Crete 1, Greece – 2/2014

September 23, 2015

OK, my long Mexican 70th birthday adventure is over except for my memories. Now, as I promised, we are picking up with our Trans-Eurasian Odyssey, which will eventually take us through 26 countries and over 40,000 miles, across impassible deserts and over 15,000-foot mountain passes, through the Stans, China, Mongolia and Siberia. Hold on for the ride.

Crete Blog 1 011We are back in Greece now, and specifically on the island of Crete. If you missed Delphi, Kalavrita, Dimitsana, Mystras, or Olympia and others on the Peloponnese, they can all be found in the list of past blogs on our web site. Just click on the country you want to visit. Meanwhile, join us as we board the ferry from Pireus to Iraklion on Crete, an island we have wanted to visit for many years. By some accounts, Crete was the heart of what we call western civilization today.

Having been on the road for almost a year and with Spring in the air, we first looked for a place to rest, catch up on travel maintenance and make a plan. It was early February and many campgrounds were still closed for the season. Camp Sisi was too, but as we drove up the driveway, the owner Kostas Tzikas waved to us and opened the gate. We could not have found a better place. Sisi had hot showers, a laundromat, Internet and room to spread out. The nearby town of Sissi with its picturesque harbor was within walking distance. Kostas and his wife both spoke English and were gracious hosts.

Crete Blog 1 030Packed for the road again, we headed first into the mountains to pay homage to the birthplace of Zeus, once considered the father of all gods and humans. He was King of the Olympian Gods and the Supreme Deity in Greek religion for hundreds of years. He controlled the weather, offered signs and omens and generally dispensed justice, guaranteeing order amongst both the Gods and Humanity from his seat high on Mt. Olympus. Even today, given the financial woes of Greece, it would not hurt to sacrifice a few oxen in his name. We certainly wanted to be in his favor as we headed east into Asia.

With Zeus at our side, we were ready for some beach time the island is famous for. Though still a bit chilly for swimming, we found some spectacular camping around the Eastern Peninsula at Váï Beach and Myrtos. Interior hills were often covered with enormous olive groves and the valleys were a sea of plastic covered agriculture. Even bananas were grown in hothouses, but that didn’t keep us from enjoying the open markets.

While the lack of crowds of tourists was a relief for us, we vowed to return again in summer with warm weather to experience a different flavor of Crete. Leaving another perfect camp, we headed west to explore more of this historic island.


Gary’s Birthday 7 – 1/2015

September 13, 2015

It’s been a long 70th birthday celebration, but I hope you have enjoyed the mini tour of some of our favorite places in Mexico. There was one more area we had to visit on our way home, so bear with us.

Gary BD Blog 7 003Our first stop was Pátzcuaro in the State of Michoacán on the lake of the same name. The town was founded sometime in the 1320s and has retained its colonial and indigenous character since then. It has been named both a “Pueblo Mágico” (Magic Town), and one of the 100 Historic World Treasure Cities by United Nations. The Pátzcuaro region is well known as a site for the Day of the Dead celebrations. It’s also famous for the Tarascan Indians or Purépecha (as they call themselves) who still use a butterfly-net to fish, at least for the tourist cameras.

Gary BD Blog 7 021Pátzcuaro has many memories for me. It was in the summer of 1975 that my then girlfriend Joy Gerlach, (who dreamed up The Turtle Expedition, Unltd. with me), and I decided to rent a small house and spend a few months off the road on our way to South America. It was there that I wrote the first Turtle Expedition article for Off-Road Magazine, CHOOSING AND PREPARING THE ULTIMATE MACHINE, our 1967 Land Rover aka The Turtle I. The lead photo was published in January’s Off-Road Magazine in 1976. The arched walls of the Templo Sagrario in Pátzcuaro made a perfect backdrop. The Editor wrote back asking, “When’s the next story coming? In the years to come, Monika and I spent several months exploring the area and visiting the surrounding Tarascan villages.

Gary BD Blog 7 017Being a Historic World Treasure City, little has changed since my first visit. The open market and food stands are still amazing and it’s not unusual to see men on horseback or with burros carrying a load of firewood.

Pátzcuaro is a center for handcrafts and art. Just off the big plaza, Once Patios, (Eleven Patios), has displays and workshops of some of the artists. The beautiful hand woven fabrics that are seen throughout Michoacán and Jalisco are made here. We have used them for years at home and in our trucks. A visit to the factory was enlightening. Some of the old machines belong in a museum. The owner lamented that because of the bad press Mexico has received, the number of tourists has declined drastically and he has had to lay off many craftsmen who have no skill other than the one they have been plying for their whole lives.

Gary BD Blog 7 053A short drive into the nearby hills brought us to the town of Santa Clara del Cobre where coppersmiths hammer out masterpieces from blocks of copper with amazing skill. We visited our old “Green Grocer” friend Rigo Cruz (from back home) and his family there, and knowing we were coming, Lorena prepared a huge pot of fresh tamales. What a treat!

Another nearby town we had to stop by was Tzintzuntzan, the pre-Hispanic capital of the Tarascans. The name Tzintzuntzan comes from the Purépecha language, meaning “place of the hummingbirds. Designated a Magic Town in 2012, it has two sixteenth century churches, and an amazing grove of 500-year-old olive trees in front of the Franciscan convent. The craft market specializes in straw goods and ornaments, elaborately carved wooden beams, and examples of the many different local pottery styles.

Time to go home, but you can easily see why it took Monika and me over nine years to finally escape the friendly country of Mexico and make it to South America, and even today, the country south of the border still tugs at our heart strings.

Stay tuned for our return to the long road of the Trans-Eurasian Odyssey. I’ll explain more in the next blog.


Gary’s Birthday 6 – 1/2015

September 5, 2015

Gary BD Blog 6 048 Tearing ourselves away from our beautiful guest stay in Ajijic, we headed southwest into the “dangerous” state of Michoacán, once famous for its “Sinsemilla” marijuana. Today, it is known for Lake Pátzcuaro, the Tarascan Indians, and the stopover for as many as 60 million, (even a billion) monarch butterflies who make a journey from eastern Canada to central Mexico where they spend their winter hibernation, clustered in small areas of Oyamel Fir forests at an elevation of 2,400 to 3,600 meters (7,800 to 11,800 ft.). The mountain hillsides of Oyamel forest provide an ideal microclimate for the butterflies. The Reserva de la Biosfera Mariposa Monarca (Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve), a national protected area and nature preserve which covers more than 200-square-miles.

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Oscar Reyes, our English speaking guide to the Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary, shared his extensive knowledge of the area.

Arriving in the mountain town of Anguangueo, we settled into the cute Plaza Don Gabino hotel and made a plan. Oscar Reyes (email:, an official English speaking guide, approached us politely and asked if we needed his help in viewing the butterflies. That turned out to be a very good idea.

The next morning as we climbed into the mountains the smell of pitch dripping from pine trees into containers filled the air. Pine resins have been used for thousands of years for waterproofing, varnishes, adhesives, art, incense, medicines, turpentine, rosin for bowed string instruments, gymnasts, baseball pitchers, oil-paint thinner, furniture wax, lamp oil, soap and tar. Many trees were decorated with delicate bromeliads.

Gary BD Blog 6 049Arriving at the Reserva de la Biosfera Mariposa Monarca and maybe feeling lazy or blaming the altitude, we took the opportunity to ride horses up to the reserve. It was a dusty trail and well worth the small charge.

The annual migration of North America’s monarch butterfly is a unique and amazing phenomenon, one of the most spectacular natural events in the world. What makes it even more incredible is that no individual butterfly completes the entire round trip. Female monarchs lay eggs for the next generation during their migration and at least five generations may be involved in the annual cycle.

The monarch is the only butterfly known to make a two-way migration as birds do. Unlike other butterflies that can overwinter as larvae, pupae, or even as adults in some species, monarchs cannot survive the cold winters of northern climates. Sensing environmental cues, the monarchs know when it is time to travel south for the winter. Using a combination of air currents and thermals to travel long distances, some fly as far as 3,000 miles to reach their winter home! We realized, the butterfly that landed on my hat was perhaps the great-great-great-grandchild of a monarch that wintered here the previous year. Clearly one of nature’s unexplainable miracles.

Gary BD Blog 6 026Staying on secondary roads gave us a chance to see a slice of rural Mexico. Still no sign of bandits or drug cartel gangs. It was noon when we came to the small town of Charo, founded in 1455. With its beautiful church and plaza, it was too inviting to pass up. While the local butcher chopped up some warm carnitas, the girl next door made fresh corn tortillas and we found some ripe tomatoes and avocados in the open market. Lunch was ready.

On the return trip to Guadalajara we had a couple more favorite spots to visit. Hey, it was still my birthday and I was going to stretch it out as long as possible. Winding our way northeast again we headed for the colonial town of Pátzcuaro and nearby of Santa Clara del Cobre, home of Mexico’s famous coppersmiths.



Gary’s Birthday 5 – 1-2015

September 2, 2015
Alfonso Anaya and Gary shared the love of horses and the image of charros, the real Mexican cowboy. Queenie (my dog) came along for the ride.

Alfonso Anaya and Gary (left) shared the love of horses and the image of Charros, the real Mexican Cowboy. Queenie (Gary’s dog) came along for the ride.

Chapala. In its heyday Chapala was a place where the rich and famous came to vacation. The waterfront is lined with mansions. The lake is certainly not the most beautiful in Mexico but Chapala has the charms of a small Mexican town, and for me, it holds some of the most memorable times of my life. I was about 10 when my mother and stepfather moved there to retire along with other expatriates. They rented a huge home a few blocks from the main plaza; four bedrooms, two verandas, maids’ quarters, stable, fruit trees; all for $48 a month. The maid came every morning, swept and watered down the cobblestone street in front, did the wash by hand, ran errands for my mother and was paid $5 a week.

For my part it was the life much as I imagine that of Tom Sawyer. The old town and surrounding countryside was my backyard. I had a dog, a horse and a burro. I learned Spanish with the other kids on the street. We made our own slingshots, played marbles and tops and other games that have been replaced today with video games.

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Gary and his friend Steven were preparing for an over-nighter in the hills outside of Chapala, their backyard. Gary’s burro, Poncho, carried the load.

A movie was a nickel ($) and you could eat dinner at any of the taco stands in town for a quarter. The Nido Hotel across from the church had a great swimming pool, and conveniently, it was a place where most of the American and Canadian locals hung out in the patio or the bar where mariachis were entertaining.

After 2 1/2 years of this idyllic life my mother decided to move with my sister and me back to California to continue our education. She later returned to Chapala to retire and write. She helped start the Little Theater and the American Library. When she died in 1969, at her request, she was buried in the Chapala American Cemetery near the lake and the people she loved.

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Gary says: Queenie, my Border Collie with more intelligence than most people I know and my best friend for 16 years, shared my idyllic life 24 hours a day in the quaint fishing village of Chapala.

Following a quick visit with my childhood memories, birthday celebrations conti-nued uninterrupted. In the small town of Ajijic a few miles down the lakeshore, (I used to ride my burro there.), an old acquaintance of ours invited us to enjoy his beautiful home. Unfortunately he and his wife were away, but his gardener and maid welcomed us. We spent a delightful four days in the luxury of this little paradise, taking advantage of the gourmet kitchen, doing some tourist shopping in the town center and taking a deep breath before heading off on the next stage of this birthday adventure, searching for the winter home of a few million Monarch butterflies.


Gary’s Birthday 4 – 1/2015

August 26, 2015

We could have stayed in Guadalajara for a week, but other adventures called. Tequila!!! It had been years since Monika and I had been to the town of Tequila, a short drive northwest of Guadalajara.

Tequila is a regional specific name for a distilled beverage made from the blue agave plant, primarily in the area near the city of Tequila. The fields of Agave that surround the town form part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Agave Landsape and Ancient Industrial Facilities of Tequila. The red volcanic soil in the region is particularly well suited to the growing of the Blue Agave, and more than 300 million of the plants are harvested there each year.

Gary's BD Blog 4 102 Although tequila is a kind of mezcal, the standard for good tequila uses only blue agave plants. Mexican laws state that tequila can only be produced in the state of Jalisco and limited municipalities in the states of Guanajuato, Michoacán, Nayarit, and Tamaulipas.

Agave plants, like grapes or olives, grow differently depending on the region. Blue Agaves grown in the highlands of the Los Altos region are larger in size and sweeter in aroma and taste. Agaves harvested in the lowlands, on the other hand, have a more herbaceous fragrance and flavor.

What this means is that if you buy a bottle of Tequila, it could come from anywhere, BUT, if it does not state on the bottle “100% Blue Agave”, you don’t know what you’re drinking. Tequila is most often made at a 38%–40% alcohol content (76–80 U.S. proof), but can be produced between 31% and 55% alcohol content (62 and 110 U.S. proof). A couple of well-blended Margaritas can spin your head. For comparison, most wine ranges from 12% to 15% and beer is around 5%.

Gary's BD Blog 4 101The first time I drove into Tequila in our 1967 Land Rover, back in 1974, the streets were still all cobblestone and kids ran behind us, hanging onto the rear tire mount and trying to get us to take a free tour at either the Sauza or Cuervo Tequila distilleries. There were only two in town, and we were the only tourists around. Today there are a dozen or more that charge for a tour and with the explosion of Tequila’s popularity, including “yuppie blends” like Patron for $30-$50 a bottle, the little town has prospered under the daily influx of tourists from any of the more than 40 countries where the liquor is recognized as a Mexican designation of origin product.

Happy to say, the town has cleaned up a bit, but it still has the flavor of Mexico, with the church and the plaza being the center of activity. We found a nice hotel on the plaza and did the tourist route, a tour, always interesting, educational—and fun. Back in our room after patronizing a couple of the street taco stands, we mixed our own Margaritas—better than most bars and restaurants. The simple recipe if you’re taking notes: 1 part freshly squeezed lime juice, 1 part Triple Sec or Cointreau, and 2 parts Tequila. Mix or shake with ice. Do not blend into a snow cone. Serve in a glass or cup with a lightly salted rim. Don’t drive afterwards.

Making a U-turn back through Guadalajara, we headed for Lake Chapala and the town of Chapala where I had lived for two years as a kid.


Gary’s Birthday 3 – 1/2015

August 23, 2015

Now we’re getting to Gary’s real birthday celebration and some of you may be thinking, “You must be crazy going to Mexico, yes?” Despite all the horrible warnings from the State Department about where not to travel in Mexico, if you had to go, the worst places were probably the states of Jalisco and Michoacán. I am happy to say that despite all the yellow press and warnings about the dangers in Mexico, it still remains one of the safest places in the world of travel. To date we have not been robbed, kidnapped, threatened or ripped off.

When I was asked what I wanted to do for my 70th birthday, aside from hiking to the Everest Base Camp or hot air ballooning over the Serengeti, I said I wanted sit in the Mariachi Plaza and listen to the Mariachis play songs that I can remember when I lived in Mexico as a child. That’s what started this whole chain of adventures.

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While almost everything in the world seems to change, often for the worst, and Mariachi Plaza next to Guadalajara’s Mercado Libertad remains much as it was 60 years ago years ago. I remember it well, living in Chapala just 35 miles south of Guadalajara. It was a place we always took visitors.

After a traditional shot of tequila, (maybe two), we walked a few blocks from our hotel to the Plaza. Mariachi music is something that is part of the heart and soul of Mexico and specifically in the States of Jalisco and Michoacán. It is as much a part of Mexico as tacos. While you can find Mariachis almost anywhere there are festivities going on, the Plaza is a place where several of the different groups congregate. They can vary in size from 3 or 4 musicians to 10 or 12. As they wander through the tables where locals are celebrating birthdays, anniversaries, baptisms or just a fun evening out on the town, they are roving troubadours, charging by the song.

Gary's BD Blog 3 23After a quick walk around the Plaza, Monika discovered a group that was one of the best; 3 guitars, 2 bases, 2 violins, a little Requinto and 2 trumpets. All the guys wore the classic Mariachi outfits, which told us that they were a unified group and practiced together. When they found out that it was my birthday they immediately broke into Las Mañanitas, the beautiful Mexican birthday song. I had a few requests of favorites and they knew all but one. After a second cold Corona I could even remember the words to a couple of them.

It was definitely exactly what I had wished for. (How often does that happen?) As they moved on to play for another party we headed for one of my favorite places in the world to eat. Yep, you guessed it. One of the safest places in Mexico to eat is the street taco stand. It was a birthday I will not soon forget.

Some of you may recall our motto: “Don’t take the trip. Let the trip take you!” With that in mind, we headed northwest to the town of Tequila and the land of the blue agave.


Gary’s Birthday 2 – 1/2015

August 19, 2015

So now you’re looking at news with a slight time delay. Following our visit in San Diego and with our truck and car safely stored at our friends’ home, the next day we found ourselves sitting in the waiting room at the Los Angeles airport. What a zoo, except no monkeys and elephants. We ended up in a section that was being rebuilt. It looked like something in a third-world country. By the time we got through security we had also missed all the overpriced fast food shops so the only thing edible was in coin-operated vending machines. I think a ham sandwich, a salad and a glass of bad red wine cost about $50 bucks for two! We did score one of the three tables. It gets better.

After a comfortable flight on Aero Mexico we waded through the process of renting a car and headed for the cute hotel we had stayed at years before. The San Francisco Plaza Hotel was a perfect location, walking distance to downtown Guadalajara with all its gardens, museums and government buildings, and just a few blocks from the main giant open market and perhaps most importantly, the Mariachi Plaza.

Gary's BD Blog 2 61Cousin Carol and her husband Doug arrived on a later flight so we had our welcome ceremony in our room with a glass of box San Ramon wine and chips & salsa. A Walmart (yes!) was just a few blocks away. Carol & Doug appreciated that we are experienced budget travelers.

In the morning after coffee in the beautiful garden patio beneath the rooms, we donned our walking shoes and headed for town. Guadalajara is one of the most beautiful cities in Mexico, famous for its plazas, cathedrals and old colonial buildings. By chance as we entered the Teatro Degollado, the concert pianist for the evening, Jorge Federico Osorio, was warming up with a little Brahms. It was like a private performance just for us.

Gary's BD Blog 2 60After a couple of visits to other government buildings to gasp at the incredible murals, it was siesta time and we knew where lunch was waiting. The giant three-level Mercado de San Juan de Dios (also called Mercado Libertad) has an array of tempting little food stalls to die for. After wandering through the isles of vegetables and butcher stalls, we found the perfect place to introduce Doug to his first Pozole, a very typical spicy hominy and pork soup.

Before heading back to our rooms for a short nap we picked up some fresh fruit for breakfast the next day. As expected, the selection of papayas, mangos, guayabas (guavas) and other tropical fruit was amazing. The question of “What do you eat in Mexico?” was easy to answer. Everything!!


Gary’s Birthday 1 – 1/2015

August 14, 2015

Okay so we’re a few months behind, but really, news is only relevant to whether you’ve heard it or seen it previously, so before we return to Greece and onward to our 40,000 mile expedition across Asia, following the Silk Road, we have to tell you a little bit about my birthday. It was the big 7-0, so I was told I could do anything I wanted that was legal. Humm— Options like hot air ballooning over the Serengeti Plains or trekking to the base camp of Everest crossed my mind but Mexico was so close and relatively easy.

Stage one: Only a few days late, coming from South Korea, we took delivery of The Turtle V at the harbor in Long Beach, just off the Wallenius Wihelmsen Ro-Ro freighter, and headed south toward our good friends’ home in El Cajon. Plans were already in the works to fly to Guadalajara, Mexico where my cousin and her husband would join us for a second celebration, but first, what to do in San Diego? Of course the San Diego Zoo, one of the finest in the world, has always been a favorite place, (I hadn’t been there for years.), so off we went to see the elephants.

Dinner was my choice so smoked oysters, rib eye steaks and a nice zinfandel were on the menu. The next day found us sitting in the San Diego International Airport, passports in hand. Before I forget, thank you all for the wonderful birthday cards I received and the uncountable emails and Facebook congrats. I have them sitting on my desk right now. Even the ones I received while we were in Mexico were special. It’s never too late to get a birthday card.








Japan 6 – Snow Monkeys – 12/2014

July 30, 2015

Let the truth be known, one of the main reasons Monika and I wanted to visit Japan was to see the amazing Snow Monkeys. In the frigid valley of Japan’s Shiga-Kogen (Shiga Highlands) near Nagano, the site of 1998 Winter Olympics, there is a thermal spring that has been discovered by a troop of Japanese Macaque monkeys. They are also known as the Snow Monkeys because they live in areas where snow covers the ground for months each year. No other non-human primate is more northern-living, nor lives in a colder climate, surviving winter temperatures of below -15 °C, (5°F). They have brown-gray fur, a red face, hands and bottom, a short tail and big ears, and often seem remarkably human-like.

Snow Monkeys Japan 6 47In 1964 the Jigokudani Yaenkoen Park opened. It is located in the valley of the Yokoyu River that flows down from the Shiga-Kogen. At an elevation of 850 m, (2,788 ft), surrounded by steep cliffs and hot water steaming out from the earth’s surface, the area is called Jigokudani (“Hell’s Valley”). The monkeys discovered the pool of warm water and made it their winter home. Free food too…..

A great way to travel through Japan is with the Japan Rail Pass. You need to buy it before you arrive in Japan. From Kanazawa, it took three train rides, a bus and finally a taxicab, (because an avalanche had closed the train tracks), to get to our accommodation in the Hakuba area. Dragging our luggage behind us through the snow we arrived at the Pension Ratanrirun, mostly frequented by skiers and snow borders. It was a cozy place with a Japanese style hot tub, bathroom down the hall and comfortable beds.

In the morning, getting an early start to avoid the crowds, a bus brought us to the trailhead for the Snow Monkey Park. From there it was a steep 40-minute hike up a treacherously icy trail to the hot pool where this particular troop of Japanese Macaques has made its hangout. For the first time during our two-year adventure around the world, we wished we had our MSR trekking poles and our Yaktrax traction clip-ons for ice and hard-packed snow, but of course they were packed safely in The Turtle V, now in the middle of the Pacific Ocean on its way to California.

We could tell you all kinds of wonderful Snow Monkeys Japan 6 57things about these amazing monkeys but the pictures are worth a thousand words. Just for fun we have included a caption here and there. The animals are so used to tourists; thousands come every year to see them. In the wild they spend most of their time in forests and feed on seeds, buds, fruit, invertebrates, berries, leaves, and bark. In the park they are fed rice in the winter by Park Rangers who watch over the crowd to make sure no one steps out of line. A sign at the entrance says it all:

 “You may think these monkeys are your long-lost relatives. They don’t! Don’t touch them.”

That evening, delighted we had finally seen the famous snow monkeys, we walked through the neighborhood in search of dinner. Skiers were happy.  The snow was dumping hard. The air was crisp and the fresh powder was squeaking under our boots. It was a magical night, our last in Japan. A local bar served some excellent Sashimi, still a bit pricey. The restaurant that supposedly offered Kobe beef was already closed so we ended up eating the worst pizza we’ve ever had.

Trudging back to the train station in the morning in the dark, we caught a series of trains to the Narita airport in Tokyo for our flight to San Francisco. It was New Year’s Eve 2014, the longest we have ever experienced (32 hours).

You may think that’s the end of our journey. It’s not. Without reverting to Greece where we left off with our blogs on our Around-the-World Adventure, we have to tell you first about Gary’s birthday party. Stay tuned.


Japan 5 – Hiroshima – 12/2014

July 18, 2015

At 8:15 AM, August 6, 1945, an American B-29 bomber carried out the World’s first atomic bombing. The bomb was about 3 m, (9.8 ft.), long and weighed about 4 tons. It was called “Thin Man” at first because of its long thin design. When the actual bomb turned out to be shorter than expected, the name was changed to “Little Boy”.

The bomb exploded approximately 600 m, (2,000 ft), above and 160 m, (525 ft), southeast of the Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall, ripping through and igniting the building, instantly killing everyone in it. Because the blast struck from almost directly above, some of the center walls remained standing. Even the building’s iron frame could be recognized as a dome. After the war these dramatic remains came to be known as the A-Bomb Dome.

The impressive Hiroshima Peace Museum

The impressive Hiroshima Peace Museum

The bomb was delivered by a total of three B-29 bombers. One carried devices for scientific observation, another carried photographic equipment, and the third called Enola Gay, named after Col. Paul Tibbits’ (the pilot) mother, actually carried the bomb.

On the streets of Hiroshima it was just another Monday. It dawned clear and sunny. The yellow air raid alarm was cleared and the hot summer’s day began as usual.

The detonation of the “Little Boy” created a fireball that blazed like a small sun. More than 1,000,000°C, (1,800,032 F°), at its center, the fireball reached a maximum diameter of 280 m, (918 ft.), in two seconds. Surface temperatures near the hypocenter rose up to 4,000°C, (7,232F°). Fierce heat rays and radiation burst out in every direction, expanding the air around the fireball and creating a super high-pressure blast. These factors interacted in complex ways to inflict tremendous damage.

Although the casualties are not precisely known, approximately 140,000 people are believed to have died by the end of 1945. Among them were many school children and South Korean prisoners of war, mobilized to demolish buildings near the city center for fire lanes. Buildings within a 2 km, (1.5 mi), radius of the hypocenter crumbled and burnt to the ground. Death was often presumed from personal effects left behind. Many bodies were never found or identified.

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Hiroshima Peace Museum’s reflection in the Peace Pond

People close to the hypocenter said the atomic explosion looked yellowish red. Those further away reported a bright bluish white light resembling burning magnesium. The intense thermal rays from the fireball caused burns within a radius of up to 3.5 km, (2mi). Those within 1.2 km, (1,312 yd.), of the hypocenter sustained severe injuries to their internal organs and most died within a few days.

As we walked past the shocking photos of the results of this horrific act of war, as an American, I could not help but feel sad, and I could only wonder how many American lives had been saved and the thousands of other soldiers and civilians who would have perished had the war not been stopped in its tracks. And then again, remembering what the Japanese did at Pearl Harbor, I could not repress the smugness of thinking, “Well, did we get your attention?”

In fact, the devastation brought to Hiroshima had not been sufficient to convince the Japanese War Council to accept the Potsdam Conference’s demand for unconditional surrender. On August 9 at 1:56 a.m., a specially adapted B-29 bomber, called “Bock’s Car,” after its commander, Frederick Bock, took off from Tinian Island under the command of Major Charles W. Sweeney. Nagasaki was a shipbuilding center, the very industry intended for destruction. The bomb was dropped at 11:02 a.m., 503 m, (1,650 ft.), above the city. The explosion unleashed the equivalent force of 22,000 tons of TNT. The hills that surrounded the city did a better job of containing the destructive force, but the number killed is estimated at anywhere between 60,000 and 80,000 (exact figures are impossible, the blast having obliterated bodies and disintegrated records). Even though the Japanese War Council still remained divided, Emperor Hirohito, by request of two War Council members eager to end the war, met with the Council and declared, “continuing the war can only result in the annihilation of the Japanese people…” The Emperor of Japan gave his permission for unconditional surrender.

The Children's Peace Monument is dedicated to Sadako Sadaki and thousands of other child victims of the A-bombing in Hiroshima.

The Children’s Peace Monument is dedicated to Sadako Sadaki and thousands of other child victims of the A-bombing in Hiroshima.

The beautiful Memorial Monument for Hiroshima, City of Peace, erected on August 6, 1952, embodies the hope that Hiroshima, will stand forever as a City of Peace. The stone chamber in the center contains the register of Deceased A-bomb Victims. The inscription on the front panel offers a prayer for the peaceful repose of the victims and a pledge on behalf of all humanity never to repeat the evil of war. It expresses the spirit of Hiroshima – enduring grief, transcending hatred, pursuing harmony and prosperity for all, and yearning to genuine, lasting world peace.