Tuesday, September 04, 2012
Metro columnist Dan Casey: Readers sound off on vacations, luxurious university food
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Read Dan's blog
What's on readers' minds? I often ask myself that question. In August, you told me lots about travel and food.
That came in response to two columns. One was about the car-repair and weather-plagued Casey family "vacation from hell." The other was about Turner Place at Lavery Hall, Virginia Tech's new dining Taj Mahal.
So let's jump right in to the August reader mailbag.
First up is Rebecca Evans of Botetourt County. She recounted two vacations that made my family's travails look like chicken feed.
The first was Evans' honeymoon. Her brand-new brother-in-law thought it would be a great prank to put some sardines on the exhaust manifold of the car the newlyweds drove to Hilton Head Island. Ho, ho.
"He unhooked the transmission tube when he did that and forgot to hook it back up. By the time we got to Hilton Head, the car wouldn't go out of second gear. So we spent the first day at a mechanic's shop where he charged us $300 to hook the tube back up."
Then she came down with conjunctivitis. As that cleared up, her groom got hit with a cold so bad he spent two days in bed.
How could any honeymoon go worse?
"By day four, we decided we were well enough to go to the beach where we got sunburned so badly that we could not touch each other."
Let us take stock: car problems, pink eye, rotten cold, and two "don't touch me!" sunburns, all on their honeymoon.
But there's more. Sometime later the couple took a cruise to make up for the honeymoon from hell. They drove to Florida in a rental car.
"A hurricane decided to blow in and the ship tried to steer around it but it was very rough. I was extremely seasick as were most of the people on the ship."
Her sea-legged hubby was fine, and proceeded to party and make friends all over the ship, "while I sat in the cabin with my head in a trash can."
When the worst of the seasickness passed, and she hadn't seen him for hours, Evans went looking for him late one night. She found him in the casino. Where else?
"I happened to look over at the blackjack table and there he was! â? After seeing my face, he decided it was time to cash out, and we went out on the deck to listen to the steel drum band. People were walking by and greeting him by first name.
"I said, 'I can't believe that you made friends while I was violently ill!' "
On the drive back from the cruise from hell, they passed through the remnants of the hurricane, and the rental car's windshield wipers quit.
The couple divorced about 10 years ago, she added. But they're still able to laugh about their star-crossed honeymoons.
Thanks for sharing, Rebecca. By comparison, nobody else in the Roanoke Valley will ever have a bad vacation again.
The other subject that brought in lots of mail was my column last week about Turner Place at Lavery Hall. That's Virginia Tech's $35.7 million entry into the fierce battle among universities to offer the most opulent dining for students.
My editor called me "a grumpy old man" when he read it, but plenty of readers agreed with me.
One was Barbara Leaman of Roanoke County.
"I am envisioning students dining on elegant foods in a plush dining hall while the parents are eating PB&J and red beans and rice as they struggle to pay the cost of their kid's room and board, books and tuition," she wrote. "I really am aghast that food, instead of education, has become the drawing card for college students!"
Another was Bedford resident Georgia Chapman
"Our daughter graduated a state-run university, and the quality and variety of food available to them was obscene," she wrote. "It's a shame that the food has to become a factor in choosing a college or university."
But quite of few readers took issue with the column. One argued that Panera Bread was Blacksburg's first bagel bakery, rather than the joint in Turner Place. Another took issue with my line that Tech is not a culinary college, because they offer such courses as part of the hospitality and tourism management program.
One reader who consented to his name being published is Robert Woods of Vienna. He grew up in Southwest Virginia.
The subject line of his email read: "Some cheese with your whine, Dan?" It went on:
"You'd complain if they hanged you with a new rope. Your article smacks of jealousy or a frustration with not finding some negative to harp on."
Thanks for the all the calls, letters and emails, folks. Please keep them coming.