Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Finally, the Stats

It's been a while since the end of vacation, but I've been either busier than usual or too ill to function ever since we've returned. So only now am I getting to the point where I can sit down and put together the stats.

0 Number of armadillos seen

1 Number of armadillos heard

2 Number of nights spent in Key West, Florida

3 Number of states visited during the vacation (Florida, Maryland, New York)

3 Number of laptops we took to Key West with us

4 Number of principal vacationers

6 Number of vacationers to the Florida Keys

6 Number of sides to Fort Jefferson in the Dry Tortugas

8 Number of nights spent in Polynesian Village, Englewood, Florida

9 Number of people at our Easter dinner table

9 Number of nights Erin was away from home

10 Number of nights away from home

10 Number of takeoffs and landings during the trip

15 Speed limit in miles at Polynesian Village

20 Number of distinct sandglyphs created

27 Bottom floor of Sackners' house

28 Top floor of Sackners' house

45 Number of vacation hours Geof used to go on this trip

68 Number of miles from Key West to the Dry Tortugas

76 Temperature in degrees Fahrenheit of the water during our visit to Nokomis Beach

92 Highest temperature in degrees Farhrenheit we experienced during our trip

102 Number of our room in Key West

104 Number of the Mikes' room in Key West

130 Estimated number of miles to drive over all the Florida keys to our hotel in Key West

200 Estimated number of photos and videos taken at the Dry Tortugas

352 Number of miles driven from Englewood to Key West, Florida

412 Number of miles driven from Key West to Englewood, Florida

16,000,000 Estimated number of bricks in Fort Jefferson

volveremos a las tortugas

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Okay, I'm a Bit Delayed

Central Parkway, Schenectady, New York

For anyone still checking, I've been sick for a couple of days, so I haven't posted the final statistics for the trip. I should get around to this in the next few days, but I'm also heading off for Scranton tomorrow.

volveremos a las tortugas

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Welcome Home (to Grey)

Welcome Home to Slush

Schenectady, New York

Erin was the first one to leave in the morning. With a giant storm hitting the entire east coast, her car service arrived at 5:30 am to get her to Tampa in time for an 8:30 am flight. Nancy, generously, arouse from bed to spend some time with her, but I stayed in bed, doing nothing more but say goodbye to her when she left. I was up early enough afterwards and began the process of clearing my system of phlegm, showering, and putting the finishing touches on our packing.

A couple of minutes after 8:30 am, we were on our way to the Fort Myers airport (Southwest Florida International). The Mikes followed us into the airport and made sure we were on our way. We bought a few items to entertain ourselves (a New York Times, some drinks), and we stood in line. Our flight was on time leaving for Baltimore and arrived in Baltimore a little early. Along the way, we hit some severe turbulence that shook the plane ferociously. Nancy noted that turbulence jostles the flow of the plane allowing us to feel how fast it was going. Best of all on this flight, a bolt of lighting appeared to hit the plane just outside our window. I saw the flash, and the plane shuddered a bit right at that moment, so I'm pretty sure we were hit. It couldn't have been more than fifteen feet from us.

In Baltimore, we sat down for a reasonable lunch at a Mexican restaurant. We drenched our foot with the mild hot sauce on the table to add more flavor, but the food wasn't too bad and it was fairly cheap. Afterwards, we stood in line again for our last flight. Lots of bad turbulence in this flight too. (Tim and I kept making references to the great film Turbulence: "It's a Category 6 storm." "Is that on a scale of one to six?" "No, that's on a scale of one to ten!") No lightning this time.

We arrived in Albany right on time, but had to wait about twenty minutes until our gate was open for us. (As soon as Nancy saw the weather, she noted she'd rather be in Florida.) It took forever for Southwest to bring us our luggage, and it was soaking wet. After an hour in the airport, we went outside.

The Albany International Airport's Parking Lot

The parking lot was dreary, full of slush, and being pummeled by a soggy sleet. Nancy called the precipitation "slushing."

Tim had the job of cleaning the car of slushy snow as I loaded the car and took a few pictures.

Home was no better. Our front lawn was covered with slush, as was Nancy's car.

Our house looked okay in slush, but it was soggy as well. It's a bit cold here, damp, and uncomfortable--so it's been a hard change on people not used to wearing socks anymore!

We unpacked. Nancy washed the dishes. I began dinner and Nancy finished it as Tim and I picked the three dogs up from the kennel. Strangely, today was the most expensive day of our vacation by far, because we paid for our long-term parking and for kennelling our dogs today.

Today was the official end of our vacation, but tomorrow will bring one last posting to this blog: the traditional listing of the statistics.

volveremos a las tortugas

Saturday, April 14, 2007

The Last Real Day of Vacation

North Easter Island Circle, Englewood, Florida

Today is a sad day, one of great disappointments, the saddest day of any enjoyable vacation. It is the last real day of vacation. Tomorrow counts as vacation as well, but tomorrow is about nothing but traveling home, settling back into our regular lives, and being separated from our Erin once again.

I had to spend a couple of hours driving out to Port Charlotte to see my friend Bob Grumman again, which ate into the day a little bit. But we had plenty of time for a little fun.

Palms along Venice Boulevard, Venice, Florida (Tim's photograph)

We went to Venice, where there are at least two places called The Merchant of Venice, and which is probably the third Venice anyone thinks of if you say the word "Venice." We walked up and down Venice Boulevard in Venice, checking out the little shops there. We found a pen for the refrigerator we were thinking of getting, I found some good teas that I could buy in person (instead of virtually), and we had scoops of ice cream (or, in my case, sorbet). So it was enjoyable enough. It was also quite hot and sunny out, and Erin was smarting from a good sunburn she created yesterday. We stayed in the shade as much as we could.

Geof Huth on the Jetty, Venice, Florida (Tim's photograph)

I had the idea of visiting the Venice Jetty since we were nearby. We drove out there and even exited the car.

A Brown Pelican Eating

There was a nice breeze at the jetty, so we stayed pretty cool, and we enjoyed the sights there: the weird brown pelicans (which Nancy says look prehistoric), the tiny terns buffeted by the wind and making no headway, the crabs skittering over the wet rocks along the jetty, and the single curving leap of a dolphin--just once.

Brown Pelican on the Jetty, Venice, Florida (Tim's photograph)

The strangest pelican of all did nothing but stand stock still, one foot atop the other, on one rock, hardly moving at all.

The Beach from the Jetty, Venice, Florida

We could see beaches on either side of the jetty, but we didn't visit though. This picture is of the beach north of the jetty. South of it, someone was sail-surfing--I've no idea what the true term is--taking advantage of the heavy wind.

Erin Huth's Double Self-Portrait, Gulf View Grill, Englewood, Florida

At night, we went out for dinner, along with Aunt Joan, on the dime of our hosts, Mr and Mrs Mike. They have other names, but that's what I call them. I couldn't stand the waitress, who was shocked that I'd ask what kind of ice teas and lemonades the place had and who made us pass her the used dishes.

I ended up having tap water, which turned out to be unpotable. Erin described the taste for me: gritty pool water. I had to replace my water with hot tea. The food was good, though. I had a Caesar salad with anchovies (de riguer) and a great bouillabaisse. And we had fun. I took too many pictures that didn't come out. The best picture of the night was of Erin by herself. In my defense, she's well practiced in photographing herself.

Sunset, from Gulf View Grill, Englewood, Florida

From our window seats, we could even watch the sun set, whenever Mrs Mike allowed the blinds up high enough for us to see the Gulf of Mexico almost at our feet. There were power lines and a lightpole in our way, but still a sunset is a good way to end the day.

Tim, Erin and Nancy Huth, Sonic, Englewood, Florida

After dinner, GNET broke off from the other three and headed off to Walgreen's to buy medicine for tomorrow. Tim is still a bit sick (coughing, sore throat), Nancy's throat is really starting to hurt her, and my own sore throat has become much more severe since everyone else has gone to bed. After Walgreen's, we headed to Books-a-Million to buy Erin even more books, since she finished the two she bought a couple of days ago. I read the David Sedaris book she bought as well and Nancy read the other book, so Nancy and I bought more books from those authors as well today. As did Erin. Out of five books, only one wasn't a duplicate.

After book-buying, we went to Sonic for drinks. I had a strawberry limeade (good, but too much ice), Erin had a mango ice tea (good, but too sweet, and I love things sweet), Tim had a great banana shake (with bits of real banana in it), and Nancy had a great chocolate shake. Afterwards, we went home and packed.

There will be another posting tomorrow, and it might be a doozy. We're expecting a good amount of rain tomorrow morning in Florida, so our flights might be delayed--and we take off from Florida twice (we assume): once in Fort Myers and once in Orlando. (Erin, however, has another flight, leaving from Tampa, and she has to leave here at 5:30 tomorrow morning, about three hours before us.) The weather at home promises to be two to four inches of snow, which shouldn't hamper our travels, but who knows? makes this steely prediction for our tomorrow. Notice how much of this could affect us:

Severe storms head into the Southeast. These powerful storms with frequent lightning will produce additional large hail, damaging winds and even tornadoes through tonight.

Residents of Alabama (especially the southern half), Georgia (especially the central and southern counties), the Carolinas and northern Florida should continue to monitor the progress of these storms and be ready to take cover.

Sunday will feature the powerful developing storm system along the Eastern Seaboard and that will produce flooding rain and high winds along the coast from the Middle Atlantic States and southern New England Sunday into Maine Monday. Wind gusts from 40 to as high as 65 mph will occur, especially across eastern Long Island, Cape Cod, Nantucket Island, Martha's Vineyard and the Maine coast. Coastal flooding and beach erosion are also big concerns.

Meanwhile, interior areas of the Northeast (Upstate New York and northern New England), especially in the higher elevations, could pick up a considerable amount of snow (locally 1 to 2 feet) before the storm winds down on Tuesday. Heavy wet snow could bring down tree limbs and power lines and it will be a bear to shovel.

Life is always an adventure, just not always the one you wanted.

volveremos a las tortugas

Friday, April 13, 2007

Mad Dogs, Englishmen, and Huths

North Easter Island Circle, Englewood, FL

We're not starting our days quickly, or at least I'm not. I'm a little sick, nothing much, but there are bits of yellow-green phlegm and coughing involved. It takes me about two hours of hot tea and hacking to clear my passageways, all while feeling pretty well.

Today, at least, we did something. At about one o'clock, with the sun high in the cloudless sky and the temperature at 92 degrees, we drove to Nokomis Beach, just slightly north of here, with the top of the convertible down. This short trip through the sunshine at the hottest and brightest part of the day was enough to turn the tops of Erin's thighs pink (though we didn't realize this till later).

Nancy, Hiding from the Sun

The water at the beach was warm (76 degrees, so warm to us). There weren't many people in the water, mostly the usual suspects: children and their childlike fathers. But we enjoyed a little swim, and Tim and I returned to the water more often than Nancy and Erin did. The beach was busy but not crowded. Some of the people were elderly white folk who appeared to be regulars on the beach since their skin was a rich coffee color. There was little wind. A dolphin curved out of the water a few times. And the sun shone continually.

Erin and Tim Huth, Swimming

For a better view of the dolphin, Erin and Tim came out into the water. I tried to take a picture of the shy mammal, but it always managed to disappear beneath the waves before the shutter of my camera clicked, and this was while out in the water with an underwater camera.

The Bottom of the Sea

While Tim and I were in the water, I took a few underwater pictures, but I had left the camera on the wrong setting for such photos, and the water was a bit too turbulent to allow me to do much.

Tim Underwater

Besides, there wasn't much to photograph save for Tim underwater and the sea floor.

"eye stones"

Tim and I walked up and down the beach a few times, circling, like caged animals, between the signs marking the end of the public beach. On our first circuit, we ran into one black man, alone, with long dreadlocks, sitting on a stool and facing the water. What was most remarkable about him was that he was black, and I realized he was the first black person I'd ever seen on one of these beaches, transforming my experiences on the beach into segregated experiences. Later, I saw three black kids in a multi-racial group, which was a bit of a relief, but I wonder if this is somehow a strangely white area of the South--and why.

"When's Erasure"

On our trips over the middle sand of the beach, Tim and I were in search of good areas to create and record sandglyphs. Tim served as my assistant. I continued to make some movie glyphs along with the regular still-picture ones.

Tim and Erin during the Search for Armadillos

Aunt Joan sold her house today, so she's joining us for these next two nights, which will mean that seven people are sleeping tonight in this small two-bedroom house. But it's great to have her with us, and I made a big spaghetti dinner for us tonight. The making of dinner was a chore, because there was nothing to work with: no spices (save for a couple I snagged from Joan before she left them behind in her cupboard), no garlic press, no mushrooms, no bell peppers, no olive oil, and few cooking tools. But I made do, and the meal was okay, though not at all great.

The Brush Where an Armadillo Disappeared

After dinner, we went to that part of Polynesian Village where we were most likely to find armadillos. We didn't see any, but as soon as we arrived where we expected to find one, we heard the familiar sound of an armadillo crashing through the brush. Try as we might, we could do nothing more than hear armadillos.

Three Golf Balls in a Triangle

As the search progressed, Nancy decided to return home, since she's also sick. The remaining three of us continued the search, but Erin became increasingly nervous. The discovery of three golf balls laid out in a triangle creeped her out, and Tim started talking about The Blair Witch Project. But the triangles intrigued me. Of course, they suggest a triangle, but they are precisely the "therefore" symbol, which appears prominently in the novel Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut, who has just recently died.

Quote of the Day:

I realize that this dress is the color of my skin [bright pink], but I have nothing else to wear right now. (Erin)

ecr. l'inf.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Turbulence and Uno

North Easter Island Circle, Englewood, Florida

Today was almost a day of relaxing. We didn't do much at all except lounge around the house. It was something like a day of rest, especially for people who don't rest on vacation.

Erin, Tim, and I watched a terrible cliche of a film with Ray Liotta (Turbulence) on TV, all the way through. I highly don't recommend it. At one point during the film, a large truck came down the street, stop a couple of doors down from us, and cut down a pathetic palm tree with only one front sticking out of its top. The process of taking down the tree was loud but quick. It took about three minutes total. (We had a tree in our yard removed once, and it took about four hours.) The truck stopped at the tree, a crane uncurled out of it and grabbed the top of the palm. A man on the ground cut the tree with a chainsaw, and the crane pulled the tree up high enough to drop it in the back of the truck. Then the crane's pincer held the remaining bit of tree, and the chainsaw cut it off right at the level of the ground. The truck left. Simple and over.

We did go to the bookstore to buy a couple of books for Erin, so she'd have something to read, and Tim got a deck of Uno playing cards. That was my only trip today, though Nancy also went to the grocery store. I did spend too much time on work-related activities today. A few hours at least. (Email was heavy, and much remains unaddressed.) I also dealt with my mild illness, which sometimes causes coughing jags, by making myself cup after cup of hot tea with lots of lemon and lots of sugar.

In the evening, Nancy and I made dinner (salmon again, green beans, and mashed red potatoes with skins, and we had Aunt Joan over again. Tonight is her last day in "the park" (Polynesian Village) because she's selling her house tomorrow. After dinner, Nancy, the kids, and I played Uno, a game most of us didn't know. The goal is to get rid of all one's cards, but the game is designed to keep adding cards to your hand, so it went on for a while.

At one point, Nancy went off to deal with the laundry and I took a short nap on the floor and dreamt of playing Uno. What woke me up was the realization that I hadn't really played a hand in a while, since all I had done was dream about it.

volveremos a las tortugas

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Leaving Key West for an Archives

North Easter Island Circle, Englewood, Florida

I never enjoy leaving Key West. It is certainly too crowded at times and people smoke cigars everywhere, but it has some life to it, and a sense of freedom that (though unreal) is invigorating. But we left, nonetheless.

I woke up sick. Somehow, I have finally caught the bug Tim has been nursing dutifully for two and a half weeks, so now it's my turn to be sick. I don't get sick too often, and this is my first illness in over a year, so it's inevitable. And, so far, it's not bad. After waking up, we moved quickly, showered, dressed, packed, ate, checked out (which we had to do in person--no rapid checkout), and were on the road in about 80 minutes. Not a record, but not bad.

Tim decided it would make sense to take a self-portrait of himself and a picture of Erin just before we left. Cute shots that remind me that my children are growing up and moving away.

It had rained on the keys and over much of south Florida last night, and this morning was overcast in Key West. This brought us a tiny bit of joy, because we realized that we had gone on our trip to the Dry Tortugas on probably the best day this week. The weather was idyllic (a term I'm borrowing from the National Park Service's website to describe that April day), we were warm but not hot, the water was perfect, the sea was gentle. I expected rain yesterday. The lack of it was a big bonus.

Our trip out of the keys (driving about 130 miles on roads that can't handle much traffic) was slow, but it worked. We made it out in good time. Along the way, we saw a number of Florida Key sights: roadways almost at sea level, a tracery of bridges, and key deer. Well, only Nancy saw a key deer, protected from automobiles by a fence that kept it away. She tried to tell us it wasn't very pretty, but it didn't work. The rest of us (well, mostly me, I suppose) were still disappointed.

We took a serious detour to Miami today to visit the Ruth and Marvin Sackner Archive of Concrete and Visual Poetry. For a good idea of the core event of the day (putting driving aside for the moment), see my description of our visit, which I describe in detail elsewhere. Even if you don't have the time or inclination to read the piece, be sure to look at the pictures. We ended up staying at the Sackners' for two hours, leaving just before rush hour really picked up in Miami.

Soon, we were driving across I-75, the new Alligator Alley, and it lived up to its name. We saw dozens of alligators behind restraining fences along this highway. And when we were detoured off the highway, we still saw plenty of gators. It was an amazing sight, one of those experiences never replicated in Schenectady.

After driving 412 miles (most of it by me), we were home in PV, where Nancy and I made a simple but effective dinner to end the day. The last few days have been tiring, but enjoyable. My only regret is that we couldn't've stayed for a little bit of the Robert Frost Poetry Festival, which includes a visual poetry event (I really wonder who set this up) and at least one haiku poet I know. I didn't know about this until we arrived, and it began tonight, so I was pretty much out of luck this time.

volveremos a las tortugas