so, i'm back from port st. joe (again), but not without injuries (don't worry, they're minor). a couple of my students really drove me nuts on the trip (but none who rode in the van with me). my student trouble began shortly after we left DISL on thursday. we were meeting the commuters at the wal-mart by the interstate so they wouldn't have to drive all the way to the island. one of the girls in the class chose to drive her own car on the trip, with a few other girls riding with her. when we stopped to pick up the commuters, driving girl (later to be referred to as "the speed limit nazi") approached me and asked me to slow down. based on this, you may think that i was speeding like a maniac, but no - i was driving 5 mph over the speed limit (i usually hover somewhere between 5 and 10 mph over). when i said to driving girl, "i was only going 60." she came back with, "yeah, in a 55. i'm at the end of the line, and i'll be the one to get a ticket." many smart-ass replies immediately came to mind, but as she was a student of mine, i held my tongue. the many replies i thought about included "it's the person who's first that will get the ticket, not the last," "you don't get pulled over for driving 5 mph over the speed limit, idiot. the cops go for the dangerous drivers, not some average joe (or jane) who's speeding a little," and the one i wanted to say most "you didn't have to drive your own car. don't choose to drive yourself to somewhere you've never been that's 300 miles away and then complain about how fast the person in charge is driving. just freakin' keep up." so i spent the entire 4-hour drive from mobile to port st. joe trying my damned-est not to speed and complaining about how if i ventured over the speed limit a little the speed limit nazi was going to have a duck. it made the people who rode with me laugh. anyway, o'brien passed me after a while (he hadn't heard the speed limit nazi's comment and didn't know why i was driving so slowly), and i just said, "to hell with it" and drove 80. the speed limit nazi expressed her displeasure at this by repeatedly falling behind, forcing us nice, considerate people in front of her who didn't want her to get lost (even though i printed out directions for her) to slow down and let her catch up. anyway, i told o'brien and charlie (who drove our 3rd vehicle) about the speed limit nazi's comment when we stopped for a potty break. after we'd turned onto hwy 231, i was driving ~7-8 mph over the speed limit, and we passed 4 cops (a few minutes apart), all of whom ignored us, verifying what i said earlier about them not really giving a damn about a bit of innocent speeding. now, dr. v., he was speeding a lot. he deserved to get pulled over. i don't speed that much.
anyway, we eventually made our way into the park so the students could snorkel around and see cool stuff (about which i could provide much information). gretchen, charlie, and i went to check out the cages, which were still there, although they were not still secure. the rebar had pulled way out of the sediment, so only 3 of our 12 cages still had the original number of urchins in them. anyway, we repaired some holes, took out the extra urchins, and freed some fish that had gotten stuck in the mesh, and all was well. i trapped a big ass toad fish in one of the cages, accidentally of course. there was a pretty large sea horse in one of them, too so i took it out and showed it to the marine bio students, who thought it was pretty darn cool.
anyway, as gretchen and i had the most actual work to do (cage repairs and all), we were the last out of the water thursday. now, i have been to this site at st. joe many times, and each time i have noticed that little marsh area right before it goes out into the bay with its sign warning of alligators (which really freak me out - seriously, i'm not scared of sharks, but gators make me panic a little), but i have never seen a gator there. because i had never seen an alligator at my site, i never really worried about them. but, like, 30 seconds after gretchen and i got out of the water, this big ass gator comes swimming merrily out of the marsh and into the bay right where we'd just come out. i freaked a little. ok, so it wasn't the biggest gator in the world, but it was bigger than i am, which is more than big enough to scare the shit out of me. i thought that it wouldn't venture out very far - that water is really salty, like, 30 ppt. i've seen plenty of gators on the causeway along mobile bay, but the salinity there never goes above ~7-10 ppt (brackish water). anyway, the gator ignored the fact that it's supposed to be a freshwater critter and went right out into st. joseph's bay. the sight of that gator swimming out toward our cages made me a bit concerned about heading out there at night (which we're doing on july 9). a shark i can handle. a gator i cannot. how weird am i? i am just really freakin' glad that gretchen and i were out of the water before the gator made its appearance. otherwise, i would probably still be frozen there in calf-deep water, scared out of my head. oh, plus i was bleeding a little from a cut on my knee and some scratches on the back of my calf. i had a little run-in with a sharp shell or two while snorkeling in very shallow water (which made the cut[s] on my knee), then i sort of backed into this big post covered with barnacles (thus, the cuts on the back of my calf). anyway, i survived, and i'll worry about july 9 on july 9.
the snorkeling at the jetties at st. andrew's in panama city was much less eventful than the grass beds at st. joe. i showed gretchen around and pointed out some cool stuff to her. i showed her how to tell the difference between a ctenophore (comb jelly - the kind that don't sting) and a jellyfish (the bad ones that do sting) - comb jellies don't have tentacles hanging down, and they don't mind if you poke 'em. she was delighted at the blennies, the little fish that hang out on the rocks and are kind of hard to see, and found a couple of cool shells. i chased around a big sheepshead (a big striped fish) until it lost me, and i tried to scare a group of white mullet (that didn't work too well - they didn't swim away) to amuse myself. here are a few shots i took at st. andrew's.
this one is of charlie and gretchen. i use deva's sneak-attack method here. they didn't know i took it.
here are some of the beach and jetties. the water there is very clear and gorgeous.
i wasn't annoyed at all yesterday until we were about to leave the park, and o'brien and i were discussing the plan for getting home, and the speed limit nazi said really loudly, "i think we should all go the speed limit and not change lanes every two seconds." i had the same exasperated thoughts i'd had the day before, plus this one: "hello! we're not changing lanes for no reason. we're either passing slow people or moving over to let someone merge." o'brien and i decided that he would stay with her until they got to the interstate (to make sure she didn't get lost - again, even though she had directions in writing and we were going back along the same road we'd come in on), then he'd just drive as fast as he wanted. charlie and i went on ahead. shortly after the speed limit nazi's comment, this guy in the class whose parents have a beach house near st. andrew's started talking about wanting to go to sonny's bbq for lunch, which was not on the way back and would take forever to seat and serve 23 people, even if we split into smaller groups. anyway, i pointed out to him, calmly i might add, that we had to get back to the island by 5:30 so that the students who live in the dorms (including him) could eat dinner and that sonny's would make us late. he proceeded to argue that we could take another route (which i know from experience is slower than the one i chose) which would take us past sonny's and that sonny's has fast service. it was the pushing the point that really annoyed me with him. i'd already explained why his plan wasn't feasible (not to mention that dinner the night before had been expensive and not everyone could afford sonny's for lunch), but he just kept arguing. it didn't matter. o'brien agreed with me, and we did things my way. we stopped at a place where there was a taco bell and a burger king and got fast food to go so we could get everyone back to DISL in time for dinner. we arrived at 5:30.
Hams on Tour
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