Florida Vacation without the RV

For the first time in many years we took a vacation without our RV. Instead, motels and a condo were our home for the week.

We decided to break up our trip to Orlando and spend a night near a beach to take a drive along A1A. Flagler Beach sounded like a perfect place. It’s a small beach town on the Atlantic Ocean that still has that old Florida feeling. Driving down A1A the Atlantic Ocean is on one side of the road and beach houses and locally owned restaurants are on the other. Heaven! After a walk on the fishing pier we ate fish sandwiches with an ocean view at the Funky Pelican next to the pier.

Flagler Beach Fishing Pier

Our home for the rest of the week was a condo in a resort in Lake Buena Vista. We enjoyed the screened porch with a view of the fountain and pond.

Our home for the week

We had the condo to ourselves for the first three nights. We celebrated my birthday at Bongo’s, a Cuban restaurant at Disney Springs.

We started off with a mojito at the bar at Bongo’s
Birthday Dinner at Bongo’s at Disney Springs

On Wednesday we picked up our two oldest grandchildren at the airport. After a long travel day they enjoyed a dip in one of the pools.

Pool at the resort

Going to Universal Studios to see the Harry Potter attractions was at the top of their wish list so the next morning we got up early to be at the park as soon as it opened.

Universal is made up of two separate theme parks with Harry Potter attractions in both parks. We purchased the park hopper tickets so we could ride the Hogwarts Express train between the parks. The train ride was fun and when we disembarked we were in The Islands of Adventure Park in Hogsmeade. We cooled off with a Butter Beer before riding any more rides.

The kids loved the two Harry Potter thrill rides. Henry liked the Escape from Gringotts. Our 14 year old grandson said the Forbidden Journey was his favorite. Our granddaughter liked them both. I’m not a fan of thrill rides. The train was more my style.

After our epic day at Universal we took it easy the next day. While it rained all afternoon we played some games and enjoyed hanging out with our grandkids.

One evening the kids enjoyed the pool while I enjoyed the evening sky.

Sunset at the pool

On our last day we put on our bathing suits and went to Blizzard Beach, one of the Disney water parks. We were able to enjoy a few rides before the afternoon thunderstorm came through. Just as predicted, at 1:00 the lightening was so close they closed all the rides.

The Summit Plummet at Disney’s Blizard Beach is on the right where the flags are.

One thing that is almost guaranteed if you travel to Orlando in late June is the daily thunderstorms. The only day we didn’t get rained on was the day we went to Universal. How lucky was that?

What a great week making memories with our two oldest grandkids!

Revisiting My Childhood in Pictures

My father loved to take pictures with his Minolta 35 mm camera and through the years he accumulated thousands of slides. My younger brother became the curator of his slides and has been converting the good ones to digital format. His Christmas present to us this year was a DVD with many pictures from my childhood. In the photo at the top of this post you can see our Ford station wagon in Yosemite National Park.

In 1959, when I was eight years old, my father’s work required him to go to California for several weeks. Instead of going by himself, my parents decided to take the whole family on a cross country journey to see America.

I spent many hours crammed in the back seat of our station wagon, usually on the hump in the middle between my two brothers. I wonder how many times my mother had to turn around to tell us to be quiet?

Our family of 5 traveled cross country and back in this Ford Station wagon in 1959

I had so much fun looking at the old photos converted from my Dad’s slides. Each one brought back so many memories. As I was going through the photos I found a few that I unknowingly replicated as an adult during our RV travels. On the left is me in 1959 on the Big Tree in Redwood National Park and on the right that’s me in 2007 at the same tree.

Dad took a picture of Yosemite Valley that looks a lot like the one I took almost 50 years later. It looks like we were standing in the exact same spot.

Here’s our two pictures of the Yosemite tunnel at Tunnel View. I love the old cars in Dad’s picture.

Mount Rushmore in 1959 and 2006.

While we were in California we went somewhere almost every weekend. We visited national parks, theme parks, San Francisco, and even went panning for gold. I’ll never forget our trip to Disneyland. Where were the crowds back then?

Disneyland in 1959

Dad loved gathering the family together in the basement for slide shows. Thank you to my brother for putting these slides into digital form to be enjoyed over and over again.

Our first cross country camping trip – in 1985!

A new Toyota mini van + 2 tents + 2 parents + 2 kids = 2 weeks of fun!

We’ve had some wonderful adventures since we began traveling in our fifth wheel nine years ago but our first cross country journey when our kids were 14 and 10 will always be one of my favorites.

Way back in 1985, over twenty years before we bought our fifth wheel, we packed up our new mini van and and set out on a trip from Georgia to the Grand Canyon South Rim, about 2600 miles each way. We had been taking our kids camping around Georgia and Florida many times but this was the first time we ventured west.

Our plan was to drive as far as we could each day and stay in motels until we got to the Grand Canyon. Loaded down with two tents, coolers, and all the camping gear we owned, we were ready for anything.

Our longest driving day of the trip was on our way to the Grand Canyon when we drove 694 miles across Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas.  Once we reached Arizona we slowed down to take the scenic drive through the Painted Desert and Petrified Forest National Parks.

Our Campsite at the Grand Canyon South Rim in 1985
Our Campsite at the Grand Canyon South Rim in 1985

Of course the highlight of the trip was at the Grand Canyon South Rim. After setting up camp we went exploring and planned a hike on the Bright Angel Trail for the next morning. Keep in mind we were there the first week of July and it was HOT!  With backpacks filled with water, trail mix and other snacks we set off down the trail early in the day. Going down into the canyon was fairly easy. The temperature kept rising as we got deeper into the canyon and my daughter and I decided to return to the rim while Henry and our son continued on to Plateau Point (about 5 miles from the rim) where there is an overlook into the canyon and a view of the Colorado River.

Going up was hard. There were few places to sit and rest and almost no shade. When my daughter and I got back to camp we  went in the tents and collapsed on the cots hoping to cool off.  After a short rest we were no cooler so we went to the snack bar for air conditioning and ice cream. We were well rested when the guys got back.

On our return trip to Georgia we stopped at Carlsbad Caverns before driving all across Texas, this time on I-10 instead of I-40. We spent a night in New Orleans and visited the Tabasco Factory before stopping at a beach front hotel in Ft. Walton Beach. We all enjoyed the huge swimming pool and finally felt cool!

I recently came across a log I kept of our trip. We drove a total of about 5200 miles and spent a whopping $321 on gas!

We travel much differently these days. We have the luxury of being able to take our time and rarely travel more than 300 miles in a day. We set up our fifth wheel and usually stay 2 or 3 nights in each location. And we can turn on the air conditioner and go inside to cool off  without leaving our campsite!