Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Help! I am a hostage in a Crazyland first-class beach resort.

This week I'm at one of the larger of the lesser/regional user group conferences for the software I teach. It's being held at the Hyatt Regency Coconut Point resort, a top-notch joint in the heart of the coastal FL everglades just outside Ft Myers. On the site are four mediocre restaurants (typical meal price for salad and an entree only plus tax & tip: $35); four pools, one with a water-park-styley super water slide and one with a waterfall; a ferryboat ride to a private beach; various gift and tchotchky shops; nature walks; and a full-service spa with such offerings as:
Watsu aqua massage
Sundari facial
Neem and Gotu Kola healing wrap
Warm stone massage
Sundari herbal soak
Thai massage
Sundari spa pedicure
and that's just a sampling, not to mention the usual hair and manicure services.

Somehow I'm not feeling your sympathy. But you have no idea how desperately I need to be rescued from this place. We were told by the conference liason and by the travel dept that we were not allowed to rent a car for the conference because everything we'd need would be available on-site. Independently, the expense department laid down a meal rate of $45 a day.

As the resort is in the middle of an everglades natural wetland, we are not in sight-distance of anywhere cheap to eat. Since I was teaching an early Sunday morning class, I brought some breakfast cereal from home. So breakfast was free Sunday and Monday. Lunch was $34, and not very good. After I finished teaching Sunday, I wanted to find a way to pass the time, as none of my colleagues had arrived, and I was bored to pieces. Nature walk! Perfect!

There is a 1/4 mile boardwalk through the wetlands to the ferry boats where I could catch a ride to the beach. Taking my time and reading about all the marshland plants and animals, looking at a white ibis hunting for sand crabs, and dodging lots of lizards, I reached the ferry boat in about 6 minutes.

The last boat had left at 3pm. It was 4:15.

Undeterred, I tried finding other routes through nature. While the typical retired Floridian vacationer may consider a 0.25 mile boardwalk (1/2 mile round-trip!) to be quite a workout, I do not. There were no other routes on the resort grounds.

Lucky for me, I have my brand new whale-in-a-minidress maternity swimsuit with me. Actually, I love the thing. It's so BIG! But it's so COMFY! And modest. It covers up all the stuff I want covered. It would look ridiculous on anyone who is NOT pregnant, but there's no hiding that bump, so I can pull it off right now.

So I headed for the pools. First pool-- too cold. It's a "refreshing chilled waterfall pool." Ehhhh, no. The next pool was the super-slide. Oh how I wanted to go on the super-slide! But it isn't the same if you're totally by yourself and wearing a big black muumuu and riding the waterslide among all the 8-12 year olds. I would probably be perceived as some kind of Floridian pree-vert.

The 3rd pool was the lap pool, but no one was swimming laps and it was the right temperature so I floated around in it awhile and then found a shady cot and slept in the breeze for a couple of hours. Dinner put me about $30 over the meal limit for just a salad and a sandwich. Grrrr. I borrowed a DVD from the resort's loaner library and watched it all by myself in my room (no, not one of THOSE movies. It was Spanglish, an Adam Sandler flick. Cute.).

The next day (Monday), I worked the demo room for the conference, answering questions about training and certification and chatting up the few people I knew from work, other conferences, or my Sunday morning seminar. One woman in particular who lives in Austin was a lot of fun and she ended up hanging out with a group of us that evening. So, having found a few friends, things were looking up. The conference provided lunch: a salad and a big hunk of carrot cake. Just what I need to stave off gestational diabetes. And typical of my diet since I've been here. After lunch I needed to get away. AWAY! Escape! I wanted to walk until I found civilization. I tied on some running shoes and struck out in search of a land free of mangroves, hawaiian shirts, and fufu frozen drinks.

I walked for 2 miles until I reached a muddy field with no sidewalk which separated me from a large highway and, on the other side, a strip mall. I had come so far, only to be turned away. There was no way I was going to brave crossing that highway. To add up the obstacles:
1. muddy field (would ruin my shoes and possibly expose me to a giant anaconda)
2. big highway-- I don't run as fast as the cars.
3. I'm in Florida, home to 5 of the 10 least pedestrian-safe cities in America. Seriously, I am not kidding. These people cannot--should not--drive.
4. I'm in Florida where they drive on the medians to avoid a slowdown at a red light. It isn't called Crazyland for nothin', people.
5. After the Cincinnati trip, I am certain that a segment of the population is intent on running over pregnant ladies.

That night, dinner cost over $50. I had a salad, an entree, some asparagus, and a teeny ball of lemon sorbet. Throughout the day (baby's got to snack), I'd purchased a coffee drink ($3.45), a muffin ($2.80), some popcorn ($6) and a small Lunchables ($6). Total food for the day, without having to pay for breakfast or lunch: about $70.

I was, and still am trapped, a 2-mile walk from the nearest non-resort civilization which may as well be a million miles, with a budget of $45 a day and nothing to do for free recreation except beach myself like a large maternity whale by the pool.

Please send a car.


PartnerInCrime said...

To be in that kind of environment, and to be in a condition that isn't exactly conducive to drinking daiquiris until you pass out under a pool umbrella, sounds like utter hell.
Also, $6 for Lunchables? Seriously? Gah! Spring for a cab and get away from there.

alphagal said...

SNG suggested that I take a taxi to McDonald's and have it wait while I eat a happy meal. Then, I come in under the meal rate, but they get to pay the $50 in cab fare. I thought that would be too vindictive. But clever nonetheless.

Katrin said...

Hey Cat, watch out for alligators!!
I know exactly how you feel, BTW-I went to this conference once at Disneyworld, and we all felt like we had been locked up in a compound, it was crazy. We had to listen to Mickey wake us up in the morning, and attempt to survive on expensive food on a student's budget-talk about going hungry when lunch costs $35-ouch!
Hope you get to come home soon and resume walks in the real woods.

alphagal said...

UGH! I'm so glad I wasn't awakened by Mickey Mouse every morning. That had to be truly miserable.