Ben was recognized at work for having a good year in 2009. We were very excited as the award was delivered to our home in a rather large box marked Frageelie. We figured it was Italian and thought we might ask Matt what it meant later. I was a little concerned when Ben pulled out what looked like the glow of electric sex and he began wondering out loud where the best place to display it might be. Ok, not really. Ben was recognized at work but nothing was delivered to our home. Instead they sent us to Naples, FL and treated us like royalty for a few days. This was a great honor, a big deal. It showed as they really took care of us.
We stayed at the Ritz which I heard was special but truly had no idea. I've never heard much about the Ritz other than the song "Puttin' on the Ritz". It was a very fancy hotel. As I expected we had a bunch of fun and ate too much. We had so much fun we forgot to take many pictures. The picture below is of a lunch we had on the beach right outside the hotel. The hotel was right on the beach, perfect for early morning strolls and collecting unusual sea creatures that washed up on the shore. (The group we were with thought I was crazy for trying to collect these strange creatures that looked a little to 'alive' for them.)
They had many activities available for us. We hung out on the beach one day and took a tour through the everglades the other. I was introduced to many of Ben's friends from work. They all seemed to get a kick out my asking the bar-keep for milk, chocolate milk if I was lucky. A couple times a day we were introduced into a ballroom and were told that the "beer and wine are flowing." We chuckled a bit because we don't drink. It was pretty easy to pick out the crowd of our faith because they all held their Diet Cokes. I don't drink pop so I would ask for some milk. They accommodated me about half the time and the other times would just kind of politely glare at me.
The day we took the tour of the Everglades was wonderful. We were concerned about the weather but it cleared up just in time. Most of the time we were in Naples it was very windy and cold but the times we needed the weather to cooperate it did beautifully. We were introduced to our first "gale". I never knew what a gale was but I know enough now to stay away from the water when one is coming. (It rained horizontally). After the gale was a perfect time to rush to the beach to see what the storm washed up on shore. I found a horseshoe crab the size of an 8X10 picture frame.
When we got to the dock where we would board the boats to for the Everglades tour they didn't have enough boats for Ben and I so we had some time to kill. Apparently some local saw the crowd getting onto the boats and just got in line. They had this cute little "tame" alligator in a little aquarium for the tourist to hold. They dared me to kiss the little cutie. I didn't hesitate on this dare...the little guy was so cute after all. He seemed to like it because I could see him smile. Ben, on the other hand, told me he'd never kiss me again...and they smile before they lunge to bite your face off. I didn't believe him but didn't like the thought of no more Ben kisses, so I gladly passed the reptile to the next folks in line.
Ben found a friend while we were taking the bus ride to the docks. We were given a bit of an history lesson by a local who looked like the Florida version of Wally Rupp (Ben's former Scout Leader). Ben commented a few times that he felt like he was in a merit badge clinic as the man rambled on about the history of the area. The legal battles around the preservation of national parks. We chuckled as he talked about all the local families that owned the land that would illegally poach gators for their skin and tails. They were always running from the "Poe-lease" and generally stayed ahead long enough not to get caught. All of their stories ended the same. They would drink, poach, and chase women. We they got old they "found religion" and donated the family land to create a national park.
We did manage to remember to take many picture on the everglades. We were taken on these big airboats that fit about 7 people. Our guide was one of the "good ol boys". He was such a hillbilly redneck he redefined the word for us. Unfortunately we forgot to get a picture with him. He was a thick guy with scars all over his neck and arms. We asked him if that was from the low branches of the Everglades. He laugh and told us a few stories of when he was younger and not so bright he would wrasle gators for beer money. He did that for about 6 years and then got bored and became a guide.
Our guide took us through these little alley ways in the Everglades. It was beautiful. He took us to some the favorite areas where gators like to hang out. I think they like to stay in this spot because these guides like to feed them marshmallows. Sounded weird to us but the gators ate them.
He took some of these alleys and turns a bit faster than we might have liked. We all survived and had a fun memory.
The best part of the trip was knowing that we were very close to being able to visit Grandma in Moultrie, GA. It was a bit of a drive but I was surprised at how enjoyable that drive can be when I'm with my best friend and I'm not concerned about potty breaks or who needs what snack or who is touching who or who is breathing someone else's air. We missed the kids but it was fun to get away with just us. We stopped outside of Moultrie to look at these cows. Not sure why. They seemed interesting at the time. Maybe it was the beautiful countryside.
Getting to Grandma's house is always a joy. We seem to rush to get there and then try to live as slow as possible. We only had one day with Grandma so we tried to make the most of it by doing absolutely nothing. Ben watched an episode of Matlock in honor of Granddaddy. All that was missing was some peanut brittle. Otherwise it would have been the exact experience Ben talks about when reminiscing about other trips to Georgia. Sitting on the couch with Grandpa, eating peanut brittle and watching Matlock.
Another memory that Ben always talks about is playing Skipbo with Grandma. She still has it in her to cheat a little but not as outright as before. Grandma brought out the fruit and peanut M&Ms and we were in heaven. This lovely lady has more peanut M&Ms in her home than most corner markets will stock on their shelves for a week. We had great food, great company, and a great big German Chocolate cake that Ben felt obligated to have a wedge of a couple times a day. Not a piece but a wedge. That cake would sit a good 4 inches on top of his plate. Ben was happy.
Ben spending the morning trying to watch the birds. He's the best relaxer I know.
The hardest part about going to Moultrie is leaving. We wish we had more contact with out Grandmother. Not coming with the kids has given us an excuse to come again next year with the whole family.
We love our dear Grandmother. Even though she's so far away, when we're with her it seems as if no time has passed at all. We feel like we know her as well as if we lived next door. Kindred spirits are always that way. We had a wonderful time enjoying each others personalities...laughing, laughing, laughing. We also planted Grandma's planters with Spring blooms. I hoped she would look out the window to see her flowers and know that Ben and Tiffany love her.