Wednesday, December 27, 2017

USA 2017: Return to Old Tucson

I'd spent a wonderful day in Tucson six years earlier, and was determined to repeat the success. However, as I was still feeling under the weather, I really only did a quick run through Old Tucson.

The place has served as a stand in for dozens of moves and TV-series and if not for the throngs og tourists, you could imagine yourself in the Old West - or maybe Westworld.
A choo-choo train for the little ones. I think being a conductor on one of these trains would rapidly drain away my last vestige of joie de vivre.

Only the clothes have really changed.

Stagecoach, where one could take a brief tour if one was so inclined.

I had no food, so he paid no interest in me.

Still no Wu or his pigs.

The front of a Spanish style church building.

Three stuntmen kept us amused for a while with jokes and shenanigans.

Ah bought thish.

Not that it helped me much in the end.

USA 2017: Phoenix

Tuesday, I made my way, nice and slow, from Ridgecrest down to Blythe, just a few miles from the Arizona border. Wednesday I've done three touristy things, two of 'em in Phoenix.

The first place I stopped at was Barry Goldwater Memorial Park. It is a very peaceful and well construed little park, at the intersection of two busy streets.

Placards on this wall enumerate some of Barry's many achievements.

The park has cacti.

And bushes.

And running water.

The piece de la resistance is this larger than life statue of Barry Goldwater. It kinda looks like he's got a beer can in one hand, but upon closer look, you'll find it is a camera. Photography and filming was a great passion of his, and he spent countless hours documenting the landscapes of this beautiful state and its inhabitants, including the injuns Natives, whom he had great respect for.

The Ghost and his namesake.

Now, I'd heard that maybe there were some items at the Arizona State Capitol Museum related to Barry , but the lady I spoke to at the information desk had no knowledge of such things and a couple of hours spent perusing the place revealed sweet nuffin'. Still, it was a nice enough visit.

The old chamber where the AZ House of Representatives used to meet. The corresponding Senate room was closed, I believe because they were having some sort of staff meeting there.

Water is of the utmost importance in these parts and could literally be a question of life and death back in the day.

An old voting machine. Be still, my fluttering heart!

A bust of senator Carl Hayden, a contemporary of Barry Goldwater in the US Senate.

Yours truly in a cutout of Uncle Sam. Since I was all alone in the world (sniffles), I had to stretch out one arm to take the selfie and still the angle only just allowed me to take the pic.

Monday, December 25, 2017

USA 2017: Death Valley & Mount Whitney

Sunday we left Yosemite; mah crew went home to San Diego while I was unceremoniously dumped at the airport in Bakersfield to fend for myself. Ok, not really. Anyways, I drove up to Ridgecrest and then Monday on to Death Valley, as far as the sand dunes of Mesquite Flats. Then, I drove CA-190 and CA-136 from Panamint Valley, over the mountains into lovely, quaint, cozy, snug, little Lone Pine. After lunch at the country's purdiest McDonald's, I drove up to the parking lot under Mount Whitney and then down to Ridgecrest again. The route is as close to a pilgrimage as I'll ever come.

I took this video on the way from Ridgecrest to Death Valley, just to give y'all an idea of how barren and lifeless it all looks.

I am skeptical of the sand dunes.

Video of said dunes.

Video from the vista point where the road starts to descend into Owen's Valley. It is a view that never fails to lift the spirit... and make me dance around, while reciting from The Sound of Music. Again, not really, but I had you going there for a second? Eh? Eh?

Video of the mountains as seen from the valley floor.

Mount Whitney in all its glory.

The aforementioned McDonald's in Lone Pine. One could do worse than stuff face with a double quarterpounder with cheese there.

The stream was frozen, but you could hear water run underneath. The air is so crisp and clear up there, every breath is pure bliss.

The light patch of asphalt is where I'd witnessed the rock slide with mah San Diego crew back in the winter of 2014.

Owen's Valley as seen from a vista point halfway up Mount Whitney.

Video from the same spot.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

USA 2017: Yosemite

I returned to the good ole' US of A on Dec 21, then spent Friday making my way from LA up to Fresno with mah San Diego crew. Saturday, we drove up to Yosemite; I think it was the sixth or seventh time for me. I'd expected the area to be covered in snow, but fortunately there were just a few white dots on the landscape here and there and the roads were bare, except for a couple of icy patches along the way.

There were areas where forest fires had done damage. The blue paint on some of the trees means those trees are marked for felling.

Tunnel view, a sight I hope I shall never grow tired of. The road to Glacier Point was closed - not because of snow I think, but apparently there'd been a serious landslide, so even the distance into the ski & snowboard area was closed.

The water was still running down Bridalveil Fall.

Iconic Half Dome.

Tranquil waters and a slowly bending pine.

Upper & lower Yosemite Falls.

This pillar, which you really have to look closely to see, is called Lost Arrow.

Dead tree.

Ah wuz given goodies at breakfast down in Fresno, by my old friend Roz. Not sure if it's visible, but the glass is a drinking glass, shaped like a boot. If you press a button under the heel, it lights up in all sorts of festive colors. The glass has already been met with great acclaim in the teacher's lounge at work.

Naturally, I was skeptical of Yosemite.

Happy Festivus!

The ways in which the world has let me down this year are too numerous to list in detail, so I'll just state here that I'm not angry, just very, very disappointed and leave it at that.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Scotland: Duffus Castle

The last touristy thing I did here in Scotland was to drop by Duffus Castle, just north of Elgin. It's where my old pocket camera died last year *sniffles*. Not much to say, 'cept its a fairly handsome ruin and the short visit there was only partially interrupted by a family of fuckin' Krauts who insisted on making as much noise and wreak as much havoc on the ole' stones as humanly posssible. One of the young 'uns even tried climbing on the stone walls.

View from the parking lot. The keep was erected around 1305.

A great hall once stood here. This was a later addition.

A stone wall enclosed the keep and other buildings.

The inside.

Parts of the castle starting sliding due to subsidence and the site was abandoned in 1705.

Scotland: Glenfinnan

After the long ass boat ride, I got in my car, which, despite standing in a clearly marked 2 hour restricted parking space had not gotten a parking fine on it, and drove away. The next morning, up near Ft William, I set out to Glenfinnan, home to a grand Memorial and of course to Harry Potter fame; the famous train to Hogwarts makes a very scenic journey through these parts.

Glenfinnan's claim to fame is that it was where that moron, Bonnie Prince Charles raised his banner and started the Jacobite uprising in 1745, which ended in glorious defeat a year later at Culloden. The Monument was erected in 1835.

They have a couple of displays in the visitor center. The only reason why there aren't toys scattered all around was that it was under glass. Bastards.

Ze monument.

You had to walk up this steep, narrow flight of stairs, then squeeze through a frighteningly small opening at the top, which was actually closed with a fucking hatch.

This is the statue of a Highlander on top of the monument.

Grand views.

The railroad. The weather was just too nasty for me to climb up to the viewpoint to get better pics.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Scotland: Iona

After the nice trip to Staffa, we were sailed over to Iona with instructions to take a regular ferry and a regular bus and then a regular ferry back to Oban again. Iona is a very famous island in Scottish history, mainly because it played such a very important role in the spreading to all of Scotland of that cancer upon humanity; Christianity. Peak interest was actually achieved fairly briefly into the three hour stay there, when I found out that an otherwise ancient and sacred and blah blah cemetery also housed the grave of former Labor Party leader John Smith. Now, I wouldn't vote Labor in a thousand years, be it old or new, Corbynista or Blairist. But John Smith always seemed to me to be a basically decent guy and he died too young. My TripAdvisor review of the cemetery:
"I normally like cemeteries and this is a very old and historical one. However, there was no information that I'm aware of on all the "famous" people buried here, you have to wander through way too high grass to find an individual grave. Is a weedwhacker really impossible to find on the whole island of Iona?"

Anyways, from there on out it was pretty much a dutiful walk through the ruins, taking photos of stuff I would just as soon burn and pillage. Incidentally, I wasn't the first Norwegian to have that idea; my interest was slightly piqued when I read about the numerous viking incursions over the centuries. Sadly, they never managed to wipe the disease away and were instead integrated in it; I wager that a fairly high proportion of the population in these parts have some Scandinavian in them (insert much wiggling of eyebrows, leery looks and nudging here). TripAdvisor:
"Some mildly interesting stuff about the history of the place, but it was usually intervowen with so much religious rubbish it was hard to distinguish fact from fiction. I'm sure it's a much better experience if you're already into the mumbo-jumbo peddled as facts here."

John Smith's grave.

Mumbo jumbo.

Modern mumbo jumbo.

Ruins of an old nunnery.

One slightly interesting feature is the swords you can find on many of the graves on Iona. In addition to the many monks, priests and nuns, there were a fair amount of Highland warriors buried here.

The priory.

This was the road where they carried the dead from the harbor to the priory and the cemeteries.

I believe this building was erected on the site of a previous wooden chapel that held the remains of St Columba. Apparently he was very holy and very important. I fart in his general direction.

The open courtyard in the middle of the priory.

You can just make out the longship at the bottom. Vikings fuckin' ruled.

One of the aforementioned warriors. Probably badass too.

These two beauties were tied up outside a shop. I'll take live dogs over dead monks any day of the week.