2002 Florida Sea Base - SCUBA

Wednesday, July 2 - Day One

The following is a journal of the adventure filled days we spent on our trip. The individuals attending were Andrew Smith Jeff Gardner, David Diaz, Matt Petroziello, Ryan Bonenberger, Brian Alexander, Greg Tilton, Chris Specht, Jeff Vent and adult advisors, John Combs, Gregg Temple, Bob Duffy, Ken Bonenberger, Jake Green, Mike McFall.

Saturday, June 1 - Day One:
We were to meet at John's house at 8:00; no sooner, no later.  A source that is to remain nameless claims that one Jeff Vent telephoned his home at 7:00, hoping to find out if a lunch was required for our first day of driving.  We arrived at John's at 8, taking pictures, loading the vans, and saying our anxious good-byes to parents.  Who should pull up to John's residence fifteen minutes late but David Diaz who shall be dealt with at a later time.  The time had come to hit the road.  Our pleasant ride was interrupted by a pull over in Miamisburg to pump up a low tire on the troop trailer.  Ken Bonnenberger is clearly to blame for the inconvenience.  Those who were fortunate enough to be passengers in John Combs╠ van watched movies; except when Bob Duffy wasn't bumping the television and turning it off.  Those scouts in the troop van entertained themselves by drawing outrageous caricatures of fellow scouts.  We experienced some wet weather just south of the Ohio border, between Florence and Lexington.  After crossing the Kentucky state line into Tennessee, we were given the option of posing for a group picture under (or on top of) the ¤Welcome To TennesseeË sign.  Some of us, namely Andrew Smith, complained of the ¤heavy brushË that was encountered on our way to the sign which sat atop a hill.  We climbed into the vans for a thirty second ride to the rest stop, at which we ate lunch.  After lunch we departed for Macon, Georgia.  In John Combs╠ van, we continued to watch movies.  We stopped at the 325 mile marker sign for a group picture.  We arrived at the EconoLodge a little before 8 o'clock.  After settling into our rooms, we were told who would be cooking our dinner, hamburgers, hot dogs, and baked beans.  After dinner, we were required to swim ten laps in an horrifically kept swimming pool.  After the mess from dinner was cleaned up, we were told that we would be meeting in John's room to discuss the next days plans.  After the meeting, scouts were occupied by the televisions in our rooms and Ryan Bonnenberger's Playstation.  Michael McFall and I, deciding to take a stroll around the hotel perimeter, discovered a lonely shopping cart in the Burger King lot.  Seeing a prime opportunity for some fun, we decided to push each other around the hotel in the shopping cart, much to some select guests╠ amusement.  We then decided to tell the others about the cart, and Brian Alexander and Ryan Bonnenberger joined us outside.  The four of us decided to present the shopping cart to John as a gift, but he rejected the generous token, citing that he had asked for a blue shopping cart, not a gray one.  After the cart incident, most of us settled into various rooms to watch TV and play video/computer games.  An exciting beginning to a trip that promises more of the same.

Sunday, June 2 - Day Two:
We were told to be in the lobby of the EconoLodge at a quarter to eight o'clock in the morning.  The free continental breakfast consisted of a small box of doughnuts, coffee, and an awful tasting orange juice substitute.  Instead of eating doughnuts, I opted to eat an artery clogging breakfast from Burger King.  From the start of our days departure from Macon, John's van chose to watch The Godfather-all three parts; all six video tapes.  As you can guess, we were midway through when Michael McFall commented that he was getting bored with the movies, as were the rest of us.  Those riding in the troop van took car identification games (i.e. slug bug) to a new rambunctious extreme.  Brian Alexander also reports that many were party poopers and fell asleep.   As we crossed the Georgia state line into Florida, we stopped at the Florida Welcome Center rest stop, posing for a picture in front of the welcome sign.  We had lunch meat sandwiches for lunch.  After a few more hours of driving, we finally reached Daytona Beach.  We decided to go for a dip and ride the waves in the ocean.  Some scouts decided to build a mound of sand and throw parts of it at each other.  We were excited to learn that Gregg Temple had rented a golf cart to for to ride around the beach.  Gregg and John slowed down the buggy for ¤fishË watching opportunities, though the three of us that were accompanying the middle-aged men did not take advantage of the situation.  We were not surprised but still a bit shocked as Michael McFall made a bikini out of sand.  After leaving Daytona Beach for Orlando, we encountered the usual traffic jam, this particular instance being caused by a car that crashed into an exit sign.  We arrived at Conway United Methodist Church a little before nine o'clock, and anxiously awaited our dinner that consisted of fetucinni alfredo, canned corn, and garlic bread.  Everyone seems to be tired, as we have been traveling quite a bit during the last 48 hours.

Monday, June 3 - Day Three:
Those of us who had not taken a shower the previous night got up early to do so this morning.  After we had gotten dressed and placed our belongings in the Youth Room for safe keeping, we were treated to a breakfast that consisted of orange juice, doughnuts, and crumb cake.  We then left for Universal Studios╠ Islands of Adventure.  We took a group photograph outside of the entrance, quickly proceeding to enter the park and ride rides before the lines were very long.  (Which one in this photograph is the Grinch?)  We were able to ride Spiderman, The Incredible Hulk Coaster and Doctor Doom's Fearful without much of a wait.  Upon entering the strategically placed gift shop after the Spiderman ride, we discovered Dance Dance Revolution, a hilarious video game that requires eye-foot coordination.  Matt Petroziello showed us that he was the ultimate dancer by beating most everyone else.  We encountered a group of three pre-teen girls that seemed to think that they were exceptionally good looking, not to mention their atrocious sing-along to various Brittany Spears songs.  We really enjoyed Dueling Dragons, a thrilling roller coaster.  After we ate lunch in a medieval-esque lodge, we were able to witness Michael McFall throwing Ryan Bonnenberger's sunglasses into a pond because Ryan was squirting him with a water pistol.  Ryan shot back by throwing Michael's T-shirt into the same pond.  We also ran across a talking rock, requiring all present Eagle Scouts to recite the Scout Oath.  He became enraged after hearing that we had not yet helped any old ladies across streets.  I must mention David Diaz's new name: Alonzo.  We split up into various groups for the end of the day, with my group experiencing a Cat in the Hat ride and eating dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe.  I must mention the overly peppy waitress that we were assigned; her favorite words being ¤absolutelyË and ¤sure.Ë  Brian Alexander and I were chastised for being forty-five minutes late to the parking lot, requiring everyone to wait for us.  We then stopped at a shopping center to pick up some thank you gifts for our hosts at the church.  After settling in at the church, we played various physical games in the recreational room.

Tuesday, June 4 - Day Four:
Today we woke up early, took showers, and ate breakfast.  We packed our things into the troop trailer and straightened up the area of the church that we had used.  During our travels this morning, Gregg Temple came into contact with a woman over the walkie talkies, creating a fictitious story to explain his talking to her.  After about an hour in the van, we reached Cocoa Beach.  We first went to Ron Jon, buying various surf wear apparel.  We settled onto the beach and John challenged us to find some ¤young sea foxesË with which we would pose for a picture.  With eight minutes before our scheduled departure from the beach side, Jake Green successfully persuaded two attractive females to pose in a picture with him, Jeff Gardner, Andrew Smith, and Chris Specht.  We then ate a lunch that consisted of lunch meat sandwiches and chips.  Next, we set out on our long journey to Homestead, Florida, located at the southern tip of the Florida peninsula.  We arrived at Homestead Air Force Base to find that we were not to be allowed on the base because we did not have clearance.  We waited for a couple of hours until we found that an employee on the base had twisted an arm or two to let us stay at the base.  We had dinners in groups of four (barbecued beef sandwiches) and hang out in each others╠ rooms for the rest of the evening.

Wednesday, June 5 - Day Five:
Today started out well because we were able to sleep in until nine o'clock, a relatively nice gesture by our adult leaders.  We packed up our stuff and met in the parking lot to eat breakfast.  Brian Alexander and I were again the last ones to the vans, with the scouts claiming that we held them up by twenty minutes.  We then disembarked for the Florida Keys, specifically Florida Sea Base, our ultimate destination.  We stopped at the front entrance to take our traditional photograph in front of the Sea Base sign.  It was time to eat lunch, and we opted to pull over on the road so we could eat our salami, cheese, and crackers. We then checked into Sea Base and brought our luggage into our dorm rooms.  We were pleased to see that our dive masters for our stay at the base were two attractive females.  We were required to pass a swimming/floating test and then we had to do a quick refresher scuba course in a swimming pool.  We attended flag ceremonies and went to dinner.  After dinner, we were obliged (yeah, right) to attend an informational meeting about our stay at Sea Base.  It involved introductions by all of the dive masters and a painfully boring video about protecting coral reefs.  Next came another exciting adventure, a filmstrip about the Florida Keys.  After the filmstrip, Ryan Bonnenberger, Andrew Smith, Jeff Gardner, and Matt Petroziello, went fishing on the dock, with Michael McFall providing the lighting for the activity.  They were lucky enough to catch four, yes four, nurse sharks, and an eel which shocked fisherman Petroziello, the captor.  We were made to retreat to our dorms and hang out for a while for the remainder of the night.

Thursday, June 6 - Day Six:
This morning, we arose from our beds around seven o'clock, having to meet outside by the flagpole because we had volunteered the previous day for flag ceremonies.  Our flag performance was absolutely flawless, and I am sure that no one else will come close to our stellar feat.  Breakfast followed the flag ceremonies.  The meal consisted of awful tasting scrambled eggs, French toast, and sausage.  We then came back to our rooms, with much time to spare.  Some of us took showers, napped, or played volleyball.  After wasting away the morning, it was time to locate our scuba gear and set it on the boats that would be taking us to the coral reef that we would be diving at later in the day.  After loading up, we were treated to a disgusting lunch of sloppy joes.  After we finished forcing down our lunches, we loaded the boats.  We were split into two separate groups, with one group riding on the Scoutmaster and the other riding the Tarpon (I was a part of the former).  We rode on the boat for close to half an hour, reaching the reef to find that all of the balls were taken (those balls that boats must be attached to so their passengers can dive.  We suited up in our gear and jumped into the water.  We were asked to check our buoyancy, and most of us needed more weight.  The dive was tremendous.  I have to say that it is one of the most fun things that I have ever done.  The aquatic life was beautiful, and we even ran across a two foot nurse shark and a four foot barracuda.  I did, however, have some trouble in that I seemed to like to float to the surface when I should not have.  We clumsily climbed back onto the boat and dried off.  On our way back to the Sea Base, Ryan Bonnenberger was caught sleeping on the floor of the boat, and quickly had water dumped all over him.  Upon our arrival back on land, we were required to rinse our gear off with fresh water.  We then took showers, rested a bit, and were made to attend the closing flag ceremony.  We were treated to a disgusting dinner of which I cannot properly describe;  my description would not be harsh enough.  After dinner, we had a presentation about various fish that we will run across during our scuba diving adventures.  Some went out on the docks to fish, and Andrew Smith caught a shark and Ryan Bonnenberger caught two lobsters, and Matt Petroziello caught a sting ray.  We then went back to our dorms for the evening.

Friday, June 7 - Day Seven:
We woke up this morning about fifteen minutes before the required flag ceremonies.  Scurrying down the stairs, we barely made it.  Today's breakfast featured the same disgusting eggs that were served the day before.  After eating our scrumptious breakfast, we went back to the dorms to take showers and get ready for the day.  Since today was our day off, we opted to go snorkeling at a state park, go gift shopping, and eat lunch.   The snorkeling was very interesting.  We saw sea creatures such as octopuses, squid, sting ray, puffer fish, sea urchins, and crabs.  The snorkeling took place in very shallow water, so it was difficult not to touch the bottom.  As we attempted to take a group photo on the beach, Ryan Bonnenberger and Matt Petroziello casually wet themselves.  After snorkeling at the first site, we decided to find a picnic shelter to snack in and another beach at which we could snorkel.  We snacked on crackers, salami, and cheese.  Ryan Bonnenberger and Michael McFall stupidly threw food at the birds which included a red winged blackbird, terns, and pigeons, of which I am petrified.  I jumped up on the picnic table, hoping that the satanic pigeons would not peck me to death.  Some said it was the most humorous part of the trip thus far.  I did not choose to go snorkeling the second time, so Jeff Gardner and I took a stroll down the beach, looking for attractive girls in bikinis.  After snorkeling, we went north into the Keys, reaching Marathon.   We decided to eat lunch at Wendy's, with many of the scouts being disgusted by one particular underage employee that licked her fingers.  We then decided to travel to some cheap gift shops at which T-shirts could be purchased at a price of six tees for six dollars.  Ryan decided that he needed a hermit crab, naming it Lorenzo.  After that, we returned to Sea Base, getting back in time for dinner.  It consisted of meat loaf, mashed potatoes, and salad, all of which were unappetizing.  After dinner, we took showers, goofed around, and some of us decided to go fishing on the dock.  We didn't have any exciting catches, but the company that we were in was fun.  Ryan attempted to woo Susie, our dive instructor, with his charm.  It was to no avail.  Our day was soon complete after ten o'clock curfew.

Saturday, June 8 - Day Eight:
This morning, we awoke, went to flag ceremonies, and prepared for our all day dive.  We loaded the Scoutmaster with our gear and set out for the first dive.  Our first dive was at Aquarium.  We encountered

Sunday, June 9 - Day Nine:
Today, we got up, on time, and crawled down the never-ending stairs to the flag ceremonies.  We were told that because no other troop had volunteered to do the flag raising, we would be raising the flag.  We were flawless, of course.  We had an odd breakfast that featured oatmeal and waffles.  After dinner, we went back to the dorms to change into our diving gear while some went to chapel.  After chapel was over, we met at the two small boats to go on our morning dive.  After an extremely turbulent ride to the reef at which we were scheduled to dive, we found out that our GPS didn't work properly.  Because of this, we were not able to locate the reef, and therefore, could not dive at the site.  We opted to dive at Alligator Reef, a place that we had already dove at.  We ascended into the ocean deep for about forty minutes, with some of us coming to the surface toward the wrong boat.  We saw a lobster and both a French and Queen Angelfish.  After the completion of our dive, we had another shaky and bumpy boat ride back to Sea Base.  We had a very good lunch, a first, after we returned that consisted of fish sandwiches and French fries.  The rest of the day was ours to waste, with no other dives planned for the rest of the day.  Ryan and Ken Bonnenberger, Matt Petroziello, and our dive master Suzy went kayaking, while the rest of us stayed in the dorms and took long naps.  We rose before dinner, getting ready to go to the flag lowering ceremony.  We were informed that we would also be in charge of taking the flags down.  After our stupendous feat of lowering the flag, John Combs led Sea Base in a rousing rendition of the ¤Blue JayË song.  I can say that I have never seen that side of John before.  Dinner was descent, and this marked time for a celebration, for Sea Base successfully served two nice meals in a row.  Kudos to them!  Jeff Gardner, Matt Petroziello, and I had dinner duties, having more fun cleaning up than I think any of us ever have.  After dinner, some of us went fishing.  There weren't any unordinary catches this night.  We then had a walking contest with another scout from another troop.  Soon after, the time had come to leave for the dorms and ¤quiet downË.

Monday, June 10 - Day Ten:
This morning, we woke up and went to the flag ceremonies.  Breakfast this morning consisted of eggs and biscuits and gravy, which was fairly descent.  After breakfast, we quickly loaded the Scoutmaster for our two morning dives.  On our way out to the dive site, we saw dolphins jumping in the water.  A beautiful beginning to our day.  For our first dive, we went to Long Key South, where we saw few interesting specimens of aquatic life, save the large sting ray that John Combs and Ken Bonnenberger found.  Jeff Vent and I broke our fins, making our dives unpleasant and uncomfortable.  Our second dive took place at a site not far from the first.  Jeff and I sat out because of our fins, so I cannot give a first hand account of the findings on the bottom.  I have been told that the others descended upon two nurse sharks on their way down.  After the second dive, we ate our lunch: lunch meat sandwiches, tuna/chicken salad sandwiches, chips, vegetables, and cookies.  After lunch, we decided not to fool around on the boat as planned, but to return to Sea Base so we could get some rest.  Most of us took naps or lounged around in the lobby.  Next it was time for dinner, spaghetti.  Immediately following the consumption of our meals, we were to meet on the Scoutmaster for our night dive.  We weren't quite sure if the weather would permit a dive, but we set out with high hopes.  The captain of the ship played the Raiders of the Lost Arc theme song as we went out to sea, a perfect beginning to our night's adventure.  As we approached the dive sight, the waves got progressively more choppy, and the wind picked up a bit.  As we tied the line to the floating ball, we wondered if we would get to dive.  Fortunately, conditions were good enough to allow a dive, and we set out, most of us being a bit nervous.  Might I mention that our captain decided to spook us out with the theme song to Jaws. We were all equipped with flash lights.  We had quite a bit of trouble with bumping into each other during our dive, but everyone had an interesting experience.  On our way back, we were able to ride with the wind blowing in our faces.  In the distance, lightning struck, an interesting sight.  After heading back to Sea Base, we took showers and headed to bed.

Tuesday, June 11 - Day Eleven:
Today, we woke up earlier than usual because of our two commercial dives.  We loaded all of our gear excluding our air tanks, for they were provided by the dive company.  Following the loading of our gear, we ate an early breakfast consisting of the usual eggs, a pancake, and bacon.  After breakfast, we hopped into the two Sea Base vans and cruised down the road to Flakeys, the dive company that we were using.  Halfway down the road, the van that I was in realized that we hadn't picked up our lunch, so we were forced to turn around and grab the grub.  After successfully completing our trip to the Flakeys sight, we were instructed to load our gear onto the boat and listen for instructions.  The ran was spitting as we left, just a minor nuisance for the time being.  After the hour long boat ride to Molasses Reef, at which we dove, we put on our gear and prepared for our first of two dives.  We experienced an awesome display of coral and aquatic life that featured eels, a nurse shark, and parrot fish attacking the nests of the sergeant majors.  The visibility was exceptional, being better than anything that we had experienced thus far.  As we ascended to the surface, we were greeted by a raging rain shower, featuring choppy waves and high winds.  After all of us were safely aboard the ship, the boat took us to site number two, only a small ride up the ocean.  The second dive featured an historic ship wreck, with pieces of the nineteenth century ship scattered along the ocean floor.  Many of us were a bit reluctant to take the time to take the second dive.  All of us, save Jeff Gardner and Ryan Bonnenberger, dove.  The rain had picked up quite a bit, and the rain showers turned into loud thunder showers, making for a pleasant return boat ride.  To pass the time, we sang goofy songs and played some games.  The rain had calmed down a bit by the time we reached Flakeys, but it picked up again just in time for lunch.  We ate lunch standing on picnic tables under a hut-like shelter. After lunch, we returned to the vans, trying to escape any water that we could.  Upon reaching Sea Base, we saw that the weather conditions were similar to that of the ocean, and we quickly scurried around to stow our gear away.  We then rushed up to our dorms to take hot showers and rest a bit.  The afternoon consisted of napping, eating ice cream, and returning the gear that we had used during our stay at Sea Base.  Because it was our final night, we were treated to a luau dinner, featuring crab cakes, fish on a stick, Caesar salad, and Key lime pie.  After dinner, the staff announced a Key lime pie eating contest, with each group choosing one person to represent itself.  Gregg Temple was the lucky man from Troop 325, and he claims that he won, though a dissenter surfaced, claiming that he had won.  We then had a limbo contest, with our group putting forth a valiant effort, but coming up just short in the end.  After the contests were over, we had a gathering under the dining shelter, a ¤closing ceremoniesË type ordeal.  Each group was instructed to put together a skit for the other scouts to watch.  We decided to poke fun at those who had gotten mad at us through the week, singling out two or three specific people.  Those who were made fun of didn't appreciate the gesture too well, but those who understood thought that the skit was hilarious.  Our final time together as a group with our dive masters was held on the dock.  The sky featured a wonderfully gorgeous sunset and we were lucky enough to see a dolphin jumping close to the dock.  A spectacular ending to a spectacular week.  We were required to tell of a few thoughts about our week at Sea Base, gathering in a circle with our dive masters.  We presented Suzy and Tracy with Troop 325 T-shirts, signing our names to the front.  After saying our good-byes, we headed back to the dorm rooms, cleaning out our rooms and the rest rooms.  We packed up our things and headed off to bed.

Wednesday, June 12 - Day Twelve:
This morning, we woke up early to pack up our final belongings and clean out our rooms.  After packing all of our luggage into the trailer and the two vans, we had our final meal at Sea Base, a breakfast of eggs, sausage, and hash browns.  Suzy and Tracy met us for breakfast, saying our final good-byes.  We shed tears, we recalled our favorite memories, and we headed off.  On our way out of the Keys we stopped at Flakeys, the site that we had dove at the previous day, to get our scuba dive logs stamped for verification of the two dives.  We drove in a northward direction around Miami, with nothing to report.  Most of us slept, watched movies, listened to CD players, or read books.  We stopped for lunch south of Orlando at a Wal-Mart.  Gregg Temple ran into the store to fetch some bread, jelly, and other snacks for lunch.  We ended up eating our meal under a grove of weeping willow trees in the Wal-Mart parking lot.  The rest of our trip was quite uneventful, with a few rest stops here and there to use the rest room and/or refuel.  We ended the day at the EconoLodge in Macon, Georgia.

Thursday, June 13 - Day Thirteen:
Things started out on schedule.  We woke up around seven o'clock and ate either the continental breakfast provided by EconoLodge or breakfast at Burger King across the street.  We set out on our journey for the day, watching movies and taking naps on the way.  The morning's day was fairly uneventful, making a few pit stops here and there.  We stopped in Knoxville, Tennessee to check out a Pizza Hut for lunch, but we opted to keep on going down the road to find another one.  We ended up stopping in southern Kentucky for lunch at Pizza Hut.  We were able to split pizzas up between two people.  After traveling about forty minutes down the road, we pulled over to the side of the road, because the troop van had been smelling strange and now had smoke coming out of the hood.  Those riding in the van piled out and after the hood was opened, we discovered that the alternator had caught on fire.  After putting the fire out, we tried for an hour or so to reach AAA or a mechanic, but the cellular phones wouldn't cooperate.  We decided to transport six people at a time in John's van, taking them somewhere at the nearest exit to wait.  We were taken to a small gas station/country diner location to pass the time.  After sitting around for a while, Ken Bonnenberger came in the store to inform us that the mechanic would not be able to get to the van until early morning, so we would be staying at the Kastle Inn in Mount Vernon, Kentucky.  We were transported six at a time once again to get any belongings that we needed for the night.  We were given the option of either going out to dinner or eating sandwiches that we would make.  The split was about half and half, so we were able to do as we pleased.  Michael McFall, Andrew Smith, and Ryan Bonnenberger decided to have what is called the ¤milk challengeË, a game involving the fast consumption of a gallon of milk and vomiting most of it back up.  I decided that I did not want to watch such a disgusting thing, but most of the others watched, some returning quickly after the first one vomited.  The rest of the night consisted of watching television and fooling around.

Friday, June 14 - Day Fourteen:
We did not anticipate having a fourteenth day to our trip, but here we are, the fourteenth day; this thanks to the broken alternator that had caught on fire the previous day.  We slept in this morning since the van was being worked on.  We were able to either eat cereal or go to the motel restaurant for breakfast.  The van's work was completed around eleven o'clock.  We were finally ready to return to Dayton, Ohio.

Written by Greg Tilton

Last revised: July 1, 2002

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