Well, we spent a week in Florida. Whether that was a good idea or not, I suppose we’ll figure out in the next 10-14 days. But it was definitely fun to get away from home for a bit.
There were enough mixed feelings hanging over this trip thanks to Covid-19. Then some other shit happened.
We were scheduled to leave early Saturday, July 25. Our flight was at 7:30 so my alarm was set for 4:45. We were pretty much packed and ready, just needed to throw those final few things into the bags, eat, do some final pool prep, and go.
And then our power went out at 3:30. I woke as soon as it went out, which caused a moment of panic that was enough to keep me from going back to sleep. Instead I thought of how I would do all those last minute tasks in darkness, making mental lists to ensure nothing was overlooked or left behind.
I got out of bed at 4:30, found candles and flashlights, and started working. All that mental activity was worth it as we made it out of the house without forgetting anything important.
Naturally the power came back on moments before we left. The girls were in the car and everything. S and I made a quick lap back through the house to make sure lights were off, nothing was lying on the floor we needed, the pool pump had restarted, etc., and then took off for the airport.
The airports were strange. IND had a few shops open but most were totally shut down. We flew through O’Hare on the way to Florida and everything there seemed to be shut down other than the newsstands. We saw a family with a McDonald’s bag but had walked by three McDonald’s that were closed between our gates.
The flights were fine. We flew American, which is now selling every seat, and all four of our flights were almost completely full. I had a lady next to me from Indy to Chicago who tried to not wear her mask. When the staff began circulating to check that folks had their masks on, she put it back on and left it on for the remainder of the flight. Thirty minute flights are kind of cool, by the way. We took off at 7:30, landed at 7:08. Marvin Barnes would not have approved.
With the exception of our flight from Chicago to Ft. Myers, American offered no snacks or beverages to passengers. On that one flight they handed you a small bag as you boarded that contained a tiny water bottle, package of cookies, and a hand wipe. We were prepared, though, and had plenty of snacks in our bags.
We flew home through Charlotte and the food court there was totally open. I’m a little worried if we managed to avoid the coronavirus during a week on Captiva, we may all have been infected while eating our Chick-Fil-A, because the food court was crazy busy.
This trip replaced our cancelled trip to Hawaii, which was to have taken place the same week. So we breathed sighs of relief when we saw Hurricane Douglas was likely to be the first hurricane to make a direct hit on the islands since the early 1990s. For some time it looked like not only Kauai but the exact location we were staying would be where the storm made landfall. Fortunately for Hawaii, the storm veered just offshore. Still, it would have sucked to sit out a hurricane warning in our hotel.
As if to punish us for thinking we were lucky to miss Douglas, Mother Nature whipped up Hurricane Isaias last weekend. The early forecast was for it to head straight for Captiva and show up right about the time we left this past Saturday. Our travel companions were supposed to stay until Monday, but to be safe they changed plans and left first thing Saturday. Naturally Isaias slowed down and changed track, and as I type this Sunday night it will meander up the eastern coast of Florida, sparing Captiva.
This was our third trip to Captiva. It was definitely less busy than our other trips, but we don’t know if the amount of people on the island was normal for the last week of July.
Our house was exactly two minutes from the beach, which was great. We spent most of our mornings and early afternoons on the beach until it got too hot, and then retired to our pool for the afternoon. The house listing claimed we had the largest private pool on the island. Not sure if that was true, but all nine of us could get in. It was a saltwater pool, too, which was a little different.
The only bummer about the house was that we lost both cable and internet access for nearly three days. Add in our Verizon signal being very weak, and it was a little frustrating, especially for the five teens in the house. We had a strong wifi signal and the cable guide loaded, but there was no internet connectivity and no video or audio on the TVs. Two visits from the rental agency repair guys left them unsure of what was going on.
After some troubleshooting, we theorized that the owners of the home, who have it up for sale, may have forgotten to pay their Comcast bill. Don’t know if they didn’t expect to still own the home at the end of July, thought it wouldn’t be rented this week, or something else. But when we suggested an unpaid bill as a possibility to the rental agency, service suddenly came back on a couple hours later.
We were joined at the house by our old neighbors. That gave our girls their two friends to hang out with. M and C shared rooms with their buddies while L got her own room. One day the girls met a group of three boys, who we think were about M’s age. I wasn’t there when the conversation occurred, but apparently the boys first asked C and her bud how old they were. They said 14 and pointed out how they just finished seventh grade. The moms heard this and laughed and laughed.
The other dad and I shot dirty looks at the boys every time we saw them. I was not prepared for my girls to be hanging around boys on the beach in my eyesight. The funny thing was L thought the boys were cool and was as disappointed as the older girls when they didn’t show up one day.
As for the weather on Captiva, it was mostly great. We had a couple very hot days. A couple that were pleasant thanks to the winds. The day we arrived there was a massive downpour just after we got to our house. The next six days we heard loud rumbles of thunder every afternoon, but the storms either stayed over on the mainland, or skirted us out to sea. One day we sat on the beach and watched a massive lightning storm that was 15 miles off shore, safely sipping Corona Lights.
On Friday night we were just paying for our meal at an outside table when a big old downpour rolled in. The ladies and girls all scurried inside while the dads leaned under our table’s umbrella and attempted to scratch our signatures onto our credit card slips. The bummer to that was L left the shark tooth ring she was very excited about at the table as we fled. She didn’t realize it until bedtime that night, which was too late to go reclaim it. She was a little sad about it.
We had some wildlife fun. There were lots of beautiful, bright green lizards in our backyards. Some were tiny, some mid-sized, and we had a couple big boys that were over four feet long. I don’t remember them being this bright from our previous trips. Maybe it’s the season.
We saw lots of beautiful birds at the beach.
One night, as I grilled burgers, I noticed some movement over by the pool. Then a head popped out of the mulch and a four-plus foot yellow rat snake began working its way across the pool deck, looking for some dinner of its own. C used the pool net to rescue a tiny black racer snake from the pool one day.
There were lots of big, fat rabbits scampering about.
And on Thursday we were treated to a dolphin show, as dozens of them hunted for their lunch within site of the beach. A few came in close, one nearly touching my buddy while he floated in an inner tube.
On Friday we rented wave runners to take all the kids out. I had S and L with me. We managed not to tip it over. C was riding with her friend and the other dad, and they tipped theirs over while making a tight turn. Between never having driven a wave runner before, and L being nervous, I wasn’t nearly as aggressive as the other drivers were. It was a lot of fun, though.
It wasn’t Hawaii, but it wasn’t bad.
Did we feel safe? That’s a great question. We ate out four times. Twice we sat outside. Twice we were inside. One restaurant did it’s best to spread people out, limit how many folks were inside, and forced people to wear masks unless they were seated. The other, I’ll be honest, I was not super comfortable at. It is a tiny spot, and every table was filled even though we arrived early. I decided to drink extra to try to ease my mind.
Folks mostly kept to themselves at the beach. People would carve out their space and the next group to come along would set up 10-15-20 feet away.
Like so many things right now, I don’t know what the right set of actions should have been. Was it irresponsible to travel in the midst of a pandemic, especially going to a state that has not handled the coronavirus very well? Was it dangerous to eat inside? Was spending eight hours on planes and 5-6 hours in airports setting our family up to be infected?
Or as healthy people who have been mostly responsible for the past five months, who kept our masks on, who wash our hands often, did all that earn us the leeway to travel?
I don’t know what the right answer is. I tried hard this past week not to overthink things, to not feel bad about doing something fun when so many people are facing economic hardships. To not feel like a horrible person for leaving our home when the smart thing to do would have been to keep our asses at home until next summer.
I turned off all of my news alerts while we were gone. I wanted to check out, relax, and take a break from all the things that have been wearing me down mentally for five months. I would check Twitter a few times a day, and the news headlines in the morning and evening. We paid close attention to news from back in Indy about sports and schools.
In a 24-hour period, the state high school athletics association declared that fall sports were on, pending approval from local authorities. Moments later the Marion County health department put all fall high school contact sports in Indy on hold until October 1. There was an outcry from school officials, a meeting was set up between superintendents/principals and the health department, after which fall sports got a reprieve for two-to-three weeks until the health department can make a better assessment of what is happening with Covid cases in Indy.
On Friday the health department also said all high schools in the county would need to start the year at 50% capacity. I’m assuming this meant a hybrid system like many suburban districts have gone to where kids are in school one day, learn from home the next. Cathedral quickly sent out a message saying that, based on the number of buildings and classrooms on campus, they could have twice as many kids on campus as are currently enrolled. Thus they felt they hit the 50% mark and would apply for a waiver.
We shall see.
As with our trip, I don’t know what the right answer is. I don’t envy those who have to make the decisions. I totally understand families who have decided to keep their kids at home for the time being. I don’t think schools will be terribly safe environments from a Covid standpoint.
But I also know virtual learning, even if improved after months of planning, is a poor substitute for being in the classroom. I know our kids can’t handle being cooped up at home for another six-plus months. While I will be here to monitor our kids, a lot of other children will be left at home without adult supervision, which can only lead to bad things.
But are those concerns worse than spreading Covid?
I don’t fucking know.
As we dropped our rental car off Saturday morning, M asked everyone in the car what we thought our next big vacation would be. All three girls threw out ideas while S and I remained quiet. When M pressed us, we both said we had no idea if and when it would be safe to travel again. Regardless of whether we should have been traveling in July 2020, we know it is going to be quite some time before we can think about taking a big trip again.