Happy Holidays 1997

Wednesday 11/26
The wind blew overnight, at times very noisily. I rode my bike to aerobics. Cathy and I belong to North Beach Health Club in North Cape May. Becky and Mark Chamberlain are the proprietors. Becky's class was good and tough. I lifted weights for a while before class. When I got home, I packed and called Joe, our Shore Toyota salesman. He said that everything was set for a pick-up of our new RAV4 at around 2:15 p.m. So, at 2:15 we showed up. We had to sit around for a couple of hours signing papers, but we finally left with our silver RAV4. The cheap bastard manager at Shore Toyota gave us a measly $200 for the old reliable Tercel. We arrived at Alex and Phil's house in Springfield (Delaware County) at around 5:15 p.m. Son Bill and Phil arrived from the airport where Bill had come in from Tennessee a bit after 6:00 p.m. Katie and her fiancé Tom arrived after 7:00 p.m. Somehow Alex, with her new job at Sterling Commerce, had prepared a good pasta meal for us. After dinner we viewed "Austin Powers" - silly fun.

Thursday 11/27
Thanksgiving! Cathy and I awoke at 7:00 a.m. and breakfasted. I went for a fifty-one minute run around the Springfield (Delaware County), Upper Darby, Drexel Hill area. The day was clear and pretty, but brisk and windy as well. At about 10:30 a.m. We started preparing the stuffing with Alex doing the bread and Cathy doing the onion and celery. We got the turkey on at 11:30 a.m. We called around to find an open pizza joint to no avail, so we jumped into two cars and went searching. We found an open Denny's (remember last year?) and split into a table of three and one of four. The service was terrible and the food barely tolerable. When we returned to Alex and Phil's we opened Christmas presents. Katie then opened birthday presents. The rest of the afternoon was the usual flurry of meal preparation, with me in command. We sat down to a great (humbly said) Thanksgiving feast at 6:30 p.m. Alex used her best china, silver, and crystal so it was quite a spectacle. I had acorn squash stuffed with lentils and brown rice. Afterward we viewed "Grosse Pointe Blank" which was fluffy, but OK.

Friday 11/28
This is "Black Friday." The day began overcast and still. Cathy and I were the first up around 7:30 a.m. Everyone finally rallied for a trip to the gym for weights and exercycles and treadmills. I wanted to do an aerobics class, but there was only a body sculpting class available. We returned, showered, and scattered in three directions. Bill, who didn't go to the gym, headed to Villanova to meet with "Tree", a former rugby comrade. Tom, Phil, and I headed out for some light shopping. Cathy, Alex, and Katie headed to King of Prussia for some serious shopping. My group, in the RAV4, started at Wright's Village, a "good ole boys" enclave in the Philadelphia suburbs. It consists of a group of stores dealing with hunting and fishing and truck accessories. I bought a pair of "hook-pulling" pliers for my new tackle box which Katie and Tom had given me. Next we went to I. Goldberg's army/navy store. This is actually similar to REI. Tom bought a fleece for his sister's birthday. Then we went to Border's where I bought the last of Cathy's presents. Next we went to Performance Bikes where I got an "over the spare" bike rack for the RAV4. Finally, we went to K-Mart so Phil could get a hunting rain suit (it has built-in cup holders). We came back to the house and watched some football. Bill had already arrived back from lunch. We four guys left around 5:30 p.m. for the Core States Center in South Philadelphia to watch the Sixers play the Lakers. After parking for $8, we entered a VIP entrance and took an elevator up to the "Victor's Lounge", a trendy bar and restaurant overlooking the arena floor. Beer, including O'Doul's, cost $5 each. We had two rounds. We went downstairs to an extensive food court area. The other guys got soft pretzels, but I couldn't find any without salt. We sat in the arena in a lower section in a corner of the basketball court. The Sixers surprised everyone by winning. It was quite a spectacle of sight and sound. A few times during the game, the "Sixers Dancers", sponsored by a Lancaster plastic surgeon, entertained the crowd with their silicon treasures. Will Smith and L.L. Cool J. were introduced to the crowd at halftime. We arrived back home at 10:30 p.m. after a stop at WaWa for frozen yogurt. The other guys had a leftover turkey feast while I ate my yogurt. We watched "Pulp Fiction" for a while. The women arrived home at a bit after midnight after shopping and visiting Monica's (a Villanova friend of Alex's) family. I finally gave up on "Pulp Fiction" at about 1:30 a.m.

Saturday 11/29
I awoke at 7:30 a.m., got the paper, and ate breakfast. Tom, Katie, and I wrestled with the RAV4 wheel cover and got it part way on. Then Alex and Cathy joined us for a walk along the Schuykill River and Kelley Drive. The day was warm, clear, and very pretty. After lunch we said good-byes all around and we drove Bill to the airport as he departed for Knoxville. We dropped Bill off at about 3:00 p.m. Because of weather and snafus, Bill wouldn't arrive in Knoxville until noon the next day. We headed for home. Later we went out for dinner at the Whitebriar Restaurant in Avalon.

11/30 - 12/18
I completed my third semester teaching a Richard Stockton College. Aerobics, biking, hiking on the beach, and kayaking continued apace.

Friday 12/19
Because it is Katie's 24th birthday today, we left a bit after 7:00 a.m. for Blacksburg. Our new Toyota RAV4 performed well. There was lots of traffic on I81 heading south. We arrived at Katie's apartment at about 4:30 p.m. After a short walk on campus, we went to dinner at Iponema Restaurant (Brazilian). Then we returned for a birthday celebration with Tom's cake and ice cream. Tom decorated the cake with balloons.

Saturday 12/20
We awoke around 7 a.m. I managed to desiccate two bagels in Katie's microwave. I've never experienced such hard bagels. We decided to go for a hike. We drove out of Blacksburg on the back road that heads north towards Salem. We parked at the trail head and headed up the "Dragon's Tooth" trail. The day was mostly sunny and warm enough to make for comfortable hiking. The views were beautiful. We ate lunch on the descent as we looked over the valley. The hike took about 3 hours. When we got back, Tom and I rode about 10 miles of Blacksburg's "Greenway." In between, Cathy and I got to meet Dr. Bob Hoen and Dr. Tom Grizzard, Katie's mentors. We ate dinner at Gilly's, a neo-hippy vegetarian restaurant near campus. The food was very good, but I made the politically incorrect suggestion that I would like a diet coke; they don't serve coke or pepsi products for political reasons. The waiter tried to make me feel like an ass, but he managed to make me act like a stiff who shorted his tip considerably. At one point, Tom said that he wanted to order a baby seal and a club for dessert. Back at Katie's apartment, we viewed "Walkabout", a surreal, confusing, collage of Australian scenery.

Sunday 12/21
Winter Solstice! We left Katie's apartment at about 7:30 a.m. for the long drive back. We saw lots of hawks while driving through the mountains from Blacksburg to Harrisonburg. We arrived back in Cape May at about 4:30 p.m. We viewed "My Best Friend's Wedding" - better than I expected.

Monday 12/22
It was 31 degrees at 6:00 a.m. this morning. I checked my email and then rode my bike to Becky's aerobics class. After lunch I did some shopping: Tom Wolfe's book on CD, 1998 Journal, Magellan GPS ($100!), and blind spot mirrors for the RAV4. We both went to Chris's 6:00 p.m. aerobics class.

Tuesday 12/23
I spent most of the day packing the RAV4. I ended up putting fishing poles, net, and paddles lashed inside the kayak. The kayak got lashed to the roof rack and our bikes were hung with care on the spare tire bike rack. We took the 1:40 p.m. ferry to Delaware and started our drive at about 3:00 p.m. We almost stopped at a Pizza Hut at the terminus of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge/Tunnel at 6:30 p.m. Cathy didn't want to stop so we continued until Petersburg where we stopped at Wendy's at about 8:30 p.m. We quit for the night at South of the Border around 12:30 a.m. We hit the sack around 1:00 a.m. I was rudely awakened by noisy neighbors at 2:40 a.m. They quit by 3:00 a.m.

Wednesday 12/24
Our alarm fired at 5:00 a.m. We ate biscuits in Pedro's Diner and were hurtling down I95 in the rain by about 6:00 a.m. Lots of rain and cars and high-speed driving led us to Pizza Hut in Starke, Florida for lunch. We arrived at Bob and Marianne's at about 4:00 p.m. We went to Xmas mass at 6:30 p.m. and were back on the street by shortly after 7:00 p.m. - not a record, but not bad. We enjoyed the Bialas' traditional Polish dinner (borsht, kilbase, ham, and perogees). The boys enjoyed a real video version of "Spirit of Christmas" followed by a visit by Bill "donut-man" Jonassen. We all watched "South Park" at 10:00 p.m. Some of us (including son Bill) enjoyed it.

Thursday 12/25
Christmas! It rained hard most of the night. I stayed in bed until 8:00 a.m. Bob had left early to visit patients. The rest of the crew staggered their starts until 10:00 a.m. We exchanged presents in the Bialas' multiprocessing style. Later on, the guys went out for a ride in the Bialas' new 20-foot Pro-Line boat. It rained for about half of the ride. We had a turkey dinner followed by viewing of Bill's South Park Tape. Some of us enjoyed it. Kick Ass!

Friday 12/26
The rain had paused when I awoke, so I went for a run down to the Gulf. When I returned, I loaded the kayak on the RAV4 and went to the causeway leading to Sand Key. I paddled around for a while in the rain and then Stephanie and Erin showed up at the end of their morning run. Stephanie joined me for a rainy paddle in the canals and lagoons around the ICW. During the paddle I saw a belted kingfisher, oystercatchers, willets, egrets, great blue herons, and lots of brown pelicans. Cathy, Marianne, and I went to the Salvador Dali Museum in Saint Petersburg. Everyone in the museum had that "It's raining and I wish I were on the beach" look on their faces, but we enjoyed the visit. I was most fascinated by the fact that Dali had an older brother, also named Salvador, who died at one year old. I know how hard it is to grow up in the shadow of a perfect living brother, how much harder it must be to grow up in the shadow of a perfect dead brother with the same name. We all went to dinner at the Salt Rock Restaurant at Indian Rocks Beach. The dinner was great.

Saturday 12/27
Cathy and I left at 7:30 a.m. in a very heavy rain which lasted for two hours of driving. We had to detour onto upper Key Largo because US 1 was closed due to an accident. We ate lunch at the south end of Key Largo. We arrived at the realtor's office at about 4:00 p.m. It had been raining hard for the last 25 miles coming into Key West. The realtor took us to our "Crow's Nest" with a beautiful view of the Atlantic Ocean. By the time we had unpacked and settled in, the rain had slowed to a drizzle. We walked to Duval Street and ate at "Two Friends", a half block off of Duval. The food was OK. When we got home, I  managed to break off the head of a toilet brush in the innards of the toilet. I dreaded the hassle of realtors and plumbers waiting in the morning.

Sunday 12/28
The rain had stopped by morning. I spent a fitful night thinking about the brush stuck in the toilet. I arrived at a solution which I implemented in the morning: use a fishing lure to snag the brush on a hook and pull it out. My fishing trick worked! We breakfasted on the deck, enjoying the beautiful morning. We rode our bikes counter-clockwise around the whole island. We stopped at the historic seaport and we stopped at Fort Taylor State Park where we saw two big liners, "Rotterdam" and "Norwegian Majesty", come into Key West's port. When we returned we lunched on the deck. Then we went for a kayak paddle eastward almost to Cow Key Channel. It was a bit windy, but the water was warm. Then we walked to Papa Hemingway's house so Cathy could buy some stuff at the sacred gift shop. Later we went fishing on White Street Pier - no fish. We walked to Duval Street and ate dinner at Bagatelle - great meal! The evening was chilly and breezy.

Monday 12/29
Rainy morning - wind and dark clouds. We ate breakfast indoors. I jogged to Flagler Boulevard along the water and then back to where Cathy was walking - total of about four miles. Together, we completed a six-mile loop. We saw lots of black skimmers over the water as we walked. After lunch I fished from the White Street Pier for a couple of hours. I didn't catch any fish, but I lost two lures that were snagged on the bottom. It was very windy while I was fishing. When I returned, I headed out for a windy kayak paddle. I paddled though high winds and choppy water for a bit over an hour. I saw white ibis and magnificent frigate birds. We waked to Duval Street and then headed over to Blue Heaven for dinner - outstanding!

Tuesday 12/30
The wind blew hard all night. The entire commercial fishing fleet was anchored overnight just offshore and inside the reef. Seas are running 11 feet outside the reef. As we started to take a bike ride, the rain started. It was soon over. We saw Kate and Brian from the North Beach fitness center in Cape May parked at one of the beaches. They had slept in their truck overnight since their room reservation starts tonight. We rode to Fort Taylor to see the rough water and then went over to Stock Island which is right next to Key West. We took an external tour of the Florida Keys Community College; it looks like South of the Border because of its multi-colored buildings. The campus is right on the water (of course). The ride was windy but warm enough with the sun out. By lunchtime, the day was beautiful but breezy. After lunch I paddled for two hours and trolled for fish (no luck). It was windy and choppy on the water, but also warm and sunny. After I showered, we rode our bikes to the Kino sandal factory and bought sandals for Erin, Cathy, and I. the fishing trawlers were heading in as we returned. Hopefully that will mean less wind tomorrow. We watched sunset on the White Street Pier. We had a drink in Mulachy's Bar on Duval Street and then went to dinner at Antonia's Restaurant - good, but overrated and rushed.

Wednesday 12/31
Last day of the year! We awoke to a beautiful sunrise over the ocean, visible from bed. I jogged for four and a half miles and met Cathy; we continued for about ten miles total. After lunch we went fishing on the Captain John's Greyhound V party boat. We fished near the reef. The day was absolutely gorgeous. Cathy caught a grunt and then spent the rest of the trip up on the sun deck; I caught a porgy and three grunts. We saw some dolphins from the boat and a frigate bird flew overhead at our first of three fishing locations. One of the mates made me put away my GPS since the fishing sites are secret. We ate dinner at South Beach Restaurant on the beach at the base of Duval Street - good meal, excellent atmosphere. We headed up Duval to the crazy crowd at Sloppy Joe's. We called Carol Matthews (one of our aerobics instructors from Cape May) and her New Year's Eve party at about 11:00 p.m. in the midst of the pandemonium. We left about 11:30 p.m. and headed back. At midnight we were near the White Street Pier. Good-bye 1997!

Thursday 01/01
Hello 1998! We watched a clean sunrise from bed this morning somewhat after 7:00 a.m. The wind was blowing hard from the northeast but there was plenty of blue sky and sun. Because of the wind it stayed chilly all day. We began the day's activities with a drive to Sugarloaf Key and a nice bike ride on Sugarloaf Boulevard. The ride had lots of water views, few houses, and wind-blocking mangroves on both sides of the road in most places. We went to Pizza Hut for lunch. I fished off of the kayak for about an hour and a half. I used squid for bait - no fish. It was windy and rough out on the water. After a shower, we walked to Duval Street and back. Then we drove to Cathy's cousin Ruth Ann's house on Sugarloaf Key. She and her waterman husband Harry live on a point of land jutting out into the back bays. They served us stone crab claws and lobster tails that Harry had gathered. Great dinner!

Friday 01/02
 Last day of vacation. We awoke with the sunrise. The temperature had climbed overnight but there was a stiff east wind and small craft advisory. We had a comfortable breakfast on the deck. We rode our bikes out on Stock Island, down to the marina at the south side of the island. I saw a man at the marina with a "Porgy III" T-shirt. Over the summer I had fished often near to the Cape May party boat Porgy III, so I said hello. It turns out that the man used to captain the "Miss Cape May" party boat (which doesn't explain the T-shirt) and for the past three years he has lived in Key West and captains a fifty-seven foot yacht. We biked to Sunset Pier at the head of Duval Street. We had a nice lunch out on the pier: fish sandwiches eaten right at the rail over the water of the harbor. We rode back to the apartment and I did a bit of nude sunbathing on the deck. I started to pack the RAV4 when Shannon, her husband Chuck, and his son Matt arrived from Cape Coral, Florida. We all walked to Duval Street and had a drink in Sloppy Joe's. Then we walked over to the historic seaport and ate dinner at Turtle Kraals: very nice meal. When we got home I discovered that someone had stolen my bike bag. I finished packing the RAV4, took a last look and listen of the ocean from the deck, and headed for bed.

Saturday 01/03
We awoke at 5:00 a.m. and were on the road by 5:30. The GPS had told us that our house was 1045 miles from the apartment, but we suspected that the drive would be considerably longer. Traffic was extremely light. We ate breakfast at IHOP on Marathon Key. We lunched at Wendy's in Titusville, Florida. The traffic on I95 was thick but fast. Everyone was driving at 75 to 80 mph. We listened to the CD version of Tom Wolfe's audio-only book, Ambush at Fort Bragg. I don't know how he managed to create such a highly repetitive and pointless work - definitely a waste of money at any price. Cathy read aloud about half of Michael Crichton's Airframe. We had dinner at an Italian restaurant in Reedsville, South Carolina. We arrived at South of the Border at 9:10 p.m. after 840 miles of driving.

Sunday 01/04
We awoke at 5:00 a.m. and were again on the road by 5:30. We stopped for breakfast at Wilson, North Carolina at a bit after 7:00 a.m. Traffic was lighter on I95 and the day was sunny and beautiful as it had been yesterday. We stopped for lunch just past Baltimore at about 12:15 p.m. Cathy finished reading Airframe which we both liked. We were home at 3:05 p.m. after a trip of 1410 miles (570 miles today).

We're hoping that Alex, Phil, Bill, Katie, and Tom will join us in Paradise next year.