Sandy officially retired from the University of Idaho on the first of the year. She didn't waste any time enjoying her retirement either. She had a tropical trip planned for right after the holidays. We were going to Grand Cayman in mid January.
It was tough for me to go back to work after Christmas break. At least it was only for one week, and a slow week at that. One of my first days back I was talking to a vendor on the phone and of course, being a good salesman, he asked how my Christmas had been. I told him it was nice because the university was closed so I got two and a half weeks off. He said he was envious because he had only gotten a couple of days off. Then it got a little awkward later when we were setting up our followup call. I mentioned that it couldn't be the following week because I was on vacation then.
"Wait a minute. Didn't you say that you just got back from two weeks off? And you're going on vacation next week?"
"Yes. What's your point?" Ok, I didn't really say the last part, but I thought it. But I could see where he thought that it was a little unusual. What can I say. Working in academia is tough.
Well I did manage to make it through a whole week at work. Almost. We actually left on Friday of the week I was back. We had to get up at 5:20 am for an early flight to Chicago. This time we decided to drive our own car and park it at the airport instead of taking a taxi. That way we didn't need to leave our usual margin for the taxi driver to be a little late. Sandy doesn't like to get up any earlier than she has to. She is usually ready about five minutes later than the time she says that we need to leave. This trip was no exception. I had everything loaded and had pulled the car out and was waiting in the driveway when she hurried out. Just as she was almost to the car and I was about to close the garage door she stopped and turned back to the house. I rolled down the window and yelled "What's the problem?" She just pointed down at her feet. She was wearing her fluffy bedroom slippers. Ok. I had to agree. Not quite the same as flip flops when you are walking on the beach. It would have been really funny though if she hadn't noticed and had spent the whole week walking around Grand Cayman in her slippers.
I can't be too cocky though. As I was hurrying to get ready I forgot to throw my electric razor in my suitcase after shaving. So I had to buy a pack of disposable razors in Chicago.
Once we got going our travel was without incident. We couldn't get to Grand Cayman in one day so we were only going as far as Chicago. We stayed at the Airport Hilton, which is really easy because as the name implies, it's right at the airport. That evening Shannon and her boyfriend Jimmy picked us up and we had dinner at Longhorn Steakhouse. It was nice to see them again. And the food was good too. An enjoyable evening.
Shannon has started to try to convince Jimmy to move to Idaho so he had lots of questions for us about what it is like to live there. I tried to be helpful, selling him on going hiking in the mountains and going to Steelheads games. I drew the line though and wouldn't agree to try snowmobiling with him. I don't like motorized sports.
The night we went for dinner it was raining out with no snow on the ground. Not what I would have expected for Chicago in the middle of January. If it wasn't for Fox News, I might have thought the climate was changing and winters were warmer than they were when I was growing up in the midwest. But the forecast for Saturday night was cold and snow, so it was definitely time to leave and head for the tropics. Fortunately there were no problems with our flight the next day and we reached Grand Cayman late in the afternoon.
We have been to Grand Cayman three times before. Or maybe four. We actually spent most of the week trying to decide how many times it had been. By the end of the week I came down on the side of four times. So this was our fifth trip. Hey, memory is the second thing to go. At least we were sure that the last time we were here was with Tim, Mickey and Shannon to celebrate Tim's high school graduation. That was back in 2003 so it had been a while since we had been here. On our previous trips we had stayed on Seven Mile Beach and spent most of our time diving. This trip was going to be different. We didn't plan to do much diving - Sandy has pretty much retired from scuba. Yes, she's on a roll with retirements.
This time we were staying at the Shangri-La, a Bed and Breakfast in West Bay, a much quieter part of the island far from Seven Mile Beach,. But since we weren't right by the beach or its restaurants and stores, we needed a rental car. So picking it up was our first order of business when we arrived on the island. It wasn't a luxury sedan. In fact, it was so small that Sandy called it the clown car. That's kind of how we felt when we both piled into it. But the island isn't very big so it was adequate for us.
As I was checking out the rental car the guy got a call. Someone driving one of their cars had an accident. On Grand Cayman they drive on the left. That combined with the roundabouts makes driving tricky for Americans. Fortunately with our experience living in Britain and Singapore both Sandy and I were familiar with driving on the left. But it was a good reminder for us to be careful. We didn't have any problems driving but I will confess that for the first two days half the time I signaled a turn, I turned on the windshield wipers instead of the turn signal.
After checking in at our B&B we drove to a beach bar nearby in West Bay. We wanted someplace casual where we could get a light dinner and watch the sunset at the ocean. And watch the playoffs too. It was the first day of wild card weekend and they had the Kansas City - Pittsburgh game on the TV. Half way through the game the bartender switched to golf. I asked if he could switch back and he said he needed to watch to see how his fantasy team did. WTF? I was not happy. Who's the customer? The good news was that it saved me money on the tip.
Still, we had made it to the tropics. Rather than get upset, it was time to relax. We had a whole week ahead of us with nothing to do but take it easy and enjoy the warm weather and scenery.