Saturday, October 31, 2009

Horses and Caves

After we left San Antonio headed west, there weren't many towns off the freeway to tour so we stopped to drive around in the middle of nowhere. We came across a ranch with some friendly horses so I decided to stop and take a few pictures of them. As I was snapping away, the owner came up behind me and started to chat.

First off, he knew I wasn't from the area since I was dressed in flip flops, t-shirt and capri's in 50 degree weather. I asked him if it was ok if I took some pictures and he didn't mind. In fact, he offered for me to snap away across the street or "down there yonder" where he had another ranch.

To me,he was a cowboy in every sense of the word. He was tall, had wranglers on, boots, a nice buttoned down long sleeved shirt and was very polite to me. He asked me if I rode horses. When I said, "not really," he smiled and said, that's ok, nether does my wife. After a long chit chat, he pointed to the horses I was taking pictures of and said they were going to be sent to Mexico to the slaughter house and his wife didn't want that to happen so they adopted them.

The unexpected turn led to a heart warming story. They are beautiful creatures.

We continued our journey and saw a sign for cave tours in Sonora, Texas. I thought, it's still might be a fun thing to do. I've never taken a cave tour before. So, off I went. The tour guide was a nice young gentleman. Lucky for me, I was the only one on the tour. I handed him my laminated ticket and into the cave we went...for a few hours.


Most of the formations in the cave has a name by the way it looks. So, I was in for a treat! Two hours of...cave bacon, bear hugs, fork, toothbrush, lion tail, rhino, shark tail, fish tail, butterfly, football player, ice cream sundae, leg, baby bottle, lamp, elephant, lion head, dragon tail, look!, more cave bacon...maybe you might get the point?

Don't get me wrong...I love to learn new things but being in a cave for a few hours as a solo guest on a tour wasn't what I expected.

It was an interesting time.

The following day, we made the trip to tour the Caverns of Carlsbad and that was worth the stop. It's a pretty amazing find. This time, it was a self guided tour which was more my speed. I was able to power walk the 2 mile tour and that was enough for me.

I would recommend the the Caverns if you are in the area. And if you have never taken a cave's pretty spectacular. These pictures don't do them justice.

Friday, October 30, 2009

San Antonio

San Antonio was a city I wanted to see with the famous Alamo and Riverwalk. It just so happens that they are both walking distance from each other. This, I didn't know. I figured the Alamo was in a deserted town with dust storms and tumbleweeds rolling all over. I suppose at some point it was.

As much as I enjoy touring a city, I much prefer National Parks and exploring smaller towns. There is something about all of the chain stores bunched in together in one spot while crowds of people gather to eat and walk around that isn't so appealing to me.

I walked around the Alamo and walked the riverwalk and streets above it. I am glad I did it, but I don't think I will be returning anytime soon. I am sure there are spots I missed that are on the outskirts. I decided to continue on and explore some smaller places and get lost, in a sense.

Here are just a few snapshots from the day walking around:

To see more pictures, click HERE

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


As I was strolling along Congress street in Austin, I came across a man selling his photographs on the side of a building. I stopped to look and was amazed at the quality of the pictures. We hung out and chatted for a while. He said he's been taking them with a point and click camera for 6 years.

After looking through his collection, I chose three and bought them from him for $10.

I was a happy customer with my 3 photographs from a man selling on the street. This would be the first purchase I made on this trip. As far as I am concerned, it was well worth it. I then walked into a gallery looking at more beautiful local art. When I walked in the store, I was the only person there other than the owner talking to a man seated in a chair.

As I walked closer, he stood up and said to me, "aren't those lamp shades incredible?" Since my eye was focused on things I liked looking at, I didn't notice the lampshades. I asked him, "where?" He looked at me with a puzzled eye and said in a sarcastic tone, "on the lamps." I turned to find them and when I looked back, he was gone.

As he was leaving, I heard the gallery owner say good bye to him by name. I looked closer on the shade tag and low and behold, he was the artist. But to me, he was an ass.

There is an inner artist in everyone and we have so much to learn from each other. I don't care if his art was in a museum...if he wanted to point out his work, he could have approached me in a nice manner and presented his art.

Since I was on a shopping therapy high from my $10 purchase, it got me thinking. In my eyes, the man on the street was more talented and more worthy of my money than someone featured in a gallery. When I say "someone" featured, I am referring to the ass.

In New Orleans, there were several artists on the street selling their creations. Let me tell you...this is not an easy task. Art is so subjective and it can be extremely vulnerable putting it out for all to see and sometimes openly criticize.

I've been reading a blog from another solo traveler, Tammi Dooley and she gives some photography tips I think come in handy for everyone. Each time I set out to take pictures, I think of these tips:

-If it’s not interesting, you’re not close enough. - Robert Capa.

-Don’t put the object of interest in the middle, a rule commonly called the Rule of Thirds. Offset the focal point, is easier to remember.

-Change your perspective. Get higher, go lower, or walk around to see what the scene looks like from a different angle.

-Develop your eye to search for reflection. Reflection can be created from water, mirror or glass, the cone of an airplane, a pair of reflective sunglasses, a rear view/side mirror, or someone’s retina.

My favorite tip of hers:
-Stop looking at what everyone else is doing until you’ve figured out WHAT is it YOU like.

The above tip saved me from insanity. I would get so frustrated looking at photos I loved because I didn't have the equipment for those extremely sharp, vivid images. Instead, I am taking pictures of things I like to look at. This is why you will see a lot of repetition of the same thing (as shown in my house series), birds, animals and sometimes shots of details one might overlook.

Most of all, I am having fun in the process. I would encourage you to bring out your inner artist and do something you love and that's fun for you.

Just don't be an ass.


Max and I left New Orleans and made the journey to Austin, Texas. After a day of exploring, we can say that we love it here.

Max played at the dog park, we went to another park after to explore, toured the Austin museum of art, went to the capitol building, watched the bats fly out from underneath the congress bridge and strolled along the cute shops on Congress street.

It was a good day.

I especially enjoyed watching the bats. There was a crowd of over 100 people there to wait anxiously as the sun went down for the bats to fly out. I thought that there would be a few, but I was wrong. There were thousands and thousands of bats! It was dark so I just pointed my camera towards the river and clicked away. I was able to get a few, but since I was far away, they are not as clear as I would have liked them to be. But, bats are hard to capture anyway!

Strolling around Congress street was fun. It's a few blocks with a bunch of eclectic shops and restaurants. If I lived here, this is a place I would hang out. The weather was perfect this day, so we were lucky.

I can see why so many people love this town. Max and I don't rule it out as a place to visit again. Thank you Austin!

Here are a few pictures from our day:

Monday, October 26, 2009

Table For One

Being on the road alone for so long can make you a little nuts. I have Max to keep me company, but he isn't able to sit across the table for a nice meal. That is the one thing I miss...a good meal.

When you are not in one spot for long, it's hard to know where the locals eat. I have had more bad experiences than good. The other day I was driving around New Orleans in the garden district when I rolled down my window and smelled a slice of pure heaven.

It was about 1pm on a Sunday afternoon and I came across a restaurant on a corner of a residential area called Dante's Kitchen.

I decided to give it a try for brunch. I am glad I did! I ordered a coffee, crab salad and a side of grits. I wasn't going to get the grits until I saw a table next to me with them and then I knew I had to have some!

One bite and I kid you was the best grits I have ever had. I even told the waitress that. I don't know the cream/butter/cheese to grits ratio but at that point, it didn't matter. It was a mouthful of bliss.

As much as I enjoy a good meal, I love to share it with someone. Driving hours a day then camping or checking into a motel can wear on your brain after a while. I do miss home. I am not complaining since I am really enjoying this journey, but there are things that I miss when I think of it.

Finding a good meal without any research can be tricky. When I stumble upon an amazing place like I did in New Orleans, there are some things I've found that might help you know if you are in the right place. I know there are exceptions to the rule, but for the most part:

- The menus are not laminated
- Napkins are made of cloth
- They are not wearing a name badge
- They greet you with a smile and don't ask you to sit at the bar since you are alone
- There are other people there
- Other sides come with your meal besides fries
- There aren't pictures of food on the menu
- The name of the restaurant doesn't contain "barn" "corral" "buffet" or "wagon"

Most importantly, you want to return after your experience.

Even at home, it's easy to get in a rut and go to the same place each weekend. I would challenge you to try something new. If you like it...let me know about it. I could use all the restaurant tips I can get.

The waffle house works for a cheap meal, but when it's on every corner, it loses its luster. Or maybe its because I can watch them cook and see everything going on that should be behind the scene.

Oh, I forgot...the coffee was amazing and the crab salad was good. Not great, but I did order it without bacon.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

New Orleans

I've never been to New Orleans. Ever since I can remember, I've always wanted to go see the beautiful buildings and gardens while touring museums and reading about the city's rich history.

Ok, who am I kidding...I wanted to go there to party in a town where you can walk around with booze in your hand!

Well, since I don't drink and am far (not THAT far) from being 21, I actually did enjoy the buildings and gardens. These days, I can find plenty of entertainment sitting on a bench in the middle of a square and watch people. In fact, that is exactly what I did.

When Max and I approached the city, I saw the destruction that Katrina left behind. It was extremely emotional to see the boarded up houses and remembering all that had happened while most of us watched it on television. I remember being glued to the television watching the aftermath unfold. Even weeks after, I couldn't stop watching and hearing all of the personal stories of loss.

I didn't want to take photographs of the devastation that still shows in this city. Instead, I tried to capture the life that will always remain New Orleans...the people.

For a day, I visited the garden district and the French Quarter. I enjoyed looking at the buildings, listening to the street music, watching artists paint and soaking up the energy of the city.

If you've never been, New Orleans is like no other. It is worth the stop. Here are some of the things that caught my eye.

I came to the city with a sense of sadness and left with a lot of hope...and a parking ticket.

To see more images from New Orleans, click HERE


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