Saturday, June 14, 2008

Let the vacation begin...

The breakfast of champions...

Our first full day in Florida dawned bright and beautiful! We were so relieved to hear that ... amidst several flooded basements in our neighborhood, twelve hours without power, and NO back-up sump pump...our basement was still dry. Everything in our yard and on our porch remained untouched, except for the welcome sign, found unscathed in the yard. We enjoyed a wonderful breakfast, including a yummy made-to-order omelette, before taking off on our day's adventure. Miss Caroline went to breakfast in her jammies...a little beachy terrycloth sweatsuit...cute and casual. And ever so easy to strip off after you have poured your Froot Loops into your sister's soda pop and dribbled it all down your clothing as you thoroughly enjoyed scarfing it down. Okay, I know it's disgusting and a fine example of terrible parenting, but it was HILARIOUS! She actually ate it! It was vacation, after all. Jon was appalled, especially when she stripped down to her diaper. I cackled all the way back to the room.

After breakfast, Jon headed out to pick up our mini-van rental while the kids and I packed up our overnight stuff. Then we headed out to find the condo we were renting for the week. There was some confusion as to the unit we were renting...they wanted to put the kids in a separate unit, instead of having us in adjoining units. After a little "Good Cop-Bad Cop" routine, we convinced them to give us an adjoining set-up and ended up in a brand new building with beautiful accommodations. We dumped off our suitcases and hit the road. The kids were fairly excited when we finally told them about the space shuttle launch. We were planning to zip over to the coast...barely an hour away...and enjoy the afternoon, grab a bite to eat and scope out a spot to watch the launch. Now you know that all sounds too good to be true, right? Yep. We quickly found ourselves deep in traffic...the "Beeline" slowed to a caterpillar crawl. Turns out there were another 150,000 people who wanted to see that shuttle go up! We finally made it to I-95 and headed north. It was right about the time that my research and directions clashed with Jon's opinions and GPS information that I remembered why we will NEVER do the "Amazing Race" together. We would be "that couple". And one of us might not make it. And I'd miss him. Really.

So NOT making a beeline...

Back to the shuttle launch. My research results prevailed, and we arrived at the Titusville Spaceview Park about 20 minutes before the scheduled launch time. It was PACKED! Haven't these silly Floridians already seen this a bazillion times? We had a heck of a time finding a spot to even stand, let alone SEE anything. We knew the general direction of the launch, but we couldn't really see anything over the crowd in front of us. The park is actually right on the intracoastal waterway, and a river inlet runs adjacent to it. There were tons of people standing in the water to get a better view. It was plenty hot, and Mickey decided that looked pretty fun. So Jon agreed to wade out there with him. Mickey made his way through the crowd and ended up with a "front row seat".

Mickey is the little guy in bright orange, just right of center.

Jon is behind him and to the left, in sunglasses.

Right on schedule, the countdown began. It was pretty cool to be in the crowd as they chanted that countdown. As the cheer went up, though, we couldn't see a thing. We finally got our first glimpse of the shuttle about 10-15 seconds later, when it cleared the treeline. Even with my 300 mm zoom, I got an unimpressive shot of the shuttle itself. I did, however, get a fabulous picture of the rocket trail!

As the crowd cheered, Caroline yelled out, "Bye, Daddy!" and pointed to the sky.

Two ladies whipped their heads around immediately.

"Your Daddy's on the SPACE SHUTTLE?!"

Wouldn't you think we'd get better seats?

Taken about two minutes before the wet shorts whining began...

The boys waded back out of the water, smelling a lot like salty, fishy river water. Mickey immediately started complaining that his shorts were wet. Did I bring a change of clothes for him? Of course, not. So I promised him that if his shorts weren't dry by the time we got to our next stop in Cocoa Beach (and he hadn't stopped whining), I would buy him something to wear. Lightweight midwesterners that we are, we were melting in the Florida heat and humidity, so we crawled into a little grocery store on our way back to the car and snatched up the last two bottles of ice cold water. Then we were off to Cocoa Beach. Oh, yeah, we just zipped right down A1A. It took us more than 90 minutes to drive about 25 miles. Sheesh. The good thing is that the kids got a little snooze, so it was a quiet drive. We easily found our destination, Ron Jon's Surf Shop, and drove to the roof of a nearby parking garage for a glorious view.

Cocoa Beach is special to us, and Ron Jon's is a Florida tourist's rite of passage. I first visited Cocoa Beach when I was in the Army. My position as a Public Affairs Officer also came with the additional duty of Equal Opportunity Officer. Bummer...I had to attend the school, which just happened to be at Patrick Air Force Base, just south of Cocoa Beach, Florida. Oh, and because I was a National Guard officer, I had to make three trips to complete the course. Yes, yes, it was a real drag as a young 20-something college girl...but somebody had to do it. It was actually a really educational course, and I learned a lot. Just before my second trip to Cocoa Beach, Jon and I had our first date. A year and a half later we were married and headed south for our honeymoon. We got a late start and made it to Louisville, Kentucky, just a few hours down the road, before we crashed. To make up some time, we vowed to drive all day and night and have breakfast on the beach the next morning. Well, we were young and dumb...what can I say? We did make it to Cocoa Beach and ate breakfast at a McDonald's right across the street from the ocean. We also learned that we are not good at the driving through the night thing and that we are neither one very friendly at 3 am. It makes for a good story, though. We did make it all the way to Fort Lauderdale after a nap in our car and left for a cruise to the Bahamas the next day. I'll save the rest of that story for our 20th anniversary post in October. I do have one more Cocoa Beach anecdote, however.

Three years into our marriage, we had weathered the experiences of Desert Shield and Desert Storm. Jon was deployed for 357 days...a very long time for a very lonely young Army wife, stationed far from home, with only two small dogs for company. We got through that time by looking forward to a trip home to visit our families and a vacation to celebrate our third anniversary. Again, one of our stops was Cocoa Beach and Ron Jon's Surf Shop. Long story short, we lost our rental car keys on the beach about 30 seconds before getting in the car to head to Orlando. I must have dropped them when we stopped to take some photos, but we never found them. So we called a locksmith to pop the lock...yes, we are that old. Because the car was brand new, and we were the first to rent it, the owner's manual was still in a plastic bag in the trunk. I remembered picking it up when we loaded our luggage and noting that it had the spare key in the bag, as well. We knew that if we could get into the trunk, we could get to the spare key. The details are fuzzy, and Jon's memory is worse than mine, but I believe the locksmith was able to pop the lock, but we couldn't get into the trunk. He then made us some sort of key that worked the ignition, but not the locks. I am NOT kidding. We ended up having to take out the backseat of the car to get to the trunk, which entailed buying a screwdriver and climbing through the back seat into the trunk. We still have that screwdriver and the key the locksmith made for us. We went to a lot of trouble for those cute little souvenirs.

So now you know why we just had to visit Cocoa Beach again. We rambled through the enormous store and bought a couple of t-shirts and boogie boards. It ended up a late night, and Jon and I were ready to head back to Orlando to collapse, but the kids begged us to at least get their feet in the sand. It was already dark, so we didn't venture far...just over to the boardwalk. We ceremoniously plopped Caroline's bare toes in the sand for the first time, and she stopped dead in her tracks and refused to move. She did NOT like the sand on her feet! Generally speaking, she does not like to have her hands or feet dirty. I laughed because when Mickey was a baby, he grinned ear to ear as he shoved handfuls of sand into his mouth. He still loves the beach, as you will see in later pictures, and he could roll in the sand and still not get enough. I guess we'll have to work on Caroline's romance with the beach.

I believe her exact words were, "EEEWWWWW!"

I just about burst out laughing when I turned around and saw this...

I think maybe she was a bit hungry and tired, eh?

We grabbed dinner for the car and, thankfully, enjoyed a speedy traffic-free return to Orlando. A quick stop at a local grocery store where we paid $4.19 a gallon for MILK drove home the need to find a Wal-Mart soon. The next morning we were up and out the door for a day at Sea World.

One last story from today...frogs, turtles and lizards are among my son's greatest passions. You might recall our recent visit with "Snappy". He was absolutely beside himself with joy at his first glimpse of a little anole running across the sidewalk this morning. The lizard chase would ensue throughout the week, but it took Mickey all of 30 seconds to catch this little toad outside our condo. It took major persuasion to get him to set the little guy free.


Kristi said...

I'm glad Kylie isn't the only girl that likes to strip down to a diaper in public!
Caroline's expression in the sand is PRICELESS, hope it got better throughout your vacation.
Love that Mickey and Jon waded out to get a better view, what was the hold up for the rest of you...
Oh, and I've been to that Ron Jon's Surf Shop ~ I bought a pair of shorts there on my freshman college spring break!
I'm having visions of the outtakes that would be provided if you and Jon entered the Amazing Race...
Love you guys!

Glenna said...

Excellent post and excellent pictures! I love them! Say, fruit loops in a soft drink sounds like a good drink! Caroline is creative!The space shuttle launch sounds awesome! Glad Mickey and Jon got a good view!....And the water looks cool! Hmmm....Amazing Race sounds like a would be very interesting viewing!..I love you all....Aunt Glenna

Allison said...

Have I EVER seen that look before on Caroline's face! Whew. If she is anything like Maggie, she is going to give you a run for your money. Maggie told me, "I'm tired of you!" today. Sheesh.