Our Front Porch

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Almost 15 years ago, when we saw our now forever home on Pennlyn Place in Ocean City, one of the first reactions we had upon seeing the house was, “What a nice front porch it has.” Funny, but back in 1986, when we first saw our house of 31 years in Mineola, we were taken by the fact that it too, had a lovely front porch. I guess we’re front porch people!

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The day we first saw our Mineola House in 1986.  That little boy in the picture is our oldest son Billy…father of three!

What surprises us is the number of people at the shore who obviously aren’t! We regularly drive by house after house with beautiful front porches in Ocean City, Ventnor, Margate, Longport, Sea Isle City, etc, and the one common thing we see are empty porches! Hot nights, cold nights, perfect temperature nights..it’s all the same. The other common thread is the blue glow of the big screen TV lighting the living room! We find it sad that so few porches are used these days, especially considering the locations!

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The day we decided to buy 854..Susie and me and our friend Pat Grosskopf

As I said, when we first saw 854 Pennlyn we loved the porch, but we hadn’t seen it’s true potential yet! When we bought the house, it was already equipped with awnings, and when we put them up that first spring, we were amazed at what a change they made. They seemed to make the porch bigger, and definitely turned what we’d liked before as a porch, into an extra room! As the previous owners had taken their porch furniture with them, we made the first of many trips to Cape May Wicker and outfitted the porch with an army of chairs.

As the years went by, we added more things, and a few years ago, Susie got something she’d wanted for years…a sofa on the porch! We were lucky one fall to wander into Cape May Wicker on a “just looking” trip and found a wonderful deal on a 3 cushion wicker sofa and a perfect coffee table in their clearance center! Add a rug, rearrange a couple of our porch chairs, and we had a perfect two room porch, with both a sitting area and a dining area!

Our Two Room Porch with Sofa and new Dining Set

But we were not done yet! On another one of those “just looking” trips at Cape May Wicker, we found the perfect dining set, and again it was in their clearance center! Then just before last summer, we changed out our old Kmart type cooler for an incredible Yeti Model…the last cooler we’ll ever buy!

Just a word about the cooler. Years ago, when we were renting from our friend Denise on Asbury Avenue, her porch was also one of our favorite places to spend our rental weeks. We noticed that at a house across the street, the owners always had a cooler on the front porch, filled with beer and the like. We loved that idea, and when we started outfitting the porch, we added a cooler to the mix. It was perfect because it freed up lots of space in the refrigerator, and a cold drink was always near at hand! We stole their idea, but then we took it to the next level, by adding a drainage system to our cooler. A hose that goes down the side of the house, and a valve that lets us open and close it, making changing out ice as simple as can be!

Over the years, our porch has been the site of so many happy memories. From just Susie and I, to time spent with our family, and time spent with our Ocean City family! From the moment we open it up in the spring, right around Memorial Day, to the day we decide in the fall it’s time to power wash the furniture and put it away for the winter, it is our choice location in our home!

Even at Christmas time, our porch comes into play. Just like we did in Mineola for years…
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The porch at 854 Pennlyn might not be available for partying during the holidays, but it definitely says Christmas!!

Take a look at some happy memories through the years. From our Family to our Ocean City Family, to our visitors and extended family…everybody ends up on the porch!

Our last word on this topic…If you have a porch at your house, use it! It’s too important a resource to ignore!

At the Shore Since ’44

Charlies!

We have owned our house in Ocean City for 14 plus years (it will be 15 on January 28, 2020), and for about 13 of those years, Charlie’s has been a go to place for us! Located just across the bridge in Somers Point, Charlies is one of those local bars that are indeed the real life incarnation of the bar in the TV Show Cheers, “where everybody knows your name”!

In 1944, Helen and Charlie Thomas opened a classic “corner bar” in Somers Point, and Charlies has been an important part of the community ever since. The original bar was located across New Jersey Avenue from its current location, and moved to its current building in 1953. The building, and indeed the business, have undergone many changes during the 75 years that Charlie’s has been around, but the one constant in its history, is that four generations of the Thomas Family have run the place. Today, fourth generation brothers Jim and Jeff Thomas are the link back to their Great Grandmother and Great Grandfather, the founders!

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The Thomas Brothers..Jim and Jeff

Today, Charlie’s is still that corner bar (located on the corner of New Jersey Ave. and Shore Road) where everybody (well, maybe not everybody, but a lot of folks) indeed knows your name! The first time we went to Charlies, it was when our Mineola friends Pat and Steve Grosskopf were visiting with us, early in that first year of ownership. We went in for dinner one night, and got a table in the front bar room. We had a waitress who was a real pro, but at the same time a real smart ass. She was wearing a button that said, “I’d Card my Mother”, but she knew the answer to every question we had about menu items or beers that were offered. She joked with us, she kidded other customers, she called them by name, and she was the perfect professional waitress! Little did we know, she was also destined to be our very good friend, but that part comes later!

Until we retired and stopped renting our the house during the peak summer months, our MO was to travel down to Ocean City at the very least a couple of weekends a month, and for the better part of 10 or 11 years, Charlie’s was our Friday night stop. In the beginning, I’d take the Long Island Rail Road train into Queens, meet up with Susie, and off we’d go to the shore. As time went on, Susie got braver, and would drive to pick me up in the city. Some days we made it down early, some days, later, but we always had our Friday night at Charlie’s! Creatures of habit that we are, if it was Friday and we were down at the Shore, we were at Charlies!

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Within a short amount of time, we were Charlie’s Friday Night regulars. We’d check in at the hostess desk with Carol or Colleen, and always request a table in the bar area. While we waited for our table, we’d enjoy the bar and a couple of pint sized Screwdrivers (with fresh squeezed OJ) or two from Wes or Kelly, and enjoy checking out and interacting with the many other Friday night regulars. Of course, in the summer months, the crowds were much bigger on a Friday night, but Fridays just equaled Charlies for us!

Once our table was ready, Carol or Colleen would show us the way, and hand us menus, and within moments “our waitress” would say hello. Unless she wasn’t there on a particular night, we sat exclusively with Sue, the lady I referred to on our first visit. Sue always knew we were probably going to have another Screwdriver, and most nights saw an order of Charlies’ Wings in our future. Now, let’s talk about those wings.

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While Charlies has a full menu of dinner items, I always think that the best things on Charlies’ menu are what I call “bar food”, and right at the top of that list are their wings and what they call BBTs (boneless breast tenders). A single order of wings contain 13 pieces, usually pretty evenly split between drumettes and wingettes, while a single order of BBTs, contain 5 pieces. The chicken is fried perfectly and sized just right. In fact, some days, as soon as you drive over the 9th Street Bridge, you start to smell Charlie’s fried chicken! Then there are the sauces! Here’s what the menu says about them: “Tail Gun (mild), Top Gun (Hell Fire! No Kidding!) Southwest (our secret BBQ sauce), and their newest, Stinger Sauce (Tangy Honey Garlic).” They are all good, but our favorite, and I’d have to guess most sold, is Tail Gun sauce. Now, you can get your wings and BBTs dry, with sauce on the side, but that’s not our way. Grab lots of napkins and homemade blue cheese dressing! Get your wings sauced and hot! Make a mess of your face and your hands, and enjoy!! It’s the only way to roll!!

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In addition to the great wings (which Susie swears are the BEST she has ever had), other great items on the menu include their soups, sandwiches, salads, burgers, cheesesteaks, and specialty sandwiches. Then there is their huge beer selection, appetizers, chili, wraps, and fries, but that’s only some of my “bar food” favorites! They’ve got pastas, and dinner selections from the Land and from the Sea (as their menu denotes). Whatever you are in the mood for, they have it! Take a look for yourself at their extensive menu and make yourself a little hungry! http://charliesbar.com/menu.pdf

Although the food is certainly great, in my opinion, like at any establishment, it’s the people that keep you coming back Over the years, we’ve met some great folks there. Like Carol and Colleen working the hostess desk most Fridays, and Kelly, and the late Wes, at the bar, waitresses Natalie, Jess, Sarah, and of course the lady I spoke of earlier, our good friend, Susan Earsom Waniak! We also got to know Sue’s son Chris and her daughter Carlye, who also are part of the Charlie’s Family!

Sue is a professional waitress, not something that is that common anymore. She grew up working at her Aunt’s Jersey Shore business, and she knows her job inside and out. She knows how to take care of her customers, and she knows how to deal with those, shall we say, high maintenance customers too! After years of having her wait on us every Friday and occasional Sunday breakfasts (Charlie’s is open 7AM to 3 AM Monday through Saturday, but opens at 9AM on Sunday for breakfast), I guess we officially got the Sue Seal of Approval, and we morphed from just customers and server, to friends. That’s something Susie and I are very proud of!

As often happens, life moves on. Eventually Sue stopped waitressing on Friday night, and we were transferred over to Natalie by Sue. Then I retired, so Susie and I no longer drove down to Ocean City on a Friday, and no longer had to fight the Friday night crowds on the Garden State Parkway or at Charlies. The result was that eventually, Friday night no longer was our go-to night at Charlies,. But don’t despair, for all is not lost!

img_1021-1You see, on Tuesday night, Sue holds court at the Back Bar (Captain Jacks Bar – Named for the late Jack Thomas..Jimmy and Jeff’s Dad) at Charlies! It’s a night populated by her regulars. First, some of her older customers, the “Dessert Club” comes at about 5 PM, then at about 6:45, Susie and I show up, along with some of the other second string regulars like Liz and Mike. Then after we’re done, she has others that show up depending on if volley ball is in session or not. The only thing we have to decide on is what we are going to eat that night. As soon as she sees us walk in the door, Sue already has our drinks in progress. Since we’ve been low carbing, and staying away from OJ, our Screwdrivers have morphed into Grey Goose Martinis, and we are hardly settled on our barstools, before the chilled glasses of goodness are in front of us! Now, if it is Tuesday night, and we are in town, we are at Charlies! We are indeed creatures of habit!

Sue knows the name and drink preference of virtually everybody who sits down at the back bar on a Tuesday night! (10 months out of the year that’s true…for July and August, all bets are off and the area’s population, and Charlie’s customer base swells for the summer) It’s just a continuation of that “Corner Bar” atmosphere that the Thomas Family has been known for over the last 75 years! Jeff is usually the brother on the premises on Tuesday night, and he always has a hello for most of the customers at the back bar, (Hell, he grew up with a lot of them) in addition to helping Sue out with ice, more bottles of booze, or even delivering an order. It’s just that kind of place, and Jeff is just that kind of person!

Like many of the other restaurants that we love, Charlies is a Family! It’s a family made up of the Thomas Family, the long term servers, and bartenders (on any given night you’ll find many of the same folks working that were there the first night we ever went to Charlies), and the repeat customers. It’s a place to enjoy a good drink, some excellent food, in a familiar surrounding. It’s a place where they know your name, and you know theirs, and where you feel at home! Is there anything better you can say about a restaurant? It’s home!

If you remember I said above that Sue had morphed from customers and server to friends? Well, I’m happy to say that Tuesday night isn’t the only night of the week, because on Friday, we exchange positions, and Sue gets to be the guest at our house! Her favorite spot is on our front porch, but all through the year, you can depend that if all 3 of us our around town, Sue will be dropping in on us about 5:30, and I get to make HER a drink! You’d have to know me to really understand what a kick that is for me! She’s a good friend, and important part of our Ocean City life, and one of the reasons we are so glad that a place we’ve loved forever, has become our forever home!

See you are Charlies!

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….

New Beginnings!

So as January morphs into February, I’m taking a look at where we are in this next chapter of our lives, and finding us in a new place. Although in some ways, it’s hard to call it new, in other ways, that’s exactly what it is. After owning our house in Ocean City since January of 2005, we are indeed at a new place in 2018. For the first time, we start the year as residents of New Jersey, and as owners of just one home. We’d talked about it for years, and it feels like we’ve been in the planning stage for almost as long, but the end of 2017 was our time to make the jump official!

When we moved into the house in Mineola in August of 1986, Susie was 5-6 months pregnant with twins, that would turn out to be Krissi and Kenny, on November 20th of that same year. With their arrival, our family of three grew to a family of five. Over the next 31+ years, we watched Billy, Krissi and Kenny grow in that house, eventually to the point that they moved on with their lives, and as it had been in the beginning, it was just Susie and me again! Through the 31 years, we had a good life, becoming involved with the 3 kids’ school and social lives, making friends, through school and church and Scouts, and living the kind of busy life that a family with 3 kids lives in modern times. Every summer of those 31 years, we made sure that we had some time during the summer at the beach in Ocean City. It was a place that I first came to when I was 5 years old, that I first brought Susie to early in our married life, and a place that we’d always dreamed of having a house. That dream came true, early in 2005, when thanks to a fortuitous financial occurrence (we’d bought a house in Las Vegas, Nevada 18 months earlier, that because of an incredible increase in value, we sold for a profit of over $160,000), we bought a house on Pennlyn Place, in Ocean City.

IMG_2529Soon after taking possession of the Ocean City house, we discovered we got much more than just a house; we got a whole new life. We consider our Ocean City friends our Ocean City Family, an although we originally figured we’d trade houses as prices went up, Susie says it would take a team of wild horses to drag her away from this location. With Doc and Doie on one side, and Patti and Meade on the other, and good friends like Karen and Bob, Georgia and Vinnie, and Jane and John just doors away, plus Chris and Denise and Dale virtually just around the corner, we are HOME! Our time in Ocean City became more and more our real life, and when I retired in January of 2016, there was no doubt in our minds that 854 Pennlyn would become our full time home. No longer would we rent our home to others, and Susie would no longer have to play hide and seek with our pots and pans and other objects when we reclaimed it after rental season. This would be our one and always forever home, but what about the Mineola house???

As I’m sure you know, anybody who has lived in a house for 31 years, and raised 3 kids there, has also collected a lot of memories and “stuff”! Early on, we realized that the memories were in our head, and would always be ours to cherish (Krissi and Kenny had a little trouble with that concept in the beginning), but the “stuff” needed to be dealt with! We had an attic, a finished basement, a garage, a back porch, and a full dining room! Furniture, dishes, pots and pans, photo albums, slides, videos, childhood mementos (from us and the kids), clothing, bedding, and just about anything else you can think of, had to be organized and taken care of. Thank God the great garbage men of Mineola will take just about everything, because boy did we give them “stuff” over the next 22 months! Even we didn’t believe the stupid things we discovered that we’d saved for years! The items we found in the 5 drawer file cabinet we had in the basement, proved that the only reason we saved some of it was because we had a place to put it! What a collection of crap, but there was also a lot of good things!

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Our “Last Supper” (Lunch) in Mineola

When my Mom died 8 years ago, and we sold her house, we had a company come in and run a Tag Sale, and we figured we’d do the same thing with our house. We contacted the woman who did my Mom’s sale, and she said we didn’t have enough stuff for her company, but referred us to a smaller company who she thought would handle it. When the woman who ran that company said that she couldn’t help us, we realized we’d have to come up with a plan B. We’d donate we thought! Well, we were able to take care of some of the small items with organizations like Vietnam Veterans, and Big Brothers and Big Sisters, but we still had a house full of furniture. Luckily Krissi and her boyfriend Mike were moving into a brand new apartment, so some small things went that way, but for the rest, nobody wanted it! See, we were aging Baby Boomers who were downsizing, and trying to get rid of a lifetime of possessions. Turns out, we were not alone, as a large percentage of our fellow Baby Boomers were doing the same thing! Our kids didn’t want our “stuff”, and neither did most of the usual sources. In the end, we had to pay somebody to empty our house, and although some of the stuff just got trashed, Rosario, who did the work, had better contacts than we did, and he managed to place some of our beloved pieces (like our first ever new dining room set, which Susie had a lot of trouble parting with) with some deserving families. We got a tax deduction, pieces we loved didn’t go to a landfill, and in the end, we were happy, and more importantly, the house was empty!

And why did we have such a need to empty out the house? Well, because in the blink of an eye, the Mineola house had found a buyer! Our Mineola house was built in 1928, and was old, old, old. Sure, we’d done things over the years, like redoing a bathroom, replacing the roof, updating the furnace and water heater, changing the windows, and building a new front porch, but raising three kids only left so much money to go towards updating an old house. There had been a lot of tear downs in our immediate neighborhood in recent years, and that’s what we assumed would happen to 40 Fairfield Avenue….but we were wrong! Unbeknown to us, Mineola had become a hot housing market, and when it became known that we were thinking of selling, 4 possible buyers lined up. When the first fell away because her husband lost his job, Susie called the second….a teacher that she used to hire as a sub at Hampton Street School, and whose cousin lived across the street from us. She, her husband, father, and kids came to take a look at the house one afternoon, and by 9 that night, we’d agreed on a price! No real estate agent, no commission, no listing on the market, no signs or advertising, no endless parade of potential buyers wandering through the house. If we’d known it was going to be so easy, we probably would have done it sooner than 22 months after I retired!

Perhaps it was so easy, because in the end we asked for a reasonable price, which worked out well for everyone. We left some money on the table for the new owners to use to improve the house, and we were happy with what they paid, as we were able to pay off the existing mortgage (we’d refinanced the house 3 or 4 times, but that’s a story for another day). In addition, we were able to recoup all of the money we’d spent on a house we really had not been using that much since I retired. On Thursday, November 9th, 2017, at a law office on Mineola Blvd, we closed on a house that had been our home for 31 years. A new beginning for us, a new beginning for the buyers, and a new beginning for 40 Fairfield Avenue!

IMG_7365Since then, Susie and I have surrendered our New York Driver’s licenses, and officially became New Jersey residents. We have New Jersey Driver’s Licenses, our cars have NJ license plates, we’re registered to vote here, and we will never again make mortgage payments to Wells Fargo, or pay a bill from Cablevision, National Grid, PSEG Long Island, Allstate Insurance, or the guy who cut our lawn! You have no idea how that all adds us..especially since my WABC paychecks stopped! But now that those bills are gone, and we replaced the money that we’d taken out of our savings to cover the Mineola bills. We can definitely find better ways to spend those savings…for our enjoyment!

So, starting on or about February 9th, Susie and I are embarking on a three plus week road trip to the Sunshine State! Looking for some February warmth, and visiting places we haven’t been since we did a similar trip with the kids over 20 years ago, is a much better way to spend a cold February, than deciding what to save and throw out, at a house you no longer call home! Stay tuned, and hop on board, Sue and Frank D’Elia are about to embark on another road trip! See you in February, on Interstate 95, headed South!!

 

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Well, the road trip is over! In the 14 days since we left Ocean City, we have driven over 3600 miles, traveled through 12 states, gone weatherize from spring, to summer, and back to winter, had great times in Walt Disney World, New Orleans, and Bossier City, Louisiana with our twins and their significant others, spotted license plates from 36 states, 3 Canadian Provinces, the District of Columbia and the US Government, and stayed in 9 hotels. We left the Hilton Garden Inn this morning a little after 8AM, traveled into Maryland and then into Delaware. We left early because we both couldn’t sleep this morning, and since the Hilton Garden Inn didn’t supply a free breakfast, we got up, got dressed, and hit the road!

Thank God it was a Saturday, because as crowded as I-95 was this morning going around Washington, DC and Baltimore, I can’t even begin to imagine what we’d have gone through had it been a weekday! At about 10 AM, we stopped at the Maryland House rest area, looking to get something for breakfast. Turns out that Dunkin’ Donuts was the only place that had any kind of breakfast items on their menu, and the line was about 30 people long. Not looking to spend 30 minutes waiting to order a microwaved egg sandwich, we had Chicken Clubs and Cokes at Wendy’s…exactly like we did day one of this trip on the way south on 95!

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We made a small detour on the way back to Ocean City, opting to stop at Total Wines in Claymont, Delaware to pick up a few bottles (or cases) of wine, including an interesting shaped bottle of Italian white and another of Chianti. Not only are the prices great, but there is no tax in Delaware, a definite win/win. We both agreed that this is the last time we will venture there on a Saturday, because between Total Wines and the Home Depot next door, it took us about 10 minutes to get out of the parking lot! Live and learn.

So then it was time for us to follow our friend Ginger Peach Scott, our GPS (Sorry for the typo in yesterday’s blog. Her first name is Ginger, not Georgia!), home to Ocean City! We briefly touched the great state of Pennsylvania and then it was into New Jersey and the Atlantic City Expressway. We got here about 2:10 this afternoon. The sky is clear, the sun is shining, and it’s 33 degrees…what is wrong with that picture!!

As I write this, Susie has already gotten 3 loads of laundry done, and we have done some of the necessary work in anticipation of a sleeper sofa we ordered being delivered next week, allowing us to turn our twin bedroom into a den. That entailed moving a bureau out of the back bedroom and putting it down in the garage in preparation for putting it on the curb; moving a dresser from the former “Lighthouse” room to the back bedroom (the Ocean City room); re-hooking up the TV in the back room, and packing up the lighthouse pictures and statues from the room. Tomorrow we will get the two twin beds down to the garage in preparation for disposal, and Susie will give the room a good cleaning. Then it will only be a matter of waiting for a call that the couch and coffee table we ordered are ready.

Now, as to this coming week. Wednesday is a dentist appointment and Nail Night, and Thursday at 10:30 AM we need to be in NYC to have our taxes done. Originally we talked about heading home early on Wednesday, but that was until Mother Nature got involved! In addition to the ridiculously cold temperatures the North East is experiencing for mid March, the predictions are also for a snowfall of anywhere from 12-24 inches for Monday night into Tuesday, continuing all day Tuesday! Monday looks like the only clear day for the next 3, so we’ve decided that we will have to head to Long Island Monday morning, if for no other reason than that we can make our tax preparation appointment. Trust me, if we didn’t have that appointment, we would hunker down right here at 854 Pennlyn Place, in Ocean City! The dentist and nails can wait!

So that’s a wrap on our road trip that started when we left Ocean City, NJ on the morning of Sunday, February 26th, and ended when we returned to Ocean City early this afternoon. It was a fun, but very busy trip, and it’s good to be home. We may re-visit the trip in coming days, but tonight we’re going to be lazy, have a dinner of leftovers (thanks for packing them up on Feb 25th Kenny), and perhaps catch up on some TV.

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As good as road trips are, it’s always nice to be HOME! Next road trip…Raleigh, NC in April for our granddaughter’s 3rd birthday, and again for Easter…praying for spring weather!!!

Big Changes On The Horizon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Day Sixty Three A – Saturday, October 22, 2016

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Yesterday I gave you a very brief look at our last day on the road, so I thought I would do an addendum to that post, and give you a better idea of how our last day on the road shaped out.

We awoke on our last morning at the Homewood Suites, just outside of Allentown, Pennsylvania. It was still raining, as it had been all night, just re-enforcing that we’d made the correct decision by not trying to push on home last night. We’ve stayed in 3 other Homewood Suites on our travels, and all others have had good breakfasts, with the one of San Antonio, Texas providing the absolute best “free” breakfast we’d had on the trip! Well, perhaps as another indication that it was time for this trip to end, this was perhaps one of the worst breakfasts we have had! Yucky eggs, rubber potatoes, and sausage that Susie described as , “cadaver flesh! Yes indeed, it was time for us to go home!

Shortly after “eating” breakfast, we packed the car, in the rain, for the last time, and headed out on Interstate 78. It wasn’t long till we’d passed into yet another state, our neighbor, and future home state, New Jersey. Fall colors were much more obvious here, than they’d been just a day before in Virginia, as we were just hours away from home, and very soon, we were joining the New Jersey Turnpike. Our GPS friend wanted us to head towards the Holland Tunnel, but we like the Lincoln better, so we overruled her.

Luckily, we switched to NYC Traffic on Sirius and then went to our source for traffic on the 8s, WCBS, and realized that this was one of those stupid weekends, when one side of the Midtown Tunnel is closed, due to continuing Sandy repairs. Having been trapped in Manhattan twice on weekends when this was happening, we decided that the George Washington Bridge was going to be our new target. Almost as soon as we made this decision, we got to the toll booths on the NJ Turnpike at exit 16W, which is the Lincoln Tunnel exit. I was fortunate enough to be far enough left that I was able to shoot up north to the GWB, because the 495 Viaduct into the Lincoln Tunnel was backed up almost to the toll booths! We’ve done that, and know for a fact that’s a 45 minute trip to the NJ side of the tunnel! Luck was still with us!!!

The rain was still falling, the nutty drivers were still running amok, but our trip over the GWB and across the Cross Bronx Expressway was as good as it can be, and soon we were crossing the Throgs Neck Bridge, and we were back on Long Island. A short trip down the LIE, and we were getting off at Willis Avenue and almost home! At precisely 1:37 in the afternoon, we pulled into the driveway of 40 Fairfield Avenue, exactly 9 weeks since we left on Our Big Adventure, having traveled a grand total of 9,773.0 miles!

Everything looked great at the house, and the lawn guys were obviously still cutting the grass, even though they haven’t been paid for the past 9 weeks, because they’ve never emailed me a bill, as they agreed they would. The mail is still being held at the Post Office, so a huge pile hadn’t come through the door slot, and getting the front door open was an easy task. The humidifier was still working in the basement, so all was dry, and the rest of the inside of the house looked fine – good job Susie, leaving with a nice clean house. The only issue we found was in flushing the toilet in the downstairs bathroom, water runs out of the bottom of the tank. Oh well, a call to the plumber Monday, and that will be taken care of!

img_6679-2As the rain seemed to be letting up, we decided that rather than make ourselves comfortable, we’d best unpack the car. We really had no idea what was in some of the dark recesses of the trunk, but we launched into it and in less than 10 minutes had the trunk and the inside pretty empty. After spending 7 weeks in the car (taking out the 14 days on the Liberty), the interior had seen some living, so it will take a little more effort and a professional car wash to erase all traces of our travels!

 

Now, the dining room became our staging area, as Susie began to go through the suitcases, canvas bags, and paper bags we’d brought in. One big pile for the cleaners (we will be floating a loan before picking up the completed order), half the room for washing (which will take several days to complete), and the table full of items that were not part of our original packing, but we now own! All in all, not too bad, considering that we’d just returned from 9 weeks on the road!

Then, we decided to check out the DVR and found that it was at 99%! Lots of new shows we’d wanted to take a look at, and returning shows, as we are fully 3 weeks into the new TV season! So we decided that for the rest of the weekend, our primary task, between going up and down for the wash, and other trip ending tasks, will be to watch some TV and garner some couch time!

img_6680-2Of course, what would our first Saturday back at home be without our first real martinis since we left the Liberty of the Seas. There are little or no supplies in the house, and certainly nothing that could help us make a Melvin and R Bar Martini, so it was just Grey Goose with a twist! I did however serve them in well chilled Royal Caribbean glasses, and used the “professional shaker” method, as befitting a graduate of not one, but two, Martini Mixology classes on the Liberty of the Seas! Thanks Melvin!!

img_6681Then to wrap up the day, Chinese take-out! I have to say that the take-out from Mr. Chen’s in Carle Place was much better than the Chinese food we had at a converted Mexican restaurant in Moab, Utah, but then having it delivered, and eating it while sitting on our living room couch, drinking Prosecco, and watching TV shows from our DVR might have had something to do with that feeling!

So that’s it…the trip is over and we are home. As sad as the thought was that the trip was ending, we both have to admit, that it is very good to be home! Nine weeks is a long time to be gone, and after a couple of days of R&R, we will collect our thoughts about the trip, and we will put together a couple of wrap-up blogs to tie the whole thing up.

Before I end today, just a word about this blog. I started out writing this, as much for us, as for those of you who may have been riding along. In nine weeks on the road, we saw some incredible things, had some great food, met some very nice people, had lots of fun times, went to places we’d love to return to, went to some places we never want to return to, and in so many ways, had the trip of a lifetime. But 9 weeks is a long time, and even now, we have trouble remembering exactly where and when some things happened. So for us, this blog is now a permanent record that we can look back on and refresh our memory in coming days. But the blog was something else to me. One thing I have always wanted to be was a writer. I’ve dabbled here and there over the years, and many have told me that I am good at it, but what a writer needs to do is to write! For the past 9 weeks, this blog forced me to sit down in front of the computer every night and write something. If you’ve been with us for the whole ride, you know that some nights it was the last thing I wanted to do, but I did it. For 9 weeks (even on the cruise) grabbing the Macbook Air, and punching away on the keys for a half hour or more every day, has been a way of life for me. It’s become part of my routine, which was very good for me, and it’s something I hope to continue. I may not post every day, but I hope to write something every day. I know that I will be updating this blog on a pretty regular basis, because heck, now that we are both retired, Our New Adventures are just starting out! We already have a road trip to Disney World in the planning stage for early 2017 with Krissi, Kenny, and Chris, and you know that there are several road trip ideas that we’ve come up with, based on this trip, so by no means are we done traveling. Then there’s our life in Ocean City, and you know with our group of friends there, there will be lots of stories to tell! So, I hope that you’ll continue to ride along with us in the future. We’re not 100% sure where the journey will take us, but we can promise it will be interesting, and we hope we can count on your continued presence in our blog life!

Of course, this blog would have looked a lot different the last 9 weeks, had it not been for my #1 fan, and the best travel companion, soul mate, best friend, and proofreader I could ever have. Had Susie not been the step-in between writing and publishing, only God knows what gross mis-spellings, grammar errors, and just wrong words (thanks i-spell) would have appeared in this blog. Thanks babe for putting up with me for 9 weeks, for reading a map better than I ever could, for reminding me which direction is right and which is left, and for making this blog the readable thing it is. Nothing would have been possible without you!!

One last word, and that’s to those of you who have been along on this adventure with us. Over the course of the past nine weeks, we have heard from you in various ways, and I know that a number of you have been with us every day, since we started back in August. I heard from some of you when I was not in any mood to write the blog, and said so. It was your encouragement, and just knowing that you were reading the words that I was writing, that made it easier for me to sit down every night, and compile a record of what we’d done that day. It would have been very easy for me to have ended this blog in week three or four, and chalk this up as just another one of the many uncompleted writing projects I’ve done in my life, were it not for knowing that there were people waiting to see what our day on the road had been like. So to those of your who reached out to us, and let us know you were in the back seat of the Sonata, whether from start to finish, or just for a day or two here and there, thank you. As happy as I am to have this blog as a record of the trip for us, it never would have gotten completed without you. Knowing that people were reading it, were commenting own Facebook or on the WordPress site, and were enjoying our travels made all the difference.

See you soon….