Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Eating the Globe: Western Sahara

Morocco is notorious for canning fish in Western Sahara and labeling the product as Moroccan. I am 85% sure the canned mackerel I had was from Western Sahara. Since I make the rules, I am counting it. I mean, just look at where the green dot is on that map on the back of the box!

I ate the mackerel plain with leftover takeout rice. It was fine.

Africa: Algeria, Angola, Benin, Burundi, Cameroon, DR Congo, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Guinea-Bissau, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Liberia, Madagascar, Mauritius, Morocco, Mozambique, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Somalia, South Africa, Sudan, Tanzania, Tunisia, Uganda, Western Sahara, Zimbabwe

Asia: Afghanistan, Armenia, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Burma, Cambodia, China, East Timor, Georgia, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Lebanon, Malaysia, Maldives, Mongolia, Nepal, North Korea, Oman, Pakistan, Palestine, Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Syria, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, Uzbekistan, Vietnam, Yemen

Europe: Albania, Andorra, Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czechia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine, Vatican City

North America: Barbados, Belize, Canada, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, St Kitts & Nevis, Trinidad & Tobago, USA

South America: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay, Venezuela

Oceania: Australia, Fiji, Marshall Islands, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Tonga

Thursday, March 16, 2023

I'm going to French Guiana!

I can't believe it.

I will be flying Air France's once-weekly Island Hopper. From Miami, it stops in Guadeloupe, Martinique, and finally, Cayenne. Port-au-Prince used to be a stop, but Air France no longer serves Haiti.

The plan is to stay at a colonial era hotel in Cayenne and go on day trips.

The itinerary:

  • Minibus or shared taxi to Suriname border
  • Minibus or shared taxi to Brazil border
  • Visit Cacao in the jungle; it's a Hmong village full of former refugees
  • Space center tour; I just got a ticket for a three-hour tour
  • Devil's Island

Unexpected Southwest Airlines Southwest Road Trip: Day 3

We planned on completing our road trip on Day 3. Didn't happen.

In retrospect, I should have deferred to my wife and let her plan the meals. But I was on a mission to get home as quickly as possible and thought she would just slow us down with meals and potty breaks. After a breakfast at our hipster motel's oatmeal bar, we headed towards Phoenix.

I was not expecting so many mountains in southern Arizona. I was expecting flat expanses of desert.

Without any plans for lunch, the kids got grumpy. Because restaurants were 50 to 100 miles apart from each other, they had to wait. We ended up at a lovely but rough cafe in Quartzsite, near the California border. 

Quartzsite is known for two things. First, in the 1800s, camels were imported and raised here by the U.S. Army. Now, the town is a destination for destitute senior citizens who live in vans and RVs. It was featured in Nomadland.

The "town" was pure chaos. People on ATVs. An RV parked called MAGA...

This Brat was just one of the many wild things we saw in Quartzsite.

To lighten my mood, the kids bought me a back scratcher at the diner.

We crossed the might Colorado River! We're finally in California. The river crossing was kind of anticlimactic.

Lots of cool carspotting opportunities. Like this Mexican Suzuki Jimny next to the Morongo Indian casino.

Or this Ferrari 612!

We hit rain and traffic in Los Angeles and it really slowed us down. We picked a Japanese restaurant in Santa Clarita (north of Los Angeles) for dinner. The meal was easily twice what we normally paid outside of California. At least I spotted a Renault Duster in the parking lot. I gushed at the middle class Mexican dad who owned it. He was confused by my excitement.

We continued driving into the night along Interstate 5. It was simply too much mentally and physically for the kids. They were crying from sitting for so long. So we spent the night at Harris Ranch in Coalinga, three hours short of home.

Harris Ranch is known for its steakhouse. Many people driving between San Francisco and Los Angeles stop here for a meal. I knew it had a hotel, but I could never figure out why anyone would stay there. 

We had a nice room and this was what we saw when we stepped out our door in the morning (on Day 4):

We walked to the restaurant and I got some beef with my eggs.


We got home around noon on Day 4. I returned the car at Oakland airport with 12 minutes left. The bill was $2,200(!). We also spent $600 for three nights of hotels/motels.

I asked Southwest to reimburse us $2,800, I didn't ask for gas or food. They offered $1,400. I was PISSED. I appealed and on March 14, Southwest decided to reimburse us the entire $2,800.