With trepidation, we planned to stay at our timeshare at Marriott Ocean Pointe, Palm Beach Shores, on Singer Island, Florida, for a portion of February and March 2021. Our reluctance and hesitation were solely due to our concern for contracting COVID. Reviewing videos Marriott had on their website describing their commitment to their guest’s safety, we decided to take a break from the cold of Wisconsin to enjoy the warmer weather in the Sunshine State.
One year earlier, in March 2020, we vacationed in Cape Town, South Africa. Our trip was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We endured a dramatic return to the U.S. You can read about that harrowing adventure here: Our lives were upended for the balance of the year. We longed for a change back to normal everyday life.
Since we planned to visit Marriott Ocean Pointe for two weeks, we elected to drive to Florida, a one-way distance of 1,400 miles (2,250 km). The strategy to save on airfare and car rental, with transportation services somewhat risky to use during this pandemic. With 524,141 COVID-19 deaths at month-end February 2021, why take risks? We religiously wore masks during the past year, kept our social distance, used hand sanitizers, washed our hands frequently, did not have close contact with our son, daughter, and granddaughters. Our only means of communication have been through Facetime. Our groceries have been bought online with curbside pickup. With those considerations, we elected to stay at additional Marriott hotels breaking up our one-way 24-hour drive, selecting Atlanta Marriott Northwest at Galleria in Georgia, and Marriott Courtyard, Lafayette, in Indiana.
All being well; next year, in March 2022, we will stay at the Marriott Ko Olina Beach Club in Oahu, Hawaii. It will be a return trip, and you can read about our prior fun time here: (Update September 2021–we canceled this trip, again due to the ongoing COVID pandemic).
We invested in a timeshare with Marriott, Singer Island Beach Resort, in 1999. Our motivation is to escape the cold of Wisconsin enjoying the warmth of Florida. This year while at home, two days before our trip, we endured minus 18 Celsius (zero Fahrenheit) weather, and with the wind chill, it felt like minus 22 C (-7 F). Without adequate protection, ten minutes outside results in frostbite. That said, we bundle up and head out for our daily 40-minute walks to get our desperately needed exercise.
Meanwhile, West Palm Beach, Florida is 28 C (82 F) and feels like 30 C (86 F)! A 50-degree swing in Celsius, or 93-Fahrenheit! The polar vortex with extreme cold covered the United States and Canada from February 2nd to 17th, 2021, and resulted in 100 million homes losing power. It registered the coldest records varying from 10 to 100 years depending on geographical location.
When we travel to our timeshare for one week, we fly, rent a car, and rotate our vacation with Robyn or Sean and their respective spouses and daughters. On those occasions, we reserve the double apartment. The large unit for their family of four, while we use the interleading smaller lock-off. On this occasion, we visit for two weeks without our children and granddaughters and drive the 1,400 miles (2,250 kilometers), a trip taking a total of 24 hours.
We bought a timeshare in the platinum (high) season, where optionally in week one, we use the smaller lock-off room with bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, with all the essentials we require. The second week we move into a larger adjoining unit with a washing machine, dryer, lounge with sleeper couches, and more comfortable accommodation. Our timeshare has a side ocean view. The resort comprises five high-rise buildings with 192 total apartments. We usually request a high floor in an 18-story building, but with the COVID-19 virus a reality, we asked for a low floor to avoid using the elevators as an added safety precaution. There were 92 stairway steps to get to our fourth-floor unit.
Each timeshare unit comes with every amenity that one expects from a luxury resort. The units are air-conditioned, with cable TV, internet, hairdryers, microwave, pots and pans, cutlery and crockery, a refrigerator with an ice maker, toaster, coffee maker, and a list too long to enumerate every necessity provided. They thoughtfully provide trash cans and a recycle bin. Barbeque grills are available outside each building. There is a Tiki Bar in the pool area, providing liquid refreshments and meals. You can relax at a firepit or in a heated spa pool. A grocery store is on the premises with essentials you may have forgotten to bring or need to augment. An exercise room and Spa are available, together with an option of three swimming pools, a kiddie’s pool, a Whirlpool Spa, and a splash pool, a few feet from the ocean. The beach area provides deck chairs for comfortable sun tanning or reading. Children are catered for with an activity center, arts and craft activities, and babysitting. Want sport? There is a putting green, tennis court, volleyball court, and miniature golf available. Our comfort is assured.
One hugely enjoyable feature is the hot water feeding the bathroom and kitchen—provided on demand. The reality in America is businesses do not want to be sued. The water temperature is controlled not to scald yourself, offering a selection between warm and warmer.
The resort is located near many attractions. There is a zoo, science museum, wildlife sanctuary, and a short drive to a lion country safari. An international airport is located in Fort Lauderdale, an hour’s drive, with a local airport 15 minutes away. The facility caters for meetings and weddings. Why stay at a resort hotel to work? If that is not sufficient to impress you, underground parking is available.
Marriott’s Ocean Pointe is located on Singer Island, a peninsula on the Palm Beach Shores’ Atlantic coast. Singer Island was named after Palm Beach developer Paris Singer, a Singer Sewing Machine magnate Isaac Singer’s son. Singer Island has parks, marinas, hiking, and bike paths, and 4.7 miles (7.6 km) of white sand beach considered one of the top five beaches in Palm Beach County. Singer Island is 3 miles (4.8 km) from North Palm Beach, 5.4 miles (8.7 km) from West Palm Beach (home to Donald Trump’s Mar-A-Largo), 5.4 miles (8.7 km) from Palm Beach Gardens, 6.2 miles (10.0 km) from Juno Beach, and 10.6 miles (17.1 km) from Jupiter. Linda and I walk the beach, but mainly along the road. One sad observation is that we see a few homeless people living under the bridges benefitting from the magnificent weather.
There is a fascinating history about Singer Island to read here:
Thursday, February 18, 2021
Before 7:00 am (Central Time), we left the condominium and arrived at the Marriott Hotel in Atlanta at 8:30 pm (Eastern Time, or 9:30 Central). Naturally, the 12:30 hour day was long but fortunately uneventful for the most part. Linda road shotgun. Reviewing the Weather Channel and Google Maps, Linda provided a running commentary along the way via her iPhone. Linda alerted me to speed traps, where accidents along the way would delay us by 15 or 30 minutes and where we would encounter severe weather conditions. Fortunately, none of that came to pass. It was fascinating that, driving from home to just before we arrived at Chattanooga, Tennessee, 700 miles (1100 km), the land was covered in snow. To that point, the temperature was below freezing. On Wednesday night before we left, our daughter Robyn had warned us to leave early morning or later in the morning to avoid the rush hour traffic around Chicago, a 90-minute drive from our home. As luck would have it, due to COVID-19, the traffic was relatively light for Chicago.
During the time I ran my business, I traveled extensively across the Midwest. Fortunately, I know the roads well. Setting my GPS in the car, before we started our journey, the GPS recommended I use the shortest route to Indianapolis, Indiana, and drive through the center of Chicago. Experience taught me that was a big mistake, and dutifully the GPS declared “recalculating” as I used the ring road around the Windy City. The GPS added 3 minutes to my arrival time in Atlanta. I did have one regret after several hours of driving. It never occurred to me to pack windshield washer fluid. The road conditions with snow and ice showers were challenging enough to empty the car’s washer fluid reservoir.
Our journey on this first day took us from Wisconsin through Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, to Georgia. The massive storms brought devastation to many parts of the country, especially Texas, where millions of customers lost power. Residents were warned to boil their water, a challenge without electricity. Greg Abbott, Republican Texas Governor, incorrectly blamed the reusable energy for the power failure, especially the wind turbines that stopped functioning because they got coated with ice. The reality is that to save money, they elected not to add function to the turbines that would have prevented the ice buildup, admittedly a rare occurrence in Texas. A condition that previously occurred in 2011. The presence of wind turbines in Indiana, on both sides of the Interstate, is awe-inspiring. The state generates 1,897 MW of electricity through 1,096 turbines. It yields 4.82% of the in-state electricity production. Indiana is ranked 12th in the nation for wind power. I am sure we see one hundred turbines as we speed south through the state. At the U.S. research station in Antarctica, annual temperatures average zero degrees Fahrenheit but often drop much lower. There, near the United States McMurdo Station, a few wind turbines can provide enough electricity to power 100 American homes and avoid burning over 120,000 gallons (450,000 liters) of diesel fuel each year. What a difference a bit of planning makes, and willingness to spend a few extra dollars to winterize essential equipment. If they can do it in Antarctica, why not Texas?
We made two stops on the way to Atlanta. Both to refuel the car and an opportunity to stretch our legs. Our first stop was in Columbus, Indiana. We wanted to stop in at Starbucks for coffee and a treat. We were greeted with a sign at the door to say that bathrooms were not available, so we promptly turned around and shopped at Culver’s. The greater shock was the Shell gas station. The driveway was ankle-deep in snow and slush that they had not bothered to clear, making refueling the vehicle an unpleasant experience. Our second stop at a Chevron in Guild, Tennessee, was less eventful.
Protea, the national flower of South African, the name for the South African cricket team, and Protea Hotel Group, a member of the U.S. Marriott Hotel and Resorts group.
My Subaru is five years old. It has covered 32,000 miles (50,000 km) and has not been driven for more than two hours at a stretch in the past two years. I found it fascinating that the longer I went, the more willing the vehicle seemed to run. The Subaru was fully loaded with luggage and food for our two-week vacation, being reluctant to make purchases with the pandemic still claiming one life in the U.S. every minute. Generally, the car was running at about 2,000 RPM (revolutions per minute) and very occasionally would need a burst to 3,000 RPM. Our Subaru is redlined at 6,000 through 8,000 RPM, and we never needed to push the vehicle that hard. Our alternate strategy could have been to fly to Fort Lauderdale and rent a vehicle. That will have been a more expensive option, and with COVID, we would not have enjoyed a full occupancy flight. Sadly, half the nation still follows Trump’s concept that the virus is a hoax and refuses to wear masks or take necessary precautions.
We have been faithful to Marriott for many years. I joined while running my business, calling for a significant amount of travel. We trust their pledge that the rooms have been sterilized before our arrival. It helps that I had both my Pfizer vaccinations, and Linda received her first dose. Linda received her second shot after our return home.
Atlanta Marriott Northwest at Galleria made careful arrangements for guests to stay safe during this pandemic. Our room was located on the eleventh floor. To access an elevator, guests had to stand six feet apart. Only one family was allowed in the elevator at a time, or if there were two people, who were not related, they could use the elevator but stand in opposite corners. Guests always had to wear face coverings. One strange additional cost was to park outside netting the hotel an additional income of $12. Where could we have left the car for free?
I need to include a negative comment. Our biggest disappointment is the condition of some interstates. I know that we live in a climate with tremendous weather variations, from extremely hot to extremely cold. Consequently, we encounter numerous potholes as we drive. If I did not believe that much of the situation exists because of budget cuts, I may be more understanding. Honestly, it is like living in a third-world country. I have traveled extensively in South Africa, and their national roads, the equivalent of our interstates, are in near perfect condition. Wisconsin is rated 38th in the nation for the quality of its roads. Speaking from experience, the suburban streets are in worse shape by comparison with major arterial routes. Ratings for the states we traveled, where one is best, and 50 the worst, Illinois (28), Indiana (33), Kentucky (5), Tennessee (7), Georgia (26), and Florida (40).
Another observation from today’s drive was comparing the number of automobiles to 18-wheeler trucks. On the open roads, between large cities, the ratio appears to be a 50/50 split. In the big cities, with their large proportion of commuter traffic, cars outnumber trucks. In our experience, it was smarter to stop at rest stops where the bathrooms were cleaner than going into town to refuel the car and use their bathrooms that were not always the most hygienic.
Mindful of the long day’s drive and not wishing to make any bathroom breaks, I skipped breakfast. We had a single slice of wheat bread with an egg, and mayonnaise spread that Linda prepared in the early morning and stored in our cooler. I supplemented my lunch with an apple and had a banana for dinner. We bought a bar of dark chocolate at a stop for a treat.
Friday, February 19, 2021
We woke early in the hotel, showered, and picked up a “to-go” breakfast meal in the restaurant served in small plastic containers, one a yogurt and granola, the other fresh-cut fruit. We made coffee in the bedroom first thing after waking. By comparison to yesterday, the traffic pattern was quite different. We saw a large volume of vehicles traveling north in the opposite direction of our travel, in Georgia and Florida. Cars outnumbered the large 18-wheeler trucks. We were puzzled if it was holidaymakers returning home. I can only assume that there was an equal number of vehicles traveling south. We filled up at a Circle K in Lake City, Florida, before the final drive to our timeshare.
The other big difference on this drive was the absence of potholes. Linda kept checking for speed traps and weather conditions. Possibly the most amazing sight was to see blue skies as we approached our timeshare. To that point, we only encountered cloudy skies. Then too, on this stretch of the drive, we repeatedly drove through rain showers that did not last long until we experienced the next one.
I said how impressed I was with our car. I will readily admit that even if Subaru promotes their ergonomically designed seats, after 24 hours of driving, my butt was not sure that this was an accurate comment.
We arrived at Marriott Ocean Pointe at 4:00 pm after 10 hours of driving. We were assigned a room on the second floor of the Sail Fish building with a view of palm trees outside our unit. Due to COVID, we requested a low floor to minimize our exposure to the virus. At a stretch, we could see the ocean if we leaned over the balcony. Then the fun started.
Linda informed me that I was running a fever with an elevated temperature. I was exhausted, dehydrated, and drained. I could speculate as to why this happened to me. Was it a reaction to the second Pfizer vaccination? I doubt it. It was more likely the effect of not drinking over the past two days to save my weak bladder so that I did not have to stop on the road every two hours. Then too I had hardly eaten during the long 24-hour drive. At any rate, Linda had me crawl into bed and sleep with painkillers for the next 14 hours.
Postscript (Sunday 21st). We watched a show on TV explaining one consequence of the vaccination, describing all the effects that I had experienced! The nurse who administered my second shot stated that most people find the second vaccination has a greater after-effect than the first. I dismissed her comment. I appreciate now that she knew what she was advising. To put the timing in perspective, I received my second Pfizer COVID vaccination on Wednesday morning, then drove on Thursday and today (Friday). Second postscript (Thursday, March 11th). Linda felt a bit warm after her second Pfizer shot, but it only lasted for a day or two.
Saturday, February 20, 2021
Waking up refreshed and ready to take on the day, we elected to have a quiet day after two days of motoring. We debated breaking up the return journey between Atlanta and home with a stopover in Lafayette, Indiana, and made another Marriott reservation. Not bad racking up points with 18 consecutive stays at Marriott.
The day was dedicated to doing as little as possible. Going for our daily walk was essential, after sitting in the car for two days. Our initial 50-minute walk to familiar places that we had not seen in five years. We walked the inlet to watch the yachts and speed boats, followed by sightseeing the shops on the main road. During this time of COVID, several businesses had closed permanently. The walk was windy and warm. Many people were wearing shorts to remind us that we were no longer in the subzero temperatures of Wisconsin.
Lake Worth Inlet offers easy access from the Ocean to the Port of Palm Beach, as well as local marinas. The Inlet runs into the Intracoastal Waterway which continues north to New Jersey and south to the Florida Keys. The sand dredged to create the Inlet was used to form Peanut Island.
The balance of the afternoon was spent reading indoors. Linda did well by bringing food to have breakfast, lunch, and dinner in our room. At home, we do not have cable TV and enjoyed watching a movie on Showmax. All in all, a very restful and satisfying day.
Linda and I have been married for 50 years. We have never installed nor watched television in our bedroom. This evening we crawled into bed at 7:00 pm and watched TV for three hours—the joys of being on vacation. The breaking news item was the Boeing 777-200 departing Denver International Airport bound for Hawaii when an engine exploded on takeoff and required an emergency landing back to the airport. Debris was scattered all over the neighborhood. What puzzled me was how the plane could land fully loaded with fuel.
Sunday, February 21, 2021
We woke nine hours after a long night’s sleep. This must be a record—the benefit of sea air. However, we woke to a warm but very windy day and decided to stay indoors until midday when the wind subsided, and the temperature warmed for our walk. Linda was delighted to see a rebroadcast of the Australian Open Tennis. I had planned to watch a TV program on my PC but discovered that it is only available while at home on my Spectrum internet connection.
Linda did long-range planning today. We will stay at Marriott’s Ko Olina Beach Club 92-161 Waipahe Place, Kapolei, Oahu, Hawaii, 96707, from March 19th, through 26th, 2022.
The day turned out to be unpleasant with the wind, so we stayed in our room all day and dedicated time to reading, writing, and watching TV. Relaxing.
Monday, February 22, 2021
We woke to a great day. Sadly, Linda had to delay our outing due to the time needed to respond to a lengthy legal document. After lunch, we made it out for a 90-minute walk. Along the way, I took a short video of a street entertainer in very windy conditions that spoiled the sound. 79 F/26 C degrees.
We had a productive afternoon. We got the car washed and bought the needed windshield washer fluid that we drained on the trip south. Suddenly it feels like we are on vacation—totally relaxed and even spent time watching a movie on the Hallmark Channel—a real cheesy G-rated romance movie.
Tuesday, February 23, 2021
The good news to wake to is a warmup that continues for the next week. Hot enough to start experiencing humidity. We elected to walk 3 miles (5 km) north to the bridge connecting the next island. The Burnt Bridge, built in 1990, was dedicated to Army Captain Joseph M. Berkson. Together with the return walk, it lasted 2 hours. As we walk north, there are dozens of high-rise buildings on the east or seaward side. There is a single 42-floor high-rise condominium, 43 high-rise buildings between 12 and 28 floors, and a dozen between 5 and 10 stories high. On the west side are private homes, offices, and small businesses. Mostly the near west side of the peninsula consists of water. If you are feeling wealthy, you can purchase a 4-bedroom 6-bathroom 7,500 square foot (700 sq meter) ocean view apartment for US$8.5 million. There is little doubt that this is a wealthy community based on the vehicles locals drive. Many are top-end sport varieties of Mercedes Benz, BMW, Maserati, Ferrari, Porsche, Tesla, Range Rovers, etc. We saw many people walking, jogging, and some pushing their dogs in a stroller. Some wore face coverings. We greet as we pass, reflecting a friendly and relaxed community.
Watching advertisements on TV, one sees the differences compared to our community. One that fascinated me was to see Alfa Romeo’s advertisement. Not a motorcar advert we see in Wisconsin, but then a vehicle suited to this wealthy community and its fair weather.
Tropical cyclones have affected Florida in most months of the year, except January through March. Nearly one-third of the cyclones impacted the state in September, and almost three-fourths of the storms ravaged the state between August and October, which coincides with the peak of the hurricane season. Wind speeds average 130 mph (215 km/h).
Today the news was dominated by Tiger Woods’ accident after he rolled down an embankment in California, ending up in the hospital with broken legs. We watched the 1991 movie Silence of The Lambs.
Wednesday, February 24, 2021
We woke to a warm day, with a slight possibility of rain. Our lunchtime walk lasted an hour, covering three miles through the paths that feed the local community meandering between the homes. It is scenic and very peaceful. I noticed that Floridians do not have number plates on the front of their vehicles. We continue our restful vacation.
This week we are staying in the lock-off portion of our timeshare, the smaller of the two units. We find the refrigerator tiny. Appreciate that Linda brought food from home to last us the week to avoid local shopping.
Thursday, February 25, 2021
We experienced a cool morning for an early walk—the promise of a hot day and hot days to follow. Our hour-plus morning walk took us through residential areas along Singer Island, with single and double-story homes that can be purchased from $600,000 to over $1 million. I read in the newspapers that Republicans in Wisconsin Congress do not wear masks, emulating Republicans in the US Congress. Walking the local streets, I find fewer than half the locals wear masks.
The 30-minute stroll in the afternoon took us through a different neighborhood, including a walk around the Sailfish Marina. Artists erect tables and structures to sell their wares. Most popular items included rings, bracelets, necklaces, and amusing bar signs. What is scary watching local news is the high number of COVID cases and deaths, but with a disregard for face coverings and reluctance to adhere to social distancing, this is not surprising.
We watched a PBS movie about black churches in America and the history of how white Christians justified their treatment of slaves on biblical grounds. A situation where whites believe they must dominate other races, and men must control women. It is a situation that we experienced growing up in apartheid South Africa. Does it never end?
Friday, February 26, 2021
Today is the big move. We received a call last night to say that we will be staying in the same building but moving to a higher floor into the bigger room, at our request. We are packed early morning, and I called the front desk to alert them that we are ready to relocate. The rule at the timeshare is to vacate the room by 10:00 am, and check-in is at 4:00 pm. They need the time in between to clean the rooms. They agreed to call me on my cell phone when I could relocate.
Wow, how do you define happiness? Our new accommodation is magnificent. I know that we will have a fun week in this big unit. Acres of space, and what a pleasure after our small room during the past week. That plus the fact that we are getting laundry done and having a meal at OnTheRocks next to the pool. We decided to delay eating until late afternoon. I have not had a hamburger in years. We ordered one for dinner from OnTheRocks restaurant. It was delicious. Eating outside at the restaurant at the timeshare, we were served by Mustafa. I asked how long he had been in the US, and he told us that he came here from Egypt ten years ago at the time of the Egyptian Revolution in 2011. Another African, from opposite ends of the continent.
We found the faucet in the bathroom was dripping and had maintenance replace the washer. Growing up in South Africa where water is scarce, I have an aversion to wasting water. We are so enamored with the lounge suite in this unit that we may replace our furniture at home. Talk about comfort and quality.
Sadly, I noticed one black family enjoying all that the timeshare has to offer. My reason for saying “sadly” is that the number of non-whites (Hispanics, Asians, and Blacks) at this resort is few and far between—an impact of racism in the U.S. However, there is no shortage of so-called “minority groups” working at the resort as cleaners, maintenance personnel, shop, and restaurant servers.
Saturday, February 27, 20201
Waking up in the large unit at our timeshare was a treat and questioning why we had not availed ourselves of the pleasure of this vacation spot every year. We bought the timeshare 21 years ago. The arrangement is that we can optionally occupy both the lock-off unit and the main unit. This is a feature not available at all Marriott timeshares. Over the many years, we reserved both the units for a week and would alternate inviting Robyn and then Sean and respective families to join us for the week. On those occasions, we would fly to West Palm Beach and rent a car. On the rare occasions that we used the lock-off in the first week, and the main unit in the second week, we drove to Florida, as we did on this occasion. We have not been to this location for five years as we traded this location for Hawaii, the Caribbean, southern California, and other exotic locations. You can read about our Hawaiian adventure with Robyn and family in December 2018 here. We booked to return to Hawaii in March 2022 with Sean and his family.
Many factors amaze me in this unit. The water pressure is quite unbelievable. One must learn to open any faucet carefully so as not to flood the sink or shower. Hot water is unlimited. Today we are going for an early morning walk. One alarming news item today is that COVID cases are on the rise again, after a few weeks of decline, proving that we are becoming more complaisant after a year of taking precautions.
Our one-hour walk going north again along Singer Island, we follow a path on the west side. In effect, we are walking on the side of the road facing oncoming traffic. If we encounter people coming south, we can step into the road if there is no oncoming traffic to maintain our social distancing. This early morning, a weekend day, we saw a significant increase in the number of walkers, speed walkers, people walking dogs, some pushing their dogs in strollers, joggers, and cyclists. We faced a cool breeze strong enough to blow Linda’s cap into the road. Living in the Milwaukee area, home of Harley Davidson, it disturbs me to hear motorcyclists pollute the airwaves with their raucous noise, bouncing off the high-rise buildings. Near the bridge where we begin the return journey, I saw 14 vehicles parked on the side of the road with a sign clearly stating, “No Parking.” I assume they stop there to get access to the water, some fishing off the bridge. Linda offered the opinion that the people wearing masks are mainly visitors. Locals are among those who follow a political philosophy that masks infringe on their freedom of expression. We brought six masks each, and Linda dutifully washes them after each use. The final observation is that many people were enjoying themselves at the park, most without face-coverings.
Each day at Noon and for the next three hours, we are entertained by a disk jockey. With our new unit facing south we have a clear view of the pool area and enjoy the loud entertainment. Later in the week, they lowered the decibels to a more acceptable level. I will say that the music choice is very modern and not what I might typically listen to on the radio in Wisconsin. Some music choices are golden oldies. By this time, we are at the high of the day in terms of temperature. Today we are at 81 F (27 C).
Sitting on our balcony with a drink and snacks after another walk on the beach is the definition of relaxing. It is wonderful to hear young children frolicking around the pool and giggling with excitement. What a beautiful and restful day.
Sunday, February 28, 2021
My last haircut was on September 27, 2020. With the ever-present danger of a COVID-19 infection, I elected to stay away from services such as having a haircut. On Friday, November 13, 2020, with Sean’s wedding, I debated a cut but took a pass on the idea. In my entire life, I have never had my hair so exceptionally long. A few weeks ago, I cut my bangs because I hate the hair in my eyes. When we get back home, I plan to visit Kim and have her trim my locks back to something akin to normal. Linda too has her story. While working, Linda would visit her salon on a four-weekly cycle. Once retired, she initially changed to a five-week visit and to save money to six weeks. Linda was scheduled to have a cut on a Monday in early December 2020 but canceled at the last moment and has not returned since. That week the salon sent out an email to say the three stylists contracted COVID and requested patrons to get tested for the virus. Today we woke to another pleasant day on Singer Island.
Today is the ninth day at our timeshare. During that time, I have driven my car once to get a car wash to clean off the snow and salt, protecting the underbody and paintwork. However, that may change tomorrow as we need to purchase food items for the week. We enjoyed 75-minutes walking on a warm day with a slight breeze covering a little over 4 miles (6.5 km).
To make reservations at Marriott Ocean Pointe requires planning a year in advance. In our case, we first book the lock-off, then a week later, the main unit. You have the choice of beginning your stay on a Thursday, Friday, or Saturday. If you are privileged to own two or more weeks, you can make a reservation 13-months in advance. Consider the logistics of managing a large complex like this. This week I saw an 18-wheeler truck from Orlando delivering clean laundry. After each week’s stay, all the towels, sheets, duvet covers, and wash clothes must be cleaned and replaced with freshly laundered items. Naturally, I did not appreciate that this was not cleaned on-site, and seeing a very large truck unloading numerous wheeled trolleys put this in perspective for me. Also, there are frequent deliveries from food vendors to replenish the restaurants and stores on-site.
While in the shop on the premises I heard an owner say that they own five weeks at this resort. We hold one week that optionally we can split into two weeks by staying in the lock-off week one and primary unit week two. Apart from the initial investment, we pay an annual maintenance fee and Florida state taxes. A few years ago, when a hurricane did substantial damage to the property, the maintenance fee was higher. At that time, the sea had risen so high that seawater swept over the boundary walls and brought a large amount of sea sand into the pools that needed to be drained and cleaned out. At the same time, many roof tiles got blown off and naturally had to be replaced.
Monday, March 1, 2021
A new day and a new month. Growing up in South Africa and living in Wisconsin, I had become accustomed to flies during hot weather in South Africa and mosquitoes in Wisconsin. During this short stay in Florida, we have experienced above-average temperatures, and it occurred to me that here we have an absence of flying insects. Today the high is 83 F (28 C). These are April temperatures. The average should be 78 F (25 C). Frankly, most visitors would retire to their unit and turn on the air conditioning. Our preference is to open all the doors and enjoy what nature has to offer. The windows in our timeshare unit are sealed. Our windows open back home in our condo and are fitted with screens to let the fresh air in and bugs out.
Waking to the sound of the waves rolling into shore is the perfect start to any day. On our one-hour walk north on Singer Island I saw a very disappointing incident. In the U.S., the law states that if there is an emergency vehicle in motion, traffic on both sides of the road must pull to the side to allow the emergency vehicle easy access. The rule does not apply to dual highways. A fire truck was traveling north, coming from behind us, with his lights lit up like a Christmas tree, but not using his siren because the traffic was relatively light. A vehicle coming towards us pulled to the side of the road, as required by law. A Mercedes sports car coming from behind pulled into the middle of the road and flew by the stopped vehicle. In Florida, vehicles do not have number plates on the front, so reporting this scofflaw is challenging. The action reflects the attitude of so many Americans who will not have their freedoms impacted by rules and regulations. It may be why so many locals wear their masks on their arms. Florida’s governor Ron DeSantis (a Republican and Trump sycophant) will not support COVID restrictions and preventions resulting in Florida recording 31,406 deaths to date. The state is home to many retired people who tend to be more susceptible to the virus.
Today we did our first, and possibly only, grocery shop at Publix, with Instacart pickup outside the store. Linda got at least one surprise. In placing an order for bananas, the app asks how many pounds do you want? Linda responded two. She only received two bananas. My biggest regret is that I was slow off the mark and forgot to tip the guy who assembled the order and brought it to our vehicle. I was born curious. Today, outside our timeshare, I saw a medical emergency vehicle, a fire engine, and a police car. That was followed a little later by an ambulance who took someone away on a stretcher from our building. And, naturally, I do not know the finer details. Linda speculated that this was another COVID case!
Tuesday, March 2, 2021
Watching a TV show last night, I believe that I qualify for a mullet. I have not had my hair cut since late September. After five months of growth, I decided as soon as we are back home, I will call Kim for a haircut and return to normal. On Monday, when we arrive, I will see a doctor about the ongoing pain in my wrist, then Linda gets her second Pfizer vaccination, and life returns to normal. A couple of weeks after Linda has her shot, we can safely visit our children and granddaughters.
Today Linda elected to make us bacon and egg, the first on this trip, and the smell is just so wonderful as it wafts through our unit. The taste was even better. Today was a special day out walking. I bumped into a South African! We walked to the Blue Heron Bridge but walked around under the bridge to see where people park before going to the beach area on the inlet. We saw two small yachts that had come to a heartbreaking end. One was partially submerged. A fisherman said that it had been lying like that for a few months. The other was stranded alongside the walkway with stickers saying that it had been abandoned.
While walking back, planning to walk over the bridge, I saw a couple in the parking area getting out of a Mini Clubman. Impressed with the vehicle, I said that we drove a Mini many years ago. The guy responds with “South African.” Turns out he was born in Durban, and recently returned from a visit with his wife to Kruger National Park, home to the very large game preserve. I said a few words in Afrikaans but said he could not communicate. Coming from English-speaking Durban, that was no surprise. He may have left when he was young, but he still had his South African accent. With COVID still prevalent, I asked how they managed to gain access to the country. He said he works on ships and his visa allows him access. He added that they live in Boca Raton. Try pronouncing that city name! On the local TV stations, they pronounce it “Boca row tone.” Boca Raton is a 45-minute drive from the timeshare. On this outing, and seeing the sights under the bridge, we observed five homeless people—what a pitiful existence.
Linda bought a bag of oranges from Publix. We received Florida grown variety. It is easy to understand why these oranges are the preferred source of Florida Orange Juice, sweet, juicy, and tasty. We spend time at the timeshare reading. You may legitimately question why we do not stay at our condo and read. The big difference is that in Florida we can sit in our shorts and t-shirts in the sun. There is no way we can do that in Wisconsin during the winter months.
Wednesday, March 3, 2021
I consider myself well organized and systematic. I take medications and use two pill dispensers marked Sunday through Saturday. Each week my ritual is to load the appropriate medications using a spreadsheet to guide me with what I take morning or evening. At home, as a creature of habit, I never forget to take my pills. However, on vacation, that is another story. I keep finding the following day that I forgot to take my medication.
On our walk north on Singer Island, there is a boathouse anchored on the inlet. Attached to a post nearby is a sign that looked intriguing. After a search, I found the following. “Few people have fought their case to the U.S. Supreme Court and won. Fane Lozman did it twice. The Florida city that he has battled since 2006 is going to pay him thousands of dollars in legal fees. Riviera Beach City Council voted Wednesday (February 24, 2021) to approve an $875,000 settlement with Lozman, who began his legal odyssey with a fight over the seizure of his floating home and then claimed a First Amendment violation when he was arrested at a council meeting.” To read the complete account, go here:
One more day, we wake to beautiful weather. Watching the weather forecast last night, it appears that we will be leaving in time as rain will show up this weekend, beginning Friday as we head out the door for the start of our return journey. We enjoyed a 90-minute walk around the neighboring homes today in windy conditions, but it is always great to get out and enjoy the scenery. I remain amazed by the number of expensive vehicles in this community.
The day ended, watching the 1990 movie The Hunt for Red October.
Thursday, March 4, 2021
Today is an interesting day. The conspiracy group QAnon promised to overthrow Joe Biden as president and install Donald Trump. The concern is so great that 5,000 military personnel are assembled at the Capitol in Washington, DC. The House of Representatives sent everyone home yesterday to avoid another January 6, Insurrection from right-wing extremists. And today is my birthday. I have lost count of the number of text messages, Facebook entries, emails, and phone calls received. It is great to be recognized. The first treat I received today was another fantastic bacon and egg breakfast that Linda prepared for us.
We woke to another perfect day and will celebrate our last day in Florida by going for a long walk. We will leave for our journey home tomorrow morning, planning to stay over in Atlanta, Georgia, then Saturday to Lafayette, Indiana, and finally home on Sunday. We decided to add an extra night in a hotel so as not to endure another 13-hour drive in a single leg. On our 6-mile (10 km) return, walk north to the top of Singer Island for the last time today; we walked into a cool breeze, with the wind off the water but refreshing on the return trip. I am always fascinated by the impatience of motorists. Linda and I decided to cross the road at a pedestrian crossing. With the light in our favor, we walked, only to nearly get run over by a car. The rule in the US is that you can turn right on red if there is no traffic coming your way. I guess the law says that it is acceptable to turn on red and forget to look out for pedestrians. My greatest fear being on the road, especially on our daily walks, is that motorists are distracted by illegally using their smartphones while driving.
On our walk today, Linda made an interesting comment. First, understand my situation. In all my life, my hair has never been so long as it is currently. My last cut was five months ago, in early October 2020. My only motivation for avoiding a cut was not getting exposed to an additional source where I may get infected with COVID. Linda said that she is amazed at the number of older men, boasting abnormally long hair, and I assume for the same reason that I have avoided a cut. For the record, Linda’s hair is longer than she has worn it in decades. Our next task today is to start packing for an early departure tomorrow. All in all, this has been a rewarding two weeks, and great to have a change of scenery and a change of pace. That said, we will be happy to be home in familiar surroundings and will soon be able to visit our children and granddaughters.
As I reflect on this trip, I think about the time before we traveled. With the prevalence of the COVID-19 virus throughout America, and many states, like Florida, where they do not take the pandemic seriously, we had many debates to decide if it was wise to travel. Add to the concern we needed to stay over in Atlanta. All facilities were Marriott properties. Marriott had very reassuring videos on their website affirming to patrons the cleanliness standards that they followed to keep all visitors safe. I can certainly vouch for the accuracy of their message. It was great to enjoy a change of scenery, even if we did not do what we have done in the past by eating at local restaurants. We elected to be cautious, bring food with us, and only grocery shop once to supplement ingredients, fruit, and vegetables to eat within our timeshare unit. It was a positive experience for us. I am delighted we made this trip. Next year we return to Hawaii.
As we prepared to leave Florida, an interesting story broke concerning the Republican governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis. Most Floridians aged 65 and older struggled to receive their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. However, all residents in the ultra-wealthy enclave of Ocean Reef Club, in Key Largo who are major financial contributors to Republicans, including DeSantis, received both their Pfizer vaccinations, well ahead of other Floridians. They received their shots in early January 2021. By hand-selecting the communities, DeSantis allows residents to bypass state and local vaccine registration systems and go directly through their community organizations. The detailed story can be found here:
Friday, March 5, 2021
About 30 years ago, my parents visited us while we were living in Brookfield, Wisconsin. We all traveled to Disney in Florida, New York City, and back home, making numerous stops along the way. My dad commented that he found it fascinating that he saw trees on the entire journey. It was not his experience in South Africa.
We left the timeshare by 8:00 am, heading for Atlanta for our first night. The planned duration for this trip was 9 hours 15 minutes. And yes, we saw trees along the tree-lined Florida Turnpike and all the way home. We indulged by stopping along the road to purchase a bag of Florida oranges. Weather-wise we started off slightly cool with clear skies, and the further south we drove, the warmer it got. To repeat a comment I made in a blog about our drive to Minocqua, Wisconsin. I set the vehicle cruise control to 70 mph (115 kph), the speed limit on the turnpike. I drive in the slow lane, only moving over to pass 18-wheelers. What fascinates me is seeing motorists driving at 100 mph (160 kph) unafraid of getting a speeding fine. In one instance, I saw a gaggle of five cars, one behind the other, all speeding at 100/160 in unison
On our trip to the timeshare, I did all the driving. Returning home, Linda is sharing the load. We were enjoying significantly better weather than our journey south a fortnight ago.
We had a unique experience at the Florida Turnpike when we stopped to pay the toll. A motorist in front of us wanted to pay by credit card. They only take cash, as we discovered on the journey two weeks ago. The motorist leaned over to his wife to get money; she could not help, so he hopped out of the car and started rummaging through packages in his trunk. I had already taken out a $20 bill, honked my horn at the guy, and showed him my money, motioning for him to come and take the cash. He paid the toll and ran back to me with the change. To my knowledge, this is the first time that I “paid it forward.”
Just saw a billboard on the side of the road advertising a vasectomy. Would that inspire anyone to stop and get it done now?
About 70 miles (110 km) outside Atlanta, we hit a traffic jam that resulted in us traveling bumper to bumper at a snail’s pace. Sometimes we were on a three-lane highway; at other times, a seven-lane highway, all congested. The reality is that we did not see any accidents or construction work; this is just daily life in the Atlanta region. The net result was that we arrived at our hotel 75 minutes late. Picture fighting this traffic daily. The only other time I encountered traffic, this challenging was driving on the 401 In Los Angeles, California, supposedly even busier than the I-75 we traveled today. The good news is the hotel is on the north side of Atlanta, so we should not encounter this challenge on a Saturday morning for our onward journey to Fayetteville, Indiana. Here too, we appreciate driving an automatic vehicle. Imagine the challenge with a manual or stick shift car.
Saturday, March 6, 2021
When we woke in Singer Island, Florida, I drove wearing shorts and a short-sleeve shirt yesterday morning. When we arrived in Atlanta, I was freezing as I got out of the car. I grabbed my warm coat that we bought in Quebec City, Canada, a few years ago. The drive to Lafayette, Indiana, was significantly more enjoyable with much better weather. We had sunshine the entire way, somewhat cool in most places, and arrived safely in the afternoon. The Marriott Courtyard Hotel where we stayed was fully occupied. One team member said that for months they were running at thirty percent capacity. In Indiana, they have a “Tractor Fair” and the tractor drivers booked out the hotel. Also, they were selling toys for children, so we found congestion in the parking area and hotel.
On the trip to Florida, we drove for two full days. For this return trip, we elected to go over three days. Tomorrow morning, we will only have a three-and-a-half-hour drive to get home. This has turned out to be an expensive trip. With the need to keep wearing a mask to enter any premises, I removed my mask and lost one hearing aid. Next week I will need a retest and wait for a new pair.
We traversed many states on this trip: Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, and Florida. Without any doubt, the Interstate Roads in the most deplorable condition were those in Tennessee. When we crossed the State Line from Tennessee to Kentucky, it was like day and night. From rough surfaces causing a rumble through our car and pothole-infused roads to smooth sailing in Kentucky. Bill Lee is the Republican Governor of Tennessee, Andy Beshear, a Democrat, is Governor of Kentucky. You can reach your conclusion on what is rated as necessary in each state.
Driving close to Indianapolis, Indiana, I saw turnoffs to Brownsburg and Whitestown, two cities 13 miles apart. I was puzzled by the apparent racist tone of these names.
This evening we had dinner in our room, primarily due to a crowded hotel, and after watching some TV and reading, we had an early evening getting ready for the last stretch home in the morning.
Sunday, March 7, 2021
One more night in a hotel, last night. We were up at 6:00 am Eastern Time, equivalent to 5:00 am Central Time, at home. With only a three-and-a-half-hour drive, we will have a productive day to unpack and get ready for the new week.
A few interesting observations from the drive. By the time we got home, we had clocked precisely 1,398.1 miles (2,250.0 km) for the one-way trip from Singer Island to our home. When we drove south, we saw snow-covered fields to Chattanooga, Tennessee. On the home-bound drive, 19 days later, the first time we saw any measurable snow was in Wisconsin. The weather forecast suggests a big warmup in the coming week, so that too will melt.
One shock awaited us this morning. Our vehicle was parked outside and covered in a layer of ice. When we ate our breakfast, it took a while to warm the car for the drive home.
During the time I ran my business, I drove to the Chicagoland area almost every week for many years. Sufficient to say I know these roads well. However, since retirement, and especially in the past year with COVID keeping us home, I have not driven around Chicago for several years. When I traveled here, I needed to be cautious with all the road works taking place. With today’s drive, I was more than amazed and impressed to see the finished product. The interstates are a pleasure to drive. Most roads have more lanes. It is fair to say that to drive these roads requires paying a toll. I can attest that the money has been invested wisely. Since we were going on a Sunday morning, I did not encounter much traffic, making the journey one of pure joy. This highlighted the contrast experienced on the Interstates in Tennessee. Then too, Illinois has a Democratic governor J. B. Pritzker.
In all sincerity, the trip and visit to Marriott Ocean Pointe was a delightful change of scenery, wonderful to enjoy warm weather, participate in long walks, and stay at a magnificent facility. That said, it was great to be home and to be able to cover the entire journey without incident. In March 2022, we will enjoy Marriott Ko Olina Beach Club, situated in Oahu, Hawaii.