California, this is our story

Chapter 4

We wanted to get a fairly early start at Sea World, but “early” in San Diego and “early” in Delaware are, well, a continent apart.  Lena is a night owl, working until the wee hours of the morning, and then sleeping in and starting work any time after ten in then morning.  Her job as business manager for a large medical group in San Diego seems to be better executed when there aren’t all the usual office things going on.  She knows her seven doctors , two physician assistants and one nurse practitioner and bevy of nurses and staff workers well, and they call her OFTEN, but she does her best work when she is mostly alone in the building with few distractions.  She wants to retire in about two years, and is in the process of training someone to take her place, but it will be some time before her position (as the final financial word for the business) will be fully replaced.  It seems as if most things just cannot quite function without her.

Daniel got up, got his shower and went on a walk to find a paper.  Lena and I started rummaging around for some breakfast, and then he came in, declared it a perfect morning, and we got ourselves ready for a great day at Sea World.  Even though there are some closer to home, We had never been to such a place before.  Lena dropped us off at the gate, and went on to work.  We got our tickets and a map and a schedule of events and started our adventure.  The day was hot, and it didn’t take us too long to rent a locker for my jacket and my purse.  Lockers with unlimited access rented for nine dollars a day, but the attendant cheerfully told us that if we didn’t need to get into it, there were lockers that rented for $1.25 for “One Use.” That was good enough for me.  The only problem was that after we had carefully locked everything up in there, we remembered that my phone was in my purse.  I had my camera, and I decided that it was just fine for me to not have my phone.  Daniel had his, and if there was any emergency of any consequence, they would call his.  And so we set out.

There was so much to see!  We started in the Sesame Street area which is actually a play area for kids! 


The first scheduled event was something for the small fry.  We wanted to take in this show for children so that we could send pictures back for our grandbaby.  We inquired at the gate as to where it was located since it was starting in 15 minutes after our arrival.  The fellow at the gate appeared to be a bit limited, but he confidently proclaimed that it was to be in the Sesame Street Play area, so we began there.  It was discouraging to learn too late that it was, in fact, held in some theater half way across the complex.  So we decided to skip it and just work our way around to the first Killer Whale show of the day.  The way there was incredibly picturesque.  The flowers were phenomenal!  Landscaping was truly breathtaking. 


There was an area that had all the flags of the states in a circle with plaques for each state at the base of the flags.  We found all the flags for the states that our children live in, took pictures of the plaques, took pictures of the flags, and thought about our far away family.  We came around a circle and found a Shamu the Killer Whale impersonator, taking pictures with whomever wanted to participate, and a bystander took a short video of Grammy and Grampa saying “HI” to Grandbaby Charis.  When the short speech was finished, I was surprised by a sudden brush on my cheek of a fuzzy lip and a smooching sound.  Guess who got kissed by Shamu the Killer Whale!  What a claim to fame.  The only problem was, when we looked at the video, you couldn’t tell that it was a kiss.  It just looked like the whale looked at me and accidentally brushed against me.  Fuzzy, stuffed whale costumes just have no way of puckering up!  Oh, well.  It was what it was!

We went over then, to the Shamu Stadium and saw the first of the shows for the day.  What an experience.  It is hard to believe that 9,000 pounds of whale can be trained to do all that stuff! 


(I know this doesn’t look like much, but the spectacular video I took WILL NOT UPLOAD!) 

It was amazing!  We sat above the first twelve rows because of little signs that said, “Warning:  First twelve rows are ‘soak zone.’  If you do not wish to be wet, please sit above row 12.“  We did not really care to be wet, so we chose seats that were central, but higher in the bleachers.  Wow!, were we ever glad we did!  They weren’t kidding about that soak zone business.  One daddy took his little boy (maybe a year old) down the side so they could see better, and they were standing there, enjoying the show, when one of the whales turned suddenly and flung this wave of water up over the section where the guy was standing, holding his child.  Oh, dear.  Was that little fellow ever insulted!  He wailed and wailed and refused to be comforted.  The thing is, there is almost never just one splash, and I think the whale may have sent three or four heavy showers over that section before he went on to other things.  The daddy retreated up the bleachers, but it was a source of great unhappiness and noise on the part of the little guy.

The show lasted about a half an hour, and the lower sections all pretty much got their turn at getting wet.  But then we needed to really walk fast to get over to the next show which was the seals.  This was a comedy show, and it really was funny.  There were two seals with their trainers, plus a trained otter, and an emcee.  The show was on the order of a Laurel and Hardy production, and again, it was hard to believe that mere animals could do all those things.  It was lighthearted and not nearly as intense as the whale show, but still really enjoyable.


We had a little time, then, and we were getting a little bit hungry.  The thing was, Lena was going to take us out again that night for supper somewhere, so we really didn’t want to pay Sea World prices for food that we really didn’t NEED since we had eaten breakfast later than usual.  We had seen signs for funnel cakes and so we decided that we would get a “snacky” type thing to eat and then wait for supper.  We went into this nice little eating place and saw how big the funnel cakes were and what was available.  It wasn’t a big decision to buy one funnel cake and split it.  It was the best funnel cake we have ever eaten.  It was as big as a dinner plate, with hot apple pie filling on top of that and then a whole bunch of soft ice cream on top of that. 

We both had more than plenty, and were very well satisfied.  We got something to drink — I think water, and that was our lunch.  It tasted so good on that hot day.

It felt like it was getting hotter and hotter, too.  We had a Dolphin Show next on the schedule, and we meandered over there and found places about a half an hour early.  We sat there in the full sun, and I realized that we both were going to be sunburned in short order.  The bleachers were metal, and there was no shade available except down there in the (you guessed it!) soak section.  I wished and wished that I had gotten some sun screen somewhere, but didn’t remember seeing any in our meanderings.  Daniel had purchased a hat within the first half hour in the park.  One of the meds that he was on had warned  seriously about exposure to sun while on that medicine, so he had wisely decided to protect his head and face.  Up on those bleachers, though, there was no protection, and I became more and more worried that the rest of our trip would be affected by serious sunburns.  Just then a fellow came up through the bleachers, selling small tubes of sunscreen and hats.  We were both so relieved to see the sunscreen that we didn’t care that it cost $9.00 a tube.  We got ourselves slathered down and rightly protected and surprisingly, even after having already been in the sun for several hours, we both came through without any serious burn.  The Dolphin show was a longer than usual show, though, and, like I said, we had gotten there early, and I am quite certain we would have been in big trouble without protection.  The one thing that happened was that the sun was such that it didn’t lend itself well to picture taking, so I didn’t get pictures from the Dolphin show.

The Dolphin show is special for the “human interest” aspect of it.  There is spectacular and silly and stuff that takes your breath away and stuff that makes you laugh — but the dolphins have an almost human quality that is endearing and makes you go “Aw-w-w-w-w-w.  That’s so sweet!”  They actually did their show like a drama production, and both animal and human participants were perfectly trained and worked together flawlessly.  They did their share of splashing the lower rows of the stadium, too, but their splashing lacked the sense of — I don’t know — maybe malice– that the whales had in theirs.  The people who got wet from the dolphins seemed to have less a sense of danger in the drenching and more a sense of a friendly water fight.  It was a particularly interesting contrast for us.

There was one more show over at the Shamu auditorium that was different from the morning one.  In between all of this, we saw penguins and beluga whales and polar bears and sea lions and walrus and just all sorts of animals and flowers.  We caught the last show of the whales, and then things pretty much wound down for us.  It was almost five o’clock before we knew it, so we retrieved the jacket and purse from the locker, and made a final visit to the restrooms.

While in the restroom, I heard a mommy having a conversation with her little girl a few doors down.

“No, Abby,” said the sweet Mommy voice, “You said you had to go to the bathroom.  You go first.”

“Mommy go!” said the little voice.

“No, Abby, you go first.  When little girls have to go potty, they really need to go.  Mommies can hold it better than little girls, so you go first, then Mommy will go.”

There followed evidence that the little girl did in fact go to the potty and there was effusive praise from the Mommy.  There followed a conversation between them about having a little brother and the Mommy said, “This is where you understand about being a big sister, because you have your little brother, Justin.  Not all little girls have little brothers.”  There followed some question that I didn’t understand, but it involved the technicalities of the birds and the bees.  I was so impressed by the Mommy’s response to her little girlie.

“That’s a good question, Abby, and I want to explain it to you.  I think, though, that there are things about this that you can understand better when you are a little older, and I will explain it better then.”  The little girl was satisfied with that answer.  We came out of the stalls at the same time, and the Mommy was helping her wash her hands at the sink, and I watched the two of them and the obvious care and kindness on the part of the mommy and the respect the little girlie had for her mommy, and it made my day.  So often experiences such as Sea World are fraught with screaming children, impatient parents and poor parenting strategies.  This was a brief but encouraging glimpse into the great job some parents are doing, and it was heartwarming.

Then Lena came and whisked us away.  She wanted to make it to the Pacific Ocean before the sun set. Sunsets over the Pacific are like sunrises over the Atlantic. There is nothing quite like them, and we set off with the best of intentions, but very short on time to make it.  There was a wrong turn, and as a result we did not get there before the sun had sunk behind the final bank of clouds. 

It was still pretty nice, and since it wasn’t dark yet, we clambered over the large sand dunes between the parking lot and the broad expanse of water beyond.  The air was chilly since the sun had gone down, but Daniel and I both had purposeful intent.  We really, really wanted to put our feet into the Pacific Ocean. 

Lena thought we were crazy, but I took off my sandals (they were full of sand, anyhow) and stood where the next big wave would come over my freezing toes.  It caught me unprepared for how cold it was, but it was still exhilarating! 

   (It’s kinda hard to get decent pictures of your own feet!)

I watched the water curl around my toes, and thought again about what a privilege I had been granted.  It seemed almost like a dream that I was HERE.  Standing in the Pacific Ocean.  This gal from slower, lower Delaware, in San Diego, CA, seeing things I’ve never seen before, doing things I’ve never done before.  It was unreal!  Here we were. Daniel and I, on the trip of a lifetime, and it was just so very sweet!

And then we clambered back over the dunes to the parking lot, shaking the sand out from between our toes and off our feet.  My feet were freezing, and Lena’s car felt good after the hard, cold pavement.  She took us to a small, hometown kind of restaurant that evening, and Daniel and I both had chopped steak with gravy, veggies and potatoes.  We were really, really hungry, and the servings were generous, the prices very reasonable.  We lingered over the meal, telling Lena all about our day, and feeling more than a little exhausted.  We watched the people come and go, and were delighted with our happy, personable, attentive waiter.  It would take some serious time to assimilate all we had seen that day, and both of us were ready for some sleeping.  We paid the bill and headed for home.  Our plans were to head up to Pasadena the next day (Friday) to see Mary Beth and Joanna Sharp, two girls from our church who are in a mission training program up there.  Lena was taking the day off to go with us, and we were expecting a fairly leisurely day.  This day at Sea World was anything but leisurely, but we truly enjoyed every minute of it.   What wonderful, wonderful memories!



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3 responses to “California, this is our story

  1. Oh, I am loving reading these stories from your trip!  I will probably never get my hubby to go to a place like Sea World (there is one in San Antonio, just a 4 hour drive from our home) but I just loved reading of your enjoyment of the experience – especially your thoughts on the differences in the whale show and dolphin show.  That was really interesting, and you made me wish I’d been there with you!

  2. What fun to hear about your adventure.

  3. That picture of you two standing in the Pacific is absolutely precious. I am so delighted that you had this opportunity.

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