Tennessee Hiking

Summer in Tennessee is normally too hot for hiking, but these past few weeks have seen temperatures perfect for enjoying the great outdoors.  Additionally, rainfall for the year has been well above average, so that means that Tennessee’s lakes are full and its waterfalls are raging.

I have tried to take advantage of every free day to get out and about.  Here are a few Tennessee hiking destinations from recent excursions worth mentioning:

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Another 25 Things about Me that You Might Not Know

Last week I stumbled upon a post of mine from 2014 entitled “25 (More) Things about Me that You Might Not Know.”  I gave it – and the original post from the year before – a fresh read, and decided that this blog needs another post on the same topic.  After all, a lot (or not much at all, depending on your outlook) has happened since 2014.  Oh, one more thing: I’m keeping politics out of it!

Another 25 Things about Me:

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Top Ten Cuba

Cuba has been in the news these past few days following an announcement from the Trump White House that U.S. travel restrictions to Cuba will be rolled back to pre-Obama levels.  This saddens me, although I should clarify that Cuba was never fully open to Americans, anyway.  For one thing, American credit and debit cards still do not work in Cuba.  For another thing, travel requires a reciprocal visa and is supposed to fall into one of 12 categories (click here for more information, and check back often, as policies are subject to change).

This is all too bad.  Cuba is not our enemy, and nor is its leader, Raúl Castro, who took over for his more notorious brother roughly ten years ago.  But Raúl has promised to step down in 2018, so who knows what the future brings?

I love Cuba, and it takes at least two hands to count off the number of things I like about the country.  Below, after much nostalgic deliberation, is my Cuba top ten:

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(Yet Another) Ten Good Stephen King Books (#31-40)

2017 is forecast to be a good year for Stephen King.  Last month saw the release of his latest Castle Rock novella, Gwendy’s Button Box, co-written by Cemetery Dance magazine editor Richard Chizmar.  The April posting of the latest It Part One theatrical trailer set an online record for the most views, and before the year is out the big screen will also see the release of the long-gestating Dark Tower movie.  The trailer for that also looks great, albeit very, very different from the 4,000-page anthology.  If that isn’t enough, later this year Spike TV will host a 10-episode mini-series remake of The Mist.  Here, too, is the trailer for that.  Enjoy!

As I sit here, about to read The Stand for the third time, I want to note that few authors merit a top ten list, let alone four top ten lists!  But then, few authors have the cumulative body of work that Mr. King has, with roughly 75 novels, collections, collaborations, screenplays, and non-fiction pieces.  There may be a few pieces of rotten meat in that literary smorgasbord, but the list you are about to read takes us to number 40 and the books on said list are still good, perhaps even great.

So with that, here are yet another ten good Stephen King books:

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Photo Locale of the Month – June 2017

Nashville has been in the news a lot lately.   The Nashville Predators, an NHL expansion team that debuted in 1998, are fighting for the Stanley Cup.  They won their last two games, and the the city’s nightlife-rich streets have been filled with even greater than the usual number of revelers.  Additionally, the 2017 Country Music Awards air this Sunday on CBS, and the CMA Awards are the city’s perennial Big Event.  If that isn’t enough, it was just last month that Governor Bill Haslam announced, from Nashville, that legislation recently passed naming Tennessee the first state to promise free community college tuition.

Nashville is one of the fastest-growing cities in the south, and last year it surpassed Memphis, three hours to the east, in population.  Downtown Nashville, its Cumberland Riverfront in particular, has much to offer.

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A Day Trip to Dolores Hidalgo

I recently blogged about my four-day trip to San Miguel de Allende, a small colonial city a few hours north of Mexico City.  San Miguel, which for decades has attracted older Americans and Canadians – many of them retirees – instantly shot towards the top of my list of favorite places in all of Mexico.

Many foreigners own vacation homes in San Miguel, so the city is not cheap, in comparison with other highland cities and towns in Mexico.  As such, many backpackers visit it as a day trip from either Querétaro or Guanajuato, larger cities that are just an hour away by bus.  I recommend staying longer, not just because San Miguel casts an enchanting spell, but also because the city itself makes a great base for day trips to various points of interest.

I spent several hours day tripping from San Miguel to Dolores Hidalgo, a Pueblo Mágico (magic town) and the one-time residence of Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, a not-so-humble priest who lived here when he kick-started the Mexican Revolution (one of several revolutions in Mexico’s turbulent history, but, alas, the ultimate one) against Spanish rule.  I suspect that most visitors hit up the Museo Casa de Hidalgo, the house-turned-history museum about Hidalgo’s life and times, and then leave.  But while a far cry from being the most exciting Mexican town, Dolores Hidalgo is a pleasant place and deserves a bit more exploration than just the museum.

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Photo Locale of the Month – May 2017

Of all my travels around the world, I don’t think I have ever been to any country with as much history and with so many jaw-dropping sights as China.  I was fortunate enough to visit the PRC three times, and to visit Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan as well.  (I will leave it up to you, Loyal Reader, to decide whether or not those last three destinations are part of China or not.)

still haven’t made it to Tibet, home to the North Face of Mount Everest, and to the Potala Palace, which looks stunning in pictures.  One day.  I have, however, explored several sections of one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, the Great Wall of China.

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Comparing the “Alien” Films

I sometimes pepper the travel content of this blog with movie critiques.  See, I was a movie geek long before I became a travel geek, and both activities appeal to the dreamer inside me.  (I have even penned a few screenplays – of varying degrees of ineptitude.)

The Alien films, which began with 1979’s simply-titled Alien, comprise one of my favorite movie universes.  Not only do they generally have above-average writing and acting, but their art direction and creature design are state of the art.  And what kind of traveling journeyman hasn’t dreamed of spending months or years in peaceful cryo-sleep, en route to a new world?!

This past weekend marked the release of Alien: Covenant, the sixth film in the franchise.  So far, it has all the hallmarks of a box office disaster, although it will still turn an eventual profit following its overseas release.  I don’t consider the cheeky AVP (Alien vs. Predator) movies part of the immediately family, but I will share my thoughts about the six core Alien films in the following paragraphs.

Yes, there will be SPOILERS.

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Cuba: The Food

This is pargo.  Pargo – snapper, for the non-Spanish speakers reading this – is a common dish for both tourists and locals in Cuba.  I mention this distinction because during my travels through Cuba this past March, I learned that the diets for Cubanos and extranjeros are, with a few exceptions, worlds apart.

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Four Days in San Miguel de Allende

The colonial cities and towns of Mexico, with their leafy public squares, Baroque churches, vibrant markets, and colorful architecture are quite special.  Oaxaca, Querétaro, Guanajuato, even much bigger Guadalajara…all are worth visiting.  For years, the small city of San Miguel de Allende, acclaimed by countless travel writers as among the very best, alluded me.  One planned visit was canceled after I caught the flu.  Another was aborted following a schedule change at work.  But this past March, I finally made it to San Miguel de Allende…

…and it was worth the wait.

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