Category Archives: vacation

Our Family Takes Another Non-Vacation

The Warren G. Harding Memorial in Marion, Ohio

When is a vacation not a vacation? If there’s little in the way of sightseeing or relaxation, then what you’re really on is merely a trip. Now trips can be journeys and fun in their own way, as the Mister, our #2 son, and I found out last year when #2 competed in the Amateur Disc Golf World Championships in Kansas City. But for us, they sure ain’t vacations!

Information about the Harding Memorial is contained on this cement structure.

That point once again was driven home last week when my #2 son played in yet another Am Worlds, this time in Marion, Ohio. What was there to do in this little town 50 miles north of Columbus? Play disc golf (#2 son), watch disc golf (the Mister and I), and enjoy the hotel room (our #1 son; we’ll look into why he came along later this week).

Warren G. Harding and his wife Florence

Other than that, we had the Warren G. Harding Memorial to visit for, oh, five solid minutes.

Inside the memorial are the final resting places of the Hardings.

Harding ran the local Marion newspaper before moving on to become an Ohio senator and lieutenant governor. He was elected as our 29th president in 1921 only to die of a heart attack in 1923. His wife, Florence, passed away the following year. The rumor was that she poisoned Warren G., because he was a womanizer who had fathered at least one child out of wedlock. Sounds like things haven’t changed much with some of our politicians, unfortunately.

A close-up of where the Hardings are buried.

Even though this looks peaceful, I wonder what it’s like to spend eternity next to the woman who might have killed you!

My #1 son is, of course, less than enthused.

For my #1 son, the Harding Memorial was, of course, Lame-o City. Even though many historians consider it to be the most beautiful of the presidential tombs, the building was all yawns and “can we go now” for the college kid.

My #2 son, though, enjoys the Harding Memorial experience.

But not his younger brother! #2 had fun during our short visit for one reason:

My apparently headless #2 son tries to move cement.

He wanted to see if, like in the “National Treasure” movie, the information kiosk could be turned and taken out to reveal something exciting hidden beneath.

Big bro doesn't want to help little bro.

Alas and alack, none of us would help him turn the heavy structure, leaving him to ponder the what-ifs.

And it left me to wonder what if this was to be the highlight of our trip?!? Only time would tell.

Looking Back at 2009, Part II

Snack time! (July 14th blog post from Seattle)

Happy one-year blogiversary! It’s hard to type while there are streamers and confetti flying all over my home office, but I’ll try my best!

Today I’m continuing to look back at my 2009 blog entries. Yesterday’s post took care of the first six months. Now let’s check out some of my favorite posts and pix from July through December.

July:

"Palm trees" swaying in the air

I had fun taking photos on the fourth of July in our community: Fabulous Photo Fourth!

Purple hydrangeas on Bainbridge Island

Flower power was in full bloom while we vacationed in Seattle: Flower Fix.

August:

The happy #2 son during a good round.

My #2 son competed in the disc golf world championships in Kansas City: Lessons Learned at the Disc Golf World Championships.

The #2 son and his good friend Marcus talk.

The Mister and I actually managed to embarrass our 14-year-old #2 son: Partying With the Dinosaurs—A Night at the Museum.

September:

"You looking at me?"

I had forgotten how much I enjoyed shooting with my beloved Nikon 70-200mm lens until I used it at a disc golf tournament: Visiting With an Old Friend.

Who can resist #1’s baby blues?

A somewhat-heavy envelope addressed to my #1 son left me feeling suddenly blindsided and teary-eyed: A Large Envelope Makes Me Sad.

Our team celebrates a good block.

I shot a lot of high school sports photography this month, from cross-country (documenting my #2 son) to volleyball to football. The toughest to shoot? Volleyball! Photo Friday: Meeting the High ISO Challenge.

October:

Christin, Cameron, and Grace take their bows at the end of the play.

Readers’ eyes probably were rolling, as I discussed using exposure compensation when shooting a high school play: The Non-Delightful Light Battle; Warning: Eyes May Glaze Over (what a long title!).

The #2 son shows off his team and seventh-place medals.

The #2 son’s high school cross-country team won its first freshman title: We Are the Champions, My Friend!

November:

Victor tries to outjump the defender for a potential winning touchdown pass.

My sons’ high school football team almost won its first game amid the distractions of Homecoming: The Many Facets of a High School Homecoming Football Game (yet another long title!).

There's my boy!

This was the first of a three-day series about giving thanks. Here I was very thankful that my #1 son has a part-time job at the public library: Giving Thanks, Part 1.

December:

Snow in my backyard.

Holy cow! It snowed here in the Houston area; that’s a rare occurrence (it was only the third time my sons had seen the white stuff): Let It Snow . . . For Real!

Both sons smile at the halfway point of Chanukah.

Chanukah lasts eight nights, and I was able to squeeze five blog posts out of the holiday! This one was the second of those five: At the Halfway Mark.

Hope you’ve enjoyed this sentimental journey as much as I have. I really had fun blogging in 2009, and I’m looking forward to even more random snippets and apertures in 2010!

Final Day in Seattle: Disc Golf and Bubbles

The #1 son's upshot through the trees.

The #1 son's upshot through the trees.

With my guys, disc golf is just a given in their lives. They usually carry a few discs with them just in case the opportunity to play presents itself.

The Mister putts.

The Mister putts.

Being in Seattle meant that the guys could play disc golf in a different state. How great for them! Of course, because Sunday was our get-away day, there wasn’t time for 18 holes (especially since we had to check the infamous garment bag). Still, we found the North SeaTac Park disc golf course near the airport and played six holes among the beautiful pines.

Walking through the pines to the next tee

Walking through the pines to the next tee

It’s too bad that we didn’t have enough time to play the entire course. It was well-marked and challenging.

Easy to find the next tee with signs like these

It's easy to find the next tee with signs like these.

#2 puts his all into a throw.

The #2 son puts his all into a throw.

What I liked best was that it was almost chilly! I just loved those temperatures in the low 60s, especially knowing that later in the day we’d be sweltering back in Houston. The woods did make shooting conditions somewhat difficult for me and my Nikon D300 and Nikon 105mm lens—at times my shutter speed was too low to stop the action when the guys were throwing from among the trees, and I wasn’t quick enough in increasing the ISO.

I failed to stop the action of the #1 son's throw, but I like the almost abstract nature of the photo. (1/13th of a second, f/2.8, ISO 400)

I failed to stop the action of the #1 son's throw, but I like the almost abstract nature of the photo. (1/13th of a second, f/2.8, ISO 400)

Bubbling over

#1 captures a bubble

#1 captures a bubble

After the boys finished playing, they decided to get rid of the bubbles they’d been saving from their cousin’s wedding ceremony. I guess it doesn’t matter how old you are . . . it’s fun to blow bubbles!

#2 blows bubbles

#2 blows bubbles.

#1 uses all the wind he can muster!

#1 uses all the wind he can muster!

And take photos of them!

Seattle Trip Day 3: The Zoo and the Wedding

Cute ocelot photo alert!

Cute ocelot photo alert!

Remember our Pensacola trip back in June when we went to that decidedly under-animaled (yeah, I made that one up) zoo? While in Seattle, we visited the Woodland Park Zoo and more than made up for that other woeful experience.

Golden lion tamarin

Golden lion tamarin

This zoo had plenty of animals to look at. With a discount coupon, it was priced just a little more than the Pensacola place but with so much more to do. No train, though, but we definitely could live without that.

A gorilla looks out from his enclosed area.

A gorilla looks out from his enclosed area.

We experienced the zoo without an entourage of relatives, who all went their own way. We knew we’d see them later that day at the wedding.

The #2 son takes a photo in a tropical bird exhibit.

The #2 son takes a photo in a tropical bird exhibit.

The #2 son decided that, like me, he also wanted to see the zoo in a different way, so he used my Olympus Tough Style-6000 point and shoot camera to take a million or so photos. Fun for him and fun for me watching him.

A Humboldt penguin goes for a swim.

A Humboldt penguin goes for a swim.

What #2 liked best, of course, were the Humboldt penguins, which normally are found in South America. They were a little harder to photograph than the blackfoot penguins we saw at Pensacola’s Gulfarium. But that didn’t stop us both from trying.

The #1 son enjoys Dippin’ Dots.

The #1 son enjoys Dippin’ Dots.

The boys always like to have a little treat at the zoo. This time it was Dippin’ Dots. Remember when this confection was called the ice cream of the future? I guess the future is now for Dippin’ Dots only at zoos and amusement parks.

A rat snake stares at me.

A rat snake stares at me.

The Woodland Park Zoo had lots of neat exhibits. Fortunately for me, they kept the reptiles behind glass. When I’m in a reptile building, I always think about Harry Potter letting that snake loose in the first book before he knew he was a wizard. Glad he wasn’t at the zoo with us!

A Panamanian golden frog

A Panamanian golden frog

With a nice mixture of indoor exhibits and outdoor habitats, the zoo featured a lot of interesting animals in different ways to view them.

A hippo peeks out from the murky water.

A hippo peeks out from the murky water.

Laughing kookaburra

Laughing kookaburra

Chilean flamingos

Chilean flamingos

The zoo had a bunch of cool brass animal statues all around the park, too.

#2 and a "raven"

#2 and a "raven" nevermore

#2 was especially captivated by ravens “sitting” on a bench.

Animalus Textus

Animalus Textus

Perhaps some of the zoo’s animals were just as captivated by these two animalus textus!

And the wedding

My niece Beck and her father, my ex-BIL

My niece Beck and her father, my ex-brother-in-law

Of course, the real reason we traveled to Seattle was to see my #1 niece, the Beck, marry Ken. They had an outdoor ceremony in beautiful 80-degree weather (very much enjoyed by the Houston set!).

Will the #1 son ever smile in a family photo?

Will the #1 son ever smile in a family photo?

Yep, our crew cleans up nicely! The indoor wedding reception featured delicious food and some dancing ops, mainly for #2.

The #1 cousin dances with the #8 cousin.

The #1 cousin dances with the #8 cousin.

I take a turn with my younger son.

I take a turn on the dance floor with my younger son.

The wedding provided a wonderful ending to a fun day for us. We welcomed Ken and his young daughter Lily into our extended family.

The Beck and Ken after the ceremony

The Beck and Ken after the ceremony

Hope Ken doesn’t think he married into a zoo of a clan!

Seattle Trip Day 2: A Ferry, a Needle, Music, and a Baby

Approaching Bainbridge Island from the ferry

Approaching Bainbridge Island from the ferry

For our first full day in Seattle, we chose to spend time with our relatives sightseeing. Our group consisted of the four of us plus my mom and her two sisters, as well as my brother, his wife, and their two daughters. Neat, tidy, and relatively easy to keep together. Well, except for one of my boys, of course.

Scenery, scmenery! The #1 son would rather read.

Scenery, scmenery! The #1 son would rather read.

We took a scenic ferry trip across the Puget Sound to Bainbridge Island. Well, scenic for some of us!

My hair-tousled sister-in-law, F.W.

My hair-tousled sister-in-law, F.W.

It was very windy and chilly in the front of the boat, a welcome change from the 100-degree temps we had left behind in south Texas. I actually had to wear a jacket! I had almost forgotten what one looked like.

Is the #2 son really listening to his grandma?

Is the #2 son really listening to his grandma?

We had fun exploring the touristy town on the island, stopping for lunch and to look into shops. It also gave the older generation a little time to impart some wisdom to the young ’uns. Way to pay attention to your grandmother, #2 son!

The seagull show, take one

The seagull show, take one

On the way back to Seattle, I noticed some of the passengers trying to feed the seagulls flying close to the ferry. Glad I had my Nikon 105mm lens ready to go on my Nikon D300!

Eye on the prize!

Eye on the prize!

Snack time!

Snack time!

See ya later!

See ya later!

We drove our rental car onto the ferry for easy transportation on the island. As we approached Seattle, we were told to return to our cars as soon as possible. Which three of our family did. But where was number four? Apparently, lost in his book reading. Yep, the #1 son failed to get down to the car in time to drive off the ferry with us. When you’re in a line of cars, you can’t just wait for slow-moving family members. Eventually, he did catch up with us once he walked off the ferry. It’s not quite as scary as when he wandered off at age 3, but we definitely were glad to see him safely on land again and in our car.

The Space Needle from the ferry

The Space Needle from the ferry

The next part of our day moved us from the Puget Sound to the Space Needle, something I had always wanted to visit. A long-time Seattle landmark, it’s a great way to see a 360-degree view of the area from 520 feet up.

Under the Space Needle

Under the Space Needle's observation deck

Fortunately, there wasn’t a long wait to go up the elevator to the observation deck.

The view from the observation deck

The view from the observation deck

Walking around the observation deck checking out the different views was breathtaking, especially for those of us who don’t like heights!

EMP/SFM poster

EMP/SFM poster

Near the bottom of the Space Needle is the unique Experience Music Project/Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame. It’s a fascinating mix of sci fi and music. The boys really enjoyed the interactive music lab that allowed them to play drums, electric pianos, and electric guitars. What I didn’t like was that cameras weren’t allowed due to copyright concerns. I felt almost lost looking at the exhibits without my D300 in my hand.

Part of a large instrument sculpture at the EFM

Part of a large instrument sculpture at the EFM

Of course, I just had to snap a pix or two to document our experience. I figured my iPhone 3GS wouldn’t be noticed by security. But the image quality just isn’t the same.

The best part of the day was still to come. I was most anxious to meet the newest member of our extended family, my great-nephew Zeke, the four-month-old son of my beloved #2 niece, Ralphie (sister of the bride-to-be), and her husband Chris. I just knew that the Z-babe would be gorgeous . . .

The cutest baby ever? Quite possibly!

The cutest baby ever? Quite possibly!

. . . and he is! Welcome to the family, little guy!

Skedaddle to Seattle . . . Very Slowly

The *!@#* garment bag

The *!@#* garment bag

This is a sad tale of what happens when several dumb decisions plus poor timing multiplied by awful luck equal missing a flight to Seattle.

And it all centers around a garment bag.

Last Thursday we were supposed to be on the 8:55 a.m. flight from Houston’s Intercontinental Airport to Seattle. The main purpose of the four-day trip? My beloved #1 niece’s wedding. Oh, we made it to Seattle, but we had to wait until 2:20 p.m. to board the plane. Then again, who wouldn’t want to spend their first Pacific Northwest vacation in the airport for five and a half hours?!? The excitement, the thrills, the drama!

The #2 son is momentarily happy in the airport.

The #2 son is momentarily happy in the airport.

The bottom line is that when you’re a little bit late getting out of the house and into the car, as we were by five or 10 minutes, every extra minute of delay seems to increase exponentially. There’s bound to be more traffic. And the shuttle bus driver is bound to pick up two more slow passengers. And then you’re going to make a fatal mistake: You’re not going to see curbside check-in when the line inside to check bags is really long.

The #1 son reads in the airport.

The #1 son reads in the airport.

The basic problem for us was that we rarely fly anywhere. That’s because we rarely go anywhere. But when we do fly, we carry everything on. Each of us has a wheeled carry-on case (love those wheels!) and a backpack. But because we were going to the wedding, we had to have our grown-up clothes with us. You know, fancy duds. Yep, I even had a dress! There’s no stuffing that kind of garb in a carry-on. Hence the too-big, too-heavy garment bag that needed to be checked.

The Mister reads.

The Mister reads.

Suffice it to say, by the time we got the garment bag to check-in, we had less than 30 minutes before our flight was to take off. Did you know that you can’t check in a bag for a flight that has less than 30 minutes before taking off? I didn’t before, but I sure know that now! Very stressful!! The check-in gal suggested that the guys make the 8:55 a.m. flight, while the garment bag and the old bag travel on the next one at 12:30 p.m. I gave the guys their boarding passes and told them to make like Usain Bolt and speed to gate 39. Which, of course, was the furthest one from the security checkpoint.

A bored #2 son checks the Tour de France results on my iPhone.

A bored #2 son checks the Tour de France results on my iPhone.

I went back and leisurely finished checking in the garment bag and then went through security. Of course, by this time, which was almost 9 a.m., there were hardly any people around. Figures. My one thought was that as long as I don’t get a phone call from the Mister, all was well, and they’re on their way to Seattle.

#2's self-portrait taken with the camera upside-down.

#2's self-portrait taken with the camera upside-down.

“When a Man Loves a Woman” started playing from my iPhone at 8:55 a.m. Oh, oh . . . that’s the Mister’s ring tone. Not a good sign. Sigh! They missed the flight. We didn’t realize that the gate had been changed from 39 to 31; by the time they got there, the doors were closed to them. And the Mister was very tired and winded. And, of course, unhappy.

Yay, we made it!

Yay, we made it!

So I gave up my 12:30 p.m. seat, and we were confirmed on the 2:20 p.m. plane. Which meant lots of time together in the airport. The highlight was probably seeing the Houston Dynamo soccer team’s players, who eventually were on our flight. I don’t think the Mister and I were ever so happy to get on a plane! And then to finally land in Seattle, where the temperature was about 20 degrees cooler than in Houston. I loved that part the best!

Safeco Field—home of the Seattle Mariners

Safeco Field—home of the Seattle Mariners

That night we attended the Seattle Mariners baseball game at Safeco Field with our relatives and my niece Becky’s friends. The Mariners were playing the Texas Rangers.

Sidebar: Even though we live in Texas, we are not Rangers fans; we are Houston Astros fans! We prefer the National League. I’m originally from Chicago, and I’m a lifelong Cubs follower. I will never like the White Sox. Hope I’ve made that clear!

A Mariners' wild pitch gets past the catcher.

A Mariners' wild pitch gets past the catcher.

Of course, I had my Nikon D300 with me with the Nikon 105mm lens. We were in the upper deck near home plate, and I was able to get a few good photos from that vantage point.

The Rangers score their only run.

The Rangers score their only run.

It was great relaxing with my mom, her two sisters, and my oldest sister Fran (Becky’s mom). The Mariners managed to win the game 3-1, the boys got to see a major league baseball game in a park in a different state, and I was beginning to shed the airport-saga stress.

And the irony of the whole flight-missing tale? The garment bag made it to Seattle before we did! It was on the 12:30 p.m. plane and was waiting for us in the airport. Hope it had a good time!

Cool, Man, Cool

 

The National Museum of Naval Aviation

The National Museum of Naval Aviation

Most tourists who visit Florida make sure they do one thing: Go to the beach. Florida is known for its beautiful, white-sand beaches.

I had every intention in the world of our family spending time basking in the sun and frolicking in the Gulf of Mexico. There were only two tiny problems: First, we’re not beach people. If we yearn to swim in the Gulf, we can drive an hour or so to Galveston (although the beaches aren’t pretty at all). We never do. Second, by day three in Florida, we were totally heat-weary. The last thing any of us wanted to do was be out in the sun.

Time for plan B: The National Museum of Naval Aviation.

The museum view from the second floor

The museum view from the second floor

My neighbor Angie P. had left a comment on the blog that we really should see the museum if we wanted to do something cool. And she was absolutely right! The museum, located at the Naval Air Station in Pensacola, had two important attributes: First, it’s free (except for the IMAX and simulator ride). Second, it’s cool, man, cool! Perhaps the greatest air-conditioning in the world!

Miniature planes line the deck of a model of the USS Essex.

Miniature planes line the deck of a model of the USS Essex.

The museum, which is like a very small Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, is a cornucopia of model planes and aircraft carriers, paintings, plaques, movies, and more. It’s a great interactive place to learn about naval aviation history up close and personal. We had a terrific time!

The #2 son takes a weather quiz.

The #2 son takes a weather quiz.

Photographically, the museum presented a challenge, because parts are so much darker than others. Eschewing flash, I constantly was fiddling with my ISO to let in enough light so I could use a faster shutter speed (the better to not blur). I used the Nikon 17-55mm lens with my Nikon D300, because there were so many wide-angle photo ops; for a change, the 105mm didn’t leave my bag at all.

Planes are on the ground and up in the air.

Planes are on the ground and up in the air.

This graphic was painted on the USSS Cabot, a carrier that served in the Pacific during World War II.

This graphic was painted on the USS Cabot, a carrier that served in the Pacific during World War II.

The bell from the USS Pensacola

The bell from the USS Pensacola

Blue Angels jets have their own room.

Blue Angels jets have their own room.

NAS Pensacola is the home of the world-renown Blue Angels, the U.S. Navy’s flight demonstration team. We heard the planes zooming overhead when we walked toward the museum from the parking lot. They sounded loud and fast. They gave a new-feel contrast to the old planes and memorabilia in the museum.

#2767-(tokyo-bomb)

The Vultee Vibrator

The Vultee Vibrator

The #1 son and his online girlfriend read about one of four propellors used on the carrier Intrepid.

The #1 son and his online girlfriend read about one of four propellors used on the carrier Intrepid.

The museum didn’t just feature the usual aeronautics, like planes and helicopters. Space travel also had its own wing.

A battered Skylab, America's first experimental space station

A battered Skylab, America's first experimental space station

A statue called the Spirit of Naval Aviation is at the museum entrance. Featuring five aviators, it truly captures the feel of the museum and the U.S. Navy.

From left, the statues represent aviators from World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, and Desert Storm.

From left, the statues represent aviators from World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, and Desert Storm.

When all was said and done (and much more was done than said), visiting the museum was my favorite part of our Pensacola vacation, which ends today. We’re driving back to south Texas . . . from heat and humidity to heat and humidity. Suffice it to say, the rest of the summer will be spent in search of anything that’s cool, man, cool!