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. 

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Thursday. Walk and Look.