Formerly known as "Cruzers in Korea"

Friday, July 31, 2009

Summer Vacation Part 2 - Florida

Friday, July 31, 2009 2
The summer of fun continued in southern Florida. From Alabama, we hopped on a flight to Fort Lauderdale and spent a few days catching up with old friends.

Chilling at Las Olas Riverfront in Fort Lauderdale.

One of the reasons for going to Miami - CJ meeting up with his best friend Zachary. That's some sweet facial hair. Ladies are gonna love them when they're old enough to date.

We got to see our Miami house (Pembroke Pines actually) that's being rented out by a really nice military couple. We're lucky to have them in the house. We got to see them and spend some time with our next door neighbor, Beth. There's nothing like good neighbors.

Speaking of neighbors, a couple of feathery ones hanging out by the pool.

I got to do some fishing in my old stomping grounds. Here's a peacock bass that tried to escape by wrapping himself up in a bunch of vegetation.

I caught the peacock bass on a crankbait. This is one of the hardest fighting fish in the world. Because they need warm waters to survive, the only place you'll find them is in the Amazon and in southern Florida.

Snagged this largemouth bass off this topwater bait. Love the topwater!

Even though this overzealous mayan cychlid has a tiny mouth, he still went after a big crankbait.

Another largemouth. This time off a lipless crankbait. Can you tell that I love to fish? I haven't been fishing in over a year. Just haven't had time in Korea.

This place is at Las Olas Riverfront in Fort Lauderdale. Their empanadas were featured on one of Rachel Ray's $40 a Day TV shows. This was a regular outing for the Cruz's when we lived in Florida.

Best empanadas ever. The green sauce stuff made them even better. Each empanada is less than $4.

A few doors down from the empanada place was this awesome pizza joint. Their caprese pizza is the best pizza I've ever had in my life. Chunks of fresh mozzarella, fresh tomatoes, basil, olive oil and spices - it's a taste explosion. All you south Floridians - go to Argie's Grill for an empanada and over to Riverfront Pizza for a slice of caprese. You won't be disappointed.

We got to catch up with one of my most favorite persons in the whole world. Edisa and I worked together at US Southern Command. It was great to catch up. I miss talking sports with you Edisa!

We also got to attend service at our old church, Oasis Church in Pembroke Pines. It was uplifting seeing old friends and some of the teens from the Youth Ministry that I used to volunteer with. The music was awesome as usual.

The boys with their old babysitter, Kodie Brown. Just a great person that I hope CJ and Jake can emulate.

The pose. Jake's almost got it down.

Wish we had more time on this leg of the trip. So much more good food to eat, friends to visit, sites to see and fish to catch. Until next time -- C2

Summer Vacation Part 1 and Fred!

Welcome once again family, friends and the rest of the cyber world that happened to stumble upon this blog. It's been a while since I've hit the keyboard. I've been on the road for business and personal vacation. Since the Cruz's don't mess around while on vacation, I'm thinking I'll need multiple installments to document all that transpired this summer. Without further ado, here's Summer Vacation Part 1:

Gotta start with business first. My first stop was the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island to participate in the Korea United wargame. A bunch of folks from many different locations gather for a few days to train on Korean contingencies. I've attended the last two years and provided briefs on both occasions. This is a picture of the attendees from the various Military Sealift Command organizations. Many of these folks pictured here come to my command in Busan, Korea to participate in annual exercises.

BTW, Newport is a great place to be in June/July and they've got some of the best food in the country if you ask me. I threw down on some whole bellied clams from Anthony's Seafood, the best greek pizza ever from Nicholas' near mansion row, a nice steak from Gold's in Middletown and some Vietnamese noodles and spring rolls from the Saigon Cafe, also in Middletown. Yeah, you can spend some serious bucks at the many fancy shmancy restaurants in Newport, but go to these four places if you want good grub at decent prices without a long wait.

Speaking of grub, don't you just love BBQ? After Newport, I flew to Birmingham, Alabama (cue in Lynyrd Skynyrd) to meet up with Carol and the boys who were already in the States on vacation while I was slaving away at a wargame in Newport eating nothing but ... never mind. One of my first meals in Alabama was a big BBQ plate at Bob Sykes Bar BQ in Bessemer, AL. This meal would've fed an entire Korean family. Americans, myself included, are such gluttons. Yeah, it was a good meal. Can you already sense the theme to this vacation? Is it any wonder I've been running everyday to get rid of the muffin top that's magically appeared when I wear my khakis?

Any self respecting BBQ joint has a real BBQ pit and chimney. Here's a hint. If you drive up to a BBQ restaurant and you don't see a chimney, that's not a real BBQ joint. Van Sykes, the son of the original founder was even at the restaurant and had a kind greeting for us. He did the same thing last year when we were in town. He's even hip with the technology, telling us to friend him on his Facebook site, "Bob Sykes Bar B Q". He's trying to get to 1,000 fans on his site so for those of you that are interested, go fan him. Nope, I didn't get a nickel for that endorsement.

If the BBQ isn't enough to make you a fan, check out this sign that he had posted up at his soda machine. I love the momma part. "You in the south now, Boy!"

I'm thinking of joining PETA - People for the Eating of Tasty Animals.

Next stop - blueberry picking. Uncle Sammy has several blueberry bushes in the country. We had a ball picking them. Some of them even ended up in a bowl.

It was really good to be reunited with the family again. We've done several months of separation on multiple occasions and dealt with it pretty well. Now just a couple of days being apart and I get in a funk. It was really great to see Fred, our dog. More on the Fred situation later.

Picking blueberries with the cousins. That's Andrea and Cooper on the left. Andrea and CJ have always been like two peas in a pod. They get along great.

One of my favorite pictures from the entire vacation. Classic!


Here we are displaying the fruits of our labor. That's Marty and Angela on the left. Angela and Carol are first cousins and have been best friends since they were fetuses.

To be honest with you, vacation started out rough, even before I arrived in Alabama. From Newport, the plan was for me to visit my brother Beanie in New York then see my brother Alan and his family in Virginia then head south to be with Carol and the boys. Fred was having a lot of trouble though. He's 15 years old and basically nearing the end. The vet told us he was on his last legs with severe heart failure. He's been having this very hoarse and continual cough where he ends up all wobbly and falls over on his side and sometimes passes out. Having many accidents too. His heart has become so enlarged that it rubs up against his other systems causing this bad cough. I joked earlier about PETA but I am a huge animal lover. For those that aren't dog lovers, it's really hard to explain that dog relationship. He was basically our first child. It was heartbreaking to us that we might have to put Fred down.

But hey, the Cruz's try to remain eternal optimists. Because of the Fred situation, I flew directly to Alabama. We took Fred to a cardiologist for a more detailed second opinion. Yup, severe heart failure but she also said he's one tough cookie. He could be around for another 6 months, a year, maybe even two years. One of our major concerns was leaving Fred in a really bad state with my brother Alan. The vet and cardiologist recommended strongly against taking such a fragile dog on a long flight to Korea. They didn't think he would make it.

Anyway, Fred was prescribed new medication and it's been working like a champ. The cough has decreased a great deal and he's hopping around pretty good. He's doing so much better. We really appreciate everyone's thoughts and prayers on this one. I can't thank Alan, Danita, Joel and Jena enough for taking such great care of Fred while we're in Korea. We owe you guys big!

A very content Fred after the visit to the cardiologist.

That's all for now. Until next time -- C2
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