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It’s not too often that a person can recall exactly where they were, who they were with or what they were doing twenty years ago to the day — but as for April 9th, 1994, I remember.

Half a year earlier on August 22nd, 1993 (the night of my 20th birthday) I moved to Weatherford, Oklahoma and moved in with Susan and another one of her friends. I had spent the two years following high school commuting to Redlands Community College, while Susan had spent her time 60 miles east in Weatherford attending Southwestern Oklahoma State University (SWOSU). Susan had recently moved into a three bedroom mobile home and offered me the master bedroom to rent. We spent the next eight months partying, working, and occasionally attending college classes.

Susan worked at the Wesley Foundation on campus and a local print shop; I briefly worked at a local pizza joint before landing a job at Long John Silver’s. I worked 40-50 hours a week there as a shift manager, a job I was by and large terrible at. Back then I simply didn’t have the maturity, experience or conflict resolution skills needed to manage anybody, much less a bunch of teens that didn’t want to be managed.

By the time spring flowers began to bloom, more than my allergies were suffering. I wasn’t doing well in school because I was working too many hours, and I hadn’t racked up too many “Employee of the Month” awards while slinging fish if you know what I mean. For her part, Susan was dog paddling just as hard as I was to keep her head above water. Late at night over styrofoam containers of leftover fish the two of us would plot our escape. All we had to do was make it one or two more months. If we could just make it through one more semester, everything would be fine.

The two years I attended Redlands I spent busting my ass in the journalism department. I had served as both the newspaper and yearbook editor and despite occasionally showing up late on the weekends, or hung over, or still drunk, or some combination of those things, my staff and I never missed a single deadline. Ever. I had a solid reputation for delivering there because I had earned it. As an overweight smart ass with a weird wardrobe and a worse haircut, I assumed that my reputation for always meeting deadlines (even if they showed up at the 11th hour) would follow me to Weatherford. It didn’t. My journalism professor at Weatherford got so sick of my antics that she fired me as the yearbook editor roughly a month before the end of the semester. From a previous blog post:

In the spring of 1994 after pushing the word “procrastination” to an all-time high, I was let go from my position as SWOSU’s yearbook editor, replaced by my understudy. A month before the book’s final deadline, I showed up to class to find everything from my editor’s desk neatly packed into a box for me to take home. My journalism professor pulled me aside and briefly explained her reasoning, none of which I could argue with. I wasn’t mad; I was embarrassed. I told her I would take my box of junk out to my car and then would come back that afternoon so we could talk about what needed to be done and how to proceed. But I didn’t. Instead, I dropped out of school via telephone and never showed my face on that campus again.

That last part isn’t entirely true. Nineteen years later in 2013, I took Mason to a basketball tournament there.

In a bit of “Rob and Susan Lore,” it was on that day in April of 1994 that I flipped a coin, declaring heads meant we would “try and salvage what was left of the semester” while tails meant “let’s go visit the Grand Canyon.” I really did flip that coin and it really did come up tails. We packed some clothes into a bag, loaded up Susan’s car, and drove west the following morning.

I don’t know that I’ve had another week quite like that in my life. We had no jobs, no school, no one to answer to and no real destination. After a few days of driving we did make it to the Grand Canyon…

…and Carlsbad Caverns…

…and Flintstone City, USA…

…and a dozen other places. Eventually we ended up in Tucson, where we ran out of steam and money at roughly the same time. We spent a night or two sleeping on my Aunt Eva’s fold out couch before we decided to go home. But not before playing one last round of mini golf!

On April 8th while visiting the Grand Canyon, it was announced that Kurt Cobain, the lead singer of Nirvana, had been found dead. Nirvana, along with Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, and Alice in Chains had ushered in the new wave of grunge music. In just a few short years, flannel and blue jeans had replaced leather and jean jackets. Hair metal was out and grunge was in. Nirvana’s breakthrough album Nevermind had been released three years prior in September, 1991. Three years later, he was dead.

That night as we began meandering back home we stopped in Albuquerque, New Mexico. When we pulled in to town that night we saw a long line of lowriders driving slowly around the block. We pulled over to watch the show and were soon informed by local police officers that this was not a parade; we were watching gang members. The police officers suggested we relocate to a safer part of town and so we did. We found a hotel that was painted pink and looked like a castle. My most vivid memory of the place was that there was a hole in the upstairs concrete sidewalk that you could see all the way through down to the ground. Susan remembers the roaches.

On the morning of April 9th, 1994, we rolled out of the hotel and had breakfast. We piddled around town a bit and around lunch time stumbled across Little Anita’s. If nothing else, Little Anita’s had the hottest hot sauce I’ve ever tasted. I was disappointed that the waitress had only brought each of us a small cup of sauce for our lunch. I dipped my fork into my cup and touched it to my tongue. It burned hotter than fire. I was just about to mention how hot it was to Susan when I saw her dump the entire cup of hot sauce on to her taco. Instead of warning her I decided to sit back and watch the show. After one bite, she immediately drank her water, followed by my water, followed by waiving down a waiter and drinking an entire pitcher of water. Hot stuff. Anyway, Little Anita’s has become a mandatory stop for us every time we drive through Albuquerque. We’ve driven through two or three times since then and we’ve eaten there every time. These days we go easy on the hot sauce.

On the way out of the restaurant I spotted a local newspaper with the headline NIRVANA SINGER FOUND DEAD. I bought it, and still have it out in my box of keepsakes. Crime scene investigators estimate that Cobain died on April 5th. His body was discovered on the 8th. We heard about it on the radio that day, and read about it in a newspaper on the 9th. April 9th, 1994.

On the last leg of our trip home the mood had changed. Susan and I both knew once we arrived back in Weatherford we were going to have to face the music, and the loss of Kurt Cobain made the trip that much more depressing. Not to make it sound like I was a huge Nirvana fan — I liked them as much as the next guy — but grunge belonged to my generation. Kurt Cobain was “one of ours.”

During the trip Susan and I convinced ourselves that if we called the school and told them we were withdrawing from school because our roommate had died they would be lenient on us — a hair-brained scheme I’m pretty sure one of us had picked up from a sitcom. Later, after arriving home and calling the school, the first question the administration asked me was, what was the name of our roommate? Not having thought that far in advance, I hung up the phone. For our part, each of us received a smattering of W’s (“withdrew”) combined with WF’s (“withdrew while failing”) on our transcripts.

April 9th, 1994 was more than just the day Susan and I read that Kurt Cobain had died. The week before we walked away from our school and our jobs, and when we got back, we had to deal with the consequences. April 9th, 1994 was the day we grew up.

I was fourteen years old in the summer of 1987 and hanging out with some neighborhood kids at one of our officially designated hangout spots (the corner under the willow tree) when one of my friends pedaled up with a boombox balanced across the handlebars of his bicycle.

“Dude, the new Motley Crue tape just came out!”

“Dude, let’s hear it!”

(We said “dude” a lot back then.)

My friend pressed play and the cassette, pulling power from eight D-sized batteries, ramped up and began to play. For the next hour this small circle of friends sat outside on the street corner, getting our first listen to Motley Crue’s fourth album, Girls, Girls, Girls.

There are four members of Motley Crue, my favorite being Nikki Sixx. Lead vocalist Vince Neil dressed too much like a girl and drummer Tommy Lee wore too much lipstick for my taste. (Surprisingly, the whole “glam rock” phase skipped Oklahoma.) Mick Mars looked like he was from the planet Mars and we were never quite sure when he would return there. But Nikki Sixx man, Nikki Sixx was cool. He dressed like a linebacker from Hell and looked as cool as he did scary. He often appeared covered in fake blood, occasionally lit himself on fire, and he played bass — the only instrument I figured I had a chance of learning how to play. He also wrote all of the Crue’s lyrics and most of the music; even though the band performed the music, they were Nikki’s songs. Nikki Sixx has always been my favorite member of Motley Crue, and I remember thinking on that summer day that I would have given anything to trade places with him.

At that exact same moment, Nikki Sixx was 1,000 miles away, shooting up heroin, snorting cocaine, drinking half a bottle of Jack Daniels (every night), and wishing he were dead.

The Heroin Diaries (MTV Books, 2008) is a collection of Sixx’s diary entries that span one year, from the Christmas of ’86 to the end of 1987 when Sixx had his near-fatal overdose. (He was pronounced legally dead before receiving a needle full of adrenaline that ultimately rebooted his ticker, which led to one less dead rock star and one great song, Kickstart My Heart.) Most of the diary entries contain comments and reflections from his fellow band mates, former managers, ex-girlfriends (namely Prince’s ex-squeeze, Vanity), security guards, along with his mother, sister, grandfather, and Nikki himself. It turns out few of them care much for the Nikki Sixx of old, including the Nikki Sixx of today.

If it’s true that internal suffering leads to artistic success then it’s easy to see how Motley Crue has earned eight platinum albums and has sold 75 million albums worldwide. Each member of the band has his own demons, and the root of Sixx’s pain stems from his childhood. After his father walked out on his family when Sixx was three years old, he spent the next dozen or so years being shuffled back and forth between living with his mother (Deana) and his grandparents (Tom and Nona). The book contains a bit of he said/she said drama between the two camps with Tom claiming Deana was an addict and an unfit mother while Deana claims her family conspired to take her son away from her, but each time we read about Nikki waking up with a needle still stuck in his arm and wishing he were dead, you get the feeling it really doesn’t matter which family member was at fault.

With each turn of the page the monotony of touring and being but a part of a larger machine becomes more and more apparent. While on tour Sixx can’t wait to get home, and once he’s there he can’t wait to leave. When he’s being good on the road — and by “good” I mean “not doing heroin but still doing cocaine and drinking heavily” — Nikki spends his time hiding in his hotel room, playing guitar and watching MTV. The rest of the time (99%) Nikki along with Tommy Lee (his partner in crime) kill the boredom of touring by ingesting more drugs than you have ever seen in your life (on a daily basis), hanging out at strip clubs, being thrown out of strip clubs, punching anyone within arm’s reach in the face, lighting hotels on fire, and so on.

After he returns home after each tour ends, Nikki divides his time evenly between lambasting his dealers (“They’re like vultures! They won’t leave me alone!”) and having them deliver drugs daily to his doorstep (which he dubs “the Heroin House”). The combination of cocaine and heroin routinely floods Sixx with paranoia and delusions, at which point he retreats to his closet with his dope and loaded guns and sits there until the voices in his head tell him it’s safe. Sometimes this ends with him being convinced that “someone” (the police, his manager, his security company) is spying on him at which point he flushes all of his drugs down the toilet. Other times it causes him to get naked, grab his loaded shotgun, and hide in his garden while defending his home from “attacking Mexican midgets.” It would have been equally entertaining and dangerous to have been Sixx’s neighbor in the mid-80s.

After a while the diary entries begin to run together and the stories involving yet another set of nameless girls, yet another quest to get high, and yet another round of self-loathing begin to sound the same. Toward the end of the book I found myself skimming the more mundane stories (typically the ones not involving any sort of bodily fluid) and skipping to “the good ones.” Some of the entries are made more interesting by the name dropping; if you ever wondered what Nikki Sixx really thinks (or at least thought) about Whitesnake, Guns N’ Roses, and especially Jon Bon Jovi, you’ll find out. Also keeping things interesting is the repeated arrival of Prince’s ex-girlfriend Vanity, whom Nikki was “dating” at the time. Almost as toxic as the drugs, Vanity (who now goes by “the Evangelist Denise Matthews”) repeatedly shows up with cocaine to freebase. The cycle repeats throughout the book; they’re a couple until the drugs are gone at which point she’s tossed out with the rest of the used up paraphernalia. Vanity’s escapades (and comments) are so bizarre and kooky that I actually smiled a little when Nikki eventually punches her in the face.

In self-defense, of course.

The book culminates with Nikki’s nearly fatal overdose in the winter of 1987. While partying in a hotel room with Slash and Slash’s girlfriend Sally, Nikki allowed himself to be shot up with dope by a dealer. After the injection turns Sixx blue, the dealer hops out the window faster than Spring-Heeled Jack and with Slash on the floor passed out pissing himself (Slash pisses his pants in this book more than you care to know) it was up to Sally to try to save Sixx’s life. She couldn’t, but managed to give him mouth-to-mouth until the paramedics arrived and delivered two shots of adrenaline directly to Nikki’s heart, which ultimately revived him. For being the climax of the story the book moves through this story surprisingly quickly. By the time you reach this part of the book you will either be hoping Nikki Sixx has learned his lesson or that he will just go ahead and die, but instead he does neither by escaping first death and then the hospital, hitches a ride home with some groupies and celebrates by retreating to his closet and shooting up some more dope.

The book ends with a bullet list of things have happened in Sixx’s life since 1987. “I got better. I relapsed. I got married. I got divorced. I got on Prozac.” Despite everything he subjected himself to, Nikki Sixx is somehow still alive and rocking today, both with Motley Crue and his band, Sixx A.M. He is the host of the nightly syndicated radio show “Sixx Sense” and is involved in several other creative projects, including photography. After spending 400 pages reading about Sixx’s darkest days, it would be nice to read about a few of his successes as well. Maybe that will be covered in the next book?

The Heroin Diaries is as informative as it is entertaining. While there are moments of levity, more than fun, the book is an eye-opening look into the life of a junkie. And to think, I was once naive to think all my friends in bands were just tired all the time and really liked ice cream! If you’ve ever been around someone with a serious drug addiction, this book might give you a glimpse into what was running through their brains (especially if your friend was a millionaire.) It is amazing to read about how many people Nikki Sixx blames his addiction on other than himself.

Motley Crue’s 2002 book The Dirt was as scandalous as it was fun, but each of the three books following it written by individual band members (this one, along with Vince Neil’s Tattoos and Tequila and Tommy Lee’s Tommyland) has reinforced the old adage about the whole being more than a sum of the parts. If you want to read about Nikki’s depression, Vince Neal’s ego and Tommy Lee… well, being Tommy Lee, then these books are fine. Unfortunately, none of them measure up to The Dirt.

I recommend The Heroin Diaries to all Crue fans along with anyone curious about the life of an addict. Ultimately the book is a peek into the life of a gifted musician who, at this time in his life, was out of control. I learned a lot from this book, but the biggest thing I learned is that I would not have enjoyed trading places with Nikki Sixx back in 1987.

There was a time, many moons ago, that Susan would do just about anything to get my attention.

One time, back when we were living together in our mobile home, Susan decided she would try some “acrobatics” to get my attention. I was lying in my bed reading a book when I heard someone come running down the hallway. Back then I didn’t believe in bed frames so my bed consisted of a box springs sitting on the floor with a mattress sitting on top of that. Anyway, I was lying on my mattress reading a book when Susan came bursting into my room at full speed. With more grace than usual she performed an impressive front flip, landing directly on the foot of my bed. Unfortunately for her, her feet kept going forward and one of them went directly through my bedroom window.

I turned the page and kept on reading.

Last week, Morgan slipped and fell in the bathroom, hitting her head in the process. She has a huge bruise next to her eye that is suspiciously shaped like a doorknob. The week before that Mason fell in the kitchen, dropping a glass pitcher while falling and somehow landing on one the pieces, cutting his leg open. Every time the kids hurt themselves doing something like that I check to make sure they’re okay and then laugh and think of Susan doing that flip and sticking her foot through the window.

When it comes to a car’s gas mileage, there’s always a trade off. For a couple of years I owned a Ford Festiva that had a 10 gallon gas tank and got 35 mpg. It was cheap, small, and didn’t feel very safe. I also owned a ’79 Formula Firebird that got somewhere around 10 mpg. Which would you rather be seen driving?

You can get better mileage out of a car by making it smaller and lighter and less powerful and less safe; essentially, less fun.

With that, I present to you the Elio.

The Elio is a three-wheeled car that runs on gas, gets 84 mpg, and when it comes out, will cost $6,800.

Let’s start from the top. Technically, it’s not a car; even though it looks, feels and drives like a car, because it only has three wheels, legally it is classified as a motorcycle. The company is working on getting an exception made to have it classified as a car, but if they are unsuccessful and the car is tagged as a motorcycle, owners will have to follow motorcycle laws (including wearing a helmet if your state requires it).

You might be thinking, why not just buy a motorcycle? Well, motorcycles are no fun in the winter, and for me, no fun on long trips. My wife won’t ride on the back of one, and she gets really nervous when I take the kids on one. Also, the Elio gets more than double the mileage of what current bike gets (and triple what my last one got).

Under the hood is a 3-cylinder gas powered engine. The Elio prototype is currently using the engine from a Suzuki Swift, but the production model will use an engine made by Elio Motors. It doesn’t have a lot of horsepower, but since it only weighs 1,200 pounds it doesn’t need it. The company says the car will reach speeds in excess of 100 mph. I don’t think the car will be a speed demon, but it’s not designed to be. Instead, the small engine combined with the car’s light weight deliver a whopping 84 mpg.

The Elio is front-wheel drive. With the engine (half of the car’s weight) sitting on top of the front wheels, it should get good traction. It also comes stock with anti-lock brakes.

The Elio comes with an 8 gallon gas tank. If you do manage to get 84 mpg out of the car, that’s 672 miles per tank.

Inside, the Elio looks like a cross between a car, an airplane, and a motorcycle. The controls are like a car’s — there’s a steering wheel, gas and brake pedals, blinkers, and so on. The Elio seats two, but like a small plane or a motorcycle, the passenger sits in the back. Behind that is a small trunk. If you’re flying solo the rear seat folds down to make a bit more storage space, but I doubt anyone will ask you to help them move in this thing. The Elio only has one door, so I assume the driver has to get out to let the rear passenger enter or exit.

Standard, each Elio will come with A/C, heat, power windows, power door lock, AM/FM stereo, and more.

My next question was, how safe is a car that does 100 mph and weighs less than half of most other cars on the road? Turns out, pretty safe. The Elio is promising a 5 star crash rating. Under the panels, the whole car is essentially a roll cage. I can’t imagine much would be left after a serious collision, but the real goal is being able to walk away from one.

The Elio is set to hit roads next year in 2015. The first ones will be offered to investors, and so, after kicking it around for about a month, I have decided to become one by making an (albeit small) investment. There are two ways to get in line for buying an Elio. One is to pay a refundable $100, $250, $500, or $1,000 to the company. That payment reserves your spot in line, and will be deducted from the cost of your car. The other way is to pay a non-refundable $100, $250, $500 or $1,000 to the company. The non-refundable payments get you higher in line (above the refundable ones), and also get you an additional 50% back off the sale price. (Pay a non-refundable $1,000 now and you’ll get $1,500 off the cost later when the car is available.) You can also upgrade your payment if you want to move up closer to the top of the list. Yesterday I made a non-refundable payment of $100, which puts me in the 4th group from the top.

Here’s some worst case scenario math. I drive 50 miles a day round trip to get to and from work. My WRX STI gets 20 mpg and uses premium, non-ethanol gas. Let’s say that’s $3.50/gallon. Let’s also assume I go to work every day next year. 52 weeks x 5 days = 260 days, x 50 miles a day = 13,000 miles. At 20 mpg that’s 650 gallons of gas at a total of $2,275. With the Elio’s 84 mpg, that’s only 155 gallons of cheaper gas (let’s say $3), which works out to just $465/year.

I work from home quite a bit so those mileage numbers for work are high, but Susan’s car is two years old and as 65,000 miles on it. Last year I drove Susan’s car (by myself) to Washington D.C. (twice), to Tempe, Arizona, and a few other states. Those are all trips that could have been made in the Elio. I’ve also driven my truck (again, by myself) on many trips. It gets even worse mileage at around 15 mpg. Not all of those miles on Susan’s car could have been duplicated by the Elio, but a lot of them could have. Based on my math, the car will pay for itself in two years.

With a family of four, I don’t think the two-seater Elio is the only car I would own. As a guy who likes to occasionally drive fast I’ll be keeping my WRX STI, and as a guy who occasionally likes to tow or haul things, I’ll be keeping my truck. But for a commuting car to rack up miles on while gingerly sipping gas, I think the Elio makes sense. I’ll let you know in a year or so what happens.

Link: http://www.eliomotors.com

Before visiting Mardi Gras World I knew very little about Mardi Gras, and it turns out most of what I knew was wrong.

For example, I assumed that Mardi Gras was just one big parade. It’s not. There are dozens of parades, each put on by different krewes. Each krewe is responsible for coming up with a theme and decorating their own floats. Since there are a bunch of krewes, each krewe is responsible for creating a bunch of floats based on a theme, and the theme changes each year, you can see how the creation of floats could become a full time business.

Enter Mardi Gras World.

Located in New Orleans, Mardi Gras World is responsible for many of the large creations you see on the floats that make their way through New Orleans each year. According to them about 70% of what they make is for Mardi Gras floats. The other 30% are for commercial accounts, like Walk Disney and Chick-fil-A.

I’ve always been a big fan of special effects, and walking around Mardi Gras World felt like being “behind the scenes.” After watching a brief video explaining the history of Mardi Gras floats, we got a tour of the 250,000 square foot warehouse.

Mardi Gras World makes their creations using one of two methods. Traditional float decorations are created using “quick and dirty” methods. The frames are made of wood and they are often wrapped in plastic or foam before they are covered with paper mache and painted. Their more permanent creations are made using molds and fiberglass. One thing our tour guide stressed to us was that nothing is ever thrown away. Figures and creations are recycled year after year. In the video we watched, Shrek’s house from last year became a cave for Hobbits this year. Because of that, it was hard to tell in the warehouse which creations had come from recent parades and which had been sitting in the warehouse for years. It didn’t matter to me; I thought all of them were awesome.

Some of the things we saw, like this statue with Miss Bianca and Bernard from Walt Disney’s The Rescuers obviously had ties to the Disney theme parks. Whether this one was coming or going, I couldn’t say.

In the back of the warehouse set a few of the floats from last month’s Mardi Gras celebration. These floats will be stripped and completely redone again next year with some new theme. The floats do not have engines — the smaller ones are pulled by people and the larger ones are pulled by tractors. The big floats like these have solid rubber wheels (no flat tires). Each float holds (I think) up to 60 people and comes complete with two porta potties on board.

Mardi Gras World was one of the coolest thing I saw during our vacation. The quality of the artwork was literally amazing and we had a great time looking at all the float decorations both old and new. There were things to enjoy for all ages, and if you are looking for something to do in New Orleans and like pop culture I highly recommend visiting Mardi Gras World. We thought it was out of this world!

Saturday was the last day of our vacation. We woke up in Tunica, Mississippi. Tunica is a casino town just a few miles south of Memphis, Tennessee — you might recall I went there with my friend Andy once. Obviously it is a much different experience with kids in tow.

This time we stayed at Harrah’s, but had breakfast at the Hollywood Casino, which has a collection of movie cars and props to look at. After breakfast we walked around for a few minutes and looked at movie props from Goonies, Terminator, Titanic, and a few cars.

After that, there was nothing left to do but drive. Oklahoma City is roughly an 8 hour drive from Tunica, and we made pretty good time doing 10-15 over most of the way. We were ready to be home!

The final count: 3,638.5 miles in 8 days. WHEW.

In case you missed any of the week’s posts, here are links to them:

Florida Vacation 2014 Day 1: Eatin’ and Drivin’
Florida Vacation 2014 Day 2: New Orleans
Florida Vacation 2014 Day 3: Disney World
Florida Vacation 2014 Day 4: King of Cartoons, Kong, and Drives
Florida Vacation 2014 Day 5: Southern Dolphins
Florida Vacation 2014 Day 6: Snorkeling in Paradise
Florida Vacation 2014 Day 7: On the Road Again
Florida Vacation 2014 Day 8: A Day of Driving (And the End!)

Finally, if you would like to view more pictures from our trip, here are all the pictures I took. I will be adding the ones Susan and the kids took shortly.

Photo Album: http://robohara.com/photo/index.php?album=Vacations/Florida_2014

Yesterday, we drove. And drove and drove and drove. We drove from Orlando, Florida all the way to Tunica, Mississippi — roughly 850 miles. Google Maps says you can make it in 12 1/2 hours but, uh, we didn’t. Closer to 14 1/2 for us yesterday.

We stopped at a few tourist stops along the way, like this one that had live baby gators.

They also had quite a few dead ones.

We also visited this super cool McDonald’s that was covered inside and out with awesome murals. The kids have given up on eating local or original things.

We got to Tunica last night just minutes before midnight. Assuming we don’t spend the day gambling in the casinos, we should be home sometime tomorrow night.

On day six, we woke up at the same place for a second day in a row — a rarity on this trip. After eating a small breakfast in the hotel room we hopped on the resort’s tram to see the entire property. It was nice to see the whole place.

An hour later we were on the road again, driving north. For lunch we stopped at a key lime roadside shop. I had some fried fish and homemade coleslaw. Afterwards we all split some key lime pie. I bought a metal lizard as a souvenir. It wasn’t until I got in the car that I spotted the “Made in Haiti” sticker on the back. :(

Next stop was the Penneback state park, where we went snorkeling. After signing away our lives we hopped on a boat with 20 other people and drove out 8 miles to go snorkeling. After getting a 5 minute course on the boat we all jumped in the ocean one by one. It was very scary at first! The ocean floor varied from 10-20 foot deep out there and you could see the ground from the surface easily. It was very exciting and very exhausting. There were also jellyfish around us that we had to be cognizant of. There were fish all around us,, mostly small ones although we did see a couple of larger ones. We snorkeled for about an hour and that was enough for me. We took some pictures with a waterproof film camera. We will have to wait until we get home to see if they turned out.

After that all we did was drive. We drove from the Keys all the way up to Orlando, where we found a hotel for the night. The kids wanted Subway for dinner, so that’s what we had. Nothing exciting happened after that. We went to the hotel, checked in, and went to bed. Tomorrow we have a lot of driving on our plate. Our goal is to drive from Orlando Florida to Memphis Tennessee. Two more days on the road…

Sorry no pictures this time. I’m doing this update on the iPad.

As with every other day of this trip, this morning started with a trip to the pool. Here is a shot of our pool here in Duck Key, Florida.

They never seem to tire of swimming.

Our next stop was to “swim with the dolphins” at the Dolphin Research Center.

Before we went I had half a dozen jokes prepared about how we got to beat the dolphins with hoses and stuff, but after touring the place I changed my mind. The Dolphin Rescue actually rescues hurt and abandoned dolphins and provides a nice place for people to come study and interact with them. So, no dolphin beating jokes from me.

I have another IOU to write more about the place, but we got to spend about half an hour in the water with the dolphins. We got to pet them and interact with thm and it was simply amazing to be so close to them.

From there, we hopped in the car and headed south to see the Southernmost Point Buoy, the southernmost point of the continental United States. This may have been a misfire, I don’t know. We drove 90 minutes each way to say we saw it. We saw it. By this point in the trip the kids were sick of being in the car and I was sick of being in the car with them. This led to a fairly substantial meltdown on my part that ended with me in timeout back at the hotel while Susan and the kids went (what else) swimming.

Our final stop of the night was at a local Mexican/Cuban restaurant. We got seated next to a couple who were involved in some sort of domestic issue and insisted on screaming the F-word into their cell phone. When the waitress asked if we would like her to say something to the couple, I told her, “either you can or I can, but I’m not having a great day and if I do it, it’s going to be a real interesting night for everyone here.” The guy sitting next to us leaned over to me and said, “If you do, I got your back.” When the waitress asked them to cool it, the lady erupted in another tirade. “This is America, I have a right to say whatever the F I want!” she shouted. “I don’t care who said something,” she continued, “I’m right here, they can come say it to my face!” Finally her boyfriend said, “have some class in front of the children.”

At one point during the meal her boyfriend got up and we got to stare at each other. Based on his facial tattoos I had 50/50 odds on whether or not I would end up dead or just in the hospital. In the end though, the couple got their food to go and on the way out the lady stopped by our table and apologized and handed the kids $10 and told them to buy some ice cream. Before we could do that, the waitress showed up at our table with a slice of cheesecake with the word “SORRY” written on the plate with chocolate syrup.

“My writing, it is not so good with the chocolate,” she said.

So, the kids got $5 each, everybody had a few bites of cheesecake, and best of all, I didn’t get stabbed. Oh, and the food was pretty good too.

We kicked off this morning with a $70 breakfast at Disney World.

After that, the kids wanted to swim again, and so the four of us swam. No rain today — it was 70 degrees and sunny!

After a couple of hours of that, we hit the road, heading south — er, more south.

On our way to the Keys, we stopped and had a late lunch at Rickey’s Restaurant and Lounge.

If you haven’t seen King of Kong, Rickey’s Restaurant is “owned” by Billy Mitchell, one of the subjects of the film. We were told at the restaurant that it is owned by his parents, run by his sister, and that they “literally couldn’t remember the last time Billy was in the place.” I’ll write more about my experience when I get back home, but for now I’ll just say if you’re looking for a local dive bar with decent wings I’d recommend it, but if you’re going in hopes of seeing Billy Mitchell or anything related to either King of Kong or Donkey Kong, I wouldn’t waste my time.

Back in the car we piled to drive some more. A few hours later, the scenery began to look like this out of both sides of the car:

Shortly before nightfall we arrived at the resort here in Duck Key, Florida. We had dinner in an outside restaurant on the sand before coming back to the room and crashing out.

Tomorrow we swim with the dolphins, swim in some lagoon, and possibly drive down to see the southernmost point in the US… that is, if we can talk the kids into getting back into the car again.