For those who don’t travel here very much, this snap reflects for me what is a typical San Francisco late morning. It starts off usually very foggy in the morning, but then as the fog clears it leaves the city drenched in a semi-foggy cool mist:
I was surprised so many creative people seem to use just about every and any anchor point:
This is a shot that I took on a boat just about the cruise under the Williamsburg Bridge that connects the New York boroughs of Manhattan (behind me) with Brooklyn (shown):
For a while, it was the longest suspension bridge in the world!
Continuing the series, this is a snap as the mind blowing New York robo-train pulls into the Howard Beach JFK robo-train station:
When I lived in New York, the John F. Kennedy airport was not attached to any train systems, so it was necessary to take a taxicab to access the hotel. Now, a fully automated robo-train will take you to a nearby Long Island Railroad station, from which you can catch many trains and other forms of public transportation.
Here is another snap which I took up front, which is where the train operator would sit, if it were not being operated by a robot.
I am not sure what the robot looks like, where he sits, or even what his name is.
Interestingly, there are around 30 drawbridges that connect Manhattan to one of the other New York boroughs.
This is what they call an elevated drawbridge, because the center piece elevates. I am not sure which one this is – and I haven’t been bothered to look it up!
And this one is called a swing bridge – although if you ask me, rotating bridge is a more apt name:
I can’t think of any other state than Texas that offers so many commercial opportunities via the drive-thru channel.
Here is a drive thru bank. You stay in your car, and real people (called bank tellers) pass money to you via pneumatic tubes:
America is highly segregated into areas that reflect the financial class of the residents. So here is a similar shot at a much fancier bank in a much more affluent neighborhood:
Need to hand in your cowboy boots for a good cleaning or a bit of repair, handy if you can stay in your three-axel, 6 wheel, 300 HP pickup truck to do it:
And last but not least, it does make a lot of sense that – particularly if you are sick – you stay in your automobile while you get your medication from the pharmacy:
Sadly, I don‘t have a snap to show, but some states have quite impressive drive thru liquor and beer stores. In Pennsylvania it was illegal to buy individual cans of beer – a case or 24 cans or bottles was the minimum size you could buy – so you‘d drive your car into what looked like a garage, where someone would load the beer into your car. Never seen one of these in Texas, however.
Not just in Texas, but this is increasingly a common sight in many places in the United States:
In Texas we might say something like: This ain’t worth a hill of beans. The overwhelming majority of easily transmissible infections are URI’s, or upper respiratory infections – and the overwhelming majority of them are caused by viruses, not bacteria, that are not affected by topical alcohol.
Texas is an amazing, amazing place. Not a lot of people know this, but it was founded by thousands upon thousands of European immigrants that settled here in the early 1800’s, bringing their language with them and creating miniature villages of how they lived back home. There were Irish villages, Norwegian villages – sadly, most of these are now just ghost towns (but you can visit them, if you know where to look).
But a few of these European villages do not just survive but thrive. Depending on the village, here you will find Americans, born and raised in these villages, that do not speak English as a first language, but rather speak Alsatian or French or German or – believe it or not – Schwiizerdüütsch.
Castroville, a tiny village just outside of San Antonio, was founded by Alsatian and Swiss settlers, and a significant number of the old timers are Americans who actually speak English as a second language to their native Alemannic.
As you head into town, you’re greeted by an authentic Alsatian bakery, selling authentic Alsatian baked goods, in an authentic half-timbered house no less!
While visiting this village with my father and I had the honor and privilege to meet Connie, a 90-year-old native speaker of Alsatian and Allemanic – and I could confirm, she spoke fluently and would be right home in Alsace or even Switzerland! In fact, she was kind enough to take my father and I on a tour of Castroville, where she shared her memories growing up here in this Texas community where there were essentially few or no English speakers.
In fact, she and her father wrote the very first ever American / Alsacienne foreign dictionary!
There are plenty of other historic buildings, including a Catholic church. This is what it looks like from the outside:
And this is what it looks like from the inside:
But the highlight has to be an authentic half-timbered house that came from Alsace itself; it was taken down piece by piece, sent to America a few years ago, and re-assembled in the village by handworkers from France:
I hope to return to Texas soon, and visit a unique French village, where the number of Americans who have French as their first language is shrinking fast.
Anyone not familiar with America is likely to also be not familiar with Bass Pro Shops – an store that sells outdoor sporting goods.
Well, the term store is not the right word – mind blowing wonderland is more appropriate.
And the term sporting goods is the right word either – massive collection of boats and four-wheel-drive-vehicles and tents and guns and more guns and even more guns is more appropriate.
Here is what some of it looks like from the outside (the huge collection of over 20 boats are behind me and not visible in this photograph):
Inside the store, this snap does not even show 20% of what there is:
There is not only an archery section, but also an indoor archery range where you can freely try out any of the gear:
Sadly, this Bass Shop lacks the usual indoor gun range, as well as the private room that have historical antique guns costing tens of thousands of dollars – and usually, my favorites, big bore elephant guns used if you want to shoot real elephants!
But this one still has plenty of guns on display – and many, many more locked in a safe (tip for experts: if you are looking for a particular make and model of gun, always better to ask. Could be they will have it, but not on display at the moment!):
What’s really terrific is that the people working in the gun area are usually older, retired gentlemen, and even if you are not a serious buyer, they are happy to let you handle any guns of your choice – and they’ll spend hours with you, just chatting about firearms:
This Bass Pro shop also lacked an indoor hunting area where – and I am not kidding – you can hunt wild stuffed animals using a laser equipped rifle. Sorry, no laser hunting here, but I’d say well over 200 stuffed animals all over the store:
Now, I’ve never see a Bass Pro shop where you can actually fish – but there are plenty of fish and in fact an entire indoor waterfall:
So, if you are planning a trip to the United States, I highly recommend you see if there are any Bass Pro shops near to where you are going to go!
Sometimes, I see things that are dumb.
Occasionally, I see things that are really, really dumb.
But every once in a very rare while, I see something that is so incredibly, mind-bogglingly stupid that I really makes me question how something so ludicrous could even be thought of by mankind, much less implemented!
And here is one of those things, a little train that runs back and forth in Terminal A of the Detroit International Airport.
Here is what it looks like from the outside:
And, not being able to resist trying out something so incredibly stupid, here is what it looks like from the inside:
Now here comes what the famous magicians Penn and Teller call The Reveal, when I tell you why this is so stupid.
Many large airports have little automated trains – actually, one of the first was probably the train at the Dallas Fort-Worth airport, which I remember from back when I was a little kid. Airports are huge but with well defined stopping places, so a train is an ideal way to get around.
But in this case, the train only plies Terminal A, from Gate 1 to Gate 70. That is not a big distance to walk – with the rolling floors, I think I required no more than about 7 minutes to walk / coast the distance. But worse that than, this train has only three stops: at Gate 1, at Gate 35, and Gate 70. Plus the train is elevated.
So that means for anyone wanting to shave off a little time from their gate-to-gate journey . . . no way they can do this! They have to schlep their luggage up to the platform, wait 5 minutes for the train, then take it to somewhere where, unless you are lucky, walking will be required anyway.
I could think of no usecase in which this train would save anyone any real time – and in fact, most of the people riding it seemed to be like me: curious folks with a four-hour layover and plenty of time to kill doing stupid things. And I could think of no usecase in which this train would benefit the mobility limited.
My best guess: this was a project intended to channel public money to the right private parties, such as the company the makes the train.
Probably not the first thing that comes to mind when you heard the phrase Texas Highway Patrol,
The THP patrol the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, one of the most truly amazing civil works projects of all time: 3000 miles of protected waterway that allow boaters to navigate from Mexico to Canada.
Zillions of tourists come here every year – but they spend their time on The Strip and they never see some of the wonders that Las Vegas has to offer.
More or less in the center of this sprawling city is a small public park called The Springs Preserve with various hiking trails, and the park tries to re-create the native Las Vegas desert landscape that was here before humans settled the area – or better put, as humans first started to settle this area.
One of the amazing things you’ll see are a few ancient water pumps like this one shown here. This is not a reproduction! In fact, these pumps are over 100 years old, and WATER was the original reason that Las Vegas got its start.
Nope! In fact, it is New York New York Hotel and Casino, located on the strip in Las Vegas.
One of my favorite things to see when I am in Las Vegas, the Red Rock Conservation Area:
Some of my photos are quite boring to Europeans, because they show very common European scenes – but having never seen them, Americans are fascinated.
In this case, the situation is reversed. No American would hardly raise an eyebrow at this:
It’s a bank! Although cash machines and cash cards have been around in America for a long time, many Americans still write checks by hand, and pick up money from a so-called “bank teller” – a real person who works at a bank! The money and checks are transferred back and forth to the cars via pneumatic tubes.
OK, not right at this very moment when I took the snap.
But there could be, and that is precisely why this tiny neighborhood nestled deep within a cornfield of Central Illinois is equipped with a powerful siren:
I remember many, many times laying in bed at night, window open, and hearing the screaming sirens in villages far away, as incoming tornadoes attacked the towns. In one case, in 1996, 39 tornadoes struck within hours, there was huge loss of life, and an entire village was completely flattened.