Posts Tagged vacation

Vegas, Baby!

In about four hours, Wayne and I will be flying to Las Vegas to celebrate our upcoming birthdays (his is this SundaySaturday and mine is next Sunday).

I’m feeling particularly lazy pre-trip, so go read Wayne’s post about our trip. You could even win a copy of BioWare’s Mass Effect for the XBOX 360.

You can follow our escapades on Twitter, or follow the entire VegasBB crew, or just the #VegasBB tweets.

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Avitaween

As I previously alluded to, I traveled to Orlando last weekend to attend Avitaween. And while that was certainly the main event, it was far from the whole story. It was, in fact, one of nine meet-ups for me during the trip.

First up was lunch at the Orlando airport with several others that were arriving at around the same time. These were all people I hadn’t meet before and we coordinated via Twitter. Kim was already there when we got there and later, Sheila, Employee3699 and her fraughter joined us. Chick-Fil-A was the fare of choice, apparently being unavailable in the far-off land of Chicago. Or something like that. Then it was time to wait over an hour in the Budget car rental line. Joy. That was probably the only negative of my whole weekend, at least the only one that directly affected me.

Friday evening was the occasion of a wonderful dinner hosted by Faiqa and Tariq. In attendance were several bloggers I’d already met and was thrilled to see again: Poppy & Dawg, Rachel, Robin and Dave2. I also got to meet many more: Britt & Jared, Heather & Tyler, Finn & Mister, Hilly, Lisa, Karen and Becky. There were some others present, including some kids, but I’m sticking to bloggers (and their spouses) here. Great food and great times!

toojaysSaturday morning’s arrival meant breakfast. I love breakfast. Kim joined several of the dinner attendees (Finn & Mister, Poppy & Dawg, Rachel, Robin and me) at TooJay’s. After breakfast, we discovered that Robin’s rental had some issues and she and Rachel had to go exchange it (after dropping me back at the Hilton, where I wasn’t staying, but had met up beforehand). Bummer that their plans got messed up by having to drive back to the airport, but watching Robin work it on the phone was pretty impressive.

Back at the Hilton, I sat around chatting with various attendees until it was time for a late lunch. Sheila, Employee3699, Fraughter, Nicole and… grumble… I’ve gone and forgotten their names. One other couple. 😦 I even tried looking through photos, to no avail. Anyway, we went to Bahama Breeze. I was still full from breakfast, so I didn’t order any lunch and then had a dessert. It was some sort of banana bread-bananas-caramel-ice cream-whip cream concoction that ended up not being as good as I had hoped. Oh, well.

invaded_boxBack to the hotel to get ready for the main event, Avitaween 2009: INVADED!!!! Words fail me, so have a look at the Flickr stream. Okay, I’ll come up with some words. Or one word. Absomazingtastibulous! [Edit: I forgot to mention that there are also a couple of karaoke videos.]

As the festivities were starting to wind down (though plenty of people looked like they’d be there for a while), a group of us decided to head over to Denny’s for post-party, late night food. My steak & egg burrito really hit the spot. Let’s see how well I can recall who was at Denny’s. Poppy & Dawg, Robin, Rachel, Shiela, Kim, Employee3699, Fraughter, Finn & Mister, Karen and Adam‘s friend Chris. I think that’s everyone, but I could be forgetting someone at the other end of the table.

Sunday morning pretty much went by while I slept, which was fine since I had breakfast the night before. Marci and I were able to have lunch with Mike & Susie at Five Guys, and then sit and chat with them for a couple of hours back at the Hilton. Getting to know other people is one of my favorite parts of these trips, so I really appreciated this opportunity.

At that point, we needed to check into our new hotel. We were switching to the hotel where Marci would be spending the rest of the week as she was staying in town for a conference. We were planning to meet up with Marty & Reba, but the way things ended up working out I had dinner with Adam. Just the two of us at Chili’s, where we had a good opportunity to actually have some interesting conversations — no time for that for Adam at his own party, of course!

hard rock orlandoI still needed to meet up with Marty — I had a package for him, plus, he’s state of inebriation at the party pretty much precluded conversations — but I wanted to stop by the Orlando Hard Rock Cafe first. This was a bit of an adventure as it required parking in the Universal Studios parking garage ($3 from 8pm to 10pm) and a bit of a walk. I walked around the restaurant for a bit looking at the various memorabilia, but I didn’t want to spend too long as I wasn’t sure how late Marty wanted to be out. I bought my requisite Hard Rock shirt and headed back to the car.

I finally met Marty at TGI Friday’s where we caught up and I had a much better dessert, a Chips Ahoy! Ice Cream Sundae. And half-price Long Island Iced Teas for Marty!

As I said earlier, my favorite part of these trips is hanging out with other people, so I was thrilled that I had so many different opportunities to do so. Looking forward to the next one. Did someone say something about Vegas in December?!

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Avitaween Bound


Here I come!

Marci got upgraded to first class for both legs, so we won’t be sitting together. She has, however, offered me her seat on the long leg. Is there a better symbol of love than that? 🙂

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In A New York Minute

The Lady and Her City

The Lady and Her City

It was a whirlwind weekend. We picked up the girls right after school and headed to the airport for our flight to New York – La Guardia (via DFW). It was the first visit for my daughters and we had a lot planned. Not surprisingly, we didn’t manage to do everything. Despite this, we still had a great time.

Brittney & McKenzie Under the Statue of Liberty

Brittney & McKenzie Under the Statue of Liberty

First up for Saturday morning was a trip to The Statue of Liberty. Unfortunately, tickets for entering the statue herself had long since been sold out for this weekend, so we just toured the island. Marci and I had only viewed her via the Staten Island Ferry, so this was a new experience for us as well. As you can see, it was quite a cloudy day and, in fact, we got rained on while walking around Liberty Island.

Originally, we were going to meet up with some of Marci’s family at our hotel, but plans changed and we decided to meet them on Liberty Island. However, before they could arrive, it was time for me to head off on my own. My plans for the day were different from my families. While they toured Ground Zero, the Empire State Building, and went to a Broadway Show, I was having lunch with my second cousin, Dee, and then headed to the Houndstooth Pub for RenYC.

It was wonderful to catch up with Dee for a bit as we haven’t seen each other in a few years. At the same time, I follow her blog so I certainly didn’t feel out of touch. It’s funny, though not really surprising, that it took her moving from Kansas to New York for me to visit. After lunch, I had a few hours before the scheduled start of RenYC. I spent them walking around midtown for a while, headed back to the hotel. I took a short (though not as short as it was supposed to be) nap and then high-tailed it back to the Houndstooth Pub to join RenYC already in progress.

B.E. Earl at RenYC

B.E. Earl at RenYC

Poppy & Rachel at RenYC

Poppy & Rachel at RenYC

YKnot at RenYC

YKnot at RenYC

Robin & Poppy at RenYC

Robin & Poppy at RenYC

RenYC was a blast. In attendance were Poppy, Dawg, Robin, Rachel, B.E. Earl, Bill (aka YKnot), Bearette and her baby. We hung out eating and drinking for a number of hours. As always is the case at these types of events, time passed by much too quickly. For instance, I never managed to talk to Bearette before she had to leave.

Dawg, Poppy & Robin at Serendipity 3

Dawg, Poppy & Robin at Serendipity 3

From there, most of us (just barely — five of nine by my count) headed over to Serendipity 3 for dessert (or, in Poppy’s case, breakfast — which I think had something to do with her level of intoxication). I knew this place was semi-famous (or perhaps full-on famous, I’m not sure), but I hadn’t expected the hour-long wait that we encountered. No matter, the weather was reasonably nice and we were still able to socialize while we waited outside.

I had hoped that Marci and the girls would be able to meet us for dessert, but their show (Mary Poppins) ran longer than I expected and then they went back to the hotel before deciding to come get dessert after all. The result of this delay was that RenYC officially ended about fifteen minutes before my family arrived. No collision of worlds on this trip! 🙂

For other RenYC summaries, see Poppy’s and Rachel’s. And their Flickr streams.

Sunday was supposed to start fairly early with an NBC studio tour. Instead, we slept through most of Sunday morning. We did eventually head over to Rockefeller Center, but the tickets for the tour were sold out. Oops, we meant to get those on Saturday, but obviously didn’t. We went to the American Girl store, but I think my daughters are just a bit too old for that store, though they did buy a number of books.

Hard Rock Times Square

Hard Rock Times Square

We had lunch at the Hard Rock Cafe in Times Square. What can I say, Dave2 has inspired me. Only belatedly did I realize that I need to do a much better job of exploring the place while I’m there. I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised at how much more impressive this location was than the Toronto location we visited last month.

Our final plans before our flight home included visits to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and FAO Schwartz, but there simply wan’t time for both. In truth, there wasn’t really enough time for the Met at all, but Brittney said that she just wanted a quick visit through the Egyptian exhibit for some pictures for school. Also, she wasn’t interested in FAO Schwartz. Naturally, we split up. While Marci and McKenzie played on the piano mat at FAO Schwartz, Brittney and I went to the Met. After a longer than expected subway ride and walk across Central Park, we were left with only fifteen minutes at the museum. Luckily, it was enough. We got the pictures she wanted. Plus, the walk through the park was a pleasure in and of itself.

Brittney & Ren Riding a Bike Taxi

Brittney & Ren Riding a Bike Taxi

Our final adventure, excluding the plane trip home, was the bike taxi that Brittney and I decided to take to get back to the hotel. As you can see in the picture, Sunday turned out to be a very nice day and the ride was quite enjoyable. I think it was Brittney’s favorite part of the entire trip — or, at least it was while it was happening.

It’s normal to feel like a leisure trip has ended too soon, but trying to squeeze a New York City trip into 43 hours is just crazy.

And yet, I’ll do it again.

Many times.

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Flashback Friday: Weekend in Manhattan

In memory of 9-11 and in honor of my upcoming visit to NYC, and because today is a Friday, I’ve decided to do another Flashback Friday using this post from last December. By the way, our trip to Toronto was last weekend. I’ll get a post done about that eventually, but I still have lots of pictures to process and I’ve been pretty busy with other things this week.


As I mentioned last week, we spent last weekend in New York City. We flew in Friday night and by the time our delayed flight landed we decided to head straight for the party. It was my first opportunity to put faces to the names of Marci’s co-workers. We had a good time.

After sleeping in Saturday morning, we headed downtown to see what discount Broadway tickets were available. Next, we made our way up to the South Street Seaport where they were having some sort of Santa convention or something. There were people walking all around the area wearing Santa suits. We spent some time looking for some gloves for me as I’d left mine in my lighter jacket at home. I ended up picking up a pair from a street vendor near the World Trade Center Site — just before my hands were about to fall off. 🙂

World Trade Center Site

We were too late for the guided walking tour of the World Trade Center Site, so we just walked around on our own. Surprisingly, one of the best views was from the second story of the Burger King on the corner (above). There were only a few other spots around the site from which you could see the construction. I suppose the weird vibe I had was to be expected, but looking at the plans for the memorial and new buildings I couldn’t help but feel that the vibe will be even stronger after construction is complete.

Rockefeller Center

Rockefeller Center

Without realizing it, our choice for a show for the night ended up being right next to Rockefeller Center, as well as being very close to our hotel. This was particularly convenient since we had previously decided to go see the Christmas tree before the show. Continuing the trend through most of the day — except for the walk from the South Ferry to the South Street Seaport — the place was packed with people. I know it’s cliched, but even at 28°F the energy level in Manhattan is constantly as high as (or higher than) most other places during special events.

We didn’t stay long, just long enough to take a few pictures before queueing up for the Radio City Christmas Spectacular starring The Rockettes. I was a little concerned that they wouldn’t let me in with my camera (it doesn’t fit in my pocket), but my long coat concealed it so there wasn’t an issue. As it turns out, they only forbid flash photography, so it probably wouldn’t have been a problem anyway. The lack of coat checks does make me wonder what the point of bag checks was, though.

Rockettes Dolls

Rockettes Dolls

The show was festive and enjoyable and included a nice short rendition of The Nutcracker, which is about the only way I can take it anymore. I hadn’t originally planned on taking any pictures, but since I had my camera and they had only prohibited flashes, I went ahead and took a few — and I certainly wasn’t the only one. Still, I made an attempt to avoid being too annoying to those around me. I doubt I was successful, but at least I made the attempt.

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What to do in Toronto?

My family will be in Toronto in the near future. We’ll be spending a day at Niagra Falls, but we haven’t really determined what to do with our other day. We’ll possibly do one of those double-decker bus tours where you can get off of one bus and get on another after spending the amount of time you like at each stop.

We defintely plan on visiting the UC Tower, but other than that I’m not really sure which things around town are the best use of our fairly limited time. Suggestions? (In case it matters and you don’t already know, our two daugters are 10 and 11.)

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RenYC 2009

I put the word out yesterday on Twitter that I’ll be in New York City on October 10th and would love to get together with some fellow bloggers and tweeters. The wonderful Poppy was quick to volunteer for the task of organizing a dinner meet-up dubbed RenYC. Thank you, Poppy!

If you are interested in attending (please, please, please!), please leave a comment either here or at Poppy’s blog entry linked above. Better yet, leave a comment both places. 🙂

By my reckoning, this will be my fourth trip to the Big Apple, having previously visited in 2000, 2001 and 2008. The first trip was in the summer and pretty hot, though coming from Texas it wasn’t too bad. The other two trips (March and December) were a bit cold for my taste. I wonder how October will be?

To be clear, I’ve enjoyed each one of my trips regardless of the weather. I love visiting New York City. To be honest, I enjoy visiting most places, but New York City has a special draw for me. It’s the energy level I almost always encounter there that appeals to me. The only energy level I’ve experienced that consistently surpases it is Mardi Gras in New Orleans — another city I love to visit.

Anyway, back to RenYC. The venue is not yet determined but it will be somewhere in Manhattan at around 6pm, October 10, 2009. Hope to see you there!

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Santa Fe Trip: Day 3 – TequilaCon

Wow, what a great day!
Great food and great company
Great sights and great times.

As you may have guessed,
It’s time for a summary
Given as Haiku.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Santa Fe Trip: Day 1 – Driving to Lubbock

ren-and-wayne-in-the-carwayne-yawnsI had thought we were going to try to get out of town early in the afternoon, but apparently the fact that I didn’t really commit to it led to Wayne scheduling some other activities. Thus, our departure time was delayed until 5:30 PM (at the earliest). In truth, with a stop at Target to get Wayne some sandals, we really didn’t get going until well after 6 PM.

Thankfully, Wayne likes to drive, so he drove the entire time today. I’m not sure if I’ll be driving tomorrow or if he will continue. Despite the yawn, he drove at least five more ours.

storms-burgersWe stopped in Lampasas for a quick dinner at Storm’s Drive-In, Inc. I like little places that I’ve never heard of, but this was just meh. We both had the (chicken-fried) steak sandwiches and we shared some fries. Very similar to Sonic, though the fries were quite different. Anyway, much driving later, we had the following Twitter exchange:

whall: What the heck are these synchronized red blinking lights all along the horizon in Sweetwater, TX? Like 270deg horizon
renagerie: @whall windmills, obviously. Couldn’t you just have asked me since we’re in the same car?

OK, I’ll admit that it too some time for me to figure it out, and I really wasn’t certain until we got close enough to see some blades passing near the lights (it was too dark to see much). Also, I’ve driven this route before, so I was at least aware of there being wind farms in the area.
short-bedWhen we finally got to Lubbock (our halfway point), we had a bit of trouble getting a room. The place I had originally chosen, but not reserved, ended up only have a smoking room available, and we didn’t want that. I called around to several other places nearby, but most of them had no rooms available. We eventually ended up at the Motel 6, where we had to pay $3 for WiFi (an oddly low, yet non-free price) and the beds are a bit too short (as shown in this image).

I should’ve gone to sleep at least an hour ago — I keep drifting off trying to finish this post. I tried to fix all of the resulting typos, but I may have missed some. I’d better get to sleep in case Wayne wants me to drive tomorrow (he’s been asleep for a while now).

Can’t wait for TequilaCon, but first, BeerHer tomorrow night!

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Cruise Highlights

Friends and coworkers keep asking how our cruise was, and my answer is generally along the lines of “meh”. However, the more I think about it the more I realize that that answer really isn’t fair. The vacation itself was actually very nice and relaxing and I had a wonderful time. The ambivalent feeling I have is really because I wanted the cruise to be something special. Instead, I came away thinking that I would have enjoyed a resort more.

As always, the devil is in the details. First, there’s the money. For an “all-inclusive” deal, Carnival sure spent a whole lot of energy trying to nickel-and-dime their guests. From the “Soda Card” I bought to the photo prints they offered for sale to the threat of fees if you lost any towels to the very over-priced bar drinks, it was difficult to not spend additional money.

Next, there’s the issue of time in ports. There simply not enough of it. The truth is, I’m sure there are many people who really enjoy the ship-board activities: drinking, hanging out by the pool, gambling at what passes for a casino and, well, eating. But I’m not really one of them. Well, except for the eating part. Then, when we finally get to a port and can leave the ship, we have to be back in time for the ship to leave port by 3 or 4 PM. I’d much rather leave at around sunset. I think those extra three hours in port would be very handy.

There are other things, like the food selections available at certain times of the day or even the specific foods unavailable during regular meals in the dining room, but I think that’s enough negativity. After all, I really did enjoy my vacation. My favorite parts were driving a 6-speed Jeep Wrangler around Cozumel and watching flying fish jump out of the wake from the ship and re-enter the ocean tens of yards away. (Look closely at the last shot below and you can see one of them.)

Here are some of the highlights from the pictures I took. (More can be found on my photo album site.)

Oh, and about the Canon 18-200 mm IS lens for which this trip was the real test? The results are mixed. I love the versatility of the lens and had no trouble with focus accuracy or speed. However, there was quite a bit of vignetting and pincushioning in a lot of the images. It was the only lens I took on this trip, so all of the images above were shot with it. The question I have yet to fully answer for myself is whether I am happier with this lens than I would have been with a compact super-zoom camera like the upcoming Canon 200SX IS. I think the answer is yes, but I’m just not certain. Without these two issues, the answer would be a definitive yes. Now, I think I’ll have to take another look at that camera when it comes out, along with its competitors.

The other result of this lens test is that I am that much more interested in the Canon 70-200 f/2.8.

PS: If you haven’t stopped by my photo blog in a while, please do so. Thanks!

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