Tag Archives: travel

Chillin’

Cool baby, cool!

I’m in Chicago for a long weekend to see my family and attend my high school reunion. Guess what I’m enjoying the most right now?

The cool temperatures!

The first thing I did when I stepped out of the terminal at O’Hare Airport to wait for my mom and aunt (her twin sister, who also is visiting) to pick me up was to put on my jacket. It was about 30 degrees cooler than our steamy Houston temps. I love it!

I have only one wish: That I could bring the coolness back with me to Houston when I fly home Sunday afternoon. At least I’ll have that reminder that fall really is around the corner . . . at least up north.

Where There’s Smoke

Smoke fills the sky over I–10 near Columbus.

Today is not a good Labor Day for people in Columbus and Austin, Texas, where wildfires have been raging since yesterday.

The fire actually is towards the left.

As we were driving home to Houston after a pleasant weekend visit with our older son in San Antonio, the sky started to darken along I–10 near Columbus. The distinctive smell of smoke filled the air, as traffic slowed down to see what was burning. Apparently, that particular wildfire in our tinderbox of a state was too far away from the highway, though.

Our drought is starting to take a dire toll. Texas desperately needs rain.

We almost are in the smoke.

And those who have lost their houses to the wildfires, as well as those who are fighting the infernos, need our prayers. Stay safe!

Cutie-Patooties

My niece Lisa holds her two-year-old son Zeke.

With my oldest sister Fran and her two daughters, my beloved number one and two nieces (I have six total), living so far away from me in Seattle, I have to quickly seize the rare moments that I can see them.

My oldest niece Becky and baby Kate share a laugh.

One of those was earlier this month, when all of them traveled to Chicago to visit family and show off the newest addition to our clan, baby Kate. So I punched out of my mom-duty clock and joined them last weekend, which gave me a chance to also see my mother (who Fran and I stayed with), aunt, uncle, cousins, and brother’s family.

Kate seems intrigued with my sister-in-law Fran.

It was a whirlwind yet wonderful 48 hours!

Sidebar: Long-time blog readers probably are wondering how smoothly my travels went. Need you really ask?!? My flight to Chicago was delayed four hours due to nasty weather in the windy city, and I got sick on the bumpy return flight. No fun at all, my friends. Glad I don’t have to take to the unfriendly skies again for awhile.

My baby brother, the hot-shot Chicago lawyer, and my sister-in-law Fran hosted our immediate family at their lovely swankienda. There I got my fill of holding my niece Becky’s three-month-old baby. Does “adorable” adequately describe Kate, who looks just like a doll? She had me at her first toothless smile.

Zeke slows down just long enough for a quick pic.

I must say that both nieces have done an admirable job at producing the cutest kids ever (well, after my two sons, of course). My niece Lisa’s toddler Zeke loves trains, just like mine did, and is a whirlwind of activity. I almost got dizzy trying to keep up with him and his über-cute grin.

Becky and her husband Ken pose with their darling daughter after her naming.

The next day was Kate’s baby shower and Jewish baby naming at Giordano’s, a wonderful pizzeria in the suburbs. The little cutie pie was almost perfect, as everyone oohed and aaahed over her. Must be tough being so adored!

Four generations: My sister Fran, our mom, Becky, and baby Kate

So now my oldest niece, who I so well remember as a baby, has a daughter of her own. She, Ken, and Kate truly are a family, just like her sister Lisa, her husband Chris, and Zeke.

Families—they’re worth braving my travel jinx for!

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!