Guys, I am SO excited for tomorrow! Tomorrow we FINALLY leave Florida! We’ve been here, or at least based here, for SIX WEEKS. It’s not that Florida isn’t a lovely state. It is! But the whole point of this trip is to see the country and we’re just excited to move on. We arrived on December 1 and I’ve already posted about the first two weeks in St Augustine and Walt Disney World in my last blog post. Since then, we spent another week in Orlando, a week and a half over Christmas in Naples, left the RV in Naples while we flew to the Bahamas, and then a week in Ocala, Apalachicola, and Panama City Beach. And finally tomorrow we will be able to put a new sticker on the map. For Alabama.
After Disney, we spent another week in the Orlando area before heading off to Naples for Christmas. We really laid low that week. We’d just come off of a jam packed week with Mickey, so relaxing in the pool was just what the doctor ordered! We stayed at the Orlando SE / Lake Whippoorwill KOA. As far as activities are concerned, it was one of the nicer KOA’s we’ve been too! We attended a pancake breakfast, an ice cream social, a dog show (which our dog, Midas, failed miserably in), and water aerobics in the pool. And, Pokemon Go fans, this next part is for you! Two to three Magikarp would spawn outside our RV continually allowing us to finally evolve to a Gyarados! Now, back to our regularly scheduled blog….
We didn’t sit on our tushies the entire time we were in Orlando. Way back when in the days of yore, Zac attended school in Orlando at Full Sail University. During that time he interned with his friend, Todd, who really became a mentor to Zac. We were so glad that we got to catch up with Todd and his wife, Beki! Todd got us some tickets to an Orlando Magic basketball game. It had been a LONG time since I’d been to a basketball game and it was the kid’s first. Brody especially got into the game and cheered the Magic on to… defeat. But it was fun anyway! And Zac got to have a tour of the technical side of the Amway Center. Todd and Beki also invited us to their country home to ride their horses, feed their goats and chickens, and ride down their zip line. Caydence’s desires to live on a farm when we return to Ohio were affirmed and Zac and I started putting away our money for the 47 animals she wants to own there.
We also went to SeaWorld while in Orlando. SeaWorld has changed a LOT since my time going there as a child. Back in the day, SeaWorld was just aquatic animals and shows. Mind you, I used to go to the Aurora, OH location, not Orlando. Maybe the Orlando one was always like this, but I was surprised to find that they have roller coasters! We spent most of our time seeing the shows, so Zac and I only rode one roller coaster. Manta. But this roller coaster was unlike anything I have ever experienced in my life! They rotate you to a downward facing position so that your whole body is horizontal. Then you take off as though you are flying. The horizontal position gave every loop a completely different feeling! It was amazing.
Another difference that stood out at SeaWorld was the curious fact that none of the trainers got in the water and swam with the Killer Whales. I remembered going as a kid and they’d be in there swimming, the whales would shoots them up into the sky and dive back down with them. They even would pick a kid from the audience to get a smooch from Shamu! And in the back of my mind was a lingering, vague memory telling me that maybe there was some drama with a whale hurting someone… But I pushed that thought aside for the rest of the day. Then, when we got home, I looked into it a bit more and indeed, a whale had not just hurt someone, but killed someone! So, I made a decision that was probably not the best one I’d ever made. It went something like this, “Honey, we just had a great day at SeaWorld admiring the beauty of the killer whales! Let’s watch this documentary on Netflix called Blackfish! Sounds interesting!” Guys… DON’T watch this film immediately after going to SeaWorld. It’s rough. Oh, well! Regardless of the bleak picture that Blackfish paints, our family had a fun time at SeaWorld that day.
Moving on from Orlando, we drove further south to Naples for Christmas. From the very start of our planning for this trip, we always knew that we’d be in Naples for Christmas. It was a no brainer considering that Zac’s sister and her family live there and we wanted to be with family for Christmas. We had a great time with them looking at Christmas lights, playing games, going to playgrounds and amusement parks, and opening presents. Except…. Caydence ended up getting some weird stomach bug Christmas Eve that went into Christmas day. So she and I were quarantined to the RV for what was supposed to be our fun family Christmas. Zac and the boys got to spend the day with family though and we still opened our family’s gifts here in the RV all together. It was certainly not what we had expected, but it was a good lesson for Caydence that sometimes you just have to make the best out of what life throws at you.
Later that week, our niece watched our kids overnight so that we could have a much needed 24 getaway! Zac took me to downtown Naples for a night of rooftop pools, massages, fine dining, and general relaxing. It was so wonderful and the kids loved every second that they spent with their cousins. I should also mention that our nephew’s girlfriend offered to watch our dog while we were gone! Thank you Maddie and Destiny!!
After the holidays were all over and done with, we hopped a couple planes and headed to Long Island, Bahamas to visit Zac’s parents. They have a house there and we hadn’t been for there for eight years! I was a little nervous that it might not live up to all the wonderful memories we made there pre-kids and that the stress of having three young children on the island might give the trip a whole different feeling. But I am not exaggerating when I say that we had the most marvelous time there on the island. We had more fun this time around than any other time we’d been there. Seeing the island through the kid’s eyes and seeing them enjoy it with their grandparents was completely priceless. The kids experienced new things like watching hermit crabs change shells and watching a queen conch be taken out of it’s shell and prepared for a meal. We spent everyday but one on the beach and the kids played tirelessly. At night after the kids were in bed, we grown up talked for hours outside on the front porch over looking the bay. I’m certain that for the rest of my life I will look back on this trip as one of the best we’d ever taken. Thanks, Mom and Dad for a wonderful time!
Upon arriving back to Florida, we hitched up and headed north to Ocala. Oh! A quick shout out to Ken and Elsa for letting us park the RV in their driveway while we were in Naples AND while we were in the Bahamas! What a huge blessing! And to Bark Estates for taking such great care of Midas while we were away! Back to Ocala. We just stayed there two nights and it was basically to break up the long drive from Naples to our final destination of Panama City Beach. We had a pretty uneventful time in Ocala. Just getting back into school schedules and life on the road. Four weeks off of school can make it hard to jump back in, but the kids are readjusting pretty well.
Then it was on to Panama City Beach to meet up with our friends, the Claytors. They moved from Ohio to Illinois almost a year ago and we had gone to visit them there last summer. They were vacationing in PCB and we were so glad to be able to meet up with them for a day of beach fun! And then the kids were beyond excited when we told them they could have a slumber party in the RV that night! Our kids have been friends since birth and it’s a special bond. We hope to be able to swing back through Illinois on our way home from this epic trip to see them again.
During our time in PCB, we took a day trip on the Gulf Coast to Apalachicola. Our friend Susan on Long Island recommended it is as a taste of old Florida. She said it was the only place in the states she would live! So we just had to see it. First of all, the drive out was really nice. We drove through a couple of adorable beach towns like Mexico Beach and Port St Joe. Mexico Beach was someplace we could see ourselves vacationing! Apalachicola itself was a sweet little town that happened to have a big town feeling the day we went. They were having an Oyster Fesitval and there were people from all over the country visiting! Though it was crowded, it was still fun and we took another 20 minute drive past the town to St George Island which was even more quiet and quaint! We could absolutely see ourselves vacationing there as well. Thanks for the recommendation, Susan! It made for a lovely day trip!
And that’s it, folks! That closes the chapter on Florida! It will probably be many years before we come back to this state. Oh, who am I kidding…. Disney World is here!! We’ll be back in 6-12 months. Right, Zac??