Saturday, May 21, 2011

Planes, Trains, and Convertibles

Where would you go if you had a free round trip plane ticket to anywhere in the continental U.S.?
New York City?
Me too! We should totally travel together.
What if you got as far as Chicago and found out your plane would be delayed for 4 hours because of heavy rain in New York. What if you found out it was going to be 60's and rainy all week there? Would it change your plans?
What if you looked over to the next gate and saw a flight leaving for Ft. Lauderdale, Florida?
What if you asked the people waiting to get on that flight what it was like there and they said, 77 degrees, sunny, and gorgeous white sandy beaches." Where should we go and how does one get in such a predicament? That's what the people we were asking wanted to know. My sister (I want to hug her now) works for the airlines (the one that gives pita chips) and so she and my mom and I were all able to fly standby. To further tip the scales we found out that all three of us, because we're on standby, might not make it on the last flight out to NYC and would therefore have to spend the night in Chicago. The flight to Ft. Lauderdale? totally available. We took it!! Our trip to New York ended up here:

Moral of the story: Always pack a swimsuit!

DAY ONE (not including the day of flying): FT. LAUDERDALE, FLORIDA
No regrets about flying to Paradise! All the things they said were true! We explored the beachside shops, ate coconut mango tilapia, and lounged on the glorious white sand. My mom asked a nice homeless man if he would please watch our purses while we went swimming. She had given him some chocolates out of the mish mash ziplock bag of snacks she carries everywhere for just such occasions. Shannon and I marched off, clutching our purses, to the nearest flock of safe tourists, and my mom finally caught up. The beach here is way different than in CA. No waves, the water is WARM, you can walk out 50 yards and still SEE the bottom. How reassuring?? sort of. My sister (bless her heart) was a little PARANOID about possible creature encounters. When I told her there was a fish right next to her, and swimming between her legs, she practically walked on water to get out of there. A few minutes later it was my turn. There we were enjoying ourselves in the water immensely when I see this large (6 foot?) black blob under the water gliding straight toward us.
I SCREAMED and using my fastest water polo strokes, sped to shore running safely on the beach. WHAT WAS THAT????? My sister was close behind, and all she could wonder was, "Why did you leave me out there to die?" Another lady on the beach came running over to us. She had seen that "thing" make it's way down the beach and didn't have time to warn us. It was a manatee. A manatee? the gentle fresh water giant? What was it doing in the ocean? She explained that they sometimes get lost and find themselves in the ocean. This one was probably trying to find it's way back to the fresh water channels that throughout the city. Our fear turned into hysterical laughter. My sister, however, was still mad at me for fleeing the scene without a last hug.

As if we hadn't had enough nature encounters, we went swimming again later in the evening. I was laying on my back floating, when all of a sudden, an ugly fish head came flying right towards my face!!! Aackk.. Once again the water polo swimming came in handy, and all the people on the beach were able to have a good laugh, especially myself.

DAY 2. We rented a convertible and drove South to the Florida Keys.

Unfortunately we took the wrong freeway and ended up on a very long detour through MIAMI.

The above picture says it all.

Miami feels like a foreign country. You go into the gas station and only see and hear Spanish--loved it! One thing I like about Latino guys is they're not afraid to yell "Hey Honey" and other things when they see three ladies driving along in a convertible.

My mom did not sit in the back the whole time--don't worry! She wanted to lie down back there and "rest" for awhile.

Key Largo, Montego, baby why don't we go to...

Except for taking forever, the drive down the keys was awesome. Check out that water. You are driving on a highway with the Gulf of Mexico on one side and the Atlantic Ocean on the other. It was seriously torture for me to see that water and be stuck in the car. I wanted to get out and swim so so badly!!. I finally got our chance when we made it to Key West, the southernmost city in the U.S.

We took the Conch (pronounced Konk) Train tour through the city and learned about it's Cuban and Pirate history, and saw Hemingway's house.

3 things you have to do in Key West:

1. Watch the Sunset. It's the only place on the East Coast where the sun sets over the ocean.

2. Eat Key Lime Pie. It went from being my least favorite pie of all time (besides mince meat) to my new all time favorite pie. That's how good it is down here. Somebody find me the recipe!

3. Experience a Nude Beach. NOT! I finally found a place I would not want to live. It is just a little too "free and open" of a society down here. There are clothing optional signs. I'm still have a sour taste in my memory from seeing a naked man lounging on his balcony.

If we'd had more time I would have liked to try Cuban cuisine. Also my sister and I would have loved to rent a kayak and explore the reef.

Mom was anxious to get back to the mainland. She was sure that a hurricane could strike at any moment and wipe us off the map. So, it was back on the road to Ft. Lauderdale--on the right road this time.


Before our flight home we took an airboat tour of the Everglades. On board with us was a most unique family. They looked like a picture right out of Colonial America--A man and wife with their teenage son. We found upon asking, that they were from Pennsylvania, Amish country. They were every bit as interesting as the habitat we were in.

They seemed to be having the time of their lives on the boat and were so cute and curious about every little thing. I hope they are not planning to go to Key West!!

The Everglades were teeming with wildlife: fish, birds, turtles, frogs, insects, and ALLIGATORS--too many of them--too close to our little boat. Luckily that boat can speed when it wants too and luckily there is so much other yummy food around that alligators are not really interested in eating us. We were warned NOT to stick our hands in the water because of water moccasins (one bite is deadly) and some slug that can give you a scary-awful infection. No more info needed for me but of course my mom has to defy the rules. She reached in there to nab a yellow water lily.

The "after the tour gator show."

We said goodbye to our Amish friends and the alligators and took a shuttle to the airport.

It takes a force stronger than the tide to pull me away from the beach. Especially one like Ft. Lauderdale's. That force is love for my husband and kids back at home.

So it was back to reality. Our flight was so full we were lucky to get on. I had to sit in the back, in a middle seat next to a VERY large black man. He said he was a professional firefighter, but I would have sworn he was a professional linebacker. We had to snuggle for that very long flight to Phoenix, where we dropped of my sister. Then my mom and I headed back to SL. Phew. Lots of peanuts and pita chips later, I'm glad to be back home with Brandon and the kids again. I would have a huge long list of people to thank for making this trip possible, but first and foremost is Brandon who allows me to let out that itchy travel bug every so often.


stephanie said...

Oh WOW! I am so jealous. That looks and sounds like a wonderful time. The story about the manitee is funny.

It seems like you are always going somewhere fun. Lucky you

cold cocoa said...

I had no idea you were out on a trip too! You have been having a fun couple of months! Glad you could reframe your NY plans into a beach trip! Way to be spontaneous. NY next time then? I like Latino guys love for the female species too. All cultures should be so adoring.

Sheree said...

That sounds so fun--excluding the naked man on the balcony. Ew. Maybe we should just adopt the Latino way and whistle. Make him feel good. LOL.

I am not a fan of ocean creatures in shallow water either. I remember the water at some beaches in Florida being warm, shallow, and lots of squishy, mud instead of grainy sand. It was kinda disconcerting. But I do like snorkeling. Go figure!

Sher said...

We obviously need to chat more. I had no idea you were heading off on an adventure. I'd sure pick the sun over chilly weather right now! As much as you love beaches you really had a high chance of loving Florida. I'm glad you had fun making memories with your Mom and Sister.

Megz said...

Think your sister could pass on to corporate that those pita chips really need to be served with dip or hummus?
Your switcheroo trip was way too spontaneous for me! My palms are just sweating thinking about it. Maybe because I need to visualize my trips for years before going on them....
Looks like loads of fun and great memories. Thanks for sharing!

TisforTonya said...

way to go with the flow - and your Florida trips seems to have had better luck than ours! Nearly every key lime pie in the state had sold out (ended up buying one at a roadside stand and eating it in the hotel - YUmmmm) and the only Gator we actually saw was at that post-tour show... seriously, they were all hiding when we went looking!