Monday, February 27, 2017

 

Monday afternoon finds us ensconced in a Hampton Inn in Darien, Georgia. This is the second year in a row that we have stopped in Darien, and the reason has to do with food and little else! Last year when we went to Florida, I noted on Facebook that we’d stopped for the night in Darien, Georgia, and within a couple of minutes, I received a text from my friend, and fellow WABC Radio Alumni, Abe Goren, who said that if we were looking for someplace to have dinner, he recommended the fried shrimp at B&J’s Steaks and Seafood in Darien. Long story short, we took Abe’s advice, we loved it, and we’re back!! Thank you Mr. Goren!! Look for an update later in this post!

Another day on Interstate 95 today, traveling 393 miles from our start in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, to our end in Darien. During the day, we drove across the North/South Carolina, and the South Carolina/Georgia borders. Of course, the North Carolina/South Carolina border is the site of the infamous Pedro and South of the Border. Not the tourist draw it once was, but you still see signs advertising it for over 100 miles, and who could miss the sombrero observation tower! I fear that like everything, it’s time is almost over, and one of these days, the border will no longer be Perdo’s residence! Sad, but reality.

Traffic was very good today, except for construction on a bridge on I-95. We lost about 20 minutes in traffic, as we had to drop to one lane to cross the Great Pee Dee River! I don’t know exactly what was going on, but as usual, we didn’t see a lot of action!

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When we got up this morning, it was 39 degrees in North Carolina, and when we stopped tonight in Georgia it was 74 degrees, so we are definitely feeling the southern weather effect. In fact, at a rest area on the side of I-95, we saw our first Palm Trees!

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Like many people on road trips, we keep track of the license plates we see along the way. It’s a carryover from our childhood, and from when we’d take car trips with our 3 kids, and is just a fun way to see where our fellow travelers are from. Well, today we had a milestone License Plate Spotting moment. This is something that never happened in 9 weeks of travel last fall, and something I don’t think we’ve ever spotted before! Shortly after we crossed into Georgia, an orange Jeep came up next to us. Susie was driving, and I looked over and glanced at the license plate and had to take a second look. In a sea of Georgia, North Carolina, Florida, and even New York license plates, I never expected to see a plate from our 49th state, Alaska! As there are many military bases in this area, we thought that perhaps he was a service member, who had his car shipped to his duty station, but whatever the case, it was something we’d never seen before during our travels in the 48 states!

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So, right now, Susie and I are relaxing with a Sailor Jerry and Coke Zero, as is our usual travel afternoon habit. In a little bit, we’ll get our acts together and head out for our shrimp dinner and later tonight, I’ll update this blog and post it. Till then, talk among yourselves

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We’re ,back and we have to tell you that B&J’s did not disappoint! As Susie says, “The shrimp are outrageous!!!” Here are two pictures as evidence and you decide!

BEFORE:

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AFTER:

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We can not recommend enough, that if you are traveling through Darien, Georgia and you like shrimp, you make a stop at B&J’s and enjoy some of the freshest, best tasting, perfectly cooked shrimp you will ever be lucky enough to enjoy!! Thanks again Abe Goren for a wonderful food tip!!

See you tomorrow in Walt Disney World, as the “Kenny and Chris Move to LA” saga continues!

Oh God…I ate too much!!!

http://www.bandjssteaksandseafood.com/

 

Sunday February 26, 2017

As I write this first blog of our February trip, Susie and I are drinking our first Sailor Jerry and Coke Zero of the trip in a Comfort Inn in Rocky Mount, North Carolina. We left Ocean City at 9:45 this morning, and arrived at the hotel at 5:30 this evening having driven 422 miles in day one of our trip, traveling from New Jersey, through Delaware, Maryland, Virginia and into North Carolina. Not much to talk about but the Interstate Highway system, so I thought I might give a quick recap of what the past week was like in the “Kenny and Chris to LA Tour”!

Last Sunday night we picked Kenny and Chris up at JFK’s Jet Blue terminal at 10:30 PM and drove home to Mineola where twin sister Krissi and her boyfriend Mike were waiting for them. We’d earlier in the day (per Kenny’s instructions) bought a selection of pizza slices from Angelo’s in Carle Place, and after Christmas #5, it was time for a Twins (and significant others) “Night in the Basement.” If you read my last blog post, you realize this might be the last time this will happen for Kenny and Krissi in Mineola, so there was indeed some added meaning for the two of them!

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The next day was President’s Day, so all the working stiffs were off, and the plan was for a Siblings and Significant Others afternoon and evening in Astoria. At one time, a couple of years ago, all three of our kids lived in Astoria (as well as many of their friends, and Billy’s future bride Lori) and now just Krissi and her boyfriend Mike live there. They started doing this Siblings Day Out a couple of years ago, rather than buy each other Christmas presents, and with Kenny on the cruise, this was the perfect opportunity for the six of them to get together. It was also another “last” for them, as Kenny moves to LA, and Billy and Lori move to North Carolina. Susie asked them to take a picture of the three D’Elia siblings so she can get it printed for her Mom, and here is the result.

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Kenny and Chris crashed at Krissi’s apartment Monday night, and then Tuesday headed into Manhattan for a day and night of getting together with friends. The boys spent that night in a Manhattan hotel, and had a great time…even though the sun was up before they were in bed!! Ah, to be young again!!

Wednesday was Nail Night, and even though the boys were a wee bit under the weather (not as easy to bounce back as you get into your thirties), it was a great night for all six of us at St. James for drinks and dinner. Because of President’s Week school vacation, the place was a zoo, but that didn’t stop the D’Elias from having a great Super Nail Night!!

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On Thursday, Susie and I headed down to Ocean City, followed shortly by Kenny and Chris, for a last goodbye to the shore till next summer for the boys. Thursday night they were honestly still recovering a bit (kids!), but we enjoyed sushi at Tokyo Mandarin, and then an early night!

Friday’s plan was an afternoon and evening at Harrahs in Atlantic City, with Krissi and Mike heading down from NYC via bus in the afternoon, and all six of us having a drink with our good friend, and excellent AC Bartender, Ralph and then dinner and some gambling. We had 3 rooms that night at Harrahs, so there was no issue with drinking and driving, or having to stop before we were ready to stop! In preparation, the boys slept till 10 AM, and then Susie and I headed off with them to Ready’s Coffee Shop on 8th Street in Ocean City, for a hearty breakfast…a base for that evening’s goings on (people have been known to have issues with Ralph’s martinis if you don’t have a substantial base in your body prior to entering Harrah’s Eden Lounge). After a good breakfast, it was back to the house for showers and then we were off to Harrahs!

We lucked out by being called from the Diamond Line to the VIP Check-In area by a very nice lady who put Susie and I and the boys right across the hall from each other, and reserved and pretty much checked Krissi in several hours before she got there! After we dropped off our bags, it was down to the Exhibition Bar so Susie could get an excellent Bloody Mary, and the rest of us more ordinary drinks and start the gambling process! Susie managed to hit Four Deuces and an Ace on a Video Poker machine at the bar for $320 and then we hit a couple of other things, and left with a voucher for $400! Not a bad way to start!! After playing a few more machines, Frank got lucky and hit a machine for $500!!! We headed up to the room and played cards while we waited for Krissi and Mike to arrive.

Once they got all checked in, it was time to go visit Ralph at the bar, and he was thrilled to see Kenny and Krissi, as he always asks about them, because he hasn’t seen them recently! He loved hearing their plans and what was going on in their lives, and took Mike aside before we left the bar and told him what a good girl he had in Krissi! I guess Mike passed the Ralph muster! Here’s some photographic evidence of our time there!

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Then it was dinner at the new AC Burger restaurant at Harrahs (good..everybody enjoyed the food), some more gambling, and a lot of family fun, till Mom and Dad decided it was time to leave the night to the young, and head up to bed with more money, I must add, than we came with!

Saturday dawned earlier for Susie and I than the younger D’Elias, and since it was Bagel Saturday, we headed over to Hot Bagels and More in Somers Point armed with orders from all the kids. While they slept in, we followed our usual Saturday morning routine and had bagels as we headed to Hawaii via Hawaii Five-O on the TV!

Saturday night, there was an impromptu gathering of some of our Ocean City Family, as they met Chris and Mike, and said goodbye to Kenny and Chris! As always, a fun time, and the boys enjoyed being with these folks and being able to say Hello and Good-Bye at the same time!

This morning the boys headed out at 9 AM, headed down to Cape May to take the Cape May/Lewes Ferry to start their trip, while Susie and I did the more normal Atlantic City Expressway to Interstate 95. Tonight the boys are in another hotel in Rocky Mount, NC and their plan is to grab Subway or something, and settle in to watch the Oscars. Susie and I are probably going to head across the parking lot of the hotel to the Texas Steakhouse and Saloon, and there you have Day One of our February/March 2017 trip!!

See you tomorrow!!

PS – In the months since we ended our 9 week trip across the country last fall, I have forgotten how much most hotel’s “free Wifi” sucks!  IT SUCKS!!

Big Changes On The Horizon

In my last post Holiday Road, I alluded to some of the big changes happening in our family’s life, but Susie and I just wanted to spell out the big change that we will soon experience, so everyone understands.

img_2279After a lifetime of wishing for it, on January 28th, 2005 we were able to live out our dream and buy our beach house in Ocean City, NJ. Just 500 feet from the beach, with an incredible summer front porch, we knew at the time it was the perfect beach house…what we didn’t know, however, was that we had landed in the perfect spot, on the perfect street, and were surrounded by great people who would soon become friends, and ultimately become our family! The plan in the beginning was that we’d use it and rent out this house for a couple of years, then flip it to something else, and continue on that progression till we had the ultimate house! Well, within the first couple of years, the bottom dropped out of the housing bubble, and houses in OC stopped appreciating at 20% a year, and from a financial point of view, that plan would no longer work. From an emotional point of view, that plan would also not work, because Susie and I are convinced that fate landed us exactly where we were meant to spend the rest of our life, so the plan changed.

Although we hated doing it, we continued to rent out the house for a portion of the summer, but spent as much time possible the rest of the year on Pennlyn Place. Over the years, our summertime spent in Ocean City grew, we looked forward to the day we would no longer rent the house out, and it would become ours, and ours alone. Since we happen to live on a great street with lots of full time residents, eventually we hatched a plan that the house on Pennlyn Place would become our full-time home, once we both retired. Well we are both retired, our time is our own, and last summer was the last time we will rent out our house in Ocean City!

img_2278That brings us to the second half of the D’Elia Housing Equation…the house in Mineola! Susie, Billy, and I moved into this house in August of 1986. At that time, Susie was pregnant with Krissi and Kenny, and Billy was a 3 year old. The Mineola house was built in 1928, and over the years we have discovered evidence of it’s original DC electric wiring, of the original coal fired boiler that kept it warm, and of a history of close to 90 years of one resident after another patching things together. We’ve replaced roofs, windows, furnaces, porches, fences, flooring, appliances, radiators, central air conditioning, a bathroom, and too many other things over the years to even enumerate. Frankly, every time we turn around, something is breaking or signaling it’s eminent doom to us. The house is old and it shows it, and since our life here is nothing like our life in Ocean City, this is really not where our hearts are.

img_2276Now we factor in the third part of the equation, the financial aspects of our retirement. Between Susie and my pensions, and our Social Security, and our 401Ks, we have the well being to live a nice life in retirement. What we don’t have is the ability to pay for two houses on our retirement income, without going to the bank too many times in the process. Susie added up everything it costs for us to keep the Mineola house, and the number was right around $40,000 a year, and that doesn’t factor in having to fix things.

I’m sure you see where this is going, and it’s as evident to you as it was to us, that making Ocean City our only house was both emotionally and financially the smart thing to do. But, that means cleaning out a house that we have lived in for almost 31 years. A house full of not only our “stuff”, but the “stuff” of raising 3 children. That was indeed a daunting task, but once we got into it, it’s amazing how easy it is to divorce yourself from items you thought were important, when you realize what’s really important! Susie has always loved the OC house, because unlike Mineola it’s not cluttered and full of “stuff”. We realize that we want to keep it that way, so our mission has been to eliminate and to transport only the most important things to the shore. For months we have been replacing “just good enough” things at the shore, with “the good stuff” we’ve had at home, and that’s great. Having two houses for 12 years, we have had duplicates of lots of things, so now it’s our time to save only the best. It’s also time to get rid of things that you may have had for years, but when you ask yourself, “will I miss this?”, the answer is “no!” (I mean, how often have I ever looked at my high school year books?). So the process goes on, and we are really getting to the point where we see the end in sight. Kenny went a long way in making his decisions when he was packing last week for his move to California, and Billy came over Monday and spent 3 hours going through his “history”. Amazing how unimportant those things seem now, that seemed so important when there was a convenient place to stash them….in Mom and Dad’s attic!

So we hope that before summer hits, we will be at a place where we can put this house up for sale. It’s old, and frankly needs things done to it, and since the mode on our street the last couple of years has been to knock down old houses and build new, we think we will probably investigate that direction. Our friend has names of multiple builders that do that kind of thing in Mineola, and if we can get the number we have in our head for the house, not having to deal with a real estate agent, and a buyer who needs this and that fixed, sounds like a good thing. Of course, first we have to empty the house out!

It’s kind of a sad thing to leave a house you’ve lived in for 30+ years, and frankly a state Susie and I have lived in all our lives, but it’s not the end of us and Long Island. While Kenny will be in LA, and Billy and his family will be in North Carolina, Krissi will still be in Astoria and Susie’s Mom will still be in a nursing home in Great Neck, not to mention her sister and brother who will still be Long Islanders. And let’s face it, could we survive without Nail Night every 2 weeks, and our visits to the St. James? Or how about a burger or Rough Rider Wrap at TR’s in Williston Park, or Chicken Zingarella at our favorite, Piccolos. No, we are not done with Long Island, but without the Mineola housing costs, we have lots of freedom to come and go as we choose. Hell, even if we came back every 2 weeks for a whole year, and paid to stay at the Homewood Suites on Westbury Avenue, it would only cost us about $7000 a year! That’s $33,000 less that keeping a house we really don’t want to call home anymore!

Over the next couple of months, the garbage piles in front of 40 Fairfield Avenue will be big every trash day, and there will be lots of trips with loaded cars down to OC as we enter the home stretch of our Big Change. There will be decisions to make, and items to be packed, and somewhere along the way, even New Jersey license plates to get for the cars. Change is never easy, even if it’s a good change!

Holiday Road

img_0972So, those of you who followed this blog during our big 9 week trek across the United States last fall, will recall that two of those weeks were spent aboard Royal Caribbean’s Liberty of the Seas, where our youngest son Kenny was one of the lead entertainers. Sailing out of Galveston, Texas, we had a great two weeks with Kenny, his boy friend Chris, and his Liberty Family, exploring the ship, attending the shows, and visiting ports. Well, after being on the ship since June, on January 29th their contract ended (one year to the day after his father retired) and Royal shipped him home via Delta Airlines. If you remember back a couple of weeks, January 29th was the Sunday night when Delta’s computers shut down, and it caused Kenny to spend 3+ hours on the tarmac at the Atlanta Airport, and for Mom and Dad to venture to JFK Airport at 4 AM! A little sleepily, we collected our youngest child, and made it to bed just a bit before the sun made a return engagement for the day. We were tired, but happy to have him home, a place he hadn’t been since last April!

The following week was a mix of eating at local places he’d missed in the time he’d been away and preparing for two moves. The first move is a big one for Kenny and Chris, and one of the main reasons they signed on for another contract on the ship…they are going to try their hands in Los Angeles! When they signed on the Liberty, they rightly figured that if they watched their spending, they’d be able to sign off with a nice nest egg, which would give them a healthy bank account as a basis for the move. Well, so far their plan has worked out, so Kenny was preparing for that move. The second move Kenny was preparing for is also a big one…it sees Susie and I moving out of the house in Mineola we have lived in for almost 31 years, selling said house, and making our New Jersey residence permanent, as we officially become residents of Ocean City! Unlike years past, Kenny would no longer have a Long Island storage spot, so he was packing or getting rid of clothes, memorabilia, and frankly a lot of junk! Susie and I know about getting rid of a lot of junk, as we have been doing the same for months now!

After a week in New York, on Super Bowl Sunday, Kenny flew to Reno to re-join Chris, and a couple of days later, they drove from Reno to LA, to begin the search for an apartment. Happy to tell you that in the last couple of days, the boys have found a great apartment, and now that they’ve been successful, it’s time to kick back and enjoy some time with LA friends before they fly back to the East Coast. Chris’ car is there, and now it’s time for them to get Kenny’s car to it’s new home! They fly in late Sunday, spend a couple of days in the area seeing family and touching base with friends, and then on Thursday, we begin the trip to the West Coast. I say we, because during the course of their adventure, they interact with others of us in the family several times!

Our first stop on Thursday is the house in Ocean City. A quick overnight there, before spending Friday night at Harrahs in Atlantic City. While Susie and I will have the Sonata, and Kenny and Chris will have his Santa Fe, twin sister Krissi and boyfriend Mike will take the bus down from NYC, and we will have a family gathering! Saturday, it’s back to OC for some family fun, and then on Sunday morning we hit the road. Krissi and Mike head back to NYC via the bus, ending their part of the weekend. Meanwhile Kenny and Chris head off one way, and Susie and I head another way, with our ultimate destination Walt Disney World. The four of us have 3 nights there, so that the boys can take advantage of my Disney Retiree Benefits, staying at a discount, entering the parks for free, and buying discounted Disney  “stuff”. On the morning of day 4, we end our stay in The Happiest Place on Earth…..but wait, we’re not done yet! Next destination is New Orleans!

Kenny and Chris will do the drive in one day, and that afternoon will once again be joined by twin sister Krissi and boyfriend Mike, who are flying down for a twins weekend in NOLA. The drive looks to be about 9 hours, so Susie and I will take a more relaxed journey to the Big Easy, and show up early Saturday! The six of us will be together Saturday and Sunday, with Krissi and Mike winging their way back to NYC late Sunday! Are we done yet?

img_6627Well, we were going to be, but then an email offer showed up, and we’re joining the boys for one more leg! Kenny had gotten a reduced rate in the Horseshoe Casino in Bossier City, Louisiana for one night, when what should arrive, but an email for both Susie and myself, offering free rooms at the Horseshoe and two free pillows each. Well, how could we say no! We stayed there last fall on the way back from Texas, and have been raving about the meal we had at their Binions Steakhouse ever since, so not only are the boys staying there for nothing, we’re also having our last dinner with the boys there on the night of Monday, March 6th!

On Tuesday March 7th, we will officially say goodbye to Kenny and Chris, as they continue on to the west coast, and their new adventure. Susie and I will stay one more night at the Horseshoe, and then we are not sure what we’re going to do. We know we have to be home to have our taxes done on March 16th, but we’re unsure exactly where our travels will take us. Might we head to the west, back into Texas, and visit Mineola, Texas, just so we can say we’ve been there? Yes, we might do that. Might we explore more of Louisiana, or might we venture to Memphis or Nashville? Also a possibility. Or might we find a National Park, and use my National Park Senior Pass one more time!

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Honestly, not sure. Thanks to our trip last fall, we know we like being on the road. Even after 9 weeks, we were not tired of hotels, or different restaurants, or just exploring our surroundings. As long as the two of us are together, every day in every place is an experience.

As I think they say, “Sometimes it’s about the journey, not the destination.”