The Traveling Steve's

Thanksgiving in Roanoke 2019

I spent Thanksgiving in Roanoke last week visiting with my parents, brother Andy and his partner Art. Steve (DOS) stayed home to be with his Dad in Sarasota which he normally does for Thanksgiving. DOS’s Dad just turned 99 years old! While we are all getting older (and hopefully wiser!) it was so nice to have a quiet holiday weekend together our respective families. It was a time to reflect on the past, (photo-books are a wonderful thing to look back on and jog the memory) while giving thanks to God for family as well as life today, and looking ahead to what the future holds. I’ll write more about this later, but I formally gave my notice to retire effective on Dec 18th. It was a big decision for me retiring at 57, but visiting my family in Roanoke over the last few months and this Thanksgiving assured me I had made the right decision.

In the last post, DOS and I were in Roanoke as well, visiting Mom and Dad and putting up the Christmas trees at English Meadow’s Retirement Center (Elk’s Home). When we got back home to Orlando, DOS and I just had a couple days to decorate our outdoor lawn which we did over a beautiful weekend weather-wise, with high 70s and low 80s temperatures, with no summer humidity, quite a change from the colder weather up north.

To save time, last year we left the LED color-changing lights installed on the house, although we kept them turned off during the year. We had considered turning them on for different occasions; i.e. Red for Valentine’s, Green for St. Patrick’s Day, Red-White-or-Blue (not even sure if you can cycle them that way) for July 4th etc. As it turns out we were out of town for all of these occasions, so we tackily left them hanging (but unlit) year round. Believe me, it saved us a whole day this year from going up and down the ladders to install them on the roof line!

Anyway here we are decorating the yard with the bush-lights, JOY scene, big Snowman, Christmas tree, and inflatables for Mickey Mouse, a huge bear, a small dog, and a big Snoopy! I kidded with DOS to make sure he spelled the J-O-Y setup correctly instead YOJ or OJY. LOL! (No abbreviation pun intended!)

And here is the yard lit up at night, with the Nativity scene front and center by the house.

After the pre-Thanksgiving weekend, DOS went to his home in Sarasota, where he will be for the next two weeks, while I went solo up to Roanoke for Thanksgiving. I flew no-frills Allegiant Airlines nonstop out of Orlando-Sanford Airport up to Roanoke, and my brother Andy picked me up when I got there. Allegiant Airlines is actually quite convenient if you can match their limited schedule, and best of all is they are nonstop.

As a bonus welcome to Roanoke we were treated to free entertainment with this kid on the luggage belt while we were waiting for our bags.

I told Andy it reminded me of the funny scene in the movie “Airplane” where the “no-frills passengers were now arriving on baggage claim B”! (Airplane Clip taken from YouTube.) And they say airports and flying are boring – just watch out for the free entertainment everywhere!

Anyway, we had a nice Thanksgiving Day dinner (turkey of course!) at English Meadows’s Retirement Home (I still call it Elk’s Home as it was known for over 100 years until recently). The staff there are wonderful and especially caring.

The staff always remember DOS and I when we visit, and will make a point of updating us about Mom and Dad, whether it be the servers in the dining room, the nurses, the housekeepers, receptionist, and the activities staff whom we like to assist when we are there. The two 12 foot high international-themed trees that DOS and I had decorated last month were still standing pretty looking over the activities room.

In addition, umpteen other trees were decorated by the residents, their families, local organizations and clubs etc, and were beautiful decorated throughout the vast campus, as well as Nativity scenes, Santa and his reindeer, ornaments and other memorabilia families had donated over the years. Each tree itself was not only a work of art, but had years of fond memories of Christmas’s past, as shown in the variety of hand-made or collectible ornaments.

As I’ve written many times, when we were selecting English Meadow’s for Mom and Dad to move to, we especially liked the long enclosed corridors which connect the multiple buildings, allowing the residents a nice walkway view in rain, snow, or summer heat. Here is a wide-angle photo of the model of the Elk’s Home campus, which is also updated with decorations for the season by a couple of the residents who live there.

The long connecting corridors are always decorated throughout the year depending on the occasion, and spread the campus out so it feels much more personal and quiet, and actually more like a country retreat than an assisted living facility.

Just outside the windows on the lawn are several acres of outdoor decorations which have almost been completed for the lighting ceremony on December 6. While we thought they were finished decorating a couple weeks ago when we were in Roanoke, quite a few more decorations and building facades have been put up and completed. David, the head maintenance man and his staff start working in late September to get ready for the festival of lights here.

This drive-through night-time lighting celebration is complimentary to the public, and always draws a large crowd of people viewing the exhibits throughout the season. We will miss this year’s lighting ceremony on December 6th, but will see the campus lit up when we are back up this way closer to Christmas.

On Thanksgiving Day, Mom greeted Andy, Art, and I at their second floor apartment before we headed down to lunch. I commented on the wreath on the door, which Mom said my sister Jenni had made on her recent visit from her home in Maryland. Jenni and her family could not make it for Thanksgiving this year, but they be here soon for Christmas. Mom was just finishing up watching the traditional Macy’s Day Thanksgiving parade on TV when we arrived.

After chatting a bit, we then headed down with Mom and Dad to the main dining room for Thanksgiving Dinner.

The dining staff had a nice Thanksgiving-themed meal set up for everyone, including placemats and even a paper napkin holder with an attached pop-up turkey logo that matched the placemat!

Here are a couple photos of Mom, Dad, Andy, Art, and me taken in the dining room at English Meadow’s (Elk’s Home) on Thanksgiving Day.

After the noon-time lunch, we walked around the Elk’s campus a bit with Mom and Dad, stopping by the Activities Room for a bit where our trees were setup.

While we visited with Mom and Dad during the days I was in Roanoke, in the evenings I had meals with Andy and Art back in South Roanoke. Elk’s Home is actually in the small and rural town of Bedford, which is an hour or so away from Roanoke where I was staying. I don’t like driving at night back from there due to deer, curvy roads, visibility, possible ice etc, so I usually headed back to Roanoke before dark. As they haven’t put their old house up for sale yet (still have to go through it; think months) DOS and I have been staying there when we visit, which is literally just five houses down the street from Andy and Art’s house. I bought some decorations for their yard and put them on the bushes out front.

Quite a different look from Andy’s place, which is shown below; distorted a bit by the moving lights which make it look a bit blurry, giving it a wintery wonderland look.

On Thanksgiving night, as no one wanted to cook a big dinner for just the three of us, Andy, Art and myself had dinner at Frankie Rowlands Steakhouse. We each had a Cosmo at the bar while we waited on our table to be set, and as it was still Thanksgiving Day, we had the price-fix Thanksgiving menu of (you guessed it!) turkey and stuffing, salad, veggies, and pecan pie.

The staff at Frankie’s had had a long day as they had been serving since noon, (and normally are open only for dinner), but they warmly welcomed us back for the last seating at 6pm, and even sat us at our favorite table, “Table 50”.

Here’s the traditional selfie we always take at the outside entrance to Frankie’s; only this time without DOS.

Frankie Rowlands Steakhouse; minus Steve (DOS)

The next night Andy, Art, and myself went to the Mannheim Steamroller Christmas Concert at the Berglund Performing Arts Center in Roanoke. This is the same theater that I graduated High School in way back in 1980, as well as the theater they held the Miss Virginia pageant for year. My sister Jenni and I went there in 1978 to see it, and that was the year Kylene Barker won the Miss Virginia pageant and going on to win Miss America the following year. Useless trivia perhaps, but memories. LOL!

Andy and Art outside of the theater before the performance.

The theater is also located adjacent to the Roanoke Coliseum where DOS and I went last month to see the Cirque du Soleil ice performance of Axel (well at least the first half of it!)

Andy and Art had gotten their two tickets to Mannheim Steamroller as a wedding present, but were able to get one more ticket for me as I was in town. Amazingly the ticket they bought was right beside their seats; probably because mine was the last seat on the row, and nobody wanted seating for one person.

The tickets were orchestra tickets, but they must have been booked in the nose-bleed section of the orchestra section – they were on the last row! Aha – now I see why the ticket was still available! LOL! Actually the venue was sold out for this solo-only traveling performance, and as it was all music with a large screen for graphics and lots of colorful lighting the seating was actually ok.

In fact if I turned my body to the side to take a selfie, or zoomed in to take a photo of the stage, nobody would know we were in the last row of the lower level in the theater! Shhh; our secret!

Prior to the show starting, the lead artist in the band introduced each member and told us what instruments they would each be playing. I was especially happy that she welcomed everyone with a “Hello Roanoke” greeting, and told us they had spent Thanksgiving (yesterday) in town and had Thanksgiving dinner at the Roanoke Rescue Mission, where they also played for the residents and others who came by for the meal.

I digress here momentarily, but the Roanoke Rescue Mission is a wonderful organization, and I’ve been donating to them for years. They (and other local Rescue Missions such as the one in Orlando) do so much for the homeless community, and provide assistance, meals, lodging and job training for those going thru dire times. DOS and I have also donated clothes and other items locally and even brought up some of our winter clothes to donate there for the Roanoke Valley residents they provide housing and food for. I figured Roanoke can use the warmer clothes, as we don’t have as much use for these in Florida, although we have donated blankets here to the shelter for chilly bouts of weather.

Anyway the Mannheim Steamroller concert was awesome and the Christmas themed show was beautiful done with colorful lights and life-like animation, characters and images projected on the large screen. While a flashy show, it managed to tastefully blend the beauty and serenity of the season with its music. The lighting enhanced but not overshadowed the performance.

There was a 25 minute intermission which we walked around by the lobby a bit. Unlike last month’s Axel show next door with DOS, I stayed for the whole show as Mannheim Steamroller’s show was amazing.

As this was the 35th anniversary of Mannheim Steamroller, in the second half of the show they performed music from their worldwide concerts, as well as a nostalgic look back to their first year of performing, including an elaborate theatrical series of music and videos, depicting Christmas festivities of royalty in the Renaissance era.

The show went from 7:30pm until nearly 10pm, and was awarded a well deserved standing ovation at the end.

I stayed in Roanoke until Sunday, and then headed back to Orlando to work my remaining couple of weeks. I have one final business trip this week to Louisiana, then a few days working remote office, followed by our annual pre-Christmas trip to Jekyll Island on Dec 12 -16, and finally two days back home to wrap up work and return equipment. December will be a busy month, but it will soon be time to go back to Roanoke for Christmas, this time with DOS in tow. Happy Thanksgiving!

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