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Second Anniversary Trip

Our Wedding And Beyond

Our trip this year went like this:
 
Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, North Carolina, Virginia, Home.
 

Saturday, May 27th (NC, SC):

 

We left about 11:00 a. m. after Jamie got off of work and started out.  A quick stop at Burger King, we got our GPS (hereby referred to as “Beth” from here forward) all set up and we were off, our new fry table in tow (a table that sits in the cup holder and holds fries while you drive – very nifty!)

 

We did a lot of driving.  We made it to North Carolina, stopped for lunch at Pizza Hut, got me my first Sonic Blast of the year afterwards, and then back to driving.  We made it to South Carolina and then continued to drive through the amazing sunset until we decided to stop for the night.  Our plan from the beginning was to head straight for Florida with not many stops along the way.

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Sheldon Church ruins.

Sunday, May 28th (GA):

 

A quick look through our book of fun things to do had me interested in seeing the Sheldon Church ruins.  We stopped at Old Cawhawba last year, which was a town of ruins, that I found quite interesting, so off we went.  What a beautiful place.  The church was originally built in 1745 – 1755.  In 1779 the British Army burned it.  It was rebuilt in 1826, and then it was burned again in 1865 by the Federal Army, and it remains the same way today.  There are graves out around it, and tons of trees.  Just a really beautiful place.  There were rose petals on the ground which we were confused about, until a representative of the historic foundation (or something) showed up and started cleaning up, at which time he informed us that there had been a wedding there just the day before.  They still hold weddings there, and he said that just about every weekend for the Spring and Summer is usually booked up with weddings.  What a fun fact!

 

We left Sheldon Church and kept driving.  I had read about “Tree Skeletons” in our book also, as a place to stop in Georgia.  We didn’t have to though, as we had real tree skeletons all around us.  Apparently what happens (or happened) is trees are grown, then the water level rises, surrounds the trees, and soon they are under so much water that they die, but the bark (although dead now) remains standing.  I was truly fascinated by all of this and asked Jamie to pull over on the side of the road while I took pictures of the skeletons – it’s such an interesting site.

 

I got to see my first palm tree of the year and tried to talk Jamie into going to The Home Depot to see if we could buy one to take home, but he said no, insisting it would die in Maryland.  Ha!

 

Shortly thereafter we hit Georgia.  I was excited to be back in Georgia, and insisted that we stop somewhere to enjoy the time we were driving, instead of just having our sights set on Florida.  We stopped at Fort McAllister State Park – what a fun place!  This was such an interesting fort as it wasn’t made out of bricks or wood, but instead out of earth.  It was all mud and sticks that made up the fort.  It withstood many battles because of the fact that when cannons were fired the earth was able to absorb so much of the impact and then all they had to do was put the dirt back into place.  Other forts made out of bricks or stones would usually crumble, or at least crack under the impact.  Anyway, so we’re at the park, we had paid our admission, and we were walking back towards the fort when we get attacked by bugs!  Lots of bugs.  I’m flailing all over the place trying to keep these bugs away from me, as they seem to like your face the most.  A family on their way back in from the fort suggested we turn around and go buy some buy spray as they said the bugs only get worse the further out you get.  So we go in, buy some bug spray, spray up, and head back out.  Confident now that no bugs can get us!  It wasn’t too long before the spray didn’t bother the bugs anymore, and they were attacking us again.  A short stop for more bug spray, this time on our clothes and hair as well, and back on our way.  The thing that was so interesting about this fort, besides the fact that you were surrounded by all these hills – which was the fort, was that you could go into the barracks and such underneath that were there for the soldiers.  Not all of them were open, but many were, including the “hospital” and the place where they all slept – with rows and rows of bunk beds.  There’s a lot of history there and it’s a truly interesting place.  Back outside where the bugs are getting worse (the fort is right on the water, of course, as most of them are).  We stop one more time to spray, but nothing phases the bugs at this point.  They were probably just laughing at us as we stood out there flailing around trying to keep the darn things away from our face.  Finally I got so frustrated, that we rushed through the rest of the fort and then I ran back to safe cover – inside the admission building.  At this point I remember why we didn’t like Georgia too much last year, and I tell Jamie I’m done with Georgia and am ready to leave.

 

We continue to head south for Florida when we get our first rainstorm of our trip – and it was a bad one.  Heavy downpours so bad you could barely see through the rain and the windshield wipers just weren’t fast enough.  We crawl through the never-ending storm as everyone is just creeping along.  Every time the sky clears up and I’d say the storm was over, it would start all over again, just as bad as the previous time.  Finally we hit Florida where the storm had not made it yet.  It was beautiful there and very warm.  We went inside the tourist center to collect literature on things to do all around Florida and by the time we came out the storm had caught up to us.  We went on our way, and our book had suggested a battlefield in Florida.  Sounded interesting, so off we went.  We drove right past it, but continued to go since Beth told us that we had not yet reached our destination.  Figuring there was another entrance, or we were just mistaken about the battlefield, we let her guide the way.  Until she guided us to the middle of the woods and told us we had arrived.  We patted her head, turned around and went back to the battlefield we had just passed.  LOL.  The storm had cleared up and it was HOT outside.  So very hot!  The battlefield was quite boring.  Just a small shack with some artifacts inside, and then one or two cannons outside, and a memorial statue.  Other than that, that was pretty much it.  You could really see everything from the parking spaces.  One fun thing we saw was some old newspapers they had from the war, and one of them was written on May 30, 1863.  I thought this was so interesting!  We found a newspaper that was written 141 years before we got married.  What are the chances?!

 

Determined to make it to St. Augustine, we kept driving and finally arrived.  I started phoning around for hotel rooms and quickly realized that there were none available.  I must have called at least 20 hotels and they were all booked.  At this point I’m desperate for anything, as I’m figuring we’re going to be sleeping in the truck for the night.  Finally the Ramada Inn has one king room left (way overpriced), but we took it.  As we try to make our way through traffic to get there before they give our room away, we are shocked at the amount of traffic.  There is a big festival going on right across the street from our hotel!  It was like a fair / flea market with pony rides and such.  We had to circle the block twice just to get into the parking lot since they had the entrances blocked off to keep people from parking in there.  We decided to stay in for the night and ate dinner at the restaurant right with the hotel – great food too!  I spent hours that night sorting through the Florida brochures, and marking off a big map with letters corresponding to each thing we wanted to do.  I think at the end we had 27 things we wanted to do all over Florida.  I went to bed exhausted.

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Us at the oldest, wooden schoolhouse.

Monday, May 29th (St. Augustine, FL):

 

We got up and headed to the Alligator Farm after breakfast.  We went there on our Honeymoon, of course, but really wanted to go back.  There were a few new things there.  Like they no longer had the kangaroo, but instead took his whole living area and made a play area for the kids.  They also added a new photo op area, and also gave you the option of getting your picture taken with an alligator, which of course we did!  We watched the Alligator Feeding again, went off to feed the baby alligators again, pretty much the same as two years prior.  We finally left and went to the St. Augustine lighthouse (which is pretty much right across the street), which was one of the main reasons we wanted to go back to St. Augustine – because we never got to check out the lighthouse from our honeymoon.  We paid our admission and 219 steps later we were at the top of the lighthouse!  It was still hot as hell, but up that high it was truly perfect.  You had an amazing view (you could even see the Alligator Farm!) and a wonderful breeze.  As I stood there snapping picture after picture and catching everything else on camcorder, Jamie stood way back from the rail, terrified of how high we were.  Finally we went back down (a much easier task to walk down, although the stairs are very steep and very narrow, so very dangerous on the way down).

 

We then headed off to the Castillo Desan Fort nearby that we had wanted to see on our Honeymoon, but just never did.  We had the hardest time trying to find a parking spot, and finally gave up and paid for parking.  We then walked the several blocks to the Fort and went on our tour.  They were going to do a cannon firing, so we got ready for that, and Jamie just happened to have brought the camcorder.  He starts taping the procedures to get ready for the cannon firing and the battery dies.  So he pulls out the other camcorder battery and promptly drops it.  Of course we were on a wooden platform that was sitting there where other cannons were on, so it fell between the platform and the fort wall.  We couldn’t move either and we couldn’t reach the battery.  I taped the rest of the cannon shooting with the camera and then immediately went to work on trying to get this $40 + battery back.  I couldn’t reach it, as there just wasn’t enough room for my arm.  A nice guy behind us had his two young sons try to reach it with their smaller, skinnier arms, but they also couldn’t reach it.  At this point a crowd has gathered wondering what the heck we’re trying to get.  I open up my back pack and pull out my address book and use that to try to push the battery all the way over to the end of the platform where we’d be able to reach it.  I am going very very slowly to make sure I don’t push the battery underneath the platform because then it’d be lost.  Jamie informs me that there’s a 2x4 there so the battery cannot get lost.  I don’t believe him and continue to go very slowly.  He is getting annoyed with me because I’m so worried I’m going to lose this battery.  He again tells me it can’t get lost.  By the third time he tells me this I say fine and start pushing it faster.  I lose it under the platform.  I tell him I thought it couldn’t go under the platform.  He reaches under again and that’s when he realizes the 2x4 doesn’t extend the whole length of the platform.  Errr.  So now I’m really upset.  I keep using the book though in hopes of hitting the battery and being able to bring it back out.  Everyone around us is just intrigued by now with what we’re doing, as it must be the most interesting thing they’ve seen all day.  Finally I give up defeated.  I can no longer see the battery, and haven’t been able to for awhile.  My arm still won’t fit down there and Jamie can’t reach it from the side.  A nice guy comes up to see if he can help, but he cannot.  Finally I lay down on the ground and reach behind the platform where the supposed 2x4 was supposed to be.  My arm fits back there, while Jamie’s did not.  And I feel the battery!  I start freaking out, “I got it!  I got it!”  I get up so relieved and am so happy, we got the battery back.  I then notice that the nice guy has left, so I tell Jamie I’ll be right back and take off running across the fort so I can catch up to him and thank him for his help.  J  Everything is right with the world then and we continue walking around exploring the rest of the fort.

 

After that we head over to the “main strip” I guess you would call it, of St. Augustine.  A variety of stores, and attractions, and restaurants all down one main walk way.  Jamie had wanted to get a print out of his families’ coat of arms.  He looked at it two years ago on our Honeymoon, but didn’t actually buy it, and he never let the topic go over the two years.  So we finally find the place, buy the coat of arms, and then go to the Oldest Schoolhouse – also something I wanted to do on our Honeymoon.  They were closing in fifteen minutes, so we had just made it!  What an interesting place.  First of all, the school house is in really bad condition.  They have big chains holding the walls up so they don’t cave in.  It’s really sad.  But interesting history inside.  They have talking mannequins that tell you some of the “rules” there – for instance, it cost 12 cents a day for children to go to the school.  If the family didn’t have the money, the child would either bring wood for the fireplace, or food for the professors’ family.  There was also a “dungeon” where misbehaving kids would be placed under the stairs.

 

After we got done exploring all around there, we left and it was nearing 6:00.  I told Jamie that I saw a sign when we parked that said that the parking lot closed at 6:00.  He didn’t remember seeing such a sign, but I was so positive, that we headed back.  But we didn’t go the way we had come originally, and we got a little lost.  Add that to the fact that I hadn’t eaten all day (and always get dizzy when I skip a meal) and that we had been walking all day, so my feet hurt, and I was miserable.  I was feeling really really lightheaded and wasn’t sure I was going to be able to make it.  Jamie told me to stay behind and he’d come back and get me, but I wasn’t about to just hang out on the sidewalk in St. Augustine, so I kept going, albeit, very slowly.  We finally find the parking lot, which is still packed.  People are still pulling in.  We go in, get the truck, and look all around.  Not one sign saying they close at 6:00.  I felt so bad because we were going to spend more time on the strip, but left because I thought the parking lot would close.  At that point we were not interested in walking back, so we just left.  Finding a hotel room that night was much easier as the festival was gone, and it was a weekday.  We got a wonderful room, and then headed out to dinner.  We decided to go with a neighborhood restaurant, so one we’ve never been to before, and got to eat outside (I love restaurants that have outside seating).  We had wonderful service, but the food was a little weird.  Good, but weird – just a weird taste.  Anyway, we also decided to splurge on dessert, figuring our Anniversary dinner probably wouldn’t be as nice, so I consider this our Anniversary dinner.  We had a nice time there, and dessert was amazing, our bill was huge, but worth it.  J  We went back to the hotel after that where I was just exhausted.  Jamie didn’t want to stay in though, and wanted to go to the mini golf right next door.  It took me awhile to find my energy, but we did go.  I didn’t take my camera for whatever silly reason (I think I was charging the batteries), but as soon as we started playing, I regretted it.  So I whined a lot and then finally decided I was going back to the hotel.  I climbed over the gate (shortcut instead of walking all the way around), and went back to get the camera.  I returned, climbed over the gate, and we continued our game, and had quite a lot of fun.  Afterwards, we returned to the hotel and got in the Jacuzzi, or tried to, but it was much too hot for me.  So we got in the pool, which was very warm itself, and stayed there for a little while, before we went back to our room, and I again, fell asleep, exhausted.

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Jamie parasailing. Gosh my heart still stops just thinking about how high we were.

Tuesday, May 30th (St. Augustine, FL):

 

Our anniversary!  First things first!  After we showered, we exchanged gifts.  Jamie got me pajamas, underwear, and cotton balls (I actually use them daily).  I got him a golf towel embroidered with his name, and a shower wrap, which he thought was a skirt.  LOL.  Cotton was a fun anniversary!

 

I had marked parasailing off as one of the things I wanted to do, from a brochure we had.  I called to get pricing (very expensive, but I decided it was worth it).  We showed up, paid for our admission, and had a 10:15 “flight” time.  We had about 45 minutes to kill, so we walked around the water, and just spent the time watching the ocean.  I then started to get very nervous as I have a slight fear of heights, and it was really really expensive, and I was wondering why I had decided to do this, especially knowing that Jamie is also afraid of heights.  But of course we went back.  They took us out on the boat, where I started to get really sea sick when we hit the choppy water.  They were trying to get us in our parasailing gear while flying over the water, and I was falling all over the place.  They hooked us up and suggested I not take our camera with us, just incase something were to happen and I ended up in the water.  I decided to take my chances, figuring the chances of that happening were so low, and I’d truly regret not having taken it with me, so up we went.  It wasn’t too long before I started getting really scared.  It wasn’t the heights so much that worried me, it had more to do with the fact that I had two metal hooks holding me up and I was not too confident in their ability to hold me safely in the air.  We had signed up for the flight that took us 700 feet in the air (the lowest one they offered!) and it seemed like we just kept getting higher and higher.  At this point I figure that if the chains do break, I’m doomed.  The drop is much too severe, so I start freaking out.  Jamie’s trying to calm me down, but eventually I just start sobbing uncontrollably.  I was so so scared that something awful was going to happen and my chain was going to break.  The fear was so overwhelming and I couldn’t stop crying.  I was near hysterical when Jamie started yelling for the guys to stop the ride.  It took them awhile to realize that Jamie wasn’t waving to say hello, so they brought us in to make sure we were okay, figuring that if we were, they’d just send us back up.  Jamie told them it was too scary, and they pulled us in.  I have never felt as good as I did when my feet landed back on solid ground.

 

After that we were planning on leaving town and heading further south and then I saw an advertisement for the Oldest House, so we decided to stop there.  The house was originally two rooms (two small rooms!) in which the original owners lived in for 40 years and raised ten children!  Yikes!  The tour guide said they had to run fires in the house year round to keep the bugs out, and at night they had to sleep with netting around their bed to keep the mosquitos out.  Eventually they added onto the house, and then the next family did as well, but just the fact of raising ten children in a two-bedroom house is insane enough for me!

 

We then headed to the Merritt Island National Refuge area.  We stopped at the welcome center first to get a tour book on the self-guided tour.  Behind the welcome center was an amazing area with a boardwalk, where you could walk along the water and see all kinds of animals.  There were many turtles there.  This was also under trees (it was a swamp / lake type area) and it was just beautiful.  After that we went off to the driving tour, which had multiple stops along the way.  At the second stop we saw a real alligator in the wild!  He was in the water with just his head sticking out.  I was so excited about this since I’ve never been so close to an alligator before, and have never seen one in the wild, that I kept getting closer and closer to try to get a good picture.  At one point I felt the ground underneath of me give way, but I didn’t pay it any mind, figuring I had stepped in mud, and I kept trying to get a picture.  Within a few seconds I start feeling pain down by my ankle and I look down and am covered in ants.  Apparently when the ground gave way, it wasn’t mud, but instead an ant hill that I had stepped on.  The ants were ticked when they came out and immediately covered my ankle, foot, and part of my calf and started biting.  I freaked out and went running into the gravel road swatting at my leg and kicking my shoe off.  Jamie came over to find out what the heck was wrong.  We got all the ants off, but my leg was in major pain and I was already experiencing slight swelling.  Jamie was afraid that I might have an allergic reaction, and I was convinced that the ants were not “normal back yard” ants, but a different kind, so he scooped up some in a container we happened to have in the truck.  He wanted to put them in the back of the truck, but I was afraid the top would come off and the ants would take over our clothes and such, so we attached the plastic contained to the tow hitch and away we went.  My leg continued to hurt, and I had some swelling pop up for about a day or so, but nothing worthy of a doctor’s visit.  But we kept the ants with us anyway at that point just to see how long they’d live.  We expected them to be dead that night, but they actually lived about a week in that container!

 

We saw many more wild alligators on that trip including one that was very interested in Jamie and watched him everywhere we went.  We also saw very cool alligator tracks across a walkway, where they obviously went from one side of the water to the other.  That was such a cool experience, even just to see those marks, to know that that’s where they normally cross, and we were standing right there!

 

After we left there, we went to a Manatee Viewing area, where we didn’t see any Manatees, but did see a dolphin!

 

We got a hotel room for the night next to some newlyweds!  (“Just Married” written on their car) and had an amazing dinner at Cracker Barrel.

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Me with my favorite sick turtle at the Sea Turtle Rescue.

Wednesday, May 31st (Titusville, FL):

 

Determined to see real manatees (I’d never seen any before in my life) we got up and went to a Manatee Observation attraction.  I thought they’d have like manatees in captivity that we could see, but no.  No real manatees, though we did get to see lots of fun pictures and statues of manatees, and we had some great photo opportunities.  J

 

After that we were going to go on a dolphin sight seeing cruise, but no one answered the phone when we called, and when we showed up, it was all private property, so we decided to just leave and instead headed down to a hands on learning museum on fish and sting rays and such.  What a fun place!  We showed up and I just expected it to be a stop along the way, but it was really fun.  They have touch tanks there where you can touch the creatures living in there – hermit crabs and such.  They also had a huge pond out back (more like a lake) stocked with fish and we got to see a fish feeding.  Jamie and I also walked around the whole length of it and it was just so interesting to see all the time they had taken to make the pond a great place for all types of fish and crabs.  We hung around for a while, and went back inside to look at coral and such under a microscope while we waited for the Stingray feeding.  We were actually able to feed the stingrays ourselves, but I didn’t because I was afraid they’d sting me.  Jamie tried to get me to do it, but I kept saying no.  By the time I told him that I didn’t want to get stung, all the food was gone, but he showed me the big sign that I had missed saying that they had had their stingers removed.  Oh well.  Maybe another time.  Jamie got to feed them though, and it was really cool, they just eat right out of your hand.

 

On our way out Jamie picked up a brochure for a Sea Turtle Rescue.  We asked Beth to tell us where it was and away we went.  By the time we got there they were closing within the hour.  I didn’t expect to spend so much time there, but we did.  This great organization takes sea turtles that they find that are either sick or injured, and they take them in and try to get them healthy again and then release them.  Some of the stories of these turtles were just so heart wrenching.  One turtle had been swallowed by a shark or a fish and then was thrown back up.  Another turtle was swimming all lopsided and couldn’t stay under water.  He was brand new there, and they didn’t have a name for him yet, or a story, or a diagnosis.  He stole my heart, and I still think about him wondering if he was okay.  He was so tiny and obviously not feeling well.  They weren’t sure if he was going to make it.  L  They had all kinds of things there including a turtle stretcher!  How cute!

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Rhinos have the right of way, as you see here.

Thursday, June 1st (West Palm Beach, FL):

 

We woke up to rain.  L  Next item on our list was the South Florida Science Center.  It was similar to the one we visited last year in that it was geared towards kids, but we still had a lot of fun.  J  They had the skull of a Tyrannosaurus Rex, which was big enough for Jamie’s head to fit in his mouth.  What a thought!  They had a mummy child there as well, which was just fascinating.  They went over what they thought the cause of his / her death might have been, and how old he / she was.  It was just so interesting, to see something like that.  There were other activities to do here, like mini golf and such, but all of the outside attractions were closed due to the stupid rain!

 

When we left there I was super excited!!  The next thing on the list was the Lion Safari, and this was one of the most awesome things we did while we were gone.  On our way there, I was hoping the rain would stop, and it did, and eventually turned into a beautiful afternoon.  Upon nearing the Lion Safari, the first sign you see is “Rhinos have the right of way.”  I thought that was so funny and asked Jamie to stop so I could get a picture.  I later found out why that is.  ;)

 

The first animal we saw was this huge turtle / tortoise.  I was fascinated with him and we had people go around us because we were there so long.  He was so big I couldn’t imagine how his legs could hold his weight.  We got to see him snacking on some grass, and I got some videos of that and just how slow he moves.  What an interesting animal!

 

There were also lots of deer (and similar animals, though I can’t remember what they are) and ostriches running around.  All of the animals were out walking around, free to roam wherever they wanted (with the exceptions of the lions, whose living quarters were caged, and the monkeys, who were on an island so they couldn’t get through the water).There were many times we had to stop to wait for the herds of animals to cross the road.

 

The lions were very cool, though it was quite warm, and they were relaxing.  We only saw one lion moving, and it was a female.  She was enthralled with the female on the other side of the road and was pacing back and forth staring her down.

 

There were elephants (not doing much), water buffalo, zebras, who were making their way around with the rhinos, and giraffes.  However, I think the rhinos were the best part of the attraction.  And again, I found out why they have the right of way.  Apparently rhinos cannot see that well, and they don’t really care if things are in their way.  There are signs telling you to watch out for the rhinos as they cannot see you and may damage your vehicle.  So we get to the rhino attraction and there are those massive creatures.  What a sight to see them!  What an incredible animal!  They are all in a pack together walking around when a couple decided they were going to cross the street.  They crossed in front of us, so no big deal.  We just hung out and waited for them to move.  Then there were three move near the back of our truck that wanted to cross.  It’s awesome to look right out your window and have rhino’s looking right at you.  So they were getting ready to cross, and once they start, they just don’t care, nor do they stop.  So they started walking and I happened to turn around and I told Jamie to get going!  They are not that fast, but they were only a few feet away from us.  I think at the time though we were still waiting on the one in front of us to move.  So we start inching up, wondering if we’re going to get to pull away before our truck got rammed.  I’m laughing so hard at this point thinking about the story we’d get to tell if we didn’t get to move and we ended up with horn holes in the bed of our truck!  We did finally get to pull up though and move out of their way, and they continued across the road, but how fascinating, again, just to be so close to such a massive animal.

 

After we were done with the driving part of the safari, there was a whole walking part.  We got some fantastic photos there, and even got to feed Mort, a giraffe.  You could buy two specially formulated graham crackers for $2.00.  Mort was an old giraffe who had arthritis and would not come to you, so you had to walk to him, but he was just standing there hanging out, waiting for his snacks.  There were other giraffes, but they were in the back too far away to be fed.  I mentioned something to the person on staff about how Mort was going to be fed too many graham crackers, and she insisted that those crackers are just a snack for them, and that Mort once ate 800 graham crackers in one day!!!   Can you imagine?!  Mort was very friendly while Jamie and I fed and petted him, but we soon had to go because more people were discovering Mort and were in line to feed him yet more crackers.

 

We got to take a boat ride to go out to the monkey island.  Apparently monkeys are scared of water and will not cross it, so putting them on an island allows them to run around very freely, but they will not be able to run away.  Speaking of monkeys, there was one on the drive through part that loved the monkey bars they had for him, and he was an expert on them!  I sat there for quite awhile taking pictures and laughing as he seemed to be having the time of his life.  Back and forth on the monkey bars and he was just so good at them.  J

 

By the time we were done walking through the park, we decided we’d like to drive through again, which we did (you can go through as many times as you’d like for no additional charge), but the second time around, the rhinos were long since gone and we didn’t get the up close experience that we did the first time.  Though we were much closer to the water buffalo the second time.

 

After we were done there it was quite late, and we got a hotel room for the night, which I have to say, there’s always one room that we wish we hadn’t stayed at.  There was nothing really wrong with the room, but it was small and very, very dark.  I just felt “weird” in it.  We got up early the next morning just so we could get the heck out of there!

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Jamie with an ostrich who is watching him very closely!

Friday, June 2nd (Loxahatchee, FL):

 

Off to Butterfly World.  What an amazing place.  I’d heard about places like this, but the fact that you’re walking along surrounded by butterflies is just amazing.  What a peaceful, beautiful place.  They have more than just butterflies though, they also have a bird section where the birds are fee to fly about, and also places that are not screened in, so those birds and butterflies are wild.  They also have a bug display inside, with species of bugs from all over the world, which is pretty gross.  You’d be surprised at how big some of those roaches can get in other countries!

 

We got the opportunity to see some of the butterflies actually hatching out of their cocoons and such, it was pretty neat.  I saved a butterfly, as he had hatched out, but managed to get himself stuck in the cage, and an ant was attacking him.  I got a staff member and had them open the cage, which they did, and they removed him, and put him out free.  He was pretty bad off, and he was still pretty wet since he had recently hatched, but when we went back later he was gone, and I didn’t see him lying on the ground or around the bushes or anything, so I guess he survived.  But how many other people saw the same thing and didn’t do anything about it?  L

 

After Butterfly World we went to Billie’s Swamp Buggy or some place like that.  We drove waaaaay far out of our way to get there, then was told that we had to wait over an hour until our ride.  In the meantime we got to see a snake show, which we had to leave early to be able to make our swamp buggy ride.  But when we got to the loading area no one was there.  We waited about fifteen minutes before I went back to the front to see what the heck was going on.  They said they weren’t sure if the ride was still on and I should check back in ten minutes.  Twenty minutes later Jamie and I went back and they said the ride was cancelled.  We were ticked at this point because apparently they had been canceling rides all day, but they didn’t bother to tell us that when we first bought the tickets, or else we wouldn’t have bothered wasting what time we did there.  I was also annoyed that the thought of going out to see if people were waiting to get on the swamp buggy never crossed their mind.  They just stayed inside and didn’t care that there were people waiting (we were not the only ones at that point).  I suggested that perhaps they should let the others know who were still waiting.  Seemed like common sense to me.  So that was a waste and we started the loooong drive back to civilization – this place was really out in the middle of nowhere.

 

By the time we finally got out of there it was time to settle in for the night.

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Me with Nala.

Saturday, June 3rd (Tampa, FL):

 

First thing we did was get to the Big Cat Rescue.  I had been looking forward to this since I read about it when we first got to Florida.  It was hooooot today.  The Big Cat Rescue is such a fun place.  They have these great big environments for the cats to live and roam around in.  Most of the animals there were either retired from the circus, or someone had them as a pet, and as they got older they dropped them off.  Others came from zoos that no longer wanted them.  The first tiger we saw was such a sad story.  He was originally a Barnum and Bailey circus performer.  The girl who was doing our tour wasn’t actually there when they released him over to the Rescue, but she said she heard the story and heard that it was heart wrenching to watch.  This poor tiger had been performing for his whole life.  He had lived all of his life on concrete, in trucks, and in buildings, so when they first released him into his new home – with a cave, water, trees, and grass, it’s said that he was so confused and so scared that it just broke everyone’s heart.  He’d never been around that stuff before.  His natural habitat and he’d never been around it before, so he was terrified.  He was a very shy cat, with only a little bit of his head sticking out of his cave.  Although I am against the circus having performing animals, I have to say that Barnum and Bailey released him there but they are still paying for his housing, his vet bills, his food, everything.  At least that’s something good.

 

There was another tiger, Nala, who was just a sweetheart.  She was very friendly and very much interested in people.  She wanted to be the center of attention and walked in front of you, followed you around, walked through her pool, she was just a trip.

 

Another story that sticks out to be is of one lion who was released from her previous owner – a breeder who tried to make money off of her by making her a “show” animal – meaning people could come by and see her and get their pictures taken with her.  However, for this man to be able to do this he had to keep her under a certain weight to abide by the law.  She was badly malnourished and had been abused horribly.  She was never allowed to growl or “meow” or anything.  The law finally stepped in and took her away along with all the other animals the guy had – except for two, sadly enough, so he just started all over, and unfortunately is still in business today.  L  This lion was placed in a habitat right next to another lion, and they told us that the one lion was teaching this lion to growl and such since she’d never been allowed to do so, she never really learned.

 

One kind of funny story is that there is a three-foot rule there.  There is a gate that is three feet away from the cages surrounding their homes and the rule is that you do not put any part of yourself over the outside gate.  While some of these animals were raised as tame, most of them are still wild, and all still have wild instincts.  So you can’t lean over to get a picture, you can’t put your arm in – every part of you has to stay behind the gate.  As they’re telling us this - a cute little white duck walks by and the tour guide said, “He originally started out in a group with 25 other ducks.  He’s the only one left from that bunch.  They don’t know the three foot rule.”  LOL.

 

After leaving the Big Cat Rescue (and deciding to sponsor a tiger), we went to Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park.  They said that you got to see real manatees, so we decided to go.  It was actually a very fun place.  First you either take a boat ride or a tram ride from the information center over to the park.  We opted for the tram because you could tell a storm was on the way and they said they wouldn’t run the boat if it was raining.  Fun picture opportunities here too!  Because the sky was so overcast, we decided to go right to the manatee viewing area because we had read that that was at least covered.  Just as we got there it started pouring.  A heavy, torrential downpour.  For this reason, we spent a substantial amount of time there because we really couldn’t go anywhere else – we had no umbrella, but the rain was so bad, we wouldn’t have gone anywhere else anyway.  We did get lucky enough to see a manatee in the underwater observation deck.  What a cool thing to see!  He was swimming by with a carrot in his mouth.  We went up top then to see him from the top and he just kept circling back and forth.  He kept leaving and coming back with another carrot until we realized that they were all over on one side of the lake, and that’s where he was getting them from.  Must have been from an earlier feeding.  After the rain finally stopped we were able to get some really fun pictures, as he hung around for awhile. 

 

After we felt as though we had spent enough time looking at him, we continued through the rest of the park, which had the normal bear, alligators, birds, a hippo even.  They had a sign up saying why they had the animals there, which I really liked.  Most of them had been fed by humans and had lost their fear of humans, but had not lost their wild instincts, so they were even more dangerous than initially.  We spent a lot of time there, and by the time we got to the end, we had come upon more manatees.  Turns out they had about six manatees there, that lived in this huge lake.  Five of them were in a special feeding area, eating cabbage and lettuce, while the other one swam about.  We then remembered that the manatee feeding time was coming up, so we decided to make one last appearance at the manatee observation deck.  The staff member was there throwing in carrot after carrot – just tons of them but no manatees.  I guess the one that was still out and about was full from earlier.  At that point Jamie and I felt really special because we had got to observe him for such a long time earlier.  Had we waited specifically for the feeding, we never would have seen him, as he never did show up.

 

My one pet peeve of the day:  There were kids there that were chasing a squirrel on a bridge.  He was obviously very scared and they were trying to get him to fall in the water.  They were old enough to know better, but even worse than that, their parents were just laughing.  I was horrified.  I had to bite my tongue to keep from reprimanding them and their parents.  But I did hang around long enough to make sure the squirrel got away from them, but of course not before they scared him half to death.  By the time they left him alone the poor thing was so scared of humans (wouldn’t even let me walk anywhere by him), it was quite sad.  Some people are just mean.

 

We had to take the tram back to the visitor center as it was raining again at that point, but what a fun ride.  We had the tram to ourselves and got to ride through the woods in a tram.  How romantic!  J

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Us at the state park with the sink hole.

Sunday, June 4th (Tallahassee, FL):

 

We went to a Florida state park today that had a big sink hole that had been formed over a long period of time.  I am fascinated by things like this.  It was actually a very, very pretty place.  But of course it was a looot of steps to get to the bottom of the sinkhole, and then a lot of steps back up.  Over 100 we counted.  But what a peaceful, beautiful place.  It must be a regular exercise spot for many people as there really were not too many tourists there, enjoying the sites, but there were a lot of people there walking up and down the steps again and again.  Some woman had her exercise clothes on, her walk man, and her water bottle waiting for her at the top of the stairs.  Up and down, up and down.

 

After this we went to an Automobile Museum.  Of course I’m not really into things like this, but Jamie will never tell me if anything interests him, so I have to kind of look for things that I think might interest him.  It was pretty fun though.  They had a very old car there, which was just so intriguing.  It was from 1894, which is said to be the oldest know, surviving fully manufactured, pre – production vehicle.  It’s all wood and metal wheels.  So unique!  They also had the hearse that Abraham Lincoln’s body was supposed to have been taken away in.  I know that’s a little morbid, but what a piece of history!  And they had a gigantic duck truck.  Yes, you read that right; it was a huge truck that looked just like a duck!!  I was pretty interested in that.

 

Sometime after that we went to a State Park where you could see Indian ceremonial mounds.  The place was said to have six huge mounds.  So we pull up, don’t see anything, so we head for the woods figuring that the trail will lead us to the mounds.  That’s not exactly what happened.  Jamie is annoyed by State Parks and these weird things that interest me at this point, so he just wants to hurry up and get to the mounds.  So he’s like flying through the trail and we pass some guy on his way out who just looks ticked about something.  We realized at the end of the trail why he was ticked – there was nothing there.  It didn’t take you anywhere.  You didn’t see anything.  It was just a looped trail in the woods.  We get done the trail and I’m just laughing at this point because Jamie is so annoyed that we had to hike the whole trail for nothing.  I find it pretty amusing.  We’re about to get in the truck when Jamie sees a sign for something and walks over to it.  Turns out that the ceremonial mounds are as soon as you pull in – on your left.  We didn’t even see them.  We just went straight.  So off we go to the mounds.  There’s some history there on why the mounds were built, who lived there (the Lake Jackson people, in case you were wondering), and what they were used for (either for the Chief of the tribe to live on, religious ceremonies, or they may have been used as a dumping ground previously – greeeeat, right?)  ;)  We walk all the way up the stairs that lead to the top of the mounds, where it’s a very pretty sight, but Jamie just didn’t enjoy it.  I think he was tired of hiking and walking and stairs at that point.  ;)  So back down the stairs, across the grass, watching for the huge ant hills along the way, and off we went to find a hotel room.

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Jamie in a plane at the National Museum of Naval Aviation.

Monday, June 5th (Pensacola, FL):

 

Up early again (we didn’t sleep later than 7:00 the whole time we were gone) and off to Falling Waters State Park.  This is a pretty amusing story.  It’s described in the Florida travel guide as an amazing waterfall that falls hundreds of feet and it’s just supposed to be beautiful.  So I’m excited and we go.  Of course I didn’t take into account the fact that Florida was really in the middle of a major drought at the time.  They’d had some heavy downpours, sure, but some parts were still really dry.  So when we got there, it wasn’t even close to a waterfall.  What is was was a trickle of water dropping from the top to the bottom.  I don’t think I’ll ever forget the look Jamie gave me.  LOL.  Something like, “We came all this way and hiked all that time for this?!”  So back up the stairs where I thought we were going to leave, but Jamie said, “Oh no, we’re not leaving until we hike the rest of the trails.  I don’t feel like I’ve got my $2.00 worth yet.”  ($2.00 entrance fee on most State Parks.)  LOL.  So we continued hiking.  Again, just a really beautiful place.  The weather was perfect, and Mother Nature is just awesome.

 

After that, we headed somewhere, maybe it was the National Naval Aviation Museum, but then I saw something else that interested me.  It was another State Park, on the beach that was just supposed to be beautiful.  We were supposed to go to the beach in Daytona, but Jamie changed his mind and we never made it.  Since then we hadn’t been on the beach at all, so I figured this was the best way to get two things done at once.  You get to walk on the beach and mark an attraction off the to – do list.  So I reroute Beth and she tells us the new way to go.  Of course she’s telling us to head in the complete opposite direction that the street signs are telling us, so we get confused, but we eventually figure it out.  Then I realize that it is a pretty hefty drive out of our way to get there, so I change my mind, say forget the beach, and let’s just keep going to the Aviation Museum.  I reroute Beth again.  This is where it gets good.  This is our fun GPS story of the trip.  The one last year is where we almost died.  This is the one that we still laugh about from this year.  Beth reroutes us and I happen to be driving.  She starts taking us down these absolutely crazy roads.  I mean, we’re driving by beautiful houses that are right on the water.  Amazing, expensive houses, but the road is all dirt and gravel!  So I’m driving along listening to Beth.  The first road she tells us to turn down is blocked by a dump truck, so we keep going.  She reroutes us.  The next road I get ready to turn down, but Jamie quickly says, “No way!”  The road was in really bad shape – not even dirt or gravel, just over grown weeds and Lord only knows what else.  It was also very hilly and tiny.  Almost like you would find in the middle of nowhere to someone’s private driveway.  So we keep going.  Beth reroutes us.  She takes us down a dirt road.  Okay, no big deal.  We drive and drive, and then eventually the dirt disappears and it’s just grass.  And then eventually it’s no longer short, cut grass, but tall grass, and then it turns into huge weeds.  I’m not kidding.  We are in the truck, and the weeds were up to the windshield!  I stop the truck, look at Jamie and said, “Do you want me to keep going?”  He’s unsure, but says yes.  I start, then stop.  “Are you sure?”  Yes he says.  So I start again, but then I stop.  The road is ridiculous.  How can this be a real road?  We’ve been on real roads before that haven’t even been on Beth.  Yet this weirdo, overgrown road filled with weeds as high as the truck is on Beth?!  I ask again if he’s really really sure.  He says yes.  So I am majorly nervous, but here I go.  I drive through the weeds.  We don’t make it very far because Jamie tells me to stop.  At the end of the road is a locked fence that says no trespassing.  Errr.  So now what?  The road is very skinny and has divets on both sides.  And how can it be that a road on Beth is private property and is marked off?  So I’m sitting there wondering now what.  Jamie tells me to turn around, but I don’t feel comfortable.  I put it in park and go to get out so we can switch places.  He does not let me get out because the weeds are so tall and so thick that he’s nervous about what could be living in them.  So I have to put my seat all the way back, and crunch up in a ball at the back of the seat so he can crawl across and get in the drivers seat.  Then I have to transform myself to the passenger seat and we’re all settled and Jamie goes to turn around.  Of course he runs right in the divet, which freaks me out, but he doesn’t care because now he gets to use the four wheel drive (men!).  So he gets us turned around and off we go.  Beth keeps trying to get us to turn around, but eventually gets the hint and reroutes us.  Eventually we make it back to a dirt road, and then a normal paved road, and as we’re driving down, Jamie notices a weed that is stuck to our windshield wiper!  That’s really how tall the weeds were!  They were tall enough to not only see out of the windshield, but to actually touch the windshield and get stuck in the windshield wiper.  LOL.  I took a picture.

 

After all that excitement we get to the museum.  Of course we didn’t know that it was on a Naval base.  So we had to go through Security.  He walked around the outside of our truck, investigating, asked us if we had any weapons, which of course we reply no to, and before he lets us go he takes a good, hard look at Beth.  Like it was some sort of weird tracking device used against the military.  Of course it is not.  We get there, but cannot get in because no food or drinks are allowed.  I have a Sonic blast (like the sixth one of the trip!)  J  So we have to hang outside while I eat my blast.  Again, this was something that I thought Jamie would really enjoy, but of course I ended up having fun myself.  We realized that we had missed the last guided tour of the day, so we decide to tour ourselves.  Just as we round a corner, there’s the tour!  I tell Jamie to just follow me and act like we belong there.  ;)  I know these people don’t really care, but I try to make myself as least noticeable when I join a group late.  The guy was very nice and welcomed us and continued his tour.  What fascinating stories.  We got to see the plane that Snoopy flies.  We got to see a Fifi – the only one left in the whole world.  All sort of fun planes.  We had arrived only about 30 minutes before they were shutting down, so we keep waiting for the tour to stop, but it just never does.  I’m thinking this guy’s going to get in trouble for keeping us so late until Jamie pulls out his phone to check the time, and it’s an hour earlier than we thought because we were in central time!  All right!  We love crossing into a new time zone, it’s so exciting to know we’ve gained an extra hour.  J  So we continue on with the tour, which ends about half an hour before they’re closing, so we thank the tour guide and go off on our way to see the other parts of the museum.  And upstairs is a whole fun section where you can sit in the planes and play with the controls.  More fun pictures!  So Jamie and I are running around like little kids trying every plane we can when they start shutting down and tell us we have to leave.  We ask for just a few more seconds because I wanted to get in a mini plane.  So I did, we snapped our picture, thanked the guy for giving us a few extra minutes, and leave.  On our way out we ask about the Blue Angels practice that is going on tomorrow, that our tour guide had made mention of.  It was to start at 8:30 a. m.  I asked Jamie if he wanted to hang around town for the night so we could see the flight show.  He said not really, but I really, really wanted to.  So we did.  We got a hotel room for the night, and had a really great dinner at Sonny’s Real Pit Bar B Que.

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Us posing for a picture outside the National Museum of Naval Aviation.

Tuesday, June 6th (Pensacola, FL)

 

Up extra early today to make it to the Flight Show.  We were too early for our free breakfast at our hotel, so we had to go out and buy ourselves breakfast.  I requested Sonic.  We couldn’t remember where the Sonic was that we had seen the night before, so we drove around and around and around before giving up and going to McDonald’s.  As soon as we get in the drive through line, I look out the window and there’s Sonic staring right at me.  LOL.  Figures.  So over to Sonic.  We get to the Naval Base and try to get in, but the Security guy tells us that we have to go in through the visitor’s entrance – all the way over on the other side of the base.  So we say okay, he tells us to go in, make an immediate left and then immediately exit.  We say okay, start to pull in and he yells for all other traffic to stop so we could cross over and exit.  It was like we were royalty – all traffic stops for us.  J  We circle all the way over to the other side of the base and enter.  By the time we get to the Museum (behind which the air show is going to be held), the place is packed.  We park and walk all the way to the back.  We heard one of the staff members say that they were going to be in the air for about four minutes.  Jamie and I look at each other and say, “That’s all?  Is this really worth it?”  But of course we stayed.  We waited and waited.  They were late getting started, but they were in the air for so long that our camcorder battery died.  It was at least a 45-minute show.  I took lots of pictures and looking at them while I type this, I realize there’s really nothing more I can say except that it was awesome.  You’d have to see a show by yourself to really appreciate it.

 

After that, I asked if we could hang around and go back into the museum because there was so much that we didn’t get to see yesterday.  So we did.  They have all sorts of fun sections – like even little towns set up to show you what it was like during the war.  And the signs they used to put up to try to get people to enlist in the Navy.  There was also a whole section devoted to showing people what it was like to be a Prisoner of War.  What a sad section.  We spent hours there before I was getting restless and wanted to get out of there.  There were just a few things I wanted to see before we left so we could get pictures.  But for some reason we were invisible that day.  We had a family butt in front of us to get into a Blue Angels plane.  So we had to wait for them to be done.  Then while we were waiting for them to be done a girl (old enough to know better) runs up and gets in front of us.  When I inform here that we are in line she looks at me with this shocked look.  Like I wasn’t just going to let her get in front of us just because she’s a kid.  So she got behind us while we waited for our turn.  Then we went outside where there was another picture I wanted to pose for.  A family was already there so we waited for our turn and then the family of the girl who had just tried to butt in front of us butted in front of us again!  I asked out loud if we were invisible that day, but they didn’t pay any attention to us.  We ended up waiting a ridiculous amount of time because the girl couldn’t climb up on the statue that you pose with.  She was wearing flip-flops and kept falling back down.  Her mom wouldn’t help her, so we just had to stand there and wait and wait while she tried to pull herself up.  At this point I’m really annoyed because we would have been done and gone on our way by that time if they had in fact let us go first since we were first in line.  It’s as though people don’t even see us because we don’t have kids.  Well we can’t possibly be in line to get in the plane because we don’t have kids and adults don’t do anything fun.  And there’s no way we could be in line for the photo opportunity by the statue because we don’t have kids, and that’s just not something adults would do.  Drives me insane!

 

When we finally got our picture taken, off we headed to Alabama!!!  For those of you who forgot from last year – I LOVE Alabama!  First thing we saw in Alabama was traffic.  It was bad.  We were just sitting there staring at each other not moving.  Apparently there was roadwork like 600 miles ahead so we had to wait while the lanes merged.  Blah.  Anyway, so we went to the USS Alabama Battleship in Mobile.  The thing is humongous!  Absolutely huge!  I don’t even remember how long we spent there.  Many, many hours.  There were three tours that you went on.  A, B, and C, and every tour had like thirty parts to it.  There were about four levels that you could do on and all sorts of cubbies and hallways.  It was like one giant maze.  It was literally like it’s own town right on the battleship.  They had absolutely everything – a hospital, a church, a drug store, a barber shop, even a jail!  We spent most of our day there.

 

By the time we left it was about 4:00 or so.  We were really close to Mississippi (like an inch away according to our map!)  ;)  so I pleaded with Jamie and we went to Mississippi!  My first time ever going there!  So we are racing down the street trying to make it to the visitor’s center before they close.  We figure they probably close about 5:00.  We get stuck in traffic and keep watching the clock.  We roll in about 4:57 and race to the door.  Locked.  Jamie looks in through the windows – there are people in there.  So we walk all the way around to see if there is another entrance that’s opened.  All three other entrances are locked.  I feel defeated at this point.  We have no idea what’s in Mississippi!!  We’re standing there talking trying to decide what to do when the door opens and out comes some people.  I cannot see the person who works there as he’s hiding behind the door.  But I shout in, “Are you guys closed?”  He says, “Yes, M’am, we are.”  I ask when they close and he finally shows his face and waves us in and says, “Come on.  We close after you!”  I thanked him about 25 times before we left for letting us in.  We tell him we don’t want to be a nuisance; we just need ideas for things to do in Mississippi.  He tells us there’s pretty much nothing left.  We tell him we’re willing to go anywhere in Mississippi, not just along the coast.  He asks some other staff members for ideas and they also say, “There’s not much left around here.”  They did tell us that the Jefferson – Davis house used to be a good tourist attraction, but that it was no longer open due to Hurricane damage.  Finally we grab the official Mississippi visitors guide book and leave.  I look for hotels in our coupon book.  There are none on the coast.  Yet we’re driving past three of them.  So I look in the Mississippi Visitors guide, and there’s the phone number.  We settle in for the night and go to a buffet that the woman at the front desk recommended, where I ate lots of Macaroni and Cheese.  J

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Us on the boardwalk in front of the beautiful view outside the Sea Lab in Dauphin Island.

Wednesday, June 7th (Dauphin Island, AL):

 

I was too tired the night before to look through the Mississippi book, so I did this morning.  Sadly enough, I looked at all the attractions all over Mississippi and just didn’t see anything that interested me or sounded like it would interest Jamie.  I looked at him sadly and apologized for making us go to Mississippi – I had no idea there was nothing to do.  However, I had found a ton more things I wanted to do in Alabama, so we decided to make our trip to Mississippi a really short one and head back to Alabama.  But before we did, Jamie suggested that we go try to find the Jefferson – Davis house to see how bad it got hit.  Beth knew where it was, so she routed us.  It wasn’t too long before we started seeing the major damage.  I’d seen the pictures on TV nine months ago, but it just won’t hit you until you see the damage in person.  And the place was still so bad off that you wouldn’t have known that it had already been nine months since Hurricane Katrina.  The houses were still demolished.  Trees were blown over, the board walk was missing parts.  All the piers were no more.  There was still sand in the middle of the road that got blown there from the winds.  We drove by a hotel that was all messed up.  The whole side of it was missing, but you could see the beds still inside.  We drove by a McDonald’s sign, but there was no evidence that a McDonald’s had ever been there.  We went by a graveyard where tombstones were piled on top of each other like they were toys.  Houses were still without roofing.  One store still had the markings on it showing that they had checked that one for survivors.  It was the most heart wrenching experience.  But I was so enthralled that I just didn’t want to leave.  It seemed as though the more you drove one thing was worse than the previous.  You just don’t understand until you see it in person.

 

We did finally decide to leave the sadness behind and headed back to Alabama.  We went to Dauphin Island Sea Lab, where we thought we were going to have to take the ferry to get to it because all the signs kept saying, “Ferry ahead” everywhere we went.  So we were sure that we were really going to have to put our truck on a Ferry.  Jamie was a little weirded out by that, but I was super excited!  Our truck had never been on a Ferry before!  Turns out we didn’t need the Ferry.  Our destination was right next to the Ferry.

 

The sea lab, was of course, a bunch of fish and turtles and such.  They also had a real octopus though, with signs saying no flash photography because if you scared the octopus, he would expel his ink, but he wouldn’t be able to get away from it, like he would in the wild, and he would die.  Of course I changed the flash to off.  Then played with the setting for some reason and forgot to change it back.  The flash went off and I felt horrible.  I stayed there for quite sometime to make sure he wasn’t going to eject his ink.  He did not, so I felt better and we went on our way.  Fun place, with a touch tank as well, with stingrays and lots of educational readings on the walls.  After that we went outside where they have a boardwalk that goes along some of the beach, so we walked that for a little while.  Very charming.

 

After we left Dauphin Island, we went to Fort Conde in Mobile.  We were the only ones there, and just walked around to see what this Fort consisted of.  What’s funny is that most of the Forts are out of the way by the water.  This one was in the middle of the town.  They seriously built the town around the fort.  A major highway runs right next to it!  You’re standing at the top of the fort and there’s the highway right below you.  It’s quite silly looking.  Nothing exceptional here, except for more fun photos.

 

More driving.  There were a few other things that I wanted to do, but I knew we were running out of time and had to be home in two days, so I had to give up on those, and we left.  We did see the Statue of Liberty again in Alabama – the same one we saw last year, though we didn’t stop this time.

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Us taking our yearly picture at Point Park above beautiful Tennessee.

Thursday, June 8th (TN):

 

Today we really started heading home.  It’s sad to make that turn and start heading north again.  L  We went to Sequoyah Caverns today.  Jamie said we should try to do one trip without going into a cave, but I just couldn’t resist.  They were advertised as the Looking Glass Caverns, I believe.  Meaning that the reflections of the cave in the water made it look like the cave dropped off into a long drop, but it was really just the reflection of the ceiling.  It was set back off of a dirt road, and when we arrived, we got there just in time for the next tour.  Nothing special to report really.  It was a cave just like every other cave, but always interesting.  Some Indian tribe used to spend a lot of time in there when the weather was harsh, since it’s always at 68 degrees year round.

 

After the caverns, we hit the very tip of Georgia before crossing over into Tennessee.  (Yes, we went from Mobile, AL to Chattanooga, TN in one day.)  Sometime around this point I saw a turtle on the side of the road.  Jamie pulled over and against my better judgment, backed up so I could remove him from heading into the road, but he was already crushed, so I spent the next half an hour or so being really sad.  L  I wanted to go back to Lookout Mountain, for no reason really than just because we had done it the last two years, we were able to do it this year, so why not.  We posed for our usual pictures that we have the last two years as well, enjoyed the view tremendously, and then left.  I always enjoy Point Part atop Lookout Mountain and really wish that we had been able to really explore the trails again, and really enjoy it, but we really had to be home by the next day and we were running behind.  We took enough time to see the view, pose for our pictures, and leave.

 

After that we headed to Duck Point Copper Basin (or something similar, I don’t remember the exact name).  This was either the first, or one of the first copper mines.  It was listed in our book as a cool thing you could do.  The nature scene of colors was supposed to be amazing and you were able to see old mining equipment.  But when we got there we realized that to be able to see the equipment, you had to make a reservation for that, and we obviously just didn’t have the time.  It was almost 4:00 and that’s when they were closing, and we didn’t have the time to hang around another day.  I apologized to Jamie as I know he really wanted to see that, but the book said nothing about reservations.  We did walk through the museum though on copper mining, and indeed the view outside was amazing.

 

The woman working there was very nice and suggested other places we might want to see.  I then stopped her before she left for the night and asked her where Buck Bald Mountain was.  I had wanted to return since we visited last year.  I thought I knew the general area, but wasn’t really sure.  I was correct, but she gave us more detailed instructions as to what to look for.  She also recommended this other place to us that she said was just really beautiful.  I forget the actual name, but she said they had a giant cross, made out of flags atop a hill and it was a great tourist place to go.  She told us there was also a giant bible that you could see from the road.  Jamie was very interested in this, so off we went.  We couldn’t find this place that she was talking about, and by the time we saw the sign for Buck Bald Mountain, we knew we had gone too far.  So we drove to the top and as soon as we started up, I kept saying, “Why did I want to do this again?”  I forgot how skinny the road is.  If someone is coming down while you’re going up or vise versa, it would be very difficult to get by without flying off the side to your death.  There again, are no guardrails, just long drops off the side.  :-/  But we made it safely to the top.  We were the only ones there and it was just as beautiful as last year, maybe even more so because it wasn’t as foggy or smog covered, so you were able to see much better views of the mountains surrounding you.  I could have stayed up there forever.  We did spend quite awhile up there as it was.

 

After that we started the long drive back down the mountain, me hoping we wouldn’t catapult to our deaths over the side.  On our way back into town, we did see the sign for that cross thing that Jamie wanted to see, so we went off to see that.  It was actually quite spectacular.  They had the Ten Commandments written out on the side of a huge hill with stones!  I mean, the “Bible” was huge.  You could drive around the bottom, you could drive to the top, or you could walk to the top.  We chose to drive to the top and look at it from both ways.  We also found the cross too that was made out of flags.  Meaning they had flagpoles in the ground in the shape of a huge cross, but there were no flags flying.  Just the U. S. one.  I bet it would have been stunning though if they had flags on all the poles.  We spent some time here too, as the view was amazing, and again, Tennessee is just beautiful as it is, and this was no exception.

 

We drove and drove and drove and drove after this and I thought we’d never stop.  Eventually about 9:00 at night I was getting really annoyed and restless and mean.  I was exhausted and had been sitting for like five hours.  I finally got Jamie to realize that I needed to stop, so I found a hotel and we finally turned in.

Friday, June 9th (NC, VA, MD):

 

The saddest day of our trip.  L  Due to friend obligations, we had to be home early, which actually worked out fine because I had lots of laundry to do.  But anyway, so we got up early and started the ten-hour drive home.  We didn’t do much, obviously.  We didn’t have the time.  We stopped and did some shopping, I got my last Sonic Blast of the trip, and we switched driving as the other one took a nap because driving for that long is just tiring.  We got hit by some more rain, and kept watching Beth’s countdown to see how much longer until we got home, as I didn’t think we were ever going to get off of the road.  But we did finally arrive home.  It’s hard to return home.  Especially when home is Maryland.  I’m still hoping Jamie will move to Tennessee with me one day.  Fingers crossed!

Things we learned on our trip:

 

  • Ducks don’t know the three-foot rule.  J
  • A giraffe can eat 800 graham crackers in one day and it’s just a snack.  J
  • Rhinos have the right of way.  J
  • An alligator will not attack you out in the wild unless you come to him.  They don’t have the ability to go chasing you down the street.  They don’t have the endurance to really hunt for food, so they wait for their food to come to them.  And people who get attacked by alligators are most likely walking by them without realizing it, because they just don’t have the ability to chase their food.
  • Alligators can turn their heads at 15 miles per hour, and can attack at 30 miles per hour, but again, cannot sustain that speed.