Back on the Road Again…Freeze Warning!

Greetings, my dearest Blog Readers!  If you haven’t noticed, I’ve taken a blog break since we returned home in October.  But what do you know–we have been off and on the road again for the past few months and I have been remiss in updating my blog!  I will try to do much better in the future!

We decided that we would leave Baby tucked away in Florida during the winter season so that we would not get stuck for the whole season like we did last year.

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It didn’t take too much urging to make us start thinking about heading South this past winter. Just one glance out of our window in Virginia did the trick.

Let’s just say last year was a learning experience.  Just think lots of snow and ice for months (felt like years!), finally pulling poor Baby out of the mud with a tractor when her rear wheels were mired in some of the gooiest snowmelt mud you can imagine–and then after parking her in our driveway to load her up, we woke up to eight more inches of snow!  No, we didn’t want to go there again!!  So we gave Baby a big break and let her winter in the warmer, gentler climes of Florida.  And of course the really good part of this is that we could slip down here and warm our frozen bones a bit too.

This past winter, Virginia suffered through repeated snowfalls, frigid temperatures, and “wintry mix” storms that make me turn blue just thinking about them.  However, we made several treks south throughout the winter and that made a big difference in our psyches!

During our first visit south, we drove down through Georgia instead of doing the Autotrain so that we could visit with family on the way down–which was very nice!  We had not seen everyone since last October so it was great catching up with all the latest happenings and eating some absolute best food ever–Georgia catfish– whenever possible.  But we soon realized traveling in the Jeep sure does not compare with the roomy comfort of Baby!  Bob said after we arrived in Tampa that he’d gotten so used to the comfort of driving Baby he didn’t think he could make himself get back in the Jeep for another long distance haul.  So our return trip was definitely via Autotrain!  We took lots of pillows and found a quiet corner to curl up, read books (iPad for Bob too)–and even slept a little throughout our night on the rails!

NAPLES:  At one point we spent a few peaceful days in Naples, Florida visiting with Baby and our wonderful friends, Dianne and Larry Hamner, and enjoying unreal balmy weather in the 70s with beautiful, glorious sunshine…..  The bad part?  We had to go back to WINTER after a few short weeks.  But that’s OK–at least we were able to thaw a little!

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What’s not to like? Digging my toes in the sand in the depths of winter. Ummmm….
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Eating seafood in the open air of a quaint dock….while our home back home is encased in a block of ice.
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Listening to the gentle waves as I half-doze while supposedly reading my latest beach book….
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Lazily strolling the beach and collecting sandy shells for absolutely no reason….

This was our first time (we think!) in Naples and it was beautiful.  (When you get to a certain age, the details of life can be a little fuzzy.)  I was interested in beachcombing, and soaking up a few rays of sun.  I even spiced it up with a little shopping here and there (Florida has plenty of shopping opportunities!)

Bob just relaxed and enjoyed the warmth of January in a place that does not require shoveling snow.

We went to the Naples pier one afternoon and were very impressed by a Kamikaze Pelican who kept nose-diving into the water next to the dock with a fearlessness that almost resulted in collisions on several occasions.  I guess the Naples municipal folks fear the same thing (collisions) since they have a VERY LARGE net tucked away on the dock for pelican rescues.  In fact, we were told that the pelicans tend to get wrapped up in the fishing pole lines as well.  Being a crazy wild pelican can be risky business….especially when you’re diving into a dock built to withstand hurricanes!

After Naples, we made the transition back to snow and ice, celebrated some very important birthdays with family, and then I made a quick trip to Utah to see Mikaela in a school musical production and get lots of hugs and kisses from her and our sweet Sammy.

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We celebrated Tracie’s birthday in late February in our currently favored Japanese restaurant. We will not identify her age–oh no! Is it written on her plate????
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Ashley, our St. Patrick’s Day baby, is celebrating her birthday with the wearing of the green!

 

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Mikaela played a milkmaid in her school production and what a lively milkmaid–she lit up the stage!
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Post-performance, Mom is passing out chocolate brownies to Mikaela and her co-performers. Guess who LOVES chocolate?

In the five days I was in Utah, we made the rounds and crammed a whole bunch of activities into our few precious days together!  We stayed very busy but squeezed in a quick trip to the marine museum, attended several soccer practices and games, and met T-Bone, the latest bloodhound addition to the Salt Lake City Police Department.

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Junior, Mike’s working partner, was showing T-Bone, the latest addition to the SLC police force, the ropes. In this case it was stealing the show from Mikaela and the other soccer players.
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T-Bone was quite the center of attention at Lisa and Mike’s house. They were babysitting him for a few days and I’m sure he went home much more spoiled than before he arrived! Junior didn’t seem to mind at all!
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Mikaela hid T-Bone on her bed. Can you guess which stuffed puppy is T-Bone?

Then, the highlight of our week, a trip to the marine museum in Salt Lake City was very popular, not to mention lunch at Fresh Tomatoes!

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Sammy and Mikaela loved swimming with the whales while at the museum–those poor whales will never be the same again!
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What does Mikaela love? Sharks, Shark Week, shark necklaces, stuffed sharks, shark bracelets, shark movie making (in her bathtub with all the lights out with flashlight on circling sharks while videotaping the scene of doom!).
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Mikaela and Sammy watching a movie in their own private theatre that appeared under the stairs last Christmas Eve.
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Sammy winning against himself!

BRADENTON:  After our Naples sojourn, we headed back to Virginia hoping that we could take some of that beautiful warm beach atmosphere back with us…. Well, nah, didn’t work!  It was still as cold and freezing as when we left!  So a few weeks later, we were back in Tampa to pick up Baby and give her some love!  She was patiently awaiting us and still enjoying her extended vacation….  So we headed to Bradenton to explore that area situated close to Sarasota, Siesta Key, and a whole bunch of beaches and venues well known for their sweet beach vibes and astounding sunsets.  It was even more fun because we had company, starting with Bob’s sister, Sandy, and her husband Jack.  Once Sandy and Jack left,  the Hamners came down and kept us busy discovering all kinds of things to get into, including just sitting on the beach under an umbrella and reading a good book.

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Sandy and Jack spent a few days with us in Bradenton. It was so nice to have them visit! We hope we can convince them to come back for more “glamping”! Sandy is demonstrating her exercise technique while watching TV in the exercise room while taking a nap! Way to go Sandy!
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Hanging with the Hamners at another little beach place with your choice of very fresh seafood! What a life!
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Did you say white sandy beaches? Yes, it is sand (not snow!).
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Gentle breezes in the palms…
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Who minds waiting for a table when THIS is the waiting area?
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Night falls and the sun sets slowly….
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Wow–this happens EVERY DAY!
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The sun literally melts into the water….ummmm

FLORIDA KEYS:  I know–it’s hard to leave a place like this.  But we have places to go and that would be those famous Florida Keys I’ve heard so much about!  We headed to Key Largo first and met the Hamners (Diane and Larry, our very old buddies from many years ago.  Sorry, guys, didn’t mean it to sound like THAT!)  On our first day out roaming around we made some remarkable discoveries.  First, the Keys do have a certain mystique that I would like to explore a LOT more; and TWO, yes we DID find the most perfectly scrumptious Key Lime Pie ever!!!  Sorry, though, I don’t remember the name of the restaurant but I do know exactly how to get there!

It had been a busy day.  We drove with Diane and Larry down to Key West to go exploring.  Well, Key West was fun but the fun didn’t really begin until we decided to stop for dinner about 10 miles south of Key Largo.  We sat on the deck overlooking the marina and watched the fishing boats returning for the night.  We also sampled some wonderful seafood (as usual) and other delicious things.  But when dessert came out, everyone of us was blown away by the Key Lime Pie.  Well, it looked, tasted and smelled like a vision of perfection.  Talk about mile high pie!  Perfect, buttery graham cracker crust, with a light, fluffy, creamy, perfectly flavored multilayered key lime filling…I can go on and on….  They have a chef who bakes them each day (except when we came back a few days later for a second slice and the cook was off that day—I felt like crying!)  But I will go back.  So look for a big yellow building south of Key Largo, with marlins shaped like a heart (see below) behind the marina, and you’ll know you are about to have the best Key Lime Pie ever!  That is, if the cook is in….

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We spent many hours floating and napping on and around this fantastic pool at our campground in Key Largo–with views that go on forever.
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If you see this sculpture, you are about to eat the FINEST Key Lime Pie!
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In Key Largo, we took a glass-bottomed boat for a tour of the reef. Beautiful! Warning–don’t look down for too long or you may start turning green!
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So, OK, you’ve probably heard everything is bigger in Texas? I bet they haven’t seen this crab in Key Largo!!
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Getting ready to board for our reef tour. Notice everyone looks nice and pink? No after pictures allowed!
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Moving on down to Key West once Ashley arrived, we found ourselves camped in a campsite with our own ocean view, dock, cabana tent, and fresh cool breezes that will lull you to sleep oh so gently….
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Lunching in Key West!

 

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There’s a long story about it but the bottom line is roosters–roosters EVERYWHERE in Key West. It’s kind of like cows in India. A very unique aspect of Key West!

So I think I’ve almost caught up with our last trip south, which is a good thing since we are now well on our way on our summer trip.  Tonight we are in South Dakota, and we have an ambitious agenda while we are in this state–so much to see and do!  But I’ll leave you with Ashley at one of the most photographed spots in Key West–in fact you have to stand in line to take a picture!  But we just decided to photobomb since it was way too hot to stand in a line that long!

Beginning tomorrow, I will catch you up with the West/East/North itinerary we have this summer.  We are heading toward Custer with all its charms and places to see, then to Utah to visit the kids for a couple weeks.  Then we head to Canada and lastly the New England states before heading home.  So lots ahead of us!  Many hugs for friends and family!  HAPPY TRAILS!

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Ashley helped me with this classic pose–the point in Key West that is only steps away (90 miles to be exact) from Havana….the southernmost point in the United States.