Nolan Travels -- Happy trails from Lewis & Betty Nolan
Nolan Travels Getaways 2003
Travel by Lewis & Betty Nolan
Lewis and Betty England, 2003
Betty, England, 2003
Page Updated March 2, 2008
Great Golf and Gumbo at Gulf Shores
Dec. 29, 2002 – Jan. 4, 2003 – To Gulf Shores, AL
Betty and I had a good day for our annual trip to Gulf Shores for the Christmas holidays. I was off work for a week at Schering-Plough HealthCare Products and she had her customary holiday vacation from teaching at Northside High School for two weeks. We dropped our son, Casey, off at the Memphis International Airport for his flight back to Boston, where he is working on a Master of Business Administration degree at Harvard University. He had been home for a week. Once we bade him good luck and a good flight, we drove back home to pick up our pet greyhound, Dickens.
As usual, we drove south on Interstate 55 to Jackson, Miss., where we picked up U.S. Highway 45 south to Hattiesburg, Miss., where we turned left on U.S. Highway 90 to Mobile, Ala., to take another left on I-10 into Alabama, then turned off south on U.S. 59 to Gulf Shores. We had a good day for driving, with the temperature rising into the mid-60s. The trees along the road were completely bare of leaves, which is customary for this time of year.
We had been making the big drive at this time of year since buying our condo on the beach of the Gulf of Mexico at Gulf Shores in 1986. In recent years, the four-lane, divided highway stretch of U.S. 90 eastward and southerly from Hattiesburg to the back door of Mobile had been
completed and Highway 59 south from I-10 to Gulf Shores had been four-laned all the way to the beach. Consequently, we now normally make the drive down from Memphis in just under 8 hours, a good hour or so faster than the time it took before the highway improvements. Of course, heavy traffic around warm holiday weekends can easily add another hour to the drive.
I played golf the next day, a Monday, at the Alabama State Park course at Gulf Shores and shot a dismal 97 including only 4 pars. Worse yet, I hit 4 balls into the water, three-putted 4 times and topped 4 drives. I feel good about my fairly recent weight loss of 70 pounds but am surprised that the loss of so much body fat isn’t helping my golf game as I had hoped it would.
Betty and I cooked Royal Red shrimp for dinner that evening. We are both glad that our pet greyhound, Dickens, has acclimated well to sleeping in the condo, walking up and down four flights of stairs and doing his business in the development’s front yard. Betty, with whom Dickens has a deep attachment, takes him down the stairs on a leash and sees to it that he takes care of his business. She scoops his leavings into a plastic bag for disposal in the dempster dumpster.
Thankfully, this time of year is football bowl season and I have at least one SEC team to watch play most days and evenings.
We got Kaiser Realty’s maintenance department out the next day to rehang the troublesome door in the bedroom closet. We discussed with them the heavy duty condo cleaning that Betty would undertake during our stay and the small repairs I would make. In all, I talked with Kaiser and Meyer Realty (the Gulf Village property management firm employed by the owners’ association) several times about interior and exterior maintenance and housekeeping.
The ATT, pre-paid cell phone plan that I use is working fine, at a small savings. But my ATT calling card won’t connect to the necessary, toll-free 800 number due to hackers using two of my sign-in codes I have for Bell South voice mail. It’s complicated and really odd.
I rung in the New Year on January 1 with a decent round of golf at the State Park course. I walked the entire four miles for the first time in a year. I shot a 47 on the front 9 and a very good 43 on the back 9 for a total score of 90. Included in the unusually good round for me were 1 birdie, 6 pars, 1 four-putt and 3 three-putts.
We discovered our condo deck table had migrated to the deck of a nearby unit. So I retrieved it and drilled some holes in the wooden deck so we could anchor it with long screws.
The next day, we got some great gumbo takeout from the Wolf Bay Lodge a few miles from the big outlet mall in nearby Foley, AL. Then on January 3, we drove to Fairhope, AL – a ritzy community on the eastern shore of Mobile’s bay. While we were out, we stopped by the
Tanger Mall at Foley where I bought some Rockport walking shoes, a pair of Reebock walking shoes and a few other items.
Most days of our visit I took some time to write my account of our recent trip to Minnesota to re-visit some of my late father’s haunts in and near Cass Lake. I also did quite a few repairs to the condo, including patching the wallpaper. For dinner on the Friday evening, we dined on boiled shrimp from The Spot plus some leftover gumbo and a package of Sea Bear smoked salmon Betty had brought from home.
We had an uneventful drive home to Memphis on Saturday, January 4.
To see photos of this trip, please go to www.kodakgallery.com, sign in as directed to the Lewis Nolan albums and see the album of 33 photos entitled “Gulf Shores.”
Well, Hello Dali and Florida’s Mary and Bob
Feb. 8 – 11, 2003 – To St. Petersburg & Parrish, FL
My half-sister Mary Ballard suffered a “mild” heart attack in October and has since been pretty much confined to her home in St. Petersburg due to her need for a constant flow of pure oxygen, made possible by a portable tank and a long, plastic tube called a “tether” that is connected to her nose. Still quite active on her home computer and helping fellow Mormons do family research with her Internet skills, she had lost her voice a couple of weeks ago. I had been wanting to see her and arranged a trip to St. Petersburg so I could try to cheer her up.
Working with my pal at A&I Travel, Joye Allen, I managed to catch a pretty good deal for a direct flight from Memphis to Tampa ($267.50) even though it is the “high season” for travel to Florida at this time of year and hotel prices are expensive. Joye made reservations for me at rates that were not stratospheric at the Holiday Inn near downtown St. Pete for the night of arrival and for the last night at a Hampton Inn Rocky Point near the airport. My former boss at Schering-Plough HealthCare Products, Bob Raub and his wife Charlene, had invited me to stay with them in their retirement home at nearby Parrish, FL. I accepted their hospitality for the second night of my stay in the area.
The flight from Memphis to Tampa (which has by far the biggest airport in the St. Pete vicinity) was on time. My Internet check-in 30 hours before the flight allowed me to get a relatively roomy, aisle seat on an exit row near the front of the plane (ditto for the return flight). But the planning and “good deal” on a rental car from Thrifty meant that the line to its airport counter was long. After a 40-minute wait upon arrival at Tampa, I secured a $25-a-day rate on a “mid-size” Suzuki car.
The St. Pete Holiday Inn is one of the older properties in the chain, which was founded in Memphis and maintained its world headquarters there for many years. The motel is a bit down-at-the-heels for its age, but reasonably comfortable and very conveniently located with close proximity to Bob and Mary Ballard’s home in an established section of town. It turned out that a high school party was in a room on the second floor and a band played loud music right beneath my roof. Hotel management seemed glad to move me to a suite because of the noise and vibration.
That evening, I ended up eating a double cheeseburger with a salad from a takeout restaurant – Johnny Rockets - in a two-story mall across the street from the motel. I went the takeout route rather than wait in a long line of movie goers and young daters attracted to the Baywalk Mall’s 20-screen theater. I had checked out the motel’s Juliens Steakhouse restaurant and found that with filet mignon at $38, it was too pricey for me.
Later, I returned to the mall and enjoyed a martini mixed by a burly bartender at Dan Marino’s Martini Bar, named after the famous quarterback for the Miami Dolphins. It was actually the third one he mixed (for $7.50) for me after he tossed the first two when after gnats decided to take a swim.
I very much enjoyed a long visit with Mary and Bob Ballard around lunchtime on Sunday. They insisted on broiling for me a steak for lunch, which was good. Mary is on oxygen full time now because she lost a lot of lung capacity due to scar tissue. A lot of her conversation was done in a whisper because of her laryngitis. But I was pleased to see that she does so well at home.
After our visit, I repaired to St. Pete’s Salvador Dali Museum, where I greatly enjoyed seeing so many of his original, surrealistic paintings. Later, I drove south on I-75 to Parrish, where I joined Bob and Charlene Raub for an excellent dinner of grilled salmon in their beautiful home and a delightful evening of conversation with them.
On the next day, a Monday, Bob and I played golf at a new course a few miles to the south. We were joined by his friend, Jack Baytos, whose wife (Sandy) got us on the course for free due to her job selling real estate at the development where homes with pools start at $250,000. Similar developments are popping up near the ocean on land formerly used for orange groves and cattle. The three of us guys got in four holes before a deluge. It rained hard and I got soaked after I foolishly left my rain suit in the car.
After a late lunch, I said my goodbyes to the Raubs and returned my rental car to the Tampa Airport about 4 p.m. to save another day’s charges. I spent the night at a nice, well-run Hampton Inn on Rocky Point Drive. I had an excellent dinner of grilled mahi-mahi at an adjacent restaurant.
The next morning I checked out of the motel and later walked 1.5 miles in the Tampa airport. I caught the direct Northwest flight to Memphis at 10:50 a.m. Because of the easy Internet check-in 28 hours earlier, I had a relatively roomy, aisle seat on an exit row. Ironically, the mist and rain that had engulfed the Tampa area during my visit disappeared and we had great weather for the flight home to Memphis. I had a great time visiting the Ballards and the Raubs
During our years at Schering-Plough in Memphis, Bob Raub and I had offices on the 6th floor of the headquarters building for HealthCare Products and we saw one another on most days. He is one of the really good guys I worked for and with during my career and I miss seeing him regularly.
To Nashville to Lobby for American Cancer Society
Feb. 19 – 20, 2003 – To Nashville
I drove my Ford Taurus station wagon from Memphis to Nashville, state capital of Tennessee. Leaving home at 8:15 a.m. I arrived at the Comfort Inn on the west side of Nashville by 11:30 a.m. During the years I had responsibility for government relations for Schering-Plough HealthCare Products, I frequently traveled to Nashville when the Legislature is in session, normally from January until late May or early June and also when needed for special lobbying work.
The government contacts I made – plus the political campaign contributions from my company’s Political Action Committee (Schering-Plough Better Government Fund) on behalf of my company and also the Memphis Area Chamber of Commerce (which I served as chairman of the government affairs committee) – made my work helpful to organizations like the American Cancer Society I served as a volunteer.
During the drive through the rolling hills of West and Middle Tennessee, I snacked on sliced ham and salted nuts. I had hoped to have lunch with an old friend, Neil O’Brien, who had been head of the Tennessee Association of Business (largest lobbying organization in the state). Our separate employers had their main offices across the street from one another and we both served on one another’s government affairs committees. However, Neil wasn’t available for lunch on this day so I picked up a takeout burger and went straight on to the Sheraton Hotel downtown for the American Cancer Society’s “Lobby Day” orientation.
At the Capitol, l had a nice visit with The Commercial Appeal’s chief reporter for state government, Rick Locker, and a new reporter name of Sam who was working with him. I briefly met with Tennessee’s new Finance Commissioner, Dave Goetz, who had been chief administrator of Neil’s Tennessee Association of Business which I had served on the Board of Governors. It was good talking with Dave about some of our go-go days of lobbying on behalf of business. We also discussed some of the American Cancer Society’s concerns and the situation regarding state support of various arts organizations that interest me.
While in the State Capitol and adjacent Legislative Plaza, I met with Senators John Ford and Jim Kyle as well as state Representatives Louis DeBerry (Speaker Pro Tempore), Mike Kernell, Carol Chumney and Ulysses Jones. I missed Senators Steve Cohen and Roscoe Dixon but did chat with several of their assistants. I happened to bump into Shelby County Mayor A.C. Wharton (in Nashville to met with Governor Bredesen and Commissioner Goetz), longtime pals Calvin Anderson of Blue Cross/Blue Shield and Memphis Chamber of Commerce government relations professional, Jesse Johnson.
Due to my diet (an unceasing necessity) and the fact that I was pinched for time, I passed on the American Cancer Society reception that evening. I had a quick chicken and lettuce salad at a Shoney’s Restaurant near my Comfort Inn motel then drove across Nashville to the Watkins School of Design to attend a weekly meeting of the Tennessee Screenwriters Association. My fellow amateur screenwriters Dennis and Diane Burton were quite hospitable. In all, there were 24 aspiring writers present at the meeting.
A man who appeared to be about my age – in his 50s – presented a synopsis of his budding screenplay concept based on a Western novel he had read. I was surprised to hear that he did not have the screenplay rights to the story, a weakness that drew quite a lot of critical comments from the present writers.
Another aspiring screenplay that a writer presented was a premise about a TV news anchor woman. This was my first TSA meeting and my first opinion was that the meeting format was of little appeal to me. I drove home to Memphis the next morning.
Ireland’s Ancient Ruins near Dingle, Plus Bunratty
By Lewis Nolan
March 7, 2003 – From Memphis to Boston
Betty and I flew from Memphis to Boston late Friday so we could see our son Casey, who is working on an MBA degree at Harvard University, before flying out to Shannon the next day on Ireland’s Aer Lingus. We spent the night at the very nice Holiday Inn-Airport, a high rise with a distant view of Boston Harbor. We had a three-hour visit with Casey at the hotel before checking out and riding a shuttle bus to Boston’s Logan Airport. An account of our week-long trip to Ireland with photos is posted and begins at nolantravels2/3ding1.html. An excerpt, Part 7 of the 8-part travelogue, is below.
Friday, March 14, 2003 – To Bunratty and Home
We took our time with breakfast and packing on this last morning of a week-long trip to Dingle in Southwest Ireland, getting ready for our three-hour drive to the north. It was a good day for traveling, clear and dry. There was little traffic on the torturous but
wildly scenic road over the Connor Pass. We stopped several times to take photos of the panoramic views of Dingle Bay, the Peninsula and the craggy Beenoskee Mountain (elevation 2,796 feet).
We took a side trip down a country lane to the tiny village of Brandon, home of one of the multiplicity of Murphy’s Pubs. If I didn’t know better, I’d think it was a chain. Adjacent to the waterfront pub is a rugged wharf made of weathered concrete. We drove a few more miles along the coast to have a look at Brandon Point, a worthwhile detour. The high point offers grand views of Brandon Bay and its broad beaches. The Professional Windsurfing Association holds the Irish leg of its world tour in the bay, which has some of the best surf on the Dingle Peninsula.
We didn’t stay long on the point because the cold wind was blowing fiercely. Betty climbed over a sheep gate to take some close-up photos of a grazing herd.
Picking up the N-21 highway at Tralee, we drove north towards Limerick and made a stop at Abbeyfeale’s delightful store that serves the racing greyhound market. We had purchased some gear for our pet here last year and a pendant for Betty made of an old Irish coin that sports a greyhound. This time, she purchased a racing silk for Dickens, a wire muzzle (our juvenile delinquent has learned to shred the plastic muzzles in minutes), a small statue of a greyhound and another piece of jewelry.
It was fun talking to the wise- cracking store manager and one of his regular customers who races the dogs. They gave us precise directions to a practice track just outside Newmarket we had chanced upon six years ago. We stopped but no dogs were running on this day.
We also stopped at the familiar petrol/grocery store at Newmarket for sandwiches and gasoline and then at the picture-perfect village of Adare, where we again visited the beautiful city park. The daffodils and forsythia were in full bloom, with their bright yellows and whites jumping out of the frames formed by lush grass. I purchased a book on walking vacations in the area to give to my cousin, Dick Nolan of Lexington, Mass. He is thinking about doing a weeklong trek around the Dingle Peninsula.
We arrived at Bunratty Castle Hotel at 4:30 p.m. The key to our spacious and well-equipped room didn’t work properly (shades of our arrival at the Dingle Skellig) and we were quickly given another room. However, bookkeeping evidently didn’t know about the switch since charges for an additional room appeared on my American Express bill a month later. It is a nice hotel, with three stars. Many tour bus groups stop here because it is only a very short walk from the medieval castle, a folk park and shopping center that caters to Americans with loads of Irish woolen goods, crystal and souvenirs of every description and price. But I don’t think the hotel was worth the $97 tariff even with the full breakfast (which we don’t eat anyway because of my low-carb diet and Betty’s lack of interest in the morning meal).
We walked though the nearby Blarney Woolen Mills outlet just as it was closing. We also took a quick look at the celebrated Durty Nellie’s pub and restaurant, which dates to 1690 and claims to be the oldest pub in Ireland. But the heavy cloud of cigarette smoke inside the establishment turned us off. So we ate at the hotel’s restaurant. The meal was pretty good, the food portions generous and the prices moderate. Our waitress was a charming and friendly young woman named Sioghan. She introduced me to one of Ireland’s favorite libations, “Jameson with a dash of red.”
The concoction is made from a pour of Jameson Irish Whiskey and topped with a small amount of Nash red lemonade. We had seen a distinguished looking, older gentleman drinking it in a pub in Ballyferriter.
When I described it to Sioghan, she knew exactly what it was. It is somewhat sweet and tastes like an Old Fashioned. When I asked Sioghan if it is consumed as a before-dinner aperitif or as an after-dinner cordial, she cheerfully exclaimed “all the way through.”
Her good-natured, quick response to my question about the drink points to an easy familiarity the Irish have with alcohol. That familiarity is the subject of countless jokes “God created whisky so the Irish wouldn’t rule the world’), an important source of recreation and social life in Ireland and a huge health problem.
Under a headline of “Ireland Faces Harsh Reality About Abuse Of Alcohol,” The New York Times reported March 2, 2003, that annual consumption per Irish adult had risen to the equivalent of 10.6 quarts of pure alcohol in 2000. The European Union average was 9.5 quarts. Police have started enforcing two-year-old legislation that allows them to close a pub for a week if they catch it serving anyone under 18.
Ireland’s Health Minister said in a speech “There has been the beginning of a realization that we have, in relation to alcohol, a culture of acceptance.” He wants to ban advertising and sponsorship of sporting events by alcohol companies. The government ordered that a Guinness commercial be pulled from TV because it promoted what was deemed an inappropriate link between successful athletes and drinking. The Gaelic Athletic Association is under pressure to abandon its deal with Guinness, the national drink of Ireland.
All that temperance wagon preaching aside, I must admit that my cranky attitude from a long day’s drive improved markedly once I had a “Jameson with a dash of red” plus a pint of Harp lager inside me.
I went for the grilled salmon and Betty for the deep fried scampi, which tasted like scallops and looked like chopped and processed shrimp. Both were served with a mountain of French fries. I took a quick furlough from my low-carb diet and ate most of my potatoes as a “last meal” for a man condemned to return to the Atkins regime when back home.
The British Sky News network was full of coverage about the impending invasion of Iraq by United States and British forces. Prime Minister Tony Blair is coming across as a rare leader, with extraordinary abilities and charm. He reminds me of Bill Clinton, without the bad baggage.
Saturday, March 15, 2003 – To Shannon, Boston and Memphis
We had been advised to arrive at the Shannon Airport by 10:30 a.m. That gave us plenty of time to have a bit of breakfast, pack and make the 15-minute drive from Bunratty. We had a one-hour “overage” on the rental car, which cost an extra $33. Had I remembered the 24-hour rental period specified in the Avis contract I would have not lingered over my last chance at Irish bacon. Getting through Aer Lingus check-in and security screening was a breeze since we were over two hours early. Golf clubs went through a special “out of gauge” checkpoint.
I sat in a reasonably comfortable chair in the departure lobby, had a ham sandwich and made some notes in my trip book while Betty did some duty-free shopping for gifts and souvenirs. Had we been willing to go to the trouble of carrying two, glass bottles of liquor on the plane and through U.S. Customs, we could have bought tequila or Scotch whisky for about half what we pay in Memphis.
The flight home departed on time at 12:45 p.m., relieving my anxiety about clearing Customs in Boston in time to make a connecting flight to Memphis. We got caught in delays flying home on our last trip and ended up having to spend the night in Atlanta after a series of screw-ups. This time, it was a relaxed, six-hour trip across the Atlantic, broken up by complimentary drinks (gin for me and wine for Betty), chicken for lunch and a ham-and-cheese sandwich for an afternoon snack.
We had three hours to make the connection thanks to a faster-than-expected flight from Shannon. Since we were both well under the
allowed $800 of duty free purchases, we sped through Customs without delay. Dinner was cheeseburgers from Logan International Airport’s McDonalds, which were quite heavy compared to the fresh seafood and salads we had enjoyed in Ireland.
Returning to Memphis on the same Northwest plane was my pal John Dudas and his family, who had been skiing in New England. The three-hour flight home was the best kind –uneventful. We arrived just after 8 p.m. and after collecting our baggage we caught a cab and got home about 9 p.m. This was another great trip to Dingle. We may go back in another year or two during Betty’s spring break.
The gathering war clouds continued to darken. Four days after our arrival back in Memphis, U.S. missiles starting striking Baghdad. The first were reported at 8:54 p.m. Wednesday, March 19. Security precautions around airports and other installations were increased to “orange alert” status. There were no incidents in the U.S. and no reports of American travelers being stranded overseas.
- - Lewis Nolan, March 20, 2003
All About Old Waverly Is Great Except My Game
April 3, 2003 – To Old Waverly Golf Club, West Point, MS
I drove to Old Waverly by myself in my Ford Taurus station wagon on a warm, partly cloudy day for my first round of the year there. I seem to play the fabulous course where I’m a member seven or eight times a year, which is not nearly enough. I got lucky during this round and happened to tee off during a lull in play. So I didn’t have anybody in front of me or behind me for the first 9 holes.
The course just gets better and better every year, which has been recognized in many recent years by its inclusion in the prestigious Golf Digest List of America’s top 100 Courses. This time I noticed that some decorative rocks had been installed here and there along with some new cart path borders and continued trimming of vegetation. The flowerbeds were in bloom, as were many of the dogwood and redbud trees along the course.
My diet was going well and I was able to walk all 18 holes for a change. I started out by having a light lunch of turkey and cheese on low-carb bread and ended with a hamburger steak without bread for dinner.
Unfortunately, my play was erratic as usual. But at least I drove the ball fairly well, hitting five of the seven fairways on the front 9 holes. However, I lost five balls in the water plus had one go out-of-bounds. I only managed to make three pars, including a lucky Par 5 on Hole No. 2 when I sank a chip shot from 10 yards off the green. I three-putted 3 times on the front 9 and put 3 balls into the water. But I still managed to shoot a 45 on the front.
However, I was quite wild on the back side of the course, taking a 53 for 9 holes because of a lot of mis-hits and sorry play with my mid and short irons.
Windy day at Old Waverly with Jim Johnson
April 10, 2003 – To Old Waverly Golf Club, West Point, MS
I drove to Old Waverly with former Schering-Plough associate Jim Johnson in his Accura, a nice riding car. We met at 8:30 a.m. at the Conoco gas station at U.S. 78 and Hacks Cross Road, on a chilly and windy day with highs predicted in the mid-50s.
Jim, who holds a doctorate degree and teaches at the University of Tennessee Medical School, is an expert golfer. He usually wins or places high in the annual tournaments I organize that are attended by a dozen or more SP retirees.
I saw Old Waverly’s primary owner, George Bryan of Memphis, at the club for the first time in a good while. My guest, Jim, and I were joined for our round by Ted Martin, a property appraiser and new member who recently bought a condo in the club’s Scotland Yard section. I have played with Ted at Galloway Golf Course in Memphis several times. Ted’s finance is Laurel Reismann, an old friend and onetime landlord of my good friend and golf buddy Tim Parks.
Slimmed down by a tough diet of recent weeks, I walked all 18 holes on this day, pulling a golf cart. It was not a good day for my golf. I hit off the white tees but still shot a 98 and lost 5 balls. Jim went off the blue tees. He carried his bag for the first 9 holes, shooting a 42, then rode in a golf cart for the back 9 and shot a 50, for a grand total of 92.
Despite my high score, it was a great day of golf.
Playing Golf While Dodging Gators in Gulf Shores
April 16 – 20, 2003 – To Gulf Shores, AL
Betty and I drove from our Memphis home to our condo in Gulf Shores in her Mustang convertible, “Sally,” in just under 7 ½ hours. We had dropped our pet greyhound, Dickens, off at “Kennel Camp” at the West Memphis dog track and pulled out of Memphis at 2:30 p.m. Wednesday. It was a nice day to drive with only light traffic, a pleasant way to start Betty’s Spring Break from teaching culinary arts at Northside High School.
Our speedy drive was partly the result of only making three gas and bathroom stops. We carried with us our road food - some pork sandwiches made on low-carb bread - and an ice cooler full of TABs.
We were pleased to see that the wall-to-wall carpet in our condo was clean. But the bedroom closet doors were off their tracks, as is unfortunately often the case when careless renters stuff their gear into the closet and the sliding doors are jammed. We also found that the lock on the “owners closet” in the bathroom had been broken (which happens fairly frequently when nosy tenants break into it) and that two dinner plates were missing.
It was surprising to see the pilferage since our Gulf Village development hasn’t gotten much rental business in recent months. Softness in the rental market for older developments like our Gulf Village are mainly due to booming construction of new homes and high-rises along and near the beach and the intersection with Highway 59 that serves incoming traffic.
We were greeted on Thursday morning by a beautiful day, with mostly sunny skies and an expected high temperature of 80 degrees. Betty hit the beach to sun while I walked 18 holes at the State Park golf course. I was again wild, like during my last round here. I shot a miserable 100. But at least I had the treat of seeing two alligators. One was about 6 feet long and in the pond alongside Hole No. 6. The other alligator was about 12 feet long and in the pond by the Hole No. 9 tee. The Park staff said the big one by No. 9 was a female that nearly killed a small male the previous week. The 12-footer was the biggest I’ve seen out of several dozen on the course over the years. Scary. It had a broad, ugly head that was perhaps 12 inches across.
Friday was mainly a work day for both of us. Betty and I met with Kaiser Realty, our rental agent, to discuss needed repairs, account paying, re-setting the air conditioner and to complain about the number of dead shrubs and grass that were Meyer Realty’s responsibility. Meyer is the property manager hired by the Gulf Village Association and has a work crew on the premises most day.
We drove north of Gulf Shores on Highway 59 to Seascape Furniture to shop for a replacement couch and chair and visited the nearby Tanger Outlet Mall to pick up some needed supplies. We ate lunch at the Wolf Bay Lodge and carried out a quart of their delicious shrimp gumbo for later eating. We visited the Public Library in Gulf Shores to check our email. That afternoon, Betty and I walked along the beach in front of our condo for a mile or more. We also telephoned my Aunt Margaret in Seattle to console her on the recent death of her youngest son, my cousin Tim. We cooked dinner in our condo, enjoying Royal Red shrimp and the gumbo.
I played another round of golf on Saturday and was able to hit the ball somewhat better than I did on Thursday. I lowered my score to 95. Meanwhile, Betty returned to Seascape to select some furniture fabric and later sunned on the beach. Dinner that evening was corned beef brought from home served with some leftover gumbo.
We left Gulf Shores on Easter Sunday for the long drive home, pulling out at 7:25 a.m. Traffic was surprisingly light, given the holiday, and road conditions were good until we hit DeSoto County, Miss., just south of Memphis where rainfall was heavy. It was a great trip.
Dinner with Nolan Book Award Winners
April 30 – May 1, 2003 – To Old Waverly Golf Club, West Point, MS
I drove to Old Waverly by myself, leaving home at 11 a.m. and arriving at 1:45 p.m. on Wednesday. I took a much-needed golf lesson from club pro Chris Jester, focused on correcting my swing that had become corrupted by an over-turn of my body caused by my weight loss giving me more flexibility at the waist. My chipping had also suffered.
I met with old friend and my onetime English professor at Mississippi State, Dr. Clyde Williams to discuss his critique of my recently completed screenplay, “Blood.” He gave me some good advice based on his professional knowledge that comes with teaching college classes in filmmaking.
That evening, Clyde and I hosted a fancy dinner in a dining room we had to ourselves at Old Waverly, where I have been a member for several years. I joined the club in 1992 following my election to the Dean’s Advisory Board for the College of Arts and Sciences at Mississippi State University, where Clyde teaches.
Those at the dinner as my guests were his wife, Marsha Williams; and current winners of the Nolan Book Award, an endowed fund I created and Clyde administers at Mississippi State to help deserving undergraduate English majors purchase reference books and other reading material. Three winners were present and seemed to enjoy the elegance, excellent food and fine wine graciously served at Old Waverly and the company of Dr. and Mrs. Williams and myself. They were Carolyn Bowie of Little Rock, Caroline Eaton of the Memphis suburb of Cordova, TN, and Joy Murphy of Birmingham. One of the award winners was accompanied by her spouse.
The dinner was fun. The staff did an excellent job with the setting, the service and the food. It was expensive, but I thought that I should host one of these dinners for Nolan Book Award winners again.
That night, I stayed in one of the club’s guest rooms in the lodge, which is comparable in quality to a room at the Hyatt Regency I used to stay in at Nashville. It was a pricey trip – my plate of dinner food was $48 and the tab for lodging was $102 – but worth it. Funding the book award endowment has given me much pleasure and certain tax deductions in recent years, plus some matching funds from my former employer, Schering-Plough. Besides, the idea of installing the administration of the Nolan Book Award honor in my pal Clyde and seeing it go to very worthwhile students he selects carries psychic benefits for me and others.
The next morning, I played golf at Old Waverly and was joined by Ted Martin, a recent new member who lives in Memphis and formerly worked for the Shelby County Assessor. His fiancée is Laurel Reisemann, wife of the late Ben Reisemann of Memphis, whom I knew slightly some years ago. I shot a 42 on the front 9 and a lousy 54 on the back 9 after getting tired from all the walking in a temperature that reached 85 degrees. Ted walked all 18 and shot a 38/53 for a total of 91.
After lunch, a long shower and a couple of beers in the clubhouse, I drove back to Memphis through patches of rain. I hit the bad rush hour traffic on the southern outskirts of the city, slowing by 30 minutes or so the usual time for the return. It took 3 hours.
Golf Poor but Day Great at Old Waverly with Casey
May 23, 2003 – To Old Waverly Golf Club, West Point, MS
I drove to Old Waverly with my son, Casey, in my Ford Taurus station wagon. It was a beautiful day for golf but we both played miserably. I shot a 102 and he shot a 98.
Despite our poor play, it was a great day since I was with Casey, who told me that Old Waverly continues as his favorite course even though he has played a lot of on well-known courses on both the West Coast and East Coast where he has worked and lived.
Casey is home for nearly two weeks, between the end of his first year at Harvard Business School in Cambridge, Mass., and the start of the summer internship he has coming up with a big real estate development company in Atlanta. The company name is Hines.
It is always a treat for me – and for his mother, Betty – to have Casey home. He “flew the nest” when at age 18 he went off to the University of Virginia at Charlottesville. After graduation, he worked first in Maryland and then at two locations in California before entering grad school at Harvard. Betty and I are very proud of him and of his early success.
Another Great Day at Old Waverly with Casey
May 28, 2003 – To Old Waverly Golf Club, West Point, MS
I drove to Old Waverly with Casey in his new Ford Explorer. We met my good friend and fellow golfer and club member Curtis Downs there. It was a beautiful day.
I played better than last week, shooting a 92. Casey also played better, shooting a 93. Curtis played his usual very good game, shooting an 88.
I hit the ball the best I’ve hit it in a good while, hitting 9 fairways and 5 greens. I made 4 pars and took only 34 putts. Absent the two double bogeys I took, I could have scored below 90 for the first time in years. It was a great day being with Casey.
(Following is Part 9 of Lewis’ 15-part account of his and Betty’s two-week trip to England in 2003. This and other travelogues may be accessed at a website that serves as a collection point for his accounts and Betty’s photos about their big trips. The postings may be accessed at nolantravels.htm).
Back to Britain, Part 9: Drive Across England to Bath
June 10-25, 2003 (Updated Dec. 4, 2003)
By Lewis Nolan
Wednesday, June 18, 2003 – To Bath, England
The day started poorly when the Dolphin Square’s concierge discovered that we did not have a reservation for the Hertz rental car. After being stung several times in the past with rental car screw-ups, I had asked the concierge desk last night to check on the Hertz reservation I had made weeks ago.
The car was part of the Northwest vacation package deal. Hertz had somehow put me down to pick up the car on June 24, which was a week later than the date on my Northwest voucher. I took a black cab to the nearby Hertz office at Victoria Station, where a polite young man of Indian ancestry sorted it out. I paid about $200 more than the voucher price to buy extra liability and theft insurance, putting the total rental above $500 for the week. They upgraded me to a comfortable Vauxhall sedan with only 2,500 miles on the odometer.
In another Hertz screw-up, a young Arab attendant did a lousy job of prepping the Vauxhall. He had failed to vacuum a large pile of crunched “crisps” on the back seat, which he remedied when I pointed it out to him. Much worse, he had failed to fill the gas tank. That oversight – which I didn’t catch until later since I read the gas gauge of the British-made vehicle in reverse – initially cost me about $50.
I drove through light, mid-morning traffic around Victoria Station two or so miles to the Dolphin Square, where I collected Betty and our baggage. By carefully following the route suggested by the Hertz counter personnel, we were able to skirt around the £5 surcharge zone and avoid paying for the daily “congestion fee” required to drive for even a minute in the busiest sections of Central London.
It took an hour and a half to get through moderate traffic to the outskirts of the city, where we picked up the M4/A41 Motorway, a multi-lane, divided highway in excellent repair. The Motorways are the equivalent of America’s Interstate Highways - only faster. Traffic was heavy around lunchtime, whizzing along at 70-to-80 mph. We stopped at a Mojo Service Area that includes fast food, sit-down restaurant service, convenience store, motel and gas stations for both cars and trucks (or lorries). It was spic and span. A sign proclaimed that Mojo had won the “loo of the year” award for cleanest restrooms (or WCs as they are sometimes called in England).
We arrived at Bath about 1 p.m. and we stopped at an Esso station for gas. It was 40 pence per liter, which translates to about $65 to fill up. Unlike in the U.S., the combination gas station/convenience store had no restrooms. An attendant said British law only requires public WC facilities in stations that serve food.
It seems the Brits favor air-blower machines over paper towels in their facilities, which are generally clean, well supplied, conveniently located and free of graffiti. Even pet waste seems to be managed well, with special containers for such strategically located around parks. In London, signs warn of £500 fines for pet owners who do not clean up after their pets. Piles of dog droppings do not litter sidewalks and public areas in London like they do in parts of Paris. A Brit remarked that the Gallic attitude of “it’s somebody else’s problem” prevails with pet waste just as it does with other aspects of the sometimes maddening French indifference to matters Americans and the British think important.
We checked into the Hilton Bath City. We had the smallest room I’ve ever seen in any major hotel or even economy motel. There was barely enough room to walk around the bed. Furnishings and equipment were minimal. There was no air conditioning – surprising for a hotel charging $200 a night. At least a small fan and open window cooled things off at night. But the shower didn’t work properly – the water was either cold or scalding. The tiny desk in the room was buried with an armload of promotional material – including guest comment cards I put to good use. The Hilton’s business center had but a single Internet terminal – with a dialup connection that was dead-dog slow.
At check-in, I quickly saw first-hand why the Hilton brand is struggling with an image problem of uneven quality. The reception staff was young, pleasant and not very well trained; they kept guests checking in waiting in line while they patiently chatted up walk-up backpackers asking about rates and accommodations. A Hilton concierge gave us confusing driving directions for a “shortcut” that ended up costing us nearly an hour in lost time the next day. Desk staff allowed a walk-up to jump ahead of my requested time slot at the Internet terminal.
But in fairness I must add that we’ve also had some good experiences with other hotels managed by Hilton (which has its operations center in Memphis). I should also say that the Hilton Bath City had a particularly nice bartender on staff, Matt. The hotel also had an obliging restaurant manager, who arranged for us to sit at a table with a great view of the Avon River and the picturesque bridge just downstream.
Our dinner at the Hilton’s restaurant was marked by a wonderful view, satisfactory service and so-so food. With Bath’s proximity to the ocean, I had been assured that the swordfish was fresh caught and just off the boat. It was not and the portion was skimpy. Betty had a decent ham Calzone. But at least the Hilton is in an excellent location. It is within a few hundred yards of the scenic bridge and river weir, the Roman Baths, the Medieval Bath Abbey and the main shopping area of the ancient town.
Important dates in the history of Bath include the following:
- About 60 A.D., Romans begin to develop Bath as a spa and center of Pagan worship around the hot springs near the Avon River.
- 5th Century, the end of Roman rule in Britain.
- 676, convent of Christian nuns founded.
- 973, Edgar was crowned king of all England in Bath Abbey.
- 1090s, Norman bishop transfers his throne from Wells to Bath and founds cathedral.
- 1611, Abbey that was largely destroyed in 1539 is repaired.
- 1701, Queen Anne visited the hot springs, re-establishing the city’s prominence. It soon became a place where fashionable artists, intellectuals and political figures would come to meet, to convalesce (Admiral Nelson was among those who took the waters) and to relax in spa facilities built over hot springs.
- 1942, German warplanes bomb Bath and damage Abbey.
- 2000, Ten-year restoration of Abbey completed.
The Roman ruins at Bath are a wonderful sight, and indeed one of the most visited tourist attractions in England. The Medieval Abbey also offers much. But I was turned off by the very heavy crowds and the grime and litter that seem to accompany them in England. Service at the lunch shops was excruciatingly slow. I have the idea that those who work in the shops serving tourists know that most visitors will not return – and they certainly give them no reason to come back. Since Bath is a World Heritage Site (like Egypt’s Pyramids and Rome’s Coliseum), there must be security in knowing Bath will always have a steady stream of fresh visitors.
One of the guidebooks warns about the crowds, particularly in the mornings and early afternoons. I was astonished by the foul language shouted by two young, punkish women embroiled in separate, verbal fights with young men. Passersby pretended to take no notice as the women screamed obscenities on the busy sidewalks. I might have a more favorable view of Bath (pop. 83,000) had we visited at a different time of year.
We toured the Roman Baths late in the day to escape the worst of the crush of school groups and other sightseers in town.
The Romans built the bath complex over a natural, hot spring in 60 A.D – just 17 years after their legions invaded Britain. They named the combination temple-spa Aquae Sulis in honor of the Celtic Goddess Sulis and also of Minerva, the Roman goddess of wisdom. The Romans loved their baths, which formed important social centers in the fabric of the empire – like the pubs of modern day England and Ireland. Most Roman citizens visited the public bath at least once a day to exercise, to be bathed and massaged by slaves and to visit with their fellow citizens of all classes. A guide told us that one Emperor was asked by a non-Roman why he bathed twice a day. “Because I’m too busy to bathe four times,” was his response.
Three centuries after building the baths at Bath, the Romans pulled out of Britain. As the millennia passed, the Roman bathing tubs, mosaics and sculptures were forgotten and eventually covered up. By the 17th Century, members of the English aristocracy came to Bath to convalesce and to be seen.
The healing, hot spring water pours out of the earth at a steady temperature of 116 degrees F. The spring that filled the Roman tubs also filled the English tubs. The English built new bathing facilities nearly on top of the buried Roman ruins. There is no evidence that the 17th and 18th Century English knew what was beneath.
It wasn’t until late in the 19th Century that archeologists discovered the Roman baths that had been hidden by several feet of earth for centuries.
In 1880, workers digging a sewer uncovered the first glimpse of what subsequent excavation revealed to be a splendid model of advanced Roman engineering. The elaborate baths had central heating and plumbing – conveniences that were not seen again in England for centuries. Among the treasures unearthed during decades of archeological digging was a full-size bust of the patron goddess of the temple-spa, Sulis Minerva. The gold headdress that adorned the bust was long gone. I bought a small, scale model of the bust in the souvenir shop. It now sits on a bookshelf in our sunroom at home in Memphis.
The Roman baths are now subterranean. Underground passages and walkways have been excavated and rebuilt. Wireless headphones and self-guiding brochures make for easy touring. The electronic narrations have multiple levels of information that are accessed through a simple menu selection; the visitor can learn a little or a lot, depending on interest.
Some fascinating artifacts contain curses written by Roman bathers wishing their enemies ill fortune. They believed that curses tossed into Minerva’s spring had a good chance of coming true. They also believed that if the curse floated on the water, it would be visited on the writer. Consequently, the Romans wrote their curses on thin sheets of lead, which of course sank and were preserved.
Above the Roman Baths is one of the most photographed spots in southern England, the so-called “Great Bath” that served the English aristocracy. It is open to tour and is also open to the elements. The Great Bath is the size of a country club swimming pool. It is filled with warm water that flows in from the underground spring. The pool is surrounded by a two-story, open terrace. The stone terrace is decorated with neoclassical sculptures.
Tourists are welcome to look but not enter the water of the Great Bath. We were told the warm water is colored by traces of green algae and teems with bacteria from bird droppings and whatever else the wind and open sky brings. I’m not sure I buy all that. Many outdoor pools in America are heated; chlorine controls both algae and bacteria. Nonetheless, it’s a neat spot and a fantastic setting for photography, like that of the famous Neptune Pool at Hearst Castle in California we once visited.
The nearby Bath Abbey also provides a much-photographed backdrop. It dates to 1499, when the Abbey Church was built to replace the ruins of a Norman cathedral constructed in the 1090s. Admission to the Abbey is free but a £2 donation is suggested. The Abbey is an imposing, stone block structure that contains expansive, stained glass windows that rival the beauty of those in the great cathedrals of France.
The interior walls and floors are lined with memorials to various persons of note over the centuries. A plaque lists the names of the Bishops and others who led the Christian community in Bath since 676. Very few names were familiar to us. One that was is the name of Queen Elizabeth, who visited in 1973 to mark the 1,000th anniversary of the coronation in Bath Abbey of her monarchal forebear, King Edgar.
Another name we recognized was that of the late U.S. Senator William Bingham of Connecticut (1754-1804), a relative of our pal Tif Bingham back home. Tif, formerly the president of the Memphis Chamber of Commerce, has many distinguished relatives. Several years ago, we happened across a plaque in Maui, Hawaii that was a tribute to another member of his family, the noted missionary Hiram Bingham. It’s like déjà vu coming around again. It is a small world we live in and it goes round and round.
Bath was heavily bombed by German airplanes during World War II. It was an important psychological target for the Nazis. In the 1940s, Bath was considered to be England’s second most socially important city, after London. It still is.
The town has a distinct, Georgian architectural style of stone building blocks and red brick. The best example is the Royal Crescent. The huge structure forms the first row houses in Britain. We walked a mile or so up a hill to see the 19th Century version of New York’s Trump Tower. And what a gorgeous sight it proved to be. The building is shaped like a huge, quarter-circle, hence the name. It offers residents a commanding view of Bath and valley and is framed by acres of mowed lawn.
The Royal Crescent building is a series of 18 very large, adjoining town homes that take up most of the sweeping, block-long structure. Each of the original town homes were three or four stories high. Most have been cut up into flats. One that escaped sub-dividing recently sold for over $3 million. Adjacent to the Royal Crescent is Royal Victoria Park, which the “Let’s Go” guidebook says “contains one of the finest collection of trees in the country. Its botanical gardens nurture 5,000 species of plants from all over the globe.”
We didn’t let a light rain the next morning stop us from poking around the historic Pulteny Bridge over the Avon River in the heart of Bath. Both sides of the bridge are lined with small shops that cater to tourists. Oddly, some open at 9:30 a.m. and some at 10 a.m. A few don’t seem to pay much attention to their posted hours of operation. A couple of shops sold tiny, tin soldiers and nautical collectibles. I saw several pieces I would have enjoyed owning were it not for the hassle of getting them home in one piece.
Immediately beneath and downstream from the bridge is a weir in the Avon River that is shaped like a half-moon. The river is less than 50 feet wide beneath the bridge and no more than 30 feet wide a few hundred yards upstream. The smoothly flowing water forms a beautiful waterfall about 3 feet high when it passes over the weir. A sign warns that the harmless-looking waterfall claimed the life of a canoeist several years ago. Nonetheless, it is a spot of rare beauty. We were told that small condos along the banks of the Avon near the scenic bridge carry London prices – £500,000 and up.
Back to Old Waverly with Curtis Downs
July 2, 2003 – To Old Waverly Golf Club, West Point, MS
Curtis Downs and I drove to Old Waverly in his leased Lexus on a beautiful summer day. The heat during a vacation month meant that hardly anybody was on the golf course. It was our kind of golf day, hot and empty.
Curtis was surprisingly terrible on this day. I was worse. In all, I lost 5 balls including 2 on No. 18. I shot a sorry 98.
Nonetheless, it was an enjoyable day. I was glad to see that Curtis’ old neck injury has improved (with the help of some injections by his physician) to the point where he can play again. He says he plans to retire from his business – Strategic Resource Management – in two years. But I’ve heard that before and will believe it when I see it.
Old Waverly is Venue for Nolan Book Award Meeting
July 8, 2003 – To Old Waverly Golf Club, West Point, MS
I drove to Old Waverly in the Ford Taurus station wagon to host a luncheon meeting with my old friend, Dr. Clyde Williams, and his pal David Easley, the associate director of the Mississippi State University Foundation. Clyde is the administrator of the Nolan Book Award program I endowed several years ago to help MSU’s English Department reward good students with potential.
Over a good meal we discussed the finances and operations of the Award program and I determined that I would infuse some additional cash ($400) to enable Clyde to make three awards this academic year without having to further cut into the corpus of the endowment, which I learned was down nearly $7,000 from its high point of three years ago because of the lousy performance of the U.S. stock market.
After our meeting, I shot my best round of golf at Old Waverly in some time – scoring 42 on the front 9 holes and 45 on the back 9 for a total of 87. I had the good fortune of making two birdies, seven pars and only three bogeys. I also had my share of dismal holes, with four double bogeys and two triples. I hit five greens and took only 36 putts. Had it not been for several miss-hits off the tees, my score could have been in the low 80s, an outstanding score for me I had not made in several years.
The weather was great for golf and I had the course nearly to myself for a great day.
Rough Time at Beach As Storm Hits Memphis Home
July 21 - 29, 2003 – At Gulf Shores, AL
Betty and I drove from our Memphis home to our condo on the beach at Gulf Shores in our Ford Taurus station wagon, with our pet greyhound Dickens riding in the back. Unfortunately, our week-long stay turned out to be Betty’s worst vacation ever due to a terrible storm that caused a lot of damage to our Memphis home and property.
We don’t usually take our dog with us during the warm months. Dogs are not allowed on public beaches by local laws and the summer heat pretty much rules out walking Dickens any distance. As sweet as Dickens is, he is a chewer and we don’t trust him enough to leave him in the condo by himself. So eating out is out of the question.
We were surprised and a bit put out when we lerned that the boarding kennel where we usually leave Dickens while we travel was put under quarantine due to an outbreak of kennel cough in the racing dogs at Southland Track in West Memphis. The contagious disease was so bad that on one day 12 greyhounds were scratched from racing.
With Dickens riding in the back of the station wagon, it meant that our custom of taking two bicycles with us to Gulf Shores was abandoned for this trip. It also meant that we couldn’t enjoy spending time sitting and walking together on the beach in front of our condo building since one of had to “baby sit” the dog in the condo. It also ruled out Betty’s day of shopping at the Tanger Mall in nearby Foley while I played golf.
We departed Memphis at 7 a.m. so we could avoid the worst of the afternoon heat. We made several stops so Dickens could walk and do his business, stretching the drive to an 8 ½-hour trip. That was about 1 hour longer than normal when it is just Betty and me.
Early the day after we arrived, on Tuesday July 22, we got a call at 7 a.m. from our next-door neighbor in Memphis, Kate Garretson. She advised that a terrible windstorm (nicknamed Hurricane Elvis) had devastated both our front and back yards and inflicted some relatively light damage to the roof of our brick, one-story ranch style house. Several windows had been broken and the tool shed in the back had been cut in half by a falling tree. She told us that two of our huge oak trees had been uprooted, two more trees had been split and three others “topped” with high branches broken by winds. She also told us the our front driveway to the busy street of North Highland was blocked by fallen trees and that our wrought iron gate was covered by a blown-down, large branch of an oak tree. Three utility poles to the rear of the house on the property line were down and there was no power in the neighborhood.
We learned from Kate and subsequent checks for news on the Internet that much of Memphis had been ripped by the windstorm, with 300,000 homes without power.
After talking by telephone to our State Farm insurance agent, Jim Pope, and another neighbor to the north of us – Houston Freeburg – Betty and I decided to stay put in Gulf Shores where we at least have power plus telephone and Internet service. I spent much of the following week-long stay making whatever arrangements I could by telephone to get the downed trees removed from our driveway and gate. (Upon returning home, we spent weeks fixing what we could and overseeing repairs by a series of contractors that included installation of a new roof, resurfacing water-damaged wood floors and other jobs that cost a total of about $50,000.)
We did eat three good, takeout dinners from The Spot Restaurant (one comped to us by owners Kim and Julie Stewart) while we stayed at Gulf Shores pending the return of power to our Memphis home. We had Curtis and Kathy Downs of Memphis over for one evening meal of Royal Red shrimp. They kindly reciprocated and treated us to a dinner at their rented condo, La Mere at nearby Perdido Key.
Curtis and I played golf at the State Park course on July 22 (yielding a good score of 90 for me). We also played at Peninsula (95 for me), paying $90 to play the high quality course that is almost as nice as Old Waverly, with the addition of a satellite positioning system monitor on the golf cart. The course was quite pricey, but worth it if not played too often.
Casey, who had been in Atlanta working his summer internship with the Hines real estate development company, drove down to Gulf Shores in his new Ford Explorer for the weekend. Curtis joined me and Casey for 18 holes at the Woodlands golf course just north of Gulf Shores. The good course happened to be very soggy that day. (Woodlands was cleared several years later to make room for an upscale subdivision.) I shot a 95 (45/50) but lost 5 balls on drives. It seems to me that something evil has crept into my swing. I don’t know what it is.
Back at the condo, a new sofa bed that Betty had selected was delivered. It looked great in the living area under a big painting of shore birds. We installed a new pole lamp near a tired easy chair we had decided to keep for another season or two.
Due to dog duty, Betty didn’t get in her customary beach time.
We finally learned, at 11 p.m. on July 28, that power had been restored to our Memphis neighborhood. So we got up early the next morning, a Tuesday, to clean the place and load our car. I tied my golf clubs and newly bought chainsaw (from the Home Depot at Foley) to the station wagon’s rooftop carrier bars for the drive home.
We arrived at our storm-damaged home at 5 p.m. and were shocked at the extent of the damage caused to our property and that of neighbors by winds that had been measured in excess of 100 mph. We feared that the wood home of our neighbors behind us, Burt and Marty Dargie, might be a total loss. The home of Dr. Lorraine Evans across the street was also hit hard. But we were glad to see that the homes of our side neighbors – Kate Garretson to the north and Houston and Pam Freeburg to the south – got off fairly lightly compared to the extensive damage to our home.
Good Golf at Old Waverly with Rick Haynes
Sept. 4, 2003 – To Old Waverly Golf Club, West Point, MS
I drove to Old Waverly in the Taurus station wagon with old pal Rick Haynes, who until fairly recently had been the executive director of the Memphis-based Plough Foundation. The foundation was formed by the late Abe Plough, who also was a founder of my employer Schering-Plough. During the drive Rick and I discussed a draft of a press release he brought about his plan to do similar executive administration work for the Piper Family’s foundation.
It was a beautiful day, with an expected high in the mid 80s. Rick and I almost had the golf course to ourselves.
After the first hole, I started hitting my drives very well and scored a 41 (with the help of a mulligan or two) for the front 9 holes even though I didn’t score any birdies or make any putts of 6 or more feet. I made a birdie on No. 16 with the help of a solid approach shot, with a ball hit by a 7 iron that stopped 2 feet from the hole. However, I dumped a ball into the lake on No. 14 for a triple bogey. But it was still a good round for me, with a score of 47 for the back 9, giving me a grand total of 87.
Rick shot over
100 but was driving quite long. He hit a 337-yard drive on No. 14.
To Strawberry Plains to Watch Hummingbirds
Sept. 11, 2003 – To Strawberry Plains, MS
Betty and I drove in our Taurus station wagon to the National Audubon Society’s Strawberry Plains facility near Holly Springs, MS to watch the fall migration of hummingbirds from North Central America on their way to Latin America.
Many hummers making the annual migration during the fall season usually stop at Strawberry Plains in North Mississippi to rest and replenish body stores of energy for their long flight over the Gulf of Mexico. Two sisters donated their antebellum home and surrounding land to the Audubon Society a few years ago to help the birds and the charitable organization. The annual bird stopover attracts hundreds of birdwatchers and volunteers who band the birds and provide information to spectators.
To get to Strawberry Plains from the middle of Memphis, we drove south about 11 miles from the city limits on the Bill Morris Parkway (also known as Highway 311) to the Collierville exit, where we turned right rather than go left into town. We stayed on the country road for about 3 miles until we reached an old Missionary Baptist Church. We turned onto a gravel road near the church and drove down it for one-half of a mile to a parking area for the Strawberry Plains facility.
We saw plenty of birds and plantings of bird-friendly bushes and flowers. Tour guide Kristen (distinctive for her long, blonde hair worn in pigtails) waxed passionate about the facility’s plantings. We rode a shuttle from the temporary parking lot to the Strawberry Plains Visitor Center. What we saw and the volunteers and staff we talked to were interesting. But we thought that we would enjoy it more to be there before or after the official festival weekend to escape the crowds. After all, the traveling hummingbirds don’t care about the calendar dates for the festival.
We thought the porta-potti and handwashing facilities were inadequate because of the crowd.
But the festival offers lots of picnic facilities and sells cold drinks. There are plenty of bird feeders scattered about the grounds and all at heavily patronized by visiting hummers. On this day the temperature climbed into the upper 80s. It was sunny and hot.
Golf Struggle Continues at Old Waverly
Sept. 11, 2003 – To Old Waverly Golf Club, West Point, MS
I drove to Old Waverly with my good golfing buddy Curtis Downs in my Ford Taurus station wagon. The high today, a Friday, was expected to reach 87 degrees. It was sunny and pointed to a great day on the golf course. We were pleased to see that the course was not crowded, which is usually the case at this time of year until there is a home football game at nearby Mississippi State University of Starkville.
Despite the nearly ideal playing conditions, neither one of us could score. I shot a 51 on the front 9 and a 46 on the back nine for a 97 despite making one birdie on No. 8 by chipping in from 30-to-40 feet off the green and another on No. 16 by hitting a 9 iron to 2 or so feet from the hole and dropping the putt. Curtis was off his usual very good game due to three-putts but was still hitting his customary long drives. He scored a 90.
Struggle Unabated at Old Waverly
Sept. 30, 2003 – To Old Waverly Golf Club, West Point, MS
I drove by myself to Old Waverly in the Taurus station wagon and met there Curtis Downs, who had driven in from Kosciusko, MS. This is an ideal day for golf, with the high temperature expected of 75 degrees under sunny skies and a light breeze.
The course is in pristine condition, as is typical for this time of year, and there are only a few other players out for the day. What a wonderful private club, well worth our non-resident dues is our feeling.
I shot a good score of 41 on the front 9, hitting my drives mostly long and straight. I was fortunate enough to birdie Nos. 3 and 9. That said, I was sorry to see that Curtis was struggling, managing no better than a 51, which is sky-high for him. But his usual very good golf game came back on the back side of the course, shooting a 42 on the 9.
Unfortunately, I collapsed on the back 9. The sorry turn of fortune started on No. 16, when I four-putted - at least partly due to a C.S. pin placement on the green. Rattled, I three-putted on No. 17 and then hit a long drive over the bunkers and into the pine trees and ravine on No. 18. I finally dumped a 7-iron approach shot into the lake in front of the finishing hole.
Overall, I hit 8 fairways and 10 greens in regulation. I had two birdies, six pars and took 38 putts. My inescapable conclusion is that my short game needs a lot of work. Nonetheless, I had a great time.
Old Waverly Golf Game Shows Glimmer of Promise
Oct. 21, 2003 – To Old Waverly Golf Club, West Point, MS
I drove to Old Waverly with my buddy Curtis Downs in his Lexus on a beautiful fall day, with temperatures expected to rise into the mid-80s. We almost had the great course to ourselves on this day.
In contrast to the weather, my putting was awful - seven triples. But at least other parts of my golf game were OK. I made 6 pars, hit 11 fairways off the tee and reached 7 greens in regulatioin. I took a total of 43 putts (seven more than a good golfer is expected to take). On No. 15, I missed a three-footer putt for birdie after hitting a very long drive and then a three-wood to a spot just 15 feet off the green. In all, I shot a 45/46 for a total score of 91. As usual, Curtis had the lower score, with a 90. But this time I won 25 cents in a darts match with him in the clubhouse bar after the round.
To Hot Springs, AR for Relaxing Weekend
Nov. 1-2, 2003 – To Hot Springs, AR
Betty and I dropped off our pet greyhound, Dickens, at the Southland Park race track boarding kennel in West Memphis, AR, at 8:30 a.m. and drove west on Interstate 40 to Little Rock, where we took the turn and drove into Hot Springs on a section of highway that was moving quite slow due to construction projects.
We checked into our favorite place to stay in Hot Springs, the classic Arlington Hotel, and were pleased to see that Room No. 664 was very nice and offered a view of a sister hotel, the less pricey Majestic, where we used to stay several years ago. We then walked up the main drag to the Buckstaff Bathhouse, also our favorite, and found that we had to wait 45 minutes to take our relaxing, hot soaks. The day was busy at the Buckstaff and in town during this busy seasonal weekend when the temperature rose near 80 degrees and the skies were partly cloudy.
At the Buckstaff, I learned that longtime attendant, Ernie, had retired several years ago. Replacing him was his pal James, who had worked on Bath House Row for 30 years. James was also friendly and obliging. Later, Betty shopped the numerous souvenir and local crafts stores on the main drag while I walked the elevated promenade that overlooks the town and then returned to our hotel room to watch SEC football on television.
That evening we enjoyed a very good meal at our favorite restaurant in Hot Springs, the Bohemia, a German establishment. I had German pot roast and Betty had their delicious wiener schnitzel. Their tart cucumber salad was outstanding. But their red cabbage served as a side dish was not as good as we remembered it being from previous visits in recent years. It didn’t seem that as many people were in the restaurant now compared to previous years even though this was a Saturday and the town had a lot of tourists.
The Bohemia is in what has become a seedy part of Hot Springs. Its proprietor is Adolph, a tall immigrant who has always been cordial to us and other customers. He told us that he was born in Czechoslovakia in 1938 and came to the U.S. in 1945.
The next morning, a Sunday, I pedaled 4 miles on an exercise bike at the hotel. I also did some stretching exercises before taking a hot, spring water bath in the hotel bath house. The facility was fine but not as old-fashioned elegant as that offered by the Buckstaff. The hotel bath facility seemed to be short-staffed. In the interest of time, I passed on the offered steam cabinet treatment and also the application of hot packs.
While I bathed, Betty did some school work in our hotel room. We checked out of the hotel on time, 11 a.m., and drove to the Gulpha Gorge National Park on the outskirts of town and dawdled around there since we knew we couldn’t pick up Dickens at the boarding kennel until 3:30 p.m.
We had another pretty and warm day. We saw quite a few small birds flitting around the trees and brush along the stream that runs through the park. Among them were chickadees, tufted titmouses and an unusual bird that looked like a nuthatch with mottled, dark feathers that made it look like it was wearing an Army camouflage uniform.
We got back on the road and stopped for burgers at a McDonalds near Wynne, AR then picked up Dickens on time.
It was a relaxing trip. But we thought that for the next one, we should arrange a morning activity like our visit to the new botanic garden just outside Hot Springs or maybe making a stop in Little Rock to better use our time on Sunday.
Surprisingly Bad Day at Old Waverly
Nov. 11, 2003 – To Old Waverly Golf Club, West Point, MS
I drove to Old Waverly by myself in my Taurus station wagon, leaving home at an unusually early time at 7:45 a.m. in hopes of getting on the course ahead of any large group. It was a beautiful day, sunny with a temperature near 70 degrees.
In the clubhouse, I had my usual lunch of a turkey and cheese sandwich earlier than normal so I could tee off by 11 a.m. before the noon crowd.
Starter Cookie told me the closest group had teed off No. 1 about 40 minutes ago, meaning I had pretty much a wide open course ahead of me, My opening drive was long and down the middle. My second shot was an 8 iron, I hit a little short and to the right of the cup. I chipped up and two putted for a decent start to my round. My next drive, on No. 1, was also a beauty. I hit a solid three-wood for my second shot and then a 9 iron for my approach shot, which flew the green. I chipped onto the green then two-putted.
I hit the No. 3 green with a 6 iron and two-putted for a par. My good fortune continued with a great drive on No. 4, followed by a 5 iron that was a little short and to the right. I chipped onto the green and two-putted. I just missed the fairway with my drive on No. 5, but nailed a 5-iron approach shot and then two-putted for par.
I had another great drive on No. 6, down the middle and just over the rise. I hit a wedge from about 95 yards out and flew the green, then chipped on and two-putted for a bogey. After 6 holes, I was only 4 strokes over par for a good score for me so far. However, my wheels came off thereafter. I sliced a 2-iron on No. 7 when I hit into the wind and dumped the ball in a ravine. I took a 7 on the hole. Then my drive on No. 8 went slightly left into tall grass beyond the bunker.
Then I hit a solid 3-wood just off the green to the left and two-putted for a 6 on the hole. On No. 9, I was fortunate to hit a an excellent drive and then a 3-wood on No. 9, followed by a good shot with a wedge from 50 yards out, landing just beyond the pin placement toward the back of the green. I chipped down the slope and the ball rolled and rolled. It took 3 putts to get the ball in the hole, for a score of 47 on the front 9.
I got a golf cart at the turn and soon ran into heavy, heavy traffic on the back 9. There was extremely slow play on Holes No. 10, 11 and 12 so I bailed out by driving around the slow groups ahead. I re-started play on No. 17, where I hit a 7-wood into the lake and an approach shot into the lake on No. 18.
Back at the clubhouse, a bag guy said someone (in the absence of golf pros Chris Jester and Bill Fiedler) had started several groups on the back 9 rather than the usual front 9. That uncalled for and errant decision screwed up my pretty good round and really frosted me.
I did have a great burger in the clubhouse (without bread but with a few French fries) and drove home early, arriving at 6 p.m. I called club manager Bill Collerado to bitch about it the next day.
I’ve found over the years that Old Waverly employees don’t often get complaints from club members and do listen when a member feels things have not been handled properly.
Better Day at Old Waverly, Followed by ‘Hound Dog’
Nov. 20, 2003 – To Old Waverly Golf Club, West Point, MS
Curtis Downs and I drove to Old Waverly in my Taurus station wagon on a beautiful, sunny day. The high was about 70 degrees.
It was a good day for both of us. Curtis shot an 85 and I shot an 89 (43-46). I had 6 pars, 4 double bogeys, hit 7 fairways and 4 greens. My putting was exceptional, totaling only 3 three-putts. My driving was good but my chips and irons were weak.
We played our round in a very fast time of 3 hours and 15 minutes. On the way home, stopped at Elvis Presley’s birthplace in Tupelo, Miss., and joyfully sang “Hound Dog” to mark the occasion.
Thanksgiving in Gulf Shores, Golf with ‘Commander’
Nov. 25 – 30, 2003 – To Gulf Shores, AL
Betty and I drove to our condo in Gulf Shores, AL in the Ford Taurus station wagon, leaving Memphis when she got home from school about 2:20 p.m. It was a nice afternoon and evening for the 450-mile drive. It was a little chilly and traffic was light on Interstate 55 until we got to Jackson, MS and hit the rush hour drive after work. We ate dinner of chicken sandwiches and ham sandwiches as we drove. We hot-footed it during most of the drive and arrived at Gulf Shores at 10:05 p.m.
I played golf at the State Park course the next day with Gary Commander, a resident of Old Metararie, LA, who turned out to be a great-nephew of the founder of the famous Commander’s Palace in New Orleans. The restaurant is one of my favorites anywhere and was named the best in the U.S. a few years ago by USA Today.
Gary, a retired high school coach, was great golfing company and a good player. He gave me his telephone number as 895-8255 and suggested that I call him when in New Orleans if I wanted to play a round. With him during the round was his girlfriend, a very nice woman by the name of Jean Vick.
With the good company and a great day for golf, I hit the ball pretty well. I hit a 44/44 for a round of 88, one of my better ones this year. I hit 6 fairways and 5 greens in regulation. I took only 37 putts, including 3 three-putts and had 8 pars, 3 double bogeys and 1 triple bogey.
That evening, we had an excellent meal at The Spot, with Mahi-Mahi for me and fried shrimp for Betty. For this meal, I ignored the Atkins Diet’s proscription against bread and enjoyed some along with no-no’s French fries and a couple of hush puppies.
We had a nice day on the beach once it warmed up on Thanksgiving Day. I spent much of that morning on my laptop computer writing the last two of my travelogues about our June trip to England. The beach was wide and firm when the tide was out. On this unseasonably warm day, it seemed as though most sunbathers of all ages went into the water to cool off. The high reached about 75 degrees on this gorgeous day of sunny skies. The newspaper said the water temp in the Gulf of Mexico was 60 degrees.
We walked about 3 miles on our round-trip trek to the Pink Pony Pub just beyond the main public beach at the intersection of Highway 59 and West Beach Blvd. Dinner that evening was great and definitely off the Atkins Diet in terms of both carbohydrate content and servings. Loved the mashed potatoes and cornbread stuffing with our turkey and a slice of Betty’s great pecan pie for a change.
I watched Mississippi State’s football team get waxed by arch-rival Ole Miss in the televised Egg Bowl, 31-0.
Friday, November 28. was mostly a work day. We went to Lowe’s up Highway 59 on the outskirts of Foley to buy a toilet seat, plastic sheeting, a cabinet lock and other supplies. We also visited with Kaiser Realty’s Leslie Johnson and gave her a box of candy to share with the condo rental staff. We picked up some tourism brochures at the Visitors Center and had a great lunch of oysters and crab claws with French fries at the Wolf Bay Lodge, where we purchased a quart of takeout shrimp gumbo for eating later.
That day I also worked on the laptop to polish my England travelogues, my 2003 Christmas Letter we send to more than 100 friends and family members and walked about three miles on the beach. It was windy and chilly on this day, with a high of 50 degrees and there were only a few folks on the beach. We got an interesting photo of a Great Blue Heron waiting for a surf fisherman to reward his patience with a trash fish.
That evening, dinner was a yummy Chef’s Salad.
The next day, a Saturday, I played another round of golf at the State Park course. Betty stayed back in the condo to clean, read and watch TV. She went out for a while to shop. I was OK off the tee, but pulled many of my approach shots. I walked the entire 18 holes and shot a 47/47 for a decent round of 94. I hit 9 fairways and 5 greens and took 37 putts. I had 4 pars, 5 double bogyes, 8 bogeys and 1 triple bogey. I had 4 three-putts for a fairly miserable day of up-close golf.
Dreading the awaiting scales once we got back home, I enjoyed dinner that night of leftover turkey with the fixings. I did a little writing on the laptop that evening.
We drove home on Sunday, leaving at 9:10 a.m. The trip was uneventful and we arrived at home in Memphis just before 5 p.m. The weather was sunny and crisp. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that the dreaded scales showed no weight gain despite my off-Atkins indulgences.