|Virginia and Texas - Easter 1999|
Travelogue: Virginia and Texas 1999
By Roger W. Reini
Thursday April 1
I went into work this morning, officially for a half-day, intending to leave around 11. But as I worked late earlier in the week, I used that time to shift my departure time earlier. It was 8:50 AM when I headed down the road and off to Virginia. My first stop was at the McDonald's at Exit 15 off of I-75 in Monroe, where I had a sausage biscuit value meal. Actually, I might have had two, as I was rather hungry. Afterwards, I hit the road again. On the radio, I happened to hear "Vacation" by the Go-Go's. It seemed like an appropriate song to play. The drive through Ohio was uneventful. I stopped for gas just before the border with Pennsylvania. Then I drove some more on the PA Turnpike, past Pittsburgh and Somerset and the other small towns along the way. By 4:30, I made it to Breezewood. Originally, I might have stopped here for the night, but as it was still light and fairly early, I decided to go all the way to Culpeper. The remainder of the drive – through Pennsylvania, a tiny sliver of Maryland, West Virginia and Berkeley Springs, and Virginia – is uneventful. I tried calling ahead on my cell phone, but I had a hard time figuring out how to enter the PIN number for it. I finally figured out that after entering it, I had to press the SEND key. At 7:20, which was now after dark, I arrived. Everyone was down talking to a neighbor. My nieces were very glad to see me. After unpacking the car, I got more news: I was going to become an uncle again in October!
I watched Michigan State's hockey team play in the NCAA college hockey tournament semifinals. Unfortunately, they lost. I also intended to watch CNN/Entertainment Weekly Newsstand, as it was scheduled to have a profile of Tracey Ullman. However, the program was preempted due to coverage of the war in Kosovo. The profile wouldn't air until mid-May.
Friday April 2
When I got up, I hooked up my laptop to check my e-mail. That was when I realized that I'd left my AC power adapter at home! I was awaiting an important e-mail from the office, and I needed to be able to access my e-mail. The battery wouldn't last for 2 weeks. I tried ordering a new power supply, but they were out of stock. I ended up calling uncle Lloyd and asking him to go to my house (he had a key), get the power supply and send it to me by Express Mail. He did this (it cost $15, but it was worth it). My vacation was saved. For lunch, I went to the local Pizza Hut and had their lunch buffet. For dinner, we had hot dog casserole. Heather had gotten a helmet, glove and balls for T-ball, which she'd be starting soon. I helped her play catch for a while; she was beginning to get good at it. Later that night, we played catch out front until it got too dark. Candice kicked her soccer ball around (she was playing soccer). Otherwise, I did very little on this Good Friday. I did watch a hockey game involving the Red Wings; they won, but I fell asleep during it.
Saturday April 3
I had suggested that we go to BD's Mongolian Barbecue in Bethesda today, as I had been frequenting the one in Dearborn. However, they had been invited by friends Henry and Jennifer to have lunch. They all went to the Country Cookin' restaurant in Warrenton – there was one in Culpeper, but this one was supposed to be better. I could not go, as I had to stay home and wait for the mail, which would include the AC adapter. It arrived at 1 PM, and I was happy. I called Lloyd to tell him it arrived, but there was no answer. He must have gone out, I thought. It turned out that he was at the hospital, as Grandma Garrick had had a stroke. The neighbor children came over, and they were playing with Candice and Heather. They did chalk drawings on the driveway and the porch. Nothing was planned for supper, so I decided to go to the Country Cookin' on my own. It was a good restaurant, with a fairly decent salad and appetizer buffet bar. I had the fish and shimp dinner, which included the buffet. Later on, I watched the college hockey finals; Maine beat New Hampshire. I tried to play a DVD movie on my laptop, but there was no sound. Trying to figure out what went wrong was very frustrating. I finally figured out that I had to enable Zoomed Video support in the sound card (you're right, that's not obvious). I was so upset I wanted to kick something. Tiger the cat saw my mood and got out of my way, though I wouldn't have kicked him; he's a nice kitty, as is his sister Sweetie. The reason for my computer problems was that I had to reload everything from scratch recently.
Sunday April 4
Today was Easter. The first item on the agenda was the Easter egg hunt in the front yard. The girls had a good time finding the eggs. We talked to Grandma Reini on the phone; she seemed a bit down to me, asking about my health, complaing about hearing about funerals, funerals and more funerals. Hearing about Grandma Garrick must have gotten to her. In the afternoon, there was a second egg hunt at the subdivision clubhouse. When we went there, it was sunny and warm. But while we were there, it started to rain. The Easter Bunny (actually a neighbor) came by, handed out gift packs to each child. Our Easter dinner consisted of pizza delivered from Pizza Hut.
Monday April 5
I went to the gas station to fill up for the trip to Texas tomorrow. I was deciding how far I figured I'd go for each day. As I saw it, if I made Chattanooga by the end of the day, I would be doing all right. Back to my preparations: I went to Wal-Mart to get Utz crab-flavored potato chips. I saw Jimmy Dean was now making family meals. I noticed that Frito's was selling chip-and-chili packs; I bought one to try (it was OK, but I've had better). I picked up some Krispy Kreme donut holes and sticks from the Food Lion, and I had lunch at China Jade. I thought their buffet was good, but the buffet in Lincoln Park (back in Detroit) was better. Sharon told me that that restaurant was rumored to have served dog and cat at one time. I don't know if that was ever proven. We went to soccer practice at 5 – Candice scored a goal! Afterwards, we had buffet salad for supper. Later, I was having difficulty sending e-mail, and I was getting upset. Maybe I shouldn't take my laptop on my next trip.
Tuesday April 6
I woke up in the middle of the night with a sore throat. Was this the start of a cold? Yes, it was. Fortunately, I was well-stocked with zinc lozenges, Ricola throat drops, nose spray, etc. I started off around 7:17. I followed US 29 down to Charlottesville, then I-64 west to I-81. My cold – and the lack of sleep the night before – was making it hard for me to stay awake. I had breakfast at a Howard Johnson's somewhere north of Roanoke. I came close to falling asleep on the freeway. I pulled over a couple of times for a brief rest, though I never officially napped. After stopping for gas in Marion and having lunch at Arby's, where I could get some caffeine into me, and going for some more stuff at the CVS drug store, I must have caught a second wind, as I felt a bit better. Going through Knoxville and Chattanooga wasn't a problem. Indeed, I was doing better than planned. I stopped for the night in Fort Payne, Alabama, not far from the Georgia border. I stayed at a Holiday Inn Express, which was right next to a K-Mart across the street. There was a Waffle House down the road, and that's where I had supper.
Wednesday April 7
It was quite foggy in the morning, so I didn't leave until 8 AM. My nose had become very stuffy overnight, so I was using an inhaler and Ocean Spray to get by. But the sore throat was gone. I stopped at a mall in Tuscaloosa to go to the bathroom (the rest area was closed) and stop at the drugstore for cough medicine. Next, I stopped in Meridian, Mississippi for lunch at Luby's Cafeteria. I got gas there – no, not Luby's! I gassed the car at a nearby gas station. After leaving town, I had to decide which way to go. Head straight through Jackson and northern Louisiana, entering Texas near Marshall? Or curve south towards New Orleans, taking either I-12, I-10 or US-90 across the state? I went south. The drive through Mississippi was uneventful, and I stopped at the welcome center in Louisana for a stretch. Then I noticed the gas cap hanging down. I'd driven all that distance with an open gas tank (the door was closed)! I was mortified! I quickly put the cap back on. I decided to drive through New Orleans this time, thinking I might take US-90 and see some sights. But after getting stuck in New Orleans rush hour, I decided to stay on the freeway. When I got to Baton Rouge, I stopped for the night at the Microtel. It wasn't a bad hotel. For supper, I went to La Fonda Mexican Restaurant on Airline Highway. The food was good but there was too much to finish.
Thursday April 8
Once again, it was a little foggy. Also, Baton Rouge had a rush hour, and I could see from the parking lot that the freeway was also a parking lot. So I delayed my departure to 8:43. I take I-10 out of town, heading across at Atchafalaya swamp, through Lafayette and Lake Charles (where I had lunch at Waffle House) and then into Texas. By 2 PM, I was on the East Freeway near Jacinto City. I got off at the Federal Road exit, planning to take the Washburn Tunnel into Pasadena. As Federal turned into Shaver on the other side of the tunnel, I saw that Pasadena High School was undergoing renovations. I saw that the old Sears store had been demolished (it had moved a mile east to the shopping mall), and something else was being built there. The old Pasadena Plaza had also been demolished; an Albertson's grocery store was there now. I picked up the freeway near Almeda and headed down to Bay Area. It was too early to check into the hotel, so I went to Baybrook for a time. The movie theaters there had closed down. Then I went to the hotel, the Homewood Suites on Bay Area at Hwy. 3. It's a very nice place. There was a Ninfa's and a Boston Market within walking distance. That night, the hotel had a cookout, with grilled burgers, hot dogs and sausages. Even though I wasn't feeling the greatest due to my cold, I had some burgers. And they weren't bad! Afterwards, I drove around town – past the construction at 518 and the freeway, past our old house (a green Suburban was in the driveway). There was a new Denny's near the high school, built in the style of an old-time diner. It was near Food Lion, which had closed down. Nasa 1 was all torn up in Seabrook and El Lago. The Kemah Waterfront was very nice (more later). I went to the Albertson's on El Camino near Bay Area; it was a decent store. A lot had changed since my last visit a year and a half ago.
Friday April 9
I was tired from the driving and the effects of my cold, so I stayed in late this morning. I had breakfast in the lobby, or lodge as they call it. I took a shower and generally relaxed. At 11, I decided to go to Laredo's in Seabrook. I went via Bay Area and Red Bluff. The food was good, as always. I had the Special Dinner – a cold plate of chili con queso on a tortilla, a taco, a tostada that was a little wimpy today (it wanted to fall apart) and some guacamole, and a hot plate of enchiladas, rice and refried beans. Accompanying it was a tall glass of water. Make that two, 'cause I had a refill. Of course, I nibbled on chips and sauce before and during my meal. After all of that, I had to go visit the facilities; otherwise, I'd be miserable later on. There was a leak in the roof near the register, so I had to be careful. After I left, I decided to walk off my lunch at the Kemah Boardwalk. I went there last night, but I wanted to see more of it today. I took a lot of pictures and video of the boardwalk, the boats on the bay, the restaurants (Landry's, Joe's Crab Shack, Kemah Crab House, Flying Dutchman, Cadillac Bar, Aquarium), the hotel and the little shops, etc. Among the shops was a place that sold Beanie Babies and other things of that type. I got some as presents to send to Virginia. I drove through League City and got onto the freeway. Due to construction, the on-ramp was well north of its normal location; the temporary ramp was north of the creek. I stopped at the Bookstop and Barnes and Noble, then went to Baybrook and got a video on the history of baseball in Houston, most of it focusing on the old minor league Buffs. I had an Icee there, but it gave me cold burn in my sinuses and a couple of times in my stomach. By 2:30 I was back at the hotel. Because of my sickness, I didn't want to see any friends just yet, but I was making plans for next week. For supper, I had tomato soup and a po-boy sandwich. I stayed in to watch a hockey game and the baseball tape, and then I went to bed.
Saturday April 10
I had fallen asleep listening to the radio, and when I woke up occasionally during the night, it was still going. The Art Bell show was on KTRH. Around 4:30, I woke up coughing. It was pretty bad, so I took some cough medicine and went back to bed. By 8 or 8:30, I was up for good. I stayed in for breakfast. And why not, if the hotel's providing it as part of your room rate? After 10, I decided to take Highway 3 into town. Before the freeway went in, this was US-75, Old Galveston Road. I took it all the way to its end at Broadway, and then I followed that to Harrisburg Street and took that all the way to downtown. Definitely a change of pace, I was driving through predominantly Hispanic neighborhoods. I could see the new ballpark being built downtown, Enron Field. I wandered through downtown, having some difficulty due to a big event happening there. Traffic was bad in some areas, and some streets were blocked off. I eventually got to Westheimer, one of the main roads in town. I took that to the Bookstop on Shepherd, the Cactus Records next door, and the Mephisto shoe store just down the road. My current pair of Mephistos was in need of repair, so I wanted to get another set while the old ones were sent off. It turned out that the size I needed was in stock at their Dallas location, so I arranged to have them shipped to uncle Lloyd. Then I headed down Westheimer again, stopping at the Barnes and Noble across from the Galleria. Then I went to Evans Music City. Ten years ago, I bought a guitar from them, a Rickenbacker 360/12WB. I was getting over a cold then, too. And guess what? I got another guitar from them today, this one a Rick 380L. The body was made of walnut, which makes an interesting smell in the case. This guitar was on the uppermost rack in the store. I'm sure the sales clerk was relieved that he didn't have to put it back. Afterwards, I figured I'd better head "home", so I turn north on Voss heading for the Katy Freeway. After stopping at the Randall's Flagship store and getting some rolls and olive oil for dipping (which I end up never using), I head down to Alvin and Joe's BBQ. I'm on a mission for a barbecue baked potato. This was a late lunch, early supper, so I was pretty hungry. But I couldn't finish the potato. Later on, I'd go to the new Denny's diner in League City (I think it's owned by Hakeem Olajuwon's brother), but I wasn't very hungry, so all I had was a root beer float. It was good. One of the waitresses thought it was a well-made float.
Sunday April 11
My big thing in the evening was to have dinner with the Coneys.
Monday April 12
This morning, I went to see Lou Miller. She had another guest there, someone working on an article or a paper about sewing or quilting. After she left, we had a good time talking. Then it was up to the offices of Atomic Games, where I would meet my old friends Keith Zabalaoui and David McFalls. We had lunch at the Macaroni Grill near Bay Area and I-45 (very good), and then we went to see The Matrix at the new AMC 20-plex near Almeda. The things you can do when you own the company – take the afternoon off and no one can complain!
Tuesday April 13
In the morning, I went to see Rose and George. George was still in pretty good shape, but Rose was still suffering from her many ailments. Last year, while boarding a plane to Las Vegas, she was roughly handled by the person pushing her wheelchair; she fell out, breaking either her foot or her knee.
For lunch, I went to the Fresh Choice next to the Barnes and Noble on Bay Area. This was going to open as Zoopa in the fall of 1997. I was familiar with Fresh Choice, having eaten at several of their San Francisco locations. It was good. Back to the room for a short rest. Then I decided to go to the library downtown to research old TV listings, to recall what was on TV when I was young. I could distinctly remember TV programs from 1966, so I started by getting the listings for Aug. 1, 1966 in the Post. Many programs, I could remember; many, I couldn't. I could remember some of the newscasters from back then. There were only 4 TV channels back then: 2, 8,11 and 13. Then I did the listings for August 5, 1968. There were 2 more channels by then, 16 and 39 (16 went out of business). I picked a bad day to summarize, because that was the opening day of the Republican national convention. Channel 16 carried six hours of stock market and financial news during the day – CNBC 25 years ahead of its time. Parking downtown was horrible; I went inside one garage and drove around for 30 minutes, trying to find a public spot. I never did, so I left. I still had to pay $3! And leaving downtown at the height of rush hour was horrible! There was a lot of road construction, so I had a hard time getting around. I knew the freeways would be terrible, so I took Navigation to Broadway to Hwy. 225. That got me over to Red Bluff. Taking that, I passed the apartments where we lived before moving to League City. They look really slummy and run-down now. I wouldn't want to live there now. I took Red Bluff all the way to Seabrook, giving me an excuse to have dinner at Laredo's.
Wednesday April 14
Today, I was going to have lunch with Keith and his family. Unfortunately, that fell through for several reasons (his getting a cold, their meeting with the builder of their new house, etc.). Worse, I never got the message, as I'd gone for a drive around Dickinson and League City. So I ended up waiting for a half-hour at his office, only to learn that the meeting was off. I went to Hans Mongolian BBQ for lunch. It was a much lower-key version of BD's, but the food was still OK. I preferred BD's, though. That evening, I went out to Alvin to meet up with Helen and John and Gaye and Steven.
Thursday April 15
A front had gone through overnight, so it was a bit chilly as I loaded up the car. Today, I was going to need my windbreaker. As I left around 8, there wasn't a cloud in the sky. However, it was quite windy. I was a little concerned driving over the high bridge on the East Belt, heading out of town. I was listening to Stevens and Pruett on KLOL. Driving through East Texas on US-59 was pretty uneventful. Even though it wasn't officially a freeway for most of its length, the speed limit was frequently 70. For lunch, I stopped at the Hot Biscuit south of Nacogdoches. I drove through Texarkana, hoping to drive on State Line Road. As it turned out, I crossed that road and ended up in Arkansas heading northeast on old highway 67. I ended up taking that all the way to Hope. As I turned onto a road that would lead me to the freeway, I drove by President Clinton's birthplace. Once I got on I-30, I stayed on that until Little Rock, getting onto the loop around town and taking I-40 heading east. I stopped in Brinkley for the night at the Best Western. We stopped there many times on vacations, so I knew I wouldn't go wrong there. I had supper at the Western Sizzlin'.
Friday April 16
I left around 6 AM but stopped in Forrest City a scant 20 minutes later for gas and breakfast. Breakfast was at Uncle John's Pancake House or something like that. I had grits to go with the hotcakes; they were good. As I reached Memphis, I had to decide which way to travel: east through Tennessee and Kentucky and Ohio, or north through Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois and Indiana? Since it was now Memphis rush hour, I decided to go north. I wouldn't encounter any major cities until Indiana. It was still windy and still chilly. I was beginning to wish I'd had a heavier coat. I stopped for lunch and gas around 2 in Effingham, Illinois. Lunch was at the Steak & Shake restaurant; gas was at an Amoco station. I had not encountered any rain today, but that changed as I approached Indiana. It was a cold stop at the rest area in Terre Haute. From there, I went towards Indianapolis, and I had the misfortune to get caught in its rush hour. But I eventually got through there and took I-69 towards Michigan. I wasn't sure how far I wanted to go today. I decided to stop for the night in the southern Fort Wayne area, staying in a Best Western near lots of restaurants. And which of those restaurants do I go to? Captain D's. Remember, this was Friday night, so most of the restaurants were busy, and the hotel didn't have a restaurant of its own.
Saturday April 17
The last leg of the trip saw me enter Michigan on I-69 and head for home on I-94. It was 11:28 AM when I pulled into my garage, having driven 1341.4 miles over 50 hours. And I was glad to be home.
©1999, 2004 R. W. Reini. All rights reserved.
Written by Roger Reini