Since we had much simpler plans for Wednesday, we slept in and had a late breakfast. Diamondqueen’s must-do was a ride on the Orlando Eye, the mammoth Ferris wheel. We thought we’d check out some shops nearby, and there was also a Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Odditoreum. Best of all, everything was just a short drive away.
Fortunately, there was a parking garage and no line for admittance. Before we knew it, we were rising above the Orlando-area landscape.
From a distance, the Eye seems barely to move, but once we were secure in our little compartment, we realized the Eye rotated at a steady pace. (I think it took 30 minutes to go around.) There was only one other person, with her baby, in our car, so we had plenty of room to roam. The Hooligans, though, sat there like they had rocks in their butts, totally disinterested in the panorama stretched out on all sides.
Diamondqueen and I wandered back and forth, snapping pictures. Each side had an interactive screen that recreated the view from that vantage point with arrows indicating points of interest. Usually, identifying one of these points took considerable concentration and squinting, but I was able to spot the distant Orlando skyline, SeaWorld (as a tangle of coaster tracks), and even our hotel. I took their word that Disneyworld and the Everglades were out there somewhere.
After our ride on the Eye, we stopped and glanced through all the schlock at a souvenir store. I recoiled from the alligator stuff because of the fatal attack at Disney the week before. As for Disney, the shop carried almost as much Mouse gear as the Magic Kingdom.
The Ripley’s attraction was within walking distance, which made my heart sink. Already it was hard to move my legs, traumatized from all the walking the day before. And it was hot. However, it would have been almost as much trouble to go back to the garage for the car, so we set off up the street for a short block or two.
Diamondqueen suggested I wouldn’t be in so much pain if I wore decent shoes. I pointed out that the super-supportive walking sandals I’d worn Sunday and Monday were brand new, and the ones I’d worn the day before were Clarks. She sniffed and said, “I don’t believe there’s any such thing as a walking sandal.” I hate the idea of my feet being covered up on a hot day, but she may be right. A lesson too late for the learning as far as Florida was concerned.
When I first spotted the Ripley building the day before, it appeared as if it had been dropped from a high distance, crashing into the ground like a meteorite. I assumed this was just Ripley being whimsical, but it turned out one of those infamous Florida sinkholes had opened up as they were constructing the building. The odditorium was deliberately lopsided and half in the ground. It was certainly eye catching.
We’d been to at least one other Ripley’s attraction, and I hadn’t been that impressed. This place, though, was very entertaining. It was a hodgepodge of the weird and wonderful. Some displays were behind glass while others were interactive, such as a room full of visual puzzles and optical illusions. We took turns clambering up on a giant chair, posed for gag pictures with dinosaurs and figures of human giants, and cringed at artifacts like shrunken heads and tribal items crafted with human skin. I would have enjoyed myself a lot more if I wasn’t hurting so bad, but it was intriguing, and it was air-conditioned.
When we went back outside, I couldn’t face taking one more step in the sun. I told Diamondqueen where she could pick me up in the adjoining strip mall and sent her and the Hooligans on their way. I found a nice bench in the shade and waited for my little yellow taxi to appear.
We’d read about an Orlando shop called Gods and Monsters that was supposed to deal with a lot of fantasy and comics merchandise. J.Hooligan was interested in going, so Diamondqueen consulted the GPS and found the store just a few miles away.
It wasn’t as interesting as I’d hoped, although they had some neat stuff. Merchandise covered everything from horror movies to “Doctor Who” and “Sherlock,” from Harry Potter to “The Big Lebowski.” After that we walked around what apparently was a big shopping mall that had closed, then reopened with small, individually owned shops and booths.
By that time I’d walked all I could stand, and S.Hooligan was bored enough to want to return to the hotel. Diamondqueen had discovered there was a permanent Titanic exhibit in the same area. Even though she’s seen several versions, she wanted to see this one as well, and J.Hooligan decided to accompany her. S.Hooligan and I were dropped off at the Cabana Bay lobby, happy to go back to our room.
We’d gotten such a late start that morning, the housekeeper hadn’t been able to clean our room. We’d anticipated this, and Diamondqueen agreed we’d just ask to have the trash taken out and get some fresh towels. (The day before, housekeeping had overlooked the trash can under the sink, so we still had pizza boxes from Monday evening.)
S.Hooligan went into the bedroom to do whatever, and I stretched my sheet over the couch and lay down for a nap. I dozed lightly and pleasantly until there was a knock at the door and the call “Housekeeping!”
I opened the door to find an exquisitely beautiful young Hispanic woman. I told her all we wanted was the trash removed and a few clean towels, although I realized she didn’t speak much English. She seemed to understand, though. As she entered the room, she spotted my makeshift bed on the sofa and said, “Oh, I’m so sorry!”
I assured her it was fine. While she removed the trash, I retrieved the tip money Diamondqueen had left on the sofa table. When the young woman returned to the door with a couple of towels, I handed her the few dollars Diamondqueen had left behind. Her eyes grew wide and sparkled, and she smiled a dazzling, glorious smile. “Oh, thank you! Thank you!” she said with a sincerity that broke my heart. For a minute I thought she was going to hug me. I wondered what kind of lousy tips people were leaving that she would be so thrilled with such a tiny sum.
I lay back down on the sofa. Soon there was another knock. The same young woman stood in the hall with a large stack of clean towels. We thanked each other profusely, but her extra effort because of that tip astonished me and even made me kind of sad.
When Diamondqueen and J.Hooligan returned, we decided to head right out for an early dinner because Diamondqueen didn’t want to leave the room again once she settled in. We’d spotted a Red Lobster on our way back from Gods and Monsters, a choice that somehow satisfied everyone.
On the menu I spotted an expensive margarita called a Lobsterita and decided it was just what I needed. When the server arrived to take our order, I told him I wanted a Lobstertini by mistake. He got a startled, confused look on his face, then asked tentatively, “Do you mean a Lobsterita?” Of course, lots of hilarity and abuse rained down from the Hooligans. Obviously my role on these trips is to provide comic relief.
There was even more amusement when the drink arrived. The glass was like a small fishbowl, beautifully rimmed with salt. Immediately J.Hooligan fretted how I’d react to all that alcohol (he worries if I order a beer when I take him out for ribs). On the other hand, S.Hooligan kept shouting, “Chug it! Chug it!” (Just for the record, I don’t think there was a hell of a lot of tequila in that drink. I never even got a buzz from it. On the other hand, my legs and feet didn’t hurt as much.)
I forget what we each ordered because there was a free-for-all of trading food. My meal included two lobster tails. I relished the first, but I’d forgotten J.Hooligan loves lobster. Although he’d already wolfed down his, I gave him my second one. I had plenty of shrimp but accepted another skewer from Diamondqueen, who had supplemented her plate from whatever S.Hooligan didn’t want (although S. commandeered most of her fries) . It was a fun meal and tasted so good. The briny lime flavor of the margarita went perfectly with the seafood.
While we ate, Diamondqueen brought up plans for our final day in Orlando. We’d discussed maybe going to a small, old-fashioned amusement park nearby, and there were other possibilities. However, S.Hooligan had been outraged when she found out that day at Universal so dominated by Harry Potter was the only one she’d get and she wouldn’t get to see or ride anything else.
Diamonqueen mentioned the option of getting another day ticket to the Universal parks. “I certainly don’t have to go again, ” I jumped in hopefully. “That would save some money right there.” (Diamondqueen insists on covering my expenses on these trips because, she claims, she couldn’t do the trip by herself, and I wouldn’t have wanted to take this trip anyhow.)
Diamondqueen flashed me a relieved glance and said, “Actually, if you don’t go, the cost wouldn’t be much more than what we’d pay for all of us to go to that little amusement park.” I was happy, she was happy, the Hooligans were happy. As it turned out, they finagled the tickets some way to attach them to the Monday one-day tickets and adjust the cost to the difference for a two-day pass. I think Diamondqueen might have come out a little ahead on the deal.
As soon as we returned to the room, J.Hooligan climbed in bed, pulled the sheet over his head, and slept the rest of the evening. For awhile I watched television alone, switching back and forth between The Weather Channel and MSNBC. There was a nasty storm system heading for our part of Ohio (That Poor Man had told Diamondqueen it had already been a stormy day and the dogs had been upset), and the Democrats had staged a sit-in on the House floor, which was still going on.
Eventually Diamondqueen brought in her knitting and her Cubs game. Earlier in the day I’d decided to reject the sense of lonely martyrdom of the night before and told all three of them outright, “I am NOT sitting alone in that room with the door closed all night.” I felt better just saying it.
Diamondqueen had seemed taken aback, almost offended. Sitting in peace with the Hooligans shut behind a sliding door sounded wonderful to her. Fine, I said, let’s trade. I’ll spend the evening on your bed watching videos with the Hooligans, you can sit out here by yourself. S.Hooligan rebelled at the thought, but I did wind up with company for awhile.
Even after Diamondqueen returned to the bedroom and I was ready to retire, I kept checking The Weather Channel. I was really worried about the storms, especially Mom alone at home with Addie. For awhile I left the TV on while I faded in and out of sleep, then kept my Kindle Fire on the table so I could check the local Cincinnati news online. Around four in the morning I saw that the storm front had passed, there had been a tornado warning in the northern part of our county, but nothing especially dire happened after that. I rolled over and slept peacefully.