Sunday, December 30, 2012

2012 In Review

2012 saw me traveling more than I ever have in the past.  Once upon a time, my job might take me on the road 10 times a year.  This year, out of a possible 48 weeks (if you take out my vacation), I traveled 27 of those.  I even traveled the week of Thanksgiving.

This is not all of the room photos.  There were a few trips towards the end of the year where I simply forgot.  I had a lot on my mind.  More on that in a moment.

David made numerous jokes about how it was like having a girlfriend on the weekend only.  One stretch in the summer saw me gone 8 weeks in a row.  Here's where I went, in order:
  • Hazelwood, MO
  • Washington, DC with stops in Knoxville, TN and Bethesda, MD to see our brand new grandbaby (this was a combined work/family trip).
  • Laredo, TX
  • York, PA (with a side trip to Maryland to see my daughter and granddaughter)
  • Fort Worth, TX (I only count this local trip because I had to stay at the hotel where my company was hosting our annual conference)
  • Omaha, NE
  • Amarillo, TX
  • San Francisco, CA
  • Santa Rosa, CA
  • Oakland, CA (Vacation with David)
  • Yosemite National Park (Vacation with David)
  • San Francisco, CA (Vacation with David)
  • Houston, TX
  • Jacksonville, FL
  • Omaha, NE (again)
  • Lubbock, TX
  • Georgetown, TX
  • San Antonio, TX
  • Victoria, TX
  • Corpus Christi, TX
  • Omaha, NE (yes, again)
  • Kansas City, MO
  • Alexander City, AL
  • Pensacola, FL (Vacation with Kendall, my parents & my niece)
  • Hammond, IN
  • Malta, NY (Vacation with David to see our son)
  • Cooperstown, NY (Vacation)
  • Miami, FL
  • Dickson, TN
  • Franklin, TN
  • Columbia, TN
  • Pittsburgh, PA
  • Missoula, MT (with David)
  • Edwardsville, IN
  • Chambersburg, PA (with a side trip to Maryland to visit my daughter and granddaughter)
The idea behind this blog was to force me to get out.  Get out of the hotel.  Get out of my own way.  Over the 12 years I have traveled for work I spent the bulk of that in the hotel watching television and/or working.  As much as I hate to travel, that didn't help.  So this year I was going to get out and do something, find out what these places had to offer.  So I did.  And now I can't imagine ever going back to my old ways.

I saw a bunch of plays and musicals - both community theatre and national tours of Broadway shows.  I saw the Texas Rangers play in Oakland and San Francisco.  David and I took our first real vacation after 25 years of marriage.  I went to a couple of interesting museums and ate at a few good (and a couple of bad) places featured on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives.  For the first time ever, I looked forward to traveling because I looked forward to exploring something other than my hotel.

Best Work Outing:
This would probably have to be the two times at Jersey Boys in Pittsburgh.  First time was planned, the second just two days later was spur of the moment.

Worst Work Outing:
The Samuel Beckett plays I saw in San Francisco, Xanadu was a close second.

Favorite City of 2012 - Work Trip:
Omaha was a nice surprise, especially since I went three times.  They are already on the calendar for 2013 so I am going to have to start being creative.

Least Favorite City of 2012 - Work Trip:
Miami.  I still don't like this city and this was my third time there. 

Best Vacation Outing:
Sitting in "they yard" at Alcatraz watching the sun set behind the Golden Gate Bridge.

Worst Vacation Outing:
The Texas Rangers game at Oakland.  The stadium was awful and the man in front of me was completely obnoxious.  Also, Texas lost.  Badly.

In the beginning I was writing three blog posts a week.  Now I am down to about once a week.  Life sometimes gets in the way.  I still have a few from 2012 to write about but I have been busy.  This is because the trip with David to Missoula, Montana back in October resulted in us deciding to move there. 

So this coming Wednesday, we will get in the car and begin the 1,798 mile trip from our current Grapevine, Texas home to our new one in Stevensville, Montana.

I won't be posting for a couple of weeks.  Be patient with me because I will be back once I am settled in our new home and back out on the road.  I already have trips set up for Phoenix, Bakersfield, CA and New Orleans.  I think the strangest thing will be returning to the Dallas area as a tourist.  This is something I will do 4-5 times a year as part of my job (I am taking my current job with me).  Also, there will be lots of exploring in Montana to do. 
So as my dad used to say, "Hang in there, we'll see you on the flip side".

Friday, December 21, 2012

Scavenger Hunt: Arlington, TX

Thanksgiving was a little odd this year.  David and I are preparing to go our separate ways with him heading up to his new job in Montana leaving me here to sell the house.  We went back and forth over what do and where to go for Thanksgiving.  With our move coming so soon, both families were anxious to have us there for our "last" Texas Thanksgiving (at least the possibility of that).

Ultimately, we decided he would go see his dad and brother out in East Texas and I would go to Arlington and be with my parents and some of the extended family.  A few days before, I ran across a scavenger hunt idea on Pintrest aimed at getting you out to walk off some of the excessive amounts of food ingested during the day.  I didn't go crazy with the food but I still thought the idea would be fun to do.

After eating I rounded up a small group and we set out in my parent's neighborhood to find:
  1. A family playing football
  2. Smoke coming from a chimney
  3. 5 or more cars parked at one house
  4. An out of state license plate
  5. A family on a walk
  6. Pinecones and/or acorns
  7. A pile of leaves
  8. Thanksgiving decorations
  9. Early Christmas decorations
  10. Decorations for a holiday that has gone by
  11. Trash bags on the curb
  12. A college football flag/yard decoration

I admit that I modified the Pintrest list some.  The original list had "a black bird" on it and I decided to change that to trash bags on the curb since that is totally similar.  I took a few off but wanted an even dozen.  The original list I found had write in blanks at the bottom for your "own ideas" so I didn't completely go off-script.

And away we go:

1.  We didn't see any families playing football which made me kind of sad.  We always played football at my grandparent's house on Thanksgiving.  However I did see:

My niece and my brother abusing each other with Ping-Pong paddles.  I have conflicting stories about whether my niece or my dad won the game they played later.

2.  It is in the upper 70's on Thanksgiving day so seeing smoke coming from a chimney is unlikely.  Unless...

You count my daughter who smokes.  I can't take credit for this brilliant substitution.  My sister-in-law thought of it.

3.  5 or more cars in front of a house was really easy.

This house is right across the street from my parent's house.  We are really working hard on this walk/hunt.

4.  Out of state plates (California) and the walk still hasn't taken us far.

That white truck in the background is parked at the house next door to my parent's house.

5.   I cheated on this one and I knew I was going to before we even set out.

My family on a walk.  When I re-read the Pintrest list later I noticed it said "another family".  Sometimes I think I might need to join another family.

6.  Pinecones and acorns and sparkly shoes are Kendall's specialty.

She is definitely paying attention and helping us find the things on the list.

7.  In fact, she is very helpful on the next item: a pile of leaves.

"Here grandma, I made you a pile of leaves."

8.  I knew Thanksgiving decorations would be too easy. 

The good news is we finally made it off of my parent's street.

9.  Early Christmas decorations were harder to find than I expected.

My niece is bolder than I am.  She will walk up in a stranger's yard to get a picture.  I prefer to stay in the street lest someone look up from their turkey leg and say, "Why is some woman I don't know outside taking pictures of my house?"

10.  I know Halloween wasn't that long ago but let's keep up people.

Actually I am a little surprised I couldn't go further back, like to the 4th of July.

We interrupt this scavenger hunt for:

"Take my picture grandma."

11.  I added the trash idea to the list thinking that there would be bags of leaves on the curb even though trash is certainly not going to be picked up on a holiday.

I am pretty sure those two bags don't contain leaves.

12.  We found lots of yard décor for the local high school (Kick Em Colts!) and even one for the local elementary school (Go Shorthorns!) but...

We never saw a college flag or anything else related to college teams other than this one house that had the University of Texas Longhorn on their painted curb-side street number.

We only ended up going one short block but it was fun.  I would definitely do this again at Christmas or at some other get together if the situation arose.  

The hunters:  Rob, Miranda, Kendall ("don't take my picture anymore"), Aaron, Me, Ashley (in front) & Cathy.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Vizcaya: Miami

This was my third trip to Miami and I wasn't looking forward to it. I have never enjoyed Miami.  I forgot to pack some extremely necessary articles of clothing on a trip there once without the benefit of a rental car.  I had to walk to a KMart against the advice of my customer who was concerned for my safety lest I be attacked by the homeless along the way and then about my obvious whiteness once I arrived.

Miami is also home to the only customer who ever tried to kiss me.  My family will tell you that I am not even much of a hugger but I try to put on a brave face when the situation arises.  I am always awkward and uncomfortable hugging strangers or near-strangers and I certainly do not kiss them.  When I met this customer for the first time I moved forward to shake his hand but he leaned in for a kiss.  I immediately backed up.  He was embarrassed, I was embarrassed.  He is from Spain and was simply doing what comes natural by kissing both cheeks - or in my case trying to.  I may travel quite a lot but I have never left the states and am certainly not accustomed to kissing strange men that aren't my husband.  I don't even kiss my dad or my son and they are both really strange.

I see the kisser on this trip but I am prepared this time.  Fortunately, he was good-natured the first time and we had a good laugh about it.  We manage the cheek-air kissing this time and he tells me that he has been hooked on Dr Pepper ever since his visit to Texas.  At least that is what I am ultimately memorable to him for, not the original faux pas.

Despite all the kissing, I am still not excited about Miami.  I have a hard time making myself get out and do things.  It is really hot even though we are coming to the end of fall when I am here.  It is also humid - as always - so my hair wants to hang flat on my head bothering me the whole time.

AIR.  YES.  MAS AIR.  Preferably the kind that comes with Freon along for the ride.

I go to Miracle Mile since it is supposed to be a "miracle" but that was a bust.  I walked past the stores and couldn't work up any enthusiasm to go in any of them.  I ended up eating at a Subway and making my way out.  I did see the movie Samsara at the local theater in Coral Gables (where Miracle Mile is) and it was good but very odd.  There is no dialogue.  It is more like a National Geographic documentary set to music.  I had a hard time paying attention because the man next to me bathed in his cologne before coming so I was concentrating on breathing through my mouth most of the time and trying to stop the Billy Joel song It's Still Rock and Roll to Me from repeating over and over in my head.  (Should I get a set of white wall tires? Are you gonna cruise the Miracle Mile?)

I finally made myself find something not shopping related to do and located Vizcaya with about an hour to go before closing.

The house was built in 1916 by James Deering and includes 10 acres of formal gardens.

I want to do the self-guided audio tour but am told no because it is too close to closing.  I am issued a map and sent up the walk to the house.  As usual there is no photography allowed inside the house. 

In the house, I was distracted by all of the plexiglass.  Everything within arms reach is protected by plexiglass panels...tapestries, art, even the moldings around the doors and windows.  I know they are trying to preserve the house but many times the plastic created a glare that you couldn't see the item through.  The rooms in the upstairs were closed off so you could walk to the doorway and lean in but you couldn't enter the room.  Some of the stairs are really narrow and of course back then there was no air conditioning and I am having a hard time imagining being here in the summer.  Especially considering the clothes women would be wearing in the 1920's. 

Out on the grounds, I am not sure about the clothes I am wearing in 2012 because as I mentioned it is hot and humid (24-7-365 I am pretty sure) in Miami.  There are a lot of statues on the grounds and, as someone who likes and owns some sizable statues herself, I am happy to wander around and look.  However, there seems to be no consistent theme to the statues here.

Ponce de Leon

Bearded Man with Towel Who May or May Not be Shaving

Greek God with Harp and Part of a 6-Pack

Colonial Boy with Rose

Woman Exposing Her Left Breast Preparing to Curtsey

You get the idea.  The grounds are extensive with several gazebos, fountains and some very pretty formal gardens.

I like the look of the sculptured hedges.

One of several fountains.

It is a little hard to get a photo without another guest in it.

There were a lot of people milling around and sitting in the shade in all parts of the garden.

There were several overgrown gazebos.

Some of the fountains were dry but this one near the house was operational.

The Orchid Garden

Some of the gardens were closed for restoration.

The house is right on the water and the views from the back of the house are spectacular.  There is some renovation going on while I am there to the back façade of the house so I go in and out through the small, well air-conditioned gift shop and café on the side of the house right next to the swimming pool - which is like none I have ever seen.

Part in the house and the rest out.  They need one of these at my hotel.

There was a bride-to-be having her photos done in this gazebo.

A pelican having his photo done.

I feel a little cheated that I didn't get to see some fantastic pirate ship tied up here to what appears to be a floating dock.

Just in case I faint from the heat and fall in the water.

Because it is so hot I don't linger outside as long as I could.  Walking back to the car I pass the booth where I paid my admission.  The woman who refused to give me the headphones because I would not bring them back before she was ready to leave is still there.  I smile and wave as I go by.