Tuesday, May 29, 2012


Go For The Lemonade

Sunday my normal routine is get up, get ready for church, go to church. 

After church lifelong friends assemble and go to brunch. Usually we talk about what is new with our extended families. Then we trash our local politicians. News flash in AZ trashing politicians is almost too easy; few demonstrate any humanity, almost none suggest any grey matter. 

This sunday was different. First came a knock on my bedroom door. Miss M had missed her alarm and needed a ride to light rail to go to PHX ComicCon where she had a booth.

I said not a problem and we got into the car and drove down the street. 

At the end of our street a kid had set up a lemonade stand. Classic stand. The table with a pitcher of ice, plastic glasses. He was rocking his cardboard sign up and down to get our attention. Miss M informed me  he was there yesterday too.

It was too late to stop, we mushed on to her trolley stop.

She ran off and I turned the car around to head back to church.

As I drove there, I realized that I was hopelessly late for church. 

Yet, it all seemed to be right for some reason. 

I simply retraced my steps and pulled up to a very surprised kid. Who then proceeded to sell me a glass of very good, very cold, lemonade.

I said my prayer for the day. Thank you Lord! Thank you for kids. Thank you for blind optimism. And, of course, thank you for cold lemonade on a hot day.

Roadboy's Travels © 2012

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Spain and Portugal - Its On!

To The Contrary

OK I'll admit it I've been gnashing about trying to decide where to go for my summer vacation. And this year, with lots and lots and lots of exceptional travel deals out there, the decision has been harder than ever.

I carefully studied TravelZoo's Top 20 every wednesday focusing on Costa Rica, European cruises, and packages to Ireland.

But when I pinged my favorite airline's frequent flier site and found two business class tickets from Phoenix to Madrid at only 50K each way, I grabbed them.

I visited Spain in 2010 and loved it. I've never visited Portugal but have heard wonderful things about it. And, knowing that both countries are suffering economically and could well use tourist dollars, sealed the deal.

So, August 19 to September 1 Roadboy is off to Spain and Portugal!

Barcelona! Gaudi!

Regal Madrid

Anybody want to house sit mi casa this August?

Roadboy's Travels © 2012

Wednesday, May 23, 2012


What Rules?

Rant Alert!
As readers of this little blog well know I frankly adore most of the folks who devote their careers to the travel and hospitality industry. It has to be difficult to keep a positive outlook when working with an increasingly rude, almost pathetically juvenile, and frequently openly defiant public.

Over my thirty plus years of travel I have lost count of the amazing examples of thoughtfulness demonstrated by flight crews, hotel employees, rail stewards, even some taxi drivers.

A whole bunch of these folks start work at the crack of dawn, some remaining throughout the whole night to make sure that families, our armed forces, lost souls, and road warriors alike all arrive and thrive in frequently unfamiliar settings.

So with the preface above, and based solely on one little round trip today, I find myself offering up a few troubling observations.

Bag limits, big bottles, and trips to the backscatter.....

When the public approaches any TSA checkpoint we ticket buyers are held to rigid numbers of bags, limits on travel fluids, and unless pregnant or in the company of a small child, will almost always be ushered into some form of x-ray or wave device.

Now, having said that, I defy you to name any successful industry where customer service employees are accorded clearly preferential treatment over their very best customers.

Give up? Well think about it the next time you've endured a 45 minute wait at an understaffed TSA checkpoint only to have a late flight attendant blow by you in line. They then proceed to the front of the nearest screening line and shove some customers stuff back on the belt in order to jam their 3 bags and full liter of fluids into the mouth of the x-ray device.

I've had it happen with a lot more frequency lately. I used to at least get a smile or a "may I cut in?" Now days, many clearly feel entitled. 

And, of course, no backscatter for them, as the TSA almost always waives them right on through the old metal detector while the rest of us, hands over heads, get herded into the electronic stripper pole.

Turn the damned thing off

Then there is the infamous phone and electronics rule...

On most flights the attendants still warn that "anything with an on and off switch" must be switched off once the airplane door is closed.

Silly me, I take that whole cell phone thing seriously having read some compelling documents that suggest that our precious little gizmo's do indeed have the potential to actually screw with on-board aviation electronics.

One research piece noted that airlines now assume that an average of 17 devices will be running and transmitting signals during every take off and landing. Thats not too comforting....

So when I see passengers go to great links to hide their switched on phones from flight attendants only to produce them and continue using them on the runway, well I become one of those annoying fellow passengers that is willing to actually say something.

Take this morning....

On my PHX to LAX flight, I counted three out of the 12 people in the two exit rows working on fully enabled smartphones just typing away from taxi to just before take off.

One kept right on facebooking even as the engines revved and we rolled for lift off.

So, I reached over, tapped her designer draped shoulder, and in my best "dad" voice simply told her to "switch off the phone". There was no "please" in my preface.

She shrugged her shoulder wildly, not unlike a child. I earned a hiss that would make any reptile proud "don't you dare touch me!"

She then informed her seatmate that, "I used to be a flight attendant - I think I know what I'm doing."

Somehow she completely mistook me as someone who gave a rats backside what she thought about anything.

Her pride and self esteem were subterranean factors to me at the moment. What I solely cared about is she switch off her damned I-Phone.

Hey, the kids are fine. It takes a village to raise an adult.

Then it just gets better...

Almost as reptile lady's hiss is fading the flight attendant does a PA bark "Sir! You must sit down!"

We all turn and watch as some nig nog clutching his venti Starbucks cup scissor steps to the back of the plane shrieking "I've got to go, ITS AN EMERGENCY!"

I can see my brain as my eyes roll up deeply into the top of my head.

Fast forward to the end of the day.

I am now retracing my steps returning home to PHX on US Airways FLT 500.

What a perfect stroke of luck as I see reptile cell phone lady standing in line with her seatmate. I whisper a prayer that I will be seated nowhere near her.

Just then I get PA'd to collect my upgrade to seat 1F.

I am very happy. This was a last minute booking, so I missed the normal upgrade cue.

As road warriors all know, seat 1D and 1F are the only two seats on the whole airbus where you can see the forward flight attendants in their jump seats.

And, as we roll westward and lift off over the azure blue Pacific I watch both flight attendants each pounding away on their fully enabled smartphones "bidding" for their upcoming shifts....

They did switch them off. Just a little before we reached 10,000 feet.

Roadboy's Travels © 2012

Monday, May 21, 2012

Walking King William

Texas' Coolest Neighborhood

San Antonio's King (Wilhelm) William Neighborhood

To complete my final blog series from San Antonio I offer some photos from a walk in the King William Historic District. 

Sometimes referred to as "Sauerkraut Bend" (due to its location along the San Antonio river and being the neighborhood of wealthy German merchants in the 1800's), the King William is a leafy 25 block neighborhood near downtown. 

The land on which it rests, originally part of the grounds to The Alamo, holds the distinction of being designated Texas' first historic district.

When I visited San Antonio many years ago this neighborhood had sort of a "Grey Gardens" feel to it; with lots of amazing old houses all resting in a state of arrested decay. 

Upon my return this year I found most have transformed from moth to butterflies. History rich gleaming showpieces. I covet them.....

So please plan a couple of hours on foot or on bicycle to experience the King William. And remember the Blue Star Brewery and Pioneer Mill are both nearby offering super shops like San Angel - one of the finest outsider art shops anywhere, and food and drink of all sorts.

The Elias Edmonds House 1875
(Where Mrs. Edmonds operated a "Ladies Boarding School")

The Carl Harnisch House 1884
(One of San Antonio's earliest brick homes)

The Steves Homestead 1876
(Which featured San Antonio's first indoor swimming pool)

The Ike West Home 1892

The Norton/Polk/Mathis House 1876

The George Kalteyer House 1892
(Designed by architect James Riely Gordon - known for his Texas courthouses)

Stonework Detail Kalteyer House

Generous Lots With a Canopy of Leaves

A 1940's Moderne 
(Occupying the former tennis court of the Groos house)

Merely walking through a neighborhood like this starts everyone with a heartbeat daydreaming about what it would be like to live there.

I truly love places like that.

Roadboy's Travels © 2012

Tuesday, May 8, 2012


Inspired Dining in San Antonio

Some people go to a horse race and bet on the pony with the coolest name. Usually they lose.

Last week during a trip to San Antonio I noted that Yelp restaurant reviews all seemed to favor a new restaurant called "Bliss". 

I have to admit the name bliss seemed perfect for the dinner experience I wanted to have. 

Bliss Restaurant

It turns out the restaurant is located in an old Southtown gas station. There is a small bar, the main dining room and two outdoor sections. The restaurant is named after its chef / owner Mark Bliss a 20 year veteran of the San Antonio restaurant scene. Dinner was a birthday present and since we did not have reservations we arrived early. We were immediately seated.

If you plan to arrive after 6 PM reservations are essential.

Our dinner started with spring rolls and mahimahi ceviche. Both were light and filled with flavor. The ceviche was accompanied by wafer thin crispy (I'm assuming baked) plantains.

The Mahi Mahi Ceviche

My dinner was scallops. Big perfect scallops floating over a bed of cheese grits. They were accompanied by an avocado puree and cilantro lime buerre blanc. They were quite simply the best scallops I've ever eaten.

The Amazing Scallops

Service was enthusiastic, attentive, and charming. This place is very friendly with wait staff who clearly want you to enjoy yourself.

Then came dessert. I had the grapefruit tiramisu. Who'd have thunk it?

Grapefruit Tiramisu

Perfect restaurant name. Perfect service. Lovely environment.

A birthday dinner to be remembered.

Experience Bliss!

Roadboy's Travels © 2012

Roadboy Visits The Alamo

A Key to America's Westward Destiny

In 1835 David (Davy) Crockett, discussing his unsuccessful run for the Tennessee legislature, told voters "you may all go to hell and I'll go to Texas!"

Soon after he indeed migrated to the Mexican Territory of Texas.

Less than a year later his name was etched in history when he perished as a defender of the former mission compound in San Antonio referred to simply as The Alamo.

The Alamo

The Fountain in Front of the Alamo Library

The Alamo Museum

Starting with my very first visit in 1968, San Antonio has always been one of my favorite cities. I have visited it many times. Yet, in all my visits, I had never visited The Alamo. 

So last Thursday I spent an afternoon wandering its humble grounds. As I wandered I came to realize that The Alamo is far more than sacred ground to Texans, it actually played a pivotal role in the eventual unification of our nation, making it nothing less than sacred ground to all Americans. 

The 200 Alamo defenders held off Santa Anna's massive army for an incredible 13 days. Their unexpected and fierce resistance provoked Santa Anna upon breeching its walls to systematically kill all of its defender's.

He then dispatched the surviving woman and children to inform other Texans of the fate awaiting them should they resist him.

Instead of striking fear it galvanized the resolve of the Texas rebels giving them the battle cry "Remember the Alamo". A month later, despite being vastly outnumbered, Sam Houston defeated and captured Santa Anna at San Jacinto.

The Alamo
A Timeline of Destiny

• 1821
After 110 years under Spanish control, Texas becomes a part of Mexico and recruits settlers from the US to act as human buffers between the Mexican nationals already in Texas and the Comanches. Anglo homesteaders come by the tens of thousands and soon outnumber the Mexicans creating concern to the Mexican government.

Mexico imposes property taxes, increases tariff on US shipped goods, and enacts various punishing laws on the settler's. The settler's resent the laws and reject Mexico's demands.

General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna revokes the Mexican constitution, becomes dictator of Mexico and sets out to quash the Texas rebels.

Stephen Austin calls Texans to arms declaring independence from Mexico. A 13 day battle and loss to Santa Anna at The Alamo mobilizes rebels ultimately leading to the defeat of Santa Ana.

Texas becomes a Republic (although still regarded by Mexico as its Territory.)

Texas becomes a state which stirs Mexican resentment and provokes the Mexican American War.

The Mexican American War ends with the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo giving the US complete control of Arizona, California, Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah along with parts of Colorado, Kansas and Wyoming.

Gold is discovered in California and the rush of westward migration becomes a stampede.

The battle of the Alamo had played a remarkable role in the unification of the modern contiguous United States.

Today's Alamo Residents 

So, if you visit San Antonio (and you should) please...

Remember The Alamo!

Roadboy's Travels © 2012