Florida, Here We Come!

It’s Snow Bird time for the D’Elias, and Susie and I leave the cold and inhospitable beach in Ocean City, for what we hope will be a warm and inviting, Gulf of Mexico beach in Indian Rocks Beach, Florida!

We left OC yesterday morning, and our friend the Waze GPS App took us in a way that we’ve never gone before. Rather than across the 9th Street Bride to the Garden State Parkway to the Atlantic City Expressway, it had us go south to 34th Street, and across the Roosevelt Blvd bridge. Then it took us on back road, after back road, after back road (some we’d been on during one of our “Sunday Drives”, and eventually dumped up on the New Jersey Turnpike a couple of miles from the Delaware Memorial Bridge (or DELMEMBR)! Perhaps it was because we left the house at 7:45 and this was to avoid rush hour traffic heading towards Philly, but honestly, it wasn’t a bad way to go!

Traffic once on I-95 was good, and we hit Baltimore and Washington, DC at the perfect time to sneak right through, before the traffic Gods knew we were even there! As we approached Washington, Susie was driving and got this great Instant MPG reading on the Honda CRV! Not bad for driving 60-80 most of the way in a fully loaded SUV!

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Everything was going along fine, till we started seeing overhead signs talking about a “major accident” by mile marker 103 in Virginia with the right lane closed!! What a colossal waste of our time, directly related, I think to the (sorry but) CRAPPY way so many people drive today!! Speaking about that, if anything, Americans’ Driving Skills are even worse that we’ve seen on other car trips we’ve taken! Driving 20-30 miles above the speed limit, tailgating at speeds in excess of 70 MPH, cutting you off as they change lanes, weaving in and out of 2-3 lanes, just to get ahead of a car…you name it, we’ve seen it! Amazed there aren’t more accidents!! Well, the Waze took us off 95 to a ridiculous detour, that was backed-up FOREVER, because of a traffic light within the first 1/2 mile, that only let 3 people turn at each sequence! We lost 40 minutes and I was pissed, till getting back on 95, we came upon people who were right next to us when we exited 95! The age old question…get off or stay the course! Looks like it didn’t matter!

We ended up getting to Billy and Lori’s new house in Wake Forest, NC a bit after 5, but once we got hugs from the littlest D’Elias, all was right with the world! They’ve been in the house since just a bit after New Years, and have done a wonderful job getting new furniture, and making the house into a real home! So proud of the two of them and happy for their new house and their great success!!

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Susie and our 4th Grandchild, Beatrice!  A wonderful, loving soul!

We took off this morning about 9 and it was 36 degrees and overcast. No rain, but that would come before our day was half over! Of course, we had to take our obligatory, yearly South of the Border pictures, as we passed from North Carolina to South Carolina. It continues to be very sad, and we won’t be surprised to drive by and find it abandoned one day!

img_2476We enjoyed our “Traveling Guilty Pleasure” of Arby’s for lunch again today…we did it yesterday too…but since we get the roast beef sandwich without the bun, accompany it with a side salad with ranch dressing, and a diet soda, our carb intake is very low, (under 5) so do we really have anything to feel guilty about anymore?? Wonder why we never drive down to Cape May Courthouse to have it for lunch back home???

Then the rain came! Cold, yucky, light to heavy and everything in between! We usually love getting to the one rest area in southern South Carolina, where we first see palm trees! Those trees were very sad today in the cold, driving rain!! No dreams of shorts and flip flops there today!!!

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Our stop tonight is in Darien, Georgia for one of our favorite stops along the way, B&J’s Steak and Seafood for our first shrimp meal of the trip, the 1/2 pound Fried Shrimp Basket! Tonight was also the Friday Night Seafood Buffet, which all looked great, but we’d only eat too much and suffer tonight!

Tomorrow we’re out of here and head to Florida. We are 49 miles from the Florida/Georgia border tonight in the Darien Hampton Inn, and just 300 miles and about 4 and a half hours away from our condo in Indian Rocks Beach, and what we hope will be our preview of the Summer of 2020!

Stay tuned!!

Those People

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FYI…we’ve become “those people” who lunch at Costco (come on..two huge hot dogs with sauerkraut and all the toppings, plus 2 sodas for $3.20 including tax…why not?) and who run off to Florida in the winter!

Susie retired in 2013, and in just a couple of weeks, it will be three years since I left WABC on January 29, 2016.  In February of 2016, we headed down to Florida for a few days at Disney World, and to catch a couple of the Mets Spring training games.  It was a real treat to experience a bit of a preview of the Summer of 2016, and I guess we got bitten by the bug!  In February of 2017, Susie and I participated in the  southern swing of the “Kenny and Chris Relocating to LA Tour”, and spent some time in Disney World with the boys, and then New Orleans with the boys and Krissi and Mike, before they headed off to California and we headed back to winter.  Last year we toured a large part of Florida, heading down in February and starting at Indian Rocks Beach on the Gulf Coast, traveling down the Gulf Coast, then across the state, down the Keys to Key West, up to Hollywood, then to my cousins in Barefoot Bay, and we ended up with 5 nights at the Boardwalk Hotel in Disney World!  All told, a little over 3 weeks away from the winter!

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23d34fcc-bfe6-455b-98e7-d47076bcdfa0So, this year, we are being pigs!  We leave this Saturday with our first stop being Raleigh, North Carolina, the home of our oldest and his wife, and our 2 grandchildren!  It will be Christmas #3 for Susie and I, this time complete with Christmas Eve traditions of Shrimp Sauce over Linguine, and Lobsters stuffed with Baked Clam Stuffing!  After a couple of days there, we start slowly making our way to the Sunshine State, with stops in Charleston, South Carolina, Savannah, Georgia, and Darien, Georgia and our favorite shrimp place, B&J’s Steak and Seafood!  

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Last year we fell in love with Indian Rocks Beach, Florida and we’ve decided to return to the scene of the crime.  We’ve rented a condo right on the Gulf Coast for 3 weeks, and we look forward to a lot of warmth, sun, surf, pool, and fun!  During the course of our time there, our cousins Jeanne and Walt will come to visit, as will Krissi and Mike for a long weekend!  We only hope our favorite Florida bartender Lindsey, who we met at our hotel bar last year, is back on her feet and we can spend some quality time with her!

After that, it’s off to the East Coast and a 3 day stay at the lovely Doubletree Resort we really didn’t take advantage of during our stay there last year in Hollywood, Florida.  More pool, sun, warmth, and Tiki Bar time we hope!  Then we are off for 5 nights with our cousins Jeanne and Walt at their place a little further up the coast in Barefoot Bay, Florida!

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Although a stay at Disney World has been a part of our last 3 escapes from winter, we decided to pass on it this year.  Even with my Disney  Retiree benefits and discounts, it’s still an expensive stay, and that 3 week condo rental is costing us enough.  Plus, we were so disillusioned by all the crowds there last year, and the attractions that broke down, that we think we’ll take a year off, and decide again next year.

So that’s it.  If you did the math, you’ll have come up with five plus weeks away this year.  We hope to be in warm weather for the better part of 5 weeks, only dipping out of shirts and flip flop weather on the way down and back up.  I told you we were being real pigs, but there is nothing like that Summer Preview you get from spending some time in warmer climates, when it’s snowing at home!

Ahhhh…RETIREMENT!!

Barefoot Bay, Florida

Isn’t that a wonderful name, for a town in Florida? Well, in case you’ve wondered where we’ve been for the past couple of days, we have been in the aforementioned town, visiting with our cousins Jeanne and Walt. My Mom was the oldest of three kids, and grew up with 2 younger brothers. Jeanne’s Dad was middle brother Bill, and she’s slightly older than me, and the person who has known me longer than anybody else in the world.

Susie and I got here Wednesday afternoon, and have been having a great time with our family. We’ve sat around the dining room table, or on the screen porch, talking, and talking, and talking the night away. In fact, that first night were were here, we all looked at our watches and discovered it was almost 3 AM! That’s just the kind of relationship we have, and we love that too!! Oh, and by the way, it’s not just what we do in Florida, we did exactly the same thing when they came to spend time with us in Ocean City last year!

Today, Jeanne made plans to get us off our asses and out of the house, and thanks to her, it was a wonderful day! We started this morning with an Air Boat ride. These were always things that fascinated me when I was a kid and we’d visit Florida, or when watching old TV shows like Flipper or The Everglades. The last time we’d been on one, was way back when the kids were little, and we took a ride on a big one out of Homestead. This was a great sized one, piloted by Bob, who was a snowbird from point Pleasant, New Jersey. We each had wireless headphones, and Bob gave us a great tour and narration.

We saw lots of Florida wildlife, beautiful plants, and trees, and even some alligators!! I was enamored of the beautiful colors, especially the blues of the sky and water! Ah, Florida in February!!

After saying goodbye to Bob, we headed out of the Blue Cypress Conservation Area, and Jeanne and Walt said they had the perfect place for us to go for lunch! Yee Haw Junction was where we were going, and since Jeanne was driving, and Susie and I were in the back seat, off we went! As we traveled, Walt started to explain to us that Yee Haw Junction was not it’s original name. That was Jackass Junction. But as Florida’s population started to grow, and the Florida Turnpike was being built, the powers that be decided that Jackass Junction wouldn’t look great on an Exit Sign, so the name was changed to Yee Haw Junction!

And where did we have lunch? Well, it was called Desert Inn Bar and Restaurant and let’s just say that had Jeanne and Walt not been our hosts, we would have driven right by. Had we driven right by, we would have missed an incredible experience! It was fun, the drinks were cold, the food was good, and the atmosphere was…..well, look at the pictures below, and you decide!

So we’re back at the house now, sitting around the dining room table, looking at the pictures we took today, laughing about the folks we saw in the restaurant, and enjoying just being together.

Neither Susie nor I are lucky enough to come from families with hundreds of cousins, and relatives everywhere. It’s something I kind of imagine is missing from our life, but I’m sure that some folks who do have huge families, may be telling me to be careful what I wish for. We’re lucky enough to have Jeanne and Walt as our cousins, and I know that because of that, we’re lucky enough!

See you soon!

PS…You’re intrepid reporter, hard at work!

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Welcome to the Sunshine State!

We had a lazy morning in Darien, sleeping in a little, and not even bothering to go down for breakfast, and left the hotel about 10:30. 205 miles later, we are in the Crystal River, Florida Hampton Inn, enjoying our first Rum and Coke (or Cuba Libre) of the trip!

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The weather was party cloudy and warm when we left Darien. After filling up with gas, Southbound I-95 was again our route. A little over 70 miles later, we’d crossed into Florida, approached Jacksonville, and said good bye to I-95, as we headed towards the western part of the sate.

We were on a couple of Interstates, as we passed around Jacksonville, but spent the rest of the day on Florida State roads. We drove through some gorgeous country, that looked to be mostly ranches. We saw lots of cattle and horses, and had another cheap thrill…since we had no breakfast, we lunched at another Arby’s!

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The weather is sunny and warm, and we love being on the west coast of Florida. Our days of long drives are over, and for the next week or so, we have a couple of two night stops planned. There will be lots of sightseeing, with short drives between stops, and as always, wonderful things to do along the water (perhaps even a drink at a beach bar or two). Right now, we hear that back in the Northeast it’s a cold rainy day. Not to rub it in, but wanted to share with you this picture of the Sonata’s temperature display as we approached the hotel!

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We’re looking at a Mexican Restaurant for tonight, but wherever we go, we’re loving it, because it’s summer for us!

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See you tomorrow!