Saturday, November 25, 2023

A True Friendsgiving

turkey cheese and meat tray
Because we had just driven up to the kids a couple weekends ago for the first birthday bash, we decided to stay at home for Thanksgiving this year. Our neighborhood had a Friendsgiving dinner on Thanksgiving Day, and we participated in that instead. It was perfect for those of us who do not have family living in the Charlotte area.

The HOA provided the turkey and dinnerware, and those attending signed up for either appetizers, side dishes or desserts. I made the turkey appetizer as shown above. It was super easy to put together, so I got off pretty easy this year. Thirty people attended the event, and there was lots of great food. But more importantly, it provided us with an opportunity to meet new people, including two couples who only moved in three months ago. 

At the end, we each told our name, what street we live on, and what we were thankful for that day. It was so heartwarming to hear so many folks say how happy they are with our community and the new friends they have met. That is why we moved here, and our opinion hasn't changed in the four years we have been part of Imagery. It was a great way to end Thanksgiving Day.

Friday, November 17, 2023

First Birthday and Last National Park

first birthday
Our granddaughter turned one recently, and that is so hard to believe. It seems like yesterday that we were told we were going to be grandparents for the first time. We traveled up to Virginia to celebrate the big day, arriving on a Thursday. We had family photos taken on Friday, and considering that the little gal had her 12 month shots that morning, she did surprisingly well. Unfortunately it rained, so we could not have the pictures taken in a nearby park as had been planned. You know what they say about planning...

Saturday was the party, and again Baby W did really well with so many strangers in her home. Her naps were planned strategically, and she was content during the party. I think it was fun for her to have some other little people visiting. She certainly had no problem enjoying her birthday cupcake! She got a lot of fun as well as practical gifts, so I know she will be entertained for awhile.

Sunday we left the kids' house and drove to Hawks Nest State Park in Ansted, West Virginia. We wanted to visit New River Gorge National Park on Monday, and Hawks Nest is right next door to the national park. It has a lovely 31 room lodge, and that is where we spent the night. In this season between fall colors and Christmas lights, the lodge was pretty empty. We were given a lovely room on the 4th floor, with a balcony overlooking the gorge. We had dinner at the lodge, and our breakfast was included the next morning. We woke up to a lovely sunrise over the mountains.

sunrise at Hawks Nest Lodge
After we checked out of the lodge, we drove a quick 15 minutes to one of the entrances to New River Gorge National Park. Previously known as the New River Gorge National River, Congress in 2021 redesignated the area as the newest United States national park in 2021. Thus we were able to tick off one more national park in 2023.

The park is 70,000 acres, so obviously we did not see it all in one day. But we hit the highlight of seeing the New River Gorge Bridge. It is currently the longest single-span steel arch bridge in the United States and the third highest bridge in the country. We also drove Fayette Station Road, a winding 8-mile one-way stretch of road that takes you to the bottom of the gorge. The park service has an audio tour available for download that describes what you are seeing on the drive as well as the history of the area.

We very much enjoyed our visit, and will plan another trip back to the area. There is a lot more to see, and it is only three and a half hours away from us to boot.
New River Gorge National Park

Thursday, November 2, 2023

Visiting the Sunshine State

Last week we traveled to Florida to visit some friends from the neighborhood who purchased a condo in Port Charlotte last year. Originally this trip was supposed to take place in January of 2023, but they got sick and we had to cancel our trip.

At their suggestion we had purchased tickets on Allegiant Air, which flies out of the Concord-Padgett Airport (as opposed to Charlotte Douglas) directly to Punta Gorda, Florida. It is a discount airline, which I have always tried to avoid. But the pricing was quite decent on it, despite bucking up for checking a bag, picking a seat and Priority Boarding. The package deal also gave us cancellation insurance, which we ended up needing in January.

What they don't tell you about the insurance is that all taxes and fees are non-refundable, and the price of the insurance is deducted from the credit that goes onto your account. So needless to say, you are not made whole on the deal. But at least we were able to rebook the tickets.

We were dropped off at the airport on October 23rd, and were very grateful that we had Priority status. The regular line was quite long, but we only had a couple of people ahead of us so we got through quickly. I was amused by the fact that if you needed to charge any devices at the Concord airport, there was a fee for that as well.

On the plane we found the seats to be fairly spacious, if not the most padded in the industry. There are no frills, however. No snacks or drinks are provided, though they were offered for sale. As the flight was less than an hour and a half long, it was no big deal to us.

Being picked up at the Punta Gorda Airport was a breeze, and we were quickly off to begin our Sunshine State adventure with our good friends. We played a LOT of pickleball, both in their community as well as the Pickleplex in Punta Gorda, which has 24 courts. Wow! 

We also visited their community pool, went out to dinner with their friends, and played some rousing games of Mexican Train. But the thing I enjoyed the most this trip was going to the Peace River Gardens. It was a beautiful day to walk through the botanical gardens and see not only the plant material but also the wonderful sculptures they had on site. 

Peace River Gardens
We flew home on Friday the 27th, and were again thankful that our status enabled us to skip the long, general check-in line. It is certainly the only way I would consider flying this airline again.

It was another fun trip, but I am happy that we don't have any others planned for 2023. It's time to stay home for a bit and enjoy life here.