Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Columns

April 1, 2014

John Cannon: The most relaxing vacation ever: 04/02/14

ASHLAND — Plans for the most recent vacation for my wife and I began more than a year ago at a charity fundraiser in Lincoln, Neb.

In a silent auction at that event, my brother-in-law submitted a bid for a week’s vacation at a resort in Jamaica, and his was the highest bid.

He invited us to join her sister and him for a free week at the resort on the Caribbean island nation just south of Cuba. We, of course, agreed and began saving money for what I hoped would be the vacation of a lifetime. While our week at the resort was free, the flight to get to Jamaica and the food we ate while there was not.

Well, things do not always go as planned. After we had booked our time at the resort for the week of March 22 through 29 and purchased our nonrefundable plane tickets to Montego Bay, Jamaica, and my in-laws had done the same, my wife’s sister developed some rather serious health problems and was ordered by her doctor to not leave the country.

Fortunately, because my wife’s sister had a doctor’s written orders, they were able to get a full refund on their plane fare. My in-laws suggested we find someone to go with us to Jamaica.

That’s how our planned week in paradise with my wife’s sister and her husband became a week on the beach with our dear friends Jan and Steve Yorton. Jan and Steve became close friends of ours nearly 35 years ago, when our daughters became best friends as 3-year-olds at the Ashland Child Development Center.

While Steve and Jan moved to Carthage, N.Y., near Canada more than 30 years ago, we still consider them close friends and had taken several vacations with them over the years. So when I called Steve and asked if Jan and he could do us a favor by joining us in Jamaica, they must have taken 30 or 40 seconds before saying “yes.” That’s one of the advantages of being retired: No work schedules get in the way of having fun.

Our week in Negril, Jamaica, was the most relaxing vacation I have ever taken, but then I have never been to Hawaii or other beachside resort. There is nothing quite like spending a week in 80-degree weather, sunning yourself on the beach and swimming in the warm waters of the Caribbean to forget about the horrible winter we had in Kentucky.

As far as Jan and Steve are concerned, they are used to harsh winters in upstate New York, but they both admitted it was good to get away from snow piled above their heads on both sides of their driveway.

Our first look at the Negril Beach Club where we were booked for the week was not impressive. I’m sure in the 1970s when it became one of the first resorts in the seven miles of uninterrupted sandy beaches that begin in Negril, it was a real showplace, but that was more than 40 years ago, and in the ensuring decades numerous other, more plush resorts have been built along the beach. Our resort paled in comparison to most of the neighboring resorts.

But it was adequate. Our home for the week had one bedroom, a large living room, a full bath, a small kitchen and another double bed in the space where a dining room table had been.

That’s where Jan and Steve slept, while my wife and I slept in the bedroom, which was lit only by a small lamp. Thus, the room was always dark.

There were a few inconveniences. For example, one night the electricity went out all along the beach. The next night there was no tap water. On the night after that, you could not get Internet service at our resort. That did not bother me one bit since I had come to Jamaica to get away from such things, but it bothered Jan, Steve and my wife.

We also had a color TV that got a lot of channels, enabling Steve to watch Syracuse, his alma mater, lose in the NCAA tournament and for all of us to watch Kentucky beat Louisville. The TV was small, but the screen was about the size of the screens I had until just a few years ago. The room had a phone, but I did not work. So what? We weren’t going to call anyone.

 It did not take us long to discover the best attraction at Negril Beach Club was — surprise, surprise! — the beach, where yours truly spent more than half my waking hours last week. On the first day, I developed my routine for the week. I would wake around 8 a.m., have breakfast in the room and then take a short stroll to the beach, where I would read, take a dip in the warm waters of the Caribbean, take a nap, have a bite of lunch and do more of the same in the afternoon. Our evenings were spent trying out the different restaurants along the beach.

One thing we quickly learned about Jamaica is the pace of living in much slower than ours. We never finished our evening meals in less than two hours, but who cared? We didn’t have anywhere we needed to go.

While I did not eat any other meals but dinner outside my room during the week, Jan, Steve and my wife did. They learned breakfast and lunch also took about two hours.

I don’t tan well. While Dad always had a dark farmer’s tan and I looked a lot like him, I inherited my mother’s complexion — and she was a redhead. Instead of tanning, I tend to get sunburns over and over again. Thus, I carefully and frequently applied sunscreen. It mostly worked, but not completely.  

After developing a sunburn on my back and shoulders, I opted to wearing a T-shirt even when I was swimming. That protected me from burning, but I now have a rather unusual tan pattern on my upper body. So be it. It beats the heck out of being burned.

After a week of loafing on the beach, during which I read four novels, we packed up Saturday morning to head home. I was confident that while I was lazing away in the sun in Jamaica, spring had arrived in northeast Kentucky. Imagine my utter disappointment of driving in the snow from the Charleston Airport late Saturday night. Not only was I disappointed, but I also was angry. It was like God, Mother Nature and Tony Cavalier were putting an exclamation point at the end of this awful winter we endured.

But I also knew Monday was the first day of baseball season, which has always been something of a holy day for baseball fanatics like me.

Looking at my legs, I also knew I was ready for the start of the season for my beloved Cincinnati Reds. Because the sunscreen had not worked so well on the lower half of my legs, I can honestly say this old man who grew up cheering for what were then called the Cincinnati Redlegs was beginning the 2014 season with genuine, honest-to-goodness red legs. I’m hoping that’s some kind of positive omen.

JOHN CANNON can be reached at jcannon@dailyindependent.com or at (606) 326-2649

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