Tag Archives: Skyline

All four lower 48 time zones in a week / early Spring 2023

Quite a bit of travel lately. Ended up visiting all four of the lower 48 time zones within a week. Certainly didn’t plan it that way but it’s how it worked out. 

In the last month or so I’ve been back to where I grew up, back home, southern Indiana, and lastly Las Vegas to visit friends and hike. 

All the trips were great for very different reasons: 

– It was great to see family where I grew up, it was far too long since I last visited. 

– I visited southern Indiana for work. The furniture industry used to be huge and now it’s moderately big. The area used to be something. I feel fortunate my last jobs send / sent me to areas that used to be important for America. More on that later.

– It was wonderful to be home in Minnesota for a little bit. 

– Lastly, it was super cathartic visiting Vegas to hike, see friends, and, get out of the F$&&?! winter. 

The weeks / month-ish flew by. It seems we just arrived back home from Arizona and then I was traipsing and gallivanting around the country. 

I had a chance to visit Mount Rushmore. I was surprised to learn the monument was open so late. It was fun to see the lighting start, catch the end of the day, and, be one of the very very very few people at the monument. Despite growing up there, I never really spent time visiting the major attractions. It’s fun now that I’m a “visitor”. 

Visiting formerly great places in the US is a surreal experience. I’ve had a chance to visit quite a few formerly-great / formerly-important places for work and even lived in some. It’s amazing because the locals know their peak has passed and all that’s left is grinding through. The folks who live in the area never move in from the outside, they are people who grew up in the areas. The older folks can / will talk at length about the “before times” prior to outsourcing, prior to automation, and back when there was a lot more mastercraftmanship since everything was laborious and mechanical / electrical systems sucked and were unreliable. It’s a treat. Oddly, now these areas a past peak my work product is helping the places stay since the knowledge dump will never reverse.

Visiting Vegas is always fun. I don’t drink, gamble, do drugs, see shows, or really anything typically relegated to Vegas travelers. Hiking in Vegas is freaking awesome. Many stunning trails are nearby and few go to Vegas to hike so it’s easy to have the trail to oneself. Having friends who live in Vegas is a phenomenal bonus because of the great company and “locals secrets” I get to learn – like getting 100% authentic Szechuan Chinese food. Vegas is two hours behind and I’m a morning person so I woke up really really really early local time. Turns out, it’s a great time to walk the strip. It was fun to see the bellagio fountains being tested and seeing to bellagio botanical gardens being built. Stuff not seen in normal daytime.

All of this travel was not flawless. In fact, it was kind of a nightmare. I have flown a lot all over the place over the years and I have had brand new experiences – getting trapped in the airport unable to fly out for 24hrs, delta losing where I was going, and, having a flight attendant get accused of being intoxicated. Each one totally sucked for different reasons:

– Getting delayed due to weather has occurred numerous times but I’ve never been trappped. I ended up getting one of the last nearby hotels in Louisville once I figured out I wasn’t leaving. All around total shitshow. 

– At some point during the shitshow delta totally misplaced me and decided I was going to Atlanta. I don’t live in Atlanta. I didn’t want to go to Atlanta. I had to revert to using paper tickets and talking to delta people in person because all the other electronic systems failed me.

– Lastly, flying out of Vegas on delta a passenger accused a flight attendant of being intoxicated or something so the attendant had to get tested. This is apparently a really big deal – the FAA doesn’t take too kindly to intoxicated attendants and even accusations can cause employment issues for the accused. The attendant was not intoxicated so all we were was delayed while this was all sorted. The flight attendants / captain mentioned how big of a deal it was and “individuals should be careful before making accusations” over the PA. What a mess. 

All in all. I’m ready to be home for awhile and I’m certainly ready to be done with Delta.

Phoenix / Tucson 2023

We went to Arizona this year and missed the coldest stretch of weather in Minnesota. Once again, we were super lucky. But it is not about going to Arizona, it is about escaping the cold.

Phoenix is a neat place to visit. We stayed in Tempe near the Salt River and it was a great spot – easy to get anywhere in any direction due to the access to the highways. We ended up hiking quite a bit in and around Phoenix. The Phoenix Mountain Preserve turned out to be a stellar place to hike. It’s amazing to me a place with “make your adventure in difficulty” for hiking exists in a metro area like that – it took all of 15 minutes to drive to the trail head and the place didn’t get old even though we went to the same preserve multiple times. We did three different hikes in three different areas but it’s still the same park. Pretty neat.

The restaurants were fun. There was the very first “Waffle House in the early morning” experience for some of the travelers because our hotel didn’t start breakfast until 9AM our local time. I’ve been to Waffle Houses during my work travels so it was fun to have the Waffle House experience with others. In the search for good Mexican / tamales we ended up going to the same restaurant we visited back in 2018. The place was exactly the same and as delicious as we remembered.

We went to Phoenix last year too. This experience was quite a bit different because the COVID restrictions are nearly gone and the ‘new normal’ is in effect. For example: masks were not required nearly anywhere, restaurants were substantially more expensive, hotel service and hotel services were still extremely limited. What’s wild is the COVID response is pretty much over everywhere and we have just accepted the changes.

We saw many sunrises and sunsets this year – different than last year. For whatever reason, we didn’t really watch the sunrises or sunsets last year. We missed out. They are spectacular in Arizona and especially beautiful in the Tucson area. It’s neat having unobstructed views, mountains to break the scenery, and light clouds to make for some absolutely stellar sunrises and sunsets. We did a few hikes to overlooks in time for sunrise but most sunrises and sunsets were done from a high-ish point we walked or drove to. 100% worth it. 

We had a lot of fabulous hikes. There are a ton of easy hikes and there are a ton of hikes where people regularly die due to the difficulty. It’s a ‘make your own adventure’ type of region for hiking. So it worked out very well for us – we had chances to hike in the morning and afternoons and both were great for different reasons. The biggest surprise I had was hiking in the superstitions at the First Water trailhead, walking into a fairly deep canyon, and encountering plants with dewcicles. It was a bit chilly but it was surprising to find plants with dew to begin with and the dewcicles were a lot of fun to look at. We hiked multiple trails where we encountered running water or pools of water and it was a bit baffling – I just don’t expect to see running water in nature in these arid places.

We went to Tucson this year and Tucson is not a place I want to visit again any time soon. It is difficult to get anywhere, the things we can get to aren’t that great, and the city / region itself is a dump.

Driving in Tucson is the worst. I have been to 49 states, 42 countries, numerous cities and Tucson takes the cake:

  • It’s crap shoot whether I’ll be driving 10-20mph below or above the speed limit.
  • Turn signals are rarely used. Getting cut off is common. It is common to see vehicles take a hard right from the far left lane and cross a total of three lanes of traffic.
  • There is a lack of highways and freeways. Instead, there are a bunch of three lane roads going in every direction with a bunch of stoplights since they intersect a bunch of other three lane roads. This arrangement makes it possible to get stuck in traffic on a Sunday morning at 7:45AM. As the day progresses the traffic gets worse and it takes even longer to get anywhere.
  • It takes forever to get anywhere due to the above. Much like the place I grew, there are many ways to get anywhere I want to go but they all suck because whoever is responsible for urban planning / traffic / stop light timing was either completely absent or straight up suck at their jobs.
  • We even saw the city busses run red lights because they are sick of the BS. 

The city / region itself is a dump. Dilapidated homes, businesses, and trash are everywhere. It’s astonishing. It’s hard to get away from people and enjoy nature. There seems to be a road, a building, octagarians, or, many other people around at all times. That could be due to the trails we picked – it takes forever to drive anywhere so the thought of driving even further and wasting more of my day in the car was motivation to pick closer trails?

There were three positives – the food was great and sunsets and sunrises are stupid beautiful, there’s a distinct lack of things blocking the view of the mountains so catching the sunrise and sunsets is quite the treat, and, the saguaro forest is one of a kind. The donuts there taste different – they aren’t super sugary and they aren’t super filling, it’s great. So far, it’s the best donuts I’ve had ever. From a distance, the saguaro forest is incredible and has an odd beauty. “These sorta look like trees, these should be trees, but these are not trees” was a common thought I had while hiking in the cactus forest. Close up, it was all pretty fugly – it’s a desert after all. We witnessed some amazing sunsets and sunrises; they were stunning and the 1,000s of other upper midwesterners we encountered agreed!

The number of people from Minnesota down here right now is wild. We regularly see Minnesotans. Makes sense considering it’s -15F in Minnesota right now.

Otherwise – I’ll probably never visit Tucson again, or I’ll change HOW I visit Tucson dramatically. It’s not great in Tucson.

I’m not sure if we’re headed back to the Phoenix are next year. We might try to switch it up. I would love to go back simply for the easy access to hiking but I am just one vote 🙂.

Enjoy the photos!

Chris W.


Las Vegas and San Diego 2020

Well, I’m a bit late writing this. Like six months late. Better late than never, right?

This last winter we decided to leave the frozen tundra and spend some time with friends in Las Vegas and family in San Diego. Back in 2019 we did the same, except we went to Spain, and we missed the worst of winter. It was fabulous and we were trying to repeat our luck this year.

We weren’t so lucky missing the worst of winter BUT we still had a great time. This is easily a trip I could see us making every year. We were able to see a few amazing national parks during the flight and it really was a treat.

First we went to Vegas and the weather was perfect – no higher than the 80s and absolutely wonderful in the morning and evenings. We had a chance to hit up some new restaurants and eat some amazing donuts. Las Vegas has a LOT to offer on the food front. We went hiking in some of the local parks and it was awesome – no one was around in the early mornings and we truly had the parks to ourselves. I get the feeling people come to Vegas for activities other than eating and hiking so we really enjoyed watching the alpenglow at sunrise and sunset completely alone.

Most amazing part of wandering around was when we stumbled across Mt. Charleston, the local ski resort. First, we had no idea it snowed enough to create a ski resort, and second but most important, people were having picnics in the snow. Now, when I saw they were having picnics in the snow I’m not saying all the people were wearing snow gear and sitting near snow. No, these individuals literally were in street clothes and shoes and were sitting in the snow or hanging out in snow piles enjoying picnics. It’s not like one or two people were doing it either, there were hundreds. There must be some novelty to snow.

After a brief few days in Vegas we left to visit family in San Diego. The second half of the trip was equally amazing. Just like before we enjoyed great company and wonderful food. We wandered around San Diego at sunset and sunrise, much like Vegas, and really enjoyed seeing the world come awake and go to bed. Sunsets at Ocean Beach are flat out amazing and seeing the sunrise over downtown San Diego was wonderful too.

We walked quite a bit more and went to different parts of San Diego, like Pacific Beach, just to explore. Of course, we still went to Bronx Pizza, quite a few times, simply because it’s the best NYC style pizza outside of NYC.

Overall, we had a wonderful time and were very fortunate to have had great weather, great travels, and most importantly, great company.

Enjoy the photos!

Chris W.




Tokyo 2015

Tokyo, holy crap, Tokyo. Whatever expectations we had of Tokyo and Japan before we arrive were completely shattered. No guide had prepared us for our experiences so far, let alone the first half hour in the country. We’ve been in Tokyo for about five days and will be traveling around the country for the next 15 to see the cherry blossoms bloom. Yes, we did travel a quarter of the way around the world to see cherry blossoms. Last year, we were lucky enough to see the cherry blossoms in Washington DC and we wanted to see the grandest cherry blossom bloom in the world ever since.

We noticed immediately that Japan is completely different than anything we’ve experienced before. It started with the eerie quiet soon after we left the airplane. Japan is an incredibly quiet place; Jacquelyn and I find ourselves whispering most of the time simply because it is so quiet everywhere – subways, streets, stores, our apartment, everywhere. The places that are normally loud elsewhere in the world are stunningly quiet. The place we are renting has neighbors surrounding us on all sides but one yet I haven’t heard a peep. It’s so quiet I’m not sure anyone lives next to our apartment.

The next thing we noticed was that Japanese people are incredible helpful in a surprisingly assertive way. About 30seconds after looking at a subway map a woman assertively asked us where we were going. Luckily, we were going the same way so she helped us along. Then, shortly after getting off the subway we realized we were lost so we took out the map and looked around. Another 30seconds later a random person assertively asked us where we were going and if she could help. It was shocking, it was super helpful, and it was awesome. We’ve never had this type of experience anywhere in the world.

The next thing we noticed is the Japanese people are incredibly considerate and kind. I actually pay attention to where I walk because people will stop to let me pass even if I am the one crossing their path and disrupting their walk. This is very different than pretty much everywhere in Asia where I used my size to plow through crowds of people because no one gets out of the way. Japan is very photography friendly – put a camera up and people will find a way to walk behind the camera, duck, or just wait. It’s crazy.

There’s formalities for everything. For example, money isn’t handed to a cashier but the customer puts the money on a tray for the cashier to pick up. There’s also a process for saying thanks, bowing, accepting thanks, and I have no clue how it works. We were walking around a park and I saw an elderly man fall (his shoe broke and he took a tumble) so I spent some time helping him up and getting him back to his handlers so he could be wheeled out of the park. Later, his wife found me and said a whole lot of Japanese to me ending in “arigato”, which is thanks, and bowed. Not knowing what to do, I said “arigato” and bowed back. She then repeated what she said and bowed again. Once again, not knowing what to do, I said “arigato” and bowed. This repeated FIVE TIMES before I figured out that this poor lady was trapped so long as I kept saying arigato and bowing back. I’m not a fast learner.

The cherry blossoms are stellar. They are all over the city and we’ve been to quite a few parks and even visited a park which lights them up at night. It’s beautiful. We’re very fortunate we arrived in time to see the cherry blossoms. We are really looking forward to seeing the cherry blossoms bloom as we travel across the country!

We are about 1/3rd of the way through our visit in Japan. We’re hoping the rest of the trip is going to be just as amazing as the first part.

I put photos into two albums: one that’s a short 12 photo summary of Tokyo. The other is all the photos from Tokyo which includes a TON of cherry blossom photos. Unless you really like cherry blossom photos, I’d skip it.

Enjoy the photos!

Chris W.

Small album below:

Large album below:


New Zealand 2015

New Zealand was OK. We ended up spending two weeks on the rainy southern island and a week on the north island where were introduced to Cyclone Pam. I guess what I’m trying to say is that the weather wasn’t great during the three weeks we were there and the good luck we’ve had with weather for the last six months ran out. We had planned on spending a great deal of time outdoors and hiking but were typically relegated to the indoors due to crap weather. The parts of New Zealand we did see were fairly pretty and we did manage to find some neat things to do.

New Zealand is an odd place: incomes aren’t all that high yet things are extremely expensive or exceptionally poor values, nothing is really that close together (we put 2,000mi on our rental) yet driving is pretty much the best way to get around, kiwi’s speak English yet they have really funny accents, everyone we met is OK with living in a very geologically active country where they could easily be wiped off the face of the earth, and there are tourists everywhere – about 3million people visit New Zealand, a country with a population of 4.4million. Tourist fatigue was very pervasive.

I think the word indifferent best describes our interactions with most New Zealanders. We haven’t run into this too often on our travels but it was surprising. If I were to guess it’s simply because of the sheer number of tourists that inundate their little islands – tourists are everywhere at all times. We had a pretty hilarious interaction with a New Zealand couple we met through Airbnb: they stated that they “really liked America and Americans” and when I asked why I found out it’s because “Americans are stuffy and so full of themselves”. I wasn’t sure how to take that.

Things, in general, were a pretty poor value. We can handle expensive, that’s not a problem. Poor value is different. Fuel was about $6/gal, food was insanely expensive and lodging, in most places, was the most we’ve ever paid. It was mind blowing to me that we stayed in a place that was $135/night and they didn’t provide WiFi or even change our sheets! We had arranged other tours and activities, like flightseeing, but ended up cancelling them because we were so underwhelmed with what we saw and experienced in New Zealand; we were done giving the country money.

There were three great experiences that really stood out. First was when we were in a lake and the bottom of the lake was heated by the thermal activity in the area. We sunk our feet into the sand and had a free spa day. I felt fabulous. Second was when we met an super cool family through Airbnb. They happily showed us around, brought us to their favorite fish and chips place and gave us some great advice on where to visit. The last awesome experience occurred on our last night in New Zealand when we met Jacquelyn’s relatives who moved to New Zealand from the US back in the early 80s; we had an awesome chat and learned about their unique perspective of New Zealand. It was great to end our time in New Zealand on a high note.

So, overall, I don’t think we’d rush back to New Zealand. We didn’t find any reason to travel half way around the world to see New Zealand; we’ve been other places that have similar landscapes that have better weather and better value for the money.

Enjoy the photos!

Chris W.

Toronto 2014

We had a really fun time in Toronto. We stayed with a rather eccentric fellow who happened to be a wonderful cook. We hiked around Toronto Island and has some great views of the skyline.

Toronto itself was a very walkable city. We really enjoyed walking from the waterfront, to St. Lawrence Market, to the financial district, to Eaton Mall and to Yonge Dundas Square. By the time we arrived in Toronto, all the French had pretty much disappeared. That was super helpful since neither Jacquelyn nor I know any other languages other than English.

St. Lawrence Market was a lot of fun. Good smells and tasty food. The rest of Toronto we pretty much people watched. Yonge Dundas Square was quite a bit like Time Square in NYC but, well, way smaller and filled with homeless people. We had these amazing peaches called “bathtub peaches”. They were soooo juicy that people are supposed to eat them in the bathtub. I had no idea peaches grew in Ontario!

Toronto was our last city we visited in Canada. We really enjoyed our time in Canada, the people were friendly, the sites were cool and overall it was really fun!

Enjoy the pictures!

Chris W.


Montreal 2014

After visiting Quebec City we had a short two or so hour drive to Montreal. We didn’t really have a lot of time in Montreal. We did take the time to eat at a couple of Montreal Institutions like Fairmont Bagels and Schwartz meat’s. We hiked up Mount Royal to get a beautiful view of the Montreal skyline. We had a great host in a neat neighborhood kind of south of downtown. The morning we left we walked over to Atwater Market and enjoyed some delicious pastries before we left.

The park below Mt. Royal had a lot going on. Lots of people playing drums, fighting each other with foam covered swords, smoking pot, laying around in the shade, biking, hiking, and running. Lot’s to do!

I wish we had more time in Montreal, maybe we’ll go back some day.

Enjoy the pictures!

Chris W.

Albany in the Spring 2014

We’ve been enjoying the spring here in Albany. Lot’s of grilling in the parks and a little bit of hiking. We ran out to Utica to visit Matt’s Brewery – the place that makes Sanarac beer, my favorite beer! It was a very fun visit and had “Strange Flavor Chicken” at a local Chinese restaurant.  I also found a great spot to take photos of downtown Albany at night!

Enjoy the pictures!

Chris W.

Shenzhen and Monsoon Season 2014

I have never had any experiences with monsoons. This trip brought me to Shenzhen where I had my first monsoon experience complete with flooding factories (I happened to be in the factory), river fording in a van, and flight issues. It was completely unlike any weather phenomena I’ve ever experienced. I’ve been in hard rain but it’s usually quite short in duration – I’ve never seen hard rain for hours on end. It was unreal!

Shenzhen itself has a pretty weird layout. There are mountains all over the place so it disrupts the urban sprawl and there many tall buildings all over the area in smaller conglomerations. It just means that it takes a bit longer to get different places.

Enjoy the pictures :).

Chris W.

Shanghai Glows at Night 2014

Shanghai is a phenomenally interesting city. One quickly notices how everything is illuminated at night – buildings, road, trees, and so on. It goes on forever, it’s absolutely incredible! I haven’t been to many areas of China, but, from what I can tell, it’s not typical. The only other city that comes remotely close is Hong Kong; however, in typical Chinese fashion, it’s bigger, better, and brighter in Shanghai.

I decided to watch the sunset on the really tall buildings from the Bund. I took a timelapse video of the whole ordeal which can be found here: Shanghai timelapse. It’s a pretty big file (~60MB) so give it a bit to load.

Enjoy the lights :).

Chris W.