In this Covid threatened world, the beach seems to be the one place where there’s a sense of normalcy. People can stay far enough away from each other that the spread is minimalized. I guess I’ll know in a few days if I’m right or wrong. Our hotel on South Beach was built in 1936, once known as the Edgewater but restored by Marriott. Art Deco surrounds us from the vibrant restaurant scene to the design of the lifeguard stations. The beach, however, is much more crowded than our previous stops, but our room comes with a cart complete with chairs, towels, umbrella, and cooler to further keep us sanitized.
Today we head to Vero Beach and historic “Dodgertown.” The friend we’re visiting is the daughter of a former Brooklyn Dodgers pitcher. With L.A. just winning the World Series it only seems appropriate to visit the site. We’ll return to South Beach at the end of the day after returning our rental car to the airport. It will be the end of too much driving and not enough sunning. There are a few faint suntan lines starting to define themselves on my too pale skin. Hopefully, I can build a permanent tan once we’re officially Florida residents, instead of waiting for occasional Portland sun breaks.
We dined at Walgreen’s last night – a gourmet first- after a heavy breakfast at the Naples Cracker Barrell. We’ll have a nice lunch in Vero Beach today and maybe a frozen pizza or White Castle sliders, remnants from our drug store shopping, once we get back in our room. It won’t be long before we’re enjoying the pricy South Beach restaurants, but saving a little money is a wise retirement choice. Maybe, I’ll even have a hot dog snack at “Dodgertown” this afternoon. Vero Beach here we come!
When I’m traveling, I always like to listen to a local radio station during my morning run. This morning I was in Naples, Florida on the sidewalks of U.S. 41. This habit comes from years in the business and years of running. I tuned to a country station, hoping to get a flavor for the area. When I was first in radio, saying “Hell” on the radio was frowned on by the FCC with threats of fines. I was surprised to find a radio station that branded itself “Hell Yeah 93.7. When I got back to my hotel room to cool off and write this blog, I discovered that they had just changed their name from “Trump Country.” Only in Florida!
Apparently, station programmer Rob Morris claimed that “Biden’s team contacted us, and we were afraid we’d lose our license, our license to broadcast, if we didn’t change it. So we went ahead and changed it.” After all, they are WHEL. I’m sure the change generated lots of publicity and whether good or bad, it’s all great in the media industry. It’s owned by Sun Broadcast Group. I’m just glad to be retired and enjoying the Florida sunshine, although the humidity is much higher just two hours south of Venice. We head to Miami this afternoon for the final week of our travels and other local radio stations to critique.
A sunset picnic was the highlight of yesterday’s activities that included a few Corona’s to help fight Corona. Our Indianapolis friends had a great beach set-up, while the weather was perfect. Sun, surf, and sunset is the ideal way to spend retirement, rather than the TV and more TV that we’ve been stuck with the past few months. It’s fabulous to escape from the dark gray skies of Portland for a few weeks. We’ve already done a lot of reconnecting with family and friends from afar in just our first few days. Will there be even more fun! Hell Yeah!
As part of today’s retirement journey, we move on to Vanderbilt Beach and more old friends to see. It was usually the ski slopes where we’d meet years ago, but now it’s the surf. It will certainly be another afternoon of laughs recounting the memories. More fellow Hoosier Snow Birds taking advantage of the sand and sunshine. My last two lunches were at beach bars with friends from Fort Wayne that I hadn’t seen for seven years, while today’s reunion over drinks will be three years for him and sixteen for her. We’ll spend the night in Naples and drive to Miami tomorrow.
My wife can’t bear to leave this morning without one last trip by the house, hoping that the front door is being installed and the roofing tile is completed. We’ve been by every day to check on its progress, still targeting mid-March completion. This will be our last opportunity before we move in. We also leave behind the grandkids until that moment when we become permanent residents. After the first night on South Beach we’ll then drive up to Vero Beach to visit with another Hoosier friend for the day, and back to Miami for the rest of our Florida stay.
I was excited that the I.U. Hoosier basketball team was able to redeem themselves last night with a victory over #4 Iowa. I was at a low point with the team after the Purdue embarrassment last week, and glad that I wouldn’t be able to watch last night for fear of more shame. In fact, I fell asleep at halftime and was shocked by the 81-69 final score. Somehow, the Cream & Crimson were able to overcome a twelve point deficit and win by thirteen. Iowa did not score for eleven minutes, so great defense and some much needed good fortune prevailed. The victory also gives them some tourney credibility that was certainly in doubt last week. Rutgers is the next match-up that I will also miss by being a Florida Snow Bird.
It’s a beautiful day of Florida sunshine and blue skies, as I have been dreaming of these past few months. We also did normal family things while practicing social distancing, like eat dinner in a restaurant and attend my granddaughter’s dance recital. Today, we may get a chance to see our new home at the half-way point of construction, go to the beach, and suffer through a round of golf with my grandson. He needs some fresh air and exercise after too many hours on the computer with school and games. I was glad to run this morning in just shorts and a t-shirt instead of major bundling-up to stay warm or dry.
For once, there was very little TV watching yesterday, just an occasional glimpse of the NFL playoff games on the restaurant’s bar screens. It was a three-hour drive from Miami to my son’s house, plus a brief intermission for lunch at the Naples Cracker Barrell. Dinner was at the Bonefish Grill after the two-hour dance extravaganza. Once I get this blog up to date, we’ll finalize today’s dining plan that will probably include McDonald’s and pizza to off-set yesterday’s expense. At least all our lodging on this trip is “free” thanks to Marriott Rewards and their vacation club. Sadly, we haven’t been able to take more advantage of this perk during these Covid stay-at-home times. After five nights in this Fairfield Inn suite, we’ll spend one night at the Naples Courtyard and seven nights at The Pulse Miami on famed South Beach before heading back to the grey skies of Portlandia.
My wife has been reunited with her car, now stored in my son’s garage after its August cross-country venture. and awaiting a permanent slot in our new garage. We did drive by the Islandwalk addition last night on our way home from dinner and will take some photos this morning. Tomorrow, we have a formal appointment with the builder. However, today the grandkids will take priority especially since there is no school due to the MLK holiday. I’m just content that there is no major driving necessary for a few days. Venice, Florida is officially our home-sweet-home for now and in the retirement future.
British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC) was the British state-owned airline created in 1939 by the merger of Imperial Airways and British Airways Ltd. It was time to look that up on Wikipedia after landing in Miami and recalling the lyrics of Back in the U.S.S.R by The Beatles, “flew into Miami Beach BOAC.” Why I never before had that curiosity before, I simply can’t explain? We spent our first night in the city under the protection of Mother Marriott at the airport after renting a Buick Encore SUV. It took me back to years of owning Buicks thanks to my advertising client Lochmandy Motors in my hometown of Elkhart, Indiana. I hadn’t thought of Brian Lochmandy in years or the Skylark and Regals he sold me. I remember that I always wanted a Riviera, but the job led me to another city and another client relationship. Eventually, I got company cars, a perk of being in management.
When we moved to Austin ten years ago I didn’t even have a car, using my wife’s Lexus sedan on occasion. We soon settled on a used Solara Convertible as a second vehicle once I found a suitable job, and my wife upgraded to a Lexus convertible. We’ve already transported that car to Florida, housed in my son’s garage, and will make a similar cross-country drive in the Solara in a few months. Once we arrive in Florida with that car and schnauzer Tally, it will mean that we are permanent residents. Tally had to stay home with her pet sitter on this particular trip that will take us to our Venice construction site and back to Miami for a restful week on South Beach.
It was actually American Airlines not B.O.A.C. that took us from Portland, through Dallas, into Miami. I can’t seem to get that song out of my mind.
“Flew in from Miami Beach BOAC
Didn’t get to bed last night
On the way the paper bag was on my knee
Man, I had an awful flight”
“I’m back in the U.S.S.R.
You don’t know how lucky you are, boy
Back in the U.S.S.R.”
“Been away so long I hardly knew the place
Gee, it’s good to be back home
Leave it till tomorrow to unpack my case
Honey, disconnect the phone”
“I’m back in the U.S.S.R.
You don’t know how lucky you are, boy
Back in the U.S.
Back in the U.S.
Back in the U.S.S.R.”
We’re still planning to tour of what’s left of the U.S.S.R. in six months via river cruise. That is if Corona doesn’t once again get in the way, as it has with Bali, Egypt, Hawaii, and St. Kitt’s. At least thankfully Florida is still open to tourism.
We’re Miami bound tomorrow morning, with a bright and early start. There will be no time for a blog post, just an early one-mile minimum run and a quick bite to eat at McDonald’s. Finally, we’ll be escaping this prison of an apartment and see the sun – or at least the sunset when we arrive. The flight will likely be miserable with a stop in Dallas. The original intent was for my wife to continue on to St. Kitts for a girlfriend week, but Covid screwed up those plans. Instead, we’ll head to Venice, Florida and our new homesite, spend some time with the grandkids & friends, and enjoy a week on South Beach in Miami.
The Hitchcock viewings continued last night with North by Northwest. Miami will offer a temporarily diversion from our incessant TV watching, but one last movie tonight before we go. Packing and cleaning will occupy some of our attention this afternoon, along with a virtual Zoom “Leadership Meeting.” The excitement is building for tomorrow morning’s flight. Our schnauzer, Tally, however, will not feel the same way when she sees our suitcases. She’ll stay home with the pet sitter after an early outing. I can only hope that the rain holds off until after we leave.
I’ve already lost interest in college basketball, so I will not spend much time in Florida watching sports. We will get to dine out, including a bucket list dinner at Joe’s Stone Crab in Miami. We’ve been to all the other locations, but this is the original. It’s about a mile from our South Beach condo in the Marriott Vacation Club’s Pulse. I may also try to hook-up with “The Raven,” a fellow streaker that does a sunset run on the beach every day . He’s the 7th ranked runner on the USRSA list, while I’m at #203. He’s two years younger than me but has a 34- year longer streak (16,817 days – 46 years compared to my 4,401 – 12 years). I should probably get a signed copy of his book, since I’m Miami Bound!
it’s the last day of 2020, as if fortunes will change dramatically at the stroke of midnight. Realistically, we’ll be facing the same viral and economic concerns tomorrow, but optimism prevails with the start of vaccine distribution. The last nine months have been tense with health fears and isolation. We were so looking forward to our first year of joint retirement and travel, but trips to Bali, Egypt, and Hawaii were soon cancelled. The two of us then compromised with some long cross-country drives into Glacier National Park and to Florida via San Francisco. We will see what next year brings in the way of planned cruises from Barcelona and on Russian rivers, but I’m skeptical they will happen. At least, we will have a new Florida home to look forward to enjoying in 2021.
The Florida Keys and Miami are our first travel targets for 2021. We’ll arrive in Florida just in time for my granddaughter’s dance recital and grandson’s birthday. Two days will be spent with some Indiana friends, vacationing near the Gulf Coast. We also get to check-out construction progress on our house. We’re expecting a video conference update next week before the interior drywall goes up. Time will pass quickly as we anticipate the move in March and first cruise in April. I will likely miss Spring Training in the neighboring Braves stadium this year but the following year will be exciting.
My wife has special dinners planned for tonight’s New Year’s Eve celebration and tomorrow evening’s dinner with family. Last year we were in Florida exploring building sites and enjoyed a dinner at Bern’s Steakhouse. The year before we had just returned from our last venture back to our Indiana roots. It was the last time we spent with my wife’s mother before she passed. The New Year prior to that my wife spent several uncomfortable nights at her hospital bedside, so despite the stay-at-home isolation, tonight is a big step up in terms of celebration. Happy New Year!
The Christmas movie theme continued yesterday with White Christmas and It’s A Wonderful Life, two classics I’ve probably seen before but found most of the scenes unfamiliar. I can’t recall a span in life when I’ve had this much idle time on my hands, but most likely I just don’t remember. Yesterday, I only went outside three times for my run and two dog walks, but otherwise I was at my writing desk. With little to do, a couple of long overdue notes went out to a childhood neighbor and the wife of my birthfather, Cecil Ralph Banister. I’m not yet in the holiday spirit, but trying hard to rekindle some more childhood memories.
I did make dinner last night, but it was really nothing more than frying up some beef tenderloin, onions. and potato chunks to create a tasty hash. I’ll have enough left over for lunch today. This evening is the first of two family Zoom calls. It is organized by my son and will include grandkids, nephews, nieces, my sister, and pets. Christmas Eve is a conference with my wife’s side of the family. In the meantime, it will be the usual writing and watching. I can’t say I’ll miss the parties and get-togethers associated with the holidays, particularly those work-related. This is the second Christmas for both my wife and I to be officially retired, but last year we were able to fly into Orlando for the start of our forever home search. Next Christmas, we’ll be in our new Venice, Florida property.
Without the benefit of safe travel this year, we began looking ahead to next October to arrange a family get-together in Lake Tahoe. This will include both of my wife’s daughters and spouses, bridging the distance between the two coasts that our move away from Portland will create. This means that two trips to Florida, plus The Keys, St. Kitts, two European cruises, and Tahoe comprise an aggressive 2021 travel schedule. However, these plans are beginning to change and cancellations are expected. It’s, unfortunately, the Covid way!
I could have been waking up to the sounds of waves crashing against the beach, but instead it’s the roar of leaf blowers as they clean the downtown streets of Portland. The good news is that it’s a Monday and I’m not working and haven’t for nearly four years. Retirement has definitely made these viral times easier to tolerate, but the inability to travel has taken away one of its greatest joys. I could have crossed off Bali, Egypt, and Kauai on my bucket list. Will this continue through 2021? At least, we will be able to get to the Florida beaches once we’re settled there permanently in the Spring.
We hope to get all the paperwork finalized this week to secure financing approval. It’s been a long process selecting the site, picking the options we want, and working with the mortgage company. We anticipate closing in less than two months and moving there in three. There should be some more pictures from our project manager coming soon, with maybe a few more walls and the start of a roof. It certainly gives us something to look forward to, when there’s little to do around our apartment these days.
We visited my wife’s daughter yesterday, delivered a birthday gift to her husband, and took their dog Falco for a walk. They were supposed to join us in Kauai this week along with her other daughter and husband. Going for a short drive like this is about as exciting as it gets. Our schnauzer Tally also needs a break from her routine and it gives the two pups a chance to romp together. Tally loves to ride in the car, or just get out the door for that matter. We’re all suffering from cabin fever after about 90 days of going nowhere but on a run, walk, or to the grocery store. I did get Christmas presents ordered for the grandkids last night and the cards are ready to go out.
The eleventh and final season of Shameless starts streaming today. I also found free access to many of the James Bond movies that I want to watch. Apparently, with Sean Connery’s recent death they are now available. Last week, I sat through License to Kill (#17 1989), Doctor No (#1 1962), From Russia with Love (#2 1963), and Goldfinger (#3 1964). I want to revisit all 24 of them on my list that started with A View to Kill (#15 1985), Goldeneye (#18 1995), Tomorrow Never Dies (#19 1987), and Die Another Day (#21 2002). (See Post #888) It will be a busy week getting through all of these 007 classics. Bond…James Bond, not to mention Honey Rider portrayed by Ursula Andress.
As 2.1 million travelers passed through airports last Sunday alone, we can expect a spike in Coronavirus cases. At the same time, the first shipments of the vaccine are arriving in the Northwest, expected to first go to healthcare heroes. Decisions beyond that will be interesting, considering current politics. As a 69-year old male, I’m among the most vulnerable but certainly don’t expect any preferential treatment. Somehow, I’ve been able to avoid exposure for eight months now, even despite some risky traveling, or I’ve been infected without symptoms.
On the economic front, the Dow just had its best month since 1987. Personally, I’ve seen a jump in my credit card balance, spending more in anticipation of 2021 travel. I also have several airline, ticket, cruise, and hotel credits that will need to be used in the next year. Since we couldn’t get into Hawaii and have our doubts about Spring travel in Europe, there will be additional dollars returned in the way of credits. For example, Viking Cruises already gave us 125% credit from the cancellation of Egypt. This was reinvested in a Russian expedition next summer. If our trip from Spain to Norway is cancelled, we’ll probably re-book Egypt with the bonus dollars rather than take a refund. This reflects the sad state of the travel industry, having to provide incentives to keep the dollars already collected.
The Marriott Vacation Club has not been a good investment this year. We still had to pay maintenance charges, despite only using their facilities in Orlando, San Francisco, Las Vegas, and Desert Springs this year, totaling just 20 nights. 24 nights were cancelled, and 13 are already scheduled for early 2021. We need to stay at least 40 nights a year to make this deal feasible. Once the travel bans are lifted, we’ll have a lot of time to make up. Fortunately, there are more more easily accessible Marriott resorts in Florida and on the East Coast than here in the Northwest. Mother Marriott is tired of all the cancellations and calling for us to come home. Get us the vaccine and Stop our Travel Woes!