Category Archives: Vacation

Weekly Photo Challenge: On the Way

Growing up in the United States in the 1970s, one of the great moments of childhood was the Family Road Trip. Immortalized in the original Vacation movie, all people of my age will have fond memories of a cross-country trek with the family.  I have had several of these growing up.  California, Kentucky, and the infamous Washington DC trip in the summer of 1975.

Although we never stopped to see Clark Griswold’s Second Largest Ball of Twine, no family vacation would be complete with out visiting one of the many roadside attractions designed to lure in travelers to spend a little cash.  Paul Bunyan Statues, Sun Glass Wearing Elephants, and if you are in traveling outside Madison, Wisconsin, there is this way larger than life cow:


I will have to hunt through my pictures and see if I can find any other great attractions we have stopped to see One the Way.




For more great On the Way photos, please visit:


Tom 365 – September 7, 2014


The burger that made New Buffalo famous.

It was good, but I would not put it on my list of best burgers. The number one spot will always go to my wife.

Tom 365 – July 14, 2014


Giant Cows and Rainbows.

Yep, were in Wisconsin.

Kilkenny and the Galaxy

On our second day of the Great Ireland Trip 2012/2013, Maureen and I headed back East, and stayed in another river town with a castle, Kilkenny.

Kilkenny Castle, Ireland

Kilkenny Castle was built along the River Nore in 1195, and it has been well kept and extensively renovated over the years.  Then in 1967, the castle and all of its surrounding lands were sold to the people of Kilkenny.  The price was a mere 50 pounds.

Today, Kilkenny Castle is a public park, with an extensive front lawn with trails and fields, and a back side with an elaborate garden.  It is my understanding that inside the castle, there is also a grand collection of art work, but because we were there during the holidays, the inside of the castle was closed.  I guess we will just have to take another trip.

Kilkenny Castle, Ireland

Kilkenny also has a wonderful nightlife, with many taverns, restaurants and stores scattered among the tiny streets.  Although on the night we were in town it was St. Stephen’s Day, so the crowd we were told was a little younger than normal.  But we still managed to find a nice place to eat, and a pub or two to enjoy a few pints.

The Streets of Klikenny

Kilkenny is also home to the Smithwick’s Brewery, but again, since we were there during the holidays, we could not take a tour.

Smithwick's Brewery, Kilkenny, Ireland

For anyone who may have sampled a bottle of Smithwick’s, you will notice the label brandishes a simple castle motif.  No doubt inspired by the centerpiece of its hometown, Kilkenny Castle.

Kilkenny Castle

All photos included in this post were taken with my Samsung Galaxy tablet.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Illumination (part 2)

Sticking with the Illumination theme, here a second picture from our trip to Ireland.  Still from Dublin, this is the Half Penny Bridge, or as the locals call it, Ha’Penny Bridge.

Half Penny Bridge, Dublin

The Half Penny Bridge is a foot bridge that spans the Liffey, connecting Northern Dublin with the South at Ormond Quay and Wellington Quay.  It gets its name from the toll that used to be charged to make the cross from one side of the river to the other.

The bridge itself is very simplistic in both style and function, and at least at the time I used it was not nearly as congested as the crossing down the way at O’Connell Street.  Although I would imagine it is much more crowded later on, when the Temple Bar area starts to empty out.

Home Again – The Return from Ireland

We just got back last night, and as soon as we dropped our bags at the front door, Maureen and I lapsed into a coma like state, and slept for the next twelve hours.  The trip was a success.  I am sure I will post much more later, but here is a quick retrospect of our trip to Ireland.

We started with an eight-hour layover in Manchester, were we got to take a look at Manchester Cathedral.

Manchester Cathedral

Next stop was Limerick.  This photo is of the Treaty Stone, marking the Treaty of Limerick in 1691.  Limerick Castle is in the background across the river.

The Treaty Stone

From there it was a quick drive to Kilkenny to see another castle, and a really neat town.

Kilkenny Castle

Next up was five days in Dublin with my family.  There will be a lot more on that later.  Pictured below is Kilmainham Gaol, the old Irish jail.

Kilmainham Gaol

On New Year’s Day, we drove up to one of our favorite cities the last time we were in Ireland, and that was Belfast.  We arrived after dark, and as we wandered the city center we found a sculpture entitled, “The Spirit of Belfast.”

The Spirit of Belfast

Our final destination was Bushmills, although we did return to Belfast for one more night to meet up with friends before we had to head home.  This is St. John the Baptist Church.

St. John the Baptist Church

And Now, The End Is Near

It is with great sadness that I am forced to announce the end of Summer 2012.  We all knew it was coming, but that last really good weekend on Jordan Lake is always a mix of good times and a little sad.

The sun sets on Jordan Lake, near Oxford Wisconsin.

There was time for one more cook out, one more jump in the middle of the lake, and one more night on the town.  Trust me, Bad Brad’s was not ready for the clan that descended on them.

One more chance to tell fish stories on Jordan Lake, 2012.

There was time to cast the line one more time, play in the sand one more time, and sit in the water and do practically nothing one more time.

Laura and Marney take one last “swim” on Jordan Lake, 2012.

And after a few last drinks at the back of the lake, there was also time for one last “special” swim for the 2012 season.

So long Summer.  See you back here next year.

Sean and Fiona

At a point when most people would toss in the towel and head for the hills, Maureen and I decided to continue our night in Dingle after being kicked out of Dick Mack’s.  It was not for lack of being served that we decided to continue our night, but more accurately was because of being over served that we made the decision to follow one of our new friends Sean onto an afterhours bar called An Droicead Beag, or The Small Bridge in gaelic.

It can easily be said that An Droicead Beag is the most colorful pub in all of Dingle, but this would not be some sort of metaphor.  The outside walls are painted bright yellow, so that even late at night, it is not a difficult place to spot.  A sign by the door announced nightly live music, although this night it was not traditional Irish music, but a single fellow with his guitar.  The inside of the pub was more in line with what we would see in a standard Irish Pub back home, but it was still not as Americanized as some.  We quickly ordered our pints, and found a place to set a spell, then we would meet the first person on our trip who took an honest disliking to us.

An Droicead Beag (The Small Bridge). The most colorful pub in all of Dingle.

Her name was Fiona, and to honest, she probably had no good reason to like us.  Because Fiona liked Sean, and Sean didn’t feel like liking Fiona that night so he let her know that by introducing her to us as his cousin, giving a Irish angle to the term “kissing cousins.”  And thus would begin our entry into a bizarre love triangle – with Fiona trying to get on Sean, Sean trying to extricate himself, and the two of us just wanting more pints and somehow caught in the middle – likely Sean was using us as an excuse – he couldn’t leave with her because  he “had to entertain his American friends.”  Or maybe not, we didn’t really care.  But since we were there, and caught in the middle, why not enjoy the soap opera?

As the pints continued to flow, and the singing and the dancing continued on into the night, somewhere along the way we lost track of Sean and Fiona.  It is possible that Sean succeeded in slipping out the back door.  It is also quite possible that Fiona was triumphant in her persuite.  The ultimate outcome really doesn’t matter.  Somehow I doubt that this honeymooning couple from Chicago made as much of an impression on Sean and Fiona as they made on us.  They are forever now a part of our lives, eventhough we will most likely never see them again.

Sean and Fiona. Kissing cousins at An Droicead Beag?

Ain’t love grand?

Give Me Moher

What can be said about the Cliffs of Moher that hasn’t already been said?  They are spectacular, magnificent, and breathtaking.  They are majestic, imposing, daunting, yet haunting.  They pull your body closer, almost like a magnet.

You may recognize them from The Princess Bride, also known as The Cliffs of Insanity.  The Man in Black (aka the Dread Pirate Roberts, aka Welsey played by Cary Elwes) climed them in search of his lady love.  Clearly this was the work of same bad digital imaging, but you get the idea.

(This is the part of the blog where I confess that I hijaked Tom’s post, because clearly, only a chick would know certain things.  We all got tired of waiting for him to continue, so don’t be surprised if I finish the honeymoon stories).

According to the Irish Visitors Bureau, the Cliffs are usually at the top of the list of most visited and photographed places in Ireland, with more than 1 million people having visited there in 2006.  I didn’t make it there in 2006, I was busy wooing a certain gray guy.

Having been there in years past, it was interesting for me to see what had changed since the last time, because in visiting places I had seen before, I can almost track the progress of places visited before and the Cliffs are no exception.  Long gone are the John Wayne days of the horse and buggy and the stone cottages.  Ireland modernizes daily.  I had regaled Tom with stories of the Cliffs, of clambering out to the edge, and hanging my head over the cliff, camera in hand with whomever was my travel companion.  I’d told many people about a girl from Italy, in a gorgeous priceless pink suede coat, after seeing me with my head over the edge, had me help her lay right down in the mud, coat and all, and inch her way to the edge, camera in hand.  Sure there was a fence, but it was an old stone tablet, that looked like a prop from The Ten Commandments – easily scaled and it served more as a step stool rather than a deterrent.

Apparently I wasn’t the only one who attempted and succeeded.  I hung my head from this very cliff.

Unlike the Rope Bridge, where I swore my head off, this was something I was confident I could do, I’d done it five times before, even helping others to accomplish the same feat.  When Tom and I spent lazy evenings on the deck, planning our trip over a few (too many) beers, we decided we were doing the Rope Bridge, AND getting a shot of us hanging from the Cliffs.  It would be my favorite memory.

The morning of, Tom and I arrived – me still being a little sick of the car and the treacherous roads.  The Visitor’s Center that had just been started during my last trip had been completed, and things were a little switched around – the parking lot was moved across the street, there were these giant steep stone steps up and down the length.  Much like rest of Ireland, the Cliffs had modernized.  The edges had been rendered completely unreachable by actual fences.  You could almost hear the beer bottle of our plans break on the new concrete.  Dear Bord Falite, You Suck!

Doing what we do, we managed to roam the length, looking out by O’Brien’s Tower,  sharing bits and pieces of trivia.  The Cliffs were not busy that day, there were maybe 20 or so people.  We decided to walk to the opposite end, where the trail began, behind a fence that we were not supposed to cross where others were already walking.  The trail was closed, yet along the path, they had placed viewfinders, I guess thinking, if people are going to break the rules anyway, we might as well make a few euro out of the deal.  We arrived at the end of the trail with a few girls from Italy and saw one of Tom’s favorite signs.

As you can tell from the photo, no one pays any attention.  Because here’s our version:

Thank God!  At least one thing hasn’t changed!

Doolin by Night

Although a very, very small town, Doolin is a destination that seems to be a favorite of many travelers to the Emerald Isle.  Its location near the Cliffs of Moher and the Aran Islands certainly help with the popularity of the town, especially considering that Doolin is one of only three ports with ferry service to the islands.  There are also a number of outdoor activities available around Doolin including cave exploring, rock climbing, and surfing.  But by far, the biggest attraction to Doolin is that it is considered by many to be one of the best places to hear and enjoy Traditional Irish Music.  That was what brought us there.

When we finally got the car up the icy incline to our Bed and Breakfast, we met up with another couple named Tom and Peggy who were also staying at Seaview for the night.  They were from Boston, and although they were fans of the wrong Sox, they were pleasant enough to talk to and exchange travel stories with.  They were doing a castle tour, actually staying in various castles around the Ireland, but decided to take a break this night to travel to Doolin.  Like us, the attraction was the traditional music.  Also like us, they were disapointed to find out that there was no music to be found in Doolin on a Wednesday night in November.

Traveling in the off season does have its advantages.  For the most part, I really don’t like to be around large crowds of people, and we were spared having to rub elbows with some smelly guy from who knows where.  The down side is that things tend to be closed.  It reminds me a little of the great Bicentenial Tour of 1975.  Yea, I know.  The Bicentenial was in 1976, but my father being quite the thrifty guy, much like his son, thought we could miss out on the overlarge crowds of people flocking into our country’s capital by going a year early.  The only problem being that many of the star attractions were closed getting spruced up for 1976.  It was not quite a Griswald ending, although I do remember something about our Family Truckster being towed while on the National Mall.

No music in Doolin on a weeknight was one of the concessions we had to make for our offseason trip, although it really had no affect on our ability to have a good time that night.  Once we had cleaned up from our day of travel, it was just a short walk down the hill and across the bridge to Fisher Street and the spot where our poor tired asses would rest for the next few hours.  Our hot spot for the night was a quiet pub that we spotted from the window of our room.  Dinner and pints would be had at Gus O’Connor’s Pub.

The pub was fairly empty when we arrived, with just a few locals gathered near the entrance.  We decided to just eat our dinner at the bar insted of taking a table or booth, and of course I ordered a Guiness to go with my meal.  Maureen ordered the fish and chips and I ordered what they called a traditional bacon and cabbage, although I was tempted to order the Guinness Stew yet again.  Both plates were very good, and we had our fill.  By the time we finished, Tom and Peggy had arrived with another couple.  They were an older couple from Australia and traveling on a retirement trip through Europe.  We joined them at some chairs by the fireplace and talked about life and our travels.  Although we had missed out on the music, the conversation and comeradery lasted into the night, spurred on by a few more pints of course.

Around 11 o’clock I decided it was time to try and give the kids a call.  Since we had left, I had not talked to them.  The phone we picked up in Belfast was capable of calling to the States, but timing was not always the best.  I figured the best time to call would be between 10p.m. and midnight, that would be between four and six back in Chicago.  After four because I had to make sure the kids were home from school.  Before midnight because I needed to make sure they could understand me.  As I walked out into the cool night air, I looked up at what I knew had to be a spectacular sky.  There was not a cloud in sight, or at least none that I could see.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t really see any stars either, since I smashed my glasses just hours after we landed in Ireland.  At first, I was a little irratated at my bad luck, but I quickly reminded myself that this was just another reason why we would someday need to make a return trip.

The phone call was brief, but I did enjoy hearing the surprise in Molly’s voice as she realized I was calling from so far away.  And the quality was amazingly clear.  This crappy little throw-away phone, bouncing a signal off a satilite somewhere out over the Atlantic Ocean was getting better reception than I ever got back home in Chicago.  I would have talked longer, but I knew we only had limited time available on the phone.  I promised them we were behaving ourselves, really only half a lie, and then headed back inside to warm up by the fire.  Another pint of Guinness was sure to speed up the warming process.

Surprisingly, Maureen and I were the last of the three couples to depart Gus O’Connor’s Pub that night.  We stayed for one more pint after the others had left, and then wished the bartender and a few remaining locals a good night before we headed out into the cold.  As we walked back up the hill, I was suddenly very aware of how quiet it was in this nearly deserted little town this late at night.  There was almost no wind, but our voices seemed to carry across the chilly air itself.  There were no sounds of cars or people or any type of creature big or small.  I could see how some might find this all consuming quiet somehow creepy, but to me it was just soothing.  At this point in time, we really had no care at all in the world.  No jobs, no problems, nothing at all to worry about.

That is until we found ourselves at the bottom of that steep icy driveway with more than a few pints in us.

I believe it was my time to let a few key words slip.

Doolin the next morning

The Morning After - An icy look back on Doolin from our B&B.