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A Quick Weekend

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This past weekend, Diane and I took the coach, the dog (can't leave home without him!) and the grandboys to Virginia Beach, Va. We stayed in the premier sites at the Holiday Travel Campground. The premier sites are a bit larger pull-thrus than the rest of the sites. The campground is about 40 minutes from our home. We left about 2:45 in the afternoon and arrived about 3:30 or so.

We didn't do much the first night except grill some burgers while the boys explored the playground next to us. Later that night, we moved back to the sitting area in the bedroom. The boys curled up on the bed, and I took a chair and read to them.

We have been reading "The Magician's Nephew." It is book one or book six, depending on which release of the set of books, of the Chronicles of Narnia. After a few pages of Uncle Andrew's Troubles we decided to watch a movie. Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium. My wife loves the movie and the boys seemed to like it as well. While the movie was playing, I snuck back to the bedroom, sat down in one of the rockers and put up my feet and opened a Clive Cussler novel. I needed some time to myself.

It had been a rough morning. It seems that I can have a slow week, but the day we plan on leaving in the rig for anywhere, some phone system decides to go down for some reason. On this particular morning a major medical practice had trouble due to an expiring Internet IP address. This is not an easy problem to fix, so I figured it would take all day and our trip was going to evaporate. However, Diane decided that I would resolve the problem with time to spare, so she packed up the coach by herself while I drove nine miles away to the site. She was right. I was home by 1 p.m. We finished loading the coach with enough food and clothes for a weekend, pulled the coach out and hooked up the tow. The only thing left was for the boys to be dropped off by their Mom.

The boys were on the pull-out bed while the movie played and so by the time it was over, they were out for the night. Tomorrow would be a Saturday with no emergency phone calls. I hoped so, anyway.

Saturday morning began with plenty of sunshine. We ate a quick breakfast of cereal for the kids, cottage cheese and pineapple for Diane and me. Our dog, Nickolas, figured that he would be left alone for the morning to guard the coach, so he decided to sulk and not eat his breakfast. Hey, you can't please everyone!

After breakfast we took a brisk walk around the campground, dog and all. After that we secured the pup in the coach, locked up and took the car to the Virginia Aquarium to catch the 11:15 showing of Disney's A Christmas Carol 3d Imax film. We planned to get there early enough to buy good seats.

The aquarium was only 10 minutes away. We got there and found out that the first show was not full and we also had time to visit part of the aquarium, see the film and then see the rest of the facility. Sounded like a plan to me.

So we watched the fishies swimming around, observed a SCUBA diving demonstration and then headed for the movie.

I love wearing those goofy 3D glasses over my glasses. A Christmas Carol was, or should I say is, a really good film. Jim Carrey wonderfully plays Scrooge and all three Christmas Spirits. The 3D effects are mesmerizing. In other words, I highly recommend this movie. It should really put you into the holiday spirit unless you are a pre-converted Scrooge.

After the movie we picked up where we left off in the museum/aquarium. We visited the aviary, just in time for the feeding of the birds with lots of dead mice, crickets, squid and all kinds of other appetizing things. We watched the otters for awhile, then walked back to the parking lot and drove back to the campground.

At this point I needed to get ready for the event of the day. The official chili cookoff was set for 6:30 that very evening. It was four o'clock by the time we got back from the aquarium, so I need to get to work. I knew that there were about 11 entries and I planned to win this thing. Diane won the last time we were at this campground. As a matter of fact we were using the two free nights that were her prize for being the only one who entered the contest! Hey, a win is a win in my book. This time though, it was going to be a bit harder.

I think I make a really good chili. It has a bit of a kick to it. My special ingredient is a bottle of lime and salt beer. There are a number of different kinds and I use what I can find at the time. I also use red, orange and yellow peppers along with lots of chili powder, black pepper and some other spices that, well, are my secret. Also, I add frozen corn for color and a bit of texture to go along with the kidney and black beans.

Around 6 p.m. we headed over to the dining room where the contest was taking place. There were supposed to be 12 entries, but two were no-shows. I was number 11. The judges started taking small samples of each starting with number one. After they finished, the rest of us lined up and hit the Crock-Pots. I went for a white bean and chicken chili that tasted more like chicken soup with white beans. Two entries were made with cubed beef instead of ground. Both tasted like beef stew. No kick. As a matter of fact, the only one out of the five I tasted that had any spice to it was mine.

So I was a somewhat surprised when the two blandest entries, that didn't even taste like chili, won first and second place. I have entered four or five cooking contests now and I cannot figure out what these judges are thinking or tasting. It must not have been the same thing I ate! Well, my grandkids, Diane, and the people running the event said mine was the best, so that's good enough for me. Plus, the boys really enjoyed themselves filling up on chili and bread, cheese and sour cream.

We headed back to the coach and since we were kind of in a food mood, we stuck Ratatouille in the DVD player. That movie was also a lot of fun. You really can't beat a good Pixar film.

Once again we timed it good. The movie ended and so did the boys. The next morning we had a quick breakfast and went and played a game of miniature golf. That was fun for all involved even though some of the holes were almost impossible to play. Afterward we packed up after meeting our camping neighbors, who toured our coach. By 2 it was time to leave.

Our trip home was short and uneventful. We pulled into the driveway and unpacked the coach. It was a quick weekend, but sometimes those can be really good. By the way, the boys are named Carson and Austen. Two good kids. I think you would like them.

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Kids and motor homes are made for each other! Can't beat the fun you can have with both. Bet you're glad you aren't at Virginia Beach tonight! Hope the campground doesn't suffer too much damage.

Always enjoy your blog entries! Thanks. Tom

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In regard to the chili ... Same thing happened to me a few years ago, when FMCA held a cookoff among staff. I was robbed, beaten by a steak or chicken of beef or some thick concoction that bore little resemblance to or flavor of chili. At least not any traditional chili to which I'm accustomed. So, note to chili coofoff judges everywhere: It's a CHILI cookoff!

Do you know what, though? As for overall taste, those other concoctions tasted better than my chili. But I still have one claim to fame: My chili won the award for "Most Likely to Sleep Alone."

P.S.: Best Pixar film: The Incredibles.

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