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Florida 2013- Day 4

03 Jul

Sun. June 16, 2013:

Somehow I managed to wake up at 9am, feeling wide awake and rested… yet I had only had 4 hours of sleep. Or maybe I was super excited because we were going to the Everglades Holiday Park for an airboat tour. Being the first one awake I was treated to “feed me” chorus from the cats. But it was all a ruse! I checked the fridge and they had already been fed. Instead I took them outside to the backyard and let them roam and it somehow turned into a photo shoot culminating with Przemek climbing the banana plant. Eventually it got too hot and it was time to retreat to the air-conditioned climate.

We found tickets for the airboat ride on Groupon, alas we had to use 3 different computers as we were purchasing 5 coupons. As per usual, we stopped at Dunkin’ Donuts; at this point everyone had converted and found something they liked. It was weird because they were having a musical guest. We ordered the equivalent of timbits (munchkins they’re called) and mentioned so and that we were going to compare the two. The cashier mentioned how she had always wanted to go to Tim Hortons, which struck me as odd- but then again who am I to talk when I always demand going to Dunkin’ Donuts whenever I am in the States. The munchkins were nowhere near as good as timbits.

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In the Everglades Holiday Park parking lot we saw a peacock, I quipped that he was looking for his car. We laughed at tourists slowly trying to approach the peacocks, and their surprise when the birds flew away. Despite it being the off-season, the place was packed, probably because it was Father’s Day. Or maybe it was because of the Groupon deal? There was a separate (and much longer) line-up for people who had discount tickets. We took turns waiting in line while the rest would go look at souvenirs. There was a stuffed alligator toy that would roll around laugh if you “tickled” it, Lucy was amused by it to no ends. She kept going back and laughing at it.

We lined up early for the airboat ride; standing in the heat at high noon was a sacrifice I was willing to make if it meant getting the best seats. Thankfully the wait wasn’t that long. It was worth it, we got seats at the front of the boat and right by the edge. It was so much fun when the airboat went fast, just watching the Everglades zip by. Our first stop was Vulture Island. It was aptly named. You would look at it and see one vulture, then another…. As your eyes adjusted you would see more and more- and suddenly there were at least 30 vultures, all just sitting there, hidden by the trees.

The first alligator we spotted was a regular, seen often on the tour. How do I know this? Because our captain knew her name (Speedy) and knew she was missing a leg. And also she was not afraid of us at all, she swam about as if she knew the drill: let the happy tourists gawk at and photograph you. Up next we saw her daughter. Saw is a bit of an overstatement, glanced is more apt. You could see the top of her forehead and one eye, off under a log near the banks.

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After that our captain pulled up to another spot so we could see some birds. These birds also knew the drill, they got fed and in exchanged we gawked at them. One of the birds was not having it; she kept making sad sounds and refusing to eat. We were told this was because her baby had been eaten by an alligator. We passed by a pretty yellow flower that looked like a lilypad- only it wasn’t and it harbored black widow spiders.

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As we were leaving we saw a blue heron, apparently a rare sighting given the time of year. And just to top off the boat ride (that was definitely longer than an hour) we saw one more alligator! This one was not used to people and kept ducking under the surface of the water.

After the boat ride we were treated to a show by one of the Gator Boys (a TV show I’d watched on a previous vacation). He demonstrated gator wrestling for us with one of the larger alligators, who was not having it at all. He tapped the gators top tooth to make it snap its mouth shut, showing us the strength with which it can bite down. It made a large thump sound and verified, in my mind at least, that the presenter was nuts. This theory was further solidified when he rested his chin on the gators chin, keeping it clamped shut, arms outstretched for more drama. The first time he tried this, the gator fidgeted and he had to readjust, it was a close-call. For $5 you could have your picture taken while holding a baby gator. One woman got more than she bargained for when the gator peed while she held him. I was about ready to leave after the show. There had been one lady who did not understand personal space during the show. She kept squeezing in between us, and reaching over my head to take pictures, resulting in a loose embrace of the top of my head, with her camera just above my forehead.

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We stopped in a McDonald’s parking lot to steal their free wi-fi; we were searching for the nearest Chipotle. A day in the Everglades ramps up the appetite and we were hungry for burritos. Even still, the spicy steak burrito won, but only because it was massive. Chipotle burritos are intended for two, maybe three people. Not one person. Again we found ourselves in Wal-mart on the way home. This time we were in need of campfire supplies. We ended up, in a fit of giggles, buying enormous marshmallows (as in double the size of big marshmallows).

Just as we were about to pull onto their street, a song came on the radio that everyone insisted on listening to and we found ourselves driving around the back of the neighbourhood. It just so happened that the only people living there (the abandoned housing project, Camelot Estates) were moving out. Ela ended up getting a free bike, they had just left it by the side of the road (along with other stuff, remember that).

The house looked like a tornado had hit it; we had our work cut out for us. As a treat after cleaning and a break, we drove out to Carvel in search of Fudgey. I had forgotten to factor in that it was Father’s Day and we had about half an hour before the place closed. We got there and the guy said he was sold out. And not just of Fudgey’s… all his ice cream cakes were gone. This must have registered on my face, as the guy called the next nearest location (thankfully only 15 minutes away) and asked. They had one; I made sure he called back to dibs it for me. The tension in the car was mounting, would we get there in time? Did he actually formally dibs it for us? Would the other location honour the dibs?!

I jumped out of the car and raced in, slightly desperate. The lady at the counter said they were all sold out, the woman who had been in line in front of me laughed that she too had just come in, trying to buy a Fudgey the Whale. I asked about the dibs, she had no idea. I left in a huff, in the parking lot I motioned to the car with my arms in the air in a sad state of defeat- when another woman from the shop called out. I turned around and went back in to see what the fuss was about. If she thought she could see me another ice cream cake, a non-whale shaped one, she was wrong.

As it turns out, the other woman was the one who put the cake aside for me- failing to mention it to her other co-workers. I was so relieved to hear this. She asked if I wanted Happy Father’s Day written on the cake. I raised an eyebrow and laughed no (there were no father’s there, our dad was back in Canada, their dad was in Atlanta). And then I yelled out: WAIT!! I got her to write PMCEL on the cake as a surprise for everyone. She was really confused and I had to spell out each letter for her. I was happy with my victory.

As drove back we passed by a trailer park that had been wrecked by a storm. We headed to the back of the neighbourhood to see what else the moving neighbours had left out. We hit a gold mine- sort of. We got boxes and boxes of lightbulbs and screws. We got a free flashlight, 2 cabinets with drawers and some wires. The smaller cabinet fit in the car. The larger one however needed carrying. It started out with 3 of us carrying it. Then I swapped out with Ela and took her bike back to the house. I passed Marianne and her mom, both on their way back from dropping stuff off, to help carry the cabinet. I ran back and saw that they had found a new way to carry it. Originally we were carrying it by the edges. Now 3 were carrying it over their heads and others would swap in. It was not easy to swap in for them as I kept getting hit on the head with the twine (holding it closed). Also being the shortest, I could not rest it on my head; I had to use my shoulders- leading to my arm going numb. After some back & forth we finally realized it would be easier for 4 of us to carry it pallbearer style on our shoulders. Only at this point we had reached their street.

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We set up a wonderful looking campfire however the humidity made it impossible to get the fire going. We finally got it going with some banana leaves, making Florida that much hotter. We drank fresh passionfruit juice (literally fresh, we had picked it earlier that day) while we roasted hotdogs. For dessert we had obscenely large smores. It was a terribly sticky, gooey mess. Our first bites were filmed with the lens cap on. Their mom kept asking if it was supposed to be so dark, we said it was fine. Only after did we realize it was that the lens cap was on. With four layers of bug spray on, I was still getting bitten, as was everyone else. We retreated indoors, where in the better light we could see on the marshmallow bag that they were intended for smores with a double-sized graham cracker. Hah.

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With all the hubbub surrounding the cake,I could still not really say why the crazy appeal so I pulled up the Wikipedia page and read it aloud. Camilla bailed and left, claiming to have had enough sugar. So with just us and their mom, we sat down and each cut a tiny slice of cake. And then another tiny one. And another. Before we knew it, we had eaten about half the cake! It was that good. So simple (vanilla ice cream, chocolate cookie base, fudge top, cookie in middle) and so delicious. The sugar-crash afterwards put me right to sleep.

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