What I saw on my vacation this morning. The travel agent said it would be exciting but Expedia never prepared me for this! I should have brought my Lonely Planet guidebook.

Many people commenting on the blog say I should take a vacation. Many more suggest I work too hard.  Or that I'm going stir crazy in the house and studio. I thought I would take everyone's advice so I grabbed my passport, packed a small bag, grabbed a favorite travel-oriented camera and lens and headed to the airport right after swim practice. I didn't know where I would go but I thought I'd get the process rolling. I pulled into the half empty parking garage and grabbed my stuff. Excitement building by the second. I thought I'd splash out for a premium level vacation with no regards for cost or time. 

I walked up to the American Airlines counter. The person behind the counter looked up from the novel she was reading, took another bite of her chocolate chip cookie, washed it down with some Earl Grey tea, cleared her throat and asked, "Can I help you?" A tumbleweed distracted us for a moment as it billowed across the airport lobby and headed toward the Southwest Airlines counters...

"Yes. I'd like to book a first class ticket to Rome, Italy." I thought it was a prudent vacation request since Rome is one of my favorite cities in which to photograph. I pulled several platinum cards from my wallet, trying to remember which one paid back the most points for miles flown. But when I looked up to see the progress of my ticket request I saw the clerk standing there, nearly motionless but with a sardonic half smile on her face. 

"Yeah. No!" She said, looking at me like I was daft. "The E.U. isn't allowing Americans to travel there right now. Try someplace in this country." 

"Okay." I said, disappointment dripping from every word.  "Any suggestions?"

She went on to explain that I could go to NYC and quarantine in a hotel room for two weeks but that once I emerged back into the sunlight I'd find all the great restaurants closed and the museums mostly shuttered. Oh, and all the public bathrooms are also closed. She guessed I could walk in the park.

I asked about San Francisco and she let me know that all of the restaurants, every single one of them, were closed forever, same with the art galleries, and all the rich people in the city had already moved to their fortified places in Napa, etc. so maybe there wasn't much to do there either. 

I asked about Seattle but all the five star hotel rooms there are currently booked up by anonymous agents of the federal government so.....that would be a long shot too. Same in Portland. But at least, she mused, there would be ample outdoor activities...

We went through city after godforsaken city until finally we winnowed my choices down to lovely Des Moines and spicy Oklahoma City. I was a bit frustrated at that point and I asked her where the bulk of trendy, chic, affluent, artsy, elitist travelers were flying to, statistically, for vacations this Summer. She replied...

"Well, there is this one city in Texas that's really cute and desirable and has some great little take out places, and outdoor live music, and some cool private swim clubs, and some gorgeous/enormous houses in the western hills that catch the evening breezes. It's surrounded by lakes and rivers. It's pretty trendy but so many of the folks who live there are into outdoor sports and coffee. You might like it!"

I told her that sounded like the best option and asked her to book me a first class, roundtrip ticket on the next flight. 

"So, you just need one roundtrip ticket to Austin, Texas? Is that right?" She asked. I said that it was and slid my credit card across the counter to her. I thought the fare was a bit high for such a short trip but she was right, it's a charming place in which to spend time during a pandemic. I was able to find a number of very good coffee shops in my first few hours after arriving here today. And the place I checked into is nearly as comfortable as my own house at home. That's a nice thing.

But right now I'm investigating traveling the country in a giant recreational vehicle, just to assuage the worry about my non-vacation which so many of you have expressed. I kind of like the idea of traveling from small, rural town to small rural town (bereft of culture, restaurants, attractions, etc.) while driving something bigger than a Greyhound bus. I like the idea of getting 6 miles to the gallon (unless there is a hill or a head wind) because gas is so cheap right now. I'm just grappling with the whole concept of me having to keep up with something called a "black water" tank. That, and the whole idea of cooking with propane. But I'll let you know how it goes. I've always wanted to visit Montegomery, Ala. and then there's always Universal Studios in Orlando....  

Let me know about your vacation plans...

One of the first things I did on my vacation this morning was to channel my inner Alec Soth and find something mundane and featureless to "interpret." This building worked for me. 
I'll send a large print along to the HRC and see if they need it for their permanent collection. 
And, of course, Austin is known for its trees.
I admired this one for a while. I wonder why the gift shops don't have
post cards of it.
I toyed with the idea of living in a high rise loft space for a while.
The shared air conditioning sounded quaint and cozy.
I guess these are rides for tourists. I'm a little acrophobic so I didn't bother finding out 
how to get a ticket. 

All of today's "vacation" photos were taken with a black, Panasonic GX8 camera and an ancient, PenFT 40mm f1.4 lens which settled in nicely at f2.8 for.....every image. It's a sweet lens. Better than a Zeiss Otus or a Leica Summicron. I love mine.

OT: Hey, did everyone see what Apple, Inc. stock did in after-hours trading? It popped over $25 per share on news that they had double digit growth y-o-y for the quarter that just ended. Maybe we should hire them to deal with the pandemic. They sure know how to get stuff done!!!

Double OT: And the stock is splitting 4:1 in August... now that's a decent vacation!!!!!!!!!!

added end of day: And...Apple stock gains 10% in one day. Now that's a real vacation. 


Michael Ferron said...

Just talked to the sis in law up in Northern Vermont. She is a nurse. Not a single case of covid in her hospital. Pretty up there with summers that feel cool next to ours. Do understand they don't want us there :)

David K said...

My vacation plan is to upgrade my video conferencing capabilities so that I can do virtual get togethers better.

Sadly, all the decent video conferencing equipment is back ordered.

Chris Beloin said...

Greetings Kirk -
I almost booked my flight on a May trip to New York City for two weeks of photographic bliss - this was back in Feb. Well that did not happen!

Travel: For now, I've been touring the great museums of the world by finding good YouTube videos. The key is to find a detailed oriented camera-competent "guide" who is knowledgeable and likes to film the descriptions and provide a verbal overview as they walked the museum. For example, I could watch 3-4 videos on the great Ford Museum in Michigan and get a pretty good idea of their general inventory and what it is all about + I could go back and watch sections again to get more detail. I like those Presidential limousines, including the JFK car.

Austin is also on my list, but it might look more like Singapore by the time I get there - lots of skyscrapers going up every week from what your photos show.

Take care and keep safe - and keep on posting.


atmtx said...

Kirk, I love it.

I considered other vacation spots after Hawaii locked down their borders. Except, most places aren't very fun if the restaurants, stores and museums are closed. Camping and outdoor activities can be good, except, I'm a city person and have never been camping and don't have a desire to start.

I have a renewed appreciation for Austin, which was never diminished and has only grown stronger.

Robert Roaldi said...

Is it windy in Austin? Looks like a few of your trees are tilted.

Four couples, one of which I know, drove from Toronto to some place in northern Florida many years ago because the 4 husbands wanted to do some spring golfing. This was in March when Toronto can still be cold and no courses are open yet. It was so hot in Florida that after the first day two of the husbands refused to golf anymore, so they and the 4 wives spent most of the next few days by the hotel's indoor pool sipping drinks. Now, sitting by an air conditioned pool sipping drinks is not necessarily a bad way to spend the day, but they could have done that 20 minutes from home.

I've always thought that booking into a luxury hotel in your own city for a weekend might be a really fun "staycation".

karmagroovy said...

There's a place near you where a whole bunch of bats fly out from underneath a bridge at sundown. If you bring a camera and a 6-pack that's considered a vacation during this time.

Anonymous said...

That was hilarious - thank you. By the way, online rumors have it that there is actually one single trattoria in San Francisco that is still open, though for take-out only, but the locals are keeping it a secret to keep desperate Texans from flying in just to experience it. But I guess I should check Snopes to see if it is just an urban legend.


Martin Thomson said...

We Brits are always told Americans don't do irony! Thanks Kirk, a breath of fresh air in today's mad world.


Rufus said...

Merica sure is a strange place right now.

In Europe right now we are all looking across the pond in bewildered confusion.

Europe has a few problems and the virus is coming back in some places, but generally we don't seem to be spiralling into weirdness and division. It remains relatively civilised and unified really, from Paris to Rome to Amsterdam to Frankfurt.

As for vacations, not taking long ones but I am taking a camper van into the mountains of Wales this weekend. They are quite busy in the touristy spots but its not hard to find an utterly remote place with an amazing view that both calms the mind while stimulating the senses. I have my aero press coffee maker and a big bag of photo gear in the van, and a Yorkshire terrier for company.

My wife has decided to leave me to it for a few days. Apparently it is going to be warm and sunny, which sucks from a photo point of view. I will take pictures at sunrise, fuelled by caffeine and gazing through the waist level prism of my Bronica.

We all find comforts in the ways that suit us - be it home or away. For me, socially isolating in an air conditioned camper van with mountain views seems a very agreeable way to spend a couple of days.

DGM said...

"all the five star hotel rooms there are currently booked up by anonymous agents of the federal government"

You have a wonderful sense of humor. The same way I like my coffee: Dark and bitter sweet.

Thanks for the laughs.

J Williams said...

I was waiting anxiously for Apple to report at 4:30 yesterday. It makes up a large (~10%) portion of my 'Covid Early Retirement' portfolio. I can now spend at least several more months safely cocooned in my home thankfully. I have owned the stock for many years. I've had an iPhone for many years due mostly to trying to be compatible with my kids, but I've never been a big apple fan myself until recently. My PC is still a Windows machine, but I actually find I use my apple 'devices' more than my PC now. The phone is of course indispensable and our iPad is the go to device for a quick internet browse, but it is the watch that has sold me on Apple. Very uncharacteristically for me I pan to buy the new Watch 6 as soon as it comes out. The blood oxygen sensor can help with sleep monitoring and should be able to tell you if you suffer from sleep apnea. It could also be an early indicator if you have Covid. Greatest company on earth and my hat is off to Tim Cook for his excellent management of this behemoth.

seany said...

Much better Kirk one of the funniest and best pieces you've written recently, made my day keep it going, life is more enjoyable when we don't take it too seriously.

TMJ said...

We are spending our summer vacation at home, fortunate to live in a beautiful part of the world, North Yorkshire, UK. So apart from walks from home, Fountains Abbey, Mount Grace Priory, Beningborough Hall, etc., are all nearby. You must book timed entry in advance, but the venues are very well set out for social distancing and plenty of IPC.

Unfortunately, next Saturday, the 8th, would have been our daughter's wedding to Ben, marquee, catering, band, photographers (still and video), etc., booked. But managed to transfer it all until the 4th of June next year. Fingers crossed!

Edwin J Lopez said...

Hi Kirk,

Loved, loved, loved the sport. Your lighthearted sarcasm just made me smile. It also motivated me to go out early this afternoon and channel my Alec Soth.

Keep up the good work, Ed

Raymond Charette said...

«Humor is everywhere, in that there's irony in just about everything a human does.»
Bill Nye, The Science Guy.

dinksdad said...

Projects are a good diversion during pandemics. I converted my 2001 Safari van to a stealth camper and just converted my old mountain bike to an e-bike. Then I made YouTube videos about the projects. So those are two more projects to keep me busy. A friend gave me Robert Caro's enormously detailed bios of LBJ. About half way through book one and two more to go. Lots of mentions of Austin and environs in those. Who knew LBJ was a fun guy at parties?

Nigli said...

I spent a lovely 10 days swimming!! (badly, wetly enjoyably) in a lake near Berlin, with my family. And some bicycle riding and photography, of derelict mines.

Unknown said...

Austin in the summer? Crazy, too hot and humid.
How about Iceland? Has a very nice ring to it.

One of your funniest!


MikeR said...

what DGM said.

Lenya R said...

Thanks for the Alec Soth reference, Kirk. Modern art is often a great mystery to us, the unwashed masses, but he may be the greatest of them all.

Anonymous said...

Like the place version of "love the skin you're in".

I love my city.


Kirk Tuck, Photographer/Writer said...

Alec Soth = naked emperor. Just my opinion. Saw a bunch of his original prints at the HRC. The guard had to come and wake me up.
HRC = Humanities Research Center at UT Austin.

If photo "art" gets any more obscure we may need subtitles...

Kirk Tuck, Photographer/Writer said...

Unknown, humidity makes the photos more "real."

Anonymous said...

The camper that you mentioned you may want. This appears to be just designed with you in mind!


Wess Gray said...

Kirk, You can say what you want about Oklahoma, but all of us here know Texas is beneath us! :-) I wish you and your family a lovely weekend.

kodachromeguy@bellsouth.net said...

"lovely Des Moines and spicy Oklahoma City". You missed some really good ones: Jackson, or Tuskaloosa, or Little Rock. Just as much humidity as Austin but with a touch of decay and poverty.