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Connecticut, New York, Massachusetts: Double Loop- Day 5

Tues. July 14, 2015:
Massachusetts to Connecticut

Brent woke me up just before 7:00am therefore I did not have to suffer through the agony of an alarm clock. The reason for the early wake-up was that we were headed to the Brimfield Outdoor Antique fair, and if you did not get there early enough, there was no point in going. We got there at 7:30am and actually managed to find parking. Brent had missed the turn into the first parking lot and so we drove on to the second one, which actually ended up being cheaper.

At first it seemed like there were only a few sellers, it was all along a roadside. As we walked further down however we saw how far it stretched, not only down the road but also across the fields away from the road. As we walked we munched on Mega M&Ms for breakfast, they were not much different than regular M&Ms to be honest.

We spent about two hours wandering up and down the fields, and we saw a lot of interesting things. Some of the vendors clearly did not belong there, brand new still in the package Egyptian cotton bed-sheets are NOT antiques. I found a few old books that were interesting but I find it awkward if there is no obvious price because I am no good at haggling and I have no idea what anything is actually worth. We saw some old Dr Pepper crates, alas they would have been a nightmare to transport home. One vendor was selling old gun cartridges and a wooden case for a Winchester repeater that left me nostalgic for Red Dead Redemption. At another stall we found some really creepy old Victorian photographs. UPS had even set up a few stalls scattered throughout, which only tempted me more but it struck me as an expensive endeavour. Especially given the number one thing I wanted to buy was an old wooden blanket box, which is neither small nor light. One guy was selling a giant Dunkin’ Donuts drive-thru sign, I really wish I could have bought it. I had seen someone else eating a donut and it got me, it looked so good. I kept an eye out looking for the donut stall and soon enough I found myself enjoying a delicious apple cider donut. There were a couple of sections that you had to pay an admission fee to enter, but we had already seen so much and storm clouds were looming on the horizon- it was not worth it. On our way back to the car we passed a guy who had written in Sharpie on his shirt PORTER FOR HIRE and he had a dolly tied on a rope to his waist.

We were done, we had seen everything and all before it started raining. We were in the car and set to drive to Connecticut… and it was only 9:30 in the morning. The rest of our plans for the day consisted mainly of food. We were in no rush, so we stopped at a Dunkin’ Donuts so I could get my usual caffeine fix. We split a Chips Ahoy crème donut, as Mega M&Ms don’t make much of a breakfast. We tried to check in at our hotel, but apparently our room would not be ready until noon.

We drove to Shady Glen Dairy for an early lunch. The diner also served breakfast and we were worried that because it was only 11:00am they might not be serving lunch yet. The diner was in a crappy strip mall and easy to miss. Inside it looked more like a diner though. The server was happy that we were not there for breakfast, I guess they were switching over to lunch. The diner was set-up so that the booths were around the prep area and the servers could reach over a low wall and place stuff on the table without having to walk in between tables and around customers. It was an ingenious set-up. Plus we could watch them as they fried up our food. The menu was written out on the wall but we knew beforehand exactly what we wanted: a cheeseburger and a cheesedog (confusingly called a cheesefurter). The hotdog (it was less of a frankfurter, more of a small hotdog) was brilliantly served: it had been cut in half length-wise therefore making more contact with the bun. Like I said, brilliant. The cheese slice had been fried into a crispy slice and added a nice bit of crunch. The burger however, was better. The cheese on its own was not that great, it was much better as part of the entire hotdog/hamburger. Because Shady Glen also advertised itself as an ice cream parlour, with homemade ice cream, I could not resist the chance to order dessert. I had a single scoop of chocolate chip cookie dough and it was amazing. The ice cream was vanilla, with chocolate shavings and teeny-tiny pieces of cookie dough, it mixed well together as a whole. The service was impeccable, we were out of there in less than half an hour.

That being said, we still had time to kill. This was one of those rare meals where it would have been nice if it took long. We wandered around the dollar store next door, gawking at stuff. We found Jurassic Park Mike & Ike’s candies. There was a mystery flavoured dino-egg candy. It was fruity-flavoured just like the others. The banana one was disgusting, I spit it out into a sewer. Afterwards we went to the Stop & Shop grocery store. They had key lime Oreos, but Brent vetoed, saying they sounded gross. And I knew if I got it, I would eat the whole package by the end of the day. This was also the reason I did not buy any Biscoff cookies, as they would not have lasted for even the car ride back to the hotel. They had Ben & Jerry’s core ice cream in Speculoos (i.e.: Biscoff) flavour, but we were not even sure if our hotel room had a fridge or not. The last thing we wanted to do was to eat a pint of ice cream, after our cheese-filled lunch. Especially given that we still had planned to go to two more restaurants that day. To clarify: Shady Glen was intended as a late breakfast/brunch, we still had lunch and dinner plans. At the grocery store I had hit the jackpot: vanilla cupcake flavoured Dunkin’ Donuts and sugar cane Dr Pepper! I also found a tacky American cooler drink: Seagram’s Red, White and Citrus.

The hotel we were staying at was on the wackier side. At the reception desk by the breakfast area there was the hotel owner’s pet turtle, just chilling on a rock in the tank. They also had an arcade with a lot of pinball machines. Turns out the reason for the arcade (at least so it seemed) was that the internet was super slow and sucked. It was the middle of the day, what else could I do but watch Family Feud? Then after that, another episode of Family Feud came on. And so it went until 2:00pm, when there was something else on. It was the perfect time for a nap. I woke up half an hour later, voraciously hungry.

It was time to go to Woody’s for some hotdogs. We decided to look up the menu before leaving and then we noticed that Woody’s closes at 3 in the afternoon. Who does that?! What kind of an eatery closes in the middle of the day?! As a back-up we decided we could go eat there on Sunday before returning the car at noon… apparently that was also not going to happen, as Woody’s is only open when there is a specific football team (the Dolphin’s) playing and the game is on. Worst business plan ever, what terrible hours. And so our dinner plans wound up becoming our lunch-dinner combined plans. Instead we would get a larger size pizza from Randy’s Wooster Street Pizza.

On our way out to the car we stopped in at the arcade for a few games. We started with Street Fighter II. Brent won the first round, I won the second with my button mashing and then lost the third. Brent continued on but eventually lost. It was suspenseful watching him play Pac-Man and basketball pinball. I gave the golf-themed pinball a try, I had no idea what was really going on. I got a score of 14,000 and was unsure if this was a good score or not. Then Brent tried and scored 40,000, which was just shy of the 49,000 needed for a free play. As we left we grabbed some freshly baked cookies. It was too bad we were not there on a weekend, as they also had free popcorn by the reception then.

We placed our pizza order and went next door to the liquor store. Brent looked like he was in heaven, there were walls and walls of beer as far as the eye could see. I found some limbic fruit beers I had not even seen while we were in Belgium. Despite the crappy internet, we decided to try and watch Netflix as we ate our New Haven style pizza. Really the pizza just had a slightly thinner crust and it was more crunchy and burnt along the edges. Thankfully Futurama was on TV and we did not have to resort to using the crappy internet until later on, when we dove into the (now) cold pizza. It was actually not as bad as we had expected. We managed to get through an entire episode of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt without much buffering.

 

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Florida 2015- The 15 Year Reunion- Day 6

Wed. June 10, 2015:
I’m not sure what was going on, but this time I woke up at 7am. I was not having it. I grabbed a sleep mask and went right back to sleep for another 3 hours. Even still I was the first one awake. As I waited for someone to wake up, I snacked on cold fried chicken leftovers. Not exactly the healthiest breakfast, but then again I was waiting for others to wake up so we could go to the Au Bon Pain in the lobby of the building. I had a hankering for some coffee, complete with a cookie (or two). Soon enough Lucy and Ela were awake. I walked Ela downstairs, since she was on her way to the gym. I opted to eat cookies instead. I was torn between getting a slice of lemon pound cake a palmier cookie, I chose the latter because apparently they had a new and improved recipe. It was a good cookie, however very crumby so I had to eat it over the sink. It was also very sticky. Once everyone else woke up we played Bananagrams and watched Friends as we waited for Ela to return.

Driving back to Davie we hit some bad traffic. We went off the highway and took surface streets until we got past the traffic and got back on the highway. Since the previous day we had been secretly conspiring to throw Camilla a bachelorette party. It was nearly impossible for the four of us to get together to plan it without alerting suspicion. And so we had a bit of a chain going, were a few of us would discuss, and then inform the others and so on, passing messages between ourselves.

Due to the impromptu nature of the plans it took a lot of fussing and secrecy. For a while we were stuck without the car, so we sat around talking and catching up on things missed. Because we did not have the car we wondered about taking an Uber car to Hollywood Beach for the evening, it was our last night in Florida (this was the excuse we used to cover the bachelorette party). We ended up getting the car at the last minute and so our plans shifted a little bit. Marianne and Ela took Uber to pick up the car from their mom’s work. Camilla, Lucy and I walked over to Publix and then to Dunkin’ Donuts. On their way back from the pick-up they would stop and get bachelorette party supplies.

At Publix we stocked up on flight snacks. I finally found my beloved Speculoos cookies (here called Biscoff) and grabbed a pack. The plan was to eat them on the flight. They did not make it past the Dunkin’ Donuts patio where I tore the package open. This time around at Dunkin’ Donuts I had ordered a Chips Ahoy Coolata (like an iced capp). And it was too sweet. For iced coffee drinks there is nothing good, so far, at Dunkin’ Donuts. I have learned to stick with the brewed coffee. Back at the house, as we were leaving Marianne filled me in on their plan to go to the party supply store on their way to pick us up. Camilla asked what we had been talking about, in a panic, I said Marianne had been putting in a donut order with me. And so we sat there on the Dunkin’ Donuts patio, eating cookies while a delicious Chips Ahoy donut beckoned to me from its paper bag as a giant storm loomed over us. On our way to Dunkin’ Donuts we watched in horror as a monster truck sped down the road and nearly slammed another car turning out of the parking lot into a ditch, it only reinforced my impression that people in Florida are terrible drivers. Almost every day we passed an accident, saw a near accident, or a wrecked car.

Once we got to Hollywood Beach, Lucy and Ela got out of the car as we searched for parking. Camilla had assumed that Lucy was still mad at her from earlier and so she did not try to tag along, saving us from awkward “no wait, stay with us… erm.. because..” and such. They went ahead to set up the party. Because I had not been to the store, I myself had no idea what to expect. When we went looking for them on the beach, I noticed that the lifeguard tower they were on had been wrapped with caution tape. I was worried it might be rickety and unsafe. As I got closer I noticed it said GIRLS GONE WILD. Still I did not clue in. Only as I rounded the corner and saw Ela and Lucy wearing little pink glittery cowboy hats that said “party posse” did I finally clue in.

To celebrate we gave Camilla a sash to wear and a tiara with a veil. We sat on the tower and ate red velvet cake and fruit. To counter all the sweet, we munched on popcorn. We talked and had music playing. We also had on our matching shirts, made to commemorate the trip and 15 years of official friendship. There was no way we were going to spend the entire evening sitting up there on the guard tower. We simply had to walk the boardwalk, plus we had to go refill the parking meter too. Camilla got a lot of congratulations and one very confused happy birthday. One guy tried to high-five us and at the last minute I reciprocated. He seemed a bit taken aback. He returned later and asked us if we partied. We said it was a hen party, ladies only. Another guy offered to give us all a ride on his bike, which made me picture a ridiculous high-wire circus act.

We walked by Ben & jerry’s and I could not help myself. Even though I had been eating cookies and cake, I found myself ordering a kid-sized scoop of Phish Food. It’s just that good. I noticed that they had candles for sale, but I don’t love Ben & Jerry’s enough to spend $7 on a small candle.

Back at the house we put our mini cowboy hats on our chicken hats and had a good meta-laugh. We rounded out the evening with a game of Kolejka. As usual, on our last night there we stayed up late.

 

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Florida 2015- The 15 Year Reunion- Day 5

Tues. June 9, 2015:

I woke up at 8am and decided it was way too early to be awake, even if I was on vacation. Even at 9am no one else was awake. At about 9:30 I got bored and got out of bed. There was no point in waiting around for everyone else to wake up and maybe go with me on a coffee run. I tore open my Dunkin’ Donuts caramel coffee cake coffee and brewed a cup. Things soon got interesting. There was an iguana in the yard and Przemek thought he could sneak up on it. As the iguana got near the lake, Przemek got brave and approached it. With that it whipped its tail and slid into the water. Przemek thankfully was just barely far enough away to not get hit.

I sat around not doing much of anything, sipping my coffee and waiting for everyone to get ready. We were heading back to Miami because Ela had work that evening. We did not manage to leave until 1pm, the more people involved the harder it is to coordinate. On the way we stopped at Dunkin’ Donuts, as it had been a few hours now since my last coffee. I caved and ordered an Oreo iced coffee. It was not very good, as the syrup did not mix well and had amassed at the bottom. Rather than each give into our cravings, Marianne and I split a Chips Ahoy cream donut- each bite was heavenly. The cream in the middle was like cookie icing. As we waited for our drinks, a guy tried to start prophesying to us about crossfit, but Ela shut him down by saying it is too complicated to explain in such a short amount of time.

The drive to Miami was not nearly as bad as the previous day, plus I was nursing a coffee and coffee makes everything better. We hung out at Ela’s apartment for a while, having lunch and then playing Bananagrams. We were waiting out the rain storm. When it showed no signs up of letting up we headed out. The thunder had passed, now it was just light rain and we were not going to let that dampen our plans.

We drove to South Beach, I was really excited about getting to gawk at the art deco hotels. On the way we passed by giant million dollar mansions, that brought to mind yachts full of bricks of cocaine and rap stars singing. This daytrip had not been planned out, it was a last minute addition as we needed to drive Ela to Miami to work and find something to do until she was done. The art deco hotels brought to mind the video game GTA: Vice City. One of the highlights of the walk was seeing Versace’s house. Their mom went up to the m’aitre d to confirm if in fact it was the house. Before she could finish her sentence he confirmed, apparently everyone asks him about it. The rain soon let up and once we were done the art deco walk we walked back along the beach. Along the way we saw the funniest thing ever. There was a guy taking selfies with a selfie-stick. These were no ordinary selfies, oh no. These were epic. He would lounge provocatively in the sand as the waves washed over him. He also took some underwater selfies, complete with sunglasses.

We grabbed our blankets from the car and sat on the beach. It was nice to just sit back and relax, especially because my legs were sore from walking for so long along the beach coupled with the workout from a few days before. This did not last very long, as on the horizon there were big dark storm clouds closing in. Off in the distance there were flashes of lightning. We watched the clouds come closer, you could see it raining far away. At some point the clouds seemed to part over one lone ship on the ocean.

On the way back we stopped because there was a lizard on the fence, just beckoning to be photographed. How could I resist? He was totally working it for my camera. It was more of a success than when I tried to photograph the lightning. I took a bunch of photographs and not one had a streak of lightning.

For dinner we went to a restaurant near Ela’s apartment that they swear by. Yambo is a Nicaraguan restaurant, where everyone only speaks Spanish. We resorted to just pointing at what we wanted from the hot table. For $6 I got an incredible amount of food, easily 2-3 meals worth. The fried chicken was amazing and the pieces were huge. The beans were overly salty though. I had a bite of fried cheese and it was amazing, I did not know that cheese could taste that good. We all ended up with leftovers, which was good because that meant breakfast was taken care of.

Back at the apartment we settled in and played some more Bananagrams and watched Friends on Netflix on my iPad. Camilla, Ela and Lucy went clubbing when Ela got back from work. I was not having it, I have been clubbing once in Miami and that was more than enough for me. I had fun staying in and playing another round of Bananagrams with Marianne. However we only lasted for one game, as we were both exhausted.

 

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Florida 2013- Day 6

Tues. June 18, 2013:

My first thought of the day: I could really go for some key lime pie. There was no Fudgey The Whale left, I had to eat regular food for breakfast. Marianne mentioned that she knows a good place with an awesome key lime pie, the official state dessert. We were all very groggy, everyone dragging their collective butts. We did not make it out of the house until noon, not good when your destination is the beach, Ft. Lauderdale beach to be exact, the tackiest, tourist beach of the trip. We were partly distracted by the fact that we had all started taking our sunglasses off and making dramatic CSI: Miami faces while giggling madly. We stopped at Dunkin’ Donuts in order to further fuel the giddy mood. Sunglass-taking-off ensued on the patio with our coffees. It had taken a few days, but I had managed to get everyone thoroughly addicted to Dunkin’ Donuts, no longer was I alone in my maniacal pursuit of a semi-good cup of coffee.

We stopped at a gas station/post office so Camilla and Lucy could mail their postcards (as opposed to just handing them over the next day when we were back in Canada). I took the opportunity to shop for some candy, my vacation self was in full swing and was hankering for some sugar. I ended up buying Surf & Turf nerds (tropical flavours) and Now & Later candies, but I decided to save them for Brent as a souvenir (though I came close to eating them a few times).

June 18, 2013- Florida P&S (1)

Coffee in hand we embarked on the beach. The flags by the lifeguard tower warned of jellyfish and a medium strength current, further adding to my case that the ocean is mean. Cheezers (stuffed rat, mascot sort of) joined us for our beach day. We hung him in a bag from one of the umbrellas (it’s much cuter than it sounds).

June 18, 2013- Florida P&S (3)

I went in for a bit while Marianne stayed back with our stuff- and I came right back out after about 10 minutes. I had tilted my head back so as to soak it without getting salt water in my eyes, only a giant wave came by and hit me in the face… while my head was tilted back. Let’s just leave it at having your sinuses irrigated with ocean water is HORRIBLE. I retreated to the safety of dry land and lay about on my towel moping while my eyes and sinuses burned.

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I cheered up once lunch time rolled around; we had packed burritos and mango salsa: who could be mopey?! Their mom had made the burritos for us the night before; they were so good I actually made a note to myself in my notebook to get the recipe later. Having refueled, they set about digging a giant hole; I parked my chair nearby and pretended to be the site supervisor. The supervisor should never leave the site, when I returned I found that they had instead decided to bury Camilla and Ela to their shoulders. Camilla and Ela were even helping bury each other! I wondered how long I was gone for?!

I went back to the ocean again, this time just to round up the troops, this time only walking along the edge but even then the ocean was mean: the current was strong and kept trying to knock me over. It was amusing however to see the others get knocked down. We packed up the car and got changed to go for a walk along the tourist strip. On my way back from the bathrooms some people asked me how to use the parking meter, implying that I was a local- it felt so good.

As we walked along I commented that something smelled like Parmesan cheese, we turned and there was a garbage truck stinking to high heavens of cheese. It was all the same version of the souvenir shop and a couple of tacky restaurants interspersed, very quickly it got old, as if were walking in place. On the way back I noticed a self-serve frozen yogurt, ice cream and frozen custard shop. My eyes lit up, I love frozen custard and cannot find it in Toronto (as in close by).  I dragged everyone inside. It turns out the sign was a lie; there was no frozen custard on offer. I was about to leave, but the guy had suckered everyone else in with little sample cups! I said my heart was broken that there was no frozen custard and he proceeded to insult frozen custard saying it was just frozen yogurt with more fat. I wanted to leave, alas by then we were in the “gotta buy something” guilt zone. We literally caved, one by one. I was going to get one and share but as soon as I turned around half the group had caved, and then the rest followed suit. So much for our plans of going to Menchie’s in the evening. It was good, but not as good as Menchie’s- and nowhere near as good as frozen custard.

We stopped at Dunkin’ Donuts for yet more caffeine as we were planning on staying up really late; it was our last night in Florida. The lemonade donut was delicious, but not as good as the key lime pie one. We sat on the patio and yet again had a giggle fit while taking off/putting on our sunglasses. The people who work there must’ve thought we were nuts because we made daily trips there, sometimes a few times a day and of course we held up the line when one of us (it varied) had no idea what to get. In keeping with the spirit of giddy merriment, we kept taking off/putting on our sunglasses in the car.

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After much shaking, wiping etc.. I still could not get all the sand off of me. It was a terrible mess, sunscreen and sand do not mix, or else they mix too well. I couldn’t shower yet as we still had a bonfire planned, a messy affair between all the smoke and gooey marshmallows. We got the fire going after 10pm, but it took a while to get it really burning. Everything was damp from the humidity but all of a sudden (thanks to the banana leaves we threw in) it ignited into a huge roaring fire. It was too hot, my first marshmallow caught on fire. The second one only ended up lightly toasted, as I was afraid of it catching on fire again.

Stinking of smoking and sweat, we retreated back inside to make bread. Florida is hot even at 11 at night. While we waited for the dough to rise we watched sunglasses clips of CSI:Miami resulting in a terrible laughing fit. We started making our own puns and this somehow resulted in a joke about an alternate universe wherein my double puts on weight no matter what she eats, even if she exercises (everyone had by now seen the full extent to which my hungry-vacation-self can eat). Once the laughter subsided we took the brief moment of quiet and posed for a recreation of a photograph taken 10 years ago at the cottage, when we first started eating campfire smores (now a staple in our diet). The quiet did not last very long.

The cats were attacking a palmetto bug and we all freaked out, as they were just batting it, not maiming and killing it. We had to take matters into our own hands, I especially wanted it smooshed as I was convinced it was the one that had dropped down on me from a vent a few days before. We put a paper towel over it and dropped the cooler on it. Then Ela sat on the cooler. When we lifted it, the bug was still “3D” as someone had yelled. More screaming ensued, as it tried to run away, we repositioned the paper towel and dropped Kuchnia Polska (giant Polish cookbook, about the size of a bible) on it with a loud THUD. The evil bug was dead, the cats were confused and we were all hoarse.

June 18, 2013- Florida P&S (28)

The midnight crazies (see above) were clearly in full swing. They were also hungry for sugar, for key lime pie specifically. I had never had key lime pie before, though I had eaten key lime: donut, cookie, ice cream, yogurt, frozen yogurt, and cheesecake. I could finally add pie to that list. It was delicious and refreshing. It felt so fancy and civilized to be sitting there, eating a fancy pie and sipping tea. Never mind what had happened in the kitchen less than 5 minutes before.

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My feet were starting to hurt; I looked down and to my horror realized: I had forgotten to put sunscreen on the tops of them. My sunburn was kicking in. I had also missed the base of my rib cage. It all hurt like hell. It was not the kind of souvenir I had intended to bring home with me.

It was closing in on 2am and everyone was starting to lose steam. We did not have a midnight Dunkin’ Donuts run, maybe that was it? Or the screaming and bug smooshing took a lot of energy. Either way we were crashing, and fast. We were past the point of no return, it was sleepytime.

 

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Florida 2013- Day 4

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.

June 16, 2013- Florida (2)

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.

June 16, 2013- Florida (177)

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.

June 16, 2013- Florida (191)

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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Florida 2013- Day 3

Sat. June 15, 2013:

After breakfast, Marianne, Camilla and I headed out to Dunkin’ Donuts. Alas, we barely made it to the end of the street before we got distracted by a garage sale. It was terrible, I couldn’t buy anything lest I have to mail it to myself or God forbid check my luggage. It was unbelievably hot; Camilla and I took to hiding in the garage by the fan “looking” at antiques for sale. There was a giant alarm clock (the old kind with two bells on top) twice the size of a regular one, as in too big to fit in my luggage. Marianne headed back to her house with all her purchases, meanwhile Camilla and I set out to Dunkin’ Donuts. Nothing was going to stop me from having my coffee fix.

We stopped at Publix (grocery store) so I could also get my Swiss Miss fix. I had pre-planned my packing so I would have room for it. I was also curious to see if they had Fudgey The Whale ice cream cakes in stock, as we would be needing one later in the week for our every-birthday-graduation-special occasion-we-have-missed-in-3 years celebration. They did not have any, but they had fudge-covered coconut Oreos alas I feared they would not survive the trek back to the house. While walking down the juice aisle a guy mentioned to us that it was too hot outside for walking. What gave us away?! Was it our flushed faces? The sweat dripping down our backs? The fact that we were desperately searching for refreshment in the juice aisle? As per my usual routine, we stopped at 7-Elevens so that I could check if any new candy had come out since March, sadly nothing new. And no sign of peanut butter Reese Cups either.

June 15, 2013- P&S (2)

After all the detours we FINALLY made it to Dunkin’ Donuts. My coffee was accompanied by a free donut thanks to a survey at the bottom of my receipt from the previous day. I made the mistake of getting the star-shaped (as in easy to cut into 5 pieces) Father’s Day donut. It was a mistake because it has chocolate on top, not conducive with walking in Florida at high noon. As we walked back we had to cross over the canal where we saw 10 or so turtles lounging in the sun. They appeared to have been there for a while; a few of them had algae growing on their backs. There was what appeared to be a mother bird feeding her baby, sitting underneath her. However when we got closer we realized it was two full grown birds and one had just wedged its way underneath the other (a double-decker bird of sorts) to get at the good stalks of grass in the most awkward pose. We found a hermit crab shell the size of my palm too.

June 15, 2013- P&S (3)

Right as we got to the house, everyone was heading for the car. Turns out we’d been gone for a while and they were going to drive over and pick us up. Marianne and I headed over to Kinko’s while Camilla and Ela were at the library (Lucy had stayed behind). We had wanted to get t-shirt transfers printed but apparently no one uses inkjet printers anymore and we were out of luck. We spent the afternoon chilling at the library, basking in the air conditioned comfort. Writing in my notebook at the library, it felt so scholarly. Adding to that feeling was that we needed to research some clubs to go to in South Beach Miami, as that was the plan for the evening.

We stopped at Wal-Mart to get lunch supplies, alas no signs of Fudgey the Whale. I was starting to get worried; thankfully there were two Carvel locations nearby. After lunch I had a nice relaxing afternoon: I fell asleep on the couch reading. I woke up and had some more coffee. I grabbed the white jug from the fridge and poured what I thought was milk… only it was orange. Turns out I was still groggy, as I had poured orange juice in my coffee. Worse still, I completely forgot about it! About 20 minutes later when my coffee had cooled a bit (instant coffee=boiling hot) I took a sip and thought it tasted kind of like someone had been dunking IKEA cookies in it (orange ginger snaps). It took a few sips before I remembered what had happened.

I had the most delicious epic Eggo for my post-nap snack. I piled it with: peanut butter, almond butter and cranberry preserves. The Eggo wasn’t enough; I was still voraciously hungry so we took to making a pizza. At this point we had about an hour before we planned to leave- and we still had no idea which club we were going to. I had made the unfortunate mistake of getting ready too quickly and was now stuck sitting around waiting. I ended up falling asleep on the couch again.

We finally managed to get our butts close to out the door when we had to stop for mandatory picture taking. It turned silly really quickly. We had decided on Treehouse Club as it was recommended by Marianne’s friend and we trusted her more than the internet. We got there and it wasn’t open yet, we were told that it opened at 11:30pm. We had about 45 minutes of time to kill. We went to the fancy restaurant next door to use the bathrooms, glanced at the menu and left. We wandered around a nearby Walgreens, where I found some earmuffs for sale. There is nothing you need more in Florida than big fuzzy earmuffs to keep your ears warm. In the end we stood outside of Walgreens eating Pringles, super classy. A cabby yelled “hot asses” at us as we walked back. When we got there we found out it wasn’t open, even though the internet said it would be. We asked the valets at the restaurant next door where the nearest club was. They pointed down the street to a club, Mokai, which we had passed about 4 times now. We shrugged and decided to go for it, even though we had seen people trying to weasel their way in before and everyone was way more fancily dressed than us. The owner wouldn’t let us in at first because two of us were wearing flats. After much wheedling and excuse making we finally got in. The place was empty and creepy, it was ritzy meets skanky. There was no dance floor, just booths with bottle service and the drinks started around the $18 mark, with a shot of vodka coming in at $20. We left by the back entrance so as to avoid the owner. I joked about walking by the front again and pretending not to know him, but no one was game. They wanted to dance.

The next club on our list was Buck-15 and it was only about a 20 minute walk. We almost missed it as it was on a small side street. We arrived promptly at midnight, like Cinderella but with two shoes and no pumpkin. There was no cover, so already I liked the place. We went in and it was just a shitty little hole in the wall with rafters above the dance floor. It was about the size of a living room… and it was awesome, and also very hipster but I could live with that. There was no one in the bar; we had the place to ourselves. Alas the DJ was spinning 90s R&B so it was a little awkward to say the least. Eventually some overdressed girls came in, but they just stood around the bar, so not fun. The dance floor was ours and we took to it. We broke out all the best dance moves: the pterodactyl, the shopping for cans, the microwave, and the octopus. As the night wore on people actually started arriving, the music changed to more current stuff (with the occasional 80s-90s songs). At one point Journey came on and the club turned into a karaoke lounge with everyone belting it out. The music got louder and the songs got better, hitting an all-time high with a song from the Spice Girls. There was a stripper pole by the DJ booth and everyone stopped dancing to cheer on the guy in jeans who went up there. He gets bonus points for trying to dance while still holding his drink.

The low-hanging rafters were fun. So many people tried doing pull-ups. It was hilarious to watch the girls try and just hang there, it’s not easy mind you, but I at least pulled myself half way up. The rafters also served as a great place to keep our drinks. That is until a creepy guy started inching his way over and kept his drink right beside ours, acting all shifty. I stared him down and we abandoned our drinks. He migrated to the other side of the club and just stood there, watching us dance.  Every time we tried to leave another good song would come on and we would “stay for just this one last song.” This went on for a few hours. We finally gave up and headed out around 3:30am. My feet were killing me and I ended up walking back barefoot.

Being the only other sober person other than the designated driver (Marianne) I automatically got shotgun in the car. I did not want to be back there, it was giddy and loud and I felt old. Some classic lines from the backseat that night:

“Whose feet smell?”
“Not mine, they smell like angels!”

“I’m going to drunk text [insert name]”
“Ohh, I’m going to drunk text [insert cat’s name]”

They were planning out drunk texts, smelling feet and dropping granola bars. Marianne and I laughed that they wouldn’t remember any of it and we could paint them a wonderful story the next morning. Things went from loud and giddy to silent. They had all fallen asleep. As we drove back there were a few psychos speeding down the interstate going at least twice as fast as us and it was 4am! I finally climbed into bed somewhere around 5am. The sleep did not last too long as I awoke to find a cat nose-to-nose with me, staring at me upside down. I was on an air mattress on the floor and he was standing behind me.

 
 

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Florida 2013- Day 1

Thurs. June 13, 2013:

Booking an 8am flight seemed like such a great idea at the time. As far as I saw it, my sisters and I would arrive in Florida (state 27 for those of you keeping count) at 11am with plenty of time to enjoy a full day of fun.  About a day before did it dawn on me how early we would be waking up at.

We got a ride to Kipling subway where we were supposed to catch the bus to the airport. Small problem: the subway station itself was not open yet. The only way you could get to the bus platform was by being on a bus. What else could we do? We snuck in by walking up the driveway where the buses enter the subway station.

At Pearson I finally managed to get to the Tim Horton’s I had always seen through the glass but could never access. However I had assumed I would not be able to get to it, so I had gotten coffee before we checked in. I was not about to break my not-using-the-airplane-bathroom streak over a not-so-great cup of coffee.

June 13, 2013- Florida P&S (1)

On the flight I tried watching Full Metal Jacket (the yelling sergeant got on my nerves) and Identity Thief but lost interest in both really quickly. I resorted to reading and having the location map on in the background. The map provided me with more entertainment than it should have. I giggled when I saw that our plane was heading straight for a place called Hazard, or at the idea of there really being a place called Cat Island.

My first view of Florida was an empty flat plain of nothing (which I was later told was the Everglades- my bad). I had hoped to see Cuba from the plane as we turned towards Ft. Lauderdale (the map made it seem so close) alas all I saw was lightening off in the distance- more than mildly disconcerting. As soon as we stepped off the plane we could feel the hot muggy air, the humidity just clung to you. I was overjoyed when I saw a Dunkin’ Donuts, I thought for sure I would be without on this trip. My joy turned to sorrow when I saw that there was a boil water alert out for the county and thus no coffee was being served. My heart sank- but only for a moment- as we wandered through baggage claim, unsure of where to meet our friends, Marianne ran up behind us with a hug attack (Ela had to stay with the car).

As we left the airport a green parrot flew by and landed on a sign behind which storm clouds loomed. No sooner were we on the highway did the sky tear open and rain start pouring. Apparently June is the rainy season in Florida- which explains why the tickets were so cheap. We passed a billboard: Your wife is hot, better get your AC fixed– hilarious. We settled in and sat down to our first meal together in almost three years, of course we had super-duper spaghetti (a staple in our diet).

June 13, 2013- Florida P&S (4)

We watched movies until the rain stopped (thankfully rainy season in Florida means it rains for about an hour or two then clears up). We walked to the back of their neighbourhood to an abandoned housing development called Camelot Estates. I was instantly entranced and ventured off on my own with my photographer’s hat on. It was great, there was one giant model home that had been built and all around it there was open land and the foundations of one house and a project development office. We tried all the doors, alas they were locked. There was an ibis sitting (rather uncomfortably it seemed) on a fence by the canal. We saw a heron by the lake but he got scared of us and flew away which is just as well, I got to photograph him in flight.

June 13, 2013- Florida z (83)

Walking back we met their neighbour who guessed that my sister and I were from out of the country. Marianne and Ela asked if maybe their dad had mentioned to her that we’d be over, trying to figure out how she knew. She claimed to be psychic, one of us (I will not name names) scoffed and she looked at us with a straight face and assured us she was really a psychic. We mused about what actually gave us away (how uncomfortable we were in the heat? Our accents? Our paleness?).

June 13, 2013- Florida z (2)

It was hot and muggy, we were sticky and gross. It was time to head out to the pool for a cool down. It was nice and relaxing to sit by the pool and read. A lizard came up beside my chair and stuck his throat-skin-flap out. When I tried to take a picture he ran behind the chair where he proceeded to eat bugs. After a while of reading I actually got cold. That’s right, sitting on the deck in Florida at 7 in the evening- I GOT COLD. I actually had goose bumps.

June 13, 2013- Florida P&S (24)

We wrapped up the day with a very Polish kolacja (evening supper) of potato latkes and pickled herring. I know it sounds gross, but it was delicious. I won’t even go into the details of our potato latke toppings (Nutella, maple syrup or cranberry preserves) but the cranberries won.

 
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Posted by on June 21, 2013 in The Roving Reporter, Travel

 

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