Category Archives: Travel

LOOK!!

Tonight on Twitter, someone wrote:

…which prompted a response from someone I follow…

…to which I said…

But seriously, folks! Why does everyone on the plane shut the window shade throughout the whole flight these days??!!

Being at 5,000, or 25,000, or 45,000 feet gives us a viewpoint on the world that was flat out impossible only 100 years ago, and was still highly unusual to the average person 60 or 70 years ago. Even today, despite how commonplace air travel has begun, for 90%+ of us it’s something we might see once or twice a year. For probably half of the US population or more it’s something they experience only every few years.

The world is a different place seen from above. The clouds come in myriad shapes and forms, flowing over vast distances, breaking up into puffy cotton balls, building into monstrous thunderheads. Sunrise from high altitude is the closest most of us will come to seeing an orbital sunrise, while sunset lingers and elongates time as the sky darkens and the stars come out.

You’ll always know where I’m sitting on the plane if I get a window seat. It doesn’t matter if it’s night – there might be aurora or stars. It doesn’t matter if it’s cloudy – I love looking at the clouds. It doesn’t matter if it’s a ten-hour flight over open water – I’ll watch for ships or islands or whales or mermaids.

I’ve seen full double rainbows while dodging thunderstorms on final into DFW. I’ve seen the Grand Canyon as a gash in the earth, while the Rockies covered with snow even in April and May look like the Earth’s ragged teeth. Rivers meandering, from the Mississippi to the Rio Grande and Potomac, tributaries branching off like poster children for fractal math.

Whole cities can be laid out before you. The Las Vegas Strip at night with enough neon to scare away the stars themselves. Washington DC laid out like a model, monuments and tourist sites elbow to elbow. New York City with Central Park beckoning and a lady standing in her harbor, Seattle with Mt. Rainier on guard, the Golden Gate and Bay Bridge connecting San Francisco to its neighbors, Chicago and Lake Michigan spreading out like the spokes of a wheel. And for me, the American City of Lights, Los Angeles, lit up like a jewel for 100 miles in every direction, freeways like ribbons of light, the Hollywood sign off to the north, and the fireworks from Disneyland in Anaheim to the south.

Yet on almost flight I’ve taken in the past couple of years, by the time we’ve taxied out and are taking off, 90% of the shades are down. People have logged onto the plane’s wifi and they’re doing the exact same damn things they were doing on the ground. They’re answering boring emails, watching idiot videos, or playing mindless games. While outside, just a few inches away, are wonders and fantastic sights.

We’re jaded. We’ve lost our sense of wonder.

We’ve lost our minds.

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Filed under Flying, Travel

New York, New York (Pictures Day 20)

In summary: New York City had a life of it’s own in my head. In early August 2016, I visited there for the first time. On the first afternoon we visited Central Park and were there for hours, despite the jet lag. Day One started with a tour of the Intrepid and the Space Shuttle Enterprise, followed by the full two and a half hour cruise around Manhattan – south down the Hudson River into the Upper Harbor, up the East River under the “BMW” bridges, past Midtown and the UN, into the Harlem River, back south into the Hudson River, underneath the George Washington Bridge, past Grant’s Tomb, and finally back into port. To finish Day Two we had a death march to find a cab, went to the Mets game, left early only to miss the best part, and inadvertently stiffed a nice cab driver. Bright & early on Day Three we headed out toward Liberty Island – it’s hard to take a bad picture there, then went to Ellis Island. Bank on Manhattan, we went to World Trade Center Museum, which was emotional & grueling. Day Four started out with a trip to Times Square, after which we headed to the Empire State Building. The views of Manhattan were spectacular!


Following our obligatory tourist visit to the Empire State Building, we had to boogie off to the Bronx. We had a coincidental appointment with history and some bombers.

When we travel, we love to see other ballparks, and one of the best of the best was next on our list.

This is the third iteration of this particular cathedral of sport. Until the time machine gets out of the shop we won’t be able to visit either of the earlier ones, but this one is pretty spectacular on its own.

Even though we were there a good three hours before game time, the place was already getting pretty packed. It was a real lucky break that we had bought tickets for this particular date months earlier. It was truly a hot ticket, but we weren’t giving up ours, even though we almost could have paid for the trip in what we could have gotten if we had scalped them.

There were a LOT of news vans and media crews there, even for New York City! Local, national, international, all turned out in droves for the game this day. Satellite uplink trunks for blocks and blocks.

It turns out that the game we picked (because it fit into our schedule) was Alex Rodriguez’s final game, with all of the pomp and circumstance associated with that.

We sat around outside the gates and watched the crowd for a couple of hours, especially all of the news crews and media “celebrities.” I don’t have a clue who this woman was, but she set up shop right in front of our bench and was drawing quite a bit of attention, for example.

Once we got to our seats out by the left field foul pole, I started the usual stadium tour that I always try to take when I’m at a new stadium for the first time. Our seats weren’t quite this close to the field, but that turned out to be a good thing.

The crowd was looking for ARod and I was loving the atmosphere of such a legendary site.

Once out in dead center field, about an hour before the actual game, looking back to the west, I noticed that the clouds were building up.

Huh.

Ten minutes later, now outside of the right field bleachers, it really started to look nasty.

There were a ton of pre-game ceremonies planned to say goodbye to ARod – but maybe God isn’t an ARod fan?

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Filed under Photography, Travel

No Context For You – November 09th

There’s something tantalizing here. Almost enough detail to recognize where and when I inadvertently pushed a button and saved an image without realizing it.

Almost…

Meanwhile, Jeez Louise, *WHEN* did it become **NOVEMBER**??!!

Sorry, it caught me off guard today.

Way back at the beginning of the year I wrote about how last year became the “year without Christmas” for me. That wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, given what I got to exchange Christmas for, but it was odd. (And to answer the question posed at the end of that article – right here at home, given the nature of the business at my new job.)

But then 2019 has had its own unique sets of “challenges,” many of which have impacted other holidays, both societal and personal.

For example, between 2018 and 2019, it’s the first time in forever that we didn’t go somewhere to watch fireworks on July 4th. Oh, from the new house, which is on the top of a hill, we can see them off in the distance – but it’s not the same.

In both 2018 and 2019, it’s the first time in forever when we haven’t been to an Angels baseball game. None. Not one. Zip. Zilch. Nada.

Labor Day or thereabouts used to be Worldcon. Maybe not every year like when I was in college or soon thereafter (i.e., before the kids arrived) but usually at least 2 out of three years, or three out of five. Now – nothing since 2009. Hell, we didn’t even get to the Worldcon in San Jose last year!

Our trips to the movie theaters have plummeted. We used to go at least once a month – now it’s once or twice a year. Maybe.

Halloween at the new house has been a non-event for two years in a row now. We used to have so, so many kids come by and bring out the telescopes. Now, even though we’re only a mile away, we might as well be on a rural highway halfway between Renwick and Hardy, Iowa.

So here we are in early November and Thanksgiving is less than three weeks away. We’ll be doing…what?

And Christmas is only six and a half weeks away. We know we won’t be traveling, but will the lights and festivities and decorations and celebrations be up to our familiar standards?

One might start to think that we’re doing this “adulting” thing incorrectly.

(Thank you for attending my TED whine!)

 

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Filed under Castle Willett, Family, Photography, Travel

Scattered Back On The Winds

Having gathered family and friends from the four corners of the globe (literally), with the festivities completed (and they WERE festive!) it was time today to scatter the children back on the winds.

The Older Daughter had to be back at work this morning in Northern California, so she made the long drive back last night.

I was up way too damn early to drive The Son to the airport, which not only completely played “52 Pick Up” with their pick up traffic (taxis, Uber, Lyft, etc are now off in an off-site lot which no one can find and no one can figure out how to get to or from) but which also appears to be 100% under construction.

Isn’t it iconic?

Then the Younger Daughter and her newly minted husband, The Son-In-Law, took off for their honeymoon.

So as we speak, one is in a plane to Asia near the end of an eleven-hour-plus flight, and the others are near the US/Canada border on their way to Europe.

And tomorrow I’m back to the office to play catch up after the long weekend.

Time to go looking for a new normal, a new routine. It’s been magnificent, but I really could use a little bit of boredom for a few weeks!

 

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Filed under Family, Photography, Travel

Someplace Special – October 25th

From our trip last December, the final game of the regular season for the Kansas City Chiefs, against the hated Oakland Raiders.

It was cold. The crowd was ***LOUD***! We stomped them, 35-3.

We got to see four games last year. Two in LA, one in Seattle, and this game in KC. This year we’re highly unlikely to get to any games since the Chargers’ “home game” against the Chiefs is in Mexico City next month.

Arrowhead Stadium is a holy place to a lifelong Chiefs fan.

Truly somewhere special!

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Filed under KC Chiefs, Photography, Sports, Travel

New York, New York (Pictures Day 19)

When last we left our plucky heroes…

For those of you who are relatively new to this site, in the “old days” I used to post a lot of long, multi-part posts with pictures from various trips. (Use that “search” box over there to look for “Shanghai,” “Seoul,” or “Kyoto,” or look through everything in the “Travel” category.)

Over two years ago things got very busy in the “life” category and the travel series I was in the middle of (one of my favorites because the trip was so great and I had SO much fun on it) was showing off my first trip to New York City. Part #16 was posted on 18-May-2017, part #17 on 11-Jul-2017, and then part #18 didn’t post until 01-Jan-2018. Part #19…never got posted until today.

Let’s see if we can get back to resuming some of those earlier collections of posts. I enjoyed them.


In summary: New York City had a life of it’s own in my head. In early August 2016, I visited there for the first time. On the first afternoon we visited Central Park and were there for hours, despite the jet lag. Day One started with a tour of the Intrepid and the Space Shuttle Enterprise, followed by the full two and a half hour cruise around Manhattan – south down the Hudson River into the Upper Harbor, up the East River under the “BMW” bridges, past Midtown and the UN, into the Harlem River, back south into the Hudson River, underneath the George Washington Bridge, past Grant’s Tomb, and finally back into port. To finish Day Two we had a death march to find a cab, went to the Mets game, left early only to miss the best part, and inadvertently stiffed a nice cab driver. Bright & early on Day Three we headed out toward Liberty Island – it’s hard to take a bad picture there, then went to Ellis Island. Bank on Manhattan, we went to World Trade Center Museum, which was emotional & grueling. Day Four started out with a trip to Times Square, after which we headed to the Empire State Building.

From the top of the Empire State Building, looking to the northwest, across the Hudson River into New Jersey.

Looking north-northwest up the Hudson River, you can see the George Washington Bridge, connecting Upper Manhattan to Fort Lee, New Jersey.

Looking almost due north. You can see Central Park starting a couple miles away.

The view to the northeast. You can see the top of the Chrysler Building, the UN Building, Roosevelt Island, the East River (which isn’t a river) and Queens on the other side.

Looking southeast across Lower Manhattan to Brooklyn you can see the “BMW” bridges, or in this case, the “WMB” bridges – Williamsburg, Manhattan, and Brooklyn. Also, far, far off in the distance is the Verrazzano Narrows Bridge.

Almost due south you have Manhattan laid out before you, the One World Trade Center tower rising above it all, with Liberty Island and Ellis Island out in the harbor,  Jersey City across the Hudson.

To the southwest, Liberty Island and Ellis Island, the Hudson River, lots of very expensive real estate, and New Jersey.

To the southwest, New Jersey across the Hudson River. (Insert jokes from “Hamilton” here.)

Back around to due west, across the Hudson River to Weehawken, New Jersey. In between those two groups of tall buildings by the river on the right you can just catch a peek of the USS Intrepid Museum.

 

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Filed under Photography, Travel

Goodbye, Sandy

Tonight there’s a Sandy-sized hole in my heart.

Sandy was a close, dear friend in high school. We had a lot of adventures together. We lost touch for a while after high school, but a few years back we finally reconnected.

Whenever I made it back to Vermont I always made a point to get together if we possibly could. When I couldn’t get to Vermont or she was off being a snowbird in Florida we would swap jokes and snarky comments online.

Today a fair-to-middlin’ shitty day got a whole lot worse when I got a call from Jackie, her partner of I-don’t-even-know how many years. Sandy had been fine on Saturday night, stayed up late to chat with her brother who was visiting. Sunday morning she was gone, peacefully, in her sleep.

We’ve had classmates that have passed away in the 45+ years. Some I barely knew, some I had at least a passing acquaintance with, one or two that I had been close to back in the day. But none so far that I had been this close to. This one hit me like a brick.

It will take a few days to process, and probably more to accept. I’ll never forget her smile, her laugh, or her bear hugs.

In 2015 when I was back in Vermont to visit my mother as she went downhill, Sandy took me out for a kayaking day around Center Pond in northern Vermont. While I’ll cherish my memories of her from high school, I’ll equally cherish the memories of this day on the lake with the loons. And I’m glad that we made time to get together in June when we were back for my 45th.

Goodbye, Sandy.

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Filed under Paul, Photography, Travel