Gone are the days of buying the Lonely Planet's bulky Central America on a Shoestring and lugging the 2 lb. beast around in your backpack for a short trip to the Yucatan, Guatemala and Roatan.

Not even stepping foot in El Salvador, Panama or Oaxaca? If you're not going to burden yourself with the extra time and energy to visit these places, why burden youself with the weight? That's the key behind the LP's Pick and Mix feature (currently only offered on Latin America titles, but soon to be expanded). You pick and choose which chapters apply to your upcoming trip, buy for cheap, print double-sided on recycled paper, enclose the entire thing in a Ziploc baggie and you're set. Your pack is lighter, you saved a ton of energy in printing costs, and, without all those glossy photos and distracting sidebars on Dangers/Annoyances, your trip will be more focused and ever present.

Though even this service isn't for everyone. There are ways to go cheaper and more eco-friendly. On my last trip to Central America, I visited Nicaragua but flew out of Liberia, Costa Rica, thus spending less than 2 nights in that country (and all of it spent non-stop bus-hopping and hostel-and-hotel crashing). All I needed was 4 sheets of paper, printed double-sided, photocopied from the Eugene Public Library's extensive collection of travel guides, to get me through that slog through that Californicated country. So my suggestion is to only use this feature if you are truly dedicated to a specific chapter (the entire chapter) and you've already read up on the history and other local customs of the country you're about to visit. The big, thick, complete LP can be one helluva read and get you through the dull(er) parts of travel (and yes, there are dull parts to any trip). But if this is your 3rd time returning to Chile, perhaps it's time to shed the reading material and use the local expertise found kitty-corner from your hostel, not the kind found at your fingertips.

I left my $$ in San Francisco, and that's just fine.

Main thing is, I am so pumped to blog! (Click on title to read more...)

I just now (OK, a couple of hours ago, for reals) returned from San Francisco, so I have plenty to blog about. But of course there are a few things to do around the office, so before I talk about the San Francisco Theater Festival or the SFMOMA or BART vs. Portland's MAX or why the hell the Berkeley summer visitors center doesn't have wifi, I need to, you know, copy edit. And write some content for this here CHOW! that's coming up.

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