Monday, July 16, 2012

Vacation 2012: Our Survivor encounter.

Day 12, part 2: Tyler to HOME
Miles driven: 131

After 11 days on the road, there's not much that would've taken us off course when we were so close to home. Fortunately for Ryan, his love for the show Survivor was enough reason for us to veer off I-20. When Ryan first saw our route, he contacted Coby Archa (from Survivor Palau, season 10) and made plans to meet up with him in Tyler, where Coby owns a hair salon.

Coby has set up one of the styling stations there as a Survivor shrine. 

We got to see his canteen, his buff, an autographed T-shirt, and a bunch of his passes from Survivor-related events. As for Coby himself, he was incredibly gracious, answering our questions about the show and posing for plenty of pix.

Although Ryan has interacted with many Survivor contestants online, this was his first time to meet one in person. What a thrill!

Our stop in Tyler may have added a few hours to our already long road trip, but it was a great way to end this epic vacation. 

(Posted June 30, 2013. For all the 2012 vacation recaps, click here.)

Vacation 2012: Texas, our Texas.

Day 12, part 1: Baton Rouge to Tyler
Miles driven: 351

After 11 days on the road, we were all anxious to get home. But one of us was SUPER excited about a certain destination along the way.

It's no secret that Ryan is OBSESSED with the TV show Survivor. When he realized that our trip would take us within a few miles of Tyler, he used his connections to set up a meeting with Coby Archa. Coby, a contestant on Survivor: Palau (season 10), owns a salon in Tyler, so we planned to meet up with him there. Since Tyler is also my hometown, this stop was a no-brainer.

Once that plan was made, we were heck-bent to get to Tyler on time. With a 5+ hour drive ahead of us, we left Baton Rouge plenty early to make sure we weren't late.

After that long trek up the length of Louisiana, we finally crossed the border. It was SO good to see this sign:

We were way early for our Survivor encounter, so we made a few required Tyler stops. We drove past my parents' old house, and then we paid a visit to the cemetery where my dad is buried.

It was obvious that it'd been a long time since my mom had visited. When she was in better health, she would drive over occasionally to visit friends and replace the flowers on Daddy's grave. (Before leaving Tyler we stopped at Big Lots to buy some new silk flowers for the vase.)

Seeing Brett and the kids at the cemetery always fills me with sadness. I hate that Brett met him only a week before Daddy died, and Ryan and Katie? It's terrible that they never knew their granddaddy. (In spite of my mom's poor health, we never would've dreamed we'd all be back at that cemetery within five weeks to bury her. Ugh.)

Back when Mom lived in Tyler, no trip was complete without a quick peek into Pea Picker Books.
It's a great used bookstore that seems to have much of the same inventory it did back in the '90s when we used to be in town more often!

With the "old" out of the way, we were ready for the "new." Chuy's of Austin, our favorite restaurant, opened in Tyler a while back. This was our chance to indulge in the creamy jalapeno in my own hometown.

After all those years of driving to ATX for Chuy's, it was crazy to enjoy my bean and cheese stuffed sopapilla in TYLER.

So we paid our respects, supported a local business and filled our bellies with our favorite Tex-Mex. But the best was yet to come...

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Vacation 2012: Back to the beach.

Day 11: Tallahassee to Destin to Baton Rouge
Miles driven: 468

Westward ho!

We woke up to a gorgeous Tally morning. On our way back to the interstate, we saw the Florida State Capitol. Interesting juxtaposition, eh? Every capitol building I see just makes me love ours all the more.

Our "real" beach time was on the way to Florida, but we knew we couldn't be that close to the coast and not stop on the way home. This time we stopped in Destin, a place many of our friends visit each summer.

Check out that blue water! 

Since this was one of our "long haul" days, it was nice to just soak up the sun and feel those ocean breezes for a few hours.

The only way you'll ever see a photo
of my toes: If they're covered up!

Such a lovely place! The surf was a little rougher than what we'd seen at Orange Beach just a bit to the west. 

After rinsing off, we were on our way. Next stop: Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Pit stop!

Funny how lovely a storm can be when it's far from our car!
We originally planned to stay in Mississippi at the end of this leg, but big plans for the next day pushed us to mosey farther west before stopping for the night. We were all excited to get home, but one of us was over-the-top ecstatic to get to our next destination!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Vacation 2012: Walk on the wild side.

Day 10: Animal Kingdom
Orlando to Tallahassee
Miles driven: 263

It was our last day at Walt Disney World. After wistfully checking out of our Port Orleans resort, we drove to Animal Kingdom where we began our day in Dino-Land with Dinosaur. Then we rode Primeval Whirl, a fun little wild mouse coaster.

After greeting Pluto and Goofy, we were off to Asia.

It was a big bummer to see Expedition Everest shut down because we really wanted to take two rides on that bad boy, but alas, we went the educational route, making our way through the Maharajah Jungle Trek.

What big bats you have!

It took us a while to figure out where to eat lunch, but the BBQ aromas coming from Flame Tree made us circle back and dine there.

We enjoyed sitting in the shade.

We did NOT enjoy our fellow diners! This crazy creature terrified me with that sharp beak of his. (And the idiots at the table near us kept feeding him! When they left, Mr. Big Bill moseyed our way, and I just knew he would mistake our fingers for food.)

The Flights of Wonder show was incredible.

The views around AK were pretty spectacular, too.

Later we did the Kilimanjaro Safari. Bouncing around in the truck, we saw all kinds of animals.

One of our restroom breaks put us in a prime location for this drumming exhibition:

One of the drummers tried to talk me into dancing with them, but really, that's a job for Katie.

She was a natural!

Too much fun! (By the way, notice her shoes? The sneakers she brought for the trip did a number on her feet, so she became the proud owner of a pair of Mickey sandals for our last day at the parks.)

Fortunately, we were eventually able to use a Fastpass for Everest. It was a great coaster, even if the Yeti didn't jump out at us. (We did see his shadow, however.) The most fascinating part of the ride may have been in the queue. That's where we saw a family pulling the despicable "handicapped" scam. As we saw this group pushing a wheelchair to the front of the line, we heard one of the kids say, "So tomorrow do YOU get to be handicapped?" Ugh.


Before ending our time in the kingdom, we wandered under the shade of the crazy-cool Tree of Life...

...and checked out the animal carvings...

...and saw "It's Tough to be a Bug!" After that, we had planned to catch the Finding Nemo show, but the heat and nine days of vacation were wearing on us.

Once aboard the parking lot tram, we heard other guests talking about what a great show Nemo is, and I regretted our decision. But we were really tired, we would've had to wait a good while for the next show, and we had several hours of driving before our next stop.

Onward to Tallahassee!