So, getting back to Thursday, I collected the rental car at the ferry terminal and started the short drive to Wilmington. I stopped off at a little museum at the site of an early settlement called Brunswick of which all that is left is the brick shell of an old church. I learned a little about the history of the Cape Fear region and then moved on.

Baggage_BWJust over the bridge is downtown Wilmington but I could not check into my hotel until 3pm so I went in search of lunch at a little shopping center called the Cotton Exchange. After wandering around for a while not finding any serious restaurants some guy invited me to come taste his fudge and I said “You, know, I’m really looking for lunch.” And he said “Oh, that place over there is great.” So I went in and found them serving down home Southern Comfort food. I ordered an Oyster Po’ Boy and fried okra. I would never have thought to eat fried okra but it was forced on me once in Carlsbad, New Mexico and I found I really liked it so now I eat it when I get the chance, which isn’t often.

I wandered around the Cotton Exchange a little longer after lunch, mostlyValves galleries and souvenir shops. But my parking meter was about to expire so I had to move on. I had set my sights on the Railroad museum in hopes of finding some good steam punk images but was sad to see that most of the museum was model railroads and there was only one real train outside. I stopped in at the visitor’s center next door and picked up some literature from a very strange woman who seemed to think that browsing at a visitor’s center was not acceptable. One must ask very specific questions, one must know exactly what one is looking for.

Boat2At this point I decided I might as well try to get into my hotel room since I was tired and I had no more change for parking meters and couldn’t find the entry to the Riverwalk. The Wilmingtonian turned out to be a collection of old buildings refurbished but about ready for another round and smelling strongly of mildew which is clinging to my clothes even now. But the price was right, the bed was comfortable and the shower was hot. I could have lived without the loudmouth on the balcony just across from my window though.

In perusing my hard won maps and brochures I found that the restaurant Sunset_CapeFearmy friend had recommended was just a few blocks from me and I headed out just before sunset. Since it was right on the river and had an outdoor deck and the temperatures were very mild I sat down and ordered a glass of wine and some shrimp and grits and watched the sun set over the Cape Fear. Unfortunately my waitress was apparently doing the same and service was a bit on the slow side so it was well after dark when I made my way back to the Wilmingtonian.

GownsNext morning I set out to explore downtown and take pictures of architectural details. I actually found the widow displays and some unusual signs to be the best subjects. I stumbled upon a café called the Dixie Grille which seemed to be about the only place serving breakfast. But, no matter, the cops were eating there so it had to be good. And it was. I ordered the Dixie Benedict. A biscuit, scrambled eggs, fried green tomatoes smothered with Vidalia onion gravy. OK, I think I have check all the boxes on Southern Cuisine now.

After checking out of my hotel I proceeded to explore the beaches of KGBBrunswick County which were a huge disappointment to this native Oregonian. All the beaches are lined with houses and access is limited, parking lots often charging for the privilege. And while the good news is the temperatures have been in the 70s. The bad news is the locals are all flocking to the beaches. Hoping to get an earlier start today and exploring beaches further to the north and getting some decent photos.

Cuba Days 8 and 9

On our last full day in Havana it started to rain. The backup plan was to take us to an art gallery to see some Cuban art. It was interesting and some I liked. Some was very dark. But it was hard to appreciate without a little background and commentary on the history of Cuban art. I also couldn’t help but wonder how many of the works hanging on the walls had been confiscated from wealthy homes after the revolution.
splashWe were then taken to a seaside village which appeared very poor but where a retired surgeon and his wife had opened a restaurant called Julio, specializing in seafood. The house was set out over the water and on that day waves were crashing all around making one wonder how it had ever survived a hurricane. We were served a sumptuous lunch of seafood including, fish, clams, lobster, and shrimp. Appetizers includeYello_Windowd fried banana cups filled with tuna fish and calamari. As always the ubiquitous rice and beans. Desert was some sort of candied orange and cheese, not really to my taste. I left feeling quite stuffed. by the time lunch was over the rain had abated and I was able to get a few interesting shots around the village.

MosaicWe stopped on the way back at a neighborhood where an artist had covered the walls with mosaic and created sculptures not only at his own house but for many ofHeart his neighbors. It was apparentlymeant as a tribute to Gaudi. Unfortunately, a huge tour bus arrived just after us so we were not able to fully enjoy the art. This was the one place outside Havana that I saw a full fledged gift shop, albeit in someone’s front yard. Alas, still no t-shirt that spoke to me.

Angel4We then proceeded to an old cemetery that took up at least 16 city blocks. You might ask what the heck do you photograph at a cemetery? Like Valle Prehistorica this required a little creative openness and thought toward future processing. I started off with angels but then realized that about 90% of the monuments were angels and I could not possibly get them all and after all, how many angels do you need even for future creative elements. I then started in on windows and doors of the mausoleums and decorative iron fences.crosswbirds I also got some great textures for future digital artistry projects.

Unfortunately, as I was blithely approaching an interesting looking window, I walked into the territory of some stray dogs and was viciously attacked. I think the hat and raincoat and camera were just too intimidating for the dogs. I don’t think I was bitten but just scratched as the dog’s foot glanced off my leg, though for a time I was having visions of rabies shots. They did settle down right away when I told them to shoo. I iron_fencewiped off the blood with a kleenex then poured hand sanitizer over it. I later had Dr. Norm look at it and he washed it again with bottled water and more purell and kept checking it the rest of the trip. It seems to be healing up just fine.

We went back to the hotel for a short siesta then were picked up for our farewell dinner at a lovely restaurant, La Bonita, out in a Havana neighborhood. We had pork chopsbluewall2 which were delicious, not like the over lean pork we get in the U.S. There was a luscious cervice for a starter, rice and beans, of course, and flan with ice cream for dessert. And we had wine which is hard to come by and expensive in Cuba. There was a jazz trio plaundrywchairlaying and since we were the only table it seemed to be just for us. We all bought their CD, which, it turns out, is my only souvenir from Cuba, there not being much to buy in the first place and lacking quality in the second place and probably not made in Cuba in the third place.

The next morning I was all packed and had breakfast and it stopped raining for awhile so I went for a walk walkingthedogbehind the hotel. There I found some of the most abject poverty, not to mention filth, I have ever encountered. I also found some of the best street photography of the entire trip. Still, I soon proceeded back to the rich side of the hotel and photographed old cars for a while.

Three_womenAt 10:30 we were whisked off to the airport where we said goodbye to Leonel and were left on our own to negotiate the lines. First we went to the money changing line. They said, “Sorry, we have no American Dollars” then we were told Shiny_chevyto go over to another window and were taken one by one into a small room. They locked the door and  a man in a suit proceeded to exchange my CUCs for American dollars, one to one. They ran out of dollars before we were all through the line and some of our party had to exchange their CUCs for Euros to be exchanged for dollars when they got back home.

carsandarchesNext was the line for checking in for our flight. I had needed to go to the restroom when we arrived but could not find one so stood in the line for half an hour with my legs crossed. Finally, I got the counter and checked in and got rid of my suitcase and asked for the banos. Sure enough way past customs and down a narrow hall was the ladies room. I started to go into a stall and an airport worker yelled “Paper” reminding me that in Cuba you have to obtain your toilet paper before going into the stall.

Much relieved I proceeded through customs which was no big deal. ThenHood_ornament security which was not too bad though I tried to ask the woman if she wanted my computer out but she was intent on telling me to take my belt off until I finally lifted my shirt to show her I didn’t have a belt on. Then, of course, on the other side I was asked to take the laptop out so they could scan the bag without it. And then we proceeded to sit and wait for our flight which was only an hour late and that’s pretty good for Cuba time.

I have to say, I have never been so happy to return to American soil. Cuba was warm, Cubans were friendly, the colors were amazing, the photography was outstanding but all the time something was just a bit off. And I guess that’s why I travel, to get out of my comfort zone. But it is also, oh, so nice, to snuggle back into it when I get home.


Two out of three

OK, so I only made it to two missions today. Now that I have had a chance to look it up I think I was only about a block from the third but it was not well signed and traffic was insane and I was more interested in lunch than the mission. Hopefully, I will have a chance to catch it on the way home.

So, the first stop was San Antonio de Padua. An interesting mission in that Rosarioit is located on an Army Base. Kudos to the Army for letting us get in. Unfortunately for me the mission is currently undergoing a massive rehab so the front gallery was all closed down. I did get a look in the chapel and around the gardens so all was not lost. The best part was meeting Rosario, the mission cat. He was very friendly and showed me around for awhile until I decided to go a different direction than he had in mind.

I wanted to say that the reason I like to visit the missions is because they have an interesting history and unique architecture which is fun to photograph. Such as this rooftop bell structure. roof_bell_SAP I understand that Native Americans were not treated well by the missionaries and I am not intending to glorify or romanticize them. I just think they are interesting. And isn’t most of history about some oppressor oppressing some innocent people? And how can we do better if we do not study the history that has gone before? And sorry, but I don’t think I should be held responsible for what my ancestors may or may not have done to your ancestors. OK?

SM_BWOK soapbox moment over. The next mission on my route was San Miguel. Here I foundGate a classic gallery which seemed to cry out for black and white. And then I snuck around to the cemetery where I found this awesome gate.

View_SeacrestI did eventually find lunch in a cute little seaside town called Shell Beach. The Shell Beach Brewery was in fact the name of the restaurant and they didn’t even mind that I ordered wine with my meal. Then I checked into my hotel for the next five nights. Check out the view from my room. If you like that wait till you see the sunset pictures I just shot!

Tomorrow, fingers crossed for sea otters. I think Road Scholar is going to keep me busy so I hope I have time to process my pictures and post a blog.




On the Road Again!

Today is the first day of a two week adventure in California. Clear sailing over the Siskiyous set the stage for a great day. Unfortunately, the only glimpse I got of Mt. Shasta was in a place where it was not safe to pull over for a photo so that op went by. I finally decided to pull off the freeway at Willows and see what I could find to photograph.

What I found was grain elevators. Who cGrain_Elevatorsan resist the shapes and textures of a grain elevator? Not me for sure. Here is the first one I stopped at done in a Platinum tone black and white treatment in Topaz Black and White Effects.

The next grain elevators were metal and Grain_Elevators2cried out for a cool tone treatment so I went with a Cyanatone, also in Topaz B&W Effects. I toned it down some using decreased saturation in Photoshop but I still think the toning is a bit overdone. I’m also not crazy about the jet streak in the sky but it could be argued that the diagonal line adds something.

I checked in to Granzella’s Inn in Williams and then set out for the Colusa National Wildlife Refuge. Now, it should be said that the Sacramento Valley Wildlife refuges are a worthy destination iSnowy_Egretn themselves but for this trip they had to be just a fly by. I made three laps around the auto tour route and came up with this handsome Snowy Egret who seemed much more interested in his/her dinner than me and my car blind. And for once the sun was coming from the right direction.

MeadowlarkThen there was this Western Meadowlark just hanging out on the edge of the lake, actually there were several, along with some Brewer’s blackbirds. I still can’t get over the detail in the feathers that is coming out of the 7D Mark II. Wow, just wow.

Tomorrow I make my way from Williams to Salinas or wherever I land en route to Pismo Beach where I am due to start a Road Scholar trip on Thursday. Mostly, making tracks is on my agenda for tomorrow but there should be at least one Mission on my route and who knows what else may turn up. Check in tomorrow or, better yet, subscribe to this blog and find out!