Attractions, DESTINATIONS, International, Restaurants & Bars, Road Trips, TRAVEL

Casino Night in Freeport

TRAVEL BUG TALES: PUTTING ON THE RITZ

It’s at least a little ironic I’m going down memory lane at one resort on Mondays and sharing my latest trip to another resort on Wednesdays.  While Club Med Punta Cana is on the other end of the quality scale from Jack Tar’s Grand Bahama Hotel, I’m exactly the same person.  I’m just not much of a relaxer.  I completely failed at relaxing on the beach.  Let’s see how I do at a casino.

Primping for Our Big Night

Gambling was completely new to me.  I grew up Baptist and Baptists don’t gamble.  Well, I’ve heard my mom loved slot machines.  Let’s just say I had never gambled.

When we got back to our rooms after a day in the sun, it was time to get all fixed up for our big night.  That’s why tanning had been such an important activity for the rest of my friends.  Women in evening gowns.  Men in tuxes.  Fortunes won.  Fortunes lost.  Every hair had to be in place.  I’ll admit it was a little frenetic and I tried very hard to plug into the energy source.

As you can see in the photo, my spot by the pool without baby oil, rendered me just about the same shade of brown as the other ladies.  With my uber short hair I had less to worry about while getting ready.  My mom, the slot machine queen, gave me a roll of quarters to play the slots with.  I slipped them into my little evening bag with great anticipation.

Frolicking in Freeport

Then we boarded the bus for Freeport.  How very touristy of us!  The bus dropped us off on the side of the casino, allowing us to stroll to the door and pretend we did this all the time.  Since nothing is scarier than a clump of women desperately looking for a good time, my friends and I headed off to try our fortunes at the tables, but I assure you, we weren’t the least bit interested in winning any money.

My first stop was the slot machines.  I did pretty well to begin with.  I more than doubled my roll of quarters, but almost as quickly I was empty-handed.  I figured out, Baptist or not, gambling was not my thing.  It felt like I had just taken a perfectly good pair of shoes and tossed them in to the traffic.  Next time someone gave me a roll of quarters, I was going to do something better than lose them in a slot machine.

My winning and losing had taken what?  About 15-20 minutes.  Now what was I going to do with myself during the hours I was stuck there at the casino.  While I have no trouble being the life of a party where I know a lot of people, throw me in a room with a bunch of strangers and I want to find someplace to hide.  Instead I looked for places to lounge while trying to pretend I was cool.

Just like at the beach earlier in the day I had the sense that I should be enjoying myself, but I wasn’t.  In my many strolls through the casino between lounging sessions, I’d see my friends, ordering a drink, playing a game or chatting with someone.  Meanwhile, I was just trying to look cool rather than desperate.

Eventually the bus did return and I got to quit working so hard at having fun.  Everyone had stories to tell and I was able to just oooh and aaaah.  When they turned to me for my report, I laughed about how much money I’d had in my possession for such a short period of time.  When they wanted other details, I said I’d spent my time people watching.  It was true.  I’d spent my time watching everyone else have a lot more fun than me and wondered what kind of disease I had that was keeping me from properly enjoying this vacation.

So far, the best part of the trip had been dancing at the local club and reading by the pool hadn’t been so bad.  Up next was a shopping trip.  Now that’s my kind of activity.  Come back next week and see how I do.

Accommodations, Attractions, DESTINATIONS, International, Road Trips, TRAVEL

Is This Supposed to be Fun?

Debbie and Francis on the Beach

TRAVEL BUG TALES: THE BEACH IS NOT MY FRIEND!

So there I am in the Bahamas with some of my best friends from college. I’m in my early twenties and have spent my life taking vacations on the beach. It’s our first full day at this tropical resort and we’re going to spend the day hanging out in the sun and sand.  This is supposed to be fun, right?

Everything Starts Out on the Right Foot

We’re on vacation.  We sleep late.  We get into our cute swimwear.  We head out to the beach.  We find a spot to line our towels up on the sand.  We grease down our bodies with baby oil – sunscreen wasn’t yet a thing.  We lay down to soak in the sun.

So far so good – right.  Then the breeze kicks up.  Do you know what happens to your greasy body when the sand starts blowing.  I guess I didn’t or I wouldn’t have put the baby oil on in the first place.

My Beach Frame of Reference

See, my beach world had been very different.  The only hanging out we did on the beach was the early morning when we’d go beach-combing for shells and you didn’t need suntan lotion in the early morning.  We’d spend the rest of the morning shopping and then make lunch for the guys who had been golfing.  After cleaning up from lunch we’d head out to the beach en masse and mom would put some suntan lotion on us.  Please note, this was not your soccer mom’s sunscreen.  It was only supposed to keep you from burning and was not designed to protect you from harmful rays.

Here’s the trick.  We didn’t lay down on a towel.  We hit the water and stayed there.  There would be floats for playing in the surf, but most of the time we’d just jump with the waves as they came rolling in.  The Lides had a net and we’d seine for treasures.  We’d play with Frisbees in the surf or play some catch with a beach ball.  We wore ourselves out and yet we still complained hours later, when every inch of our skin was shriveled from the water and our mom would insist we had to get out of the water.

We’d grab a towel from the pile, wrap it around us and head back to the beach house where showers and naps would fill the late afternoon.  For dinner we’d head out and eat at some incredible seafood restaurant.  Once back at the beach house we’d play games, sing songs and talk about life.  

“I Don’t Like This Place”

The moment the wind covered my body in a thin sheet of sand, I stood up and said, “I don’t like this place.  I want to go home.”  This tropical vacation was ganging up on me.  First, they put me in a cinder block room with a salt water shower.  Then they expected me to get in line for every meal and fill my tray like I was still back at SFA.  They also expected me to play bingo and then when I revolted the natives ripped me off in a classic tourist trap move.  Next thing I know I’m supposed to want to lay on the beach covered with sand – and I’m supposed to like it.  I wanted my mommy.

I’ve never been much of a complainer. I’m more of a let’s-have-fun-anyway kind of girl.  I think the very fact I was complaining must have shocked my friends and to boot, I had tears streaming down my face.  They got that I was dead serious.

Let’s Fix This

Debbie and Frances jumped up and put me under a beach-side shower-head.  One friend sat me down in a pool-side chair and the other went to the snack bar to score me a burger and some chips.  Then someone put a book in my hand.

I soon realized how completely juvenile I’d been.  Blood sugar may have had something to do with it, because we’d slept late and missed breakfast.  I began to laugh at myself, which meant that now my friends could laugh, too.  We made an executive decision.  I was not allowed on the beach.  I’d sit next to the pool and read my book.  They moved their towels to be closer to me and everything was all good.

One of the reasons my buddies were so interested in getting a tan had to do with the evening’s entertainment.  Adventure Tours was loading up a bus and taking us to the Casino in Freeport.  Everyone had packed a special dress for the occasion.  Most likely we had visions of meeting some version of James Bond in his tuxedo and we wanted to be ready.

How did that go?  Well, come back next week and find out!

Accommodations, Attractions, DESTINATIONS, International, Restaurants & Bars, Road Trips, TRAVEL

First Impressions

TRAVEL BUG TALES: NOT WHAT I SIGNED UP FOR

Like the lyrics of “Both Sides Now,” I find myself fond of illusions.  Yes, I do end up being disappointed from time to time, but what fun I have anticipating things – and sometimes I even get it right.

Welcome to the Bahamas!

I always know in my head how I want things to go and much about this trip was a perfect fit for a young girl’s first international travel – especially on a trip without my family.  Some things weren’t so great. 

Take meals for instance.  I’d never been to an all-inclusive resort, so I didn’t realize I’d be going through a buffet for every meal.  I’m not all that fond of buffets – especially free or all-you-can-eat varieties.  The food was fine at the Grand Bahama Hotel, but standing in line with my tray and dipping up my selections didn’t merge very well with my dreams of elegant tropical meals.

Or take the hotel itself.  The entry area was grand enough.  There was a lovely pool area.  Even the beach was very nice.  However, the cinder block buildings where we stayed were not exactly deluxe accommodations.  The furnishing were serviceable, but not more.  In fact, they weren’t even as chic as what I’d become accustomed to in my parents’ favorite hotel chain – Holiday Inn.  What’s more, we showered with salt water!

Bingo?  Are You Kidding?

We checked-in to our cinder block room and unpacked our luggage.  One of our first assignments was to go to the Adventure Tour desk and pick up vouchers for our various entertainments.  That’s when I realized that the first night’s entertainment was going to be bingo.  BINGO?  Was this some kind of joke?

Other events seemed to be pretty good, a native show, a manager’s cocktail party, a catamaran ride with a beach picnic, etc.  That’s what I came to the Bahamas for.  But bingo?  BINGO? I wasn’t buying it.

I started a rebellion.  First I convinced Debbie and Frances that we were not going to play bingo.  I preferred to stay in my room and take a salt water shower over bingo.  The table next to us at dinner felt the same way and soon we had a large group of people who weren’t going to spend their first night in the Bahamas at any stinking bingo game.

I forget exactly how the logistics went, but it wasn’t too long until we were loading into taxis and limos in front of the hotel.  They drove us through a series of unfamiliar streets.  We paid them for a round trip and told them what time to come back and get us.  You probably know how that went, but we were young and had no idea.  So we were on cloud nine.

The taxis had delivered us to a local bar.  Our group was just about the only patrons and that was sort of disappointing, because we were trying our best to go native.  We ordered up some cuba libres and settled in for a good time. After a while, a band began their first set and soon afterwards the natives arrived.  To our delight they were black.  We were going native!

For the first part of the evening the tourists and the natives kept their distance for the most part, but kids will be kids.  Soon enough, the groups melted into one another and we were all dancing and laughing together.  It really was one of the best evenings of travel I have ever had.

Eventually, it was time to go and our transportation showed up, but they claimed we’d only paid for the first half of the trip and we’d have to come up with X dollars to get back to the hotel.  I forget the price, but it seemed steep and we were just college kids who pooled nickels to get drinks.  Somehow we came up with enough money to pay.

That’s when we discovered we’d only been around the corner from the resort.  All the driving around on the way to the club had been a ruse.  We could have walked to and from the club quicker than we could get to the beach and the resort was on the beach.  We could have been mad, but we decided not to be.  The folks who had played bingo were sitting in the lobby looking miserable and we wanted to be sure they regretted not joining us, so we put on our smiles and wrapped our arms around one another.  We’d only just arrived and we were already having adventures.

Next week we’ll head to the beach, so please come back and join us.

DESTINATIONS, International, Road Trips, TRAVEL

Grand Bahamian Adventure

TRAVEL BUG TALES: ADVENTURE TOURS, TEXAS INTERNATIONAL AIRLINES & JACK TAR RESORTS

Your eyes are not deceiving you!  Seven days and six nights at an all-inclusive resort in the Bahamas for only $219 including airfare.  Today I couldn’t get as far as Houston on Southwest for as little as that.  Makes me nostalgic for the good old days.

Off We Go!

I may have dropped out of SFA, but my SFA friends didn’t drop out on me.  My buddy Debbie was moving to Dallas and along with another friend named Kathi we were getting an apartment together.  Before we moved in though, Deb and I were going to the Bahamas, along with Frances, yet another SFA friend.  In fact, pretty much the whole plane was full of SFA grads and drop outs, headed off for an adventure.  I guess that’s why the tour company was called Adventure Tours.

My mom and dad were well acquainted with both Deb and Frances, so they weren’t worried about me heading out with a bunch of strangers.  Frances and I had been suite-mates my first semester at SFA and Debbie had been my roommate my second year.  She’s the one who talked me into staying at SFA that last summer.

My parents didn’t blame Deb and Frances for me dropping out of college.  In fact, since they had both graduated, I think my parents hoped they’d inspire me to go back to school.  I was the black sheep of that particular trio – or at least that’s what my parents thought.

Getting There

Our big adventure began in Houston, so our first job was to get there and for me, that was also my first flight.  For all the miles of travel I had already booked by the time I was 22, none of them had been on a plane.  My first flight was a quick hop on Southwest Airlines from Love Field to Houston Hobby.  In those days the flight was something ridiculous like $25, but the experience was pretty much the same as it would be today.  Your plane climbs for 25 minutes and then it descends for the next 25 minutes.  However, I’m pretty sure we got peanuts and a soda.  Can you imagine them serving peanuts in today’s hyper-allergic atmosphere?

My next flight was a Texas International flight from Houston Hobby to Grand Bahama Island.  Texas International Airlines doesn’t sound familiar?  Maybe that’s because they merged with Continental in the 80’s.  I was no longer a rookie flyer.  I climbed aboard with aplomb.  This flight was quite a bit longer, though, and we had a meal instead of peanuts.  You probably wouldn’t recognize it as an airline meal.  There was real china, real cutlery and real stemware.  If I had known that kind of service would one day disappear, I would have probably taken a picture with my Instamatic, but I didn’t know.  I also had no idea I would one day be blogging about the flight.  The internet hadn’t been born yet and the going computer language was Fortran.

Arriving There

While many things about travel have changed, arriving in a foreign country doesn’t.  I had dotted all my i’s and crossed all my t’s, but as I stood in line for customs I wondered what would happen if they rejected my paperwork.  I felt that way this year arriving in Punta Cana, last year in Cairo and the year before that in Budapest.  They didn’t turn me away from the Bahamas, nor have I ever had a moment’s trouble, but this was the first time.  However, before I even got to the customs officer, I realized they were barely even looking at the paperwork.  I was waved through without so much as a how do you do.  Our bus was about to leave and they didn’t want us to miss it.

The scenery on the way to the all-inclusive Jack Tar Resort was a little worrying.  We’d arrived in Freeport, but were soon whisked away and all we passed were rural scenes.  I don’t even remember seeing palm trees and we couldn’t see the ocean.  What had I gotten myself into?  Come back next week and find out.

 

Architecture, ART, Attractions, Decorative Arts, DESTINATIONS, Gardens, Road Trips, TRAVEL, United States

Gulf Coast Goodies

TRAVEL THERE: FROM PLANTATIONS TO PO’ BOYS

When it comes to travel, food is a just part of the fun, but if you’re talking Gulf Coast, it’s a big part of the fun.  On this trip I’ve had crawfish in Evangeline Country, nibbled on beignets and dined at Brennan’s.  Over the next few days, food moved to the forefront.  I had fried this and broiled that.  I had seafood stuffed with crab and shrimp in all kinds of formats.  I had seafood every time it was on the menu and I loved every bite of it, but there’s more to the Gulf Coast than seafood.  Come see what I mean.

Plantations

Just outside of New Orleans is the River Road.  Along it you’ll find one plantation after another.  In this day and age, slavery is a slippery slope.  Anything and everything associated with it is pretty much off limits.  I get it.  Slavery was bad.  What I don’t get is trying to revise history.  It’s like some people want to erase the first century of America’s existence, including anyone and everyone that owned a slave.

Well, America didn’t invent slavery or even participate in the worst of it.  It’s been a part of every society, virtually from the beginning of time and some slaves did a whole lot more that work in the fields or clean house.  If someone wants to erase slavery from the history books, they’re going to have to get a pretty big eraser.  Name a society from the Egyptians to the Mayans to the Celts – well to anyone you want to name.  They all had slaves, along with practicing a myriad of other sins – discrimination against women, child labor, sex trafficking, cruelty to animals – pretty much anything and everything we complain about ourselves today.  It’s really quite myopic to want discard everything American that is in anyway related to slavery and the Civil War.

If you are one of the eradicators, I don’t recommend the River Road to you.  You’ll be for pulling down the plantations and that would be a shame.  To begin with, the architecture is stunning, but it is also surprising.  While some are luxurious, you’ll most likely be surprised at how small the houses of the plantation owners were and many of them were quite plain.  Hopefully, visiting the River Road will get the Gone with the Wind images out of your mind and put you in touch with what it was really like to live out in the country raising cotton and rice.

Like many things on this trip, I can’t actually remember visiting the River Road plantations with my family, but I do remember recalling them when I visited them in later years.  We also saw The Myrtles, a home famous for its ghosts.  However, I’d be lying to you if I pretended I knew which order we saw them in.

Biloxi

Whatever order we saw the plantations in, Biloxi was our final destination.  While we saw a variety of sites, including taking a ride on the Shrimp Tour Train, we were in Biloxi to see Beauvior.  If slavery is off limits, then I guess Jefferson Davis, the President of the Confederacy is beyond the pale.  Rather than apologize, I’ll just direct you to this post  I wrote back in 2012.  The president has changed, but my politics haven’t.

At Biloxi we stayed on the beach, though I can’t remember our accommodations.  I know about the beach, because Mom’s coiffure, which was pouffy in New Orleans, is decidedly flat in Biloxi.  That indicates time spent in the water and we’ve always enjoyed sea water more than pools.  One of the pictures on my scrapbook page is also seashells in the sand.

Were I to go on this trip today, I’m sure I’d have more than my fair share of food pictures, taken with my phone.  As I write I can see piping hot oyster po’ boys.  I can see baskets filled with fried potatoes, hushpuppies and shrimp, still sizzling from the hot grease.  My mouth is watering from the memory, but we used film back then and it was expensive – so we didn’t take all those food pictures we do now.  In fact, I’m sure it wouldn’t have been considered particularly polite and manners were quite important.

Our Gulf Shores vacation was over.  It was time to take Aunt Edie home and get back to Dallas.  Next week I’ll shift gears a little.  Come see where we’re headed.

Accommodations, ART, Attractions, DESTINATIONS, Museums, Restaurants & Bars, Road Trips, TRAVEL, United States

Nawlins

TRAVEL BUG TALES: THE CHATEAU HOTEL AND THE FRENCH QUARTER

It’s 1974.  I’m about to start my second year of college, Nixon just resigned and we’re in the French Quarter.  Come along and join the fun.

The Chateau Hotel

As I’ve told you before, Holiday Inn tended to be our usual accommodations, but for New Orleans we stayed right in the French Quarter at The Chateau Hotel I’m happy to report that you can stay there today if you want to.  I confess I was thrilled, just by the mere fact that it wasn’t our usual roadside motel.  It was an honest to goodness hotel right in the middle of everything.

I remember entering our room and walking right to the windows to look out at the French Quarter.  It was exhilarating to see something besides a freeway.  Our first night in town we had to grab a quick bite and get back to the hotel in time for my parents to see the infamous news conference featuring Richard Nixon’s resignation.

In addition to being right in the middle of the French Quarter, The Chateau Hotel also had an amazing courtyard where breakfast was served each morning.  Those morning meals are among my favorite memories of the trip.  I am devoted to al fresco dining and for all I know, this is where my passion for it originated.

The French Quarter

Once breakfast was over, Mom had our itinerary all planned out.  We set out on foot to see the sights.  The tour started at Jackson Square to visit St. Louis Cathedral and the Cabildo.  Beignets at Cafe du Monde were de rigueur, but I’ll be honest with you, I’ve had better.

I can’t remember all the places Mom dragged us to over the next few days, but I can tell you that we ate dinner at Brennan’s, another treat you can still enjoy.  Supposedly, according to tradition, breakfast is the meal you are really supposed to eat at Brennan’s, but for my mom, having dinner there was just the bomb.  Dad had to put on a suit and tie.  Mom and Aunt Edie wore maxi-skirts, all the rage at the time.  There is no pictorial record of what Susan and I wore, but I do remember the meal.

I chose Chicken Madeira as my entree.  I was very impressed with myself, because it had a wine sauce.  Being a Baptist, my mom didn’t cook with wine, so at the time I didn’t realize the alcohol always cooked out.  I thought I was being a bit naughty.  Mom and Dad were afraid I wouldn’t like it and to tell the truth, I wasn’t all that crazy about it, but there was no way I was going to admit it.

For dessert, I had their famous pecan pie.  I’ll confess something else.  I’d take my little sister’s pecan pie over their’s any day of the week, but at the time, she wasn’t baking any pies.  Still, I remember being under-impressed.  Brennan’s hadn’t been a big hit with me.

With my dessert, I had coffee and I’d never had coffee before.  I’d been away at school and could have had coffee with every meal, even though my parents had never offered me any.  I just wasn’t interested.  At Brennan’s the waiter convinced me I couldn’t leave their restaurant without having some of their famous chicory coffee.  So, my first taste of coffee was a baptism by bitterness.  I still don’t drink coffee.

So that was my family vacation to New Orleans.  I’ve been several times since.  My favorite New Orleans cuisine is a toss up between a big ole bowl of BBQ Shrimp or a Muffalatta sandwich from a storefront my friend Michael took me to.  I know I’d rather eat BBQ Shrimp than anything Brennan’s has on the menu.  And speaking of Brennan’s, if you have to choose between Brennan’s and Commander’s Palace, I’d vote for Commander’s Palace.  New Orleans really is a culinary treat, but I wouldn’t have known it from that 1974 visit.

The next page in my scrapbook says I am Biloxi Bound, so I hope you’ll join me next week for a little Gulf Shore fun.

Accommodations, ART, Attractions, DESTINATIONS, Libraries, Museums, Restaurants & Bars, Road Trips, TRAVEL, United States

Evangeline in Louisiana

TRAVEL BUG TALES: CRAWDADS AND ACADIANS

“This is the forest primeval,” is the beginning phrase of Longfellow’s poem, Evangeline It’s a fictional story of love lost and then found too late.  It’s also about political injustice, because French settlers of Canada, called Acadians, were deported by the British, just for being Catholics.  In the story, Evangeline is among the deportees who were sent to Louisiana – hence Evangeline Parish.  Let’s go visit.

Traveling Evangeline Country

Though I can’t remember all the logistics between Dallas and Evangeline Country, I do remember being sick and tired of riding in the back seat on a sticky August afternoon.  We had Aunt Edie with us, which was fun, but I’m guessing we hit the road around 4 AM.  By late afternoon I’m sure I was second guessing my decision to go on this family vacation.

We piled out of the car at a Mardi Gras museum, but I’m not sure where it was.  They were very proud of the fact that they’d been doing Mardi Gras a lot longer than New Orleans.  The museum was full of beautiful costumes, but the best part was the air conditioning!  There was also a lot of material about Acadian history.  They were very interested in visitors understanding that while outsiders may think the terms Cajun and Creole are interchangeable, Cajuns and Creoles don’t.  Cajuns descended from the Acadians.  Creoles are descended from the French mixing with various other races, especially around New Orleans.  Creoles probably thought Cajuns were hicks, while Cajuns claimed a purer racial lineage, which was much more important back in the 70’s than it is today.

Ça C’est Bon

Regardless of their racial heritage, Cajuns know how to eat.  That evening we ate the local cuisine.  Mom had done her research and we had dinner at what was supposed to be THE place to eat crawfish.  I keep thinking the name of it was Anderson’s, but don’t hold me to that.

Wherever it was, it was a great, big barn-like place.  The menu offered crawfish this, crawfish that and crawfish whatever else.  I was a little squeamish about sucking heads, but the rest of it sounded pretty good to me.  I’m sure I got some sort of combo plate so I could try it more than one way.  I’m also pretty sure that everyone else chose more traditional seafood choices, like fried shrimp and then sampled my entrees.  I’ve always been a little more food adventurous than the rest of my family.

We probably spent the night at a Holiday Inn.  That’s where we usually stayed.  The next day we moved on to New Orleans.

DESTINATIONS, Road Trips, TRAVEL, United States

The Big Easy

Seeing the USA in our Chevrolet

TRAVEL TALK: TURN IT UP! THAT’S MY SONG!

The Trip That Didn’t Happen

Some people say they found themselves when they went away to college.  I think I always knew who I was, but I did try out a few other personalities.  One of them showed up the day I called Mom to tell her I was going to New Orleans with some friends.  Mom threw a conniption fit, but I held on to my guns. I was going to New Orleans and since she wasn’t in Nacogdoches, there wasn’t much she could do about it.

Only I didn’t go.  I can’t remember what kind of teen-aged drama played out to keep me in my dorm room, but I do remember pouting all weekend.  I also remember wanting to call Mom and complain to her, but I couldn’t because I was punishing her.  Aren’t we silly sometimes?

Were I a psychologist, I would probably expound on why Mom chose Louisana that year for the summer vacation, but I’m just a travel blogger, so I’ll leave it to your speculation.  Choosing hot, humid August for traveling probably had a lot to do with my summer job.  The big news was that Aunt Edie was going with us.

The Trip That Did Happen

Poor Aunt Edie was stuck in the back seat with the two Kool-Aid lovers.  We didn’t actually love Kool-aid, but in those days, Bill Cosby was the bomb and my sister adored him.  She played the LP “To Russell My Brother Whom I Slept With” so many times, the whole family had it memorized.  Mom often adopted the Kool-Aid moniker to refer to Susan and I.

Aunt Edie sat in the middle, straddling the hump, because if we’d had to determine which one of us would sit next to her, there would have been all out war.  We’d grown up enough for Mom to abandon I Spy, Twenty Questions, Travel Bingo Cards and personalized grab bags, but not enough for Aunt Edie to have a relaxing ride in the back seat.

Whispering Bill Anderson (Vinyl, LP, Album) album coverThe Radio

Eight track tapes were all the rage, but having a player in your car cost extra, so our Chevrolet didn’t have one.  Dad was an AM radio aficionado anyway – because that’s where the sports were.  Because of Dad, I have a fine ear for sportscasting.  I can tell which sport is being broadcast, just from the cadence of the sportscaster’s voice, even when I can’t hear individual words.

Radio is a bit of an adventure on the road, because you have to take what’s available, especially when all you have is an AM radio.  When Dad could find baseball or news, that’s what we’d listen to, because he was in charge.  He also preferred country and western music over rock and roll, so if he could tune in Whispering Bill Anderson or Charlie Pride, then that’s what we’d listen to.

Thankfully, we’d also go through places where all we could pick up was Top 40 Hits.  That’s when Susan and I would perk up and pay attention.  Even though I remember the trip as a series of newscasts and sportscasts, highlighted with a baseball games, according to Aunt Edie, the whole trip was one great big rock and roll experience.  She claimed each time a new song came on the radio, either Susan or I would shout out, “That’s my song!  Turn it up!” and then we’d both bounce to the rhythm of the music.

Related imageNixon Resigns

There was something else happening on the radio on that trip, though I didn’t appreciate the significance of it at the time.  Much like the Blue Dress incident of Clinton’s day and our current fascination with collusion, our nation was preoccupied with the matter of Watergate.  The news was full of speculation, but late in the afternoon, the newscast was so dire that my dad pulled off the road and into a parking lot.  We listened as it was announced Nixon had called a news conference that evening and word was he would resign.  My dad cried.  And that’s not something that happened very often.  He forecast our nation would be forever changed by this and he was right.

Looking back from this day to that, it seems as if our nation has been constantly embroiled in some expensive Congressional hearing – Watergate, Iran Contra, Monica Lewinsky, Fast and Furious, Benghazi and now Russian Collusion, among so many others.  How much money has all this investigating cost our nation and what good has it really done for anyone?  It’s all political one-up-man-ship.  What if instead it had been spent on feeding the poor, our failing infrastructure, education, improving our health system?  Anything but politicians trying to oust their opponents.

I usually avoid political discussions here on my blog, but that day began a new era in American politics.  The presidency was vulnerable and you didn’t have to win an election to unseat the Leader of the Free World.  It hadn’t been the ill-advised break-in which had led to the popular president’s demise.  It had been the cover-up.  It had also been technology.  He had tapes and it was his own tapes which had undermined his term.  Today’s scandals are all about technology.  We don’t question whether the Russians used social media to influence the election, but the Mueller investigation is desperately looking for the text or e-mail that proves our president colluded with the Russians, even though collusion is not even a crime.

I’ll climb off my soap box.  Susan and I didn’t grasp the magnitude of what we’d heard.  Our lives had been influenced by other milestones – the assassination of JFK, Viet Nam, man walking on the moon, Kent State and LBJ refusing to run for re-election.  These seems like momentous events.  Watergate seemed like much ado about nothing.  For now, we’re almost to Evangeline County.  Come back next week for some crawfish.

Road Trips, TRAVEL, United States

What Was That About Padre

TRAVEL BUGS TALES: PICKING UP WHERE I LEFT OFF

Has it really been almost two years since my last Travel Bug Tales post?  Yep, Novemeber of 2016, so that’s almost two years.  Friends, we’ve done a lot of traveling together since then. 

Instead of trying to explain the Travel Bug sabbatical, I’ll just get busy and pick up where I left off.  If you’ve been hanging around here for a long time, then you know, Travel Bug Tales are stories from my pre-blog days – in particular from my youth, when my love for travel first started.

If you’ve just shown up in the last year or so, then let me explain.  Travel used to be different.  You didn’t have a smart phone, flip phone or even a mobile phone.  You had pay phones.  Hence there was no GPS, no texting, no email and no internet.  You just took out on the road with no digital means of support and hoped for the best.  Personally, I thought it was a lot more fun.  Come along with me to the beach.

The Padre Trip

Right before I abandoned Travel Bug Tales, I promised to tell you about a trip to Padre Island, one of the beaches we visited in Mom’s effort to find a Texas replacement for Myrtle Beach, her favorite place on Earth.  For this particular vacation, we traveled with another family.  The Smiths had boys and my parents had girls.  All the Smith boys, but one, were too old to go on a family vacation and Tracy was my sister’s age.  Actually, they also had a son my age, but he stayed home – by himself.  I couldn’t decide whether to feel sorry for him or be jealous.

I can’t imagine what I would have done at home by myself.  I had a car, but I only drove it to school and church.  I’d traveled without my parents before, but only on a mission trip and on church retreats.  So, while a part of me thought it was pretty cool Kieth got to stay home by himself, the other part of me would have been devastated to miss out on the family fun.   

Still I was the odd man out any way you sliced it.  I didn’t quite fit in with the adults, but I when I spent time with the kids, I knew I wasn’t a one of them any longer either.  The picture of me standing alone on the beach sums up my vacation perfectly.

Beach Memories

I didn’t keep travel journals back in the day, so things get fuzzy, but the first stop on this trip was Corpus Christi and it was unremarkable.

Next came Padre.  While I didn’t love Myrtle Beach quite as much as my mom, I did enjoy the days we spent in the Lides’ beach house and getting up early to comb the receding tide for shells.

We three kids, Susan (my sister), Tracy (the Smiths’ son) and I, got up very early on our first morning in Padre.  Light had just begun to suggest it might appear as we hit the beach with our buckets.  Nada!  Not so much as an interesting rock.  I was so frustrated I was almost in tears.  No big deal, I was a teenager.  Tears were always at the edge of erupting.

This was only the beginning of my frustrations.  Perhaps this trip may begin to explain why I’m iffy about beaches now, when I’d lived for beach time as a kid.  I was uncomfortable in my skin.  When I threw myself into the enjoyment of the trip, I was met with frustration, like the shell-less morning on the beach.  The rest of the time I just wasn’t sure what to do with myself.  I can understand, up to a point, why kids live on their phones.  I didn’t feel like me on this trip and a phone full of friends would have been comforting.

Heading Home

The rest of the trip turned out better.  From Padre we went to San Antonio.  I never feel odd on the Riverwalk. We stayed in the Hilton which was at the turn of the river and it’s the first time I remember staying in a hotel that upscale.  My folks usually opted for Holiday Inn.

A highlight of the trip was a riverboat ride.  Susan and the adults weren’t all that interested, so Tracy and I made a round trip.  Without Susan to tend to, something very unusual in my childhood, I ignored Tracy and pretended I was by myself.  It was exhilarating.  I was discovering that while I enjoyed people, I didn’t need them to enjoy myself.

From San Antonio, the Smith’s headed to Dallas, but we made a stop in Temple to visit my beloved Aunt Edie.  Her home was my second home.  I was allowed to go for long rambling walks on my own and I loved it.  We’d go on fun shopping trips and have laughter filled lunches.

So, that was our trip to Padre.  Mr. and Mrs. Smith were good friends to my parents, but we didn’t take anymore trips together.  It wasn’t their fault that Padre didn’t stack up to Myrtle Beach, but I think it was more than that.  No one could replace the Lides for Mom and Dad.  The annual pilgrimages to Myrtle Beach began then and suddenly I was left behind, on my own.  They’d head to Myrtle Beach and I’d stay home.  I would have summer jobs and needed the money for college.

I was growing up.  There are more Travel Bug Tales, but I’m not sure which one I’ll tell you next.  Come back next week and find out where we’re headed.

 

DESTINATIONS, DFW Metroplex, International, Road Trips, TRAVEL

It’s Time to Go

TRAVEL THERE: HEADING HOME IS ALWAYS GOOD

Just a few hours and Egypt will be in our rear view mirror.

Final Moments

When we left Mokattum Mountain, Izzat dropped us off in Bill’s sister’s neighborhood.  Mona had made one of her feasts for us to enjoy when we dropped by to say farewell.  We had a sweet visit with her and then it was time to go.

Somewhere along the way on that final day, I managed to leave my hat behind.  Perhaps it was in the Uber vehicle we took to get back to the Fairmont.  I sincerely regret that, because it had been a loyal servant on the Danube cruise and on this trip.  I’ve missed having it for several trips since.  I also donated my prescription sunglasses to the country earlier in the trip.

I’ve already shared the frustration of our last night at the Fairmont, so no need to revisit that.  Izzat was there the next morning to take us to the airport.  I felt like I was saying good-bye to an old friend.

At the airport, some of the towel-clad pilgrims we’d seen on our arrival were also departing Egypt.  I’m not sure what the trip was supposed to imbue them with, but love and respect for their wives doesn’t seem to be one of results.  I watched a man and a boy in their white terrycloth outfits stand to the side with their arms folded as their mother/wife pulled huge suitcases, too large for her to handle, from the security table to a cart and then struggle again to get the cart going in the right direction.

I would have sent Bill to help her, but he was already on a mission of his own.  A group of giggling ladies in pilgrim caftans and hajibs needed his help with the elevator.  They’d never been on as escalator or an elevator.  They were terrified of the escalator, but baffled with the controls of the elevator.  I was proud of him for helping them, but wished he could have embarrassed the towel-clad men by assisting the floundering woman.  The pair had looked so smug.

Traveling Companions

Miriam and Bassem were taking the same flight as we did to the States.  Bassem wanted back-up in case Mariam had any trouble in Customs.  We breezed through the London airport with no trouble at all.  At DFW, US Passport Control did bring Mariam in for a short interview, but it was very cursory.  Then they grabbed a rental car, because no one sedan was going to hold all the luggage for four people, especially when one of them was moving here.

And then we were home.  My bestie had kept my cat for me, so we were eager to go claim her.  Mariam and Bassem stayed with us a few days, because Bassem had only bought tickets back to Dallas, not on to LA.  Too soon they’d made arrangements to go home and we were all alone – just us and the cat.

It was quiet and a bit lonely after so many days around our dear family members.  It was a little boring too, after three weeks of activity.  It had been a great trip and like all good trips it had changed me.  I had stronger ties with my nieces and nephews and their children.  I’d overcome my fears and traveled to places the US State Department said I should stay away from.  I’d been in one of the poorest neighborhoods I’d ever visited and discovered that its inhabitants were more joyful and thankful than my affluent neighbors in my golf course community. We will probably never travel to Egypt again, but that’s OK, because now Egypt is in my heart.