"To strive, to seek, to find and not to yield"
- Alfred Lord Tennyson, 1833

"live deep and suck out all the marrow of life"
- Henry David Thoreau, 1845

"Some guys, they just give up living
And start dying little by little, piece by piece
Some guys come home from work and wash up,
And go racin' in the streets."
- Bruce Springsteen, 1977

"...to the heart, there's no time for you to waste.
You won't find your precious answers now
by staying in one place."
- Frank Turner, 2009

"The best things in life aren't things.
They're living and breathing."
- Michael Franti , 2011

"I owned every second that this world could give,
I saw so many places, the things that I did"
- Ryan Tedder of OneRepublic, 2014

All written content and photos by Rob Fulfer unless otherwise indicated.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Texas Hold 'Em and Florida Sold 'Em - Caribbean Winter Retreat - Day 2

Saturday, December 27, 2008 As we anxiously awaited getting on the new Celebrity Solstice cruise ship on Sunday, we had a Saturday to kill in south Florida and of course there were many things to choose from to do but in the end we stuck to some of our old favorites - just in new places. Rob spent most of the day at the somewhat new Seminole Hard Rock Casino playing in a poker tournament and although he missed making the money by just a few spots - he placed 14th and the payout was for the top 7 - he had a great time and gave the casino and its surrounding dining and shopping complex high marks. Ashlee, her mom and Matt spent most the day shopping in the Seminole complex and then a little distance north at the huge Sawgrass Mills Mall. The shoppers had fair results but reported that the mall while very nice was extremely crowded with after-Christmas shoppers. The ladies were exhausted, and after we checked in our room in downtown Ft. Lauderdale, they were content with take-out food and watching movies on TV. Rob and Matt ventured out for dinner (and a few brews for Rob - see his beer blog entry: http://seerobsbeerblog.blogspot.com/2008/12/big-bear-hunting-in-south-florida.html) at Big Bear Brewing a half-hour north in Coral Park. The food and beer were excellent. The restaurant was busy and beautiful. Definitely a must-return when in this area again. We are on the boat tomorrow and cannot wait for the experience!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Travel and Taste Buds - Caribbean Winter Retreat - Day 1

Friday, December 26, 2008 Planning a major vacation right after Christmas has been a bit more hectic than we thought it would be. but fortunately day one of the trip went fairly smoothly after a bit of a crazy start. We (Rob, Ashlee, Ashlee's mom, Evelyn, and our 17-year-old nephew, Matt) departed Chattanooga at 3 AM - yes 3 AM! - on the Atlanta airport van-shuttle in the pouring rain. This was after we discovered that Rob had left the sun-roof open on our Honda CRV (packed to the gills with luggage) while the rain had moved in overnight. Except for a couple of wet butts, it wasn't a major catastrophe, but along with the inclement weather we had to drive in, it wasn't the smooth start we had been hoping for. The van-shuttle was comfortable for the most part and the driver did well although Ashlee and her mom thought he was a light lead-footed once we got to Atlanta, but he got us there in one piece and the always-busy Atlanta airport and the flight on Delta went as smooth as can be expected. We arrived in Ft. Lauderdale around 9 AM, gathered our ton of luggage for this ten day trip and picked up a rental SUV at "ACE Car Rentals" (it was the best deal we could find on a vehicle that could hold us and all of our luggage). ACE is a no-frills off-site rental agency that we discovered we had used before and forgotten about (their records indicated we had rented from them in 2003 - ah yes, that little Mitsubishi convertible that was so hard to see out of). Of course, you can't blame ACE for Mitsubishi engineering and they delivered us a Toyota Highlander this time that has worked very well so far in terms of our luggage and comfort. For the price these guys do a fairly good job and are a decent choice to use in the pricey south-Florida area. Another bonus this trip is that their off-airport rental site is actually very close to the cruise-ship port and they are going to give us a lift to the boat when we drop off the car on Sunday. All of us were fairly beat when we got to Florida after such an early departure (Rob, Matt and Ashlee basically pulled an all-nighter and only dozed off an on throughout the evening and early morning). We headed north from the Ft. Lauderdale airport bound for our first night's lodging in Juno Beach. We chose to stay in Juno Beach so we could have dinner at our favorite south-Florida restaurant, Captain Tony's Reef Grill. This saved us from a hundred-mile round-trip for dinner like we have done before when staying in Ft. Lauderdale (see May 4, 2008 blog entry: http://collagebarrage.blogspot.com/2008/05/100-miles-round-trip-for-dinner.html Our our way to Juno Beach we took care of immediate business and stopped for lunch in Lake Worth at probably our second-favorite south Florida eating establishment, Too Jays Deli, a regional chain that dishes out New York-style (and size) sandwiches and such. Lunch was huge and delicious, as usual at Too Jays, and it just made us all the more tired and sleepy. We were able to check in to the Juno Beach Hampton Inn a couple hours early and we all crashed for much-needed afternoon naps ( 5+ hours may be considered more than just a nap!). We woke from our slumber just in time to - guess what? - eat again, of course. We drove a mile or so north up Hwy. 1 and found Captain Charlie's Reef Grill overflowing with patrons at 6:45 PM on a Friday night - did we mention the food here is incredible? It was going to be a 30- to 45-minute wait, but we weren't going to let that scare us off. Fortunately, Captain Charlie has "expanded" his restaurant by adding a waiting bar in a suite a few doors up (don't forget it's in a strip mall). It was all of 45 minutes in our wait, but it was well worth it. The seafood was superb an included a snapper-cake appetizer, a rock shrimp and Gorgonzola cheese entree for Ashlee, a pepper-crusted swordfish entree for Rob and two dozen steamed mussels for Matt. Evelyn stuck with a house salad (which was also huge and fresh) but sampled everyone else's dishes as well. This was Evelyn and Matt's first trip to Captain Charlie's and they were impressed. This was the fourth visit for us and we are already planning a return trip as soon as we can. In regards to that, we ambled over to Hwy. A1A after dinner to take a peak at the ocean. Near the restaurant we found a Hilton property that we crashed so as to get to the beach and it turned to actually be quite the discovery. We are very Hilton-loyal in our travels because for the most part Ashlee racks up a ton of points with them when she travels for work, but also because their properties are consistently clean and safe. We will definitely return to this property, Hilton Singer Island, as proper guests. The hotel and grounds are very nice, it's right on the beach (and what a lovely beach it is), it's located in a quiet, mostly-residential area and it's only a couple of miles from Captain Charlie's. Need we say more! Day 2 will be spent back down south in Ft. Lauderdale as we excitedly prepare to board the Celebrity Solstice cruise ship on Sunday.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Well, it had to happen eventually....

...when you take two "trips of a lifetime" in a two-year period, it's gonna be hard to fit all that you have done in one frame. So, for the first time in 16 years, the years of 2007 and 2008 have their own separate collages. Putting these collages together is always a great way to remember what we've done and seen over the last year (or two). These "pre-blog" events were just some of the highlights: 2007: - Ringing in New Year's Eve in Times Square in New York City with 1 million others. - Our amazing trip to Europe which included a wonderful Mediterranean cruise from Rome, Italy, to Athens, Mykonos and Santorini Greece as well as Ephesus, Turkey. Then we flew to Zurich, Switzerland, then Venice, Italy, and finally one memorably perfect night in Paris. Man, what a trip! - Live performances by Dave Attell in New York City, Patty Griffin in Nashville, Pat Monahan in Nashville, Nightwish in Atlanta (for our nephew, Matt), Tennessee Vols football, The Tennessee Titans and Duke University basketball in Charlotte. - Great festivals like Bele Chere in Asheville, the Southern Brewer's Festival in Chattanooga, and the Americana Music Festival in Nashville. - Memorable movies like Blades of Glory, We Are Marshall, Oceans 13, Letters from Iwo Jima, The Simpsons and Fred Claus.
Early 2008:
- New Year's in Chicago including a great meal at Sepia Restaurant and the discovery of some great champagne at Pops of Chicago.
- Our great trip to Las Vegas that included some non-gambling activities such as a visit to the Ansel Adams: America collection at the Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art, the Shark Reef Aquarium at Mandalay Bay and a great meal at Bobby Flay's Mesa Grill.