Vacation Day 6, Part II

June 3rd, Vacation Day 6, Part II
So, today was the birthday of my lovely korean princess. It was my day to blog, but as you can see below I let Sharayah blog about the first part of her birthday, the horseriding adventure.

After that and after lunch, we went to the Ripley's Believe it or Not, since I had been to one in TN as a kid and Sharayah had never been to one. I really couldn't remember if Ripley's really was cool, or if I had just thought it was cool because I was a kid. Either way, it was still pretty interesting this time around. As always there were plenty of things that I might be more inclined to think were -not- real, although supposedly all of it's real. I always think the world's tallest man is just crazy. They had a lifesized model or manequin or whatever you'd call it. He was 8'11", and even knowing that's ridiculously tall, the model still seems unreal it's so tall. There was also the heaviest recorded man, I don't remember his exact weight but it was something like 1500 pounds at his highest weight. I don't know how that happens. They listed what all he would eat 3 times a day to sustain that weight, and it just sounded exhausting to me, really. I'd be too tired to weigh that much, apparently, because I couldn't make it through the meals.

There was a lot of other stuff there, if you've been then you know the type of stuff. There was some interesting art. We saw several building replicas made out of matchsticks, which were pretty impressive. There was also some tiny art, as in you have to look at it through a powerful magnifying glass to even know there's anything there. I don't know how they get such detail on something so tiny. There was a video of a Chinese guy who would write huge amounts on grains of rice. The craziest thing about him is that he did it without the magnification, but you could barely read it even with the magnification. This may not count as art, but there was a sundial that was a miniature cannon with a magnifying glass positioned perfectly so that the sun would light the fuse and set off the cannon at exactly noon. I think that's a pretty cool, creative idea.

My favorite parts weren't so much believe-it-or-not exhibits as just cool things they made. First, they had a big screen that played different action sequences that had been filmed by a high-speed camera (like you'd see on Mythbusters, it's called high-speed because there are lots more frames than usual per second, so that when you play it back it's actually in -slow- motion, so if it helps you just think of it as a low speed camera). It had stuff like a glass landing on the ground and shattering, a building demolition, a bullet going through a watermelon, water drops landing in a pool of water, some plants growing in time-lapse. Now, all of these things I'd seen before, but the coolest thing about this was that there was a little wheel you could turn forward and backward to control the direction and speed of the video. So you could watch it as slow as you wanted, and go back and forth over the coolest parts if you wanted. It moved really smoothly, like they must have kept every single frame in memory constantly, I don't know how, and the effect was awesome. It was especially cool to see the watermelon get shot. The rind just peeled back. If you've never seen anything like that, you can check out this video, which is not nearly as good as what we saw (and not actually a bullet), but still gives you a sort of idea.

My other favorite thing was this dark tunnel that you go through on a suspended bridge. The only lightsource is coming from the walls, which actually aren't walls but more like a tube around the bridge. The walls are black but have some glowing shapes scattered over them and that lights the room so you can see - I think they're illuminated by a blacklight, that's about the lightlevel you get in the room. Around the doorways on either side are mirrors, although in the tunnel they don't look like mirrors, they just look like the black glowing tube extends too far past the door for you to see where it ends, which of course makes the door look like it's floating in the air and somehow is like a portal out of the tube. Ok, if you're still with me, maybe you're thinking, so what, maybe that's a little cool but what's the big deal, how could that be your favorite thing from the whole museum? Well, the last thing is the tube is rotating pretty fast, and even though when you look into the tunnel from outside you can see that the walls are moving and the bridge is (probably) not, as soon as you step through the door it feels like the bridge sways to the side and you're flung into the railing. As you walk across, you're continually stuck against the left rail (or the right rail when you go back through the tunnel) and it's very difficult to stand up straight - nearly impossible to walk straight, we practiced several times. So is the bridge moving? No. The first time I went in and fell against the rail, Sharayah couldn't even figure out why I fell, because she was still outside the tunnel. She could see that nothing moved, and yet I inexplicably flung myself against the railing. But even knowing it doesn't move, if you try to walk down that tunnel, you always end up falling against the railing before you get across - and it's only about 20 feet. I tried walking across with my eyes closed, and that was no problem. That bridge was completely solid and definitely not moving. Something about the lighting and that rotating tube just really did a number on the balance part of your brain, and it felt crazy. We probably spent a good 20 to 30 minutes just going back and forth across that bridge, it was ridiculously fun. If you ever find yourself in Williamsburg, go to Ripley's just for the tunnel, it's completely worth it.

After Ripley's we went pedal boating on the lake where we rowed before. It's a really long, narrow lake; you might think it was a river except there's not really a current (except for the wind causing the surface to move) and if you go far enough in either direction you can see the ends. It was a little cooler out this time, but pedal boating was a little more tiring than rowing, I think just because we were pedaling nearly the whole time. We also went really far, almost the whole length of the lake, and it was cool seeing all the fingers the lake had. I call the little inlets (outlets?) fingers. Just to clear up ambiguity, I don't know what the opposite of a peninsula would be called, but that's what the fingers are - just places where the lake sticks out into the land like a peninsula normally does into water. Anyway this lake has tons and tons of fingers, a lot more than it looks like from the end we started at. At the far end we found a big finger (a thumb?) that had a mysterious square 15x15 brick building sticking up out of the water. As we got closer we could see that on the side facing the shore (away from us) there were the remains of an old dock leading out to it. All that was left were the posts. We went around the spooky house and saw that there were empty window-holes on the other side, the door was missing, and actually it had no roof. I have no idea what it used to be, but from the mysterious junk we saw inside, the large, intricate spider webs in the windows, and the ominous crow that perched on the corner, we decided not to stay and find out. Actually we were just halfway out of time and we figured if it took 30 minutes to get out there, it might take 30 minutes to get back. We abandoned that abandoned house and set off for the other side of the lake. It was a good time, although all that pedaling left our legs feeling like they no longer wanted to go biking on the trail next to the lake, which we had originally planned to do. Either way we still enjoyed the lake, and it also freed up some time for our next adventure of the day.

You may recall that on day 4 we saw some mysterious large heads from the highway and we didn't know what they were. You can go read the previous account if you missed it. Well, our curiosity was just eating us about it, so we went to the resort office to use their internet (I think Sharayah already explained that the in-room wireless did not work), and did some searching to find out what it was. It's something called Presidents' Park, and the heads we saw were in fact the first 43 presidents. They had Obama made as well, but apparently he was still in the gift shop when they went bankrupt and closed the park, so they never got to move him. Yes, they closed the park and we couldn't get that close to these giant heads we'd seen (it turns out they were about 18 feet tall, according to the website), but we did walk around the park and got a pretty good look at the ones that weren't hidden behind foliage. It's a real shame they closed down, because it looked like it would have been really cool to walk around inside. It was set up sort of like a topiary garden with the presidents interspersed throughout. The circle of heads we saw from the highway was only about 15 of the presidents, actually in a half circle. We were disappointed not to get in, but at least we found an explanation for the strange sight of a few nights before. And Sharayah was happy that she was proven correct about the heights of the statues. We also had a fun thought experiment about what the place might look like after decades (or centuries) of neglect and overgrowth of the garden. I think it'd be really spooky with only little bits of the strange giant faces poking out of the foliage. I imagined it being far enough in the future that no one knew who the statues were, or why the giant statues of them were made and hidden in a forest surrounded by thick bushes.

Finally, we got back to the resort, had some popcorn and tried to watch a movie. You can tell it was a really good day because we only made it about 20 minutes into the movie before we fell asleep. All in all, I'd say it was one of the best birthdays I ever had, and it wasn't even mine. It was for my kp, whom I love so much. I hope she enjoyed it as much as I did.


The Day of the Horse (aka Vacation Day 6, Part I)

June 3rd, Day 6: Part I

**WARNING**This will be extra wordy and long-winded.**WARNING**

Oh, what a glorious day. Not only does June 3rd represent the blessed day I was brought into this world, but I also get rewarded for it with the giving of splendiferous gifts. Best.Day.Ever. I have had a perfectly splendid vacationy kind of birthday! I'm trying not to think about the fact that I'm now 25. Turning that monumental quarter of a century is rather... unnerving in a way. I feel like that age indicates a full-fledged adult, but I only feel like one about 2% of the time and about half of that small percentage of time is due only to the mere fact that I'm married. (Just as a clarifying side note: If I follow this "marriage = adult" train of thought further, I do always come to the obvious conclusion that being married does not declare the reaching of maturity and adulthood, evidenced by the fact of so many irrational, unstable marriages all around. I realize this.) However, for the most part, I actually don't mind not feeling like an adult. I like that I can still be absolutely ridiculous without giving a second thought to how it might reflect on my "adulthood." I like that I can still be completely enraptured by the simplest things. I like that my speech is made up of 2 parts random, 1 part "normal", and 1 part incomprehensible. For the most part, I like that I don't feel constrained to be adult-ish or "normal". It's only when I re-realize how un-adult-like I am (especially on each new birthday) that it makes me ask myself, "Should I change?" But the answer to such a boring question will not be found today, for today was a day for frolicks and carefree adventures. I shall start at the beginning.

This morning I woke up with one single butterfly in my stomach. I will call him Harry. He's a happy butterfly, one of the best kinds. He is similar in sensation to the nervous or embarrassed or scared stiff varieties of stomach butterflies, but only in that you feel him in your gut and your heart rate rises. However, as soon as you realize that Harry is present because of an impending happy occasion, all comparisons to the lesser butterflies cease. The reason Harry was fluttering about today?

I had an appointment with Frosty.

Obviously, you don't know who Frosty is, and, at 8 am this morning, I didn't either. At least, I didn't know his name was Frosty. But, though I didn't know his name, I had a good gut feeling (courtesy of Harry, most likely) that we would soon become best friends.

Remember a few posts ago when I mentioned having never ridden a 4-legged animal? I can now very proudly say that this is no longer true. Oh my. I seriously must be one of the happiest girls alive right now. Jason's parents' gift to me was a trip to Stonehouse Stables here in Williamsburg for an hour-long, nature trail horseback riding adventure! It.Was.Awesome. I am still a bit too excited to write very coherently about this experience so the following narrative will probably be quite jumpy and exclamation-y and filled with long-winded sentences. But, who cares? I got to ride a horse and it was so.much.fun! And you know what the best part was? (You know, besides the fact that I was riding a beautiful frosty horse [not pony!] aptly named Frosty, and the fact that I got the perfect spirited horse who wished to scramble and walk about with a similar excitement to that in the pit of my stomach [that pretty instantaneously, upon arrival at the stables, moved to my face and all of my body], and that the weather finally cooled down to a gorgeous 75 [which made walking along the completely treed nature trail, complete with deer, rabbits, geese, and serene lake, perfectly blissful]...) The best part was that from the minute I put my foot in the stirrup, I was completely at ease and comfortable. It felt 100% natural. For me, this is a big deal. Sharayah and new things generally do not get along. Rarely does something come to me "naturally." It usually takes a lot of awkwardness, a lot of nervous mumbling, and several re-introductions before any semblence of comfort or familiarity occurs. This was not the case with horseback riding and Frosty and me. It was such a wonderfully exhilarating experience.

I have to take a break from my birthday adventures to mention this: Jason and I brought along several puzzles to do while we are down here vacationing. The majority of our puzzles are in multipacks of anywhere from 4-10 puzzles. The packs we are currently working on are 4-packs of Thomas Kinkade and Jane Wooster Scott, and a 10-pack of random animal-themed puzzles. We have a few guidelines that we follow without fail when puzzling: 1) We choose a random bag of puzzle pieces from one of our sets. 2) We build the border first. 3) We never look at a picture of what the puzzle is supposed to look like. We think that the puzzle is more fun to build this way, not knowing exactly what the image is going to be. Well, in the case of the non-animal puzzles, we usually have a general idea of what will be in the picture (Wooster Scott = colorful towns with balloons and shops and sailboats, etc. Kinkade = an old-fashioned cottage settled amongst scenic forestry.). With this particular set of animal puzzles, however, we don't even have a general idea (other than that an animal should be present somewhere in the image) of the puzzle's finished product. Anyway, so the puzzle that Jason randomly chose to bring with us from the animal pack is 900 pieces and has been stumping us for the past couple of days. We managed to do the border and felt rather accomplished. Unfortunately, all of the remaining pieces basically fall into 3 color categories: brown, orange/yellow, and purple. It was intimidating to look at, and we had absolutely no clue what animal we would be creating from these pieces. There were seemingly no distinctive pieces, no particularly easy starting place, nothing. To make a long story not as long as it could be, tonight (about 5 minutes ago) Jason finally figured out the puzzle's animal. What we originally thought was a purplish-blue mass filled with red blood cells (as seen from under a microscope) that was slipping away from the sun on the crest of a fiery plasma wave actually turned out to be a horse! I just had to mention that. What a pleasant coincidence, eh? The day of the horse. What a good day. Now, back to your regularly scheduled programming.

So, yes, I won't go so far as to say that I'm a natural at horseback riding, only that it felt natural to me. As soon as I was on top of Frosty, I felt like I could conquer the world. I wanted to recklessly gallop off into the forest and become best friends with this four-legged animal. We would explore new lands and become inseparable. I never wanted to dismount. It was such a surreal experience, finally doing something that I've wanted to do for... as long as I can remember. It was everything I have ever imagined. Sure, we mostly just walked along the trail in a well-behaved manner, but in my head the entire time, I was seeing me and Frosty adventuring together. No guides, no trails, no hour time limit.

The entire time we were at the stables, surrounded by grazing horses, whinnying horses, clip-clopping horses, I kept feeling this irrepressible desire to slip away with one of them and just... be free. Perhaps it's due to my re-reading the Black Stallion series (I'm now into the 5th book) with all of its epic wildness, I don't know. What I do know is that I wanted to ride forever with Jason and Frosty. Just ride forever, completely free of everything. Riding Frosty gave me such an indescribable feeling. I feel it, but I just can't find the right words right now. It was amazing. Absolutely exhilarating.

I could go on forever but I'm sure I've already passed the point of "probably not interesting to read" so... I will give a more specific overview of the riding adventure, with less "It was so incredible!" 's. Like I've already mentioned, I got to ride a frosty speckled white horse named Frosty. Jason's mount was equally awesome, if for a slightly different reason. Jason's friend was named Charlie Brown, or CB. The name was perfect. We were told CB used to be a race horse, once placing 4th even, and the only thing you could do was laugh when they said it. Charlie Brown was a pretty generic brown horse, the biggest of the 3 [the guide's horse was light brown and named Elvis], and the oldest. He was a perfect horse representation of Charlie Brown, lacking only the stripe. The guide and Elvis led us through the trail, I followed behind them, and Jason was behind me (we were the only ones doing the trail at this time slot, which was super nice). Frosty always wanted to be as close to the front as possible. He had a ton of energy and was exactly what I had been hoping for going in to this whole adventure (I just didn't want an old, small, sleepy horse that plodded). Charlie Brown was the exact opposite. His favorite pace was plodding. Elvis and Frosty would just be walking along and we'd slowly but surely lose CB and Jason far behind us. I'd occasionally glance over my shoulder and never failed to crack up laughing at the picture I'd see: Jason and Charlie Brown looked to be the best of friends. They plodded along with such measured... seriousness. I don't think I can even properly describe it, but try to imagine an old Mickey Mouse cartoon where there are cartoon-y horses racing in some kind of... race. The screen first shows you the one horse that is racing along gallantly to that cheerful, fast-paced music (I have the tune in my head, but I can't really type it out, nor do I know the name of it). It then switches to the cartoon horse bringing up the rear in the midst of all the settling dust and the music changes drastically to that slow, measured, "plodding" music. Again, I can't really describe it, but Jason and I have been singing it all day and it's hilarious. I doubt that this attempt at clarity is clear at all, but it's the best I can do. Just know, we had to keep stopping to let Charlie Brown and Jason catch up to us. It wasn't Jason's fault at all, seriously. CB just had his preferred pace and, even when prodded to quicken a bit, he would only speed up for a few steps before falling back into his plodding. It was awesome. They were the perfect pair. I wish I had taken a picture of them, but I was the first to mount and Jason had the camera the entire time. Sad.

The other thing I want to mention is that Elvis was a bit skittish, and along the trail, there were quite a few opportunities for him to get skittish. There were rabbits and deer and fawns and random birds and such. All of the wildlife were cautious when they saw us, but didn't necessarily seem scared of us since they were semi-used to people riding on the trails. They would keep their distance but wouldn't run away. Anyway, we came around a corner and there were 2 deer that got a bit startled at our appearance. They kinda jumped to their feet, which loudly rustled the leaves. This, of course, startled Elvis who did a jerky bolt to the side. His movement startled the deer even more, which made them suddenly dash a few feet farther away. Their startled movements startled Elvis even more and so he kinda bolted again abruptly to the other side. This movement made him fall into a slight hole/ditch, which just completely freaked him. It was absolutely hilarious. It looked like he and the deer were doing some kind of awkward, jerky dance. Meanwhile, the deer and Elvis's sudden movements and obvious discomfort made Frosty shy a bit and he did a minature version of the awkward horse dance. It all happened rather quickly and I wasn't expecting it. I am proud to say that I handled it splendidly and all was right as rain (why is rain right?) in just a couple seconds. It was super cool knowing that it could have been a rather embarrassing disaster (if I had fallen off or scared the horses more in some way) but it wasn't. Where were Jason and Charlie Brown? Nowhere to be found. So we took the opportunity to take a short break and wait for our laggy companions who had missed all of the excitement. All in all, it was an exciting interruption.

I was so sad when the hour ride was over. I think it just may be my new favorite thing to do. Seriously. One of the best things about finally riding a horse today is that it turned out to be everything I have ever imagined it might be. When you look forward to something for years and years, there's a chance that you just might build it up in your imagination as something far more than it actually is. It's so disappointing when the event finally, finally happens and it is just not what you expected. It would have been crushing if horseback riding had fallen into that category. I'm oh so very glad that that is not the case. Riding Frosty was everything and more. Still.So.Excited.

I would absolutely love to own a horse one day. I realize that something like that could only be possible in the distant, distant future, and I'm okay with that. And sure, it may just be one of those far-off, never-to-come-true-but-you-never-stop-wishing kind of dreams, but I like to think that it just MIGHT come true. One day. And just the thought of it makes my insides smile. What's really neat is that Jason is onboard with the 7-children-5-cats-2-horses-and-a-dog idea. I have the best husband ever.

Anyway, this is way too long as it is so Jason will write about the rest of today in the next blog. It's been an awesome day. Hooray for vacations and birthdays and horses and Jasons!


Vacation Day 5

June 2nd, Day 5
With yesterday being Wednesday, it's now that conflicting part of vacation (for me, at least) when you realize that your glorious time is more than halfway over. I greatly dislike passing that midpoint where "Vacation is just beginning!" turns to "Vacation is coming to an end..." I know it's ridiculous to even think that way since we still have a good 3 days left, but I can't help it sometimes. Luckily, Jason is good at getting me to forget my silly reasons to be sad. He's good for me. Anyway, this morning we woke up early since the resort we're staying at scheduled us for some kind of informational meeting that was supposed to include a participation reward of a free breakfast and a $100 gift card if we attended their little dealio. We figured, "Why not?" as long as it didn't cut into our time too much. We thought it was a little odd to be asked to attend since we are only staying as guests of Jason's parents and didn't have anything to do with the business end of it all. Jason tried to explain this to the lady who set it up a few days ago, but she had said that it didn't matter. Who were we to argue? So, bright and early this morning, we arrived at the specified resort unit to get our free breakfast voucher and find out how long the informational meeting was supposed to last. Turns out, we weren't eligible to attend the meeting since we were only guests and not the actual owners. So, the $100 gift card was a no-go, but they still gave us the free breakfast voucher for a restaurant down the street since it was their mistake. It freed up our morning, so no complaints from us.

While we were working out the confusion, another family came in (they also were there for the breakfast, meeting, etc.) with 2 little kids. The son was about 2 or 3, I think (though I'm pretty horrible at telling how old people are...), and he was riding up on the dad's shoulders. Well, there was a part of the ceiling that was a good foot or so lower than the rest of the ceiling, kind of as a divider between the 2 parts of the room. Well, the dad chose to dismount the little fellow while he was standing directly underneath this lowered part of the ceiling. I won't go into details, but there was most definitely a solid head thump involved in the dismount. The father immediately realized what happened. The little boy didn't cry or anything. As soon as his feet touched the ground, he stumbled forward and caught himself with his hands. I thought he was a bit dazed, and I was torn between being concerned for him and wanting to laugh. The dad couldn't believe what he'd just done and kept asking the boy over and over if he was okay. Will (as the boy's name turned out to be) finally recovered his balance, jumped up and was like, "Yeah!!" He was just completely unfazed. It was hilarious. He didn't care that he had to wobble around in a circle for a few seconds, and he certainly didn't seem to be concerned that his dad was so concerned. He probably would have gladly done it again. Kids are so funny. And resilient (at least, some are).

Anyway, with our morning wide open with no planned events, we decided to finally take advantage of our Colonial Williamsburg passes. It worked out nicely since today was most definitely not as hot as earlier in the week. Plus, Jason's foot has been slowly recovering, and he felt like he was finally up to the extensive walking that we knew this adventure would necessitate. I suppose there's no way to describe Colonial Williamsburg other than... it is a trip back to the 18th century. There was a cool bridge crossing from the Visitor Center to the "entrance" of Colonial Williamsburg that, at regular intervals along the bridge, had plaques in the ground indicating that you were stepping back into the 18th century. Each plaque stated something of significance from a particular time period. It was like a walk back in time and helped to get you in the mood for the setting that you were about to experience. If you cross the bridge on the way back, the reverse would happen - the plaques would tell of significant historical discoveries that would eventually lead to the 21st century. It was neat.

I really enjoyed Colonial Williamsburg. I've never been a serious history buff or anything, but it was still a really cool place to visit. The atmosphere would have been pretty spot-on if it weren't for the numerous school groups that were visiting while we were there. The large, rowdy groups of 12 year olds with their cell phones definitely detracted from the colonial feel. We managed to stay out of their way for the most part though, which was nice. We got to see inside all kinds of buildings, including a period magazine/armory and the shops of a blacksmith, wheel wright, gunmaker, and shoemaker, just to name a few. One neat thing was that all of these workmen were actually doing the tasks that someone of their trade would have done back in the 18th century. The wheel wright was actually in the process of deconstructing a large, broken wagon wheel to reuse in a new wagon that he'd just finished painting. The shoemaker was actually finishing up a pair of leather shoes. It was neat that not only could they answer any historical question, but they were also thoroughly skilled in their trade. The shoemaker was especially funny. He talked to everyone as if they were a potential customer and stayed in character (as an 18th century shoemaker) the entire time. One woman asked him if he recycled shoes (or something to do with recycling). Basically, she was asking as a 21st century woman about how things were done in the 18th century. The shoemaker, however, was in an 18th century character who believed he was still the 18th century, and he would feign ignorance about certain words that probably weren't used back in the 1700's. It was really funny hearing the woman try to describe what recycling or velcro was to him. He performed his part admirably, and it was really entertaining.

We also went inside the courthouse, where a very libertarian "judge" explained how government and such differed between now and then. Unlike the shoemaker, he acknowledged that it was the 21st century, but his style of presenting historical facts was still done in a very interesting and entertaining manner. He presented some interesting ideas that seemed ideal in some ways, but I think they were too realistically impractical to apply in today's world.

We looked around a quaint general shop. I, of course, made Jason try on a tricorne and it befit him splendidly. Unfortunately, the period head covering for females was a terribly awkward-looking bonnet, so I passed on the fashion show opportunity. We both liked the wax letter seals that were available. The store had ones of each alphabet and the V was especially majestic (as is appropriate). I wish we still used wax seals... I think I would write many more letters if I got to use such a majestic seal. There really is no 21st century equivalent. Sure, there are some sticker-type seals for special occasion letters, but they don't hold the same level of awesomeness that a good old-fashioned wax seal does. Plus, we all know people email and text more often these days. So what can take the place of a wax seal in these cases? And no, an emoticon does NOT count.

Just as a quick side note: There were horse and buggy rides available. They would take you on a circuit around Colonial Williamsburg, helping to add to the general atmosphere and your overall experience. We got to get up close with the horses while they were waiting for their next customers. They were perfectly gorgeous horses and the 5 minutes I got to pet and talk to the horses easily became one of my favorite times of the whole day. It saddened me a bit, though, how uncomfortable their bits looked and how restricting their blinders were. I realize the purpose of it all... but I can't help but feel sorry for them. That's all.

Alright, so this is getting really lengthy, so I think that's all I'll say about Colonial Williamsburg. It was a cool place, and we only covered a fraction of what was available. I can only imagine that it would be a full vacation in itself to a true colonial history buff.

After going back to the plantation for lunch and a brief break from the heat, we decide to go visit the Yorktown river front. While it wasn't an ocean beach or anything, it was still pretty and peaceful. We didn't really try out the water other than sticking our feet in for a few minutes, but that was all we wanted to do anyway. I think we spent an hour or so there just laying on our awesome beach towels and reading. It was nice. We finished off our day with a round of putt putt golf at a pirate-y themed course. I was keeping on par with Jason until the 10th hole... it all went downhill score-wise from there. Coincidentally, that was also when my left contact lens started acting up, so I think I'll blame it on that.

Anyway, it was a fun day. I sure do love vacation.


Vacation Day 4

June 1st, Day 4
Well it's my turn to write the day's blog, and once again it fell on the day we went to the water park and Busch Gardens. I got an Ace wrap (or some off-brand wrap), which made me somewhat more ambulatory despite my still hurting foot. Now, on to the parks. I won't say the same things again, but both parks are just really great scenery-wise. For example, we were in the lazy river today just floating around to rest up between the more exciting rides. The lazy river is surrounded by what I can only call a forest. It's really great, such tall trees and thick enough you can't see too far in. Now, on one of the laps around the river I found a spot where you could actually see pretty far between the trees - about 50 yards. What did I see? A lake. I don't mean a pool or some sort of fake scenery lake made by the park. We were just on the edge of the park, and there happened to be a lake over there, just like the one we rowed in yesterday. So cool. The other cool thing was that when we were on a coaster today, we noticed again the super cool thing that when you get to the very top of the first lift, all you can see in any direction is the tops of trees and the peaks of the other 4 coasters that are that tall. I just can't get past that, it's so cool. I was gonna give a list comparing Busch Gardens to Six Flags, but there's just no comparison so I'm not gonna bother.

I was going to let Sharayah talk about the shows but she hasn't gotten to be the blogger on a park day yet so you'll have to settle for me. We saw today this Irish dance (we also saw it last time) called Celtic Fyre that was pretty cool. If you're not familiar with Celtic dancing, it's basically like that cool riverdance stuff where their legs move independently from their upper bodies. This one also had a big tap component, I don't know if that's always what they do or not. Dude, these guys' feet move fast. It was pretty cool. Sharayah really loves it, and it's definitely cool enough that I let her watch it twice. We also saw something called Pirates 4D, which was just a short, cheesy pirate movie. The 3D was actually pretty good. I say 3D because that's all I can really call it. They said the 4th D was that there's more than just the visuals. For example, they had fans hidden somewhere so that when it was windy on screen, we felt wind in the theater. Admittedly that was cool, but they had that in another show/ride thing we went on last time so nothing new. I also don't think it counts as a 4th D. The only other thing I can think of is that at one point a flock of birds pooped on one of the pirates, and at the same time sprinkles of water hits us from the ceiling. Funny, but I'm sticking with 3D. Oh, the other thing is the show was way too scary for little kids. There were bees and bats and spiders looking like they were coming right at your face, really close, repeatedly during the show (because at this point, movie makers still think the only point of 3D is to have things come right at your face) and because the 3D was really realistic, and these bugs and bats got so "close" to the viewer, all the kids in the room started crying. So it was too scary for little kids and probably too cheesy for everyone else. At least it was short and had nice cool air conditioning, plus the aforementioned wind. It was a nice 20 minute break from walking around in the heat (if you can call it heat compared to what we walk around in at Six Flags in Texas).

Something I forgot to mention about the water park. This is a problem I have with all water parks. What is the deal with the slides where you don't use tubes? They just can't get the segments to match up properly, so it scrapes your back at every single intersection. Because of this, I usually avoid those slides. However, I've noticed that sometimes it's not so bad on the slides that aren't completely enclosed. I don't know why, I think they're not made of the same fiberglass stuff. Anyway they had a new slide that went almost completely vertical, and I wanted to try it out, so I took my chances. It was pretty fun, and I went ridiculously fast. However, it had the same stupid problem. I have a huge scrape on my back now because it clipped me at every single segment. I guess I'm just done with water slides that don't use tubes.

Just a couple more short things to mention that may not warrant their own paragraph:
- The parks have been super empty this week, which has been really great. It makes for short wait times (about 10 minutes max) so we get to ride all the rides we care to in a given day in only a few hours. The other perk is we get to park in the "preferred" parking lot for free (normally only general parking is included with our pass), since it's big enough for all the guests, so they have no need for the general parking lot.
- The wave pool at Water Country has a big timer so you know when it's going to turn on and off. Super convenient, I wish the wave pools I went in as a kid had that, because over the course of my life I've probably spent a combined 5 hours or so sitting in a wave pool just waiting for the waves to start.
- Kids these days don't try to touch the 3D objects that come at them in a movie. That's strange to me. When I was a kid, if something came at you in a 3D movie, hands all over the theater would reach out at it.
- At Busch Garden's river rapids, the way they load you is through this super cool giant wheel that the boats go around so that your boat is still moving as you load (and when you unload after the ride) so that they can load several at a time and keep everything moving. It's hard to explain but maybe we'll get a video of it later.
- They have a ride called the Griffin, which has only 3 rows, but fits 10 per row. The other cool thing is it's a ridiculously smooth ride, and the drops are completely vertical (not almost, they really are straight down), which is really fun.
- Finally, if you're trying to get to Italy, everyone knows you go until you see Scotland and then turn left.

Ok, the last thing. When we were leaving the water park and had just gotten onto the highway, just at the first exit we saw through the trees these mysterious... um, heads. There were these big heads, maybe 10 feet tall (Sharayah says 20, but she's little so who knows, everything looks bigger to her), I think in a circle looking at each other. I think they were made of some kind of rock. We were baffled. We don't know what they are or exactly how big they are. It was kinda spooky and definitely weird. We will try to figure out what the heck these things were next time we go to the water park. It was weird. Weird.


Vacation Day 3

May 31st, Day 3
Today has been a very hot, but pretty chill kind of day. Our plans were cut short a bit due to Jason tweaking something in his foot yesterday (possibly while I was whacking tennis balls hither and tither for him to fetch) and not feeling up to walking around a lot today. No matter though since it's vacation and who needs to stick to a planned schedule of "fun"? Fun happens best when not on a schedule. That's what I think anyway. So, even though we didn't end up exploring Colonial Williamsburg today, we know we'll get to it eventually this week. No worries. Vacation continues on.

Today's adventures: Row boating. Oh, so many hoorays are in order here. There's a park here, Waller Mill Park, that provides all kinds of nicely-priced adventure opportunies. They let you rent out paddle/pedal boats, kayaks, fishing boats, or just a simple row boat for as cheap as $5/hr. There are also several nature trails to wander about on and a 2 mile bike trail. The entire park is beautifully set in a forest-y realm with tall towering trees and a decently sized body of water for all of the boating adventures. It was pretty near perfect for our row boat outing.

The sun was out in full force today, and the humidity was also doing more than its share of beating down our anti-sweat defenses. By the time we left Waller Mill, we had all kinds of attractive sweat patterns decorating the back of our shirts. I was even disgusted at how disgusting I was. What a success! Speaking of the weather, I have to bring this up: Even though I realize that Williamsburg is only 5 hours away from Newark, I can't help but think that Virginia is a southern state and Delaware is a "more northern" state, not just geographically (which is obvious) but also climate wise. Jason laughs at me and points out that the difference is like that between Tulsa and Fort Worth, only a minimal climate change at best. While I realize he's right (in that it's such a short distance from the 2 points, thus making the differences hardly worth mentioning), my head still argues against this "logic." For 1, obviously Virginia is south of Delaware, and if Delaware is hardly a northern state, then Virginia is most definitely a southern state. For 2, when we left Delaware, it had been getting warmer, but it was nowhere near the heat that we've been having the past couple of days down here in Williamsburg. Yes, I realize we've been doing extensive outdoor things down here, making the heat seem worse, and yes, I realize that this may just be a heat wave that's coming through this week (I don't know for sure because we don't have internet here to check weather.com [we would have to pay for it and who needs to waste time internet-ing when you're on vacation?]), but seriously... It only adds to my conviction that Virginia is a noticeably hotter (ie. less pleasant) state than Delaware, and thus, a less desirable a place to live. The beauty is top notch, but I think I'm still good with Delaware. Ok, enough said. Moving on.

Consider this my official checking off of "rowing a boat" from my to-do-before-I-am-unable list: The boat has been rowed. Done. Check. It was a ton of fun. Plus, it was actually a pretty relaxing activity, which surprised me a little. I suppose in my mind I've always thought of my rowing a boat happening in a situation where I'm trying to out race a brewing storm or a killer rainbow fish. Naturally, that type of situation would be much more dire and stressful. In my imaginings, I'm always an excellent boatman who rows as if she were born with the oars melded to her hands (ouch for my birth mother). There is no learning curve, no need for instruction. I simply see the impending danger and row swiftly to safety. The speed at which my boat is cutting through the waters is only topped by the beauty of my rowing form. It is magnificence in its purest form. As it turns out, rowing a boat does not have to be all gung-ho and frantic (though beautiful). It can be extremely peaceful and satisfying. As there were no dangerous goldfish in our general vicinity and the sky was as clear as <insert name of very clear object>, our boating adventure today was of the serene type. It was perfect.

Obviously, the next question is whether or not the rowing came as naturally to me as my imagination suggested it would. The answer would be a... resounding... almost. I doubt that I would have been able to compete in Yale's boat rowing competition, but after a few minutes, I could most definitely out row the flock of mosquitoes that attempted to ambush us. Sure, if I attempted to row in a nice straight line it could probably only honestly be called 64% successful. But, seriously, who wants to row in a straight line? Zigging and zagging is so much more creative. Plus, any pictures you take are all at different angles, which is always a good thing, no? Many of my traits or characteristics can be labeled as monotonous, but not my rowing! This pleases me.

Jason started off the rowing since I don't like to try new things that I'm unfamiliar with while other random people are watching (in this case, the boatman who cast us off, and a group of picnic-ers). Plus, he's done it before. Our boat was a small, 3-seat, entirely metal boat that was so hot you could have scrambled an egg on it. We had to sit on cushions provided by the park and were warned not to let any skin touch any part of the boat. Just to see what would happen, I touched the seat with my finger - it was like accidentally touching the oven door with your elbow. Ousch. We were asked by the boatman if we were ok with the tiny boat. As we are pretty agreeable people, we quickly voiced that it "looked good!" Just as we okayed the boat, I heard the boatman add one last tiny bit of extra info: "...it's more unstable than the others." Sigh. Of course we get the most unstable boat. But if there's something I hate worse than the possibility of falling into dark, unknown waters due to boat instability, it would be that I hate changing my mind due to cowardly whims. Unstable or not, this was our boat!

Turns out, as long as you're super careful in a potentially unstable boat, you will not be dumped into the murky depths. Hurrah. Jason rowed for a while and then let me row for a good portion. We switched places by doing a delicate dance along the middle line of the boat. It would have been hilarious to watch as an outsider, but we were too smart to allow ourselves to be a free spectacle and did our switcharoo in a small nook of the lake, trees blocking the view from laughing eyes. I picked up rowing pretty quickly with a few minor oops moments in the first 5 minutes. It was a blast. Since the boat wasn't one big enough for both of us to sit next to each other and each row one side, I would say that it wasn't quite up to the excitement of our kayaking adventure last year, but it was still pretty neat. I like that the rower is able to look at the non-rower. I like that you can chant "big circles, big circles" as you row. I like that you feel like a pro rower as long as you see the trees floating by at some kind of rate. Rowing a boat = good times.

Even though we didn't do much more today because of Jason's foot, it was most definitely a successful vacation day. Boy, heat sure is tiring though.

Also, I love Jason like crazy. How can someone be so sweet and considerate and funny and mine?


Vacation Day 2

May 30th, Day 2
We woke up early today (by vacation standards) at about 8:30 and made egg sandwiches for breakfast. Then we headed to Water Country USA, which is the water park associated with Busch Gardens. We activated our Bounce passes, which allow us to get into Water Country USA, Busch Gardens, and Colonial Williamsburg for 7 consecutive days. Then we headed in to see if the water park was as pretty as the surrounding area of Williamsburg.

It was a great park. Not only were the rides great and the lines fairly short and fast moving, but the nature that surrounds the park is also inside the park. Basically, anywhere that they didn't have to clear for a ride or a path was still full of trees. And when I say they cleared trees for the rides, I just mean those that the slides would have gone directly through. There were still plenty of trees growing up through the gaps not filled by the slides. These trees were huge, too. They were the wonderful kind we always see lining the highways in this part of the country: very tall (I'd guess 50-75 ft but I don't have a good reference point) and very dense so they form a very thick... wall? Well, on the sides of the highways it's a wall, but in the park they're in... bunches? Anyway, definitely the best park I've seen as far as integration with nature. We went on the water rides, as well as the slightly-faster-than-a-lazy-river river until about 1:30 and then ate lunch.

Next, we headed to Busch Gardens. Wow. I know I said that the water park was nice, but Busch Gardens was amazing. I read that they've been voted most beautiful theme park for 21 years in a row, and I can say that they deserve the title. Not only was it pristinely clean, but the scenery was incredible. It's like they built it right in the middle of the forest, right over a river or two, and they left everything. The roller coasters just go through the little gaps between trees. This isn't a joke, we were on a coaster and we saw a deer on the ground running around near the ride supports. And then we went down a slope and did a flip. I've seen deer and done flips before, but never so close together. Anyway we saw a couple of cool shows (I'll let Sharayah talk about those) and went on few more coasters. Even without the scenic bonus they get because when you get to the top of the chains and you're about to drop, all you can see is treetops (and 1 or 2 other peaks of coasters), these rides were great. They seemed so much smoother than what I'm used to, and were really fun and exciting without being too nauseating. I'm not saying the inverted hanging coaster didn't make me dizzy, I'm just saying it somehow flipped me around at bizarre angles and high speeds without making me feel sick at all.

Anyway I'm sure we'll talk about the park again, but it was a great time. After that we headed back to the plantation for some dinner - pasta - and headed to the tennis courts. I've played tennis about 6 times, maybe, and Sharayah had never played, so we don't know what we're doing, but it was pretty fun and succeeded in the task of getting us tired enough to feel like we definitely had an incredible first full day of vacation.


Vacation Day 1

We decided to write about each day of our vacation so we wouldn't forget any of it. So now we have a week's worth of posts that we'll be able to put up here whenever we want! I think for the most part we alternated writing each day. Feel free to be jealous of our adventuring.

May 29th, Day 1
Vacation! Today has been extremely sleepy for some reason. I think we've been working ourselves up for an awesome, well-needed vacation for so long that, now that it's here, our bodies just immediately went into chill and relax mode as soon as the Happy Day arrived. Couple that with the five or six, warm and scenic hours in the car, an early morning rising and full stomachs (which I will mention in a bit) and, well, you get two sleepy people arriving in Williamsburg, Virginia. But I've already jumped ahead. Rewind time.

We were planning on going to church this morning before heading out but miscalculated our itinerary. We figured we could go to church, get out at 10, drop by our apartment to pick up our food items and cooler, and be able to make it to Fredericksburg, Virginia by 1 pm. For some reason, we thought our first stop was only 2-1/2 hours away. Upon googling it last night, however, we discovered it was closer to 3 hours away, which sadly nixed our church plans.  Why did we want to reach Fredericksburg by 1? What was so important about getting there at such a specific time? I will answer this with another question: Would you want to miss a date with Marth?

That's right, people, Jason and I had a 1 o'clock date with Marth. We like him. He's a good fellow. We were excited. We didn't want to keep him waiting for us. So, we packed up the car and headed out right on time, our GPS telling us that we would probably arrive about 15 minutes early. (Let me just add here that we packed near perfect. As of now, the only thing we can think of that we forgot to bring was something we just hadn't thought to bring in the first place: sandwich bags for carrying lunch PBJs. I think that's pretty good packing...) Of course, even the best-timed trip can completely collapse with a simple accident on a busy interstate. This is what happened to us. Crawling along a 4-lane interstate at the rate of idling set us back a good 25 minutes.

It turns out that the number of games you can play while stuck in a non-moving car with other mostly-non-moving cars surrounding you is pretty limited. I settled on a potentially racist-sounding game of calling out the skin color of the occupants of each car that passed us. I realize I could have chosen any other trait to call out, but I felt like skin color would be the easiest. Calling out genders would have been difficult because of multiple occupants in a given car. It would be too much to keep up with. Age grouping would also be affected by the number of occupants and would also be too subjective. So, I settled on skin color. No, I am not racist. Promise. I thought it was neat how, after calling out 30 different cars, my brain started compiling a mental pie chart of the skin color ratios. It was interesting (though odd, I know) and passed some time, but Jason eventually got tired of hearing "Dark/light/black/white!"

We hit another patch of traffic at some point and were then predicted to arrive in Fredericksburg at 1:35, which turned out to be pretty accurate. I don't know why I'm rambling on about traffic. I will move on. We successfully meet with Marth and his sister at Olive Garden and partake in a generously paid-for meal, courtesy of the same. I feel like we are not much for lunch companions, but overall we enjoyed ourselves. I sure hope we didn't bore the 2 of them... Jason received his long-anticipated hug from the Tall Blonde One (and gave the inevitable compliments of "you smell good as always" directly following said hug) and we parted ways. It was a good stop. Good date. Marth's a brick. (I've always wanted to call someone a brick, and I think Marth merits the title.)

Onto Williamsburg! I don't remember what time we arrived here, but it was oh so welcome turning into Williamsburg Plantation Resort, where we will be staying for the next week. Let me mention here how awesome the drive was down here. The trees lined the interstate all the way down, with a few breaks (such as when we passed through a small section of D.C.) and it was just perfectly gorgeous. Absolutely gorgeous. I can't even describe. As we drove the last couple of miles to the resort, we were hoping and hoping that the trees would continue to dominate the scenery, even once we reached our destination. You know how it is, prettiness often abounds until you reach the city-fied area and then the beauty just abruptly disappears. I dislike this. I am proud to say, however, that this is not the case with our current vacation residence. It is nature-esqe and serene all the way up to the Plantation. It is perfect. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that our entire vacation will be filled with forest-lined roads and nature-filled scenes (even maybe atthe amusement park and water park, please...?).

We have a 2 bed/2 bath, 2nd floor suite. It is decorated in a very dated, themed manner. The decor isn't fancy or extravagant, but it accomplishes what it's supposed to. The rooms are nicely sized, the kitchen is well-stocked with appliances and utensils, and our master bathroom is ridiculously awesome. Our balcony looks out over a yard-ish area with a few trees, and I'm pretty sure there's a bird nest up in the corner above the sliding door. While I'm sure plantations of old didn't have a television set in every main room, the atmosphere of our place is perfect. I'm 100% sure we're going to love spending the next 7 days here. The only down-side to our place is that we're on the 2nd floor and, thus, have to limit our boundings and jumpings and dancing about out of consideration for the residents below us. Plus, it was quite the task hauling our bikes up the flight of stairs. But, no other complaints.

So, that's where we stand so far. We've made it down here safely and we've unpacked the car. We have eaten lunch leftovers for dinner, read for a while, and puzzled an appropriately named puzzle "Carefree Days" by Jane Wooster Scott. We are now sleepily trying to plan our day for tomorrow.

It's going to be a good, good week.