Seeing Family

Happy July 4th to all our American readers.

As Sue said in the last post, we wrapped up our eating fest in Chicago and headed down to Houston to visit Sue’s middle brother. Our three-hour flight to Houston took us a couple of hours longer than expected because we sat on the runway in Chicago waiting for American Airlines to get updated paperwork into the pilot’s hands for some cargo that was in the hold. (Number 1 worst airline, according to me.) We taxied out the runway, sat for an hour, then taxied back to the gate, waited, got the paperwork and then headed south after a two-hour delay. The joys of travel. Once in Houston, Brian (Sue’s brother) met us at the airport and we headed to his house for a fun-filled weekend visiting with him, his wife Chelsey and our adorable niece (Lexi) and nephew (Ethan aka Jett).

On Saturday, Sue, Brian, Jett (and a friend of Jetty’s which meant the entire trip became a gigglefest, so cute) and I took a quick ride over to Austin for a baseball tournament (afternoon temps in low 100s Fahrenheit – high 30s in Celsius because Sue and I are trying to get used to the using Celsius). It is about a three-hour ride, and along the way we stopped at a perfect bit of Americana. It is a glorified–and I mean really glorified gas station and convenience store called Buc-ee’s.

It is enormous, something like 100 gas pumps and a store that sells everything from coffee to all types of travel food (including home made BBQ sandwiches) to kitschy Americana to a store’s worth of Buc-ee branded clothes (including Buc-ee bathing suits!) and things like portable ice machines, tents and meat smokers. It is fabulous. Only in America and only in Texas would there be a convenience store so large that it takes 5 minutes to walk the length of it. I LOVED IT! When we arrived at the ball field we found out that Jett’s game was delayed by an hour or so. We settled in to sweat and wait, but Brian was kind enough to lend us his (Chelsey’s) SUV for the afternoon and we went into Austin. More accurately we headed to a couple of breweries in South Austin. We visited St. Elmo Brewing Company and Vacancy Brewing Company. Both are recently opened in a very cool little area that has breweries, wineries, (a sake brewer? OK) and a distillery along with a bunch of hip businesses like design and marketing companies. They both were very good and we had a great afternoon out.

We stopped for dinner at an excellent little Thai restaurant called Ros Niyom Thai in Round Rock, where our hotel was. Sue ordered her food hot, and the waiter said that she could have it one, two or three in heat, where three was the hottest. Sue ordered three, I ordered two. The food came and it was great, just the right amount of heat for both of us. After we were done the waiter asked how it was and Sue said perfect. He then said that hers was level 2. That their food is medium, hot and Damn Hot and even he couldn’t eat the damn hot.

On Sunday morning we watched another of Jett’s baseball games (9 a.m. temp 34C) and then headed back to Houston for one more day with the family.

Our flight home was uneventful. We flew Spirit airlines, booked the upgraded seats and checked our luggage. (Spirit better than American? Who knew?) The entire process was a little less smooth than other airlines, you had to check in at the airport first, the line to check our bags was a bit long, the boarding was a little more chaotic than usual, nothing–not even water is free on the flight. But, all in, the seats were comfortable, the flight was on time, and our luggage came out fairly quickly, so it was not a bad flight. I’d rather that that a two-hour incompetence delay and a bag of pretzels.

Once home, Sue went into packing monster mode and has packed up much of the house and arranged for our movers. I mostly did work and spent about 6 hours in a dentist’s chair getting three same day crowns. Yes, I have terrible teeth.

For the July Fourth weekend, we made our last real road trip. We went to my sister’s house (about 2 hours away near Harrisburg, PA). Much of my side of the family was there, including my sister (well it was her house), my brother-in-law Mario (it’s also his house), all four of their adult kids, my mother, my son Josh, my daughter-in-law Liz and Hannah, the most amazing granddaughter any grandparents could hope for. For July 4th my sister had a BBQ and invited another dozen or so people including our brother-in-law Karl and his wife Helen. It was wonderful to see them as it has been about 2 years. I had never met them and they are wonderful. They don’t live far from us so maybe if/when we get back we will see them again. The temp was about 30 C, so, of course, Mario lit a fire in the fire pit at about 2 p.m. and kept it going all night as the temps dipped into the high 20s (yes, Celsius again). As always, they had enough food to keep a small army fed for a month, so most of it was gone by the end of the evening. Mario, Karl and my nephew Michael put on a small firework display and everyone survived with all their fingers. An excellent day was had by all.

Monday we returned home to our partially packed house, and prepared for the week ahead. So much to do, so many things still to be organized and what seems like so little time.

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