Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Catching up

Wow, it really has been 6 months since I've pontificated at length.  It seems that I really haven't been doing anything that's remotely interesting, or traveling anywhere exciting, or had excessive amounts of crap to whine about. 
Ambergris Cay, Belize
Well one of those is true.  Let's do a brief catch up.  Since the last post, I spent a week Ambergris Cay in Belize.  Very nice, but don't drink the water.  I was slightly disappointed in the beach options, but then again, it was sunny and 80 degrees there and snowing back home.  Lucily Iw as able to return just in time for the 950th snow event of the past winter.  Seriously, this winter tested my resolve to get out of bed every day.
Last Snow of the year, in April!

Freedom Baby!
And then it broke into a beautiful spring weekend intime for the Local St Patrick's parade, celebrated in style with my neighbors and beer kegs.  Only one of two permanent scars linger form that.  And after that beautiful spring weekend it snowed... again!  Then came the blur that was March, with it's madness and Sunday FunDays.  That melded right into April with Thunder and waking up to the sound of freedom over Louisville (AKA the Blue Angels arriving in town).

IN there were a couple trips down to visit Atlanta.  Then came Derby, and thanx to my work wife I got the hook up for the back side of the track.  Nice!  Derby weekend was followed by a week of hopping around the country seeing fiends and detoxing... well seeing friends.  There wasa trip to Minneapolis, then Atlanta, then West Palm Beach, then San Juan.   This whole free travel thing has really spoiled me.
San Juan relazing

Before I knew it, spring had really come, and then morphed right into summer and it was Memorial Day weekend, just time for n over night trip to see DMB for the 32 time (with my former fake GF), back to work one night, the another overnight trip to ATL for a Braves game...  yes, that hectic week ran me straight into June, which resulted in a lot of working until taking off to Milwaukee for a week of more DMB, Drum Corps shows, and historic Harley's with a deer friend (that was intentional).  And now it's July and the year is over half over. 

Dream Machine
Somehow in that time Louisville has transitioned from that place where I spend days (or nights really) working between trips "home" to Atlanta... to being home and going to visit Atlanta.  It's a weird and creeping change, then you wake up one day and realize it's happened.  Not that I don't miss Atlanta, and the people there. But sometimes your surrounds grow on you over time I guess.  SO much so, Y'all should come visit!

This was just an quick overview of the past months.  A more introspective writing event will follow shortly :-)


Wednesday, January 29, 2014

"Running hrough a field where all my tracks will be concealed and there's no where to go"

Hello World!!

I haven't been doing a lot of blogs lately.  And by not a lot I mean none.  I guess I've been feeling nothing exceptional (for me) has been happening.  Part of this is complacence, part of this is my own blah (winter is killing me slowly...), part of this is I feel a certain portion of my audience is not as fascinated with the "Hey i'm in (insert random coountry) and having a blast seeing really old stuff"... which reminds me I need to write about the Italy weekend in November. 

That being said, yesterday I had what by all accounts was an exceptional day.  I shall recount those events to you now:

It all started with the British.  I tend to blame the British for most the geopolitical problems in the world today (random drawing of lines to create countries by grouping together people who literally want each other to die was a post imperial British hobby).  But it was the invention of "high tea" set into motion the events that occurred yesterday.

Maggie and I took in a high tea in London, and when she saw that the St Regis Buckhead offered a special tea service this month she asked if I would be interested in going with her, once again to enjoy a selection of very tiny sandwiches and bite size cakes.  And honestly, it may sound a bit snooty, but who doesn't love tiny sandwiches and bite size cakes?  I was in, and we decided that Tuesday, the 28th of January worked well with both our schedules.  Reservations were made, anticipation was built. 

Then came the weather forecast...  the word that strikes fear into the hearts of Atlanta adult residents and joy into the hearts of local schoolkids... SNOW!  I had heard on Sunday that Atlanta was expecting accumulating snow, but not much.  Monday, while working I checked with the company meteorologist about the expected weather.  He said maybe 1.5"-2".   The Delta met department had put out a similar forecast, which had prompted the airline to cancel 80% of the flights.. which i honestly thought was a bit overkill.  Mainly it caused me to need to wake up way earlier than I wanted to.

Here's the thing, apparently no one told the fine residents of Atlanta this info. or the timing.  I had read the words "trace" and "dusting" repeatedly on websites as late as Monday afternoon.   Kids went school, adults went to work. 

So, after stressing on how to make this trip and not disappointing Maggie Brown, i finally came up with plans A, B, and C (plan C was the SDF-DTW-ATL routing... DTW is always the last option... for everyone) and settled in for 2 hours of sleep.  Yes  2 hours, before having to head and catch the last flight to ATL... at 735 AM.  the Next 8 being canceled.  But luckily, the "full" flight had a seat for me and away I went.  I spoke to the crew (normal jumpseater procedure) to say thanx we talked business.  They were briefed that the de-ice operation could de-ice 12 planes an hour.  ATL normally runs at about 60-80 departures an hour.... and that's why they cancel so many flights. 

From the airplane, I booked a rental car (I love inflight Wifi), and on arrival I found that Avis had decided to reward my loyal patronage and upgrade me to a Camaro SS.  I would have none of that!  I don't care how much snow and ice was suppose to fall, a heavy rear wheel drive car was a bad idea.  I went back to the counter and the puzzled clerk advised me if I really didn't want the upgrade I could pick from any car in a certain aisle.  Amongst the mustangs and VW beetles, I made what can only be termed the Best. Decision.  Ever!  There sat a Mitsubishi Lancer.  I was a little disappointed at the lack of convenience features (ie ipod dock), but I figured that it's at least a front wheel drive and would not be as emasculating as driving a beetle.  I was mistaken, it was all wheel drive (I just discovered before writing this).  That decision probably saved my life...  (and I'm not being melodramatic).

The original plan was for Maggie to meet me in the city for tea and tiny cakes, but when I asked if her Jeep had 4 wheel drive she responded "I don't know".  I asked if she would prefer me to come fetch her and do all the driving and she enthusiastically responded int he positive (as enthusiastic as one can be via text messaging).   So we ditched... er dropped off, her son Jack with a babysitter and off we went...  the snow starting to fall but not yet really sticking to anything. 

The plan, lunch in the city, tea at 3, back in F-ville by dark.  The drive into town was uneventful and only the usual midday traffic.  We made it to Phipps plaza to lunch on tapas at Twist! (or was it Shout!, i always confuse them) while the snow was coming down.  Maggie did make the comment that "everyone seem to be leaving the mall."  I remarked they were just premature panic in the way only Atlantans do when faced with snow. 

I remember growing up in the Atlanta area and the bread and milk hoarding paranoia that always accompanied winter weather predictions.  My mother was a US Mail carrier, you know the "Neither rain nor hail nor sleet nor snow nor heat of day nor dark of night..." people, and went to work dillegently in the worst weather.  I remember dad putting chains on the tires of her jeep in 81 or 82.  Dad, being an airline employee, was still was expected to be at work no matter the weather.  So in a southern family we probably had twice as much snow driving as average family(which is to say we had driven more than twice in snow and ice).  Then I moved to Louisville, where we don't get much snow... but enough that you should get familiar with it (not everyone does here...  but again I don't get snow days and have to deal).  Although, Louisville is not far enough north to not participate in the milk and bread hoarding.  And after 7 years here I'd forgotten how Georgia reacts and what it's like to have almost no snow removal and treating equipment available. 

SO after lunch, we headed out to the St Regis.  The idea to get there early and have a drink then the tea service.  About the time we tried to leave the mall parking is when we realized things had gone from "Tuesday" to "apocalypse" in less than an hour.  Peachtree was jammed.... Lenox Road was jammed with people trying to get on GA400... which borne a striking resemblance to a parking lot at 1 pm.  Made it to Piedmont, then East Paces Ferry, then a couple side streets and arrived at the St. Regis.  The normal 1.7 mile turned in 3 miles by going creative routes... and took 1 hour and 45 minutes. 

We contemplated skipping the tea and running for the burbs.  But, the traffic reports were already filled with grim news of interstate non movement and suggested people just stay put and wait it out.  So we went for and enjoyed out tiny sammiches and bite size cakes.  It was really kind of amusing and fun.  We finished up and decided to head south.  Maggie had been getting reports from friends on the road conditions, and they were not encouraging.  Looking at Google maps and the traffic overlay, it looks as if the roads were covered with blood.  I had never known before yesterday that there's a color level worse than red... its a dark dark red.  Which I assume after yesterday can only signify eminent death and destruction.

I asked Maggie if she trusted me and her forlorn response of "do I have much of a choice?  You know how I am with maps".  So we decided that interstates were to be avoided.  For the first time since I was a kid, the radio was tuned to AM radio.  WSB Radio's traffic updates from Capt Herb (who's been doing ATL traffic literally my whole life) and weather updates from Kirk Mellish (who's been doing ATL weather literally my whole life) were the soundtrack for out adventure.  So from Buckhead to Midtown started on back roads (which seemd likea  good idea to start except they weresnow coverd and hilly)and then on Peachtree (surprising open as long as you weren't going toward an interstate entrance) took about an hour.  From there turned east on Ponce before shifting over to North Ave trying to get to Moreland, which look fairly good on the google traffic (no blood red but some actual greens and yellows!).  It's about this time I realized I've kind of forgotten how hilly the city is.  North Ave shot upward by the Old Fourth Ward (ie in front of the Masquerade) and that just wasn't gonna happen.  So, south bound on Glen Iris, which was an uphill drive but not bad, and no one was stopping front of me... yet.  Turned back west on Edgewood Ave (east bound was closed for construction).  The Moreland Ave plan had to be abandoned...  let's use Boulevard, besides I haven't been by Grant Park in 20 years and I hear they've really gentrified the area... and it's true. 

By this time we've moved less than 10 miles as the crow flies and in about 45 minutes.  Which, compared radio reports of the same trip on the interstates, we were moving at warp speed.

The new plan was to head south down Boulevard to McDonough St.  Well, there's a hill before McDonough that several cars were stopped on, with no hope moving.  A right turn to go west on Englewood Ave (fyi, its been decades since I'd been through this part of town, and wasn't even driving then.  So I'm looking at Apple maps reconstructing this... ).  Englewood is an up hill climb, but the Lancer made it, passed a few struggling cars, and some one was spreading gravel on the opposite direction lanes, I could have used that if I needed.  From there it was south bound on Hill street to Mcdonough Ave and we headed west again.  Then a turn south onto Jonesboro Rd (GA HWY 54) which runs all the way to Fayetteville but that didn't seem feasible in my mind so we turned west onto Cleveland Ave.  At best we could check out how I-75 was moving. 

I have to say this whole time Maggie was being good company.  She and I would converse a little while she was attempting to not pull her hair out in the anxiety of not really being able to do anything and being "stuck".  This is the part where the Lancer saved my life, she threatened to kill me if we died in a car wreck :-) and the car came through for me.  By now, I'm starting to get anxious and annoyed at other drivers on the road.  It was about Cleveland Ave where I really (unbeknownst to the passenger) decided traffic laws will cease to apply if it comes to decision to being stuck on a hill or making it home.  It was on Cleveland behing a newish Cadillac on a hill that was spinning and fishtailing trying to get up it I whipped by at 30 MPH in what I assume was the turn lane, but could have been for oncoming traffic.  I thought Maggie was going to jump into my lap when the Caddy started swerving and i went left and around....  I mean what the hell, I'm driving a rental and have good insurance and don't care if you scratch and dent the hell out of it.

We got up the hill.  And this brings us to snow driving tip #1 for Atlanta drivers.  If you have a rear wheel drive it doesn't matter how much horsepower the engine puts out on a snow slick hill. 

Once we could see I-75 South was virtually devoid of any vehicles, we hit the interstate.  I couldn't feel the car doing any slipping or sliding, and was rolling past the few cars at a whopping 40 mph... at least 3 times faster than everyone else.  The next decision...  stay on interstates or go back to back roads.  The radio reports still called 285 a parking lot. so GA Highway 85 and a straight shot to Fayetteville seemed the best option.  By now it's getting dark, still snowing, Maggie and I are approaching "well done" from keeping the defrost on max hot to keep the windows ice free. 

We managed to do pretty well on highway 85.  Neither one of use could remember how much if any of this route was uphill.  The things you don't notice on the route you've traveled innumerable times until it suddenly becomes a severely limiting factor.  There were obstacles along the way, mainly other drivers who on the inclines would sit and spin, reverse, and spin some more.  Snow driving tip #2: you may have a Jeep, explorer, or any other SUV but unless it's 4-wheel drive you're still pretty screwed for getting any traction... especially if you're rolling on 'dubs with low profile tires.(We were in Riverdale after all). 

We finally started seeing some signs of read treatments.  A couple intersections had been treated... but that's about it.  We did see some salt trucks in the city but they seemed to just be trying to get somewhere and not laying anything down on the streets.

Just when we could see the goal, the police were blocking highway south of Point South Pkwy.  The ill there had been blocked by stopped cars and I'm assuming an accident, so we back tracked a little and took a turn west on some road that Google maps showed intersecting with a road I knew.  It worked fine, until the end where we needed to turn, and a car ahead had not been able to make it up and left.. and in the process of trying was blocking the entire street.  He finally got out and we went for it...  Maggie watched for oncoming traffic and I disregarded the stop sign.  The Lancer didn't even care.  Turning south on highway 314, we cross into fayette county and dodged less able cars on the road.  Zipping right by at a whopping 30 MPH.  Occasionally dropping into L  to slow without braking on downhills or to keep the wheels turning on some of the uphills.  Snow driving tip #3:  you have a low gear for a reason, learn how to use it.

Back on highway 85 in Fayetteville, then to highway 74 to Waffle House (a beacon of light, heat, and food in the South when the world has gone to hell)  where Maggie's little one was waiting with her boyfriend.   The trip time was just over 3 hours.  In retrospect, we may have set a speed record for the day.   I relaxed a minute, bathroom break, and I had decided from weather reports I had to make the airport.  Once the snow got packed and hard froze into solid ice there's no chance to get out and tomorrow was looking good for a thaw, so  I made the decision to go for it.  And at least I knew I was going against the majority of the traffic and a lot of the way was just backtracking the way I'd come.

 Off I went, back north on 314 to 138, then west to I-85.  314 was no real problem, no traffic, and I was able to pass the strugglers on hills.  ONce on 138, things were a bit more complicated.  Again, I've driven road hundreds, if not a thousand times.  I've never noticed to to be anything but flat.  Wrong.  Most the issues were with opposite direction traffic, though at one point a car was sideways blocking my way.  There were people trying to get it moved and facing the preferred direction.  I was not enjoying watching this show... and there looked like enough room on the shoulder to get by.  It was a downhill section, so at least I had gravity on my side.  I went for it, and around i went.  I thought the line of cars were going to follow me... but they stopped.  On the other side of the perpendicularly oriented vehicle I saw the flashing blues, and realized it was a cop that was working with the driver and had probably stopped traffic....  Oops.

Snow driving tip #4: Pick a lane!  I realize you can't see the lines, but you should know that the middle of the road isn't where your lane is.

From there, going was pretty smooth, except for one small instance where I got a little slide in but no one was around to see.  I got on an virtually empty I-85 Northbound... well it was virtually empty until the next exit.... then the problems began.  Because of wrecks, lane closures, and impassable freeway ramps, I-285 was a parking lot.  For those not familiar with Atlanta, I-285 is a circular interstate that used to serve as a sort of perimeter for the city (hence it's referred to as the Perimeter... it's nto just a clever name, the city has seince grown out.  However, the Perimeter still serves a distinct border between the burbs, or OTP, and the cool places to live.. or ITP).  All tractor-trailers are required to use 285 to go around the city unless they are picking up or dropping off in town.  So a 2 mile line of semi's were parked in the two right lanes trying to get... well anywhere.  I'm doing well zipping past these trucks until all lanes stop.  Not slow down, but dead stop.  This is where I thought my luck had run out.  For 10 minutes or so here was no movement.  There was a truck trying to get itself unstuck on the lane next to me, and as I watched his wheels spin I just knew any second it the tires were gonna bite and the truck was going to be launched into another vehicle. 

As sudden as the the traffic stopped, the left lane (by lane I mean those of us halfway on the shoulder of the interstate) started moving.  But the car in front of me wasn't... even though the the tires were.  Oh great!!  I see reverse lights... the car starts inching back, and the forward and we're off!!  Hallelujah!  Fyi, those rumble strips that are suppose to let you know when you've gone off the road aren't bad for traction when the roads are snow covered.  Once I passed the I-285 exit ramp, I-85N opened up.  I could see I-285 was solid with vehicles.  Up ahead, I could see the ATL control tower lights.  I made it up and over the bridge to the rental car area, which was the only time the car lost traction on the uphill enough to worry me.  I was gonna highly pissed if I got within sight of the goal and got stuck.  I parked and the Avis people were a little shocked to see me, or anyone really.  They were also understanding that I didn't return the car with a full tank of gas and removed the charges (saying that they had people who were stuck 3 or 4 miles away since 3 pm and were waving late fees and gas fees).  It was about an hour and half from Fayetteville to the airport, which honestly wasn't that horrible. 

At this time I checked in with work to make sure they hadn't canceled my flight.  It was still running, so I made my way to the plane.  On a hotel shuttle to get to that side of the field, a couple remarked they were getting their car to drive to the closest hotel with a room...  35 miles away in Griffin.  They were an older couple and I suggest they not try that.  The man said he grew up in the nroth and lived in Germany for years, that he had some experience.  Hope they made it safely.

Got to the plane, and found out the fuel truck had been stuck but was now on the way.  Small delay.  That's one thing about flying cargo, we almost always go, we may go (days) late but we go.  The fueler showed up, we de-iced, and off we went.  And carried not a single box.  Very little was able to make it to the airport, so we flew and airplane empty (with a good reason... besides of course that I was on it) with the operating crew, 2 pilots from other airlines who were trying going home after their flights were canceled, and myself.  So basically, it was a chartered jet for us :-).

All in all, the decision to go to high tea wasn't the best one I've ever made.  All the fault of the British.

Years ago, I read a scifi book (or short story) where it had been discovered that "luck" was a sort of genetic trait that people had.  Some people had it, some people didn't.  If such an thing were fact, I definitely got that gene.  I heard the traffic reports, the news that children were stuck at schools or worse, on stuck buses.  That people are STILL, 24 hours later, not moving in traffic and unable to get home.  Not to mention people holed up in hotels, or on airport floors trying to get home.  And I manage to make it from downtown to the burbs, back to the airport, and on a plane back to Louisville unscathed... and only 30 minutes later than the original plan.  I didn't realize how bad things were until I got home and cranked up the interwebs.  I mean I heard the radio, mostly background noise while focusing on exhibiting my "stone cold driving skillz", but i didn't realize that many commuters were still stuck on roads for the night until I got home. 

At least it'll be in the 60's there by the weekend.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The (not-so) Endless Summer

Wow!  Seems I managed to live through an entire summer without a blog post.  In truth, as far as summers go, this one has been remarkable in it's unremarkableness.  Normally there's some fantastic voyage or a momentous life altering event to remark on.  Instead this summer was marked by only very good voyages and multiple small life altering events.  Also, I've noticed an historical trend of me complaining about a lot of things in blogs, so either I've ran out of new things to complain about (doubtful) or it's just not worth the effort. 

Dragon*Con 2013 at the Marriott Marquis
Since last I wrote, I've ventured to San Diego (which we all know is German for a"whale's vagina"), Minneapolis, Atlanta a few times for a few minutes, Sint Maarten, Boston, Indianapolis, and Seattle.  Pretty much a domestic summer with the one exception.  And all but the the aforementioned exception were mostly friend driven.  And it was a better summer because of it.  I'm not going to lie though, it was pretty freaking cool chilling on Maho Beach and be blasted by jet wash.

KLM B747-400 "The City of Atlanta" arriving at SXM shortly before the massive wake turbulence that almsot knocked me down
 However, it was still the summer of friendly fun.  Cali with Maggie, Minneapolis to see the always entertaining Chandra (with Angel accompaniment) and just relaxing with a campfire by the lake, then a quick trip to the ATL to make the rounds with the Lewii and TanJoe and celebrate the birth of Yinyer in true Sunday-Funday style (and also perhaps frightening the poor bartender).  Back to Boston for another Red Sox game with Jersey, this time in sweltering heat.  I can't win with the the weather there.  Up to Indianapolis for a day trip for Drum Corps Int'l finals, but mostly to see Shelley. Finally back around to ATL again for a long visit and indulgence in fantasy, this time crisscrossing the northern half of the state to spend time with friends and family, and made a couple new pals.  And finally closed the Summer season with an adventure to Seattle with Heidi and a visit with a pal (thanx for the city tour Anna). 

A brief synopsis of some of the travels:

Sint Maarten:  The aerosexuals "Mecca".  The legendary airport's runway is so close to the runway you feel like you can grab on the landing gear when the planes pass over you on final.  I think in the past perhaps some one might have.  Add Caribbean Island time mixed with some Dutch flavor and you have good idea of what fun can be had there.  Lots of beach time, lots of Corona, lots of rum drinks, and lots of girls in bikinis (or less, remember it is a Dutch posession).  And if you can handle the summer heat (which honestly isn't any worse than Louisville, and you have a sea breeze) there's good deals to be had in the summer off season.  I found a room that I was frankly weary of because it was so cheap, but turned out to be clean and more than I needed for a few days.  It wasn't the Ritz but it did the trick.
Air France A340... little blurry trying to catch on the fly by 

Boston:  In addition the fabulousness that is Jersey and the history that is baseball at Fenway, I had a chance to hang out at the Harpoon Brewery (practically Jersey's next door neighbor).  I'm not normally a giant Harpoon fan, but I found some of their seasonals and small batch brews very tasty. 

Fenway Park Sox vs Yankees
Seattle:  What a nice city.  This is my second visit to the Emerald city (the last one consisting of spending enough tme to see a baseball game, sleep, and fly out after a DMB weekend at Gorge).  For some reason I never pictured Seattle as hilly as it is.  It's a bit like San Francisco.  Of course we did all the tourist stuff; Pike Place Market, the Space Needle, and by far the most interesting to me part, the Boeing tour.  Boeing's Everett plant, being another Aerosexual holy temple, was incredible. Not to mention the fun of seeing them assemble life size airplanes like toy models and looking on in amazement, evening knowing how the science says it works, that those beautiful machines make it into the air.

Seattle from Queen Anne hill
ATLizzle... and back again.  Labor day weekend brings the annual nerd pilgrimage to Atlanta for the Dragon*Con.  Since we first discovered this event about 5 years ago, it's become a mainstay for my yearly schedule.  This year I went all in with a room at "geek ground zero", the Marriott Marquis, and full costume.  it was even more fun than the past.  Late nights at raves with light saber wielding dancers to seeing the childhood TV heroes live and in person.  It's all about living in the fantasy for a while, and a good distraction from real life.  The only downside, extensive lines and standing, which took it's toll (more later).  It was good to spend time with Maggie, Kara, Charity, and Darci (and her  friends.. who were great roommates for the weekend).  After the con and recuperation and a side trip to Seattle, I was back in town for Mumford and Sons!  They are one of those rare bands that sound much better live than on the albums.

Jedi Life.
In between I spent the time working (more than I care to) and adjusting to living in the new place.  I've discovered I have some very friendly and entertaining neighbors who also enjoy huddling behind our fence (that keeps the 99% out) and watching the late night goings on outside the bars across the way.  Is it wrong of us to encourage the drunks to not take any crap from the bouncers.... just to see them laid out?  Seems kind of mean.

On the downside, a few  (so far small) health issues threw a crimp in the summer fun.  From a flare up of gout (first one in several years) to what I think is a recurrence of a back/leg issue from a few years ago.  Turns out I can't apparently rock all night and stand in uncomfortable boots for hours on end without consequence.  I'm hoping it turns out like last time, in that the body heals itself and everything returns to normal.  But only the impending doctor visits will tell.  In the mean time I'm walking with a little bit of a limp and there'll be no 5k's for the time being. 

So, that to me is an average summer.  I've come to realize I tend to live in what others possibly think is an alternate reality from the rest of the world.  I'm ok with that, since it makes me happy (for the most part).  I will acknowledge by bar tabs have become both more frequent and more expensive, given the ease of "walking" home from across the street.  But I do really like the new place, and it is set up for visitors (HINT!).  Well, nto exactly right now, due to shoddy original construction the balconies are being enclosed.  And that is a real pain in my arse... it's very hard to day sleep with walls being removed above your head.  But it is temporary.  Now, I need tog et back to living this charmed life.  Trivia tonight I think, followed by doctor ordered "taking it easy" time with Netflix or a book (since I learned at Dragon*Con there's a lot of TV and literature I need to catch up to be well versed in the costumes). 

Well, that was summer, bring on the Fall!
Sint Maarten Sunset

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Chasing Sunsets (part: the second part)

Back to the jelly state, I arrived on too little sleep and having the feeling the day was going to be annoying.  I had to deal yet again with the bed people.  They managed to get delivery too me by the evening.  And I managed to ignore it until later that night.  I fetched Yinyer and her 60 lbs of baggage, all matching black with pink polka-dots.  After the delivery, Yinyer and I walked across the street for dinner and few cocktails.  I then decided it was a good idea to put the bed together.  Amazingly it hasn't fallen apart yet, and I only had one extra screw left over.

Thursday we had decided to do some Bourbon trail riding.  After a lunch of gourmet grilled cheese, we headed off to the Woodford Reserve distillery.  Of the distilleries I've been to, Woodford is probably the most scenic.  You drive through some rolling hills of picturesque horse farms to find the distillery down in the hollar (that's southern for "down in the small valley by the creek or the hollow").  Unlike some of the bigger distilleries, Woodford doesn't look like a small oil refinery.  We waited for our tour group to be called and headed off down to the operation.  Woodford has upgraded since the last time I was there and now gives everyone a headset to hear the guide, which is nice since in the past it's been hard to hear over the noise.  As usual the air is scented with the sweet aroma fermentation and the Angel's taking their share.  After the sampling, it was back to Louisville to obtain some souvenirs for Yinyer.  O'shea's offered official Derby glasses dipped in red wax from Maker's Mark, while Flanigan's offered Stella Artois chalices etched with the 139th Kentucky Derby logo.  All that was required was a purchase of the appropriate beverage.  Joining us was Kelle, and between the three of us we loaded Yinyer up with glassware aplenty.
Woodford Reserve
At one point I walked back to O'shea's to see if I could win the raffle for Oaks tickets.  I didn't, but while there an officer of the law escorted 4 young ladies in, one of which was some one of notoriety.  I had no idea who until informed that one Ms. Miranda Lambert was dining there that evening.  I still didn't know who she was.  I relayed this information to the ladiess back at Flanigans, who immediately tore off to check if indeed one Miranda Lambert was in the establishment.  I still have no idea who she is other than short and cute and apparently some form of country musician.

Friday we headed to Oaks.  My $50 suit accented with pink shirt and bow tie fit in nicely.  The Oaks day at Churchill can be more fun than Derby day.  There's all the pageantry and half the crowd.  We had also decided to spend the money for club level seats that included all you could eat food and drink.  I expected the standard track fare of hot dogs or chicken fingers.  I was mistaken.  It was a full catered spread of brats, BBQ pulled pork, and Buffalo chicken with sides and desserts.  The drinks were served in real glasses (while supplies lasted) and we obtained some more glassware for Yinyer.  The two fillies I bet paid off and I was up for the day, though I was unable to pull down the superfecta.  It was a beautiful day at the track.

Upon departing, I returned home and walked across the street to attempt to win Derby tickets.  TUrns out they weren't winning, but the manager gave me her tickets since she couldn't make it.  Score, free grandstand seats.  Saturday found us heading again to the track, again in my stylish $50 suit with purple accents.  This time, we parked much closer (and it was the best money spent all weekend I think) in some ones yard.  It was a cold, rainy day and promised to stay that way.  Yinyer picked up some ponchos for us, which were used all day until the rain stopped (just in time for the Derby).  We were tempted to split early, but hung in there to experience the most exciting 2 minutes in sports live and in person.  Afterwards, back home for dry clothes and dinner and evening cocktails.  In a fluke, I won money on the Derby.  I had bet the the #6 horse across the board.  Turns out the lady working the booth heard the 16 horse.  And number 16, Orb, won the race.  Woohoo!!!
Turn 4 of the 139th Kentucky Derby
Sunday was spent chillaxing and with movie time.  After Iron Man 3 (see it!!), we went for Mexican to celebrate Cinco De Mayo.  Later I met up with Courtney and was amazed that there were still roaming bands of partiers out going bar to bar doing shots.  I was personally spent and looked forward to having nothing to do for a day.  Monday, Yinyer managed to pack a full set of Stella Chalices, Derby glasses, and Oaks glasses in her bag... how I'm not sure, and we headed to the airport.  SHe to head back to ATL, me off to do my annual FAA required familiarization trip.  This year, the training manual says it's an ETOPS ride (ETOPS used to stand for Extended Twin engine OPerationS but can be more accurately described as  Engines Turn Or People Swim).  I'm given 4 days to accomplish this trip, and with the blessing of management I scheduled my fam ride to OGG and HNL.  So off to Maui I go.  The sacrifices I make for my job. 

While I've been to Honolulu several times over the years, I've never made it to any of the other islands.  I realize after a visit to Maui this has been a great oversight.  Honolulu, and Oahu, is very developed and very crowded.  Maui is not as developed and much less crowded.  I, at one point, had a whole beach almost to myself.  I like that.  No high rise hotels in sight, just sand, surf, and an extinct volcano.  So, I endured the two days there before heading over to Honolulu to endure another day there.  It was very trying times.  I did manage to almost kill myself on Maui.

I spent the first day driving around, initially up to the north side of the island to Paia, a small village with some quaintless and good coffee.  The I thought I'd take a quick drive up to Haleakala, the dormant volcano on the eastern side of the island.  Well, I thought it was a quick drive.  turns out the 32 miles of winding roads actually takes about an hour and a half.  And then theres the fun of driving through the clouds.  Not fog, actual clouds.  But once you punch through, it's beautiful clear skies and cool temps.  I wish I had brought appropriate shoes, as the trails didn't look particularly inviting for flip flop clad hikers.  But it was still an experience to stand above the clouds looking down into the crater.  And props to the over achievers who bike UP the mountain.  Thanx for making me feel real lazy.
Haleakala crater
Now to the part where I nearly died...  not really, but it was pretty sporting.  After the much longer than anticipated drive down Haleakala, I thought it would be nice to head to the HRC and pick up the obligatory guitar pin.  The Maui HRC is located in the town of Lahaina on the west coast, and the map form the rental agency showed a road around the north side of the island from Kaluhui.  The map didn't show that this road was actually a treacherous cliff side path that, for the most part, was one lane only.  So, again, my anticipated 30 minute drive turned out to be an hour and half of white knuckled gripping of the steering wheel with the occasional reversing course to a spot where the oncoming traffic could pass by.  It vaguely reminded me of the roads you see on the shows that specialize about dangerous roads in the Andes or some other third world country.  But other than the potential falling off the sheer cliff onto the jagged volcanic rocks part, it was a very scenic drive with lots of hidden bays and coves.  I did run across the visualization of the dream I'm going to start chasing.
The Dream
 When I finally arrived in Lahaina, I took the time to get a calming beverage and my souvenir before heading back to the hotel.  I arrived back at my room just in time to walk across the street and enjoy the sunset from the beach.  For some reason, I love sunsets over the ocean.  Especially if the clouds at scattered just right to cause the pastels to come aline in the sky.  And it's something I can just sit and enjoy without feeling the need to be rushed or be doing "something".  I don't think I'm alone in this, and I base that on the number of people that were sitting on the beach doing the same thing.

Maui Sunset
 The next morning, I woke earlyish and headed to the beach.  The beach choice for the day was a short drive south from the hotel to Makena State Park, also know as Big Beach.  It's not just a cleaver name.  The beach is wide and plenty long, and that day it was almost empty.  The drive down to Makena took me through the "town" of Wailea and Makena, both well developed into high priced hotels, condos and golf courses.  Then the manicured lawns stop suddenly when you cross into the park and the natural vegetation, or lack there of, takes hold.  I like the natural look better really.  After a few hours on the beach, I headed back up to get a Cheeseburger in Paradise before turning in the rental car.  I finished the day early after catching another beautiful sunset and getting some sleep before the 3 AM flight to Honolulu via Kona. 

Arrived in HNL early in the morning, just after sunrise, and was whisked away to the crew hotel.  Located by Ala Moana park, the hotel has a great view of the homeless population of Honolulu setting up camp.  Apparently they're not allowed to sleep there overnight, so they show up during day light hours and sleep there then.  I guess if you have to be homeless that Hawaii is one of the better places.

After grabbing a nap, i took a walk to find lunch at Duke's on Waikiki Beach.  I love Duke's and go there every time I'm on the island.  The staff is friendly and patrons are all happy.  I mean, it is Hawaii after all, you have to really work at being miserable.  I spent the afternoon meandering with no real plan, other than send a couple post cards and obtain a new iPhone cover (mine had disintegrated over the last couple days).  I spent a fair amount of time traversing Waikiki Beach from Duke's to Margaritaville to The Beach Bar.  Finally catching the sunset (yup, love them) before ending the day with a self cooked steak dinner at The Shore Bird. 

Again, early to bed to ensure being awake for the early shuttle to the airport and back to the mainland.  I left out all the flying around parts to keep the non airline types from being overly bored.  There was actually a good bit of knowledge obtained, more so than most my recent rides.  So it wasn't all beaches and Hawaiian Iced Teas.

I returned to Louisville to find a cool rain falling.  I was actually looking forward to being home for a bit and just crashing with nothing much to do.  The new apartment is still fairly clean, now that most the empty boxes have been sent to recycling, so there's no real bad feeling about about just lounging thinking I have so much to do.  Though, now that my phone just alerted me of the frost advisory (it's freakin May already!!!  seriously!) I'm wishing I was back in the tropics, the sunsets are much nicer.
Waikiki Sunset

Chasing Sunsets (part 1)

The last few weeks have been a whirlwind of activity.  So much so, it's nice to be at home alone with nothing to do but hang pictures on the wall.  Of course, when that's done I'll be bored and ready to go again.  A brief summary: New apartment, saga of the new bed, BoSox game with Jersey, caught a cold, weekend in Hilton Head with many of my favorite people, Matt and Val's wedding, "Icing" in Savannah with my accomplice Joe, back to the ATL for Monday with Maggie, Tuesday afternoon with G-Ho and AXL, Tuesday evening with Yinyer and Jimmy Buffett, Woodford with Yinyer, Oaks with Yinyer and all you can drink seats, Derby with Yinyer and all you can get rained on seats, Off to Maui on a Monday, Arrive in Maui on a Tuesday...  beaches and sun, day tripping to Waikiki, back home.

Any questions? What??  You'd like some elaboration???  Well I'd be happy to:

My last posting was about the move into a new place.  It still feels like it's 90% there.  Though I do have new "art" on the walls, which consists of canvas prints I had made from pictures I've taken on various continents.   The biggest issue was getting a bed delivered.  It took almost 2 weeks to get it to my place.  Mainly because the discount place, American Freight Furniture, doesn't seem to be able to handle logistics.  Keep that in mind if you are looking for a good deal.  But finally arriving just in time for Derby weekend.  Luckily I didn't have to sleep on the couch.

But now for fun stuff, finally made it to see Jersey in Boston.  Unfortunately Spring weather had yet to arrive to meet Jersey in Boston and I spent the day meandering around the city (from Irish pub to Irish pub) in the rain.  Then it was off to Fenway (woohoo!!) for a Red Sox game in the rain and cold, but at least we had covered seats.  I was able to get a cold beer and a Fenway frank and watch the Red Sox thoroughly blow it against the A's.  I've never seen a balk called live at a game, but now I have... twice... in the same inning.. with 2 errors.... and 8 runs scored.  But hey, at least I was at Fenway (woohoo!!).
Fenway, circa 2013 (or 1913?)
The next day I woke up and discovered on the climb out from Boston I had caught a cold.  Nothing like flying with a head cold and the feeling of ice picks being jabbed into your ears during the pressurizing of the cabin.  Arriving back at home for a couple days I commenced to medicating heavily and overdosing on vitamin C, having to be back on my game for the coming weekend.  Unfortunately i picked up a persistent cough.  I got bronchitis... ain't nobody got time for that!

So, Friday morning rolled around and it was time again to fly.  I still had the cold going but at least this time I wasn't in agonizing pain on the flight to ATL.  I just felt like I was underwater for a day or so.  I arrived  early and enjoyd some lovely airport appreciation time before being fetched by TanJoe for the road trip to HHI.  Way back in the day, not too long after I had purchased my Accord in the late 90's, I was having trouble sleeping (as I worked nights then too) and decided to road trip it to Tybee for sunrise.  Seemed reasonable at the time.  While down there I drove to Hilton Head... and got a speeding ticket in a small speed trap known as Bluffton, SC.  I got a lecture from the small town sheriff about how people come speeding through his town (probably because the speed limit drops from 45 to 25 in distance of about 5 yards) and nearly run over a kid last week (to which i wanted to respond they should teach their kids not to play in the damn road... but i didn't).  But that's ancient history.

Back to present day, Hilton Head reminds me of Stepford by the beach.  I don't think I could live there, mainly due to a lack of financial resources or golfing interest.  But it was a nice place to visit.  It became a great place to visit once all the friends arrived and set up in our various "villas".  And there's a beach.  Unfortunately spring has barely arrived in South Carolina and it was a bit cool.  During check in, the front desk lady was running through the rules when she added, almost as an after thought, that we should not feed the alligators.  Now, the three of us (TanJoe and myself) were all kind of half listening to the rules until she said that... when we all 3 both were suddenly attentive and simultaneously went "What?? Alligators?!".  No where on the resorts website did it mention the possibility of death by gator.
The villa's Ocean View
The rest of the weekend passed in a relaxing haze of beer and laughter.  There was a short meeting of the board of the Black Sheep Brewery and Maple Syrup company.. where we sampled more products from competitors to get an idea what direction we wanted to brew in.  At some point during the getting dressed process for the wedding, some one thought it was a good idea to let Jamie be incharge of the two little ones in our midst.  For a period of 20 minutes or so, AXL and Gabe (both about 1 year old) enjoyed pressing every button on the 90's era boombox and combo DVD/VCR that were part of our rental unit.  Of course, they both felt the need to whack the electronics as hard as they could.  It's not our crap, so I just let them go at it.  In the drinking contest that followed, Gabe took first in the beer chugging event but AXL totally dominated the shots portion.  Then we settled in to watch some porn... until a real adult came and took charge of the children.  After that we were off to the most entertaining wedding ceremony in history (Marwaige.... Marwaige is what bwings us togewher) and a fun reception that followed.  It was great to see Matt and Val again after so long, and hope to see them more frequently in the future.

After the nights of hanging around with all the fun people, we bid adieu to Gracethon, AXL, the Berardii, and the rest of the clan Sunday morning for a day in Savannah.... since we were in the neighborhood.  Tanjoe, Adri, Michael, and I were spending the night there but were joined for lunch by Charity and Glenn  (Glarity anyone?) to celebrate Charity's birthday on the riverfront.  After wards, we checked in, and some of the less tired of us (ie Joe and I) decided to go back to River street and enjoy the lack of open container laws.  We were quickly recruited by our first bartender to go an "ice" his buddy who was tending bar a couple doors down.  "Icing" involves purchasing a Smirnoff Ice for another person, and then that person is required by some law to sink to their knees and chug the entire thing.  Well, it didn't go as planned, the second bar was no longer carrying Smirnoff Ice (due to a high incidence of "icing" amongst the local bartender community).  We came clean to our plan to the second bartender (who informed us he had been "iced" earlier that day by the first bartender), and he decided we should return to the first establishment to "ice" the other bartender.  Being down to do anything for a free beer, we accepted.  A quick trip to a gas station yielded us the required 22oz bottle of Sour Apple Smirnoff.  Back to the first pub, we informed the bartender there of our unsuccessful mission and returned his $5 ordered another round.  While pouring our two Black Smith's, I placed the Ice in front of us which elicited a serious of explicatives when the bartender turned back around.  By this time Tanya had found us and decreed that Joe was never to hang out with me alone again... it's not my fault we had scored 2 beers and a shot a piece for our activities.  The bartender did his ice, we took the picture and texted it to his friend, and enjoyed anohter beverage before heading down the street... drinks in hand.
Vinnie the Bartender getting "Iced".. I almost feel bad for having him drink such a vile beverage
That evening we found dinner with Adri and Michael and Tanya's local cousin Kara.  Followed by some more boozing down river street and a slight altercation with some shop owners (they shouldn't cry over spilt beer).  Monday, we bid adieu to Adri and Michael as they flew back to Boston (and made $250 in bumped passenger compensation plus an upgrade in seats...  NICE!) and Tanjoe, Kara, and I met for coffee then a trip to Ft Pulaski.  We toured the fort in the style of people in an episode of House Hunters.  I'm seriously considering putting an offer in, even thought he property is a real fixer-upper, but it's contingent on installing a "lazy river" in the moat. 
Dinner in Savannah
That afternoon we made it back to ATL, and I was able to spend the evening with the CEO and CFO of MaggieJack, Inc, (as the minority shareholder I occasionally get to spend some time with the executives consulting on fiduciary and operational issues for the organization) and we put to good use the bottle of wine pilfered from the wedding reception leftovers table. 

The following day found me stopping in for a visit to the Lewii to go over strategies with AXL for her next drinking contest.  Then I was off to attempt to locate some Oaks/Derby wear.  Mission accomplished at the JC Penney Outlet in Forest Park.  I got a fabulous tan suit and hat for under $50.  Score!!!

That evening I met up with Yinyer and we were off to St. Somwhere with Jimmy Buffett.  Unlike the last Buffett concert I went to, I made a point to remain lucid and ale to remember the entire concert.  Mission Accomplished.  I enjoy Buffett for his promotion of the beach lifestyle, and giving me ideas for my retirement.  We enjoyed the drunk people watching and hula skirts aplenty, and the general funness of the atmosphere.  The next morning I awoke to head back to KY for the second act of the vacation.
Lakewood is renamed St Somewhere
I suppose I should break this up, and this seems like a good place to stop the carnival for a moment.  Part deux to follow shortly.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Movin's on up to a deluxe apartment in the ... Highlands

Every now and again I need to take inventory of the things I've accumulated over time, then throw all that shit out.  This usually happens when one of two events happen; the clutter in my life has reached suffocating levels or I move residences. This past couple of weeks it's been the latter.  It was time for a change.

As many of you are aware, I had been recently attempting to purchase a place in Atlanta and have a sort of commuting life. Through a multitude of reasons my attempts were continually thwarted. Feeling frustrated with the whole process and continuing set backs, I threw in the towel and took my money and ran...  All the way to the bank where I paid off most of the debt I have accumulated. Which, as it turns out, was probably a smarter thing to do anyway.

But it didn't solve my problem, the need to shake somethings up and find a new abode.  My current louisville residence has been adequate for the past 5 years, and the price was right.  But as anyone who's visited knows, the place had issues... Or "character" as I preferred to say. These are things that come with a century old house that hasn't really been brought into the modern world.  I can't fault my landlords (a couple of twin brothers named Nick and Mick... I never could tell which was which). They bought the house while I was living there, and then proceeded to gut and remodel the unoccupied downstairs apartment.  And any issue I ever had with the residence (leaking roof, non functioning AC during the hottest parts of the year, sudden lack of electricity, etc..) has been resolved much quicker than I would have expected.  They even cut me breaks on rent when I thought I was taking a pay cut. (Apparently renters who pay on time and don't get complaints form the neighbors are rare these days).

When I sent the notice, we had what amounted to an exit interview.  They acknowledge that since I came with the house, they never really went through the upstairs apartment to see what was needed and asked what I kind of work needs to be done.  It was a long list.  I the end I expect they will remodel the place and double the rent.

My search for a new home in town started with Craigslist, and I found a couple possibilities.  The problem, none would be available before Derby.  I wanted to be in and mostly settled before receiving guests (Yinyer will be the first guest in a couple weeks). I found a condo for rent (and had actually thought of buying one in this complex at one point) just down the road from where I was currently residing.  The rent was significantly higher, but I expected that to get the kind of place I wanted.

I set up a viewing and asked about getting the rent down a little (since the place had been listed for a while it couldn't hurt right? ). It worked, they dropped it enough to get me to sign on the line.  I had a month to prepare for the move.

I hate moving, it's one of the most annoying and pain in the arse events of modern life. But it's also a great time to throw shit out.  And I had a ton of stuff to unload. Clothes that no longer fit (which makes me a little sad) or just never make it into the wardrobe rotation.  Some stuff that's just been sitting around providing no function other dust collecting.  So my burden was lightened with three trips to goodwill and several bags to the garbage. The hardest stuff to get rid of are those items people have given me.  Gifts from long long ago from people I really never talk to any more.  But there's an emotional reminder of good times in the past.  Do you toss it or keep lugging it form place to place?  Sometimes the answer is easier that you may think.  Some little trinket that's in the back of the closet the ex-significan other gave is a no brainer.  The card on the mantle your best friend sent that always brings a smile to your face is a keeper... Doesn't take up much space anyways.

After a few days of purging and packing, I had everything I could boxed up or taken out to the garbage.  This move, I decided to spend money on the luxury of movers.   Best.  Move.  Ever!  My previous moves have always been supported by friends in return for pizza and beer.  And I have supported friends moving for payment in the firm of pizza and beer.  But here, not many pizza and beer friends are about and it was just easier to let some one else do all the work.  In what in the past was an all day event was reduced to two hours before lunch.  They managed to get the couch out (anyone familiar with my old apartment knows this is an accomplishment...  the narrow stair case with a 90 degree turn in the middle required a multi-angular feat of strength) and since i bought the couch already in the place, I was a little worried about that. 

That was Monday.  By Friday, almost everything is in the new apartment (i have 2 weeks overlap of residing in two places) and arranged to my satisfaction.  Well for the moment.  There's still "art" to be assigned to a wall, but that will come in due time.  I was a little disappointed that the built in shelves were too small to accommodate the TV, but I'm managing.  Most of all, I'm ecstatic to have an efficient heating and cooling system and a dishwasher.  Oh the modern conveniences!!!!  I'm thinking this will encourage more eating at home, if only to dirty dishes and not feel guilty about the water waste that comes with running a half full (or half empty) dishwasher. 

The place isn't "there" yet, but 90% is done.  Some new furniture is being delivered tomorrow, and Ikea will be providing some cheap lighting soon.  And I've yet to figure out the gas fireplace, given one attempt.  But I suppose that can wait till winter returns.  But once again, the move has both lightened my burden of "stuff" but required the acquisition of more "stuff".  At least the new "stuff" is dust free... for now. 

Friday, March 15, 2013

Strollin down the avenue that's known as A1A

After my 24 hour transit home from the dark heart of Africa. Well, ok, the slightly shaded shoulder of Africa, I was faced to a monumental decision...  what to do for the rest of the vacation time.  I had almost a week left before I had to return to work and the thought of sluffing about Louisville was unappealing.  I had a plan but it was getting more and more complex by the minute.

Part of the problem was I had no desire to jump back on an airplane after a 10 hour hiatus from being in transit. The other part of the problem was just getting to my intended destination, the Corn Islands of Nicaragua.  TO get there cheaply, it involved an all night jaunt from Louisville to Managua, via Miami.  The on arrival, purchasing a ticket on a local puddle jumper out to the island.  The thought of another 20 hour travel day really didn't appeal... and that was just to get there. SO deciding to delay my trip to those particular islands (because they are definitely on a must visit list... a warm tropical Caribbean island that's not yet overrun with mega resorts and cruise ships...  Sign me up!

But still wanted to get away from it all... and quick.  After a full nights sleep and excavation of a mountain of dirty laundry, I decided on a course of action.  I'm going out Buffett style.  It was likely going to cost me more than I wanted to pay out, but I was heading to the Keys.  I formulated a plan, and then a back up plan.  There was a browntail jet heading to Miami that afternoon.  Once there, I would find a place to hole up for the night before striking out to Key West first thing in the morning.  Not really sure if I was driving or flying down to the islands...  and I'd yet to find a place in the islands that fit my budget for sleeping, but i won't be deterred by such minor things. 

After carrying the big pack around Europe and Spain, I was motivated to keep it light, so a small back pack was all I took.  How much space do a pair of thongs take up anyway?   Before leaving Louisville, I booked a room in an airport hotel for convenience.  There was the South Beach option available of course (for a fee). But with the plans of a short night and a quick escape, proximity to the airport mattered.  I had put a couple requests out on VRBO (which if you ever need a place and hotels don't fit the need/price, look there.  I've found good deals in Europe and the US).  Unfortunately, none of the owners responded (in all fairness, I'd only really given them about a 12 hour window on a Sunday for a Monday arrival).  Looking at flights from MIA to Key West, I found that I could either take the 6 AM flight or risk not making it at all.  And the flights leaving looked even worse (Airplane geek info, Key West  has quite a short runway for large jets to use, which result in restrictions on the number of people they can take...and all looked to be full)... so time for plan B... Priceline!

I'll admit my snobbery when it comes to a few things, one being domestic hotels.  Overseas, a $5 hostel or guesthouse will do for some reason.  But not in the US.  It's weird I know.  So I started naming my own price, and got a good deal on 4-start property on Mallory Square.  Add a rental car and the plan's complete. 

Other thing with this trip, it was fairly unadvertised.  I didn't really tell anyone where I was off to or for how long.  I kind of was wanting to disconnect from life for a minute.  When I was asked (or in one case when the iLoJack app gave away my current position), I was forthcoming of y plans.  But for the most part I was just going to be warm and buzzed for a few days.  I'm happy to say Mission Accomplished. 
Everyone stops to watch the sunsets

I struck out early for the islands.  I would have loved a convertible, or better yet my bike, but I made do with the sunroof and windows down.  The three hour cruise down the Overseas Highway was nice.  It's a non hurried drive, and the further from Miami you get the less hurried life seems to get.  Sure I wanted to get there, but I also enjoyed the drive from island to island.  I was initially a little disappointed when crossing from Boca Chica Key into Key West proper.  Not at all what I had imagined, or remembered from my last brief visit there (a few years back I was on a cruise that stopped in for a few hours and I barely got any island time in).  But it looked like anytown Amurrica with strip malls and fast food a plenty.  Then, as if crossing into another country, the scenery changed and suddenly I was in the Key West of lore.  Once I found the hotel (which, according to Apple Maps required a drive down a permanently closed road), I was told my room wasn't yet available (it was early), so I checked my belongings with the bell desk (the whole small backpack) and was off to work on part 2 of the plan... being buzzed. 

As far as actual Key West Activities, I didn't do enough.  I made a point to walk down to Hemingway's place, and made it by the southernmost point.  I walked on a beach, but didn't take the boat out to the Dry Tortugas or do a jet ski tour.  Next time i will, but this trip I managed to entertain myself (and a few bartenders) with my scheming to steal the old wooden propeller hanging above the bar in Sloppy Joe's (off one of the first Pan Am flights between Key West and Havana... the first Pan Am route).  I'm almost done with the plan, and I may need some accomplices to help me make it work.  There was also the flip cup competition at Coyote Ugly (I lost) and the continuing Irish Pub Tour to keep me amused. 

The propeller at Sloppy Joe's...  it will be mine
I really enjoyed the all day live music available about the town.  And more so enjoyed the not having to run to a cruise ship just when things were getting fun on Duval.  I met a few interesting people, some just visiting... some were just visiting years ago and never managed to leave.  I'm thinking that's a good idea. 

When my days on the island were drawing to a close and no more sunsets would be watched, I sobered up and headed back to the mainland.  I felt rested and recharged, and amazingly not at all hungover, and looked forward to the drive back.  Even though i wasn't looking forward to the destination.  I"m thinking a return to the Keys for some rum drinks and conch salad should be an annual thing.  Anyone wanna go with?
Wearing the thongs in the Keys
So home I came, with a day to spare to get re adjusted to real life, stepping off the airplane into the falling snow.... ugh.  But it gives a goal to work toward.. early retirement.  So that's the end of the "big trip" for 2013.  A little sad it happened so early, but then again I know I'll be jaunting off hear and there through out the year.  There's weddings and birthday parties to attend.

The beginning of the long road ahead