We load the van and head down the road. Half way to Georgia, Dayla’s daddy calls and wants to know where she left the spare key to her car.
“In my purse.” She lifts her purse.
So we turn around and drive back home to leave a key.
Take Two, we head down the road…
South Georgia has the strangest trees. Tall pine looking evergreens sport draping moss in the tops. A patch of them makes me think we have mistakenly driven through a portal and now we are on another planet…couldn’t get a picture of ones with moss. But I found out in the Bahamas that they are called Tropical Pines and they are fire proof and if you see them on an island it indicates there is abundant fresh water.
We did rent a book from Cracker Barrel to listen to as we drove. It is a tradition. The first book was so bad, we actually back tracked a mile and a half to the next Cracker Barrel to return it. We saw the Cracker Barrel sign as we passed it. Took the next exit and followed the road back. The huge sign rose from a clump of trees near the freeway, but we were sure the actual restaurant was with the hotels. So we turned into the hotel district thinking we could get to the Cracker Barrel from there. Only, there were no entries, no Cracker Barrel, no way to turn off the road. We drove a few blocks, then a few more and took the first right turn looking for that elusive road that would wind us back toward the hotels/Cracker Barrel. About a mile later, we turned down the first right, wound through a neighborhood, deep in a forest of tall evergreens. My inner radar kicked in and I started giving blind instructions. “Turn here…and now here…if I am right, the Cracker Barrel should be right there.” The trees parted and viola! Cracker Barrel! My daughter was so impressed with Mom’s super navigation power.
When we leave the hotel in Ocala, Florida the GPS warns us “there will be toll roads on this route.”
How bad can that be right? Excited to catch a glimpse of Orlando, maybe see the Disney Castle from the freeway or the dome of Epcot, we are confused when the only thing we see is a sign saying “Disney World exit here”. We looked around at concrete walls and the tops of palm trees. No sign of a city. Isn’t Orlando a big city? Shouldn’t we see something? A sky scraper? A city limits sign? Nope.
We finally get to our exit and the sign says, Speedy Pass only. We pull off thinking there will be another toll booth, but nope. Just signs that say, “violators will be prosecuted. Tolls enforced by camera, do not stop.”
So we drive through and wave at the camera, hoping that when they send our ticket in the mail we will have a chance to explain. Shouldn’t toll roads come with instructions? Maybe this toll road is a portal to a different planet?
We get to Palm Beach and drive straight to the Port Authority, or so our GPS says. But when we pull up- there are barbed wire fences and a gated entrance that looks very like a concentration camp. Containers are stacked around and cranes. No cruise line. We back up, slowy, with much trepidation, pound in new instructions to Gyspy, the GPS and turn around.
Gypsy is confused. So I open up the inner navigator super powers and we find a delightful little touristy place called Peanut Island. After we drive around a tiki pirate bar about four times, we ask a valet for instructions to the cruise ship Celebration. He points behind him and there it is. The biggest ship in sight. How could we miss it? We drive over to it and gain our bearings, figure out where to park and where to go to get boarding passes for when we come back on Tuesday. I begin to rest easy. We know where we are and there really is a ship called Celebration going to the Bahama’s on Tuesday.
It’s two AM. I sit in my hotel room in a near panic. What if the travel agency was a scam? What if there really is no cruise leaving for the Bahamas in 12 hours? What if we got played? What if…what if…what if…
Can you tell I have a hard time trusting? I spoke to Al, the travel agent in Ooltewah about fifty times as he planned this trip for us. We hashed out details and he told me I was very thorough and asked questions most people never think of. So I stopped
hounding er…calling him, after just a few more important questions and confirmations. (Poor Al, I’d send him a Christmas Card this year if I wasn’t worried that one more contact from me would push him over the edge and have him filing a harassment suit.)
So we took our voucher and confirmation numbers to Florida, drove by to look at the ship, asked where we would be parking, got a room a short drive away and now we wait. Excitement builds as we kill time in Palm Beach, get our Bahama’s pedicures, buy a hat and shades and dipped our painted toes in the hotel pool. Now, it is time to sleep and gather rest for the big day ahead and I lay here ruminating.
What if? What if? What if?
I’ve never used a travel agent before. I’ve always planned my own trips or been with a group who planned the trips. This is my first adventure trusting my travel plans to a stranger. This time tomorrow, we should be pulling into the Port in the Grand Bahamas. Will this research trip give me better insight for writing that scene on Crescent Beach in Ampeliagia or will I learn another lesson in why I should not trust people?
After checking in our baggage, getting pulled to the side to remove the hunting knife from the Hurricane Survival Emergency pack (really should have checked the contents of that), having a wonderful conversation with security about “what is a beautiful lady doing with such a huge weapon” (flirt!) we finally board the ship. IT IS REAL! We are going to the Bahamas! Our cabin won’t be ready until two and our baggage will be delivered shortly thereafter, so we ascend to the upper deck for a sunny lunch. Hmmm, I packed a can of sunscreen in every bag but my purse…the only bag with me at the time… after 30 minutes my vampiric white skin is fiery red, so we move our bodies to the shade to await our room.
The cruise was amazing, the water smooth, the sky brilliant. After our muster station lecture, we found lounge chairs on the forward upper deck, kicked back, sipped tea and enjoyed the view. The pink sunset gave us a rosy glow (along with the sunburn) and we chatted with various ship staff and guests and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.
That night in our tiny cabin, I finally found my sleep zone. The gentle rhythm of the waves and the reflection of the wave dance on the ceiling lulled me into travelers coma.
Our bus came for us at 845 am. Let me pause here and iron out a few details. We left Palm Beach Port around 6 pm, we reached Bahamas, Freeport around 730 am. Thirteen and a half hours to go 55 miles? We talked to a crewman about it. He said the boat…enters a time portal at the international border…er…no…but wouldn’t that make for a great story on this blog? Actually he said we stop in the middle of the ocean for several hours before moving into port. The casino is open all night…hmmm…a connection maybe?
Well this blog journal is turning into a novel, so I will save the Island stories for the next blog. Tune in soon for tropical adventures, shark infested snorkeling, the longest breakfast from Hades, friendly Bob and chatty George.