And Two Months Later – Cuba and The Yucatan

The Travel Bug had been on starvation rations for a couple of years. Finally, in January 2015, the time had come to set that critter loose again. And thus passed the following two months:

The plan:
30 days in Cuba starting and ending with Havana
30 days in Southern Mexico, starting and ending with Cancun

The reality:

–skipped Havana at the end, why leave Viñales a minute sooner than necessary?

–went on to Valladolid at first dawn on return from Havana to Cancun. Cancun is just where you fly in and bus out.

The itinerary, as it developed, as all that was planned was the above. [entries below will eventually convert to live links]

fly to Cancun – 1 night, fly to

Havana – 6 nights; flight to
Santiago de Cuba – 4 nights; morning bus to
Camagüey – 2 nights; middle-of-the-night bus to
Trinidad – 2 nights; bus to
Cienfuegos – 4 nights; bus to
Santa Clara – 3 nights, bus to
Remedios – 1 night; fled by bus back to
Santa Clara – 1 night; taxi – share and privado to
Viñales – 5 nights; taxi direct to Havana airport

flight to Mexico
Cancun – 1 night; early bus to
Valladolid – 5 nights; bus to
Izamal – 1 night; bus to
Mérida – 6 nights; bus to
Campeche – 2 nights; overnight bus to
San Cristóbal de las Casas – 6 nights; predawn van to
Palenque – 3 nights; overnight bus to
Tulum – 3 nights; bus to
Cancun – 1 night; fly home

Playa Delfines, Cancun - baño at Municipal Beach

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Embrace Burning Man

Ah back now from Black Rock City. So much to do. The dusty contents of my car are spread between the front lawn and the garage. I am now showered, rested, and fed. Going through the photos is the best part of the AfterBurn – all those memories triggered, all those experiences relived, and especially all the amazing sparkling beauty so vividly recalled.

So where to start? It simply has to be with a visual look back at ‘Embrace’. Without question, ‘Embrace’ was the standout art of Burning Man 2014. The taller head stood 7 stories above the playa. The sculpture was stunning from a distance, drawing people closer from throughout the playa.

The skin of ‘Embrace’ was of thin flakes of Douglas Fir, giving a texture which echoed the striations of muscle fibers. Gaps in the skin allowed a gentle and sparkly night lighting. This is the strong, broad back of the taller figure.

Inside the two figures were linked. Suspended one level up on “male” side was a huge moving heart full of gears.

Interior of what I would call this the male side, but the figures are deliberately androgynous. This is on the taller side in any case.

The interior of the “female” head.

On the “female” side the heart was at ground level and intensely intimate.

Embrace-eye view at dusk.

The lights came on at dusk, glowing through the chinks in the skin. Later in the evening, there were lit up bicycles filling the entire foreground, creating an incomparable visual image – sparkling and magical.

All aspects of this piece were simply wonderful – surprises all around, glorious close up and far away. So much creativity and inspiration. The prior installations by the Pier Group have been consistently outstanding – The Pier, Pier 2 with the shipwrecked La Llorona and the Ichthyosaur Puppet Project.

Pier Group is the bomb.

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The Rascals Do Sparks – Hot August Nights

Are August nights hot here in Northern Nevada? Well, not compared to July, but yeah, very pleasant T-shirt weather last night in downtown Sparks.

The first week in August brings the classic cars and their admirers to town. It is a lot of noise and crowds and traffic, and fun for those whose interests are in the bulls eye. Usually I consider it a great time to stay home. But last night we dropped by for a little live music on the square.

Continue reading

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Rose Jungle

There are paths through most parts of my garden, or there were.

Below the blue Iris, a path leads through the archway, then disappears into thickly planted roses

As the roses have filled out and grown up, so many of these pathways have essentially vanished. Sometimes the gardener has no choice but to fight through, but usually it is just easier to find a different route. Continue reading

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Garden Glimpses – Bring on the Bloom

It is Mid-May, and in a normal year there would be buds on the roses by now. But only buds. This is not a normal year.

The garden roses were opening slowly, a good three weeks ahead of what is normal here in Northern Nevada. But now several days of hotter weather have brought on an explosion of color and fragrance. And the late, the always late gardener is still frantically pruning out the dead wood.

Europeana and Autumn Sunset

‘The golden ‘Autumn Sunset’ has burst into bloom, and though the ‘Europeana’ is starting to open, the next photo shows how far it is from full bloom. Continue reading

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Rose Garden Neglect

Ten years ago, at the very bottom edge of the garden, I had planted a grouping of hardy Canadian Explorer roses. Because they are way off by themselves they get no particular attention or care. The last few years I had noticed that they were looking increasingly ragged. But you know the story – out of sight, out of mind.

Such neglect can continue only so long. And today was the day I faced off with the disaster. Continue reading

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Garden glimpses – Roses in early May

Much of my garden is three weeks ahead of itself. And despite the nervous dread that a killing frost could still come along, it is a joy to have roses now starting their bloom.

Sutter's Gold

‘Sutter’s Gold’ is a classic old Hybrid Tea which always blooms early. The blooms usually blow quickly, but this year the cool weather has allowed them to last. Wonderful color, and fragrance!

The loose open bloom of Sutter's Gold

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Burning Man Tickets 2014

38,000 tickets to Burning Man sold in 42 minutes. And that’s not the most astonishing thing. You see, each buyer was allowed to purchase only two tickets which means there were a minimum of 19,000 purchasers. Each purchaser had to be preregistered for the sale with a buyer authorization code. The sale website opened at 12 noon, exactly. It is unclear precisely how many seconds after the noon start the queue had filled to such an extent that any more hopefuls were simply arriving too late.

But I know this. If you had logged onto the sale site at noon plus 17 seconds, you were too late. Maybe 15 seconds was the window. Maybe it was 10. I suspect it was significantly less.

I was on the site in less than 2 seconds, and waited 19 minutes for access to the buy page. And barely more than twenty minutes after that, every ticket available had been sold.

38,000 tickets in 42 minutes. More accurately, in terms of whether you were going to be in or out, 38,000 tickets in under 16 seconds.

That is what getting tickets to Burning Man in the main open first-come-first-served sale was about this year.

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Burning Man 2013 – Name This Art

What can I say about Burning Man and especially the art this year? I can think of a few words – like amazing, fantastic, sublime, thought-provoking, gorgeous. But these pale efforts come nowhere close to how the art this year affected me.

Was it the wonderful light that makes these memories so impossible to describe? Though I had dreaded the effects of the smoke from the Yosemite Rim Fire, it turned out that photographically the light was great.

Was it my frame of mind? – for this year I felt improbably happy in my Other Life.

Was it my companions, my camp site? Probably a reasonably large factor.

Was it the generally happy, positive attitudes of the attendees this year? Continue reading

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A Special Rose – Lady Ann Kidwell

When most people think of roses, it is the florist’s Hybrid Tea they picture. But for some, dare I say slightly eccentric, folks the world of roses is much more broadly defined. And within that wide world of choices, many of us choose a particular type of rose as a favorite.

In memory of such a friend, this series of photos presents the Polyantha rose ‘Lady Ann Kidwell’. Continue reading

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Not Roses – other views of the garden

When I first started taming the weeds on my new property in 1984, I planted a bit of this and a bit of that. It didn’t take too many years to discover that roses outperformed everything else I tried. Well, you do what works so roses became my passion. You can get a pretty good idea of my obsession with roses here.

But life is not All About Roses.

Here are a few recent Not Roses from my garden.

Gaura lindheimeri

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Silly Garden Kitty

A couple of years ago, in late fall, a stray, semi-feral cat took up residence in the compost pile. He probably selected it for warmth, safety and the fact that it was an open food cupboard stocked with unwary rodents and birds. As winter approached it became clear that he needed both additional food and better shelter. So we began a process of convincing him that (1) we were the source of easy food, and (2) entering our house was a safe thing to do.

Having once come in from the garden, he still considers it part of his domain, and whenever I am outside working, he is close beside me. In spring there is an audible indicator of his presence – nesting Western Scrub Jays (Aphelocoma californica) follow his every move, indicated by their strident squawking.

It’s not exactly peaceful, but it surely is entertaining. Continue reading

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Burning Man 2012

Nobody knew what to expect this year, but really one never does. That, in fact, is precisely what I most love about Burning Man, and what keeps me coming back to the dust and harshness of the Black Rock Playa.

2012 brought a new participant limit of 60,900, up from 50,000. We anticipated, then, a longer more difficult ingress, a crowded city and especially a more difficult Exodus. But so many people expected, and probably dreaded, exactly this that none of it ended up being the reality. The peak population of the city, as reported on the playa, was a bit under 54,000 on Friday. Official word after the event states that there were 52,300 participants.

After the well publicized initial difficulties of acquiring tickets, a great many tickets were advertised for sale over the last few weeks before the event. Instead of commanding a premium price, last minute tickets were being sold below their face value. Scalping and hoarding was not rewarded. Continue reading

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Costume Art at Burning Man

costume img_0115 What is an appropriate Burning Man costume? There are as many answers to that as there are participants. Everything, anything. Or nothing.

Costuming ranges from the gothic grunge of the DPW (Dept of Public Works) and the Death Guild, to the furry leggings and hot pants of the sparkle ponies, to the tie dyed rainbows of the aging hippies, to nightgowns and fluffy tutus set off by hairy legs and chests, to naked bodies decorated with body paint and fishnet. Anything you can imagine will be a part of the parade of creative craziness of Burning Man clothing. Continue reading

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The Burning Man 2012 Ticket Drama Continues

Ten days, now, before the gates to Black Rock City open and I begin to wonder how many of the BLM permitted 60,900 will actually be at Burning Man this year. How many of those once precious tickets will lie unused, ending up in scrapbooks or burnt in anger?

Every hopeful burner I know, who had not meanwhile made other plans, has a ticket now. Ebay has 275 listings, many for multiple tickets. Eplaya has pages of tickets offered – 130 new listings August 16th, mostly for two tickets. And prices continue to fall. That once valuable, coveted scrap of light cardboard is fast becoming worth less than anyone could have imagined a few months back when the ticket lottery left more than half of the hopefuls hopeless, when the second open sale was cancelled, when the scalpers and hoarders had the upper hand.

I was lucky. Lucky first to receive my two tickets in the lottery. One was for my son who wanted to go to his first burn. But with a new job this year, as the post-lottery months crept by, it was looking more and more doubtful that this would be the right timing for him. In May we decided to pass this ticket on. I was lucky then to make a good friend so happy.

And now I feel so very lucky again, to not be one of these desperate people who never imagined that they were holding a scrap of expensive paper which would have so little value.

The advice I gave a friend desperate til so recently for a ticket proved exactly right – prepare as though you will be going. The ticket problem will sort out as plans so often change as the event gets closer.

Between airfares and other logistics, it is too late now for most to be starting the process. Ticket availability is no longer the problem, but ending up stuck with a ticket no one wants to buy may well be.

face on the playa img_0459

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