Monday, July 13, 2009

Travel Log: I95

There is something special about travelling on an interstate. It is almost like a transporter from Star Trek…or maybe warp speed: travel at ridiculous high speeds, trees sweeping past like stars in the sky, no connection to points along the way…only point A and point B. In order to maintain the illusion that nothing exists outside of the I95 corridor, ingenious evil masterminds plotted and planned rest stops interspersed along the road like a shiny oasis in the Sahara to keep the hapless traveller from venturing off the highway (and thereby discover something cool and totally get sidetracked away from their original trip).

It was at an oasis in North Carolina where the girls and I stopped for lunch that we discovered a Dr. Seuss-like turtle pond.

After we ate our picnic lunch we took a walk to the pond to stretch our legs. Excited to be out of the car for the first time in five hours, the girls enjoyed tossing pebbles and leaves into the water.
It was a nice little pond, it was clean and it was neat…the water seemed warm and the turtles…

OMG!! The turtles!!

Apparently, the turtles are used to people feeding them and as soon as the girls crouched down on the edge of the pond, the began swarming to us. It was like watching circus clowns trying to crawl into their mini car, each trying to claim shotgun. The turtles swam, crawled and pushed each other out of the way trying to get as close to shore as possible without actually touching the edge.

Without exaggeration, the girls and I counted over twenty turtles swarming in the shallows of the pond before we lost count. One especially cheeky little fellow grew oh so bold that it actually started to crawl out of the water and approach Ashleigh. I wasn't sure who was more surprised: Ashleigh with huge eyes, round and shiny, or the turtle, which after a moment or two seemed to suddenly realize that it was out of the water and Yikes! touching grass! And it quickly flipped itself around and plunked itself back into the pond.

All in all it was a lovely lunch and stretch break. None of the other rest stops were as interesting or as pretty...well except for the ones that had a Starbucks.

More Vacation 2009 to come.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Who Ever Heard of a Seasick Pirate?

My dreams of piracy have foundered and been dashed upon the rocks of reality. I made plans for a single event for my vacation that didn’t involve family and that was a whale watch out of the New England Aquarium in Boston. So sit right back and let me tell you the tale of my three hour tour.

To fully appreciate this sailor’s tale, one must first know about the weather. June was quite a stormy month in New England. Watching the weather reports, one would scarcely believe that the sun ever came out in New England. So on the eve of our whale watch as I sat watching the weather, I feared that my afternoon sail would be cancelled because of the weather. Dire reports of severe thunderstorms with excessively deadly cloud to ground lightening, torrential downpours which might include golf ball sized hail, and gusts upwards of “fast” and “swift” could cause damage to trees, phone and power lines, small children, not so small children and ducks threatened to ruin my carefully planned whale watch. When I mentioned this to the girls, they both frowned and tried to reason with me. How was I to know that I control the weather? In any case, Dad and I talked about trying to switch the afternoon cruise to the morning one to avoid the storm.

The next morning was gray and overcast. After a quick breakfast of pop tarts for the girls and a muffin for me, we just made the 7:40 train into Boston. I had figured that this train would leave us enough time to walk the ten – fifteen minutes to the harbor and talk to the ticket counter about switching.

After explaining the concern about the weather, the girl at the ticket counter had no problems switching our reservation to the morning cruise. We lollygagged around the entrance for a good twenty minutes before Jessica, our naturalist, let us board the Voyager III. The boat, a 102 foot catamaran, was impressive sitting dockside. Jessica stood on the ramp and discussed the conditions out on the water, telling us that according to the forecast, there were three foot swells, so those who might be prone to motion or sea sickness should take Dramamine as soon as possible once boarding. Knowing that I might have a problem (recalling a number of rides at theme parks and fairs that left me hunched over a garbage can) I immediately purchased the medicine. I took a full dose and gave the girls a half dose each. I wasn’t really concerned about Ashleigh, the girl loves her roller coasters! But I was a bit nervous about Cyra who has never been on anything more than a carousel.
The ride out of the harbor was pleasant. The tall ships were in dock, so I got some nice pictures of them and of the Boston skyline as we left.
I only remember the name of one of the tall ships: The Eagle, a US Coast Guard ship. Built in 1936 in Germany, the Eagle was taken from Germany as part of war reparation after World War II. The Eagle is the largest tall ship flying the American Flag and the only square-rigger in service to the U.S. government.
We moved into the cabin before we left the harbor because the boat picked up speed and man was it chilly to us Florida Girls!! It wasn’t until we left the shelter of the harbor, that the swells made themselves known. Now, the weather conditions stated that the swells were three feet; however, they felt way bigger than three feet. In fact, the naturalist came on the PA system and made apologizes for the swells, claiming that they were a bit bigger than forecasted.

Ashleigh loved it. So did Cyra (for a little bit) and I was okay, for the most part. I lasted about an hour (including the twenty minutes or so it took to get out of the harbor, before I started feeling a bit queasy. I wasn’t thrilled, but I was okay. Cyra was starting to complain a little, I just tightened my grip on the table.

Oh but sure enough after another fifteen minutes or so, I felt that tell tale hot flash and dizziness that always precedes an upheaval. I shoved the camera at Ashleigh, grabbed a conveniently placed barf bag and seconds later lost most of my breakfast. And boy did I feel better…for about ten minutes, and then I lost the rest of my breakfast. But after that I lasted a good 15-20 minutes and saw a whale and heaved again. And then some more.

So what were the girls doing during all of this? Well, Ashleigh hovered protectively for a few minutes. Then I told her to go and whale watch which she did and she took all of the following photos. Cyra went out on deck for a few minutes; saw a whale and a whale spout then came in claiming to be cold, wet, nauseous and tired. She quickly stretched out on a bench and fell asleep until we were back in the harbor. Dad was great. He threw out my first two bags, got me more, got me some paper towels, and got to see the whales with Ashleigh. Obviously, I did not get my weak stomach from him.
It is hard to see in this photo, but the whale is above the railing and to the left of the other boat. It is about halfwalf between us and the other boat.

Ashleigh saw Fin whales and Minkes, but no Humpbacks. Jessica said that with the weather conditions, it wasn’t all that surprising. More info about the whales we saw:

All in all, I think it went well. As we disembarked, I thanked Dad, not just for going with us, but for never brining me on a whale watch when I was little, even though I begged and pleaded to go. As I told him, as an adult, I was able to just sit in the cabin and be miserable without bothering anyone. As a child, had I been seasick, I’m sure, knowing me that I would have made everyone miserable! I think I would have been okay if it was a calm day as I had no problem in the harbor and no problems the few times I’ve been out on rivers. Maybe I can be a riverboat pirate!
In any case, the rest of the day proceeded nicely. We loved the aquarium and got some good shots.
The aquarium had a special exhibit on jellyfish. Out of all the pictures I snapped of them, this one came out the best.
I think the one below with the barracuda is great. If you look closely, you can see the girls' reflections.
It is hard to take pictures through thick glass, but I thought this one was cute even though there is a glare.

More about Vacation 2009 will follow, but for right now, I am glad to be home!