OYSTERS, OYSTERS AND MORE OYSTERS

Marie and I often are amazed at how much fun we can cram into a short period of time.  If only we could manage to do that when we have housework to do or errands to run.  But housework is not nearly as much fun as travel adventures and we had a whirlwind trip.

It started on February 7, Marie left church and drove to Huntsville, Texas to meet Jim and I so we could switch cars and take mine to Biloxi.  Just trying to keep it even on the miles we put on our cars and since we’re making a stop at Coushatta Casino in Kinder, Louisiana to cash in our free play, Huntsville is on the way.  Logistics as well as luggage is always an issue, but we manage.  Just getting ready to go on an adventure is a lot of work, but worth it when we get there.

So off we went to Coushatta which we both love.  I had $100 in free play and Marie had $25.  I was determined to use their money and not spend any of my own since we hadn’t been back from our cruise for long and I had gambled a lot.  Plus we weren’t staying long because we had a reservation in Lake Charles, Louisiana at the Golden Nugget Casino and Resort.  I managed to cash out over $200 using Marie’s method.  I will let her explain how she does it, but basically you cash out while you are ahead, a new concept for me. (Actually you pick your bet, divide it by your free play, and hit that number of times at your favorite machine.  Sometimes it works great). (per Marie, but too much thinking for me).

We left Coushatta and drove to Lake Charles.  The rooms at the Golden Nugget are first class.  The Golden Nugget is owned by Tilman Fertitta who owns all the Golden Nugget Casinos as well as Landry’s seafood restaurants, Bubba Gump’s Shrimp Co, and Saltgrass Steak House for a total of 500 restaurants.  Since Mr. Fertitta is a Texas boy I had big hopes he would be instrumental in making casino gambling legal in Texas, but so far it has not come to be.  We decided to go ahead and eat so we would not have to stop playing to go eat.  We went to Landry’s, which is located in the hotel. in hopes of having fried oysters.  Much to our disappointment, the restaurant was out of oysters (note to Mr. Fertitta) so we ended up sharing a fried shrimp and catfish dinner.  It was delicious as Landry’s usually is but it wasn’t oysters.  Then on to the main event.

I was still using the Marie Method of Gambling, but I wasn’t sure it would last.  I prefer to bet the maximum on the slots if the maximum is less than $4. Marie is more likely to bet the minimum and gradually go up from there.  We love Hot Shot slot machines and the maximum is $2 which I faithfully bet because I want to hit a hand payout (which I did last year at the Horseshoe in Bossier City, La. for $1994.00).

I hit some small amounts on Wicked Winnings III and ended up on it ahead, but walked around and lost most of it in different machines.  I played Willy Wonka, Lord of the Rings, Triple Diamond, and various others that soaked up most of my winnings.  Nothing much to report, just more fun than profit.

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On February 8 we headed for Biloxi with two very important stops along the way – our first Louisiana Albertson’s in Lafayette and Baton Rouge for Ramen noodles and Monopoly tickets.  Luck was on our side.  They had four packages for a dollar.  There are 24 packages in a flat and we bought a total of 10 flats each.  With bonus tickets, we netted 265 tickets each.  And we were just getting started. The game started February 3rd and runs through May 3rd, 2016.  This year it may be a little more complicated because Tom Thumb and Randall’s are all participating as well as Safeway on the West Coast.  Randall’s is in the Houston area and Tom Thumb is in the Dallas area.  Oh, Lord, it makes me tired thinking about it and excited at the same time.  But hopeful for a big win this year.  On our way out of the store, Marie spotted some really gaudy gold Mardi Gras necklaces with a fleur de lis so we bought one each so we could celebrate in style.  I also bought a King cake which I couldn’t resist since it had caramel icing.  It’s more like a cinnamon bread than a cake and it fit nicely on the back floorboard with the Ramen noodles on the seat.

We hit Biloxi about 5:00 p.m., checked in to Harrahs’ because our reservations at Beau Rivage didn’t start until the next night.  Harrahs’ rooms had been remodeled and were very comfortable.  Harrahs’ properties have always had great beds and still do.  In fact I ordered one of their mattresses for my guest room to make sure my guests are comfortable (I really don’t have that many).  But my granddaughters and I sleep really good on it.  Marie flaked out on me this night.  She stayed in the room to call Chuck with the promise she would be in the casino later, but she fell asleep.  I found some Hot Shot slots and had fun but never saw her.  When I went upstairs, she was in bed.  I let her slide this time, we had the rest of the week to go and had lots of stuff to accomplish.

One of the main reasons we made this trip was to look at condos.  My husband has been on a kick to move from Iola to somewhere he and I could spend the last hopefully many years of our lives.  For a long time, Jim has wanted to move to Santa Fe, New Mexico and I had thought that would be great.  However, as the years passed, I remembered all the times we have been on a beach vacation whether it was the Virgin Islands, Jamaica, the Bahamas, Hawaii, or Galveston.  I love the relaxing vibes of the ocean, even if I don’t stick my toes into the water.  Jim says he is tired of dealing with cattle and doesn’t want to have the responsibility of the lawn.  So we thought it might be good to retire, even though we are already retired, to the beach.  Biloxi and it’s sister city of Gulfport is beautiful as well as having lots to see and do. The biggest drawback is our kids and grandkids living so far away as well as Marie and Chuck not being as close.  On the other hand, our other sister Cheryl lives in Atlanta and she and her husband just bought a vacation condo in Destin which is quite close to Biloxi so we would get to spend more time with them.

We haven’t completely given up on Santa Fe and I think I could be happy with either one.  Both cities have casinos, art museums, shopping, wonderful restaurants and good weather except for snow in Santa Fe in the winter, but I can be a good hibernator.  The drawback to Biloxi/Gulfport is that the casinos might be a little too convenient for me where Santa Fe has less of them.

On February 9, we got up and left Harrah’s to drive down Beach Blvd. to check out the scenery.  This was Mardi Gras week and the 9th was Fat Tuesday.  Little did we know that except for the parade, the entire town shuts down for Fat Tuesday and even the schools close for three days.  We were hunting for a food bank in order to donate the twenty flats of Ramen noodles, but they were all closed.  So we decided to feed ourselves and try to find oysters.  We saw the Half Shell Oyster House downtown and decided it was a pretty safe bet we could eat oysters there.  It was an excellent decision because the food was amazing.  I had a half dozen raw and a fried oyster poor boy.  Marie had a fried oyster poor boy.  They were absolutely the best oysters ever, so fresh and not too big and very crispy.

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When we left Harrah’s we drove around Gulfport and found the cutest bungalow for sale on “historic” 2nd Ave.   It’s called that because it is in the historic district, not necessarily because something historic happened on it.  Although I am still researching that.  It is only two blocks from the beach and is listed as a condo which has many advantages like no yard to maintain because the HOA fees cover it.  We had a realtor scheduled for the next day and I asked her to try to get us inside the house, but it didn’t happen.  We drove back and forth on Beach Blvd. between Mardi Gras parades.  Biloxi had a parade from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and Gulfport had an evening parade so we were able to dodge the festivities.  Not that we wouldn’t have wanted to see the parade, but it was unseasonably cold and windy that day.  We did get out of the car and walked along the beach which was white sand, really clean and pretty.

One thing that we both thought was hilarious was that there was a Waffle House on Beach Blvd. about every other block.  Marie had never been to a Waffle House until a few months ago, but I have been plenty of times, well, maybe not plenty.  I may need to go again.

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We made our way to Biloxi to check into the Beau Rivage.  We had three nights reserved.  We had a lovely 8th floor room close to the elevator with a gorgeous view of the swimming pool and ocean.

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We have also stayed in a room overlooking the ballpark where the Shuckers play baseball and it is fun to be able to watch a game for free.  Marie and I love the Beau Rivage.  It has such a southern charm about it, very tastefully decorated, excellent restaurants and shopping, and friendly staff.  Fresh flowers are everywhere and great southern dining.  This week, the hotel was decorated with Mardi Gras colors.  Even down to the fresh flowers in the gardens.   It is one of the few casinos that still offer Caribbean Stud Poker as well as the usual table games and a lot of the newer themed and old style machines.

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Since we had filled up on oysters at lunch, we went straight to the casino.  The first thing I noticed was that my Elton John slots were not where they were last time and Gremlins slots were in it’s place.  Hoping they had just moved Elton, I decided to look for him later and play Gremlins.  (I never found Elton.)  It was loads of fun with many bonuses and I remembered Marie’s Method and quit on them while I was ahead.  On to more endeavors and tried to get on Buffalo Stampede, Ellen, Red Hot Fusion, Willy Wonka, and Flintstones but they were all full and some had people standing behind waiting to get on them.  So I went to my old stand-by and played Hot Shots which are always fun.  I did manage to hit several small progressives just to stay alive, but nothing to brag about.

This is when Marie found me and was distraught about something.  She was playing Spartacus on a row of machines.  Next to her machine, there was a woman who apparently had drunk too much Mardi Gras juice and proceeded to throw up everything in her stomach.  I hate the word vomit, in fact I think it’s one of the ugliest words in the English language, so we’ll go with throw up.  Back to the story, I asked Marie what did she throw up in, a bag or what, and she said the woman just leaned over and threw up on the floor, carpet to be exact.  The cleaning people came over and put up biohazard caution tape and started to clean up the mess.  Marie asked me if I thought she had a virus and I told her that if she was ill she would have gone to the bathroom and that more than likely she had too much wine or some other spirit.  The next day Marie saw the woman playing a slot but she seemed to have sobered up.  And so you know now, Marie and I freak out about throwing up.  God bless nurses.

On Wednesday the realtor I had contacted called and asked to postpone the showings until Thursday because she was having trouble scheduling the properties we had talked about.  So Marie and I needed to find a food bank to make a donation.  We found a Baptist church in Biloxi which took the noodles off our hands and then we decided to take a sight-seeing trip east on Beach Boulevard.  Ocean Springs was that way and I had heard it was a really nice city to live in.  But we didn’t have any point of interest in order to navigate to any particular area and although it was a good sized city, we didn’t see any property that wowed us.  We turned around and went back the way we came.

There is a brand new casino at D’iberville called the Scarlet Pearl.  We decided to try it out.  D’iberville is just north of Biloxi, easy on and easy off of I-10.  It is a very nice casino, shiny and sparkling new machines.  We will definitely go back again.  Also while we were there, we got in line to get a players card and they matched our highest players card level from another casino.  So we have VIP benefits for playing there one time.  Pretty cool.

205                                             Inside Captain Al’s

Next we were craving oysters again and it was close enough to dinner time.  My friend Greg Bonat goes to Gulfport occasionally and recommended to me that we go to Captain Al’s.  We had a hard time finding it because my GPS hasn’t been updated in a while, but we were glad we found it.  This place was definitely a dive, and should be on Diners, Drive Inns and Dives. It was amazing.  We each had a cup of shrimp gumbo.  Marie had the fried shrimp dinner and I had the fried oyster dinner.  It came with a side crab salad and a stuffed baked potato.  A lot of food, and delicious food.  Again the fried oysters were fresh, crispy on the outside, soft and flavorful on the inside.  I had a cold beer and Marie had iced tea since she was driving.  I am perfectly fine with her driving.  I guess I should also mention that also on the menu were wood grilled steaks, but we were still on our oyster quest.  If you get the chance to go to Captain Al’s, go there.

On Thursday, we met the realtor downstairs.  She was showing us some condos that I had previewed on the internet.  First was Sea Breeze Condominiums which is the only complex built on the sandy beach and you don’t have to cross a busy road to go to the beach.  It was nice but something didn’t seem right with it.  I couldn’t put my finger on it whether it was the lack of space or the fact that with the sliding doors open, the noise from the people playing in the pool was really loud.  Next on to Ocean Club Condos which were beautiful with great views, but again was noisy, except this time with road noise.  The same with this one – it didn’t feel right.

I asked the realtor to take us to Gulfport and see if she could get us in to see the little bungalow on 2nd street.  She was not able to get us inside but we drove by several times and I think I am still interested in it.  I guess since we couldn’t go inside, I will just have to go back and see it again.  It’s hard to think of a move at our age, but if Jim and I don’t do it now, we will lose the opportunity.  Driving by the bungalow, I realized what the drawback was that I felt looking at the condo’s.  The fact that we have three inside cats and one outside, would be a little much for a condo association to approve.

Back to the Beau Rivage where Marie and I called for our car and drove back to Gulfport one more time.  We hadn’t eaten all day and the realtor didn’t offer to take us to eat, so we decided to go one more time to Half Shell Oyster House.  You guessed it.  Fried oysters.  I’m glad we weren’t due for a cholesterol test when we got home.  I ordered several Old Fashioned cocktails.  Poor Marie was still driving and drinking iced tea.  For an appetizer we ordered the hot crab dip.  Wow, wow, wow.  So good.  It was served with warm fresh French bread.  Unbelievable, and again the oysters were delish.  You just have to go to know.

Our last night to play and we wanted to make the most of it.  I played Willy Wonka, Lord of the Rings, video poker, Lightning Reels, and Superman.  I wasn’t ahead at the end of the night, but I also wasn’t too far down.  The next morning we left the Beau Rivage at 9 a.m. We stopped in Lake Charles at Albertson’s for 20 more cases of Ramen noodles.  And because we are multi-taskers, we went next door to Casa Ole’ for Mexican food before we got back on the road.

All in all it was a fun and informative trip.  We just aren’t rich yet, but there is still the Albertson’s Monopoly game.  Anything can happen.

 

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