The Traveling Steve's

"Pain in the neck" January update!

I haven’t written since New Year’s due to my neck injury, but suffice it to say I’ve been taking it one day at a time while my neck slowly heals. It’s now Sunday evening January 26th, (Happy Australia Day to my Aussie friends “Down Under”), and I’m relaxing a bit and updating this blog just a bit.

As I can’t move my neck with this brace on, it makes it a bit difficult, if not uncomfortable to type, as the monitor needs to be adjusted upwards so I’m looking at it straight on. Here’s a selfie I just took as I write this, with our Finland photo canvas pics hanging on the wall behind me.

Yes, what a difference a year makes; this time last year we were in Finland, and this January’s trip to Italy and Switzerland had to be canceled obviously due to my condition. I’m not complaining though as it could have been much more serious, and am happy to be up and around.

The neck and body brace does inhibit my movement somewhat, although after a month I am getting somewhat used to wearing it 24/7. Still, I’ve got at least another couple months of wearing this brace, no driving, and no lifting so I will be glad once Spring is here! I’ve been to the neurosurgeon once since I’ve been back home, but he said it normally takes six weeks or so for the C2 vertebrae to heal. My next CT scan is scheduled for Feb 4th, and my follow-up doctor appointment is Feb 10th. Say a prayer for me if you will that it will heal by then, or at least not get any worse. Either way I’m guessing this brace will be on thru the end of March.

To hopefully speed my recovery along, Steve (DOS) and I have started taking weekly overnight trips via car, somewhere reachable within a couple hours or so. So far this month, DOS and I have made three overnight ‘stay-cations’, which has really energized me, kept me from getting bored, and has helped pass the days while my neck heals.

Our first trip was to Sarasota, which is where DOS’s house is located. DOS’s Father passed away on New Year’s Day, so this first trip was a bit emotional for him as well as myself, as this was the first time he had been back to his home since his Father passed.

We actually stayed at the nearby Hyatt Regency Hotel for one night. The hotel is located right on the bay, and is settled amidst a marina, condos, hotels and next to the Sarasota theater.

While the Hyatt Regency Sarasota didn’t have an Executive Level lounge, they did surprise us with a complimentary room service order of wine and cheese platter which was nice.

Steve (DOS) had to gather some legal papers and a few things at his house, but didn’t want to stay very long on this first trip this year, so we were only at his house for a couple hours this trip. We will be going back and forth there, however, cleaning out his house over the next few months, while we decide where to live.

Sarasota is a great city, and while it’s just starting to get the winter “snowbird” rush, we had a leisurely overnight there with dinner at the hotel, and the next day some gentle walking around the adjacent Van Wezel theater complex and bay front park area.

The next week we took a two night trip to Gainesville, Florida, home of the University of Florida ‘Gators’. My uncle (my Mom’s brother) was having surgery at one of the hospital’s there, and DOS and myself drove up to visit with him, as well as to see two of my cousins who were in town for their Dad as well.

We stayed overnight at the Doubletree Hotel near the University, and had a nice couple days and nights there, in spite of the circumstances.

(My uncle came thru the surgery fine, and is now back home.) Here is a photo of my Uncle, my cousin Mike from Georgia, and me taken as DOS and I were heading home.

Finally last week, we took an overnight trip to Tampa for a one night wine-tasting getaway at Bern’s Steakhouse wine shop, which is located across the street from the iconic restaurant. We had been on their mailing list for years, but could never attend these weeknight tastings while I was working. Now with retirement we have no time restraints, we stayed over at the Hyatt Place Tampa on Wednesday night, to attend the Quintessa tasting at Bern’s.

After checking in and getting settled, we Uber’d over to Bern’s around 5pm. Although it was rush hour, we got there in less than half an hour. As we arrived almost an hour early, we checked in for the wine tasting, (which is located across the street from Bern’s and inside the Epicurean Hotel) and then walked around the area and hotel a bit.

The Epicurean Hotel is gorgeous (and should be for $400 a night! LOL), and the service in the lounge we stopped in was top notch. The lounge area was busy for happy hour, but we found a seat and had plenty of time for a glass of wine and an appetizer before heading to the wine tasting.

At 6:30pm we walked back down the hall to the Bern’s wine store for the tasting event. The shop was closed for this private event, and a temporary tasting area was arranged nicely for the intimate wine event.

This event showcased Quintessa winery, and there were two premium wines available for sampling; one white and one red. Quintessa is on the ultra-premium spectrum of the wine scale, with their Sauvignon Blanc Illumination selling for $50, while their 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon lists at $190. These were the only two wines offered for tasting, although they have some other quite pricey library vintages as seen on their web site.

The private event had approximately 30 people, which made for an intimate setting and an opportunity to mingle with the others. There was also a nice cheese and charcuterie spread to complement the cheeses. I had prepaid the $70 charge per couple, and it was quite a fair price considering the quality of the wines and cheeses offered. We even met the winemaker from Quintessa and chatted with here for awhile before having our photo taken with here. We had a delightful time at our first Bern’s wine tasting, and hope we can go back again soon.

After the wine tasting, we went to an Italian Restaurant just down the street and even though we were both going to have Chicken Parmesan, we ended up having delicious brick-oven pizza instead, once we saw how yummy it looked. The Italian Restaurant was eclectically decorated and like many places displaced the Pirate flag for the upcoming weekend Gaspiralla parade and festivities.

We finished up the evening with dessert at Bern’s Steakhouse. Bern’s does not take reservations for the “Dessert Room”, (which is actually an entire floor of private wine booths and rooms), but we did inquire about availability there at the reception area. Even as we checked on availability in the main floor reception area at 9pm, there was an hour and a half wait for the upstairs “Dessert Room” seating! Still, it was nice just being back at Bern’s and looking around at it’s elegant, yet “Haunted Mansion” like entrance.

We’ve eaten dinner at Bern’s several times previously, but had never come for just the “Dessert Room”. Bern’s restaurant takes reservations many months in advance for dinner, guaranteeing the “Dessert Room” for its dinner guests, while providing stand-by availability for others not dining there for dinner. While we couldn’t get in the “Dessert Room” that night, we were shown to the elegant main lounge just off the lobby, where you could have a drink, dessert, or entire meal for that matter.

DOS and I settled for a shared dessert and a glass of Malbec for me. We then Uber’d back to the hotel, after having a nice night out in Tampa.

Now back to the present day Sunday night. This week’s trip will be a bit longer, as we are going to Daytona Beach Shores from tomorrow (Monday thru Friday). We were surprised to see the ocean front hotel was only a $100 a night as it’s so close to the Daytona 500 event on February 16th, but this week apparently is a quiet week at the hotel, before the town gets crazy-busy and the prices quadruple.

So yes, I’m doing better, and enjoying one day at a time. Tomorrow is yet another day in retirement, and I no longer have the “Sunday night blues” anticipating another project in another city which I would formerly have been getting ready for while I was working, getting up early for a morning flight. Nope, tomorrow I’m sleeping in on Monday morning, and we’re heading to the beach in the afternoon baby! LOL!

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