Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Settling In

The view from our room
By 10:17, we were on the road and heading west, sodas and coffee in cup holders to carry us along.  Road trips are always a bonding time for us as we are trapped in a car for however long we are driving and can use it as a time to plan more trips, other events or just to catch up on what may have been missed in the day-to-day living of life.  The girls always have bags beside them of books to read, calendars, and notebooks to jot all these ideas down.  It’s almost like having a company meeting on wheels.  Of course, there is lots of laughing, teasing and one-liners that usually wind up posted on Facebook so everyone can share in the embarrassment.

Redington Beach was three hours away and we were in no hurry even though we were eager to get there.  As I said in The Trip Begins, I prefer getting to where we are staying early because I want to make the most of every minute.  As we traveled, I jotted down the names of places I wanted to go back and explore another time, such as Lake Alfred ( because I liked the name ) and Dinosaur World, which we plan on taking the 8-year old to.  It’s also a great time to jot down notes about scenery and surroundings that I can use in stories somewhere down the road.

Lunch is served
We were told check-in was four in the afternoon, but we arrived early and decided to swing by and see if it was ready.  Another couple that was joining us on our excursion was already in the town, but enjoying lunch, so we did it on our own.  Good thing too, because the sign on the door said that the condo office closed at four.  How we were to obtain the keys if we were on time or a little late, I have no idea, but luckily we didn’t have to find out.  The lady behind the desk seemed to know us, or about us anyway, before we said who we were and we didn’t even have to show I.D. before being handed our keys. The lady behind the counter, Betsy, was nice enough to issue us extra keys for each couple staying there and two extra parking spot stickers.  That was a plus because otherwise we had no idea what to do with the extra car that was part of our group.

Betsy also told us that the room above ours had suffered a major leak, which had flooded our condo, ruining the ceiling.  They had to replace a portion of the ceiling and had just finished painting it that very morning.  “You may smell some paint fumes, but it’s all cleaned up now.  They’re putting the finishing touches on it as we speak,” Betsy told us after we had asked to go see it.  We were more than welcome to go up and look, however.  After all, it was ours until Sunday at ten.

I wonder if it was made out of recycled crates
Being who we are, of course we couldn’t wait and took the elevator up to the fourth floor to see if the pictures on the website had been accurate.  We weren’t disappointed.  The balcony had a fantastic view of the beach and the pier leading out into the gulf for fishermen.  The entire condo was bright and cheery, with beach signs scattered throughout the house giving it a summer rental feel.  Each room had its own bathroom, a must for ten people staying in one place and it even came with games and DVDs if we wanted to use them.  The place was perfect and I already envisioned watching the sun set from the balcony while enjoying my cigar and scotch.  To top it off, the paint fumes were non-existent and we arrived just as one lady was finishing mopping the tile floor.  The room was almost ready for the chaos that was about to descend upon it.

Now it was just after one and my stomach said it was well past time for lunch.  We decided to hop back in the van and see what we discovered.  For me this is all part of the adventure.  I don’t want to eat at a fast food joint or one of those chain restaurants that smother us.  I want the small places that are unique to the area I am visiting.  What spots seem to attract the locals?  That’s where I want to eat.

Getting ready to watch the sunset
After about ten minutes, we came upon the Daiquiri Shack and decided to give it a go, mainly because of the word Daiquiri.  We were on vacation, after all, and happy hour is every hour.  It was a small raw bar with an outside patio covered in umbrellas as well as a nice air conditioned interior.  It was already in the 90s, so inside we went.  I don’t mind eating outside, but the temperature needs to be below lettuce wilting possibilities.

There were only four other customers in the place, two couples who had taken up residence along the bar in the center of the restaurant.  Behind the bar was a row of Daiquiri machines that reminded me of the Slushie contraptions in convenience stores.  The girls tried them, but I stuck with beer.  I prefer my drinks freshly concocted, not mass produced.  That aside, however, I could see us making this restaurant a regular hang out if we lived in the area.  The place was clean, waitresses friendly, and they offered live music and pool tables as well as a place outside to enjoy my cigar.  I wrote it down in my handy dandy notebook as a place to return to next trip over.

A better view of the pier
After lunch, and with Bill and Katie now having joined us, we decided it was time to haul our luggage up to the room after a quick stop at the grocer’s in order to stock up on snacks and breakfast foods for the weekend.  Luckily, Angler’s Cove had luggage carts because I was traveling with the same girls who took 28 pairs of shoes on a three day cruise.  They never pack light and it would have taken half a dozen trips from the car to the room just to get everything in.  With the cart it still took two trips.  

Once we were unpacked and clothes hung up on hangers, it was time to settle in and wait for the others to arrive.  Everyone was coming in at different times due to work schedules, so it gave the girls and me a chance to just kick back and relax some.  That’s always the best part, enjoying the place you are actually staying at.  Sometimes, as in our Tennessee trip, we schedule ourselves so much there isn’t really any down time to just sit and soak everything in.  That always needs to be on the itinerary and this time we made sure of it. 

By 7:30, everyone else was there and it was time to think about dinner, never an easy feat with a large group because of the varying tastes of each individual.  As a place was being selected, the sun began to set and we all congregated out on the balcony to watch.  There is something peaceful about watching a sun set, the colors, and the progression as it slowly sinks into the horizon.  It’s as if the Universe is saying the day is done, it’s time to relax and enjoy those around you.  Cameras were going off and we watched as a storm rolled in seeming to try and devour the sun.  If you have never made the time to see the sun rise or set, you really need to make that a priority.  It’s a sight that will be forever etched in your mind.  Personally, I prefer the sunsets because I don’t have to get up early to watch them.

From there we went to Mangos, a restaurant in the Double Tree just down the road.  This was the worst choice we would make all weekend.  The food was good, but expensive, and the service was slower than waiting to be seen by your doctor.  I don’t like to be pestered when I eat by the server.  Check on me once or twice then leave me alone to visit with the people I am with.  However, this was ridiculous.  We couldn’t get out of there fast enough, which wasn’t really fast at all.
The sunset that closed the day

Finally, we settled in back at the condo, everyone tired from the work day, but now no one wanting to call it a night.  Some of us perched on the porch, me with my cigar and whisky, while some filled the living room sharing stories and jokes and just talking as friends do.  We’re a tight bunch of silliness and hearing everyone laughing was as peaceful as the sunset we had witnessed earlier. 

It was late into the evening before the girls and I finally decided we couldn’t stay awake any longer.  As we retired to our room and settled in for the night, I drifted off to sleep knowing it was going to be a great weekend.  It doesn’t matter where you are when you are with awesome people.

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