Beaufort, SC 2017 – Elek to Camp Kanuga

This year Elek and I are planning minimal vacations due to the amount we spent last year and also the number of expenses I have for my house, getting a newer car, etc. Therefore this year we came down to visit my dad again in Beaufort, SC days before Elek’s first overnight camp at Camp Kanuga. He’s excited, and probably a little bit nervous, though he knows a couple of people that will be at camp. I’ve packed the car to the gills because of all the stuff required for camp. We drove down to Beaufort in one day Fri. June 2nd, which is a pretty long drive, 10 hours total.

We have seen more wildlife than usual down here. We saw a bunch of dolphins (some pretty close!), many large sea turtles which were breath taking, horseshoe crabs, regular crabs, sting rays, and a toad fish. Elek and my dad caught a good sized redfish Sat. June 3rd which my dad cleaned and we ate for lunch. It was very fresh and tasty! We ate dinner at a small seafood place called Sea Eagle Market, which was pretty good.

For some unknown reason I have started running down here, which I hate. I even ran in the rain Wed. morning. It’s been nice getting more exercise.

Sunday we took a long boat ride to a beach and played on the beach for a couple hours. For dinner, we went to Papaya, which has very decent Thai food and sushi. My dad got the Pad Thai which was on point and Elek and I split 4 sushi rolls: (Maki Combo for 1) Salmon roll, California roll, and spicy tuna roll plus the Spider roll which was delicious!

Tues. we took an early boat ride around a golf course that is close to here and Elek and my dad fished a little. Elek caught a small trout which we threw back. Next, we went to the YMCA so my dad could go to his exercise class and Elek and I swam for about an hour. It was fun and Elek and I bonded while racing in the pool. We originally planned to go to a baseball game in Charleston this night, but rain prevented that so we stayed in, ate a flounder Elek and my dad caught the day before, and watched Spaceballs which my dad and Kay had not seen before.

Wed. is the day before we drive to Camp Kanuga! After running in the rain, it held off long enough for us to eat some great pizza at The Upper Crust and walk around downtown Beaufort to pick out a present for Elek’s mom’s birthday. This was critical since he would have zero time at camp to do so. We thought about going to see a movie, but decided against it and played basketball for a while. Today we’re taking it very easy in preparation for the drive tomorrow. I, personally, am dreading driving about 9.5 hours in one day (then 3 hours the following day), but hopefully I’ll be able to stay and catch up with Wayne in Nashville. Wed. night we went to The Foolish Frog for dinner. Elek ordered the crawfish, I ordered a Greek salad and oysters bienville. My dad got a half rack of ribs and all of it was delicious. So nice to have so much seafood.

My dad gave me Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas which I read throughout the trip. It was obviously a pretty crazy book! I have seen the movie but never read the book. It also reminded me of the nod in the movie Rango, which Elek and I recently watched.

Thurs. we took our time getting ready for the 4.5 hour trek to Camp Kanuga. We said our goodbyes and left around 10:45 AM. The drive was really pretty on the North Carolina side with all of the mountains as I’m not used to driving in that type of terrain. We arrived at camp excited, but also nervous at about 3:15 where we waited in line about 20 minutes. We unloaded and I walked Elek to his cabin. John and Henry (two kids from Memphis that Elek knows) were already settled in. Elek got to choose his bunk. Saying goodbye was bittersweet and filled with emotion. Elek’s eyes teared up and so did mine. I love that kid. I truly hope he has a blast. We’ve gotten two pictures thus far from the camp which makes me feel a little better.

I left teary eyed in the rain at 4, which seemed so appropriate at the time. I drove 5 hours to Nashville where I stayed with Wayne, my high school friend, at his house. We stayed up to watch the disappointing total destruction of the Nashville Predators in game 5 of the Stanley Cup. (6-0) In the morning we went to Monell’s which was absolutely delicious and absolutely too much food. I said my goodbyes there and headed the 3 hours to Memphis. I was so relieved to be home! Now I have to deal with all the repairs with my house (roof, chimney, dormers), redoing the kitchen floor, and trying to find a 2016 Prius Two.

San Diego and San Francisco, California – 2016

San Diego

Elek and I arrived at the airport and went to baggage claim where we met Jim, Elaine, and Allison. This is the first time I have met Allison, my biological half-sister. She seems very put together and is very sweet. Elek and I went by Jim’s mom’s house and I met Jim’s brother, Craig. We spent a little time with Craig and Jim’s mom, Ruth and I took a tour of Jim’s childhood home, which reminded me of my Grandmother’s home. Elek and I were exhausted so we went to bed pretty soon.

The next morning we started packing for Campland. Check in was at 1 PM. We got one jet ski working, however, the other one was pretty much dead. Once we got to Campland Elek and I almost immediately took the jet ski out which was one of Elek’s favorite parts! Later we set up camp and the sleeping arrangements were a little tight but definitely doable. Elek and I shared a tent with Allison’s boyfriend, Chris. One really cool thing we saw each night was the fireworks from Sea World across the bay.

By the third night we were ready to go, though we got to do a lot of cool things there like rent a boat for half a day, ride our bikes around the place, eat some good food, etc. We played a lot of frisbee, football, and badminton.

After we left we went to a Chinese restaurant for dinner and my other sister Emily spent some quality time with us. What was really cool is that my sisters had a DVD of Dr. Horrible’s Sing A-Long Blog and we watched it the last night we were there. I’m a big fan of that.

It made me feel good that my sisters referred to me as their brother even though I’m their biological half brother.

Jim dropped Elek and me off at the airport where we took Virgin Airlines to San Francisco.

San Francisco

Monday Elek and I arrived in San Francisco and Nick picked us, Ben, and Luz up from the airport. We went back to Nick’s place and ordered Indian food which was delicious as usual. Elek is a fan.

Tuesday we walked through China Town and the Cable Car museum, which was awesome as it showed exactly how the cable cars work. We managed to go up to the 31st floor of the Westin in Union Square. A new Apple store was near by so we stopped in to take a look. We walked through Embarcadero, stopped in the Ferry building, and walked by the AT&T park. We took an Uber home and rested. That night we went to an awesome Thai restaurant called Hawker Fare which was very flavorful and spicy. We ate some ice cream afterward to counteract the spice.

Wednesday we ate breakfast and headed to an Afghan restaurant called Kamdesh to meet a highschool friend Mahendra. The food was spicy and very tasty. It’s the first time I’ve eaten that type of food. Next, we went to the Pacific Pinball Museum which was amazing! We spent an hour in there but could have easily spent 3 or more. We were planning on going to tour Berkeley but we were so tired we went back to Nick’s place and took a nap. Wed. night we went over to Jeremy Brown’s place in Castro, ate pizza, Elek played Portal 2, and we had some drinks.

Thursday morning we took the car to Twin Peaks which had a phenomenal view of the city! Afterward we found a parking place in Haight-Ashbury and wandered the streets where we got some good Cuban food at Cha Cha Cha. Next, we took a short walk through Golden Gate Park where normal park activities were occurring. We then drove down the twisty Lombard Street, which was cool to see again, another great view of the city!

Thursday night was a 21+ night. Luz was kind enough to watch Elek that night. We started out at Trick Dog who had a menu of presidential related drinks. Their drinks were pretty good. We met Chantelle there and then headed to dinner at El Techo. There was a wait so we went to a cash only bar, Doc’s Clock, across the street which reminded me of the P&H in Memphis. It also had a Ghostbuster’s pinball game. I think it was rigged and ate balls so fast. At El Techo we got a little bit of everything, but the carnitas were amazing! The restaurant is actually on the roof of a 4 story building so the view was really cool, especially at sunset. Once we finished dinner, we headed to another cash only bar called Make Out Room which had a pretty good DJ there. People were dancing and it seemed like it had a neat atmosphere. Chantelle had to get up for work in the morning so she left in an Uber and we made one last stop on the way home at Mission Bar. There are so many unique spots in San Francisco all within walking distance of each other! This was just one small part of the city.

Friday Nick took us to the airport where Elek and I barely made it on our plane because it was overbooked by 40 people. We finally made it home at about 11:30 PM Fri night and crashed. Overall it was a great trip!

Disney World and Universal Studios

I finally got to take Elek to Disney World and Universal Studios. It turns out we picked a great time to go, after holiday crowds and after the cheer leading competition in the winter. We went to Disney World from Jan. 1 – Jan. 4. The crowds were there, but not enormous and the weather was pretty cooperative. On average it was in the mid 60’s each day. It sprinkled a couple of days, but we had rain jackets. I think I was over-prepared. I had a small first aid kit, disposable ponchos, two pairs of tennis shoes each, blister bandages, some stuff to reduce friction, among other things. I barely used these things at all.

We stayed in the All-Star Movies resort in the Mighty Ducks building. It was nice enough since we weren’t there that often. Buses went back and forth to each of the Disney kingdoms about every 20 minutes which made it convenient. We typically would go in the morning, come back after lunch to rest up and then head back out around 5 for dinner and the evening. I highly recommend staying “on campus”, though I would probably opt for the Art of Animation resort next time.

We purchased both a meal plan and the photo package. If your child doesn’t care about the characters (mine doesn’t) then don’t get the photo package. Also while the meal plan saves you some money, it reduces the number of options you can get in each place. If I did it again I probably wouldn’t have gotten the meal plan. We didn’t have either of these at Universal Studios.

Disney’s Magic Kingdom

We got to the Magic Kingdom around 3:30 PM Jan. 1 since Delta changed our flight to get in at 2 something instead of 10:00 AM. Spend most of your time in the Magic Kingdom. The highlights there were Peter Pan’s Flight, Pirates of the Caribbean, Thunder Mountain, and the people mover in Tomorrowland. We also went on the Jungle Cruise which was full of puns, the Liberty Square Riverboat, Stitch’s Great Escape, the Haunted Mansion (which I remember), Monster’s Inc. Laugh Floor, Swiss Family Treehouse, Tomorrowland Speedway, and Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress. Elek’s favorite there was the Barnstormer, which is a smaller roller coaster. Every night there is a massive fireworks display and we witnessed several parades with all kinds of characters. Once you learn how to use the fast passes they’re a really good idea and a huge time saver. We ate at Tony’s (Lady and the Tramp), which was pretty good.

Disney’s Hollywood Studios

We came here Jan. 3rd and saw the Indiana Jones stunt show, Muppet*Vision 3D, went on the Great Movie Ride, and went on Star Tours a couple of times which was my favorite there. That night we ate at the Sci-Fi Diner which was really cool and I highly recommend it!

Disney’s Epcot

Elek and I went on Mission Space first. We did the low intensity which was nothing so we thought we would try the high intensity. Well Elek almost lost his breakfast as it was really intense! The other rides we rode were Journey Into Imagination With Figment, Spaceship Earth, and Test Track. Unfortunately Soarin’ was closed for refurbishment. Elek absolutely loved the Disney Phineas and Ferb: Agent P’s World Showcase Adventure where it was like a mystery/scavenger hunt around the different countries in Epcot. The firework show here was amazing! We ate at Teppan Edo in Japan and it was really good. I got the sake flight which only reaffirmed the fact that I like dry sake.

We then took an Uber to our other resort which was called Cabana Bay. It was retro and very cool! They had a large (heated) pool, water slide, and hot tub.

Universal Islands of Adventure
Elek really enjoyed the Wizarding World of Harry Potter Hogsmeade, the Flight of the Hippogriff, and the Jurassic Park Discovery Center. We of course had to buy a “magic” wand and perform the spells at shop windows throughout Hogsmeade. I think this was Elek’s favorite part. Keep in mind in order to ride the train you will have to get park-to-park with your tickets. Elek played one of those basketball fair games and made two out of three shots so he won a Jurrasic Park basketball! We ate outside of the park at Yard House for dinner which has a massive selection of beers on tap and food. I got the short rib tacos and they were amazing.

Universal Studios
This was our last day and the Harry Potter world was incredible! There were many more spells to perform. The dragon above Gringotts breathes fire every so often. We rode on the E.T. Adventure and Elek rode the Woody Woodpecker roller coaster about 20 times. We both tried some butterbeer ice cream which was really good. I think by this time we were both pretty tired and ready to come home. I was disappointed that the back to the future ride wasn’t still there, but I did manage to get a picture of the car.

Miramar Beach 2015

Miramar Beach

So several of us Cooper Young neighbors decided to go to the beach June 6-13. We chose a large house in Miramar Beach which is right next to Destin, FL. It turns out there were some other Cooper Youngers down there so we all got together and had a party. Many rounds of Cards Against Humanity were played. Each couple took turns cooking for everyone, which worked out pretty well. The last full day we went to Big Kahuna’s water park which was a lot of fun. Elek and I rode everything except the black slides. Good times with good people!

We’ll Always Have Brooklyn

Wednesday March 26, 2015

Kelli and I went to Milford, Connecticut for a sales conference to give a presentation on what my group does. It turns out for a little more than $20 you can get a train to New York so that is what Kelli and I did Thursday 3/26 afternoon after the conference. We caught a ride to the train station, bought our tickets and lugged our bags onto the train to Grand Central Station in NYC. I had never seen it before except in movies and flash mob videos. It was so expansive, light, and bright with so many people. We bought a week subway pass and headed to the AirBnB in Brooklyn.

When we arrived at our stop for the AirBnB, I called Mark up to ask for directions. We walked about 6 blocks to the place we were staying which was the middle part of a row house and in great condition. The neighborhood was up and coming. There were many row houses under construction. We met Mark who was incredibly nice and helpful and settled in.

Mark recommended this family owned Sicilian place called Saraghina where we decided to eat dinner. They had a bakery around the corner as well with some Italian goods. Kelli ate the ravioli with butternut squash and I had a pizza both of which we shared. You could tell the pasta was homemade and FRESH. It almost melted in my mouth. The pizza was true Italian style pizza, thin, not too filling, and very tasty! We shared Tiramisu for dessert which was excellent. Everyone in the restaurant spoke Italian. We paid (cash only) and checked Yelp for a local bar, one of which we found nearby called Casablanca. It had a retro sign behind the stone bar, stone tables, they were playing Motown, and there was vinyl in the corner with a record player. I think it’s safe to say it was a hipster bar and a pretty cool one at that. Kelli had one of the best chocolate stouts she has ever had. After a drink we called it a night and headed home.

Thursday March 27, 2015

Kelli and I got up early to head into the city dressed nicely with our nice shoes in a backpack. Today was the day we were going to meet Doug and Jenny to eat lunch at at 2PM. For breakfast we stopped by a coffee shop called . I had a chocolate filled croissant and Kelli had a latte with a flower shape that the guy made in her froth. After that brief stop for breakfast, we headed to the Tribeca/Soho district on the edge of the financial district via subway of course.

We walked by a little deli where Kelli got a huge cookie that we split. Then we went by Starbucks so Kelli could get her coffee fix (chai latte) and their bathroom was “broken” unfortunately. After that we headed for Saluggi’s, a pizza place, since our lunch was at 2:00 PM. We split a white pizza that was every bit as good as the last and Kelli had red wine at 11:00 AM. She loved it! We kept accruing leftovers and keeping them in Kelli’s backpack. We rode the subway to Central Park and found our way to the Alice in Wonderland statue. What a cool tribute! Kelli had mud on the back of her legs partially because of the shoes she was wearing and partially because she walks so fast. 🙂 We found a restroom so she could wash off the mud and I could change shoes. We walked the rest of the way to the Trump Towers to eat at Jean Georges where Kelli had the sea bass and crab risotto. I had the yellowfin tuna ribbons, and black sea bass and a $20 Manhattan. It was pretty good, but pretty much the place someone goes for the “experience”. The food was tasty, but not exactly my thing. We all had cut marshmallow for dessert. Doug and Jenny were great. Also I think I can check off “calling a woman a slut loudly in a really fancy restaurant” off my “things to do before I die” list. Kelli and I took the subway back home to rest for a bit before heading back to the city.

We put on more casual clothes and headed to Times Square. I had seen it in the day time, but never at night and WOW, it was so bright that it was like day! We found our way to Topaz Thai which was packed. We split a veggie dish and Kelli got sticky rice and soup. Afterward we headed to the dive bar, Don Pedros, where would play later. We got to the place and it had two skeeball machines that were not functioning (I don’t think) and several bands were playing. It was a cash bar and Doug showed up a bit later having drunk his lunch (his usual gin and tonics). The bands were great and Doug caught an Uber home. Because I’m stubborn, Kelli and I walked to the train station and one of our cards wouldn’t work so Kelli was on the inside where the train would be coming and I was on the outside with a non-functioning card. This man who didn’t have a card to get in told Kelli to open the emergency door, which she did, and we both got in and go to the other side just in time for the LAST train back to our place. We exited the train and walked through the neighborhood Mark told us to steer clear of around 2 AM. We ate all of the leftovers in Kelli’s backpack with few exceptions and went to sleep.

Friday March 28, 2015

Today we slept in somewhat. Kelli didn’t sleep well and nobody had a hangover! We went back to Rabbit Moon and Kelli had a plain doughnut and I had a chocolate one which was amazing! It was thick unlike many other doughnuts. We arrived at the Chelsea market and Kelli was beside herself. She wanted to see, taste, and experience everything! I did too, though not as much. We found a place and ate some sushi, lobster bisque, crab hush puppies, and waters. We had to stand to eat as there was limited room in this fresh seafood market. Then we went to an Italian store and we bought stuff for the workgroup, my mom, Elek, Charlie, Lizzy, and Kelli’s mom. I had to rest a bit so Kelli went off to see some artwork and eventually we went back to a bakery and Kelli bought some carrot cake which we both tried and she put the leftovers in her bag. Kelli also bought my and her a set of I <3 Brooklyn magnets (which is on my fridge currently) as well as a full loaf of bread! That woman loves her bread! We walked and walked and eventually made our way to Eatily which was an indoor collection of restaurants, shops, etc. with wine, cheese, ice cream, bread, etc. It was PACKED so we didn't stay long. Kelli took Peter's picture in front of McDonalds for Living PSP, our VP's birthday gift. Next we went to China town and Little Italy because I had never been to Little Italy. We walked the length, then we traveled back home and decided to eat at the Sicilian place again, Saraghina. Kelli had red wine and we split a bread and cheese plate. Kelli had the spaghetti and I had the lasagna both of which were fantastic. We took 3 cannolis with us (3 because the Italian guy thought Kelli was cute). Once we were back at home I called a car service to pick us up for the airport the next morning. Sunday March 29, 2015

We woke up by our alarms and I cooked an egg for breakfast left by the last tenants. Kelli fixed coffee and we packed and prepared to leave. The car to LGA cost about $20 something and change. We ate lunch in the airport which was not nearly as good as the rest of the city as expected. Oh, also I opted out of the machine that detects bomb residue and chose to get felt up by the TSA agent who kindly didn’t cup my balls this time. We connected through Detroit back to reality.

Jamaica Me Crazy!

So a friend of mine, Doug, was mentioning how he wanted to maintain his medallion status on Delta Airlines and one of the closest places he could travel to do so was Jamaica. I mentioned that I would definitely go with him if he was serious. Well turns out he completely missed the deadline, but we did decide to go anyway with another friend of ours, Ben.

Through random internet research we decided to book a new hostel called the Reggae Hostelin Ocho Rios (the original is in Kingston). It was very nice and we booked 2 private rooms, but they also have shared rooms. It’s literally on a parking lot that leads directly to the beach that has two cruise ship docks off in the distance. If you’d like to see Doug’s walk through on YouTube then head over here.

After we booked the hostel, we bought plane tickets for $508 a piece from Memphis March 19 – 25, 2014. Ben lives in Texas so we all arranged to arrive Wed. March 19th in Montego Bay within about 45 minutes of each other. We hired a van to take us the 1.5 hour trek to Ocho Rios. The driver was great and pretty much gave us a brief history lesson. Remember they drive on the left there. I’m so glad we didn’t rent a car.

The first night we got there, we settled in and then went wandering for some food. We asked a girl in the market where her favorite place to eat was and it was a Chinese place. While we didn’t find the same place she mentioned we did find A Chinese place and ate there. It was alright. Afterward we bought some Appleton’s (Jamaican rum that the van driver told us about), coke, and beer and celebrated.

The next day we met a nice British girl (who looks German, but ISN’T!) named Stephanie. She was traveling around by herself for months and she said it was nice to team up with us so she wasn’t harassed as much as she had been. She was a great companion for the next few days! We went to the beach and met a man named Charlie who basically can arrange any type of tourist type activity so we signed up to ride in a boat to the Dunn’s River Falls. The ocean water was so blue and clear you could see 20-30 feet to the bottom. The falls were wonderful and it was nice to be on the water in a boat again.

There’s another beach on the other side of the city from where we stayed called Mahogany Beach. Despite the signs, it’s actually a public beach. It appears they just want to keep out the locals. A fresh water spring creates a moat around the beach until it finally flows into the ocean. It’s a very pretty place with some condos very near that you can rent out. There was Andy’s Bar & Grill that overlooks Mahogany Beach and the ocean. It was beautiful and the food was great too! Doug grabbed a video of Jahwayne.

One thing you must understand about native Jamaicans is that they will try to sell, refer, guide, anything to earn a dollar. Once they know you’re not interested or don’t have the money then they will mostly leave you alone, though I had one guy follow me into a restaurant trying to get me to go somewhere else. All in all the culture is very unique and it was a laid back experience where we got to meet so many travelers from all parts of the world. That’s one of the benefits of staying in a hostel.

The FOOD! The food was wonderful! One night we ate at Whalers Seafood Restaurant & Sports Bar which was phenomenal, but very difficult to find. It was located in a fisherman’s co-op that wasn’t well lit. I had the fish escovitch, which was just spicy enough and very flavorful. One thing I’ve noticed is the restaurants for the locals have cheaper food than the tourist places (obviously). I also had oxtail (wonderful!) and curry goat which was surprisingly better than I thought it would be. Meat patties are very popular. They’re basically like a better hot pocket with various fillings and were very inexpensive.

Lastly Ben had a much earlier flight than Doug or me so we all checked out really early and went back to Montego Bay. Doug and I were trying to get an earlier flight (impossible… thanks Delta!) when a “cab” driver and I use this term VERY loosely came up to us and offered to take us to Doctor’s Cave Beach. We accepted and went swimming in the crystal clear water for the last time before our flight.

Every time I travel I’m very glad I did and am extremely grateful for the opportunity. Until next time!