Idling In Orlando

Our family loves to travel, but we have a certain type of travel we love. We’re in our element when the travel has an educational or nature component to it, the more the better. But, after four days in Orlando, I find myself wondering why the heck we stayed here this long. We did get a needed rest, and actually stayed put for a bit. But it’s been dull, dull, dull, and I struggle to point to highlights.

We spent a half-day at Disney, and our kids had a blast. Elizabeth and I asked ourselves if this might be the last time our kids are still young enough to find Disney World exciting. For now, though, they wanted to go down Thunder Mountain and Space Mountain multiple times, and we all had a great time, although none of us put on the mouse ears.

Sterling and Elizabeth made a drive up to a store Sterling has long wanted to visit — the Hermit Crab Patch. The store was originally called the Crabbage Patch, but a threatened lawsuit from the Cabbage Patch doll owners made them switch names. Rosie came along for the visit, and Sterling was excited to see a store with hundreds of hermit crabs in it, and an owner as passionate about hermit crabs as Sterling is. (When we left on our trip, Sterling had seven pet hermit crabs — we’ll see how many survive our three-week absence).

Gibson and I have spent lots of time (emphasis on LOTS) at spring training sites, watching the players work out. And Gibson has been chasing down autographs from players, with a fair amount of success. For those curious as to what it’s like to go to a spring training practice, I can report that it’s surprisingly dull. The players mostly stand around, and you might have 40 over-paid players on the field, one taking batting practice, a few shagging fly balls, and maybe a couple of infielders working on double play mechanics. I love baseball, but watching these practices doesn’t do it for me.

A big part of what’s going on at a spring training site is the hunt for autographs. There are some young kids, some older fans, and a whole bevy of creepy adults who sell stuff on ebay — all jockeying to get players to sign. Occasionally, players will come to the sidelines and sign autographs for a few, or even many, fans. Most of the signing occurs at the beginning or end of the practice. And after the practice, there are particular locations where autograph seekers camp out, hoping to intercept players walking to their cars or, believe it or not, leaving the grounds in their cars. I was surprised to see several players pull over, roll down their windows, and sign autographs.

At spring training sites, you do get a feel though for which players are reasonably-nice human beings, and which will blow off young kids hoping for autographs. When we were at the Atlanta Braves site, Chipper Jones (right, a likely future Hall of Famer) signed autographs for every single fan there who wanted one. I’ll be a Chipper Jones fan from now on.

We ran into some pretty chilly weather here — on one day, the high was in the 40′s with a stiff wind. We did manage to get in some family golf lessons, and found a pro who was willing to put up with the four of us. I can only imagine what he’d say to the other pros after spending an hour trying to help the four of us with our golf struggles.

Fortunately, Rosie didn’t get us evicted from our place here. We stayed in a condo, and Elizabeth was careful to request an end unit. And Sterling has found that it’s best to leave a radio on for the pig if we leave her alone in a room. When we leave her, we know there’s a real risk that she’ll have another squeal meltdown — ouch!

Elizabeth has been spending lots of time on the phone trying to line up places to stay for the remainder of our trip, and it’s been a lot of work to find someplace reasonable that will let us have a pig. Elizabeth has gotten good at explaining to the reservation person exactly what kind of pet we have — “Well, we have a very cute, very cuddly, and extremely well-behaved miniature pot-bellied pig. She’s tea-cup size, really. Our little Rosie is litter box trained, and very smart, much smarter than a dog or a cat. Everyone just loves her. She really won’t be a problem, and you ‘ll be seeing many more of these fabulous pets in the future.”

We’re off in the morning to Tampa/St. Pete, and I for one am hoping our trip gets its momentum back. We’re undoubtedly an outlier, but we are a family that can have a great time driving across Mississippi or Peru, but don’t find places like Hawaii or Orlando to be all that compelling.


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