Saturday, January 08, 2011

catching up....Christmas...

From 2010.12.25-31 Christmas Vacation

Ok, I know it has been a while.  I've been waiting on a few things (pictures) but I can't wait any longer.  They'll be added once I have them.

Things have been busy around here.  Christmas was really good for us and the boys.  I think everyone was really happy with what they got and SGG and I got to travel to Florida without the boys which is sort of what we wanted.

We left a moderately cold Virginia on Christmas morning and were soon in a sunny and warm Orlando, FL.  The plan was to spend a few days in Orlando, then head to Ft Myers and maybe further south for the rest of the week.  All in all that is about what happened.

Christmas day was really warm in Orlando.  We picked up my step-Father, Gary, and then went to my Sister-in-Law's Aunt's house to spend time with my brother and his family.  We had a few drinks which led to some skateboarding, some baseball, a lot of Frisbee, and more.  It was a really fantastic time.  I can recommend a cool Minnesota drink called a Tom & Jerry.  Those were really good too.

While we were warm and having fun in Orlando, it snowed up to 14" back in Virginia Beach.  While that would have been fun to some extent, without the boys it wouldn't have been nearly as great as being with family in Orlando.

It did get very cold in Orlando that night.  They put out freeze warnings for the Orange Groves.  Gary has a nice orange tree outside of his house that was loaded down with oranges.  We would pick a few for some orange juice when we wanted some.

Sunday we tried to go to Sea World, but it was too cold.  The news casters were teaching people how to scrape the frost and ice off their windshields with their credit cards and drivers licenses...which I thought was really funny.  That afternoon we ended back at Gary's with four small children, three big children, and three women married to the three big children.  There was another freeze forecast for that evening and it was fairly certain.  I don't know what freezes do to oranges, but it appears to be a big deal.  So, we picked the whole tree.  The best quote from the whole trip was what my sister-in-law said when we were all done, "The kids will always remember picking a hundred million oranges off of Grampa Gary's tree."  I believe they will.  Hopefully I can get a picture from my family as I didn't take any, being too busy picking.

Monday morning we went to Winterpark to see where my mom and Grampa Gary got married.  It is a beautiful spot.  We even got our picture taken by a photographer that was waiting on a group to show up.  She took our picture for free.  :-)  It was so cold though that I don't blame her client for not showing up.

From 2010.12.25-31 Christmas Vacation

There is a state park about halfway between Orlando and Daytona, called Blue Spring State Park.  We had heard that there were a lot of manatees sheltering in the spring because it was warmer water than the river.  We went there on Monday and we were certainly not disappointed.  The spring was teeming with manatees.  I had never seen one before.  It was a truly awesome experience and we took lots of pictures.

From 2010.12.25-31 Christmas Vacation

That night we had dinner with the family again, everyone contributing something.  SGG and I had our first experience with an iPad (and now we own one).  My brother and I tried some dancing game...and everyone thought that was hilarious.

We were keeping a close eye on the weather.  The intent going to Ft Myers and Sanibel Island was that we would camp for the rest of the week on Sanibel.  When the temperatures were dipping into the low 40's and high 30's SGG drew the line.  On Tuesday we headed south, but to a hotel, not a tent.  On the way we went through some interesting towns as the GPS took us off the interstates and I swear we went back in time.  I believe it was Winterhaven that had a McDonalds that looked like something from the 50's or 60's.  One town we stopped in we couldn't find an open restaurant.  It was sort of strange.  What was even stranger was that the Droid kept wanting to take us back through there on the return trip.  I finally just turned the navigation off and found my own way to the interstate.  When we got there, the hotel hadn't cleaned all the rooms so it was several hours before we could check in.  We went over to walk on the beach at Sanibel.  I've only been there during winter months before, but it never dropped below 70 degrees.  Being on the beach at 45-50 degrees was sobering and not very pleasant.  The water was cold enough that I didn't think I would be getting in at all regardless of whether the temperature changed or not.

It was beautiful though.  Billions of little seashells where the ocean meets the land.  We left right around sunset and went back to the hotel.  They still weren't ready for us so we waited.  I think they cleaned our room last.

Wednesday was better.  We got over to Sanibel and checked into our campground.  We got the tent setup and were ready for adventure.  As long as that adventure didn't include warm sunny weather.  We walked down and rented a couple of beach cruiser bikes for a couple of days...and that is how we got around the islands after that. :-)  We stopped in at a cool local breakfast diner place that was also part grocery store.  There were several shops in an architecturally pleasing group with different parrots spread throughout.  We rode our bikes down to take a tour of the island's nature preserve, J.N. Ding Darling Nature preserve.  We got to see lots of different types of birds there, and a bunch of fish too.  There were a couple of volunteers that we talked to about the various birds.  It was a rather long bike ride.  After the preserve we made the long trek back to the campground (the other end of the island) and crashed for bit.  For dinner we just walked to a close by restaurant.

From 2010.12.25-31 Christmas Vacation

From 2010.12.25-31 Christmas Vacation

Thursday was still cold.  We got up and headed out to do a kayak tour of Tarpon Bay after breakfast.  Again, a lot more birds.  Afterwards we pedaled through another nature trail hoping to see some aligators, but I think they were too cold to show themselves too.  From there we pedaled up to the Seashell Museum.  That was one of the coolest places we saw this trip.  Not only did they have lots of great shells, they had all sorts of information about the critters that make and live in those things.  Snails can be quite vicious.  We rode back and decided that we wanted to spend Friday at Seaworld in Orlando and figured it would be better to drive back that night.  We turned in our bikes and packed up our stuff.  The one place I really wanted to eat, and trust me when I say that I think we planned the trip around eating, was a fabulous restaurant called the Bubble Room.  It is on Captiva, just north of Sanibel, and we drove there.  SGG was not biking and truthfully I was done with it too by that point.  There is a lot of lore surrounding the Bubble Room and you should go read about it for yourself.  If your journey takes you near Ft Myers and Sanibel, it is a must that you stop by and have a meal.  I wouldn't plan on finishing it though.  Guard your leftovers jealously and with great zeal.  I'll tell you why next.

From 2010.12.25-31 Christmas Vacation

We drove back to Orlando that night, on the Interstate, and didn't have any issues or time travel experiences.  The next morning we got breakfast and headed to Sea World.  It was crowded, but with our passes from Busch Gardens here in Williamsburg, we got front row parking right in front of the Entrance.  We had a great watching the dolphins, manatees, and so many other things.  The lines for the rides were really long, but seriously?  Why are there rides at Sea World?

From 2010.12.25-31 Christmas Vacation

It was New Years eve and we headed out from Sea World early to take Grampa Gary to dinner at one of his favorite places, the Boston Fish House.  I remembered that we had tried this before, about 21 years prior, and they were closed.  Sure enough, some checking showed that they were closed, but that they had opened a second restaurant north of Orlando that was open.  We had a splendid dinner together, and New Years Eve was awesome.  The only downside was that when we went back to the hotel to clean up before going to dinner, there had been a mix-up and our room had been cleaned, and cleaned out.  They bagged up all of our stuff and put it in the office, and they threw out my Bubble Room leftovers.  I am still bummed about it some three months later.  It happens and I'm learning to get over it.

A little side the expense of someone I know..
She was camping with her family in St Augustine and called her husband over to because she wanted him to see this opossum.  He walked up and said that it wasn't an opossum, it was an armadillo.  So, while we were at Sea World we saw an looked a lot like an opossum so I thought I would share this picture with her.

From 2010.12.25-31 Christmas Vacation

It is an opossum, but I couldn't pass up the jab...especially since she gets me quite often about a camping trip we did one time in Yosemite.

New Years Day we flew back to Virginia Beach!

Camera's seemed to be a difficulty with us on this trip, but here are the pictures we did get!

Link to the album is here

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