The Blackland Prairie Raptor Center is about one hour outside Dallas on the shore of Lake Lavon in rural but fast-developing Collin County to the north. The actual site lies on Army Corps of Engineers (ACE) land that the Raptor Center has leased from ACE since 2004. The center encompasses a very fertile strip of land that once ran from San Antonio up to Oklahoma known as the Blackland Prairie, mostly disappeared, and one of the largest lost habitats in the U.S. The Raptor Center also encompasses an old ACE park that was abandoned due to lack of funding known as Brockdale Park, east of the City of Lucas. Scouts frequently use the area for camp outs.
A recent trip got me thinking … the end is coming. Everyone can agree that Planet Earth is in a constant state of change. I visited the fantastic Royal Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller, Canada, near Calgary, and that started my focusing on my epiphany. The museum, dedicated to explaining prehistoric times and the dinosaurs, explained the three cataclysmic events in history (evidenced by telltale signs left in geological remains) when life on Earth was nearly completely extinguished.
Iceland is full of things to see that you won’t find in many places. Visiting the Sólheimajökull glacier was one such amazing place.
I booked a “Southern Coast” tour. The glacier visit was the first stop, but all the stops on the tour were well worth it, even if nothing topped the glacier. The glacier was about one and one-half hours out of Reykjavik.
Mexico City is a wonderfully diverse and cosmopolitan city for a quick trip, especially from Texas.
That led me to book a cheap roundtrip flight on American Airlines for $200 from Dallas and a stay at Hotel Geneve ($100/night) for three days. Where else can you go for $500 including airfare? When you arrive in Mexico City’s very modern airport, taxi stands near the exits will arrange for a taxi for a prepaid fare depending on the zone where your hotel is located. The trip cost $25, which I paid with my U.S. credit card. Easy. All the nightmarish tales I was told about how unsafe taxis are, and how they rip you off, no longer apply. Those days are gone. Mexico City has come a long way.
No visit to Reykjavik is complete without a visit to the nearby Blue Lagoon. In fact, it’s only 20 minutes from the international airport, so a long stopover is all it really takes to see it. Buses run by Reykjavik Expeditions connect the Blue Lagoon to the airport directly.
An entrance to the Blue Lagoon can be purchased with this transport included. Whenever you plan to go, you have to book in advance because the place is constantly sold-out way ahead.
The Icelandic owner of this spot has seen it become so successful that he is expanding, adding capacity and an attached hotel.
Most tourists who visit Cuba see either Havana or a nearby tourist beach, and nothing more. While Havana is an interesting, bustling, international city, it does not represent Cuba. And the beaches visited by most tourists are all-inclusive resorts off limits to most Cubans. They serve very mediocre Cuban food with culture delivered in contrived shows.
Back-roading in Cuba isn’t easy if you want to do it like a Cuban might. That is because the buses are crowded and uncomfortable, although very cheap. They accept the local currency, the peso, only. Most visitors to Cuba will never see a peso because Cuba has a second currency for tourists, the Cuban Convertible Currency or CUC.
People often visit Panama but only see Panama City which does not have nice beaches. But leave Panama City and there are very nice beaches tucked away in hard to access places. Many people make a tradeoff of quality for accessibility. Some do it without knowing the options. So here’s the lowdown.
In Panama City itself, two beaches are worth a mention — Veracruz beach and Playa Bonita. Both are on the banks of the Canal and neither are particularly good. About two hours away by fast ferry are the beautiful beaches of Contadora. Still most tourists drive to the beaches around Playa Blanca (about one and one-half hours west of Panama City) because of their all-inclusive hotels. The beaches are not ideal due to strong undercurrents and cold Pacific waters.
With no preconceived notions about Iceland and lured by a cheap flight, I headed to where the summers are short and daylight can last most of the day.
A newbie to international travel? Iceland is an excellent place to start adventuring. With its combination of Danish and Nordic influences, the carefree but enterprising spirit of the Danes and the mild manner of the Norse combine to deliver small town charm in a chic metropolitan capital.
Beginning in 2010, when a volcanic eruption near Reykjavik shut down surrounding air traffic as far away as London for several weeks, people have wanted to see what Iceland is about. Tourism boomed. The infrastructure is excellent. Booking a trip to anywhere you want to go through one of many suppliers at nearly any travel desk is easy. The trips will almost always include pick-up and drop-off wherever you are staying.
I’m thinking I need to return to Cienfuegos, Cuba. I originally visited as part of a back roads trip to Cuba to experience the country outside Havana and the popular beaches.
I came away impressed with everything about Cienfuegos, and I know it would offer even more on my next trip.
I stayed in a private home, part of the casas particulares network of private places to stay in Cuba. Private enterprise has taken hold. Cubans have learned that they can make a lot more money privately renting rooms in their homes than they can working for the state, the only alternative to private entrepreneurship.
Insulated pipes (cutaway shown) transport naturally hot water throughout Iceland
Imagine if the U.S. didn’t need to concern itself with oil supplies from the Middle East. Well, in Iceland, when the oil crisis of the 1970s hit, they decided to do something about it. Today, Iceland generates 100 percent of its energy needs from renewable resources. Why can’t we? They have a combination of hydroelectric power, wind power and geothermal power. What I found most interesting was the geothermal power generation.
Like Yellowstone National Park’s Old Faithful, Icelanders were also able to see geysers in their country. In some places, they could see steam seeping to the surface. They knew that there were super-hot places below the surface. Today, Icelandic scientists are the leaders in harnessing this power.