Thursday, February 19, 2015

Day 8 -- February 9, 2015 -- Grrrr . . . this one is out of order! So sorry . . .

We were up early today so that we could eat breakfast at 7:00 and be ready to debark by 8:30. Our last meal was just as delicious as the first, so we left the cruise with a good taste in our mouths. Pretty trite, huh?

We began to be treated like cattle again as we were pointed to the holding area in the Rome Room. We were called by Decks to leave the ship, Decks 1 and 10, then 2 and 11, etc. We were in the second group. Although we had had a great time on the water, it felt good to get back on land.

Sure enough, just as promised on Thursday, the Hotel Galvez sent their shuttle to pick us up. The driver called ahead to the hotel, and our cars were waiting for us when we arrived. We really hated to bid Claudia and Ivan farewell because we had had such a great time together. But we promised to keep in touch via text messages as they traveled west and we traveled east. Lots of hugs before we set out for our Monday destinations – they to Fredericksburg, TX, and we to New Orleans, both promising wonderful evenings. Fredericksburg is a neat little German town, and everyone knows what New Orleans is.

We arrived in the Big Easy around 3:00, but we didn’t get to the Quality Inn on St. Charles until almost 5:00 because of a wreck on I-10. Frank got off I-10 and kept turning on streets until George, our GPS, led us to the hotel without getting us  back on I-10.

We were pleasantly surprised to find that our Quality Inn was a lovely, very New Orleans-looking hotel only about a mile from the French Quarter, where we wanted to eat dinner (at Deanie’s . . . great seafood!). After Frank rested for a few minutes, we hopped on a St. Charles Streetcar that would take us about two or three blocks from the restaurant. Both of us have lots of memories of streetcars in New Orleans. He remembers them as an adult; I remember them as a child.

My mother and I used to ride all over the city (very small in comparison to today’s city) by paying .07 and getting a transfer. Tonight, it cost $1.25 each to ride one mile, with no transfer, not that we needed one. I also used to ride the streetcar all by myself to the library when I was eight or nine years old. Would I want Jackson to do that today? Not on your life! And when I was in seventh grade, I walked three blocks to the trolley stop on Carrolton Avenue, rode the trolley to Claiborne Avenue and transferred to a streetcar to get to McMain Junior High School. Never a fear in my parents’ minds about my safety. It surely was different back then.

We had a great streetcar driver tonight. Since there were no seats available, we had to stand right behind him. He talked to us the whole time until a sweet young thing captured his attention. So much for the elderly! One of the photos shows St. Charles Avenue from inside the streetcar. By the way, I think New Orleans residents now refer to the streetcars as trolleys. That’s wrong, though. A trolley is a bus that’s connected to wires above. Silly people!

Our dinner at Deanie’s was just as delicious as I remembered dinner the last time. I’m posting the goofiest picture of me. Brave lady.

Early to bed because we’d be up early the next day to have coffee and beignets at Café Du Monde before leaving for Pensacola. Good day but very tiring for Frank!

Sandy and Frank's Winter Odyssey

This is the second year that Claudia and Ivan Robbins, our good friends in Cerrillos, and Frank and I have planned a trip together. Last year, we went to New Orleans for a few days' stay at a Wyndham property. If you're familiar with Wyndham, you know that you have to sit through two hours of begging you to either buy initially or, as in our case, to add to what you already own. Both of us couples were armed to the teeth with "No thank you!" and managed to get out with only our prizes for attending, one of which was a "free" cruise that cost each couple only about $600. Pretty good price, we thought.

So we chose our dates and set off on February 2, 2015, bound for Galveston, TX, where we'd board the Carnival Triumph, with a few stops along the way. I kept daily journals along the way, the ones for February 2 - 8 being with Claudia and Ivan; the ones for February 9 - 12 with just Frank and me and lots of friends and relatives.

I posted all of this on Facebook as we went along, and friends LIKED and COMMENTED and sometimes just LOOKED at our adventures. All of the comments are priceless and remain on Facebook. Just wanted to save the journals here and photos here.
Day 1 – February 2, 2015 (Groundhog Day)                       

How wonderful it was to hear Frank say that we didn’t have to leave until 7:00 this morning! Usually, we’re on the road by 5:00. I didn’t sleep well because I kept dreaming about the Super Bowl and how terrible one of my new “boys,” Russell Wilson, was feeling. I don’t understand football very well, but I do love to watch it. Since my favorite QB, Peyton Manning, wasn’t playing and since I’ve just about gotten over how badly the Hawks beat the Broncos in the Super Bowl last year, I was a raging Seattle fan on Sunday. So . . . even though those who know football are saying that SOMEONE called for a bad play, I still feel sorry for Russell and Marshawn and Chris . . . the whole Seahawks team. Oh, well . . . back to our Odyssey. Maybe Peyton will be there next year, but I hope not against the Hawks . .  . for several reasons!

Our first day on the road was pretty much uneventful except for Frank’s McDonald’s experience. The drive from Cerrillos to Roswell takes about three hours. Many a time have I driven that road in the morning dark to get to Roswell High School for an 8:00 meeting with a department chairman, back in the days of traveling the highways and byways of New Mexico as a sales rep or consultant for McDougal Littell and Holt McDougal. Oh, how I loved those days! Oh, how thankful I am that I don’t still do as much travel as I did back then! Anyway, we arrived in Roswell, the Alien Capital of the World, around 10:30, ready for our late breakfast.

I was surprised to see a new McDonald’s in Roswell. I wish we had gone to the old one, which has much more character than the new one. And we might have had a more pleasant experience. It’s the old hindsight routine. Frank began his order after looking at the menu. “I’ll have three pancakes and sausage and an orange juice.” Mine was the usual fatty order – a sausage biscuit and senior coffee, one cream and one sugar. The girl behind the counter announced the amount -- $16.74. Now, those of you who have ever eaten breakfast at McDonald’s know that you can get A LOT of food for that much. We looked quizzically at each other, and the girl must have known that we were confused by the price of our breakfasts. She said, “You ordered three pancake breakfasts.” No, we didn’t. He meant one breakfast that consisted of three pancakes and sausage. Complete misunderstanding. In thinking back on the event, I now know why she asked him if that was all and looked surprised when I said, “I’d like something, too.” I can just imagine her thinking, “Oh, my goodness, that man is going to eat three pancake breakfasts! What a piggy!”

Frank lost no time in telling her the mistake that she had made (he never understood that she just didn’t understand what he ordered). Those of you who know my cowboy well know that he was not happy at this point. The girl almost literally ran to her skinny manager reporting what she had done, and he immediately came to us apologizing all over himself. In fact, If he had said one more time how sorry he was that this had happened, I might have had to poke him in the nose. Frank asked him to completely wipe out the order and start all over, but he insisted on just deleting two of the pancake breakfasts. Oh, how I wish he hadn’t done that because when we sat down with our correct breakfasts, Frank did some totaling and found that he had been shorted 49 cents. Oh, dear . . . another trip to the counter to point out the error. I didn’t want to watch this encounter, so I went to the car. Result? He couldn’t make the top manager understand, so he gave up, and we continued on our trip.

Since Roswell has such a great connection to aliens, I just had to stop to take a photo. You’ll recognize it when you look through the pictures. Did you know that every year there’s a reunion of all the folks who REALLY believe that the aliens landed in a Roswell field in 1947. I’d love to attend, but Frank doesn’t think we should go. I’d love to see all those alien fans!

It broke my heart to pass up turning onto Hwy 2 south of Roswell. There are three little schools on that highway, and I love to stop to chat and to try to sell books. And then we had to pass up schools in Artesia and Carlsbad, other places that I like to go when I’m running my “route” of small schools in New Mexico.  Not one of those schools by itself will earn a lot of money for a sales rep, but lots of them together assure big bucks. I made lots of money by servicing those little schools that hardly any other sales reps bother with.

We are traveling with our friends Claudia and Ivan Robbins, but we’re in separate cars because later in our trip, they’ll head back to Cerrillos, and we’ll go merrily on our way to further destinations. The four of us rendezvoused in Alpine, TX, this evening and stayed at the Best Western there. Nice hotel but no real ambiance. We had dinner at Reata, a very nice restaurant with excellent food. Would you believe that I forgot to take any photos? I guess we were too busy eating and telling our “war stories.” We never run out of them, and if we do, we tell old ones all over, knowing that we won’t remember details from the last time. We septuagenarians are like that, you know.

And so ended our first day of adventure. Frank and I were in bed by about 8:30 and asleep before 9:00, having spent a few minutes in our novels. Frank’s reading Heaven and Hell, the third book in the John Jakes Civil War trilogy. I’m reading Sleep No More, a Southern novel by Greg Iles. It takes place in Natchez, and I think I’ve read it before. It’s good again because I can’t remember anything specific from the first time.

Day 2 -- February 3, 2015

All four of us were in the breakfast room at the Best Western in Alpine at 7:30 so that we could grab a bite and head south to Big Bend National Park. You may wonder why this was our destination for today. For years, Frank and I have wanted to go there, but we never were “in the neighborhood” way down near the border of Mexico. When we decided to go to Galveston, we thought, “Why not go to BBNP while we’re traveling? It’s not too far out of the way.” Claudia and Ivan were amenable to our suggestion because they’d never been there either.

We were on the road by 8:00 to begin our two-hour drive to the park. This part of Texas really is beautiful, and those of you who might not think that The Lone Star State has mountains should travel here. Their mountains aren’t the Rockies or the Sangre de Cristos, but they’re mountains . . . and gorgeous ones, at that. My photos don’t do them justice because the sun wasn’t shining. In fact, around lunch time, it started to rain.

Claudia said that she likes traveling with us because Frank stops. Oh, my goodness, does he ever! And it’s nice because we were able to get lots of pictures. Nice in spite of the dreariness.

We stopped at two Visitors Centers on our drive through. At the first one, Chisos Basin, Frank bought a hat with a picture of Mule Ear Mountain and two books for me—Terlingua Teacher and Lizards on the Mantle, Burros at the Door. Both are memoirs. I was attracted to the latter because of the title. I love it! I’ve already started reading it and found the following quotation on page 15:

            The sun has riz, the sun has set
            And here we iz in Texas yet.

Truer words were never spoken! It takes forty forevers to drive across this state. Just as the song says—it’s “miles and miles of Texas!”

We enjoyed our stop at the Chisos Basin Visitors Center but didn’t even ask about a restaurant because we figured that the one at Panther Junction would have one because it was the bigger center. Wrong! Instead we found that the ONLY restaurant was back at Chisos. No problem. We’d find a store a little farther on after Panther. We found it, but there wasn’t much there. Frank and I had chicken salad sandwiches which the proprietor said were fresh because they arrived frozen, and he took out just a couple every day. They turned out to be pretty good, even if a bit wet from being frozen. Ivan had a turkey sandwich, and Claudia was satisfied with trail mix. I had THE BEST bottle of sweet tea. The brand was Gold Peak. It was the closest to REAL sweet tea that I’ve ever had! And some of you know that I’m a connoisseur of sweet tea, the nectar of the South!

The most important stop of the day was at the Rio Grande River. Ivan vowed that this would be the high point of the whole trip for him. As we stood on the bank of the river, we were only about 100 feet from Mexico! There were places in the river where a person could walk across. I doubt that anyone ever came to our country at this exact place because of the mountains so close to the river on the Mexico side, but I imagine that the places where they do cross look similar.

Before leaving for Marathon, TX, our destination for the evening, we broke in to our bag of Black & White Drizzlecorn. Oh, my goodness! If you haven’t tried it . . . DO!! Our friend Sherry Graeb gave us a bag to take as a snack. Yummy! Popcorn with dark and white chocolate drizzled on it! Snacks don’t get any better than this. We’re rationing it in the car, but we shared it with Claudia and Ivan before we set off for our destination.

I made reservations for all of us online before we left home. The Best Western was just a Best Western, but I was sure that The Gage Hotel would be “something else” . . . in a good way. And something else it was! You’ll see by the photos that it was an elegant old hotel that has been kept in beautiful condition. We found out that it was built by a very rich man in 1927. He decided to build his own hotel when he came to Marathon one time and couldn’t get the room that he was accustomed to having at the only hotel in town at that time. After the original owner died, the hotel fell into disrepair, and another wealthy man bought it in the 1950s and completely restored it, also adding additional rooms in separate buildings. The rooms in the hotel (where we stayed) all have private baths except a couple of them, left that way to preserve the original ambience. Besides, a young lady named Shelly told us, some people enjoy sharing a bathroom with others. Can’t imagine it! Have you ever seen European Vacation? The bathroom scene is hilarious but not for me!

After we checked in, Frank and I took a little tour of the area around The Gage, and toward the end of our walk, spotted Claudia and Ivan doing the same thing. We met in the lobby and decided that, even though we had made a reservation for the restaurant for the evening, we wouldn’t eat there for two reasons: it was TERRIBLY expensive and, even more importantly, the menu didn’t look all that good. We cancelled our reservation and headed to the bar (we liked to call it the Pub) at 6:00. No reservations required, and we snagged a great table for four in the only corner as soon as we walked in. We had already checked out the menu, so we knew what we wanted. Each of us ordered the White Buffalo Burger. “Delicious” doesn’t even come close to describing the burger. It had grilled onions and mushrooms on it, and it was served with the hugest pile of fries that I’ve ever seen on a burger plate! The whole meal was scrumptious!

We returned to the hotel with full tummies and ready to turn in for the night. We agreed to meet in the lobby for coffee and tiny muffins a little before 7:00 so that we could get on the road for the long drive to Galveston.

Day 3 -- February 4, 2015

Today wasn’t the most interesting ever, but it was one of the most tiring, especially for Frank. Not complaining; just sayin’!

We left our beautiful Gage House in Marathon at 7:00, grabbing coffee and little muffins to satisfy us for breakfast. I was still feeling full after last night’s White Buffalo Burger, but you might say the food was preventive maintenance. I knew we wouldn’t be stopping very often because we had quite a distance to go.

This was one of the “miles and miles of Texas” days, and ten hours and 700 miles really made Frank and Ivan tired. Heck . . . Claudia and I were tired, and all we did was ride. I didn’t even sleep during the day even though I didn’t sleep well last night.

The most exciting thing of the day was an unofficial game of I-Spy between Frank and Ivan. Frank told our friend that he’d see lots of deer on I-10. They agreed to count the number that they saw. Ivan said he didn’t see any; Claudia saw one; Frank had seen one live deer, five live prong horns, and about fifteen deer carcasses when he quit counting; I didn’t even know we were playing,.

Frank didn’t really get tired until we got to the Houston traffic. It was monstrous! Just like a parking lot that moved inches at a time. The agony of big-city traffic wore him out, and by the time that we reached The Tremont House, he was beginning to get grumpy. But . . . after a little rest before we went to dinner, he was fine again.

Claudia and I decided that it would be a shame not to eat seafood when we were right on the Gulf of Mexico. So after resting for about forty-five minutes, we walked to Shrimp ‘n’ Stuff, a restaurant specializing in fried seafood and recommended highly by the lady at check-in. Ivan had stuffed shrimp; Claudia had shrimp fettucine; Frank ordered fried shrimp when he discovered that the fettucine had garlic in it; and I had fried catfish . . . the biggest order I’ve ever seen. Ivan helped me out a bit. I forgot to take pictures!

When we got back to the hotel, we checked with the lady at check-in just to be sure that we understood where we were to go to get the shuttle to the ship the next morning. She suggested that we go to the bar on the top floor to get a good view of Galveston. Absolutely beautiful! The only photo that I took was snapped there. You won’t have any trouble finding it!

Long day . . . and we were all ready to turn in early. The next day would be the real reason for our trip.

Day 4 -- February 5, 2015

Day 4 – February 5, 2015

At last, we’ve arrived at the day that we’ve planned for for months – the day that we leave on a cruise, bound for Cozumel, Mexico! It’s a very short cruise (leaving February 5 and returning on February 9), and the vast majority of our time will just be sailing. We’ll have the day in Cozumel on Saturday. That’s fine with us, though, because we’re just looking forward to being on a cruise. We’ve been on board for about three hours (still docked), and already I’ve discovered that some folks must come for other reasons, like trying to see how loud they can be. I just think that they came for a good time!

We’ve already had one meal on board . . . lunch. Oh, my goodness, we had about four or five different venues that we could choose from – burgers, Mexican food, country, Asian, and I’ve probably missed something. We ate at the country buffet, and it was delicious. I checked out the desserts for cookies, but the only ones that they had were obviously “store bought.” So I skipped that part, and that’s a good thing.

I know I’ll write more about today later, but for right now, I wanted to get a note off and the photos that we took while we were waiting to board. I see lots of fun and too much good food ahead for the Youngs and Robbinses!

At 4:00, we had to go to our muster station. I always dread this part of a cruise I guess because I don’t like to think about having to use the life jackets and board lifeboats. This “drill” was a little different from others, though. We didn’t have to practice putting the life jackets on; a sweet young thing just demonstrated for us. That was nice, but we wound up just standing at the station for about thirty minutes in silence and behind the white line. Since I’m a rules person, I wanted to see everyone obey. There were some young people right down the line from us who took great delight in talking and in seeing how far outside the line they could get. I sent the old English teacher look down their way, but they didn’t notice. I doubt that it would have made any difference.

After the muster station routine, we went up on Deck 9 to watch our departure. I was disappointed that there weren’t folks standing on the dock shouting, “Bon Voyage!” HaHa! We spent the rest of our afternoon before dinner in our room, checking out the TV stations. We’ve never been on a cruise where the rooms have TVs. Really fancy for the Youngs!

For some reason, Claudia and Ivan had assigned seating and times for dinner, but we had open seating. We managed to get all of us in open seating so that we could eat together. The dinner was delicious. Frank and I had shrimp cocktails for starters; Claudia and Ivan, smoked duck. For the main course, Ivan had brisket; Claudia and I, lasagna; and Frank, fried chicken. Frank’s chicken proved not to be good, and he lost it during the night. TMI, huh? For dessert, Ivan and Frank had molten chocolate cake with ice cream; Claudia, cheesecake; and I, pineapple sherbet. I’m determined not to eat too many goopy desserts on this cruise. We’ll see how long that determination lasts!

Our dinner time was 6:00, and at 7:20, we realized that we were almost late for the Welcome to the Ship Party, which would begin at 7:30. We made it in time. I wasn’t overly impressed with it. Good singing and dancing but nothing spectacular. The Cruise Director was in charge. He was good at his job and funny most of the time. I thought Frank and I were going to be recognized as the couple married the longest, but a man and lady named Al and Judy beat us with 57 years to our 53. Al went down to the stage to give advice to the man (Alex) who was the newest married. And what was this advice? Always say, “as you wish”! Pretty good advice, I think! I imagine Alex’s bride agreed.

The last thing we did was visit one of the stores on Deck 5 so that I could purchase hair spray. Yes, I still use hair spray, and the can that I brought with me suddenly quit working. We were in bed early again in anticipation of a fun day at sea on Friday!

Day 5 -- February 6, 2015

The strangest thing has happened. I noticed just after we sailed away from Galveston that my iPhone time was six hours ahead of what it should be. At first, I thought that our room was possessed because Frank’s and Claudia’s iPhones still had the correct time.  A little while later, theirs changed, too. HaHaHaHa! I was not alone. When I went to buy hair spray last night, I received a little piece of paper saying that there would be a BIG SALE today . . . everything $10.00 . . . and one of the items listed was watches! I knew I’d be heading to that store at 10:00 to get a timepiece.

Oh, my goodness, but they were strange looking, really ugly for the most part—black, white, blue, and pink watchbands about an inch wide and huge faces. Lots of “jewels” on them. But I was desperate because I always look at my iPhone when I wake up during the night. I managed to find the “prettiest” one, though. You’ll see a photo of it. I have thought my problem through, though, and I had already decided that if all the lovely watches were gone by the time that I arrived at the store, I could just subtract six hours from the time on my iPhone and be right on target! I’ll probably have to do that anyway since I won’t be able to turn the light on to see the face on my beautiful new watch.

Claudia, Ivan, Frank, and I went to breakfast a little after 8:00 this morning and managed to sit and talk until time for the big sale. The food on the ship is delicious, and as usual we all ate heartily. Actually, my sea legs aren’t working as well as I’d like them to, so my tummy didn’t want as much as my eyes did. All I had was half a grapefruit, half a bagel with cream cheese, some kind of passion fruit juice, and coffee.

Yesterday, when we were surfing the TV channels, we found out that Todd Somebody was going to tell us all about shopping in Cozumel on Saturday. I’m sure he had good suggestions for us, but with my poor hearing and his fast talk, I didn’t learn much. I don’t think the four of us are your typical Carnival Cruise folks because we don’t jump up and down and get all excited about freebies. Maybe we’re just too old! Anyway, I enjoyed the hour, and I did see some things advertised on slides that I’d like to check out tomorrow. Sandy Dorsett, you mentioned one of Todd’s favorite places to shop, and we’ll check out the restaurant that you mentioned. Thanks!

When we went to lunch, Frank chose a table close to the swirl ice cream so that he wouldn’t have to walk far to get to it. Good idea, but in a rather noisy part of the buffet. That’s OK, though. We’ve gotten used to hollering across the table to each other! Dinner is different. Much more subdued at the time that we eat, so I’m looking forward to that.

Frank and I came back to our room after lunch, intending to go to a meeting with Claudia and Ivan at 4:00. The meeting was about shopping for jewelry and not getting gypped. When they knocked on our door before going, they woke both of us up. Nap time took over novel time for us. We opted out of the meeting, asking them to knock just before 6:00 when we’d go to dinner with them.

Because we wanted to have an assigned table for the four of us, Ivan managed to get us changed to another dining room—Paris—for the remainder of our evenings. We had to go up in the elevator two or three decks, through a casino, past photographers taking quality photos, and down a deck to get to it. Just about the same as the other one, but smaller.

Our waiter was very nice, very efficient, but he knew our names ahead of time and insisted on calling me Sandra, my real name, but one that I hate. Frank told him that we’d like it better if he called me Sandy, but he almost poo-pooed that request and continued to address me as Sandra. After about three times, I asked him if he’d be our waiter for all the meals, and he proudly said, “Yes!” I then asked him to call me Sandy, and he listened. I was Sandy the rest of the evening. We’ll see if he remembers on Saturday.

Again . . . a delicious dinner! I have photos this time (if I can get them to post), but I need to explain that my starter, stuffed mushrooms, looks really icky. They were delicious! The ribs were to die for, but I had so many that I didn’t eat anything else on my plate. Butter pecan ice cream for dessert. It was just butter pecan ice cream, nothing special but good.

When we were in the middle of our dinner, a loud DJ started announcing that we’d have music! Oh, dear . . . more noise. But he sang (yes, the DJ sang) only one song, and all of us old folks in the room joined him in a rollicking rendention of “That’s Amore.” Lots of fun, but we were happy that he really was just advertising his DJ gig in another room later that night.

Claudia and Ivan went exploring after dinner. They found a quiet little bar last night, and they probably visited it again. We wound our way back to our room and discovered that we could get our favorite Friday-night TV programs—Hawai’i Five-0 and Blue Bloods. As I said earlier, we’re not the typical cruisers. We’re having a wonderful time just being Sandy and Frank!

Tomorrow, we’ll be off the ship . . . in Cozumel!

Day 6 -- February 7, 2015

The water at Cozumel is as beautiful as any that we’ve ever seen. I hope the beauty will be evident in my photos. As we walked through the duty-free shopping mall that led to the city, we saw vendors selling every kind of alcohol that anyone might want (I suppose), perfumes, vanilla, diamonds, emeralds, just about anything that a visitor to Cozumel could desire. And then we laid eyes on the real vendors . . . those with shops. We had already been indoctrinated on the ones that are the most reliable, the ones that will send replacements free if anything is wrong after the buyer gets home. What the “pushers” didn’t tell us is what kind of kick-back they get when cruisers purchase. I’m sure there’s some kind of deal between the cruise line and the business people. But maybe not. I’m afraid no one got anything much from our purchases.

We walked through Diamonds International, just looking and listening to the people who worked there. We don’t have either the money or the desire to purchase expensive jewelry, but we do like to look. The aggressiveness of the clerks turns us off, so we don’t spend much time in jewelry stores. Claudia and Ivan are more patient and really look at beautiful jewelry, but on this trip, they didn’t buy any.

We all wanted to see genuine Alexandrite, so we went in a store that has probably the largest collection anywhere. It’s so expensive that the clerks weren’t even aggressive to us. Guess they took one look and knew we were just lookers!

After visiting as many of the stores as we wanted to, we left the shopping area and went toward the town. I bought a big bag to carry everything in. I love it and will use it at home, too. Then we decided to go to the beach to take pictures. We saw a sign saying that it was 1 km to the beach, but that was too far for my gimpy knee and back to walk, so we found a taxi to take us. It cost us $14 for the four of us, not bad since it was actually 10 km to the sand and water. We were surely happy that the driver didn’t take off immediately because when we discovered that it was going to cost us $15 EACH to walk on the sand and take photos, we decided to head back to town right then. We were disappointed but not distraught.

Our decision for lunch was to go back to the ship, where our lunch was already paid for. We had hamburgers at Guy’s Burger Joint (the Guy of The Food Channel fame). Absolutely delicious! Frank and I had The Ringer . . . a cheeseburger with a fried onion ring filled with barbecue sauce on it . . . and a handful of fries.

Back to our room to read and snooze till dinnertime. Claudia and Ivan went back to Cozumel to the lounge chairs right at the water to catch their zzzz’s!

Dinner was in Paris Dining again with the same wait staff that we had had the night before. The same loud DJ erupted about half way through dinner, but this time he played a tune that all the waiters knew, and they danced and danced! Wonderful entertainment!

Claudia and Ivan are really good at roaming around the ship after dinner and finding all sorts of interesting activities; however, we just get ready for bed and either read or watch TV and are perfectly happy. This cruise has been so relaxing and such fun. I can’t believe that we have only one more day at sea before docking at Galveston. But there’ll be more fun after that, and I’m excited about the next week, when we’ll be able to visit with friends and family!

Day 7 -- February 8, 2015

Our last day on board the Carnival Triumph, along with 2,996 other cruisers, was relaxing if not exciting. Breakfast in the Paris Dining Room was actually brunch. We laugh at ourselves a lot, and we got a good chuckle when we seated ourselves at our assigned table, #470, thinking how smart we were to be able to take care of ourselves. The hostess followed us and politely informed us that we didn’t have our usual table for this meal, that it was open (unassigned) seating and that another hostess would have to seat us. Hmmm . . . sounded a bit strange to us until we saw the sign that we had passed up in our eagerness to do the right thing – HOSTESS WILL SEAT YOU. A bit embarrassing, but, hey . . . these people will never see us again. We could have danced on the tables!

The choices looked delectable, as always. And starters for breakfast? Well, after all, it was brunch, and brunch is always fancier than breakfast. Right? So I had a bagel with all the trimmings, two eggs over easy, bacon, and, be still my heart . . . cheese grits. The eggs were a bit underdone, but everything else was just right, especially the grits.

On a ship like this, there are lots of activities to choose from during the day, but there was only one that really interested us, so after relaxing with our books and taking a climb up to the top deck to see how everything up there looked, we met up with Claudia and Ivan and headed for the Rome Lounge (actually a big theater), where we were all set to laugh at the couples chosen to take part in “Love and Marriage,” an on-ship version of the old TV show “The Newlywed Game.”

After a bit of hoopla, the cruise director told us that there would be three couples who would participate. The first one, he chose . . . Alexander and Kim, our bride and groom, the newest wed folks on the ship. The next couple would be the couple who had been married the longest. Claudia and Ivan or Frank and I could have won hands down, but we didn’t want to “show off.” The Robbinses will celebrate their 50th anniversary in September, and we just had our 53rd in December. We just sat quietly as others vied for the “old folks’” spot on the stage. The “children” who won had been married only 46 years. The middle spot had to be auditioned for: the man had to do his best rendition of Tarzan and Jane. The first couple won. The big black man beat his chest, yelled, “AhhhhEeeeeAhhhh!,” picked “jane” up nimbly (quite a feat for she was no feather), and made as if to run off with her. Others tried to imitate him, but most couldn’t lift their hefty “Janes” or didn’t have the right volume or were too young to know really what to do.

They were asked ten questions. The men had to answer the way they thought their wives would, and the wives were to give their own true answers. The questions ranged from where the couple met with some description to who was the husband’s last girlfriend with a couple of words of description to where they last made “whoopee” so that it was never the same since to what the wife would say the husband’s most irritating habit was. The answers were hilarious! The black couple had the funniest answers, and the husband was good at guessing what his wife would say. The answer that broke the whole audience up was the husband’s most irritating habit. Remember that she said this, not me. She replied, “When he gets excited, he farts!” Oh, my . . . that’s almost TMI, don’t you think?

Claudia showed us the photo that she had taken earlier from the stern, and the pattern of the water amazed us. We HAD to go to the back of the ship to take our own photos. Absolutely beautiful! You’ll see it in the pictures.

I finished my novel a little before dinner and managed to squeeze in a short nap, too. Sleep No More was a bit more sexually graphic from what I usually read, but the descriptions were necessary for the story to unfold and wind up the way it did. Oh, dear . . . now there’ll be a run on the book either in the book store or on Amazon because you’ll be so curious! HaHa!

Our last dinner in the Paris Dining Room was a bit nostalgic because we knew it would be our last time to have Agus and/or Sudipta as our waiters. They were such polite gentlemen, and we loved having them serve us. The waiters all memorize the names of their diners and call them appropriately, no matter where they see them on the ship. Agus never forgot that I wanted to be called Sandy! Sudipta is a very handsome young man, and Agus has the proverbial (as we say in the South) “face that only a mother could love,” but we loved them equally. You’ll see them in tonight’s photos. Agus practically led all the waiters in a rousing Macarena toward the end of our meal. He was just full of personality even if he wasn’t the handsome one.

I must admit that I didn’t check the schedule very carefully on Friday and Saturday, so we weren’t aware that there was a musical every evening. Claudia and Ivan had happened upon the one of Friday – “Around the World in 80 Days,” featuring music and dancing from various countries. I wish we had known about that one because it sounded like the best show. Tonight, though, we knew that the show would be “The Big Easy,” and since our next destination will be New Orleans, we wanted to see that one. I’m not a jazz fan, so I didn’t enjoy the music much until the singers and dancers got to “Jambalaya” and “When the Saints Go Marching In.” Those were WONDERFUL! The costumes and dancing throughout were magnificent, and I drank in everything.

Back to our rooms after the performance to be sure that everything would be ready for early Monday morning, when we’d dock, debark, and be on our way for the rest of our trip!

Day 9 -- February 10, 2015

Day 9 – February 10, 2015

Frank and I both thought of the same words as soon as we awakened this morning . . .  Happy Birthday, Jay! If our boy had lived, he’d have been 47 today. How I miss him! But on his birthday, we try to do nothing but celebrate. As usual, I posted something on my Facebook page. I know that most of you who are reading this saw my post; however, I’m posting it here just to have it saved in a place that I’ll remember.

Happy 47th, Jay!

That’s right. Had Jay lived, he’d be 47 today. Hard to believe. Thinking about Jay on his birthday (and my dad’s!) could be a sad day; however, as so many of you know, Jay was a funny guy, and we like to spend his birthday thinking about the Fun Jay.

As you know, I always post something here on Jay’s birthday and on the anniversary of the day he died. I start thinking about my post weeks ahead of time, sometimes writing new memories and sometimes posting something that I wrote a while back. The one today is from a couple of years ago.

I love to write, but my genre is nonfiction, to be specific, memoir. In a weak moment (or perhaps it was a brave moment) a couple of years ago, I succumbed to the encouragement of my favorite writing teacher, Melanie Faith, and signed up for her online poetry class through WOW—Women on Writing. A poet, I am not! In fact, back in my Woodham years, I used to write ditties for retiring teachers. All of us laughed at my attempts and called them “pomes,” not nearly good enough to be called “poems.”

My poetry attempts for Melanie were just a step above the pomes that I wrote for teachers. My submissions (I still can’t call them poems) leaned definitely toward memoir, my chosen genre, and one was about Jay. That piece is what I’m posting today. You’ll see my boy and my heart in it.


You’re absent.
Of course, you are . . .
Absent from me, the one left at home.
But you’re present There,
With the Lord,
enjoying much more singing and dancing and bass music
Than I am,
and that makes me as happy
as I used to be when you put my head in the fan.

Do I still grieve?

You know I do, but not all day every day.
Just when I walk down the hall at home,
Where the photos of you playing at Trinity’s
Or hugging some sweet young thing
Or putting the kitty in the fridge
Or making funny faces with Wendy

You know I do, but not all day every day.
Just when I happen on a song by INXS
Or David Bowie
Or The Church
Or Billy Idol
Or Crowded House.

I do still grieve.
You know I do,
Just not all day every day.
Not all day every day, my son.

I hope this little ditty brings back good memories of Jay . . . of his talent and of his humor.

Happy Birthday, Jay!

We dressed and took everything out to the car. Then we headed straight for Café Du Monde, where we’d fill our tummies with coffee and beignets. Frank used to eat three orders (three beignets in each order), but his appetite has dwindled to only two orders. I have one order. When he told the waitress that we wanted three orders, she said, “Three beignets?” No . . . three ORDERS . . . that’s nine beignets. They were as delicious as they ever were!

I took a few pictures before we set off for Pensacola.

Frank decided that we’d go to Sam’s for gas before going to my cousin’s house. Yikes! It was supposed to be cheap. It was $2.24! Not cheap at all. But we didn’t find any gas in Pensacola as low as ours is in Santa Fe/Albuquerque. Who knows? It may be that much at home by now.

When he got back in the car, he said, “Do you want to take flowers to Jay on his birthday?” Of course, I did. So we went to Michael’s and bought posies for Jay and also for Mother and Daddy. As we were leaving, we saw our good friend Linda Thomas Lasher outside the store. What a treat! We stood in the cold visiting for several minutes. So what’s so important about this? We were going to have dinner with her and her hubby tonight! We still had plenty to talk about in the evening, though.

If the person who added some new flowers to the last ones that I put on Jay’s grave is reading this, thank you so much! Also . . . an apology to whoever put the black bracelet on the vase because it broke when we emptied water out and tried to put the vase back. We left it, but it’s broken. Made me so sad. I chose the flowers for my parents’ graves, and Frank chose Jay’s. They’ll look very pretty for a while, but the Florida sun doesn’t allow the bright colors to last very long.

When we arrived at JoAnn and Fred’s house, we found that their son, Freddie (I believe most people call him Fred now, but old habits are hard to break), was there. We were so happy to see him because it had been years and years since we had seen him. We always enjoy being with Jo and Fred and catching up on everything that’s going on in their lives.

We left at 5:00 to meet friends at the Marina Oyster Barn for dinner, the REAL beginning of our seafood splurge. Linda and her husband Bob, Barbara and David Lautner, and Fran Crumpton are five of our best friends in the whole world, and we thoroughly enjoyed being with them. There was not a minute of dead air at the table! Two more best friends, Annice and Gene Webb, couldn’t join us for the evening because of Gene’s health, and we truly missed them. Frank had fried shrimp, and I had fried oysters. Yummmmmm! We splurged and had key lime pie. So good!

We were back at Jo and Fred’s house by 7:45 and had more chatting to do before turning in. Good start to a very short visit to my hometown.