TRAVEL

Clarkson MI via Chicago IL

So, Who Thought This Was a Good Idea?

We like to save money. We can’t help it. When I researched flights to Michigan, I discovered (thanks to our friend, Mr. Pandemic) our flight to Detroit or Flint would be comparable to our flight to Rome just a couple of years before. I’d pulled every trick out of the book to make the Rome flights affordable, changing planes and enduring overnight layovers to save a few bucks. To pay virtually the same to get to Michigan seemed ridiculous.

I started looking for alternatives. Chicago was only five hours and many hundreds of dollars less, according to my research. I imagined an early flight and an easy five hour drive was worth hundreds of dollars. I mean this money was coming out of my travel budget and that’s the most precious funds I have access to. Bill said it was a no-brainer and, as I bonus we love Chicago, so we might end the trip with a day or two there.

The Good Idea Meets Reality

In my wildest dreams, I would have never guessed I would have been up for 24 hours by the time we got to the airport, but thanks to some random problem with our network, that was exactly the case. While other folks are able to catch a nap on the plane, in spite of my total exhaustion, that wasn’t possible for me. I’m lucky to grab even a couple of hours of sleep on international flights. About all I could manage on the short hop to Chicago was to rest my gravelly eyes. No sleep would come.

In Chicago, we grabbed a rental car and hit the road. Whoever (Google) said it was going to be a five hour drive obviously was out of touch with reality. Traffic was a nightmare and there was a lot of construction. There was a goodly amount of navigating to do through Illinois, so I stayed awake to help, but once we crossed over into Michigan, I was finally able to doze off.

It seemed as if I had only dozed off for a moment or two, but in reality I had a good nap. Bill, who certainly isn’t used to getting up at 4 AM, was fading fast. When I moved a little bit and fluttered my eyes, he asked if I would drive. I wanted to ask, “Are you kidding?”, but instead I told him to pull over at the next opportunity and I would fight it for a while.

The Torture Chamber

Bill dozed off the second I took over the wheel. A few moments later a sign announced I was approaching some construction and I thought to myself, “HA! As if we haven’t had it all along.”

It was true that Bill had driven through some construction, but nothing like I was about to face. As the lanes narrowed down, one truck pulled in front of me and another fell in line behind me. Then suddenly there were concrete barricades on either side of me and the road was rough. That’s when it began to rain.

Tears came to eyes just as they had at 3 AM, as I fought to deliver the images to our customers, so they’d have them within our designated time frame. I knew I had a job to do. I just didn’t know how I was going to do it. Bill may not have been up for as many hours as I had, but he’d valiantly driven for hours on end, while I dozed. It was his turn.

Imagine driving, in the rain, on a strange road, with a truck ahead of you and one behind you, when you can’t see over the concrete barriers on either side of you. Oh, and don’t forget the rough road. I had no idea how Bill could be asleep.

I remembered a trip we’d taken many years ago. Bill was driving a moving truck, pulling a car. We were in Albuquerque NM and rain was pouring so hard that you could barely see the car ahead of you, much less the signs over the road. I was behind Bill, in my car, and we were using our phones like walkie talkies. In spite of the fact I could barely see, I was directing Bill, as he drove ahead of me. I looked over to my dog who was in the seat next to me. I thought animals could sense danger, but my Shih Tzu was dead asleep. I must create a false sense of security when I drive.

Back in Michigan, I put in about an hour and a half in that moving torture chamber and I was done. That’s about the time the road opened up and the trucks zoomed away. I pulled off at the next McDonald’s for a potty stop and for Bill to take back the wheel. He took us on to Clarkson and to the home of our family. Come back next week, because things do get better.

TRAVEL

Michigan Bound

The Bags Were Packed, But the Business Wouldn’t Let Go

For one of the few times in my life I left the planning to someone else. My nephew, Dr. Megala, had lots of good ideas about what we should do while we visited Michigan, so I left it to him. Meanwhile, I was squaring things away so our business would actually let us leave.

As fate would have it, we had to do five different shoots the day before we left. Thankfully, we had a second photographer, so Bill only had to do three, but while we had a second photographer, I was still the only one handling the post production end of things. This trip would be our first stab at remote operations. Bill had bought a new laptop in recent months, so my primary job was to make sure everything worked.

I had checked and double-checked every link, every app, every email address – anything I would need to do my job while I was gone. There were only a few jobs sprinkled throughout the time we’d be away, but I was still nervous. As a way to test everything, I was going to use my laptop to process the jobs that came in that day.

In order to speed up the process, Bill met me mid-day with a photo card with two of his jobs, so I could start downloading images. When I came home from picking it up, our second photographer had emailed me his first set of pictures, also. I sat down at the laptop and began to process the jobs. The laptop told me it would take about 20 minutes to download the first shoot. Nothing out of the ordinary. We use raw images which are huge.

Not long afterwards, the laptop changed its mind and told me 45 minutes. Soon it was reporting a new time frame – 5 hours. FIVE HOURS!! Assuming it must be something wrong with the laptop, I went to Bill’s computer and tried to download another set of photos. His computer said it would take 2 days. I went upstairs to my computer. It wanted 5 days!!

When Bill got home I had decided our network was broken. Oh, I could get email, social media and all kinds of other things on our wi-fi, but nothing was downloading anywhere. I had pulled out my mobile hotspot and was about to load it with gigabytes. He decided I must be doing something wrong, so he wanted me to explain everything I’d done in the hours since he’d left me the photo card.

Now, as much as I love this guy, I was frantic and he was using his calm, cool tech-support voice. My hair was was on fire and I was on the verge of a total meltdown. I tried to be calm, I really did, but I wasn’t very good at it. Somewhere along the way, as I explained the problem and recounted my steps, the computers decided perhaps they’d only need another half hour or so to finish downloading the first job. We don’t have a clue what changed, but something did.

On a good day, it would take about five hours to download five jobs and send them to the editors. I’ve improved the process in the months since, but I was still figuring things out back then. Having started with two of the jobs in mid-afternoon and the others coming in shortly afterwards, I should have been done by dinner time.

As it turned out, it was bedtime before I got all the images downloaded and sent to the editors. I’d asked for a rush on all of them, so even though I was exhausted and was supposed to wake up at 4, I wanted to get a confirmation the editors had them and to have some kind of idea when they’d be ready.

Up until then, when I asked for a rush, I got an immediate confirmation and the images would be returned within the hour. That’s not what happened this time. Finally, sometime after midnight I got the confirmation they’d received all the jobs, but in spite of all my begging emails, I didn’t get the five jobs back until 3 AM! THREE AM!!

Bleary-eyed from being awake for 22 hours or so, I was totally stressed out and started delivering the jobs via email with tears in my eyes. At 4:05 AM the jobs were all sent and I walked downstairs to get ready to leave the house at 4:30 AM.

Now, I thought I would receive a hero’s welcome when I reported to the bedroom. Instead someone in this household, who will remain nameless, started telling me I had done it all wrong. Some day I will forgive him, but I am still working on it. Come back next week and see what happened next.

TRAVEL

New Year, New Trip

What Have I Done Since the Last Trip?

The pandemic has been tough on this traveling girl. In 2020, I was still blogging about the adventures of of my Anniversary Cruise of 2019 and was glad for the chance to get caught up. When that was over, I shared a trip to Arizona we’d unknowingly squeezed in, right before Covid-19 became a thing. That took the blog through the early part of 2021, but in my real life, I hadn’t been anywhere since February of 2020. So, I recapped a few of the local things I’d done for distraction during what I thought was going to be the end of the pandemic.

Only the pandemic stayed and Bill wasn’t budging. He’d kept me home (as in, in the house) for months on end. Several of my friends had used the break from normal life to travel, but not Bill. For one thing, real estate had been deemed one of those necessary industries and Bill’s a real estate photographer. While many of the other photographers in our industry chose to take off, Bill kept on shooting and because of that we were busier than ever.

For the other thing, he was of the opinion that the closer you stayed to home, the less likely you were to get the virus. We didn’t get the virus, but I nearly went insane tied to the house. I was thrilled when various networking groups started meeting. I’m not that crazy about networking, but it was better than staying home.

During the pandemic, we had a vacation package I was dying to use and I must have planned a dozen different vacations to take advantage of it, but none of them came about for a variety of reasons. Then I planned a holiday road trip, but that didn’t happen either, because the pandemic had an uptick at the end of 2020 and on New Year’s Eve, hen we were going to pop up to Oklahoma, the sky started falling.

In March, as senior citizens, we got both our Pfizer vaccinations, but by then business picked up. Not that it had actually ever slowed down that much. December was a little slow, not dead as it had been in the past, but at least we got to breathe. In January, the phone started to ring again and by March we were in over our heads. We had to outsource our editing, just to keep up.

Let’s Go to Michigan!

About this time we got an invitation we couldn’t resist. For several years we’d been promising our niece and nephew in Michigan we’d come see them. The pandemic kept us from keeping that promise, but now we were vaccinated. When they extended the invitation again, we had to say yes. It’s not that we were in anyway reluctant to see them. It’s just that Bill still had his Covid concerns. However, my mental health was also a concern and if I didn’t go somewhere and soon, then who knew what might happen. So, even though the invitation was for July, the busiest time in our business, it was the right time to visit Michigan, so we started making plans.

Among those plans we started interviewing photographers, found one we liked and started training him to expand our ability to satisfy customer requests and to let us leave town. We still warned our best customers that while we’d have a photographer to handle them, if they wanted Bill, they needed to get the homes shot by a certain date. Come back next week and see how that went.

DESTINATIONS, International, Road Trips, TRAVEL

At the Whim of the Gods, the Final Scene

Act III, Scene 1

Zeus:  Good Morning!  Thank you for tuning into Jagged Journeys on KVOO radio, the voice of Olympus.  I’m your host, Zeus, Greek god of sky and thunder.  On the air with me is Isis, my lovely Egyptian co-host.  Today is the grand finale of the Bill and Jane episode of our game and what a journey it has been!

Isis:  You are absolutely right, Zeus.  There are several gods and goddesses we have to thank for contributing to the success of this episode, but I think we should start with Mercury, because he selected these amazing players.

Zeus:  Yes, Isis, Mercury played an important role, but how did you like the storm I cooked up on their first day of travel?

Isis:  It was certainly something, Zeus.  It’s now almost two weeks later and New York is still trying to sort out the luggage.  It’s no wonder that you are the god of thunder; but you weren’t the only member of your family who made this game exciting – how about your wife, Hera?

Zeus:  She certainly made a difference.  Without her, the travelers might still be lost in Dusseldorf, but that’s ancient history now.  Why don’t we check in and see what’s happening with Bill and Jane.  Are they almost home, Mercury?

Mercury:  Yes, Zeus, our travelers are already in DFW airspace and Jane’s parents are waiting for them at the terminal.  This last leg of the flight has been most uneventful – a real yawner!

Isis:  But that’s been the exception rather than the rule; hasn’t it, Mercury?

Mercury:  Absolutely, Isis.  Even after they escaped from the consequences of Zeus’s storm and joined their friends in Germany, the trip continued to be a roller coaster.

Isis:  I remember when Bill and Jane arrived at the Kettler Hotel in Bad Laer.  They were so exhausted they were barely civil to the wedding party.  Even though they’d been trying to them reach for three days, all they could do was sit staring into space. They would have enjoyed some food from the buffet, but it had all been eaten.  Before too long, they went right up to their room and almost slept through the wedding.

Mercury:  Yes, they certainly would have if the groom had not come and knocked on the door.  Ludgar thought they might actually be sick.

Isis:  But they weren’t – only a bit worse for the wear.  Bill and Jane immediately jumped up and started getting ready, but very quickly found out they hadn’t packed the cufflinks and studs for Bill’s tux.

Mercury:  They lost a lot of points for that, too.  They were very irritable after sleeping so long and lost a lot of points for bickering.  This was a serious mistake after losing so many points for sleeping through the afternoon.  In fact, they lost so many points that they made the bride late for the wedding.  When they hit 498 points, Eris flew down and confused the driver of the bride’s car.  Even though everyone in the bride’s entourage saw the cathedral, they couldn’t figure out how to reach it.

Isis:  The bride saved the day.  They all got out and walked, leaving the cars to sort out the problem.  Things did go more smoothly after that.

Zeus:  You’re right Isis, for the first few days after the wedding it seemed as if the trip had turned into a real bore, but then Bill and Jane locked horns with The Couple from Hell.

Isis:  Actually they were from New York, but our contestants thought The Couple was sent from the devil – even though Lucifer certainly had nothing to do with it.  Remember the first time Bill and Jane noticed them.

Zeus:  Yes –initially, the couple from hell melted into the larger group of wedding guests – but as the days passed, more and more guests headed off with other agendas and the crowd dwindled down to our travelers, the newlyweds and The Couple From Hell.  That’s when they rode the cog wheel rails and cable cars up to the Zugspitze.

Mercury:  What a beautiful site that was!  Then the men decided to climb even higher than the observation deck to a shrine.  The Wife From Hell decided to go along, but she climbed the wrong way and had to be rescued.

Isis:  And it was Bill who rescued her, not her husband!

Mercury:  That’s right; and once again, Bill brought a lot of points to the board.  But that evening as they were looking for their hotel, The Couple From Hell nominated themselves as the official navigators and took everyone on quite a wild goose chase.  Somehow, Jane kept her mouth shut, but you could see how frustrated she was.

Zeus:  Yes, and The Couple from Hell insisted on holding on to their navigational position, but they weren’t exactly a pleasure to travel with.  If they’d been our players, this would’ve been a very different game, wouldn’t it Mercury? 

Mercury:  Absolutely, Zeus.  The husband loved spouting off about how capable he was at navigating, but never did take his turn driving – and that led to a completely different problem.  Didn’t it Isis?

Isis:  It did, Mercury.  Like school children on a bus, The Couple from Hell was jealous because they were stuck with the middle seat and didn’t get to sit in back.  They even complained to Tammy about it.

Mercury:  But, Bill and Jane had only been sitting in the back, to give The Couple from Hell a better seat.  Since The Couple from Hell didn’t appreciate it, our contestants were quick to move to the middle.  Then The Couple from Hell found out how hard it was to see out of the back and how uncomfortable it was.  Bill and Jane not only got points for cooperation, they got a better seat!

Zeus:  But they still had to put up with the hellish couple’s navigating.

Isis:  That is until Vienna, when Jane had finally had enough.  The entire group was on foot en route to a subway station.  Don’t you have that conversation cued up to play for our audience, Zeus?

Zeus:  Yes, I do.  The first man is the Hellish Husband, the second one is Ludgar and our audience should recognize Jane’s voice.

Hellish Husband:  OK, we continue on this street until we get to Ringstrasse Street.

Ludgar:  Simply marvelous.  Isn’t this wonderful weather?  What do we do then?

Hellish Husband:  We’ll turn right and then it should only be a block to the underground station.

Ludgar:  I hope we find a place to eat when we get to the palace.  I’m a bit hungry.

Hellish Husband:  The lady at the hotel said there would be plenty of places to choose from.

Ludgar:  Hey, Jane!  Where are you going?

Jane:  This is Ringstrasse.

Hellish Husband:  No, this street is Joseph Something Street, we’re looking for Ringstrasse Street.

Jane:  No, you’re wrong!  The Ringstrasse is a series of streets – strasse – that make a ring around the city center, hence Ringstrasse.  The street has different names in different parts but it’s all The Ringstrasse.

Ludgar:  Are you sure about this Jane?

Jane:  Yes, I am.  This is not my first trip to Vienna.

Ludgar:  Come on guys, Jane thinks this is the way.

Hellish Husband:  We are supposed to go to Ringstrasse Street.

Ludgar:  Jane, why don’t you come a few more blocks this way with us and if we don’t see Ringstrasse Street, then we can come back.

Jane:  You guys go ahead, I’ll wait right here, because this is Ringstrasse.  I’ve already made too many extra steps on this trip and I’m not going on another wild goose chase.

Ludgar:  Come on, Jane, we should stay together.

Jane:  And we should turn right here.  If you don’t believe me, since you speak German, ask one of the locals.

Isis:  So Ludgar spoke to someone in German and headed off in the direction Jane insisted they should go.  The Couple from Hell followed reluctantly.

Zeus:  Ugly Americans!

Mercury:  Zeus, Isis, the plane has landed.  Bill and Jane are headed towards the terminal.

Zeus:  Then we should hurry up and tell them about my second storm.

Isis:  OK, Zeus.  Up in the Alps after a nice al fresco lunch, the group heard bells ringing and asked the waiter what they signified.  The waiter told them the bells meant a storm was coming.  Since ancient time the people living in the mountains rang the bells for storms, because the mountains hid them.

Zeus:  I always thought that was a nice touch.  Tell everyone what happened then!

Isis:  Well, Zeus, then the group walked down the street a few blocks to a pastry shop for dessert.  A funny noise made them look outside and your storm was pouring down.

Zeus:  Yeah – grape to golfball sized hail filling the street curb to curb!

Isis:  It was very impressive, Zeus, but since you are only allowed to interrupt the trip once in a game, by the time they ate their dessert, you had to move the hail out of the area.

Zeus:  That’s right, but it was something wasn’t it?  So where are they now, Mercury?

Mercury:  They’ve just exited the doors of the terminal and Jane’s parents are waving like crazy.  Jane has gone up to her mother and given her a hug.  They are breaking the embrace now and I’m going to see if I can get close enough for you to hear what they say.

Jane’s mother:  I’m glad you are home.  Did you have a good time?

Jane:  We certainly did, but for a lot of the trip, we felt like we were tossed about at the whim of the gods.   

TRAVEL

A Six-Month Covid Hiatus

Photo by Peggy Anke on Pexels.com

An Apology and a Resumption

Let’s start with the apology. I just ran out of energy. I had too many balls in the air and for the time being, my blog was the one with the least amount of consequences, should I drop it. I’ve turned a page and caught up with myself, to a certain extent – at least to the point that I’ve missed blogging. So, welcome back to my tales.

At the Whim of the Gods

It wouldn’t be wrong to say that I left you guys at the altar. I was sharing a piece I’d written of a landmark travel experience, which took Bill and I to Germany for a wedding. I got as far as the rehearsal dinner and then life happened, as it has before, but it left us wishing the dinner buffet hadn’t been quite so popular with Tammy’s guests, because we were starving.

Part of the reason I stopped there, was because I had to change gears. I originally wrote the story as a play and what I was sharing with you was the re-write in narrative form, but I had never finished the rewrite. I toyed with the idea of completing it for the blog, but there were all those balls I was juggling, so it never happened.

Juggling the Balls

I should have known. I started the series during the early part of the year, which is slow in our real estate photography business and about the time I should have been completing the rewrite, the slow was over.

In fact, it was very over. This was the year we had to outsource our editing and hire extra photographers. I’d also started a little side gig. Something that seemed like a good idea in our slow season, but totally insane as I tried to juggle everything else. So the blog fell through the cracks. Eventually, my side gig also fell through the cracks, but more about that on another day.

Getting Back to It

So, we’ll go back to Germany, but there will be no rewrite. The final act will be in the form of a play. So, sit back and get ready to enjoy the show. I’ll be back next week with Zeus, Isis and the rest of the At the Whim of the Gods gang. And though I forgot to mention it before, I’ve missed you guys.

Accommodations, DESTINATIONS, International, Restaurants & Bars, Road Trips, TRAVEL, Travel Planning

Intro to At the Whim of the Gods

TRAVEL THERE: SOMETHING FUNNY HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO A WEDDING

1994 was a big year for me.

I got married in May and our honeymoon was a Hawaiian cruise. That should be enough to make any year big, but it was just the beginning of our adventures.

I had six weeks to update my passport with my new name, because Bill’s best friend was getting married in Wiesenkirche Zu Soest and we were on the guest list. We weren’t only on the guest list for the wedding, though. We were also invited along for the honeymoon.

The Way the World Was

Today life is framed by smartphones and social media, but in 1994 we somehow managed to live without either one. There was an internet, but we called it the web and it was just a place for nerds to go.

A computer with Windows and a mouse was a novelty, because most systems ran DOS. Our monitors were CRTs. People owned copiers, not printers, because printers were these loud dot matrix things that produced voluminous reports we called print-outs. We sent faxes, not emails, because email was also a novelty and texts weren’t a thing. (Watch the movie You’ve Got Mail.)

Every home had a land line, with multiple phones around the house and depended on an answering machine to get their messages. There were cellular phones, but they were very limited, because you actually subscribed to a particular set of cell towers. You actually had to pay extra to get Dallas-Ft. Worth service, instead of Dallas or Ft. Worth. When you got out of your cell, then you went on roaming which was astronomically expensive, so you just didn’t use it. There was no camera, no texting, no wi-fi, no internet. You just made and received calls. For all these reasons, there were more people with beepers than there were with cellphones and when you weren’t working, you left your beeper at home. Believe me, it was lovely.

When you traveled you used maps, atlases and travel guides, because GPS was something for pilots and the military. If you needed to make a call, you used a pay phone or you waited until you got to your hotel. Getting away from it all could actually be accomplished.

It Should Have Been a Breeze

I’ve been fortunate in my life. My vacations with Bill have been one Trip of a Lifetime after another – the Caribbean, Egypt, the Danube, the Mediterranean, cruises, road trips, you name it and I hadn’t exactly been sitting around on my keester before I met him.

Still, the itinerary for Tammy and Ludger’s wedding trip was like something out of a movie. Tammy was a flight attendant for an international airline, so all of our flights were comped. Ludger’s company owned the gorgeous hotel where the wedding party stayed, so our five star accommodations were comped. Limos were supposed to pick us up at one airport and whisk us to another, where we’d party in one of those restricted lounges. There would be days of rustic folk celebrations in Ludger’s small German village and the wedding would be in a spectacular cathedral. And that was just the beginning, because then we’d set out on a road trip to see the wonders of Bavaria.

But you know me! If something is going to go awry, then I’m probably on that train. Before this trip was over I would live some of the most spectacular moments of my life. It was remarkable in every possible way, but most remarkable and most frequently recounted is the disaster of a commute we made from DFW to the small town of Dortmund in Germany.

At the Whim of the Gods was Born

I turned these adventures into a manuscript sometime in the early 2000’s. I wasn’t sure then what I’d do with it. I just had the inspiration and went with it. I still had hopes of being the next Victoria Holt back in those days. At first I wrote it like a play, inspired by the Greater TUNA plays by Jaston Williams, Joe Sears and Ed Howard, which were popular at the time. Then, someone in a writing group said it would be more fun as a narrative. That captured my imagination and I did a rewrite. I had actually forgotten the rewrite until I was looking back in my files to retrieve the play.

I didn’t actually think I was going to be the next Victoria Holt. I just wanted to be a published author. I’d written a comic novel about a retirement home romance, but somewhere after the 50th rejection letter I found myself embroiled in the drama of being the primary caregiver for three failing senior citizens and I lost my momentum. Life went on and while I did manage to get some poems published, I’ve moved on to other dreams.

Now, I’ll share At the Whim of the Gods with you. I decided the narrative version is the more interesting of the two, even though it was never actually finished. Who knows, maybe I’ll get inspired again? Maybe I’ll finish it up by sharing the end of the play.

One small warning – there won’t be many images. Bill had his camera bag, but remember, these were the days before we had smartphones and we didn’t break out the camera for the small moments, or our meals, or much of anything, except the sites.

I’ll break the narrative down into easily digestible chunks and make this post sticky, so that if anyone happens upon my blog they’ll know what’s up.

The Blurb on the Cover

If this story was on Amazon, there would be a paragraph to introduce it. It would go something like this:

What if the huge pantheon of gods from the ancient world are still with us? Since we stopped worshipping them, perhaps they’ve gotten a little bored. Taking a cue from humans, the gods and demi-gods watch reality shows on their scrying bowls. The favorite show might be Jagged Journeys, where human contestants have no idea they’re just entertainment fodder for Mount Olympus. Bill and Jane Sadek are real people who went on a real vacation in 1994. All these things actually happened to them. Was it just bad luck or were they AT THE WHIM OF THE GODS!

I really do hope you enjoy it. Come back next week for the first excerpt!

Attractions, DESTINATIONS, DFW Metroplex, Rockwall, TRAVEL

Staycation Fail

TRAVEL HERE: AND THE YEAR SPUTTERED TO AN END

We woke on New Year’s Eve to threats of snow. Though we had planned to drive up to the Two Hearts Inn, just outside Oklahoma City, our guts told us to cancel. We ran to the grocery store for some supplies and hunkered down for an at home celebration. While we managed to pull off a very nice meal and a fun evening, I’d grade my attempt at a Staycation as ZERO!

One Failure After Another

My idea of a Staycation was romantic brunches with my handsome husband, lazy afternoons playing games, sharing memories through my many scrapbooking albums and enjoying the excursions I’d planned for us to take. That’s not what happened.

One of our first planned activities was a cookie-baking day. Things started out well, but didn’t end that way. Our last cookies had to be pressed out of a cookie press and the one I had used for years decided it wasn’t going to work anymore. We were both tired and a little cranky when we had to face the biggest challenge of the day.

We lived through that and the next day we delivered all our cookies to our friends. That was pretty fun, but after the first few visits, it was more of a chore than I antisciapted.

Our visit to the Kimbell to see Nefertari went well, until we tried to have a nice meal. We were hoping for French food and white tablecloths, but ended up at McDonald’s. The carriage ride was a disaster. The Vintage Train Ride was disappointing. So, it was no surprise that the B&B idea for NYE didn’t work out either. The weather made trying to take a road trip insane.

It wasn’t all doom and gloom. We cooked up a nice meal for Christmas dinner and my bestie had amazing leftovers the next evening from her own Christmas dinner, so she shared them with us. The meal we cooked up for NYE was amazing and we did actually play some games that Mr. Bill enjoyed. However, looking back over the last two weeks of the year, more went wrong than went right.

Plan B for Me

It didn’t take me long to understand that my romantic dreams for Staycation weren’t going to happen. I got very lucky, because a set of photos I wasn’t expecting until after Christmas showed up on my door step. So, I got busy doing one of my my favorite things. I can’t help it that I wake up between 5 & 6 every day, but instead of just going up to my desk and going to work on Spot On Images business, I happily worked on scrapbooking – the one thing I love to do almost as much as traveling.

It would have been very easy, almost tempting, to just go ahead and work or do the opposite and stare into the TV feeling sorry for myself. Instead I chose what was behind Door #3. That didn’t do a thing for Mr. Bill, but I have to let him live with his choices. I needed a break.

Door #3 ended up taking me on a journey I hadn’t planned on taking. Come back next week and I’ll tell you about it.

Attractions, DESTINATIONS, DFW Metroplex, Restaurants & Bars, Road Trips, Shopping, TRAVEL, United States

Grapevine Vintage Railroad

TRAVEL HERE: FORT WORTH STOCKYARDS FOR THE HOLIDAYS

Desperate for some travel-like experiences in the Covid haze, I planned a series of holiday outings, but I’ll be the first to admit things didn’t go as planned. While there’s many a time the thermometer has hovered in the seventies over the holiday season, that was not the case this holiday. Instead, my poor husband suffered a series of weather-related indignities, just so he wouldn’t have to peel me off the wall. Our excursion on the Grapevine Vintage Railroad was just such an experience.

Covid vs. The Weather

During the pandemic, virtually everything you wanted to do, you needed to have reservations. While that seems like a reasonable request, as I mentioned when I talking about the Dallas Arboretum, it just doesn’t work very well in our lives. Bill needs to be in the mood and the weather needs to be nice. During December, Bill was not in the mood, at all, and the weather was pretty awful.

Bill suffers from SAD, a condition related to those people whose emotions can be effected by the lack of certain light rays from the sun. He has special lights in his office and he takes extra vitamins to combat it, but when the weather is lousy, so is his mood. In December the weather was lousy , but in spite of his mood, Bill tried to enjoy the events I scheduled, unlike the weather.

A Rainy and Cold Excursion

The morning of our Grapevine Vintage Railroad excursion was not a pretty one. It was cold and it was trying to rain. There was mostly just a miserable mist, but on occasion it would gather it’s wits about it and give us some actual rain. We drove to Grapevine in the mist, which turned into a pretty nasty rain, just about the time we needed to make a dash to get on the train.

Damp and wet, we turned our reservations in for some souvenir tickets. I’ve got to hand it to the Grapevine Vintage Railroad, their cars are very authentic and they’d done a marvelous job decorating them for the holidays. However, as we settled into our seats the Covid effect was immediate. Everyone had on their masks and those everyone’s were few and far between.

Part of the fun of something like a train excursion it the energy you get from the people around you only none of the people around us were actually close enough to us to share their energy. I know there was a pandemic going on, but this just felt sad in a way that our other attempts at our Staycation had not.

We tried to jolly one another along as the train made it’s way to Fort Worth. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much to see. The railway went through industrial areas and neighborhoods, but none of the neighborhoods were very scenic – just one leaning, washed-out privacy fence after another, behind houses desperately in need of maintenance. Preventative maintenance had been ignored about a decade ago. The railway made an attempt to entertain us with a faux train robbery, but with a mostly empty car the failure of it just rattled the windows.

Finally, the Fort Worth Stockyards

As we arrived, others were clamoring to get on, so the initial feel of it was that maybe we were on to something. Then we stepped outside. It was cold, really cold, and while it wasn’t raining or misting, there was enough humidity to make it feel even colder.

We made our way over to the Stock Exchange which was reportedly full of exhibits, museums, food and shops. NOT! And all the reported attractions which were missing from the Stock Exchange must have taken the rest of attractions in the area with them, because nothing was opened with the exception of a few stores and restaurants.

We spent some time in the Stockyards Hotel Lobby and that, at least, was interesting. They did have some historical photos which kept us occupied for awhile. Then we headed on our way along Exchange Avenue. Several of the stores were nothing but junk. Forty million things with Fort Worth Stockyards printed on them and nothing at all that we wanted.

Then, we found out that it was a good thing we didn’t want to be a Cowboy or Cowgirl, because we couldn’t afford it! As we made our way along Exchange Avenue the quality went up and there were no souvenir type slogans printed on things, but the price tags scared us to death. Cowboy boots in multiple thousands, pieces of clothing in the mid to high hundreds. Hats for custom blocking that were astronomical. And the jewelry? Tasteful, but exorbitant.

Getting a Bite at Booger’s

Our watches told us we had a some more time to kill before we could get back on the train and return to Grapevine. We decided to drown our sorrows in some food and drinks. The best option seemed to be Booger Red’s, a restaurant and bar attached to the Stockyards Hotel. We have no complaints, at all, concerning Booger’s. My Margarita was good, as were our quesadillas. The establishment has a Western feel to it and they’ve hung a number of amusing signs around for entertainment.

If you’ve heard of the Fort Worth Stockyards, then you’ve probably heard of Billy Bob’s. On a cold weekday during Covid, nothing was going on there. The other thing you might have heard of was the daily cattle drives. That did happen, but let me tell you, like a lot of small towns in Texas, if you blink you might miss it.

Then we were glad it was time to go. The train ride back was pretty much a repeat of the trip there. We got back to Grapevine and got off the train. We had a close eye on the weather, because the next morning we were supposed to head to Oklahoma and celebrate at a very special Bed and Breakfast Inn. Did we get to do it? Come back next week and find out.

DESTINATIONS, DFW Metroplex, Road Trips, TRAVEL, United States

The Road to Alligator Bottoms

TRAVEL HERE: THE ADVENT TEA WE WILL NEVER FORGET

I have been accused of making up some of my adventures purely to entertain you guys. While I am guilty of squeezing every laugh I can out of a situation, I assure you I have lived through each of these adventures, exactly as I have explained them to you. Whether it was the chagrin I felt on the tourist train in Monte Carlo or having a machinegun toting guard deliver me to a wedding in Cairo, it happened. Perhaps the truth of it is that I just look for more fun in a situation than most people do. What other people experience and forget about almost immediately, I enjoy retelling with relish over and over and over.

The Advent Tea

I go to a very Conservative church. The women all home school and some families are so large, they broke the Covid restrictions just by waking up each morning. A great majority of the families live far out in the country. I’ve never exactly understood why God decided that’s where He wanted me to go, but it couldn’t have been clearer it was His choice for me, even if He’d decided to hang a red “You Are Here” arrow over the roof.

What’s even more strange is that they’ve made me a member of the Ladies Ministry Committee. Early in 2020, before Covid was a thing, one really sweet lady said she had a great idea for a November event. We’d each buy a box of tea, adhere a Bible verse to each tea bag and bring the bags to the event. Then we’d share tea bags and each lady would walk away with collection of teas to enjoy during Advent. That sounded like my kind of event, so I was assigned to help organize it.

The hostess had things pretty well under control, but she was a little fuzzy on the receptacles for sharing the teas at the event and on the receptacle each person would take home with their own teas. I suggested my mom’s Christmas China for presenting the teas and decorative tin boxes to take them home. My suggestions were accepted.

What I Thought Would Happen

The location of the event was one of those homes out in the country that’s not exactly on my beaten track. That’s why I was glad I’d need to take a pre-event visit to deliver the china pieces we’d be using, as well as the cute matching tins I’d found at the dollar store. Based on that assumption, I thought I’d invite along my Bestie, who attends the church with me, but rarely gets to participates in Ladies Ministry Events, because her schedule is so demanding.

So, the day before the event I contacted the hostess and asked her when she wanted me to deliver the china. Well, somewhere along the way she’d decided she didn’t want to use the china after all. While she was probably under the impression that she was making life easier for me, she had no idea that after learning Mom’s china would not be making an appearance, I actually sat down and cried.

I also made note of the fact that I wouldn’t be making a trial run to the location, but we have GPS, right. Everything would be fine.

What Actually Happened

So, Bestie did her best to break away from work, but by the time I picked her up, dusk was setting in. We shot up I-30, took the appointed exit and then turned right when the GPS said to. Only in the dark, I took some kind of driveway rather than a street or road and we were soon turning around.

We got on the right road almost by Braille and continued to follow the GPS directions. Left here, right there – no you missed it, turn around as soon as you can, now left, OK, but we’re about to take a quick right…well you get the picture.

Eventually, the GPS was happy with the road we were traveling and we went deeper into the boonies. At one point I looked at the screen and saw we were on Alligator Bottoms Road. I kid you not. She laughed, I laughed, Burt Reynolds and Jon Voight laughed…I’m kidding.

Finally, the GPS said we were only a few minutes away and that’s when I saw the gate across the road with a whole bunch of official looking signs warning me not to go any further. That’s when Dueling Banjos began to play. Maybe not in reality, but it was on both our minds.

I tried to turn around, but in the inky blackness I was afraid I was going to end up in a ditch, so Bestie had to get out and direct. Once I had the car headed towards civilization I zoomed out of there. We tried calling someone, anyone – because it was time for the event to start and I still had the tin boxes, but to no avail. Believe me, if I hadn’t had those boxes, we would have been on our way to someplace with adult beverages, not tea.

The Boring Ending

With no one answering their phones or calling us back, Deb pulled out her phone and gave Waze a shot. Perhaps it would do a better job than my GPS did. After about 27 more twists and turns we arrived at the tea with a couple of other carloads of ladies. We were late, but not horribly so and there were others who were more lost than we were, apparently – though no one else went to Alligator Bottoms.

Instead of Mom’s Christmas China, the various teas were in small baskets, not an improvement to my eyes, Everybody loved their tins. We had a nice devotional and some prayer time. Then we headed back into the night and were back on a main road before you could say Deliverance – The Movie.

And that was our Adventurous Advent Tea. Next time these city girls are staying home!! Come back next week and we’ll go to the Kimbell for a real holiday treat!

ART, Attractions, DESTINATIONS, DFW Metroplex, Museums, Road Trips, TRAVEL, United States

Kicking the Pandemic at The Kimbell

TRAVEL HERE – Flesh & Blood at the Kimbell Museum

I may be a Dallasite, but my heart belongs to the Kimbell Museum in Ft. Worth. I love the Dallas Museum of Art, too, but not in the same way. The DMA tends to cater to a more modern taste than mine. I almost grew up among the items in its permanent collection, so they are dear to my heart and frequently visited, but too often I look at what’s on special exhibition there, shrug my shoulders and head to Ft. Worth. There are notable exceptions in my recent memory, Dior, Tut, and Jean Paul Gaultier, for instance, but during the pandemic the exhibits were definitely not on my must see list.

Italian Masterpieces from the Capodimonte Museum

They had me at Italian Masterpieces! I got goose bumps at the idea of Capodimonte! That’s the kind of art I’ll drive to Ft. Worth for.

I made a couple of visits. One was with Bill and to say he was under-impressed would be an understatement. I was surprised, because most of it was nudes, he’s a guy…you know the drill. But, he went through the gallery at lightening speed. Usually, after we’ve both seen everything at our own speed, he’s eager to walk back through with me and point out his favorites. He was ready to go. I didn’t get that at all. Look at these gorgeous things!

I adored the painting of the woman and spent a lot of time trying to figure out exactly how the outfit she was wearing worked in real life. The boy lighting the flame was very sweet. All the painting were glorious – but not according to my husband.

Bestie and I Return

Well, once was not enough for me, so I returned with my bestie. The show was supposed to be over in June, but due to the pandemic it stayed a little longer and we went in July. She was as gaga as I was over the gorgeous works of art. We lingered and strolled and lingered some more.

We also had a good laugh. To spice up the experience, they had costumed volunteers strolling the galleries. It was supposed to give you the feeling of being in a gallery when theses masterpieces were new. Somehow the pandemic masks killed it for me.

Sorry the photo is a little tilted and fuzzy, I was doing the best I could, but I was trying to be a little discreet about shooting it with my phone. So what next. Well, there were weddings, neighborhood parties, grocery store contests, restaurant visits and other distractions, but it was all social distanced and masked, so I wasn’t having the time of my life. Finally, there was the Staycation. Come back next week and I will tell you about that.