Friday we said goodbye to Sanibel Island. It was a good day to leave -- after two utterly lovely days, it was now grey, foggy and about ten times as muggy as it had been. If we had to spend a full day in the car, this was the day to do it.
We drove down a bit, to Alligator Alley -- Route 75 across southern Florida. I was glad to be driving it during the day, because it would have been relentlessly monotonous otherwise: an incredibly straight highway, with wire fences on both sides. The only entertainment was getting to see the occasional alligator on the other side of the fence.
Our objective was Delray Beach, and specifically visiting my grandfather. Having lost three of my grandparents over the past two years, I especially wanted to see Grandpa Supnik. He turns out to be slowing down a little, but is generally in good health and spirits (and given that he was just a week shy of 90 years old, was willing to accept that slowing down a little was okay). I have to admit, he's actually looking better since Grandma passed away -- for the last few years, he'd basically been devoting every waking moment to her health care, and she had gotten senile enough to make the exercise pretty depressing. Now he's able to actually look outside a bit again.
(In general, I think he's doing better than Grandpa Waks was the last few years, partly because he's being more sensible about his age. By being just a little realistic, he isn't hurting himself, and is still managing to be fairly active. But I have to say, driving with him was just a smidgeon terrifying -- he still drives like the New Yorker he was raised as, and there was a small worry of whether his reflexes are still good enough for that particular sport.)
He took us out to Olive Garden for lunch; we had a fine ramble about family history, jobs and suchlike. Afterwards, we continued to ramble about family for another hour or so, and he showed us some of the files he's putting together. He's very conscious of being the last of his generation, and wants to make sure that he organizes some history while he can.
After leaving Grandpa, we headed back north to Orlando again. While not quite as bad as Alligator Alley, this was still a pretty dull drive. The principal entertainment was counting Yeehaw billboards. This is a company that is apparently based in the improbably-named "Yeehaw Junction", and specializes in selling cut-rate tickets to the main venues in Orlando. Something like a third of all of the billboards on the Turnpike are for Yeehaw, and the first one promises discounts if you can manage to count them all. We had no interest in the discount, but were amused by the activity -- we counted 124 billboards that appeared to be for Yeehaw and its affiliates. (This was complicated, however, by the fact that several other companies have caught on to the success of this particular advertising campaign, and are designing their billboards in the same distinctive yellow-and-black block letters as Yeehaw.)
In the evening, we went briefly back to Universal Studios, for a specific shopping goal. (Fortunately, they don't charge for parking in the evening.) I had promised msmemory that, if she wanted, I would buy her a new ring from Elegant Illusions. This is a remarkably neat store, specializing in synthetic gemstones -- real gems, but laboratory-created rather than dug out of the ground. The result is very pretty jewelry at very reasonable prices. I had offered several days before, and she decided it sounded like fun. So I got her a big sapphire ring that normally wouldn't have been feasible. Very pretty...
We decided to finish the vacation back at Star Island, since our first couple of nights there had been so pleasant. This time, it was apparently an older room -- still quite nice (indeed, nearly identical to the first room in most respects), but with a few different details. (And no elevator -- one realizes how heavy one's suitcase is when one has to drag it up the stairs to the third floor.)
Saturday was going-home day. Sad, but every vacation must come to an end.
Before leaving Kissimmee, we took the opportunity to go to Krispy Kreme, a rare treat for us New Englanders in the heart of Dunkin territory. I discovered, to my dismay, that she doesn't like Krispy Kreme glazed donuts! Okay, I'll grant that they have so much fat that you can feel your arteries hardening with every bite -- still, it's rare for us to find a food we disagree on, and I think they're just luscious. Oh, well -- more for me...
Orlando Airport was a major hassle, and reminded us of why we'd flown out of Manchester in the first place. The TSA turned out to be wildly swamped with far more bags than they could actually check, and deeply disorganized -- we kept getting sent from person to person to deal with our bags. On the other hand, Continental's e-ticket system was once again very easy to deal with, giving them a major uptick in my opinion of the airline.
Dropping off the car was a mild disappointment, solely because I had to say goodbye to my toy for the vacation -- the Hertz Neverlost in-car navigation system. Overall, I thought that it worked pretty well -- not perfectly, but better than I'd expected. It has the entire AAA Guide in its memory, which was convenient on several occasions. And we had lots of fun torturing it -- deciding to go a different route than it had suggested, and seeing how it coped. (It really needs a "try another route" button.) The device is about the size of an overlarge PDA, with a big color screen. It gives the turns and such with voice prompting, but doesn't do names or numbers. The result isn't as good as a clueful navigator (she overrode its opinions several times), but better than nothing.
The flight home was mostly uneventful, except for one comment from the pilot as we headed from Cleveland to Manchester, and began to encounter the rain/snow line: "Folks, it looks like we're in for an hour of fun-filled aviation". Someone needs to tell him that the phrase "fun-filled aviation" really, really fails to comfort.
Thence home, driving through the plowings. Blessedly, Eliz had gotten our next-door neighbor (the contractor) to plow out my car, and he in turn subcontracted the unemployed guy across the street to dig out msmemory's. We'd had visions of getting home and finding the driveway (which is a divot exactly one car in size, with five-foot walls all around) simply one large snowbank.
And thus endeth the vacation. The motto for the week was, "We're not in a tearing hurry!", and I'm pleased that we mostly stuck to that. Relaxation isn't something we're good at, and it was much needed...