Day Forty Two – Saturday, October 1, 2016

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Welcome to Saturday in Galveston, Texas.  It may be October 1st, but the hotel is busy, and we are of the opinion that the “season” doesn’t stop for this Gulf Coast Beach town on Labor Day!

Had to take a picture of this morning’s breakfast at the Comfort Inn we are staying at.  Now, we have told you a little bit about the “free” breakfasts we have “enjoyed” at most of our overnight stops, and many of them have been good.  We think the best so far was at the San Antonio Homewood Suites, where the breakfast choices changed daily, and the view from the glass walled breakfast room overlooking the Riverwalk didn’t.  Several of the Best Western’s we’ve stayed at have been close seconds, with nice choices and a nice breakfast area (like the 11th floor overlooking the water at the Corpus Christi Best Western).  A lot have some kind of egg dish, some kind of breakfast meat, and perhaps a waffle station, along with cold cereal, toast and muffins, juice, coffee, and tea.  Some of the Best Westerns even have a “pancake machine”!  Hit a button and in about a minute, 2 freshly cooked pancakes come out on a conveyor belt and dump on your plate!  We’ve experienced breakfasts from so so (an Econolodge early on the trip, where everything was hermetically sealed) to great, but this morning we got something we’d never seen before.  Eggs and Pigs in Blankets!

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After breakfast, we came back to the room, and I got busy on the computer and paid all our bills that are due through the 3rd week in October.  Then it was time to get out and about, and to take care of last minute tasks before leaving on the cruise tomorrow morning.  Traffic was so heavy on Seawall Blvd. in front of the hotel, that even though we wanted to make a left, we had to make a right!  Yes, the season isn’t over here by a long shot!

Our first task was to find a Wells Fargo Bank to make our last land based ATM withdrawal. We used Wells Fargo for this trip because they have branches in more states that any other bank, and generally we have driven by one at least once a day.  Wouldn’t you know that Galveston was one place that didn’t have one, so we had to get back on the Interstate and off the island, to get that done.  The rest of our tasks were accomplished on the island.  They ranged from hitting the Target to buy a couple of things for us, but mostly things that Kenny sent us a list of yesterday, and find a self service car wash so the bugs don’t bake on the Sonata as she sits for 2 weeks in the Texas sun.  Because of where we were on the island, we then decided to check out the port, so we had an idea where we were going tomorrow and how to get there.  That done, we headed back towards the beach, looking for a liquor store.  We needed a bottle of Titos Vodka (how come a vodka made in Texas is cheaper in New Jersey and New York than in Texas???) and the boys requested a handle of Fireball!  Well, we drove, and drove, and drove, and finally found one.  The sign on the door said, “see attendant at convenience store next door”.  I did, and the girl running the liquor store came and let me in.  Hey, when in Rome!  Since we’d already gassed up the Sonata, we were done with our outside list!

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When we got back to the hotel we took the “Cruise Suitcase”  out of the Sonata’s trunk for the first time since we put it in there, back on August 20th on Long Island!  For the last 42 days, our “cruise clothes” have been patiently waiting for October 2nd and their time to shine!  Of course, they may be a little wrinkled, but we can get that fixed on the ship!  A more important concern is how well some of them fit after OUR 42 days on the road!!  We shall see!

Once we got to the room, Susie got all our suitcases open so that she could separate the stuff going and the stuff staying with the car.  Honestly, having everything we own just sitting in the car in the parking lot has become a very normal thing for us over the last 6 weeks.   In some way,  I think Susie had some fear about repacking, but honestly she found that she had a clear idea of what was going and what was staying, and the job was a lot easier than she had anticipated!  As we are getting to that age, packing our prescriptions for the cruise took a little bit of time, but that too went smoothly, and in short order, we find we are packed and ready!

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Some are going with us, some are spending 2 weeks in the trunk of the car

Susie decided to do a few last minute laundry items, and as I write this blog, they are turning in the hotel’s washer and dryer, she is relaxing on her iPad, and we are enjoying a Sailor Jerry and Coke Zero!  We contemplated going out tonight for a nice dinner, but seeing how busy the island is and the fact that it’s Saturday, we’ve decided to go low key!  There is a Jimmy Johns Sandwich Shop right next to the hotel on Seawall Blvd, and when the laundry is done, we’re just going to walk over there, and order a couple of sandwiches.  Never been, but I know Kenny has sung their praises in the past, when he was on the Annie National Tour, and a heavier version of the son we now have, so we’re going to give it a try.  Tonight we’re just going to relax in front of the TV as Susie does her nails, cuts my hair (my exclusive barber for 37 years), and take showers.  A low key night to prepare for 14 crazy, wonderful, relaxing, Sun & Fun-filled days on the Liberty of the Seas!!!

The ship docks back in Galveston tomorrow morning, and Chris’ Dad and Stepmom sign off after a week long cruise with the boys!  Our plan is to get to the dock about 9:30, hopefully get our bags dropped, and the car parked in time to meet up with them at 10 AM.  As Chris’ Family is from Reno, Nevada, we haven’t yet had the opportunity to meet them, and are looking forward to the greeting before they get picked up at 11AM to head to the airport!  Kenny and Chris have been together since they met in rehearsals for their first Liberty of the Seas cruise back in June of 2015, and we really got to know him when we cruised with them last September to Bermuda.  He’s a great guy, and they are very good together, and we are looking forward to spending two weeks with “our boys”.  Let’s see if THEY can handle the old folks for 2 weeks!!  Poor kids, family three weeks in a row!!!

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“Our Boys” from our cruise to Bermuda last September of the LOS

So that’s it folks.  Susie and I bid you farewell for a couple of weeks as we head into a different kind of adventure for the next 14 nights!  The car and traveling just about every day, has become such a normal existence, it will probably take us a day or two to get use to it, but I’m sure we will!  14 nights in luxurious sheets in the same bed, in our own little home, with breakfasts on our balcony overlooking the Caribbean Sea or a tropical island port, having fun with the boys and their friends every day, great food, great entertainment, and the Unlimited Drink Package Kenny got us…yea, I think we can get used to it!!  Please be well, and know that when we get back to Texas on October 16th, I will do my best to update on the next 14 days!  Till then, Bon Voyage You All!

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Day Forty One – Friday, September 30, 2016

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So this was our last morning at the Best Western in Corpus Christi. We awoke to a beautiful, sunny, cooler morning (temps in the high 70s), and when we went up to the 11th floor for breakfast, we were greeted with this sight when we got off the elevator!

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This morning’s breakfast variety substituted tortillas for biscuits, and re-fried beans for potatoes, so of course, we made breakfast burritos with eggs, sausage, cheese, salsa, and beans…and the beans have been with us all day.  Just saying.

Not being in a real hurry to get to Galveston, as it was really only 4 hours away, I asked Susie if she wanted to take a detour and go via Mustang Island and Port Aransas.  She said it looked good, so when we turned out of the Best Western’s driveway, we went right rather than turning left towards Galveston.  Kind of like what we know at home, just off Long Island’s South Shore, and where we live in Ocean City, NJ, Corpus Christi Bay is ringed by a series of Barrier Islands that separate it from the Gulf of Mexico.  Our path this morning, was to head south-west and loop around the bay, crossing the bridge over the Intracoastal Waterway to Mustang Island, and then driving north along the island towards Port Aransas.  When you first come on the island, it’s very busy and commercial, but as we continued the drive on the Texas Tropical Trail, you first go through the Mustang Island State Park, which looks like it’s totally undeveloped. That, we figured, explained the big black stretch we saw at night from our hotel.  It was undeveloped, not a pass to the Gulf!  As you get past the park, you start to see more and more housing, including condos on the beach.  At Port Aransas, you’re in a cute beach village, and the whole look of the island was very laid back and not overly commercial.  We liked it!

Unlike when we got on the island, there is no bridge across the Intracoastal at this point, but a free car ferry run by the state of Texas.  It’s about a 5-8 minute run from the island back to the mainland, and they were just finishing unloading a boat as we pulled up, so in a few minutes we were on the water.

Susie tried her hand as a wildlife photographer, using a rather uncooperative Pelican, who was perched on one of the pilings as we docked.  He refused to pose for her, and frankly was a foul model!

After getting off the ferry, there were two things that looked like oil rig platforms, just off the road. We couldn’t tell if they were in the water, or on land, but they sure looked like oil rigs!

Back on the mainland, our trek to Galveston started on the water, and there were several bridges that we went over.  Even though we were on back roads, it wasn’t long before they didn’t run along the water anymore, and we were surrounded by Texas farms.  Long straight roads heading into the distance, with plowed fields, the occasional house, and animals of various kinds.  Not exciting, but probably better than the Interstate!

But, by going through these back roads, we got to know that it was the Bay City Rice Festival this weekend, with the Rice Festival Queen being crowned tomorrow, Saturday, October 1, 2016.  Below is a screen shot I took of the rules the Bay City Lions Club has for a candidate to be considered for the honor of spending 2016 as the Rice Queen!

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Had we not come this way, we also wouldn’t have seen our 5th accident of the trip.  A Camaro with a pretty smashed up front end, on the side of Texas 35, in Bay City. We don’t think it had anything to do with the Rice Festival or the Queen’s Coronation!

So, you know we’ve sung the praises of how our little Garmin GPS girl has done such a wonderful job almost everywhere.  We know that we never would have been able to figure out how to get to the USS Lexington yesterday without her, and although I read multiple times on the Internet about not trusting a GPS in the Southwest, she never once led us astray, and has been indispensable, even with our paper maps.  Well today, she pulled a fast one on us, and if a Garmin GPS had a sense of humor, I’d really think she was yanking our chain!  As we’re driving along Texas 35, she says, “In 5 tenths of a mile, make a right turn on Old Texas 35.”  Susie was driving at the time, and obeyed her instructions, and we found ourselves on a road that looked like it could double for a no longer used section of Route 66!  To top that off, she said that the speed limit was 70 MPH, when going more than 30 was tough.  About half a mile after we turned on it, she said, “In 5 tenths of a mile, make a right turn on Texas 35”, the same road we were on when we turned off!!  Susie did, and we were right back in the same pack of cars we’d been in when we turned off!  I tell you, she is getting back at us for not implicitly following her instructions!

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Oh, and more on the Monarch Butterfly Migration.  There were lots of big things flying around the air today, and we knew some of them were dining needles or dragon flies (or dining flies as I tend to call them).  But when we stopped to hit the bathroom at a Dairy Queen this afternoon, Susie found evidence on the ground that more of the Monarchs were not making the complete migration this year!

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We arrived at the Comfort Suites on Galveston Island about 5:30 tonight, and as we leave on this cruise in about 36 hours, Susie almost immediately started gathering laundry.  This necessitated getting the two suitcases out of the trunk that we almost never remove, but as she needed to see what needed washing and will have to repack tomorrow, it had to be done.  After the laundry was done, we had a quick pizza dinner and returned to the room.  We have a number of errands to attend to tomorrow (Kenny has given us a Target shopping list), so we will get up and out after breakfast tomorrow, and by nightfall will hopefully have everything in place, so we can get up Sunday and head to the pier.  It will be strange for 14 nights not to be in a different bed everyday, and we will surely miss the Sonata.  As of tonight, with today’s 240 miles,  our total trip mileage is around 8,000, and she has served us well, but for the next two weeks, we will have a designated driver AND she will have some rest!

Before I close tonight, I need to have a serious discussion with you about the next two weeks.  At this point, we have suffered together through 41 nights of hotel Internet Wi-Fi.  Some of it has been really excellent, some of it nonexistent (Yellowstone), and some of it came and went as I was trying to post, making things somewhat unpleasant in our room!  With the exception of the two nights in Yellowstone where it was impossible to get anything posted, and the two nights with our friends Nancy and Mike in El Paso, where we were just having too much fun to post, I have been pretty good about getting this blog posted before going to bed.  That is not going to happen from October 2nd to October 15th.

You see, on the Royal Caribbean Ship Liberty of the Seas, there is no such thing as free Wi-Fi.  If you want an Internet connection on the ship, you have to pay for it, to the tune of $30 a day, and that’s for just one device.  So for the 14 days of the cruise, that would come out to $420, and although I am so glad you are all traveling along with us, that is just too much money to spend, on top of everything else we’re spending.  So the iPads will get locked in the car, and the iPhones will go on Airplane Mode – unless we run into free Wi-Fi on one of the islands.  I’m going to take my Mac Book Air with me on the cruise, and I will try to write a brief summary each day of what’s happening, but the Wi-Fi will be turned off, until the 16th when we are back at a Homewood Suites in Beaumont, Texas.  I promise that on the 16th, I will give you as complete a recap of the two weeks of the cruise, of the time we’ll spend with Kenny and Chris, of the members of their Liberty of the Sea’s Family we’ve met, and of the wonderful places we’ve gone, and things we’ve done.  Honestly, I’d really love to be able to take you along with us, but if you think the backseat of the Sonata has been crowded, that’s nothing compared to what Stateroom 6580 on the LOS would be like!

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