Dealing With Theft On The Road

A few weeks ago, my rental car was stolen whilst traveling. This event inspired me to post some tips and advice for my fellow travelers on preparing for, avoiding and dealing with theft on the road.


When traveling, do your best to avoid trouble. You can never be one hundred percent safe, but there is plenty you can do to reduce your risk of being victimized. Firstly, don’t behave like a victim. To quote the Batman, “criminals are a superstitious cowardly lot”[1]. Make it difficult and risky to victimize you and they’ll move on to easier targets. Walk and park in well-lit populated areas, near security cameras, or in areas with strong security or police presence. When in an unfamiliar place do your best to look like you belong and know what you’re doing and where you’re going. Don’t stand in the middle of a busy street reading a map. Plan your route in private, away from crowds, such as in your hotel room, a cafe or other quiet location; then you can move confidently to your destination.


Keep copies of all important documents. This includes identification, financials, and any important information about yourself and your trip. Using a secure cloud service with strong security (and a strong password – nothing easy to guess or discover by Googling you) to hold electronic copies is useful, but also keep spare paper copies of things like your driver’s license, passport (at least the photo page), visas, credit card details (especially the customer service phone numbers that you’ll need to report and cancel lost or stolen cards). If you have allergies or chronic conditions, investing in medical notification bracelets or pendants can be a literal lifesaver. Don’t forget to record details of documents and arrangements you make on the go. Car rental agreements should go in your document cache and it’s probably a good idea to snap photos of them with your smartphone or tablet. Be sure to secure your hardcopies as well. Hotel safes and money belts are good places to keep these documents and remember to leave copies at home and perhaps with a trusted friend or relative. One thing that an American should never carry, whether the original or a copy, is a social security card. If a thief gets this plus your ID, prepare yourself for the long process of combatting identity theft.

When renting a car, always take all of the extra insurance options. If you’re living on a limited budget, that’s all the more reason to take the extra insurance. Twenty to thirty dollars spent a day on a Loss Damage Waiver (LDW) is ultimately less expensive than being held liable for damages to yourself, others, vehicles and property. This is true even if you go for years incident-free. If you assume you rent a car for five days each month, year-round for five years, a daily thirty dollar LDW would cost a total of nine thousand dollars over those five years. According to the Rocky Mountain Insurance Information association, in 2012 "the average auto liability claim for property damage was $3,073; the average auto liability claim for bodily injury was $14,653[2].”


Know your surroundings

This may seem obvious, but take note of and avoid suspicious situations and individuals. Know where the exits are. Know the local emergency phone numbers (911 in North America, 999 in the UK, 000 in Australia, see this link for others). Learn how to say “help me” in the local language, and don’t be afraid to scream it at the top of your voice if necessary.

Know your capabilities

Chances are you’re not an action movie hero, so don’t act like one. Avoid confrontation, especially when in unfamiliar surroundings. You never know who the other person is, what they’re capable of, what they’re carrying or who their friends are. I don’t understand people who get into fights while traveling. Ego really isn’t worth a visit to a Turkish (or any) prison. I have been a martial artist since age 9, and generally consider myself capable in a confrontation but I will never engage whether at home or abroad unless lives are on the line. Another real consideration is that even in an unfamiliar region of your home country, but especially while abroad, you may be unaware of local customs, laws and whether police and officials are corrupt. If you find yourself having to tell someone what your rights are, chances are that they won’t be respected. The best defense is always to avoid being in trouble in the first place.

  1. Bill Finger & Bob Kane. “The Batman Wars Against the Dirigible of Doom” Detective Comics #33 (November 1939), DC Comics  ↩

  2.  ↩

Toni’s Pizza & Organic Pasta, Chicago, IL

Mario's Special Stuffed Pizza

Mario’s Special Stuffed Pizza

Many would expect that this Italian-American native Brooklynite would have a fundamental problem with Chicago pizza. Thankfully, I have an open mind and enjoy pizza in all of its forms.

There are plenty of big names in Chicago pizza, especially in and around the Loop and Magnificent Mile. None of these are particularly bad, but if you want to eat what the locals eat, you have to venture into the neighborhoods where they live.

One of the first places you’ll find on the way out of the downtown core is Toni’s Pizza & Organic Pasta. A true family business, Toni’s is run by Toni herself, her husband and their children out of a small corner space in River West. In warmer weather, there’s outdoor seating available. In the brutal cold of a Chicago winter, I’d advise delivery or takeout although if you’re lucky, you could find a spot at one of the two small counters inside.

Toni’s uses natural flour & tomatoes, low fat cheeses and locally made sausage to craft hearty pies loaded with flavor, yet maintain enough structural integrity to pick up a slice and eat it like a New Yorker.  While I don’t think there’s such a thing as too much cheese, that idea is stretched here much like the trails of cheese stretching from the pie all the way to your plate as you take the first slice.  Anyone with an Italian grandmother would feel nostalgic over the thick and hearty tomato sauce that tops Toni’s pies.

Toni’s Pizza & Organic Pasta is close enough for a short cab ride from, or delivery to, hotels in the Loop and Magnificent Mile areas. If you haven’t got the appetite for a whole pie, slices are available.

Find Toni’s Pizza & Organic Pasta at
457 N. Milwaukee Ave
Chicago IL 60654
☎ 312 243 1500

PEDs on Korean Air

Flag of South Korea

Roaddoggin has contacted Korean Air for a statement on personal electronic device (PED) use in all phases of flight. The airline has no plans to allow PEDs during taxi, takeoff and landing.

If the Korean Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport provides new guidance in the future; Korean Air may, at that time, consider changes to its policies on PED use.

FAA Rules Electronics OK

Personal Electronic Devices OK

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Administrator Michael Huerta today announced that the FAA has determined that airlines can safely expand passenger use of Portable Electronic Devices (PEDs) during all phases of flight, and is immediately providing the airlines with implementation guidance.

The FAA has lifted it’s requirement that airlines ban personal electronic use in certain phases of flight (full press release). Both Delta and JetBlue have committed to implementing a change in policy as soon as possible. This is great news for the traveling public. Until policy changes are implemented and communicated throughout each airline’s inflight workforce, please be kind and obedient to your inflight crews over the next several days or weeks. It is an FAA requirement that passengers comply with all crew instructions.  Note that cellular phones and any device with communication capabilities must still be put into flight/airplane mode for the duration of the flight.

In an official statement, the Australian Civil Aviation Safety Authority notes that “CASA currently has no specific regulations governing the use of electronic devices in aircraft.” and “Currently in Australia all airlines restrict the use of electronic devices during critical phases of flight – such as take-off and landing”. CASA does acknowledge that they are “examining the US Federal Aviation Administration’s announcement on the use of electronic devices on aircraft.”

At the time of this writing (2:30 a.m. GMT) the UK Civil Aviation Authority had not responded to a request for a statement. This article will be updated when a response is received.

Jamie’s Italian, Various UK, AU

Jamie's Italian Polenta Chips

Jamie’s Italian Polenta Chips

Jamie Oliver’s chain of Italian restaurants, although each restaurant follows the same formula and serves nearly, if not completely identical menus, manages to avoid all of the flaws of a formulaic chain restaurant.  The food here is made fresh from fresh ingredients.  The staff are generally friendly and attentive, and the food is top-notch.

I’ve visited outlets in London, Cardiff, Sydney and Perth.  There are dozens of outlets in the UK, and a smattering of outlets across Australia, Ireland, Russia, Singapore, Turkey and the UAE.  Each one is as good as the next.  As an Italian-American who enjoys cooking and eating, I can say that Jamie’s team has the formula pretty well designed!  I’m just hoping for an outlet in the USA.

My particular favorites include…

Polenta chips (pictured above): Crispy on the outside, creamy in the middle, covered liberally in shredded parmigano reggiano and rosemary leaves.

Wagyu breasola salad (pictured below): Fresh, crisp, clean flavors of the salad nicely complement the rich, salty breasola served carpaccio style as a base for the mountain of salad.

If I’m in a city with a Jamie’s Italian, and I don’t have something new & unusual on my calendar for a given meal, I know I can always get some top-notch Italian food.

Jamie's Italian Wagyu Breasola Salad

Jamie’s Italian Wagyu Breasola Salad

Visit for locations in the UK and for locations elsewhere.


Gilroy Garlic Festival, Gilroy, CA

Gilroy Garlic Festival

Gilroy Garlic Festival

The Gilroy Garlic Festival is a 35-year old county-fair-style event taking place each summer in Gilroy, CA – a place known as the “Garlic Capital of the World”.  Events include a garlic cook-off with finalists this year from 6 states and Canada, a Miss Gilroy Garlic Festival contest, concerts, and as much garlic-infused food as you can handle.

Here’s just a random sampling of the items available… pesto pasta, pepper steak, Italian sausage, garlic fries, crab garlic fries, garlic steak tacos, crawfish etouffee, garlic battered catfish & shrimp, Thai BBQ.

The festival is over for this year, but if you’re in California next summer, and you’re a lover of garlic, you’ll know where to go.

Noah’s New York Bagels – Cupertino, CA

Noah's New York Bagels, Cupertino, CA

Noah’s New York Bagels, Cupertino, CA

As I sit collecting my thoughts on Noah’s, I realize that I really don’t want to write a negative review, and honestly, if you’re not a New Yorker, you’ll probably think their product is as lovely as the friendly staff.  I think what really rubs me the wrong way is that they imply through their name that the bagels they serve are similar to the ones you’ll find in New York.  This is simply not true.  Noah’s bagels are round with a hole in the middle and are a bread-like product; the similarities to a New York bagel more or less end there.

According to Wikipedia, “The New York bagel contains salt and malt and is boiled in water prior to baking in a standard oven. The resulting New York bagel is puffy with a moist crust”.  I did not see a bagel boiling kettle in the shop, which partly accounts for the lack of New York-ness.  Noah’s bagels lack the thick, moist crust and are far less dense than a true New York bagel.  Their “schmears” also don’t stack up against New York cream cheese spreads.  Comparatively, Noah’s schmears are thin and watery. While one should never toast a true New York bagel, toasting improves the structure of Noah’s bagels.

The bagels at Noah’s are comparable to what you’ll find at other chains like Einstein Bros. or Dunkin’ Donuts.  They certainly make a good breakfast, and they have quite a bit of variety including things I’ve never seen before, like dutch apple bagels and caraway seeds on everything bagels.

If you’re a New Yorker and/or a New York bagel purist, you’ll be disappointed.  Otherwise, you can have quite a nice breakfast here.

20520 Stevens Creek Blvd Cupertino, CA 95014
Next to Starbucks and behind the Chevron on the corner of DeAnza Boulevard

New York Restaurant Week

NYC Restaurant Week is on now through Friday, August 16th. Participating restaurants, including some of New York’s best eateries, are offering set 3-course menus for lunch ($25) and dinner ($38). See the list of restaurants at Register your American Express card at to receive a $5 statement credit for every $25 or greater purchase at each participating restaurant through August 16th.

St. John Bread and Wine, London

St. John Bread & Wine, Spitalfields

St. John Bread & Wine, Spitalfields

A cute, rustic venue, St. John Bread & Wine is acclaimed chef and author Fergus Henderson’s dining room specializing in simple classic british foods that may have been in danger of being forgotten amongst the celebrity chef emporiums and guerrilla popup restaurants that are common in today’s London.

Open for breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and supper, the menu changes as the day wears on.  You can enjoy a simple bacon sandwich for breakfast (easily big enough for two unless you’re in training or manual labor), amongst other simple options, at a reasonable price.  If you like, and your morning commute/wander will take you past St. John, you can phone ahead the night before to order your bacon sandwich for take away the next morning.  Lunch and supper dishes often include organ meats and offal, which stands to reason seeing as Henderson is the author of The Whole Beast: Nose to Tail Eating (Amazon affiliate link).  Daily menus vary, but are known to include items such as foie gras and duck liver toast, bone marrow, and my personal favorite, the super-rich blood cake.  If you like black pudding or other blood sausages, it’s a must!  The blood cake is so rich that a fried egg with its runny yolk is used to cut through the richness.

Another favorite and British regional specialty that Henderson is reintroducing to London foodies to is Eccles cake.  Similar to a mincemeat pie (Aussies, it’s not meat, but fruit – ask a Brit or American), and named for the town of Eccles where they were creates and are still served in small bake shops.  Eccles cakes are a flaky pastry dome with a spiced and brandied filling of currants. The cake is usually paired with another hard-to-find-outside-of-England-item, Lancashire cheese – sort of similar to Cheshire or Wensleydale, but unique in its own right.

Of course, as the name suggests, you should absolutely try the breads and wine.  The bakery produces all manner of baked goods, which may just make you want to include St. John in your grocery shopping routine.  Aside from Eccles cakes, St. John has crusty rustic loaves and fresh madelines on offer.

The restaurant sits opposite Old Spitalfields Market and makes for a glorious pre-or post shopping meal or snack.  The address is 94-96 Commercial Street London E1 6LZ.

Breakfast dishes will set you back about £5.  Entrees (appetizers to my fellow Americans) tend to run about £9 and mains £18.  Order ahead for a whole suckling pig that will set you back £420 and feed 50 people.  If you want to put together a suckling pig party, call me anytime!