FRIDAY, DECEMBER 29, 2023These past few New Year's holidays, Brugger and I have gathered with our regular partners in crime, Terry & Beth, and this year, friends Joe & Suzy joined the mix. This year, we had decided on Virginia Beach as our destination and made reservations at the Dolphin Run condos on the waterfront. Since we were all heading from different places — and I had geocaches to stop for — each couple drove separately. Ms. B. and I left about 11:00 a.m. Sure enough... there were some cool geocaches to snag along the way. We hit a few spots of traffic, but overall, the trip turned out to be a mostly pain-free six hours.
Once ensconced in our lodgings, we opened some wine for pre-dinner drinks. Come the dinner hour, we saw a few nearby restaurants, so we walked up to an appealing-looking place called Waterman's Surfside Grill, but the wait time — about an hour — struck us as a bit much. So we ended up walking another partial block and found Mahi's at the nearby Hilton Hotel. They specialize in sushi, and I ended up with some of the best dead fish I've had in ages... maybe ever.
Then we returned to our lodgings and — scandalous, I know — we opened some wine. Our revels, debates, and mud-wrestling lasted fairly late. Brugger and I took a nice, late-night walk on the beach. Then there was some heavy-duty bed-crashing.
The Dolphin Run Condos by night
SATURDAY, DECEMBER 30, 2023
After plenty of coffee, I set out walking after geocaches. Found a few physical hides and stages of several Adventure Lab (virtual) caches. I ended up hoofing it about two and a half miles, which is fairly typical of my daily walks back home. The wind behaved brutally for much of the distance, so I was still rather glad when I made it back indoors.
For lunch, our gang decided to give Waterman's another try because the menu had appeared appealing. This time, we were able to get seated quickly. One of their daily specials was an Angus burger with brie and applewood-smoked bacon, and it hollered at me. No drinks but water for me because I'm certain there will be no shortage of such refreshments this evening. The burger was very good, a bit shy of great. Still, it's been ages since I've had a burger, so it hit the critical spot.
To my dismay, I discovered that our power back home had gone out. Apparently, it was a widespread outage in Martinsville, as people all over the city were posting about it. It lasted a couple of hours, and I don't know what caused it, but at the moment, all seems well again. We certainly did not want the cats and their sitter to get too cold!
Writer/editor/Crossroad Press CEO/good friend David Niall Wilson was apparently in town, and we'd had an idea we might try to get together during the afternoon, but circumstances didn't come together for it. However, come April, we'll be seeing each other at the upcoming AuthorCon III in Williamsburg, so we'll have a good time there to anticipate.
There is a walkway along the beach that runs just below our eighth-floor balcony — the "boardwalk," it's called, although it's not so much boards as concrete. It's been all done up with a holiday light show, so, during the evening, a huge parade of vehicles rolls by to go through the show. It doesn't bother us at all, though now and again, we venture out to the balcony to hurl insults at the crowd and look at some of the visible lights.
Several of the gang were out and about for the afternoon, so they picked up vittles for dinner, including a couple of rotisserie chickens for the main course. Joe made us a lovely Italian concoction of beans and escarole to go with the bird, and so we were set. Once well-fed, we settled in for an evening of wine, games, and generally acting up.
|Crazy white people!
|The opening of the light show below our balcony: "Welcome to VA Beach!"
SUNDAY, DECEMBER 31, 2023
I'd hoped the weather might be a bit less blustery this morning to go walkies, but while the sun blazed brightly, that air remained frigid. So... no. I got some writing done. Finally, at about 11:00 a.m., the temperature pushed up to the 40-degree mark, and I decided to head on out. Joe & Suzy had a lunch date with her sister, who lives nearby, and the rest of us planned to eat leftovers, so I reckoned I could walk as far as I wanted to, and we'd be on our own time until later this afternoon. I went a full two miles outbound, grabbed a traditional cache and the stages of a couple of Adventure Labs, and I had just reached my farthest goal when Ms. B. shot me a message. Apparently, the gang had decided to check out lunch options than leftovers, and could I please get back pretty soon? Hoo boy... long way....
Fortunately, I walk pretty fast.
Our lunch destination was Firebrew Bar & Grill down by Oceana Naval Air Station, where Terry and Joe had been stationed back in our nation's earliest days. Terry and I started with a couple of bloody marys (quite good) and ye women opted for wine. Possibly the wrong thing to do because we're having a big New Year's Eve dinner, but I went for a half-rack of baby back ribs, and damn... they were delicious. There was a cache nearby, so I grabbed it... and ran into a local geocacher in the process. We had a brief, enjoyable conversation.
From there, ye women went shopping, and Terry and I headed down to Oceana to meander around his old stomping grounds. For me, the real treat was getting to view a fair number of "antique" Navy aircraft up close and personal. Due largely to my model-building days, which ranged from my wee childhood until post-college, I recalled the names and types of the majority of the jets. Fun stuff!
|The Lunch Bunch
For New Year's Eve dinner, we had reservations at Mermaid Winery. It was a three-course dinner with choices of pork belly, scallops, crabmeat-stuff lobster, filet mignon, and various sweets for dessert. They served really good wine with dinner — not their own, which turned out to be fortunate because Kim and Terry sampled some of theirs and came away with expressions that were not at all pretty. Regardless, the atmosphere, service, and food made the overall experience a great finish for the year.
Back at the condo, we sat up playing tunes and making merry. Brugger entertained us with nonstop dancing from the time we arrived until we crashed, well after midnight.
2023 has left the building...
|Our Gang at Mermaid Winery for dinner
|The final moonrise of 2023
A LOOK BACK...
Without question, 2023 has been one of the most eventful years of my life. It was my first full year of retirement and included a major move back to my old homeplace in Virginia. In Greensboro, Ms. B. and I went through some of the worst household issues ever, first and foremost being the downright monstrous expense of replacing our sewer line ("Ain't That the Shit!"). Once we decided to move to Martinsville, we simultaneously went through the processes of upgrading our Greensboro house to sell and upgrading Pleasant Hill to move. What a long, expensive, labor-intensive job ("I'm Getting Too Old for This Shit!"). Fortunately, we got a good price on the Greensboro place, and while there are still some things we need (and want) to do in Martinsville, the house and town have turned out to be — unlike Greensboro has become — a comfortable, peaceful place to settle.
Early in the year and into the summer, along with all the physical labor, I was immersed in editing Deathrealm: Spirits, which came out in October from Shortwave Publishing. As with any anthology, it was an involved process, but overall, I reckon things came together as smoothly as I could have hoped. It's a beautiful book that includes superb work from many of the biggest and best names in the business. I hope you'll avail yourselves to it if you haven't already.
One of the hardest events to deal with this past year was the death of my good friend and regular geocaching partner, Rob Isenhour. We had well over a decade of experiences together, and whenever our (mostly) weekend geocaching group, The No-Dead-Weight Irregulars, manages to get together (sadly, not as frequently these days, since we are far more spread apart), the gap that Rob left behind seems massive. We do so miss him.
Having turned fairly old, this year has hit me with a few health challenges — none all that severe, but numerous and just serious enough to become real, if mostly temporary impediments. This last round of dental difficulty ("Fun & Games with Tooth Extractions") was the icing on the medical cake for this year. I can't say I approve, but at least I've mostly mended.
All in all, I can safely say this year has been another positive, if bumpy step forward in the walk into the unknown. I suppose, to put it in the immortal words of Dr. Franklin Ruehl, it's better (at least sometimes) than being slapped in the belly with a wet trout.