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Florida - April 2022 - Travel Day

Round, Round Get Around, I Get Around, Yeah

Here we go again, off on our travels again. On yet another holiday of a lifetime. We certainly do get around. And for the first time in a while no last-minute nerves before setting off although I was still wishing that Barry, Ellie and Neil were coming with us. I did try to convince them that they could ‘work from home’ in the villa, but they were too conscientious to even contemplate that.

Probably the reason for the lack of pre travelling worries was that I genuinely had three other travelling issues to be worried about alongside sorting out all the necessary paperwork that is required at the moment.

The first was would I have enough petrol to get us to Heathrow and back. The absolute nutters who have been barricading themselves to the refinery and therefore caused the shortage should all just be manhandled of the way and shoved in detention centres. They have lost all sympathy from the general public. Some of them seem to be just serial protestors.Whoever plans their campaigns needs to think again. Preventing the emergency services doing their job or the man on the street being able to get to work is just unacceptable. My issue of getting to Heathrow is secondary to their needs but nevertheless was a concern to me. I had managed to fill up midweek and we had consciously not been using that car since then to ensure it was near to full as possible.

The second was ‘would we both pass our supervised Antigen tests’ and so be given our fit to fly certificates? This was settled the day before we set off when to our relief, we both tested negative on our videocall with the friendly appointed nurse in South Africa. All very simple and straightforward and half the price of having it done by someone in person. As was the online check-in which I had to do at my seat in Carrow Road before the Burnley match.

The final issue were the delays that Heathrow had been suffering in the last week with severe staff shortages. There were reports of it taking up to 3 hours to get through the Security channel which was worrying. We had arranged in advance to meet out man ‘Sunny’ at the terminal who would park our car for us some 2 ¾ hours before departure as that was the earliest, he could make it and normally that would easily be sufficient time. However, we couldn’t afford to be any later and so we decided to set out earlier to ensure that and thought we would wait for him at a MacDonald’s next to the airport. As it turned out he messaged us at 6.30am as we were getting ready asking if he could now bring forward the meeting time. We were happy to do so and agreed to meet at his house which was just 5 minutes from T3 at 9.30am.

We were on the road at 6.45am. The traffic got busier as we got closer to the M25 but we pulled up as predicted at Sunny’s house at 9.25am. After using the toilet in his house, he then drove us in our car to T3 and dropped us off. All very easy so far.

As we quite early we were unsure if we could do our baggage drop but there was a very small queue and they allowed us to do so. We quickly made our way upstairs to the Security area and surprisingly we were through there is under 10 minutes. Well, I should say I was through there in under 10 minutes. Karen took another 15 minutes as per usual her well rammed rucksack was singled out for a thorough inspection. I swear it is because it is so full that the detector machines cannot see what is in there. Everything had to be removed and lots swabs taken to check for drugs. Eventually she was allowed to repack and re-join me. I just rolled my eyes and shook my head as she approached.

We went and bought meal deals from Boots for our breakfast which we sat and ate in the general seating area. The airport was busy although the crowds ebbed and flowed. Karen got herself a coffee before we made our way to the gate area.

After initial announcing that boarding would be group number, BA suddenly just announced that instead everyone could just board at the same time. It was a melee but we managed to jump ahead of the crowd and quickly took our seats.

This time we were in Premium Economy as the tickets had been booked fully using air miles. We were pleased that we had also been given bulkhead seats with so much legroom that our legs could not stretch to touch the bulkhead itself.

There was a slight delay before take-off and so 20 minutes later than scheduled we finally took off. After settling in with a couple of G&T’s we both chose to watch ‘House of Gucci’ which was terrific. Far better than the meal we were served. All I managed was the bread roll and even that didn’t seem that fresh. I was pleased for the other rolls instead that Karen had thoughtfully made for me in anticipation of this happening. Just don’t get me started on airline food. Why do they insist of preparing hot meals? When has anyone (apart from Barry) ever looked forward to them. Why not offer something simple like a platter of cheese and crackers instead?

Anyhow we both then decided for the remaining part of the flight to start watching Series 3 of Succession which was the point we had got to at home. The plan would have worked out well if Karen had watched episode 1 & 2 like me rather than 1 & 3. She said afterwards she thought the second episode seemed disjointed to the first. Honestly though– and you trust her with the education of your children.

Disembarkation was by row number and being row 20 we were soon off. We were the only ones using Global Entry and were through immigration within a couple of minutes.

My bag was one of the first off on the carousel. Karen’s wasn’t. Being the easy-going person she is, she was nowhere near in hyper panic mode when hers took another 22 minutes to eventually appear. I thought I was being helpful when I reminded her that she did have several days worth clothes in her hand luggage (which had caused the Security incident), but apparently not.

We then made our way to the Avis desk. It seems as we did so, we were spotted by the Napier’s who spookily were booked to return from their holiday on the same plane we had just flown in on. They saw us, but we didn’t see them through the glass. My eyes though were on the prize of getting in the car and on the road asap.

Avis had a longish queue but it moved quite quickly and we were given the paperwork to collect it. However, I had also booked a Visitor Toll Pass and so I had to leave Karen to collect that as ‘sods law’ meant that the collection point was in the other terminal. It took me 10 minutes to do so.

We finally then made our way to the garage going down and up some unnecessary escalators before finding our allocated car was an Outlander. Initially it seemed fine.

There was however a huge queue to exit the parking garage. There was almost a road rage incident when some guy who obviously must have been far more important than me decided I should let him jump into the queue ahead of me. I was quite annoyed and did use my horn at him for quite a long time but in the end just let him do so as I thought it might not look good if I had a prang before even leaving the rental car garage.

Then finally we hit the road. The Sat Nav told me it was 117 miles to our Hotel in Bradenton on the Gulf Coast. The start of the journey was still in daylight.

It was then we had faced some challenges with the car. Firstly, as it was a keyless start I put the key fob in my trouser pocket to ensure I did not leave them accidentally in the car. As we went round a corner though they fell out of my pocket with a clunk. Karen couldn’t see where they had gone and started for some reason panic, that we had actually lost them. I didn’t really understand why as they were definitely in the car somewhere.

In her panic mode, unbeknown to us for a while she had switched onto ‘High’ her own seat warmer. Not the thing you exactly need whilst in the Florida heat.

She started to complain that her seat seemed to be getting hot. Of course, I told her she was imaging it, saying a car like this wouldn’t have seat warmers. She then spent 10 minutes trying every button she could to switch it off. The seat was by now quite hot. It was also now dark and so by torchlight from her phone she started reading the manual from the glovebox. Triumphantly to prove me wrong she found it did in fact have seat warmers and that she wasn’t imaging it and so found the correct switch to turn hers off.

I had by now put the car lights on and for some reason that caused a large light to come on behind us in the passenger seats which we couldn’t reach from the front to turn off.

Trying to distract Karen from that I asked her to try and put the radio on. However, the touch screen was very temperamental and both of us struggled to get it to do anything. After looking on Google just now it seems this is common problem on this car.

Needless to say we were becoming less and less impressed with the car.

After just under 2 hours of driving with quite a lot of traffic on the road we got to the Holiday Inn Express at Bradenton. We had stayed in this one before. Once in our room I sorted out the chargers for everything and we eventually made it into bed at 10.15pm almost 21 hours since we had got up back in Norwich.

We were here though and it felt good. Let the real holiday start tomorrow!

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