Monday, December 31, 2007

2007 Travel Review

The past year's travels might not have taken me to faraway or exotic destinations of years past, like Dubai or Japan. But Lori and I both did get to get out of Houston on at least a few occasions over the past year, and in the process got to see a few new things and visit a few new places. Here's a rundown, complete with pictures:

In early May I flew up to Washington, DC to visit my brother-in-law Danny, who was living in Northern Virginia at the time. It was my first trip to the nation's capital, which was kind of cool in that, after thirty-something years, I finally got to see in person all the things I've seen on TV for my entire life. Like the Vietnam Memorial, for instance:
Danny made sure that I got to visit the National Air and Space Museum's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center near Dulles airport during my short trip there. This annex includes military aircraft such as the SR-71 Blackbird and the B-29 Enola Gay, civilian aircraft such as the only surviving Boeing 307 Stratoliner, and even the Space Shuttle Enterprise. The place is a must-see for anybody interested in aviation. I thought this picture I took of a 1930s-era Grumman Goose sitting underneath the tail of a retired Air France Concorde was kind of cool:
In early June, I made the first of two trips to New Orleans. This was my second trip to the Crescent City since Katrina, and I took note of the city's excruciatingly slow process of recovery. FEMA trailers, lots full of weeds and debris, and dilapidated structures such as this one on Canal Street were still the norm for much of the city, almost two years after the hurricane:
While I was there, I did get to see some attractions that had recovered since the hurricane, such as the New Orleans Museum of Art's intriguing sculpture garden:As slow as the recovery process is, the city is clearly doing better than it was during my previous visit in June of 2006. There were more people - and importantly, more tourists - in New Orleans in June 2007 than there were just a year before. Bourbon Street continues to be a top tourist attraction, and is keeping it as sleazy as ever; we'll not talk about how drunk I managed to get on said street the night of the Sopranos finale...
In July, I flew out to Denver for a few days to visit my brother David, who had moved there just a few months before. He seemed to be doing well, with a decent job and apartment near the intersection of Broadway and I-25 just a few miles south of downtown. While we were there we took a day trip up to Rocky Mountain National Park, as well as an excursion up to Jones Pass in Arapaho National Forest. David finally got to take his Jeep Liberty off-road for the first time, and it performed admirably; it took us up to about 12,000 feet, well above the Rocky Mountain tree line:
As one who has lived almost all of his life only fifty feet above sea level, I would have found the alpine environment of the Rockies to be a unique experience in any instance. But the fact that we were met by these guys at the Continental Divide made our trip all that much more fun:
Seriously. The mountain goats were cool.

In late July, Lori's wine-selling gig had its annual meeting in California. She decided to attend, and made a trip to Sonoma County. While she was there, she did what any good wine snob would do: she toured some wineries...
Mmmm. Grapes.
Lori also got to take her very first business trip over the summer, as she attended a symposium at the J. Eric Jonsson Center of the National Academy of Sciences in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, in August:
While she was there, Lori took a tour of Martha's Vineyard. Here's a picture she took of the lighthouse at Gay Head:
In mid-September, I made a second trip to New Orleans, this time to watch the Cougars play Tulane. In between trips to Central Grocery (for a muffaletta) and Mother's (for jambalaya), I took in the street scenes around Jackson Square. It bears repeating that the French Quarter was largely unaffected by the ravages of Hurricane Katrina, and that, if a person with no knowledge of 2005's catastrophe were magically transported to Jackson Square, they would have no idea that two years ago the city surrounding said plaza was an apocalyptic morass of murky floodwater, rampant looting and unspeakable human suffering.
Speaking of human suffering, the Superdome will be a lasting image of Hurricane Katrina. But the facility has been restored and is once again hosting Tulane football games. Being a University of Houston fan, I am accustomed to seeing disappointingly small crowds at football games. But even I can't help but wonder how Tulane's football program will be able to survive, long-term, given the paltry fan support it currently appears to attract; hopefully that will change as the city repopulates. Of course, this crowd would probably look a lot better in any place other than the cavernous Superdome:
In October, Lori and I took a trip to what we consider a friendly and familiar destination: Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. This was Lori's third, and my fourth, trip to the Pacific resort town. We found it to be just as pleasant as we remembered from previous visits.
While we were there, we subjected ourselves to a timeshare presentation in order to get a free "canopy tour" of zip-lines over the tropical forests south of Puerto Vallarta. It was really rather fun. Lori enjoyed cruising along a cable above the trees:
I enjoyed myself as well. It's good to know that, apparently, I have the "cojones" to undertake such an adventure...
2007 was a fun year for travel. Since Lori and I love to travel, we're looking forward to even more fun and excitement in 2008.

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