Accommodations, DESTINATIONS, International, Road Trips, TRAVEL, WRITING

The Beauty of Our Balcony

TRAVEL THERE: AN EARLY MORNING REVERIE 

Our third day at the Seadust was devoted to enjoying whatever pleasures we could derive from the resort.  The food was horrid and while the recent renovation of the property had been adequate, it didn’t give us the appropriate quality to feel as if we were in a luxury resort.  So what did we do?

First Up!

I woke up early, which is SOP in this family.  I wasn’t quite up to visiting the gym, so I went out to the balcony with my travel journal and my book.  First, I caught up in the journal.  Looking over what I wrote, I see little that hints at the parallels I was beginning to draw between the ancient Mayan culture and our modern state of  devolving affairs.

After getting the journal up to date, I opened up my book and dove into the story.  The narrative was focused on bullfighting at this point.  We’d learned who the characters were and why we were there, but the story line seemed overly devoted to the matadors and their bulls.  I began to wonder if I should have chosen another book to read, which could have given me more insight into the Mayan culture.

I confess the bullfighting story did not hold my attention very well.  I constantly found myself staring off into the beautiful scenery just outside my balcony.  In the serenity I went through my prayer list, thinking of those in need, those I love and some friends who were vacationing together in another part of the Caribbean.  I’d pick up reading where I had left off, but soon I’d been soaking in the green of the palm trees and the blue of the water.

Mr. Lag Abed

Bill slept very late and after a short visit with me, decided to go back to bed for another nap.  I didn’t mind.  I returned to the balcony and continued dividing my time between the outstanding view and the book which was slowly turning its focus to the time period I was most interested in.

Michener rarely tells a tale with gripping speed, but instead slowly binds you in his tale like a python, slipping around an intended victim.  His reputation gets you within proximity and you snuggle up with the book to see what it is like.  You are aware of slowly changing positions, but you wonder why the snake has the reputation it does for devastating its victims.  Then all of a sudden it is too late.  You’d only been reading the book as a distraction and now you have to finish it to find out what happens to these people, who you now care very much about.

In spite of my interest in the book, my stomach decided it was time to have breakfast.  I roused Bill and suggested we use our breakfast time to plan our day.  Then we could return to the room to dress appropriately and gather up what we might need.

Breakfast of Victims

The only restaurant opened for breakfast was the buffet, so like the sacrificial victims in Chichen Itza we went where we were forced to go.  I hoped over breakfast I’d convince Bill to visit the Mayan museum and archaeological site right next to our hotel, but Bill had put up with all the Mayans he intended to.  Today he was going to get his money’s worth out of the resort.  Our accommodations might have been comped, but we’d paid the airfare, a small daily fee for tips and for the excursion to Chichen Itza.  So far, he felt the account wasn’t quite even and he was going to do something about that.

So after breaking our fast in one of our least favorite places in Cancun, we headed back to our room.  Come back next week and see how we spent the day.

 

DESTINATIONS, TRAVEL, United States, WRITING

The Travel Gap

TRAVEL BUG TALES: THE LOST YEARS

Something strange happens in my “Family Vacation” scrapbook after 1974.  The family vacations continue, but I’m not in any of the pictures, with the exception of a couple of day trips.  In 1975, I took a detour.  Let’s talk about it.

What Did I Do Instead?

I graduated from  Bryan Adams High School in 1973 with great expectations.  Going away to Stephen F. was nothing I expected.  That’s a story for another day, but when I took the vacation with my family in 1974, I didn’t realize it was the end of a era.  It wouldn’t be my last family vacation, but it would be the last vacation I took with my family until 1990.  That’s sixteen years!

1975 is easy to explain.  My roomie talked me into staying at SFA for the summer as a Summer Orientation Student Assistant.  I didn’t make good choices that summer and it didn’t get any better that fall.  By the end of the Fall semester I was done with SFA.  My poor choices included missing a lot of classes and my GPA was in the dumpster.  What happened next?

The Life Detour

While I take responsibility for my bad choices, in part, I also blame the times.  The world was changing.  I had come to SFA armed with the expectations my mother gave me and those expectations did not equip me for my experience in Nacogdoches.  There were good things about my time there.  I was a more self confidant person than the somewhat gawky girl who first moved into an SFA dorm.  I had a more open mind and was more likely to take chances.  I did not have a college degree however and when it comes to poor choices, that tops the charts.

I had been sent to college so I would be able to “get a job.”  After five semesters at university I didn’t feel as if any of my courses had gotten me any further towards that goal.  Though I started out as a Liberal Arts student, those were a dime a dozen out in the job market and after my first year, my parents wanted me to get serious about my career path.  I enjoyed my business courses, but to graduate with a business degree you needed business math and after three tries I knew I wasn’t ever going to pass that course.  I made a detour over to the fashion department, but for some reason they thought anyone interested in fashion could sew, which I could not.  My real interest was writing and had been from the beginning, but my parents wouldn’t support that career track.  It was one thing for me to be a Liberal Arts student my first year, but after that I needed to focus on getting a job.

Now I know I would have been so much better off if I’d just stayed the course and gotten a Liberal Arts degree.  Any degree is better than no degree at all.  I also know there are all kinds of jobs related to writing.  You don’t have to become a Pulitzer Prize reporter or write the next best seller.  You can write ad copy, do technical writing, even be a reader for publishing house, but I didn’t know enough about anything to even know those kind of jobs existed.  Neither did my parents.

Getting a Job 

When I announced I was leaving SFA, I reminded my parents they had sent me there to get a job and I was certain I could get a job without a degree.  Besides, since I had no idea what I wanted to do, I didn’t know what to get the degree in.  We didn’t discuss the writing thing.  The subject was taboo.

I did get a job pretty quickly.  By February of 1976 I was working for Sears as a management trainee.  You had to work there for a year to be eligible for a vacation.  When 1977 rolled around, all my SFA buddies were graduating and several of them were going to the Bahamas to celebrate.  Since I’d been working, I had money in the bank.  Guess who decided to go with them?

I still have fourteen years to explain, but I think it would be more fun to go to the Bahamas.  Come by next week and join me!

 

International, Road Trips, TRAVEL, WRITING

Blame It on the White Puerto Rican Rum

The Ad Campaign That Captured My Imagination

TRAVEL BUG TALES: HOW RUM INFLUENCED MY TRAVEL EXPECTATIONS

Advertising used to be a lot more fun.  Camels could smoke and you could watch an entire episode of the evening news without having to consider the perils of a four-hour erection.  In those more innocent days, my favorite print ads promoted the sale of white Puerto Rican Rum, but alcohol was not the attraction.

coffee table 001
The Cave Family Coffee Table. Note the Frankoma Ware.

Tabletop Reading

What magazines covered the coffee table when you were a kid?  Family legend says there were no magazines on ours during my toddler days, because I thought it was playground equipment.  As soon as I was able, I would crawl through the bottom and once I could pull myself up?  Forget about it!

Though she wasn’t always able to store them on the coffee table, Mom took Better Homes & Gardens and McCall’s for as long as I can remember.  Reader’s Digest and Guideposts were more Dad’s style.  In 1966 when Southern Living started, it was added to the mix, as was Texas Highways, since we were finally back home in Texas.  The yellow borders of National Geographic were also a family standard.

Forget Recipes, Where’s the Rum?

1976 Discover your own pleasure. Mix your club soda with white rum from Puerto RicoI devoured National Geographic and Texas Highways page-by-page.  Reader’s Digest, which was usually stored in the bathroom, had great humor pages and I read some of the other articles, but I was most fond of the Condensed Books volumes, of which we had many.  Guidepost articles seemed a little melodramatic to my childhood tastes and I had no interest at all in homemaking, cooking or crafts.

Still, I was a kid who would read the back of a cereal box if nothing else was available.  So if the newspaper had already been thrown out and I didn’t have any library books, I’d thumb through whatever I could get my hands on.  (FYI, I usually read through my schoolbooks during the first week of school.)

Somewhere along the way, I got hooked on Puerto Rican  Rum – not the beverage, the ads.  I don’t even remember which magazines carried the ads, but I remember lingering lovingly on the pages of the rum ads, dreaming of doing exactly what the people in the magazine were doing.  My daydreams had nothing to do with the beverages in their hands, but everything thing to do with the photo-shoots.

Farewell to the Age of Print…or not

My current stash of travel brochures.
My current stash of travel brochures.

Though I still subscribe to Texas Highways, most of my travel dreams reach me via a screen.  The Travel Channel, Discovery, AWE, The Smithsonian Channel and National Geographic all get lots of airtime on my TV.  When I’m researching a trip I do it on my PC.  I make my reservations online and apps follow me around on my travels.

When I get home I write this blog for my personal audience and reviews for Trip Advisor, where they tell me hundreds of thousands of people read what I say.

However, those travel companies are pretty clever.  They’ve by-passed the magazines and deliver their gorgeous travel brochures directly to my mailbox.  When I go to travel shows they fill tote bags full of sumptuously printed media.  I still dream in hard copy.

Lucky Me

I am fortunate.  I’ve had the opportunity to chase my White Puerto Rican Rum fantasies.   I’ve walked hand-in-hand on white sand beaches, sailed into the sunset on gorgeous cruise boats and drank umbrella-decorated rum drinks from the hull of a coconut, but travel has been more difficult than the ads led me to believe it would be.  The Puerto Rico I saw had nothing in common with the ads I’d lingered over as a child and tween-ager.

I’ve run out of travel time today, but come back next week and we’ll follow the ad campaign into reality and see where it leads us.

Accommodations, DESTINATIONS, Road Trips, TRAVEL, United States, WRITING

Country Inn & Suites in Oklahoma City

No prickly problems at the Carlson, then on to the botanical garden
No prickly problems at the Carlson, then on to the botanical garden

TRAVEL THERE: CARLSON’S COUNTRY INN & SUITES IN OKLAHOMA CITY,OK

The primary reason we stopped in Oklahoma City was their art museum.  We also wanted to visit Bricktown and the botanical gardens.  All of these sites were downtown, but for a quick overnight stay I thought the downtown hotels were a little pricey.  So we opted for the Country Inn & Suites on NW Expressway.  Downtown was mere minutes away and the reviews sounded pretty good.

Can You Say Mustard?

Nancy the Navigator told us the Country Inn was nearby, so we started scanning the area for a sign of our hotel.  There are several in the general area.  To help Deb locate it I said, “It looked yellow in the picture.”  Suddenly a mustard yellow tower with brown mustard trim came into sight.  We’d found our accommodations.  If you have an aversion to shades of mustard, stay away at all costs.  You will see more variations of mustard yellow at this hotel than you ever imagined were possible.

However, if you just need a place to spend the night in OKC, then this is a great place to stay.  We got the room with two queen beds for under $100 on Expedia.  With the exception of the pervasive mustard yellow and some renovations, everything about the stay was fine.

Compact But Adequate 

When we first arrived all we did was throw our luggage into the room and head back out to Bricktown.  Registration had taken only seconds and they had plenty of luggage carts.  Our room was right across from the elevator.  We noticed the bathroom had been specially equipped for handicap access, which meant a roll-in shower with no bathtub.  I can’t tell you whether it’s that way in all rooms or just the bargain room we got, but it wasn’t a deal breaker.  It meant I wouldn’t be having my usual bubble bath, but I’m a big girl, so I could live without it.

The other thing we noticed was that the room was tight.  The sitting area is completely separate from the sleeping area, which was nice, but there’s not much space.  Not a problem for overnight, but I’d want more space if I were going to be there for several days with a companion.

When we got back from Bricktown we were exhausted and hit the sack pretty quickly.  I woke up about five and decided to go ahead and write the article that had given me such a fit before we left.  I dreaded fighting the log-in on the hotel’s wi-fi, which is usually a hassle, but I wanted to unburden myself from my perceived obligation.  If you want to read about the exhibition I previewed, you can do that here. Being able to close the door and leave Deb sleeping peacefully while I puttered around made things easier and that wi-fi log-in? Piece of cake.

About the time I finished my article, Deb was up and about.  We got ready and headed down for breakfast.  Breakfast was great.  The area set aside for the breakfast bar was actually quite nice.  The buffet offered everything from make-it-yourself waffles to bacon and eggs to fruit and yogurt.  I confess, I had the waffles.  Deb opted for the protein.  There was a baby who was making a lot of noise, but he was absolutely darling and it was happy noises, so we actually enjoyed him.

By nine we’d loaded up the car and headed downtown.  Let the fun begin.

 

Attractions, DESTINATIONS, Road Trips, TRAVEL, United States, WRITING

Continuing on the Wrong Foot

best sceneryTRAVEL HERE: THE TRIP WITH NO NAME GETS BOGGED DOWN IN BIG D

So, I’m suffering from a case of the blues, I’ve had a crazy week, my computer is all screwed up, there’s a certified letter at the post office and I need to attend a media event so I can write an article before I head out of town.  Easy peasy, right?

On the Way Downtown

At least Bill was up and he was working on my computer.  I coached him along by running in between the master bath and my office while I got ready.  Of course, the office and the master bath are on separate floors at opposite end of the house.  I was a little bit late, but I had to go to the post office first, because Bill wanted to know the story behind the certified letter and he was working on my computer after all.  So, I make a mad dash to the the post office in Rockwall, called Bill with the bad news the letter reported (certified letters always have bad news) and pointed my car down I-30.

I had smooth sailing all the way to Fair Park which lulled me into thinking that I might actually make it on time.  Suddenly, the road ahead was filled with red brake lights.  Almost simultaneously my bladder informed me that I needed to make a trip to the restroom and I needed to go as soon as I could.

Oh, and did I mention that I’d gotten a new GPS for the trip, because a map update for my old one was going to cost almost as much as a new one.  I knew how to get from my house to the Arts District, but I wanted to get familiar with the new instrument’s idiosyncrasies.  The GPS, which I named Nancy the Navigator, dumped me in the middle of downtown and then got mad when barricades wouldn’t let me follow her instructions.  I picked my way through the construction alone and made it to the museum.  My watch said I’d only be a minute or two late.  I just hoped they’d have a slow start so I could visit the facilities.

Let’s Park

I pulled into the appropriate parking lot, but chose the wrong lane.  Seconds ticked by as I held a frustrating conversation with the woman in the attendant’s booth.  Mechanical noises flooded out of the underground lot and the woman’s speech sounded like I would if I had my mouth full of pebbles.  She finally left her booth, walked over to the lane I should have entered, pulled a ticket for me and handed it to me.  Then she said the only thing I had understood in the whole exchange, “Park down on level six.”

The voyage to level six was excruciating.  I still needed to use the restroom in the worst way and the ramps were so steep and tight that if I’d gone any slower I would have been going in reverse.  I parked the car on six, hoped I didn’t look as manic as I felt and started searching for the elevators.  If they had any signs pointing to them, I didn’t see them, but then I hadn’t seen that I was entering the garage in an exit lane either, so who am I to complain.

On to the Museum

I rode up on the elevator, crossed the lobby to the mezzanine outside and then hurried down a set of stairs to the museum.  They’d move the door on me since I’d visited the museum last, but I finally made my way in.  I was less than ten minutes late, but the event was in full swing.  The artist and a curator were in the exhibit introducing it to the assembled members of the press.  I had hoped to fit right in with my peers, but I’m sure my hair was flying in all directions and I looked like a deer staring into headlights.  And I was dying to go to the restroom.

I bravely attempted to ignore my personal needs and pay attention to what the artist was saying, but my bladder was having none of that.  If coming in late wasn’t embarrassing enough, I had to wander away from the group and find a restroom.  While taking care of the necessities I practiced deep breathing exercises and then patted my hair into place.  I kept telling myself all of this frustration was not the end of the world, but right then it felt like it was.

The Day Continues

Though I felt as if I’d been wandering around down a rabbit hole, only a few moments had passed and the artist was still in the same corner he had been when I left the group.  I started taking notes and making pictures like a pro.  In spite of it all I had enough to write a good article – if I had a computer to write it on when I returned home.

No such luck.  I had a text from my bestie letting me know she could leave work early and the day had not exactly gone as planned, so I still had things I needed to do.  I resolved to focus on the trip and if the article was posted on Monday instead of Friday, then who but me was going to care.  It’s not like anyone was paying me for writing about the exhibition opening.  This blog is a labor of love.

I changed out of my member-of-the-press outfit and put on my traveling clothes.  I loaded up the car and had some lunch.  I fritzed around with my computer some more, hoping beyond hope that it would just miraculously fix itself, but in the end it didn’t and I had to start Norton again.  I gave it up and left the house.

Is it any surprise that when I got to the 7-11 to fill up my car the 7Rewards app wouldn’t open up, so I had to pay for what should have been my free soda?  Are you at all surprised that traffic was awful and even though I’d left with time to spare I barely got to my friend’s office at the appointed time?  Or that I turned on the wrong street even though I actually knew where to go?  Or that my friend had fallen the night before while packing and was barely ambulating?

The Trip With No Name hadn’t even begun and I already had a few choice appellations for it!  Come by on Wednesday and we’ll head off towards Oklahoma City.

ART, DESTINATIONS, Museums, Road Trips, TRAVEL, United States, WRITING

Starting Off on the Wrong Foot

bitchingAT HOME IN HEATH: THE TRIP WITH NO NAME STARTED OUT ON THE WRONG FOOT

It’s not unusual for someone to go on a long weekend to brighten their outlook on life, but along with failing to inspire me to come up with a better name than The Trip With No Name, things seemed destined to get more frustrating for this recent road trip.

Booking a Room

After I ordered tickets for Living Proof in Wichita, KS, I sort of ignored the hotel information in my confirmation packet.  I’m such a huge fan of Expedia and Trip Advisor that I assumed I’d be able to get a great room at a bargain price which would blow away the conference’s negotiated deals.  I was wrong.

What’s worse is that my assumption led me to put off making my reservations.  I mean really, who was going to go all the way to Wichita for a Bible Study?  Well, it turns out thousands and thousands of ladies from all 50 States were going to make their way to the city and thousands more were going to watch on simulcast.

But I didn’t know that, so I waited until about a month before the conference before I finally sat down and researched rooms in Wichita.  I quickly found out that the conference had negotiated some pretty amazing deals, but I also found out most of them were already booked.  My first inclination was to find a room within walking distance of the arena.  Total fail.  Then I cast my net further.  I ended up getting the conference rates, but they were at a DoubleTree at the airport.  Not the end of the world, but not exactly my vision for the weekend either.

An Exciting Invitation

As I continued my planning for Wichita, I received an invitation to a media event from one of the local museums.  I’ve been blogging about local attractions for quite awhile now, but until recently I hadn’t made it to their media list.  I have a few publicist in New York and Chicago who send me invitations from time to time, but my budget doesn’t exactly cover flights to the Big Apple or the Windy City.  Gas to the Dallas Arts District is much more affordable.  Since Deb and I weren’t leaving until after she got off from work, I’d have plenty of time to pop by the museum and write the article, right?  Well, not exactly.

A Mixed Up Week

I don’t exactly live in a rut, but I do seem to get along better when things happen according to routine.  The week of the trip had nothing routine about it.  Monday was a holiday and my videographer client was having a picnic for all of us who work for him.  It was just the beginning of a strange week.  Tuesdays are the day I usually go into the videographer’s office, but Bill was having dental surgery, so I went in on Wednesday instead.  As I pulled into the garage Wednesday afternoon I had the realization that in a mere 24 hours I’d be picking up my bestie and we’d be heading north.  I hadn’t even thought about what I was going to wear and I hadn’t done the laundry either.  It was going to be a long evening.  At least I’d picked up sushi on the way home, so I didn’t have to fix dinner.

Dinner was easy, but other things challenged me. Things like my dog, who chose that particular day to have gooped up eyes.  And things like the certified letter notification that had been in the mail.  Those never have good news, so I promised Bill I would go by the post office on the way to the museum.  It should have been easy.  The media event didn’t start until ten.  It would be a cakewalk – right?

Good Morning Meltdown

I’m an early riser.  On the morning of the trip I was in my office about 5:30, even though I’d been up late getting ready to leave.  The first thing I did was open up my email.  As I perused the inbox, it seemed as if an email from my husband was the most important item, so I clicked on it.  Suddenly, a weird article about some celebrity opened up.  At first, I assumed I had just clicked the wrong thing, but it was quickly apparent that something was seriously wrong.

My husband is not an early riser.  At 5:45 he would not have welcomed a hysterical bedside visit, so I ran Norton while I tried to work around the fact that I had no computer.  I did have the laptop from work, but it’s not optimized for all of my sites and passwords, nor is it synched to my printer.  So I limped along hoping everything would be alright.

Norton got through at just about the same time my husband woke up, but I had a sneaky suspicion Norton had not killed the beast on my drive.  A few clicks confirmed my fears.  Then, I broke one of the sacred laws of our house.  I told Bill about my problem before he had his coffee.  Then I spent the next hour or so trying to get ready to leave while I coached Bill through saving my computer.

Things only got more interesting, but I’ll tell you more about it next week.