We finished off our (first) trip to Texas with a BANG. After all, as most of you know (since y’all took the time and effort to congratulate me) 25 July was my 75th birthday anniversary. My daughters went all out with gifts, including a laptop to replace the broken one I’ve been using on the road for over three years, new Levi jackets to replace the one I bought in Alaska in 2009 that is beginning to wear a bit thin and upsetting my spouse, a new pair of very comfortable shoes and numerous other goodies. The crowning point was the TWO trips to Perry’s Steakhouse and Grill. Daughter #2 (Kimi) told me to order the pork chop and be prepared to have my mind blown. Well, I didn’t get ready properly and paid the price of spending the next three days in pain with an expanded stomach. She warned me and I can verify, these were the absolute BEST pork chops I have EVER had. Of course, you’ll notice the size in the photo right away, but I could only finish half of my meal. I had a half of the leftover half for lunch the next day and finally finished the whole meal by the third day. If you have a Perry’s near you, or even if you need to drive a couple hundred miles, I recommend the trip.
So we left Texas for a stopover in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Got caught in a HUGE thunderstorm for about two hours, dropping our speed from 70 mph to a low as 10 mph so it took a bit longer to reach Baton Rouge than I had planned. Spent the night and left the next morning for Montgomery, Alabama.
Got to visit with an old friend, Dean Hickenbotham, from our days in Hawaii, had a great steak dinner, caught up a little on current physical problems we both seem to have and the state of our families. We really would have also liked to have visited with his daughter, Faith, who is recently married, but they live too far away.
The next morning we headed out to Atlanta, Georgia and I hope we never have to drive through this mess again. An hour to travel only 13 miles is a bit much, yeah? People are not very nice drivers either. I dropped Julieann off to visit the Atlanta Temple and I went shopping. Picked her up and drove (FOREVER) to the Days Inn in Kennesaw that we had reservations for. This will probably be the LAST time we’ll stay in a Days Inn. In my 46 years traveling around with/because of the U.S. Air Force I have stayed in some pretty bad quarters, BUT I never had to PAY for them!! This was one of the worst rooms I have ever had. If you’re interested, I wrote an inspection report for the manager and Yelp that I can send you. So why did we stay there and not just leave for greener pastures? Because I’m cheap! I had already paid a non-refundable “special” amount that I would loss if we left, so we just spend a couple of hours cleaning and disinfecting the room so it was somewhat livable.
BUT, I’m not as cheap as I thought I was. In reviewing our upcoming reservations I saw two more Days Inns on the list so I went back to the internet and checked out various sites including TripAdvisor. All described the same situation we had with “our” Days Inn with the next two. Our reservations were “no refund if canceled”, but that didn’t stop me from canceling the reservation and telling Priceline.Com that I would NOT be using their services any longer. Hotel.Com here I come.
Both the replacement motels we went to instead of Days Inn were GREAT. This reaffirmed my trust in “the system” of peer warnings. The motels that got the bad reviews were bad, very bad. The motels that showed good reviews were very acceptable.
The purpose of our visit to Atlanta was the temple here and to visit another friend. It turned out to be a “temple only” visit. Next stop was the temple in Columbia, South Carolina. This is a small temple, but it was extremely busy. We found out that it was busy because the Raleigh, North Carolina temple was closed for renovations. Unfortunately, for us, that was supposed to be our next temple visit. Oh well, pressing on….
We stopped off at the Charleston Inn on Charleston AFB, South Carolina to restock our supplies from the base commissary and to just relax for a couple of days. Then we were on to Fredericksburg, Virginia to meet up with old friends Bruce and Betty St Cyr. Those poor folks drove about three hours to have a one hour dinner with us. Now, THOSE are friends!! It seems that the farther north/east we travel the worse the traffic seems to get. Bumper to bumper, creep along speeds, with no quarter given by (just about) anyone.
Our next stop was in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to visit the new temple there. This temple was built/opened after our last visit to the City of Brotherly Love (or Rocky’s Town) in 2016. Another “shock” --- this small temple was also busy (like Columbia) and for the same reason --- the temple in Manhattan, our next stop, was also closed for renovations. This makes three temples on our list that were closed: Baton Rouge, LA; Raleigh, NC; and Manhattan, NY.
We arrived at the Bogart Hotel in Brooklyn after a VERY hard drive. Also, since our bad experience with Days Inn I have been a little paranoid with our upcoming quarters. This hotel had mixed reviews; 2018 reviews weren’t very nice, but 2019 gave them credit for renovations. I booked this one mainly because they had a free parking garage and as everyone know, parking anywhere in or around NY City SUCKS. As our GPS was trying to get us through the various traffic snags at almost every street corner where New Yorkers totally ignore any and all traffic rules (or suggestions), I was getting more and more nervous about the neighborhood we were going to end up in. As it turned out the neighborhood is so-so, the hotel is more like a boutique, but the rooms were very clean and the staff was friendly and helpful. Missing in the room was a refrigerator and microwave, but numerous restaurants were in walking distance and we were allowed to use the “common” microwave. We also have the ice chest that daughter #2 had loaned us and we got a lot of use out of it during the entire trip. As mentioned, the staff here is outstanding. The manager even helped Julieann take our “stuff” to our room while I parked the car (which, BTW, after driving 89 miles in three hours through Pennsylvania and New York City I decided that the car would remain parked for the next four days --- Hello Uber).
We relaxed the first day and did a walkabout around the NY neighborhood and had dinner at a NY Chinese restaurant the second day. Day three we met Julieann’s Aunt & Uncle for a Korean lunch and then met an old friend from our Korea days in the 1980’s who treated us to a “real” NY pizza & pasta dinner. Gotta admit, the pizza was one of the very best I’ve ever had and Julieann said it was THE best she has had. Mike made a lot of points with us even though he needed none. He not only treated us to this fantastic pizza, pasta, desert dinner, but he also played chauffeur for us. He drove an hour to pick us up, an hour to the famous pizza restaurant (opened in 1939), drove another hour to return us to our hotel and then a final hour to get home. For those counting, that was about four hours of driving for a one hour dinner. You done good, Mikey, and we truly appreciate your friendship.
The following day we played tourist and toured Liberty Island, the base of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. Some ask “Did you climb up to the crown?” No….there’s a sign up list that has a four month wait and we weren’t staying that long. We did learn a lot that we either didn’t know before or had just forgotten.
After touring NYC we headed out to upstate New York (Rochester), my home town, to visit relatives. It seems that I booked two different types of rooms (by mistake) where one came with a refrigerator and the second did not. There was also a microwave in the common area we could use so having one in the room (which is nice) was not an issue. Since we were staying for two weeks, the manager gave us the same room, with a refrigerator, for the whole time instead of moving us to the “cheaper” room without a refrigerator. That was nice.
My cousin Kathy had let me know earlier that she was hosting my aunt (her Mom) for lunch at her home the following day. We decided to surprise everyone and crash the party; that plan worked well and we had a great visit. My cousin “really” lives in the country with a fairly large home that she lives in alone since her husband passed, but she has two large dogs, a bunch of chickens and various wild animals that come by to keep her company. Julieann fell in love with the place even though she keeps telling me that she can’t live in the country without some neighbors close by. And in upstate New York, it SNOWS so it’s really easy to get isolated.
That night we got to meet with my brother, his wife and my brother-in-law at an Outback Steak House. The dinner was underwhelming, but always good to see the family.
The following day another cousin, Vanessa, invited us to Olive Garden for dinner. She and her husband, Mike, arrived as scheduled with their three adorable daughters in tow. These girls refer to us as the “Hawaiian Grandpa and Grandma”. The last time we saw them Julieann had given them Hawaiian t-shirts, which all three were now wearing to the restaurant. And, I have to say, it is such a breath of fresh air to see, hear and be with kids that are so well behaved. Love those girls and the whole family.
On Saturday we were invited to an Open House of the home of another cousin. Funny, just a few years ago I didn’t even know I had all these cousins. But, while traveling in the motor home, cousins I grew up with threw a “Cousin Reunion BBQ” in a New York state park TWICE where I got to meet with cousins I hadn’t seen in 40+ years and meet their “kids” (in their 30’s & 40’s) and their grand kids. These Italians sure know how to reproduce ;-)
The next day we got to visit with my cousin Chuck, a retired Fire Captain. He had just had some medical work done and wasn’t able to attend any of the previous gatherings, but I had to visit with him. He and his wife, Carol, live nine months of the year on a lake. outside of Rochester They both seem to be very capable of carpentry and have made many improvements to this beautiful home.
The next day Vanessa called and asked if we would like to go bowling with the kids. Well, my bowling days are long behind me, but I have fun watching the kids. “Grandma” Julieann and the girls had a great time. Luckily, Grandma pulled herself out of the hole and managed to out score the girls…..barely. Afterwards we went out to (another) dinner and, once again, loved being with this family.
About a year ago we met a couple on a cruise we were on who were from the Rochester area. We compared notes and found that we grew up in practically the same neighborhood about 20 years apart. When they saw that we were coming this way to visit relatives they contacted us and invited us to an outdoor concert. They supplied the chairs and dinner; we brought our drinks. Had a GREAT time over the four hours we were together. Looking forward to sailing with them again next year.
Tonight Cousin Linda and part of her family treated us to dinner at an Italian restaurant. I'm beginning to feel the "weight" of all this love ;-) As with all the other visits we “talked story”, mostly about the “old days”. Yeah, they were all good times (as we remember them)