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Stories by Dominic DeGrazier

From cactus to clouds in SoCal

One of California's hardest hikes... the hard way.

“You in town?” Little did I know my text would lead to hiking 22 miles within the next 24 hours. Seriously. A marathon minus four miles – but with 10,500 feet of climbing, hurting, bonding, ...

An insiders' Chicago

Must-eats and other tips on visiting the Windy City.

“Tell Johnny Golf Shoes that you want a Ken Caminiti, and that Patty Ohio sent you,” the server at Big Bowl tells me. Am I seriously being told to go to a random bar with ...

East County trekking (and sliding)

Hike to Devil's Punch Bowl and Three Sisters Falls, both near Julian.

I love hiking, but I forget to do it again for months at a time. It usually plays out like this: 1) I trek along a path (or non-path) getting lost in the moment… sometimes ...

Lucha Libre, T.J. Style

The Mexican wrestling spectacle goes off Friday nights in Tijuana.

“Did that really just happen?” A lucha libre wrestler had tried to roll into the ring, miscalculated, and slammed down hard on the concrete. Instantly, the arena erupts in laughter, and the wrestler begins yelling ...

Cruising Down to Ensenada

“16 miles! Please tell me you’re kidding?” It’s 12:30 p.m. and I’m at the first break spot along this 50-mile Rosarito–Ensenada Bike Ride. I’ve been on my $40 Craigslist-bought beach cruiser (the title doesn’t lie) ...

Tijuana Revisited, Part 3

(continued from an August 23 travel story) Via my acute investigational skills and combined Gringo/Uruguayan/Mexican/Spanish language abilities, I finally locate a Tijuana orphanage to spend time with. It was a long, tedious search for answers… ...

Tijuana Revisited, Part 2

A tequila bar on Avenida Revolución, and more...

(continued from an August 7 travel story) “Come on, take a photo,” urges a man standing on a corner of Avenida Revolución, locally known as “La Revo.” This is the main street running through T.J.’s ...

Tijuana Revisited, Part 1

“I’m an idiot,” is the thought hovering in my mind as I relax on a Blue Line trolley headed to Tijuana. This news flash isn’t about safety concerns, as I’ve spent some time in Mexico ...

On Idyllwild Time

For us San Diegans heading north, it’s those rolling, stress-releasing mountains inland of Temecula that we cruise through on the way to Palm Springs. But instead of darting right on Highway 74, hang a left. ...

Manila Nights

This story begins while I was watching a game at Tilted Kilt here in San Diego. A friend hears of my plans to visit the Philippines and immediately, without pausing, utters two fateful words (that ...

Singing Cebu City, Philippines

Although it’s still debated which country invented karaoke (an abbreviated compound word meaning “empty orchestra” in Japanese), a Filipino was definitely the first to patent it in 1975. And in my brief Filipino travels, Cebu ...

Visiting the Insides of a Chicken – Manukan, Philippines

“...stay with my family and me for a few days.” I’d just met a friend of a friend, here in California, who heard that I was planning a trip to the 22,000-mile coastline nation of ...

Filipino Flair – The Philippines

“We’re the fun Asians.” After soaking in the aforementioned statement from a Filipino friend and almost three years of living and working with a multitude of friendly Filipinos here in San Diego, I had to ...

A Stroll on Balboa Island

For starters, the name is misleading. “Balboa Island” is not an island – well, not a real one, anyway. Back in the early 1900s its harbor, Newport Harbor, needed channels dredged of sand and silt ...

On The Strip: Las Vegas, Nevada

I don’t get it. I’m an avid people-watcher. But I’ve never been a Las Vegas fan. Seems contradictory, right? So when a friend of mine announced a birthday weekend in Vegas, I decided to give ...

Checking Out the Wright Brothers in Dayton, Ohio

You know that they made that historic first airplane flight (in 1903). Perhaps you’ve heard they’re from North Carolina. And if you’ve seen pictures of the Wrights, it’s not surprising if you sized them up ...

Outside Lands Inside a Car, San Francisco

Tickets in hand: check. Place to stay in San Francisco: check. Ride secured: check. Last night for two hours I (legally) downloaded over 21 hours of tunes for the eight-hour car journey. Mobile music leading ...

Road Trippin' to Palm Desert

“It's like everyone is on a vacation. An extra pep is in the air.” This statement came from an acquaintance of mine who opened up a restaurant in Palm Desert. His customers continually wore smiles ...

Learning From a Clown in Montevideo

It’s 10 o’clock at night in the Ciudad Vieja neighborhood of Montevideo, Uruguay. Three of us are gathered around a bench on the city’s main walking street, Peatonal Sarandí, but no one is wandering past ...

Chicago Times

It’s midday and my friend and I have gotten off at the wrong stop. Chicago’s “El” train costs only $2.25 for one-way fares, and if used correctly (the key idea here) you can get anywhere. ...

Powder Times in Vail, Colorado

“Come out here. I can hook you up with a free massage, a place to stay, a snowboard and discounted lift tickets.” My sister then told me of her masseuse position in the luxurious RockResort ...

From the Moon to the Stones: Chicago's West Side

It’s around 2am, and I’ve taken the “L” train in the wrong direction. There are two “Western” stops on the blue line. I could have sworn that I knew which was which – one located ...

Wrigley Field, Chicago

Built in 1914, just two years after Boston’s Fenway Park, Wrigley Field is America’s second-oldest ballpark. But the Wrigley family (as in the gum) didn’t own the venue until 1920, when it was known as ...

Atlanta: A Day in Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Backyard

My civil rights movement information hunt started with an arresting experience at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute in Alabama. As the “I Have a Dream” speech beamed on TV, I knew where the next location ...

In the Heart of Civil Rights Land: Birmingham, Alabama

I was in my second grade history class, here in Southern California, when I first remember seeing the video images of men and women shotgun-hosed ruthlessly, police dogs trained to bite the nearest dark-skinned person, ...

Experiencing an Asado: Uruguay

Family and friends sit at an unassuming backyard table. Beer and wine are imbibed under the summer sun. Comfortable conversations, the family dog lazily looking for attention, and an appetizing smell own the scene. It’s ...

Mellow Tecate, Mexico

I heard the word “Tecate.” My buddy wasn’t speaking of the next beer, but rather a border town located only 45 minutes away from downtown San Diego. Follow the 94-east freeway signs until it becomes ...

Frenchmen Street: A Bourbon Street for Locals

Where would you go out at night in New Orleans? Bourbon Street, right? Me too. But after satiating the people-watching craving via the drunken crowds and after having enough of the flashing neon signs, I ...

Hurricanes and Gators in New Orleans

Thankfully, I’m not referring to a severe tropical cyclone unleashing raging reptiles, but rather to drink and food. I arrived in the “birthplace of jazz” with a few goals outside of relishing music: to find ...

New Orleans Jazz Fest: A Fest of Smiles

“New Orleans is my spot,” declares Pershall the cabbie en route to my second day at Jazz Fest. Ten minutes away from the famed French Quarter at the Fair Grounds Race Course, the 41st annual ...

An Elephant’s Eye: Minneriya National Park, Sri Lanka

I’d been in Sri Lanka for a week, and now a couple of friends and I are driving through the interior of the island nation. The road’s edge is lined with a string-wire fence standing ...

Springfield, Illinois: the Hidden State Capital

Presented with a two-hour delay for my Springfield flight, I made the best decision that any rational person of age would: I paid a friendly visit to the airport pub. “Where are you from?” I ...

Carnaval Is Not Over in Montevideo, Uruguay

So we’ve heard about some famous worldly Carnavals, and we all know Mardi Gras in New Orleans. But how about Uruguay’s festivities? Would you guess that they showcase the longest Carnaval in the world? While ...

Carnaval in Ensenada, Mexico

I had two days off, three friends, and the urge to find a Carnaval celebration close by. I could have looked in my city of San Diego, but Mexico continually draws me in. Enter Ensenada. ...

Lavish Laguna Beach

There’s a reason why so many poets and authors have called Laguna Beach home for some part of their lives (hint: not because of the great bar scene). It’s undoubtedly charming. Artists in the early ...

Regal Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

“If you have a problem that annoys you, then you have two problems. Knock one of them out.” This local man’s statement lived with me during the week I spent in Brazil’s second-largest city (and ...

An Enchanting Visit to Casa de Paz orphanage in Ensenada, Mexico

We were a small volunteer group visiting Casa de Paz (House of Peace). The director of the orphanage, Jonatán Lopez Sánchez, eagerly welcomed us and began a tour of the property. Surrounding a mini soccer ...

Havana, Cuba: An Emerging Story

“Is Levi or Guess considered a more elegant brand? Addidas or Reebok?” A couple of mid-twenties locals ask with anticipation. A young single mother shares her ideas on the “What is Cuba to you?” question ...

Low-Profile Long Beach

It’s the area in between star-studded Los Angeles and ultra-elite Orange County. This is the city that people just drive past on the 405 freeway, or don’t bother mentioning in conversations covering Southern California. But ...

Havana: Worlds Apart

“What are they all waiting for over there?” A group of women are waiting on a neighborhood street corner. The truck is arriving sometime in the day, exact time unknown, to deliver their monthly ration ...

Havana, Cuba (If You Can Get There)

“Where all cars are taxis, and all women are whores.” This raucous response to the frequently posed pre-trip question, “So what does Cuba mean to you?” understandably stood out the most. The “cigars” reply was ...

Positively Perth

Perth, Western Australia’s capital, is about as far away from Sydney as San Diego is from Miami (over 2,000 miles). The city breathes casually with just over one million residents strolling through its small city ...

Puerto Nuevo, Mexico: Lobster Camp

“Hay langosta aqui! Tres por quince dolares!” Ten legs jut out from a slender form. It’s dark red in parts and golden in other sections. Your salivary glands are jolted. Yes, Puerto Nuevo lobster times ...

Mellow Melbourne

In a foreign land, my mind frequently associates places, events or people with past knowledge. In this context, Melbourne is a San Francisco without as many hills, but with people speaking in a much cooler ...

Suddenly Sydney

I first met Australia in her city of Sydney. The date was January 26th, and could have been any other day. But I quickly learned of my erroneous judgment — it being Australia’s Independence Day. ...

Japan's Bustling Tokyo

Literally translating to “Eastern Capital,” Tokyo, Japan, is one of the three world finance ”command centers” alongside New York and London. But unlike the others, Tokyo has a serene feeling of safety along with pristine ...

Joan Wilder’s Destination City: Cartagena, Colombia

You remember her: that romance novelist in the classic film Romancing the Stone with Michael Douglas. Her sister had been kidnapped in Colombia and was awaiting rescue in Cartagena. Perhaps due to the real-life cocaine ...

Stunning Zion National Park

Zion National Park doesn’t get its name from one of its Mormon settlers of the late 1850s, but rather from the Old Testament, which refers to Zion as “a place of refuge.” This Mormon community ...

Mexico City: A Cultural Mosaic

Would you believe that Mexico City used to be an island in the middle of the vast Lake Texcoco? It was actually the Aztec people’s Venice-like capital city, with a network of canals and bridges. ...

Montana's Glacier National Park

I met a national park ranger who had been traveling the States the past two years, national park to national park. I jumped on the opportunity. “So what is your favorite park so far?” No ...