Tag Archives: travel

The San Antonio Travel Jinx

My younger son putts at a Universal City disc golf course.

Forgive me if I’m starting to get wary about driving to and from San Antonio to visit our older son. It’s just that we’ve had two nerve-wracking experiences that make me think that our travel jinx doesn’t just pertain to planes.

Cacti, cacti everywhere!

On our way home from spending time with #1 last Saturday, my younger son and the Mister wanted to stop at a disc golf course in Universal City that was new to them. Of course, the hour was growing late (around 5 p.m.), but they figured they had enough daylight left to play a few holes before we got back on the road to head home to Houston.

Teeing off on a long hole

We easily found the course and followed the signs from hole to hole. Dusk had descended, which normally isn’t a problem in wide-open spaces. Unfortunately, the course was in the woods, and it was an overcast day—a perfect recipe for disaster for a family that perpetually walks around with a “kick me” sign on our backs.

Red leaves add a glow to the darkening woods.

I think you can figure out the rest of this sad saga, right? As usual, my #2 son wanted to keep playing even though darkness was making it hard to see, and I had turboed into full-out nag mode. Even the Mister agreed with me that we needed to get back to the car ASAP. However, there was one gigantic problem: Where was the Honda Odyssey?

Escaping from danger from below the basket

We had no idea where we were in relation to the Mister’s car. There wasn’t a course map at the first hole letting us know where all the holes were. Yep, this was the almost-running-out-of-gas debacle all over again. Since we were at hole 13 (a bunch were skipped), #2 thought we just needed to walk through the rest of the course and hope hole 18 was near number one.

Why were the cacti needling us?

So that’s what we did, as I wondered what animals lived in the woods and how hungry they might be for a family-sized dinner. With my heart rate continuing to climb, we finally reached a trail that looked familiar. Sure enough, it led us right back to our car, which almost was obscured by the dark.

I’m sure we’ll be making that same Houston-San Antonio-Houston trek in the near future. Wonder what I should bring just in case trouble rears its ugly head again. Did I actually say “just in case?” Make that “when!”

The Jinx Family Flies Again

Only we would be on a plane that needs to park on the runway.

Would someone please remove that “kick us, airplanes” sign from our backs? Our family really is tired of encountering problems every time we travel . . . which isn’t very often.

As my #2 son succinctly put it: “We suck on airplanes.”

Yep, sadly we do.

My #1 son texts on his iPhone 4 to pass the time.

Check out these previous posts for evidence of our past plane problems here, here, and here.

I wonder if the other passengers would have been trying to book other flights if only they had known about our reputation. As in, oh, oh, here comes the Jinx family.

My #2 son wishes we were back in Houston.

For awhile, I thought we actually were going to have a trip that was almost flawless when it came to air travel. Sure, the Mister and our #2 son were delayed about an hour leaving Houston for Columbus, Ohio, because the plane was waiting for passengers and then their luggage. But leaving from Columbus to return to Houston seemed easy-peasy. Almost too easy.

As we were on the small Continental Express jet, I watched the flight attendant give her safety spiel. I remember thinking, “Could we finally have a flight where nothing goes wrong?”

We started to taxi on the runway and prepared for takeoff. I settled back in my seat, anxious for the moment when I could turn back on my iPad, when the captain spoke to us.

“An alarm has gone off in the cockpit. We’re going to pull off to the side of the runway and check it out.”

Oh, oh! Not something someone who hates to fly likes to hear.

Long story short, we went back to the terminal, deplaned, and walked back inside. With express jets, passengers board outside up a flight of steps. We had to go back down those steps, grab our carry-on bags, go up the stairs, and sit and wait for another hour until a new plane could be brought in. And then we had to ride that same travel merry-go-round one more time.

This was much better than our six-hour delay in Kansas City last summer. But it just figured that the Jinx clan would get kicked one more time.

Next time we fly, I’m checking to make sure nothing’s been taped to our backs!

Up in the clouds . . . I think

My #1 son blocks my view of the great outdoors.

As I’ve posted before, I’m a huge cloud fan. I never can get enough of photographing the fluffy stuff, either snapping away on the ground or in the air.

Usually when we fly, I make sure I have the window seat so I can take photos. However, this time I was with my #1 son on our way to Ohio to meet his dad and brother, and I put his comfort ahead of my photographic needs. So, of course, he totally blocked my view, both with his head and by keeping the shade closed. Saddened me greatly.

The moon is visible.

But on the way back to Houston, I made sure that I got a window seat (my three guys all sat in single seats). With my Nikon D300 and Nikon 24-120mm lens at the ready, I intermittently snapped away while reading an iBook. At first, the skies were clear.

A double cloud layer

But before long the clouds started to roll in.

Patchy clouds

There’s just nothing like looking out the window and feeling like you’re in another world.

Fluffy clouds

Fluffy clouds are all you can see for miles and miles. It’s so easy to get lost in your thoughts without a care in the world.

Terra firma appears once again!

Fortunately, just when you’ve entered an alternate universe and begin to forget your identity, the clouds part, and Texas appears below.

That means that before long we’ll be on the ground and soon headed to our house . . . back to our rain-soaked yard and several loads of laundry. It’s just life’s way of hitting you with that reality 2 by 4 and saying, “Welcome home!”

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.

Getting Back in the Groove After a Non-Vacation

Yep, it's still full!

See this red suitcase? Right now it’s sitting in our foyer waiting for someone to do something with it.

Know what’s in it? It’s stuffed with dirty laundry from our recent trip that was in no way, shape, or form a vacation for any of us. We just got back yesterday after our usual airport hassles (seems like we always have an airport kick-me sign on us), and I felt exhausted all day.

A trio of flags fly in our community.

So exhausted, in fact, that the only true Fourth of July photos that I snapped were taken with my iPhone 4.

Fireworks over our community as seen through my iPhone 4

How lazy can a photographer be?!?

Fireworks 2009 using my Nikon D300

Remember last year’s fireworks photos?

Yet another mediocre iPhone fireworks photo

To say that this year’s pix pale in comparison is an understatement.

But that’s what happens when you’ve been out of town for four days and have to contemplate a pile of laundry. Let’s hope by the end of today that the red suitcase has been emptied and put away with clean clothes ready and waiting for all.

Then it’s just a matter of catching up with everything else that’s been neglected!

Final Glimpses of My Chicago Trip

My brother's dog Root Beer

I still have some photos from my long Thanksgiving weekend back home to Chicago that I’d like to share. Here are a few favorites.

The mansion's “security system” keeps an eye on the place.

Someone is building a mansion down the street from my brother’s place. They have carvings of different male and female heads attached to the front of the building. Doesn’t this one look like the ghost of Christmas present?

Stained glass classes up a restaurant

My mom and I went to a breakfast place that had stained glass pieces over most of the windows. They really spiced up the decor!

First the sign . . .

. . . and then the “guard dog!”

This one was just plain funny!

’Tis the season for lit decorations

My low-light photography skills came in handy as the decorations started to light up my brother’s neighborhood. I especially like the bokeh’d lights dotting the background!

The view from high above

Of course, my absolutely fave pix were taken from the airplane, as I flew home to Houston.

The Houston area starts to come into view.

As my visit to Oz Park reminded me, there’s no place like home!

Here’s Your Sign!

The fateful new gate

I’ve decided that I must have a “kick me” sign on when I fly. From that ridiculous garment bag incident to that long delay leaving Kansas City, I don’t seem to have good karma when it comes to airports these days.

And that sadly continued on Thanksgiving Day. I was flying to Chicago to visit my mother for the long weekend and a celebration of her 80th birthday. I got there in plenty of time and noted that my gate was E15, which, of course, was the furthest gate possible from security. As always! Every time I passed an arrival/departure monitor for Continental, I checked my flight. E15 and on time. Great!

Wish I had seen this sign when I passed it the first time!

I hoofed it all the way to almost as far as you can go and passed a final monitor. Oh, oh . . . now the gate was C44. Which I had already passed! What the heck?

Yes, it was the dreaded gate change back to the C terminal. With sweat dripping off my face, I powerwalked the 10 miles back to C44 and got there with 10 mins to spare before boarding. Whew!

Early on, it wasn't very cloudy.

All too soon, I was on the plane and then on my way to Chicago. Time to relax and take cloud photos. At first, it was crystal clear; not a cloud in sight. But after 20 minutes or so, the puffy stuff started rolling in. And I began clicking away with my Nikon D700 and Nikon 35-70mm lens.

Love the marshmallowy clouds!

If there wasn’t a wing right outside my window, I might think I was in marshmallow land. Or Antarctica, for that matter. It seemed so calm and serene.

Lake Michigan

As we started our final approach, Lake Michigan finally appeared. Almost time to see my mom!

Art hangs from the airport ceiling.

O’Hare had interesting artworks hanging from the ceiling as I walked through the airport.

More hanging ceiling art

Not only could you look up to see art, but . . .

A drawing hangs over a window.

. . . there also were drawings of Chicago landmarks hanging over windows. Very eclectic!

It was a neat sign that I was back at my midwestern home.

Clouds in My Diet Coke

Clouds early in the flight

Clouds early in the flight

Now that I’ve written about our return flight in yesterday’s post, I can go back in time and reminisce about last Thursday’s trip to Kansas City, Missouri.

The clouds temporarily part.

The clouds temporarily part.

As you may recall, it was with some trepidation that I flew from Houston to KC. I had a nasty, hacking, dry cough due to a lung infection, and I was concerned for everyone’s hearing on the two-hour flight. While awaiting departure, I was never so happy to see several toddlers boarding the plane! I was hoping that their noise would distract from mine.

The sky looks so pretty up there!

The sky looks so pretty up there!

But then the pilot announced that we would be skirting a band of thunderstorms on my side of the plane. Normally, hearing the word “skirt” used as a verb would 1) pique my linguistic interest and 2) absolutely terrify me. Flying scares me enough as it is.

It looked like we were at the top of a globe!

It looked like we were at the top of a globe!

However, I just happen to be a huge cloud fan! Usually when I’m on a plane, I keep my point and shoot camera handy just in case there’s a good photo op. But knowing there probably would be some great clouds to take photos of, I grabbed my Nikon D300 with its Nikon 24-120mm lens and got ready to document the show.

Sidebar: In last Thursday’s post, I wrote that I was going to take my Nikon 17-55mm lens, along with the 105 and 50. But I lied. I adore the 17-55, but, gosh darn it, it can be so heavy! I decided to lighten my load, so I chose the 24-120. If you read any Nikon lens discussion forums, you’ll see that photographers either love or hate the 24-120; there’s no gray area. I’ve shot literally thousands of pix with it using my Nikon D70 and D200. It was my go-to lens on those cameras, but then I got lens snobby and decided nothing slower than an f/2.8 lens would do. Hence the 17-55, which I missed having in KC. I did, though, enjoy using the 24-120.

There were so many different kinds of clouds to take photos of.

Looks like a cloud field!

I had a wonderful time snapping away during the flight. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if I didn’t annoy a few of my fellow passengers, because the D300 has a very loud shutter. I apologize for it early and often when I shoot at certain indoor functions. It’s a wake-the-dead kind of loud.

I almost expected the flight attendant to get on the PA and say, “Will the lady in seat 10A please stop taking cloud photos! We prefer that infernal coughing to that nonstop clicking!!”

No clouds here

No clouds here

A short respite from the outdoor action: I had seen this guy carrying the Janet Evanovich novel in the airport and wondered if he was holding it for his wife. After all, I think the Stephanie Plum series appeals so much more to women than men. But here he is not only reading the book, but proud of it! If it had been the Mister, he would have taken the cover off the book!!

The clouds are gone.

The clouds are gone.

Before long we exited the clouds and looked down at Kansas City. I’m originally from the midwest, and I had forgotten how clean and green it looks.

Ready to touch down!

Ready to touch down!

It’s easy being green in Kansas City!

No Blaming the Garment Bag This Time

NOT a good sign!

NOT a good sign!

Romeo and Juliet. Icarus and the sun. The Chicago Cubs and the World Series.

Oh, and my family and air travel.

Some things just aren’t meant to be.

Remember this sad, sad tale about our recent trip to Seattle? How that everlovin’ garment bag helped us miss our outgoing flight?

There was no blaming the garment bag this time (we didn’t use it). Or us, for that matter. But that didn’t make it any easier.

Mechanics check out the delaying dent.

Mechanics check out the delaying dent.

As you may recall, the Mister and the #2 son flew to Kansas City, Missouri, a week ago Sunday; #2 was to compete in his first Disc Golf World Championships. And then I followed them on Thursday. I had arranged it so that the three of us (the #1 son was left behind with his best friend Chase’s family) would fly home together Sunday morning. Our flight was due to leave at 9:44 a.m., with arrival in Houston at 11:49 a.m.

Ah, the best-laid plans of mice and bloggers!

We got to the small Kansas City International airport with plenty of time to spare. The ever-lying Continental Express departure board said On Time. Yes, and I’m Mrs. America! Or does “on time” now mean “six hours late?”

Still not going anywhere

Still not going anywhere

Once we went through security and got to the gate, we were told that the overnight crew had dropped a new engine into our plane and still needed to check it out. We were delayed until 10:30 a.m. I don’t particularly like to fly, so hearing “check it out” didn’t help my inherent nervousness. Still, I was anxious to get back home and reunite with the #1 son, so a little postponement was no big deal.

#2 relaxes at gate 67.

#2 relaxes at gate 67.

Until the delay happened again because of a dent in the top of the plane. And didn’t that news make me feel calm as possible?!?

#2 is getting tired of waiting!

#2 is getting tired of waiting!

Meanwhile, the delay continued and continued.

#2 flips a mini disc while waiting for an end to this interminable terminal time.

#2 flips a mini disc while waiting for an end to this interminable terminal time.

Until the gate crew finally had to admit that they had no earthly idea when we were going to leave our comfortable nesting area at gate 67.

Finally, six hours late, we left the KCI airport and finally landed in Houston at about 5:50 p.m. just glad to be home. We met the #1 son at our local Pei Wei where we caught up on our time apart and concluded one inevitable truth:

We’re not going to be flying anywhere any time soon!

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!