This is the Army and the Story of the Box

On the occasion of last month’s celebration of Veterans’ Day, I posted on Facebook a couple of pictures of my Dad in World War II, performing in Irving Berlin’s all soldier show, This is the Army. I’m going to use this blog today to expand a bit on that post, and to also tell you a story that was a staple of my childhood, that today has a different ending than it did when I was a kid. Let’s start at the beginning…

My Dad, Frank Vincent D’Elia (so no…I’m not legitimately a third as I don’t have a middle name), was born on October 5th, 1910, on the lower east side of Manhattan. He was one of 13 kids in a typical big Italian family, and like many kids of his generation, never went to High School because he had to go out into the world and earn money to help support his family. My father was different from many folks in those days though, in that his chosen profession was to be an opera singer. (One of the questions I wished I’d asked my Dad when he was still with us was, “Why an Opera Singer?”) Jobs were hard enough to find, but finding a job as an opera singer was even harder.

From stories I heard growing up, like many performers, my Dad had many jobs that did not involve singing. From selling pretzels in the park to being a messenger for a Wall Street firm, to acting as “secretary” to his voice teacher, Madame Novelli, he did what he had to do! Long story short, that’s why he was very happy when he got to audition for, and then was offered a job in the chorus of the Metropolitan Opera. Meanwhile, in the rest of the world, the Germans and the Japanese were edging the world towards war and this would impact my father’s life in a very large way.

Sometime in that first year of being a member of the Met chorus, he got his draft notice! After years of struggling and scraping by while supporting his family, he was finally at the point where he had a regular job, and now the US Army was going to change all that. He went to his draft board, looking to get an extension so that he could at least complete the season before reporting for duty. Ultimately, they did give him that extension, so he finished out his first season at the Met, and then went off to the army. (If you read the blog post, My Dad and His Family then you know the whole Draft Board story, if not, here’s a link https://rnewadventures.com/2020/10/06/my-dad-and-his-family/)

After kicking around at Fort Dix for a couple of weeks, my Dad was sure that he’d be sent off to some area where his background and experience would have no use to him. That’s why he was very surprised to be assigned to Camp Upton, in Yaphank on Long Island, to audition for Irving Berlin and his all soldier show, “This is the Army.” He passed the audition and joined the cast that included Broadway actors, movie stars, musicians from famous orchestras, and one singer from the Metropolitan Opera! For most of my childhood we’d be watching a movie or TV show, and my Dad would point out one of his “army buddies” that he’d traveled the world with in the show.

After rehearsals, the show opened at New York’s Broadway Theater (the same theater that gave us Mikey Mouse’s debut in Steamboat Willie) on July 4th of 1942, and was expected to run for 4 weeks. It was such a success that the run was extended several times, and eventually it ran to the end of September of that year. Since the show was loved by so many, including Eleanor Roosevelt, who saw it 3 times and wanted her husband the President to see it too, next up for the company was a National Tour, with all ticket sales going to Army Relief. Washington was their first stop with a special Presidential Matinee scheduled at Washington’s National Theater. The day after that performance, the entire company of This is the Army was invited to the White House to meet President Roosevelt, where festivities lasted late into the night! Another story I’d heard when I was a kid! When the National Tour ended in February 1943,This is the Army had earned $2,000,000 for the Army Relief Fund.

The next stop for the TITA company was Hollywood. Warner Brothers had offered $250,000 for the film rights of the show, and like the profits from the National Tour, this was donated to the Army, and the entire company spent 6 months in Hollywood making the Warner Brothers movie, “This is the Army.” Although, for the purpose of the movie, a sub plot was added that enabled Warner Brothers to include movie stars like Ronald Reagan (the only one of the “stars” who was in the service as an Army Lieutenant), George Murphy, Alan Hale, Sr., and several others. The musical numbers from the show were still intact and the performers in those numbers were still the soldiers. A camp for the 359 members of the company was set up near the Warner Brothers lot (with heated tents built by the Warner Brothers Prop Department), and each day, the company would march from their camp to the movie studio. As well as shooting the movie, the singers, dancers, and musicians all participated in regular army drills, as befitting soldiers in the US Army.

My Dad is the soldier on the far right

The real reason for the making of the movie was to raise funds for Army Relief, and towards that end, it was an unqualified success. It earned $9,555,586.44, which Warner Brother’s donated to the Army Relief Fund.

After their American performances, the company was reduced to a cast of 150 men, including my Dad. Their next assignment was to be shipped off to England, and play around the country for 3 months, but prior to that, they returned to Camp Upton on Long Island to re-stage the show taking into account the reduced cast. On October 21st, the company sailed for Liverpool aboard the Monarch of Bermuda. After 10 days of very crowded conditions, sailing in the dangerous North Atlantic, their convoy reached its destination. This is the Army played in London for Royalty and for American and Allied troops, and then embarked on a tour around Great Britain. On February 6, 1944, they returned to London and performed for General Eisenhower. At this point the cast thought they had reached the end of the road, and the show would be disbanded, and they’d all be sent off to regular Army units. However, after seeing the show, General Eisenhower thought that it would be a great moral tool for his troops, and requested from Washington that the show play to Troops at the front.

General Eisenhower’s request was granted, and a week later the This is the Army Company sailed for Algiers. This was to be the the first stop on their tour that would take the company around the world, and not end till October of 1945 in Hawaii, almost 2 months after the September Japanese surrender! Rather than performing for Army Relief Drives or heads of states, now they would chase the front, and perform for the soldiers actually fighting the war! Some of the places they performed were regal, and some just a thrown together stage in the jungle, and their audiences were now groups of soldiers who had just come out of combat and who would be heading right back into it after the show.

TITA Posters, The Original Cast Album, and pictures of Irving Berlin

After 2 weeks performing in North Africa, they sailed for Naples, Italy. In Naples they were billeted in the partially destroyed palace of Victor Emmanuel, and that’s where the story of The Box starts. This was not my father’s first visit to Naples. Back in the 30s, he had sailed from New York to Naples with his voice teacher Madame Novelli. Madame Novelli was originally from Naples, and they stayed with her family for several months while visiting . Among the members of the family was a young man about my Dad’s age, and the two of them became fast friends. Turn the clock ahead to 1944 and the American liberation of Naples. As soon as the “This is the Army” company got to Naples, my Dad looked for his old friends and found them living at the same address he’d visited as a young man. The war years had not been kind to his Italian friends, and my father did all he could to get them food and other supplies that they’d been without for years. One of the benefits of this was that my Dad got to eat with the family, and had home cooked Italian meals for the first time in several years. From my Dad’s stories, simple ingredients like SPAM in the right Italian hands could be turned into gourmet food, so this Italian kid from New York truly enjoyed his meals with his Italian friends!

The royal palace in Naples had been German headquarters in the city, and as such was a favorite target of the allied bombings. My Father would tell stories of sleeping in incredibly opulent surroundings with bomb blasted holes in the roof. The doors at the palace were about 10 feet tall and decorated with intricately carved and painted 4 inch by 10 inch panels. In a typical GI move, my Father pried one of these panels off the door as a souvenir. He told his friend about this and even took it with him to dinner one night to show the family. His friend said that he knew a wood carver and how would my father like it if he could get him to carve a box to match the panel, and use the panel as the lid? My Father liked that idea, and a plan was hatched. About a week later at dinner, his friend showed him the box. The wood carver had done an excellent job of matching the lid, and the carving was exquisite. All that was left was to paint the box to match the lid, and my father’s souvenir would be completed. He left them that night and promised to be back for dinner in 2 nights, and in turn, he was promised that the box would be ready for him to take. As they say, best laid plans.

On the afternoon of the second day, the “This is the Army” company was ordered to load their trucks and be ready to leave Naples within 45 minutes. The Allied forces were continuing up the Italian boot and their show was needed closer to the front lines to entertain the troops. There was no time to get to his friend’s house and no way to tell them what was happening, so that was the last of his stay in Naples, and of the carved box.

That happened in 1944 and was but a brief episode in all the escapades of the This is the Army troop, as they continued through Europe and eventually island hopped in the Pacific theater too.

So now turn the clock forward to the summer of 1971. I’ve just graduated from college and we’ve planned a 4 week trip through Europe. It starts at the Ford plant in Cologne, Germany where we picked up a new Ford Capri. We traveled through Germany, Switzerland and down one side of the Italian boot and up the other side. I very distinctly remember the day we got to Naples. After getting situated in the hotel room, my Dad went down to the lobby and found a phone book. He looked up the last name of his friend’s family and found a listing at the exact same address they’d lived at when he first met them in the 1930s. My Father placed a call and when a young lady answered, he explained who he was and asked for his friend by name. She said that he was looking for her Grandfather and that she’d get him. In a few minutes his friend, who he hadn’t seen or talked to in over 25 years, came to the phone. He couldn’t believe that this voice from his past was on the phone and was in Naples. One of the first thing he said to my Dad that day was, “Frank…I’ve got your box!”

That happened 50 years ago this past July, and was the culmination of a story I’d heard my Father tell all my life. Now his story of “The Box,” the souvenir that got away, had a new, and almost impossible to believe ending! My Dad died in 1983, but I must admit that I have continued to tell the story, and I guess keep him and his “This is the Army” stories alive. My Father was a great story teller, and after growing up on so many of these stories, and then finally seeing the movie, I’ve always felt very connected to this time in my Father’s life.

Oh…and the box? Well, for many years it resided on my Mother’s coffee table in her living room in Bayside, as it had since we returned from Europe in 1971, and it completed its trip started in 1944! When my Mom died in 2011, the box moved to our dining room hutch in our Mineola home. When Susie and I moved to Ocean City permanently, and cleaned out the Mineola house, our youngest son (Kenny…the performer and spiritual heir to my Mom and Dad’s profession) asked if he could have the box. It’s traveled around the country with him and his husband Chris, and now lives in their St. Petersburg, Florida living room.  I hope it will always have a place of honor in our family, as a reminder of one of our family’s member of the Greatest Generation.

This is the Army was my Dad’s life for over three and a half years, and was how he fought the Second World War. My Dad made friends and had experiences that he talked about for the rest of his life. As well as entertaining thousands during the war, and making millions of dollars for Army Relief, This is the Army was America’s first integrated company in uniform! Up until I finally saw the movie at the Museum of Modern Art in the 70s, all I had were those stories of my Dad’s of this period of his life. Believe me, I heard lots of “This is the Army” stories growing up, but none of them was any more prominent that the story of “The Box!” His stories of This is the Army continued to be told for the rest of his life, especially every 5 years when the alumni of the company would get together for a reunion. Reunions my Dad relished going to until his death. Sadly, most of the folks that my Dad spent these years with are gone, and the reunions just a memory for those of us who heard our Dads talk about This is the Army.

Thanks Dad for your service!

One of the great sources that I had for filling in some of the TITA details was Alan Anderson’s book, “The Songwriter Goes to War.”

Here’s an excerpt from that book detailing a story my father often told about TITA in Italy – Click on the book cover below to open the passage…

Another excellent source for this period in Irving Berlin’s life, is a series of articles from the National Archives and Prologue Magazine. If you’d like to read more about this period of American History, here’s a link to the first part of the series on This is the Army.
https://www.archives.gov/publications/prologue/1996/summer/irving-berlin-1.html

If you’d like to see the whole scene that the picture at the beginning of this blog is taken from, here’s a link https://youtu.be/G5xKrNeqqGY

If you’d like to see the whole movie, through the magic of the Internet, here’s a link to Irving Berlin’s, This is the Army https://youtu.be/1RYHowaXdFY

If It’s Tuesday, it Must be Belgium

The 1969 movie of the above name, detailed the adventures of a group of Americans on an 18 day whirlwind bus tour of Europe.  The hectic tour traveled so fast, and to so many places, that it was only by remembering the day of the week, that they knew what country they were in.  Susie and I have just had our own whirlwind tour, and although it wasn’t to Europe, we did travel extensively.  We call it…

Our 2022 Thanksgiving Weekend

About 9 AM on Thanksgiving morning, we loaded bags, food stuff, clothes and ourselves in the CRV and off we headed over the 9th Street bridge and out of Ocean City.  Our destination?  Sara and Gabe Smith’s home in Ellicott City, Maryland.  Sara and Gabe are our son-in-law Mike’s sister and brother-in-law, and for a number of years now, they have been kind enough to include us in their Thanksgiving plans.  Of course, last year there was no traveling to Maryland, and no big family celebration, so we were looking forward to a return to tradition!  

In addition to us, the participants were our daughter Krissi and husband Mike, Mike’s Mom and Dad, Jerry and Paula, Sara and Gabe’s teenage kids, Maddy and Ethan, Gabe’s Mom Linda and her husband Bill, Gabe’s sister Danielle and her husband Erik along with their kids Genivieve and Scarlet, and wrapping up the group, Gabe’s sister Darcy and her guy Ken.  It was a full house, and a wonderful time for all.  Susie had made her traditional Turnips, Mashed Potatoes, and Cheddar Cheese mash-up, but the real star of the meal has, and continues to be, the meat that Gabe smokes.  This year, thanks to a new pellet smoker, the traditional turkey was joined by the most delectable brisket!  

It was really a wonderful day, being a part of this big family celebration, and of course eating way to much, but hey Thanksgiving calories don’t count, right?  So there you have stop #1 on our Thanksgiving weekend!

That night, we were off down the road about 15 or 20 minutes with Krissi and Mike to Columbia, Maryland, and Jerry and Paula’s home.  They’d graciously offered us lodging for the evening and we gladly took them up on it.  Everybody got in their PJs, and we hung around until the food coma became too overwhelming, and we headed off to bed!  The next morning we were up and by 10 AM had the car packed and Susie and I, along with Krissi and Mike Mikowitz were off to our next destination….543 Main Street in New Rochelle, New York!

Over to Interstate 95, up through Maryland and then Delaware to the Delaware Memorial Bridge, to the state of New Jersey (hi home…see you soon), up the Jersey Turnpike, across the George Washington Bridge (the toll plazas still stink at the GWB), across the Hudson River, and up the New England Turnpike to New Rochelle!  Night two (It’s Friday in case you’re keeping score) we were spending in Krissi and Mike’s new condo in New Rochelle.  This was just our second visit to the place and we loved the further things they’ve done since we last saw it in May.  We also loved getting to see our Grand Cat, Marz!

Later that day, we helped Mike out by testing a couple of new vodkas that his company is representing  (Mike works for the liquor distributor, MS Walker).  I mean come on…you’ve got to help your kids, right?  Then it was out of their building, just down the street to a wonderful Mexican Restaurant and some great Margaritas and food!

After a good night’s sleep, our now seemingly domesticated daughter served us a delicious vegetable frittata accompanied by an arugula salad as a very nice Saturday brunch.   A very nice way to end our stay with two of our favorite people, because it was now day 3 of this weekend, and time for us to move on to our next stop!

Back to The New England Thruway, but south this time, across the Throgs Neck Bridge, back to a place we know very well…Long Island!  First stop, Joe’s Sicilian Bakery in Bayside, just down the street from my former family home.  We needed some friselles for our Christmas Eve Spicy Shrimp and Linguini, and Joe’s has the best!  Once the friselle’s were in hand (and a Sfogliatella for me and a little cheesecake for Susie) we traveled back to our neighborhood of 31 years, and the Hilton Homewood Suites that is literally down the road from our old Mineola Home.

For 26 or 27 years, Susie and I were involved in Boy Scouting in Mineola, first Cub Pack 246, and then Boy Scout Troop 45.  Well, tonight (it’s Saturday by the way) a huge 100th Anniversary Gala celebration for Troop 45 was planned, and we wouldn’t have missed it for the world!  Chartered in 1921, Troop 45 was probably even older than that, but 1921 was the only date that could be proved, and over 300 people were scheduled to be at Mineola’s Jericho Terrace to celebrate this event.  We relaxed for a couple of hours and then showered and got into our “adult clothes” and headed over to our dear friends Pat and Steve Grosskopf’s house to pre-game.  Steve has been the Troop 45 Scoutmaster for more than 24 years, and I am proud to say that I am the one who convinced him back in the late 90s to take the position!  Steve was, of course, directing last minute activity at the catering hall, but we had a nice visit with Pat, their son Dan and his wife Michelle, and Steve’s brother Freddy and his wife Linda.  

It was a wonderful night, seeing so many old friends, young men who we knew as kids, and even middle age men we knew as kids!  Folks who were involved when we first started and folks who are still involved.  There was great fun, slide shows with old pictures, and just a feeling of pride that we were involved with a group that has ben around for 100 years and that has probably helped well over 1000 boys transition to young men! 

It was a great but late night, and we were thrilled when after 2AM we slid under the covers of the king-sized bed at the hotel!

Sunday was a relaxing morning at the hotel.  We slept in, were bad and had McDonald’s for breakfast, and vegged till early afternoon.  Then we showered, got once again dressed as adults, and headed out to Susie’s sister Barbara’s house in Huntington.  What with covid, surgeries, and the like, we hadn’t seen the Vincents (Barbara, her husband Rob, and their son and our Godson Ryan) since their Mom’s funeral in February of 2020!  A visit was long overdue, and we were happy that we were able to make it happen!  After a nice visit with them and getting to see some of the new projects they’d recently done in their house, the five of us journeyed back in time, to a place that Susie and I have loved for years, and that we have exposed so many family and friends to over the years.

32 years ago, the night we bought our 1989 Ford Taurus station wagon, Susie and I stopped in at a place we’d passed many times.  It was on Jericho Turnpike in Mineola, and it’s a place we’ve loved since that first visit…Piccolos Italian Restaurant!  The Francescini Family is more like friends to us, as we saw the two boys who run it now (Robbie and James) grow up from little kids.  Their Dad Bert is still involved and we still miss their late Mom Debbie who was a real spitfire! From my Mom’s 80th birthday party, to Susie’s Mom’s 90th, to after funeral meals for Susie’s Dad and my Mom, Graduation celebrations, and everything in-between, it was our go-to place!

The 5 of us had a wonderful meal, got to see Robbie and James, reminisce about the old days, the great meals, and the great times.  It was fun to go back in time and who says you can’t go home again??

As I write this, it’s late Monday afternoon and I’m sitting at the island in our kitchen in Ocean City.  I’m going to be honest with you, as this weekend was approaching, the two of us were a little bummed that we had so much to do and so many different places to be this weekend. Between the time we crossed the 9th Street Bridge on Thursday morning till we crossed it again this afternoon about 2 PM,  we covered 663 miles.  But now, with the weekend in the rear view mirror, we are so glad we didn’t make an excuse or beg out of one of the events we were involved in.  From our Thanksgiving in Maryland, to our evening with  our Daughter and son-in-law, to the pride we felt on Saturday to be back with our Boy Scout friends, to the love of spending some time yesterday with Susie’s sister and family, remembering experiences over the almost 45 years that I’ve been a part of their lives, to capping the weekend with a great dinner with family and our Piccolos restaurant friends, we agreed we wouldn’t change one thing!  We did agree however that life is too short, and we won’t wait as long to enjoy what we did this weekend all over again!

Hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend, filled with family, friends, love and reminders of all the things you have to be thankful for.  I know we did!

Santa Lights

There was nothing better to do this time of the year, when Billy, Krissi, and Kenny were little, then to pile into the Ford Taurus station wagon, and drive around Mineola and the surrounding villages and look at what we called “Santa Lights.” That term came into being, because on one of our nights looking at the houses, one of the kids wanted to know why some houses were decorated, and others weren’t. Susie and I creatively informed our 3 little ones that the ones that were decorated had little kids living there, and the lights were so that Santa could more easily find the houses on Christmas Eve. Thus was born the term, “Santa Lights!”

Susie was pregnant with Krissi and Kenny when we moved into the Mineola house, and Billy hadn’t had his 4th birthday yet, so we indeed did have little ones at home in those early years in Mineola, and did our best with Santa Lights! We must have pictures someplace, but in the late 80s and early 90s, years of everyone not having a digital camera in their pocket, the numbers of pictures we have of things like our house decorations are not large. The Mineola house had a front porch, and ours was the site of an annual Christmas portrait! Right in the center, there was a fireplace (a fake fireplace that was in the first house we bought in New Hyde Park, and although never used inside, traveled to Mineola with us) that included a burning fire (well, a nailed together group of logs and a carefully placed flicker bulb which made it look like a roaring fire), which was outlined with lights, and complete with stockings hung from the chimney with care! To one side was a Christmas tree (a fake tree that was a hand me down from my work friend Johnny Donovan) , and one of our porch chairs, that Santa was sitting in (Santa was a plastic type character suit, that was stuffed with newspapers every year). Of course there were presents under the tree, and Christmas music playing from a hidden speaker! To the left of the porch, on the lawn, was an illuminated manger scene complete with a creche I’d made with firring strips! Very fitting we thought for a house that had 3 little Santa recipients in residence!

As the kids got older, and tastes changed, we went from colored lights to all white lights out front, and the fireplace, tree, Santa and the Manger scene morphed into garland and wreaths and lighting up the fence around the house. Things were added and we refined the look as the years went on, and honestly, as we got older and the kids no longer lived with us, we went for ease of decorating too! The last year we decorated the Mineola house was Christmas 2016, before we sold the house after 31 years. Here’s a look at that!

Although we no longer have little kids, and that faithful Taurus station wagon is long gone, we now live down at the beach in Ocean City, and looking at Santa Lights is still a nice way Susie and I like to spend some time at Christmastime! In fact, as I write this, we’ve already made three passes at Ocean City in our Honda CRV to check out the neighbors and their Santa Lights!

Here’s a look at some of our Pennlyn Neighbors…

And here’s what we can see from our front porch.

Here are some of our favorites that we saw around town!

The Free Table

Have you ever hosted a garage sale? In the almost 41 years that Susie and I have been married, she has hosted a couple of Garage Sales at our house. She did them in combination with her Mom and her Sister, and largely without my help. Why you may ask without my help? Because I am not a big fan of Garage Sales. In fact, I think my feeling about them mostly falls on the hate side. The idea of people picking through your stuff, trying to tell you that your $2 price really should be 50 cents, and doing their best to beat you down, and get the things for pennies on the dollar, really doesn’t seem like fun to me. And let’s not even begin to talk about the folks that try and show up before you’re ready to open and then become belligerent when you say no! Nope, not for me! I’m sorry but the amount of money you gain in holding one of these sales, just doesn’t seem to me to be worth the work and the aggravation!

When we sold our house of 30+ years in Mineola in 2017, and consolidated two houses we’d had since 2005, many people would have had a garage sale to rid themselves of excess items they no longer needed, but we didn’t. First dibs went to our kids. All three of them took items that were in our house and that they’d grown up with. Next we donated lots of items to the Vietnam Veterans Association, and other worthwhile charities in the area. Furniture that nobody wanted (too many of the Baby Boomer Generation are downsizing) went to needy families that could really use it. For the couple of high ticket items we wanted to get rid of, we turned to eBay, getting them sold the clean and simple way! But what, you may ask, does the preceding two paragraphs have to do with the title of this blog…The Free Table? Read on, and you will see!

Now that we call Ocean City our full time and only home, we love the fact that we have downsized our number of “things”. Frankly, the lifestyle we now want to live, in the house we now live in, just doesn’t lend itself to the way of the hoarder. Things like my complete set of High School Yearbooks or Susie’s extensive Cookbook Collection, just don’t have a place at the shore house. But, as the days, weeks, months, and years go by, we still manage to accumulate “things” that eventually just don’t have a place in our lives. Now the question is, what to do with these “things”?

Rather than throw out things that you no longer have a need for, but that somebody else may be able to use, Susie has taken an idea from our neighbors up Pennlyn Place, Jane and John Griffith. A couple of times a year, usually on a busy beach Saturday or Sunday, Susie places a table by the curb with a big sign on it that says

HELP YOURSELF

FREE

EXCEPT TABLE


Yesterday was her second Free Table of the Summer of 2020, and it was very successful! In fact, it was more like a community Free Table, as our next door neighbor Doc contributed two wicker stools to the effort, and our new across the street neighbor Heather contributed a toaster to Susie’s Free Table! For her part, Susie’s items included excess ball caps, an old game system Kenny and Chris had left here, little knick knicks we’d picked up, a hand food processor, beach towel clips, old night lights, a hair dryer, some DVDs, a pair of new windshield wipers from a car we no longer own, a couple of bags, a grill pan, and a few other items. By the time Susie folded up the table, and put it back in the garage yesterday afternoon, all that was left was Doc’s two stools!

Susie was happy, folks who picked things up were happy (like our other neighbor Patti who took Heather’s excess toaster), and Susie got rid of a tub of “things” Win – Win all around…except for Doc with his stools! Oh, and we really owe a debt of gratitude to this lady who helped herself to a lot of “things” and who was caught on film by Heather!

I wish we knew her address…we’d just deliver the items to her in the future!

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!!

 

A New Adventure in Our Continuing Adventure

Well, as of this morning, Susie and I have entered another new phase of our Adventure. For the last several years, we have been increasing our summer time spent in Ocean City. We started 13 years ago with 2 weeks, then increased it to 3, and the last year I worked (the summer of 2015), we spent the entire month of July here! As wonderful as that was, in a sense, it made the ultimate packing up of our “stuff” difficult, just so we could turn our dream over to renters.

Last year, with both of us retired, we spent most of May, June, and July here, kind of blocking out the need to empty out the Mineola house. Last year, however, on August 21st, we left on our Big Adventure trip across the country, which ultimately lasted 9 weeks. It was sad, but it made sense to rent the house again, and we did starting the first Saturday in August. That once again necessitated packing up our personal items, our good glasses, and packing away our clothes, shoes, and especially our booze! A sad time for us again, even though we were looking forward to the great trip we’d planned.

IMG_7366Well, today is the first Saturday in August, and I am sitting writing this blog post on our front porch, watching a new crowd of Pennlyn visitors unloading cars, getting organized, having their first beer, and starting their dream week of vacation! We are here, and we’re staying here!! For the first time, Susie and I will be spending August, September, and the beginning of October at the beach. In fact, if you really want to know, we live here pretty much full time now. The culmination of a dream we’ve had for years is about to come to fruition….We live in Ocean City, NJ!!

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In fact, the reason I said the beginning of October, is that we’re flying out for a 2 week trip, exploring some of Nevada and California that we’ve never seen before, and to top it off, we will be leaving and returning to Philadelphia International Airport! We have made the move…in our minds at least.

Now, if you are interested in our progress on the other end, last week Susie and I came to the conclusion that we have moved virtually everything that we want from our old house to Ocean City (except for some last minute necessities we need there). Some of it will surely be weeded out from here (our closets are little full), and there are things we’ve stashed in our rented storage place down here, that we will go through over the winter, and some of that stuff will probably leave us too, but it’s done! What’s left at 40 Fairfield Avenue is not coming to Ocean City, and so a process that we wondered if it would ever end, has ended!

 

Progress too on other fronts…we’re meeting next Friday with a lady that conducted a tag sale at my Mom’s house, and hope she’ll say we have enough stuff for her to do the same thing for us. Then someone who is interested in the house wants to set up a time to take a look, so good things there too. When we left Mineola last Wednesday, Susie and I both realized it’s almost over, and trust us, we are glad!

So, if you are looking for us for the rest of the summer and fall, you can either find us on Pennlyn Place Beach, or on our front porch. As the new porch sign Susie got this year says, “Come Sit On The Porch With Me…The Drinks Are Cold And The Friendship’s Free”

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Our favored view most mornings!

 

Memorial Day 2017

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This whole weekend carries many memories for me, as it was always one that seemed to make the D’Elias a typical American Family. In the early days of being a family, the weekend always started with a great fireworks display on the beach Friday night at Bar Harbor, on the Long Island Sound side of the Town of North Hempstead. We attended this event for many many years, and over the years, our group of friends changed and grew. It started out being folks from ABC, then church friends were added, eventually the kids’ school friends’ families, and then neighbors and our Boy Scout friends joined. Whatever the make up of the group, it always was centered around sitting in a beach chair, surrounded by our kids and friends, watching a wonderful Gucci fireworks show. What could be more American than a local fireworks display on the beach to start your Memorial Day Weekend?

Then, Saturday morning, bright and early, it was time to pile everybody in the van and hit the highway. To be specific, to head to the Garden State Parkway, and even then, our spiritual home, Ocean City. We’d stay in a motel, we’d walk the boardwalk, we’d eat pizza and french fries, we’d play ski ball and mini golf, and join with hundreds of our Shoobies in the traditional first week of the summer season in whatever year it happened to be. That was our usual Saturday and Sunday routine, and then Sunday night. we’d pile into the van again, and start the northbound trek up the Garden State Parkway home to Long Island.

While Memorial Day’s date would change year to year, one special event that was also usually centered around this weekend was Susie’s May 28th birthday. Some years it happened before the actual weekend, and some years after, but the many years that it landed on the weekend, it was a huge part of the D’Elia Family’s Memorial Day weekend. Some years it was celebrated with a candle in a Hostess Cupcake in a motel room, some years there was a fireworks display on her birthday to mark the special day, and some years, the Village of Mineola even threw a huge parade to celebrate…Susie never knew exactly what form that year’s celebration would take!

IMG_2534As much as we love the traditions that have become such a huge part of our family’s life, as time goes on, things change. Eventually the fireworks display on Friday night at Bar Harbor ended, and we no longer had that anchor for our weekend. The kids got older, and they had their own life, and were no longer interested in Dad’s version of the typical American Memorial Day Weekend. For the past 13 Memorial Days, we’ve owned our house in Ocean City, and so that has led us to create new traditions. For many of those 13 years, we have had the kids join us at the house, we’d spend the weekend on the beach, on our front porch (when the weather has been better than it’s been this weekend), surrounded by our family and their friends, and our Ocean City friends who have become more like family than friends. We’ve celebrated Susie’s special day with the kids, at the Ocean City Yacht Club, at a surprise party at a friend’s house, or just sitting around having friends drop in to have a drink, and share her special day with her. If you ask me, great new traditions that will last forever!

But if you remember earlier, I said we’d pile into the van on Sunday night and head home, and that’s because of the longest standing tradition in the D’Elia Family’s life. This was one tradition that transcended the many changes in our lives, that took different forms in some years, and was enjoyed by different people, but was a constant part of this weekend for us for close to 30 years, The Mineola, New York Memorial Day Parade.

IMG_2519From Billy’s first year in Cub Scout Pack 246, through the years when younger brother Kenny joined him, the years when Billy transitioned to Boy Scout Troop 45, to the years when Kenny and Dad joined Billy in Troop 45, to the years when Billy went off to college, and even long after Kenny stopped being a Boy Scout, marching in the parade was a constant part of this weekend. Some years my Mom would drive in from Bayside, and she, Susie, and Krissi would stand on the side of the road and cheer us on. Some years Susie’s Dad would join us in the parade, and we’d end up after the parade at a party at her Dad’s VFW Post in Albertson. Some years we’d sit on a neighbors porch and reflect on the day and the parade, and for many years, the day would end at our good friends Pat and Steve Grosskopf’s house, as Scoutmaster Steve would throw a huge post parade party for the Troop 45 Family!

For most of the last 13 Memorial Days, no matter what has been going on at the Ocean City house, and no matter who was with us for the weekend, and no matter how late Sunday night went, our routine has been to set the alarm for 5 AM on Monday morning, quietly get up and get dressed, sometimes climb over sleeping people, get out of the house and into the car, and head for an empty Garden State Parkway and the Village of Mineola, arriving in plenty of time to change clothes, and get over to the start of the parade. We might have been somewhat sleepy, but remembering those who had given their lives for our freedom, and reminding the boys of Troop 45 why we were doing what we were doing, had become a very important part of our Memorial Day Weekend.

Because both Susie and I were retired last year, and there was no reason for me to be in NYC on Tuesday morning, we made the hard decision to change our routine and not head back for the parade. Mother Nature must have felt bad for us, because she opened the heavens in Mineola, and the parade was canceled because of torrential rains, so we didn’t miss a parade. As I write this on Memorial Day, 2017, I’m sitting at the table in our Ocean City house, reading a weather forecast for heavy rain the Mineola, and wondering if the parade will happen, or if it will have to be replaced with a smaller indoor ceremony to commemorate the day. Either way, we won’t be there, ending yet another tradition in our life.

IMG_2520But no matter where we are, and no matter what we are doing today, on Memorial Day Monday, my heart will always be walking the streets of Mineola, following a large group of young men, holding many American flags, being proceeded and followed by many other organizations, seeing friends and neighbors on the side of the road cheering on the marchers, and remembering the sacrifices that so many made so that we can have the lives we now enjoy. I’ll remember our long standing Memorial Day Weekend traditions, and always be thankful that it was because of the sacrifices of others, I am blessed with these wonderful memories, our wonderful family and friends, and the ability to live the life we now live. Our family was lucky that all those from our circle that served, returned home safe and sound, but for the thousands of families who were not as fortunate, today has even more meaning. Please remember them today, and their heroes who may have died at Pearl Harbor, or a trench in the First World War, or over the South Pacific or wherever they were standing up for what they believed.

Memorial Day is truly about memories!

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!

Our Big Adventure, Day One

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So, the end of day one on the road finds us in the Econo Lodge in Streetsboro, Ohio! We left the house in Mineola at 8:20 this morning, made a stop in Astoria to drop off our daughter Krissi (she came on Friday night to spend the last weekend with us), and then it was over the Triboro Bridge (or the RFK if you choose to use it’s new name), up the Major Deegan Expressway to the George Washington Bridge, and onto Interstate 80, where we spent the entire day. We drove up to the hotel at about 5:10, so not a bad day of driving at all. We went from New York, to New Jersey, to Pennsylvania, and now Ohio. Four states in day one and we drove a total of 451 miles and are are still on our first tank of gas!

The weather was sunny when we left Long Island this morning, and there were occasional sprinkles all through New Jersey, but when we got to Pennsylvania, boy did it start raining! We stopped at a rest area to use the bathroom, and took a shower at the same time. I felt bad because Susie was driving through a lot of it, and on a couple of occasions, it was almost like a switch was flipped as we went from showers to torrential rain in the blink of an eye! Not fun to drive through! Then we came upon an accident in one of the more mountainous regions of Pennsylvania. Some yahoo in a pickup truck was sideways off the road (I say yahoo, because rain or shine, we see folks driving like they are late for their wedding and not giving a damn about safety). There were Police and a wrecker already there, but as we were 3 cars from the accident, they stopped all traffic so that the wrecker could pull the truck back on the road. We sat there for better than 15 minutes…in the rain…such fun!

imageSome highlights of today…First breakfast. We chose to stop at a place we have eaten at more times than we can count, the Landmark Diner just off exit 309 of I-80 in Pennsylvania. This place has a lot of history in our family, and in Susie’s family before there was an us. For years and years, Sue’s Mom and Dad would spend a week at a golf resort in Marshall’s Creek, PA called Mountain Manor. Over the years, they made good friends who also vacationed there during the same week and who lived near them on Long Island. The Landmark Diner was about 2 hours from Long Island, and they would all rendezvous there on the morning they checked in, and have breakfast. Year after year, more folks would join in the group, and eventually we were part of the group who would have breakfast at the Landmark. The summer of 1983, we took a very young Billy there and Frank’s folks even joined the group! When Kenny and Krissi joined our family, we would still head up to that area and always stop there, Turn the clock ahead a few years to when Billy was going to Ithaca College in Ithaca, NY. We discovered the best way to get there was to head out Route 80 to Pennsylvania and then go north back into New York State, and yes, then too we would pull off 80 as soon as we crossed the Delaware Water Gap Bridge and have breakfast. Susie thinks that the last time we were there was about 4 or 5 years ago, and we were thrilled to find this morning that it was just as good as we remember! Susie had Creamed Chipped Beef over toast (probably the last time we see that on a menu) and I had a Pulled Pork Omelette! Oh, and don’t forget the home fries….they are still wonderful! The restaurant is a little bigger, the counter is gone (where you could watch them cook the food) and the bathrooms are no longer behind the building, but enough is the same to still make it a special stop off!

Then we were back onto Interstate 80 West heading towards our adventure! At mile marker 111(FYI..at the NJ/Penn border on 80 you are at mile marker 310 and at the Penn/Ohio border you are at mile marker 0) we came across an interesting sign. It said, “You are now at the highest point on Route 80 east of the Mississippi – Elevation 2,250 Feet”. Impressive for Pennsylvania, but not where we are going. Forget the Rocky Mountains or even Pikes Peak, when we are at Mount Rushmore this Friday we will be at 4000 + feet already! Start storing oxygen now!!

So dinner tonight was at Ruby Tuesdays, a place we haven’t been to for years. Even though there is one less than 2 miles from our house in Mineola, we traveled 450+ imagemiles for their salad bar tonight! Then we filled the car up with gas (Sheetz Gas…I kid you not) at $1.95 a gallon, headed back to the hotel and are relaxing with some vodka on the rocks (in our travel plastic cups!)! Tomorrow we hope to cover just under 500 miles and stop near Janesville, Wisconsin…a place we’ve visited before when Kenny was performing at the Armory Theater there.

imageOh, The Big Adventure tip of the day has to do with an App that my cousins, Jeanne and Walt Pratt shared with us called iExit. It cost me 99 cents at the iTunes store, and Jeanne and Walt said it was useful finding what kinds of food, gas, hotels, etc. are at every exit on the interstates. In addition, it gives you the latest prices for gas at the various stations so you always know what you are getting into. When we started trying it out today, Susie started talking about a little hand held digital gadget we had way back in the 90s. After you told it what road you were on, what mile marker you were near, and what direction you were heading, it would tell you how close the next rest stop was and what services they had there. She said it’s too bad they don’t make an App for that. Well, I hit a couple of buttons on iExit and discovered it will also search for rest areas! It was perfect, and we made use of it several times today looking for places to switch drivers. Thanks Jeanne and Walt…welcome along!

On the Road Again…….https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NvwojnLeMH4

 

Our Trip is Over

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Welcome home to the LIE

At 4:10 PM Daylight Savings Time, we pulled into our driveway in Mineola, and officially ended our 11 day road trip to Florida and back. It was a wonderful trip, as you know, if you have been following along, and while it’s good to be home, we’re both a little sad that it’s over! There was a lot of traffic today as we skirted Washington, D.C. and Baltimore, and got into the Philly/New York area, but it moved, so it wasn’t bad at all. Frankly, once we hit exit 11 on the NJ Turnpike, we were in familiar territory from 4 or 5 hundred weekend trips back from Ocean City, and we have had a lot worse traffic than we had today!

imageIf you remember, our big plan today was a slight detour to Total Wine in Claymont, Delaware to see if the stories our friends told us about the imagegreat wine prices were true. Well, they were definitely true, as we saw and bought a lot of great deals! For example, we found 14 Hands Cabernet that Krissi and Kenny like for $8.97, when the best prices we find for that locally is $13.99. Also, their Red Blend for $7.47, when we think $9.99 is a good price here. It’s only about an hour and a half trip from Ocean City, so we definitely will be heading there again. I’d say we got about $400 of wine for $225! Thanks to our OC Family members Doc and Denise for telling us about it. Can we get you anything there?

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imageSo we pulled into the driveway, having traveled 2439.2 miles since we pulled out of the same driveway on Thursday morning, March 3rd. We had lots of fun along the way, loved being in Florida spring weather for a week, and verified that we do love road trips and all that’s involved in them. It’s fine to hop on a plane and rent a car at the other end, but there is something so connected about driving from place to place, sampling local customs, foods, and scenery, and the thrill of reaching your destination is great. Perhaps Frank has read John Steinbeck’s Travels With Charlie too many times, or perhaps Mr. Steinbeck was right when he talked about the wanderlust that exists in all Americans. Like those who went before us on the Oregon Trail, perhaps its our destiny as Americans to explore our country.

imageSo, we are home, we are unpacked, we have started on our “Welcome Home” Martinis, and the Chinese food has been ordered and is on it’s way! What a wonderful way to end a wonderful vacation. Back to work tomorrow…well, yes and no…that means we have laundry to do, bills to pay, and need to get back to Ocean City! Great work, if you can get it!!

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