Thursday, September 2, 2010

Road Trip to Florida Keys with stops in Texas, Panama City, The Everglades, Miami and Charleston, South Carolina.

July, 2010- This was roughly a 6,000 mile, 100 hours in the car trip and we loved every minute of it. Well, almost. There were a few moments, but we learned to deal with them and it was an experience that I hope my children will never forget.

My parents took me on a trip to the Keys when I was 13 and I can tell you it has helped shape my life. I love to travel for one thing. I love to see and experience new things. It educated me a little on the world. We went in a truck with a camper on top. I remember laying up on the top bunk reading a book and looking out at nothing but clear, blue water below me and one skinny road. There was no shoulder on the 7 mile bridge to the Keys back then and it was amazingly beautiful.

My kids didn't quite have that experience since there were new bridges with shoulders and you couldn't see out very well but we made lots of great memories all the way down and all the way back. They will remember bits and pieces of the trip in their own way.

The kids favorite stop of all was in Texas where we stayed with my cousin Jalynne and her husband Gary. They live on a 40 acre ranch in a beautiful plantation style home. They were the best hosts we have ever experienced. Thanks Jalynne and Gary!

Wilson Arch- still in Utah

Somewhere in Utah

Somewhere in New Mexico

Stopped to check out Dallas

Stopped to help a lady who's car hood had come up and shattered her windshield as she was driving down the freeway. She was pretty shaken up

This was what was waiting for us at Jalynnes

Each of the kids had their own room!

Just off the kitchen- These pictures are for my cousins who have heard about Jalynnes house but never seen it yet!

The guest bedroom

Having fun with the mirror in my bathroom

The game room

Front entrance

Front Room

Family room area- there was a fridge stocked with drinks and other goodies for the kids- they loved that!

Part of the yards

Pool area- the kids went swimming twice that day

Incredibly beautiful backyard

Joseph found a book nook and told me to leave

Jalynne fixing us a fantastic dinner

another part of the yard

We even had a little thunderstorm pass through

Eating dinner

The kids wanted to swim again after dinner. Jalynne had these cute swim hats that Emerald and Megan wore

Abby playing in the fountain in front

Went for a ride to see the horses and the barn in "The Mule"

Emerald who is afraid of everything was not afraid of the horses. She loved them!

We couldn't go back in to see the stream because of the water snakes and other nasty things.

We came back up to the house and got out the carts. The kids and the adults had a blast driving down the drive way and they could go fast! Nobody ever fell over because the carts were so stable.

Then Jalynne or someone else would drive them back up on the mule!

They even treated us to a fantastic sunset!

We then were fed Strawberry Shortcake before bed. The kid keep asking me when we are going back to Texas! And that was just the first stop!

We traveled all the next day to get to Panama City with a short stop in Destin. We were originally going to stay in Destin, but there were oil spill reports there and so we moved our hotel to Panama city which was 45 minutes further down the beach. There wasn't any oil in Destin and the beaches were just gorgeous but we passed through a tropical storm that hit them just as we were leaving to go on to Panama City. The storm never hit were we were so we were glad we moved. They were the most beautiful beaches we have ever seen. Someday we will go back to Destin.

Stopped to check out the Mississippi river on the way

Passed through a tropical storm on the way to Destin. The rain was coming down so hard we were going about 5 miles per hour at times.

Made it to Destin just before the storm hit there. Not a speck of oil anywhere

The kids could dive for sea shells and found some perfect ones

It was probably a little crazy to take my camera out in the water but I got a great shot of our hotel!

Anna using Abby to make a mermaid

Our hotel had an awesome pool and play area for the kids, but we prefered the beach

The girls got a lot of interest in their mermaid. People would come by and take pictures

I even had a 20 minute conversation with a lady because of it

Emerald made a friend named Alexis

How can you resist that?

Joseph liked chasing the seagulls

David had to go get the brakes fixed on the van and so he missed most of the day. So sorry honey- we missed you!

The view off our balcony

After we left Panama City we headed to Key West via the Everglades. I remember driving through "Alligator Alley" on the trip my parents took us on. We were looking for alligators the whole way and never saw one. We would even get out to look at places. That was disappointing I can tell you.
So we decided to take the road that goes even further south. We saw more alligators than I cared to see, but we were disappointed in that there were "Panther Crossing" signs everywhere and we didn't get to see a single panther.

This was just one of the 4 or 5 we saw

First it was looking at Rex and then when he moved it started staring at John. That's about the time the guy that sold us the tickets for the airboat ride came running out and told us to get back because they are so unpredictable. We moved clear back.

Then it left and swam up the river

We took an awesome airboat tour. I don't even think these things existed when I came with my parents 33 years ago. These boats glide over the water so they don't destroy any vegetation. The are louder than all get out though.

and they go fast!

Our driver and tour guide

The drive was absolutely gorgeous

and interesting!

We started exploring

We went downtown

My dad told me before we left that we had visited the aquarium. I had not remembered that. But when we walked in I remember everything. It looked exactly the same as it had when I was there. Probably because there has been nowhere to expand. I am glad my kids got that experience.

I even remember seeing the Sea Horses

I know- this is a lot of pictures of a little aquarium. It's nostalgia

John, Abby and I visited the Pirates Treasure Museum

We climbed the tower and had a great view

Then we went shopping and Joseph was a little pill. Finally he hid in the clothes and was content until we were finished with our shopping

The lighthouse in Key West

We waited in line to take our picture at the Southern most point of the U.S.

We went to the State Park Beach which we were told was the best. I guess it depends on what you mean by best. They did have this Fort Taylor in it that we could check out.

It looks great but was really rocky

Joseph liked putting rocks in his bucket!

This kids went snorkling out around those rocks and had a lot of fun

That night we ate at a local seafood place and we had Key Lime Pie that was out of this world! The seafood was pretty good too

The next day we spent at Higgs beach- really the only other beach on Key West. There wasn't so many rocks but a lot of sea grass stirred up by a tropical storm that had come through I guess.

Anna said she'd always wanted to climb a coconut tree

Our hotel pool

Every night tons of people show up to watch the sun go down, so we came down our last night to check it out

The next morning we left the Keys and drove to Charleston, South Carolina with a quick stop in Miami to check it out. This is a picture of the Key Deer that are endangered and only live in the Keys. They were all along the sides of the road.

I saw what looked like a railroad in dis-repair along side the bridges. It turned out to be the road that my family drove on 33 years ago.

It was a skinny little road like I remembered. I can't imagine driving on this in a camper now. It must have scared the cars coming toward us.

It just happened to be the opening of the Lobster season and tons of fishermen showed up over night

We drove in to check out Miami Beach because my children really wanted to see it- they play this game with their cousins that they call "Miami Beach". In January they take out towells and lay out on the snow and see who can last the longest. It must be really fun because they play it a lot! I don't know what will they think of next

I have to say it was a nice beach but still not as great as the gulf beaches

I checked off South Carolina from my list of all 50 states to visit in my lifetime

The first thing we did was to visit Fort Moutrie and Sumpter (we only saw Sumpter from a distance)

Fort Sumpter in the distance from Fort Moultrie

Then we went to Boone Hall Plantation with its mile long avenue of almost 300 year old Oak trees

They were fantastic!

It was a hot day but there were cool doors

The Plantation home is a replica but they have some of the only original slave quarters left in the U.S. They were fascinating. We had some great discussions with the kids about slavery and I think they will remember experiencing this for the rest of their lives

We toured the plantation house but couldn't take pictures

We took a walking tour of downtown Charleston which is one of the most charming cities I have ever visited

Anna loves old cemeteries. This headstone in front dates back to 1767

more cool doorways

Cool buildings

Cool alley ways

Nice harbor

Rainbow Row

This shopping area was where slaves were once sold

We checked out Middleton Place Plantation as well

Cool Trees

And I like taking pictures of harbors

We left Charleston at 7 am pacific time friday morning, drove through the night and got home at 4 pm mountain time saturday. It was long but worth it. I had wanted to stop at the Great Smokey Mountains National Park but we missed the road into it and we expected another but it never came up. Darn! So this was the best picture I could come up with. The park was on the left.

Those beautiful Crepe Mertles and Emerald too

I took over the driving at 5 am and everyone got ticked off at me because I kept stopping to take pictures of the rising sun- this was in Nebraska

finally I resorted to taking pictures, without looking through the view finder, through the window. I got lucky

When we got back to Utah Megan and John ran down and hugged and kissed the sign

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