Nolan Getaways – 2009
Fall Getaway for Shrimp Festival and Trapp Visit
Page Updated Oct. 30, 2009
Return to Nolan Travels Home Page (travelogues and photos of major trips)
Lewis Nolan and his wife, Betty Nolan, pulled out of the
driveway of their home in Old East Memphis at 9:10 a.m. for their trip to
Before leaving, Betty cooked a usually wonderful breakfast for me of thin-sliced ham and eggs, served with a banana and glass of tomato juice as part of my low-carbohydrate diet. After eating and then reading the morning newspaper, I emailed my old college fraternity brother, Steve Sipes, about our plans for hosting his visit in Memphis Oct. 17 when he and his wife pass through town.
Betty and I planned to spend about a week at our condo on
the beach in
Following several days of unseasonably cool and wet weather
We seemed to pull over at rest stops more frequently than usual on the 375-mile drive to Gulf Shores we’ve been making four or more times a year since we purchased our condo more than 20 years ago. It was probably the need to use the bathroom more often now that we’re both on low-carb diets with lots of liquids.
We got onto U.S. 49 as usual just south of Jackson, Miss. The
weather delivered a lot of rain once we reached U.S. Highway 98 East just below
Hattiesburg, Miss., and continued wet from
A few miles farther south on
Highway 59, we also stopped at a locally owned appliance store doing business
under the great name of Sears, where Betty had already decided to buy a
Additionally, we also stopped at her favorite grocery store in Gulf Shores, Winn-Dixie, to buy a few groceries and a six-pack of low-alcohol O’Doul’s beer for me. In all, the trip down took about an hour longer than the normal 7 ½ hours due to the stops.
This was our first trip to Gulf Shores since early August, so we expected our rentable condo to be in sub-par condition due to seasonal messiness of tenants and erratic cleaning services by part-timers hired by our rental management company, Kaiser Realty.
But we were shocked to learn just how bad things were. I found out from an email from our Gulf Village Owners Association that a recent tenant had evidently caused extensive damage to the unit beneath our top-floor unit. Reportedly the tenant was “dead drunk” and either fell asleep or passed out while the bathtub was overfilled and an estimated 400 gallons of water had somehow drained through our bathroom floor. The flood of water dropped the ceiling of the unit below and resulted in other damages. In our unit, a splash rail had somehow been broken off the tub, a protecting gasket on a shower rail was broken, the handle on the freezer broken off, handle on the refrigerator had been pried loose, there was sand on the furniture and our wall-to-wall carpet was stained.
Glasses and dishes had not been properly cleaned. The sheets on our king size bed provided by a cleaning service were shabby and looked as though they had been slept in. Sharp kitchen knives had been moved out of a tableware drawer and loosely stacked in a dish cabinet. We were not happy campers, especially after 20 years of generally satisfactory service in renting and cleaning by Kaiser.
For dinner, Betty called in a takeout order of fried shrimp and grilled shrimp to a nearby restaurant on the beach, Bahama Bob’s, and we had that with a salad made with fresh lettuce from Burress.
Later, Betty called Ann Trapp and learned that Harvey Trapp was doing OK in a regular room at the hospital, but had been put on oxygen due to a little difficulty in breathing. She also called college friend SueAnn Turnage who lives in Pearl, Miss. I went to bed at 9 p.m., very tired from the long drive and put out-of-sorts by the condition of our condo.
October 8, 2009 –
Thursday – In
I called our rental agent first thing Thursday morning. She is a very nice and bright young woman by name of Shelia May. I asked that she come over to personally see what a sorry job Kaiser’s cleaning crew had done. I also wanted to follow up with her on Kaiser’s rental to a guy who was apparently a heavy drinker.
She showed up as promised, was equally shocked to see the unsatisfactory cleaning Kaiser’s sub-contracted workers had done and assured us that she would make amends.
Later, the president of our Gulf Village Owners Association, Danny Endress of Pelham, Ala., who owns a duplex unit across the street fromr our condo, dropped by as a follow-up to our earlier exchange of emails. He told what he could about the extensive water damage to the unit beneath our unit that was evidently caused by a tenant in our condo. I’m resolved to see what if anything our or other insurance can do about the costs of replacing the below unit’s ceiling and fixing other damage. I already know on the front end that I may have to hire a lawyer to pursue our claim for reimbursement.
I plan to wait until I get from Danny a copy of the bill for repairs to the damaged unit (Gulf Village No. 101) until I decide what to do. From what I’ve been told to date, the damage occurred because the unnamed tenant in my unit was highly intoxicated, fell asleep and let the tub water run, spill out of the tub, leaking an estimated 400 gallons of water and dropping the ceiling beneath. The water also caused extensive damage to that unit’s carpeting and some furnishings. It seems to me at this point that there is a tangle of potential liability:
That evening, Thursday October 8, Betty cooked on our new stove an excellent dinner of large shrimp she had purchased at a Gulf Shores fish market. She boiled over a pound of freshly caught shrimp. We had purchased our new Sears Kenmore electric range for more than $1,000 on our last trip down in early August.
We also had for dinner small bowls of canned Chicken Noodle Soup and small servings of her delicious Cole slaw brought from home. We enjoyed part of a bottle of Pinot Grigio white wine and slices of wonderful Angel Food cake she had made at home and served topped with Cool Whip and sliced, fresh strawberries.
After dinner, while Betty worked with a will to “deep clean” our condo, I relaxed and finished reading an excellent book in a series by British author Patrick O’Brian about England’s warships in the 18th Century referred to by the New York Times as the “finest historic fiction” written in the 20th Century.
9, 2009, Friday – In
I slept a little late, arising at 8 a.m. in our condo. I
cranked up my laptop computer first thing to check my email courtesy of a
bootlegged Internet Wi-Fi signal broadcast by a nearby condo complex. After
another great breakfast of ham and eggs cooked by Betty, I turned my attention
to continuing my writing of a travelogue about our trip of nearly a week last
Shortly after noon, Betty and I drove the back way to the Gulf State Park Golf Course, making stops at the Post Office, to mail a get-well card to our longtime pal and Realtor in Gulf Shores, Roger Kaiser. He had sold us our Gulf Village condo more than 20 years ago but is now in the midst of a lengthy recuperation at a hospital following a stroke several months ago. We also stopped at a laundry where Betty had left some bedding yesterday for their staff to wash on our behalf.
The main road along the beach,
We had a very good lunch prepared as usual by Park snack bar staffers. Three of the five mature women who work there are originally from Korea and their cleanliness and cooking is top rate. I had a cheeseburger with lettuce, tomato and pickles but no bread. Betty went for a tasty, grilled chicken sandwich without the bread. So at least so far, we’re doing a good job of sticking to the basics of our low-carb diet – no bread, no potatoes, no rice, no pasta and no junk food.
We started the diet in June. I’ve dropped 24 pounds and Betty 17 pounds so far. With way-too-much fat accumulated over the decades, I’ve got a long way to go before I reduce to normal size and weight for a man of my age. Betty looks terrific and is again wearing Size 8 clothing she “outgrew” several years ago.
We were sorry to learn that Kim, perhaps the senior Korean
on the snack bar staff, is undergoing chemo treatments for bone cancer at a
hospital that specializes in that therapy in Little Rock. She is there for two
weeks then home near
Another Korean we’ve come to know and like at the golf
course, Cha Cha, kindly gave me two gratis tokens to
the golf ball machine. I had been prepared to spend $4 for a bucket of range
balls to hit with the three clubs I had brought from home – a three wood, a
seven iron and a pitching wedge. Cha Cha, who speaks
in somewhat fractured English, is the staffer in charge of most custodial
duties in the snack bar and clubhouse. I think she and her Korean associates
came to the
A very nice woman by the name of Joan, one of two Americans on the snack bar staff (the other is manager Deborah), happily lost more than 100 pounds by having weight reduction surgery performed on her several years ago. We were pleased to see the weight has not returned.
My dozen golf shots on the practice range were abysmal. I couldn’t be too surprised by my extremely poor hitting since I haven’t played golf in nearly four years. I stopped playing at mid-round while playing at Old Waverly Golf Club in the fall of 2005 when I took a huge swing in a wide fairway and somehow tore the delicate rotator cuff in my right shoulder.
A subsequent visit to a highly recommended orthopedic
But I have missed playing the game, even poorly. So I
brought a few clubs to Gulf Shores in the hopes that a somewhat modified swing
taught me by pro Harry during my last trip to the Park course could allow me to
return to a low-key method of playing again. My hope was to play - on a limited
basis this winter - at the municipal Galloway Links course near our home in
My luck wasn’t running good on this outing to hit practice balls. No sooner had I shanked, hooked, sliced and topped 12 balls than the dark clouds parted and a heavy rain shower started falling. I beat a quick, drenched retreat, leaving well over a half-bucket of balls on the range for another player.
Betty and I drove a few miles from the State Park Golf
Course to her favorite dress shop in the area, Smart & Sassy, owned by a
mature woman with remarkably good taste. Her dresses and other female regalia
are in surprisingly on-target synchronization with the leading fashion houses
We then stopped at a favorite fish market on Highway 59 and
purchased two filets of fresh caught triggerfish, which Betty sautéed for
dinner and served with green beans, salad and her delicious pistachio custard
brought from home. That evening, I watched on TV a rerun of the highly
entertaining and educational PBS series on crab fishing in
Seeing on TV the chilling dangers the extremely well-paid crab fisherman face made me reflect on how grateful I should properly be for my successful – and relatively safe – careers in newspaper journalism and later in corporate communications. The realization made the high temperature of 90 degrees and proximity to the warm ocean on this trip especially a pleasure to enjoy.
I was especially pleased to see – when checking on a
bootlegged Internet signal that the Dow-Jones Industrial Average had hit a
record of 9,800 for this year when it closed today. That translated to a nice
paper gain for our retirement investments in the stock market. Those
investments were made possible by the handsome salary and awards I earned
during my 12 years at Schering-Plough, where I served as Vice President of Communications
for the consumer business of the Company. It is a huge treat for me and
millions of others to see the almost daily stock gains as the market climbs its way back to the pre-Bush Administration economic
strength of the
Of course, like other investors, I face a big tax bite in the future. But I take solace because that is a good problem to have. It won’t be too long before my age – now 66 – exceeds for me the tax deferral opportunities offered by IRAs. Notwithstanding that future cost, it sure is nice to again be able on occasion to give my beloved Betty nice gifts like today’s minor spending spree at the dress shop.
10, 2009, Saturday – In
We arose just after 8 a.m. to a sunny day not expected to be as hot as the previous day. Betty said she had been up when very heavy rain came through our beach complex about 10:30 p.m. I slept OK but after a couple of hours of tossing-and-turning got up at 1:30 a.m. to have my too-often, customary, late-night snack of cheese on a piece of Melba toast, tonic water (to stave off night leg cramps due to its quinine offsetting the loss of potassium from taking certain blood pressure medication) and a few sips of TAB.
The snack as usual helped me fall back asleep, but I was hungry again a few hours later and enjoyed another of Betty’s great breakfasts of two scrambled eggs, a slice of ham, tomato juice, banana and ice water.
After eating, I turned on my laptop computer, checked my
email by accessing a bootlegged Internet signal then commenced my writing of
trip segment of last month’s visit to Northern California. This segment was
about our two-night stay in
With Betty driving, we left our
We purchased a gift certificate providing enough for our rental agent, Shelia May, and a guest to enjoy a nice lunch or light supper at the Wharf and presented it to her on our way back to our condo. Once back, Betty repaired to the beach while I stayed back in the condo to do some more writing on my California trip travelogue. I tried to clean up the overloaded laptop hard drive but soon concluded some professional help is required for that needed maintenance.
October 11, 2009, Sunday – In Gulf Shores, Ala.
Danny Endress, until recently chief of the Pelham, Ala., fire department near Birmingham and continuing as president of the Gulf Village Association, dropped by our condo to brief us on the association’s work to repair some water damage. He asserted it was due to a “drunk” tenant in our unit having overfilled the bathtub in late August while sleeping. He said a subsequent investigation indicated that the overflow amounted to over 400 gallons, dropping the ceiling of the unit beneath ours.
(Upon our return to Memphis, we were told by Kaiser, our rental agent, that an insurance contract signed by the tenant – whom they initially declined to identity - provided for reimbursement of tenant-caused damages up to $1,500 per rental.)
Later, Betty and I walked about a mile-and-a-half up West Beach Blvd. to the annual Shrimp Festival in the main public beach area near the intersection with Highway 59. We poked around the vendor booths selling various souvenirs and carnival junk; Betty purchased a pair of interesting, glass earrings made by a young craftswoman from Northern Georgia.
We had been advised to visit the festival on Sunday morning when expected crowds were lighter than the crush of 300,000 coming on Saturday. We happened to bump into Shelia May, our rental agent who has worked for Kaiser for 6 years, and met her husband and teenaged son; we were pleased to inform her that we had left a gift for her at the office good for a meal for two at Ginny Lane restaurant we like at The Wharf development in nearby Orange Beach.
We stopped at Bahama Bob’s beachfront restaurant on the walk back to our condo and had an excellent lunch of fried oysters, fried shrimp and a large salad we split.
Once back and with temperatures warming into the low 70s, I took my customary afternoon nap while Betty sunned on the beach in front of our condo complex, a favorite activity now that the hyperactive kids of summer are pretty much gone for the season.
October 12, 2009, Monday – In Gulf Shores, Ala.
I continued my writing on a laptop computer of a travelogue about last month’s trip to Northern California while Betty dealt with the nitty gritty of cleaning dirty tile in our condo’s kitchen area. We are resolved to have tile installed in areas now occupied by wall-to-wall carpeting when it becomes more worn, with a higher grade of tile to be put down by a better crew than the Mexican workers who put it in limited areas a few years ago.
The scheduled delivery of our new Kenmore refrigerator didn’t show up as planned in the morning. But finally two muscular and pleasant young men – one a recent U.S. Army veteran who served in Iraq and Afganistan – showed up and muscled the old frig down the four flights of stairs and brought the new one up. However, it was quickly apparent that somebody had screwed up the shipping of our order as the model they delivered had the hinged door opening in the wrong direction.
After some calls to their boss at Sears, the young men agreed to leave the one they delivered in place and come back in a couple of weeks with the same model properly equipped with a door that opens to the interior of the kitchen instead of blocking the door. It’s uncanny how often such screw-ups as hinges installed on the wrong side seem to occur when we’re dealing with large corporations these days.
I napped for a while that morning, then repaired to the Park Golf Course range and hit about 40 golf practice balls. Nearly all my shots were terrible, which was not surprising given the nearly four-year layoff from golf due to an injured shoulder. Later, I went to a nearby Wal-Mart store with Betty, where she purchased a small rug for our condo kitchen area and a few supplies and groceries.
At 5 p.m., we drove to Orange Beach and the relatively new Wolf Bay Lodge seafood restaurant there, certainly our favorite in the area now that our favorite old stand by place, The Spot, was demolished several years ago to make way for a fancy retail-condo development overlooking the main public beach in Gulf Shores.
Predictably, our early dinner was absolutely wonderful. I had a big bowl of salad and some scrumptious fried oysters and shrimp, with green beans served in place of French fries. Betty went for a bowl of their delicious gumbo and we both indulged in rare margaritas that hit the spot.
Back at the condo, Betty again showed her stern stuff and cleaned the floor tile that evidently wasn’t as impervious to grime and stains as we had thought it would be when purchased. Most of the Shrimp Festival crowd is now gone and Gulf Shores is back to being the delightful and quiet beach town we’ve grown to love over our two decades-plus of ownership there.
The news from Newton County, Miss., was positive, with Betty’s reports of big brother Harvey Trapp being released from the hospital and on his way home to the family farm near the border between Newton and Jasper Counties. Betty and I plan to depart Gulf Shores Wednesday morning and drive to the Trapp farm so she can help wife Ann Trapp provide care and cooking. I’ll have my laptop with me and hope to pretty well finish my writing of my travelogue about last month’s trip to California.
October 13, 2009, Tuesday – In Gulf Shores, Ala.
Betty and I arose about 7:45 a.m. and were pleased to discover the noise we heard in the middle of the night was the new refrigerator’s ice maker dumping fresh ice into the freezer storage bin. So at least we know it works. Now the problem is to get the replacement frig installed as promised in plenty of time for our next trip down this way around Thanksgiving.
Following the customary, excellent breakfast of ham and eggs cooked by Betty, tomato juice and a banana, I turned to writing and polishing my travelogue about our recent California trip. She drove to the big Tanger Mall to shop at its outlet stores in nearby Foley, Ala. I took a break from writing at late morning for a nap. A nice lady by the name of Carmen, an employee of Kaiser Realty, dropped by the condo to deliver some fresh sheets following our earlier complaint to the property management firm about the wrong size having been left on a bed.
That evening, we pretty well cleaned out the condo refrigerator by having leftovers for dinner then retired fairly early.
October 14, 2009, Wednesday – Gulf Shores, Ala., to Trapp Farm near Newton, Miss.
We arose just before 8 a.m. to a gentle rain, giving us a lousy weather prospect for the planned drive this morning to Harvey Trapp’s farm in South Mississippi. Betty cooked me the usually great breakfast including two scrambled eggs, thin slices of ham and tomato juice then we finished packing and departure cleaning. We pulled out of Gulf Village at 10:15 a.m. and drove as the weather cleared north and west. We stopped at Burress Farm Market at Loxley, Ala., on Highway 59 where Betty bought some fresh peaches and tomatoes to give to Harvey and Ann Trapp.
During the drive, we got a telephone call on a cell phone from Steve Sipes, my fraternity brother and fellow member of the Sacramento State College swimming team of the early 1960s. With regret, he advised that he had to cancel his planned stop and stay in Memphis next week because of a family emergency that required him to return to his home in Texas as soon as possible. I was sorry to hear of it and we talked about a future visit at either his home or our home.
We drove the customary route on Interstate 10 to U.S. 98 to Hattiesburg, Miss., then onto I-59 for a few miles then onto Highway 15 North to Laurel, Miss.. proceeding through tiny towns of Bay Spring, Levin and Montrose to Farm Road 14 at the Garlandville turn. We drove that rural road a few miles then onto to a recently repaved, narrow lane of Local Road 2414 to the Trapp farm. The 440-acre farm is so far out from any community of size that one has to drive many miles to be in the sticks.
It was good seeing Harvey on his feet when he came to the back door to greet us. He looked a bit tired after his very major surgery for colon cancer last week, but we already knew that he’s definitely a tough guy with a lot of stamina and strength who’s recovering faster than expected. He was especially glad to see Betty, his “baby sister” with whom he has shared a special caring relationship through the years. Harvey’s wife, Ann, was still at her work at her longtime legal assistant job in a law office at nearby Decatur, Miss. The town of Decatur is where both formerly lived, where Harvey served for some years as Business Manager of East Central Community College (where Betty and I met in 1965) and where Trapp daughter Tonya works and lives in Harvey’s old house with her husband, Jimmie Nowell, and their 7-year-old daughter, Maggie.
Betty planned to cook dinner for the Trapp family that evening and do whatever “grunt work” she could to help out during our brief stay. I had been politely ordered to “stay out the way” and was reconciled to polishing some of my writing on a laptop computer plus do a little napping and reading.
It was fun being with Harvey and his family for two days. Dog-lover Betty especially enjoyed playing with Belle, a female Labrador Retriever, and Violent, an odd-looking but affectionate Blue Healer (both dogs evidently either recognize us from previous visits or sense that we are not threats), and several barely tame cats that live on the farm including a recent litter of five kittens.
Thanks to Betty’s superb culinary skills and loads of food the Trapps had on hand in their two refrigerator-freezers in the house (more freezers in the barn in a special room where Harvey cleans and cuts meat from the game he hunts), we had a wonderful dinner of genuine country cooking – baked chicken breast, home-grown butter beans, squash and zucchini and Betty’s Angel Food cake (topped with locally grown blueberries and peaches). Tonya, Jimmie and Maggie came for dinner and we also enjoyed their company.
We helped support Maggie’s fund-raising on behalf of her public school, where she is in the second grade, by buying $15 worth of cookie dough that we asked be delivered to Harvey and Ann. It was a delightful evening with the family.
October 15, 2009, Thursday – Trapp Farm to Memphis
I slept until nearly 8 a.m. in the guest room bed at the Trapp farm near Newton, Miss. Newton was where I would take Betty on “date nights” held on Tuesdays at East Central Junior College at nearby Decatur, Miss. (since renamed to East Central Community College). The movie theatre in that small town was the closest in that section of Mississippi to anything that would show nearly “first run” movies that were reserved for larger markets. .
Betty again cooked a real breakfast for both me and her brother, Harvey, that we ate with relish (as in delight not sandwich topping). I told him about the noise of rustling leaves I had heard in the middle of the night just outside a bedroom window. He assured me the sound was made by some of the wild deer that come onto his farmland to eat falling nuts from wild Pecan trees.
Harvey looks a lot better this morning than he did yesterday, likely due to the stomach distress he experienced by drinking a carbonated beverage too soon; he had been advised to let Cokes, Pepsi’s and the like to sit for 15-to-20 minutes to allow the bubbles to dissipate before drinking.
We were delighted to see after 50 years the long-time, now retired Dean of Instruction for East Central, Dr. Brad Tucker. He dropped by the farm to check on his longtime fishing buddy Harvey. Another friend of his, named Fred, also came by, confirming for us that as expected that Harvey is well-liked, popular and well thought of in the area
Betty fed some bread crumbs to the fish in the Trapp’s farm pond and played for a short time with their dogs and cats. We then loaded up her Ford Focus and drove nearly five hours to Memphis via Jackson, Miss. We stopped to buy a salad at Wendy’s during the drive, which I ate in the car, and Betty grilled hamburgers for dinner once we got home.