Friday, December 30, 2011

Titan Missile Museum

The Titan Missile Museum is an interesting bit of Cold War memorabilia. You can tour the entire decommissioned ICBM site, or even rent out the crew quarters overnight to get the full experience.

Control Panel

Expansion Joint
Expansion Joint

Monday, October 17, 2011

Monday, July 11, 2011

Portraits in Baltimore and Washington, D.C.

We recently returned from a long weekend in Baltimore and Washington, D.C. The food highlights were definitely the fresh crab at Obrycki's and the really tasty crab cake sandwich at Nick's in the Cross Street Market. The photographic highlights were a few portraits of people, like Mark, that we met while walking around Baltimore and D.C. Mark occasionally plays jazz music near Baltimore's Inner Harbor. He says that the pay isn't usually very good, but it keeps him tuned up for the bands that he plays in. One of his bands is the Blue Moon Big Band, who backed up Kevin Bacon and Renée Zellweger in 2009's My One and Only.

Mark told me that he returned from Afghanistan in one piece, only to lose part of his left leg due to an improperly treated blood clot.


Philip is nine years old and has been riding his skateboard around the Hampden neighborhood in Baltimore for, "one year and seven months." Philip says that he mostly rides with his older brothers.


This guy was just hanging around in D.C., not really doing much of anything.

Lincoln Memorial

Saturday, June 25, 2011

A Texan in New York

The man makes the hat.

Cousin from Texas

Monday, May 30, 2011

Southwestern Tourism: Holbrook, AZ and Madrid, NM

Holbrook, Arizona is home to one of the remaining Wigwam Villages and the nearby Petrified Forest National Park. This abandoned building seemed particularly photogenic.

Abandoned Building

Madrid, New Mexico is currently enjoying more tourism than Holbrook by a long shot. Clint is one of the volunteer firefighters that protects Madrid against the ever-present threat of wildfire.

Firefighter Clint

Monday, May 23, 2011

Classic Cars

It's too bad there isn't more chrome on modern cars.

1963 Mercury Monterey
1963 Mercury Monterey

1964 Ford Galaxie 500XL
1964 Ford Galaxie 500XL

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Across Syria - by Bus!

When we last left off, we were heading to bed with the intention of waking up early, taking a bus to Aleppo, and stopping along the way to tour Krak des Chevaliers, and the Norias of Hama. Unfortunately, jet lag caught up to us, and we woke up a bit after 8:00. Undaunted, we pored over our guide book and began to consider the most efficient route. With a semi-firm plan in place, and pastries in our bellies, we hailed a cab and found our way to the Damascus bus station.

The bus station is in an industrial part of Damascus, and we felt a bit out of place as we struggled to locate the station entrance, identify the logo for the bus company recommended in our guide book, purchase tickets, communicate our travel plans to the police, spot the arabic numeral identifying our bus bay, locate our assigned seats, and generally not appear to be completely lost.

We were seated in the front of the bus, under the careful eye of the bus driver and his attendant, a man who managed to gracefully serve tea as we hurtled through the Syrian countryside. Some careful time-table perusal indicated that our hope to view what T.E. Lawrence called, "perhaps the best preserved and most wholly admirable castle in the world" were unrealistic in the extreme, and that even viewing Hama's Norias might not be feasible. We had only purchased tickets to Homs (B on the map below).

Damascus to Aleppo

After deciding to skip Krak des Chevaliers during this visit, we next attempted to determine if our bus would continue on from Homs to Hama. The attendant stated that it would, but that we would need to purchase our tickets and re-board the bus during the short ten minute layover. Our time in Homs was short, and harried.

We arrived in Hama and secured tickets to Aleppo that would allow us time for a brief detour to view Hama's Norias and what remained of Hama's old town after Assad's massacre. Our plans were a bit complicated by the fact that the Hama bus station had been relocated since our guidebook had been published and the fact that our presence had attracted a 16 year old, leather jacketed tail that we couldn't shake. We hired a taxi to solve both of these problems.

The scale of the Norias was remarkable:

Al-Kaylaniyya, As-Sahuniyya and Al-Jabariyya Norias

Al-Mohammediyya Noria

As was the brilliant simplicity of their construction:

Square Peg

The Norias certainly make an appealing backdrop for a portrait:


Unfortunately, Assad's destruction of Hama's old town was almost complete, and little of it remains beyond the Norias, an alley and a few mosques:

An-Nuri Mosque


With daylight fading, we made our way back to the bus station, and the rest of our time in Hama was relatively uneventful. Our arrival in Aleppo was a bit more exciting.

Damascus, Syria - Day 2

After a sound night's sleep in our luxe hotel, we awoke excited to further explore Damascus. Our plan for the day was to visit the Umayyad Mosque, and Souq al-Hamidiyya.

The Umayyad Mosque is an important Islamic landmark, and is magnificent. To enter, all uncovered women, and men wearing shorts are required to don cloaked garments in the appropriately named "Putting on Special Clothes Room".

Putting on Special Clothes Room Sign

Once inside, it's difficult to not be impressed by the grandeur of the mosque.

Umayyad Mosque Courtyard

Umayyad Mosque

Umayyad Mosque Prayyer Hall

Perhaps one of my favorite aspects of visiting the Umayyad Mosque was seeing the many families relaxing in the courtyard, visiting with each other, picnicking, and enjoying the beauty of the mosque.


After exploring the Umayyad Mosque, and having some spectacular chicken shawarma for lunch, we then visited Souq al-Hamidiyya, a fairly large Middle Eastern bazaar, to take in all of its wonderful shops.

Souq al-Hamidiyya

Souqs are generally organized such that each store only sells one type of item: only shoes, only denim jeans, only women's lingerie, etc. And typically, stores selling a particular type of good are all right next to each other, so if you need a new water pipe, some spices, or even some tape, it's relatively easy to do price comparisons.

Hubbly Bubbly Shop

Spice Seller

Tape Store

As the sun was beginning to set, we decided to attempt to tour Damascus' Citadel, even though it was rumored to be closed for renovations.


We managed to sweet talk one of the engineers into giving us a tour of their improvements, and I was glad to have done so once we reached the top of the citadel's immense stone walls. The views of Damascus were spectacular.

Umayyad Mosque through Arrowslit

While walking back from the citadel, these three guys let me join their football (soccer) game.


The boy in the sweater wasn't particularly fond of passing.

Next up: traversing the length of Syria by bus.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Damascus, Syria - Day 1

After exploring the ruins of Bosra, we continued on to Damascus. We didn't have any revelatory experiences during our trip, though it was interesting along the way to observe the architectural flourishes and embellishments of the Syrian homes. In contrast, Jordanian homes are almost entirely devoid of decoration.

Our driver told us that he lacked the proper permit to drive us directly to our hotel in the Old City, so he pulled over on the side of the M5 highway, hailed a cab, and instructed the cab driver on how to get to our hotel. While in the cab, we had a brief moment of panic when the driver stopped following the signs towards the Old City and instead appeared to begin driving us towards Iraq. Our fears of abduction were thankfully unfounded and we felt a bit sheepish when he left us off just steps away from our hotel.

We stayed at Hotel Agenor, right on Straight Street. While checking in, we were greeted warmly with freshly squeezed, exquisite tasting blood orange juice. The courtyard of the hotel was tranquil and lovely:

Hotel Agenor

After setting our bags down, we began to explore the streets of the Old City:

Damascus Old City

This minaret near our hotel was particularly spectacular in the waning daylight:

Minaret and Moon

President Bashar al-Assad looks like such a pleasant, welcoming chap:


One of my favorite aspects of travel is getting to meet new people and learning more about how they live. This artisan was quite friendly and proud to welcome two American tourists to his city:


After a spectacular dinner of mezze at Naranj, we wandered back to our hotel. The courtyard was perhaps even more beautiful in the flickering candlelight:

Hotel Agenor

Next up: exploring more of Damascus.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Bosra, Syria

After our day trip to Jerash, we returned to Amman, and that night we attempted to arrange a ride to Damascus. We finalized our negotiations with the driver shortly after midnight, and he agreed to pick us up in his private car at 8:00 the next morning.

Having a driver was an extremely helpful luxury. Crossing the border would have been much more time-consuming and confusing without his help. His opinion on the political status of Syria would also prove to be quite prescient. As we approached the Syrian border, our driver predicted that citizens of Syria would attempt to replace their government soon.

With our driver's help, we crossed into Syria at Nasib, which is only a few miles from the town of Der'a. Der'a would enter the news a few days after our crossing when it became the first town in Syria to join the Arab Spring movement and to openly protest the ruling Ba'athist party. The day after our departure from Syria, four of the participants of these protests would be killed by Syrian security forces.

The border crossing was several miles long and involved numerous bureaucrats. The architecture of the government buildings was distinctly dilapidated Soviet.

Once we had passed through the multitude of checkpoints, we made a slight detour to the city of Bosra:
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We scrambled around the ruins of the old town in Bosra, which dates from the 3rd century AD:
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Bosra's main attraction was its black basalt theatre-cum-citadel:


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If you're interested, arjayempee has a more thorough documentation of Bosra.

Next up: Damascus.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Jerash, Jordan

Our trip to the Middle East began with a visit to the ruins of Jerash, one of the ancient Roman cities in the Decapolis. It's amazingly well preserved and visitors are permitted remarkable access to the remaining structures.


South Theatre
South Theatre

Oval Plaza (Forum)
Oval Plaza

Courtyard of the Fountain
Courtyard of the Fountain

Cardo Maximus
Cardo Maximus

Next up: the road to Damascus.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

No Parking

No Parking
No Parking

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Tonto National Forest


San Francisco, California

City Hall Wedding
City Hall Wedding

City Hall
City Hall


The Jugtown Pirates
Jugtown Pirate