My Amazing Life-Chapter 1, Thai Airways

I recently participated in a FAM/Press trip to Thailand and Malaysia. I have been to Thailand many years ago, but never to Malaysia and I always get excited when my destination is SE Asia or that part of the world. I love the people, the food and the culture in this part of the world and was profoundly enthusiastic over the impending trip. I received my itinerary and saw that we would be visiting many 5-star hotels, one of the world’s top 50 restaurants. The basic theme was culinary and spa events. My cup of tea for sure! Our Airline of choice would be Thai Airways. Its slogan is “Smooth as Silk”. Little did I know that this airline would soon capture my heart!

 

Thai Airways Logo

Thai Airways Logo

 

I flew my old stand-by American Airlines from Austin to Los Angeles and the service was typical and fairly unremarkable. One does not fly this airline to be impressed. If you live in Texas as I do, then you more than likely fly American, as many cities are hubs for American and American Eagle in smaller towns. Such is the case in Austin. The majority of the flights out of Austin are on American Airlines.

 

I landed at LAX, gathered my bags and started to walk out the door towards Tom Bradley Terminal, which houses the International flights and bumped into Mary Jo Manzanares, one of the other Travel Bloggers going on the trip. She is an elite blogger, director of #TBEX and a stewardess in her spare time. We walked together and made contact inside the terminal with our group.

 

The Group Outside of The Star Alliance Lounge

The Group Outside of The Star Alliance Lounge

 

I learned the group would be three travel bloggers, three print media writers and a representative from Thai Airways, Tourism Authority of Thailand, Tourism Malaysia USA and Saeshe the advertising company that put the trip together and organized the itinerary. We were quickly whisked upstairs to the Star Alliance Lounge. Having visited many Admirals Club locations I was knocked over by the offerings and easy access to WiFi at the Star Alliance Lounge. This was my wonderful Thai lunch with my choice of noodles, veggies and chicken.

 

Lunch at the Star Alliance Lounge in LAX

Lunch at the Star Alliance Lounge in LAX

 

I boarded in Economy for the first leg of our flight to Seoul from LAX. I was surprised, as the width of the seat was comfortable and had to be at least three to four inches wider that my usual seat in economy in American. All seats had video screens for viewing movies, playing games, etc. The seats leaned back with hardly any intrusion into the seat behind. I love that aspect of the plane.

 

I absolutely hate it when the passenger in front leans so far back that you cannot get out of your seat to move around. Given the 12.5 hour flight to Seoul South Korea; we had the opportunity to eat three different meals, but I could only handle two. Prior to the meal the stewardesses and stewards hand you a very warm washcloth to clean your hands and face with. It is very stimulating I must say. This was my first meal in economy, a curry pork dish with a shrimp appetizer.

 

My Economy meal on Thai Airways

My Economy meal on Thai Airways

 

Remember this is in Economy. It was fantastic and I ate every bite, as if I hadn’t eaten just before boarding at the Star Alliance Lounge. One of the first things I noticed on Thai Airways is the smiles of their people. I am not used to this on my domestic flights with airlines in the US. The majority of the stewardesses and stewards are just going through the motion and appear to be waiting for retirement in most cases. Not only do you visualize the smiles on Thai Airways, but you get the idea they are genuine and the employees really want to help you.

 

An Ever Present Smiling Face on Thai Airways

An Ever Present Smiling Face on Thai Airways

 

They continually walk the aisles and ask for your needs, unless you are sleeping and they respectfully leave you alone if that is the case. Another factor to consider is that all alcohol is no charge if you are 18 or older, regardless of seating class. I couldn’t believe this given what my old stand by airlines charges for one beer. Many passengers took advantage of this, but I did not see any that became inebriated, so I am guessing they “control” the flow to a certain degree.

 

One’s drink service (mine was water and Coca-Cola) is continuous and non stop as long as you desire. Its not like my normal American service where you get your one drink and the airlines personnel sit for the remainder of the trip, consuming first class meals and all the beverages they can ingest. The Thai Airways people work their rear ends off the entire flight. We landed in Seoul. South Korea has a strange policy and all passengers have to deplane and go through customs and security. I don’t get it but it is what it is!

 

Our Thai Airways Plane in Seoul Korea

Our Thai Airways Plane in Seoul Korea

 

On the first leg of our flight from LAX to Seoul I got the short straw. I rode as stated previously, in the Economy section. On the second leg from Seoul to Bangkok we all traded out, as there were several spots in Business class, that we used on both legs. This leg I flew in Business Class. Thank you Thai Airways for this experience. Business class is a drastic difference and the seats are wonderful. You can get a massage with one of the seat settings or adjust the seat to your liking and lean back as far as you like, without intruding on the people behind you. This is a photo of the controls. Notice the very front icon states bed. They really mean it, as your seat folds down completely and turns into a flat bed. Oh so good on long flights with major time zone variances.

 

The Seat Controls with a Massage and Bed Icon

The Seat Controls with a Massage and Bed Icon

 

So what were the meals like in business class you ask? Each passenger had an appetizer, an entree, a cheese and fruit tray and a desert. Not just once but twice on the longer legs. I was fortunate and received the Business class allocation for the return trip from Seoul to LAX. It was heaven. This is just an example of my dishes and courses served.

 

My appetizer in Business Class

My appetizer in Business Class

 

My Entree (Shrimp Curry) in Business Class

My Entree (Shrimp Curry) in Business Class

 

A Cheese and Fruit Plate

A Cheese and Fruit Plate

 

Desert in Business Class

Desert in Business Class

 

As the flights transpired I noticed that the Thai Airways personnel remained very active and were always there to pick up your empty glass or food tray. You didn’t have to wait for 45 minutes like on domestic airlines, to have someone retrieve your finished product. They never stopped working and passengers were all treated like royalty, regardless of the seating class I was in. This wasn’t my expectation, given normal transgressions on domestic flights in the US.

 

I have saved my finest point until last intentionally and one that may or may not effect you personally. Traveling frequently and consuming as much as I do with drinks and food, its only natural that I have to use the facilities. The good news is there are ample amounts of facilities, regardless of seating class on Thai Airways. As you know on domestic flights one has to literally wade through the swamp, referred to as a bathroom on flights. You know what I am talking about and how bad they get on flights over let’s say 3 hours long. What did the Thai Airways personnel do you ask?

 

I will gladly tell you as I saw this with my own eyes. They literally clean the restrooms from top to bottom on a regular basis. I am not talking every four hours or so. I am talking like almost between every passenger or as quickly as possible. They take a sanitizer and clean the walls, the toilet seat, the sink and yes even the floor. I was blown away when I turned the corner and saw a stewardess with plastic disposable gloves wiping down the floor of a restroom. They even fold the toilet paper just like in hotels.

 

Thai Airways may charge a little more than other airlines, but if you consider their service, their warm friendly personnel, the amazing food in all seating classes and the free alcohol, I think that their premium is not that much to ask. It is offset with your comfort and well being. I know this, I have found a new airline that I will go out of my way to fly from now on. They are far superior to any other airline I have ever flown in my forty plus years of flying. Thank you Abha Wangpaichitr for allowing me to experience your wonderful airline and for showing me that good old fashioned customer service, is still alive in the airline Industry! I will fly you again and again, when the opportunity arises.

 

Abha Wangpaichitr Thai Airways Representative

Abha Wangpaichitr Thai Airways Representative

 

 

 

 

*** My trip to Thailand and Malaysia was sponsored by Thai Airways, the Tourism Authority of Thailand and Tourism Malaysia USA. All opinions are solely mine and as always generated without any influence.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo of The Day #51 “Calling All Hippies at Sweet Dreams”

Hippies

Hippies

 

One of Mike Pell’s signs that I loved at Sweet Dreams Winery, was this one. It got my attention as soon as I walked up and met him. I used to be one of these folks, as my longtime friends well know and now that I am a retired business executive, posing as a travel and food blogger, I get to use the front door!

 

 

Again I want to thank Palestine Texas for hosting Kim and I and for showing us the “Pearl of the East Texas Piney Woods”! Psst. Please don’t tell my readers about my past! Y’all be kind to each other and have a great day. Peace!

Article #5, in the Series, Palestine Texas #101, “Sweet Dreams Winery”

 

Honestly, I was in the mood for a nap, after eating all that pie at the Oxbow Bakery & Antiques and wasn’t really sure if I wanted to experience a winery with such a full stomach. I tried valiantly to keep my eyelids open and view the gorgeous tall pines, that are more prevalent on the east side of Palestine Texas and especially here on ACR #441.

 

ACR #441 Near Sweet Dreams Winery Entrance

ACR #441 Near Sweet Dreams Winery Entrance

 

Then we made a right turn down a country road and the winery materialized. It’s name is “Sweet Dreams” Winery and that was just about where I went after completing the wine tasting at this great winery. If you surf Facebook you can check out the Sweet Dreams Facebook page at this link. If you need directions, this Sweet Dreams link has a map.

 

Sweet Dreams Winery

Sweet Dreams Winery

 

I had no idea what to expect, but as soon as we arrived I knew I liked Mike Pell, the owner. The minute we stepped out of the car, he greeted us. He had a very outgoing personality and just a tad sarcastic, which I like. I think he was a little on edge at first, but relaxed rapidly. Plus you can’t really miss the mustache! I have always called these Fu Manchu mustaches, but technically its name is a horseshoe mustache, for obvious reason. I showed Mike a wedding photo when mine was similar and we bonded instantly.

 

Mike     Owner of Sweet Dream Winery

Mike Pell, Owner of Sweet Dream Winery

 

 

Mike showed us the exterior grounds and attractions. He can handle a party of around 250 people I am guessing and has seating for about half of that, with a covered patio, large covered porch and many picnic tables near the covered porch. The exterior is decorated with a plethora of funny signs and decorations. I can tell this man likes to have a good time and more than likely ensures his guest have a great time.

 

Pay Up Front

Pay Up Front

 

We entered the tasting room and Mike relayed the fact that a majority of his wines are made from a vast array of fruit products and his collection is not conventional. I wasn’t aware of this, but he has to be doing something right as his awards are proudly displayed around the tasting room. He is the proud owner of over 20 International awards. My curiosity was peaked, as Kim has always talked about her Grandmother Bordeaux’s fabulous Rhubarb Wine and couldn’t help but think about this, as a comparison.

 

A Great Assembly of Award Winning Wine

A Great Assembly of Award Winning Wine

 

Mike also branched out and has created his own line of BBQ sauce. I was going to purchase and try his BBQ sauce, but we got “involved” in the tasting of several wines and I completely forgot. I really like BBQing and wanted to get his sauce and try it. Next time I will buy it when I walk in the door! Mike also carries a vast assortment of other products like fruit jams and butters, mostly made in Texas.

 

Associated Retail Products

Associated Retail Products

 

You know how when you visit a vineyard you taste three to five various wines? Well, that was what I expected, but as it turns out we ran the gamut tasting everything from Pear, Plum, Peach, Watermelon to a Jalapeno infused wine that had a serious bite. My favorites were the Honey Pear, Bumble Bee Kiss and Midnight in Texas wines. He gave us a score card to take notes on thank God or I might not have remembered the names.

 

Cork Machine and Fermentation Tanks

Cork Machine and Fermentation Tanks

 

Mike then took us on a tour of his operation and explained how the process works. In the photo above you can see a sample of the fermentation tanks, with their spigots. He constantly tastes the various wines he is processing and filters out the sulfites, as he transfers the wines from tank to tank. When they are ready to be bottled, the wine is transferred to the final tank above, with a wooden platform inserted underneath. This makes it the perfect height for Mike to sit in his chair and fill the bottles. Afterwards he corks each bottle with the manual aquamarine colored press above.

 

A Retired Fire Cheif

A Retired Fire Chief

 

Mike is a retired Battalion Chief for the Palestine Fire department and spent many a year risking his life and fighting fires, for the good folks of this town. His men gave him this collection of patches, axe, helmet shield and I think it reflects a great deal of respect that his men had for him. He must have been a great leader and firefighter. The magazine “Sweet Heat” is about his Jalapeno wine, so make sure you remove any impure thoughts from the proverbial gutter!

 

Inventory of Various Wines

Inventory of Various Wines and Tasting Area

 

Mike buys his fruit products as locally as possible and really supports his community. The freeze this year had a major impact on buying peaches and he normally goes to Fairfield Texas. This year he had to make his search extend a little farther away to buy his peaches. He has a phenomenal array of wines and if you are a fan of fine wine I think you owe it to yourself to stop in and give this winery a try and sample his great wine. I guarantee you will be surprised at the quality and taste of his product.

 

 

 

 

 

*** My trip to Palestine Texas was sponsored by the City of Palestine Marketing Department. All opinions are solely mine and as always, generated without any influence.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Article #4, in the Series, Palestine Texas #101 “The Best Pie I Have Ever Had”

As we walked toward the Oxbow Pies & Antiques entrance I had flashbacks of the Jersey Lilly at Six Flags amusement park in Arlington Texas, when I was younger. I just knew Judge Roy Bean was going to be inside sitting at the bench. I was curious about the theme as I have never seen an operation combine a restaurant and pie shop for a retail outlet. I am a “Pie” man from way back and have loved pies over cakes for my entire 63+ years. I was almost drooling as I entered, awaiting my impending pie tastings. Yes I said “plural”, as I couldn’t leave this place without trying at least a couple of different pies.

 

Oxbow Pies & Antiques

Oxbow Pies & Antiques

 

 

I opened the door and was faced with a myriad of antiques and worn wooden tables for eating your meals and pies. David Wolfe and his Mother Becky the proprietors, stepped forward as we entered and introduced themselves.  As expected, they were both genuine down-home people, that make you feel comfortable immediately. I apologized, as we were very late for a scheduled lunch. As you approach the counter you see this display of pies, which immediately make your mouth start watering.

 

Fresh Pies Display Case

Fresh Pies Display Case

 

We sat down and they started us off with a half of a chicken salad sandwich. It had grapes in it just like my Mother used to make. It was delicious with just enough Mayo. Thank God they didn’t serve us a complete sandwich. A great appetizer!

 

Chicken Salad Sandwich

Chicken Salad Sandwich

 

Then came a good old Frito Pie. For those not raised in Texas, we fill a heaping bowl of Frito’s with chili. I inhaled this magnificent concoction and I could not believe the taste of the chili. It was just like the chili that covered my enchilada’s, when I would go out with my parents as a child and eat Mexican food. It set my taste buds in action and I was in heaven. I hadn’t savored that flavor in years, but it brought back childhood memories immediately. Of course the cheese and onions enhanced an already fabulous dish. The Wolfe’s have been in the restaurant business for decades and their products reflect the experience. I absolutely loved this course. It may not be the healthiest, but Kim and I both scraped our bowls clean and there was nothing left.

 

Frito Pie

Frito Pie

 

Becky asked if we had enough room for pie left and I just laughed. I really didn’t care if I was full or not. The primary reason I came to this place was to sample their infamous pies. So I ordered a slice of Chocolate Pecan Pie and a slice of Pineapple Meringue Pie, as I have never heard or seen this pie. I have eaten chocolate and coconut Meringue pie, but never Pineapple Meringue Pie. I dove into the Chocolate Pecan and offered Kim a taste. She prefers the regular Pecan Pie but decided against ordering pie (I know exactly why she did this, as she always “samples’ my food–Just ask anybody in our or her family). It was very tasty.

 

Chocolate Pecan Pie

Chocolate Pecan Pie

 

I saved the Pineapple Meringue for last and tried to guess what it would taste like. Would it be like an upside down cake or what? I was mad with curiosity. I shoveled the first bite in my mouth and almost fell off the chair I was sitting in. I paused for a moment and let the bite lay on my tongue. I just gloated to myself over the gorgeous flavor and sat back to enjoy the rest of the slice. It was an outstanding piece of pie and one I will never forget. Each bite rolled around my mouth and caused my senses to explode with glee. It is now, simply stated, my favorite kind of pie. Good-Bye Cherry Pie!

 

Pineapple Meringue Pie

Pineapple Meringue Pie

 

Before I move on I want you to look at the height of the Meringue on this pie. It was at least 3″ high, maybe more. I don’t believe I have ever seen one that high. I asked Becky how she does it and she said a lot of egg whites and a lot of whipping. David makes the crusts (which are unbelievably good) and Becky makes the fillings. They both are early risers and are in the shop before sun up. If you are ever near Palestine you have to stop and sample a slice. I suggest you take home a whole pie and of course, my recommendation is the Pineapple Meringue Pie.

 

 

A room Full of Antiques

A room Full of Antiques

 

 

The shop has tables with benches and tables with chairs scattered all throughout the store. When you walk in you do not realize how large the shop really is or how many quality antiques are housed in the shop. Many of the antiques are for sale. I was a little taken back as Kim and I could have probably spent 3 to 4 hours looking at their treasures. One of my favorites was this old Root Beer and Coca-Cola soda barrel.

 

Soda Barrel

Soda Barrel

 

The restaurant and pie shop has been written up in Texas Farm and Home magazine and has a four page layout. I fell in love with this place and next time I visit the Oxbow Bakery & Antiques shop I am buying a whole Pineapple Meringue Pie and not sharing with Kim!

 

Texas Farm and Home Magazine

Texas Farm and Home Magazine

 

Eventually Kim did have her Pecan Pie and inhaled it just like me. Surprisingly I did get a taste. Here is a handwritten menu advertising the pies available that day. Hope it motivates you to try my new favorite pie shop in all of the country (I am talking the entire USA-It’s that good)!

 

Today's Pies Menu

Today’s Pies Menu

 

 

 

 

 

*** My trip to Palestine Texas was sponsored by the City of Palestine Marketing Department. All opinions are solely mine and as always, generated without any influence.

 

 

Article #2, in the Series, Palestine Texas #101 “All Aboard”

As I mentioned in my first article in the series about Palestine Texas, our first event was a ride on the “Moonlight Special Dinner Train”. Breezy Lake-Wolfe, Marketing Manager for the city of Palestine Texas, picked us at the Hampton Inn and we arrived at the station at around 6:00 PM, as the train was scheduled to depart at 6:30 PM. I immediately recognized that this was a larger operation than I anticipated and asked Breezy to take Kim and my photo for posterity!

 

Kim and the Nomadic Texan at the Texas State Railroad Entrance

Kim and the Nomadic Texan at the Texas State Railroad Entrance

 

We headed into this wonderful piece of history for the state of Texas and started looking around. As a foodie I first noticed that they had a very decent spread of cheeses, crackers, fruit and champagne. It was a nice transition, as some passengers were not dining on the ride, like we were. We refrained and it was a good thing, as the line was at least 50 people deep! Must have been great snacks! Kim did manage to obtain a glass of champagne!

 

Reception with Appetizers

Reception with Appetizers

 

Music was played by a gentleman named Paul, on what I thought was a banjo. After he finished a tune I approached him and asked him how long he had been playing the banjo. He quickly corrected me and stated it was a Banjolin (It had 4 strings and a shorter neck than a banjo). It still was a great way to sit and wait for the train to leave and his music was excellent.

 

Paul the Banjolin Player

Paul the Banjolin Player

 

There are magnificent areas inside of the station, that reflect the train history and depict several annual trips. I was in love with several of the photos, awards and plaques from over the years. I even found a copy of an old ticket for my hometown of Austin, St. Louis and a ticket for a Mr J.W. Boyce and wife from Texarkana Texas to Longview Texas, purchased in 1950 about the time I was born! They had photos of Palestine from circa 1920, past employees and one for the “Polar Express” which runs from November 22 to December 28 this year. It is a magnificent trip for families with children.

 

Polar Express

Polar Express

 

We decided to leave the waiting area and venture out to where the locomotive was located and I wanted photos of this wonderful steam engine, originally built in 1901. You can obtain the history and all pertinent facts at the Texas State Railroad web site. In 1972, the railroad constructed in 1881, was turned over to the Texas Department of Parks and Wildlife and the first public rides began in 1976. The railroad was privatized in 2007 and American Heritage Railways operated the line until 2012 when Iowa Pacific Holdings assumed operations. I am not sure if I can accurately describe the feeling one gets appropriately, when you see the steam engine emitting its strong waves of steam. Its almost an emotional experience or at least it was for me.

 

The Steam Engine Waiting for Us to Board

The Steam Engine Waiting for Us to Board

 

I was allowed in the engine compartment and started asking questions immediately about the train. Both gentlemen were more than open and eager to share their stories and answer my questions about the age of the engine, where it as made, by what company, etc. I discovered it was originally assembled in Patterson New Jersey, by Cooke Works and was Identified as Engine #316. I inquired if it was the oldest and they told me it was second oldest behind a steam engine in Grapevine Texas, built in 1886 that used to run on this line. The Fireman was Kenneth McCarty and this is the Engineer Scott Rohal. If you get the opportunity to ride this wonderful train make sure you stop and talk to these two employees. They are very friendly, courteous, and highly informed on the history of the train!

 

Scott Rohal--Engineer

Scott Rohal–Engineer

 

As the departure time neared Kim and I gravitated to what appeared to be the loading dock and as other passengers were lining up, we assumed we were following procedure. All of a sudden, just like in the movies, a loud speaker bellowed out “All Aboard”, “All Aboard for the Maiden Voyage of the Moonlight Special Train Ride”, “All Aboard”! I was taken back, as I wasn’t prepared for this melodramatic sounding and I wasn’t aware this was a “maiden voyage”. Kim and I entered the train and immediately fell in love with all its grandeur and enhanced decorations. Each and every passenger was greeted and treated like royalty. Perhaps I had slipped back in time.

 

Texas and Pacific Locomotive

Texas and Pacific Locomotive

 

As the steam bellowed from the locomotive and the whistle blasted through the pines, I felt shimmers run down my spine and reminisced how it must have been at the turn of the last century.  The train continued to announce our exodus from the terminal, with loud blasts of the whistle and Kim and I settled in. There are three types of seating available on the excursion “Premium Lone Star Seating” (which we opted for, as it had a complete dinner–note it is a BYOB, if you are so inclined), “Standard Coach” with upholstered seating and enclosed car and the “Open Air” with bench style seating in an open car (Probably more authentic, but we are spoiled)!

 

Premium Lone Star Seating

Premium Lone Star Seating

 

The staff were great at attending to our needs and immediately started dinner service with beverages and a salad. Rolls were set on the table but to my displeasure, not refilled after the first consumption. Not that I really need the calories, but I wanted one with my meal. I never needed water, as my glass was continually topped off and the salad was a good healthy course with a spinach base.

 

Spinach Salad with Mandarin Oranges, Feta Cheese, Almonds, Red Onion andVvinaigrette

Spinach Salad with Mandarin Oranges, Feta Cheese, Almonds, Red Onion and Vinaigrette

 

 

The main course consisted of be pork medallions with brown gravy. Side dishes included a special recipe mashed potatoes and veggie bundles of asparagus, zucchini and carrots.  I must confess I started the main course and had to take a photo after a couple of bites. I have to improve on this function, but sometimes it looks so good that I can’t help but dive in! Dessert was individual mini-cheesecakes with strawberry and raspberry toppings. My apologies again. The desserts looked so good I forgot to take photos at all. The mini cheesecakes were fabulous and very tasty!

 

Pork Loin, Mashed Potatoes and a Bundle of Veggies

Pork Loin, Mashed Potatoes and a Bundle of Veggies

 

 

After dinner I left the dining car we were in and traveled up to the “Open Air” car with the wooden bench seating. It was a cloudy night and I hoped I would be able to capture the full moon. I took many photos and used my zoom, but the clouds wouldn’t lift. Alas, it was not to be and this photo displays the best moon picture I was able to get.

 

The Full Moon in All Its Glory

The Full Moon in All Its Glory

 

As we entered Maydelle the train came to a complete stop. I noticed we passed a fire engine with lights aglow and I feared there had been an accident at the crossing. Lo and behold the engine disconnected and traveled to a turntable right outside our window. It took the locomotive approximately 25 minutes to turn 180 degrees and prepare to hook up and take us back to Palestine. The engine started and then stopped right beside the fire engine. I realized at that moment that the fire engine was reloading the locomotive’s water supply, to provide for the steam. It was a “Duh” moment for sure.

 

A Wonderful Lantern I found in Open Air

A Wonderful Lantern I found in Open Air

 

We flew back home to Palestine, at around 25 MPH I am guessing and returned a few minutes after schedule. Kim and I enjoyed the ride and learning all about the steam engine and the Texas State Railroad’s history. It was a delightful evening and we were were ready to hit the hay. We needed our rest for Saturday, the big day with several events including tours of historical sites and homes, a couple of culinary events and a few vineyards. Not too full of a schedule!  Stay tuned for Article #3 in regard to the homes and historical district! #palestinetx!

 

 

 

 

 

*** My trip to Palestine Texas was sponsored by the City of Palestine Marketing Department. All opinions are solely mine and as always, generated without any influence.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Article #1, in the Series, Palestine Texas #101

My travel blogging has been fairly well of the International perspective, until I received a comment on my blog around September 11th, the day after I returned from a five week trip to Cuenca Ecuador. As everyone knows, I have a passion for this city that is unmatched. This comment was entitled “Taste What Lies Behind the Pine Curtain”.

 

At first I thought it was spam and came very close to deleting it. I receive myriads of spam from all over the world and have to make very quick decisions whether comments are real or spam generated. As I read the comment I deduced it was actually a real post and an invitation to try the “culinary attributes” of Palestine Texas, on their nickel.

 

I made inquiries about my blogging and if they knew that my reputation is associated with my posts. I made sure they understood I consequently do not write favorable material, if it is not deserved. My feedback was that I would attend, but there could be no handcuffs or demands on my writing. They wrote back that they would expect nothing less.

 

Dogwood Blossom on  Our Card

Dogwood Blossom on Our Card

 

I knew very little about Palestine and “Googled” it to see what it offered. I was intrigued as it was on the edge of the East Texas Piney Woods and growing up in Texas one learns where the beauty lies. As a child my parents, my brothers and I made the day trip to ride “The Dogwood Trail”. I can still remember the beauty of the white flowering trees.

 

I talked it over with Kim and we decided that we would try this new approach and look into a more local genre. I have written a few posts about Austin and a couple of its attractions, but this was a completely new category for me to cover. Obviously my passion for food made the offer distinctly attractive. We decided to take the city up on its offer.

 

Forest Trails Abound Throughout Texas

Forest Trails Abound Throughout Texas

 

 

As we drove into town the main highway was a typical small town with construction on the highway that was surrounded by run down buildings and generations of decayed equipment. Kim and I started to question whether we had made the correct decision. We turned at the loop and arrived at the Hampton Inn.

 

As I entered with our bags, Kim parked the car. Kimberly, the front desk clerk greeted me with a “Good afternoon Mr. Hinshaw”. I asked how she knew who I was and she stated Breezy-Lake Wolfe (the city’s marketing manager) told her to “Google” me, so she could recognize me when I arrived (of course I had my hat on). I was fairly surprised and broke out laughing.

 

Great Desk at the Hampton Inn

Great Desk at the Hampton Inn

 

Kim joined me after I checked in and we went to our room. It was a very clean, large suite with everything a blogger needs (Wi-Fi, direct Internet. Digital TV. a multitude of wall plugs to charge all my equipment and a coffee maker). Kim noticed we had an arrangement of flowers on the desk.

 

About 5 minutes after we arrived Kimberly called and and inquired if everything was acceptable in the room. I asked her if all the suites were like this and she replied “Yes, but they all don’t have fresh flowers like yours”. I couldn’t help but laugh again and started to feel like we were going to have a good weekend.

 

 

Bouquet of Flowers in the Room

Bouquet of Flowers in the Room

 

Our schedule was set up for us to meet Breezy in the lobby at 5:30 to attend the first event, a ride on the Texas State Railroad’s “Moonlight Special Dinner Train”. We had a few minutes and I caught up on social media and Kim and got ready for the evening. We went downstairs at 5:25 PM and Breezy was already waiting to take us to the train ride. Instantly, I recognized this young lady was a whirlwind.

 

She conveyed every detail and fact available, in regard to each and every part of the weekend’s schedule between the hotel and the train. It was about a 20 minute ride. I knew she was nervous, but her East Texas charm won Kim and I over very quickly and we questioned whether we would be able to keep up with this bundle of energy over the next couple of days. We were delighted with our hostess and felt comfortable with Breezy immediately.

 

Breezy Lake-Wolfe with the Nomadic Texan

Breezy Lake-Wolfe with the Nomadic Texan

 

We had such  great time that I have decided to capture our visit in several blogs and hopefully connect you with this hidden pearl, in the East Texas Piney Woods.  Next in my #PalestineTx series is the “All Aboard” post,  describing our train ride. Stay tuned.

 

 

 

 

 

*** My trip to Palestine Texas was sponsored by the City of Palestine Marketing Department. All opinions are solely mine and as always, generated without any influence.

 

Why Don’t You Just Take Me Behind the Barn and Shoot me?

As most of my friends who truly know me are aware, I wear my emotions on my sleeve and can become very irate over stupid people who perform or state stupid things. I am also a member of several groups that share blog posts and generally help each other out with exposure, as we all have varied traffic levels. I was going through my process today and a post showed up that totally infuriated me. This young man, who I am sure possesses a degree and has a position with a large company, wrote about “Managing Older People”, as if we are a different species. It must be the third eye I am sporting these days.

 

 

Old But Still Employed at a Jimmy Buffett Concert in Vegas

Old But Still Employed, at a Jimmy Buffett Concert in Vegas

 

In the past year I have had friends that have lost their jobs strictly as a result of their age and salary. There is a huge tendency to push  the more mature crowd out the door and hire young individuals with a degree, that supposedly have as much acumen as the veterans. In one such case a dear friend had been with a company for over 40 years and had about two years left before retirement. It was a case of second generation inheriting the responsibilities of running the day to day operations and the descendant made the decision to release my friend, after the person had dedicated his life to building the business with the father. I wanted to throw up it made me so sick.

 

Another friend worked over 25 years for a company that I was employed with for 10 years and had a Bachelors and Masters degree. He was a very intelligent individual who moved his family many times, always at the request of “the company”. He finally received a nice promotion and salary and was considered an astute business manager by all vendors and peers. He walked in one day last year and discovered he was no longer needed. His salary and tenure had worked against him, just like many my age.

 

What Do I Do Now?

What Do I Do Now?

 

Today’s writer stated many factors that needed to be used in managing the older generations. He stated that one shouldn’t come across “too strongly”.  He is basically saying we need to be coddled and handled vastly differently than younger workers? I guess its okay to be strong with younger generations. When I was in management, age was not an issue and I managed all generations equally.

 

He states that a manager needs to work around the more mature workers schedule and definitely not plan social gatherings when its inconvenient for the older workers. I guess that mean no parties after 7:00 PM, since we all go to bed at 8:00 PM apparently. He talks about the (fact?) that older workers are not familiar with social media and we probably don’t have Facebook profiles, etc. Huh? I have a Twitter, Google+, Facebook. Linkedin, Pinterest page and I have my own web site. I am 63. I must be the exception.

 

Lover of Ecuador and Travel Blogger

Lover of Ecuador and Travel Blogger

 

He states that a younger manager needs to pay attention as older workers need “more benefits”. This baffles me as I would think all workers need the same benefits. He finishes by stating managing older workers is a tricky task. I sincerely hope that this “writer” never ages or faces the discrimination that is rampant in the business world for the more “Mature” population in this day and time.

 

Carter Vance Hinshaw

Carter Vance Hinshaw

 

My father was a night city editor at a large newspaper in the DFW area and was allowed to work up until he hit 70. I am amazed at how substantially our world has changed in regard to this philosophy. Funny how this phenomena parallels our economy landslide. Maybe we really do have something to contribute if given a chance!

 

In my younger days we were taught to respect our elders. In Japan they still have strong regard for their elders and actually endeavor to take care of them. They insure they are taken care of right up to the end. I have generally found this to be true all over the world, with the US being the only glaring exception. In the US there is a race to push my generation out to pasture as quickly as possible. Consequently I say, “Why Don’t You Just Take Me Out Behind the Barn and Shoot Me”? It might just be an easier end!

Photo of The Day #48

American Airlines Waiting to Take Me to Ecuador

American Airlines Waiting to Take Me to Ecuador

 

 

Yesterday I posted a blog post, which stated how unhappy I was with American Airlines and how I was discriminated against on my return flight from Guayaquil Ecuador to Miami. I was totally humiliated. I received a phone call from the executive office and my issue was resolved, after we discussed the situation.

 

 

Thank you American Airlines for doing the right thing for a 40 year loyal passenger. Most of all thank you to my social media supporters for helping with the campaign #AAFixItNow. Without you I am more than positive the resolution would never have had wings!

Photo of The Day #45

Coffee Club

Coffee Club

 

 

In Toronto at #TBEX the #Travel blogger conference this past June, I had the good fortune to finally meet with the Coffee Club. We are a group of six travel bloggers who absolutely love coffee and have a passion beyond the norm, for this magical elixir! We are always trading remarks about who is having coffee where and of what quality. It is a one-upsmanship game and we all have our days.

 

 

Looking at the photo from the left is Karla of TravellerSoul76, Lance of TripsByLance, Aaron of elATLboy, Jill of RoadWarrior, Maria of LatinAbroad and some old guy of the NomadicTexan. We all are also kind of kooky, if you haven’t gathered by now. I enjoyed being around these great bloggers and hope to see them at the next#TBEX conference 2014, in North America for a cup of java!

Capture the Colour #CTC13

 

Okay I am going to jump out into the sandbox and enter the “Capture the Colour” contest this year. I have never done anything like this, as I am petrified to even submit my photos. When you consider the excellent professionals that are involved I really don’t stand a chance, but what the hell, I have to start sometime. Travel Supermarket is sponsoring the contest and each contestant is required to submit five photos displaying their ability to reflect on the colors red, blue, yellow, white and green. Simple enough? Right? No it isn’t! I am here to tell you it took me two hours of pilfering through my collection, to narrow each color down to three or so possibilities. Absolutely nerve-racking! So here goes.

 

Red Ripe Cacao SeedPod

Red-Ripe Cacao Seed Pod

 

 

I took this photo on my most recent trip to Ecuador when I had the extreme pleasure of visiting and touring a Cacao Plantation in El Oro province. It was an awesome trip and as most people do, I love chocolate to death! I can eat it every day. Just ask my wife Kim!

 

 

Dessert at The Eucalyptus Cafe in Cuenca From My March Trip with Kim

Yellow-Dessert at The Eucalyptus Cafe in Cuenca From My March Trip with Kim

 

 

Kim and I were shopping at a local Home Depot one day this past fall I believe and stumbled upon a collection of potted orchids for sale. I though that they were outstanding and had not seen a blue orchid previously. Loved it and now I am using it in this contest. Wonders never cease!

 

 

Home Depot Orchids

Blue-Home Depot Orchids

 

 

We have three sons and lived in a house on the Mountain, in Austin Texas for approximately 18 years, while raising our sons. I will never forget this snowfall, as it rarely snows in Texas and I was out before sunup trying to get the right photo. This one showed the snow on the backyard umbrella and the trees in contrast to the other colors.

 

 

A Snow Fall in Austin Texas-Very Rare

White-A Snow Fall in Austin Texas-Very Rare

 

 

On Memorial Day of this year I was invited to partake in a project that our middle son’s company sponsors. Homes of Hope is a fantastic organization that builds homes for individuals that truly need help. This calla lily was outside the Rosarito Beach Hotel in Mexico where we stayed while working on the project. I will never forget the experience of turning the home over to the needy family! It was truly humbling!

 

 

Green-Calla Lily

Green-Calla Lily

 

Thanks to my friend Joe Newman at Cosmic Smudge for nominating me for the contest and forcing me to come out of my shell! I wish I could quote technical photographic data about my equipment like Joe did, but the simple truth is that I used my Nikon digital pocket camera on all the photos including this one that kind of displays all the colors together. (Uh oh I am jumping outside the spectrum). I may have used a little editing prerogative, but that is all.

 

Bridge View on Spadina In Toronto

Bridge View on Spadina In Toronto

 

Part of the contest and a way to increase the participants, which directly decreases my chances (Ha-I am joking. I know I have absolutely no chance against the pros!) is to nominate an additional five bloggers to enter. So here goes. Y’all don’t hate me and please enter this #CTC13 contest and blow the competition away!

 

Lisa Niver Rajna at We Said Go Travel

Will Castillo at I Will Travel

Karla Aguilar Perez at Traveller Soul

Lauren and Kenin Bassart at The Constant Rambler

Linda and Dan Bibb at As We Saw It

I am cutting my own throat as both Karla Aguilar Perez and Dan Bibb are wonderful photographers and do it professionally. Who know maybe this will help the out! A big “THANK YOU” to Travel Supermarket for allowing us to participate (definitely brown-nosing) and best of luck to all the competitors! Saludos mi amigos!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tilley to the Rescue

As Kim and I clamored along the back trail at Ingapirca, heading towards the face carved in the mountain, it became very obvious to me that I had made a dreadful error in judgment. The back trail is optional, and is treacherous and unstable at best. The rambling path and elevated steps at 10,000 feet, were placing me in a very precarious position, especially when the wind picked up. I wore my straw Panama hat and did not want to lose it to a sudden gust. This presented a significant opportunity to injure myself or fall down the steps of the muddy trail. I was traversing this trail in a delicate manner.

 

Face on upper trail at Ingapirca

Face on upper trail at Ingapirca

 

I literally only had one free hand, if I chose not to let the wind abscond with my hat. At that moment I made a decision to investigate additional chapeaus and look into a more suitable headgear for rough terrains. I needed a rugged headpiece with resistance to high winds. In other words, it needed a wind-cord to prevent it from blowing off of my head and it was essential that the hat would provide sufficient protection for the sun, a UPF of 50+. I have experienced skin cancer in my family and do not want heavy sun exposure.

 

T4MO Organic Cotton Airflo

T4MO Organic Cotton Airflo

 

In my opinion, after exhaustive research, I determined there was only one option that fit the bill so to speak. I had to secure a Tilley hat. Tilley Endurables was founded in 1980 by Alex Tilley and began manufacturing adventure clothing in 1984 on a whim. Mr. Tilley was a sailor on lake Ontario and decided he needed a more durable hat to withstand the torrential downpours and high winds that were typical of the lake. He also wanted a very rugged material and desired that if by chance the wind somehow blew it off his head it would float. The result was the Tilley Hat and one that is considered the Rolls Royce of the industry.

 

LTM8 Nylamtium with Mesh

LTM6 Airflo Nylamtium

 

As I was attending the TBEX event in Toronto, I thought this would provide an excellent opportunity to visit one of their block and mortar locations and purchase a hat to wear in extreme and rugged conditions. In addition, TBEX offers a session of Speed Dating, where bloggers sit with potential partners and get to know each other in a brief interlude.  As Tilley was on the list of participants, I extended an invite to meet with them.

 

T4MO Organic Cotton Airflo

T4MO Organic Cotton Airflo

 

Fortunately Tilley accepted and we discussed my niche, brand and Tilley requirements. As I am walking the Camino Frances next spring, I asked advice on which hat was appropriate. Tilley’s Marketing manager suggested the LTM6 Airflo Nylamtium, stating it was a cooler headgear to wear. We agreed on the basics and I have begun a relationship with Tilley that I sincerely value. In addition to the LTM6 I received a T4MO Organic Cotton Airflo hat from Tilley and will be testing both on my upcoming trip to Ecuador in August, to determine which I favor for the Camino walk. Who knows it may be both!

 

LTM8 Nylamtium with Mesh

LTM6 Airflo Nylamtium

 

I received my hats this past week and you know me. I couldn’t wait to get out and test them. I was all over Austin this weekend, hiking and in various environments beginning my testing. I have sincere and positive testimonials from friends and co-horts in the industry in regards to the Tilley durability and the ease that maintenance presents. I can’t wait to get to Ecuador and give the hats a real test with several excursions I have planned. Stay tuned!

 

 

The Hat

Before I came to Toronto for the TBEX conference, I wrote on my social media platforms that everyone should look for me with my hat, my white beard and my Hawaiian shirts. I figured that there would not be too many old geezers that had this “look”. Little did I know that my Panama hat would become an institution in my life. This was my first experience mingling with the elite of the Travel Blogger world and I wanted to try and meet as many of my new “online friends” as possible. I encouraged all to introduce themselves, as I wanted photo ops and truly like meeting new people face to face.

 

Nomadic Texan & Miret Padovani (http://flaneriefeminine.com/) from Zurich. A Lady Blogger with Fabulous Talents

Nomadic Texan & Miret Padovani (FlanerieFeminine.com) from Zurich. A Lady Blogger with Fabulous Talents

 

 

I really had no idea what to expect at TBEX or what the experience would teach me. I did know that I wanted to gain as much knowledge about traffic, SEO and building my brand as possible. Looking through the options on the first day I selected all the business topics from the various categories (HHMM maybe my background had something to do with this-Ha!). Of course I waited too long to get to the opening session and was frantically trying to locate the room, when I discovered and icon in the business, Johnny Jet was also a little lost. We teamed our brilliant minds together and eventually found our destination (after I mislead him–not a good start to my first meet up with Mr. Jet)!

 

Trey Ratcliff Was Phenomenal

Trey Ratcliff Was Phenomenal

 

The opening keynote by Trey Ratcliff blew me away. This young man of StuckInCustoms is a phenomenal photographer and has vision issues in one eye. When you look at his photography you will be amazed. He was wearing his new Google glasses and told us all the finer qualities and attribute of the glasses. I was in awe! As I was  leaving the opening session a young man approached me and said “Hi Mike”. I was a little lost, thinking about my first breakout and did not recognize him at first. Turned out to be Will Castillo a friend and blogger I am trying to help out. You can follow him at IWillTravel and he is a very interesting young man, who loves South America almost as much as I do! Between the opening session and my first breakout no less than five bloggers came up and said hello. One even had me wait to meet her Mother! All because they saw “The Hat” from across the room.

 

A Slide from Ted Murphy's Presentation

A Slide Stating the Blogger’s Value to Direct Marketing Organizations

 

I headed out of the session to my first breakout “Brands, Blogger & Dollars” given by Ted Murphy. I wrote two pages of notes (I am still trying to decipher a few words–my writing is atrocious) and discovered I should have brought a tablet or I-Phone and recorded the breakouts. I couldn’t write as fast as they talked! In essence Ted’s most important factors in dealing with brands or sponsors are the following; 1) Quality of Content, 2) Relevance to Industry, 3) Personality, 4) Engagement and 5) Traffic. Ted also focused extremely deeply on the FTC guidelines and what is acceptable and what isn’t. He stated we all need to read the guidelines for sponsorship. Who knew? I was extremely excited at the information learned and stepped out to head toward my second breakout. This time it was six or seven bloggers that came up and introduced themselves and I got a few photo ops. They saw “The Hat” from across the room again. See the pattern starting to develop?

 

William Bakker from Think! Social Media-Brilliant Man

William Bakker from Think! Social Media-Brilliant Man

 

My second breakout was with William Bakker of “Think! Social Media” and his topic was Lesson Learned: “Working with Bloggers & Destinations”. This young man energized everyone in the room, even though his dutch accent was pervasive, we could interpret his talk. He gave a myriad of facts and again I couldn’t keep up and write fast enough. Did you know the #1 social media platform for determining travel is Facebook. People trust their friends feedback more than any other source.

 

William Tells Us What They Look For in Blogger Trips

DMO Take-Aways For Blogger Trips

 

William stated that bloggers are “Content Creators” or Story Tellers and we must be authentic, and honest, if we desire credibility in the profession. He gave us Think’s blogger requirements on their selection process for press trips: 1) The blogger has to value the destination of Think’s trip, 2) What is your reach-Size of Audience, 3) What are your audience demographics, 4) What is your influence in a niche (Twitter & Facebook Activity), 5) Do you have a connection to other Influencers 6) What is your Quality & Style, 7) What is your speed of communication, 8) What is your level of technology & tools use, 9) Do you have a Personality.  I could have listened to him all day, but had to grab a bite to eat.

 

Will Castillo of IWill_Travel (Your Eyes are Supposed to be Open Will)!

Will Castillo, of “I Will Travel” (Your Eyes are Supposed to be Open Will)!

 

Will had offered to buy my lunch and I am not one to turn food down! I told him at lunch that he needed to find an item like “The Hat” and establish his brand. We talked about various travel topics and it was time to get back.  After lunch I had pre-selected my friend Stephen Oddo of Walks of Italy breakout and thought I would give him a hard time. His title was “Where’s my ROI? Campaign & Strategies in Digital Marketing”. Stephen stated “Marketing is the practice of creating a name, symbol or design that identifies and differentiates a product from another product”. Prior to the start of the third breakout, one of my closet online friends Jill of Road Warrior, came running up to where I sat and gave me a hug. She saw “The Hat” from the back of the room. So my design or symbol became “The Hat” without any conscience effort on my part. It just transpired!

 

Stephen Oddo from Walks of Italy

Stephen Oddo from Walks of Italy

 

 

Stephen stated you do this with 1) Personality, 2) Set standards and follow them, 3) Be Consistent, 4) Develop a Positive Reputation. He also said that blogs are the third most influential digital resource for purchasing travel. He stated 50% of travelers changed their minds based on what they read on trusted blogs. Wow! Had no idea “The Hat” had this much responsibility!

 

Janice Waugh, publisher of Solo Traveler (http://solotravelerblog.com), the blog for those who travel alone and author of The Solo Traveler's Handbook (http://thetravelershandbooks.com) navigating Speed Dating

Janice Waugh, publisher of Solo Traveler (http://solotravelerblog.com), the blog for those who travel alone and author of The Solo Traveler’s Handbook (http://thetravelershandbooks.com), navigating Speed Dating

 

Time was flying by and my first experience in Speed Dating was staring me in the face. Was I ready. Had I gathered the correct statistics. How hard could it really be? I soon discovered. We had 10 minutes for each date and it became a whirlwind of activity and discussion and just as you got to know the vendor it was time to change and move on. This was one of the two hardest hours I have ever worked in my life. Not physically, but trying to give my presentation and communicate my niche and brand was extremely difficult in under 10 minutes. I was worn out and the night hadn’t even begun, for “The Hat”!

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Virgin’s Very First Time

Okay I know the title might be a little misleading, but in essence I was a virgin at TBEX and had no idea what to expect or what I would gain from the experience. In reality it was an eye-opening learning experience and enhanced my ego (my wife Kim’s feedback)! I knew going in that the fact my Speed Dating calendar had almost been filled, that I was in for an extraordinary event. I just didn’t think about the fact that I had just returned from my expedition to Tijuana, building the house for Homes of Hope and would wind up worn down and really tired. I will never put back to back weekends of this much exercise together again, unless I am asked of course!

 

A church photo from the bus ride in and in the rain

A church photo from the bus ride in and in the rain

 

My flight arrived in Toronto at 5:30 PM and I arranged for a round trip bus trip, thinking this would provide plenty of time to get my bags to the hotel and go to the opening night party. Bummer…it didn’t transpire exactly like I hoped. There was a transfer to a shuttle van with about 11 other people and of course I was the LAST one dropped off. I got to my hotel at around 7:45 and the party started at 7:00 PM. So…no shower, no change of clothes, however I was able to brush my teeth! Started walking to Roy Thomson Hall for the party arriving about 8:30 half way through.

 

Street art/graffiti on the walk to Roy Thomson Hall

Street art/graffiti on the walk to Roy Thomson Hall

 

I met a charming lady who was just as lost as me trying to get into the party. All of a sudden I hear “Mike” being yelled and I recognize the face right away. It was Kenin Bassart of The Constant Rambler and I knew I wouldn’t be alone at the party. He and his wife Lauren have been very cool connections on my social media links and we have grown to know each other fairly well. Kenin directed me to the other side for my entry. I received my badge and walked into the zoo! It was like something out of a movie. A band was playing, food stations were everywhere (with fantastic eats) and of course the bars were flowing with alcohol.

 

Kenin and Lauren Bassart...Two Wonderful Bloggers & Friends

Kenin and Lauren Bassart…Two Wonderful Bloggers & Friends

 

I met with Kenin and Lauren downstairs and ran into Derek4Real  from Austin. It was going to be a good night, but I had no idea how good! Toronto was hot and humid, just like Austin so I went back upstairs and enjoyed the A/C inside. Great step! I started walking around and ran into several bloggers that I have met online. I ran into Maria Laborde from LatinAbroad.com and had the ugliest picture of me taken all night! Then I bumped into Monika Fuchs from TravelWorldOnline.de and didn’t even recognize her. She had to tell me who she was (embarrassing)!

 

Derek4Real on the right along with Jum and Warren

Jim and Warren with Derek4Real on the right

 

Poor Maria...She has to be embarrassed by my ugly mouth

Poor Maria…She has to be embarrassed by my ugly mouth

 

I had people coming up and saying hi and it finally dawned on me that my hat was a “brand”. Everyone kept saying they saw my hat and came over to introduce themselves, as I had asked ahead of time. I lot of the bloggers did not look like their profile photos and this old man struggled all night long trying to see who was who. A few that I talk with regularly like Charu Suri of the ButterflyDiary.com, Michael and Nicole of SuitcaseStories.com, Pola Henderson of JettingAround.com, and Alexandra Kovacova of CrazySexyFunTraveler.com I recognized immediately. Others I had to read their badges and at times even that was rough as my eyes are not what they used to be.

 

Charu from Butterfly Diaries

Charu from Butterfly Diaries

 

Alex from Crazy Sexy Fun Traveler

Alex from Crazy Sexy Fun Traveler (This may be worse than my photo with Maria–my darn mouth)

 

Pola from Jetting Around

Pola from Jetting Around

 

As the hours flew by it all became a whirlwind and I realized it was time for the “Senior” travel blogger to retire! I knew I had a jaunt back to the hotel and decided to use the men’s room on the way out. As I left and was climbing back up the stairs a voice asked “Are you Mike”? I turned and had absolutely no idea who had approached me “leaving the men’s room”. I was a little nervous to say the least. He showed me his badge and I almost fell over. It was Ted Nelson of TravelingTed.com , but he didn’t have his hat or sunglasses on and I didn’t put two and two together until I looked at his badge! We both got a big laugh. I asked someone passing by to take our photo and we were on record (of course if you know Ted, you know he had a beer in his hand)!

 

Traveleing Ted, the beer man!

Traveleing Ted, the beer man!

 

I walked home wondering what the next day would bring and how the “Virgin” would handle his first ever #TBEX conference. Time would tell! I have to learn to keep my darn big mouth shut for photos, if I learn nothing else from the conference!!!

 

Nicole and Michael of Suitcase Stories, with Emma of Got to Keep Moving in the Center

Nicole and Michael of Suitcase Stories, with Emma of “Got to Keep Moving”, in the Center

 

 

 

Social Media Dragons

Lately I have been questioning whether Social Media platforms really desire being used by the little guy or is it just an avenue of PR for the wealthy and famous to play around with? I have had serious issues with three systems in the last week and touched on a fourth issue with another platform.

Twitter drives me completely insane with its plateau of 2,000 followers. Every time you hit the number you are locked out of “Following” any more Twitter accounts, that might be relevant to your traffic. The process, as far as I know it, is you have to delete one account at a time and that takes serious time and dedication. When you ask Twitter what the platforms for increased tolerance are, they can’t answer you and state it is different for everyone. Why is that I ask???
This past week I was placed in Facebook jail and could not message or friend request anyone for a week. They stated I was at fault for trying to friend to many people that didn’t know me. That is unadulterated BS. I did not ask more than five people to friend me. I did send out, on the Facebook platform requests for my friends on Facebook to “like” a new page created for his new business in Ecuador. This prompt is issued by Facebook and not by me. If that is what caused the issue I hope they can sleep at night.
Next I could not decipher what individuals were supposedly “liking” my new Nomadic Texas Facebook page and I wasn’t seeing the “like” they told me had transpired. I find out by accident and playing around that pages and people are not tallied together. So if you are a travel blogger like me and like my Nomadic Texan page from your Facebook travel page, I get no credit in the number of likes. Incidently to my knowledge there are no tallies for page likes.
Next, as of today I have been thrown in LinkedIn jail and cannot request connections. Again, its because I asked to many individuals that do not know me. I am in a quandary as every time someone asks me to connect, LinkedIn throws up a list of individuals they suggest you connect with, as the people are usually in your industry.
Yet, I was recognized last year as one of LinkedIn’s most viewed sites. I am ranked an All-Star in their ranking vernacular and it was my impression that the purpose of LinkedIn was to bring together individuals that prospectively had business ties and could help each other out.
Lastly my son told me my web site was down this morning in Japan for about 5 minutes and then mysteriously popped back on line. I had no issues all day until this afternoon and I lost connection with Go Daddy stating it was a “server error”. The same reason given my son this morning. I call Go Daddy and wait 7 minutes (an unusually short time for them) and as the tech comes on the phone my web site mysteriously pops open.
I ask the tech how and why this was happening. “I don’t know sir. Sometimes our servers go down and we try to get them up as fast as we can. Maybe you should have a cocktail”. Now that’s a great response! Maybe I will have several after this week.
Have to go get ready for my Couch Surfer from Australia who is spending the weekend. Safe Travels and thank you for listening to my rant. Power to the “Little People”!!!

Old and Not So Stupid Anymore

Once upon a time, I was young and stupid. I thought you went along to get along. I worked over forty years (yes I am old!), in the retail industry and it was a dog eat dog, aggressive business with only one factor in mind. Make more money for the company. There wasn’t any compassion, or understanding that Sometimes Life Throws You Curveballs. Life in reality, is a fantastic roller coaster, and it has a magnificent way of balancing order. In the end it corrects most of the punches thrown your way.

Once you understand you are in charge of your destiny and no one, I mean no one can interfere, unless you allow them to alter your path. I worked in a multi unit retail organization, that was literally a sausage grinder, for ten hard years and the CEO could care less about his second in command. He actually had nine various COO’s in the decade I was employed. The man was evil!
I learned to hold my head down, produce and how to play the game when the Czar came to town! One couldn’t afford very many mistakes or you were out the proverbial door and he cared not, if it hit you in the butt! After many sleepless nights, I recognized I was in the wrong company and decided to move my talents elsewhere.
At my new company I quickly discovered that the management world was a better place. Even though the new company desired profits, their attitudes displayed and the manner they treated their employees, was 180 degrees from my prior employer. I, fortunately had two great mentors, who shaped my management style and trained me to influence employees in a positive manner, to optimize results.
The commercial entities still butted heads the remainder of my career and I had sleepless nights, but I bounced back quicker. When I retired it was like slamming my head against a wall as my day of continual motion, became a day of surfing the Internet and being bored out of my fricking mind! My 125 MPH life came to a screeching halt!
I made the decision this past December, when my lovely wife Kim gave me the money for Christmas, to start my own Travel Blogger web site, to begin again and write. I have always loved to state my opinion (whether anyone listened or not). I rapidly discovered that the travel blogging community is a sharing, compassionate and friendly industry. I knew I found my home!
In the few months since I started, I have been fortunate to establish friendships with elite bloggers and various people, I idolize in the trade. I am slowly building a traffic count, that is beneficial in more ways, than just building my ego! I am a lucky person. I do believe now I am old, but not so stupid. The young part went away a long time ago, but I have learned invaluable lessons along the way! I feel that the Travel industy is right for me at this time in my life and I absolutely love the people I interact with. Saludos mi amigos!
*Mio Tours is a sponsor of Nomadic Texan and compensates me for this ad. Don’t forget to mention “Nomadic Texan” and receive a 10% discount from all their tours in Ecuador.

The 5 Things I learned from Lunch with Stephen Oddo

I was almost hesitant to agree to lunch with Stephen Oddo, as he is actually a few months younger than my oldest son. I received very impressive recommendations though from both my mentors Where in the World is Lola and Leah Travels and decided what the heck? Stephen is the co-founder of Walks of Italy and its CTO and Marketing Director currently.

What could I lose, except a lack of communication, from our age gap and maybe a slice of ego, since he was less than half my age! We met and I felt very comfortable with him immediately. He promptly started relaying advice, inquiring what areas I needed help in and asked me what I was trying to accomplish! It was almost an overload, as this young man moves at light speed and his genius of a mind, operates at warp speed!
#1 “Move your blog to WordPress yesterday” and get rid of that crappy platform you are using now! (I actually have been working on converting, but am just slow these days with my activities–I think it is an age thing maybe! Ha!).
    -Has more flexibility
    -Plug-Ins are free (I love free!)
    -Pingbacks are a given and do not have to be written in the HTML language like your existing format
    -SEO capabilities are praised by Google’s Web Spam Team
    -Multilingual for better Global reach
#2 Define your NICHE. What is it you want to write about and what is it you like? Well…I like travel and food and would like to build my traffic sufficiently enough to have ad income.
    -Have you made contact with DMO’s (Destination Marketing Organizations)
    -Have you made contact with PR people in hotel chains and other related TRAVEL networks
    -Have you made contact with local, province/area/state and country TOURISM boards
    -Publish daily whether just photos, blogs or recipes
    -Is your niche going to be luxury, middle of the road or lean more towards budget travel
#3 Collaborate with others in your niche.
    -Make connections with other Boomers
    -Publish photos
    -Publish recipes
    -Ask questions when you post across social media platforms (you will receive a great deal more interaction)
    -Contact local area bloggers and learn from them. Schedule lunches, drinks, etc and ask questions at every get together
#4 Go to #TBEX and maximize your time.
    -Network your rear end off
    -Putting a face with a blog or platform is so valuable
    -Do “Speed Dating” and ensure you have your message defined for the speed dates
    -Make sure you have data that identifies what age groups are following you, to offer PR speed dates
    -Give out business cards as much as you can (“Your cards have your links and you might be surprised how many have no links, including their websites”)
#5 Take advantage of the Baby Boomer group you are a member of and channel it to your benefit.
    -Voice Boomer attitude and ensure Travel associations are aware that the Nomadic Texan is growing in this area and my goal is the be THE authority in the Boomer generation
    -Contact travel discount sites (Expedia, Kayak, Priceline, etc) and establish a relationship. Boomers use these platforms to book trips, etc
    -Understand SEO needs from your age group
    -Learn the key words and phrases associated with Baby Boomers and what will drive them to your site
    -Explore areas that Boomers will use that are NOT frequented by existing bloggers and take advantage of these opportunities
I thoroughly enjoyed my brief visit with Stephen and would have sat for the entire afternoon if time would have permitted. He is obviously a very busy man and his phone was continually alerting him of new items. I thanked him genuinely and he stated we would have to get together more often, when he visits Austin. I said “Duh” you got a deal. Stephen is a brilliant young man with extraordinary thoughts and philosophies. I am lucky we connected and he will be invaluable to me moving forward. Thank you dear friend and Safe Travels!

Surfing USA

I have been considering participating in Couch Surfing for some time. The majority of the surfers are of the younger generations. I wasn’t sure if anyone except the occasional individual with no luck locating a couch, would really desire to stay with us and use an inflatable air mattress as their bed. I was very wrong and have stumbled upon a media site that is more “social” in nature than some sites I have been on for years.

Our first surfer was Allan Flynn a young lad (49) from Canberra Australia and an architect by profession. We waited Friday night for his arrival, not really knowing what to expect or what the experience would be like. I was surprised when I announced I was doing this on other social media platforms and received a ton of posts, that indicated I had better be careful. They “wouldn’t do this in a million years”. Some were young and I least expected this response from that generation.
Obviously, if I will pick up and go to Ecuador and other parts unknown, I will take a so called risk and have a complete stranger couch surf with us. When Allan arrived he rolled down his car window and stated “Good day mate” (They really say this!). Immediately Allan made us feel comfortable and at ease. I was greatly relieved that he was such a gentle person and always wanted to fend for himself. His instinct was to do tasks, to pay back the use of our house. We acquiesced the final day and allowed him to wash our cars,
On Saturday we toured the state Capitol building and he was obviously elated at its construction and history. We joined a tour in the rotunda and listened to part of the spiel. I haven’t been inside in many years and it was very nice to revisit our state’s heritage and the fashion it was formed. My most embarrassing moment, was when Allan asked what number state we were in joining the Union. My mind went blank and we had to ask the guide! Do my fellow Texans know?
Most of all I was completely knocked over by the hardware on the doors, the size of the door jambs, windows and the tile put down in the 1930’s. I was amazed at the longevity of various furniture, sections of the building and felt a deep reverence and appreciation for my home state. Allan kept stating that I should remember “everything is bigger in Texas” when we would see a looming doorway or imposing window. I asked him, well what do you reckon happened to me, given I am only 5’7″ tall, if I stretch!
We then toured 6th street and SoCo later Saturday afternoon. He was able to see what keeps Austin Weird! I love showing visitors my home town and having their feedback. We saw this character sitting on the street in SoCo and it made me remember one of the reasons why I love Austin so much.
Sunday we took Allan to the Oasis and it was truly an oasis (very little water in Lake Travis and it looked like a dessert in places). He really thought the establishment was a design feat and kept taking various photos on different levels of the restaurant. I took this one of him as he tried a “local” beer and he thought the beer was sweet. He drank every drop though!
There was a charity car show in the parking lot and we were able to see a vast inventory of old cars, sports cars and muscle cars from the late 60’s. Truly brought back special memories for me, if you remember my ’69 Camaro 396″. This one is a ’67, but close enough!
It was a very enjoyable weekend and I was sorry to see him drive away this morning. I do know though, that if I make it to Australia one day, I have a place to stay and a place where I will revisit a friend, made through this wonderful web site. Can’t wait for #2 on Tuesday night! Safe Travels and Saludos mi amigos!

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Amateur Traveler Episode 471 - Travel to Austin, Texas



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