Vacation

Informal Vacations

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The last formal vacation that Lois and I took was in 1995, our only trip to Hawaii. Over the years, we’ve had a lot of fun times in amazing places, but nearly every one of them was on an international business trip for me. I consider our current vacations informal. They typically consist of very long drives south to visit my parents and our godson and his wife. Lois works non-stop, in the car, in the hotels and in the homes of the people we visit. I loaf and enjoy myself thoroughly, so it’s more of a vacation for me.

We just completed one and this is a brief documentation of it.

First stop was visiting my folks in Florida. 95 degrees and broiling every day, right after the heat broke up north, was a bit of a shock. It was nice to put on shorts and sandals again, but it would’ve been even nicer if the air conditioner in our car actually worked when it was hot outside. For the record, our car is 11 years old and has 225,000 miles on it (did I mention we drive long distances on all of our informal vacations?).

DadMomHadarDadHadar

I hope I have my Dad’s appetite when I’m 85!

DadEatingCake

From Florida, we drove to Atlanta. We visited three sets of friends, all centered around wonderful meals. We got in late-ish and wandered out of our hotel in search of frozen yogurt. The person at the front desk didn’t think there were any within walking distance so we just headed out. One block away was a Ted’s Montana Grill (not exactly frozen yogurt), but we had a great meal at one in NYC when our goddaughter and her husband took us there. We decided to take serendipitous advantage and have a much bigger meal than planned, just the two of us.

The next day, first of our three social meals, lunch with a friend who worked with Lois before I met her, so while I know her for nearly 30 years, Lois knows her even longer. Three of her four children were able to join us too (children, as in adults!). The fact that the fourth couldn’t make it was OK, as she is a twin, so we just looked at the other twin twice as long to pretend that the missing kid was there too. Winking smile

HadarBeckyLizTeresaPaul

We ate at 5 Seasons Brewing Company. We had a delicious, leisurely lunch, served by one of the nicest waiters (we prodded one of the girls to consider dating him afterward, but he doesn’t know that). Such a great time catching up and swapping stories. We’ve seen the girls a couple of times in the past few years (in NYC), but we haven’t seen the boy (man!) in much longer, so that was a very special treat. After lunch they all had to run back to work. We miss them all already!

That night we had dinner with a couple who insisted on cooking. We had our first taste of Portobello mushroom burgers. OMG, one of the best things I’ve eaten, including toasted buns and I believe a home-made aioli sauce (it was definitely home-made, possibly not aioli). I can’t believe Lois missed taking a photo of the burgers.

It was our first time at their house. In addition to being completely inviting in every way, it’s absolutely gorgeous (often a hard combination to achieve). We ate outdoors, in a screen-enclosed, covered porch. The steady rain was welcome rather than a nuisance (until we had to walk back to our car).

The next morning we met another couple for brunch at Sun in My Belly. We had eaten there once before, so we knew how much we’d like the food (we were correct). The more important part was meeting our friends. We hadn’t seen them since April and that meeting was all too brief. Great conversation, great food, more time (but always too little). Perfect way to cap off our brief stop in Atlanta.

We headed to Birmingham directly from Sun in My Belly. Our godson was married in March (this year) and we were going to pick up a portrait of his wife from the wedding photographer to hang in our apartment. We had a little adventure meeting him at a McDonald’s, don’t ask. Thankfully, the portrait is so gorgeous that it was worth the Keystone Cops coordination.

After checking into the hotel and catching up on some business, we headed over to their house to hang out with Rebecca a bit. David was working in the hospital. When he was done he called and we agreed to meet at Davenport’s Pizza Palace for dinner (halfway for each of us).

DavidRebecca

I have never had pizza served like that, cut into small rectangles all the way through the very large pie, so that it was easy to handle every bite (most pieces were two or three bites worth). That it was delicious as well was a big bonus. Winking smile

I tried to order seltzer/club soda (honestly, I have witnesses), but they didn’t have any, so I was forced to drink beer. Rebecca drove us there, and David drove me back, so it was a good time to be in a seltzer-less place.

After dinner we headed over to Yogurt Mountain for a refreshing dessert.

HadarRebeccaDavidYogurtMountain

On the drive back to their place, David and I had very manly discussions. I’m sure the girls had very girlie ones, so no gender stereotypes were harmed during the return trip. Winking smile

We just recently finished watching all five seasons of Friday Night Lights and totally loved the show. In a wild small-world story, one of the producers and directors of the show was my best friend in high school. We lost contact shortly after and his participation in the show had nothing to do with our watching it or our enjoyment of it. Still, I was proud of the job he did.

We gave the DVDs for all five seasons to David and Rebecca and after pizza watched the first two episodes with them (yes, we picked up nuances that we missed the first time around now that we knew where the stories were heading!). We then headed back to the hotel to crash.

The next morning we returned to their house. Rebecca’s parents, along with her brother and his girlfriend came over as well. The eight of us caravanned to Irondale, AL. The Irondale Café is the place known as The Whistle Stop in the movie Fried Green Tomatoes. That’s where we ate lunch. Yes, we had the Fried Green Tomatoes! My meal was excellent. Thanks to the parents for treating all of us!

FriedOkraFriedGreenTomatoesAshleyTim

HadarRebeccaHadarCharlie

Since Lois is constantly taking photos, Charlie decided to duel with her when he noticed her lining up a shot:

DuelingPhotographers

It also happened to be The Whistle Stop Festival that weekend, so we spent the next two hours wandering around the various tents/booths on a gorgeous day. Lois and I spent a good amount of time listening to a trio called The Tame Dogs, an acoustic subset of The Rescue Dogs Band (their domain just expired, so I linked to their Reverb Nation page instead). They were very good.

TheTameDogs

HadarRebeccaDavid

There was also a classic car exhibit:

ClassicCarsTimDavidHadarRollsRoyce

ClassicBentley

We said our (temporary) goodbyes and headed back to David and Rebecca’s for some more Friday Night Lights and the Alabama/Arkansas game (Roll Tide Roll). I rooted David’s Incredible 2 and put on a custom ROM. David has been on Android for nearly two years, but this is the first time he’s had root and a custom ROM. We’ll see how he likes it.

The day before, we were told firmly (but nicely) by Rebecca that dinner on Saturday was on them (no ifs ands or buts). In order to guarantee that, she wouldn’t even tell us where we were going, so that Lois (being the sneaky person she is) wouldn’t be able to call in advance and arrange to pay (secretly).

We met Rebecca’s parents at The Veranda on Highland. It felt like it was mostly a seafood restaurant, but for whatever reason, I was in the mood for the Filet Mignon. It was one of the most incredible steaks I’ve had (and I’ve had many). Melted in my mouth and the mashed potatoes were equally delicious. Everyone else raved about theirs (scallops, shrimp and grits and fish of the day).

David paid and we didn’t interfere. Thanks David and Rebecca! This was the first time I experienced table-side credit card swiping (not Square, a real portable swiper). David was able to press a button to select a pre-defined tip percentage, and he signed on the reader as well. A built-in printer spat out the receipt. A very efficient system, where your credit card is never out of your sight. Slick.

CharlieRebeccaCarolynDavid

After picking up my computer we headed back to the hotel for another crash. The next morning Lois went to Church with David and Rebecca while I stayed in their house. They called when they were done and I met them for an exceptional lunch at Genghis Grill. Pick out your own stuff, season it yourself, have a professional stir-fry it for you. Fresh and delicious.

Next door is a brand new Red Mango (frozen yogurt), so we had to repeat the refreshing dessert ritual from Friday night. Smile

DavidRebeccaRedMango

We spent roughly 1/2 an hour back at their house sharing some new music with them and then hit the road mid-afternoon. Of course, we miss them already!

I’m sitting at my desk working (OK, I’m blogging, but I’ll be working again shortly). Another informal vacation in the books. Another winning one (they all are!).

Road Trip Completed

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My last post covered the first half of our long road trip south. We left off on Friday February 6th, while David was still on call. After our shopping trip, Lois and I spent the rest of the day at David’s (where that post was written). We left at 8:30pm and headed to TCBY for dinner (yes, once it hit 60 degrees, after the incredible cold earlier in the week, it was time for frozen yogurt for dinner!).

We weren’t the only ones with that thought, but I’m guessing that at that hour, for most people, it was dessert, not dinner. This was also the first TCBY I’d ever seen with a drive through window. The line of cars was long, but we went in to get ours.

We then headed to Bed Bath and Beyond for some late night shopping right before they closed. We got exactly what we were looking for, thankfully.

The next morning we headed back to David’s. He got there at around noon. Typically, he naps right away, but during this call, he was able to sneak in a whopping four hours of sleep, and he had a bit more energy than usual. We headed for lunch at Jason’s Deli (very good) followed by some shopping and coffee.

Included in the shopping was an impromptu stop at a stuffed animal store. Lois has been searching for a stuffed moose for a long time, and this store had two good choices. Lois got to turn the crank on the stuffing machine, while the owner of the store held the moose in place. So, not only did Lois get to find a stuffed moose, she got to stuff it herself!

David Hadar Stuffed Animals

David Hadar Stuffed Animals

We hung around the apartment in the afternoon, and David finally took an all-too-brief nap. When we headed out again, we bought some DVD’s at Best Buy, and then headed for dinner at the same mall we had lunch in. David picked a Mexican restaurant called Cocina Superior. From the look of it (and the location), I just assumed it was a chain. But, looking at the link now, I see that this is the only location.

When we got there, it was jammed near the front desk. There were quite a number of tables open inside (the place is huge), but for whatever reason, we were told it would be a 30 minute wait. We decided to wait outside (it was on the cool side, but still nice). It took nearly 50 minutes for them to seat us. We had a great meal, so no one minded the wait after the fact.

I know there’s unreal hardship all over, but whenever I see mob scenes like this, at reasonably high-end places, I can’t help but remark to Lois: What Recession?

When we got back to David’s, we were all too pooped for a movie. Instead, David put on the first two episodes of Curb Your Enthusiasm (he had the first six episodes on a Netflix DVD). I had never seen an episode before, but lots of people told me that I would like it, especially since I loved Seinfeld.

They were correct. Larry David is essentially a successful George. He gets himself into the same situations that George would, but he’s rich and famous (and has rich and famous friends). I laughed a bunch. Definitely not Lois’ cup of tea… Since we were all pretty tired, we headed back to the hotel.

We picked David up mid-morning on Sunday, and headed for brunch at V. Richards. If you click on “About Us” you’ll see a picture of the outdoor patio where we ate. David and I both had the breakfast casserole. It was awesome.

We then headed to Vulcan Park (home of the famous Vulcan Statue). We didn’t get to see it (other than from a distance) during our last trip to Birmingham, due to bad weather. This time, it was in the upper 60’s, and we were heading there in T-Shirts!

Vulcan Structure

Vulcan Structure

On the road up the hill toward the park, I jokingly asked David whether the Vulcan was named after Spock. He chuckled and told me that ironically, Leonard Nemoy was in town two days earlier (on Friday). He had recently completed a study of obese nudes, and exhibited them in Birmingham.

Lois was in her own world in the back seat, taking dozens of pictures, not really listening to our conversation. Obviously, something caught her attention, and just as we were coming into Vulcan Park itself, she says “Who’s Obie Snoods?”

David and I just looked at each other and smiled, both assuming that Lois was just being funny. A few seconds later, she asked again “Who’s Obie Snoods?”. I then explained the conversation we just had, and when she realized it was obese nudes, she just lost it. Of course, once we saw Lois laughing uncontrollably, we lost it too.

That became a theme for the rest of the trip. At various points along the way, either I or Lois would turn to the 0ther and ask “Who’s Obie Snoods?” 🙂

The statue isn’t correctly proportioned. Both the head and the butt stick out, as you can see in this photo below:

Vulcan Proportions

Vulcan Proportions

Two more photos, one from the front and the other, a shot of the statue, behind a replica of the statue:

Vulcan Statue

Vulcan Statue

Vulcan and Replica

Vulcan and Replica

We walked around the statue and looked over the city. We then took an hour-long walk on a trail around the park. It was good to get a little exercise in, given all of the feasting we’d done the week before.

David Lois Hadar Vulcan Park

David Lois Hadar Vulcan Park

When we got back, we watched one of the DVD’s we bought the night before, Get Smart. It was one of my favorite shows growing up. While I had a real interest in seeing it, I was actually quite afraid that it would pale in comparison to the original show. I was pleasantly surprised that they did a nice job all around.

David wasn’t hungry for lunch, so Lois and I made another TCBY run, bringing it back to the apartment. Yummy.

After that, I decided to play my very first game of PlayStation 3 Football. I begged David to be gentle with me. He gave me a quick lesson on using the controller, and then suggested that I pick a very strong team (I chose the Georgia Bulldogs). He picked Duke. While a sentimental favorite for him, clearly, not a college football powerhouse.

I was surprised that I was able to hold my own during most of the game. That said, David helped me out a few times. Specifically, when my play clock was running out, he called a defensive timeout (three times, wasting all of his timeouts), saving me from a penalty. Thanks David! 🙂

In the fourth quarter, David took the lead. I then scored and took it back. We decided to head out for dinner and finish the game later. We went to Surin West, a Thai restaurant that also serves a complete Sushi selection. We all enjoyed our meals tremendously. Mine was a recommendation from the waiter, who convinced me to switch from the duck dish I ordered, to the one he said all of the waiters preferred. He also recommended the potstickers appetizer, which was heavenly.

We headed back to the apartment to finish the game. David scored to take the lead again. Since I couldn’t master any kind of kicking, I missed every extra point and field goal attempt. So, I needed to score a touchdown to win. I had 1:37 left on the clock. I was able to engineer a long drive, including finally calling timeouts myself, and I scored with 10 seconds left to take a one point lead!

So, I’m one for one and may retire with a perfect record in PlayStation 3 College Football! Of course, if David hadn’t wasted three timeouts on my behalf, or he hadn’t chosen a weak opponent to my powerhouse one, I would have been toast. Consider it beginner’s luck. Either way, I had a great time playing the game.

We watched a bit of the Grammy’s and said our final goodbyes. We had an early, and long day ahead of us.

We spent Monday in the car. Roughly 12 hours of driving, 13 hours including the time zone change. We rolled into the hotel in FL after 8pm on Monday night, completely wiped out. We spent Tuesday and Wednesday with my parents.

We had two excellent buffet lunches out. The first day was Chinese, and we brought along a good friend of my mom’s.

Chinese Buffet Lunch

Chinese Buffet Lunch

I also went with them (and 24 other residents of their building) to see the movie The Reader. I enjoyed the movie, even though it’s too long, and reasonably slow at times. Kate Winslet is an exceptional actress. It’s a very interesting character study, more so than a great story.

Lois worked (surprise, surprise) so she missed the movie. But, at night, she insisted that I tell her about it, in great detail. I did, finishing up the second half of the movie in the car the next day on our way north. I was amazed at the insights that she had, many of them pointing out flaws in the movie. I was unable to say “No, if you had seen it, you would have felt differently”, because she was right.

Either way, it was a very interesting experience, to see a movie, describe it in detail, and then discuss it as if we’d both seen it, and learn a number of things from the person who didn’t see it…

We spent most of Thursday in the car heading for Florence, SC. On Friday, we continued our trek home, with a detour off of I95 to Durham, NC, to meet up with our friend Wes (who joined us last time we visited David in Birmingham, but was unable to make it this time). We had a fantastic lunch at PF Chang’s with him.

Wes Hadar

Wes Hadar

From there, we headed for Richmond, where we spent the night at our friends house. It was the first night in three weeks not spent in a hotel bed. On Saturday morning, we had a great breakfast out with them (at Perly’s on Grace Street). We headed home directly from the restaurant (with a brief stop at the office in Fredericksburg along the way).

One amazing fact from this three week journey was the total lack of significant traffic the entire time. We drove from NY to Leesburg, to Fredericksburg, to Richmond, to Nashville, to Atlanta, to Birmingham, to South Florida, to Florence, to Durham, to Richmond, to Fredericksburg, to NY, with no long tie-up.

In fact, the only real traffic was 30 minutes from home, when we were delayed a total of nine minutes due to very heavy volume. Other than that, there were a few constructions areas, including lane closures, that forced us to slow down to 50MPH, which is nothing to complain about.

We’re back for two weeks, and then the driving begins anew…

Two Flew South

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Lois asked me to name this post Two Flew South. She had a good reason, it was clever, so I didn’t hesitate in accepting her suggestion. Let’s not make it a habit though. This is my blog, not hers, and I intend to keep it that way. Of course, all of the photos are taken by her, so we’re partners in this, as we are in everything else in life. 🙂

Vacation is not a word that Lois or I use often. Even when we have a few days where we aren’t technically working, at least Lois (less so me), is working the Treo non-stop, and thinking about work issues non-stop as well. I’m better than she is at shutting that off, but I get sucked in, since I’m with her…

We’re on a two-week road trip at the moment, which is most definitely a vacation for me. Parts of it are even a vacation for Lois, though nowhere near the level that I am enjoying it. Since the road trip is mostly southbound, and there are two of us in the car, the title Two Flew South seems appropriate. It turns out it’s not the specific inspiration for the title (that’s coming later), but that’s why it was so easy to agree on.

The trip started nearly two weeks ago when we left NY and spent the day with our friends in Leesburg. We always have such a great time with them, even though seeing the dad suffer through his cancer treatments is heartbreaking. We then spent a week working at Zope.

Leesburg Friends

Leesburg Friends

We spent last weekend with our friends in Richmond, including a fantastic Super Bowl party at another friend’s house (10 of us enjoyed the game together). I was the only one rooting for the Steelers. That said, I really like Kurt Warner a lot, and wouldn’t have minded seeing him snag the victory. That made the last quarter all-the-more exciting, since the outcome was truly in doubt. A great game all around!

Richmond Friends

Richmond Friends

Super Bowl Party 1

Super Bowl Party 1

Super Bowl Party 2

Super Bowl Party 2

At 6:50am on Monday, we were on the road, officially on vacation (there’s that word again, I’m liking it a lot). 😉

We were headed straight for Nashville. On Ocotber 29th, 2008, we saw one of our many CMA Song Writer Series shows at Joe’s Pub. While the entire show was fantastic, we both were really blown away by Hillary Lindsey, and I highlighted that fact in a post the next day. Through that post, I ended up with an email relationship with a wonderful woman who lives and works in Nashville.

Through that email relationship, we had arranged to meet for dinner on Monday night. We had never even spoken on the phone, a true e-relationship. We asked her to select the restuarant. We met at 7pm at Tin Angel. We had the most wonderful evening. She’s a fascinating person and she picked an excellent restaurant (we all loved our meals). We ended up spending nearly three hours together, and we will definitely look her up the next time we’re in Nashville, and hope she does the same when she’s in NY!

New Nashville Friend

New Nashville Friend

The next day was carved out in advance to be spent with our good friend Jack Kapanka. It was freezing all over the south, Nashville included, so we decided in advance to see the sites from Jack’s car, rather than walk around the city. Jack picked us up at our hotel, and zigged and zagged all around Nashville, telling us about every building as we passed it. I loved every second of it!

We also took a long ride in the countryside, to and through Franklin, TN, gawking at mansion after mansion (they don’t call it Mansion Hill for nothing). We had lunch at a Pub in town (I should have written down the name, because we all really enjoyed our meals!). When we left, three men were approaching us (from quite a distance). Jack immediately recognized the middle man as James Otto. As we walked by them (they were headed to a Sushi restaurant for lunch) Lois casually said “Hi”, and James said hi back, so Lois can officially say that James Otto said hi to her. 😉

One Mansion

One Mansion

We then headed for Jack’s house, catching some incredible scenery along the way (including a bridge that isn’t obviously a bridge, until you’re on it, at which point everything around you is breathtakingly beautiful.

We had met Jack in person before, but this was the first time we were meeting his family. When we got to his house, his wife and toddler twins were there (the older girls were still in school). It’s hard to describe how/why you know you’ll be life-long friends with someone the instant you meet them, but there’s no doubt that this will be the case between us and Jack’s wife.

Jack's Wife

Jack's Wife

She’s an awesome person in her own right, on every level, but she might also be the best mom we’ve ever observed. That’s saying an awful lot, considering that our Richmond friends include a number of near-perfect moms (our godchildrens’ mom heading that list!). Lois can describe it better than I can, but no matter what’s going on around her, Jack’s wife exudes a strength and calmness, that nearly instantly tames all of those around her (her kids included!).

After meeting the older girls, and hanging for a bit, Jack and I took the oldest daughter and took a tour of their home town. Jack had been telling me for a while about another resident of the town, someone he had met in his church. He really wanted us to meet, so we stopped by his house. It took me all of 10 seconds to know how wonderful this man is, and why Jack likes him so much. We chatted for 20 minutes and then headed back to Jack’s house.

Jack and Older Daughters

Jack and Older Daughters

Shortly after getting back, we took two cars and headed to dinner with the entire family. We had an excellent meal at the Applebees right near our hotel. We said goodnight and were missing all of them by the time we were up in our room. Thanks for a wonderful day to all of the Kapankas! 🙂

Jack and Twins

Jack and Twins

The baby girl does fist bumps on cue!

Fist Bumping Baby

Fist Bumping Baby

On Wednesday morning, we worked in the room a bit, catching up on a ton of emails, then hit the road again. This time, our destination was Atlanta. We got there mid-afternoon, checked into the hotel, and did a bit more work.

At 5:30pm we headed over to a friend’s house. A number of our Atlanta friends also came over and we had an extraordinary home cooked meal. We brought wine from NY, and were really afraid (sure might be a better word) that it would spoil due to the extreme temperature swings throughout the trip (it was 19 degrees that morning in Nashville and Atlanta). Amazingly, the wine tasted yummy to me (and I hope our friends agreed).

Home Made Feast

Home Made Feast

Incredible Pie

Incredible Pie

The next morning we got together with a subset of the same folks we were with the night before for an incredible breakfast at Rise-N-Dine. It’s quite unusual to have an appetizer during breakfast, but we all split three Sweet Potato Pancakes as one. Wow. They were amazing, and I knew I would love my Polish Omelette as well (and I was correct!).

We said our sad goodbyes, lamenting that this wonderful whirlwind 18 hours was ending, and we hit the road for Birmingham to visit our godson. We settled into our hotel in Birmingham, and caught up with some more work. When David called to say he was on the way home from the hospital, we were thrilled to log off and head over to see him.

After catching up for a bit in his apartment, we headed for dinner at Jim ‘N Nicks BBQ. I didn’t realize it was a chain until I just looked it up. It’s a beautiful place. The service was excellent. All that is nice, but get to the food Hadar! Man, it was unbelievable. They start you off with homemade corn muffins that are infused with cheese (subtle, but delectable) that melt in your mouth.

Feeding the Meter

Feeding the Meter

David and I both had the Pulled Pork platter, and Lois had Smoked Chicken that she raved about. We capped it off with some Starbucks and headed back to David’s to cath up on Lost. We were two episodes behind, but David was happy to watch the one he had seen already again, and then he too got to watch the new one from the night before. We’re all caught up now, and anxiously awaiting the next few episodes. The excitement is back (it never left for me, but Lois is into this season more than last year’s).

Being a first-year resident, David is one rung above an indentured slave. Today is one of his all-too-regular 30-hour calls (he leaves early in the morning for the hospital, and doesn’t return until the following afternoon!). That meant we were on own own today. We headed to his apartment after breakfast and set up our computers for more catching up (he was long gone, and yes, it’s still a vacation). 😉

Just before lunch, we headed out for a shopping spree. Being godparents, we had a severe need to populate every empty space in David’s apartment with useful things (OK, so it was really more of Lois’ maternal instincts, but I was happy to play along). We bought a bunch of stuff at Bed Bath and Beyond. Then I dropped Lois at Costco and headed to have lunch by myself.

When we were last in Birmingham, we had another of our friends along with us, Wes. During that trip, both Wes and David told us that their favorite fast-food place is Chick-Fil-A. They couldn’t believe that I had never been in one. We had an aborted attempt to have lunch from there one day (my fault). After the trip, Wes sent us a Chick-Fil-A gift card (thanks again Wes!) to ensure that we made it our business to check it out.

Amazingly, in two consecutive trips to Zope, we were unable to schedule a visit to any of the Chick-Fil-A’s, including the one that is 1/4 of a mile from our hotel! I was determined to make it to one on this trip, and this seemed to be the most opportune time.

So, I drove 1/4 of a mile from Costco and ate a #1 meal in the place. It was excellent, so I now understand why many people rave about Chick-Fil-A (since Wes and David, at least five additional friends have told me that they consider it the best fast-food place). Considering that I still have a couple more meals left on the gift card, I will be thanking Wes again (and again). 🙂

I wandered into the Costco, and was surprised that I didn’t have too much trouble finding Lois, even though she was in the diagonally opposite corner from the main entrance (a very long walk!). She was just about done, so we both were impressed with the timing of my arrival. You would not believe how much stuff she bought. Of course, you might, given that I got to drive to Chick-Fil-A, eat a meal there, and get back, before she was done shopping. 🙂

When we got back, we experienced a few weeks worth of weight-lifting exercise. There is a very steep set of stairs outside of David’s apartment complex, then two more landings inside to get to his unit. We lugged all of the booty up over the course of four or five trips. Given how cold it had been on this trip, I had forgotten that sweating was possible. In addition to the manual labor, the weather broke today, and it was 60 degrees while we were unpacking.

While I am finishing this blog, Lois is on the phone with a Zope engineer, working away (is anyone surprised?). We will relax the rest of the evening (a little late night shopping is on the current agenda, but not for David this time). We can’t wait to see David again tomorrow afternoon (or more appropriately, after his obligatory nap!).

So, what’s left to say? Just the real explanation of the title of the blog.

In addition to listening to a ton of music (live and on the iPod), Lois also reads about music a lot. When something sounds like she would like it, she makes a note. A few times a year, she emails a list to me telling me that the time has come to place a large order. Lois really prefers physical CDs, largely for the liner notes, and I prefer downloads, both because they are cheaper (typically) and immediate (always).

One of the groups that she had on her list was One Flew South. I downloaded it a while ago, but for any number of reasons, we hadn’t listened to it (or most of the others on her most recent list). During this trip, Lois fired up One Flew South. Instant love. Lois thought there were nine voices (the harmonies are so rich), but it turns out that it’s only three guys.

Lois usually zones in on a handful of songs on a CD and she plays them over-and-over, to the exclusion of the others. This happened on this CD as well, and the ones that sang to her, have been listened to more than I would care to admit.

So, after hearing them for the umpteenth time, Lois said, “When you blog, please title it Two Flew South“, and it was so. 🙂

One more week to go on this road trip, and I intend to savor every single moment!

Giving Thanks

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Lois and I are truly thankful every day of our lives. We’ve been blessed in so many ways, we couldn’t accurately count. Near the top of any list of blessings for us, you would find our wonderful godchildren. In 2008, we were extra-blessed, when Laura got married, and moved to NYC with her husband. They now live in the same building we do, so we get to see them more often than we ever used to!

Unfortunately, while Laura came north, David went south. He is doing his first year of medical residency at UAB (University of Alabama Birmingham). It was his first choice, and he loves it, but we miss him. We hadn’t seen him since Laura’s wedding on July 5th. For us, that’s an unusually long stretch not to see one of them.

We’ve now corrected that, and were rewarded (blessed) with a near-perfect long weekend!

On Tuesday afternoon, we drove from Zope to Durham and spent the night in a Hampton Inn there. The next morning we picked up a very good friend of David’s (and for a long time, ours too, once David introduced us) and we headed to Birmingham, AL. The drive was going along fine, including a successful detour off of I85 to avoid a horrible accident, until we hit Atlanta (mid-afternoon). We were stuck in traffic for nearly two hours, for what should have been a 15-20 minute drive-by. All things considered, not that bad.

We got to Birmingham at a reasonable hour nonetheless, and after checking out David’s apartment, headed for a wonderful meal at La Mesa Cantina and Grill. It’s a different type of Mexican Restaurant. The place is gorgeous (including the bathrooms). You can check out the photo gallery and the menu if you might ever find your way there. I had three soft tacos, two with fried oysters and one with grilled skirt steak. They were excellent, but the oysters were truly outstanding. Next time, I’d probably go for three of them!

David Wes Le Mesa

David and Wes at Le Mesa

After some coffee and catching up at David’s, Lois and I headed to the local Embassy Suites to check in, leaving Wes and David to catch up (and play NCAA Football on the PS3).

Epic Battle

Epic NCAA Battle

I have chronicled my WiFi woes at the hotel in two separate posts, here and here. Without that experience, I would have described this weekend as perfect as opposed to near-perfect. 😉

On Thanksgiving day we headed to David’s mid-morning and relaxed there for a while. We then headed out for lunch and a movie. Amazingly, there were no places open for lunch near the movie theater, which was at a giant outdoor mall called The Summit. We even drove around a bit in the surrounding neighborhood, and every single place (other than McDonalds) was closed.

We decided to be pragmatic and we bought prepared food at Brunos (a supermarket near the theater) and ate it at a table that they provide expressly for this purpose). No one would confuse our lunch for a gourmet meal, but we all enjoyed it nonetheless, and it ended up being very convenient.

Brunos Lunch

Brunos Lunch

We headed over to the movie early, which gave us enough time to split a large buttered popcorn (which was indeed gourmet!) 😉 between the three guys.

Popcorn

Popcorn

We saw Four Christmases. Most of it was laugh-out-loud funny, with a few way-too-stupid scenes thrown in to ensure that it wasn’t a great movie… Seriously though, if you like comedies, there are definitely a ton of laughs. Both Vince Vaughn and Reese Witherspoon do a great job, and the majority of the supporting cast is excellent as well. Wes and I were repeating lines from the movie for days, so it definitely hit the funny bone.

In addition to the humor, there are a few reasonably deep family/life insights, most of which are delivered cleverly or at least in an interesting way, so there is even a bit of redeeming value to the movie. 🙂

We returned to David’s and relaxed the rest of the afternoon, and mentally prepared for the big Thanksgiving meal. Finally the time arrived, and we headed back to our hotel for the event. In the lobby of the Embassy Suites is a Ruth’s Chris. We’ve all had many great meals at various Ruth’s Chris restaurants over the years, so we had no doubt that this one wouldn’t disappoint. We were right.

We could have ordered a traditional TG Turkey dinner, but the boys all went for steak. No surprise, as we had been talking about it for a few days beforehand. We also shared an exceptional bottle of Ridge Zinfandel (2006). Don’t get me started about how great most bottles of any Ridge wine are. It’s one of my all-time favorite wine makers.

Ruth's Chris Thanksgiving

Ruth's Chris Thanksgiving Dinner

We skipped dessert there and headed back to David’s, where we had coffee and some cheesecake that we bought earlier at Bruno’s. It was fantastic.

The next morning (Friday), David left early for an overnight on call shift. That’s 30+ consecutive hours in the hospital, usually with little-to-no sleep. We don’t understand the point, but it’s a regular part of his life/schedule, so it’s just a fact of life at this point.

We decided to take the opportunity to create an adventure for the rest of us, which I’ve documented separately. The only thing wrong with Friday was that David didn’t get to enjoy it with us, and that we didn’t get to enjoy David’s company. Otherwise, a perfect day!

On Saturday, we headed to David’s mid-morning to hang with Wes. After a few hours, David called to say that he was headed home. Lois and I went out to bring lunch back in. The plan was Chick-Fil-A (which I’ve never had the pleasure of), but rather than go to the one Wes directed me to, I allowed the GPS to pick a closer one, which ended up being closed. We brought back Quiznos instead, which served the purpose just fine.

You can tell just how wiped David gets after being on call. He needed a slightly larger shot of caffeine than Wes did. 😉

Extra Caffeine

Extra Caffeine

Right after lunch, David napped while Wes and I watched college football and caught up with emails. I created a mini-panic when I tried to fix what felt like a flaky WiFi router in David’s apartment. We had no Internet connectivity for nearly an hour. Eventually, I got it all working again, and it seemed less flaky, but there were moments when I was wishing to have flaky back. 🙁

When David woke up, we watched more football. We didn’t want to go to dinner until the Iron Bowl (Alabama vs Auburn – Roll Tide!) was over, because we were headed to Dreamland BBQ, which we assumed would be a mob scene during the game. We had an excellent meal there (with yet another round of extraordinary service!). Also, since the menu is limited (but exactly what we were interested in), they are constantly cooking all of the available items, so it’s as lightning as fast food, but clearly as good as cooked to order.

On Sunday, we headed to David’s mid-morning again (broken record). We watched the first half of an amateur movie on DVD called The Pinecone Priority. The movie is pretty poorly executed, but it has some extremely clever lines and concepts in it. Wes is one of the stars, so we were happy to watch it, even though it was over-the-top campy… If you watch the teaser/trailer (linked above), you won’t get a sense of how the movie itself is poorly executed, but you’ll see another form of poor execution. Most of the trailer is black. At exactly the 1:24 mark, you can barely see one scene. Wes is the guy on the left in that scene.

Here’s a better picture of Wes, taken by Lois, while Wes was on the TV. This time, he’s on the right. 😉

Pinecone Priority

The Pinecone Priority

We headed for PF Changs for lunch (back at The Summit). All of us count it among our favorite restaurants. The meal was exquisite, including our first taste of the Kung Pao Scallops. David and I split an order of Moo Shoo Pork, which simply couldn’t have been any better. We then did a little shopping, including picking up a Blue Ray DVD of Tropic Thunder to watch later on.

We relaxed back at David’s the rest of the afternoon and finished up watching The Pinecone Priority, and then David, Wes and Lois headed to an evening church service. I stayed at the apartment and played (and lost) in my weekly big poker tournamet (I already reported about the crushing loss I took in November…). They brought back pizza for dinner. I called the order in to Dave’s Pizza while they were still in church. The timing worked out perfectly.

We then watched Tropic Thunder. This movie is way over the top, and was definitely not a hit with the entire crowd. That said, it had some pretty funny scenes and lines in it, and the concept was quite clever, if overdone in the delivery. It seems that no one associated with this movie ever heard of the word subtlety. Given that I am a sucker for most forms of comedy (even reasonably bad ones), I likely enjoyed it more than the rest of them, but honestly, even I don’t recommend this one to anyone. 😉

After coffee and one last slice of the heavenly cheesecake, Lois and I headed back for one last night at the Embassy Suites. In the morning, we headed over for one last hug from David, and headed on the long trek back to Fredericksburg (and Zope). We dropped Wes at Durham, after stopping in the Hampton Inn where we stayed a week ago. I had accidentaly left my Treo charger in the room, and they were kind enough to hold it for me. We had to drive back through Durham anyway, so it wasn’t as inconvenient as it could have been.

We made it back to the hotel at 8:30pm, which was almost exactly 12 hours after we left Birmingham. We had essentially zero traffic the entire way, which was extraordinary, and another thing we give thanks for on this weekend.

We couldn’t be more thankful for this wonderful visit, regardless of whether it was Thanksgiving proper or not. We’re already counting the days until we find our way back to Birmingham (and Atlanta). 🙂

And, just because Lois loves this one… 😉

Ernie Tea Cup

Ernie's Tea Cup

Goodbye Florida

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This morning, we drove from southern Florida, and arrived mid-afternoon in Savannah, GA, where we are camped for the night, before heading back to VA tomorrow morning.

The weather in Florida was fantastic (84, sunny, and breezy) and our visit with my parents was delightful. Serendipitously, Lois and I interviewed a wonderful person over dinner at PF Changs last night (man, we really love that place). He is based in Miami, and happened to contact us (Zope Corporation) this week, and it all just worked out to meet him in person.

Last year, I forgot my sandals at home, so even though I had shorts with me, I didn’t wear them. I didn’t repeat that mistake this year, and it was great to come from the cold in the North East and just wear shorts for four straight days. I wavered about wearing them today, because I didn’t know what the temperature would be in Savannah.

It worked out perfectly. It was 69 degrees when we got here. Ironically, just two hours later, when we went to dinner, it was down to 60, and felt more like 45-50, and by then, I had put on my pants and a sweatshirt, and everyone was the better for it. 😉

On the recommendation of some friends, we drove downtown to the “Historic District”. We ate dinner at Belfords. Beautiful place, with fantastic food.

Another anomaly on the ride today. Nearly 8 hours in the car today, and we never once turned on the radio, the iPod, the XM satellite, etc. Lois worked for much of the trip (emailing on the Treo, and speaking a fair amount on the phone, including a few interviews), but otherwise, we talked a lot. You’d think that after 26 years together, we’d run out of things to say. You’d think that, but apparently, you’d be wrong. 😉

Last year, for the first time, we used HiltonHHonors points for our stay on the way down, in Florida, and the way back as well. It was a hit last year, so we did it again this year. The only difference is that last year, we only stayed at Hampton Inns. This year, we stayed at the same Hampton Inn near my parents, but we stayed at a Hilton Garden Inn in Daytona Beach, and tonight in Savannah as well. Very nice hotels, and we’ve been treated very nicely by the staff at both HGI’s.

Lois ended up working like a dog on this trip (especially yesterday, where other than joining us for lunch, she was working the laptop at my parent’s apartment non-stop). I just had a great time with my folks and didn’t think about work too much.

One last comment about the temperature. I don’t understand how this works, but most of the time that we drive through Florida, the temperature (according to the thermometer in the car) typically doesn’t vary even one degree, the entire length of I95. It’s a really long stretch, so this simply doesn’t make sense to me. Also, as I noted on my post earlier this week, Savannah was warmer than Daytona was on Monday, and it was a a few degrees warmer again today.

A Semi-Vacation

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As is now our annual custom, immediately after enjoying a wonderful Superbowl party with our friends in Richmond, we headed out early this morning on the long drive to Florida, to visit my folks.

We drove for 10.25 hours today and are now in Daytona Beach, immediately across the street from the speedway. More driving tomorrow and then the rest of the week with my parents.

For me, this is as close as it gets to a vacation. I only checked email on my Treo once before we hit the road, and once when we stopped for lunch. Not staring at a computer screen the entire day is partially a vacation to me. Of course, now I’ll be on all evening, but that’s fine, because it also includes playing one online poker tourney. 😉

The reason I call it a semi-vacation is that Lois works straight through, even when we’re in the car. She works the Treo like it’s a laptop, and touches base with the office a number of times a day as well. Even when we’re with my folks, one ear is on our conversation, and the other on her email.

We had a fantastic ride down today, with close to zero traffic. It was 36 degrees in VA, 60 in North Carolina, 78 in southern South Carolina, 81 in northern Georgia, and 78 throughout Florida. A very nice change from the northern weather we’ve been living with lately (it was 27 when we left NY last Sunday).

We typically listen to the iPod in the car most of our trips. I don’t know exactly what was different today, perhaps the daunting task of DJ’ing for 10+ hours, but Lois asked me to put on XM Radio instead, early on, and we ended up never turning it off the entire way (we did change the channels as our moods changed).

We never turned the iPod on, and that was highly unusual.

Anyway, I’m really looking forward to the decompression, and I hope that Lois finds at least a drop of respite. More importantly, if she doesn’t, I really hope I can avoid being sucked into any of it. 😉