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Relaxing in the Keys, Big Ole RV Parks, Overcoming Fears, and Friendship

After we left Peace River, we made our way on down to the keys! We pulled into Fiesta Key RV Resort, which was a key all to its own. This place was another piece of heaven on earth. Other than being jam packed in RV after RV we quickly realized it isn’t about where your RV is parked necessarily – its all about the great pool, the ocean right there, the tiki bar and gorgeous sunsets. All around us were people from Michigan. This was clearly the place to be.

Our neighborhood

Our neighborhood

We didn’t have WiFi at our RV at all, but there was a nice strong signal at the tiki bar, so we often spent out days there, relaxing, the kids doing schoolwork, Brandon working and me doing what I do. We would meander between there, a lounge chair closer to the edge of the ocean or the pool. We all got our tan on -as you could rarely escape the sun.

Keys---tiki-school

Tiki Bar School!

The boys were able to snorkel right from the tiki bar area and they quickly fell in love with the idea that they could just float and watch the fish and the sting rays. One day a dolphin even came quite close to say hello.

Keys---snorkeling

One night, Brandon and I road our bikes over to sun set point (a spot at the RV park where everyone would gather) to watch the sun set. Though I always talk about the balance between life and vacation, this truly was a vacation from our trip. We felt so relaxed and wonderful while we were there – two whole weeks!

Pelicans...

Pelicans…

and Palm Trees

and Palm Trees

We were able to drive to Key Largo to see an old high school friend of mine which was SO fun to catch up and hang out and the boys were able to snorkel at John Pennekamp State Park. We showered right there at the outdoor showers before heading to meet our friends.

My friend Michelle from high school

My friend Michelle from high school

We had a nice dinner out at a local spot called The Hungry Tarpon and it was divine. The food. The atmosphere. The kids loved it as well.

We also took a day trip to Key West which was fun to walk around the shops, the boys got to have an original Cuban sandwich they were looking forward to and we stood at the southernmost point 90 miles from Cuba!

Earnest Hemmingway's home on Key West

Earnest Hemmingway’s home on Key West

It was crazy hot here!

It was crazy hot here!

We felt sad to leave Fiesta Key much like how we felt in Malibu, but alas, move on we must.

Keys-sunsetNext stop – Orlando!

This was the largest RV park we have been at to date. Over 800 sites and we were at the farthest most area of the campground. Just to give you an idea of how big it was, on my morning runs I would run 2 to 2 1/2 miles and I never covered the entire park. We would ride our bikes to the main lodge for activities, pool, WiFi connection or just to hang out and watch TV. They always had things going on there.

We were able to enjoy the beautiful Rock Springs State Park and did a nice tube float down the springs river. There was a large swimming area and hiking trails and this place was very popular and packed with people! Most people you could tell were locals and there to spend the day picnicking and swimming. Not as many did the float so that was extremely nice. It was very peaceful and relaxing. We sometimes hate to go the crowded areas like this, but I love seeing so many people out enjoying nature.

orland-kelly-rocksorlando-tubin

So pretty... so peaceful.

So pretty… so peaceful.

Of course while in Orlando, we couldn’t miss Universal Studios. The boys have been talking about this since last January when we were there. We didn’t see the new Harry Potter world because by all indications, it was so much the same as the other one except the train ride. We were willing to forgo that in order to do more roller coaster type rides at Islands of Adventures. I tell you – they really know how to try to get you to pay the big bucks. This took a big bite out of our budget, but in the end it was worth it.

orlando-butter-beer

Butter Beer!

We also decided to take a drive to see a big alligator at a small wildlife park we found. Sadly, he had passed away and nothing had been updated on their website, but the boys still got to feed some and hold a baby!

orlando-alligator

We were able to visit with more old friends for dinner and I met my old boss and good friend who lives in the Orlando area. We had no idea we would meet up with so many old friends in Florida! This has become a really neat and unexpected part of this trip. We also met up with the first full time family we ever met the Boyinks to get interviewed yet again for a book they are writing about full time families around the world. As they had interviewed us before we left on the trip, it was neat to talk through our perspectives on the trip and how they have changed (or not) from before we started. You must check out their website Ditching Suburbia.

The McNicholas family!

The McNicholas family!

After Orlando we were on to Crystal Isles RV Park near the Crystal River in hopes of swimming with the Manatees.

Now let me just clarify why I am never talking about ME snorkeling or swimming with Manatees or anything relating to under water. Yes I can swim, and yes I even was once a certified scuba diver, but I do not at this time own a prescription scuba mask and I do not wear contacts so I am BLIND in the water. The people who know me best, know that I am perfectly content on the beach, in the boat, or near the water, but not IN the water so I’m just fine staying a land lover for now.

As the boys set off on their Manatee adventure I thought I would try having one of my own. So after they set off, I drove a couple miles away to rent my own Kayak, get in the water and see if I could meet up with them. Now…. ladies, this was a feat for me! I mean I am quite an independent gal, but I also like to leave these types of things to my husband to plan, research and carry out. I go along with him, but I don’t usually set off on these kinds of adventures on my own. This RV trip is really getting me out of my own comfort zones.

My own kayak adventure

My own kayak adventure

Give me a horse and I’m gone… but water stuff? It just doesn’t come naturally for me and I can tend to become fearful and chicken out.

I was SO proud of myself. I was in the water, in my kayak and setting off to find the guys and hopefully… the Manatees. I didn’t end up finding them because of multiple reasons (one being a very strong head wind where I thought they were), but I did find another group who found Manatees and it was quite entertaining watching some of the ladies scream in fear when one actually came near them. I tried to see for myself, but the water was very murky and cloudy so I didn’t see them. I did however, have a very peaceful and lovely time kayaking on my own, near the three sisters springs and fully enjoying myself.

Here’s Austin’s take on swimming with the Manatees:

Hello my name is Austin and today I went swimming with manatees. The first time was murky but the 2nd was clear. They were 12 feet big very big and it was very fun but its skin felt like fine sandpaper. I felt like I was with dogs harmless dogs. The end

And remember, you can always hop on over to Alec’s blog to hear about his adventures. And of course, Brandons too.

The other great thing the boys got to do was take a fishing charter with a great guy we met in our campground. He gave Brandon quite a deal to take the boys out after hearing about our trip. Being a retired teacher, he was all about it.

crystal-river-fishing

Austin is a natural! He caught the most fish and was so excited to bring them back to cook them up. Its so fun watching him get excited about anything outdoor related! Alec has always loved fishing so it was easy to get him out with minimal complaints.

We also did a nice family hike (and run for me!) at one of Florida’s bird watching trails. When we do these nature hikes, we try to have the kids learn at least one thing about the ecosystem that they can share with us after the hike. Its all a part of our world education!

crystal-river-hike

We took the boys to the Crystal River Archeological State Park and saw the Indian Mounds which are burial grounds that Native Americans would travel very long distances to bury their dead and engage in trading practices. They had quite a few artifacts in the museum there from Native Americans that had traded from the Great Lakes! It was so fascinating.

Coming down from the Mound, a very sacred place.

Coming down from the Mound, a very sacred place.

The boys also enjoyed looking at the replica of an old sailing scow which is a part of Florida’s vanished maritime heritage and its industrial past.

crystal-river-boats

Leaving Crystal Isles, we traveled just a quick hour and a half to Indian Rocks Beach area in Largo! The sole purpose of this trip was to hang out with our dear friends the Pearson family! We used to live next door to them in Oswego, IL and our kids are all the best of friends (parents too!) so this was going to be a treat week for us! We really just needed a place to park the RV because we knew we would be hanging out at their condo quite a bit and a place to park it was. I’m really glad we didn’t have to spend too much time there.

We didn't see much of these two after they were reunited.

We didn’t see much of these two after they were reunited.

This area around Indian Rocks was so neat. It reminded us a lot of the Siesta Key beach area but much less crowded. Our friends had a great condo with a short walk to the beach and we had the. best. time. Lots of laughter, feasting, sunsets and beach days.

Best Friends

Best Friends

A Mexican Feast!

A Mexican Feast!

So. Much. Laughter.

So. Much. Laughter.

We drove through Clearwater one day with the hopes of seeing the Clearwater Aquarium where Dolphin Tale 1 and 2 were filmed and where Winter and Hope live. I am sad to report that we didn’t end up getting there because it was so incredibly crowded we wouldn’t have had enough time to get to it all before it closed. We sort of forgot it was spring break for lots of people still this week, so everyone was there! We will just have to save this for next time!

We ended our time in Florida on such a high note and left the state tired, and beached and sunned to the hilt. I will miss those powdery white beaches and the aromatherapy of the orange blossoms in the air!

indian-rocks-sunset

Comments

  1. So glad to catch up with you guys again! We’re on the road back to MI for the summer – maybe we can get together a cookout or kayaking day there.

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