Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Vacation, Part 1

I love our spring breaks. I really do. Magi's dad and stepmother run a resort condo complex in Gulf Shores, Alabama. They also own a couple of condos there, right on the beach. Each year we are allowed to stay for free in one of their condos and I can't thank them enough. As teachers we make decent money, decent enough that you'll never hear me complain about it. But we don't make the kind of money that would allow us to stay in the quality places if we had to pay for it. The new one that they just purchased and refurbished is just fantastic. Everything in it is new, from the stainless steel appliances to the king-sized bed to the HDTVs in each room, including one that is mounted on the wall by the sliding glass door that leads out to the balcony. It is very tastefully decorated with quality furniture. Thank you again, Pedro and Nora, for your generosity.

We left our house at 5:30 last Friday night and headed south. We made a quick stop at Trader Joe's in Indianapolis at 8:30 to buy groceries and snacks for the week. We love Trader Joe's foods and we don't get there very often. Armed with everything we were going to eat, we headed south again and didn't stop until we arrived in Elizabethtown, Kentucky. We learned a couple of years ago to make reservations on the way down when we are going to leave in the evening. There's no guarantee that there will be a room available. The Comfort Suites in Elizabethtown makes a nice place to stay for the night. Tired but happy to be on vacation, we got to sleep around midnight.

The next morning we availed ourselves of the free contintental breakfast (I just stuck with my usual yogurt and fruit) and we hit the road. Another fun stop we always try to make after we discovered it last year is Wolfgang Puck Express in Franklin, Tennessee. Franklin is a rich suburb just south of Nashville, and the mall they have there is surrounded by nice places to shop and eat, including Buca di Beppo! Wolfgang Puck Express is like the famous chef's idea of fast food. You order at a counter and get your own drinks, but a waiter brings the food to the table for you and checks in on you once you have it. Sera really likes the Butternut Squash Soup, and Magi had the Spicy Shrimp Pizza, while I had half a Rosemary Chicken with their horseradish slaw, which I loved so much last year, I got an order to go.

Back on the road, we cruised down to Gulf Shores, arriving much earlier than we anticipated. We stopped for our first fantastic dinner at Mikee's. Mikee's is Magi's favorite seafood restaurant in Gulf Shores and it's one of mine as well. We started with a dozen steamed oysters. We usually eat them raw but we wanted Sera to try them so we started her off easy. She didn't like them anyway, but she did try them so I give her credit. She's always willing to try something she's never had before. For dinner I had the all-you-can-eat fried shrimp, the first serious deviation from my diet in over three months, and boy did I enjoy it. I didn't overdo it, but I did get my fill.

We made the 15-mile drive down Fort Morgan Road to the Plantation, checked in, and took the elevator up to the unit on the seventh floor. Last year Sera had to be lifted to press the elevator button. Now she can reach it without even standing on her toes. We taught her which button to push inside the elevator, too. She got to press it every time and was proud of the job.

Inside the condo, we were amazed by how nice it was! As I mentioned above, it was fantastic! But perhaps even more important to two Hoosier imports was opening the sliding glass door to let the gulf breeze in. There's something very calming about listening to the waves crash up on the beach. I really should record it and play it before I go to sleep when I'm back home. It was time to unpack and relax.

Magi's sister Marcia and her family were in the unit next door, and the first thing we did on Sunday morning was to join them for breakfast. I still stuck to my yogurt, fruit, and granola, but the kids had fun with chocolate doughnuts. After catching up for a while, we made the trip around Mobile Bay to the bay houses. Magi's sister Kati and her husband Vincent have one, and Magi's dad and stepmother built one right next door. Magi's sister Jessica and her husband Jeremy were staying with Kati and Vincent, so all four sisters were together for the first time in a year. In fact, it was the first time the whole family had been together since Jessica's and Jeremy's wedding. All eight grandchildren were together and playing, and they had a great time. They were throwing frisbees and chasing each other, and it was truly wonderful watching Sera's face as she played.

We had brought New York Strip steaks that we purchased from our local butcher shop and stuck in a cooler. I grilled the steaks, while the ladies made twice-baked potatoes and a great salad. Everyone seemed to have a good time at dinner, and I didn't overcook the steaks, despite the fact that it was the first time that I had ever grilled 15 steaks at once. I was using two different grills at the same time, too. We made it back to the condo, very tired but satisfied. The next day, Monday, would be the first day of spring break!

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