Tag Archives: vacations

Road Trip Diaries, Day 4: Route 66 Day 2 – From Raymond IL to the “Show Me” State


Getting our kicks …

“I come from a state that raises corn and cotton, cockleburs and Democrats, and frothy eloquence neither convinces nor satisfies me. I’m from Missouri, and you have got to show me.” -Willard Duncan Vandiver, United States Congressman, as quoted in 1899

Day 2 started with far less drama than Day 1, thankfully! It helped that I had scheduled a much shorter day anticipating that Day 1 of 66 would wear us out (and I was more than correct on that point). It was time to hit the road for the Show Me State … otherwise known as “Missouri”! But before we got there, there were a few more things to check out in the Land of Lincoln, starting with a closer look at our hotel. With too much to mention, here are the highlights of our day.

  • As mentioned before, we’d stayed the previous night at the extremely comfortable Magnuson Grand Hotel and Conference Center on old Route 66 (now renamed simply Frontage Road) in Raymond, Illinois. The hotel was mostly deserted when we were there, but we found its nautical decor, fountains, roomy interior, Route 66 guestbook, and the meticulously cared-for gardens and grounds utterly charming. I’d read that it was once an independent Holiday Inn (not part of the chain), but one glance at the hotel’s indoor recreation atrium told me it had to be an old Holiday Inn “Holidome.” The Magnuson’s atrium features a heated pool, various games (like air hockey), and tables and chairs, and what looked like a decommissioned, boarded-up hot tub. (Later research confirmed the hotel was in fact once a Holidome, although more recently it was the Best Western Carlinville Inn. For those unfamiliar with Holidomes, Holiday Inn introduced this concept in the 1970s as a way to entice families and fun-seekers alike; the Holidome was simply a large atrium with rooms that opened out into it and where a number of fun attractions were located. The more elaborate ones included mini-golf courses and fire pits! You can find a few in existence today or search for them on Holiday Inn’s website, but HI seems to have officially abandoned the concept in favor of more elaborate water park hotels.) Sadly, we didn’t get to sample the pool, as the gate was locked up and then the pool man came to maintenance it and then we had to go. The hotel had other things to look at, like the aforementioned gardens, and the main attraction – a winding sundeck and walkway that will take you around a pond full of goldfish, where the hotel’s crowning glory sits – the Carlin Belle riverboat! The boat was locked up and isn’t available for casual self-tours, but you can rent it out for special events. Finally, this hotel has a restaurant (the Captain’s Table), a lounge (Yacht Club), and upstairs event space (the Crow’s Nest). The Captain’s Table serves a free hot breakfast in the mornings which offers items such as eggs, tater tots and biscuits and gravy.

Eric checks out the lobby while his wife sneakily follows him around snapping pictures.

  • After gassing up at the station across the road, we headed back toward another 66 alignment. We passed a female turkey crossing the street and witnessed her fly up a good five or six feet in the air, squawking indignantly at a vehicle that nearly hit her. I’d seen them before in my hometown, but had never seen one fly like that (while we yelled “AAAAAAH! NOOOOO TURKEY!”). The turkey made it, and it soon became apparent the wild avian had stolen Eric’s heart, and he became obsessed with looking for them after this sighting! As we got a little turned around again, we also discovered that nearby is a large lake with woods and some nice homes situated around it. (I believe this is the 1500 acre Lake Lou Yaeger.)
The lucky turkey strutting off to her destination.

The lucky turkey strutting off to her destination.

  • Skyview Drive-In in Litchfield, IL – This great old drive-in theater is the last original 66 drive-in in Illinois still in operation – and the marquee, screen, and grounds all look great! There’s even a historical 66 sign out front with more information. Curiously, the sign shows a picture of a full screen tower that looks nothing like the one there today, but I can’t seem to locate much information on it. Tip: Neither GPS on our phone  – Google Maps or the iPhone Maps – had this drive-in in the correct place, leading us to wonder if it had been closed and demolished before we found the correct location.

Informational sign on the lawn in front of the Sky View Drive-In! You can find helpful signs like this all the way down Route 66 in Illinois.

  • Ariston Cafe is a well-known historic Route 66 cafe also located in Litchfield! We were too full from breakfast to want to eat, but we drove by it and it looks alive and well. This is often referred to as a must-stop, so catch a bite to eat here if you can.
  • Henry’s Rabbit Ranch (or Henry’s Ra66it Ranch) in Staunton was another must-see for me. This is a more recent tourist attraction, and not a ranch so much as it is a mock gas station that’s chock full of 66 memorabilia (motel signs, gas pumps, cars, etc.), the most prominent of which are two original Campbell 66 Express 18-wheeler trailers featuring “Snortin’ Norton” the camel. The main draw, of course, are the big cuddly rescue rabbits cared for by owner Rich Henry (and, despite my love for 66, definitely the main reason I wanted to stop by). When we pulled up in the little gravel driveway, we were moments behind a tour bus full of older folks on a Route 66 tour. Rich Henry came out to greet them cradling a giant rabbit, Gizmo, in his arms. We had a minute or two to ourselves inside with all the adorable, soft, big-eared bunnies, who seemed quite content and well-fed, and then in came the bus group. Although things were considerably more crowded as a result, they were delightful. One lady excitedly quizzed me about our trip, while an elderly gentleman took advantage of a momentary silence to sing out “You get one of these rabbits, six months later you can’t find the damn thing!”
Making friends with Gizmo, front desk staffer at Henry's.

Making friends with Gizmo, front desk staffer at Henry’s.

A Burma Shave-style sign hangs from the roof of Henry's Rabbit Ranch.

A Burma Shave-style series of signs hangs from the roof of Henry’s Rabbit Ranch.

  • Numerous other attractions, signs, and motels can be found all through the southern part of Illinois’s 66 route. Some are well-known “golden oldies” and some are newer attractions that take advantage of their location to advertise with the 66 emblem. Some are in great shape, like the pre-66, former Al Capone hangout Luna Cafe and its classic neon sign, and some are less so, such as the Apple Valley Motel which recently suffered a devastating fire. There are too many things to see to mention here, but as a drive-in lover, I can’t go without mentioning the wonderful Bel-Air Drive In marquee sign, standing tall alongside a vacant lot in Mitchell, IL. (The marquee is all that’s left – see it while you still can, as it’s my understanding this lot is slated for re-development.)
All that's left of the Bel-Air Drive In

All that’s left of the Bel-Air Drive In

  • Dewey’s Pizza in the town of Edwardsville is one of a few restaurants in a small St. Louis-area chain. We stopped there primarily because we were now hungry and didn’t want to make the same mistake we made the day before (saving our hunger for the most 66-appropriate restaurant possible). As luck would have it, Dewey’s turned out to be a great choice. The chain is one that takes pride in bringing new life to old buildings, and the Edwardsville restaurant is located inside the former Kriege Hardware store. The classic neon sign outside has been re-purposed appropriately and looks great. The pizza is absolutely delicious. I should note that after we’d been waiting a while for it to come out, the manager appeared and apologized saying that they had forgotten to put in the order. (Our waiter was very nice and was probably just new; we actually overheard him apologizing to the manager who was understanding.) As a result, our meal was on the house. We ordered the Socrates’ Revenge pie which included garlic, mozzarella and fontina cheeses, spinach, black and green olives, and feta cheese and the savory toppings on a crunchy thin crust it hit the spot after our drive. I appreciated the way the restaurant addressed their mistake, and I would recommend this place if you happen to be in Edwardsville!
  • (Old) Chain of Rocks Bridge – chances are, if you’re planning a 66 trip, this one is already on your list. This will be your last big 66 site before you cross the river to Missouri – although if you’re in a vehicle you won’t be using this bridge to do it. Built in 1929, the 10-span overpass officially became part of Route 66 in 1936 when the highway was rerouted to go over it, carrying travelers over the Mississippi River into St. Louis. After closing in 1968, it was eventually re-opened for biking and walking use only and is now a well-recognized historic site. Its most famous feature is the 30-degree bend in the middle. Eric already knew what the bridge was from the movie Escape from New York and was thrilled to see it in person. Today, you can drive over a canal bridge to get to a large parking lot outside of Chain of Rocks where you’ll find informational signs and the entrance for foot and bike traffic (and in our case, lots of milkweed tufts drifting by on the breeze). Tip 1: This is so embarrassing, but we momentarily mistook the canal bridge for the real Chain of Rocks, realizing our mistake once a big truck hauling a trailer sailed past me and my camera. The worst part is I actually knew there was a canal bridge coming up first and was so excited that I just forgot. Haha! Tip 2: If you don’t have time to walk the bridge itself and would like to get a great view of the whole thing, there is a fishermans’ parking lot nearby where you can park and take some pictures. We cannot vouch for it, but it’s been recommended by others. This forum posting has a good satellite image to show you where it is. Note – I repeatedly hear that it’s not a good idea to park at the Missouri end of the bridge, so try to get your pictures from the Illinois side.

The Illinois entrance to the (old) Chain of Rocks Bridge.

Google Earth satellite view of the old Chain of Rocks Bridge - note the distinctive bend. Crossing the upper part of the image is the New Chain of Rocks Bridge.

Google Earth satellite view of the old Chain of Rocks Bridge – note the distinctive bend. Crossing the upper part of the image is the New Chain of Rocks Bridge.

  • Since we couldn’t drive over the Chain of Rocks Bridge, we turned back around (getting in and out of the area is not very fast, as the canal bridge is one-lane and you must wait for a signal to go on it). We used the McKinley Bridge (also a former Route 66 alignment) to get into St. Louis. You’ll get a great view of the famous Gateway Arch from this route!
  • Side trip idea: We could see a building in the distance with a Ferris wheel spinning on top and wondered what it was. It turns out St. Louis has an amazing all-ages museum called the City Museum that is chock-full of artist Bob Cassilly’s whimsical, hands-on exhibits and culptures, including a school bus dangling off the roof (that you can climb in), a maze with monster sculptures inside, and floor-to-ceiling tunnels to slide down. Learning about this “adult-sized playground” museum sealed the deal; we must come down this way again.
  • Ted Drewes Frozen Custard – Run, do not walk to this beloved classic St. Louis custard stand – and get there early, because a lot of other people have the same idea on any given day! As my husband is one of the biggest ice cream/custard fans on Planet Earth, it was a given that we would stop here (plus I’m hardly averse to the frozen stuff, myself). We were very lucky to just barely beat some long lines. But I don’t know that either of us were prepared for the confrontation with deliciousness that confronted us after our purchases were complete. Savoring the rich chocolate and whole juicy cherries of Ted Drewes’ “Cardinal Sin” flavor concrete is a whole new type of heaven. Wait, did I say concrete? Yes I did – that’s what Ted Drewes calls their extra thick frozen custard, so thick that neither the custard nor the spoon will fall out of the cup when inverted. (And lest you start thinking of a Dairy Queen Blizzard … oh no, it’s much thicker than that.) We’ve never had anything like it. Eric lost his mind over the “All Shook Up” peanut butter and banana flavor. Ted Drewes, which currently has three St. Louis-area shops, has been around since 1929 – the Route 66 location on Chippewa (old 66) has been there since 1951. The building still has its original neon sign, as well as wooden icicles hanging from the roof! A serious treasure … if you only get one cup of custard on your trip, make it a Ted Drewes cup. The owner has steadfastly refused to franchise over the years, so you aren’t likely to find it anywhere else anytime soon!
  • Gooey butter cakes are another St. Louis must! Although the city’s most famous are probably found at Park Avenue Coffee, we found a small shop a block away from Ted Drewes called Gooey St. Louie. I grabbed one to go – it can keep for a couple of days without refrigeration – and it was indeed very buttery and gooey in the center! Do not leave St. Louis without trying one!
This guy can be found right outside the Gooey St. Louie butter cake shop!

This guy can be found right outside the Gooey St. Louie butter cake shop!

  • Note: Driving through St. Louis on 66 can be tricky if you haven’t figured out what you’re doing well in advance. There are numerous alignments, some of which are said to run through bad areas, so plan carefully. Fun fact: Panera Bread is known as Saint Louis Bread Company in St.Louis – because that was the original name, although the concept was different prior to being purchased by the company that would launch Panera. (Read more here.)
  • Fun Missouri sites if you like seeing unfamiliar/different chain stores: Family Video is an evidently still-thriving brick and mortar video/DVD rental place (which caused Eric to do a U-turn in shock and go marching inside with delight). It’s in plenty of other states too. Lion’s Choice is a roast beef restaurant chain in the St. Louis area that looks like it competes with Arby’s and is reportedly much beloved. (The name makes me think of lions going through the drive-thru and therefore giggle, but I am also a really silly individual for my age.) Casey’s General Store is a gas station and well, general store chain popular in the Midwest.
  • Not far past St. Louis, we made it to our hotel for the night – a nice family-run motel, Budget Lodging in St. Clair, Missouri. This motel came recommended by this 66 dining and lodging guide and seemed like the perfect stopping point, plus it had a pool (which we wound up not using, but I always like to have the option). I liked the warm friendly welcome and the attention to detail in the lobby with board games, a popcorn machine, a fireplace for winter, and attractive rustic decor. The rooms are also a nice big size and there is laundry on-site. There is also a large event space with attractive stained glass windows (indicating it might have been a chapel at one point). If you’re traveling with a family, you might consider their separate “cabin” located in the back of the hotel. We found parking outside of our room a nice touch, and our room was very spacious. Quiet and comfortable, we slept well even though the hotel was fullof travelers. I recommend it. (And you get free continental breakfast here, too.)
The front of Budget Lodging.

The front of Budget Lodging.

  • The historic Lewis Cafe in downtown St. Clair (not on Route 66) is a great little place to catch a good meal with friendly service. Open since 1938, the restaurant currently serves beef from its own Black Angus cattle herd on the family farm. We had the fried dill pickle spears appetizer and I had the French dip au jus sandwich for the main course while Eric feasted on a patty melt. Sides were homemade potato salad (absolutely delicious) and green beans (the vegetable of the day). Everything was filling, simple, and good. Another great eatery!

Lewis Cafe is well-worth a visit.

  • St. Clair is well known for its twin water towers that read HOT and COLD. It’s a former factory city, and evidence of this still stands (such as in the historic International Shoe Company Building).
  • Dana’s Shaved Ice, while not on 66 (that I know of – old alignments are everywhere in some places)popped up as we were enjoying a drive through town back to the hotel. Eric went barreling in there to get some more ice cream while I sat in the SUV, too full to move from all the good, good food I’d already been munching on that day! Eric came out with a banana ice cream cone which he devoured, but he was also raving about the place itself. He really liked the atmosphere inside and the nice service.
Dana's Shaved Ice also serves soft-serve ice cream.

Dana’s Shaved Ice also serves soft-serve ice cream.

  • If you really want to see some cool classic 66 motel signs and whatnot, definitely keep your eyes peeled on this section of the route.
  • There are plenty of other 66 attractions on this route. I was curious about stopping by Times Beach – a town that was evacuated for dioxin contamination, cleaned up, demolished, and eventually turned into Route 66 State Park – but it wasn’t a must-see and we passed it up in favor of getting to dinner sooner. You’re also not far from Meramec Caverns, a nature reserve, and a wolf sanctuary here. There really isn’t enough time to see every little thing unless you’re spending several weeks on the route (and probably not even then), so make your list of must-sees ahead of time! Day 2 on the Route was a good, good day. As for the next day of our trip, it promised to show us more of Missouri, more Route 66 sites, some unexpected tourist attractions, and, lest Eric worry, more ice cream.

Close-up of the crumbling sign on the roof of the old Gardenway Inn in Gray Summit, MO, which closed in 2014 after many decades in business. See this stuff while you can, folks.


Let’s hit the road! Planning for Route 66

My husband Eric, always game (to date) for every travel adventure I’ve pulled him into, and I are about to start out on our next “big” vacation – a road trip that includes most of the first half of old Route 66. We’ll start in Chicago and stop at Oklahoma City for the historic part of the trip, hopefully returning next year to finish OKC all the way to L.A. and the Santa Monica pier. Given that the “Mother Road” was decommissioned from the 1970s through the 1980s and technically no longer exists, it’s not surprising that planning this trip has been an adventure all its own. Here’s a few things I have learned:

  1. …That folks around the metropolitan DC area, where I live and work, confuse old Route 66 with Interstate 66 all the time. I can’t blame them, but the sad fact is that it’s the interstate highway system that “killed off” Route 66 and other roads like it. I-66 has the number 66 because that number was up for grabs once the old route was decommissioned.
  2. …People wonder how on earth I’ll drive on a road that doesn’t exist anymore. Once again, I can’t blame them for asking, because I worried about this myself. The route isn’t in your average map, atlas, or GPS. But my second lesson learned is that there is a TON of great information out there including enthusiastic travel guides, turn-by-turn directions, and painstakingly hand-drawn and illustrated maps. Which brings me to my third lesson …
  3. …People LOVE America’s “Mother Road”! It’s not just something that seems kind of neat to learn about if you’ve read The Grapes of Wrath or On the Road or watched the movie Cars or heard the famous song about “getting your kicks”. There is an entire community of roadies devoted to this road, there are clubs and organizations dedicated to its preservation, and there are authors who eagerly pen their own travel guides and publish gorgeous books full of pictures and memories. Folks run websites and blogs and fundraisers, and they eagerly get the word out about all the mom-and-pop businesses that have survived the years, as well as the new ones that have arrived more recently. Visitors from around the world ask “old-timers” on the forums what to plan, where to stay, and how to rent cars and buy gas/petrol in the U.S. Every year, there are travelers coming from all over the world to tour Route 66 and see our big beautiful America this way – it’s a legendary bucket list trip for many. Isn’t that amazing? You could say the road technically breathed its last breath back in 1985, but it’s for sure not dead!

For more information on the old route, check out the following for starters:

My Trips: 2014 and Beyond

Wow! The last time I wrote in this blog was in late 2014. I’m looking to get this thing fired up again, so here is a brief update.

I last posted in fall 2014 after having done quite a bit of business travel that year, including multiple trips to Austin and a lengthy stay in Albuquerque, among other places. I finally got to “visit” Detroit, albeit just through the airport! I will get to you someday soon, Motor City. In August 2014 I traveled to Edina, Minnesota, also for work. In June, I spent a long weekend with my husband Eric in Rehoboth Beach (Delaware) for leisure purposes. I’d been there a few times before and he agreed with me that the popular little beach town (and its surrounding environs) are well worth the visit. Also in June, we camped in Big Meadows (Shenandoah) with my family. September was our annual family beach trip to Murrells Inlet / Garden City, South Carolina.  In October I took a long weekend in a cabin at Shenandoah National Park with Eric at Big Meadows. And of course, that December we traveled home to spend Christmas with family.

I took one more business trip to Oakland, California (although I had to stay in Richmond/Berkeley … what a drive) and a great night visit to San Francisco, including the Chinatown area. I’d like to see more of that city.

Leisure-wise, in March we took a 10-day Eastern Caribbean cruise that left out of Miami – in the nick of time to avoid a snowstorm – and stopped at St. Kitts & Nevis, Martinique, Dominica (not to be confused with the Dominican Republic), Antigua, and St. Thomas. We also fit in a visit to gorgeous St. John’s as well while we were on St. Thomas, and we did an excursion to the Everglades once in CONUS again.

It was one of the most incredible vacations I’ve ever had. It was hard to imagine how anything could top that near-perfect cruise, but our visit to the island of Isla Mujeres, Mexico in August definitely also had us feeling heavenly. The little island charmed us from the start, and I don’t think we ate a bad or bland meal the entire time we were there. The highlight of the trip (and the whole reason I planned it) was swimming with a pod of whale sharks in the middle of the open sea. What an adventure! It more than made up for some mishaps we ran into just trying to get there from DC!

For family trips, we had a trip to Skyline (Shenandoah) for my dad’s 74th birthday in April, and Eric and I camped with Cat and Rob at Point Lookout State Park in Scotland, Maryland in June. My parents met us up there for the day and we thought it was funny that we were in Scotland, Maryland while our aunt was in Scotland, UK! 🙂 In September we made our annual pilgrimage to the beach house on the “Hammock Coast” of South Carolina where some of us got to meet our sweet baby cousin, Allie, for the first time! Christmas in 2015 was spent with Eric’s family in Corpus Christi and that was a great trip. We also stayed a night in Richmond (VA) in July following a friend’s housewarming party. The drive back wasn’t THAT long, but we were tired and frankly, it was really just an excuse to relax in a hotel and order room service! 🙂


This has been a busy year so far and somehow the months have flown by. Day trips have been the name of the game for the most part. I’m really hoping to go camping a time or two this summer, if not several. In July, we have a road trip planned that will last 11 days and show me 5 new states (6 if you count Illinois … I’ve been through both Chicago airports so many jillions of times that I feel strange saying I’ve never been to Illinois at this point! So I usually say I have been there but give a disclaimer). We’re going to start by driving to Chicago, spending a weekend there, then take off on Historic Route 66 (Mother Road dream trip!) and follow that as far as Oklahoma City, then drive to Dallas specifically to stay the night at the Joule hotel and swim in their crazy cantilevered pool. I’m sure we will enjoy lots of other things about Dallas besides that, but ever since I saw that pool I knew I would make a special visit there one day, and here I am. (Never been to Dallas except through the airport several times.) From there we will make our way home with stops in Hot Springs, Arkansas, and Bristol (on the VA side). I have carefully planned everything and picked out certain sites, and at this point, I’m pretty smug about my ability to plan the perfect trip (at least for Eric and I). A road trip of this length and variation is a new one for my planning skills, though, so this is going to be a test to see how I did. I have picked out the sites we both will want to see and planned driving and rest times carefully so I think I am doing good. And, at least I’ve gotten all the hotel booking out of the way! Although this is largely “my” trip, Eric is definitely excited (especially when I told him about some of the very Eric-y things he can expect to visit along the way). At some time in the future, we’ll come back out and drive the rest of Route 66, at least from OKC to LA.

We’ll of course also have family trips this year to the beach, likely to Corpus Christi, and possibly Puerto Rico. And maybe we’ll have a good weekend jaunt or two. I really want to tick off the rest of my unseen states, so cruises to Alaska and Hawaii and random trips in 2017-18 are very strong possibilities! Our next big international trip is supposed to be Rapa Nui (Easter Island), Chile via Santiago. That one will be another dream come true.

Where you have been lately? Where would you like to go?

Myrtle Beach: Saying Goodbye, Saying Hello

One of the things that’s a little hard for me about loving a place is watching it change. I’ve never been one of those people who is able to view inevitable change with a detached sense of shoulder-shrugging acceptance. Of course we know time in its petty little pace never slows for anyone. We all age, and the places we love age along with us.

Still, I couldn’t help feeling somewhat sad when I recently began a drive down Myrtle Beach’s famed North Ocean Boulevard. Husband in tow, I found the place looked so far removed from what it once was that I had a hard time making sure I was leading him in the right direction. This was not altogether surprising. I’d last seen it in 2000, on spring break from my freshman year at Virginia Tech. I knew the Myrtle Beach Pavilion amusement park and the teen club The Attic were both gone, as was the Myrtle Square Mall with its giant neon ceiling clock and ocean-themed food court. But my ultimate goal on this drive anyway was to view the Cadillac Court, the three-building hotel where my family had stayed decades before.

As we got oriented on Ocean Boulevard and began looking for parking, I saw that the Pavilion’s spot is now a huge grassy field with zero sign of what it once was. I was really taken aback by how completely empty it was. I was sure someone would’ve taken advantage of this prime piece of real estate in some way since the Pavilion’s closing in 2006. Nothing of the once landmark park remains, except for what looks like an old staircase to one of the rides, looking out of place by itself on the far side of the lot from N. Ocean. There was a time when it seemed the Pavilion was destined to last forever.

The Boulevard was missing some other old favorites. There was no longer a Candy Castle, a giant globe or a larger-than-life jukebox. Some of the little mom-and-pop hotels and motels also seemed to be missing or were boarded-up and abandoned, having lost the battle against fancier resorts with elaborate mini-water park setups. But there were new points of interest taking the place of these old friends – a beach boardwalk, landscaped pocket parks, gleaming new stores and restaurants, a pedestrian skywalk, a cool painted mural of an insect band playing to a captive forest audience – complete with poem!, the towering SkyWheel, and miniature amusement parks. (“A pale imitation of the Pavilion,” I sniffed haughtily as we passed one.) Nestled between some of these things was the Gay Dolphin Arcade and souvenir shop, no longer offering rides to the top of the glass tower but still boasting the iconic old sign.

Eric and I continued our journey toward the address my smartphone gave as being Cadillac Court’s. I chattered a good part of the way for our stroll, telling Eric about its two oceanfront towers, funky little “hidden” murals, and stainless steel indoor swimming pool on the top floor. Ah, memories! Splashing my sister in the outdoor pool, learning to play shuffleboard in the grassy lawn area, my father crashing through a spider web (and huge spider) to retrieve an ill-thrown Myrtle Beach-branded Frisbee, rinsing off our seashell finds at the outdoor shower, the jovial desk clerk … We passed by newer, fancier hotels, but I was unimpressed. I just wanted to see my old yellow-painted haunt. I wondered if it would still be that same shade, with the same old signs, or if they would’ve spruced it up a bit. I hoped not, but I braced myself for it. We passed by the Schooner II and then a noisy construction site – something very recently knocked down, for another fancy new hotel, I guessed! “I think this is it,” Eric joked. “Har, har,” I responded. “That’s not funny.” I looked up and saw the Boardwalk – the blue hotel I remembered as being very nearby the Cadillac Court – next door, in fact. I froze. The Boardwalk – wasn’t that the same hotel where my father once spotted some kid leaning too far over his hotel room railing, goofing around, and made sure to give me a lecture about his stupidity as though I had done it myself? “Wait, we’ve got to be close,” I said, and kept walking. I must be remembering wrong; maybe it was on the OTHER side, not this side – no, it wasn’t. Where was it? It must’ve been renamed something else. I called back the address of the Cadillac Court –

“I really wasn’t joking,” Eric said matter-of-factly. “That was it back there.” That big empty lot full of dirt – that was my Cadillac Court.

Is “devastated” too dramatic for my feelings? At that moment, it didn’t feel like it. I was melancholy all the way back to the Gay Dolphin, where we played enough arcade games to win a few prizes. I pouted like I had never aged past those Myrtle Beach summers and let Eric help me nurse my gloom with by-the-slice boardwalk pizza and walk-up-window ice cream cones. Later, I did a little research and read that the Cadillac Court had recently been converted into lower-cost apartments called Beach View. Earlier that summer, the residents had received a month’s notice that their building was being knocked down and replaced with a new Hilton timeshare resort. The Schooner II staff has been posting a stream of photos on their Facebook page documenting the demolition process.

Nothing lasts forever, but sometimes I can’t help but feel there are some things that should. Such is the way of the world. Cadillac Court is gone, but my memories make it feel as timeless as if it were still standing, just waiting for me to come look out from a yellow-railed balcony at a sun shining as though it was never meant to set.

Cadillac Court street viewOne place this building still lives is on Google Maps. This street view shows the hotel exactly as I remember it from younger days.

Cadillac Court satellite viewFantastic satellite view – the two towers are unlabeled here (the last two on the right). Today the outdoor pool shown here is filled in with dirt. You can see the stainless steel pool area on the top of the far right tower – see the cover?

Words Are All That’s Left of Cadillac Court by Flickr user SkeezyWizbang (and now not even these words exist)
Check out a few old Pavilion rides (mostly kiddie rides) at the Pavilion Nostalgia Park at Broadway at the Beach, Myrtle Beach.
Myrtle Beach Remembered – great old pictures and memories

228 Days to Go!

I just logged into my Norwegian Cruise Lines account to make a payment and saw the big 228 Days to Go! countdown clock! Woo hoo! I can’t wait till our “big” honeymoon. At this point we are planning on a “big” and a “little” honeymoon because without the little I’ll be going back to work the Monday after we get married. No thanks! So we’ll be headed off somewhere for a couple of nights, like a bed and breakfast or something relaxing so we can chill out and enjoy being married 🙂 I’ll take Monday off then hopefully work at home for the rest of the week. We’ll see how that works out. Then less than a week later we’ll be flying off to Miami! I hope we can take a trip to the Everglades before getting on the Norwegian Pearl for another 7-day Western Caribbean cruise. The Pearl is one of NCL’s Jewel class ships and is bigger and a bit fancier than the Spirit. We actually saw the Pearl anchored next to us when we were in Belize last year! This year we have a balcony cabin right at the back of the ship (aft) so we can hear the wake and get a gorgeous unblocked view from our room. (I don’t think the balcony’s all that big for sitting but we’ll probably be out there a fair amount too!) Last year we saw lots of sea life from the sundeck on the Spirit so I’m hoping we’ll get some great views of animals in the distance from our balcony, too. Also, the Pearl has a fabulous thermal spa with a big hot spa pool and heated ceramic loungers and drinks you can sip while you do nothing so one of the very first things we do after boarding will be purchasing spa passes! And our stops this year include:

*Great Stirrup Cay, Bahamas (NCL’s private island), where we plan to hike over to the lighthouse and the old helicopter pad and see the ruins left over from the days when it was a U.S. military installation. Hopefully we will also have plenty of time for snorkeling.

*Grand Cayman – This British territory is supposed to have some great snorkeling as well, especially with a large stingray population. This one will require some research.

*Ocho Rios, Jamaica – I think hiking the water fall here is a must!

*Our last stop is a return to Cozumel, Mexico which we also visited last year and loved. Cozumel is GREAT especially the little neighborhoods on the inside. It’s a nice place to just walk around once you get past the touristy areas (not that those aren’t a lot of fun – they are!). We loved cooking with Josefina in her home last year but this year I think we’ll just head to Money Bar (or another private beach bar) and do lots of snorkeling. That’s one thing I wish we did a bit more of last year, snorkel (although we did do some in the incredible reefs off Roatan).


One Month Migrations

I often find myself dreaming about the kinds of trips I’ll take if I ever get to a point where I have a full month’s leave at my disposal. Heck, even three weeks *might* do it for some. Here are some of my favorite goals:

-My aboslute must-do for me: a full trek down the original path of Route 66!
-A month in Japan would be dreamy.
-A trek around Australia, New Zealand, and nearby islands (especially Christmas Island)!
-A full tour of South America complete with voyage to Antarctica, the Galapagos, and Easter Island
-A full Europe tour – with stops in every country, some more leisurely than others. I would of course take plenty of time for my lovely Dutch friends!
-A trek across Africa which would include Zambia, Botswana, South Africa, and Lesotho (especially that crazy airport!) at a mimimum
-A Middle Eastern tour, to include Egypt, Jordan, the UAE, Israel, and the Bamiyan Valley of Afghanistan
-A proper Asia tour
-Travel by train, plane, and boat around New England, Canada, and Alaska
-A cool month to jet-set through to every single U.S. state and territory I’ve yet to see
-A full drive down the West Coast. I’ve only ever been to Sacramento.

Ultimate Dream: One of those crazy world cruises where you just live on a boat for several months and go EVERYWHERE. I think we’ll save one of those for when my salary is a little closer to Doris Buffett’s, however.

What would YOU do if you had a month to travel anywhere you chose? (Would you even travel at all?)

FAQs About My Cruise Vacation

In early April, Eric and I disembarked from the first cruise ship either of us had ever been on. I wasn’t sure we would like cruising, but we LOVED it. The trip was SO much fun. And the best part of all, for me, was seeing how relaxed and happy Eric was. He does so much for other people that he totally deserved it!

Here’s a list of questions that I hope is helpful to many. This covers things I asked before I cruised and things other people have asked me.   Continue reading