Joni's Journal


Observations and

musings from the

keyboard of Joni

Southern Route

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Southern Route / New Orleans, LA to Santa Fe, NM
Farmington, NM to Las Vegas, NV
Kingman, AZ to Scottsdale, AZ / Palm Springs, CA to McKenzie Bridge, OR
Portland, OR to Kallispell, ID / Glacier NP to Fargo, ND
Bloomington, MN to Toronto Canada

DATE:


February 22nd

LOCATION:


Alexandria, VA

My Observations:


After two inches of snow this morning in Lancaster, we are on the road and off on the first leg of our Bars & Pars tour. Uh-oh there is a backup on Rt 30 at the Prospect Road exit. Whew just a little fender bender and traffic is moving along past a rear end smashed police car. Whoops.

The idea for a Bars and Pars tour was born about 3 years ago when Sports Illustrated came out with a list of the top 25 Sports Bars in the Country. Because he is a theme loving, crazy planning kind of person, Fred immediately thought "ROAD TRIP". Ever since we came back from our Baseball Trip in 1999, we have had wanderlust and would throw around ideas for another extensive road trip. Golf Digest has a Best 50 under 50 list and whenever we traveled we tried to include a course on that list and talked about how it would be fun to do a trip around that list. So, what could be more fun than Sports Bars and Cheap Pars. Fred went to work with his mapping and spreadsheets and here we are "on the road again".

After only a slight detour (not lost - just not the direct way), we arrived at our priceline Holiday Inn in the Crystal City section of Arlington. Quite a bargain for $60 since it had been recently redecorated. The best part is it was only a short walk to our first bar. As we strolled down the block looking for the Crystal City Pub we passed one restaurant after another: Ethiopian, Thai, Mexican, Italian. We got to the end of the block and didn't see the Pub. We did see a restaurant/bar with brightly painted chairs pushed in around fish themed tablecloths upon which sat sand buckets filled with condiments. Looking up, I saw the name was Freddies and that was enough to go inside and check it out. Cool place - the walls were hung with painted headboards, wooden folding chairs, mirrors and picture frames all painted in hues of purple, aqua, periwinkle and lilac. Purple padded benches pushed into rectangle tables covered in beachy tablecloths added to the bright atmosphere.

As we sat down on aqua bar stools at a deep purple bar we noticed shelves lined with barbies-all kinds still in the display boxes. That seemed a little strange, but whatever. I loved the color scheme and decorations at freddie's. The friendly bartender took our order for a Pyramid Heffe and Sam Adams Winter Warmer. I wandered over to look at a display of brochures and local newspapers and was surprised at the selection. As I came back to the bar, Fred was watching a video monitor playing a slide show of pictures of patrons. Between the bartender's mannerisms, the slide show,, and the choice of newspaper reading material, we realized we were in a gay bar. Not that there is anything wrong with that.

After finishing our beer, the bartender put our check on a brightly colored flip flop tray. "That is adorable" I exclaimed. "We try hon" the bartender replied. We paid for our beer, got directions and walked down the block to the Crystal City Pub. The décor of our first sports bar on The Top 25 list was typical old fashioned sports bar - dark green walls, dark wainscoting and woodwork, posters and sports memorabilia on the walls and an endless array of TV's. Also typical were the patrons-rock-headed chubby ex-jock neaderthals leering and flirting with big busted smiling waitresses. The bartender was a blonde bombshell with lots of cleavage and a great smile.

We grabbed a pub table in the bar area and ordered Hook and Ladder and Backdraft, two local brews from Hook and Ladder Brewery in Springfield, VA. A unique feature of The Pub was a large video screen showing updated scores and funny sports quotes like this one. When asked which he liked better, grass or astoturf, Tug McGraw replied, "I don't know, I never smoked Astroturf." Since it was ½ price appetizers for happy hour, we ordered pretzarella cheese sticks, popcorn shrimp and a veggie tray off the extensive menu. The menu looked so good, I wanted to stay long enough to eat twice. Looking around, I was somewhat amazed at the stereo-typical clientele exlemplified by a chubby guy wearing a beat up Titleist hat telling crude jokes to the waitress. The female help was very friendly with the definitely regular and mostly male clientele. Everyone seemed to know each other. Our waitress, who had worked there two years, told us she had fun at her job even though she knew nothing about sports.

The waitress told us we had to check out the 3rd floor which had only been open for a year. I could smell new wood as I ascended the stairs. Wow. High ceilings, a huge bank of windows, and more TV's than I could count, it was a totally different atmosphere than downstairs. Filled with young professionals sitting and standing in groups, a gorgeous wooden bar at least 30 feet long dominated one side. A wall of mirrors behind the bar reflected the entire room including the TV's. Another huge video board showed scores and quotes. I was a little hungry again so I ordered a salad and Crab and corn chowder. Good.

This will probably not excite anyone but me and my sis Jackie, but the bartender knows Denise Austin who lives in Old Town. The bartender is also a dog trainer (according to her there are no bad dogs, only bad owners) and she trained Denise's pug. Denise still looks good and is just as perky and nice in person as she is on her videos. Another bit of gossip - Denise's sister is the spokesperson for those vacuum cleaner storage bags on the infomercials. Denise and her sister each have built their own little empires.

We felt a little wimpy being back in the room by 9 but since we had started at 4, we figured 5 hours was enough of drinking.


DATE:


February 23rd-25th

LOCATION:


Hilton Head, SC

My Observations:


Saturday, February 23

On the road by 8:15. Breakfast at Friendly’s. Drove and Drove. Stopped at one of the ultimate tourist traps, South of the Border for a walk and taco. Bought a cover for my phone. Drove and Drove. Stopped at Santee National Wildlife Refuge. We took a short walk along a lake and saw lots of shells. We wondered how they got there since there was a bank around the lake. Finally arrive in Hilton Head at 7:30 to check into another great bargain hotel found by Fred. Our $60 Beachwalk Hotel room has a microwave, fridge and a two burner stove. The hotel allows animals and the office staff was on the phone trying to find the owner of a dog that had figured out how to get out of the room. They had put him back in the room but were worried he was going to get out again. As we were walking to our room, who was walking thru the parking lot but a dog dragging his leash. He was a cutie and very friendly-some kind of boxer mix. I grabbed his leash and walked him to the office where they fed him a biscuit and gave him some water.

Believe it or not, but we actually exercised before we went out to dinner. We did the ultimate P90X workout-Plyometrics. I hope there was no one in the room downstairs as we were jumping from side to side and making quite a racket. After a quick shower we finally got dinner at Aunt Chilaladas by 10.


Sunday, February 24

After our deluxe Free breakfast at the hotel, we walked to rent bikes. I called Aunt Anna and we rode into Shipyard to meet her and Uncle Bill. They led us on quite a bike ride-over 10 miles along 278 and then down onto the beach. Dolphins were spotted swimming as we rode along the beach on this perfectly gorgeous day. We stopped to look at the place that Aunt Anna and Uncle Bill are staying in for the next three months at Shipyard and then they offered to take us to lunch. In spite of our sore butt cheeks, we hopped back on our bikes and rode back along the beach to Caligny Circle to one of their favorite places-The Market Place. Aunt Anna and I had the shrimp and crab salad. The best part was the garlic pita bread that was served with it. Fred had the egg and ham pita sandwich and Uncle Bill chowed down on a steak sandwich. After lunch we said good-bye and they hopped back on their bikes to ride back down the beach to their place. We turned our bikes in as our cheeks had had enough.

After the P90X stretching video and a shower, we walked to find Marley’s Restaurant. That is one of the great things about Hilton Head – the walking paths. At Marley’s we enjoyed a pitcher of Sangria and good dinners. Fred’s asparagus was the best I have ever tasted. I usually only eat the tips but this was tender to the end of the stalk. My rice and beans contained a certain spice that I could not identify but I really liked it. It was almost a cinnamon. Does anyone know what it could be? I meant to ask.

We stopped at CVS on the way back and that was when Fred discovered he had left his credit card at Marley’s. He was mad at himself. We have to keep close tabs on that credit card or we are going to be in big trouble.


Monday, February 25, 2008

We worked out in the room before eating another good breakfast and heading out to golf course.

Crescent Pointe - lots of water - lowland flat - we played with Roseanne Barr (sounded just like her and a little bossy too) and her husband. The first things she said to me after the introductions was "You want to play the whites. Sure, let's have some fun. I was watching you over there, you can play the whites with me." I caved even though I could see Fred eyeing me. I had a great drive on the 1st hole and she chunked hers. I ended up paring the 1st hole. So take that Roseanne.

We parked the car back at the hotel and walked to go hit some of our favorite bars and try a few new ones. Our first stop was what we thought was an English Pub but was more like the Shamrock from Lancaster but with better furniture. We drank our domestic drafts (what kind of self respecting English pub has only domestics on draft?) while yelling to each other the loud music. Next stop was one of our favorites-Big Bamboo's-decorated in a jungle theme where we had the grouper bites that turned out to be spicy. I had another new beer - Bamboo's Pale Ale.

We ended at Hinchey's-a Chicago bar. We had visited this bar on our very first visit ever to HH but at that time it was a Pittsburgh Steelers Bar.



DATE:


February 26th-27th

LOCATION:


Jacksonville, FL

My Observations:


Tuesday. February 26

We were at the park in Hilton Head by 8 with our laptop and P90X video. We thought it would be fun to to do our Kenpo workout in the great outdoors. Fortunately there was not another soul around because I am sure we do not look graceful while following Tony kick and punch.

After complimenting the hotel manager on our great stay at the Beach Walk hotel, we were driving off the island by 11. After looking at the map we decided to detour to take a look at Amelia Island and the city of Ferdandina. According to the AAA book Ferdandina was once known as a cesspool for pirates and lowlifes. The little town was preserved with many of its Victorian homes. We had a large and filling lunch at Brett's Seafood House (we were going to split but I got big eyes and ordered my own chicken salad croissant and a side salad while Fred had the quiche and loaded potato soup) and enjoyed watching a storm blow in across the water. Our timing was impeccable as we were under roof before the storm came and by the time we finished our lunch and talking with our personable young waitress, the storm had moved on.

We enjoyed our drive down 1A1 to 113 to 115 to Spring Hill Suites-another awesome Priceline.com deal. The hotel is located on the outskirts of Jacksonville (known as being the largest city in square footage) but in the middle of a cornucopia of restaurants and bars all within walking distance. So walk we did to the Jacksonville House for a brew. We were both still so full from lunch that we could not even enjoy another beer so we decided to go to see the movie Juno at Tinseltown. I enjoyed the movie; Fred thought it was a chick flick.

After dinner, we grabbed a pizza at the Mystic Mushroom Pizza Parlor and split a beer (it was a good one – Hazed and Infused)


Wednesday. February 27

Got up and did P90 Core before enjoying another good hotel breakfast including a sausage and egg English Muffin Sandwich.

We noticed during our drive to the golf course that this area has a lot of construction going on. New office building complexes and home communities seemed to be springing up everywhere. I wonder what the real estate climate is like here?

The entrance to Fleming Island Golf Course (our first course in the 50 under 50 list) was through an endless community development similar to a small town. I wonder if this is what the developers in East Hempfield had in mind for the TND on State Road. There were schools, a home depot, a grocery store, a library and multiple housing communities along with sidewalks and the golf course. There was no one at the golf course maybe because it was 55 degrees and windy. The front nine was slightly disappointing-non-descript holes lined with basic condos and modest homes. The back nine was a visual improvement on the eyes in both the houses and golf holes starting with number 10-a par 3 and number 12-a short par 4 that didn’t seem that way when standing on the tee due to the forced carry over the marsh. The back nine was an interesting layout with some memorable holes. Other observations-rough traps, cart paths unpaved (which I like as the concrete does not detract from the natural feel), friendly pro.

Got lost leaving course- enormous development-somehow we came out a different exit and took a 20 minute ride through expansive suburbs.

We saw an ad in our hotel booklet where Sneakers sports bar claimed that they were rated as one of the top 25 Sports bars in Sports Illustrated. This bar was not on our list and as far as we knew there is only one list. We had to check it out.

Huge circular bar, signed sport jerseys in frames hung on walls-baseball, football, hockey and basketball. Waitresses/barmaid in cheerleader uniforms, guys had shorts and golf shirts. Typical 2 page bar menu-appetizers, sandwiches and a few entrees. Great Happy Hour 2 for 1 meaning buy 10 ozs of beer, get 20 ozs. I had Hocker Shore from Oregon. Had 12 pool tables, some games. Another bar on a screened patio area and small outside area with about 6 high tables. Large 30 foot TV’s hanging high on the walls. Only about 10 other patrons at the time we were but could see how it would be a great place to gather for a big game. We only rated them a 5. I doubt they made the list.

Went back to hotel and walked to Seven Bridges Brewery- sat at bar, Good Beer- we had the sampler. Brick Oven Food- Nice warm décor, friendly people. I had pecan crusted dried cherry chicken with cheddar mashed potatoes and green beans-yum.


DATE:


February 28th-March 3rd

LOCATION:


Clearwater Beach, FL

My Observations:


Thursday. February 28

Left Jacksonville around 11 for Orlando and The Orlando Ale House (another top 25 Sports Bar). This bar certainly had location going for it as it was located within a stone’s through of one of the entrances to Disney World. We were surprised to find out it was part of a chain of Ale Houses which included the Jacksonville Ale House that we had been in two nights ago. Same menu, same décor. Not sure how it got on the list because to us it looked and felt like a TGIF on steroids rather than a true sports bar. We think it is owned by Miller because their logo was part of the name on the menu. Our lunch which we choose off the extensive menu was good (meatloaf for Fred, large gorgonzola pecan chicken salad for me).

We arrived in Clearwater Beach and checked into the Palm around 4. We got a work-out hauling our luggage up to the 3rd floor (no elevators) but it is worth it for the view. As I was struggling during our P90X Legs work-out, I commented that we must be the only people on the whole island that are exercising in our room. At least I could see the ocean as I leaned against the wall doing the torturous, oh I mean fun, leg wall hugger squats. Fred is the disciplined one in this couple because I know I would have just blown it off to go over and sit at the Palm with a nice frozen strawberry dacquiri. By the time we were finished with the work-out it was getting close to sunset so we put on sweatshirts and walked down to the beach to take some pictures and watch the sun sink into the ocean. I could have sworn I saw a green flash just as the sun hit the water.

After a quick shower we headed over to the Palm and as soon as we walked in we saw Monica waving. Christine and Monica, our new friends we hung with last year, had arrived the night before. They were in typical spring training form and drinking Naked Christine’s, a drink created by the bartender. So, of course, we had to drink Naked Christine’s also. They were quite good and went down easily. We were disappointed to hear that Tom (the phanatic) had left the night before after being down for a week and entertaining at phan fest. Friends of Monica’s arrived and we talked with Ann and Merideth. Ann had attended F&M from 2000-2004 so we updated her on all the exciting development and growth that was going on in Lancaster. Ann and Meredith met through Craig’s list when Ann and her husband Steve advertised for some people to share the expense of renting a house with them at the shore. Meredith and her friend Carol responded and they have been friends since. Ann commented that they have gotten other people through Craig’s list but no on has compared to Meredith. It is interesting to me how friendships happen.

As the evening progressed so did everyone’s spirits and friendliness. The girls were flitting all around the bar talking to everyone. Christine was yelling across the bar, hey are you going with me to Frenchy’s. Fred yelled back, no way, you are too weird. Monica kept begging us and finally we said we would go for one. We left before they did and as we found out the next day, they got sidetracked in the hotel in the room of a party of people on the 2nd floor that were having a wedding on the beach the next day. So we were in Frenchy’s had a beer and out before they ever showed up. (which was a good thing because they partied all night long)

Some of the wedding people were gathered in the room next to ours and were having a good loud time. We thought it would keep us awake but it didn’t take long before we were out for the night.

Friday. February 29

Got up at 6:30- only for you Mom! We drove down along the beach road to Sarasota to meet Mom and Ken for breakfast at a place called The Broken Egg. Called Ken to get directions and between what he was telling me and what I was hearing - it took us a while to figure out how to get to a place that was a mile off the exit. Fred was full of patience about the whole situation.

Surprise - Aunt Linda and Uncle Scott came for breakfast also. They were staying in Bradenton and had dinner with Ken and Mom the night before. Ken knew the owners of The Broken Egg so we had great service. I had the biggest pancake of my life - it filled an entire plate. Ken treated breakfast which was very nice of him.

After breakfast, Aunt Linda and Uncle Scott left to go to St. Pete beach and we followed Ken back to his house. What a gorgeous place. High ceilings, huge screened in porch (lanai in Florida speak) and professional decorating. Mom and Ken still seem to be enjoying each other so have fun.

Left at 11:30 to pick up Scott & Jen at Tampa airport.

Had beer at Palm with them then we did a P90 Cardio workout and walked on the beach. Met them back at the Palm for sunset and then we walked to Cooters for dinner. We asked a lady for directions as we were walking down a back street. She came out, pointed down the road, and told us to "Walk to the light". We were a little worried when as we were walking to the light, a black cat walked in our path. Hung out back at the Palm with Monica and Jen. Saw Joe and he had extra tickets for the Yankees game. Yeah. The tickets included food and beer.

Saturday. March 1

Scott and Jen declined breakfast but Fred and I went to the Skyview-a place we had been last year that had slow service but we decided to try it again because you can sit outside. New owners-much better service-good food.

Left for game at 11:30. Our tickets were to a special section that included food and a very special price for beer. Our seats were great at a table on the upper level. We even had an umbrella to shield us from the bright Florida sun that our northern skin was not ready for. Everyone used sunscreen except Scott. We decided we had to get our monies worth so we did our share of eating and drinking. The hot dogs were served on nice fresh potato roll rolls. I always say the bread makes the sandwich. Monica and Christine finally showed up and since they were still feeling the effects of the night before let's just say that they did not get their monies worth. Come to think of it, Michael did not get his monies worth unless you count Coke. Phils lost big time.

Jen comes over and tells Scott and I that some guy is over there signing autographs. Turns out the guy was Brett Myers who signed and talked with fans for about an hour. Of course he was guarded and they only let in a few fans at time. Cole Hammels walked up from the practice field and Myers threw him a Bud Light. Cole did not sign.

Jen got her picture taken with players that she did not know and she told them she did not know who they were but her husband wanted her to pose with them. Larry Anderson answered with "I don't know who I am either." Jen and I both got pictures with Greg Dobbs and I got one with Greg Golson. (minor league outfielder) who hit a home run in today's game. We hung out for awhile listening to the guitar player. Since she was not in any mood to drink, Monica drove us back to the Palm.

We had dinner at the Palm and it took forever.


Sunday. March 2

Walked to Sheppards for breakfast - $21 for the Sunday bruch– no way Jose' Breakfast at a Pizza place – cute Russian waitress – food was excellent.

Exciting afternoon of laundry and tennis. Saw Buster the dog's twin. After a short Run on beach had a happy hour sunset on roof. Met Canadians Beverly and Bruce who had specially ordered Virginia peanuts.

Went to Kellys Beach Bar (old boxer coming on to Jen , connie mack's grandaughter (wasted) – Frenchys – and then ate at Palm because Jen wanted the Nachos. This was reverse order of the ussual way to hit these bars. Kelly's is usually where people go when the other bars close.

The last thing Jen said before turning in was call us for Breakfast.


Monday, March 3

Scott and Jen declined breakfast but there was no way I was going to miss Shephards. The breakfast buffet is only $7.99 during the week. I swear this is the best deal on the beach. The fruit display of ripe red strawberries, wedges of watermelon, chunks of cantelope, plus fresh blueberries and raspberries is in itself worth the price. Fred has a weakness for the eggs as they are made just the way he likes them and never dried out. Oh and did I mention the view - we got a table outside and sat gazing at the ocean as we leisurely enjoyed our newspaper and multiple trips to the buffet. As an added bonus, a beautiful white Egret posed on a table as if he thought he was a centerpiece.

Left for the game at 11:45. The drive was uneventful until we got to the backup at Old Coachman to turn left. Fred left an old guy driving a van from Canada out in front of us and he did a wide turn and Scott saw him bump the car of a young kid. The kid got out to look at his car and the gumpy old man waved his arm and groused, "I didn’t hit ya". It doesn’t sound that funny as I am writing it but we thought it was at the time especially when we saw the same van cause a scene further down the road.

Instead of waiting for the shortest traffic light in the world, at my insistence, Fred turned into the shopping center, did a U-turn, ran up over the curb, and the car stalled out. Fred swears it was from spinning the wheel the whole way around. Anyway, here again, we thought this was hilarious. Just a little side entertainment on the ride to the stadium.

Finally got to the parking lot and just had to tailgate before we headed into the game. Great seats behind home plate, Sec 113, row 13 and totally in the shade by the second inning. Joe Savory, the Phils #1 pick last year, started and pitched two hitless innings. Josh Outman came in and pitched 3 innings with no runs. Good start for two of the best Phils pitching prospects. Fred was getting antsy so after the 6th we got up to walk around. We stood by the rail and watched one of the relievers warm up. It is amazing how loud the ball sounds when it smacks into the catcher’s glove. Watched the end of the game while relaxing on the grass.

Jen and I split a bucket of Bud Lights (ok we shared with Scott and Fred) and joined Deb and Michael at their table along the fence behind the Tiki Bar. The only player sighting over the railing was Shane Victorino. There were probably two dozen fans waiting for autographs but no one came up. They waited for over an hour and finally one by one gave up. It is a shame that one or two of the players could not have come up to sign especially for the kids. Hung out listening to the music and people watching until it was time to head back to the Palm for sunset on the deck. L.A. was holding court as usual signing autographs and stopping with fans to get his picture taken. I think it is nice that he does that for fans and takes the time to talk to people.

We started gathering on the roof top deck around 6. The Melbourne crew was there, the Canadians-Bruce and Beverly were there, Scott and Jen were there, Michael and Deb were there but no Joe.

Watched the sunset, had cake to celebrate Denise’s birthday, took a look at Club 300 and then headed over to the Palm so Jen could get Gater Bites. We split up so we could sit at the bar to order our food. I saw a guy wearing a Mosby’s tee shirt. Turns out Tim Gunlock went to Hempfield and now lives in Phoenixville. Said he just packed the first few tee shirts on the pile. Fred and I split the nachos. We just didn’t feel like drinking anymore so I am sad to say we retired early on our last night.



DATE:


March 4th

LOCATION:


Hawkinsville, GA

My Observations:


Tuesday, March 4

Scott and Jen did make it to breakfast this morning. Walked to the Skyview and as we were finishing breakfast Michael, Deb, and Joe showed up on the patio as the Melbourne crew walked out from eating on the inside of the restaurant. Service started off slow but the food was good.

Part of the group was driving to Orlando to see a Braves game and they headed out around 11. Fred and I left shortly thereafter. Scott, Jen, Michael and Deb were sharing a shuttle to the airport that was leaving at 12:30. Goodbye to the beautiful beach and another fun spring training. See ya next year. After hanging out with so many fun people for the last 5 days, it is going to seem strange to be back to just the two of us.

On the road again – up Route 75. Got a phone call from Scott that he had our exercise videos. (no Fred, I did not leave them behind in the room on purpose, I swear) Actually that was quick thinking on the part of the staff at the Palm to give them to Scott and Jen. I told Scott to feel free to use them until we got home. They were on the way to the airport but had heard their flight was already on a 40 minute delay. At the time, we were driving through some heavy rain. Storms had been forecast for the day.

After about 3 hours of driving, we stopped for gas and just as Fred got out of the car, the rain came pelting down. I took over driving until we got to Baldosta, GA where we planned to eat a late lunch. Downtown Baldosta (pop. 43,000) advertised a historic district. We parked took a short walk. The area contained quite a few empty store fronts but looked like a resurgence could be in the making. The two blocks we walked on Patterson St. had an eclectic mix of stores. A funky coffee shop was next door to a large nightclub. A few stores down the block was a modern looking restaurant with all white furnishings that didn’t open until 5. On the corner was an antique store with a colorful upscale artsy display in the windows and on the other corner a small market with International groceries.

We decided to head back to the highway and just grab a Subway sub and keep driving. The directions for our Hawkinsville hotel seemed confusing so it would be good to get there before dark. We finished our crossword puzzle before reaching the Hawkinsville exit. "We are in rural Georgia, girlfriend" Fred said as we got off the exit and he was right. Miles of nothing except a cemetery and a house here and there. It was 20 miles to Hawkinsville (pop 3,200). Hawkinsville is a county seat and for such a small town it has a lot of routes diverging into and out of it. It was next to impossible to follow the directions so of course we picked the wrong way. I called the hotel and could not understand the clerk except to hear that the hotel was located near the town.

After another detour we finally found The Best Western of Hawkinsville. We were a little worried since there were only two hotels on Expedia when Fred booked this one and no reviews but it turned out to be almost new. We unloaded and went out for a quick walk before dark. We came across a market with all kinds of vegetables and fruit and were so happy to discover that they were selling vegetable soup to go. The owner and three of his Hawkinsville old-timer buddies were hanging out so we chatted with them for awhile. They gave us directions to the golf course and assured us that we would enjoy it. After finding out we were from PA, they asked us if we lived near where the tragic accident happened. Fred thought they meant TMI and started joking until he realized that they were talking about the Nickel Mines tragedy.

We continued our walk back past our hotel and into a small shopping area that contained a grocery store, pharmacy, Tru Value and pizza place. We could not get behind the stores to get back to the hotel so we decided to go around the other way figuring the road would swing around to the hotel. Fortunately there were sidewalks since by now it was dark. We took the first road to the right and ended up walking down a dark street with no sidewalks. It was a little scary as some of the houses were abandoned and it was very dark. Not so smart in a small town in rural Georgia. It felt like a Stephen King setting. Fred’s internal GPS kicked in so we did find our way back and live to tell about it. We enjoyed our soup as we watched the Daily Show with Jon Stewart featuring an interview with Hillary and The Colbert Report (Elephants, Tigers and Cell Phones). There were primaries today in Ohio, Texas, and Vermont so we are going to tune in to see the results.


DATE:


March 5th-6th

LOCATION:


Marietta, GA

My Observations:


Wednesday, March 5

For some reason I did not sleep well last night - maybe the coke I had at 4:00? Fred changed our tee time from 12:40 to 10:50 because we thought it might be wise to get an earlier start since we will be driving directly thru Atlanta this evening. We stopped at McDonalds for breakfast to go. We had a coupon for a buy one get one but it did not include the Egg McMuffin so Fred ended up with a McBiscuit. As he was eating it, we realized it was silly of him to get something he did not want just to save $3.00. Sometimes the pursuit of the bargain can get out of hand. The staff and patrons in the MickeyD's seemed stereotypical southern-no one was in a hurry.

We found Southern Hills golf course without any problem. It was 45 degrees when we teed off but with the bright sunshine it did not feel cold. Hole #1 has a creek just after the 150 yard marker so from the reds I used my 5 wood but Fred playing from the Blues used his driver. Four guys who Fred had talked to on the putting green pulled up right after we teed off so we let them play through. We wondered where the course got its golfers because Hawkinsville is in the middle of nowhere. These four guys were from Macon and said this was one of their favorite courses in the area and they play it at least once a week. One of them thanked us for coming to play the course.

The course had a good mix of dog legs and elevation changes to keep the holes interesting. The creek that ran through #1 also came into play on several other holes. The large undulating greens were recently aerated but still rolled true. Georgia has been drought stricken and the brown fairways and rough showed that. Number 10 was a memorable hole-a short dog leg that played long because it was up hill with a trap on the left hand side. On the back nine Fred pared the first Par 5 hole with three perfect shots to reach the green in regulation. The houses on the course were large but all appeared to be custom built. There was a lot of construction on the course. We could see roads roughed out and building lots being prepared for additional houses.

The club house grill was small with a cozy bar area. There was no food preparation, only wrapped sandwiches. The patio offered a great view of the course. The greens fee of $23 was more than fair. We were allowed to walk. The shirts and hats in the small pro shop were reasonably priced.

As we were driving on I75 toward Macon, a large overhead sign on the interstate warned of a Child Abduction Alert Green Chevy Impala with an Indiana license plate. What a good way to get the word out fast to a lot of people.

We stopped in Macon (pop 97,000) The tour book said the town was spared during the Civil War and only one building had been damaged. On the drive into town from the interstate, there were some cool looking southern houses with the big front porches and large windows and floor to ceiling shutters. Several of the streets in the historic district were cobblestone. We were a week too early for the Cherry Blossoms - over 3000 bloom during the festival. Macon calls itself the cherry blossom capital of the world. The main downtown sections had free parking and wide streets with large center islands, benches, and water features. Downtown had its share of empty store fronts but also areas of refurbed and attractively painted buildings. Fred asked two workers if they could recommend a good place for Happy Hour. They directed us to Cherry Street where we found The Rookery and $1.75 beers. We split a burger and some soup. We liked the atmosphere in The Rookery-dark wood, old dark bar on the far end of a great big room that held tables but also a section of private booths along one wall. On the way out of town we spotted the Edgar H. Wilson Convention Center. It looked to be twice the size of what Lancaster is planning.

We decided to go to the Three Dollar Café (one of the Top 25 Sports Bars) this evening since our golf course for tomorrow is an hour north and we may not feel like making an additional trip south for the bar. But doing so means we have to drive directly through Atlanta. The sun is glinting off the Atlanta skyline which is right in our face as I75 and I85 merge. Traffic is busy but manageable. Fred as usual is doing a great job driving. Traffic the other way is backed up for miles but so far we are still moving.

We found the bar after I called and got directions. There are multiple Three Dollar Café's and we found out the one which had been on the Top 25 list had been closed about 2 years ago. It had been a very popular gathering place but the owner had received an offer too good to refuse so sold out to a developer. The replacement was smaller but we enjoyed it. The bartender Elyse (she reminded Fred of an older Juno) was friendly and went out of her way to welcome us. I had a large plate of steamed broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, and squash. I asked if they had anything on tap besides the regular domestics. Elyse knew we were outsiders when we said we had not heard of Sweetwater which she explained is a very popular micro brewed in Atlanta. She gave us a taste of the Hefe known as Sweetwater Hummer and the Pale Ale knows as Sweetwater 420. We knew the couple next to us were locals when they ordered a pitcher of Sweetwater Hummer and half an order of the Blue Cheese Nachos. They lived just a short distance away and were indeed regulars at The Three Dollar Café.

Mariott Courtyard (Priceline) in Marietta, Georgia will be home for the next two nights.


Thursday, March 6

Golfed at Stone Bridge in Rome, GA. We liked this course better than yesterday. The homes did not intrude on the sight lines of the holes on the golf course mainly because of tall pines 3 and 4 deep providing a buffer between the golf course and the homes. The greens were small but challenging. The use of water came into play on 3 or 4 holes but blended into the layout of the holes. Local knowledge would have been helpful.

Holes #9 was stunning. Water. The green was in a straight line from the tee box. The only problem was the large body of water that cut diagonally across the fairway. Fred hit a great drive that just faded a little to the right bit it was exactly where the water cut across. So, goodbye ball. For the second shot the question is how gutsy do you feel. The more of the lake you go over, the more dog leg you cut off and the closer you can get to the green. Fred, the gutsy guy that he is, hit a perfect 5 wood and was only about 60 yards from the flag. I on the other hand should have been a little less gutsy because I tried to cut the dog leg also and the edge of the water got me.

Drove through Berry College, 26,000 acre campus with nature trails, lots of open space, and stone buildings resembling old castles and monasteries. Founded in 1902 by Martha Berry.

Rome, GA, stopped at The Alley Sports Bar, local place where everyone turned to stare when we walked in the door. Small bar, large stage, dark, open, pools tables to left, girl in long flowing dress and bare feet shooting pool w/boyfriend, no flat screens, all old 21" tube TVS except for a projection TV but it was old also. Hour back to Marietta for overnight stay.



DATE:


March 26th

LOCATION:


Lancaster, PA

My Observations:


Getting Ready to Go

Except for a few follow-up phone calls, my last day of work was Saturday. Now it was time to concentrate on getting ready to leave for four months. Packing was actually the easier part. Not to say that I did not contemplate and re-analyze everything I was taking. We had to prepare for all kinds of weather-possible cold when we first left, warm in the South, chilly in New Mexico and hot by the time we get to Arizona. Fred thought it should be simple to pack but men just don’t understand. Women like to be fashionable, but that involves all kinds of extra shoes and clothing. Anyway, I narrowed it down and everything fit in my suitcase so let’s just say comfort is going to be more important than fashion.

The part I found stressful about going away for an extended period of time is taking care of the house. We have 5 sets of home exchangers coming in while we are gone so we had to clean out closets and drawers. Salvation Army made out well because I was brutal this time in getting rid of those nice sweater that seem fine but I have not worn in three years and those pants that I swear I will get back into but have finally admitted that I like to eat and drink more than I want to be wearing a size 6.

Knowing someone else is going to be living in our house made me clean areas that I have not touched in years. I got the brilliant idea that all the carpet needed cleaned and all the woodwork needed wiped down. I basically did a spring cleaning in 3 days plus as much as I could outside in my flower beds. Planting pansies is going to have to satisfy my urge to dig in the dirt. Spring is my favorite time of the year and I am going to miss taking care of my flower beds but they will still be there waiting for my tender loving care when we return.

Meanwhile Fred had been planning our route and making reservations for the last two months. He prepared an awesome notebook with information on all our hotel reservations, golf courses and sports bars including maps. Now we all know Fred is the organized one so it is no surprise that he even prepared a schematic of how to pack the car and had most of the car packed Tuesday night. However, he forgot we were delivering Daffodils for the American Cancer Society on Wednesday morning so he had to take everything out.

We coordinated five different home exchangers coming to use our house while we are gone. That was quite a feat. We have simultaneous exchanges with Seattle, Portland and Toronto. Since our house is going to be empty we did non simultaneous exchanges with groups from Hawaii and another home in Seattle. Both of those we will use in the future.

Our wonderful neighbors, Steve and Jill offered to take care of the keys and look after the house until the first group arrives. We like Steve and Jill so much that we don’t even mind anymore that they live in the house that took away our Penn State Party parking and party lot.


DATE:


March 27th

LOCATION:


Lancaster to Blacksburg, VA

My Observations:


We threw in a final load of laundry and since we had no food in the house, we had breakfast at the Pantry Deli on Marietta Avenue. This is one of our favorite breakfast places in Lancaster. After breakfast, we took one more look through the house-it has never looked so uncluttered- and we were on our way. Our car registered 20,000 miles and Fred’s spreadsheets estimate that we will travel around 10-12,000 miles before we return back home.

Our first detour came when we got off the turnpike and went the wrong way in search of Route 81. So, make that 12,005 miles. Traveling down 81, I saw a sign for Strasburg and remarked to Fred, "How did you get lost, we are in Strasburg." His reply of "then I guess we will never get out of here" was in reference to my getting lost trying to get out of Strasburg, PA. I had a client there and two different times I got lost leaving his office. One time I ended up in Georgetown and one time in Gap (went the wrong way on 741). The scary part is that I am the navigator on this trip.

It was raining most of the morning so we only made a brief stop to stretch our legs and take a walk around the rest stop.

Since food is always high on my priority list, Mrs. Rowe’s in Staunton was a must stop for lunch. We had lucked into Mrs. Rowe’s on the way home from Florida and I wanted to have their Sauerkraut again. I was thrilled to discover that Thursday is lima bean day. I love lima beans and never seem to make them at home. Can I call mashed potatoes, lima beans, and sauerkraut topped off with peach cobbler a healthy lunch? After all, it is fruit and vegetables. Fred was good boy and had a chef salad.

As we strolled through downtown, we discovered Staunton is the home of Mary Baldwin College and the Woodrow Wilson Library. The college for women is built into the hill with all buildings having the exact same crème colored brick exterior. Downtown was a delightful mix of coffee shops, boutique gift shops, and antique stores occupying old restored buildings. We wandered into one store so I could buy a hippie duck and a devil duck for my bathroom. The store had every duck you could imagine, from Jesus to Rocky Horror. We sniffed a variety of cologne with names such as ginger ale, dirt, thunderstorm, leather,-quite interesting.

Back on Route 81, we heard a radio warning of a 3 mile backup so choose to get off and find an alternate route. All of sudden it looks like spring. The rain stopped, the sun has come out, trees are budding, and the temperature is rising.

After checking into our hotel, doing our exercise video of Kenpo P90X and taking a quick shower, we headed over to the Virginia Tech campus. It is a beautiful campus with huge old stone buildings ringing what they call a drill field. The drill field was full of students frolicking in the sunshine. At the top of the drill field at what used to be the reviewing stand was a memorial commemorating the April 16th tragedy. I was on the brink of tears as I read all the stones with the victims’ names. It is hard to imagine that something so horrible could happen on this picturesque and tranquil campus.

We were starving so we walked to downtown Blacksburg where we found Big Al’s Sports Bar. With only about 20 people in the place, we found two seats at the bar and ordered beers. Long Hammer IPA is a new one to add to my list. The two girls sitting beside us were debating over the bad grammar on the menu of "sub chicken for bacon" and whether it meant sub out the chicken for bacon or substitute chicken for bacon. As is typical of a college bar, the conversation about nothing went on and on and involved everyone around them including the bartender and us. It was straight out of a Seinfeld episode.

Around 8:30 the students started pouring in – most ordering their own $2.50 pitcher of Natty( Natural) Light or VT’s-double vodka and tonic’s. At that price, we had to order a pitcher to drink while we watched WVU vs Xavier-quite an exciting game that went into overtime. As students were crowding up to the bar behind us ordering their drinks, I was handing them cups and putting their money in the tip jar when asked. We were having a great time and blending into the environment, or so we thought, until we got our bill and saw what was scribbled on the bottom as a way to identify us - older couple. Well at least it did not say Old Couple!


DATE:


March 27th

LOCATION:


Blacksburg, VA to Cleveland, TN

My Observations:


After breakfast at the hotel (Hawthorn Suites), our drive was only 40 minutes to Draper Valley Golf Course. Fred almost had a heart attack when on the road leading into the golf course a lady walking her dog on one of those extendo leashes was not paying attention and let her dog run in front of our car. He swerved out of the way just in time. Both our hearts were pounding.

I was impressed with the friendliness of all the people at the golf course. Must be a southern thing - everyone went out of their way to say hello and chat. The big topic of conversation was the wind. We were told that it is always windy at Draper Valley. On the front nine we were dealing with 30 mph winds making some of the shots more challenging than normal. It started raining on Hole 8 and I picked that time to have a driver melt-down. For some reason I took a mighty swing and broke the tee but the ball only went two inches forward but 20 feet in the air. Next shot same thing. Next shot same thing. Fred is laughing. Next shot the tee went further than the ball. Now Fred is really laughing. Finally I got a hold of the ball and it went a whopping 30 yards. What the hell. I had to laugh too. I am proud to say I did get my sh** back together and had a 220 yard drive on a later hole (of course that was down hill and with the wind but so what).

The wind actually died down on the back nine. At one point as we were walking to the tee, Fred pointed and said "what’s that?" It was a decapitated rabbit. Only his furry body and legs were there. I am sure I scared some of the other golfers on the course with my scream. Again, Fred was laughing.

All in all we had an enjoyable day. We lucked out with the weather as the radar showed a nasty storm but it never materialized. The pace was good – we played in under 4 hours and never had anyone pushing us from behind. Fred put together a string of 3 pars in a row. We are going to have a running skins game for all the courses we play for the entire trip. So far the score is Fred 11, Joni 7. My only disappointment was the lack of women’s apparel in the pro shop. They had a paltry rack of women’s clothes in the hallway. I did find a titleist hat for $10.

Our drive was uneventful except that I almost fell asleep while I was driving. Fred hit me on the head with a magazine and told me to pull over. Then Darla called and that kept me awake for the next half hour. We spent the night in Cleveland, TN in Baymont Hotel using a coupon from the rest stop booklet. Did P90X arms while watching Villanova get killed by Kansas.


DATE:


March 28

LOCATION:


to Tuscaloosa, AL

My Observations:


We awoke to rain so we caught up on e-mail and the web site before leaving the hotel. Our plan was to get off the highway today and drive the LookOut Mountain Byway which promised great views of seven states. All we saw was pea soup. We followed the ByWay which wound around and was treacherous at times due to the heavy cloud cover. We got to the top and saw NOTHING. Before heading back to Hwy 59, we did stop at DeSoto Falls. It had stopped raining so we took a 10 min hike to the falls. This area would have been a great place to have lunch if we would have had any food. Instead we did the unthinkable and stopped at McDonalds in Fort Payne.

By the time we finally arrived at Tuscaloosa, I was more than ready to get out of the car. After checking into our hotel, we did Fred’s FINAL P90X Plyo workout. This workout involves a lot of jumping and not more than 20 minutes into it the phone rang. The front desk said that someone had complained and wondered if we had heard any banging or noise. I told her we were doing a work-out video and she asked if we would please keep quiet. I decided to go to the gym to run the treadmill but Fred wanted to finish since it was his last workout. He said he was going to jump softly. When I got back to the room, I asked Fred if they had called again. He said no but they came up to the room saying they had received multiple complaints. We are marked people. Does this count as Fred's graduation since he had to do it quietly?

One of our top 25 Sports Bars is in Tuscaloosa so we drove thru the University of Alabama campus on our way. Our first impression of campus is that it is quite unattractive. All we saw were ugly brick buildings. To be fair, we may not have seen the best part since we were driving in the rain. One cool thing is that their stadium is located right in the campus. We assume that tailgating is done on campus because we did not see many large parking lots.

Since it was raining, we headed to the bar. We parked and ran down the sidewalk in the pouring rain to find the bar. Fortunately there were awnings all along the way that we could duck into and take a look around. We did not see Houndstooth and found out that it was behind a plywood wall in the midst of being remodeled. That is 3 out of the first 4 bars we tried to go to that were not as represented on the list. We stopped at Phil’s and had a few beers and two Valium shots-crown, peach schnapps, cranberry and oj – tasty - along with a sandwich. The bars were full of college students out for a night on the town.

Today was one of the days when nothing really went well. It rained off and on all day and interrupted what we had planned to do but that is the way it goes sometimes.


DATE:


March 29

LOCATION:


to Grenada, MS

My Observations:


This morning we drove thru campus and without the gray skies and rain of last night I take back the unattractive part. The stadium does indeed loom in the middle of campus. Directly across from the stadium are numerous frat houses-hefty 3 columned 3 story brick buildings with large front lawns that must be party central for home football games. Talk about location. We parked and walked around the large quad which was surrounded by more massive brick buildings. Being a Sunday morning, there was not a student in sight.

I wanted to eat at the Wicked Bean on campus but Fred suggested that we head toward the highway and look for something there. All we saw was a Waffle House and I made a face so Fred continued driving on Rt. 82. What we forgot was that being in the middle of Alabama, even on a major four lane highway, does not mean that breakfast places abound. In fact, nothing abounds. We drove through miles and miles of woods on both sides of the highway. The first town we came to that was on the map was just a few mobile homes. The next town – 20 miles away-had a street through it but looked like a ghost town. The next town, aptly named Reform, had lots of churches but no open restaurants. Forget Alabama. Our next hope was going to be Cleveland, Mississippi on the border. Cleveland had 5 exits and the first and only thing we saw with any chance of breakfast was Waffle House. Since by now we were both starving, Waffle House it was.

We detoured through Starkville-home of Mississippi State University- to check out the campus. The campus was sprawling and again the stadium was located right on campus. We walked around to stretch our legs. Their quad was smaller than Univ of Alabama but had two impressive buildings on either side of it along with a statue and fountain.

Grenada, Alabama was to be our home for the next two nights and was in CST so we were too early to check into the hotel. We took a drive to look for "downtown" but ended up in what must be the very poor section-dilapidated houses that looked like no one could possibly live in them. What we could find of a downtown had a few shops but no bars or restaurants that we could see. The main attraction of Grenada is a dam and lake with a visitors center where we thought we could get some information. The visitors center was closed. The lake is huge, built up on one end that contains the road.

We decided to drive out to the golf course to move our tee time for the next day to an earlier time. Tomorrow is Phillies opening day and we wanted to be finished in time to hear some of the game on XM radio. After talking to the pro who looked at the radar and said a storm was coming but was a few hours away, we decided to go out and play and walk the front nine. The course, only open two years, had been a late addition on our itinerary when it appeared on the Best New Courses to play under $75 list.

The pro told us the golf course drains well but we were squishing through the fairway as we started off on hole 1. There must have been rain in the recent past so we didn’t hold out much hope of being able to play tomorrow if it rained again tonight as the forecast predicted. This is one my favorite types of golf course - the holes are surrounded by trees so as you play you feel like you are the only one on the course. Not a house in sight. The fairways were wide so the course is fair but challenging with the greens protected by multiple bunkers. Elevation changes added to the enjoyment. We got through five holes when the thunder started. As we teed off on six, the rain started. By the time we got to the green, we saw a bolt of lightening and that was it. We hightailed it out of there and started in. Not soon enough. The rain came harder and more lightening made us more than a little scared. We lived to tell about it but it sure would have been smart of us to take a cart.

Soaking wet when we arrived back at the hotel, we were greeted by the aroma of baking cookies. Wow this is better than home because we never have the smell of baking cookies at our house except from a candle. Since there did not appear to be much of interest in Grenada we cancelled our second night and booked a room for Jackson which would then cut down our drive to New Orleans.

After changing we went downstairs to go to dinner. It was still pouring so we sat in the cozy lobby eating cookies and drinking hot chocolate until the rain subsided. The Country Inn has a lending library so I started reading Treasure Island. Dinner was at Jake and Rips a local bar-b-que eatery recommended by Ernie, the assistant pro at the golf course. There is a picture of a pig on the outside and we did indeed make pigs out of ourselves. We wanted to stay for awhile to watch basketball so we ordered an appetizer of their homemade chips smothered in pork bar-b-que, cheese, and bacon bits. We had a few beers and then chowed down on a huge platter of pork bar-b-que, corn on the cob, baked beans, and hush puppies.



DATE:


March 31

LOCATION:


to Jackson, MS

My Observations:


We were not sure we were going to able to play golf because it had rained 3" last night but when we got to the course, Ernie Petty the assistant pro said it was a go. We are gluttons for punishment (and to appease the pigs we had made of ourselves the night before) we choose to walk. It was an absolutely awesome day on the golf course. The state of Mississippi built The Dogwoods at Hugh White State Park on 200 acres of land and then gave it to the city and county of Grenada. Every hole designed by Gary Roger Baird is unique and isolated. Wide sculpted fairways reward a good drive, allow forgiveness for a mediocre drive but punish a bad one with a lost ball or a steep uphill or downhill lie. Approach shots need to be precise because every large undulating green is protected in some way-by either sand or a mound. There were multiple sand bunkers on every hole which added to the visual appeal and entered into our strategic thinking but did not dominate our thoughts.

We loved this course and it certainly deserves the golf digest ranking of being on the top 10 list of new public courses. After the round, we chatted with Ernie who told us right after the Golf Digest ranking came out, they started receiving calls from people all over the United States who had read the article and wanted to come play the course. We were the first from Pennsylvania so we got to put a pin on their map. They had 22,000 rounds played last year and almost broke even. We ordered sandwiches and sat out on the deck overlooking the 9th hole. Skins Fred 7, Joni 10. We both pared 18 so that will be a carry-over.

By the time we got in the car, the Phillies were in the 3rd inning with a 1-0 lead. As we were driving toward Jackson they lost the lead, got it back, and lost it again. Here we go again with lousy pitching. Brett Myers, Ryan Madson, and Tom Gordon all came up small on opening day.

We got off the highway and took the Natches Trace Trail-a 500 year old trail used by the native Americans that has been turned into a scenic byway. We hiked a nature trail at the bald cypress and tupelo tree swamp. The guidebooks said look out for floating logs with nostrils but we did not see any gators. We did enjoy the scenery. It was a pleasant drive.

We were nervous about the Jackson room (Residence Inn) we had booked on priceline last night because when Fred went to tripadvisor the few reviews there had been bad. The check-in person was extremely friendly and let us know that there was a free happy hour with wings, salad, beer and wine. Whoo hoo – that is all we need. We took advantage of that before we unpacked. Our room was spacious-the size of a small efficiency apartment and even though it was a little old, we saw nothing to complain about.

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