Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Thanksgiving 2021

Virginia highway sign
Well, we certainly didn't think we would still be worrying about Covid when another Thanksgiving rolled around, but here we are again. 

We kept our celebration small, driving to Virginia to spend the holiday with our son and daughter-in-law, and the grand-pup Monty. As we traveled on Thanksgiving Day, the traffic wasn't super-bad.

We had a fun weekend of food, games and pickleball with some nice people we met at a nearby park. To get us in the Christmas spirit, we went to the Meadowlark Botanical Gardens for their Walk of Lights. While it was a little chilly out, there was no wind so it made being outdoors at night bearable. It was a lovely light display for such an inconspicuous little botanical garden.

Thanksgiving weekend

The drive home on Monday was more heavily trafficked, but we still were able to make good time with our travels. Now to tackle Christmas cards, shopping and decorating to get ready for Christmas!

sunset the day we got home

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Pickleball in Paradise

Sandals South Coast
As mentioned in the last post, we went to Jamaica on November 7th for a week-long stay at the Sandals South Coast. There were over 30 of us from the greater Charlotte area on the trip for this pickleball adventure. Sandals is an all-inclusive, adults only resort. The only negative is the hour and a half bus trip on precarious roads to get to the resort. 

The grounds of the hotel are fantastic, resembling a botanical garden oasis. There are numerous restaurants and swimming pools, and of course multiple pickleball courts. Though the courts are striped on tennis courts, they functioned well for our purposes.

Due to the heat and humidity, we limited our play to several hours in the morning. This left the afternoons and evenings free to swim in the ocean or pools, rest on the many loungers, or take advantage of the water sport options. We did drills and had coached play, and the week culminated with a round robin tournament on Saturday, followed by a banquet that evening. All the people in our group were super-nice and we made some new friends that we will continue to see in Charlotte. I feel like I learned some new game strategy, and hope to put those into play.

On Friday (two days prior to departure), Sandals provided Covid tests to anyone in our group who had been fully vaccinated. Those who had not been vaccinated had to wait until Saturday for their tests per new United States entry requirements. Our appointments were at 11:15, and we were able to walk right in to the testing room. This test was very different than the one we completed prior to travel. It involved the long testing stick, which felt as though they were literally picking your brain. It definitely brought tears to my eyes. Later that evening we got our negative test results back, thankfully.

flying home
On Sunday the same bus and driver repeated the harrowing drive back to Sangster International Airport. The checkin line at the airport was pretty long, but moved quickly. Our plane boarded on time, and again we had a very civil group of passengers on the flight. With all the horror stories of passengers yelling and even striking flight attendants over the mask mandate, you never know what might happen. But while this trip went fairly smoothly, I am not in a hurry to leave the country again anytime soon. It's just a lot of hassle right now.

Friday, November 19, 2021

First International Travel Since Covid-19 Arrived

Sangster International Airport
For the first time since Covid began and the country went into lockdown more than 19 months ago, we boarded a plane and traveled outside the United States. In January of this year we booked a pickleball adventure to Sandals Southcoast in Whitehouse, Jamaica with the Lake Norman Pickleball Club. Of course at the time we had no idea if the trip would be cancelled or not due to the pandemic. I'm not going to lie, part of me wished it would be rescheduled to next year as we agonized over whether it was smart to travel yet.

In the end, there were many things that aided our decision to go. We both are fully vaccinated and have the booster shot. A negative Covid test is required before entering Jamaica as well as upon departure. The three hour flight was direct, so there was no additional exposure at another airport. We would be staying in an all-inclusive resort the whole week, and the staff there is all vaccinated and required to be masked at all times. There is lots of outdoor dining and our pickleball play would be outside as well. We decided to take the calculated risk and go on the trip.

Within seven days of travel we were required to complete online paperwork and submit it to the Jamaican government so they could authorize our travel to their country. We also had to give them proof of insurance that would cover us in the event we tested positive for Covid while in Jamaica. That policy was included by Sandals as part of our reservation, and they had sent us a copy of the policy.

Three days before departure we went to the local CVS to take the antigen test. This was the first time either of us has needed to be tested during Covid, so we were a little apprehensive. We made our appointments online, then parked in the designated testing spots in their lot. We texted that we had arrived, and were directed to the back door of the pharmacy. There we were met by a nurse, who led us to a back office. The three of us were the only ones in the room. She opened up kits and handed us each a nasal swab, and directed us to swirl the swab several times in each nostril. We then placed our swabs in their respective vials, and that was that. About an hour later we received our negative test results.

Sunday morning we arrived at Charlotte International Airport 2 1/2 hours before our flight. We both have TSA pre-check with our Global Entry Card, so we felt that was a sufficient amount of time. The check in process with American Airlines was completed quickly, and the TSA line was short. I, however, was selected for additional screening. A female agent swabbed my hands with a wipe and then looked for traces of explosives. At the gate both of us, along with a dozen or so other passengers on our flight, were called to the counter to have our passports screened again. It seemed really strange since the passports had already been reviewed by the check in personnel and security agents.

The plane was boarded in an efficient manner, and I'm happy to say that all the passengers were well-behaved. No one had to be reminded to leave their masks on during the flight, and there was no screaming - by adults or kids! I spied a rainbow out the window, and chose to believe it was an omen that we would have a wonderful vacation. I wasn't wrong...more in the next post.