Wordless Wednesday: Beach Fun!

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Do you dream of taking your dog to the beach? This week on Dog TravelExperts, we’ll be discussing our recent trip with Irie and Tiki to the Texas coast plus we’ll be taking your calls live about all things related to dog travel! Our Dog Travel Experts radio show is on Radio Pet Lady Network from 8-9pm ET. Give us a call at 888-627-6008 to talk live with Paris and with Tracie Hotchner!

A Laughing Horse Lodge, Port Aransas, Texas

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On our trip to the Texas coast this week, we stayed in a dog-friendly property in Port Aransas, Texas: A Laughing Horse Lodge. Just two blocks from the beach, this property features small cottages offered either as a duplex or as a stand-alone cottage.

We opted for a two-bedroom cottage, Horse Sense (here’s the property’s photo gallery of our cottage). The cottage was a great size for us and the girls:

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The cottage included all the essentials with a full kitchen:

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…an adjacent living room/dining room, bath, bedroom with a king-sized bed, and a second bedroom (which Irie and Tiki seemed to think was a good hangout)…

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With its bright colors and beachy decor, the cottage, like the whole property, had a fun, kitchy vibe…

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A no-frills property, the rooms don’t include maid service and guests must take out their own trash and clean up and wash the dishes before leaving as well. Although not for those looking for pampering extras, the dog-friendly atmosphere of the property was a huge plus to us (and Irie and Tiki.)

The dog-friendly extras included a complimentary ID tag for each dog…

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…an adjacent large field (and complimentary poop bags)…

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…and even a self-service dog wash (great after a sandy trip to the beach!)

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Our room also included food and water bowls, a list of dog-friendly restaurants in town, and a list of area veterinarians. We especially liked their dog policy — they accept all sizes and breeds of dogs (and even welcome more than two per room!) The pet fee is very reasonable: $25 for one dog, $35 for two or three, and $50 for more than three. The fee is per stay.

Room rates vary by season; we fell into “Off Season” rates of $135 per night for a weekday stay. The same cottage would have been priced at $110 during the winter months. Summer, of course, is the most expensive season on the Texas coast; rates for the same cottage would be $199 per day during this time of peak demand.

For more information:

Disclosure: We booked and paid for our room ourselves; all opinions are entirely our own and those of Tiki and Irie!

 

Wordless Wednesday: Bluebonnets & Bowsers

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Summer is fast approaching here, and, with the rising temperatures, we know that the bluebonnets will soon be just a memory. We’re glad that we’ve had the time to go out with Irie and Tiki in search of some good fields this spring, though. As spring turns to summer, we know we’ll soon be seeing blooming prickly pear cacti, Indian blankets, and more wildflowers…although none quite say “Texas” like a field of bluebonnets! Next week we’ll be traveling along the Texas coast and we look forward to taking photos of Irie and Tiki enjoying their first trip to the Gulf!

Wordless Wednesday: Black Rock Park, Buchanan Dam, Texas

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Our latest day trip involved a visit to the Highland Lakes, the chain of lakes that snakes through the Texas Hill Country to Austin. The first lake in the stair-step chain is Lake Buchanan, the largest lake in the chain (and in the entire area).

We’d just left Inks Lake State Park earlier in the day where Irie and Tiki loved swimming and hiking along the lakeshore. At the park, we’d looked at the cabins…but they can’t be rented by travelers with pets. That leaves two options: tent camping and RV/trailer camping. We’d love to camp in an RV or trailer…but our budget dictates a cabin rental…so we kept looking…

At Lake Buchanan, though, we found these affordable cabin rentals that welcome pets! Five of the lakeview cabins at the Lower Colorado River Authority’s (LCRA) Black Rock Park welcome dog travelers! Cabins rent for $45 a night. Lake Buchanan, we’ll be back!!

Kate Shepard House: Mobile’s Doggie Treat

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Photos by Jack M. Purser

Located on a quiet street smack in the middle of Mobile, Alabama, the Kate Shepard House Bed and Breakfast is an azalea-lined sanctuary for canine visitors and their guardians. The stately Victorian mansion, built in the 1890s, once served as a private school for the children of Mobile’s elite. By the time innkeepers Bill and Wendy James bought it, the house had fallen upon hard times, so they were pleasantly surprised to discover that the building still had its original stained glass windows. A full renovation followed, and the Kate Shepard House, now listed on the National Register of Historic Places, has been delighting travelers with or without pets for ten years now.

This dog-friendly property comes equipped with a friendly dog. Koa, a great big furry red Chow Chow, greets visitors with a soulful look and, says Wendy, has never met a dog he didn’t like. On call 24/7, he can be found padding benignly through the halls or flopped out for a snooze in the foyer. “He gets more fan mail than we do,” says Wendy.

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As Koa can attest, the Kate Shepard House combines comfort with elegance. There’s a baby grand piano in the parlor and stained glass windows in the stairwell, but there’s also a big front porch from which to enjoy the flowering shrubs and century-old magnolias. There’s plenty of history, too. When Wendy and Bill bought the house, they discovered its attic held a treasure trove of family papers dating back to the Civil War, along with the schoolbooks which are now displayed in the home’s library.

The three guest rooms are designed to offer modern comforts with authentic period touches. My favorite, the Mobile Bay room, is located on the first floor and has a carved queen-sized bed, a sitting area and private bathroom with a claw-foot tub with hand-held shower. Upstairs, the Isabel Room has an antique brass-and-iron queen bed and private bath with a tub-shower combination. The Barber Room has a carved oak queen bed, sitting area and private bath with a slipper tub and hand-held shower.

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Breakfast at Kate Shepard House is your most important meal. Served in the formal dining room, it features specialties including Pecan Praline French toast and, during my visit, beignets. Other guest favorites include baked Shepard Eggs and Triple Berry Spoon Biscuits.

The Kate Shepard House is conveniently located near downtown Mobile and area attractions including the Mobile Carnival Museum and the USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park. Wendy is happy to help guests plan their itineraries—and offer tips on the best dog-friendly local restaurants, including the funky yet beloved Callaghan’s Irish Social Club in the scenic Oakleigh Historic District. She can also give tips on the best places for dogs to romp, such as the Mobile Botanical Gardens, located at 5151 Museum Drive, which welcomes dogs on leashes.

Details: Mobile, Alabama, on Mobile Bay in the southwest corner of the state, is easily accessible via Interstate 10 or U.S. Highway 98. The Kate Shepard House Bed and Breakfast is located at 1552 Monterey Place in Mobile’s historic Old Dauphin Way neighborhood. The bed and breakfast welcomes some pets with prior notice. There is a $50 per night pet fee.

For More Information:

Wordless Wednesday: La Villita

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As we mentioned in yesterday’s post, this past weekend we headed to San Antonio both for the Amazing Pet Expo and to take photos for our upcoming DogTipper.com’s Texas with Dogs guidebook. For as much as our dogs love trips filled with lakes and parks, we know they don’t like big city life so we called on a professional model for this shoot: Preston from PrestonSpeaks.com! We had a great time in the Alamo City and came home with some super photos for our book!

Postcard: Casa Rio, San Antonio, Texas

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One of our favorite restaurants on the San Antonio River Walk has long been Casa Rio. Since 1946, this restaurant has been serving Tex-Mex right on the banks of the river.

The choicest tables at Casa Rio are at riverside, and, if you’re traveling with your dog, you and fido are welcome to dine at one of the outdoor tables; on crowded weekends, you may have to wait awhile for one of these seats. It’s worth the wait. With tables right on the edge of the river (many of the River Walk restaurants are located about 10 feet back from the water’s edge), you’ll have an unbeatable view of the action up and down the river.

This past weekend, we dined at Casa Rio with Rachel and Preston of PrestonSpeaks.com. Service was excellent and the waitstaff happily brought Preston out a Styrofoam bowl and water as he sat with us.

This restaurant dates back to 1946, when it was built by Alfred F. Beyer on land first granted title in 1777 by the King of Spain. A hacienda was built here during the city’s Spanish colonial period, and today it remains the core of the restaurant; cedar doors, cedar window lintels, a fireplace, and thick limestone walls are evidence of that early dwelling.

This restaurant was the first business in San Antonio to take advantage of its setting on the River Walk. The owner used canoes, gondolas, and paddleboats, which eventually evolved into tours and dinner boats, San Antonio’s first river cruises.

Even the menu is historic. The “regular plate”—a combo that includes a cheese enchilada, tamale, chili con carne, rice, and beans—was introduced in San Antonio in the 1800s and has been appearing on Casa Rio’s menu since 1946. Today it’s joined by the “deluxe dinner,” which adds a crispy beef taco and guacamole to the mix.

Casa Rio is open for lunch and dinner daily.

Wordless Wednesday: Bluebonnet Time!

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It’s bluebonnet season here in Texas! They’re just starting out but we found this almost mature field on Friday and had to take the obligatory portrait. Peak season in this part of the state isn’t until early April but these blooms were definitely ready for spring!

Now it’s time to prepare for today’s Dog Travel Experts radio show airing tonight at 8pm ET on the Radio Pet Lady Network!

Today we’re joining in the Wordless Wednesday hop hosted by BlogPaws:

Improving Your Dog Vacation Photos

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Do your dog travel photos sometimes look nothing like the planned picture? Scenics are just a blur in the distance; the sun has washed out half of the shot; everyone look posed. But you can capture your dog vacation or day trip with a little pre-trip preparation. With today’s high-tech cameras and some practice before the trip, you can improve your photos and return with pictures that will bring back memories for years to come.

Here are a few helpful hints:

  • Know Your Equipment. It has happened more than once that a vacationer buys a new camera, sets off on his trip and comes back with unrecognizable shots. The best camera in the world isn’t worth having if you don’t know how to use it. Read your owner’s manual then practice, practice, practice. With digital cameras, there’s no excuse not to shoot a lot of photos.
  • Get Close. Try to fill the frame with your subject. Now, move in even closer! Most cameras will focus up to a distance of three feet with no special equipment.
  • paris-john-enchantedrock-hiresUse the Rule of Thirds. Imagine your camera’s viewfinder is covered by a tic-tac-toe board. The rule of thirds says that the center of interest in your photo should lie at any place where two lines intersect. Never place the subject in the middle square, which is the natural tendency.
  • Use Fill Flash. Sometimes there’s plenty of light to take a shot, but shadows make the light uneven. Or the background is well lit but your subject isn’t quite as bright. You’ll especially have this problem in forest-covered parks. The solution: use fill flash.
  • Take Unposed Photos. Photos when your dog is looking directly at the camera are always special…but they’re also difficult to get. Don’t forget to shoot some “unposed” photos of your dog. Capture those moments as your dog is looking in the distance, walking down a sidewalk, sniffing a new dog he’s met on the trip.
  • Move To Your Dog’s Level. Unfortunately, many people photograph their dogs from their own point of view. This results is photos of dogs gazing up at the camera. For a more professional look, kneel or sit so the camera is at the same level as your dog’s head. For an unusual perspective, try getting even lower and photographing from the ground up at your dog!
  • Check All Corners. Give your shots a ‘once over’ to check for telephone poles, garbage cans and litter.

Photography on the road can be fun, exciting and worth all the trouble when you look back on the finished product months and years later. With a little preparation, you may find that dog travel photography can be a “snap!”

 

Postcard: Badlands National Park

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The Sioux named it “mako sica” or “land bad.” The early French-Canadian trappers called it “les mauvaises torres a traverser” or “bad land to travel across.” Today travelers from around the world call Badlands National Park in South Dakota a great vacation destination.

Pet Regulations: Pets are permitted in Badlands National Park with restrictions. Your dog must always be on a leash no more than six feet in length. Pets are allowed in developed areas, such as campgrounds and picnic areas, and other areas open to motor vehicles, such as gravel and paved roadways, roadway corridors, and parking lots. Pets are prohibited from hiking trails, public buildings, and backcountry areas, including the Badlands Wilderness Area and areas with prairie dog colonies. Leaving your animal unattended or tied to a fixed object is prohibited, as well as an entanglement hazard for your pet.

This year-around park boasts some of the most spectacular geological formations outside the Grand Canyon. Purple, yellow, gray, tan, red, orange and white layers hint at the varied sedimentary layers that make up this quickly eroding land. (Its one-inch annual erosion is one of the highest rates known.)

Prairie dogs, badgers, deer, fox, antelope, bighorn sheep and coyotes share the park with over 400 bison which graze among 50 kinds of grasses and 200 varieties of wildflowers. Wildlife can usually be seen during the early morning and late evening hours, also the best times for photographing the brilliant hues.

Unlike many national parks, this one is generally not crowded, and visitors can drive the winding roads without traffic, imagining what the journey was like for the first settlers who crossed the area with no drinkable water and no firewood. Today’s travelers have a much easier journey, with paved roads, full service campgrounds, and a gift shop featuring locally made items.

The lodge is located near the Cedar Pass Visitor Center, which features displays of prehistoric bones found in the park. Sabre-toothed cats, miniature camels and horses, and even a rhinoceros-like mammal called the titanotheres once roamed this land, and exhibits of many of these early residents are on display at the center.

Are We There Yet?

Although the Badlands geological region extends up through South Dakota and into North Dakota and even southern Canada, most visitors experience this rugged land in the Badlands National Park, located 51 miles east of Rapid City on I-90. From the Wall Drug Store exit, head south on SD 240, the Badlands Loop Road. This 32-mile loop takes travelers on a scenic tour past rainbow colored ridges and steep canyons formed by centuries of erosion.

What’s There To Do Here?

Badlands isn’t the spectacular kind of Western park like Yellowstone or Grand Canyon, its beauty takes a more careful look and appreciation. The best way to get an appreciation for its delicate ecology is with a visit to one of the Visitors Centers. The largest is the Ben Reifel Visitor Center at Cedar Pass, where you’ll find films on the park as well as exhibits. Info: Tel. 605/433-5361. During the summer months, a second visitor’s center, the White River Visitor Center, is open in the Stronghold District area of the park. Info: Tel. 605/455-2878.

Once you’ve learned more about the park, a good way to see it is on the 30-mile Loop Drive. (There’s also the 30-mile Sage Creek Road but it is gravel.) If the day’s not too hot, you can take a hike on one of five trails.

When to Go

The summer months are the park’s busiest, but even then you won’t find huge crowds. This park gets about 1.3 million visitors a year. A summer visit here is generally hot. If you come in the winter, expect lots of snow and possibly wind.

What Are We Doing Next?

Mt. Rushmore National Monument is a top attraction in this area; see that section for more information. The number one attraction near Badlands is Wall Drug. Travelers from around the world come to this massive store on the edge of the Badlands National Park to shop, dine, and just soak up the offbeat Western atmosphere. Dogs aren’t allowed indoors.

For More Information:

Photo: Shaina Niehans, NPS