Go See Do Photography

A Lot of Travel, A Little Bit of History, and a Whole Bunch of Photos

Category: Road Trip (Page 1 of 7)

San Antonio Missions National Historic Park

Exterior of the Mission San Juan

Located just south of San Antonio, Texas, San Antonio Missions National Historic Park is made up of four Spanish missions built beginning in the mid 18th century to spread Christianity to the Native people of Texas. These missions are walled compounds featuring a beautiful, old, Catholic church and buildings where the priests and Native Americans lived. Altogether, the missions are the largest collection of Spanish Colonial architecture in the United States and are the only UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Texas.

The missions only stretch eight miles from the city and can be accessed by River Walk’s Mission Reach, a hiking and biking trail that allows you to visit the missions without needing a vehicle. If you’re not that athletic, there are bus tours of the missions as well as a self-guided driving tour. The missions are open daily and are free to visit.

We began exploring the missions at Mission San Jose (below) which is home to the park visitor center. When we visited at the end of December, the visitor center was closed but there were rangers stations at the door with maps and to answer questions about the park. They were also stamping the National Park passport for you.

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Mission San José was founded in 1720 because Mission San Antonio de Valero (AKA The Alamo) had quickly become overcrowded with refugees when the East Texas Missions were closed. The building was built in 1768 from local limestone and still stands today. Of the four missions located within the park, this one is the biggest and most ornate. If you only have time to visit one of the missions, this is the one to see. It has the biggest grounds and you can see where the priests and the native people lived.

The second Mission on our mission tour was Mission San Juan (top). Mission San Juan Capistrano was originally built in 1716 in East Texas and was moved to San Antonio in 1731. Not to be confused with Mission San Juan Capistrano in California, the white exterior makes this mission different from the others on this tour. In 2012, a $2 million renovation project stabilized the foundation of the 300-year-old church.

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Our third mission of the day was Mission Espada. Espada was originally built in 1690 near present-day Augusta and named San Francisco de los Tejas. Just like Mission San Juan, Espada was moved to its current location on Espada road and was given its current name in 1731. Many modern churches in the area based their architecture around Espada including St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Wimberley, Texas. Nearby, the Espada acequia and aqueduct are also managed by the Park Service and continue to bring water to the missions as well as nearby residents.

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Located closest to the city, Mission Concepción was our fourth stop on our Mission tour. Misión Nuestra Señora de la Purísima Concepción de Acuña was founded in 1716 in East Texas and was moved to its current location in 1731. In 1835, the Battle of Concepción was fought on the grounds and is believed to be the first battle in the Texas Revolution. In 2009-2010 the mission underwent extensive restoration projects and is now the best-preserved of the missions.

If you are planning to visit the missions, bear in mind that these churches are still in operation and hold masses on Sunday mornings. When we visited, we were not able to go inside Mission San Jose because there was a funeral. Luckily, it was on the way back to San Antonio and by the time we were on our way back to the city, the building was open again and we were able to see the beautiful interior of the sanctuary. For more information about the missions, visit VisitSanAntonio.com or the National Park Service.

Of course, there is one more mission in San Antonio, Mission San Antonio de Valero, more commonly known as The Alamo, I will share about final stop on our Mission Tour next week. To read more about this trip, visit the Texas Hill Country Road Trip Report. To read about some of our previous trips, click here. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Etsy and Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

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San Antonio Riverwalk

Riverwalk Bridge

After our drive through Gruene, we headed to an even more historic Texas city, San Antonio. San Antonio has been on my list for a while now, and if our short trip to Austin had been one day longer, we probably would’ve taken a drive to check it out.

When planning to explore San Antonio, one of the first things to come up is, of course, the Riverwalk. The San Antonio Riverwalk was designed to aid with flood control after a disastrous flood in 1921. Nowadays, the riverwalk is kind of the heart of entertainment in the tourist area of the city, with miles of shops, restaurants, musicians, and attractions all along the river. Being the most touristy part of the city, it’s hard to know which of the restaurants on the Riverwalk are good or if they’re just banking on tourists wandering in without a plan. We had lunch at Casa Rio which we learned on the boat tour is the oldest restaurant on the riverwalk and we were not disappointed!

Christmas Tree Lit Up

Taking the boat around the Rivercenter Mall Christmas Tree.

Tour boats drive up and down the river all day telling the history and pointing out the sights. Since we were in the city around Christmas time, I really wanted to see take the boat tour at night with all the Christmas lights around us. We got in line a little before six and had great light by the time we got on our boat. If you are planning on taking the boat tour when in San Antonio, I have a tip for you: buy your tickets in advance and then you can get on at any of the three stations. When we were walking around, we noticed that for whatever reason, the middle station had a ridiculously long time. The stations closest to the mall and in the Aztec theater had much shorter lines and were both covered (which makes a big difference in the Texas sun). Tickets can be purchased up to 30 days in advance at GoRioCruises.com.

We got a great deal on a hotel in San Antonio. We stayed at the TownPlace Suites, just a few blocks from the Riverwalk and the Alamo. Our room had a kitchenette so we were able to save some money and cook a little in our room. The only parking the hotel offers is valet and given the location, it is expensive. But, given how cheap the room was, paying for parking wasn’t that big of a deal. There are some beautiful hotels overlooking the riverwalk that I would love to stay at on a return trip to San Antonio!

Thanks for stopping by! To read more about this trip, visit my Texas Hill Country Road Trip Report! To read about some of our previous trips, click here. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Etsy and Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

One Day in New Braunfels

Ducks in pond in Landa Park
Landa Park

After landing in Austin, we drove halfway to San Antonio and stopped for the night in New Braunfels. New Braunfels featured heavily in the inspiration for this trip, Samantha Brown’s Places to Love. One of the spots she highlighted was Naeglin’s Bakery, the oldest bakery in Texas, known for giant streudel. For a weekday, the bakery was busy and it was warm so we took our baked goods and sat outside to enjoy them.

  • Jelly Donut
  • Cheese Danish

After enjoying our pastries, we headed to Landa park (top) to enjoy the warm Texas air. Landa Park offers a lot to do with a family including a golf course, mini-golf, paddle boats, aquatic park, and even a mini train, many of which were closed either due to COVID or because of the time of the year. There is also an arboretum and nature trails to explore any time of year. It was overcast but much warmer than the frosty Michigan weather we left behind.

After burning off some calories from our pastries, we took a drive through Gruene (pronounced green). With our experience with Texas limited to Austin and New Braunfels, Gruene felt like what I always imagined Texas to be like. Greune is a small town full of businesses with green pun names such as a boutique named Gruene with Envy and the Christmas store Red and Gruene. It is also home to Texas’s oldest dance hall, Gruene Hall which was also featured in the above Samantha Brown special.

After our lunch in Gruene, we continued on the road to San Antonio. Be sure to stop back next week as I continue recapping our winter escape to the Texas Hill Country! Thanks for stopping by! To read about some of our previous trips, click here. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Etsy and Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

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Texas Hill Country Road Trip

Cow at LBJ State Park

A little over a year ago we took our last getaway before everything shut down and the world changed. February 2020, we scored cheap flights for a long weekend in Austin, Texas and even though it was unseasonably cold (although not as unseasonably cold as Texas this February) we fell in love with Austin.

While we were stuck at home social distancing, we found a new love, travel shows, and one of our favorites is Samantha Brown: Places to Love. Since we had recently took a tour of Austin and the Texas Hill Country, one of the first episodes we watched was about the Texas Hill Country and we realized that the tour we took didn’t even scratch the surface of the Hill Country. When we were looking to use up our flight credit from our canceled spring break trip, we found a deal to fly back to Austin to fully explore the area.

After what may possibly have been too much research, I came up with with following itinerary:

  • December 28: Fly into Austin
  • December 29: New Braunfels, San Antonio Riverwalk, and Boat Cruise
  • December 30: San Antonio Missions National Historic Park
  • December 31: Cascade Caverns, Hill Country Wineries
  • January 1: Fredericksburg and Wineries
  • January 2: Lyndon Johnson National Historic Site and Wineries
  • January 3: Exploring the Hill Country back to Austin
  • January 4: Flight to Orlando and then connecting back to Detroit
  • January 5: Tampa and Disney Springs
  • January 6: Flying back to Michigan for real

This ended being a great trip and we have been looking back on it a lot since it has been so cold here. You might notice in my above itinerary that our connecting flight home from Orlando got canceled and the earliest flight they were able to get us on was two days later. This cancellation resulted from flight delays due to the closure of Jacksonville air traffic control due to a COVID outbreak. Needless to say, it has made us nervous to take any other flights right now.

Be sure to check back here every week as I tell the stories of our road trip around the Hill Country! Thanks for stopping by! To read about some of our previous trips, click here. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Etsy and Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

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Runaway RangeRunner First Impressions

Runaway Rangerunner

I first heard about Runaway Campers years ago on an episode of the Improve Photography Podcast as an inexpensive place to sleep on a photo trip. I have followed Runaway since then until the time was right to finally buy my own. The stars aligned and in May we put down a deposit on our very own micro camper. We were only able to run away with it for six nights before it got too cold, but I wanted to give you our first impressions of our new RangeRunner.

Camper from the dunes

Runaway calls itself America’s most affordable mini camper. They are built in the U.S. and you can visit the factory in Florida. With its low price point, it doesn’t have many amenities of the bigger, most expensive rigs. You won’t find a bathroom or kitchen inside that little trailer. Runaway currently sells three versions of its camper: the 4×8 CoolCamp, the 6×8 RangeRunner, and the off-road capable Venturist (available in both the 4×8 and 6×8 size). At one time Runaway made a version that you could stand up in called the Rouser and I know people are really hoping to see it come back soon.

Runaway campers pretty much come as an empty box (with an air conditioner) and the owner gets to modify it however they want. Some people just toss an air mattress in it and hit the road while others build cabinets and fold out beds. The camper can be whatever you want it to be.

One thing to note about Runaway Campers is they were made up of wood until the 2020 models. The new models are made out of a composite material that makes them lighter and also makes it so they shouldn’t have water damage, which has been a problem with the older models. You don’t need a big truck to tow a Runaway. We tow ours with a Subaru Outback.

We typically are people who prefer to buy used to save on the depreciation, but with these changes we decided to buy a new one. Due to higher demand and some supply chain issues, the build time on these campers is currently about 12 weeks. That is really nothing compared to some of the bigger camping brands where you may have to wait as long as 18 months for a new rig right now!

Selfie in front of the camper
Setting up camp for the first time at Cumberland Falls.

As tent campers, this little camper is really everything we need right now. If you read this blog regularly, you know that we love to take road trips, but setting up and taking down the tent many times on a trip really starts to get exhausting. With the camper, all we have to do is make sure the doors are locked, hitch up, and move on. The few times we’ve been out in it we noticed that not only is it faster to set up and take down than a tent, but it’s also easier than packing up a lot of the big rigs we see in the campgrounds. We refer to our RangeRunner as our tent on wheels.

Our little camper has also allowed us to camp in conditions that I’m not brave enough to tent camp in. We definitely wouldn’t have gone to D.H. Day with snow on the forecast in the tent, but the Runaway kept us warm and we had some power banks to run a small heater and charge our phones.

I am very excited to Runaway when the weather warms up and the snow melts. We already have four reservations booked for this summer to try out new campgrounds! To learn more about Runaway campers visit Runawaycampers.com.

Thanks for stopping by! To read about some of our previous trips, click here. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page, follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Etsy and Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

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Camping at Cumberland Falls

Cumberland Falls KentuckyWay back in May we ordered a mini camper. Because of supply chain issues and high demand thanks to COVID, it took about twelve weeks for it to be ready. Both our summer road trip and our Labor Day Weekend getaway were planned with the camper in mind. Good thing we’re seasoned tent campers since our camper wasn’t ready until mid-September. I will post more about our toy in a few weeks!

There are no dealers in Michigan that sell this camper so we decided to take a road trip down to a dealer in Tennessee to pick it up. On the way back, we camped at Cumberland Falls State Park near Corbin, Kentucky. The campground at Cumberland Falls is very small. The campground only has 50 sites all together. The sites with electricity are very small and very close together. The maximum length for a rig on the site we were on is only 23 feet so that rules out most campers. The site was the perfect size for our tiny camper for one night on our way home, but I don’t know that it’s a place I would be able to camp at for longer than a weekend. What is great about this campground is how convenient it is to the falls. It is less than a mile from the campground to the parking area. If you are not the camping type, the park is also home to a modern lodge with a restaurant.

The 69 foot tall Cumberland Falls is known as the Niagara of the South. The falls can be viewed from many platforms accessible from the parking. The platforms each give you a different perspective to see the rushing water. Cumberland Falls is the only place in the Western Hemisphere where a moonbow is regularly visible. Similar to a rainbow, a moonbow forms around the time of a full moon over the mist of the rushing water from the falls. Visit the Cumberland Falls website for dates where the moonbow is visible at the park. Overall, I highly recommend a stop at this beautiful natural gem in southern Kentucky!

Thanks for stopping by! To read about some of our previous trips, click here. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page, follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Etsy and Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my Gear Page. For information about our new Guided Photography Tours, visit GuidedPhoto.com.

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Crisp Point Lighthouse

Crisp Point Lighthouse

The road to Crisp Point Lighthouse is located near the parking area for Upper Tahquamenon Falls. Being a holiday weekend when we visited, the line to enter the parking lot was backed up for quite a ways so we decided to check another Great Lakes lighthouse off our list while we waited for the crowd at the falls to subside.

Located about 14 miles west of Whitefish Point on the rocky Lake Superior coastline, the Crisp Point Lighthouse went into operation in 1904. The 58-foot tall tower is all that remains of the structures built on this location including lighthouse keepers quarters and a life-saving station. The lighthouse itself was almost lost to a devastating storm in 1996. In 1998, the Crisp Point Lighthouse Preservation Society placed boulders around the lighthouse to protect it from future storms.

The Crisp Point Lighthouse is one of the most remote of all Great Lakes Lighthouses and the trek to the lighthouse is not for the faint of heart. GPS is not to be trusted to get to the lighthouse (similar to my Laughing Whitefish Falls experience). Instead, take CR500 from M123 and follow the signs for the lighthouse. The road is a seasonal road and is not something that a little sedan could handle. We passed a few mud-covered ATVs on our drive and I’m very glad we brought our car with all-wheel drive. If you plan to visit in the winter, a snowmobile may be the best method of transportation.

Thanks for stopping by! To read about some of our previous trips, click here. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page, follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Etsy and Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my Gear Page. For information about our new Guided Photography Tours, visit GuidedPhoto.com.

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Great Lakes – Great Summer Road Trip Recap

fiery sky sunset

Fiery sunset over Ludington State Park

It is the end of December and I finally reached the end of this trip report from a trip I took almost six months ago. It works out, though because normally at the end of the year, I recap the year and look forward to my travel plans in the future year. First off, I haven’t gotten to all the little camping trips we took after this one so that post would ruin the surprise of what’s to come. And at this point, who knows what 2021 will look like? This is not really a time for a lot of advanced travel planning. I have some ideas and some dreams. Stay tuned to find out where we actually end up!

Anyway, this trip was definitely one of the most last-minute road trips we have ever taken and where we went was largely based on where we could get in. We made it to some bucket list destinations and some of them lived up to what I had imagined them to be and some of them fell a little flat. Let’s recap:

Fayette State Park: underrated Michigan state park with a cool historic (ghost) town to explore. Most years it’s pretty easy to get a site at the campground.

Porcupine Mountains: giant state park that has both mountains and water. If you are not an avid hiker, it’s best to do some serious training to be able to fully appreciate this park.

Door County, Wisconsin: Beautiful Lake Michigan peninsula with a lot of nature and lighthouses to explore. For a Michigander, Old Mission and Leelanau are more impressive and more accessible.

S.S. Badger: Bucket list experience. Pack your patience, especially if you bring a car.

Thanks for stopping by! Be sure to stop by next week as I begin recapping our Labor Day Weekend at Tahquamenon Falls. To read more about this trip, check out my Great Lakes – Great Summer Road Trip Report. To read about some of our previous trips, click here. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page, follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Etsy and Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my Gear Page. For information about our new Guided Photography Tours, visit GuidedPhoto.com.

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Ludington State Park Pinterest Graphic

S.S. Badger

Ludington Pierhead Lighthouse

Ever since our first trip to Ludington, I have wanted to take the S.S. Badger car ferry across Lake Michigan to Wisconsin. But, at $131 per person round trip (not including a vehicle), it was always too expensive for us to justify for a short trip. Not to mention, without a vehicle, there is not much to do in Manitowac, Wisconsin on the other side of the lake. Well, this summer’s road trip allowed us to finally be able to justify the expense of this experience.

Deck of the S.S. BadgerThe S.S. Badger is a historic steamship car ferry offering service from Ludington, Michigan to Manitowac, Wisconsin. Built in 1952, the Badger is the last coal-fired passenger ship operating in the United States and is a National Historic Landmark. Originally built to move railroad cars across the lake, in the 1990’s the Badger transformed into a passenger ferry for cars, RVs, and commercial trucks. Running from May to October, the Badger takes about 450 trips across the lake each year. The trip takes about four hours and is a good way to relax and enjoy the beauty of the great lakes while immersing yourself in history.

In a year without cruising, this was a good way to get a little bit of that cruise experience, laying in a deck chair watching the water. They were even playing trivia and bingo inside. It was easy to forget that we were on Lake Michigan and not in the Caribbean.

Taking a trip on the S.S. Badger fit in perfectly with this trip and I am very glad that we did it, but I’m not itching to do it again. The four-hour crossing is long and waiting to get our car probably took an additional hour. It was late by the time we got into camp that night. Nowadays, there is a faster (albeit more expensive) option that runs from Milwaukee to Muskegon in only two and a half hours. If you’ve never taken the Badger, it is an experience I highly recommend. Just pack your patience and make sure you have nowhere to be that evening.

Thanks for stopping by! To read more about this trip, check out our Great Lakes – Great Summer Road Trip Report. To read about some of our previous trips, click here. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page, follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Etsy and Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my Gear Page. For information about our new Guided Photography Tours, visit GuidedPhoto.com.

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S. S. Badger Pinterest Graphic

Looking Back on Door County

Rock in Water at Sunset

During our time in Door County, we kept comparing it to our favorite Northern Michigan destinations like Traverse City and Leelanau. Both Leelanau and Door County are peninsulas jutting into Northern Lake Michigan. They both are dotted with parks and lighthouses. Both are popular summer destinations with a winery scene.

Door County has the wineries and the food but one thing it is missing is the accessibility of the water that surrounds it. A few of the towns on the Door Peninsula have a downtown on the water but it just didn’t feel the same as on Leelanau. We drove to Northport, on the tip of the peninsula, and all that was there was a line of cars waiting for the ferry to Washington Island. Northport at the tip of Leelanau is home to Leelanau State park with a lighthouse, campground, and hiking trails.

Maybe my love of Northern Michigan is clouding this judgment, but I just don’t think Door County lives up to what I was hoping it would be. It is a beautiful place and I would definitely like to go back when things are back to normal and take the ferry to Rock Island, but its not a place that I feel like I have to rush back to. If you are in Wisconsin or the Chicago area, it is a beautiful place to visit. Is it worth it for someone from southeast Michigan to make the trek around Lake Michigan to see it? I’d say save the milage and go to Leelanau instead.

Thanks for stopping by! To read more about our summer road trip, check out the Great Lakes – Great Summer Road Trip Report. To read about some of our previous trips, click here. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page, follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Etsy and Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my Gear Page. For information about our new Guided Photography Tours, visit GuidedPhoto.com.

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Door County Pinterest Graphic

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