Breakfast was decent, though obviously overpriced, which is expected in a hotel restaurant. My trio of “heart healthy” wheat and oat pancakes were gummy and the cinnamon apple topping tasted and felt old, but the plain yogurt was a nice touch. I ended up leaving half of the stack in the room, hoping that they will still be edible later. Mom leaves for the convention and I wait in the lobby for the concierge to schedule a shuttle ride to take me to Old Town, while a mom-daughter combo (maybe) ask about the same thing minutes after me. Apparently there is only one guy on duty, and he’s helping other guests with luggage. During the wait, I find out the lobby restroom toilet is powerful, which is good. Along the ride, I find out the younger one is from Illinois (I guessed from the “Chicago” emblazoned on her shirt) and the older one is from South Carolina. The latter asked if I was in San Francisco during the earthquake.
We arrive in Old Town (about 1.2 miles away, but sunny and hot) right around 9am, which is when shops and other buildings are meant to open. One store is open, and it is the usual tourist place, with local/native decorative jewelry and souvenirs, Route 66 themed stuff, and mugs and license plates with names. I’ve been told the walk to the Aquarium is about another 1/3 mile, so there’s nothing left to do but start. I see a Walgreen’s across the street from Old Town, so I visit on the return walk for some drinks and/or snacks to bring back to the hotel. This is Central Avenue, one of the main streets of the city, and it looks run down, abandoned, and deserted. This is not comforting.
At the Aquarium, I see that the $7 admission fee includes both the Aquarium and the Botanical Gardens. The shuttle driver said that for $12 you can get admission to the Aquarium, Botanical Gardens, and the Zoo, with train rides connecting them. I don’t need to see the zoo. I don’t even need to see the Botanical Gardens, but it is already included in the price for what I want. I don’t mind spending money to support something like zoos, but I’d like to get something out of it, and several more hours of walking in the sun and heat isn’t what I want today.
On the way back, I stop at McDonald’s first, to get a medium drink (free refills are appreciated today) and hopefully something from the dollar menu, if they have one. They do, so I get a strawberry sundae and a green chile double cheeseburger, which is a regular double cheeseburger with a pasting of green chile, kind of meh. At Walgreen’s, an 89-cent 2-liter bottle of Cherry 7-Up and a box of Quaker Chewy Variety Pack granola bars in a plastic bag gets carried around in Old Town as I check out more shops. From across the park, I see the Doubletree shuttle arrive to drop off passengers, so I race over to see if I can get a ride back. There are already people waiting, and fortunately there is room for me. If I had missed it, I would have had to call the hotel and wait for the next shuttle to arrive, and that wait could be from 40 minutes to 2 hours or more, as the airport route is a higher priority.
I begin typing blogs, offloading and uploading pictures, recharging batteries (I drained one pair and filled one 2GB memory card today), and uploading videos in the room while I wait for Mom to arrive. For dinner, the Brazilian grill restaurant, Tucanos, is expensive and she doesn’t want to walk the four blocks there because there were incredibly sparse raindrops for 20 minutes and some wind for about an hour. I could go there myself to order and bring it back (they don’t do phone orders), but then we wouldn’t get the extras, and for $19 each, you should get what’s coming. Instead, the city is throwing its Sizzling Summerfest in Civic Plaza, across from our hotel. So dinner of a baked potato and five tacos comes from one of the many food vendors. I also finish my leftover pancakes from breakfast, and I hope I can get to the swimming pool tonight, although it’s going to be real loud, as it is outdoors.
Updates: I didn’t get to the swimming pool. The clothes that I washed during the morning shower are dry by nighttime, so they would be ready to go within 24 hours, barring high humidity regions. Uploading 200 photos and videos took an extremely long time because of repeated connection drops.