On Thursday, March 9th 2023, we drove to Orlando after the kids got done with school and I wrapped up work. We ate at UNO’s for dinner and then checked in at the hotel inside the Orlando airport. Connor was quiet most of the drive, but started freaking out because he said that he may have a contact stuck in his eye. He described the feeling as painful and said it felt like the contact had moved behind his eye and into his brain. We stopped at a CVS and I got some eye wash and eye pain drops for him. Unfortunately neither helped much.
It was fun being in the hotel in the airport and I’d always wondered what the rooms were like when we walked through the airport and could see the rooms from the security checkpoint. We had to wake up early on Friday to ride the train over to our terminal and get through security. Our flight was with JetBlue direct to LAX, and it was smooth and on time. The flight was five and a half hours long, but wasn’t too boring as there were nice screens on the seats with movies, games, and live TV to watch. Andrea watched a movie and a few of us watched the Indian Wells tennis tournament. We also had internet service on the flight which was quite good. Connor was still in pain and slept most of the flight.
We landed in LA, and it was a rainy cold day, not the weather we were hoping for. I’d been in contact with an optometrist in Santa Monica during the flight, and thankfully got him an afternoon appointment after a lot of back and forth. We took a taxi to the hotel from the airport, and then walked around in the drizzly rain to find a place to eat. We initially planned to try Cha Cha Chicken, but it was a counter service restaurant with covered outdoor seating that looked uncomfortable in the rain. I found a Mexican restaurant down the road named Casa Martin and we decided to give it a try. The food was great, even better since we were starving and hadn’t had anything except airline snacks all day. We had chicken nachos, steak torta sandwich, and a wet burrito. After lunch, the girls hung out at the hotel and I took Connor to the eye doctor.
Strangely, by the time we went to the appointment, Connor’s eye felt mostly fine and I considered canceling it. I’m glad I didn’t, as the doctor saw an infection in his right eye, on the cornea (also known as the Cornelius). She prescribed him an antibiotic and later that afternoon we went to the nearby Target to pick it up at the CVS inside and to get some snacks. We had reservations about going to the Target as it had horrible reviews. Reading the recent reviews, it’s apparent that the homeless population is active around that area, and there were certainly quite a few around when we walked over. As we went through the doors at Target, we witnessed an agitated gentleman shouting at a woman inside the store, who had apparently asked him to stop using profanity. Inside the store were quite a few interesting and apparently intoxicated individuals. We finished our shopping quickly and started Connor on his antibiotics immediately.
Saturday morning, the weather had cleared up a little, and while it wasn’t raining or drizzling, there was a thick fog in the air that stuck to you. Andrea had scheduled surf lessons for the kids in the morning, however Connor’s eye doctor advised against surfing for him. We considered canceling it, but there wouldn’t be refunds for Paige, so I decided I would take Connor’s spot. We walked down the beach to the parking lot and van to meet our instructor Todd, and Paige and I put on our wetsuits and carried our boards to the beach. We’d planned to have the instructor skip the beginner basics on the beach with the kids because they were both fairly experienced, however since I was such a newbie, Paige had to sit through 30 minutes of surfing 101.
Soon enough, we were in the water, and our first few moments in the Pacific were a shock. First, the water was cold. We expected it, but our uncovered feet and skin were instantly freezing. Second, the waves were pretty violent as we headed out. The first big one that hit us flipped my board over and drove me under. I saw Todd heading over to help Paige, so I tried to stay calm and head further out to calmer waters. It was a struggle, but eventually I was in a calm enough area and I was able to look back and see how Paige was doing. They were getting closer to me, and Paige screamed “Dad” and pointed out to sea. A monster wave was coming and I just let go of the board and tried to go under. I got tumbled pretty violently and I could feel the cord connecting me to the board twisting around my legs and yanking on me as the board was swept along with the wave. I surfaced eventually and when I went to gasp for air, I ended up with a mouthful of water. I spit it out, got one breath in and then got another mouthful of water. That mouthful I swallowed, almost barfed, then with some difficulty I calmed myself down and controlled my breathing as I recovered my board. Todd was doing a good job taking care of Paige, but I considered calling it a day at that moment.
We caught our breath, regrouped, and Todd started watching for promising waves. We had me try out one small wave first and then a slightly larger one. I was able to get on my feet, but I didn’t last long before tipping over. Paige had one false start and then she was able to get on her feet and stay up all the way to shore almost every time. She is definitely more comfortable on a board, and all her surf camps and lessons paid off. It was fun, but fairly exhausting. I was surprised at how much effort was involved to get the board out far enough to catch the waves.
After about 45 minutes, the tide was coming in and the waves were less constant. We had to wait longer between the rideable waves and I asked Todd if he ever saw any marine life when he was surfing. He said that occasionally they see stingrays and said that every once in a while he’s see a seal. With a grin he pointed and said “Oh, there’s one right there”. I turned to look and about a hundred yards north of us I saw a dark silhouette in the water approximately as far from the beach as we were. It was right in an area where some surfers had been and I thought Todd was messing with me and it was a surfer until it disappeared under the water. We watched in that direction and saw it come back up about fifty yards away and then it went under again. I was thrilled that we got to see a wild seal, but when it surfaced next right next to us, I was a bit scared. The seal was way bigger that I expected. I figured it was the size of a medium sized dog, but its head was twice as big as mine and was connected to a powerful neck. I was 10-15 feet from it, and it looked right at us for a few seconds before going back under and continuing on its way. We caught a few more waves, but the seal was the best part of the lesson in my opinion.
After our lesson, we dried off and changed back in to the clothes that Mom and Connor had left in the surf van. All of our other valuables were with them, so Paige and I had to find our way home with no money, wallet, phone or GPS. Paige and I were both tired and sore after our lesson. Paige had no visible injuries, but she told me that the first few waves that hit us when we first got in the water had tumbled her pretty badly. She said that her heel hit her back, she got twisted so badly and I’m thankful she’s flexible and strong or it could have caused some serious damage.
Paige and I made it back to the hotel and then we cleaned up and we all went to the Santa Monica Pier for lunch at Big Dean’s for lunch.
The restaurant was more of a bar, and strangely didn’t have ice, serving their sodas in the can. We ate some mediocre food and then went to the pier to play some games and see the sights. Paige spotted a big seal in the water under the pier, and it looked pretty similar to the one we’d seen earlier in the day. We mostly struck out at the carnival games, but Connor made a basket and won a pink monkey for Paige, which she named Monique after Santa Monica.
On the way back to the hotel, we stopped at muscle beach and Connor enjoyed the swings in the sand while Paige and I tried our strength and coordination on the swinging rings. Paige was the first to make it all the way across and then quite a few people got interested and tried to conquer the obstacle.
We took a break and relaxed at the hotel until the evening and then went back to the pier. Paige wanted to ride the roller coaster and Ferris wheel, and I ride with her while Andrea and Connor walked around. It was a chilly evening and foggy, and after we finished in the rides we went back to the hotel.