Monday, May 31, 2010

On the Road Again!!

Well, here I go again!! Another international business trip. As has been the case many times before on prior trips, I'd much prefer taking an alternate airline (Emirates, Qatar, etc.) but our corporate discount with Lufthansa wins out every time - it would appear - and their air fare is lower than the fares for any other airline. Hence, I am obliged to fly Lufthansa. It's OK, mind you, but the airline rates no higher than "satisfactory" in my humble opinion. Average service and remarkably poor food (I already suffered from what I will delicately call "the runs" as a result of last night's dinner delight! Yuk!). But, hey, at least they got me here. My flight - LH 441 - departed Houston almost on time (10 minutes late, actually) and arrived at 9:25 am local time (also ten minutes late). By 10:30 am I was on the way to my hotel room for some badly needed rest.

Now I sit comfortably housed in the Sheraton Hotel adjacent to Terminal 1-B. Unlike the airline Lufthansa, Sheraton is familiar with the term "customer service". When I checked in at the front desk (10:15 am local time), the receptionist gave me an upgrade to the hotel's "Towers" wing. Nicer rooms, free meals and free Internet. Nothing like giving a tired traveler a break every now and then. Now if I can just get a GOOD NIGHT'S SLEEP tonight!!!!

For dinner, I enjoyed a meal of asparagus! That's right, asparagus is in season here in Germany. So I had asparagus soup, followed by an entree consisiting of 250 grams of white asparagus accompanied by roasted bass. After this fine meal, I sampled a little DISARONNO liqueur ... mmm-mmmm good!!

The view of one of the many runways from my room at the Sheraton Hotel.
Once I arrive at my destination and get a chance to rest and get caught up on my work, I will start posting again.

UPDATE (June 1): I made it through the night OK, had breakfast and now I am resting and waiting for my onward flight later this afternoon. I shall allow about one hour to check in, go through security (whihc can be time consuming nowadays) and then head up to Lufthansa's Business Class lounge. Ta ta for now ....

PS: Please leave as many comments as you can make time for. I'd really like to receive your thoughts on the current state of my blog.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Final Lecture Tour: Billings, Montana plus Cody and Gillette, Wyoming

I had the honor of making yet another series of lecture presentations. Sadly, however, this was my final lecture tour for the 2009 - 2010 season. The trip started on May 10 with an on-time flight (thru Salt Lake City Airport) to Billings, Montana. (My last visit to Montana had been to West Yellowstone in 1985.) I had a total of 27 attendees for my noon presentation on May 11. I wish I had more time to tour the area but I was on a tight schedule and had to move on ...

The above photo shows the center of Billings.
The event was followed by an enjoyable 2-hour drive (in a rented Chevy Tahoe) from Billings to Cody, Wyoming.

Although I stayed in the Cody Holiday Inn (comfortable yet unremarkable), I was told to have breakfast at the Irma Hotel (pictured above). I had a thoroughly delicious meal featuring two HUGE pancakes!

The highlight of my stay in Cody (that is, other than my May 12 evening lecture which attracted 22 attendees) was a three-hour visit to Cody's renowned Buffalo Bill Historical Center - shown above. For the admission price of only $13.00, I was able to take in five separate museums all rolled into one! I highly recommend this place!!!

William Cody - nicknamed "Buffalo Bill" Cody. The man for whom the city is named.
Annie Oakley, an expert markswoman! (Originally named Phoebe Ann Moses.) Annie appeared in Buffalo Bill's "Wild West" show which toured the USA and parts of Europe from about the mid-1880's up until about 1913 (when the soon-to-start World War I had people distracted).

Last stop - Gillette, Wyoming. Only a dozen folks showed up for my 45 minute lecture on the evening of May 13. The reason: the weather was so nice, it was said everyone was outside running errands, camping, etc. Still, the following morning (May 14) I was able to take in the Rockpile Museum - an interesting little museum set up by the county - and then visit one of America's best known National Monuments ......

The Devil's Tower National Monument! This gem is about a 1-1/4 hour drive east of Gillette. Well worth the trip. The rain, which had hung over central Wyoming most of the week, had cleared away and this happily made for some absolutely fabulous picture taking opportunities! By the way, this is where they filmed the movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind about thirty years ago.
And last but not least, I am happy to report that ALL my flights were on time!! A thoroughly enjoyable experience!!!

PS: By the way, I recommend the above book to anyone who loves to travel. Thankfully my trips abroad have never involved the sorts of hassles encountered by Greg Mortenson (the author) in his efforts to build schools in Central Asia. This book is a great read.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Art Car Parade - May 8, 2010

Houston held its annual Art Car Parade about two weeks ago. I had not attended last year's events but I managed to get to downtown and witness the usual crazy looking vehicles. There were some repeats but most were new entries. Almost three hundred cars in all!!

In addition to the unusual looking cars, I managed to capture some pictures of several fetching young ladies. There was a reason for this actually! I only carried a 100 - 40 mm lens along with my Canon 50D SLR camera this time. This turned out to be too close-up of a telephoto lens and as a result I could not capture a wider view of the many cars that passed by my spectator location (corner of Bagby and Allen Parkway). Hence, I was unable to properly photograph many of the cars. So my back up plan was to photograph close-up views of several of the interestingly dressed ladies that accompanied the vehicles. I hope you still can enjoy the photos of those few cars I managed to photograph as well as the women who participated in this year's Art Car Parade.
By the way, the picture above was particularly striking - both becuase I managed to get a clear focus and I also managed to compose the shot properly and - obviously - the subject looked quite nice! Hopefully Dan Denardo can comment. He runs a fine blog displaying his excellent photography.

The dragon car ....

The Dog Car .....

And the many women in this year's parade. Here is what I shall call the Zebra Lady! Followed by many, many more fine looking ladies ....

The 'stars' of the parade were Houston's Mayor, Annise Parker, and the parade's honoree, Dan Aykroyd.

The lead vehicle in this year's parade - the same car and the same woman as in 2008!!!

PS: Don't forget, I'd much appreciate any and all comments!!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Texas Wildflower Season

Well, I suppose I should file this posting under the heading of "What to do When I'm Not Really Traveling!" I sincerely hope I am not boring my loyal followers with these "non-traveling" posts but, hey, I actually enjoy a respite by not hanging out in airports, taking off my shoes, going through security lines at airports, hasseling with rude gate agents, putting up with flight delays, jet lag, paying exorbitant prices for what-used-to-be-free luggage, etc. etc. Still, while I enjoy not having to go on a really long trip .... I still want to get out of the confines of the four walls of my humble abode and see something new.

So, I managed to get away from the apartment for a few hours about two weekends ago (April 16th to be exact) and take in the magnificent Texas wildflowers that annually spring up in the "Hill country", about a hour and a half drive west of Houston. I drive along Highway 290, then north along FM 1155 and there they are. Some of Mother Nature's finest flowers ever! I hope you will enjoy these photos and, as always, all comments are appreciated!! Really!

Blue bonnets galore ....

The red-colored flowers are named Indian Paintbrush.

Chappell Hill marks the start of the Blue Bonnet road tour. I turn off of 290 at this location and then head north along FM 1155 with my trusty Canon 50D digital SLR camera ready for action.

What better place to have lunch after an exhausting road trip than at the Must Be Heaven restaurant located right in the center of Brenham, Texas. Pleasant atmosphere, reasonably priced food .... but a looooong line to get seated at lunch time! I took me 25 minutes before I could place my order.

When I returned home at about 3 pm, I found this fellow had bloomed during the day right outside my apartment door!!