Tuesday, September 21, 2010

You Can Call Me Captain....

Well maybe not quite yet but I did pass my Captain's license exam on Monday night - yipppppeeee!!! Now I just have to put together the application, letters of recommendation (any volunteers as to my character? no jokes please!) and take that drug test again....yes, I'm pretty sure I'll pass (know that there were those of you out there thinking it!) and then hopefully it will be official soon!!! We'll be a two Captain family since Doug got his last year - C squared - which is kind of ironic since we aren't cruising at the moment but settling into the work-a-day world (NEVER!!!) .

We've been having lots of fun down here on Merritt Island - the other weekend was absolutely gorgeous. While our friends back in New England are talking about closing up their pools, cold nights around bonfires and where'd the summer go, down here we are saying this time of year is SWEET!!!! It's still big-time beach weather but lots of the humidity of the summer has gone - now we're just enjoying the 80ish weather and with the absence of hurricanes impacting FL this year (knock loudly on wood!), we are thoroughly enjoying our decision to hang out down here post cruise!

We hit Cocoa Beach last Saturday with our books, beach chairs, boogie boards and brewskis to soak up some of that wonderful FL sun and ride some waves. Not sure if there are always waves on Cocoa Beach (it does claim to be the surfing capital of FL and sports the mother of all surfing stores in the 24 hour Ron Jon surf shop) or if it's just the progression of off-shore hurricanes which have kept us boogie boarders in huge waves and smiles. Down here the water is so beautiful too that you can actually spend time playing in the waves without your feet instantly becoming numb as they do in Maine - trust me, we still went swimming up there but each incursion into the water was short and painful!! Down here the water is so gorgeous, it's almost tough to get out....until the icy cold beverage calls out to you from your lounge chair!!! Really they do that down here - just another thing we like!

Sunday it was off to Universal Studios again for us - now for someone who was never an "amusement park person," I have to admit that Universal and Islands of Adventure are really, really cool!!! I think the last time I was at a park was in high school when we all hit Whalom Park with it's 3 rides!!! We were psyched to get in a day at the park after all the kids are back at school but where it is still warm enough to want to experience all the water rides. Mission Accomplished!!! (and we actually even mean it....not to mention a sore subject!) We waltzed into the Park which was much less crowded than over the summer and breezed right over to see Harry - we rode the forbidden journey ride twice and had a butterbeer before we saw any kind of lines at all!! Then it was off to the water rides - the Dudley Dooright Riprock Falls had always had a wait of at least an hour or more (can you say NOT!!!) but on Sunday there was no line at all!! What an awesome ride - close to my favorite but man do you get wet!!! We went from riding the Falls to the Bilge Rat ride across the way where you get equally as wet about 4 or 5 times - loving every moment of it! Finally it was time to dry out a little....no sarcastic comments please. We hit the Jurassic Park ride and then dropped into the Hogs Head for a cool brew out on the sunny deck overlooking the park - way cool!! Finally on our way out of the park we had to try the Spiderman ride which we'd heard about and it rocked -so we'll be back!! Finally we headed to Universal to hit the Men in Black ride which Doug loves and then it was on to a sports bar to watch the Pats beat up on Cincinnati - got to tell you it was a near perfect day (see below)!!!

The only thing that didn't go according to plan was when a fellow park-goer stepped on my toe and caused major blood loss. OK - some background. I had a hurt right big toe for about a year and finally went to a doctor when we were in Aventura who gave me some drugs and healed it without having to amputate (but that's old news). A couple weeks ago I was heading down the stairs to our room without turning on a light, slipped and came down on my left big toe causing a major bloody blowout. OK not the smartest thing I've ever done....but then again, not the dumbest either I guess... Well - it was just starting to get better when we went on the Falls ride - Doug and I sat in the two seats in the back which left three seats in the front. Two women joined us and of course ignored the front seat, choosing the two right in front of us - I pulled back my feet to make sure they could get in but lo and behold doesn't the larger of the two (of course) step full force on my recovering toe (not my foot, not the side of my foot, not my little toe but full on the big toe!!!!) It of course popped like a watermelon as blood started squirting and my eyes started watering - nothing to do but sit and grin as by then we were strapped in and our ride was moving!! Do I seriously have the biggest toes ever??? What is it about them that seems to attract pain?? Do they look incomplete without a red sheen to them? Seriously!!! So anyway - once again no close toed shoes - I'm back to flip flops. Hopefully I'll be able to get back to the gym later this week when the swelling goes down!!

We kicked off this weekend at happy hour over at the Cocoa Beach pier - what a way to watch the sunset - $6 pitchers and a $3 plate of bbq ribs - yum!!!!
Saturday morning was filled with boat chores for Doug while I studied for my exam but by about noon we were done - all work and no play.....Off we went to scope out local sports bars for the Patriots game on Sunday and we found a great one - Beef O'Bradys!!!! It's named after our quarterback Tom terrific, the tv's were plentiful, the food was great and the beer was cold - works for me. Next we were off to the Brevard Zoo - what a great place for a small county zoo!!!! We walked around exhibits representing Africa, South America and Australian all afternoon scoping out jaguars,
cheetahs, giraffes, impalas,
Giraffe and Impala
a white rhinoceros,
and warty pigs!!
As much as it was really cool to see such magnificent animals, I have to admit, I love the little monkeys!!!
They are so cute - we saw squirrel monkeys,
pygmy marmosets
and lots of other cute little guys - some even had babies on their backs that were just tiny - I love their little faces!! And of course there were all kinds of amazing birds
Crested Caracara
Sandhill Crane
both in exhibits but also in the wild from different kinds of macaws (including a hyacinth macaw that could seriously talk to you in a conversation!!!!)
Hyacinth Macaw
Blue and Gold Macaw
Scarlett Macaws
to the roseate spoonbills and flamingos who are so cool

to bald eagles,
herons and all kinds of crazy looking guys!!!
There was even an open air aviary complete with flying foxes
and beautiful exotic birds - you are warned on entering to watch your heads (for any number of reasons!!!)

Before leaving we visited the petting zoo where Doug got up close and personal with the alpacas and pygmy goats
- we let the armidillos to themselves!! What an awesome little zoo to have in our backyard - there are so many treasures around here that make it so fun to explore.

Sunday was more studying, boat chores and then a wonderful football watching extravaganza all afternoon and evening - the only bummer was the Patriots failure to show up for the second half of their game against the much hated Jets!! Anybody, anybody but the Jets!!!! Think it may be a long season with our young defense! Other than that, we had a wonderful afternoon of being lounge lizards - much needed in anticipation of the exam on Monday night. But now that's over - have I said yipppppeeeee!!!! Next up - maybe there will be movement on the job front this week - don't want to jinx things but lots of activity and lots of cool stuff happening!! Keep you all posted!!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

St. Augustine and Best Friends

Even though we're back in the work-a-day world and can't just pick up and go cruising on Gypsies, we're not letting any grass grow under us - we're making the best of our free time, seeing the sights and enjoying life!!! I know, big surprise there!!! This past weekend we headed up to St. Augustine by land yacht to see our cruising buddies from September Song, Stephanie and Bob - unfortunately they had to arrive from Georgia by land yacht as well so Cassie and Godiva couldn't come with them!! We've been to St. A several times in the past couple years as it is one of our favorite places (the last time was actually last Thanksgiving when we spent a wonderful turkey-day weekend there with...you guessed it...Bob and Stephanie!!) What was so weird was to arrive by car and not on Gypsies - although I must say I didn't mind not having to deal with the current that rips through there or the construction at the Bridge of Lions (actually I guess I missed even that when I think about it because I would have loved to have been on Gypsies!) Besides, Gypsies is much more comfortable than the local Days Inn although there was a pool where we met the SS gang for a couple cold adult beverages and lots of laughs while catching up on all things work and fun since our last visit several months ago up in Fort Pierce when they had just gotten back from the Bahamas.

After poolside coldies, it was time to hit one of our favorite St. A watering holes, Scarlett O'Haras, for happy hour 2-for-1 cocktails including Big Boat Bob's (yes we still call him that on occasion) Captain and Coke - think the waitress liked us!!
The Crew Arrives at Scarlett O'Haras
And can I tell you how good their onion rings were!!!! I'm talking the mother of all crispy and slightly spicy o-rings here!! Normally I don't get that excited about onion rings - but these were the best (we went back the next day for more and more!!!) No calories in St A I heard!!!!
Back Together for Cocktails at Scarlett O'Haras
It was great to be back in a place with live music too - even if it wasn't nearly as good as what we got used to in KW!!! But when you're with good friends - who cares? We topped the night off with great pizza in the back of a funky little pizza place in the old town - xtra cheese, pepperoni and mushrooms was just what we needed before bedtime!!

The next day we played tourist and visited the Alligator Farm and Zoological Park - what an amazingly cool place!!
As the only place in the world that displays all 23 living species of crocodiles, we walked through exhibit after exhibit of alligators (including a couple albino gators)
Albino Alligator
and crocs, some in small "private rooms" while others lived communally in pools and sand islands!
Alligator Island
Resting Alligators
We saw an alligator feeding where they were thrown small rodents - unfortunately one of the big guys near us went postal on his neighbor almost tearing off his arm and knocking out teeth (that was enough for me thank you!!) The gators looked so mellow that you forget how fast they can move and how vicious they really are - got it!!!
One Ugly Croc
There was even a wading bird rookery which replicated a native swamp where hundreds of birds, including herons, egrets, ibis, roseate spoonbills, and wood storks roost knowing the thousands of alligators below would protect them from any tree-climbing predators.
The Alligators in the Rookery
Black Swan
There were also exhibits of exotic birds, the cutest monkeys you've ever seen, and other wild reptiles,
Marabou Stork
Green Back Macaw
Green Back Macaw
Scarlett Macaw
Scarlett Macaw
This Turtle is Really Alive!
Southern Cassowary
Roseate Spoonbill
The Sulawesi Red-knobbed Hornbill
West African Crowned Crane
West African Vulture
including a komodo dragon (he almost got Bob's finger - OK not really but it was a fun picture!)
Kimodo Dragon Tries to Bite Bob Through the Glass
Oh and let's not forget the humongous tortoises who seemed "otherwise occupied" shall we say the whole time we were there - if you can figure out the picture, let us know - we think that's why they are almost extinct!!
"Otherwise Occupied"

From the Alligator Farm we went over to climb to the top of the St Augustine Lighthouse - all 165 feet above sea level and 219 steps!!!
The St. Augustine Lighthouse
A View of the 219 Stairs From the Bottom
St Augustine is the site of the oldest aid to navigation in North America - the original Spanish watchtower became Florida's first lighthouse in 1824. However, by 1870 the tower was threatened by shoreline erosion and construction began on the current lighthouse. The new lighthouse was completed in 1874 and has at the top a first order Fresnel lens which serves as the beacon. The lens consists of 370 hand-cut glass prisms arranged in a beehive shape towering twelve feet tall and six feet in diameter. The lighthouse is St. Augustine's oldest surviving brick structure and in 1876, a brick light keeper's house was added to the site. Light keepers' and their assistants lived and worked there until the tower was automated in 1955. The history is cool but the views were unbelievable!!!
View from the Top of the St. Augustine Lighthouse
View for the Top
At least Steph and I enjoyed them - the boys were a little wary of the height thing but they were great sports and made the climb anyway!! Gotta admit, it was a long way up!!

Not Everyone Likes Heights!

You know the saying, all culture and no fun.....ok maybe I'm improvising but after a day of playing tourist, one gets thirsty! So we hit the nearest watering hole, the Conch House Lounge for some sustaining coldies and popcorn.
Conch House Lounge
With the thirst partially slaked, we were off again towards the beach - of course - in search of cool beach bars. We didn't find many to choose from but hit on Jakes for pitchers and wings - with friends any place can be fun!
A quick change and we were off for a night of frivolity, starting of course at Scarlett's for more o-rings! Chased out by some seriously not good music, we hit the Milltop in search of better - not to be!!! if anything it was worse - at least topsides. The musician downstairs was somewhat better (we at least could finish our beers without actual pain in the eardrums!) There we were entertained by a game of guess whether it's Pat or Patricia - we took turns trying to get full frontal views surreptitiously of course and even at the end of the night we had a hung jury - 3-1 in favor of female. Does this make us bad people??? Not that we cared one way or the other but shouldn't you be able to at least tell??? OK maybe we should have gone home at that point....but we didn't. We found more music at a yard garden cafe
Cocktails at the Garden Cafe
and then had some mexican food at the glamorous Taco Shop - kidding....not that we ate there, but the glamorous part. Pretty much a dive - just the way we like it!!
The Taco Shop

Sunday was a little rainy but what better way to start it then a big grand slam breakfast at Dennys???? Seriously!! Us and about 100 others - luckily we got a table before the line began to snake out the door. Guess everyone else went to church first ..... knew there was something we forgot! It was sad saying goodbye to Steph and Bob but we know we will see them soon - on their trip south they plan on stopping here at our marina on Merritt Island for a bit this Fall. What a great weekend though - thanks guys for meeting us in the middle!!!! We braved the raindrops to walk around town a little to soak up some of the awesome Spanish culture and architecture
Spanish Architecture
Spanish Statue
Spanish Style Church
and surprise, surprise wound up back at Scarletts for one more round of o'rings.
Scarlett O'Haras
Good thing there are no calories in that place!!
The Oldest Schoolhouse in America
Captain Ralph's Monkey Band on the Streets of St. Augustine

Part of the fun of where we are located now is that there are so many kewl places and things to do within two hours of us - on the way home from St. Augustine, we ran through a list of all the places and things we want to do. It's a seriously long list!!! So much fun to be had, so little time......what a great way to live life!!

Thanks everyone for the wonderful birthday wishes - despite a rainy day, I watched a movie marathon, complete with popcorn and all kinds of treats (because there are no calories on your bday either). Dinner was Chinese food and a great bottle of wine (a real bottle no less) and for anyone who knows me, they know that by the time I went to sleep, I had a big grin on my face! This week the gym has been calling my name - in all CAPS!!!!