Archive for the 'Adventure' Category

Scuba Diving Class 2 – Two Open Water Dives

This is Part 2 in a Series. Read Part 1 HERE.

Did I mention how terrified I am to scuba dive? No? Well, rest assured that I told my instructor. And Zach. And Kate, the other student diving with us. Here I am, yesterday morning, having problem after problem with pool gear. Mask too tight, respirator too difficult to breathe through, can’t get properly weighted. Bleh. Still. Not giving up yet.

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Then we spent time calculating nitrogen concentration in one’s body, safe dive times, etc. I liked this because it was math-y, and also showed that dive sickness is avoidable, and not just a matter of chance circumstance. We got onto the boat for a 40 minute ride out to Sand Key, part of the coral barrier reef 7 miles from Key West. I cannot imagine a prettier day on the water. Calm and glassy and teal.

The crew had the tanks all lined up.

1-tanks

We squeezed into wetsuits and hoods. This is Zach making his “THIS IS AWESOME” face.

1-pre dive zach wetsuit

This was the view off the side of the boat. Those greeny patches? They’re corals 20 feet below.

1-pre dive water view

My nerves kicked in while strapping up. I actually had to put on a ton of gear and then just JUMP off the side of the boat. It took a full 2 minutes of hyperventilation on the “gangplank”, and ultimately I asked Rick, the first mate, to push me off. Once in, I had a bit of a panic, until Zach saw a loggerhead sea turtle 20 feet away on the surface, and I realized that I needed to get under that water. Here’s a bit of bubbly surface panic, but check out those fish! They kept coming close, giving me curious side-eyed looks:

2 surface panic 2

I clutched the rope, all the way down to 5 feet, adjusting and readjusting my mask, my respirator, and finding all my gauges. I hovered there with Duane, the instructor, while Zach sort of paddled around nearby, getting his bearings. I realized I needed to cry, and then prompltly discovered that there is no crying in scuba diving. I surfaced, jittery, breathed a bit (but didn’t cry!), then went back down. Slowly, slowly descending to 16 ft, whimpering and grasping at my teacher’s jacket, bug-eyed with terror.

2-dive bug eyed terror

Duane had a tablet for communicating, so he wrote encouraging things like “slow down, you’re doing fine” and “no drills yet, this is the fun part”:

3 dive notes

It took me ages to relax and let go of that rope, and then I was only willing to swim in circles around it. Finally, I calmed down and we set off to see all sorts of fishies and corals.

3 blue fish

Zach gave me the camera, which was soothing, and took my mind off basic breathing. Time was almost up, so we went to the back of the boat and rested with our knees on the sandy bottom. Zach did his drills, taking out his respirator, getting it back in, and clearing the water from his mask:

2 respirator

We surfaced and I said something I never thought I’d say “I didn’t want to come back up.” We climbed aboard the Sea Eagle and the crew switched up our gear for fresh tanks.

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Then we cruised to our next spot. I noticed that my hands were really itchy and tingly. Duane said this was from hydra stings and fire corals that grow on the ropes. A good lesson…I won’t be clutching the rope next time. The second plunge was much easier, though I still asked Rick for a tiny push; it’s psychologically pretty difficult to jump in with that much gear on. It just seems impossible that you’re going to float.

On this dive I got comfortable faster, and did my own drills of taking out my respirator, tossing it behind me, relocating it, and putting it back it. Then we just cruised and swam and took pictures of pretty things. Our coral reef is gorgeous.

2 reef

I didn’t think I could do it, truly. Zach says he knew I was capable, despite all my worries, because he’s seen me work through all kinds of fears.

3 feeling groovy

A brave new adventure! Two more dives next week, then I’ll be a card-carrying, PADI-certified open water diver. This time, I can’t wait to go back under. Zach was glad to send his 20s off with a bang. Happy 30th birthday today, mister!

4 after diving

Scuba Diving Class 1 – Pool Time

This Friday is Zach’s 30th birthday, and in a few weeks, my 38th. So we decided to get scuba certified, something we’ve been talking about for at least a year. Let me just be clear that I am scared to death of scuba diving.

Yesterday morning, Zach had to take off his mustache.

shaving to scuba

Then we biked over to the Captain’s Corner dive center, and found this behind a white picket fence:

scuba path

We waited patiently for our instructor to arrive:

waiting to scuba sara

waiting to scuba zach

After paperwork and intros, we watched videos and reviewed text for a few hours. We took a stretch break and popped over to a new Italian coffee shop that is open until 10 ish at night. Newly established, it’s the only late-night coffee shop in town! The delicious latte helped us power through the rest of lessons.

Then, it was time to squeeze into wetsuits and gear up for a pool dive.

zach squeezing into scuba wetsuit

Turns out that one wetsuit wasn’t warm enough for either of us, so we both put on a balaclava-looking layer.

For the first 10 minutes, I struggled against having my mask flood with water whenever I took out my respirator and put it back in. Duane, our instructor, got me a smaller mask and I was OK.

sara scuba ok

Then, I struggled trying to sink to the bottom, so Duane added more weights. Here’s a video taken about 45 minutes later, after I stopped panicking and finally caught on:

Zach went diving for the first time last year in Israel, and he was a natural.

zach in the scuba pool

But needed Duane’s help getting out of the heavy gear!

heavy tank zach

A friend had the Boogedy for the afternoon, so after dive class we took ourselves to Santiago’s Bodega, one of my favorite restaurants in town.

Happy Birthday to us!

santiagos after scuba

I went home and the real panic attacks started during the huge lighting/thunderstorm we had last night. I kept imagining all the horrible things that could go wrong! I’m not giving up yet, though, because I haven’t even seen any good stuff. The bottom of a pool isn’t exactly thrilling, but I’m sure seeing dolphins, sharks, fish, and coral will be!

Dive Class 2 happens tomorrow. First pool time, then books, then our first open-water dive. I’m not so sure about this yet….

May trip to Chicago

At the beginning of May, we headed up to Chicago so that Zach could go to a work conference. We went early in order to visit his sister and her family over the border in Indiana for a few days. Here are some photos of our adventures.

Our first visit to Lake Michigan. The Boogedy couldn’t believe that water got that cold without being ice.

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Zach and The Boogedy and Cousin J jumped all over the giant dunes at Indiana Dunes State Park.

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We went for a short hike at Coffee Creek, where we found an earthworm and offered Zach’s sister Sarah $50 to eat it. She declined on the grounds of being vegetarian. Later, though, she confessed that worms just give her the heebie-jeebies and it was all she could do not to gag at the mere thought.

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I picked dandelions during a walk through the neighborhood and braided them into a sticky crown for Prince Charming.

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The next evening we went back to the lake with the whole family and searched the pebble zone for perfect “skipping stones.”

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I can do it:

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But Zach has better…style:

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After Zach left for the Windy City, that left me and the Boogedy with a few days to spend with the cousins.  We went to iCream, where you can design your own ice cream. You choose your base (ice cream, non-fat, soy, yogurts), your favorite flavor, your favorite color (it’s very popular to choose the “wrong” color for a familiar flavor), and toppings. Here is the Boogedy, and cousins S and J, waiting for their treats. The little boys are thrilled. Anyone with a teenager knows that the big kid is playing video games.

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Here the worker is adding the custom mixture to the Kitchenaid. On the left you can see the vapor from the addition of Liquid Nitrogen (!), which freezes the ice cream fast.

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I chose Key Lime with graham crumbs on top, dyed purple. You know, because that’s just not right. I got the serious jitters from this snack. And I mean bad. I wonder how much sugar or chemicals this had! Aside from the fun-factor, I wasn’t impressed at the deliciousness.

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After the treats, Sarah and I took the boys to the Lincoln Park Zoo, which was very nice. I loved taking a spring vacation. Before I moved to the tropics, spring was always my favorite season. Nowadays, I don’t get to see tulips, daffodils, and chartreuse willow trees. It was lovely!

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Sarah drove us home via the scenic route, along Lakeshore Drive. She used to have an apartment in the John Hancock building, the one with the two antennae.

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These boys are the giggly-est, and did great on all car trips.

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Sarah, Todd, and I hung around drinking Lattes (from Todd’s super-fancy espresso machine) and Greyhounds (fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice and vodka) and letting the kids play. We’ve known each other for about 18 years, and it’s always fun to catch up.

On our last day of vacation, we all headed back into town to meet up with Zach and walk through Chicago. We loved The Bean, though I kept losing track of my kid. It was very disorienting.

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Then, we walked along the Magnificent Mile to the John Hancock building, where we rode the elevator to the 96th floor for drinks! I look relaxed in this photo but I was WRECK. I don’t care for heights and the view was, literally, breathtaking.

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I love visiting family. Thanks for hosting us Sarah and Todd! I am looking forward to a big family reunion in scenic Southern Utah later this month, and short jaunt afterward to Texas to visit my sweet mom and sisters.

Chicken Fight at the Blue Angels!

sara chicken fightdiana chicken fight

Here we are: me on Zach’s shoulders and the Boogedy atop Diana a few weekends ago at the Blue Angels Air Show!

The air stunts were awesome and amazing and superlative, but my camera was no good at capturing them. If you want to see great shots, try this facebook link for the Key West Naval Air Station. The views of the Keys from their planes are the best!

After watching the show, the Boogedy and I jumped on the bungee trampolines. Back flips! Double back flips! This was great fun. Then I got off and realized I was a little dehydrated, overheated, had craned my neck to the sky for the last hour, and hadn’t done any situps in…um, forever.  My head and abs were so sore.

sara jumparoo

The kid figured out how to do flips immediately and had a blast. HE never complained about any pains at all.

archo jumparoo

January visit to Disney World

In mid-January, we rented a car and drove up to Orlando so that Zach could attend the National Tour Association conference for work. My plan was to entertain the Boogedy for a few days and after the conference, the family would head to Disney World. Our RAINY drive up made me feel a little hopeless about our plan to visit the theme park:

driving to orlando

However, the rain cleared up and left it merely cold and cloudy. The boy and I killed two days by ourselves. We spent a few hours each morning hanging out at the McDonalsds playland, killed some time at the mall, found an arcade with several bouncy castles, and ate at a buffet (which the kid thought was an Amazing Experience).

We putted 36 holes at the Pirate-themed mini-golf course (which was too many holes, by the way). This kid is pleased about his hole-in-one, but not about having to get another picture taken:

mini golf orlando

When the conference finished, we changed hotels and stayed at a Disney resort. They gave the Boogedy his own room key-card, and he was so proud of it. Here we are on Day 1 at DW, on the monorail to go to Magic Kingdom. It was a COLD day (like 58 degrees), so we were all bundled up.

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I’m still dealing with a fascia injury, so we rented a wheelchair and Zach pushed me around. I liked Main Street USA.

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I liked this picture of my boys in line for It’s A Small World.

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We enjoyed sitting around inside the circusy Dumbo tent while the kid played with other children and ignored us completely.

WDW playland

Zach’s first bought of nausea came from his own foul gluttony. He spotted a man eating one of these Meat Shanks from across a bridge in Frontierland and couldn’t rest until he’d bought his own Giant turkey leg. We split it amongst the three of us, but it was Still too much, and we threw a bunch away before hitting Space Mountain (perhaps it is obvious to observers that this was the wrong order to do things).

WDW turkey leg

We rode Space Mountain three times on this day and five times on Day 3. All of our pictures looked something like this, but I still wished we’d bought them all.

space mountain

The most terrifying attraction of all, though, was Zach’s Wheelchair Ride of Terror. This crazy ride involved the operator letting go of the handles whenever on a downward grade, or wildly (and unexpectedly) tipping the wheelchair Way, Way back and running erratically. The operator loved the squealing, I think, and startling the onlookers, and didn’t believe it when the rider said “I hate your guts!!”

WDW 01-05 wheelchair ride of terror

The weather warmed up on Day 2, and we went to Animal Kingdom, where they have Everest, the coolest roller coaster. But at some point I forgot that I own a camera, so you’ll have to settle for this one photo of the boy brushing a goat.

WDW 02 brushing goats

Zach’s second bout with nausea came on Day 3 from this Buzz Lightyear interactive ride (back at Magic Kingdom today). The Boogedy got to spin our car around in circles while we shot lasers at Emperor Zurg. Poor Zach then wasn’t himself for the last few rides on Space Mountain.

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Yay! Who wants more cotton candy and a funnel cake?!

Getting off the Rock: Orlando and the Upper Keys

We’ve done a fair bit of in-state traveling this winter:

Back in December, the Boogedy and I went up to Key Largo to go camping with Zach and Daisson during their Keys biking and kayaking trip. Here’s the boy in the mosquito netted hammock:

mosquito hammock

Later, dinner at Num Thai with Zach and Daisson.

thai boys

Chilly morning at the campground!

camping

 

After camping, the day warmed up and the Boogedy and I fed the Indigo Parrotfish at Theater of the Sea in Islamorada. This was AWESOME. They swam between our legs and ate from our hands. These were the prettiest fish I have ever seen.

blue fish

In January we went to DisneyWorld in Orlando (details tomorrow). Before heading to the theme park each day, we headed to Starbucks because the coffee at DW was….unsatisfactory.

On this sunny morning, we sat outside the coffee shop while the Boogedy pulled pennies from the fountain. He handed them to this baby so that she could have fun throwing them back in. Such a nice boy.

orlando fountain

The McDonalds in Orlando had an awesome playland, which the our kid saw from the car and begged to visit. Here is Zach, asleep near the shoe  cubbies.

asleep in playland

And here is the Boogedy, in the coolest McDonalds bathroom ever.

mcdonals bathroom

On our way home from Orlando, we stopped at an Alligator Farm in the everglades and snapped a couple of pictures:

alligator skin

When I saw these alligator babies (maybe 2 ft long) I thought of my niece, Rachel. As a young teenager, she once expressed the absolute WILLIES about the koi store where the fish swam slick and slippery all over each other! She couldn’t control the shudders.

alligator babies

Then just last weekend, while on our own kayaking trip in the upper Keys, we stopped for lunch at Habanos, a yummy Cuban restaurant in Islamorada. This is the view of the marina and mural from our table. I love the fence.

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Here is the view of my boys, horsing around at the table. I love these goofballs.

habanos boys 1

Kayaking the Mangrove Tunnels

paddle family

Part of Zach’s job with his adventure travel company is tour development and research. So Saturday Zach and I took the Boogedy up to mile marker 77 to Robbie’s to experience a true Keys Adventure: kayaking through the mangrove tunnels.

mangrove toes

Even though I’ve lived in the Keys for 2 years, this is the first time I have gone! Mostly I just let Zach paddle while I relaxed and tried not to think about the crabs crawling on the branches overhead.

The tide was really low and we saw purple squishy sea sponges growing amongst the roots.

mangrove sea sponge

I snapped a bunch of pictures, only to find that most contained two whole boys and half of my own face.

mangrove family

I caused a bunch of anxiety for this beautiful bird by standing up in my kayak to take his photo, but he never flew away.

mangrove bird

Oh look, just half of Zach’s face!

mangrove portrait

We caught sight of a small (4.5 ft) endangered American crocodile. We followed him through the mangroves, while he gave us the side-eye. Then, he bumped into a root and spooked himself and submerged with a splash.

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I hadn’t been on the water since we capsized a hobie cat way back in September, and it was NICE. Truly relaxing, sunny, warm. All the things people come to the Keys to experience at this time of year.

relaxing in the kayak

We bought several buckets of fish to feed to the Tarpon, massive (5-8 ft long) game fish that live near the marina. You have to be careful because they jump out of the water and open their huge mouths and they will bite your hands. They don’t have teeth, but Zach can testify that they still scrape.

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After kayaking, we headed back toward Key West and stopped to check out a hotel that Zach may have guests stay at during their Keys Adventure. We laid in their hammock for quite a while, while the Boogedy played on the playground. I love the palm trees reflected in our sunglasses.

hammock portrait 1

We stopped for a round of night-golf at Boondocks. I love the landscaping here. Mini-golf has become a staple for family activities and we usually hit a course whenever we travel.

mini golf kid

On Sunday, our neighbors had organized a community barbeque in our shared garden. J&B grilled ribs and a whole chicken, as well as some herbed veggies. I brought a huge salad with red onions, pears, and blue cheese, and made a balsamic vinaigrette with shallot and mustard. There were lots of other potluck items, and I think everyone was a little surprised at how much of the cherry pie I ate! That fakey ruby red cherry pie filling is some kind of a weakness for me, and I just can’t resist.

It was such a lovely weekend!


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