Travel is really one of my thrills, and I was thrilled indeed to make a pilgrimage to my old stomping grounds in south Florida last month, with some new experiences thrown in!
My traveling companions included the ever-faithful Little Miss, but we also had our exchange student Yurie, who packed and re-packed her belongings for her trip home at the end of the visit, and daughter M and her three children.
We missed the worst of the rain, but we did get the south Florida heat square in the face–after all my intervening years as a Yankee, I have to admit I was a bit of a wuss!
Also it was my first long solo trip at the helm of the RV, so I was a little stressed and intimidated by that for awhile, since I’ve been the only one who’s managed to run into something with it. BUT NOT THIS TIME! YAY!
We landed at Pensacola just long enough to pick up our passengers, then headed out to the Florida Caverns in Marianna. I sat with the cocker spaniel in the RV while the rest took the cave tour. Little Miss, though, will always remember how the tour guide showed the control panel with the switches for the lights and the one he said was for self-destruct. Apparently she screamed at him not to push that one, in a dead panic. Overall, not bad advice, but still…we do tend to take things literally.
Then south to Naples, and east to Everglades City, where we took a trip on an Everglades airboat–something I’d always wanted to do but never had, while we lived there. I was thankful there were headphones for those with sensory issues, and it made it so easy to ask questions! We saw a manatee, some pelicans, and of course alligators:
But I think we all were excited by the race through the mangroves–not exactly the tour of the “River of Grass” I’d envisioned, but still quite an adventure:
Then it was on to the Florida Keys, where we’ve spent many happy weekends.
Camping was easy at the state parks, thanks to M, who’d made our reservations many months ago. We were joined, by fortunate coincidence, by daughter D, whose family happened to be going the same time we did, and though we all didn’t fit in the RV, we did camp next to each other at Bahia Honda (one of the most beautiful beaches in Florida) and we shared a big dinner one night, which was nice.
The water off those bridges in the Keys (even the Seven-Mile one!) is SO gorgeous, tones of blue, green and everything inbetween.
We took one day away from those wonderful beaches and went to Key West, where I researched an upcoming romance book with pirates. It’s always been one of my favorite places–we honeymooned there. Still as beautiful today:
Also a giant banyan tree, where the roots grow down from the branches into the ground:
Of course we stopped at the Southernmost point in the continental United States:
After a bit of shopping, we went to dinner at a Cuban restaurant with the whole gang:
But the real beauty of the scenery was just to sit and take it in. Especially at the quiet points of the day, like this moment at Bahia Honda with Emma:
More on the second half of the trip coming in Part II.