One of my favorite things about life in the empty nest is the ease of travel. Gone are the years of packing for myself AND my two children. No more setting out clothes for the week or making long lists of instructions for grandparents in charge of looking after the kids while we were gone.
Another of my favorite things is the time I get to spend with friends.
Combine these two things and you have the recipe for a delightful long weekend. That is exactly what happened last weekend.
What March Means
March means a lot of things. It’s the beginning of spring. Things are blooming, days are getting longer and it’s getting warmer. People are getting “Spring Fever,” itching to get out and do something different, experience a change of scenery. That is especially true in this year of pandemic. This March marked a year since the world shut down due to COVID-19. March also means it’s time for March Madness; that three-week period of collegiate basketball tournaments.
My friend Trish and I share a disdain for basketball. The squeaking of shoes on a basketball court accompanied by the incessant buzzer causes a reaction much like hearing fingernails on a chalkboard (you just cringed, didn’t you)? To the contrary, our husbands LOVE college basketball and want to watch every single game.
A few years ago, we got the bright idea to go away for a long weekend during March Madness. It took a trip or two but we learned to plan our getaway on the first weekend of the tournament. That is the weekend when the most games are played. This year it was fifty-one games. Fifty-one.
We have to be careful when planning our trip, checking to see where the games will be played. We certainly do not want to be in the same town as a basketball tournament. We usually do not turn the television on the entire weekend and have been known to request different seating if a television showing the tournament is in our line of vision. (Did I mention, we loathe basketball?)
Before this year, we made six trips; Macon, Georgia for the Cherry Blossom Festival, Charleston, South Carolina, Asheville and Banner Elk, North Carolina, San Antonio and Fredericksburg, Texas to see the bluebonnets in the hill country, a Disney cruise and St. Simon’s Island, Georgia. We had big plans to go to New York City last year but you know what happened with that.
We weren’t sure if we would even be able to do anything this year, due to COVID. Luckily, we live in Florida, where things are starting to open up, so we made a plan. We wanted somewhere within driving distance as we weren’t quite ready for air travel. A wedding we had both been looking forward to in Seaside, Florida had been rescheduled and downsized, so we decided that would be the perfect destination.
A mutual friend, newly retired, enjoyed following our trips over the years. She looked forward to when she, also an empty-nest mom, could join us on our adventures. This was the year. It promised to be a fun weekend.
March Madness Getaway 2021
We left central Florida on a Thursday morning. Even though we weren’t leaving the state, we had a six-hour drive ahead of us. (Do you realize how many places you can get to in six hours if you live in the center of the U.S.? Or how many countries you can get to if you live in Europe?) It seemingly takes forever to travel the state of Florida, and we were starting from the middle.
We stopped for lunch in Tallahassee, our state’s capital. Our friend Janice’s family is from Tallahassee and we were delighted to visit the family farm, homesteaded almost two hundred years ago! Lunch with her cousin was an additional treat. Both Trish and Janice have children who graduated from Florida State University so I grudgingly went to the FSU store with them. My husband is a graduate of FSU’s rival, THE University of Florida.
We arrived in Seaside late in the afternoon and checked into an adorable cottage, our “home” for the next four days. Seaside is a planned beach community in the panhandle of Florida, established back in 1981. Brick streets radiate from the town center and are lined with pastel-colored houses enclosed by white-picket fences. It is simply charming.
The main goal for the weekend was to relax and enjoy our time away from the familiarity of home.
Our activities included shopping (masked and only a few customers at a time), eating delicious seafood, napping, and reading. One night, we played dominoes while watching the movie, The Truman Show, which was filmed in Seaside in 1998. I put a jigsaw puzzle together. Just hanging out in our cute cottage was our favorite thing to do.
We usually try to include something fun and different on our March Madness trips. This year was no different. We explored our creative side and made some art with pieces of broken glass at The Shard Shop. The next day, we went on a very cold Tuk Tuk tour of 30a. A cold front had come through and temperatures in the 50’s made it feel like a Florida sleigh ride as we bundled up in blankets. Back in town, we were amused by the teens in their short shorts and bikini tops trying to look cool and stay warm at the same time. We had already traded our flip-flops for socks and closed-toed shoes.
Relaxed, Rested and Rejuvenated
It was kind of sad getting up very early on Monday morning and leaving. We watched the morning sun begin to glow as we drove across the bridge taking us away from our little piece of paradise. It was a good time — a good time to avoid March Madness, to experience new surroundings and best of all, to spend time with friends.
We arrived home, full of memories and ready to get back into the swing of things. For my friend Trish, that means unpacking the boxes in the house she moved into two days before we left on our trip. For my friend Janice, a retired accountant, it means no stress of tax season this year. For me, new ideas for writing.
Oh, I almost forgot. We used the long drive home to plan next year’s March Madness trip. Stay tuned.