Archive for the ‘Travels’ Category

[click to enlarge] Photo Credit: Credit James Cruz (jamesjcruz on Instagram)

I have never been to Egypt and have not seen this view with my own eyes. But it must be one of the most spectacular views in the world, truly awe-inspiring.

What gets me is what I see in the lower left corner of the picture. It looks like a shed, or a chicken coop in a slummy back yard. If I owned a property in that spot I’d have a palatial veranda overlooking the most awesome view in the world. I would not put a shed in that corner.

But then again, this pyramid was completed more than 4,500 years ago. When Cleopatra was born in 69 B.C., those pyramids were already 2,500 years old. In other words, Cleopatra is closer to us in the time line than she is to the time the pyramids were built.

The chicken coop will long be gone, and Cairo will likely be dust 2,000 years hence, and the pyramid will still be there, and the sun will still set behind it.

That thought gives me comfort.

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Black and White in Germany

This is the view out of my parents’ living room on March 18, 2018. It’s been icy-cold and snowy. This is not a black and white photograph. It’s in full color. Go figure.

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Room with a View


[click to enlarge]

San Francisco Hilton – Financial District – 27th Floor with Balcony

Alcatraz  in the background left, a docked cruise ship on the right and the Coit Tower in the middle.

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I never pay for first class tickets on airlines, but due to my elite status with the airline I am often upgraded. I am one of those people you see sitting in first class as you board the plane for coach and you wonder how I am willing to pay those prices. Well, I don’t. Usually I pay less than you do, but I get better service. This is one of the benefits of the huge amount of travel I do.

In first class, you get a drink as soon as you board. Usually I don’t bother, but sometimes I will take a cup of coffee. The other day, around eight in the morning, a passenger behind me asked the flight attendant: Is champagne on the menu? Sure, he said, and a minute later the passenger was sipping champagne while the poor folks in coach were still boarding – at 8 o’clock in  the morning.

I don’t think of champagne as something I would ever want to drink on an airplane. It belongs to a toast on New Year’s Eve, or maybe in honor of the bride and groom at a wedding. But on an airplane? While boarding?

Who are these people?

Then again, I am sitting in seat 4A on a flight that left at 7 o’clock in the morning from Boston, and the man next to me is already done with his second Bloody Mary.

I am taking another sip from my coffee.

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It was on January 24, 1776:

In the cold, nearly colorless light of a New England winter, two men on horseback traveled the coast road below Boston, heading north. A foot or more of snow covered the landscape, the remnants of a Christmas storm that had blanketed Massachusetts from one end of the province to the other. Beneath the snow, after weeks of severe cold, the ground was frozen solid to a depth of two feet. Packed ice in the road, ruts as hard as iron, made the going hazardous, and the riders, mindful of the horses, kept at a walk.

— John Adams, by David McCullough – opening paragraph of the book. See my review here.

When John Adams embarked on a journey from Boston to Philadelphia in the winter of 1776, he faced over two months of travel on horseback. He had to leave in the bitter winter to be there in the spring for the session of the Continental Congress that year. He could make such a journey only once a year at best, and while he was gone, his wife and children at home had to fend for themselves.

Along the journey he had to find shelter every night in an inn or private home. Not only did he need to find room and board every night for himself, but he also needed to take care of stabling for his horse. The expenses for such a trip were enormous, and the physical hardship of being on horseback outside, in the winter, in all weather, on terrible “roads” must have been crushing. But John Adams did it, and certainly thousands of other travelers along the route did too.

This morning at about 6:30am I boarded a flight from Boston to Philadelphia. Once airborne, the flight took one hour and four minutes.

If I could have told John Adams that I would, some 240 years hence, enter an aluminum tube with about a hundred other passengers, which would travel at close to the speed of sound at 30,000 feet of elevation, high above the clouds, he would not have been able to believe me. Yet, here I am, writing this blog post, with a hot cup of coffee next to me. I am warm, comfortable, and even a little sleepy.

To John Adams, this would have been indistinguishable from magic.

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Trisha and I went on a Jeep ride today with Chris (of Piper and Heath) and Roy (a wildlife photographer) in the backcountry of San Diego County. We went out in two Jeeps (for redundancy) and spent the day cruising places otherwise completely inaccessible.

Here is Chris driving down a steep section of rocky trail while Roy spots him. Trisha is the passenger.

Later in the day, Chris, the wilderness guide per excellence, served up a perfect picnic complete with wine and gourmet salads:

If you are ever looking to travel to Africa with expert guides, call Piper and Heath, and I promise, they will take care of you with first class service.

Thanks to Chris and Roy for great outdoors adventure today.

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A Walk without Exercise

From Left to Right: Linda, Dick, Trisha and Norbert

We just got home from a 3-hour, 13-mile “walk” all over Balboa Park, Little Italy, the San Diego Harbor, Seaport Village and the Gas Lamp Quarter, without getting any exercise at all.

When I got home and walked to the mailbox it felt odd that I couldn’t just lean forward and accelerate to 12 miles per hour.

Now I want a Segway!

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Today I traveled back from Columbus, Ohio to San Diego, California. In Columbus, the weather turned from rain to snow throughout the afternoon, and I was truly worried about making it out of there. My first leg was to Phoenix, Arizona, with 72 degree weather and clear skies. After wheels up in Columbus, I thought I’d be home safely. The connection flight from Phoenix to San Diego was where the problem kicked in. There was fog in San Diego, and first we started circling over the desert in a “holding pattern” as the pilot called it. Then we were diverted to Ontario, California. San Diego was hopelessly fogged in.

When we landed in Ontario just after 10:00pm, unfortunately, we were not the only plane. There were at least another five or six planes, all destined for San Diego, sitting on the tarmac in Ontario. The airport was already closed, and there was not enough staff there to guide all these planes into gates. There was no staff to operate the jet bridges. Since the terminal was closed, they had to call the police to open the doors. That took some time.

So, after landing, everyone got to sit on the planes for another half an hour. Of course, there was nobody to timely unload the luggage, and the poor airline agent couldn’t get any buses on short notice.

Imagine hundreds of people milling around the airport baggage claim area with no services and no place to go, and the hour was going on midnight.

Fortunately, I live “only” about 90 minutes from the Ontario airport. While I was still on the plane, to save time, I had called The Woman, who fortunately had just texted me that she missed me an hour before, to come and pick me up.

Oh, what a lucky man, I was!



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Great Things about America

I write so many critical posts about our country and government that it could seem that I don’t like the place. The contrary is true. This is my adoptive country, and I love it, and I love living here. I am often reminded about this, but it’s not as newsworthy as a corrupt administration or an inept government. Here is something I love about this country:

Its great size and climatic diversity.

Last week, on December 29, I was at the Seattle airport waiting for my flight home to San Diego, via Los Angeles. I had just spent two days in the Seattle area, and it had been raining solid. Not just a drizzle, real, steady, cold, wet rain in temperatures in the 35° F / 2° C range. The airline gate representative was managing two flights, mine to Los Angeles at gate 10, and another to Chicago at gate 11. He made the announcement that the two flights would be boarding at about the same time, and it was important that we passengers would get on the right plane. “One is going to a warm and sunny place, and the other is going to a very, very cold place.” At the time, the temperature in Los Angeles was 82° F / 28° C, and Chicago was around 10° F / -12° C. I was glad I was going to Los Angeles.

Tomorrow I was supposed to travel to Boston. But they are expecting a blizzard on Wednesday and Thursday. It’s 17° F there right now. It was over 80° F here in San Diego today and sunny. I can’t even imagine what it would feel like to be in that cold right now, yet, I am only about five flight hours away. Needless to say, I canceled my trip, and I am staying in town. I’d rather be home and warm, than stranded in some forlorn airport in a snowed-in city with no way out.

What I love about this country: That you can go to any type of weather, from bitter winter, to balmy sunshine in just a few hours and never have to leave the country. There are very few places in the world where that is possible.

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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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