Nolan Getaways – 1999

Travel by Lewis and Betty Nolan

 

Jan. 22-24: Gulf Shores, AL

Aug. 13: Old Waverly

Mar, 17: Old Waverly, West Point, MS

Aug. 27: Old Waverly

Mar. 27-April 4: Atlanta, St. Petersburg, FL

Sept. 6: Old Waverly

April 24-25: Jackson, MS

Oct. 14: Old Waverly

May 8: Old Waverly

Oct. 15-17: St. Louis, MO

May 13-16: Gulf Shores

Nov. 5: Old Waverly

June 3: Old Waverly

Nov. 23-28: Gulf Shores

June 5: Old Waverly

Dec. 11: Old Waverly

June 18-July 14: Western States, Hawaii

Dec. 18-Jan. 2, 2000: Gulf Shores

July 26-Aug. 8: Gulf Shores

 

 

Continue With Getaways - 2000 / Return To Nolan Travels Home Page

 

Page Updated April 9, 2008

 

To Gulf Shores after Hurricane Georges Damage

 

Jan. 22-24, 1999 – To Gulf Shores, AL

 

Betty and I drove from our home in Memphis to Gulf Shores, AL to attend a special meeting of the Gulf Village Association. We wanted to learn about plans for repairing the damage to our complex from Hurricane Georges, which tore into our condominium building in September, 1998. lt had been recorded as hitting nearby Fort Morgan with a storm surge 25 feet high and dropping more than 29 inches of rain on Bay Minette. In Gulf Shores, there were 251 houses, 16 apartment buildings and 70 businesses that experienced significant damage.

 

The middle building of our complex which houses our upstairs, one-bedroom condo had been declared “condemned” by local authorities due to structural failures in several of the concrete I-beams that held up the two-story building. We were advised that it might be summer before the building repairs to make it habitable are completed.

 

We drove a Fleetmark rental Ford Taurus to Gulf Shores and made the trip even though I was suffering from the flu. Since our condo was legally uninhabitable, we stayed at a nearby Comfort Inn motel on the northern outskirts of town. I was in bed most of the time except for the condo owners association meeting.

 

I later decided it was probably just as well since I learned at the meeting just how week our paid association management is. There wasn’t much I could do about it other than pay my share of the special assessments for repairs when due.

 

Alibi Readied for Lousy Golf at Old Waverly

 

March 17, 1999 – To Old Waverly Golf Club, West Point, MS

 

I rode a golf cart for 9 holes and walked for 9 holes at Old Waverly, where I had a total score of 96 for the round of 18 holes. What a lousy start to open my year for golf. I think the fact that I missed my usual golf at Christmas when at Gulf Shores, AL for a week or more was a big factor in my poor play. We didn’t make our customary Christmas trip to the Gulf of Mexico because of the damage from Hurricane Georges. So at least I had an alibi for not playing and shooting so poorly at Gulf Shores, which has one of my favorite courses in the State Park.

 

To Atlanta and Florida for Spring Break

 

March 27-April 4, 1999 – To Atlanta and St. Petersburg, FL

 

 Betty and I drove in her Mustang convertible to Atlanta and then to Florida to take a vacation during her spring break from teaching Culinary Arts in Memphis City School’s Northside High School. We had good weather for the first leg of our trip. We went via U.S. 78 eastwards from Memphis and made it to Atlanta in 6 ½ hours. We spent the night in a Comfort Inn in the Buckhead part of town. Unfortunately, due to my mixing up the clock settings for Daylight Savings Time, we were an hour late and not able to get tickets to the renowned Impressionists Exhibition at the High Museum art gallery.

 

We drove around some of the elegant neighborhoods of midtown Atlanta and had a so-so dinner at Houlihans on Peachtree.

 

We visited the gorgeous Atlanta Botanic Garden on Sunday morning, where I somehow managed to lose my eyeglasses. We then drove to Stone Mountain Park on the outskirts of Atlanta, where I found the 190-feet wide carving on a mountain of stone of Confederate Generals Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson with President Jefferson Davis to be awesome.

 

We then drove east to Vidalia, GA but happened to arrive four weeks before the famous sweet onion crop harvest was scheduled to get underway. We stayed at a new Comfort Inn, which had new furniture and an indoor pool, at a good rate of $34 a night courtesy of my membership in AARP.

 

At our Comfort Inn, we encountered the most ignorant motel manager I’ve ever dealt with. The young woman was pleasant enough, We stayed at a new Comfort Inn, which had new furniture and an indoor pool at a good rate of $34 a night courtesy of my membership in AARP.

 

At our Comfort Inn, the motel manager knew nothing about tours of the Onion Factory up the road a mile or two. She had not a clue about local sales of liquor or beer on Sundays or even directions to the nearest town. That night we had a pretty good self-serve buffet meal at a nearby Shoney’s.

 

On Monday, April 29, we found our own way using a map to navigate on back roads until we reached the busy Interstate 75. We ran into Spring Break traffic and couldn’t even get a connection with my cell phone. Despite a warning from the staff of the Georgia Visitor Center near the state line, we managed to get through a bottleneck near Lake City without delay. We got into the fabulous River Wilderness development at Parrish, FL south of St. Petersburg at mid-afternoon.

 

Our friends the Raubs have a beautiful retirement home that is right on a tournament-quality golf course. Among residents of the community are PGA star golfer Paul Azinger. The Raub’s spacious, one-story house has an attached “pool house,” a two-story structure of aluminum framing and metal screening to keep the bugs out but open up the house to the outdoors for swimming and golf watching.

 

Betty and I were guests of the Raubs for two nights in one of their spare bedrooms. Bob was nursing a sore neck from an injury so I played golf with Charlene on the tough River Wilderness course. I shot a 99, a score that certainly didn’t please me. But I was really glad seeing the Raubs and we enjoyed our time with them.

 

On Wednesday, Betty and I drove south to the Pelican Point Development at Bonita Springs, FL, near the deluxe retirement city of Naples. We spent the night with our Memphis friends Curtis and Kathy Downs, who own a condo there. I paid $140 to play a round of golf with Curtis on the club community’s private course and was impressed with the quality and toughness of the course. Our rented golf cart had a satellite-driven, electronic map that spotted within a few feet our precise locations  on the golf course. Despite the technological whiz-bang system, I still shot a 97 and Curtis only managed a 102. After a dismal start, I somehow hit some pretty good shots.

 

The Downs treated Betty and me to a fancy dinner at Maxwells, a very upscale restaurant overlooking a bay.

 

The next morning, Thursday, we drove our car and the Downs drove one of their cars to Sanibel Island, where like on a previous trip to Parrish we had attempted to visit Sanibel’s storied beach, where currents and weather wash sea shells up from the bottom in prodigious quantities. I understand that collectors come from around the world to pick up seashells. However, the traffic was bumper-to-bumper and extremely slow the closer to the beach we got.

 

Due to the congestion, we abandoned the attempt to visit the beach. But we did have a nice lunch at a café on the island. I doubt that we’ll return to Sanibel after two failed tries. My thought is that we should have visited it (B.C.), Before the Crowds got wind of what a special place it is because of its wide beaches and ample seashells.

 

Betty and I drove on to St. Petersburg, FL, where we spent the night with my half-sister, Mary Nolan Ballard, and her husband, Bob Ballard, who is retired after a long career in the U.S. Navy. They gave us the use of their tiny apartment built into the garage of their home, not far from the downtown area. We enjoyed a dinner of takeout pizza and pasta from Domino’s, followed by a three-hour, working session between me and Mary about our plans for Volume 2 of my book,  “Nolan-Miller Family History.”

 

On Friday, April 2, we drove 10 hours from St. Petersburg to Gulf Shores, AL. We had dinner at our favorite restaurant in Gulf Shores, The Spot. We enjoyed our view of the Gulf of Mexico washing the beach in front of the place and spent the night at the Comfort Inn of Gulf Shores at a special rate of $30 a night I had arranged through the Internet Priceline service. That was a substantial discount from the rack rate of $129.

 

We visited our condo on West Beach Blvd. twice during our short stay in Gulf Shores. We were pleased to see that the construction project to repair substantial damages from the last hurricane was making good progress. We also met with our rental representatives at Kaiser Realty and had another very good dinner at The Spot.

 

On Easter Sunday, we drove from Gulf Shores to Memphis in 7 ½ hours. While Betty was not happy at the lack of beach time during this year’s Spring Break from teaching, the trip was still a good one even if tiring.

 

Wedding Bells Ring for Friends in Jackson, MS

 

April 24-25, 1999 – To Jackson, MS

 

Betty and I drove to Jackson, MS, in a rental Ford Taurus from Fleetmark, the in-house rental agency operated by Lewis Ford. I’ve found that it saves me money to drive a rental car for weekend travel of any length in distance because of the “unlimited mileage” feature. We stayed at the Ridgeland Comfort Suites motel on the northern edge of Jackson, where I had booked a nice room with free breakfast for $58.

 

We attended the wedding of my golf pal Curtis Down’s son, Bradford Downs, and Miss Courtney Mortimer of Jackson in Jackson’s First Baptist Church downtown. Brad works for his dad in Memphis-based Strategic Resource Management, a profit-improving consulting firm to banks and other companies across the U.S. Courtney is a registered nurse. The couple, a handsome and charming twosome, had met while they were both students at Ole Miss.

 

The couple’s very nice reception was held at the Fairview B&B in the downtown area of Jackson, where we chatted with Curtis and his wife, Kathy; and some of the wedding guests. Among them were John Addison (another former Schering-Plough executive, and his wife, Janice; and friends of the Downs family Gerald and Brinkley Craig of Memphis.

 

Golf at Old Waverly with Sore Back Yields Big Score

 

May 8, 1999 – To Old Waverly Golf Club, West Point, MS

 

I drove to Old Waverly in my Taurus station wagon with golfing buddy Curtis Downs even though I was still ailing from the surgical removal of a cyst in my back. I had a drain, 3 inch-deep wick and lots of tape in my back to remind me of the incision. But it was a great day for golf, with blue skies, a high temperature in the 80s and only a modest wind.

 

The golf course was being prepared for the U. S. Women’s Open Championship at the end of May and was in prime condition.

 

Due to my back, I was not able to swing a golf club freely. My score for 18 holes was 100, unusually high. Curtis sported a new swing grip and putted great on this day, scoring a very good 78.

 

Gulf Shores Condo Dues Up 50% After Hurricane

 

May 13-16, 1999 – To Gulf Shores, AL

 

Betty and I drove to Gulf Shores in our Taurus station wagon so I could attend the annual Gulf Village Owners Association meeting. We approved an increase in our annual dues of about 50 percent to pay off a federal Small Business Association disaster loan that was taken out to cover the cost of repairs for damages inflicted on our property by Hurricane Georges.

 

We also learned at the meeting of new developer interest in our ocean-front land and buildings.

 

While in Gulf Shores, I played golf at the State Park Course, shooting a 95 (44 on the front nine holes and 51 on the back nine). We had a nice dinner at The Spot restaurant and also enjoyed a takeout dinner on my May 15 birthday from the Lartigues seafood business down the road from our condo.

 

We enjoyed gorgeous weather during our short stay. The temperature rose into the 80s every day and skies were sunny. The water temperature was recorded by a government service at 74 degrees – warm enough to stay in the beach surf for a long time. The hurricane repairs construction project at Gulf Village is now nearly complete.

 

To Old Waverly for U.S. Women’s Open Golf

 

June 3, 1999 – To Old Waverly Golf Club, West Point, MS

 

I drove to Old Waverly with my longtime friend and fellow club member Curtis Downs for the first day of the U.S. Women’s Open Golf Championship. The course, as expected, was in its expected, fabulous condition and was getting a lot of national press attention. From what I could see, all the planning and preparation done by the club were flawless.

 

We spent much of the hot day sitting in the bleachers, which were strategically set up in shade with good vantage points around the course. We watched many of the great female players of the world who traveled from golf meccas around the globe to play Old Waverly at tiny West Point in a rural area of North Mississippi. The two best viewing spots, I thought, were at the green of Hole No. 12 and also in a grandstand put up behind the the green of the finishing hole, No. 18.

 

Among the noted professionals I watched were Old Waverly regular Nancy Lopez and long driver Laurie Davies (both missed the cut), Meg Mallon, defending champion Se Re Pak of Korea, the huge Becky Iverson and the eventual winner of the tournament at Old Waverly, Julie Inkster. I enjoyed watching the players of such incredible skill play the course so smartly. Very few hit drivers on the dogleg left finishing hole, preferring to hit a more conservative and shorter shot into the fairway rather than take a chance with the lake to the left or the rough to the right.

 

I enjoyed lunch with Curtis. We were joined by our former Schering-Plough associate (an outstanding golfer who on occasion plays with us) Dave Wells and his wife Nancy (also an excellent golfer).

 

Back for More Championship Women’s Golf

 

June 5, 1999 – To Old Waverly Golf Club, West Point, MS

 

I drove back to Old Waverly with my son, Casey, to see some more of the 1999 U.S. Open Women’s Championship golf tournament. He had flown in last night from his home at Palm Desert, CA, a town adjacent to the desert resort of Palm Springs where he is helping his company build a showcase tennis stadium.

 

It was a great day for golf at our club. We both gained a new respect for the sport of professional women’s golf as well as added appreciation for the excellence of our home course. On the whole, the players avoided risk as they played and were more careful with their irons than most of the male members of the club we’ve seen.

 

The most spectacular shot I witnessed was that of Laura Davies smashing a monster drive on Hole No. 1 from the far-back tee, putting the ball in the narrow throat of the fairway just off the green. It was a shot close to 400 yards long. I believe it was the longest shot I’d ever seen at Old Waverly, maybe the longest ever.

 

More Old Waverly for Golf and Laughs With Pals

 

June 16, 1999 – To Old Waverly Golf Club, West Point, MS

 

I drove to Old Waverly in the Ford Taurus station wagon with golf buddies and former Schering-Plough associates Curtis Downs, John Addison and Dave Wells. We had a great day of re-telling the old Plough stories and a riot of laughs courtesy of Dave’s reminisces about his years as one of the company’s top salesmen. John had been vice president of quality control and regulatory services and Curtis had been director of purchasing. I had been vice president of communications and in charge of the company’s press relations, government affairs and community philanthropy.

 

We formed two groups for a friendly Nassau bet, with Dave and John forming one team and Curtis and I forming another. Dave – by far the superior golfer in our group - and John waxed us. I shot an awful 98 and Curtis was off his game, shooting only 90. But what a great day it was, with temperatures in the low 80s, sunny skies and the course still lush from the U.S. Women’s Open Championship last week.

 

Travels West With Betty and Sally, Part 4

Touring Oahu by Car, Golf Cart and Launch

June 18 - July 14, 1999  /  Page Updated April 21, 2008

By LEWIS NOLAN


Return To Nolan Travels Home Page

Betty Nolan at Overlook for Hanauma Bay, Oahu's Top Snorkling Beach


Speedy Jumps To Trip To Western States Segments:

Part 1: Memphis To Oklahoma City, Route 66, Tucumcari, N.M., and Sante Fe
Part 2: Taos, N.M., Williams, Ariz., Grand Canyon, Desert Drive to California
Part 3: Palm Desert and Palm Springs, Calif.
Part 4: Honolulu and Oahu Island, Hawaii
Part 5: Tubac, Ariz., West Texas and Hope, Ark.
Photo Album


 

Wednesday, June 30, 1999 – To Honolulu

We got up at 3:20 a.m. and Casey drove us to the Palm Springs Airport before 5
a.m. That is an extremely unusual time for us to start anything. But to take advantage of a
special airfare deal out of L.A., we had to travel on the early-early flight. The United
Express commuter plane left on time at 5:44 a.m., arriving in L.A. about 30 minutes later.
The streetlights against the black desert made for a beautiful view. We boarded a Delta
jumbo jet that was supposed to leave at 8:10, but we sat on the tarmac for an hour while a
“black box” was repaired. The flight to Honolulu took nearly 5 hours, which while long
isn’t brutal like the long connecting flights from Memphis. Our tourist cabin seats were in
the interior section, with me on the aisle and Betty next to a fellow teacher from the
Mojave Desert town of Lancaster, Calif.

Tired from the early start and long flight, we picked up a Budget rental Chrysler in Honolulu
and had a quick lunch at a McDonald’s near the airport before our drive through heavy
traffic to our hotel, the Outrigger Waikiki Surf at 2200 Kuhio. Our hotel was only two short blocks
from the crowded beach, in a very small but adequate room on the 7th floor, with a tiny
balcony overlooking the pool. The newly refurbished hotel was comfortable, its staff was
knowledgeable and friendly and its pool was beautiful, built around landscaped lava
rocks.

Waikiki Beach consists of a real beach and also a large section of Honolulu that extends a mile
or more from the beach proper to the interior, where expensive homes rise up the
hillsides. It is wall-to-wall with high rise hotels and condo/apartment buildings,
restaurants and shops catering to tourists. Our hotel is right in the middle of things, with
much hustle and bustle all around. Within a few steps of our hotel are a McDonald’s,
Japanese take-out restaurants, tourist junk shops, convenience stores and other high-rise
hotels. The location reminds me of a clean New York’s Times Square, with tropical
foliage and Aloha shirts but without the grime and street people.

We walked around hotel row, marveling at the abundance of sushi restaurants and
other Japanese businesses. Many of the store signs are in Japanese only. Hordes of young
and old Japanese women – wearing silly high platform shoes or wobbly spike heels – walk
about in groups. There seem to be many more women than men; maybe the men are back
home working the heroic hours and making the money the Japanese are famous for. We soon found ourselves at
the main Waikiki Beach, which is heavily patrolled by polite young policemen on
mountain bikes. The beach was very crowded, mainly with Japanese sitting on the sand
and wading around the shoreline water.

Several hundred yards out, surfers rode the wave rollers and outrigger canoes paddled
the tourists through the waves and foam. Several surf schools were teaching lessons in
the shallows. Ocean-going freighters steamed by a mile or so off the beach. With only a
tiny exception or two, none of the Waikiki Beach hotels have their own sand beaches.
Most of the hotels are across the street from the beach.

The landmark Royal Hawaiian, a
pink-coral structure that dates to before World War II, has a narrow strip of sand along
the back edge of the public beach. One of the big Hiltons has a seawall that fronts the
ocean, but at high tide there is no beach. I suspect that many tourists are surprised when
they find out that the high rates they are paying for Waikiki Beach hotels still leave them
with a walk to the crowded, public beach. The lobbies of the grand hotels and the
sidewalks leading to them are filled with stylish shops, including names like Tiffany’s,
Gucci and Chanel.

Betty Nolan Aboard Arizona Memorial. Ship's Sunken Gun Turret at Left

Thursday, July 1, 1999 – In Honolulu

Following an Egg McMuffin breakfast from the McDonald’s across the street from our hotel 
happily served with fresh pineapple chunks – we drove our rental car to the Arizona
Memorial. We had been advised to not rent a car by our travel agent, who cited extremely
high parking charges and heavy traffic. But the hotel charged only $8 a day for attended, 
covered parking, and we didn’t find the busy traffic too hard to cope with outside of rush
hours. With our curiosity and interest in seeing the sights on our own schedule and at our
own pace, a car is almost essential.

Honolulu has excellent public transportation, with all
kinds of city buses (some equipped with bike racks) and free shuttles. But I’m glad we
followed our instincts and got a car because of the freedom of movement it gave us.
Our first auto outing was across town to Pearl Harbor and the U.S. Arizona
Memorial. We had seen the unique, white structure from the air on previous trips to
Hawaii. We had long wanted to visit the memorial and resting place for most of the
ship’s 1,177 crewmen who lost their lives Dec. 7, 1941, when the Arizona was sunk at
anchor during Japan’s sneak attack.

The Memorial is an excellent place to contemplate
the sacrifices of our nation’s fighting men in all wars, and the War in Pacific in particular.
The National Park Service and U.S. Navy operate a museum, boat launch and visitation
service to the stark, white Memorial. The structure of steel and blown concrete bridges
are athwartships of the sunken ship.

The tour starts with an emotionally moving film about what President Roosevelt
called the “Day of Infamy,” when Japanese airplanes from a 33-ship attack fleet bombed
battleship row, Schofield Barracks in Oahu’s interior and other military targets in and
around Honolulu. The USS Oklahoma rolled completely over, trapping 400 men inside.
The California and the West Virginia sank at their moorings. The Utah capsized. The
Maryland, Pennsylvania and Tennessee suffered significant damage. The Nevada
attempted to run out for sea, but had to be beached to avoid sinking and blocking the
channel.

As students of World War II (and movie fans who saw “Midway”) know, the
attack shattered the U.S. Pacific Fleet. However, the Navy’s aircraft carriers were at sea
and were able to strike back with a vengeance. The American people, who had been
divided over the U.S. entering the War against the Axis, rallied together and exacted a
terrible retribution on Japan.

On the day of our visit, there were no chattering people. There were probably few
dry eyes that were round in the audience during the introductory, 20-minute movie that
contains much horrific film shot of the burning ships. I had been warned by a friend back
home to be prepared for churlish behavior by Japanese tourists similar to that we had
once encountered from a tour bus group of rude, laughing Germans when we visited the
American Cemetery at Omaha Beach, Normandy in 1990. However, the dozens of
visiting Japanese visiting the Memorial this day were perfectly respectful of the somber
atmosphere.

Among the Japanese in our group of 75 or so who rode the Navy launch out
to the Memorial were several women and a man with shaven heads and odd clothing
possibly worn by Buddhist or Shinto religious leaders.

The weather was perfect for viewing the Memorial, with sunny skies and
comfortable temperatures. The top of the hull of the sunken Arizona, minus its great
guns, is clearly visible in the shallow, clear water between the mainland and Ford Island,
where the watery tomb rests. The rusted remains of a gun turret foundation and a few
other ship parts protrude a few feet above the ocean water.

Visitors may enter the
Memorial, which has a chapel where all the names of the dead are listed in alphabetical
order. Everybody observed the solemn decorum that is more familiar at funerals than at
tourist attractions. We were told that just an hour before our tour started, the ashes of a
recently deceased Arizona survivor had been scattered in the water over the ship, with
full military honors. A drop of engine oil still bubbles up from the ship every minute or
two. Colorful fish swim about the coral that forms on the wreckage below.

The architect of the Memorial, Alfred Preis, described his work by saying, “the
structure sags in the center, but stands strong and vigorous at the ends, expressing initial
defeat and ultimate victory.“

A nice closing to a visit to the Arizona is a tour of the USS Missouri, the
battleship where on Sept. 2, 1945, Japanese diplomats signed the surrender documents
that ended World War II.

The Missouri was towed across the Pacific in 1998 to its new
anchorage a few hundreds yard from the Arizona. We caught a tram shuttle to it from the
stop at the submarine warfare museum adjacent to the Arizona Memorial museum and
visitor center. The great battleship is 887 feet long and 108 feet wide at the beam. Its keel
was laid in 1941 and the ship was launched in 1944, when it provided gunfire support for
many battles in the Pacific during World War II. The Missouri was alternately
decommissioned and recommissioned several times, called back to service during the
Korean Conflict and for several actions in the Persian Gulf. Its last military use was in
1991, when it launched missiles and bombarded Iraqi forces during the Persian Gulf War.

“Mighty Mo’s” 16-inch guns could hurl 2,700-pound projectiles up to 23 miles.
The Missouri has been open to visitors since January, 1999. During our visit a
large part of its dock was being fitted with several hundred banquet tables for a charity
fundraiser that evening. Only the upper areas of the ship have so far been opened to tour,
unlike the USS Alabama in Mobile where visitors are admitted to most areas where the
crew lived and worked. The exact spot on the Missouri’s deck where the Japanese
surrender documents were signed is marked. A recording of General Douglas
MacArthur’s remarks provides sound backdrop. A private group, the USS Missouri
Memorial Association Inc. of Hawaii, operates the ship tours and gift shop and provides
volunteer tour guides. It appears that most of the volunteers are Navy veterans who have
retired in the area.

I t was a good tour of a great ship. Since our visit followed our tour of the Arizona
Memorial, we experienced vicarious alpha and omega to a terrible period for all mankind
in the 20th Century.

On the 45-minute drive back to our hotel, we stopped at the mother
store in Honolulu of Hilo Hattie’s, an island chain specializing in Hawaiian souvenirs and
Aloha shirts. We’ve visited similar, smaller outlets on previous trips to Maui and Kauai.
The Honolulu headquarters includes a factory viewing area when shoppers can watch
several dozen Asian women and a few Asian men sew garments. We bought some gaudy
clothing and souvenirs and then repaired to a nearby Fisherman’s Wharf restaurant,
where we had the only really crappy meal of the entire trip. We compensated that night
with an excellent dinner of Mahi Mahi at Lewer’s Street Fish Co. near our hotel.

Betty Nolan at Historic Spot on USS Missouri
Japan's WWII Surrender Documents Signed Here

Friday, July 1, 1999 – In Honolulu

Following my usual breakfast of takeout Egg McMuffin and fresh pineapple, we
drove 45 minutes or so up the coast to what the locals and guide books call the best
snorkeling beach on Oahu. It is Hanauma Bay, an idyllic setting of palm trees, white sand
and sparking water that was once the floor of a volcano. The ocean side of the ancient
volcano is open to the sea, forming a half-bowl frame of incredible beauty. We had
gotten off to an early start as advised. It was a good thing we did, because we were one of
the last cars allowed in before attendants closed the full parking lot just before 10 a.m.
For $2 that was well spent, we rode a tram down the steep, windy cliffs to the wide beach
below. Many choose to walk down for free, but I don’t envy the discomfort caused by the
steep grade pushing against sandals or beach walkers.

There are restrooms, change facilities, a snack bar and places where snorkel gear
can be rented on the beach. There were hundreds of people sunbathing and snorkeling
around the shallow water. The gin-clear water and patches of sand interspersed with
patches of coral in 2-to-5 feet of water make it an ideal location for beginners. The
myriad numbers of wildly colorful reef fish, which have been tamed by tourists offering
fish food that looks like doggie chow, make it interesting for even the most experienced
snorkelers. Just outside the main reef, the ocean bottom slopes down from 6 or so feet to
20 or more feet. Only a few snorkelers and SCUBA divers ventured out beyond the
protective reef, which is washed by gentle waves. I saw dozens of varieties of reef fish,
including some schooling species 18 or more inches long. It was the best snorkeling I’ve
enjoyed since Casey and I swam around some coral canyons a couple of hundred yards
off a beach at Grand Cayman Island a decade ago.

Following lunch at a patisserie down Kuhio Avenue from our hotel, Betty
repaired to the hotel pool for more sunning while I drove 40 or so minutes to Waikele
Golf Club on the other side of Honolulu, past Pearl Harbor. I could see part of the
mothballed Navy fleet at Pearl from the I-H1 (oddly part of the Interstate system).

I opted for the “twilight special,” 9 holes for $40 after 3 p.m. I found the course to be quite good,
with an interesting layout that included a lot of sand, hills and water. Due to some good
chipping and putting, I was just under bogey golf through 7. But then the afternoon rain
came and my game left. I bailed out in a downpour while my partners, locals Bob Dove
and his son Michael, who had played football at Tulane several years ago, continued. I
left my umbrella on a wide, verandah outside the clubhouse, where somebody ripped it
off. When I complained, the Japanese-American guy running the pro shop laughed at the
absurdity of me expecting it to be recovered.

Dinner was Japanese takeout, with me having chicken teriyaki and Betty opting
for shrimp and vegetable tempura, both served with lots of rice and a soup of seaweed
and green onions that was surprisingly tasty. Unlike some other “native” foods I’ve tried
on vacation, the Japanese meals did not result in any indigestion.

That evening, we walked around the grand hotels and shops of Waikiki Beach,
amusing ourselves by watching young Japanese women walking about in their high-rise
footwear. I was told by golfer Bob Dove, who owns a worker’s compensation insurance
company, that most “haoles” (a pejorative term used by native Hawaiians to describe
Caucasion tourists) favor the other islands. But the Japanese “love Waikiki,” he said,
adding that Japanese investors and companies own much of the Waikiki Beach area.
Among their holdings are chain hotels based in Japan. According to Bob, so much of
Oahu’s tourism promotion efforts have been focused on the Japanese market that the
country’s sagging economy has hurt Waikiki Beach. Tourism in Oahu is down this year,
he said, while the other islands whose promotional efforts are aimed more at North
America are showing increases.

Betty Nolan at Entrance to Lewers Street Fish Market at Waikiki Beach

Saturday, July 3, 1999 – In Honolulu

Betty wanted to enjoy the morning sun at the hotel pool, which by afternoon is
covered by the shade of a canyon of surrounding hotel and condo buildings. I drove to the
nearby Ala Wai Municipal Golf Course, said to be the busiest in the world, with 160,000
rounds a year. It gets a lot of play and it shows it. Ala Wai is a ratty course and I decided
not to play. But there were still several dozen singles on the wait list, hoping that
somebody with a reserved time would be a “no show.” There was even a wait to get on
the shabby driving range, where people who looked like tourists hit beat-up balls into
landing areas of red dirt.

Virtually all the tee times are reserved a week in advance by local foursomes, who
are allowed only a limited number of no-shows before sanctions are applied. A resident
can play 18 holes for $10, the cheapest greens fee I’ve ever encountered. In comparison,
a non-resident pays $40. A cart is $14 extra. The one-fourth price for locals seems to be
universal here, even at privately owned courses like Waikele, where the tourist price for
18 is $107. Effectively, tourists are heavily subsidizing the local golfers by paying
inflated green fees, in addition to providing the tourism money that makes the island’s
biggest industry go. It galls me and provided a big incentive to limit my play.

We took an afternoon drive up the north shore to the Polynesian Cultural Center,
which had been recommended by a friend who visited it recently. We stopped at several
scenic beaches along the way and saw some absolutely huge Hawaiians enjoying the
beach, the shallow water and picnic facilities with their friends or families. Many native
Hawaiians make their family outings to the beach parks all-day, every weekend affairs.
Some of them arrive early to claim choice spots, where they pitch tents and sun shelters.
It appears that devoting their energies and hang out time to the beach takes a higher
priority than does upkeep on property. Much of the island housing we saw has a
neglected look.

We were disappointed with the Polynesian Cultural Center, mainly because the
young staff didn’t seem to have the training to handle the very large crowd of visitors that
showed up this Fourth of July weekend. The place must have been oversold since we
found ourselves waiting in long lines for nothing. We got to the front of the lines only to
find out that the stands were out of shaved ice or that all the seats in the IMAX theater
were taken. People not able to get in to see the shows blocked the entrances to several
outdoor stages.

But we did see a sample of the native singing and dancing of Samoa, Tahiti, Fiji,
New Zealand, Hawaii, Tonga and other islands in a sort of waterborne “preview.” We
also talked to a very nice Mormon couple of our age - Frayne and Shirley Hobbs of
Orem, Utah - who were doing a two-year adult mission on behalf of the Church of Jesus
Christ of Latter Day Saints. The center is run by the Mormon Church and is largely
staffed by several hundred, work-study college students from the islands, who attend the
local campus of Brigham Young University. We learned that the Mormon Church is very
active in the islands and has a great number of new members in the Pacific.

We decided to forego the dinner and floor show we had paid for in advance and
left early. After I informed center management of our disappointment at not seeing the
IMAX film and the snack bars running out of snacks, we got our money back and even an
invitation to have a buffet meal on the house. The Mormons were nice, but we had all the
crowds we could stand and headed back to Waikiki. My advice to potential visitors
would be to eat before you go and only go during the week. Pass on the packages and pay
only for general admission.

Dinner that evening was Mahi Mahi and chips, again at the very good Lewers
Street Fish Co. Afterwards we poked around the ritziest section of Waikiki Beach and its
Chanel, Tiffany, Prado and other fashion shops that cater to the ubiquitous Japanese. In
celebration of the Fourth of July weekend, the Fairmont Shopping Plaza (adjacent to the
Fairmont-managed Royal Hawaiian Hotel) had a country and western band playing just
off the sidewalk. It was fun watching a half-dozen Japanese women wearing cowboy
boots trying to line dance, Nashville style. Our sleep that night was interrupted several
times by loud firecrackers, whose illegality is ignored by the fireworks-loving Asians.

Lewis Nolan by Giant Tropical Tree in Honolulu's Foster Botanical Garden

Sunday, July 4, 1999 – In Honolulu

After circling around several parking areas in our rental car in a vain attempt to
get a parking place near Queen’s Beach, we discovered that our 10 a.m. start was just too
late. Queen’s Beach is part of the Waikiki Beach but several hundreds yards away from
the most crowded area. It looked as though every car in Oahu was hovering about, hoping
to claim one of several hundred parking places within a walk of Queen’s Beach. Maybe it
was because it was Sunday. Maybe the Fourth compounded the congestion near the
beach. But it was impenetrable. So we decided to drive 45 minutes or so to the interior of
the island, to the Dole Plantation Visitor Center. We were met with another
disappointment. The center consists of only a big souvenir shop and a small
demonstration garden plot, where several young pineapple plants grow. The advertised
“restaurant” was a hot dog stand. Some years ago, we were told, Dole provided guided
tours of the pineapple fields and a packing plant.

A few miles away is the Waihi’awa Botanical Garden, one of five gardens
operated by the Honolulu Department of Parks and Recreation. The garden is several
miles inland of the city, in a tropical rainforest area of rugged hills covered with dense
stands of tropical trees and jungle. The 27-acre garden is on a plateau, elevation 1,000
feet, and has dozens of varieties of tropical flora that require a cooler climate than the flat
coastal areas of Oahu. A brochure says such native Hawaiian plants as ariods, palms, tree
ferns, calatheas, heliconias and epiphytes grow wild in the garden. With the help of the
brochure and markers along a self-guiding trail, we had the enjoyable experience of
identifying species never seen in Memphis. Among the exotic plants we saw were Saving
Brush Trees, Autograph Trees, Nutmeg, Allspice, Candle Trees, Elephant Apple Trees
and Cigar Box Tree (so named because its lightweight, pleasantly aromatic timber is used
to make cigar boxes from the West Indies to the Amazon.)

We happened to come across a wedding in the garden. We spoke briefly to the
groom, a muscular young native Hawaiian wearing a white tux and traditional braided lei
for men, and wished him and his bride much happiness. We also got his OK to take a few
photos. The official wedding photographer was a scruffy-looking guy who would be at
home among the street people of Memphis. A couple of singers played guitars and sang
native songs. The bride, wearing traditional Haole white, was beautiful, of course.

We also visited Foster Botanical Garden in downtown Honolulu, which Fodor’s
lists as one of the not-to-be missed attractions. Unlike the wild tropical rainforest of
Wahi’awa, Foster is more like a carefully cultivated and freshly clipped estate park. We
loved it. The garden got its start in 1853, when Queen Kalama leased a small area of land
to a German physician and botanist, who wrote a book in 1888 on the “Flora of the
Hawaiian Islands.” His property was sold to Thomas and Mary Foster, who added to the
garden and continued to develop it. It was bequeathed to the city and county in 1930 and
has been open to the public since 1931.

Its collection of tropical plants from around the world goes back more than 140
years and is perhaps the world’s finest. Included are a number of rare and endangered
species. Of more than 100 trees that have been designated “exceptional” on the island and
worthy of preservation, 26 are in Foster Garden. Among them are the Cannonball Tree
(from Brazil and named for its heavy, spherical fruit), the Cupang (from Malaysia, with
huge fern-like leaves growing as much as 100 feet above ground), the Kapok (from Java,
known for its hollow filaments used for stuffing life preservers and furniture), and the
Loulu (a palm tree found only in Hawaii.) Other treats for plant-lovers include a bromeliad garden, hybrid orchids and a wealth of spice bushes and trees. Dinner that night was Japanese takeout. Again, a little strange but good.

Monday, July 5, 1999 – In Honolulu

While Betty sunned and shopped, I drove up the coast to Hawaii Kai Golf Course.
I passed some glorious views of waves breaking on the lava-rimmed beaches. Hawaii
Kai, described as one of the top courses on Oahu that are open to visitors, is set in a
scenic area and has many views of the ocean. But from what I saw, the course itself pales
in comparison to my home course or other very fine courses I’ve played on vacation. I hit
a large bag of balls, then played 18 holes on the executive course, where I hit my irons
surprising well. With the exception of one Par 4, the executive course is a Par 3 layout,
with tiny greens. So my score of 76 (due to three-putting most of the bumpy greens)
didn’t count toward my goal of someday breaking 80 on a real course. But the views
from the greens and tee boxes on the steep hillsides overlooking the deep blue, Pacific
Ocean were excellent. Providing color was a fleet of racing cruisers that sailed by, flying
spinnakers.

That night, we had a memorable dinner at Nick’s Fish Market, owned by a Greek
and variously billed in magazines and restaurant rating services as one of the top 75
restaurants in the entire U.S. and the finest place for fish anywhere in the Hawaiian
Islands. I can believe it, especially after eating a large portion of macadamia-nut
encrusted Ono fish. It was elegant, fine dining at its best, with waiters in tuxedos, posh
décor, a live singer and attentive service from a parade of staffers that started as soon as
we walked in the door. It made no difference that I was sans tie, wearing a new Aloha
shirt. It was pricey, but worth it. I wish we had such a place back home.

Our waiter told us that Nick’s, like other Waikiki businesses that cater to the
higher end of the market, has really felt the decline in Japanese tourism. He recalled that
half the customers were Japanese a few years ago, before the country’s economy took a
nosedive. Today, he opined, even the very wealthy Japanese are no longer coming to
Waikiki like they once did, instead opting for other exotic spots they’ve not seen before.

Lewis Nolan Hangs Five by Rack of Big Gun Surfboards at Waikiki Beach

Tuesday, July 6, 1999 – In Honolulu

We spent the morning driving and walking around Diamondhead, the signature
promontory that juts out into the ocean at Waikiki Beach. It was interesting to see the
remains of World War II fortifications high up on the ocean sides of the volcano. I
recalled climbing around some similar observation and artillery posts on the San
Francisco hillsides as a young boy tagging along with my father, an Air Force reserve
officer. We drove up the road to Diamondhead’s volcanic crater, but did not trudge up the
long path to look down due to my somewhat limited mobility caused by heel spurs.
There are many estate homes on the shoreward side of Diamondhead, providing
the very rich with multimillion-dollar views of the beach and ocean. Government has
preserved public access to the beaches and surf below the homes with several trails
leading down the steep cliffs from parking areas. One estate home we admired had a
gorgeous pair of handcrafted, ornamental metal gates of steel and copper, forming an
ocean scene of dolphins, waves and seabirds. We took a couple of photos so we could
give one to our friend Jim Wallace in Memphis, the director of the National Ornamental
Metal Museum. I was amused to learn that we weren’t the first Museum members to
bring him pictures of that fabulous gate.

We retraced the route I had taken the previous day up the coastline, where ancient
lava has been weathered by heavy wave action to form cliffs and a blowhole, where the
swells jet a curtain of water up through a small hole in the rock. We had spectacular
views of blue wave rollers and white surf booming against the rocks.

We spent a couple of hours on the Sans Souci section of Waikiki Beach, where
Betty caught some rays from the hot, tropical sun. I found a perfectly shaped palm tree to
lean against while sitting in the shade on a straw mat. I tried to swim and snorkel, but the
beach sand immediately turned to jagged chunks of coral at water’s edge. The lifeguard
warned about knee injuries, giving me a quick understanding of why so many young
people are on surf mats or surfboards when they are in the water. I also learned why most
adults sit on the beach. Later, we enjoyed drinks and a great view of the surfers and
surfrigger tourist boats at the most densely populated part of Waikiki beach, from the Mai
Tai beachside bar at the Royal Hawaiian. We ate light that night at Lewers’s Street Fish
House and returned to our hotel to pack for the next day’s flight back to the Mainland.

Wednesday, July 7, 1999 – To Palm Springs

We checked out of the Outrigger Waikiki Surf Hotel at 9 a.m., quite an early start
for us. We wanted to allow plenty of time to drive through downtown traffic and for
rental car return and baggage check-in. Everything went smoothly, which was a nice
change given our earlier experiences with getting in and out of Honolulu. Consequently,
we had nearly two hours to read and relax in the un-airconditioned terminal before our
Delta flight took off for LA. This flight was better than most, and the only one serving
the island we’ve been on that had some empty seats (due to the travel demand pause
following the 4th of July weekend.) We were told by its crew of self-described
“dinosaurs” that the daily flight has the most senior crew of attendants in the entire Delta
system. The lady who efficiently served us was 63. Adding to the pleasantness of the
flight was a decent lunch of chicken teriyaki.

A 60-mph tail wind had us going 625 mph at times and we arrived in L.A. early,
enabling us to catch an earlier United Express commuter flight to Palm Springs, which
we had nearly to ourselves. The low-flying prop jet gave us some good nighttime views
of city and highway lights in the valley northward and eastward of L.A. We got into Palm
Springs Airport at 10:20 p.m. local time (three hour time difference with Hawaii) and
were met by Casey.

After eight nights in Honolulu and a lot of great sights around Waikiki Beach and
the island of Oahu, Betty and I agreed that we had seen it. It was an enjoyable trip, but
not spectacular as it was a little too urban and Asian touristy for our vacation tastes. I
doubt we will return, unless it is to change planes coming or going to Kauai or other
island.


Gulf Shores Is Hot and Crowded in July & August

 

July 26-August 8, 1999 – To Gulf Shores, AL

 

Betty and I drove the new route south to Gulf Shores in our Ford Taurus station wagon. A good stretch of the road is a different route we’ve been taking now that U.S. 98 has been improved to a four-lane road from Hattiesburg, MS to the northern outskirts of Mobile, AL. Unfortunately, a 20-mile stretch of the highway is still only two or three lanes wide once the state line between Alabama and Mississippi is crossed.

 

We were pleased to see that our condo on the beach at Gulf Shores is looking better than ever now that the re-construction of the pool deck, fences and new landscaping has been completed. We found that our complex was more crowded than we’ve ever seen it. It made us start thinking about selling our unit and upgrading to a larger condo in a nicer complex. However, we are comfortable with the financial health of our investment in our condo, which pays for itself every year with profitable rental income even though the complex is showing its age and at least six other units are on the market.

 

Talk about the potential of tearing down our building and building a more modern replacement persists.

 

The last week in July and first week in August were very hot on the beach. The official weather statistics reported by Mobile television said the high temp on some days was 98 or 99 degrees. Our porch thermometer registered temps as high as 102 degrees in the shade. The “heat index” in the Mobile newspaper put the “comfort” temp (as adjusted for humidity) at 110-to-114 degrees.

 

Put simply, the golf was miserable at those temperatures, with club grips slippery and wet. I played three times at the State Park course, shooting a 91, 88 and 95, and once at Glen Lakes, shooting 100. I was reminded by the biting bugs at Glen Lakes why I hadn’t played there in several years even though it is a decent layout.

 

We cooked most meals this week in our condo but ate out a few times at our favorite restaurant in Gulf Shores, The Spot. The owner (whose son-in-law manages the restaurant and whose daughter runs the kitchen) bellyached long and loudly to us about the “scum” he was having to hire as cooks and wait staff these days. It was surprising and sad to me to see such a successful restauranteur so bitter about the workforce in today’s tight labor market and the special challenges facing management of the changing community of Gulf Shores.

 

Betty and I rode our bicycles we brought from home almost every other day. We continue to marvel at all the condo construction underway.

 

The combination of very hot weather and the lack of the normal winds that blow cooling air down from the north made for an ideal growing environment for the ugly brown algae bloom in the coastal waters. The Mobile Register newspaper reported the water temperature near the beaches along the Gulf of Mexico and bay to be 87 degrees.

 

The normal level of oxygen in the water was depleted and thousands of fish died. With little or no wind to blow the dead fish out to sea, it resulted in the water along the shore looking like French fish stew. It was the worst sea condition we had seen in 13 years. It was so disgusting that I didn’t even get into the water until the last two days of our stay, after the wind finally shifted and cleared out the mess.

 

Despite the dead fish and seaweed sloshing around the beach line surf, the white sand beach was fine for walking even if hot to the feet. Betty spent two or more hours sunning on the beach just about every day.

 

I brought my new company-provided, Compac laptop computer along and spent much time learning how to operate the nifty machine, its Windows 98 operating system and several new programs. The Compaq is engineered so its portable laptop unit contains the Central Processing Unit and slides in and out of its desktop docking station when used at the office. Using the computer, I started writing my travel journal account of our recent big trip to California and week at Waikiki beach on Oahu Island, Hawaii.

 

All in all, despite the dead fish making beach swimming so unattractive, it was a good trip to Gulf Shores. It was quite relaxing. But the crowds, number of children and the age of our condo complex makes it somewhat likely that we will look into buying a larger condo within the next year or two.

 

Temp and Scores Near 100 at Old Waverly Golf Club

 

Aug. 13, 1999 – To Old Waverly Golf Club, West Point, MS

 

I drove my Taurus station wagon south from Memphis on U.S. 78 to New Albany, MS, where I picked up my golf buddy and fellow Old Waverly member Curtis Downs at a Texaco station. We drove southeast to the club on Highway 78, which had been widened to four lanes all the way to the Churchill Road turnoff on the eastern outskirts of West Point, MS.

 

We had the great golf course almost to ourselves on this Friday afternoon, with the high temperature approaching 100 degrees. A modest wind kept the playing conditions bearable. Despite a good start by both of us, we played poorly on this day. I shot a 95 and Curtis shot 94. Very high rough probably cost me 6 or so strokes, with only the top of the ball showing and body of the ball often lodged deep in the grass.

 

Back to Old Waverly for More Punishment

 

Aug. 29, 1999 – To Old Waverly Golf Club, West Point, MS

 

Curtis Downs and I drove to Old Waverly on a warm and sunny day with enough breeze to keep the temperatures from climbing too far. We were surprised that on a such nice day at the end of the season so few people were on the golf course.

 

Once again, neither of us shot very well despite the good weather. We both started off good enough, with pars on Hole No. 1. I hit the No. 2 green in regulation, but three putted. I managed another par on No. 3, but after that my driving became erratic. My irons were OK but my putting was average at best. For the 18 holes, I shot a 93 and Curtis a 90, including mulligans taken by both of us for a change.

 

I thought the rough was too deep. I lost 4 balls. I complained to club management, but was advised that the club had decided to keep the rough longer after comments made concerning the course being a little too easy during the U.S. Women’s Open earlier this year.

 

More Golf That Is ‘Inspired’ at Old Waverly

 

Sept. 6, 1999 – To Old Waverly Golf Club, West Point, MS

 

I drove to Old Waverly with my occasional golf partner and former work associate at Schering-Plough John Addison and his son, Greg. Greg is a former practicing attorney who changed careers and is now a crackerjack of a new preacher at Bellevue Baptist Church, a Memphis Christian institution with over 10,000 members and a national television audience.

 

It was a great day for golf even though I didn’t score very well. I shot a 97, John a 101 and Greg a 97. I was impressed with Greg’s character and demeanor. I learned a lot from him about young adults and their approach to life. He is minister to the young singles group at Bellevue.

 

Free at Last As Old Waverly Gives Up An 85

 

Oct. 14, 1999 – To Old Waverly Golf Club, West Point, MS

 

I drove with my golf pal Curtis Downs to Old Waverly on a beautiful and warm fall day, with temps rising into the mid 80s. Despite some unusually lousy service at the club and a little guff from the starter on Hole No. 1, I had a great day.

 

I somehow managed to shoot my best score at the club since 1994, an 85. That good score for me came despite my having three-putted 3 greens and scoring 4 double bogeys. Unfortunately, Curtis struggled all day, scoring a 95. He usually bests my score by 5 or more strokes.

 

To St. Louis To Hear Dr. Billy Graham Preach

 

Oct. 15-17 – To St. Louis, MO

 

Betty and I drove to St. Louis from our home in Memphis in about 5 hours. We stayed at the Drury Inn, which is across the street from the famed Union Station. We have stayed in the old train station before in the station’s Hyatt Regency. We found the Drury Inn to be a surprisingly nice place and a good value.

 

We made it to St. Louis in time to attend that evening’s Billy Graham Crusade in the Trans World Dome, the primary reason for our trip. I had watched his televised Crusades for years and had long wanted to attend one to see him in person and to make the obligatory, public statement of Faith.

 

Once we got checked into the hotel, we rode the city’s light rail system from Union Station to a train stop about a block from the Trans World Dome, where Dr. Graham was speaking. The ride cost $1.25 each, one way. Later than evening, we caught a cab ride back to Union Station due to many hundreds of people waiting to ride the train back to Union Station and to the suburbs to the west.

 

We were a little surprised to see that many of the estimated 50,000 in the crowd who turned out to see and hear Dr. Graham had arrived two hours early. Betty and I didn’t get into the Dome until 15 minutes after the Rally began. The preliminaries were underway when we found our seats up high in the roofed stadium. Our sight lines were poor due to the lights and TV cameras posted near the stage.

 

However, five huge “replay” screens strategically located around the stadium provided excellent, very large views of the magnetic speaker Dr. Graham. The sound system was also excellent. Oddly, one of the big viewing screens was sponsored by Bud Light, a great beer brewed in St. Louis by Anheuser Busch.

 

Among Dr. Graham’s supporting “extras” were about 6,000 members of a voice choir drawn from various cooperating churches in the Crusade. The choir members wore turquoise colored golf shirts.

 

Former St. Louis Cardinals baseball hall of famer Lou Brock spoke. Also speaking was St. Louis Rams quarterback Kurt Warner, who was a crowd pleaser when he told his story about how he became a born-again Christian and what his faith in Jesus means to his life.

 

Once the crowd was warmed up, Dr. Graham walked haltingly to the podium on the stage after being introduced by his evangelist son, Franklin Graham. Towards the end of his 45-minute sermon, Dr. Graham was discretely given a tall chair to sit in while he preached. But I thought that other than his age (82), there were no signs of any rumored dementia or even of his alleged Parkinson’s Disease.

 

There were only a couple of times during his lengthy sermon when he momentarily seemed to lose his train of thought. For me (and thousands of others I presume), it was a wonderful delight hearing Dr. Graham “welcome” everybody present with witty remarks, local insight and hometown  anecdotes.

 

Dr. Graham thanked country rocker Charlie Daniels for Daniels’ fourth Crusade appearance. Charlie sang spiritual standbys “How Great Thou Art” and “Come Fly Home” among his songs  and joked that he once sang for Abraham Lincoln.

 

Dr. Graham’s sermon focused on the need for racial and ethnic tolerance and understanding, money (which he said is dealt with in 16 of Jesus’ 18 parables), materialism and secret sins. His message was one of redemption and forgiveness through Christ.

 

As the huge choir sung the anthem of Dr. Graham’s Crusades, “Just As I Am,” I joined hundreds of people and walked and rode escalators down to the stadium main floor to renew and rededicate my commitment to Christ and my acceptance of Him as my Lord and Savior. Making that declaration was an uplifting, moist-eyed moment for me.

 

Betty, who had attended a Billy Graham Crusade and participated as a young girl in Jackson, MS many years ago, waited for me in the stadium lobby while I tarried at my moment of rededication to Jesus. A nice man who was at least 65 years old was one of several hundred volunteer Crusade counselors on the stadium floor. He introduced himself as Alvin Tonone of Belleville, IL.,  reached out to me and gave me some Crusade literature including a study guide to the Bible’s Book of John. He graciously welcomed me back to the Family of Christ.

 

When I told him about my activities at Evergreen Presbyterian Church (a midtown Memphis church I have served as a Deacon, Sunday school teacher of the Men’s Bible Class and helped my son, Casey, on his journey of faith when he was growing up), Alvin seemed to back off what seemed to be a coming “hard sell” to recruit other Crusade counselers.


There was a very, very long line of hundreds of people about a block long waiting to get on the westbound Metro Link light rail line. Rather than wait an interminable time, Betty and I found a vacant taxicab and rode the four or so miles from the stadium back to our hotel by the Union Station. We split a late supper of a Reuben sandwich with French fries.

 

Betty and I got up from a good night’s sleep in our room at the Drewry Inn about 8 a.m. and enjoyed the hotel’s included Continental breakfast. We then drove across town to our favorite spot in St. Louis, the fabulous Missouri Botanical Gardens at Shaw Park. Its plantings of mums and other fall flowers were spectacular, as always. Many of the rose bushes were still in bloom. We especially liked the new Home Garden Demonstration area and its many displays of plants of all types that included information about optimum sun and water requirements.

 

That evening, we had an early dinner at Landry’s Seafood Restaurant at Union Station then walked a couple of blocks to the Kiel Center, where we watched most of a National Hockey League game between the St, Louis Blues and the Toronto Maple Leafs. I’ve never acquired much of a taste for ice hockey, but I was glad to see the Blues win, 4-2. We had purchased a pair of tickets from a young woman scalper working the admission line. She sold her $20 seats to us for $15 each, a tidy savings even though there is always a risk of counterfeit in such scalping transactions.

 

Had I not been so tired from all the walking done throughout the day, I would have probably enjoyed the hockey game more if I had been fresh. We left a few minutes before the game ended.

 

On Sunday morning, we checked out of the Drewry Inn about 10 a.m. We drove to Forest Park

enjoying the fresh air in chilly temperatures with the top down on Betty’s Mustang Sally convertible. At the park, we visited the St. Louis Art Museum and the Jewel Box of artistically arranged plantings before heading for home about noon.

 

The five-hour drive back to Memphis was boring and tiring. But it was broken up by a fun stop at the Diebold Fruit Stand, where we took photos of gigantic pumpkins and Betty purchased some fresh apples. We arrived home shortly after 5 p.m.

 

 

Blowing No. 17 at Old Waverly on Nice Day

 

Nov. 5, 1999 – To Old Waverly Golf Club, West Point, MS

 

I drove to Old Waverly with my friend Curtis Downs in his comfortable Lexus. It was a beautiful day but both of our golf games were errant.

 

I shot a 92, losing an otherwise good round with a dumb shot on No. 17. With little green to work with after my drive fell short, I tried to hit a relaxed “flop shot.” However, I bladed the shot and the ball skittered across the green and I ended up with a 6 on the Par 3 hole.

 

I played it safe on No. 18 and hit a fat 1 iron off the tee. Then I put my second shot in the lake to the left, ending up with a 7 on the hole. Curtis did no better, ending up with a 93.

 

Back to Old Waverly for Needed Lesson

 

Nov. 18, 1999 – To Old Waverly Golf Club, West Point, MS

 

I drove to Old Waverly by myself in my Ford Taurus station wagon to take my first golf lesson with the club’s new head pro, Jon Crane. He is a Golf Management graduate of my alma mater, nearby Mississippi State University at Starkville, MS. He formerly worked at the renowned Hilton Head golf course.

 

Jon made two necessary changes to my swing. He made my turn smoother and straightened out my shoulders by squaring them to the rear and by not taking the club up so high. The changed stance felt a little odd, but it seemed to take the slicing tendency out of the swing. It put a slight draw on the ball (a big positive for me) and gave me an additional 10-to-15 yards in distance with  a 7 iron, a very big positive.

 

After the lesson, I enjoyed lunch in the clubhouse with my guests Dr. Clyde Williams and his wife, Marsha. Both live at Starkville, where he is a longtime professor in the English Department who taught me a lot about the language and life when I was an MSU student 30 years ago.

 

After lunch, I played 9 holes to try out my new swing. I was very pleased to shoot a 41 that included 3 pars, 2 double bogeys and no triple bogeys.

 

Best Golf Round Ever of 79 at Gulf Shores State Park

 

Nov.23, 1999 – To Gulf Shores, AL

 

Betty and I drove to Gulf Shores in our Taurus station wagon once she got home about 2 p.m. on a Wednesday from Northside High School, where she has taught culinary arts for about 20 years. We had some rain en route and had to slow down occasionally for construction delays. But we still made it to our condo on the beach in good time of less than 8 hours. We arrived at 10:35 p.m.

 

We were pleased to see that our place had been deep-cleaned as promised by our rental agent, Kaiser Realty, and the exterior of our complex had fresh paint. Gulf Village looked the best it has ever looked.

 

The next day, I played golf at the State Park course and hit the ball pretty well. I shot an 87 (44 on the front nine holes and 43 on the back nine). I had 7 pars, hit 9 fairways in regulation, hit 6 greens in regulation and took only 37 putts. I had a half-dozen very close misses with my putts, with the ball being out of line only a half-inch or less. Several times another half-roll of the ball would have dropped the ball into the cup, which could have reasonably resulted in a score in the low 80s or maybe even the high 70s.

 

We enjoyed a delicious Thanksgiving meal Betty had partly prepared at home. We had baked turkey breast with the usual holiday trimmings. That afternoon we visited several potential condo complexes in and around Gulf Shores in preparation for Friday’s meeting with Realtor Glen Kaiser, brother of the agent who sold us our condo at Gulf Village in 1986.

 

Glen showed us two condos that we liked a lot. One was at the Island Sunrise complex, listed for $168,000. The other was at Plantation way down the beach toward Fort Morgan, listed at $130,000. We signed documents with Glen that gave him the listing for our condo, Gulf Village No. 201. The listed price for our place was $72,500, which seemed reasonable given the somewhat soft market and the age of our building. But it reflected a respectable appreciation in value since we paid only $35,000 for it in 1986. After buying it, we invested another $5,000 in the unit by “taking it back to the walls” and completely renovating and redecorating the interior.

 

Betty and I really liked the prospect of “trading up” to the unit we saw at Plantation, which offered spectacular views of the Gulf of Mexico from the 8th floor. It had two bedrooms and two baths and also had good views of the adjacent Kiva Dunes golf course from a small porch overlooking the gulf beach and one of the complex’s swimming pools. On the downside was the fact that it was up fairly high, required an elevator ride, has no washer-dryer connections and was located a half-hour’s drive west of the town of Gulf Shores and its familiar facilities and restaurants we like.

 

(It turned out we withdrew our unit from the Kaiser listing after about a year of minimal interest from potential buyers. Subsequent damage from hurricanes required another round of complete redecoration of our unit. It also helped propel a boomlet of new, high-rise condo developments that sent prices into the stratosphere: i.e. $500,000 for two bedrooms in a 20-story building across the street. The time and investment required to bring our condo back to an acceptable level led to us backing off any plans to “trade up” for the foreseeable future.)

 

That evening, we ate dinner again at The Spot after a long and tiring day.

 

The next day, I returned to the State Park Golf Course while Betty repaired back to the mall at Foley, AL about 20 miles north of Gulf Shores on Highway 59. But rather than shop any of the the mall’s about 120 stores, she visited the town’s big Wal-Mart Super Center to shop.

 

At the Park course, I had the best round of golf in my life, shooting a 79. I had been trying to break the magic number of 80 for years. I had come close a few times, but never had quite managed to finish otherwise outstanding rounds. I had been below 80 on an executive course in Hawaii, but never before on a championship level course.

 

In the memorable round at the Gulf State Park, I shot 1 birdie, 10 pars, 6 bogeys (1 stroke over par) and 1 double bogey (2 strokes over par). I had no triple bogeys. As the poet Louis Dodgson said in the famous “Jabberwocky” verse, ”Oh frabjus day, Caloo, Calay. I only needed 35 putts (1 beneath regulation). I shot 38 (2 strokes over par) on the front 9 holes and 41 on the back nine. Needless to say, I was ecstatic after finally getting though the long-standing barrier of 80. However, I realistically realized then and later that really good golfers routinely shoot in the 70s and on occasion some will break into the 60s.

 

My witnesses to my feat were my playing partners for the day - Johnny and Larry Hinson of Birmingham. It was a great day for all of us, with sunny skies, only light winds and temperatures rising into the 70s. Traffic on the course was surprising light, meaning we were able to play at normal speed without a lot of waiting for the groups ahead to shake a leg.

 

While I certainly deserved a celebratory, blowout dinner in a fancy restaurant that evening, I was happy to settle for leftovers back at our condo.

 

We drove back to Memphis on the next day, a Sunday, on another beautiful day. We carried in the station wagon some of our favorite condo accessories to avoid any possible misunderstandings when Realtor Alex Kaiser was showing the unit and hopefully writing a sale contract.

 

“Wakeup Call’ at Old Waverly With Score of 106

 

Dec. 11, 1999 – To Old Waverly Golf Club, West Point, MS

 

I drove to Old Waverly in the Taurus station wagon with old friend Tim Parks and two great amateur golfers, Don Holmes (girls’ basketball coach at Northside High School) and Thurman Glass (a production line supervisor at Schering-Plough HealthCare Products. Both are former Memphis Publinx Tournament champions). I had played golf with both Don and Thurman in several golf tournament scrambles my company had entered and which I had loaded up a foursome with their talent.

 

This day happened to be a “free guest day” at Old Waverly and I was pleased to take my pals to show off the world-famous course, named by Golf Digest as one of the Top 100 in the U.S. several times.

 

Notwithstanding the excellence of Don and Thurman, it was an awful day for my game. Coming off an all-time personal best of 79 scored the previous month at Gulf Shores, I had the feeling that maybe my game had at last been raised to a higher level of skill. But it was not to be as I shot a 106 – one of my all-time worst rounds at Old Waverly. However, the weather was OK and the company was very good.

 

Christmas in Gulf Shores, Santa Brings Decent Golf

 

Dec. 18, 1999 – Jan. 2, 2000 – To Gulf Shores, AL

 

Betty and I drove from our Memphis home to Gulf Shores, AL for our annual Christmas vacation,  on the beach in front of our condo on the Gulf of Mexico. The 450-mile drive was generally lousy, with rain starting on Interstate 55 around Grenada, MS and coming down very hard in spots. It was really bad once we reached Mobile, where a big section of Interstate 65 that connects southbound U.S. Highway 90 to Interstate 10 was closed.

 

Apparently traffic was diverted around the site of an accident involving a truck hauling hazardous chemicals, which had to be carefully unloaded and safety transported away.

 

Once in Gulf Shores, we had an excellent seafood dinner at the Original Oyster House that evening. The next day, a Sunday, we rode our bikes and did some minor repairs and touch-up painting in our condo.

 

On December 20, I played golf at the State Park course, shooting a decent 92. Despite hitting 7 fairways with my drives, I had only 3 pars due to my generally crummy approach shots to the greens. That put a lot of pressure on my putting game. The next day, we drove to the county seat of Bay Minette, AL, where I appealed a recent property appraisal of $84,500 that had been put on our condo for tax purposes.

 

My session with the Board of Equalization at the Assessor’s Office went well. The members seemed sympathetic to my arguments and ultimately reduced the appraisal to my suggested $60,000 without going into the load of detail I presented to buttress my points. That evening, we enjoyed a huge but good dinner of old fashioned country food at Lambert’s Café on the outskirts of Foley, AL.

 

On the 22nd, our longtime friends Marty and Marge Pendleton cancelled their planned drive over to Gulf Shores from their retirement home in Ocean Springs, MS. I ended up playing another round of golf at the State Park, shooting one of my best scores ever. I shot a solid 82, with a 38 on the front 9 and a 44 on the back 9. It was a sunny and cool day, with temperatures rising into the upper 60s. It was unusually warm for late December. I had a possible, personal record best number of pars with 11 out of 18 possible after hitting 9 fairways and 8 greens in regulation. I slipped on a few holes, scoring 2 double bogeys and 5 bogeys (a bogey is 1 stroke over par and about average for an average golfer). But not having any triple bogeys at all was a big plus for me. Better yet, my Ping putter was hot on this day. I only took 32 putts for the entire round (14 on the front nine and 18 on the back nine) in what I think is my all-time best day ever of putting.

 

On the 24th, Casey flew from California into the airport at Pensacola, FL on a US Airways plane that arrived at 11:19 a.m. He had to change planes in L.A. and again at Charlotte, N.C., a very roundabout trip indeed. Unfortunately, he arrived with a scratchy throat. But we still went to the traditional Christmas Eve service at the First Presbyterian Church in Gulf Shores. We followed the simple service with a great dinner Betty prepared of Cajun Grilled Shrimp and smoked salmon brought from home.

 

With Casey feeling crummy, we stayed in the condo most of Christmas Day, taking only a short outing to show him the Plantation development 20 or so miles down the beach to the west. We explained to Casey that It’s possible that Betty and I might buy a bigger condo there with a Gulf view once our present condo sells. It’s been on the “For Sale” market for several months but has not drawn much interest in this soft market.

 

Casey and I hit a few golf balls with our new drivers at the Gulf Park range on December 26 before we drove him to Pensacola for his 3:30 p.m. flight back to Palm Springs, CA via the roundabout connections in Charlotte and Los Angeles. That evening, Betty and I dined at The Spot.

 

The following day, Betty went to the big discount outlet mall at Foley, AL while I played golf at the Woodlands Course on the northern outskirts of Gulf Shores. I shot a 90 (46 on the front 9 and 44 on the back 9) despite some very poor putting compared to my round at the State Park a few days ago. I hit 9 fairways but only 3 greens in regulation. I only managed to make 6 pars and took a total of 42 putts, far more than my recent record of 32.

 

Betty and I drove to Coden, AL to eat at what we remembered from an excursion there a decade or more ago to have been a great restaurant. We were disappointed that the lunch wasn’t nearly as good as we thought it would be. My seafood platter turned out to be a whole, fried flounder, served complete with tail and bones. The only positive was that Betty found a tiny pearl in one of her oysters.

 

After lunch we enjoyed nearby Bellingrath Gardens and had the spacious gardens almost to ourselves on this chilly, windy day. We were annoyed that the usually scenic Fort Morgan ferry ride across Mobile Bay was not running on this day due to choppy waves. So we had to drive extra miles around the bay to get to Bellingrath. At least we saw a large flock of white pelicans on the backwaters of the bay from the causeway built over the shallower waters.

 

On the 29th, we rode our bikes on a route along the Gulf Shores beach that was 14 miles long, with temperatures rather cool but under generally sunny skies.

 

I returned to the State Park to play another round of golf on the 30th, shooting an 89 (44-45). I made 8 pars, hit 6 fairways and 6 greens. I had only 38 putts but still made 1 triple bogey, 5 double bogeys and 4 single bogeys. I had trouble with both my old driver and my new driver on many holes.

 

On New Year’s Eve, we rode our bikes for 11 miles along the beach. I watched football games on TV that evening and all day on New Year’s Day. We drove home on February 2, a beautiful day.

 

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