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Archive for the ‘Travels’ Category

Vienen del Norte

During our vacation a few weeks ago we stayed at the resort hotel Pueblo Bonito in Mazatlán. This is locally known as the best hotel in town. Since it is very isolated geographically, and the only way to get anywhere outside of the hotel is to get a taxi for a ride of at least 20 minutes, we didn’t leave the resort too much and took a lot of our meals there.

An item on the breakfast menu would cost about 180 – 200 pesos, which translates roughly to US$ 10.- which is quite reasonable for Americans. Our bill for breakfast, including a 100 peso tip. would be about 500 pesos each time.

During a taxi ride I spoke with the driver, mostly in Spanish, and asked him about the locals. What was the average wage? I found out that the average worker in the area made about 30 pesos an hour. A taxi driver who didn’t own his taxi but worked for “the man” expected to take home about 200 – 250 pesos a day. The taxi ride cost 420 pesos one way from the resort to the airport. I gave him 600 pesos. So my tip of 180 or about US$ 10.- was equivalent to three quarters of a day’s pay for the average worker.

All that got me thinking: We’re not rich. We’re middle-class, working Americans. Yet, we travel to a resort in Mexico and spend on breakfast alone per person as much money as the average worker makes in a full day of work. The service was great. There was always someone to pour more coffee, remove our dishes, and bring whatever we needed. It made the wonder what these people were thinking of us?

They come from the north.

Vienen del norte.

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Una Semana en México

Acabo de pasar una semana en Mazatlán, México. Me lo pasé bien. Aprendí una cosa: México no va a pagar por el muro Trumpano.

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O Mazatlán

from Wikipedia:

Mazatlán is a city in the Mexican state of Sinaloa.

Mazatlán is a Nahuatl word meaning “place of deer.” The city was founded in 1531 by an army of Spaniards and indigenous settlers. By the mid-19th century, a large group of immigrants arrived from Germany. Together, with the hard work of the Natives, they were able to develop Mazatlán into a thriving commercial seaport, importing equipment for the nearby gold and silver mines. It served as the capital of Sinaloa from 1859 to 1873. The German settlers also influenced the local music, banda, with some genres being an alteration of Bavarian folk music. The settlers also established the Pacifico Brewery on March 14, 1900.

Ah, da sind the Bayern hier gewesen lange bevor ich hier ankam. Kein Wunder, das Wetter ist schon etwas anders hier.

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When visiting Washington, D.C., it’s always a joy to go to some of the museums. I went to the National Gallery of Art. There is a wealth of world-class art to see. My “eyes get full” after an hour or so.

One of the highlights at the museum is Leonardo da Vinci’s Ginevra de’ Benci, pictured here. There is usually a crowd around it, so it’s hard to get to.

This painting is famous for being the only original da Vinci in the western hemisphere. I have seen my first da Vinci!

Then, later, I rounded a corner in the French section, and whoosh, there was Lovers by Picasso.

It seemed surreal, because for many years, a print of this painting hung in our house,  so it was common for me. Seeing it here, in the original much larger than the print, and so out of context, was like instant time travel back to the days when my children were little, and the print of this painting was prominent in our house. It immediately brought back the smells, sounds and emotions.

As I always do, I left the museum inspired to go home and pick up my brushes.

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A Good Day on the Hill

Today was a great day in Washington, D.C. 72 degrees, sunny, and light. The Capitol sat there in all its grandeur.

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Washington, DC – [click to enlarge]

A good day to land before sunset in Washington, DC.

  • Red arrow: The United States Capitol
  • Green arrow: The Washington Memorial
  • Yellow arrow: The Lincoln Memorial
  • Blue arrow: The White House

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Almost every person in the world has seen a picture of the Grand Canyon. Pictures do not do it justice. If you have never been to the Grand Canyon, and you walk up to the rim, it takes your breath away. The Grand Canyon is much larger, much more awesome, than anyone could possibly imagine and expect.

So it is with a total solar eclipse. Yesterday I experienced my first one. I have seen countless photographs, by amateurs, and by NASA professionals. I had first-hand reports from my friend and eclipse chaser M.B., and I knew intellectually what to expect.

Being there and having it happen was like the Grand Canyon to the power of three. It was the most awe-inspiring natural event I have ever experienced (the births of my children excluded).

Trisha and I went to the small town of Idaho Falls, a community of 56,000 people in the southeastern plains of Idaho. We went down to the banks of the Snake River, where there are falls and the river rushes. The area is a manicured park, with lots of grass, trees, benches, pathways, all right downtown. There were probably a thousand people there in the area, but it was not crowded at all.

We arrived shortly after “first contact” when the moon’s disk had just started to obscure the edge of the sun. You can’t see it, unless you have special eclipse glasses, but we had those, so we could easily monitor the progress. People set up their cameras, frolicked in the park, and slowly the anticipation built.

It started getting interesting in the last 20 minutes. While it was hot under the sun at 11:00am, it rapidly started getting cooler. The sun became a sliver, but it was still way too bright to see without the glasses. Then the light changed to an eerie blue and silver tint, somewhat like dusk, but different altogether. Shadows didn’t look right. It got chilly.

In the last three minutes things started happening fast. It was cold. It was dusk. The stars overhead became visible. The city streetlights came on.

And then, from one moment to the next, it was dark. We could look up and the sun was gone. With bare eyes we saw a dark black disk were the sun was, and a bright corona all around it. The sky was dark. The stars were out. Only a light ring around the entire horizon lit up the world. And the temperature dropped significantly. I shivered. It was outright cold in the middle of summer at noon.

I took a picture or two of the moon/sun/corona with my iPhone, but what came out was insignificant. The eclipse looks huge in the sky with bare eyes, but pictures are disappointing.

I took a panoramic video. At the end you can see Trisha waving at me. You can see her face lit up from the dusky glow of the horizon only. That’s how dark it was.

All round us people were cheering and howling, and so was I. Unable to stop the emotional outbursts, I found that a big portion of the experience is sharing it with the crowds around me. Everyone there, young and old, was unable to contain their emotions. The rawness of the experience, the depth, came through.

And then, just a couple of minutes later, a pearl of light shot out and the brightness of the sun was back. We had to use the glasses again. Within a minute, it started getting warmer, the eerie shadows came back for a while – and then, quickly, my normal world returned.

But I was a different person. I had seen an eclipse. It was too short. I wanted another one. How dare they be so rare!

The next eclipse in the U.S. will be on April 8, 2024, and I will be there. There is no way I will miss that. It will arch up from Texas to Maine, and Chautauqua, one of my favorite places in New York, will be right in the path. And I will be there.

Then, the next coast to coast eclipse will be in 2045. I will be 89 years old. I will be there too.

I have seen a total eclipse, and things are different now.

 

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I thought Montana was Trump country. Maybe not Bozeman. The

Green Coalition of Gay Loggers for Jesus

got my attention. But I didn’t realize that there was a photobomb of two young kids in need of a room in the front until after I took the photo.

Great times in Bozeman, Montana.

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I have never seen a total solar eclipse. As we are preparing for our trip to Montana and Idaho to be there in the path of totality on August 21 in Idaho Falls, I came across this video that describes the experience. Now I am getting excited.

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One thing you can say about Trisha – she knows how to have fun. This afternoon, she treated me to a ride in a biplane over San Diego. What better thing is there to do for no particular reason at all?

Here is the plane. As in all photos in this post, you can click on it to enlarge. Everyone who lives in San Diego has seen this blue and red biplane in the sky at one time or another. The plane was built in 1927. It is thirty years older than I am, and by far the oldest plane I have ever been in. Think of it. The Wright Brothers first flew in 1903. This plane was built just 24 years after that!

We’re gonna fly!

Here we are over the ocean, looking back to the Torrey Pines glider port. The cliff was swarming with paragliders. We stayed offshore so we didn’t get too close to any of them. If you zoom in and carefully look by the red arrows, you see a couple of them.

Below at the blue arrow is the infamous San Diego Blacks Beach. Do you see any of the nude sunbathers? I looked, but they were too far away.

We turned around and headed for La Jolla. Here is a quick video looking over the hood.

Speaking of La Jolla, here is a good look down at the famous La Jolla cove. You can see all the people on the beach.

And here is a view of the little cove (upper right) where there is a lot of controversy because it’s been taken over by seals. Some want to ban the seals, because they pollute the beach. Others say it’s their beach. Leave them alone.

Looking back, you can see our pilot. How in the world he can see anything back there is beyond me! He pretty much flies the plane looking sideways and down. At one time he pointed out a school of dolphins in the water near the beach and pointed the wing down at them was we circled over the spot checking them out.

Heading back inland now, here is a great view of Mission Bay.

Here is one of the San Diego canyons, with downtown in the back on the left.

Snoopy was also busy taking pictures. All that was missing was her scarf flying behind her in the wind.

Finally, our approach back to the runway. The plan just dive bombed down for the approach. The landing took what seemed just a few seconds.

And that was a superb way to spend a Tuesday afternoon. It’s called an “Adventure.”

 

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If you have traveled in Europe and stayed in hotels, you are probably familiar with the power interlock for hotel keys. It works this way: Inside your hotel room, near your door, there is a slot, which fits the door key card. The hotel only gives each guest one key. As you enter the room, you insert your key card into the slot, and all power in the room is enabled. Without the card in that slot, there are no lights in the room.

Then, when you leave the room, you need to bring your key, and it turns off all lights automatically. While this seems odd and inconvenient, it works quite well and I am sure it reduces unneeded power consumption in hotel rooms.

Some American hotels are now trying this concept, and it is failing ludicrously.

I am currently staying at a Hilton Garden Inn in Olympia, Washington. This hotel has such a system. You can see the slot, with a hotel business card inserted at the red arrow in the photograph above.

Since Americans are likely to never have seen such a system, the desk clerk is spending extra time with every guest explaining in advance how the system works. I am sure too many guests call down and complain that there is no power in the room. Here is the solution applied in this Hilton Garden Inn:

  1. The hotel desk clerk spends an extra minute or two with each guest explaining this feature. Guests are baffled, as I observed as I stood in line. Guests could not figure out what this was all about.
  2. The desk clerk gives every guest a hotel business card to insert into the slot so he doesn’t have to use the key.
  3. I noticed that the housekeeping service plays right along with this. When I came back to my room at night, the room had been cleaned, the business card was in the slot, and all the lights were on.

Clearly, there is a serious disconnect between this hotel’s management and its power-saving initiative, and the hotel staff that sabotages the effort.

Here in America we like our lights on – bright.

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I recently rented a brand-new Toyota Corolla. It had 1 mile on the odometer when I drove it out of the lot.

Since I have Southern California driving habits, which results in 80 mph speeds, I usually apply the cruise control in other states to avoid running into speed traps. New York State Troopers do no look kindly upon California speeders on their roads. So while going down the New York Thruway, I turned it on cruise control and set the speed to 72 mph.

I quickly noticed that it automatically adjusted down its speed when the car in front of me was going slower, and then sped up again when things cleared up. It also warned me with a gentle beep when I got too near the left or right lane markers, unless I indicated a lane change using my turn signal ahead of time. The slowing down went all the way to a full brake and stop when I was on a one lane road and the car in front of me had stopped for a left turn.

What surprised me was how quickly I adjusted my own driving habits to this feature. I would drive with the cruise control on and let the car do its driving. I simply took care of the steering.

Then I remembered that this was a rental car, and in a few days I’d be back to driving my 2011 Prius, which does not have these features. I thought I’d better not get used to the car slowing down automatically, lest I have some surprises rear-ending other cars.

I liked these advancements in this car, and I was surprised that I found them in a lowly car like the Toyota Corolla. I have to admit, though, as much as I liked the driver-assist features, I did not like its steering. The wheel seemed loose and not responsive. It drove a bit like a boat, albeit a small one, and as a result, I would not want to buy this car.

The driver-assist features were great, though.

 

 

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I am staying at the Embassy Suites in Syracuse.

Check out the paint job on the bathroom door! All the doors in this room looked like this.

This is how much this hotel pays attention to detail!

It made me wonder how clean my sheets are.

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New York City [click to enlarge]

The tip of Manhattan from a ferry. The Statue of Liberty is right in front of the World Trade Center One tower. The Empire State Building is faintly visible on the left side of the picture.

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photo credit: Imgur

Not only does this make me want to ride this road,
but it reminds me of this climb.

Good Times!

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