Thursday, December 20, 2007

Chicken Bus IV

California! It's not just the name of one of my favorite chicken buses; it's also where the Holla staff is heading tomorrow for ten days or so. The internet being everywhere, as it is, we may be able to continue publishing, or we may not be back until the new year. Don't let the suspense ruin your holidays.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Chicken Bus III

Damn. Imagine waiting for your school bus, and what rolls up but ten tons of Bluebird steel, glistening blue with hot licks of orange flame all spitting up the hood. That would be sweet. Or at least, sweeter than plain yellow, and your correspondent would argue, for safety's sake, more visible, to absent-minded drivers sharing the road.

On the other hand, maybe the puberty-stricken boys of the back seats of the bus would prefer the following take on the traditional "reclining busty lady" image of a million chicken buses and mud flaps: the "in full flight busty Superwoman" image.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Chicken Bus II

Chicken buses are the primary means of inter-city travel for the non-car-owning majority of Guatemalans. In one (possibly apocryphal) tale, somebody found the term "chicken bus" offensive, and as a result the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala, when warning people to think twice before riding on them, refers to them only as "recycled U.S. school buses." Once they don't meet U.S. age or safety requirements, these school buses are sold at auction, driven overland to Guatemala, and given a little bling. As you can see in the bus to the right of this picture, many are pressed into service before they can get the full extreme makeover treatment. The U.S. flag is a common, if puzzling, motif in chicken bus decor, as seen here on the "Santa Fe."

Monday, December 17, 2007

Chicken Bus I

Or, perhaps, the "After" to last week's "Before." Chicken Bus photos galore coming this week, for all you fans of public transportation.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007


So that's it. We drove from Guatemala City to Colorado to Boston to Washington, and lived to tell about it. It was a whirlwind tour. The next day we started learning Latvian, and not much has changed since then.

The photo editor has piles of material from Guatemala, so as of the next entry we'll be reclaiming the Guatemala Holla title and going back to the land of eternal spring.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Of New York City, Part the Third and Last, or "Before"

I guess even the kids out in Coney Island have to go to school, too.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Of New York City, Part the Second

So we went to Coney Island. It's a lot like a lot of other boardwalk-attraction east-coach beach places. Except, it's Coney Island, and two-and-a-half centuries of New-York-centric American writers and filmmakers have ingrained it's name in our collective mind. Well, at least the ones who wrote or film-made after Coney Island was built.

So they have this thing, pictured above, that I think I saw referred to as the "Parachute Drop" but I still don't get what that means.

More in your correspondent's realm of understanding was the Wonder Wheel, which is fun and pregnant-lady calm, and the Cyclone, which we rode but declined to ride twice. It is not good for the spinal column, which I guess is half the fun. Your correspondent also stood in line for half an hour to eat a Nathan's Hot Dog. Yes, your correspondent is retarded.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Of New York City, Part the First

So, after parting ways with our beloved Nissan, your correspondents began the final leg of the trip, Latvian classes beckoning but not before a final long weekend in New York. Our friends there have recently moved from the distant suburb of "Brooklyn" to the heart of Manhattan. The hallways in their building had funny angles.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

In Memoriam

After our stop in Prairie Dog Town, we zipped over to St. Louis and stayed with friends there, and found their little pocket of St. Louis to be quite nice. Then we sped over to Louisville for lunch, a sad suburb of Cleveland for dinner, an evening of camping near Erie, Pennsylvania, and a mid-day arrival in Acton, Massachusetts. Nothing of note happened.

However, in Acton, we picked up the new official staff vehicle, and parted ways with the trusty baby-blue 1997 Nissan Sentra that had been serving all our automotive needs since 1998 or so. In that time, this amazing little piece of Japanese engineering drove across the country at least four times, hitting the highways of no fewer than 43 of these United States, not to mention five foreign countries. It endured no small amount of abuse from the ice of New England, the double-track trailhead access roads of the American West, the towering highway speed bumps of Mexico, and nearly every crater-pocked mile of Guatemala's urban and rural thoroughfares. This little economy car bounced across roads that would make 99% of American SUV owners slowly shift into reverse and head back to Starbucks, tail between legs.

We don't say that to boast about our departed companion. We only mention it in tribute, because it's the truth. Here's a map that proves it (well, sort of), the trips your correspondents happen to remember right now marked in blue:

(While representatives of Nalgene are apparently still mulling over their response to my unsolicited testimonial regarding their fine products, the Holla would welcome any similar monetary considerations from the good people of Nissan. Don't be shy!)

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The World's Biggest Prairie Dog and Son of World's Biggest Prairie Dog

Presented as a public service to our loyal readers: Should you ever find yourself speeding across our great country on I-70 through the lovely rolling fields of Kansas, and find your curiosity piqued by a sign advertising the World's Biggest Prairie Dog, at the previously mentioned Prairie Dog Town attraction in Oakley, Kansas, feel free to use the above picture of the World's Biggest Prairie Dog, with bonus possible runner-up large prairie dog, in your mental calculus of whether to stop or not. Also know that there is a real live five-legged cow and a real live six-legged cow. They are actually kind of gross and/or sad to look at. Pictures available on request.

We remain, as ever, here to serve.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Last Bit of Colorado

So after the Sand Dunes, we ventured through the Valley once again, home of such sites as this structure which may or may not be a home constructed of a combination of old boxcars and an RV getaway vehicle. We swung by Salida, which I don't think I had ever been to, but it's actually quite a nice town. Your faithful correspondents had hoped to continue their tour of Colorado microbreweries, but it turned out the place in Salida that claimed to brew their own beer was called "Amica's" and featured a sign with a bunch of day-glo-colored blobby people dancing or something, possibly lifted from the cover of a Jazzercize album. It just seems like a natural for a brewpub in a place as unique and relatively historic as Salida to have a dignified name like "Salida Brewing Company" or "Monarch Pass Brewery," and maybe a logo that features a mountain or something. I guess people in Salida are bored with that stuff, which I guess is fair since they have to look at mountains every day. In any case, we gave it a miss and went to the Victoria Tavern, which, as its name suggests, was a much more discriminating locale, to the extent anywhere with a shuffleboard table can be discriminating.

Anyway, we figured our last stop would be the world-famous Royal Gorge, and the world's highest suspension bridge, which crosses it. It turns out to be privately owned, and to cost $25 per person, just to walk across the bridge. Of course the ticket also includes the visitor's center and a carousel ride or some such foolishness. Also, it was closing for the evening when we arrived. We tried to convince the guard to let us pay a discounted price, since they were closed anyway, just to go look over the edge and not even set foot on their precious bridge, but he would not listen to reason. So your intrepid correspondent sneaked out to the far end of the parking lot where the fence ends and snapped the above picture without paying a dime to the rapacious gorge-owning gougers. Take that, pigs!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Of the Great Sand Dunes

One of the most weird/cool sights in the Colorado Rockies is the Great Sand Dunes National Park in the San Luis Valley. It really is like a little dollop of the Sahara plopped in the middle of the mountains. Your correspondent hadn't been since a family trip in elementary school, so a return trip was one of our primary goals in the Valley. Of course, since we were sleeping in a luxurious Best Western hotel room rather than out in the woods fro the first time in a few days, we slept in a bit longer than was perhaps advisable, and wound up at the Sand Dunes right around noon, in August, which accentuated certain Sahara-like characteristics.

The Lovely Katherine thought it insane, but clearly we had no option but to brave the conditions and climb the tallest dune we could see. Of course, climbing hundreds of vertical feet up sand involves a lot of one-step-up-slide-a-half-step-back slogging. And it was hot, and we weren't carrying all that much water. At several points, your correspondent thought maybe, just maybe, The Lovely Katherine was right. But then we got to the top, and it was clear that The Lovely Katherine was wrong for once. The views from the top were great, and the run down the hill was perhaps even better.

Of course, as it was a National Park, there was a lot of educational stuff about the bugs or weeds or something that live in the mini-Sahara, but we were more focused on getting back to Alamosa for a beer at the highly recommended San Luis Brewing Company.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Of the Movie Manor

When last we wrote, your faithful correspondents were zipping through the San Luis Valley, racing against the setting sun to find a place to camp. Sadly, our target was out of reach, and after several nights of dehydrated food and a quick face-washing in a sink at the trailhead we decided that splurging on a hotel wouldn't be a bad idea. We pulled into Monte Vista, greeted by a sign for the "Best Western Movie Manor." Not seeing many other options, we decided to follow the billboard's guidance and follow the road out of town. There are surely any number of reasons one might call one's Best Western hotel the "Movie Manor," especially in a world capital of cinema like Monte Vista, Colorado. As we neared the Movie Manor, and the looming screens next to it, our happiest suspicions were confirmed: This is a motel specially designed so that you can watch the feature at the adjacent drive-in from the comfort of your queen-sized bed, or two singles, as you may prefer, based on availability. We chose a room with a view of "The Simpsons Movie" (as opposed to a film version of "Hairspray"... the pickings were slim), ordered a pizza, and hunkered down.

The whole movie theme was done to the hilt. The door to each room had a nameplate bearing the name of a mid-80's celebrity, so a guest could pretend they were actually spending the night in Tom Selleck's dressing room, if one so desired. The framed print above the bed was a classic Renoir scene re-styled so that Marylin Monroe, James Dean, Elvis, Laurel and Hardy, Judy Garland, and, for some reason, Frankenstein's Monster were together enjoying a summer party along the banks of the Seine. The crowning achievement was the driveway and sidewalk in front of the lobby, which, in a tribute to Graumann's Chinese Theater, had celebrity names written into wet cement for all time. Among the celebrities who had supposedly graced the locale were: Marilyn Monroe, Brad Pitt, Angilina Jolie (sic), Robert Denero (sic), Lionardo Decapprio (also sic), Tom Cruse (also also sic), Mickey Mouse, Nemo, Buggs Bunny (again, sic) etc. (Note from fact-checking department: Your correspondent was actually derelict in writing down and preserving the many interestingly spelled names, and is reciting these from memory. But they were bad.)

In any case, we flipped the in-room switch to "Movie: ON" and listened to the movie magic of a 90-minute episode of the Simpsons, which we could (mostly) see on the distant drive-in screen. We are absolutely in love with the Best Western Movie Manor. The whole Holla staff is trying to find an excuse for a return trip to Monte Vista, Colorado for no other reason than the Best Western Movie Manor. But next time, we may choose a movie that isn't a feature-length version of a TV show that we could have watched more easily on the standard hotel TV.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Of the San Luis Valley

After emerging from the wilderness (and passing any number of tourists near the trailhead outside of Aspen who asked us questions indicating they had never seen backpackers before), we headed South. We crossed Independence Pass and skirted around Mount Elbert and zipped down to the San Luis Valley. Beautiful country, all of it, and as we were hoping to find a campground somewhere in the Valley before darkness set in, we were in too big a hurry to take as many pictures as the scenery justified. For those who haven't been, the San Luis Valley is a huge flat spot in the southern part of the Colorado's Rockies. It is one of the poorest parts of the state, and has a bittersweet combination of natural beauty and dying small town America.

Latvian test tomorrow, details on the Valley to follow.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Of the Grueling Four-Pass Hike Around the Maroon Bells, Part the Last

Esteemed Reader:

We try our best to only present pictures here that in our amateur opinion rise above average vacation snapshots, because we know nobody wants to look at too many vacation pictures unless they have a blood relation/obligation to do so. Today we were almost ready to move on from the Bells, but then, we weren't. So here are some vacation snaps of us on top of each of the four passes of the Grueling Four-Pass Hike Around the Maroon Bells.

West Maroon Pass (Cold and wet, heroic survivor Nalgene™ not pictured):

Frigid Air Pass (Air actually somewhat less frigid than the other passes):

Trail Rider Pass (The Lovely Katherine on the left side of the frame, not technically on top yet):

Buckskin Pass (All downhill from here):



Monday, November 12, 2007

Of the Grueling Four-Pass Hike Around the Maroon Bells, Part the Second

An account of the Four-Pass Loop around the Maroon Bells is probably not of much interest, as it would mostly be a series of superlatives about how gorgeous the scenery was from atop each of the four high passes and in the valleys between them where we camped. Other than running a bit of the trail to try to get help for a climber who was thought lost on Snowmass Mountain (she was fine in the end), the biggest bit of excitement was this: After the long, arduous ascent up the boulderfield on the first pass, your faithful correspondent took a long drink from his trusty Nalgene™ water bottle. He then set it down, and it started to slide, then roll down the trail, and then it hit a big rock and bounded straight down the side of the mountain, bouncing off of more rocks, launching itself at least 15 feet up on each bounce and then crashing down to the rocks even further down the slope until it came to rest some 150 yards down the hill, and where, after a slog back down the hill, your correspondent found it - intact! It was unbelievable. If any representative of the makers of super-tough Nalgene™ products is reading this, feel free to send a check.

Your correspondents thought themselves to be equally bad-ass for doing the whole 25-mile roller coaster in three days, until they met a guy doing the whole thing in one day near the end of our trip.

Anyway, the above picture is a full 360 degree panorama from the top of Buckskin Pass. (For those who bother to click to see it bigger - the Maroon Bells are on the right side of the valley to the right of The Lovely Katherine, across the valley to the left of her are Snowmass Mountain and Capitol Peak.)

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Of the Grueling Four-Pass Hike Around the Maroon Bells, Part the First

The Maroon Bells claim to be the Most Photographed Peaks in North America. (Or rather, the Aspen Tourism Board claims that they are. Exactly how they claim to know this remains a mystery. As does why, in the face of an inherently unverifiable claim, they wouldn't just go for it and say the Most Photographed Peaks in the World, other than perhaps to make it seem like Science had determined the Matterhorn to be More Photographed. Then again, it's also a bit mysterious where the line is between the Aspen Tourism People's desire to instill a yearning in others to come visit Aspen and their desire to have you people just stay away and quit wrecking their town. Life is full of mysteries.) Anyway, the staff photographer took several pictures of the Bells before we casually strolled around them. The above picture fits nicely in this publication, but I think this other picture is actually better.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Of Glenwood Springs

So after a nice backpacking trip in RMNP we headed out for a trip near Aspen. Unfortunately, all the public campgrounds were booked for the night before we wanted to hike. Fortunately, we found a private campground with space, and it turned out we were literally sleeping on the bank of the Colorado River; we only had to take a few steps to dip our feet in while reading a book in the summer sun, watching yahoos tube down the river with beers in their hands, gazing up at the beautiful rocky walls near the Glenwood Canyon. That night we discovered why there was space right on the northern bank of the river, as the southern bank of the river was an active railroad track, and over the course of the night several trains came barreling through, wheels squeaking on the curves. Freight trains are noisy. But we did get to see a camper festooned with a light-up animatronic flamingo, so it wasn't all bad.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Of Rocky Mountain National Park, Part the Second

This was one of the more interesting things we found at Rocky Mountain. To the best of our deduction, it's an old water pipeline for feeding the thirsty towns of the Front Range. It's long since been abandoned, and a small PVC pipe runs through the middle of the former wire-bound wooden structure. But the PVC doesn't look big enough to carry much water unless it's really rushing through there. Our crack research team didn't do much digging to find out the truth behind the matter, but did find that the Grand Lake Brewery has pretty good beer.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Of Rocky Mountain National Park

After the cabin in Wyoming we went for a three-night backpacking trip in Rocky Mountain National Park. We climbed from Grand Lake up to the Continental Divide and back again. You won't be surprised to hear it was gorgeous. Long stretches across the alpine tundra well above treeline were marked with huge cairns (as below), which we raced across on legs weary from climbing as thunderstorms drew near. We saw pikas and marmots and ptarmagins and moose and elk. The Lovely Katherine says she almost froze to death, but in the end, she didn't.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Of Wyoming, Part the Last

This sign is in Cheyenne, Wyoming. I think it is or was a liquor store. It's not an amazing picture, but it was a pretty cool sign. The good people of Cheyenne frustrated our desires to eat Rocky Mountain Oysters. Maybe we should thank them.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Of Wyoming, Part the Third

The cabin of the father of the friend of the brother of the Holla has all sorts of cool stuff lying around. Unfortunately, the (perhaps clinically forgetful) staff photographer did not bring a spare battery and ran his camera out of juice taking 25-minute exposures of the stars. Some opportunities were lost.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Of Wyoming, Part the Second

Wyoming was fabulous. We did a little hiking and a fair bit of sitting around a fire and drinking, which really hasn't been topped in several millennia of development of leisure activities. Although soda-can-shooting and ATV-driving-arounding, which we also did at the cabin, aren't bad attempts. There were also nice dark clear nights with impressive stars.

(The editors understand that some readers have their monitors set to different resolution than others. So if you want to see the above picture larger, which we do recommend, click on the above small version, and then, on the resulting Flickr page, click on "All Sizes" just above the photo to see the "large" or "original" size.)

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Of Wyoming

After some time lolling about Windsor for a bit, your correspondent visited his brother's friend's father's cabin for a few days in the wilds of Wyoming. It was nice. Pictures of subjects more interesting than hummingbirds coming soon.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Last Picture from the County Fair

Maybe more words tomorrow.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Of Windsor, Part the Second

We promised more about the Larimer County Fair. But we now realize that pretty much everything about county fairs has already been said. We saw vaguely creepy carnival workers; we saw a goat and a rabbit and a pig; we saw puke being cleaned off the Zipper via the sloshing of water from a five-gallon bucket on the seats.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Of Windsor, Colorado

After Vaughn, New Mexico, we landed on the interstate and made good time up to Windsor. We already published some of the staff photographer's efforts in this area. We also went to the Larimer County Fair; a small slice of the drama that event offers is pictured above. (She didn't win.) Perhaps more on this controversial topic tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Of Vaughn, New Mexico

We passed through Roswell, New Mexico. Even the local Arby's has a sign out front that says "Welcome Aliens." Which is a boon for Roswell, as genuine UFO nuts and kitsch-lovers alike seem to be keeping the city alive. Meanwhile, in beautiful Vaughn, New Mexico, the signs don't say "Welcome Aliens"; they say "Welcome Anyone, Please. Please."

Monday, October 15, 2007

Kansas is Empty, But...

Texas is really, really empty. And so is New Mexico. Your correspondent actually, in a way that he recognizes most people find crazy, really likes all that emptiness, and regarded the Rio Grande valley as quite pretty and New Mexico as downright beautiful. We drove along US Highway 285, eschewing the potential excitement of interstate rest stops and pushing straight into the very heart of empty. It was great.

All that empty doesn't always translate into awesome photography, of course: There's one or two nice photos to be had, and then you could re-take them with slightly different arrangements of sagebrush or windmills. The occasional ancient roadside billboard is about all you can ask for. Of course, the sad little towns punctuating the old highway seem even more fascinating when you get to them. E.g. Ma Wilson's in Pecos, Texas, as seen above. Or Wayne and Rosie. We wish them success with their donuts, cars and crafts, respectively.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Good Morning America!

After an uninspiring final night in Mexico, we left early and crossed into the U.S.A. to start soaking in the United States-style American-ness for a month. I admit it, I was just about ready to start sending campaign donations to Hugo Chavez, so it's a good thing we arrived for home leave when we did.

We crossed at a border outside of Laredo, Texas, which was advertised on highway billboards as the fastest way for Monterrey residents to get to an American mall. It was, actually, remarkably painless, and before long, we were enjoying the landscape of the Rio Grande valley. Although driving a car with Guatemalan plates, we didn't seem to get any more attention than average from the Border Patrol checkpoints in the valley: the one guy who gave us a serious grilling seemed like he probably just enjoyed playing to type as a gruff South-Texan law enforcement officer.

Trying to make sure that we re-Americanized ourselves as quickly as possible, within hours of entering the country, we ate a super-sized fast-food meal and stopped at Wal-Mart. This was a cultural exploration of its own, your correspondent would argue, as there are some interesting characters at the Wal-Marts in the Rio Grande valley. Somehow the cultural exploration seems less worthy of report: as if noting the differences between myself and the average Guatemalan is standard travel writing, but pointing out the differences between myself and the average Sanderson, Texas Wal-Mart customer would be cruel. Maybe that's borne of some ingrained desire to pretend that America is free of class distinctions. Or maybe it's because one of the most obvious differences between me and many of the people we saw in Wal-Mart was about 100 pounds apiece. It's kind of cliche to point out that Americans are fat, but, uh, Americans are fat. I guess I will have to confess to the State Department that there are certain parts of re-Americanizing that I intend to avoid.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Of Monterrey

The staff photographer found Monterrey uninspiring. The above picture is from south-central Mexico, but these bull billboards appear on highways throughout the country. It's a liquor ad, but it's a fun liquor ad.

Anyway, since your correspondent did not spend much time delving into the beating heart of Monterrey, there were only two things (barely) worth noting there: the lodging and the food.

The hotel where we had reservation told us at 3:00 or so, when we arrived, that they did have our reservation, but that our room would be ready at 7:00 that evening because at present someone else was still using it. Which would not at all be a surprise at any number of flea-trap hotels we've stayed at in Latin America. While this hotel wasn't "nice" by any American definition, it was a central hotel in one of the major business centers of Mexico. The guy at the desk seemed mostly uninterested in explanations of how "reservations" typically work. Anyway, for some reason we didn't want to just leave all our stuff in our car on the street until 7:00 that night, we wound up at a Holiday Inn.

We wandered a bit on Monterrey's downtown pedestrian mall, looked at their big central park, and then went to dinner at a hotel recommended for its local specialties by the Holiday Inn concierge (of sorts). The restaurant met our basic requirement for air conditioning, and added a tex-mex flair by providing a bowl of chips and salsa as soon as we sat down. It turns out that the local specialty is goat. Not a particularly flavorful goat, just goat, cooked over coals, in a kitchen that was not open to the restaurant but did have large windows on the street in case you wanted to step outside and see how your goat was coming along. Anyway, if you're in Mexico, it seems it wouldn't take much effort to find somewhere a lot more interesting than Monterrey, (for example, anywhere else) but if you're in Monterrey, don't bother with the goat.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Of Guanajuato, Part the Second

Guanajuato lies in the hills north of Mexico City. Like many cities built on steep hills, or built a long time ago, or, as in this case, both, it is largely a maze of small alleys winding around the contours of the hills, meeting at crazy angles, and far better suited for exploration on foot than any other conveyance. It oozes charm. But it is so close to Mexico City that it is packed with Mexican tourists. There was some sort of film festival or something on when we were there, and buskers packed the streets with the same kinds of juggling and whatnot that they do in every tourist town in the world. We settled for drinking Bohemia in outdoor cafes and watching people mill about.

The scene at the town square later that evening was a bit maddening with all the tourists, so we escaped to have a beer somewhere more "local." Which isn't always actually a great idea. We stopped into a bar where, after ordering from a friendly woman without very many teeth and with a tube-top exposing a gut that many NFL linemen would envy, we realized that we weren't totally sure if the other women in the establishment were seeking compensated for their company. I avoided eye contact with the various clients, and in an effort to seem inconspicuous, even consumed a few of the complimentary pork rinds in peculiar red sauce that we were served. It's not the first time your correspondent has sacrificed the ostensible primary purpose of going out for a beer - i.e. relaxing fun - in the name of research. A tough job, but someone has to do it.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Of Guanajuato, Part the First

Guanajuato was beautiful. Like many Mexican cities, they have honest-to-goodness mariachi bands who hang out on a public plaza, waiting for passers-by to hire them for a song or perhaps for a future engagement. Before our first visit to Mexico, your correspondent thought mariachis were only from movies or tv or whatnot. But they're real, and they work hard for the money. Unfortunately, the staff photographer was not at the top of his game that night. More on Guanajuato tomorrow.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Interlude in Delmarva

A quick sidebar on the slow tale of our journey from Guatemala to Washington:

We spent the long weekend (yes, government bureaucrats get Columbus Day off) on the Delmarva peninsula, on the other side of the Chesapeake from our nation's capitol. We spent a couple days kayaking around the wetlands and seeing blue herons and bald eagles (though they didn't stay still long enough for the staff photographer to get close. Or perhaps the staff photographer just needs a $1500 super telephoto lens).

Perhaps more importantly, we also were reminded that one can see weird stuff on weekend trips within one's own country. Ocean City is strange enough as it is: A city that's one block wide and 150 blocks long, with nothing on one side of the street but hotels and nothing on the other but "Sunsations" stores selling towels and flip-flops and swimsuits. As we drove through, the streets were lined with people in beach chairs just watching traffic go by. In their defense, there was some sort of hot-rod convention in town, with lots of goofy ZZ Top cars cruising the strip. Just up the coast in Delaware, there was some sort of greyhound owners' confab (as in the dog, not the bus). Exactly what one does at a greyhound convention remains unclear - admire one another's dogs, discuss dog food, share racing tips? (In practice, one popular activity seemed to be the purchase of bumper stickers reading "STOP Greyhound Racing.") In any case, it made for some interesting sights, and should you see a grizzled dude in a taxi-yellow roadster with a lovestruck lady in the passenger's seat and three greyhounds in the back, you'll know where they met.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Puebla to Guanajuato

In an effort to post highlights from our whole trip to Washington before we actually leave for Latvia, we're forgoing further details on Puebla and moving right along. Driving through Mexico City is not recommended. We tried to go around it, but that's not recommended, either. But there was, again, some gorgeous country, and a herd of goats behaving in accordance with their ancient mountain-goat DNA by climbing steep hillsides, as available. Or just looking for shade.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Of Puebla, part the second

The other side of Puebla: Lots of fun old rotting buildings. Click to see it bigger, but, in the photo department's opinion, still not big enough.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Of Puebla, part the first

Our next stop along the road was in Puebla, Mexico. Puebla is a big, industrial city, so we didn't focus on spending a lot of our precious tourist time there. That said, like any city of a certain age, it did have some cool old architecture downtown. And the center still seemed to have plenty of life to it, a city planner's dream of street-level retail and sidewalk cafes on the main square. The big attraction in Puebla is their "Talavera" pottery and tile. There are plenty of shops ready to sell tourists a gaudy serving platter. More impressive are the many churches and office buildings covered top to bottom in colorful tiles.

The other memorable feature of Puebla was the food. Of course, there is the famous mole poblano, but we discovered that we were in town for the harvest season when the Poblanos prepare chiles en nogada, which is a stuffed pepper covered in a creamy white sauce, green cilantro, and red pomegranate seeds. (Ta-da! The colors of the Mexican flag!) Your correspondent, ever seeking culinary adventure, ordered one, and found that they grow some sort of mutant pepper in Puebla that was bigger than your correspondent's head. He ate half; it was pretty good.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Photo department prestige snowballs

The internationally recognized travel gurus at travel blog Gadling picked the Holla's picture from the previous entry as their "Photo of the Day" yesterday. Thanks, Gadlingers!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

On the Road in Mexico

Mexican roads are good, but they ain't cheap. In a system that made your correspondent's little policy-wonk heart twitter, they have a system of high-quality, high-speed highways that made cruising from Oaxaca to Puebla (and onward) a relative snap, paid for with substantial tolls for the people who use them. It was not a cheap way to get across the country, and we were surprised every time we saw a tollbooth: "Again?" Of course, there were certain consumer opportunities at the lines for the tollbooths that we may not have otherwise encountered, so it wasn't all bad.