Archive for the ‘tourism’ Tag

Galapagos Vacation Cruise Two

Since we were continuing our cruise aboard the Coral I, the ship dropped us off on the island to see the Highlands and the tortoise sanctuary on a private farm. We were with two lesbians from Australia whose company we enjoyed. When we arrived, the people from the cruise who were flying out that afternoon stood at the entrance to the farm. We exchanged hugs and fist bumps with them before they boarded their bus for the airport.

at the private farm

The ship took off on a long route to the southern portion of the Galapagos for Espanola. Before breakfast sea creatures came by the boat. We watched a pack of dolphins jump in the water. Manta and black rays appeared off the bow.

Manta rays in formationThe lone black ray seemed comfortable on his/her own.

black ray

Monday began with Floreana offered us Cormorant Point and a colony of pink flamingos in lagoons.

.pink flamingos

The “Green Beach” is named so due to its green color, which comes from a high percentage of olivine crystals in the sand, and the “Four Sand Beach” is composed of white coral. Instead of staying on the beach I decided to join in the snorkeling activity.

Cormorant Point had craters that house reefs provide one of the best places for swimming and snorkeling at Devil’s Crown. The devil did me in. The water was deep and we had a long swim so I was often trailing behind the group and missing some of the great sea creatures.

We moved in the afternoon to the Post Office Bay. Yes, the name is literal. Vacationers put post cards that they receive on board the ship into the box as sailors once did hundreds of years ago. The hope is that a visitor would mail the card if they lived near the area. Seemed like a silly exercise to me and I did not partake. Instead we made our way to the beach.

My favorite part was the old soccer field. Here’s a look through the net on one end.

looking through the soccer net

There’s always sea lions on the beach; often putting on a show, intentionally or not.

sea lion formation

Even the iguanas struck a pose.

what are they looking at?

Our voyage moved back toward the eastern section of the islands. On Espanola, we started with Suarez Point, a dry landing but supposedly one of the more difficult ones that we would encounter. The island had many birds and a giant blowhole.

Suarez Point

In the afternoon Gardner Bay hosted us with its turquoise water and the white coralline sand beach that reaches around the point a kilometer away. We passed a herd of sea lions all lined up basking in the sun along the beach to find mysterious prints in the sand.

Gardener Bay beach

The iguanas get more active up in the cliffs. They manage their territory and look for mates, sparking the occasional fight. The cliffs housed the waved albatross colony that spends three-quarters of the year in the islands or nearby in Peru and Ecuador. The remaining time, they fly as far as parts of Asia.

in the cliffs

The birds are remarkable in flight with a wing span of over 7 feet.

albatross in the air

There’s always time for another beach excursion where shining lizards capture the eye. One is copper and another red.

shiny copper iguana100_0751

After returning to the enticements of the big capital city of Quito, we arranged for a taxi to drive us into the Andes to visit Park De Condor. We saw a bird show featuring raptors of all sorts.

bird demonstration

While the condors weren’t taken out, we walked over to their cage. This bird has the largest wing span in the world. While Ira thought it humorous that we drove 2.5 hours to see such an ugly buzzard, I’d read books with pictures of condors in them since the late 1960s. The smaller California species is making a comeback in the US. but its larger cousin is struggling in the wild.


The park had an impressive array of raptors, including a great bald eagle.

bald eagle

or this beauty with a sharp gaze on something tasty:

another raptor

this one wouldn’t hear of being in a photograph

seemingly distracted


Galapagos Vacation

Back from spending two weeks in Ecuador.  Spent months looking over all the travel books, Travel Advisor, and blogs and other sites finding out everything I could about the country and the islands. While there are a few islands that no one can visit, there are still 14 that you can see but you need two weeks.

Galapagos Islands

We started with an itinerary that featured a week with most of the time focused on the western islands, Fernandina and Isabela, because they are large and had many animals and birds on them. However, just before we left, our itinerary got changed from these islands to the oldest and northern islands. While there are many animals on these islands we did not think we would see the variety that we had hoped to see.

Travelers can see the Galapagos by traveling by boat or staying on land in hotels and move from site to site. We opted to stay on a ship, making that our home for an entire week, or two tours. We opted to stay on a ship with 30 other passengers. You can stay on a ship with a total of 16 travelers or 100 travelers. We decided that 30 people gave us more of a variety of people to spend time with than the smaller number yet not too many as the larger number of passengers. The larger ships also have less flexibility in approaching certain islands as do smaller vessels.

Next, we had to figure what length of time to cruise on the ship. Choices range from 3 days to 14 days. We decided to put two trips together, which made 8 days and got us to nearly half the islands.

Tourists land at one of two airports. We landed on San Cristobal and needed to wait until the guides organized all of us to get on one of two buses. We reached the harbor and caught this sight.


You know that you are in for some unusual sights and activities. We boarded our boat and got this night sky.

Sunset in Galapagos

Death Valley National Park

For a long time I’d wanted to go to Death Valley. to see Badwater, the lowest point in North America. To see the colors of Artist Palette, the view from Dante’s Peak, the scale of Zabriske’s Point and the oddity of Scotty’s Castle.

We drove in through the town of Lone Pines and hit the long straight road. There was little to see in Panamint. The general store and motel comprised the village of Stovepipe Wells. We got out and walked around and felt the sun bask down upon our heads.

Happy to get back in the air conditioned car, we spotted the Mesquite Sand Dunesand got out to walk among them. Created from the blown sand off the neighboring rocks and the walls of rock that block the wind from taking the sand away, the dunes are huge.

These were the first of the amazing geological history and formations that exist in the park.

Next day, we got out early to do some hiking because the temperature would rise to 109 degrees.

We saw Badwater and walked amid the crunchy salt lake that is all but gone. The first picture hints at the scope of this land and the second shows you up close. You look up to the mountains from the salt bed and see a sign that tells you where sea level is–Badwater is 282 feet below sea level.

Ira and I jumped into the car and walked into a canyon.

After being outside for awhile we decided to stay in the car and drive the Artist’s Drive, which has the famous Artist’s palette. Built by the great work of the 1930’s federal government-sponsored Civilian Conservation Corps, the road bends through very colorful rock formations. Thank you to the foresight of the people behind that work so we can see this beautiful environment.

The artist’ palette contains rocks including exposed copper, iron, which accounts for the coloring.

The Park is huge and there are ruins from early twentieth-century mining operations in the Park and in some of the towns on the outskirts. We visited the town of Rhyoline, where the old bank and school represented the ghost town.

This far east section of the park housed the local spectacle of Scotty’s Castle. A former player in Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West Show, Walter Scott conned various people with claims of mining holdings in the area. When Albert Johnson came to see his mining operations, he found nothing but somehow formed a relationship with Scotty. He and his wife built a castle in the desert and for awhile Scotty lived on the premises.

We watched our second desert sunset from the Harmony Borax ruins near the Furnace Creek Ranch where we stayed.

Next day, we started early again and were amazed at the beauty from Dante’s View, over 5,700 feet above Badwater.

We left the park and ate at the sole location in Death Valley Junction. Now, we faced a new choice, stop at a date farm or a national wildlife refuge on our way to Las Vegas.

I’ve brought in electronic records from the Fish and Wildlife Service that show the geography of the wildlife refuges and also records that show threatened and endangered species, so I wanted to go to the refuge. Ash Meadow was, like much of the area, a water rich area. After a fair amount of time in the 20th century as a cotton farm, the federal government bought the land to preserve the 21 endemic creatures that only live in this area. They include the Pupfish and several different kinds of birds.

While walking along the trails we saw a jack rabbit and a road runner!

Tour the Potomac: New Washington, DC History

Congressional Cemetery will host a springtime publication party on April 26 from 6:00 – 8:00pm. 1801 E Street, SE. Register on the Congressional Cemetery website: the $30 admission includes a copy of the book, cocktails, and special tours of the cemetery. Additional books will be available for purchase and signature.

The Potomac River: A History & Guide

ISBN: 978.1.60949.600.5
Retail Price: $19.99
Length: 160 + 16 page color insert
Images: Over 85
Trade: Paperback
By Garrett Peck (author of
Prohibition in Washington, D.C.: How Dry We Weren’t)
The great Potomac River begins in the Alleghenies and flows 383 miles through some of America’s most historic lands before emptying into the Chesapeake Bay. The course of the river drove the development of the region and the path of a young republic. Maryland’s first Catholic settlers came to its banks in 1634, and George Washington helped settle the new capital on its shores. During the Civil War, the river divided North and South, and it witnessed John Brown’s raid on Harpers Ferry and the bloody Battle of Antietam. Author Garrett Peck leads readers on a journey down the Potomac, from its first fount at Fairfax Stone in West Virginia to its mouth at Point Lookout in Maryland. Combining history with recreation, Peck has written an indispensable guide to the nation’s river.

About the Author

Garrett Peck is a literary journalist and the author of two other books: The Prohibition Hangover: Alcohol in America from Demon Rum to Cult Cabernet and Prohibition in Washington, D.C.: How Dry We Weren’t. He Leads the Temperance Tour of Prohibition-related sites in the nation’s capital, which has been featured on C-SPAN Book TV and Maryland Public Television’s “Artworks This Week.”

Peck’s work has also appeared in The Washington Post, Beverage Media, and other publications. He has been featured on The Kojo Nnamdi Show, Authors @Google, ReasonTV and WAMU’s Metro Connection.

To learn more about Garrett Peck and find out about upcoming events, check out his website:

Salt Lake City In One Day

Arrived at 10 am and walked into the tourism office, the capital building during the late 1800s. Known now as the Council Building, it sits directly across from the new Capitol at the top of the main hill in the city.

The young guy behind the counter advised to see all but Saltair, the old amusement park built on the edge of Salt Lake.We dashed up the hundred steps to the capitol. The Renaissance building from 1915 is made of gorgeous marble. The doors are so heavy they are a workout to open. The rotunda has murals of Brigham oung, General John Fremont, and other important figures in Utah history.

The University of Utah was plugging its ten years of research projects, so all these cute young men and women, dressed snappily, stood  beside easels holding descriptions of their research projects. We followed a tour up to the old Supreme Court chambers, painted in very bold colors.

Next, we walked down State Street past a gorgeous  bed and breakfast called Inn On The Hill.

The houses on the other side of the street were modest, but had cool elements, like sharing a staircase.

We made it to Temple Square and walked into the South Visitors Building. My partner used the computer to find his ancestors but mine did not show up. We saw a model of the famed cathedral and the history of its construction from Young’s vision, through the quarry operation to bring over the stone.

We saw the old Assembly Hall, which is a fine modest building that has a gentle slope to enable all to see the nave. White wood pews filled the eyes on both levels of the building. We scooted over to hear the organist perform the noon time show at the Tabernacle. The number of choir seats is astounding, as amazing to me as the building’s acoustics. We heard two John Philip Sousa marches and two other pieces before leaving for the nearby Arts Center.

The Arts center had pieces from Sundance. James Franco’s work from Three’s Company headlined other video and 3d installement pieces.

We ate a wonderful lunch at Vicsovio’s onMain Street and scooted over to the Moshe Safdies public library. A glorious building that harks to both the architect’s Salem Massachusetts Museum and the new Alcohol, Tabacco and Firearms building in Washington, DC.

We met up with a grad student at Uof U down at his place near Rt 80. We had a blast and found out that there are many gays on the Salt Lake City police department’s staff.

Next we drove across to the west side of town to see the Rio Grande Train Depot. Here the archives, historic preservation and related works share office space. There is much memorabilia in the display cases, ranging from old tickets to uniforms. The Rio Grande Caffe is a blast from the past–luncheonette and diner.

Went up the street to the Union Pacfic Railroad Depot, which is a large unoccupied space available for rent. Next was Gateway Plaza. Reportedly developed by the LDS Church, it is an intriguing attempt to bring commercial shops, nightclubs and restaurants to this long neglected area. I enjoyed seeing the Utah Jazz’ arena across the street.

We ended our trip on the east side of town. First we looked at the historical Trolley Station, which has restaurants and a Whole Foods. We continued driving to Sugarhouse part of the city, 9th and 9th. New Age and cafes mix with one old movie theater in a neighborhood not to miss. We left at 7pm.

New Movie: 127 Hours

Saw the new James Franco movie 127 Hours and the new Signature Theater play, Walter Cronkite Is Dead this week. The movie is gripping with severe editing that makes it thrilling to watch. The play is humorous and poignant.

This will not be a discussion of my crush on James Franco. Although watching his tongue lap at the last drops of water closeup has given me new things to think about.

Each made points about people and the company they keep. Based on the book 127 Hours : Between A Rock and A Hard Place, the movie indicates that Ralston learns that he needs to appreciate and spend more time with his family and those who he loves.

127 Hours: Between a Rock and a Hard Place
The play Walter Cronkite Is Dead illuminates the view point of two women who could be the mother of a man of Ralston’s age. While not completely forgotten about, the two women are lonely. 

Despite their residence in a blue and a red part of the US, the women through conversation overcome their political differences to find common ground mostly in their motherhood. They also discover that they both bemoan the loss of a sense of commonality and cultural “standards”, seemingly embodied in the title characters’ newscast to a large audience and his times of greater cultural common points or touch points.

Was the 1960s really this time of great common touch points? There were many different ethnic communities with their own media, culture, and communities in the US. While less acknowledged as culturally acceptable then now do to cultural relativism and “political correctness” these distinct groups had their own distinctive ways of being that were not shared among the larger culture. Many within these groups resisted said mainstream cultural standards.

Ralston, like the children of the two mothers in the play, leads a life generally apart from his parents. He hardly seeks connection with even like-minded people, let alone someone from a different background, with drastic political differences.

The movie seems to indicate that he realizes his need for connection. His distance from his parents and his denial of a college girlfriend, a topic that would have been interesting for the movie to go into in greater depth, are for him the result of a macho attitude of doing it alone.

To him it is, but I thought about people who like being alone and how the movie could have represented those people. I thought about people who seek out environments, such as the Utah mountains, to commune with nature because that is their major connection.

The two women in the play saw the value of immersing into different cultures. Each sought to take a trio, either to see beauty or to wipe away their cultural attitudes and perceptions.

The play shows that a US citizen who lives on either coast or in the great middle does not have to travel outside the country to immerse somewhere different. All they need to do is travel elsewhere and engage with an open mind.

The movie and play raise the question of experiences alone in new and challenging environments. This is one of the reasons why people travel. They seek to immerse their self in a unique place to feel different things and perhaps come back feeling differently or thinking more broadly.

The two works also make one wonder about how we each spend our time. How much alone time do we need and do we get it? How much time is spent with like-minded and with differently-minded people. Do we have enough of each. Seems all of us could use amounts of each of these experiences.