Amelia Island, Florida February 2016

Recently I traveled to Amelia Island, Florida to participate in an author’s book festival.  It took two planes and plenty of books in my luggage to get there.

I left Central Wisconsin Airport after noon.  It’s the nearest airport to where I live in the North woods that would allow me to travel with the least amount of airplanes/airports.  Taking a taxi to the airport wasn’t too bad, kind of expensive, but I was anxious to go and get there and asked the driver to hurry…I’m sure it was annoying to hear that.  I’d forgotten that they charge for luggage and as I had two bags, those charges were compounded.  Had I just the one bag and if it could have fit in the overhead compartment, no extra charge.  I also had my computer satchel over my shoulders containing not only my computer, but my tape recorder, all the cords to my electronic devices, extra batteries, and my paperwork for the trip…my version of a briefcase but cooler and hipper, at least, in my mind.

I try to be pleasant to everyone I meet in my travels; after all, if they are grumpy, it’s not my fault.  If I’m grumpy, it’s not their fault.  A smile to someone doesn’t cost you anything, and who knows, it may brighten their day.  The cabby was kind of surly, so I let that one go.  The ticket counter person was really pleasant.  She also didn’t weigh my bags, for which, I was grateful.  The larger suitcase was full of books and, if you didn’t already know, books are HEAVY!

The wait at CWA (Central Wisconsin IMG_0201Airport) was fairly long and boring.  I’m a people watcher, but I do it surreptitiously as to not make people uncomfortable.  Mostly, it was businessmen traveling to Chicago and beyond.  Occasionally I saw a mom with kids, or some random traveler such as myself.  I got a lot of curious glances, but that could be, because I was wearing my red fedora.  What can I say, it doesn’t crush well in the suitcases so it’s best to wear it…besides, I like it!

Unfortunately, since CWA is a small airport, they give us small airplanes.  There were probably only fifty people on the plane, one seat on one side, two on the other.  It often feels like a kiddy ride of some sort the way they pack us in there.  I took a single seat, because I wanted to be alone and look out the window.  I found it interesting that instead of heading south directly to Chicago, they headed east towards Lake Michigan.  Seeing the ice floes and the shelf in the lake where it cuts off was fascinating.  The ride, er, flight itself doesn’t take that long and flying into Chicago is always an adventure.  I swear, they taxied for nearly a half an hour to get to the terminal once we were on the ground.

IMG_20141010_154451Once in Chicago, I was slow to exit the plane since I had a nearly four hour layover.  I didn’t mind as I can write ANYwhere and frequently do!  The problem with Chicago is that they always seem to schedule my other flights across a few football fields that I have to walk to get to them…fortunately I had nearly four hours to get there.  That’s when I realized how heavy my satchel really was and remembered that I had shoulder surgery a couple of years ago and the other shoulder had frozen up the following year.  Yes, we learn our bodies limitations at times like these.  The really annoying part is when there aren’t moving sidewalks in these vast airports and you do have to walk the entire length…oh well, I needed to get into shape…round is a shape though right?  BTW, ALWAYS and I do mean ALWAYS wear comfortable shoes for traveling, it’s a must!

I got to the terminal area of where my flight would be taking off and found a restaurant to feed myself before sitting down and working on a book.  It was hard to occasionally look up from working on a novel from the 1600’s in China back to 2016 Chicago, what a surreal and dizzying experience, no lie!  Finally, our plane was ready to take off and we packed ourselves inside, again like sardines, and fortunately, a little bigger than the last plane, two seats on one side, and three on the other…who thinks up these configurations?  Obviously not someone who is OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) and realizes that it SHOULD be even numbers on BOTH sides of the aisle?

It took a bit longer to fly into Jacksonville, the nearest airport to Amelia Island. I’d never been to either city and was looking forward to the adventure.  Unfortunately, between the one hour time zone difference, the length of travel, etc…it was pretty late at night.  As a side note here, I do not recommend renting an unfamiliar car, in an unfamiliar city, driving to an unfamiliar destination, on unfamiliar roads.  Still, the lights of Jacksonville were beautiful as we flew in.

I had rented a car before I came down but now I had to carry both my bags, one with books, and my computer satchel and despite the porters offering to help, I’m independent that way…my mistake.  Fortunately the rental place was only yards away from where I picked up my bags, and then I only had to go across the access roads to the parking garage, through the miles of parking garage, to find the car they assigned me…took me forever with all that baggage and my fatigue.  It also took me at least five minutes to figure out how to adjust the seat, the previous person must have been MUCH shorter than my 5’6” frame.  My legs and knees were around my neck until I found the bar to adjust the seat (I thought at first it was automatic, no such luxury in this vehicle!).  I headed north on the highway towards Amelia Island, using my phone’s navigation system, which I didn’t trust, rarely used, and, for some reason, the voice part was not working.  Fortunately I only needed the interstate before turning off on the one highway I needed to go to the island.

I had just had the thought of, ‘don’t they have deer here in Florida’ when I saw two of them standing along the highway I was traveling.  They were just watching the cars go by, but I don’t know, maybe one was suicidal and the other was there to talk her out of it…I wasn’t taking chances and I slowed down…and waved, after all, I’m friendly like that.

I don’t know what I expected arriving on the island.  I did know from my computer search that I would have to cross the island to get to my hotel.  I’d gone along with the event coordinator’s recommendation and booked a room at the Amelia Island’s Hampton Inn and Suites.  To be on the safe side I joined the Hilton Honor’s Club, after all, I was traveling more this last year and those points add up for free nights and stays, and a friend I know does it too…so when in Rome (bahaha, see the travel humor there?).

IMG_20160219_121548My phone was useless in getting me to the hotel.  It told me I was there, in fact it startled me by beginning to talk, making me jump unnecessarily as I went through the picturesque downtown…since it hadn’t spoken thus far on the trip, that annoying female voice coming out of nowhere was alarming.  I went across rail road tracks, twice, only to be told I had arrived at my destination.  I saw no hotel, no blue and white colors that Hampton Inn is known for, and no signs.  I drove around, and around, on one way streets before heading back a bit, pulling over, and then calling the hotel for directions.  The gal was very nice about it but you could tell not too thrilled with the ‘tourist’ who was tired, calling her, and not too sure where she was.  She did stay on the line and I found myself in the parking lot of the hotel, with no parking I might add.  I parked under the overhang and checked in.  The gal obviously recognized me by my phone call, was a wee bit snooty, but checked me in fine.  She also gave me the low-down on parking, there was none.  I had to park across the street in a gravel and dirt lot and hope that my rental didn’t get broken into.  I made sure to take my computer satchel and smaller suitcase; I left the books/suitcase in the trunk.

IMG_20160217_230242The room was a delight, bigger than I thought, and as a bonus, it had a whirlpool in the room itself.  It was simply marvelous and I availed myself of this convenience many times over my stay, mostly because my muscles demanded it, but also because of the sheer luxury of it.  The room was clean and very nice, I have to say that I was pleased after my long trip to get there.  My only complaint the entire time in the room, the neighbors on the other side of my headboard, college students from the sound of it, were rather loud. I called down to the desk to ask about restaurants that may still be open at this late hour to be told that I could order pizza or avail myself of their little store.  Pizza did not sound good and I used their little store to get a chicken and gravy meal…forgot the silverware, and used my fingers, burning them…live and learn…btw, you can NOT use coffee stirrers as chopsticks…just an FYI, you are welcome.

The bed was wonderfully soft and huge (it was King sized) and I slept very well.

Watch for my next blog about Amelia Island and Fernandina Beach as I continue talking about this trip!

If you want something to read in the meantime, check out my website/books/stories at www.kannemeinel.com.

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