inbox.

    The second pop-up, six seconds later, was just a friendly check-in and see if he’d changed his mind about declining the first pop-up.

    The third pop-up promoted the site’s ebook guide to crafting pop-ups that will inspire readers to audibly curse then emphatically close the browser tab, guaranteed.

    After taking a moment to appreciate the surprising bounce back of a wireless mouse rage-spiked onto plush carpet, Pettersen finished his third pre-breakfast Red Bull and went to work on his angry retort, which his readers almost unanimously testify are more entertaining than his nonplussed retorts.

    When the proverbial and literal writing dust settled (“Why clean the dust when it’s just going to come back eventually, mom?”), Pettersen felt significantly better and was confident that people would read the whole thing, just like all his other 300+ word blog posts with few photos and almost no video, some of which, advertisers take note, have literally tens of clicks.

    Having finished that, Pettersen decided that the blog post he was supposed to be working on that whole time could wait and wandered off the play Fortnite for three hours, comforted by the knowledge that he’d accomplished something, even if it was technically unrelated to his writing goals that day, which is how true writers operate.

    In summary, don’t mess with the process.

  • Adventures in press trips: Best press trip ever in Colorado

    After the tale of the fun, but sadly un-pitchable group press trip around Baden-Württemberg, Germany, I thought I’d follow it up with one of the best press trips of my entire life: a solo road trip stopping at some of the best places to visit in Colorado, with a focus on chocolatiers, cheese makers and distilleries.

    Come young travel writers, gather ’round the propane gas stove for a press trip tale so amazing, you may doubt its veracity. Actually, this whole experience was a master class in media pitching on the part of Colorado Tourism, so if any people from destination marketing organizations are reading this, you should probably take notes.

    Our story begins many months before the trip. One day in 2014, as is my way, I was busy tweeting about chocolate. I don’t recall exactly what I was tweeting about, but based on the timing it was probably a photo of my Easter chocolate haul, because I still get a chocolate-filled Easter basket from my mom every year, and yes I’m a middle-aged man and you can shut up about it.

    Someone at Colorado Tourism locked eyes onto that chocolate tweet and, without even a heads-up, a box arrived at my home some weeks later containing a jaw-dropping assortment of Colorado-made chocolate. It turns out, among its many enticements, Colorado has an unusually large artisanal chocolate scene.

    Colorado chocolate care package
    I mean…

    I was dazzled. In my entire travel writing career, no one had ever courted me with such Leif-centric precision – completely out of the blue no less. I reached out to the sender of this month-making care package to lavishly thank her. She, of course, extended an open invitation to visit Colorado on a press trip.

    I’d always associated Colorado with winter sports and, at the time, their newly legalized weed industry, two indulgences that weren’t anywhere on my “Top 100 things to try on a press trip” list. Colorado wasn’t even on my radar, as I was still a snooty “domestic travel is boring” guy. That chocolate delivery changed my attitude instantly. It was so thoughtful and laser-focused, how could I say no?

    A few months later I landed in Durango to start a week-long road trip, crossing Colorado generally from the southwest to the northeast, ending in Boulder.

    At some stage Colorado Tourism had the epiphany that if they wooed travel writers with their interests, instead of whatever the executives and stakeholders were promoting that week, they’d land more exposure. During the planning stages of the trip, I was asked to provide a list of things that made *me* happy. I half-jokingly replied “chocolate, alcohol and cheese.” I might have added an “LOL,” knowing this reply would be of little help and expecting the usual itinerary of new/improved attractions and activities that needed promoting.

    Naturally, I was dumbfounded with excitement when I received an itinerary that had me doing almost nothing but driving from chocolate tasting, to cheese tasting, to booze tasting, to lavish meals – usually featuring all three items.

    This was also when I received the almost unbelievable news that I would be doing the trip alone and mostly unsupervised. No tourism rep would be attached to me, handling messaging and careful guiding my experience for maximum good vibes, while quashing any problems or off-message input from rogue players.

    Instead, I was given a car and a carefully plotted route of some of the best places to visit in Colorado, making frequent stops to indulge in chocolates, cheeses and spirits, with only occasional company from the local tourism offices.

    What made this trip even more exceptional is that I didn’t have any confirmed articles lined up beforehand. Destinations rarely fly in travel writers, even ones with dazzling resumes (cough), who don’t already have at least one destination-approved assignment letter in hand upon arrival. This was truly the white whale of press trips.

    For those of you visiting Killing Batteries for the first time, in 2014 I was slowly winding down my travel writing career after the freelancing landscape never quite recovered from the belt-tightening and closures after the 2009 financial collapse. But I was still, by my humble standards, an in-demand travel writer with a decade-long track record for placing stories, with or without an assignment letter. Colorado took a gamble with me. (I eventually published three stories from that trip.)

    Apart from enduring a few butt-numbing long drives, my days were a sizzle reel of Happy Leif activities. Breakfast, drive, chocolate, drive, more chocolate, lunch with local cheeses and (responsible amounts of) booze, drive, craft cocktails, fancy dinner (usually with a local tourism rep or stakeholder), more cocktails, bed, repeat. For a week.

    Check it out.

    places to visit Colorado Peak Street Spirits

    They even found a cidery for me.

    Press trips range from “I never want to leave” to catastrophe-riddled death marches. I have never wanted to never leave a place so hard in my life. 10/10. In fact, as I write this, I’m entertaining the notion of a self-funded repeat of this trip. That’s how much I enjoyed it. (Also, I need to get the hell out of my Minneapolis pandemic monotony.)

    Despite what you may see on Instagram, travel writing is like any job. It certainly has thrilling moments, but more often than not it involves long stretches of lonely, feverish, deadline-driven work and copious amounts of unpaid hustling. A full week of tailor-made pleasure happens about as often as a slow week at the office while the boss is in another time zone.

    And to reinforce my appreciation of that long ago trip, and so you might seek out some pleasure for yourselves, I am providing a partial list of the many places that hosted me along the way.

    Places to visit in Colorado: Distillers

    Peach Street Distillery

    Highlights include their Goat Vodka, Jackelope Gin and a pear brandy with a whole pear in the bottle. They have a bar and tasting room in Palisade.

    places to visit Colorado Peach Street Distillery
    Harvesting pears in bottles at Peach Street

    Leopold Bros.

    Leopold has a 1,900 square foot tasting room in northeast Denver. Their exacting process includes bringing in freshly harvested Colorado barely and malting it themselves on site – the distilling equivalent of farm-to-table. This is the place that finally turned me into a whiskey drinker in my mid-40s.

    places to visit Colorado Leopold Bros

    Jack Rabbit Hill Farm

    Based in western Colorado, near the town of Hotchkiss, JRHF doesn’t seem to have a physical retail outlet anymore, but you can still buy their James Beard-nominated spirits, cider and wine online. And probably in select liquor stores, if you look hard enough. Much of their fruit and hops are grown on the farm, just steps from the distilling shed where they produce about 6,000 cases of product per year from a single still.


    Located in the pleasingly named town of Loveland, Spring44 uses Rocky Mountain artesian mineral spring water to make their gin. They also make honey vodka using Colorado Honey. It appears they’ve discontinued their Friday happy hour (formerly 4pm-7pm) and their tasting room hours (formerly Saturdays, 2pm-7pm), but hopefully that’ll change when (if) the world returns to normal.

    Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey

    Located in Denver, Stranahan’s make their whiskey with Colorado Rockies water and mountain grown barley, which they produce at 94 proof (47% alcohol by volume), versus the 80 proof of most whiskys. You can tour their distillery six days a week (reservations strongly recommended). Their on-site lounge appears to be shut due to covid. But let’s hope they someday re-open (former hours: Friday and Saturday 4pm-8pm).

    If you would like to sample some of the spirits listed above, and many more all in one place, seek out Williams & Graham, a classic speakeasy style bar in Denver, hidden behind a “bookstore” front, complete with a secret bookshelf door. Reservations are strongly recommended and you should “have a 2-hour window set aside for your entire visit.”

    Places to visit in Colorado: Artisanal and small batch chocolate

    Animas Chocolate Company

    Based in a small retail shop in Durango, Animas’ Belize-sourced chocolate goes into a variety of artisan truffles like “Green Fairy” (absinthe-infused salted caramel), “Canyon Cranberry” (milk chocolate shell with white chocolate cranberry ganache), and the one-bite wake-up that is the “Cowboy Coffee.” They also do hot chocolate, chocolate-covered potato chips and a dark chocolate espresso cheese cake.

    places to visit Colorado Animas Chocolate Company
    Dark chocolate espresso cheese cake

    Mouse’s Chocolates and Coffee

    Operating out out of the mountain town of Ouray, Mouse’s produces hand-made Belgian chocolate truffles, among other delights. They’re probably best known for their “Scrap Cookies,” made from leftover and imperfect truffles, toffee, chocolate bark, and anything else that didn’t turn out.

    PLaces to visit Colorado Mouse's Chocolate

    Drost’s Chocolate

    Located in a wide spot in the road called Eckert, southeast of Grand Junction, Drost’s legacy goes back to 1906. They make their own fudge, caramel, toffee and marshmallows. Big sellers include the Double Dark (dark truffle dipped in dark chocolate) and their caramel dipped in chocolate, covered with Hawaiian sea salt. Instagrammers will want to set aside several minutes to photograph the shop’s impressive collection of antique cash registers.

    places to visit Colorado Drost's Chocolate

    Enstrom’s Candies

    Before or after your sojourn to Drost’s, stop in at Enstrom’s, a fourth generation business located in Grand Junction. They specialize in almond toffee, chocolate truffles and bars as well as high-end ice cream. (They rotate through 84 flavors seasonally.) You can also order online.

    Piece Love and Chocolate

    Their tiny shop in Boulder is decorated with hanging umbrellas and faux-foliage, but those aesthetics will be quickly forgotten when you lay eyes on the glowing, breathtaking beacon that is the display case filled with over 60 different types of wildly creative chocolates.

    Ritual Chocolate

    Located in Denver, Ritual produces single-origin chocolate to create just seven types of chocolate bars out of their miniscule production area, including the “Costa Rica” (earthy, with hints of blackberry and walnut) and the “Nib Bar” (combination of “fruit-forward” Belize chocolate and nutty Madagascar nibs).

    Ritual Chocolate grinder from Dresden, circa 1910

    Colorado Artisanal cheeses

    James Ranch

    Located outside Durango, the ranch welcomes drop-in visitors to tour the ranch, eat their products (the Signature Burger with Belford cheese, caramelized onions, lettuce and rosemary garlic mayonnaise is sublime) and buy cheese, eggs, milk and beef in their market.

    Places to visit Colorado James Ranch in Durango

    Avalanche Cheese Company

    Avalanche makes hand crafted goat cheese (specifically, pasteurized fresh, aged and raw milk cheeses) and invites people to get dirty on their goat farm near Paonia, gathering eggs, tending chickens and feeding and milking their 180 Saanen, Alpine and Nubian goats.

    Haystack Mountain Goat Cheese

    Haystack produces award-winning fresh, bloomy rind, Monterey Jack and raw milk cheeses in their facility in Longmont. Tours and tastings are available. Their products can also be found in a variety of stores.

    Fruition Farm

    This is Colorado’s first (and, last I checked, only) artisanal sheep dairy and creamery. Alas, this is not one of the best places to visit in Colorado, because you can’t actually visit the farm, but you can purchase their award-winning sheep’s milk ricotta, pecora, and shepherd’s halo at shops around Colorado. Or dine at the outstanding Fruition Restaurant in Denver.

    places to visit Colorado Fruition Farm

    Did I forget any important best places to visit in Colorado in regards to chocolate, cheese and booze? If so, leave a comment below.

  • A serious SEO overview, seriously

    So you read my guide on how to set up a travel blog, did all that work exactly as I described it, and now you would like people who are not your mom or significant other to read it? In that case, you’ll need a serious SEO overview and you’ve come to the right place.

    SEO overview: What is SEO?

    No one really knows what “SEO” stands for, but it’s probably along the lines of “Sadistic Exercise in O-something.” Scholars are divided on that last part.

    Ideally, you’ll want to eventually master SEO. Unfortunately, mastering SEO is literally impossible, because even done perfectly it doesn’t matter. An SEO overview on the other hand is probably worth a read, so here we go.

    SEO overview: How does SEO work?

    SEO is how search engines like Ask Jeeves find the content you spent a week tweaking to perfection. Some “experts” will lead you to believe that if you work hard enough and choose your SEO keywords carefully, you can get one of the top positions in search results.

    More realistically, you’ll probably be relegated to the eighth page of search results just below a 12-year-old Reddit thread. The good news is if you work at it long enough, you’ll rank higher than content farms that filtered their text through Google Translate from Tagalog to Chinese to English. It’s important to have realistic goals with SEO or you’ll go SEOychotic.

    SEO overview: How it’s done

    Let’s get the bad news out of the way first. If you truly want monster visitor stats for your blog, you have to surrender to the concept that you will rarely, if ever, get to write about the stuff you want to write about. Interests? Doubtful. Hobbies? Forget about it. Passion projects? ROTFLMAO.

    No Gomer, you have to write what the SEO robots tell you to write. Or write whatever you want, but don’t come crying to me when your posts get 11 views in two years.

    Before you do anything, including opening a blank Word document, you need to figure out what search “keywords” (A.K.A. “Very important words”) people are using to find stuff on the Information Stupid Highway. You can do this with a number of paid keyword search tools or do it the zero-budget way with the marginally useful Google Keyword Planner or just type stuff into the Google search bar and see what auto-complete phrases pop up.

    These keywords are the most important two or three words you write that week, so you really need to nail this part. If you don’t have a $100 monthly budget to nail this part, just winging it is only slightly less effective.

    Ideally, you want to find keywords that have massive average monthly search numbers, but aren’t already being used by 500,000 websites that beat you to the SEO finish line for those keywords. Keywords are ranked as “low,” “medium” and “high” in terms of competition.

    You want to focus on the low competition and don’t bother with the highs because even if you worked on it for the next 100 years, you’ll never win SEO ranking for something like “crypto mining,” but you might do well with, oh say, “SEO overview.”

    If your first choice of keywords are all ranked as “high,” just scroll down the alternative keyword suggestions until you arrive at something ranked “low” that you never thought anyone would ever search for, but is still on the suggestions list for some reason. I mean, anyone searching for “cryptopanic” should probably stick with more reliable investments, like literal rolls of toilet paper, anyway.

    This part of the process can be infuriatingly counter-intuitive. The “competition” rankings rarely seem to reflect reality. For example, “Kanye West” is ranked as having “low” competition, which is clearly not right. But something like “yeezy gap,” whatever the hell that is, is ranked as “high.” Honestly, it’s probably best to take the keyword competition rankings with a grain of salt. But, follow them exactly. Casually, but strictly, if you catch my drift. And if that previous sentence makes any sense to you, you’re going to be great at SEO.

    Now that you’ve found a topic so unrelated to the interests that made you want to start blogging in the first place that it makes your eyes water, it’s finally time to start writing! In order for your keywords to have the most impact, you need to use those exact keywords in the title of your post, obviously, and a bunch of times in the body of your post.

    Use your keywords too infrequently and the search engines won’t find your post. Use your keywords too much and the search engines will think you’re up to no good and knock you down to the 500th page of search results. You have to use your keywords just the right amount of times. How many is the right amount? No one knows! Welcome to monetized blogging!

    After you’ve solved the unsolvable mystery of how many times to use your keywords, you still have work to do. You also need to find some pictures with no copyright restrictions to insert into your blog post and then shoehorn your keywords into the picture’s alt text. If you don’t know what “alt text” is, well join the damn club.

    SEO overview

    Finally, you need to write a pithy meta description for your blog post that also has your chosen keywords. If you don’t know how to do this, find a 13-year-old to do it for you. Always remember, you don’t necessarily need to do all of these steps, but if you skip any of them or do them lazily, your SEO success is going to take 217 years, instead of 117 years.

    If you find yourself in the awkward position of having to write about a topic you know nothing about, just Google it and read everything on the first page of the search results. Don’t worry about the second, third and whatever pages of search results. Only losers and the unemployed have time to hit that “Next” button once or twice.

    There’s a famous saying in SEO circles: “The best place to hide a dead body is on the second page of Google search results.” Don’t let that saying and the fact that your work will almost never appear on the first page of Google search results for anything dissuade you. If you do, the terrorists win.

    Step 4: Profit

    Now that you’ve done all that spirit-breaking work that you never signed up for, it’s time to hit “publish” and start the waiting game. If you’ve done everything perfectly, you should have to wait no longer than three or four years for your work to get traction on the search engines, so use that time to find a good job and claw your way up to middle management, all the while telling everyone who will listen about your blogging “side hustle,” that makes less money in a year than you’d make in two hours begging for change on the freeway entrance ramp.

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