Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Going Home

This morning we got up early and ran out to the beach for one last sunrise. Yeah, it was overcast, but there were still waves and sand and birds, and we ate fruit to start off our breakfast. I took a little video of the waves, just so we can remember.


We finished breakfast at our room and packed up the last minute stuff and headed to the airport with plenty of time to spare.

After checking in, printing boarding passes, and going through security we settled in at our gate. As we were walking up to our gate I heard a woman singing a kind of 'good morning' song over the loud speaker. That's something I'd never heard at an airport before.

Boarding time came and went. Then an announcement that our plane had a mechanical problem and was still being fixed. They had their best mechanic working on it and hopefully we would be ready to board in the next half hour.

Then another announcement that they were still working on the plane, and then an announcement that the flight was canceled. We were instructed to go to the ticket counter and start trying to find other flights.

At the ticket counter they had a line just for people from our flight that was moving extremely slowly and had very few people in it. There were a few grim faced first class passengers who got right into the priority line looking ready to demand their rights. But only a few of us coach class waiting in line. After a bit an agent handed us a paper with an 800 number that we could use to change flights by phone. Chuck quickly dialed that number and was told that our original flight was only delayed, not canceled, and we should go back to our gate and wait.

That meant going back through security, but it isn't nearly as scary the second time. So back to our original gate we went, and they confirmed that they were indeed still working on that plane. However they had no idea how long it might take. Maybe we would like to be registered to fly stand-by on a flight leaving at 1:10pm. The lady at the counter started instructing us on what we should tell the ticket agent if we weren't able to make that flight. Then she stopped herself and said, "Wait a minute. I'm working that flight. You don't have to remember anything because I will remember it for you." Yea!

The gate for that flight was close enough to our original gate that we could keep track of both from that area. Since there were so many people hoping to board that flight there were no seats available there, so we settled ourselves on the floor and shared an orange and some crackers and cheese.

Soon it was time to board the 1:10 flight. A woman's voice began singing a happy song welcoming the travelers to the flight. I looked up and it was our helpful ticket agent from the other gate. The flight was full. We went back to our original gate again and waited there until the nice gate lady finally announced that the plane could not be fixed. The new part they had brought in from another company would not fit correctly and they would have to wait for one of their own parts to be delivered.

We went to talk with her and she got busy on her computer. Our original flight pattern was to make our connection in Dallas, which was currently closed because of snow. She found us a flight from Miami to Chicago and a connecting flight home from there. The glitch was that we were at the Ft. Lauderdale airport, not the Miami airport. The other glitch was she could not guarantee us seats on that flight. It would still be standby. She told us that if we didn't get on that flight the airline would put us up for night. She provided us with a voucher to take a shuttle to the other airport. Then she muttered, "They have to get you seats. Here." She took our boarding passes back from us and grabbed an orange marker and made some cryptic symbol on both of our passes, shoved them back into the folder, and handed them to us.

We asked what time that flight left. She looked at her computer. Then she looked at her watch. Then she got an alarmed look on her face and she said with intensity, "You have to go now! Hurry! Go find the shuttle out front!"

Didn't exactly feel reassuring...

We started racing toward the front of the airport. Then Chuck paused and said, "Let's just give up for today and get the airline to put us up and start again tomorrow." I was doubtful that the airline would do that if we didn't even try. He agreed to keep trying.

We got to the front door and couldn't find the shuttle she described, but after asking questions we got to the right place and handed our voucher to a young man who coordinated shuttles. He looked at our voucher and asked about the time of our flight and then started acting very exasperated. He said that it was unlikely that he could get us there in time with the kind of shuttle the airline was paying for. We should have an express shuttle but the airline was only paying for a shared shuttle. It would make stops along the way. It would be slow.

Chuck was again ready to stop and take the motel. I still didn't believe they would give us a motel unless we showed up at Miami to claim it. He gave in again.

Our shuttle arrived. Our driver drove us directly to the Miami airport without stopping for anyone else first. The others in the shuttle all had to wait for us, I guess. We were already checked in so we went straight to security and then to our gate, where about half the passengers were still in line to board. Chuck went up to the desk where new boarding passes were already printed up and waiting for us, and we were seated together next to a window! I think the singing gate attendant must have made a phone call.

The rest of the trip was uneventful. The plane to Chicago was large enough to offer tv episode each of "Office" and of "Parks and Recreation". The second flight was on a very small plane.

We had to find someone to pick us up since our arrival times had changed, so my brother, Larry, came to the airport to get us. Thanks!

So we are home. I found myself very thankful today for the time we set aside for meditation and prayer while we were gone. There have already been times when I realized that that time to regroup last week was helping me today.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Florida - 4 Last Day

Last night the movie we watched was 'Yes Man' with Jim Carey - I know, not a likely choice. But Chuck must have been in the right mood for that kind of humor. I tried to get video of him laughing uncontrollably, but lighting was too dim. A photo will have to suffice.

It rained during the night, and was spritzing this morning. However, it was warm so we decided to go out to walk and run on the beach one last time. The wind had been blowing hard all night and the sand had been cut away by the waves so that you had to step down over a foot to get down to the harder wet sand. The spritzing pretty much let up while we ran or walked, so we didn't get too wet. It was humid and felt like a warm, windy summer morning at home. Chuck said he could smell the ocean, which is good, since he hasn't been able to smell much since his sinus infection started. I couldn't smell the ocean so he was doing better than me with that.

This beach is very well-maintained, and I wondered what they did when the sand was washed away like that. While we were working out, a guy on a tractor with a blade came by right along the edge of that drop off. He was pushing the sand down so that it would make a new, slanted area instead of the cliff that was currently there.

There were still quite a few jellyfish on the beach. With the rough sea and the wind, many had gotten tangled in seaweed and washed ashore with the seaweed. There was a pile of seeweed full of blue jellyfish all through it. I had wondered how long their tentacles were because most of them kind of washed ashore with the tentacles tangled in a bunch underneath them. But I saw one this morning with tentacles stretched out three feet long.

Chuck had talked with a lifeguard yesterday about the jellyfish. She was trying to convince a swimmer that it might be wise to stay out of the water. The swimmer was not very convinced. Later she told Chuck that she was allergic to the jellyfish sting, and that if she had to rescue anyone she would end up in the hospital.

After showering, we headed out for our only breakfast out---at IHOP. It was huge, but delicious. Didn't need lunch at all today. This is our 'after breakfast' photo.

We mostly enjoyed hanging out around our room today. We took turns napping/having devotions in the courtyard area. Here are a couple more pics of the courtyard where we are staying. I usually use one of those picnic tables to sit while I'm having my devotions.

We took several walks. On one of those walks we went back to the windy beach. By now the wind had increased even more and the sand blasted against our legs. There was so much spray in the air that if you licked your lips they tasted like salt. I couldn't keep my glasses clear. But it didn't deter the para-surfers. There were probably 6-8 out there at different times. It was fascinating. They reminded me of snowboarders because they could kind of hot dog as they hit the waves. There was one that was particularly good. Every time he would hit a big wave he would lift up out of the water and twirl or somersault or grab his board and swing it up into the air. Sometimes as he came into to the shallow water and turned around he would do something that made him fly into the air as much as 20 feet high. We took some video but I don't know yet if it is any good.

We took one more walk late in the afternoon, up and down side streets around where we are staying, checking out the other nearby accommodations. I don't think I mentioned that this area is very big with people from Quebec. There are only a few guests at this resort that aren't usually speaking French. There is a resort in another street nearby that has the word 'Montreal' as part of it's name and a sign in front that the owners speak French.

But French isn't nearly the only language we've been hearing. There of course is Spanish, but also lots of Russian or other slavic languages, German, and we think we might have identified Italian the other day. There is no assuming that you share any common language around here.

This area is very pedestrian and bike friendly. There are bike lanes all around the shore area, and also a lot of them as you get farther into town as well.

We came back and watched 'Bride Wars'. Another stupid comedy. We have a hard time agreeing on movies so stupid comedies are what we end up with. It did have an unexpected twist at the end, but most of it is pretty much like the trailer.

Chuck wanted some pictures of the car yet, so here those are.

We went out for supper at Billy's Stone Crab. This was the only place we'd found that seemed to be dedicated to seafood. When we walked in and saw that the waiters were all wearing tuxes, I got a little bit worried. Chuck stayed pretty cool. We checked out the menu, figured out what we could afford, and had some very very good seafood. He had mahi mahi stuffed with crab. I had stone crab legs. We shared broccoli hollandaise.

After supper we turned on the Olympic Ice Dancing Finals while we got as much packed up as we could before morning. We shared the last of our Klondike bars, and finished our pop.

We'll be in Kansas tomorrow. It will be good to be home.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Florida 3-Wildlife

We had one of those days. Maybe you don't have them but we do. Finally tired of trying to work out plans together and just want the other person to really want to do exactly what you want to do and really really annoyed when they don't... So we had our meltdown on our trip to the Keys.

Here is the devil.

Here is the she-devil.

So we turned around at Key Largo and went back to the beach by our resort. And it was nice, and we swam. Actually, completely not true to form, I was the first one in the water and the last one out. This is partly due to the water being warmer than I expected, and partly due to Chuck's weight loss which makes him get cold a lot faster than I do. But the water was nice (to me) and the shallow area just goes on and on and on. (kind of like these blog posts)

Sometime while I was swimming I noticed that my arm was stinging a bit, but it wasn't bad and I didn't worry about it. I thought I might be allergic to something in the sunscreen or the water.

When I left the beach to shower the salt water out of my hair, I realized that I had an area of hives all around my left elbow. I rushed back to the room to wash off whatever it was I had reacted to.

I showed it to Chuck when he came back and he wondered about jellyfish. We looked them up on the internet. They sounded a lot more painful than what I was experiencing, and the info stated that the rash/blisters could last for 1-2 weeks. Probably it was something else.

After the beach, we decided to go back to the beach side mall for supper again. We thought we might try out a different food, but ended up with Greek again. While we were there a live band playing covers of old rock and roll songs started up. It wasn't really a band, but two old guys with electric guitars and very fancy amps. If you like bands that do cover songs of old rock and roll favorites (sorry Ben) this was a great duo.

We stood around to listen, and quite a few people were dancing. It was fun music and a great beat and soon we were dancing too. Even Chuck. No I don't have pictures, but it was fun and I got a second workout (including my swim as the first).

The forecast is for rain tomorrow so we knew that today was probably our last chance for a beach sunrise.

The sunlight was reflecting off the windows in the distance.

After the sunrise Chuck went for a run while I ate some breakfast on the beach, peach pie, no less. Mostly peach flavored thickened filling and a couple of tiny pieces of peach.

A seagull decided to join me, even getting on my blanket at one point.

When Chuck got back I went for a fast walk on the beach, and this is what I found all along the water line.

Maybe it was jellyfish after all.

Chuck was at the beach while I've been having devotions and writing here. He said that there are lots more jellyfish washed on shore now---almost too many to avoid if you want to walk through the area closest too the water. There is a second kind that is about the size of a miniature marshmallow, but nearly clear with just a hint of pink tint. Guess we won't swim today.

We were going to go to an organic farmer's market today, but the traffic that direction was unbelievable today. We turned around and headed to a downtown spot where we had seen a shop that had a sign for empanadas. The shop turned out to be closed today, but the area had a lot of interesting restaurants with outdoor dining. Chuck was in charge of choosing lunch so we went up and down the block twice and settled on Chocolada, which served sandwiches and pasta at lunch and had a store full of wonderful desserts. We both had Chicken Scampi, and shared chocolate cheescake with a tall frappucchino for dessert. Here is Chuck with the frappuchino. I should have gotten my camera out before the cheesecake was devoured.

This evening we rented a movie and had a quiet evening at home. More tomorrow.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Florida 2

Confession time: I've been inside Walmart twice in the last week. The first time was in Newton to get some things for the trip that I couldn't find anywhere else. The second time was here. Chuck needed sunglasses, our room needed dish soap, we wanted a universal remote for the tv, and since we wanted to rent a movie we needed some little speakers for my laptop. And we needed pop. Well, I needed pop. Here is my computer with the new speakers and the comforting glass of pop.

We haven't been able to find a video rental store or even a redbox nearby. There aren't even any fast food places in our area. So we were glad to see a redbox inside the walmart and we rented 'My Life In Ruins' with Nia Vardalos (from 'My Big Fat Greek Wedding').

In the afternoon we spent some more time on the beach, Chuck swam, and I had my Thursday chat with Becca. :-)

The Olympics had a direct influence on our choice of where to eat supper. Chuck had seen all the Outback Steakhouse commercials while we were still at home and he was craving a great steak. Steak has never been high on my list of favorite foods, but I ordered steak as well. We both had 6oz. sirloins, and I had a lobster/mushroom sauce over mine. It was amazing. I guess if you want a good steak, that is the place to go. This is just before we left for the restaurant in front of our room on which the number '2' is plainly marked.

After supper we watched the movie. It was Ok but we probably won't see it a second time.

This morning we slept in long past sunrise. It looks like this will be the coolest day we are here so there was not even any talk from Chuck about swimming today. We went to a nearby state park for several hours, to walk, enjoy another beach, and have our devotions. Here's Chuck having his

and me having mine.

Here are a couple of sunflower type flowers I found while I was walking

and some waxy new leaves of a sea grape plant.

We'd decided to go to an open air beachfront mall where there would be live music. From what we could tell from the write-up on the internet, there would be all kinds of live music along a 2 1/2 mile stretch of beachfront shops, and there would be plenty of restaurants where we could eat.

Well, I got the location wrong so we walked along the beachfront quite a while before we found the area.

Then we found out there was only one group playing live music at an open air bandshell. The band would be playing classic rock. There were loads of open air restaurants of every type of food except local seafood. We chose Greek and I had a gyro. I also finally found out how to pronounce gyro---yerro. Chuck had a pork kabob, in true loyalty to his profession.

We decided to skip the open air classic rock concert and stopped at Walmart for the 3rd time to get breakfast food and return our redbox movie. Then we headed back to the room where Chuck successfully programmed the universal remote and then used it to find the Olympics!

I've written quite a list of annoying facts about our room, and not even included the fact that it adjoins two other rooms, from which we can hear complete conversations, or that when someone showers in one of those rooms it sounds like they are in our shower. But I haven't told you what it looks like when you look out our window or step out our door. So feast your eyes on our courtyard.

And that's it for tonight.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Florida 1

We've arrived in Ft. Lauderdale. Yesterday was spent mostly flying. We had a longer layover in Atlanta and found a nice Asian place where we could share a meal and then got a large smoothie to share while we leisurely waited for our next flight. But while we were getting the meal or the smoothie the gate was changed for the next flight. I know, it should be a warning signal if you decide to be leisurely about anything at an airport. But we walked very fast and arrived just in time to wait in line for fifteen minutes with other people who had also discovered the gate had been changed and walked fast to wait in line with us.

We are at the Waves, a resort about a half block from the beach. We came in after dark. There was no one at the office and no one answering the emergency phone numbers. Hmmm. There was a rack on the wall with some envelopes in it. The back envelope had a name that started with R. I pulled it out and it was for us. Our room was unlocked and waiting for us. Rm 242.

All of the rooms at this resort have 3 digit numbers on the doors. Except ours. The rooms above us all were in the 240's, but the room we are in just says '2'. So we walked around the building three times before deciding to try the door. It was unlocked and there was a key on the table.

The room isn't beautiful, or really even mildly attractive. The floor is pale beige. The walls are pale cream color. The doors and woodwork are bright white. There is not a single thing hung on any wall in the room. The only real color is the cheap bedspread.

The kitchenette consists of two plates, two cups, two glasses, and silverware, a refrigerator, a microwave, a toaster, and a sink. The only towel rack in the bathroom that comes equipped with a bar to hold the towels is inside the shower.

The tv is high up on a bare wall and doesn't have a remote or a channel guide. So to get through the many many channels to see if men's free skate is on requires standing by the tv, flipping the channels manually, and waiting after each push of the button for the commercials to end so you can see if this is the right channel or not. Needless to say, we missed the men's freeskate. Who won, by the way? Was it amazing?

It would be smart to arrive here during daylight hours so that the gardens and the fountain outside would flavor your first impression. As it was, we made the best of things by using only dim lighting and draping all my sarongs and scarves around the room to add some warmth and color...and then we left to go find some supper and groceries to warm or cool in our kitchenette.

Apparently we went the wrong direction for supper because there were few to none in the category of promising restaurants and we finally decided to be the only customers at a retro McDonald's (retro as in no Ronald imagery and the original logo out front). The young man taking our order had a really difficult time with it. Instead of a mac wrap Chuck was getting a fruit and walnut salad, etc. Finally he apologized and told us that this was his first day on the job at McDonald's.

From there we got groceries and made our way back to our motel/resort.

I was exhausted so I told Chuck I didn't want to wake up early enough for an ocean sunrise. However, he woke up wide awake at about 6am, and when he got up to get dressed, I decided to join him. The wind had completely died down so the only sound was the waves hitting the beach. It started like this

and then got a little brighter

and finally completely broke through.

Here we are enjoying the warmth of the sun hitting our faces.

Chuck took a nice long run after the sun rise while I had my devotions and did some journaling on the beach. I had company, since I was eating an orange we had brought out with us.

Then I got to walk a couple of miles and when I got back we had our microwaved hot pockets breakfast. Yum! (at least I liked them...Chuck wasn't so sure)

When he got back I walked a couple of miles and he took our stuff back to our room and had a nap.

You know, after all that time on the beach and enjoying the sun and getting some exercise, the room seems like only a minor annoyance. I totally love not having to drive anywhere to get to the beach. It is great that Chuck can go without me or I can go without him if we want, and it won't be hard to find each other later. I think I will like it here.

That's it for now.