…Susie and I are back home in Florida after a week in four cities in three states.
And, except for about an hour on the first day as we headed towards Pensacola, we missed all the nasty rainstorms that battered the Florida panhandle (and many other areas) and caused severe flooding. (We’ve rarely had bad weather on any of our vacations over all these years.)
That wasn’t the only “luck” we had on our Spring Break….
Our first day’s main event was the Foley (Alabama) outlet mall. Strategically located close to both Pensacola and Mobile, and on the main drag for anyone heading to the beaches at Gulf Shores, it’s obvious why this mall is so busy. We took a back road in from Pensacola and stumbled on the annual German Sausage Festival in Elberta (Alabama).
The place was packed and I wanted to stop but we were running late because of the bad weather we had encountered. So I made a mental note for a long weekend next year: we could spend Saturday afternoon porking 😉 down those sausages and then hit the Foley mall that evening. So we drove on with a clear conscience.
Since we only had about three hours for Foley, we had to be selective. The primary objective was to make good use of “additional 30% off” coupons I had been e-mailed from Izod / Bass / Van Huesen as a member of their rewards program. On the way to Izod, we checked out Nautica, one of my other favorites, and sniffed that they would call $25 for a polo shirt a “sale.”
But Izod was throwing a mother of sales! Most of the store was 40% or 30% off with an additional 30% or 20% off. And I had those coupons for yet another 30% off. We left with a top for Susie and three polos for me for less than $45, including tax. The sales receipt proclaimed that we had “saved” almost $145. At Van Heusen, Susie found shorts and I picked up a fourth polo, casual slacks ticketed at $54 for $14 and a sport leather “strand” belt. The grand total was under $35, including tax, and the receipt proclaimed we “saved” $112.
Our luck continued…
I noticed that the top of one of Susie’s penny loafers (she actually has a penny in them) had begun to tear away from where it was stitched to the side. Although she had a new pair sitting in a box at home (I persuaded her to buy two pairs when we found them on sale for $10), she had no other shoes for this trip. How lucky we were to be at a mall where we could find her some new shoes!
The first shoe store we came upon was a Shoe Carnival. We headed straight for the clearance section and there they were: a pair of sharp looking Villager (Liz Clairborne company) dark brown leather shoes with nice walking soles. They had a $60 sticker on them but were on sale for $20. That purchase finished off Susie’s half of an AmEx gift card we had received for Christmas.
We had to pass up “throwed rolls” at Lambert’s Café because it was packed, so we drove on to Mobile, where we were spending the night. Although we normally stay in the Tillman’s Corner area, this trip I decided to check out the airport area and I made my own luck. There’s an incredible amount of restaurants and shops here, including a mall.
For dinner, we stumbled upon Piccadilly, which proclaimed a special of either chicken etouffee or red beans, rice and sausage along with two sides and bread for just $4.95 so we decided to begin eating Cajun-style. But they were out of the etouffee… Just our luck! 😦 But the red beans meal was still mighty fine!
We arrived in Nawlins Sunday morning about 11. The Royal St. Charles was what I expected for a “fru fru” boutique hotel with a rack rate of over $100 a night: small room, fancy shampoo and hand lotion, no breakfast, etc. But hey, I was getting free parking, so my “effective rate” was $45, considering that I was saving $10 a day by not having to park at the cheapest lot in the tourist area of Nawlins – the Fulton Street garage across from the cruise terminal. (It’s about $25 a day everywhere else.)
During our 2 ½ days in Nawlins, we hit all our favorites: French Market, street jazz in Washington Square, a mufeletta from Progress grocery (over 15 waiting line shortly after noon the day we were there) accompanied by some fine Zapp’s potato chips.
While in the lower Warehouse District, we stumbled upon Suave, a new Latin restaurant owned by Carlos Mencia (who I’d never heard of, but I learned has a Comedy Central show and was appearing in Biloxi.) To promote the place, they had a Happy Hour special from 3-7 pm which offered $4 frozen margaritas and $3 call drinks along with four free appetizers and that was “dinner” one night. Susie had a frozen ‘rita and I enjoyed a tequila Bloody Mary. The drinks were large and strong!
One afternoon, we caught the first part of Che, starring Benicio del Toro. This part covers Che’s life from first meeting Castro at a dinner in Mexico City to the overthrow of Batista. Part 2 was at the same theatre but I didn’t want to see two movies back to back. Hopefully, I can see the second part locally or on another trip if the film doesn‘t come to my backwater (which it should since there are two universities here).
Wednesday, it was a road trip to Lafayette. We stopped in downtown New Iberia for maybe 20 minutes before realizing there was nothing there. Downtown Lafayette was dead too.
Thursday, we beat the second round of storms coming into Louisiana by heading to Biloxi. The Imperial Palace put us in a spacious King room on the 25th floor with a fine view looking to the Beau Rivage and Gulf waters. We also had a large screen flat panel TV but channel selection was very limited.
That afternoon, I played a $30 buy-in poker tournament at the Hard Rock. Susie went off to play the nickel slots and returned in about 20 minutes waving a bit over $100 in my face. She put about $35 back in and left $65 up. I finished 7th out of about 34 players. Unfortunately, only the top six got paid. I hate coming that close to the money and then missing it….
My “big hand” came in the third level when blinds were 100 / 200, I was dealt pocket 10’s, and I was one of the last to act. Only one player came in and so it was just me and the two blinds left. I wanted to play just one person and so I raised to 800, expecting the blinds to fold. The big blind called while the small blind and the player who first came in both folded.
The poker gods smiled upon me on the flop: out popped another 10. My dilemma now was how much I could bet to make sure the other player called so I got maximum return for those trip tens.
With 1900 in the pot, I decided 800 would not be too large to scare him off. To my surprise, he went all in. I noticed a Jack was part of that flop. Did he have a Jack with an Ace or King and think he had top kicker? Possibly, he had flopped two pair. Calling was easy since even if he had two pair, his win probability was less than 10%.
Turned out all he had was a straight draw…what a donkey! I’m assuming he thought I’d fold to an all in, since going all in on a draw when your chip position is decent is reckless. With an open ended straight, his win probability rose to 25%. But of course mine was 75%….
But the poker gods feed even donkeys now and then, and on the turn he hit the straight. Now I needed the board to pair for a boat or I’d be the short stack. On the river, the poker gods delivered the fourth 10! He left the table and I was now one of the larger stacks.
My undoing came when at the final table I called from small blind with A-7. An Ace popped out and I checked to the big blind, when I should have bet to sniff him out. Minimum bet had become 1,000 and he bet it. Now I didn’t know if he had that Ace or assumed weakness on my part.
If he had the Ace, I only beat five kickers and lost to six others. A very tight situation; I considered folding to be safe and preserve my chips since finishing at least sixth paid $106 but I called and hoped for a 7 or that it was good enough. Possibly, he had no Ace and was trying to bluff me out of the pot just like the player who went all in on me with only a draw. The 1,000 bets continued all the way to the end, and when we showed he had made a boat with A-9. He was very smart not to increase his bets when he hit two pair or I’d have folded and saved a few thousand.
To unwind after playing over two hours, we walked next door to Beau Rivage. Unfortunately, the Mississippi casinos are nowhere like the Vegas ones. No big shopping areas or multiple dining options. We drove back to IP and walked two blocks to the small Boomtown casino. Susie used some of her slot winnings to buy us a hot dog and a bottle of beer for 99 cents each. She doesn’t drink beer so I inherited it. I’m not much of a beer drinker either, so after two Coors I was retire to enjoy our room’s flat panel.
Friday, we stopped by Boomtown on the way out for their $1.49 breakfast special: two eggs, has browns and toast. That held us over until we arrived in Crestview (Florida) at lunch time. On a business trip there some months ago, I had sniffed out a Filipino restaurant which has a lunch buffet and so we filled up on lumpia, pancit and adobo.
We arrived home about 5 PM and the odometer trip reading was 1,175. That was a lotof road, so having two days to rest before going back to work is good.
I’ve already planned most of a two week trip to southern Utah and Vegas at the beginning of July.