Go Away With … Mike Rowe

IMG_4864_crop Ryan Walsh 450w

By Jae-Ha Kim
Tribune Content Agency
September 17, 2013

Best known for his work on the Discovery Channel’s “Dirty Jobs,” Mike Rowe has a resume that may surprise some viewers. Besides doing on-air work as a host for the home-shopping channel QVC and voice work in commercials for companies such as Ford Motor Company, Rowe used to sing with the Baltimore Opera Company.

But he says some of the most important work he does is through the mikeroweWORKS Foundation, which promotes skilled trades and alternative education.

To keep updated with the 51-year-old San Francisco television personality, you may follow him on Twitter at  or on Facebook.

Q. What is your favorite vacation destination?

A. I’ve been fortunate to visit a number of exotic locales, but really — if I’m just looking to get away without worrying about lice or tape worms or diarrhea — there’s a Four Seasons in Kona, Hawaii, that’s hard to beat. It’s out of the way, but easy to get to, and very civilized.

Q. To someone who was going to Kona, what would you recommend that they do during their visit?

A. Very little. Load up the Kindle and find a hammock under a beach tree. Lose your phone. Avoid most physical activity. Look at the turtles. Get a suntan. Let somebody bring you a cold drink with a funny straw. Read some pulp-fiction. Preferably J.D. McDonald. Doze.

Q. What was the first trip you took as a child?

A. Like many kids in the ’60s, my brothers and I were often packed into the station wagon — the one with the fake wood on the side — and driven to various destinations within a few hours of our home in Baltimore, Md. The first trip I recall was a three-hour drive to Gettysburg, Pa., where my Dad, a high school history teacher — lectured us on the state of the union in 1863, the root causes of the Civil War and the many challenges that faced some guy named Lincoln. It was about 102 degrees that day and the re-enactors on Little Round Top were passing out every few minutes. I had a ball.

Q. What’s the most important thing you’ve learned from your travels?

A. Avoid the bulkhead. It’s overrated. Never check a bag. Always pack less than you think you need. If you’re on the cell phone, you’re probably talking too loud. If you work out on the road, bring some old T-shirts that you can sweat in and then throw away. There’s no good reason to bring a sweaty T-shirt back home. Oh, and at the hotel, don’t forget to tip the maids. They have a tough job and usually get stiffed.

Q. If you’ve ever gone away for the holidays, which was the best trip?

A. Years ago, I was hosting a show that aired exclusively on American Airlines. It was called “On-Air TV,” and it played to a truly captive audience. As the host, I had a D-3 Travel Pass, which was essentially a “Golden Ticket.” It allowed me to travel anywhere on the planet, plus in first class, with no advance reservations. As perks go, that’s about as good as it gets. Late one January, I sat next to a delightful young woman on a flight from Colorado to Los Angeles. When we landed, she agreed to have dinner with me in the airport. At some point in the conservation, she mentioned her dream was to watch the sunrise over Sydney Harbor. I asked her if she had her passport. She did. Twenty hours later, we were in Sydney, watching the sun come up. The date was February 2, which I believe is Groundhog Day. I’m not sure if that’s technically a holiday, but it sure felt like one.

Q. What are your five favorite cities?

A. Baltimore, Melbourne, Capetown, Santa Fe, Eugene, Ore.

Q. Where have you traveled to that most reminded you of home?

A. Melbourne is a lot like Baltimore, which is where I grew up. Sydney is a lot like San Francisco, where I live.

Q. When you go away, what are some of your must-have items?

A. Breathe Right strips. They’re the difference between sleeping and not sleeping.

Q. What is your best and/or worst vacation memory?

A. The best memories for me are a collage of time spent on the Eastern Shore in Maryland, Delaware and North Carolina. Nothing specific — just a lot of nostalgia. Ocean City, Md., was a great mix of family, friends, girls and mischief. I remember meeting some people in Rehobeth, Del., who had rented a giant house on the beach and invited me to stay for a week in June. I left in September. As for the worst, I was in St. Thomas for a few days back in 1995 when a hurricane called Marilyn stopped by. We were trapped there for a week or so with no electricity, wet clothes, warm beer and spoiled food. No flights in or out. All the boats were swamped. “Lord of the Flies” meets “Survivor.”

Q. Where would you like to go that you have never been to before?
A. Back in time. Briefly.

Q. Where are your favorite weekend getaways?
A. No weekends. When I can arrange it, I prefer short road trips in the middle of the week. North to Napa or south to Big Sur. In all things, I aspire to The Reverse Commute.

Q. Where is the most romantic destination?
A. The Canadian Rockies, or any range of mountains with ponderosa pines and an alpine lake. Lake Louise in particular, and Jasper up in British Columbia. Something about the wind in the trees and the moonlight on the water. Also good, the Oregon Coast during a big thunderstorm, especially in one of those cabins built into the side of cliff over the ocean. And, of course, the Holiday Inn Express, just off the interstate.

Q.What are your favorite hotels?
A. I wasn’t kidding about The Holiday Inn Express. I’ve stayed in dozens all over the country, and most are still on the new side. Clean, simple, everything you need with none of the nickel and dime nonsense you get dinged for at the 5 star places. Is there anything crazier than charging someone $8 for a bottle of water and $15 bucks for Internet when they’re already paying rack rate at The Ritz? I really can’t think of a dumber marketing decision. Plus, free food in the morning.

Q. What are your favorite restaurants?
A. The best part of San Francisco is being able to walk to half a dozen 5-star restaurants. A-16, in San Francisco.

Q. What is your guilty pleasure when you’re on the road?
A. Sometimes when I’m alone in my hotel room, I’ll listen to Toto. Real loud.

Q. What kind of research do you do before you go away on a trip?
A. I’m spoiled, in that most of my travel has historically been arranged by various production companies. So, not much.

Q. What untapped destination should people know about?
A. From what I’ve seen, most untapped destinations are untapped for a reason. Coober Pedy for instance, is in the South Australian Outback. It’s famous for its opals, which can be found in abundance about 60 feet below the desert floor. If you were to look down at the surrounding landscape from a helicopter, you would see thousands of unfilled mining shafts dotting the surface of the dessert. Each one is the diameter of a manhole, just wide enough for an unsuspecting tourist to walk into and plummet six stories to a most unpleasant end – which happens with alarming regularity. Because of the heat, most of locals live underground all year. And because of the flies, I will never return. Ever. Untapped indeed.

© 2013 JAE-HA KIM

Comments (10)

  1. You are a scamp Mike Rowe. I hope you stay that way. You are a dreamcatcher. My wish is that you keep on keeping on. I also you had your own show. Maybe there’s a way to combine work and making people’s dreams coming true.

  2. Sarah C says:

    I love Mike Rowe and that show! How cool.

  3. Kathy Clark Kipfstuhl says:

    One of my favorite “celebrities”. He’s seems like such a nice man and he’s such a hoot!! Looks to come by that naturally as his parents seem like great people too!

  4. I love you Michael Gregory Rowe. Please come for me.

  5. Mike Rowe says:

  6. Rheannon Okey says:

    Wow! I wish I was that woman on the plane that he took to Sydney! Why the heck did she let him get away? Anyway, Mike, as always you’re intelligent,eloquent and so down to earth!

  7. Oh my God. I remember when Jae-Ha Kim used to write concert reviews for the Chicago Sun-times. I would clip the reviews she’d write of the shows I attended. That was 20 years ago. I will add this to the collection.

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