Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta

Smokey the Balloon

Smokey the Balloon

The Albuquerque International Balloon Festival attracts nearly one million visitors during the nine days of this annual event.  My family would attend several days a year whenever possible, and we were especially interested in the special shape balloons.  I have attended at least a dozen days of the early morning balloon lift-off events.
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Devils Tower National Monument

Devils Tower Moon

It seems to me, anybody who saw the 1977 Steven Spielberg film “Close Encounters of a Third Kind” and who had never visited the filming location, would certainly wish to do so.  Devils Tower National Monument in Wyoming finally got checked off my list this summer.  Unfortunately, most of the area was covered in a smoky haze from the many raging forest fires in California and Oregon.  As a side note, it seems as if Smoky the Bear may have had it wrong.  We are now paying the price, an unintended consequence, for the many years when the US Forest Service tried to put out every fire.
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Pearl Harbor – Oahu, Hawaii

USS Arizona Approach

My first visit to the Pearl Harbor Memorial on Oahu was about 25 years ago.  What is so striking to me about each visit is the large number of Japanese tourists in attendance.  Many arrive by organized Japanese tour companies.  I would really like to have the ability or nerve to speak to them and learn their impressions and thoughts during their visit to the site of their country’s surprise attack which killed more than 2,500 Americans.  It is certainly an odd twist that anyone who visits Hawaii today quickly realizes the economic vitality of Hawaii clearly depends on the Japanese tourist.
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Moab, Utah

Delicate Arch

Moab, Utah was just one of many small towns dotting my route as I frequently traveled between the University of Utah and my home town of Los Alamos, New Mexico.  Stopping to explore this impressive landscape was never considered.  Time was always short, rushing to get back to school, go skiing or to get home on a vacation.  Now that I have nuttin’ but time on my hands I rented a VRBO cottage in downtown Moab.  This great location did little good as many of the shops, restaurants and both photo galleries I wished to visit were closed, as February is considered the off season.  Some shops were scheduled to open up the day we departed for Colorado.  Many times while dining we were the only tourists in the cafe.  It was fun listening to the business owners in town discuss the issues of the day.  They seemed to look upon the inevitable onslaught of tourists starting in March with both great anticipation and trepidation.  Goodbye to their quiet little town.
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Chinese Street Food, Restaurant Food

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Drying fish in a Shanghai ally

I am proud to say I eat just about any food.  If it is on a menu, I’ll try it.  As a young kid, I ate rattlesnake, squirrel, turtle steak, frog legs, kangaroo tail soup and just about any odd item found on a menu.  The squirrel and frog legs I hunted, which makes me sound a bit like a hillbilly, but it was fun as a kid.  I really looked forward to new foods in China.  However, overall, it was disappointing.  Despite us driving past miles and miles of red peppers piled high in the fields, the food was boiled and bland.  Boiled broccoli, boiled cauliflower, boiled bok choy.  Also, the Chinese do not differentiate between breakfast, lunch and dinner foods.  In the morning you had much of the same foods on the buffet the prior night.  Very few of the dishes were great.  However, I did get to add to my list of unusual foods, which included:

  • Camel tendons
  • Donkey Skin
  • Carp, full of bones
  • Pigs Ear, nothing but cartilage, what else?
  • Horse sausage

My main question was who got the good cuts of meat if in the fine restaurants they were feeding me donkey skin and camel tendons???


Quail on a stick

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Outdoor cooks

No, I did not get to eat the above fish.  They were hanging in a Shanghai ally.  Oddly enough, I did not see any flies in these open air markets full of hanging food.
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Squatty Potties – Chinese Toilets

Train Toilet

Train Toilet, Squatty Potty

Squatty Potty

Squatty Potty

Now for the important stuff about China. The Chinese are known for seeing western products and doing their best to imitate them. Not so with the toilets…. My wife said there would be a line of Chinese women at these Squatty Potties and the one western style commode, when there was one, would be open and unused. They also do not imitate our plumbing. The silver looking toilet was the one found on the 19 hour train ride we encountered…. That is another story… There is a lady on the train, the bucket lady, whose job it was to get a pail of water, pour it into the commode and voila, like magic, the entire restroom was sparkling clean once again, if it wasn’t for all of the apparent ‘misses’ from the 36 people per car sharing the bathroom on the rocking and rolling train. The bucket you see next to the commode is for ALL the toilet paper, yes it goes into the bucket, not the commode. Out on the streets, we would see a man sweeping up fallen leaves, or a dime sized piece of paper, but inside the toilets, well we could not wait to get back out on the streets.

Sandia Mountains – Timing is Everything (Part Two)

Here is a sequence of photos taken on a single winter evening at the foothills of the Sandia Mountains east of Albuquerque, New Mexico, showing the fleeting light of a sunset after a dusting of snow.  Often, the primary difference between a good photograph and a great one is the presence of unique light.  To increase the possibilities of getting great light, photographers often go out before sunrise and at sunset.  The soft, horizontal light in the evening is often called the golden hour.  This light allows the photographer to capture a scene that is more evenly illuminated without the harsh contrast of bright sun and dark shadows that are present during most of the day.  FYI, the sunset glow photo was captured with a 300mm lens.

Sandia Mountains, Before Sunset

Sandia Mountains, Before Sunset
















For more photos….

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