Okay, where was I before my Vegas/Jewish weddings post interrupted me...?
Oh, yes, a well-planned-out trip by hubby and Pearl trying to rain on his parade for several months...
In any case, that binder with its dividers worked well -- except when it came to all the Kosher food establishments that hubby had printed off the Internet for the region. Just about every place we called had a number that was no longer in service, or the number had been changed. When we called the new number, THAT was no longer in service.
One day we traveled about 45 minutes away from Universal Studios to a place where they carried Kosher groceries and frozen meats and bread. In fact, the day before, the store's proprietor had traveled 4 hours away to Miami to bring back Kosher bread to sell. We were looking to buy food for Shabbat, and we hadn't realized just how difficult it was to find Kosher "real food" in the Kissimmee region.
Of course, we'd come loaded down with tuna, peanut butter, crackers and some other canned goods, dishes, cutlery, a 2-burner stove, sandwich maker, etc., but we thought we'd have an easy time of finding Kosher groceries.
People, Kissimmee is not Miami. We did have a Kosher restaurant nearby that charged BIG BUCKS for lousy food. We ate there the first night, but after seeing the menu, the place and the service, we were tempted to walk out. But because we didn't want to impress total negativity around our young and impressionable children, we stayed and paid to the nose for our food, which was not worth a quarter of the price that five meals cost.
We hauled around sandwiches and bottled water and snacks whatever day trips we took. For once I actually wished I wasn't Kosher and didn't have to shlep all this stuff with us down South. More than anything, for two weeks I yearned for pizza from the pizza parlor down the street from where I live; okay, so in an earlier post, I condemned all the fast-food joints around me, and here I wanted a Kosher fast-food item.
In the Publix supermarkets or Super-Wal-Mart stores near our hotel we could not find Kosher hard cheese or kosher frozen products really, except for vegetarian cutlets, which we bought. Yes, there are so many more Kosher products overall in the U.S. than in Canada, but to my surprise, many were missing in action!
Perhaps for that reason regarding Kosher food being sparse in the region, I only saw a handful of obviously frum people while were in Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure. I wear short sleeves, short skirts or longer shorts, so I'm not obviously frum-looking. My daughter wears shorts and tank tops, so she too does not portray obviously frum, nor do my husband or sons, as they wear the same t-shirts and shorts and baseball caps that thousands of other males wear. Their tzitzit are not always hanging out, either.
But I saw teenage girls with sleeves down to there, skirts down to there. I was "chaleshing" (feeling weak) from the heat as I was dressed; I felt it even more for these girls!
Okay, so there may not be countless obvious-looking Jews floating around these parks and other attractions we visited (besides, it was June, not December school break), but as I said earlier, there were countless other religious folks. Even if people sported tattoos and some multiple ear piercings, or nose or chin or lip piercings, they also sported crosses around their necks.
So picture this: religious, FAT people with tattoos on their backside (yes, Doctor Bean, this time I do mean "backside"), crosses around their necks, sitting at a table with a cardboard packet of fries and a juicy burger in front of them. Oh ya, many are not wearing hats, so their heads must be frying, just as mine did that one afternoon, and I begin to wonder if they're even wearing suncream...
And then it starts to rain in the park, and people act as if they've never seen rain -- okay, so it's coming down in buckets for 15-20 minutes and it is unpleasant a bit (although we preferred to call it "refreshing" in light of the heat). People run into stores to buy overpriced ponchos for $6 (we bought ours at Wal-Mart for 97 cents) or umbrellas for $15. And after the rains stop, some of these same people in these new rain ponchos of theirs go on water-based rides WEARING these ponchos, hoping not to get wet! How stupid is that?
I generally dislike amusement park rides, but I welcomed these water-based rides. They were FUN, a good outlet for playful screams, FUN, sometimes a bit scary, FUN...you get the picture. I certainly did not wear a poncho on any of them. Okay, so I toted along extra clothes for my kids if they were uncomfortable walking around the park afterwards in wet or just damp clothes (more likely wet), but the heat would dry you off soon enough.
Americans are truly patriotic people--a flag in front of just about every house we passed. And on July 4th, as we stood at Universal's CityWalk area by a lagoon with thousands of people watching fireworks over the water (the display delayed by 45 minutes due to Mother Nature's own version of fireworks: thunder, lightning and rain) that were magnificent, we felt patriotic, too. I thought of American soldiers and U.S. independence, I thought of the myriad natives and tourists standing side by side watching the sky light up with tame fireworks, not bombs. And I think I understood what July 4th, President's Day (aside from great store sales!), Thanksgiving, etc. mean to the American people.
In Ontario, and perhaps in other Canadian provinces, we have laws to wear helmets while riding motorcycles. Throughout Florida and in some other states we traversed, it was obvious this law is not shared. I'm not used to seeing motorcyclists and their passengers without helmets; to me, it's the equivalent of not buckling up in a car...also a law.
I think that a helmet-wearing law should be passed in every state. After all, better safe than sorry...or STUPID!
There is lots more I could share with you about our trip, but I'll quit while I'm ahead. If any of you have questions about specific places we visited (aside from the parks, the Orlando Science Center, Gatorland, Cocoa Beach, we drove our own airboat in a swamp/creek), write to me and I'll be happy to share my knowledge with you.
I will just end with these thoughts.
Just before we left, a friend asked if each of my kids was bringing along a camera. We hadn't thought of it and rushed out to buy them disposable cameras. Yesterday, we printed the boys' film (my daughter hadn't yet finished her roll), as well as those films from my and my husband's cameras. It was fun to look at the pictures, and as parents we also kvelled to see the quality of photos that the boys took, and their unique take on some of the subjects they photographed. I bought the kids photo albums in which to display their holiday pictures, and my oldest, who went off to day camp today, happily and proudly toted along his album to show his friends his pictures of Jaws -- from the park ride -- and T-Rexs at the park, and alligators and crocodiles, flamingos and a shark we watched being caught, etc. His personal touch was imprinted on every one of his photos.
Traveling as we did -- in a van, with borrowed personal DVD player and a TV/DVD player on which my kids watched DVDs and played GameCube -- is not how I recall traveling as a child through NY state, NJ, Pennsylvania, Illinois or down to Alabama. Something (a youthful innocence, perhaps?) was definitely lost, and every now and again, we had to remind the kids to look out the window instead of at the movie screens in front of them. My five-year-old pleased me when he got the hang of it and several times shouted out to his older brother, "A., there's some scenery. Let's look at the scenery!"
I hope that the scenery that passes by your car/van windows is as beautiful as some of the scenery that passed by our van window. After all, scenery helps make up the stuff that memories are made of.