Archive for the 'Travel' Category

Cruisin’ With Carol!

Highlights from Cruisin’ with Carol in January!

“Official” cruise photo with Carol aboard the Carnival Glory

Flower girls!

Carol goes for the guac in Cozumel!

The view from my beach chair in Isla Roatan

The view from my beach chair in Cozumel

The view from my beach chair in Costa Maya

The Long Road Home

Before starting the long road back to Austin, I met up with Steve and Arlene Griffis at Bread & Breakfast to talk about the upcoming Way Out West Texas Book Festival, which I regretfully had to pass on, because it’s the same weekend as Lydia’s wedding (Aug. 9). But we talked and talked and are cooking up a partnership for 2009 — I’m going to try to schedule the Summer Writing Academy to lead in to the WOW Festival, and that way we can share a bigger-name author or two! After breakfast, we went to Front Street Books, where I finally got to meet owner Jean Hardy, whom I immediately took a liking to! She had not known about the Writing Academy (yikes!) and said she would have been happy to host a reading by the instructor/authors! One more thing to work on for next year…

Then it was time to bid adios to Alpine and head back home. I went through Marathon this time, but didn’t stop. Steve and Arlene live there and have offered their guest house for me any time! Yay! I’ll definitely be ready to go back!

Fortunately, the looooong drive home coincided with the book I was listening to, The Last Girls, by Lee Smith — I started it shortly outside of Austin on the way up and it ended right around Dripping Springs on the return trip!

#14: My First Summer Writing Academy

The Writers’ League Summer Academy surpassed my expectations! I sat in on all four classes and was quite jazzed by them. Now I want to stick around longer, rather than head back on Tuesday!

After the orientation last night, I had dinner with instructors Karleen Koen, Clay Reynolds, Suzy Spencer, and Scott Wiggerman at my surprise find, Trattoria Cafe, next to the McDonald’s by the university. Food and conversation were all quite enjoyable.

The dorm, however … Note to self: For next year, make sure all instructors and visiting E.D.s are housed off-campus at a hotel! Oh, well, it’s so darn cheap, I can tough it out for two nights!

The students all seem to be into the classes, even on Day One. A good sign! The campus is just perfect for our Continue reading ‘#14: My First Summer Writing Academy’

#7: Opening Day at Wrigley Field

The big day arrived at last! That morning, the new statue of Ernie Banks was dedicated; we’d watched some of that on WGN before heading out. Of course it was still drizzling as we left the hotel and the forecast called for thunderstorms, so we stopped at Walgreen’s to pick up oh-so-fashionable cheapo rain ponchos before catching the bus to Wrigley. But a little rain wasn’t going to keep us away!

Nor did it damped the spirits of the other happy Cubs fans at Wrigley, waiting to take on those Milwaukee Brewers. We started with our traditional short pilgrimage to the Cubs Grotto at the house on Addison just west of the stadium. Then we went to the Cubs store across from Wrigley, where Cathy, Carol, and I bought floppy hats to help keep the rain at bay. Then it was time to go stand in line for entry to the bleachers, where we had right-field seats. More to follow!

My Vacation in Burlington, Day 4

Miss Cait chauffeured James and me around on the grand tour of Burlington in her cute new Verso (see photo of the cutie and her car). Among the highlights was the visit to the Our Lady of Grace Grotto at St. Mary’s, a rival to Kansas’ own Garden of Eden (well, maybe not exactly, but it was equally kitschy!). We poked around and heard the recording. Then it was back to the casa. While James napped away a headache, Cait and I went down to the restaurant, where she whipped up a tasty Italian salad and cannoli (come to think of it, this was after she made waffles for everyone that morning!).

We watched the first half of KU’s scary Elite Eight game against Davidson, and then had to leave for Galesburg where we were to meet Cathy and Carol and take the train on in to Chicago. Since KU had trouble putting Davidson away, it was tough going; we did catch it on the radio, but I had to keep turning it off. We listened to the tail end of the game in the parking lot at the station — anyone watching us must have thought we were nuts when Davidson missed that final three-pointer at the buzzer!

Our train ride was so easy and smooth. As always, it makes me wish Texas was so darn attached to the one-Texan, one-car mentality I love train travel — it goes back to when the five of us Hughes kids would ride the Zephyr from McCook, Nebraska, to Chicago to see Dad. So coming into Union Station always makes me think of Dad — well, Chicago in general does that!

When we arrived in Chicago, it was raining, so we hauled our gear through the drizzle to the El and then from the El to our hotel, the Days Inn at Clark and Diversy — only a few blocks from Dad’s old apartment (and mine, when I was attending Northwestern way back in 1976-1977!) at 2222 N. Clark! It was cool to be back in the old ‘hood, although there was slight problem with our reservations — our two rooms had only one queen bed per room, and apparently the hotel was sold out! We toughed it out for the first night.

My Vacation in Burlington, Days 1-3

When my sister Cathy announced that she wanted to celebrate my birthday with me and asked, it took me no time at all to come up with the perfect idea: Opening Day with the Cubs! Cathy, Carol, Caity, and Chris had gone to last year’s opening game; I was supposed to have gone, but couldn’t go. So this was a no-brainer. Plus, I decided to make a week of it and just hang with the family in Burlington and mangia mangia at La Tavola! To top that all off, Bradley University had a home stand in Peoria that weekend, which meant I could go see my nephew Chris play ball (See #6!). BONUS! Cathy took care of EVERYTHING, even finding a flight that took me directly to Burlington “International” (ha ha ha!) Airport on March 27.

We had a plethora of birthdays to party on: Caity turned 16 on March 11, Cheryl’s birthday was March 22, and Carol and her best friend James “Celebrity Slut” Woods share a natal day on April 10! So the Wichita contingent of Carol and James drove up on Saturday and joined in on the baseball festivities.

I worked the phones at the restaurant during the lunch hours on Friday and Wednesday. Several people commented, “You HAVE to be another sister!” That was a kick! What was really great was seeing how fond the regulars are of Cheryl and Carlo. Several of Cheryl’s birthday bouquets were still decorating the joint.

Not only was it great fun to hang with my family, but I also enjoyed exploring more of Burlington, which is actually quite charming. Cathy and Cait live over the restaurant in the historic downtown, just two blocks Continue reading ‘My Vacation in Burlington, Days 1-3’

#3: My First Pyramid and the Tour Guide From Mayan Hell!

A few weeks before the cruise, Carol had sent me an e-mail asking if I would be interested in making day a trip to Chichen Itza. My answer: Heck, YES! I’ve always been fascinated by those ruins, and I was so excited to have the chance to go. So early on Jan. 29, Carol, Lynn, James, and I boarded the bus at Progreso. After we settled in and started the drive across that glum causeway and bridge, our tour guide, an elderly man of Mayan descent named José, started what proved to be an interminable lecture about “Chi-CHEN Eet-ZAH.” He droned on and on, along with the grimey panaromas of Progreso and then the flat, tedious landscape beyond. He finally shut it after Merida, but not after hawking a Mayan calendar book (available for either $10 or $30, depending on which one of us heard what!). After about two hours, we stopped at what José billed as a convenient bathroom stop, which was more like additional shopping opportunities (for which, I’m sure, he received a cut). James and Carol bought Pringles (take that, vendors!). One mile later and around noon, we were at Chichen Itza, which, oddly enough, had plenty of rest room and shopping opportunities!. José wasted more time by handing out our tickets and wristbands, something he could have done on the bus. Finally, we passed through the turnstile, and there it was, the magnificent Pyramid of Kulkulkan (a.k.a. El Castillo) under a bright-blue sky. Awed and antsy, I wanted to bolt right over to it, but José had other ideas. He ordered us to gather so he could give us an introduction and tell us where to meet at 1:45 p.m. As he blah-blah-blahed, we had to fend off diminutive overly assertive Mayan ladies pushing embroidered handkerchiefs (“One dollar, lady!”). José then led us over to Continue reading ‘#3: My First Pyramid and the Tour Guide From Mayan Hell!’

#2: Mexico!

(Hint to improve your reading experience: Click on this link for this entry’s soundtrack and then come back and read on!) On the cruise, I knocked out a second Fab First: my first trip to Mexico.

Carol, Lynn, and I left the ship around 10 a.m. on Monday, January 28, for a stroll through Cozumel on a bright, sunny day. First impression: Charming from the ship; too touristy on land. We stopped at a little mini-mall where Lynn succeeded in bartering (a first for her!) a good price on a wooden Jesus. We then diverted off the turista trek (there was no Senor Frog’s for this group!) and popped into a small Americanized coffee shop for water, latte, and cookies. It was also our first shot at using cell phones; Carol’s worked. Mine did, sort of –– Continue reading ‘#2: Mexico!’

#1: Cruisin’ With Carol (Part 3: Cruise Rules)

One thing we did come up with throughout the trip were our Cruise Rules:

  1. Always take the stairs instead of elevators (Carol instigated this rule on earlier cruises, and with all of the various decks, this rule probably kept me from taking evidence of Rule #6, below, home with me!).
  2. What Not to Wear: Anything with letters across the tush, no matter what age (inspired by a flimsy jogging suit with rhinestone letters across hips that were definitely too wide).
  3. No braids: Oh, sure, every shop in Cozumel offers Bo Derek-in-Ten braids and beads. But come on –– no one who got braided looks anything like Bo Derek.
  4. Cell phones need to be worked out before arriving in Mexico!
  5. Sign & sail cards will almost always have some type of problem at some point.
  6. Dessert is mandatory!
  7. Stop at every photo opportunity and POSE! (rule courtesy of the Suite Bunch).
  8. T-shirts bought in Cozumel should stay behind on the ship, especially those that have anything to do with certain parts of the male/female anatomy.

#1: Cruisin’ With Carol (Day 2: Fun Day at Sea)

Our first Fun Day at Sea gave me a chance to explore the ship and get in the sea groove. The ship was so huge that my water phobia was under control, even when I went to the upper deck’s jogging track to get in my 11 laps (one my mile). I loved the spectacular views of the water, water everywhere (okay, maybe I’m not the water wienie I claim to be!). Wind gusts tried to pop off my hat every time I made a certain turn, and I occasionally had to docruisers-with-roses-small.jpgdge errant golf balls from the mini-golf course in the mid- dle of the track, but I got the job done. Duty called for Carol bright and early; she did photos with listeners and then helped host the KFDI Deck Olympics. The highlight had to be the quarter drop contest, in which contestants had to use their lower cheeks to drop quarters into a cup!
After lunch, Carol and I went back up to the track deck to lounge and read in relative quiet, until it got too chilly. The Suite Bunch caught up with us there, after missing out on the finals of the slots tournament. Just as James was recounting their latest schtick rather loudly, “… and then I said, ‘Angie used to be a MAN!,” a sedate group of older walkers came by and almost tripped as he said. We skeddadled out and I went for a nap. From my upper bunk, I had the visual equivalent of meditation tape, a relaxing, hypnotic view of nothing but waves. Put me right to sleep!

Formal wear was required for dinner that evening, and Bo from Oklahoma gave each of us a white rose. After dinner, the band did a soundcheck, which ended up being rather complicated, because apparently the sound capabilities weren’t quite what had been expected). Then it was more Society Bar fun till rather late (and yes, we had to stop and take pictures –– that’s Timmy and Joel with Carol and Lynn and me!).

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