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.