Diplomonkey’s Quito Adventures

Just back from stateside travel, Diplomonkey is required once again to travel, this time north to Ecuador. Yippee! The adage goes that there is no rest for the wicked; and old Diplomonkey is such a wicked little monkey – no bananas for you today, buddy boy.

So despite being home for less than a week, and that after nearly three weeks on the road, Diplomonkey heads out to Lima’s airport at dawn on a fine Sunday morning to catch a flight to white country map-land as eldest son Samtser refers to Peru’s northern neighbor. Why does Carmina Burana: O Fortuna roll around Diplomonkey’s noggin?

An unexpectedly quick, but still hour-long drive to the airport is followed by an hour-long wait to check in his bag. It seems that the traffic absent on Lima’s streets decided that Sunday morning to congregate in the Lima airport terminal. Oh well.

Fortunately there’s just enough time left before boarding to make a quick stop at Starbucks; ah the siren song of mocha coffee tempts Diplomonkey.

Starbucks Mocha Coffee

Starbucks Mocha Coffee and Alfajor

Fortified however by great coffee and an alfajor, Diplomonkey like an elephant in a china shop bursts through the ranks of massed well-wishers anxiously waving kinsfolk, friends, and significant others off to clear the security picket. At immigrations he is greeted by a somber official and given the de rigueur bureaucratic stare down. Not deterred, Diplomonkey pleasantly smiles and bids the straight-laced Ms. Bureaucrat a fond Starbucks mocha coffee-laden farewell. Ah the joys of another travel day.

Airborne, Diplomonkey sees Lima quickly fade away as his plane heads out over the Pacific and then northwards along the coast.

Peru's Northern Coast

Peru’s Northern Coast

He stares out his window and beholds a tawny-colored arid coastal plain sandwiched between a deep blue-colored ocean and the white snow-capped peaks of the Andes in the distance.

The rarefied air at 35,000 feet always makes Diplomonkey wonder at how fortunate he is to have such a great career.

By late afternoon Diplomonkey makes it out to Quito and his home-away-from-home favorite hotel with its view of the snow-capped Cotopaxi volcano.

Cotopaxi Volcano

Quito City in the Shadow of Cotopaxi Volcano

Picking up a city map at the front desk and grabbing his trusty iPhone and well-traveled Nikon D-70, Diplomonkey heads out in search of Quito’s famed native handicrafts market – a leisurely twenty-minute walk down the road.

Quito Craft Market Seller 1

Quito Craft Market Woman

Quito Craft Market 2

Quito Craft Market Women 

Quito Craft Market 3

Quito Craft Market – Buyers and Sellers

Quito craft Market 4

Quito Craft Market – Pan Flute Player and Wares

At the market, on Calle Jorge Washington (i.e., George Washington street), Diplomonkey sees cool handicrafts. Limited funds, and even less free bag space, will limit purchases on this trip.  Diplomonkey realizes that retail therapy must be kept at a bare minimum, with photographinating compensating for the purchasing shortfall. Ah the joys of Chimping in one of Diplomonkey’s favorite Andean cities!

Quito Craft Market - Local Cloth

Quito Craft Market – Local Cloth


Quito Craft Market – Cotopaxi Volcano Painting


Quito Craft Market – Local Animal Spirit Masks


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