This week started off with an unplanned stop at the shopping mall. My parents were looking for a particular restaurant but didn’t realize it was in the mall. Everyone was…
This week started off with an unplanned stop at the shopping mall.
My parents were looking for a particular restaurant but didn’t realize it was in the mall. Everyone was too tired and cranky to find something else so we went in. The funny thing was the restaurant had closed. Guess that’s what happens when you trust those little rectangle boxes that my parents seem to think contain the voice of God or something. Ridiculous.
Anyway I wasn’t fond the shopping mall. I couldn’t sleep.
I already have a hard time settling down in the evening and this place just made it worse.
It’s nothing like the peace and quiet of mommy’s arms.
I also had a doctor’s appointment. Not crazy about those either but I’m growing a lot.
I also got my passport card although I don’t remember it at all.
Every morning my big brother comes out to cuddle me. We all lay around with mommy for about 30 minutes. It’s one of my favorite parts of the day.
Last but not least, I began my road-warrior training. I have some pretty cool mentors. Our first trip went really well. I’ll have to tell you about it next week.
Before baby nomad gets here we decided to head out to the beach with a tripod and camera to get some pictures while we are still, sort of, a family…
Before baby nomad gets here we decided to head out to the beach with a tripod and camera to get some pictures while we are still, sort of, a family of four.
We are really excited about the new baby but along with that joy there is some, for lack of a better word, “sadness” in saying goodbye to the life that we have known for the last eleven years as a family of four.
I hope that doesn’t sound bad.
I’m so thankful that we’ve had these past two and a half years on the road to slow down, explore, and create memories to numerous to count with Thing 1 and Thing 2.
I’m also thankful for this new family member on his way and look forward to the joy he will bring and the many adventures that lie ahead.
Now it’s time to get this show on the road. I’m ready to hold a baby in my arms instead of a 40 lb bowling ball in my belly!
One last glimpse of Florida on the blog before we move on to Georgia. I miss those sandy white beaches and majestic sunsets already. Dear Family (and anyone else who…
One last glimpse of Florida on the blog before we move on to Georgia.
I miss those sandy white beaches and majestic sunsets already.
Dear Family (and anyone else who cares),
I’m trying to keep up with our adventures but with homeschooling, sight seeing, driving, and life stuff. I’m finding it difficult to find the time. If you have an iPhone or Android I’m posting regularly on Instagram. My instagram name is newschoolnomad_girlhero.
I’m also trying to pin cute dresses places we have gone or want to go on Pinterest.
St. Augustine is the oldest city in the United States. It’s actually the oldest continuously occupied city of European and African descent in the United States if you want to get specific….
St. Augustine is the oldest city in the United States. It’s actually the oldest continuously occupied city of European and African descent in the United States if you want to get specific.
St. Augustine was founded by the Spanish in 1565 and is a must see for any family touring the US in an RV studying American history.
Being the planner I am, I didn’t make reservations for Anastasia State Park located near St. Augustine. In all fairness, I didn’t hear about Anastastia State Park until we got to Florida and since reservations typically need to be made up to 11 months in advance, it was too late. However what I lack in planning, I make up for in persistence.
For three weeks, I checked the Florida State Park multiple times a day for site for cancellations at Anastastia. I didn’t get as lucky as I did with Bahai Honda but I did get us a spot for one night. Two nights would have been nice but one worked out due the free RV parking behind the St Augustine visitor center. The one problem with pulling a 5th wheel is that it’s not easy to find a place to park. The free parking allowed us to have two full days to explore St. Augustine.
We are parents a family who loves to explore on foot. Not too big and not too small St. Augustine is the perfect size town for walking. We wandered down the streets lined with old houses and cemeteries following a route suggested to us at the St. Augustine Vistor Center.
While Ponce de Leon might have been the first European to discover St. Augustine, oil tychoon, Henry Flagler (remember him from the railroad in Bahai Honda?) played a large role in making St. Augustine the destination it is today. In 1888, Henry Flagler built the Ponce de Leon, a grand hotel desinged in the Spanish Renaissance style. The hotel is now part of Flagler College but you can still walk through and get a glimse of what it would have been like to be part of the elite during the turn of the 20th century.
Not far from the old Ponce de Leon hotel, is another building built by Henry Flagler, the Memorial Presbyterian church which houses the Flagler family’s mausoleum. The Memorial Presbyterian church was Florida’s first Presbyterian congregation established in 1824. We enjoyed the Venetian Renaissance style, especially Thing One who has developed quite an interest in old churches.
The star (literally since it’s foundation is star shaped) of St Augustine is Castillo de San Marcos. While Thing One was in his element as the Memorial Presbyterian church, Thing Two was no less in his element looking at cannons at the fort. What we thought would be a quick visit to the fort ended up being a three hour exploration complete with a cannon firing. Both boys earned their Jr. Rangers badge. They are racking up quite the collection.
Of course there is more to see in St. Augustine besides old buildings and cannons. There are museums, a lighthouse, restaurants, and shops. A favorite shop of the boys was the St. Augustine Textiles Colonial Goods Merchant, a local shop with a large assortment of handmade period clothing and goods. While St. Augustine is clearly a tourist destination it still boasts a lot of charm as the lady at the visitor center proudly pointed out “there isn’t one chain restaurant downtown”.
Anastasia State Park was as beautiful as I hoped it would be. The sites were private and lush. We really wished we could have spent more time there despite getting yelled at for “harassing a tortoise”. Thing Two was only trying to feed it a blade of grass not poke it. In the evening, the boys sat under the canopy of green at out picnic table and practiced writing with their new quill pens. (Ahem. Homeschoolers) Quill pens have become their new obsession. Thankfully they take up less space than wooden rifles.
Our Visit to St. Augustine in a Glance
Where We Stayed
Anastasia State Park. It was beautiful and we had a good internet connect. If you want to stay at Anastasia it would be a good idea to make reservations as soon as you are able.
Reservations for the Flamingo campground at Everglades National Park are “strongly recommended“. Do you think we make reservations?
Of course not.
We just drove up to the gate hoping there would be a spot for us. Just like we hoped we would pass a grocery along the way. Luckily for us, we did pass a grocery. Sort of. We passed a produce stand called Robert is Here. Thankfully Robert had eggs and heavenly milkshakes. (The canistel milkshake is ecstasy.) I could live off of eggs and milkshakes.
What were we talking about? Certainly not about our lack of planning or milkshakes.
Oh yes, the Everglades National Park. As it turned out there was a space for us in the Flamingo Campground. Our spot didn’t have electricity, water, or sewer but that along with mosquitoes —holy moly do not forget bug spray— just makes it feel all the more adventurous. I guess.
The everglades can be as adventerous as you want them to be. The really insane adventurous types can go camping in the backcountry with bears, panthers, and very large exotic reptiles. You’ve heard about the Burmese pythons that are showing up in the park? Less adventurous types can stick to the visitor centers and Anhinga trail. Both which are awesome and shouldn’t be missed no matter where you fall on the adventure scale.
As for us, we are somewhere in the middle on the adventure scale. To up our adventure factor, we rented a canoe and went on the Nine Mile Pond Canoe Trail. It’s a sort of marked trail that winds through mangrove tunnels and sprawling swamps where the clouds seem to rest on the water. We also saw the real star of the Everglades, the American alligator. In fact, we saw eight of them. Most of them would sink to the bottom or lay very still, their leathery black skin peaking through the surface like an old tire as we paddled slowly past. However, there was one “friendly” gator who began to swim toward us as we drifted many yards from him. Her? I’m certain I saw it opening and closing its mouth underneath the water. Needless to say, we didn’t stick around.
Back at Flamingo I described the “curious” gator’s behavior to a ranger. The ranger replied, as matter of fact-ly as if he was an appliance repairman, “Yep that sounds like aggressive behavior. It is mating season.” Might have been good to know. It’s also possible that some stupid people are feeding the gators and he was just looking for a hand out.
Not only did we see alligators but we also saw an American crocodile, (South Florida is the only place in the world where both alligators and crocodiles live together.), manatees, turtles, and birds. Oh so many birds. Anhinga trail is the place to go to view wildlife from the comfort of a paved and railed path. We saw so many alligators we lost count. If it’s crocodiles and manatees you’re looking for head down to the marina at Flamingo.
And don’t forget your bug spray.
Our Everglades Experience at a glance.
Where We Stayed
Flamingo Campground – They do have a limited number of sites with electrical. There is a wonderful paved bike path that runs from the campground to the Flamingo Visitor Center. We didn’t get any internet service here. We expected this and since Brent works from the road we visited over a weekend.
There are a number of ranger guided programs and tours. We wanted to go on the ranger led canoe tour but it was full. However, I think we ended up having more fun renting our own canoe and going at our own pace. I was concerned about not learning from the ranger but she assured me that she doesn’t do that much talking due to the logistics of a “canoe train”.
Anhinga Trail – A paved half of mile trail at Royal Palm. We stopped on our way out. The boys were complaining about another stop but ended up enjoying it. We said it would only be a few minutes and ended up staying a few hours. Typical. Recommend the ranger alligator talk if it’s available.
Ernest Coe Visitor Center – We should have stopped here on our way in as opposed to out. There are great exhibits, air conditioning, and a movie. (There are also 2 more visitor centers in the park that we missed.)
Road tripping is in my blood. Some of my favorites childhood memories are roadtrips with my family. One particularly memorable experience was when our family vacation to Gulf Shores, Alabama…
Road tripping is in my blood.
Some of my favorites childhood memories are roadtrips with my family. One particularly memorable experience was when our family vacation to Gulf Shores, Alabama suddenly, due to an unfavorable weather forecast, took a detour to the Florida Keys. I mean what is 800 miles except two days more driving?
I hope our boys remember the six days we spent in the Florida Keys as fondly as I remember childhood vacation.
We almost skipped visiting the keys because the Florida State Parks, which are significantly less expensive than private campgrounds, were booked solid. The private parks are $75 a night and up during peak season. Being the obsessive compulsive determined person I am, I checked the Florida State Park site for cancellations 3-5 times a day. Persistance paid off and we got four nights at Bahai Honda State Park. I was ecstatic.
Brent and I agreed Bahai Honda State Park is one of the most beautiful campgrounds we have ever visited with miles of uncrowded beaches surrounded by aquamarine water. It has to have the best beaches in the keys. You can still see and walk out on the old Bahai Honda Bridge for a stunning view of the island. The bridge was part of the Overseas Highway built by Henry Flagler and finished in 1912. One of the ranger talks was a retelling of the railway’s history by “Henry Flagler” himself (an impersonator). It should be noted that the bridge from Calusa beach makes a stunning backdrop for some of the most gorgeous sunsets I have witnessed in my life. In. My. Life. Dramatic? Yes. But true. I’m still dreaming of those sunsets.
We enjoyed wading out to the sandbar located at Loggerhead beach where I found a large hermit crab living in a conch shell. The boys and I sat in the shallow water for nearly an hour waiting for him to come out of his shell. I named him “Hermie” which Thing 1 informed was “generic”. Humph. Thing 2 was in paradise, quite literally, as he charged down the sandbar, searched for bits of coral, and made “drizzle” castles out of sand.
One evening, we drove over to Big Pine Key to visit the National Key Deer Refuge. The refuge is home to the Key deer which is an endangered animal that only lives in Florida keys. We didn’t have to look long or hard until we spotted the small deer grazing in lawns. We drove a little further out to No Name Key, yes that is it’s name, and found Key deer wandering along the edges of the road. Don’t worry everyone was driving really slow. The deers, living in close quarters with people for many years, have lost their fear of humans. This isn’t good for the deer but let’s be honest, it’s good for a 9 year old animal loving boy. We were delighted when they came up and sniffed our hands. I’m quite certain it was my Snow White-like charm that drew them near and not hopes of food.
Bahai Honda is about an hour’s drive from Key West. We spent the afternoon walking around the streets of Key West taking in the sites, sipping coconut water, and dodging spring breakers smoking cuban cigars. I very much wanted to go into Ernest Hemingway’s home but due to being on a budget, I settled with a picture and my imagination. Our walk ended at Mallory Square. The sunset was less than spectacular due cloudy weather but the street performers more than made up for it. Our favorites were The Catman of Key West who I remember being mesmerized by when I visited Key West as a kid and The Red Trouser Show. Thing 2 was chosen as an “assistant” for the The Trouser Show proving he may have a future as a street performer. Our evening ended with an excellent dinner of Cuban food El Siboney which I still crave.
The one thing the boys wanted to do in the Florida Keys was snorkel. Unfortunately due to windy conditions, the snorkeling trips led by the states parks had been cancelled. We were about ready to give up when John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park had a campsite cancellation the day we were leaving Bahai Honda. (It pays to have a touch of OCD.) We decided to stay one more night in the keys at John Pennekamp hoping conditions would change and there would be a snorkeling trip in the morning.
Our last morning came and at 8:00 am, breath held, I called the snorkeling tour office to find out if they were going out to the reef. They were! After a week of cancelled tours, conditions has improved enough to snorkel. The boys were thrilled. I was scared. Scared of barracudas, sharks, and sting rays. As it turned out I should have been scared of getting seasick. I spent the majority of the time curled up on the boat deck wishing I would have been eaten by a shark. It was worth it though because the boys had a wonderful time.
Our Florida Keys Experience in a Glance
Where We Stayed:
Bahai Honda State Park – Private spots, gorgeous beaches, internet service with Verizon and AT&T, close to Key West. (Our favorite of the two campgrounds) They have snorkeling tours but it’s a longer boat ride out to the reef.
John Pennekamp State Park – Very well maintained campground (the showers were nicer than the ones at my house), great mini-aquarium, very professional snorkeling trips, internet with Verizon and AT&T. There is a beach but it isn’t nearly as beautiful as the beaches at Bahai Honda.
Snorkeling at John Pennekamp State Park – I recommend going with the state park snorkel tours as they send someone out to check the conditions of the sea and visibility. In the very least call and find out if they are going out. If not then it’s unlikely that you will be able to see
Where We Ate:
El Siboney – (On Key West) Loved. This. Place. Very affordable and worth every minute of the wait.
“One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” Or treasures. Seventy years worth of treasures. When I think of a castles, I think of grand stone buildings surrounded by immaculate gardens…
“One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.”
Or treasures. Seventy years worth of treasures.
When I think of a castles, I think of grand stone buildings surrounded by immaculate gardens and moats. Aside from a misplaced moat, Solomon’s Castle is non of that but so much more. Solomon’s castle is the lifework and imagination of artist Howard Solomon, a slight soft spoken man who wears a captains hat. Breaking the rules of conformity, Solomon has not only built a castle out of newspaper printing plates in the middle of a swamp, he has spent his life turning junk into whimsical art boasting corny but clever names. “EvilCornEvil”, a motorcycle made out of an old corn seeder? Oh yes and that’s just the beginning.
As we toured his castle (totally worth the $10 admission, $4 for kids) I was struck by not only the vast amount of work he had done in his 70+ years (does he sleep?) but by the intensely playful nature of it all. After an hour of wandering around, I felt lighthearted, content, and inspired to continue to live unconventionally in our RV.
I wasn’t the only one who enjoyed it. Brent, my parents, and the boys all had a great time. We all agreed it was worth getting off the beaten path and heading out to the swampland of Ona, Florida.
As you can imagine living in an RV with 4 people can feel a little tight and there isn’t a lot of space for “grown up” time. It’s okay because…
As you can imagine living in an RV with 4 people can feel a little tight and there isn’t a lot of space for “grown up” time. It’s okay because we know it won’t be long before “are we there yet?” coming from the backseat is only a memory.
Still, sometimes when Brent and get the rare opportunity to be alone, we get so overwhelmed by the prospect of being able to do whatever we want – What? No whining from the backseat! – that we we find ourselves frozen in the face of options. We can stop for coffee without spending a small fortune for four people? We can take a long bike ride without worrying about someone riding out into traffic? We can wait for the sunset without being reminded that someone is “hungry”?
When my mom and dad offered to watch the boys and Brent and I loaded up our bikes and headed to Sanibel Island, an island (you figured as much) off of Fort Myers. We parked in the chamber of commerce parking lot and took off down the miles of bike path that stretch over Sanibel.
Joy. Pure joy.
We rode in the warm breeze our hearts carefree and as light as the wind. We shared the best blended ice coffee ever at Sanibel Bean. We found a nearly deserted beach and watched the sunset. We talked. We laughed. We held hands. We hugged. We kissed.
Sanibel swept us off our feet and we enjoyed every minute.