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Alabama Caravan

After 3 months in Orlando, we were itching to get out of the city and explore someplace new. Too early (read: too cold) to head north, too expensive ($1100+ per month?!) to head to the gulf of Florida, and still packed solid with no space for us (where we’d want to stay) on the east coast of Florida, we had the opportunity to join friends in a legitimate RV caravan to the gulf coast of Alabama!

While waiting for the other families, we headed out of our monthly spot in Orlando up to Juniper Springs Campground in Ocala National Forest for some much needed quiet time in the forest. Three nights later, we all headed out of our respective spots and met up on the highway. So fun!

We’ve heard the praises for southern Alabama from many people in our travels this past year. Maybe we’d heard them before but we weren’t listening… Alabama? Two and a half years on the road has stripped us of most of our state-prejudice as we’ve realized the beauty in every single place we’ve been. So here we are at a (so far) fabulous RV resort on the Alabama shore for the next month with friends! I have to go. The hot tub is calling.

The picture is we three families at a rest stop in the panhandle of Florida. The Clan of Parents rig is in the middle. ūüôā

All Imported-477

 
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Posted by on March 6, 2013 in Alabama, RV, Travel log

 

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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 familyРa 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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