Travel

Apple Picking in New York

September 23, 2017

We have a lot to catch up on.

Two weeks ago, Hurricane Irma looked like it was going to hit Tampa Bay as a Category 3 or 4 storm. A blow like that would have devastated our region, and after watching Hurricane Harvey slam in to Texas, and seeing the damage it wrought on Houston, almost everyone I know was on edge. Even hurricane-seasoned Floridians who had never evacuated before—and I am one of them, mostly because I’m too lazy—were talking about driving to Atlanta or Tennessee. The mood was tense.

After some back and forth about our plans—should we drive to Atlanta? Should we go stay with my parents?— Rob and I decided to look for flights to New York, just to see. We figured if we found something, we could stay with his family on Long Island for a couple of days; spend time with his sister, who’s been sick; and enjoy the fall weather. “Maybe we can go apple-picking,” I said, hopefully.

Turns out luck was on our side. Travelocity was offering one of its mystery bargain fares, and two round-trip tickets for a direct flight from Orlando to JFK wound up being $180 each. We’d fly Delta out of Orlando International Airport on Saturday evening; we’d come back the following Wednesday, and would work remotely while we were there. We booked the tickets immediately, figuring we’d drive to Orlando Friday in case we got stuck in the god-awful traffic on the interstate and stay with my parents. We were set.

Well, we thought we were. As Irma churned toward Florida, leaving unbelievable devastation in her wake, airports started closing down—first Miami and Fort Lauderdale, then Orlando, which announced that it would stop operating at 5 p.m. on Saturday—two hours before our flight. I panicked. Rob started filling up Ziplock bags with water, freezing them in preparation for the inevitable power and possible water outage, and putting our valuables in plastic bins, even though the storm wasn’t due to hit until late Sunday. I called Delta to see if we could rebook. The wait to talk to a rep was two-and-a-half hours. I panicked some more.

Then I decided to take to Twitter and, long story short, the Delta rep ended up getting us the last two seats on a 7:25 a.m. flight out of Orlando on Friday morning. This was at almost 10 p.m. on Thursday evening, and we decided we’d leave Sarasota at around 1:30 a.m. to avoid the late-evening traffic we’d been hearing about. That would put us in Orlando at around 3:30 a.m., and we’d park, check in, wait for our flight and hopefully snooze before boarding. We threw some clothes into a suitcase, tucked Rambo’s treats into Rob’s backpack, and brought in our porch furniture. Then we hit the road, not sure what we’d be returning to.

We landed in New York around 10 a.m. It was a crisp morning, and we blinked in the bright mid-September sunlight, trying to wrap our minds around the fact that we’d just evacuated from a hurricane.

Irma wound up hitting Sarasota as a Category 1 storm, not the 3 or 4 that’d been anticipated, thanks to some last minute maneuvering before she made landfall. She left a lot of debris in her wake, and we and many others wound up losing power for six days. When it wasn’t back by Wednesday, and my boss confirmed that was OK to work remotely for the rest of the week, Delta once again (via Twitter!) helped us rebook, and we stayed in New York through Saturday morning.

I will pause here to tell you that I did not handle this whole situation very well. I am beyond grateful about the way things worked out with our flights, and was thrilled that my friends and family were out of Irma’s direct path, but my anxiety about not knowing what was going on at home first-hand—and the fact that my parents didn’t evacuate, despite our cajoling—went into overdrive and manifested itself via my obsessive need to check Florida Power & Light’s mobile app. I’d refresh it every 15 minutes, and when there were no updates, I’d get a knot in my stomach and natter incessantly about it to Rob, who would have to remind me that power would eventually be restored and we were safe and cool and well-lit in New York. It took a lot out of both of us—me because that constant anxiety is exhausting, and Rob because having to reassure someone that wound-up all the time is also exhausting. Especially when you’re not in your own home.

But truly, New York was wonderful. It really was the perfect time of year to be there—the weather was warm but pleasant, and the leaves were slowly beginning the transition from their summer greens to fall’s yellows and reds. We took meandering drives all over Long Island, including to Wickham’s Fruit Farm in Cutchogue the Sunday after we arrived, where we did get to pick apples on a cloudless, sunny blue day. We rode into the orchards on a big wooden wagon, ooh-ing and ahh-ing at the rows of apples and nectarines. And we filled a take-home bag with apples and ate our weight in them right off the trees, which Wickham’s owner encouraged. Despite everything going on in Florida, it was one of the most perfect days ever—the one I’m working to remember most about our trip. Here are some photos.

See? Perfect. (And in case you’re wondering: yes, we did get apple cider doughnuts, and yes, they were totally delicious.)

We got back to Sarasota last Saturday night, thankful that our lights, air conditioning and cable were up and running. Prior to power being restored, it was 90 degrees in our apartment (yikes). A whole jar of coconut oil had melted on the kitchen counter, and we’d stupidly cleared out the food in the main part of our fridge but not the condiments, so we had to throw a ton of stuff out, but in the grand scheme, it was minor. Especially, especially in comparison to what’s going on in Puerto Rico, the Caribbean and South Florida, and Mexico right now.

Before I wrap up, I have to tell you all how amazing Delta was. Not only did they help us get out of Florida on Friday, they rebooked our flight home with no questions and didn’t charge us a dime to do so (all of this happened via Twitter, by the way). The gal who changed our flight from Wednesday to Saturday even told me, after I’d thanked her profusely for her help, that I was going to make her cry and to “hang in there, it’ll get better!” (I mean…so wonderful.) Their team was also amazing to Rambo, who was flying with us as an emotional support dog (he loved his first flights and all the attention he got at the airports on on the plane; he wiggle-waggled all through MCO and JFK, and even the burly, gun-toting security guards outside JFK loved him). Now that I’m a week away from it all, I can look back and appreciate how lucky we got.

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