Category Archives: Travel

Moving to Austin

Guest post by Sunshine
Becca got into the University of Texas McCombs School of Business, so sooner or later we had to get all, well most, of our stuff to Austin.  We chose to do it in late July, via a rented Budget moving truck and a great old American road trip.  Due to time constraints imposed mostly by my need to get back to DC and my job, our stops were limited.  Despite this, the trip was still long and eventful.  The following is a brief recap with pictures…including a giant bug!
photo 3-roadtrip

The Plan:

Get as much of our stuff from DC to Austin between Sunday, July 27th and Monday July 28th.  Our route consisted of 1318 grueling miles of Virginia, Tennessee, Arkansas, and Texas.  I have cousins just outside Nashville, so that would be our mid-wayish stopping point.  The drive broke down into 11 or so hours of road time on Sunday, and 13 hours on Monday.

The Execution of the Plan:

Like most moves, it went slower than expected.  Also, the movers broke my dresser in a couple places, one of which I had warned them about not breaking.  (Damage claim form is pending with the company).  Even though we hit the road later than we wanted, we made good time through  northern and middle Virginia.  We drove right by the Natural Bridge Zoo, one of our favorite spots in that part roadstops for its ELEPHANT RIDES and TIGER CUB PICTURES.  The only major downside to this leg of the journey was learning just how much gas the truck guzzles down.  It was a lot.  I think we stopped for gas 7 times over the two days.  And so ends Virginia.

We eventually entered the Volunteer state with a head of steam.  However, that quickly dissipated when we learned that the apartment we planned to move into the next night had bamboozled us with the old bate and switch.  At least that’s how we see it.  Best case scenario for them is that it was an accidental miscommunication over which utilities were included.  Either way, we were now pissed at them and wanted to find a different place, rather than rent from them without some concession on their part.  Driving a moving truck full of stuff 1300+ miles with no place to move into can be a bit stressful.  Becca handled it with ease.  As I drove us due west along I-40 in Tennessee, Becca hit the phone and started working us a deal with another apartment while we waited to hear if the original apartment would honor the deal we were offered.

Tennessee then hit us with the craziest lightning storm I have ever witnessed.  For over an hour and twenty minutes, a 120 degree space of sky to the south and north of us lit up like the 4th of July, just with the fireworks shooting down, not up.  It was constant lightning, with no exaggeration.  There was always a lighting flash or several for over an hour!  I was so impressed, the horrific rain that came with it at times didn’t even bother me.  The rain did slow us down quiet a bit, which wasn’t fun.  But all in all, I am happy I got to see the lighting storm.

We finally reached my cousin’s place around 11:45pm.  After trying to walk into their neighbor’s house, we were quickly redirected to the correct home, where we showered and passed out.  It was a short visit, as we hit the road by 7:00am, but the Bautistas are great hosts no matter how short or long the stay is.  Becca and I love Nashville, so we were sad we couldn’t get into town for some live music and a beer.  If you have the time, we recommend it.

photo 4-roadtrip

Monday morning saw us headed west along I-40 again towards Memphis and the Mississippi River.  Becca got back to work on the phone to find us an apartment that we could move into that night.  It was a bit stressful.  We stopped for breakfast somewhere between Nashville and Memphis, we will call it Nashphis.  I mention this only because there was an enormous moth on the wall of the place we got breakfast.  So enormous I took a photo with a dollar for scale.  Shortly after the photo was taken, the moth pushed me up against the wall, called me a nerd, and took the dollar from me.

As I wheeled and Becca dealed, it became clear we might actually get a cool place in a nice apartment building in the Zilker area of Austin.  However, we needed to stop, find some internet, and take care of some emails and online applications to get the apartment.  The City of Memphis, with their crazy pyramid obliged.  Memphis is home to Fedex and the Fedex Area where the Grizzlies play.  It is also home to a random hotel with free wifi where we stopped to take care of business after the Starbucks wifi wouldn’t work.  After 45 minutes of applying and whatnot, we decided to walk around the famous Beale Street.  It was pretty cool, even at noon.  We got a refrigerator magnet, snapped some photos, and took in the vibe as best we could, before hitting the road.  I’m sure the local Memphis stations play it like every 30 minutes, but as we left the city and crossed the mighty Mississippi, the truck radio played Walking in Memphis.  We ate it up.


A new state, Arkansas!  Becca and I had never been to Arkansas before, so this was very exciting, until it wasn’t.  Sorry Arkansas, but we were in a hurry, so we couldn’t take in more of your exciting features, like the Diamond Crater Park.  The Memphis stop and huge moth encounter just ate up too much of our time.  Also, Arkansas gives off a very flat, boring vibe.  Next time I make the drive, and their will be a next time,  I will find a diamond or stop somewhere cool, and update this section.  Still, Becca and I experienced Arkansas, so we crossed another state off our list.  (without looking, we are each somewhere around 30; so more than half done!)

Into Texas:  Texas was exciting to enter as it was our last state of thephoto 7-roadtrip trip.  Unfortunately, it is huge, and therefore, we were still nowhere close to Austin.  As the miles cruised by, Becca got our approval through at our new apartment and confirmed our breakup with the previous place – circle of life.  After the 7th gas stop, we were finally getting close.  Just to mess with us, the travel gods gave us our first taste of bad traffic in the last 20 miles.  Things slowed down to 5-10 miles an hour for a bit, and my sanity yo-yoed about the cabin of the truck.

Eventually, we got into Austin.  We took in the night skyline, and then found our new building.  After picking up our keys from the leasing agent around 10:45pm, we were ready to pass out.  Unfortunately, the movers weren’t coming until Tuesday morning.  So after some sweaty, curse-filled minutes fighting through the moving truck, we liberated our mattress, boxspring, and a box of our potted plants.  Sadly, no sheets or other linen like items could be obtained.  We decided the mattress was good enough and passed out about midnight.

That’s how we got to Austin.


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Statue of Liberty

Guest post by Sunshine
In our quest to see the “New 7 Wonders” in 7 years, Becca and I have added the additional challenge of seeing as many of the semi-finalist Wonders as possible.  Some are going to be tough to fit into our busy schedules, like the Moai of Easter Island or Timbuktu in Mali.  But others are safe to visit and in cities or countries we plan to visit anyway.  So with the eyes still set on the 7 Wonders prize, we are trying to see others when we can.  Conveniently, there is a pretty cool semi-finalist just 4.5 hours north of DC in New York.

baby beaNew York City has a lot going for it these days: My sister, brother-in-law, and niece, Imogen, all live there, and Michigan has started playing a basketball game there once a year.  In addition to those two items, which inspired a weekend trip up to NYC last year, the city also just happens to have my newest niece, Beatrix, and America’s only semi-finalist wonder, The Statue of Liberty.

So with a new Michigan game scheduled for Saturday, December 21st, I let me sister know Becca and I would be heading up that weekend.  Even though nothing was set in stone, we had heard that tickets to the Statue of Liberty can sell out way in advance, especially if you want to go all the way to the crown.  So in July or August, we bought crown tickets for the morning of the 21st here.   It was a gamble, but we thought it was worth it.

As the months sped by, we got our tickets to the Michigan v Stanford game at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn and the trip was confirmed.  It was a good thing we had the crown tickets as well.

We rode a DC2NY bus up on Friday and got in early enough to grab a late dinner with my friend Jeremy and his fiance’.  We ate at a great taco place a couple blocks from his place, Tacombi.

The next morning we were off to catch our boat ride to Lady Liberty.  The ferry ride over to the island is pretty fun in itself.  If offers great views of the city and it’s always fun to be on a boat.  We also lucked out in that is was fairly mild weather for a late December day in NYC.  Be prepared to jockey for space on the boat as pretty much everyone is trying to take photos of the city and the statue as you approach.

Here is some quick background on the Statue of Liberty: “The statue, designed by Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi and dedicated on October 28, 1886, was a gift to the United States from the people of France. The statue is of a robed female figure representing Libertas, the Roman goddess of freedom, who bears a torch and a tabula ansata (a tablet evoking the law) upon which is inscribed the date of the American Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776. A broken chain lies at her feet. The statue is an icon of freedom and of the United States: a welcoming signal to immigrants arriving from abroad.”
statue of liberty

Even though we were coming from the continental side, the statute was quite something to behold.  Once you’re on the island, there are free audio headset tours, and you can explore all around at your own pace.  The statue base features a really nice museum documenting the history and construction of the statue.  Be sure to take some photos as any World Wonder experience, even semi-finalists should be well documented.  Once inside the statutes base, you can take an elevator or some stairs to the top of the pedestal on which the statue stands.  There are some great views from the pedestal, especially with Manhattan in the background.

If you’re lucky enough to have crown tickets, and I highly recommend getting them,  you have the pleasure of climbing the tightest, twistiest spiral staircase I have ever been on in a public setting.  Just to make the roughly 150 foot climb more challenging, the staircase is very dimly lit to increase your chance of slipping.  All in all, I loved the added difficulty of getting to the crown.  It made it seem like more of an adventure, because it was tougher than I expected it to be and there was like a 10% chance I might get hurt on the way up or down.

The crown was much smaller than I expected or the opening credits of Perfect Strangers led me to believe.  You can only fit about 6 tourist up there with one park ranger to babysit us.  The views of NYC were even cooler from the crown, and additional picture must be taken.

After our now successful trip to American’s only semi-finalist Wonder, we cruised back into Manhattan.  After a visit with the nieces, we met up with some Michigan people for the game.  After the early devotion we poured Nik Stauskas’s way last year, he rewarded us with an impressive 19 pt and 4 assist night.  More importantly, it came with a win against the mighty nerds of Stanford 68-65.  Robinson and Irvin also had solid nights in the win.  The game was fun and a great second showing for our second trip to NYC.

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Authentically Austin

I’ve been lucky enough to visit this vibrant city two times now, so I thought I would share my love. If you know me, I just love small town charm and although Austin is large in size with it’s many individually owned businesses and start up mentality, it still manages to keep the hometown feel but with the energy of a big city.  Austin’s vibe is a unforgettable, its food mouth watering, and its creativity contagious. Walking around enjoying the sunshine, you just want to stop and take everything in. It’s an Instagrammers’s dream.  Here’s a few things I just loved!
post card mural austin texas

    • Visit Rainey Street and stop in one of the once-house-now-converted-restaurants.
    • Try fall off the bone BBQ at La Barbecue while hanging out by the pool.
    • Dance the night away at Barbarella.
    • Eat breakfast taco’s at Torchey’s Tacos or at my best friend Jenny’s apartment.
    • Try on cowboy boots at Allen’s Boots.
    • Take a photo at the famous “Greetings from Austin” postcard mural.
    • Boot scoot at Rebels and try not to drool too much over the line dancing cowboys.
    • Hang out at the patio at Little Woodrow’s.
    • Cheer on UT at a football game. Hook ’em! Texas Football Game
    • Eat along Lake Austin and say hi to kayakers galore.
    • Hike up Mt. Bonnell and enjoy a beautiful aerial view of the city. mt bonnell
    • Walk down the dirty 6 at night and revel in the mayhem.
    • Tour the UT campus, pretend you’re a student, and have lunch on the South Mall lawn. Learn more about UT and it’s history here.
    • Shop along South Congress. Stop and grab food at one of the many food trucks. south congress austin texas
    • Grab coffee at Joe’s.
    • Take a pickle shot at Kung Fu Saloon.
    • Stay outside as much as possible. I highly recommend scooting around the city with your best friend.

Just writing about this makes me want to go back. After one visit, I’m sure you’ll be ready to pack up your bags and move to Austin…at least I did.

Here are some other posts about Austin worth checking out:


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Creating with the Stars 2014

creating with the starsOne of my favorite DIY blogs, East Coast Creative, hosts an awesome contest each year called Creating with the Stars.  Hundreds of bloggers submit their DIY projects for a chance to collaborate with some amazing blog stars.  11 contestants are chosen by the blog stars and one contestant with the most votes also wins a lucky spot. I’m hoping to win one of the coveted 12 spots, so please take a second to vote for my project!

Just click here and then click on the thumbnail for project #132, “Stirring up some art”. The more you click, the more votes I get!

Here’s the project I submitted. You can view how I made it here.

coffee stirrer art

My project didn’t win a spot last year, but I’m proud of Brian and my work. You can view how we made it  here.
diy built in closetThanks for your support!!!

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Basketball, Baby, and Brooklyn

ROAD TRIP, BASKETBALL and BABY: Michigan v. West Virginia & Imogen in Brooklyn, NY

Guest Post from Sunshine!

michigan canadian flag

As you can guess from most of the posts on this blog, Becca and I love to travel, even if it’s just a weekend trip 4 hours away from home.  So normally, it doesn’t take much to get our butts moving and out the door.  Well, back in December 2012 (sorry for the delay on this, but better late than never, right) we had TWO great reasons for taking a road trip up to NYC.  The University of Michigan men’s basketball was 10-0 on the season and headed to Brooklyn to play West Virginia at the Barclays Center, and my niece, Imogen, was in need of a visit from her aunt and uncle.  Imogen, along with her parents, my sister Claire and brother-in-law Seth, just so happen to live in Brooklyn, NY within walking distance of the Barclays Center.  When things get this convenient, you just can’t say no to a quick trip up north. 

So on Friday, December 14th, Becca and I headed to NYC on a Bolt Bus, or a DC2NY Bus, or some other bus line.  It was almost a year ago now, and I can’t remember all the details.  The ride flew by with little of note and we got in to NYC in time to meet the family, play with Imogen and see some friends that night.


Saturday was game day.  As it turned out, Princeton was playing an earlier basketball game at the Barclays Center that day.  Seth went to Princeton, so he went to the earlier game with Claire and Imogen, while Becca and I took in some of the city. 

Come game time, Becca and I got kitted out in our Michigan best and met up with Claire and Seth for the game.  Just to make things a little more fun, Becca and I decided that Michigan shooting guard Nik Stauskas, a Canadian, was our new favorite player.  To broadcast our fondness for the 3-pt sniper, we made Canadian flags in maize and blue, rather than the standard red and white.  Becca deserves most of the credit, as she did the hard work of getting the flags made and encouraging me to make and bring some sort of sign/flag in the first place. The flags turned out great and we were pumped to let Nik know just how much he meant to us. 

When we got to the Barclays Center, we discovered that Seth had gotten us great seats in the lower level behind one of the baskets about 30 or so rows up from the court.  It was a perfect spot to flash our maize and blue Canadian flags where Nik would see them.  Obviously, we were certain Nik would be inspired by our creative show of support.  I was personally counting on Nik to respond with 90-100 points, and probably swing by our seats at halftime to buy me a Molson and French fries with gravy.

Our plans were almost immediately wrecked, when our section attendant informed us that the Barclays Center does not allow fans to hold up signs, posters, or flags.  This policy is absurd.  Especially when applying it to people like us who were in seats with no one behind us and then an 8 foot high wall that lifts up the next section behind us.  Our flags could literally not block a single person’s view.  Other than this silly application of a fun-limiting rule, the Barclays Center is a pretty great venue for a basketball game.  I highly recommend it.

Luckily, before we got shot down by the section attendant, we did get to flash our flags long enough for my buddy Jeremy to snag a few photos of Becca and me from across the area.  Sadly, we suspect our brief flag waiving was not long enough for Nik to spot us. He merely had a good game, scoring 10 with 4 rebounds, 1 assist and 1 steal.  A solid stat line, but far short of the expected 90-100 points.  Despite this much lower scoring output, Michigan won the game 81 to 66.  A win’s a win, and I’ll take it with out without extensive maize and blue Canadian flag waving. 


Even with our limited flag exposure, we latter learned that we inspired some folks back in Ann Arbor, as a larger and quite awesome maize and blue Canadian flag was produced by a Michigan fan and displayed frequently at Crisler Arena during the second half of the Michigan basketball season.  Excellent move Ann Arbor living Michigan Fan, I support your actions.  Bonus support to the staff at Crisler Arena for letting fans actually display signs, posters, and flags at games.

All in all, it was a great weekend trip to New York.  I highly recommend it, especially if you have a 1 year old niece to play with and your favorite college team is playing in town.

Update:  The University of Michigan basketball team liked their trip to NYC and the Barclays Center so much, they are going back this season (I was unable to confirm that they scheduled this second trip because they though our flags were pretty awesome, but I suspect it played a factor). The wolverines will be taking on Stanford on Saturday, December 21st.  Coincidentally, I also have a new niece, Beatrix, up in Brooklyn as well.  Obviously, Becca and I will be making a return trip that weekend.  As a bonus we got tickets to go to the top of the Statue of Liberty.  Look for an informative blog post recap of the weekend sometime in the future.  Hopefully, I’ll get it done in less than the 10 months it took me to write this one, but no promises.

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