Oh, how the Sunshine State did not disappoint. We basked in the sun, visited long-time, life-long friends, hit the southernmost part of the United States, toured the mysterious Everglades, sang and danced with Disney cast and “lucked out” at the Sun’N’Fun Airshow.
Having visited the Sunshine State state a time or two before we had in mind a few things we needed to do when we showed up. First on the list was to join our college life-long friends the Browns. Well, you know you are good friends when not only do you vacation together but when you are all game for bunking into a 200 square foot box as we toured through the length of the state.
We started in Gator country…Gainesville, Florida where we enjoyed a peaceful Easter weekend participating in the 188th Annual General Conference, which happens twice a year for members of our faith. We were inspired by men and women who shared thoughts of ministering as Christ did, loving one another and serving those who stand in need. The direction received from this inspiring conference brought clarity to our minds and souls as to how we should better serve and love those around us. Of course, it being Easter weekend we enjoyed sweets galore but despite the fun hunts and good candies the messages and inspiration received will be more lasting than the cavities earned by our feasting this weekend.
After the weekend, we ran, meaning…drove and drove and drove first to the Everglades for a night as we worked our way toward the most southern tip of the continental United States in the hurricane recovering city of Key West. As we drove the long stretch of the keys there was bone-yard type stretches with battered RVs and torn up houses. We are grateful we weren’t stuck in such an isolated location amidst the threat and reality of the Hurricane Irma storm that battered this beautiful series of bridge-connected islands in September of 2017.
The idea of such a storm tearing trees from the ground like carrot sticks, surging water, and river like streets removes any comforts found in this fantasy like a vacation retreat. Fortunately, we only had to learn of the dramatic effects and aftermath of Irma from the placards, beaten houses and RVs but recognize the power that weather can have on such an unprotected place.
Luckily we nailed it on the weather so it was a cool/hot 80 degrees during the day and a possible 65 +/- at night. Here’s the quick list that made it and earned its way to fun spots to land in the Keys. We dove over a shipwreck at John Pennecamp Coral Reef State Park on Key Largo, fed the Tarpin (gives you the jitters) and inadvertently fed a Manatee due to dad’s submission to peer pressure…or kid pressure (blame the 5-year-old), a Pelican biting Tessa, yes they do bite (sign says) and it drew blood at Islamorada at Villiage of Islands and then, of course, a chill beach day at Bahia Honda Key where the kids cruised on the body boards, dove into the small rolling waves, built sandcastles and ate “sandy”wiches.
Although the list above seems relatively comprehensive our Key West bucket list grew as we gazed below at the massive Enchantment of the Seas Cruise Ship thinking of the simplicity of pre-planned activities and endless amounts of food and entertainment. Yup, added to the list. And we hear that the Dry Tortugas National Park is a must see. It was simply time to head northward, back to the true mainland.
We were exhausted after the Keys and it was the time to prepare ourselves for the expected mad dash at Disney World. We took it easy with a couple short drives, strolls along leisurely walking paths and a quick bike ride. Considering our limited adventure seeking in the Everglades, the rest and relaxation were much deserved and needed before we headed to the “Happiest Place on Earth“.
Disney World – Happiest Place on Earth
Although Colter joked about skipping Disney he knew he couldn’t keep his three little princesses from the “Happiest Place on Earth”. It was two years ago and it seems that almost weekly if princesses are involved, whether in a movie, on jammies, on a cup or in a book the topic of going back to Florida, which only means Disney to a 3 & 5-year-old comes up.
In fact, Colter is more pushover than you might think when it comes to making his girls’ faces glow with awe, excitement, and amazement. And this is just what Disney does for kids of all ages, with their music, dancers, concerts, shows, rides, firework shows, princess, and character meet and greets and the like. Disney certainly has the attention of all ages, especially when families show up at 9am like us and stay clear until midnight without even the 2-year-old skipping a beat because of how entertained we all are. We love Disney and how they have lit up the imaginations of our children in many shapes and forms and how it helps them feel like princesses themselves in their own fairy tale.
Now you might think, how did we fit all of these things into a single week because certainly we’ve mentioned a month’s worth of fun but the show doesn’t stop here…although it should have. Ultimately Blakely and Dad had a run in, we ended up soaked from a long downpour of rain, the “Sun’n’Fun” airshow had zero (0) sun and well, dad got to see a few airplanes and talk aviation with other pilots for a few minutes so there was a bit of fun. It wasn’t a total loss but he argues it was not worth the stubbornness both Blakely and he stood on for a few hours following. Fortunately, they quickly made friends again, Blakely came to her senses (realizing she can’t defend herself) and dad held her and told her he loved her.
Haha, these moments remind us that we are still very much human, we are a family of adventure junkies and we do lots of fun things but we don’t always agree, we have arguments and our own set of challenges. Life is good on the road, Florida was no exception and treated us well with fantastic friends, wonderful conversations, exciting adventures, beautiful vistas, chill beach days, gators galore, princess & fairy tales and our own set of challenges to overcome. Oh Florida, may we see you again soon!