Nolan Getaways – 2009
Thanksgiving at Gulf Shores, Trapp Farm
Page Updated Jan. 15, 2010
Return to Nolan Travels Home Page (travelogues and photos of major trips)
By LEWIS NOLAN
To Gulf Shores, Ala. – Nov. 21, 2009, Saturday
Betty and I got an early start for our 400-mile drive to Gulf Shores, AL from our home in Memphis. She did her usual, excellent preparation for our eight-day trip to our Gulf Coast condo and the South Mississippi Farm of her older brother, Harvey Trapp near Newton.
We pulled out of our driveway on 7:45 a.m. on a cool but fairly nice morning in Betty’s snazzy Ford Focus station wagon. The weather forecast was favorable, with highs expected on the coast in the low 70s.
Before leaving I had my usual low-carb breakfast of two eggs (fried this time), a couple of thin slices of ham, and a banana and tomato juice. I’ve been doing without toast and pastries for nearly six months. While I ate, Betty kindly made me a carryout salad topped with leftover chicken to have for lunch on the road.
We drove the route we’ve learned over the years is the fastest. We drove into Midtown Memphis and caught the Interstate 240 connection to I-55, which we took to Jackson, MS, where we turned off onto U.S. 49 South to Hattiesburg, MS. Near Hattiesburg, we ran into patches of light rain. Just below the town that is home to the University of South Mississippi we got onto U.S. 98, a mostly four-lane, divided highway that is only lightly used by commercial vehicles and weekend drivers. Once in Alabama, we turned onto I-65 south and took it through the outskirts of Mobile to I-10, which we followed through the long tunnel under the Mobile harbor and by the preserved U.S. Alabama battleship to a turn near Loxley onto a four-lane U.S. 59 South that is a straight shot to Gulf Shores.
We stopped at a Winn-Dixie supermarket we liked in Gulf Shores and bought a few groceries. We were disappointed, as expected, to find our usually pristine condo the worse for wear. It seems our longtime rental agent had slipped and let in a piggish renter who left it in a shambles. But, I’m pleased to report; Kaiser Realty had obtained a damage insurance policy paid for by the renter and at our request arranged for necessary repairs and insurance payment after a visit or two and a few telephone calls.
I admit to being sometimes cranky after driving nearly 8 hours to find our beachfront relaxation spot of 20 years less than perfect. But my usually good mood returned after an excellent seafood dinner (fried oysters for me and coconut shrimp for Betty, both served with a medley of steamed vegetables in place of French fries) at the nearby Bahama Bob’s beachfront restaurant.
Nov. 22, 2009, Sunday
I spent most of the morning seated by a window in our condo, writing the first part of a travelogue about our week-long cruise earlier in November on France’s Seine River. It is posted on the Internet at www.lewisnolan.com/Normandy.htm. I got my head up from an HP Laptop computer to join Betty for a quick trip to a local Wal-Mart, where she purchased some more groceries and a few supplies.
Nov. 23, 2009, Monday
After a lapse of nearly four years since I tore a rotator cuff in my right shoulder while playing golf at my former stellar private country club, Old Waverly at West Point, MS, I gave playing nine holes of golf another shot at my now-favorite course, the Gulf State Park course at Gulf Shores.
It was good seeing “Sunshine” in the clubhouse snack bar again as well as snack bar manager Deborah. Betty and I had our usual tasty lunch at the scrupulously clean and tidy facility overlooking the putting green of the 18th hole. I had a cheeseburger without bread and Betty went for her usual BLT, this time served with bread. She allowed me one small but wonderfully good bite.
During golf, Betty drove the cart while I flailed away with long-dormant clubs while trying to use a flatter swing taught me by the course pro earlier in the year. My golf game was predictably pathetic after the long layoff. My swings sometime totally missed the ball, even when teed up. I quickly retired my favorite driver club to the bag and tried to hit a three-wood or other easier-to-use clubs. But a preponderance of “worm burner” shots or horrendous slices still resulted off the tee.
Miraculously, I still managed to somehow score a par on Hole No. Three, a 123-yard tee-to-green distance. I hit a three-wood on the hole where back in my healthy days I’d hit a seven or eight iron, depending on direction and force of wind. Despite making my tee shot onto the green, it took me two putts to drop the ball in the hole, for a Par Three.
I also had two bogeys (one over par), three double bogeys and a few multiple bogeys on the other holes, for a total score of 54. In all, I took 20 putts, which isn’t all that bad for 9 holes but an indication that every part of my golf game is in dire need of work. I well remember my all-time best game of golf was on this course, where I once shot 79, a personal record. But on the positive side, at least I was back on a much-loved course again and didn’t lose a single ball into the water or bad rough.
My usual score at the Gulf State Park course is in the low and mid 90s when I’m reasonably healthy (roughly 10 strokes above my average there when in my late 40s and early 50s and often walked the entire course). Nonetheless, it was great to be on the course again and showing myself and my biggest fan, Betty, that although 66 years old I can still play golf without seriously re-injuring my shoulder. But I was very tired after playing only nine holes – riding the cart most of the way and only walking short distances to tee boxes and greens. I think trying to play the full 18 holes of the course is out of the question for now. My intention is to make good efforts to practice hitting balls and playing a few holes at least once or twice a week upon my return to Memphis no later than when the favorable weather of early spring returns.
Back in the condo, I continued to write my travelogue about our time in Normandy, France earlier in the month. That evening, Betty picked up a telephone order of fried oysters and fried shrimp from Bahama Bobs and we enjoyed a very good meal in our condo with some heated up pinto beans with onions, served with glasses of white wine.
November 24, 2009, Tuesday
I stayed back in the condo to continue my writing while Betty drove abut 15 miles to the Tanger Mall of more than 100 discount stores. She has been buying many of her Christmas gifts at favored mall stores for many years, where she knows how to find quality merchandise at good prices. Admirably, she uses a map of the mall’s store locations to plan out her visit with similar care that the generals used in advance of the allied landings on the beaches of Normandy during World War II. It makes it easier if I stay out of Betty’s way when she is on a serious shopping mission.
However, since the mall changed ownership a few years ago, several of her favorite stores – including Oneida Silver – have either closed or moved into smaller locations. It’s truly remarkable how much growth in retailing and condo development we’ve seen in lower Alabama since we started coming here in the 1980’s.
The area – with beautiful beaches, warm ocean water in season and enforcement of laws to encourage family vacations and discourage biker visits – was known years ago as “Redneck Riviera.” Today Gulf Shores is on some of the “top beach vacation” lists of U.S. attractions and is now the first or second home for many transplants including “snow birds” from the far north that winter at the beach.
Later in the day, Betty and I drove a few miles to a new development on the shipping and recreational boat interstate waterway canal connecting Florida’s Perdido Key with Alabama’s Mobile Bay. We ate at a favorite restaurant at The Wharf development called “Jenny Lane. “ I had delicious Oysters Rockefeller with a Caesar Salad and Betty had some wonderful Crab cakes with Remolade served on fried green tomatoes. While we are both partial to the Oysters Rockefeller served at Owen Brennan’s Restaurant in Memphis, Betty and I agree that the dish prepared by the chef at Jenny Lane is among the very best we’ve ever enjoyed.
Before our drive back to our condo after lunch, we stopped at a nearby retail store at The Wharf development to buy a dog toy for our pet Greyhound, Fiona. It would be among her Christmas presents.
November 25, 2009, Wednesday
We arose to a beautiful morning with a blue sky and sunshine dancing on the small waves that lapped our complex’s beach. The wind was light, sunshine bright and predicted high temperate was 72 degrees. This is the kind of day that makes spending Thanksgiving week here such a delight.
I completed the first-draft of my travelogue about our cruise on France’s Seine River from Normandy to Paris in early November. As a precaution, I emailed all seven segments to myself so I’d at least have rough drafts of my work in case of malfunction in my laptop computer. My plan was to polish the work upon our return to Memphis and to upload it with selected photos to my website hosted by the Memphis-based World Spice ISP firm. (It may be accessed at http://www.lewisnolan.com/Normandy.htm).
Once I had taken out that “insurance policy” of having the rough drafts safely in the Yahoo internet service, Betty and I went for a walk on the hard-packed, winter sand in front of our development. We walked along the ocean a mile or so, to where the old Quality Inn was formerly sited until developments leveled the motel to build a gigantic, high-rise condo tower on the prime beachfront property.
Surprisingly given the late November period, there were quite a few people sunning on the beach and a few shelling or swimming in the mild surf. We were disappointed that we didn’t see any porpoises working the shallow water just off the shoreline. Parts of the white sand near water’s edge were covered with small and broken seashells tossed up by a recent storm. Left as a reminder by the temporarily surging waves was a long strip of “sand shelf” formed as high as five feet by wave action.
Betty and I had a terrific lunch at the new Wolf Bay Lodge located at Zeke’s Marina about nine miles down the beach from our condo. For years, we had been driving 20 or more miles to its former location on a finger of Mobile Bay not far from Foley, AL. The old building where we’ve eaten many meals over the last two decades burned. The restaurant owners have relocated to a choice spot at Orange Beach, with great views from porches and windows overlooking a plush marina where sports fishermen and charter boats dock.
We made a hungry trip to what I think is the best salad bar we’ve ever enjoyed. We took large helpings of customary salad greens plus samples of prepared sea food selections. I also had a main meal plate of fried oysters and fried shrimp while Betty went for a large pile of yummy, fried crab claws. It is no wonder that many of the restaurant’s clientele and some employees have followed the Wolf Bay Lodge to the new location. We also purchased two quarts of its fantastic gumbo to carry with us the next day as our contribution to a family Thanksgiving dinner hosted by Betty’s older brother, Harvey Trapp and his wife, Ann, at their big farm near Newton, MS.
On our drive back to our condo, we stopped at the Orange Beach location of Al’s bargain store of beach and home supplies to buy a small, Styrofoam cooler to transport the gumbo and other chilled items packed in ice for our upcoming, four-hour drive to the Trapp farm.
That evening, we had some of the gumbo with leftover fried shrimp for dinner. After dinner, I read about one of my favorite historical fiction characters, the 18th Century British Army’s Sharpe created by great writer Bernard Cornwell, and went to bed fairly early.
Thanksgiving Dinner at Trapp-Nowell Family Reunion
Nov. 26, 2009, Thursday – To Harvey Trapp farm near Newton, MS
Betty and I got up a little before 7 a.m. She graciously cooked me one of her excellent breakfasts, this one consisting of two scrambled eggs, two thin slices of ham, a banana and ice water. Betty did most of the packing and her usual great job of tidying up the condo for “rent-ready” business (saving us the $70 cleaning fee charged by Kaiser’s uneven staff) while I washed breakfast dishes. We loaded up her Ford Focus station wagon and pulled out of Gulf Village shortly after 10 a.m.
We drove back through Mobile on Interstate 10, then north on I-65 to U.S. 98, which we took to Hattiesburg, MS, where we got on I-59 to Laurel, MS. From Laurel we drove on the two-lane Highway 15, passing through the small towns in South Mississippi of Bay Springs, Louin and Montrose to Country Road 24, a farm road that leads to the tiny community of Garlandville and Country Road 2414. The Trapp farm is a few miles down the freshly paved, narrow roadway.
We arrived at Harvey’s 440-acre farm down a country road so far from the town of Newton, MS that I joke “it’s 20 miles from the sticks.” Traffic on the rural highway was light on this Thanksgiving Day and the weather was cool but sunny. We arrived just before 3:30 p.m. and were delighted to see Harvey, his wife, Ann, their daughter, Tonya, and granddaughter, Maggie.
Betty especially was glad to see that her brother is recovering very well from some serious surgery he underwent several weeks ago. Also on hand to greet us were Ann Trapp and their adult daughter, Tonya, and Tonya’s beautiful, 7-year-old daughter, Maggie.
We hugely enjoyed the great country cooking of Ann and the women helping her. In all, there were about 12 guests, most from Jimmie Nowell’s side of the family. He is a former Mississippi State University football player and has been happily married to fellow MSU grad Tonya for some years.
The relatives – most close kin of the Nowell family of Mississippi - and whose names I noted – included:
· Keith and Misty Nowell Johnson of Grenada, MS, and their 5-year-old daughter, Madelyn. Keith is an engineer educated at Mississippi State and district manager of an equipment distribution center. Misty is an audiologist.
· Joe Johnson, longtime friend of Jimmie Nowell. They played high school football on competing teams. With Joe were his wife, Tammie, and two toddler-age children of her sister who live with them at Collinsville near Meridian. MS.
· Tonya Trapp Nowell and Jimmie Nowell and their daughter, Maggie.
· Virna Nowell of Decatur, MS, the now-single mother of Jimmie and Misty.
Oddly, Harvey remarked later that the Trapp family headed by his late father, Benjamin Lafayette Trapp and late mother, Lorene Stokes Trapp, did not organize family reunions. (For that matter, I found that in my own family, the Nolan’s, the adults generally eschewed family get-togethers and intra-family contacts were sparse.)
Ann handled the primary cooking responsibilities and prepared a choice turkey breast and also a ham. Delicious side dishes included home-cooked mashed potatoes, sweet potato pie with marshmallows, macaroni with cheese, cornbread stuffing, broccoli salad, fresh green beans, hand-picked butter beans, lettuce served with a Vidalia onion dressing Betty had contributed, bread rolls and other tasty foods. Among fabulous desserts were a home-made pecan pie and a coconut cake.
It was a great meal and also a nice visit with the extended family and friends. I retired early, at 9 p.m., while Betty stayed up to talk with her brother and others.
Nov. 26, 2009, Friday – To Decatur and Meridian, MS
Betty cranked up Ann’s electric stove set in a beautiful, wooden “island” in the center of her spacious kitchen. Ann was off work this day and slept in while Betty cooked one of her great breakfasts for me and Harvey. This one consisted of scrambled eggs, thin slices of ham, banana and tomato juice for me with additions of coffee and toast for her brother.
We spent much of the morning visiting and agree that the four of us would go out to dinner as our treat. Harvey was expecting to meet with one of his clients seeking help with some income tax matters. Harvey, whose degree from Mississippi State is in accounting, augments his retirement income by helping a few friends with taxes.
Later in the morning, the four of us drove in Harvey’s “almost new” GMC pickup truck so Ann could stop by the law office she helps manage in the nearby town of Decatur, MS, where Harvey was scheduled to meet his client. Decatur is a very small town that is the home of East Central Community College, a junior college where Betty and I had met in 1965. Some time after we both graduated with Associate of Arts degrees, Harvey became the college’s Business Manager for many years before retiring. (In 2010, he rejoined the college as a part-time instructor in accounting.) He drove his two-seater, four-door pickup around the campus and pointed out some fairly recent additions and renovations. The college student body has roughly doubled to 2,000 since our time there.
It was interesting to be in the center of the small town of Decatur where I had spent most of a year long ago. I took advantage during the visit of a computer connection in Ann’s legal office to check my email (51 mainly spam messages had backed up.) The remote Trapp farm doesn’t have Internet service but takes advantage of a Satellite TV signal to obtain a great many cable channels.
Once back at the Trapp farm
on a beautiful, late-fall day we had an excellent lunch of Thanksgiving
The four of us later drove to Meridian for very good dinners of rib eye steak at one of Harvey’s favorite restaurants in the town, Old Farm Beef House. Both Betty and I – but not Harvey and Ann – passed on the included baked potatoes because of our low-carb diets. But I waffled once back at their farm and enjoyed a sliver of Ann’s terrific coconut cake.
Drive to Jackson, MS and Home to Memphis City Schools
Nov. 28, 2009, Saturday – To Pearl, MS and on to Memphis
Betty and I arose about 7:30 a.m. to a heavily overcast day. Once again Betty cooked a delicious-but-low-carb breakfast for me of two eggs with a bit of thin-sliced ham and a banana. We packed and finished loading our stuff into her car.
Half the back seat of the four-door station wagon was filled with more than a dozen boxes of Dutch flowering bulbs given to Betty by Jimmie Nowell, husband of Betty’s niece, Tonya. He had obtained the surplus tulip and other dormant bulbs from doing cartage and disposal work for a regional flower company.
We departed from the Trapp farm at mid-morning and drove about one hour and a half to the Jackson, MS suburb of Pearl, home of SuAnne Turnage. SuAnne and Betty had been suitemates at East Central Junior College in the 1960s and have stayed in touch ever since. We met SuAnne’s tenant, a nice young man attending the University of Mississippi Medical School where she works. Then we were delighted to treat SuAnne to a good lunch at a nearby Ruby Tuesday restaurant, where we had decent salads.
Following a nice visit with SuAnne back at her home, we departed about 2 p.m. and headed north for Memphis after Betty gave her a few samples of Dutch flower bulbs obtained from Jimmie Nowell. It was a typical drive on a mainly overcast day, with Betty doing most of the driving at a speed slightly faster than I usually maintain. We arrived at our home in Memphis just before 6 p.m.
We had a very good trip and were glad to be back home. Betty is looking forward to planting the flowering bulbs in our yard and being reminded when they bloom of what a good time we had. It turned out that this was our last trip of the decade in light of Betty’s preference to stay home for a while and defer our customary post-Christmas drive to Gulf Shores until warmer weather than the unseasonably cold that dropped temperatures into the teens in late 2009 and into single digits Memphis in early 2010.