Saturday, January 23, 2010

January Continued

30 Jan - Sat: We awoke early to sounds of loud crashing thunder and cracks of lightning. The one who slept undisturbed asked why it was not shared by boths of usn's??? One of us is a silly goose! the hard, driving rain found its way under the door onto the carpet. About seven AM, chilly and sprinkling intermittently - the picture shows a view from the room. This is a good day for Sudokus and a drive to St. Joseph's State Park.
Guess what? They charged an entrance fee - and the services are shut down until March. We chose not to enter!

On the route to and fro we saw: BLIGHT! BLIGHT! BLIGHT! Neighborhood Flight! For Sale signs abound announcing most of Florida's Forgotten Coast is for sale.

Tomorrow early AM we leave for Tallahassee for lunch with cousin Anne before the ten hour drive to South Carolina. If you come to Mexico Beach, FL look for the El Governor Motel - and ask for the fourth floor - north end room: 427 has large picture windows north and west. Tried again to phone you Ed.... but cannot get through: Hi Ed!

View from Lanai 29 Jan (early this morning) - Port St. Joe, FL. Mighty nice! The drive to Panama City, FL and St. Andrews State Park ... was most pleasant until the arrival at St. Andys to discover a fee of eight dollars that was not much more than a drive through dunes; a dour faced ranger who looked like he never had a fun day in his life shrugged his shoulders and reported that the shuttle was closed - and no one knew when it would open in March -- so, too with the visitor's center. We did not encounter any wildlife except for a couple of two-legged ones and a four wheeled vehicle looking not wild in the least. No alligators despite advertising an alligator lake complete with signs not to feed them. Some folks were flying kites beyond the sand dunes. And we did see deer prints in the sand. Not having eaten during the day we counted the miles until we were back at Mexico Beach, Fl that evening to dine at the highly recommended Toucan's Restaurant. Upon learning the dietary restrictions, the waitress shot back, "You should be in the hospital, " followed by the grim news the chef made no special cooking concessions.
We left for the FishHouse to enjoy a delicious grouper and pleasant service.

Ron with Civil War cannon at the Grand Hotel, Point Clear, AL above -

Sunset at Point Clear; thanks to Robin for taking our photo.

Lunch with cousin Pat and daughter Brona. Thanks, Pat, for info re: Cleveland Clinic as #1 rated heart hospital... it checked out.

Congratulations Walt!!!! (Chief anesthesiologist at that clinic).

It is not too challenging to follow the very restricted dietary plan for reversal of coronary artery disease (with meds to prevent heart attack) prescribed by cardiologist who specializes in reversal of this disease. We are waiting for lab results to see what the genetics and rare kind of cholesterol (little a) may be lurking. Walt agrees with Ron's assessment about surgery and possible corollary blood flow into the heart. For now this is the plan.

Walt: See... Ron has NOT changed... even the socks!

Catch up photos from Jan: Lake house in Texas on left...

29 Jan - Fri: Port of St. Joe's, FL - awesome even! We booked two more nights with plans to return for an extended stay. The El Governor Hotel is a find: $65.00 a night - right on the beach with lanai overlooking white sand beach. We left the door open last night to soothing sounds of surf - wonderful breezes kept the room the right temp. Sharon's restaurant fed us mighty good white egg omelets. We recognized the place was owned by girlies because it is decorated to the gills with valentines. Smooch Smooch likes this place....!

28 Jan- Thurs: Costco in Tally. Prescription filled for three months - and diet cherry coke, too. We left the trailer at the Hampton Inn and drove on to Hwy 319 towards the quaint town of Carabelle (sp?) with a stop at Happy's BBQ for lunch. Amazing! They cooked BBQ Chicken without the BBQ sauce or skin - YUM. The Moorings hotel/lodging looked good on the website; the rooms are very spacious and new but the view is not what it could..a been. Off we drove again on Hwy 98 to St. George's Island across the spectacular bridge late afternoon to go sightseeing along the coast and inland waterway before heading on to Port St. Joe where we found the perfect lodging. It is an old hotel located right on the beach; the efficiency apartment room has a large balcony where we enjoyed a glorious sunset. Ron took a 45 minute walk along the beach after dark.

27 Jan - Wed: With reluctance we are leaving Point Clear and this pleasant hotel. After yet another delicious breakfast, hiking, the fitness center and a great lunch we traveled I-10 east because we are towing the motorcycle trailer. About 8:30 PM we arrived in Tallahassee, FL after Costco's RX closed! But we were not too late for dinner at our favorite restaurant chain: Ruby Tuesday's.

26 Jan-Tues: We are still here in Point Clear because the water is so pleasant; and we enjoy the food and Robin (pron:RRRHHHooben) the waiter from Holland. Each meal is better than the last one. Our room has a pretty awesome direct ocean front view which is not too shabby. At four PM a color guard marches along the beach front to fire the old civil war cannon marking the beginning of high tea. We walked a good ninety minutes before heading to the fitness center for 45 minutes.

25 Jan-Mon: Point Clear, Alabama - the Grand Hotel is a healing place for sick-uns. Smooch Smooch spent the day sleeping while Ron walked, hiked and enjoyed the fitness center.

24 Jan - Sun: We had a pleasant day despite Ron's newly gifted sniffles.
Cynthia is getting weller proven by a growing addiction to Sudokus: she zipped through 12 yesterday and ten today; this means she is fast approaching the moderate level. Will she reach the genius level she gave Ron for Christmas before the end of the month?

Driving I-10 east towards Alabama provided lots of time to phone friends to discuss our surprising news about the heart blockage. The quick history: two weeks past it seemed like a good idea to see what the cardiologist had to say after a year of following a stringent diet to reverse coronary artery disease so that Cynthia would not feel so restricted in the food she orders. Instead of improvement we learned the coronary artery disease is severe with a nearly complete blockage on the left anterior descending artery; he suggested there may be a trickle of blood flowing into the heart and/or corollary blood vessel development. The doctor had begun arrangements for an arteriogram hat afternoon with a probable stent or by-pass procedure if called for. Ron opted not to have this done because of a family history of problems related to intervention like stroking and clotting. Therefore the decision was put off and the most stringent reversal diet plus meds and exercise will be undertaken. The meds are Lipitor to lower the LDL (which is already well below guidelines lower limit) and Plavix to help prevent thrombosis (heart attack). All of the blood pressure, heart rate and lipid profile tests are excellent - and no angina or chest pain. It is undoubtedly genetic: Younger brother Dale died at age 48 and dad died at age 62, mother at age 70 of complications from heart attacks. Sister-in-law Carolyn said Dale did have chest pain following over-exertion the month prior to his heart attack. There were unheeded waring signs which is good to know while the diet and exercise restrictions will be followed exactly. 10 to 20 fat grams per day - 80 grams of protein and low carb: fish, chicken, turkey and lots of fruits and vegetables in addition to 45 minutes of exercise not allowing the heart rate to exceed 100. Now it is really a challenge to get this athlete's heart rate up to 100; taking a pulse has to be done immediately or it drops to 60 or below.

We stopped at Point Clear, AL (on the south east side of Mobile Bay) at the Grand Hotel (Marriott) for two days. The food is delicious! The chef was most amenable and so was Robin (from Holland) who waited on us. Despite the chill and Ron's new cold/flu we walked for forty minutes along the bay past antebellum mansions that Cynthia found awesome even. The starry sky is a sight to behold.

23 Jan - Sat: Pat B happened to be visiting her daughter in Lake Charles today and joined us for a fun lunch at Pat's of Henderson. A good time was had by all. We drove to Lafayette where we found such a reasonable rate at the Hampton Inn we decided to lodge for the night. Walking around town was short and sweet because the sidewalks rolled up literally (stopped). Smooch Smooch is feeling better but Ron has a scratchy throat. Lots of tme was spent on the phone with Rambo cousins planning the Fourth of July Family Reunion in Keosauqua, Iowa - as well as asking opinions regarding heart procedures.

22 Jan -Fri: The two's of us left the lake house in Texas late this morning arriving at Lake Charles, LA by late afternnon. Smooch Smooch has the flu or a bad cold so we are not in a rush. Wd found a room on the ninth floor of the Isle of Capri Casino with a view of Lake Charles. Casinos are not great places to stay although the food was good last night.

21 Jan - Thurs: We delayed our departure to complete asset allocations and financial stuffs as well as having more time to enjoy the lake house hoping that Smooch Smooch will get better faster. She has a nasty cold.

19 Jan - Tues: Mark the date! The final volume of the Rambo series went to AuthorHOUSE for printing today marking two decades of research and writing.
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Saturday, January 2, 2010

New Year-New Decade


4 Jan, Monday. We are still on the Big Island for another few hours. Many thanks to Cynthia for dedicated note taking for the blog. Thanks to all my friends & family, especially all of you who read this. Thank God for Cynthia; thank God for whatever still works on this aging body of mine. Lots of plans for next year, but just now, looking back, Cynthia and I have eaten at many fine restaurants since we started traveling together. Many waiters & waitresses have been memorable; my apologies for neglecting to recognize them while I worked obsessively on the Rambo book volumes. Three of five books are in print, and I am now finding the time for correspondence. Dale deserves first mention; he is the very personable omelet chef at the Hyatt on Waikiki who can carry on a convoluted conversation while keeping innumerable orders in his head and putting on an incredible performance of cooking and flipping six omelets at once. Charlene is our favorite waitress there, the seating hosts are very friendly, and we've never had a bad experience there. (Be forewarned that their all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet is wonderfully good but correspondingly expensive.) Recent servers in Hawaii whose names I've learned are Chris at Bongo Ben's in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii and Herbert at the Kona Inn, also in Kailua-Kona.

Now for a list of restaurants w/ dates and memories.

First, amongst the pile of receipts are reminders of these fun occasions:

Cynthia goes ga-ga over fleurs, so we stopped at the nursery just downhill from the condo on 22 Dec and bought a poinsettia. It seemed like the right thing to do to make her Christmas special because she gifts dozens of her friends with poinsettias for Christmas - never mind that the techie in me said, "but we drive past magnificent stands of poinsettia bushes growing tall & wild every day.!" (Cynthia swooned and loves my "consideration." The wild poinsettas are unbelievable, but we haven't gotten a picture yet.)

Walmart provided the most fun toys. They sell garden clippers for $5.98, a retractable saw for similar price, and best of all, a sickle for $4.18. These provided great fun and exercise whacking away at the vegetation, shrubs, and thorns that overhung the highway shoulder "walkway" between the condo and the Aloha Angel Cafe.

On 23 Nov 2009 we met Jane to look at the condo advertised in the West Hawaiian News. The sunset view from the balcony swept Cynthia off her feet, so we signed the agreement to spend the month of December there. Jane recommended the Aloha Angel Cafe for breakfasts, but indicated that the best dinner was probably at the Kona Inn Restaurant. It was indeed very good, and Herbert, our waiter, does an outstanding job. Their dining room looks out over a lawn to the ocean, and they floodlight the surf at night; it is marvelous. We went back on Dec 6th & 7th and 11th. Herbert recommended Bongo Ben's as the best breakfast if you enjoy seeing the locals.

We tried Bongo Ben's in Kailua-Kona, and we liked it. We showed up again the next day, and Chris, our waiter, remembered most of our specialty order ... and he gave Cynthia an affectionate air-kiss. We also ate there Nov 25 & 27, Dec 4, 6, 15, 18, 19, 20, 22, and 28, and once already in 2010. The two big draws, besides Chris and the food, are the views of the ocean breakers across the street and the pleasant post-breakfast walks oceanside. The breakers can be marvelous. 29 Dec 2009. Chris is back! (He had been "on vacation.")

We have two other favorites for breakfast: the Aloha Angel in Kealakekua, within walking distance of the condo. The walk alongside the roadway is a bit noxious, but we lack discipline and need the exercise. We enjoy all the waitstaff there, and even the cook (the owner) knows our order now. (They don't take American Express, so the dates will come later.) They are open 7 days a week, but only for breakfast & lunch.

The other favorite is the Coffee Shack in Captain Cook. (Yes, there is a town by that name.) It is a longer drive, but the food is excellent, and one dining room overlooks an outstanding wide shoreline view. This turned out to be our favorite breakfast meal because the omelets were always least greasy/oily & the coffee was slightly better too. We thoroughly enjoyed our usual waitress, but her name is lost to posterity. We've eaten there 8 Dec 2009 et al. (They don't take American Express, so the dates will come later.)

Jackie Reys Ohana Grill in Kailua-Kona has become Cynthia's favorite. She really likes their Greek (?) salad. We've eaten there 8, 9, 15, 20, 27, 29 & 31 Dec 2009. One waitress in particular is always happy & sociable, but we don't know her name.

Keei serves great food and would be within walking distance except that neither of us wants to walk alongside that busy highway at night (highway 11). They don't accept ANY credit cards and are closed Sundays. Cynthia really likes the Honaunau green salad. 12 Dec 2009

Thanks to George's suggestion, we finally ate at Island Naturals Mauka just past the Aloha Angel in Kealakekua. Their salad suits us perfectly and has proven fresh and tasty. We've eaten there several times since 28 Dec. (George is a helicopter mechanic.)

The VERY BEST ocean views are at the Kamuela Provision Company in Hilton's Waikoloa Village. Cynthia likes it so well that we spent a special New Year's eve at Waikoloa just so that we could enjoy the food & the view. The breakers are awesome. We ate there 25 Nov w/ John & the girls, 31 Dec 2009 & 1 Jan 2010.

We treated ourselves to one other "night-out" while here - at the Kilauea Lodge in Volcano. (Yes, indeed, that is the name of the town.) We had enjoyed lunch here on our "circle island" tour, but Christmas eve dinner and Christmas breakfasts were both big disappointments. The Lodge was a quaint & interesting place to stay, so we don't regret our decision. The Volcano House inside the National Park was a similar disappointment. My advice is to pack a picnic basket if you stay that far south.

Probably the best food & service on the island is at Merriman's Market Cafe in Kamuela (I thought this was in Weimea) - also most expensive. We ate there 24 Nov and 13 Dec 2009 at dark when we tried to leave at 11am and circumfrenciate the island by roadway. It was an awesome day.

Costco was the big surprise. THE ABSOLUTE most wonderful find was a 6 lb bag of pretzels with low fat & low sugar for 6.69, Edamame snack peas for 6.29, and 3lbs of blueberries for $6.59. CostCo gasoline is .50 cheaper than the next closest competitor nearby. Even Hilo prices were higher than Costco.

Kona Natural Foods next to Safeway & Walmart has the right stuff at the right prices for us. Their bulk rolled oats and walnuts were substantially less than anywhere else on the island.

Strange that the French and sourdough breads baked in the Safeway store are least fat, least sugar of any.

Target prices seemed good until we became Costco members. We scored Christmas lights and artificial tree (with kalidescopic fiberoptic lights).

When we first arrived here on the Big Island, we stayed in our time-share near the Hilton Waikoloa. It was a rude awakening to find that there are NO ocean views in the entire time-share location. It felt like a bait-and-switch since we had so enjoyed the views while staying at the Waikoloa when we bought the time-share. Oh well. The best breakfast on the island is still at the Waikoloa, but it is also the most expensive. The omelet chef is also personable and enjoyable. The hostesses remembered us (after a moment), and it was a treat to see little Sally again. We ate there about four times including the Thanksgiving feast.

The other fantastic place to dine and watch sunset is at the Fairmont Orchid in Kamuela, just north of the Hilton Waikoloa. The food is great as is the ambiance.

This takes us back to Waikiki. Our very favorite breakfast is at the Hyatt Regency Terrace Grill. We ate there 18 Nov and 2 Dec and probably several other times. Our favorite lunch/dinner was at Duke's Canoe Club because they have great ocean view, good all-you-can-eat salad bar, and the distance was just right for our walk. We ate there 17 & 18 Nov. We ate at Ruth's Chris Steak House once on 20 Nov - good food as always.

Then there are a few places we want to avoid:
The IHOP in Waikiki was OK once, but not good afterward.
Don Ho in the Aloha tower Market Place in Honolulu was abysmal.

The Doubletree Alana in Waikiki wins the honors for most outrageous charge: $36.75 for a six-pack of Diet Coke. Cynthia had taken advantage of the hotel's offer to stock items in the room in advance, but when we arrived in the room, the six-pack was not in the 'frig, so Cynthia called the desk. Room service brought the six-pack and a bill for $36.75. After several more hassles, the hotel finally retrieved the six pack & refunded the amount.

As always, I enjoy writing - too bad I run on and on and on. Love from Ron Beatty