Go See Do Photography

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

Tag: road trip (Page 1 of 5)

Fredericksburg, Texas

Fredericksburg Christmas Lights

When planning our time in the Texas Hill Country, I did a ton of research, saving places to TripAdvisor. When I looked at the map, most of those pins were near Fredericksburg, so we planned to spend extra time in that area. Fredericksburg was also mentioned heavily in the Hill Country episode of Samantha Brown’s Places to Love which I have written about in previous installments of this trip report as one of the inspirations for this after-Christmas trip.

Fredericksburg, like many of the other towns in the Hill Country,  was founded by German immigrants in the mid-19th century fleeing from religious persecution back home. Today, the German feel is alive and well in Fredericksburg and from the architecture to the food. We had a wonderful German meal at Austlander, right on Main Street downtown. We also had a great breakfast and took some amazing pastries back to the hotel from The Old Germany Bakery. Honestly, the pastries may have been better than the ones we got from Naeglins in New Braunfels.

Fredericksburg Christmas Lights

Christmas Lights in the Marketplatz

Fredericksburg is also home to the National Museum of the Pacific War. Fredericksburg was the home of Admiral Chester Nimitz who was a fleet commander of the United States Navy during World War II. One of the sites that makes up the museum is the Admiral Nimitz Gallery which is housed in the old Nimitz Hotel that was run by Nimitz’ grandfather when it was built in the mid-1800s.

The museum is dedicated exclusively to the Pacific theater of the war. Part of the museum is the Pacific Combat Zone which features a re-creation of a Pacific island battlefield, including a Quonset Hut, a PT boat and base, a Japanese tank, palm trees, and machine gun placements. In the 1970s, the museum was gifted with a Japanese Garden of Peace and in 1995, the museum added a Plaza of the presidents that pays tribute to the ten United States Presidents who served during the war.

Another big draw to the area is the many wineries. If you read the trip report outline of this trip, you know we visited a lot of them. I will dedicate next week’s blog post to that exploration!

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.

Cascade Caverns

Cave from Above Ground

Cavern from Above Ground

The Texas Hill Country is known for wildflowers, wine, and natural beauty. I was surprised to learn that caves are a very common natural phenomenon in the Hill Country. Many Hill Country towns have their own caves. We decided to do some cave exploration on our drive from San Antonio to Fredericksburg. A few of the caves in the area require reservations and were all booked up because it was a holiday (New Year’s Eve). We ended up at Cascade Caverns because they operate on a first come first serve basis.

Cascade Caverns SignCascade Caverns, located in Boerne (pronounce Bur-nee), has been offering public tours since 1932. Informal tours date all the way back to 1875. The tour lasts 45 minutes to an hour and takes you through a half-mile of winding corridors to the cathedral room, 132 feet belowground. The shining star of the cave tour is the cathedral room which is home to Texas’ only natural in-cavern waterfall. The cave maintains an interior temperature of 60-65 degrees Fahrenheit all year. It was raining when we visited but water seeps through the cave allowing it to grow and change (slowly) all the time. In 1993, part of Father Hood, a Hollywood Pictures Film starring Patrick Swayze and Halle Barry was filmed in the cavern. A giant T-Rex prop from the film is still standing by the gift shop today.

Cave dwelling creatures are very unusual creatures. The rare Cascade Caverns salamander, a brown and white, translucent amphibian was first discovered in this cave and can only be found in Cascade Caverns and the nearby Cave without a Name. Many tricolored bats also make their home in the cave.

Cathedral Room Ceiling

Ceiling in the Cathedral Room

This was my first cave experience (although I have toured a few mines) and I appreciated that the ceiling was high enough that you are able to walk upright through most of the cave. It was surprising to me that you don’t have to wear a hard hat when on the tour, but I guess the ceilings are high enough in most places that it’s not needed.

The tour was very reasonable ($19.95 for adults and $12.95 for children at the time of writing) and the cave is not far out of the way if you are traveling between San Antonio and Fredericksburg. Beware that it can be wet in the cave, so appropriate clothing and shoes are important when you’re exploring a cave. In the summer, the cave does occasionally flood, so it is important that you call ahead to make sure tours are operating. If you are looking to camp nearby, there is a campground on the property. For more information about current tour offerings, visit CascadeCaverns.com.

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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Remember the Alamo

The Alamo

When you think of San Antonio, Texas, the first thing that comes to your mind is probably the Alamo. The Alamo is one of the most famous buildings in all of Texas and everyone has heard the phrase “Remember the Alamo”. Before visiting, I had heard from numerous people that located in with all the modern buildings, the Alamo seems small and underwhelming. So, I went into the visit with very low expectations.

Known originally as Misión San Antonio de Valero, Alamo was built by the Spanish as a mission to the local native people, just like other San Antonio Missions. Construction began in 1740. By 1793, the mission was secularized, meaning the land and assets were divided up among the mission residents. By the early 1800s it became occupied by the Spanish military and was used as a political prison during Mexico’s War of Independence. Later, the Alamo was used as San Antonio’s first hospital.

In 1835, the Texas Revolution began. Following Texan victories at Mission Concepción and the Grass Fight, the Texans began to fortify both the Alamo and the town of San Antonio. For thirteen days, the Alamo was under fire. On March 6, 1836, the fighting ceased after all of the defenders of the Alamo had perished, including Davy Crockett and James Bowie (of Bowie knife fame). On April 21 at the Battle of San Jacinto, cries of “Remember the Alamo” were heard from the Texans in battle.

The Alamo is free to visit but reservations are required. Somehow, in all of my obsessive planning, I missed the reservation part and when we got there, all of the reservations to visit the inside of the church were taken (reservations are not needed to walk around the gardens and see the statues outside the church building).  We were told all that was available was an outside history talk. I was disappointed in this, but we paid a small fee for the talk and went on our day. When we came back the next day for the talk we discovered that at the end of the talk we got to go inside and see the Alamo. I don’t know why this wasn’t better explained to us when we bought our tickets, but it worked out in the end.

The history talk went into much more detail than the brief history I outlined here. If that is something you’re interested in, I highly recommend it! Photography is not allowed because of the sensitive nature of this historic site, so if you want to know what it looks like inside, I recommend you get your free tickets in advance at thealamo.org.

Thanks for stopping by! To find out more about this trip, check out 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 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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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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Wordless Wednesday: Fredericksburg

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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Hiking Eagle Falls

Eagle Falls Kentucky

After booking our campsite for Cumberland Falls, I discovered an Only in Your State article describing Eagle Falls as the best waterfall in Kentucky. So, after our first night in our new camper, we put on our hiking clothes and hit the trail.

The trail to the falls is a mile and a half round trip moderate hike. The trail from the parking area to where you cross Eagle Creek basically has you climb up and down a substantial hill. Once you get to the highest elevation on the trail, there’s a marker for an overlook in .1 miles to the top of the hill. Don’t be tricked by this, there is nothing up there except some old playground equipment. There is no view to be seen from there. Save yourselves the steps when you get a stunning view of Cumberland Falls from the main trail.

Once you cross the river, there is some rock scrambling following paint on boulders. It can be tricky to get your footing, but by the time you get to the falls, it is totally worth it. We got there early and it was after labor day so we were able to sit on the rocks and just watch the falls for a bit with the place completely to ourselves. It was nice way to relax before climbing back to the parking area. Somehow, the trail felt easier on the way back to the car. Maybe Eagle Falls refreshed me.

This is a very popular trail so going early or during the week would allow you to beat the crowds. Going off-season doesn’t hurt either. In the heat of the summer, people flock here to cool off in the pool under the waterfall. It was not warm enough for that when we visited but I can imagine it gets busy in Kentucky heat.

Overall, if you are in the area and have the time and ability for this hike I definitely recommend it. Sitting by the base of a waterfall without another soul around is a very special experience!

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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