Sunday, December 19, 2010

A trip down south, where presumably it should be warmer but wasn't (Daily Photo 12.9 to 12.18.10)

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We've got some catching up to do. I've been on vacation for a week now in St. Augustine, Fla., and Savannah, Ga., first for a 50-mile relay run with Nik and 11 other friends and then for a week of lazing around and looking at stuff in the swampy, tropical, deep-fried climate of the south. I took (several hundred) pictures every day, so I've got a lot of Daily Photo entries to post here. Mind if I combine them all into one post? There are several slideshows here -- feel free to click through them to see dozens of pictures.

Nik had been excited about this vacation, since usually we go on vacations to places that are freezing and require bundling up and Chapstick and wool: London, Prince Edward Island, coastal Maine -- that sort of locale. This would be different, dammit.

12.9.10: Day before vacation

Our packing for vacation started only the night before. We'd both been busy. We brought shorts. Nik packed a bikini. People who lived in Florida said it would be warm, and this was corroborated by solid weather reports that predicted sun and 70s. LIARS!

12.10.10: Going to St. Augustine

So off we went, early in the morning, bidding adieu to the dogs, who got to stay home getting dog-sat by my parents. 

And there we are in St. Augustine, Fla., about 25 degrees, overcast, frigid wind about 10-15 mph.

12.11.10: Mojo Loco relay

We started the Mojo Loco 50-mile relay at the St. Augustine lighthouse and, with 13 people in 4 cars, ran 4 miles at a time to Daytona Beach. It was amazing -- one of the most fun experiences we've ever had. We started at 8:30 a.m. running along Route A1A south along the beach, and 12 hours later ended up at the Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. in Daytona, sweaty, tired, smelly, but still in great spirits. There's been a ton of documentation about the Mojo Loco already, much more than I can fit here -- check it out on Facebook or at

[To see the photos with captions]

12.12.10: Believe it or not

We spent our second full day in Florida doing some cool St. Augustine stuff. We walked around the old part of town, checked the whole place out, and found it satisfactory. We visited an old Spanish-then-English-then-Spanish-again fort called the Castillo San Marcos and crept around there for a while in a drizzling rain. By far the best part was visiting the Ripley's Believe it or Not museum, a three-story mansion dedicated to odd and freakish shit collected (some under spurious pretense) from across the globe. Statues of 6-legged cows? They got em. A picture of a kid with a sword stuck in his forehead? Check! A "vampire-killing kit"? Right over there, sir. It was the most fun I've had in ages.

At night, we took a ghost tour of St. Augustine by trolley and laughed our asses off. We stopped at the lighthouse (the same one we started the Mojo Loco tour at), and checked that for ghosts for a while. Then we visited the Old Jail and met a fellow portraying the ghost of a prisoner (who by the way I swear made our coffee at a Starbucks a few days later).  In between, the tour guide told us gruesome and hysterically funny tales of the macabre, the best being about a bishop buried in a glass coffin who as he rotted and emitted the various gases of decomposition exploded to the horror of the congregation -- pleasant stuff. He asked if there were any skeptics on board the trolley, and Nik and I raised our hands. He tried to get everyone to yell "UNBELIEVERS!" at us, which was nicer than it sounds.

[To see the photos with captions]

12.13.10: Wherein you will see a zero-G toilet

Nik and I drove about 2 hours south of St. Augustine to check out Kennedy Space Center, near Cape Canaveral. We're both geeks, so this was high on our list of things to do while on vacation.

It did not disappoint. The joint is massive, hundreds of acres with only a few available for touring, but we tried to see as much of it as we could. First up was a 3-hour tour of the grounds and getting up close to launch pad 37, where the space shuttle Discovery was sitting on the launch pad ready for it's Feb. 3 launch. By "up close" I mean something like 8 miles away -- that's about as close as tourists will get to it, for obvious reasons (i.e., I would climb inside and stow away so I could finally claim the geocache that's on the International Space Station).  To see the shuttle on the pad, you had to use those binocular things you stick a quarter into and get about a minute's worth of time to see far off into the distance, and even then it looked far away.  Still, it's breathtaking to behold. The whole place is awe-inspiring, literally, as in you can't fucking believe how complicated and gigantic these machines are, and how many hundreds of thousands of people are involved in a space shuttle launch, and how vast the gulf of space is.

Also we saw how astronauts poop in space.

There were, in fact, only two disappointing things about the KSC tour, and both involved Star Trek. One: there was a Star Trek-themed show, and we were giddy for days thinking about what it might entail, what geekery we would be subjected to, discussing possible theories as to the nature of the mystery-shrouded event including (a) a discussion of technology in Star Trek and any possible analogues in real-life that are either in use now or in the planning stages; (b) being able to use said technology that might be wicked cool, like lasers or 3-D printers and pads and OMG TELEPORTERS and such; (c) a visit from any of the actors from any of the various Star Trek films and shows, even background extras would be nice but maybe holy shit Leonard Fucking Nimoy. We hurried over to the Star Trek show and sat near the front only to find out it was an interactive show for kids ages 3-12 or so, and almost nobody else was there except a handful of kids and some other Trekkies who'd also been snookered, and we spent a half hour feeling dreadfully embarrassed for the two game but clearly underwhelmed actors onstage emoting Star Trek-wise to a 15%-of-capacity house, and we shrank in our seats every time one of the actors called for "a new cadet to help us out onstage." Second disappointing thing: There were no Star Trek T-shirts in the gift shop.

We both loved NASA and the space program before we went to KSC, and we left with even more of an appreciation for it. Every so often I meet morons who claim that the space program is a waste of time and we should scrap it all because we're just messing around up there. You may even be one of these morons. It's not true! Every day you use tech derived from space research: everything from GPS to automobile safety features to breast cancer detection technology. We saw how researchers at NASA invented a system for something on the space shuttle than can now be used in cars to detect whether or not a baby was locked inside. Amazing!

[To see the photos with captions]

12.14.10: Y'all

Nik and I drove about two and half hours north to Savannah, Ga., to the second half of our vacation. It was still freezing cold. On the left is Nik by a statue of songwriter Johnny "Moon River" Mercer with a huckleberry friend. On the right is the inside of the restaurant owned by scary celebrity chef Paula Deen, The Lady & Sons. We got in without a reservation, because we're that cool.

The food was just OK. Everything was cooked in peanut oil, which is like Liquid Death for Nik, and everything else was smothered in fat. I had a "hoecake" so greasy you could wring out the oil like a damp rag. My entree was shrimp stuffed with crabmeat and wrapped in bacon, each one about the size of a child's fist. There were 7 of them. After 4, I was done and needed a cold compress and some ginger tea. I don't recommend it unless you enjoy lipids.

12.15.10: Cold snap

Our first full day in Savannah started with 20-degree temperatures -- colder than it was back home in Massachusetts. We decided to take a run in it, aiming for 5 miles, and ended up back home after 2.5 or so. The rest of the day we spent 

(a) visiting the art museum's Jepson Center, which the website claims has a permanent collection with works by Close and Koons and Johns and Rauschenberg but which we could not find evidence of anywhere despite combing the joint through and through, so instead were stuck looking at a show of modern art that had a mix of some good stuff and some utter bullshit, and drawings by an appallingly bad artist named Khalil Gibrain;

(b) at the Telfair Academy, a museum of some older works and period-home furnishings explained to us by a docent, featuring amazingly detailed metalpoint works;

(c) bullshitting around the Owens-Thomas House, a home in the English Regency style which is owned by the Telfair Museum and which we only went to because cost of admission was included with the tickets to (a) and (b), and which was explained to us more than once with a great deal of pride had indoor plumbing more than a decade before the White House, first by a trolley driver and later by an extremely listless and suspicious-seeming house tour guide; 

(d) getting a private tour of the childhood home of one of my favorite writers, Flannery O'Connor, a humble middle-class place with some actual 100% real Flannery O'Connor childhood furniture and scrawled-in books all described to us by a very game and helpful tour guide who honestly seemed to love O'Connor's work and referred to her only as "Mary Flannery"; 

(e) on a trolley ghost tour of Savannah with a guide who kept flubbing his memorized lines and didn't interact with everyone on the tour much at all and seemed to think he should try to scare the audience more than entertain them, which being adults listening to goofy stories nobody was scared even slightly; and later with another tour guide in a chandlery who really was kind of scary and entertaining and didn't flub even one line, not at all; 

(f) in an Irish bar for dinner and drinks singing along with silly dirty drinking songs with a Scottish fellow in a kilt.

12.16.10: Pork skins and high winds

We visited Tybee Island, just a few minutes outside of Savannah and home to a really big lighthouse. We climbed up to the top, about 150 feet, even though we were sort of warned off by a docent who kept insisting that if we did go up then Nik should wear her scarf for some reason. She politely refused. Once at the top, I don't mind saying that I didn't stay outside for long. There were major winds up there that made the place seem like it was swaying, and I'm not that good with heights.

There wasn't much else to do on Tybee at this time of year -- everything was pretty much closed or involved being on a beach. So we drove around a while, found a Piggly Wiggly and bought pork rinds, because that's what it seems like you should do when at a Piggly Wiggly. 

The pork rinds were not good. The less said about them the better.

12.17.10: Last day down south

We had almost nothing planned for our last day in Savannah, except maybe one last walk through the historical district to photograph every square inch of it. The entire city is so fucking photogenic it makes you sick -- there's no possible way to capture it all in a camera. Still, I tried. 

12.18.10: Back home

By the end of our trip, we were a bit weary and antsy to come home. We missed the dogs, and vice versa.

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