2.  Snowbird for a Month…Florida January/February.2019

Day 12 January 19
Jill hooked up the trailer & we took off towards Bradenton.  We have a friend from high school, Michele, who has recently retired there & had made plans to meet her for lunch at a local brewery named “3 Keys".  We went early to check out the parking lot to make sure Jill could park the trailer there.  We were there an hour early & Jill had her weekly FaceTime with Jake, her youngest, while we waited.

Michele brought her husband Tom, & the four of us enjoyed a yummy lunch out on the patio.  They seem to have a retired to a pretty cool place in Florida & are enjoying life to the max!  It was great to see them!

Bradenton has wonderful white sand beaches & thankfully RV parking, so after lunch we hit the beach.  It’s still winter here, so not warm, but today was sunny.  We saw a Leisure Van, like the one Greg wants in the parking lot & ended up visiting with it’s owners for a few minutes.  Jill got some answers she was looking for. RV’ers are so friendly & willing to share info….the couple was retired & headed out west.  Lucky them!

We walked on the beach, saw dolphins (yay!!!), then sat on the beach for about an hour & chilled & read.  It was an enjoyable easy restful afternoon.

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So, tonight’s Harvest Host spot was a pretty parking lot at a golf course.  We were required to spend about $20 at the place.  They told Jill they were having a New Years party that night & a dinner, so we decided to go.  It was weird!  We ended up eating with a lot of really old people, who mostly all lived there at the golf course; the Jimmy Buffet type music was so loud you couldn’t hardly hear the old people taking to you….but we just ate & smiled & then left before the raffle prizes started.  The space we camped in was nice & quiet & surrounded by trees.  We just laughed about how it all went, chatted, then fell asleep.

Day 13 January 20
The weather was turning rainy & chilly & we couldn’t figure out what to do next.   We went out for breakfast & discussed options.  But Jill was ready to head back to Dallas.  So, we decided to end our adventure a day early.  I wasn’t due back at Sara’s until tomorrow, so I made arrangements to rent a car back in Orlando.  Jill dropped me off, we said a quick goodbye (her trailer couldn’t fit in the parking lot, so I hopped out of the car on the street, unlocked the trailer, threw my bags on the sidewalk, locked it back up, gave her the keys & waved good bye!) & she was off…heading back home.  It’d been so much fun…seeing all the RV’s, having dinner with our favorite podcaster, meeting Mandy & Kendrick, beach walking, our time together with Claire & Emma, & as always, our visits, chats & laughter.  We’ll see each other again in April in Texas at the Waxahachie event & then again in the fall at a Sisters on the Fly event in Texas.  But, for the first time in years, it’s looking like we won’t meet up in Colorado this summer.  Her family has scheduled at big trip to Florida during the week we usually get together & I know she’s really excited about that trip.  I know I’ll miss her a lot.

Now what was I going to do?  I sat in the rental, knowing I had about 24 hours to kill.  It was time for some kind of plan.  I headed East…then North.  I took a quick detour to the Tosohatchee Wildlife Management Area, but didn’t stay long.  The road looked kind of bad & I was in the teeniest tiniest rental car there was.  I tried to go to the Merritt National Seashore to enjoy that scenic drive, filled with birds of all kinds, but it was closed due to the stupid Government shutdown.  I drove slowly up highway 1…which I’ve been on multiple times before & always enjoys the views of the ocean.  I wasn’t in a hurry to get to wherever I was going…where was I going?

I stopped in the little town of New Smyrna & had forgotten how cute & quaint it is.  I parked & walked & went in & out of the little shops throughout the town.

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I walked on the beach in spite of the wind & cool temps. 

 Then I drove to their downtown & had a couple of small pour beersa Barleywine & Russian Imperial Stout-- at the local brewery. Most everyone at the brewery were anticipating the Sundays football gamethey werent rooting for the Chiefs.  I really dont care anything about football, so I left to go find a burger.

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I drove back down by the beach to Breakers…which is said to have one of the best burgers in the Orlando area (it’s not really in Orlando, but whatever.)  The bar is pretty cool in the fact that all around the edge of the place are huge windows & all the bar style seats face outward towards the ocean.  I got a seat & just soaked in the view.  The lady sitting next to me was super chatty, which was fine by me (she said her husband thinks it’s annoying.  I get it…I'm so much more on the chatty side & have listened to ‘quiet’ non-chatty people tell me all my life how annoying it is…like their being non verbal is better.  It’s just different thats all.  And all of us ‘chatters’ just need to stick together & enjoy each other’s company & let the quiet folks sit in a room by themselves enjoying their quiet-ness!)  Anyway, she was a traveler, which is my favorite subject to visit about, so while I ate my delicious burger & fries, she told me about her world travels.  Then there was the moon….how wonderful!  Tonight is the super moon eclipse or Red moon or something great about the moon.  All I know is, while I was hearing about River Cruises in Europe & eating delicious food, my eyes were having their own feast of watching the moonrise above the Atlantic Ocean….& then we spotted a dolphin leaping up in the air under the rising moon.  Does it get any better than that?  It was an “I’m so grateful for this moment” moment for sure!

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The chatty woman & her husband left after a bit, I finished by burger & the dark skies fell.  I snapped one last photo before I left the beach.

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Day 14 January 21
The temps are dropping…it was 38 degrees last night as I slept in the car.  I drove to a Starbucks on Daytona Beach around 6am, got some hot coffee then went to the beach to watch the sunrise.  I’ll admit, I didn’t walk on the beach this morning…It was chilly with a brisk wind blowing. 

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I drove around awhile, with the heater on, then took a short walk on the Ponce Inlet.  

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I stopped at Tiger Bay State Forest & looked for a hike, but didn’t find one.  Then I drove to the town of Deland…I was going to look at a truck.  Danny & I are talking about buying another Toyota Tacoma.  His ’96 has 360K miles on it & we’d like to get a new one with a shell that he could camp in.  So, I’ve been researching & trying to learn more about them.  I found a first generation Tacoma, 4WD with a shell in Deland & had been talking back & forth with the dealer finding more about it.  So, this morning, I’d planned to take it for a test drive.  But when I got there, I didn’t like it at all.  Each time I do this, I’m learning a bit more about these treasured trucks.  I’m not sure why, but I love researching Toyota's.  This is the third time on a trip, I’ve attempted to buy a vehicle….some people just buy t-shirts & coffee mugs.  But, I’ve yet to actually make a giant purchase & I definitely wasn’t buying this one.

But, the trip there, put me in a part of Florida I’d never explored so I enjoyed the drive heading back towards Orlando.  I stopped in Sanford & toured their tiny downtown.  For lunch, I had a s’more popsicle-at a place which makes their own marshmallows-- which was definitely a first!

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I made it back to Orlando before Sara & the girls were back from their day with friends at Animal Kingdom.  I sat on the porch & read in the sun for a while.  It was so much fun to see the girls again so soon…love, love, love these babies!

We ate dinner at one of my new favorite places…Tin & Taco....yummy!

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Day 15, 16 & 17 January 22-24
Over the weekend, Ms. Rose, the girls Nanny, had gotten sick.  So, I was on deck today & would be helping out the rest of the week or until she felt better.  We filled our days with play, happiness, pretend, dress up, hugs, etc.  It was fantastic!

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On Thursday evening, I took a time out & went to a couple of breweries in town & tried to give Sara & Kevin some time for themselves.  They were planning a trip this weekend to see Kevin’s family, & I figured they might enjoy the evening with just the four of them.  I had a good beer at Ocean Sun brewery then street tacos & a beer at Brass & Tap.  It was Bingo night, so I played a couple of rounds…I don’t think I’d played Bingo for about 25 years!  I had an interesting but not necessarily great conversation with a guy sitting next to me at the bar.  He had a strong British accent, but said he’d lived in Orlando for about 20 years.  His job, whatever that was, took him to London about 1/2 the time.  He asked me about my travels to Orlando & I eventually told him I was a car camper, but more out west than here.  He immediately accused me of being a Trump-follower & a gun toting NRA loving  person.  I asked “ why the hell do you think that?”…He said “you van living people all are”.  I just as quickly told him it’s pretty much the opposite…but he argued that he didn’t believe it.  He went on & on about how he thought I was.  I was just wishing he was one of the ‘quiet people’, but oh well.  He left & I wasn’t sorry to see him go.  And, I didn’t win at Bingo.

Day 18 January 25
So, since I’d planned this trip, I thought there would be a week when I didn’t know what I’d be doing.  I’d gotten Sara’s schedule in hopes to help out in the evening a couple of time while she was working.  Then with Rose getting sick I wasn’t sure when or if I’d be going somewhere else or not.  By Friday morning, Rose was better & ready to spend a full day with girls.  Claire wanted me to stay until she got home from school, so I did.  Love, love, love my time with them.

But, I really didn’t have a plan on what I would do for the next 4 days.  I had a car, but no plan.  But plans aren’t hard for me to make…they are sometimes crazy though, & this trip would definitely fall into that category.

the camping challenge…..
Id brought my sleeping bag with me & my camp boots.  That was it.  Jill had supplied me with everything I needed while we were in her trailer, but she was gone & I was left with two items…this would be interesting!  I know Florida is the hardest state to boondock in…a challenge in itself, but I was taking it to a new level &  missing my ‘camper’ 4Runner & everything I carry in it….but, here we go!  I always travel with my coffee mug, a water thermos & my headlamp, so I also had those items.  My first stop was a grocery store for a gallon of drinking water…I knew I would need that for sure.

I was calling this the foodie-road trip.  There was rain & cold temps in the forecastnot great beach weather.  So, I was mapping out four of my favorite Florida places to eat…& they were extremely far apart!  I left Friday afternoon & headed to the east coast.  I landed in Cocoa Beach then headed south on highway A1A  all the way to Melbourne.  I was going to have an early dinner at the Mansion.  It’s a huge old house turned restaurant that has an awesome selection of great beer & yummy burgers & a deck with a view.  The place was pretty empty in the afternoon & with 58 degree temps, no one was sitting on the deck…but me.  My server was wonderful…a chatty beer geek.  I read the beer menu…they had 8 Imperial Stouts on tap…a record number!  And two of my fave stouts of all time…I really wished Danny been there…he would love this too!

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I drove around for awhile, enjoying all the views I could take in. Then I spent a not so great night parking lot hopping as the temps continued to drop.  I was so glad I had my super warm down sleeping bag & camp boots!  But, in the end, I didn’t get much sleep & was pretty exhausted by morning.  Sometimes, that’s just the way it goes.

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