I didn’t let someone breaking my shower stop me from inviting others to stay with me. I was able to get maintenance to my house the day after Jack left – and now instead of water spraying on my ceiling it only drips from the loose connection. My next guests would be Piotr and Justyna, a couple that met at Politechnika Wroclawska, the University of Technology, in Poland and have traveled to Hawaii, Canada, Mexico, and New Zealand.
I got a text letting me know they were having car trouble but to expect them around 7:30 pm. I took my bike for a ride on the Strand and then drove up to Coronado to watch the sunset on the beach. I got a call at 8:00 pm that they were outside my house waiting on me. I could hear Sparky barking in the background. I arrived to smiling faces. Once inside, they met the dogs, got something to drink, and Justyna and I stayed in conversation through the night. Piotr was more apt to play games on his iPad mini.
I enjoy the somewhat quiet time (that Sparky allows) in the morning, so I don’t mind how late my surfers sleep. When I asked what time to expect their awakening they agreed to 8:00 am, but forgot to set their alarm and didn’t get up until 9:00 am. I suppose I could’ve woken them instead of reading, but Justyna was glad for the rest. Piotr would finish their dinner leftovers while we got dressed and then we were off to Bruegger’s Bagels for food.
This time I got the morning-glory bagel with honey walnut cream cheese and thought I asked for an iced mocha, but got a steaming cup o’ Joe – still has caffeine in it and will be the same temperature after being left in the car all day – price: $5.59. They are wondering if this park will be as busy as Disneyland and the line to get in the parking lot and gate quickly answer that question, though they feel that LA has a lot more congestion.
I was going to pull up to have the pay window on my side since I knew I was getting in free, but Piotr suggested the other side and paid the $15. We parked next to the F4 sign making it easier to find the car at the end of a long day. The park’s hours are 9:00 am – 10:00 pm today. Tickets at the booth are $79, they were on sale online for $64, but active duty military and up to three dependents get in one day a year for free – woo hoo!
The line for my ticket, they already had theirs, took us 40 minutes. We are through the gate, bag checked, at 11:20 am and ready for the first ride – the Manta roller coaster. We put our bags in a free locker provided and proceeded to the line. They wanted to be in the front and had seven pairs in front of them; I only had four in the second row. This gave me time to go to the locker, grab our bags, and take a picture of them coming back.
Out of the gift shop and on our way to the next stop on the map we pass a pool full of manta rays. Their faces light up, ‘like a child’, when they are able to put their hand in the water and feel the smooth skin of the rays. They are used to being fed, so many of them are bringing their heads out of the water. And mantas are known to leap out of the water and even do the occasional backflip. They take turns, with a wet hand, getting their memories saved digitally of the big smiles on their faces – this makes me happy.
Next is Shipwreck Rapids. There is a line for this ride – and the lines will only get longer as the day goes on and the crowds join the masses. We wait 25 minutes before making our way to the moving platform. We will join three others instead of riding with a family of five on a raft made for nine. They don’t seem too concerned with filling empty seats – not yet anyways. Piotr catches most of the incoming water and though my shoulder and seat get wet I’m able to keep my bag dry.
Upon the exit of the gift shop for this ride are human dryers. We were looking forward to trying them, but there is a charge of $5.00 – need a way to pay the bills and keep people from trying them even when they are dry. We make our way to One Ocean – the Shamu show featuring three Orcas. The stadium holds 5,500 people plus vendors selling bubbles, ice cream, and popcorn and the show staff.
The show starts at 1:00 pm and all shows are 25 minutes long. It is so amazing to see how smart the whales are and the tricks they can do, but I wonder about the training methods and am saddened that these tricks can’t be performed in the ocean where these whales could be with their families. It’s fine to be a whale in a fishbowl while you perform for such a large audience, but what about at night when everyone goes home.
The planet is 70 percent ocean and Orcas can be found swimming in all of them – up to a hundred miles a day, making them the most widely distributed animal on Earth after humans. In the wild they eat whales, sharks, seals, other dolphins, turtles, penguins, walruses, and squid amounting to three percent of their weight – about 500 pounds. In captivity they are fed 140-240 pounds of mackerel, salmon, and herring during shows and while being trained.
As of this year, there are 46 Orcas in captivity in the Americas, Europe, and Japan. Orcas are matrilineal and the sons will stay with their mom for life. Living at SeaWorld and other aquariums can be depressing and deadly with bent dorsal fins as a result of captivity or usually an injury in the wild and the low birth rate and survival if the mother has the calf too young and without prior guidance from her mom.
There is a large monitor that has an educational program on before the show starts and then they use it to display the action in the show. The whales do front and back flips, wave, high jumps, spin around, do some talking, and then one licks the other (a kiss). They can also use their tail to create a wave of water that wets the audience in the splash zone – some people are wearing plastic ponchos.
Getting in was easy enough because we arrived ten minutes early, but with only two exits there is a line to leave the stadium. Our next destination is not far – the Cirque de la Mer – an acrobatic group. There are plenty of seats left for this show and we quickly find some good seats as the opening act finishes. There are trampolines, poles, jet skis, and lots of swimming. There is also free show viewing from small boats on the other side of the performance zone buoy line.
Two women perform aerial gymnastic feats using fabric and their own strength to move about in the air and sliding down into the water when done. There is an amazing couple that performs on a suspended swinging high bar on a pulley system so they stay dry and then a bunch of flips and jumps by a group playing on a giant platform with ladders that let them make synchronized jumps into the water – a good way to cool off on a hot day.
That show finishes at 1:53 pm and the next show – Blue Horizons, involving birds, dolphins, and people starts at 2:15 pm. Along the way we see some large turtles colored brown, green, gray, and black; and flamingoes that are white, orange, and pink. There are still some seats when we get there, but they will be out of view of a majority of the show. I divide my time standing for a quick photo, perching on my feet, and sitting.
The pre-show entertainment will be a guy and his guitar singing about the greatness of parents bringing their kids to the porpoise performance. Dolphins, being the size of an Orca meal, are small enough to have ten swim in the tank with trainers during the show. They do synchronized jumps, flips, waves, and splashes; and one is able to ‘walk’ on water. Then out come the False Killer Whales (3rd largest member of the dolphin family) with the acrobats and birds trained to fly by.
With the ‘whales’ back on their side of the pool, two dolphins are brought into the performance area and with a rubber leash they give one of the trainers a ride. They end the show with the dolphins jumping straight up out of the water and then waving goodbye with their tails. We wave back and at 2:50 pm find ourselves in the Shark Tunnel – 57 feet of viewing space of the 280,000 gallon tank where we can see them swim overhead.
Next is the Turtle Reef with Hawksbill and Green turtles swimming among tropical fish. It’s neat to learn that their diets vary – and not that they all eat their local crab or seagrass, but that Loggerheads eat crab and jellyfish, Leatherbacks eat jellyfish, Greens eat seagrass, Hawksbills eat sponges, Kemp’s Ridleys eat crabs, Olive Ridleys eat shrimp and lobster, and Flatbacks eat squid, sea cucumbers, and mollusks near Australia.
After the dolphins we had planned on seeing the sea lions, but the 2,500 seat stadium was at capacity so we saw the sharks, turtles, and the freshwater aquarium where I got to see an electric eel, bright blue and yellow fish and another the color of a sunset, some pond slider turtles, a fly river turtle, and some see-through fish. Then we made it over to Sea Lions Live with our host, Biff, to see him play with water, the audience, and dance moves.
I finished my water ($3.01) and ate a Snickers ice cream bar ($3.88) while Biff did some costumed dancing to Singing in the Rain, the Oompa Loompa Song, Flashdance… What a Feeling, and You Should Be Dancing to name a few. Then they brought out Clyde and Seamore for a bit of friendly sea-lion competition – swimming with a basketball and dancing – with the help of their trainer and the delivery otter.
After the sea lion show we are able to see some more up close and some with spots. In their tank with them perched on rocks and railings are white herons. The next tank contains the furriest sea otters I have yet to see being very frisky and playing with ice cubes. Then we stop at Dolphin Point where you might get the chance to touch one or even get a profile picture (if the kids standing next to you would stop flailing their arms about and splashing in the water).
I would wait here while the other two found a place to smoke. Piotr rolls them (cheaper that way) and they even have little filters – how cute, but smelly when someone throws them away inside instead of using your bin outside. I get to see the dolphins flip and wave with fins and tail. It’s one of the trainers’ birthday so her gift is riding around in a kayak and they all have whistles to help direct them around the pool.
On the way to Journey to Atlantis (a soaking water ride) we visit the Shamu Underwater Viewing area – and I can tell how much the whale that can grow up to 32 feet and weigh up to nine tons loves his little tank and swimming in circles all day while people eat their lunch at the restaurant on the other side to claim that they dined with Shamu. Pictures are taken and we are on our way to wait in the 50 minute line to get wet.
While in line we talk with two girls down from Los Angeles celebrating one of their birthdays and the two guys in front of them teach a finger tapping game that I still don’t grasp, but it was a fun way to pass the time. As our turn approaches we wonder more about where the lockers are and the ride attendant tells us just to put our bags with our expensive cameras and fancy phones under our legs.
I’m in front with a boy, probably eleven years old, and the other two are behind me. It wouldn’t have made a difference where I sat we all got soaked twice. I think my bag was ok the first time, but the second left it drenched as there was a pool of water at my feet and I was dripping wetness. I got off the ride, took a picture of what we just experienced and was glad that my camera still worked. I grabbed a paper towel and wiped the water off the lens.
Next to this ride are the polar exhibits and we are already cold, but somehow all have wide grins on our faces – how invigorating. We wait a few minutes for a short Wild Arctic Ride – a moving seat to simulate a helicopter ride to view polar bears and migrating caribou and then underwater to see narwhals. I was still dripping water and left plenty for the next person to have my seat.
We got to see some Beluga whales airing off their backs, one polar bear wiping away his tears, and a walrus adding some climbing into his swimming circles routine. I understand they all may do this in the wild and that most people choose this same life existence – job they hate, TV shows they love, and lots of alcohol – whether it’s behind bars, in a trailer, or a two-story house, but at least humans have the ability to choose. Animals do not.
There are some warm climate penguins outside of the building of their exhibit all wearing some fancy zip-tie bands and each with a different color assortment to aid in identification. Inside, you step on a conveyor belt that will deliver you past two Emperor penguins and a bunch of smaller species – Adelie, Gentoo, and Macaroni. Then past the puffin exhibit with mostly the Tufted species and a couple Atlantic ones that I saw.
We were done with the park at 6:30 pm and ready for food. We had decided on Mexican food and I chose Café Coyote in Old Town which happens to be really close. We found parking a few blocks away on a steep hill and devoured chips, salsa, tortillas, and butter upon our arrival. Piotr and I ordered burritos and Justyna the tortilla soup. We shared a margarita for dessert and they paid for dinner as thanks for the $5.84 in gas and a free place to sleep.
We went home so that they could do laundry, make a patch in Piotr’s shorts, burn some CDs for the road, and find a campsite in Tucson. Their visit seemed too short. They love each other and they love travel. Sometimes it would be nice if Caleb and I could find people to travel with, but as for now he is looking forward to some ‘just us’ time when he returns next month – and I want him any way I can get him. The couple is off in the morning before breakfast – pożegnanie teraz!