Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Day Five: Field Trips

Day Five: That Tuesday state of mind

                Steel gray clouds and high winds had us on the move, pushing back the plans for a solid total beach day. For the most part, it was time well spent.

                The Florida Oceanographic Institute wasn’t exactly Sea World, and I mean that in a good way. Small and not exactly jam packed with marine life, it was nonetheless staffed with courteous and informative people that provided us with a great deal of information in regards to the areas ecosystem. I don’t need bribed mammals jumping in the air to entertain me, I can get that at any local restaurant that advertises an all you can eat buffet.

                Since the FOI’s stingray feeding tank was being refurbished (not that I ever wanted to feed a stingray), our admission cost was cut from $10 to $7 per person. Regardless, it was money well spent.

                The main area had a collection of smallish aquariums, each showing the diversity of marine life, segregated so no bad-ass fish goes gladiator. There was probably only about twenty minutes of entertainment and educational value here, but it was a pleasant opening act for what lay beyond.

                Outside, in the 43 acre campus, a variety of displays, tanks and informative placards awaited us. The wife and I lingered by the mollusk petting tank longer than expected, mostly due to the chatty and charismatic lady manning that station. I got the distinct impression this place is more used to occupying bored schoolchildren on field trips and doing their jobs in saving and studying fish. Regardless, they also appeared anxious to strut their stuff when an eager couple comes along, looking to actually learn something. We were two of only about ten people there, and were treated like royalty.

                Once we got our fill of touching sea urchins, sea cucumbers and other sea things that look completely unappetizing, we were called over to witness the daily feeding of the game fish in a 75,000 gallon protected lagoon. Hungrily awaiting their daily meal were a vast collection of Tarpon, spadefish, nurse sharks and other large things I forgot the name of. Most impressive were the four sea turtles that were being treated for ‘buoyancy issues’, meaning parts of their anatomy were damaged by boats and were un-releasable into the wild for concerns of their survival. This convalescence home was a heartwarming, and after seeing some of the local menus and if I were them, I’d be milking this recovery thing as long as I could.

                After another round of comprehensive information, presented by the kind of smart and no-nonsense pretty young girls I wish my sons would bring home, we blew a wad at the gift shop, knowing the proceeds would be funneled back into this impressive facility. The staff bid us farewell and Angie suddenly lost the appetite for seafood.

                Another round in the hot tub and pool on our return, it was decided the very local color restaurant should be frequented. I was in the mood for sandwich fair. Thankfully, my cynical radar did not fail me as soon as we walked into one of the close by eateries.

                It should have been alright. The place was well decorated and was the first establishment we experienced that had cloth napkins, but something was amiss.

                For starters, the large and well decorated place was nearly empty, possibly due to being a Tuesday night but curious nonetheless considering this time-share neighborhood had to have at least 30,000 vacationing folks within a mile radius. Also, despite the fact that there were only 8 people in the place, the waitstaff and associated workers outnumbered the patrons. Not a good sign.

                We kept it simple and cheap as I suspected watered down drinks were the house specialty.  Since you can’t water down a martini, I started out with that while Angie tried the diet coke and rum. Sure enough, her drinks couldn’t get a fly high and though not diluted, my martin ran about ¾” shy of the rim of the glass. My next drink was a draft beer as we skipped dessert and escaped far wiser.

                After another stop for a ‘real’ drink, we came back to home base. My wife had suddenly become addicted to the hot tub/Jacuzzi. We now visit it three to four times a day. After ten minutes each time of being boiled like Maine lobster, we’ve discovered the invigorating practice of jumping into the close by poll immediately after, enjoying the slamming shut of our pores while tempting hypothermia.

                To close the out-of-room evening, we attempted a game of pool on the outside billiard table, a futile exercise as the table was as off as our aim, the balls were as out of round as our sobriety, and the cues were more crooked than the bartender from our meal. Two things became apparent; we can’t play pool worth a damn and Wednesday will be spent on the beach, recovering.

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