I asked around and was advised that I should purchase a Rick Steves guide. I did and found it to be just what we needed. No wonder Rick Steves’ Italy has been the best-selling international guidebook sold in the United States.
Rick Steves has been a travel writer since 1980. He has written more than 50 guidebooks and other travel resources. He also writes a syndicated newspaper column on travel and often appears on TV as an authority on travel in Europe. His column appears periodically in The Oklahoman and on NewsOK.com.
And now, we in the Oklahoma City area have the opportunity to learn from Rick Steves in person! He will be lecturing at Oklahoma Christian University on March 10, 2012. This event will be at 7:00 p.m. in Hardeman Auditorium at the university. Steves’ topic will be “Cultivating a Global Perspective through Travel.”
If you would like to attend the Rick Steves lecture, tickets are $10 and are available by calling 405-425-5488 or emailing email@example.com. For more information go online to www.oc.edu/ricksteves.
Last September, my husband celebrated a big birthday and said what he’d like more than anything would be to take a balloon ride. I certainly couldn’t let him do something like that by himself, so he received the trip as a gift and I added a ticket for myself.
Balloon rides are highly dependent on weather, of course, so we didn’t get to take advantage of the gift in September… or October… or November or December. As a matter of fact, we had been home from our January trip to Panama City Beach about 15 minutes when we received the call that the next day was going to be a perfect day for a hot air balloon ride.
The day dawned clear and with a mild breeze. In the afternoon we met the pilot and 4 other excited participants in west Oklahoma City. From there we were transported to a field further north. The pilot’s wife and daughter were with him to help get the equipment set up and to follow us once we were aloft to pick us up and return us to the meeting point.
The whole process of unloading the basket, the balloon, a fan on a generator, the heaters – that in itself was interesting. As we watched and participated, the balloon was connected to the basket, filled with air from the fan, and inflated; then we all climbed aboard the basket.
The pilot, Keith Mills of Free Spirit Balloons, used the heaters (there were two) to launch the balloon and away we went! As we slowly lifted and began to move in a southeast path, we had the opportunity to see the countryside from treetop height. We continued to rise as far as 3,000 feet and drifted along, catching airflow where possible. As Keith put it, the hot air balloon can rise and lower with the force of the heated air, but only God can determine the horizontal direction.
All of the participants declared the afternoon an unqualified success. The trip had been a surprise 40th birthday gift for one lady, and she and the giver of the gift were among the riders. It had originally been planned as a venue for a proposal for a young couple, but work and weather circumstances had prevented that from happening in a timely manner, so they finally took the ride as an “old married couple” of two years. And of course, my husband and I were celebrating his birthday a few months late.
A hot air balloon ride is a wonderful way to celebrate a special occasion, making it even more memorable. But it would also be a great way to just spend a beautiful morning or afternoon!
When taking a trip to northern Florida in the winter, one of the things you quickly discover is that many of the locals head further south for the winter. This means that you need to be sure to call ahead. Is the fishing trip you were planning on still available? Is that restaurant you were dying to try open?
Panama City Beach has a number of amusements for children, including a Ripley’s Believe It or Not, several miniature golf courses , marine displays, etc. However, we didn’t see any of these open the week we were there.
Some people like to travel to a new destination with each trip they take, while others prefer to return repeatedly to the same destination, or at least the same locale. Those in the second group may choose to purchase a timeshare property. This gives them the flexibility of returning to a particular condominium, while also allowing them the capability of using points to vacation in different spots.
We recently joined a friend who used some of his accumulated points to secure a condo for a week at Panama City Beach, FL. When we visited PCB in September, we were on an OU football trip and had very little time to relax, enjoy the beach and sightsee. Spending a week there in January gave us the opportunity to do some of that.
This trip to Florida was a driving trip, so we saw lots of interesting countryside as we drove east on I-40 to Memphis and southeast to Tupelo, MS and from there, on to Florida. It was a pleasant start to the trip to eat dinner on the outside patio at Vanelli’s, an Italian and Greek restaurant in Tupelo. Quite a change from the cold temperatures we left behind in Oklahoma!
Interestingly enough, by the time we checked in at our condo in Panama City Beach the next evening, the cold temperatures had arrived there and it was too cold to sit outside for the “Volcano Nachos” at Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville at Pier Park.
Lawrence is less than an hour from Kansas City, so the drive to the game was short. As we passed downtown Kansas City before turning west, we saw the new Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. It is an amazing structure and is sure to be a destination when we return to Kansas City on a future trip.
The drive from KC to Lawrence was uneventful and there wasn’t too much traffic; but once we hit the streets in Lawrence, it was a different story. As we neared the Kansas University campus area, the streets were lined on both sides with parked cars. We had been given directions to Memorial Stadium, so we didn’t have any problems finding our way there. Once there, however, we began to search for parking. We didn’t see any parking lots, so we looked for “yard parking” that wasn’t too expensive.
The parking closest to the stadium was $30, but a block and a half away we found a friendly young man who let us park in his backyard, accessible from the alleyway, for only $10. He and his friends (one a KU graduate from Midwest City!) even provided a beverage for everyone. How accommodating is that?! Maybe as much as the parking sign we saw: “$20 Park & Potty”!
As we prepared to cross the street to the stadium, we encountered a number of ticket “salesmen” who were only too happy to offer better seats than we had received from OU. With a little bartering back and forth – and a near fight as two of the salesmen argued over which of them had first dibs on our business – we ended up with 35-yard line seats on row 11, instead of seats past the goal line on row 44. Best move of the night for us!!
So… another football trip but new experiences. With three away games under our belt this year, we’re already talking about where we’ll get to go next year. Maybe as soon as the Big 12 knows WHO the Big 12 is, we’ll get to see a schedule!
When your travels are football weekends, it limits the amount of sightseeing you can do. But during our trip to Kansas City to enjoy the OU-KU game in Lawrence, we saw just enough to know that we’d like to return to KC to see the sights and absorb more of the area.
We stayed at the Marriott Country Club Plaza, which offers a free shuttle to any place in the Plaza, so it was nice to park the car and not have to worry about driving and finding parking, etc. Country Club Plaza was originally built in 1922, but much of it was destroyed by a flood in 1977. It has been rebuilt, and is recognized around the country. It is a 15-block area of shops and restaurants, some uniquely local ones and some national stores.
Kansas City is known as the city of fountains and many of them grace the Country Club Plaza area. It was perfect fall weather, warm but not hot, with the leaves beginning to change colors and the fall flowers in full bloom.
One couple shouted out “OU!” as we crossed an intersection of the Plaza, and what a surprise to realize it was a couple we had known ten years ago in Oklahoma! Turns out they now live in Kansas City, and we had a nice visit. It’s definitely a small world!
Each year at the OU/TX football game weekend, we find ourselves indulging — usually in wonderful dining establishments. This year we enjoyed two excellent evenings of delicious dinners and a lot of fun in between.
Nick & Sam’s in Dallas was packed and rowdy and wonderful. There were frequent outbreaks of “Boomer Sooner” and “The Eyes of Texas are Upon You” from the clientele, and the pianist played both songs occasionally to keep everyone in the spirit of the pre-game evening.
The cuisine is primarily steaks, and the side dishes range from healthy grilled asparagus to rich and hearty lobster macaroni and cheese. Fine wines and incredible desserts make this a dinner destination that deserves the diners’ time to savor the evening.
Saturday’s football game at the Cotton Bowl provided the Sooner fans with an ample serving of victory. The rivalry of this game always makes it a special one, and even with OU favored to win this year, the final score of 55-17 gave the Sooners a chance to truly gloat! The Texas Longhorn fans were far less vocal this year than in years past, and many left long before the game was over.
Of course, the State Fair of Texas is held in conjunction with the Red River Rivalry (or is it the other way around?), so fair food and rides and games are part of the day for Sooners and Longhorns alike. If there’s a way to fry it, you can find it at the fair! Fried butter, fried salsa, fried pineapple upside down cake, chicken fried bacon, fried bubblegum… UGH! Don’t check your cholesterol for awhile following this weekend!
There are many rides at the fair, but the iconic Texas Star Ferris Wheel is a must. Besides being fun, it gives the best view of the whole fairgrounds.
OU/TX weekend is many things to many people – food, fun, football, the fair. Be sure to put it on your bucket list if you haven’t already had a chance to be a part of it!
Well, the purpose of this trip was to watch the Oklahoma University vs. Florida State University football game, and watch we did!The FSU campus is very pretty, as are most college campuses, and we were treated with respect and hospitality. The FSU “tomahawk” antics were in force throughout the evening, of course – you have to wonder if all FSU fans have a right bicep that is notably more muscular than the left!!
This was a REALLY BIG SHOW for Florida State. With #5 playing #1, it was bound to be the talk of sportscasters and fans alike leading up to the game and after the outcome was known. Many felt this was the only game OU would lose during the season, and FSU fans were very vocal about the plan to do just that.
Oklahoma brought a contingent of fans – it was reported that there were as many as 10,000 Sooner fans in attendance. That’s quite possible, because “BOOMER SOONER” was definitely heard over the roar of the “tomahawk chop” of the Seminoles. It was the largest crowd ever to attend a football game at Bobby Bowden Field at Doak Campbell Stadium, which holds 83,000.I’m not a sports reporter and couldn’t begin to give athletic details about a football game. I just know that I am a Sooner fan, love to watch OU sports, and didn’t want to miss a minute of the game! I did, however, finally give up and head to the ladies’ room when OU was ahead. Of course, one can imagine my dismay as I heard the roar when FSU tied it up 13-13!! I didn’t know whether to go back to my seat or hide in the bathroom!!
Being a true fan, I trekked back to my row 67 seat and truly enjoyed the outstanding 23-13 win by the Sooners. To quote Billy Sims (who was with our tour group, by the way), “Never bring a hatchet to a gunfight!”
It seems that most any city we visit has at least one mall. The only problem is that there are rarely major differences in the malls – some have standard department stores, like Dillards, Macy’s, JC Penney and smaller chain stores, while a few have upscale shopping, including such names as Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus.
Panama City Beach has combined a large standard mall area (Town Center) with The Grand Theatre and the Boardwalk. The Boardwalk is situated across Front Beach Road from a pier; and the entire area of shopping, restaurants, and entertainment is named Pier Park.
The Boardwalk has many boutique shops, offering accessories, T-shirts, artwork, and the like. Plus it offers restaurants and specialty food shops. We enjoyed a huge order of nachos (one order easily served four) at Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville, where margaritas of all imaginable varieties reign.
Our final stop along the Boardwalk was Kilwin’s Chocolates & Ice Cream, where the many varieties of fudge permeated the air with their sweet aromas. It was just not possible to pass it by without a sample.
Most people go to the mall to shop. At Pier Park, shopping is not mandatory, but enjoying food and drink must be, and it is a great area for entertainment, even something as mundane as people-watching!
A few miles north of Valentine, Nebraska, just outside Rapid City, South Dakota, is one of the most famous tourist destinations in the United States, Mount Rushmore. Since we were “in the area,” we planned a day trip to see if it is really as impressive as we’ve heard. We were definitely NOT disappointed.
As we drove north, we were able to see lots of wildlife, particularly elk. The terrain transitioned from the rolling sandhills to a rougher, rockier landscape with considerable pine and other trees. As we got closer, we saw the monument being created for Crazy Horse . Known as the largest mountain carving located in the Black Hills, it currently displays the head of Crazy Horse and will eventually depict him riding his horse.
Our primary destination for the day, though, was Mount Rushmore. As we approached, we could see it but didn’t really get the full impact until we parked and walked to the veranda. This is a lovely plaza area with gift shop, concessions, and a walkway marked with flags of the states. All of this sits on one side, with a valley area separating it from the actual Mount Rushmore. There is an open-air theatre in the valley, and I could imagine how impressive a concert would be in that setting!
And then, there it is: Mount Rushmore! Each of the four heads is 60 feet high, carved into the edge of the mountain. Each of the four presidents represents such major aspects of our country: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln. It was awesome to just stand there and look and “absorb” the moment.
It was also very interesting to people-watch. Thousands of bikers (motorcyclists) and international visitors strolled along the veranda, snapped photos, listened to the historical information being read over the loud speaker. Listening to the variety of accents and foreign languages pointed out the draw that this United States monument has to all, regardless of nationality!
When we left the national memorial, we drove on to Rapid City, where we made a short stop to see the truly amazing paper sculptures of Allan and Patty Eckman . The cast paper sculptures depict nature and Native American figures in intricate detail. I had read of them in an Email and welcomed the opportunity to see them in person. They are really quite beautiful, and I tried to fit one into my budget but…