Archive for November, 2007|Monthly archive page

Key West, FL


We drove down to Key West, Florida for a couple of days.  We are still recovering from colds we picked up from my son Dominic on the trip south, so breathing humid warm air is wonderful.  The campground I picked (Leo’s Campground) isn’t much to look at, but it’s at the 4.5 mile marker of Hwy 1 and right by a stop on the local bus line, so it was perfect to park the RV and use bikes/bus to travel around.  Key West isn’t really friendly to RVers, with few large lots and no RV parking allowed on the streets.  It’s about a 10-mile round trip to the other end of Key West, with a few miles of touring around in between – thank goodness it’s been hazy or I’d be bright red and sunburned.

The first night we walked around town we decided that Key West (in general) is a lot like Put ‘N Bay in Lake Erie, just bigger, with a much better climate.  Partying is big here, but thankfully this is a very slow time in Key West so there aren’t many people clogging the streets in drunken revelry – just one very large cruise boat with people walking around for the day.  It is fun to see so many rental scooters and “golf cart” type vehicles on the streets.  There was a local inn decorated up for Christmas already.  In the midst of the shops and restaurants we also saw a very pretty church.  We found a Cuban restaurant, El Siboney, where we enjoyed grilled Mahi Mahi, yellow rice, fried plantains, black beans, flan, and key lime pie.  I ordered espresso – and found out that Cuban espresso is made sweet, with a syrup added – it was tasty!

 Throughout Key West there are roosters and chickens who roam the streets  (here are two at the campground).  In terms of other flora and fauna, we saw this Rose of Sharon by the Cuban restaurant, a heron fishing in the Atlantic Ocean off the shore, and some mangrove trees growing in the water.


Montgomery AL – It’s Just Like a Mini-Mall!


We enjoyed a traditional Thanksgiving in Chattanooga, Tennessee at my sister Lynn’s house.  For my family, it’s THE MANDATORY holiday – bonding and catchup – it’s like herding multiple groups of cats, but the time evolves rather smoothly regardless.  

The group of “Cousins” (kids of my sisters and mine) range in age from 30 to 18.   The oldest of the pack is Allison, who lives and works in NYC at Google/Marketing;  Lauren/Hoyt, who met in Moldova in the Peace Corps and who will move to Houston next year after a 2-month world-tour honeymoon;  David, who’s discovered his political side while studying and living in Washington DC;  Dominic (Columbus), who missed the summer family beach outing and proudly wore the Jimi Hendrix t-shirt I got him in Provincetown;  Nadia (Tuscaloosa), who is enjoying her work at a campus coffeeshop while she studies Communications;  Matt (Columbus), who is trying to pull his GPA back up to a 3.4 so he can do early scheduling again in the Honors Program;  Shan (Birmingham), who committed himself to  U-Alabama within a week of “open season”, and Sefan (Birmingham), who’s getting more and more adept at answering esoteric essay questions on his many college applications.

Lynn’s husband Ted also hosts his son Jeff, daughter-in-law Dody, and two grandchildren (Cameron and Katie) over Thanksgiving.  Cameron and Katie float between their parents, grandparents, and “the Cousins”.

We cooked the traditional last-minute items for Thanksgiving -Dody and my sisters Lynn/Ted (Chattanooga), planning her retirement and their relocation “out West”;  Barbara/Walt (Knoxville), planning Walt’s retirement and enjoying their maintenance-free condo lifestyle;  and Cathy (Birmingham),  enjoying her sons’ Senior year of High School and college applications and contemplating her empty nest years. 

We were joined this year by Chris, who got some payback getting to know my family after I’ve spent the past two months in the midst of hers.  Her holiday was a bit stressed, as her father ended up in the hospital with urgent surgery the day after Thanksgiving – but he is recovering well and we are continuing on our journey.

We ended up watching the classic My Cousin Vinny on Thanksgiving night and going out to see American Gangster/No Country for Old Men the following night.  On Saturday we drove down to Birmingham, visited Cathy, and put my sons on a plane back up to Columbus (via Charlotte – sorry, Matt).

On Sunday we started the next leg of our trip, driving south through Montgomery.  We stopped only long enough to have lunch and visit Sammy Stephens’ Montgomery Flea Market (“It’s Just Like a Mini-Mall”).   We missed Sammy but they gave us a free DVD with his commercial on it.  We would have stopped longer in Montgomery if we hadn’t had reservations a few days later.  Montgomery is known as pivotal in the Civil Rights movement and also has the 5th largest fine arts museum in the world.

On our drive through Alabama we noted several things we hadn’t seen before on our trip:  cotton fields, Spanish moss, kudzu, ultra-religious road signs with a picture of the Devil for emphasis, and a water tower decorated like a peach.  I hadn’t pulled out my camera yet, so I didn’t get photos of everything.

Southbound Start


We’ve left Findlay for a while (until May ’08) amid tears of separation.  The photo above is the silverware basket in the kitchen sink – I liked whatever happened to it photo-wise.  Chris’ parents wash dishes by hand because the dishwasher’s best value-add in their family is as additional storage, so I washed silverware from this basket a few times.  As we left I also stole her father’s remaining size Large washing glove – the other one disappeared one day (we think it got into the garbage).  We plan to decorate it as a Christmas tree in San Antonio.  Stay tuned.

We’ve spent the days in Findlay after their move helping with some household set-up items:  we replaced the bathroom carpets (!) with vinyl tile, hung a stained glass window pane from their old home in a window of the new home, put a do-it-yourself window shade into a half-circle window in a bedroom to block excess sunshine, and spent some time with John & Julie’s dog Bennie as we continued wall-boarding their ceilings and some walls that had been flooded.  We didn’t get to finish, but we did as much as we could in the time we had.

The RV survived a few below-freezing nights plugged into the garage and at times with a tarp wrapped around the bottom to protect against wind chill.  There were a few snow flakes here and there, but no deep freeze or hard stuff, although the Thanksgiving prediction included 3 inches of snow in nearby Toledo.

Before we left Columbus we contributed to our dentist’s retirement fund (multiple crowns and fillings), tasted cornbread cubes created for Susan and Laura’s Thanksgiving meal, picked up some pies, and cleaned out the RV one more time.

We are heading south for Thanksgiving – a report of our holiday will follow, and then … road trip Phase 2.