Engage Pickleball Camp – Travel Fun

We signed up for an Engage Pickleball Camp in Rohnert, California (Sonoma, California) not realizing that we would be traveling on Memorial Day weekend. Had we known, we most likely would not have gone. Auto travel was a nightmare, and the Atlanta airport was a nightmare. Here is a summary of the traveling conditions.

May 26 – Getting to Airport

Our home in Blairsville, GA is 118 miles from the Atlanta Airport. Most of the trip is on a highway that has a speed limit of 65 miles per hour, so the trip should take about 2 hours. Of course, it always takes longer than that because of traffic jams, but normally you can get it done in about 2 ½ hours. Our trip took 3 ½ hours, 3 ½ hours during which time we had to deal with crazy drivers. It was not fun. See below:

May 26 – Holiday Inn Express

Like many people going to the Atlanta Airport, we chose to stay overnight in a hotel, rather than try to get to the airport in time for an 8:30 AM flight. We stayed at the Holiday Inn Express because it has a shuttle that runs every 30 minutes and we could park there (for a fee) until we returned. Very convenient.

The hotel is very nice, but there are planes taking off constantly, and the noise is horrible. This is not the hotel’s problem, but most likely a problem at every hotel near the airport. That was not much of a problem for me because I have noise-reduction headphones. They are fantastic and, if you don’t have any, you should definitely get them. These are the ones I got: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B09DK7YFNZ?ie=UTF8&psc=1&linkCode=ll1&tag=theadvent09e6-20&linkId=887b907ce8a4df311be53b663186cbf5&language=en_US&ref_=as_li_ss_tl

The hotel does have a great, free breakfast which, even on the weekend, is available at 6 AM.

Anyway, we knew that the hotel is right next to a IHOP and, after checking the menu, decided to get dinner at the IHOP and eat in the room. NEVER AGAIN! I ordered a BLT which consisted of two strips of bacon, one tomato slice and one leaf of limp lettuce on 2 razor-thin slices of toast. I would post a picture of the sandwich but it was so thin it was essentially invisible, so I cannot. My wife got a chicken dinner which she basically trashed. Lesson learned.

Fortunately, we brought wine from home.

May 27 – The Airport

We had reserved a spot on the 7 AM shuttle but the next morning, worried about the traffic (it is a 10-minute trip normally) I asked to get on the 6:30 shuttle. Good thing!

We got up at 5:30 so we could shower, get dressed and get the hotel breakfast. We saw the 6 AM shuttle leave on time, and waited for the 6:30 shuttle, which arrived just on time. We were a bit concerned, because we thought the shuttle should have arrived before that, given that it takes only 10 minutes to get to the airport. Nonetheless, we boarded the shuttle and took off.

Traffic was insane!

The 10-minute trip took 20 minutes to get to the Delta Airlines terminal, but we were going out on Southwest, which is on the other side of the airport. Our driver suggested that we get out at Delta and cross over to the other terminal because he could not predict how long it would take him to get to Southwest. Note: Delta is in control of the Atlanta airport, or so it seems.

So, the map below shows what we had to do:

  1. We got off at the Delta entrance. When we asked how to get to Southwest, we were told to go around to where the main check-in was, and then make a left.
  2. We did that, then we were told that we had to go almost all the way down to the end of the South terminal and then make a right. For some reason, all the paths to the North terminal were closed off.
  3. Then we had to walk up to the Southwest Airlines baggage check. Because we had purchased “Business Select” tickets, we were able to check our bags in about one minute.
  4. We then followed all the signs to TSA pre-check and found ourselves back where we started – next to the Delta check in. Pain in the butt, but okay.
  5. Then we had to take the tram to our gate.

We made it with about ten minutes to spare!

Then we boarded our flight. It had one stop in Phoenix, and then we were on the way to San Jose. On the second leg, I put on my headphones and listened to a book I had downloaded. When we landed, I discovered that I had gone through a lot of it, but had no memory of it. Had to restart later.

We landed at 1:15 Pacific time (4:15 PM Eastern time) in the afternoon. Considering we had gotten up at 5:30 AM Eastern time, we had already been traveling about 11 hours.

May 27 – San Jose Airport

We are Gold Members with Hertz. When we arrived, we found our name on the board, but no parking spot allocated to it. When we found an attendant, he told us that no cars were available. WTF?! However, there was an F-150 available – the only vehicle available. Because we have one at home, we elected to take it. We got a huge charge put on our credit card later on from Hertz, one that we planned on fighting. More about that later.

May 27 – San Jose to the Double Tree Rohnert Park

Okay. This is a 94-mile trip. It took more than 3 hours. Here is what the traffic looked like on 101/80.

Another 3-hour drive. We went over the Bay Bridge, which had the same traffic as 101/80—barely moving.

We finally (mercifully) got to the Rohnert Park Double Tree Inn at 4:30 PM Pacific time, or 7:30 PM East Coast time. So, we had already been traveling for more than 14 hours.

The hotel provided a mini-fridge in each room, but no microwave. Each floor did, however, have a microwave (miniature) located by the ice machines. Ours was seemingly ½ hour away (okay, a walk half-way around the floor we were on).

The hotel was where our pickleball camp was being held, and had just had brand new courts put in. We were told that the camp attendees would be the first people to use them, but my wife and I got on them the next morning, the day before the camp. They are kept locked, by the way, because if they were not, many, many people who are not staying at the hotel would be using them. Here is a picture:

In any event, after we got to the hotel, we decided to go shopping for some dinner and, of course, wine. Once again, travel was messed up. We wanted to go to a Safeway, which was only about five minutes away. Using Google maps on our phone, we started out. The phone said:

  • Turn right onto Gulf Course Drive
  • Turn left to follow the signs to 101 North
  • Get on 101 North
  • Take the next exit
  • Turn left
  • Turn right onto Gulf Course Drive

What? We were going in a circle. So we ignored Google maps, did not get on 101 north, and found the Safeway. We bought a lot of stuff to get us through the next few days. Later in the week we went to Walmart and bought a cheap toaster so we could have toast in the morning.

At this point, we were so tired we were not talking to each other. I seriously cannot remember what we bought except the wine. The wine, BTW, was more expensive in California than it was in Georgia. Go figure.

In any event, I put on my headphones, started my book again, and fell asleep. Needless to say, I slept through it.

May 28, 2023

We awoke at 4:30 AM, or 7:30 Eastern time. We are normally up at 5:3O Eastern time, so sleeping until 7:30 was a real treat. After coffee, I hit the fitness center to work on my physical therapy exercises. Normally hotel fitness centers have minimal equipment, but this one was very good.

In addition to the devices you see, it also has free weights. This was very important to my physical therapy. One of the best fitness centers in a hotel I have ever found.

Then Donna and I went to the pickleball courts (more about that when I blog about the Engage camp).

In the afternoon, we went to the Taft Street Winery for a wine tasting. Like the renegade Bordeaux winemakers known as “Garagistes,” Taft Street began in a garage rather than a grand chateau, always stressing quality without pretense. Taft Street Winery continues in the garagistes traditions to this day, producing limited production, handcrafted wines from select Russian River Valley vineyards. They make small, very good batches of wine. We bought two bottles of their wine to bring home.

Later that evening, we met with the Engage Pickleball staff for some wine. A lot of people were from the East Coast and, like us, looked brain dead. When we went to bed, I put my headphones on, started my book again, and slept through it again. Will try until I at least finish the chapter I had been trying to listen to.

May 29:

No travel at all, but I started my book again and slept through it.

May 30:

No travel at all, but I started my book yet again and slept through it yet again!

May 31:

No travel. I will finish the book tonight! PS: I did!

June 1:

No travel. Had to start a new book.

June 2:

This was the day we were leaving. We had booked a hotel in San Jose because our flight left at 6:45 AM and we did not want to start heading to the airport at 3 AM or so. Because we had time, we decided to take a side trip to the Point Reyes National Seashore, which is a huge expanse of protected coastline in Northern California’s Marin County. If you ever go to an Engage camp in Sonoma, this is a side trip you really should take.

The path from the parking lot to the beach is lined with wild flowers, one of which is pale flax.

The aroma of these flowers was just wonderful.

The beach itself is beautiful and not littered with a lot of trash that has washed up. The water, however, was freezing, as I learned when I dipped my toes in it. We walked about 1 ½ miles before turning around, and then started off for the hotel.

Because we wanted to avoid 101/80, we decide to take the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) to San Jose. The views from this road are amazing, as shown below.

But, there are a few things wrong with this route:

It is a twisty, turny road that hugs the coast line. Sounds nice, right? Unfortunately, the coast line is at the bottom of some sheer drops, most of which have no guard rails. I was on the passenger side of the car looking out the window with absolute terror in my mind.

It is very slow going, with many sections having speed limits of about 15 MPH. Try to go faster and you might go over the edge.

Anyway, the PCH path takes you through San Francisco via the Golden Gate Bridge.  Traffic on the bridge was about as bad as it was on the Bay Bridge.

Well, three hours after leaving the National Seashore, we arrived at our hotel. Shockingly, there was nothing wrong with the hotel.

June 3

No hassles at the airport!

When we flew over Atlanta, I looked down and saw traffic moving freely on I-75 (that’s the road I thought it was).

When we landed, we got our luggage and called the Holiday Inn Express, where we had parked our car. They sent a shuttle, but when we got on the shuttle, our driver told us that his shift was ending, and he had to take the shuttle van to where the new driver was. What happened is that a ten-minute trip turned into a half-hour trip. Well, at least we were on our way home

So, we started driving and immediately hit stand-still, bumper to bumper traffic. Google maps gave us a different route, saying that the traffic on the route we normally take had significant delays. Well, we decided to follow Google maps suggestion.

Unfortunately, it took us on a mountainous route that was as twisty as the PCH, but without sheer drop offs.

Finally, we got home, about 1 ½ hours later than we had anticipated. But we were home.

It was, all in all, a great trip with a lot of really bad traffic.