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2020 - The Year We All Stayed Home

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I usually write a year end blog on New Years Day. I have been thinking about what I wanted to say about 2020. I went back and reread my year end blogs from 2019, 2018, and 2017. I noticed that each of those years I started out by saying this has not been one of my best years. And I ended each blog saying I was sure the new year would be better. This year I just don't know what to say. So I think this photo taken in Meredith, New Hampshire is the best way to start. What a long strange trip it's been.
Last years blog said we were already planning travel for February 2020. Well that didn't happen. Mark did buy his new car in February.

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And we did take a road trip to Odessa, Delaware where we went to a restaurant for the last time without a mask. Also with the new car we went to Woodland Beach, Delaware. That's a place I had not been since I was five years old when my family rented a boat and went crabbing in the Delaware Bay. The high lights of Woodland Beach were my photos of a lone house on the beach...

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..and a nuclear reactor on the New Jersey shore across the Delaware Bay. When I edited my photo of the reactor to a black and white image there was a spooky blue haze all around it like radiation coming out of it. Oh 2020 this was just my first surprise of the year.

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We started hoarding toilet paper, stocking up a two week supply of emergency groceries and hunting for masks to wear next. While doing this we got the word from my daughter Danielle that she had been hired for a job in Boston, She had been unemployed for most of 2019. She and her wife ended up selling their house in Atlanta, packing up a rental van and moving to Boston right at the heart of the original quarantine. List this under things to stress out Dad. Just as Danielle was preparing to move my other daughter Katie was diagnosed with Crohn's disease. She was hospitalized and of course we were not allowed to visit. Another item to add to the list of things to stress out Dad. We did go the hospital parking lot and wave to Katie's window. You can see Katie in the window above. I will not be embarrassed to say I cried on the way home.

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So what is next to add to the list of things to stress out Dad. After leaving the hospital Katie was told due to Covid and budgetary issues she was being let go from her job. Perfect timing. Just what a person with a major medical diagnosis needs. No health insurance. Lots of prayers were said. That's one thing 2020 has done. It has increased my prayer life triple fold. And within a couple of weeks Katie was offered a temporary job in New Hampshire! The company provided her with a beautiful log cabin on isolated dirt road with a view of Mt Washington in her back yard.

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I was a bit concerned when she accepted the job. The idea of her just being diagnosed with Crohn's disease and moving to an isolated cabin on a dirt road in New Hampshire was definitely another item on the things to stress out Dad list. She had to drive up for an initial interview and introduction to the new company. I did not want her to drive from Baltimore to Lancaster, New Hampshire by herself so I drove up with her. We were booked into a resort that had been closed for twelve weeks, The Mountain View Inn. We were one of a handful of guests there for opening weekend. Other than one or two other people were were the only guests in a 180 room resort. I will say in the midst of a world wide pandemic with quarantining all around this was a wonderful escape for three days.

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I wanted to be trendy and follow the big fashion statement of 2020, a Covid beard. I had never grown a beard before and I have to admit I liked having one. I still have it to start out the new year 2021. Add this to the list of things to stress out your husband.

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We were able to visit Katie in New Hampshire later this summer and also spend a day in Boston with Danielle and Andrea. It was a bit tricky going to Boston. Massachusetts had a ban on visitors from Maryland due to Covid that came with a healthy fine if you tried to spend the night there. We did drive to Danielle's house and drove with her to see some of the sites in Boston but that was the best we could do under the circumstances.

2020 continued to haunt us the rest of the year. Everyone has been affected by 2020 no matter who they are. It was no respecter of persons. I had friends who died. Friends who were very sick. And our beloved dog Delilah died this year. She was fourteen years old and had health issues. We did get to take her to New Hampshire before she died and she loved the cabin and the huge fields around it. She died November 8, 2020. We had a vet come to the house and we said our goodbyes on the back deck of our house.

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We were lost without her and knew we wanted another dog to fill the void as soon as possible. We found Tallulah just a few weeks later from a rescue site. We drove to central Pennsylvania to pick her and bring her home.

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But 2020 was not finished with our home yet. Two days before Christmas Tallulah darted out of our house and was hit by a car. We thought she was gone for good. Once again many prayers were said and out faith was tested but she survived. She had a dislodged shoulder and a multi fractured leg below the shoulder. There was concern this 18 month old pup would have to have her leg amputated. But as of New Years Day she is recuperating at home and her leg has been saved. We will have eight weeks of recovery and hopefully the leg will heal properly.

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As I said in the beginning "What A Long Strange Trip It's Been". 2020 is a year no one living now will ever forget. This truly has been one of the worst years of our lives. But my girls both have jobs. They both had adventures moving to New England during the pandemic. Mark's mother had Covid while in assisted living and recovered but sadly is fading from Alzheimer's every single day. Our dog survived. We have toilet paper. And as a family we all have each other.

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What is my final image of 2020? This about sums it up. A dirty mask left on a table in Littleton, New Hampshire. I'll this year here at the table.

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Posted by littlesam1 20:39 Archived in USA Tagged family new_hampshire 2020 covid year_end Comments (10)

Pollyanna Days in New Hampshire - Visiting small towns


View One More Time - New Hampshire on littlesam1's travel map.

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I saw the movie Pollyanna starring Haley Mills at the movies in 1960. I was eight years old. I loved the movie and was so sad at the ending. SPOILER ALERT - The cheerful Pollyanna falls from a tree and can not walk at the end of the movie. Haley Mills starred as Pollyanna and won a special childrens Oscar for the movie. Pollyanna was always the optimist. Pollyanna had been taught by her father how to play the "glad game", in which the goal is to find something to be glad about whether it's a disappointing Christmas gift or a life long illness.

If any year needed a Pollyanna attitude it's been 2020. And little did I know at the beginning of this year that I would end up in Littleton, New Hampshire the home of the author of Pollyanna. Mark and I had big travel plans for 2020. We were planning a trip to Sweden in the spring to visit Mark's cousin. And hopefully a trip to New Castle, England for a meeting with our Virtual Tourist friends. And maybe even a fall trip back to our beloved Hawaii. Instead we were hit with Covid and quarantines. And then my daughter lost her job due to Covid budget contraints. And a few weeks she was diagnosed with Crohn's Disease. So Pollyanna, where is the glad game in all of those? There was not a lot to be happy about presently.

Then the good news amidst the quarantine blues started to appear. My younger daughter who had also been unemployed for almost a year received a job offer in Boston. So she and her wife put their home on the market. Packed up their belongings, three dogs and three cats, and moved from Atlanta to Boston in the heart of the quarantine. About a month later my older daughter was offered a temporary job in New Hampshire. The company set her up in a fully furnished log cabin isolated on a dirt road in the northern New Hampshire town of Lancaster. The thought of her moving there for six month with the recent Crohns disease diagnosis certainly was not the part of any glad game for me.

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I traveled to New Hampshire with Katie the last part of June for her job interview. I had only been to New Hampshire one time previously and that was almost ten years ago. Little did I know that this year I would end up in New Hampshire three times including the job interview trip. I also had no idea that Mark and I both would fall in love with New Hampshire.

We loved the cabin. It was large and accommodating. The views from the side porch were breath taking. We got watch the early morning sun rise over Mount Washington. And then in the evening we got to see the beautiful sunsets as well.

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We got to visit two beautiful little towns on this trip. Littleton and Meredith, New Hampshire. Littleton calls itself "The Glad Town" because of it connection to the author of Pollyanna. And it truly is a glad town. There is a memorial to the character Pollyanna in front of the library. The crosswalks all have Pollyanna emblems painted on them. They instruct you to stop, look, and wave. . And the minute you step off the curb all the traffic stops for you and you really do feel like smiling and waving.

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We took turns posing with the Pollyanna statue. It was a vacation after all and we were tourists kind of, although Katie is now a resident.

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I was in such a Glad Game mood I even posed with the umbrella's at the Pollyanna Gateway.

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I visited Littleton on all three of my trips to New Hampshire this summer. Why three times to the same little town? Well other than it being the "glad city" it also has a brewery that I really liked a lot. Perhaps one of my favorites I have ever visited. It's the Shilling Brewery. It's located in an old mill sitting on a hill over the Connecticut River. Now here is a glad game face with one of their excellent beers.

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They also had excellent wood fired pizza and one of the best pretzels anywhere.

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And there was plenty of out door seating for a safe and social distancing experience.

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Littleton is large by northern New Hampshire standards but in reality it is only a town of 5,920 people. So it's truly a small town. But there is a lot to see and do there on a visit.

You can take a leisurely stroll along the Connecticut River.

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Take photos of the beautiful covered bridge.

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You can visit the Guiness Book of World Records longest candy counter at Chutters General Store

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Try some Poutine made from french fries, cheese curds, and brown gravy. It tastes a lot better than it sounds.

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Or you can just be a nasty tourist and leave your Covid mask on a table for someone else to clean up for you.

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If I returned to New Hampshire again any time soon I would go back to Littleton. I enjoyed it that much.

I want to mention another small town in New Hampshire also. Meredith, New Hampshire. It's about 45 miles south of Littleton.

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Meredith is a small resort town. It's a little larger than Littleton with a population of 6,241. It is located in the Lakes Region of New Hampshire on Lake Winnipesaukee. I mention it along with Littleton because it is the home to another fictional hero of mine. The author of the Archie comic books lived in Meredith, New Hampshire. And there is a statue to commemorate Archie in the town square. We saw this online and I said I have to go see this. I loved the Archie comics as a preteen. The statue of Archie sets on bench staring across the street to the work shop where he was created.

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The lake area is beautiful. There are several bars, restaurants and hotels in Meredith. We were there on a warm sunny day and the lake front was crowded. For social distancing precautions we did not visit any of the bars or restaurants while there. But I would like to return and check some out after we are over this Covid mess.

There are some fun sculptures along the water front also.

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I will be writing more about our time in New Hampshire. I never thought of it as a vacation destination. But Covid and Pollyanna's Glad Game changed my opinion.

Here I am back at home. Writing my blog and wearing my Pollyanna Glad Game tee shirt for inspiration. Take that Covid.

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Posted by littlesam1 11:50 Archived in USA Comments (16)

The Mountains Are Calling Traveling During The Pandemic 2020


View Weekend In New England - Pandemic traveling on littlesam1's travel map.

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I did not think I would be traveling this year. We have been under quarantine for three months. We had cancelled a planned trip to Sweden for June. We had grown content staying at home. No complaints. We had our masks for when we ventured out locally. All was good even in trying times like these. Then fate stepped in. My younger daughter had gone through a period of unemployment. She lived in Atlanta and had been offered a job in Boston. So she ended up moving in April from Atlanta to Boston and was driving all that distance in the midst of the quarantine. My older daughter ended up in the hospital in May for a week. And when she returned home to recuperate she was informed her company was going through a COVID caused reduction in force and she no longer had a job. So I had a lot more on my mind than just a pandemic and no masks could cover my anxiety. I was escaping a lot of this by looking at my photos and at Facebook pages related to Switzerland. Switzerland is one of my favorite travel destinations. The mountains calm me and bring me peace.

The first week in June my oldest daughter Katie received an offer for a contracting job in New Hampshire. She had only been unemployed for two weeks so this was a God send. The company interviewed her over the internet. They liked her and thought she would be a good match for their company but they wanted to meet her in person first. This was completely understandable. So she planned her drive from Baltimore to Lancaster, New Hampshire.

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Lancaster was not only in New Hampshire. But it was high north New Hampshire. This would mean at least an eight or nine hour drive from Baltimore. Not wanting to see her drive all that distance alone I offered to go with her. She happily agreed this would be best. So it wasn't Switzerland, but the mountains were calling and I must go. During our quarantine Katie sent me a few surprise gifts from Amazon to lift my spirits. The cup in the photo at the beginning of this blog was one of those gifts. The cup was imprinted with the words The Mountains Are Calling and I Must Go. So it does seem like fate was playing a game with us all and all things were working for the best.

Travel during a pandemic is different. I expected it to be different. I wasn't packing passports, power adapters, or language guides. I was packing masks, rubber gloves and hand sanitizer. Food was also an issue. It was a double problem. Katie was on a restricted diet from her hospital stay. And there was no place open for food other than fast food drive throughs and order in advance carry out. Luckily we were able to stop in Boston to visit my younger daughter Danielle and she prepared lunch for us. She was trying to prepare something for us that would be ready when we arrived so we could eat, visit and then hit the road again. But this was not easy. We had a major hiccup on the road. We were dependent on a maps app that streamed from the phone into the car through blu ray. We stopped at a rest stop where we gloved and masked up for a break. When we restarted the car the phone app for the map started an automatic update and we had no map for a few miles. When we finally had map service again we had missed a major exit making us arrive in Boston two hours later than planned. We had to text Danielle updates on our location so she could make sure not to cook too early or too late. It all worked out. We arrived two hours late and stayed longer than we had planned but it was all good. We would just arrive a little later in New Hampshire.

We also luckily had Mark at home giving us guidance. Mark is a map guru. I hate maps. Mark loves maps and studies them. When he and I travel he will have the trip all worked out in his head from the maps he studies at home. He then hands me the atlas, points me to the page, and asks me to watch for exits. I then get confused, read the map wrong, and end up having no idea where we are located. Mark was texting us helpful directions while we had the phone app updating. He mentioned to watch for the Tappan Zee Bridge near Tarrytown, New York several times. Once again I am useless with directions and maps and now apparently useless looking for bridges also. I never saw the Tappan Zee bridge.

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A while later Mark calls me on the phone and asks if we ever crossed the bridge. I said no. I never saw the bridge. But we were now past Tarrytown, New York and back on our way. He said then you had to have crossed the Tappan Zee River. I said no. There was no sign for the Tappan Zee River or Bridge. But we did cross a beautiful bridge about twenty minutes ago. It was the Governor Mario M. Cuomo Bridge. It appears the Cuomo Bridge is the name for the newTappan Zee Bridge. The original bridge has been demolished. Yes once again the map guru was right and I was not. Even when we aren't traveling together we still get into arguments over maps it seems.

Driving through New York State we saw signs of locations that immediately hit me with nostalgic memories. We passed New Rochelle which immediately reminded me of the home of Rob and Laura Petry on the old Dick Van Dyke Show. Then we passed Brewester, New York which gave me my best memory. I said to Katie we should stop in Brewester to dine at Lou Marie's French Restaurant. Katie glanced over at me kind of puzzled wondering where that came from. I told her he was Ann Marie's father. She was still a bit confused. Then I explained it was a reference to That Girl which she knows is one of my favorite 1960's TV shows.

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It was on to Massachusettes to see Danielle and Andrea. We had not been to see them in Atlanta for at least a year so we were excited to see them now in Boston and to have a quick visit.

After spending an extra hour with Danielle we finally left to continue on to Lancaster, New Hampshire. We had originally planned to arrive around eight o"clock but by now we were three hours behind schedule. We arrived at the Mountain View Grand Resort and Spa at eleven o'clock that evening. It was very dark on the back roads in New Hampshire with no kind of street lights. Katie mentioned she was glad I was with her on these dark roads. It would not have been fun navigating them alone. We finally found the hotel on a very deserted dark road. The hotel was immense. It is a 300 room resort. The hotel had been closed for eleven weeks due to COVID quarantine rules in New Hampshire. The had just reopened two days before our arrival. There were only two or three other cars in the parking lot when we arrived. We found they belonged to the staff and that we were the two of very few guests actually at the hotel. We had to wear our masks in the hotel lobby while checking in. The lady at the front desk said she thought we might have cancelled due to our late arrival. But she was very pleasant and told us she was glad to be back at work again.

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Mountain View Grand Resort and Spa

While in New Hampshire I spent my time walking and hiking the small roads and trails near the hotel while Katie was interviewing for the job opportunity. I saw signs warning of moose crossing. Although it would have been exciting I did not see any moose. I did see some deer along the road. And some wild turkeys on the farm at the hotel. We were told to watch for moose on the roads at night. It was difficult to see them in the dark. The same for deer. And to our surprise we were told to watch for wild turkeys also. We were told hitting a turkey could total you car as well as a moose or deer. Who knew?

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Masked and ready to travel back home

Our return trip home was not very different from our drive up. We missed one of our exits on the interstate and decided to back track to find the exit rather than continue to drive out of our way. Food was still an issue for us. With Katie's restricted diet and a lack of open restaurants we had to resort to fast food drive throughs again. We drove back through Vermont and stopped at a small gas station with a small store attached. The area reminded us very much of some old country stores we had seen in the southern part of the US. We noted the only difference was the accent. We were tired. It had been a whirlwind road trip. Leaving Baltimore early on Sunday and back home late Tuesday night. But it was a nice break from being house bound in quarantine. As always the mountains spoke spoke to me. I was refreshed but tired. And Katie returned home with a new job which is the best part.

It wasn't Switzerland but the mountains in New Hampshire were beautiful. They called me and I answered. Even if only for a day.

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Posted by littlesam1 14:44 Archived in USA Tagged mountains road_trip new_hampshire massachusetts boston maryland mountain_view_grand_resort_and_ Comments (14)

Remembering Elvis, Memphis, and the Queens of Comedy


View The Music Legends Tour - April 2018 on littlesam1's travel map.

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Just a quick reference to this blog for when I read it later. I am on my second week being house bound trying to avoid the corona virus. Many people have posted online about all of the projects they have completed around their home. They have posted all of the wonderful meals they have cooked. Some talk about time bonding with family. Me? I have been sitting in my family room daily with the TV playing in the back ground. I have not bothered to change out of my sweat suits. My dog is gaining weight from sharing all of my snacks I have been eating while watching the TV. And I am finding that I am not really hating it. It's becoming my new norm. I have travel plans that we cancelled which is minor in the grand scheme of things. I collect coffee mugs when I travel. So to entertain myself I have been having my morning coffee in a different cup each day, and have posted a imaginary travel moment with the cup on Facebook each day. This morning I used my Memphis Music Hall of Fame coffee cup and traveled to Memphis. This immediately sparked some memories, both good and bad, from my visit to Memphis. My movie on TV is a little boring this afternoon so I decided to write a blog about my memories of the visit to Memphis.

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Larry with quarantined beard and Memphis coffee mug

We traveled to Memphis in April of 2018. This was part of our Music Legends car trip with our friend Gillian from England. We drove from our home in Baltimore south through the Smokey Mountains and had many fun music related experiences. To me personally Memphis was the least exciting part of our trip. To be fair to Memphis though we had spent three days previously in Nashville. Nashville is a city that is alive all day. The streets are busy. The honky tonks have life music playing non stop. And the streets stay full of tourists. We were expecting a similar experience in Memphis. But we arrived to find empty streets and empty honky tonks. Beale Street, which is Memphis's main entertainment street could not compare to Broadway in Nashville. In Memphis defence we did not get to spend any evenings in Memphis as our hotel was about fifty miles south in Tunica, Mississippi. But our days in Memphis found Beale Street to be almost vacant.

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An empty Beale Street in Memphis

Away from Beale Street there was still much to see and do. We spent some time along the water front. We visited the Bass Pro Shop Pyramid. That does not sound exciting but it was quite fascinating and well worth visiting. It sits on the bank of the Mississippi River. It is huge. At one time it was a basketball arena. And it is very impressive. It contains a hotel, a tropical forest with live alligators, and a beautiful bar at it peak with a deck over looking the river.

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We spent quite a bit of time exploring the pyramid. Much of this was spent enjoying the bar and some cool drinks of course. We had to take the worlds tallest free standing elevator to reach the bar. So that gave us one fun fact to add to our list of accomplishments.

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World's Tallest Free Standing Elevator

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Mark and Gillian surrounded by an aquarium at the bar

The bar is located at the top of the elevator. It has an over sized aquarium filling the area behind the bar. It was a beautiful place for a drink. There was a large glass deck outside of the bar with a view of the Mississippi River.

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Larry, Mark, and Gillian on deck at top of the pyramid

Of course if you are in Memphis one of the must see attractions is Graceland, the home of Elvis Presley. I am a huge fan of Elvis. I believe Gillian also likes Elvis. But Mark on the other hand really has not opinion one way or the other on Elvis. So Graceland was kind of a non event for him.

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On the bus to Graceland - a less than enthused Mark in the middle

In the end Mark did enjoy the tour. But just not on the level that I enjoyed it. The house was a big tacky, dated and bizarre. But if you love the legend of Elvis you expect and appreciate this.

Graceland

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Elvis' Peacock Living Room

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The TV Room and The Famous Jungle Room

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Elvis Grave and Memorial at Graceland

Of course knowing me I had to take at least one funny selfie in Graceland. I found the perfect location going down the mirrored stair case into the Jungle Room.

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All in all the three of us did have fun touring Graceland.

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On a more somber note there are other historical sites to visit in Memphis that are not laughs and fun. We visited the Dr. Martin Luther Kind Jr Memorial at the Lorraine Hotel. This was not a place for fun selfies or laughs. It is just one of those places you feel you must visit. It was very moving and heartbreaking to see the location of the murder of Dr. King. I am a child of the 60's and have emotional memories that will never leave me from the day of his murder. Seeing the location and the memorial brought all of those back to mind. It's a place to think. A place to show respect. And a space to feel no shame in shedding a tear.

The Lorraine Motel - National Civil Rights Museum

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You can actually walk through the hotel room 306 where he stayed. However the museum was closed the day we were there and I was actually kind of glad about that. I can not imagine the emotion of walking through that room. I don't think I could have walked into the room.

The Queens of Comedy

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Adele Givens , Laura Hayes, Mo'Nique and Sommore - The Queens of Comedy

One of the biggest highlights for Mark and I in Memphis was the chance to see the theater where the video The Queens of Comedy was filmed. For the uninitiated The Queens of Comedy is a wild irreverent hysterical comedy concert filmed in Memphis. The comedians on the show were Laura Hayes, Adele Givens, Sommore, and our fellow Baltimore favorite Mo'Nique. Mark and I own the DVD of the concert. We have watched it many many times and each time are in tears with laughter. Gillian had not really heard of The Queens of Comedy so we had to teach her all about it. When the ladies arrive in Memphis they drive across the Mississippi River on the Hernando de Soto Bridge aka The Big M. As the cross the bridge in their car the raise their hand and shout MemPHIS with the accent on the PHIS. So when we crossed the bridge Mark and I both yelled MemPHIS. This was not the only time we yelled MemPhis while in the city. We yelled at at any given opportunity in the city. Even from the top of the Pro Bass Shop pyramid. Just ask Gillian

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You must yell MemPHIS when crossing this bridge if you visit, just for Mark and I

We talked with a lady at the Memphis visitors center. We mentioned our love of The Queens of Comedy and she laughed. She asked us "Do you guys really remember that show? That was a long time ago." And then Mark quoted some jokes to her and she cracked up. She said to us you guys are real fans and then shared a joke she remember from the show also. Poor Gillian was lost to all of this but she is used to that. We lose her at least once on every trip and have to explain to her our enthusiasm.

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We talked with a lady at the Memphis visitors center. We mentioned our love of The Queens of Comedy and she laughed. She asked us "Do you guys really remember that show? That was a long time ago." And then Mark quoted some jokes to her and she cracked up. She said to us you guys are real fans and then shared a joke she remember from the show also. Poor Gillian was lost to all of this but she is used to that. We lose her at least once on every trip and have to explain to her our enthusiasm.

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Mo'Nique we did you proud in Memphis. We shared your jokes. We yelled MemPHIS. We educated Gillian about your show. You are our home town Baltimore Academy Award Winning Actress. We are you fans.

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Mo'Nique

If you travel to Memphis and you see the Orpheum give a big MemPHIS shout for Mark and I and our girl Mo'Nique. And if you come to visit us at our house we will play the DVD for you

One last suggestion

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One last fun note about Memphis. If you visit the Hard Rock Cafe you can see Shakira's bra. If you are a fan it's worth the journey.

Posted by littlesam1 19:24 Archived in USA Tagged tennessee mississippi_river graceland memphis quarantine pandemic beale_street shakira the_queens_of_comedy mo'nique dr._martin_luther_king_jr lorraine_hotel bass_pro_shop_pyramid elvis_presley self_isolation coffee_cup Comments (8)

Hauʻoli Lā Hānau - Mai Tai's, Alex O'Loughlin and Another Bi


View Hauʻoli Lā Hānau - Another birthday in Hawaii 2019/11/12 - 2019/11/21 on littlesam1's travel map.

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Birthday morning on our rooms 9th floor deck at Aston Waikiki Sunset Motel

My husband Mark does not really care about birthdays. He does not particularly like celebrating his own birthday. It's just another day to him. But that is not me. I love birthdays. When the first day of November roles around I get very excited. That's because I don't only celebrate the day I was born. I celebrate the entire month. I usually jokingly label my photo's The Never Ending Birthday Celebration every year. Mark humors me and always goes along with my celebration month. He even goes out his way to make it special because he knows how much it means to me. Two years ago when I turned 65 he took me to Hawaii so I could climb Diamond Head on the my birthday. Hawaii has almost become our second home. We have traveled there four times in the past six yeas. It was such a thrill to stand on top of Diamond Head and take my photo on my 65th birthday. Now thanks to Mark, two years later I found myself back in Waikiki for another birthday.

We woke up early and the weather did not look good. Each morning when I woke up on this trip I looked out of the huge window and in our room to check the weather. And most mornings there was beautiful sunshine. On my birthday I woke up and looked outside to see a very dismal cloud cover.

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Oh well. I was not going to let it ruin my birthday. We had already had seven perfect days in the Never Ending Birthday celebration. So I was not going to get upset over a cloudy possibly rainy day. We were not planning on climbing Diamond Head this year anyway. But within the hour the sun started to appear and burn away all of the clouds.

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So I showered and got dressed in my Hawaiian shirt and prepared for the days adventures.

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My shirt almost matches that beautiful blue sky.

The first order of the day was a huge birthday breakfast. We love the breakfasts in Hawaii. I am not usually a breakfast person. But when I get out on the islands I love their huge breakfasts. We usually eat at one of two places near our hotel, either Cheeseburger in Paradise or LuLu's. Both serve huge delicious breakfasts. But I wanted something different on my birthday. So I told Mark and our friend Gillian, who was with us on this trip, I wanted to walk down Kalakaua Avenue to the Maui Brewing Company for breakfast. It was a good walk from our hotel to the brewery but I had seen photos of their breakfast and new it would be worth the journey.

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And I was correct. This was the best breakfast I had eaten on the entire trip. I had Banana Brûlée pancakes with macadamia nuts. The banana's had a crunchy sugar coating. The macadamia nuts were sweet and delicious. And the maple syrup was infused with an IPA beer from the brewery. The IPA was not to strong to take away from the syrups sweetness, it just addressed it perfectly. This was a great start to my birthday.

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Now that's a happy breakfast face.

We had turned in our rental the car the previous day so we could not drive any place outside of Waikiki. So my plans for my birthday were nothing like the previous year when we climbed Diamond Head. I had a few things in my head I wanted to do though. The big breakfast at Maui Brewing was the first thing and I was able to check it off as accomplished. My next goal was a birthday Mai Tai at the Hula Grill at the Outrigger Waikiki Beach Resort. In my opinion they make the best Mai Tai's in Waikiki. Later that evening I wanted to go to Arancino di Mare for an Italian meal. It's Hawaii, why not Italian? And finally I wanted to end the day at late night happy hour at Cheeseburger in Paradise. So nothing extravagant was planned. It was our last day in Waikiki. We were flying home the next day. So this plan was perfect in my opinion.

We left the brewery and walked towards Honolulu but we never actually got outside of Waikiki. We, or rather I had a major distraction. We did take some time for goofy photos. That should be of no surprise to anyone. I saw a tattoo parlor and thought it might have been fun to get a tattoo for my birthday while in Hawaii, but I really had not budgeted for that. So instead I just too silly photos outside of the parlor.

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I saw a tall condominium where I told Gillian that Mark and I could by our dream home. Gillian basically said dream on and let me know when you hit the lottery. I'll move with you.

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I still think one of the corner units by the upper pool would be an excellent investment. Maybe I can convince Mark this by my next birthday?

I then saw an interesting statue. It was not a memorial or religious symbol so I did not feel wrong for taking a funny photo with it.

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We then saw a pretty park and decided to cross the street and look at the flowers and trees in the park. As we entered the park we saw some white trailers in a circle. On closer look we realized they were dressing rooms and crew trailers for the TV show Magnum P.I. There were also signs directing you the from the trailers to the filming area for the show. We decided to follow the signs and maybe get a chance to see them filming a scene from the show. But here is the story. Every time Mark and I have gone to Hawaii I have always joked about running into Alex O'Loughlin who plays McGarrett on Hawaii Five 0 I am a huge fan of the show and have watched every episode since it started telecasting ten years ago. And Alex is a real fantasy for me. But each year we have not run into him or any of the crew filming his show. I like Magnum P.I. But it's not Hawaii Five 0. So seeing the trailers and maybe the cast would be fun but not the major thrill of Hawaii Five 0 or Alex.

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We followed the signs to the Outrigger Reef Hotel. This hotel is another one of our favorite bars with one of the best beach views in Waikiki. When we got to the hotel lobby it appeared the film crew was leaving. Then we saw two aids walking with Chi McBride from Hawaii Five 0!

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Chi McBride from Hawaii Five 0

I just stopped in my tracks and stared. So they were filming Hawaii Five 0 even though I only saw production trilers for Magnum P.I. My first thought was it's my birthday and I am going to see Alex O'Loughlin. But we never saw him. Apparently Chi was the last actor to leave the set that afternoon. So we continued on to the Reef Bar at the hotel. We did ask the bartender about the filming and he said it was not unusual to see it going on if you worked in Waikiki daily. Gillian told the bartender that I needed a drink. She said it's his birthday and I had just missed seeing Alex. The bartender laughed and asked me if it really was my birthday and I said yes. He mixed a mai tai and passed it across the bar to me. He said, "Here you go. Happy birthday! Compliments of the house!"

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Having to chill my brow at the thought of almost seeing Alex.

I jokingly told him I needed to chill. Being this close to Alex had me over heated. He laughed. Before leaving we decided to toast Hawaii Five 0 with a a Kona Big Wave. Kona is one of the beers that has product placement on the show regularly. The bartender then asked if we wanted one more. He said to stick around. Alex might be returning. We laughed and thanked him but we needed to move on. Their mai tai was good at the Reef Bar but it could not compare to my favorite at the other Outrigger Hotel's Hula Bar farther down the street. And having one there was my original plan for the day.

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Pretending I'm drinking a Kona beer with the cast of Hawaii Five 0

We thanked the bartender, tipped him well for his kindness and left the hotel. As we walked through the lobby we saw several big cars pull up in front on the driveway and we saw a lot of people getting out of them and heading into the hotel. It was the production crew returning! I was a bit preoccupied and looking all around when Gillian and Mark started yelling at me to turn around. They kept saying turn around, look behind you. And I turned and there was Alex, McGarrett in the flesh. He just walked past me. Wow...this was a birthday present.

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He was surrounded with production crew and they were trying to get him out to the filming location on the beach. He did wave and acknowledge some of the fans in the lobby. Mark and Gillian are both saying to me "Where's your phone! Get a photo!" Well I was just too excited. I did get my phone out and was trying to open the camera but I was all thumbs and he was gone before I could get a photo. But I didn't care. After six years and four visits I finally got to see a filming of the show. And it was on my birthday.

We left the hotel and headed back to Kalakaua Avenue. We did some window shopping at the high end stores that line the avenue. Then we eventually ended up at the Outrigger Hotel where the Hula Grill is located. You can try mai tai's all day, up and down Kalakaua Ave and you will not find one better than the one they make at the Hula Grill in my opinion. And after four visits in the six years I will admit I have tried them all. It was getting late in the afternoon. By the time we reached the Hula Bar we were getting hungry and also needed something cool due to the heat of the afternoon. I remembered how Gillian had mentioned my birthday earlier and I was given a free mai tai. So I decided to try it one more time. I mentioned my birthday to the bartender and voila! There was a complimentary mai tai sitting in from of me. And it had a smiling face on the glass as if to say Hauʻoli Lā Hānau Larry! (Happy Birthday Larry).

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I did need some lunch. I'd had two mai tai's and a beer on an empty stomach so far today. So I ordered shrimp taco's at the bar. They were an excellent fusion of Hawaiian and Mexican food.

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And then I ordered one more mai tai because they are so good here.

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So this had been a three umbrella day... so far.

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After lunch we returned to our hotel. We all needed to rest for a while. We had done a lot of walking and I had done a bit of drinking.

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After napping and showering Mark and I were ready to head out for my birthday dinner. We picked an Italian restaurant near our hotel. It was going to be something different from our standard Hawaiian vacation meals. We have several inexpensive Hawaiian shirts we have bought as souvenirs over the years. But on our last day we always save our dress Hawaiian shirts to wear. So we dressed up and headed out with Gillian to Arancino di Mare for an Italian dinner.

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It was the perfect ending to a very special birthday. But it still wasn't quite over. We decided to stop in to Cheeseburger In Paradise for their late night happy hour. It was near our hotel and had become our night cap stop on several nights. We had gotten to know the two evening bartenders, Andrew and Caleb very well. When we walked in Caleb laughed and told Mark and I that we had gone more Hawaiian than him. They are required to wear Hawaiian shirts and accessories while they are working. He said "Look at you two. The shirts, the kukui nut leis, and Larry you even have on the Makau fish hook necklace. I feel like I dressed down tonight." I used my birthday excuse once more to see what would happen. I told him we dressed up for my birthday dinner. He laughed. Then I told him I had been drinking free mai tai's all day. He said " but I bet you haven't had a birthday shot yet have you? " Gillian and Mark both laughed and told him that I had already had enough free drinks for one day. And then he asked me again if I wanted a birthday shot. And of course I said "Hell yes!" Jacob then made me a shot he called Hawaiian Gummy Bears and toasted my birthday.

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Everyone should have Hawaiian Gummy Bears for their birthday.

We ended up all smiles by the end of the night at Cheeseburger in Paradise.

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And still the night was not over.

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Our bartenders : Andrew and Caleb

We had learned from the bartender Andrew on a previous night that he was from Perry Hall, Maryland. Perry Hall is only about ten minutes from where Mark and I live. It was another one of those small world stories. After I finished my shot that Jacob had made for me, Andrew pointed to another man at the end of the bar. He was a local regular at the bar. Andrew told us that he was from Edgewood, Maryland and I should go say hello to him. So still in the happy birthday spirit I walked down to the end of the bar and said rather loudly "Hey Edgewood. How are you doing?" The guy looked at me like I was crazy and asked how in the hell did I know Edgewood, Md. I told her I had worked there for quite a few years at the US Army base. He laughed and bought me one last drink. . But you know what they say on the internet. Photo or it didn't happen. So then we took a photo together

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Making friends from Maryland while in Hawaii

Finally back in our hotel room. From the cloud cover in the morning, to the sunshine in the afternoon, to the darkness of night

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Hauʻoli Lā Hānau Larry. Happy birthday Larry. If you have to get old, this is the way to do it.

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The birthday is over. One last shaka "hangin loose" salute before the lights go out. And yes the lights did go out. We had a sign on our door telling us the hotel was to lose power at 11:30 pm until approx 4 am. for emergency maintenance. At least they left us a little survival kit.

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Mahalo (thanks) Gillian for joining us on this crazy adventure.

And a very big Mahalo to Mark for making it all happen.

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Posted by littlesam1 17:08 Archived in USA Tagged oahu hawaii waikiki birthdays mai_tai cheeseburger_in_paradise hawaii_five_0 mcgarrett alex_o'loughlin chi_mcbride @alexo'loughlin @chimcbride @cheeseburgerinparadise Comments (6)

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