Okay, I Have Been a Bit of a Slacker #1

April has been a busy month.  I guess that two back-to-back trips stateside will take it out of you.  First trip was all about cattle in Texas and Florida, while the follow-up trip was just about meetings in Washington, DC.

Texas Cattle 1

Selecting Texas Brahman Cattle 

Texas Brahman

George the Texas Brahman Bull

Texas Brahman 2

Texas Brahman Bull

Texas and Florida are always great.  Saw some impressive animals and was able to get some decent photos with the Nikon D70.  It’s always fun to play cowboy; grandpa would be proud.

Florida Black Angus 3

Florida Black Angus Up Close #1

Florida Black Angus 2

Florida Black Angus and Stormy Clouds

Florida Black Angus

Florida Black Angus Up Close #2

Anyhow, I hope folks enjoy the southern cowboy-style pictures.  The Washington DC will go up separately, hopefully with some witty commentary.

Hatuey Beer at Versailles Cafe

Hatuey Beer from Miami’s Little Havana’s Cafe Versailles.

In the meantime, go out and enjoy a cold Miami Cuban Hatuey!

Cheers!

Thanksgiving in Lima, Gringo-style

Diplomonkey’s first Thanksgiving Day in Lima sees the return of Pandora’s box. No foolish mortals, we are not discussing mythology today but rather talking about grilling Gringo-style.

Old Diplomonkey is giddy as a schoolboy; having received for his birthday, and just in time for Thanksgiving, a brand new, shiny black Weber kettle grill. You can almost see him jumping up and down for joy.

Weber Grill: Bits and Pieces

Weber Black Kettle Grill: The Parts

Inspired by the grill’s arrival, Diplomonkey volunteers to cook a full turkey just like in Virginia. The arrival of the Weber spares Diplomonkey however the need to jury-rig his Hibachi for the festive task. Wifie is, let’s say, so very happy.

The Samster, the helpful little dude that he is, gets into the spirit of the holiday, assisting Diplomonkey assemble the instrument of American culinary might. Weber proudly made in Palatine, Illinois without a doubt produces one of the best charcoal grills out there. Diplomonkey has used one to make whole leg of lamb and lamb kabobs, steak, beef ribs, and even beer-can chicken. Heck, even paella in a cast iron pan was cooked to the wonder and delight of friends and neighbors.

Weber Grill Technitian

Weber Grill Assembly Technician

Turkey 5

The Weber Kettle Grill

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But let’s cut to the chase. Into the Weber go two bags of Kingsford’s finest mesquite charcoal. Once fully lit, Diplomonkey arranges coals his coals in a circle of fire. Tomasito (i.e., Tommy), our Peruvian gobbler makes his appearance and on the grill he goes – sorry, no presidential pardon for our 20-pounder Tomasito.

Tomasito, before...

Tomasito, before…

Tomasito, after!

…and Tomasito after!

After three hours of crackling and sizzling, the Weber’s lid comes off followed by the sweet smell of grilled, succulent turkey. Enjoying a turkey drumstick on your behalf,

Cheers from Peru.

Arequipa: Quinoa, Cochineal, and Alpaca Pizza along with a Russian Hind Helicopter

Diplomonkey is on the move again this week heading out to Arequipa, a thousand kilometers south of Lima and a world apart. There is nothing like a 4:00 a.m. pickup for a 6:45 a.m. flight, fortunately there is always Starbucks coffee at Lima’s airport to brighten Diplomonkey’s morning. Yippy!

The early morning flight on LAN airways is not bad, nice plane (even for an Airbus) and a friendly crew, which is always a plus even on short flights. More interesting however is the view from 36,000 feet. The terrain from the air is wildly tortured; punctuated by mountains that seem to grow on top of each other only to be separated by unbelievably deep gorges. Peru is a truly a land ripped asunder by the ancient Titans.

Arequipa 6

Approach to Arequipa

 Dry, sunny Arequipa is a welcoming city set at respectable 2,328 meters (7,638 feet) above sea level.  It is a charming city full of interesting sights and sounds.

Arequipa 7

Arequipa Street Scene – Arequipa Women

Arequipa Fire Truck

Arequipa Street Scene – Yellow Fire Truck

A city since the days of King Charles I of Spain, Arequipa retains much of its colonial legacy intact (some 332 hectares). Work, alas demands that Diplomonkey leave exploration of the city for later in evening.

There is however time for a quick Starbucks mocha coffee stop on the way out-of-town. A treat made all that sweeter by affording Diplomonkey a glimpse of a condor basking in the sun on a neighboring water tower.

Outside of Arequipa, Diplomonkey hits the Pan American Highway. His drive south takes him along the Cerro Verde mine’s side roads; roadways populated with heavy trucks, tunnel construction, and even llama crossings.

Arequipa 9

Beware, Llama Crossing

Off the sierra and on the coastal plain, Diplomonkey visits quinoa plantations and a cactus farm where cacti pads are purposefully infected with cochineals (a sessile parasite) that produces the crimson-colored natural dye carmine (both used as a food coloring and in cosmetics such as lipstick). For those inclined to know more, here is the Wikipedia cochineal link.

Cactus infected with cochineal

Cochineal-infested Cacti

Cochineal buggies, before...

Cochineal buggies, before…

Cochineal buggies, ...and after.

…and after.

In a day just full of treats, Diplomonkey even gets buzzed by one of Peru’s Russian-made Mil Mi-25d Hind helicopters operating out of La Joya. Oh what a treat, so much fun.

Peruvian Air Force Hind  Helicopter

Peruvian Air Force Hind Helicopter

Harvesting Quinoa by Hand

Harvesting Quinoa by Hand

Women Threshing Quinoa by Hand

Threshing Quinoa by Hand

Arequipa 13

Road back to Arequipa – Chachani and Surrounding Peaks

With work done and the sun quickly setting, Diplomonkey starts back up the mountain. Two hours later, Diplomonkey checks into his Arequipa hotel. A quick call to wifie to see how she, the Samster, and JackJack are doing is followed by exploration of Arequipa’s historic center (a UNESCO World Heritage Site). Wrapping up the evening is a late night dinner of alpaca Carpaccio pizza and a Pisco Chilcano with extra ginger root at one of Gaston Acurio’s restaurants.

Arequipa Cathedral

Arequipa Street Scene – Cathedral Basilica of St. Mary

Diplomonkey’s stay in Arequipa, only a day and a half, is too short. He plans to return with the family in tow next time.   As he boards his return flight to Lima, Diplomonkey makes a mental note to recommend to any would be Peru explorer to add Arequipa to their visit to do list.

Cheers.

Robotic T-Rex – Terror of Lima’s La Molina District!

Diplomonkey, in a moment of fatherly magnanimity, acquires for Sam-the-man-Sam a build-it-yourself solar-powered T-Rex robot while awaiting his Houston-to-Lima flight. The senior chimp could not pass up the opportunity to get the Samster a robot that we could build as father-and-son project, combining little big man’s fascination of dinosaurs with automatons.

Solar Robot T-Rex - Terror of Lima's La Molina

Solar Robot T-Rex – Terror of Lima’s La Molina District!

So with much fanfare out comes the robot kit, and of course the “toolbox,” itself a hodgepodge of bits-and-pieces that escaped going into storage in Virginia and tools purchased in Egypt and afterwards while on evacuation in Washington. All-in-all assembly progress quickly until the Diplomonkey father-and-son team encounters a technical setback. Oh no!

Robot4

Super Secret Robot Assembly Tools

Robot T-Rex Parts & Instructions

Robot T-Rex Parts & Instructions

In Virginia a missing screw and washer would mean a trip back to the store for an exchange or a refund. In our case, the store being a few thousand miles away kind of rules out that option. So the father-and-son team does the next best thing; improvising by channeling the skills of its tool building hominid forebears, fashioning a new washer out of cardboard and repurposing a second-hand screw from an old laptop. Heck, we didn’t need to cannibalize parts from other toys – certainly the Toy Story characters are proud of us.

With assembly complete, followed of course by a congratulatory high-five, the Diplomonkey team proceeds to charge up its robotic T-Rex on a sunny Lima Sunday afternoon. Although the robot is not as fast as we would have hoped for, it works and beats the bolts off another robot.

Robotic T-Rex Running

Robotic T-Rex Running – Plastic Forks Optional

With the sun driving the robot, the Samster discovers that his shadow will fossilize the terrifying robotic T-Rex dead in its tracks. Lessons in robotics and solar energy make for a great a father-and-son project. Not too bad for a lazy Sunday afternoon in Lima.

Cheers!

USS Texas (BB-35), Flagship of the Texas Navy

With meetings over and the first free time in two weeks, Diplomonkey uses his downtime to visit a gran dame of Texas.  So he heads out to La Porte (on the Houston Ship Channel) with his Nikon D-70 in hand to visit the USS Texas State Historic Site, home to the last of the great dreadnoughts still afloat.

USS Texas BB35

USS Texas BB-35

Tug and Tanker

Houston Ship Channel: Tug Eloy Rivera and the Maritime Prosperity (Bulk Carrier)

A bygone era’s impressive centenarian (the USS Texas’ keel was laid down in 1911 and commissioned in 1914), this gray behemoth of steel saw action in Mexican waters in the wake of the Tampico Incident.  The USS Texas, fondly nicknamed “Old T,” also made numerous sorties into the North Sea during the Great War (that’s World War I).

USS Texas Forward Gun Turrets

During World War II, she escorted war convoys across the Atlantic and shelled Axis-held beaches during the North African campaign and the Normandy Landings.  In the Pacific theater, Old T provided naval gunfire support during the Battles of Iwo Jima and Okinawa.

USS Texas BB35

Anti-Aircraft Gun

USS Texas Anti-Aircraft Gun Foot Rest

Anti-Aircraft Gun Foot Rest

With the war won and the Axis threat eliminated, the USS Texas despite decommissioning (1948) avoids the scrap yard.  The Navy opts instead to transfer Old T to Texas on April 21, date of the decisive 1836 Battle of San Jacinto that ended the War for Texas independence; leading to the Republic of Texas’ creation.

The USS Texas serves today as the first battleship memorial in the United States, as well as is the commissioned flagship of the Texas Navy.

USS Texas dual 14"/45 caliber gun turrets

USS Texas Dual 14″/45 Caliber Gun Turrets

So next time you are in Houston take a drive out to the San Jacinto battlegrounds, there you will find the USS Texas.  Most of Old T is readily accessible, they even have special hard hat and flashlight tours for the off limit areas.  A truly unique vessel, a great place to take the kids to get them interested in all things navy.  Consider also making a donation for her upkeep.

Anti-Aircraft Guns Under Restoration

Anti-Aircraft Guns Under Restoration

Restoration Work

Restoration Work

Naval Jack - 48 State Stars

Naval Jack – 48 State Stars

Cheers!

Of Bulls, Heifers and Cold Beer

With negotiations and consultations now behind him, Diplomonkey hits the road to Florida by dawn’s early light.  Thanks to United Airline’s really nice counter person at Reagan (DCA), who went out of her way to help, Diplomonkey catches his Orlando via Newark flight.  The logistics of going north to go south are just astounding.

Dry Aged Beef

USDA Prime Beef Slab

In Newark, Diplomonkey gets to double dip; he gets both his Starbucks fix and salivates over Gallaghers’ meaty, 21-day old dry aged USDA prime beef slabs on display.  Although torturous, this is nothing less than a favorable omen for such a nomadic, unrepentant carnivore.

Cheerfully boarding his southbound flight, Diplomonkey catches up on Top Gear episodes, orders a Tapas box and red wine; ah life is good.  But Diplomonkey knows all to well that the respite at 35,000 feet is short-lived, for it marks the start of ten straight days of twelve-hour plus workdays.

Reaching Mickey Mouse country, Orlando for the uninitiated in all things Disney, Diplomonkey heads off to one of Florida’s largest cattle ranches.  Here he meets astoundingly gentle giants which act more like pampered farm dogs than thousand pound plus medium-frame young bulls.  They also crap prolifically, much like their extinct Aurochs forebears, so mind your step, and theirs when around them.

Little Big Bulls

Little Big Bulls – Florida Brahmans

Avoiding being crushed by these beasties, as well as not stepping in their poop, is no small matter.  It builds up a hearty appetite for, do I dare say…beef.  But lo and behold, there is no beef for Diplomonkey that night since he dillydallies at the ranch immersed in the talk of cattle.

 

Florida Cattle at Sunset

Florida Cattle at Sunset

Red Brangus at Sunset

Red Brangus at Sunset

So poor Diplomonkey eases his hunger that evening with something other than beef.  He ambles à la John Wayne into the first late night open eatery available and orders the special – all you can eat pork ribs, as well as quench his thirst with well-chilled Yuengling beer (from America’s oldest brewery, of course).

 

Diplomonkey volunteers to his traveling companions that he is courageously taking one for the team; to prove that there is no trichinae in the U.S. pork.  The sacrifices we make. Thank you, please I will have some more Porky Pig.

 

Service Animal/ Pet Relief Area

Service Animal/ Pet Relief Area

Travel to Madison, Wisconsin via Detroit (DTW), the latter of which has a great, animal friendly airport, follow visits to Orlando and Gainesville.  For those that have served in the Middle East and traveled with four-legged hairy buddies, this sort of attention is always a big deal.  But old Diplomonkey, who misses family and dog, digresses.

 

Holsteins

Holstein Cows

Early morning meetings follow a midnight arrival in Madison, as well a visit to the Wisconsin World Dairy Expo.  Again Diplomonkey sees spectacular animals and meets wonderful people.  But the hunger for beef grows by the minute; bananas are just not quite doing it for him any longer.

 

So with his erstwhile companions in tow, Diplomonkey heads out that evening in search of animal protein matter, preferably bovine.  Across from the state capitol, at Madison’s Old Fashion restaurant, Diplomonkey comes across one of the best burgers and fries that he has ever had and to top it off great local IPA.

 

Capitol Building - Madison, Wisconsin

Capitol Building – Madison, Wisconsin

In the course of the evening not only does Diplomonkey convert his South American pilsner drinking traveling companions to the wonders of American IPA, but also exposes them to that great American spirit known as bourbon – yes, culinary diplomacy at its finest.

 

Departing Madison for Texas fortified by beef, excellent IPA, and outfitted in a new green John Deere cap, as well as with some great hometown Landjäger sausage in his pack, Diplomonkey is oh so happy.

 

Houston's Moonwalker

Houston’s Moonwalker

Greeted in the late evening by Houston’s Moonwaker, Diplomonkey’s travel through the great state of Texas is a blur; one day in Houston followed by another in Madisonville and then two nights in College Station before returning once again to Houston.

But the hunger for beef remains, one that cannot be satiated by salmon or pork chops no matter how delicious.  Where is my sirloin, my rib-eye steak, how about my Texas brisket?

Diplomonkey discovers that just outside of College Station, stands the town of Snook, home of Sodolak’s Original Country Inn and its Texas size steaks and burgers.  One of the companions, Andy, in all honestly went to Texas A&M and recommended that we stop here to partake of excellent, bountiful, and affordable steaks.  Coming off the farm from late evening meetings, we barely beat the closing time clock and place our orders.

 

19 Ounces Texas Lucy

From Andy’s build up, Diplomonkey realized that this would not be a ramen noodle sort of night, but rather an orgy of beef.  The small sirloin steak (let’s call her Texas Lucy, heifer flesh always taste better if it has a name) weighs in alone at nineteen ounces.  And for good measure, a can of ice-cold Lone Star beer makes Lucy’s taste all that better.

Steak, two sides, Texas toast and local beer plus tip, came out to less than twenty-five bucks.  Proof positive that life on per diem is possible if you know how to look. They advertise orders to go; dreamily Diplomonkey wonders if the delivery area could include Peru.

Brahman Bull Wash

At the Brahman Bull Wash

Texas A&M Summer Sausage

Texas A&M Summer Sausage

Texas A&M, like the state of Texas, is a huge but friendly place.  Diplomonkey sees state of the art teaching and processing facilities, meets wonderful, capable professionals and academics. The Rosenthal Meat Center’s beef, pork, and lamb offerings, especially the summer football sausage sorely tempts Diplomonkey with its fleshy bounty.  Unfortunately Diplomonkey has no way to transport any frozen or chilled meat back to Lima – next time he will come better prepared.

So pleased is Diplomonkey with his Texas A&M visit, that despite being a Hoya, he caves in and buys Aggies memorabilia for the little dudes.  Sorry wifie and other fellow Hoyas, just in case the kiddies one day decide to go study agricultural economics and eat beef out there.

In any, case, that evening Texas brisket Bambi follows her rib-eye steak little sister (that’s Ms. Betsy) devoured earlier by Diplomonkey at lunchtime.  A truly memorable occasion scouting out animals for export.

 

Cheers.

Diplomonkey, Naughty Monkey

Having received special dispensation from the powers that be to travel to Washington at the last moment for negotiations, Diplomonkey hit the road running on a fine Lima Saturday evening.

After a plus two-hour drive to Jorge Chavez International Airport, Diplomonkey finally arrives and proceeds to check in for his United Airlines flight to Washington via Newark. Thanks to his foresight he had checked in earlier that day, opting to use some of his hard-earned dollars to buy an Economy Plus upgrade.  Unfortunately, United does not currently accept bananas as form of payment.

Running short on time thanks to Lima’s ridiculously heavy traffic, Diplomonkey forewent his usual pre-flight Starbucks coffee mocha with whipped cream and alfajor fix – Diplomonkey sad, so sad.  However with security quickly cleared, on board United’s really nice Boeing 757-200, and settled into his plush Economy plus seat, Diplomonkey is enjoying life.

But it gets better. United’s in flight on demand video is great (got to watch 300: Rise of an Empire, Ancient Aliens, and even a Tom Cruise movie – which is always fun to ding) and had a spectacular meal.  The food, even in economy, was not just palatable but really awesome this time.  The wine was not too shabby either.

So Diplomonkey stays up late, watches movies, gets some work reading done, and gets to see the sun rise over the USA and is so happy.  Diplomonkey had until then not seen the sun in nearly two months.  Bright blue skies even make Newark look spectacular.

Turkish Folk Festival Dancers 1

Turkish Folk Festival Dancers

Okay, Diplomonkey clears immigration and customs, collects his bag and catches his connecting flight to Washington.

Upon arrival in our nation’s capital, Diplomonkey drops off his bag at the hotel and proceeds to go exploring.  Happens across the Turkish folk festival and gets great pictures with the now well-travelled Nikon D70.

Turkish Folk Festival Dancers 2

Turkish Folk Festival Ladies

Turkish Festival Dude

Turkish Festival Dude

Food Dude at Festival

Food Dude

Turkish Folk Festival Dancer

Turkish Folk Festival Dancer

After an afternoon of photographinating, Diplomonkey in urgent need of sustenance hops on the subway and makes his way to his old haunt of Georgetown – yeah, go Hoyas – and hits Pizza Paradisso, mecca of great pizza and home to a spectacular collection of craft beers.

My other love, a Duchesse de Bourgogne

My other love, a Duchesse de Bourgogne

Diplomonkey, being the naughty monkey that he is, decides to get immediately re-acquainted with an old Belgian girlfriend of his, and none other than a Duchesse of Bourgogne that is.

With his Duchesse in hand, Diplomonkey compounds his naughtiness and orders wifie’s favorite pizza, an Atomica.

Pizza Atomica

Pizza Paradisso’s Atomica

Trappistes Rochefort #10

Trappistes Rochefort #10

Guilt ridden by his peccadillos, Diplomonkey tries to repent by hooking up with a Trappistes monk, ale that is, and orders himself a Trappistes Rochefort #10 (a quadruple ale).

Ah, life is good.