Christmas Getaway

To Gulf Shores, Familiar Homes in Mississippi

Dec. 21, 2010 – Jan. 2, 2011

 

-          Page Updated April 20, 2011

 

Return to Nolan Getaways Home Page (short trips and travelogues)

 

1. Drive from Memphis to Harvey Trapp Farm

4. Drive from Gulf Shores to Pearl, MS

2. Drive from Trapp Farm to Gulf Shores, AL

5. Visit in Pearl

3. Dec. 24-31, 2011: At Gulf Shores, AL

6. Drive from Pearl, MS to Memphis

 

 

Dec. 21, 2010, Tuesday – Drive from Memphis to Harvey Trapp farm in South Mississippi

 

Betty had spent most of the previous day and evening packing for our two-week trip to the Gulf of Mexico and Mississippi for our generally annual Christmas vacation at Gulf Shores, Ala.

 

This year, we wanted to stop on the way to visit with Betty’s brother, Harvey Trapp, and wife Ann at their big farm in the Southeast part of the state near Newton, MS. The main purpose of trip was to check on the installation of a new, tile floor in our small condominium in a development on a beautiful, white sand beach at Gulf Shores.

 

We had decided to replace the somewhat ratty, wall-to-wall carpet which had been poorly installed following a big hurricane a few years ago that had blown off the building’s roof and pretty well destroyed most of the condo’s contents.

 

Betty and I arose from bed at our Memphis home of 15 years about 6 a.m. Per her wonderful custom, she cooked me an excellent breakfast of ham and eggs. We finished loading her Ford Focus station wagon and drove out of the driveway not far from the middle of Memphis at 8:30 a.m., on a chilly and cloudy day.

 

Per my physician’s advice, Betty handled all the driving on this trip. (He had warned several months ago that most insurance companies in Tennessee suspended auto insurance for six months following the onset of “seizures” like I had suffered that required five days of hospitalization and were likely related to the stress of a difficult computer class following my cerebral aneurysm nearly four years ago.

 

We followed our usual route to the Gulf Coast, taking Interstate 55 south of Memphis to Jackson, MS. We ran into occasional showers and traffic seemed a little heavier than normal, probably due to the Christmas season. We stopped for lunch at a Wendy’s near the town of Madison, MS to take advantage of a two-for-one discount for chicken sandwiches.

 

We turned onto Interstate 20 East just north of Jackson and stayed on it until we exited on U.S. Highway 15 toward Newton, MS and then drove a few miles on rural farm roads through the sticks until we reached the Trapp farm near the remains of what was once the community of Garlandville. The farm is perhaps 20 miles from the county seat of Newton and closer yet to Decatur, the home of East Central Community College. That junior college is where Betty and I met more than 40 years ago and where Harvey later served with distinction as business manager of the renamed East Central Community College for some years.

 

While both Betty and I graduated from ECJC (where she was named to the college’s Hall of Fame with my help as her campaign manager), it hasn’t been often that we’ve visited since 1965, she in particular is remembered there because of some modest gifts we and Harvey have made to the college in her honor.

 

Dinner plans for tonight are for Betty and I to drive to nearby Meridian, MS with Harvey and Ann for a family dinner at the local branch of the Olive Garden Restaurant that serves Italian-style food. Our plans were changed when Harvey bailed out of the dinner in favor of his older brother Walton’s request for his help in dressing and butchering a deer killed by Walton on his farm a few miles away.

 

So with Ann driving her Volvo SUV, we drove about 40 miles to Meridian to meet their daughter, Tonya Trapp Nowell and the beautiful, 7-year-old daughter of Tonya and her husband, Jimmie N0well, blonde-haired Maggie at the Olive Garden. Jimmie was driving – with Maggie as passenger to Meridian - one of his stock car racing vehicles to North Carolina to have a souped up engine installed for his future hobby racing NASCAR events. Little Maggie seemed to be a bit tired and chose to ride back to his grandparents home with us after dinner so she could spend the night at the Trapp farm.

 

Like in Memphis, we thought the Olive Garden food made for a very good dinner. We had an uneventful drive back at the Trapp farm, arriving about 10 p.m.  We opened some Christmas gifts and had for dessert an outstanding coconut pie Betty had prepared and brought with us. I went to bed while Betty stayed up to visit with her kinfolk.

 

Dec. 22, 2010, Wednesday – Drive from Trapp farm to Gulf Shores, AL

 

As with previous trips, I slept well in the guest bedroom bed at the Trapp farm. Betty and I arose about 8:30 a.m. and she cooked for me and Harvey a big breakfast. Ann had already departed for her work managing a law office in nearby Decatur. Maggie was up briefly but went back to bed.

 

Betty and I departed about 11:15 a.m. drove  about one hour on Highway 15 to Laurel, MS, where we had an early McDonald’s lunch and then drove west on Interstate 2259 to Hattiesburg, MS, where we picked up U.S. Highway 98 across South Mississippi to Mobile, AL.

 

At Mobile, we took the now-familiar route of driving through the northern section of town on Interstate 65 and then through the Downtown area and tunnel under Mobile Bay on Interstate 10 to the U.S. Highway 59 South turn near Loxley, Al. We stopped at Loxley at one of our favorite Farm Markets owned by the Burress family. Oddly, they were in the process of closing the fresh-fruit and vegetable stand for Christmas and would not accept offered money from Betty for some produce. Betty found out Burress had charitably invited local help agencies to look over and accept unsold goods as donations to the poor.

 

As a nice consequence, Betty came away from the market with a little bit of fresh produce and a home-made bird house decorated in the colors of my alma mater – Mississippi State University.

 

Farther down Highway 59, we stopped at a favorite Winn-Dixie Supermarket in Gulf Shores, AL,  where Betty purchased some breakfast foods and a few other items. We then proceeded a few more miles to the broad, re-furbished beach where our condo sits in the middle of the Gulf Village complex at 1027 West Beach Boulevard.

 

Even though I was riding as a passenger on this and the previous day’s driving, I was tired. It took several trips up four flights of broad stairs to our top-floor unit, No. 201, to carry our luggage and supplies. Happily, we were quite pleased to see that our new white porcelain tile with black ceramic accents had been superbly installed, wall-to-wall. The crew had beautifully worked around several sections of previously installed tile in the bathroom, entry and kitchen areas. We were delighted and only regretted that we hadn’t had it tiled after one of the several hurricanes in recent years that had raked the complex and opened up the ceiling to drenching rain.

 

After dinner, Betty purchased at the local Wal-Mart several small rugs to place in high-traffic areas of the floor that could be discarded as needed. I took a much-needed nap while Betty brilliantly organized the interior contents and furniture to make our small unit look as spacious as possible.

 

About 6 p.m., we drove several miles down West Beach Blvd. to our now-favorite restaurant in the area, the Wolf Bay Lodge branch that is located behind Zeke’s Marina near the Perdido Pass Bridge in the next small town down the road, Orange Beach, AL. The very fresh seafood there is the best we’ve ever eaten. Sensibly, the restaurant was closed for the Christmas holidays. So we drove to another seafood place we’ve eaten at many times over the years, the Original Oyster House in the middle of Gulf Shores.

 

Surprisingly given the holiday season, there was no long wait for a table like there always is during the high season during dinnertime.  In the spirit of Christmas, kitchen staff gave me a plate piled high with well more than a dozen fresh, plump fried oysters, served with all-you-care-to-eat salad bar, baked potato and cornbread hushpuppies.

 

We stopped at the cavernous Wal-Mart on the way back to our condo so Betty could purchase a mop and a jug of white vinegar, which is suggested as an effective and efficient way to clean the grit off freshly installed tile. We had never seen a big store like the one at Gulf Shores so devoid of customers. It seems that Christmas here must be very slow for big retailers other than a few determined “snowbirds” who take advantage of relatively inexpensive rental rates in the winter and more reasonable weather than in their home states.

 

The beaches and beauty of the Gulf Shores area – combined with customary mild temperatures at this time of the year – makes for an attractive vacation area for investors and renters. Many of the condos and private homes along the beaches are attractively decorated with Christmas lights.

 

Once back in our condo, Betty went to work on our new tile with her new mop and followed that up by arranging new throw rugs to suit her tastes. My view was firm: the condo looked the best ever since our purchase of it more than 20 years ago. However, the real estate market has been quite soft since the awful explosion of BP’s deep water oil well out in the Gulf of Mexico several months ago. The only thing good about it is that with the huge decline in tenants paying rent, our annual tax bill should be correspondingly lower. 

 

The rental income has declined the last few years mainly due to the Bush recession caused by lower consumer spending in response to economic policies that failed to work. Nonetheless, I believe I have good reason to feel pretty good about our investment in the condo more than two decades ago, with rental income generally paying the carrying costs over the years even while allowing my family to enjoy comfortable getaways on a beautiful beach whenever we like.

 

I can only wish that all my investments had done so well while yielding so much family pleasure.

 

Dec. 24, Thursday - Dec. 30, Friday, 2010 - At Gulf Shores, AL

 

While this small, mainly seasonal town of Gulf Shores does a pretty good job with decorating busy streets and intersections for Christmas, we had forgotten how very little of the local business is open during Christmas week. This Christmas Eve is quite a pretty day here, with blue skies and lots of sunshine. But is was somewhat chilly for the beach even at this time of year, with high temperatures just over 50 degrees.

 

Our attempts failed at finding an Internet Wi-Fi connection we could use with our laptop computers. In past years the “leakage” of Internet services provided by large condo buildings to their tenants spilled over into nearby condos and parking lots. But a higher level of Internet security had eliminated the leakage that permitted “free riders” like me to tap into their connections at no charge. Worse was this year’s extended closing of the municipal library, where Wi-Fi is provided at no charge for customers with laptops and also made available to visitors on a half-dozen or so provided computers in the library.

 

Consequently, I was off Internet service for several days. I had tried what had turned out to have been bum advice from another customer at the Gulf State Park golf course snack bar about Wi-Fi being offered as a freebie at the Starbucks coffee shop inside a nearby Target discount store. Even though the snack bar lunch of a BLT was its usual excellent quality and price, the realization that I was approaching addiction to the Internet was a little disturbing. There is just something so pleasant about staying in touch with family and old friends – with the benefit of being up to the minute in the news of the day – that missing it in an out-of-the-way place like Gulf Shores magnifies the inconvenience.

 

 

Due to the chill, I neither played golf nor practiced my long-dormant swing or putting at the State Park. We drove a few miles to an OK book store in a fairly busy shopping center where I’d connected with their Wi-Fi service on previous trips. But the clerk working on this holiday was a mature woman without a clue on how my new Dell netbook could tap into the store’s complimentary Wi-Fi service.

 

For what it’s worth, I found out there are a number of password-protected condos in our complex that pay various firms extra for Internet service from local cablevision and other services. But so far, our condo management company hasn’t offered owners like me any special rates that could be tax-advantaged and used for as an inducement for rental marketing. So with the municipal library being closed for four days this week, I’ll just have to depend on generally crummy area newspapers and TV broadcasts for what passes here for the news of the day.

 

While out for the day to check on Internet service possibilities, we stopped at the new Wolf Bay Lodge restaurant which had been built on Mifflin Road near the big Lowe’s home and hardware store a few miles north of Gulf Shores on Highway 59. We purchased a quart of their yummy seafood gumbo to take out and have than evening at our condo. The much expanded restaurant looks very nice from their original location on the bay a few miles away. Plans to rebuild after a 2008 fire were shelved by a morass of zoning requirements.

 

We had learned the original Wolf Bay had opened on a finger of Mobile Bay in 1973 in the tiny community of Elberta. It grew by leaps and bounds over the years and became a favorite of local residents with signature dishes of freshly caught seafood by area fishermen. It was so popular in season that the wait for a table around late-afternoon dinner time was often an hour or more.

 

Earlier, I had called Danny Endress, a nice guy, retired fireman and longtime president of our Gulf Village Owners Association to underscore my interest in the association offering Internet service at a good price to owners. We had a nice chat about the possibility of him advancing the idea at an upcoming annual meeting and also talked about the need for the Mobile Press-Register to restore newspaper rack service to our complex. It turned out his group made the contact and the daily coin-operated newspaper sales rack was installed on a pilot basis

 

I also called Rev. Stephen Kurtz of the Gulf Shores Presbyterian Church (cell phone No. 251-228-0770) to see if the church would again have a Christmas Eve Service and found out it would be at 5:30 p.m. Betty and I want to attend and hopefully hear the church’s music director, a young

woman named Pam Winstead, sing Christmas hymns in her beautiful soprano voice we’ve heard several times in recent years.

 

We also found out that Mr. Kurtz has been at the church for five years. Betty and I – accompanied by our son Casey in the pre-Kurtz years when he traveled with us during our annual visits to Gulf Shores at Christmas in most years – very much enjoy the family tradition of celebrating in our denomination’s churches the birth of Jesus.

 

 

During one of Betty’s outings she stopped by a local Walgreen’s to purchase for me a battery-operated, Casio calculator since I had neglected to pack a calculator so I could try to keep up with our trip expenses. (Incidentally, I still remember the time more than 25 years ago when I purchased for about $50 the early marketing of a hand-held, plug-in calculator so I could do the math for my taxes back in my newspaper days.)

 

Despite the oversight in packing a calculator, I still have no doubt that we bring way too much stuff with us for our several trips to Gulf Shores every year. At least part of that conclusion is driven by the annual, more difficult trudge up the stairs with our gear than it was when we bought the condo in the mid-1980s and had a strong son at home to help carry bags.

 

After my afternoon nap, shower and a small snack, we drove maybe five miles to the local Presbyterian Church for the Christmas Eve “Service of Lessons and Carols.” As usual, we found it to be an excellent and spiritually rewarding evening out. With help from members and reading of Scriptures, the church’s pastor told the greatest story in the history of the world, about the birth of Jesus 2,000 years ago.

 

There were biblical readings starting with Genesis that included sections from Isaiah, Micah, Luke, Matthew and John plus traditional carols alternately led by the church’s Women’s Choir and the full Chancel Choir. Most of the pews were filled with visitors like us and regular church members, who joined in the singing at designated points of the program. Mr. Kurtz delivered an excellent meditation.

 

This year, the full service lasted nearly a full hour, a bit longer than the ones we attended some years ago at the same church led by a different pastor and also at our home church, Evergreen Presbyterian in Memphis we’ve attended on a few Christmas Eve services over our 30-plus years as members.

 

Dec. 25, 2010, Saturday - At Gulf Shores, AL

 

We arose in our condo about 8:30 a.m. on Christmas Day. Betty made yet another great breakfast of scrambled eggs, baked ham, a couple of semi-dried prunes, tomato juice, milk and Melba Toast. After eating, we opened a few presents (I’d earlier given Betty a small quantity of $100 bills to spend as she liked in the nearby Tanger Mall in Foley, AL with 100 discount outlet stores) plus a couple of gift certificates to the Bayliss Garden store she likes near Memphis.

 

I was pleased that Betty was absolutely delighted when she opened one present and found it contained a fairly expensive pair of garden pruners manufactured in Switzerland. A pal of ours I worked with at Schering-Plough who is a leader in Memphis gardening volunteer circles had recommended them for holding a sharp edge of the blades for a season or two.

 

Casey, our son who lives and works in Virginia, had sent me a best-selling, new book I’d asked for that had been written by the legendary writer Mark Twain under a provision that it not be published until 150 years after his death so he wouldn’t have to face the controversy over some unusual political reflections. Casey also sent me a dozen pocket-sized, quality notebooks I plan to use to jot down notes for future travelogues. I was also pleased with the receipt of a gift of a blue sweater with Jack Nicholas’ logo from Betty’s brother and sister-in-law, Harvey and Ann Trapp.

 

With a terrific breakfast and thoughtful gifts both given and received, it was a wonderful Christmas morning. But then the rain came. It was expected to last all day, so it looks like the excellent oyster gumbo purchased earlier from Wolf Bay Lodge would be especially welcome since we could stay inside all day. Betty put our tiny condo kitchen to good use by making some delicious chicken salad, cooking a turkey breast and one of her fantastic apple pies for dinner.

 

Surrounded by the fine smells of Betty’s cooking and delights of our Christmas gifts, we had a very nice Christmas Day to enjoy the sparkling, new tile flooring and relax by reading and watching cable TV. Rounding out a day of pleasure was Casey’s telephone call, who was watching his 15-week-old twin boys at the Nolan home in Arlington, VA while his lovely wife, Caroline, was out shopping. Later in the day, Caroline also called Betty, who is always keenly interested in the activities of our new grandchildren, Aiden Mayer and Carden Lewis. We both wish the boys (with or without their parents we also love so much) could be here in Gulf Shores with us.

 

Dec. 26-27, 2010, Sunday and Monday - At Gulf Shores, AL

 

We pretty much stayed inside on the Sunday after Christmas in the face of rain and high temperatures in the 40s. I did a lot of writing, mainly turning my notes from travel made in early October and November to Arlington, VA and Atlanta into travelogues. Our main meal consisted of a turkey Betty had cooked the day before.

 

After breakfast  on Monday, (I insist on the traditional morning meal before undertaking any activities on a new day), we drove a few miles to the municipal library, which at last was open after a long holiday. Betty and I were both faced with a deluge of email awaiting us to access through our his-and-her computers. I had 365 messages backed up, with the great majority being junk emails I deleted without opening.

 

Thanks to Betty’s recently won expertise, she was able to link up my gift from her of a new Dell Inspiron mini-laptop computer to the library’s Internet Wi-Fi service. I was thrilled to be able to forward to my Yahoo mail account a freshly-written, five-page account of our trip in early October to Arlington, VA, to attend the Bris religious ceremony for our twin grandsons.

 

While out, we drove a few miles up Highway 59 to the new restaurant operated by the Wolf Bay Lodge near the Tanger Mall on the south side of Foley, AL. As expected, we were served an outstanding lunch by a waitress (named Cindy) who was among the staffers who had recently worked at the mother restaurant on a finger of Mobile Bay near Elberta, AL  that burned a couple of years ago. My lunch included a heaping plate of seafood treats and garden produce from the salad bar and a heaping oyster po-boy sandwich with a small pile of fried sweet potatoes. 

 

We learned that Cindy had won a $5 bet made in the kitchen by one of the cooks who bet wrongfully that Betty would not eat all of the heaping salad she had piled on her plate at the salad bar. I tipped the waitress a matching amount of her bet winnings for showing such confidence in my wife – whose trim figure advertises the perfect match between her appetite and reach when it comes to food. With my plus-sized waistline that shows 42 years of marriage to a great cook, it’s easy for me to say that the kitchen worker bet on the wrong horse today .

 

After lunch, we drove to a nearby Home Depot store so Betty could purchase some graphite to try to fix a condo door lock. I should add that her lock- smith work isn’t as successful as her stove work. We also stopped at a Carter’s children’s clothing store where Betty purchased some colorful tee shirts for our new grandchildren.

 

Once back at the condo, Betty called Kaiser’s Jane to give the real estate management company the green light to schedule a locksmith service call to fix the front door lock. I continued my long-running pattern of taking relatively brief naps in the afternoons.

 

This trip is working out just fine and I’m spending some time catching up on some trip journal writing from our recent trips related to Casey and his new family. However, I miss my home program of exercising at a neighborhood gym; I’m disappointed that the local weather has been too chilly or rainy to allow me some much-needed time hitting golf balls.

 

Dec. 28, 2010, Tuesday - At Gulf Shores, AL

 

We arose at 8:15 a.m. The scheduled locksmith arrived at 9 a.m. and quickly fixed the jammed front door lock. He advised that the “grit” from blowing sand off the beach that gets in the lock keyhole makes it a mistake to use graphite because it clogs the mechanism. I really must advise Kaiser of that because it was one of their employees who suggested that faulty procedure. It seems that WD-40 works best. 

 

But at least the lock works now so shouldn’t prove to be a hassle for our long-term renters scheduled to arrive in early February for two months.

 

My plan for the day includes visiting the municipal library later this morning to check my email and to eat lunch (of a BLT) at the snack bar expertly managed by Korean ladies at the Gulf State Park golf course. I napped at our condo while Betty drove to a favorite store, Sassy Dress Shop, which is feeling some of the pain of the huge falloff in beach vacationers here as the economy continues to tank.

 

Once she got back to the condo she started preparing dinner out of leftover Christmas dinner foods like turkey and its trimmings. The day isn’t terribly productive, but at least the skies are mostly sunny and the temperatures back in the 40s.

 

Once we had gone to bed, Betty awakened in the middle of the night with an upset stomach, forcing her to throw up in the bathroom. I had weird dreams that night. It turned out we had packaged gravy on the turkey that contained a whole lot more monosodium glumate as a flavor enhancer than we can tolerate. Betty seems to be allergic to the active ingredient, meaning we’ll have to be more careful with any future purchases of packaged gravy.

 

Dec. 29, 2010, Wednesday - At Gulf Shores, AL

 

While still cool, it was a beautiful morning on the beach, with sunny skies. Betty may call off her planned trip to the Tanger Mall in nearby Foley, AL due to the after-effects of an upset stomach during the night. I’m uncertain about playing golf but plan to at least visit the course to practice my lousy putting.

 

So we drove back to the park course. I had a replay of the excellent BLT sandwich I had earlier in the week and Betty again went for a grilled chicken sandwich she shared with me. Sunshine and snack bar manager Deborah did the honors on the grill.

 

I was a bit surprised at the huge increase in the number of players on the course even though the temperature had climbed into the 50s. We saw license plates on cars from Canada, Michigan and other snowy locations parked in the lot.

 

We drove up Highway 59 to the Tanger Mall so Betty could purchase for her brother, Harvey Trapp, a dress shirt at Brooks Brothers to give him. She also stopped in the Chico’s outlet store to spend some of her Christmas money I’d given her on some personal clothing. While she shopped, I stayed in our car to doze.

 

A flood of snowbirds made for long waits at our favorite restaurants in Gulf Shores. So we went to a fairly new restaurant, Doc’s, and got a table without delay. We had a very good dinner of grilled shrimp with new potatoes and fast service and were back in our condo by 7:30 p.m. to watch TV and relax. We had met a nice couple from Georgia – Jim and Hilda Brock – who had purchased a two-bedroom condo at Gulf Village. They brought two small dogs with them and even though age 66 he had rigged up their own Internet service by tapping into the complex MediaCom cable TV signal wiring. I was impressed.

 

Maybe there is a lesson there that I can learn or perhaps pay somebody to duplicate for me. My frustration at the lack of workable Internet service at our complex got even larger when I somehow “lost” several pages of a travelogue written about one of our recent trips. It was even more frustrating because I don’t bring a printer with me when visiting Gulf Shores and therefore don’t even have a written copy of my work, forcing me to start anew with a continuing work in progress.

 

Dec. 30, 2010, Thursday - At Gulf Shores, AL

 

This was another chilly day so I shelved potential plans to either hit golf balls at the State Park driving range or play nine holes. That left my golf clubs basically unused for the week.

But Betty and I did drive a few miles to the state park golf course for yet another delicious but reasonably priced lunch of sandwiches. We also stopped while we were out at the municipal library so I could whittle away at a huge volume of Email on my new, Dell mini-laptop computer. Before leaving the condo, I added to my journal account of this trip. I had hoped to obtain a print of my account, but the nice lady at the Print Shop happened to be off on this day so my nice journal of notes will just have to wait until we get home when I can codify and print the trip accounts.

 

We drove north on Highway 59 to the Tanger Mall just south of the Alabama town of Foley, stopping at an Office Depot store so a clerk could print from my jump drive half a dozen or so pages of this account for me.

 

Afterwards, we drove to the new branch of the Wolf Bay Lodge for yet another wonderful early dinner there on this day, which was our last terrific meal of fresh seafood before heading home the next day via central Mississippi.

 

Dec. 31, 2010, Friday – Driving to Pearl, MS

 

Betty finished packing our bags early Friday morning and we loaded her Ford Focus station wagon for the long trip back to Memphis, planning to stop for the night at the home south of Jackson, MS in the town of Pearl that is owned by Betty’s friend of many years, SuAnne Turnage. They had been suitemates in a dormitory at East Central Junior College at Decatur, MS, in the mid-1960s.

 

We drove north on Highway 59 from Gulf Shores to Robertsdale, MS, where our longtime friend Roger Kaiser has been a patient at a surprisingly nice nursing home for some months. He had sold us our condo 24 years ago was a member of one of the dominant families in area real estate sales and development. We had generally followed his advice on real estate matters over the years and found it was always excellent, so much so that we now happily own the condo outright after managing it with Kaiser’s help in such a way that incoming rent generally provided sufficient income to pay the notes and ongoing expenses like taxes.

 

Seeing Roger was a pleasure, as always. He and his family are hoping that his health improvement continues to the point where he can return home before long.

 

After a short visit, we got back in the car and proceeding west to Mobile with skies gray and temperatures near 60 degrees. Once we got on U.S. 98 headed north, heavy rain started and stayed with us for a good while. We stopped at a Wendy’s in Hattiesburg for lunch and arrived at SuAnne’s home in Pearl outside Jackson at mid-afternoon. We were invited to spend two nights with her now that her boarder, a visiting physician observing at the University of Mississippi’s med school in Jackson, had departed. He is an opthamologist from Taiwan.

 

Tired from riding as a passenger during the long drive in the rain from Gulf Shores, I went to bed in her guest room and hadn’t been asleep long before the National Weather Service issued a tornado warning that was specific to the area we had just driven through. Betty and I huddled in the interior bathroom of the house until the storm passed through, leaving quite a lot of damage in the suburban area of Jackson. Once the weather was again OK, I returned to bed and slept through the night.

 

Jan. 1, 2010, Saturday, – In Pearl, MS

 

I arose at 8 a.m. and was greeted by a cloudy day that was still a little cool following the passing of a big storm. Betty cooked for me her usually excellent breakfast in her friend’s kitchen. SuAnne  was planning on shopping for New Year’s sales while I and her friend Charles Smith watched the Gator Bowl on TV. The game was between my alma mater, Mississippi State, and the University of Michigan, with kickoff scheduled for 1:30 p.m. The late start gave me time for an early nap, followed by lunch from a carryout quart of seafood gumbo we’d brought with us from the Wolf Bay Lodge in Alabama. It was topped off by a wonderful, apple pie Betty had baked earlier today.

 

The game was a wonderful pleasure to watch, with my alma mater blowing out Michigan, 52 to 12. It was a wonderful seal to the major news that broke yesterday about the Mississippi State Foundation giving new head football coach Dan Mullen (formerly a top assistant coach at the University of Florida) a huge salary increase and four-year extension on his coaching contract just before the game started.

 

All aspects of the game were outstanding when seen through the lens of a Mississippi State alumnus, who is at last happy that the longtime underdog team has earned a new and greatly deserved credibility in national football circles.

 

That evening, we went with SuAnne and her friend Charles to their favorite restaurant, the Mexican El Sombrero Restaurant in the nearby community of Flowood. I didn’t think it was quite as good at the El Porton restaurant near our home that Betty and I often patronize, but our meals were excellent as we divided up enchiladas, chicken tacos and a burrito.

 

With the absence of my customary afternoon nap due to football, I went to bed early, about 8:30 p.m. and slept pretty good.

 

Jan.2, 2011, Saturday – Driving to Mermphis

 

I arose about 8 a.m. and briefly checked my email on SuAnne’s computer while Betty packed and loaded her car for the 3 ½ hour-drive to Memphis. It was a nice day for driving, with the temperature a little cool but lots of sunshine and blue skies.

 

Betty prepared for me one of her always-great breakfasts, this one of ham and scrambled eggs. We pulled out of SuAnne’s home at 9:35 a.m., which allowed us plenty of time for the 200-plus mile drive home as well as the side trip across the Mississippi River to West Memphis, AR, to pick up our beloved pet, Fiona, at the greyhound boarding kennel at the race track.

 

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