Archive for the 'Travel' Category

“Galveston, oh Galveston”

Galveston, oh, Galveston,
I still hear your seawinds blowing;
… still hear your seawaves crashin,
… Standing there looking out to sea.

Well, I couldn’t help myself. A week on Galveston Island, staying at a lovely place right on the Gulf of a Mexico in SE Texas, USA. Just had to get that Jimmy Webb/Glenn Campbell classic out of the system.

The Galveston Seawall extends over 10 km, built after the horrific Galveston hurricane devastation of 1900
Nice view from our lodgings – Gulf of Mexico

Truth is, I really enjoyed our time there, although it was quite a contrast from our previous week 4 hours drive NW at SAN Antonio.

It was especially nice catching up (as Dale had already done) with Dale’s sister Donna, some of her family as well as her good friend Peggy. Nice memories of Golden Corral buffets and a really captivating IMAX theatre film at Moody Gardens: Great Bear Rainforest.

No sooner had we arrived at Galveston than we headed off two mornings later to Dallas – five hours drive away to see folk-rock duo Indigo Girls in concert with the local symphony orchestra. In a word – “stunning”!

 

Amy Ray & Emily Saliers – Indigo Girls

Overnight in Dallas … and a somewhat nerve wracking experience negotiating Downton Dallas traffic (thankyou, thankyou Garmin GPS and an understanding Dale 😀) we arrived back on Galveston Beach Monday evening. Memories from the past week include:

  • Beach walks. Often chilly and windy, but memorable experience walking next to the Gulf of Mexico, admiring architecture of beach abodes and being so thankful for our Australian beaches’ beautiful white sand.
  • Visit to Space Center Houston/Johnson Space Center. Really enjoyed this – marvelling at the USA’s (& other countries’ ) journey of space exploration. Not so much emphasis on the space race, Apollo/moon missions; rather on the positives on international collaborations via the space shuttle and the international space station. A highlight for me was the 60 minute tour which took us deep into NASA’s facilities including the iconic Mission Control.
  • Celebrating my 28 February birthday twice – due to time differences between Texas and back home. On the 28th (here in Texas) on a chilly evening Dale and I checked out the famous Pleasure Pier – really a miniature theme park. I can imagine how it would be abuzz with patrons in summer! Nice Mexican dinner at Salsa’s, though not so nice some hours later. Too much spicey food for yours truly😟
  • Swims at our accommodation’s thankfully-heated pool. Surprisingly enjoyable!
  • Getting plenty of sleep. Dale hasn’t been quite as fortunate but I’m thankful for the 9-10 hours sleep I’ve managed most nights. Means one of several things – I’m relaxed, I’ve had plenty of catching up to do, I’ve actually been getting some exercise.
  • the local house design – high on stumps – no doubt a precaution heeding the 1900 hurricane devastation and also the impact of Hurricane Ike in 2008.
  • actually enjoying … fascinated in fact, as we watched two of the Democratic candidates’ live debates on TV. The USA political system is so different to those in countries like my own (and many others) using the Westminster system. I wonder what the 18th century USA founding fathers would think about all that goes on these days!😢
  • Some valuable times of reflection. I made use of Presbytery-provided Ash Wednesday resources for 26th, spending several quiet, still hours. I took up the suggestion Irene Alexander provided and wrote a Palm Sunday reflection. I hope to use that in early April. The day before, I found myself brought back to God’s promises repeatedly in the scriptures to not be afraid … I am with you. Yes, I wrote a song on that called I’ll Hold You Forever. I’ll share that in the coming weeks

So yesterday morning, after checkout we headed to Houston – one of the biggest cities in the US. Unbelievable traffic, unbelievable flyovers, overpasses etc, unbelievably discourteous/thoughtless freeway drivers not bothering to use their indicators when changing lanes. Thank you to the many (well, I’m being kind) who do remember. Thank you also to James Taylor, Paul Simon, Indigo Girl, Linda Ronstadt, Dale and others who pacified me along the way.

To be fair, driving was good fun. Our guess is that we have easily travelled over 3000 km over here. I’m concerned that now I’ll need to repeatedly remind myself, “Keep to the left” once driving back home.

It’s late Sunday morning here as I muse all of this. We’ve just had another visit to the well-priced, friendly, clean Hot Biscuit restaurant.

Our breakfast wasn’t $3.99 but still excellent.

So, we look forward to coming home. Interesting timing for both Dale and me. The new Southside Uniting Church is still in its formative months … I look forward to reengaging, knowing that much has happened in my 2+ weeks away. Dale, now unofficially retired begins a new season. No more travel for either of us for a while … though you never know with the two of us. It’s been a sobering time being overseas, as a mother and three beautiful children become the horrifically-killed victims of a man’s brutal violence in a suburb not far from us; while the impact of the coronavirus reaches near pandemic proportions, while the country we’ll shortly leave (this may well be our last trip here) puts you multiple candidates to face Trump later this year – each with questionable credentials in some way, alongside so many worthy ones I must say.

Here’s my favourite two pictures from the trip!

River Walk cruise – San Antonio
Remember the Alamo!

Shalom, David

deep in the heart of Texas

We’ll sort of. Sort of not. It’s about half way through my time in Texas, USA.

Dale’s been here a fortnight, visiting her sister Donna and family south of Houston, then some of her sister Diana’s family in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Off into the wide blue yonder, Air New Zealand style
A bit of the old Davey Crockett … or is it Daniel Boone?

The flights over to Houston via Auckland were expectedly long haul in more ways than one, but I did manage about 3 hours on the 13 hour leg. Helped incredibly by having the benefit of a “sky couch” arrangement. Yours truly never manages sleep on planes. I envy those who do!😀 The timing of these two+ weeks is spot on, as the year ministry-wise has been way too full on. A break is just what the doctor ordered.

I fly into Houston, Dale flies back into Houston from Pittsburgh, we pick up our rental car (free upgrade to a SUV) and we’re off to SAN Antonio, four hours NW – our accommodation, the incredibly salubrious Eilan Hotel and Spa on the outskirts of town. We were able to access it through wider family. Nice, but way more opulent than our usual style. We did amazingly well in our studio room, bar-size fridge, raisin bran in disposable cardboard bowl and all. Base camp really, but close to shops and food places and having the most wonderful indoor heated lap pool.

San Antonio is steeped in US/Spanish/Mexican history and culture. We made sure to delve into that. This meant:

  • the Alamo – historic Spanish mission site where a decisive, iconic battle happened in 1836. Remember the Alamo still cries out. It’s a visit I won’t forget!😀
  • the River Walk – this amazing length (many, many kilometres paved each side of the SAN Antonio River – goes right through the CBD and often with cafes and restaurants each side. Quite beautiful. We loved it.; especially the 40 minute cruise included in our three-day hopon-Hopoff bus pass.
  • Market Square – apparently the largest “Mexican market” outside of Mexico. Dale enjoyed that while I visited the slightly disappointing Institute of Texan Cultures.
  • The Missions. I’ve already mentioned the Alamo, but that’s just one of five on the famous Mission Trail. Just south of downtown is the Mission SAN Jose. We attended a wonderful Mariachi Mass there – in the week 300 years of worship and mission were being celebrated. Such a God-communing experience.
  • One other SAN Antonio highlight – the 25 minute AV projected evening presentation of The Saga on the front of St Fernando Cathedral. Brilliant and evocative representation of some of Texas’ history.

A few “down days”, then off into the SAN Antonio hill country on a chilly winter’s day to German-settled Fredericksburg. Dale shopped while I checked out an amazing National Museum of the Pacific War. Why Fredericksburg of all places? Well – Admiral Nimitz hailed from there!

Heading back to San Antonio, the slightly-closeted country music fan in me couldn’t help but drive through Luckenbach, Texas … inspiration for a famous country song. This is a town whose population is 3 and could not be located on our Garmin GPS and whose town loop is all of 300 metres!

Here’s Willie Nelson and co singing Luckenbach, Texas

So it is that we farewelled SAN Antonio – great week there – and under cold but beautifully clear skies we’ve spent most of today driving SW via the incredible freeways and overpasses around Houston ( at one stage 11 lanes each way!) to the seaside city of Galveston. Long drive but we made it here fine. Great being right on the beach.

Cheers, David

Arms Open Wide

A new song, with help from Dale, as we travel into 2019, inspired by two pieces of wisdom:

  • Christ’s vital words in John 13:34 – “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another
  • Words from a Sojourners New Years Day reflection that really challenge me for 2019 and beyond

… drawing on that profound slogan about building longer tables, not higher fences, walls or borders.

So, while on holidays and having just GarageBand for iPad and mandolin with me, I’ve written Arms Open Wide. The recording is very scratchy but take a listen. Vocal of this eventually.

arms-open-wide-demo-backing-2.m4a

“Hear what I’m sayin’ and
Hear what I’m prayin’
You are my disciples
when known by love”
Love in the caring
Forgiving, forbearing
Love ever-giving”
… the Love from You.

So come together
Yes, come together
Come, love together
Arms open wide
Break down the borders and
Build wider tables and
Reach out your arms
stretch them open wide

“Hear what I’m sayin and
Hear what I’m prayin
You are my disciples
When known by love
Each time you welcome
a sister, a brother
You welcome the One
whose life is Love”

So come together
Yes, come together
Come, love together
Arms open wide
Break down the borders and
Build wider tables and
Reach out your arms
stretch them open wide


So come together
Yes, come together
Come, love together
Arms open wide
Break down the borders and
Build wider tables and
Reach out your arms
stretch them open wide
Reach out your arms
stretch them open wide

David & Dale MacGregor (C) 2019

arms-open-wide-demo-backing.m4a

HIGHLIGHTS & LOWPOINTS – USACanada Adventure 2018 – final post (#8)

Hi. We got into Brisbane around 6.15 am yesterday (Saturday). Something like 43 hours between getting out of bed in New York City and going to bed back home in Australia.

We’re now enjoying a week’s downtime at the beach before we both go back to work.

We enjoyed the most amazing seven weeks away in so many beautiful and memorable parts of the USA and Canada. This was and will always be the trip of a lifetime. Thanks to all who followed our adventures. As one does, much planning goes into a trip like this – dreaming, saving, organising, consulting, purchasing, changing and so on. Suffice to say we fully expected most of what lay ahead of us . However, amid all of these expectations came many unexpected highlights. Here are a few ... in no particular priority or chronological order unplanned trip highlights

Ice hockey game and early-season snow in Moose Jaw , Saskatchewan, Canada.

Our Grand Canyon plane flight. Never ever been game to go on something like this. So glad I did. I truly surprised the non-risk taking side of me.

  • The desert experiences, Death Valley, Zion and Grand Canyon National Parks. Stunning beauty and fresh revelation of God’s wonder & magnificence.

Lake Louise hotel view. Don’t think I’ll ever forget opening up our hotel room window curtains to see this. Wow. Wow! The Rockies. Another “Wow!”

Hawaii botanical gardens. Diana and Tom were keen that we see these … to the north on the Big Island. Beautiful orchids and much more.

Dale’s free dessert at the Fairmont Lake Louise. Having clumsily mentioned, as we reserved a dinner table there, that Dale’s birthday was over a month earlier, they proceeded to offer us an ice cream sundae for dessert. “Quite large,” was their only prior comment. Too right!

School of Rock musical near Times Square, NYC. Yes – I was keen to see this show, but didn’t expect to enjoy it as much as I did. Did those kids rock!?!

Sedona short walk to great views

Trail of Tears exhibit at DC Smithsonian Museum of the American Indian. Very moving recount of the Cherokee journey then and since.

• Dale was “taken” by the array of – Winslow American Indian crafts, music and jewellery pat a Winslow store as well as the giftedness of Jesse Kalu – bamboo flute craftsman, poet and native performer

The beach and waterways near Kill Devil Hills, OBX, North Carolina. Sure I love any beach, but our brief time there made me want to come again.

Gettysburg Battlefield bus tour. Hadn’t planned this two hour tour. So glad we did.

Blazin M Ranch night. We visited this “theatre restaurant” with a difference while in Sedona. Great night and excellent value. We were too full for the announced seconds.

Central Park pedicab tour. Apart from a brief foray into the Strawberry Fields/Imagine section 11 years ago, we had never made it deeper into this massive and beautiful NYC asset. A great one hour experience.

  • Rocky Mountaineer. We knew this would be a combination of expensive and wonderful. Little prepared us for just how superb it would prove to be. Worth every one of many, many cents 😀

  • Time with our family and friends. Of course, I knew our trip would feature this highly. Our travels with Diana and Tom andJan and Glenn, as well as Dan, BJ & Dana; but also catching up with Sherry and Wayne as well as Maria, Mark, Max, Bonnie and Jim … all of this so valued and cause for deep thanksgiving.

Now … just a few things I won’t miss or were unexpected lowlights

• Americans so love to serve these little half-and-half UHT thingies for coffee in restaurants (of all types). Urggh! So glad to get onto that Qantas plane in NYC whereupon they served milk from a jug.

• Drivers failing to indicate while changing lanes, zipping in and across freeway traffic

• The Budget rental car being cancelled on us by a seriously unscrupulous employee in downtown Pittsburgh. We didn’t need such unnecessary stress. Good news: took two weeks, but thankfully Budget refunded the $1000 initially non refundable

• Missing out on seeing Hamilton via the lottery … just wasn’t prepared to pay $500 AUD for tickets

• That’s about it!

Thanks for following our travels and reflections, folks.

Time surely for some music blogging. Just need to get into some fresh songwriting.

Fresh. That’s how I’m feeling.

Blessings,

David

DC & NYC – USACANADA Adventure 2018 – blogpost #7

Hi. I’m typing this almost an hour out of Washington DC, the USA capital. We’re on Amtrak’s NE Regional service to Boston. We took advantage of Amtrak’s Red Cap Service to get our profusion of suitcases etc from the Union Station taxi rank to the Union Station train. Thanks Tyrone. The $20 was well worth it!

We’re getting off in Penn Station, right in Manhattan, New York City; our final night in North America on what has been an amazing trip. Yet we’re both ready to head home. A show or two in NYC and some time in Central Park will cap it all off well. Anyhow, let me backtrack.

Leaving our lovely Kill Devil Hills beachside lodgings at the Outer Banks, we farewell Diana and Tom, who have shared much of the preceding weeks with us. Great company, hospitality and opportunity to catch up … at so many superb locations.

Skirting many historic areas around Chesapeake Bay, we make it finally to our AirBnB unit in inner suburban DC late afternoon, the last hour or so being really tedious, tense and tiring as yours truly as driver negotiates closed off-Ramps, narrow DC streets, confusing GPS instructions and more.

The AirBnB I booked ages ago proves excellent (we’d recommend it) with full kitchen, roomy lounge and separate bedrooms. As we go find some breakfast basics nearby we’re quickly impacted but the socio-economic imbalances around us. One side (our side) of the nearby arterial road has well kept houses and lawns;the other – run down and derelict. Encounters with desperate homeless folk proves an ongoing aspect of our time in the capital. A further observation- as “Anglos” we are clearly a racial minority. Over the next four days we’ll note that the majority seem to be African- American and some hispanic.

After a tiresome Saturday, while Jan and Glenn successfully negotiate DC public tra sporting (our AirBnB hosts leave us four loaded Smartrip cards!!) Dale and I have a really easy day … spending time at a nearby shopping mall. We needed that sort of day.

Monday comes and having purchased two-day Hopon Hopoff Big Bus tickets we explore the buildings, sights, memorials and feel of downtown DC, including several of the brilliant, much-heralded Smithsonian museums.

Having been to Australia’s capital Canberra a few times over the years and aware of its layout and buildings, it makes an interesting exercise in comparison checking out DC. I think Canberra scrubs up well!

Significant moments over Monday and Tuesday’s sightseeing? Certainly,

  • the Smithsonian museums. We’d need at least a week to check out most of them, so I sufficed with the Air and Space, American Indian and American History and Culture.

  • I enjoyed going deeper amid-museums with my fascination with the Wright Brothers aviation legacy and seeing Julia Child’s kitchen.

  • Mindful of Dale’s distant part-Cherokee heritage I was deeply saddened as I reflected amid a poignant Trail of Tears display … and then inspired at the Cherokee Nation’s eventual rebuilding

  • Lincoln Memorial. We saw this by day and by night. Wonderful testimony to a great, although complex President.

  • Our walk from the Washington Monument, past the WW2 Memorial, alongside the long Reflecting Pool up the steps into the Lincoln Memorial was quite lovely … and all of it under sunny DC skies.

  • The night bus tour. Spending brief time at the Korean War memorial was something meaningful,

We get into Penn Station, whereupon the “fun” begins. Wee got tickets (sort of) online for Andrew Lloyd Webber’s School of Rock at 2 pm. Our train gets in on time at 12.40 pm. We have to get our near-Zelows store amount of luggage up several floors onto the streets of Manhattan, catch a cab (I tried booking one) to our 45th street boutique hotel then hot foot it to the Winter Garden Theatre for the show.

Well … wasn’t that “fun”. Two wonderfully helpful Amtrak Taff take pity on us and our luggage and get us to the taxi rank. We wait there for seemingly forever before we get in. The Manhattan traffic is at a standstill, anyone who’s caught a downtown Manhattan can, especially near Times Square knows that well. Unbeknown to us, various high profile Democrats of the eminence of Bill and Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have in the past 24 hours received suspicious packages. CNN headquarters in Manhattan does too.

Yet, we make it to our hotel, hotfoot it (well as best one does in an elevator) to room 705 and then at 1.45 fast walk our 60-something legs to the show. School of Rock is fantastic – based on the 2003 Jack Black movie, with a classroom of high-energy and musical instrument-playing kids with a rocky AndrewLloyd Webber score. Great fun!

Dinner at Applebees and being on a theatrical roll, we get standing only seats @ $27 each for the much heralded The Book of Mormon. I find the show a bit of a mixed bag. Pros: its satire on organised religion, great singing and acting, very cheeky (though often below the belt in more ways than one) humour. Cons? Pretty crude (check – extremely crude) in parts … show would have been just as engaging if that aspect had been tempered … but I remember that along with Robert Lopez (think songs in Frozen) the show’s written by the team behind South Park. Say no more. That said, glad to see it, though equally glad we paid no more than $54.

Next morning, mindful that we’re within walking distance of Central Park, we set off and eventually get a really personable Belarusian pedicab driver to take us on a60 minute park tour … all of this under beautiful NYC autumn skies. It was a lovely experience … with some beautiful fall colours on the trees.

Back at the hotel, we rest/nap before the 100 minute shuttle bus crawl to JFK airport, first leg to Los Angeles, before the usual pre-midnight flight home to Brisbane.

So many wonderful memories over the previous seven weeks, along with a few things I will certainly not miss, once back home in Australia. However, you’ll have to read the next and final blog of mine (well, for this incredible adventure) to discover what these are. That’s a fun job for the LAX airport lounge.

Blessings (& wow, there have been so many!)

David


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