The Original Benjamin’s Calabash Seafood and the Alabama Theater

Today (Friday) we ate quite well. Not that we haven’t eaten well on previous days lately, but today we ate exceptionally well. The Sea Mist Oceanfront Resort, where we currently reside, had a package for all of us old USS Cleveland sailors that included tickets to eat at The Original Benjamin’s Calabash Seafood buffet. The web site shows the innards better than I can but here’s a quick peek at some of our group chowing down in our own private section of the facility.


Pretty much any kind of seafood you desire, especially shrimp, is presented in many different ways. Pretty amazing. Calabash, by the way, is a word that describes food in this way: Calabash seafood typically refer to seafood that is lightly breaded (usually dipped in milk & then a combo of flour & cornmeal) and then fried. Usually in a calabash-style restaurant you will get huge portions, oftentimes with a combination plate of several types of seafood – shrimp, various kinds of fish, crab, oysters, etc.. and hushpuppies. Calabash is also the name of a small town in North Carolina near the southern border north of Myrtle Beach. Driving on Myrtle Beach one is assaulted with all manner of calabash restaurants. It gets a bit confusing after a bit. Just remember, it’s all good. I’m happy to report, too, that none of it caused my blood sugar to spike. I think another reason it was OK is that Diane was very careful about what I ate. She takes really good care of me.

I would have liked to stay a little longer at the buffet but we had to leave in order to make it to the Alabama Theater before 7 pm to see ONE The Show. It was truly a great show and is highly recommended by all of us who attended.

We weren’t allowed to take photos of the show so this is the only picture I got of the inside. It’s special because it has Diane in it.

The host of the show, Greg Rowles, who won Ed McMahon’s Star Search Show as the Best Male Vocalist 25 years ago, honored all of us USS Cleveland sailors and even provided a lot of the ship’s history. Pretty special evening.

After the show we all headed back to the Sea Mist for our last night at that facility. After breakfast Sunday morning we packed up and drove all the way north to Hilton’s Ocean 22 high rise. It took 11 minutes. We fiddled around a while, driving north to an enormous RV park, with a very small dune that one must traverse to access the beach. It looks like a place we should visit.

From the looks of things, fishing off the beach is a requirement.

See you tomorrow …

Myrtle Beach, SC

Yes, we’ve embarked on another journey. Some of you may be thinking that, considering the sad time we had in Maui recently, we would have given this trip a little more consideration before committing. But, we’ve actually been trying to get some time at Myrtle Beach for the last five years or so but something always comes up that messes it up. Mostly the deterrents come in the form of hurricanes this time of year.

This time, we made it all the way. Here’s proof …

OK, yes it’s the baggage carousel at the Charleston airport, but that’s the airport we flew to and rented the car that got us to Myrtle Beach. Another reason we flew to Charleston was so we could reconnect with our luggage which got there 8 hours before us.

Here’s what happened – there are no non-stop Alaska flights from Portland to Charleston, but there is one from Seattle. So, all we had to do was get to Seattle early enough to make the connection so that we could arrive on the east coast at a decent time of the day. The reservations she got allowed us almost an hour to get to the connecting flight in Seattle that would arrive in Charleston at 4:30 pm their time. If you think about that for a minute, considering the 3-hour time difference, we would arrive at 1:30 pm St. Helens time. Then, figure in flight time from Seattle you can see we had to leave pretty early.

We got up at 3:30 am to catch the PDX to SEATAC leg that left at 6 am. The first snafu we encountered was when TSA kicked us out of the precheck line because out KTN wasn’t printed on our ticket. We knew that but had the letters from TSA as proof that we had KTNs. That’s Known Traveler Number in case you didn’t now. Not good enough for the ambitious little guy who insisted that it had to be on our boarding pass. The first time this happened, on the way to Maui, the TSA agent would have let us continue if we knew the KTN. Not this guy, however.

So, we returned to the ticket counter and fixed it with some manual interventional assistance of a cheerful Alaska Agent.

We breezed right through.

Got to Seattle in plenty of time to make our connection then ‘things’ kinda went south with regard to customer service and scheduling accumen of managers at the SEATAC International airport who parked our plane on the runway for 30 minutes because there wasn’t an open gate for us.

There we sat, with 12 other folks who needed to make the connection, watching the clock tick away, diminishing the probability of making the flight to Charleston.

We finally parked at N15 about 7:20 pm and our connecting flight was scheduled to depart at 7:45. Our pilot and crew assured us that everyone knew we were on the ground and the reason we were late and that they would hold the plane for us.

It was a huge lie. We got to the next gate, D21, in time, but management had already filled our 12 seats with standbys and sent the plane on it’s way, 20 minutes early. Kinda makes your day, ya know?

Then we were sent to the Alaska Customer Service desk near gate D2 that is manned by folks who are accustom to dealing with upset people and apparently don’t see the need to be friendly any longer. We 12 were demoted to 3rd class citizens (whatever that is) and the fact that we missed the flight due to decisions made by the airline.

The two agents behind the counter were working to re-book flights for misplaced people but their hearts weren’t in it and they weren’t very careful about information they doled out. For us, for instance, after they professed to have got us seats on an American Airline plane leaving shortly, gave us a confirmation number and sent us to gate D8 and told us to talk to one of the AA agents there to get us seat assignments. We made that trek and learned that the confirmation was invalid and that the flight we were supposedly put on was full. No seats available.

Back to D2 and customer service. At different agent made another attempt and actually got us seats on a plane leaving in a few hours for Dallas. From there we were booked on an AA flight to Charleston which was to arrive at 11:30 pm.

Interestingly, our bags were transferred from the Portland flight to the original non-stop connection with no problem, but they couldn’t delay 10 minutes to wait for the people who owned them. That’s why our luggage arrived in Charleston on time.

And, they didn’t have any trouble delaying the newly acquired flight, for some reason, which pushed our arrival time in Dallas a little later yet. That was OK because we had a 2-hour layover in Dallas.

Once in Dallas the flight to Charleston was delayed twice ensuring our arrival time wa pushed beyond midnight. Yippee!

By this time both Diane and I were to the point that we could see humor in all the things that had happened to us during this trip. It was like a comedy of errors so it was easier on both of us to accept the comedy of the situation instead of being bitter and upset.

Now, the good part of all this. On both of the flights we met passengers who went out of their way to accommodate both Diane and I by switching seats so we could sit together. You see, with all this switching going on, we were considered standby passengers with no real guarantee we’d get on an airplane. Because of that, we were placed in seats that were rows apart because, you see, all those other passengers made their flight on time.

Our fellow passengers made it all OK and we had a great time talking with them. Had we caught our original flight we would have missed that opportunity which would have been kinda sad.

When we got to Charleston we sent directly to the AA office in the baggage claim area to retrieve our on-time bags. The cheerful agent said, “oh, you were on that Alaska flight …” which kinda told the entire story.

After getting the bags we went looking for a cab because I was told the car rental agents closed up at 11:0-0 pm. But, we saw some lights on at the rental area and saw people turning in to that area. There was hope, after all. You see, we had a car reserved for the trip so we could get to the Air Force Inn at Joint Base Charleston for the night, then drive to Myrtle Beach in the morning.

When we turned the corner and saw lines of people at pretty much all the various rental agencies, and way off in a corner was Enterprise, with one agent working and a line of 2 people ahead of us. It was a miracle.

Long story short, we got a car and made it to Joint Base Charleston with no problem. It was only about 5 miles away, so we didn’t expect problems.

At the Air Force Inn we had a reservation and the agents were waiting for us. We got our room, spent the night, and took off for Myrtle Beach earlier this morning. We fudged our check out time beyond 11:00 am because it was so late when we checked in (1:30 am or so) and stopped at a really busy restaurant for lunch. It was the Long Point Grill in Mount Pleasant, SC for lunch. It was absolutely wonderful and the place was jumping. I had shrimp and linguine. Diane had a chicken BLT sandwich and a cup of tomato and artichoke soup. It as good, but getting it meant she could only eat half her sandwich. So, of course, I ate the other half.

The drive to Myrtle Beach was very relaxing and it was great sailing along without a care, our worries behind us. Life was good.

Now we’re here on the 9th floor, at 1200 S. Ocean Blvd with an ocean view.

Our view north
Our view south.

How sweet it is.

Oh ya, the reason we’re here is to attend the 22nd annual reunion of the USS Cleveland Reunion Association. So, there will be more news later.

Cheers.

The Maui Wedding & Other Stuff

The deed is done and this is just the wrap up of an event that’s been in the planning stages for years. As Sarah would say, she got “Mauied”.

To begin this day of joy and change Diane took a trip to the University of Hawaii Maui campus. That’s where the Maui Swap meet is held. The reason for our trip there was to obtain some outer wear for some little people we know back in Oregon. That, and to look around a bit. One thing I noticed right away was that prices were a bit steep for a swap meet. Hats, for instance. One gentleman had hundreds of them stacked neatly on many tables and his price for a baseball hat was $28! That’s not a swap meet price. I didn’t want a baseball hat anyway. The items Diane found were much more reasonable.

While in the vicinity, we took an moment to capture a selfie to show Jeran that Corban University is being promoted everywhere we go.

Here’s Diane hard at work.

Now for the wedding.

The service was held outside at the Sugar Beach Event Center.

Only 40 chairs
Beautiful backdrop

Diane shedding her pre-wedding jitters
Same for Ruth
Sarah and Dad Larry begin the march
They arrived safely
It was a flawless handoff
Rings were exchanged
The final blessing were given
Then “The Kiss”
I think she’s happy
Now it’s reception time
Grandma Ruth
Great Aunt Diane

I went through the line twice – once with Ruth and again with Diane. Lucky me.

Ruth and Larry
Larry and Diane

After the reception line it was into the hall for the reception dinner, after all the photos were taken. Right about this time Diane became ill and had to leave but she insisted I had to stay and eat. I did that then she came back to get me after the crowd began to get rowdy, like young crowds tend to do. They were having a terrific time and I was worried about Diane so it was all OK.

Diane was pretty sick and we spent all of Sunday inside – Diane rested and I stayed quiet like a mouse.

Now we’re going to take it real easy until our flight Wednesday morning. Maybe we’ll find an opportunity to visit Goodwill, but that remains to be seen.

A Wedding in Kihei, Maui

Yes, we came to Maui to attend a wedding for Jason and Sarah. For those who don’t know the family history, Sarah is our Grand Niece who was originally from Connecticut. Then she discovered Jason and moved west, to Hillsboro, to be with him. Then they got married the day before yesterday (the 21st). I believe that was the last day of summer in most parts of the world.

That’s the happy couple. In case you ever wind up in St. Vincent’s Hospital you’re in good hands. Sarah’s an RN and that’s where she works, and she works a lot.

The road to Maui was, I’m told, a year-long planning event for Sarah and Jason, Sarah mostly. Seems like I heard Jason mention something about finally being able to relax, not having to write any more checks, once the event was over so suspect he wasn’t as involved in the planning as was Sarah. I won’t dwell on the planning because I really have no firsthand knowledge of those efforts beyond what we experienced on the receiving end.

We arrived on Maui last Wednesday, the 18th, mid afternoon. Joined a bunch of people at the Budget Car Rental kiosk, got a Jeep Grand Cherokee, and headed for Kihei. It’s a simple drive south from the airport about 15 miles or so. That’s actually all the way across the isthmus between the two volcanoes that make the island. I find it interesting that only the east volcano has a name – Haleakala. The western volcano is only labeled “volcano” on the maps I’ve looked at. digging a little deeper in the narratives available, I found this:

The eastern volcano is Haleakala, a 10,000 foot shield volcano whose name means “House of the Sun”.   Haleakala’s elevation means that it sometimes – briefly – has snow on top in the winter.  The western part of the island is home to what geologists call Mauna Kahalawai, an eroded shield volcano commonly called the West Maui Mountains.  Hawaiians also refer to the West Maui Mountains as “hale mahina”, or “house of the moon”.

I’m so happy I could resolve that dilemma for everyone, whether or not you were concerned. I was, but no longer am.

On Thursday, the 19th, we joined the Connecticut contingent of the wedding party fora little shopping on Front Street in Lahaina. This is Ruth, our Sister-in-Law and grandmother of the bride, her son Larry, Father of the bride, Valerie, Step Mom of the bride, and Diane, Grand Aunt of the bride.

There were others from the east coast but these are the primaries. We had a good day and only lost Larry for a little while when he went back to the car for a camera battery,

After shopping we returned to Ruth’s (and Larry’s & Valerie’s) accommodations to await the appointed time for a group supper at the Aloha Mixed Plate. Excellent food!

On Friday, the 20th, we decided to see if the Road to Hana is really all that bad. I’m happy to report that, thanks to Diane’s excellent driving skills, and her willingness to embark on such an adventure, that road is pretty much everything you may have ever heard about it. We did it and we’ll never have to do it again.

Hana, Maui is located on the south eastern part of Maui and is accessible only by air, boat, or a grueling drive on Highways 36, 360, and 31. It’s actually the same road all the way around Haleakala but some parts are considerably better than others. The Road to Hana is legendary and Diane got me the T-shirt to prove it:

A great deal of the road is single lane, especially over the dozens of bridges. It’s an exciting drive and Diane did every inch of it. It was truly amazing.

With a stop 1/3 of the way to Hana on the east side, the trip took about 4 hours. It’s only about 52 miles (according to the T-shirt) so that means we had to go pretty slow most of the time. Neither of us is prone to car sickness but we both got a little nauseous before reaching Hana.

Our stop was at a botanical garden. They call it that be, in truth, the entire trip was like driving through a huge botanical garden. Very lush, green, and humid.

Here’s one flower you’ve all seen at one time or another. I’d include more, but you’ve probably seen them, too.

OK, here’s another one …

The next one I don’t think is a flower. It’s a pod of some sort hanging in a tree. Don’t know what it is but it’s pretty and got my attention.

Diane toughed out the remainder of the trip to Hana but I could tell she was getting tired. I would have driven but we never allow Jerrie to drive rental cars. Besides, as Diane said, if she hadn’t been driving she would have been puking her guts out. I guess that was a left-handed compliment to me because, though a bit nauseous, I never once puked. Believe me, there was plenty of opportunity to do so.

Finally, we reached our goal just as I was on my way down to a diabetic crash due to lack of food. We stopped at the first eatery we saw, the Ranch Restaurant, and took a seat. When the waitress, Natalie, arrived Diane asked for a glass of orange juice for me which she got very quickly. We both had very good hamburgers and drinks and it only cost $51. Considering our situation, it was well worth it and it helped me maintain a vertical position.

While eating we discussed the return trip. Should we go back the way we came, or continue on around the mountain. Neither of us could remember if the rental car agent had warned us off the southern portion of Route 31, and Natalie said ‘Pshaw. It’s not raining and it’s a beautiful drive.’ We believed her. Before leaving, however, we took advantage of their restrooms because we knew there were none on the road. It takes a code to get in the door so if you’re ever in Hana, at the Ranch Restaurant, remember this number:

You actually don’t need to remember it because they freely hand out little slips of paper like this to anyone who asks.

Not long into the return trip I was pretty sure we had tipped Natalie too much. The north eastern segment, though very curvy, was actually pretty good road. The south western portion was just as curvy but the road varied from asphalt to gravel to dirt to broken asphalt, continue. It was a mess. But, it was a pretty drive and we were generally going slow enough that we could see stuff.

We finally made it back to our condo in time to watch the sun go down behind Molokai.

On the way back to our condo …

… we encountered this drill team practicing for a parade …

When the sun was all gone we had this view from our porch …

We did nothing the rest of the day and went to bed very early. The next morning we were presented with this little snippet of a rainbow. Never seen one like it …

There will be more about this day in my next post. I’m tired now.

Aloha

I’m Listening

I’m listening to my lovely wife, Diane. She told me a couple days ago that I haven’t posted anything during the month of July. I checked and, by golly, she’s absolutely correct. I haven’t. I can only attribute this lack of posting to old age or, perhaps I’ve simply used up most of the words available to me in a given period of time. I’ve heard that’s a ‘thing’. Diane has a cousin who, when she’s at a loss for words, says “…I must have used up all my nouns.”

Considering the amount of time that’s passed I’m pretty sure I can’t possibly remember things in proper sequence, if I can remember things at all, so I’m just going to ramble and see what happens. That way I can be just as surprised as you when something profound sneaks out.

Let’s see … on July 15th Jerrie Anne Diane Cate celebrated her 8th birthday which means the school district has no choice but to allow her to attend 3rd grade when school resumes in September. She’s pretty stoked about that. Matter of fact, she actually cried when the school year ended because she likes school that much. Her older sisters love school, too, so it’s apparently a genetic ‘thing’ that comes from their mother’s side of the family. I guess it could be from Diane, too, but it’s surely not from me. I was perfectly OK when summer showed up and I was still wearing little boy clothing.

Shortly after Jerrie’s birthday we fired up the bus and returned to Paradise Cove for a few days of R&R, by ourselves. You may recall we took The Littles there in June for about a week. We had big plans to spend a lot of time in the hot tub but I don’t remember doing that even one time. Instead we spent our time either sitting on or walking along one beach or another, watching the waves. The high light of the sitting part was when we parked ourselves on a tall dune above the remains of the Peter Iredale which has been a fixture on the beach at Fort Stevens State Park my entire life. We were there to watch the sunset and saw some whales playing along the shore spouting a few times, showing us their tails, then disappearing. It was pretty special which is good because the sun went behind some clouds and there was no proper sunset. It just got dark and chilly. Be we had whales!

We returned from that trip on Monday and had a few days days to recover, we thought, until Diane discovered that we had reservations at Big Eddy County Park near Vernonia on Wednesday. This was another trip with The Littles because it’s a yearly Family Camp for Jennie’s and Daniel’s church. We’re always invited and we almost always go because it’s great fun. The Littles went last year for the first time and loved it. They got to spend days, literally, in the Nehalem River, and they made lots of new friends. The great thing about this is that the church rents the entire park so the kids can be free to go wherever they want with no fear of something bad happening. They just had to check in with their home camp on a regular basis so we knew where they were and they could not venture into the river without adult supervision. All we adults had to do was sit around our campfires talking and eating snacks. Once in a while kids would show up and we’d have a meal. The big deal with food culminated in a dessert social where I cut Jerrie a piece of very rich chocolate cake that was far too large. She savored every morsel but wound up giving it all back, plus, later that evening. I suspect it tasted much better the first time it passed her lips. She recovered nicely the next day and was able to spend lots of time with her friend Lilly.

The bigger Littles (Gilligan & Baylee) put dozens of miles on bikes, riding all over the park with their friends. Most of the bike riders were careful but we had to be wary of the smaller ones with training wheels. They weren’t overly concerned about who was in front of them as they pedaled around, talking to whoever was riding next to them. Diane was almost run over many times because she either didn’t hear the rattle of those training wheels or she thought they actually knew about the rules when encountering old people. Like, don’t run into them. They tend to tip over and break things. Thankfully, that didn’t happen.

I exercised our small little BBQ for one meal by cooking hamburger and chicken patties. I don’t use it often, and only clean it when I do figuring that whatever bad things may have grown on it since the last use would surely be consumed during the warm-up phase. It’s worked so far and has provided us with some tasty hotdogs with a hint of steak and old hamburgers. They are a culinary treat. Now that we’re home I’m reminded that I need to remove the 4 chicken patties I left on the BBQ when I put it back in the RV. I have no valid reason for doing that. It just seemed to be OK at the time. I can already hear Diane calling my name, in large capital letters — “JEROLD BRADLEY CATE” — when she reads this.

In case you’re wondering about the danger of little kids playing in the Nehalem River, fear not. It’s not a big river. It’s more like a large creek. And there are always lots of people around lounging on a variety of different kinds of floating devices. It’s pretty safe.

That’s about it for this time. Hope everyone is having a wonderful summer.

Banquet, Marsha, and Memphis

Saturday was a very busy day, for some people. For us it was one of another, lazy late exit from our respective beds, a late breakfast (or early lunch) then some sitting around doing a lot of nothing. We had to rest up for the banquet which was to start at 6:00 in the evening. Prior to that the crew members in attendance had a business meeting for the USS Cleveland Reunion Association. Our treasurer, Rick, gave a comprehensive accounting of our financial situation and made it clear how much it costs to keep our organization functioning. After that we went through the agenda, ultimately agreeing on where we go next year. Lots of options were suggested, and promoted, but we finally agreed on Savannah, Georgia. Another new city for us to discover.

At 5 pm we started getting ready for the big event of the reunion by finding the clothes we brought for the occasion and laying them out hoping some of the wrinkles would disappear. That really wasn’t an issue for me because once I put them on they just disappeared thanks to all the food I’ve been eating. Yessir I just filled up all the vacant space and stretched those wrinkles away. It wasn’t pretty, but I wasn’t wrinkled. It worked so well that Diane asked me to put her clothing on for a little bit and kinda iron them out, too. Doing that stirred up some latent emotions from my youth when I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be a boy or girl. Right then the bra started to chafe reminding me that I’d made the correct choice all those years ago. Diane agreed and thanked me for pressing her clothes. Actually, her’s got stretched a little further than mine and, consequently, looked much better after i removed them. This entire exercise in removing wrinkles showed us that we no longer needed to ensure that rooms we get while traveling have irons in the room. Now I just need to ensure I don’t start losing weight thereby losing this new-found skill I’ve acquired. If necessary, I can hire out my body to fellow travelers so they, too, can avoid the need for an iron. Just have to find out what to charge, or if to charge. I might like doing it just for fun.

The banquet went well and we wound up with 46 ex-Cleveland crew members in attendance, in addition to significant others who attended. It was a packed room. The food was good and the raffle & auction items were plentiful. I have no idea how much money was spent in total, but one of our old Chiefs spent over $1000 on things his wife wanted. I believe that was a new record for one bidder. It went a long way toward ensuring the organization wouldn’t be having any financial woes in the near future. Rick reported that we were, once again, solvent.

After the banquet was done everyone went to the atrium and pool area which is surrounded by rooms for photos. We were making a lot of noise after the suggested quiet hour, but none of the other guests complained. So, we just continued to make lots of noise which made it very difficult for organizers to organize groups for photos, especially the guys. 

Finally, there was a lull in the noise and we got the guys to kind of line up for the photo.
And here are the ladies …

The festivities were finally terminated about 10:30 pm much to the glee no doubt of everyone who had an interior room, and we all headed for our respective rooms. I think.

The five Radiomen in attendance: Spence, Curt, Dan, Gene, and Me

During our good nights and farewells I volunteered Diane to deliverer our friend Marsha to the airport at 0530 the next morning. Diane wasn’t happy, initially, but I won her over. Then she expanded the day by declaring that “since we’re getting up so early, we may as well go to Memphis and visit Graceland.” I couldn’t really object because, first, she is the only declared driver of our rental and, second, well, because she wanted to go to Memphis. Even though it was pouring rain … 

Nashville to Graceland isn’t a trip around the corner. It’s about 220 miles and a 3 hr drive according to my map. In reality, it’s 220, yes, but 4.5 hours. The extended time is because there was a portion of the freeway closed but there were no detour signs pointing to an alternate route. The local folks knew about them but neither I nor our GPS were aware of how to proceed. So, I studied the map as we went and found a way around it. The long way around it, but we eventually made it. We stopped at a Waffle House about halfway to get breakfast and our first coffee of the day. Here’s proof …

Somewhere along the line we stopped at a rest area. They have names just like other states …

The first thing everyone who enters Graceland is exposed to is the gift shop. That’s where you can buy sunglasses for any occasion, just like Elvis wore …

I won’t bore you with the interior of Graceland because you’ve probably seen it before. I will say, however, that both Diane and I were pleasantly surprised to discover how un-pretentious the home was. It was very nice and we enjoyed it. It gave us a different look at how to view Elvis. He seemed to be a very nice guy who died far too young.

There was a picture in one of the out buildings that totally caught me by surprise and may also cause a second look by my brothers … 

The left photo in the middle looks disturbingly like my first grade picture. The means (to me) that at one point in time I looked like Elvis. We just didn’t turn out the same in the same, did we?

After touring the mansion we exited the venue, which is far bigger than just the mansion, and headed home. We had a 3-4 hour trip ahead of us and we were tired already. Diane drove both directions and amazed me at how much stamina she had. I had a horrible time staying awake to make sure she stayed awake. Could be we died somewhere along I-40 and I’m writing this to you from an alternate universe in the Matrix. Seems real, though.

We made it home in time to get to bed about 8:15 pm after eating a less than stellar hamburger from the Opry Backstage Grill here in the hotel. We didn’t wake up for 12 hours and didn’t get out of bed until 10-11. We’re not as tired as we were when we went to bed but it took a long time to get some energy back. Plus, it just felt good to lay around doing nothing.

Finally, the need for food took precedent over the need for rest so we left in search of something to eat. In the car I searched on line for a decent place to go and we wound up at a really nice place just up the street. The Santa Fe Steakhouse where the food is excellent.

When we walked into the place an were being led to our booth, about 25 people sitting at tables in the middle of the room got up and left. Diane said she noticed that the crew was composed of sheriffs and firefighters. When the waitress showed up I asked if they needed to go out and get another steer before they could feed anyone else. She said no so I ordered steak fajitas. Diane ordered their beef enchiladas. Both of us were overjoyed with our choices. Not only was the food excellent, the wait staff was more than wonderful. 

Now I must end this and prepare for our last night here in Nashville. Tomorrow we fly home from rainy Tennessee to bright and sunny Oregon.

Nashville

Nashville. What is there about Nashville I can share that you haven’t heard before? Probably nothing, unless you’ve been living under a rock your entire life.

OK. That was rude. Or was it? There might be something positive about living under a rock for a long time. I can’t think of one right now but something might come to me later.

We got here yesterday (Tuesday). By the time we got to the hotel it was 8-ish local time and well past our normal dinner time of 4-ish. We’re staying at The Inn at Opryland, a Gaylord hotel. That’s what’s on my room key … “The Inn at Opryland, a Gaylord Hotel“. It’s even on their website that way which leads me to believe that someone named Gaylord owns a bunch of property in and around Nashville and wants everyone to know it. That’s an opinion, of course, but that name is attached to a lot of different kinds of businesses in the area. So, I think I’m correct on at least half of my stated opinion.

In case you’re wondering about why Diane and I are in Nashville, I’ll tell you. We’re attending the 2018 gathering of the USS Cleveland Reunion Association. Yes, another reunion of crew members of a ship I served on. A gathering of the survivors. The last one of these we attended, in Bremerton, just a few weeks ago, for DD-808, one of the crew members died at the reunion. Turned out it wasn’t the festive event it was supposed to be. Hopefully, that won’t happen this time.

Our friend, Yolanda, was in the lobby talking with a few who had arrived earlier. Yolanda is the widow of one of our members who passed away a number of years ago but she continues to attend these gatherings. Maybe you’ve seen her as Anne Betancourt. She’s an incredibly nice lady.

Now, where was I? We had just arrived, and we were hungry. And the hotel, Gaylord’s hotel, conveniently has a restaurant on the main floor called the Opryland Backstage. So, we paid it a visit and learned a couple of things. First, the food is really good; Second, they have excellent live entertainment. A fellow who called himself Jeff Dayton picked and sang for the room throughout our meal, playing pretty much any song requested by the crowd in the room. He was pretty awesome. After reading his bio on Wikipedia I understand why.

Our waitress last night was Maria who is from Rochester, Minnesota. She is not tall, blond, and obviously a hard worker. After watching her scurry around for a while I asked her if she was a singer and she said she was and wanted to know how I knew. It was just a guess. I figured an attractive young girl from Minnesota, working as a waitress in Nashville, probably had aspirations of a musical career. She told us she sings in the restaurant once in a while and we let her know we hoped we might have the chance to hear her before we leave. Interesting evening and a great hamburger.

We slept in a little bit today and missed breakfast so mosied across the street to the Cracker Barrel thinking we might encounter some of the crew we came to see. That didn’t happen, but we had a pretty good meal then jumped in the SUV that Diane rented for us, a Nissan Pathfinder, and went looking for Belle Meade Plantation. It was #1 on a list of places to see in Nashville that Diane found someplace.

It wasn’t difficult to find and we both really enjoyed the tour. A young lady named Kellan led a group of us through the mansion and explained the history of the family who lived there and how they started out on the property. It was a lovely story that covered a great deal of ground and I was totally blown away with her presentation. It was just fun listening to her share her incredible wealth of information in such detail. True, she’s no doubt done this dozens of times, but still, she was really interesting.

After touring the mansion we walked around the grounds for a while, got all sweaty from the humidity, and called it a wrap, got in the rental SUV, cranked up the A/C and headed back to the hotel. Of course at this time it was rush hour in Tennessee so it wasn’t a quick trip. We didn’t mind. The scenery is quite nice here when you slow down and look around.

Tomorrow the reunion officially starts and I may have more interesting stuff to share. But, for today, this is it and it’s time for bed.

Buona notte