Friday, June 26, 2015


It was now May and I was on my way to Houston. There is not a national park in Houston, but friends and an international airport. And on the way to Houston, in Fort Worth, are more friends :). Looking back, it seems I didn't take very many pictures :(. 

I got to Fort Worth on a Tuesday night I believe and met Sean and Sara at their house. Their son, Liam, had music class that night. We packed into the car and headed out. On the way they popped in the cd of songs the class had been learning. OH MY GOSH! I knew the songs (sort of)! Julie's boys had been in the same music class back in Peoria and we listened to the cd a few times on our weekend road trip. Such a small world sometimes :). The class was the last one, so it was more of a big sing along party with all ages of kids. It was fun to watch them smile, sing and be goofballs :). We had dinner together at a great place near their house and caught up a little before bed. The next morning they were off for work and I headed to Houston to catch a flight. 

The flight was to Romania where I met another set of friends to do some hiking and sightseeing. More on that in a separate post. 

I was gone for about a week and got back into Houston to see Joan and Jonathan, friends who work for my old company and moved to Singapore the last bit of my time there. They showed me some good places to eat and we caught up on Singapore and life after Singapore. They are experiencing/feeling all the same things I did when I got back. I wanted to see if they had any answers and vice versa :). They were newly engaged though (newly since I last saw them), so we had that to celebrate!

They suggested I visit the space center in Houston because it was raining a lot during the day. At first I blanked on a space center thinking that is in Florida. Duh....'Houston we have a problem'. So I visited there and it was interesting. I did manage to take some pics there. 

The shuttle gets transported in style ;). 

Some Longhorns in the field next to campus, technically maybe on campus.

The control room as it was for Apollo 13. They were doing some sort of filming in there that day. The real control room/command center is somewhere else. They communicate with the shuttle in Houston. Florida only does the launch and then hands it over to Houston. 

(See below)

This lady talked to us about the Mars Rover and what it's doing and how it's used. It was pretty cool. I think you can go online and watch it. So much thought and genius went into building it. Pretty amazing. 

Then, I started off for southwest Texas towards my first national park of 2015!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015


Since I missed Julie in Belize, I wanted to spend some extra time with her and the boys in Memphis at the start of my road trip. Yes! My road trip has finally started :). The last week of April I left mom and dad's, not to return until after Labor Day. The plan was and still is to National Park hop out west. The starting point was Big Bend National Park in southwestern Texas. So I'd be headed right through Memphis on my way there :).

I spent a week with Julie and the boys. She had work and they had preschool, so I did my own thing during the day and we had fun in the evenings. It was late April and the weather in Memphis was beautiful! 

One night was their last swim lesson, which is key for later on. 
Goofiness at the pool

One night Julie's mom watched the boys so she and I could go to a wine night at the botanical gardens. We got a tour of the herb garden and learned a lot about different types of herbs (though I'm not sure how much was retained). I was surprised at how many different mint varieties there are! It was a really fun night and the botanical gardens there are very nice. Julie showed me some of the kid areas which were huge and looked like they'd be lots of fun for little ones.

There was a lot of playing with the neighbor boys and I think everyone had a mini melt down at least once during the week ;). Lots of playing in the huge sandbox, and even emptying the sandbox so we could move it to a different spot on the yard. It is a huge sandbox!

Friday we left town for an adventure. We went to some indoor/outdoor museum place a couple hours away and stayed in a hotel Friday night. A hotel with a pool of course! We played with the boys in the pool and tested their skills. Ian even started dunking himself under water and holding his breath - a lot of progress from basically splashing his face when we first got in :). 

Saturday was fun day!  There was a giant slide, moon sand, space, geology, trains, tractors, a maze....tons of fun stuff and we couldn't hit it all up in just one day. We blew the caboose horn on the train. Rang the old timey school bell. Walked a lot! It was fun and I think everyone was exhausted by 2, lol. 

Then we headed back for a 'race' Sunday. Julie and I signed up for a three mile St. Jude race that she had done in the past. We got these awesome neon shirts and laid low in the pack, walking our first mile. Then we jogged and walked on and off as my lungs allowed :). A runner I am not. After the race there was tons of free food (bananas, cookies, bbq, hot dogs) and drinks. We rested and filled ourselves before heading home.

We got in a couple of movies during the week. The boys picked Big Hero 6, which I mostly watched and liked. Then I picked an old school one for them, The Rescuers. Man, animation has come a long way. They watched it all though - not sure there will be a replay of that one though. 

It was a fun week!

Monday, June 15, 2015


After Ireland, I was home for about a week, probably got in a trip to see friends in Peoria, then headed to Acapulco for a long weekend with friends - old and new!

We mostly enjoyed the pool and cheap beverages. There was some Uno played and we went to karaoke one night. I was sober and still sang a couple songs :), Ace of Base-The Sign and 4 Non Blondes-What's Up.

And I found out Yoli is the Mexican equivalent of case you were wondering :). 

It went by really fast but was lots of fun!

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Ireland continued

We went to the Cliffs of Moher and it was windy!

Some people wanted different vantage points :).

Mom and dad are blue and green specks at the very top of the cliff and you could see trails leading down to the water.

We took the back way in ;).

Next was a sheepdog herding demonstration. The guy has his own sheep and they spend part of the year on the mountain/hill across the lake. He takes a couple dogs and heads across in his boat. From the boat he can work the dogs and collect all the sheep from that side. It was amazing to think about.

There were two puppies there running around.

The dogs were so eager to work, barking, whining and jumping in the kennels. This one made a mad dash for the field when he opened her gate.

She was bonkers for sheep!

Then he showed us a younger boy in training and how he works with them. One of his dogs has a cameo of about 2-3 seconds in Marley & Me.

Next we went to a super fancy hotel and walked the grounds. There is a falconry school there and you can have them fly and land from your arm! But we just walked the grounds :).

There was this huge tree that looks like it all comes from the same root system underground.

A train crossing that I thought was neat/different.

We went to see artifacts left from the megalithic time period - basically tombstones or cemeteries that were like 4,500-5,000 years old. It's huge boulders in a pentagon type shape with an opening and a large Boulder on top. It's crazy to think how the rocks were moved.

The tombs would have been encased in a larger mound of rocks like this example. A walkway is cut out to show you what it would have looked like with the tomb inside.


There were also large rings of boulders that evidenced there use to be a mound.

Across the road from where we stayed was the Mass Rock, in the middle of the field. After visiting those tombs, I wonder if this isn't a tomb. You can barely see it at the top of the hill. We were told it is the mass rock because mass would be held up there in order to see (and disperse) if the British were coming.

One night on a walk around the neighborhood, Dad spotted this calf with a cast on its front leg.

Then we left the countryside and headed back into Dublin. There are all sorts of grand churches. One we saw had a mosaic that included JFK :).

It was a beautiful day and all the students came to the grass in Dublin Castle to relax in the afternoon sun.

A street memorial to the famine. There were still potatoes available in Great Britain even though Ireland's crop had gone bad. But the British could sell the elsewhere for a better price. Thus, the famine. (Maybe a little simplistic, but you get the idea.)

Mom being the only beer drinker on this trip, had to have a Guinness. Dad helped out with the Irish whiskey. And my souvenir coke bottle.

I just like this picture :).

We tried to visit the Guinness brewery gift shop but you have to do the tour to get to the shop. We didn't have time and I've heard it isn't worth the cost.

We also visited one of the famous prisons. It held many political prisoners.

Cell door

Looking into the cell from the peep hole.

The hallway - it was old.

It is most famous for holding and later executing leaders of the Easter Uprising. Their executions really sparked the movement toward independence from the British.

Crosses marked the execution spots.

The museum had some of their handwritten notes with family.

Out front you could see where the gallows use to be for the public hangings. There are two small white-ish squares over the top middle window and that's where the gallows came out of the building.

Then it was time to say goodbye to Ireland. It was a really fun time and I enjoyed seeing some of the more 'off the beaten path' type things. This photo was taken from a cemetery in the countryside - it was called a famine cemetery because many residents were from that period of time.