It’s Good to be Back

There is some racing content in this post, so please indulge me as I recap our fall vacation to Florida.

Sometimes when you look so forward to any type of event, it is hard for it to live up to the build-up that has gone on in your own mind. The self-induced hype sets expectations so high, that there is no way the actual event can match the hype. That was my fear as we headed to Florida on Oct 7, for a week in the Sunshine State. After Susan had spent practically the entire summer hospitalized with a serious liver infection – we needed a fun and relaxing trip in the worst way. We were so desperate for things to go well, we were afraid we were in for a big letdown once the trip finally got here.

I am happy to announce that our fears were completely unfounded. We had no delays, no hiccups or surprises as we traveled from Nashville to North Redington Beach, Florida. Clear blue skies welcomed us as we checked into our condo. Again, there were no surprises as our accommodations were exactly as advertised. We had reserved the obligatory beach chairs and umbrella beginning Sunday, and sure enough – there was a set-up with our name on it all week.


The weather could not have been better. It was sunny almost every day, and the high temperature was between 85° and 88° each day.



We had one half-day of bad weather, which was Thursday afternoon. Nasty clouds rolled in quickly and it looked like we were in for quite the storm. It ended up being just some gentle rain and distant thunder.



But we had gone in early, so we figured we would get in the car and explore some. On our delayed honeymoon in June 2012, we had visited the then-unmarked grave of Dan Wheldon to pay our respects. Just a couple of weeks earlier, Susan’s son had been scrounging around Victory Lane and found a few of the thirty-three orchids that make up the Borg-Warner wreath that Dario Franchitti had worn just a few hours earlier, in celebrating his third Indianapolis 500 win in six years. Susan took one of those orchids and placed it on the grave of Wheldon, who had been fatally injured just eight months earlier.



We returned last Thursday to pay our respects, just a few days shy of the eleventh anniversary of his death. The unmarked grave we had visited a decade earlier now had a large black monument with an inscription from Ralph Waldo Emerson. There was also a matching meditation bench to the side, where Susan chose to rest for a few minutes. Some earlier visitors had left a miniature Indy car and a few unopened cans of Red Bull.




We ate well. Saturday night, our first night there, we just had beach pizza at some spot across the street from our condo, but it was surprisingly quite good. The rest of the week I had one of my favorite appetizers, Oysters Bienville, and ate lots of grouper, shrimp, conch and more shrimp. I gained six pounds while we were gone.


My biggest question was would Susan be able to make it. The answer was a resounding yes. She had one day when she had overdone it the night before and didn’t feel well, but she bounced back strong the next day and never skipped a beat after that. She decided to try her first adult beverage in months, in moderation. That may or may not have been the smartest thing to do coming off of a liver infection, but she was on vacation and wanted to give it a try. As it turned out, it had no ill-effects.


On the way out of town this past Saturday, we stopped off at a place that IndyCar journalist and food aficionado Bruce Martin told us about back in the spring, while there for the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. La Segunda Bakery in Ybor City. Not only do they have excellent bakes goods, they make the biggest and best Cuban sandwich you will ever sink your teeth into. We bought four of them, while they were still freshly pressed and hot. The aroma from the bag was driving me crazy. Although it was only 9:30 in the morning – I tore into the bag and ate half of one (a meal in itself) before we even got back onto the interstate.

The bad thing about traveling on Saturdays in October, is that it interferes with following my Tennessee Vols. It is probably not the safest thing I’ve ever done, but going down to Florida, we pulled up the Tennessee-LSU game on the iPad and set it up in the middle of the dash. We were able to watch the fourth quarter as we unpacked in our condo. The game was a blowout from the start, so it wasn’t like my eyes were glued to it while driving.

Coming back was different. Tennessee was playing arch-rival Alabama in Knoxville, with our best chance of beating them for the first time since 2006. We rigged up the iPad set-up again and watched the back-and forth affair while navigating the busy roads through Atlanta. It wasn’t as dangerous as it sounded because we were sitting and not moving for most of that time. By the time we reached Calhoun, Georgia, about forty miles north of Atlanta – we needed gas. So we stopped at Buc-ee’s and pulled into the parking lot to sit and watch the last eight minutes of the game, which Tennessee won 52-49. When the knuckleball field goal barely made it over the crossbar, we could hear cheers all through the parking lot as fifteen years of futility against the Tide came to an end. Susan snagged a picture of our makeshift viewing just after the game had ended.


We had all day Sunday to recuperate, and get reacquainted with cooler temperatures and rainy weather. The Titans were off Sunday, so it was a good day to sleep in and rest up. By the time I returned to work on Monday, I was feeling good and actually ready to get back to work.

There were no bombshells in the IndyCar world while we were gone, but enough happened that I have enough to write about for the next week or so. Please check back here on Friday, when I will be talking much more about IndyCar and much less about our personal life. If you made it this far, thanks for sticking with it and please come back Friday and the rest of the offseason. Spring Training at the Thermal Club near Palm Springs, California will be here before you know it.

George Phillips

4 Responses to “It’s Good to be Back”

  1. James T Suel Says:

    Congrats on a great vacation

  2. billytheskink Says:

    Glad to see and hear you all had a good trip!

  3. northeastvista Says:

    Happy for the both of you. Glad you enjoyed time away, and Sue is getting better!

  4. I am so glad that you enjoyed that leisure time together away from home.

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