hankrules2011

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Posts Tagged ‘Baltimore’

Thanksgiving Maryland Trip

Posted by Scott Holstad on December 1, 2015

This is my 600th blog post on WordPress. Yay!

My wife is from Maryland and her parents, grown sons, and many friends still live there and she rarely gets up there to visit, so we went up last week for Thanksgiving. She had been looking forward to it for a long time. It was an 11 hour drive and we had to stop many times. It was grueling and tiring. As you know, I’ve long been suffering from severe head and back pain, so that made this trip difficult for me. Nonetheless, we got up there before 4 PM on Tuesday and met her parents for dinner. It was nice to see them and they were shocked to see how different we look from when we last saw them. Gretchen has lost about 35 pounds and I’ve lost over 70 pounds. After dinner, we went back to our hotel room and basically passed out. It had been a long day.

Wednesday we got up and had our own low carb breakfasts we brought with us. We then went to MarylandLive! Casino. Gretchen had never been to a casino before, had never gambled, which was bizarre to me, so she was excited. When I lived out west, I went to Vegas some two, three, or four times a year for many years. I usually stayed at the old Frontier, but stayed at other hotel/casinos too and gambled at most of them. I loved it! I had a good time and was a good enough blackjack player to usually be able to play for a long time and maybe make a little money. I’ve gambled in a few other casinos too, but Vegas is my favorite place. But I had not been in a long time. So I was rusty. The place was fairly big. Not very many tables, but a million slot machines. We decided to start off with that and break her in gently. And she did well! Won some money. Slots have never been kind to me; I’m a blackjack player. After awhile we walked around looking at the tables. Not many cheap tables. They had two $10 tables. That was it. Everything else was $15, $25, and $50 minimum tables. That ticked me off. I don’t have that kind of money to lose! At the Frontier in Vegas, where I used to stay, they had $1 and $3 tables. They were very popular. The other casinos had $5 tables. Caesar’s Palace had $10 tables. I realize that was a long time ago, but it gets worse. We went to eat lunch. We paid with the money Gretchen had made from slots. When we came back out, the $10 tables were gone and there were now only two crowded $15 tables. Everything else had been turned into a $25 table! Assholes! While Gretchen played quarter slots and won $40, I wandered around all the tables looking for an empty chair anywhere for a half hour. Finally, as I was about to give up, a seat at one of the $25 tables opened up and I jumped in! Then I found out why it opened up. The dealer was killing everybody. I got a 12 on my first hand and the dealer got a blackjack. Should have walked away then. I’m a fairly decent blackjack player. I’ve won some decent money at it and have been able to stay in games for many hours. The dealer demolished me on four straight hands. And everyone else. I hated her. She owned us. I finally won a hand. Someone else left and I quickly urged Gretchen to jump in cause she’s never played and I didn’t want her to leave a casino without having tried blackjack. So we both lost the next round. Then we each won a round. Then they changed dealers and everyone breathed a sigh of relief. But the new one was just about as bad. Won some, lost some. Finally we decided to leave while we still had something to leave with. When we cashed out our chips and slots credits, we ended up actually walking out of there with a little more money than we entered with, thanks to Gretchen’s great slots winnings. Seriously, that was the worst blackjack I’ve ever played! And aside from one time playing at a $100 table in Vegas, I’ve never played at such an expensive minimum table. Oh, and there were hardly any roulette and craps tables. That was really weird. Nonetheless, we left in the black and had a good time.

Later in the day, we met her friend Cindy and Cindy’s daughter Rachel and went to Captain Dan’s restaurant for some authentic Maryland crabs. Now, I don’t eat crabs. But Gretchen does. And like most Marylanders, she’s a crab snob. No crab outside of Maryland is worth a damn. So when we’ve gone elsewhere, the crabs have sucked. So she was really looking forward to this. The restaurant was pretty small and not very attractive, but you’re there to eat, so who cares, right? Rachel got a salad while I got a BBQ sandwich. Since I live in Tennessee, I know my BBQ, and this wasn’t very good. Nor was it very much. And it came with fries, but since I’m on a diet, I only ate three or four and was left hungry. Meanwhile, Cindy and Gretchen got crab pretzels and then got 12 crabs and went for it with gusto. God, it was messy! And when they brought the bill, I was stunned. Stunned. I never knew crabs cost so much. Especially since two of four of us just got $10 orders. That dinner cost a HELL of a lot! And the service was absolutely terrible. But Gretchen was very happy with her meal, so that’s what counted and she left happy.

Thursday was Thanksgiving. We started the day by going to her parents’ house to hang out for awhile. We had fun with them and then went driving around. She took me to the town she used to work in, which was a beautiful waterfront town, and we went to other places as well. Maryland is a really nice state. Finally, we went over to the townhouse her sons share. Her oldest son cooked and we four sat around enjoying a good, healthy meal (he had lost 60 pounds on a similar diet) while talking about all sorts of things. Then it was late and we had to get back to the hotel, so that was sad.

Friday we spent with her parents. They took us to the Eastern Shore across the terrifying five mile long Bay Bridge which I’ve heard about so many years. It actually didn’t bother me too much. At all. We met some friends at a Maritime Museum and saw what we could in the time we could and then we all went to lunch in this delightful small town. We had a really nice time, although parking was at a premium. Afterwards, we drove around some more and hit some more pretty towns. In one town, we went into an antique shop and I found the copy of Mao’s book on guerrilla warfare I just reviewed a few hours ago. It was pricey, but it was a valuable find and I was excited. As it was now nighttime, we went back over the Bay Bridge, which again wasn’t too bad, and went back to a restaurant near the hotel where we shared our last meal together and said goodbye. It was a little sad.

Saturday, we both got calls at 5:10 AM from our home alarm company telling us our living room motion detector alarm had gone off. We tried not to freak out, but they called the police and we waited. And heard nothing. We called the company back and they said they were waiting to hear from the police. Finally, after about 35 minutes, I called the police and talked to them. They said they found no signs of forced entry anywhere and no broken glass, no signs of disturbance anywhere and they had left and were now writing up their report. So that was good. But what set it off? And why? Frankly, we moved to that house last year in part because our old house was broken into and robbed two years ago and we didn’t feel safe, among other things. Our two cats could have been active, but the alarm company had assured me it would take something far heavier and bigger than cats to set that alarm off, so what was it? Were the police wrong? I texted three pet sitters we had working for us, far too early. I explained the situation and asked if someone could go over there early to check things out and make sure the cats were okay. Two of them did and reported things seemed fine. But by that time, we were underway, rushing to get home. And rush we did. We got home in about nine and a half hours, which was a record, and were damn glad to see the cats and house were okay. I still have no idea what set that alarm off, but I’m going to call the company today and talk to them about it.

So that was our Thanksgiving. It was tiring, but pretty good. I didn’t get too much head pain, thank God, not as much as usual, but I had a decent amount of pain and had to take pain medication, which tired me out. But that’s the norm. It’s good to be home and back to normal, but it was also good to get away and I know it was good for Gretchen to see everyone. Hopefully it won’t be so long before we can get back next time.

 

 

 


  
  
  

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Baltimore Trip

Posted by Scott Holstad on April 18, 2014

Well, Gretchen and I made a nice trip up to Maryland and back a few days ago and I thought I’d write a little bit about it. Last Thursday, after work we headed out on the road from Chattanooga up to Abingdon VA. It took about four hours. We stayed at the Alpine Motel, a retro motel that was somewhat decent. The next morning, we ate breakfast with our friends Chris and Stephanie. It was really good to see them.

It should have taken six hours to get up to Columbia MD, our destination. It took nearly nine. Traffic was the worst I’ve ever seen in my life. About 30 miles south of Roanoke, we got stopped by a wreck and sat still in traffic for an hour. That really slowed us down. Of course, the Virginia cops were out in full force, as always, so you can’t speed there to make up time. When we got to DC, we hit mega-traffic, which continued into Maryland and all the way to our destination. It took HOURS to get through that traffic, and it was in the middle of the afternoon, not during traffic hour. Weird.

We finally arrived at the Sheraton Columbia Town Center Hotel, where we’d be staying. We were on the fifth floor, and it was very nice. (I wrote reviews of many places on Trip Advisor. You can find them here.) The room wasn’t the biggest I’d seen, but it was plush and clean and we liked it. I’ve had to deal with bad insomnia for years, often getting up at 1 or 2 AM (like this morning), but the bed was so comfortable there, that I was able to sleep in until 8 every morning. It was awesome!

Friday night, we went to a restaurant called Clyde’s and met Gretchen’s parents there. We had a lovely meal and it was good to see them. Then we went back to the hotel and had drinks at the bar there before turning in.

Saturday we got up and went to Eggsplantation in Ellicot City to meet our friend Cindy for breakfast. I had pancakes and bacon and it was delicious. The place was nice, but pretty expensive. We looked at Cindy’s new car after breakfast, before gassing up (gas was so much more expensive there than in Tennessee) and heading to downtown Baltimore. We went to the Walters Art Museum. I have already written a review about it, so I won’t say much, but we enjoyed ourselves a great bit. It was free to get in, which was cool. We particularly liked the Egyptian, Greek, and Roman exhibits, as well as the medieval exhibit. It was cool seeing a mummy. When we left, we went to a quirky area of town called Hamden. It had tons of shops and restaurants and reminded me of Atlanta’s Little Five Points or L.A.’s Melrose Avenue. We parked and wandered around. We went in a little, extremely overcrowded used bookstore, but didn’t find anything we wanted. We ate lunch at a place Gretchen has talked about for years — Cafe Hon. It flat out sucked! The food was terrible and the service was worse. I gave it a really bad review on Trip Advisor. Gretchen was especially disappointed.

After we left Hamden, we drove back to areas Gretchen used to live in to check them out. It was nice to see parts of her history. Later, we went back downtown. We found a bizarre little parking area in an alley behind a building for $20. We thought it was a pretty good deal, cause all of the parking garages were full and we were going to go see a ballgame that night and it was fairly close to the ballpark. More on that later.

We walked to Baltimore’s Inner Harbor area. It was crowded, probably because it was such a beautiful day, but it was pretty neat. They had street performers, some pavilions with shops and restaurants in them, an old submarine you could tour, the World Trade Center, where you could go to the 27th floor to look out over the harbor, and more. We spent some time wandering around there before finally starting to head over to the ballpark. Outside the park, I bought a nice Orioles cap and it looked and felt pretty good. I did it even though I’m a Pirates fan. Heh. We arrived at Oriole Park at Camden Yards and waited for Gretchen’s two boys and a girlfriend to show up. It looked like a beautiful stadium. I had bought tickets online before we went, so we had sweet seats behind 1st base in the 24th row. They were shockingly expensive though. The kids finally showed up and we went in to find our seats. The stadium was beautiful, as advertised, but the seats were incredibly uncomfortable. I don’t know what midget designed that stadium, but I’m of average height, and my knees were jammed up against the seat in front of me and I had no leg room. There were essentially no rows. If people wanted in or out, virtually the entire row had to get up and get out to let them in or out. It was stupid. I was so damn uncomfortable. But it was a nice night for baseball. The Orioles were taking on Toronto. Unfortunately, it was a dull game and Gretchen and I left with Baltimore up 1-0 in the top of the ninth inning. Surprisingly, we found out later, Toronto hit a homer to tie it up and Baltimore finally won it in the 12th inning. So we started looking for our car. And we couldn’t find it. It was horrible. We walked those streets for miles and I got terrible blisters on the bottoms of my feet and my shins hurt and we couldn’t find my car anywhere we went. We stopped and asked for directions, but after more than an hour of this and after having covered seemingly every street within miles, we couldn’t find that little back alley parking spot. We started getting really terrified. We were in a big, strange city late at night with, frankly, gangs of possible thugs wandering around doing who knows what. We were really worried. Just as Gretchen was about to call the police, we found a building she recognized and went in that direction. We found another. Finally, I spotted the alley and our car and we headed for it in great relief. We were pretty panicked by then. It felt great to get in that car! We finally got out of there, made it back to the hotel, and hit the bar where I slammed some tequila shots and Gretchen had some Southern Comfort. Boy, what a day!

Sunday was Gretchen’s birthday party, the reason for the trip. It was her 50th, which is big, so we had invited family and friends to her parents’ house and she was pretty excited. On our way, we stopped to pick up the gluten free birthday cake I had ordered last month. Thankfully it was ready and it turned out great. It was really good. We got to her parents’ and chatted before people started arriving. Her parents laid out a spread and we toasted Gretchen with champagne. There were people there we hadn’t seen since our wedding last year, so it was nice to see everyone. Gretchen opened presents and she got quite a haul. She did well. Heh. The party lasted from about 1 til about 7 or later, so when we got back to the hotel, we were kind of tuckered out from the day. That didn’t stop us from hitting the bar, of course.

Monday we went to Annapolis with her parents. On the way, we passed the NSA and I was SO very excited. I wanted to go tour their museum — they actually have a museum — but we didn’t have time. Oh well. Annapolis was pretty cool. I had wanted to go on a tour of the Naval Academy, but because of my blisters, we couldn’t do it — I couldn’t walk far. Downtown was old and historic and we enjoyed wandering around. We ate lunch at Carrol’s Creek Cafe, which wasn’t too bad. We had a bizarre old server who entertained us. We went back to our hotel in the afternoon and although we were supposed to stay another night there, Gretchen and I decided to head out early because it was supposed to rain all day Tuesday and get colder and we didn’t want to drive far in that weather. We went a different way this time, without that much traffic, thank goodness.

We drove further than we intended, about six hours all told. We spent the night in a Holiday Inn Express in Salem VA, right outside Roanoke. It was a great hotel room! We were really impressed. It was a king size suite and it was huge. All that room. Unfortunately, the bed was too hard for me, so I woke up with a sore back. Oh well. The breakfast was great though. They had a pancake machine that made great pancakes in two minutes. I love pancakes, so I was elated. They had lots of room, many tables, unlike many hotels, and a lot to choose from. We felt like it was a good deal.

We left Salem Tuesday morning about 9. And it did start to rain. Visibility was pretty poor for a good part of the way, with poor Gretchen driving, and shockingly, 50 miles east of Knoxville, it started snowing!!! It was 84 just two days before, and even when we started out that morning, it was 65 there in the mountains. And now here it was snowing. Crazy. Gretchen drove through the snow, but at some point we had to stop for gas and I was wearing shorts and a t-shirt. It was COLD gassing up the car! We finally made it home after about six hours or so. Our cat Henry was glad to see us and purred all night. We had lots of mail. My mom had gotten our mail and fed Henry each day, which was nice of her. She’s about ready to move back up to Knoxville in a couple of weeks, so we won’t have her to do that for us anymore. Don’t know what we’ll do the next time we have to travel….

Well, that’s it. It was a good, but exhausting trip. Unfortunately, Gretchen — and maybe me too — came down with something and has been sick ever since. Hopefully we’ll both improve quickly. It was nice to see Gretchen’s old stomping grounds as well as family and friends. Maybe we’ll make it back sooner next time. Sorry I didn’t post pics. I reserve the right to do so in the future. Heh.

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