I realize it's been awhile since I've posted anything here but it's mostly due to the fact that I switched jobs yet again. I'm now back at United Airlines... sort-of.
I watched the armed Guatemalan "policia" patrolling the street as I enjoyed my beer
I'll try to explain without a lot of boring details. I actually work for Continental Airlines (at least my W2 says so), but since Continental and United have merged operations, I use the "United" callsign on the radio when talking to ATC. Once the pilot seniority lists are merged, then everything will be back to "normal". (Riiiight) Working for the Continental side of things and being based in Houston means a lot of flying into Mexico and Central America for me. We also fly to a few South America destinations but I have yet to go. Within the last 2 months, I've been to a few new places such as, Cozumel, Cancun, Panama City and Guatemala City. So far I've enjoyed the experience at each place. Panama City is far more modern than I imagined it would be. Guatemala City wasn't as built up as Panama but it was still fairly nice.
This was taken in the hotel bar in San Salvador
I didn't have a lot of time in Panama but enough to have a few local beers at a bar down the street from the hotel. The small hole-in-the-wall place called "The Texas Bar" had about 8 tables... and free wifi.
You can have McDonald's delivered in Guatemala
In Guatemala City I had more time to explore. I spent a few hours wandering around the city within a handful of blocks from our hotel. There were many nice looking restaurants and pubs. Myself and 2 others from our crew ended up eating at a greek restaurant and partook of a cuban beer that the restaurant owner said she just got in. It was actually pretty good.
The Cuban cerveza
I was only in Cozumel for an hour as we just dropped people off and picked people up. Cancun was great because I had 20 hours to enjoy the beaches and warm weather.
I apparently didn't take any "liquid" photos in Cancun... but here is one of the control tower at the Cancun airport.
I'm certain that I'll get more opportunities to find myself in other latin american destinations in the near future... and when I do, I'll be sure to take a few "liquid" photos to share with you. Salud!
Last month I embarked on a 9 day motorcycle adventure with 5 friends of mine. We staged our vehicles in Denio Junction, Nevada and used it as a base camp of sorts. We spent the next week or so riding through various types of terrain and found ourselves immersed in some amazing locations with expansive views. It was a great learning experience and a fun trip. I am looking forward to another ride like it.
In one of my previous posts I mentioned that I had met a bunch of Aussies and Canadians who were flying Twin Otters for Maldivian Air Taxi, and one of the great guys I met was Steve Pembo. (Check out some of his surf threads) He recently took a photo of a beverage while relaxing on the southern coast of Vietnam. I thought it was a cool shot and that it paralleles the type of images that I try to capture and post here... so I got his permission to use his picture and did just that. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.
Quick note: I have flown over Vietnam many times, but have never been there.
They had a few nostalgic race cars in the beer garden
I flew out to Newark from Seattle on the last day of May to begin my June work schedule. In their infinite wisdom, and complete lack of logic, the company that employs me decided to give me a day off on my first day of availability. It appears they enjoy wasting their money and my time... but that's a subject best discussed elsewhere.
So... because I was free of any obligations, I was able to do basically whatever I wanted to. The problem is there is not a lot to do in Newark, especially when you're stuck at the Crowne Plaza located in a "lovely" industrial area with very few places within walking distance. So I basically was expecting a day filled with catching up on a few emails and watching a movie or two in the comforts of my 11th floor room overlooking the Newark airport.
I contacted my friend, Bob, the Team Manager for Team Wilkerson and told him of my situation. He then graciously offered a VIP pass to attend the race! This was getting better by the minute!
BTPRG & STP
I then took the shuttle over to the airport and picked a rental car agency at random. The gal who helped me at Budget couldn't have been less interested in providing any customer service. She provided information about the transaction only if I asked a direct question about it. She kept checking her cell phone to see if someone had contacted her in the few seconds that had elapsed since the last time she checked it. I don't expect to get special treatment but c'mon, it would've been more personal had I been dealing with a computer kiosk.
Once I was in the rented Nissan Altima and heading south on the New Jersey Turnpike, things were looking up... I could almost smell the nitromethane already!
16,000 horsepower getting ready to blast down the track.
Upon arriving to the track, I could hear the burnouts of the first Funny Cars getting ready to take their first shot at the 1000' distance. I made it up to the fence in time to see the second pair of nitro burning monsters make their pass. I watched the rest of the Funny Cars run and then while Top Fuel was taking their turn in qualifying, I made my way over to the beer garden. I was able to see the rest of the dragsters make their passes with a very expensive Heineken in my hand.
After Q1 was over, I made my way over to the LRS pit area and met up with Bob to thank him for the VIP pass and to "shoot the breeze" for a bit. Being the team manager and PR guy, he was pretty busy but he carved out a few minutes of his time to hang out and talk. The LRS hospitality tent was a great place to relax between qualifying sessions, as I was able to munch on hot dogs and watch the guys on the team tear down the engine completely and rebuild it in about 45 minutes.
For Q2, I went back over to the beer garden but this time I noticed that there was an upper level where they had a live band playing. I decided that this would be a perfect place to watch the cars run and enjoy a bit of live music at the same time. I normally sit toward the starting line to watch the cars launch when the light turns green, but this location was at the finish line and it was very cool to watch the cars cross it at over 300 mph!
The band was good... and because of this fact, and because I wanted to avoid the insane traffic jam that always ensues after the last round of qualifying, I decided to stay and watch them until they finished their set. Once they were done I ambled back to the parking lot at a leisurely pace and my plan seemed to work as I looked at maybe a dozen cars left in the parking lot. No traffic!
There was line dancing.
I enjoyed attending the historic raceway park and getting to ingest some tear-inducing nitro on what likely would've otherwise been a boring weekend. It just goes to show that even when you think things look bleak (ie: stuck in Newark) that sometimes it can work out in your favor. Go Wilk!
I've now been to 2 cities in India, Mumbai (formerly Bombay) and New Delhi. If you've never been to India, there's no possible way for me to describe in words that could accurately convey the experience. But I'll give it a shot.
The initial assault to the senses is the insanely filthy air quality. There is so much pollution that as soon as we step off the airplane, I immediately feel congested and a little short of breath. I believe that the poor air quality is a result of the continuous burning of firewood, animal waste and dead bodies. I'm fairly sure I don't want to know what kind of health issues this may be causing me.
The next thing we have to deal with is the totally inefficient method of getting through customs and immigration. They have so many people in this country that they will assign any mundane job they can to everyone in order to appear productive. The opposite ends up being the result due to the "red tape" at each phase of the process. In Mumbai they literally had someone assigned to take our paperwork from one podium to the next. That's all they did... just carried our papers 100 feet to the next person with a rubber stamp. In addition to the inefficient process, the actual procedures change every time you go there. Once we had to surrender our passports and didn't get them back until we left. The next time we kept our passports but were required to each pay a $40 fee for a "visa"... (wink, wink, nudge, nudge). Funny how we never actually received a visa. The next time we were allowed through with no surrendering of anything. We did have to listen to one of the customs officers scold us, saying that we arrived too early and next time we'll have to wait for the shift change. We had arrived at our scheduled time but that was apparently irrelevant.
Once out of the airport and into the hotel car, the fun begins. There are stripes painted on most of the roads just like in any civilized country but in India they are purely for decoration. At any point in time during our ride to the hotel I could've reached out of the window and touched another vehicle. A friend of mine described it best when he compared it to an ant colony. The cars, motorcycles (usually with 3 or 4 people on them), and the Tuk Tuks all just cram together and somehow eventually get where they're going. One thing you don't see is a vehicle that doesn't have some body damage somewhere on it. It is definitely a sight to see.
Once at the hotel, which is very nice, there is everything you need, for a price. The food and drinks are very expensive except for the breakfast which is included, and very good. If you decide to venture out from the hotel you need to be prepared for the stench of abject poverty. The level of sanitation is horrific. I personally had to sidestep a pile of human feces on the sidewalk and to see someone just stop and urinate on the sidewalk is very common. Needless to say you don't want to trip and fall.
Visiting the market
The food is the next item. I haven't had any issues to this point with getting sick from the food but I'm always pretty careful not to eat food from the street vendors. I know of guys who have and do but I also know guys who have been pretty sick from eating there as well.
In summation... I'm not a big fan of India. I do realize that I've only been exposed to the "big city" and I could've just as easily been talking about New York or Chicago. There may be some fantastic places to see in India and since I'll probably be back there regularly in the near future I may get a chance to see them. Until that time, I'm going to continue to consider India as a place that if I never see again I wouldn't be too upset.