Posts Tagged ‘Florida’

Vero Beach—Ahhhh, the Sweet Sound of English and Piano Duets!

Saturday, July 7th, 2012

DSC02124Friday, March 2—When we got out of the Suburban at our new park, Sunshine Travel RV Resort in Vero Beach, FL, we heard  very welcoming and very much welcomed, “Hello! Welcome!! I see you are from Michigan.” We hadn’t heard much English since we left the Everglades and it was very nice to be able to converse freely with the nice man parked next to us.

We really liked this park a lot and wished we could stay more than three nights. They have a beautiful pool in this very clean park with more spacious sites than those we left behind in Pompano Beach. After doing a little shopping, we walked around the park in the evening. It was cut a bit short when we saw what we believe to be a King Snake slither across the road.

Saturday, March 3—We spent a lot of the day at the park. The girls love the pool and their newly found activity: diving for golf balls! After we got some laundry done, we wentDSC02136 to the Atlantic to take a wake along the beach. Once again, we enjoyed a late night walk around the park.

Sunday, March 4—This was a very special Sunday as we attended church with a very dear friend whom we haven’t seen for a long time and her husband whom we had only met briefly a few years earlier. After eating Sunday lunch at Southern Sisters Cafe, we headed back to their home where my friend and I were able to catch up on one of our favorite things: playing piano duets. We were able to get a piece together to play in her church for the service at her church that evening. Barry and the girls very much enjoyed the afternoon with her kind husband and their cute dog, Tinker Bell. We were all tired when we got home that evening but the girls wanted to walk and swim once again.

DSC02148Monday, March 5—Today was quite a bit cooler but we loved it! After grocery shopping and a coffee run to DunkinDonuts, we finished up school and prepared to have our friends over to have supper with us. We had a great night and felt that two days with them just wasn’t enough time. Before bed, the girls had to go for one more swim. It was quite late but I drove them to the pool (more on why we drove in a minute). It was in the 50s but that didn’t stop our MI girls. We had a good laugh because of the looks and comments we got about why in the world I would let the girls swim in such cold weather.

We had walked and biked every chance we could while at this park; especially at night. This stopped today because wild boars were seen running through the park. Prompt action was taken by the management but because they weren’t yet caught, we chose to drive to the pool and stay close to our site.

This was one park that we hated to leave. It wasn’t very big but it was very relaxed and well kept. We will definitely stay here again if we are in the area again.


Pompano Beach-Parlez Vous Francais?

Friday, July 6th, 2012

 

DSC02113Monday February 27: After hearing more French than English while in the Keys, we were excited to head back to mainland Florida and English. From the moment we entered the gates of Breezy Hill RV Resort in Pompano Beach, however, we knew this wasn’t going to be the case. Most of the signs were in French and as Barry stood in line to register at the sales office, he hoped that someone would speak English. Fortunately, they did! We found out that about 90% of the park were from Quebec (we think 98% since the only U.S. license plates were ours from MI and a couple from Montana). It was strange to be somewhat of a novelty in our own country. “You speak English?” We joked that if a country wanted to invade Quebec, the winter months would be the time as most of Quebec seemed to be in southern Florida.

We settled in at the new park quickly so the girls could get some swimming in before we had to get ready to celebrate the 6th anniversary of our business, Evmikna Graphics. A local suggested we go to JB’s on the Beach. It turned out to be a very busy but beautiful restaurant right on the Atlantic. After our meal, we walked a bit on the beach before heading to McDonald’s for dessert—McFlurries. We chose to go through the drive-through after seeing several police cars and officers in the parking lot surrounding several young men who were on the ground in cuffs. When we pulled up to the window, we saw a police officer ‘hiding-out’ in the back of the restaurant. Barry made a comment to the cashier that this must be the safest McDonald’s in Florida at the moment. She kind of laughed, hardly seeming phased at all by all the commotion. We were a little phased and later wondered possessed us to stop at all!

Tuesday, February 28: We mostly spent our time at this park on school. The park itself is very large but still the RVs are packed in very tightly. It was one of our more difficult back-ins as we were packed in like sardines. We did really enjoy being able to take long walks and bike rides, which we did several times each day and evening. The park is also very well manicured with beautiful flowers everywhere.

Wednesday, February 29 and Thursday, March 1—These days were pretty much the same: school, swimming, walks, biking, shopping. We celebrated Leap Year Day with more ice cream!


The Florida Keys for the Family

Friday, June 22nd, 2012

DSC01895Spring Break and the Florida Keys! It was supposed to be in the 70s while we were there but it turned out to be unseasonably warm and pretty much stayed in the upper 80s the entire time. We were very thankful for those great ocean breezes! The nights were beautiful and we enjoyed many long walks and bike rides. We never missed one of those famous Florida Keys sunsets!

Monday, February 20— After we got unpacked and settled in at Fiesta Key RV Resort we drove to Long Key State Park and Curry Hammock State Park. Long Key was closed indefinitely and we just drove around Curry Hammock a bit to check it out. We watched our first sunset in the Keys from our RV Resort. It was not a disappointment!

Tuesday, February 21—While we were in Louisiana we met a woman who had grown up in the Keys. She highly recommended that we visit the The Turtle Hospital inDSC01911 Marathon (http://www.turtlehospital.org/). This wonderful place rescues and cares for Sea Turtles that have been injured. Some of the turtles eventually get well and are released back into the sea while some, due to their injuries, become permanent residents at the hospital.

Our tour started with a presentation about Sea Turtles, their habits, the differences between the species, dangers they face, and the work of the hospital. Afterwards, we were taken on a tour of the Triage and Surgical Units of the hospital. The very best part was visiting the turtles. Those that are to be released are in smaller, individual tanks. A very large pool houses the turtles that live at the hospital. These turtles are used to humans and swam right up to the edge of the pool to greet us. Well…we thought they were greeting us but we soon found out that they knew we DSC01934were going to give them treats! Their size astonished us. What we loved the most was how they made eye contact with us. Even the shy Kemp’s Ridley turtle came up to say hello (we were told that she doesn’t do that very often). Our tour was over far too soon but we learned a lot about these wonderful creatures. As we were leaving a large iguana made an experience on the dock near the turtle tanks. He’s not supposed to be there (invasive species) but he was interesting nonetheless.

For the woman who suggested we visit this great place: Thank You!!! We are so glad we went! It was definitely a highlight of our time in the Keys.

We spent the rest of the afternoon exploring some of the other Keys before coming home to the pool and another beautiful sunset.

Wednesday, February 22—This was a very hot day! We had decided to spend it on Key West. The long drive from our resort to the most southern place in the United States was beautiful. There is so much to see; especially from the bridges. We soon found ourselves stuck in traffic. After not moving for quite some time, I got on the internet to find a traffic report for the Keys. The site http://keysnews.com/trafficcams was very helpful. There’s one main road on the Keys and if it gets backed up, you basically have to wait it out or turn around. We found out that there was some sort of an accident ahead but it looked like they were clearing a lane for us. Sure enough, we were crawling along soon after. (We found out the next morning that a truck had hit a motorcycle, killing the husband and wife who were on the motorcycle. The motorcycle was stopped at a red light when they were hit from behind. It’s very easy to get distracted while driving in the Keys.)

DSC02020Once on Key West, we found free parking at a lot near White Street Pier. We decided to walk to the end of the pier to look for marine life. Before doing so, however, we were welcomed by several of the Key West Chickens that are somewhat controversial but are very much a part of the Keys. (We say, let the chickens stay, by the way!) Once out on the pier, we saw a lot of fish and sea urchins but what we found most interesting was a group of people daring each other to jump into the water (they thought it was cold). As we were walking around the pier, a dog started viciously barking at us. His owner was embarrassed and apologized. After talking for awhile we found out that the man, a self-proclaimed beach bum, lives and works on Key West. He moved to the Keys about a decade ago from the East Coast, sold his car, bought a bike and never looked back. He gave us some great ideas as to some family friendly spots on Key West.

We spent the rest of the afternoon at Fort Zachary Taylor State Park (http://www.floridastateparks.org/forttaylor/) where Barry and the girls enjoyed snorkeling while myDSC01969 book and I found a quiet place under a shade tree. As sunset approached, we packed up and headed for Mallory Square (http://www.mallorysquare.com/). We enjoyed the very unique live entertainment, shops, and another amazing sunset. By this time we were all starved. We walked and walked and walked the streets of Key West in search of a restaurant that offered gluten-free food before finding one that very reluctantly agreed to grill a plain hamburger and make a salad for our g-free kid. It was pretty late by the time we got back to our truck and headed home but we knew we would enjoy the miles of bridges and Keys ahead of us.

Thursday, February 23—On this day we decided to to absolutely nothing and we loved every lazy minute of it! Barry ran a couple of our bikes to a shop for repairs. Other than that we read, napped, played games, and watched movies.

Friday, February 24—We drove to Key Largo today in search of Key Lime Pie which isn’t normally a problem on the Keys, but we needed gluten-free. There was none to be found on Key Largo but we did find out that we could get some on Big Pine Key. Before leaving Key Largo, we stopped at a neat shop that had several types of shells that we had never seen before. We also enjoyed walking through a real scuba shop (real as in not your “scuba” section at Wal-mart or K-Mart).

Once on Big Pine Key, we saw some of the endangered Key West Deer. Unfortunately, the shop was out of g-free Key Lime Pie but the woman running the shop very kindly called and ordered one for us to pick up the next day. On our way back to the resort, we stopped at Old Seven Mile Bridge to watch the sunset. We were delighted to see several sea turtles and manta rays in the waters below the bridge.

DSC02027Saturday, February 25—After spotting the marine life on Old Seven Mile Bridge the day before, we knew we had to return! It was very hot and although the sun was relentless, we walked to mile marker 1 3/4 to have what 2 passing joggers told us would be a, “a National Geographic experience.” We were not disappointed! Reef, lemon and nurse sharks, a bull shark, huge manta rays, stingrays, sea turtles, a pod of dolphins, tarpon and several other species of fish were in the calm waters around the bridge. We stayed too long and got sunburns but it was truly the experience of a lifetime!

When we finally pulled ourselves away from Old Seven Mile Bridge, we drove back to Big Pine Key to pick up our pies at the Key West Key Lime Pie Company (http://www.keywestkeylimepieco.com/). We saw more deer and chickens on the way. Before picking up our pie, we stopped at a little restaurant called Shirleys (http://floridakeysicecreamshop.com/) for some really good sandwiches. We then picked up our pie and headed over to the Key West Deer Visitor’s Center (http://www.fws.gov/nationalkeydeer/keywest/). Not only was this place really interesting (with a great touch table about the marine and animal life that can be found onDSC02045 the Keys) but it was a great resource for family friendly activities on the Keys. We wished we had stopped here on our first day. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to do most of the things they suggested but we wrote them down for future use. We highly recommend stopping here first if you are looking for family friendly activities in the Keys.

Our next stop was Bahia Honda State Park (http://www.floridastateparks.org/bahiahonda/) which is also on Big Pine Key. We enjoyed our Key Lime Pies (the gluten-free pie was delicious—there was no telling that it was g-free). Barry, Mikayla and Eva snorkled while Jenna and I walked every inch of this beautiful state park. As sundown DSC02052approached, we walked to the broken bridge at the park to view the sunset. There we met a couple from Maine whom we enjoyed talking with very much. Afterwards, we headed down to an outdoor classroom for a ranger-lead class on the stars which proved to be one of the most interesting classes we have taken to date. In fact, we still talk about the class and have become avid star gazers because of it.

Sunday,February 26—Our last full day on the Keys! After attending church, we headed back to what had become our favorite spot on the Keys: Old Seven Mile Bridge. This time we packed the bikes so we could bike to the end of the bridge. We didn’t see as much marine life as we had on previous trips but we enjoyed it just the same. A man and his three friends from Italy stopped to help us fix one of our bikes. It was a pleasure talking with them! (And thank you, for the help! We hope you enjoyed your time in theDSC02003 U.S.)

Since our favorite spot was Old Seven Mile Bridge, we chose it as our spot to watch our final sunset. It was the most beautiful yet.

Some notes on family friendly activities in the Florida Keys:

There are some free things to do but most things are quite expensive.

Keep your bikes locked up at all times! A local told us they have a lot of problems with bikes being stolen.

Traffic can be quite bad on the keys and speed limits are taken very seriously. (We had a police officer stop us just because he didn’t think we slowed down fast enough at a pedestrian crossing!)

Google or the visitor centers weren’t much help in finding family friendly activities in the Florida Keys. The Key West Deer Visitor Center is your best bet! They also know the places to get good deals; especially on Kayaks.

There a couple of resorts in the Keys that cater to families. We didn’t stay at one but read about day camps that are offered for the kids while the parents play.

A site with some activities on it: http://www.fla-keys.com/keywest/children.cfm

Things we will do when we return to the Keys:

Eco Discovery Center: http://eco-discovery.com/

Harry S. Truman Little White House: http://eco-discovery.com/

Key West Audobon House and Gardens: http://www.audubonhouse.com/

Bike Paths on Big Pine Key that go through the Key West Deer Preserve (Stop at the Key West Deer Visitor Center for maps.)

John Pennekamp State Park: http://www.floridastateparks.org/pennekamp/; Glass Bottom Boat Tours: http://pennekamppark.com/

The Dry Tortugas!! (This is very expensive but if we ever return to the Keys, we will save for it in advance.) http://www.nps.gov/drto/index.htm

NOAA Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary: http://floridakeys.noaa.gov/

Dolphin Research: http://www.dolphins.org/

Boat Tour through Biscayne National Park: http://www.nps.gov/bisc/index.htm


Biscayne National Park—An Underwater Treasure!

Tuesday, February 28th, 2012

DSC01873 February 19—I woke up to the sound of the air conditioning turning on and thought maybe one of the girls had accidently messed up the thermostat. That wasn’t the case, however. It was just going to be a hot day!

DSC01874In the afternoon, we took the beautiful drive to Biscayne National Park. We were very disappointed to find out that most of the park is only accessible by boat (unless you have your own, it’s quite expensive to charter one) but we decided to go ahead and visit the Dante Fascell Visitor Center at Convoy Point. We were so glad that we did!

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Tallahassee, Florida

Sunday, January 29th, 2012

DSC01572 Yesterday, January 28, was supposed to be a sight-seeing day but we all decided to stay put and enjoy our current park and the beautiful weather. The girls and I took a couple of walks on which we noticed buds on the trees.  Spring has come to Florida although it’s hard for us to really appreciate it having not gone through a winter. Flowers are beautiful anytime of the year, however, and we are enjoying all the azaleas, roses and many other flowers. The weather has been perfect: 70s during the day and cool enough at night to be perfect sleeping weather.

Barry and Eva went out on a boat to do some fishing but got stuck in the mud. As they came back to the camper, covered in thick mud  up to their knees, I heard Eva say, “Well, this is a memory right?” Barry replied, “Not this time! I’m going to erase this one from my memory forever!” I didn’t ask any questions but told them they couldn’t come into the camper until they were clean. They finally got the thick, sticky goo off their legs and decided that a game of putt-putt might be a better idea. Jenna and Mikayla went with them while I got some things done in the camper.

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A Fire in the Panhandle

Friday, January 27th, 2012

Barry got a business call yesterday morning as we were packing up to leave Henderson Beach State Park. The girls and I stepped outside to make sure we had everything packed up when we heard the roar of the waves from the Gulf. A storm was moving in so we quickly ran down to the beach to see how high the waves had become. We found them to be a only little bigger in height but massive in length. There was no telling where some of them began or ended. They also formed much farther out and came in much faster. They seemed to explode when they hit the shore. It was a beautiful morning so it was hard to imagine that a powerful storm capable of producing tornadoes was on its way. Eva was delighted to find the high-tide had spared her ‘sandman.’ She even put her cheek next to his and gave him a big hug goodbye!

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One of Those Rare Days

Wednesday, January 25th, 2012

   DSC01523Today was one of those rare days when it’s not too hot or too cold, too windy or too still, too sunny or too cloudy. There weren’t even any bugs to deal with. The girls and I did some extra school last night so we wouldn’t have so much to do today. We headed to the beach as soon as we could!

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A Purple Flag Means Dangerous Marine Life!

Wednesday, January 25th, 2012

DSC01452 We had a lot to do this morning before leaving Gulf Shores, Alabama. Barry and Jenna took our cat Tugger to the vet (nothing major, just a routine procedure) while the other two girls and I finished up school.

The laundry facilities at the state park were really nice so I planned on getting a little done before we left. On our way to the laundry-mat, an older gentlemen on his bike stopped and asked if we were interested in seeing an alligator. He told us exactly how to find him. Alligators definitely trump laundry so we left the dirty clothes behind and headed out. We were thrilled to find about a 6 footer laying up on the bank of a bayou taking in someDSC01457 sun. Barry and I have seen alligators before but this was the first time the girls have seen one in the wild. They were in awe. It’s amazing the sense of wonder that children bring to us adults!

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A Terrible War and White Sandy Beaches

Thursday, January 19th, 2012

DSC01388It’s been awhile since I posted. Our Suburban ended up at the shop for a couple of extra days so we stayed at the campground and focused on school and the businesses. It was actually kind of nice not being able to go anywhere.

On Friday, January 21, we left the beautiful Styx River Resort in Robertsdale, Alabama. I should say that we hated to leave. It was very quiet even though it was almost completely filled up. They had started planting the flower beds the day before we left so everything looked so nice. The Styx River is very clear and pretty. It reminded us of Michigan. (more…)