Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Hales Do San Antonio....

After Austin, we spent three nights in San Antonio. Our hotel was on the Riverwalk and in a nice location for strolling along there. When we checked in, we were upgraded to a room with a balcony overlooking part of the Riverwalk so that was a nice perk. The weather was nice enough that we could sit out there in the evening and watch people stroll by.

Olive enjoyed it in her regular doggie way.

Of course, we had to visit the Alamo. When we got there, we discovered that dogs are not allowed on the side of the street where the Alamo sits, so we took turns sitting with Olive while the other went in and checked it out. I managed to strike up a conversation with a very nice man from San Jose, California. He told me that he has four daughters and he asked me what that made him. I told him I didn't know. He said it made him King! If that's the case, my father was King, too.

The wonderful grounds at the Alamo.
We had lunch on the Riverwalk that day. Can you tell how much Greg loves oysters?
 I say he can have them.

We took the obligatory boat ride, of course.

The next day, we left the hustle and bustle of the Riverwalk and took in the Mission Tour. Our first stop was at the Mission Concepción. Built in 1755, it is the oldest unrestored church in the country . The original walls still stand.

 There, I met this beautiful young lady who asked very politely if she could pet my dog.  Of course, Olive said yes!

Mission San José is the most complete and restored of the missions on the tour. We truly enjoyed walking around the grounds and seeing how life was lived there in the mid 1700s.


We also visited the Mission Espada, which is still in use today.

And the Mission San Juan before running out of gas and going back to the hotel.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Austin and beyond...

From Galveston, we traveled west past Houston to Austin, capital of Texas and home to the main campus of the University of Texas. We indulged ourselves there by staying in the dog-friendly and completely unique, Hotel St. Cecilia.

Olive in the courtyard of the Hotel St. Cecilia
Each room in the hotel is unique but they all sport old-fashioned turntables and in the lobby is a fine collection of old record albums that can be checked out. But the best part is the location, the Hotel St. Cecilia is on a quiet street that is just a short walk from Congress Street, the main drag that has a great variety of restaurants and shopping, much of which is dog-friendly. We walked down each morning and had breakfast at Jo's. We enjoyed great coffee and pastries and Olive enjoyed the company of other canines like this beautiful pooch...

While in town, we toured the state capitol building. It has a beautiful understated elegance.

The dome of the Texas Capitol Building.

The Senate Chamber.
When we were on the grounds of the capitol, I experienced a little lens envy. But, you know, I would never be able to hold that thing still.

Austin is also a great base for exploring the Texas Hill Country and we took a day to check it out. We stopped at Perdernales Falls State Park and took a gander at the river that has made the area what it is today.

We checked out the boyhood home of President Lyndon B. Johnson and his adult ranch.

LBJ's boyhood home.
We stopped by Luckenbach, which Greg informed me is the subject of a country song by Waylon Jennings.

But, in spite of all the natural beauty we took in and all the cool things to see in Austin, the coolest thing we saw has to be this!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

By the time we got to...

Galveston, I had that Glen Campbell song stuck firmly in my head. It was raining pretty good so we didn't do a whole heck of a lot when we got there. Found our house, did some grocery shopping, stopped to buy umbrellas, let the dog get used to her new environment, listened to it rain and went to bed.

The next morning dawned bright blue and beautiful. The house we rented was steps from the beach and we took Olive over to check out the surf, which is her favorite thing.

We were also just a short distance from the Pleasure Pier, but with neither of us really being “ride” people, we knew we wouldn't be taking advantage of that, but I must admit, it makes a nice, colorful background.

In general, we had a nice relaxing time in Galveston doing some leisurely exploring on The Strand, roaming around and taking in the Tree Sculptures, which are carved out of oaks destroyed by Hurricane Ike in 2008. The Tree Sculpture Tour took us through a beautiful Victorian neighborhood.

I spotted this little girl on The Strand, where it is fashionable to have your clothes match your candy, apparently.

This Tree Sculpture of the Tin Man & Toto is in the yard of the house where King Vidor, one of the directors of The Wizard of Oz, was born in the front downstairs bedroom.

In Memoriam - Galveston's Lost Oaks - September 13, 2008
One day, we went to Sonny's where Greg was happy to order their mug of oysters. I said, “Yuk!” as I always do when Greg has oysters and had an excellent muffaletta for myself.

When we got to Galveston, I could only remember one verse of the Glen Campbell song about Galveston and it went through my brain over and over and over, so I looked it up on the interweb when I got a chance. Apparently, it is a song about a soldier missing his girl back in Galveston, written by Jimmy Webb, who wrote so many of the songs I grew up with.

Galveston, oh Galveston, I still hear your sea winds blowin'
I still see her dark eyes glowin'
She was 21 when I left Galveston

Galveston, oh Galveston, I still hear your sea waves crashing
While I watch the cannons flashing
I clean my gun and dream of Galveston

I still see her standing by the water
Standing there lookin' out to sea
And is she waiting there for me?
On the beach where we used to run

Galveston, oh Galveston, I am so afraid of dying
Before I dry the tears she's crying
Before I watch your sea birds flying in the sun
At Galveston, at Galveston

Sorry for the earworm.

By the way, here's some travel advice from me. If you stop to buy umbrellas, it won't rain for the rest of your trip. At least that's what has happened for us so far.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Studying war...

We drove across the state of Mississippi to Vicksburg where we spent the night. In the morning, we took a ride through the Vicksburg National Military Park, the site of the Siege of Vicksburg during the American Civil War. Vicksburg was considered to be very important because it was believed that capturing Vicksburg would sever the Confederate Army in two and open the Mississippi River to Northern traffic along its entire length. The first attempt to capture Vicksburg began in the summer of 1862 and officially ended on July 4, 1863.

The Park is in a beautiful, peaceful setting filled with monuments acknowledging the placement of the Union and Confederate troops. Driving through the area, it is difficult to imagine the brutality of war that took place. But, in fact, it is thought that more than 19,000 soldiers died there. It served to remind me that no matter how just or urgent the reason for war, the true legacy of war is always the same.

As we drove away from the cemetery, I found myself longing for a time when our history isn't told so much as a series of recorded wars and battles but as a record of our humanity and achievements.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The Things You See Along the Way: Going more than a mile in...

 We were sitting conversing with some friends before we left on our road trip and talking about the route we planned to take. Greg said, “We're going to stop in Montgomery, Alabama and check out the Civil Rights Memorial. It's a mile in.” I looked at him askance and said, “A mile in?? I thought it was, like, right on the street.” Greg gave me one of his patented “Greg” looks and said, “A Maya Lin...NOT a mile in.” And he is right, of course. The Memorial was designed by Maya Lin, the woman who created the Vietnam Memorial in Washington D.C. and it is accessible and right on the street, not a mile in.

The Memorial is a striking design. It consists of a conical piece of black marble with a round smooth top engraved with important events in the Civil Rights Movement and the names of 40 people who died in the Civil Rights struggle between 1954, the year the U.S. Supreme Court ruled racial segregation in schools unlawful and 1968, the year of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s assassination. Water flows from the center of the circle in ripples over the edge of the cone. Behind this is a curved wall, inscribed with the words from King's I Have a Dream speech, “...we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

The day we were there, it was still pretty cold out although it was beginning to warm up. We were disappointed to see that the Memorial was roped off because of the possibility of ice on the ground surrounding the Memorial. It didn't look all that icy to me so I went around the barrier and Greg followed. Out of nowhere a guard showed up to remind us that we were not supposed to be in there. But he was very polite about it and didn't hurry us up too much.

We then went on to the Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church where Martin Luther King, Jr. was pastor from 1954 to 1960 and where he helped to organize the Montgomery Bus Boycott. In our inevitable way, we were too early and the church wasn't opened yet. Since we had to get on the road, we just admired the outside and went on our way.

But before we left Montgomery, we had to drive by Riverwalk Stadium, the home of the Montgomery Biscuits AA baseball team affiliated with the Tampa Bay Rays. Low and behold, it was open. So we parked and went in. Being inside a ballpark in the middle of the winter is a special treat even when no one is playing.

We traced the route of the Selma to Montgomery Marches of 1965 only we did it backwards and ended up in Selma. We drove into Selma over the Edmund Pettis Bridge where the marches began. Selma is a charming southern town and we enjoyed our short time there. And we appreciated being able to visit the sites where such profound events took place that we both so clearly remember from our youths.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

The Things You See Along the Way: Leaving for Texas...

When we left Central Massachusetts this past Monday morning, it was 50 degrees F. and pouring rain. It was great luck for us that Massachusetts hadn't fallen into the deep freeze yet because had it been 30 degrees cooler with that precip, we probably wouldn't have been able to leave. But leave we did and managed to get almost 600 miles under our wheels before we stopped in Virginia. There was really only one snag we encountered that day. Traffic came to a complete halt in New York because of a car fire. But it only took 20 minutes for us to get going again. Meanwhile, two cars with a bunch of kids kept us entertained by throwing strawberries and goldfish at each other. They did remember to take the goldfish back in the car before they took off again.

And then there was this pooch who was more than interested in what was going on.

Mostly what we saw was a landscape that remained very grey and got progressively colder until by the time we arrived in Virginia, the temps were in the single digits.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Random thoughts on the New Year…

Yesterday's snow.  I like using the flash when it's snowing and getting those big white blobs.  Cool!
1)  Greg and I went out for Chinese food on New Year’s Eve.  it seems that we thought it was an original idea, but when we got to our favorite Chinese restaurant, Dynasty in Southbridge, we discovered we were most definitely not alone.  We did have to wait for a while for a table, but once seated the service was brisk and the food was good, as usual.  When I woke up the next morning, I couldn’t find my cell-phone.  Too many Mai Tais perhaps?  I was pretty sure I left it behind at the restaurant but thought I remembered looking at it on the way home.  Long story short, I put it in a pocket in my purse that I don’t ever use.  So all the searches through my purse didn’t yield my phone because I never thought to look in a pocket I never use.  It was my mind I left behind at Dynasty perhaps, not the cell-phone.

2)  New Year’s Day we spent with friends at David and Roxann’s open house.  We’ve known David and Roxann for a long time now, but I met David’s Aunt Peggy at Curves a few years back.  She and her friend Sandi seemed to show up there around the same time I did and eventually, we got to talking as you do when you just keep going around in the same circle together over and over again.  I soon learned that Peggy and I had David and Roxann in common.  And Sandi used to work with Greg and was godmother to one of our neighbors.  Curves is now closed in our town, but I occasionally run into Sandi here and there and am always glad to see her.  These days, I see Peggy once a year on New Year’s Day though I wouldn’t mind if it were more often.

3)  It began snowing in earnest here around midnight on January 2 but we only ended up with about 6 or 7 inches.  It is cold out there though…very cold.  On a positive note, the snow is light and fluffy and there is no ice around.  That’s what happens when it is very cold.

4)  Another positive thing about this kind of weather is that Olive the pug does her business in short order.  I’m good with that.

5)  We are going to be making an escape from the northern weather soon.  We are leaving for a tour of Texas next week.  While I won’t be riding any mechanical bulls, I do intend to enjoy a little bar-be-cue.