Happy Holidays 2003

These notes record the events of the period from Thanksgiving to New Year's Eve. 

Wednesday, November 26

I have been suffering with a cold and cough for about 6 weeks and finally made an appointment with Dr. Maroldo yesterday. Along with prescribing and antibiotic, he asked me to get a chest X-Ray which I scheduled for early this afternoon. Cathy and I popped-up our camper this morning both for practice and to dry out the canvas which had picked up some moisture the last time we had the camper open. We packed the many boxes that Bill and Stacey had left into the XTerra to temporarily move them to Alex and Phil's. We found time for a short 3 mile walk and then I showered while Cathy visited our friend Karen who was recuperating after a cardiac incident. We drove to Cape Radiology for my chest X-ray and then ate lunch at Avalon Coffee. We drove to Alex and Phil's and arrived around 4 PM after a surprisingly easy trip. We all went out to eat at Chiles in Delaware and then returned to the house for a viewing of "Finding Nemo." Katie and Tom arrived near the end of the movie. We all headed for bed fairly early.


Dinner was scheduled for 2 PM, so the activities began early. I awoke at around 4 AM, realizing that we needed heavy duty aluminum foil for the turkey. I arose at 5 AM and was soon joined by Alex, who discovered that the Giant Supermarket was open until 3 PM. We dispatched Phil for an early morning shopping trip to pick up the foil and some celery hearts. The stuffing preparations began at 6:30 AM with Katie handling the bread and Cathy handling the vegetables. The turkey flew at a bit after 7 AM. Bridget entertained everyone during the day by being cute (pics 1,2) and by enjoying a chocolate chip cookie even more than Tom ever did. Katie, Tom, Phil, and I played football on Phil's XBox. I found it extremely difficult to play which is a sign of my advanced age. My team, Florida State, edged out Katie's VT squad. Tom's VT behemoth totally humiliated Phil's PSU lion cubs and then in a snowy rematch, the Nittany Kittens squeaked by the VT good ole boys. Meanwhile, cooking of dinner went on apace. Don and Olive Stoops and Don's mother Lena arrived during late morning and we all sat down to a feast at 2 PM. Katie, Alex, Erin, and I went for a walk just after sunset. Cathy and I headed home at about 6 PM and were home by 8 PM. 

Friday, November 28

I got up at 5:30 AM and ran my morning backups of the websites. It was a foggy, warm morning with rain on its way. Cathy had to work at the bookstore. I registered the domain 4mbnawireless.com and set up the website "formbnawireless" on Hypermart for IDR per Phil's request. I took a 6 mile walk before the rain was scheduled to start. I still felt lousy, so I chilled out for most of the afternoon. I packed and picked up some WaWa hoagies for dinner. Cathy got home a bit before 6 PM and we were on the road by 6:30 PM. We made good time to Katie and Tom's. Matt Merkle was already there and we chatted for a while before heading to bed.

Saturday, November 29

I got up around 5:30 AM and got ready to go to New York. The other folks got up at 6 AM and a bit later and got themselves organized. We had breakfast in the Doylestown Starbucks and then drove in the XTerra to Princeton Junction to take a train to NYC. We arrived at Penn Station around 10 AM and walked to the Hotel Mansfield (pics 1, 2), located just a couple of blocks from Times Square. We stored our bags at the registration desk and then walked to Rockefeller Center (pics 1, 2), up Fifth Avenue, in St. Patrick's Cathedral,, and through Central Park. My advanced urban walking skills often had the others waiting at traffic signals behind me. We ate lunch at the Metro Cafe. Cathy and I checked into the Hotel at 3 PM and brought all of the luggage to our room. Meanwhile, Katie, Tom, and Matt waited in line at the ticket center and bought us tickets to "Thoroughly Modern Millie" at the Marriot Marquis Theater. After a bit of relaxation and some hot showers, we were off to dinner at the Brazil Grill. We had very good meals inexpensively. The show was quite entertaining, but poor Katie was beginning to feel the effects of a virus blitz which caught up with her on Saturday night. She gamely walked with us back to the hotel.

Sunday, November 30

I got up at 5:30 AM, took a hot shower, and went down to the business center to backup the websites. Then I walked to Times Square (pics 1, 2, 3, 4) and had a latte at Starbucks. I met Cathy, Tom, and Matt for breakfast in the hotel at 8 AM. We walked to Grand Central Station and along the East River before heading back to the hotel at 11 AM. At one intersection, we could see the Chrysler Building to the north and the Empire State Building to the west. Tom stopped to pay his respects at a competitor's headquarters building along the way. We also saw some human flies washing windows without scaffolding - very impressive. Cathy, Matt, and I ate lunch in the Times Square Starbucks, where I had a small cappuccino (a first small size I've ordered at a Starbucks, I think). Then, we all checked out around noon. Cathy, Matt, and I walked to Penn Station, while Tom accompanied the ailing Katie in a taxi. We took a train back to Princeton Junction and drove back to Katie and Tom's, arriving around 3:30 PM. Cathy and I continued our journey to Alex and Phil's house via the Acme in the Granite Run Mall complex. We ate dinner with Alex and the girls while Phil was spitting and farting with the good ole boys at the hunting cabin in Potter County. I continued to feel less than normal and headed for bed before 9 PM. 

Monday, December 1

I got up at 4:55 AM and ran my morning backups on Phil's computer in the basement. Alex got up at 5:30 AM and the rest of the household awoke at staggered times. I followed the women and girls to Children's World where Erin and Bridget were to spend the day. Cathy and I were very impressed with the clean, bright facility and the friendly staff people. Alex headed to work and Cathy and I headed to Starbucks for breakfast. After breakfast, we shopped in the Hamilton Mall area before heading south into Cape May County. We ate lunch at Avalon Coffee in Rio Grande (is a pattern developing here?) and finally arrived home to a welcoming (but not welcome) howling west wind at 1:30 PM. Cathy went out to run some errands, but I hunkered down to avoid the cold wind. The only high point of the evening was the viewing of my newly acquired DVD, "Lord of the Rings: Two Towers." The wind made it very hard to sleep overnight.

Tuesday, December 2

The high wind and the poor performance of several of our websites were the low points of the day. I arose at 5:55 AM with a headache. I performed some eBI testing and then worked on invoices. I went to the Lower Township offices and got copies of Bill and Stacey's marriage license and sent them out via express mail. The DCWUSAonline and DCWUSAoffline websites continued to be problems as the day went on. I sent out 2 emails to Eric Leonard and left a voice message. I also called the reseller technical support number twice and got ticket #16399. The wind actually picked up as the evening wore on. I watched the supplemental materials on my "Lord of the Rings" DVD.

Wednesday, December 3

The wind and bad performance of our websites continued as I arose at 5:30 AM. The outside temperature was 29 degrees. It's hard to know in this weather, but I think that I'm feeling somewhat better. Cathy and I took a 6 mile walk inland away from the howling west wind. It was cold, but always good to be outdoors.

Thursday, December 4

The wind finally dropped in a lull before the coming nor'easter. I was up before 6 AM as usual checking status of the websites and doing some eBI testing. As the day wore on, Dan from ATTWS and I discovered a new problem with our webhost. Doing some nifty sleuth work, I discovered that the Perl compiler was having problems on the secure server and no problems on the unsecure server. I wrote a simple 6-line script and sent it around to the technical support people at Hypermart. This problem is retarding our progress in eBI certification. Everyone is getting frustrated by this issue. I got out for a 6 mile walk during early afternoon. It was chilly, but otherwise nice during my walk. Cathy worked a long, lonely day at the bookstore. We went out for dinner at the Lobster House and had an enjoyable, inexpensive meal.

Friday, December 5

The nor'easter had begun when I arose at 5:45 AM. My test script ran with only one error, so I thought that maybe the problem at Hypermart was solved. I sent some test transactions to eBI and would find out later that the problem still persists. It was rainy and windy as the nor'easter moved up the coast. I donned my white rainsuit and took a 6 mile walk in the nor'easter. I saw Joe Link running in the wind and rain (and loving it). I managed to stay warm and dry as I walked. Cathy and I went to our dermatologist for a tune-up. When I returned I called and emailed Hypermart and finally convinced them that the secure server problem is real. Then Cathy and I drove to Home Depot to pick up some combination locks for our camper. The NE wind and rain continued to be strong and gusty. We took an inland route to the Consumer Square in the Hamilton Mall area and returned the XBox that we had purchased for Tom (who bought his own). On the way home we dined at the Buck Tavern in Corbin City. We had a very good meal for about $50. The wind and rain continued as we headed to bed.

Saturday, December 6

I slept-in until 6:50 AM and found a bit of snow on the ground as I arose. I ran my usual morning backups and status check and prepared a document with supporting emails to describe my week of eBI testing. The Delaware Bay was very rough and the snow and sleet blew strongly from the north. We saw on our caller ID that we had received a call from a "J K McNamee" with a local number. Cathy called back this morning and left a message. Is it Cathy's cousin Jim? We drove on some icy roads to North Wildwood to see if Hereford Inlet was wild, but we arrived near low tide, so the waves weren't too dramatic. We ate lunch at Avalon Coffee, did some shopping in Rio Grande, and then went into Cape May to see Corey Gilbert. It was cold and windy. I took some photos of the beach in Cape May and at Sunset Beach. We picked up a couple of DVDs and headed home to huddle in our warm house.

Sunday, December 7

The NW wind howled all night, shaking the house and keeping me from sleeping soundly. After doing my morning website status checks and backups, I went to 9:30 AM mass with Cathy. We headed to Atlantic City to walk on the boardwalk, with a lunch stop at the Crab Trap in Somers Point. The day remained cold and windy, but sunny. We managed to buy shower shoes for our winter camping in a couple of Indian-owned boardwalk shops. When we returned home at sunset, the cold wind was still howling. We are glad that we will be able to escape for the bulk of the winter.

Monday, December 8

The full moon was setting when I arose at 5:55 AM. The NW wind was still blowing hard and the temperature was 28 degrees. I found that all of the Hypermart websites were down. I called technical support and found that everything had been down for about an hour. After breakfast, I found the websites back up, but the Perl/"secure server" still had errors. I wrote a draft specification for archiving the websites and sent it out via email. The Hypermart email and database server and websites went down and up throughout the day. I took a 6 mile walk at noon. I had intended to drive to Cape May Point and walk the beach, but found the Jeep had a dead battery, so I walked along the Bay. The temperature was 32, but the wind was lighter, so the walk was a comfortable one. There was a beautiful sky right after sunset tonight. 

Tuesday, December 9

Zero wind! That's what greeted me when I arose at 5:30 AM. The almost full moon over the Bay clearly showed how calm was the water. I went out for a morning kayak trip down to the canal and back. The Bay stayed calm during the paddle. I saw a lot of erosion (pics 1, 2, 3) caused by all of the heavy wind we have had this fall. Also, a discarded tire appeared on the beach to our south, no doubt brought by the storm. I called AAA to jump-start the Jeep. Cathy followed me to the Mobile station which we frequent. On the way, I discovered the cause of the dead battery: a light under the panel was lit. Cathy had told me that she was fooling with switches trying to get some interior light and I guess the light remained on. Eric Leonard from Hypermart emailed his claim that the problem that we were having with eBI testing was fixed. I was able to do a lot of eBI testing and discovered a few things to fix on our end. I dropped Cathy at Technical H.S. and then picked her up so that we could attend the Cape May County Pollution Control Financing Authority Banquet tonight at the Avalon Links restaurant. We had the whole place reserved for our group of 15. The food was just OK, but the evening was fun. 

Wednesday, December 10

Another storm was pending today. I arose early as normal and did my websites status checks and backups. We expected a service call from Cape Camping at 10:30 AM, but the mechanic came around 3:00 PM and discovered that he needed to order a base to install a battery on our camper. We also found out that we have to bring the XTerra to them to get the trailer brake controller installed. I was busy all day with eBI testing and programming an archiving system for our websites. Cathy worked at GED testing during the late afternoon and evening. I viewed "Lord of the Rings - Two Towers" again, just to be sure that I am current when I see "Lord of the Rings - Return of the King" when it comes out. We had WaWa hoagies for dinner. The wind started in early afternoon and the rain started in late evening.

Thursday, December 11

It was hard to sleep last night with the wind-whipped rain beating on our bedroom window. I finally arose just before 6 AM as the rain was falling intensely. The big NW wind came later in the morning. I did all of the configurations necessary to run eBI on our production ecommerce website and setup a test dealer in order to test the production setup. I ran a test transaction during late morning. I took a 6 mile walk in the wind just before Cathy went to work for GED testing again. Since the eBI test system was down all day, I worked on the archiving development.

Friday, December 12

The wind continued overnight. I worked on a number of different projects during the day. I also ran an errand to Al's Plumbing to bring a water sample to see if we need a filter and also to bring them information about our security system. I went over to Jim Sosna's house to help him move an air conditioner out of the house; I also brought him a copy of the security system information. I took a walk to WaWa to get my hoagie dinner (third time this week). I helped at Bingo and called the second half. Cathy attended a Chinese Polyanna at Carol Mathews' home and partied while I toiled in the secondary smoke. 

Saturday, December 13

After I did my morning websites status check and backups, I researched the Internet for Bill Quinn's obituary. Sue Beatty had emailed Cathy the information that Bill, a teenage friend of ours, had died last summer. I found the obituary from the Philadelphia Inquirer (July 19, 2003) and emailed a copy to Sue and Chris Devine. We hitched up the camper and did some practicing with maneuvering and backing up. When we got back home, we popped the camper and measured all the available storage spaces. We went to Corey's studio in Cape May and then went to K-Mart to buy some plastic boxes for the camper. Later, we went to Daniel's for dinner. We viewed half of "Pirates of the Caribbean" before turning in.

Sunday, December 14

The latest nor'easter arrived with a vengeance - all wind and rain for us. We went to 8:30 AM mass and then headed north on the Parkway. We stopped for lunch at the Pizza Hut in Somers Point and continued on to the Hamilton Mall area. We bought some more plastic boxes a Staples and then did several "laps" of the mall in order to get in a warm, dry walk. We viewed the rest of "Pirates of the Caribbean" during dinner - we both thought it was a pretty silly movie.

Monday, December 15

I went over to Wildwood Linen Supply early in the morning. I found that Windows 98 won't support the rolodex card printing in any configuration of the printer. The west wind was howling, so we walked an inland loop of about 5 miles. When I got back, the test eBI system was up and running and I began the first day of eBI Certification Testing. All went well. We ate a late dinner and listened to the wind blow.

Tuesday, December 16

I did some work on archiving before we dropped off the XTerra at Cape Camping to get a brake controller installed. We had popped the camper earlier since the wind had finally dropped. Cathy worked on locating plastic boxes in the storage areas. I fixed the lattice panel that had blown out in the back-end of a previous nor'easter. Then I did the second day of eBI Certification Testing. All went well again, even though the back-end websites were down for several hours. We picked up the XTerra. I have a lot to learn about controlling the electric brakes on the trailer. We took a 6 mile walk during mid-afternoon. The temperature was pleasant and the wind light. Cathy and I took Jim and Linda out to dinner at the Ebbit Room to thank them for caring for our house during the winter. There were few of us in the dining room, but the food was good and as expensive as usual. 

Wednesday, December 17

I slept-in until 6:10 AM. The south wind was blowing, but the rain from the latest nor'easter hadn't arrived yet as I run my morning website checks and backups. The rain started as I worked on finishing up the website archiving and worked on Day Three of eBI Certification Testing. I was very nervous during the testing since so many things can go wrong in the complicated transactions and communications that go into using eBI with our ecommerce websites. After sweating over the day's test, I passed! The west wind began in early afternoon. I signed up for text messaging on my cell phone in preparation for our trip. I also enabled my phone for international calls, but to call from Mexico is $1.99 per minute, even using a calling card. I found out that in Mexico I will be able to receive text messages, but not to send them. I participated in a conference call concerning eBI and then walked over to Joy and Tom's house in the howling wind to head out to dinner at Alfe's Restaurant with Fran and Jim.

Thursday, December 18

After I did my morning status checks and backups, Cathy and I went to the dentist for semi-annual checkup. We both had no problems. After the appointments, we went to AAA to upgrade our membership to include the camper and to pick up maps and campground guides for the states that we will be traveling through this winter. We stopped at Avalon Coffee for coffee on the way home. After lunch we took a walk on our inland loop. We measured it with the car and found it to be five miles in length. We went over to Bob and Laurie's house at 5:30 PM and then out to dinner at the Blue Pig. All of our meals were excellent. 

Friday, December 19

This was Katie's thirtieth birthday, so we sent her an early morning email wishing her well. Cathy worked all day at the bookstore. I spent a lot of time arranging to pay as many bills as possible with our credit cards or as debits from our checking accounts. It looks like we will be able to do everything online and not be too dependent on mail while we're on the road. After lunch I drove to Cape May Point and walked into Cape May. It was cold and breezy, but otherwise a pleasant day for a walk. I stopped in to see Cathy at the bookstore and went out to Rick's Cafe to get coffees for us. On the way back up the beach to the lighthouse, I was reminded by the cold air blowing in my face and the look of the sky near sunset that this was not a summer's day. We went to Pasta Bella for dinner. 

Saturday, December 20

It was cold and windy when I arose at 5:45 AM. Cathy worked all day at the bookstore again. I went to Cape Camping to pickup some hoses and other items for our camper. On the way back, I stopped in K-Mart to get some rope. After lunch I took a six mile walk to the canal. I backed-up up my "clients" folder on a DVD. I also packed as much of the XTerra as I could with items heading to Glen Mills and Indianapolis. As part of our continuing series of eating dinner out, we went to dinner with some of Cathy's former teaching colleagues at the Lloyds' home in North Cape May.

Sunday, December 21

The cold wind continued this morning. I ran my website status checks and backups and, for the first time, included the new archiving functions. We hitched up the trailer and set the adjustments on the new brake controller for the trailer brakes. We rode around the neighborhood a bit, trying the brakes. When we returned home, we unhitched the trailer and finished packing our bags and the car. We left for Glen Mills at about 11:30 AM. Traffic was light and we made good time. We stopped at Commodore Bagels for lunch and arrived at Alex and Phil's at around 1:30 PM. Katie and Tom arrived soon thereafter. We celebrated Katie's birthday and exchanged Christmas gifts. Tom gave Katie a beautiful pair of earrings preceded by a joke pair that he fabricated (pics 1, 2, 3). Erin and Bridget (pics 1, 2, 3, 4), as well as the rest of us, enjoyed our gifts. We went to dinner at John Harvard's Pub in Delaware. 

Monday, December 22

This was Winter Solstice, my favorite day of the year; the days get longer for the next six months. Phil and I had a business meeting during mid-morning. Cathy and Alex helped to reorganize the items that heading to Indianapolis and I packed everything into the car. We left around noon and headed to Starbucks on 202 for lunch. We used my Starbucks gift card that I received from Katie and Tom (we had used some of my Starbucks coffee that I received from Alex and Phil earlier in the morning). Then we drove to St. Clairsville, Ohio along with more trucks than we wanted to see. Phil had given us a copy of Michael Moore's audio book, "Dude, Where's My Country?" and we enjoyed listening to that on the trip. We arrived at the Hampton Inn at around 6:30 PM. We ate at Undo's Restaurant on the third floor of the hotel. If this sounds familiar, see "Happy Holidays 2001" to see why. 

Tuesday, December 23

We ate breakfast in the Hotel and were on the road by 7:00 AM. There were lots of trucks and lots of rain to accompany us on the way. We arrived at Bill and Stacey's at around 11:40 AM. We unpacked the car without filling the house and ate lunch at Ruby Tuesday. Snow Flurries fell as soon as we arrived and soon made for a nice holiday scene. Bill and Stacey had the house nicely decorated for Christmas. Boots was a lot bigger than the last time we saw him and now had a companion, Sandy. Another new item for us was a very large T.V. set in the living room. We ate dinner in a great seafood restaurant, OceanAire in downtown Indianapolis. It was amazing to find such a wonderful selection of fresh seafood this far inland.

Wednesday, December 24

Cathy, Stacey, and I went to Stacey's gym on the campus of Indiana University Indianapolis. I did some running on the indoor track along with some walking. It is a large and fully equipped facility. Bill discovered that the dedicated server had gone down around mid-morning. We quickly showered and changed and drove to a theater where we enjoyed "Lord of the Rings: Return of the King" in stadium seats. Our 11:40 show was sparsely attended. We returned home for a short stay and then went to the children's 4:30 PM mass at the neighborhood church. Later, we had a Computing Doc/Revolution Computing Christmas party at Ruth's Chris steak house. Amazingly, I had another good seafood meal (red snapper) as the others devoured filet mignons. 


I slept in until 6:00 AM and then worked on my computer while the rest of the house slept. I found that the dedicated server was still down in spite of many email messages that we had sent to the support people. Bill, Stacey, Cathy, and I gathered at around 7:30 AM for a tiny breakfast and then opened gifts (pics 1, 2, 3). We followed that up with a superb brunch of fruit, waffles, maple log, and other goodies. We talked with Alex and Katie to see how their day was going and then played video games and viewed DVDs during a lazy afternoon. Bill and Stacey beat us in a movie game, given to them by Tom and Katie, which was partly on a DVD. We all got into some serious cooking (pics 1, 2) by late afternoon. The turkey flew at about 5:00 PM. The table (pics 1, 2, 3) looked very festive with newlywed china, silver, and crystal. Luckily, we had a professional in the party to lead in the after dinner cleanup. It was quite a wonderful day.

Friday, December 26

We arose at 6:00 AM, said goodbye to Bill and Stacey (and Boots and Sandy) and were on the road by 6:30 AM. We ate breakfast at a Starbucks. The day was beautiful, although we only had about 9 hours of daylight. We stopped at a Cracker Barrel to pick up a couple of audio books. We ate lunch at a Pizza Hut. Traffic was light for the most part. Shortly after we enter the PA Turnpike, we encountered a traffic backup of a few miles long caused by a westbound truck which flipped over the concrete divider and hung up on the guard rail in the eastbound lane and burned up. The driver died in the accident. We turned on our CB radio and were able to find out what happened. We lost about 2 hours in the jam. I was able to do some programming on my laptop, so it wasn't a total loss. As we finally drove out of the accident area, we crossed through a beautiful area where the trees were all covered with ice and snow; it was a magical scene. We arrived home at around 9:30 PM. We found that Al's Plumbing had installed a filter and water softener while we were away. 

Saturday, December 27

The NW wind was blowing hard as we arose, so we decided to pack the trailer tomorrow and use today to pick up last minute items and finalize our organization. I went to the bingo hall and helped Joe setup the new game sequence on the machine. Jim and Linda came over to get checked out on our security system which will be armed while we are away. Cathy and I went to lunch at Avalon Coffee and then went to K-Mart to buy a new CD case for the trip. We took a 5 mile walk around our "inland" route and returned just as the sun went down. We delivered our plants to Carol's house and then went to dinner at Cucina Rosa with Carol and Jim, Judy and Gary, and Laurie Beers. 

Sunday, December 28

I arose at 5:30 AM and worked on invoices. I also tested and uploaded to production my change to the "upgrade" on RightPriceWireless. After breakfast, I got two of our garden hose segments and loaded them into the storage compartment of the trailer. I hosed off the yellow kayak and loaded some more things in the storage compartment of the trailer. We popped up the camper and stored some more items on board. After we lowered it again, I discovered that it would be far too awkward to haul the kayak on top of either the trailer or the XTerra, so we unloaded all the stuff that I had stored inside the kayak and I put it back under the house with the other kayaks and locked them all up. Next, we discovered that the bike rack would not work with the trailer attached. So we won't have a kayak or bikes on the trip with us. There was a beautiful sunset over an unusally calm Bay to see us off on our trip. We decided to leave at midnight and to take route 301 from the Delaware Memorial Bridge down to below Washington. 

Monday, December 29

We arose at 11:30 PM last night. I took a quick shower and we were on the road at midnight. We went over the Delaware Memorial Bridge and then headed south on US 301. There was virtually no traffic until we hit I95 south of Washington D.C. We breakfasted at a Cracker Barrel with all of the other old farts and then continued south with all of the heavy traffic including many trucks. We also ate lunch at another Cracker Barrel and had tossed salads. We had finished with the audio books that we picked up on the way back from Indianapolis and exchanged them for two others. Although the traffic on I95 was intense, we kept driving until stop and go traffic approaching Savannah made us quit in Hardeeville, SC. We stayed at a cheap and shoddy Howard Johnson motel. I parked in a "quick getaway" configuration. After a short walk, we ate dinner at the worst restaurant since our meal in Wheeling, West Virginia on our "rim to rim" trip. I hit the bed at 7:30 PM and slept soundly after 770 miles of driving.

Tuesday, December 30

I awoke at 5:05 AM and took a long, hot shower. We were on the road at 6:00 AM. I95 was already very busy. We had just a touch of rain from the passing weather front. We breakfasted at a Cracker Barrel. We ate lunch at an Italian Restaurant (Guiseppi's) near Palm Coast, FL. This was about 4 miles to the west of I95 at exit 156. It was an exceedingly clean and friendly place with great food and is highly recommended for all who pass by there at mealtime. We decided to push on to Florida City at the end of a 550 mile day. We stayed a a Hampton Inn which was excellent in all ways. I parked in another "quick getaway" configuration. I was able to plug my laptop into their high-speed network right from our room. We took a walk to the nearby outlets and both bought Bass sandals for a total of $70. We ate a good seafood dinner at the Mutineer Restaurant where we were able to relax and enjoy ourselves. We decided that we deserved this trip partly because we have three wonderful children for whom we can take some small measure of credit. 

Wednesday, December 31

 I arose at 6:00 AM and worked on the 2004 rate pages for King Nummy Trail Campground. We ate breakfast at the motel, but were shut out from the toaster by a guy who was trying to prepare toaster waffles for his whole family. We were the only ones in the breakfast room without shorts and light shirts. I was dressed in blue jeans and a long sleeve shirt. We finally headed into the keys at around 8:30 AM. The temperature climbed into the 80s as we entered Key Largo. We stopped at a shopping center to buy a small cooler and bug spray. After the brief stop, we headed down the famous "Overseas Highway". Traffic was a bit heavier than usual due to the holiday, but not too bad. We called the Sugarloaf KOA to ask if we could check in early. The clerk told us to come on in and take our chances. We arrived at the campground a bit before noon. We immediately saw how crowded it was due to the holiday. A customer service guy on a golf cart led us to our site and helped me back in. Our first time setting up camp was an exercise in ineptitude, but we kept a sense of humor about it. I decided to fill our propane tanks first. When I removed one of the tanks, I noticed that it was heavy as if it was full of propane. Our dealer never told us that there was gas in the tanks, so we assumed that they were empty. We also found that we did not have a sewer hookup as I had expected. I asked one of the customer service guys and he told me that we could borrow a tote, which we did. We had a lot of problems getting our two "gray water" drains to work until we cut a couple of hoses to make very short ones. We popped the camper without too much difficulty since we had practiced that part. I hooked up to the water supply using our new water pressure regulator, but the connection leaked and we had almost no pressure. Luckily the guy in the huge RV next to us was a plumber and turned the regulator's screen around. It seems that the water faucet has a plastic tip in it that was pushing against the screen. We ate lunch in the campground snack bar. After lunch, we got our electricity working and, after some difficulty, got our stove working. By this time, Katie and Tom had arrived at their suite in the Quality Inn in Key West, so we drove over to join them for the evening's festivities. We decided to walk to the old seaport, about 3 miles away. We ate a wonderful dinner at Turtle Kraals with only a five minute wait to be seated. Then we headed over to Duval Street to immerse ourselves in the action. We walked around for a while and then went to a bar to sit and drink for a while. Cathy and I decided to call it quits around 10:30 PM and leave the night to the young. As we were walking down Duval Street, we noticed the couple ahead of us: a very drunk man, a moderately drunk woman, and a small baby in a soft backpack on the man's back. As we watched, we saw that the baby was starting to fall out of the backpack sideways. I ran up and caught the baby and told the mother what had happened. The guy was oblivious, but she cared enough to walk behind the guy to keep a bloodshot eye on the baby. We walked almost 2 miles before I was able to flag down a cab to take us to our car. We arrived back in our camper at 11:57 PM, just before the noise erupted from 10,000 boozed-up rednecks. We used our fan to drown out the music and other noises when we turned in around 12:30 PM. Good-bye 2003! More adventures await in 2004.

William G. McArthur