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Archive for October, 2013

A week or so ago, Mary and I departed our home in Northern Virginia, along with our Pomeranian, Boo, for a short visit with my brother in Rockport, Texas.  In planning the 3,246-mile trip, I went online to two or three sites that provided suggestions for pet-friendly accommodations along our routes down and back.  After establishing that our mutual stamina required two overnights between home and Texas (and rooms there as well), I used Yelp.com and TripAdvisor.com for additional reviews of the lodgings suggested by the pet-friendly sites.

The first thing one must understand when looking for reviews is that a totally happy customer usually goes their merry way, contented, well-meaning, but forgetful to post a review.  When they get home, they’re often mentally too tired to deal with any emails from booking sites or venues to complete surveys.  This means that the vast majority of review sites are populated with reviews that, to some degree, are negative.  BIG grain of salt required here.  Read between the lines.  Some folks, to give them the polite benefit of the doubt, simply want too much for what they’re willing to pay.  Think “champagne taste on a beer budget.”

Following my own advice, I didn’t expect any hotel or motel to get perfect reviews.  I also looked at dates and didn’t read any reviews not written in the last nine months.  I came up with a La Quinta in Chattanooga, Tennessee.  Then, a room at the Drury Inn & Suites in Baton rouge, Louisiana.  Finally, for our three nights in Rockport, Texas, I had few choices but picked the Days Inn.  I’d call the first and last places motels, and the Drury a hotel.  (That’s just me, as there seem to be a multitude of opinions as to what constitutes what.)  As for pet-friendly, the La Quinta and Drury truly were, as there was no extra fee for our little girl.  The Days Inn, however, charged us a per-pet $15-per-night for her to stay with us.  Not so friendly.  Imagine if I’d had three Chihuahuas!  The pet fee would have been almost the cost of the room—per night!

Boo, who never had achieved “comfort” while in the car, eventually relaxed and slept through much of the trip, and soon adopted the “bathroom break” timing of her humans.  Having traveled that far by car only once before, I neglected to factor rest stops, stretch stops, and fueling stops into what I thought would be eight hours per leg.  We still arrived in daylight at each destination along the way, which was important for me, as I had hoped to (and succeeded) avoid a check-in line.

Not wanting any digestive surprises along the way, when I planned the trip I also inserted a Chick-fil-A at what I figured would be a good lunch stop.  I forgot, for the one day, that CFA was closed on Sundays.  The Whataburger, next door, served us just fine—just don’t think you’re going to eat that Double:  I’ve never seen a fast-food burger that size before!

Boo, who had been effectively abandoned twice before we “rescued” her, had always been frantic if Mary and I left her alone.  On the trip, this behavior seems to have mitigated.  Not a bark the whole trip.

While this post is not about accommodations, I would like to say that if there are any Drury Inn & Suites located appropriately on any future trip, they were superior and they can count on my business.

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Although “can’t go home again” applies to much of Arlington, Virginia, as it has been “citified” since I was born and raised there, there is one place which hasn’t perceptibly changed since I was first introduced to it back in the early sixties.  Today, to begin our first vacation in years, we indulged ourselves at Arlington’s long-lasting, unchanging (for over 34 years in this location) sandwich (and pizza) spot, The Broiler on Columbia Pike.  A gen-u-wine steak and cheese sub and real french fries, not those coated things one encounters just about everywhere nowadays.

We were disappointed only that much of Arlington has changed:  apartments are now condos, single-family homes which were once very nice now look derelict, and oh, the congestion!  But The Broiler has remained faithful to our memories.

We invite you to stop by there if you’re ever close enough (though, for us, it was worth the special trip!), and give your taste buds a real treat.

 

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“Cherry Coke.” I asked my friend. “What’s that? ”
“You’ve never had a cherry Coke?” He asked, with a look on his face somewhere between shock and hilarity. “C’mon. Let’s go up to Drug Fair, to the soda fountain, and I’ll treat you. You can’t go through life never having had a cherry Coke.”

So, we strolled up to the counter at Drug Fair and sat on a couple of stools, those ones with the round tops you could spin around on, and he ordered two cherry Cokes. I watched as the soda jerk (a generic appellation bestowed because of the jerking action of pulling on the draft soda handle) pumped a squirt of red liquid into each cone-shaped paper cup (held by a metal device that was shaped like a big egg cup), then, with a jerk of the Coke handle, filled the cups with Coke.

A sip through the proffered skinny paper straw. Another, this time a longer one. WOW! Angels were dancing on my tongue! And that, folks, is how it started.

Before my time, Mr. Ford said you could have one of his cars in any color you wanted…so long as it was black. That’s the way Coca-Cola was, too. Coke was, well, Coke.  Any tinkering with that secret recipe was at the hands of those Beverage Chefs (soda jerks) who served us.

An aside: While this post isn’t about this distressing state of affairs, I feel I should at least mention that it is saddening to me that humans serve us less and less and that we’re interfacing more and more with machines. Self-service, they call it, but it’s doing away with our interaction with humans. Once there was the Automat, but there were many humans in the back making it work.

Okay, back to the subject of this post.  We, as humans, are never really content.  We haven’t enough stuff, we haven’t enough money, we haven’t enough space to store stuff in our home.   We have plenty to eat, but we’re never satisfied with what we have to eat.  I guess I’m odd.  I’ve always been content to eat the same thing for lunch every day for a week – and I’m still here.  In fact, for fifteen years, at work, I ate the same one-of-two-things for lunch for fifteen years!  Every so often, I’ll have something different, but I basically drink one of three drinks.  Sound like something you could do?  No?  And that’s the problem.  Lack of contentment.  As Pepsi once put on a sweatshirt, “Gottahavitas.”  How much money is enough?  “Just a little more.”  How many square feet in a home is enough?  “Just a little more.”  How much car do I want?  “Just a little more.”   How many flavors do I want?  How much choice?  “Just a little more.”  Walking into a Starbucks can be a traumatic experience.  Too many choices.  But the question is, “Am I content with whatever God’s blessed me with?”

Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. (1 Timothy 6:6-8 NKJV)

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