The World is a Little Darker Today

34AEB718-F59A-4480-AE4B-C2F1DEA0D56AAs we get older, we lose many things that hold importance to us.  It may be a favorite restaurant, a store we loved, a house we lived in, or even a car.  In the same way, as we get older, we lose people that have places of importance in our lives.  I’ve lost my Mom and Dad, my Father-in-Law, Aunts and Uncles, Friends, and people I’ve worked with.  Today, another person joins those ranks, as last night in Florida, Dan Ingram died at the age of 83.   If that name means nothing to you, then you didn’t grow up in and around NYC, or you’re not one of my radio friends.  You see, Dan was the afternoon DJ on America’s Most Listened to Radio Station, Musicradio 77 WABC, and is counted by most as one of a handful of the best DJs in America during the era of Top 40 Radio. 

I was fortunate that my first 6 years at WABC were the last 6 years of Musicradio.  Most afternoons of those 6 years, I could be found on the board in WABC’s Studio 8A, working on Dan’s Show. Those 6 years were the best of the 40 I spent at WABC, in no small part because of my experiences during those afternoons I spent with Dan.   The lessons I learned, the laughs we had, and being accepted as a part of Dan’s life, are memories I will treasure forever!

Four years ago, when I started my Radio Stories blog, one of the first stories I wrote was about Dan.  Copied below is that edition of, It’s Better Than Working For A Living:

“Radio Stories….Dan Ingram – August 18, 2014

I have been very fortunate in the 42 years that I have been an Engineer in New York Radio to work with some of the very best people in the business. In fact, if I started a list of the DJs, talk hosts, and programmers I’ve been lucky enough to work with, and for, it would be a “Who’s Who” list of the best in New York Radio over the past 40 years. While I’m telling stories here, I thought it would be appropriate to talk about some of these great pros. So here goes…… Might as well start with someone who most folks would have at the top of their Top 10 lists of all time great DJs, and that would be Dan Ingram.

Like most kids who grew up in the New York area, I had listened to Dan a lot since he started at WABC in July of 1961. The first time I met Dan as a WABC employee, was probably the second week I worked at WABC, in August of 1976. Like most new hires in the Engineering Department back then, I started on the overnight. It was slower and easier to get your feet wet in the middle of the night, and since you were still working on the air at WABC and WPLJ and doing news production, you got exposed to everything that a Group 2 NABET engineer would do on the 8th floor. Working on the overnight was also a way to size up the new hires, and to make sure they were solid enough to work the rest of the day parts. After a couple of days on the overnight, I started slowly moving around the day parts until about 7 or 8 days into my time at WABC, I found myself working with my training engineer on Dan’s show. On the day I started at WABC (Sunday, August 8, 1976), they started destructing Studio 8A, the main air studio to build a new studio, and we were working out of Studio 8B which Dan and others called “the trailer”. That’s because it was the same length as 8A, but was only about one quarter of the width. So anyway, I had just finished up working an hour or so with Ron Lundy with good results, so it’s decided I’m going to stay on the board. In the last record of the hour, Ron packs up his gear and Dan comes in, and just before he sits, he extends his right hand across the over bridge and says, “Hi, I’m Dan Ingram” to which I reply, “I know”. Snappy come back, huh?

One of my Dan Ingram stories happened 4 years before that fateful day, when I first met him in 1976. In the spring of 1972, I got hired in my first NY Radio job as an audio engineer at WHN radio, and after initial training, most days I worked the afternoon shift, which started at 4 PM. As I wasn’t that far out of college yet, a lot of days I would spend the morning and early afternoons out at WCWP, the CW Post radio station. A little before 2, I’d hop into the car and drive into Queens to take the subway to WHN at 400 Park Avenue. Well of course, even though I worked at WHN, my car radio was set to WABC and I’d get to listen to 30 or 40 minutes of Dan’s show before I got to the subway in Forest Hills. As always, Dan had some funny comment about the titles of the songs he played, often times a change of meaning from what the song writer had in mind. So I’d listen to Dan on the way to work, and then later that same day, I’d be on the air with Jack Spector at WHN. During the first 6 months or so I worked at WHN, we played a kind of middle of the road soft WNEW type format, and some of the new records we played were the exact same records that were being played on WABC. Many times Jack Spector would schedule a record that I’d just heard Dan talk up on my way into the city. Unconsciously, I’d hit Jack with the comment that Dan had made in his intro, and on many occasions what I’d just said would come out of Jack’s mouth as he introed the song! I realized that I was the unintentional vehicle through which Jack Spector was stealing from Dan Ingram, which caused me to stop listening to Dan on my way to work! Luckily, less than 6 months after I started at WHN, we flipped to a country format, so that issue no longer existed, and I was back to listening to Dan on my way to work! As far as I know, no one but me ever realized what was happening….

On July 3rd, 1981 Dan Ingram celebrated his 20th Anniversary on WABC, and I, along with George Musgrave, were the two guys scheduled to engineer the show, and I even got a shout out when he was on the air with Cuzin Brucie! WABC News Man Rick James had done a lot of prep on things that had happened in the world during the 20 years, plus we had audio clips of highlights of his past 20 years at WABC, lots of phone guests scheduled, and a big selection of the music that Dan had played during the 20 years. We had a great time that afternoon, enhanced I’m sure because that July 3rd was a Friday, and a company holiday because July 4th fell on a Saturday that year, and WABC was empty! (Yes….remember back to the days that even big stars like Dan Ingram worked 6 day weeks and holidays?). The show was a wonderful look back at Dan’s career at WABC and how he got there, but it was also a great look back at the history of one of the world’s greatest radio stations, Musicradio 77 WABC! There was the British Invasion, the W A Beatle C period, the great DJs like Cuzin Brucie and Scott Muni, transit strikes, snow storms, black outs, old jingles and the music. We had a great afternoon, and really, a party on the air. and in 8A, as the only people on the floor, were the operations folks that day. Little did we know that by the next July, WABC Musicradio would be replaced by WABC Talkradio, and our time working with the likes of Dan Ingram would be over! 

20 years later, on July 3rd, 2001, on the 40th Anniversary of his debut on WABC, Dan was a guest on WABC’s John Gambling Show, which I was also the engineer for. I talked to Dan on the phone that day just before he went on the air, and it was fun to let him know about that little bit of trivia that I’d engineered both his 20th anniversary AND his 40th anniversary on WABC!

Of course, what everybody remembers about Dan was the Ingram wit. Even if you didn’t get to listen to his whole show, catching the show open and the show close became the first instance of appointment radio for many in the New York Metropolitan area! He was a fast thinker and a funny thinker, and much of what came out of his mouth was not planned, and certainly not scripted. Take his closes for instance. During the 6 years I worked with him, often times I’d be on the board as his close approached. A lot of days he’d be looking for a topic to have fun with over this closing music, and I was lucky enough to have a suggestion that he liked, and was the beneficiary of several Ingram closes. Like in 1977, when I was still a VR and got a letter in mid December that I was to be laid off on Christmas Eve…that became an Ingram close. Or the day after Thanksgiving one year, when driving into the ABC Building, I hit a pot hole on the LIE and lost a wheel cover…that became an Ingram close. Or on September 29th, 1980, when I told him that a year ago we’d both been at my wedding….Susie and my first anniversary became an Ingram close that day!

Funny things just came out of Dan’s mouth and they did it with very little effort, and once they were out, they were forgotten…like his intro from Neil Diamond’s Holly Holy, which I remember him subtitling on the radio, as “The story of a religious carburetor”. Anytime I hear that record I remember that phrase, and so in 1980 I’m sitting on the board in 8A, and Dan puts Holly Holy on the overbridge as the next record to play, and I say, “Oh, the story of a religious carburetor”. Dan says to me, “Hey, I like that. Can I use it on the air?” To which I replied, “Why not…I stole it from you a long time ago!” Dan didn’t have a set of cue cards, or a reference library that he’d go back to, or a Rolodex loaded with his best lines. He was funny, and once he said something that many of us will always remember, it was out of his head! I will remember this line for the rest of my life, but on that day in 1980 when I said it back to him, he had no clue that it had originated with him!

The last time I saw Dan was on a dinner cruise WABC sponsored to mark the 25th Anniversary of switching from music to talk in 2007. It had been a long time since we sat across the board from each other in Studio 8A at the ABC Building and I went up to him and said, “Mr. Ingram, I don’t know if you remember me. I’m Frank D’Elia and I used to be your Engineer at WABC.” Not only did he remember, me but said something that I will always treasure. “Frank”, he said, “you were one of the smartest engineers I ever worked with. I had no idea why you were doing the job, but I know that every time you walked through the door into 8A, I was happy you were.” Yea, nice to know that the best DJ most of us will ever get to hear, thought I was one of the best engineers he’d ever worked with. I’ll take that!

Listen to a couple of classic Dan Ingram show closes that I was involved in:

 

Dan Ingram was the voice of WABC on TV  

Listen to Dan’s  20th Anniversary Show    http://youtu.be/Y4xSoJYufDI”

After this was posted 4 years ago, my friend Dan Taylor from WCBS-FM made sure that Dan saw the blog.  I got a lovely email back from Dan, telling me he loved the post, and still had fond memories of our time together at WABC.  Thanks Dan, for facilitating one more Dan Ingram thrill!  

If you’ll indulge me a little more, I’d like to share a couple of other stories.  

FFB33E5D-02D5-4B34-8CA6-8E58C6FA156DOne afternoon, working the 4-Midnight shift, I was assigned to 8A from 4:15 to the end of Dan’s Show.  Being blessed with the ability to sense the vibes of a room when I walked in, I knew something was not right.  After I relieved the other Engineer, I asked Dan what was up.  “The damn transmitter keeps dumping”, he replied.  I knew that having the WABC Transmitter repeatedly dump during the Dan Ingram Show was definitely not something that ABC wanted, and I understood Dan’s pissed off attitude.  We played a couple of songs, and the transmitter continued to dump and come back.  As we approached a spot break I asked him, “do you want to not play the commercials?”  Figuring that if the transmitter dumped during a spot, we’d owe that client a make good.  Dan’s reply…”Fuck Em…Play the spots.  Nobody gives a damn, till you start costing them money”.  I can not tell you how many times in my 40 years at WABC I repeated that sage advice to younger members of the staff, courtesy of Dan Ingram!

During the time I worked with Dan, I was pleased to have him share several personal moments with us.   Dan was at our wedding when Susie and I got married, and at several parties we had at our home. At one of our parties, he came with his then current wife, who was somewhat younger than Dan.  Another guest at that party, was my friend Louie Perianno, who I worked with at WHN, who was a HUGE Dan Ingram fan!  He made me promise to introduce him to Dan, and I assured him I would.  One problem when you are a radio person and go to a party with other radio folks, is your significant other ends up having nobody to talk to.  Lou’s wife Susie was in that situation, and hooked up with another woman about her age, who said that her husband worked with me at WABC, and found herself in a similar situation.   After talking for sometime, the woman’s husband returned and his wife introduced him to Susie, and the three of them continued their conversation.  When Louie returned, it was Susie Perianno and not me, who introduced Louie to his idol, Dan Ingram!  Dan was a regular guy, who liked to have a good time! 

Like the Christmas Eve a couple of years ago, when George Michael died, I am torn today between being sad, and being happy for the memories I have of working with someone who was  acknowledged as one of the best DJs of all time, and who thought I was pretty special too!  I’ve often said that everybody in radio has an ego, and to be Dan Ingram, you had to have a huge one. But his was not a destructive ego, it was an ego that embraced those of us who worked with him, and who were accepted into his group of favorite folks to work with.  The six years I was lucky enough to work at Musicradio 77 WABC were the best of my 40 at WABC, and I will never forget them.

As I said on Facebook someplace today, the great thing about memories is that nobody in them gets old.  For me, I will always remember my friend Dan Ingram, during the late 70s and early 80s at WABC…The Most Listened to Station in the Nation!!  Thank you Dan for all you did for radio, for all the folks you influenced to have a career in the business, and for being my friend!  I will always love you!  God Speed my friend!  Heaven’s radio station, just got a whole lot better today!! 

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Happy National Mustang Day!

CB643FED-999A-438A-B648-FB6027E46E0DToday is Tuesday, April 17th, and to a certain segment of the population, today is also known as Mustang Day, 2018. That’s because, 54 years ago today, on April 17, 1964, the Ford Mustang was introduced at the 1964/65 New York World’s Fair! As an impressionable teenager and car nut 54 years ago, I remember the day clearly. The Mustang was all over TV that night, there were newspaper announcements, and the Mustang was even featured on the cover of both Time AND Newsweek magazines that week!! Ford knew what they were doing, using the NY World’s Fair as a backdrop to the introduction, and if you’d like to read my memories of seeing and even riding in a Mustang at the fair, check out my NY World’s Fair blog at this link.

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But today is a day to rejoice in the Mustang, and what it means in our life, so let me give you a look into my personal relationship with a certain Mustang convertible.

In the fall of 1999, I decided to replace the Mustang I owned, a 1988 red convertible with a new 2000 model. I decided to do this because we had rented a 1999 convertible during a trip to Las Vegas that Spring, and we were really impressed by it. After researching the options, packages and colors that were going to be available for the 2000 Mustangs, I knew exactly what I was going to order. It was going to be red, and it was going to be a convertible. We favored a dark convertible top, versus a light one, so it would have a black top and a charcoal interior. It also would have an automatic transmission, and a few other accessories.

Factored into the decision making process, was, at the time, I had three teenage children at home, so my brand new 2000 Mustang was going to have a V-6, just in case any of my teenagers would ever be fortunate enough to get the keys from me, and having a V-6 would considerably lower their “temptation “ when they were driving it (not to mention the insurance costs).

One afternoon, after I returned from work, Susie and I went to Mineola Ford, and ordered the car. After hearing northing for several months, I received a call from them, saying my Mustang had been delivered. After speaking to the salesman for a few minutes, I realized something was wrong…..they had ordered the wrong color car! Instead of it being Laser Red, it was black. When I told them that I didn’t want the black car, the dealer was very surprised, but they told me they would get me the car that I had ordered.

After waiting several more weeks, and getting no clear answers, I came to realize that the dealer was just trying to buy time. They were hoping that they could wait me out, and that I would change my mind and take the black car. I’d had enough at that point and told them I wanted to forget the order and get my deposit back. They told me I needed to come to the dealership so they could credit my Visa card with the deposit, which I found out was just another ploy. When I got there I discovered that they had put the “mistake” Mustang in the center of the showroom! It was sitting front and center, all shiny and new with the top down, and they were surprised when they couldn’t get me to look at “my car”. Disgusted with the whole process, I just got my deposit back and left.

On January 5th, 2000, Susie and I went together to Park Inn Ford to order my 2000 Mustang. I had just turned 50 on January 2nd, so this was to be my “mid-life crisis” car, a red Mustang convertible! My experience at this Ford dealer was much better than at the first dealership. The owner himself explained to me about their Mustang allotment, and kept me in the loop from the day the order was accepted by Ford, to the day it was scheduled to be built, right up to the day he called to let me know my car was at the dealership. I picked my Mustang up on March 31st, 2000, which was just in time for some spring top down driving.

Over the years this Mustang has taken us to lots of places. From the beach at Ocean City, to the North Shore of Long Island, to the Long Island Rail Road station in Mineola. For many years it was my daily driver, and the car that Susie and I would choose to take whenever we were going some place without the kids. Speaking of the kids, the kids drove the car too, and for her senior year, it took Krissi to Mineola High School. She hasn’t lead a charmed garage life, has even had a couple of minor fender benders (one done by Krissi, and one by me), and has had her share of bumps and scrapes. Over the years, we’ve thought about replacing her with a newer model, but as she got driven less and less, we just never did it.

435F5A0F-8EC5-4193-8590-CC81C8D3AC22Now, some 18 years after that proud afternoon I first drove her out of the Ford Dealer, my Mid Life Crisis car, has become my Retirement car. As such, she now lives a much easier life. She moved to the beach in Ocean City before the rest of us did, and she now spends her life downstairs in the garage, but she still gets used all year long…just not in the snow. In fact, as she does many times, this morning, she took me over to Somers Point and Hot Bagels. As of that trip, she’s got a total of 84,441 miles on her. She obviously gets a lot more use in the summer, when we practically leave the top down all the time.  She is our vehicle of choice for rides around town, going to the store, or on our Sunday exploring rides. This summer will be the 19th Summer she’s been a member of our family, and I expect she will be with us for many more.

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The perfect car for a trip to Custard Hut in Somers Point on a sunny Summer day!

Irish for a Year

I always got a kick out of those TV commercials for Ancestry’s DNA tests. I’d comment to Susie, “how can folks know so little about where their families came from?” I can understand for those who were adopted, or who grew up without one of their parents in the picture, but was always shocked by how little some folks knew or how wrong what they thought they knew was…like the guy who thought he was German, but turned out to be Scottish.

I mean, I had a very clear idea what my background was. My Mom was born in Aberdeen, Scotland, as were her Mom and Dad. My Dad was born in New York City with a 1st generation Italian/American mother, and a father who had come over from the Naples region of Italy as a young man. It was very clear in my mind that I was 50% Italian and 50% Scottish, end discussion.

Then for Christmas of 2016, Krissi, Kenny, Mike and Chris gave Susie and I Ancestry DNA kits. While like me, Susie was pretty sure of her ancestry, we loved the gift, and were excited to do the test, and see if there were any hidden secrets in our DNA. Early in January, we spit into the tubes, packed them up in their mailing cases, and sent them off. Very soon we got an email that they had received the kits, and that we could expect our results in 4 to 6 weeks. About 2 weeks later, we received another email stating that due to the high volume of kits received by them post holiday, figure more like 6 to 8 weeks until results would be available. Okay, so we’d wait.

March 27th, 2017 I got an email that my results were ready. I signed into the Ancestry site, and hit the DNA tab. This is what I found…

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Okay, so Italy/Greece 27%, that tracks, but 25% Ireland? WTF??? Where did that come from?? IRELAND??? Well, I guess what I thought I knew, was not exactly the truth. Oh My God, I was one of those people in the TV Commercials!

I shared the information with my first cousin Jeanne. Jeanne is my Mom’s younger brother Bill’s daughter, who along with her husband Walt, is very involved in Genealogy. Walt can trace family back to the early colonial days of America, and they’ve done extensive searches through historical archives and cemeteries. In fact, a couple of years ago, they traveled to Scotland, and spent several weeks tracking our shared family. Frankly, she was stumped. She’d never found any evidence of an Irish connection on the Scottish side of the family. Could it be from the Italian side of my heritage? I pretty much figured that’s where a lot of the other listed ethnicities came from, but Irish?

Oh well, as the song goes, Don’t Worry, Be Happy!

So, Irish, huh? I have to be honest with you, although I have celebrated a time or two, and even did several parade remotes during my 40 years at ABC, I have never been a huge fan of St. Patrick’s Day. Always just seemed to me to be a day for drunks of all kinds and shapes to bother the rest of us. I remember driving to the ABC Building on 6th Avenue on a Saturday St. Patty’s Day a long time ago, and seeing drunks puking at the curb in front of every Irish Bar. I remember the already drunk celebrators on the 7:23 AM Long Island Rail Road train to Penn Station on weekday St. Patty’s Days, and I remember the folks who never seemed to leave Penn Station, who just hung around and drank all day. Oh, and I definitely remember the loud, obnoxious drunks of all ages, who would accompany me home on the 3:27 PM out of Penn every St. Patty’s Day! Then there was the year that St. Patty’s Day was on a Friday, and Susie and I were driving through the city, heading to Ocean City. She never really believed my stories of what happened in Manhattan every St. Patty’s Day, till we were driving down a block of 35th Street that contains several Irish bars, and in front of one, there was a very nicely dressed young lady, puking into the gutter while her two friends held her hair out of the way! No, not a huge fan of the way some folks celebrate the holiday, but to be honest, most weren’t even Irish!

But then there were years that we had a great time…like the year we were down in Walt Disney World with our friends Pat and Steve Grosskopf, and we celebrated St. Patrick’s Day by drinking our way around the world at EPCOT. Or the many years, our St. Patty’s Day celebration was corned beef and swiss cheese sandwiches with cole slaw (the cabbage), in our own home. Much nicer IMHO.

But this year was going to be different. This year I WAS IRISH! I had almost a year to contemplate this situation and to come to terms with my new knowledge. Would I have to learn to like Guinness? Would I be switching from vodka and rum to Irish Whiskey? Would I have a green outfit, that I wore just one day a year? All interesting questions as March 17th, 2018 approached. Frankly, after 67 years of figuring that my closest connection to the Irish, was that I was half Scottish and both the Irish and the Scottish liked bag pipes and wore kilts, what was my first St. Patty’s Day going to be as an Irishman??

Well, I’ll never know. For some reason, on the morning of March 17th, 2018, I clicked on the Ancestry Dot Com app on my iPad, and then clicked on the DNA tab, and the following came up.

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What the hell? Suddenly, after almost a year of being Irish, now it was totally wiped out?? Huh???

This is what Ancestry’s out was:

“Latest Update as of March, 2018. Your DNA never changes, but the science we            use to analyze it does. We’re always collecting more data, and science is constantly improving, so your estimate may change over time.”

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So that was that. My almost year of being Irish was over in the blink of an eye. No green beer or green bagels (thank God), no need to wear the blinking green tie I’d bought.

No drunken escapes as we chased a good time from bar to bar. We had a wonderful Corned Beef and Cabbage dinner, while Susie and I continued to drink Tito’s vodka and not Jameson.

All I can say is that the new DNA ethnicity report still contained my 1% European Jew, meaning I still have a legitimate right, to demand my Matzo fix every Passover!

 

That’s a Wrap!

So that’s it. Our visit to the Summer of 2018, from the Winter of 2018 is over, and we are back in Ocean City, waiting for the Summer of 2018 to get up north. If you’ve been along with us for the ride, I think you already know that it was a great trip, but on Sunday, as we were traveling up I-95, Susie and I already started our discussion about the trip. What was the best thing we did, the best meal we had, something that we learned we didn’t know, where would we like to go again, etc. We always do this after a trip, as a sort of wrap-up review, so that we can apply any lessons we’ve learned to our next trip. So, for your edification, and for our records, here’s a look back at our 3 plus weeks on the road to Florida.

First, the nuts and bolts of the trip. I re-set one of the Sonata’s trip odometers as we went 202300EF-53A2-4509-B4A2-1CD2DE5B8AAFacross the 9th Street Bridge on the morning of Friday, February 9th. When we once again drove across the 9th Street bridge, the evening of Sunday, March 4th, that odometer read 3,241.6 miles. We were on the road 24 days, stayed in 9 hotels (plus 4 nights at my cousin’s house in Barefoot Bay, Florida), with our longest stop being our 5 days at Disney’s Boardwalk. This trip there were many more multiple days in the same hotel. We didn’t eat as many “free” breakfasts in hotels this trip as we have in the past, but we ate some very good meals out, and only made a couple of questionable choices.

This is the 4th longish road trip we’ve made in the Sonata, and once again, she proved to be a great traveling companion. While gas prices seem to be up a little more than they were when we made a trip to Florida last year, with this kind of mileage, that hasn’t been an issue! 30+ mpg is not unusual, and most times that’s going 70+ on the interstates. This picture was taken Sunday after we arrived in Ocean City.

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Now that we’ve gotten the numbers out of the way, lets talk about the more subjective parts of our trip…the things we liked and those that we didn’t.

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Best Hotel – This was an easy choice for us…Disney’s Boardwalk, where we had our own cottage and access to the Innkeepers Club! We’d also have to call this the winner of the Best Hotel View, as we looked out on our English Garden, and the Quiet Pool beyond our gate. We also have to list as the Best Surprise of our vacation. The room was great, the entire stay was perfect!

Worst Hotel – The Quality Inn in Darien Georgia. The funny thing is that on our second night out, we also stayed here, but it was on our return trip that we really found it to be a dump! We’d stayed in this same hotel a couple of years ago, but at that time it was a Comfort Inn.

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Best Attraction – We both came up with the airboat ride we took with Jeanne and Walt, when we visited them in Barefoot Bay. It was a small airboat, we each had wireless headphones, and our guide was full of wonderful information…and he was from New Jersey!

Worst Attraction – Hands down, Weeki Wachee. Nothing like we remembered it from a long time ago. To us, a waste of an afternoon.

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Funniest Place – Have you ever been to someplace, that you would only stop at, because you were taken there? That’s how Susie and I got to Yee Haw Junction (formerly called Jackass Crossing) and had a nice lunch in the Desert Inn Bar and Restaurant…a place we would have driven right by had Jeanne not been driving!

Best Meal – There was absolutely no doubt in Susie’s mind, and almost as soon as it was put down in front of her, she said that the Ahi Tuna she had a One Duval in the Pier House Hotel in Key West was the BEST MEAL she’d EVER had! As runner up, we’d have to list the great Italian meal we had on Carnavale at Villa Galace, in Indian Rocks Beach.

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Worst Meal – We got to Florida City, late on a Friday. The hotels were full, the town was crowded, and we settled for Taco Bell.

Best Waiter/Waitress – We have a tie in this category, between the waiter we had at Villa Galace in Indian Rocks (who was also their sous chef, and perfectly described every dish on the menu) and Linda, our waitress at One Duval, who made us feel like we were the only people dining there that night! A great server can make a good meal into a great meal, and that’s exactly what these two people did!

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Worst Waiter – Another tie here, and we have to say that in all the meals we ate out, these were the only two restaurant people we saw who weren’t hustling, and doing their best to serve their customers. The first was our waiter on our second visit to the Islamorada Fish Company in the Keys, who had no idea how to multi-task, and who therefore, took forever to get anything to you. The second was a waiter we had when we stopped for lunch one day at Duffy’s in Fort Lauderdale, who mumbled, wouldn’t look at us, told us his name 3 times, and again took forever to do anything.

Best Bar – Although we stopped at several that we liked a lot, we have to give the title to the Tiki Bar at the Double Tree Resort in Hollywood Beach, due to the beautiful setting. Located between the gorgeous pool and the Intracoastal Waterway, we spent two nice evenings here.

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Best Bartender – We have to give this title to our friend Lindsey, from Jimmy Guanas at the Holiday Inn in Indian Rocks Beach. She made great drinks, we loved the conversations we had, and her bubbly personality. She made our stay! We hope to see her in the future.

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Best Drinks – How can we call Lindsey the Best Bartender we had, without also mentioning that Jimmy Guanas was the site of the best drinks we had on the trip. They have an extensive drink menu, and we loved everything we asked Lindsey to make us. While we are on the subject, we also have to give Jimmy Guanas the nod for Best Bar Food that we had on the trip.

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Most Relaxing Day – We have several ties for this category. We loved the pool days at Disney’s Boardwalk Inn Quiet Pool, but also the relaxing days we spent with our cousins Jeanne and Walt in Barefoot Bay. We also had the Best Breakfast of the trip courtesy of Jeanne, who made Biscuits with Sausage Gravy! We cleaned our plates!!! And…she gave us her recipe!!!

The Most Tiring Day – That would have to be the day we walked all over Disney’s Magic Kingdom, putting our Fitbits into shock as we gathered over 12,000 steps!

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6AE1A92C-A66C-4B47-9F09-F261AF242906Our Worst Travel Day – No, it wasn’t our first two, nor our last two, when we covered 400 miles a day on I-95, it was the day we drove from Indian Rocks Beach on the West Coast, to Florida City on the East Coast. We detoured to Sanibel Island, where there was incredible traffic, and then crossed the state on the Tamiami Trail, which hasn’t changed much in probably 40 years. Compounded by extensive construction between the Tamiami Trail and Florida City, which we ended up doing in the dark. Now you know why we had dinner at Taco Bell!!

Worst Weather Day – We were blessed with incredible weather but for one day. Our one full day in Key West, started with questionable weather and lots of drizzle. When we thought the weather had passed through, we took the Conch Train tour of the town, and it poured, causing Susie to attempt to stay somewhat dry, by holding a small umbrella in front of her. It didn’t work. However, that evening we enjoyed a beautiful sunset during dinner as we ate outside at One Duval, so all ended well.

Biggest Surprise – As we pulled up to Valet Parking at the Doubletree in Hollywood IMG_7638Beach, somebody pulling in behind us noticed the Sonata’s license plate and started talking to us. Turns out he lives just up the road from us in Ventnor! We thought that was going to be our best “small world” moment on the trip, till our second day at the Quiet Pool at the Boardwalk Inn. Susie was talking about the recent nor’easter storm, and two ladies sitting next to us overheard us and started asking questions. Turns out that they were Roz and Nancy, who own Sun Rose books on Asbury Avenue, in Ocean City. Talk about a small world!!

Best Find – Hands down, the town of Indian Rocks Beach! Located on a barrier island off the Gulf Coast, south of Clearwater, Indian Rocks still has a small beach community feel, with just a two lane road and lots of atmosphere! We loved it so much that we rearranged our schedule to stay longer, and we are looking into returning for an extended period next winter.

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Mistakes we Made – Looking back, we think the biggest mistake we made was trying to relive our memories. Into this camp we’d have to place our visit to Weeki Wachie, Susie trying to find where her Grandparents used to live in Pinellas Park, and me trying to find places in First Lauderdale that I remembered from visits with my best friend David. Memories are just that, which we both found when we tried to compare the Magic Kingdom we both remember from the early 70s, with today’s reality. Things change….

Best Decisions – #1..we went on this trip! To leave the winter of 2018, for a preview of the summer of 2018 was a great decision. To spend 3 weeks eating outside, to be wearing shorts and capris, and to have our toes exposed to the sun was nothing short of wonderful! This is retirement, and if we can, it is something we will try to do every winter, because winter sucks! #2 on our list was making a couple of changes to our itinerary, allowing us to stay longer in a place we loved (Indian Rocks Beach) and return home a couple of days earlier. #3 would have to be everything else we did…from meal choices, to most of our hotels, to places we went and things we did, we had a great time. Frankly, I think we’d both be fine with repeating the entire thing over again, because there were only a few negatives, and even those weren’t earth shattering. In short, we think WE DID GOOD!

There you have it…a look back at our wonderful visit to Florida, during the winter of 2018!

Sunday, March 4th, 2018

As I warned you might happen the other day, you didn’t get a post yesterday, so here it is!

We woke to a pretty, if chillier day than we were used to, at the Hampton Inn in Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina. The temperature was in the 30s when we got out of bed, so we knew that the socks and sneakers were destined to make a return. Our toes were not happy campers! It was the last day of our trip (Day 24), and now that a great trip was almost over, we were looking to get home!

Speaking of the trip being over, we’ve come to the conclusion, that when a trip is over, a trip is over, and nothing you do can change that fact. Something clicks off in your head, and your desire to do any more sightseeing, or make unnecessary stops, is just gone. To be honest, in our original plans, we had two more hotels reserved, and stops at several Atlantic Ocean Island points, but on reflection, we just wanted to get home, so we changed those plans and were looking forward to being home tonight, rather than mid-week.

As we talked about in Saturday’s blog, one stop that we did plan to make, was in response to a text we got on Saturday from Paula and Jerry Mikowicz, Krissi’s boyfriend Mike’s folks. They live in Columbia, Maryland, and wondered if we might like to make a stop off to have lunch with them on our way up I-95. They were supposed to be in New York this weekend, visiting with Mike and Krissi, but the nor’easter on Friday canceled those plans. We had a very nice lunch at Clyde’s on the Lake in Columbia, and enjoyed the conversation we had with Paula and Jerry.

(Lunch Picture – As you can guess, there should be a picture of the 4 of us having a very nice lunch in Clydes, but as we often seem to do, we forgot to take a picture of the food, of each other, or to have the waitress take a picture of the four of us. We are bad at remembering that)

We traveled a total of 391 miles yesterday, staying on I-95 until we crossed the Delaware Memorial Bridge and joined the New Jersey Turnpike. Traffic wasn’t bad, except for a construction delay approaching Washington, DC. We lost about a 1/2 hour there, causing us to meet up with Paula and Jerry just in time for our 1:30 reservation. Speaking about the delay, why is it that so many morons on the road just increase the traffic delay, because they don’t read or follow signs? A big digital sign, more than a mile before we lost the right lane said, “RIGHT LANE CLOSED AHEAD”, but still there were people in that lane right up until the last minute, making the rest of us stop, so that they had someplace to drive! Don’t get me started!!!

Again yesterday, we saw a number of utility trucks heading north on I-95. Saw in the news this morning that there are still a lot of areas without power, so know our friends from the south will be a welcome sight in many neighborhoods!

Once we’re on the New Jersey Turnpike, it’s an easy trip up to Exit 3, where we join Route 168 for a few miles (and a cheap WAWA Gas Station) to get to the Atlantic City Expressway. In less than an hour from there, we transition to the Garden State Parkway, and made the short ride down to Exit 30, and home. A brief stop at the Acme on 8th Street to get some half and half for the morning, and we were backing into our driveway.

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We unloaded the trunk into the garage, had a nice relay going up the stairs with our stuff (really could have used Disney’s Boardwalk Resort’s Bell Staff), and we were home!! In case you’re wondering, no Chinese take-out after our lunch in Maryland, but it was good to be home, changed into comfy clothes (or PJs), and started hitting some DVRed shows we’d missed (NCIS and NCIS New Orleans). As great a trip as it was, we are happy to be home!

Susie and I were talking over some highlights of the trip yesterday in the car, and we will probably have a recap post for you this week, but know that we loved just about everywhere we went, everyone we met, and everything we experienced. It was indeed a great trip!

See you soon….

Guilty Pleasures

We got up and left the hotel in Darien, Georgia at 9:05 this morning, without partaking in the free breakfast. We did that because this is a scheduled day of “Guilty Pleasures”…food wise that is!

Our plan was to drive for about 3 hours, and get to Florence, South Carolina a little after 12 noon. A perfect time to partake in Guilty Pleasure #1…lunch at Arbys!

Unfortunately, the nearest Arby’s to us in Ocean City, is down in Cape May Courthouse on Route 9, and it’s someplace we’ve never eaten. Easier to partake when we are on the road, and find one right off an exit of I-95. We’ve decided that if we leave the cheese off the roast beef sandwich, it’s a lot easier to eat! Lets just say, we enjoyed it!

A lot of I-95 was two lanes today, which although more scenic, is kind of a pain if you run into slow drivers who roadblock the left lane, or trucks passing slower trucks.

We did a total of 426 miles today, one of our two long days of driving till we are home in Ocean City. Since I slept 8 1/2 hours last night (according to my FitBit), I had no problem driving a good hour and a half out of the hotel this morning. Susie and I have always shared driving, switching pretty much every hour to hour and a half, and it works great for us. We think that, combined with all the weekends we did the Mineola to Ocean City and back trip, make driving in the car relatively easy for us. We did however lose at least a half hour because of horrible traffic. We stopped and then crawled for miles because they are re-building the bridge over the Great Pee Dee River. It seems to me, that when we went to Florida last year, the same thing happened on the southbound side. Oh well, the Great Pee Dee River didn’t look like some place you’d like to walk across!

825C067C-31B5-4A3B-B13D-A58187C4D138We’ve seen in the news, and via friends on Facebook, that the recent Nor’easter (and no…it doesn’t have a name! The Weather Channel is not who names storms! Stupid hype!) did some major damage in many areas, and that many are still without power, and will be for days. We were, therefore not surprised when we passed close to 3 dozen utility trucks heading north. We saw trucks from 3 or 4 companies, some in caravans, some all alone, but all heading north on I-95.

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We saw something else today, we haven’t seen in about 3 weeks….the Sonata’s temperature display reading in the 50s! Yikes!! Goodbye 70s and 80s, and good-bye to our shorts and capris! We did however compromise…Winter Pants with Summer Shoes!

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So, now that we are safely in the Hampton Inn in Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina, it’s time for guilty pleasure #2 of the day, and it’s right across the parking lot!

Sorry, we don’t eat here often, in fact, the last time was 3+ weeks ago, when we were in Roanoke Rapids, and had our first dinner of our trip, in this exact Cracker Barrel. Call it book ends, if you will, but it’s one of our Guilty Pleasures, that we try to do a couple of times, when we are on the road. Tonight’s special was Chicken and Rice, which we had. Add a couple of iced teas, some vegetables (Susie had corn and fried okra and I had their delicious green beans and fried okra) and their biscuits, and it’s dinner for under $30! Who knows when we will be dining with them again????

While we were eating, Susie saw a number of utility trucks go by the restaurant. Here are just a few that are our neighbors tonight!

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This is the last night of our trip, and therefore our last night in a hotel, as tomorrow night we will be sleeping in our own bed at 854 Pennlyn Place. No Innkeepers Club (I believe that’s Susie), no bartenders (that would be me), and no fancy meal (Chinese Take Out??). Google maps says we’ve got about 380 miles to home tomorrow, but we have a detour to make. We will be stopping in Columbia, Maryland, and have lunch with Krissi’s boyfriend Mike’s parents, Paula and Jerry. We haven’t seen them since we were guests at their house for Hanukkah, and we’re looking forward to seeing them, but looking forward to getting home too! It’s been a great trip, but hell, now that it’s cold, we’d rather be in Ocean City… sitting by the fireplace, catching up on some TV shows. (We rarely turn on TV while on vacation!) Of course, we will have to unpack, do laundry, and go food shopping, but no rush…hell, we are retired!

You may not hear from us tomorrow, but rest assured, we will get back to you and wrap up what has been for us, a wonderful trip to Summer!

Have a good night!

 

On The Road, Again

On the Road Again…..Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, …

“On the road again
Goin’ places that I’ve never been
Seein’ things that I may never see again
And I can’t wait to get on the road again
Here we go, on the road again
Like a band of Gypsies we go down the highway
We’re the best of friends
Insisting that the world keep turnin’ our way”

This morning was our last in Walt Disney World, for this trip, and as we have had several days before, we had a very nice breakfast in the Innkeepers Club.

We enjoyed several breakfasts and even dinners in the club, and although there was an up charge to stay in a Club Level room, when you figure what we spent on meals at Port Orleans last year, and even more, the incredible service you get, we didn’t really care about the price. Such nice people in the club and all over the Boardwalk, made our stay, as Disney would like you to say, Magical!

We called the Bell Desk, and Amil was dispatched to help us with the bags, and it was time for us to say goodbye to cottage #1210, our home for the past 5 nights. It was a great stay, and we’d love to come back!

By the time we got to the hotel entrance, the Sonata had been brought up (we swear it’s cleaner than it was when we used it to go to the ballgame Wednesday…did they wash it?), and within a few minutes the trunk was packed, and we were on our way. As the Disney Gas station is just across the street from the Boardwalk entrance, we decided to top off the tank. Good thing we did!

After I finished pumping gas, Susie handed me our Magic Bands and asked me to tuck them someplace in the trunk. When I couldn’t open the trunk by just pushing the button, I realized something. I didn’t have the Sonata’s smart key in my pocket!! Glad we were right across the street!
As we were just driving up to the hotel, we got a phone call telling us we’d left our keys. I just pulled up, and a young man was at my window with my key fob. Just another example of how they do things right at Disney! Do we really have to leave???

Leaving for the second time in 10 minutes, we followed the GPS, and shortly were off WDW property, and on I-4 headed east. Some really difficult construction happening going through Orlando (when isn’t it), and because of that, traffic, but soon we were moving along. Within no time, we were making the transition to I-95, our “home road” for the next 3 days.

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It wasn’t long before we were approaching the Georgia border, and had to say goodbye to Florida. Twenty wonderful days of summer, but now it’s time to put our shorts and flip flops away, hopefully only till May. We’re stopping again tonight in Darien, Georgia, and Susie just looked at the Weather Channel, and it calls for 50 degrees tomorrow at 9 AM. I fear that the denim shorts are done for, and will be replaced with the long jeans and perhaps the flip flops will be replaced with socks (???) and sneakers in the morning! I hate it, but we did have a lovely preview of The Summer of 2018, and living at the beach, we can hardly wait for it!!

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So I guess you know why we’re in Darien tonight. If you’ve read the last 3+ weeks of this blog, you will remember Darien as the spot for our annual fried shrimp stop, and this trip, we are hitting it while traveling both south AND north. We are such pigs!

Last time we were at B&J Steaks and Seafood, it was Saturday, and we waited an hour and a half to get a table. Since it’s a Friday, we were afraid we’d have a similar wait, so we decided to head over there a little before 5, and it was perfect. Maybe 10 minutes, and we had a table! If you remember back 20 days, we had a grand plan to try the fried chicken this time, which we’ve heard is as good as the shrimp. Well, we couldn’t pass on the shrimp, since we know it will be at least next year before we pass through Darien again, so yes, two half pound fried shrimp baskets, please. Susie did have a good idea though, and we traded the french fries for cole slaw!

After dinner, we filled up the car with gas, and now we’re back in our room and the sun’s not even down. We did grab the jeans and sweatshirts out of the car, but Susie and I are both going to try to continue with our summer footwear…flip flops for me and Birkenstocks for her. Wish us luck!

Darien is a real one horse town (and somebody borrowed the horse), so we will hit the hay early, hopefully have a good night, and tomorrow morning, we’ll get up, head out, and be on the road again!!