Tag Archives: travel

My trip to Fort Walton Beach, in photos

I had a great time. Hung out with friends, ate out a lot, stayed with my sister and our mutual best friend Cindy. Sat out in the morning behind the house, watching the sun come up over the lake, with egrets.

Later Cindy and I made it to the beach.

And we visited the Destin docks.I also visited my old teacher Jo Yeager, and hung out with her and her husband. Among the many items in their house was an honest-to-god Victrola record player.

And because I find airport architecture endlessly fascinating, here’s a look at one of the Atlanta airport’s tall elevators.It was a great trip and I haven’t lost the sense of relaxation yet.

#SFWApro. photos are mine.


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It’s like a fly in your chardonnay, except this really was ironic!

So Monday the 8th I flew down to Fort Walton Beach for Dad’s 90th birthday. During the Atlanta stop, TYG texted me there was a hurricane on the way, providing irony #1:  I no longer lived where hurricanes were a constant occurrence, but I’d made a conscious choice that put me in the part of one.

Still, I wasn’t that worried about Michael. It was just me, no TYG, no pups, no need to fear damage to our house. And after Florence proved milder than expected, I wasn’t worried much by the terrified TV warnings. Which shows that even a hurricane veteran like myself can get overconfident; Michael really did come in as a Category 4 and the damage it did to Panama City and other communities east of us (a couple of them are no longer there) was horrifying.

Still, here at my friend Cindy’s house (which she shares with her sister and my sister) everything was fine. Irony #2 was that Durham, by contrast, got hammered. Internet outages, much to TYG’s frustration, and then the power went out Sunday night and stayed off for 12 hours. Plushie completely freaked at his schedule being off and the sudden darkness. It’s probably just as well TYG couldn’t go, as the dogs would then have been at the dog boarding facility, in the dark, with no power, and alone for at least part of the time.

The worst I suffered was that the hurricane disrupted my plans to catch up with people and I didn’t see all the friends as I’d hoped. I still had a great time hanging out with family; I haven’t seen Paige since my wedding, and she’s now 24 (she can buy beer. I feel old). We had Dad’s dinner at a restaurant on the beach, played a marathon game of rummy and a round of Goofy Golf. It was a great trip.

Sunday I came home without any problem.

Below: a frog I found on Cindy’s window the day before Michael hit. I’ll post some more fun photos from the trip soon.

#SFWApro. Cover by Pat Broderick, all rights remain with current holder.

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Indiana wants me, but I can’t go back there … oh, wait, yes I can

(Title courtesy of the R. Dean Taylor song).

One thing TYG and I love doing on our Mensa trips is visiting zoos, aquariums, anything of the sort. And wouldn’t you know, the Indianapolis Zoo was located within a mile of our hotel. A very hot mile, but it was worth it. We caught the morning dolphin show (later we found a room offering a view from under the water), saw a cage full of macaws (didn’t photograph well, alas) and a colony of meerkats and hydrated a lot. Like I said, hot.

I thought this bear was a small bear. Then I got close and realized how much of him was in the water.

The flock of helmeted guinea fowl were a hoot as they clucked at us. That’s a crowned crane in the background.

There’s an orang-utan house with several apes. We got to watch one of them practice identifying symbols on the computer. It did pretty well. Below, a mother and child clown around.

Gila monster!


Lion fish!

And seal! Regrettably I didn’t photograph the walrus exhibit.

One moment of comedy was when a kid next to us informed his mother very seriously that he’d counted the rhino butts and there were definitely three of them in the exhibit.

It was definitely worth getting hot and exhausted for.

#SFWApro. All photos are mine.

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Indianapolis Mensa gathering: the basic economy trap!

So Monday we arrived at the Raleigh Airport and discovered we’d booked our flight basic economy. This is a low-cost, low-service option designed to wean travelers away from bargain airlines. But airlines and travel sites don’t emphasize the drawbacks (only one bag on board) or alert you, so we arrived and learned we’d have to pay to check our third and fourth bag. No upgrades possible (I’m surprised, as airlines make a packet that way). And TYG has another trip we made the same mistake on — but next time we book, we won’t be so foolish.

We arrived in Philadelphia for our plane change, and it was surprisingly compact. Narrower aisles and the gate was just a desk inside the bar/restaurant above (which isn’t a bad idea). A few hours later we made it into Indianapolis, then to the hotel (the big blue slab).

As usual the highlight of the trip was hanging out with friends. Lots of Mensans I know from Florida, or who’ve moved away from Florida, or whom I know just from annual gatherings. Wednesday, the first day of the gathering, I was pretty much social-whirling for the entire day, catching up with people, going out to dinner, chatting with strangers in the line at Starbucks (there was a Church of God in Christ convention the same weekend. Starbucks was packed). The next couple of days I still socialized but gave myself a little time to sit and read — now that I’m accustomed to spending most of the day with nobody but the pups, constant people sometimes felt overwhelming. TYG got out and hung too, though she’s less of a social butterfly than me.

I also explored the area: a skywalk connects the hotel to the convention center to the mall and beyond. Made for a lot of walking.

I didn’t do much in the games room but my friend Zarya convinced me to play a round of Azul, a new tile-based game. It was a lot of fun. And I couldn’t resist the bestseller covers-jigsaw above.

I attended several presentations, although I didn’t give one — I’d applied but the new scoring system shot me down (no idea why). I did have the pleasure of getting several “You’re not presenting? But I love your presentations!” compliments when people found out. The good ones included one on tombstones and art; one on the Green Book used by black motorists for a chunk of the last century; and a Roma college professor who’s written a book about her people (TYG picked it up). A couple of others were dull enough I walked out. I won’t name names.

Hospitality, despite the excellent company, was piss-poor. No vegan alternatives according to one of the other attendees, and the vegetarian alternatives, except for a good hamburger, were uninspired. The pasta with marinara sauce? It was pasta with the tiniest possible streaks of sauce dabbed on. Seeing as we only had lunch and breakfast served (a new thing, IIRC) I think they could have done better — vegetarianism aside, the food was bland. I know it’s cafeteria food at these things, but how about a better cafeteria?

Fortunately there were excellent restaurants in the hotel and around the area, so we spent quite a bit of money enjoying them. Below, some decorations at one of the Italian places (we ate a lot of Italian).

TYG and I also spent a lot of time just reading in bed (yes, reading). With her crazy schedule and the dogs to take care of, we rarely get to spend an evening doing that the way we used to.

Sunday we left early so we could pick up the dogs before the vet closed. Much as I enjoyed the break, it’s good to have them with us again.



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My vacation has given me the secret to best-seller status

So as I mentioned Friday, I spent last week with TYG attending the annual Mensa gathering. And it hit me late in the week: John Scalzi devotes blog posts to photos from his hotel room windows. John Scalzi is a best-selling SF novelist. So if I show photos of the view from my hotel … QED, am I right?

And besides I didn’t have time to get anything else about our trip written up, so—


Next, a day view

And a view of some of the roofs below.

Here’s a view of a rainy Indianapolis street, just because I think it’s a good photo

Tomorrow, some actual blogging about the trip, plus more photos.


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