Monday, October 30, 2017

Epic Florida Vacation, Day 2 - Over the Rivers and Through the Woods

I'm sorry this is a Huge Post. 
There was Way too much Awesomeness not to put the pictures in this post.  
When we usually drive, we stop to do something groovy.  Yesterday, we had Gymnastics in the morning, and stopped at a McD's with a playplace for an hour and a half to Play. This second travel day, we wanted to go to the Georgia Aquarium.   I debated Coke World, we'd done it before with Eric, and so he wouldn't be sad about missing it.  But he'd also not had any interest in going to the Georgia Aquarium.  I had interest.  And the boys were interested too.  
So we chose to go.  
And I was so glad we did.  It ended being the Best Part of our journey down!

The boys chose their 'shark shirts' to wear for our Aquarium day visit. 

Turns out this place is not cheap.  Not at all. But at least we weren't paying for 5 people.

As we entered the Aquarium, there was a beautiful tank of these silver fish first to see. 
The kids all stopped, hypnotized. 
Me too.

Just walking into the Aquarium, there were these amazing fish tanks. 
These silvery sparkling fish were Amazing. 
The whole thing took my breathe away, and we weren't two paces into the place yet.  This wasn't even the full lobby, just a hall as we entered.  A foretaste of the fest to come!

Speedy little buggers. 
It looked so amazing.  
But when I got close, I could really see how dirty the water was.  
Still, cool. 

From the middle we opted to go into the Ocean Voyager area first. 
They told us they'd be feeding the Whale Sharks in a few moments, and that there would be plenty of time to get to the 'theatre' to see them. 
OK, so our reasons for going to this aquarium were two fold. 
A. We were reading this book, well, book on CD, Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Mark of Athena, where the heroes of the journey stopped off to visit an ancient sea god playing at the Georgia Aquarium.  Now, we knew we'd find no sea god, but we thought it 
2. Whale Sharks - Finding Dory. 
D. Also Whale Sharks. The only Whale Sharks in the U.S. are found here. 

Whale Shark. 
They used to live off the coast of Taiwan, where they were caught by fisherman. 
Rather than eat them, the Aquarium bought them, and had them shipped, get this, 

30 seconds in to this exhibit, we hadn't even gotten to the main part yet, I saw this guy, and my eyes watered.   We stayed in this entryway for about 10 minutes just watching all the fish swim.  Then they announced feeding time, and we went around the corner, towards 'the theatre'.  

It turns out that was even more awesome. 
My eyes got teary, and I couldn't stop looking up. 
Good thing, they must've been expecting a lot of people like me, because they had a moving sidewalk in a tube, so that we could look around, and not block traffic, the sidewalk moved and did the walking for us.  Amazing.

Manta Ray. 
They are so Beautiful. 

All the animals swim around together, getting along, it's a Beautiful thing.

Two Whale Sharks! 
And a Ray! 
We'd only been there for about 15 minutes, and I felt it was worth it. 
This was the most beautiful Aquarium I have ever visited.  And though I balked at the high price, (it was $150 for all of us to get in),  after we spent a few minutes in this exhibit, and I saw these amazing beasts, looking healthy and beautiful, I didn't feel bad at all.  I got my money's worth.

Then we went to the Theatre, and got to go watch them be fed. 
There was a giant wall, where we could watch them. 

We sat down on the floor so we could be close. 

We were close all right. 

This is the kids, piled up next to the window, all three kids, and the fish.  
To give you a context, Sam is the size of a whale shark fin. 

We did get to watch them be fed. 
Do you see the cloud?  That's a guy in a rubber raft, dumping food overboard. 
Whale Sharks have to eat 20 pounds of food a day, and their throat can't swallow anything larger than a quarter, thus the giant mouth filtering stuff out.  If they accidentally catch anything too big, it's blown out the sides.  

Sea Turtle. 
For Kelly.  
My friend Kelly Rossi, her favorite animal was the Sea Turtle. 
She passed away in 2009, I miss her every Fall. That was our season. 

There was this great Manta Ray who kept doing backflips. 
He was fantastic.  
So I got the boys in a picture with him backflipping on the other side of the tank.

Can you see the raft?  It's where the guy is feeding the whale sharks with a scoopful of krill pellets dumped overboard. It's about 2 o'clock from the whale shark. It's a shady square shape, technically a yellow life raft, but still, it looks tiny compared to these animals.  Whale sharks are Huge!!

Technically, this was a forbidden photo. 
Somehow I missed the memo that we weren't supposed to take pictures inside the Sea Lion show. 
I got off a couple non-flash shots, before being told to put my camera down. 
At least I wasn't using the flash, and scaring the poor guys. They are super sweet, and way talented.
Also, the handlers... they have to be so smart, and on it, and have entertaining skills. 

But wait, there's more. 

As we left the Ocean Voyager exhibit, we came around back of the Cold Water exhibit where the Beluga Whales live.  This was the back door of their tank.  There was a room with small tables, the kind of place someone could have a Reception.  I'd have a Reception here.  Heck yeah. 
Much better than when they have a reception in Indy, in the Dolphin pavilion, but you cant see the dolphins unless you leave the room. 
The belugas were Right There.  

The only picture of me and the boys. 
I got one selfie, but because the glass screen protector on my selfie cam is broken, all my selfies indoors look very bad.  Even outdoor selfies look bad.  The glass didn't get fixed on our trip. 
Still, here's a bit of proof I was actually here too. 
The boys and I watch the Belugas. 
There is a beluga, the white blob by Sam's right arm was a Beluga whale.  

The kids got a huge kick out of Beluga whales. 

Me too.  
You know, they have so much blubber, and yet, they are majestic, graceful, and beautiful. 
They make blubber beautiful. 

These Belugas were playing Tug of War with a blanket. 

It was the funniest thing, as they kept fighting over the blanket. 
We could see inside their mouths (that's the Beluga's jaw on the left) and all their muscles rippling through the water.  Amazing. 

The boys laughed and laughed, and watched these Belugas roll around trying to get those blankets.  
I finally talked them into moving on after 20 minutes. 

And we found another Beluga window. 
The kids loved to watch them. 

I got one last photo of the boys with the Belugas before we moved on. 

On to Penguins!  

These are the African Penguins.  
They remind of the little ones we have a the Indy Zoo. 

But this exhibit is also quite kid friendly.  
They have a tunnel that goes through the exhibit. 

Check this out, all three of my boys INSIDE the Penguin exhibit!

African Penguin diving down.  
So flipping cool.

After Penguins we got to go visit the Sea Otters. 
These guys are a lot bigger than the Otters we saw in D.C. this last spring. 
But so cute.  We watched them play for a while. 
They were about the size of the big boys, and so neat. 

Sea Dragons. 
Always a classic. 

The kids were starting to get hungry, but we didn't want to have lunch here. 
I bribed them with cereal bars, and we kept going.  
They got to see Sea Urchins and Sea Stars on our way out.  
It looked like a tempting touch pool, but it wasn't.  No Touchy!

The boys found the Gift Shop. 
Sam found a rocking awesome Shark Hat. 

Jacob wanted the Ray hat. 
He looked pretty adorable. 

But Chris won the day with trying on the shark hat. 

We didn't buy any of them. 
I got them some snacks, and we chose a Christmas Ornament.  
I also found a cute bracelet with a dolphin on it for my niece Kaylee's birthday, it actually had her name on it, AND spelled correctly without being fancy schmancy custom made.  That never happens. 

We stopped for dinner just north of Ocala, and over supper discussed, if we wanted to call it a night.  This was their last chance to stop for the night, or keep going and stay at Grandma's.  I must admit I sweetened the pot by saying, if we stop at a hotel we won't be able to afford one with a pool given how much we spent at the Aquarium today, BUT if we went on to Grandma's, though it would be a late night, probably not get there until 8-ish, we wouldn't have to pack up in the morning.  
To Grandma's we go!

I got the biggest kick out of driving on.  
First we crossed the Chatahoochi River,
and I started singing the song, "Way down Yonder on the Chattahoochi", 
Then we crossed into Florida, and crossed over the Sawanni river. 
"S'wanni, how I love you, how I love you, my dear old S'wanni."

Watching the sun set over Florida.  
Then we got to drive through the woods. 
I tell you, some of these woods, were a little scary as the sun was going down, 
reminding me of that movie in the swamp that I never saw all of, Deliverance. 
Still, I have a Black Belt and a Super Screamer with me, I'm pretty safe.

We made it all the way down to Mom's about 9 pm safe and sound. 
I wasn't worried about bad things happening, but when Jacob blew out his pants 30 minutes before the end, that I couldn't handle.  I just made him sit in it until we got there.  Then I had to scramble to get a hold of Mom so she could guide me through cleaning supplies and how her stuff worked, so we could clean the kid up, and start some laundry!
I think I've also decided I'm becoming less and less of a fan of driving at night.  I tend to slow down driving in places I don't know, and at night, that's getting even worse as my eyes age. "I'm getting too old for this $#!^".  But it was good to be at a location where we didn't have to pack up in the morning.  All of us were exhausted and ready for bed when we crashed at Mom and Dad's.  Their place is cute, a 1 bedroom condo in Dunedin.  Her fold out couch was broken though, so we ended up having Chris on the couch, and Sam, Jake, and I on the king bed in the master bedroom. 
It was a pile of cuteness. And we were ready to sleep pretty good. 
We couldn't wait to see the place by day!