Go See Do Photography

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

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Wordless Wednesday: Red Tulip

Red Tulip in a field of white flowers

Camping in Holland

Tulip field in front of windmill

Tulips in front of De Zwaan windmill

Tulip Time Festival in Holland is one of the most popular festivals in Michigan. It takes place at the beginning of May and with the cancellation of the festival in 2020, I had a feeling it would be an even bigger deal in 2021. In an attempt to beat the crowds, we decided to go the weekend before the festival began.

We decided this would be a great time to take the camper out for its inaugural trip for the 2021 season so with just a few weeks advance planning, I booked a site at Holland State Park. This park is very popular in the summer and with good reason. It has a beautiful beach on Lake Michigan with a view of the iconic Big Red Lighthouse and is relatively close to downtown Holland. The campground is made up of two sections, the most popular section is right on the beach (which was not yet open for the season when we visited) and the more wooded Lake Macatawa unit where we stayed.

Because of its popularity, this campground comes with some very strict rules. I had to sign a paper and hang it in the window of my camper agreeing to the 1pm checkout time. There was a sign in the office saying the visitors are not allowed and campers must keep their ID on them at all times in the campground to prove that you are allowed to be there. No alcohol is allowed in the campground at any time and rangers frequently drove around, looking into campsites to check. I’m sure these rules are necessary for peak season but the fact that the campground was only 25% full at the time made a lot of this seem a little intrusive and over-the-top. If I had a reason to be in the area, I would probably stay here again, but I wouldn’t seek it out when I’m just looking for a place to camp for a weekend.

Mini camper in front of dune

Our Runaway camper at our site at Holland State Park.

As I mentioned at the top, the purpose of this trip was to visit Windmill Island Gardens and see the tulips. It was pretty chilly this weekend and we even saw snow flurries Sunday morning, but most of the tulips were in the early stages of blooming. I always enjoy visiting the garden and photographing the tulips. If you are looking to see the sights in Holland, Holland State Park is a good base for exploration, but be aware that they do have a lot of rules and they do patrol and enforce them.

This year I knew there were going to be more people than ever camping and it was going to be challenging to get into the most popular campgrounds in the summer. I decided to book the busiest campgrounds (such as this one and Ludington) in the off-season and then try out some of the more under-the-radar spots when the parks would be the busiest. For the most part, I did make reservations about six months out, and with this methodology, I was able to get some really nice sites. I am excited to share those journeys with you!

Thanks for stopping by! To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. 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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Wordless Wednesday: Holland Tulips

Tulip Garden

A Surprise Day in Tampa

Tampa Riverwalk

Skyline from the Tampa Riverwalk

Our trip to Texas was booked using a flight credit from a spring break trip we canceled right when everything was shutting down due to COVID. At the time, Spirit told us we only had six months to use it (they have since pushed that as many people have not yet felt comfortable getting on a plane) so we booked a trip to California last summer. That was canceled and we booked this trip to Texas after Christmas. Initially, we booked a direct flight but of course, with fewer people traveling, the direct flights were canceled and we were routed through Florida. On the way down, the trip was great, we got to spend time in the Fort Lauderdale airport and eat some Cuban food and we made it to Austin without issue. In the past, I have not had a great experience with Spirit and this went so well, I was singing their praises.

After our final day exploring Austin, we headed to the airport. Security was smooth but our flight ended up being delayed about an hour because Jacksonville air traffic control was shut down to be cleaned due to a COVID outbreak. This wasn’t really a big deal, we had a long layover ahead of us in Orlando. By the time we deplaned in Orlando, the terminal was jam-packed with people waiting to get on delayed flights. And not to mention there was only one restaurant still open in the terminal. We sat there and watched our flight get pushed back and pushed back. Eventually, it was saying we wouldn’t arrive back home until 7 AM.

Not long after that, we got a notification that our flight was canceled. We went up to a gate agent at a nearby gate. She was as surprised as us and directed us back through security to the check-in counter. Somehow, we ended up being the first people from our flight to reach the counter and no one working there had any idea. They directed us to the international check-in desk where a very surprised employee dealt with a planeful of angry, trapped people. To make matters worse, the earliest flight they could get us on was two days away and because they claimed it was “weather-related” they didn’t have to give us hotel vouchers or anything, just replace the flight.

We were lucky in that we had family in the area so, at about eleven o’clock at night, we got a rental car and headed to Tampa, about an hour drive away. It was nice to have somewhere to go and to see family we hadn’t seen in a while and the weather was beautiful, but it was stressful being because we were both supposed to be at work that day. That night we had dinner at Disney Springs (you can’t get me that close to Disney and not let me step on property), got a hotel close to the airport, and caught our uneventful, early morning flight home. It ended up working out OK, but we had booked another trip for the winter that we ended up canceling because I didn’t want a repeat performance of being stranded at the airport for several days.

I’m not trying to complain. I don’t want to get anything from this post. I’m just sharing the story of the stressful end of our Texas trip. And if you are planning on flying for your summer vacation, be aware that even though COVID cases are currently low, this could still happen and derail your plans.

Thanks for stopping by! To read more about this trip, check out the Texas Hill Country Road Trip Report. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. 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.

Wordless Wednesday: Tulip Garden

Tulip Garden

Wordless Wednesday: Model T

Model T in front of old Ford Motor Company

Texas Hill Country Road Trip Recap

Mission Concepcion Sign

This trip took us to two national historic parks from very different times in American history. We had some of the best German food I have had in my life and I went to Germany in high school. We toured a bunch of wineries and had some of the best wine of my life. We experienced Texas’ first cold snap of the year. Locals were very excited to tell us Northerners about the “snow” they got. I feel like I got a taste of the real Texas on this trip.

If you are planning to explore the Hill Country, the most convenient airports to fly in or out of are Austin and San Antonio. We had flight credits from our canceled 2020 spring break trip on Spirit so we went with Austin. It is less than an hour and a half drive from Austin to San Antonio so no matter which airport you fly into, you would be able to see both cities.

The Alamo from the front

Between the two cities is the historic German town of New Braunfels which is home to Naeglins, the oldest bakery in Texas. Nearby, Greune is a fun place to step back in time and explore in the area. In San Antonio, exploring the Riverwalk and taking a boat tour are a must as well as touring the Alamo (but be sure to get your tickets in advance). If you have time, head a little outside the city to San Antonio Missions National Historic Park.

From San Antonio head north to Fredericksburg. Along the way, stop at Cascade Caverns in Boerne and have lunch at Little Gretel which is where we had the best German food of the trip! A litter farther north in Comfort, I recommend a stop at Newsom vineyards tasting room.

Fredericksburg Pioneer Memorial

Once you get to Fredericksburg, there is so much to do and The Museum of the Pacific War is one of the highlights of the city. We had great meals at Austlander and Pasta Bella as well as AMAZING pastries at the Old German Bakery. There are many wineries right downtown, but if you have time, I recommend you head out of town and check out William Chris Vineyards, Lewis Wines, and Kuhlman Cellars.

On the way back to Austin, stop in Johnson City and visit the LBJ National Historic Site where you can experience LBJ’s ranch and see and the Texas White House as well as the original 19th century Johnson Settlement. If you need to get out and stretch your legs some more, I recommend a hike at Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge.

In Austin, I recommend you take a tour of the city and enjoy Ladybird Lake. It might seem silly, but check out the Austin Public Library. In Austin, I had more restaurants on my TripAdvisor list than things to do and every single one we went to was amazing. If you are in Austin, I recommend Chuy’s for Mexican food, Torchy’s Tacos, Terry Black’s Barbeque, and Ramen Tatsu-ya. If you want to get away from the city for a bit, I love getting coffee at Mozart’s and enjoying it by the water.

Some of the most popular attractions in the Hill Country are state parks. Enchanted Rock, just north of Fredericksburg is one of the most well-known. One thing I did not anticipate before this trip is that Texas State Parks require reservations to get through the gate. I don’t know of any other state that does this and being that we visited during the week between Christmas and New Years, all of the parks near where we were staying were booked up. If you are planning a trip to the Hill Country and want to see some of the natural features, be sure to book them in advance so you’re able to get in. I guess this just means I have a reason to return to the Hill Country!

Thanks for stopping by! To read more about this trip, check out the Texas Hill Country Road Trip Report. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. 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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Hill Country Pinterest Graphic Road trip Pinterest graphic

Wordless Wednesday: Johnson Family Cabin

Log Cabin built by LBJ's grandparents

Hiking Balcones Canyonlands

The view of the Colorado River from Warbler VistaThe drive from Fredericksburg back to Austin was the longest driving day of our Hill Country Road Trip. In terms of some of the road trips we’ve taken, an hour and forty-five minutes drive are not that bad, but it doesn’t hurt to get out of the car and stretch your legs and take in some natural beauty.

To stretch our legs on this day, we decided to stop at Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge. Located near Marble Falls, Balcones is about an hour drive from Austin and would be a good place to get away from the city and get into nature. As a National Wildlife Refuge, this area is popular with birders. We stopped at the Warbler Vista section of the park which offers three fairly short trails to explore. If it’s not obvious by the name, this area is prime warbler habitat.

Trail through trees

We started our visit at the end of the road at the sunset viewing platform (above). This overlook gives a view of the Hill Country as well as Lake Travis. After taking in the view and enjoying the (once again) warm Texas sunshine, we embarked on the 1.25 mile Cactus Rocks loop trail. We began on the northern branch of the trail which was significantly flatter and easier than the southern portion which had more elevation change. Overall, the trail was a pretty easy hike in the Texas wilderness. If you are looking to escape the city and get back into nature on a trip to Austin or just a place to stop between Fredericksburg and Austin, this park is quiet and off the beaten path.

Thanks for stopping by! To read more about this trip, check out the Texas Hill Country Road Trip Report. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. 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.

Wordless Wednsday: LBJ Cattle

Cow sleeping in field

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