Vacationing in Your Own Backyard

For a very long time now, I have been trying to get our backyard hard-scaped with a privacy fence, a concrete patio, and a walkway to the alley. It seems as though so many other things get in the way. Last week I think I wrote about having a date set to finally get my patio poured. Well, guess what? It’s not done. With the threats of a week worth of severe storms and rain, we thought it best to put it off…yet again.

I am not certain, but I think we may have a break from anything severe for today. Today’s weather is my favorite for camping…cool, cloudy and overcast. The dampness makes me crave a campfire. Last night after the last storm passed through, DH and I simultaneously looked up at the sky and said, “Man, this would be a great night for camping.” Knowing that wasn’t the prudent thing to do, we thought about just laying out on the trampoline to watch the stars and the satellites pass over. I mentioned that we could go “camping” in our backyard like we used to when the kids were younger.

My dream for my backyard is for a place in which we would want to spend time…..a place for reflection…for entertaining or a breath of fresh air.  Money is always tight, but we generally get away to somewhere every year…even if it just over to Meade State Park for a weekend of camping and fishing. This year, I am afraid that the only “vacation” away from home will be associated with DD’s travels and it will be frugal, no frills travel to say the least. The gasoline budget will be eating up any of the entertainment dollars we might have had. To me, this makes my dream for my backyard retreat even more important.

On Path to Freedom’s Journal today, there is a post about Staycations and Staying Closer to Home. Staycations are vacations spent at home enjoy what it has to offer. That is what we are planning for this year’s “getaway”. We will getaway to our backyard. Tonight I will set the date with DH. All hard-scape will be finished, so as to not make it a working vacation. I am looking for a relaxing, maybe romantic few days of togetherness. I found the Top 10 Staycation Strategies at about.com and plan to put some in place.

What would your strategies be for planning a Backyard Staycation?

do you have vacation plans for this summer?

With the oil prices what they are and what they threaten to be, I expect that many people will not be vacationing in the same manner to which they are accustomed. Our family generally takes one really nice vacation every other year. Next year is our year for the super-duper deluxe vacation, but that just may not be happening.

Our summer travel is always centered around DD’s basketball schedule and visitation schedule with her dad. This year her schedule may be interrupted by the rising cost of fuel. When we travel to a tournament, we sometimes are able to take in the local “attractions”, but generally opt for the free stuff. For instance, back in April we had to travel to Texas to take of some legal matters, but then had to be in St. Louis a few days later for a tournament. It didn’t make sense to travel all the way back home to then turn around and leave the very next day for St. Louis, so we opted to travel toward the tournament.

To make better use of the travel, we planned an unofficial college visit at Southeast Missouri State in Cape Girardeau, Mo. The itinerary took us through Texarkana, Hot Springs, Memphis, Cape Girardeau and ended in St. Louis. Our business in Dallas was not pleasant and had us all worn out by the time it completed. (I could write several pages of ranting about our time spent in family court in Dallas, but I will bite my tongue and tie my fingers…for now.) Anyhow, we were a bit numb and everything was surreal. What began to bring us out of our funk…and don’t judge me by this….although a bit of snickering is allowed…DD and DH spied a Bass Pro Shop on Lake Ray Hubbard. Our favorite sporting shop is Cabella’s but this Bass Pro is built on the lake. When visiting Bass Pro, DD and DH always very quickly make their way back to the shooting arcade. After a few giggles and a minimal amount of coins invested, the mood began to lighten, and then we were on our way again.

On the way to Hot Springs, we followed an RV  that intrigued us to the point of taking photos and writing down the info painted on the back. Most RV’s toads are vehicles, but this RV was pulling a gigantic, shiny smoker. When we arrived at the hotel in Hot Springs, I had to look up Lotta Bull BBQ online…and found that they travel to barbeque contests all over the world.

In Hot Springs, we drove around for a bit in the downtown district, stopped at a quaint little rock shop, drove a few residential streets looking at the adorable houses and gardens, then began to search for a public basketball court. We happened to find a goal in a church parking lot and DD was able to shoot a round of hoops. While practicing the sweet sounds of turkeys gobbling came from the Alligator Farm next to the church parking lot. For a moment, DH and I called turkeys and they responded. I knew right then that DD and DH would be wanting to visit the farm.

While DD and DH enjoyed a visit inside the Arkansas Alligator Farm and Petting Zoo, and in an attempt at being frugal I stayed in the gift shop to visit with the Parrot. He was a hoot. Actually, I had visited before and didn’t feel it necessary to see it again…lol. What I did not remember or realize from my last visit is that owners Jack and Sue Bridges were supporters of AAU basketball and that their sons were high school and college basketball coaches.  Being on our way to a Showcase Basketball Tournament, made this all seem so much more interesting.

Our next stop was in Memphis, TN, which was a bit of an adventure. Our hotel was not one that I would have chosen had I known anything about the area or had seen in person before. It was very near the airport, under what seemed like the flight pattern of every blasted plane in and out of there….lol. We did not have much time in Memphis, but decided we would drive by Graceland. We drove by it twice thinking it sat off the road secluded by trees behind  a large parking area. We drove into the parking area, but it was closed. My first thought was AWESOME, we just saved some money…lol. I am not a huge Elvis fan…love the music…but not the craze. Just as we were about to give up and go back to the airport, we discovered that Graceland sits on the opposite side of the street of the gift shops, Elvis airplanes, and parking area. We parked in the small area in front of the large stone wall and walked up and down the street reading the graffitie written all over. This was good enough for us…so then we headed back to the hotel to try to get in some bball drills before going to bed.

Practicing in the parking lot made me realize that I had definitely chosen the wrong hotel. I could not believe some of what I saw and decided we would stay indoors will ALL locks locked. Laying in bed, I was wishing that I had a pair of earplugs because of the airplanes, but soon realized that it would not have mattered because the vibration would have awakened me anyways. At 4:30 AM, I vaguely remember it feeling as if a freight train was coming through.

The next day, while we were at SEMU, I discovered that the freight train feeling I experienced quite possibly have not been an airplane at all, but the earthquake that hit parts of Missouri and Illinois. DH had heard about it on the early morning news, but failed to tell me. When the coach asked if we felt it, I told her that the planes woke me up at 4:30ish and she said that’s when it happened! So, wow….I experienced my first earthquake ever!

The remainder of the trip was really uneventful. We visited the St. Louis arch during a break from basketball, but the tours were sold out. We visited the museum and took lots of photos of the surrounding park.

So now I realized that I have gone off on a tangent from my original title, but I wonder if most Americans’ vacation plans will change this year?

Sand Hill Vineyard

One of the things I do not like about how blogs work is that the last post is always first. So what do you do if you are trying to tell a story in chronological order? Do you go back and add to the start? That would mean a change of titles. If you are just now stopping in, this is a continuation of our trip to OKC on Saturday.

 So, we have made that turn off of I40 headed to Geary, but first we have to drive through the Cherokee Trading Post to see the buffalo and then through the KOA Campground to see the new improvements. Again, I dream about an RV lifestyle that might not happen.

Less than 1/8 of a mile down the road is a favorite stopping place of ours, the Sand Hill Vineyard. The past few times we passed by it was after hours, so we intentionally made a huge effort to get there before closing. We met the owners, Gloria and Roger Woolery, the first time we ventured into the tasting room. Wine tasting is not something we do on a regular basis, but we were intrigued by the location… which appears to be set inside some kind of pipeline or oil field supply company and the metal building set as a tasting room. The setting  was a just bit different than any other vineyard we had visited, making us more fascinated with curiosity. I can count the amount of times I have visited a different winery on both hands, so this isn’t actually saying much.

Gloria and Roger are very colorful, lively people whom made us feel at home inside the lovely interior of the building. I found my favorite wine to be Muscat, a deliciously fruity dessert wine and purchased a couple of bottles along with a nice bottle of Zinfandel.

When we visited on Saturday, we were at first disappointed to not see Gloria and Roger’s familiar faces, but soon felt at home visiting with Katy Snyder, our wine tasting host. Katy and her husband, Andrew, are the actual winemakers of the Sand Hill label.  Katy is one of those people that you just know ALWAYS has a smile on her face.

We tasted several of the wines, beginning with that favorite Muscat, and ending with Da Zinci Chocolate Port-Style Wine. Katy caught MY attention with the promise of a chocolate aftertaste, but unfortunately DH was the only one that actually tasted that hint of chocolate. I can’t say that I have ever tried Port and have nothing to which to compare,  but I did find this very rich, thick and  flavorful.  I have been told that Port wine pairs perfectly with chocolate, making the combination of the two deliciously good, so corking the two flavors in one bottle seems like a pretty great idea to me. 

Our adventure ended with a purchase and an introduction to the Snyder’s young daughter, Mulan, who offered many precious smiles as we visited.  The only way this experience could have been any better would have been for us to meet Andrew, the winemaker himself.

If you are ever in the area of Geary or Calumet, Oklahoma, please stop in for a visit at Sand Hill Vineyards. You will not be disappointed.

Fueling the Economy

Tomorrow we do our part for fueling the economy. As much as it pains me, we have to travel to Oklahoma City to get DD to the airport. She is traveling to Texas to see the other half of her family for a few weeks. We live 2.5 hours from the Wichita airport, but we have to drive to OKC because ~ 1. it is half way between the divorced parents’ homes add ~ 2. Who in the world can afford a ticket out of Wichita to anywhere?

I am very worried that Southwest Airlines will follow suit with other airlines and change their checked baggage policy between today and tomorrow, before we arrive. DD wishes that she could get everything into one carry on baggage, but because she has a basketball tournament while she is with her dad, she has every bit of her athletic gear that has to travel as well. When you wear women’s size 13 shoes, they tend to take up a lot of space in the suitcase….especially athletic shoes.

As I mentioned in a comment on Anita’s Prairie Dreams Blog, I have put off going to the grocery store until this trip. In keeping of the truth here, I mistakenly quoted the trip as being 600 miles, but I do believe it is a little less than 500 miles round trip.  I do not normally do my grocery/supply shopping in another state, but it just keeps me from having to make a 70 mile round to Dodge City when I return.

I, myself,  have not driven one place this past week. Hmmm. is that correct? Well, I guess I should say that I am a bit ashamed that I rode with DD to the Athletic Awards Banquet on Monday night, but we were running somewhat late and had to carry a couple of dishes of food with us. It was only six long blocks, but juggling a hot dish (which, by the way, included mass amounts of barbeque sauce) and a very large heavy bowl of potato salad, while wearing less than casual clothes, combined with walking those long blocks of uneven sidewalks, just did not seem the prudent thing to do. NOW….here’s the real reason I should be ahamed….we had DH drive DD’s car up a bit early to save a great seat to view the highlights video that DD was presenting. So, we drove TWO vehicles to the Banquet. Guess we will have to sit in the dark for all of next week to make up for that one.