Tag Archives: road trip

Atlanta Road Trip

Seeing as how I wrote a post about bucket list activities, Hubby and I decided to start crossing a few more things off our list. We normally go on a 7-8 day trip in the beginning of May but this year scheduling conflicts only allowed for a 4 day trip in June. We went to Jamaica for 4 days, which really wasn’t long enough because 2 of those days were travel days, so it didn’t actually feel like we had a vacation.  When we got back we started planning another trip for the end of summer, when Hubby was between summer courses and the fall course.  We had the hardest time deciding where to go! Back to Jamaica? Back to  the Florida Keys, or maybe just Key West?  I know, I know…Talk about a Champagne Problem…But still, it took some serious discussion. Then we decided to do something we had never done, and something we had always wanted to do. Go diving in the aquarium in Atlanta. The Georgia Aquarium is amazing. It’s #1 in the US, and it’s the largest aquarium in the world. The main attraction? WHALE SHARKS.

Two of the Four giants together
Two of the Four giants together

They have 4 whale sharks in a 6.3 million gallon aquarium, along with 2 Manta Rays and about 5,994 other fish, rays, and sharks. The whale sharks were originally rescued from sale to the fish market in Thailand. They had been trapped in a net ready to be sold, when the Georgia Aquarium showed up and purchased the sharks, loaded them up, and literally shipped them via UPS to Georgia. Seriously.

Anyway, we didn’t want to spend the whole time in the car, so we spent the first night in New Orleans. What was supposed to be a 5 hour drive turned into about a 9 hour drive. So much for not spending the whole time in the car. But it was due to unforeseen circumstances. As soon as we got into Louisiana my low tire pressure light came on. And that was bad news, seeing as how I had new tires put on 2 days before. Luckily we were able to find a shop that was open past 5 pm (what a concept!) and he was able to patch the tire. Of course, this was backwoods Louisiana, so the mechanic had never seen a Prius before! He didn’t know how to turn the car on, or put it into park. Hubby had to talk his through it. Then once he got it onto the lift he climbed out of the car and said to his buddies, “this car ain’t got no engine! It runs on battery!”

Once he patched the tire and we were off, we ended up in construction traffic for HOURS. They really have no idea what they are doing in Louisiana. The drivers feel like they have to drive 20 MPH when there is a closed off lane, and the construction crews set up MILES of cones and close off the lane when they aren’t doing anything even remotely close to the area. We ran into this type of traffic probably 3 times. It was awful. We finally got to our hotel at midnight and didn’t even have the energy to leave our room. We ate a quick dinner of sandwiches in our room, had a couple beers that we brought with us, (we travel on the cheap) and went to bed.

Comparing beignets at different cafes in New Orleans
Comparing beignets at different cafes in New Orleans

The next morning we headed to Pensacola, Florida. The idea had been to possibly find a dive shop in Pensacola, but we didn’t really have the time and the weather wasn’t great while we were there either, so we didn’t do much. I took some photos on the beach that night, we did some shopping, and we went for a run the next morning before heading to Atlanta.

Crab and Shrimp Mac-n'-cheese in Pensacola
Crab and Shrimp Mac-n’-cheese in Pensacola
Future Crafting ideas - Pelican made out of driftwood
Future Crafting ideas – Pelican made out of driftwood
Future Crafting ideas - Crab made out of driftwood
Future Crafting ideas – Crab made out of driftwood
Sunset in Pensacola
Sunset in Pensacola
Pier at night in Pensacola
Pier at night in Pensacola

I didn’t get a picture of it, but our hotel in Atlanta was literally next door to Turner Field, where the Atlanta Braves play. I don’t really care about baseball, so that’s probably why I didn’t get a picture, but it was pretty neat, nonetheless. We walked around the stadium, watched a drunk guy stumbling down the sidewalk as he left the game that had just ended, and then headed to the restaurant next door to get some Georgia BBQ. It was good, but of course, it wasn’t nearly as good as The Salt Lick. Texas BBQ always wins.

The next morning we got to the aquarium when they opened and pretty much had the place to ourselves. The first thing we did was head to the giant tank where we would be diving, and we watched as divers fed the whale sharks.

Divers feed the whale sharks krill from a squeeze bottle for training purposes
Divers feed the whale sharks krill from a squeeze bottle for training purposes

It was so neat to watch!

I took SO MANY PICTURES. It’s unreal. But everything was amazing to see, and I wanted to capture it all. Here are a few more shots I took in the aquarium…

We weren’t allowed to bring cameras into the aquarium on the dive, but you can imagine that it was pretty F-ing spectacular. We were able to swim up to the glass and play patty-cake and paper-scissors-rock-lizard-Spock with the people standing on the other side, and get up close to several different species of sharks, rays, and (other) fish. I wanted to pet them SO BAD. One of my favorite things to do is feed the sting rays at various aquariums that offer that, where you can pet the sting rays as long as they allow it. It took all my strength to NOT pet the rays and sharks in the tank, but that was the only rule they had for us on the dive, and I was not about to break the rule and get kicked out of the dive. I was so determined to NOT be the one to end the dive early, that I was trying my hardest to not even breathe while I was down there, for fear of running out of air and causing the dive to be over! For those of you that aren’t divers, when you are diving with a group, you dive until either a certain amount of time has passed, or until the first person is low on air. Once someone signals that they are low on air, EVERYONE in the group has to end the dive, as a safety precaution so that no one gets left behind.

After the dive we headed back to the hotel. We were pooped from being at the aquarium all day. The next morning we got up and headed to Zoo Atlanta. We were some of the first people in the door (again) and headed straight for the panda exhibit! We don’t have pandas in Texas, so we watched the two 2-year-old sisters wrestle in true WWF fashion.

They have a HUGE gorilla exhibit and we got to watch the infant gorillas climb and play while the adults lounged in the grass.

Baby hanging out with Mom.
Baby hanging out with Mom.

We were done at the zoo in the late morning, so then we headed back down to New Orleans for our last night on the road. This time we were spending a night in a super old hotel with a balcony, just a couple blocks from the French Market, in a perfect location.

We went out onto Bourbon Street for a little bit, but honestly, that street stresses me out way too much to enjoy it, so we didn’t spend a lot of time there. We had a drink at the Carousel Bar, then went to Cafe du Monde to get beignets and coffee before heading back to our hotel that night.

Finally, on the last day of our trip, we got up and went to Belle’s Diner for breakfast and hit the French Market for some Christmas and “Thanks-for-watching-our-house” gifts. And we saw Andrew Zimmern filming a new episode of his show!

Andrew Zimmern, host of Bizzare Foods, filming a new episode
Andrew Zimmern, host of Bizzare Foods, filming a new episode
Andrew Zimmern, filming in front of the famous St. Louis Cathedral in New Orleans
Andrew Zimmern, filming in front of the famous St. Louis Cathedral in New Orleans

All in all, it was a great trip. I was ready to be home and sleep in my own bed and play with my dogs, but I would have been just as happy staying on the road forever. It was so relaxing.

St. Louis Cathedral
St. Louis Cathedral

Underwater Adventure, Part 3

Driving half way across the country takes a lot of time, but the benefit is you get to see things along the way that you would normally just fly right over.

Crystal River was one of those places. It’s pretty much smack in the middle of the state, far from any airport, so it’s not even a day trip. But it’s worth it.

Baby manatee nursing on momma manatee!

Because you get to swim with manatees.

Look at that widdle iddy biddy face!

Yes, this entire trip was centered around either education, or wildlife (or both). So?

Manatees swarm the Crystal River area, and the entire town has totally accepted this. You see Manatee Bowling, Manatee Laundry, Manatee Diner, etc. But it is amazingly inexpensive to go swim with the Manatees, and it’s perfectly legal, and not at all frowned upon (see previous post). In this instance, I would do this over and over again, with no hesitation (except maybe if I didn’t have a thick wetsuit. That water was COLD!)

The viewing of manatees is regulated by the US Fish and Wildlife Department, because they are a Federally Listed Endangered Species. So for example, you are allowed to touch them if they come up to you, but if it is on the river bottom you are not allowed to go down to it. That is considered harassment.

Yep, that’s me. Petting a 2-month old baby manatee. Jealous much?

The money brought in to see them in the wild goes towards conservation of the species, and it educates people about them, so it’s pretty much a win-win!

The group we used was great, too. They let us swim as much as we wanted, and even when we were about to leave the boat captain saw another manatee and a baby, and let us jump back into the water! It was such a great experience for us, that we even suggested it to my sister and her husband on their trip to Florida that they took a few months ago, and they had a great time, too!

This was a really great way to end our Florida Adventure, but all it ever really does is make us want to go back again that much sooner!

Underwater Adventure, part 2

As I stated in a previous post, Hubby and I have started going to Florida every year as our summer vacation. We did it as a road trip this year, and drove all the way to Key Largo. It was a very long trip, and once we got to Key Largo, the days kind of blended together.

Our goal for this trip was not just diving, but to get our Rescue Diver certification. This is a lot of work going through drills and scenarios, and the weather was not exactly cooperating, so it was pretty exhausting.

We got to see Jesus-

And tons of undersea creatures!

School of Parrot Fish (can you spot the Grouper?)

We learned a lot, but we were also able to have a lot of fun while we were doing it, and we became pretty close with the dive crew, too!

Part of the Pirate Island Divers Scuba team!

On days when the weather was too choppy to go out on the boat, we went into town to explore. We found the History of Diving Museum-

Historic diving instruments

And what has to be the World’s Largest Carribbean Lobster-

And we had the chance to swim with a nurse shark!

Now, I have mixed emotions about this, but not for the reasons that you might think (unless you know me that well). See, on the one hand, I absolutely love predators so I jumped at the chance to be able to see one up close and touch one. But on the other hand, purposefully habituating predators to associate humans with food is a dangerous idea. Although the shark was perfectly calm and let us rub all over her, we were there to do that. If another diver is there and decides to harrass the shark, she will let the diver get much closer than a non-habituated shark would let him get, before she had to react. And by that time, because of the close contact, the shark would bite rather than swim away (Fight or Flight response). If a person gets bit by a shark, that shark is hunted down and killed. This exact thing is why the dive master for this trip told us he used to have 7 sharks that would come up, and now he’s down to 1. He says that it’s because other dive shops are jealous of his sharks or something, which makes no sense. In actuality, it’s because the sharks were deamed a danger to divers. If these sharks were in an enclosed habitat, I would do it all the time! But because they are wild sharks that are habituated, I will never do this dive again. (Not only this, but the dive crew (Not the same crew we usually dive with) sucked so bad I gave them a horrible review on TripAdvisor.

We had an amazing trip, as I know we will every year. We have actually already booked our plane tickets for our next trip, and we are about to book our hotel! I look forward to those beautiful Key Largo Sunsets everyday. The only problem with them, is that they mean we have one less day in Key Largo.

But, that also meant we were one day closer to the third part of this adventure…

Underwater Adventure, Days 1 and 2

Every summer, Hubby and I go on a SCUBA adventure.  It started with our Honeymoon in the Florida Keys in 2011, and we were instantly planning our return trip the next summer. (Yes, I know I said we do this every year, but this also means every future year as well). This past May we decided to drive to Key Largo instead of fly, because plane tickets were outrageous. I have a Prius, so we literally MADE money on that drive (not literally).

The beauty of driving somewhere instead of flying, is you get to see so many things along the way.  We ate most of our dinners as picnics, so instead of spending a bunch of money on restaurants, we spent the money on diving and adventure! Our first night was spent at a road-side park in Alabama, and then we drove in to Clear Water, Florida. I had to go to the Clear Water Aquarium to go see Winter, and Hubby and I love to go to aquariums whenever we get a chance. I have to say, I wish I had seen the aquarium BEFORE the movie was made. They really commercialized the place.

Movie Prop

Every little thing was marked, “a scene was shot here”, or “movie prop”. It got obnoxious. But we were the first ones there in the morning, so we got the best parking spot there was!

Best Spot in Town

And good thing we did, because when we left, we saw this:

It was a cool place to see though – the aquarium rehabilitates sea turtles and houses turtles that can’t be released due to injuries, they had a sting ray feeding tank, which I was ALL OVER, and they had some river otters (not sure why, but they were cute) and one of them was paralyzed from the waist down.

He got along great, and he was a pretty funny guy.  I thought he was chewing on the hole in the divider wall…

apparently, he was licking it, instead.

And of course, we saw Winter!

Some guy was really upset with the employees at the aquarium. We heard him say something along the lines of, “is this all Winter does?! I thought there was going to be, like a Winter Show or something?!” I wanted to pull him aside and say, “You know she doesn’t have a TAIL, right? You understand that it’s kind of miraculous that the vets could save her, RIGHT?! What else do you want from her?”

So as any good tour does, it ended in the gift shop! I didn’t buy anything, but I REALLY wanted this!

GET IT?!

Anyway, after our time in Clear Water, we headed to Key Largo, my favorite city in the world! And we went to Breezer’s, with the best bartender in the world!! Simply because my mango daiquiris are always over flowing when he makes them 🙂

And we watched the most beautiful sunsets in the world! Ahh…Life is good in Key Largo.