There should be a sign here reading "Please don't step on the sea lions." That was my first thought as my 11 fellow passengers and I prepared to disembark from a Zodiac raft on the first day of our Galapagos Islands cruise.
The most famous building in Texas is smaller than you expect, and it's about as pretty as your average California mission. In fact, it was once a mission, though these days it stands across the street from an unholy row of Ripley's and Guinness tourist operations. You can cover it in about two hours.
If you've visited our nation's capital, chances are you've glimpsed the Hope Diamond at the Smithsonian, watched primates play at the National Zoo, had your picture taken in front of the White House and searched for a relative's name on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. But if you've already made it to those must-sees, there are plenty of off-the-beaten-path sights, sounds and flavors to enjoy.
Big box, luxury vacations got you down? If the thought of whiling away another uninspired vacation under an umbrella is less than motivating, you may need to rethink your travel strategy. So what to do? Consider recharging through adventure rather than sloth. Add a dose of adversity, which provides for the possibility of personal growth. But by all means, add levity. After all, this is supposed to be me-time.
LONG BEACH, Wash. - You could always count on Long Beach, on the Washington coast, for being an old-school beach town. And it's all still there: the go-cart track. The kitschy Marsh's Free Museum, home to plaster-cast Jake the Alligator Man. Saltwater taffy in 50 flavors.
Tourists come to Thailand for many reasons: genuine Thai cuisine, which uses authentic ingredients that never make it to U.S. shores; the friendly people (they don't call it the Land of Smiles for nothing); great shopping (custom made suits and dresses in silk and other precious fabrics, made the same day for next to nothing); talcum powder beaches; Thai massages at $8 an hour; and, of course, the elephants.
They deal in the faux and fantastical on the frenetic Las Vegas Strip, where reality exists merely in air quotes, where you can stumble and sway from the "Empire State Building" to the "Eiffel Tower" and over to the "Egyptian Pyramids" while your bank account dwindles and your blood-alcohol level rises, where you will desperately need a vacation after surviving this vacation.
GOLDFIELD, Nev. - With a smirk and a hitch of his holster, the Nye County Sheriff's deputy handed me the ticket - $245, ouch! - for going 40 in a 25 mph zone in lovely downtown Tonopah. Before heading back to his SUV and resuming his duty to serve and protect residents, as well as fill county coffers via issuing speeding tickets, this dedicated law enforcement officer lifted his aviator sunglasses and asked me a question.
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