Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Did You Miss Me?

I'm back home now. I know I said I would write while on vacation, but is was like internet probation there. I finally found a WiFi spot but only had enough time to load half my pictures. So I'll try now to remember everything I would have written about if I had the chance each day...

The first day there, we settled into the house. We had a visitor in the guest bathroom. Aunt Terry said they have to cover all the pipes when they are going to be gone for a while. Apparently critters crawl up the pipes and into the house. So they saran wrap the toilets and cap the sinks and showers. When we unwrapped the guest toilet, there was a big green tree frog camping in it. It looked like a weird cling-on cleaner thing. I grabbed it to take it outside, but Terry said that is was a poisonous frog. I put it in the trash pale and took it to the pond, then scrubbed my hands. I was relieved when I looked it up and saw it was just a plain old frog. Then I learned the pond I so carefully picked for it to go free in was home to a large alligator. I hope he has a long and happy life and doesn't get eaten.

We then picked up groceries and went swimming in the pool. We drove around a little, learning our way around the area just a bit. We had dinner at Ihop. We see many different kinds of lizards, frogs, toads, and birds. I lost about a pint of blood to the mosquitoes, argh!

Day two is the trip to the Everglades. We headed south and then east in search for an air boat ride. I'm not excited about this. I've already learned the bugs are much bigger and have an ugly appetite. We made a few stops at information corners and tourist set-ups. There were hefty turtles here and there. The farther east we went, the swampier it got. We came across several air boat places, but skipped them because the Frommer's book recommended one in Frog City. Frog City wasn't on the map, so we just drove, and drove, and drove. It seemed to be hours down the road before we all decided the next boat dock would do. We hadn't passed any signs of civilization for quite a while and were starting to get restless. We finally came up on a little dock called "Buffalo Tiger". We stopped there. There was one air boat at the dock, and no one to be found anywhere in the building or on the dock. We were about to move on when an air boat came out of the swamp. The people seemed happy as they climbed out of the boat. We took this as a good sign. The driver finished chatting with his customers, then came over to us. He introduced himself as Ernie. He proceeded to tell us of his history and the history of his people and the area. He came across as quite an intelligent person, he travels to give speeches at collages and schools. His air boat group has been around for generations. Needless to say, we decide to stay and take a tour with his boat. As we approach the boat, Ernie's grand-daughter pointed out a mighty large alligator just off the dock. There was a second smaller gator in front of the boat. It was exciting, our first gator sighting! Ernie then tells us about growing up around these animals, his understanding of them. He gets the bigger one to come closer and we all take turns taking pictures with it. Since we are on the reservation, the usual rules involving the interaction and handling of gators doesn't apply. Ernie lures the gators closer with bread, then lets us even closer to them. After a little while, we proceed to the boat. Equipped with cotton for our ears to soften the roar of the Cadillac V8, we're off to tour the Everglades. We learn the Everglades are actually a large, 40 mile wide river which takes a gallon of water 30 days to pass through. They are protected, and the natives are working on getting grants and funds from the government to help clean the Everglades and better preserve them. We stop not long into the tour. Ernie has located a 12 foot male alligator. While we are watching him, a smaller female approaches from the other side of the boat. I know see how they can sneak up on people. Ernie gets the male to come along side the boat with bread. He then pops it on the nose, causing it to sit up out of the water with it's gigantic head pressed up against the boat. Ernie then proceeds to reach down and grab the gator by the chin and pull it further out of the water. Our own little Steve Irwin. He releases the beast after we all get pictures and he can no longer support it's weight. To prove all is ok, he pops it on the nose again, and again it rears it's head up. Ernie grabs it under it's chin, a nicer grab, and kisses it on the nose, TWICE!!! We are all floored by now. This is unbelievable. The gator never rushed the boat, but would only bump the side every now and then. Ernie tosses both gators some bread, and we move on. The next stop was around trees and bushes growing in the water. Ernie tells us about the different plants, which ones are edible, which ones are not. Some where good for medications, others for different uses. He tells us about some animals and fish that are found in that area, and not so much in the other portions of the swamps. He then takes us to a small dock with a clearing just behind it. "Did I not mention to you ladies that you have to pay to get back?", he says. We then get out of the boat for a little show and tell. We come across giant grass hoppers and lizards. He was looking for raccoons when a 6 ft female alligator came out of the water. Again I bet he has feed her in the past to get her to come so freely. He lures her up into the clearing and then calls me over. I have a big mouth, and he had a good memory. When we saw the first gators, I commented on how almost pretty they were, and I almost wanted to pet one. Here's my big chance. I declined, I'm wearing flip-flops. Who can evade a gator in flip-flops? After his assurance that I wouldn't get eaten, and my family's push, I went over next to Ernie. He tells me that the alligators have a blind spot. It is directly in front of them and down their middle. Since their eyes are situated on top of their head, it's quite a blind spot. Just move slow and steady, and be gentle. Ernie then shows me the "pet gator stance", which I copy. He grabs my arm and pulls me closer. My toes are curling and I can't breath at this point. With much trust in Ernie's experience, I let him bring my hand over and then down on top of the gator's head, just behind her eyes. I lock eyes with her, still holding my breath. Much to my surprise, she is smooth and soft. I imagined a rough scaly feel. After what seemed minutes, he ushers me back from the alligator. Hooray, I have all my limbs! It's not over yet. Ernie then puts my hand under his chin, showing me to support the jaw firmly. He pops the gator on the nose, and she lifts her head, mouth open, so many sharp teeth. Ernie takes my hand once again and thrusts it under her head and brings it up to catch her lower jaw. Alligators have strength to bite, not open. This means as long as I have a firm grip, I can hold her mouth shut for what ever reason. Again I am surprised as to how she feels, much like a frog. As I am staring in wonderment and stupor, Ernie brings to my attention that my thumb is sticking out away from my hand, dangerously close to the gator's line of sight. I quickly press my thumb back against my hand and then gratefully release the alligator's head and step back. Ernie tosses her some bread, and she returns to the water. I finally breath again, and then shook for the next hour or so. We all get back into the boat and return to the main dock. Ernie sends us on our way with a little speech about respecting Mother Nature and protecting the environment.

The next day, day three, we went to Matlacha. It is a smaller town, art district. There isn't a beach there, mostly boat docks and such. We have lunch at a place called Bert's. It looked to be a hole in the wall type place. We walked the docks for a little bit, then went inside to eat. While waiting for our orders, we watched a pelican take a break and sunbathe. Something had the water stirred up in a couple places, but we never saw what it was. The food was great. After eating, we walked through shops and art gardens. It was very nice, even in the rain. We had dinner that evening back at the community where my Aunt's house is at. It is a 55+ community, so we stuck out a bit. The ham dinner was amazing, and dessert was of course wonderful. There was karaoke and trivia. After dinner, we went for a swim in the pool again.

Day four was fun. We finally got to go to the beach. We started with Venice Beach, just North of Fort Myers. It was nice, but not mind blowing. The sand was white, and the water blue, but it wasn't too amazing. We walked the beach for a little while, then went for lunch. After lunch, we headed South to Sanibel Island. That had to be the best beach around. The island was more residential than commercial, which was pleasant. We strolled up and down the beach, and played in the water for a little while. There were so many shells to pick up. The sand was so white, and the water so blue. It has to be the prettiest beach I've seen. We didn't stay long, it was too hot and we didn't bring our swim suits. As we were leaving, we saw a giant iguana walk off the sidewalk and into the trees. It was huge, and too cool. I didn't get a picture of it, I think he was camera shy. As we were calming back down and driving on, we saw another large lizard. At first, I thought it was an alligator, but it didn't have spikes down it's back and tail. Then it stuck out a narrow black tongue, like a snake. Turned and slithered off into the trees. I googled it, and found out it was a Nile Monitor. They have been released there by dumb people, and have populated. The authorities are keeping track of all sightings and attempting to hunt the lizards down. The Monitors are very aggressive and would even challenge an alligator!

Day five, we got up early to catch the sunrise on Sanibel. After laughing at a crazy, half rabid squirrel, we took off to the beach. When we got there, we had the beach to ourselves. It was so nice. We played in the water and collected loads of shells. We had an early lunch, then headed back to the mainland. We went back to the house to freshen up. Plans were made to take Terry's friends from the down the road to dinner. She made reservations at a seafood place on Matlacha. It was a cute restaurant. I ordered wings, which ended up not holding a candle to Pluckers. We watched a fat happy dolphin chase fish. Dessert was good, yet again. We then walked around some more shops, after which we headed home.

Each night, I slept on the couch. You can hear the gators croak like frogs all night. The last day we were there, Aunt Tammy adopted a puppy. She named it Limpkins, after the bird mom never got to see. Our flights were uneventful, thank goodness. The iPhone saved us many times with it's GPS and wonderful apps. All in all, it was a good time. I want to go back during the winter months some time and see some manatees.

For pictures:

Monday, August 17, 2009

Ready, Set...

I'm leaving on a jet plane...

I'm all packed (minus the things I use daily). It's time to go to bed and get some sleep. I work all day tomorrow. I have just a few more errands to run at lunch. After work is one last load of laundry to see Colt off to his week alone. Our meeting is also tomorrow night. I hope to be in bed right after the meeting, we have to leave for DFW at 4am-ish. That means loads off coffee Wednesday morning. I most likely won't get back to the mac before our trip, so next time I write, it will hopefully be from Florida. Here's to hoping we don't have to take any detours or sleep in any airports! I'm packing one day's worth in my carry on, just in case.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Post to Post

This will be short. I am packing for Florida! If I get all packed tonight, I can get anything that I may be missing tomorrow (Monday), and be ready to leave and not as crazy Tuesday. We leave bright and early Wednesday. Slight poor note about the trip; apparently my family is jinxed when it comes to vacations and hurricanes. Last year, we had a reservation at South Padre with friends. Dolly hits just a few days prior and takes out our resort. My family had a cruise booked, got the the ship, and a hurricane postponed their trip a bit. Then when it was time to go, the ship wouldn't start. Bummer. Now, here comes our trip to Florida and what's up? A storm is forecasted to hit when we are there. Come rain or come shine, WE GO!!! I may get to spend lots of time indoors, but I will be in Florida. So be it.

Finished the convention today. As usual... Wow. It was great. Drama was just what we all needed. The morning session was mind boggling. I think I was on the edge of my seat for the whole weekend. Recharged and ready for more.

I'll stop for now, I'm "packing".

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Stinky Vacuum

That has to be of the worst smells ever know to human kind. You know the one; hot, smoldering hair, dust, and rubber belt of an abused vacuum cleaner. I used the main upright to give the Roomba a break. It didn't hold up to well to the cat hair and daily trackings of our home. Now instead of hairy carpet, I now have that dead vacuum smell lingering in the house. The poor thing hung in there for most of the needed work. I was working on the last room, my computer-turtle room, when it gave out. So now I am blogging in a stinky room. Here's a thought, I'm working on a lap top, aren't they portable? So now I'm a dork in a stinky room. The Roomba finished the job just a few moments ago. His little "all done" jingle is so adorable. Every one needs a Roomba, and now I guess I need a second to help this one with his work load!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Too Much to Write About

I've been meaning to write, but just haven't gotten to it. Where to start? Latest happenings since last time:
Went to Austin with Beth, Mom, and Colt to get some shopping done for our upcoming trip. We didn't really get much, (I returned w/0) but we had fun.
We attended this month's Jeep night. It was a bit smaller than the past few, but was still enjoyable.
I went to the Friday session of the "Keep on the Watch" convention here in Belton. Mom went with me. We were very happy to find it was an English one, we saw several spanish badges and banners and got a little nervous.
There was a Waco shopping trip with Mom, Dad, & Casey. I actually did well on this one. Wonderful sales, had to stock up you know.

First things first. Austin trip. That was ok. We didn't find much, but we had a good time. Started with lunch at Olive Garden. Soup, salad, and breadsticks all around. Then we went to Lake Line mall. It was a Sunday, so everything closed up early. I think Mom and Beth were the only ones to get anything. We had dinner at Steak & Shake, that is always a good thing. The best part was laughing at the poor Liberty all day with it's cast of green from a roll cage being spray painted too close to it. If you looked at the Jeep at an angle you could see it. We joked about it being camouflage in the parking lot, and that is why we walked all over creation trying to find it. I believe it washed off ok.

This month's Jeep night came and went. I got there super late because I went to Marshall's to return a dress before we went. That, of course, took thirty minutes. I promise I only pulled my own hair out, although I really wanted to encourage the customer service lady to work on her customer service. Any who, dinner was good. It was hot again, but that's a no brainer. Ice tea and other cold beverages helped there. Matt, Jered, & Dillon got there before Colt & I, so they had a table. We had a different waiter, and he wasn't nearly as good as Becca (our usual). There was a toddler at the next table over from us who spent the time wailing. It was very irritating at first, but then we ran with it. Any time one of us wanted something, be it a refill or just to say something, we would squall like the kid. We didn't get the same result as the kid though. His parents ignored us just as much as they ignored him. There was a smaller gathering this time. One of the bigger groups were away for a trip. Several more Cherokees made it this time. I ended up parking in the side lot to the front of the building. At first there were other Jeeps around me, but Juug ended up alone with cars by the time we left. Better luck next time.

Mom and I attended the Friday session to the convention in Belton. I thought I had read that it was an English meeting, but I saw several badges and banners in Spanish and started to doubt my being at the right one. When we found some seats and waited for it to start, we had to laugh at ourselves hoping so hard for English. We couldn't decide if we would stay or not, then it began, and in English! That was a relief. It was a very good program, as usual. The new releases and announcements were exciting. I'm ready to go this weekend and get the rest of the information.

I went to Waco this weekend with Mom, Dad, and Casey. We did very well. I found scarves, shirts, and a dress at Ross and Marshall's. Bought some Relic shades from Kohl's, and came across some great steals at Gap. Casey was a wonderful helper, and Dad was a trooper. They both kept up with Mom and I, and seemed to enjoy themselves.

I'm sure I'm forgetting something, but it is supper time. So that's all for now.

On My Way

I have stuff to post, just haven't gotten around to it. I also have some pictures to put onto Picasa, so hang in there. I will get to this, sooner or later. I'm hoping for tonight, if not, it will be tomorrow evening. It will be about August Jeep Night at Plucker's, a trip to Waco, and other happenings and so forth. I have loaded the photos onto my laptop, I just leave it behind.

-Will Be Right Back

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Went For A Ride

Us at the Domain

Today was supposed to be a "stay home and clean" day, but that didn't stick for long. I didn't make it out in service, the snooze button kept getting in the way. So we had a slow morning. We decided to have lunch at Olive Garden, love the soup salad & breadstick lunch special. After goofing around a little while longer, we went for lunch. We got in reasonably quickly considering the lunch crowd. The down side was, we were very hungry, and after we being seated, we didn't see another person. About 20 minutes passed and not even a sighting of a waiter. We stuck around for a little bit after that, then decided to move on to someplace we would get some lunch. Velaro was the next stop. Yep, gas station hot dogs to the rescue. It may have been the point of hunger, but that had to be of the better lunches I've had in a while.

For what ever reason, we ended up back on the highway heading south. The Wrangler didn't stop until we reached Barton Creek mall. That was a bust, as usual. It was too crowded, and we didn't find anything we couldn't live without. Colt's main want was to visit the Apple store, so we went to Fry's next, then hopped over to the Domain. By the time we got to the Domain, I was hungry again. I settled with a frapp and a quick trip through the Apple store. It wasn't too hot out today, so it was a nice stroll.

We decided to head to the Discount Electronics off Lamar, so one more side trip before heading home. It was a bad idea, for that place always has some cool gadgets for cheap. I got a memory stick for the camera I'm borrowing for Florida, and a screen protector for the iPhone (which is doing an horrible job of sticking to the phone). Colt got some kind of cables for his xbox.

Did I say just one more side trip? Next stop, Round Rock. There's an awesome pet store off Mays Ave that I "had" to go to. The Keeper is super knowledgeable and entertaining. The pets are always interesting. This time he had prairie dogs, baby snapping turtles, sandfish lizards, and two giant oscars who stalk anyone who may walk past their tank. Colt was adventurous and stuck his finger over the water and the bigger of the oscars jumped up and grabbed him. It was funny, and he kept doing it. It was like our own little Shamu/Jaws show going on. There were lots of other critters, but those were of the more intriguing. The shop Kitty was such a ham today. Colt knelt down to look at some fish, and Kitty was in his lap purring away.

Finally, home, or not. We stopped at Wolf Creek Ranch in Georgetown for Chick-fil-a. Nice break and good eats. I ended up dragging Colt to Old Navy, which I left empty handed. Then we swung by Petland. That place is always such a zoo. I had to laugh at this one family that was obviously from the city. The little girl wanted to pet a bunny, so the dad reaches into the pin and grabs one by the ears. He picks it up and brings it over to the girl, who screams and runs off. The dad made her pet it since he got it out. When she was finished, he drops it back into the pin and the mom hosed the daughter off with antibacterial spray. "Oh no, I got nature on me. What ever shall I do?"

We finally make it home. I'm supposed to be doing laundry right now, but I'm not. So I guess I'll wrap this up and get back to homemaking.