Sunday, August 1, 2010

Adventures in Germany

The Wright's embarked on their grandest adventure yet,  a 2 week trip through Southern Germany.  Our good friend's The Taylor's were kind enough to host us in the middle of their attempt to move back to the US after 7 years abroad.

Yes, it does look like a post card but this is the view of Berchtesgaden
 from the top of the hill near the hotel we spent our 1st two nights. 

While in Berchtesgaden, we saw some amazing places including

Hilter's Eagle's Nest.  You can see how high it sits as well as the views.  Here's a shot of Mason and Mom hiking down from the Eagle's Nest to the entrance where the buses picked us up. 

At the base of the Eagle's Nest was an incredible bunker system Hitler had constructed by digging into the side of this granite mountain.  We walked through some of the 10% or so of the tunnels they have restored.

One of our highlights here was a trip across Lake Konigesse to see St Bartholoma's chapel.

This is an alpine lake and short of crossing the mountains in the background, crossing the lake is the only way to reach this chapel.  All the boats are electric, they don't allow motor boats on the lake.

Here is a shot of our hotel in Berchtesgaden.

This is the view from the path we would walk into town every night for dinner.  We are 2 hours or so from Italy here and we dined the first night on traditional German fair and the 2nd on Italian.  Both were very good.

All suited up for our tour of the salt mines.  Yes, there really are salt mines and the interior was pretty amazing including a great wood slide we all took from one level down to the next.   Deep inside the mines, about 50-100 feet underground, we crossed a small lake inside one of the salt caverns.  Travis even scored some small salt shakers.

We left Berchtesgaden for Garmish but along the way we got sidetracked in the little village of Ramsau and found this church that was worth saving for posterity.


Our next destination was the town of Garmish which is both a military resort and a great small German town.  Mason and Michelle hiked up the Hollental Klamm Gorge the next morning while Dad and Travis hit the pool

Notice the water has a greenish tint?  That's not the lighting, that is all the minerals in the water from the glacier melting.  Quite the hike and Michelle enjoyed her new hiking shoes.

Here's the crew having dinner in Garmish.  Oh was this good. Weinerschnitzle and apple struddell.  The food was amazing.

This is the whole crew less Kurtis who's on photo duty after dinner.  Boy did we need the walk

Our adventures continue to  Neuschwanstein, better known as Crazy Ludwig's Castle and the inspiration for Walt Disney's Magic Kingdom.  Here's a shot of Mason and Michelle.  The bridge they are standing on goes over a ravine that is a good 400 feet deep.  No, Dad would NOT go out there.

We took a horse drawn carriage up to the castle but you still have a pretty good hike uphill to the entrance for the tour.  LOTS of hiking on this trip.  Sorry, no cameras allowed inside but the tour was impressive.

What do you do with a luge run in the off season?  You put a go-kart sized car on it with nothing but a brake and you charge folks 1 Euro (about a $1.30) for 30-45 second rides down.   Here's Travis and I trying to best Michelle's top time of the day.  And no, it's not connected to the track, if you go too fast around a turn, you look like the "agony of defeat".

On the way back to Stuttgart we stopped on the Lech River to see the falls. Again, notice the green tint to the water.

The Germans can teach us a few things about healthy living. One of the attractions for kids (really kids of all ages) is an indoor play place (Sensapolis) where climbing is the order of the day.  Of course your reward for the climb is getting to enjoy the dozens of different slides inside.  The building was broken into 4 areas, space travel and Science, a forest, a castle and a pirate ship.  This is the forest:

Here's my favorite pirate manning the cannons:

Next up was the Mercedes Museum, here is Dad and Travis out front:  Best deal of the trip, only 8 euros.   You take an elevator 8 stories up then the gallery is a giant corkscrew you walk down without having to go floor to floor.

Travis, Kameron and Kurtis in front of the world's first pickup truck

Really awesome old 500K

Travis striking a pose

Our journey now takes us to the town of Heidelberg along the Naker River.

Town square

View from castle

Backside of the castle which hasn't been fully restored yet
Next on the agenda is a visit into the Black Forest and the town of Triberg.  Best known for the largest waterfall in Germany.  We were there while Germany played Argentina in the world cup, it was fun celebrating with the locals after the game.

Not only are the falls the tallest in Germany but it is a town renowned for it's coo-coo clocks.  Michelle loves coo-coo clocks so Christmas came early for her while Travis scored a namesake (a cute but too expensive stuffed dog we call TreeBerg since we couldn't figure out that Triberg is pronounced how it was spelled)

The boys did their share of expanding international relations though sadly, Travis' offer of marriage was turned down. 

Next up were another pair of castles and Travis' biggest reminder from the trip.

Hohenzollern might have been the most impressive of our visit and the tour took us through all the history dating back to the 1500's.   And yes, it is a haunted castle and Travis found some secret passageways.

Then we were onto Lichtenstein Castle which was the smallest of the castle's we toured but in some ways the most intersting.

It's a bit hard to see from this shot but the castle is build on top of a cliff face and there is only one way to approach it which is to the left of the picture.  Notice the drawbridge.  To the right is sheer drop off about 600-800 feet down.

This might be Travis' highlight of the trip.  He landed himself a very nice Rainbow Trout and yes, we did grill him up.

OTOH, his low light of the trip was upon our return from our day of castles. Travis fell off the monkey bars and broke his upper left arm while dislocating his elbow.  A night and then most of the next day was spent in German hositals (yes, 2 of them) having the arm splinted then surgery to have it set with pins.

Here he is in front of the Stuttgart Palace showing off his arm in a sling.

And this was a fun pic of Mom and I at the base of the Stuttgart TV tower which is about 150 stories tall.

Trust me, we have hundreds more pictures but wanted to give everyone a quick taste of our trip.  We both have face book accounts with more photos to share but we thought you would enjoy just a sampling of our latest adventure.

This is Travis' Kindergarden teacher Ms Jennnings and his "Super StoryTeller" award at year end.  Yes, he is wearing a suit, he really likes putting his suit on and coming to Dad's office to have "meetings".

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Lunch With a Legand

Marty Akins, Chuck and Coach Royal

Thanks to Chuck's good friend Ron and to Coach Ken Dabbs, Chuck had the opportunity to join legendary Hall of Fame Coach Darrell K Royal along with former All American QB at TEXAS, Marty Akins at lunch at one of Coach Royal's favorite mexican foods spots in Austin.

Coach Royal and Marty are both class acts, shared some great stories and treated us like old friends not like the bunch of teenage groupies we all felt.  It is not a pun to say we all felt like we dined with royalty that day.   An opportunity to have lunch and a beer with Coach Royal is an incredible thrill for any Longhorn fan and Dad couldn't have been prouder.

Coach Dabbs had more in store for us, escorting our crew out to the Horns final pre season practice before they broke for a long weekend.   Besides seeing the '09 team going through their paces, the highlight of practice was getting to visit with Coach Mack Brown.  Along with Coach Brown, Chuck also got to visit with Horn Strength and Conditioning coach Jeff Madden as well as Coach Ken Rucker.    Not to hard to see why Coach Mack's staff is made up of such quality individuals, they take their lead from the head man.  Not surprisingly,  Coach Brown was recommended to TEXAS by none other than Coach Royal

While at practice, Chuck was able to spend a few minutes with Frank Denius.  A very interesting man and long time supporter of the Longhorns (duh, they named the practice facility after him).  What is most impressive though is that he landed at Normandy beach on 6 June 1944 and went all the way to Berlin.  Along the way he became one of the Top 10 most decorated WWII servicemen.  He regretted to inform me he had missed his first Longhorn game since 1946, ironically the Missouri game which was Travis' first.  He was in Dallas accepting the Medal of Honor Society's highest honor.  

To be able to visit with 4 such legendary Longhorns was truly a once in a lifetime experience and it will be a day Dad will share with us for some time to come.

Back to School

The new school year is off to a running start. 

Mason started his junior year at Wakeland.  Finally, an upperclassman.  We can hardly believe in less than a year we'll have a senior in the house.  Mason is excited about his class this year.  He's made both Honors Art and Honors ASL (American Sign Language).  He's also taking Physics this year, something mom never had to take in high school.  Makes my head spin even thinking about it.

Travis started Kindergarden this year and so far is loving it.  His teacher Ms Jennings is in her third year of teaching and really great with the kids.  It's been nice having Travis finally fall asleep at 8:30 every night rather then 10:30 or 11:00.  I haven't been able to get him to do that since he was 1.  The kid just doesn't like to sleep.  Ok, maybe he just doesn't want to miss anything.

It will be a big year for him, gymnastics after school twice a week, karate twice a week and another year with his Fighting Frogs soccer team that he really enjoys.  

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Another Busy Summer

Well, so much for staying quiet and staying home this summer. Again we were busy busy busy. Let's start at the beginning. Mason finished his Sophomore year at Wakeland High School and is now officially an upperclassman. He finished the school year with terrific grades and a drivers license. It's been nice to send him on a few of errands for me this summer, when he was home of course.

Travis graduated Preschool (Pre-K if you ask him) in style with a cap and gown ceremony and a reception with cookies and lemonade. He was all smiles and mom and dad were so proud. He's stayed busy this summer with gymnastics and karate and just started the fall soccer season.

The first week summer I was fortunate enough to head to Washington to visit my family for a week. My grandmother had been sick so we thought it an important opportunity to make a trip to the great Northwest. It was wonderful to see family and spend some time with my grandparents. Family is too far away but am grateful for the opportunities I do get to visit.

On a positive note for the Texas branch of the Baugh's, Kohen and Marian continue to pressure Mom and Dad to return while we hope Wes, Amy, Jared and Sarah feel the pull back to the Republic.  Hey, it's my blog, I can be selfish and self serving if I want. :)

Amy, Maren, Jace, Jared, Wes and Alex Baugh

Grandpa Tony, Jace, and
Grandma Juanita

At the end of June we were glad to have Chuck's brother Don and his family stop for a stay on their way moving across country back to California. We love them so much and wish they lived closer. (you might be noticing a pattern by now) Chuck took us all out to tour the new Cowboys stadium and then out for great barbeque. Yum. Nothin' like The Feed Store in Southlake for some great ribs. On the 4th of July we all headed down to San Antonio for a mini family reunion with Chuck's family. A weekend of reacquainting with loved ones. The kids especially had a great time together.

While in SA we all road tripped out to Fayettville Texas in the Colorado River Valley. This is a town that Chuck's 4X great grandfather (James J Ross) helped found as displayed on a monument in the town square. On the right below is a photo of the Texas Historical marker at Ross Praire which is where Stephen F Austin originally granted James J Ross his 4000 leagues of Texas in 1824. We still haven't figured out where it all went.

So much for the history lesson, we continued that trip with a visit to the famous Blue Bell Ice Cream factory, the real highlight of that day!!!!!! I'd say for the kids but Uncle Don and Chuck seemed to enjoy it more than the kids. Travis got an autograph from Miss Dottie who has done the tours there since she was a teenager.

The Wright Children and their spouses...
Kenny and Sue Wright, Lisa and Chris Wright
Linda and Pat Fisher, Norma and Don Wright,
Michelle and Chuck Wright

Linda Fisher, Travis Wright, 
Chuck Wright, Greg Wright and Don Wright

The Cousins

Tamara, Becky, Blayne, Mason, Matthew, Chris, Travis, J.R. and Greg

The above pictures were from a family dinner celebrating Kennuy's marriage to Ms Sue at La Fogota after a day of bowling. Kenny, Chris and Chuck have been eating at La Fogota since it opened, it is a San Antonio landmark now.

From San Antonio we put Mason on a plane to Washington to spend 3 weeks with his other grandparents and aunts, uncles, cousins, and great grandparents. It was a regular hoopla! Mason had a great time hanging out with everyone but really enjoyed his time helping his Grandpa Baugh (or g-pa as he is affectionately known) build bookshelves.

Chuck Travis and I took the opportunity to head to Austin and Fredericksburg for a weekend with our friends Steve and Maria. It was all part of our "eating our way through Texas" tour including lunch at the legendary Salt Lick Bar B Que spot (another pattern you may begin to notice)

Chuck, Travis, Michelle, and Steve & Maria Foxx

Chuck found a great hotel outside the city. The Hanger Hotel is done up as a World War II era/somewhere in the south pacific lodging establishment, right down to the music they play in the lobby, a lounge called the officer's club and the pin up girl t-shirts. They even had a fly up diner right next door.

Travis loved it though he loves ANY hotel. He got to watch a few planes fly in and out. Mom loved sitting up in the morning before the world was up and watching the sun, feeling the cool morning air, and enjoying the quiet.

Airport Diner at the Hangar Hotel

Mason came back to Frisco long enough to sleep in his bed for a night or two, get his laundry washed and the climb into the van with the family, his friend Parker, and Grandma Wright and head to EFY (Especially For Youth) camp in Nauvoo IL. We stopped in Sprinfield Mo on the way up to visit the Original Bass Pro Shop.  I could have spent all day there and then some but alas, I was outvoted by the rest of the tired and hungry crew.  The next morning we then headed to Nauvoo through the Lakes of the Osarks and crossed the Missouri River at Jefferson City (awesome capitol building). 

Sunset on the Mississippi
The Mississippi really is a mighty river. Muddy, but beautiful.

I had planned on hot and muggy but Nauvoo was luckily cool and comfortable the entire time we were there. A couple days of rain helped to keep it nice too. While Mason was at EFY Chuck, Grandma Wright, Travis and I toured the historical sites of the LDS church and even took a short trip over to Carthage to see the jail.  What a learning experience and seeing everything really put things into perspective.  

We also took a day and headed to Hannibal MO to visit the boyhood home of Samuel Clemens. We were able to see his home, the home of Huck, rode the Mark Twain riverboat on the Mississippi, and did a bit of antique shopping too. It wasn't hard to see how the characters of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn came to pass, considering they are all based on real people. Just an amazing piece of Americana.

Nauvoo Temple at sundown

Nauvoo is a small town but full of history and a great opportunity to really get a feel for how settlers in the early 1800's lived. Chuck was most facinated by John Browning's house, the legenday gunsmith. Travis' highlight was spending the afternoon playing with the pioneer toys in the children's area.

Travis dressed in pioneer child style playing with pioneer toys

Leave it to Chuck to find a fellow Marine in a town of less than 400. The bartender at the hotel next to where we stayed was a wounded Iraqi War Marine who worked with the bomb dogs sniffing out IED's. Fine young marine now back and trying to earn his college degree to return to the Corps as an officer and he poured a good drink too.

Even though we enjoyed all our travels this last summer it's nice to be home to our own beds, regular bedtimes, friends, and some sort of ROUTINE!  Next summer we are staying home.........maybe.

Kids find another friend

Kids find another friend

Kids with Mickey

Kids with Mickey
Fun started at the hotel