Season 2 Episode 1 – The Long Way South

20140118-104028.jpgWe’re off on our winter of camping and visiting our kids, grand kids and parents. Christmas Eve found us at Matt and Renee’s house in Chicago, Todd, Amanda and the kids arrived 12/29 and we left the next day with Luke and Will headed for their home in Enterprise, Al. After two weeks there and three trips down to the Florida panhandle beach we went further south to Sue’s parents in Port Charlotte, Fl and now are camped at Oscar Scherer State Park, about an hour north of Port Charlotte. According to the odometer we have driven 2850 miles to get 1300 miles south. We must have taken the long way!

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Driving to Chicago on a sunny Tuesday showed the remnants of the prior weekend ice storm at their crystalline best. Lots of pretty views like this along I94. Thankfully not a bit of snow or ice on the road.

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Matt and Renee continued our family tradition of sumptuous Christmas Eve and Christmas Day dinners and a wall of presents around the tree. Renee’s niece Kyra and friend Dora joined us for Christmas Eve. Dora is a professional pastry chef and always brings to-die-for deserts. Cold and snowy Chicago lent a traditional (i.e. freezing) feel to the holiday with plenty of opportunity to enjoy the snow walking Matt and Renee’s dog Sammy in the forest preserve.

Todd, Amanda and the boys spent Christmas with Amanda’s family in northwestern Michigan. They drove down to Chicago on the 29th to have an adult New Years celebration and we left for Enterprise, Al the next morning with the two grand children.

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We were more than a little concerned that our 16 hour road trip with one and three year olds could be traumatic for all of us. It was so NOT, the kids were wonderful! Will (1) slept most of the first day and Luke (3) slept some and watched videos the rest of the time.

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We stayed enroute at an Embassy Suites just south of Nashville. The huge atrium gave the kids lots of room to run around as Grammy and Grandpa enjoyed the complimentary happy hour. Luke really liked the “know your numbers” lesson working the elevator buttons. Six hours on the road the next day put us in Enterprise. Ami and Josh brought over New Years Eve dinner and the kids, who had been traveling for almost a month, went to bed early.

Todd and Amanda returned home late Friday evening, 1/3. We decamped to Ami and Josh’s for the next week but had plenty of opportunity to enjoy family dinners together and play with the kids. One of the dinners was to celebrate Luke’s third birthday.

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We are getting the itch for a larger trailer so we could have enough room to take the boys camping with us and would love to find a vintage Airstream. We made two trips to the Florida panhandle to look at old trailers for sale (all junk) and a third trip with Luke to an Airstream rally at Topsail Hill State Park in Santa Rosa Beach. We all had a good time looking at the trailers and chatting with the owners.

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Afterward we had a nice lunch (great fish tacos) outdoors at La Playa across the street from the beach then let Luke play in the sand for a while.

Monday morning, 1/13, we departed with Lil Snoozy in tow for Sue’s parents house in Port Charlotte. Thanks to good planning we arrived just in time for dinner;) After a couple of days of visiting we moved to Oscar Scherer State Park where we are now.

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In spite of chilly temps only reaching the high 50s (I know, wa wa wa) we’ve been enjoying the peaceful solitude in a natural setting. A little biking, a little hiking and lots of just relaxing in the sun reading and writing. We walked a couple of miles on Casey Key Beach yesterday and had a great breakfast this morning at Nokomis Breakfast House, featuring a sunny Carribean themed dining room, staff with sunny dispositions and an extensive menu just two miles south of the park.

We did a long (5 miles, long for me anyway) hike this afternoon then had Saturday date night at Veg restaurant in Sarasota, eight miles north of the park. Not the most romantic atmosphere but excellent and innovative vegetarian and sustainable seafood entrees. Sue got vegetarian lasagna, I had the scallops, the house specialty, and we shared a terrific cashew cream cheesecake with fig, date and coconut crust for dessert.

20140119-102629.jpg. When the owner and head chef stopped by our table to say hello I complimented him on the scallops he explained he got a daily air shipment from one particular fisherman in Maine. They were outstanding.

We are leaving Oscar Scherer this afternoon, going to the beach at Casey Key again and then to Sue’s parents for the night. Tomorrow we are beginning a four day stay at Desoto County park in St Petersburg.

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