Roadtrip: Chicago to Orlando 2023

With Dani and Trish moving to Vancouver, we decided to sell our condo in Chicago. So Linda and I flew to Chicago to cat sit while the girls explored Vancouver for a week, then we loaded up a rental minivan with items we wanted from our condo and bid it farewell, as we headed out.

There were some stops Dani and I had missed on our previously shortened road trip, so we set out in completely the wrong direction, heading east through Iowa, then south to Kansas City. These stops turned out to be the highlight of our trip, so I’m glad we did so.

Here are a few notes and photos. You can find photos and reviews of all the restaurants on my blog at

June 3, 2023

Chicago, IL

La herradura mexican grill
540 N Cody Rd, Le Claire, IA, US

Picked at random, it’s in the cute touristy town of Le Claire, overlooking the river. It was pretty good.

Antique Archaeology
115 Davenport St, Le Claire, IA, US

This is the shop run by the people on the TV show American Pickers. Pretty much what you’d expect, plus a lot of American Pickers merch. Friendly staff.

Iowa 80 Trucking Museum
505 Sterling Dr, Walcott, IA, US

I’m not into cars or trucks, but this was a great spot, with hundreds of vehicles brought to life by interesting signs about their histories. Highly recommended.

Herbert Hoover Presidential Library & Museum
210 Parkside Dr, West Branch, IA, US

Terrific museum! This really brought the man to life. I had no idea about all his great accomplishments because he got stuck being associated with the Depression. He did so much during his life. A must-see stop!

The Voyage Home Museum
361 E. 1st Street, Suite 2, Riverside, IA, US
The Voyage Home Museum

This seedy little store is worse than I expected, definitely not worth an hour detour.

Future Birthplace of James T. Kirk
60 Greene St, Riverside, IA, US

Just a photo stop in a town that cleverly linked themselves to the fanchise. Skip it.

Surety Hotel
206 6th Ave, Des Moines, IA, US

Okay hotel in a very sketchy downtown.

801 Chophouse
801 Grand Ave, Des Moines, IA, US

Good and popular steakhouse.

June 4, 2023

Betty’s Place
4766 State Hwy Pp, Holt, MO 64048

Yelp says it’s closed, but Google listed it, and it was a good dive diner. They have no phone service, so no credit cards, so maybe it is sort of closed. Still, the over-seventy after-church crowd packed the place!

Arabia Steamboat Museum
400 Grand Blvd, Kansas City, MO, US

This is a stunning museum about a steamboat that sank in 1852 and the team that unearthed it from 45 feet under a cornfield 150 years later. The entire cargo was perfectly preserved, and is on display. It’s a stunning glimpse into luxury goods of the time in brand-new condition. The presentation and flow of the museum is among the best I’ve seen. Well worth the trip to Kansas City.

The Raphael Hotel, Autograph Collection
325 Ward Parkway, Kansas City, MO, US

Fabulous service at this historic hotel. Every member of the staff was just so darned glad we were there! Best Autograph Hotel I’ve stayed at. Right on the “creek” in the center of Kansas City’s beautiful Plaza district.

Gram & Dun
600 Ward Pkwy, Kansas City, MO, US

Funky, almost Googie architecture and right on the “creek” through Kansas City’s Plaza district. Good small plates.

June 5, 2023

Aixios French Bistro
Kansas City, MO

Found at random, this French bistro is the real deal. Located on a charming upscale street across from the park.

The National Museum of Toys and Miniatures
5235 Oak St, Kansas City, MO, US

Wow, I went for the toys, but it was the miniatures that blew me away. We could have spent all day here.

June 6, 2023

Rama Thai
1129 E Walnut St, Springfield, MO, US

Random stop for lunch. Located in a historic house that has likely been many things. Decent Thai food, friendly service.

Hotel Napoleon, Ascend Hotel Collection Member
179 Madison Ave, Memphis, TN, US

What a dump! I need to stop making reservations at Hilton affiliates. No bathroom door. That was a first. It had apparently broken and simply been removed. The towel hook fell off the wall. No bellman, no valet, no one at the front desk for ten minutes. Seedy neighborhood (well, it’s Memphis). Would recommend to my enemies.

Flight Restaurant and Wine Bar
39 S Main St, Memphis, TN, US

We’d been here before so it’s why we stayed nearby. Interesting concept where everything comes in threes, whether wine, appetizers, or even entrees. As good as it was the first time. If you need to be in Memphis, eat here. We also walked to the nearby Peabody for a drink in the lobby. We stayed there before, but it’s not a great hotel. Dani and I stayed at an airbnb in Memphis in the suburban gayborhood, which is a much better approach.

June 7, 2023

Old Town Mexican Grill
116 Commercial Pkwy, Canton, MS, US

Okay Mexican food conveniently located next to a Love’s travel stop.

One11 Hotel
111 Iberville St, New Orleans, LA, US

Probably the last new hotel to ever open in the French Quarter due to zoning, this is a very stylish remodel of a historic sugar warehouse. Neat room design.

Batture Bistro and Bar
111 Iberville St, New Orleans, LA, US

The hotel’s cafe serves pre-prepared cold plates in the evening, and a continental breakfast. Okay if you’re staying there, but otherwise you can do better.

June 8, 2023

301 Royal St, New Orleans, LA, US

This corner cafe in the French Quarter offers something we haven’t seen anywhere else in New Orleans: a tasting sampler of all the standards. It was great to taste étouffée, red beans and rice, gumbo, and jambalaya, side by side. My favorite was the étouffée, although the red beans and rice are also excellent. They also make a good shrimp Po’boy sandwich.

Restaurant R’evolution
777 Bienville St, New Orleans, LA, US

We had been impressed by this upscale restaurant on a visit quite a few years ago, and it continues to be outstanding. 10,000 bottle wine list!

June 9, 2023

DoubleTree by Hilton Tallahassee
101 S Adams St Fl 32301, Tallahassee, FL, US

Another Hilton-affiliated dump. The lobby looks like a cross between a bordello and a third-grade classroom decorating project. Dingy.

115 E Park Ave, Tallahassee, FL, US

Adjacent to the hotel, so convenient. The food was overwhelmed by an obnoxiously loud six-top next to us.

Date: June 10, 2023

Sensei Asian Bistro
Gainesville, FL

We were headed for a sports bar, but it was packed, so we went to this place next door, which was empty. It was empty because even at dinner it would be expensive, and at lunch that makes it outrageous. That said, it was good. Lots of fresh sashimi (although no soy sauce was served, which was a bit odd). The lobster fried rice was the best I’ve ever had. it was also $37.

Orlando, FL

Total distance traveled: 2,100 miles in 8 days.

Road Trip: Orlando to Chicago

In June of 2021 I sold the Lexus Ls460L to Dani and we took a road trip to transfer the car from Orlando to Chicago. It was our first trip since the Pandemic began in March 2020, so we started out rather gingerly, with AirBnB’s booked along the route, wearing masks, and only dining outdoors. But after traveling through Georgia and spending a lot of time in Tennessee, we got used to the laissez-faire attitude prevalent everywhere and loosened up. By the time we reached Chicago, all mask mandates had been lifted, and life was starting to return to normal.

Here are photos from our trip along with a chronology.

June 2

The longest drive of the trip was from Orlando to Atlanta, so we wanted to get it over in a hurry. We stopped along the way for a good hamburger at Espresso 41 Coffee Roasters in Tipton, GA.

We checked into the Atlanta Lama Luxury Cottage, and AirBnB at a small llama and alpaca rescue farm owned by two women, one of whom it turned out knew Linda from WDI days! It’s to the southeast of Atlanta, in a nice area of wooded rolling hills. Lovely cottage.

Arrived in time to host the weekly Wednesday AMI Wine Zoom (we brought the wines for the next two weeks).

Fed the llamas carrots, and had dinner at a nice place they recommended in the gayborhood, Argosy.

June 3

Visited the Georgia Aquarium. Dani wasn’t expecting much, since she grew up at SeaWorld, but when we entered the tank with three full-size whale sharks swimming overhead, her jaw dropped.

Visited the Cocal Cola museum, which still gives you the ability to taste the more interesting soft drinks they make in other parts of the word, but unfortunately doesn’t offer them for sale. Beverly from Israel is always my bitter favorite!

Visited S.O.S. Tiki bar. It’s neat inside, but we had drinks on the patio.

June 4

Picked up some sandwich makings at Public and headed for Gatlinburg, TN.
Stopped at Tallulah falls along the way. The visitor center and view were just meh. Had a picnic in the car.

Beautiful drive through Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Stopped at an interesting mill and other abandoned cabins. Dani got an audio guide that provided interesting GPS-triggered narration as we drove.

Gatlinburg was a hell-hole. Traffic inching along the only road through town, and hordes of unmasked people packing the sidewalks. Nothing but tacky tourist chains–not the charming kind of home-grown tacky, just mass produced tourist traps, half of the seemingly owned by Ripley’s Corporation.

The AirBnB was fine (we had to bring our food in from the car because of bear warnings) but the traffic was so bad we just ordered really mediocre Mexican food delivered.

June 5

We decided to abandon our AirBnB a day early and I booked a night at The Tennessean Hotel in Knoxville.

In Gatlinburg we road the chairlift to the top of the mountain and walked across the glass Skybridge.

We got a cheap discount on a photo package with our tickets (well worth it), then another company tried to sell us different photos at the top!

We finished our Great Smoky Mountains audio tour outside of Gatlinburg, then drove through Pigeon Forge–another hell hole of tourist tacky, but more spread out than Gatlinburg.

The Tennessean is right next to the old World’s Fair site, the only obvious remnant of which is the Sunsphere. Nearby there’s a nice square with lots of restaurants, but it was bustling, and the good ones were all booked. Dani got a kick out of posing on Gay Street!

We had a lovely dinner at the hotel restaurant/bar, and also had breakfast there the next morning. Very gracious service and good cocktail mixology.

June 6

On the way to Chattanooga we stopped at Lost Sea Adventure, a neat lake in a fairly deep cave. It’s a nice cave walk, because there is less elevation change than you’d expect, since you enter from the side of the mountain. The lake is stocked with trout, and you go on a short boat ride to watch them being fed. Pretty cool.

Another nice AirBnB across the river from Downtown. We ate at a big outdoor place called State of Confusion.

June 7

Just a bit outside of Chattanooga is Ruby Falls, a very deep cave you need to take an elevator to access. This is a very well-developed site, and they use Alcorn McBride equipment to tell the engaging story of the caves discovery, and to put on a beautiful light show of the very tall waterfall at the end of the path. There are a few tight spots and low ceilings, so not for the claustrophobic.

Lunch was outside at Main Street Meats, and excellent deli. Then back to the AirBnB for the Monday Wine Club Zoom.

June 8

An OK breakfast at Ruby Sunshine, a local breakfast chain, and then on to Nashville.

We stopped at Old Stone Fort State Archeological Park, which has a decent visitor center, and a pleasant walk on the river, but there are really no runs to see here, just some mounds.

The Jack Daniel’s Distillery tour was excellent. Great visitor center, and we had an excellent guide who took us on a tour and conducted a tasting of four of their whiskeys. It was really interesting to learn that their whiskeys are all the same as far as production, barrels, and aging. The only difference is how high (and therefore hot) the barrels have been stored in the warehouse prior to bottling.

Our place in Nashville is the top level of a four unit townhome near the college. Quite nice to be a bit out of downtown. It was an easy walk to dinner at a tapas place, Barcelona Wine Bar, where we ate outside.

June 9

Lunch was downtown at Hattie B’s Hot Chicken, which was better than when I ordered it shipped during the pandemic, but not life-changing. I think I am over Nashville hot chicken.

We spent an hour at the Country Music Hall of Fame, which neither of us were interested in, but you have to in order to tour RCA Studio B, which was quite interesting. It’s where hundreds of hit records have been recorded, including most of Elvis’. It was fun seeing all the old recording equipment, having used much of it myself, and also interesting to get a peek into the still-operational modern control room.

Chopper is a great tiki bar! It has a giant robot over the bar, and robot-shaped tiki mugs. I had a tiki drink with coffee in it that I really liked. Here’s my approximation of the recipe:

Dopamine Tiki Drink from Chopper Nashville
Bourbon 1-1/2 oz.
Demerara rum 1-1/2 oz.
Coffee 1-1/2 oz.
Coconut Syrup 4 pumps (about 1 ounce)
Lemon 3/4 oz.

We had a nice dinner at Butcher & Bee, recommended by one of Dani’s friends who went to Nashville for graduate school.

June 10

After an okay breakfast at nearby Fido we headed for Memphis.

The Casey Jones Home & Railroad Museum in Jackson, TN does a great job of presenting the history (and mythology) of that famous train wreck.

Our AirBnB in Memphis was in a particularly nice area, obviously the gayborhood, and walking distance to lots of restaurants. For dinner we walked to Alchemy and had a nice meal and cocktails on the sidewalk.

June 11

Another excellent restaurant was right around the block, so we had lunch outdoors at Central BBQ. Yum.

For me, one of the unexpected highlights of the trip was the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel. Following a path through 25 very well-interpreted display rooms, you find yourself looking through a glass wall into the room where Martin Luther King was staying when he was assassinated. Seeing his everyday belongings scattered about the room really brought the reality of it home.

We stopped for a flight of bourbon at just a few blocks away, at Max’s Sports Bar. Max’s is owned by a couple who owned a condo next to our in Chicago, and they kindly invited us to drop by. At their suggestion we had the BBQ nachos, which were amazing, actually better than lunch at Central BBQ!

We drove along the river and stopped for ice cream at A Schwab, a vintage pharmacy selling tourist junk on tourist junky Beale Street.

June 12

After an excellent to-go breakfast from the very busy Cafe Eclectic, we headed for Branson.

Our first stop was at the Sultana Museum, right after crossing the river into Arkansas. The Sultana was a steamboat that sank, killing 2300 or so Union soldiers who had been prisoners of war and were being returned to the North at the end of the Civil War. It was the largest maritime disaster in US history, but hardly anyone has heard of it because it happened the week after Lincoln was assassinated. The museum was hosted by a very sweet, knowledgeable woman who gave every visitor a self-guided tour of their many displays, photos, and artifacts. Highly recommended.

Trying to avoid the interstate, our lunch stop was at Whilma’s Filipino Restaurant, which was still pretty much in pandemic mode, with almost no tables, and ordering at a desk. A lot of fried stuff, not that good.

At Justin’s suggestion, we stopped at Lost Canyon Cave and Nature Trail for a fun golf cart journey through a beautiful (but man-made) journey through rock work, waterfalls, a cave with a tiki bar in it, and an expansive view.

Then we made our way through Branson to our condo in a luxury resort, which involved very confusing directions and an odd, after-hours check-in procedure. But the room is beautiful. We ordered pizza delivered for dinner.

June 13

This is the day that desensitized us to pandemic crowds. We went to Silver Dollar City, and the place was packed. We started with a false sense of security on the Flooded Mine ride, which we had to ourselves. It’s a charming and nonsensical boat ride / shooting gallery through animated scenes of prisoners trying to deal with leaking water.

We didn’t have such luck at Mystic River Falls. It LOOKED like a reasonable line. 2-1/2 hours later(!) we boarded our river raft. I must say, though, that it was a great ride. And we got soaked.

I’m not sure why the throughput on that ride is so slow. It seemed like it could have handled a lot more boats, and some went through empty.

After a truly horrendous BBQ bowl and a cinnamon role to recover we headed to Walmart for dry shoes, Dinner at the nearby El Lago Mexican restaurant was surprisingly good, and the GIANT margaritas were great.

June 14

Before leaving Branson we stopped at the WORLD’s Largest Toy Museum Complex. They aren’t kidding. This is a highly recommended stop, with buildings full of every imaginable toy, curated by type and vintage. An hour was not nearly enough time to explore here.

I was surprised that I liked Branson. It’s tacky, but my kind of home-grown tacky; the roads are laid out on the ridge lines, so there are great views; and there are lots of alternate routes, so the traffic isn’t as bad as in some tourist areas.

We had lunch at the Funk Yard in the gloriously tacky Uranus, Missouri, where every employee is in on the pre-teen joke (“The best fudge comes from Uranus.”)

We made a brief stop at t. James Winery, which has been a long-time supporter of the Florida State Fair Wine Competition where I’ve judged for the past 30 years. Typical of hot, humid states their wines are mostly really sweet. I bought a Pink Catawba and a Concord, both of which ended up being enjoyed as mixers during the following week.

Our last night was spent at the Hyatt Regency St. Louis. Road construction made it so difficult to get to this hotel that we just had dinner in the lobby at Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse.

June 15

The drive from St. Louis to Chicago is almost as tedious as the one from Orlando to Atlanta. We stopped at 217 Roadhouse Bar and Grill, where the hamburger was a lot nicer than the server.

And then, by late after noon, we arrived at out condos, and Dani was reunited with Trish.

Best of all, the car fits in the garage.

Chicago, New Orleans, Orlando – Linda’s Road Trip Blog

I flew up to Chicago on Friday to spend some time with Steve and Dani. The weather is very strange this time of year – we had lunch outside yesterday and it went from very sunny to threatening to rain with the temp varying by 20 degrees all in the course of one meal!

IMG_7764Our view of the Wrigley Building.

Yesterday we went on a tour of the Chicago Theater which is about to celebrate its 95th birthday. It was originally built as a movie palace – outside of stunning architecture its claim to fame was air conditioning when it opened. Since films were silent then it has a massive pipe organ – the largest pipe was built of wood and was just over 33 feet long! The organ console has “special effects” buttons built in for car horns, sirens, etc. to accompany the silent films. The theater sat over 3500 folks and was actually a medium sized theater for the chain that it was a part of. When it opened there were well over 100 ushers employed all of whom had “to be well brought up young men of good character with a minimum of a high school education”. They also had to be 5’7″ tall and 135 lbs. to fit into the standard uniforms. Similar to our Disney operator signaling systems today, there were elaborate button and light panels all through this massive building so the ushers could communicate where empty seats were. Very impressive for its day!

I finished a cross stitch that I have been working on for 4 years this afternoon so we are going to take it to a framer tomorrow morning before we leave Chicago.


Our first road trip stop is in St. Louis. We are staying in a Four Seasons with a lovely view of the arch which unfortunately is closed due to urban renewal around its base. Also unfortunate is that the view of everything around the arch is a collection of decaying riverfront factories with black walls and smokestacks – no wonder they built the arch so high – perhaps the goal was to be able to see into another state!

Strangely adjacent to this nice hotel is a new casino which is quite lovely but filled with the dregs of humanity – dedicated gambler that I am even I was scared off and retreated back to the room.

Memphis was much nicer than St. Louis. We stayed at the original Peabody – what a wonderful blast from the past! And best of all the ducks are still there. It was so fun – the Duck Master comes out (sort of like a Ring Master) all dressed up in a fancy red coat and after a spiel to the crowd (of several hundred) he ceremoniously lowers red carpeted duck sized stairs and escorts the ducks to the elevator for the ride to their duck palace on the roof. In Orlando, once released from their fountain the ducks broke the land speed record to escape the lobby full of children; the Memphis ducks seem to have much more decorum and walked down the aisle with a majesty that would have befitted the Queen of England.

We ate at a restaurant called Flights. They had wine flights of course but also had food flights as well – so for example they had a salad flight consisting of (3) salads – thank goodness we just ordered one – portions were huge – I forget this is the South and all. Along those lines it is kind of telling how many billboards there are for cardiac care!

In the morning we took a quick drive down Beale Street just to check that off the list (they were still cleaning up from last night’s partying). It’s not quite as romantic at 8:30 AM!

I took my turn at driving today as we continued down I-55 through Mississippi – what a great drive! I have spent so much time driving in Florida with idiots that I had forgotten what it was like to share the road with folks who know what they are doing. And best of all there are virtually no towns en route, so there aren’t any cops either. Everyone has agreed to go 80 MPH and it’s an overall dandy arrangement. I was driving Steve’s stretch Lexus which is SO comfortable – the only bad thing is there is absolutely no feedback as to how fast you are going – I caught myself doing 90 at one point!

IMG_0370New Orlean’s French Quarter defies description – you have seen the pictures of course but the ambiance is kind of like the seedier part of Las Vegas mixed with the funkiness of San Fransisco’s water front with a dollop of New York street life thrown in for good measure. Walking the streets is kind of like driving in Florida – you have to assume you are going to be cut off at every pass – folks start to drink around 11 AM and it is legal to carry drinks with you on the street – so it’s a happy but directionally and balance wise challenged crowd. Bourbon Street is sort of like an exercise in natural selection – the street itself is closed to traffic but the cross streets are not – you get the picture.

Just one block over from Bourbon is Royal Street – a very different vibe. There are still many tourist shops here but there are some fine antique stores as well. We spent an hour in one that was more like a museum with price tags. It was not uncommon to find prices around $75K and there was a painting that had been sourced from the Vatican that was close to $1M. And heaven knows what they had hidden in the back! The place was huge and among other treasure they had a collection of precision world clocks from the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s.

Commander’s Palace turned out to be a dud – incredibly high wine prices, a fairly limited menu and fractured service – oh well.

Last night however we went to and absolutely fabulous new restaurant (R’evolution). Great wine list and the food was outstanding. Steve and Dani had a 1907 Madiera to finish off the meal – perfect in every way!

Halloween in New Orleans is… well let’s just say it ain’t Disney style.

On Bourbon Street one passes cigar puffing men in red tutu’s and matching bustier’s with a lot of muscles and an overall bad attitude. The young ladies in similar attire go down the street without comment. The young ladies (?) hooking for the strip clubs hang out with mostly bare tops covered perhaps by black paint at the most. They are about 15′ away from young boys tap dancing on the street in violation of every child labor law I have ever heard of. We saw a very dapper pair of elderly men (clearly well monied) with impeccable suit jackets, killer shoes and no pants save for very colorful boxer shorts. Then there was the black robed young woman with a large live snake draped around her neck. And the crazy guy naked but for black Speedo who was bragging about being both drunk and high on cocaine… And everyone else is just pretty much 3 sheets to the wind. Several schmucks had fallen by the road and were sleeping it off on the sidewalk. And this was about 5 PM last night. So what I could not get my head around was about this same time a NOLA police car was driving down the road – could not fathom what infraction they were going to go for first? These folks have taken live and let live to a whole new level!

IMG_0471So what I neglected to mention is the music. Music oozes from every pore of the French Quarter – they seem to be be born knowing how to play an instrument. There is nothing repetitive about it – every performance is improvised – as opposed to soul music this is music from the soul – amazing! There was a street band led by an older black lady clarinet player – the best I have ever heard! Her name is Doreen Ketchens; here is one link on YouTube but you can find others as well:

There was also a band that played in a lounge in our hotel. The room was about the same size as lounges on cruise ships and I always felt a slight rocking sensation (but it might have been the champagne…).

IMG_0529Yesterday we had had enough of the city and drove about an hour out of town to a riverfront plantation, Oak Alley. It was a rainy day so it was very uncrowded and it was a little easier to get a sense of what it must have really been like. It is named Oak Alley because an unknown Frenchman planted an avenue of oak trees 80 feet apart in the early 1700’s. He never lived to see them in their full majesty but now they have grown together and form a magnificent arch leading to the river. They funnel any breeze and in the early 1800’s a wealthy French officer built a magnificent home at the end of the Alley for his bride (who sounds like she was actually a pill but whatever.)

The plantation grew sugar cane and employed about 100 slaves. There was an inventory of them from the mid 1800’s and their values ranged from $25 for a very sickly older person to $1500 for a skilled self taught botanist. Morality aside, just from an economic standpoint most of them were not given sufficient food/clothing to survive adequately – they had to supplement their incomes/food by raising crops and animals in their “spare” time; seems a pennywise approach to treating your work force.



So then it was off to Biloxi and the Beau Rivage. It is kind of sad – sort of a southern Las Vegas built on the cheap for senior citizens who have never gotten the chance to travel anywhere else. The only fun fact is for inexplicable reasons it is mandated that the casinos themselves have to be built on barges. So the hotels are built on the water’s edge and the barges are seamlessly attached to them – you can’t detect the seam from the inside. And no, I cannot figure out how they deal with the tides and it’s bugging me…

IMG_0550Last night we had a lovely dinner in a steak house on the top of another hotel – they had a very nice wine list and also were having a 50% off special on the wine – no limits! Had some really good Burgundy at below retail – yeah! And I even won $15 at the casino last night.

Eating habits in the South – no wonder insurance rates are so high! It is just kind of sad. We went to a sushi restaurant in Biloxi and out of 40 rolls only 3 or 4 of them did not feature tempura battered something or overall deep fried or both. Yuk! Amazingly their sashimi preparations were spot on.


En route to the Panhandle I was amazed by the sophistication of Mobile, Alabama – beautiful waterfront convention center and great local restaurants.



Our final stop before Orlando was in Destin, Florida, at a kind of funky pseudo bed and breakfast with a killer Gulf view.

IMG_0573 I am going to sleep with the doors open and the waves lapping outside.


Road Trip: Orlando to Chicago

After purchasing the new condo in downtown Chicago we wanted to transport some big, heavy stuff like art work and dishes, so Dani and I decided to road trip via Atlanta, Nashville and Louisville. This would have the added advantage of a car in Chicago for the summer, which would ease the move from Evanston.

The route

IMG_6852Only 1268 miles to go.

IMG_6862 Atlanta

IMG_6868 Atlanta. Dani tries out my new Apple watch.

Opryland hotel. Impressive but probably wouldn’t stay here again. Checking in is like queuing at a theme park. In fact, it is a theme park, and I did work on an AV installation here many years ago.

IMG_6902Louisville slugger. I really like the 21c Museum Hotel next door. We’ve stayed there twice. Not much other reason to come to Louisville, though!

IMG_7114Home! (Well, actually we had to store the stuff in Evanston–or the trunk–for a couple of weeks until after the closing.) Some of the heavy stuff we transported.


We spent two days at sea, sailing from San Juan to Charleston, South Carolina. The Atlantic was fairly calm, and the sailing smooth.

We had booked Priveé, the private dining room, for Thursday night. It’s located between Toscana and Polo Grill, and you can choose items from both menus. We invited Ashley and Ming Cheung, a couple we met at the La Reserve wine dinner to join us, and the five of us had a lovely evening of conversation, food and wine. I probably wouldn’t book Priveé again, though, because most of the experience can be duplicated by requesting a table for five in either of the adjoining restaurants. You’d just have to decide what cuisine you wanted.


Friday we docked in Charleston. The weather was temperate and sunny. Charleston is a great port, because the pier is just a block from the end of Market street, the tourist shopping area of the city. We sensed this was what Pamela had been waiting for; she had a good time browsing the wide variety of merchandise.


At the end of the shops we split up, and Linda and I continued about a mile down King Street to O-Ku, a restaurant Dani and I discovered on a previous trip. They serve excellent sushi, in a really nice decor (although the menu and the lighting is better at night).


We made our way back along Market Street, where Linda stocked up on stocking stuffers for Christmas.


In the afternoon we tried out the putting green on deck 16, then watched as we sailed out of Charleston Harbor past Fort Sumter.


Yorktown and Clamagore

Dani was up late editing her Duchess of Malfi video, so she slept in, and when she got up we walked a few blocks to The Pit Stop Deli for some tasty sandwiches. Then we drove across Charleston’s impressive Bridge to Patriot’s Point to see the USS Yorktown aircraft carrier and the USS Clamagore submarine.

The Yorktown offers a half dozen self-guided tours. We wandered through many levels, seeing the mess, galleys, bunks, sick bay, surgery, x-ray room, radar rooms (one full of giant racks, one with red lights and many small screens), navigation room, bridge, helm, and flight deck. It was neat to see all this sixty year old high tech equipment. The tour is definitely not ADA compliant, as there are many ladders, both up and down, and many water tight doorways with six inch sills.

On the other side of the quay we descended into the USS Clamagore, the last of the navy’s diesel powered submarines. This was an even more interesting sub tour than the U-boat in Chicago, because it is nearly unaltered from its original condition. That means you have to swing up and through the many watertight hatches that separate the compartments. I think this sub is similar to the one Tom Gottshalk served on. I can’t imagine how crowded it must have been with a full crew, as some of the corridors were so narrow that both my shoulders touched.

Both ships were really interesting tours, and the breeze from the ocean kept the 90 degree day pleasant.

Dinner at Peninsula Grill in our hotel, voted Charleston’s best restaurant every year since 2001, was very good. The highlight was the Madeira tasting flight:

  • 1969 D’Oliveiras Sercial Reserva
  • 1981 Barbieto Verdelho
  • 1968 D’Oliveiras Boal Reserva
  • 1875 Barbieto Malvasia

Charleston and Savannah 2002

WPS Southern Heritage Tour
April 8-12, 2002


6:00 AM came an hour early, with the change to daylight savings time only a day old. It was still pitch black as we pulled out of the Windermere Preparatory School parking lot and headed for Charleston. Two, buses, one for girls and one for boys, were both nearly full, with 56 students and 23 chaperones — nearly all of the fifth and sixth grade classes. I was on the girl’s bus, and guess I got the better deal, as the video player worked. The kids were very patient on the ten-hour drive to Charleston. They had notebooks with class assignments in all different subjects, and immediately got to work learning about Charleston History .

We stopped only twice, the second time at a McDonald’s somewhere in Georgia for lunch. I had made up a word search puzzle, which helped pass the time.

We learned that it’s pretty challenging to come up with seven-letter words using the letters in Charleston (never mind that the computer can find 94 of them!) The winners were Bramjot and Erica Kordsmeier .

We also learned that Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is a VERY long movie .


We arrived at Patriot’s Point and met out tour director, Frankie, a bit too late to visit the Yorktown aircraft carrier, but in time for the last boat to Fort Sumter.

Fort Sumter is operated by the National Park Service.

These aren’t the first cannons from the fort, but they are old.

To strengthen the fort for the Spanish American War, these cannon placements were filled with dirt and rubble. They were excavated in the 1950s. Archaeologists were surprised to discover that the cannons were still there .


Tuesday morning we had a nice breakfast at the hotel, then headed for Charleston. We passed a replica of the Confederate submarine the Hunley. It was the first submarine to succeed in sinking a ship, although its crew subsequently perished. It was forty feet long, but so skinny it is hard to imagine eight or nine men crammed inside, hand cranking the propeller. It would have been like crawling into your own coffin .

Once in Charleston we discovered we had left one student and his mother at the hotel, and both buses made the round trip to pick them up. Nevertheless, we arrived at the Charleston Aquarium with plenty of time to explore.

The best exhibit at the Charleston Aquarium was UFOs — Unidentified Floating Objects. Between the Tampa and Sydney Aquariums, I thought I’d seen pretty much everything, but there was some REALLY weird stuff in this exhibit.

Here, Dani points at some very fanciful seahorses.

The salt marsh exhibit yielded few clues in filling out the curriculum.

Picking up slimy things .

We had a leisurely lunch at a food court outside the IMAX theater, then saw a fabulous film about Earnest Shakleton’s ill-fated attempt to cross Antarctica in 1914. He and his crew survived a year and a half in and on the ice, escaping from their ship, the Endeavor, as it was crushed. Shackleton and five others made an 800-mile journey in a rowboat, returning to rescue the entire crew. A remarkable accomplishment, and the best IMAX film I’ve seen.

Our next stop was the market in downtown Charleston. Originally deeded to the city for use as an open air food market, it is now a souvenir market with many interesting arts and crafts.

Student group shot.


Hey! Where did everybody go?

The pirate walking tour. Our guide was fantastic. She really brought the story of Stede Bonnet and Blackbeard alive, including all the gory details. Roasted lips, anyone?

Dinner was at Bubba Gump’s (delicious garlic bread!)

After dinner we went on yet another walking tour. Scattered showers forced us to take cover periodically under overhanging buildings. Linda’s glow stick bracelets added a spooky air to the ghost tour, which proved frightening — at least to the frighteningly gullible .

Back at the hotel it was nearly 10:00 pm. A few stalwart souls joined Mrs. Kent in the lobby for a study session. , but we were definitely ready for bed after this, our busiest day of the tour .


After a nice breakfast we loaded our luggage onto the bus and set off on the rainy two-hour bus ride to Savannah. I handed our a cryptogram puzzle, which proved popular. It was also an opportunity to learn some Savannah History, as these paragraphs turned out to be the answers .


We stopped at the Savannah visitors’ center to pick up our bus pass and ruminate about the rainy day. In the end, we decided to follow the original plan and go to the River Walk, an historic area that has been converted to shops and restaurants. There, equipped with some newly-purchased pastel umbrellas, we strolled down the half mile of storefronts .

We had lunch with Dani, Elise, Miranda and Becky at Fiddler’s Crab House, then bought some candy and curios .

At a shop at the very end of the street I bought some Savannah ceramic tiles as prizes for the cryptogram contest. (Later, on the bus ride to dinner, we handed them out to the winners. Five people solved all five cryptograms: Gabrielle, Alannah, Dani, and Chris. )

At 4:00 pm, soggy but cheerful, we headed to the Fairfield Inn to check in and get ready for dinner.

Dinner was at Fort Jackson, a Civil War era fortification located on the river downstream of Savannah. The students were greeted by three soldiers dressed in Civil War garb.

They learned some basic field drills and then had dinner (fortunately chicken tenders, not salt pork). Afterwards, they were split into three companies, and cycled through three different presentations.

Up on the wall, they learned about the role of blacks during the war, and inspected a fiberglass cannon used in the filming of Glory.

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Back on the field they learned about nineteenth century communications, and got to try their hand with semaphore flags .

In the supply room they were shown what soldiers ate (yuck) and wore .

The grand finale was the firing of the 12-pound field cannon. We learned how it is cleaned and loaded, a non-trivial process that could be accomplished in 15 seconds by a team of seven. We also learned that when it’s fired you want to have your fingers in your ears!


Thursday morning one of our buses broke down, so we had to transfer the group to our first stop in two shifts .

Our first stop was the Railroad Museum, where we had a very entertaining and informative tour by the museum’s director. She showed us how the turntable worked (we went for a very noisy ride), and described the machinery and tools that were used to service the locomotives.

The facility was quite sophisticated for its time, using a central steam engine to drive rotating shafts that went to buildings throughout the yard, providing power to the equipment .

A circular building in the yard was a community shower. Excess steam heated water in a tank above the individual stalls, and a tall smokestack carried away the leftover heat.

Next stop was Fort Pulaski. I was dubious that we could find a third fort in as many days interesting, but our National Park Service Ranger guide was funny, fascinating and really brought the place to life. When one girl asked what cause the impressive holes lining one wall of the fort he exclaimed, “Woodpeckers! We’ve got a terrible woodpecker problem here!

“The fort, originally constructed prior to the revolution, was believed impregnable. Yet its wall was breached in just 36 hours, using a new cannon developed during the Civil War.

It was quite exhilarating to be up on the railing-free wall. Particularly for those of us trying to keep the kids away from the edge.

Near Fort Pulaski is The Crab Shack, an unparalleled dive where we had some delicious crab, shrimp, mussels, and crawfish. Well, some of us did. Chicken and hotdogs won the popular vote.

We stopped briefly at the lighthouse on Tybee Island, but with the museum closed it hardly seemed worth the price of admission, so we walked along the beach instead. It was cool, with a stiff wind blowing, but no rain. Nearby was a great concrete structure, now the Shriners’ Hall. I wondered if it was originally a WWII era fortification or U-boat lookout station. There were no explanatory signs, but plenty of keep off warnings.

Dinner was on a riverboat on the Savannah River. The group, wearing their school uniforms, posed on the River Walk in front of it prior to boarding. Quite a few of the kids were dragging from our busy schedule, and a few had colds or the flu, but there was still an enthusiast group doing karaoke after dinner.

We were all definitely ready for bed by the time we got back to the hotel .


Luggage packed, continental breakfast, and onto the bus by 9:00 am, we headed for our final stop: the Mighty Eight Air Force Heritage Museum. This wonderful museum presents the history of World War II, particularly the European Theater, from 1933 through 1945. Several videos and our informative guide brought the conflict to life. It appeared to be the first time that many of the girls had been exposed to this information, and I think they learned a tremendous amount about it .

One terrific multi-screen show put us in the seats of a B-17 mission, including explosions and wind coming in the bomb bay doors. It was quite gripping .

On the way home I handed out some Weird Facts About Florida .

At last the six hour bus ride was over. A cheer went up as we pulled into the Windermere Preparatory School parking lot. Kids and luggage tumbled out of the bus into the arms and cars of their waiting parents.

We learned a tremendous amount on the trip. The students learned about everything from the Civil War to World War II, with stops in Antarctica and under the ocean along the way. The adults learned a few things, too, particularly about keeping track of students. I think everyone had a great time, but I also know we’ll all be happy to be home in our own beds, for a loooong night’s sleep.

Steve Alcorn
April 2002

The New Millennium in Williamsburg, January 1, 2000

We saw the new Millennium (or Millennium-1, depending upon how you count) in
at Williamsburg, where my father lives on the Kingsmill Golf Course. As usual,
we traveled by auto train. New Year’s Eve was spent at a black tie party at
the Williamsburg Inn.

This was the first outing for my new Fujifilm MX-2700 (1800×1200) camera, with which I am
quite pleased.

For Christmas both Danielle and
Linda got Legos — about 3000 in all! That should keep them busy.
Waiting to board the train. Our
car is already loaded.
Sewing lessons while waiting for
the train to board.
Keeping busy aboard the train by
making a stocking for Nicole’s cat, Nipper. The sewing kit was a request
to Santa.
Relaxing in our cabin.
Journal writing.
They are constructing a
“kitchen” behind one of the houses in Colonial Williamsburg,
using 18th century techniques, of course. But wait. What’s that metal
scaffolding? After they’d already built an 18th century scaffold, OSHA
made them use a 20th century one. Your tax dollars at work.
One of the things Colonial
Williamsburg is known for at Christmas is its decorations, which use all
natural ingredients, in the style of the 18th century. The average wreath
is replaced once or twice during the Christmas season because of
squirrels! This one is made of dried and fresh flowers.
Here is another wreath that I
liked. This one incorporates pomegranates, wheat and feathers.
Another edible wreath.
The stocks. One of only two times
on the trip that Danielle wasn’t wiggling.
The other time.
When you’ve grown up in Florida,
ice in a barrel is a real novelty. Hard to believe that two days later it
was 72 degrees.
The only thing better than a
frozen barrel? A frozen pond.
Lunch with Pop Pop at the King’s
Mill Country Club.
Danielle and Pop Pop both like
projects. This one is a crystal radio kit.
Clowning around while building a
crystal radio with Pop Pop..
Golfing on the Woods course at
Our porch at the Williamsburg
lodge overlooked a duck pond. It was cold for the first two days, then
turned unseasonably warm to welcome in the new year.
Playing Ginnie’s piano. Danielle
picked out a whole Christmas carol.
Black Tie New Year’s Eve party at
the Williamsburg Inn.
Danielle learned the Foxtrot, Cha
Cha, and a bit of the Swing.
Steve and Linda dancing just
before the stroke of midnight.
I call this simply
“Millennium Tongue”.
That must make this
“Millennium Top Hat”.
Carriage ride in Colonial
Aboard the carriage. Danielle is
wearing her New Year’s Eve party favor — a tiara.
Jack and Jill (not necessarily in
that order).
In jail.
Tree climbing.
Danielle works on her journal in
the top bunk as we head home in a new millennium.

Williamsburg 1989-2007

My father lived on the King’s Mill Golf Course in Williamsburg, Virginia. We visited him most years, sometimes traveling by auto train. We enjoyed the ambiance of the train, and it’s convenient to have our car and all of Danielle’s “stuff” when we get there.

norv and ginnie in williamsburg 1987 taken by bill alcorn
norv and ginnie in williamsburg 1987 taken by bill alcorn

Norv Williamsburg 1989
Dad’s house in King’s Mill,1989.

Dani before her baptism, posing in front of the fireplace at PopPop and GinGin’s house.


The Slide.

Ice 2 Williamsburg 1-97
On the iced-up pond across the street, January 1997.

Ice Williamsburg 1-97
This ice is slippery stuff.

Train 1998
Trains are BIG. That red dot is Danielle. January 1998.

Boarding 1998
Boarding the train, January 1998.

Pillory 1998
Linda locks Danielle and Pop Pop into the Pillory, Colonial Williamsburg, January 1998.

Silversmith 1998
Silversmith, Colonial Williamsburg, January 1998.

Windmill 1998
Windmill, Colonial Williamsburg, January 1998.

Williamsburg 1998
Behind the Governor’s Mansion, Colonial Williamsburg, January 1998.

dad golf dec 1998
Golfing with Dad, December 1998.

Miss Manderly 1998
With Miss Manderly, a character from the American Girls Felicity book, Colonial Williamsburg, December 1998.

In the lobby of the Williamsburg Inn, between Christmas and New Year’s, 1999

Dancing in the dining room of the Williamsburg Inn, between Christmas and New Year’s, 1999

Blacksmith Shop. Thanksgiving, 2001.

Thanksgiving, 2001.

The Capitol. Thanksgiving, 2001.

Carter’s Grove. Thanksgiving, 2001.

Thanksgiving, 2001.

Gunsmith Shop. Thanksgiving, 2001.

jail2001Thanksgiving, 2001.

Thanksgiving, 2001.

Thanksgiving, 2001.

Thanksgiving, 2002.

williamsburg2002-2Thanksgiving, 2002.

Thanksgiving, 2002.

Thanksgiving, 2002.

Thanksgiving, 2002.

Thanksgiving, 2005 Parade.

Thanksgiving, 2005 Shop.

Thanksgiving, 2005 walking to a witch trial reenactment.

Thanksgiving, 2005 at Ford’s Colony.

Thanksgiving 2007. At the Williamsburg Inn for Thanksgiving dinner, Reggie brought Dani a PB&J sandwich for old times sake.