November 10, 2020
For most of September, we waited and watched for an opening to go to the states to visit family, friends and take care of a few business items. The Panama City Airport (only major hub in Panama) had been closed since March 17, 2020. There have been rumblings about an opening since May, but each time on a day or two before the opening, the Panamanian government reneged.
We spent our days after the haul out, hiking in the jungle, doing boat chores and shopping in nearby Colon, via a shuttle bus. We listened intently to every communication about the country reopening. It happened slowly. First, you could now go into town every day of the week (no Saturday and Sunday these were still a total lock down). Then, we could go in on Saturday, but Sunday was still a stay at home mandate. Next, the beaches opened for walking, but still not swimming. AND the restaurants opened for the first time since March! We celebrated Dale’s birthday by eating at the marina restaurant for the first time this year. And then it happened! The airport opened on October 12! We made reservations and on October 16, we were off to the states!
We chose to stay only 3 weeks in the case of another shut down. If this happened, we would be “stuck” in the states with Slow Dancer left behind in Panama for an undetermined amount of time. And since she is our home, we needed to get back.
We took an Uber to Panama City (1 1/2 hours away) and spent the night at a hotel near the airport. It was the first day that the hotel had been open. Everything was shiny and sterilized. We have gotten used to having our temperature taken and hands sprayed upon entering any business or building and this hotel was no exception. The next morning, we arrived early, just in case and again had temps taken and hands sanitized. The airport was not very busy and it was easy to navigate. Then before entering the plane, temps and sanitize. The plane was only half full and was delightful. As we deplaned in Orlando, Florida, no temps were taken, no sanitizing. We were pleased at the short immigration line. The agent looked at our passports, took our pictures and said “Welcome home”. Never had that statement made such an impact as that day after being locked down in Panama for most of the year. Yes, we were happy to be on U.S. soil again.
It was a mad race to visit family and friends in four states with just 3 weeks to do it. We loaded our suitcases with boat parts and items that we were finding hard to get in Panama. We ate as much beef (burgers, steaks, etc.) and salads as we could hold! These are the items that we have found to be questionable in Central America, so we regularly live without them. We got our hair cut, did banking, hauled items to storage and voted!
We truly enjoyed seeing our family and friends and made it back to Slow Dancer to wait out a couple of hurricanes and hopefully begin our journey north as we watch to see which countries will open.