The Honeymoon

Day One (Monday, September 18, 2000)

(In the process of adding patient.)

After leaving the Airport Ramada Inn (who are keeping our car for us while we visit sunny Florida), we proceed to the airport proper, where we visit the local McDonald’s for breakfast after checking in for our flight. Sally chooses the ham egg and cheese bagel and a large diet Coke, and I have a bacon egg and cheese biscuit and a diet Coke. The quality is, well, standard McFare.

Sally has a bottle of Asti Spumante in her backpack and I notice that the wrapper and wire have been removed (the bottle otherwise having not been opened). When we reach the gate we ask the nice lady at the desk if this is going to be a problem (I have visions of the cork popping out when we reach altitude). After checking with the flight crew she says "No problem!"

Our flight is American Trans Air 455 from Indy to Fort Myers, where we will pick up our rental car and then proceed to Naples. After a fifteen-minute delay while the flight crew replace a battery in one of the exit signs, we take the interminable drive to the other end of the state and take off. A fairly uneventful two hours and 10 minutes later, we touch down in Fort Myers, only about six minutes late. Totally nice flight crew and one of the best flights I’ve ever been on.

Our baggage collected, we hop the Alamo bus to the rental yard about two miles away. During the trip we see standing water everywhere, and in some places you can tell that small lakes and ponds are over their banks because the shoreline trees are surrounded with water. Tropical Storm Gordon had gone through the night before and dumped about six to eight inches of rain in the Fort Myers area.

When we reach the rental yard, Sally sees a red Blazer sitting in the parking lot and says "You could upgrade to that and I wouldn’t be upset." Being a large rental car person myself, I don’t have a problem with that, and the very friendly and efficient folk in the Alamo office are pleased to upgrade us to a 2001 Blazer (silver, not red) with only about 4500 miles on it. Much as I dislike GM products I have to admit that this is a honey of a vehicle, and Sally likes it too :)

A thirty-mile drive later down I-75 and we are in Naples. Naples is a quaint little Florida town that has only recently been "discovered" by the retirement and tourist set (according to my wifey). There are (I think) three four-lane roads and lots of neighborhoods to drive through before we reach her parents' condo on Gulfshore Drive, near Lowdermilk Park and just up the street from First Watch--<the> breakfast and lunch place from what I am being informed. Being pretty much dead from the festivities the day and night before, I crash. Sally on the other hand goes shelling at the beach across the street :) Our very late lunch is at a Wendy's on Tamiami Trail (US 41). I won't bother to go into the menu as I'm sure EVERYONE knows what Wendy's serves :)

We spend a few hours at the condo and then drive up towards Venetian Way where Sally says there is a great ice cream shoppe. As it turns out, it's a Ben and Jerry's in a fashionable little outdoor mall (the malls here seem to be primarily of the outdoor type, on the San Diego model--the problem is that, unlike in San Diego when I was there twenty years ago and liked the concept, it's HOT and MUGGY even after the sun goes down here in September). We decide to walk around the mall and find that most of the shops are closed (it's not yet 8 PM) because we’re here "out of season". So we go home and watch the Olympics and generally are lazy until bedtime.

Day Two (Tuesday, September 19, 2000)

Sally is up early and heads to the beach to do more shelling (she will do this every day we're here unless it rains or there's another hurricane, so I will probably stop making reference to it). I get up, too, and clean out my various email boxes since last night the phone line was so hosed I could barely get a connection.

Sally comes back from the beach and we head out for breakfast in our environmentally-threatening-but-truly-fun-to-drive Blazer. We hit Mel's Diner on Tamiami and both have eggs, bacon, and potatoes; Sally has iced tea and I have the first cup of decent restaurant coffee I've had in months. It turns out that in the past year, three of the waitresses have gotten married, one just about a week ago. We are applauded and our waitress brings us two roses in a styrofoam to-go cup. Breakfast at Mel's is only about a dollar more than breakfast at Burger King, and both the food and the ambience at Mel's are going to make this our preferred breakfast place for the rest of the week. We refrain from using our 20% off coupon this time; since everyone was so nice we felt it would be kind of tacky.

After breakfast we decide to head down Marco Island-way. For one thing there is a Prime Outlets mall about halfway in between, where we stop and shop for a while. We purchase a Panama Jack's hat for me and a Mikasa vase for the roses we got at Mel's. To our surprise this is a relatively small Prime Outlets, especially when compared with the one in Edinburgh back home.

We then head for Marco Island proper. Marco is a cute little place that is in essence a suburb of Naples (I'm sure the residents would resent that, but given that the Marco Islander newspaper is a section of the Naples Daily News, I rest my case). We make only a couple of stops--one at Tigertail Beach on the northwest corner of the island, where we walk the beach for half an hour and do a bit of shelling, and the other at Mustang Sally's, a restaurant/bar we saw on the way in on North Collier Boulevard. Sally insists that we have to stop so she can get a t-shirt or ball cap, so we do. The ambience is that of a small-town bar (well, everything down here is small town anyway), and it's cool and we're both hungry, so we decide to stay for lunch. I have a cheeseburger, fries, and a Bud, while Sally has twice-baked cheese-stuffed potato skins and iced tea. We are amazed at the quality. Henry (the proprietor) tells us that everything is made from scratch--no frozen institutional food here. He also tells us that he serves better ribs than the local rib boutique Michelbob's, primarily because their ribs are actually made at the store in Naples and driven in rather than cooked on the premesis. We're both inclined to believe him on the basis of the food we've just eaten. After finding out that we are newlyweds, Henry tells us that we must come down sometime between Wednesday and Sunday for the evening entertainment and he will serve us dinner on the house. (We are finding that everyone in the Naples area is very, very nice, and even nicer when they find out we are newlyweds. We make a note to be sure to trade on our status wherever possible :).)

Beautiful Sally on Tigertail BeachNathan and 
his white legs on Tigertail BeachMustang Sally's on Marco Island

On the way home we stop at Wal-Mart to pick up a few things we need. Wal-Mart in a small town is not the major pain in the arse that it is in a large town, say, Indianapolis. We're in and out fairly quickly, to our surprise. We then stop at the little shopping strip near the condo where there is a huge Books-A-Million bookstore, where I want to take a look around, and a little beach shop (the Hurricane Beach Shop) where Sally wants to look at a few things.

We then pretty much crap out for the rest of the evening; frozen pizza for dinner and both of us spend the evening reading and relaxing.

Day Three (Wednesday, September 20, 2000)

After our morning setting up exercises (Sally goes shelling, I nap till 10:30--napping is serious work for me) we go back to Mel's for breakfast. Today we are presented with a plate of salad and two forks, and are informed that this is our "lettuce alone" salad . . . so I say, "And I see you presented it without dressing, which is appropriate since you shouldn't have to get dressed on your honeymoon ... "

Then we drive up north to the Teddy Bear Museum on Pine Ridge Road. Sally takes one look at the admission price (six bucks per) and decides she doesn't need to see teddy bears that urgently. I tell her that it doesn't matter, I could care less what it costs, do you want to see the bears or not? So we walk in and Sally asks if they have discount rates for honeymooners. Nope. (Big surprise.) So we shell out twelve dollars and almost immediately Sally decides it was worth it. Lots and lots and lots of teddy bears. Tres cool and we get a lot of pictures (for the first time since I bought my Olympus D-460 I shoot up an entire roll of digital film). Sally is happy (and so am I). It's worth a look even at the somewhat steep price. For families with kids there is a $2.00 children's rate, and there is also a $4.00 senior's rate. Don't be fooled by the apparent size of the building from outside. I think this building is actually larger inside than it is outside, and they must have ten thousand bears of all shapes and sizes scattered around, along with paintings, posters, books, and so forth. They do not however have a Bruce Springsteen bear (Sally does) and their Misha bear from the 1980 Olympics doesn't have his ear tag any longer (Sally's does, and thus it's more valuable than the one in the museum). There is a huge bear wedding diorama that I spend quite some time photographing.

There is also a small gift shop but it is somewhat uninspiring (possibly because they have the door open and the air conditioning straining mightily against the 90 degree, 90 percent humidity weather outdoors).

A quick stop at the Sports Authority next door to get me a cheap pair of water shoes and we away to home for a short siesta.

Later we drive over to Tin City , which is a touristy souvenir type of mall (although they sell lots of women's clothing in various shops, it's a tourist trap--albeit a cute tourist trap). It being "off-season" we get a parking space right up front in the covered parking area (this amazes Sally). We find her a nice dolphin-print caftan but can't find me an XXL Hawaiian shirt (and go figure why they sell Hawaiian shirts in Florida--some of them actually MADE in Hawaii, according to the tags).

While we're at Tin City it starts to rain. We don't consider this a big deal (yesterday it rained like crazy for about five minutes and stopped, about normal for South Florida) and keep shopping. When it appears that it's going to KEEP raining for a while, we drop into the bar for a white zinfandel and a Bass ale and watch the rain come down. At the same time the Weather Channel is talking about severe weather back home, and we figure that Snoopy is probably hiding from the thunder. The rain just keeps coming down and gets even worse as the wind starts whipping it around. The staff discover a leak in the ceiling, not particularly surprising as Tin City is three old dockside warehouses tied together with covered walkways--sort of a South Florida attempt at Indianapolis's City Market, but with more seaside charm. I like Tin City and with the foreknowledge that it's a tourist trap, it's fun to walk through, particularly since it's air conditioned.

When we emerge from Tin City it's still raining a bit, and the parking lot is flooded. We wade through about four inches of water to our boat, er, Blazer, and proceed to drive through flooded streets--up to the axles in many places. I kick in the automatic four-wheel drive just for luck and we drive several blocks north on a very wet side canal, er, street, until we reach a place where we can cut over to Route 41--which is only flooded in the right turn lanes since it's a nicely-crowned federal highway. We will find out the next morning that at least an inch of rain fell in only 20 minutes or so, and probably more like 2 inches where we were. There is some conjecture that this is possibly due to Tropical Depression 12, west of us in the Gulf and not particularly threatening to South Florida at the moment; I think it's just left-over disturbed atmosphere from Gordon. We'll keep a weather eye on the weather.

After floating home (Gulf Shore Drive is also flooded) we head out for Pippin's for dinner. We both have the filet mignon, medium, with baked potato and salad bar. Although there is nothing special for newlyweds (we ask), our waiter offers us dessert on the house--after we finish HUGE filets and baked potatoes and big salads. We can hardly turn this down so we take him up on his offer of death by chocolate, but ask him for a SMALL piece (we both independently decide that it would be tacky to ask for a doggie bag). The piece he brings is three inches on a side and at least an inch and a half high--and he says this is a half piece ... we roll home contentedly and somewhat rotundly.

Day Four (Thursday, September 21, 2000)

We go back to Mel's for breakfast. Where else?

After a quick stop at the Publix supermarket for chocolate stuff and peanut butter (we have none in the condo), Sally heads back to the beach for more shelling, sunning, and possibly some reading. I read the paper, vacuum the living room, and bring this diary up to date.

Sally comes home very red--she is now my fried bride--and quite hungry--so we jump into the Blazer and endanger the environment once again to go to Olde Naples (yes, they spell it with the trailing "e"). We find a parking place opposite Cheeburger Cheeburger (yes, that is also spelled correctly) on 5th Avenue South. Side note: Don't attempt this maneuver during "The Season"--you will not succeed in finding a space anywhere near Cheeburger Cheeburger.

CC (I will not spell it out again) is a chain/franchise operation that is rather cute; it looks very much like an old time soda fountain but the big item (other than their hand-dipped shakes, which we do not try today) is really the cheeseburgers. They come in several sizes ranging from 5.5 oz. (The Classic) to the Famous Pounder -- "actually a huge 20 oz.!" If you can finish the Famous Pounder they take your picture and put it on a "roll of honor" board. Sally is chicken and has the Classic. I have the Semi-Serious (1/3 pound). We get a free basket of fries on a coupon from one of the Naples tourist guides so we have plenty to eat. The food is excellent!!! If anyone is interested in starting a CC franchise in Indy, click the link.

We then go shopping along 5th Avenue South, which is the main street of Olde Naples. Lots of restaurants and trendy shoppes. We pick up three Hawaiian shirts for me at a little shop about a half-block from CC--on sale of course--three for the price of the one we would have bought yesterday at Tin City except that they didn't have XXL. My wife is pleased that I am actually purchasing clothing for myself.

A couple of blocks further down we find Cork's Steak House and take pictures of it for our friend Corky Aiken--who for some reason known only to himself and his God, MISSED OUR WEDDING, and thus now is guilty of having stood my wife up twice. A suitable punishment is being considered by my vengeful spouse, but we'll still give Cork the pics.

Coming back to the Blazer, we stop for Edy's ice cream ... I am conventional and have chocolate chip, but my beautiful bride has Chocolate Whopper Swirl (or something like that, she can't remember now). Then we run up north for some more sightseeing. We stop just north of Pine Ridge Road on Tamiami Trail (US 41) to click a pic of Cypress Lodge No. 295 F&AM, which we saw the first day we were here (even Sally recognized it right off as a Masonic Lodge--she's learning! Unfortunately they don't meet again until next Thursday night, so I won't be able to visit this trip). Then we drive through Pelican Bay (where such glitterati as Barbra Streisand live) and top the afternoon off with a walk on Vanderbilt Beach (down the street from the Ritz-Carlton). I step in the Gulf for the first time. I want to take sand and salt water home to scrub my feet in every day. Just like that. With the waves and everything.

Leaving the realm of the rich folk, we head back to our humble digs for a bit of a rest. We then proceed to the Coastland Center Mall about two miles away to have a bite to eat at the food court and to buy a wrench at Sears so we can turn the water on to the washer/dryer in the utility room. Coastland Center is perhaps the biggest mall I've ever seen that wasn't at least two stories high--there are at least four anchors (Sears, Penneys, and a couple of other department stores) and a gazillion shops. It puts Castleton Square at home to shame and probably Greenwood Park, too.

Home again to do laundry.

Day Five (Friday, September 22, 2000)

Mel's for breakfast. Where else?

We then take off on a trip to Sanibel and Captiva Islands, up near Fort Myers. It looks like a short distance on the map; it's not; I'm here to tell you. The biggest problem is that the speed limit most of the way is 35MPH or less. But the scenery is beautiful where there is scenery (for instance the Lovers Key area, where we stop to take a picture of the sign but don't get out of the Blazer because it's raining). It actually rains almost all the way to Bonita, then it just gets cloudy and surly (a bit of sun pokes through here and there, but otherwise, thank you very much T.S. Helene). On the way back it will start raining again when we get to Bonita and stop again when we get to US 41 north of Naples. Go figure; this is Florida.

When we get to Sanibel we stop to orient ourselves at the Chamber of Commerce visitors' center. We trade on cute again and are congratulated on our marriage; it turns out that there is a couple standing right there in the room who are celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary, so congratulations and best wishes fill the air. One of the very nice folks manning the information center is from Carmel, so we tell him we're from Pike Township and that we went to North Central. He remembers the high school rivalries that we remember, and he's also a huge Pacers and Colts fan.

We drive through Sanibel at 35MPH or slower (depending on who is in front of us) and finally reach Captiva. Captiva is still practically a wilderness but has tons of condos and little inns and hotels built back behind the trees. Intriguingly, there are no public beaches on Captiva as far as we can tell. We stop at Jungle Drums and The Confused Chameleon to look around at their wares. Jungle Drums is an upscale avant-garde art store where, as Sally says, you go to look and not buy. They have some really exquisite pieces that I'd love to have except for the price tags--in some cases 2 grand or more. The least expensive items I see are still in the $30-$60 range and are not really things I'd consider paying that much for.

We then stop at the Bubble Room for lunch. Sally has been here before--for dinner--and says it's great. We get our picture taken in the little Tunnel of Love booth they have and are seated. The restaurant is decorated in the Old Kitsch style you see at home in many restaurants, but this kitsch is authentic (as far as I can tell) rather than having been reproduced en masse for a chain. They have an LGB train running overhead in the room we're seated in; unfortunately it's just the engine and no cars.

Our waitress (Sybil) is a bit on the strange side and very talkative. Sally orders a roast beef sandwich on French bread and I order the big cheeseburger (my tastes are plebian, what can I say?) and we order a basket of cheese and bacon fries, which turns out to be enough for any four people to eat. I am sad to report that the Bubble Room does not have anything special for honeymooners; they offer to stick a candle in our dessert, if we order dessert, and sing, and that's about it. Even a souvenir menu is priced at $3.75. Sally is not as impressed as she was the last time; the food is reasonably good but as I comment, the attitude isn't all that great. We suspect it's because we're there off-season and have arrived pretty much at the end of the shift.

On the way back we stop at Blind Pass, where Captiva and Sanibel meet, and take a walk on the public beach. This looks like the dying place of the shells and since we don't have our water shoes we have to walk down the beach a bit to find a place where we can get through to the surf without walking on broken shells. We collect a few shells and walk back to the Blazer. It's cloudy and grey and the surf is a bit rough; it's easy to see the clouds from Helene out to the west and north. We're really happy it went that-a-way instead of this-a-way, even if that means the folks in the Panhandle got drenched.

We head for home; it's a long drive and we're both tired, so we call it a day and have frozen pizza again.

Day Six (Saturday, September 23, 2000)

We have a gift certificate for "2 breakfasts" at First Watch, thanks to Sally's parents, so we walk down there and eat like chazerim (that's Hebrew for "pigs"). Sally has the "Trifecta", a big waffle, bacon, and 2 eggs, plus a side of potatoes. I have the "Traditional", two eggs, potatoes, bacon, and an English muffin, plus an order of French toast. The food here is very good, but frankly it's not up to Sunrise Café standards back home. The French toast isn't nearly as good (I can't decide what they've left out of the recipe) and I just prefer Sunrise's hash browns to the cubed fried potatoes First Watch has. However this should not be taken as a damnation of First Watch; the food is good, the service is great, the ambience is pleasant. Sally says that I should not compare First Watch to Sunrise, but rather, to Le Peep, which has a more similar type of fare. I don't care much for Le Peep myself which may be why Sally likes First Watch better than I do :) On a different note, our waitress is only on her second day here, and we agree that she is first-rate; we leave her a big tip.

After a bit of a rest back at the condo, we hop in the Blazer and drive north. We go to Bank One (the only Bank One in Naples) at Vanderbilt Beach Road and Tamiami Trail to get some cash, then head over to Sam's Club to buy Sally's dad a printer to keep at the condo. Then we engage in a rather fruitless search for a place called the Ice Cream Café that supposedly exists "in the Cross Roads Shopping Center at the Vineyards", which my perusal of the map seems to indicate is in the same general NE area of Naples. We can't find it. Fine, we don't need ice cream. We go instead to see the Ritz Carlton Hotel at Vanderbilt Beach. Very cool. I tell Sally that someday when we're rich we'll stay here for a night just so we can say we did.

Then we go for our second walk on Vanderbilt Beach (Sally has pictures to prove that I got my feet wet and picked up some shells). Then and ONLY then do we resume our search for ice cream, finding a Haagen-Daas shop in the Waterside Shops at Pine Ridge Road and Tamiami Trail. After a short stroll in the mall it's time to go home and take a nap--it's HOT and HUMID and I'M TIRED. We plan to go to Mustang Sally's tonight for dinner.

Mustang Sally's is just as much fun (if not more) at night than in the afternoon. Sally has the rib-eye steak and I have the filet mignon (with special lemon-pepper sauce for which recipe I would cheerfully kill). After this awesome dinner we chat off and on with Mary, Dave, and other assorted wait staff until 8:30 and the start of the evening's entertainment: Myles Loud. This is professional karaoke at its best. Myles looks like Elvis and can belt out anything from Elvis to Tom Jones to Louis Armstrong singing "It's A Wonderful World". Naturally his repertoire includes "Mustang Sally", one of four songs I am forced to get up and dance to. He has some help along the way from a lady who must be one of the karaoke night regulars (Miss Katie) and from the manager and the DJ who follows his act at 11 PM. There is no question that our evening at Sally's is the best clean American fun Sally and I have had in years. We're already planning to go back next week to hear Myles again.

It's 20 miles back from Marco to the condo but we don't care. What fun.

Day Seven (Sunday, September 24, 2000)

Sunday is pretty much a crash day. Sally hits the beach and I hit the couch to read the new Clancy novel. Late in the morning I walk over to Lowdermilk Beach to find Sally and play with my sand toys for the camera. In the afternoon we finally find the Ice Cream Café for which we have been searching (and for which we have a coupon). It's east of I-75 rather than west of it. We then come back to the condo and I crash again and Sally goes to the beach again.

At 7 PM I am forced under threat of mayhem to take my wife to Naples Pier to watch the sunset (admittedly the first sunset worth watching since we've been here as this is the first cloudless evening since we've been here). Then we go back to Mel's for dinner and are appropriately abused for our newlywed status by the Jewish mother waitress, who for some inexplicable reason goes by the name "Nino" (her real name being Eileen). She keeps calling one of the Hispanic waitresses a shiksa. I keep telling Sally that that isn't very nice. Sally says it's just the common word for a non-Jewish woman today. Not in my experience :) but this isn't my town :)

Day Eight (Monday, September 25, 2000)

Once again we go to Mel's for breakfast/lunch (Sally has breakfast, I have lunch). We are now considered regulars. We show Christine the pictures Sally's dad emailed us from the wedding and she gets all teary-eyed. We promise to send more pics after we get home.

We then go to Jungle Larry's Caribbean Gardens ("The ZOO in Naples"; It's not as hot and humid today so an outside walk is a bit more bearable. While we don't take the cruise on the lake, we do get to see lots of big kitty cats. Caribbean Gardens was founded in 1919 and frankly looks it; this is an old-fashioned zoo like the Indianapolis Zoo used to be. They do however appear to be spending some serious money on updating the exhibits and making it a less "cagey" zoo. Interestingly enough this zoo did not start out as a zoo; it began strictly as a "tropical garden", containing some 3000 different plant species. Tropical birds were introduced in 1954 but other animals were not displayed there until 1969.

After a run north to the only Bank One in Naples--Vanderbilt Beach Drive and Tamiami Trail--we grab some Haagen-Daas and return to the condo (it's not very far from the Gardens; in fact I am beginning to subscribe to my best man Chris Hodapp's observation, "Why does that town seem so small, but all you ever do is drive and drive and drive?"). We both decide to crash and read. I end up taking a nap and Sally talks to her mom on the phone, undoubtedly telling her all sorts of bad things about me, I can just imagine ... anyway, about 7PM we run to the mall, have hot dogs at the food court (good hot dogs I might add) and do a bit of shopping. Then it's home to read e-mail and generally laze about. This IS a vacation, ladies and gentlemen :)

Day Nine (Tuesday, September 26, 2000)

Sally hits the beach again as I try to finish off my Clancy novel. This one's pretty good, by the way. About 10:30 we go to Mel's again but this time we bear gifts, or at least a birthday card for Jackie, one of our favorite waitresses. We also take the wedding pictures again since Jackie wasn't there yesterday. We get birthday cake with breakfast :)

It's then another lazy day until lunch time. We run down to Fifth Avenue again and eat at Bully's Fifth Avenue Grill. Sally's been here before and almost doesn't recognize it--it used to be a hole in the wall and now it's bright, cheerful, and even has tablecloths on the tables ... our waitress (Missy) remembers Sally from last year when she and her parents ate at Bully's. Sally has an egg salad sandwich (grilled) and I have the bacon cheeseburger with fries. We then take a look at some more shops on 5th but don't see anything we absolutely can't live without.

In our bid to add to the condo's comforts, we make a quick trip to Wal-Mart to buy a throw for the couch. Sally finds a nice one for fifteen bucks. Returning home, Sally goes back to the beach for a while and I finish The Bear and The Dragon.

Then it's off to Noodles for the dinner part of our day. Noodles is in a strip mall at Yahl and Pine Ridge on the north side of Naples (there's another one on US 41 in Bonita Beach but this one is the original). My bride orders Fettucini Alfredo with a side of portobello mushrooms. I order Chicken Parmesan with no sides. Our waiter, Aron, brings a big colander full of Italian and foccacia breads on which to nosh. Big mistake. Our meals are big enough for any three of the Indianapolis Colts' linebackers, with enough left over to feed our cats. My meal contains at least five boneless chicken breasts piled over a huge bed of homemade noodles (I should have mentioned that the hook at Noodles is the homemade pasta). By the time Sally is too stuffed to eat another bite, it still looks like she has barely touched her meal. Luckily there are doggie bags. The price is VERY reasonable; we're not wine drinkers so we get out for under thirty dollars with enough food left over for at least two meals. Our advice to would-be diners: Share a meal.

The staff, I might add, are great. Refills of iced tea and diet coke appear almost magically ("almost" because Aron can't remember (but gets it right) that I had diet, not regular coke).

We make a quick stop at Barnes and Noble so I can find a book I wanted but couldn't find at Books A Million, then head over to the Ritz to see if we can get a cocktail. I am, unfortunately, not dressed for the occasion, given that I'm in shorts. The maitre d' is quite gracious about this--I get the impression he gets this a lot :)--but "sports casual" isn't quite enough to get into The Club or (I am somewhat surprised to note) the Lobby Lounge, either. So if you decide to pop into the Ritz for a cocktail, remember two things: The Club opens at 9PM and you need to be dressed "business casual".

So we roll home and I promise Sally that we can come back tomorrow night and I'll wear my long pants.

Day Ten (Wednesday, September 27, 2000)

I'll let you guess where we have breakfast.

We return home and Sally goes back to the beach while I bring the diary up to date, read some e-mail, and call work to chat briefly with my department's VP.

Sally comes back and we have lunch out of the doggie bags from last night's escapade at Noodles. In the midst of lunch, a storm blows up from the south and, while we don’t get a lot of rain here by the beach, inland they take a bit of a pounding. The sky clears off to our west and suddenly the most beautiful full rainbow I've seen in years pops into view to the east. We have a perfect view of it from the condo's lanai. It stays sharp and bright for nearly 20 minutes, and we can see both ends of it dropping into the trees out east. I snap a couple of pics with the digital camera that come out reasonably well, given the distance.

After lunch we take a LONG roundabout trip to Books-A-Million (Sally exchanges a book she bought that she realized she'd already read), Marshalls (to buy me a decent pair of slacks), Sunshine Ace Hardware (to buy extra keys for the condo), and Larry Bird's house. Yes, I said Larry Bird's house. Larry apparently frequents Noodles and our waiter told us he lives on Neapolitan Way. We don't know exactly which house it is really, but we're pretty sure that the one we decided on was it--first of all it had an SUV and a Ford pickup truck in the driveway, and secondly, it had Celtics-green shutters.

We then drive back to the condo and get ready for dinner. We have dinner at (surprise) Mel's. Why? Because this is sirloin tips night and we both love sirloin tips. Then, slightly more well-dressed than we were last night (I even have shoes and socks on), we drive up to the Ritz for a nightcap. We choose the Lobby Lounge, where Jerry is playing the piano and sounds a lot better than the techno-disco going on in The Club. Our hostess Corrine serves us a mudslide (Sally) and a Beck's Dark (me), and even brings Sally one of the new cocktail menus so she can take it home to add to the pile of menus and such that we already have as mementos of the trip. The drinks are a bit pricey but you can't beat the ambience, at least not until several low-class louts enter the lobby and proceed to have a loud hail-fellow-well-met conversation over the really fine piano and string bass players. This, too, passes. I feel like a true Republican in the midst of all this opulence and am ready to go sneer at a few tree-huggers, impeach the President, and trade some stocks and bonds. I almost buy a fine cigar, but decide against it; after all, till I get to my toothbrush, I have to live with how my mouth tastes. We climb back into our gas-guzzling SUV and drive contentedly home to order the servants to start packing for our triumphal return to Indianapolis.

Day Eleven (Thursday, September 28, 2000)

As it turns out, we don't HAVE any servants, so we pack for ourselves.

We eat our last meal (this trip, anyway) at Mel's. The girls are all sad to see us go home. Jackie and Christine conspire to "lose" our check.

Jackie had asked us if we had the Sears ad in our paper this morning. Sears has a heart-shaped diamond pendant on closeout for $19.99 and the girls would like some, but are sure they'll all be gone before they get off shift. We tell them we'll check at Sears for them on the way home, possibly before all the little old ladies in Naples descend on the store to clean them out, and promise to buy four for them if we can get our hands on them. We get there at 11:30 and sure enough, the nice lady at the jewelry counter tells us that, indeed, all the little old ladies in Naples had descended on the store and cleaned them out. We return to Mel's to report failure and say our last "au revoirs", (not goodbyes, since we will be back).

We then spend some time cleaning up the condo, doing laundry, sweeping, etc. Sally leaves a message for her parents thanking them for the use of the condo. We pack everything into our trusty Blazer and set off for Tin City to blow some time (our flight doesn't leave until 8PM and we don't need to have the Blazer back till around 6). We have lunch at Bill's Pier on 5th. Sally has a 1/4 pound Hebrew National hot dog and fries, I have a HUGE beef BBQ sandwich and fries. We have a table next to the window so we can see what's happening on the water. Frankly it looks like rain. It does rain on us off and on the rest of the day.

Intent on doing some deep-discount outlet shopping at the Miromar Outlets (between Naples and Ft. Myers on I-75), we head up that way. This is a huge outlet mall, but we don't actually do much shopping, as most of the stores are the same as we have at Prime Outlets Edinburgh back home. They do have a Bose outlet store, so I window-shop for speakers and home theatre systems that I can't afford.

It's on the road again for the airport, but we're way too early to turn in the Blazer. We decide to look for an ice cream shop, and end up finding a Bresler's in the Simon-owned mall on the east side of Fort Myers (Edison Mall). We are thinking about visiting the Edison-Ford winter homes but time is a bit short for that and traffic is murderous anyway. So we return to the Alamo lot at the Fort Myers airport and reluctantly bid farewell to our Blazer. A short bus ride later and we're at the ATA baggage drop, and shortly thereafter at the gate. Sally negotiates with the gate agent to get us into a row of seats by ourselves and succeeds. Our flight is American TransAir 454, departing at 8:00 PM, so we get to sit for a while. While waiting, we meet a couple from the Greenwood area who are rabid Pacer fans. They're quite nice and we have an enjoyable chat, mostly about Rik Smits' decision to retire. Sally is very upset, but more upset that people are going to think that Rik strung the Pacers along all summer when in fact Donnie Walsh was trying to get him to reconsider retiring all summer. I just figure we won't be in the playoffs next year.

Two hours or so of flight time later and we arrive 10 minutes early in Indy. In another entry under the "It's a Small World" rubric, the lady sitting in the row in front of us is Brenda, the lady who was celebrating her birthday at Mustang Sally's the night we went down for the show. She's bringing her dog to board with her daughter, who lives in Bargersville, while she goes on a cruise to Tahiti. What a nice lady...

ATA's baggage handlers must work on microchip time, as by the time we arrive at the baggage claim area, our bags are already out on the turntable. Quite a difference from Southwest, where if you're lucky they might get the turntable running 10 minutes or so after you get to the claim area (and that's after you've stopped to get a newspaper and use the restroom and it took you 15 minutes to get off the plane in the first place because you were in the eighteenth boarding group and were sitting in the back).

I run over to the Ramada and grab our car (it's still there, in one piece, and the tires are still inflated, so I figure we got our money's worth), then drive around to pick up Sally and the luggage. The drive home is fairly uneventful. It's nice to be home, even if I do have to lug a sixty-pound suitcase up the stairs. My parents have left us some "welcome home" balloons tied to the rail at the top of the stairs. The cats are ecstatic to see us. Snoopy displays his affection by refusing to have anything to do with us for about five minutes, then changing his mind and deciding he wants attention. Tigger has doubled in size since we left and is starting to look like a fine young cat.

We open the windows to let the place air out a bit (it's nice to be home where the weather is reasonable) and we fire up our computers to check our email (this takes me a bit longer than it does Sally). Dinner is a peanut butter bagel for Sally and a peanut butter sandwich for me. We're too tired for much more than that. Visiting Naples was fun; we met a lot of nice people and had a great time there, but there's no place like home and we're home. Now I lay me down to sleep on my Select Comfort air bed again...Good night.


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