This is just a test entry to see how everything looks.... The honeymoon doesn't officially start until tomorrow!
Posted by Lori at 11:34 PM
The alarm went off this morning at 4:15, about three and a half hours after we went to bed, and our honeymoon got off to a sleepy start. Al's friend Beth is housesitting for us while we're away, so she took us to the airport at about 5:15. That gave us enough time to stand in the incredibly long line at Starbucks before boarding our 7am flight to Phoenix.
We arrived in Arizona without incident, picked up our minivan (a Dodge Grand Caravan, though how it earned the "Grand" without having a CD player, I'll never know), and hit the road for Carefree. Al remarked that Arizona reminded him of New Jersey, only more barren. Then he said that he wanted some french fries. We stopped at the Whataburger on Bethany Home Road to get some, and continued on.
When we got to Scottsdale Road, Al exclaimed, "Look honey! Cactus!" Indeed, huge Saguaro cacti dotted the landscape on either side. Imposing boogers, but something about them makes you want to run up and hug them (which I understand is ill-advised). Not long after the first cactus sighting we reached the Boulders, where we'll be staying for two days of golf and spa treatments.
There's something very late 70s-early 80s about the style of this place—the logo and its lettering alone seem to suggest orange shag carpets—but it's definitely a luxury resort. Instead of a front desk, they have two black granite desks with chairs in front of them, like at a bank. We sat down, signed in (I signed my name "Lori Hylan-Cho" for the first time ever, and it looked very natural), were given all the info about the place, and were shown where our room would be when it was ready.
We were also told that our minivan would be valet parked, and that we could either walk around the resort or be chauffered from the main destinations (front desk, spa, golf club). Since we had a 12:50 tee time and our room wasn't ready yet, we took our golf clothes out of our suitcases and boarded the van for the pro shop. We changed in the locker rooms, bought some balls and gloves in the shop, and had lunch at Bogey's. They seem a little confused here about whether we're Mr. & Mrs. Hylan, Mr. & Mrs. Cho, or Mr. & Mrs. Hylan-Cho, but they do understand that we're on our honeymoon, and they've been treating us very well as a consequence. The staff at Bogey's was incredibly solicitous, giving us extra iced tea and lemonade as well as a strawberry shortcake for dessert before sending us out to our carts.
The carts themselves were pretty neat, with an ice-filled cooler, a misting system in case it got too hot, and a ball washer built in. The staff gave us cups of water and straws, asked us if there was anything else they could do, and then started us off on the back nine. I won't say too much about our game—neither of us played particularly well—but the course landscaping was spectacular, and we amused ourselves by chasing cottontail bunnies, cute little quail (which we at first mistook for roadrunners), and salamanders, and by pointing out to each other what we thought the different cacti resembled ("hey, that one looks like Mickey Mouse!").
We were both really tired from lack of sleep and the heat, so we quit after 15 holes and headed back to the clubhouse. We crawled out of the cart and immediately boarded the van back to the front desk to pick up our key. As we opened the large, half glass, half boulder-shaped wood block doors, Al said, "oh, my locker." Yep, we'd forgotten our clothes. We got the key and then had the shuttle driver take us back to the pro shop to get the stuff out of our lockers. Al had to return his rental shoes as well, so I made it back to the van first. After a couple minutes, the van driver said, "Is your husband coming back?"
"What?" I replied. "Oh, yes! My husband! Yes, he's coming back." We keep saying to each other, "hello, my husband" and "hello, my wife" to try to get used to it, but that was the first time someone else had referred to my husband, and it took me a minute to realize he was talking to me. Oh yes, that's right, I have a husband! We figure it'll probably take us at least the rest of the honeymoon to get used to it.
Posted by Lori at 07:50 PM
Today was our spa day here at The Boulders. We'd originally arranged for me to have a Golden Door Custom Facial and Al to have a Watsu Massage at 10am, but we received a letter from the spa when we checked in saying that the Watsu therapist wouldn't be available until 12:30pm. Al said that was fine with him, and I wasn't hungry after our room service snacks last night, so this morning Al went in search of breakfast at the bakery cafe, and I left for my 10am facial.
The Golden Door Spa here really is beautiful, with spacious and comfortable locker rooms that have every amenity you can think of; a spa cafe; a tea room where you await your treatment therapist and can relax, read, or even order lunch; a spa shop; a lovely outdoor swimming pool... I'm sure there's more, but those are the parts I experienced personally.
After changing into my robe and spa slippers, I took my book (I'm re-reading Pride & Prejudice) to the tea room to wait for my treatment and sat down on one of the couches to read. After a few minutes, letters started to disappear like pixels on a malfunctioning monitor—a sure sign of an oncoming migraine. It was probably partly from lack of sleep, partly from dehydration, and partly from the few sips of the champagne that the staff had left in our room in honor of our honeymoon. (Two sips of champagne have definitely produced migraines before, which is why I don't usually drink it.)
I went ahead with the facial anyway, and it was very soothing. When I got up from the table, however, my vision was still wacky—a completely new migraine experience. Usually the kaleidascopic vision only lasts for about 20 minutes, and then there's a 10-15 minute window before the headache hits. I couldn't read, so I went back into the locker room and lounged in the Japanese O'furo bath until my vision cleared. The moment it did, the headache came on. It was a relief to be able to see properly, however, so I ignored it as best I could.
I showered, sunscreened, and put on my bathing suit, then donned my robe again and went back to the tea room to meet Al before his massage. We read together for a bit on the couch, and then he went off to the Watsu pool. I read USA Today, then ordered some lunch and returned to P&P. Al joined me after his massage (which he said I really would have liked), mentioned that the massage therapist recommended Ten Thousand Waves, a spa we already have hot tub and massage reservations at in Santa Fe, and ordered lunch. We spent the rest of the afternoon lounging in the tea room and on the chaise lounges next to the pool. It was exactly what I needed, despite the migraine: a day without obligations.
Posted by Lori at 04:13 PM
I'm up relatively early this morning (though not as early as yesterday, since I went to bed 4 hours later last night than the night before), getting all our stuff together. We're about to hit the road for Santa Fe. I know we'll be staying at a Days Inn in Santa Fe on Friday and Saturday, but I have no idea where we'll be tonight. Gallup, NM, perhaps? Or maybe we'll only make it to Holbrook, AZ? Will we get all the way to Bernalillo? Who knows.
If you have any suggestions for what we should see along our route, let us know by commenting on the various posts (or send us e-mail). We probably won't have an Internet connection before we reach Santa Fe (and maybe not even then), but there's still plenty of driving left to do. Our route will take us through Flagstaff to Santa Fe, from Santa Fe through Amarillo to Dallas, from Dallas through Shreveport to New Orleans, and then from N.O. through Mobile to Orlando. If you have a favorite cafe, museum, roadside attraction, or donut shop along the way, we want to know about it!
Al has called the bell desk for assistance with our bags, and I'm about to say goodbye to high-speed Internet access for awhile. :( I'm looking forward to stopping at the Golden Door Spa for a Caribbean Mood Enhancer smoothie on the way out, though!
Posted by Lori at 10:17 AM
Thank god for the restful day yesterday, because I'm exhausted now. Al drove from Carefree to Flagstaff, and I did the leg between Flagstaff and Grants, NM, where we are now. It was cool to see the scenery change from Saguaro cacti to pine trees as we climbed out of the desert and into the mountains near the southern entrance to Grand Canyon National Park. Flagstaff was at 7000', and the air there was incredibly clean and refreshing—I could have stood in the Safeway parking lot just breathing it in all day.
Luckily we didn't do that, because the leg from Flagstaff to Grants was the longer of the two, and we stopped at Meteor Crater Park to have a look at the hole in the ground left by the first proven meteor impact. The admission price was about double what we thought it was worth, but it was fun to take photos there and see something so unusual.
Next stop was in Holbrook, AZ, for gas. When we first planned the honeymoon, I thought we might stop here overnight, since it was halfway between Carefree and Santa Fe, but we revised our schedule to try to make it as far as we could. The computers were down at the Texaco truck stop we first tried to get gas from, so we continued on to the next exit, which boasted a Chevron. I'm glad we did, because we got to see the part of Holbrook that was frozen sometime in the 60s.
The Chevron not only didn't have a pay-at-the-pump option; it also had analog pumps, the kind I'd learned to pump gas on when I was a kid, and haven't seen in about 20 years. Next door was a Dairy Queen with an old-fashioned blue sign depicting a vanilla cone (I took some black & white photos, but no digital), and down the street were motels, coffee shops, and newsstands that looked like they were part of a movie set. I wish I'd noticed them before I put the camera away.
I had to go inside to pay for the gas, and the shop reminded me of Hillcrest Auto, the place my dad, mom, and later I, as a teenager, worked. There were hoses and belts hanging high on the wall behind the cash register, and the smell of grease and metal and hand goop. "This place reminds me of a shop where my dad used to work when I was a kid," I told the older guy who took my credit card. "That smell... it really takes me back." He half smiled, half gaped at me. "You *like* that smell?" he asked. "It's the smell of my dad," I replied, with an "of course" shrug.
After Holbrook it was a flat-out sprint for Grants. Both Al and I were very tired. When we got to Gallup, we called ahead to Grants to make sure we could get a room, because if we couldn't, Gallup was the only other logical stop. We found a room at the Travelodge ("right next to Wal-Mart!" said the ad in the AAA TourBook), reserved it, and floored the accelerator.
We arrived at 7:20pm, checked in, watched the remainder of Survivor, and then went out in search of eats. We couldn't find anything appetizing, so we went to the Denny's next door. I must say that as a Calforinian, I'm always shocked when I enter a restaurant and am asked, "smoking or non?" Do people really still smoke? Apparently, yes. We got seated a little too close to the smoking section for comfort, so we asked to be moved. It improved the breathability of the air, but not the edibility of the food.
After Denny's, we went over to the Wal-Mart Superstore and bought a few provisions (an apple, some grapes, more chocolate, Twizzlers, a pillow for the car, a collapsible cooler, a large padded envelope for all the stuff we're saving for our scrapbook, and some lip balm). We considered buying a microwave, since we both would rather have had a Smart Ones or a Lean Cuisine for dinner than the Denny's, but we didn't. I think we may do that tomorrow night, if our next hotel doesn't have a microwave, and there's a Wal-Mart nearby. We need a new microwave at home anyway, so might as well buy one now.
One of the things we were struck by on the drive yesterday was how the scenery seemed to change so dramatically every 20 miles or so. Today was no different, though the drive to Bernalillo was much shorter (it took only 90 minutes or so). The most dramatic change occurred when we reached Albuquerque and found that the freeway overpasses were pinkish-orange with turquoise accents. Wild.
The Santa Ana Golf Club, where we'd made a 12:40pm tee time, was on the Santa Ana Pueblo, right next to a casino. The casino and its parking lot were rather small (this we know because we had planned to gamble a bit after golf, but we couldn't find a parking spot), and the road to the course a bit dusty and winding, but the course itself was large and beautiful. Al remarked that if he were ever going to join a golf club to play regularly, this would be the club he would join.
I'd picked the course because it consistently makes the Golf For Women Top 100 Fairways Reader's Poll, and it didn't disappoint. While all the staff I encountered were men, the first three women I came across in the pro shop were all dedicated golfers, and two were planning tournaments at the club. They knew all the staff by name, and they were nice enough to give me tips on playing the course: "the greens are very fast, the rough is very rough, and the natural areas... forgettaboutit."
The starter set us off on the Star 9 (there are three 9-hole courses; you never know which two you're going to play until the starter tells you). I teed off fairly long, but right. I was in the sandy dirt about 10 yards to the right of the fairway. I hit my second shot forward and about 5 yards further right than the first, into the natural area. My ball was sitting up, though, so I whacked at it confidently, only to have it go into even deeper brush further right. I hacked through the weeds and managed to just get my ball onto the grass off the fairway. I hit a beautiful pitch shot... right into the bunker. After chipping out and having the ball roll off the green, I picked up, my morale completely shot. I SO WASN'T HAVING FUN.
I ranted a bit to Al in the cart: Why do I play this game? I'm not a golfer. I obviously suck. Why do I do this to myself? I want to have fun, but I'm NOT having fun! I'm not good enough to have fun! So in this semi-weepy state I teed off on the second, and again hit my ball right. I hit a second one, and that one was actually in play, so I sent Al to fish the first out of the brush and continued with the second ball. My second shot was also terrible, and when I went to put my club back in my bag, one of the bag tags that resorts always hang on your bag had blocked the compartment. I tried to push the club around the tag, and it gave way rather suddenly. The 5-iron slammed down into the bag, catching my thumb between its clubhead and that of the 3-iron.
I screamed in pain and immediately burst into tears. These were definitely NOT tears of frustration. My thumb started turning purple and swelling right away. When I got ahold of myself, I tried to hit my next shot, but couldn't grip the club properly, and contact with the ball produced another scream of pain. I started swinging with my thumb sticking out, and didn't do any worse than before, so I decided to continue playing.
Hurting my thumb turned out to be a good thing. It took the pressure off me to play well... and consequently, I played better. After the 3rd hole we flagged down the snack cart lady for a cup of ice and a Snickers (as any Harry Potter fan knows, chocolate is a rememdy for encounters with dementors; I find that it also helps soothe stressed nerves in general). I was able to get the swelling down a bit, but it appears that I've broken the bone just north of the joint; the burning sensation of a broken bone is unmistakable, and I can't grip a coffee cup. (It's also throbbing now that I've been using it to hit the spacebar, but I can't get used to spacing entirely with my left hand.)
We're now on our way to the Days Inn Santa Fe, where we have a reservation for two nights. More news tomorrow!
Posted by Lori at 03:26 PM
We ended up spotting a place to eat after accidentally getting in a right turn-only lane last night, so we had dinner at Luby's Cafeteria before continuing on to the hotel. I remarked to Al that it seemed more like our 50th wedding anniversary than our honeymoon. Al: "Why, because we're eating dinner at a cafeteria at 5:30pm?" The food was actually pretty decent, and very filling. In fact, I'm considering living on mochas for the next couple days, so I can still fit into my pants by the time we reach Dallas...
Anyway, after dinner we poked around the mall in which Luby's was situated, and I found a GAP. I bought three tops and five pairs of socks for $47 (I'd packed really light so I wouldn't have to think too much the day after the wedding, figuring I'd buy stuff on the road); I like the socks so much I'm thinking about going back for more. We then continued on to our hotel.
When we checked in we paid for the two nights we'd reserved, but after taking a shower in the room, I called the front desk and changed the reservation to 1 night. (They said as long as I checked out by 10, they'd refund the cost of the second night.) Nothing was as clean as it should have been (including the phone, which I tried to clean with handiwipes, but after the third one came away still dirty, I used my cell phone to call around for a reservation for Saturday night). I kept thinking of my mom as I got increasingly creeped out by the thought of dirt everywhere. If the phone and the shower were icky, was there any guarantee that they washed the towels or changed the sheets between guests?
That latter suspicion was seemingly confirmed when we pulled down the covers on one of the beds and found a long brown hair and sheets that were pressed into the mattress pad. Fresh sheets don't look like that. The other bed seemed ok, though, and it was actually quite comfortable, so I tried to focus on that rather than where dirt might be lurking. I had one nightmare and one troubling dream, but other than that I slept ok. I woke up at 7:30 and immediately got up and started packing.
When it came time to put on my socks, I washed my feet first with the antibacterial handiwipes, since I'd been walking around the room in bare feet since the night before. Better safe than sorry. I then loaded up the car, waited for Al to be done, and then went to the office at 9:15 to check out and get my second night refunded. I also told the clerk that I was expecting a FedEx package (I forgot some medication, and Al needs his contacts, so Beth sent them off yesterday). It hasn't arrived yet, so I'm sitting in the Starbucks down the street from the Days Inn, drinking a Grande Decaf Soy Mocha and blogging. Al sat with me just long enough to drink his Grande Iced Soy Chai Latte, and then he got bored. He's off trying to find some breakfast. When he returns, we'll go back to the hotel to (hopefully) pick up the package, and then head to downtown Santa Fe to kick around.
Tonight we have reservations for a hot tub and massage at Ten Thousand Waves, a Japanese hot tub spa, and for a room at the Radisson Santa Fe. It's three times the price of the Days Inn, but I'm hoping it's ten times as clean.
Posted by Lori at 09:20 AM
I keep forgetting we're at 7,000 feet. I couldn't figure out why I was drunk after one glass of wine with our late lunch (which, for me, included a beet and mango salad with field greens and two slices of homemade wheat bread at Cafe Pasqual's—thanks, Clem!) until I read the "High Altitude Tips" in the hotel's guest services directory, which mentioned using alcohol sparingly due to its intensified effects at altitude. Oh well. Hopefully I'll be a bit more sober by 5:45pm, which is when we're due to get in a hot tub (or, more accurately, a warm tub) at Ten Thousand Waves.
Our FedEx package never made it; the boxes on the form are confusing, and both Priority Overnight Next Business Day and Saturday Delivery were checked. That means that the package is here, but it won't be delivered until Monday morning... and we're leaving Sunday morning. Oh well; FedEx supposedly can route it to Dallas for us. As long as it makes it there by Wednesday, when I run out of medicine (and we leave for New Orleans), we're good.
After determining that the package wasn't going to make it, we headed first for Whole Foods (we got a mini Just Desserts carrot cake to relive the wedding reception, and scouted breakfast and lunch options for our long journey tomorrow) and then on to the Plaza. We walked around a little, admired the architecture around the Cathedral, bought some roasted corn from a cart, priced a cool pear painting (too expensive for us) and some metal sculptures (WAY too expensive for us), and then put Al's name on the list for a table at Pasqual's.
Since lunch is over at 3pm and we put our names on the list at 2:40pm, we were in the "one call only" timeframe. If you didn't answer the first call, your name was crossed off forever! When I saw the guy with the list come out about 5 minutes later, I ran over to stand within earshot. He read off three names with no response, and then said, "AL!" "Right here!" I said, motioned to Al to follow, and went to the table the host pointed at.
I ordered a glass of Merlot with the beet salad in mind, but our waiter thought that the vintage was a little weak for $10 a glass. He brought me two other wines to try instead, and I picked his second choice. It was good, which explains my current state. Al had Chargrilled Trout and a do-it-yourself lemonade; he wished someone better qualified had made it for him. The food was nice, the service even better, and I'd eat there again. In fact, if we're hungry after the Ten Thousand Waves, we might.
Posted by Lori at 03:56 PM
We're in Wichita Falls, TX now, after another long day of driving. Somehow this leg didn't seem as long as the one from Carefree to Grants, but I think it was actually longer. We got up early this morning, went to the Albertson's near the hotel (which had a Starbucks in it), and got coffee, chocolate (our last bag was ruined when it made contact with the ice water in the cooler), Fiery Cheetos, and postcards for the scrapbook.
After Albertson's we stopped at Whole Foods to stock up on actual food for our journey (all evidence to the contrary—in my life, at least—one cannot survive on chocolate and Starbucks alone). I got a lemon-dill tuna sandwich, a double-decker brownie, and some Kettle Krisps (the low-fat version of Kettle Chips); and Al bought some Kettle Chips, some orange sodas, some orange rice, and a couple other goodies.
With our shopping done, we hit the road. The long trip down 285 to I-40 was pretty peaceful; it was a chilly 46° with mostly overcast skies, and it was kinda cozy to have the heat on in the car. We admired the flat plains, the windmills, and the occasional cow, and Al started writing down the different state license plates we were seeing. (We'd planned to buy a license plate sticker book like my niece M_'s, but we couldn't find one before our trip.)
I drove until I-40, and then Al drove the longest leg into Texas and past Amarillo. I alternately slept, ate Twizzlers, and took photos out the window. We switched again at a Fina station in a small town that I can't remember the name of on US287. I bought a Texas Lotto ticket (the drawing is Wednesday) and two scratchers for a total of $3. I won $4 on my scratcher, so I'm up $1. :)
I really loved the drive down 287; instead of having exits for towns, the highway passed right through the middle of them, with the speed limit dropping from 70 to 55 to 45 to 35 and then going back up again once you passed the Dairy Queen. We found a pumpkin patch in one town, and I did a quick turn into a DQ parking lot to go back and take a photo, completely oblivious of the oncoming traffic. (Was there a corner there that the two cars I turned in front of came around at the last minute, or was I so focused on the pumpkins that I just didn't look? Probably the latter, scarily enough.)
Anyhow, I got some photos, and we made it safely to the Fairfield Inn in Wichita Falls. Al's out trying to find a Texas BBQ place, and I'm in the room watching Criminal Intent and eating the rest of my tuna sandwich and an Amy's Brown Rice & Vegetable Bowl that I got at the Albertson's nearby. (It's really delicious—I'd buy one again in a heartbeat.) We did end up buying a microwave oven at the Best Buy in Santa Fe, but we haven't taken it out of the box yet. The room we're in now has one, so we used that. We figure if we don't end up using it, we'll return it at a Best Buy in Florida; if we do, we'll ship it home for use in our kitchen!
Posted by Lori at 06:15 PM
The modem in my laptop isn't working (something I knew before we left because I tested it on the day after the wedding), so we're dependent on high-speed access to read e-mail and upload blog entries and photos. The hotels in New Mexico and Wichita, TX didn't have high-speed access, and neither did the Starbucks in AZ or NM, so we had to wait until we arrived in Dallas to find a HotSpot. We're now two blocks away from our hotel (which, in turn, is a couple blocks from Dealy Plaza and a few more from the American Airlines Center, where the Stars play), in the basement of the Chamber of Commerce, blogging at a Starbucks. Hooray! There'll be a backlog of updates shortly...
Posted by Lori at 01:34 PM
Al and I are now at the Starbucks in the Galleria (Dallas Pkwy & LBJ Fwy). We came to buy me a pair of jeans and check e-mail. Last night we went to the Texas State Fair here in Dallas. It was really fun seeing all the livestock, eating fried green tomatoes, petting the kangaroos in the children's barn, and playing the midway games (Al won me two Spongebobs, a small dracula one and a huge regular one; the huge one is belted into the back seat of the minivan like a kid). I didn't play the game I always seem to win (water pistols) because there were no prizes I cared about.
I'm bummed to say that I forgot my digital camera, so I have no Texas State Fair photos to share just yet. I did buy a disposable film camera, however, so I'll try to send that in to Ofoto so I'll get digital photos as well as prints. Camera or no, I'm so glad that we didn't wimp out and go to bed; it would have been a shame to leave Texas without seeing such a spectacle of neon and agriculture.
After the fair, we went back to the hotel with the idea of doing a couple loads of laundry; unfortunately, another guest beat us to one of the two washing machines, so we were up later waiting for clean clothes than we'd anticipated. We read our book and magazine, respectively, and when we got bored with those, we jumped around the laundry room singing and being silly to pass the time.
We ended up getting to bed after 1am, so we slept in this morning (as well as we could with a guy above us who seemed to be crushing one ice cube at a time with a hammer). When we got up we walked the three blocks or so to the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealy Plaza and took the audio tour of the exhibits chronicling JFK's presidency and assassination. For anyone else contemplating this adventure, don't bother with the audio�unlike at Alcatraz, where the audio *makes* the tour, here the exhibits and videos are fascinating enough on their own, and the audio only distracts from them.
We spent about two hours inside the museum, and then we went out to the sidewalk on Elm. (We didn't realize when we booked our hotel at 1015 Elm Street that we were on *the* Elm Street where Kennedy was shot.) I took photos of Dealy Plaza while Al got a hot dog from a vendor and listened to the spiels of the conspiracy theorists that had set up displays on the grassy knoll. The weather is beautiful today, sunny and unusually cool for October in Texas, so it was nice to walk around and look at the scene from different vantage points.
We're about to leave the mall now to go back to the hotel and drop off our stuff before walking over to American Airlines Center to see the Dallas Stars play the Edmonton Oilers. We're looking forward to seeing another NHL rink; so far I think we've only seen San Jose, LA, and Minnesota.
Posted by Lori at 03:30 PM
We weren't planning on staying over in New Orleans, but after making great time to Dallas, we had more confidence in our ability to drive long distances. Instead of stopping in Shreveport or Lafayette, we decided to make a hotel reservation and drive straight to the Crescent City.
Our first requirement for a hotel was that it offer high-speed internet access; we knew that Texas would be the only state on our itinerary where Starbucks offered T-Mobile Hotspots, and being without access in NM was irritating. (It's amazing how used to looking stuff up on the web we are.) Anyway, our second criteria was a reasonable price (this is a long trip, and we're on a budget), and our third was proximity to the French Quarter. The Radisson New Orleans met all our requirements, so here we are! We've even made arrangements to stay for an extra night so we'll have a full day to explore the city. (I've been here a couple times before, but Al's never been, and I want to show him some of the things that made an impression on me as well as explore new places with him.) We're making good time, and we'll still be in the Lakeland/Orlando area by Saturday evening (leaving us two and a half days to hang out there), so we can afford the extra day here.
Having decided that we'd stay an extra night, we gave ourselves permission to stay in, watch the West Wing and Law & Order, and order room service (which was delicious). I can't wait to eat Fried Oyster Po' Boys (thanks to Terence and Kathleen for buying them for us off the registry!) and bread pudding at the Acme Oyster House tomorrow, walk it all off, and then have a beignet at the Cafe Du Monde. Or the reverse... doesn't matter, as long as I get to try one of everything! Since we also happened to stop at the Russell Stover Factory Outlet Store somewhere in Texas today, I'm starting to worry that I won't be able to fit into my pants by the end of the trip. Oh well, I can always return to Smart Ones and low-fat cooking when I get back to California. ;)
Posted by Lori at 08:43 PM
This morning Al and I went out to explore the French Quarter a bit. First stop: Cafe Du Monde for beignets. I've been to the Cafe twice as part of two separate scavenger hunts, but I've never sat down to eat before. It was really pleasant sitting in the open-air cafe, taking photos and waiting for our order to arrive. It's difficult to describe how truly amazing the weather is here right now, with temperatures in the 70s, very low humidity, and a nice breeze. It would be de riguer for Northern California, but for here it's extremely unusual.
After we'd licked the powdered sugar off our fingers, we walked past Jackson Square to Bourbon Street. I showed Al the sign for Gumbo Heads, which always makes me laugh. I bought a cap there, and then we dodged the hucksters trying to get us to come into their bars for 3-for-1 drinks and headed for the Acme Oyster House.
The wait outside was very short because we opted for two stools at the bar (something I wouldn't do again because my thigh bones are rather long�not good for stools�and my knees still sore from the fall on the ice the day before the wedding). I tried to keep my knees from brushing the ceramic tiles facing the bar and ordered a fried oyster po' boy and a root beer. Al got a half-dozen raw oysters, a red beans and rice platter with sausage, and a root beer.
I was struck by how muddy the oysters were; I'm not a raw oyster eater anyway, but after watching them being shucked before me, I'm not likely to become one in the future. Al said they were good, though, so he was happy. The meal was delicious, and we enjoyed talking with the oyster shuckers while they worked. I'm so glad I got my po' boy, and that I got to share Acme with Al.
After Acme we poked around a bit more and then came back to the hotel room for a little rest. We'll go out again in a couple hours, I'm sure. Mostly we're trying to enjoy the places we visit *and* get some sleep and quiet time. We need it after all the craziness that preceeded the wedding.
Posted by Lori at 02:56 PM
We're about to say goodbye to high-speed access again for a day or two at least. Al is down getting some chicory coffee and postcards in the lobby, and I'm packing up.
Al *loved* New Orleans; after three trips here, I can say that this one was definitely the most comfortable weatherwise, and the food in New Orleans really is extraordinary. I don't get into the Mardi Gras, 3-for-1 drinks, show us your tits atmosphere, though, so I'd prefer to come again when it's quiet, eat a couple good meals, and be gone. That's basically what we've done on this trip; coming mid-week definitely helped us bypass the street party scene.
Al pointed out that though this was the best eating he's done the whole trip, we didn't once have a fancy meal. In fact, we only had one eating experience that you could call a meal at all—late lunch at the Acme Oyster House. Our other culinary adventures involved random bowls of ettouffe, room service, beignets, and take-out bread pudding. All of it was great, but we've left room for improvement: another meal at Acme; fried oysters and shrimp ettouffe at K-Paul's; savory, filo-wrapped boursin cheese appetizers at Nola's, and more. We'll be back.
Posted by Lori at 08:02 AM
Yesterday was scheduled to be one of the shorter drives on our itinerary, so we noodled around a lot and took scenic routes when they were offered. Unfortunately, this made for a longer drive than we were really up for, and we didn't make it as far as Tallahassee (though we are beyond Pensacola). The good news is that because we're about halfway between the two cities (and not on the outskirts of either), we were able to get a great hotel room for fairly cheap. This is the second Hampton Inn we've stayed in, and though neither had Internet access, they were both very clean and very comfortable.
As soon as I'm done writing this, we're going to load up the car and head for Lakeland, where Al's cousin Marcus lives. Hopefully we'll get a chance to have dinner with him and his mother tonight; tomorrow we're planning on playing a round of golf together. On Monday morning we'll get up early and drive the 45 minutes to the Magic Kingdom, and Monday night we'll stay at Disney's All Star Sports Resort. It's Disney's version of a budget hotel, but I stayed there in 1999 and really liked it. Lots of whimsy.
We've also booked a "priority seating" (Disney's version of a reservation) for the Clambake Buffet at the Cape May Cafe in Disney's Beach Club Resort for Monday night. We stayed at the adjacent Yacht Club Resort last September and ate the Clambake Buffet twice; the food is good, if not spectacular, but they have an amazing ambrosia on the salad bar, and the atmosphere is really fun. We thought about going to Artist Point, the Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired, Northwest-cuisine-serving restaurant at the Wilderness Lodge that was by far the best eating experience we had last September, but I didn't want to ruin the memory I have of that meal by having a second that didn't live up to the first. Maybe next time we stay at Disney for more than one day.
Posted by Lori at 07:52 AM
We made it to our lovely hotel, the Jameson Inn, at about 5:15pm this evening and were greeted by the informal and friendly girl at the front desk. She gave us a room with a fridge at our request; it's quite nice, and would make a good bedroom suite in a house. Its only drawback is lack of high-speed Internet access, which means that this entry and the ones that follow likely won't be posted until we arrive home in Mountain View.
After dropping off our bags in the room, we called Al's cousin Marcus, who manages the Wedgewood Golf and Country Club about a mile or two from the hotel. He invited us to drop by and say hello, which we did. We caught his mom, Mrs. Shin, on the way out and gave her a hug, then continued up to the pro shop to see what Marcus was up to. A wedding on the first tee was about to start, so we got to see the the bride having a pre-ceremony cigarette, the course staff moving the getaway golf cart into place, and the groomsmen (wearing what looked like umpires' uniforms, complete with black baseball caps) lining up.
We then stood in the doorway of the pro shop, which overlooks the first tee, and watched the ceremony itself. It was over rather quickly (was ours that fast, too?), and I wished I had my camera on me as the bride and groom sped toward us in the golf cart, being chased by three young boys in white shirts and suit pants. My favorite part of the wedding was the bagpiper who played before, during the processional, and after the ceremony. He was great.
After agreeing on a tee time for Sunday with Marcus, we left to find a GAP and a grocery store. One of my goals on the honeymoon has been to buy some new clothes; while I have a full closet in Truckee and a half-full one in Mountain View, the lineup of items that actually fit is meager. I need to do some shopping and some weeding.
I took us the wrong way on US98 (mainly because I hadn't noticed an obvious mall on the way in on 98, and thus figured that it had to be south of our current location), so we drove around for about 15 or 20 minutes looking for the mall and admiring the local neon. Once again I ardently wished I had my cameras (both film and digital), because the signage was unique. We passed the First Baptist Church, housed in what appeared to be an abandoned Sears department store (a fact that was seemingly confirmed by the large sign that announced:
First Baptist Church
at the Mall
We also saw an old-style Arby's with a very photogenic sign, and a new one on us: the Hooters Inn, next to the Hooters Restaurant. (I wonder if this is the Hooters where, as Marcus told us, the bride and groom from the golf course had met.)
We finally found Lakeland Center, tucked behind a wall of chain restaurants, and discovered a GAP inside it. Though it didn't have any more flop-V-necked shirts or the striped socks that I should have bought zillions of when we were in Santa Fe, I did buy another couple long-sleeved, midweight men's shirts. They're really comfortable, and they fit better than the women's long-sleeved GAP shirts often do (I have broad shoulders and long arms, which apparently aren't typical among women, or at least among women who shop at the GAP). Anyway, we continued on to the Wal-Mart Supercenter for water and donuts and to the Publix for a microwave meal, and then headed back to the hotel.
When we opened the door, Al noticed three roses and some baby's breath on the sink counter (which is to the left as you come in the door) and said, "someone left us flowers." I think both of our mind's jumped to the Oreo Incident—did I mention this before? At the Hampton Inn in Dallas, we each went to the room separately for different things on the afternoon of our arrival day and noticed that there was a bottle of water and a pack of Oreos on the hope chest/luggage rack. Each of us assumed the other had put it there, but when we compared notes later that evening, neither of us could account for it. We didn't know if it was intended as a gift from the front desk, or if it was left by someone who'd entered the wrong room and didn't figure it until after he'd set down his Oreos. We thought it was weird, but nothing was taken, so we just shrugged and smiled over it.
Anyway, back to the roses in our room at the Jameson: As we got farther into the room, it was clear that these roses hadn't been left by accident: there were more in the recliner next to the bed, on top of the TV, on the desk, and on my nightstand. As we found each bunch, we remarked to each other that this was definitely weirder than the Oreo Incident. On Al's nightstand was an amazing bottle of champagne and a rose in the ice bucket, but no note. We suspected Marcus to be behind it, but we didn't know for sure.
It was only after we realized that the bed was covered with rose petals—and I'd photographed the scene—that Al located a note from Marcus under the roses on my side of the bed. This find lessened the weirdness factor, and let us instead see it as a romantic gesture rather than another Oreo Incident. Very sweet.
Posted by Lori at 06:56 PM
We've been SO LAZY this morning. I think it's partly because we stayed up late watching Game 1 of the World Series followed by the episode of the Sopranos that we'd missed earlier in the week, and partly because we've been driving/traveling so much. It was nice to sleep in and then stay in bed watching SpongeBob and HGTV this morning.
Now we're up and showered, and we're about to go out to the Best Buy we noticed on US98 last night. We haven't used the microwave or the CD player that we bought in Santa Fe (we either ate out, got room service, or found rooms that already had microwaves in the remaining hotels on our route, and we ended up listening to the radio or reading each other stories from USA Today instead of playing CDs as we drove), so we're going to return them. We still do need a microwave at home, so we'll buy one when we get back to Mountain View.
After Best Buy we're going over to the golf course to meet Marcus for a 2:30 round. Hopefully it's not too hot out; we got a little taste of the Florida heat yesterday, our first since we started our trip. Until Florida, the weather had been remarkably cool and dry, even in Dallas and New Orleans.
Posted by Lori at 09:33 AM
Glad we slept in this morning, because today's been a long day, and we need to get up early tomorrow to drive to Disney World. We played nine holes of golf with Marcus; he's basically a scratch golfer from the blue tees, while I tend to score in nine holes what he usually scores in 18 (if I have a good day). He played from the white tees with Al (which actually seemed to throw him a little), but after hitting four shots to his one on the first hole and losing my ball in a swampy area off the second tee, I picked up on both (or rather, I picked up on the first, and didn't drop on the second).
After it was obvious that I'd given up on the second hole (and as Al was lining up his second shot), Marcus drove over to my cart and said out of the corner of his mouth, "you're supposed to be playing golf." Me: "I know, but I'm sucking right now." Marcus: "So? Drop a ball and hit it!" He was right, I know, but it was insanely hot and humid, and I was trying to preserve my humor for a good shot off the tee. Whacking at the ball four times for every one of Al's and Marcus' just would have frustrated me, and I was trying to stay frustration-free.
I finally got a good one off the third tee and finished with a 6, not bad for me on a par 4. I played most of the holes after that. Marcus left us after the ninth but encouraged us to continue without him onto the back nine; it's apparently quieter and without houses and condos lining the fairway. We played 10 together, and Al finished 11; I picked up after hitting two really crappy shots in a row (a real one and a mulligan) off the tee that left me still miles away from the green on a par 3. That snuffed my hopes of posting a score for the back nine at least, and Al agreed that he was hot and tired, so we returned to the clubhouse.
There we found Mrs. Shin, who said that she'd bought steaks and would cook dinner for us. Al told her I was a vegetarian, she quizzed me about what I would eat (fish is OK with me, actually, but I usually say I'm a vegetarian so that I'm guaranteed to get something edible), and we agreed that there would certainly be something for me to eat.
We went inside and sat with Marcus and Mrs. Shin in the clubhouse bar for a bit; the locals were very rowdy—one guy came over and politely and matter-of-factly said to Marcus that if the guy sitting next to him put him in a headlock one more time, he'd be going through a wall, and another was arguing at the top of his lungs to anyone who would listen that a double eagle was obviously 4 under, not 3, no matter what the USGA said—but we managed to get in a bit of conversation anyway. We then agreed to meet Marcus back at the course at about 7:45 to follow him to his house for dinner, and went back to the hotel to shower.
This is getting to be a long story, so I'll jump ahead to dinner and say that it was great—Mrs. Shin cooked for us, which we understood to be a special happening, as promised. She served potatoes and onions, steamed rice, salad, kim chee, avocado, pepper jack cheese along with steak for herself and the guys and fried shrimp for me. It was delicious, and much appreciated; it was so neat to have a home-cooked meal at all, and especially on the road, when we'd been eating out so much.
We watched some of Game 2 of the World Series, chatted, and saw pictures of Marcus' sister Becky and her 15 month-old daughter, as well as some of a party that included Al's parents. I'm so glad I got a chance to meet Marcus and see Mrs. Shin again (I'd met her at Al's brother's wedding in New York last year). I'd never want to live in Lakeland (nor in Florida at all, I'd say), but I'm really happy that we included it in our itinerary.
Posted by Lori at 08:58 PM
We just had a fabulous day at Disney World. Al even got into the Disney spirit this time, which was a surprising development. :) We got up relatively early, shared a waffle in the lobby of the Jameson Inn (yes, they had make-your-own waffles, and they were delicious), and hit the road for Lake Buena Vista. We went straight to the Magic Kingdom, since our hotel check-in time wasn't until 4pm; we figured we'd do the one day, one park thing until 2 or 3pm, and then head over to our hotel.
That's exactly what we ended up doing. I've been to the Magic Kingdom a zillion times, so I let Al choose the agenda. I figured he'd pick some of my favorites anyway. He did: we went first to Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin, skipped Space Mountain (for perhaps the first time since I got the courage to ride it), then walked through Fantasyland and got on It's a Small World. Me: "Are you SURE you want to ride this?" Al, after getting about halfway through the singing doll display: "This isn't what I thought it was." Interestingly, I think they toned down the "it's a small world, after all..." music; you could barely hear the lyrics this time through, and I remember them being blaringly loud when I last rode this strange anachronism as a kid.
Next we went to the Haunted Mansion: not scary at all, but a sentimental favorite. We stopped for a Powerade, a water, and a hotdog (for Al) in Liberty Square, and then visited the Hall of Presidents. I didn't fall asleep this time (as I did when I visited with Sandy, back when Bill Clinton was our leader), so I got to appreciate the audioanimatronic presidents in their full glory. They really are impressive. The history lesson that preceded speeches by George W. Bush and Abe Lincoln was not, however; somehow it managed to leap from the Civil War to NASA in a single bound. Anyway, I'm glad I got to see the prezes, the great seal of the U.S., and the memorabilia in the lobby.
We sat in the shade next to the shooting gallery in Frontierland for a bit and ate a pretzel, and then I agreed to go on Splash Mountain. I wanted to do it last, since you get wet, but Al reminded me that the ride broke down last time we were at Disney, and he didn't want to risk that happening again. We seized our chance and got a fastpass that allowed us to return at 12:40, poked around in the Pirates of the Caribbean gift shop to kill time, and then at 12:40pm sped past other waiting guests to the front of the line. We got in the very back of our log and immediately got wet butts as soon as we sat down.
I began to get nervous that the 50 ft. drop might be even more scary than I remembered it from my trip with Sandy as we floated off through the Song of the South intro. As we passed the bottom of the hill two jets of water spurted out, and I got drenched. The woman in front of me reminded me that getting wet was the least of my worries. This was confirmed when we encountered the two warm-up drops, which very nearly scared the pants off me. By the time the big hill loomed, I was shaking... and wishing I could get off. Consequently, the photo that Disney snapped of us as we started down the drop is particularly hilarious, with me gritting my teeth and squeezing my eyes shut. We bought a copy for posterity (and the scrapbook); if I can scan it at home, I'll post a copy.
After our positive experience with the fastpass on Splash Mountain, we obtained one for the adjacent Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, and then took the Disney Railroad loop around the park. When we returned it was time to go on Thunder Mountain, so again we zipped to the front of the line and boarded a car. I love that ride; it's not at all scary, and it's the only roller coaster I really get to yell, "whee!" and "yiiiiiiiiiiii!" on. (All others I either can't get on at all, or if I can, I can only make a "euhhhhhhhhh" sound through gritted teeth on.) After an exhilarating loop around the track, we pulled into the station, and I saw people standing on our right, waiting to get in the car. I motioned to Al to get off on the left, where there were no people. As soon as we did, the attendant started yelling at us that we were supposed to go the other way. We couldn't, because the people who'd been waiting were now in our seats, and the only way to cross over was to step on them. She said, "oh well, never mind. You'll have to ride again."
We looked at each other, and Al said, "good job, honey!" We agreed that even when I'm wrong, I'm right. ;D We got to ride again, and though the second trip wasn't as fun as the first, it satisfied us. It was 2pm, and we were pretty much done for the day. We stopped at a shop on Main Street to buy a gift for Henry, Al's—now our!—three-month-old nephew, and some golf balls, and then drove back to our hotel. We were able to check in and go to our room, in Touchdown! building 10, right away. Disney's All-Star Resort is the budget hotel of the lot, but it still gives you the full-on Disney experience. There are three swimming pools at each All-Star hotel, and we were determined to try at least one of them, given that we had two hours until dinner and it was 85° out.
In the end, we tried two; we went first to the diamond-shaped pool in front of the baseball buildings, which featured a Goofy fountain on the pitcher's mound and "bases" at the corners. After fooling around there for about 20 minutes, we grabbed our stuff and walked over to the main swimming pool, which was much bigger. We jumped around and gave each other rides and generally alarmed the lifeguards for another 30 minutes, and then we went back to the room to shower for dinner. Although I prefer Disney World when the weather is a bit cooler, the heat made swimming not only feasible but enjoyable, and it was a key part of our fun.
Dinner was the Clambake Buffet at the Cape May Cafe in the Beach Club Resort. Sadly, the ambrosia had disappeared from the salad bar, and the vegetarian lasagna was also gone, but the mussels were much better than last time, and I thoroughly stuffed myself. We again said to ourselves that although the food ranks at about a 5.5 or a 6, the atmosphere is really fun, and we'd come again.
After dinner we walked over to the gift shop in the adjoining Yacht Club to look at golf shirts; there was one with Grumpy on it that looked great on me, but it didn't come in (men's) small, and the medium was way too big. I had to settle for a Grumpy golf hat, which also suits me pretty well. On the way out of the shop, I noticed a Christmas ornament that had a bride & groom Mickey and Minnie on it, and said to Al that we should see if they had any other Mickey bride & groom stuff. He said he needed to use the restroom, so I went and asked a clerk. She led me to the back of the store, where they had two sets of figurines, a photo frame, a plate, and a snow globe. The snow globe was the most enchanting: the water-filled glass ball contained Mickey and Minnie figures dancing in their wedding attire, and it was supported by a wedding cake pedestal. Tipping it upside down caused silver glitter to dance with Mickey and Minnie... and revealed a $60 price tag, two to three times the price of the other wedding memorabilia. I was torn. It seemed way too expensive, but it was very nice, and Al collects snow globes. I looked again at the photo frame and the plate.
When Al returned to the shop, I led him back to the display and pointed out the options. He immediately turned to the snow globe and said, "is it a music box as well?" I said I didn't think so, but he turned it upside down, and we saw a silver knob next to the price tag. I turned it, and Someday My Prince Will Come started to play. I looked at Al, smiled, and started to cry. Yep, we'd be buying the snow globe. We arranged to have it shipped back to our house in Mountain View, since it was heavy and would be a pain to carry in our suitcases.
After walking back to the car, we drove around the Epcot Resorts Blvd. loop and pulled into the lot for the Boardwalk. We walked up and down the wooden expanse for a while, got a photo postcard of us at a photo booth, watched some of the live ESPN Monday Night Football Pre-Game Show at the ESPNZone, and poked in the shops. By the time we were done our feet were tired, so we headed back to our room at All-Star Sports, where we are now, preparing to pack for the trip home. Yay, what a fantastic day!
Posted by Lori at 07:18 PM