Wild strawberry or COVID virus??

Took a picture of a couple of mushrooms yesterday.  Within the image was a little red wild strawberry. Once the photo was enlarged and the red berry zeroed in, the details of the berry came into focus.

That looks eerily close to COVID

Immediately the  shape of the berry looked very familiar. Yes, that shape has been displayed just about everywhere since, oh, sometime around March 2020. It does look way to much like the renderings you see of that damned COVID-19 virus.

BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse

Philly steak

It has been over a year since we were able to see Maj’s sister. That changed when we met for lunch at BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse in Noblesville, Indiana. Noblesville is northeast of Indianapolis but is really part of the Indy Metro area. BJ’s is part of a national chain.

We had a wonderful time “catching up” on the news from my sister’s family and we shared our family news too. It’s amazing how much has occurred in the past year and a half in our families.

 

 

 

 

The restaurant is spacious, and when seated we noticed extra partitions between booths. The food and service was excellent. The menu featured tons of options, and many different beers. We ordered something we had never seen before: a flight of margaritas! Served like a flight of beers, it had four different margarita samples.  We agreed the strawberry sample was our favorite.

The flight of margaritas

The food and service were both excellent. The portions were very generous, and all three of us enjoyed our meals. The most enjoyment of this luncheon came from our being together again. Now that things are at least somewhat back to near normal, we hope to get together each month.

 

Back to a casino

Sher and I always enjoyed casinos either at home or while traveling. COVID-19 stopped that for over a year. Being vaccinated, we’re slowly getting back to “doing things”. After some discussion, we figured it was time to try the Indiana Grand casino near us. (Indiana Grand is a casino and thoroughbred race track, part of the Caesars’ gaming company.)

We hoped a weekday afternoon visit might avoid having to face a big crowd. That strategy worked well, as the parking lots and garage were not filled as we remembered from pre-covid days. The first change we noticed was the requirement to show your driver’ license, the information of which was recorded. The Security fellow said it was for ‘contact tracing’ if needed. Hmmm…

Masks were required, except when you are eating or drinking. The self serve coffee and soda stations have morphed into refreshment stations where an employee serves you your free coffee or soda. Bottled beer was also available for purchase.

Sher enjoyed Great Gorilla slots. By the way Gorilla was very generous this session…

The slot machines were spaced further apart than before. A set of 3 machines had only the two outside positions open. Basically, at any machine you were 6 feet away from the closest player. The blackjack table games had limited seating as well. The only place we saw folks not social distancing was at the Roulette and Craps tables.

Things are definitely different: the buffet is a thing of the past with food available at a snack bar and one restaurant. The noise level is much less. The volume on the slot machines seem to be much lower than pre-covid. With the slot spacing you don’t feel as “crowded”. Oh, and people watching isn’t nearly as much fun with everybody in masks! All in all we did feel comfortable being out in the casino. Good to have that back.

Want to visit NOLA again

We’re 15 days away from our second dose of the COPVID-19 vaccine. Shortly after that it should kick in and offer us a measure of protection from the virus.

Bourbon Street in New Orleans, known for music, food and revelry. Note the famed balcony iron work in the background

Red beans and rice with smoked sausage

The band at Bamboula’s

 

 

 

 

 

 

We are standing in front of the tomb of Marie Laveau, the famed Voodoo Queen. This is reportedly the most visited tomb in New Orleans.

We are not sure exactly when we’ll decide to travel again. But one place we do want to visit again is New Orleans. Sher and I both so enjoyed our last visit there back in 2018. We loved the food, the music and the atmosphere of this exciting  place. There is so much to see and do in NOLA.  It will definitely be on an upcoming itinerary  of ours.

A clever sign


This old wagon has a very appropriate and humorous sign attached. This is at the La Hacienda RV Resort near Lake Travis in the Hill Country out side of Austin. We wintered there prior to the pandemic.

The king of the sea

King Neptune on the Virginia Beach, VA Boardwalk

Compare Neptune’s size to the bike rider!

Neptune and his turtle

The octopus

The bronze statue of King Neptune is the spectacular creation of artist Paul DiPasquale. It was dedicated in 2005 and to this day reigns over the sea (and the boardwalk). Neptune holds his trademark trident with a hand on a sea turtle. He is also surrounded by many other sea creatures on the statue base.

We lived in Virginia Beach in the 90’s and loved the beach and boardwalk, spending hours and hours enjoying the ocean waves. Imagine our surprise when we returned in 2016 and saw Neptune as we strolled north along the boardwalk. Photos do not do him justice. Virginia Beach is a marvelous vacation destination with year round activities. Hopefully the city will be getting back to post pandemic conditions sooner than later.

Sacred Devils Tower

Remember this from the 1977 “Close Encounters” movie?

Close up shot of the columnar structure. Each “column” is about 8 feet across!

The Devils Tower is a sacred site to Native Americans and is an NPS National
Monument. Located in the Black Hills of northeastern Wyoming, this remarkable geologic butte stands nearly 900 feet tall from it base to the top. The rock is igneous and was formed when the molten lava intruded into layers of sedimentary rocks. Those rocks weathered away, leaving the Devils Tower that we see today.

There is interesting history of both the geology of the tower, as well as the history of human involvement of the site. This was the first National Monument, so designated ten years before the National Park Service was founded. Study the Devils Tower website for details about the park, its history and current covid restrictions.

We visited Devils Tower back in 2015.

Hey, we went somewhere today

OK, for some of you, maybe it would not be a big deal. But for Sher and I our trip to the Buck Creek Winery was the first time in a year that we actually went out and went into a store. Yes a place where people go, talk, buy things and act kind of normal.

Our son drove us out and about today. Yesterday we noticed that our wine supply was running, well, low. So off to the Buck Creek Winery, about a half hour from our place.  We had our masks on and there was only one other customer in the winery  when we went in.  We felt comfortable, Joseph set us up to have a sampling of 6 different wines.

Our assortment purchase today

We ended up buying a case of assorted wines after a fun sampling experience. We belong to the Buck Creek Winery case club, which enables you to enjoy a 20% discount on case buys. Refer to the Buck Creek website for details.

Even though we have had our first dose of the Moderna vaccine, we were still somewhat leery of getting out. But we felt ok at the Winery today. Joseph  maintained social distance, was most polite and informative and he poured our samples. Oh, it was different wearing jeans with a belt instead of sweat pants.

We miss this

Sher and I have been waiting, like most, for the vaccine. One of the things we miss since we’ve been “in isolation” is going out to eat. Such a simple activity that tons of people used to do before COVID. One place that we really miss is Cheddars Restaurants.

Famous potato soup


Legendary onion ring tower

 
Cheddars is really our favorite casual restaurant, followed by Olive Garden. It will be really nice going back out for a nice meal even if the tables are spread out and everybody is in masks. I guess we’ll all have to get used to that, it’s gonna be the norm for a while.

We have received our first dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, and our second dose is already scheduled for March 15th. Shortly after that we’ll have what the experts are saying is a high percentage of immunity.