Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Fields of Dreams: Globe Life Park - Arlington, Texas


Globe Life Park is the home of the Texas Rangers and replaced the now demolished Arlington Stadium.  It sits west of Dallas in the suburb of Arlington near AT&T Stadium, where the NFL Dallas Cowboys play.
Image courtesy of Wikimedia
Mike Fitzpatrick under CC BY 2.0 license.

The Rangers started life the same year as me, 1961, in Washington, DC as The Senators. They replaced another team called "The Senators," who moved to Minneapolis and became The Twins. 10 years later, they moved to Texas and became the Rangers, playing in, what was then, a minor league stadium that was expanded along the way to a capacity of over 40,000.

Still, it was not a stadium fitting a major league team.



The city of Arlington passed a sales tax to fund the majority of the new stadium's cost and, on April Fool's Day in 1994, the Rangers played their first game at what was then known as The Ballpark in Arlington.  Naming rights deals led us to today where it is now known as Globe Life Park. One notable stop along the way was when it was known as Enron Field until that energy company collapsed into scandal.


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The Rangers have not been a big powerhouse in their history but that all changed in the last few years as they won the American League Pennant and appeared in in two back-to-back World Series in 2010 and 2011. They lost to the Giants and then the Cardinals.

Notable names on today's roster include Joey Gallo and infielders Elvis Andrus and Rougned Odor. 



Here are the stats…
Year opened: 1994
Surface: Latitude 36 Bermuda Grass
Construction cost: $191 million
Capacity:  48,114
Field dimensions: Left field – 332 ft.; left center – 404 ft.; Center field – 400 ft.; right center – 407 ft.;  Right field – 377 ft.
Home team: Texas Rangers, 1994 - Present
Events attended: one game

Globe Life Park does not seem like a large stadium when you’re inside, it feels about as big as the stadium in Cincinnati.   The staff and fans are very welcoming and become temporary friends for a few hours.  It’s know as a hitter-friendly park despite the long distance to center field.
The seating bowl features three larger decks and a small level of suites.  It can get very hot here in the summer and the design includes a lot of overhang for shade. This has the negative effect of a lot of view obstruction if you're sitting high in the first deck. There are also a lot of poles for support that adds to the obstructions.

Contrastingly, the stadium is also very drafty and, on those occasions when it does cool down, the chill can be hard to take if you're not prepared.



Wheelchair seating is adequately spread out through the stadium although the premium seats in the lower deck have the obstructions noted above. You'll get better views in the cheaper seats in the outfield or upper deck. The companion seats are also cramped, my knees were pushing into the seat in front of me.

Also, there was no way to get to the seats without waiting for an elevator. No ramps to get there and a bit of confusion on how to get there.

Wheelchair seating is very easy to get via the online ticketing system at Rangers.com or you can call (972) RANGERS.

Hot dogs here are good.  Very good. There is also 2-foot long dogs that go through various permutations (thunderdog, tamale dog, kimchi dog etc.) but at $27 (in 2017) we found it was a better deal to just get the regular jumbo dogs (foot long, thick, and a bun to match) at $9.

The beer selection is huge here, it's a bit expensive. Popular was one stand of craft brews where you could get your beer in a souvenir moonshine jar.

Public transportation to the park is very poor. Arlington has no public transportation to games but several hotels in the area provide wheelchair accessible shuttles to the game for their guest. Walking here from nearby hotels is also not an option due to the lack of sidewalks. The area seems more like a business park than an entertainment district and vast parking lots surround the stadium.

It's not a bad stadium but there are a lot of missed opportunities here whether or not you're in a wheelchair.  Notable is that a new stadium is scheduled to be built down the street in a couple of years at the end of an entertainment zone that is under construction. AT&T Stadium will be at one end and the new Rangers stadium will be at the other.


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Darryl Musick
Copyright 2017 - All Rights Reserved

Photos by Letty Musick
Copyright 2017 - All Rights Reserved

Monday, July 29, 2019

Houston, We Don't Have a Problem


If there was one thing on this trip I would have done differently, it would have been the way we got to Houston. Oh, Southwest Airlines did their job well...getting us there on time and on a short, one hour hop...but when I think about it, it would have been about the same time as driving. Cheaper and less hassle, too.

Think about it...since we're with a wheelchair, we need to get to the airport about two hours pre flight. That's after a half hour drive plus another half hour to return the rental car.  In Houston, we have to deplane last, then go find our luggage, then find the shuttle (which is about $50 each way), and...finally...another half hour to our hotel. That's about five hours, total, of which only one is flying.

The drive from Dallas to Houston would take about four hours and cost about an extra hundred dollars over the regular rental price. Next time, a one-way rental from Dallas to Houston will be the ticket.


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But, that's not what we did this time. Luckily, everything went swimmingly and we had a great SuperShuttle driver and arrived at our hotel about one hour before the check in time. It took the front desk about twenty minutes to assure that our room was ready and they let us check in.



This time, the room we booked and guaranteed was indeed the room we got. A king-size, studio suite with sofabed that was actually bigger than the two-room suite we had in Dallas. It felt massive.

I've got to put in a note here that the Homewood Suites in downtown Houston (only a very short block from the stadium for this leg's baseball game) is just wonderful. Clean, modern, up-to-date, functional, friendly and competent staff, good food and drink...it was all we could ask for and more.



After check in and dropping off our bags, we head out to find some dinner. Today's game ended about an hour ago and there's a little bit of a lingering party atmosphere over by the stadium. We explore a few bars before deciding to sit on the deck of Lucky's on the other side of Interstate 69 from the stadium.

The sign about it being 'Crawfish Boil' day might have had something to do with it.



The weather is perfect, a man is boiling way in the corner, and we make a new friend named Roger (you can see him in the video). Roger takes us under his wing and guides us to the proper ordering technique, introduces us around, and keeps us company while we're there.



A pound of crawfish and a couple of Lone Stars later, we're feeling pretty good as we walk back toward the hotel.

Up the street, I notice a crowd of people, some smoke, and music. Let's go investigate.



We find a very busy park called Discovery Green just swarming with families out for a day at the park in the middle of downtown Houston. There's a lot to do here...

Maybe you caught us on Twitter or Facebook when we stopped at the park's kiosk for a gratis photo and posting. Restaurants from the fast food to fine dining variety line the park's perimeter. Radio controlled boats and kayaks patrol a pond. Playgrounds and ice cream vendors abound for hot and restless kids.

Tim and I find a cool splash pad.  It's even wheelchair accessible so I coax him in.



Since it's an electric chair, I have him follow me around a route to get him cool and damp without drenching the chair.

It's a Texas-sized serving of fun to cap our first day here.

Darryl Musick
Copyright 2017 - All Rights Reserved

Photos by Letty Musick
Copyright 2017 - All Rights Reserved


Sunday, July 28, 2019

THE COCKTAIL HOUR: Hillbilly Lemonade


Summer's at it's hottest so we need some drinks to take the edge off of the heat.

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Here's my version of this out back, sit-by-some-grilling meat, refreshing crowd pleaser.  At only 150 calories, it also fits in with our goal of drinks that won't go straight to your gut...but still are full-service cocktails!

INGREDIENTS (one drink)

1.5 oz. bourbon (whisky or scotch can also be used)
Juice of 2 lemons
Juice of 1 lime
1 oz. simple syrup (2 tbls. of sugar can be substituted)
1-2 oz. water (optional if needed to fill the glass)


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To do it right, you should have a majon jar.  If not, use a cocktail shaker.  Fill your jar or shaker about half full of ice.  Put all ingredients in and shake...put just enough water in to make sure you have a full glass.  Strain into a tumbler completely filled with ice.  Garnish with a wedge of lemon, lime, or orange.

Cheers!

-Darryl

Friday, July 26, 2019

The Rangels and The Toadies...Game Day in Texas


Arlington is a funny little city. Just west of Dallas, this suburb has no practical public transit (there is very limited commuter service and a paratransit service) and the area we're staying in has basically nonexistent sidewalks.

This presents a problem as we came here to catch a baseball game. Our hotel is just a hair under a mile from the ballpark but there is no way to walk this walkable distance without having to go onto a very busy street. There is no public transit, either.

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There is a private trolley service that local hotels use, however. It's also wheelchair accessible but you must book (for free) with the hotel's front desk first. We're given three passes for the bus and head out to the street behind the hotel to wait for our appointed pickup time.

Here's where it starts getting a bit interesting.  The Rangers are playing the Angels tonight. We're die-hard Halo fans and this is only the second time we've gotten to see them play on one of our road trips. We're definitely going into enemy territory when we show up in our blood red Angels shirts and a busload of people in blue Texas shirts are waiting there.

We endure quite a bit of good-natured ribbing while we wait for the bus and on the ride to the stadium. The driver points out where we're supposed to catch the bus after the game and we head on in.

The entrance here is at left field and our seats are behind home plate, shading towards first base. We get to our section but I can only find stairs up the one level we need to go. An usher says we can use the press box elevator.

When opened, I see an Angels team executive already on and give him a high-five. We have a need to see our fellow fans and team members feel welcomed in this opposing stadium.



To get to the accessible seats, we have to go through the private, home plate club.  I wish we could stay but our spot is just outside the door. There's a big overhang, pillars obstruct the view, and my knees are pushed into the seat in front of me. These are premium seats, by the way, about $30 more each than the cheap seats in the outfield.



The game gets started and the wind starts blowing. What had been a hot and humid day...with us wearing shorts and t-shirts...turns into a windy 40 - 50 degrees at game time.  It's chilling us to the bone, especially is this very drafty section of the stadium.  Oh, how I wish we could get on the other side of that door, into the climate-controlled home plate club.



It's not to be, however, and neither will it be for the Angels.  They lose, the only loss of their series in Texas. Of course, it had to be the night we had tickets.



After the game, local rockers The Toadies put on a concert for the fans.  You might know them from their hit 'Possum Kingdom.'



Unfortunately, the stadium acoustics are just crap tonight so after waiting five or six songs for their hit, we cut our losses and head outside where the shuttle bus we were supposed to catch never shows up.

Wondering what to do, I decide to book a Lyft ride back to the hotel, get the car, and come back to get Letty and Tim. Luckily, we found a sidewalk vent blowing out warm air they could stand on until I got back.

The Lyft driver cancelled the ride, the second one called me and said security wouldn't let her approach the stadium so I had to leave Letty and Tim there while I walked two blocks to find her.


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She was very nice and when I explained what I was doing, she asked if Tim's wheelchair folds up.  In fact, his travel chair folds up quite nicely, so she had me call them and ask them to walk to the nearest corner where I could guide them to the car and she'd drive us all back to the hotel (she had a nice, big Honda Pilot).

While I was waiting, she asked what was going on inside and I told her about the concert. She'd never heard of the band, I explained they were kind of a one hit wonder when I heard the lyrics of that one hit wafting out of the stadium.

"That's what they're playing now!"

Still didn't ring a bell.

Letty and Tim roll up and it's time to put us and this trip to Dallas, Arlington, and Fort Worth to bed.


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Darryl Musick
Copyright 2017 - All Rights Reserved

Photos by Letty Musick
Copyright 2017 - All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

TRANSIT REPORT: Dallas, Texas


While central Dallas has pretty good public transit, it gets a little bit harder to find the farther out you go. The main components of the Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) are buses and light rail. There is also limited trolley service, a commuter railroad (TRE and DCTA), and paratransit.

Light Rail consists of four lines that bring commuters in starting at nearby suburbs, converging on the Pacific Street corridor in downtown Dallas.The suburban terminals are Carrollton and Plano to the north; Rowlett to the east; Buckner to the south; and Westmoreland to the west. The Orange Line also serves Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. There is no train service to Love Field, home of Southwest Airlines.



The train cars are split-level with wheelchair seating available in the middle of each car on the lower level. Low floor entry is available at the doors where the wheelchair seating is.



Farther out, you can catch the TRE from Fort Worth and the DCTA A-Train from Denton, north of Dallas.

Both of these commuter railroads operate Monday through Saturday.

Numerous bus lines, all accessible, cover most of the rest of the area with the exception of Arlington (home of the Cowboys and Rangers), which has very little in the way of public transportation.

The basic DART fare is $2.50, or $1.25 for reduced (disabled/senior) fare. This is good for two hours. A day pass is double those amounts.

TRE is $2.50 per zone (there are two, if you go beyond DFW airport, it's an additional zone) and half that for reduced fare. From 9:30am to 2:30pm, unlimited riding is available on the midday pass for $1.75.



Basic fares on the DCTA is a dollar more than TRE but reduced fares are 50 cents less.



There are numerous HOV (or carpool) lanes on the areas freeways. Be advised that they are not free and a bill will be mailed to you based on your vehicle's license plate. If it's a rental car, it will be added to your bill. A sign at the entrance to the lane tells you how much the current toll is.


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Darryl Musick
Copyright 2017 - All Rights Reserved

Monday, July 22, 2019

Get Along Little Dogies...Spending the Day in Fort Worth


We have until 5:00pm until we need to catch the shuttle to Globe Life Park for tonight's baseball game, that leaves us several hours to kill during the day.

The weather report keeps talking about a major storm ("damaging" is the adjective they use) so our plan was to just hang at the hotel and wait it out. Outside, though, the weather doesn't look so bad and monitoring the real-time radar on Accuweather.com shows that the storm is passing just to the north of us.


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Fort Worth, and it's Stock Yards, are only fifteen miles away so we decided to pile in the car and at least drive around to see what we can see.

The sun is still shining as we turn onto Exchange Avenue and a handicapped spot is open in the middle of the block. Apparently, the gods are on our side so we park and get out.



In the back of our parking lot is what's left of the real stockyards, a few cow pens with a small herd of longhorn cattle in them.  It's ramped and wheelchair accessible so we start here.



One bull is being frisky and odious to the other cows as he tries to mount, bully, defecate, and fight among the other more docile animals. What a show...

We're not going to be able to see the cows being driven down the street. It happens two times a day but the first one already happened and we'll be long gone when the second drive is scheduled.

It's lunchtime and we're looking for somewhere to tackle our rumbling stomachs. All I can see are the usual 'meh' tourist lunch spots until a sidewalk sandwich board beckons me with a $7.99 flat iron lunch special.

$7.99 is right up my budgetary alley, let's see if it's worth it.



We're at Riscky's Steakhouse. Of course it's western themed. I feel like I've gone back home and ended up at Knott's Berry Farm. The friendly host seats us, we order a couple of ice-cold Lone Stars, and explore the premises.



While I'm taking pictures, one of the bus boys asks if I've taken a picture of the safe yet. No, I don't know about a safe so he takes me back to a standard and sturdy vault in the back of the dining room.

"This used to be a bank," he tells me. The vault must not be that sturdy because the next thing he says is "this was the first bank to be robbed by Bonnie and Clyde." (I can't find any other verification for this, though)

A basket of bread so delicious it's in danger of ruining our appetite is brought out. Not too long after, the food arrives.



The steak, a just-right serving of tender, juicy flat iron is delicious. It's served with a few Texas-sized steak fries and half a slice of garlicky Texas toast. I'd probably pay three times as much for a similar meal at home. At eight bucks, it is a true bargain.

Tim opts for the chicken fried chicken, which is like a chicken fried steak only using chicken instead of beef.  It's all really good and we polish it off in no time.



This would turn out to be the best lunch we'd have in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. Satisfied, we wander among the shops of Exchange Avenue and notice some raindrops start to fall. It's also smelling very wet so Tim and I head to hang out near our parking spot while Letty does some more shopping.  If that 'damaging' storm is about to hit, I want to be able to put Tim in the car immediately.

It never happens so we watch the Grapevine excursion train locomotive turn itself around on the adjacent turntable and disappear in the cluster of shops (that doubles as the train station) across the street before driving back to Arlington for tonight's game.


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Darryl Musick
Copyright 2017 - All Rights Reserved

Photos by Letty Musick
Copyright 2017 - All Rights Reserved

Sunday, July 21, 2019

THE COCKTAIL HOUR: A Big Ole Taste o' Texas


I wanted to run this cocktail hour a couple of weeks ago but I never figured it would be so darn hard to find a bottle of Lone Star beer in this state.  I'd about given up when I saw that Bevmo listed online so the next time I was at their store, I stopped in a grabbed what may be the last six-pack in Southern California.

To go along with our recent trip reports on Texas, we wanted to do a taste-off of the two most iconic Texas beers, Lone Star and Shiner Bock.

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It's 105 degrees on the patio, so we move this shoot into the house. My neighbor Scott joins Tim and I as we pop open a couple of cold ones to evaluate.

The Lone Star, made by Miller in Fort Worth, under contract to brand owner Pabst, is a pale lager. It's a weak tasting beer, like many other macro brews like Bud, Coors, or even it's sibling brand, PBR.  It'll do on a blistering day like the one we're experiencing today.

Shiner Bock is made by a much smaller company, Gambrinus, in the little town of Shiner, half way between San Antonio and Houston

It's a darker beer but the taste is still weak, maybe just a tad more barliness than Lone Star. Neither have any hoppiness to discern.

We give just a slight edge to the Shiner Bock but neither one are going to the top of our shopping list. Still, it'd be a fine beer to pull a chair and watch some chicken sh*t bingo with.

Let's close with some Texas beer drinking music...



Cheers!
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Darryl Musick
Copyright 2017 - All Rights Reserved

Friday, July 19, 2019

Reliving a Terrible Day in History - Dealey Plaza, Dallas, Texas


The flight to Love Field was flawless and on time. Hertz did a fine job getting us a car quickly, this one a Nissan Rogue, which would fit Tim's new folding power travel chair very easily in the rear hatch. The on board GPS (free for AAA members) routed us straight to our hotel, Homewood Suites in Arlington, just west of Dallas.  We just had to deal with some rush hour traffic, a lot of road construction, and potholes before we arrived.

Checking in, we find that the hotel did not hold the accessible room we guaranteed. In fact, their records show we didn't book an accessible, 2 queen, suite but my printout of my confirmation puts lie to that.

We sleep in the non-accessible room, which has a bathroom that will just not do. In the morning, a conversation with the manager finds us moving to an accessible suite that became available.  
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I really don't like moving after already being in another room and I don't like it when the hotel doesn't live up to it's end of the bargain either (Hilton gave us another 10,000 points in our loyalty account for compensation when I complained).

Enough of our hotel follies...

Tim usually has a place he wants to see when we're in a town.  It might be the Reichstag in Berlin or the Olympic Stadium in Munich or Alcatraz in San Francisco...you get the idea. Yes, we are ostensibly here for baseball (the Rangers are hosting our Halos - we'll get to that in another post) but Tim also want so see Dealey Plaza.

Tim also likes to try the rapid transit systems of each city he visits so we drive 15 miles to the nearest DART light rail station (as opposed to the 16 miles it would be from our hotel in Arlington to Dealey Plaza).

Once we find the station, it's an easy ride into Union Station, about 2 blocks away from our destination. Union Station is pretty but also pretty quiet and dead. A fairly easy 5 minute walk takes us up to the plaza.



We have to navigate through hordes of school field trip kids along the sidewalk as we make our way to the infamous 'grassy knoll.' I'm skeptical but I hope these kids grasp the immense significance of the spot they're standing at. No one has ever made an attempt on a president's life in their entire existence and hopefully never will. I imagine this must be an abstract, long ago, historical fact for them.



Of course, on November 22, 1963, president John F. Kennedy arrived at Love Field in Dallas to attend a luncheon in his honor. The motorcade was planned for maximum exposure so the crowds could get a look at their president. The president opted not to have the protective 'bubble' on top of his limousine.



Around lunchtime, the procession turned left into Dealey Plaza. Shots rang out and the popular president was dead.



Two X's mark the spot on the road where the bullets hit him...the first, a wounding shot through the neck. 



The second, the deadly kill shot in front of the concrete pergola wall where dress maker Abraham Zapruder stood, capturing the whole thing on his home movie camera.

Behind the pergola sits a parking lot with an inconspicuous wooden fence separating the two. Many have theorized that a second gunman set up behind it to shoot the president. A quick walk over and I can see the conspiracy theory graffiti on it advertising websites to learn more about their views of the assassination.

Of course, the main (lone?) gunman was set up 6 stories over the corner in the Texas Schoolbook Depository. That building is now a museum, focused on the events of that day.



We get tickets and wait half an hour for our turn to take the elevator up to the 6th floor where a walking audio tour takes you through the election of Kennedy, his presidency, his visit to Texas, the assassination, and it's aftermath. A glassed-in corner shows where Lee Harvey Oswald set up his sniper's next to shoot the president.

It's all a sobering reminder that with great power comes great personal risk.

Darryl Musick
Copyright 2017 - All Rights Reserved

Photos by Letty Musick
Copyright 2017 - All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

The Evolving Destination...How a Trip Decision Comes Together at The World On Wheels


Picking where to go on a trip isn't merely "hey, let's go there!" for us. Well, sometimes it is and everything comes together rather quickly. Other times, it's an evolution.

Take our latest travels...how does a Caribbean island vacation morph into a triple destination trip through the Lone Star state then over to the Florida Keys?

After last fall's European Grand Tour, we were talking over the difficulty of multiple air legs to reach destinations deep into Europe that didn't offer non-stop service to Los Angeles. Tim had some anxiety before leaving but did fine. The last leg, of three, on the way home didn't sit too well but he managed fine.



"I don't want to go anywhere where we have to take more than two flights," he told me, "but I wouldn't mind going to St. Croix even though that takes two flights."

That started the wheels spinning. We love St. Croix and, especially, the beautiful Buccaneer Hotel there. The only thing is it's a bit hard to get Tim onto the sandy beach (but not impossible), pool, and especially the ocean.

That got me searching for alternative spot where we could go somewhere in the Caribbean, tropical, and where we could get Tim to some crystal-clear ocean water. The Bahamas, Barbados, Curacao, and more came up where...maybe...I could get Tim to the water's edge and wade in. 



Harder yet was to find a boat that he could go on then go into the water from. We learned the hard way that advertising your dive boat as 'handicapped accessible' doesn't mean that it is in anyway, shape, or form accessible in St. Croix (one operator there plasters their web site with it but when asked said "yeah, you just need to be able to climb this ladder-like set of stairs onto the boat and off into the water").


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My search did keep turning up one operator in the Florida Keys, Tranquil Adventures, who had installed a pool lift onto the side of a pontoon boat specifically to lower disabled people into the water to go snorkeling.

I'd put that in my memory banks for later use, if I needed it. In the meantime, I came across an ad for Southwest Airlines announcing that they'd just started nonstop service from our favorite local (but underused) airport, Ontario, to Dallas' Love Field.

Another long term goal of ours is to see every Major League Baseball stadium. We're up to 25 and the two stadiums in Texas are among the last five we need to visit. My brain clicks in to tell me that if I could get a cheap, nonstop, Southwest flight to Dallas, maybe we could get another cheap flight from there after a layover to the Caribbean allowing us to not only have an easy transit to the islands but get another stadium in along the way.



Perusing the flight schedules, there's not much from Dallas to the Caribbean but from Houston we could get a short and simple flight on Southwest to Fort Lauderdale...only 90 minutes from Captain Mick's Tranquil Adventures in Key Largo.  It's also a very easy and cheap add on to fly one hour from Dallas to Houston and...hey!...they have another stadium there with a very affordable Homewood Suites only a block from it.

We can do this!  Two Texas stadiums (plus a day or two at each city to experience what they have to offer) then an extended stay in the Keys...which would satisfy our itch for a warm beach at least adjacent to the Caribbean...where we can go snorkeling on a lift-equipped boat.

So, Tim's original comment about taking the two flights to St. Croix evolves through several permutations to become a trip to Texas' two biggest cities ending up on a Florida island for some warm, beach adventures.

Stay tuned for that...

Darryl Musick
Copyright 2017 - All Rights Reserved