Sunday, February 11, 2018

The "Key" to a Great Weekend

We are members of the Monday through Friday construction crew once again as we work with Habitat for Humanity in Sebring, Florida during the month of February.

I spent the first week learning to measure, cut, and hang drywall with my favorite teacher. We were enjoying the long, warm days and the satisfying work, but were also looking forward to the joy of 
The Weekend
and the chance to meet up with our friend, Dave, who was vacationing near the Florida Keys.

Now, as our readers may know by now, a weekend with Dave is alway fun but not always so relaxing. The "key" to our great weekend is to see and experience all the beauty that the Florida Keys has to offer.

Our three hour drive turned into four as we slowly rolled past Miami to our hotel in Florida City. The sun may have been setting, but Dave still had big plans that included a ranger-lead moonlight walk at Everglades National Park, just 20 minutes from our hotel.

We were definitely not alone as we hiked along the Anhinga Trail boardwalk! It was great fun to learn about their habits and see a few of the 1.5 million alligators that "hang out" with us humans in Florida.

On Saturday morning we set out on one of the most beautiful road trips in the US ... the 100 mile drive down Highway 1 to Key West, Florida. This area took a direct hit from Hurricane Irma last September, but we are grateful to see signs of its recovery.

While there are still occasional piles of debris and patches of "stressed out" trees, businesses are open and eager to welcome back the tourists ... like this ice cream shop that lured us in. 

Our first stop was at mile marker 48.5. On Dave's bucket list and sounding interesting to us was a tour of the Turtle Hospital on Marathon Key. 

Our 90 minute tour was filled with interesting facts and fascinating views of the sick and injured sea turtles that were rescued in the area.

Most are brought into the hospital with injuries from predators, fishing lines, boat propellers, and human pollution. The hospital's motto is "rescue, rehab, and release". These green sea turtles are practicing their swimming skills in the huge salt water pool as they heal and prepare for eventual release back into the ocean. They seemed to enjoy some of the special treats that we were able to feed them.

The Key West sunshine and scenery greeted us as we arrived there around noon. 

Hungry for lunch, Doug's "brewery GPS" honed in on The Waterfront Brewery. They served up a beautiful view as well as delicious fresh fish. And Doug claims that their "Crazy Lady" honey blond beer was as wonderful as his own crazy lady. 

After lunch we set out to explore Key West. Since it was a Saturday, and there were three cruise ships docked, we expected the city to be bustling. But it did not seem overly crowded, and it was actually very pleasant to walk down Duval Street to see the sites.

Ice cream ahead!
Saving that location on Dave's "ice cream GPS" for our return trip.

Photo op at the marker for the
Southernmost Point of the Continental USA

The Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory intrigued me, so we paid a visit to ...

"excite our senses" and "expand our mind" while surrounded by thousands of graceful flying creatures.

Afterwards, we made our way over to Fort Zachary Taylor State Park which provided a great location for ...

... walking on the beach (and a dip in the ocean for Dave),

... viewing the cruise ships as they continue on their journey,

... and capturing another unique sunset shot.

With darkness arriving, it was time to make our way back along the harbor ...

... following Dave's "ice cream GPS" in order to refuel for our 100 mile trip back to the hotel,

... and plan for our final day in the Keys.

Sunday brought us more sunshine and the promise of an 80 degree day for Dave! Perfect for kayaking and hiking at John Pennekamp State Park in Key Largo.

While gliding through the mangrove-lined paradise,

... I realize life is pretty good (even if Doug insists that I help paddle!)

An afternoon lunch of take-out Chinese food that we brought into Islamorada Brewing

... along with more ice cream help fuel our trip back to our current home in Sebring.

As we said our goodbyes, we realized that the "Key" to a great weekend is found not only in the beauty of the scenery,

... but also in the fun of the friends that surround us. 

Until next time ... "Key" in on the gift of friendship ... and enjoy the adventures in your life!

What do you think?

Is Doug planning the next RVenture with his crazy lady?!?!

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Bucket Lists and Future Planning: Dream Big

As we travel around the country, we have stayed in some beautiful campgrounds. But, as you can imagine, it takes a little advance planning ... you don't just park a 40 foot RV anywhere you please.

We were happy to have some time to devote to "future RVentures planning" this past week at Lake Louisa State Park. The park is located close enough to Orlando to hear "booms" from the nightly fireworks shows, yet far enough away to enjoy the beauty of "Old Florida".

While we were thinking about possible destinations, researching campgrounds, and planning fun "side trips", we were also able to soak up the beauty of our surroundings. Located twenty miles west of Disney World, we were far enough away to enjoy quiet hiking and bike trails while still being within striking range of all the reasons people visit Orlando. 

Since we saturated ourselves with Disney two years ago, we were happy to just be able to go there one evening to meet a friend who was in town for a conference. We enjoyed a visit and dinner at Big River Grill and Brewery at Disney's Boardwalk Inn. There Doug scored with his first beer coaster from Walt Disney World ... probably one of the cheaper Disney souvenirs one can get!

Being so close to all of Orlando's attractions, we were feeling a slight magical pull to check out Harry Potter World at Universal Studios. But after realizing that it would cost us almost $250 each for one day's admission and the "Express" pass, we withstood the pressure from his magical wand and enjoyed the ordinary beauty of our "muggle" world.

We drove eight miles up the road into Clermont and picked up the South Lake bike trail on the shores of beautiful Lake Minneola. The trail joins up with the West Orange bike trail, and twelve miles later we discovered the fun town of Winter Garden. Live music, great pizza and craft beer on the patio of the Crooked Can Brewing Company made this a trip that I could easily talk Doug into doing more than once.

Another afternoon we explored the other "wild" side of Florida on the James Van Fleet bike trail.

The flat trail seemed pretty mellow ... until that "log" on the side of the trail turned out to be a rather large alligator.

Fun to see a few more of those smiling gator faces from a safer distance further down the trail.

When we weren't biking or hiking, we spent quite a bit of time planning for the future ... looking at our bucket list, creating some long term RV plans, and making changes to some of the current plans. 

Working on a few RV maintenance projects got us thinking about our next "home". We have both decided that we want to downsize further in the future ... but how small? A campervan would be more nimble and allow us to get into more primo campsites. But could we survive life together in a 20 foot long campervan? We decided to visit the Tampa RV Show one day to check out our options. 

 What do you think? 

I think that the Wildebeest just perfect for the time being ...

... especially with my talented "fix-it" man! Thanks to him, I have a refrigerator that is working again.

Other future planning had to do with some "Bucket List" items.

Learn Spanish: As we quickly realized during our trip to Colombia, we are far from fluent in Spanish. Immersion in the culture and language is key ... and Medellin is a beautiful city to immerse ourselves in. Doug researched and booked the apartment where we will live and learn for four months next winter.  

Sail the Caribbean: This past week we received an invite to join some friends for a sailing vacation at the end of March around the British Virgin Islands. That is a BIG bucket list item for Doug ... that will be fairly easy to accomplish with a little juggling of campsite reservations. I better start studying some sailing terms ... bow, stern, port, starboard ... oh, my!

See Kennedy Space Center from an adult prospective:

Being close to the Space Coast, we decided that maybe we could finally do our "bucket list" visit to the Kennedy Space Center.  We had tried to see it in 1992 with a then 5 year old in tow, but didn't get much past the entrance sign.

Now is our time to explore space!

We were happy to see that we qualified for the "senior" rate and got in for an admission price of $48 each that included a bus tour, a Shuttle flight simulation, the IMAX movie "A Beautiful Planet", rocket displays, and much more. 

The Vehicle Assembly Building is the tallest
one story building in the world.
The American flag on the side is 22 stories long!
A different kind of beauty attracts Doug's
attention in the "Rocket Garden".
The astronauts ride in style
to the launchpads ... how about that for a future home?
Spectacular from any view!
Do you "old folks" remember where you were
when you saw Neil Armstrong walk on the moon
on Sunday, July 20, 1969?
And on a more somber note, we also
remember where we were when we saw
the Challenger disaster on January 28, 1986.
But despite some setbacks,
space knowledge continues to grow today
with the success of the International Space Station

As we were leaving at around 4:30, large groups of school age children with suitcases and sleeping bags were coming into the Kennedy Space Center to begin an overnight visit. Their excitement and enthusiasm helped us realize that they are working on their "bucket list" items .... and one item could very well be:
To be the first to travel to Mars!

All great adventures just take a little planning to fulfill those BIG dreams!

Until next time ... dream BIG ... turn those bucket list items into reality ... and enjoy the adventures in your life!

We are off to Sebring, Florida for the next month to work on another bucket list item ... help build a house and hope for those affected by Hurricane Irma.