I didn’t really chase a pig – it would be an ugly race. And I confess I wouldn’t have much incentive for catching it, unless it was splayed out on a cooker, roasted to perfection, practically swimming in a tangy vinegar sauce. That kind of pig I’d chase any day.
But Karen overheard one of our shipmates – we recently returned to the Greater Indian Trail Metro after an 8-day cruise to St. Maarten, St. Kitts, San Juan, Puerto Rico, and Grand Turk – saying that line – “It started when I chased the pig” – and I thought it would make a great headline for something. Even the story of a terrific vacation in which I didn’t chase a pig at all. So here goes.
A first time for everything
If you know us, you know we’re a curious blend of early and late. As in, I’m always early – to a fault – and Karen’s, well, not so early. But when we need to be somewhere we want to be, we’re always on time, usually with room to spare. So it was when we left for the airport to hop a flight to Orlando on the Friday morning of our vacation. We got to the airport before 9:30 for a 11:20 flight. It was smooth sailing through check-in and security and everything else, and we were at our gate not too long after 10 a.m. Because we were catching the shuttle to Cocoa Beach (a 45 minute or so drive) after we landed, we knew we would be pressed to eat anything resembling lunch for awhile.
So we decided to eat at the airport. A reasonable decision – I usually get a bagel and coffee there before a flight. But on this day, we decided for a sit-down lunch at Phillips Seafood. It was a mistake. Not because the food was bad – it wasn’t. But because it was busy and slow, especially when it came to paying. (I knew the time was running short, but I wasn’t concerned – the flights I’d been on recently had all left WAY after the departure time. Except they were all charter flights. The most recent one waited more than an hour for a passenger to board – it was the guy who was IN THE SEAT right in front of me the whole time.
But this wasn’t a charter. Still we made it to the gate at 11:13 – three minutes after they’d closed boarding. It was our first – and I hope our last – missed flight. And, as is typical for me, it turned out to be a good thing. Because we were able to rebook on a flight about an hour later and still made it in good shape to the Orlando airport, where we were greeted with two great developments:
As is typical with me, something that started out badly turned out to be a good thing.
- No waiting for our bags. They were sitting right there ready to be claimed.
- We got to meet Pete and Meryl – it might have been Beryl. Or even Mary. She was pretty soft-spoken (more on that later)
But the second of those two is getting ahead of myself. First we called the shuttle service to arrange a new pickup, and within about 20 minutes, we got on the van. With a driver from Boston (and was he ever) who said his name was Pauly (if we liked him) and John (if we didn’t). The first thing Pauly (we liked him very much) told us was that he had to go to the other side of the airport – he had to talk over the classic rock on the van’s radio – to pick up some more passengers.
Only when we got there vehicles from some other services had parked in his designated spots. “That’s a $500 fine if they get caught,” he growled. Everything was a $500 fine in Pauly’s world. And he fumed, and griped, and bitched, and got more and more frustrated. “I’d block ’em in, but that’s a $500 fine, too,” Pauly grumbled, getting out of the van to wave his arms at the obviously unimpressed other drivers. Finally, one left and we moved up to the loading area, where we picked up two families.
One was a family of cops. Karen liked them better than I did, but I didn’t dislike them either. I couldn’t hear them very well, but I didn’t really want to. They were spouting some anti-Obama rhetoric – some of it sounded straight from the mouths of Fox News performers.
Pete and Meryl (or words to that effect)
The other folks who got on then were Pete and Meryl (for the sake of brevity, we’re going to stick with that as her definitive name). They were from Akron, retired, and veteran cruisers (with about one exception, everyone we met was a veteran cruiser – but again, I’m getting ahead of myself).
Pete was a white-haired, barrel-chested, loud talker, but he was as entertaining as anything. He punctuated nearly every line by saying, “I tell you what.” But he wasn’t just loud, he was friendly, funny, and not even a tiny bit pretentious. He was just Pete. (We later found out he was deaf in one ear and had reduced hearing in the other, and he had a very limited field of vision as well.) But he sure as heck didn’t waste his – or our – time griping about it. He kept us entertained all the way to the hotel, a Radisson in Cocoa Beach. Even when we got stopped behind a parade of boats (and I swear I’m not making this up). We liked him – and Meryl, who by necessity was quiet with all the words coming from husband but was very nice, too. They were going on the same cruise – so were the cops, for that matter.
We ran into Pete and Meryl a bunch of times throughout the next eight days – he entertained us every time he did. One particularly funny story – we went to the water park on the top deck of the ship and went down a fairly daunting water slide. He was quite a guy.
The Pink Maze
There really was a pink maze – it was the Radisson near Port Canaveral. It obviously had been expanded several times through the years, because you couldn’t get to some rooms from some locations. Our room in Building 5 was one of them. Turns out you had to snake your way through several buildings – rolling tons of suitcases and carry-ons with us – to get to Building 4. Why Building 4 when we were staying in Building 5. Because Building 5 didn’t have an elevator. So we had to take the Building 4 elevator, then navigate some more hairpin turns into Building 5 and finally into our room.
It was an exhausting day, and by this time we were starving. But we had asked Pauly about some restaurants on the way over. He recommended two (along with a half-hearted mention of the hotel restaurant) on either side of the Radisson: Kelsey’s – which he characterized as a pizza joint – and Zachary’s – which he said was a country cooking diner. Turns out he undersold both. We peeked at the hotel restaurant menu – and were completely unimpressed. So we decided to try Kelsey’s.
It was terrific – and definitely more than just pizza. I got perhaps the best chicken marsala I’ve ever had. But where it really excelled was the cocktails. Karen got mango sangria – it came in a pitcher that contained at least three glasses worth of a pretty damn delicious mixture. I got a mango mojito – OK, I got two mango mojitos, and they were terrific. I wanted some baklava but I was so full by the time I finished the chicken – all the while keeping an eye out for Major Nelson and Jeannie; we were in Cocoa Beach, after all – I couldn’t pull the trigger.
It was so good that on the way back through the maze, we decided to check out Zachary’s to see if it was a better option for breakfast than the buffet at the hotel. It was, and I’ll go into that tomorrow.
What else will be in part 2? How about monkeys, naughty comedians, the rain forest, rose creme brulee, actress Lisa Edelstein, donkeys, SpaceX Gary, and Dristan? But no pigs. Except for quite possibly the largest piece of one I’ve ever seen on a dinner table.