It's Almost Cruisin' Time Again

In a couple of days we leave here and start our journey towards Alaska.
We will be heading to a hotel that is near the Norfolk Airport.
It is just under 100 miles from here.
We decided to stay at this hotel because we did not want to have to get up any earlier to make our 5:45AM flight on Friday morning.
Friday is going to be a long enough day without adding in a 100 mile drive at 1:30 in the morning.
Those extra couple of hours sleep will come in handy as Friday drags on.
After making a stop in Atlanta, we arrive in Seattle around 10:55AM PST.
Once we land, we have a hurry and get our luggage and head to a specific meeting spot, so that we can catch our shuttle bus at 12:30.
This shuttle bus takes us from Sea-Tak(Seattle Airport) to the Vancouver Airport.
This ride takes approximately 4 hours because they make a couple of stops to let people off and pick people up.
If we miss this shuttle bus, the next shuttle bus isn't until sometime after 4PM.
Once at the Vancouver Airport, we call the hotel that we are spending the night at, and they will come pick us up from the airport and bring us to the hotel.
We will be trying to get some sleep on both the flights and on the bus ride to Vancouver.
In many ways, it would have been better to fly straight into Vancouver but the flights from our location to there are very expensive.
Around 11AM on Saturday morning, we will be taking a shuttle that takes us directly to the pier.
The first 2 full days of cruising, we will be doing just that...cruising. There will be no ports of call on those 2 days.
That will be a good thing. It gives us a chance to relax and catch our breath from Fridays running around.
Veronica will find her favorite chair in the observation lounge, while I run in and out taking photos of the Inside Passage and Sawyer Glacier.
We will be spending most of our days actually exploring our ports of call rather than taking a lot of excursions.
We only have one excursion booked and that is a train ride. They call it the White Pass Scenic Railway.
This is how this excursion is described on the NCL web site:

No trip to Alaska is complete without a ride on the White Pass and Yukon Route narrow-gauge railroad that served the mad rush to the Klondike in 1898. You'll board an old-fashioned parlor car for a 40-mile round trip. A panorama of wilderness unfolds, as you leave Skagway and pass through two tunnels, sky-high trestles, and remote valleys. Outside your large picture window, view Bridal Veil Falls, Inspiration Point and Dead Horse Gulch. Your guide will announce all points of interest and tell the unique story of this railway. After reaching White Pass Summit, the international boundary between Canada and the U.S., you'll begin your return journey down the White Pass & Yukon Route.
After returning to Skagway, we will still have plenty of time to explore the town.
I am sure that I will be able to take some great photos.
I will be posting tales of our adventures and photos galore upon our return home.

T.J. MAXX Arrives On The Outer Banks

When Veronica and I first came to the Outer Banks to check the area out, the "buzz" about TJ Maxx coming had already started.
Everyone that we spoke to was very excited about having a new TJ Maxx locally.
Although there are other retailers in the area, we kept hearing about people driving for 1 - 1 1/2 hours to do their shopping in the Virginia Beach and Chesapeake and going to the TJ Maxx stores in those locations.
As time went by, the "buzz" and the excitement grew amongst the locals.
Yesterday was a big day, not just for those living on the Outer Banks but for Veronica also.
She has been putting in very long days and nights, leading up to and culminating in the Grand Opening of the new TJ Maxx, that is located in Nags Head.
Veronica got up early yesterday morning and headed to the Grand Opening of her new store.
I arrived in the parking lot shortly after 7AM, with my trusty camera in tow.
When I first arrived, the parking lot was just about empty.
It didn't take long for the people to come.
It was like one of those "Field of Dreams" it and they will come. And came they did!
One of the first groups to arrive was a group of local ladies. I watched as they pulled out a couple of tables and various other items and started to setup "shop" right there in the parking lot.
At first I thought that they were part of the TJ Maxx crew or someone hired to hand out drinks and food to the people that showed up for the Grand Opening ceremony, but I soon found out that they were having a tail gate party...kind of like what you would see on race day or at a football game, but minus the bar-b-que grill.
They saw me standing around with my camera in hand and asked if I was with some of the local newspapers covering the event. I told then no...that my official title was husband of the store manager.
They requested that I take a photo of them together. Not being one to shy away from a photo opportunity, I eagerly took their picture.
The area quickly filled up with local politicians and dignitaries, people from the TJ Maxx company and quite a number of locals, who were all eager to get inside the new store and commence their shopping experience.
During the overall ceremony, Veronica handed over a sizable donation to a local charity and there was an official ribbon cutting after a few brief speeches by various people, Veronica included.
As soon as all of the ceremonies were completed, the doors of the very first TJ Maxx on the Outer Banks were officially opened to the eager shoppers.

Early morning before the ceremony almost empty parking lot, but not for long. The vehicles on the right hand side of this photo was where the tailgating party was.
A local tailgating party for the Grand Opening of TJ Maxx...never seen this done before, for the opening of a new store, but you got to love their enthusiasm. I do believe that this might be a group of Maxxinistas. And what are Maxxinistas, you might ask....
Maxx-in-is-ta (max-uh-nee-stuh) noun: a fashionista who gets it all for much, much less at T.J.Maxx

Veronica greeting one of the local Mayors that attended the event

Veronica handing over the charity donation

The early morning crowds before the official opening
The ribbon cutting ceremony

Let the real festivities's time to SHOP!!!

Before I left the area, I took a few photos of the full parking lot.

Veronica worked a ton of long days and nights to make this all happen on her end of things. I am very very proud of everything that she accomplished. Great job hon!!!!

Views From A Walk

While on my walk today, I decided to go back to our place and grab my camera.
There is something about beat up buildings, water and crab traps that cry out to have a photo taken of them.

Clean Bill Of Health

Yesterday I had my appointment with the oral surgeon.
After explaining my medical history and my fears with him, the doctor did a thorough exam of my mouth, tongue and throat and declared that there was absolutely nothing abnormal nor unusual growing in or on them...basically a clean bill of health.
Clean bill of health....those beautiful sounding music to my ears especially after listening to quite a number of off key notes over the past few years.
The plan is that I come back in June and then have regular checkups every 6 months or so.
So it appears that I did have strep throat after all...even though the basic strep throat test turned up negative.
I really don't mind falling into that 20% margin of error that this strep test has a history of being wrong...actually I welcome it.
The alternative could have been a lot those off key notes of the past.

My Hopes May Have Come True

I have been taking an antibiotic for the last 4 days. My doctor prescribed it for me, even though the strep test that they gave me turned out to be negative.
It is beginning to look like I might have been in that 20% margin of error that the basic strep test has accumulated.
I am feeling better plus those whitish dots on my Uvula and off to the side of it....they are all gone.
Just to be on the safe side, I have an appointment with an oral surgeon. I will go in this upcoming Monday and let him do some in depth checking in my mouth and throat.
I am starting to feel a little more at ease with this situation.
And what is equally as exciting as me having had strep is that in just 14 days, Veronica and I head to Alaska!!!!
I wanted to thank everyone for their well wishes. It is greatly appreciated.

Hoping For Strep Throat

I realize that the title to this blog entry might seem kind of silly.
Who in the world would wish or hope for strep throat.
That is me sitting in the back of the room, waving my arm to and fro, yelling....I do......I do.....I do.....gimme....gimme...gimme!!!!
That is because a couple of years ago I ended up with Leukoplakia on my tongue.
The reason for me having such a condition was because I had been a smoker for 30 plus years. Please note that "had" is a very key word to that sentence...I have now been smoke free for almost 2 years.
For those of you that followed my blog back then, I wrote about what I was going through with my initial discovery, the biopsy and subsequent surgery that I had on my tongue. I also wrote about how that one event had me living in fear and paranoia every time something shows up in my mouth or throat area.
About 6 nights ago, I woke up with a very dry mouth. Not only was my mouth dry but my Uvula...the flappy dangly thing at the back of your mouth, was sore, which I figured was from my mouth being so dry.
Before I continue....who comes up with words like Uvula to give that flappy dangly thing its that the best they could do?
Moving on...I ended up waking up a total of 3 times that night to the same dry mouth and sore Uvula.
The next day it was sore but I did not really give it much thought.
As the days went on, the soreness continued, my right ear kind of hurt just a little and it hurt to swallow...not from my throat but from my Uvula. I also noticed that my throat had been feeling kind of dry but with a bad allergy season upon us, I figured that it was from all of the junk in the air.
I had Veronica use a flashlight and take a look.
There on my right side of my Uvula was a whitish round dot. This dot isn't right on the flappy dangling thing but on the skin that attaches the Uvula to the side of my throat/back of my mouth.
At first Veronica thought that it was a blister but upon further inspection by the both of us, it wasn't a blister...just some sort of white dot. I thought that I also saw some other kind of white dots off to the back my right cheek...near the jaw bone area.
I had also been experiencing on and off headaches for a day or so but no coughing or sneezing or anything else that would indicate a cold.
I decided that it was time visit a doctor.
Being new to the area, it was not so easy to find a doctor that would take new patients and become my "primary physician" while I am living here.
I did finally locate one and yesterday I went to my doctors visit.
The doctors assistant took a swabbing of the back of my mouth and tongue and ran a strep test on it while I was there.
After a bit the doctor came in and told me that the strep test came back negative but that:
1) strep was going around the area quite a bit
2) that because I had taken a couple of doses of amoxicillin the previous day, that it might have caused the negative reading. I also read that there is about a 20% chance of errors in the outcome of those strep far as a false negative goes.
I was so hoping that it would turn out positive and that I would have strep throat.
The doctor and I decided to go ahead and treat it as if it was strep throat and return to see what it looked like and how I felt after the antibiotics were completely taken.
We also decided that no matter how my mouth looked, I would be referred to an oral surgeon and let him have a good look at my mouth and throat, just to make sure that there is nothing else going on.
Of course if the antibiotics don't clear up whatever it is that I currently have, the oral surgeon could play a bigger part in all of this.
But for now, I am in a holding pattern to see if I can't get rid of this via the antibiotics.
Even though the strep test turned out negative, I am still the one sitting in the back of the room, arm waving to and fro...yelling....I want strep....I want strep!!!

Bring On The Beef

We found ourselves in the market for a new gas grill.
Of course before I buy anything major, I consult my most trusted of sources...Consumer Reports. After spending my allotted amount of time doing my research, I decided on which grill I wanted and now the search was on for a retailer that sold it.
As it turns out, Walmart sells the brand I wanted but instead of attempting to shove this enormous grill into my not bad sized Rav4....kind of like shoving 2 pounds of cow droppings into a 1 pound bag...I decided that I would just have this grill shipped to our home. I also did not want to have to deal with the impending hernia caused by lifting such a heavy load.
A couple of days after placing the order, it turned up in our "garage" without any fanfare nor even a doorbell ring. Probably for the best...I would have hated to see the size of the FedEx brute that carried this huge box from truck to garage. I probably would have wet myself just a bit at the sight of him.
So here I was by myself, having to push this monstrosity into the back corner of our garage.
As I pushed, more and more of the bottom portion of the box was left behind me on the concrete floor. I am surprised that my pushing didn't wear through the box entirely.
So as I was looking at this box, I formulated a plan.......get up early tomorrow, which is now today and put this thing together.
And that is exactly what I did.
As I unpacked each piece, I placed the pieces neatly on the floor and leaning against the garage wall. I thought that the unpacked pieces would never end. Once again the aforementioned bag of cow droppings crossed my mind. How in the world did they manage to get all of this stuff in there.
So now I have all of these assorted pieces laying everywhere, I proceeded to put this beauty together.
Approximately 3 hours later...of course the instructions said that building this thing would take about an hour.
I can't really hold that outlandishly false statement against them because they have never met me.
After that 3 hour time, there stood before me was a humongous testosterone fueled blast furnace....a man beast of a contraption that any male would truly be proud of...almost enough to call it "son".
This thing throws out over 60,000 btu's of scorching heat with a side burner to boot.
Now when the head cook (me) asks someone how they want their steak done and they reply "well done please", I will look at them with a shit eatin' grin...the same kind of grin the Cheshire Cat would have after he just located where his owner had hid all of the yummy chicken nuggets.
And after cooking this steak, I would proudly present my guest with this blackened smoking ember of coal...all the while, thrusting my chest out and holding my head up high...doing my best manly man impersonation and say......"dinner is served and you may call me CHEF".

All One Has To Do Is Look

This morning I went for a walk. It is really amazing what you will see when you really look around.
My walks take me by a pond and this morning as I approached the pond, I saw about 12 turtles making a hasty retreat into the water.
I was able to find 2 brave turtles that sat still long enough to actually let me photograph them.
During my walk, I looked up into the trees and was surprised when I saw this really large nest built in one of the tall pine trees. I decided to sit down and wait and see what kind of bird would show up at the nest.

After waiting about 15 minutes, I saw 3 hawks or falcons flying around and eventually they made their way to this huge nest. If you look closely, you can see 2 of them here.

And Then The Fog Rolled In

Kind of a strange evening tonight. It had been in the mid to high 60s today and sunny.
Then all of a sudden the temperature dropped quite a bit and before I knew it, a fog bank started rolling in.
It was kind of strange...almost like one of those scary scenes in a Cape Cod movie.
I went outside to check it out and I could feel the cool moisture as I watched the fog move in.
Then I thought about one of those Cape Cod scary movies and immediately went inside and locked the doors.
Those "fog creatures" don't stand a chance against me.
In September, Veronica and I are going on a European cruise. It is called "The Baltic Capitals" cruise.
Once again it will be with Norwegian Cruise Lines. This time on the Norwegian Sun.
Here is our intinerary for our first overseas adventure:

Wed London (Dover) 4:00 PM
Thu At Sea
Fri Copenhagen 9:00 AM - 6:00 PM
Sat Berlin (Warnemuende) 7:30 AM -10:00 PM
Sun At Sea
Mon Tallinn 9:00 AM - 5:30 PM
Tue through Wed St. Petersburg 8:00 AM(Tuesday)- Overnight until 7:00 PM (Wed)
Thu Helsinki 8:00 AM - 5:30 PM
Fri Stockholm (Nynashamn) 7:00 AM - 6:00 PM
Sat At Sea
Sun At Sea
Mon London (Dover) 5:00 AM
The photographic opportunities will be fantastic!!! Ticker

Alaska Bound...again

It won't be long until Veronica and I are on our way to Alaska again.
We will be flying into Seattle and then taking a bus to Vancouver, BC.
We will be spending the night in Vancouver and then going to the pier the following morning to board the NCL Pearl.
This is the same ship that we were on last year, when we went on our very 1st cruise.
We are both looking forward to this trip. This year we will be spending less time taking excursions and more time in each port town/city.
I am sure that I will find tons to take photographs of. Ticker

What A Nice Day

Today is a nice day. A lot nicer than it was a couple of days ago when it did nothing but rain and get windy.
From what I have read, for the next week or two, there is no rain forecasted and the temps will be in the mid to high 60s, with the possibilities of getting to 70 degrees.
Took advantage of the nice weather and went for a couple of nice long walks.
Veronica and I had seen several deer run across the grass, about 10 feet away from our back townhouse window.
The last time we had gone to Walmart, we purchased a big bag of dried corn...the type you feed to livestock.
I threw a bunch of corn out back a couple of days ago but had not seen anything to indicate that the deer had come by to visit and eat.
Well today I looked out and all of the corn was gone and you could see the hoof prints of the deer everywhere.
Unfortunately the deer came either late at night or after we had gone to bed because we did not get the chance to see them.
So this morning I put more corn out in hopes that the deer would return and I would have a chance to photograph them from our computer room window.
Let the cat and mouse games begin.
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