Scenes from a Colorado overflight

We recently did a bit of family travel — on our way from Denver to Phoenix, we were fortunate enough to have relatively clear skies and a late afternoon flight.  Perfect for some aerial twilight photography of various spots in Colorado and the four corners region of the U.S.

First up for you, Colorado Springs (top of frame) seen over the snow covered Rampart Reservoir, not far west of town.

Over the Rampart

Colorado Springs is one of those places I normally see while driving through (in this case, on I-25) — from that perspective, the mountains form a wall to the west of the city.  But from above, the fact that the mountains are essentially a (tall) rumpled plateau is much more evident.

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Cuba travelogue: food

By far one of the biggest adjustments we had to contend with when visiting Cuba was food.  Not the food we ate — not at all.  Tourists get treated to food of a quality and in a quantity comparable to what you’d find in visiting many places across the globe.

But the locals don’t get off so easily.

What's available

This is a bodega, the Cuban version of a ration center.  We visited in mid-month, when clients were few and the stock (as you can see from the shelves) thin.  From what we were told, though, bodegas are very busy places on the first of the month — when Cuban citizens can come in with their ration books and collect (at relatively low price) their month’s stock of staple foods.
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Cuba travelogue: housing

Of the many challenges of life in today’s Cuba, housing must rank among the greatest.  There’s not enough of it, much of the available housing stock is in terrible shape, and the Cuban legal code makes it hard to legally transfer ownership — so moving households is a big challenge.

Looking down on Havana

In this shot from above (courtesy of a hotel upper-floor window), you can see how some units were turned into small yards after their roofs collapsed. Continue reading

Cuba travelogue: getting around

So given that only about 2% of Cubans own a car, and that there is no dedicated city-to-city transit system (a la Greyhound busses or Amtrak in the U.S.), how do Cubans get from place to place?

Well, basically, it’s not easy.

Two-seater

In rural areas, people can make do with more-traditional approaches — you’ll see a lot of semi-modern carriages drawn by horses out here.  I’m guessing this works pretty well for trips into town from farms in the hinterlands. Continue reading

Cuba travelogue: taking license

When people find out you’ve been to Cuba, they always seem to want to talk about the cars (at least in the U.S.).

So, just to get our footing, let’s start by talking about license plates. It didn’t used to be this simple, but relatively-modern Cuban license plates make it easy to tell whether a vehicle belongs to the government, or to a private citizen. Government vehicles have license plates with a blue strip on their left end:

Government / Regular plate (taxi) Government / Tourist plate

Since most cars and trucks in Cuba are owned by the government, you’ll see a lot of license plates like the one above / left. I’m not sure what the “B” stands for, but it’s nearly the only letter you’ll see on Cuban government plates. One prominent exception is the “T” plate (above / right) — these are for government vehicles reserved for tourists, namely rental cars.

License plates for privately-owned vehicles lack the blue strip, and always start with a “P” for good measure:

Private plate 1 Private plate 2

A minor detail, perhaps, but you’ll see where this comes into play in subsequent posts.

Indoor peak

On our trip to Iceland this January, we got to see a new perspective on a subject we’ve had earlier experiences with — lava tubes.  Formed when lava flows crusted over and subsequently drained, we’ve walked through some in Hawaii — but never previously seen one in a colder clime.

Indoor peak

So this is what happens near the Arctic Circle where there’s a lava tube “skylight” (localized collapse of the tube’s ceiling).   Continue reading