We left Pensacola early in the morning. We were hoping to make it to our next stop by lunch. Can you tell where we had lunch? We made it to New Orleans! The last time we were here was before Hurricane Katrina did her damage. While we were looking for a place to park we drove around and around and around the historic French Quarter. While it is the same it is still very different. Maybe it is just my romantic notions of the French Quarter or the new sheet rock in the stores. Maybe it is that I liked the way the walls had that worn tea stain looks to them, I am just not sure. I think Katrina has taken something more away and I just can't put my finger on it. The French Quarter is still very much alive with its atmosphere.
That poor donkey. I think every time we stopped he was thinking our little red car was a juicy apple to try and take a bite out of. Several times he was all the way up by the back passenger window before he would stop. I think we may still have tongue prints on the window.
We had every intent on eating in the French Quarter but our appetite and the parking situation dictated otherwise. Finally after we had all had enough of the narrow streets and traffic we decided just to find a place to eat, any place. So since my dream of having the kids try real creole jambalaya were vanishing quickly we settled on a Popeye's. Hey, at least they had red beans and rice. I know not nearly quite the same but it just had to do because I think we may have turned into cannibals if we would have had to wait much longer.
Over lunch we all discussed our future vacation plans and wishes. I think we were all getting a little road weary. So the decision was made to make a push to just get home. So from that point on the only stops we made were basically gas and potty stops.
This was the view we saw just before we reached Shreveport. Isn't that gorgeous! So in one days time we crossed from Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas and home to Oklahoma. We pulled into home about 2am. What a long drive that was. It made some of us act a little sillier than normal but we made it.
We dragged in the necessities and called it a night. What a great trip. I hope my children have and keep as many cherished memories as I will.
This day was set to mostly a drive day. After all it is along way up the inside Gulf side of Florida. We started our morning in Spring Hill, Florida. While I was checking out I asked the concierge where the closest beach was to where we were staying. Given the oil spill I wanted just one last chance to see a clean beach. We either got the directions wrong or were just gifted and only found this little water side city park. This doesn't quite measure to a sandy beach. We were pleased with the view just not what we were expecting.
We headed north up I-98. Which is pretty much what we expected little bit of scenery and a whole lot of road. One eventful thing did happen. We were in some small town and the road came to a standstill. Next thing we know we police helicopters flying overhead as well as police going the wrong way on the other side of the median. Not sure what was going on I chose to start scanning for local radio stations and see if by chance we could learn anything. We got lucky on about the 3rd station. Turns out that at the next stop light in front of us (about 1/3 mile) there had been a shooting. Scary! We were just stuck there. The DJ said that he had been in his booth about 10 minutes when this all went down. Get this the radio station was at this intersection. Bless his heart he was so excited. About every 45 seconds he would mention that the north bound traffic was stopped but the south bound was still moving (yeah we kind of got that). I guess the angels were watching out for us because on the radio the local police stated live that this was a random shooting. Some guy just walked up to a car at the red light and shot. Did I point out that we were only about 1/3 a mile from this. That was a little to close for comfort. Anyway the police kept the north bound lanes at a stand still until they did their investigation. We sat there maybe 30 - 45 minutes before they let the traffic move. The rest of the drive was pretty uneventful and long.
Finally we were able to start heading west. We made one of our stops at Panama City Beach. This did turn out to be our last chance to see clean Gulf waters. Look at that picture of hubs doesn't he look good. We took the opportunity to let the kids try and spend the last of their vacation money at Ron Jon's Surf shop. It was funny to watch them. They ended up getting nothing with their money. They were disappointed when mom and dad would not use our money for their stuff. The best part is less petty junk at home and they really haven't missed it.
Out side of Panama City Beach we saw many beach front properties. I thought these two little cuties encompass what I think of when I think beach front home.
This was a long driving day with a few well placed rest stops. I was sad to see the end was coming. I think we were all starting to feel like it was time to get back home.
This image. This is the image I want to remember the most from our vacation. We woke up early this morning so that we could arrive on Sanibel Island as the sun was rising. Walking on the beach and exploring what the Gulf waters have to offer. Sanibel is one of our nations national natural treasures. The deposits of shells seem to be never ending. Given that the heat always gets to my son I knew the only way we would all enjoy this was as the sun rose and I was not disappointed.
The kids each completely filled their buckets. One thing that my son was quick to point out is that the beach here isn't as soft as the others we had been to. He also realized that it is because there are so many more shells here than were on all of the other beaches we visited combined.
While walking along the water I spotted this. A horse shoe crab coming in, in the surf. I don't think the kids had ever seen one and even if they had never where they could touch it. Unfortunately it was no longer living but what a neat thing for these Okies to get to experience.
Sanibel has a lighthouse as well. This was our second lighthouse on this road trip.
After finishing our morning beach walk we went to the J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge.
This was the closest we have been able to get to the mangroves. I can not help but wonder how the early settlers must have struggled to navigate these. The root systems are so intense.
This Blue Huron (I think and very well could be wrong) really did let us get this close. My daughter was just inches away when it finally decided to take off.
Our next stop was for a snack. I never realized just how fun ice cream cones could be. The heat and humidity were high so the cones were melting at a time warped speed. Can you guess who made the biggest mess.
Dad, he had the ice cream all the way down his hands and arm. The laughter that was brought on by the melting ice cream will be unforgetable.
Next we headed back into Fort Meyers. I had also been really looking forward to taking the kids to the Thomas Edison and Henry Ford Winter Estates Museum. By this time in the day we were more than ready for an air conditioned experience. Unfortunately I forgot to take pictures inside because we were to busy doing our self guided tour. While the kids did enjoy it I am not so sure they realized just how much these two gentlemen have contributed to our modern day comforts. Maybe we will get lucky and when they study about them in school they will remember seeing some of this stuff first hand.
I did manage to get a picture of the banyan tree that was outside the museum. The kids were amazed that this was just one tree. I didn't even get the whole thing in the picture it is quite large. I was not so impressed to learn that the local birds really enjoy the fruit from said banyan tree. I didn't even know the banyan tree produced a fig like fruit. The local feathered friends left us that lesson on our car.
This day was so worth the extra drive and time on the trip. I think all of us have the memories of a life time from it.
This was to be our last day in Jacksonville Beach. Our sweet little cutie and her momma rode their bike over to our hotel to say good bye. I sure do miss them. They stayed visiting for about an hour when we decided to have one last memory together. We chose to walk the pier and boardwalk together. I am so glad we did it was so hard to say good bye. These two people are such precious treasures in my life. I don't know if they will ever know just how much they mean to me. While I love E his girls have my heart. After a nice stroll and some excessive tourist shopping we said our final good byes.
Our goal was the long way to Fort Meyers for the night and see a few things along the way.
This chain link in St. Augustine got all of our attention. How unique is that. Hubby and I have decided that we will make this one of our future destination cities because so much there caught our eye that we would like to explore.
One of our goals was to get our son close enough to the launch pad so that he could see a space shuttle. There was not enough time to visit NASA on this trip so this was as close as he got. If you look just on the left at the distant shore line you can see two of the launch pads. Unfortunately I think it was impossible to tell if the shuttle was at or on either one of them.
We made it passed Coco Beach to land hear. I Dream Of Jeannie LN. Yes, this place really does exist and it is a public beach that is named for the show I Dream of Jeannie. A fun note was this was the same place I had stopped last time in Florida while heading to A and E's wedding. Strange how life pulls us in the same directions sometimes.
We took the kids on the nature boardwalk trail just to stretch a bit. I think this is the same picture that was taken last time I was hear although it isn't as green or maybe it us just the boards are a little more weathered.
The nature walked ended up being more of a reptile walk. We saw more lizards here than anywhere else on our adventure. This is just a few that stayed still long enough for me to snap a photo.
By the time we left it felt as though even the sea wheat was waving us a sad good bye. As it was the last time we were on an Atlantic beach on this trip.
Somewhere on our quest to see the space shuttle we came across this. We don't see these in Oklahoma. Can you guess?
No it is not a train crossing.
It is a draw bridge! We were the first in line! It was pretty exciting for us. I won't bore you with all the sequential pics I took but for us this was pretty entertaining and a nice distraction while driving.
Finally we were able to at least see a space shuttle even though it was not on the launch pad. We tried to find a place to park without any success. So this was the best we could get while we kept on making time.
Now who can go to Florida and not see anything Disney. If you can do that you must just be blind and even then I think Mr. Walt has some way of letting you know they are there.
We did make it to Fort Meyers in the late evening so that we could get up early the next morning. Because it was one of the days I was so looking forward to showing and spending with my kids.
We started our morning off with the continental breakfast at our hotel The Palms Retro. I think I have mentioned how much I loved this place. Look at this room they have created for breakfasts. Notice the patriotic balloons. They even decorated the court yard for the holiday as well. It is those little personal touches that I adored about this place. They even provided one of the better continentals that we experienced on this trip. BTW don't you just love the girls expression she is always such a delight in the mornings. hehe
After breakfast hubby and I decided to take a morning walk. We let the kids watch what ever Nick toon or Disney what not they wanted while hubby and I went for the walk. It was only fair since we ditched cable a year ago the only time they get their fix is when they are somewhere else, and it is a vacation after all. Look at that beach sunrise, breath taking. One of the things that I noticed is how in the morning it is people fishing and then as the day gets going that is when the swimmers and surfers take over. What a beautiful 4th this was going to be.
We were walking along heading back to the hotel by all the beach front gift shops and eateries when this evil looking turtle enticed hubby to come and sit on its lap. Look out honey I think he is going to ninja slap you into his knee. Who needs the kids for goofy tourist pics when the hubs will do. (snicker, snicker)
After her afternoon nap we spent most of the evening with this little cutie and her momma and daddy. Has anyone ever noticed just how fast a toddler can move. Out of the 50 or so pics I took of her this is the only one that is somewhat in focus. She had a blast playing with that box. Her momma and daddy were nice enough to hold a small get together for the 4th. E did some grillin and A did the rest. She made one of the best dips I have had. I had to use a whole lot of restraint from grabbing the bowl and yelling "MINE, MINE it is all MINE." Her skills in the kitchen have come a long way since she the day she tried to burn my kitchen down by mistake.
As the evening progressed we watched a party just down the block get disbursed by the police. Now this was some party. It was a corner house with a swimming pool in the back. They had removed several fence panels to allow people access. They rented several of those blow up party things like a slide and obstacle course. I bet there were at least 100+ people there. I also bet that at least 70 arrived there via beach bike. While all the action was entertaining I guess the police thought it was to much.
As the evening got later our little cutie needed to crash for the night. It was still pretty early maybe 8ish.. We took the opportunity to head back to our hotel.
Seeing that our hotel was so close to the beach we had prime parking and walked to the beach for the fire works. Let me just say WOW! We entered the beach by life guard tower. The large two story house to the north was having a huge party. Their sound system was plenty loud enough that we were able to enjoy it a good distance along the beach. Once on the beach I have never seen so many people in one location setting of fire works in my life. We saw everything going off both directions. It came to a point that my daughter and I stood in the water about knee deep and just watched. Everything from sparklers to huge in the air displays. OooooooAaaaahhh. We probably stayed a couple of hours watching the never ending sights. An interesting event was that the house with the party was shooting off HUGE air displays off of their balcony. A small miss fire and there was a fire. Do you think it stopped anything? No. They put out the fire and kept shooting off more. I couldn't believe it. I wish I had taken pictures but I just plain forgot. It was all so fascinating. Around 9ish the Jacksonville Beach Pier shot off the city fireworks. They were great and when that was over the private individuals didn't miss a beat and set off more. It was nothing but fireworks as far as the eye could see both directions. What an awesome way to spend the 4th.
We woke up to one of the most beautiful sunrises this morning. I wish I was a better photographer because this picture just doesn't do it justice.
We hit the road and finally crossed over into the sunny state of Florida!
We stayed at the cutest hotel on Jacksonville Beach The Palms Retro. If you are headed their way this is the place to stay. Their web site is www.palmsretro.com. I don't like to use this blog for publicity but I absolutely L-O-V-E-D this place. It is one of the old type beach hotels. One story tall and in a U shape with a court yard. I think they only have about 10 or 12 rooms. They were considerably more affordable than the large beach hotels. It is family owned and they have an on site manager. To say this place was cute just isn't enough. When we drove up this places screamed 50's beach party. From the turquoise and pink paint to the decorations in each room. Talk about finding a gem. Bonus is that since it is an older hotel our room actually had room. We weren't tripping on each other to walk to the bathroom or the door. The hospitality is wonderful. They had a small fridge with bottled cold water waiting for us and it wasn't for an additional charge! They had a nice coffee maker not like the ones in the pricey hotels (even though we don't drink coffee I noticed). We had a microwave as well as they provided microwave popcorn! Given that we are a family of four traveling it was really nice to have four large bath towels in the bathroom. I don't get why the other hotels think that four people only need two bath towels.
We stayed in the room called the "The Tube" and it was just adorable. If you notice they even had a retro alarm clock on the night stand. They had coffee table books about the 50's tv shows. They even provided two retro DVDs. I know one was I Love Lucy can not remember the other one. The murals on the walls were perfect. Did you notice the head boards. I loved this room. I did not get a picture but even the light switch in the bathroom had Lucille Ball on it. Such personality in every corner where you looked.
Another bonus is they are an easy walk to the beach. Even better the place you enter the beach is where the main life guard tower is for that stretch of beach.
One of the most important reasons for this road trip was this beautiful little girl. She is my cousin's daughter and a piece of my heart. This was the first time I was able to visit her since her birth a year ago. Thank God she has been able to come to Oklahoma for me to meet her. Just look at all those curls. She has as big of a personality as Lucille Ball herself. Maybe that is why her daddy is PuertoRican. Love you E. I wish she were closer so I could watch her. What a joy she is. While we were visiting we were let in on a secret. If my family is seeing this the following picture is the only hint you will get from me.