Category Archives: travel

A Different Camera Documents My Trip

The view from above on the way to Chicago.

The view from above on the way to Chicago.

When I plan one of my infrequent trips, I usually spend a lot of time assessing what’s most important to me: My photographic needs. I’m rarely without a camera in addition to the one on my iPhone.

On previous journeys to Chicago I’ve lugged either my Nikon D300 or D700 along with my Nikon 50mm lens (occasionally I’ll tote the Nikon 105mm macro, too).

A dripping tree outside my mom’s condo’s window

A dripping tree outside my mom’s condo’s window

But this time I wanted to go with a lightweight kit, because Chicago in winter can be . . . dare I say it? . . . ugly. Remember yesterday’s photo of the dirty snow? There’s no need to snap multiple pics of that with your best equipment.

So I opted for my newest camera, the Nikon 1 V1, which is mirrorless (virtually noiseless). Plus you can change lenses, and it’s small and light. The best part?

It was free! I “bought” it from Amazon with my Discover Card points. As you know, free is my favorite price!

The crazy lights in O'Hare

The crazy lights at O’Hare

As it turned out, I was glad I chose the V1 as my photo-traveling companion. Not only did it do a decent job with the subject matter (I only snapped about 45 pics), but I spent most of my four days moaning and groaning (when I wasn’t living on Advil), because I tripped over a curb (yes, once again!) outside of Bush Intercontinental Airport and fell, bruising my ribs.

Fluffy clouds populate the sky on the way home.

Fluffy clouds populate the sky on the way home.

I’m not sure what worried me more: The thought of carrying my heavier photo equipment while I was in pain or the possibility that I might have broken one of my beloved digital SLRs and/or lenses when I went splat on the hard concrete.

Now that really would have been cause for moaning and groaning!

Returning to What Passes as Normal

That’s much better!

That’s much better!

When I last left all of you, I was kvetching about the bone-chilling conditions in Chicago.

I returned home yesterday from my short visit to my hometown and was greeted by a glorious final day of spring break. Of course, we know that before long I’ll be kvetching about how flippin’ hot it is here in Houston. But let’s not go there right now.

I enjoyed a splendid time in the windy city, where I was reminded of what I miss and don’t miss about my kind of town.

Just so ugly!

Just so ugly!

Number one with a bullet on that don’t-miss list? Dirty snow! As well as constant temperatures at or below 32 degrees. No, thank you!

This iPhone 5 photo does NOT do this magnificent work of art justice.

This iPhone 5 photo does NOT do this gastronomical work of art justice.

Can you tell what I miss second-most about Chicago? Yep, it’s the great food. During my four days there I managed to consume a Portillo’s hot dog, Lou Malnati’s deep-dish pizza, half a corned beef sandwich on rye, and ribs at L Woods. So delicious!

My mom (right) and her twin sister sandwich the birthday girl.

My mom (right) and her twin sister sandwich the birthday girl.

Of course, what I miss most about Chicago is family. So it was wonderful being able to spend quality time with my mom as well as her twin sister, who also stayed with her. It also was great sharing dinner with my brother (the hot-shot Chicago lawyer) and his family at L Woods.

The marquee event of the weekend, though, was helping my mom’s younger sister celebrate her 70th birthday last Saturday night. Believe me, this gal looks terrific! And she’s as beautiful inside as she is outside. I also got to spend more time with my little bro as well as my cousins, who I don’t get to see often enough.

All in all, it was well worth braving the cold; I’m really glad I visited. And I’m looking forward to making another trip north this year . . . probably in September.

When the weather should be ideal!

Saying Hi to Good, Old Sam Houston

SHSU shows pride in its longevity.

After seeing that the University of Houston has a bowling alley on campus, I thought that C.J. had locked in his college decision. How easy-breezy his last year in high school would be, as he contemplates staying close to home (albeit living in a dorm) and attending the Mister’s alma mater.

But then C.J.’s long-time pal (since kindergarten), RJ, made a fateful decision: He wants to attend Sam Houston State University to study criminal justice (it’s one of the top programs in the nation).

Sam Houston watches over his campus.

Stop the presses on that college application (as if my son has even started it)! It was time to see if another hat (preferably Stetson) needed to be thrown into the matriculation ring.

Which meant that yesterday we were on the road to Huntsville, home of the university named after the former governor of and senator from Texas (and two-time president of the Republic of Texas, as well as the governor of Tennessee). It’s about an hour and 40-minute drive from our house, which is far enough away for my son and close enough for me.

Students always know what time it is.

We had never stepped foot on campus before and weren’t sure what to expect. We discovered during our hour-plus tour of the buildings and several dorms that SHSU is a gem of a college! We both were impressed by the beautiful, well-maintained grounds (it’s very green), mix of old and new buildings, and possible majors.

Sidebar: C.J. is having trouble deciding what to major in. Am I one of the few people who knew at a young age what I wanted to be (a writer)? Which, of course, led me to get a journalism degree at the venerable University of Illinois.

An advising center JUST for my son!

As we drove home, my son and I discussed the pros and cons of U of H and Sam Houston State. Right now he’s rating them as even contenders for our dwindling college bucks, so he’ll apply to both of them and see what happens.

This was the one, pitiful photo I snapped of my C.J. Sigh!

One thing seems certain: My beloved baby boy will be some kind of cat next fall. But will it be a (UH) cougar or a (SHSU) bearkat?

Time will tell!

Buddy Trip

My older son is ready to synchronize watches with Chase.

Summer is winding down now. The dog days definitely are barking.

Both boys have had a great time this summer hanging out with my older son’s friends. The college kids enjoy gaming (online and Nintendo) and late-night iHop runs. I’m sure they’ve been solving the world’s problems as they munch their pancakes . . . or at least which characters are best in Mario Party.

Chase is ready to go.

While they still have a week or two before leaving for their respective colleges (and my younger son starts his high school senior year), the guys decided they needed to take to the road. Specifically, a trip to Schlitterbahn, one of the best water parks in the U.S.

So today they’re having fun in New Braunfels and staying overnight in San Antonio. Tomorrow they’ll check out the sights in my #1 son’s college town and then return home.

The youngest traveler rocks the best beard.

Hopefully, these eight lovable knuckleheads (which include my “third son,” Chase, my older son’s now-former college roommate Ben, and Josh) will have a ton of fun without making many bad decisions. I’m thrilled that my two guys get to experience a buddy trip, which is a rite of passage.

But I’m even more pleased that the Mister and I won’t be subjected to the crowds, garish tattoos, and too-small swimsuits (well, I don’t think the Mister minds that last part at all) that are the hallmarks of Schlitterbahn. I plan to enjoy the peace, quiet, Olympics . . . and air conditioning . . . while the boys are away.

Galavanting in Galveston

The palace is historical.

Every now and then the Mister and I figure that our aging minds need some educating. While our younger son played in a disc golf tournament last Saturday in Hitchcock, we decided to drive the 15 miles or so to Galveston.

A scary sculpture guards the palace.

Our destination (after lunch at Gaido’s)? The Bishop’s Palace. Which I had never heard of (could be because I bat for a different religious team) but had intrigued the Mister when he drove past it.

We got there just in time for the second of only two guided tours each day (there are self-guided audio tours). Definitely a sign to fork over $20 and learn all about the well-perserved house.

The stately Victorian home is impressive from the outside.

History buffs that we are, the Mister and I savored every word and description from our excellent tour guide. The house originally was built by Colonel Walter Gresham and designed by Nicholas Clayton from 1886 to 1892. Gresham and his wife, Josephine (a talented, self-taught artist), raised six of their seven surviving children in the 21,000-square-foot estate.

I imagined how much fun those kids—especially the four boys—had running all over the ornate, handmade staircases. Five stories (there’s a rare basement that housed a kitchen; we didn’t see the top two floors) made for a lot of hiding places!

The house cost a princely sum of $250,000 to build. To raise those funds, Gresham, a lawyer, invested in the railroad . . . successfully, fortunately for his large family. Almost the entire place is original, including some furniture and knick-knacks that the Gresham family donated back. The wood floors are in amazing condition! Hurricane damage has been limited to water in the basement and glass breakage.

The most-stunning part of the house were the stained glass windows. Unfortunately, no photos were allowed inside . . . very frustrating for yours truly.

The front door entry arch is beautiful.

Gresham died in 1920, and his widow went to live with a daughter’s family in Washington, D.C. The house languished on the market for three years until the Roman Catholic Diocese of Galveston bought it for about $40,000. Being across from Sacred Heart Church, it was a logical residence for Bishop Christopher E. Byrne, who added a gorgeous stained glass window and a private chapel.

Byrne was the last person to live in the stately manor. He died in 1950. In 1963, the diocese turned the building into a museum with tours.

One of which the Mister and I were fortunate enough to go on! If you like history and/or architecture, you won’t be disappointed in the Bishop’s Palace.

Discin’ It Up in Austin

My #2 son sends a putt towards the basket.

I might be one of the few people in Texas who hasn’t spent much time in Austin. I’ve only been to the state capital once since I moved here from Illinois in 1983. I have to really get psyched up to leave my familiar and much-loved 10-mile travel radius.

The Mister played several holes.

Of course, when it comes to my sons, all bets are off, and my scope suddenly widens. Before I know it, I find myself in the Mister’s Honda Odyssey ready for a new adventure.

It’s an easy putt for Glen.

My younger son has wanted to play disc golf courses in Austin for awhile. When a new, super 18-holer, Roy G. Guerrero DGC, opened up to much fanfare recently, the kid decided a road trip was in order.

Eric shows off his flair for stylish putting, much to Glen’s amazement.

Which is why last weekend we found ourselves heading towards Austin with our disc golf friends Eric and Glen and families. I tagged along to photograph Roy G. (the guys played two more courses after that) and was so impressed by how nice it was.

Stephen sails a putt.

We met up with our old pal Stephen, who has moved to Austin. He had already played Roy G. several times, so he was a perfect guide.

The basket is ready for Tommy’s putt.

After a couple holes, Stephen’s friend Tommy joined our merry group. He also is a Roy G. fan.

The Glens—little and big

A treat for me—besides watching my boy play—was seeing Glen V again. He and Kelly came along to add to the fun.

Kelly kisses her sweet baby boy.

Little G seemed to enjoy the course as much as the big boys and their photographer did. Before we know it, he’ll be playing, too.

And now I can proudly say that I’ve visited Austin twice!

Beauty and the 105mm

Beautiful colors meld together at the Chicago Botanic Garden.

When I travel, I put just as much time into figuring out my photographic needs as I do what to wear. Probably more (as anyone who has seen my wardrobe can attest).

Columns of water barely hide some flowers.

I hate lamenting missed photo ops due to the lack of proper equipment. Those what-ifs can drive me crazy!

Blue delphinium mix with pinkish coneflowers.

I knew for last weekend’s Chicago trip that I’d take my Nikon 50mm lens to capture pics at my great-niece Maddie’s party. But what other lens (if any) needed to come along for the ride?

Love these strawflowers!

Why, my beloved Nikon 105mm macro lens, of course! My mom had mentioned the possibility of a trip to the lovely Chicago Botanic Garden, close to where she lives.

A bee enjoys a mystic spire.

Even though the 105 is heavy, it’s far superior to the nifty 50 for snapping close-ups of flowers and bees. I gently nestled it in my bag next to my Nikon D300 and hoped I would get the chance to use it.

A brilliant purple flower stands out among the lily pads.

As it turned out, I didn’t regret hauling the big guy along at all! Its heft is more than offset by its performance (kinda like the Babe Ruth of lenses).

An evening lady dahlia

I’ve been to the Chicago Botanic Garden several times, and it never fails to amaze me with its beauty and sense of peacefulness. Each time I visit, certain flowers really stand out.

A Zach Roberts dahlia

This time it was the delightful dahlias that intrigued me most. CBG featured several different varieties.

The heartthrob dahlia

My favorite was the heartthrob dahlia. I really like the contrast of colors . . . as well as the name.

Reminded me of my three heartthrobs waiting back home for me!