Living in the Land of the Free

I promised myself I would take the day off and not drop a post on everyone today. I am sure all of you are getting ready to celebrate with family and friends and planning to go watch an “Epic” fireworks show at a local park. When our sons, now all young men, were younger we would make a big deal and BBQ all day, pig out over my Mother’s potato and pea salad recipes. It really didn’t matter what type of meat I was cooking as long as Kim made deviled eggs and I made the salads. It was a Texas tradition.


Guess Who Can't Touch Bottom

Guess Who Can’t Touch Bottom


The boys would always find an easy way to amuse themselves and play games in the yard, which they created and developed entirely from some TV show like Ninja Turtles or something of that nature. I was still fairly active and would join in sometimes between cooking and making the salads. Of course the occasional beer would be ingested and Kim would have her glass of wine so the eggs and other items she made would come out just right.





When all was done we would sit around a table, eat until we couldn’t walk and finish with ice cream and watermelon. Kim loves watermelon. I hated the next portion and that was cleaning up the mess we made preparing all this very unhealthy food. It seemed to always take longer to clean than to cook. By this time it was getting near dark and we would pile into the van, yes we had a van for many years just to haul the boys and their stuff to sporting events, to school and to activities. It was nice to have that many seats as the boys didn’t have to touch each other. Touching each other always led to arguments for some reason.


Most of the fireworks programs that we would view lasted a fairly long time and we would bring folding lawn chairs, another great reason to have a van. Through baseball we became friends with Mary and Larry Heffernan and started a tradition of attending the parties they threw on the 4th. After all the eating and cleaning it was the best scenario for watching the fireworks. All we had to do was walk right out into their Cul de Sac and plop our folding chairs down. The fireworks went off behind their house at a local park and these seats were the best in town!





Now we have a son in Japan, one in the Dallas area and one still here in Austin. We are going to his apartment and having a mini 4th BBQ. I hope we don’t embarrass him! I miss the old days and having all our family so close! Life has a way of hitting you right between the eyes at times and for some reason it did that today. I sincerely hope all you young parents “relish” (sorry I couldn’t help myself) the time you have now with your children and spend it wisely. Before you know it your children will be grown and out the door. Be careful with the fireworks and try to eat healthy! Happy 4th of July for all those friends “Living in the Land of the Free”!


A Virgin’s Very First Time

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


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

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


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


Street art/graffiti on the walk to Roy Thomson Hall

Street art/graffiti on the walk to Roy Thomson Hall


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


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

Kenin and Lauren Bassart…Two Wonderful Bloggers & Friends


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


Derek4Real on the right along with Jum and Warren

Jim and Warren with Derek4Real on the right


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

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


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


Charu from Butterfly Diaries

Charu from Butterfly Diaries


Alex from Crazy Sexy Fun Traveler

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


Pola from Jetting Around

Pola from Jetting Around


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


Traveleing Ted, the beer man!

Traveleing Ted, the beer man!


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


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

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




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Amateur Traveler Episode 471 - Travel to Austin, Texas