Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Maine Trip - Sixth Day - July 9th

I got up at 6:00 and decided to take more of a walk than a photo quest. I walked to the back of the Transue property, then out the road to the point. I turned up the second drive toward the water. This property rises to the top of a granite bluff looking out to the east across Machis Bay. The naval radio antenna array is very visible from this location. I decided to come back to this point at sunrise.
Walking back the point road I noticed some fresh deer tracks in the sandy gravel. When I looked up a Whitetail was looking at me from the side of the road, and she quickly showed me her namesake.
When I got back to the house Bill told me a water line leak had dried up the well and shut the pump down. He fixed it temporarly. After breakfast we made the fix permanent. It looked like a rodent had chewed almost through the pipe and it eventually failed at that point.
I stopped by to say hi to the folks at BBS Lobster. They said things were very slow with the catch only about 50% of what it was at this time last year. I walked through the plant and down to the dock but nothing was going on. I went on to the beaver pond on the property just south of the Transue's, which is shown in today's picture. There I found more deer tracks and much evidence of beaver activity.
Laura & Rowan Donohoe dropped by just before lunch and ended up eating with us. Laura was interested in my photos and I showed her a selection of what I had taken so far on the trip. Her son-in-law is an amateur photographer.
After lunch Bill took Laura to town, and Virginia and I worked in the yard. I fashioned a vegetable garden from the manure pile while Virgina trimed around the plants in the garden. We worked until it started to rain hard enough to matter. At that point I was wet from the rain and sweat and took a shower.
The weather continued to get worse and it got much colder. Bill started a fire in the wood stove after dinner which was much appreciated.

Maine Trip - Day Five - July 8th

Today I decided to really get serious about photographing found objects on the beach. Accordingly, I got up early and tripod over my shoulder, went down to the beach. Using a tripod is definitely more work since it has to be set up and carefully adjusted for each shot. But in situations like this in the early morning on the beach, the results are worth the effort. Afterward I took today's picture of boats moored in Bucks Harbor.
More work in the yard mowing and clearing unwanted growth, a continuous process especially given everything had more time to grow this year because of Bill & Virginia's late arrival.
Mid afternoon, I walked to the entrance to Dickenson's Reach, a 45 minute walk one way. My feet held up but were noticably sore at the end. When I got back we picked up a truck load of trimmings Virginia had produced. It went to a burn pile at the back of the property.
Dinner was excellent. Virginia outdid herself fixing baked haddock, riced potatoes, fresh spinach and fresh local strawberrys. We had a very old bottle of Chardonney from Bill Sr's house which was beyond its prime. The cork crumbled when Bill tried to pull it. After dinner we talked until 10:00 and headed for bed.

Maine Trip - Fourth Day - July 7th

The first full day at Bucks Harbor. This time of year daylight is around 4:30 AM. Since I'm an early riser anyhow, I woke up a little before 5:00. I tried going back to sleep, even read a little, but by 6:00 I was out of bed. Bill & Virginia "sleep in", usually getting up by 8:00, so I went down to the beach with my camera. The local lobster distributor, BBS Lobster, built a new sea wall and filled in part of the beach. They added a truck parking and staging area that they needed badly, but now part of the beach is gone and replaced with an industrial looking seawall. Good for the local business, bad for the local residents.
I went over to the beach on the south side of the harbor where there is nothing from there out to the point. Here the light is fantastic in the early morning. Last year I made several good pictures here, including "Driftwood at Low Tide", which won best of category at a monthly contest at the Orlando Camera Club. I found some excellent subject matter today and feel like it was a productive morning. Today's photo is of driftwood on the beach.
After breakfast, Bill, Virginia and I did some chores, including mowing the grass, something I haven't done for many years. I guess it's like riding a bike, you don't ever forget how to do it and it came back naturally to me. It was actually enjoyable for a while, but I wouldn't want to make it a habit.
Virginia, a neighbor Jane Porter, and Laura & Rowan Donohoe and I had dinner at Bluebird Ranch Restaurant and saw the Machias Downriver Theatre Company presentation of South Pacific at the University of Maine Machias campus auditorium.

Maine Trip - Third Day - July 6th
The stay at the Inn included a very quiet, restful night, and breakfast at the Bagel Hole restaurant next door. I got a cup of coffee as a down payment on the breakfast and walked down to the harbor. Still foggy and not much going on early in the morning. The photo today is of the Camden River from the Riverhouse Footbridge which festooned with flowers.
Since I expected to meet up with Bill Transue at noon in Bangor, I got breakfast, packed up and was on the road by 10:00. Bill called as I was going around Belfast and said not to hurry, that everything was taking much longer than expected. I adjusted the meeting time to 2:00 PM. I stopped in Searsport, spent time at the Penobscot Marine Museum and an antique/junk dealer. I found a candle holder with a finger handle that I had been looking for. Got back on the road around 12:30, ate lunch at Wendy's by the Bangor Airport, and turned in the car at 2:00. A quick taxi ride got me to the hospital where I found Bill just finishing up the first stage of his treatment. Since he still had three more hours to go, I took the grocery list and headed to Hannaford's. I didn't understand the directions so it took me a while to find the store. The good news is that I know Bangor a lot better now.
We finally left the Cancer Center at 5:30. We stopped for gas then headed for Bucks Harbor via the Airline Highway, a fine road through a beautiful, remote area. The principal hazard is an occasional moose which I was assigned watch for.
Virginia greeted us with a dinner of pork chops, new potatoes and green beans. The very full day left us all very ready for bed after drinks and conversation.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Maine Trip - Second Day - July 5th

It was great to be able to sleep in this morning. Nothing to do and no where to be so I turned off the alarm and went back to sleep. The Freeport Hampton Inn is pretty new and very nice and quiet. The breakfast in the lobby was the normal fare. I checked out of the hotel around 10:00 and went into Freeport. First stop was LL Bean where I looked at GPS units. But I don't really need one and resisted the temptation to buy what would just be another toy.
Almost at the north end of the commercial area of Freeport a couple of buildings south of the McDonalds, is a Matthew T Moser furniture store. They have some of the most beautifully designed and built furniture I've ever seen. It's all hand made in New Gloucester, Maine. The prices reflect the quality. A bedroom dresser is $8,500. You can see their products at http://www.mtmoser.com/. Now if I just had the house to put them in.
I had planned to eat lunch in Freeport but the only places that were appealing were expensive and crowded with tourists, so I hit the road north. I ended up stopping in Bath. I went down by the Iron Works looking for a good local restaurant. I found one with a nearly full parking lot, one of the things I look for, and went in. The restaurant was nothing special and there weren't that many customers. The cars in the lot must have been parked there for other reasons. Deceiving. Food was very ordinary, not bad but not noteworthy.
Back on US 1 north, traffic was heavy with long lines forming to go through each tourist town. In Maine, pedestrians in crosswalks have the right-of-way so the tourists cross the highway at will and hold traffic up. Not that it's a bad idea, but some folks don't think before stepping out in front of traffic. I stopped for a while in Wiscasset where I got today's picture of long lines of tourists waiting to buy food at this little walk-up, Bill's, while long lines of cars waited to creep through the town. This town is an antique shopper's heaven. I visited several shops looking for a candle holder with a handle and a reflector that folks used to use to light their way walking in the dark. Still no luck finding one.
Just south of Rockport, I saw a sign for Center for Furniture Craftmanship and Messler Gallery which piqued my courisity. It is a school and workshop for woodworkers and carvers. The Messler Gallery has works made by staff for sale. There are some very beautiful pieces. Check it out at http://www.woodschool.org/. This might be something I can use as a subject for my photo essay class.
I got to the Rockport area around 4:30, and drove around a while before I found where the Maine Photographic Workshop is located. Then I needed to find a hotel. A couple I met at the Messler Gallery had made a couple of suggestions. One was too far to the south, and the other they said was on the water, but a little run down and had been featured in a Stephen King novel. I checked it out and with the fog coming in off the water, I didn't even want to stop to take pictures let alone spend the night there.
I found a very nice inn in the heart of Camden where there are shops and restaurants all around, several on the water. After checking in, I walked down to the waterfront. Ended up eating at the Water Front Restaurant on the bay. I would definitely go back.

Maine trip - first day July 4th

The flight to Boston went well. Got to the airport in plenty of time and got to use the new shoe scanner in the Clear line. Sat next to a nice couple from Palm Coast who were going to Boston to visit her mother on her 88th birthday 7/7/07. The baggage pickup took longer than expected since Airtran has just one small carousel in Boston.
Picked up my Avis rental and got out of Boston and onto I-95 without any trouble. Light rain most of the way. I arrived at the Freeport Hampton Inn a little before 8:00, the Moose above was there to greet me.
The girl at the front desk suggested Gritty's for food and beer. The home brewed beer was excellent, the food unremarkable. I asked two guys next to me at the bar when the fireworks started and was told 9:00 or a little later as was the custom. The barmaid gave me 50% off my quesadillas because I said I didn't like them, so I upped her tip. Went back to the motel, got my hat and rain jacket, and headed for town.
A sign directed me to park in the LL Bean corporate parking lot. The fireworks started as I got out of the car. As I walked toward the center of town, I watched the fireworks on the way. I got there about 15 minutes later just as the finale started.
After the fireworks were over, someone suggested ice cream. That sounded good to me so I went to the Ben & Jerry's and got a waffle cone special with double Cherry Garcia. I sat in front of LL Bean's waterfall fountain with a local couple watching the people walk by and the traffic gridlock. After finishing Cherry Garcia, I walked around a little more. It started raining harder, the sidewalks cleared leaving long lines of cars headed home. I walked back to the parking lot in the rain, thankful for the foresight to get my rain jacket.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

The Bush Administration's Latest Diversionary Tactics

So the Iraq "War" you started is going poorly, congress and the American people are telling you to change course and show some results, what can you do next? Well there's nothing like another national enemy to rally the troops and divert attention. Iran seems to fit the bill nicely. They are "supporting the insurgency in Iraq", "supporting terrorism", not to mention their nuclear program. The perfect diversion to deflect criticism of Iraq. Never mind that the United States should be building bridges to Iran to facilitate some kind of political solution in Iraq.

Health care is another one. No one can be against providing health care for more people as long as it doesn't cost more. Bush's plan is being promoted as doing that. What it really looks like is another way to make the tax code more complex and provide a tax break for the wealthy. After his State of the Union address, Bush went on the road to promote his health care plan. Never mind that the violence in Iraq is escalating and the additional troops he is sending are going into an increasingly dangerous and chaotic place.

When things go bad, just change the subject. Divert the public's attention and you can ignore all those nasty questions from the press.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Houston-Chicago Trip - Day Eight

This is for day eight of my trip, January 25, 2006.

I woke at 5:30 and showered. Pat and Chip were up to greet me when I came upstairs. Pat gave me breakfast of cereal and toast, and made me a turkey sandwich for lunch. Very good of her and much appreciated. I took a quick tour of her studio. Her ceramic work is really good, and her studio is very well equipped and stocked with all sorts of clays and glazes. Very impressive.

I was off by 8:00 with over 700 miles to cover before reaching home.

Today was the first day I experienced clear skies and sunlight since I left Texas. I finished listening to the Michael Korda book, Country Manners, and found it very enjoyable. I would definitely recommend it.

All went smoothly and I made good time until I got to Kennesaw, 20 miles north of Atlanta, where traffic came to a halt. Then it was stop and go to the center of the city. While the overhead traffic alert sign said there was a major event downtown and to expect delays, I didn't see anything out of the ordinary. Just normal Atlanta gridlock. I Lost about 45 minutes. Atlanta just has an incredible traffic problem. I expect someday the city will experience catastrophic gridlock. Best to avoid driving or flying through Atlanta whenever possible.

I started listening to a memoir by Mike Wallace, Between You and Me. I got through about 30 minutes of it but lost interest. While Mike's experiences are interesting, the way he relates them put me off. Too egocentric for me.

I stopped at a rest stop in Macon for lunch at 12:45, and at 3:15, crossed into Florida. I was in Winter Springs by 7:00. Eleven hours and 700 miles later, it was good to be home.

I traveled a total of 3,502 miles during the eight day trip. Overall, I consider the time well spent and the trip a success and wouldn't hesitate to do it again. It was great to be able to visit everyone and I had a really enjoyable time. The next time I make a trip like this, I will try to allow more time to stop along the way, since I passed many interesting places that I would have liked to be able to visit. Maybe next time.

Houston-Chicago Trip - Day Seven

This is day seven of my trip, January 24, 2006.

Lisa fixed me a bagel and juice for breakfast after Chas left for work. I have almost 700 miles to cover today and I want to be in Knoxville in plenty of time for dinner with Pat and Chip. I got started at 7:30 and headed south on I-55 to take I-80 east in order to avoid any rush hour traffic. It worked, and I made good time. The snow cover which was so prevalent in Chicago gradually gave out as I made my way south. It didn't completely go away until I got into south Indiana.

I remembered to bring the leftover pasta along from the previous evening, and I had it for lunch at a rest stop on I-74 south of Batesville.

I noticed the left front tire was low and I added air shortly after starting out. By early afternoon it was low again. I stopped and added air again, but I knew it had a slow leak which would have to be fixed. I had stopped at Dry Ridge, Kentucky, and fortunately there was a Tire Discounters store on the other side of the interstate. An hour and a half later, at 4:00, I was back on the road again. But now I was going to be late arriving at the Herzog's. I called to let Pat and Chip know.

I crossed the Tennessee border at 6:00. It turned dark shortly after, and the drive through the mountains to Knoxville was harrowing and stressful. Lot's of trucks on the road going slow up the mountains and fast down. One 18 wheeler, not wanting to lose momentum going up a grade, pulled out in front of me and I had to jam on the brakes to avoid plowing into him.

I got to Pat & Chip's at 7:00. It was great to see them and they were the most gracious of hosts. Pat had steak, roast potatoes, green beans and rustic bread. Chip charbroiled the strip steaks. Wine and bread pudding for dessert made an excellent meal. We looked at my pictures of the grandchildren and talked until we all agreed it was time for bed.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Houston-Chicago Trip - Day Six

Woke up early and finished the blog entry from the night before. I had fallen asleep working on the computer.

Chas fixed a great breakfast of French toast and sausage. I showered and shaved, then we went to the science museum here in Naperville. Daniel went helter-skelter from one display to the next. The museum had many, many interactive displays for the children, and they all got a workout. Brandon got a kick out of watching all the kids.

We came back to the house for lunch. Lisa fixed chicken salad for sandwiches with sour dough French bread. Chips and grapes completed the menu.

The boys both reluctantly went down for naps after lunch. It took quite a while before Daniel went to sleep. The rest of the afternoon was spent doing errands and other tasks and talking.

Dinner was take out Italian from Francesca's Passaggio in Naperville. We all agreed it would be too much to take both Brandon and Daniel to a restaurant. I had linguini with a tomato sauce with mushrooms and sausage, and a Caesar salad which was very good.

After dinner we cleaned up, played with the boys a little, put them to bed, and watched a little TV. Everyone was tired, Chas had to get up early and go to work in the morning, I wanted to get a reasonably early start for Knoxville, and so we went to bed.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Houston-Chicago Trip - Day Five

The temptation to stay in bed was strong this morning. Reluctantly I got up and got on the road by 7:30. I-55 parallels the Mississippi River for 100 miles or so, but there is a two lane road, Hwy 61, that runs along the river and goes through several small river towns. It would have been nice to drive along the river the whole way, but I couldn't afford the time. I compromised by cutting over to the river on Hwy 140 and driving 61 for 15 miles or so. The levee is visible from the highway, but there's no way to drive to the top and see the river. The rest of the sights along the river in this area weren't particularly inspiring.

At 8:45 I crossed the Mississippi on I-57 into Missouri. The sky was cloudy, the landscape bleak, and now it started to get colder. Made a rest stop at the Missouri welcome station at 9:30. At 10:15 crossed the border into Illinois. Chicago is only 387 miles! I am traveling the state from the extreme southern end to the northern. In a short time I began to see snow on the ground, and by the time I was half way across the state, the temperature was 32 degrees and the ground was covered with snow.

I listened to a Bailey White tape which I enjoyed very much. I do believe she is one of the best writers I know of. In short stories she reads herself about living with her mother in a small, rural Georgia town, she packs in so much imagery, fun and irony. She is truly a master story writer and teller.

I couldn't bear the thought of eating fast food again, so in Effingham, I had beans and greens for lunch at Cracker Barrel. It's served with cornbread, relish and a big onion slice. Both the pinto beans and turnip greens are cooked with ham. I ate the onion with the beans, but couldn't find an appealing way to use the relish. I stopped at a local WalMart to get Daniel a Thomas the Train.

The drive through Illinois was proving to be monotonous so I listened to the full length audio book I brought along, Country Matters by Michael Korda. It's written by a New York literary editor who with his wife buys an old farm house and 20 acres in Dutchess County. So far it's been very entertaining.

I was concerned that I might run into the Chicago rush hour traffic, but I took I-80 west to I-55 and avoided any stop and go. I got to Chas and Lisa's at 5:30.

Daniel was glad to see me. He's talking a blue streak now. He loves to get you involved with what he's doing. And he loves to dance. Lisa put on a DVD called Ralph's World and Daniel danced up a storm, asking everyone to dance with him. Brandon was asleep when I got here, but soon woke up. He has gotten big and is very animated. He smiles and makes all sorts of sounds and moves around a lot. He's either very good or if there's something he wants, he lets you know in no uncertain terms. They are both very cute grandchildren.

Chas got home at around 6:45 after his normal hour and 20 minute commute. He's talking about moving closer to town and using a different train to shorten his commute to 45 minutes. Still long but much more tolerable than what he has at present.

Lisa fixed pizza and a salad for dinner and topped it off with apple crisp for desert. Everything was very good. After dinner Brandon was fed and both boys put to bed. By then everyone else was ready for bed as well.

Chas was able to take tomorrow off so we'll be able to spend the day together.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Houston-Chicago Trip - Day Four

Got up at 6:00, showered, packed and had breakfast with Kim at 7:00. Todd, Makenna & Mason got up to see me off, and I started out at 8:00, an hour behind schedule. I decided to take Hwy 59 north instead of retracing my route back to New Orleans and going north on I-55. 59 is a little slower, but I wanted to see the country.

The weather cleared mid morning and the ride through East Texas was very enjoyable. Went through lots of small towns. Really a rural area. Going through the town of Diboll, I saw a building supply store that had burned to the gound and was still smoldering. It didn't look like any attempt had been made to put out the fire. I stopped to take some pictures. A hamburger and fries at Wendy's in Marshall, Texas made lunch.

After crossing into Arkansas, the clouds returned, and while the miles went by faster because it was all freeway, the scenery wasn't as nice.

I got into West Memphis around 6:00 and after dark. The room at the Hampton was nice, but the internet service wasn't working. The manager changed my room to one that had service.

I wanted Memphis ribs for dinner. I asked the hotel manager where the nearest Corky's was, and unfortunately it was on the east side of Memphis, too far to go. She suggested Interstate Barbeque, close to downtown Memphis. It was closed. I went on downtown to Beale Street looking for ribs. I found Alfred's. The ribs were only so-so, but on Sunday nights from 6:00 to 9:00, the Memphis Jazz Orchestra plays there. The MJO is an 18 piece jazz orchestra made up of amateur musicians. They've been doing this Sunday night gig for 18 years. The sound they produce is not often heard today and very professionally done. Most of the players show up in jeans and play around a lot. They have fun and sound great doing it. I thoroughly enjoyed the music.

They quit at 9:00 and I came back to the hotel. I want to get started by 7:00 to be in Naperville mid afternoon.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Houston-Chicago Trip - Day Three

Had moderate indigestion last night and woke up early with upset stomach. After using the computer and reading in bed for a while felt better. Joined Kim in the Kitchen about 8:00. She fixed a grand breakfast of bacon, eggs and toast. I felt much better after breakfast.

Spent the morning talking with Kim, playing around with Makenna and Mason, and working with Kim on her photography. I cleaned her lenses and reset some things on her camera. We also went through some pictures both hers and mine.

Around lunchtime my stomach started to act up again, but was better after I ate something. The big event of the afternoon was Mason's basketball game at 3:30. His team the Owls was to play the Longhorns. Todd is one of the Owl coaches, and they felt the Longhorns were one of two exceptional teams in their league they had to beat in order to have a chance at the championship. The Owls had won the first two games they played, and were coming together as a team. Everyone; players, coaches and parents were keyed up for this big game. In addition, there was a protest e-mail sent by the Owl's head coach regarding one of the Longhorn players which added to the game's tension.

Kim and I were planning to take pictures at the game as well, and so by 2:30 everyone was on their way to the game.

The game didn't disappoint in the slightest. A capacity crowd was in attendance and in fine voice. The coaches of both teams were up for the game. And the players were all in great form. Right from the start the coaches and the referees were having animated discussions. The Longhorns scored first, but the Owls moved ahead. The Longhorns tied the game during the free-throw contest. Then during the second half, the Owl's B team pulled the team out in front. The last period started with the Owls 23, Longhorns 17. The Owl's A team controlled the ball most of the period, but the Longhorns still scored another four points. With less than a minute to go the Owls got the ball and retained possession until the clock ran out. Final score, Owls 23, Longhorns 21.

Kim and I got some good pictures during the game.

We decided to have dinner at Babin's Seafood House, a Cajun seafood restaurant. And despite the early hour, 4:30, went directly to the restaurant. This turned out to be a good move since we didn't have to wait at all even though it was Saturday. We had beer and sodas, an order of crab balls for an appetizer, and an excellent dinner. I had 1/2 fried crayfish tales, 1/2 Etouffee with a Greek salad. We ordered a serving of bread pudding to take home for desert. A fine dinner to go with a fine day.

When we got home we looked at pictures both those we took and Kim & Todd's from the last couple of years. Then the TV went on and the Dog Whisperer whispered me to sleep in the easy chair. When I woke up Todd was watching the Michigan State / Penn State basketball game he had recorded earlier. I came up to bed to write the blog and read.

It will be difficult to get an early start tomorrow, but I have to do it in order to stay on schedule.

Houston-Chicago Trip - Day Two

The Courtyard at Gulf Shores provided a very comfortable night's stay, and getting out of bed early in the morning was not easy. After shower, shave, breakfast, etc. I finally got on the road again at 7:30. The trip back to I-10 took another half hour putting me an hour behind schedule, and I had to cover 534 miles today.

The weather was overcast with occasional drizzle. Traffic and roads were normal with the exception of one accident in Mobile, and at 11:38 I entered Mississippi. A portion of the morning was taken up by listening to the radio show The Gestalt Gardener on Mississippi Public Broadcasting. The two garden gurus that do the show, Felder Rushing and Dr. Dirt, are very witty and entertaining as well as informative, and I enjoyed my first encounter with the show. As I passed by the Mississippi Gulf Coast, I had to fight the temptation to drive along Hwy 90 to look a the destruction caused by Katrina, but I knew I didn't have the time to spare.

After the Gestalt Gardener show, I listened to a short tape by Charles Curalt, American Moments. While I always enjoyed Curalt when he was on radio and TV, the tapes produced since his death are not as rewarding. Once I got within range of New Orleans, I listened to Jazz on the local public radio station until it could no longer be received.

Since I had driven to New Orleans before, the highway was familiar to that point. However, once past New Orleans, I was covering new ground. The causeway, really a bridge, across the vast swamp west of New Orleans provided a very unique and scenic drive. Lots of birds were in evidence. I would definitely like to come back for a closer inspection.

Lunch at a Taco Bell in Lake Charles was a Fiesta Chicken Bowl, eaten while I continued to drive. Definitely not a choice made for any reason other than expediency. Each encounter with Taco Bell engenders a longer interval until the next.

By 2:30 I entered Texas with 113 miles to go. Traffic began to pick up until in downtown Houston it slowed to a crawl. It remained stop and go until I reached the western suburbs. At 4:45 I arrived at my destination on Portage Rock Lane in Katy.

It was exciting to see Kim, Todd, Makenna and Mason. They all look great. Makenna and Mason are much more mature than when I saw them last. They are both very sweet kids, but then I'm not an unbiased observer.

We ate a very nice dinner of roast pork, fingerling potatoes, broccoli and salad that Kim fixed. Mason and Todd left for basketball practice, Makenna went to a birthday party, and Kim and I discussed photography. After practice, Todd picked us up for ice cream at Baskin Robbins. There, four fathers ate ice cream and discussed players and standings in sports leagues from grade school to pro.

When we got back to the house, Todd put on the show The Dog Whisperer, one I had not seen. It was very interesting, and Cesar, the featured dog trainer certainly looks like he is very good at what he does. The show looked to me not a little like Dr. Phil for dogs.

Tomorrow Mason has a basketball game which should be interesting not only for the play, but there is an on going parent controversy regarding proper placing of players that may play out as well.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Houston-Chicago Trip - Day One

Today is day one of my eight day trip to visit children and grandchildren in Katy, Texas and Naperville, Illinois. I am now in Gulf Shores, Alabama where I'm spending the night and writing this entry.

I left my home in Winter Springs, Florida at 7:30 on a foggy, misty morning - not typical Central Florida weather. The clouds and fog reinforced my belief that this trip is probably going to be nasty weather the entire time. Driving was typical with heavy traffic and delays getting through Orlando this morning. Later the Florida Turnpike, I-75 and I-10 were busy but allowed me to make good time. I was going through Tallahassee by noon. Lunch was a Publix Cuban sandwich, apple, and banana. I was in Gulf Shores by 3:00 this afternoon as planned. With the thermometer in the 40's, it's much cooler here than Central Florida, but not uncomfortable.

On the way I listened to an audio book, Isaac's Storm by Erik Larson. It is the story of the powerful hurricane that hit Galveston, Texas in 1900 claiming 8,000 lives. The book has lots of great details about the storm and it's aftermath and I enjoyed listening to it.

Aside from being half way between Winter Springs and Katy, this area of Alabama is attractive as a stopping off place because my grandparents Carpenter had a second home in Magnolia Springs on the river. Several years ago I visited the old house, but this time I couldn't find it. Either it's been torn down or changed so much I don't recognize it. After driving around for a while I gave up. The area has changed so much anyhow. The old general store on the corner is now an upscale restaurant and gourmet shop. The area around the river is packed full of homes. It's nothing like I remember from my childhood. I thought there might be some good photo opportunities, but the light was poor and nothing was attractive enough to stop for.

I'm staying in a new Courtyard by the mall. Gulf Shores reminds me of Gatlinburg, Tennessee with all the commercial development and amusement facilities. On the way from Magnolia Springs to the hotel, I went through Bon Secour, a little fishing village on the Bon Secour river, which empties into Bon Secour and then Mobile Bay. The Tin Top Restaurant in Bon Secour had a neon 'Oysters' sign in the window which caught my attention. After checking it out with the hotel staff, I decided to have dinner there. I expected it to be a local Oyster Bar restaurant and wasn't disappointed. It was more refined than I anticipated with a lot more restaurant than bar. The food was very good, the service great and the prices, while not cheap, were reasonable. I had oyster stew, an oyster po' boy sandwich, and fried green tomatoes. Apparently a lot of folks like the place since one wall was covered with write-ups. One was from the 'Mullet Wrapper', a great name for a local newspaper.

Tomorrow I'll leave early and plan to be in Katy around 3:00 PM.