Our first stop on our epic and long awaited journey was to Dragonwife's parents house to spend a couple of days with them. They don't see the kids all that often, at least not like my grandparents did with their grandkids, and Dragonwife and myself wanted to give them some time together. We hadn't spent thirty minutes at their house when my son, Darth Spoilboy, came running down from the computer room after talking with his girlfriend saying we had changed his mind yet again and would be staying with his grandparents while we went to Disney. The idea had been floated weeks before since he did not want to loose contact with his girlfriend and other buddies with school being out for the summer but after bending to Sith blackmail such as two bags of 90 count pizza rolls and five pints of Ben and Jerry's ice cream we thought he was going to come with us after all . I was more than slightly ticked to have him change his mind, especially after buying all that ice cream he would not share, but neither Dragonwife or myself wanted to force him to go since a whiny twelve year old would do his best to make the rest of us miserable. When we left the grandparents house he was sitting at the computer desk instant messaging his girlfriend, playing his guitar, and downloading more songs for his iPod completely happy. The one good point in his staying was that he and I would not fight over the two bags of Chips Ahoy cookies we were bringing for the trip.
After making it to Disney's Wilderness Lodge Miss Wiggles and myself went straight to the pool while Dragonwife relaxed reading a magazine on some bench in a nearby garden. The pool was crawling with bikini clad tennis and soccer moms and I spent a great deal of time floating around with Wiggles enjoying my surroundings. But my usual luck held out with those tennis and soccer moms bringing their husbands along for the trip. Whether there were any desperate housewives around the pool is unknown as well with Wiggles keeping me walking down the straight and narrow because whenever I did strike up a short conversation with a mom in the pool Wiggles would raise enough of a ruckus that ended whatever was being discussed pretty quick.
At some point she started playing with the three boys in the picture. At first the boys and Wiggles had no idea how to even play together and just circled each other for several minutes. The boys wanted to shoot imaginary guns and jump around the pool claiming they couldn't be hurt due to their protective force fields while Wiggles wanted to play a simply game of tag. After awhile they compromised with them playing tag with Wiggles trying to jump on top of them. The various parents involved and myself just watched seemly agreeing that as long as the pool stayed free of blood we would relax and let the kids play. The play did end when Wiggles started chasing the boys in the pool wanting a kiss from them which completely freaked them out sending out of the pool and back to their rooms. Who would have thought the a little girl wanting a kiss could defeat the massive forcefields of three little boys.
This is a photo of some little ornamental pond inside the resort. A better description is a sure-fire money making scam in that anywhere someone constructs one of these things people will give their children small change for them to throw in it and make a wish. One visit to Florida a couple of years ago we stopped at a small grocery store that had one of these small ponds inside but had clearly not taken care of it for quite awhile. But that didn't stop a father (no, not me) from giving his son a couple of coins to throw in the pond which was covered with pennys, nickels, dimes, and even many quarters at least a couple of inches deep. The biggest example of one of these wishing well ponds is Disney's "It's a small world" ride. You ride in some small boat viewing different stages that have puppets of children from around the world doing local dances. Several times Dragonwife and the kids have rode that ride to view the puppets and hear that damn song. I in turn looked in awe at all the money covering the floor of the indoor river we were on. I swear even though it was all small change if I have one night to clean the coins up I could rest easy knowing I could put my kids through a good college, it was that much. I've tried to get a good photo of all that coinage on the ride but never have been able to get one that shows how vast and deep the river floor is covered. I asked a park employee after getting off the ride and she said that every few months maintenance type vacuum the money up give it to Florida charities.
One Beach Bum and one Miss Wiggles at the pool on a beautiful day. We were one of the first people at the pool that morning. Miss Wiggles assured this by running into the room before sunrise and promptly jumped up and down on me several time making sure certain injuries to the lower portion of my body prevented me from going back to sleep. After I recovered she and I had a breakfast of sweet rolls and went to the pool were she again met the three little boys with forcefields and I again ogled the various bikini-clad moms. Right then I was breathing a small sigh of relief in that Dragonwife (who is taking the picture) did not freak out after learning that I had just paid eleven dollars for the Mickey Mouse swimming goggles Wiggles is wearing. Wiggles and I looked for the pair of goggles ( which cost two bucks back home) we brought with us all through her luggage but couldn't find them even though Dragonwife assured us she had packed them. We learned that Dragonwife had packed them in her small bag she had placed her tooth brush and other small items. The fact that I would have never looked in a million years in my wife's toiletry bag for a little girl's swimming goggles that should have been in Wiggles' luggage went straight over my wife's head.
I don't care how others might feel I'm secure enough in my manhood that I freely admit I had a hell of a good time riding the merry-go-round at the Magic Kingdom. All told we spent ten and a half hours at the Magic Kingdom that day. At least five hours of that time were in line letting Wiggles get pictures and autographs of Disney characters. My one disappointment was that the "Pirates of the Caribbean " ride was closed down for repairs. And I was told that Disney no longer has the character of Captain Jack Sparrow give autographs.
Animal Kingdom offers a pretty good mock safari that has the benefit of specially designed rough sections in the paved road to give the customers bruised rear-ends for that real roughing it in the wilds of Africa feeling. I will tell you that riders should keep a tight hold on their cameras as they view the animals. We have been to Disney a lot since joining Disney's Vacation Club timeshare and we are in on the secret that they use to let riders off the truck to recover their dropped cameras only to speed off leaving the befuddled tourist behind. The reason? The food bill for lions is huge and Disney started the program to defray some of the cost to keep the place going. Honestly who is going to miss a tourist or two? But never fear, the lions were getting far too much fat endangering their health and Disney stopped the program. But, now if you drop your camera it is simply lost since they will not stop the truck. Then again, I've heard rumors that if a tourist is especially obnoxious and has at least a decent body fat ratio they may just make an exception.
A near perfect picture of a giraffes ass end. Luckily I missed this dude dropping a load only moments before.
As I have noted several times Wiggles and I do Riverbanks Zoo close to home quite often and in doing so my daughter has soaked up a lot of information about various animals. Many have, with good points, criticized the very nature of animal theme parks and even zoos saying how unfair it is to the animals. I will say that the people who criticize the theme parks and zoos are generally very knowledgeable about nature and greatly care for it. But listening to the people around me at Animal Kingdom and during several of the visits to Seaworld I have been very surprised to hear how grossly ignorant Mr. And Mrs Middleclass can be on some of the most basic facts about the animals who we share a rapidly shrinking world being strained far beyond what it should. If these parks and zoos can educate a population that at times takes a great pride in ignorance that would send chills down George Orwell's spine if the man wasn't dead then these places provide a service to the planet and those who say they care about it.
I had a fairly decent picture of this rhino only to have this ostrich literally run into the shot at the last second. Female birds having a duller color as compared to their more flashy male counterparts somehow gave me the idea that this birdy wanted attention. So I named this attention hungry feathered freak "Brittany" in honor of the drugged out, missing pop diva Brittany Spears. I almost named the ostrich Anna Nicole Smith but figured that was too much of an insult to the poor bird. But after few minutes I felt bad even for naming it Brittany.
We were surprised to be one of the first groups allowed into the captive corporate and neocon Republican preserve allowing these cold hearted bastards and bitches to shrug off the outward human appearance and have their behavior and appearance match. The big guy on land we were told is one of the Cheney clan pursuing the fine family tradition of a deferment, this time in a natural setting, instead of actual service to the country in Iraq. But we were assured that the Bush and Romney clan members in the water were all discussing how to enter public service.
Many places in Animal Kingdom was simply beautiful offering lush surroundings that in themselves are worth the price to get in the park. I could have stayed in this spot all day just watching the water fall and the tropical fish in the water.
I don't know what you would exactly call this plant/human hybrid and what it was doing walking around the park on stilts and almost erotically pole dancing at various places but it surely kept my attention. I really needed to post the second and more provocative picture but Blogger was being a bit of a pain that night and wouldn't let me. She has been at Animal Kingdom for at least three years now and draws a fair amount of attention all by herself.
Miss Wiggles getting her face painted. I am not looking forward to her teenage years for many reasons. From looking at that face and reading my posts about Miss Wiggles it shouldn't be hard to guess why.
This is the spray pool at Disney's Vero Beach resort. If there hadn't been kids already playing or several lifeguards that would have gotten upset I would have moved my chair into the spray. As I watched Miss Wiggles the water coming from the area was quite cold and felt damn good.
The huge national restaurant chains such as.... well you know them all have come damn close to driving local restaurants wherever they may be out of business. So on our last full day of vacation I was finally able to drag Dragonwife out of the resort to one of the local places I heard served locally caught seafood. I had no idea what the place looked like but once I saw it I fell about as in love somebody can with a building. Squid Lips
looked just like many of the "arrogantly shabby" places that use to be open in the Pawleys Island and Murrells Inlet area before all the yuppies came south and converted everything to chic upper crust style that they preferred. One the many items I liked about it, beside the fantastic food, was how it was over the water of Indian River lagoon. Our table viewed out toward the lagoon that was dotted with many tiny islands that gave it an almost South Pacific feel. Looking out I saw people fishing, casting small shrimp nets into the water that many people use to do at Pawleys to catch their evening meal. Dragonwife was somewhat taken aback due to the looks of the place, it just wasn't clean enough for her at first and I admit she carries a huge strain of yuppy-dom wanting things that meet her chic gourmet standards. But with the evening breeze blowing in from the lagoon and the live band playing some great songs even she relaxed and got in a good mood. All told the Vero Beach area still hasn't been completely Borg-like assimilated the way most of the southeast coastal area has with McMansions raising property taxes to the point it forces locals to move inland and mushroom like condos that pop up to the point that any view of the water is restricted to "residents and guests only". Signs that its coming were there but that evening as I soaked up the atmosphere of the place I prayed to God that when it comes time for me to up and find my small piece of paradise for my retirement years I can again find something similar to what I found that night.
On a lighter note as I was enjoying the best grouper sandwich I had in a very long time I looked out toward the lagoon and saw this red sailboat. Now I've seen plenty of sailboats and while this one did have the strong get-the-hell-out-of-dodge appeal and leave the crappy world behind as Buffett plays on the stereo it drew no more than an envious casual glance. That was until at some point I saw what looked to be a drop dead gorgeous dark haired very naked lady come out of the cabin. She appeared to adjust something about the windmill on the stern then jumped back in the cabin disappearing from view. My grouper sandwich almost fell to the floor as I tried to pull out my camera hoping the lady of my dreams would appear again on a sailboat that I suddenly had a huge urge to know more about. Many shots later and after Dragonwife began to wonder that I had lost my one mental marble I gave up and settled for just another hopeless but erotic fantasy.
Another view of the lagoon with a couple of the small islands in the distance. Wanted a better shot but Wiggles gave every sign of wanting to jump in the water that was swarming with catfish, yes catfish, living off the scraps of food tossed by kids and a few adults.
I don't want to go and get all spiritual, its just not my style but in the quiet of the evening or early in the morning every time I walk on an empty beach I feel somehow closer to God. I'm not talking about some abstract notion of being next to something far larger than myself although the ocean does act as a conduit at times for the "feeling". But an actual presence that at very difficult times in my life has helped me to carry on and at least cope with what was happening. I claim no special VIP pass with the Almighty and from a rational viewpoint I realize I may be crazy but I'm just reporting something that hits me from time to time and carries far more weight than I can describe. Although I am often reminded of the saying that God looks after children, fools, and the United States of America.
Like all good things time and the money ran out forcing us to drive back up north, claim Darth Spoilboy from his grandparents; I swear I found him in the exact seat and position as we left him in front of the computer playing his guitar as he was exchanging Instant Messages with his girlfriend. We drove back home the next morning after my butt absolutely refused to get back in the car and drive given how sore it was. I came away from this vacation knowing that at some point in my life just for my mental health I will have to move back closer to the coast. But at the moment this photo was taken I was in heaven with warm sand between my toes.