Friday, May 14, 2010

Alternative Transportation and Toddlers

What do you do if you live within walking distance of your downtown (1 mile), but that is still too far for little toddler legs to ped it? Yesterday, we had a public transportation adventure. It started with a trot to the bus stop, which is two blocks from our driveway. We made the big leap from the sidewalk to the interior of the bus and found a great seat right in front. The differences between being in our little Ford Focus strapped in the back in a car seat and being in the bus are too many to count, but here are some of the key points relevant to a toddler: you can see all around you, you can look down upon the surrounding vehicles(an entirely new perspective) and you don't have to wear a seat belt or even sit still, and you have a captive audience should you become ecstatic over the public transport experience.

Ezra was by far the most enthusiastic rider. He shared his enthusiasm in a voice loud enough to evoke smiles from the weary college students and folks on their way to work--look mommy, a motorcycle! I see trees. There is the train bridge! Cost: $1.75 (with purchase of a 10-ride bus pass).

Next, we hoofed it down State Street, explored Borders, purchased a great new educational book and met a friend for lunch at Palazzio. After lunch, we were on our way for the long journey to the pier, when the State Street Shuttle appeared at our side. We hopped on (25 cents one way) and cruised all the way to the Wharf. The driver was a little more testy and he slammed on the breaks twice, cursing under his breath in cut off words at a driver who swerved in front of him. The bus lurched forward and I was not so happy about the open door and my toddler without a seat belt. Note: ride in back with kids, where there is no possibility of slipping out the open door!
Next, we walked out on the wharf and looked out at the ocean. Despite the beautiful, sunny weather, we slipped on our sweaters due to the swift and cool breeze coming over the ocean. Ezra asked to stop at a bench and look out at the ocean. He gave me a list of all the things that live in the ocean: sharks, seals, fish, crabs and people who swim. We looked at the sailboats, fishing boats and other small craft going in and out of the harbor. There in front of us was a small boat that was half yellow called a water taxi.
"What kind of boat is that?" he pointed.
"That's a water taxi." I told him. We continued on our walk and luckily the candy store went unnoticed. We saw a group of divers getting ready to dive down beneath the ocean's surface. A tangle of long hoses sat beneath them. I wondered if these would be attached to the air tanks for extended diving, but had no idea.
As we ventured toward the end of the wharf a friendly woman in a little booth asked if we wanted to go on the water taxi.
"How much is it?" I asked, anticipating something well out of our price range.
"One way is $5 for the both of you."
"Five dollars?" I questioned, waiting for a catch. No catch. We could hop in a boat and ride over to the harbor for five bucks. We purchased our tickets and Ezra looked a bit shocked as he was handed a water taxi sticker. We burned the eight minutes til launch time by finishing our tour of the wharf, peering over the edge into the ocean and checking out the four directions painted in bright colors. Surprisingly, when I asked Ezra which way was West, he knew. Lucky guess?
Then we heard the whistle of the taxi boat as it approached. We hurried back to the landing and walked down a large ramp to board to water taxi.

I dug out a life vest and put it on Ezra and we waited patiently for other passengers to board. Ezra was quiet--almost concerned that we were doing something so adventurous. No other passengers arrived and the captain's assistant closed the gate and we were off--our own private cruise in the harbor and Ezra's first time at sea!

The ride took us around the wharf and close to an area where 30 or so seals bathed in the sun atop barrel like objects at the edge of the harbor. As we entered the harbor, Ezra looked in wonder at the boats, at the water and around the boat. Although it lasted only 5 to 10 minutes, this was definitely the highlight of our day. We de-boated at the harbor onto a floating dock and walked up the ramp.

"Mommy, wait, I want to show you something cool." Ezra said as we walked along the metal rail. He pointed to a little crab on the rocks.
"Good eye, Ezra!" The waterfront proved slow going as there was something cool about every 5 feet--a boat, a kayak, a bird, a starfish, some trash floating in the water--before long, it became apparent that there were alphabet opportunities everywhere, and soon he was pointing out E's and S's and other letters and numbers found on boats and signs.

We next ventured across the great stretch of hot sand between us and the walk back to the wharf. The walk called for a snack break and we plopped ourselves down in the warm sand and ate apples and cashews I had stowed away in my backpack.

Back at the wharf, we visited the dolphin fountain and the restroom before catching the State Street Shuttle and riding to the end of the line at Victoria and State.

Next on our itinerary? Trinity Episcopalean. Even though we attend this church a few times a month, Ezra only spends a few minutes in the church at the end of the service. Although my intention was to walk the labyrinth, we saw that the church door was open and Ezra asked to go inside. We walked up the stone steps, through the open red door and interior doors into an empty church, lit only by the prayer candles up front and the sunshine pouring through the stained glass windows.

Ezra looked around with intrigue. He remained absolutely silent and looked at me with wide eyes. He pointed to the windows. He bent his neck backwards and took in the ceiling. He came to me and held my hand as we observed the church in silence. "So pretty." he said in the quietest whisper.

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