2010 Trips

 Florida, New York, Duck

2010 Florida

February 24-26: Left St. Louis about 7:15 on Wednesday. Glad to get out of the really cold weather even though it’s not warm down here … but it’s warmer. I drove all the way through Nashville. We stopped south of town for lunch at an IHOP. Had mediocre senior omelets. We headed south with Marian at the wheel. Somewhere north of Monteagle, traffic came to a standstill. We crept along for two hours. Finally, at the base of the mountain leading to Monteagle, there was a sign saying “accident ahead.” It was an 18-wheeler that had flipped and dumped its load. After that, it was smooth sailing.

We wanted to dine at JL BBQ in Macon and had already made motel reservations at a Hampton Inn there. We also knew (and checked to make sure) that the restaurant closes at 9:00. Onward and southward through Chattanooga and Atlanta we drove. We kept asking ourselves if we wanted to try to make it to JL or just have something before them along the highway. Ribs and smoked chicken won out at we made it in the front door of the restaurant at 8:50 EST, some 650 miles from St. Louis, and about 12.5 hours altogether. Good dinner, per usual. We eat here every time we head to Florida, I think. Nice room at Hampton Inn and good breakfast the next AM.

Thursday we headed out about 8:00, had lunch at a Denny’s in Wildwood, FL (we’ve been there before, too). Then got into Sarasota and my sister’s house around 4:00, after a stop at a CVS along the way (and we always do that, too). Dinner at Columbia. See the pictures for the food. I won’t describe here. Howard and I walked while the women drove. It was chilly, but good to get outside. Came home and watched women’s figure skating at the Olympics. Cried when the Canadian woman who had just lost her mother won a bronze. To bed about midnight.

Friday we slept until about 9:00. It was about 38 this AM, so no need to get outside right away! Had breakfast in the dining room, watched a replay of the skating (since Carolyn had fallen asleep before the final bunch skated). Marian headed into St. Armands Circle to shop. I took my normal walk and picture-taking route all the way out Lido to the South Lido Park and back along Lido Beach past my parents’ house and into the circle. Stiff wind, still chilly, but finally got up to about 60, I think.

Marian continued to shop and I got picked up by Howard and Carolyn. We drove onto Longboat Key and had a lovely lunch at the Dry Dock Grill. Nice grouper sandwich – see the picture. Back to the house for fooling around with the computer the rest of the afternoon. Dinner tonight at Patty George’s on Longboat, one of our favorites. Saw end of sunset as we went out there. Great food and wine. Back for some TV, computing, a brief time when the electricity went out, and to bed.

February 27, 2010: Cold and rainy. Had strange short dreams last night. Took sleeping pill about 2 AM and slept until around 8:00. Breakfast in the dining room with Howard, Carolyn, and the NYT.

I have somehow misplaced the tube of 45 sunscreen that I brought in from the car yesterday. It’s not a matter of wanting to use it today. It’s a matter of where I put it since I hope I’ll need it soon. Which brings me to the stories of the earrings and the socks. On the way down here, Marian searched her car high and low for a pair of earrings that she swore were somewhere in it. She finally found them in the back of the console compartment only when she looked from the passenger’s seat. She then put them somewhere. Yes, somewhere. It took another search to find where she had stuck them this time. Finally, she placed them in her purse and told me to remind her where they were. And the socks. At the motel in Macon, Marian swore she had brought in socks to wear the next day. We scoured the room, shook out the sheets, looked inside pillow cases to no avail. No socks. When we were loading the car, we saw them sitting nicely on the ground in front of the car. Ah, another mystery solved. Losing things and then finding them should be an Olympic sport and Marian would get a gold medal. Oh, Howard spotted my sunscreen sitting on Carolyn’s desk where I must have placed it.

Spent the morning inside wed to our computers. Columbia for lunch – hadn’t had my fix of black bean soup yet.  Drove to Columbia given how cold, rainy it was. We had black bean soup and 1905 salads. Carolyn gets in right away, and you can guess how. Then the sun came out, so Marian and walked around the Circle and in and out of stores not buying much.

Walked back to the house, downloaded pix, of course, and got them onto the web. Marian took a walk to the beach and I worked with Carolyn on apps and other things for her iPhone. Unfortunately, the sun went away and the sky is gray. I had hoped to go and see sunset, but don’t think that’s going to happen.

Dinner was at Ceviche, a tapas restaurant. You’ll have to look at the pictures to see the eight different things we ate along with a huge pitcher of sangria. Very lovely food. Nice new tastes. And and and we had bread pudding for the third night in a row!

February 28, 2010: Breakfast with Carolyn and Howard in the dining room. Still too cold to eat it outside. Loaded up the car, hugs and kisses goodbye from a terrific visit, and into the car.

We drove down to the marina (bet we’re one of the few who know who “Jack” is from “Marina Jack” and how he was related to our old company, World Color Press) to see the sculptures on loan that are arranged all along the waterfront (I think it’s called “Seasons of Sculpture”).  We had seen the “Unconditional Surrender” huge sculpture down here for a few years, but it just dawned on us (given the Chesterfield Arts exhibit of all the Seward Johnson pieces this past year) that it must be a Johnson work of art. Sure enough, it is. And they are buying one to keep here permanently. As we walked along the trail looking at different pieces, we saw that all were on loan from The Sculpture Foundation (Johnson’s foundation) and that we’d seen some of them at the foundation’s Grounds for Sculpture a couple of years ago.

Around 10:30 we headed south on I-75 to Bonita Springs and arrived at Toby and Jeff’s about Noon. As always, we’re so glad to see them and be with them. We miss not being able to see them on a regular basis. We lunched at Pincher’s, one of our favorites. Love them fried oysters! Went back to their condo and took a nice walk with them. Maybe burned off one oyster.

Spent the afternoon on iPhones, knitting, talking. About 5:30, we left for Ft. Meyers. We saw “Jersey Boys” at a nice theatre on the campus of Edison College there. Early show. 6:30 PM. We guessed the median age of the audience was about 68 and that no one under 40 was there at all. It was a wonderful show and the audience was excellent as well. Loved it altogether. Had dinner at Big Al’s (a converted Smoky Bones). It was one of the few places open after 9:00 on a Sunday night. Stopped at a CVS so I could get some orange juice and cereal. Then back home to collapse into bed. Great to be here!

March 1, 2010: Up early, but both of our host had already left for golf and meetings. I had my normal breakfast (no, there are not pictures posted). Fooled around with pix on the computer until Marian got up. We both went out onto the lanai and read. I am into Cormac McCarthy’s first novel, “The Orchard Keeper.” It’s strange and violent (duh), has a Byzantine plot line setting things up (duh again), and has such beautiful language that I read shaking my head in wonderment about how he constructs each sentence. This is a 1968 book, well before his most popular ones (“All the Pretty Little Horses,” “No Country for Old Men”), but you can see the same roots and passion in this early work.

When T&J returned we all went to the Fish House for lunch. Sat outside in lovely weather, high 60s, sunny. Then we went to Target to get some craft supplies for something Toby is doing for the country club here. Onward to Coconut Point for a walk around “shopping,” although nobody bought anything. Then home for some snacks and wine and computer time.

Dinner around 7:00.We tried to get into Buffalo Chips for wings, but the line was around the block and there was nowhere to park either. Went to the Dixie Moon Diner and had larger portions of reasonably good food and our fourth bread pudding of the trip. Back for the usual stuff before sleep.

March 2, 2010: It rained all morning. Early on, some men came in to fix the Shears’ bed. Lots of commotion. Compressors running. Up and down the stairs. Marian slept through it all. That’s a talent to be admired. About 10:30, a cleaning crew came and all by Toby vacated. We drove to Waterside, a really upscale shopping area. Cartier, Van Cleef and Arpel, Tiffany, etc. We wandered in and out of various stores, not buying anything. It was sunny this part of the day, but got cloudy later.

We then all met at Sushi-Thai for lunch. Toby and Marian went off to shop. Jeff and I returned home and took a long walk. Relaxed the rest of the afternoon. Snacked around 5:00. Tickets tonight (reserved seats!) for “Crazy Heart” and then out for dinner. Movie was wonderful. Theatre was neat with huge, cushy leather chairs. We ate at Bravo, Brio’s other restaurant. Was good and waitress was a hoot.

March 3, 2010: I have a cold in the nose! Bummer. Came over me night before last. Taking all sorts of things for it, but really would like a warm, sunny day to bake it out of me. Not today. High in the low 60s, cloudy. Supposed to get better later in the week. Let’s hope. My only excitement today has been a trip to CVS to get cold supplies. Woo hoo!

Lazy day. Went to farmers market to get fruits, veggies, and shrimp. Then went to a nice place for lunch, Teri’s Café. Next stop was a new costume jewelry store, Ooh La La. Afterwards, we drove downtown and walked/shopped along 5th Ave. Sometimes it was sunny and warm, other times it was windy and chilly. Of course, given how cold it was, we stopped for ice cream at Kilwin’s. Brief stop on way home to get milk and wine.

We fixed a wonderful dinner of grilled shrimp and roasted Brussels sprouts and carrots. Key lime pie for dessert. Yum. Didn’t really do much, but we’re all tired.

March 4, 2010: Everyone, except me, slept in late. It’s in the mid 50s so far today and our plan is to go to Sanibel and walk on the beach. Hmmm. Well, we did leave for Sanibel around 10:30 taking with use sweaters and coats. Took the beach route north through Naples, Ft. Meyers Beach, and then to Sanibel over the new bridge. Brings back lots and lots of memories, especially since this week is the 10th anniversary of Carla’s death.

We inched along the main drag (and I mean inched along) until the Captiva turnoff. Then is was smooth sailing all the way out to the Mucky Duck … and a 45-minute wait for lunch. Windy and chilly on the beach, but we took some pictures and then retreated inside. Very nice lunch. Nice staff there. We’ve been blessed with some wonderful staff at almost all the restaurants we’ve eaten in down here. Did some brief shopping along street where MD is, got into the car, drove by the Bubble Room, one of our favorites, and then out to the end of Captiva to the beach we’d all go to for the sunset. Next, all the way to the other end of the island (with a brief shopping stop) to the Lighthouse beach and by the condo where we all stayed so many years. Lots and lots of memories. Lots and lots and lots.

We left Sanibel and crawled through traffic into Ft. Meyers near the airport to a stellar chocolate place, Norman Love. Besides artistic and scrumptious chocolate candy, they had dark black chocolate up to 74%. I had a 75% dark hot sipping chocolate (skim milk!) and was immediately in a chocolate high, coma, and crash later.

Drove back to our neighborhood and stopped at Fresh Market for some food to eat at home tonight. Long day. Fun. Long drive. Fun. Chocolate. Yikes!

March 5, 2010: Another nice, sunny day that was chilly whenever the wind blew, which was often. Jeff was out early to play 18 holes. Toby, Marian, and I left about 10:30 and didn’t return until around 3:30. First stop was a shoe store where, finally, I found a place that carries Trask shoes and bought a pair. My transaction took about 5 minutes; the girls poked and lifted and tried on stuff (not buying anything) for another 20.

Our main destination was Venetian Village, an upscale shopping area with some good restaurants. We wandered into and out of stores there. We lunched in the sun overlooking the water. I will mention one particular food item, since I have left all food to be viewed rather than described. They had a lobster, shrimp, and calamari pizza which was one of the best pizzas I’ve had. Big pieces of lobster, very large shrimp (our favorite oxymoron), and lots of squiggly calamari. Tasty!

We returned to our usual pursuits back at the condo. I’m making significant headway with my Cormac McCarthy novel.

Around 6:30, we headed out south for ribs and BBQ at Michelbob’s. Good stuff. Then, as if we hadn’t gorged enough, stopped by for ice cream at a “chain” we had never heard of before: Emack & Bolio’s. Very nice flavors, some unique.

So, another lazy day. The four of us fit well, I think. We fall into familiar habits and conversations easily. And it’s so nice just not being in St. Louis, regardless of the cold weather here.

March 6, 2010: Today is the day to go to Costco to see about getting stone crabs as our Oscars night dinner tomorrow. Well, no stone crabs at Costco. After wandering around and getting other stuff, we headed over to Total Wine, a usual stop for us down here. Got a mixed case of wines, mostly stuff we like but cannot find at home. Publix became our source of stone crab claws. They’re only mediums. Seems like the cold weather has really hit the stone crab business with finding them few and far between. Back home to unload and eat lunch from supplies hunted and gathered this AM.

It got a bit warmer, high 60s. We drove down to Barefoot Beach (mind you, dressed in long pants and with jackets and big towels). It was really nice for about an hour. Then a steady cold wind came in from the gulf. Even covered with an extra bath towel, wearing a windbreaker, I was chilled.

We went to Buffalo Chips for some wings. Liquor license there had been suspended since they raided it a few nights ago and arrested some kitchen staff that were dealing drugs. But the wings were really good and we called our children to tell them they could see us on the webcam there.

Back home, I finished “The Orchard Keeper.” An interesting slice of east Tennessee life in the mountains prior to WWII. Fascinating to read McCarthy’s first novel and to know where his later ones led him. If you’re a McCarthy fan, it’s fun to start at the beginning.

Went over to the house of some transplanted St. Louis folks, Susie and Rick Sokolik, had wine and some goodies, and then the six of us went to Sea Salt downtown for dinner. Very nice restaurant, although a bit loud for us older guys and gals. Very nice evening.

March 7, 2010: Just hung around the condo all AM. Went out for lunch at The Dock in Old Naples. It’s an annual event for us – especially the shrimp nachos. Afterward, we drove over to the Conservancy of Southwest Florida and took an hour-long guided boat tour of the Gordon River and Golden Gate Canal with a terrific captain, Tom Marvel (you may remember him from the comics), who gave us the history of the area and pointed out the plants and trees and birds. Quite lovely.

We thought we’d spend an hour on the beach, but when we got out of the car, it was too cold to do so – stiff wind blowing in from the gulf. So, back to the condo.

Dinner at the Shears was a wonderful homemade tomato soup followed by stone crab claws. The soup, terrific. The crab claws, only okay. They were mediums (and I’m spoiled by usually having the largest size) and the meat stuck to the shells (as we had been warned by a guy at the farmers market who said that happens when it’s as cold as it has been). But it was fun and a treat anyway.

The rest of the evening was taken up with watching the Oscars. Then to bed.

March 8, 2010: Jeff went to play 18 holes and Toby had a meeting to attend. So we spent the morning getting ready to leave tomorrow. There is the last load of clothes to wash, things to gather into bags, etc. And it’s always nice to look at what you brought to wear that you never had on your body. I can’t speak for the woman who has over a dozen pairs of shoes with her and some more she got here, but for me, I was only in khakis twice here (not even once in Sarasota). Other than the time I was in khakis, I never used any of my polo shirts, short-sleeved or long. With the cold weather, I really lived in the two sweatshirts I had with me.

My cold is better, although still lingering. Need some heat, some sun. Guess I’ll have to go home to get it. Went out for lunch. Then to the beach. A very cold wind enveloped us and we left. Time to head home.

New York

June 4, 2010: It’s been an interesting day. The flight from STL to NYC was fine. Oh, they don’t turn on the AC in the airplane until they start the engines, which is after everyone is aboard and they’re ready to taxi. So they keep all the window shades down and the lights out! Then there is the announcement that a packet of an inflatable pillow and a blanket can be purchased for $8, potato chips for $3.59, a cookie for some other large amount, etc. and credit card only, no cash.

I was in a middle seat, but my companions were nice and read or slept. A child two rows up uttered screams every so often, especially all through the last half hour. In La Guardia, I went to the ground transportation desk and waited for my share-a-ride van from Go Airlink NYC. Nine of us were in the van with six different destinations. We went into the city on a strange route, but the driver kept us moving. We crossed over the Queensboro Bridge and headed uptown on 1st to the upper 60s for the first drop off. Then it was back south on 2nd into the 40s for the second person. Then we wended westward with me being the fourth out at the Hilton Garden Inn Times Square (48th and 8th). Took about an hour and a quarter.

I checked in and was sent to room 818. Upon entering, I saw housekeeping had forgotten about it and it was in the shape the last occupants left it. Most apologetic at the front desk, they then gave me 1431, a corner room looking down on 48th toward Broadway. And a free bottle of water. And free breakfasts at Pigalle, their restaurant, for al three days. Not bad.

I unpacked, talked to Annie Parker about tomorrow, and went to Saigon 48, which is less than a half a block away on 48th. Carolyn and Howard had recommended it and it was good. I had basil duck and a beer.

After dinner, I continued down 48th to Broadway taking pictures. Then up Broadway for a couple of blocks and back to the hotel across 49th. Chatted with Carolyn on iChat. Talked to Pru about Sunday. Then a brief iChat with Marian.

June 5, 2010: Got up this AM about 7:00 and met Annie Parker in the lobby at 8:00. This is our first ever seeing one another in person. Lots of hugging! Again, someone I had never met in person where we are instant friends and intimates. Such a joy.

We went to Pigalle, the hotel’s restaurant, since I had free coupons. Ye dogs, what a breakfast you can have. Juice, main course, two sides, coffee. I was conservative with OJ, oatmeal, toast, huge fruit plate, and coffee. Annie shared my bounty not wanting a full breakfast.

We headed over to 7th Ave. for the subway. Went to the end of the line at South Ferry and into the Staten Island Ferry terminal, a beautiful new building. The ferry is free. How about that? So, we took it over, disembarked, got back on, took it back. Beautiful views of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island as well as lower Manhattan. And a lovely ride over the water.

From there, we walked toward Ground Zero, asking along the way if we were headed in the right direction. Well, while the monument alongside a fire house to the fallen is impressive, there was really no way to see the site since it’s all fenced in and they are furiously building there. We walked around a bit and then headed to a subway so we could go up to 14th near Annie’s mom’s apartment.

The subway station at 14th Street has lots of small sculptures depicting things like: the streets are paved with gold; there are alligators in the sewers. Fun stuff. All through the underground platform.

We walked to Jean’s apartment, first checking if it was alright to come. Carol, Annie’s sister, was there along with their mother. It’s a beautiful apartment in the Greenwich Village area. The living room is lined top to bottom with book shelves. There’s an old grand piano. It was so wonderful to meet Carol and Jean. Jean and I have talked on the phone, but never really met. This is the first time I have met Carol altogether. All very special. We chatted about 20 minutes, the limit we’d given ourselves to not tire Jean too much.

Then we went up on the apartment’s roof to a stunning view from a beautiful rooftop garden. Uptown is the Empire State Building and Chrysler Building. Downtown we could see toward where the ferry docked.

From there, we walked to Chelsea Market, a redeveloped old Nabisco factory with lots of stores and flower shops, bake shops, food, etc. in its bottom floor. We ate a nice lunch of sandwiches and walked out toward The High Line park. Wonderful way to take an old elevated freight line and make a garden with views toward the Statue of Liberty one way and Empire State Building the other way. Some remnants of old tracks are among the flowers and shrubs.

I took the subway home and did pictures, cooled down, and changed clothes for tonight. At six, I met Chick, Dorothy, and Michael Bisberg and Pru Meyer. At Ruby Foo’s on Broadway. We had a lovely dinner and chatted about the day. It’s such fun being together. I rarely get to see Chick and Dorothy, so this was an added treat.

From dinner, I walked up Broadway to 54th and to Studio54 theatre to see Sondheim on Sondheim with Barbara Cook, Vanessa Williams, Tom Wopat, and five other excellent actors. Wow! Terrific in concept and execution. I had first row mezzanine ticket and sat next to nice couple who visited with me. Theatre over, I walked to 8th Avenue and wended my way back to the hotel. A full day, I think.

June 6, 2010: Another wonderful and jam-packed day. I got up at 8:00 hoping Caroline and Ben would come in for breakfast at 9:30. We had some crossed communication so that by the time Caroline called me, it was too late for them to get from there to here (an hour’s journey). So, I had one of my free breakfasts at Pigalle at the hotel. I gathered up my stuff and walked up 8th and then westward across town to MOMA.

I could only spend about an hour there, so went to the Cartier-Bresson exhibit to try to at least see part of it today and come back tomorrow. I was glad I had purchased a membership since I could bypass the hordes standing in line. As I had been told, these are photographs that make you weep with their beauty and composition and subjects. But, I only had time to see part today. More tomorrow.

I continued walking across town to Park Ave. and took a taxi uptown to 80th between Lexington and 3rd to Georgine Goodman’s house (Pru’s mom). It’s a four-story brownstone, about 18 feet wide. Exquisite. I had a lovely time with Georgine. Her husband, Maurice Goodman, Jr., was my second cousin. She was delighted to have another Maurice and her husband was also called Bud. She is an accomplished watercolor artist and photographer (double-lens reflex). She showed me several pictures of her family and we talked for an hour. It was really lovely.

Pru and I then left at went to 3rd Ave. to Eli’s (part of Zabar empire) for lunch and then took a cab up to 121st and Broadway for the family reunion.

There were about 40 or more there. Except for Chick/Dorothy, Pru, and me, all were related through my great aunt, Sarah Hirsch Firuski. Annie Parker had sent me pictures of all who were coming and how everyone was related, so I had a head start. I met about everyone there and they were excited that there was still a Hirsch around. Many had thought the name had stopped at my grandfather’s generation, not knowing we ever existed. I did find out the cause of the schism between my great aunts Clara and Sarah – it was a man – supposedly, it was Louis Firuski, Sarah’s first husband.

No words can really describe all the feelings about meeting a whole section of my family at this time in my life. There is this connection as if we’ve known each other for a long time and it was incidental that this was the first time we met.

Chick and Dorothy drove Pru and me back to my hotel where we talked in my room for a bit. Around 6:00, we headed over to Sofia’s on 46th for a nice dinner and wine. Pru and I went from there to the Imperial Theatre on the next block over to see Billy Elliot. Wowie zowie. One of the best musicals I’ve ever seen. Can’t wait to see it again.

Pru and I parted with hugs and knowing we’ll see each other soon. Back to the hotel for writing and working on pictures and preparing for my last day here.

June 7, 2010: Up at 7:00 to meet Jesse Goldstine at 7:45 in the lobby. Before I was finished dressing, Pru called to say her uncle, Walter Goodman, had just docked this morning on the Queen Mary. She was going to see if we could visit him.

Jesse and I went out for breakfast at the Edison Hotel, which has an old-fashioned coffee shop – cash only, food comes out fast. We spent about 45 minutes talking and eating. He talked about socks. I talked about my weekend. We parted with me heading back to the hotel, him to work.

I finished up all my labeling of pictures from the reunion (hoping I got names right) and posted them on Flickr. About the time I was going to leave and go over to MOMA again, Pru called and said Walter was up to see us in half an hour. So I checked out, left my baggage, took my camera and walked across town to 340 E. 52nd where Walter and his companion, Bob, live on a very nice ground-floor apartment. Nice walk along the way – took pictures, of course.

A couple of observations. First, food prices are not as outrageous as I thought they’d be. At the places we’ve eaten lunches and dinners, prices haven’t been really different than what we pay in St. Louis. Now, we didn’t go to extremely fancy places nor did we order expensive wine, but still. Second, one of the things I really like about new camera is that it’s really always “on.” So, I can shoot at will as I’m wandering around the city.

I met Pru over at her uncle’s. By the way, I could recognize her walk a long block away. Guess that runs in the family, too. So we visited Walter Goodman, Pru’s dad’s younger brother. I think he’s 88. He and his companion, Bob, have been together for over 30 years. It was really touching for both Walter and me. He knew my grandfather, Jack, a bit. So that was fun. He described Jack as “acerbic,” which I told him was the nicest description of Jack I’d heard. We dissected lots of family history, talked about the Sarah/Clara split and theories about that. A very lovely apartment. Books. Art. He raises dogs and competes in the Westminster show. They had been on a Holland America cruise that ended in the UK and had taken the QM home from there.

When we left, I meandered back across town. I had about an hour before my date with our friend, Arthur Albert. So I walked and took pictures and walked and took pictures all the way back to 43rd and Broadway. I met Arthur at the Brooklyn Diner where everyone knows him. He’s buddies with them all. Some have visited him in Fire Island. Had a lovely lunch talking about what’s going on in both of our lives.

After lunch, I shouldered my way north on Broadway for a couple of blocks. It was cheek-to-jowl crowded. So I headed east as soon as I could and went over to MOMA. I finished my visit at the Cartier-Bresson exhibit and then went floor to floor looking at the interactions of people with the collection. Loved the pictures I took.

Tired from all this, I walked very slowly back to the hotel and downloaded my pictures from the day onto my laptop. Right when the van was to arrive, it was there. Ended up there were only two of us going to LGA then. Had a nice conversation with a woman from Montreal who had then lived in Vancouver, then Hawaii, and now Ft. Lauderdale. Got to LGA, was screened, ate some reasonable food, and waited for boarding.

To say this was a full weekend would be a gross understatement. I loved having time to visit with Chick and Dorothy. Usually, it’s theatre and dinner and that’s it. So it was lovely being with them. And while there are lots of connections to members of my newly-discovered relatives, certainly the closest and dearest are with Pru and Annie. Both are now part of my heart.

2010 Duck – Week 1 – July 23-31

Marian and I left St. Louis around 7 AM on the 23rd and headed the southern route toward the Outer Banks. We had lunch east of Nashville in Lebanon, TN at an O’Charley’s. After 725 miles, we spend overnight at a Hampton Inn in Statesville, NC, just a bit north of Charlotte, where the Spellers and Hirsch/Parrone gang were staying for a couple of nights with relatives/friends. Had dinner at Outback. Yummy rack of lamb.

Next morning, we headed out about 8:00. At the end of I-40, we got on U.S. 64, which is much improved since the last time we were here. Lunch was in Williamston, NC at the Hitch ‘N Post. Then eastward some more until we crossed over onto Roanoke Island and the town of Manteo. We checked in at the Burris House Inn, where we had Room 1 – Amelia Delnoy. Beautiful suite overlooking the sound. We went into town and really suffered in the over 100-degree heat and not a breath of breeze. We did some casual shopping and headed back to the inn.

The innkeeper recommended Lone Cedar Café in Nags Head for dinner, and it was a good choice with lots of fresh, local seafood, even showing on the menu who caught it. Went outside to see the first really nice moonrise of the trip, with many more to follow.

Our breakfast the next morning was also at a place the innkeeper suggested: Sam & Omie’s. Lots of locals. We ate at the bar and had a good meal. From there, we headed north from Nags Head, through Kitty Hawk,  and over the 158 bridge to the mainland to pick up our keys at the rental agency, Élan. We knew the house wouldn’t be ready, but we drove there anyway to see how soon it would be. We were told by a supervisor about an hour.

We drove north from Duck as far as the Currituck Beach Lighthouse and then back into Corolla to a Harris-Teeter grocery store to stock up. The rental agency had given us a bag with four rolls of toilet tissue, two rolls of paper towels, two packets for the dishwasher, and a small packet for the laundry. No soap. Thus, besides all the food staples and perishables we needed, there were basics to buy. By the time we got back, the cleaning service was all done and we moved in.

Our car was a sight. The truck area was jammed up to the level of the cover to screen it from prying eyes. The back seat was also full – floor and seats. So, adding the groceries to all this was a challenge. Taking it all into the house was a chore as well.

Very nice house: 142 Skimmer Way. Four bedrooms (2Q, 1T, 1 w/2 bunk beds), 3.5 baths. The bedrooms are on the second floor, the living area on the third. The deck off the third floor has a wide open view of the Atlantic.

Jeff and Donna got here first followed not too far behind by the Spellers. I fixed dinner that first night, but all pitched in from then on. Mark and Robin arrived on Tuesday, the 27th.

Over the next couple of days, there were walks on the beach, sitting on the deck, doing jigsaw puzzles, playing Apples to Apples, watching Jake on his Wii play golf, baseball, etc. And eating, of course. We ate in almost all meals with only a few exceptions.

There were magnificent sunrises many mornings where various people got up before 6:00 and watched or took pictures. Moonrises were also spectacular given the full moon. Most days it was comfortable and breezy. We had little rain or clouds overall.

On the 28th, we all drove north to the Currituck Beach Lighthouse, waited our turn in a long line, and climbed the hundreds of steps up to the top. It was hot below, but nice winds blew at the top. Lots of fun. Lunch was nearby at Fat Crabs Rib Company. Then back to the house.

There, Robin and Mark presented me with a box to open. It contained an ostrich egg weighing about 5 pounds, the equivalent of over two-dozen eggs. Earlier in the week, Mark had given me a hammer imprinted with “Duck NC 2010” and a large galvanized spike. Now I knew what they were for! What a super present and we all couldn’t wait until we would use it.

The next day, a massage therapist, Jill Keller, came and worked on Marian, Tracy, Jeff, and Donna. Otherwise, it was a normal day of sitting around, sunning, reading.

Friday it was ostrich omelet day. I used the supplied tools, punctured the egg, and drained its contents into a bowl. Jeff whipped it up while I made potatoes and onions on an electric grill. Then we all enjoyed the omelets Jeff made to order (contents of choice). The taste was quite delicate with no discernable difference from good chicken eggs. In later meals, we used the rest of the eggs in crab cakes and to do some final omelets. 

After breakfast, we all went south to the Wright Brothers National Monument in Kill Devil Hills. We listened to the ranger talk in a room with full-size models of both their glider and first airplane. Then we walked around the park, saw the field where first flight happened, climbed the hill to the monument where they had launched their glider, etc. Nice day in the 70s with a breeze, so it was good to be outside walking around. Very nice family excursion.

Lunch was at Dirty Dick’s Crab House. Andy and the kids went to play miniature golf, we did some food shopping, Donna and Marian went to a knitting store, and all went home. Dinner was at the Ocean Blvd. Bistro in Kitty Hawk. Elegant dinner, although late for the kids.

Saturday was departure day for the Spellers and Donna/Jeff. Sad to see them go. It was such a wonderful week with the whole family here. Saturday night, Robin and Mark took us out for dinner at the Lifesaving Station at the Sanderling Inn. Very nice food and company.

It’s hard to describe our feelings with our children and grandchildren all here, around us, living with us, being with us for a week. Such joy. Such a treat to watch the small things. And the funny things when there were six iPhones and two Droids going at the same time or when eight of us were all on our laptops. There were all the meals, the group work on puzzles where the players changed as the puzzle came together, shared shopping, cooking, cleaning up, and Jake’s poll at dinner each evening of who was going to play Apples to Apples that night. It was all I wanted it to be and more to celebrate my birthday and our life as a family.

Now it’s time to strip the beds, wash all the towels and sheets, remake the beds, vacuum and sweep, and get ready for Week 2 guests.

2010 Duck – Week 2 – August 1-9

Sunday it was just four of us. We did our laptop things in the morning. Some people drove up to the house and I went out to see who they were. It was Buzz Cupelli and his family. The Cupellis had just bought this house a week or so ago. They didn’t know our rental was for two weeks and had come to measure rugs, look at furnishings, etc. to see what they needed to buy. Very nice family and I learned quite a bit about the dunes, subdivisions, ownerships, etc. He is coming back on Monday with Charter Communications to change over the modem to him as the new owner.

Marian and I went out to Harris-Teeter to stock up for the next couple of days and to replenish basic supplies. Around 2:00, we all went on a five-mile walk on the beach – southward to the Corps of Engineers’ pier and back. Took two hours and it spit rain from time to time. Mark picked up lots of dead jelly fish for me to photograph. As we walked, we could see houses where the dunes were almost under them. And there were dunes with pretty bad erosion. The dunes in front of our subdivision are steady, have good vegetation, and look unharmed. Had late dinner at the house – nice grilled butterflied leg of lamb.

On Monday, we were all up around 9:00. It was the usual gathering around the laptops and eating breakfast time. Sandy and Sharon are arriving this afternoon, so we will finish making all the beds and putting fresh towels in two of the bedrooms. Lazy day around the beach and the house. We fixed dinner here and sat around our computers afterward.

Tuesday, Mark took a really long walk on the beach starting at dawn. Later, Marian, Sharon, and I went shopping in the AM at Tomee’s Gourmet Market in Duck to get dinner and other stuff. Sandy and Sharon went out to lunch. I had another lamb sandwich – just like I did Monday. Pru and Richard arrived about 3:00. Richard went right into the ocean to swim and boogie board. The other activity of the afternoon was bubbles on the deck. Marian, Mark, Pru, and Richard all joined in. It’s so windy that all you have to do is to hold your wand up and bubbles flow from it. Robin and Mark made guacamole for our afternoon snack.

Nice dinner including wine Pru and Richard brought. Lots of laughter and good company. Too bad Robin and Mark have to leave on Wednesday AM.

Well, Robin and Mark left around 8:00 Wednesday with lots of hugs all around. Now we’re down to six of us. Sandy and Sharon went south to see the Wright Brothers monument and onward to the Hatteras National Seashore and Bodie Island Lighthouse (which is swaddled in scaffolds). Late in the afternoon, Pru and Richard went to the Currituck Beach Lighthouse, where there was no wait to climb it. Sandy and Sharon stopped at Harris-Teeter to pick up supplies, including a main ingredient for our evening meal: shrimp.

I made shrimp, andouille sausage, and cheese grits. Sandy did green beans. Yummy. After dinner, it was time for three rousing games of Apples to Apples.

Thursday AM, I took a walk on the beach. It had rained last night, so the sand was easy walking. Around 10:00, I made omelets for everyone. Sandy did a fruit salad. Marian and Sharon did a little beach time, then, at noon, Jill Keller, the massage therapist, came and worked on me, Sharon, Pru, and Marian, in that order. We all sat around reading. The sea calmed to almost “smooth as glass.” A couple of porpoises were spotted and we got good pix.

Before dinner, we took some “family portrait” pix with the setup like Jeff had used. Then off to The Left Bank at the Sanderling Inn. Elegant dinner, terrific food and wine, and the company wasn’t too bad either.

Friday is the last full day we’re all going to be together since the others are all leaving Saturday. Pru and Richard were off very early to go to the Wright Brothers monument. The coffee maker crapped out this AM, so I called Élan and they delivered another one, although half the capacity of what we had. Can’t do without coffee, can we? Richard was in the water, waves, surf almost everyday at least once. Friday night, Pru and Richard made a wonderful meal for us and we played Apples to Apples afterward.

Saturday was about the same pace and activities as all the other days. For lunch, we went into Duck to the Red Sky Café. Sandy and Sharon left from there to go to the airport in Norfolk. Pru and Richard came back to the house, packed up, and left for home. Marian and I started getting things put together, packed, and staged for car loading this evening. We ate dinner at Blue Point, our favorite restaurant in Duck. It has been expanded quite a bit since we were last here eight years ago, but the food was a great as ever. Went outside on their new patio to watch the fading sun over the sound.

Sunday we were up bright and early and left the house before 8:00. We returned the keys to Élan and headed north then west on I-64. Originally, I had planned to take an alternate route to avoid Norfolk and Newport News, but we got turned around and ended up taking the usual route over I-64. Traffic was tolerable except for the places where there were accidents or road work. Lunch was at a Waffle House in Lexington, VA. We slept at a Hampton Inn in Frankfort, KY, about 700 miles from Duck.

Monday we were home in time for lunch at Kaldi’s in the valley. It’s really hot here. You go outside and are dripping wet within 10 minutes. Let’s all go back to the ocean.

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