Sunday, March 13, 2011

Zzyzx Road: The Road Trip

Zzyzx Road!

First off, it's pronounced "Zi-zicks," rhyming with "Isaac's" and not "physics." Ever since I took my first drive down I-15 to Los Angeles or San Diego, which is getting way too close to 20 years ago, I've wondered what's down the Zzyzx Road exit. I took the trusty Mitsubishi with me on one last road trip, for it, because I heard the road wasn't all that paved:

Pshaw. Except for one small stretch of pavement, probably less than one-half mile long, the road is paved in that not-too-durable asphalt over dirt that fairly common to middles-of-nowhere everywhere:

The first part of the road winds around a dry lake bed. Professional photographers are able to use light and shadow to make dry lake beds, with their white, frost-like covering, into artistics things of beauty. I am not a professional photographer. I am not able to turn this view into something that appears to be a thing of beauty, even though, in actuality, it was:

Soon enough, just a short five-mile drive off the interstate, you reach this, the Checkpoint Charlie of Zzyzx Road:

Well, not really. It's not much of a checkpoint. It's unmanned. Just a gate that can be closed. What's on the other side of the gate? The old Zzyzx Springs resort, a fully-functional retreat that was operational for a few decades centered around WWII. It was confiscated by the federal government in the early 1970s. It now lives as the Desert Studies Center for the California State University system. No particular campus; it's administered jointly. And there were students there, more than a dozen, doing studenty-researchy things at the intersection of Chub Street (named for a desert fish that lives on the ponds on the site) and the grandiose-ly named (tongue in cheek, got to be) Boulevard of Dreams:

This is the Boulevard of Dreams:

It's even got a playground. This is another perspective, south to north, looking down the Boulevard of Broken Dreams (you know it should be called that):

Actually, the area around the old grounds is very nice, even charming and beautiful, in a post-apocalyptic last-outpost sort of way:


State of the art recreational facilities available to the resort guests:

There are two ponds on the premises, the one closer to the old grounds is much much nicer:


See those black specks on the pond? They're real live ducks. This is a wetlands, officially. You might be able to see them a little better this picture, but it was tough to get much closer:

At the end of the Boulevard of Dreams, is this grove of trees:



The abandoned boat really adds to the post-apocalyptic feel of the place. Anyway, time to head back to the interstate:

The End.

Puerto Vallarta: Strolling the Malecon

One of the best things to do in Puerto Vallarta is stroll The Malecon, the boardwalk. And it's free! Which makes it even best-er. The boardwalk is dotted with sculptures, which get progressively weirder as you walk north into El Centro, the Old Town, from the Zona Romantica, which is the afforable hotel district. (The ulta-expensive all-inclusive resorts are north of town.) The walk starts with this. A stylized sea urchin, perhaps?

This little fellow looks all alone.

Vaguely religious statue. Staightforward, too, which is something that will be less descriptive as one strolls northward from the Zona Romantica up the Malecon.

View of the Cathedral, as seen from the Malecon:

Dolphin fountain, close to the Cathedral, on the Malecon:


A very nice Mermaid and Merman (possibly Neptune/Poseidon), reaching out to touch:

This is the signature statue on the malecon. The Boy on the Seahorse. This is the symbol of the City of Puerto Vallarta. You see pictures of this statue everywhere. Yet it is not the one that attracts the tourist hordes and their cameras.

Butt-side view:

Next up, the space alien ladder:




Getting a good picture of this alien ladder is impossible. This sculpture is of three space aliens, each with a pillow-shaped head, ascending a ladder to ... the mothership? Heaven? Ten feet off the ground to get away from snakes or something creepy-crawly? There are people crawling up the ladder -- to go home with the aliens? -- 24/7 it seems. Impossible to get a picture without a person in it. This is probably even more photographed than the Boy Astride The Seahorse.

Awwwwww. Isn't the wittle piwwow-headed alien so cuuuuute?

Also worth noting that in addition to the permanent statuary, there's quite a few artists doing more temporary sand-sculpting along the Malecon:

As you walk north from the Boy Astride The Seahorse, the statues get progressively more surreal. This is the second of the most "interactive" of the Malecon statues. Space aliens rendered into high-back chairs.


Everyone loves to sit in the alien laps. I mean, who wouldn't? Strolling the Malecon wears you out and who can pass the on the opportunity to sit in an alien lap?

I mean, come on. Who can resist a face like that? Isn't it inviting? Isn't he/she/it just saying, " Come. Take a load off your earth feet. Rest your weary earthy bones on my intergalactic lap"? That said: I don't understand the Puerto Vallarta Malecon / Space Alien connection.

Again, surrealism, as to this next one. What this is I haven't a clue.

This seahorse is a little more stylized than the signature statute:

And then there's this:

At the far northern end of the Malecon is this little bit of surrealism. This is the end of the statuary portion of the Malecon if one is walking north from the Zona Romantica, which is what I did when I was the one. So what is this? Souls ascending to heaven? People doing best to navigate the steep uphill climb back to their four-blocks-off-the-beach hotel?

Puerto Vallarta February 2011

I have not updated this blog since my return from the Croatia/Hungary birthday trip last May. Time to start updating. And the place to start is my trip to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, February 3 through 7, 2011. This is the Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, with its famous crown-shaped ... roof? Dome? Steeple? Cupola? Help me. I'm looking for the right atchitectural term here.

Time opened up on my schedule. I'd never been to Mexico. There were (are) two places in Mexico that are on my "list." San Miguel de Allende and Puerto Vallarta. It was early February. I could fly right into Puerto Vallarta. San Miguel is a beautiful, historic, artsy mountain town that has no nearby airport and requires either a very expensive flight into Leon or a really really long bus ride from Mexico City. Puerto Vallarta it was! And Puerto Vallarta has beaches, albeit with the ice cold bather-unfriendly Pacific waters:

Puerto Vallarta is located on the Bay of Banderas. The waters of the bay are beautiful; the beach itself is standard-issue. It's narrow, somewhat rocky, and not really all that inviting for sunbathing. This is actually one beach resort where, if I were staying right on the beach, I would use the hotel pool.

I got a hotel that Expedia indicated was about four blocks inland. That didn't seem too bad. And what was cool about the hotel was that it had a hammock right in the room! And it could support my weight. Even cooler! The one thing Expedia didn't tell me about those four blocks? The fourth block was straight up a hill.

There were pros and cons to having to climb a steep staircase to get from the beachfront tourist district to my hotel. One: the view from my room, as seen above. Magnifico. The blue waters of the Bay of Banderas. The ocean breezes gently wafting in. Two: what a workout! Climbing all those stairs to get to my hotel. And my room was on the third floor -- no elevator -- which meant climbing even more stairs, including stairs to get from the ground to the lobby.

No matter how many margaritas I drank, I would still get a great cardio workout on this trip.