Wow! As most people would agree, this New year couldn’t come quick enough! With the COVID pandemic affecting the world through out most of 2020, and still in full swing as I write this, Steve (DOS) and I are ready to move on to a new slate in 2021, and hopefully better times ahead. I saw this cake in COSTCO and I think it pretty much sums up 2020 for most of us!
For many people it will be remembered as the “Year of the Mask”, as seen in the photos of us and our friends Ben and Tom walking around Cranes Roast Park one night in December after an outdoor dinner.
Looking back at some of the not so great moments of 2020, last year this time I was in a neck brace for over half a year while I recovered from a broken C2 neck injury I received after a fall right before Christmas 2019.
I also lost both of my parents last year, Dad in March and Mom in August (non COVID), while DOS lost his Dad on New Year’s Day 2020 (also non-COVID). I like this photo below of my parents, brother, and myself, which is one the last photos I have of my parents and ustaken together. It was taken in late February 2020 on one of our near daily visits with them at English Meadows (Elk’s Home) Assisted Living in Roanoke.
I also love this photo taken the same day of my parents sitting outdoors on the porch at Elk’s Home, which Dad commented reminded him of sitting on deck on a cruise ship looking out. Who knows what they were thinking then, but it shows how much they loved each other after nearly 65 years of marriage.
Fortunately my parents didn’t get nor die from COVID, although thousands of people did, and several million people have contracted it in the US, not to mention the rest of the world. The COVID pandemic has truly touched everyone’s life in some way, and the new precautions such as six foot “Social Distancing” and mask protocols will be the norm for the foreseeable future. The travel, entertainment, hospitality, work, worship, education, and sporting industries especially have been curtailed or modified at least temporarily, and in some instances possibly permanently.
While DOS and I are blessed to have retired, many in the work force were sadly let go due to severe restrictions due to public gatherings and the spread of COVID. Our hearts and daily prayers go out to all those affected by deaths of family and friends, illness and/or job loss and pray that 2021 will bring the welcome healing and economic stimulus and prosperity back worldwide.
On the travel front, COVID caused us to cancel three major international trips (Italy/Switzerland, Trans-Atlantic cruise Ft. Lauderdale to Rome, and a trip to the Holy Land/Egypt). While sad for us, we feel much sadder for all the employees directly affected by these and millions of other flight, cruise, theme parks, and tour cancellations not to mention the trickle down affect of dining, rental cars, corporate jobs, small business, and office real estate etc.
Moving forward, however, and looking on the more positive side of things that occurred last year, my neck has recovered nicely, and while I was uncomfortable for a few months, at least I wasn’t paralyzed! I will be starting physical therapy next week for my neck, as I’m still a little hesitant to move my neck as freely I used to but I no longer wear the brace. I celebrated back in July with a dip in the pool!
The stock market has rebounded from recession-like numbers earlier in the year, and is now at record highs as we go into a new year. Work environments, schooling, and even churches have used technology to keep operating via work at home or social networking sites such as Facebook, You Tube, and Zoom conferencing. And people have slowly learned to adapt to wearing those masks everywhere they go; not fun but at least helping to spread the COVID virus. DOS even got us holiday masks for December!
And on a final more positive note, there are now COVID vaccines that will soon be available for everyone, although it will take several months this year to get this implemented. Hopefully this year most of the country if not world will be vaccinated, and wearing masks will become a memory rather than a requirement. Will compare this post with the upcoming year-end post of 2021 and see how that worked out.
And, oh yes, a quick plug for this blog! Today is the sixth anniversary of The Traveling Steves blog! I was reminded of this when I got the renewal notice for the site recently. This past year I have slacked off considerably posting for many of the above reasons, but lately due to my old Mac crashing. With the new year now and hopefully prosperous times ahead I will try to post more. It does help that DOS bought me a new MacBook Pro for Christmas!
For New Year’s Eve 2020, DOS and I stayed at the Lake Mary, Florida Westin hotel, which is in the North Orlando area and only a 1/2 hour or so from our home. The Westin is an excellent hotel, and even without some of the facilities not open now due to COVID (Concierge lounge, bell service, breakfast etc), it makes for a wonderful mini staycation, with several nice restaurants a short walk away.
For dinner we had reservations at 7:30pm at Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse in Lake Mary. Ruth’s Chris (RC) was a short walk from the hotel, and the mild Florida mid 70s weather with low humidity, made for a delightful walk and evening of dining outdoors. While Ruth’s Chris is on the high-end side of dining, it is definitely a premium steakhouse, and you get what you pay for; absolutely incredible steaks you can’t make this way at home! We had not been to this location before, (last time at RC was in Maui) and I was always curious about the name so I looked it up on their web site under FAQ’s for Ruth’s story. Ruth Fertel had started the restaurant over 50 years ago by purchasing Chris Steakhouse in New Orleans. The original restaurant location eventually burned down forcing them to relocate to another location. Since the Chris Steakhouse name was only allowed (per contract when it was sold to Ruth) to be used at the original location, Ruth ingeniously prepended her name to the Chris Steakhouse name to form a new name, (Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse) while preserving the identity of the original name for her loyal customers. And as Paul Harvey would say, “And now you know the rest of the story!”
DOS and I met our good friends Ben and Tom for dinner at Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse at 7:30pm, and our requested outdoor seating was available immediately. As it was New Year’s Eve, we were concerned it was going to be overflowing with crowds, and coupled with COVID opted to sit outside in the courtyard instead of the elegant dining room. Even outside we were concerned about the patio being crowded with smokers or groups, but we fortunate to have the entire courtyard area to ourselves, and no smokers at all spilling outside for a smoke from the adjacent indoor bar. Sitting outside with the entire courtyard to ourselves was an unexpected treat, and the terrace service at RC was just as good if not better had we been inside.
We still had a white tablecloth dining experience, and had the added scenery of a nearly full moon, and occasional fireworks from the nearby upscale neighborhood. Our service at Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse was outstanding and we had a nice and leisurely (at our request) nearly 3 1/2 hour meal experience with Ahi Tuna appetizers, Lobster Bisque soup, Signature Salad, and of course their amazing steak, followed by a shared cheesecake and Godiva Martini!
DOS and I actually shared a huge Cowboy Ribeye as we knew how big it was and and we were getting full from all of the other courses. Paired with a bottle of Freemark Abbey Cabernet and au-gratin potatoes, our main course was an awesome combination! If anything, sitting outdoors made this night extra special as we didn’t feel rushed and enjoyed the beautiful Florida evening of weather in the 70’s.
Dining out at Ruth’s Chris was a wonderful experience and nice ending to the end of this 2020 year. We walked back to the Westin, taking a selfie on the way out of the restaurant.
Back at the Westin, the lounge was already closed, and with no other celebrations, we returned to our room and turned on the TV just in time to ‘ring in the New Year’. Wow – what a difference worldwide it was ringing in the year: Times Square with no crowds, Disney with no Fireworks, and the TV entertainment playing only to home TV viewers!
Happy New Year Everyone, and may God bless you and your families with health, happiness, and prosperity in this upcoming year in 2021!