- 5:45 a.m. Alarm off. We parents get ourselves ready and the final things in the car (except for those one or two essentials that are always left behind - more on that later), before waking the small people. Can I tell you that they've never gotten up so willingly? All I had to do was flip on the lightswitch and say "Today is Field Trip Day!" They popped up like jack in the boxes and beat a path for the bathroom.
- 7:30 a.m. Caravan of two school buses and 20 or so cars is scheduled to leave the school
- 7:45 a.m. Caravan of two school buses and 20 or so cars pulls out. Bus drivers immediately deviate from the pre-printed map to take a back roads short cut. Luckily we are the first car behind the bus.
- 8:00 a.m. Hit the interstate and accelerate to.... 55 miles per hour. 15 miles UNDER the speed limit. I have begun the side-seat driving and will hear Rob mutter "Yes dear" quite frequently as I offer advice; "Stay with the bus! Why are you passing the bus? What if they turn off behind us! Oh, you had to let that car in huh? How are we going to get back behind the bus? Oh. Pull off on the shoulder and let them pass us.... Good plan." Abby has already started asking "How much further?" and "Are we there yet?"
- 8:45 a.m. I realize that the essential I forgot was my makeup bag. Although our fellow travelers will get the full benefit of fixed up Melinda, the vacationers of Saturday and Sunday won't be so lucky.
- 9:45 a.m. The caravan, or what's left of it after over half the parents decided the pace was too slow and zoomed ahead, pulls into a rest area for a bathroom break.
- 11:00 a.m. It starts to rain. Can you imagine driving a school bus loaded with 50 kids on a five lane interstate (that's just the north bound lanes) in the rain? We spend the next hour carefully staying behind the bus, copying every lane change, speed change etc. Abby asks "are we there yet?" for the 32nd time.
- 12 p.m. At last. The aquarium is in view. But wait! The bus has it's own special parking and we have to find a place to park. We pay $5 for a spot in a parking deck and wind our way up and up and up until finally, there is a spot on the 8th level. Couldn't have parked soon enough... all that circling was making me dizzy. "Yes we are here Abby!"
- 12:15 p.m. We meet up with the school buses. The teachers had a really great plan to let the kids eat their sack lunches in the park across from the aquarium before our scheduled 1 p.m. tour. In a brilliant bit of planning all my own, I purchased two sandwiches for Rob and I the day before and packed them in our cooler, thinking we could eat with the kids in the park, saving both time and money. And then it rained. So the kids ate on the bus, there is nowhere to sit in front of the aquarium that isn't soaked and mass confusion of the pre-purchased tickets reigns.
- 1 p.m. By the time the ticket mess is sorted out and Abby and I have returned from the bathroom, the kids are inside, we are being rushed in and our sandwiches have to be thrown in the trash. Goodbye delicious sandwich and fresh strawberries. "No outside food allowed."
- 1:01 p.m. We begin a self-guided tour through the aquarium. There is a moving sidewalk that passes underneath a portion of the largest tank, the one that holds 3 whale sharks, 2 manta rays, 6 giant grouper and an assortment of other sharks, tropical fish, etc. It is amazing. 63 million gallons of water, every drop of which is filtered hourly. There is a 'theater' seat up in front of the tank where you can sit and listen to a guide give information on the different animals as they pass in front of the tank. We even get to watch them eat. Huge quantities of fish are poured into a large pipe that comes up under the tank and into the water. The fish know it is time to eat when bubbles start rising from the bottom of the tank as the pipe is opened. They quickly gather for the feast. The guide explains that the whale sharks are 'target fed' every other day, with a big scoop of plankton put right in front of their wide mouths for filter feeding. Their esophaguses are only about the diameter of a golf ball, so anything large could cause them to choke.
- 2:30 p.m. We decide to wait out the remaining time before our 3-D movie in the aquarium cafeteria. Rob brings us an order of chicken fingers and fries to share and four drinks. Cost = $19!! No wonder they don't let you bring in your own food! Abby wants to go in the gift shop. Me: "No. I'm not paying $20 for a stuffed whale shark."
- 3 p.m. We rejoin the rest of the school group upstairs and wait in roped off lines to enter the theater. Ten minutes of line-waiting hell as Abby keeps going under the ropes to peer over the railing at the other patrons or to poke her brother, wallow on the floor (yuck) and poke her brother... repeat. We are supplied with 3-D glasses and swarm in to find seats.
The cartoon film features a fish that is eerily similar to Dory from "Finding Nemo" and the makers are lucky that Disney doesn't sue them for copyright infringement. A "Bruce" the white shark character make his appearance EXACTLY the way the white shark did in Nemo... sneaking up behind the two smaller fish. The narrator fish appears to burst through the screen and water spritzes us from the ceiling, then bubbles fall followed by octupus tentacles in the form of strings and finally a blast of air, all perfectly timed with messages about ocean conservation. The kids squeal in delight at each of them.
- 4 p.m. We sign the boy out and try to find our way back to car park where we have to puzzle out the electronic payment system for the parking garage. The ticket has to be inserted into a vending type machine, which spits out change and a receipt to be used as you exit the parking deck. We. are. tired. But we still have to find our way OUT and onto the interstate for the next leg of the journey. More about the rest of the weekend adventures later. I'm tired all over again now. How 'bout you?
11 months ago