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Road Trips and Rain Man

1 Jul

Road trips make or break a family, whether it’s an hour escape to the beach, three-hour drive to Legoland, or a longer one across state lines. They often remind me of Chevy Chase’s quest to have a great vacation for his own family.

So when I recently packed the car, filled up the gas tank, and took off, I went with fingers crossed that I wouldn’t have to stop the car and resort to my “mom” voice. Road trip adventure. Definitely a Bucket List item, but one I feared. Road trips. I love them and hate them. I hadn’t taken the kids on a road trip this long, four hours had been the maximum, so when this unexpected trip happened I wondered whether we’d make it up Highway 5 for six hours. I remember taking road trips in the 80s, when my dad would pile us in the brown station wagon, no computers or Game Boys back then, just hangman or sleep.  Three hours back then seemed like forever, but now I was on the verge of a six-hour adventure.


And whenever anyone goes on a road trip, some memories stand out more than others. I enjoy the pictures, some of them help me remember things that belong in The Jar of Awesome. Everyone has different highlights of their family trips and some end up being spectacular National Geographic photos, while others get sent to the recycling bin. I get lucky and take one awesome shot from time to time. But this was more of my Rain Man adventure.

I love that movie. I’ve seen it hundreds of times, and Dustin Hoffman rocked it. I still have it on VHS and I crack myself up that I still own it this way.

Anyhow during the movie they go on a road trip and Rain Man documents the trip with a camera. He takes pictures of important things and then pretty random things. He’s taking it all in. His pictures come out at the end of the movie when the credits are rolling. Some of the pictures that my kids took reminded me of  that scene. Landscapes. Sunny faded out landscapes. It brought a smile to my face and helped me remember the different points along the road.

The pictures reminded me to keep things slow, that sometimes random moments are good ones, that patience on a road trip is essential, and most of all unplug myself from the world when I can, which in truth comes fairly easy because the Internet and social media aren’t really all that important. Netflix and mobster movies … well that’s something else. And you can’t really blame me either, I mean Rain Man could not even unplug himself from Judge Wapner. Five minutes to Wapner. Five minutes to Wapner.

Buen Camino my friends!


The Beginning … sort of.


 … of our long windy road …



running into multiple farms on our way …



… taking our best Rain Man photos …



… on our five-six hour journey up the highway …


… with a couple of pit stops on our way …


To our final destination …







Buen Camino

9 Feb

Not  a lot things make it on my list nowadays.

Nothing new.

Nothing of substance that grabs my attention or speaks to my Guat soul. Ordinary things that I meant to try often get penciled in, but extraordinary, no not recently.

But sometimes inspiration actually finds you.

It speaks to you through story or film.

And I was thankful that it did.

Everyone has something adventurous planned for their bucket list. Some adventures are based on food, others on travel. Some include both in one awesome adventure. I came across one yesterday and I’m proud to say that I added it to my list. Something I had never heard of, but apparently it’s a long-standing tradition that brings about a Paulo-Coelho-like insight to life. It wishes you a Buen Camino.

I want me some of that.

And it all happened because of Mr. Andrew Clark, Billy The Kid, Kirby Keger and Two Bit himself.

If you’ve never watched The Breakfast Club, Young Guns, St. Elmo’s Fire or The Outsiders you have no idea who I’m talking about, for those of you who have you know I’m talking about Emilio Estevez.




I recently watched his directorial efforts in the movie The Way, starring Martin Sheen. It’s a story about a father embarking on the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage in effort to find a connection with his recently deceased son and finish the adventure he started. The journey and self-discovery got to me and it got me thinking of doing something like this for myself. Some amazing travel adventure to add on to my future trip to Europe. A 500 mile trek across Spain ending in an amazing church in Santiago.

The way the film was shot, definitely sounded like my kind of adventure.

Kind of reminded of Reese Witherspoon’s latest Wild, which takes place on the Pacific Crest Trail, but I haven’t seen that yet. I imagine when I do it may inspire another adventure, one closer to home. But for now, I’m setting my sights on Spain and the journey where everyone I’ll encounter wishes me Buen Camino.

Any of you added something to your list?


Advice From The Pick-Up Artist

19 Dec

Now there you are … exhausted from sitting. Don’t know how that can happen but it does.

I think it has something to do with the circulated air. Or perhaps it’s the fact that you were sitting next to a stranger who took up most of the arm rest and you were involved in a silent and secret battle for arm rest territory, but you’re losing and you think it has to do with the fact that you’re not very good at the game Risk, and now in retrospect you feel you should have paid attention when your brother was trying to play with you on game night.

Maybe that’s why you’re burned out.

I don’t know, whatever the reason is you’re exhausted and if you have kids this whole scenario is multiplied by ten thousand, because when dealing with kids they intensify any experience … the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Yup I’m talking about airplane travel, but not so much the traveling part. I’m not an expert in that and I know people all over the web are shelling out advice on how adventures on an airplane can go more smoothly for you this holiday season.

No. I’m not talking about that.

I’m talking up the Pick-Up.

I’d like to say that I’m an expert traveler and I get on planes often checking destinations off my Travel Bucket List, but that’s not really the case. I’m more of the picker-upper. I’m the master pick-up artist. That’s where I can be of service to you.

Now throughout the years I’ve picked up my share of friends and family from the airport, and I’ve been picked up a few times and I’ve noticed the difference in people’s attitude when getting picked up. I mean people can be on the same plane and have the same disastrous experience but the pickup situation is completely different, because some people are just born with what my blogging buddy Susie calls “sunny-side up” disposition, while others are just an earthquake wrapped up in a hurricane. So let me fill you in on some guidelines for being picked up so that things can go smoothly post-airplane ride.

1. Remember … they are doing you a favor by picking you up. You could have actually taken a shuttle and paid a complete stranger to take you home.

2. The first thing to come out of your mouth shouldn’t be ‘where the hell have you been?’ if they are five minutes late … the words “Thank you,” work wonders. However if they are an hour late hostility is understandable.

3. It is not their fault that the airline lost your luggage so don’t get crazy on them.

4. Your picker-upper is probably happy to see you. They’re picking you up so try to limit your eye rolls and smile.

5. If you’re not happy to see your picker-upper, or you think you won’t be, then it’s best to just get on the shuttle, spending money on the ride home and in the company of a stranger will be worth it.

6. If traveling with kids don’t expect people without kids to understand your plight. They have no clue so you’ll have to fill them in on your post flight needs.

7. Unless they’re a mom, most people don’t carry snacks so if you’re hypoglycemic pick up a snack on the way to the baggage claim and save everybody from your crankiness. Snickers are an awesome post flight snack. Have you seen the commercials, can totally change your personality.

8. Sometimes they are actually on time and you are the one that’s late, take into consideration that the police has asked them to move their vehicle and sometimes making the loop around the airport may take up to 10 minutes.

9. I know you probably just want to get home and relax from all that sitting, but don’t get upset if they have to stop for gas or pass by the drive-thru after they pick you up, they probably thought it was more important to get there on time than to fill their tank or buy fries.

10. Traffic exists.

Hope this picker-upper advice helps diffuse any aggression you might have during your traveling adventures.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Between

25 Jun






Hanging out in the friendly skies …

Between heaven and Earth.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Abandoned

5 Mar





Abandoning the city …

Weekly Photo Challenge: Sea

3 Sep


The Sea.

Coming from California I see a lot of sea.

The Pacific Ocean is awesome.

It makes you a whole new you.

But I hadn’t been to Australia yet. And even though Cairns is still in the Pacific Ocean, it’s a whole new perspective

Nothing like the Great Barrier Reef, or The Coral Sea.

It encourages snorkeling and scuba diving.

And if there are sharks, no worries … I imagine they’d still bite me, but they would be Australian shark bites.

The Sea.



Weekly Photo Challenge: Carefree

20 Aug





When I think of carefree I remember my dad … the master of random acts of kindness and carefree spirit celebrating his Guatemalan summer.


Weekly Photo Challenge: One Shot, Two Ways

13 Aug
Cairns, Australia

Cairns, Australia


Cairns, Australia

Cairns, Australia


Portrait or landscape either way… it still looks like a pretty spectacular place to go bungy jumping. But then again anything in Australia looks Bucket-List worthy especially when you’re on vacation.



Fiction Friday: Customer Service Agents

9 Aug

He lays uncomfortably on two generic faded blue plastic chairs, with a bucket of Pollo Campero next to him. In an effort to reposition himself he slips through the opening of both chairs. He lies there a moment and exhales in frustration.  He rises from the floor and rubs his back in discomfort.

Damn it.

Customer Service Agents. The people who have this title are supposed to help you. Service their customers. That’s what it means, doesn’t it? Pleasant, courteous, and efficient. Efficient is the key word, isn’t it? But here I sit, a victim of the customer service agent circumstance. CSAC … Should be a defense for murder, like duress. But it’s not and here I am: no blanket, no soft pillow. And there she is …

Bastard woman!

Bad dye job, gold tooth, blue blazer, and a chewed up pencil in her Aquanet gravity-defying hair … destroying the lives of everyone in her path. Her official name was TACA Airlines customer service agent 547. And of course she happened to be the most incompetent one. She opened up with the typical “and what can we do for you?” But did she really mean it? No. She could care less, all she was worried about was whether or not the next customer would flip out and ruin her hairstyle. Ticket, passport, and luggage please. She typed away on her little computer. Confirmation number, she asked. I search for the God Almighty confirmation number.

Image by Rick Wilking

Image by Rick Wilking

I know I had it. I’m sure I have it. They can not let you board unless you have it. But I have my ticket and they didn’t say I needed the confirmation number. So that should be enough. But no … that’s why we have confirmation numbers, senor Vazquez, she says to me. TACA policy. We need the confirmation number. I go on a freakin’ scavenger hunt for ten minutes, looking like the unprepared fool and search my belongings and my pockets when finally I find it in my sock, placed it there for safe keeping I guess. She did not take it, but snatched it from my hands and punched in a couple of computer keys. Her computer freezes and I don’t understand why … it’s a Dell.

She sarcastically whispers: sorry for the inconvenience. BUT IS SHE? … IS SHE! No. Of course not.

She could care less. TACA policy asks her to care, but does she? No. Bastard woman! After fifteen minutes of waiting, the TACA computer is back online and apparently there are no more seats on my flight. I’m a frequent flyer of the friendly skies, but this … this has never happened to me and I’ve never been so infuriated with her attitude!

She smiles, says sorry, and asks me to come again tomorrow to see if MAYBE they can fit me in one of their flights. TOMORROW! I’m here two-and-a-half hours prior to departure and it turns out that not everyone has checked in because there are people still in line, but the person sitting in my seat has checked in. How is that possible!! HOW! Blue Blazer does her best to simmer me down. She insists that yelling at her is not conducive to an efficient working environment. I don’t even think she’s aware that she’s in a work environment, but nevertheless she’s spewing off SAT words to sound important. I don’t want words without substance thrown at me. I want my money’s worth.

My ticket said 27D, I’m reading my confirmation and it spells out 27D, but I don’t have that boarding pass. I should have those things, I need to have those things, but do I … No. Did it not say in the TACA rules and regulation policy handbook to be here two hours before your plane departed?

It wasn’t really a regulation and rules handbook per say she adds, but more of a guideline. And no, she replies, you need to be here three hours before.

I could have committed a homicide, just reached over the TACA Airlines counter and strangled her with that pink and orange $1.99 imitation chiffon scarf that was wrapped around her neck … I could have … and claimed I was suffering from CSAC – a new disorder found in airplane passengers. It’s valid. It sounds valid, just like restless leg syndrome. But that would not have been conducive to a healthy work environment. Apparently society frowns upon attacking women in broad daylight. I realized right then and there why there were so many army soldiers with AK47s patrolling the area. Customer Service Representative Protection.

Perhaps history had taught them that there are more people suffering from CSAC. So, I demanded to see her supervisor.

She looks around and smiles at the soldier standing nearby. “I am the supervisor,” she says authoritatively.

My vein begins pulsating and the hairs on my ass begin to twitch.

Calm down, sir. Calm down.

Did she think I was stupid? I didn’t want to be called sir. Sir, is the customer service way of saying dick. If I was a woman, she would have said ma’am, which translates to bitch. Either way, the passive-aggressive message pisses me off.

I try to smother the molten rage inside me and in any other patron that would have been flying the Central America’s Elite Airline. I knew I should have flown American or United. My relatives warned me, but no … I needed a cheaper ticket. I needed the TACA experience … the TACA adventure. Saving money is no longer a priority when it comes to flying. I should’ve known better. I mean really, it’s a big piece of metal that is magically carrying me across continents and oceans. I should place my trust in quality, not price.  I’m worth an extra hundred bucks. I’d pay someone a hundred bucks just to punch this chick’s lights out.

I continued my quest for 27D. I paid for a seat, see here it says CONFIRMATION NUMBER. Alpha Charlie Bravo Tango X-ray 7,1,4 Seat 27D. MARCOS VASQUEZ. Now, how is it that someone else’s ass is in my seat?

I had a reservation. I think her supervisor training failed to cover that aspect so I reminded her of the definition so that me and my chicken could be on their way.

People in the waiting area holding onto their buckets of Pollo Campero stare. What the hell are they staring at? I’m not the only spectacle, transporting fried chicken across time zones. I don’t even want to be an exporter of poultry. I’m a freakin’ vegetarian. But why? Why was I bringing it: MY WIFE. My pregnant wife. It’s chicken, for crying out loud. We have chicken! Popeyes Chicken, Church’s Chicken and Kentucky Fried Chicken. Original and Crispy recipes. What the hell is so special about the Pollo Campero from Guatemala! They’re fed better in the States! They even have a Pollo Campero in the city of Pacoima. It shouldn’t matter that Koreans own the American franchise the recipe is still Guatemalan.


I should have taken American Air or United. I think they have a policy against the chicken. But when your pregnant wife craves something you better damn well bring it, because everything is your fault. I mean she’s pregnant isn’t she? And I’m the man. So I needed to get this chicken to my wife.

Customer Service Supervisor began with her offers for a flight the next day. She messed up and wanted me to accommodate TACA?


I wasn’t about to fly to Florida, then Texas, then Colorado to get to my final destination. That chicken did not have enough preservatives for that. My original flight had been non-stop, see here. NON-STOP! I needed to be on that plane, so I didn’t know why Blue Blazer continued to enrage me.

The chicken and I are getting on that plane. My confirmation number is  Alpha Charlie Bravo Tango X-ray 7,1,4 Seat 27D!

The soldier and the rest of the crowd waited for her reaction.

Is that for one or two people? She asked.

The chicken is dead, MA’AM so it’ll just be one.

I’m sitting in seat 42F.

My flight status: delayed.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Masterpiece

2 Aug
Sydney Opera House and Bridge

Sydney Opera House and Bridge


It took me about 15 hours to get there.

It was cold.

It was overcast.

It was raining.

It was The Masterpiece I waited to see my whole life.

It was awesome.

Even Mother Nature agreed how spectacular this was because it decided to shine its light on it.