Liberty Hall, Tyler Texas, Part One

After visiting and writing about several Texas Towns, I have adopted several. One of my favorites is Tyler, the “Rose Capitol of the United States”! The “Vision” of this fine city is “To be the standard for performance excellence in local government”. The “Vision” of Liberty Hall is “To support the City of Tyler’s efforts to revitalize downtown by creating an arts and entertainment culture, thereby attracting residents and visitors to the downtown district.


Liberty Hall’s mission is to create an exciting, stimulating, arts and entertainment experience, that will integrate the arts into the downtown’s social, economic and community fabric, by providing diverse opportunities for entertainment, through film, theater, comedy and music.


Celebrating its Grand Opening in September of 2011, the theater is now and will continue presenting an array of quality entertainment, ranging from nationally known artists to regional and local entertainers from all genres of music, comedy, theater as well as classic movies. To be absolutely frank, I wasn’t aware that Liberty Hall was actually attracting the headline acts it has secured. If you are a fan of Texas music, you will definitely enjoy the next few months line up.


I apologize for the brief window of the first act, but I guess its better than overlooking the coming acts. First up, this Saturday night December 5, 2015 is “Gaelic Storm” the chart-topping, multi-national Celtic band. Their new release “Matching Sweaters” mixes traditional Irish music with modern influences, creating a sound that is as wide-ranging as the band’s own audience. From bluegrass and country fans, to Deadheads, rock & rollers and Celtic fanatics, Gaelic Storm has built one of the most diverse fan bases in modern music.


"We're a Touring Band," says percussionist Ryan Lacey, who joined the lineup in 2003.

“We’re a Touring Band,” says percussionist Ryan Lacey, who joined the lineup in 2003.


Those live shows date all the way back to the mid-1990’s, when Gaelic Storm kicked off its career as a pub band in Santa Monica, California. By the end of the decade, the musicians had appeared in the blockbuster film “Titanic” (where they performed “Irish Party in Third Class”) and laid the groundwork for a career that would eventually find them topping the Billboard World Chart five times, making appearances at mainstream music festivals such as Summerfest, Telluride and The Rock Boat Cruise, and regularly headlining the largest Irish Festivals across the country, all the while gaining a reputation as a genre-bending Irish band whose songs mix Celtic traditions with something new and unexpected. Now, with the band’s 20th anniversary on the horizon, they’re putting even more emphasis on those newer directions.


"Playing for a new crowd is great," says Twigger. "It takes you back to those early days, where you've got something to prove. We could just do Irish festivals, but why not play a crossover show where 90% of the audience doesn't know you, and you have to make them know you? That's what makes your band good."

“Playing for a new crowd is great,” says Twigger. “It takes you back to those early days, where you’ve got something to prove. We could just do Irish festivals, but why not play a crossover show where 90% of the audience doesn’t know you, and you have to make them know you? That’s what makes your band good.”


When it came time to write Matching Sweaters’ 12 songs, Murphy and Twigger teamed up with longtime friend and co-writer Steve Wehmeyer. Together, the three found inspiration in everything from old Irish newspapers (“The Rustling Goat Gang,” whose details were gleaned from an article about a vanishing goat herd from Waterford) to bits of conversation overheard in local pubs (“Paddy’s Rubber Arm”).


"Playing for a new crowd is great," says Twigger. "It takes you back to those early days, where you've got something to prove.

“Playing for a new crowd is great,” says Twigger. “It takes you back to those early days, where you’ve got something to prove.


The following weekend, December 12th, Tyler and the Liberty Hall is thrilled to welcome back comedian Henry Cho to Liberty Hall. Cho was in Tyler in 2013 and sold out his comedy show. Cho is of Korean American descent, and was born and raised in Knoxville and went into stand-up comedy in 1986. He often uses his childhood experiences as an Asian American in the South, as a basis for his comedy. Cho’s TV and film credits include appearances on NBC ’s The Tonight Show, CBS’s The Late, Late, Show, and NBC ’s Young Comedians Special.


In 2012, Henry sold a special/pilot to GAC (Great American Country) in which he served as host, co-writer, and co-producer. “The Henry Cho Show” aired in Fall 2012 and Henry awaits the chance to do more shows for GAC for the network.

In 2012, Henry sold a special/pilot to GAC (Great American Country) in which he served as host, co-writer, and co-producer. “The Henry Cho Show” aired in Fall 2012 and Henry awaits the chance to do more shows for GAC for the network.


Henry was the keynote entertainer for The 59th Annual Radio & Television Correspondents’ Dinner attended by the Bush Administration and has worked extensively with Vince Gill, Amy Grant, Willie Nelson, Carrie Underwood and many, others. Henry’s clean comedy is so versatile that he can headline Vegas and then tour with Michael W. Smith in the same month.


Henry Cho is an American stand-up comedian. His work can be heard nationwide several times weekly on XM Radio's Channel 151, Laugh USA and Sirius Radio's Blue Collar Radio channel 103, Pandora Radio's PG Comedy Radio channel

Henry Cho is an American stand-up comedian. His work can be heard nationwide several times weekly on XM Radio’s Channel 151, Laugh USA and Sirius Radio’s Blue Collar Radio channel 103, Pandora Radio’s PG Comedy Radio channel


Cho appeared on many television shows in the late-1980s and early-1990s, including ” The Arsenio Hall Show,” Bob Hope’s Young Comedians Special, MTV’s 1/2 Hour Comedy Hour and VH-1’s Stand-Up Spotlight. His other TV credits include guest roles on various sitcoms such as Designing Women, Lenny, The New WKRP in Cincinnati and a starring role in the TV movie Revenge of the Nerds III: The Next Generation. In 1994, after he moved back to Tennessee, Cho got a call from NBC to host a revamped version of Friday Night Videos titled Friday Night. He commuted to L.A. weekly for two years. Most recently, he has appeared on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and “The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson.” He was also the keynote speaker for the 59th Annual Radio and Television Correspondents’ Dinner. Henry Cho recently earned his nickname, “Mr. Clean” for his always-clean comedy.


Liberty Hall will start the New Year 2016 off right, with the legendary Texas swing Band, “Asleep at the Wheel and its illustrious leader Ray Benson. Asleep at the Wheel will be in concert at Liberty Hall Saturday, Jan. 23 at 8 p.m. at 8 p.m. Liberty Hall is pleased to once again host Asleep at the Wheel, live in concert. Ray Benson founded Asleep at the Wheel in Paw Paw, West Virginia over 40 years ago. Now based in Austin, the band holds nine Grammy awards, 20 studio albums and 20 singles on the Billboard country charts with over 1.5 million records sold. “Still The King: Celebrating the Music of Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys” marks the bands third full-length Bob Wills tribute album, following 1999’s Ride with Bob and 1993’s A Tribute to the Music of Bob Wills, with four Grammy awards and over 500,000 copies sold collectively.


Singer/guitarist Benson was born Ray Benson Seifert and grew up listening to a variety of music in Philadelphia, especially jazz.

Singer/guitarist Benson was born Ray Benson Seifert and grew up listening to a variety of music in Philadelphia, especially jazz.


Asleep at the Wheel has been presented with numerous awards such as the 16th Annual Mid-south Regional Emmy Award for the making of “A Ride With Bob”, the Darrel K. Royal Music Patron Award by The Texas Heritage Songwriters’ Association and an astounding nine Grammy Awards. In 2007, the Austin Chronicle recognized Asleep at the Wheel as Band of the Year, Best Country Band and inducted them into their Hall of Fame. Band member Ray Benson was inducted into the Austin Music Hall of Fame in 2002, was given the Texas Music Association Lifetime Achievement Award in 1996, and recognized as an Outstanding Producer by the National Academy of Recording Arts in 1988.


In reviving the freewheeling, eclectic sensibility of Western swing godfather Bob Wills, the Wheel have earned enthusiastic critical praise throughout their lengthy career; they have not only preserved classic sounds that had all but disappeared from country music, but have also been able to update the music, keeping it a living, breathing art form.

In reviving the freewheeling, eclectic sensibility of Western swing godfather Bob Wills, the Wheel have earned enthusiastic critical praise throughout their lengthy career; they have not only preserved classic sounds that had all but disappeared from country music, but have also been able to update the music, keeping it a living, breathing art form.


It’s not often you can see a band of this calendar in such an intimate setting. Tickets for the show are on sale now at . For up to date info on all Liberty Hall events check Liberty Hall out on Facebook and Twitter.


Since the early '70s, Asleep at the Wheel have been the most important force in keeping the sound of Western swing alive.

Since the early ’70s, Asleep at the Wheel have been the most important force in keeping the sound of Western swing alive.


If you aren’t busy any of these weekends, I highly recommend you catch one of these shows, at the Liberty Hall in Tyler. I a!ssure you the show will be grand

Hard Road to Travel

I’ve got a hard road to travel and a rough, rough way to go
Said, it’s a hard road to travel and a rough, rough way to go
But I can’t turn back, my heart is fixed
My mind’s made up, I’ll never stop, my faith will see, see me through


I set out in February of 2013, after a Christmas present from my then wife Kim, of enough cash to start a Travel Blog. I have loved to travel for over forty years and began as a buyer for Six Flags amusement parks in the early 70’s. I would spend two months a year in SE Asia and dealt with family manufactures, in many countries. Our days were usually long (over 12 hours) and we really only took one day off our first trip. We hit fourteen cities in nine countries and I was hooked. In addition, my Father was a journalist (a real one not the pre-fab attention getting farces of today). I am sure he is rolling over in his grave at the ridiculous charade called journalism today. I learned to write through his guidance.


I was surfing the Internet in regard to somewhere I might be able to afford to retire, as there have been a couple of financial fiascoes in my life and I wound up with no Golden parachute or nest egg after 50 years of laboring away. One day I came across a video from Barbara Weibel of “Hole in The Donut Cultural Travels“, in regard to Ecuador and I instantly thought “I could do that”! I became mesmerized and started making contact with travel bloggers and two stood out as Texas friendly and were amiable to this old man. They actually responded to me, when I posed a question and both became my mentors in design, name and advice about my Travel Blog to be. I cannot thank these two enough for giving me the courage and aid needed to launch the Nomadic Texan. Thank you kindly Lauren DiMarco and Leah Walker Puckett from the bottom of my heart! Of course it didn’t hurt they both were from Texas.


Lauren DiMarco of

Lauren DiMarco of “Where in The World is Lola“?



Leah Walker Puckett of

Leah Walker Puckett of “Leah Travels“!



After setting up my Blog I cam across a very intelligent young man, with a big heart and a great mind! In addition, he always tells it like it is, regardless of your position or if it might slight your opinion or feelings. My type of man. He graduated from The University of Texas, served in our country’s Air Force and has started a charity for inner city kids that he asked me to help with. Does this young man really know me (I know you are asking that)? I of course said yes immediately and will help Erick Prince Heaggans, The Minority Nomad walk through fire if I have to. He has become a true friend and confidante, ever since I was an hour late to eat Thai food with him in Austin and conduct my first interview. I was highly embarrassed and he just laughed it off. One of my closest friends in social media for sure! Hook ’em Horns Prince!



Erick Prince Heaggans, The Minority Nomad

Erick Prince Heaggans, The Minority Nomad


Let me tell you, I’m all alone, this lonesome road, I roam
I’ve got no love to call my very own
Oh, the river gets deeper, the hills get steeper
And the pain gets deeper every day, yeah


After two weeks in Cuenca Ecuador and a three day weekend in Tijuana building a house for an indigent Mexican family in Tijuana last year, I headed off to my first Travel Blogger Conference in Toronto and was completely blown away from the networking and Speed Dating processes. Because of my Panama Hat and apparently my overall brand, created in just under two months. A multitude of bloggers introduced themselves and strolled across the room at parties and functions just because they recognized my hat. Of course at my age I was only able to identify a few and tried valiantly to observe their name tags, without alerting the bloggers to the fact I had no idea what their name was. I recognized faces, as I have always been able to do, but names escaped me in many cases. At the conference I also made contact with a man who was destined to help me enormously and fast became a confidante and mentor, Stephen Oddo of Walks of Italy. I can’t thank Stephen enough for his help, his mentoring and his friendship. He is a class act!


Stephen Oddo giving a speech at #TBEX Toronto.

Stephen Oddo giving a speech at #TBEX Toronto.


As I left the first night’s event I had to use the facilities and was accosted by Ted Nelson of Traveling Ted from Chicago. He was one of those people whose face I immediately recognized, but I struggled to recall his name. I had no alcohol either! We hit it off immediately as we both have a sick sense of humor and love the outdoors. I more so in my younger days! At one of my Speed Dates in Toronto, SATW had asked to meet with me. They told me I had to have 10, 000 followers on Twitter to qualify. I had around 2, 000 at that time and I asked why the appointment. They told me with 2,000 I could qualify as a photographer. I just laughed and thanked them. I did make it a personal goal to attain this number as soon as humanly possible, but I wanted to do it legitimately and not “purchase” followers, which some people do.


Traveling Ted (Ted Nelson from Chicago)

Traveling Ted (Ted Nelson from Chicago) Friend and Mentor


I’ve got a hard road to travel and a rough, rough way to go
Said, it’s a hard road to travel and a rough, rough way to go
But I can’t turn back, my heart is fixed
My mind’s made up, I’ll never stop, my faith will see, see me through


The months rolled by and I was asked to visit Palestine Texas for a weekend and produce a post that covered the city’s attributes. I wound up writing eight posts in total and fell in love with this charming small community. I still broadcast on social media for the town and this has led me into a couple more visits next spring of Tyler and Nacogdoches, both historic and beautiful Texas Towns. I can’t wait to visit each and cover their sites, via my Nomadic Texan blog.


Breezy Lake-Wolfe of Palestine My Hostess

Breezy Lake-Wolfe of Palestine, My Hostess


One more thing, I dream of a home, far beyond the sea
Where there is love and peace and joy for me
Oh, in my eyes, I see troubles and danger for me
But destiny where it leads me, I must go, hey


One day about a month after I finished my obligations with Palestine, a post went up in a Facebook travel group, announcing a FAM/Press trip to Thailand and Malaysia. I was drooling and couldn’t submit my application fast enough. It was to be a 12-day adventure aimed at 5-star hotels, restaurants and spa activities. Anyone that really knows me understands this was my cup of tea and I hit the send button within seconds after finishing my application. It was announced that there was going to be a quick turnaround and they were going to choose the travel bloggers quickly. I couldn’t sleep.


The stars must have been aligned and God was in my corner. Bingo I was very fortunate and became one of three travel bloggers chosen along with three freelance writers. I had died and gone to heaven! I have loved SE Asia every since my youth and the first time I set foot on this continent’s soil way back in 1973, as a buyer with Six Flags amusement parks. In addition this trip established friendships that I cherish to this day, not to mention the social media benefits I received from starting my Instagram and Pinterest accounts, which have become fantastic platforms for my blog. Had no idea what I was missing.


James Bond Island in Phang Nga Bay Thailand

James Bond Island in Phang Nga Bay Thailand


I’ve got a hard road to travel and a rough, rough way to go
Said, it’s a hard road to travel and a rough, rough way to go
But I can’t turn back, my heart is fixed
My mind’s made up, I’ll never stop, my faith will see, see me through


Upon my return I went to work and produced somewhere between 25 to 30 posts even though a significant less amount was all that was required. I genuinely cared for the sponsors representatives and made what I what I hope to be lifelong friends. These four individuals are some of the funniest people I have ever traveled with and were a joy to be around on a daily basis. Can’t wait to travel with them again! Thank you kindly #Tourism Authority of Thailand, #Thai Airways and #Tourism Malaysia USA. You are all wonderful human beings!


Help me somebody, somebody please


I returned, generated my posts and my life unraveled. After 36 years of marriage, my wife and I decided that we could no longer live in a toxic situation and it would be better for the both of us to contact someone like Jennifer Croker to proceed with the divorce. I was devastated and still am. I can find no way to unravel the mental anguish I go through on a daily basis. It is like a fog that surrounds my body and never disappears. Thank God that I have social media and my blog, or I am fairly certain I would not be here. Of special note is a Facebook and Travel friend Talon Windwalker of 1 Dad 1 Kid who through the divorce and through my growth as a travel blogger, has always been there and helped this old man immensely. I finally had the opportunity to meet him in person recently in Austin prior to moving to Dallas. I was thrilled to say the least!


Talon Windwalker of 1 Dada 1 Kid

Talon Windwalker of 1 Dad 1 Kid


Through it all I have struggled and worked to attain that magic number! I can remember a little less than a year ago how elated I felt when I hit 5,000 followers on Twitter. I knew with a little help and perseverance, eventually I would hit that magic number and qualify for the SATW! It has not been easy and I have worked until the middle of the early morning more times than I can count, but my efforts finally paid off and on November 24, 2014, @VacaRentalz of Vacation Bargains became my 10,000 follower on Twitter! Thank you kindly, to all the young women and young men who follow this old man on Twitter!



*** Lyrics By Jimmy Cliff from


Jimmy Cliff – Hard Road To Travel Lyrics | MetroLyrics

Why I Deserve To Win The Viventura/Marketing Globetrotters Trip To Peru and Chile With Mike King and Yngrid Arnold

That is the $64 million dollar question. Why on earth should this little old man “Deserve to Win” this leg of the Marketing Globetrotters trips to South America? First of all it is the only leg I can actually take, as I have a prior obligation with a trip to Japan beginning November 28, 2014 to see my oldest son. Why should a travel and food blogger who basically been at it for around 18 months deserve this trip before what I am guessing will be tons of experienced bloggers, who have been doing this for many years longer than me? The good news is I have made “The Shortlist” and will hopefully continue to make the various cuts in the next two weeks. The decision for the November 3, 2014 through November 16, 2014 leg will be decided on October 25, 2014. #Video is coming!!!



Ladies Looking at Goods at The New Cathedral

Ladies Looking at Goods at The New Cathedral



Well for 1) I actually started writing at the age of eight, when I helped my father, Carter Hinshaw put out a weekly small town newspaper in Texas and ran a Linotype for him. I edited and proofread columns and was allowed to write a few stories. We usually worked all night long and I would always fall asleep in class the next day. The school finally called and told my Mother, Juanda Hinshaw that I should either get a little sleep or stay home from now on. Obviously I started going to bed at midnight from then on and our paper was distributed a little later the next day, but it was tremendous experience. So in effect, I have been writing for 56 years! And I actually have met and talked with Walter Cronkite, who was a true authentic journalist with the highest integrity! #Video is coming!!!


Indigenous Man

Indigenous Man


2) One of the qualifications has to do with Marketing and for many years in my former life as a retail executive in convenience stores, I oversaw and directed the entire processes associated with the department. This included contact negotiations with all vendors and suppliers, sales by SKU reviews, annual marketing plans broken down by category, with projected GP%’s, GP$’s and share of overall sales. Not to mention attaining total budgeted sales year after year which at the end, ran into over a billion dollars worth . #Video is coming!!!


Bicycle Mode of Transporation

Bicycle Mode of Transportation


3) I was identified byHolidaze in the first ever, “The Best New Travel Blogs You Haven’t Heard of Yet” awards, one of eight blogs awarded this award in the first ever nominations. I was literally dumbfounded that after only about nine months I was identified as a blogger on the rise and to watch. This was done on January 31, 2014. #Video is coming!!!


Don Colon and the Nomadic Texan

Don Colon and the Nomadic Texan


This was the verbiage written on my behalf: “Mike Hinshaw is one of the most kindhearted travel bloggers I’ve ever met in the course of my travels and it shows in his writing – although if you do something stupid then he’ll be the first one to let you know ;) Whether inspiring others to visit Texas (we’re both from Austin) or sharing the excitement from his most recent trek through southeast Asia, Mike’s posts are always a joy to read. This guy has more energy and life inside of him than other travelers half his age!” #Video is coming!!!


Perfect Pitch from the Harp

Perfect Pitch from the Harp



Additionally Bully Travel named me as their first ever Travel Blogger of the week. I was blown away again and this happened right at a year of actual blogging, on April 14, 2014.



Finally in August 16, 2014 I was identified as #76 on the list of Top Travel Tweeters of 2014, as identified by TrueNomads Here was the tweet that caught me again completely off guard “Top 90 Travel Tweeters of 2014: Wanderlust in 140 Characters or Less via . I was very honored and have significantly grown my followers on Twitter since this award and am nearing that magic 10,000 number. Fairly decent, given I have only been doing this for around 18 months and have never “Bought” any followers. I detest this avenue of growing your numbers. #Video is coming!!!


Nomadic Texan Grinding the Beans

Nomadic Texan Grinding the Cacao Beans


4) I have good numbers on other social media platforms and am amazed at how quickly some of these numbers have climbed and the fact that a few are responsible for additional followers and helping grow my audience. As an example I just looked at my Pinterest platform recently and found that I have 2,464 followers and represents about 1.5% of my referrals. On Google+ I have 3,141 followers and it accounts for 8% of my referrals. On Linkedin I have 6,146 followers and it represents about 2% of my referrals. I think we sometimes concentrate strictly on Twitter and Facebook and do not comprehend the value the additional social media platforms. These three additional platforms represent approximately 11.5 % of my referrals for my blog! Please feel free to connect on any platforms identified! Thanks. #Video is coming!!!


Interior Cacao Beans with Fruit

Interior Cacao Beans with Fruit


5) Despite my best efforts to read and make sense of things like this post on the Victorious blog, I have absolutely no knowledge of SEO and how to use it to my advantage. I really could use a couple of weeks with Mike King and maybe even some one on one time to really get my numbers growing! How much more fortunate could a blogger get? #Video is coming!!!


A Meal Made for an Incan King, Cuy! With Chef Patricio from Restaurante Corvel in Paute Ecuador

A Meal Made for an Incan King, Cuy! With Chef Patricio from Restaurante Corvel, in Paute Ecuador







Mike King is a Digital Marketing genius and a very good rapper!

Yngrid Arnold is the CMO of Viventura of Berlin and co-founder of

Why (and How) I Write: A Blog Hop Post

Recently I was invited to participate in a Blog Hop about one of my favorite subjects (Writing), by two of my favorite bloggers, Bret Love and Mary Gabbett of Green Global Travel. They are both very kind people with a high interest in Ecotourism, nature/wildlife conservation and cultural preservation. They are both truly unique individuals with a perspective on “pouring every ounce of their passion, energy, love and dreams for their family into the site on a daily basis”. Just a few facts about each of them before I answer the four obligatory questions.

Bret Love and Mary Gabbett of Green Global Travel

Bret Love and Mary Gabbett of Green Global Travel

Mary Gabbett

1) Mary was born in Staten Island, New York and lived there until she was 14.

2) Because her family had a French graduate student who worked as her au pair, her first language was French and she remembers none of it now, even though she studied it in high school!

3) Her parents would take off work every Wednesday during the summer, for family vacation and they would visit museums, art galleries, theatre and amazing ethnic restaurants in New York City.

4) Her first big trip as an adult was a month-long vacation in India, where 5 friends and her stayed with one of the girls’ extended family. That’s when she discovered she was a die-hard travel-lover.

4) She has a degree in Pyschology, and worked for 10 years doing personality assessments for corporate clients. She gave Bret an informal assessment of himself on their 5th date.

5) Bret and her met at a Universalist Unitarian Church Christmas party she threw at her house in 2008. She was just coming off a painful separation, and had only been dating for 5 days when they met.

6) She moved in with Bret 14 months later, after her mother was hospitalized (she’s OK now), a tree fell on her house (it’s OK now), and a wanted rapist was arrested in her front yard. Clearly, the Universe was trying to tell her something. Now she might just plan to get the stump removal done for the remaining part. The reason is the stump might cause severe accidents. And she might not be in a mood to encounter any more mishappenings.

Bret Love

1) Bret was born in Atlanta, Georgia, and has never lived more than 30 miles away from the hospital in which he was born.

2) His first trip abroad was a 3-week tour of Italy with the Atlanta Boy Choir when he was 11. It included 15 cities in 21 days, and performances for the President of Italy and Pope John Paul II (in the Vatican).

3) He grew up in an urban neighborhood that was 98% black by the time he got to high school. When he was 15, they moved to 32 acres in the country, with a majority-white school. Talk about culture shock! His GPA that year dropped from 3.6 to 2.5 due to constant bullying.

4) Bret got his first tattoo– of a Native American shaman, from the cover of National Geographic– when he was 23. He originally got it primarily to cover self-inflicted scars from his late-teen depression. But the more tattoos he got, the more he liked them. He now has 6, all of Native American or Celtic art.

5) He’s a big fan of hip-hop, and had his own hip-hop/noise-rock band, The White Aphros, in the ‘90s. In 2000, he was hired by Sprite to put together a compilation of Atlanta hip-hop for a web-based project. They bought two of his songs, which were released under his rap pseudonym, B. Love.

6) All his life, he’s had a policy not to date someone he works with. So its ironic that Mary and him now live, work and play together 24/7/365… especially because they rarely argue. She has definitely changed forever his definition of the word “partnership.”

Green Global Travel Mission Statement

In 2000, Bret traveled to South Africa’s Kruger National Park on safari. The immense power of the experiences he had there– seeing cheetah cubs frolicking on the open plain, watching wild dogs digging under a fence to get back into the park, having a massive bull elephant coming so close to his Jeep that he could feel the breath on his face– changed his life forever.

It wasn’t just the beauty of seeing these magnificent animals in their natural habitat that moved him. It was the passion with which the park rangers and guides spoke of preserving this incredible gift for generations to come, and the way locals spoke of ecotourism as their hope for a better and brighter economic future. Ever since then he has dreamed of using his abilities as a freelance writer and photographer to help make the world a better place, not just for he and Mary, but for their children and their children’s children. Mary and him have launched Green Global Travel to do just that.

They launched Green Global Travel because they are insatiably curious about new people, new places, new experiences and new ideas, and love sharing those things with other people in a way that will hopefully inform and inspire.

They launched Green Global Travel because they are passionate about ecotourism, and believe in its potential to help save the world’s precious nature and wildlife by encouraging sustainable practices that both benefit and respect local indigenous cultures.

They launched Green Global Travel because they truly believe that the words, photos and videos they capture along their journeys will both entertain you and help draw attention to the importance of environmental conservation.

They launched Green Global Travel because it is their dream to save the world, one story at a time.

Tam of the Amita Thai Cooking School in Bangkok Thailand and The Nomadic Texan

Tam of the Amita Thai Cooking School in Bangkok Thailand and The Nomadic Texan

1) What am I working on/writing?

I just finished a series on the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Mobile Bay during the Civil War. It was very educational and I learned that there is a huge circuit of reenactments, involving a large population of Civil War buffs. These people make the rounds dressing in period costume, which are by no means inexpensive. I was literally astounded by the number of people following the various events and the amount of money they freely invest in items that replicate the period, or happen to be authentic pieces from the various battles. Its amazing to me that at almost 65 I had no idea of this segment existed in our society.

I am taking a trip to Japan for six weeks, beginning the Friday after Thanksgiving and I am sure this will spark or generate a ton of photographs and blog posts. I’ll probably share the photographs on Instagram as well. It’s sure to get a lot of likes. Even if they don’t, it shouldn’t be difficult to get the traffic I need for my posts since it is possible to buy IG followers. I will be in one of my favorite countries in the world and have a great deal of spare time, given I will be staying with my oldest son and he will come back to Austin for a week. He also must do that “Job” thing and work daily. This should allow me a freedom to explore and walk the streets trying to gather stories on the fabulous culture, the people and obviously the fantastic foods of Japan. I am drooling over this prospect and can’t wait for the trip to materialize.

One of my first stops will be at a chain of sushi and sashimi restaurants that carry the dishes via a conveyor belt. In 2012 when I last visited it was one of two restaurants that we ate at twice. I love the different items and luckily my son has a deep passion for these foods. So I see a blog post for sure on this experience. Then we can begin discussing the Ramen places, the Udon Noodle places (OMG I love Udon noodles), Soba noodles, Yakitori (skewered chicken cooked over a flaming grill) and anything to do with seafood. I might even do a Tempura meal this time and will have to probably do a great deal of these during the day, or when my son is absent. He gets rather embarrassed when I take photos of my food (if I can remember, as I forget half the time, until there is nothing left and it dawns on me I never took a photo and all my food is gone). I think that this discussion might just lead me to search for some online ramen store to get my fix of Udon noodles after this conversation!

2) How does my work/writing differ from others of its genre?

I am not sure I truly have a niche or a genre as many more experienced travel and food bloggers are constantly telling me, “I need to find a specific niche and generate my writing in that area”. I can’t tell you how many travel bloggers have stated this. I find this too difficult at almost 65 years old and absolutely love all aspects of travel and food. I love to cook and try to take cooking classes in every country I visit and maybe that is a difference, as I am not positive if others go out of their way to take cooking classes in every country. What better way to get to know a culture than through the foods they consume and the methods they use to prepare the dishes?

I also am a fan of architectural structures like cathedrals, temples, and shrines which SE Asia has a plethora of and one can turn any corner and stumble upon a new and different religious artifact or building and be drawn into the design and layout. In addition I am attracted to doors, windows and balconies. Specifically those with intricate layouts and impressions.

3) Why do I write what I do?

One area that is very special to me is volunteerism. This past year I helped an organization build a home in Tijuana Mexico over Memorial Day weekend, with my two youngest sons. It was a very emotional and gut wrenching process. I also walked away know that my sons had seemingly overnight turned into young men with purpose and were driven to help others. The biggest impact though, was when I asked the Mother of the two young children what she would like best about the new house we were building. She answered very quickly and very honestly. She loved that when it rained going forward, she would never have to worry about their dirt floors in the old home turning into mud again. I cried like a baby and had to walk away before I completely fell apart. It was one of the most humbling moments in my life!

I also write to help others learn about the countries that they will never ever have a chance to visit, or an experience that I think is unusual and will be appreciated by my subscribers and followers. What has come painfully apparent to me, is that an extensive portion of our society for one reason or another, has not, nor will they ever, venture outside of a 50 mile radius of where the grew up. I feel an obligation to share my experiences with these individuals and hopefully allow them to live vicariously through my travels and adventures.

I also have started spending time in Texas towns and writing a series on this experience. I am a huge history buff and love to write, photograph and experience anything to do with the Lone Star State. I wish that someday I can also publish a book of my own that highlights my love for history. However, I know how the journey of writing could need a lot of external aid: hiring professionals like ny book editors, or proofreaders, or even getting in touch with publishers. Though I wish to have a book published, I have not yet given book writing a serious thought. Maybe I will, in the future!

Anyway, let us come back to the topic of writing blog posts. I have only done Palestine thus far and walked away with eight posts (from the three days spent in this magnificent Pearl of East Texas). I also have written several posts on my hometown and the city I was actually born in, Austin. This coming spring I have been invited to perform the same function in the towns of Tyler for their Azalea fest weekend in March I believe and in Nacogdoches, both located in East Texas. It has been difficult to have the Convention and Tourism Boards in the mid-size to small towns around Texas understand the true value of social media as a Marketing concept or tool, but the walls are slowly receding and coming down in some cases.

Lately, after meeting online and getting to know Bret and Mary I have started looking into environmental processes and what can be done to help us save our planet for future generations, especially since I have three sons that will experience what we leave them. It all started with the movie “Blackfish” and I was so enthralled and captivated by the Killer Whale’s story, that I began to look more closely ate specific stories and posts involving this area, like the recent debacle over swimming with the dolphins at TBEX in Cancun. I had no idea how they were trained or given preparation for the swims. It breaks your heart to see the actual process. Not to mention what happens with Elephants in their training for humans to ride them, or the pain associated with a massive weight on their backs from the saddle.

I also have a vested interest in the war against GMO’s and the obvious damage they present to the human body. Thank God each time I venture outside of the US, I am reminded of what actual organic food tastes and looks like. Not to mention the fact that in the two weeks to a month in county, I always lose ten to fifteen pounds. There is no comparison and the taste is 180 degrees from the bland GMO structured “foods” we consume in my home country the USA. All supposedly in the name of furnishing cheap and healthy foods to the populations of the world without sufficient supply. I am sorry, but that is a load of horse manure and these people will eventually obtain the attributes that our society has taken on like Diabetes and obesity. I will argue all day long if your position is of the opposite side and will never, never settle with you!

My last tidbit in this area is in regards to healthcare and the continual plundering of our population, by big medicine and all the participants. Try getting sick in let’s say Ecuador and see what a real Doctor that is truly concerned with your health and not taking a CYA approach from fear of a lawsuit involving malpractice. Not only will you be shocked at the genuine care given, but the costs will place an arrow directly between your eyes, as it more than likely will only be about 5% to 10% of what you would have paid in the US. And my apologies, but you cannot come back on me and say the Doctors here are so much better qualified. They are of equal value and trained mostly in the US. They practice exactly what you would expect from an American Doctor and have the same abilities.

4) How does my writing process work?

My writing usually revolves around placing selected photos in chronological order on my draft page and then I fill in the gaps so to say by reliving my experience visually with the aid of the photos. Every time I place a photo on the draft page it brings memories back, as they cascade across my brain and flood my gray matter with flashbacks of, or perceptions and involvement in guided tours, spa events, cooking classes and restaurants that make me drool from the recollection of the flavors associated with the countries and meals I have tried. I have been very fortuitous in my travels and been able to cultivate a wide array of trips and recollections of my travels.

Most of the time I schedule a time after morning coffee and surfing the Internet to devote strictly to my writing. That way there are no distractions and the words flow freely most of the time, given the photos ability to open up my thoughts. Just like others though there are times when mental issues or stress associated with life come between me and my writing. When this happens I get up and try to do other functions like eating (Ha!) or a minimum of house work. I have washing the whites down real good as I wear mostly white undershirts and white socks. Sorry Fashion patrol, but it is a fact! Usually it only takes a few minutes away to get my thoughts straightened out and then come back and finish.

The hard part and probably the area I dislike the most is editing and viewing my grammar, punctuation and run on sentences. I hate this necessary function sometimes! It too bad I can’t just blink my eyes and my draft be checked and repaired of all the errors.

And now I’d like to introduce you to my Blog Hop invitees!

Brianna Jellerson Simmons of the Casual Travelist.

Brianna Simmons of Casual Travelist

Brianna Simmons of Casual Travelist

Hi there, my name is Brianna and I’d like to welcome you to the Casual Travelist. I am a travel writer and blogger balancing my love of travel with a full time career. I prefer laid back luxury where the focus is on the experience and in particular culinary, city and nature travel. This blog is dedicated to having great travel experiences and making the most of your limited time to travel.

Welcome to the Casual Travelist! This blog focuses on experiential travel and in particular culinary, city and nature travel. I’m just a regular person with a full time career, friends and family that I love and a cat I adore; trying to balance my home life with my passion for travel. I aim to show that you can have great travel experiences whether it’s for 2 days or 2 weeks.

I’ve always loved exploring new places. I had a fairly nomadic childhood as a result of my father’s job living throughout the United States and stayed on the move after I joined the US Navy where I got my first taste of traveling abroad. After my stint in the Navy I got married, earned my doctoral degree and began a rewarding career as a physical therapist. I love my home life but the drive to explore remains. My travels have brought me to Europe, the Middle East, Central America, Canada and throughout the US including Alaska. I’m a big fan of traveling locally, you’ll often me exploring around my home state of Virginia as well as the Mid Atlantic.

Alison Abbott of the Green With Renvy blog.

Alison Abbott of Green With Renvy

Alison Abbott of Green With Renvy

Founder and writer Alison Abbott has been a multi discipline designer for all of her adult life. She is a serious design advocate, content creator and small business strategist, who is enthusiastic about keeping it local whether at home or abroad.

A passion for travel took hold early in her career, after production trips to the Far East for the fashion and design company she established in 1978. Twenty five successful years later, she segued into the world of renovating houses with an eco-friendly twist. A desire to combine that passion for travel with her growing knowledge in the world of sustainability led her to the launch of Green With Renvy. You’ll find the blog is an enjoyable riff on the concept of renovating your travel and lifestyle in sustainable shades of green. Reducing your carbon footprint can come in many forms, and even small steps can have a significant impact. Sharing these ideas and discoveries with her readers is what Green With Renvy is all about. When not searching for the best of artisans, growers and locales that make a destination unique, Alison shares her time between Boston and Nantucket.

Alison is a brand ambassador and Boston Local Expert with Afar Media. Recent work has been featured on Westin™ Finds from Afar, Stonyfield and Trip Advisor B2B. She has provided content creation and photography for both Chase Bank and Afar Media as they relaunch their web site​. Alison’s coverage of The Flower Markets of India was featured in Leaf Magazine. ​ ​ Visit Philly and Visit Aruba have partnered with the site, and she has reviewed hotels around the world.​ Her self guided walking tour of Nantucket – A Faraway Isle was published by Visual Travel Tours and is available for download.

As a writer, she explains, “Nothing could make me happier than hearing from a reader who has changed her travel plans for her son’s graduation to stay in an eco-friendly hotel that I recently recommended. Having a subscriber and her husband take a page out of my itinerary in Kerala, India because it sounded like the perfect start to ease them into the chaos that can be India is very rewarding. Something as simple as trying one of my Meatless Monday recipes with great results can make my day. I firmly believe that as individuals become better traveled and more mindful, culturally aware citizens of the globe, the world will be a better place”. With that thought in mind, Alison shares the experience of eco-friendly travel and lifestyle through Green With Renvy.

Let’s make a difference together.

Jim O’Donnell from Around The World in Eighty Years.

Jim O'Donnell of Around The World in Eighty Years

Jim O’Donnell of Around The World in Eighty Years

I was born to a middle class white family in a small town in Southern Colorado. We lived in a modest 1920’s stuccoed Spanish colonial style house made of cinder blocks and painted solid white. The roof was peaked and shingled gray. There was a chimney, but the fire-place didn’t work. A great black American Elm grew in our front yard. I lived there from birth to eighteen years old. My mother is still there.

In the backyard she grew roses, lilacs and rhubarb for pie. She made my younger brother mow the grass. My father had a plum tree for homemade jam and the lady across the wire fence held a massive wounded crow captive in an oversized cage.

On weekends we went to the mountains. In the Huajatollas we crashed up old mining roads in our International Harvester Scout. In the Greenhorns we ate fresh trout from Lake Isabel and picnicked on the grass next to Ophir Creek. In the San Juans we perused places like Rico, Dunton and Sawpit and climbed steep paths dappled in aspen.

At Monarch we skied, in the Arkansas we rafted, and in the mountain ghost town of Victor my dad bought a miniature, tumble-down miner’s cabin, from which we explored Long Hungry Gulch, Wilson Creek, Little Pisgah and Grouse Mountain. To the cabin we brought the things we found scattered over the nearby hills and mountains. It was Victor’s past: giant star shaped drill bits, amethyst colored bottles, blue and white Lenox porcelain chunks, milk-glass, pewter cups and rusted open-top cans.

I also brought to the cabin a curiosity for the mountain bluebirds, vireos and hummingbirds I saw, the elk that cut our path, the mountain lion we hoped to see, the bear tracks in the mud, the butterscotch ponderosas, the fescue, the Columbine and the way the wind blew rain from the West onto my face in August.

Yet, I failed to understand the pits the rain dug where the cows had eaten all the grass. The streams I wasn’t allowed to touch that flowed from the mine tailings. The hill sides that sloughed where all the trees had been cut.

The reason I couldn’t hear wolves howling at night, no matter how hard I tried. In the ruins of the ghost town there was a nutty old woman with spiked white hair and breasts that sagged to her knees. Her name was Mary and she collected fossils and miner’s lamps. She said the wolves had been massacred in the 20’s and 30’s and that they would never come back.

At some point along the way, I decided that I had to see the world.

Photo of The Day #76, When You Are At The Driskill, You Know You Are In Texas

The Driskill Hotel in Austin was completed in 1886 and is named after a cattleman named Jesse Driskill. Each side of this Historic Hotel is impressive and has a similar stucco exterior with appropriate limestone trim. This view below faces 6th street and is a block off of Congress Avenue, in the middle of the after hours district filled with bars, restaurants and breweries. Sixth Street is also home to some of the best music in the country, with bands performing from all over the world, throughout the year.


The Driskill Hotel

The Driskill Hotel


When you enter the lobby from the main entrance on the east side of the hotel, this antique ceiling light extends almost the width of the walkway and pretty well hits you right between the eyes with its warm glow. It is a very detailed fixture and you can’t help but stare as you walk by a plethora of antique furniture collected through the years. The big five pointed star in the middle, makes one start to imagine they are in the wild wild west again.


The Chandelier In the Driskill Lobby

The Light Fixture In the Driskill Lobby


Throughout the hotel lobby and guest areas there are numerous western couches made from cowhides and made with comfort in mind. You can bet I tried one out and it took a lot of urging to get my rear end up. I wanted to stretch out, relax and take a nap. I wanted to dream about being a cowboy and meeting Lillie Langtry!


A Cowhide Couch in the Hallway

A Cowhide Couch in the Hallway


On the way to the bar one walks by several sets of revolvers and you know full well you are in Texas now. The guns, including a few rifles, are displayed throughout the second floor. The second floor is home to the hotel’s bar and restaurant. If you need to use the facilities I urge you to make use the restrooms on this level. You will be amazed at the accessories available for your amusement.


Revolvers in the Driskill

Revolvers in the Driskill


When you walk up to the second floor, from the lobby and head to the bar area, you encounter this massive replica of a Texas steer colorfully decorated with the Driskill’s exterior, superimposed against the state flag and the hotel’s logo. I urge you to deviate from any pre-planned tour and take an hour or so to see this magnificent architectural structure, a member of the Historic Hotels of America and the oldest operating hotel in Austin. If you bypass this hotel in favor of one of the suggested tourist traps then shame on you!


A Bull in The Driskill

A Bull in The Driskill





Photo of The Day #72, HomeAway Winner

We had our kickoff meeting for the Austin chapter of Travel Massive recently. One of our feature speakers, Erin Portman of HomeAway, was a vivacious young lady with more energy in her, than Carter had in it’s Little Liver pills. I was amazed how how deftly she set up her box for her give away. She laid out the brochures, refrigerator magnets and business cards. I think she has performed this assembly before. Erin had a smile from ear to ear and was a pleasure to visit with. We were very happy that her company donated a good size gift certificate.


Erin Portman with Home Away alias

Erin Portman with Home Away, alias @HomeAway_Erin, #HomeAway works 


After all the presentations were given, Erin proceeded to award the prize of a HomeAway gift certificate. I was attentive, but had no idea that the name pulled would be mine. I was totally caught off guard and offered to place the gift certificate back in the box and have someone else’s name drawn. Everyone to my humble surprise told me no and I should keep it and use it on my Europe trip in September and October. So by gosh I will! Thank you kindly HomeAway for such a wonderful gift!



Texas Olive Fest

About two weeks ago I entered an online contest from Edible Austin. The winner would receive two tickets to the second annual Texas Olive Fest. It was being held at the Texas Hill Country Olive Company located about half way between Bee Caves (SW Austin) and Dripping Springs off of Fitzhugh Road. As we drove up it looked like a large vineyard with Tuscan architecture. I had no idea the Hill Country Olive Company was this large. The parking lot must have held over 300 cars and I was blown away that so many people had come to the Festival. It was an overcast day and I thought people wouldn’t have traveled. Boy was I wrong!


Bluebonnets at the Gate

Bluebonnets at the Gate 


As we walked in the gate I noticed a field of Bluebonnets to our right and it was majestic to say the least. There is nothing finer in my humble opinion than a field of these beautiful flowers blooming in all their splendor. This is one of the finer aspects of living in Texas. From Mid March to late April they can be seen across the state thanks to Lady Bird Johnson. We obtained our wristbands from the media desk and proceeded to enter the Texas Olive Fest.


Cooking Classes Setting

Cooking Classes Setting 


It so happened that the first cooking class was starting in about two minutes so Kim and I grabbed a seat and waited for the class. I was lucky enough to capture the first three or so minutes of the class  and it should give you a flavor for the presentation (pun intended)! Faraday’s Kitchen Store was hosting the cooking classes and Tony Curtis-Wellings, a direct descendant of the scientist Michael Faraday hosted the classes.



This is the complete recipe and cooking instructions for the Broiled Vine Ripe Tomatoes with Hill Country Goat Cheese and Texas Toast. Our sample was so darn good, I wanted to get back in line for seconds, but I am positive that would have embarrassed Kim to no end. So I settled for the lingering taste left from my sample.


Broiled Vine Ripe Tomatoes With Hill Country Goat Cheese and Texas toast

Serves four to six guests


2 cups ripe tomatoes, peeled and roughly chopped
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbls balsamic vinegar
1 Tbls worcestershire sauce
2 tsp dijon mustard
1 Tbls shallots, minced
2 tsp garlic, minced
2 Tbls fresh basil leaves, chiffonade
kosher salt & salad grind black pepper
4 ounces Hill Country goat cheese, crumbled
1 loaf crusty peasant bread
2 clove garlic
salad oil (do not use olive oil)
1. Preheat oven broiler.
2. Mix the first eight ingredients together and adjust seasoning accordingly.
3. Spoon tomato mixture into ramekins and top evenly with goat cheese.
4. Place under broiler and heat until the tomato mixture becomes a little warm and the cheese starts to bubble and brown lightly.
5. Smash garlic cloves with the back of a spoon on a small saucer and top with a little salad oil.
6. Slice bread thickly and brush with garlic oil.
7. Grill or broil on one side until toasted and serve alongside tomato confit.

Cotton Gin Restaurant & Lodging, Fredericksburg, Texas
Executive Chef Ross Burtwell


Kim and I have gotten into local spice shops and oil and vinegar stores and usually shop about once every two weeks and add to our collection. Being at this Fest was like a home run in my eyes as the various oils and vinegar’s left me questioning which one to sample and purchase. The photo below is only one side and half of the options. What to do with so many options?


Texas Hill Country Olive Company

Texas Hill Country Olive Company


They conducted three educational seminars during the Texas Olive Fest. Jeff Transeau, the principal investor and manager of Charta Olive Farms, is a graduate of Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, Texas and holds a degree in Biology.

Seminar 1 – Texas Olive Industry & More, Seminar 2 – Olive Oil 101, Seminar 3 – Processing Your Own Olives


Inside the Texas Hill Country Olive Company was additional booths like below, a restaurant with all kinds of great looking fare, very clean and up to date restrooms and the tasting counter with various olive oils and vinegar’s for sampling and for sale. I would recommend a visit any time of the year; not just at the Olive Fest event.


Texas Brew Salsa

Texas Brew Salsa


Austin Honey Company

Austin Honey Company


After the cooking class we decided to try our hand at walking the booths. We were given five tickets for wine samples and I don’t drink anymore. Hmmm! What a dilemma. I could still eat though. We looked down the booths and decided to do an organized linear approach and walk by every booth.


Texas Olive Fest Booths

Texas Olive Fest Booths


Right out of the box we hit a great looking food trailer that had Crab Cakes for sell. I was a little surprised to say the least. I have placed a few of the food booths below and am very dispappointed I did not take a photo of my favorite booth “Smoke’n Hops“. They are a BBQ and Brewpub that is located in Dripping Springs. They were handing out BBQ Pork sliders and oh my goodness were they ever good. I behaved and only ate one.


Primat Food Trailer with Crab Cakes

Primat Food Trailer with Crab Cakes


I had to pass on the crab cakes as most have bell peppers in them and I am allergic to bell peppers. Sigh!!!


Aurelia's Chorizo Paella

Aurelia’s Chorizo Paella


Aurelia’s Chorizo booth was by far the busiest food booth and a majority of the people eating at the tables in the center of the booths had this Paella. I wanted to taste it so bad, but the line was extensive and so long that I declined. It evidently was delicious as I asked several people eating it and they all answered affirmatively. They barely could nod their heads and wouldn’t stop eating long enough to answer. Must have been fantastic.


Crepe Crazy Menu

Crepe Crazy Menu


I passed on the crepes also, as again there was a significant line. Crepe Crazy can be followed on their facebook page to stay abreast of their events. Their cooking demonstration was enlightening, as I couldn’t believe how thin the crepes were spread as they cooked. It looked like paper and I was surprised the held together. It takes talent to cook crepes!


In addition to the food booths there were several booths with specialty vendors. This one caught my eye as they were using high heels and a cut out cowboy boot to hold the wine bottles. Very unique I would say.


L' Adventure Dolce

L’ Adventure Dolce 


Not only did this booth have a great name “Two Winey Women”, but it had various items that were oriented to wine and I laughed many times at the quotes on a few of their items.


Two Winey Women

Two Winey Women


So what do you do with old wine barrels you ask? Barrel Designs makes furniture in all sizes and shapes. Kim was attracted to the two booths they had and kept looking at theit wares. She thought it was a very different approach. The good news is I didn’t have to break out my credit card.


Barrel Designs

Barrel Designs


At the end of the booths was a sound stage with bands playing for about two hours each. I hope I got the name correct. Given the time this photo was taken the band on stage should have been “Gumbo ce Soir”. If I am incorrect then my apologies to go out to the “Jimmie Lee Band”.



Gumbo ce Soir Band

Gumbo ce Soir Band


Of course I saved the best for last. When we entered the gate we were given a bag with several things. A map of the booths, cooking class times and five tickets each for wine samples. Oh my that is a good amount of wine for Kim to taste. I don’t drink anymore. Don’t worry she only tasted about three.



Pillar Bluff Vineyards

Pillar Bluff Vineyards


Good to know that this vineyard is right up the road from us. They are located at 300 County Road 111, Lampasas, TX 76550 and their phone number is (512) 556-4078. Business Hours: Friday and Saturday 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM, Sunday from 12:30 PM to 5:00 PM.



Stone House Vineyard

Stone House Vineyard


Stone House vineyard is located in at 24350 Haynie Flat Rd, Spicewood, TX 78669. Their phone number is (512) 264-3630. Their tasting room and winery is open Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 12 to 5 and by appointment.


Flat Creek Estate Vineyard and Winery

Flat Creek Estate Vineyard and Winery


Flat Creek Winery is located at 24912 Singleton Bend E, Marble Falls, TX 78654 and their phone number is (512) 267-6310. Tasting Room Hours: Tuesday – Sunday 11am – 5pm.



Fall Creek Vineyard

Fall Creek Vineyard


Fall Creek is one of our favorite vineyards and is the oldest Hill Country Vineyard, established in 1975. Kim and I have frequented this wonderful vineyard and have bought their wine for decades. You can’t go wrong with a Fall Creek wine. They are located at 1820 CR 222, Tow, TX 78672 on scenic Lake Buchanan. Their phone number is (325) 379-5361. The tasting room is open Mon-Fri 11-4 Sat 11-5 Sun 12-4.


Fiesta Winery (behind the guy in red). Kim loved their wine!

Fiesta Winery (behind the guy in red).


Please don’t look at the man dressed in red. Focus on the couple behind him to the left and the Fiesta Winery sign. We stopped by this booth and Kim talked with the couple. They are really great people and answered every question thrown at them with ease. They told Kim she had to taste their Texas Well Water wine and she did.


She absolutely loved it and of course we bought a couple of bottles. Fiesta Winery is located at 18727 FM 580, Lometa, TX 76853 five miles east of Bend Texas and their phone number is (325) 628-3433. Their tasting room near Bend is open Mon-Thur: 10:00 to 5:00, Fri-Sat: 10:00 to 6:00 and Sunday: 12:00 to 5:00.


Messina Hof Vineyard

Messina Hof Vineyard


Messina Hof is located at 4545 Old Reliance Rd, Bryan, TX 77808 and their phone number is (979) 778-9463. The Bryan operating hours are Monday – Thursday: 10:00am – 7:00pm, Friday – Saturday: 10:00am – 8:00pm and Sunday: 11:00am – 6:00pm.


In addition they now have a new winery located in Fredericksburg and its operating hours are Monday – Wednesday: 11:00am – 6:00pm, Thursday – Friday: 11:00am – 7:00pm, Saturday: 10:00am – 7:00pm and Sunday: 11:00am – 6:00pm.


Wedding Oak Winery

Wedding Oak Winery


Wedding Oak Winery is located at 316 East Wallace Street, San Saba, 76877. Its phone number is (325) 372-4050. Operating hours are Mon – Thurs 11:00am to 6:00pm, Fri – Sat 10:00am to 7:00pm and Sun 11:00am to 6:00pm.


It was time to attend another Cooking class put on by Pastry Chef Lyndi Modica of The Art Institute of Austin and she is known as the “Chocolatier”! I was able to capture a portion of her cooking class and learned a few things about butter browning and how to prepare reductions. It was very interesting.



Her recipes are as follows:


Brown Butter and Basil Cake

Yield: ½ sheet tray
8 oz Butter, browned
½ C Granulated Sugar
¼ C Brown Sugar
½ t. Vanilla
2.5 ea Eggs
1 C Al purpose Flour
2/3 C Almond Flour
1 t Baking Powder
½ t Salt
1 ½ T Sour Cream
½ C Micro Basil, cleaned
1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Prepare half sheet tray
3. Cream brown butter, sugars and vanilla. Add eggs in two additions making sure each are fully incorporated. Scrape sides and add dry ingredients, until just combined. Finish with sour cream and micro basil.
4. Bake in a convection oven with a low fan until light brown. Allow to cool and cut out desired serving size and shape.


Olive Oil Ice Cream

Yield: 5- 2 oz Portions
1 1/3 C Whole milk
6 ea Egg Yolks
½ C Sugar
Pinch Salt
1 C Heavy cream
½ C Terra Verde Estate Blend EVOO
1. Prepare an anglaise with the milk, yolks, sugar, and salt.
2. Strain over the heavy cream over an ice bath. Emulsify in olive oil and churn.


Balsamic Syrup

Yield: 4 servings
¼ C Granulated Sugar
¼ C Strawberry Balsamic Vinegar
1. Bring to a boil and reduce to syrup consistency


Trust me, this was a grand ending to our experience at the Texas Olive Fest. We both loved this dessert and wanted more, but it wasn’t in the cards. I will have to test the recipe and see if I can manage not to butcher her process. I am very grateful for the tickets and look for the “Third Annual Texas Olive Fest” next year, by following their Facebook page .


***Thanks to Edible Austin for our tickets. All opinions are solely mine and as always, generated without any influence.










Photo of The Day #66, #NomadicTexan, #Texas, #Travel, #Olives #Food, #Wine

I entered a contest sponsored by Edible Austin and won tickets to the Texas Olive Fest, located at the Texas Hill Country Olive Company grounds. The Olive company is between Bee Caves ( a suburb of Austin) and Dripping Springs, on Fitzhugh Road. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I was aware that this Olive Oil company is one of the top five Olive Oil companies in the country! We arrived, obtained our tickets and walked right into a cooking class being conducted by Chef Ross Burtwell of the Cabernet Grill in Fredericksburg.


Chef Ross Burwell's Cookbook

Chef Ross Burtwell’s Cookbook


I will devote an entire post later in the week with his recipes and the other things Kim and I tasted, sampled and drank. Oh did I forget to tell you, about 20 vineyards were there handing out samples, if you had tickets. Kim had a blast! As soon as the recipes go up I will publish the entire post. Trust me Chef Ross prepared a few tasty samples. This is his brand new cookbook and if you find yourself in the Texas Hill Country in Fredericksburg, give his restaurant a try!

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.





























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.











Photo of The Day #46

The Driskill Hotel

The Driskill Hotel



One of Austin’s iconic structures is the Driskill Hotel downtown on sixth street and about a block off Congress Avenue. The hotel was completed in 1866 and was named after a cattle baron named Jesse Driskill. It is filled with western motif and furniture that takes one back to the old days in Texas. One of my favorite items is this lighting arrangement in the lobby. It is so vibrant and one cannot keep from staring, when it is seen in real life. If you visit Austin Texas this hotel has to be on your “To Do” bucket list.

Photo of The Day #42

Antones Home of the Blues in Austin

Antones “Home of the Blues” in Austin



Clifford Antone was a very ardent supporter of the Blues Genre and was raised in Port Arthur Texas. Over the years he grew to know and help many a musician down on their luck. Clifford would give a blues player a gig, whether he was popular or not and was the sounding board for many an artist over the years. Of course he wouldn’t turn down any legends that passed through town and loved to talk with them.



He was very instrumental in the career of Stevie Ray Vaughan and his brother Jimmy. Them and the Fabulous Thunderbirds are the two best groups to hit his place, in my humble opinion. I know that will be debated! This is a photo of the plaque acknowledging his original club on sixth street in Austin. My home town! We lost Clifford on May 23, 2006, but the tradition he started, carries on!

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!









Photo of The Day #10

The Hats on The Airplane

The Hats on The Airplane


As I boarded my flight in DFW heading for Miami and eventually Ecuador, I found my self sitting beside two sisters that were lovely, intelligent and worldly traveled. They both were fair skinned and blond headed, but spoke perfect Spanish. I was puzzled to say the least. We started a conversation as I inquired about the hats one of them was holding. You know how I love hats! This was after hearing them converse in excellent Spanish. I asked them where they were headed and where they lived, etc.



One was 23 and working on her Master’s thesis in London and was studying Neurology and Photography. She was mature and we discussed her eventual plans to lecture. The other happened to go to high school in Austin and now was attending The University of Texas studying Fine Arts. I was amazed and asked them how they came to be such excellent Spanish conversationalists. They replied they were raised in Argentina, Switzerland, a few other stops and had moved on.



One particular story from Sofia and Victoria was very charming and I must relay it. It seems that one of them went to school in Austin on their first day and when the teacher came to class (a male) she kissed him on both cheeks, as is custom in Argentina. The teacher immediately drew back and stated that they would have to discuss this after class. She was shocked and did not know what she had done.


The teacher after discovering her heritage, instructed her on appropriate customs in the US and relayed to her that this was inappropriate in the US. She was very upset and made sure she didn’t perform this custom again. They also told me in Switzerland that it is customary to kiss three times on the cheeks. I thought that was a little extreme. I thoroughly enjoyed an intelligent conversation with these two young ladies for two hours and was grateful I ran into them.  They proved that all is not broken in the world!

How Many Times Have You Needed a Wheelbarrow, to Get Out of a Restaurant?

Sean, our middle son, called me last Friday at around 5:30 PM and said lets go out to eat. I am in South Austin and we can meet downtown, he says. I told him great idea, but a bad concept. One does not leave for downtown Austin, on a Friday night to go out and eat, unless they plan on eating around 9:00 PM. Not good for Kim and I, as we are generally yawning or going to bed at this time of the evening. Besides, I told Sean, I have dinner ready for your Mother and me at home. So I asked why would you call and ask this, as we had just been to his apartment the day before for a July 4th BBQ. He told me that the position he had been waiting for had materialized and he was the new Branch Manager. I told him how proud I was that he had gotten the job and would love to celebrate another night. How about Sunday night at Truluck’s he asked, knowing its the best seafood place in Austin and we all love eating there.


King Crab, Dungeness Crab and Stone Crab Claws

King Crab, Dungeness Crab and Stone Crab Claws


Sunday rolls around and we get a 5:00 PM reservation and show up early. Surprise the restaurant doesn’t open until 5:00 PM. Kim and I wait and Sean gets there right at 5:00 PM when they open the doors. We walk in and its apparent that crab is in season and they are featuring various items. Everywhere you turn are illustrations both live and on ice of these magnificent morsels. We sit and the restaurant comes alive as the server brings us bread and gets our drink order. The bar tender who is a friend of Sean’s stops by and asks the occassion. Sean tells her of his promotion and the fact we are celebrating his birthday early.


Stone Crab Claws

Stone Crab Claws


Sean then orders a plate of Calamari and we settle in. Kim orders Blackened Red Fish, which is right up there in my opinion, with the best fish in the ocean. I love its taste. Sean obviously orders Stone Crabs, the House special. I finally decide I will have a Dungeness crab. They go to the tank and obtain a live Dungeness that appears very large. I ask the server how much it weighs and she states a little over a pound. Okay that’s good I think, as the shell has to be half the weight. What do you want for your sides she asks. I look and the Mac N Cheese with Crabmeat looks delicious and I break down and order it and Asparagus.


Truluck's with Sean Michael Celebrating his Promotion 2013-07-07 006 Blog


The server brings out an array of tools, that will be needed to eat the Dungeness crab with. They are menacing and I am frankly not entirely sure how to use every tool. The server kindly illustrates the techniques. Our meals arrive and I am looking at what appears to be a three pound crab. I am scared I can’t finish it and am not sure if its safe to take crab home. I know one can get very sick around seafood if its not handled well. I have had food poisoning three times in my life and never want to go through that again.


Dungeness Crab with Mac N Cheese and Asparagus

Dungeness Crab with Mac N Cheese and Asparagus


Somewhere between about half of the Mac N Cheese with crab, half the Aparagus and about 75% of the crab, I start feeling like I need to regurgitate! I am fastly filling my stomach and I am not sure how much room is left. I stop eating the sides and concentrate on the crab. By this time Kim and Sean are done and I am still cracking legs, etc. Then they bring out this massive cake to help Sean celebrate. I want to literally toss my cookies. I have to taste it, but know there is no way I can finish the slice that Sean has carved for me. I get up to stretch my legs and go to the restroom. Maybe a little walking will help.


Truluck's with Sean Michael Celebrating his Promotion 2013-07-07 017 Blog


Sorry it didn’t. I return and sit down and take a few bites and tell Sean maybe I better take the rest home. In the end we all take our desert home, as I learn I am not the only one filled up. I rise and start to walk out and I realize that I am close to barfing. I need a wheelbarrow to help me to the car. Somehow we hug Sean, congratulate him on his promotion and get in our car to drive home. I am so full I can’t breathe! We get home and I tweet that I had to get in my elastic pants as soon as I walk in the door. Apparently this is a common syndrome, as many responded with appropriate and similar thoughts about the wheelbarrow. Next time I go to Truluck’s no heavy meal and I will be a good man and eat a filet of fish…OR NOT!!! Happy Birthday son!!!

I Think I Need to Buy an Army Tank to Drive With!

Its funny. Back in my buying days at Six Flags, when I would go to SE Asia each year for the two months to purchase souvenirs, trinkets and gifts for the park system. I was always amazed at how the car traffic seemed to be in total disarray. I was comfortable driving back home in the US and wondered how the people survived the stress of the frantic driving habits in SE Asia.


Japanese Road Sign

Japanese Road Sign


Fast forward to 2013 in the states. I am making lettuce wraps for my wife and I, this evening. I discover I need water chestnuts for the online recipe, for Asian wraps with Hamburger. I left the house and merged into a heavily traveled Highway, that runs Northwest out of Austin to the Hill country. Highway 183. I was in the right (slow lane) and there had to have been no more that 1 1/2 car lengths between me and the car in front. As we approached a major intersection, this individual rammed in between us and I had to hit my brakes to avoid hitting her. Yes I said her. I was surprised as this type of behavior from a young female, as its primarily men that drive so aggressively these days.


I don’t know if its my age or what, but this infuriates me when somebody can’t wait five seconds and merge in behind me. They clearly think their “time” is more important than mine. It seems to be escalating lately and more and more drivers are acting like horse’s rears and showing no concern for safety or other drivers. Its insane. So I go shopping and get my chestnuts and a few other items.


Cuenca Traffic but Could Be Anywhere US

Heavy Traffic


I start back home and mind you have a back seat with several bags of groceries. I approach a 4-way stop. I am on the right as another smaller vehicle stops to my left. This time its a man driving. I am in a two lane surface street and I push the accelerator. The car on the left turns into the cross street area and with no blinker moves over to my lane and immediately veers into the library. Again I have to hit my brakes and am thankful nothing in the sacks of groceries is breakable, as the bags obviously hit the floor when I jammed on my brakes.


I don’t get it. Why is there no concern for others anymore on the streets and highways. People drive like there is no tomorrow, which might be true if they don’t start showing a little caution. There are so many stories we hear every day of people getting into accidents because of negligent or distracted driving. In fact, this seems to be a phenomena even with the bigger vehicles like those 18-wheelers you see on the freeways. So much so, that people that unfortunately fall victim to these accidents can seek out legal support for compensation at and other such law firms. They have a whole area of expertise for that.

While I can understand that safe driving practices may not prevent all the accidents in the world, there’s definitely nothing to lose from it, right? Having a little consideration for others on the road, not texting while driving, not wanting to always get ahead on the road, practicing patience…doesn’t sound very hard to do does it?

People cut people off all the time and can’t understand why you get irritated. Hardly anyone uses a turn blinker anymore, to warn you that they are turning this two ton or more weapon. We have lost all respect and common courtesy and I think its time for me to start walking everywhere. It will probably make me healthier and I might just live a little longer! Time to make the wraps!

All I Want to Do is Go Home and Get Some Sleep

The young man appeared gaunt and his eyes wore deep dark shadows. He was obviously very tired and stretched to the limit. I felt sorry for him to be in this disarray at such a young age. His recent odyssey with Adecco has obviously pushed Turner Barr to the limits of human ability. He is worn to a frazzle and completely fatigued in my humble opinion. His smart-phone went off incessantly. First a reporter from German called. Then a reporter from Australia called. All the while Turner was trying to balance the social media and information flow. I am not sure I could have handled the amount of pressure he was carrying or the expected interaction from his supporters, journalists and news personnel.


Nomadic Texan with Turner Barr

Nomadic Texan & Turner Barr Photo credit: Stephen Oddo


“When this is all over I just want to go home and get some sleep”! “I am so tired”. I really don’t think that any of us can appreciate what Turner has been though. This battle has been going on for six weeks, beginning with phone calls back and forth when he was in Laos and Thailand. He interrupted his trip to come home and battle this issue.


I asked him what he wanted to say to his supporters. He welled up a bit and said “I want them to know that I am humbled and honored that they stood tall behind me,  stood up for me and I would not have been able to go this route without them”. I am learning this young man is indeed a very humble and gentle soul and is so appreciative of the groundswell from the weekend, he has a hard time expressing his feelings.


I took the interview in another direction.


What was your favorite job?

Definitely it was being the Krampus in Austria. I mean where else can you dress up like a monster and drive through the Alps in a 4-wheel vehicle looking at all the beautiful snow scenes?


Who was your favorite character in the travels around the world? 

No question it was Lek, the Elephant Whisperer. When she had the elephant stand over her with its paw in her face and grabbed its trunk to sing a lullaby I was overcome. She could have been dead in an instant, but she completely trusted this elephant and he trusted her. It was amazing.


What was the most difficult job you performed?

Probably I would have to say it was the Agave harvesting job. It was outside all day in the sun. The work is eight straight hours of hard manual labor and you work with a “coa” a sharp blade on the end of a stick that the individual swings back and forth. After about three hours you start losing your concentration and if you are not careful you could hack your toes or feet off. Its that sharp!

The second hardest was Rice Harvesting job in Thailand. It was so hot!


What was your favorite country overall?

I would have to say Colombia or Mexico. “They have the best looking women”.


What was your favorite food?

1) Thai…it was consistent everywhere and was excellent. 2) Italian I could eat forever. 3) Mexican is always great.


As our interview progressed Turner got up and answered as many calls as he received and maintained his composure. He really  is a very laid back guy and is so appreciative and humbled by all the support that I think he is a little overwhelmed. Who wouldn’t be? After all he has worked for two straight years to build his brand and in an instant it was tainted!


Turner it kills me that some are changing their stance and not speaking up still as a result of your being quiet. I have seen first hand the amount of pressure you are under and I would not wish it on my worst enemy. I am also having a hard time biting my tongue, since I am aware (overheard your conversation my friend) that there may be a resolution very quickly that you cannot talk about. I hope that you get what you are asking for and it was my pleasure to interview you and have lunch with you in Austin. Safe Travels mi amigo!


Epilogue: The interview was conducted the day prior to Turner settling with Adecco. His requests were met by Adecco and the company stepped up and made it right. I think in large it was a result of the massive response from the blogging community and Turner’s friends campaign over the weekend. The Internet was overwhelmed with push back on many social media platforms and Adecco learned this community of bloggers is a vibrant, zealous and compassionate group, willing to fight for what is right!




Thanks to our Sponsors

Recognition and Awards


Latest Tweets

Flag Counter

Amateur Traveler Episode 471 - Travel to Austin, Texas