Category Archives: Adventure

How Many Stars? Just One.

The past decade with Kevin has turned me into a bit of a hotel snob. We both work incredibly long hours at stressful jobs in the car business, and when we travel, we want interesting stories and an embarassing level of luxury out of the deal. When my coworkers talk about hotel prices, they throw out numbers like $200 per night as an obscene extravagance. I stay pretty quiet in those moments, not wanting to divulge that Kev has no reservations (pardon the pun) about dropping $500 or more for a night in a luxury resort.

Early on in these hospitality adventures, I started keeping the extra key card as a souvenir. Eventually I was able to make a collage out of the plastic keepsakes. On the plaque, you will notice a few for Chateau Elan, a wine resort outside of Atlanta which often hits internet lists as one of the most romantic getaways in the South. It is a sentimental favorite for us, one of the first luxury hotels we visited and the place we chose for our wedding ceremony. We like to return for our anniversary weekend, and they always put a nice note and bottle of wine out for the occasion.

hotel plaque

Such gestures are clearly a part of the luxury hotel experience, but our motivation to drop hard-earned cash on what is essentially a bedroom and a bathroom has more to do with creating memories. We love to have stories to share from the places we’ve been, and get a kick out of observing how each place has a unique personality. We are frankly just happy to escape, and to be together.

There are some Kev-Ang escapes when it is not practical to visit a 4 or 5 star establishment, but we always find a place which is very clean and safe with a name we trust. I heard a comedian once refer to a hotel by saying “I won’t mention the name of the place, but there were two trees involved.” I’ll borrow that approach and tell you that this past weekend’s stay was at a recently built property in Asheville, affiliated with a commercial that hypnotizes the viewer with a simple “Bada Book, Bada Boom.”

Kevin and I probably have never stayed in a BadaBook hotel before, and it was certainly satisfactory in the grand scheme of things. It was very bright and clean, the service was good and the room was spacious. The price was $200 a night, which seemed fair enough, and was geographically close to the places we were visiting. Staying there, I started thinking about what the various stars denote in the hotel classification system, so I looked up the definitions and found them to be very helpful. Based on their summaries, our BadaBook was definitely a 3 star. Nice pool, nice free breakfast, free internet, suites with furniture, decent art and many pillows.

People who stay in these places on a regular basis might be suprised to learn that the free breakfast is not something we normally receive at hotels with more stars, and that is fine with us. We would rather go out into the city and find our own fun breakfast to purchase. Aside from the breakfast difference, here are some other ways the hotels vary, based on our experiences:

  1. Bedding. I like to think I have some decent writing skills, but I am not sure I can fully articulate how it feels to get into the sheets at a luxury resort. I know that after wasting too much money trying to duplicate that feel at home, I finally realized that you cannot purchase this level of smoothness at your local Target or Bed Bath and Beyond. I had been playing around with triple digit threadcounts without realizing that I needed something closer to thousand-plus, Egyptian cotton fabrics to reach what we were enjoying in the plush hotels. Kevin and I have spent entire afternoons getting the best sleep of our lives in the huge, supple beds and pristine crisp bedding of a upscale resort. Like many luxuries in life, it is hard to go back to the basics after you’ve been spoiled like this.
  2. Service. Since both of us deal with the public for a living, it is important to be offered the level of service which mandates some form of training and polished manners. We have walked out of hotels with front desk clerks who were curt and perfunctory, snapping at us as if we were errant children in a grocery store. At the 4 and 5 star places, we are greeted by well-groomed valets opening our car doors and helped by polite professionals at the reception area calling us by name. We appreciate this critical component of the resort experience and consider it to be essential if we are going to shell out the big bucks for a nights sleep.
  3. Environment. A well-appointed room is a joy to enter. Whether modern and artistic or traditionally elegant, I enjoy the process of roaming through a new hotel room and seeing how it has been designed. I once stayed in a hotel with birds thoughtfully perched along the wall. Another place had a message written for us in lipstick on the mirror. Dual showers with rainfall showerheads, garden tubs, fireplaces, breathtaking art and elegant furniture allow you to feel that you truly are escaping everyday life into another world, one in which neither of us will have to listen to anyone yell at us that $60 is too much to spend on an oil change.
  4. Amenities. I am never one to care much about a free sample, and often leave them sitting untouched on the marble vanity of our hotel room. What I do enjoy is the quality and creative assortment of the toiletries. At a 3 star hotel, your free hair care comes in small bottles which spew out an insufficient amount of watered-down conditioner. In contrast, I’ve returned home from a 5 star hotel so in love with the smell of the shampoo they gave me that I went online to purchase a full size bottle, only to discover that it costs $75 for the set and has to be shipped from London. Sadly, this is out of my budget, so I returned to my normal products and will save those indulgences for my travels. But it’s nice to know that this level of excellence is out there. Additionally, we have stayed in places with complimentary champagne or bourbon in the room, or a courtesy happy hour in the lounge.

In the end, the extra stars at the hotels are a rare treat, which, like a first class airline ticket, are best saved for special occasions. The really cool thing about this past weekend was that Kevin and I had such a nice time together, laughing and enjoying each other’s company. He is such a delightful travel companion, open to adventure or laziness as the day unfolds. We had a lovely time in a fun city, enjoyed amazing food and music with friends. Although our 3-star BadaBook hotel had only one overworked elevator and less than stellar hair products, the place was very nice and met all of our needs. Kevin and I reconnected, slept well and came home refreshed. I guess it is less about the stars of the hotel and the more about the one Superstar right beside me. Luxury or simple, with any number of stars, the best part of any hotel experience is Kevin, and with him there will always be a fun memory to take home.




























New Year poem, written 20 years ago

How full a life!

How many adventures-

Yet when it’s all said and done

The full living means nothing

Only the ability to be a good person.

Try not to make decisions based on fear

And especially not based on ego

Take a day to be quiet and think

Take a day to organize and regroup

Come back refreshed

And ready to give back to others.

Smile at the puppy, the child, the flower

Notice the bird, the lizard, the wind

Take all kinds of art into your consideration

And memorize at least one great poem.

Groom well, much as a cat would

Play hard, much as a puppy might

Be grateful when you are fortunate

And courageous when you’re not

Self-pity will take you nowhere

Bravery will lead you everywhere

As you set out on your next adventure.


Thankful for Randomness

In 1988 I went to Atlanta with a co-worker named Mark to party with some of his friends; one of them was an auto mechanic and part-time race car driver. I thought the mechanic/driver was cute, so of course I feigned an interest in cars to make conversation. By the end of the night, mechanic/driver and I had arranged for me to bring my car from Athens to Atlanta for a major service, and in return I would treat him to dinner. His name was Charlie, and we dated on-and-off for a couple years. It ended amicably, and we’re even Facebook friends today.


At Road Atlanta, 1989

The reason I mention this story is not because Charlie (the guy) was significant in my life, but because Charlie’s passion (the cars) stuck with me. Our random meeting led to my life taking a distinctly different turn. Had I not gone to Atlanta that night, I would have never been exposed to the automotive world. Though we had long since broken up, Charlie was somewhere in the back of my psyche when I told my sister in 1997, “I want to move to Augusta; watch the classifieds for me.” I told her I would sell either cosmetics (which I had done before) or cars. She kept an eye out for sales openings and in no time, I was driving to Augusta for interviews.

If you know anything about the car business, you know that there is always a dealership looking for sales professionals; it has got to be the highest turnover of any industry. In a matter of weeks, I was making plans to move to Augusta. Because of this fortuitous turn of events, my life evolved into a new career, and ultimately I would meet the most significant person in my life-Kevin. In addition to being the most amazing service manager this town has ever seen, he is the most amazing human being I have ever met.  Without the interest in cars I adopted from Charlie, I would never have met Kevin, and my life would have traveled down an entirely divergent path.


Ang with love of her life

Kevin has made so much possible in my life, and followers of my blog have heard many of those stories. One which I’ve not yet mentioned is the thoughtful surprise he arranged for me: to be a driver of a racecar at the Richard Petty experience. In terms of adrenaline, it only matches jumping out of a plane for powerful life memories. That’s an experience I wouldn’t have had without Kevin.


I’m sure the career path from cosmetics to cars is an unusual one, but I’ve loved both industries equally. I’ve been able to drive the latest cars, learn the newest technology and meet the coolest people. In my early days at Saturn, I was introduced to Dave Rosenblum, who coordinated an inner-city youth racing program in which at-risk teens worked as part of a pit crew. We brought Dave and his car to Augusta, and he spoke at Evans High School about the importance of staying clean and working hard.


Inner city youth race car, circa 1998

Meeting people like Dave and driving Richard Petty-level race cars are life moments I will always cherish, and there was a certain randomness that brought them to me. Having sensed this randomness at a young age, I’ve long been intrigued by small decisions that have metamorphic results. I often ask couples how they initially met, are there is always a similarly arbitrary set of events that led to their life-changing connection. It makes me aware and appreciative of the power of taking risks, as well as the power of making ostensibly innocent decisions.

Whether or not indiscriminate circumstances are the result of divine intervention, destiny, karma, or natural chaos is not the purpose of this blog. Regardless of the source of the coincidences which bring people together, there is an inherently magical or miraculous feeling which can inspire tremendous gratitude. While I subscribe to the theory that I must take ownership of the events in my life, I also acknowledge that I have been tremendously lucky or blessed, depending on your POV. Ever-grateful, I can say a prayer for the immense blessings of my life, but I think it is also nice to be somewhat indebted to Mark and Charlie, good guys that fortunately crossed my path at the right time, and opened up a world I never would have known otherwise.

Where Fwed?


It was Christy Pennington’s fault, the big softy. She ran into my office and said “Angie, we have to do something! What do we do? We can’t let him die!” I couldn’t bring myself to tell her that I didn’t know what to do, and that he was most certainly going to die. So I did the only thing I could, the only thing one can do when a situation is hopeless: act as if it is not.

She had just discovered a baby bird that couldn’t have been more than a few days old.   It had fallen out of a nest which was perched precariously along a ledge of the canopy covering the entrance to the dealership where we worked. Small, almost naked, frail, and looking like it was dead already, the bird was Christy’s crisis, and therefore became mine, as well.

A quick call to one of my animal-rescue friends would help me realize my predicament. Once a baby bird is out of the nest, mama bird doesn’t want it any more, but in order for the infant avian to survive, it has to remain warm at all times. “Seriously, Ang, you have got to keep that bird close to you.” My friend warned. “Hold it always. If something happens and you have to set it down, a heating pad on low can buy you a little time, but your best hope is close contact.”

Armed with this advice, I wrapped the little guy in a small cloth and kept him in my hand all the way to the pet store, where I purchased baby bird formula, syringes for feeding, and a small cage with stuffing for warmth. Christy and I got through his first feeding in the dealership ladies room, mixing the powder with warm water and offering it to the creature through the small syringe.

I don’t know why I decided the bird was a boy, but after we got past the first hour, it was definitely clear that he was a fighter. I called him Fred, as I called everything back then, and immediately went to work falling in love. I was enamored with his adorable ugliness, his vulnerable neediness and his voracious appetite. In addition to his temperature requirements, his meal needs were frequent, every few hours.

Christy helped with Fred, holding him when I had to talk to a customer or cover the switchboard, but it was clear from the start that I was committed to seeing this bird crisis to the end. When he made it through the first day, I knew that Fred was going to be with me until he could sprout some feathers and learn to make it on his own.

Driving home, I remembered that I had 4 pet cats in my apartment which might pose a threat to Fred’s safety.  After securing them in the living room, Fred and I nestled in for the night, and I alternated between feeding him and watching him be adorable. Fred slept in my hand, which was jammed into the opening of the cage, and I snuck in short bursts of sleep between his meals. We made it through the first night with me and Fred on the bed, and several cat paws trying to reach under the door as my felines sensed something was of interest in the other room. I talked to Fred, asking him where he was. “Where Fred?” I asked in a high-pitched voice normally reserved for asking toddlers what kind of cookie they want. I tried to reassure him that he was going to be ok, and that I was going to do all I could to help him.

My days at work were a blur of trying to get things done with one hand as I refused to set Fred down. I walked around the dealership with him, talked to co-workers with him and typed on my computer with him. My boss, a normally notorious hard-nosed tough guy, never said a word. I think he knew I was on this path as far as I had to go. Christy still helped during the work day, but once I left the dealership, that bird was in my hand through everything. I didn’t care about walking through the grocery store with him, and he was so small that the clerks didn’t seem to mind, either. Until you looked closely, you would have thought I just had an injured arm or something. I talked to Fred constantly, asking him where he was. It began sounding like I was saying, “Where Fwed?”

Soon “Fwed”  was sprouting more feathery fuzz and becoming stronger. It became clear that the little guy might just make it. It was not clear if I would, though. I was completely attached, and began envisioning my life with a pet bird. When Fred started losing interest in the formula feedings, the pet shop people informed me that I needed to start giving him bugs and worms. I bought live baby crickets and fed them to Fred with a pair of tweezers. Our arrangement was starting to become more and more impractical, but I refused to change course. Fred in hand, I continued my daily routine for 2 weeks, with Fred looking more and more like a real bird.

One night in my apartment Fred took flight! He flew to the window ledge, to the light fixture, and then came back to me and rested on my shoulder. I realized he couldn’t come to work with me the next day, as I might lose him when he took flight at the dealership. I left him securely locked in the living room with food and water. All day long, I thought about him, wondering how he was doing at home. I worried that something might happen.

Finally, the long day ended and I rushed home. I entered the living room; it was warm and silent. My heart beat as I feared the worst. I didn’t see him anywhere. His usual spots were vacant- the windowsill, the light fixture. He was such a small creature, I imagined he could very easily hide or escape. Finally I asked out, “where Fwed?” immediately Fred flew out of the hidden corners of the room, and landed right on my shoulder. I was elated and sad at the same time. In that moment, I knew he loved me back, but I also knew it was time to set him free.

The next day, I bought him a bird house and took him to my Dad’s yard, where there were many bushes and trees and birds and feeders. It was the sort of neighborhood I would choose for myself, if I were a bird. Dad was with me when I put him on the ledge of the birdhouse, which was safely nestled in a quiet patch of bushes near his house. Fred immediately flew off. He was gone.

The next day I went back to the birdhouse in the bush at Dad’s and asked loudly, “Where Fwed?” , fully expecting him to emerge from nature and land on my shoulder. He did not. I would go back a few more times, always asking where he was, and saddened by the fact that he was gone. I felt in my heart that I did right by Fred, getting him strong enough to take off on his own. Even though I only had him a few weeks, I never forgot my little fighter, and have always been grateful to Christy for being such a big softy.

The Second Date, or “Jazz+Drinks=Tattoos”

Ok, loyal fans, here is the next installment in the Kev-Ang story. For those who read about the first date, you know that it was a frightening evening for both of us. ( ) Our lunch the next day helped steer the wayward ship back on course to some extent, but I was still approaching this whole deal with caution.

I don’t count that Barberitos lunch as a date, because it was really just damage control. So what I consider to be the actual, official “second date”, is one I will call Jazz+drinks=tatoos. This is the night I realized there was some real potential for the two of us.

Kevin and I agreed to meet for drinks at Patridge Inn so that we could talk and listen to live jazz music. I got there first and waited hopefully. As soon as I saw him, I felt a ping in my heart. He was dressed in a tie and sport-coat, looking visibly uncomfortable, like a cat forced to wear a costume because  the crazy pet owner thinks it’s cute.

I cannot recall my drink of choice that night, as we had not been yet converted to the world of wine and margaritas. I know that his was Tom Collins. We enjoyed great conversation, for which the beverages only get partial credit. Kevin is just an easy person to talk to. He told me the story about how he found a sales clerk at Dillard’s to help him buy the outfit he was wearing, telling her that it was his first date in a long time, and he needed serious guidance to get the look coordinated just right. As if this story were not endearing enough, I was drawn in even more when at some point in the evening, he mentioned he had been thinking of getting a tattoo.

I was immediately intrigued and pleasantly surprised. I held out my watch to him and declared that now was the time to get his tattoo, right in this moment, with me. He didn’t even flinch. “Ok”, he said, “but I need to stop by my house first.” As it turned out, he wanted his first tattoo to be his son’s name, in his handwriting, and he had already gotten the 10-year old to write it out for him. So he needed to get that piece of paper. Kevin also wanted to get out of the coat and tie. It was time for the cat to shed the costume.

I loved that Kevin was willing to be so spontaneous. I was a new chickie in his life and he was letting me go with him to get his first tattoo. We went to the furnished house he rented after the divorce, a simple ranch set-up near the Augusta National. There he changed into more comfortable clothes and found the paper where his son Forrest had neatly written out his full name.

I  don’t recall how we selected the tattoo parlor on Wrightsboro Road, but I’m sure that Kenny as our artist was random chance. We would go back to see Kenny especially for Kev’s second tattoo, but that’s a story for another blog. Suffice it to say that we liked Kenny, finding him quite personable and obviously skilled enough for the simple tracing this first tattoo required.

Kevin wanted the tattoo on his chest, so Kenny had him take off his shirt and lay down on a chair which appeared frighteningly similar to the ones used in dentists offices. I snagged a stray stool off to the side and casually inched it closer to Kevin. He took the hint and rested his hand on my leg. I put my hand on his in a gesture of moral support, although there wasn’t too much pain, thanks to the aforementioned Tom Collins’.

In no time, Kev was permanently marked with the signature of a 10-year old. We both expressed satisfaction at Kenny’s work and Kevin put his shirt on over the now-bandaged area. The official second date was winding down, so we drove back to the Partridge Inn so that I could get my car and we could say good night.

Back at the upper level parking deck, there was a little awkwardness around the fact that he was determined to go for the kiss and I was determined to play it coy. He won, but would later express chagrin that he had to work so hard for it. He was right, of course. It should have been a natural end to the evening. After all, I had seen him shirtless in a dentists chair.

Driving home, I re-lived the evening in my mind, pleased with how it turned out. I had been on many dates in my life, but never one as unique as this. It appealed to my sense of adventure, as well as to my traditional side. Maybe one day in the far future Forrest will have a 10-year old of his own, and Kevin can add that child’s name to the other side. When he does, I will be right there, offering my moral support. I just hope Kevin takes the hint again and rests his hand on my leg.

Abandoned Mansion


How much time did I spend in that abandoned home? Was it 15 minutes? 5 minutes? As clear as the memory is to me, you would think I had been in there for hours. It was a quick tour of an empty house, but with each passing second, it became increasingly evident that I had made a very bad decision in helping myself through the open window. It may have once been a home for a successful, prestigious family, but when I showed up for my pop-visit, it had been overtaken by homeless people: deranged homeless people who wrote on walls and left their dirty mattresses in strange places-like the bathroom. The more I investigated, snapping pictures in each room, the more my heart began to race. It was very likely that I was not alone in this huge 2-story home; I envisioned a drug-crazed lunatic around every corner. Clearly I was the lunatic for breaking in to this homeless hideout by myself. Even today, 20 years later, I can hardly believe that I safely escaped this mad adventure, even if it was only a few minutes of time.


I had noticed the home on Lenox Road in Atlanta, and was intrigued by the beautiful but dilapidated structure located on such expensive real estate, surrounded by well-manicured properties. The For-Sale sign indicated the property was up for grabs, but the overgrown lawn and faded façade revealed a startling level of neglect. Each time I drove past it, my curiosity grew, and I wondered if the owner and real estate agent had forgotten about the house, leaving it to be overcome by weeds and vines. Perhaps the home was the victim of a nasty divorce, both sides running off to foreign countries with little concern for what became of the once-decadent property. It is common to see modest homes left alone to erode. A house of this stature, in this neighborhood, rotting on one of the busiest roads in Atlanta, Georgia….I was convinced that there had to be a cool story behind it.


I’m not sure I planned to go inside the house on the day I pulled my car into the driveway. My original intention was merely to snoop around. I had my camera with me, so I started taking snapshots of the exterior, of the house sitting back from the road, shaded by large old trees that surely held memories of happier days. Moving closer to peek into the curtain-less window, I realized that it was open, the metal frame parted ever so slightly in the middle. I peered in to the quiet darkness of the living room. In that moment I was not afraid; I was excited. I was at that age when I craved adventure, and couldn’t wait to tell the story of breaking into an abandoned mansion. I’m sure I was crafting the story in my head as I crawled in, imagining my amazed audience in awe of my bravery.


I forgot the audience immediately when my feet landed on the living room floor. I read the proclamation sprayed onto the wall next to the dusty fireplace. “Satan Never Sleeps” was written in huge, irregular letters. A makeshift bed lay ironically beneath the message. My camera started clicking and my adrenaline began to surge. I saw a doorway to my right, which opened to a room of such complete blackness that I snapped a picture but refused to enter. It would only be later, after the film was developed, that I would realize that the room had been the kitchen, badly burned in a fire.



I continued my tour with a trip upstairs. The grand house had my favorite kind of staircase, the kind that winds and turns majestically, with indentions in the wall that would be perfect to showcase expensive vases. The now-empty indentions only showed peeling paint and accumulated grime, but it was easy to envision the home’s former grandeur, with the inhabitants gracefully making their way down these stairs to greet important visitors. On the second floor, the long hallway had windows with vines sneaking in much as I had, right through the middle. The first room I peeked into was a bedroom, clearly well-used by the new residents, with several dingy uncovered mattresses in disarray on the floor. It was at about this time in the tour when my panic began to build. How could such a well-used structure be empty right at that moment? Did I catch the homeless people during their one daily outing to the soup kitchen? It was mid-day, not overly warm or cool, so perhaps they were enjoying the weather. Maybe they were out in search of drugs or Satan literature.


The next room was the bathroom, in a great state of decay, but clearly not being used for its original purpose. It appeared to be serving as a guest room, of sorts. I kept snapping pictures with each new discovery, knowing my time was limited. The room at the end of the hallway had a spray-painted message on the wall pointing to an open window, proclaiming “He’s Plumb Crazy”, as if Mr. Crazy had jumped out in a spontaneous moment. At this point I am in sheer panic, knowing only that I need to get myself spontaneously out of this house. I rushed down my beloved stairs and made a bee-line for the open window, breathing heavily and praying that the colorful inhabitants who currently reside in the house would stay away for just a few more minutes. I got into my car, locked it, started it up, and raced out of there. I thought I was so cool when I started on this adventure. I realized I was really so stupid. I was lucky to escape.


I never did find out the story behind that mansion, and how it became a haven for the wayward homeless. It was eventually sold and torn down, replaced by condos. I still always look in that direction when I drive down Lenox road, feeling as if the house had somehow been mine for awhile, for a few minutes in time when I adopted the home and imagined it in its prior splendor. I wonder if the homeless guys feel the same, missing their vine-ridden, spray-paint-decorated mansion.