Jess and I have been fond of taking a winter ‘thaw out’ trip ever since we went to Cancun back in 2019. We had obviously wanted to take this kind of trip the last two years, but the COVID-19 pandemic ruled that out. So we planned to go back to the same resort we visited in 2019, this time in February. The omicron variant kept us from pulling the trigger in February and we were finally able to go in March.

We left on St. Patrick’s day, the trip to Cancun was relatively uneventful until we got into the immigration line to get into Cancun. There were lines everywhere overflowing out of the hall and once we eventually figured out where one ended, it took about 50 minutes to wait through it and be admitted. Next stop was to find our van which took a little looking and once we found the company the needed to call another van that would have enough gas to get us to our destination.

Spa Pool
Spa Pool

Finally at the resort (TRS Yucatan) we checked in and went to our room, sat on the porch and I did some walking. It wasn’t long before dinner and we went to the steak place for dinner before retrieving some margaritas from the bar and retiring to the hot tub on the porch of our room for the night.

Friday was our spa day. We got a couples massage followed by some time relaxing at the spa pool. It’s one of our favorite pools because its a quiet zone and great for relaxing and reading. We left the spa for lunch and came back to continue relaxing around the pool and enjoying the hydrotherapy area. We tried to get a picture of us, but the teenagers in the pool didn’t know how to operate the point-and-shoot camera we had with us.

Jon & Jess outside of Helios at the infinity pool
Jon & Jess outside of Helios at the infinity pool

Saturday was our beach day. I started with a run in the morning and staked out a bed while Jess hit up a yoga session. We hung around the beach bed until mid afternoon leaving only to find some fish tacos in one of the family resort areas of the resort nearby. We went for a dip in the ocean at one point. On the walk back to our room we explored the other pools and found the ‘secret’ one. We spent the later part of the evening at the pool next to our building and then went to the Italian restaurant for dinner and had some gluten free pizza.

TRS Beach Bed
TRS Beach Bed

Sunday started with some Yoga and after breakfast we found a bed at the pool by our building. We found tacos for lunch and hung around until the late afternoon when it really became sweltering there and retreated to the air conditioning in the room. In the evening we went to the french restaurant and brought our own bottle of wine. We took the ‘train’ to the other resorts on the property to check out a few of the other bars before returning for the night.

Monday evening dinner at Poseidon restaurant.
Monday evening dinner at Poseidon restaurant.

Monday was our last day of paradise that started with breakfast followed by COVID tests in order to be let back into the US. We hung out at the White Sands pool and the swim up bar for a bit before heading back to the infinity pool for tacos and a bed we found. We had a great dinner on the beach, packed our bags and enjoyed the room hot tub one last time.

Jon & Jess in the TRS Yucatan infinity pool
Jon & Jess in the infinity pool

Tuesday was our day to travel back. Our van was late and ran into traffic (a construction strike outside the airport) and were even later getting to the airport. That wouldn’t be a problem as our inbound plane wasn’t able to get to us due to storms where it was coming from. We would miss our connection and require a longer layover at IAD and a late flight back to Richmond, but at least we were able to get upgraded to first class on both flights.

All in all it was a great trip and nice to be away from the usual and enjoy some sun.

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We got to visit Palm Springs California with my family to celebrate and anniversary and meet my niece for the first time. Despite some travel delays getting there we had a great time catching up with my sister and her family who live on the west coast and enjoying all being around a big house with a pool we could hang out in.

Some of us took a day trip to Joshua Tree National Park and did the long drive from one end of the park to the other through the valley and stopping to visit various sights along the way.

Jon & Jess in front of the Joshua Tree National Park sign
Jon & Jess in front of the Joshua Tree National Park sign
Jon, Jess, Stan, Pat at the Cholla Gardens in Joshua Tree National Park.
Jon, Jess, Stan, Pat at the Cholla Gardens in Joshua Tree National Park.

Some of us visited a spa while others checked out the sights in the town.

We had a great weekend catching up and celebrating!

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In September, for our one year anniversary Jess and I took our long awaited ‘big’ honeymoon trip to Maui, Hawaii. We left Richmond on Friday the 10th and thankfully the most trouble we would have on the whole trip would happen in the first hour. After a scheduled Lyft didn’t show and we could get any other ride share at 5 in the morning, we drove ourselves to the airport and entered the self park. We then immediately lost the parking ticket down the dashboard vent and had to get let out of the parking area to be let back in with a new ticket. All of that didn’t leave a lot of time to spare, but we made it in time and would have an otherwise uneventful flight connecting with one stop in Denver where we completed all of the COVID pre-screening necessary to be allowed into Hawaii without quarantine.

The beach walk along Kaanapali Beach
The beach walk along Kaanapali Beach

We arrived in Maui mid-afternoon and picked up a red 2-door Jeep, did some grocery and supply shopping and checked into the Sheraton Maui Resort and Spa at Black Rock for 10 nights. After settling in the room we walked along the beach walk to the mall at Whaler’s Village and picked up some tacos to take back to the room and eat as the sun was setting and saw what would end up being the prettiest sunset of the trip.

Sun setting on Black Rock from the Sheraton Maui Resort and Spa.

Saturday and Sunday we mostly stayed around the resort. We hung out at the pool or the beach, checked out some nearby restaurants, did some snorkeling and Jess even did a lei making class. Sunday night we went to a very nice dinner at Merriman’s.

Monday was another day of mostly hanging around the resort, sleeping in and going snorkeling. We saw the sun set on the the beach at a park north of our resort, and picked up food from food trucks to have in our room.

Rainbow over the Sheraton Maui Resort

Tuesday was to be a marathon day of flying to the island of Oahu to see Pearl Harbor and Waikiki. We made the very early drive to the airport in Maui and took a 30 minute flight to the island. We went straight to Pearl Harbor where we had intended to take a boat out to the USS Arizona, but we had found out the week prior that one of the docks was damaged and they were not running tours. We saw what we could and talked to a park ranger about the family member of a family friend who died in the attack on the Arizona and learned some interesting history of his.

View of the the USS Missouri and the USS Arizona Memorial from the Pearl Harbor National Memorial.
View of the the USS Missouri and the USS Arizona Memorial from the Pearl Harbor National Memorial.

Our next stop was to find some great sushi and even the Uber driver was surprised when we asked to be dropped off in Chinatown where we had to find our way to a poke vendor in the back of a market. It was worth it and was the best poke we had on the trip. Our next stop was the Bishop Museum which was a cultural museum chartered in the 1880s. There were a lot of interesting cultural artifacts there especially since the museum was collecting them well before Hawaii became a territory and later a state. Our final stop on Oahu was Waikiki beach where we walked through one of the old hotels, the Surfrider, and had a drink at their bar on the beach. We also walked along the beach and saw the Duke Kahanamoku statue. We had dinner nearby where we had some of the best Mai Tais of the trip and took the last flight of the night back to Maui followed by the 45 minute drive to the resort and were in bed just before midnight.

Jess and Jon on Waikiki beach

After a busy Tuesday, Wednesday was to be a relaxing day. Jess booked a spa treatment up the road at the Ritz Carlton and after I dropped her off I went exploring and hiking along the north-west coast of Maui. In the evening we went to a nice restaurant in Lahaina.

On Thursday we decided to try snorkeling at a beach in the South Maui resort area. Only by the time we got there the water was stirred up and not very good for snorkeling. We found another good poke place and picked up some Hawaiian spices to take home and spent the rest of the afternoon by the pool at our resort.

Friday was our day to drive the road to Hana. This has been a bucket list item for Jess since long before we met and was one of the highlights of our trip. Coming from Kaanapali we had to get up very early to start the drive in time to take in some of the sights along the way. We ended up driving straight through and arriving at the Kipahulu national park around 9am. We hiked the Pipiwai trail and saw Waimoku Falls -a 400′ tall waterfall at the end of a trail through a bamboo forest among other things.

Jon and Jess at the end of the Pipiwei trail in front of Waimoku Falls
Jon and Jess at the end of the Pipiwei trail in front of Waimoku Falls

After the trail we worked our way in reverse on the Road to Hana making our way back north and east stopping at sights along the way. We were in Hana for lunch at a food truck where Jess had a ‘plate lunch’. Just North of Hana was the Black Sand Beach in Waiʻānapanapa State Park where we had an early afternoon reservation. The volcanic formations around this beach were breathtaking and the dark black rock against the luscious greenery was incredible. The beach was neat despite being very small. The water was a bit rough and not great swimming for those who tried it. After exploring a bit more of the park we made our way back to the car and stopped at a few more stops along the Road to Hana as we made our way back to the more populated part of the island and eventually on to our resort area.

Black Sand Beach in Waiʻānapanapa State Park
Black Sand Beach in Waiʻānapanapa State Park

Saturday was another day of hanging out at the resort. We had dinner at a sushi place in Lahaina and then visited the Lahaina Yacht Club for a drink.

Lahaina Yacht Club

Sunday Jess wanted to see some of the sights I had seen earlier in the week along the north west part of the island. Unfortunately, the ocean waves were a lot rougher making it harder to get close to the blow hole or the pools. On our way back we stopped at the Honolua Bay Marine Reserve and went snorkeling with turtles.

Monday was check out day after a fabulous time in Maui. We made one last stop at the sugar plantation museum on our way back to the Airport. This history and impact on the island on the sugar plantations was fascinating.

The island ended up being exactly what we wanted for this trip – enough of a resort to not to have to leave, but with enough stuff nearby we could explore a variety of places to eat and things to do. Maui had a wide diversity of beaches, shopping, history and hiking and we didn’t even cover everything in 10 days with our relaxed schedule. Our overnight flight landed in Chicago very early in the morning where we waited for our mid-morning flight to Richmond and were home by early afternoon.

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Portland Head Light
Portland Head Light

On our final day we got Lobster Rolls in Muscongus Bay before making the drive to Portland where we checked out the Portland Head Light before catching our flight home. Driving through Portland – we were surprised at parts of it reminded us of the architecture in Church Hill in Richmond. It was certainly a fun trip and thanks to Laurie and John for having us along and showing us around!

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Saturday took us on a ferry trip to a island just off the coast called Monhegan Island. The island is a fishing village a couple miles off the coast and is 1.75 miles long by .75 mi wide and has just 60 year round residents. In the summer a number of inns and rental houses have many times that staying there. The island draws everything from day trippers like us to artists who come for the summer for inspiration.

The ferry took about an hour and was a little breezy on the top deck. When we got to the island we walked through ‘town’ and hiked along the south and east coasts. We saw rock shorelines, a ship wreck and cliffs.

Hiking back through the middle of the island we went past a beautiful light house and had a gorgeous view of the inhabited side of the island.

Monhegan Island Light House
Monhegan Island Light House

We walked through a little more of the town and stopped at Monhegan Island Brewing before catching the ferry back at the end of the day.

Hardy III just off Monhegan Island
Hardy III

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Friday took us to Acadia National Park where we hiked Jordan Pond and Bubbles. We wanted to go up Cadillac but didn’t have a reservation and were tuned away. We stopped by Sand beach and hiked to Thunder Hole and back.

Jordan Pond
Jordan Pond trail
Sand beach
Sitting on the rocky shoreline between Sand Beach and Thunder Hole

For dinner we went into Bar Harbor and had a great meal, some Ice Cream on the waterfront and checked out some of the shops.

Bar Harbor water front
Bar Harbor at sunset

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The day after our wedding Jess and I headed to Warm Springs Virginia for a short honeymoon. We had grand plans to leave the country for a beach on an island that would some day be underwater but with COVID we didn’t want to leave the state. That lead us to a few days at the Omni Homestead. It is a beautiful property in the mountains and were upgraded to a corner suite in the tower on the 20th floor (10 floors above ground) that had great some great views. On the way out there we stopped in Staunton to visit friends Mark and Melissa who weren’t able to attend the wedding. The suggested a cool pizza join in Staunton for dinner. Staunton had closed one of the main roads downtown and all of the restaurants had seating in the streets. It almost had a European vibe to it.

We spent the first day exploring the grounds, relaxing at the socially distanced pool and having dinner at the restaurant. I went for a late morning trail run and startled a baby bear along the path.

The next day we left the property to do a hike about 10 miles away at Douthat State Park. To get there by car we had to go over/around a mountain and it took over an hour on some pretty rural roads. Early in the hike we both spotted 3 baby bears and a mother crossing our path. We were on high alert the rest of the hike. We made our way up to the top of a mountain, past a waterfall, along the ridgeline and then back down. There were a few beautiful views and some great terrain. Much of the trail looked to be seldom used and we had to do some bushwacking in parts.

That evening we got takeout from a restaurant in town and ate in our room.

The next morning we ate breakfast on the porch in the rocking chairs and started making our way home. We stopped at Pollock winery for a bit and then to Bold Rock to resupply some of the ciders we can’t get in Richmond and tried some others while sitting in chairs down by the creek.

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Jess and I made a weekend trip to the Biltmore in western part of North Carolina. We’ve wanted to make a trip for a while and there was a Downton Abbey exhibit going on. When we got to town we noticed a tour bus at one of the hotels and while I was touring the Moog Music factory I asked about it and someone else on the tour knew that the Lumineer’s were playing. We had planned on a quiet dinner out and evening, so instead we quickly bought tickets and went. It was a great concert and we’re glad we went.

The next day we went early to the Downton Abbey exhibit, walked around and ate lunch at one of the restaurants near the main house. In the afternoon we toured the main house and some of the grounds. We followed that with dinner and headed home the next day.

While the Coronavirus hadn’t shown up in the US other than in a few places, we knew it was inevitable that it would come and change the way we travel, so it was a little bittersweet being on a trip knowing it might be our last for a while.

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This year my family rented a house in Buffalo and my sister and her family flew in so we could celebrate Christmas together and visit with extended family. Jess and I took a side trip to visit Chautauqua where I grew up. During the weekend we visited some favorite buffalo restaurants, ice skated, visited the falls and did a variety of other touring.

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