Nolan Getaways – 2000

Travel by Lewis and Betty Nolan

 

Dec. 18, 2001-Jan. 2: Gulf Shores, AL

July 20: Old Waverly

Feb. 5: Reelfoot Lake, West Tennessee

July 30-Aug. 12: Gulf Shores

Feb. 29: Old Waverly, West Point, MS

Aug. 8-9: New Orleans, LA

Mar. 7: Old Waverly

Aug. 21: Old Waverly

Mar. 15: Palm Desert, CA

Sept. 7: Old Waverly

Mar. 31: Old Waverly

Sept. 23-24: Nashville

April 14-23: Gulf Shores

Oct. 18: Old Waverly

May 19-21: Gulf Shores

Nov. 10-12: Tampa & Parrish, FL

June 24: Old Waverly

Nov. 21-26: Gulf Shores

June 27-30: Cass Lake & Bemidji, MN

Dec. 21-28: Santa Barbara, CA

July 15-18: Hot Springs, AR

 

 

Continue With Getaways – 2001  /  Return To Nolan Travels Home Page

 

Page Updated April 7, 2008

 

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. after he changed 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. 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 the 26th 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 most 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.

 

Watching Eagles Soar at Reelfoot Lake

 

Feb. 5, 2000 – To Reelfoot Lake in Northwest Tennessee

 

Betty and I drove in our Ford Taurus station wagon from our Memphis home to Reelfoot Lake north of Dyersburg, TN. Most of the two-hour route was on U.S. Highway 51, a divided highway that moves through the rolling hills of a rural area of West Tennessee. The lake was formed nearly a century ago (1811-1812) when an earthquakes opened a huge chasm in the earth and the Mississippi River actually ran backwards until the chasm was filled.

 

We stopped at the Covington Cemetery on the drive north to pay our respects at the graves of  our longtime friends and former neighbors, members of the McBride family who are buried there. We were surprised to see that Mary Martha McBride’s date of death had been inscribed on a footstone of the family plot since our last visit and that sister Francis McBride’s stone had been removed from the plot. Our presumption was that their great nephews of Vicksburg, MS were responsible since they have another family plot there. Regardless, we think It’s a sad situation that is best left untouched by us.

 

Reelfoot is the winter home of several dozen American Bald Eagles, which draw bird watchers and other nature lovers to the site.

 

We happened to see an eagle in a tree way off in the bird refuge that is just across the Tennessee-Kentucky border north of the lake. We also saw a red headed woodpecker, about 14 flying hawks and an estimated 35,000 wintering geese as well as 6 grazing deer, a dozen or more Great Blue Herons and various small birds. The small birds included wren, Cardinals and sparrows. It was a nice day for an outing because of the abundant sunshine.

 

Due to the cold, we ate chicken sandwiches in the car. We had a good time seeing all the birds and want to repeat the winter trip.

 

It was chilly on this day, with the high expected to reach only 41 degrees. A cool wind blew off the ice over the fringe of the lake and the light snow on the ground around it. Not a good day for walking around, but it was a good day for the eagles.

 

First Round of New Millennium at Old Waverly

 

Feb. 29, 2000 – To Old Waverly Golf Club, West Point, MS

 

I drove to Old Waverly with my longtime golf buddy Curtis Downs for our first round of the New Millennium together. It was a nice day, with winter temperatures in the 60s. I shot a 95 and Curtis shot an 84, with the spread of roughly 10 strokes between our scores being fairly typical. On occasion I’ll have a great day when he’s off his game and I actually score a few strokes lower. But that doesn’t happen very often. And certainly only rarely on a great course like that of Old Waverly, which ranks in Golf Digest’s Top 100 Courses in America in most years.

 

My swing has definitely deteriorated from the swing I enjoyed last fall. That is partly due, I’d like to rationalize, to the closing of the Aqua Golf practice range facility in Memphis and my corresponding lack of hitting range balls over the winter.

 

Back To Old Waverly for Much Needed Lesson

 

March 7, 2000 – To Old Waverly Golf Club, West Point, MS

 

I drove just over 150 miles from my home in Memphis to Old Waverly in my Ford Taurus station wagon for a much-needed golf lesson with golf professional Jon Crane. He watched me hit a few shots and judged that my right elbow was swinging out from the line, that my weight shift was out of sync and that I was lifting up as I swung the club. What a mess.

 

Despite his efforts, I never could get comfortable with the new swing form he tried to teach me.

 

The weather on this day was ideal, with the temperature warming into the low 70s. But I struggled to shoot a 47 on the front 9 holes of the great golf course.

 

I happened to see my fellow club member Dr. Sandra Harpole of the Mississippi State physics department playing with Sammie Johnson, associate athletic director at the university. Sammie advised that Myquita Mackey, a Memphis young woman I had helped recruit to MSU through my friendship with her high school basketball coach, Don Holmes of Northside High School, had dropped out of MSU in December. The reason she gave was that she was pregnant. Myquita had been hotly recruited for her outstanding athleticism and quickly became a starter on the women’s basketball team despite being a freshman. I was sorry to learn that she had walked away from a sweet scholarship at my alma mater.

 

Desert Warmth and Golf with Casey

 

March 15 – 19, 2000 – To Palm Desert, CA

 

Betty and I flew to California to visit our son Casey in his apartment at Palm Desert, where we enjoyed a great long weekend of warm temperatures and enjoyable activities.

 

Betty had managed to get a couple of days off from teaching Culinary Arts at Northside High School in Memphis so we could fly out of Memphis on a Wednesday afternoon. However, the Delta flight we had booked was cancelled due to mechanical trouble so we were switched to an American flight. The new airline got us into Ontario, CA two hours earlier than planned after we transferred to a connecting flight in Dallas. The optimum connection was only possible because of a quick ride a golf cart to the proper terminal boarding gate.

 

It’s odd how little things can make such big differences in travel these days. My luck with tight connections had often been unfavorable during my frequent business trips from Memphis to New Jersey on behalf of Schering-Plough HealthCare Products in the 1980s and 1990s. The booking agent should have known that the 40-minute layover between the connecting flights in Dallas was all but impossible. That’s because we had seats in the back of the Memphis-to-Dallas plane and the flight out from Dallas to Ontario was from a different terminal.

 

The American Airlines flight to Ontario – a distant suburb of Los Angeles that has a good-sized airport named in honor of actor John Wayne – was full and I ended up with a middle seat. Dinner was so dreary that Betty didn’t eat. We were glad that we carried bottled water and snacks.

 

The plane arrived a few minutes early. We got a rental Pontiac car from Avis and drove nearly 1 ½ hours to Casey’s apartment in Palm Desert, arriving about 10 p.m. We were quite tired; it was midnight in Memphis. Casey had sent us a key and the code to the gate that guards his apartment development. Thankfully, my occasional episodes of klutziness didn’t surface and we were able to get through the gate and inside his apartment.

 

Casey was spending the night and most of the next day at his company’s regional offices and apartment in Irvine, CA, two-plus hours away. We were glad he had left some sandwich food and beverages in his refrigerator.

 

Once we arose on Thursday, we found we were treated to a warm desert morning. The skies were sunny and blue and fragrant flowers were in bloom in the manicured, apartment complex’s grounds. Betty in particular was pleased that Casey was living in such a desert oasis. We had spent most of a week here with Casey last June.

 

We drove to a convenience store at nearby Indio, CA to fill the propane tank for his barbeque grill, in preparation for cooking that evening. We also shopped for food at a big Albertson’s Supermarket.

 

Once back at Casey’s apartment complex, I chipped some golf balls on the cup-shaped, tightly mown grass lawn just outside his front door while Betty used her motherly housekeeping skills to make Casey’s nicely kept apartment even nicer. She removed traces of over-use left by eight of his college friends who had flown in from the East Coast to enjoy the desert lifestyle the previous weekend.

 

Late that afternoon, Casey arrived home from the corporate office wearing a sharp suit, white shirt and a corporate necktie. We had a fine dinner of Filet of Sole Amandine, new potatoes and salad.

 

The three of us went to the Living Desert Wildlife Botanical Park on Friday morning. Established in 1970,the park has 1,200 acres that is between Palm Desert and the desert town of Indian Wells and contains more than 150 species of animals and 10 ecosystems of desert plants. While not as polished as the Desert Museum in Tucson, the park is well organized and its educational exhibits are well displayed. We greatly enjoyed our morning there.

 

That afternoon, Casey and I played golf on the new Desert Willow Municipal Course at Palm Desert, a plush resort track. Even at the twilight rates, it cost me $90 to play (the greens fee for rounds started before 2 p.m. cost $135) in this high season. Slow play by the golfers ahead of us meant we only got in 16 holes before darkness cut our round short.

 

Allowing a best-guess projection for scores on the remaining holes, I shot a 48 on the front 9 and a 43 on the back 9 for a total score of 91 – not bad considering the sorry state of my recent play back home. I hit the ball pretty well but was annoyed when a new visor I had purchased blew off the cart and was lost in the desert. Casey shot about the same as I did.

 

While we played golf, Betty sunned by one of the pools at Casey’s apartment complex. She later cooked some delicious BBQ pork tenderloin.

 

On Saturday morning, the three of us drove to nearby La Quinta, a desert resort community, and poked around the annual Arts Festival there. Several hundred painters, potters and craftsmen were selling their artwork for what I thought were very high prices. I anticipated the heat and carried a bottle of water with me around the festival grounds.

 

That afternoon we attended the women’s finals of the Indian Wells Tennis Garden’s Champion Cup, Masters Series. It was the premier, televised opening event for the big stadium that Casey and his company had been building for more than a year. Thanks to Casey and his company, Clark Construction, we sat in a ritzy corporate suite made available to Clark by the IMG owners of the stadium. The air-conditioned suite (which would have rented for $95,000 had it been available to the Hollywood set and other VIPs) overlooked the center court and was a most welcome retreat from the 90-degree temperatures and direct sun.

 

We sat on the suite’s “porch” shaded during most of the Women’s Finals match between tennis greats Lucy Davenport and Martina Hingus and also during part of the play by two Europeans in the men’s semi-finals. I was surprised that Clark Construction was too cheap to provide snacks or beverages to its guests in the suite. The guests were mostly company employees like Casey who had made possible the on-time design and construction of the stadium. How soon they forget.

 

But at least I got a chance to meet Casey’s bosses, Jim and Allen, and co-worker Judy. They were all beaming at the well-deserved kudos given their $43-million project by tournament officials and the press. The crowd – much of it from Hollywood – was well-heeled. There were quite a few luxury tents displaying and selling various upscale goods, food and sports merchandise. That night, we grilled Tarragon Salmon at Casey’s apartment for dinner, served with rice and broccoli.

 

Betty and I left about 10 a.m. the next morning. Casey stayed back so we could watch the Men’s Finals with a female friend. We filled up the rental car gas tank for $1.79 a gallon, the cheapest price we could find. That price was about 40 cents higher than what charged in Memphis. The drive to the Ontario airport was uneventful, as were the Delta flights home that connected in Dallas. Once back in Memphis, it took more than an hour to retrieve our bags from Delta’s substandard luggage service. But it was a great trip nonetheless.

 

Despite 260-yard Drive, Poor Round at Old Waverly

 

March 31, 2000 – To Old Waverly Golf Club, West Point, MS

 

I drove to Old Waverly with my good friend and fellow golfer Curtis Downs on a beautiful, spring Friday with sunny skies and temperatures in the 70s. The wonderful course is fully green this late in spring.

 

I didn’t play very well, shooting a 101. Curtis shot his usual good round, scoring 89. However, I was hitting my new Adams 7 Metal the best ever on fairways approach shots. I somehow managed to knock a drive 260 yards on Hole No. 8, which I believe was the longest drive I’ve ever hit. The ground must have been extra firm to help make the ball roll so far.

 

However, my short game was awful. I stubbed a bunch of shots. I blame my failure to get my game scoring down into the 80s at least partly due to my lack of winter practice because of the closing of the Aqua Golf driving range in Memphis.

 

Best Score of Year: 83 at Park Course, Gulf Shores

 

April 14 – 23, 2000 – To Gulf Shores, AL

 

Betty and I drove to Gulf Shores for our annual Easter vacation, leaving Memphis about 2 p.m.  once Betty returned home from teaching culinary arts at Northside High School. We drove through a few showers, but other than congestion when we passed through Jackson, MS, we had an uneventful trip of just under 8 hours.

 

The next morning, we had a bit of a hassle with a real estate agent who called at 9 a.m. to complain about not being able to get a key for our condo until after 10 a.m. She wanted me to leave open the door for her or meet her and her client at 10:30 a.m. After screwing up our plans for the morning, she had the audacity to call me a little while later to cancel the showing. I complained to our listing agent, Glen Kaiser. He had been trying without success to sell our unit in the face of a declining market due to overdevelopment along the beach.

 

I stayed inside our condo to write an update to my 3030 Update website on my laptop computer while Betty enjoyed sunning on the beach in front of our condo. It was a beautiful day, with sunny skies and temperatures climbing into the low 80s. The water was unusually blue due to the lack of inland rain, which when heavy washes topsoil down the rivers that empty into the Gulf of Mexico.

 

The next day, Sunday, the weather was again gorgeous. Since we didn’t bring our bicycles with us this trip, I went to the State Park to hit some golf balls on the practice range. The following day, I played golf at the park course with three nice guys from Indiana and shot a 90 (43 on the front nine and 47 on the back nine) after hitting a lot of fairways and putting fairly well.

 

I signed up for a vacation special offered by a local Internet access provider and paid $20 for a vacation plan that gave me up to 30 days of access at no additional charge. It was nice having Internet capabilities at the condo rather than driving to the local public library to use public computer terminals for 30-minute increments. That evening, we enjoyed a good seafood dinner at The Spot, served by a new waitress on the staff who sported a tiny barbell piercing in her tongue.

 

Our longtime friends Marty and Marge Pendleton drove over to Gulf Shores from their retirement home in Ocean Springs, MS, to visit with us and have lunch on Wednesday, April 18, at the Original Oyster House Restaurant. I had grilled mahi-mahi. We drove them in the top-down Mustang to Fort Morgan about 20 miles down the coast on Mobile Bay, where we toured the Civil War fort and museum. We walked a good ways on the flotsam-covered beach and Marty picked up some picturesque pieces of driftwood. 

 

The Pendletons left Gulf Shores about 3 p.m. and unfortunately had a flat tire on Interstate 10 while driving back home. Betty and I enjoyed the smoked salmon we brought from home for dinner.

 

On Thursday, I missed the absence of my bike on what would have been a near-perfect day for riding. I poked around the condo and worked on the Internet while Betty sunned. That afternoon, we walked on the beach up to the public access point at Highway 59 and then walked back, a total distance of about 3 miles. It was the highlight of my day.

 

On April 17, I shot what was my best golf score since last Thanksgiving, an 83 on the Gulf Park course. In all, I hit 5 fairways and 7 greens. I had only 37 putts, but managed 8 pars and 1 birdie. However, I ended up with 5 triple bogeys. I did make several 15-to-20-foot putts and chipped pretty well. I had several great breaks, with balls bouncing off trees in the rough into the fairways or short rough. That evening, we had leftover smoked salmon and soup for dinner.

 

I played the State Park course again on Friday and had another good round. Both times I hit a small bucket of balls before starting my round and also practiced a few chips and putts before play. Maybe the warm-up and ball-striking practice was a key to my improved scores.

 

On this round I shot an 88, scoring a 44 on both the front and back nines. I hit 11 of 14 fairways but my distance was not good, with drives generally limited to 210 yards and a best of 220. I hit 5 greens, took only 34 putts and scored 7 pars. I played with a couple of guys from Michigan, who drank a lot of beer and whose play steadily deteriorated as the round went on.

 

That evening, we enjoyed Betty’s Red Snapper Amandine dish.

 

The best day of the stay at Gulf Shores was on Saturday, April 20. I hit a medium-sized

bucket of practice balls with my Adams 7 Metal fairly well. During the day, the temperature dropped into the mid-70s, cutting short Betty’s time sunning on the beach. We had a nice lunch at the Oyster House. For dinner, we ate a light supper of Royal Red shrimp with leftover snapper.

 

We made it home on Sunday in record time – 7 hours and 15 minutes – even though we drove through occasional light rain and light traffic on Easter Sunday.

 

Condo Owners Discuss Sale of Development

 

May 19 – 21, 2000 – To Gulf Village, AL

 

I drove from my home in Memphis to Gulf Shores in a rented Hertz Ford, leaving at 9 a.m. with a cooler full of TAB soft drinks and grilled chicken sandwiches. The drive took nearly 8 hours, about average time for the 450 miles. I was by myself because Betty was teaching school. However, I felt it necessary that I attend the annual owners meeting of the Gulf Village Association. Gulf Village is the name of the development where our small, one-bedroom unit is located. We’ve been members since we bought our condo on the beach in 1986.

 

Upon arrival in Gulf Shores, I enjoyed a good dinner of Mahi-Mahi (caught locally and known as dolphin) at the Original Oyster House.

 

Unfortunately, Meyer Real Estate, managing firm for the property that was employed by the Gulf Village Association, had put out a false report of a plan to demolish the building that houses my condo. It turned out that the half-baked idea was a “conjectural plan” that had received no attention from our association’s elected board of directors. The goofy idea was tabled at the meeting.

 

I happened to introduce a couple of motions at the membership meeting that were adopted. One concerned a “no increase” budget for the association. The other authorized litigation against an insurance company for damages to the property. I declined an invitation to serve on the association’s board of directors, citing the time and expense of travel to and from my home in Memphis to Gulf Shores to make meetings.

 

I played golf at the State Park course and shot an 86, scoring well despite being somewhat wild off the tee. I had 7 pars, 8 bogeys and only 3 double bogeys. I managed to hit 5 fairways and 5 greens in regulation and took only 36 putts. Dinner on Saturday evening was fried oysters at The Spot, where I learned that two of my favorite people in Gulf Shores – the owners of my favorite restaurant for many years – had decided to sell after 17 years of doing business.

 

I was happy for the couple – Kim and Julie Stewart – since they would receive a significant amount of money for their thriving business and were young enough to have some new experiences in life. But I thought the closing of restaurant would be a shame since Betty and I have enjoyed dozens of very good meals with a great view of the Gulf of Mexico there over the years. We’ve long considered The Spot the best seafood place we’ve eaten at. It is making way for a planned, multi-use complex of high rises featuring retail and residential properties.

 

The long drive back to Memphis from Gulf Shores was uneventful on Sunday. I enjoyed an excellent dinner Betty cooked of Eggs Benedict.

 

Golf at Old Waverly in the Heat With Casey

 

June 24, 2000 – To Old Waverly Golf Club, West Point, MS

 

I drove to Old Waverly with my son, Casey Nolan, in the Ford Taurus station wagon. He had flown home for the weekend from Los Angeles, not far from where he works near Santa Barbara.

 

We met up with my golf pal, Curtis Downs, and his son of about Casey’s age, Brad, at Old Waverly. Our foursome was faced with the very hot temperature of early summer but enjoyed the golf. Curtis easily won the Round Robin bet. I shot a crummy 95 and Casey struggled with the heat to shoot a 96. I was very short off the tee, but at least my putting was pretty good. I sunk several putts of 15-to-20 feet for a change.

 

Casey smashed his usual long drives off the tee, but the high temperature and lack of any cooling breeze took a heavy toll on his short game.

 

Minnesota Memories with Cousin Jim Nolan

A Pilgrimage To Cass Lake, Bemidji & Lake Itasca

June 27 – 30, 2000

 

By LEWIS NOLAN

 

Return To Nolan Travels Home Page

 

Speedy Links to Trip Segments:

Part 1: Memphis to Minneapolis

Part 2: Minneapolis to Cass Lake

Part 3: Cass Lake

Part 4: Bemidji and Lake Itasca

            Part 5: Cass Lake to Memphis

            Photo Index

 

Thursday, June 29, 2000 – To Bemidji and Lake Itasca, MN

 

After breakfast at Bemidji’s Comfort Inn in Northern Minnesota, we hooked up with my first cousin Jim Nolan and his charming wife. Carol, and drove to downtown Bemidji

Lewis & Betty in Bemidji

Click Colored Type to Enlarge Photo

(pop. 11,245). The first stop was at statues of Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox that I remembered so well from childhood.

 

Paul towers 18 feet over the tens of thousands of visitors to the lakeshore city park and welcome center. The folk hero characters were made of concrete in 1937 and have become the symbol of the North Woods logging era and the signature of Bemidji.

 

The folk hero has a state forest named after him and also lives on in advertisements by area businesses. A country music radio station broadcasts its "Fishing Paul Bunyan Country" show twice a day. The Paul Bunyan Playhouse offers professional summer theater. The Paul Bunyan Mall has 30 specialty shops and a Kmart. There is a Paul Bunyan Realty, a Paul Bunyan Motel (located on Paul Bunyan Drive, of course) and a shopper tabloid newspaper entitled "Paul Sez." The Paul Bunyan Trail is a state bikeway stretching 120 miles from Bemidji to Brainerd along an abandoned railroad route.

 

Sadly, the famous figures at Bemidji are diminished by the immediate proximity of a cheap carnival that has marred the town's front porch for decades. Nonetheless, we took lots of pictures.

 

An Indian Trading Post across the street from the park attracted our attention and our dollars and we bought some postcards and souvenirs. Many more of our dollars were spent a few blocks away at Bemidji Woolen Goods, an outlet store that features well-known brands plus a little of its own piecework. I bought a cotton sweater for Betty and for myself a red plaid, Pendleton shirt reminiscent of the "uniform" of my teen years in California. The four of us had some laughs modeling coonskin caps and Jim bought a heavy, wool jacket that my father would have loved.

 

Following a good lunch at one of the Perkins Restaurant chain locations, we drove around the town and Bemidji State University campus. Both were clean and neat and showed very well alongside the blue water of Bemidji Lake, one of many clear lakes carved out by glaciers eons ago. Jim and Carol liked the college and environs well enough to add the town to their list of possible retirement locations for a future date.

 

We drove 35 miles to Lake Itasca and its Headwaters Park. The Mississippi River starts as a small

Lewis, Betty at headwaters

Click Colored Type to Enlarge Photo

stream one can almost jump across at Lake Itasca. It flows South to Bemidji Lake, then to Cass Lake and Leech Lake and then southward, where it eventually reaches the Gulf of Mexico. The total length, including the countless bends and turns from ongoing meanders, is 2,552 miles.

 

Below Cass Lake, the Mississippi River is marked at bridge crossings. It is only 15-to-20 feet wide and runs clear and fast. It bears no resemblance to the broad-shouldered “Big Muddy” at Memphis.

 

Headwaters Park was established by state government in 1891. It now encompasses 32,000 acres. More than 500,000 people visit the Park annually, with a great many of those walking and wading across the stepping stones at the exact place where the Father of Waters departs Lake Itasca. Cabins and other accommodations are available and the park seems to be a popular destination for cyclists. The leader of one group told us the biting deerflies were not a problem unless you stop pedaling.

 

The Mississippi's headwaters had long eluded the white explorers. Zebulon Pike mapped the river as far north as Cass Lake in 1806. Later, Lewis Cass, then the governor of the Michigan Territory, reached the same lake and conclusion 12 years later. It was not until 1832 that Henry Rowe Schoolcraft was led by a Chippewa guide to the small stream flowing from Lake Itasca that was the beginning of the Mississippi.

 

The guide was Ozawindjib, who lived on Star Island, a geographic anomaly that is in the middle of Cass Lake and has its own lake. Star Island has 1,163 acres and a 195-acre lake, Lake Windigo, giving Cass Lake a lake within a lake.

 

Star Island is the site of a few isolated cabins and three campgrounds and serves as a "summer community" for families who have been coming there for generations. Jim recalled that his late mother, Harriet Nolan, once swam from mainland to island, a distance of perhaps a mile from Norway Beach.

 

Schoolcraft named the spot where the beginning of the Mississippi flows from the lake "Itasca," a contraction from the Latin words "Caput" and "Veritas," meaning "true head." The site is 1,475 feet above sea level.

 

A narrow bridge made from a cut log allows visitors to walk back and forth over the headwaters without getting their feet wet. The more adventurous - like the hordes of young Scouts there when we visited - wade across or jump from slippery stone to slippery stone.  Thankfully, there are no reeds – and presumably no hiding leeches – at the spot.

 

Following our drive back to Bemidji, we said goodbye to the Connors, had an early, light dinner and retired early in preparation for a pre-dawn departure the next morning.

 

Continue with Next Trip Segment / Return to Nolan Travels Home Page

 

To Hot Springs For Relaxing Baths with Wary Eyes

 

July 15 – 17, 2000 – To Hot Springs, AR

 

Betty and I drove half-way across Arkansas to spend a long weekend at Hot Springs and “take the waters.” We first dropped our pet greyhound, Dickens, off at the “Kennel Camp” at the West Memphis Southland dog racing track. The drive took about 4 hours since we took two connecting roads off Interstate 30 to Hot Springs rather than our usual route.

 

We found that the Arlington Hotel, the city’s fanciest hotel where we’ve stayed several times, hasn’t changed much even though the carpets and lobby furniture upholstery seems to be new. Our room was comfortable even though the bed was a little soft for our taste. We had a delicious dinner of German food at our favorite, nearby restaurant with a German theme, Bohemia. I had veal schnitzel and Betty had smoked pork tenderloin. We later took relaxing, mineral water, whirlpool baths in our room’s bathroom and went to bed early.

 

The room service for breakfast was excellent. I spent much of the morning finishing my writing of the travelogue about our June trip to Minnesota. We went to the hotel’s bathhouse about 10:30 a.m., where there was a gaggle of noisy prison women (most employees of state penitentiaries and at least one inmate). Their loud talking and laughter destroyed the customary peace and quiet of the bathhouse.

 

I had forgotten that the Arlington’s bathhouse – unlike the much nicer commercial bathhouse up the street called “Buckstaff” – does not have a quiet, cooling room for its patrons. The surroundings and equipment are not nearly as antique and luxurious as those offered by Buckstaff. Worse, the Arlington charges more for patrons to bath in the same mineral water heated by hot springs beneath the downtown area. Predictably, the hotel bath staff is not nearly as attentive to its captive audience and seems to expect generous tips for crummy service.

 

We had an OK lunch across the street from the Arlington at an eating spot called “Faded Rose” then poked around the shops in the downtown area.

 

Later, I took a brief swim in the hotel’s hillside pool while Betty sunned. But the pool water was uncomfortably lukewarm on this very hot day. The temperature hit 104 degrees yesterday and seemed to be blazing hot again on this day. We learned that a 14-state, Southern States Correctional Association had started their annual convention here. The hotel lobby is crawling with beefy women and hard-eyed men. Had we known what was in town this weekend, I doubt we’d have come to Hot Springs. It’s rather iconic that the prison staffers are here in force since Hot Springs was once a wide-open, gangster refuge and still focuses much tourism promotion on horseracing.

 

That night, Betty and I dined in the Arlington Hotel’s Venetian Room, where we had an elegant place setting for a rather ordinary dinner of burgers and chicken salad. It being so hot, we spent the rest of the evening in our hotel room watching television rather than venturing out to walk around the downtown area where some shops stay open late. We checked out at 9 a.m. on Monday and drove back to Memphis.

 

 

To Old Waverly with John Addison for Wet Day

 

July 20, 2000 – To Old Waverly Golf Club, West Point, MS

 

I drove to Old Waverly with my work friend of many years and fellow retiree John Addison in his new Ford Expedition. Joining us for the 150-mile ride from Memphis were our onetime associates at Schering-Plough HealthCare Products Curtis Downs and crack golfer Dave Wells, who kept us rolling on the drive with his funny stories.

 

I shot a 50 on the front 9 and a solid 45 on the back 9 after parring the last two holes. A terrible thunderstorm delayed play once it hit as we were on the 15th green. We spent about an hour in the clubhouse, enjoying burgers, beer and wine. The guys ribbed me pretty hard after I clumsily dropped a glass and it shattered on the floor. Curtis insisted that we finish the round, so we did even though we were feeling the effects of the food and drink, which if anything helped my game.

 

Gulf Shores for Golf and Sun During Lots of Rain

 

July 30 – Aug. 12, 2000 – To Gulf Shores, AL and New Orleans

 

Betty and I drove to Gulf Shores from our Memphis home in our Taurus station wagon with our bicycles strapped onto the rear. My recent back injury and idleness from recuperation made it rather difficult for me to climb the two flights of stairs carrying luggage to our condo on the beach at Gulf Shores. We had rain during much of our drive south, but were greeted by decent weather with rain mixed with sun just about every day of our stay.

 

We made the trip down in good time of 7 hours and 35 minutes, stopping only twice. We tried the Foley Beach Express, a recently built expressway route that loops around most of the town. But it didn’t seem to save much time over the regular, four-lane Highway 59 route through the middle of Foley.

 

I attended an Overeaters Anonymous meeting at the Gulf Shores United Methodist Church on Monday, where I learned that the group’s leader, a woman named Patsy, was hospitalized for the week with kidney failure. It made me wonder about the efficacy of the weight loss program which I had been attending in Memphis even though there was little evidence of success in other members there.

 

We did the usual stuff while in Gulf Shores. I played a fair amount of golf even with my sore back, shooting a 93, 85 and 88 at the State Park course. I had a rain-shortened round with my Memphis friend Tim Parks, who was in the area on business. I put the “rain check” given us by Park personnel to good use and worked the system to allow me to play three more times for a total cost of only $52 – a savings of nearly $100 had I paid the normal fees for 18 holes each time.

 

I cooked some fresh-caught Grouper Almondine for the first time, which made for an excellent dinner in our condo. I bicycled several times but found that due to my back injury I tired quicker than normal. I also made some progress in writing my travelogue about our June trip to Cass Lake, MN.

 

Betty spent a lot of time sunning and reading on the beach when I stayed in the condo to do my writing. I wrote on a company laptop computer I had brought along in case the office called me to do some communications work.

 

The end-of-the-season beach crowd had dwindled. The reduced congestion and avoidance of deep water by most was partly due to a nasty shark attack in May that injured two swimmers training about 60 yards from the shore near the Pink Pony Pub about a mile west of our condo.

 

With me on a low-carb diet, we dined at The Spot only twice and at the Original Oyster House just once. But we mainly ate relatively lightly and cooked our meals in our condo. The Royal Red shrimp, a deep water variety we seem to only find at Gulf Shores, were delicious by themselves and also when seasoned with Cajun spices and grilled.

 

We visited Fort Morgan during an anniversary celebration of the Battle of Mobile. We enjoyed a local history program put on by local Civil War re-enactors that included demonstrations of mortar and canon fire. I talked with the museum curator, Mike Bailey, for a while and found him to be quite knowledgeable about Civil War matters.

 

Among the guys I met while playing golf was Dub Duperior of Jackson, MS, a graduate of Ole Miss and owner of an employee leasing business. It turned out he is a member of the Whispering Pines Golf Club of Madison, MS and knows its pro, Richard Taylor, who formerly taught me golf lessons at my club, Old Waverly at West Point, MS. Dub owns a condo where we rented some years ago, the Sea Oats complex down the beach a couple of miles from our place at Gulf Village.

 

During this stay in Gulf Shores, I found myself napping for an hour or two on most afternoons, probably the result of feeling tired and being so out-of-shape from my back injury.

 


Betty and I took an overnight excursion to New Orleans Aug. 8-9 to enjoy the French Quarter and Cajun food. Then we returned to Gulf Shores for more golf and sun before heading home to Memphis on Aug. 12 so Betty would have a free Sunday before returning to Northside High School, where she teaches culinary arts.

 

To New Orleans for Cooking School & Museum

 

 Aug. 8-9, 2000 – To New Orleans from Gulf Shores, AL

 

Betty and I drove through rainfall that was at times torrential for an overnight trip to New Orleans, one of our favorite places to visit and eat well. Once we got through all the thunder and lightning, the weather was fine in the Crescent City, so-named because of the looping, half-circle the Mississippi River takes around the heart of New Orleans.

 

We stayed for the first time at the Pontchartrain Hotel in the Garden District, an aging structure where Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack used to stay in the 1950s. I was able to get a great rate through the Internet Priceline service that was far cheaper than that charged by the Sheraton Hotel on Canal Street where we usually stay. Much remodeling was underway.

 

Our room was fine. It was huge, with a large, tile bathroom and king-size bed. The staff was friendly and efficient. The rate was only $69 a night, but after tax and breakfast charges for room service delivery our bill was well over $100.

 

We visited the exquisite National D Day Museum just off Lee Circle, a few blocks from our hotel where the St. Charles Street Trolley stops. The museum made for a wonderful visit for this fan of World War II books written by and about some of the great heroes of the day. After our tour of the museum, we rode the Trolley about two miles to Canal Street and then walked to Galatoires, our favorite restaurant anywhere. It had been renovated and expanded a year ago and now offers upstairs dining, a new bar and a big, modern restroom facility that is a much needed improvement from the old, cramped facility off the kitchen.

 

With the expanded space, it seems that eating at Galatoires no longer requires a lengthy wait in line on the sidewalk on Bourbon Street to secure a table in the highly popular restaurant.

 

The Trolley ride back to our hotel was awful, with the car jammed tight with regulars and tourists like us. There was standing room only. Locals got on and off at nearly every stop, meaning the car was a study in jerky stop-and-go movements. The uneven motion and all the sweaty bodies aboard made for an unpleasant ride.

 

On Wednesday morning, I took a Cajun Cooking School class at the Riverwalk Mall along the Mississippi River while Betty shopped at the French Market in the French Quarter. Among dishes I learned to prepare were the school’s versions of Oysters Rockefeller and Jumbalaya.

 

Betty and I hooked up at 12:30 p.m. at the French Quarter’s Café de Monde, one of our favorite places in New Orleans that makes wonderful beignets and serves a rich coffee. We enjoyed a drink across the street – one of New Orleans’ trademark Sazarack cocktails – at a locally famous restaurant-saloon called Tujaques. We picked up two yummy Muffaletta sandwiches at Central Grocery to eat on the drive back to Gulf Shores. Unfortunately, we had to drive back through more storms and hard rain similar to that we endured on the trip over.

 

 

To Nashville’s Cheekwood, Visit with O’Briens

 

Sept. 23 – 24, 2000 – To Nashville

 

Betty and I drove to Nashville in our Taurus station wagon through occasional light rain. We arrived at the huge and lovely home of our friends Neil and Virginia O’Brien shortly before 1 p.m. Neil had worked across the street from my office on Jackson Avenue at Schering-Plough HealthCare Products. He was head of Buckeye Technologies’ Government Relations function. Before retiring, like Betty, Virginia had taught Culinary Arts in Memphis City Schools. We had stayed in touch with them since Neil’s post-retirement relocation to Nashville, where one of their daughters resides.

 

The O’Briens treated us to a delightful lunch at Cheekwood, a 55-acre estate, botanical garden and museum on the outskirts of Nashville that was once the home of the family that owned the very successful Maxwell House Coffee business. Our walk around their former mansion and their estate’s well-planted grounds was interesting.

 

That evening, Virginia cooked a good dinner of Chicken Tetrazinni. We had an excellent visit with her and Neil before retiring for the night.

 

On Sunday, Betty and I drove home to Memphis through hard rain. We’re glad the O’Briens are happy in their new home, but we miss seeing them on a regular basis.

 

To Old Waverly with Dr. Jim Bryant

 

Oct. 18, 2000 – To Old Waverly Golf Club, West Point, MS

 

I drove to Old Waverly in the Taurus station wagon with my family physician of more than 20 years, Dr. Jim Bryant. We had moderately warm temperatures for a fall day and were greeted by a mostly vacant golf course.

 

I struggled and shot a 97 for the day. Jim’s score was over 100, but he said he had a great time and clearly demonstrated that he knows how to play golf.

 

Authur! Author! Two Family Writers Meet in St. Pete

 

Nov. 10 – 12, 2000 – To Tampa, Clearwater and Parrish, FL

 

Betty and I flew to Tampa for reasonable prices on AirTran, leaving our home in Memphis at 2:15 p.m. on a Friday. The connection through Atlanta went better than planned so we were able to catch an earlier flight. We arrived in Tampa about 6:30 p.m. picked up a rental Taurus car without hassle and drove to nearby Clearwater Beach. We stayed at very nice motel, a Quality Resort Motel on the beach, which I had booked on the Priceline Internet service.

 

The motel had been freshly redecorated. Our King Room-Junior Suite was pleasant and comfortable. On the advice of a friendly desk clerk, we walked three blocks and had a superb dinner at a huge restaurant, the Leveroaks. It offered a scenic view of a lighted bridge over an inlet from the Gulf of Mexico. We could see through the big windows teenage boys fishing with nets and poles.

 

Ironically, my sister Mary Nolan Ballard later told us that she had gone to school with the son of the founder of the Leveroaks chain of 10 or so restaurants. Some years ago, she advised, he had sold the chain to some people who, again ironically, turned out to be neighbors of my former boss at Schering-Plough HealthCare Products, Bob Raub, who is retired in an elegant gated community at nearby Parrish, FL.

 

Betty and I stayed close to the waterfront motel for most of the day Saturday. It was sunny and the temperature was near 70 degrees. Mary drove over from her home in St. Petersburg so we could have lunch together at the Leveroaks restaurant while Betty sunned on the beach.

 

Over broiled salmon fritters and great salads. Mary and I plotted the organization and writing of Volume 2 of “Nolan-Miller Family History. We agreed the book would include the results of her years’ of work mapping out the genealogy charts of our grandparents, Lewis Elmer Nolan and Bertha Miller Nolan, their direct ancestors and each of their children plus a few others. The book would also include a preface that I would write; my account about my recent visit to Cass Lake, Minn., to meet cousin Dr. James Connor and visit some of the old family places there of historic importance to the family; and also my account of the 1997 trip by me and Betty to Ireland to retrace some of the early Nolan family history there.

 

We also agreed that I would arrange for the bindery of a small number of books, to include necessary typography and related decisions about actual printing and publication. We had a joyful time and I now wish we would have had more time together.

 

(Our joint book later was printed and bound in March, 2003. It has 332 pages, with most of them devoted to family tree charts prepared by Mary. The publisher was a small company I formed, Highland Press, and distribution was confined to immediate family. My copy is proudly displayed alongside Volume 1 in our home’s sunroom. Mary’s copy is in the middle of a table in her home office, where she performs much volunteer work helping others trace their family history on behalf of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.)

 

But on this trip, as with much of my working life as a journalist and corporate communications executive, I tried to pack 60 pounds of sand into a 50-pound sack. As usual, as is often the case my grasp exceeded my reach, I wasn’t able to spend the time I wanted to spend meeting with Mary, sunning on the beach and attending a party for our dear friend and my former boss, Bob Raub, on his 60th birthday. As a consequence, we didn’t do full justice to any of my goals for the trip and didn’t even have time to see a single sight at scenic Clearwater Beach.

 

That was a shame. I’d simply tried to accomplish too much on our short stay. Just seeing all the motels and condos shoulder-to-shoulder along the Gulf of Mexico at Clearwater Beach could have consumed the entire trip’s time.

 

We arrived at the Raub’s beautiful home (with an attached pool and on the edge of a championship golf course) at nearby Parrish, down the western coast of Florida an hour or so before most of his and wife Charlene’s 30-40 local friends got there for the party. We were able to visit briefly with Bob and Charlene and their youngest daughter, Beth, and her sister, Chris, who was accompanied by her boyfriend. The drive from our motel at Clearwater to the Raub home took about an hour. Faced with a long drive back to the motel, I was determined to limit myself to a single martini and maybe a couple of light beers at Bob’s birthday party so alcohol wouldn’t interfere with the drive back to Clearwater.

 

Charlene had the food for the party catered and provided a bartender to mix drinks for the guests. The food was quite good, especially the smoked salmon and “cowboy beans.” There was a homogenous crowd in attendance, generally retired and wealthy, or at least affluent. The ones I spoke with were cordial enough, but it didn’t seem that anybody went out of their way to talk to me or was terribly interested in what one of Bob’s former subordinates might have to say. So I spent some time talking with fellow Schering-Plough retiree Rich Carlsen and his wife, Jane. He had been the chief financial officer of our S-P division and had been attracted to buying a home at Parrish to be close to Bob and Charlene. The Raubs and Carlsens are all quality people in every respect and I’ve long felt privileged to have worked with them.

 

At the party, the Raubs also served a quantity of pulled pork drenched in Rendevous BBQ sauce from the Vergos family restaurant in Memphis. Our birthday present to Bob was a gift certificate good for FedEx delivery of three slabs of barbeque ribs from the Rendevous, which is probably the most acclaimed restaurant in their former hometown of Memphis. We also gave Bob a mobile from the National Ornamental Metal Museum that would hang from a ceiling and swing in the wind.

 

Feeling tired after a long day, Betty and I slipped out of the party about 9 p.m. and drove back to our motel in Clearwater. We had a flight back to Memphis the next morning and later repaired to TGI Fridays in Midtown for a casual dinner.

 

Fall Chill in Gulf Shores But Pretty Good Golf

 

Nov. 21 – 26, 2000 – To Gulf Shores, AL

 

Betty and I drove to Gulf Shores in our Ford Taurus station wagon. After a later-than-usual start due to her putting in a full day at Northside High School, we arrived at 9:30 p.m. in cool weather. The daytime temperatures were on the cool side during our stay, with highs in the 50s making our customary beach walking less attractive than is usually the case at Thanksgiving.

 

I played golf at the State Park course on Wednesday. Despite not having played in a month, I shot an 87 even though I double bogeyed three of the first four holes for a lousy start. That evening, we had a good dinner at The Spot and had our favorite seafood restaurant on the beach nearly to ourselves. The lightness of the crowds has always amazed me because the weather is usually good at this time of the year and the beautiful beaches uncrowded.

 

We stayed in the condo Thanksgiving Day, a Thursday, during a heavy rain and I spent a lot of time on a laptop computer writing my travelogue about last summer’s trip to Cass Lake, MN. Betty cooked a great dinner of turkey breast and all the traditional trimmings of the holiday. We watched my Mississippi State Bulldogs get beat by the Ole Miss Rebels in the annual football “Egg Bowl” game between the cross-state rivals.

 

We ventured out the next day to shop for a new sofa bed and an easy chair. We finally selected suitable ones at Seascape Furniture on Highway 59 north of Gulf Shores and paid just over $1,000 for both. Dinner Saturday was some terrific Royal Red shrimp Betty cooked in the condo.

 

She dropped me off at the State Park golf course and drove on to Seascape to purchase another painting for our condo that would match our new, green sofa, which was delivered that afternoon. The old, pinkish painting of White Herons in the living room area was moved to a wall in our condo’s single bedroom.

 

While Betty worked on interior decorating, I shot an 89 at the Park. I had a birdie on Hole No. 5. That evening, we had leftover turkey for dinner. We drove home to Memphis the next day, a Sunday, under a sunny sky with temperatures above 60 degrees.

 

Santa Barbara, CA to Catch Son, Sun (and a Cold)

 

Dec. 21 – 28, 2000 – To Santa Barbara, CA

 

Betty and I arose at 5 a.m. in our Memphis home so we get to the airport early for our 9:10 a.m. Northwest Airlines’ direct flight to Los Angeles. We wanted extra time because the streets were supposed to be icy due to light snow in the last few days. It turned out that our flight was an hour late because the plane had to be de-iced in Detroit.

 

Once in L.A., it took me a long time and undue hassle to retrieve our four checked bags (including my golf clubs) and get the right shuttle bus to take us through horrendous terminal traffic to the Hertz office. Once there, things got worse once I learned that my lateness in arriving at the counter resulted in my car reservation being “purged” from the Hertz No. One Club computer system.

 

It took 2 ½ hours to drive through heavy traffic from the airport to Santa Barbara on Interstate 405 and U.S. Highway 101. At least the lack of billboards on the coastal highway made for some great views of the Pacific Ocean, canyons and bone-dry hills of Southern California north of Ventura. We were pleased to learn that the driving directions given us by Casey were good.

 

Shortly after arriving at his apartment in the downtown area of Santa Barbara, we bought groceries at the nearby, upscale food store called Don’s. We cooked Mexican Chicken for dinner that night and had a very good dinner with Casey.

 

Casey got up and left for work in the pre-dawn hours while Betty and I slept. It has long been  his usual practice to be one of the first ones at his office. We leisurely spent the morning driving along the beautiful bluff overlooking the ocean and beach where many mega-rich people like TV’s Ophra Winfrey and movie stars have their palatial homes. Predictably, roadsides are exceptionally well planted and maintained. Many flowers were in bloom.

 

We bought a space heater and other supplies for Casey’s apartment at an Ace Hardware store. After lunch, I hit some practice golf balls at a municipal course. Betty poked around shops on Santa Barbara’s State Street, a main drag of a commercial street that is home to such expensive stores as Saks 5th Ave. That evening, I cooked marinated strip steak and Olympic Frioles for our dinner.

 

On Dec. 23, I walked to a nearby public library to check my Internet Email. Meanwhile, Betty and Casey shopped in Santa Barbara’s downtown, which is only a few steps from his small, well-located apartment. That afternoon, Casey and I played 15 holes of golf at the nicely-maintained, municipal course, Santa Barbara Golf Club. The twilight rate for the hilly layout was $34 each, a good price for the quality and such a fashionable location.

 

My game was a struggle. I shot a 50 on the front 9 and a lousy 29 on Holes No. 10-15. Casey also hadn’t played much golf this year and he wasn’t much better. The course is a long,  5,782 yards because of the hilly terrain and is Par 70 off the white tees. It has a relatively easy rating of 66.3/109, but plays tougher because of its undulating greens. While we played golf, Betty stayed back at Casey’s apartment to cook and clean.

 

At least partly due to the chill in the air from the season and proximity to the cold wind blowing in from the Pacific Ocean, I felt lousy that evening. I spent most of the next day in bed with a sore throat and bad cold. Betty and Casey went sightseeing while I slept. As for the day for me, it was The Pits.

 

I felt a little better on Christmas Day even though I was a long way from being well. We opened presents in the morning. I took another long nap while Betty and Casey went out to see some more sights. At least I got some much-needed rest.

 

At mid-afternoon, I felt well enough to come along on an outing to see the famous Franciscan Mission that was built in 1786 by a successor to Father Juniper Sierra and also to see the Stearns Pier, a neat place that has been a backdrop for several movies. Dinner that evening was grilled swordfish.

 

I felt better the day after Christmas, but still suffered from a bad head cold. I went to a nearby hardware store to buy Casey some fix-it things he needed for his apartment including fuses and a stepladder. We then visited the Santa Barbara Botanic Gardens, a botanic paradise high atop some inland hills. This day, like the other days of our visit, was clear and with sunny skies and high temperatures near 70 degrees.

 

We drove to the Botanic Gardens along a windy road through a canyon on the outskirts of town and saw some spectacular homes built into the dry, boulder-laden hills. The main garden trail was about a mile long, but we took some bypaths such as the aquaduct trail. It was built alongside a masonry trench and rebuilt, wooden “sluicebox” structure that piped water from an upland stream to the Spanish mission below.

 

We also walked through a stand of California Redwood Trees and a meadow of California poppies in full bloom. We saw huge eucalyptus trees, manzinita shrubs and dry-loving plantings.

 

Betty bought a few souvenirs in the Visitor Center that included a Vervenia plant for Casey’s patio to join his current pots of poppies, bouganvilla, ivy and corn dracina. The walk through native trees, shrubs and flowering plants not generally found in our part of the country made for a nice excursion. It was a shame that I felt so lousy because of my cold.

 


The next day, December 27, we delayed our flight back to Memphis by rebooking it 24 hours later due to the ice on the ground back home. On the positive side, due to the circumstances Northwest and Hertz agreed to accommodate us at no extra charge. That evening we had grilled swordfish served with salsa and some leftover frijoles for dinner.

 

Because of the flight postponement, we used our extra day to visit Casey at his work project. He and his associates at Clark Construction are building a $100 million rocket launch facility for Boeing Aircraft at Vandenberg Air Force Base up the coast from Santa Barbara. It was a scenic drive up U.S. Highway 101 and Highway 1. We passed through the desert and a produce valley around the town of Lompoc, where we saw fields of sugar beets, artichokes and cut flowers. We also saw several commercial greenery crops and orchards we couldn’t identify.

 

Getting onto the security-tight military base where rockets that carry secret satellites are launched was a bit of a bother. But we understood the need for the special precautions. Once we were signed in properly, we drove through the enormous Vandenberg base to what is locally called “Slick Six.” It was once the site where the rocket Challenger 6 was mothballed.

 

Casey’s company is rebuilding the launch pad for Boeing so the Defense Department will have a West Coast facility large enough to handle giant rockets and their cargos similar to those shot off from Cape Canaveral in Florida.

 

For Betty and me, it was great seeing Casey in his element. He has a private office in a facility that resembles a bomb-proof, concrete bunker. It was gratifying for us to see from the setting that Casey is a young manager in charge of important work. The site overlooks a spectacular coastline with many great views of Pacific rollers and surf. A family of sea lions not far from Slick 6 necessitated some expensive studies to determine the lack of environmental impact of Casey’s project on wildlife. We had a nice lunch at a restaurant in Lompac (a desert town close to the base). That evening, we had a salmon dinner back at Casey’s apartment.

 

Our drive back to the L.A. airport on Thursday, December 28, was uneventful. We arrived about 11 a.m., giving us plenty of time to return the rental car. We happily found that traffic wasn’t nearly as bad as it had been going the other way a week ago. Our plane for the flight home was full, but we had roomy aisle seats on the exit row and got into Memphis a little early, at 7:30 p.m.

 

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