Yaya’s big adventure in Honolulu, Hawaii

This is the story of Yaya’s big adventure in Honolulu, Hawaii.

To set the stage for this story we have to rewind a few weeks back when Stacy commented on a Facebook post from a friend about a trip to Hawaii. Well, that started the snowball rolling and before I know it we had a full-blown travel itinerary. We had talked over the years about a vacation to Hawaii but it never seemed to be a realistic destination with work and the expense but after hearing that a friend was going I told her “see what you can find.” And she did, without hesitation – a week in Waikiki Beach on the island of Oahu that fell right into a great time frame between commitments at work. The week started off in the Doubletree then we could move to the Hilton Hawaiian Village. Something to do with the hotel points and such. I’ve learned over the years just to nod and agree when it comes to sales and deals but more on that later. The booking done, the anticipation begins, and the planning and then the packing.

Stacy: Okay, I have to interject here… My friend Kelly posted on Facebook that she was 1/3 of the way to Hawaii. I thought she was on the plane and just finished the first leg of the trip. I mentioned it to Glenn and he said, “I’ve wanted to take you there for a long time.” I said, “When?” He said, “Now”. Okay, that’s all I needed to hear!! Hawaii here we come!! I spent a few days looking over our airline points, hotel points, and even visited a great website to find what island should we go to based on our interest. I selected shopping for me and history for Glenn and found out that we should go to Oahu. Sounds good to me!!  If you want to go to Hawaii you need to check out this link, https://www.hawaii-guide.com/content/posts/which_hawaii_island_to_visit

Embarkation day, Wednesday, Aug 23rd

Vacation day finally arrives, none too soon for us. It had been a while

First class flight to paradise on airline points!! I sure do love FREE!

since we had taken a trip to somewhere that wasn’t just back home. Nothing wrong with that but it’s nice to vacation in a new location to see and do new things. So, Stacy and I loaded up the car with a couple bags, we tried to travel lightly and headed out to Phoenix for the eight or so hours of airplane time to get to Hawaii. We departed Phoenix on time and had a brief stop in LAX to hop another plane then off we went on the long leg to the south pacific.


Even though we are three hours ahead in Tucson, we still landed at night in Honolulu. Our next adventure began right away; getting to the hotel. Stacy vetoed the idea of just grabbing a taxi because there was no way she was paying that much to go eight miles down the road. We checked around some of the shuttle services and settled on one that only saved us a few dollars but he was ready to go right away. We had an uneventful twenty-minute drive to the Doubletree and still had plenty of time to check in and find some dinner. The hotel lobby was set up island style absent the entire front wall, open to the night with no windows. We could feel the ocean breezes as they flowed through the hotel and it really started to feel like a vacation. The desk clerk was overly friendly and seemed excited to see us as she welcomed us into her hotel. Such a nice change from some of the hotels where we’ve stayed in during some of our other travels. She spoke in broken English and was a little hard to understand but I must admit her English was much better than my Japanese. Room secured and luggage dropped off, now we’re off to find food. Stacy’s not a big fan of burgers but Cheeseburger Waikiki was right next door to the hotel and it was late and we were very tired so she didn’t argue about it this time. We shared a Hawaiian style chicken sandwich with pineapple and barbecue sauce to start off the island vacation, couple sodas and back to the room. Since we have a few extra points at Hilton properties from all my travel at work, they kindly upgraded us to the penthouse suite. Even though it was only one night it was nice to have a little extra room to move around in before bed.

Vacation day two, Thursday, Aug 24th

We started the morning off with a quick snack at the hotel breakfast buffet then off for a hike to the Ala Moana Mall. (Where’d you think we’d be going!) Luckily for us it was only about a quarter mile from the hotel and a pretty easy walk because again, Stacy wasn’t paying for a cab. This mall was on our list of must-see stops. I’d been there on a previous trip and knew without a doubt Stacy would enjoy shopping here so we had to make this a priority. The mall is three and four stories tall and has just about any store you could imagine along with a bunch of restaurants. Like a lot of businesses on the island, it’s mostly open air. The center has no roof at all and we could still feel the sea breezes while walking the halls in the Hawaiian sun. I’m not a fan of shopping but this mall makes it enjoyable. We took a quick few laps around each level then spent some time in the lower area near the IMG_2563food court. Step outside the court and you enter the parking garage where surprisingly there are several stores that run between the food court right into the covered parking areas. The layout is unique and something I’ve never seen anywhere else. It almost feels like you’re walking along the street going between stores in town. We spent a couple hours at the mall, mostly to look at the scenery, watch the people and enjoy the weather before we headed back to the hotel to check out and move over to the Hilton Hawaiian Village where we’d spend the remainder of the week.


Stacy decided to forego the taxi, again (see the pattern here) and we walked back to the DoubleTree and then over to the Hilton. It was a quick walk, only a quarter mile back, grab the suitcases then another few blocks to the Hilton. That walk was a little slow since we were dragging suitcases down the sidewalk but we managed. Once we got there we made a quick lap through the resort to check out the four different towers open for us to choose from then headed to reception. We (Stacy) chose the ‘Diamond Head’ tower which offered us a larger room (a suite) but most importantly, a nice view of the beach and it seemed to suit someone’s personality.

Once we got into our room we dropped our bags and headed out on a more thorough exploration of the resort’s village area. We ate lunch at the Tropics Bar and Grill at the edge of the resort, right on the beach with a wonderful ocean view. They had a pretty fancy ‘Chef Matthew’ style menu but we also found some pork nachos with fruit salsa that we liked and actually came back a few times throughout the week to get them again. After lunch we wandered over to the shops in the center of the resort between the towers. Several shops and restaurants lined the inner streets and gave off a small town, local feel. We found souvenir stores, jewelry stores, expensive clothing stores, several restaurants and even a Harley Davidson store.

Vacation day three, Friday, Aug 25th

Off on a walkabout Waikiki. We headed toward downtown and the shopping malls. Along the way passed through Fort DeRussy Park and walked the winding paths under the shade trees. It would’ve been easy to set up a hammock and spend the day in the shade, with the ocean breeze blowing through the leaves. But, we didn’t stay long, had malls to see and bargains to hunt. We passed by the Hale Koa Army recreation center and hotel where Stacy stopped to reminisce about phone bills gone awry and then off to Trump Tower. We didn’t go inside but did stop for a couple pictures by the big sign for Mema.

Stacy: Glenn briefly mentioned my phone bill story, I will share a little more. When Glenn was stationed in Korea he took annual leave to vacation in Hawaii. Glenn called me when he arrived at his hotel, the Hale Koa, for a brief chat. Long story short, I thought we had free long-distance because my mom worked for AT&T. I never had a long distance charge on my private line so I said, let me call you back, it’s free! We talked all night long until the sun rose in Hawaii. A few weeks later a very unhappy mother picked me up from work. It took me quite some time to pay off that phone bill but it was worth the money.

The first mall we came across was the Royal Hawaiian Center, a two-story mall with lots of yuppie type stores. I didn’t recognize most of the brands but Stacy did! We hit a couple shops and then spent some time looking at jewelry on some of the kiosk carts in the center but nothing really caught our attention. We stopped for a few moments to watch some mall hula class. I was sure Stacy was about to break out in song and dance.


We wrapped up and crossed the street to the International Marketplace Mall. I thought the stores in the previous mall were yuppie, these were beyond yuppie; yuppie squared I suppose. The Hawaii theme really continued inside this mall with several huge trees in the middle and they even had a waterfall coming out of the ceiling. Stacy stopped by a Ferrari in the middle of the mall for a quick peek. I convinced her it wasn’t her color or I think we’d have been test driving it before the day was out.

Next on the agenda was lunch. We headed for Waikiki Beachwalk Shops and Duke’s restaurant for lunch. Duke’s is a casual beachside restaurant that leads right out into the sand. You eat lunch with a view of the surfers and sunbathers. We picked a table with a great view of the beach to continue the vacation ambiance, then headed to the buffet. We dined without coupons so it was the best we could do.

After lunch we headed back to the Fort DeRussy Army Museum and took a quick tour. The museum documents the fortifications made to the islands leading up to and during the war in the Pacific. One display is dedicated to the period following the attack on Pearl Harbor and describes how the islands were severely restricted under martial law and rationing of goods and services. Stopping by this museum was a great precursor to our upcoming tour of the Pearl Harbor memorial.

After we cleaned up at the hotel from our exploration we picked Benihana for dinner. Stacy and I both love Lampu in Mt. Dora so we expected this to be about the same. I mean they cook at the table just like Lampu, right? Nope, not even close. Aside from the chef hats and the flying utensils there wasn’t much in common at all. Stacy was quick to point out no ‘house special’ then she got caught up on up-charge for fried rice. That was it, she was bent and there was no coming back. We were sitting across from a group of ladies who had apparently hit the lottery. They were knocking back fifteen-dollar drinks and ordering the filet of cash. I was waiting for the stolen credit card or counterfeit cash to pop out to cover that bill. Those of us on a normal budget stuck to the cheap seats and kept it reasonable as we could. We still ended up with a bill easily over fifty dollars.

Vacation day four, Saturday, Aug 26

Off to breakfast at the local McDonald’s because that’s what you do on vacation when you don’t want to spend fifty dollars on toast at the hotel. We decided to take a morning walk and I don’t think either of us wanted the yuppie stuff at the hotel anyway. When we IMG_2682.jpggot to the restaurant both of us enjoyed reading the unique Hawaiian menu. I can’t say I’ve ever seen Spam, Eggs and Rice on a McD’s menu but the locals were digging it; several plates passed us while we stood in line. We laughed all the way to the register, then realized I didn’t have my wallet; luckily, we had my phone with the apple pay thing and wallah- it worked! McBLTs for us.

Time to head back to the beach to get a seat on our towel before the hotel emptied out and all the sand disappeared under tourists. We were slick and found some shade below a nice tall palm. That worked for about thirty minutes until the sun moved and so did our shade. Grab the towel and slide to the left. About thirty minutes and another slide to the left. All right, maybe not such a great plan. We headed down to the water for a splash in the ocean. We quickly learned the Pacific is a little colder than the Atlantic Ocean and there was quite the undertow making it difficult to stand in one place. I also noticed that the sand wasn’t what we were used to at Daytona. This was more the crushed seashells type and a little rough on the feet. All in all, nice beach but I think I’ll keep Daytona. Can’t beat the soft sugar sand that you can drive right onto.


We had lunch at the Tropic’s restaurant again, more nachos! Then it was time to get ready for the luau dinner. We met the bus and headed out to see more Hawaii. When we arrived a nice lady in a coconut bikini gave us flower necklaces and we took a quick welcome photo. I tried not to smile too much, didn’t want to get in trouble right away. Once we arrived inside and found our seats we had a few hours until it darkened enough to start the show. There were several activities to do while we waited. Stacy found palm frond folding and lei making to occupy the time. Once the show started it was pretty captivating. The ladies were impressive with the wiggling and all. The men were doing the native warrior thing with the flaming baton and spear tossing. All in all, it was pretty impressive. I took quite a few pictures of the wiggling hula girls. Somewhere in there we had the opportunity to run to the Hawaiian BBQ a couple times. It was alright but we’re spoiled with our Sonny’s BBQ from back home. On the way out we stopped for another quick photo with the coconut girls before jumping back on the bus.

Vacation day five, Sunday, Aug 27

I got to examine the coconuts so it’s only fair that Stacy gets to examine jewelry. Today we took the short bus, literally – held about eight people, to the Maui Divers Jewelry Design Center tour where they make the doughnuts.  I think they check your credit before you go up the elevator and into the ‘halls of misery’ as you follow the too happy to be there on a Sunday guide as he walks us down through what could best be described as jewelers under glass. Since it was Sunday there was only one actual artisan behind the thick glass but it was pretty interesting to see him working on some gold rings. Our tour guide took us down the hall and past several work areas that might be described as surgery rooms for gold and gems. They were all painted white and well-lit with lots of tongs and tools laid about. There were Tupperware card catalogs with clips and pins and hooks just waiting for someone to make them into something fancy. We paused by the pearl room, and by paused I mean asked a thousand questions. Stacy made sure that when she got to the buyin’ area, she was well educated on what to look for. Finally, we made it out of the real-life dungeons and dragons tunnels and burst out into the bright mid-day sunshine that was actually the showroom. There were more than enough sales ladies ready and willing to tell us what we just saw and why we needed a genuine Maui Divers souvenir (or three). Stacy looked up and down each aisle, then across, then back across, then in reverse, then we asked a ton of questions; then we went to lunch. Surprised as I was, we got nothing! She found better stuff at Costco I think but we had a great time looking and tormenting the guide.

Off to the mall for lunch, on foot since the bus was moving on ‘island time’ and we wanted to get there before dinner. Since it was just a few blocks we made the sacrifice and walked in the sun the entire five blocks. After surviving our exhaustive trek we chose to stop by Islands Fine Burgers on the top floor of the mall. We split a chicken dish with rice, pineapple and some teriyaki sauce that I think we tried to capture in the picture. This is a place I had the opportunity to stop by on a previous visit and wanted to take Stacy back to for the experience. It didn’t disappoint and the waiter provided quite the entertainment. He claimed to be a Hawaiian native despite the prominent Boston accent. Quite the character and definitely kept lunch entertaining.

We walked the mall a few more times and picked up some souvenirs for the kids and Stacy did a little shopping with her other boyfriend “Clarence.” We always look for Clarence when we go to the mall; if any of the family shopped with Stacy they’ve met Clearance.

IMG_0488Stacy: Okay everyone, I have to share. Here is a look at what “Clarance” helped me find. My favorite purchase in Hawaii is an Alfani white dress that I picked up for $15 (regular price $110). When I purchased the dress I had about 10-15 pounds to lose before I could wear it out but I couldn’t pass it up. When you try something on and it makes you feel happy you just have to get it!!

Dinner was a little more exciting for us this day. We had our hearts set on all you can eat crab legs at this restaurant we passed while dragging our suitcases from the first hotel. The sign prominently said all you can eat crab legs so we were all in on this one. Well, the reality of it was not so much on the eat part. We checked in with the comatose lady at the door and grabbed a table which already seemed to have a nice coating of grease or oil or something sticky. But, we’re troopers and can overlook a little dirt and such to get all you can eat crab legs – got our plates and off we went. To the empty bar. Yup, all out of crab legs, so there goes the eat part. They had some cold shrimp and other miscellaneous seafood looking stuff but no crab. We asked nicely, then whined and eventually bitched a bit. Someone yelled at someone else in the back who came out looked at the empty bin with no crab legs and then yelled at someone in back, mind you all in Korean or Japanese, I’m a little rusty on both. But to our dismay, still no crab legs at the all you can eat crab leg buffet! Decision time – not really; we both looked at each other and I think said simultaneously ‘let’s go.’  Off to restaurant number two, the village sandwich shop but nothing really jumped out at us there and the seats were covered in kids. Not the kind of quiet dinner we were looking for so off to restaurant number three the Tropic’s restaurant. Quick glance at the menu and nothing looked like it wanted me to eat it. I found a very expensive burger that I’d have had to ask them to take everything off in order to cover it with ketchup and mustard, just not that cultured I guess (ask my brother, no chocolate covered bear for me). So, if you’re keeping count, off to restaurant number four. This time we went for what we know Outback Steakhouse. Nothing like going all the way to Hawaii for some Aussie chips!  Finally some food we could sit down and enjoy. We know there was a long day tomorrow so off to the hotel for some needed sleep.

Vacation day six, Monday, Aug 28

Off for our early morning Island Tour. Started off with a thud because Stacy “don’t do” taxis and Stacy “don’t do” mornings. I think she dislikes mornings even more though but she was a trooper and we were down at the bus by 0600, or 6am for normal folks. We were off to the Pearl Harbor Memorial to start the day. The tour advertised tickets to the memorial and we found that it actually meant they drive us to the gate and we stand in line with all the other tours for the free tickets to get in. So I’m in a marvelous mood already, because I could have rented a car and done the same exact thing but we’re here and time to make the most of it, as we stand in line for the next thirty minutes. But hey we got lucky and got the tickets for the second round of entrants. Quickly we passed through the gate like a bunch of middle-aged kindergartners following our teacher. At least we didn’t have to hold the rope to stay together.

img_1298.jpgThe Navy manned to boats and ran an orderly transition from shore to the memorial above the Arizona. We disembarked the boat and entered the white-walled arch that sits at the last resting place of the Arizona. I was immediately taken by the small size of the harbor. I could imagine the ships stacked side by side two to a tender all tucked into this harbor. I guess its hindsight armchair quarterbacking to imagine all our eggs in such a IMG_1309small basket. I’m sure there were senior leadership reasons for bringing all the ships into port the way they did. We took some pictures, watched the oil float to the surface and read some of the names on the wall. I had not had the opportunity to visit this memorial on previous trips but I’m very glad we made it a point on this one. I’m doubly glad that I had someone like Stacy who could appreciate the moment and the history that accompanied such a serene solemn place.

I think she read and studied the markers more than I did. I really appreciated her company as we spent the rest of the tour discussing what we saw and the audio that we listened to as we went from marker to marker. One thing that Stacy and I did notice was that it appeared as though there were more foreigners at the memorial then Americans. I hope this was just an off day or a perception thing. It’s a sad state of affairs when someone from outside our shores appreciates our history more than our own people. I hope and pray that’s not the case.

Onto the rest of the story, we found our kindergarten teacher and boarded the bus for more adventures. Off we went to the Pineapple plantation and quite the plantation it was. We drove through miles of farmland and finally hit the tourist shop. There were gifts galore that all had a pineapple theme. IMG_1394Pineapple ice cream, pineapple gum, pineapple candy. In the back there was a nice lady that even educated us on the funny knives you see in the store for pineapples. Apparently there is a ‘right’ way to cut one open. I didn’t know that I’d been doing it wrong all these years. Although I can’t actually recall when the last time was I cut open a pineapple but for sake of this story, I now know the Hawaiian approved cutting technique. Stacy tried a slice of pineapple with some red powdered sugar and dripped red juice down her white shirt. Stacy washed off the juice and we wrapped up at the pineapple farm and drove up to the Polynesian Cultural Center for a quick lunch. A chance for a little more shopping and someone ended up buying a flowery sarong dress thing. We left the Center and our kindergarten teacher drove us along the North Shore where we stopped for photos. We didn’t get to explore much of the beach because we had more stops to make; and she was double parked. We pulled into the blow hole park where we got rained on a bit but had the opportunity to see waves crash into the rocks and blast out the ‘blow hole.’

We stopped by Hanauma Bay and learned that the big moon shaped bay used to actually the mouth of an ancient volcano that filled with water when the outer lip fell away and dropped into the ocean. Our kindergarten was confused about the time then said we were ahead of schedule so we got to drive through the Diamond Head Crater for a quick peek then down through the ‘Beverly Hills’ of Hawaii with the big million-dollar homes then back to our hotel. We were both exhausted by then and had to start packing for home so off to a familiar place; dinner at Tropics Restaurant for more pork nachos.

Stacy: Leave it to me to make a mess but I learned something… antibacterial gel on a paper towel takes out just about anything. The very noticeable red stain was gone in a matter of minutes. For my friends heading to Hawaii, the tour of the island was great but expensive, about $110 per person. If I were to do it again, I agree with Glenn, rent a car and get out your GPS then you can move along at your own pace. Don’t miss Pearl Harbor and make sure to do the audio tour. The stories told by the survivors really added to the whole experience. I could have stayed there much longer than the time allotted on the tour. If we had seen Hanauma Bay when we first arrived I would have spent an entire afternoon snorkeling with the fish around the coral reef.

Return travel day, Tuesday, Aug 29

Final day of vacation so we got up and out early. Since at least one of us was awake and wanted to see the ocean again we headed over to Ala Moana Park. Out on the end of the park there are piers stretching into the ocean and surf breaks all along the edge. We found a quiet area on the cement wall and sat for a while just watching the waves crash into the rocks. We could see the tiny crabs fearlessly darting among the rocks between waves. If there had been a hammock strung up there I could have spent the day just watching the surfers and listening to the waves.

Since someone got Stacy up so early, mostly against her will, I had to buy her breakfast. Off to McDonalds again! After feasting on spam and eggs (just kidding, I had a bacon biscuit and Stacy had a sausage biscuit but the spam was funnier), Stacy decided to visit the girls room. The fine folks at the McDonalds weren’t taking any chances with their restroom key, it was chained to a gallon milk jug. We laughed (mostly I laughed) at that as she disappeared out the door and around the corner with her milk jug. After breakfast we headed back to the room and packed for our return trip. The hotel gave us a place to check our bags and go sit by the pool. We had a time slot for a courtesy room later in the day to go change and clean up for the trip back home so we were all set to sit in the sun and hit the pool. And then the rain came, and it really came. The whole pool deck became a shallow pond. Luckily we found a gazebo to hide under until it let up. After the deluge stopped we jumped back out to some good chairs and resumed relaxing; for about thirty minutes before it came down again. We finally gave up and headed back into the village to check out the shops one last time. We also stopped by Tropic’s restaurant to use up our remaining resort credit by indulging in more nachos. After we exhausted ourselves in the stores we headed up to the courtesy suite and dressed for the trip. Stacy scheduled a bus to pick us up at the hotel so we didn’t have to use a taxi at all on the trip. We were down in the lobby for a little while and I started to get nervous because it was a bit late and there was heavy traffic out of the tourist area to get to the airport. The bus finally showed and we were off at a snail’s pace. We rode and stopped and drove and stopped and turned and stopped and inched and stopped and before we knew it we were right back at our hotel again. The bus driver actually drove around the block, at ‘island time’ speed and we were right back where we started. I couldn’t believe it but Stacy managed to calm everyone down a bit by playing the weather app on her phone. She hit the app and it loud and proud said; “Tonight you’re going to have Under Boob Sweat, just saying.” Everyone on the bus got deathly silent as Stacy giggled and snickered and fumbled trying in vain to silence the phone. She even tried to sit on it but no luck, everyone heard it. Then as if once wasn’t enough she tried it again as if to say,“yup, just in case you had any question about where it came from or what you heard I’m here to remove any doubt.” After that we had a pretty uneventful ride to the airport and we actually made it on time. Now ‘on time’ to me is about two hours early; ‘on time’ to Stacy is about fifteen minutes early with a mad dash to the gate. She wasn’t all that thrilled that we were there a little early but we agreed to disagree and found a Burger King for our last Hawaiian dinner. A little anticlimactic but we made our flight and didn’t break the bank getting there. Off for the long ride home to our adopted state of AZ.

Goodbye Hawaii! We had a great time!!


The kids’ big adventure to Arizona!

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You might not have heard about it on the news but Hurricane Bailey blew through Tucson this week. She even brought along Britt and Will for an eventful five-day whirlwind visit. After a long airline flight, they jumped right in and started the week off with a stop by Pepa’s office for a quick meet and greet then off to lunch at Street Taco. Bailey quickly warmed up to the local pigeons while we waited for our lunch. By the time Yaya arrived with our tacos, Bailey was already on a first name basis with ‘Alyssa’ and ‘Fred’ who were more than happy to hang around doing bird stuff and hoping for some scraps to fall from her side of the table. Britt, Will, Bailey, and Yaya wrapped up their downtown tour and headed to the house to check out the accommodations. After a quick tour of the house, Bailey hit the pool where she spent at least a couple hours each day for the duration of the visit. When she wasn’t in the water she was motoring around the house in fast forward, taking it all in and checking it all out. She was comfortably at home in her first afternoon at Pepa’s and Yaya’s.

On day two, we loaded up the car and drove up Mt. Lemmon to check out the view. The kids got to see the elevation start in the 2,000s as we slowly drove to the top where the elevation peaked at 9,100 feet above sea level. During the drive, we passed through clouds and saw amazing rock formations, twisty roads that ran right along the cliff’s edge and even checked out the point where cactus stop growing (because of the frost level) and the thick lush forest begins. From about 6,000 feet up the mountain looks more like a North Carolina scenic drive than an oasis in the desert. We even discovered some mountain run-off streams to drive through while we searched for a suitable location for our picnic lunch. As we unpacked the cooler we noticed that storms were moving in, which expedited our mealtime. Luckily, we were able to do our abbreviated picnic in time to avoid the rain that never really came. After lunch, we stopped in Summerhaven, the town on the top of the mountain where we hit the Cookie Cabin because we take everyone who comes to visit for the plate size cookie. It’s kind of famous around here and a must see for tourists. On the way back down we stopped at one of our favorite overlooks and climbed out on the rocks. The view above Tucson is not to be missed and we made the most of the time by taking about a thousand pictures, mostly of Bailey. Yaya had several nervous moments while Bailey ran around climbing everything in sight.

Day three was dedicated to our nature hike in the Catalina State Park. We started off the morning with a quick stop by Panera for a bagel, which they didn’t have – again. We then made our way to Kneaders bakery for that elusive bagel. Much to everyone disappointment, they don’t carry bagels. Quick huddle and we’re off to breakfast joint number three. This time success, no bagel but Beyond Bread had something for everyone including Bailey. She picked a cinnamon bun and a chocolate croissant and a little of everyone else’s breakfast. We ate quickly and headed out the to the park. Our destination for today’s excursion is a mile-long walk along the outskirts of an old native camp.

We saw plenty of cacti but intermixed in the greenery were several rock foundations that were obviously used as housing for a long-ago people. The heat today was less than the hottest days but was still sweltering and water was the snack of the day. It’s hard to imagine life without the niceties of air conditioning and refrigeration like we have today. These were hearty people to be able to live off the land in such a harsh environment. Bailey had little use for the signs along path explaining the area, she was hunting lizards and squirrels and everything that wiggled, hopped or flew. After everyone was thoroughly worn out and tanned, we headed back home for a visit to the pool and a little rest before the night adventure.

We broke camp at the house about five and headed out to the Tucson Desert Museum, actually an outdoor zoo where all sorts of Arizona wildlife can be seen in natural habitat. We had the opportunity to drive some more mountain roads, which Yaya just loves, along our way. We arrived at a very crowded parking lot with lots of folks rushing to get in to see the critters at night. Bailey had her flashlight and insisted on leading the way most of the tour. We got to visit with a black bear, some feisty beavers, a couple very active otters, a porcupine and a shy mountain lion who only wanted to show his tail.

Bailey found a nice lady with a friendly owl and sat to listen and learn then we made a quick stop by the live band that came to the museum to entertain some of the evening guests. Bailey sat through a couple instrumentals then a couple more and a couple more right up until they packed up the drums. She even walked up to say high and tell them how much she enjoyed the music. I think the fellas from the band were enjoying seeing how Bailey seemed entranced by the music, I think it’s the only time she sat still all week other than when she was asleep.

Day four began with a trip to Funtasticks for some go-cart riding and amusement park entertainment. Bailey jumped right into the carts and away she went. She even got to drive some of the mini-carts all by herself – again and again and again. I think we found her favorite. Then a little time in the flying pink dragon and the bounce house and the bumper boats. Everyone had a really good time in the little park and we wound it up by playing a round of mini-golf.

The evening’s entertainment was a visit to Bedroxx Bowling. Britt, Will, and Yaya had normal lanes with gutters and all but each time Bailey came up to bat the bumper rose up and gave her a little help. Everyone had a great time and Bailey even got the opportunity to play a few video games to wind out the night.

Day five began with a little range time for Britt and Will. We went to the local desert shooting park to empty some brass. They both did really well and managed to hit the targets pretty consistently. They even got to play a little battleship bullseye. I’m not sure who won but I think someone kept the target so I’m sure it will reappear somewhere down the road.

After the range, we loaded up the car and headed to Colossal Caves to take the underground tour. You can do the advanced tour and spend six hours crawling on your belly, free climbing rock walls and rappelling down sheer walls should you be so inclined but we chose the amateur path and spent about 30 minutes underground. We walked downstairs and looked at rocks, upstairs and looked at rocks, downstairs and looked at rocks – you get the picture – lots of rocks. Bailey had a blast with her flashlight and we had a lot of pauses and panicked moments as she darted between railings and peeked over the edge at straight drops into the bowels of the caverns. At one point, she asked the tour guide where the diamonds were, she definitely takes after her Yaya! Following the tour, Brittany picked up a pack of dirty rocks and let Bailey run them through the water sifter. Bailey examined each rock like she was looking for gold. When she finished she started looking for piles of dirt on the ground to try for more. Bailey left with a pile of rocks that she continued to add to throughout the last days. She probably left with ten pounds of rock from Arizona by the time she made the airport.

Update from Stacy: It has been almost two weeks since they returned to Florida. Glenn and I joked after they left that it is now so quiet here at the house. Some may think that Bailey is loud and did most of the talking but Britt is quite vociferous. She and Will also kept the chatter going in the car as they played their trivia games. I am still not sure who is smarter, who knows it all, or who thinks they know it all. The main thing is that they had a good time together whether it was hiking down to the waterfall, walking out onto big rocks overlooking the valley, riding go-carts, putting balls at mini-golf, playing in the pool or answering trivia questions in the car.  We really enjoyed their visit and hope they get a chance to visit again while we are living in Arizona.  Until then, Glenn and I will have to continue our own adventure on this side of the U.S.  More to come….

Catalina State Park on 1/8/2017

Glenn’s post from our day at Catalina State Park.

One of the things we put on our must do list while we’re living in Tucson is to get outdoors and experience the beautiful parks and hiking trails nearby. Today we loaded up the car, laced up the sneakers, grabbed some water bottles and headed out to Catalina State Park. We’ve driven by the sign several times over the last few months and each time mentioned how we had to make a stop to see what theimg_4560 park had to offer. It was only a short fifteen-minute drive to the entrance and another five or so to the first trail. Parking was easy and we were a little surprised how light the crowd was around the trails especially with the beautiful weather. We headed out to Romero Ruins trail to begin our first leg of the day’s odyssey. Stacy posed at the entrance to the trail with the sign and amazing mountain range in the background.

No matter where we look, there are amazing views surrounding this city. It’s like a giant IMAX theater that we get to live inside.  We headed up the trail along some rugged looking stairs that leveled off into a winding nature trail.

AloIMG_4579.JPGng the route we found placards that described the ruins of the village. We learned that some of the earliest residents of Arizona lived in these villages. They organized into groups and constructed pretty substantial structures and boundary walls. There’s speculation that the walls were possibly to keep out predators or maybe even to keep livestock corralled in the village. img_4583We walked around checking out the ruins and reading the placards kind of like walking through a natural museum. Toward the end of the hiking tour, we learned that there were flat courts where villagers played games with crude balls made from natural materials. There wasn’t much detail but they thought maybe it was not only for recreation but possibly to settle tribal disputes. The whole trail took maybe an hour or so at an easy pace, with several stops for reading and picture taking. Walking this trail even under the warm winter sun it was easy to imagine how difficult it was for the early inhabitants to survive in such a rough environment especially during the blazing hot summer months.

img_4592We found a large cactus and took a couple pictures for perspective. It’s easy to underestimate the size of these giant plants in comparison to the mountains in the background but standing beside one really puts things in perspective. Here you see Stacy doing her best Vannah White impression. We wrapped up the ruins trail and headed back down the stairs to the car. After a brief air conditioned rest we struck out again along the one mile “Nature Trail.” According to the map, it looked like a quick hike but the map was a little deceiving. The initial climb to the trail was probably a quarter mile up a pretty steep, loose gravel incline.
Stacy did really well making it up the first leg but I was a little concerned about how we were going to get back down once we finished. At the top we entered the actual one-mile trail and found this part pretty easy. There were several scenic stops with placards describing local wildlife and plant life and even the occasional park bench. img_4570We found several incredible mountain views and took another ton of pictures of skylines and scenic overlooks. Stacy was a good sport and didn’t complain too much about the heat and sun. It turned out to be a really gorgeous day to be outside and we enjoyed the sunshine. It’s a nice change to get outside and really take time to appreciate our surroundings. It’s easy to get so wrapped up in the daily hustle and bustle of work and home responsibilities that you can miss out on the great adventures right around the corner. After we completed the one-mile loop it was time to descend the hill to get back to the car. It was a little treacherous with the loose gravel but we took our time and made it back to the car safely. It was a great afternoon and we’re both glad we started with a couple short trails first. Next outing we may attempt a little lengthier trail like the Romero Canyon or Mount Lemmon trail to see if we can find the waterfalls we were told are out there somewhere. img_4609

Stacy’s response 2/1: I don’t think that I am ready to take on any trails more difficult than the two Glenn mentioned. I am going to take mom and dad to the Ruins trail today. I know mom will run ahead like she does when we walk in the mall but at least on this trail we will not lose her (as long as she stays on the trail and doesn’t wander off into the desert).

Shootout at the OK Corral

Anyone coming to Tucson has to take a day trip to Tombstone, AZ.  Tombstone is a town in southern Arizona about 30 minutes north of Mexico and 90 minutes south of Tucson.  The town was founded by a prospector who found silver and once the word got out prospectors, cowboys, and many others moved to the town.  IMG_4341.JPG

Glenn and I have been so busy this past month looking for a home, working on all the paperwork, getting documents together, getting insurance and all the inspections and working that we have not had the time to enjoy this beautiful state. Now, with most of the “house stuff” behind us we were able to start having fun.  The weekend before last we ventured south to Tombstone to take a look around. The weather was a perfect in the 70’s in the morning with a gradual warm up to the mid 80’s in the afternoon.  When we arrived we noticed several people walking around town in period costumes. Even a few locals were seen with guns strapped to their hips.

As we were walking around a barker across the street announced the Shoot-out at the OK Corral show would begin in 5 minutes. We hurried across, paid $10 each for tickets, walked in at the last minute and ended up with one of the best seats on the front row. I heard of Wyatt Earp and Doc Holiday but did not know the story and never even watched the movies Tombstone or Wyatt Earp. The 30-minute show was a reenactment of the shootout between the Earp brothers and Doc Holiday against the cowboys. There were long running disagreements between the Earp brothers (the cops) and the cowboys that eventually led to the gunfight. Tom and Frank McLaury and Billy Clanton were cowboys killed in the fight.

After the show we took a few photos with the actors then walked around a boarding house that rented a room to Doc Holiday, another little single room house where ladies of the night entertained clients, and an outdoor area that has a silver mining area and old wagons.


For lunch we went to14466428_10208744369941479_1862800115_o the Crystal Palace Saloon that is known as the most famous saloon of the wild west. There is a beautiful bar and the servers are dressed in a costume that most men would appreciate. The walls have paintings of women in skimpy outfits and one lady was missing her outfit. This restaurant may not be suitable for the young ones. I think we arrived a little early as they were setting up for the live music but it did not begin until after we finished lunch. The food was average; Glenn and I shared an order of nachos, a bacon, lettuce & tomato sandwich and a sarsaparilla drink. I twisted Glenn’s arm a bit and got him to pose for a picture with our server before we left.

Later we continued to walk around the town and explore the shops. I enjoyed browsing through the silver and jewelry stores that featured work from the local artisans. There was a leather store where I am sure Glenn would have loved to part with a few bucks but it was closed. Maybe it will be open next time! We saved a few tours for the next time we come down when we have company. There is a famous theater, “The Bird Cage Theatre”, which was also a saloon and brothel.  I can’t elaborate on all the wicked things that went on in the theater because we are saving the tour for our next visit.  One other place we have to check out next time is a little inn, an old hotel and boarding house, that has the world’s largest rose bush. The “Lady Banksia” rose bush was planted in 1885 and is documented in the Guinness book of world records as the largest rose bush and it covers about 9,000 square feet. It blooms around Easter time so it should be a beautiful sight in the spring.

On the way home we drove past the Boothills Graveyard where many cowboys are buried in the graveyard including the ones killed during the shootout at the OK Corral. Some say the graveyard got the name because those buried there died and were buried with their boots on. I am not sure that it the real reason but it sounds good. It began sprinkling when we were about to walk out to the graveyard so we decided we would add it to the list of things to see when we return.

This past Saturday we found a copy of the Tombstone movie at the local bookstore.  Watching the movie helped pull everything together we learned about the town.  Good times!

Texas, Texas and more Texas. Hotels, Bush country, Windmills, Oil Rigs and Convenience store fun.

Days 5-7 (Tuesday-Thursday) Texas: Texas, Texas and more Texas. Hotels, Bush country, Windmills, Oil Rigs and Convenience store fun.

For those of you who live in Texas or have been through Texas you understand that this is a HUGE state! We spent 3 nights in Texas; one in Dallas, one in Midland and one in El Paso. I think I have enjoyed enough Mexican food and BBQ to last me at least a month.

I should have checked with my friend Angel a little sooner to ask what area to book our hotel in Dallas. I ended up picking out a hotel on the South East side of Dallas in Desoto and it is far different from the Dallas/Ft. Worth that I remember from a few years ago when I visited Angel.  Glenn did not want to stay at one of the hotels downtown because they have parking garages and he wanted to keep our car close so he could keep an eye on things. I thought I was doing the right thing by getting one close to the highway but realized when we heard all the road noise that maybe a hotel a few blocks away OR ON THE OTHER SIDE OF TOWN might have been a better idea! One good thing, we could look out our window and see the car.  We always try to stay at the Hilton brand hotels to accumulate points towards future hotel stays. Tuesday night we stayed at Hampton Inn. Although we stayed at Hampton Inns a few times last week we are learning that each one offers different perks. The one in Waldorf had fruit and cookies out in the lobby but mom was too late to get the cookies because a lady scooped up the last few. The hotel in West Virginia had popcorn in the lobby.  I learned that if you stay Monday-Thursday they have a Managers reception with appetizers and drinks.  Tuesday night I really loved the asparagus and cream cheese wrapped in puffed pastry, maybe a little too much. After being up every two hours throughout the night I looked up the side effects of asparagus and learned that it helps flush the kidneys. Hmmm.  Glenn wonders why he did not sleep well Tuesday night- probably because I kept getting up out of bed!! Although the Hampton Inn is regarded as the Hilton’s budget friendly hotel I like the Neutrogena bath products over the Doubletree and Embassy Suites bath products (we stay at the Doubletree when we go to Delaware and stayed at Embassy in Kentucky).  At Hampton, you can’t leave without trying the Belgian Waffles for breakfast. Glenn ate cereal and yogurt at most of the Hampton Inns. Good for him; but he really missed out! Two of the Hamptons offered Nutella spread and assorted drizzle sauces and whipped cream for toppings. Who said I can’t cook? I can make a perfect waffle at the Hampton Inn! I made a waffle that would make Paula Deen proud then decorated it with caramel and white chocolate on one side and Nutella and peanut butter on the other side. It was scrumptious!!

You have to make sure that you take advantage of the gas stations and convenience stores when you are driving through Texas because it could be a while before you see another!  Glenn likes to eat beef jerky and I have mentioned on more than one occasion that the smell of beef jerky makes me nauseous. He kept joking around about getting beef jerky and at one of the stops there was a large beef jerky display front and center when we entered the store. I told the lady behind the counter that he was not allowed to buy any beef jerky.  She laughed- but it worked, no beef jerky! At another convenience store Glenn was right beside or behind me all throughout the store but when I got to the counter- no Glenn! I joked with the cashier and said that I should have her page him overhead. This is not one of those tiny convenience stores, it is the one the truck drivers frequent and it had a Subway and a chicken restaurant inside. Well she did it- paged “Glenn Dennis to the front of the store”. I loved it!! He came up and told the lady that he was getting me a coke but no coke for me now (sounding like the soup Nazi on Seinfeld, “no soup for you”).

As we approached Midland, Texas on Wednesday we noticed a very strong odor similar to burning rubber and Glenn said it was the oil.  Of course, that is what all those machines were doing out in the fields. That night we checked into the Doubletree and I have to say that it was an improvement from the area I chose for Tuesday night; however, I don’t think Glenn was happy that it was a hotel with valet parking. Oops, another booking mistake. I did not see where they mentioned the valet parking on the booking app. The Doubletree hotel we stay at in Delaware has parking right out in front of the lobby.  The valet parking was just not happening because we had our car full so Glenn found parking across the street where we could see the car from our room. The only drawback was that we had to move the car by 8 a.m. which made for an early check out of the hotel.  The Doubletree did not disappoint; the cookies they give out when you check in were warm and delicious and the omelet and fresh squeezed orange juice for breakfast really hit the spot. I looked around during breakfast and realized that I was the only female customer in the restaurant. It was filled with older white men dressed in jeans, button up shirts and a few had cowboy hats.  I kind of like that look!! After breakfast we had to scoot out pretty quickly due to the parking restrictions on the road. I asked Glenn if we could stop by the George Bush childhood home on our way out of town.  It was only a few miles away so we drove by, stopped, looked around and took a few pictures but the home/museum did not open until 10 a.m. Bummer. If we had just valet parked the car we could have slept in a little, then hit the Bush house when it opened. The home was very small and I thought about how difficult it would be to squeeze all our things into that home let alone the number of people who were living there. It makes me realize that Glenn and I still need to purge a little more and simplify our lives. I was a little curious about what the back yard looked like so I peeked between the slats in the fence.  Looked like a normal backyard to me, nothing special. Glenn said “hey crazy lady, what are you doing?” Guess that was my clue that it was time to leave before the neighbors called the police. We went to fill up as we were leaving town and noticed the price of gas was about 20 cents higher per gallon. Glenn said “They have all this oil out here why are the gas prices so high?” After filling the tank, we did not make it far before Glenn noticed a sign for the Meteor Crater so we took the next exit to go check out the Meteor Crater and Museum in Odessa, Texas. After driving a few miles down the road we see a closed gate and the sign showing they do not open until 10 a.m. I see a trend here… we should have slept in, then we could have seen the Bush house and the Meteor Crater, right?  Maybe it is just a sign that we should keep moving and get on the road to El Paso, Texas.

I booked our Thursday night stay at the Embassy Suites in El Paso. Not too much to report in El Paso because we chose to stay in for the night and have dinner at the hotel.  Glenn noticed a lot of military folks were staying at the hotel and I noticed a man wearing a FLETC polo shirt. Glenn attended FLETC in Georgia for his first Secret Service training school. We woke extremely early the next morning because my phone rang before 6 a.m.  It is going to take me a little time to get used to this time change. Look at the bright side, on Friday morning we packed up and started heading to Tucson.  I will write a short post later about our drive past the border, through New Mexico then our arrival in Arizona. I miss all of my family and friends, and really missed having mom and dad on this leg of the trip but we will see you all very soon!

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“Look kids, Big Ben”, The Old Country Store Restaurant, Casey Jones and Visiting family in Arkansas

Day 4 (Monday) Arkansas

Before I begin, let me start by saying that if I hear Glenn say “Look kids, Big Ben” one more time while we are driving down the road then we may not make it to Arizona.  I type this with a smile on my face because we are having such a good time and there are a few things that cause us to laugh all along the way.

Monday, on the way to Arkansas we stopped for lunch at Brook Shaw & Son The Old Country Store restaurant in Jackson, Tennessee. We walked in to a country store that reminds me of Oleson’s Mercantile on the Little House on the Prairie, only larger.  It was filled with jams, old fashioned candy, antiques, gifts and everything else you would expect at an old country store. Inside there were a few restaurants and we opted for the country buffet. This was a real country buffet that included fried chicken, chicken and dumplings, fresh watermelon slices, ambrosia salad, butter beans, greens, carrots, and okra. An older lady stood in the center of the room behind a large black griddle and fried up cornbread as we watched.  Banana pudding and blackberry cobbler were available for anyone who had room after lunch. I didn’t eat a whole lot off the buffet so I had a little room for the banana pudding. Dwight Bird would have enjoyed the pudding but I have to say that Gina’s banana pudding is a little better!  After we finished lunch dad and I looked at the old fashioned candy and filled our bag with butterscotch, clove hard candy, root beer barrels, KIT taffy, Necco wafers, jawbreakers, candy peanuts and peppermint balls for the road trip.  We all then walked over to Casey Jones Home and Railway museum, took a short look around the gift shop, the outside of the home and the train engine before being on our way to visit family in Arkansas.  Casey Jones was a railroad engineer that was racing his locomotive to make up time to get his passengers to their stops on time. He made up a lot of time but as he was rounding a corner near the end there was another train on the tracks and he faced an imminent crash. He stayed on the train to slow it down and sacrificed his life to save his passengers and the rest of the crew. Wallace Saunders, an engine-wiper, made up a song about Casey Jones.   If you are interested in a little history about the Legend of Casey Jones you can check out http://www.caseyjones.com/caseyjones/legend.htm.

Around 5 p.m. we arrived at my dad’s cousin’s house about 30 minutes outside of Little Rock, Arkansas.  We were pleasantly surprised to see so many family members come to dinner and visit. My mom captured a picture of my dad with my grandfather McAlister’s Aunt Pat and her daughter Dolores, and sons Rob and Kenny. I wish I had taken more pictures but I was too busy talking to family.  Rob and Martha’s son Roger, who is my age, was there with his beautiful wife and 4 very cute and well-behaved children. (I did have in here that I could not remember a time recently where I have been around such well-behaved children but Glenn told me that pretty much is saying that the rest of the family does not have well behaved children. So I took it out. So there, lol.) After most of the family left Martha showed us a few of her pottery pieces. Martha is quite talented and I again wish I had my camera handy to take pictures of her art.  My mom did photograph a piece of art, a large woman figurine that Martha created and displays in her garden. Martha took a mannequin, covered it in clothing, put a type of hardening agent on it then painted it. After we finished we walked out to the workshop where Rob keeps his antique fan collection and the studio where Martha works on her pottery. We found the guys checking out Rob’s other toys so I knew we were going to be a while. Mom and I sat down with Martha to visit. After a while I went back into the room and asked Glenn if he was ready. The next thing I knew, Glenn was pulling out his toys to show the guys.  Let me tell ya, I can really see Glenn living out in the country! We had a great time!


We spent the night at the Hampton Inn Lonoke, Arkansas since it was close to the highway and we were leaving for Texas the next morning.  We turned on the television before going to bed and I couldn’t believe how many Christian channels were available. There were at least 10-15, we think there were more Christian channels than regular channels. I really do like to go to church and love the music but we opted for the news and quickly fell asleep.

Mom and dad spent the night with Rob and Martha so they enjoyed a little more time in Arkansas. After having breakfast with them, mom and dad went where my dad spent the summers with his grandpa Mac and stopped by Mac’s Old Welding shop. In closing, I am going to include a little about their time and a few photographs.

Jenny: This morning before we departed the Reid B&B we had a delicious breakfast prepared by cousin Chef Robbie and Martha Crowder Reid. As we passed through Little Rock today, we stopped by Rick’s grandfather Macs welding shop. Rick learned some beginning welding techniques from his grandfather in this shop at the early age of eight. He has many fond memories of summers spent working in the welding shop with Mac. His grandfather sold the shop in the 70’s. It was good to see that the old shop is still in operation. Here are a few pictures as it stands today.

Diamond Caverns, Antique Archaeology and Martin’s BBQ Joint

Day 3 (Sunday) Kentucky and Nashville, TN: Diamond Caverns, Antique Archaeology and Martin’s BBQ Joint

On the road again and heading towards Nashville. What do I see?? A sign for “Historic Diamond Caverns”.  You know we had to stop and check it out.  This little gem is located in Park City, Kentucky and reminds me of a cross between Luray Caverns in Virginia and the gem mining places in North Carolina. If we had more time I would have loved to take the tour but we were trying to get to Nashville to meet mom and dad. I did have time for the gift shop where I found a very cool necklace for Bailey.  I know that Britt would love the salt lamps but we are very limited on the amount of space we have left in the car and they are very fragile.

After leaving the Diamond Caverns, we passed the Corvette Museum, Dinosaur World and Fruit of the Loom World Headquarters.  Although these places were tempting, we cruised on down the highway. We finally arrived in Nashville, TN and met up with mom and dad at Antique Archaeology, a little store owned by Mike Wolfe who is on the History Channel’s “Pickers” TV show. It was pretty cool to see a few of the items we recognized from a few of the episodes. There was a short wait outside the shop as it was small and can only hold so many customers.  Once inside we looked at the old signs, game machines, antique shoes and skates. I particularly liked the old motorcycles and scooters. Glenn found Johnny Lightning single drag strips that were similar to what he and his brother Matt used to race their hot wheels on as children.

Mom and dad out front
Found something we should buy $$
Indian Motorcycle Sign
Antique gas pump
Dad checking out the signs
Apron with a picture of the large pig head hanging in the store
Dried wolf boy- weird!

After we finished in the “Pickers” store, we shopped in a few of the stores in the same building. I enjoyed a chocolate chili marshmallow and a salted caramel at the candy store next to Antique Archaeology. There was one shop that sold jewelry made from old silver forks and spoons. I would love to learn how to make them as they were unique and you know how I love jewelry!

We really worked up an appetite by now so we drove downtown to look for a place to eat.  After driving around downtown, we decided on Martin’s BBQ Joint.  The neighborhood was a bit shady, we paid a man on the side of the road $5 for a ticket to put on our dashboard and was told to drive around the corner and park in the lot. The walls surrounding the lot were covered in graffiti and it was across the street from a gentleman’s club. Even though the restaurant was not in the best part of town it sure was tasty! We knew by the smell as soon as we walked into the place that this meal was going to be good. Glenn and I shared a platter of bbq pulled pork, thick sliced beef brisket, juicy spare ribs, festival/fair type french fries, coleslaw, broccoli salad and mini moon pies for dessert (my papa used to love moon pies). My mom and dad shared a beef brisket plate.  They must have been saving room for the light snacks back at Embassy Suites.  We plan to enjoy breakfast here at the hotel tomorrow morning before heading out to Arkansas for a visit and dinner with dad’s cousins and great-aunt.

Inside seating
Martin’s BBQ Joint
Great food!
Outside seating