Tuesday, May 27, 2014
I just got home from a great 2 week road trip vacation. I traveled almost 4,000 miles and visited friends in North Carolina, Virginia, and Pennsylvania. It was the perfect vacation to take my mind off the recent passing of my wife. I thought I would share a few pictures from the trip.
I first stopped in North Carolina to visit friends from my Air Force days in Texas. I had a great time visiting and seeing the local sights. The beach was also really nice there.
From there I went to Richmond to visit some very good friends of my wife and I. This visit coincided with what would have been our 15th wedding Anniversary. Although a sad day, my friends were great at lifting my spirits. We relived some great times we had with my wife.
Then I went further north in Virginia to visit a friend whom I worked with at Brooks AFB (also in San Antonio) for 15 years. She and her husband moved to Virginia after the base closed in 2011. We visited numerous local wineries and breweries one day and then watched my friend complete a half-marathon the next day. Here she is at the finish - I wish I could be in that kind of shape!
The next day my friend and I walked nearly 6 miles at Sky Meadows state park. Part of the hike was along the Appalachian Trail - here we had a great visit with a hiker who had been on the trail since March 2nd! Here is a picture of me along the trail.
The next day I did some hiking on my own while my friends worked. Here is a view along Skyline Drive on my way to the first hike.
On the first hike to "Mary's Rock," most of the hike was on the Appalachian Trail. I met many more people who had been hiking since early March, and they all had interesting stories. This particular hike was very demanding, with 2 miles of steep incline. The walking was also over rocky ground. You even had to duck under one fallen tree.
When I finally got to Mary's Rock, I was able to climb up top and get a full 360 degree view of scenery in Virginia and West Virginia. It was breathtaking. Here are a couple of pictures from Mary's Rock.
I did one more hike that day, for a total of 6.1 miles. It felt good hiking in the mountains!
From there, I went to Pennsylvania and had a great homemade lunch at the home of one our Teddy Bear members on the 5% Challenge. SVELTWARRIOR and I had a great visit, although it was way too short. I'll have to plan better on the next trip - I also need to take a picture!
From there, I went to Canton, Ohio to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. It was interesting seeing all of the exhibits of the NFL players I grew up watching.
From there, I visited the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, OH. I spent 5 1/2 hours there, and could have easily spent another 2 hours looking around. They had some incredible footage of our musical heritage.
From there, I went to Indianapolis to get some craft beers that we can't get here in Texas. After that, I made the long trip home. It was a great trip that was made extra special by those I visited along the way.
Wednesday, April 30, 2014
A few weeks ago, I joined the San Antonio Adventure Club. It looks like a fun group with numerous activities almost every day. The latest hike a few days ago was definitely the "adventure." We planned to do a 5-mile hike in the Hill Country State Natural Area near Bandera, Texas.
We met the event leader in San Antonio and rode with him for about an hour to the location of the hike. There were only 4 of us on this particular hike. On the drive there, he hit a wild turkey and did damage to his bumper, hood, and roof. It's amazing the window wasn't shattered. This was an omen of things to come...
Here we are at the start of the hike. I'm the one in the back with the big hat.
The event leader wasn't that familiar with the area, so the park staff gave him a map with a 5-mile hike mapped out. The weather was hot (96 degrees by the end of the hike) and the terrain was challenging in places. It was a nice area, though. Here is one picture showing the terrain.
Here I am about a third of the way through the hike.
After 2 hours into the hike, we knew something wasn't right. We still showed a long ways to go on the map, and the woman in the group was starting to suffer from heat exhaustion. We rested her in the shade often, poured water on her head, and I gave her my hat for some extra sun protection. A little further on the hike, another hiker had his hiking boot come completely apart. We had to use tape to keep it in one piece!
After 5.5 miles, the woman was starting to get light-headed. We located a county road about a third of a mile away and sat her under a tree. We left the hiker with the bad shoe with her while the event leader and I walked another 2.6 miles to the car (making it a total of 8.4 miles). When we got back, the woman felt much better and we went into town for a very late lunch (about 3:00 PM).
So this was quite the "adventure," and hopefully everyone learned a lot. I actually felt pretty good in that I was the most fit of those in the group (and the most prepared). The first lesson learned is that you shouldn't "lead" a group unless you've been on the hike yourself. You should also bring twice as much water as you think you'll need. Luckily I had some to spare to help cool down the woman. While everyone had sunscreen, even 50 SPF wasn't enough protection that day. Hats and collared shirts help a lot. We all brought snacks, but luckily I brought a few extra things like tape, ace bandages, a first aid kit, and a few other items. I will probably even expand the things I bring next time.
The main thing is to know your trail and let people know what they should bring before going on the hike. Sunscreen, water, and snacks are not sufficient for a difficult day hike. The good thing about going through something challenging like this is that we got to know each other very well, and I think the hikers gained some valuable experience for their next hike. I know that I was only as prepared as I was because of past mistakes I made myself. All in all, it turned out to be quite the adventure, with lots of stories to look back on.
Friday, March 07, 2014
My wife and I always enjoyed the Mardi Gras parades in New Orleans, but we had never been to the really big parades. A year ago we made reservations for the last week of the parades to finally see them. Unfortunately my wife passed away in January, and I was going to cancel the trip when my son said that he would go with me. Although I really wish my wife could have been there, my son and I had a great time. We attended 17 parades and got so many beads, stuffed animals, toys, and aluminum doubloons that we gave away all of the beads thrown at us the last three days. Our car was stuffed to the top coming back! Here are a few pictures of our great trip.
Here is a picture of the church at Jackson Square.
Here are my son and I at one of the parades.
Here is Bourbon Street during the day. The people in the balcony are throwing beads to the crowd below.
For the most part, there were lots of people in the parade crowds. We were in a more family oriented section of the parade on St. Charles Street.
While the floats are beautiful to look at, the main purpose of the Mardi Gras parades is to throw souvenirs to the parade watchers. While I didn't get a lot of great pictures because the sun was right behind the floats, I did get a few of the Krewe members (parade club members) throwing things.
Although not a great picture, there were some really nice floats. This particular one, called "Smoky Mary" had 8 trains attached to the tractor. I really don't know how it made the street corners!
There were also a lot of fun characters in the parades. Here are a few.
You even had several celebrities in the parade. Here is Quentin Tarantino throwing beads.
One of the big parades on Mardi Gras day was Zulu - an African heritage parade. This was a really fun parade, but you had to be on the street before 4:00am to ensure you had a good spot (and the parade didn't get there until 10:00!). My son and I braved the coldest temperatures at Mardi Gras since 1899 - and it was raining! One of the prized "throws" was the hand painted coconut. Very few people get them, but because of the cold and rain, my son an I managed several! The following pictures are of some of the Zulu tribesman and two of the coconuts we got.
The floats throw their trash in the street as they empty their bags of souvenirs. The city cleans it up after the parades for that day. Here is one such scene after a parade.
My son and I got enough stuff to share with everyone: my grandkids, his kids, the neighbors, local preschools, etc. Here are a couple pictures of each of our "stashes."
Now I just need to recover from the "vacation!" Take care, everyone!
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