Our Harrowing Drive to Raleigh, Being Chased by a Dragon

This week’s Spin Cycle is our favorite posts. Mine was actually one of a series, called The Ordeal of a Lifetime. I really enjoyed writing about the cruise we took for my 50th birthday. Getting there was definitely NOT half of the fun. But, it’s makes a pretty darn funny story when I retell it, y’all.

I chose this third part installment, because it was one of the most looked at blogs, according to my blog stats. Sadly, my most popular blog of all time is Red Toes for Ruby Tuesday, which is basically a picture of my feet, and can’t in any way be attributed to my writing skills.

Another thing I have to add about this series: the whole thing was originally written for different Spin Cycles. My hat has to go off to Sprite’s Keeper, Jen, for coming up with such challenging and inspiring topics every week.

Please read The Ordeal of a Lifetime, Part One and The Ordeal of a Lifetime, Part Two before reading Part Three. This is for this week’s  Spin Cycle topic, Quirks.

When my husband took me on a cruise, to celebrate my 50th birthday, I ignored the advice of  every professional travel planner on the planet,  did things my own way, and in the process, managed to survive The Ordeal of a Lifetime. This is Part Three of the  story. It is true, y’all.  Every single detail of it.

Now, I had managed to live 50 years, without ever going on a cruise. Kinda like I think I might be the last living native Wilmingtonian, I think I might have been the last living woman, born before 1960, that had never been on a cruise. My mom, for example, has been on so many cruises that she’s on first name basis with the cabin attendants on Norwegian’s  Cruise Line.

100_0171The weird thing about all the cruises my mom has been on, is; she has no pictures. None. I’m not kidding. She and her husband, Bob (lovingly referred to as old fart stepdad number three) only bring back the solemn looking, 8 by 10  “pose”on Formal Night, that the ship’s photographers try to force on you complimentary shoot when you’re all dressed up for dinner.

I asked them about this. I said, “Mom, why don’t y’all take a camera and get some pictures of your trip?”

To which she replied, “Oh, Sweeeeeeetie. We don’t have time for all that mess! We’re too busy “doin’ stuff”  to fool with takin’ pictures!”

Well. I figure I must have a quirk about this. Let’s call it a camera addiction. I have to take pictures at birthdays, Christmas, Halloween, when the flowers bloom, when frinds come over, when the dog looks cute, when the cat looks annoyed, after Jeff cuts the grass and whenever we put our “dressy” clothes on, y’all. I wasn’t about to go on my first ever cruise and not take hundreds of pictures! How was I going to bore entertain all my internet friends ad nauseum for many enjoyable years to come, without a pictorial diary of each and every day’s activity?

Unlike my mom,  I’m too busy takin’ pictures to enjoy what I’m “doin’”, I guess. Needless to say, our camera was the most crucial part of our trip. Without it, well, we might as well have just stayed home.

After we survived the longest cab ride in the history of the world with that Dragon character, and woke Klinton up, surprising him with the news that he was going with us to Raleigh, I hurried into the kitchen to make a sandwich and a glass of diet coke. My stomach was growlin’, and I was feelin’ weakish, y’ all. After all, it was almost noon. By this time, I had planned to be relaxin’ on the deck of our cruise ship, enjoyin’ a nice buffet and comparin’ toe nail polish with my new internet friends.

Suddenly, I heard screaming from the living room. My very Yankee husband was screaming a very Yankee expletive that proper, southern-born gals from North Carolina also frequently say after they’ve been married to a Yankee for a while would never dream of typing, much less sayin’:

F**K!”

I dropped the bread and rushed into the living room.

“What’s wrong now?” I cried.

F**K… F**K… F**K!!!” was his answer.

I LEFT THE GOD DAMNED CAMERA BAG IN THE GOD DAMNED F**KING CAB!!” he screamed.

Poor Klinton came running out of his room, half dressed. “What’s going on?” he wanted to know.

“Jeff left our camera in the cab,” I explained, trying to remain calm. Going on this trip without our camera? Not an option.

Jeff already had the phone book out. “I’m calling the cab company!” he said.

The cab company’s receptionist was organized and efficient. She said she knew right where Dragon was, and promised to page him and have him call us back immediately.

“Here,” Jeff said, handing the phone to me. “When Dragon calls, tell him to turn around and bring our camera back! To save time, I’ll take the car and get it filled up with gas!”

Five minutes later, the phone rang. It was Dragon.

“Yes, yes, Ma’am. I have camera!” he said, triumphantly. “I bring back to you! As soon as I get back from driving another paying fare to Raleigh! I bring camera later today!”

At this point, I think my head almost exploded.

NOOOOO!!!!” I screamed into the phone said firmly.”Listen to me! WE have to go to Raleigh!! We have to leave NOW! We CAN’T WAIT!! WE NEED our camera!! You HAVE to bring it to us!!”

“OK, no problem,” he said. “I meet you at airport in Raleigh and give you camera.”

“NO! NO!” I was panicked. “We can’t meet you in Raleigh! We’ll be on too tight of a schedule! You need to bring our camera NOW!”

“I bring camera to Raleigh.” Then, unbelievably, he hung up on me.

I stared at the phone in my hand, as the call ended. I was thinking that I was going to make it my life’s work to have this Dragon fired. At that moment, Klinton, bless his heart, came out of his room and sensed that I was about to snap.

dscf4055“Mom,” he said, soothingly, taking the phone from me. “Calm down. Just  get ready to go. Let me handle this.  I’ll talk to the cab driver. You have his cell number in your cell phone now. His name’s Dragon, right? We’re all going to Raleigh. I’ll have him meet us on the road, somewhere between here and there.”

Mutely, I handed the phone to him. As I made myself a glass of diet coke on ice, I overheard Klinton talking to Dragon.

“Hello? This is Ginger’s son, Klinton. Yeah. We’re driving to Raleigh, too. Can we meet up somewhere and pick up our camera? Where are you right now? Which mile marker? OK. Call me back.”

dscf3896Soon, Jeff had returned and we were on the road. Klinton, in the back seat, was enjoying his role of mediator, in constant contact with Dragon. Jeff , in race car driver mode, was staring at the road, steely-eyed, while he gripped the wheel and drove down I-40 at 85 miles per hour. I was sipping my diet coke and chewing my nails,  hoping that we didn’t get pulled over for speeding, hoping were going to make it to the airport in time, hoping this was all just a bad dream.

Dragon claimed to be only a few miles behind us. Klinton made arrangements with him to meet up at a large rest area on I-40. We pulled into the rest area and waited. And waited. And waited.

We had about 40 minutes to complete our drive into Raleigh, find a place to park at the airport, get our five suitcases, camera bag, laptop case, pocketbook, incredibly heavy golf club bag which was stuffed with two sets of golf clubs, plus our shoes and a bottle of Peach Schnapps, and my itinerary into the airport, through security, and somehow onto the plane.

We waited for so long that we each had time to make a dash to the restrooms, one at a time. As we waited, Jeff kept threatening to leave, and Klinton kept promising that Dragon was almost there.

Then, Jeff said, “I think I see him!”

Sure enough, it was the taxi driven by Dragon, turning into the rest area. His window was rolled down and dangling out of his hand, looking for all the world like Michael Jackson’s baby, was our precious camera bag!

“He’s not gonna stop!” I cried. Jeff got out of our car, and stood alongside, waiting. Dragon drove by, barely slowing down, and tossed the camera bag at Jeff.  In his front seat, I could see a very flabbergasted and harried looking female passenger.

As Jeff jumped back into the car and we raced out of the parking lot, Klinton, always the optimist, said, “Well, at least now you have your camera back.”

But…..would we make it to Raleigh in time to catch out flight? Would we survive the stress? Would we ever get a bite of food? Would we be further harrassed by the airport security?

To be continued….

Part Four: Can a Can of Pringles and a Bloody Mary Be Classified As a Gourmet Meal?

Part Five: Another Cab Cab Driver Takes Us For a Wild Ride

Part Six: Did We Break The Sound Barrier?

I Heart Romantic Places

This week’s photo challenge on I heart Faces is My Story in Photos: Places I Love. They are lifting the requirement to see faces this week – they want us to post photos of the most romantic places we’ve been!

I Heart Faces is a photography sharing forum that focuses on the art of capturing faces and their various emotions. Each week, people from across the world enter their favorite face photos.

Click on the picture for a better view and click the button to check out lots of other faces, or to enter a photo of your own!

If you are one of the large group of my enthusiastic fans five people who occasionally read my blog, then you must already know that my husband took me on my first cruise for my 50th birthday. We barely made it onto the ship, and you can read all about that ordeal here. But it was worth every minute of aggravation we went through to get there, as these photos will attest.

We cruised out of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida on Royal Caribbean’s Jewel of the Sea. It was a five day cruise to the Western Caribbean. The first port of call was Key West, a romantic place I had always wanted to visit!

Key West has a laid, back, quirky, off beat appeal. The homes are quaint, colorful, packed with personality and have some of the most gorgeous, tropical flowers and trees around them that I’ve ever seen.

This “market” is unlike anything you will find anywhere else. This photo is quintessentially Key West!

A walk down Duval Street lived up to it’s reputation of oddities, variety and a 24 hour party atmosphere. We met some characters, that’s for sure!

Yes, there really are chickens running all over the place in Key West!

Our next port of call was Cozumel. We played golf at the Cozumel Country Club. It was overrun with all kinds of critters. We saw snakes, iguanas, alligators and this large crab was determined to keep me from hitting my ball!

The next stop was Playa Del Carmen. We took a cab to a eco-water park called Xel Ha. It was all inclusive food and drinks, as much as you wanted, all day. This lagoon was full of tropical fish and they offered snorkeling gear, kayaks and rafts for use.

There were chairs and hammocks set up all over the park, walking trails, several wonderful restaurants and bars and even a place to swim with dolphins (for an extra fee.)

We floated down this authentic lazy river on a double raft. It would have been very romantic, but we were having to paddle the whole time against the waves to keep from crashing into the rocks along the shores.

Part of the park had access to the beach and the ocean. This was my favorite photo from the whole cruise. It was  paradise.

I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw the color of this water.

Even the rocks were unbelievably beautiful.

As you can see, it was a great place to loll around in a hammock.

At the time, I had no idea this would become my header photo for a blog!

Our last stop on this cruise was Belize. We had to take a tender from the ship into the small port.

We went into the tropical forest in Belize to visit the majestic mayan ruins of Laminai, which means “submerged crocodile” in the Maya language. It’s also the third largest  and possibly most interesting, archeological site in Belize.

Our tender boat, and the Jewel shared the water with these Belizean fishermen.

Since this post is for I Heart Faces, here are our smiling faces, just before going to a romantic dinner onboard our ship.

We loved getting away on this romantic cruise and I can’t wait to take another one!

The Ordeal of a Lifetime, Part Five

spincyclesmallPlease read The Ordeal of a Lifetime, Part One, Part Two, Part Three,  and Part Four before reading Part Five. This is for this week’s Spin Cycle topic, Manners.

When my husband took me on a cruise, to celebrate my 50th birthday, I ignored the advice of  every professional travel planner on the planet,  did things my own way, and in the process, managed to survive The Ordeal of a Lifetime. This is Part Five of the  story. It is true, y’all.  Every single detail of it.

In Part Four of this saga, we had miraculously caught our flight to Miami, in the nick of time, and landed. But there was a hellishly long fifteen minute delay in letting the passengers off the plane, for some ungodly reason. And we still had a cruise ship to catch, at the Port of  Ft. Lauderdale, in exactly fifty five minutes.

As we stood there in the aisle of the plane, being mashed on all sides by the mass of humanity that was the other passengers, all of whom had their own agendas to keep and similar looks of desperation in their eyes, I was starting to feel decidedly unsouthern, y’all. Not only could I feel drops of  sweat rolling down my underarms, along with the awareness of my horrible absence of lipstick, but I was developing a real unladylike case of aggravation.

img_1286Now, southern women, like me, are born with this gene that makes us instinctively know how to catch more flies with honey, than with vinegar. In normal situations, this inbred sense of good manners makes us all charming and sweet, whenever we are faced with adversity. I’m sure my mother, who’s had years of practice at batting her eyelashes and flashing her beauty queen grin, would have been able to murmur, “Oh excuse me, shugar, but can I ask you to quit standin’ on my foot, if you please,” but I was just about ready to throw my years of good southern manners out the window and STOMP somebody to death, right there in public.

FINALLY, right before I threw a right proper hissy fit, the door opened. Apparently, there were no other real southerners on that plane, because everyone started pushing and shoving like a pack of wild dogs tryin’ to get after a lame squirrel. We were caught up in the hysterical flow and deposited at the entrance of the Miami International Airport.

miami-636Now MIA covers an area of 3,300 acres and contains four runways. It is a major gateway between the United States and Latin America, and the twenty-ninth largest airport in the world, in terms of passenger traffic. It is home to 29 restaurants and 33 shops. You can get your hair cut, your nails done, buy a new wardrobe, get a massage, get a new cell phone, play the lottery, rent a movie, fill your prescriptions, get your shoes shined, buy a whole new set of leather suitcases, stock up on booze and get married, all while you are waiting on your flight to take off. I’m pretty sure it’s much larger than Burgaw,  which is a whole town in North Carolina.

In other words, we were completely lost and had absolutely no idea which way to go  to reclaim our luggage, y’all.

I knew my husband would stand there trying to figure out the lay of the land all by himself, until we had no earthly chance of making it to Ft. Lauderdale in time, because, well, duh, he’s a man and that’s what they all do. So I headed straight to The Tourist Information Center and got in line. There was a man ahead of me, who was talking to the customer service representative at great length. In Spanish.

So I stood there, and as patiently as I could, I waited. And waited. And, sigh, waited.

The two of them appeared to be friends. They were having a very animated Spanish conversation, punctuated by much laughter and postulatin’. All the while, I was nervously watching the clock and trying not to scream in frustration, because, well, that would have been, not only rude, but decidedly unsouthern.

Thinkin’ that I must be invisible, I cleared my throat. “Um, excuse me, please,” I said, in my best Southern accent. “I just need to ask y’all a quick question.” I also batted my eyelashes, for effect.

The man behind the counter  looked unfazed. “Be right with you, lady, in just a momento.” Leaning casually against the counter, he resumed his conversation, in Spanish, with the man in front of me.

“Oh FOR CRYING OUT LOUD!” I thought. I saw another customer representative standing on the other side of the counter, talking on the phone. I rushed over to him. “Excuse me!” I said breathlessly. Unbelievably, he held up his hand in a dismissive gesture. “I’ll be right with you,” he said.

So I waited. And waited. And waited some more. When he finally hung up, I told him which flight number we had been on and asked where we could pick up our baggage.

He smiled brightly.  “Oh, that’s easy,” he said. And then he said something that might have been, “You need to go to baggage claim area number 352, which is very easy to get to. Just go past Burger King right up this corridor, turn right, go down a little until you see Dunkin DoNuts, then take  the next left, the go down past the third waiting area and turn right near the restrooms and you should see 352 right there on the left!”

Only, I’m not real sure, because he spoke way too fast, and with much more of a Spanish inflection than my little ole southern ears could translate….especially as stressed as I was.

As I blinked in confusion and disbelief, he was already beginning to speak Spanish to another person who had come up behind me. I turned around to look for my husband. All I could remember was something about number 352 and it was somewhere beyond  Burger King.

“Did you find out where we’re going?” Jeff asked me.

“Yep,” I lied. “It’s right up here past Burger King.” I could see the sign, and it was a bit of a walk, so we needed to hurry.

00245-restaurants-parent_14We rushed down the corridor towards the sign. Ahead of us, I noticed another couple that were about our age, that I remembered seeing on the plane with us. They were striding purposely down the corridor towards the Burger King sign, so I decided to follow them. All the way to a baggage carousel, which was carrying everyone’s bags around and around.

There were about three hundred other passengers standing there, two and three deep, watching for their luggage. Jeff and I also stood there, holding our camera bag, laptop case, a carry on, my pocket book and my precious itinerary, helplessly waiting for our other four  suitcases and incredibly heavy golf club bag which was stuffed with two sets of golf clubs, plus our shoes and a bottle of Peach Schnapps to appear.

Then, we spotted one of our suitcases! But there seemed to be  no opening in the line of passengers to get over to it. They crowded around the carousel greedily, refusing to move.  I looked at my watch. It was 4:24 pm. We had to be in Ft. Lauderdale, on the cruise ship, before it set sail, in exactly thirty six minutes.

Well, it’s like this, y’all. I was hot. I was tired. I was hungry. My hair was messed up, my make up had long since disappeared and my clothes were rumpled beyond description. Not only that, I was on the verge of tears. There was no way we were going to miss that ship! We had gone through too much and come too far to let a measley three hundred people stand in our way!

Now y’all please don’t tell my Momma, but I’m afraid I got a little carried away and may have come across like a raving lunatic as being a tich rude.

I snapped.

I lunged for the suitcase. I pushed, I growled, I elbowed, I grabbed and may the Good Lord in Heaven help me, I may have even exchanged a few bad words with a woman in a hideous flowery dress. But by the time all of our luggage rode around and passed near me, allowing me to snatch it triumphantly and throw it to Jeff, people were eying me warily and scootching away to give me plenty of room.

We used the last item, our incredibly heavy golf club bag which was stuffed with two sets of golf clubs, plus our shoes and a bottle of Peach Schnapps, as a sort of battering ram to clear a wide pathway back through the crowded room and out through the front door.

f_taxiAs soon as I was out on the street in front of the airport, I dropped everything I was carrying in a heap on the ground, and raced towards the row of cabs. As I banged on the window of the nearest taxi, the cab driver looked at me as if I was crazy.

“CAN YOU GET US TO THE PORT IN FORT LAUDERDALE IN THIRTY MINUTES?” I screamed.

The door of the cab opened. The driver slowly climbed out. He stood up. I found myself looking up into a pair of large, black eyes in the face of a very muscular black man. He stared quizzically at me for a moment. Then, in a distinctly Jamaican accent, and a calm, deep voice, he said:

“I do my best, Ma’am.”

To be continued…..

Part Six: Did We Break the Sound Barrier?

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The Ordeal of a Lifetime, Part Two

Please read The Ordeal of a Lifetime, Part One before reading Part Two. This was for the Spin cycle topic, Survival.

When my husband took me on a cruise, to celebrate my 50th birthday, I ignored the advice of  every professional travel planner on the planet,  did things my own way, and in the process, managed to survive The Ordeal of a lifetime. This is Part Two of the  story. It is true, y’all.  Every single detail of it.

crowded_airport

Again, the loud speaker, with another announcement: “Attention passengers….”

(About 60 passengers who were sitting in the waiting area immediately got up and started to form a line.)

“….we are sorry to inform you…”

(About 30 more folks jumped up and started running over to the back of the line. Meanwhile, we were still standing off to the side trying to comprehend what was happening.)

“….that this flight has been canceled….”

OH GOD!! By now the line is 40 feet long and we are lucky to get into the tail end of it, along with a few stragglers.

“…..Unfortunately, the plane is in need of a repair, and due to the holiday, our mechanic is having to catch a flight from Philadelphia, which will arrive at  3 pm. If you need to reach your destination today, please form a line at our service desk and the first our service representatives will help you.”

OH GOD!!! Jeff is hissing at me, “CALL KLINTON!

Klintons phone is ringing and I get his voicemail. “KLINTON” I yell, as if he can hear me. “ANSWER YOUR PHONE! WE’RE AT THE AIRPORT AND WE MIGHT NEED YOU! CALL ME BACK!”

Jeff rolled his eyes at me. “Great! Where’s Klinton and where’s our car?”

“He’ll call back,” I assured him. “Anyways, maybe they can find us another flight,” I added, hopefully.

Things did seem to be moving along pretty quickly. Folks ahead of us were being given new flight assignments, it seems, and I overheard one couple (who were also going on a cruise, and yes, I was shamelessly eavesdropping) being offered a voucher for a taxi trip to the airport in Raleigh –  to catch a flight from there. While we were waiting, I continued to dial Klinton’s cell phone and each time I got his voice mail.

After what seemed like hours, it was our turn to step up to the desk. I breathlessly explained to the weary employee that we were going on our first cruise, to celebrate my birthday and anniversary, and we needed to get a flight to Ft. Lauderdale, ASAP. She looked and looked at her computer. Finally, she said, “I have a flight that arrives in Ft. Lauderdale  at 4 pm! What time does your ship sail?”

When I said 5 pm, she frowned. “That might not be enough time to get you onto the ship. Let me call your cruise line and see if they can help.”

She spent the next several minutes conferring with Royal Caribbean over the phone. Apparently, there’s this rule, y’all, that you must be on your ship exactly one hour prior to sailing, no exceptions. No amount of pleading could convince them to bend this rule.

I was trying to come up with a solution. “How about a flight to our first port, Key West, and we board the ship tomorrow?” I asked. We were informed by the cruise rep that they do not allow guests to board in Key West. They would, however, allow us to board in Cozumel, on day THREE of our five day cruise.

Well for cryin’ out loud, what good was that? We were so upset, y’all.

The airport employee continued to search. Then she said, “Well…..I do have a flight out of Raleigh that lands in Miami at 3 pm. From there, you could get a cab to take you to Ft. Lauderdale.”

We blinked. Miami? “How far away is Miami from Ft. Lauderdale?” I asked.

“About 30 miles,” she replied. “But, you’d have to get your own transportation to the Raleigh airport, because I have no taxi vouchers left, and that flight leaves in two hours.”

I turned to Jeff. “Can you drive us to Raleigh in two hours?”

His chest puffed out. If there’s one thing my husband is proud of, it’s his driving skills. “I can get us there is an hour and a half,” he said proudly, “but we need to go right now!”

The relieved airport lady was already printing our tickets. “You’ll need to retrieve your bags,” she reminded us, as we dashed off.

We had to wait a couple of minutes to get our luggage. As we were hauling  all five suitcases, camera bag, laptop case, pocketbook, incredibly heavy golf club bag which was stuffed with two sets of golf clubs, plus our shoes and a bottle of Peach Schnapps, and my itinerary out the door, onto the sidewalk, I was still trying to call Klinton. If we could not locate his whereabouts, we would have no vehicle to drive to Raleigh!

Jeff rushed over to the only cab parked outside the airport and started throwing in our stuff. We climbed in and told the cab driver we were in a HUGE hurry and needed to get to our address as quickly as possible.

images5The cab driver was all smiles. “Yes, yes,” he assured us, in a Scandinavian accent. “My name is Dddragon, and I get you there, quick like! I live here long time. I know short cut!”

Now we live about two miles from the airport, y’all. We could ‘ve walked home, if not for the five suitcases, camera bag, laptop case, pocketbook, incredibly heavy golf club bag which was stuffed with two sets of golf clubs, plus our shoes and a bottle of Peach Schnapps, and my itinerary. There really isn’t a short cut to our house, but there was, as it turns out, a much longer way to get there.

Dragon was happily chatting on, in broken english, about all the wonderful short cuts he knew about, when he passed the turn that would have taken us home in a couple of minutes. Jeff opened his mouth, tried to point out the turn, and mutely closed his mouth, helplessly.

“Where is he going?” I whispered.

Jeff shrugged.

“Excuse me, Dragon,” I said cautiously from the back seat. “Are you sure you know the way to our neighborhood?”

“Oh yes, yes,” he said, as he nodded emphatically. “I go there all the time. I know short cut. Good short cut.”

“Well, we’re in a big hurry,” I tried to explain. “We have to be at the airport in Raleigh to catch a plane, in less than two hours!”

Dragon turned around and smiled at me. “Oh, no problem, lady,” he said. “I drive you to Raliegh! I get you there, no problem!”

Thinking that we weren’t even sure where our car was, because we still had not reached Klinton, I asked, “How much?”

“Oh,” he said, still smiling. “Only two hundred and fifty dollars!”

“No thanks,” Jeff said quickly, rolling his eyes at me. “We’ll drive ourselves.”

“If we ever get home,” I thought.

Fifteen long minutes later, we pulled up in front of our house. Both of us were in major Panic Mode. Thank God our car was sitting in the driveway, since we still had not managed to speak to  Klinton. Jeff told me to go inside, find Klinton, and tell him he was going with us to Raleigh, while he got our things out of the cab, and paid the driver.

So while he was unloading our five suitcases, camera bag, laptop case, pocketbook, incredibly heavy golf club bag which was stuffed with two sets of golf clubs, plus our shoes and a bottle of Peach Schnapps, and my itinerary out of cab and into our car, I ran to my front door.

I didn’t have the keys.

I began ringing the door bell and pounding on the door. And shouting, “KLINTON!!”

n25000219_34032230_2891After a couple more precious minutes slipped by, the door opened and there stood my half asleep, bewildered son.

“What are you doing here? I thought you would be on your ship, by now, ” he said.

“GET DRESSED!” I shouted at him. “YOU’RE GOING WITH US TO RALEIGH!”

“Whaaaat?” Klinton was clearly befuddled.

“HURRY UP!” I yelled franticaly. “We have to be in Raleigh to catch a plane in ONE HOUR AND FORTY FIVE MINUTES! You have to go with us to bring the car back!”

Was this even possible? I had no idea. But we were about to find out.

To be continued…

Part Three: Our Harrowing Drive to Raleigh, (Being Chased by a Dragon)

The Ordeal of a Lifetime, Part One

I have some advice for all the first time cruisers out there: Plan to arrive at your port of embarkation the day before, book a hotel room, and spend the night. Oh, and buy the trip insurance.

Now, I know what y’all are thinkin’. I thought it, too. “Oh, I’ll just make sure I get an early enough flight, that gets me to the port in plenty of time. And trip insurance? Please. A big waste of money for someone as healthy as me.”

spincyclesmall

This is for the Spin Cycle topic of the week: Survival. I ignored the advice of  every professional travel planner on the planet,  did things my own way, and in the process, managed to survive The Ordeal of a lifetime. The story I am about to tell y’all is true. Every single detail of it.

For my 50th birthday, my husband, Jeff, bless his heart, decided to fulfill my lifelong desire to take a cruise. We celebrated my birthday and our seven year wedding anniversary in the same week, on Royal Caribbean’s Jewel of the Sea.

tiny-jewel

I was so excited about going on this trip, y’all, that I spent about ten months planning for it. I read every book about cruising that I could get my hands on. I researched all the ports we were going to visit. I memorized the menus, by heart, of all the restaurants on the ship. I planned what we were going to wear each day (matching outfits, when possible!) including alternate outfits for bad weather. I had our itinerary typed, and re-typed, and made into a booklet that I carried everywhere with me, in case I thought of a change I needed to make.

I even joined a cruise ship discussion forum, where I spent countless hours getting to know other folks who would be cruising with us. We made plans to meet up on the ship at “Sailaway,” and all of us gals agreed to paint our toenails a matching shade of red (Opi’s Affair in Red Square, to be exact.)

images2The day before the cruise, I went into packing mode. This required me to try on every single outfit I had planned to wear, including shoes, under garments, pocketbooks, belts, hose or socks and jewelry. Then there was the ironing, the mending, the folding, the organizing everything just so into the suitcase, and going over the check list.

Yes, I had a check list.

I had to remember toothbrushes, toiletry items (including my bottle of Opi’s Affair in Red Square,just in case a toenail got chipped), contact lens case, reading glasses, flash light (you never know), bug repellent, extra socks, something to read, cameras (our regular one, plus several for underwater shots) beach towels, duct tape, clothespins, safety pins, bandaids, medications, bathing suits, sun block, disinfecting spray, golf clubs and shoes, my laptop (to download all the pictures we were going to take) and our smuggled on, plastic bottle of Peach Schnapps.

To name just a few things, y’all.

I ended up with two large suitcases, two carry-ons, a laptop case, a large wardrobe bag, a golf club carrying case, stuffed with two sets of clubs, the bottle of Peach Schnapps, my purse and my itinerary. Well, it was a five day cruise, y’all. A girl’s got to be prepared.

With our outfits for our “traveling” day laid out , we were finally in the bed by 10 pm. We had to be AT the Wilmington airport by 6 am, to allow enough time for security checks and all that crap. Our flight (to Charlotte, NC) was supposed to leave at 7:30 am. We were supposed to have an hour lay over in Charlotte, and then catch a flight to Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. Our arrival time in Ft. Lauderdale was supposed to be around 1 pm, leaving us plenty of time to get to the port, board our ship, have lunch, take a leisurely stroll around the decks, change clothes and be ready for our sailaway party, where we were going to meet my new friends and show off my compare painted red toes.

All before the ship sailed away at 5 pm, sharp. That was the plan, y’all.

Notice how I keep using the phrase, “supposed to“? That’s where The Ordeal starts.

pic20bigMy 21 year old son, Klinton, drove us to the airport and dropped us off. A skycap came right over to help us with our luggage and asked us which flight we were taking. I produced my itinerary, with a flourish, and read him the number.

He frowned. “I’m sorry Ma’am, but that flight has been canceled.”

“Canceled? What do mean canceled? We are going on our first cruise for my 50th birthday!”

“Well, just go inside to the desk and they’ll get you on another flight.”

OK. So we haul all five suitcases, camera bag, laptop case, pocketbook, incredibly heavy golf club bag which was stuffed with two sets of golf clubs, plus our shoes and a bottle of Peach Schnapps, and my itinerary into the airport and up to the line. There were already  twelve or so very disgruntled folks ahead of us.

After standing in line for an hour or two, the weary desk clerk found us another flight that was leaving at 9:30 am, to Atlanta, with a longer layover, and then a connecting flight to Ft. Lauderdale, which would put us there around 1:30 pm. Perfect. We’d have to sacrifice lunch on the ship, but we’d still have time for that stroll, y’all.

The desk clerk said, “But, you better hurry, they are starting to board that plane in a few minutes.”

First we had to weigh our bags. Nothing was supposed to be over 50 pounds. Uh oh. The golf club bag was about 6 pounds over. So we frantically took stuff out of that bag and tried to evenly distribute stuff into the other bags, which required weighing and re-weighing everything a few times. After we got that done, we headed over to security.

images3We swiftly took off our shoes and set them in the little tray. Opened my purse, and my laptop and the camera bag. Handed over out new tickets to security.

The security guy frowned.

“Is there a problem?” I asked, breathlessly. “We are kind of in a hurry, here.”

“Well Ma’am,” he said. “You have been alerted as a security risk. We’re going to have to frisk you both.”

“WHAAT?” I’m was almost shouting, y’all. I couldn’t help it.

“Well Ma’am, you see, because you changed your flight schedule at the last minute, you’re considered an extra security risk.”

“But, but, but….” I think I was speechless, really.

Jeff could sense that I was about to go into overdrive, so he said smoothly, “It’s OK, Babe, let’s just do what they ask, so we can get down to the boarding area in time. I promise, I’ll buy you nice drink as soon as we get on the ship.”

Of course, we had to wait for an extra security person to become available.

Fuming, I allowed them to search me, and they also poked and prodded our things with an instrument that looked like it could be some kind of a torture devise. I was close to having a meltdown, y’all. When it was finally determined that we were, indeed, just a middle aged, middle class married couple, trying to get to Florida to be able to enjoy a little hanky-panky on a cruise ship, and not a couple of cleverly disguised shoe bombers, we were released. We then ran to the waiting area, which was packed to the point of standing room only.

images4As we were standing there, the loud speaker: “Attention passengers. This airplane is experiencing some minor maintenance problems and our flight is going to be delayed. The Pilot asks that you be patient, as we are working to resolve this problem.”

At that point, my formally cool and soothing husband turned to me and said, in a tight voice, “Call Klinton and tell him he needs to be prepared to come back and get us. Because it’s looking like we may have to miss this cruise.”

To be continued…

Part Two: We Take a Ride With a Dragon

Watery Wednesday – Floating Downstream

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I’ve posted pictures before of the natural waterpark, Xel Ha, near Playa del Carmen, Mexico. We spent a day here, while on a Western Caribbean cruise on Royal Caribbean’s Jewel of the Sea. This is one of my favorite photographs from that day. We floated downstream in a double inner tube and also snorkled in this river. It was an amazing color, with a great number of brightly colored fish.

There is even a big ole scientific explanation for all this beauty, y’all. This is from their website:

The Yucatan Peninsula possesses several geographic idiosyncrasies which disallow the formation of superficial rivers. Continental water flux is regulated by a complex system of underground waterways traveling to and fro between the peninsula and the sea –Xel-Ha represents one of this system’s most important outlets.

From the depths of underground caves, through the mangrove forest, cool freshwater flows into the Xel-Ha Inlet, where it mixes with the warmer seawater. This River, two-thirds of a mile long before reaching the Inlet, is one of the best visual examples of halocline and thermocline phenomena in the world.

Xel-Ha River is an excellent place to snorkel, simultaneously harbouring a number of freshwater and marine fish. There are several platforms along the way to pause and bask in the astonishing surroundings. For those who prefer a more relaxed voyage downstream, enjoying the beautiful natural scenarios from above the water, single and double inner tubes are available at no cost at the River’s starting point.

It wasn’t as relaxing as it looks, actually. We had to “paddle” with our hands and feet, the whole way, to keep from being swept back upstream, or pushed into the spikey plants along the shore!

waterywed2b1This photo is for Watery Wednesday. Be sure and visit all the other Watery Wednesday shots form around the world, by clicking here.

Watery Wednesday – Blue Skys in Belize

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This photo is for Watery Wednesday. My husband took me on a cruise to celebrate my 50th birthday. This picture was shot from the boat (called a tender) that was returning us to the cruise ship, after spending a day in Belize. You can see the ship, the Jewel of the Sea, on the horizon.

Be sure and visit all the other Watery Wednesday shots form around the world, by clicking here.

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