Nolan Getaways – 2010

Summer Visits to Gulf Shores, Mississippi


Page Updated July 7, 2010


Return to Nolan Travels Home Page (travelogues and photos of major trips)




Long Drive to Trapp Farm near Newton, MS. – June 12, 2010, Saturday


With Betty again handling most of the driving in her Ford Focus station wagon, we pulled out of the driveway at our East Memphis home just before 10 a.m. We had arisen about 6 a.m. to complete packing and have one of the great breakfasts she cooks. This one included an omelet for me made with cheese and slices of ham, a banana, two prunes, a few low-carb crackers and a glass of V-8 juice.

    Plastic bags holding oil-soiled sand line the beach in front of the Gulf Village Development.

   Gulf Shores, Alabama    June, 2010


The drive down Interstate 55 to Jackson then across much of Central Mississippi on Interstate 20 to Newton was uneventful. We took Highway 15 from Newton to the Garlandville turn and down a narrow, farm road recently repaved to the farm of her brother, Harvey Trapp, and his wife, Ann. I joked that we were “20 miles from the sticks.”


I napped in a farmhouse guest room while Betty visited with her kin. We had a wonderful dinner of country cooking that evening, cooked by Ann with help from Betty. The meal included baked fish caught by Harvey and farm-fresh vegetables plus home-made cake.


The next morning, a Sunday, Harvey and I enjoyed a big breakfast (low-carb foods for me, meaning neither bread nor potatoes) cooked by Betty. Ann works managing a law office in nearby Decatur, home of the East Central Junior (now renamed to Community) College where we had met in the mid-1960s. Her brother Harvey was the college’s business manager for more than 20 years and is now retired.


Drive from Trapp Farm to Gulf Shores, AL – June 13, 2010, Sunday


Betty and I repacked her Ford Focus (nicknamed “Fiona”) and departed from the Trapp farm just before 10 a.m., promising to stop again on our way back to Memphis in a week.


We followed a familiar route to Mobile from the Trapp farm, heading out on Highway 15 back to Laurel and then on Interstate 59 for the hour-long drive to Hattiesburg, Miss., and from there on to Mobile on U.S. Highway 98. We stopped in Mobile for gas and takeout McNuggets chicken then on I-65 to Interstate 10. We turned off at Highway 59 and stopped briefly at Loxley, Ala., to purchase fresh fruit and vegetables at the Loxley Farm Market and pick up a good supply of special salad dressing sold there that is made of Vidalia onions and peppercorns. 


We’ve acquired a taste for that variety of custom-made dressing sold in Loxley in recent years and Betty had ordered a case on our last visit there in April. She talked to a clerk and managed to buy that case plus an extra case to supply our needs in Gulf Shores and also back home in Memphis for some time.


The weather was quite warm but favorable for driving. Once in Gulf Shores, we stopped at Wal-Mart so Betty could buy some groceries and a few supplies plus fill the car’s gas tank with gasoline.


Arriving at our condo at the Gulf Village complex on West Beach, we were pleased that somebody from our rental agent, Kaiser Realty, had turned on the air conditioner to make the small, upstairs unit nice and cool. The one-bedroom unit was in better condition than we sometimes have found it. But we noticed that Betty’s favorite beach lounging chaise lounger was missing. We didn’t consider its absence to be a serious “spillage.”


With the ever-increasing volume of equipage due to our age (67 for me), it took several trips up the wide, wooden stairs to haul our suitcases and supplies up to the condo. Some years ago real estate agents showed us several other condo developments offering larger units plus elevators.  But we determined that the much higher prices were not worth paying in order to upgrade our ownership of beach property.


Once most of our gear was up the stairs, I snoozed for a while in our queen-sized bed before we drove 10 or so miles down West Beach Road to what is now our favorite restaurant in the area. It is the Wolf Bay Lodge in Orange Beach, adjacent to Zeke’s Marina. It moved there more than a year ago following a fire that burned its facility to the ground on the Wolf Bay finger of the Mobile Bay only a few miles from Foley, Ala.


We learned that business has been so good owners and tenants staying in the high rises and other vacationer hot spots nearby that the restaurant’s owners have decided to stay at the Zeke’s Marina location. Most restaurant tables inside – plus all those on a shade-covered deck outside – offer great views of the fleet of charter fishing boats and yachts docked at the marina’s piers.


We had the expected, great seafood dinners. I went as usual for the delicious fried oysters, served with a big salad from a cornucopia-laden salad bar. Betty had a combo plate of fried oysters and shrimp, also with a big helping of fresh salad fixings. Our friendly, young waitress, with her nickname “Hanna Banana” embroidered on her clothing, graciously swapped us a bowl of their delicious oyster gumbo in place of the customary French fries or other potatoes served with the meals. Our meals were absolutely delicious and amplified with generous pours of salt-rimmed Margaritas on the rocks. I also had an O’Doul’s low-alcohol beer.


Later and back at our condo, I was frustrated with not being able to “boot up” my HP Laptop computer to connect to a bootleg Internet signal broadcast from one of the nearby high-rise condos. Later, our computer guru in Memphis explained that the Wi-Fi technology has progressed to the point that equipment even a few years old like mine can no longer capture private signals.


The inability to access the Internet from our condo was a shame because I had wanted to add some photos to my website postings from the comfort of our second home. However, I was able to access the free Wi-Fi signal at the town’s public library later in the week.


We did notice, to our dismay, that the usually very heavy traffic late in the afternoon and at dinnertime along West Beach Blvd. at this time of year was quite light on this day. The beach road was showing the impact on tourism from the huge oil spill off the coast. A huge drilling rig for BP – called Deepwater Horizon - had exploded a few weeks ago. The accident killed 11 oil workers and drenched the Gulf of Mexico with millions of gallons of oil leaking from the wellhead 5,000 feet deep.


While the public beaches to the front of our complex looked about as clean as always, a pair of red flags flying from poles down the road warned swimmers to stay out of the contaminated water.


Seeing for ourselves the extent of the damage – which had already resulted in cancelled reservations for guests at our condo – was the primary purpose of this trip. Other than an immediate diminution of condo rental and restaurant business, we noticed very little impact from the oil spill during our week’s stay. In the distance we saw a few oil-prevention, buoyant booms way out from the shoreline. And here and there were did observe a few tiny spots of oil-stained sand and an occasional, tiny piece of tar (which we had been seeing for years anyway).


We drove by several staging areas for many dozens of sand-traveling equipment, ranging from big Caterpillar loaders to small, passenger-carrying carts similar to those used on golf courses.

Close to home, we saw trails of oil-and-tar footprints on the concrete sidewalks at our Gulf Village condo development – even along those walkways serving the upstairs units like ours. It seems inevitable that what few renters do appear this season may well track such ruinous stuff into the condos, causing extensive damage to carpeting and furniture.


The good news is that BP has agreed to pay up to $20 billion to cover the costs of the clean-up. For us, that seems to include a charge of what we were told is $2,000 a day for a place to park the equipment used in and around Gulf Shores. The temporary workers supposedly are required to shovel up the oil-stained sand and tar for about 30 minutes at a time, then spend 30 minutes under shade-provided shelters where Porta-potties and ice is available.


We are among those who applaud President Obama for making BP pay for the huge mess it created, but we are also among those with some doubts about the ultimate reimbursement. Kaiser Realty, rental agent for our condo and many other properties in the area, has contracted with a CPA firm to file monthly reports on the average “lost income” for Kaiser’s managed rental units. In our one case of a small condo in just one area of the Gulf of Mexico, our seasonal rental income has ranged from $6,800 to nearly $10,000 annually. Worse, we don’t know whether the loss of rental income will continue after 2010.


The point is that while our share of the costs of the environmental catastrophe are quite small, it is easy to see from our example just how staggering the total losses caused by a faulty oil rig will be.


We see on TV and read in the Mobile newspaper that both commercial and recreational fishing in most of the Gulf of Mexico has been banned, forming extreme hardships on the thousands of people along the coast whose livelihoods depend on catching, processing, shipping and serving seafood.


Nonetheless, we noticed a pair of hardy surf fishermen in front of our complex ignoring the prohibited fishing. I didn’t see them catch any fish and have no idea whether they might have eaten any possibly contaminated fish they may have caught.


The parking lots at the major condo complexes along West Beach Blvd. are mostly empty. There are only a few people sunning on the white sand beach and very few children playing along the shoreline. We saw nobody swimming.


Settling in to Gulf Shores condo on mostly deserted beach  – June 12, 2010, Monday


It was great being back at one of our favorite places on the planet and breathing salt air again. Thankfully, we saw no evidence of the press-reported “stink” of spilled oil as a fresh breeze blew in air from the Gulf of Mexico.


We didn’t arise until 8 a.m.  Betty cooked another of her great breakfasts for me on a new electric stove we had purchased a few months ago. The morning, low-carbohydrate meal included two fried eggs, three pieces of thinly sliced ham purchased at Wal-Mart, a banana, two prunes, V-8 juice and Melba toast.


I went to work on a nifty HP Pavilion laptop computer, transferring a series of travelogue files from a disk to the hard drive so I could do some fine-tuning and rewriting during our stay.


We drove a few miles to the local Post Office to mail a letter and then to the public library. Betty was able to get onto the library’s free Internet signal with her Acer laptop computer. I worked on my HP, which with the help of a nice young man who worked at the library finally connected to the Internet signal. (I later learned from our computer guru back home, Curtis Johnson that the evolution of Wi-Fi Internet or other stray signals sometimes makes it tough for older PC equipment like mine to pick them up without specific reconfiguration.)


I quickly learned that a recent upgrade by the library had tightened access to its signal, making it impossible for me to upload my travelogues using Filezilla software while there to a website server I use in Memphis. Oh well, while that suddenly altered my plans it freed me to do some other things while in Gulf Shores.


After checking our email for the first time since leaving Memphis, both Betty and I found our in boxes were backed up with more than 100 messages each. With most being junk emails and spam, we cleaned up our separate Yahoo accounts in fairly short order and repaired to the nearby Gulf State Park golf course. It was a pleasure as always seeing the snack bar’s staff we have gotten to know over the years. We enjoyed the unusually good sandwiches they prepared for us – a cheeseburger without bread but with a small pile of lettuce, sliced tomatoes and pickles for me and a BLT for Betty.


We both passed on the great French fries we remembered the snack bar ladies making.


At the snack bar, we met an interesting man whose eye caught the belt I was wearing emblazoned with metal symbols of Mississippi State University, my alma mater. It turned out that, too had such a memento of his years there also in the 1960s. He was Earl Bryan, a true “small world” example. It turned out he raises cattle on about 300 acres of land near Decatur, MS, home of East Central Junior College (now renamed to East Central Community College).


A likeable, easy-talking guy and fellow golfer, we immediately made connections in our small world. He said he knows of Harvey Trapp (Betty’s brother) and knows Harvey’s son-in-law, Jimmie Nowell. We later learned that Earl had been manager of a plant in the Decatur area where Jimmie had worked before going into business for himself. We enjoyed trading memories of our years in Decatur and Starkville and he allowed that he was thinking about retiring from farming and relocating to Gulf Shores or another area.


Later, Betty and I drove to the nearby Winn-Dixie supermarket, our favorite food store in Gulf Shores, to purchase groceries and supplies. We then returned to our condo on a beautiful beach that is so far-clear of oil on this sunny and hot day. A repairman from Kaiser’s vendor “Mr. 5T’s” showed up on time to tend to our reported problem with a stuck bathroom basic faucet. It turned out the plumbing had been installed backwards and it had been over-tightened in the wrong direction. He also re-glued a cable TV wire casing and remounted a troublesome towel rack in the bathroom.


All in all, we pay a fairly good price for Kaiser to manage our property’s rentals and repairs but continue to think their year-round service is well worth the cost.


I took my customary late afternoon nap while Betty caught up with friends on her cell phone, which allows for virtually unlimited long distance calls. She also used her new, beach lounge chair to sun on the beach and watch a few children dip into the gentle shoreline surf. Down the beach a half-mile or so at a public area was a yellow flag flying from a pole, indicating that the prohibition against swimming had been relaxed to “caution.”


While Betty enjoyed the beach and view of the usually beautiful gulf water and waves, I re-edited my HTML (Internet code) versions of my 10 Ireland travelogues. Since I can’t upload with the public library signal, I’ll just have to wait until we return home so I can complete the postings and inserted photos on my websites at the World Spice service. (It took some help from a consultant pal once back in Memphis, but those interested may access the first installment at, with links to subsequent trip installments and related websites.


While I worked away on my computer and Betty sunned, a nice young man with the 5 Mr. T’s vendor service arrived to clear our condo’s air conditioning unit and check light bulbs, per their arrangement with Kaiser Rentals. Once he completed his chores, I napped.


Later, Betty returned from the beach as the sun was going down and cooked yet another wonderful dinner of baked, freshwater Perch fillets given to her by brother Harvey. On the side were servings of fried okra and fresh green beans purchased at Burress Farm Produce. We also enjoyed an inexpensive bottle of Chardonnay wine purchased at Winn-Dixie for about $2 more than the same brand at Wal-Mart.


The only downer so far – other than the offshore presence of a huge pool of oil that could come ashore with any heavy winds or storms – is that my HP laptop can no longer pick up stray Wi-Fi signals from nearby condos. That means I can’t easily upload as planned my freshly edited travelogues and assorted photos to my websites at a Memphis service.


Like the old, proverbial story, “for want of a nail a horseshoe was lost . . . (and continuing the chain of related events) a kingdom was lost.”


Golf in Gulf Shores, Ala.  – June 15, 2010, Tuesday


We arose about 7 a.m. in our condo. Betty again cooked a fabulous breakfast for me of two scrambled eggs with cheese, three slices of ham, a banana, two prunes, small glass of milk, tomato juice and a slice of Melba toast.


I made a 9:40 a.m. tee time at Gulf State Park golf course, one of my favorites since the lowest score of my life was shot there, a 79 several years ago. Betty agreed to drive the golf cart and accompany me on the 9 hole-round. Joining us were a couple of strapping young men from Alabama. They were “Jabbo” of Birmingham, owner of a small construction company, and his friend “Jody,” an athletic guy formerly of Birmingham who is now a college student in Huntsville. I soon saw that Jody could hit a drive 250 or more yards.


Polite and considerate of my degenerated ability to play golf with even average skill, the two young men hit their drives off the blue tees for extra course distance.


They played 18 holes. Disturbingly, despite riding in the cart that Betty drove, I was feeling pretty tired after only 5 holes. Temperatures this morning were predicted to be in the mid 90s, with some areas in the South expected to hit the 100-degree mark or better.


Belying my long layoff due to shoulder injury and recovery from a brain aneurysm, I started out the round fairly well. My opening drive went 200 or more yards to the middle of the fairway and I somehow managed to drop several putts of 6 feet or more.


I was pleased to make my own par score of the day on Hole No. 3, a Par 3 of 123 yards. Even then, I recovered from a mulish 7-iron drive that fell short of the green by 10 or more yards. But I got lucky and chipped a 9-iron shot close to the hole and putted the ball in for a par.


My Waterloo came on Hole No. 7. After 4 consecutive poor shots with woods, I picked up and scored the 475-yard par 5 hole as a double bogey, for a 7. My game didn’t get any better after that, with me taking a double bogey 6 on No. 8 and a triple bogey 7 on the 400­-yard, No. 9.  My score for the front 9 was a lousy 50, but given the fact I hadn’t played the course in 4 years and was a long way from recovering my usual game, I was reasonably pleased to at least be out on the course.


Betty and I stopped at the “turn,” while Jabbo and Jody played the back 9 holes. We unloaded my golf clubs from the cart and into her Ford Focus then repaired to the snack bar for lunch. With the day so hot, I went for one of my favorites there, a hot dog loaded with mustard and dill pickle slices on only a half a bun. Betty had a delicious, chicken breast sandwich. As a “bonus,” our longtime pals who worked at the snack bar for many years treated us to some yummy samples of an Oriental “crepe” dish made by “Sunshine,” an Asian lady who married an American serviceman in Korea long ago.


It’s always a pleasure eating at the snack bar that is kept spic-and-span by Deborah, the hard-working boss, and her staff that has consisted mainly of Asian women for the last 20 or so years. Two of the very nice and efficient Asians we’d gotten to know have retired in the last year or so, “Cha-Cha,” and “Kim.”  We of course wish them well but recognize that they have stayed in place for a long time and during lean years when golf course business was off due to tourism life cycles brought on by bad weather like hurricanes.


Once back in our thankfully cool condo with the air conditioner blowing full force, we both showered. I took a much-needed nap. Betty put on Coppertone sunscreen manufactured by my former company, Schering-Plough, and took her new beach lounger chair out to the white sand in front of our condo building for an afternoon in the hot sun near the white surf.


She noticed a modest amount of beach-scouring work during the several hours she sunned. School buses daily hauled in several hundred workers from the area, who were paid up to $18 an hour to patrol the beaches and shovel tainted sand into black, plastic bags for pickup later in the day.


Betty saw one man sitting in an air-conditioned cab parked on our beach in a front loader all day, evidently talking on a cell phone. Late the afternoon, he maneuvered the heavy equipment to pick up partially-full bags of oil-tainted sand.


Meanwhile, up from my short nap I started working with a pencil on our dining room table. I had promised my long-time friend Bob Reid (now retired in our hometown of Sacramento, CA) that I would edit his copy written during his recent recovery from heart transplant surgery. He had written on a computer a gripping account of the perils and processes he underwent to survive the very serious surgery and rigorous rehabilitation.


As a newspaperman for 15 years and a corporate communications executive for nearly that long, I had acquired the skills and know-how to provide some professional editing services at no cost to Bob. I was extraordinarily pleased to see just what a terrific writer Bob – with little formal training or practice – can be with a subject he knows so much about from his own personal perspective.


Meeting with Condo Management Executive in Gulf Shores, Ala.  – June 16, 2010, Wednesday


We arose in our condo about 7 a.m. to another mostly sunny and warm day. The outside temperature in the shade was already 80 degrees at 8 a.m.


After the usual hearty-but-low-carb breakfast cooked by Betty (two fried eggs, three slices of ham, banana, two prunes, tomatoes juice, mile and slice of Melba toast), we drove a few miles to the office of our condo rental management company, Kaiser Realty. We had planned to meet with our unit’s rental manager, Shelia May. However, a mix-up between her and the office switchboard about her schedule meant we missed Shelia. So we met with her boss, our longtime pal Randy Kaiser, a vice president in charge of rentals for the family-owned firm which is one of the biggest in the business for the area.


Randy brought us up to date on the medical progress of his father, Roger Kaiser, who has been a patient at a nearby nursing home and was the selling agent when we purchased our condo more than 20 years ago.


We were told that Kaiser Realty would work on our behalf to recover damages from a significant loss of rental income due to the oil catastrophe caused by BP’s explosion of the Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico. Actually, the destroyed rig is almost due south of Gulf Shores 200 or so miles out to sea and is pouring millions of gallon of thick oil into the ocean despite weeks’ of efforts by BP and its agents to cap the burst pipe and valve in 5,000 feet of water.


The coastal economy is in ruins, with sudden and steep falloffs in rentals, retail sales and other businesses dependent on seasonal income. BP’s owner has promised President Obama to reimburse losses up to $20 billion in lost income and damages from what is called the biggest environmental disaster in U.S. history.


Randy told us Kaiser is among the real estate management companies that have enclosed the professional services of a big accounting firm – Grant, Sanders & Taylor, P.C. – to process paperwork from Kaiser’s condo owners and file claims with BP, a global petroleum company based in Great Britain. 


Today’s edition of the Mobile Press-Register newspaper reported on its front page that the broken pipe is now gushing perhaps over 2 million gallons of oil into the ocean every day. The consequences have been horrific in terms of damage to everything dependent on the Gulf of Mexico, including commercial and now-banned recreational fishing, beach condo and hotel rentals to tourists and related businesses like restaurants.


Betty and I stand to lose perhaps $10,000 in rental income this season. Worse, there is no telling how many years it will be before the normal business returns to typical health. Repeated tries by BP and its agents to plug the leak and halt the massive oil spill have failed over the last two months. The situation seems to worse by the day and is careening around with political consequences.


I was glad that Kaiser and its CPA firm are willing to handle the claims paperwork for a very modest service fee of only $30. I’ve been doing business with Randy and his family and employees for more than two decades and am satisfied that their skills and know-how will result in the best possible recovery of damages in behalf of the Nolan-owned condo at Gulf Village.


After meeting with Randy, we stopped at the nearby Wal-Mart store so Betty could shop for groceries and supplies while I sat on a bench inside the store to read the newspaper.


We then went to the Gulf Shores Public Library to check our email on the provided computers and Internet signal. We then returned to our condo and had a very good lunch Betty made of chef’s salad and chicken-and-rice soup. She left me at the condo to take my customary afternoon nap and drove to the nearby town of Foley, Ala., and its gigantic Tanger Outlet Mall. She wanted to shop for baby clothes and related gear for the pending birth of identical twin boys by our son’s wife, Caroline Cardon Nolan.


I tried to call my old friend Bob Reid in Sacramento to pass on my comments after editing his very fine manuscript about his recent heart transplant surgery and steady, miraculous recovery after surgery six months ago.  I couldn’t reach him on telephone, making me suspect that he might be in San Francisco for a periodic checkup at the hospital where the operation was performed.


It’s a good thing I didn’t play golf today because it rained off-and-on for much of the afternoon.


Late in the afternoon, Betty returned to our condo with several bags of “loot” she purchased from various mall shops. Included were matching outfits for our coming grandchildren like baseball uniforms and tiny overalls like those worn by railroad engineers. I think observing females will think the clothing for little ones to be perfect. For me, Betty purchased some nice golf shirts in blue and white colors and also some Bermuda shorts.


For dinner, we have a very good meal consisting of leftover smoked salmon from Alaska, tomato soup, Cole slaw, fresh fruit on cottage cheese, a little fruit and a glass or two of Pinot Grigio white wine.


More Golf in Gulf Shores, Ala.  – June 17, 2010, Thursday


We arose at our condo at 7 a.m. Despite a fairly long sleep, I didn’t feel much rested this morning. My lingering muscle soreness and tightness from Tuesday’s round of golf seemed to interfere with my generally inadequate golf game this morning.


But at least I looked the part of an OK golfer, wearing a Bermuda shorts; new Footjoy golf shoes a green visor from the Masters Tournament in Augusta and a white Nike wristband to cover my medical alert bracelet that warns against MRI's. Those brain scans are forbidden because of the hardware in my brain that was inserted following my aneurysm four years ago.


I paid nearly $40 to play 9 holes again at the Gulf Park golf course and to ride in an electric cart driven by Betty. We were joined by two nice young men from the Montgomery, Ala., suburb of Hopehul. They were “Ted,” owner of a company that makes artificial flowers and plants, and his son-in-law, “Marson,” a powerful young man.


Both were nice guys and, like me, not terribly proficient at golf. But also like me, they enjoyed the game of golf.


My game showed the result of being in such pathetic shape and not used to swinging a golf club. My score for 9 holes was a miserable 56, 6 shots higher than the not-so-good 50 I shot two days ago. I couldn’t even manage a single par. But I only lost one golf ball, on the Par 3, 123-yard Hole No. 3, where I put a hooked my tee shot into the lake on the same hole I shot par on earlier in the week.


On this day, I played with a brand new Titlist Ball among the two boxes recently sent to me as a birthday gift from our in-law JoAnn Cardon Glass of Atlanta. She is the wonderfully smart and warm mother of our son’s wife, Caroline, and has quickly become one of our favorite relatives. JoAnn and Betty share much pleasure and pride at the coming birth of common grandchildren – identical twin boys to our son, Casey, and her younger daughter, Caroline. The babies may be delivered a bit early, perhaps in September.


My golf game on this day was “inconsistent” off the tee, putting it in maybe the kindest terminology. My ground shots with my 3 and 7 metal clubs as well as my putting with a Ping club were also off the lucky quality I somehow managed to find a couple of days ago. For the round, I made only one bogey (on Hole No. 8), six double bogeys, one triple bogey and an awful bogey-four on No. 9. (For non-golfers, a bogey is one stroke over par and a double is two strokes over, etc. A par is what a reasonable proficient golfer should score on every hole, generally allowing for two putts per hole following one, two or three approach shots to get the ball on the putting green.)


My playing partners provided good company but they also seemed to be struggling with their golf games. But the pace of play was quite good, a total of two hours for nine holes without any waits for groups ahead of us to complete play on separate holes. It was miserably hot, with the temperature in the mid-90s and hardly a breath of a breeze to cool things off.


Betty and I stopped at the turn after 9 holes and enjoyed a typically fine lunch made by longtime snack bar employees Deborah and Joan. I had a cheeseburger without the bread and served separately from a small pile of lettuce, tomato slices and pickles. Betty had a yummy BLT sandwich. Quite thirsty, I drank two alcohol-free bottles of Sharp’s beers.


I learned that the golf course now bans private coolers unless stocked with beverages purchased at the snack bar, evidently a money-making venture to recover revenue lost by the major falloff in tourism caused by the oil spill in the Gulf.


While at the clubhouse, I had a nice conversation with head golf pro and club manager Harry Dwyer. He had recently returned to the area following a golfing vacation in South Florida. I’d taken several lessons from him and always found him to be helpful and a pleasure to deal with.


Betty and I stopped at the Gulf Shores Public Library on our way back to our condo so we could use the library’s free Internet signal to check our email.


Later, Betty repaired to the beach in front of our Gulf Village building to sun while I napped after a shower. I called my longtime friend Bob Reid in California and connected on that call to share with him my comments about his very fine manuscript I had edited as a friendly gesture. He seemed interested in comments I intended to be constructive in nature about his authoring of a personal reminisce about the ordeal of a heart transplant he went though six months ago. 


I very much believe he has a great story to tell, the dormant ability to write it well and perhaps help others facing some of the same medical issues and concerns he had to overcome. From what I’ve read, Bob now has (like many others of our age with no additional health issues that are life-threatening) a fairly good chance of another 20 or so years of additional life to write about and find interesting and compelling.


For dinner, Betty and I returned to our favorite restaurant in the area, the relocated Wolf Bay Lodge a few miles from our condo and alongside a marina of very expensive sport fishing boats. We both enjoyed margarita drinks served on the rocks with the glasses rimmed with coarse salt. We both went for fried shrimp and fried oysters, served with huge helpings of a wide variety of fresh salad bar treats plus optional cups of the restaurant’s excellent gumbo.


Our waiter, name of “Matt,” had recently relocated back to the Gulf Shores area after working in southern California. He knew his stuff and provided excellent service. He explained that several popular items like crab claws and dishes made with fresh red snapper were off the menu due to the fishing bans on Coastal waters due to the huge oil spillover offshore. The oysters we enjoyed were shipped in from the East Coast.


We had noticed earlier while driving down Highway 59 toward the beach that two of seafood shops advertised “safe seafood – no oil.”


Once back at the condo, I read for a while and watched TV until about 9 p.m., when I went to bed tired from playing golf in hot and humid weather. Betty used our complex’s coin-operated laundry facilities a few steps from our condo to wash our week’s worth of soiled clothes. She also did some preliminary packing for our long drive the next day from Gulf Shores to her brother’s farm in South Mississippi.


Driving to Trapp Farm near Newton, Miss. – June 18, 2010, Friday


We arose in our Gulf Shores, Ala., condo before 7 a.m. to complete the packing and loading of Betty’s Ford Focus, nicknamed “Fiona,” for the long drive to her brother’s farm near Newton, Miss. For breakfast, Betty served me a palm-sized hunk of smoked salmon from Alaska that had been left over from dinner the other night, along with wonderful scrambled eggs, sliced ham, banana, two prunes, tomato juice, Melba toast and a small glass of milk. I do believe in starting the day with a proper breakfast, which is always prepared by Betty.


We hauled our packed bags and supplies down two flights of stairs to the condo parking lot beneath our building and loaded them into her car. We pulled out at 9:40 a.m., 20 minutes earlier than planned.


After stopping at the Gulf Shores Wal-Mart store for gas and a small bouquet of flowers to give to our pal Roger Kaiser at a nearby nursing home, I drove the Focus station wagon for about an hour to the Robertsdale Medical Center. Roger has been a patient there for several months following a stroke.


It was great seeing him again and looking so much better than he appeared to be during our last visit in April. His throat surgery is mostly healed now and he is again speaking clearly and hoping he’ll be well enough to return home soon. I again thanked Roger for the service and excellent advice he gave us when we bought the Gulf Village condo he was selling more than 20 years ago.


As he promised, his company provided outstanding rental management service and the generally reliable stream of income from tenants helped us pay off the note on time. We now outright own the small condo on a beautiful beach free and clear and continue to use Kaiser’s management services.


After our short visit, Betty and I drove north on Highway 59 to Loxley, Ala., and its Burress Farm Market. Betty purchased some freshly picked peaches and a few juicy-looking tomatoes to give to our hosts that night, her brother Harvey Trapp and his wife, Ann at their farm near Newton in South Mississippi.


Betty handled the driving of about 3 ½ hours up Highway 59, across southern Alabama through Mobile on Interstate 10, up to Hattiesburg, Miss., on U.S. 98 and then across Mississippi on Interstate 59 to Laurel, Miss. We stopped in Laurel for gas then proceeded on Highway 15 and drove through several small towns to the Garlandville farm road turnoff and then several miles on a narrow but recently paved road to the Trapp farm.


Along the way we ran into a few, brief showers and the car’s air conditioner fought the hot and humid climate all the way.


It was great seeing Harvey after an absence of only a week. I napped in a spare bedroom of his farmhouse while Betty visited. Harvey and Ann’s son-in-law, Jimmie Nowell, arrived with an employee and a huge 18-wheeler truck pulling a monstrous front loader on a trailer. Jimmie was to used the equipment to help Harvey move bricks and debris from a nearby house that would be demolished. The loads were to be dumped into an eroding culvert on Harvey’s property to provide better drainage and soil stability.


His 400-plus acre farm includes fields of hay, vegetables, cover for game like wild deer and a small lake for fishing by members of his family.


That evening, Betty and I rode in Ann’s Volvo SUV to Meridian, Miss., about 45 minutes from the Trapp farm. There, Betty and I treated them to a very good dinner at the local branch of the Olive Garden national chain, which also operates a restaurant we frequently patronize in Memphis. The menu and prices seemed identical to the Memphis operation, but service was incredibly slow – 50 minutes from food order to delivery to our table.


However, the Italian-style food was very good and the company was outstanding. We got back to the Trapp farm shortly before 10 p.m. I showered and went to bed while Betty stayed up to visit with family.


Driving from Trapp Farm to Jackson, Miss. – June 19, 2010, Saturday


Betty arose early but I slept until 8:15 a.m. in a guest bedroom at the Trapp farm near Newton, Miss. She cooked me another great breakfast. I enjoyed a two-egg omelet made with cheese, plus two slices of ham, V-8, a banana and two prunes.


Already eating a very good country breakfast of biscuits topped with sausage gravy cooked by Ann was their son-in-law, Jimmie. Also present was Tonya Trapp Nowell, Jimmie’s wife and the only child of Harvey and Ann, and her beautiful daughter, Maggie, age 8. Tonya’s husband, Jimmie, is a former Mississippi State University football player and a bear-of-a-entrepreneur who owns his own pallet manufacturing and shipping business, with related interests.


Betty helped Ann plant several flowering bulbs Jimmie had obtained as surplus from a client in the shipping business. Betty also got additional samples of several varieties of bulbs to plant at our home in Memphis and also to pass on to her good friend, SuAnne Turnage. We would spend most of the morning driving from the Trapp farm to SuAnne’s home in the Pearl, Miss., suburb of Jackson, Miss.


We departed the Trapp farm about 10:30 a.m. for the 1 hour, 15-minute drive to SuAnne’s home, taking Interstate 20 most of the way. Betty handled all the driving on a day that was hot and sunny. We arrived just before noon and soon repaired to a nearby salad and sandwich restaurant, Newk’s, that we had enjoyed before. SuAnne kindly treated us to a salad and big bowl of chicken soup with the promise that we would pick up the dinner tab that evening.


Once back at her nice home, I napped for over an hour in a spare bedroom normally occupied by a charming young tenant who recently completed her doctorate degree in physical therapy at the University of Mississippi Medical School, where SuAnne works. The young woman was in her native state of Idaho this week to marry her sweetheart from there.


It was great seeing Betty enjoying being with her longtime friend, working together to plant some of the bulbs sent by her brother Harvey. They also used Betty’s fabric and sewing skills to make some plush shower curtains for one of SuAnne’s bathrooms.


I was not able to access my Internet email by using my laptop HP computer. I later learned that SuAnne’s computer uses a password (she didn’t know its exact spelling) to hook into the Internet with a nice computer system set up by her electronics-talented son.


Later, the three of us – joined by one of SuAnne’s longtime friends and neighbors retired from the Mississippi National Guard by the name of Charles – drove a few miles to eat dinner at a local branch of the Sombrero Mexican food chain. I had delicious meat enchiladas, beef taco and burrito and a bunch of tortilla chips dipped in mild sauce. That was served with a Dos Equis beer and a good margarita. The good food and better company made for a delightful meal.


Driving from Jackson, Miss., to Memphis – June 20, Sunday


Betty was up early but I slept until 7:30 a.m. She was already planting bulbs around SuAnne’s concrete patio in the back of her house. She later did some finishing stitching on the shower curtains she helped her friend make.


Ever the energetic and talented dynamo, Betty broke off from her volunteer work as a guest to cook for a me a plate of her classic scrambled eggs, served with two slices of ham, banana, slice of cantaloupe, two prunes, tomato juice, small glass of milk. It was a great way to start another long drive we would make a little later from Pearl, Miss., to Memphis.


After checking my mountain of backed-up email on SuAnne’s computer and connection to the Internet, I took some time to read some of the day’s Jackson Clarion-Ledger newspaper, a Gannett publication that like others is suffering from declining advertising and circulation. I didn’t think it provided very good coverage of national news so returned to bed to nap for another 30 minutes or so.


SuAnne drove to a nearby grocery store to buy some groceries for our lunch. I finally found some work I could do and happily pitched in to flour, spice and sauté the shrimp the way I do at home. That is one of the few meals I still cook now that Betty has fully retired from teaching and reclaimed and redecorated our kitchen as her domain.


Following the tasty shrimp, we enjoyed slices of angel food cake SuAnne had purchased and served with Cool Whip and strawberries.


We then finished packing the Ford Focus for the 3 ½-hour drive to Memphis. The temperatures were expected to reach 100 degrees on this day, making the thought of a cooling dip in our swimming pool especially attractive.


We stopped for gas and Chicken McNuggets in Grenada, Miss., about the half-way point, and arrived home about 4 p.m.


We found that our pool filter pump had been turned off, evidently by the cleaning service due to the need for repairs and pending resurfacing of the plaster liner. But the lawns were in pretty good shape, thanks to a neighborhood yardman. It took a couple of tries but Betty was able to re-connect our telephone DSL Internet service to my computer, a procedure that had to be repeated the next day by a service call to a friend.


All in all, our trip to check on our condo in the face of the oil spill catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico and brief visits to family and friends in Mississippi was a very good one. I’m afraid the BP spill of millions of gallons of oil from a well drilled 5,000 feet below the surface will likely result in our loss of virtually all of this year’s seasonal rental income for our condo. The total tab for meeting with our rental agent and arriving at that conclusion came to $1,276 when I added up costs of driving, eating and other expenses


My intention is to work with Kaiser Realty and their CPA firm to file the proper claims seeking reimbursement from BP, per that British petroleum company’s agreement with President Obama.


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Getaways  1993 - 2009