If I got a dime for every time a parent told me to do the things I want to do now…before kids… I’d have a nice stash piling high. Many recommend traveling during this time of our adulthood. For someone who always seems to have her bags packed- I found it quite easy to embrace this mentality.
John and I have been fortunate to be invited of some wonderful trips with friends and family. The most memorable during our four years of marriage have been snow skiing at Lake Tahoe with John’s brother Crawford and his family, and a week in Cabo Mexico with some of our dear Mobile friends and two other couples. In our non-stop, pedal to the metal lifestyle, it seems as though it takes an actual invitation to slow us down and explore new territory.
This time the invitation is taking us to South Africa. You’ve seen photos and heard me talk about our good friends here in Texas, the Pratkas. The Pratka family, including the mom and dad, three sons and their significant others, signed up for the hunting trip of a lifetime in South Africa. With room for two more in the hunting cabin, they extended the invitation to John and me. The discussions John and I had for the next few nights always came back to validating the trip because “when will we ever get a chance to do this again?” We could NOT turn down this offer.
So here we are, frantically packing and waiting on last minute Amazon shipments to arrive. We leave at 6 a.m. tomorrow morning (Wednesday) which will kick off our 36 hour travel adventure. The trip to our hunting cabin goes a bit something like this: 23 hours in the air, 6 hours hanging in an airport and 5 hours driving. And that’s if all goes according to plan….
Of course, for a trip like this, there are things you’ll need that you won’t find in your closet. Check out my new goodies. All items were under $30. Thanks Ebay!
J.Crew jacket $20, Traditional Safari Hat $20
LL Bean Vest $20, North Face Hiking Boots $30
John was concerned with only one major purchase: snake boots. Some of the world’s deadliest snakes live in Africa. The Black Mambas is taller than an elephant, faster than a cheetah, and more poisonous than a brown recluse. The Green Mamba is similar, but lives in trees. YIKES!!
A few other “musts” before traveling to Africa
1. Get ready to set aside A LOT of time to fill out paperwork to import guns into another country. While this is a pain, it is reassuring to know that this isn’t an easy task…
2. Make copies of everything- passports, drivers license, credit cards, safari invitation letters, and the list goes on. Also take photos of what you are packing.
3. Your check bag can only weigh 50 pounds…. (I’m anticipating some trouble here)
4. Remember that it’s a different season on the other side of the world- I’m packing sweaters, jackets, gloves and thick socks (although it pains me to think about a jacket in this overbearing TX heat!)
5. Electrical outlets are different over there- a converter is necessary.
6. Download movies on the iPad for the L-O-N-G flight- I’m starting with season 1 of Mad Men.
7. Plane necessities include- neck pillow, bose headphones, a book or two, a few movies, favorite playlists and Ambien.
8. Study up on African Wildlife (saving this for the plane ride).
9. Watch the movie- Ghosts in the Darkness. It’s a 1996 film featuring Michael Douglas and Val Kilmer. Set in 1898, this movie is based on the true story of two lions in Africa that killed 130 people over a nine month period. I'm not sure what I was expecting, but this horror film didn't exactly give me the warm fuzzies. Now, I'm about to travel almost 10,000 miles to the origin of this dreadful legend!
10. Prepare to purchase (or rent) some random things.... My first Chinese receipt!
I could keep going, but I’m running out of time!
We are in for the adventure of a lifetime. I am truly excited to have the chance to see a part of the world I have never seen before and see many of God’s creatures at home in the wilderness. Thanks for the invite Pratkas! I cannot wait to see what the next couple of weeks hold!
Imagine an old Texas town, small in size, but not in personality. A traffic cop stands at the main street stop light to help assist pedestrians. The hub of the town is an old dance hall, cotton gin and general store with the best ice cream you’ve ever tasted. You don’t have to look far to be greeted by a smiling face and you’re always a few steps away from authentic Texas entertainment.
That’s where I was this weekend: Gruene, Texas. This place is a mix of Mayberry and Fairhope, overflowing with a western charm I had never encountered.
Gruene’s start was as simple as you would have guessed. Named after a first generation German American farmer that purchased the land in the 1840’s, Gruene consisted of cotton crops and a mercantile store to serve the several dozen or so families sharecropping this farmer’s land. The town benefited by its location along the stagecoach route between Austin and San Antonio. Gruene Hall opened, and three large cotton gins soon followed. It was a modest thriving community.
But this enchanting town took a dive. Hit by the boll weevil blight of the 1920s, and further doomed by the effects of the Great Depression, the population had fallen to 75 and Gruene was essentially abandoned.
Fortunately, the assumed destiny of Gruene changed the day that Pat Molak, frustrated with big-city life, wandered into town and began to breathe life back into this piece of Texas history. This once deserted town has now been recognized by the Texas travel industry as a premiere attraction for visitors. I found this to be true as I didn’t see everything this four block town had to offer!
It was clear from the start that this town was known for music. Live country music is performed seven nights a week at Gruene Hall- the oldest continually run dance hall in Texas. Built in 1878 and left virtually uncorrupted, the 6,000 square-foot, open-air dance hall keeps this town swinging!
During our visit, we were able to see Chris Knight, a Kentucky singer and songwriter, perform. While us, Alabama folk can’t quite keep up on the dance floor, we always manage to have a great time!
Gruene Hall has hosted such acts as Willie Nelson, George Strait, Robert Earl Keen ,Townes Van Zandt, Jerry Jeff Walker, Lyle Lovett, Hal Ketchum, Gregg Allman and many more. It was also used as a set for Michael, starring John Travolta.
As an official Texan now, I have become fascinated with this place and captivated by the charm, the pride, the authenticity, (the food!) and the way of life. I have a feeling that this Lone Star mentality will follow me wherever I go. And I hope it does.
Our weekend adventures started with a day on the water at Canyon Lake a reservoir on the Guadalipe River in the Texas Hill Country (amazing to see a change in elevation in these parts!). It was a beautiful day and a great way to kick off the weekend.
Saturday evening dinner at the Gristmill was certainly a highlight! This 35 year old restaurant is established in the remains of a cotton gin’s three story brick boiler room after a fire burned the original 1878 structure. Talk about atmosphere!
Do you think it's safe to say that John fits in around here?
Gruene Hall Featuring Chris Knight
I love sharing with you all! Please send me comments, feedback or suggestions on places to visit in TX. I'd love to hear from you!
Ahhh… air. I feel as though I am just coming up for air after one of those “I’m behind on life” phases. The good news: it’s Monday. It’s the start of a new week. It’s the perfect time to rededicate myself to the things that need my attention and the things that don’t need my attention, but I still find important.
Before moving forward, let me share with you my past few weeks.
Our beach trip began as all of our trips do with a very long car ride. I seriously did not think we were ever going to make it. For this trip- we experimented with a new approach. We went to sleep about 9 pm (this is super early for us) and set the alarm for 12:30 am. Yep- you read right. 12:30 in the morning. The method behind the madness was to avoid business calls while driving. If we could get the bulk of the trip out of the way before 9 am we’d be in good shape. Four caffeinated drinks later, we hit Baton Rouge Louisiana. It is 5:30 and we know we are an hour from the sun rise. John decides it would be best if we pulled over for a quick nap before continuing on our journey. So there we were. We joined in line with dozens of other 18 wheelers and slept. (There’s a first time for everything, right?) I woke up in a bit of a haze and found myself face to face with this….
Was this a joke? A real ,and quite large, tiger at a random filling station off I-10 saw us off as the ride continued. After a few more stops for fuel, a meeting with a Peacemaker customer, a stop at the storage unit, we had reached our destination of Orange Beach, AL.
Unfortunately, the weather did want to cooperate with our plans. So lots of time was spent inside. Of course we squeezed in the basics of a beach trip: a couple of boat rides, family time, Coronas with lime and yummy food! We were able to visit with John’s parents, his brother’s family and their two sweet girls. Since my sister’s recent move to Fairhope, AL I was able to spend some time with them. We also all enjoyed a nice evening with John’s family, my parents, my sister and my nephew, Brody. It was a great time!
He's a little crocodile dundee!
John's niece Anslee and my nephew Brody playing at the beach. It was their first time to play together since our wedding four years ago. Take a look...
After that, we made our way along the coast to Panama City Beach. We had four days of work- and a little play before our Texas friends flew in for the weekend. Again, we hit the beach basics- boating, sunning, cold beverages and EATING. Bocce ball battles were played, swimming races were held, and a good time was had by all.
When our friends headed back to Texas, I had three days to rest up, clean and prepare for the next group to arrive. Myself, along with 14 other girls would soon be celebrating the final days of bachelorette-hood for my sweet friend Elizabeth. I dare not say too much to break the bridesmaid code, but it was AWESOME! I realized (again) why I adore this girl, her fearlessness and her enthusiasm for life.
Does that explain my “behind on life” feelings of frustration? I came back to Texas with a pile of to-do lists and a cluttered apartment. Sunday’s activities revolved around vacuuming, cleaning, organizing, throwing away and putting away. My living motto: “Everything has a home,” and I rest at ease when things are in its place. We now actually have a table with two chairs and NOTHING on it. It’s a place to sit, to enjoy a meal together, organize a project or have a meeting. Organizing has always been a refreshing activity to remind me that I have a grip on life (even if only for that moment). Here’s to tackling my long, but very organized list.