September 29th in the year 1979 was a Saturday. I know that because that afternoon, at the C.W. Post Interfaith Chapel, Susan Johnson became Susan Johnson D’Elia, and my life changed forever! The story of how we ended up there started years before, but really got guidance a little over 2 years earlier, on the afternoon of July 3rd, 1977, when both Susie and I were guests at an early July 4th party in the back yard of Mary Ann and Bill Epperhart’s house in Oyster Bay. Sue knew Mary Ann as they both worked at Glen Cove Hospital as Registered Nurses, and Bill and I had been friends since we met years earlier at WCWP, The College Radio Station of C.W. Post College. There’s that CW Post connection again!
So, to continue our story, let’s go all the way back to the fall of 1967, when as a 17 high school graduate, I started as a commuter freshman at C.W. Post College. I wasn’t a great student, and really had no idea where I was going in life, which is why in short order I was a Theater Arts major, an English Major, a Philosophy Major, and a Political Science major, before finally settling on being a Music Major. Along the way, thanks to a class I had to take, I got involved at the college radio station, and as stories like to say, “the rest is history.”
Meanwhile, the young lady I was going to make my wife 43 years ago today, knew she wanted to be a nurse practically from the moment she was born it seems. Her early life lead up to it with Candy Striper and other volunteer jobs, and working at Nursing Homes, until finally after graduating from high school, she enrolled in the Pilgrim State Hospital School of Nursing on her way to getting her RN. There was lots of hands on learning at the hospital, but for their academic classes they were bused to C.W. Post College, and there’s that connection again!
As Susie is 2 years younger than I am, after meeting we discovered that we’d both been at Post at the same time! After 4 years of college, I graduated in the Spring of 1971, while Susie graduated from the 3 year program at Pilgrim in 1972. While we’d never met, nor to the best of our knowledge had we ever seen each other, the real possibility exists that during those couple of years that we both walked on the Brookville Campus, we might have passed each other, and that was our C.W. Post connection!
So, after that July 3rd, 1977 party, Susie and I were definitely an item. I think the description “Love at First Sight” could indeed be applied to us, and it only took me getting my permanent job at ABC Radio for me to take the leap, and on Christmas Day, 1978 ask her to marry me! In case you’re wondering, she said yes, and the planning began! The first hurdle was where to get married. Susie was raised a Protestant and I a Catholic. The question was how could we honor both of our families’ history, and answer was very easy for us….The Interfaith Chapel at C.W. Post! It was a lovely building, in a beautiful setting, on the college campus we’d both traveled while in school! Connection complete!
On the afternoon of Saturday September 29, 1979, at the Interfaith Chapel, with a Catholic Priest and a Protestant Minister officiating, in front of our family and friends, we joined two lives into one, and this great adventure we’ve had the past 43 years started! My life has been blessed every single day since then, because this wonderful lady is my lover, my best friend, my teacher, really, my EVERYTHING! Thanks for saying “I Do” 43 years ago today, I thank God every night for bringing you into my life! I love you more each day, and will love you forever and here’s to another 43 years of love together!!!
HAPPY 43rd ANNIVERSARY TO THE LOVE OF MY LIFE!
FYI..unlike the usual occurrence in this blog, Susan Johnson D’Elia did zero proof reading on today’s story. Any and all mistakes are exclusively the fault of yours truly.
I first wrote this blog several years after the 9/11 Attacks, and over the past 21 years, I have revised and republished it several times. The following is my latest revision of our personal memories of that day we’d all really rather forget, when our world changed forever.
Anyone who was just about anywhere in the New York Metropolitan area on the morning of September 11, 2001, will always remember that day, and where they were. I know in our family that’s the case. My wife Sue was at work at Hampton Street School in Mineola. Our oldest son Billy was in his second year at Ithaca College, and his brother and sister, Krissi and Kenny, were sophomores at Mineola High School. I was at work at WABC Radio, 17 floors above Penn Station.
I remember it was a great looking, if uneventful, September morning. There was just a touch of fall in the air – it was one of those special kinds of days we get after the humidity of summer leaves. I was, as usual, on the 7:24 LIRR train from Mineola to Penn Station. Just before the train entered the tunnel under the East River to take us from Queens to Manhattan, we got our usual view of the Manhattan Skyline. The Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building, and the Twin Towers…they were all there. As I said, a totally uneventful September morning in all respects….but that was soon to change.
Shortly after the first plane hit at 8:46 AM, word started to come into the newsroom that a plane had hit the World Trade Center’s North Tower. It was primary day in New York, and there were reporters around the city for the various TV morning shows. Almost immediately, Dick Oliver of Channel 5 went on the air from Park Row, just outside of City Hall. They weren’t the best shots, but you definitely could see the fire and damage to the tower. Everyone assumed that it was a small plane that had hit and no one could understand how someone could have missed seeing a structure as big as the World Trade Center on a beautiful, clear morning. There was speculation of a student pilot, or someone who had a heart attack – just about anything but what had really happened, which up until that point was unthinkable to most of us.
By 9 o’clock, better pictures of the damage were available on TV, including long shots of the buildings from further uptown. Just before 9:03 AM, I was standing in studio 17E next to Chief Engineer Kevin Plumb, when we noticed a plane flying into the frame of the shot. Assuming we were looking at a small plane trying to get a better view of what was happening, one of us commented, “what the heck is that plane trying to do?” At 9:03 we were shocked when we saw that plane (which we later found out was a Boeing 767) crash into the South Tower and explode in a ball of flames. At the same moment, Susie was standing in the Teacher’s Lounge of Hampton Street School, next to a good friend, Midge McInnes. When that second plane hit, Midge lost her brother who worked in the tower at just about the level the plane hit. In that moment, everyone who saw that happen live, knew that life as we had known it up until that moment was over, and that there was a brand new reality.
I remember all hell breaking loose at the station as we all went into high gear. There was an incredible amount of misinformation flying around, and frankly, open fear from some. Many tried to act professionally, but since no one knew exactly what was going on, and since we were all working 17 floors above Penn Station and a couple of blocks west of the Empire State Building, we frankly wondered if we might be in the target zone for future attacks. The next hour was a blur of news reports, discussion and speculation. Shortly after the first plane hit, our morning anchor George Weber took off downtown armed with a cell phone and a recorder. He phoned in a couple of reports about what he was seeing, but as the cell phone system overloaded, we stopped hearing from him. Then at 9:59 AM, the South Tower collapsed. Faces stared at the TV pictures, and as a group, were almost unable to fathom what we’d seen. Less than 30 minutes later the North Tower collapsed, and these twin buildings, which were so identified with the skyline of New York City, were incredibly gone, along with close to 3,000 of our fellow New Yorkers.
So many questions hit us all at once…who would do this, how did it happen, how could these two huge buildings collapse, and one that was on all our minds at WABC, where was George Weber? The news reports continued, but with all the confusion it was hard to tell what was true and what wasn’t. Were there more hijacked planes out there, and had other attacks taken place in Washington and elsewhere around the country? Getting a landline phone call was very hard; cell service was pretty non-existent, communications among families and friends was almost impossible. It was over an hour later when we heard from George. He’d walked for blocks from the WTC site and had waited on a line at a pay phone before he was finally able to check in with the station. Okay, we knew one of our friends and coworkers was alive…but what about everyone else.
WABC’s 2001 9/11 Montage
The day dragged on, and we watched TV as they tried to figure out what had happened, and what was happening. One of the hardest tasks of the day was getting in touch with friends and family, finding out if they were okay, and assuring them that I was fine. The first response of the city was to shut down, and a lot of us wondered if we’d get home. Being above Penn Station, we kept looking down at the crowds milling around a closed Penn Station. We also kept looking a couple of blocks to the east at the Empire State Building and realizing it was once again the tallest building in New York!
Later that day, the Long Island Rail Road started running and those of us from Long Island headed downstairs, and like every other commuter that day, got on any train as long are it was leaving New York City! As the packed standing room only train came out of the tunnel into Queens, everyone looked to the south where the twin towers of the World Trade Center had been on the way in that morning, but now were replaced by smoke. It was very quiet in the train as everyone realized that those two buildings we’d seen every day on our commute into Manhattan were gone, along with all the folks who were working in them.
The days after September 11th were very strange to say the least. The fact that there were absolutely no planes in the sky made for a very eerie quiet that was very unlike the norm, especially for us living in Mineola, which could alternately be in the flight path to either LaGuardia or JFK Airports. I know that for weeks after the planes started flying again, every time one flew over I would find myself stopping and looking at it. Taking the LIRR into the city in the days after September 11th was also different. There was an uneasy quiet on the trains, that I guess came from a lot of folks who would rather be somewhere else, but who had responsibilities and had to do what they were doing. I remember not seeing people that had been regulars on our trains, and wondering if they were in the towers when they came down, or were they perhaps too scared to venture into Manhattan again. Questions I’d never have the answers to….
One thing that made the post 9/11 strangeness livable was the feeling that we were all in it together. There were American flags on houses, cars, businesses…virtually everywhere! Our Boy Scout Troop did a huge drive to get some of the supplies that the rescue workers at Ground Zero needed, and we had great response. People were friendlier to each other and more respectful…even politicians! From New York City to Washington, the political discourse had a united front. We weren’t Republicans or Democrats, Liberals or Conservatives, we were Americans. There was no finger pointing, just everyone shouldering the load and helping to move forward. If every cloud has to have a silver lining, that was September 11th’s.
Too bad that 21 years later, so many seem to have forgotten. There’s no way that anyone who lived through that day will not be thinking today about their experiences, about all the New Yorkers who are no longer with us and about how the rest of us pulled together as a team. On that day, 2,750 people lost their lives when the World Trade Center was attacked. Members of our Mineola Community were among the 455 of those victims who were fellow Long Islanders. Within the 2,750 victims that day were 415 who were emergency workers in New York City, who responded to the World Trade Center. They included 343 firefighters from the New York City Fire Department, 37 police officers with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Police Department, 23 police officers of the New York City Police Department, 8 emergency medical technicians and paramedics from private emergency medical services, 3 New York State Court Officers, 1 Patrolman from the New York Fire Patrol, and 1 Special Agent from the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
For months after 9/11, there were important people in our lives that we never saw, because we had friends and neighbors who worked around the clock for months on “the pile” looking for remains of the 2,750 victims of the attack. Today, I’ll also be thinking about my friends who were involved after the towers came down. People like NYPD ESU Officer Scott Strauss who pulled the last survivor out of the rubble, or PAPD Detective Don McMahon, who’s partner sped towards the Towers from JFK airport that morning just after the first plane hit, and who was the first PAPD Officer to die that day. Donnie then spent the next 6 months at the on site morgue, working to identify remains of the victims when they were found. We’ll also be thinking today of the many Firemen we know, both NYFD and others who spent so many hours on the pile digging, without regard for their own personal safety, and sadly several we know are paying the price with their health today. We Thank God that there are so many people among us who run towards trouble as the rest of us run away! As we remember 9/11, and the days, weeks, and months afterward, we thank you for your service and for your friendship and for setting an example for the rest of us.
In the fall of 2004, our youngest son Kenny started as a freshman at the Manhattan Campus of Pace University, which was located just across from New York’s City Hall. Members of the senior class who worked orientation, told us stories of what 9/11 was like for them, just days into their freshman semester at Pace. Kenny’s 4 college years were virtually spent at Ground Zero. In his second year, he lived in an apartment just behind the heavily damaged Deutsche Bank Building. As a Junior he lived in an apartment on John Street, just up the street from the South Street Seaport. The truth is that for years after, the neighborhood was an ongoing demolition/construction site, and frankly nobody wanted to live there, which is why college students (or their parents) could afford the rent. There were so many visible reminders of that horrible day, every time we drove through the neighborhood, around detours, and looked at the remains of the destroyed buildings. Remember that in addition to the North and South Towers, other builds lost due to the attack were 7 World Trade Center, Manhattan Community College’s Fireman Hall, 5 World Trade Center, St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, Marriott World Trade Center, US Customs Building, The Deutsche Bank Building, and several others. It took years for the area to appear “normal” again.
But as we remember 9/11 today, I know we live in a better world because people like Scott and Donnie are a part of it. As we remember those who died 21 years ago, I hope we will all also remember the heroes of September 11th. Friends, neighbors, family members, and people whose names we will never know, who stepped up on that horrible day. Ordinary folks who did extrodinary things, and renewed our faith in our fellow human beings. That’s the lesson I try to take from that horrible day 21 years ago. Yes indeed, 9/11/2001 was very personal to us!
FDIII – 9/11/2015
WABC’s 2002 9/11 Montage put together for the first anniversary
Have you ever had one of those moments in your life that whatever your actions were, affected the rest of your life? Today is one of those days in the lives of Susie and myself. You see, it was 45 years ago today that Susie and I met, and I can honestly say it was love at first sight!
Back in the Summer of 1977, NABET was in the middle of a 5 and a half month strike against ABC. Rather than running the board on the 8th floor of the ABC Building for WABC and WPLJ, I was picketing 3 days a week for 3 hours at a time. Thankfully, I was a 27 year old single guy, so not going through the financial peril a lot of the older married folks were suffering through. It was a sad, kind of poor summer, but I did have lots more free time than I normally would., and that’s why I was able to accept an invitation to a Fourth of July backyard Bar-b-cue on Sunday July 3rd!
The party was given by my friend Bill Epperhart and his wife Maryanne. I met Bill when we both worked at the CW Post College Radio Station, WCWP, and now Bill worked at WNBC. Bill’s wife Maryanne was a Registered Nurse at the Glen Cove Community Hospital, as was the the young lady I met that day, Susan Lynn Johnson, RN! Turns out that Susie had called in sick that day to attend the party, and many years later we found out from Maryanne that getting us together was the main inspiration for the party!
I’m very happy to say that it worked! We were thrown together at the party when I helped Susie light some fireworks she’d brought back from a visit to her Great Aunt in North Carolina, and as I said before, it was really Love at First Sight! The following weekend we went out on our first real date, and at the Dynasty Chinese restaurant in Roslyn, my fortune cookie said, “You Will Marry Your Current Lover and Be Happy”. 45 Years later, the fortune cookie is still correct!!
Happy Anniversary baby! I L Y J T W Y A then, now, and forever!! XO XO XO XO XO XO
Ten years ago, when Billy and Lori got married, Susie and Krissi, in preparation for the wedding had a manicure and a pedicure. They didn’t know it then, but that was the beginning of a tradition of long standing in our lives that came to be called “Nail Night!”
Late afternoon, every other Wednesday after work, my two ladies would go to see Kim at Best Nails on Second Street in Mineola and have their nails done. This continued even after we’d sold the Mineola house and made Ocean City our permanent home. When it started, Krissi was working in a cardiologist’s office by the train station in Mineola and living home. It continued as she still worked and went to CW Post for her Master’s of Public Administration degree. It was still a thing when she stopped living at home, and moved to Astoria, and she commuted via the Long Island Rail Road after she got her MPA, and started working at Weill Cornell Medical Center in Manhattan.
It just so happened that separated from Best Nails by an alley, was the St. James Restaurant. While Mom and Krissi went and had their nails done, Dad held down a seat at the St. James’s Bar and waited for the girls. When they were done, we’d all have a drink at the bar, and then get a table in the restaurant and Dad would buy dinner. In fact, the St. James and Nail Night was the place we first met Michael shortly after he and Krissi started dating (she actually left him alone with me that first night), and for the rest of the time, every Nail Night, Mike and I joined the bar crowd at St. James waiting for our girls to show!
And quite a crowd it was! There were Doctors and other staff from Winthrop hospital just down the street, there were folks stopping for a shot or two on their way home from the train station, there was Ed who was a local Judge, and as Mineola is the seat of the Nassau County Government, there were lawyers, like Glenn the real estate lawyer, who actually handled the selling of our Mineola house for us! It was an interesting mix of folks who lived and worked in the neighborhood, with lots of regulars. It was a great location, and a good bar, but the real reason that these folks gathered at the bar of the St. James was the man behind the bar, Dennis Sweeney!
Dennis had been a commodity trader on Wall Street, who just had enough. His brother owned a bar and restaurant, and Dennis had done his fair share of time behind the bar, so he knew his way around. As he told us, it was a better life, with none of the pressure and the BS of his former life. I know we were very happy he made that decision, as were the rest of the St. James regulars! When Krissi worked at that local Doctor’s office next to the Mineola Train Station, she and her co-workers would often stop in, as did her Mom and Dad on days other than Nail Night, sometimes just for a drink with Dennis! Dennis was the father of two daughters, and we knew that he would watch out for Krissi, and in fact, when Mike started hanging around with us, Dennis gave Krissi a thumbs up on her new boyfriend!
Unfortunately, after years of having the same owner, new owners bought the St. James, and things started changing. Menu items that had been popular for years were re-worked, often times missing the mark in the opinion of regulars. The new owners wanted a new “vibe” and started to mess with personnel and the atmosphere. Gradually, the place felt less like Cheers and more like a sleazy sports bar, with too many TVs and too loud music! If their intention was to chase away the regulars, they were doing a good job!
Eventually, our Nail Nights ended, as we spent more and more of our time in OC and had less and less desire to be on Long Island. Eventually we heard that Dennis had less and less desire to be behind the bar at the St. James, and he moved on. We were sad, but totally understood! The last time we were in the St. James was 3 years ago on the weekend that Krissi and Mike got married. We were doing the rounds of Mineola, and in an effort to re-create those early Nail Nights with Mike, we went back to St. James for a drink. We found that without Dennis behind the bar, the bar that you had trouble finding a seat at back in the day, was now deserted! (Don’t get me started on why people buy a popular restaurant/bar and then change things and drive away the regulars!)
So turn the clock forward to the end of May, when we ran into a former neighbor who had been a fill-in bartender at the St. James. Turns out he knew that Dennis had moved on to Leo’s in Garden City, the next town south of Mineola and just blocks away from the St, James. With this new information, Susie and I resolved to stop in and see Dennis the next time we were on Long Island, and we did exactly that!
We got two seats at the end of the bar, and there was Dennis at the other end. As he walked towards us, he realized it was us, put a big smile on his face, and we had a wonderful reunion! We talked about our respective families and what was happening in everybody’s lives, and of course, we had two Grey Gooses Vodkas…shaken, cold, served up with a twist, with the marinated ice on the side! It was great to see him again, and reconnect with an old friend! Susie and I love the relationships we have in life with bartenders, waitresses, and waiters, and we were very happy to once again see this man, who we’d literary spent hours with over the years! As always, it’s the people that make a place special, at least that’s what we think!
This recent Memorial Day, Susie and I did something we haven’t done for years. In a very real sense, we Turned Back the Hands of Time! Let me give you a little background….
In August of 1986, Susie, Billy, and I moved to our new (to us) house at 40 Fairfield Avenue in Mineola, NY. About 3 months later, our family of 3 morphed into a family of 5 when Billy’s sister and brother Krissi and Kenny were born. For the next 31 years, we called 40 Fairfield our home and the Village of Mineola the place where we lived. When Billy was in first grade, he along with several of his school friends wanted to join Cub Scouts, so off we went to Cub Pack 246 that met at Mineola’s First Presbyterian Church. Billy’s friend John’s Dad, Andy McInnes, volunteered to be Cubmaster, and as I remembered my great experiences being a Boy Scout, I volunteered to help in anyway I could, and I became the Pack Treasurer. Starting that first year, in May of 1987, Billy and I joined Pack 246 and marched in the Mineola Memorial Day Parade. For the next 28 years, with and/or without our sons Billy and Kenny, I continued to march in that parade…first with Cub Pack 246, and eventually with Mineola’s Boy Scout Troop 45.
Whatever happened on that year’s Memorial Day Weekend, marching in Mineola’s Parade was a given. In the early years, we’d go to see fireworks at Bar Beach in the Town of North Hempstead on Friday night, and then many times head down to the Jersey Shore for Saturday and Sunday, and then head back to Long Island for the parade. Starting in 2005, when we bought the house in Ocean City, NJ our routine changed. Now instead of Fireworks on Friday, we’d head down to Ocean City, and spend the weekend at our house with our Ocean City friends! Some weekends we had kids and their friends with us, and some weekends we were alone, but every year, we’d set an alarm for 5 AM on Monday, throw clothes on, and head up the Garden State Parkway, to Long Island and our parade.
In 1998, our good friend Steve Grosskopf became the Scoutmaster of Troop 45 (I talked him into taking the job), and starting that first May, we gathered at their house and he fed the boys breakfast with the help of his wife Pat and my wife Sue. Eventually the breakfast morphed into an after-parade gathering for the Scouts and the families of the Troop at their house, and we were always there! We’d arrive home about 9 AM, I’d change into my Scout uniform, Susie would get herself ready, and we’d head over to Pat and Steve’s house for the parade. After we all headed off to the start of the parade, Susie and Pat would settle on the house’s front porch, and watch the parade pass by, yelling their support for the Boy Scout contingent!
It was a tradition of long standing, that continued through 2015! Then something changed… I retired from WABC in January of 2016, and now since I was no longer working, there was no reason not to extend our celebration of Memorial Day at the shore. It was very strange for us, that something that had been a part of our family’s life since 1987 was no longer there. It only got stranger when we sold the Mineola house in 2017, and now we really had no connection with the village! We might not have been there for the parade, but it was still a part of me, and every Memorial Day, my Facebook posts were filled with pictures of the Scouts of Troop 45 carrying flags and marching in Mineola’s parade!
So since that first May in 2016, our Memorial Day Weekends have been centered in Ocean City, but we have fondly remembered our time in Mineola, our friends in Troop 45, and years and years of parade participation. For six years that was our MO, but not this year. This year, we grabbed that clock and turned back the hands of time, proving once again that you can go home!
What is different? Well, our friend Steve Grosskopf announced that he was in his last year of being the Scoutmaster of Troop 45. 24 years of work and dedication, and of making Troop 45 one of, if not the best Boy Scout Troop on Long Island, had not been easy, but Steve had done it, and now it was time for him to pass the torch to the next generation. A couple of weeks ago, I got a crazy idea, and one day I shared it with Susie. “You know, we were there for Steve’s first parade, what do you think about being there for his last?” Susie liked the idea, and for the next week or so we batted around the idea. We really wanted to be there for our dear friends Pat and Steve, but wondered if we’d feel out of place and would we know anybody? After all, the last time we’d been there for the parade was 7 years ago in 2015! On Sunday afternoon, I sent him this text message, “Just checking in with you…How are you doing? Are you all set for the parade?” His answer to that text took away any doubt we might have had. “All good thanks! I know this will be my last one, so it is bittersweet. Wish you guys were here having cocktails on the porch.” Game On!
On Sunday we picked out the clothes we were going to wear, made sure our overnight “to go” bag was fully packed, and filled the car with gas. A shower before and an early bed time, and we were ready to go! The alarm woke us at 5:15 Memorial Day morning, and by 6:25 we were backing out of the garage and on our way to the Garden State Parkway! The trip back to Mineola is just under a hundred and 20 miles, and since we were on the road early, traffic was not an issue. The parade was scheduled to start at 11 AM, and we were in great shape time wise. At about 9:15, we rolled down Westbury Avenue, and parked the car around the corner from their house!
Activity was already in full parade mode as we walked up to the house, with Scouts and Adult Leaders gathering flags, and preparing for the after-parade party. As we came around the corner, and walked up to the front of their house, Steve came off the front porch, looked at us, and said, “Oh My God…what are you two doing here?!” We exchanged hugs and told him, “We were here for your first one, no way we were missing your last one!” Mission Accomplished! Pat was equally surprised when she came downstairs, but thrilled that we were going to be there for the day! She insisted that we spend the night, and we gladly agreed.
As the 11 AM hour got near, Steve and the Troop moved over to the parade starting point around the corner, and Susie, Pat, and I settled in on their front porch. Something new for me this year…for the first time since we first marched in 1987, I was going to see the parade, and what better place to see it, than Patrice and Steve Grosskopf’s front porch, a location on which the 4 of us had spent many, many enjoyable hours over the past 20 years they’ve owned the house! Promptly at 11 AM, the parade set off from Mineola’s Wilson Park, rounded the corner of Union Street and Westbury Avenue, and sailed by our front row seats! Lots of memories and lots of folks we recognized from our 31 years in Mineola, and we enjoyed all the groups from the Boy Scouts to the Mineola High School Mustang Marching Band (which all 3 of our kids were members of), and from the Mineola Fire Dept to the Portuguese Dancers and their castanets, and everybody else!
The parade route is 1.8 miles through the village, ending at Mineola’s Memorial Park for a brief service of remembrance and placing of wreaths. Steve was the MC for the event (I wrote his speech), and from all accounts it was a brief but meaningful reminder what the day was all about. Just after 12 noon, the Troop started to arrive back at the Grosskopf’s house for what has become a Troop 45 Tradition over the years, the Troop’s Memorial Day Parade after-party! The men of the Troop immediately went to work grilling hamburgers, hot dogs and bratwurst, while the boys changed out of uniforms and into proper attire for the pool and games. Troop Families showed up, and a great time was had by all!
Susie and I looked at each other several times during the afternoon, and commented about how the 7 intervening years since we’d last been in Mineola for a Memorial Day seemed to melt away, and how easy it was to fall back into old routines. A lot of the people we knew over the years are not still involved, but the folks of Troop 45 are always like family..old or new. We were welcomed back and made to feel at home, and were so glad we were there for Pat and Steve, and Steve’s last Memorial Day as Scoutmaster. All in all, it was a great plan, and worked out perfectly! As TR used to say, “BULLY!!!!”
Today in the conclusion of our multi-part blog Taking Stock, we leave you with a look at some of the nuts and bolts part of our Retirement Life over the past six years.
MOVING – In August of 1986, we moved to 40 Fairfield Avenue in Mineola, NY. Our house was, at that time, 60+ years old and I was 36 and Susie was 34. Billy was a 3 year old, and Krissi and Kenny were still in Susie’s belly, as she was fully 4 1/2 months pregnant. That old house was the home we brought our new twins home to, that we watched all three of our kids grow up in, where we celebrated Christmases and Birthdays and Anniversaries and all the other celebratory days in a family’s life. It was the place our three kids went off to college from, and the place they returned to when they were done. It was the place they always could call home, and it was that for over 31 years!
When I retired in 2016, our intention was to make Ocean City our one and only home, but dealing with 31 years of memories, emotions, and “stuff” took time. Frankly, we did drag our feet, not wanting to take the time and effort to make the transition, but eventually the cost of two houses forced us to make the move. In early November of 2017, we sold our home in Mineola to a woman and her family that Susie had worked with at school. We sold it without using a real estate agent, with the closing being handled by a lawyer we knew from the St. James Restaurant. In November of 2017, the license plates on the cars went from NY to NJ, Susie and I got New Jersey driver’s licenses, and we changed our voter registration from Mineola to Ocean City. We were now residents of Jersey! https://rnewadventures.com/2017/02/22/big-changes-on-the-horizon/
VISITING FAMILY – When our older son Bill married Lori, the two of them lived in a condo in Astoria, NY. When the prospect of little ones entering their life came about, they looked for a bigger apartment, but prices were insane. By the time our Granddaughter Layla was born, the younger D’Elias had bought a house in Deer Park, Long Island. They still lived there when a little over a year later, our Grandson Henry joined the family. So in the beginning, a trip to see Bill and his family was either a trip from Mineola to Astoria, or out on the Long Island Expressway to Deer Park.
But like so many folks, the prices and the hassle of Long Island got to be too much for them. With his job at Fox News and his Long Island Rail Road commute, he was gone from early morning to almost the kid’s bedtime on a daily basis! They needed a change, and they got a huge one, when after I retired they sold their house and moved down to Raleigh, North Carolina. Down there, Bill works for Xerox, Lori has a successful Family Counseling practice, they recently bought a brand new house and moved to Wake Forest, and they are surrounded by family. Life is different down there, and we are very happy for them! The one downside is that it’s a 7-8 hour drive in the car when we go. Their family grew when Annabelle joined the group, and that only made the desire to spend time with them even stronger. So it’s not 40 minutes in the car, but we love being with them, and do the trip as often as we can!
COVID-19 – Anybody who has not felt the effect of the pandemic on the last 2 years of their life, has obviously been living in a huge bubble! From that day in March of 2020, when we ran home from Florida because we really had no idea what the pandemic was going to bring, right up to the minute I wrote these words, Covid-19 has been a huge influence on our life! From that first day when the world shut down, we wondered if life would ever go back to normal. For months we couldn’t go out to eat, we were fearful even shopping, we sat around a lot and looked for ways to occupy ourselves. We obviously didn’t travel, and it was over a year before we got to see our grandkids again. Contact with friends and family was very limited and strange! Then there was the scramble for Susie and I to get vaccinated, in the hope we’d get some of our life back. Warmer weather came, and we learned new ways of doing things. We ate outside, wore masks, washed our hands constantly, and took great hope in whatever little bit of normality we had. We learned words like Delta and Omicron, discussed the best masks, and where to get a Covid Test! We saw friends get sick, and hoped that they would get well. We went back and forth between feeling confident and feeling scared. We watched people downplay the seriousness of the pandemic, and we watched some of these same folks succumb to it, and join the almost 900,000 fellow Americans who are no longer with us. Oh Yeah….Covid-19 DEFINITELY affected us, and in many ways robbed 2 years of our lives!
BEING BIONIC – Remember the Six Million Dollar Man and the Bionic Woman TV shows from the 70s? Both shows centered around characters that had been severely injured, and through the use of ‘bionic” replacement parts, now had super human strength and abilities! The show was labeled as a Science Fiction/Action Adventure, and indeed the kind of replacement parts they talked about, were just that. But, turn the calendar ahead 50 years, and the ideas of body part replacements are common and ordinary. I know, because I have got two titanium and plastic knee implants, and while I cannot jump 2 stories, as could the Six Million Dollar Man’s Steve Austin, I can now stand and walk as good as I did 20 years ago.
My left knee was replaced on 7/11/19 and my right on 9/14/21, and counting prep and recovery, each procedure took about 3 months out of our lives. Susie, of course, was the best nurse one could ever ask for, and thanks to her and my efforts, and that of our Doctors and PT folks, both knees were textbook cases of Orthopedic Surgery! Everything worked so well, that Susie is going to join me as a bionic person. On March 1st, 2022 she will be the recipient of a new hip! Everything old is new again!!! Thanks Science!
NEW CARS – When I retired in 2016. we were driving a 2013 Hyundai Sonata that we had bought on St. Patrick’s Day in 2013. She had been a good car, taking us on several trips to Florida and on our Big Adventure trip! However, when she was 5+ years old, and her mileage was approaching 90,000 we started spending money on various items, and decided that the wiser approach was not to keep it long term, as we usually did. We also decided that since it was going to be the only real car we had (the toy car would be the red 2000 Mustang convertible that’s still downstairs in the garage), we should look at a small SUV. Having done research, we liked the Honda CR-V, but we were still not sure if we were going to buy or try leasing for the first time. The idea of having a brand new car every 3 years was attractive to us as we’re getting older, but was very different from our usual approach of keeping a vehicle many years. In the end, we decided to try leasing, and in June of 2018 took possession of a 2018 Honda CR-V. After several Florida trips, countless trips to see our family in North Carolina, driving around our local area, and being able to load lots of stuff in the back, we were very happy with our decision! We probably would have had more mileage on her had Covid not shown up, but still we had better than 43,000 trouble-free miles. We were looking forward to leasing a new CR-V, but thanks to the chip shortage and other issues, there were none to be had. In August of 2021, we extended our lease for 6 months, but as the months passed, the situation looked no better, and we started to feel our best move was to buy the CR-V and wait out the shortage. And that’s the situation we were in till I got a text message on November 23rd from our Honda salesman. His message was short but sweet…a Red 2022 CR-V EX-L had just come off the truck…were we interested? We texted back and forth on price until my cell phone rang and it was Brian. “How bout you give us your 2018 CR-V and you take this new one at the same monthly lease payment you were making on the 2018?” I called that an offer we couldn’t refuse, and on the afternoon of November 23rd, we traded our 3 year old Sandstone Metallic CR-V for a brand new 2022 in Radiant Red Metallic! Color us happy!
THE BEACH – The first time I came to Ocean City was in 1955 when I was 5 years old. The first time Susie came to Ocean City was in 1980, just after we got married. The first time we came as a family was the Summer of 1983, when we spent a week here with our new baby, Billy. That was followed by yearly trips to Ocean City, first as a family of 3 and then as a family of 5 when Krissi and Kenny joined the clan. 17 years ago, on January 28, 2005, when Susie and I bought our house, it was the culmination of a lifetime dream of owning a house in Ocean City. Since that start 17 years ago, we spent weeks each year at 854 Pennlyn, and more and more came to know it was going to be our forever home. In November of 2017 when we sold our Mineola house, we took the last step…we now live at the beach! Retirement has meant that we can spend every day, all summer on the beach, or just sit on our front porch and watch the world go by. We can head out early and get a good spot down by the water, or we can go later in the day, and enjoy cocktail hour at the beach. In short, what used to be our vacation is now our life, and for the past six years, we have taken advantage of living at the beach! Yes, dreams do come true!T
So there you have it! A look back at 6 years of retirement, through the eyes of Sue and Frank D’Elia. It has included:
Six trips to Florida
Six Weeks of Cruising
One train trip across the US
One Driving Trip across the US
A Move from New York to New Jersey
Multiple trips down to our Family in North Carolina
2 New Knees!
The best parts of being retired?? Well #1 is the two of us being together 24/7/365 X 6. We love being and doing things together, so what could be better than spending all day, every day, with my best friend, and the love of my life. After that, #2 is easy…doing what we want when we want. Need I say more?
Part Four of our Taking Stock Blog gives you a peek at the weddings of our twins Krissi and Kenny, and a look at traveling across our country on a train. Welcome aboard!
WEDDINGS – When I retired in January of 2016, only our oldest son Bill was married. Now, six years later, we find ourselves with 3 married children. On October 13th, 2018, in Lake Tahoe, California, Kenny and Chris became one! It was a wonderful outdoor “do-it-yourself” wedding at the Tahoe Vistana Resort. A “destination” wedding in a beautiful spot, overlooking the waters of Lake Tahoe, surrounded by lots of friends and family…what could be better? We were also happy to be in Chris’ hometown of Reno for most of the week before, sharing wedding duties with Chris’ family, and getting to really know so many wonderful members of our Fox Family!! With everybody pitching in, there were multiple trips to Costco (we were those folks you always wonder about at Costco buying everything in sight), several party stores, and everything else you can think of (do it yourself). The week leading up to the grand event was a series of parties and get-togethers in Reno, and the time just got more special as more family and friends arrived in town. The actual three day wedding event on Lake Tahoe was perfect, and exactly what the boys wanted their wedding to be! It was the best!
On June 15th, 2019, Kenny’s twin sister Krissi and her fiancé Mike, joined the group and became Mr. and Mrs. Mickowicz! Our twins were born 2 minutes apart, married 8 months apart, and now our circle of married children was complete! Krissi and Mike lived in Astoria, New York (at one point, all 3 of our kids lived in Astoria) and decided that they wanted their wedding to be a local event. Towards that end, Mike’s Family traveled up from Maryland, and Susie and I (with brother Kenny in tow, on leave from a cruise contract) traveled to an interesting old school hotel called The Paper Factory in Long Island City (it was indeed a paper factory in a former life). On Friday night, we had a wonderful family dinner gathering at a close Mexican restaurant with Mike’s immediate family. Mom and Dad Paula and Jerry, sister Sara and her husband Gabe and their kids Maddy and Ethan, and Krissi’s family, including, besides us, older brother Bill, wife Lori and their kids Layla, Henry, and baby Annabelle, and twin brother Kenny! The only one missing was new brother-in-law Chris who could not join his husband Kenny because of their cruise contract. The next day, on the roof of their Astoria apartment building, surrounded by immediate family, and with the Manhattan skyline as the back drop, they exchanged vows and became a married couple. Then it was time to party, and it was off to a local Wine Bar that had been one of their first date spots, where they were joined by additional family and friends! It was an incredible celebration of their marriage, and exactly what Krissi and Mike wanted!
TRAIN TRAVEL – Back in the 1950s, the Metropolitan Opera’s yearly Spring Tour around the country went by train. When I was a little kid, there were a couple of years that I went with my folks on the tour. There were short trips (like New York to Boston) and longer trips (like Boston to Cleveland), so they traveled in both coach and sleeper accommodations. In addition, my Mom’s Mom and Dad lived in Chicago, and while today we’d just hop on a plane or in the car to get there, back in the day, we used the New York Central’s 20th Century Limited to make the trip. It had ben a long time, but I had done train travel, Susie had not. Because of the way the allure of rail travel has been portrayed in movies, like Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest, or the movie Silver Streak, or even the James Bond movie Live and Let Die, Susie has always wanted to take an overnight train. She’s been jealous of the memories I have, and wanted her own, and to check off another Bucket List item, we made it happen.
We decided that in association with Kenny and Chris’ wedding in Lake Tahoe, we would go one direction by train. We did research and watched a ton of YouTube videos on AMTRAK train travel to prepare ourselves, bought two first class sleeper accommodation tickets, and on Wednesday, October 3rd, 2018, we started our journey! We left Ocean City early that morning with our first destination being Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station. There we boarded AMTRAK Train number 141, the Northeast Regional to Washington, DC’s Union Station. As we had first class tickets, we journeyed on this first leg in a Business Class luxury seating car. After spending some time in the Acela Club in Washington, we boarded Train #29, the Capital Limited overnight to Chicago. This was the first leg that we would be in a sleeper, and we got ourself set up in Bedroom E in Car #2900. The room contains a big couch, a comfortable chair, a huge picture window, and our own bathroom (think an RV kind of bathroom). Each car has an attendant, that at night will convert our sleeper from a day room to our bedroom. In addition, on this leg, our attendant will also take our dinner order as the Capital Limited had just had its Dining Car removed. After dinner, our room was turned into a sleeper, the big couch became the lower bunk and an upper bunk was lowered from the wall, complete with a ladder! My dear wife was gracious enough to take the upper bunk, and we fell asleep to the click clack lullaby from the rails!
At about noon the next day, we arrived in Chicago at AMTRAK’s Union Station, where we had to switch trains. Just after 3:00 PM, with us in Room C of Car 330, the Southwest Chief pulled out of Union Station. The Southwest Chief is the Amtrak successor to the famous Santa Fe Super Chief. It was dubbed the “Train of the Stars” because of the celebrities it carried between Chicago and Los Angeles in the days before air travel. The route took the train through some of the most beautiful scenery the United States has to offer, and it was right outside our bedroom window. The Southwest Chief had a real Dining Car, and three meals a day were served on china plates with white tablecloths and impecable service by true professionals, and were included in our ticket price.
Early on the morning of the third day, the train moved through the Los Angelos suburbs, and a little after 8 AM, the Southwest Chief pulled into LA’s Union Station. We’d left Ocean City on the morning of Wednesday, October 3rd, and now on Saturday morning we’d arrived in Los Angelos. It was an experience, and another check on the Bucket List of life! If you’d like more details about our trip, here’s a link to the starting blog post: https://rnewadventures.com/2018/10/01/all-aboard/
Well, tomorrow we wrap up our multi-part blog Taking Stock. Friday’s edition is loaded with looks at some very important things that have happened in our life over the last six years! Be sure to stay tuned!
Welcome to Part Three of our look back at the first six years of our retirement. Today you’ll get a great seat in the back of our car as we travel close to 10,000 miles across the United States, and enjoy the good life as we cruise on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship with Our Boys! Enjoy!!!
OUR BIG ADVENTURE – Susie and I had been talking about this trip for literally years! It was going to be the culmination of years of assembling a bucket list of places we wanted to see in the Western United States, including some incredible National Parks! In many ways, it also was the “raison d’être” for starting this, Our New Adventure blog. We were going to document our trip in words and pictures, for anyone who wanted to ride along, but also as a way for us to remember where we went, what we saw, and who we met. In that regard, we did very well, generally posting words and pictures each day, when the experiences were still fresh in our minds. From the time we traveled over the George Washington Bridge Westbound to I-80 West on Sunday, August 21, 2016, till we returned to the GWB via I-80 East on Saturday, October 22nd, a total of 63 days passed (nine full weeks) and we’d driven a total of 9,773 miles in our 2013 Hyundai Sonata Limited. During our trek across our great country, we drove through parts of 25 States, spent time in all 4 of our country’s time zones, visited 10 National Parks or National Monuments. We stayed in a cabin on the rim of the Grand Canyon where we enjoyed sunrise and sunset over the canyon. We stayed at the Yellowstone Lake Lodge in Yellowstone park, we marveled over the Badlands, became sad learning the history at the Battle of Little Big Horn Monument, and we found the carvings of the Presidents at Mount Rushmore as big a thrill to see in person as I’d always thought it would be. We rode the cog railway to the top of Pike’s Peak, saw a Rockies game at Coors Field, drove on parts of old Route 66, enjoyed the Spam Museum, set our clock by the eruption of Old Faithful, and wondered what was true about UFOs in Roswell, New Mexico. We had the Sonata’s oil changed at Terrible’s Lube in Las Vegas (our mechanic Mike on Long Island loved that name), visited many museums, big and small, including the Idaho Potato Museum, The Oregon Trail Museum, and a wonderful little local museum in a little town called Craig, Colorado! We stayed on the Riverwalk in San Antonio, Texas, had a wonderful day on the USS Lexington aircraft carrier in Corpus Christi, and even went on a two week cruise out of Galveston where we added the countries of Mexico, Honduras, and Jamaica to our list of destinations. Also, in 62 days of travel, we only had one day on which it rained all day…I’d have to say our travels we’re blessed!
Since I first read it in high school, I have always loved the John Steinbeck book Travels with Charlie, in which Mr. Steinbeck details his trip across America with his dog Charlie. Like Mr. Steinbeck’s trip, we will have memories forever of some of the things we saw, but sometimes it’s the little things you remember. Here’s a quote from our blog from Day 61 of our trip: “While sitting on the porch at Cracker Barrel in Virginia waiting for our table, we started talking to this gentleman. One thing led to another, and we discovered that we were both born in Physicians’ Hospital in Jackson Heights, NY a lifetime ago. Anyone who doesn’t believe we live in a small world, has never been out in it!” Exactly….a very small world!
I think I’m going to leave this part of the story, with this additional quote from our blog, this one on our last night on the road.
“Are we sad as I write this last Our Big Adventure post tonight at a hotel in Pennsylvania? You bet we are. We have so loved every day, have gotten such a kick out of driving the Sonata, with our New York license plates, in places like Las Vegas, or Yellowstone, or on Route 66, or last weekend in Galveston with Kenny and Chris in the back seat! Have so loved telling people what we have come to call, “Our Trip Story,” when they inquire what we are doing in Moab, Utah, or Corpus Christi, Texas, and now that’s all behind us.”
It was an incredible trip!
CRUISING – In the course of the past six years, Susie and I have spent six weeks on cruise ships. Both Susie and I had cruised before we were a couple, and as a couple we have a history with cruising, having been several times, including a week long cruise to Bermuda on our Honeymoon back in 1979! Now, we had added incentive! Youngest child Kenny, the actor, was working as one of the lead entertainers on Royal Caribbean Cruise ships! Kenny and his now husband Chris have done 4 contracts together on Royal. First as friends, then as boyfriends, then as fiances, and finally as a married couple, and Susie and I were fortunate enough to be with them at each level! We’ve been to Bermuda with them, to Roatan Honduras, Cozumell, Mexico, Falmouth, Jamaica, Costa Maya, Mexico, and Grand Cayman in the Cayman Islands. They’ve shown us their favorite spots in each port, and given us the insider’s tips. We’ve enjoyed wonderful burritos in a little hole-in-the-wall place in Cozumel that we wouldn’t have dared enter without them, and on our next visit, spent the day at a 5 star all inclusive resort! Returned several times to see wonderful people serving incredible food and drinks at a small bar/restaurant that literally hangs over the harbor in Roatan. In Costa Maya, the boys hustled us into a cab at the port, and after driving for 10 minutes, delivered us to the National Beach Club, which was like the set of every beach front movie set in the Caribbean you have ever seen. A white sandy beach with chairs and umbrellas set in groups, palm trees, crystal blue water, hammocks attached to poles in the water, tiki hut bungalows behind the beach, and an outside tiki bar! The place was run by somebody the boys had met…a young American named Evan. Evan took our first drink order, and for the rest of the day, we were waited on hand and foot, enjoying some incredible food and drink, and treated like visiting royalty by Evan, his wife and their staff! In Grand Cayman, we avoided the tourist places, and the boys took us for a wonderful lunch, overlooking the harbor with its incredible blue water filled with cruise ships. In short, we never took an excursion at any port. We had our own personal tour guides, saw the best things in each port, and were fortunate to get to spend time with some friends the boys had made along the way!!
Over these 6 weeks of cruising we’ve met and partied with Kenny and Chris’ ship family from around the world. We’ve seen the boys perform in Saturday Night Fever, seen Chris do aerial work in a Cirque Du Soleil type show, stood and watched ship’s parades with Kenny, first with Chris as Pinocchio and then on later cruises with him as the Admiral of the Fleet commanding the parade action. We’ve met wonderful ship’s staff from all around the world and gotten close to several. We’ve taken martini classes and pasta classes, eaten beautifully prepared and served meals, and have wandered the ship’s buffet. We’ve won (and lost) money in the ships casino, seen Kenny sing on the Royal Promenade for the 70’s Night, enjoyed jazz sets, played bingo, sat and watched the brave folks on the flow rider, and just had a great time. We’ve cruised alone and with my cousin Jeanne and her husband Walt, and somehow we have befriended bar staffs from around the world! It’s been a great experience, all the more so because we were able to share it with Our Boys!
Everybody loves a Wedding, and tomorrow in Part Four, you are invited to two of them and then get to see what it’s like to take a sleeper train across America! See you then!!
Welcome back to our Taking Stock Blog – Looking back at six years of retirement. Today we return to Florida and complete the saga of two refugees from the winter, finding fun and warmth in the Sunshine state!! Enjoy!
2018 – On February 9th, 2018, we left from our new hometown, Ocean City, New Jersey (more on that later in this blog) and once again headed south! Two days later, we crossed from Georgia into Florida and headed west. Our purpose this trip was to explore much of the Gulf and Atlantic Coasts of the state, and even head down to Key West! The highlight of this trip for us, was that we discovered what we now consider our Florida home…Indian Rocks Beach, thanks to a wonderful stay at the Holiday Inn there, and a great bartender, now friend, named Lindsey! After 4 wonderful nights there, we headed south, then east over the Tamiami Trail, to the very end of Florida. Next stop…Key West. Two wonderful days (and incredible nights) in Key West, and then headed north again. This was our trip for discovery, because next we discovered a wonderful place called the Double Tree Resort by Hilton in Hollywood Beach, Florida! We were there only two nights but vowed we’d be back! We spent 4 great nights with my cousin Jeanne and her husband Walt in their Florida home in Barefoot Bay, and had a wonderful time. Then 5 nights using my Disney Retiree benefits at Walt Disney World. This time we splurged and spent 5 nights at the Boardwalk Hotel in a garden room, with Club Level access, at a 50% Cast Member discount! This year we were really spoiled with our private villa across from the Quiet Pool and access to the Innkeepers Club, for breakfast, lunch, dinner, drinks, and snacks, plus access to the concierge staff for anything we might need. Even with the discount it was $500 a night, but oh so enjoyable! We went briefly to the parks, took in a baseball game and watched the Braves play the Mets, but mostly enjoyed the pool and all the other things that the hotel offered! On the morning of day 6, we headed back towards I-95 and home…it was time to trade in our flip flops for a couple of months! On March 4th, day 24 of our trip, we pulled the Sonata into our garage, and were home! For our Florida trip 2018: 24 days on the road and a total of 3,241 miles driven, and just the best time visiting the Summer of 2018 early!
2019 – On Saturday, January 19th, we headed south to our son and family in North Carolina. It was time for an old fashioned (late, but old fashioned) Christmas celebration with our Southern Family! We had a great weekend with Bill, Lori and Layla and Henry and a great way to start our preview of the Summer of 2019. After leaving NC, we explored Charleston, South Carolina and Savannah, Georgia. Great sites, nice hotels, and wonderful Southern Food, but we discovered that January may not be the optimum time to visit because it was cold! Then it was time to head to our Florida home, Indian Rocks Beach on the Gulf Coast, and the two bedroom condo we’d rented on the Gulf for 3 weeks! That first week was cold, but we sat in the living room under a blanket and watched the beach, and explored “our” town. In week two, the weather was perfect and we spent lots of time on the beach or at the pool. We had family visits from my cousins Jeanne and Walt, Susie’s cousin Debbie, and even our daughter and Mike, who was no longer her boyfriend, but rather her fiancé! We loved being a part of IRB for the three weeks, exploring great restaurants and touristy things, and just spending time in the warmth! Can you say Snowbirds!! After 3 weeks in our condo, we headed to the Double Tree by Hilton Resort in Hollywood Beach, this time for four glorious nights! The only time we left was to drive to Palm Beach one night to have dinner with an old friend! From there, we went over to Barefoot Bay to return the visit to Jeanne and Walt. Three nights there before we returned to I-95 North and winter! On February 27th, 5 1/2 weeks after we’d left, we returned to Ocean City, and once again, no flip flops for a couple of months!
2020 – On Thursday, January 30th, we left Ocean City and headed to our son Bill and his family’s new house in Wake Forest, North Carolina! New house (they moved in just after New Years), and bigger family as baby Annabelle had joined the group the previous April! After spending the night with them, the next morning we were off to Darien, Georgia and the best fried shrimp in the world at B&J’s Steak and Seafood, a twice yearly stop! On Saturday, the 1st of February, we completed the drive to Indian Rocks Beach, and our month long stay in a beautiful 3 bedroom condo on the Gulf of Mexico at the Hamilton House. Now we were really Snowbirds!! We were joined during the month by my cousin Jeanne and her husband Walt for 4 nights, and for a week by Kenny and his husband Chris…Our Boys! We loved the feeling of being a part of IRB for the month, and cemented that feeling by every Tuesday night. Rather than being at the back bar of Charlie’s with our friend Sue as was our Tuesday routine, we spent 4 Tuesdays at the bar at Guppy’s with our new friends Taylor and Ellen. Unfortunately, in our last week there, Susie got the call that her 95 year old Mom had passed away. We left the condo a day early, drove across the state to the Ft. Lauderdale airport, and flew back to Long Island for 3 days. After the funeral, we flew back, and returned to the Double Tree Resort in Hollywood Beach, this time for six nights! Our best stay yet! Dropped the car at the valet day one, and never drove it again till we left! After 6 wonderful days of summertime temperatures spent at the pool, with daily drinks on our balcony overlooking the Intracoastal Waterway and the food and fun at the Tiki Bar, we headed up to Barefoot Bay and what we’d planned to be an extended stay. Jeanne and Walt were heading out a couple of days after we arrived for a month in Hawaii, and had offered us the use of their house while they were gone. Seemed like a great way to extend our preview of the summer of 2020 a few more weeks. Unfortunately, the day Jeanne and Walt left, Covid exploded on the scene, and when Major League Baseball, Disney World, and so much else closed down, we decided it was time to run home to Ocean City! We made the trip with just one night’s stop, missed out on our return visit for shrimp in Darien, Georgia, and bypassed another visit with our North Carolina Family! So we left Ocean City on Thursday, January 30th and returned home on Sunday, March 15th, having traveled 3,302 miles in between. Not what we expected at all, having missed out on pool time, a couple of Spring Training ball games, and my first ever visit to Cape Canaveral!
2021 – Having been fully vaccinated with both of our Covid shots, in the middle of March we started venturing out. We missed our Grandkids and their Mom and Dad in North Carolina, and on Friday, April 16th, we left for North Carolina for the second time in a couple of weeks. This time for a joint birthday party for our two favorite Granddaughters! Layla’s 7th and Annabelle’s 2nd! After having a great couple of days there, we headed back to I-95, but this time southbound…we were going to Florida!!! Our Boys now lived in Downtown St. Petersburg, Florida and we were going to visit with them for a couple of days. We used Hilton Honors points for our whole trip and only paid for one hotel. We spent 3 nights at a brand new Hilton Tru Hotel literally just down the block from the boys’ apartment. They showed us the sights of St. Pete, and frankly, it seemed like the perfect spot for them. The one hotel we paid for? Since we were just down the road from Indian Rocks Beach, we had to say Hi to our Florida home, so we paid for one night at the Holiday Inn, the place where it all started for us! The boys came and joined us and we had a great time drinking and eating at Jimmy Guana’s, and listening to live music outside in April!! Then we headed home, but this year we did stop in Darien, Georgia for our shrimp at B&J’s Steak and Seafood! Back home on Sunday, April 25th. A brief visit, but our Florida record is still intact!
2022 – No extensive visits to the Sunshine State this year, as we decided that this winter would be given over to getting Susie a new hip. That’s scheduled for March 1st, and like with my new knee, there will be travel restrictions, so who knows what will come after that!
Tomorrow in Part Three, we offer you a back seat in our 9 week trip around the United States that we call Our Big Adventure, and usher you into a balcony cabin on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship in the Caribbean! See you then!
Six years ago, when I announced that I would be retiring from WABC at the end of January 2016, I was asked many times one question: “What are you going to do when you retire?” I had a glib stock answer that satisfied just about everyone…“Whatever I want,” I’d reply. However, I remember one conversation with an acquaintance that wasn’t satisfied with my stock answer, and continued to press me. “No really. What are you going to do?” he asked, like I’d made a 30 point agenda! So for him, and anybody else who may have wondered, here’s a look back at some of the things Susie and I have done the past six years! Because we’ve done a lot of “stuff” over the past six years. This will be a multi part blog, so here’s part one!
In 2016 when I retired, I joined Susie who had retired from the Mineola School District a couple of years before, because her job had turned into a nightmare of being spit on, stabbed with pencils, and the like. Telling her that I had never had any of that happen to me at ABC, we decided it was best for her to stop working while I continued a couple of more years. So when I walked out of WABC for the last time on January 29th, 2016, our life was ours to do as we pleased.
FREEDOM – One of the first changes in our life immediately after my January 29th retirement date was that we no longer had the need to travel down to Ocean City on a Friday afternoon, nor back to Mineola on a Sunday night. In fact, with the exception of our twice monthly “Nail Night” with Krissi and Mike, an occasional Doctor visit, or trips to see Susie’s Mom at the nursing home, we had little need to be in Mineola! When we did come back to Long Island, we traveled mid-week, and the same heading back to the shore.
THIS BLOG – It was also in those first days after I retired that we started this blog. We found a name, worked on the hosting logistics, came up with a design, and on February 27th, published our first blog post! Called Road Trip we detailed our relationship growing up with road trips and how they would be a huge part of “Our New Adventure.” (https://rnewadventures.com/2016/02/27/road-trip/)
FLORIDA – Then on March 4th, 2016, we left on our first road trip of our retirement…a trip to Florida! This was our first “we’re not working, so we can go now” trip, and the start of what was to become a yearly adventure of our retirement life. It included 5 days in Walt Disney World, where we happily enjoyed my Disney Retiree benefits (half price rooms, free park admission, and discounts on food and purchases) and even got written up in a Radio Newsletter back home when I talked about my Love/Hate relationship with the Walt Disney Company in our blog! We enjoyed a couple of Spring Training games, and visited with my cousins Jeanne and Walt in Barefoot Bay. Late in the afternoon of March 13th, we drove back into our Mineola driveway, making this one of the shortest of our yearly Florida adventures!
2017 – Our next road trip to Florida started on Sunday, February 26th, 2017. This was part of a journey we called at the time “Kenny and Chris head off to Los Angelos, D’Elia Family Trek,” where Susie and I, along with Kenny’s twin sister Krissi and her boyfriend Mike were going to join the boys at various stops on the East Coast as they drove Kenny’s Hyundai Santa Fe to LA! It started in Atlantic City earlier in the weekend with Krissi and Mike joining us, but then they returned to NY. On Tuesday, February 28, we arrived at the Port Orleans Resort in Walt Disney World so the boys could enjoy some of my retiree benefits for three days. The two of them walked our feet off, but we had a great time! After 3 wonderful days, we packed the cars and were off. The next stop? The Big Easy…New Orleans! The boys were doing the drive in one day, as they were meeting Krissi and Mike there, while Mom and Dad took 2 days, so the young kids could have a day without the old folks! After 2 nights in NOLA, that included great food, great drinks, and a riverboat ride where Chris asked the family if he could propose to Kenny, it was time to get Krissi and Mike to the airport and the rest of us on our way. But wait, there’s more, we were not done with the boys! Next was a trip up north a bit in the state of Louisiana to the Horseshoe Hotel and Casino in Bossier City, where we spent two more nights! The boys left the next day, to stay a couple of days with Chris’ Family in Tulsa, Oklahoma before heading to the Left Coast. The next morning we left for Ocean City, and 14 days after leaving, on Saturday, March 11th, we were at 854 Pennlyn Place. We didn’t spend as much time in Florida this year, but we sure had a lot of fun, without regard to work schedules!
And that’s the end of today’s section of our blog Taking Stock. Come back tomorrow as we complete our travels to Florida, and enjoy the warmth of summer, in the winter!