Last week’s gathering at Loco Willy’s with friends on Saturday night was a tough act to follow in terms of the high points for Debbie Fest. It was clearly a neck-and-neck photo finish with the gathering of friends we had at Loco’s back on 31 March to celebrate Debbie’s last full day of work ahead of retirement and the start of Debbie Fest!
The “big event” this week was Debbie’s actual 60th birthday on Tuesday, 25 April. I wasn’t sure how she wanted to spend her day so the only thing I had planned was a surprise dinner at Henry’s Louisiana Grill. Well, dinner at Henry’s wasn’t the surprise; she knew we’d be having dinner with the kids and grand kids just as we did on her last day of work back on 3 April. What she didn’t know was our son Wesley and daughter-in-law Julie were quietly working behind the scenes to line-up having another 16 members of the family on hand for dinner at Henry’s. More on that in a moment…
As for the rest of the day, when I quizzed Debbie on Monday night as to what she had planned for Tuesday she didn’t really seem to have anything in mind, which I thought might be the case. With that information in hand, I cleared some meetings from my calendar at work so that after leaving for work per normal around 5:45am, I’d be able to attend a few meetings and then return home by 9:30am and spend the rest of the day with Debbie. I left a note downstairs in the kitchen to that effect so she could have a ‘normal morning’ before I disrupted things.
I think it was around 10:00am when I got home to begin our day together. While we both wanted to head to our first stop – Harley-Davidson of Atlanta – on our Road King the weather still wasn’t quite nice enough for that. We took the truck instead and arrived at our Harley dealer around 11:00am. The primary purpose of the visit was to let Debbie look at and try on a tan leather jacket I’d seen on Saturday I thought she might like, but wasn’t sure if it would fit. There was also sweatshirt I thought she’d like, but I wasn’t sure it would be something she’d wear. We’ll, I was right on both!
She looked great in the tan leather jacket as well as the brown sweatshirt, and they were both things she thought she’d like wearing on a frequent basis. Before heading out we wandered through the dealership to say hello to Jeff, Brian, Ray & Kelly: it’s always a pleasure seeing all the folks at HDA!
As we headed back towards home I asked Debbie if there was anywhere special she’d like to go for lunch. She didn’t have anything in mind and I racked my brain for at least 10 minutes trying to figure out where we could go to get something that was light and relatively healthy. After all, there are a lot of places to eat but so much of what gets served is high in fat, carbs, sodium and/or sugars that makes us feel bloated for hours afterwards. Yup, well son-of-a-gun, there was one place where we knew we could get a nice, tasty and healthy meal: Loco Willy’s. I know, what a surprise! But, seriously, the food there is just hard to beat, so that’s where we went. We had Ashley working behind the bar and much to our surprise, we ran into our friend Mattie who we hadn’t seen in several weeks, perhaps months. We split a house salad and blackened fish tacos, which was just what we both needed.
We headed home after lunch and around 2:00pm we headed out for a 25-mile ride on the tandem on what had turned into a really lovely day. We had one of our strongest feeling rides of the year thus far and our average speed confirmed we were riding well. In some respects it felt like we had a tailwind on several long stretches, but it may have been me keeping the gearing set a bit lower so we could keep a higher cadence going over the entire ride. Regardless, it really gave us both a nice afternoon lift and helped to round out our day together.
Rather than forcing something else into the afternoon I decided to get out of Debbie’s hair for a few hours and did some yard work while she relaxed and cleaned-up for dinner. My time out in the yard allowed me to get the front sod watered-in a bit, as it was apparent I had not been doing so enough over the past two weeks when I wrongly assumed we were getting as much rain at home as we were at work. While the sprinklers were running I relocated about 30 wheel barrow loads / 4 square yards of pine bark chips from the back yard to various other beds and paths around the house. This is from the formerly tree-shaded corner of the back yard that’s about to be tilled and prepared for sod installation. Or, at least that’s the plan. I’d forgotten just how water-logged that part of the yard has become under all of that pine bark. Here’s hoping we don’t discover there are “other issues” with the yard that will need to be addressed at added cost, i.e., a French drain to clear the excess moisture, etc.
I knocked-off after moving about 3/4ths of the pine bark that needs to go before tilling the soil and went inside to check on Debbie’s progress. She was already downstairs and looking lovely, yet still fully unaware she’d be having dinner with quite a few family members in another hour. After getting my shower and partaking in a shot of tequila – being respectful that Debbie’s family steers clear of adult beverages – I was pretty sure we were both ready for the rest of the evening.
When we arrived at Henry’s I was surprised to see they had a full house, so full our usual parking spaces in the alley next to the restaurant were taken. Knowing Wesley and the rest of the folks were inside, I dropped Debbie off so she could go on ahead in while I looked for a parking space which is our norm: no sense in giving her a hint that it would be anything close to a normal night at Henry’s. I’m told when she walked in looking for the kids she was told, “Your party is in the other room at the long table; you can’t miss them.”
After the fact she said the hostesses comment sounded odd, but didn’t think much about it. As she walked into the main dining room she saw Wesley, Julie and two of the three granddaughters as expected, but then noticed Julie’s parents were sitting there as well. It was at that point she noticed the rest of her family waving at her from two of the three tables in the middle of the restaurant.
All told, we had 20 on hand; in additional to Debbie and me the others included: Debbie’s mother, her brother Kenny, brother Thomas and one of the twins (wife Vicki was with the other who had just had minor surgery), sister Andrea and her husband Kenny and her brother Rodney with wife Tlete, daughter Emily and son Jacob who brought along his girlfriend. As mentioned, we also had Wesley & Julie with Julie’s parents Patrick & Belva plus the three granddaughters: Caroline, Charlotte & Vivian. Debbie’s oldest, Charlie, and his girlfriend Kristy were supposed to join us as well but had to cancel at the last-minute.
While the seating arrangement was not what I expected and less than ideal, it all worked out in the end. Henry was on hand tossing beads around everyone’s neck and otherwise being his very engaging and bigger than life self, which is half of what makes the place such a joy to visit. The food for our main table was also a bit slow in coming, but it was all delivered to the table fresh and tasty… making it worth the wait. Debbie was celebrated by the staff and guests at Henry’s and the kids also brought along a couple of boxes filled with petit fours that helped to ensure no one was left without a sweet for dessert.
Just judging by Debbie’s expression, she was really pleased with the evening and that’s what mattered the most. I think everyone else enjoyed their meals and also had a nice time visiting with family and friends. Not sure I’d take a party larger than 12 there in the future, but a great time just the same.
We were both pretty exhausted from the long and busy day and called it a night early. All-in-all, I think I did OK with Debbie’s big day and Debbie Fest in general. We’re homebody’s so these kinds of thrown together events just seem to work well for the big events, like Debbie turning 60.
On Wednesday night we met our friends David & Deb for dinner at Loco’s since they were headed out on a 7-day cruise while we’d be heading up to the mountains this weekend and then down to Panama City Beach on the following Wednesday through Sunday. Not wanting to go for too many weeks without having a chance to visit with each other, a mid-week dinner at Loco’s seemed like a good idea and it also gave me another kilted night out. We arrived around 6:30 and were surprised to find our friends Billy & Dava at the bar along with both of the Paul’s. We camped out on a couple of bar stools and held two open for Deb and David who arrived shortly after we did. It turned out to be a really enjoyable night! But then again, it’s rare for any visit to Loco’s to be anything but enjoyable. We started off with Ashley behind the bar and then Billy came on and things really became interesting; he’s a hoot! We had a good time visiting with David & Deb and also had some pretty tasty wings (it was buy 8 / get 8 more free night) along with a house salad for our dinner. Well OK, 8 of the wings were tasty and the others were a bit too salty for us. However, we think we may have stumbled onto the next great meal: a house salad topped with buffalo shrimp or blackened chicken! Something we’ll have to try on our next Saturday night.
We headed home around 7:45pm, as we were expecting our friends Arne & Monica to stop by with our Wide Glide “Betty” so I could fit some wind deflectors and a fork bag to the bike. The purpose of those add-ons was to reduce wind buffeting behind the windscreen on long trips at highway speeds. With a bike trip down to Panama City Beach coming up for Arne and Monica, those extra parts would come in handy if she went ahead and decided to become Betty’s next care taker. However, for a variety of reasons they weren’t able to make it over to the house so I offered to drive up to their place about 30 minutes away, just to make sure she’d have a chance to test ride Betty with all of the touring accessories over the weekend. The weather and our schedules were “spotty” for Thursday and we’d be gone by noon Friday, so the evening trip up was our best option. It was an easy drive and I was back at home by 10:30pm, so no worries, eh? Fingers crossed, those wind deflectors and the fork bag will make the freeway time a lot easier for Monica to deal with. However, and to be honest, I keep hinting that she might do better with a different style of Harley, e.g., a Softtail of some type comes to mind, e.g., Springer, Classic, etc. But, she seems pretty committed to Betty and, well, I get it: Betty is a bad-ass looking cruiser that rides about as well as any Harley. Once you get smitten it hard to move on. That’s probably the real reason I’ve never sold it… that is to say, a lack of motivation!
Thursday was a full day at work for me while Debbie ran some errands and settled into her new daily routine as a recent retiree. She’s actually enjoyed having the kind of time you need to go through all of the closets, dressers and other places where things can collect over time to take stock, clean-out and/or replenish and replace things that need to be replaced. Once I was back home we started getting our clothing and other things together we’d need for our final event of Debbie Fest: a trip to our small mountain hideaway where we would be off-the-grid without cell service or WiFi for hours at a time and to simply relax and decompress. Sometimes you just need to do that!
On Friday I’d originally planned to work from home in the morning for a few hours before we packed-up and headed to the mountains. Sadly, some things came to the fore that needed to be handled in person in the office so it was a good thing we pretty much had everything packed and ready to go on Thursday night. I think it was around 10:00am when I finally headed for the door with just one more scheduled teleconference at 10:30am I could take while driving home. We had the truck packed and were headed north by a little after 11:00am and our timing allowed us to miss most of the nearly never-ending traffic on I-575. Our timing also coincided with the burn-off of the morning cloud cover that threatened to put a damper on our afternoon plans. We were checked into our accommodations around 12:30pm and ran into town to grab a light lunch.
It was probably 2:00pm by the time we were back on campus and headed to the pool where we hoped we’d be able to enjoy a little sun and warmth now that most of the clouds were gone. Despite the spotty weather the day began with, the afternoon turned out to be about as nice as it could with temps in the low 80’s, low humidity and just the right amount of cloud cover to cool things off a bit since neither of us was used to getting this much afternoon sun in April. Even when we’d go to Panama City Beach on the coming weekend we’d be off the beach before 10:00am. Anyway, it suffices to say we had a wonderful afternoon visiting with a few of the other guests whom we’d met on previous visits and meeting a few new folks. And yes, I’m still very much into my kilts. I’m afraid it’s addictive; the more I wear them the more I enjoy wearing them. Thankfully, most of our friends have gotten used to seeing me in the kilt so it’s no longer a topic of conversation, and that’s nice too.
After getting a change of clothes back in our condo we headed down for dinner where we had a chance to sit and visit with a very nice couple from Cartersville, Georgia, which is perhaps 15 miles north of where we live in Kennesaw. After dinner we returned to our room to clean-up and get changed before the DJ fired-up the music for an evening of dancing, something we absolutely love to do. I’m not sure we’re really good at it, but we sure have fun working at it! We’ve even remembered how to do the box step such that we can do a little waltzing and a touch of the rumba! It must have been close to midnight when we called it quits and headed back to our condo; just a great night out!
Saturday was essentially a repeat of Friday, except I knew from previous visits to get our towels and whatnot out on a couple of chaise lounges as early in the day as possible… like at 7:00am, so we’d be sure to have a place to sit and sun by the pools. Thankfully, I happened to be up early as is my norm and we were set for the day! I think it was around 9:30am when we headed down for breakfast and had a chance to sit and chat with a really nice couple who lived out west of Augusta, Georgia; Jerry & Judy. We were at the pool before noon and spent the better part of the day moving in and out of the sun and pool with visits to the various bars for lunch, lots of water, a few cocktails and afternoon snacks. Dinner was at 6:00pm and, once again, we met another nice couple, Ken & Debbie from Nashville. After getting cleaned up from a long day out enjoying the pool and sun we had a chance to get a little dressed-up for Saturday’s dance since it had a formal theme. I wore my Black Watch kilt with Prince Charlie jacket, a tuxedo shirt and black bow tie with the other necessary accouterments and Debbie had on a beautiful white dress. While there were a few other folks who could certainly dance better than us, I’m not sure anyone looked as good as we did: Debbie looked like a fairy tale princess and a tuxedo can’t hold a candle to Highland formal wear! Again, just a great night of dancing to the DJ music which, quite frankly, sometimes works better than a live cover band. A midnight snack kept us going until 2:00am, at which point the crowd had dwindled a bit and we did likewise.
We slept in until almost 9:30 on Sunday morning and after having breakfast with our friends Dee-Dee and Richie at the on-site restaurant we reluctantly headed back to our condo to pack-up before heading back to the world we’d left behind just shy of 48 hours ago. I hadn’t touched a laptop since we arrived and only looked at the preview screen on my work phone briefly in the morning and afternoons, with just one Email that required immediate attention. My personal cell’s service didn’t really have coverage so I was cut-off from Facebook, instant messaging and my personal email for the duration of our visit. Wow, does that make for a completely different experience! Anyway, as I said, all good things must come to an end so you can appreciate them and by 11:00am we were headed home to where yard work, laundry and other pre-work week chores awaited us.
Actually, we ended up doing a bit more than just mundane chores… a lot more. Because, well, it was truly the last day of Debbie Fest! April would be over at midnight. So, in addition to doing the stuff that had to be done I also did one very important thing: I got the “accessory that shall remain nameless” (ATSRN) out of the storage shed and spent 30 minutes getting our Road King Blue II ready to use the ATSRN.
While it’s a bit of a pain to have to remove and install the hitch on Blue II, I seem to get more efficient with it each and every time it gets hooked up. Moreover, it’s certainly a lot easier to clean the back-end of the bike without it and attend to routine and non-routine maintenance, e.g., changing out the rear tire. But, with the hitch installed and the ATSRN’s various bits that need lubrication lubricated we’re pretty much ready to roll-out to Panama City Beach at 5:45am on Wednesday!
Just about the time I had the bike all put together we received a text from our friend Sharon who, along with her husband Jeff and our friends Ryan, Bobby, Carrie Ann, Chuck, Mike, Patti and a few others were over at Paddy’s Irish Pub where they had four really good local cover bands playing for a fund-raising benefit all afternoon and evening. We headed over around 4:30 and joined them for an hour; it was a great time and a much-needed visit with our friends, many of whom will be headed to Panama City Beach with us later in the week. After our visit at Paddy’s we headed over to Loco Willy’s to grab some dinner as I really didn’t have anything at the house I’d need to make pizza, wings or anything else that would appeal. We ran into our friends Billy & Dava at the bar and while we were enjoying their and the bar manager Christian’s company several other friends came in after spending their afternoon at the Taste of Marietta about 2 miles up the road. It was a great way to wind-up a great weekend.
Looking ahead to our trip down to Panama City Beach, while the weather isn’t going to be anything close to ideal — a strong storm will blow-in on Wednesday night and pretty hang there all day Thursday before giving way to sunny but coolish & windy weather on Friday & Saturday — we should have a nice, dry ride down on Wednesday and also back home on Sunday. As you can see from the NOAA timeline below, the chance of rain hits about 20% by 7pm on Wednesday night and get up closer to 80%-100% by 7am Thursday. Yeah, no morning walk on the beach. The rain begins to taper back to around 20% by 6pm on Thursday and should be gone by 7am Friday. So perhaps we’ll get two “cool” morning walks on the beach.
More to follow in a week or so.