Sunday, May 28, 2017

10 Things About My Vacation Pt. 3

Welcome to the 3rd and concluding part of my Destin vacation review. I know in the first article of this series I said I was going to tell  you about ten things I wanted you to know. Since that first article I have decided that there will only be 9. 

Most of what I was going to share with you in the one of these last 3 topics has been covered in the others. So in the interest of brevity (yes, I know that word) I have amended the number of topics. Now for the last 2. 

The Restaurants
One of the best things about going to an area you've never been to before is finding the best places to eat. On this trip that meant going to a seafood place with a beautiful view, a breakfast place that we liked so much we went twice, and a unique experience at a local pub where the customers are also "investors".

One of the ways to find good eateries in a new place is to ask someone lives there or knows the area. This is where I go back to the couple from Bowling Green we met on the beach. They told us that the best place for breakfast in Destin is "Another Broken Egg Cafe".    

On Wednesday we decided to go there before our time at the beach. 
Other than the Chrystal Palace in the Magic Kingdom and Chef Mickey's at the Contemporary Hotel, both in Walt Disney World, this is probably the best breakfast place I've ever been to. We liked it so much that we went back again on Friday. 

It's very busy place. On Wednesday we were seated almost right away. On Friday we went a little earlier in the day and had to wait about 20 minutes to get a table. 

Paula and I split an omelet that came with home fries and a toasted English muffin. We ordered an extra pancake as well. It was all delicious and relatively reasonably priced. 

As you can see from this picture, we were very happy about our experience. 

In doing research for this post, I have discovered that there are "ABE" cafes in other cities, mostly throughout the south. 

Fortunately for us, there are 2 relatively close to us; one in Owensboro, KY and Nashville, TN. If you live in or are ever visiting the south, I suggest you look on their website to see if there's one near you. I'm sure you'll enjoy it. 

Being in a harbor town (Did the song "Brandi" by The Looking Glass just pop into your head like it did mine just now?), there was plenty of seafood restaurants to choose from. 

I am not a fan of seafood to say the least. But my wife really enjoys it. So I promised her that during our week, I would take her out for at least one good seafood meal.  

On the same night we went to the Harborwalk, we had dinner at  a popular place, Dewey's Destin Harborside restaurant. 
It was right along highway 98 (we had to make another U-turn to get to it). The parking lot was rather small for a restaurant. But there was a second lot on the left. We lucked out and got the only handicapped spot in the first lot. It was in front of the fence on the right side of the picture above. 

There was a small courtyard for guests to wait for table just beyond the fence. I really didn't take notice of the inside of the restaurant but the deck was very nice. It got to be a little breezy so close to the water but it was a pleasant experience. 

While we were waiting for our food I went down off the deck to the boardwalk near the water. I took these pictures of the harbor. 

This tabby cat had been laying on the rail sleeping when I walked down the stairs but it ran away when it saw me. On my way back up to the deck I saw him hiding under it. What a great thing to be a cat living in a seafood restaurant. 

Paula got a dish that included grouper with lemon sauce and shrimp. From the non-seafood eater's choices, I got chicken fingers and fries. 

I can't really judge the food because what I had was not their specialty. Paula really liked what she got. She said that even the hush puppies were good. I didn't eat them because they had jalapeno pieces in them. I was lucky that Paula warned me about that before I tried them. I can't handle the burn of really spicy food. 

Although it wasn't the best seafood she's ever had Paula says she would recommend Dewey's to others. I would go back again simply for the view and outside atmosphere. 

From the time we first made our vacation plans Paula's co-workers familiar with the Destin area, highly recommended that we go to McGuire's Irish Pub for the best steak around. 

We decided to go for dinner on the Wednesday of our stay. Again, this restaurant was on highway 98 (no U-turn necessary) near the harbor. 
I'm always been a bit leery of places that come so highly recommended. Quite often they come up short of my expectations. But not in this case. 

First of all this place is huge. Much bigger than it looks on the outside. And the series of store fonts connected to the right of the restaurant... 
...are actually a series of different specialty shops that you can access from inside the pub. There's the usual souvenir shop, the wine shop, and of course the candy shop that sells, among other sweet treats, fudge. 

Our dinner experience began with a journey to our table in the middle of the restaurant. 
Our waiter, like all the servers in the extremely busy atmosphere, was very prompt and informative when it came to ordering. 

He started us off with of small loaf of fresh warm brown bread. It got our meal off to a great start. It was very good. 

I ordered a root beer that they brew right there. Paula and I shared it. All I can say is "Deeelicious." It was the best root beer I've ever had. 

We ordered a filet mignon with a baked sweet potato and two plates. Paula enjoyed the salad. The steak was without a doubt the best one I've ever had. It was a big portion too. Despite sharing it we still had enough to take back to the condo with us and eat for another meal. 

This restaurant was about as busy and crowded as any I've ever been to yet there was a very relaxed atmosphere. Everyone who was working there, from the wait staff to the kitchen workers, to the busy boys knew what there job was and did it with pride and efficiency. 

Our table was had a pretty good view of the open kitchen area. We could see them working at preparing the food and setting it up  for the staff to serve. They worked together very well. 

There was a sign on the wall of the kitchen big enough that I could read most of it from my table. I knew it had a "motto" on it so I asked our waiter what it said. "If you aren't proud of it don't serve it" was his answer. I could tell from the quality of the food that it wasn't just writing on the wall, it was their motivation. 

Now all I've written about McGuire's so far would have made it a memorable dinner but I have yet to tell you about the most unique thing about the pub. 

The ceilings, walls, and any other available space that isn't stone or a doorway is covered with dollar bills. Wishes for good luck left by customers since the place opened back in 1996. Not a single one has been removed.

This is what it looked like on the areas surrounding our table. The wall behind us...
...and the ceiling above us. 
Our waiter told us that there's an estimated $1.8 million decorating the whole restaurant.

After we got back home I had someone who had also been there tell me that their waiter peeled back 7 layers of bills in order to show them the actual wall. 

Making our evening complete in a "do as the Romans do" way and wanting to be part of this amazing collection of good will between restaurant and patron; we wanted to leave our own personal wish for luck. 

Using a black marker given to us by our waiter, I wrote our info on a dollar bill.

Then with a stapler he brought to us, we put it on the wall right next to our table. Leaving our mark. 

 If we ever go back to Mcguire's I'm going to make sure I look for our dollar. Not sure when that will be or how many layers I'll have to pull back when I do. But I'll bet it will still be there. 

After passing on the very tempting dessert menu, we left and walked through the gift shop. Lots of Mcguire's and Irish themed merchandise there including t-shirts and jewelry. Some of it was on display on the back of an old beverage delivery truck right in the middle of the shop. 

I didn't see anything I was really interested in. Paula bought a set of earrings and a necklace that were made in Ireland.   

We browsed through the other shops before heading to the parking lot. Our dinner was over and it turns out that Paula's advisers were right. Not only had we enjoyed the best steak in Destin; we had the best dining experience of our vacation. 

Our Exclusive Memories
The thing I've saved for last I think is probably the best. Now I've shared with you through pictures, videos and narrative some of the memories of our vacation. 

We have the pictures and videos I've shared with you in this series, and more to help us remember what we did. 

I brought back some of my favorite types of souvenirs that with a passing glance at a shelf or a walk past our refrigerator, will always be reminders of our trip. 
 But the best memories I can never share on this blog because they are special ones. Those that are shared just between Paula and me. 

There's an exclusivity to experiencing a specific to a time, place, funny or strange incident during our time in Destin vacation. Those special memories being shared just between us are the true treasures we brought back.  

In the last 10 years or so, since we've been "empty nesters" we have taken quite a few vacations alone. I like that the memories of those trips are part of the special bond between us. 

So I will add the memories of Destin to those from our "empty nester" excursions to: Washington DC, Chicago, Chattanooga, Walt Disney World, Clearwater Beach, and the Smoky Mountains. I look forward to adding more to the new places we go in the future. 

I hope you have enjoyed my recollections of our 2017 vacation. My wife is very happy because she has now had her first actual "beach vacation". It was a lot of fun but not too busy. In fact it was probably the "slowest" vacation we've had in a long time. 

Our next "getaway" is set for July when we head to St. Louis to visit our friends who live there and go to a very special show. I'm sure I will be writing about those memories afterwards as well. 

Thanks for coming by and reading the RHFactors blog. Keep looking on Facebook for when I announce my new posts. I'm still looking to put up my 1000th before the end of the year. That means I've got to get busy. See you next time. 

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

10 Things About My Vacation Pt. 2

Continuing with the top 10 factors that I want to share with you about our vacation in Destin, Florida at the beginning of May. I'm going to begin this post with a story connected to the last two things mentioned in part 1. It happened on the beach next to the ocean. 

The Coincidence
On the Tuesday of our vacation, Paula and I got to the beach a little after 11AM. The first row of umbrellas set up on the beach were already taken. So we settled for one in the second row. The chairs under the umbrella to our left were empty but it was obvious that they were claimed. Soon the couple who had been down in the water came back and sat down. 

They weren't uncomfortably close to us but close enough that eventually we struck up a polite conversation. I would say they were a little older than us. I'm not going to describe them because I really don't remember exactly what they looked like. 

They introduced themselves as "Paul and Bonnie". Yes, Paul and Bonnie were sitting next to Paula and Ronnie. But that's not the most ironic thing. We found out that they were from Bowling Green, Kentucky. (For those who don't know that's the town closest to where we live). 

So what are the odds that we travel over 500 miles from home and end up sitting on a beach next to two people who live less than 15 miles away? That's amazing to me. 

We talked with them a little more and then they left. We saw them again one more time on the beach, later in the week. We were walking along the shore and they were heading to down the beach to a restaurant bar to get a drink. 

 The Movies
One of the things Paula and I consistently do as a couple is go to the movies. That doesn't change when we go on vacation. 

In the past our get away weeks have coincided with the release of some major summer movies. This year's vacation it happened again. 

Twice during the week, after we left the beach, we spent the rest of the afternoon together in the dark. 

There was an AMC theater in a near by shopping area. 
On Monday afternoon we went to the I-Max theater and saw "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2" in 3D. I really enjoyed the entire experience. But I wasn't very happy with what happened with my favorite character. I won't spoil it here. 

A couple of days later we returned to the theater to see "The Fate of the Furious." Although it's an entertaining movie this film is where the franchise "jumps the shark". 75% of the story is very hard to believe. But because the characters and the actors who play them are so likable you find yourself giving them a pass. 

Perhaps to some, it may not make any sense to go to the movie theater while you are on your vacation. But I'm as much of a fan of a nice theater building itself as I am of good movies. 

I like a theater that is well designed, well maintained, and logistically convenient for the customer. 

The best thing about the AMC in Destin is that it had Coke Freestyle machines that allowed you to get your own soda. I really liked that a lot.  

The Harborwalk
This is the main tourist area of Destin. The best way I can describe it is to say that it's a mash up of a carnival, a flea market, and a harbor. 

This may not be saying much about the venue but the highlight of our visit for me (other than the fireworks) was getting a parking spot just steps away from the main walkway. 

The boardwalk along the harbor is the location a tourist would go to find any of the many ocean excursions Destin offers. Among them are: a dolphin spotting trip, a ride on a glass bottom boat and even a day of deep sea fishing. 

Here you can see the boats docked for the night along the boardwalk. 
 There were several restaurants in this area including Harry T's. 

This is one of the most popular places to eat in this area. There is also a Margaritaville restaurant and of course lots of seafood places. 

The shops are more flea market than tourist. There are food stands (Paula got a pineapple popcicle) that offer not much more than you would find at a carnival. 

The attractions are mostly for kids, or at least families with kids. 

Overall, if you are looking for a place to hang out and spend some time one night during your vacation I'd recommend it. 

Now, about those fireworks. Not the best show I've ever seen (of course I'm spoiled by the ones at Walt Disney World) but not bad. Here's a link to my video. Harbor Walk Fireworks

Now that you've seen the fireworks, I can't think of a better way to end this 2nd of my 3 part series about my vacation. 

Come back again and look for the conclusion. I will talk about the great restaurants, the other entertainment we enjoyed and the best thing I brought back from our vacation. 

Monday, May 22, 2017

10 Things About My Vacation Pt. 1

As I mentioned in my last post, From May 6-May 12, I was on vacation with my wife in Destin, Florida. 

As I have in the past I'm going to be sharing with you the details of our week in the Florida panhandle. I am going to use a "10 things" list to do it.  

These are not in any specific order just simply a list of our vacation memories.

The Drive
Because it's less costly and more convenient than flying, once again, we chose to drive to Florida. But this trip would only be about 2/3 as long as our other trips to the Sunshine state. 
It was 530 miles, each way. Because I enjoy a long road trip every once in a while, I didn't mind driving both ways. 

Loaded with the clothes, sun tan lotion, and anything else we might need for a week at the beach, Paula and I opened our bag of cheddar cheese Combos (one of our travel traditions) and hit the road early on a Saturday morning. 

Most of the drive there was along I-65. We passed one of my favorite landmarks at a rest stop just inside the Alabama border. 

Along the way, Paula and I listened to Sirius XM radio and the first couple of chapters of the audio version of "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets". 

Once we reached Georgiana we got off of I-65 and our journey south east took us on a series of county highways ending with route 98 aka Emerald Coast Highway. This would be our main thoroughfare for the week. 

As we were on the Mid-Way Bridge which goes over the Chocotawatchee Bay, we saw a couple of things we'd been looking for...
...a beautiful sunset over the bay and...

...A welcome sign. 

Ninety percent of our travel throughout the week was spent going up and down route 98 to and from Destin. The road is a divided highway that runs east and west. There are restaurants, shopping areas, and gas stations on both the north and south sides. This means one thing, a lot (and I mean a lot) of U-turns. I think I made more of them during this week than I have in the last 5 years combined. 

The return trip was a lot of fun despite the occasional rain showers that ranged in intensity from a drizzle to a downpour. 

Paula finished her second paperback of the week took during the trip. I listened to all or parts of 3 countdown shows on XM radio. One was hosted by a guy named Lou Simon. The other by the legend, Kasey Kasem. The third by a trio of the original MTV VJs. They were from the years 1966, 1974, and 1980, respectively. 

Like I said there's nothing like a good long road trip but it's always nice to come home. 

The Condo 
The residence where we spent our week was not the most luxurious of accommodations. 

It was a condo in the Miravilla Resort. 
It was located right next to the elevator on the 3rd floor of condo building #4.
We decided to rent it based on the cost its location relative to the beach. It offered most of what we needed and are used to while on vacation. It was nice but not fancy by any means. 

For about the same price per night as a room at a "value resort" at Walt Disney World, we got a nice kitchen, 2 half baths, a shower and a small washer/dryer set up. 

There was a set of bunk beds built into the wall along the hallway just outside the one bedroom. Of course we didn't need them so they were used mostly for storage. The bedroom had a king size bed but no TV; something that was a real disappointment.  

The living room furniture was just a couch and a chair. The sofa was not uncomfortable but it could have been better. The chair needed to be replaced. 
There was a wall mounted TV and a small table for eating meals. 
We spent a lot of time in the condo, so I would have liked it to have been a little nicer. But it was okay. Next time we'll spend a little extra to get one nicer. 

These next 2 things may seem like they are the same but they are not. You'll see what I mean.

The Beach
The beach was only a 10 minute walk from our condo. It was the object of my wife's admiration and the reason we chose the Florida panhandle as this year's Destination (see what I did there?)

The shoreline along Scenic Gulf Drive was fenced off and available only to resort guests staying at the many vacation homes and condos in the area. Miravilla had it's own section of that beach accessed through their private gate. 
An amenity that came with our rental; this access was one of the reasons we chose our condo. Another perk was the beach chairs and an umbrella set up and waiting for us each day. This was also a resort amenity. 

Here's what we saw every day once we arrived at the beach. 

We went to the beach, for at least an hour or more, every day that we were in Destin. 

If I had to pick one picture to represent our entire vacation it would be this one, a POV shot taken from our little corner of the beach. 
It was so nice just sitting there relaxing. I spent most of my time catching up on episodes of my favorite podcasts. Paula enjoyed reading. As I mentioned she managed to finish 2 books during the week. The beach was our vacation happy place. 
We didn't go in the water very much (more on that in a bit) but we did enjoy watching the waves. 

A couple of early evenings after 5:30 when the umbrellas and chairs put up for the night, we went through the gate and sat on a blanket down on the sand. 

Our main reason for going at that time was to enjoy relative serenity on the seashore at of the end of the day. 

Even though the sunset wasn't directly over the ocean horizon it was still nice. 
 We watched the birds and Paula lamented about not seeing many sea shells to add to her collection.
We also did a little bit of sand sculpting. Paula made a sea turtle.
And I made, what has become a beach tradition for me, a heart in the sand to help mark the place in time when we were there. 

On Wednesday evening, while exploring the area we found ourselves looking to make a U-Turn on highway 98 west of the city. That's when we came across a very nice public beach that we hadn't noticed before. 

We stopped and waded through the 50 foot path of sand to discover Elgin Beach.
Here's a link to my You Tube video I shot during our time there. 

Our last day on the beach was Friday, May 12. While we had had excellent weather for our beach time the rest of the week, on this day it was different. 

Here's another You Tube link that shows what the conditions were like that day. 

Overall, I really liked the beach experience portion of our vacation. The only negative aspect of it had to do with the getting around on the sand.

Due to my personal mobility and balance issues, walking on the sand was very difficult and at times exhausting. 

But that has more to do with my lack of attention to physical fitness than it does the beach. 

The experience has actually served as a "wake up call" for me in regard to my future health and well being is concerned. 

As I mentioned earlier, the whole reason for going to Destin was to finally give my wife an entire vacation centered around the beach. 

Now I'm not sure how I'm gonna get her to take another one that's not spent along any of the 1300 miles of Florida coastline. But there's time to work on that. 

The Ocean
"By the sea by the sea by the beautiful sea" (feel free to sing along) "You and me you and me oh how happy we'll be".

The spirit and lilt with which that song is written is exactly how we felt while sitting there in our beach chairs. It was so serene. Check out this video on my You Tube channel: Serenity By The Sea

Even walking along the shore was nice. My wife absolutely loved it. 

But for me actually going into the surf was not such a good thing. 

For reasons I won't go into, I chose not to wear my brace on my left leg when I went to the beach. This caused problems for me when I tried to enjoy going into the ocean.  

The force of the waves coming in and their erosion of the sand under my feet on their way out reeked havoc with my already shaky balance. 

I tried to go in for a swim on the 2nd day of our trip but couldn't keep my balance well enough to go in up past my shins. I kept getting knocked over. 

It was both frustrating and embarrassing at the same time. I got to the point where I just decided to sit down on the shore and let the waves wash over my legs. Paula sat with me. 

That may seem like a good alternative to swimming. It did to us at the time. But when we did that the ocean decided to play a nasty game of "push back." 

Without going into too much detail, it involved a large and very uncomfortable deposit of wet sand and our swimsuits. Enough said.  

After that day we were more than content to watch others as they ventured out into the gulf to enjoy a swim while we just relaxed to the pleasing sight and sounds of the waves. 

In comparison to the miles of Gulf coast line along the Florida panhandle, the section of ocean we enjoyed on our days at the beach is very very small. But I can't imagine anyone else enjoying just sitting back and enjoying the ocean more than we did.  

There you have 4 of the 10 things from my vacation I want to share with you. 

Thanks for reading this post come back next time for details on food, films, fireworks and an incredible coincidence in part 2 of this series. 

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Finally, I'm Back...Again

Well, it's been a month since my last post and (for about the 100th time since I started this blog) I apologize for being gone for so long.  

Unlike previous absences from this blog, it wasn't for lack of material. I had plenty of things to write about. My problem was finding the time to do it. 

But I am back now and here's what I have been up to over the last month. 

During my time away, I helped my granddaughter celebrate her birthday, on April 17th. She turned 4. 

On the 19th my grandson, Gabriel, turned 6 months old.  

On the last weekend of April my two sisters, who live in Pennsylvania, came to visit with my Kentucky family. They met Gabriel for the first time, played with Aria and caught up with everyone else. 

It was the first time I'd seen my sister, Peggy, and brother-in-law, Gene, in 5 years. It was great to see them again. Although it had been a while, once they were here, the time we spent together was filled with the spirit and joy that only family can bring.

While they were here, my daughter-in-law hosted Aria's birthday. It had a "My Little Pony" theme. Once again, the food, decorations, and cake were imaginative and wonderfully creative. Brandi and her family always do a great job. 

I had volunteered to run the games. Although they didn't go exactly like I had planned the kids had fun. They pushed apples with their noses, blew papers off straws, and had confetti from a small can poured over them. Each of them went home with a prize. 

My PA family stayed until the 2nd of May. It was a nice visit that passed by way too quickly.  

On the day that my sisters left for home, I took part in a special event at Oakland Baptist Church. It was a day put together to reward the students of North Warren Elementary School for accomplishing their reading goals during the year. 

As part of the opening ceremonies, I played a game with the kids that involved opening plastic cans for prizes. 

The grand prize was a $20 Dairy Queen gift card. 

The theme of the day was "find your voice" which the children explored by attending several mini-classes focusing on various types of vocations they could pursue when they get older. 

My class was a bit different in that it focused on ventriloquism. Over the course of 6 hours I taught close to two hundred 1st through 6th graders the secrets of this art and how they could get started. 

In doing this I brought along Cecil the Turtle...
...My Lion and my other puppets (all bunched together on the pew to the right). 
It had been a while since I had the opportunity to have fun and teach some kids. Most of them seemed to enjoy their time with me. I know I did. 

The experience has me thinking about getting back into working with my puppets again on a more regular basis. 

With the previous 3 weeks having been so busy, it was time for a little break. On the first Saturday in May, my wife and I headed south to spend our first full week ever, at the beach. 

That beach was part of the Emerald coast of the Florida panhandle. 

It was a nice relaxing week that was a lot of fun. I want to share some of the wonderful details with you. But I'm going to wait to do that in my next post. 

Thanks for coming back to my blog. Now that you are caught up on what I was doing over the last 4 weeks I hope you will come back as I get back to generating content for you to enjoy over the rest of the year. Catch you next time.