Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Total Eclipse of the Sun

Are you hearing the song in your head? So was I! The entire trip! So if you thought we were a little crazy to fly from San Diego to Orlando when we really should have flown from Phoenix to Miami, read on... I promise you I can get much crazier.

Apparently I am not geeky enough because I didn't even know the eclipse was happening until after I booked my flights. When I found out it would happen the day after I returned from Florida, I figured it would be impossible to see it. I dreamed anyway. I wondered if we could fly up to visit friends in Portland the next day and make it in time to see the eclipse. Since it was happening in the morning in Portland, I soon realized it would be almost impossible. Then I wondered if I could fly to meet my parents in St. Joseph, MO, where my mom could visit my great aunt while we also took a side trip to see the eclipse. I totally would have done that, but my parents pooped out on that idea.

In the end, it was a bad week at work for Russ that put the gears of this idea into real motion. He was so fed up that he said he wanted to walk out on his job, and that's when I asked if that meant we could see the eclipse (I'm an eternal optimist!). He said yes, and a plan was born! Okay, he wasn't really going to walk out on his job, but he was going to call in sick for a few days. Sweet! I booked us some new flights home, another rental car, and two more nights hotel, and we were set. Our hotel would be in the charming city of Savannah, Georgia.

We went down to the waterfront to find a place to eat and got to enjoy the aura of a time period long past.

Of course we found a southern restaurant where we could indulge in the specialties of the region. This food was not without calories, that's for sure! My first time trying fried green tomatoes, and they were DELICIOUS! Seriously, I've just this year learned how unripe fruit (tomatoes and bananas, aka plantains) make great savory dishes.

The gumbo was the healthiest selection I could find, and it was poured over a heaping helping of rice. Ugh. YOLO!

Walking back to our car, we took these historic stairs from the waterfront to the street level. I sure wish we had had more time in Savannah!

But no, Savannah would be there another day, but the eclipse would not wait for us! Because the restaurant was really crowded on a Sunday night, we got to thinking... maybe all those news stories were true! Maybe there were millions of people coming in from all over the country to see the eclipse. And if that was true, maybe there really would be gas shortages and empty store shelves! To prepare, we headed to Walmart for food supplies to sustain us on our journey, and to our surprise, all the fruit that could be eaten as a snack (bananas, oranges, apples, etc.) was gone! That's when the panic set in. Was this going to be a nightmare? I checked the weather religiously, and no weatherman could say for certain whether we would be able to see the eclipse from Columbia, South Carolina, because of the chance of cloud cover, but they did say our best chance was in Tennessee. Wow, that was a long way off, but we had come so far already that I was forced to consider the idea. As we consulted the map, Russ started talking about how he thought we would spend the eclipse moment stuck in traffic in Atlanta. NOOOOO! Would we see it at all?

I hardly slept that night, and when I checked traffic at 3am, it looked like there were already traffic jams forming. I freaked out and told Russ we needed to leave right away... so we did. Still not sure where we were heading, we just started on the interstate going west, but after a couple of hours we had to make the decision. Would we take our chances in South Carolina or haul ourselves all the way to Tennessee? We had so much invested that I decided on Tennessee, and Russ reluctantly decided not to stop me. The crazy meter was going off the charts! We avoided the interstate for fear of traffic and had a long but very scenic drive through Georgia and Tennessee. When we arrived in Tennessee, we drove along a small highway through some tiny towns (with lots of visitors) until we saw a sign for eclipse viewing. We paid $10 to park on someone's farm and use the outhouse they had provided.

The sky was clear and the view expansive.

I was excited that this was really going to happen!

Yep, we really were in the middle of nowhere.

Soon the partial eclipse began, and I took a picture of it through my solar eclipse glasses.

A small cloud threatened to cover up the sun right at the critical moment, but to my surprise, just a few minutes later the cloud completely vanished. Thank you, God! The wonders of the world are many, and this is definitely one of those unique experiences that makes living on Earth so magical. Behold, the total eclipse of the sun! (Okay, I admit it's not very magical in pictures.)

In hindsight, I wish I had just stared at it the whole time and not wasted time on these pics that we had planned out ahead of time, but hey... there's still 2024.

After the eclipse was over, it was time to put the glasses back on.

What a cool experience!

Check out this video documenting our whole eclipse experience!

One our way out of town. we did hit a lot of traffic, but that gave me time to snap a pic of this alien in the middle of the small town where we were. They really played up their status as a town close to the center line of the eclipse path.

As we passed through Atlanta, I got a picture of the Olympic torch.

And we ate at this Chick-Fil-A with a weird Dwarf House attached.

Oh, but the craziness is not over! In Atlanta, we realized we STILL had 3 hours to go before we reached Savannah. We crashed hard that night, and then we had the longest day of the trip the next day. We woke up in Savannah, drove five hours to fly out of Orlando, flew five hours back to San Diego, picked up our kids there and drove five more hours to Chandler. So when I tell people I have the best husband in the world, it's because it's really true. I don't know what other guy would have agreed to this crazy plan, so I'm glad he's mine!

All in all, it was 7 days, 2700 miles by car, 4300 miles by air, and 100% nuts. So naturally, I loved it!

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Exploring the Deep

It had been nine months since our last dive, and I was itching to go again and get more comfortable in the water. At first, we thought Catalina, but the expenses involved with that less than amazing dive spot eventually led us to go back to Florida. It's a long story. The important part is that I found $25 fares from San Diego to Orlando, so there would be a little bit of driving involved, and we would soon learn it would be a LOT of driving! So we drove to San Diego Wednesday night, then flew to Orlando overnight, then drove to Miami the next day. It was the driving to Miami that about did us in (and it took 7 hours since we avoided the toll road... bad idea, in hindsight) because we were SOOOOOOO tired, and we kept having to switch drivers every hour. It was brutal. By 4pm, we were at our hotel relaxing and getting ready for the next morning's adventure, Snapper Ledge and Molasses Reef.

That's a lot of snappers! And a ledge, too! So I guess they named this dive site quite appropriately. Wait, wait, wait... this photo doesn't really do it justice. Check these guys out!

There were many other kinds of fish, too, so I apologize but there are going to be a lot of fish and coral photos here. This place is just amazing!

Would you look at the size of that brain coral? Russ got closer so he could snap at some Christmas tree worms, which close up suddenly when there is a loud noise (or maybe a vibration). I have a cool pic of them later in this post.

These corals are like works of art. I couldn't believe all the colors!

Besides coral, we saw some pretty cool creatures, like a lobster. Hey there, buddy!

A stingray

A shy eel

I looked up and got this sweet pic of Russ with the sun behind him.

Then I handed over the camera so he could get a pic of me. Loving it!

More coral... these ones, which I like to call urns, were scattered all over the seabed.

Look at these two cute ones growing together... one looks kind of like a little cactus. SO adorable! Hehe.

I like to call this coral bouquet. Isn't it just beautiful? I'm always amazed at all the colors you see under the sea.

Awwwww! The happy couple!

Pretty sweet picture of my bubbles going up, don't you think?

Ready for the afternoon dives at French Reef and Christmas Tree Cove!

Are you wanting to see this in person yet? I know! Amazing!

Look at her perfect form ;)

I was always amazed by the size of some of the brain coral. Maybe you can't tell the size from this picture, but I call this one MOTHER BRAIN. That's Russ's dive gauge floating in the upper right corner of the picture, so maybe that will help you gain some perspective.

Well, who put this down here? Pretty cool!

Here's the cool pic of the Christmas tree worms, as promised.

The next morning, we did our last two dives, but we definitely made them good ones. On the first dive of the day, we encountered a nurse shark that was about 4 feet long!

How did this guy win the fish scale lottery? He was so beautiful!

On all of these dives, we went without a guide, so I was super stoked we found this swim through all on our own. However, I was not happy Russ cut in front of me and ruined my video of me swimming through it. Dang it!

A coral encrusted marine winch is a good hiding place for fish.

I wasn't going to post a bunch of pics of fish because there were just too many beautiful fish everywhere, but I guess I'll showcase a few.

The parrot fish actually crunches up the coral and spits it back out to form white sand beaches. Thanks, mr parrot fish!

One last pretty scene before we say goodbye...

Til next time, Florida!

We finished off the day with delicious tacos at one of our regular spots, Sharkey's.

As we watched the dive boat head out this little channel for the afternoon dives, we were a little sad we weren't on board, but we still had plenty of adventure ahead before heading home. Stay tuned!