Tag Archives: Sunrise

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.

 

 

The Cold North 2017 / 2018

So I realized I haven’t put anything on the website since our trip to the Smoky Mountains. Looking back on my previous posts I think there is a clear trend: we hibernate in the winter so the likelihood of taking outdoor photographs plummets precipitously. Makes sense; the cold air in Minnesota often times hurts my face so why go outside?

Winter is awful in Minnesota. It boggles my mind people live in this climate voluntarily and even immigrate to and stay in twin cities regions from extremely warm regions like Eastern Africa, South East Asia, Latin America, and the Indian Sub-continent. 

Weather aside, somehow an interesting culture was built in the Twin Cities / Minnesota which fosters the development of businesses and happy people. Minnesota punches well above its weight in the number of Fortune 500 businesses, intellectual property development, cost of living adjusted wages, and general welfare / health. There is a pragmatic approach to just about everything here and so long as people can cut thru the Minnesota Nice and tolerate the weather it can end up being a pretty neat place to live. 

Maybe there’s something to staying indoors for five-ish months a year that makes people industrious and makes people thankful for the small things, like vitamin D. 

I have had a couple reprieves from the cold this winter. There were two visits to Chicago, which feels like a tropical paradise compared to Minnesota, and a visit to Denver for the holidays. 

It was neat to be back in Chicago for a bit and see familiar sights and smell familiar smells. I don’t particularly miss Chicago but there is an energy to Chicago not found in the twin cities.  One evening was even nice enough to make the seven mile walk on the Lake Front Trail from McCormick Place near the South Side to my hotel in the Gold Coast neighborhood. I was the only one who walked from the group and managed to beat my coworkers who were stuck in traffic. I’ve always enjoyed the walk so it was wonderful to have the opportunity to walk along Lake Michigan and weave my way thru downtown to my hotel and skipping the traffic was just the cherry on top. 

Of course the visit to Denver was awesome. Denver is a fabulous place and it’s great to see family. The weather was great and I even ended up with a slight sunburn.

Probably the last thing to note about Minnesota is a conundrum I’ve found: I lived in this state for a bit over 10 years without traffic violations or vehicle accidents. In the last four months I’ve had two people hit my car while driving around with my wife with the most recent occurring yesterday. What makes this especially weird is that I drive very little since my work is a bit over a mile from where we live and I don’t drive around very often with my wife. I’m not sure what clicked between departure and return to Minnesota but it’d make me happy if this trend discontinued. 

Enjoy the photos 🙂

Chris W.

Hawaii 2017

Hawaii is a fantastically weird place.

Hawaii has natural beauty and is very diverse: amazing mountains, lush rain forests, desert plains,fertile farms, barren lava flows, gorgeous beaches, craggy/rocky shorelines, wonderful sunshine, monsoon rains, ridiculous humidity, dry breezes, wonderful smells, and crystal clear air with stunning night skies. The range of climates on those tiny islands was truly astonishing.

All that said, the people and culture of Hawaii is incredibly strange. Jac and I aren’t ocean people, we don’t snorkel, we don’t scuba dive, we don’t fish, we don’t hang out at the beach, we don’t eat much for fish/seafood, we don’t eat much for meat, we don’t really consume much for alcohol, we don’t like big crowds, we don’t do all-inclusive type activities, and we dislike touring with groups. So, we spent time off the beaten trail talking to locals and learning about how Hawaiians make Hawaii, Hawaii. After all of our experiences, I can honestly say that if someone told me Hawaii was an English speaking anglo-centric independent county in the Pacific and I knew nothing else else, I would wholeheartedly agree. Why? Well, it’s complicated but here are my best guesses:

  • I think most folks fly down to Hawaii to go to their all-inclusive resort to get wasted all day long or go sleep on the beach to get wasted all day longi. I don’t think most people see the side we saw or even look for it given what most visitors want to do in Hawaii.
  • Few people are from Hawaii. It seemed like 98% of everyone we met are from somewhere else and moved to Hawaii because they fell in love. It’s a lot like California or DC in that regard. When no-one is from the area then it always makes the area seem a bit different.
  • No one is really in a hurry. As Jac said, “when everyone is on vacation is anyone in a hurry?”
  • The descendants of the Japanese immigrants from 100 years ago still keep parts of the island feeling like Japan. During one of our Airbnb stays we went to a restaurant called Teshima’s and had a bowl of udon soup very similar to what we had in Japan. Of all the cultures who migrated to Japan, it appears as though the Japanese are the only ones who tried to keep their culture. The Chinese, Africans, SE Asians, etc all assimilated and we couldn’t find authentic restaurants for those cultures.
  • There is still a very strong Japanese influence in Hawaii since Hawaii was about 40% ethnic Japanese at the time when the US took over Hawaii. We can go to local supermarkets and see a Hello Kitty section that is a non-trivial amount of space in a tiny store.
  • We only went to Maui and the Big Island. Maui seemed a lot of Vegas where lots of folks are there to party and then there’s the support network while the big island has a lot of agriculture and ranching. Two very different feels.
  • There aren’t the typical buskers and homeless people commonly found in warmer climates. I’m not sure if busking is illegal but they just aren’t around. I think it’s because folks need to actually fly to Hawaii via an expensive plane ticket and can’t hitchhike or take a cheap grayhound to a place where the cold won’t kill them.
  • If you’re white you’re a haoli (howly). I guess until the 1950s/1960s or something white people were the extreme minority. Then jets were invented and tourists started flocking to / moving to the islands so all the other immigrants from 100 years ago treat the white people a bit differently and view them as non-local.
  • We’ve been told by multiple people that moving to Hawaii is hard and there can be difficulties in assimilating. Visiting is fine and welcomed but moving to Hawaii is somehow viewed differently and negatively by the locals.
  • There are only a handful indigenous Hawaiians, like the people who migrated from Polynesia a long time ago, left. Because the pre-contact Hawaiians were such a warring culture there are a ton of battle sites and grave sites everywhere. This causes construction projects to be cancelled / strung up in court since it’s pretty much a guarantee construction workers will hit piles of bones at some point. Huge developments get abandoned because the developers run out of money fighting the court battles with the indigenous peoples. Even repairs to weather damaged areas get strung up in court – a beautiful valley we tried to hike in had its trail system destroyed by a 100 year flood a couple months back and the indigenous people are claiming ever rock and rock placement is sacred so they are trying to prevent any sort of repair work.

Of all the things we wanted to possibly see in Hawaii it was lava so we were very lucky we visited Hawaii in April. As it turned out, the volcano was somewhat active and it was possible to see lava flowing into the ocean from the 61g flow and see lava bubbling to the top of the Kilauea cauldron. We were fortunate because the volcano generally isn’t this active and we had an opportunity to watch quite the show!

It was so strange to be continually reminded of Japenese culture – from amazingly complicated bidets to amazing meals. We loved our visit to Japan and it was like some parts of the island were ‘Japan lite’; just enough to remind us of Japan but not different enough to feel like we were outside of the US.

So, all-in-all, we enjoyed our time in Hawaii while finding is a very strange place. I made two different photo albums, one of just the highlights in Hawaii and the other with a ton of additional photos or random Hawaii stuff.

Enjoy the photos!

Chris

Highlights:

 

Big album:

Southern Bulgaria 2015

We were so lucky during the second half our trip through Bulgaria. We didn’t really know what we were getting ourselves into and didn’t know what to expect. We were in the mountains in southern Bulgaria and were able to visit some really cool caves, meet some awesome people, stay in some neat places, and go on some great hikes in gorgeous scenery.

We had no idea Bulgaria was so beautiful. We were here at the right time to see all the mountain flowers in bloom and we had good weather throughout. Tourism isn’t quite in swing yet so we had a chance to talk to our hosts and learn about their lives in Bulgaria. Much like everywhere else they were concerned about the same big three.

Bulgaria is made for outdoors activities. They have different mountain types throughout the country, from rolling mountains like the Appalachians to rugged mountains like the Pacific NW. The tallest mountain is around 9,000ft so pretty much everywhere is traversable by foot and the trailheads are easily accessed by car. Great views can be had pretty quickly, we would only hike for 30min to 1hr before trails would open up and give great views making the reward:effort ratio off the chart. Even the most popular trails are not crowded because of the time of year so we had a lot of time by hiking by ourselves enjoying nature in peace.

There are chalets, huts, and lodges people can stay at while hiking through the mountains. They range from basic (walls & door) to electricity, cafeteria, heat, hot water, internet, etc. We only stayed in one chalet and it was a great time. If/when we come back, I would definitely spend more time hiking and spend more nights in the mountains.

The hosts we had in the mountain areas were really cool. In one guesthouse we were pretty much the only guests. The guesthouse was in the middle of nowhere and had no internet so we were hanging out in the dining area killing time before dinner. We were sitting chatting with our host while the TV played traditional Bulgarian music. Soon Jacquelyn found herself learning traditional Bulgarian dance from the host! One of the nights we stayed near Rila Lakes I went out to photograph the night sky around 11PM. The chalet man, an awesome guy named Martin, came out to see what I was doing. We ended up chatting until 2AM while drinking his homemade rakia, a brandy like drink. That was the night I learned I cannot drink like a Bulgarian.

I would have loved to stay in Bulgaria longer, go on more hikes, and explore more of the mountains.  Bulgaria has all the attributes we like and is definitely near the top of our favorite countries we’ve visited. Who would have thought? :).

Enjoy the photos!

Chris W.