Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Snowbirds in January - Week 4

On the long road back through the Keys, we stopped in Marathon to meet up with our friends from Defiance for lunch (you'd think we'd do that more regularly when we're all in our home town!  Ha!)  Our next leg of the trip took us through areas that had numerous roadside produce stands.  Jeff bought three avocados as big as your head, a papaya that could have doubled for a soccer ball, and a mango that was enormous.  We happily loaded our goodies into what little space was left in the back of the car and drove on to:

Bonita Beach.
We have a good friend who has a condo in that area, so we luckily stayed in the perfect area right across from the beach.  Phil (our friend) took us to an interesting afternoon in Goodland for the Mullet Festival at Stan's Idle Hour and crowning of the Buzzard Queen.  It was seriously fun (although the smoked Mullet -- the FISH not the hairdo -- was not very good.  Must be an acquired taste).

Some of the best things that week were just riding bikes to Barefoot Beach and canoeing at the Barefoot Beach Preserve, watching the sunsets at Doc's Beach House, going out on a boat and seeing dolphins and other nature, meeting up with some of Jeff's AB retiree friends for dinner, and just relaxing on the beach.

After seven whole nights in Bonita Beach, we said good bye once again and headed to:

Seminole Florida
We were so blessed to have a couple stay with us at the Inn last summer for a long-term stay.  We became friends in the interim with Larry & Donna, and they invited us to spend the evening at their house and enjoy the Super Bowl game at their home with friends.

After a fun-filled day and night with Donna & Larry and their friends, we woke the next morning to take on the sad task of driving back INTO THE COLD of the Midwest.

Was being a Snowbird fun?  You bet it was.  Maybe we'll try it again next year!

Snowbirds in January - Week 3

This was a long leg of the trip, as we drove back past Jupiter (hi Cardinals!) and further south.  Our next destination was:

Key West.
Wow.  We had no idea it took so long to get from Miami all the way to the end of the Keys, but it does.  Just about 4 hours of driving from point to point, but on two-lane roads with very little ability to pass.  We drove through Key Largo, Marathon, all of these places we've heard and/or read about, but had no clue what they looked like or where they were. We were supposed to meet friends at the airport in Key West to bring them to the condo we rented together; but.... we found we couldn't fit them in the car because of all of the stuff we (make that Chris) packed.  Plus, driving in on a Sunday with all of the slow-paced Sunday drivers made it impossible to get there on time.

Of course, we were in for a surprise.  We hadn't looked up any information really at all on Key West.  We knew Hemmingway had lived there and written there.  We knew Jimmy Buffett sang about it.  We knew it was supposed to be a laid-back place.  What we didn't know was that it was a mix of Bourbon Street meets Beale Street.

We tried to take in as many sights as possible, ride bikes around the entire Key, hit all of the popular restaurants in the tourist guides, go to Smather's Beach and Higgs Beach, and the Southern Most Point, along with the Hemmingway House and Truman's Little White House. One of the best things is going to Mallory Square to celebrate Sunset -- which we did! Funniest Bar is Captain Tony's (need lingerie? Ha!).  First time I've sat next to a tombstone in a bar!

After a week watching the sunsets from Key West, we again packed up the car for the next leg of our trip.  Funniest moment in Key West -- standing in Mallory Square and running into six other people from Defiance!  Seriously!

"It's a Long Way Down to Holiday Road....."

Snowbirds in January - Week 2

"Holiday Road"....

After a fun but schedule-filled week in Jupiter, we were ready to take in a different type of action.  As we watched the money leak quickly from our SunPass as we continued on the Florida Turnpike, we arrived at our next destination:

It's really different going there as two adults without children.  But it was FUN!  We stayed at a Hilton Grand Vacation Resort across from SeaWorld. We spent four days of visiting theme parks:
SeaWorld, Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure.  We got to visit with friends of Jeff's who still work in the area, and Chris got to go to her Harry Potter Dream vacation:  Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley.

Chris took a lot of photos on her camera (not on her phone), but she did take a photo of one of her favorite flowers -- Bird of Paradise.  We did get a chance to relax though, too, as our hotel had a fabulous pool with many hot tubs and good walking paths around a lake.

After a week of Orlando, we said "good bye", packed up the car and drove to our next destination (watching the dollars float away as we went through the toll booths).

Snowbirds in January - Week 1

We always wondered what it felt like to be a "snowbird"... leaving ahead of the ice and snow to go south for the winter.  So, we tried it this January; closing the Inn for the month (really no one comes out this way when it is truly cold and icy, so we didn't feel bad about being closed).  This is a recap of sorts of what we did during our month off (many of our former guests and friends had been asking, "what on earth will you do in Florida for an entire month??!!").  This is a small four-part chronicle of our adventure along with a couple of pics from my cell phone.

We left the Inn in the capable hands of our niece (thanks, Natalie!) packed up the car, and drove (yes, drove).  Chris surprised Jeff with a special "over-the-road" playlist on her iPod that included "Holiday Road" by Lindsay Buckingham (made famous in the "Vacation" movies) and Jeff's all-time favorite "Joy to the World" by Three Dog Night.  Racing down the highway ahead of the 4 degree temps descending upon Defiance, we made it to our first stop:
Chattanooga.  This was a fun "tourist-type" stop for us.  We stayed at the Chattanoogan Hotel (great place), ate at some really good restaurants, visited with our son, and took in some sights:
Rock City, the Incline Railway, and Ruby Falls.

After a fun time exploring the city, it was back on the road to Florida.  Although we stopped for one night in Gainesville, we mostly slept and learned about the SunPass system for the Florida Toll Highways.  Great to have a pass and drive through.  But on to our first week's destination:

Jupiter, Florida -- St. Louis Cardinal Legend's Camp.
Jeff was scheduled to play in his second-ever camp along with his brother, Mike; and friend Charlie Urschler and his brother Jim.  A surprise was to find three other people participating in the camp that we knew from St. Charles (Frank Romano, Bob Wright, and Mike Miller).  It was a really fun time, and Jeff's team came in 3rd place out of 10 teams.

We stayed several days in West Palm Beach, going every morning to the Roger Dean Stadium complex.  Chris even got a few pics with some players (above Brian Jordan).  The highlight was getting to play in the stadium.  Jeff's coach was Jose Oquendo, and teammates were Jason Simontacchi and Gary Bennett.