Thursday, June 30, 2016

North Carolina Beckons!

One of the best things about our trip South to the trade show is combining the work with a pleasure visit to Rick's dad and stepmom's home in North Carolina after the show has concluded. They live atop Sugar Mountain and the view is fabulous, the air thin, cool and clear. In the valley, the warmth wraps around you gently with less humidity than at the shore.

So, after the show we hustled out of Myrtle Beach and hit the road, arriving in time for a late dinner. The following day was Father's Day and the first Rick and his dad had been together since he was a little boy. We celebrated by going to a winery.

I didn't realize this but this region of NC has very good wine -- the climate in the valley is temperate and the winters not too cold.

Unlike here in Michigan where I've yet to had a red wine I'd get more than once, the reds at Linville Falls winery were as good as the whites!

Rick hit the road on his bike to meet us there, his clothes packed in a bag in the car so he could change! No one wants to sip wine with a cyclist who has been doing hills until they change or dry off. Big hills! He actually beat us there!

It was a perfect day, sunny and warm -- but not too warm. Rick rode his bike there and Dick, Kathy and I met up with him and some of their friends for a delightful afternoon.

Well, delightful until Rick locked the keys in the car while he was getting his changing clothes and putting away his bike. Let's just say that in some cars, coat hangers still work!

In the next post I'll take you to a quaint general store and on a walk along the Watauga River -- definitely a beautiful spot!

Meanwhile, I'll leave you with a lovely sunset. Yes, it really looked that way!

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Welcome to the Beach!

For a number of years, Rick and I have been coming to Myrtle Beach for his annual trade show. We missed a few years and returning was like seeing an old friend where you always have a good time.

Actually, that happened -- I saw an old friend (human) and had a wonderful time!

Our destination was a new motel (to us), the Sea Echo, a block from the beach and a few blocks from the convention center so we could walk everywhere. It wasn't fancy and could use a couple of inside cosmetic improvements but the owners were great and you couldn't beat the convenience, location or price.

We arrived after a ten hour trip from Columbus and we were pooped! (The drive through the gorgeous states of West Virginia and Virginia was breathtaking. Hearts out to those in WV and other parts of the South dealing with the aftermath of the recent terrible storm.) But a walk on the beach does a lot to cure that!

Rick had to teach a seminar the next day but a friend from my PBS days who lives in Columbia came down for the day. I hadn't seen Maryanne since I retired! We talked as though it had been yesterday, then enjoyed time on the beach. (This is what happens when you open your camera lens in SC humidity after being inside air-con!)

Did I mention the beach? It's glorious! Huge, crashing waves that slap you down. Everyone in the water seems as though they are each other's best friend -- young or old!

This is what happens when you get to Myrtle. You walk between the condos on Ocean Boulevard, over a boardwalk and see a view of the ocean through the tall grass.

Then it's this. Row after row of colorful umbrellas!

And then this! Yes, that's Rick, riding the waves!

Should you turn around you see condos like this -- miles and miles of them, up and down the beach!

Maryanne brought bubbles that floated in the air! Perfect!

She also brought a bottle of prosecco so we could toast to our mutual blog friend and inspiration, Vivian Swift. Maryanne won Vivian's drawing for some of her glorious original art and we wanted to celebrate both having Vivian Swift originals! (Unfortunately, she didn't think she should imbibe before riding home that evening, so she left the prosecco for Rick and me. We did imbibe!

Our dinner on the porch that night was the best of the Piggly Wiggly -- some cheese, meat, and in lieu of a real baguette, Italian bread in a wrapper. Not the best, yet exactly what we wanted -- to sit on our porch and enjoy the warm but breezy evening.

There is more to Myrtle than the beach. In the distance we saw the skywheel.

And some of the flowers are drop-dead gorgeous -- just blooming on any old bush!

But truth be told, to me, it's all about the ocean, the umbrellas, the beach.

Footprints in the sand.

Stacked up beach chairs.

Walking on the beach at dusk.

And watching the almost-full moon...

While holding hands.

I sure am glad Rick decided to take me along!

And this one?

It says it all.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

A Sweet Surprise

As you probably knew, Rick and I have been on the road, returning from a trip to South and North Carolina by way of Columbus, where we stayed with our good friends, Lin and Larry.

When we arrived at their home they pointed out a spot to us beneath a maple tree in their back yard (which, because their home is built into a hill, was beneath us). There was a small brown patch at the base of the tree and with a better look we saw this.

This sweet fawn has deer daycare at their home! Lin said the mama deer drops off the fawn each morning at sunrise and returns at dusk, where they leave together.

The next morning, Fawn is back.

This sweet thing moved only once from its spot to shift positions, even though we were on the deck above cooking out.

 Always watching, never concerned. Safety was simply understood.

I can understand Mama Deer's trust. If I were to have any challenge that required the greatest trust of a confidante, I know exactly where I'd go.

I'd settle into a comfy chair in Lin's family room with a big glass of iced tea and no matter how frenzied I might be when I sat down, I would rise feeling relieved and more at peace.

There is something so special about having a safe place -- whether it is your home, a special spot in the world that you can simply "be," or a comfy spot where you are wrapped in the loving arms of friendship.

 We have started our holiday in the South in with a special sweet surprise that lifted my heart and filled it with joy.

Over the next couple of days we will go from the ocean in Myrtle Beach, SC to the North Carolina mountains. We will work hard and play hard and connect with dear friends and family.

But without doubt, one beautiful memory of this trip will be our stop in Columbus with Lin and Larry and our Sweet Surprise.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

On the Road!

I'm taking a bit of a break this week.

I'm itching to feel sand between my toes... sit in a beach chair and hear the roar of the ocean (and yes, jump in it, too!)...

...and then enjoy glorious sunsets from atop a mountain!

Can't wait to share it with you soon!

Monday, June 13, 2016

Goodbye, Riviera

I'm not fond of Las Vegas -- perhaps because I've been there too many times. It's a pretty pink showgirl that gets routine after a bit. And it's exhausting!

I believe it's a place everyone should go once because it's just so -- Las Vegas. But if you aren't a gambler -- and I'm not, really -- once you've seen it, you've seen it.

So, why so many trips? Rick's annual national trade show is held at the convention center there and for a number of years I helped out at the booth.

We always stayed at the Riviera. It wasn't the most exciting hotel in Vegas, or the one with the most attractions (like, pretty much, anything), but the rooms were clean and the location -- a short walk to the convention center (short walk Vegas-style, that is) was perfect.

Rick at work in our room at the Riviera

When Rick went last year, he couldn't stay there -- it was closed, soon to be imploded for an extension to the convention center.

That implosion is happening this month. A recent article in the Daily Beast told of its storied history. And I wanted to share a few tidbits from John L. Smith's article. I recommend clicking on the Daily Beast link HERE if you're interested -- it's a nice article with lots of good history.

I didn't realize that it was the first towering building on the strip at nine floors. Later, an additional and taller tower was added, but the Riv was the leader. It was (not surprisingly) built with big mob investments out of Chicago, including those from the gangs of Tony Accardo and Meyer Lansky.

Every year the Riviera set up a Christmas tree made of poinsettias. It was simple and elegant.

The Riv was home to hundreds of star turns in its day, the kinds of stars that had one name -- Liberace (who opened the place in 1955), Dean, Sammy, Frank, Tony, Barbra -- and dozens more. Comedians like Shecky Greene, Rodney Dangerfield, Phyllis Diller and Richard Pryor, along with the top singers of the day performed in its show room.

If you saw Martin Scorsese's film "Casino," you'll recognize the Riviera as the "Tangier." (Piero's restaurant, on Convention Boulevard a very short walk from the Riv, also is featured in the film -- and it's a wonderful restaurant.)

On the roof overlooking Circus Circus. Lots of construction in the background. We took this one during a fire alarm at about six a.m.

As action on the strip moved south and the theme hotels like Bellagio, Caesar's Palace, Treasure Island (TI), Mirage, Venetian and Paris evolved, business for the Riv slacked off. The stars played the new showrooms and the average tourist didn't make it down to the Riv which had no photo-perfect attractions, like fountains, volcanoes, flamingoes or sinking pirate ships and no trendy stores, like the higher end shops down the way.

And, as Smith writes in his article, "drug addiction and the pressures of having murderers for bosses took their toll. Accardo’s men retired (Gus) Greenbaum and wife Bess in 1958 in Phoenix by cutting their throats with a butcher knife. Future managers were more careful."

Considering it was a real fire alarm (though not a real fire), there were precious few people on the second floor roof at 6 a.m. when someone accidentally pulled the fire alarm! The rest were probably in the casino!

But with the Star Policy in the nightclubs, the Riv thrived and was very profitable. The accommodations were good and the entertainment even better, making it one of the classiest of the Vegas hotels until the strip began to expand. Like some of the other hotels -- the Dunes, Aladdin, Frontier, the Sands and Stardust, to name a few -- the Riviera didn't keep up with the times. Las Vegas had changed from a "dress-up" town to a family vacation destination.

Before we discovered the Riviera we stayed at the Stardust across the street. That one is long gone, too.

Smith's article follows two vintage showgirls who took a last stroll through the Riveria prior to its closing in 2015. Their memories alone make the article worth reading.

Rick trying his luck.

The Riviera dealt with bankruptcy several times and eventually the gambling was cleaned up. But the entertainment had moved south and now the Riviera was known for its "Crazy Girls" (a showgirl act), drag shows and its comedy club, which no longer had the top names performing but ongoing acts. They weren't bad, just not famous.

And famous sells.

The not-so-famous getting ready to head out on the town for dinner.

For some time, the Riv held its own. They expanded with a convention facility (where we saw dozens of cowboys walk about as part of a Sharpshooters convention), it built another hotel tower and drew a good crowd for those attending events at the nearby convention center.

These guests at the Riviera for the Sharpshooters Convention were happy to pose for us in full dress!

But that wasn't enough. June 14 brought the first of two implosions to level the facility for the convention center expansion. The Las Vegas Convention Center is planning to make the area a "district" with expanded facilities and a focus on World Trade. This PAGE has more about their plans.

Restaurant recommendation -- the Peppermill, next to the Riviera. Wonderful (huge) omelets -- big enough for two!

So, goodbye, Riviera. We'll miss walking across the parking lot to the wonderful Peppermill and their terrific omelets, catching the bus right outside to go downtown to the light show and classic Vegas...

Downtown Vegas -- the light show at the Tremont Street Experience

... and going South to the casinos like Bellagio with its amazing concervatory and fountains, the Venetian with its ongoing entertainment in the "plaza," and more that have all the attractions you couldn't pull off but made it easy to get to.

The Bellagio fountain show.

And down the road, the flamingoes will remain!

The flamongoes in the wildlife habitat at The Flamingo.

We won't much miss a smoky casino and the endless din of machines -- but they're fun now and then.

We had a lot of fun memories there. And you couldn't beat the location for what we were there to do. Who knows what another visit will bring? I guess we'll just have to see.

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