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Archive for the ‘-Mom’ Category

Mother’s Day

A bittersweet day, since Mom’s been gone. I don’t break down and boo-hoo or anything. But then I rarely do that sort of thing anyway. I miss her and think about her all the time, and probably always will. But on the day she passed, and Mother’s Day, and her birthday, I particularly miss her. Yet I also remember all the good times we had together.

 

You know the ones you love will die, and your parents likely before you. But it’s not something you dwell upon. Which is why the cancer diagnosis was an odd blessing. I’d moved in with her a couple years before, to help both of us. After the diagnosis, Mom had relatively good health for a year and a half, thanks to Hospice. But I knew our time together was limited, so I tried to share as much love and fun with her as I could. I’ll always treasure those memories, and our trip between the hurricanes in 2004, and the camping trip in the summer of 1971. And all the times in between, ups and downs. I miss you, Mom, and I love you. I’ll be up there to join you in a few decades, but I’m going to take my time. Wait up for me, and we’ll cook up something fun, OK?

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Two years on

Well, that snuck up on me. Tomorrow will be two years since Mom passed away. Dunno if I’ll do anything special. If nothing else, I’ll make corned beef and cabbage and eat some in her honor. I look to heaven and know she’s smiling down on me. I believe she put a word in God’s ear to help me get a job. She was with me on my road trips all over the state in 2010 and 2011. And she’ll always be with me. Miss you, love you, sending kisses to the sky.

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Thanksgiving ’11


Florida Power and Light substation, still there across the street from my old home in North Miami

This time last year, I was getting ready to make a prolonged excursion south. Specifically, I was in bed so I could leave at 3 in the morning on Thanksgiving day. I was going down to Miami, and wanted to get there and out of Dade County by noon. I wanted to knock out Opa-Locka early, since it’s so crime-ey now, and figured all the druggies and hookers would be asleep on Thanksgiving morning. Managed to do that, visit my old home (not changed too much, and the neighborhood hardly at all), see some other stuff and be in Broward County by 12:30. I had lunch with a old friend (hey, Jeff!), then headed up the coast the next few days, ending the excursion in Cocoa. The weather was, unfortunately, muggy and dismal the first few days, until I got out of Palm Beach County.

Being alone for the first time for the holidays, I had debated with myself and thought that it would be better for me to roadtrip on Thanksgiving. Overall, it was fun, and got lotsa photos. This year, though, I’ve photographed most of what I wanted, and wasn’t as much in a roadtrip mood. So I decided to make myself a Thanksgiving dinner. I’m going overboard (I hear Mom from heaven saying “So what else is new?”). I’m cooking a 12 pound turkey tomorrow, with a bunch of sides. It’s not a waste, though, since I’ll have plenty of leftovers to convert into all sorts of interesting meals the next few days. I also got a 7 pound ham, so I could make saupiquet, which I’ve not done in ages.

That’s it for now, gotta finish the skordalia. I’ve gotten hooked on “The Chew” and once I heard what it was (Greek garlic mashed potatoes), I had to add it to the list. Cheers, all, and Happy Thanksgiving!

Oh, here’s the skordalia recipe.

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October 4 (Monday)

The last day. It started as another overcast day. We ate from the hotel’s continental breakfast, then hopped back on I-95. In only an hour we were in South Carolina and the last place I’d really wanted to see, South of the Border in Dillon.

Some might call it a tacky tourist trap, and it is that. But I’m a tacky tourist at heart, so I love those kind of places. Started in the 1950s, it got the name for being south of the North Carolina border. It’s about halfway between New York and Florida, making it the perfect stop for snowbirds and other tourists heading south from New England, back in the day.

South of the Border – Sombrero Tower

More recently, the place has fallen on rough times. Tastes have changed, maybe people are more in a hurry, and don’t take the time to stop at these sorts of places. There was no one else visiting that day besides us. Admittedly it was a weekday, and several hurricanes had gone through the area recently. I was hoping to go to the top of the Sombrero Tower, but it was closed. I did go into one of the numerous shops and got some souvenirs. Cups, t-shirts and the like. There was some toilet paper I was sorely tempted to get for Uncle Francis, but I resisted. I did tell Mom about it, and she laughed and agreed.

South of the Border


South of the Border

I wanted to try the food there, so we went into one of the restaurants. I think there were a couple other people there, but not more than that. I don’t remember what I got, but ate too much, since we’d had a decent breakfast.

Back on the interstate, I had a laughing jag. You know how something strikes you as funny and you can’t stop laughing? Well, it was kind of foggy, and through the mist I saw a sign for a pizzeria.

What’s funny about that? My Mom’s sister (Aunt Kathryn, no longer with us) was always very proper. Things had to be just so, and she was rarely wrong. At least in her mind. Mom told me a while before how she and her sister were driving and they saw a pizzeria. Aunt Kathryn said something about it, but mispronounced it. Instead of peet-za-ria, she called it a pi-zarea, like it’s spelled. Any chance I could thereafter, I would tease Aunt Kathryn about it. Seeing the sign on the interstate brought it back, and the laughter just poured out. I think I laughed through most of South Carolina.

The skies cleared after a while, and we entered Georgia. On the first day of the trip, I remember us seeing electric trucks and landscapers heading into Florida to help with the hurricane aftermath. Once we got into Georgia, we started seeing the same kind of trucks heading north. We waved at them, thanking them in spirit. Glad though we were that so many had come down to help, it was encouraging to see them leave, since it meant the worst was over.

I-95 in Georgia

I-95 in Georgia

I-95 in Georgia is an interesting contrast to I-75. There are a crazy amount of billboards between Valdosta and Atlanta. But there are relatively few between Savannah and Jacksonville. Maybe the counties have different laws in that regard? It does make I-95 a more enjoyable drive to me. Most of I-95 is nice, as I discovered. The only unpleasant stretches are in South Florida (Palm Beach County to Miami) and Jacksonville. Once you get past Jax, it’s a breeze at least to southern Virginia. By the looks of the maps, the next gnarly bit would be D.C. From Florida to D.C.; that’s about 10 hours of pleasant interstate driving. One of these days I’ve got to visit Mom and Dad in Arlington, so it’s good to know the drive there will be easy.

I know we stopped again at a visitor center. I think it might’ve been the same one I stopped at on the way to Savannah a few weeks ago. That one was near the Florida border. We crossed over before sunset, then got off at the SR 200/A1A exit. I could have gone further south, but I avoid Jacksonville like the plaque. Plus we’d been on the interstate for two days, and I was looking forward to regular road driving again.

Once we hit Baldwin, we were back on US 301. I knew this section of it really well, and could practically drive it on autopilot. All you have to do is stay on it and you can’t miss Ocala.

We got back to Mom’s around 8 PM. She’d turned off the AC, since why leave it on when no one would be home for two weeks? We discovered the display on the microwave didn’t work, probably due to power surges related to Jeanne. In any case, we cranked up the AC and left to get dinner, giving the house time to cool down. We hit some of our favorite places, but they were closing. At 8! Fat Boys, El Toreo, what’s up? We finally downscaled, since our options were more limited than we thought, and got burgers at Wendy’s. The house was comfortable when we got back and we conked out. I unpacked the car the next day, then returned to work the day after that.

So that’s it. Two weeks of ups and downs (figurative and literal) that will always be with me. We had fun, Mom. I miss you, but we’ll always have our 12-states-in-12-days trip.

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October 3 (Sunday)

The hotel had a continental breakfast, and I took advantage of it after the previous night. We bid farewell as soon as we could to Salisbury.


Welcome sign at the Virginia visitor center

The sun had come out and this was more of what I was hoping for. We were on US 13 at this point. The bucolic countryside with occasional small towns, that’s the Maryland I wanted to see. It wasn’t long, though, until we reached the state line and were in Virginia. We stopped at the Virginia visitor center for brochures and the like. Very nice and helpful.

The drive continued to be nice. I was sorely tempted to detour to Assateague Island, since the guidebooks had made it sound very appealing. But it would have taken way too much time to fully appreciated, so we skipped it.

The Virginia side of US 13 was just as pleasant as the Maryland side. Seventy odd miles of mellow, you can’t beat it.

We finally reached one of the things I’d been really, really looking forward to seeing on this trip. The Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel. Or as I referred to it, the Brunnel. Since that underwater thing connecting England and France is called the Chunnel, why not?


Fisherman Island

The Brunnel. I really recommend seeing it. After it opened in 1964, the American Society of Civil Engineers named it “One of the Seven Engineering Wonders of the Modern World“. It lost that honor to newer wonders years later, but it’s still pretty amazing. I could go on at length, but check the article (linked above) for a better explanation. We stopped at Fisherman’s Island, the beginning of the north end. Then we drove most of the rest of the way, stopping again at one of the manmade islands that’s part of the Brunnel. They had a tourist shop and restaurant, so I got a snack for Mom and me, and some t-shirts. We drove the last bit, and then we were back on the mainland, in Norfolk.


One of the bridge sections of the Bridge-Tunnel

I know it’s a major shipping center, and I saw huge ships in the distance. No stopping there, but I’m quite interested in a revisit. It took some doing to get out of the city (it’s a biggie). But once we passed the edges, it was mostly rural again. US 58 is another road it was a pleasure to drive. I am confused by one memory. I could swear I saw a sign along the road indicating a turnoff for the FBI headquarters in Quantico. But that’s in the extreme north of the state, over 160 miles away. I could see a sign like that on an interstate, but not a semi-major road like US 58. Maybe it was for some place else.

We were driving along and after a while we started seeing fields with denuded bushes. They had what looked to me like balls of spiderweb on them. I expressed my puzzlement and Mom said they were cotton plants. I lived in Florida all my life; how was I to know what cotton looks like? We laughed at my ignorance, though. Since then, I’ve seen small fields in the Panhandle, and I always remember this moment.

We continued on our leisurely way until we reached Emporia. I believe we stopped for gas or something, since it had been at least a couple of hours since Norfolk. Also, this was where we would get on I-95. In my mind that made it the beginning of the end of the trip, since we wouldn’t see much scenic the rest of the way. But I was pleasantly surprised to be wrong on that account.

First off, there had been an effort to landscape the interstate, at least while we were in Virginia. Which wasn’t for long, since Emporia is only 10 miles from the North Carolina border. But I-95 in that state is a nice drive too.

I wasn’t sure where we’d wind up for the night, or even if we’d find a room. Since we were back in the badly hit area of the east coast, I was afraid it’d be like the first day in Franklin. We stopped in Fayetteville and got a room with no problem. It wasn’t too late, and if I’d known of any sights to see, I might’ve tried to squeeze a few in. Instead, we settled on finding someplace for dinner. The place we found was, for me at least, a sight for sore eyes. Western Sizzlin’.

Back in the day, when I was still in the SCA in Gainesville, we’d go out to dinner after the Tuesday meetings. We had our favorites, and one was Western Sizzlin. I thought they completely went out of business, but apparently they only closed their Florida locations. It was just like I remembered, the steaks, the potato bar, everything. Mom liked it, but she didn’t have the association like I did. But she was happy that I was happy, and I was happy I had someone to share that happiness with.

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