Friday, July 3, 2020


June 9-18 2017

At the end of another long day of scoring, we used an Uber to go to St. Petersburg, a neighboring community known as "Sunshine City."

Well, there wasn't any sunshine when we were there. We dashed through a downpour to our destination, a building marked by this famous signature: 

What? You don't recognize it?

Maybe this photo I took of the sign after our visit and when it had stopped raining will help. (Or maybe you know from the title of this post.)

I had to borrow this photo of The Dali Museum from Wikipedia because it was just too wet to take my own photo.  Built in 2011, The Dali, as it is affectionately known, houses the largest collection of Dali's works outside of Europe (2,400 at last count) and is one of only two major museums dedicated exclusively to his work, the other being in his hometown of Figueres, Spain.
This museum is actually the third museum to house this particular Dali collection. The first one was located in Beachwood, Ohio. It's opening was presided over by Dali himself. It drew so many visitors that a new museum was created out of an old marine warehouse in St. Petersburg in 1982. It was followed by this museum, built at a cost of $30 million in 2011.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020


June 9-18 2017

The only benefit I can see of being grounded from travel because of COVID -19 is that I can catch up on posting about some of my previous travels that I have never gotten around to writing about. This adventure happened three years ago--a trip to Tampa Florida to score AP English Composition exams.

I've posted before about the experience of scoring AP exams for the College Board, so I won't go into that very much this time. My focus will be on Tampa, a city of about 400,000 people on the western/Gulf of Mexico side of Florida.

I shouldn't have been too surprised by all the lakes/ponds, but I was!

The College Board always books nice rooms for us, usually in a Sheraton or Hilton or Marriott.  I can't remember which hotel I was in, but I had a nice view from various hotel windows.

The hotel was within a few blocks of the Tampa Convention Center, where I spent eight hours/day for the next seven days.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020


December 31, 2018

The last thing we did on our West Texas Adventure was visit three missions on El Paso's El Camino Real (AKA The Royal Road or the Mission Trail). Within less than 10 miles, there are three missions, which makes for a great tourist adventure.

I am used to applying the term "El Camino Real" to the 600-mile-road that connects California's 21 Spanish missions. However, there is a different "Camino Real" that runs from Mexico City through Paso del Norte (now Juarez, Mexico) and the El Paso area, and ending in Santa Fe.

1. Ysleta Mission
Our first stop was at the Ysleta Mission, the oldest continuously operated parish in Texas. It was founded in 1682, but flooding of the Rio Grande destroyed the mission in 1742 and then again in 1829. It was rebuilt for a third time in 1851, and it looked like the third time was the charm (and building it on higher ground didn't hurt either) until a fire wiped out much of the historic mission in 1907. No worries--it was rebuilt the next year.

Unfortunately, the little chapel was closed on the day we were there, so we could only walk around the outside.

The bell tower was empty but there was a bell on the ground. It's sure easier to ring that way!

Saturday, June 20, 2020


December 30, 2018

We spent our last day-and-a-half in West Texas in El Paso, population 681,728, the 22nd largest city in the United States. It is just across the border from Ciudad Juárez, which is about twice its size.

We returned to El Paso from the wilderness (aka Big Bend National Park and Marfa) in the early afternoon with just enough time to squeeze in a few sights before the night fell.

With El Paso and Ciudad Juárez separated by what is not much more than a creek, the border wall is a prominent feature in the city. Some kind of wall has been here for decades. We had a great view of the El Paso border wall from the freeway that runs alongside it. It was interesting to look at this and think of all the political turmoil it has caused over the years, and then to think back on the open border in Big Bend National Park.

Our first stop was the El Paso Zoo, a small operation that covers just 35 acres and includes 220 species. In spite of its small size, however, we were impressed with its animal collection and enclosures.

Here are a few of my favorites. The Mexican gray wolf, which is extinct in the wild:

Friday, June 19, 2020


December 28-29, 2018

Before this trip I had never heard of Marfa, Texas. Why would I have? The population is less than 2,000. The nearest big city is Odessa, 170 miles away, and El Paso is almost 200 miles away.

Little did I know that Marfa is the Funky Heart of Texas.
Presidio County Courthouse

Our first introduction to Marfa was a hole-in-the-wall burrito joint with a cult-like following.

There isn't anything fancy about Marfa Burrito, including the signage.

Saturday, June 13, 2020


December 29, 2018

We were surprised to wake up in our hotel in Marathon, Texas (population 500), to below freezing temperatures, ice on the parking lot, and a heavy layer of frost on the windshield.

I checked the temperatures at home and in places where family members live around the US and discovered that the warmest of those places was New York City, the place furthest north (by far). Crazy!

Bob drove carefully (for Bob) on the icy roads.

We loved the tiny towns we passed through. They had a lot of personality. 

We were headed to the eastern end of the same park we had explored the western end of the previous day.

Saturday, June 6, 2020


December 28, 2018

We had originally tried to make this a trip without a ton of driving. Bob loves to drive, but our son and I are not quite as fond of being passengers. Unfortunately, the trip turned out to be mostly driving, with some short to medium-long stops along the way.  Luckily, we had a couple of good books to listen to.  We had finished When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanthi on the long drive from Phoenix to El Paso (#1) and then on to Alpine (#2), and we started Educated by Tara Westover on our second day of driving from Alpine to Big Bend Ranch State Park (#3) and Big Bend National Park (#4)

We began the day having breakfast in Marfa (#5), a little town with a big spirit that I'll write about in another post. Then we headed south towards the Rio Grande River through a rather barren but still interesting desert landscape.