Bob and Shirley travel from Santa Rosa, California to Madison, Alabama. All goes smoothly beginning on Monday with our friend Judy driving us to the Park and Ride in Santa Rosa where we get the bus to the San Francisco Airport (SFO). A taxi driver, Bruce, picks us up at the airport and drives us to our hotel, the Holiday Inn Express, San Francisco-Airport South. Bruce is very pleasant and says he will try to arrange to pick us up at 5:45 AM Tuesday to drive us to the airport, even though that is earlier than his cab would normally be available to him.
After we check into the hotel, we go to a local restaurant, pick up carry out food (rather than wait at the place, we walk back to the bay shoreline for a bit), then once we have the food we walk back to our hotel and eat.
The next morning Bruce does in fact pick us up at 5:45 AM and drives us to the Delta Airlines entrance to the airport. After thanking Bruce profusely, we check in and go to the Delta gate. After the usual wait, we board the plane and take our seats (Emergency Exit seats so the two of us sit together without a third person). We fly to Atlanta, wait about 3 hours for the flight to Huntsville - taking the opportunity to eat. The Huntsville flight is under 35 minutes, so we leave around 8 PM and arrive around 7:40 PM (time zone change).
As we wait for the luggage we see our first suitcase arrive on the belt and at that exact moment David arrives. We pick up both bags and David drives us to his home, telling us more details about his very recent engagement to Gillian.
The weather in Alabama is very, very cold (lows in the low 30's at night)
David spends much of his day working from home. He has a very nice job that can be worked remotely. Shirley and Bob drive David's car to Enterprise car rental company and pick up our rental car which turns out to be an SUV, not the sedan we ordered, but it works out nicely. So many features we had not seen before: speed and other facts displayed on front window (we get that turned off), side mirrors display icon when a car passes, parking brake is engaged by pressing a button, etc.
We then drive to Kroger's grocery store where we not only get lots of food, we also buy doughnuts for the agents at Enterprise who were so helpful. We deliver the doughnuts, then drive to the Bridge Street Mall that has Christmas decorations and many stores.
Then we drive back to David's, where Shirley cooks a wonderful meal, as she does every day.
In the evening we watch on TV The Eyes of Tammy Faye
Weather continues to be cold with lows in the thirties. And this is Alabama!
David and Bob walk to Hobby Lobby across soy bean, cotton and corn fields. Turns out, there are lots of burrs to collect along the way.
David gets a picture frame for Gillian's birthday that holds several pictures. We walk back across the fields, then Shirley and Bob drive to Sprouts grocery store for more food, then to Walgreen's to pick up pictures David will put in the birthday frame. After dinner we all watch Death on the Nile
We all drive to Birmingham where Gillian lives, Shirley and Bob in the rental car, David in his car. David stays at Gillian's, while Bob and Shirley head to their hotel. However, Bob and Shirley, when they first get to Birmingham, get lost and drive around and around the streets of Birmingham, finally arriving at the Embassy Suites Hotel. We check in, unload the car, then later go down and get dinner, that is, pick up free snacks including guacomole, that the hotel is serving. We eat in our room.
David and Gillian drive to the hotel and pick Bob and Shirley up around 9:30 AM. We drive to our ping pong place, Live Wire, first stopping at Soul Kitchen BBQ to get carry-out lunches. For breakfast, Shirley and I had eaten at the hotel. Looking across the street from the BBQ we see statues walking across a roof top.
We eat our lunches at Live Wire, then play ping pong. David and Gillian each beat Bob, then each let up a bit and let Bob win (that's Bob's story).
Next we drive to Vulcan where David and Bob climb lots of steps to the top of the tower, while Gillian and Shirley take the elevator. A wonderful view of Birmingham on the top balcony and, looking up, we can see the Vulcan statue above us.
Then we all take the elevator down and David and Gillian drive Bob and Shirley back to the hotel, then they head back to Gillian's.
Video: Sheriff Chases His Tail!
David and Gillian pick up Bob and Shirley and we go to the Birmingham Botanical Gardens. We visit many gardens. So much green in Alabama! (As opposed to currently brown California, which is suffering from a drought).
We then go to a restaurant, but find it does not open for an hour. We go back to Live Wire to play ping pong, but there both tables are taken, so David and Gillian get beers and we simply sit and talk. We go back to the restaurant, order carry-out and spend our waiting time talking about encounters we have each had with snakes, cockroaches, and even a palmetto bug. It was a very entertaining wait.
We take food back to Gillian's home where we get to watch Sheriff and Clyde (see photos near top of page). Bob's Key Lime Pie was not included in the food bag from the restaurant! Yet we survived. And had a good meal. We then watched Top Gun: Maverick with Tom Cruise, which was entertaining. Sheriff in particular enjoyed it and got quite excited at some of the action scenes. Then David drove Bob and Shirley back to the hotel.
Shirley and Bob drive back to Madison. While driving a warning light on the dashboard comes on and the icons on the mirror no longer work to show cars passing. Definitely not a big deal, so go to David's, unpack the car, and then drive it to the car rental agency. When the car starts up, all is working again. People at the rental agency can find nothing wrong. Back to Kroger's grocery to get a couple of more things (Bob gets sushi). Drive home to David's, eat, read, watch news, nap. Bob and Shirley also walk around the soy bean fields. We see a large wasps nest hanging from a branch. Shirley takes pics of an old shed, then Bob walks by himself around fields and even gets to see a bunny, who moves away quickly, refusing to pose for pics.
David and Gillian to come tomorrow.
Bob and Shirley drive to shopping center to visit Barnes & Noble bookstore, where Bob buys yet another Robert Crais novel. After stopping also at Krogers and Walmart, we drive back to David's and begin packing for tomorrow's drive to Illinois for the family Thanksgiving. David arrives in the afternoon and spends time working remotely. He also shows his very cool visual/alternate reality headset that is part of his work. Shirley makes her wonderful vegetable stew and cranberry relish for dinner. Gillian has to work late in Birmingham and begins the drive to Madison after 9 PM.
Videos of using visual/alternate reality:
We all drive together to the hotel in Wittington (just outside Sesser, Ill) where we will stay for two nights. Although there are a couple of traffic slowdowns along the way, overall it is a good drive in good weather. MaryKay, Neal and Brett are already at the hotel when we arrive.
After some conversing and moving into our rooms, all of us drive to Sesser, first stopping briefly to visit Jeannine, Ray and Kyle (Ray and Kyle are working in one of the sheds). Then we drive to James and Shanna's cabin. Gillian and David get to drive a four wheeler around the farm. We then drive to the Scheller cemetary to visit family gravesites going back to the 1800's.
For dinner we all go to Scheller Playhouse where there are many nieces, nephews, brothers, sisters, etc. After dinner Gillian and David go out for the rest of the evening with David's cousins while Bob and Shirley drive back to the hotel. There we are provided a local newspaper by the motel, get on the computer, do Sudoku, jumble, crossword. Later in the evening David and Gillian come back with Molly and Matt, who also are staying at our hotel.
Robert arrives at hotel in the morning and we (Shirley, Bob, MaryKay..) talk for quite a while in the hotel cafe, along with a woman sitting there who joins in. We all drive to James' cabin where Shirley prepares her vegetables for Thanksgiving (others also preparing dishes).
We then drive to Jeannine and Ray's for the incredible Thanksgiving dinner. So many wonderful dishes in addition to the great turkeys Jeannine cooked. After dinner Bob finds - and eats lots of - fudge. What an incredible party.
After Thanksgiving dinner we drive out to James' cabin, park, and walk to an old home once lived in by Shirley. Along the way we see a new deer stand, then visit an old saw mill (still being used by Clark). We go back to James' and walk across the street and up a very old drive to the old house of Shirley's grandparents. There is also an old barn and sheds.
We come back to Jeannine's for yet more food and the "kids" (that would be David and all his cousins and some grandkids) play bingo in the garage.
Afterwards, Bob and Shirley drive back to the hotel, while Gillian, David, Molly and other cousins go to James' cabin where he has built a fire in the backyard. Molly, David, etc. get back to the hotel around midnight.
In the morning we get up, go downstairs and talk with Robert, MaryKay and Neal, but do not see Molly or Brett. We then pack up the car, say goodbye, and begin the drive back to Alabama. Along the way we stop at a McDonald's to get fish filet sandwiches. The driving goes well. Gillian has a cough [the last two Thanksgivings we did not take this trip because of concerns about COVID. We decided to come this time, all of us fully vaccinated with booster shots, and hope none of us gets COVID]. Once back in Madison, Gillian must drive to Birmingham for work the next day. In the evening the three of us watch several episodes of the new series Wednesday about a young girl at a private school who has some magical (psychic) powers.
In the morning Bob walks around nearby soybean field and neighborhoods. Then Bob and Shirley drive to a store to find Sudoku puzzle book (unsuccessfully), then to Sprouts grocery, then to Kroger's grocery where we do find Sudoku.
Shirley has a continuous cough throughout day and night. Shirley prepares usual wonderful dinner, this time chicken stew and apple/raisin stew. (Bob finishes off the remaining cranberry relish Shirley had previously made). We all watch last episodes of Wednesday, which we enjoyed. Bob reads his new Robert Crais novel.
Shirley, Bob and David all go to Providence, walk in the park, a neighborhood and downtown. Sad to see construction in the park. All of us have colds. At night Shirley and Bob watch a movie about teenagers.
So much wildlife in Providence!
Bob and Shirley walk along the soybean field and see a large ant mound, which Bob disturbs to get ants to come out.
Bob goes on a great hike with David in the Monte Sano State Park along the North & South Plateau Loops and the McKay Hollow Trail.
We get back and go with Shirley to Connor's restaurant for carryout and visit the bookstore again.
In the evening we watch 4 episodes of Narco-Saints.
David drives to Birmingham, Bob walks around fields and neighborhoods, leaving some scrap food (which disappears) on a couple of ant hills. Shirley uses the computer zoom feature to attend an Oakmont Community Garden board meeting.
In the afternoon Shirley and Bob drive to Creekwood Park and walk along the Indian Creek Greenway.
Shirley makes a sweet potato dinner along with more cranberry relish. After dinner Bob and Shirley watch last 2 episodes of Narco-Saints and the movie All Quiet on the Western Front.
Bob and Shirley hike in the Rainbow Mountain Nature Preserve on the Balance Rock Trail and nearby trails. After returning home Bob, once again, walks around the nearby soybean fields and neighborhoods.
Then Bob and Shirley go to Sprouts grocery store and buy roasted chicken, which they brought home and ate. David texts Bob and Shirley photos from Birmingham and says he intends to return in the afternoon tomorrow.
In the evening Bob and Shirley watch American Beauty and The Paper Tigers.
Bob takes a morning walk among the fields. Shirley spends much time cleaning the kitchen stove, we all go shopping, Shirley prepares dinner including grilled potatoes, chicken, cranberry sauce, and red lettuce salad. At night we watch the movie Knives Out.
In the morning, after a night of rain, Bob goes behind David's house to check out the small creek. It is flowing heavily. Then David drives us to the Huntsville airport and we fly on Delta from Huntsville to Atlanta to San Francisco (the flying is mostly smooth but clouds below us most of the time), then take the bus to Santa Rosa where our friend Reenie picks us up at Park and Ride at 9:30 PM and drives us home, providing us with chicken soup dinner and persimmon bread she has cooked. A very nice ending to a very nice trip.
Bob Phillips [phillips bob 27 at yahoo dot com - no spaces]
Santa Rosa, CA