What a whirlwind it's been!!

Monday, January 6, 2014

I know, BAD BLOGGER. But between things to do, people to see, legalities to take care of and fatigue...oh, and adjusting to the altitude! Phew!! Let's see if I can do a recap that will satisfy our readers.

We managed to get everything in order for our move - utilities off or suspended, the RV, Freightliner and both motorcycles winterized, Scooby (our pickup) loaded with five footlockers, 2 large rolling duffle bags, our two large Sierra suitcases and our smaller carry-on bags. The footlockers were in the bed and everything else was inside.Oh yeah, and a couple of smaller bags for overnighting on our way to Florida and for the cruise. Guess who forgot to take any photos...oops!

We got a late start and with a storm moving in we only made it the 45 miles south to Crossville where we stopped for dinner at Cracker Barrel. While there the rain changed into snow and we heard reports of severe weather moving in from the west. Needless to say, we spent the night at the Best Western a couple of blocks away.

We made good time the two days, spending one more night in a Best Western before arriving at our friends house in Florida, our home for a bit before heading off on our cruise. Larry and Judi were wonderful hosts and we totally enjoyed a wonderful Thanksgiving day with them.

Sunday rolled around and we headed off to Tampa for our cruise. We paid a little more for parking this time and used the valet service...worth EVERY penny! The cruise was nice, the mini-suite was wonderful (yes, we were spoiled), the weather was stupendous as compared to the week before where we heard it rained a lot! Stu's first dive in Belize went well...if you don't count his cutting his hand on some coral. We spent the late afternoon in the medical center where they finally decided he needed stitches (six) and gave him some antibiotics. No diving the next day but he did get his dives in the other ports. The staff was wonderful, the excursion desk covered all expenses AND they rebated us the cost of the missed excursion. Overall the cruise was good but we both felt the food wasn't quite up to par with the previous two years, even the steak house (which we always do). The ship was in need of a lot of little repairs and maintenance but we heard this was its last season, going into dry dock afterwards.

[More Cruise Photos

Back to Tampa and one more day with our friends, we then loaded up the truck again and headed across the state to Vero Beach where we stayed with my youngest brother and his wife for two nights. As always we had a great time and got to see three of my cousins (one who I hadn't seen since 1965) as well as my other brother and his family.

Before we knew it, it was time to move on. We rented a large SUV from Enterprise and left Scooby in the care of my brother for the duration. We headed south to Boca Raton and our last evening with family. We met Kim & Tim Herring (Lin's daughter and Hubby) for dinner along with their sons Brady and Jesse plus Jesse's new wife Sarai. GREAT dinner, always wonderful to see them.

After a restful night at a Best Western (paid for with forgotten points - yippee!), we headed to the Miami Airport where Stu planned to drop me and our luggage while he returned the rental car. We got to the airport, found our drop off point and realized we never put gas in the car. Oops! Big circle made and he finally dropped me off, moving the luggage with the help of a porter to a waiting area.

Stu had been able to check-in online and get his boarding pass but for some reason the online check-in wouldn't accept my passport number. A wonderful gentleman from American Airlines tried to help us and failed but he did move us over to the Priority line (we assumed we had to be at the International line) since we were flying Business Class. He didn't leave us until we were in the right spot for a ticket agent to help us. Muchos gracias to him! The clerk quickly got me checked in, printed our boarding passes and checked all our luggage.

If you remember, we originally knew we'd have one extra bag (Stu's scuba gear) in addition to the three each allowed bags (thanks to booking Business Class). We also had an allowance of 70# as compared to the normal 50#. Before we left TN we realized we would have two extra bags and by the time we got back from our cruise and repacked everything it was obvious we'd  have a third extra bag. $450 for the bags but it was worth it...sad part is, if we had booked our tickets ONE DAY EARLIER, they would have been $50 a bag. Sigh...oh well. Weight? Nothing much over 62-64#.

Now comes the BIG surprise, a bonus we hadn't anticipated. We got free admission and tickets for four complimentary drinks in the Admiral's Club. Since it was now 1:00 pm and our flight wasn't until 7:30 pm, having a comfortable and safe place to sit with food, drinks and free WiFi was a real treat!

Our flight was uneventful, comfortable with delicious food (better than many restaurants), free personal movie selection and great service. We arrived at the airport less than 30 minutes late (we took off late, big surprise - NOT) and went quickly through immigration, getting our passports stamped. Being at the front of the plane, we were at the front of the line...a HUGE perk since the plane was full. From there it was on to baggage claim where we managed to find all our bags - eventually. The large carts were reserved for commercial groups/tours so we had to get three of the smaller carts to move all our luggage. Once again, Ecuadorian courtesy abounded. The guards quickly directed us to the xray machines and their porters helped us unload the carts, put the luggage on the belt and then reload our carts.

Now it was time to run the gauntlet of excited family members watching for their relatives. Round and round we pushed and pulled our carts until we got out to the main waiting area. We had reserved a room at the Howard Johnson's and confirmed their free airport shuttle. We never touched a bag again...they moved the bags to the shuttle, then into the hotel, then up to our room! Will we stay there again? Absolutely! Our room was huge with lots of space for the luggage without it being in our way. Hot showers taken, slept well in a very comfortable king bed. Oh, and the A/C was already running in the room! Guayaquil is on the coast with tropical weather.

We had breakfast the next morning, not free but worth the under $25 for a real brunch - all we could eat and drink. Covered us for both breakfast and lunch! Afterwards we sat in the lobby using the free WiFi and around 11:30 we asked for our bags to be brought to the lobby. While they were being shuttled our driver Emilio arrived from Cuenca. He and the hotel staff loaded all the luggage and we were whisked off to Cuenca!

Emilio was wonderful, a careful driver who spoke English well and passed along interesting tidbits about the areas we were driving through and the history of Ecuador. When we arrived in Cuenca we quickly located the manager of the temporary apartment we had rented, got our keys and the four of us got all the bags up to the second floor apartment.

So....that brings us up to December 13th...our arrival in Cuenca. Now it's time to move to our Retired in Cuenca blog. This blog will resume whenever we visit the US and Stu will be doing that in June for a new grand-baby. I'll stay in Cuenca till we both return sometime in the Aug-Oct time-frame. I might jot a few things here, things of general interest or about my books but other than that, please bookmark/follow our Cuenca blog. Thanks!

PS. I am still uploading photos, our WiFi is really slow and it will be another couple of weeks before we get our own line installed.

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