Bay's Travel Blog

I don't travel much, but blogging is trippy.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Fun quiz

I was totally honest and said that I do say "I" as "ah" sometimes, yet this is the result I get? No way!


What American accent do you have? (Best version so far)

Northern

You have a Northern accent. That could either be the Chicago/Detroit/Cleveland/Buffalo accent (easily recognizable) or the Western New England accent that news networks go for.

Personality Test Results

Click Here to Take This Quiz
Brought to you by YouThink.com quizzes and personality tests.

Edited to add: If you'd like to find out what kind of accent you boast, then try this link:
http://www.youthink.com/quiz.asp?action=take&quiz_id=9827

Monday, June 25, 2007

I'm here, I swear; I'm OK!

I'm so sorry. I meant to be writing daily updates about my fabulous long weekend in Las Vegas.

I realize that some of you might be worried that I've been incapacitated by an unexpected foray into the darker, seedier side of this oft-maligned city of sin.

Rest assured, I haven't been seduced by the gaming and the debauchery. I haven't gambled away the family fortune, nor have started snorting drugs off the tables in the nightclubs.

Instead, I have spent all my glorious days here happily involved in the lovely, mild pastimes offered to people who don't gamble.

And the very best pastime is hanging out with my dear sister in her lovely backyard pool.

I cannot adequately describe how completely fabulous it is to just put on a swimsuit at 8:00 in the morning and hit the pool running. Every morning I drink my coffee at the table on her covered patio; every afternoon is spent lazily -- and laughingly -- playing in the swimming pool and getting out to sip a Coke Zero or a Starbuck's Mocha Frappuccino.

I've had the pleasure of meeting Steve and Miles of The Strip Podcast, and they are -- genuinely -- truly -- magnificently nice guys. I love 'em to death. (And Miles is such a hottie! I'm madly in love with him!)

I will post a detailed trip report when I get home, but in the meantime, I'm just too busy relaxing and having fun to write.

Gotta go dry my hair -- we lucked into tickets to see The Mentalist tonight. Both Amy and Steve recommend it, so I cannot wait!!!

P.S. to Kathi -- I'm sorry, Kathi, but I haven't spent any time on the Strip this trip, so I haven't had a chance to collect any hooker cards. Maybe tonight?)

Friday, June 22, 2007

VEGAS, BABY!!!

I'm leaving this afternoon, and I'm soooo excited, I can hardly keep my hair on. VEGAS, BABY!!!! (Don't you love that movie "Swingers"?)

Amy and I have talked and planned and scheduled and rearranged the schedule and made reservations and bought tickets -- this is going to be *such* a fabulous trip!

Here are our plans:
FatBurger -- For the luscious chocolate milkshakes. The burgers and thick-cut fries are awesome, yes, but the chocolate milkshakes are, for me, a religious experience. My mouth waters at the very idea!

BagelMania -- We plan to meet some favorite podcasters at Bagel Mania for breakfast. I hope they've got sesame!

Siegfried & Roy's Secret Garden -- I'm conflicted, but I've gotta see it. I just read about how white tigers are the result of inbreeding and overbreeding, and most white tigers have severe birth defects and die young. I kind of hope that practice is stopped, and soon. But in the meantime, there are other things to see in the Secret Garden, right? Right! Like dolphins!!! There's a new baby dolphin there. Woo hoo!

The Producers -- I'm very, very excited about this one. Amy and I saw The Producers in NY in October, 2001, and I became Brad Oscar's biggest fan. OK, maybe not his biggest fan -- but still, he's totally brilliant, and I have been dying to see him in the role of Max Bialystock. They recently announced that some substitute is going to take over the role in August, so I'm doubly happy that I'll be in LV before Brad leaves!

Mon Ami Gabi -- Dinner at a nice restaurant? You bet, baby! A few of my friends are even envious that I'll be dining here, so I'll be sure to take pictures and post a complete report and review.

The Shark Reef at Mandalay Bay -- This is the "animal" trip, so we're going to take in the sights at Mandalay Bay. I've always liked the name of that hotel. I've never seen it.

The Mix Lounge -- Atop THEhotel at Mandalay Bay, Mix gets great reviews and boasts some stunning views. I wanna see the sunset! We're also going to meet some podcast listener friends for drinks! Yes, I'm taking a trampy camisole or two so they will recognize me.

The Atomic Testing Museum -- I wanna see things blow up! Then I want to worry about residual radiation. Yay! I get both wishes!

Springs Preserve -- We may skip this one if it's just too darned hot. But I would love to see what the Water District did with this historic site.

Now, I'm sure we'll be doing lots of things besides these plans, and we might have to cancel some little things. But isn't it funny -- I'll be in Las Vegas for three whole days, and I can't for the life of me understand how anyone ever has time to gamble! There's just too many other things to do there!

Gotta run finish packing -- Eeeeeeeee!!

Pardon me whilst I gush...


I went to a salon in Lenoir City this morning to get a haircut. I ended up getting my hair colored, cut, and styled, and my eyebrows colored and groomed. It was *heavenly*. I wrote out the whole experience for a business-review website, but I ended up not posting it because it was so long that I was afraid it would irritate people. Some folks just aren't ready for the full-on patented Bay love-bomb.

Here's the website with the reviews that already exist:
http://www.merchantcircle.com/business/Beyond.Bella.Salon.865-988-5785

I went to bed early and got up insanely early for this appointment, and I was really just about ready to chop off all my hair. (When is the last time I had really short hair?)

Here's my insanely long review that I didn't post:
Listen, I'll be honest. I was leery of going to a place I'd never been before. And I was due a major change in hair, both cut and color, which can be emotionally trying. *And*, to make matters worse, I'm a reality-TV junkie. Have you ever seen "Split Ends" or "Shear Genius"? I'm tellin' you, going to get your hair done can be scary.

And none of that even addresses my severe eyebrow trauma. Long story. Can't tell it without crying. And that was *years* ago.

Thank heaven I called Beyond Bella and told them how emotionally needy and tress-challenged I am. They gave me an appointment with Karen, and I counted down the minutes 'til it was time for my image consultation.

Beyond Bella is in a new location (near Home Depot) which I found easily, and honestly -- just walking into the place is a breath of fresh air. Sure, I've had my hair done in trailers, strip malls, malls, and even nice salons in some cities -- but I honestly think this is the nicest salon I've ever seen in East Tennessee. It's beautifully decorated and spacious, and the products for sale aren't just clumped up on a plastic-and-faux-chrome shelf unit. Someone really put some thought into comfort and beauty, which can be so soothing to someone who's worried about her hair.

I was offered coffee while I waited, and soon I met Karen, who was really nice and very calm. She took one look at me and seemed to know instinctively what color my hair *ought* to be. She asked -- rather hesitantly -- if I wanted to go blonde, and when I shouted, "NO!" she just immediately went to the right color, a warm chocolatey red-brown.

While she applied the color to my hair, we chatted a bit. Karen is warm and very nice, and again, very soothing and calm. It was just the balm I needed for my jangling nerves.

When it was time to let the color set, she guided me to a seating area -- and just as I was about to sit down, Karen looked at me really hard and said, "Your eyebrows are really pale. We need to color them."

OK, I kinda almost sorta had a heart attack. I'm very sensitive about my terrible eyebrows. I'm scared of letting anyone do ANYTHING to them because of that previously mentioned eyebrow waxing incident. But Karen assured me that I would be pleased, and she mixed up some medium brown dye and stood right there and painted my eyebrows.

Then she went back to her station, and that's when I was able to focus on the seating area, where an aromatic candle was burning, and yes, there was more coffee for the taking. The chairs were comfortable without being so fluffy as to induce sleep, and there were plenty of magazines to read. Every once in a while an assistant would come in and gather up one customer or another for a shampoo, and they were just as nice as the receptionists and the stylists. Everyone seemed really personable and concerned about the clients' level of comfort.

After a while, it was my turn. I am afraid I didn't catch the name of the woman who washed my hair, but man, she was soooo conscientious and careful! My hair grows really far down on the back of my neck and shampoo girls usually leave soap and conditioner and stuff back there. Not this gal! She very carefully checked, and honestly, she was so gentle with the entire shampoo and the water temp that it ended up feeling like a great scalp massage. Heaven! While she washed my hair, she also chatted about her grandchildren and kids, and Easter baskets and such. She was *so* nice, and she also comforted me about my eyebrow dye.

When it was time to cut my hair, Karen very wisely steered me away from the severely short cut to which I was leaning. She expertly cut my hair, and I am still amazed at how fresh and clean and *hip* it looks, without me lookin' like a middle-aged lady trying to reclaim her youth.

By this time, I had been staring at my furry, freshly-brown eyebrows long enough to know I needed someone to pay attention to them. Karen brought over Kim Burr, the aesthetician, who guided me to her little haven of happiness -- the room devoted to just facials. Now, seriously -- this was an experience all by itself. That table feels fabulous. You shouldn't be able to call it a table; the cushion top is so perfectly firm and soft at the same time. I would like to sleep on that "table," and I never once wanted to recline on my dining room table, y'know?

Kim totally understood my fear about eyebrow waxing, and she set me at ease. Then she started the waxing, and then she started plucking. Honestly, just when I was starting to panic ("She's gotta be over-plucking! There can't be anything left!"), she stopped and handed me a mirror so I could check one eyebrow before she moved on to the next. It was PERFECT!!!!! It was gorgeous!!!!! I looked like someone out of a magazine!!!! I swear, I want to take pictures of my eyebrows and put 'em in a scrapbook!

Kim also put some kind of ultra-soothing solution all around my eyes, and it felt so good that I literally exclaimed, "Oh, my gosh! That feels great!"

In the meantime, something in that room smelled yummy -- I don't know if it was another candle, because I had my eyes closed most of the time -- and calm, New-Age-ish music was playing with bird songs and nature sounds mixed in. It was all very relaxing, calming, soothing, and honestly, except for that brief moment when I worried, the whole thing was a magnificent experience.

And ... that was just an ordinary old *eyebrow wax*. Imagine what a full-bore facial must feel like!

Kim tells me she also does facials and massages, and I am definitely going to try one as soon as possible. The Bella Signature Facial sounds like a winner to me.

At the end of the whole fabulous experience, Kim took me out to the cashier and thanked me. She also gave me a brochure and some business cards. I'm keeping the brochure for future reference; I'm definitely passing out the cards to my friends!!!

The cashier then told me how much it cost, and I'm still absolutely in shock at how inexpensive the whole thing was. As I said, I've been to nice salons before. This was by far the best experience I've had, and it was by far the least expensive price.

I will be going back. Without hesitation, I recommend Beyond Bella highly. Everyone I met was professional, courteous, and kind. I know everyone has an off-day, and I'm sure that happens every now and then, but for the overall experience -- I just can't say enough good things about Beyond Bella.

Sorry this is so long -- but I honestly thought y'all should know what to expect!
-------

I had a very good morning.

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Now it's after midnight, and I'm packing to leave for Las Vegas. (EEEEEEEEEEE!!!! Las Vegas!!!!!) I'm still very happy with the color of my hair and the shape of my newly-brown eyebrows. I need to do some serious fluffing on my hair before I leave for LV, though -- it is really flat at the moment, and I can't wash it for a while yet. I do not want to risk fading this gorgeous color. Heck, I even stuck my head in a scanner so I could remember my hair color! That's how good it is!

Someday I should write a blog post about my poor eyebrows. We've been through so much together.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Father's Day


It's Father's Day, so I made a card for Wesley using the Chapter One Greetings to Go kit. This kit rocks. The card is a gate-fold, so one frame goes one way and the tag goes another way, and they lie together very nicely when the card is closed -- the way it's shown here.

I also stamped the envelope -- I do love stamped envelopes -- and then Woodrow bought Wesley a DVD and we needed to wrap it. No problem -- I grabbed a bit of paper from the roll of newsprint (which we keep on hand for the birds' cages). Once it was wrapped, I just inked up the uncut Chapter One UM's and pressed 'em on the wrapping. Finished up with some Extra! Extra! printed tape, and voila -- a manly package that coordinates with the card.

I love paper.

Oh, and Wesley did like his card.

Visiting glorious Franklin

I have *got* to spend more time in Franklin, Tennessee.

Today was the FFC Banquet in Franklin, and I leapt up at the crack of dawn and headed out for the wilds of Nashville in plenty of good time.

OK, so, that's a total lie. I overslept, then I ran around like an idiot trying to drink coffee and iron my shirt at the same time, then I threw things in the car, and then Woodrow decided he was coming with me, and then we finally got in the car, and *then* I headed out for Nashville, and I was already running 55 minutes late.

Fortunately, I drive like a maniac and I made up almost all that time, getting to my Franklin exit at about 12:10, only ten minutes late.

Sadly, I got lost at that point and wasted untold piles of time driving back and forth on one single road, trying desperately to find the road that Mapquest said I was supposed to turn on. Mapquest doesn't give you landmarks. I wish it did, because I drove past my road five or six times. In the meantime, I had left all the phone numbers at home and couldn't call Pam the hostess or Shona the teacher to ask them where the heck I was.

Very, very luckily, Sabrina was there, and she asked Shona for my number and called me. I literally answered the phone yelling, "I'M LOST!!!!!" Sabrina is the *best*. She told me exactly where to go and how to get there. YAY, SABRINA!!!!

So I was something like 49 minutes late for the party... but I did make it.

YAY!

I got there, and Pam greeted me -- and she's *so* lovely and warm and friendly and fun! -- and I said hi to Shona, and then I went to the kitchen to look at people's albums and chat. Girls were doing make'n'takes in the dining room, and there were margaritas and snacks in the kitchen (yum! but I didn't drink because I knew I would have to drive back). A few of us chatted in the kitchen, and I met a lovely gal named Mia who is a mostly digi scrapper. She didn't know that CS has a digi kit. She does now. I'm just sayin'. Is all.

After a while, we gathered in the dining room and Shona started her spiel with an intro to CS and then we all introduced ourselves. Then we dived into the project, which was a mini Wild Wild West ALSB, and it was *so* cool.

While all that was going on, my son Woodrow was doing his best impression of a ghost that I've ever seen. I had told him I needed him to be nice and quiet, but I had no idea how quiet he could really be. It was almost like he wasn't there! That is weird, and it's definitely new to me. Usually he pesters me to death. Does this mean Woodrow is growing up?

Also, I was kind of going through baby-withdrawal. Pam just had a baby, and I could hear her cooing and gurgling in other parts of the house, but I didn't get to hold her. That's probably best. Wesley might divorce me if I suddenly developed baby cravings at this late date. But man, I wanted to snuggle me a baby, and I didn't get to. Dang it!

It seemed to take a little longer to do the six pages than I would have thought, but that was probably just me. (I'm still a member of the "special" class, y'know.) I did totally mess up one of my cuts, but I used the gold foil CS sticker from a package to "adheze" some paper back together and fix my mistake.

I'm trying to do the math -- I think there were five real guests. Some of them were CS members; two of them were not. Then there was Pam the hostess, and Shona's MIL Mimi, and me.

Everyone seemed to have fun, and Mia the digi scrapper was attaching photos on every one of her layouts before moving on to the next!!!!!! That was amazing to see. She really does go for the most efficient way of doing *everything*!!!!! Sabrina had brought a ton of supplies, and I borrowed some Ranger Distress Ink from her at one point. Almost everyone at the workshop fell in love with inking, and they were all hogging the Palette inks that Shona had brought. I'm not complainin'... I'm just sayin'... is all! ;)

I got to chat with Sabrina just the teensiest bit before every thing finished -- she's going to be in Knoxville this week, and I'm really kind of thinking -- I need to go say hi when she's here. I'll email her and see what we can set up. She's going to the Knoxville Zoo and the children's museum, but she's staying in West Knoxville which is very near me.

The last thing Sabrina told me was to drive over to old downtown Franklin, and I'm so glad and so sorry I did. Glad because... it's GORGEOUS. Sorry because... it's gorgeous and I didn't have enough time to play and explore!!!!!!!!!!!

There I was, trying to drive and gawk at the same time, and I kept yelling to Woodrow, "I wish Mama were here -- she would've loved this. OH! Look! That house's plaque says it was built in 1850 -- GORGEOUS!!!!! Dang, I wish Mama could see this!"

Maybe Mama did see it -- after all, she stomped around on this earth for 39 years before I came along -- but dang, if she didn't... I'm feeling badly for her right now. Franklin is *exactly* the kind of place that Mama would have loved.

I glimpsed one plaque that said the house was built in 1805. I absolutely must go back to Franklin and build in more time for touring. That place is sublime. Why does anyone live in Nashville? Or Brentwood, for that matter? Franklin has all a body could want, and more.

Then I hit the road for real, and I tore up the interstates to get home before dark. I don't know why "dark" was my time limit -- I just wanted to get home. I called Wesley and let him know where I was, then I called Amy and left her a message. Much later, I got hold of her and she confessed that she had forgotten I was going to a Banquet today! Then we spent twenty minutes talking about what we're going to do in Las Vegas next weekend.

Las Vegas is fun, but man, it could use some houses from the 1850's to spiff up the joint a little. I'm just sayin'.

Woodrow and I stopped at a Waffle House for dinner, and we still made it home just as the sun was setting. At the Loudon exit, I pointed to the big red ball that was the sun, and by the time we ran into Philadelphia, that big red ball was below the horizon. Coooooooooooool.

Wesley was asleep when I got home, so I'll show him my pages some other day.

In general, I just have to say that it was a lovely day. I met some wonderfully nice people, hung out with old friends, made some gorgeous pages, and saw an absolutely breathtaking antebellum town that I never even knew existed in Tennessee. I expect to see architecture like that in Georgia and South Carolina, but not in Tennessee. I am totally undone by the beauty of Franklin.

So if you're ever in the area -- visit Franklin. Seriously. Would I lie to you? No! So go see Franklin! And tell Pam and Sabrina and Mia that I said hey!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

How I defy authority (politely)

Finally, being a middle-aged mama is starting to pay off.

Saturday morning, I took Emily to work as usual. I use old country roads for most of this route; I could use a highway or an interstate, but the traffic and scenery are better in the boonies, y'know. One part of my route is real and old, very curvy and narrow. Another part is a newish road that has been built in anticipation of a "business park" being here someday. (Is "business" doublespeak for "industrial"? I don't know, but I hope it's business and not industrial.) Anyway, that newer road is straight, smooth, wide, has inoperative street lamps and a black rail fence running the length of it. It's probably a mile or two long; I've never measured it.

On my way home from dropping Em off, I turned right onto this "business park" road. Waaaaaaaaay back in the distance, I could see a car coming. I have only seen two other cars on this road all spring. It bummed me out, because it meant I couldn't go as slowly as I usually like to go on this road. It's a pretty road. Wildflowers. Trees. Fire ant hills and possums. Y'know. Pretty.

So I'm driving along, and I glance in my rearview mirror, and the car that had been waaaaaaaaaaaay behind me when I turned on the road was now filling up my mirror. He was *right* on my tail. I sped up a little to get him off my bumper. He sped up. I sped up a little more. Next thing I knew, I was doing 50 mph. Now, it was a straight road and there is no posted speed limit, but I was a very unhappy camper.

I stopped at one stop sign, wondering how I was going to get this guy off my tail, when I realized -- this is the boonies. I can just pull over to the right and wave him around me. So before I got to the next stop sign where I would need to turn left onto the real country road, I pulled off onto the shoulder and waved at him. He didn't move. I rolled my window down, stuck my hand out, and waved at him again.

So he pulled up next to me, and this is when I realized, "Oh, heck, this guy is a cop." He's not a REAL cop. He has a white car with "Drug Task Force" painted on the side. There are other slogans like "Stop Violent Crime" and "Just Say No." But he doesn't have bubble lights on top of his car. I mean, I didn't *know* he was an authority figure just from watching him crawl up my tailpipe.

Hoooo, boy. I got a mini cop.

And he was annoyed.

When he was next to my car, he stopped and rolled down his passenger window to holler at me, "Is there a problem?"

And I said, "No, sir, I'm sorry, I just felt you were following me too closely and wanted to go faster than I did. I want to go slower, so I thought the polite thing to do would be to let you get past me."

He raised his eyebrows at me and ground out between clenched teeth, "I thought YOU were going too fast back there."

And I couldn't help it. I couldn't. I know I'm bad, but I just couldn't help it. I laughed.

I laughed at a mini cop.

I laughed and I said, "I was only trying to give you some space!"

He rolled his eyes and snorted, but he drove around me and went on his way. He probably *couldn't* give me a ticket. His car didn't have bubble lights, and he wasn't wearing a uniform -- just a plaid shirt and a baseball cap -- so it's not like he was a *real* cop.

So what do you think? Why didn't Officer Leadfoot give me a speeding ticket? Was it because I told him he was going too fast, or was it because he couldn't?

Monday, June 11, 2007

Back to life!

While I was writing up my trip report, I was a totally lazy slacker and didn't do any proper blogging. Bad Bay! And darn it, there are so many interesting things to rant about. Like, for instance, how my air conditioning broke again. It does that every summer. I'm really tired of it. But luckily for you, I didn't blog all about my frustration. It just gets whiny after a while.

So now that I'm more comfortable, I can talk about more interesting things!

Like... wait a minute, I'll think of something. Ooo! I thought of something! I'm going to a Food For Craft Banquet in Nashville next weekend! And I'm really looking forward to it! I'll report it all here, of course. I'm going to be carpooling with the FFC Crafter who's teaching the Banquet, Shona. It'll be nice to have some company on the three-hour drive!

And! My darlin' stister Yamy had a birthday on the 6th -- happy birthday, Yamy! -- and for her present, she got me! Yes! I'm going to Las Vegas for the weekend of the 23rd. Watch out, Sin City! Me and my trampy camisoles are comin' back!

What else?

Oh, yes, I've been scrappin'. It's not easy, considering the office was the second hottest room in the house. (The kitchen is the most hot room in the house, but I avoided it by not cooking anything at all while the temperatures were the most unbearable.) I finally tackled the Surf's Up kit from last summer. I loved it when it arrived -- it's such an unbelievable combination of light, light green, lime green, blue, orange, and pinky-reddish-orange. I *loved* it on first sight. When I was cleaning out my scraproom and selling stuff off? I kept every single piece of Surf's Up. I feel like I've been waiting 11 months just to scrap this gorgeous kit, and now that I finally have -- it totally lived up to my expectations!

I'm getting beach photos and vacation photos printed, and as soon as possible, I'm going to start putting pictures on these pages. I just love the way they turned out before the photos arrived! And most of them aren't even copied from the Scrap Rap -- I actually designed most of 'em myself.

(It's so nice to finally be happy with the scrappin'. It's been *so* long since I did it just to be happy!)

Now I have to run and make a book for Peytyn. I got the prints from our South Florida vacation, and I got plenty of copies of the pictures with the kids in 'em. Gift book time!

Oh, and for tomorrow -- I really must tell about how I chastised a policeman and shamed him into leaving me alone!

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Leaving S. Florida, Thurs., May 24th

Well. We didn't oversleep. We didn't have any breakfast, either, since no one had picked up anything at Dunkin Donuts the night before, and we were all too busy packing to go out.

Look, I'll be honest. We were horribly disorganized and lost on Thursday morning. I was disoriented, and Wesley told me in the middle of packing that he couldn't find our pre-printed driving directions from Pembroke Pines to the glorious Seahorse Oceanfront Inn in Jacksonville, so I had to get on a computer and get directions. And there was no printer, so I had to write out those directions by hand. *And* I had to get directions from the Seahorse to home. I mean, it was not a small task, and I was hot as hell.

Furthermore, in the middle of all this, I had to actually get *other* driving directions. I haven't *even* included the whole Emily-wants-to-meet-an-online-friend-of-hers saga that was unfolding for the entirety of our vacation. Nyxy (not her real name) lives in Port St. Lucie, an hour and forty-five minutes north of Pembroke Pines. For more than half of the week we were there, I kept hearing different plans to get Em and Nyxy together. One of them -- not my favorite -- involved getting up at 6:00, driving 45 minutes north, and picking up Nyxy to take her to Parrot Jungle with us, which was 45 minutes SOUTH. And then there was the whole, "Put Em on a train to Port St. Lucie" scheme. Since I couldn't FIND any freaking trains, I was not eager to do that.

On the other hand, I do know what it's like to want to meet one's online friends. (Hello, online friends!!!!)

Since Port St. Lucie was on our way north, I said we would get off the turnpike and meet her somewhere. I had to talk to her uncle to get a place to meet (Walgreen's???) and get the directions off of Mapquest for both getting there and getting on toward Jacksonville.

That's why things fell apart in the taking-our-leave department.

I dropped the ball. I handed Emily a bag at some point and said, "Check ALL OVER and make sure you get EVERYTHING that belongs to us."

Emily only heard, "Check the upstairs bedroom," and she did not check all over.

Unfortunately, neither did Wesley, and I really kind of thought he was going to at least *check*.

When I finished writing four pages of driving directions (from Pembroke Pines to Port St. Lucie, from there to Jacksonville, and from there to home), I foolishly gathered up my purse and declared that I was going to say goodbye to Peytyn. I went to the Tobins' house and spent forty minutes leisurely chatting with my old friend. I thought the car was being loaded in the meantime.

Foolish. Stupid. Boneheaded. In the extreme. And it was all my fault.

We finally said a tearful goodbye to Peytyn, and as I walked to the car, I really did think, "Hmmmm... that doesn't look as full as I thought it would." But I didn't say anything, because I knew we had gone there with a birdhouse to leave for a hostess gift for Debbie. Maybe the lack of a birdhouse compensated for the emptiness of the car.

We got on the Interstate... and promptly missed our exit. We were lost.

We got off a road (I have no idea which one) and asked at a gas station how to get back to where we needed to be. Time ticked away while we drove around, and finally we were on the road again. I had Emily call Nyxy and tell her we were going to be late because we got lost.

We did manage to find Port St. Lucie, though, and we got off. Scary traffic! You might as well be in Miami! And we met Nyxy at the Walgreen's and walked across the parking lot to the Wendy's, where I had a totally mediocre chicken salad. At least it was cheap! Em and Nyxy squealed a lot and took pics of each other, and I took pics of them together, and they exchanged gifts and were very excited. I tried to talk to Nyxy at one point, but she was *exceedingly* shy and could barely put together three words for me. I'm glad the girls got to meet, though. It made Emily happy, and from what I hear, it made Nyxy *very* happy.

Then we started trying to get out of Port St. Lucie. OMG. I was driving by that time, and I thought I was going to kill us. I crossed three lanes of traffic at one point. That was the scariest traffic moment of the whole trip!!!!!!!

We were back on the turnpike soon, though, and making our way up to Jacksonville.

Unfortunately, we were making such terrible time that I could literally *see* Wesley getting more and more disappointed. We were supposed to have spent at least one afternoon on the beach in Jacksonville, and it was getting so late -- I just knew it wasn't going to happen.

Finally, we reached Jacksonville just in time for 5:00 traffic. Poor Wesley. I know he was dying. We did, however, find the Seahorse Oceanfront Inn, and we got checked in smoothly. It wasn't until we were taking our overnight bags upstairs that things fell apart for real.

Because that's when I discovered... We left our main toiletries bag in Debbie's house in Pembroke Pines.

I had ALL my toiletries in that bag. Claritin, Afrin, skin care products, razors, shampoo, lotions, rash creams, feminine things, toothpaste, toothbrush, deodorant, make-up -- you name it, it was in that bag. Everything was in there. I was having trouble breathing, believing that this was happening.

I called Peytyn's cell phone... and Jim answered.

And he confirmed that we had left our toiletries at Debbie's house.

Now, this is the part where I skip all the histrionics in which I indulged.

I.

Was.

Horrified.
......

......


.................


I walked toward the beach, where thunderclouds were gathering. It was gorgeous and the light was turning pink, so I went back to the room and got my camera and family for some photos.

The whole time we were at the beach, we were getting misted with ... I can't call it rain. It was sprinkling, I guess, but the wind was blowing so it turned to heavy mist. Some surfers were trying to surf the growing waves. We finally called it quits and headed back to the room.

Then we tried to decide where to have dinner. Wesley wanted real seafood. I looked at the guides in the room and we decided to try to find Sliders. By this time, it was really raining, and although the restaurant was less than two blocks away, we drove there. Just as we parked in the parking lot, the heavens opened up and dropped a deluge on us. We ran to the restaurant door, and we were still soaked when we got there.

As we were seated in a very noisy restaurant, I was literally wringing out my hair. I mean, I was dripping wet. We all were. And it seemed to me that people were *looking* at us. I looked at the thingie on the table which said, "Happy Hour! Thursday night! Beer and oysters!" And then I looked around and realized Woodrow was the youngest person in there.

OH. That's why everyone's staring at us. We just brought our kid to happy hour!

Woodrow -- the kid who won't eat shrimp to save his life -- got a platter of crawdads. *With* the heads still attached. Wesley got a trio of seafood (I totally forget what), and Emily got shrimp tacos. I got the crab-stuffed shrimp.

It was the blandest crab-stuffed shrimp I've ever had, and Emily didn't like her shrimp tacos, either. The boys loved their meals, though. And the restaurant did get quieter as the Happy Hour customers got into their cars and drove away, sloshing with beer and oysters. Wesley got the carrot cake for dessert, and I got the key lime pie. We both ate the pie and I saved half of the cake for later. It was very good carrot cake, with the notable elimination of nuts. Carrot cake usually has nuts, and it's one of those *extremely* rare foods that I'll eat even if it does have nuts. I have to admit that I *missed* the nuts in that carrot cake. It was tasty, but it lacked the crunchiness of nuts.

Weird, I know. I usually don't want the nuts, but in carrot cake... well, they seem necessary.

Then we drove around in search of a drug store and a Dunkin Donuts. We bought toiletries and breakfast food.

Back in the room, I watched "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip" -- I didn't even know it was back from hiatus -- and soon crashed. Sleep that night was terrible. I kept waking up. Wesley kept waking up. Woodrow kept waking up. I think Emily was the only person to get a bit of sleep. Lucky her! We should have made *her* drive us home!

Monday, June 04, 2007

Part II - S. FL, Wed., May 23rd


Off to lunch, continued from Part I...

We went back and asked the keeper of the gate if we should get our hands stamped again. Some of us were sweating off our hand stamps. They said no, we didn't need it if we still had our ticket stubs. We went to the cafe; everyone went to the incredibly clean, big, shiny restrooms, and then we got in line. This place was cafeteria-style dining, and I couldn't make up my mind, and there were people getting in line behind me. Since I didn't want to hold up progress, I got out of line and went to the courtyard to get a table right next to the ashtray.

And I had a cigarette while watching approximately 4500 blue-t-shirt-clad second graders beat the snot out of each other while waiting to board their bus. One mother-chaperone tried not to weep in jealousy and longing.

Hey, man, I didn't designate the smoking area.

I just took advantage of it.

By the time I finished my cigarette, Wesley and the kids joined me bearing their trays of food. Wesley was having difficulty breathing at the prices, but the food was definitely better than the slop we had gotten at the Seaquarium the day before.

I went inside and got a turkey and cheese wrap, a diet Pepsi, and a piece of cake for $11.89. Not too bad. And Emily let me have her crinkle fries. She had gotten way too much food. (Which probably contributed to Wesley's apoplexy at the prices.)

During lunch I discovered that my forehead was hurting. I think I got a little too much sun. It never did look sunburned, but my forehead is the driest thing on my body. The least little irritation is too much for my poor baby forehead, so I spent the rest of the day covering it with my hand. (It reminded me of junior high when we would try to cover up zits by just holding a hand over the affliction. ROFL!!! I was constantly smacking my forehead as if to say, "Wow!")

As we finished dining, Wesley noticed that it was getting toward lorikeet feeding time. I was feeling much restored, more forgiving of the total fiscal hijacking of photo ops and the dropping of "Parrot" from "Jungle Island," and we were all dying to feed the lorikeets. He and the kids went that way while I finished cleaning up the table and took Emily's unopened yogurt to the car to put it in the trunk.

When I got to the lorikeet aviary, Emily and Woodrow already had near-empty cups of nectar and were covered with birds. I bought my little cup of nectar -- for a dollar, and it was the best dollar I spent all day -- and I got covered up with greedy little hungry lorikeets. Those are the *best* birds. They're not great for pets because they don't bond with humans; otherwise, I would get myself a flock of lorikeets.

However, they do become tame like these lorikeets. They're sloppy eaters, so they flung droplets of nectar all around. When they finished the nectar in the little cup, they then crawled all over me, licking drops of nectar off of me, which tickled. When they ran out of nectar drops, they crawled all over us, just preening us and playing. It was a blast!!!!

They even crawled all over Wesley, who didn't have nectar, but he did wear some interesting toys like that button at the top of his baseball cap.

Best. Dollar. Spent. All. Day. Seriously!!!

We wandered around a little more -- not much, honestly -- and the reptile show was set to start in a little bit at the back of the park. So we made our way there, passing the petting farm full of goats and an Alpaca, and more orangutans, and in the amphitheatre was an albino thing. I don't know if it was an alligator or a crocodile. I don't much care. Seen one, seen 'em all.

This was the best show of the day. First of all, there were fewer people there thanks to the departure of the school groups. Secondly, I could hear the guy talking. Thirdly, HE TALKED. He didn't singsong and dance his way through an insipid script. The only problem I could perceive was that he wouldn't let us hold the turtles. He had diamondback terrapins!!!!! But I couldn't take pictures or hold 'em because he said I could get salmonella. HEY!!! I'm an adult; I can WASH MY HANDS!!!!

Hmph.

And yeah, he ended his spiel with, "Enjoy the rest of your day at Jungle Island."

Other people touched the python. Yawn. Who cares about snakes? I wanted to see more parrots.

We made our way out of the amphitheatre and I found the backside of the island where the other smoking area was. I sat in deep shade and chatted with my happy little family. Then I kissed a palm tree for Krisi, and then we started to leave, but we were suckered in by the petting farm. There were some giant tortoises, but since I couldn't feed them or touch them... eh, what's the point?

Then I got totally charmed by the goats and Alpaca. The pellet vending machines are right next to the fence, and if you start to get a handful, the animals all gather right there next to you, bleating for a bite. Except the Alpaca, which is big enough to stick its head over the fence and right into your hand while you're still getting pellets out of the machine. ROFL!!!! It startled me!

I spent 50 cents in no time flat, feeding goats and the Alpaca. Then I gave my last quarter to a little girl who didn't speak English whose mother had run out of quarters.

I said goodbye to every parrot I passed. There was a small aviary for budgies and cockatiels, but there was no way to hold them, touch them, or feed them, which drove Emily and Woodrow crazy. They wanted to play with the little birdies. Also, a cockatiel had worked its way out of the three-layer-deep roof of the aviary, and it was clinging to the side and crying to get back inside. Emily was VERY concerned about it. I was more angry that no employee was doing anything about it.

It's kind of... Jungle Islandish to ignore a bird like that. I don't believe that would've happened at Parrot Jungle.

We made our way out and went upstairs to the photo developing center to see our pictures. The prices took my breath away. I chose the "two 5x7's" package for $22 plus tax, and we chose the family pose -- mostly because Wesley claimed that he smiled. (I still can't perceive any teeth, but I'm taking his word for it.) Then I regretted that decision and asked Wesley if I could please have the pictures of the kids' pose. Again, I chose the 5x7's, saying, "8x10 is too big for the scrapbook."

The girl behind the counter perked right up and asked, "Are you a scrapbooker???" Wesley laughed out loud and bragged that I used to write for a scrapbooking mag, which set the girl off on a tangent about how much she loves scrapbooking but wishes she spent less money and time on it.

So I said, "Welllllllllll... since you asked. Club Scrap. I'm just sayin'. Is all."

We talked a bit about Club Scrap and Assembly Line Scrapbooking, and I wrote down the URL for her. She said she was going to check it out.

When she rang up the second photo package, it wasn't as expensive as the first. The guy behind the counter (who had been silent and unresponsive as a rock during this whole transaction) registered my surprise and scowled, "She gave you a discount."

Then we went to the gift shop and Wesley got a shotglass. The t-shirts were overpriced and mostly covered with tigers and monkeys and boring stuff like that.

I forget what the kids got.

I had gotten pictures, so I didn't buy anything else.

Altogether, even with our discounted tickets, we spent about $200 at Parrot Jungle Island. It was *not* an inexpensive day, and when you consider that I think the best dollar spent was the tiny cup of lorikeet nectar....

I can't really recommend it.

Unless you really love parrots and don't mind lots of other exotic animals. I don't know, maybe if you want to see an albino whatever-it-was....

Maybe.

Back at home, we thought we had until 7:30 to clean up for Debbie's return, but she surprised us and came home three hours early. Ugh.

Wesley and Jim went to Costco and bought a big chunk of beef that Jim carved into steaks and grilled. They were superb. We also had baked potatoes and salad. It was a good night, and then I had to go back to Debbie's house. Emily spent the night with Perry, Wesley took the guest bedroom, Woodrow took the couch, and I took the son's bedroom, because Debbie had taken the master bedroom back. She had also turned up the thermostat. OK, I deserved that. I had been keeping the house ice-cold while she was out of town.

I aimed a fan at myself and crashed for the night. I didn't want to leave the next day. I was in denial. We had had such a good trip in general, and I had so enjoyed Peytyn's company. I just didn't want to leave.

Oh, well. At least I got to feed some parrots and lorikeets!

S. FL, Wed., May 23rd... Part One

We had decided to put off Parrot Jungle until last. That was Woodrow's idea -- save the best for last. I was very worried about that plan, because I was concerned that I would run out of steam and say, "Aw, scwew it, I ain't goin' out n' more." And my feet were getting more swollen as the week wore on, and after the disaster of the Seaquarium, I was just plain worried about being disappointed.

Honestly, I have more to say about that. I was expecting to be disappointed with Parrot Jungle Island. The old Parrot Jungle was historic and quaint. Yes, it was crowded, and the jungle path was so overgrown that you had to go sideways through some areas. At the back of the tiny park, there was a stone cottage reminiscent of Snow White's cottage with the dwarves. The old Parrot Jungle was quite obviously a throwback to another time, an older, gentler tourism day. And I liked it that way just fine. The emphasis was on parrots, dammit, and not much else.

After sleeping late on Tuesday, I set four or five different alarms to wake us up on Wednesday, because I was absolutely determined to beat the heat. I know Peytyn and her family kept saying it was "cold," and they kept putting on long-sleeved shirts as soon as the sun went down, but I was burning up hot the whole time I was there. Peytyn's crazy. And she's skinnier than I am, which might explain why she was so cold. She needs some fat for insulation. Like me.

I had also picked up breakfast the night before at Dunkin Donuts, so believe it or not, we were dressed, fed, and out the door by 9:00 in the morning. SERIOUSLY! While I sat on the front stoop, a neighborhood duck came by and asked for some of my coffee. I told it to take a hike, and it obliged by just moving along once it realized I wasn't going to feed it.

We hit the road and made it to downtown Miami more slowly than the day before -- the residual going-to-work traffic really *was* heavier than the 11:00 traffic -- but we still managed to find the new Parrot Jungle Island.

It's ... bigger.

It's much... MUCH bigger.

And not nearly as quaint and darling, but at least the parking garage afforded some shade for the car.

Because it was the off-season and a Tuesday, we got a parking space quite close to the front entrance. We got in line to get our tickets, armed with more buy-one-get-one-free coupons from dear Perry, and dang it, that was the slowest line I've ever seen. After one woman spent eight minutes at the window, and the next woman was up there trying to buy her tickets, I excused myself and went to the ladies' room. It was very spiffy and had automatically flushing toilets and automatically running faucets.

The whole place was very... spiffy.

The courtyard where you buy your Parrot Jungle Island tickets is immense, clean, and well-landscaped. And it's surrounded on three sides by three or four floors of attractive, clean, well-designed, stucco'ed buildings. One building contained the cafe, photo developing service, and a temporary exhibit from an African heritage museum on its first two floors. One building held the gift shop on the first floor. All the rest of the floors and buildings held offices and meeting & banquet spaces.

At the back of the courtyard, you enter through a gate and the first thing you encounter is the posing-with-parrots opportunity. Of course we posed. We must! It's a tradition! I have a photo from the first family visit to the old Parrot Jungle in 1999, and a photo of me and Amy from our visit in 2001. That part, at least, was familiar and friendly.

The parrot perched on my shoulder decided to chew on my ponytail holder's beads, so I yanked it out of my hair. As a result, our family picture looks like monkey butt. The kids look a little better, although Woodrow seemed *awfully* stiff and nervous. Even the photographer commented on his nerves, telling him to relax, he wouldn't be bitten. Woodrow knew he wasn't going to be bitten; he was just so overjoyed that he couldn't relax. Woodrow was THRILLED to be at Parrot Jungle Island, and out of all of us, I think he had the best time.

I'm doing the math -- I guess Woodrow was six years old the last time he was there. Maybe that explains his excitement.

We stopped and talked to the parrots just inside the entrance. And yeah, we fed them a little. I love the little birdies!

After that, I consulted with the park guide and discovered that the bird show was starting within the next few minutes, so we hightailed it over to the amphitheatre that holds the bird show. On the way, we walked over the second-floor view of the Manu Experience and declared that we *must* find our way back here later.

When we got to the amphitheatre, we discovered a few school groups and a whole bunch of disappointments. The emcees kept exhorting the audience to holler and yell and clap. That's never a good sign to me. I've done too much theatre -- and way too much children's theatre -- to know that when they tell you, "Let us hear you!," what they really mean is, "We don't have much content, so we need to fill the void with pointless noise."

And the schoolkids were more than happy to oblige, shrieking and giggling at decibel levels perceptible only to dogs.

Now... there was some seriously interesting stuff in that show. I could barely hear it because the sound system sucked so badly, but I know it was interesting from reading the lips of the emcees and from the sheer weirdness of the birds. The bird show used to be almost entirely parrots, but now they have vultures and stuff like that. The Cassowary in particular was fascinating beyond all belief. It was roughly the size of an emu, but it was brilliant blue. I mean, the body and skin of this bird was brilliant blue. The feathers were black. And it has a big, ugly, bony thing on its head that makes it look like a dinosaur.

The interesting things about this bird are hard to list in one place, but here's what I remember just off the top of my head:
1. It jumped REALLY high.
2. It swallowed an apple whole, and then the apple made a lump in its long neck on the way to its stomach.
3. It is the most homicidal of all the birds in the world, having killed and injured many men over the last hundred years...
4. ...WITH ITS FEET.
5. The specimen at Parrot Jungle Island is the ONLY trained Cassowary in the whole... freaking... world.
6. Did I mention it's bright blue underneath its feathers? COOL!!!!

As the show ended, I barely noticed when the emcee yelled in closing, "And have a great day at... JUNGLE ISLAND!!!!" Hmmm. Jungle Island? Where did the parrots go?

When the show was over, we waited for the school groups to vacate the building, and then we made our way to a path to a ... an ... oasis of some kind. There was shelter, and there was a hot dog stand, and a poorly-stocked gift shack, and two guys with a baby alligator and a camera. Emily wanted to pose with the alligator, and I said, "Sure! Let me turn on my camera."

The guys said, "Oh, no, only WE can take the picture."

I gaped at them and protested, "Even Disney lets you take your own pictures!!!!"

SERIOUSLY!!!!!!!!!

To me, this was the worst thing I encountered in Parrot Jungle Island. They're so blatantly edacious, they won't let you take pictures during shows. They won't let you take pictures posing with animals. They're GREEDY PEOPLE!!!!!

And they're dropping the "Parrot" from Parrot Jungle.

As we made our way around the long, wide, winding paths, I could swear we ran into fewer parrots than I used to see in the old Parrot Jungle. But it could just be that the new place is so big that it just *appears* to have fewer parrots. I did see a flock of flamingos at a pond. And that was new to me. But I really, really missed that one, sweet cockatoo that died between my 1999 and 2001 visits. It was so sweet.

We made our way back to the Manu Experience, which is a three-story recreation of the clay cliffs of Manu, Peru. The macaws and Amazons that live in Manu chew on the clay, and scientists speculate that they do this to counteract their diet of berries which are, quite honestly, too poisonous to be ingested by other creatures. The Manu Experience has very heavy doors and you can't open one without making sure the one behind you has already closed and there's not a bird in the doorway with you.

There are also little monkeys living in there, and a couple of giant iguanas. Poor iguana. One of them was shedding and didn't want to move or eat, and he definitely didn't appreciate all the humans gawking at him.

We liked the Manu Experience a lot -- it felt like the right way to do a parrot exhibit. And man, some of those parrots are territorial! A pair of scarlet macaws has claimed a spot just inside the doorway, and they waddled menacingly at one of the park employees while we were in there.

That guy was pretty darned good. He could be a Disney CM. Very knowledgeable and easy to talk to. He was the best employee we saw all day. But he was definitely rattled when the macaws started threatening him. Macaws have *such* big beaks!

Then we wandered around some more paths and passed the lorikeet aviary, which was closed and locked and said they would be open for feeding at 2:15. I made a mental note. We love the little lorikeets!

Now, while wandering around, we did find more parrots to feed just outside the "Wild Things" amphitheatre. I kept getting change so I could get food out of the machines. I know that I had three dollars of quarters at one point to get handfuls of Zupreem pellets. This was another improvement over the old Parrot Jungle, which, if I remember correctly, had sunflower seeds in the vending machines. Parrots love the sunflower seeds, but man, they're fatty and devoid of nutritional value. It's kind of like eating potato chips all day.

But I could be wrong. Maybe the old Parrot Jungle had fruit pellets, and I've just forgotten it.

We also saw some big jungle cats, one of which was a "liger," a hybrid of a lion and a tiger. They wuz some big kitty cats in that large cage.

And monkeys of some sort. Orangutans? I guess? I don't know, don't care, monkeys bore me. Gibbons. Stuff like that. Yawn.

We found our way to the Everglades habitat, which was kind of a hoot because we had already visited the real Everglades, and there were way more painted turtles in the habitat than I had seen in the real Everglades.

The show was starting at the Wild Things Amphitheatre, so we piled in with the school groups and watched the worst show of the day. If I could have walked out, I would have, but they locked the gates at the bottom of the theatre and said we couldn't leave because walking close to the stage might disturb the animals.

The writing of the show was supposed to be about conservation, but the girl emcees were dressed in such ridiculously tiny safari shorts that bared so much pelvis and cleavage that I'm not sure anyone heard what they were saying. Also, they had... that... *show delivery* going on. Y'know, the modern equivalent of Shakespearean iambic pentameter. "LADies and GENTleman, I present... theeeeeeeeee... LIGERRRRRRR! THIS animal is SO fierce and SO big, we can't even TRAIN HIM! And you know what happens when you can't train an animal, don't you? RIGHT! Our show TOtally SUCKS!"

And *every* single word was punctuated by a gesture and pose. It was dizzying. It was hypnotic.

It was terrible.

At the end of the show, they offered up two really cute baby animals with which you could have your picture taken -- FOR FORTY DOLLARS PER ANIMAL. That's right. You could hold a tiny little tiger cub for forty bucks, and if you add in the baby orangutan, that's $80.

UP FRONT. Money first, people, then you get the shutter click.

Out-freaking-rageous.

And the last thing the scantily-clad chicks intoned was, "Annnnnnnnd... enJOY your DAY at... JUNGLE ISLAND!!!!!"

Hey, man, they were right about the "jungle" part.

Anyway, at that point we were starving and I was dying for a cigarette. Parrot Jungle Island has two designated smoking areas -- back in the courtyard through which we entered, and way out in the back end of the property. I was starting to get a little hinky. And the maps were not carefully marked, so I saw cigarette butts all over the paths.

To be continued....

Sunday, June 03, 2007

South Florida, Tues., May 22nd


Okie dokie! We're up to Tuesday, and I'm starting to *really* forget details. I should've finished this trip report sooner!

So far, we had done Vizcaya, shopping at Sawgrass Mills, the Gold Coast Railroad Museum, and the Everglades Alligator Farm, all of which were wonderful, inexpensive places to visit. And we had had a blast at all of them. It was time for a disappointment! And the Miami Seaquarium was primed and ready for the challenge!

There aren't a lot of pictures on the Seaquarium's website, so I didn't know what to expect. I knew they had dolphins and a killer whale show, but not much else. I asked Perry (who very generously gave us some buy-one, get-one-free coupons) if most of the thing was indoors, and she looked at me as only a 12-year-old can. She shook her head and said, "No, it's, like -- ALL outdoors."

I asked if there was a lot of shade, and Perry said, "NO."

Eek.

I was also absolutely determined to wake up early and get out of the house before 10:00 in the morning in the hopes of beating SOME of the heat. Jim warned us not to leave the house before 9:00 because traffic is so bad on the way to work, but I don't think he meant for us to totally oversleep, which was what we did. We didn't get out of the house until almost 11:00. Argh.

On the way to downtown Miami, the clouds gathered. By the time we hit the downtown area -- very near Vizcaya, in fact -- the heavens opened up and poured so much rain that we couldn't even see the tops of the skyscrapers on the coast. I was having fits wanting to see Biscayne Bay as we drove over the causeway [famous bridges] toward the Seaquarium, but the rain was just torrential. We couldn't see beyond fifty feet or so to either side of the bridges.

(That causeway is featured in the old movie "True Lies" with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jamie Lee Curtis. Cool bridges, too, by the way.)

When we got to the Seaquarium's parking lot, the attendant didn't even want to get his hand wet to take our $7 parking fee. He was actually kind of a jerk. I had to *ask* him where to park. And he just rolled his eyes and gestured vaguely. So he never touched the rain. Jerk.

We walked through the rain to the gate, paid our entry -- half price for the four of us, so it was ONLY about $68 -- and I read the restrictions aloud to Emily. You can't use photos for anything other than personal use. And they're quite specific about the ways you can't use photos. The guy at the ticket gate complimented me on my reading. He was actually quite wide-eyed at me and very nice. That was the last nice person we saw at the Miami Seaquarium.

We had to buy ponchos, and we totally regretted not buying ponchos at the Everglades Alligator Farm the day before. We saw them when we were buying our souvenirs on Monday, and even in the deluge on the airboat ride, we could have purchased ponchos for $1 each. ONE DOLLAR! Each! Duh, us! We were told so many times about the drought and how it wasn't going to rain like that again for the rest of our trip, we didn't buy cheap ponchos!

The ponchos at the Seaquarium were $8 each.

Goodbye, $32 plus tax.

Look, I could go on forever about the disappointments at the Seaquarium. I could tell you that the first thing I saw was sea lions coming out to an observation pool, and I nearly cried right then and there because I've never, ever seen sea lions in person, and they're huge and gorgeous. But then we went to the sea lion show, and that's when I found out that the Seaquarium sucks, because it's all cutesy, choreographed, stupid, childish "entertainment." At one point the girls in the show were spanked by the sea lions. I'm not even kidding. Sea lions used their flippers to spank the girls' arched and glowing bottoms. And the school groups *screamed* with laughter, while I sat there being horrified and wanting to retch. I left the sea lion show and waited for Wesley and the kids under an umbrella table out of the rain.

The day was... Well, guys, honestly, it was a huge disappointment. The exhibits are childish and simplistic in the extreme. The shows are supposed to be about entertainment instead of education, and they fail in both regards. The most fascinating things were the manatees -- all of which were rescued and have the heartbreaking scars to prove it -- and the "killer whale," about which I would have loved to ask a million questions. "Killer whales" are dolphins. They are the most deadly of all dolphins, and they do kill whales, which is why they were originally called "whale killer" dolphins. But at some point, the words were switched. That was, like, a hundred years ago.

And by the way, Wesley and I were both horrified by the tiny tank in which the killer whale lives with the Pacific whiteside dolphin. It looks too small to contain such a creature. But at least it doesn't have that wonked-over limp dorsal fin that the killer whale in the "Free Willy" movies had.

Oh, and the food. OMG, the food was horrid. It was school cafeteria food at four-star resort prices. We were horrified all day long by the cost of things.

We ended up staying until the 4:15 killer whale show, and I'm glad I saw it -- sorta. Y'know, when you're in the park and watching the shows, you kind of get numb to what's happening to you. The Pacific whiteside dolphin jumped VERY HIGH into the sky, and I'm glad I saw that. Just to see it. But... afterward, I couldn't help but think that there's just something *wrong* about the Miami Seaquarium. It isn't the right balance of entertainment and education, conservation and information. It's heavy on the cutesy kiddie show element and too light on the meaty info stuff. It's a throwback to the 70's. It needs to catch up with the times.

But why should it? The Miami Seaquarium shouted over and over that it is the #1 tourist attraction in South Florida. I don't know why. It was a wretched disappointment to us.

The one really cool thing I saw were some lizards that I've never seen before. These concrete-grey-brown little lizards roll up their tails -- vertically! -- and run around on their tippy toes as if they're *dying* to get somewhere, and then they stop and hunker down, unrolling their tails, and pant for a few seconds. Then they roll up their tails, jump up on their tippy toes, and run a little distance more! It's hilarious!!!!!! And... it really reminds me of ME!!!!!!!!! I feel like that's what I do ... ALL ... THE ... TIME!!!!

I think Wesley bought a shotglass before we left and joined Miami's getting-out-of-work traffic. It took us longer to get home than it should have. Jim warned us to get out of the Seaquarium before 3:00 to avoid the worst of the traffic, but we hadn't listened.

Oh, well.

Highlights:
- Seeing sea lions.
- Seeing giant sea turtles.
- Seeing the "rockin'" dolphin show, when Emily got splashed by a dolphin's flip
- Seeing the "beach party" "TV's famous Flipper" dolphin show, which would have been cool if they would have let *me* swim with the dolphins.
- Seeing a plaque buried under the beach party amphitheatre dedicating the whole theatre to some long-forgotten dolphin expert.
- Going back to the "rockin'" dolphin area between shows without anyone else around and having the dolphins swim up to our wall as if to ask for a pat-pat or a tickle or a fish.
- Seeing the "killer whale" and the Pacific whiteside dolphin.
- Seeing the manatees in a safe environment.

Low points:
- The bad writing of the shows.
- The careless, thoughtless employees going through the motions.
- The tiny after-thought of an exotic parrot exhibit, where no employee existed and all the birds screamed endlessly in their frustration and their boredom.
- The prices.
- The food.
- The prices.
- The bad, *bad* food.
- The cheezy souvenirs.
- Knowing how much the day cost.

Back in peaceful, reasonably priced, happy, *dry* Pembroke Pines, dinner that night consisted of HUGE hamburgers that Jim grilled, and man, they were fabulous. But HUGE. I couldn't even finish half of mine, so Wesley ate it. Thank heaven for Wesley!

Basically, in retrospect, I'm sorry we wasted our time and money at the Miami Seaquarium. I think I would have gotten more out of the day if we had toured South Beach, which I've never seen in real life. And I'm a sucker for Art Deco architecture. Not even the giant sea turtles were worth the money we spent on Tuesday. I'm bummed out. Still, it was better to waste that time and money on the Seaquarium than to sit at home in little Philly roasting in the broken air conditioner. Vacation still beats real life!

Coming up on Wednesday's report: How do birdies live with jungle cats, anyway???