May 13, 2014

A Shamu Spring Break (2009)


The Gulf of Mexico near Tampa, FL - March 2009
(c) Thrifty Gypsy
I hate the sea.  I love the sea.

My bipolar relationship with the ocean is a tale of two movies: Jaws and Free Willy.  The former scarred my six-year old self to such a degree that to this day I will not go into water deeper than my height.  However, the latter instilled in me an abiding love of other marine wildlife, particularly orcas, dolphins, seals, seahorses, and rays, and I relish any opportunity to see these animals up-close and in-person.

The bestie & me at SeaWorld
(c) Thrifty Gypsy
So my trip to Orlando's SeaWorld in 2009 for the spring break of my college fourth year (UVa lingo for "senior year") was of particular enjoyment and excitement for me.  The week had started with no grand plans; my roommate had to work at her ski patrol job at Wintergreen, and I was scheduled for a few shifts at Barnes & Noble.  Spring break had coincided with the last week of February into March, but the weather was a far cry from spring with temperatures hovering in the 30s and 40s with overnight snow storms.  Last minute, my work shifts were canceled, and at 6pm on a Monday night, I called up my roommate to see if she could get off work the rest of the week.  Within two hours, we'd cleared our schedules, loaded up my beat-up Altima, and headed south - Shamu, here we come!

(c) Thrifty Gypsy
We had a rather epic drive through the night, losing my car's muffler somewhere along 95 in North Carolina during white-out conditions and being told by a friendly trooper to "say it only just happened" if we were pulled over for any noise violations.  Bless him.  On top of the muffler incident, my roommate couldn't get the hang of going from a stop to first gear, so I'd have to get the car going while in the parking lot of a rest area, and swap seats between second and third gear so that she didn't stall and I could get a bit of sleep!

In spite of all this and some rather nasty roadwork traffic in Georgia, we made it to Daytona Beach (Florida) around daybreak and enjoyed a Waffle House breakfast with dozens of bikers in town for bike week (talk about a very stereotypical American experience!).  Whereas we'd been bundled up like Eskimos up in Virginia, the day promised to be beautiful - sunny with a high of 75°.  From there we headed west to Orlando and arrived in time to be among the first visitors at SeaWorld for the day.  Childish squeals and giddy shrieks ensued:

Ooooo, barracuda...
(c) Thrifty Gypsy

Dolphins!
(c) Thrifty Gypsy

So beautiful
(c) Thrifty Gypsy

(c) Thrifty Gypsy

You never know what lurks in murky waters...
(c) Thrifty Gypsy

Manatees are some of the funniest looking animals on earth, in my opinion!
(c) Thrifty Gypsy

Happy feet!
(c) Thrifty Gypsy

I'm thinking that Navy SEALS were not named after these lazy guys.
(c) Thrifty Gypsy

Not even the smell of fish woke these fellas up.
(c) Thrifty Gypsy

Facing my fear.
(c) Thrifty Gypsy

Finally got to touch one!
(c) Thrifty Gypsy
SHAMU!!!!!!!!!!!!!! And Willy, too!
(c) Thrifty Gypsy
Having finally seen Shamu and Willy (as I dubbed the other orca), we set our sights on making Tampa by nightfall in order to visit with a friend and her family.  We were thoroughly exhausted after our drive through the night, and Calah was the perfect hostess.  The next morning I got my first (and so far, only) look at the Gulf of Mexico, talked for a few hours on Calah's verandah, and managed to lock my keys in the car - all before noon!  After shelling out $300 to a locksmith to get back into my car, we spent a few hours at Busch Garden's Tampa theme park before heading north to Charleston, SC, to crash my cousin's house.

All in all, it was a properly epic spring break, and one that I will always cherish in memory.  It was one of the few times I traveled with my roommate before she jetted off to roam the world, but we made it a trip I'll never forget!

What's your favorite spring break trip?  Have you ever been to any of the SeaWorld locations?

Linking up with Bonnie and Van Berry for Travel Tuesday!

4 comments:

  1. I haven't been to Sea World, but have been to the Florida Gulf Coast often (and that's not counting the years I lived in Pensacola, so had it accessible all the time). I'd have to say it was my favorite Spring Break destination when I was in my 20's and 30's raising my girls!

    I really enjoyed your photos -- the lazy seals are probably my favorite of the images! :)

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    1. I love them, too. :) They're so dog-like and adorable!

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  2. Look at those seals getting their tan! laziest guys indeed. But they're the cutest! ;)

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    1. Seeing Shamu was great, but these seals definitely had more personality! Even if it was just a lazy one. :D

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