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Category Archives: Florida

Turning Around

Having spent a fun-filled month with the Travaglinos of Fulltime Family fame, we headed on with our original plans to go east and up the coast. Occasionally we have dates to contend with- meet-ups with family or friends, scheduled events, etc. that loosely tailor our overall plans. We have a couple of those coming up- meeting up with Chris’ parents in Hilton Head, SC at the end of April (yay!) and the beginning of our seasonal site in NH on May 15th. Everything else is up for grabs.

So we begin to head leisurely in the direction of east. I am feeling the need again for some natural beauty and peaceful isolation so we head to a Corps of Engineers campground (aka- peaceful isolation) on the Florida/Georgia border. A few hours’ drive and the best spot in the campground happened to open up just as we were pulling in. It was available for two nights only (we were thinking 3-4) but I’m not one to look a gift horse in the mouth. Done- corner spot on the lake with a pair of Canadian geese as neighbors.

Camera Roll-28

After setting everything up in our beautiful new yard, we find the Verizon data signal is abysmal and drum roll… that night our fridge dies. The data signal is so bad it takes Chris most of the night to troubleshoot the fridge issue. By morning he’s narrowed it down to the cooling whatcha-hoozie which is about $1,000 to replace. What the what?! He’s been saying all along that a residential fridge will be the successor when this one dies. At about $500 for a whole new residential fridge, we decide to go that route. But there’s the matter of putting it in… There was door frame measuring, current fridge measuring, comparing online measurements of new fridges and several calls to his buddy Chris Travaglino. They decide they can put it in together.

With my ice box (box with ice in it trying to keep my frozen meat frozen) in tow, we turn around and head back to Alabama for some more time with friends and a new fridge.

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Posted by on April 8, 2013 in Alabama, Florida, RV, Travel log

 

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Meet my Fulltime Family

These winter months that have been so brutal with cold and snow (even in Tucson where we spent last winter in balmy, sunshiney weather!) in most of the other states, we have created safe haven in the sun in Orlando, Florida. Chris’ grandparents winter down here as well and we found a great KOA (Fort Summit) just down the road from them. We were eager to spend more time with them this year, having fond memories of early 2011 that we spent here with them) and help out as much as possible given that their 8th decade of life is slowing them down a bit.

Our time with them is priceless and the kids squeal when we can add their Great Grammy and Great Grampa to our adventures. We’ve even had the pleasure of spending an afternoon with Chris’ Great Great Aunt Lucy, now 97, who was the most gracious hostess and regaled us with stories of her extensive camping and travel adventures “many years ago” with her late husband, Don. I took notes on routes and campgrounds about which she still recalls every detail. She and her son (a former school teacher) could not express enough times how excited, pleased, and proud they are that we have chosen this way of life and how wonderful they feel it is for our children. We happen to agree but it’s always good to hear.

When we started on the road 2 1/2 years ago, we thought mostly about places we wanted to visit. It became clear to us all early on that this travel life has been made rich and soulful mostly by the people we visit and meet along the way. The faces, as we travel, can change quite frequently but almost all are friendly, inviting, and interesting. I joke that my 20 minute morning dog walk can take an hour if I don’t get up early enough. Travelers are a friendly bunch.

But there is a part of us all that needs consistency and support… understanding and unconditional acceptance. This life is not always easy with new rig issues popping up, questions on travel logistics, not having families right nearby who understand what it means to live this way first hand. I tire sometimes of being “the RVing family.” It’s not who we are. Living a traveling life does not define us. It is so interesting to most people, though, that it can be the only thing I talk about in conversation as the curious questions just keep rolling. I overheard Sadie at a public playground one day with a peer. “Where do you live?” said the girl. “Let’s not get into it. Let’s just go play,” Sadie said. When asked about it later, Sadie expressed that she knows that kids find her living in a motorhome so fantastic and interesting that she ends up answering all kinds of questions and misses out on playtime.

We get support from our families and friends who, after 2 1/2 years no longer think we’re crazy or have resigned themselves to it. This year, though, we’ve added a new family to our lives- the Fulltime Family. Shortly after we went on the road, still fresh with questions and looking to find our traveling groove, I became aware of a website then a Facebook group founded by and for Fulltime Families. I referenced the site and lurked on the group for a long while. It was a place where I could go to search questions but also to be comforted that, although I couldn’t see them next door, there were many other families out there, new and veterans of all ages and with all aged children, living and loving a traveling life.

Did I mention I lurked? Then I started to ask questions and even answer some on the Facebook group. People responded inviting more virtual engagement. I began to know names and think of Jennifer, hoping she got that job at Disney, or whether Kimberly’s engine trouble was diagnosed. What are the great places to stay? What should we see for cheap or free? What do we do about the moisture on the windows? Anything you can think of, and most you can’t (unless you live in 300 square feet with several children and pets), can be answered there.

Over the last couple of years, we’ve met up with a family or two (like the Lundy 5) from the group as we passed each other in our journeys. This year we find ourselves once again in the hotspot (literally and figuratively) for Fulltime Families in the winter months- central Florida. While we missed this year’s winter rally, we are having a positively wonderful time here with regular pool parties, potlucks, and field trips with other traveling families- making new and lasting friendships on each and every outing. On a moms’ afternoon out to IKEA, I was so moved by how personal it felt for me to be shopping for home items with other people who understood all too well the dilemmas of organization of a small family space- that moves. Speaking of IKEA, we did a whole living/dining area makeover and someone I had never even met in the Fulltime Families group offered up their family’s truck for us to pick up our furniture. Now that’s family.

Photo 2 - 2013-02-24
photo credit:: Stephanie Clarke

So I’d like you to meet my Fulltime Family. We are not the same. In fact, we are more different than most neighbors in traditional neighborhoods. We come from all over the United States and even some other countries! We have different backgrounds, jobs, hobbies, interests, children who range in age from gestating to 20- something and beyond. But we share a common passion- a similarity in lifestyle that transpired in a different way for every family that creates and fosters a bond, an understanding, empowerment, vulnerability, and a wealth of knowledge.

Photo 1 - 2013-02-24

 
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Posted by on February 24, 2013 in Florida, RV

 

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Oh My-ami!

From Orlando we headed down to Miami. Our goal was to visit the three national parks of south Florida and we found an absolute gem of a campground. I would go back to this one over and over and we just might. The weather was sunny and warm- gorgeous for visiting Miami Beach, snorkeling and exploring John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park on Key Largo (on my 35th birthday- how cool is that!), Biscayne National Park, Everglades National Park and Big Cypress National Preserve. The kids earned Junior Ranger badges at all 3 parks and have sent away for their South Florida National Parks patch indicating as much. The badges are no small feat for such small fries but it’s a great opportunity for us to learn as a family and for the kids to work toward their goal of having a souvenir from each national park that we visit.

Swearing in Junior Rangers- Everglades NP

On our travels there are also many days that we hang around the parks and play. Our older neighbor asked if she could take the kids’ picture on this day. There was some fierce princess and knight stuff going on.

Knight and fierce princess

We had the pleasure of meeting two cousins of mine for the first time during our Miami stay! What a wild adventure that we can spend time with so many people that we may never have met otherwise- including family! Lloyd and Leighton are 1/2 Cuban and were delighted to share their cultural heritage with us. We ate some pretty darned amazing food. The kids still talk about how much they like Cuban sandwiches! The significant difference in our ages (I am 13 and 15 years older than they, respectively) led to some very interesting conversations about dreams, life, histories, passions, and experiences. I was quite taken aback by their similarities in mannerisms, humor, and pensive nature to our grandfather with whom I was very close but they didn’t have the opportunity to get to know well. There’s just something about family.

Spending time with family

On a day when parking was not to be had for Miami Beach (we drove around for over an hour searching), we headed to the Miami Children’s Museum. Our disappointment here was twofold in retrospect. We didn’t find anything interesting or well-maintained about this museum and it seems that we may be outgrowing most of the exhibits at children’s museums anyway. Glad we recently found the list of the science and technology museums that are also included in our Association of Children’s Museum membership! Check out what’s included. You can get a reciprocal membership from your local (traveling families- make sure it’s your local museum- it matters that your ID address match the location on your museum card) children’s or science and technology museum and be a roving connoiseur as well!
Association of Children’s Museums reciprocal museum program brochure
Association of Science and Technology Centers travel passport program

The Art Deco style of downtown Miami is funky and cool. The palm trees, bronzed bikini bodies, and bicycles give it a sultry, smokin’ hot flair. Being there definitely felt like a vacation.

In order to take in Big Cypress National Preserve at close range, we moved the RV into one of their campgrounds at Monument Lake for a few days. We had it on good authority from our traveling friends, The Lundy 5, that, although Monument had no electricity or water to offer our RV, it did have a cell tower right across the lake. That’s the only thing we need! Chris can work and we can boondock to our hearts’ content. The first night the kids were playing Wii Rock Band, Chris was working on the desktop computer at his desk, and I was cooking a grand meal. We laughed at how decadent ‘dry’ camping is. The only differences for us are keeping an eye on our coach batteries and enlisting the RV generator occasionally for a refresh and limiting our grey water usage to ensure that we don’t fill our tank before we’re ready to move on- packing up to dump is a real hassle.

One of our goals was to take a canoe trip as a family which we did out of the Everglades City visitor center of the Everglades. We paddled what felt like a giant WWII metal battleship the one mile mainland to Sandfly Island. Holy cow, it was hard. The wind blew us off course continually, we paddled against the tide all the way there, and there was recuping of patience needed on all accounts at different points on the journey. The hike around the island itself was so cool! It is aptly named, though, and we don’t generally use bug repellant so there was a lot of itching and slapping! Despite our difficulties we would do it again- next time in kayaks like the ones that were gliding by us like we were anchored.

Mama alligator and her little babies 7

One of the most compelling pieces of these national parks has been living with respect for animals. It really changed our perspectives- even as people who honor and love the Earth and those with whom we share it. It stuck with me how ‘advanced’ societies live not only without regard for surrounding animal life but as though it’s a mere interference- relocating and killing animals that are deemed threatening or a nuisance to everyday life. In the parks, we are visitors and this is their land. What a switch! What I liked the most? That humans couldn’t betray this because the alternative to respecting the animals was to lose a limb or a life. Alligators have the run of the place and, with understanding of their behaviors, we were welcome and safe visitors. I love when we’re held accountable by natural consequences. So often, there are fences and rules and guards. It has taken away our natural ability to assess and act in accordance with our environment rather than by resistance and containment.

 
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Posted by on April 28, 2011 in Florida, RV, Travel log

 

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Remembering Orlando Magic

The five weeks we spent in the Orlando area were truly magical. We had a million cool adventures and learned and discussed lots of new things. But in the end as I look back, it’s the people we shared this time with that stand out the most in my mind.

Upon arriving in Apopka, Florida at a sweet little RV park, Chris noticed some issues with our electrical system.  The inverter wasn’t working properly and then proceeded to internally combust resulting in a 3-day RV blackout.  What’s worse?  The door of the inverter basement compartment then fell off.  Go ahead… laugh.  We did.  Sometimes it feels like National Lampoon’s RV Life over here. 

Enter Michael and Jeannette Brown and their pup, Hazel – our new neighbors.   We were feeling pretty pitiful and overwhelmed navigating and trouble shooting the electrical system of the RV.  It’s a vulnerable feeling stepping out of the RV with a tarp hanging off the side in lieu of a compartment door as the other RVers gather in droves to point and whisper.  Oh that didn’t really happen?  That’s what it looked like in our heads…  Michael spent time with Chris as moral support, idea man, and helping hand.  We quickly became friends and got the tour of their traveling livelihoods.  Michael is the baker, owner, salesman, and primary taster of his business The inFAMOUS Welsh Cookie Co.  He has a small, fully functional bakery in the front of their trailer and carries on his family’s tradition of baking Welsh cookies (his grandmother’s recipe) in 23 (and growing) flavors.  Jeannette is proprietor of The Scottish Tinker, selling authentic Celtic jewelry of all kinds – traditional to unique.  Together, they are The U.K. Market and travel the country selling their wares at Celtic Festivals.
January february march and half of april 163

January february march and half of april 168
(above- Sadie has her first paying gig helping Jeannette shine and prepare her jewelry for an upcoming show.)

We couldn’t have asked for better neighbors or friends.  The kids spent loads of time visiting with them and we all really enjoyed their company.  The end of our month in Apopka culminated in several challenging repairs completed (We knew something had to give when Elijah tossed a coin into the water at It’s a Small World in DisneyWorld and wished for electricity.) and lasting friendships formed.  We were very sad to leave the comfort of that bond.

Great Grampa

All the while, we were squeezing in as much time as possible with Chris’ grandparents who have wintered in the Orlando area for the last 17 years.  At 81 and 82 (I’m pretty sure it’s OK for me to post their ages since it seems it can be worn as a badge of honor both up to one’s early 20’s and after about 75), they never missed a beat with one (long) day spent at Disney, one spent showing us around Celebration, one taking us to the Farmers’/Flea Market, many long walks, a few yummy restaurant meals, baking, board/card games, reading, seemingly incessant conversation from all sides, bicycle repair, a playground picnic, and a couple of cookouts.  We reveled in each other’s company.  It was simply perfect to spend SO much undivided time over such a long period with them.  There are very few such opportunities to celebrate and saturate in love and appreciation for others.  When we left Apopka, we had the priveledge of joining them at their RV park for an additional week.  What a treat to be neighbors!  We wandered back and forth between our homes at will – easily and freely.  We met their friends and got to experience the lifestyle of their Floridian winters which had previously just meant time apart.  We were comforted and thrilled to see what full, active, connected lives they have with their winter friends in their winter home.

January, February 2011  Apopka & Disney World 105

As if that weren’t enough! We’d been talking since last year’s Rethinking Everything Conference about getting back together with John Stralecky and his wonderful family. Chris and John hit it right off at RE and we so enjoyed listening to him talk about backpacking around the world on $40 per day during one of his sessions. Cosmically enough, John has RV aspirations and wanted to pick our brains as well. Both of our families have come to the realization that life matters NOW and passions drive all. Sharing a couple of meals at each other’s homes and wandering downtown Disney was time spent with kindred spirits and brought to life that the same realizations about living a joyful life play out in so many different (and perfect) ways. If you haven’t read John’s books (Big Five for Life, The Why Cafe, Life Safari), I highly recommend them.

Sadie and Elijah had a grand time playing with their daughter and I, chatting with John’s wife, Cindy, who has so many interesting tales to tell. I enjoyed talking unschooling with her as they consider educational options and lifestyle based in their unique worldly perspective.

 
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Posted by on April 28, 2011 in Florida, RV, Travel log

 

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Discovery: STS-133

This morning Chris and I carried two sleepy, smiling children to the car at 5:45 AM to make the 1 1/2 hour drive down to Spaceview Park in Titusville, Florida.  It was a needed 11 hours prior to the scheduled lift-off of the space shuttle Discovery’s much anticipated final flight of its 27 years of service with NASA.  We arrived to a significant number of tents, chairs, and people already marking spots for the late afternoon launch.  The energy was already electric even at this early hour as people eagerly anticipated the launch.

The kids and I spent a great deal of time yesterday reading up on the logistics of shuttle launches, the International Space Station, and reading and watching videos on the NASA website about the preparation for, goals, and crew of Discovery: STS- 133. 

We spent today playing games on our blankets, reading real-time NASA blog updates, and wandering with the Lundy family– a traveling family we first met in Las Vegas last October and were thrilled to hook back up with when we arrived in Florida. The kids and their dads had an afternoon visit at the Space Walk of Fame Museum and really enjoyed the interactive exhibits there.

Discovery STS- 133 launch 1

Discovery STS- 133 launch 2

Discovery: STS-133 launch 3

It was truly amazing to witness such a historical event live and in person.  For my generation, this is the end of an era which we were able to share with our children.  What’s next?  Only they know.

Spaceview Park

 
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Posted by on February 24, 2011 in Florida, Travel log

 

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Mexico Beach, Florida

Coming to the conclusion that we rather like traveling more slowly makes actually getting to a destination tricky.  Chris and I huddled up in Sedona many weeks ago and planned out our entire winter.  Albeit late, we were able to sneak in amongst the snowbirds and book a site in Florida nearby his grandparents for the month of January.  We’ve been anxiously awaiting our visit ever since.  After a really fun couple of days in New Orleans, we boondocked one night and arrived for a one week stay in Mexico Beach, Florida.  We were so excited to spend some time on the white sand beaches we’d heard so much about from some friends in Texas. 

But wait, isn’t Florida supposed to be warm?  Not this part, apparently.  This was a cold week.  Now I’m not talking cold like Michigan or Massachusetts or wherever you’re reading this from right now cursing at me as you wrap your hands around your cocoa and pull up the covers.  But for a family on the road in a not-so-well-insulated, lightly packed RV chasing warm temperatures and expecting warm sand between our toes, it was cold.  We stayed at Rustic Sands RV Resort– a lovely treed campground amongst beach cottages in a town 40 minutes from the closest anything. 

It made for a great week for ‘downtime’ (aka- doing less exploring).  Chris had work to catch up on after our 2 full days jaunting around New Orleans and there were plenty of projects and cleaning to be done around the RV.  We had replaced the fuel filter housing on the side of the highway in Alvin, TX (just before New Orleans) and took one of the afternoons here to clean the back of the RV, tow car, and bikes of the fuel (diesel and veg) that had escaped prior to our discovering the drain valve was stuck open.  It doesn’t take much to make a big mess.  Blech.  The kids played outside and spent time on their computer games.  Elijah is a World of Warcraft fanatic and Sadie became a potion entrepreneur with Fairy Godmother Tycoon.
Mexico Beach, FL  1/2011  beach romp

There were two afternoons during our week that were not downright freezing or pouring and we made for the beach- about a mile walk from the campground. These kids are crazy. As Chris and I put up our hoods and turned our backs to the chilly winds, the kids ran straight for the numbing waves. They had so much fun that cold was an afterthought. Glad we brought extra clothes for the walk home!
Mexico Beach, FL  1/2011  kids
Oh yeah- and I got a new camera! I’m having so much fun reading about it and playing with it and capturing all the gorgeous moments of our lives. I’m reading the manual, getting help from great friends, watching Youtube videos, and Googling. It’s definitely not enough to just have a fancy piece of equipment. Knowing how to use it and having an eye for composition are a big deal!

 
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Posted by on February 14, 2011 in Florida, RV, Travel log

 

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