Category Archives: Vacations

March 2011 Trip to Florida – Almost home, then finally home

We had a nice visit with Jeff and Evy and the kids Saturday night and Sunday morning. We went to Sacrament Meeting with them in the morning, and then came home.

The kids played, and then we had a wonderful lunch. There was a ham, macaroni and cheese, broccoli, mushrooms, asparagus, salad, and more. Yummy!

We would have liked to stay longer, but we had to get going, and we left their house just before 2 pm. We filled up the van, and got on our way. Along the way, the kids watched lots of movies.

Here is the timeline:

  • 1:56 left house. Arrival time was estimated at 9:28
  • 2:16 done filling the van, on our way
  • 2:35 Christine was very tired, and finally fell asleep
  • 3:30 Christine woke up. We thought the nap would have helped her, but she was still pretty cranky.
  • 4:10 – 4:26 stopped for bathroom break, top up the van, and get a milkshake (courtesy of Grandma and Grandpa)
  • 4:47 reached the North Carolina/Virginia border
  • As we drove through the mountains, the GPS showed the elevation peaking at around 2,700 ft
  • 5:28 we went through the Big Walker Mountain Tunnel in the Jefferson National Forest. Later we went through the East River Mountain Tunnel.
  • 5:54 reached the Virginia/West Virginia border
  • 5:55-6:17 bathroom break and topped up the van
  • 6:35 As we were driving, we kept going up. We passed a sign that said the elevation was 3,252
  • 6:38 paid a $2 toll
  • 6:53 paid a $0.40 toll
  • 8:32 bathroom break
  • 9:12 crossed the West Virginia/Pennsylvania border
  • 10:35 reached the Econolodge just outside of Pittsburgh

The hotel was pretty basic, but had comfy beds, so we had a decent night’s sleep. We got up on Monday morning (our 14th anniversary) and had the continental breakfast at the hotel. We were done at the hotel by 8:30 or so and on our way back to Canada. Here is the timeline:

  • 8:36 left hotel
  • 8:51 filled up the van, bought a fuse for the cigarette/power port (we had blown one the night before). Arrival time is estimated at 12:35. Lisa was driving
  • 9:00 we hit some very bad traffic. We listened to a local radio station and heard that there had been an earlier accident, and there was some “residual” traffic. Well, it took us until 9:47 before we were back up to the speed limit. Arrival time is estimated at 1:15
  • 10:55-11:08 bathroom break at a Wal-Mart
  • 11:40 we got on the I90
  • 11:58 we reached the Pennsylvania/New York border
  • 12:40-12:52 one last bathroom break
  • 1:20 crossed the Peace Bridge. A the border the asked how long we were gone and how much we spent. We were through in just a couple of minutes
  • 1:51 home at Dunvegan Rd

Along the way, we have also seen a few more license plates:

  • Delaware
  • Nebraska
  • Vermont
  • Utah
  • We also saw a US Government DHS plate

We unloaded the van and Grandma and Grandpa got their care loaded up. We said our goodbye, and they were on their way.

The kids helped us unpack and get organized, and then Andrew and Matthew put together their new LEGO sets they got at Downtown Disney. Christine wanted to play Mario Kart Wii right away.

We had a fantastic 2 1/2 weeks, but it is nice to get back home.

March 2011 Trip to Florida – Day 14 (Saturday)

It was a sad day as we packed the van and left Florida, but it was a good day as we had a nice drive to North Carolina and got to see Jeff, Evy, Ryan, Lillie, Lauren, and their house.

The boys and I got up this morning at around 7 am and went swimming for the last time. The air was cooler than it has been, but the pool was as warm as always, so there was quite a bit of steam coming off the pool. We swam for half an hour and then got out to get ready to go.

We left the house at around 8:30 and headed to Ponderosa for their breakfast buffet. It was similar to the one we had at the Sizzlin Grill last week, but the quality of the food was a bit better. But hey, for $3.99, you can’t complain too much 🙂

After having breakfast and filling up the van, we were on the road by 10:06. Here is the timeline…

  • 8:29 left the house (odometer at 141,118). Graham drove.
  • 9:36 left Ponderosa
  • 10:06 left gas station. Arrival time is estimated at 7:41
  • 10:10 on the highway I-4
  • 11:38 arrival time estimated at 7:30
  • 11:39 – 11:47 at a rest stop. Arrival time at 7:34. NOTE: just before the rest stop we saw some burned out areas along the highway from the forest fires from a month or so ago
  • 12:51 arrival time estimated at 7:20
  • 12:54 crossed Florida/Georgia border (odometer at 141,429)
  • 1:32-1:43 bathroom break and filled up van. Arrival time estimated at 7:25. Lisa started to drive
  • 1:49 things don’t look quite as green as Florida

At some point along the way, I took this picture…

  • 2:36 crossed Georgia/South Carolina border
  • 3:17-3:25 bathroom break. Arrival time estimated at 7:25. Graham back to driving.
  • 4:37-4:44 bathroom break. Arrival time estimated at 7:25
  • 5:30 crossed South Carolina/North Carolina border
  • 7:16 arrived at Jeff and Evy’s house

We had some pizza with everyone when we got there and some ice cream for dessert. The kids played around until around 10 pm and then went to bed.

As you can see, it didn’t take Christine long to dress up in Lillie’s and Lauren’s princess dresses (first Cinderella, then Aurora). She was in her glory.

After the rest of us crashed, Lisa and Evy stayed up until after 1 am. I’m sure they were talking about how great their husbands and kids are 🙂

We noticed lots of Ontario plates along the way. It was strange to see so many. We don’t know if it was because everyone else was like us going home, or if something else was going on.

The only license plate that we saw that we hadn’t seen the whole trip yet was South Dakota.

On Sunday we are going to Sacrament Meeting with Jeff & Evy, and then coming home to visit for a bit. We hope to be on the road by 1 pm.

March 2011 Trip to Florida – Day 13 (Friday)

Since this was our last full day in Florida, we tried to make the most of it. Matthew and I got up this morning and went swimming before going out. We then headed out for a few hours.

We went mini-putting at Bonanza Golf, an old west mining themed miniature golf course. It was a gorgeous morning, and the course was beautiful. After getting a 24 on the first hole, Christine settled down and did much better after that 🙂  There was even a hole that we all got a hole-in-one on (as long as you could hit the ball, it would go in).

After golfing, we headed off to Kissimmee Go-Karts. We had gotten a coupon that gave us a free lap. It wasn’t much, but neither Lisa or can remember ever driving a go-kart, so we thought we’d give it a try. I went with Andrew and Lisa went with Matthew. It was a lot of fun. We’ll have to try go-karts again another time.

After that, we went to Shell World. They have a golf cart that is covered in sea shells, so of course I had to take a picture of the kids.

Inside the store, they had a fake shark’s head, so I told Matthew to pretend it was eating him. Of course, the others wanted in on it too. At first Christine sat on the mouth and it looked like the shark was biting her bum, but then she decided she wanted to be like the boys.

Eventually we made it home and we jumped in the pool. Andrew is totally comfortable in the water. He is quite a good swimmer. Matthew is very brave now as long as he is close to the edge so he can grab hold of something. He loves wearing a mask or goggles and going underwater.

Even Christine is getting more comfortable in the water. She won’t venture in very far on her own, but will put her face in the water and asks for the mask sometimes.

When in the pool, my job is to splash the kids and throw them when requested. It works fairly well.

Lisa’s job is to try to get the kids back for all of the grief they’ve caused her over the years. You can see she receives great pleasure from doing this 🙂

We went to The Olive Garden for dinner and had a great meal. We went to the outlet stores again to pick up a couple of things, and then we headed back to Downtown Disney for one last trip. It is beautiful at night with all of the people, and the buildings lit up.

Grandma and Grandpa gave them each a bit of money to get something, so Andrew did some prospecting/sifting. He bought 2 bags of what looked like dirt, and then you can sift them in the water and there are “gems” inside. He was very excited. Matthew and Christine both got to split open some volcanic rock to find a geode inside. Very cool.

We got home rather late, but Andrew still had time to have ice cream. Andrew then headed off to bed and the rest of us had the unpleasant task of cleaning up and packing 🙁

Saturday is our last day. We have to be out of the house by 11 am, so we will probably leave by 9 am, and we’re heading out for breakfast. We’ll then be on the road and hope to make it to Jeff & Evy’s place before 8 pm.

March 2011 Trip to Florida – Day 12 (Thursday)

Thursday we headed off early to Aquatica with Grandma and Grandpa.

We were at the park by 10 am, so it still wasn’t that warm outside, but the water was nice, so it was fine.

The waterproof camera we borrowed from Andrea came in handy again.

We didn’t go anything new, just the same stuff as the other day. We played in the wave pool, went along the lazy river (Loggerhead Lane), floated around in Roa’s Rapids, and played in the Walkabout Waters area. Christine found a very small waterslide that she loved and she must have gone down it 50 or more times.

Considering that the park is by SeaWorld, there is a surprising lack of animals/birds/fish in the park. I figured that somehow they would have integrated them more. There are a few Macaw, a large aquarium you see as part of the Loggerhead Lane lazy river, as well as some Commerson’s dolphins that you can see in Loggerhead Lane as well as from one of the water slides. They are black and white, kind of like Orca whales, and they often swim upside down (as you can see in the picture). Apparently that is so they can see prey above them.

You can also see the dolphins from an underwater viewing area. Unfortunately none were swimming by when the picture was taken.

As mentioned before, Grandma and Grandpa did come out with us yesterday and today. Grandma isn’t 100%, but she is getting better.

We got back home around 1:30 and had lunch and then relaxed at the house. We had breakfast for dinner, and then the kids had a bath. They were almost in bed on time, and then Lisa and I went out to go to a few stores.

Friday is our last full day in Florida. We are going to go mini-putting again in the morning, and do some shopping. We’ll then go out for dinner and head out to Downtown Disney one last time.

March 2011 Trip to Florida – Day 11 (Wednesday)

On Wednesday we made a return trip to SeaWorld with Grandma and Grandpa. We had gone through most of the park last week, so we went specifically to see a few shows and a couple of other exhibits we’d missed.

When we were here 2 years ago, they were building a new roller coaster called Manta. It opened shortly after we left, so this was the first time we saw it. Of course none of us went on it (we’re all too chicken), but they did have a seat outside so potential riders could determine if they were comfortable and the right size. Christine had a bit of trouble 🙂

Right next to Manta was a new aquarium exhibit. There were several large tanks with different fish. The coolest one was one for different kinds of rays. The tank was above them, so you could see them swimming above you. They always look like they are smiling.

As with most areas at any of the parks, the exhibit isn’t just a plain building. They have beautiful water falls, birds, plants and more.

One of the shows we went to see is called Blue Horizon. We don’t really understand all of the “artsy” stuff (“a young girl’s vivid imagination sets the stage for an extravaganza of dolphins, false killer whales and a rainbow of exotic birds, including blue and gold macaws, sun conures, and an Andean condor”), but the show is great. There are dolphins that do various jumps, platform divers that perform, and more. The girl in the show is named Marina, and Christine wanted to have her picture taken with her.

Another show we went to see was another Cirque du Soleil-type show called A’lure – The Call of the Ocean. There were various acrobats, tumblers and other performers in a sea-themed set. After the show (as with all shows), the cast members wait around to great the guests. Matthew and Christine wanted to have their picture taken with a seahorse and an anemone.

We finished off in Shamu’s Happy Harbor (the kids area). We went on a few rides, and then headed home to swim and get out of the heat.

We’ve now been to SeaWorld twice and Busch Gardens twice, and on Thursday we’ll be headed back to Aquatica for a second time.

March 2011 Trip to Florida – Day 10 (Tuesday)

Cool, we’re now into double digits for the number of days we’ve been here. Awesome. The only bad thing is that means that the number of days we have left is getting smaller 🙁

Before doing this write-up, I asked everyone how they would describe Aquatica, the SeaWorld waterpark. Matthew said it was awesome, sick. Lisa said it was fabulous, better than expected. Andrew said it was sweet like candy (honestly, he did). However you describe it, we had a great time.

Aquatica is just across the street from SeaWorld. It is much smaller than than either SeaWorld and Busch Gardens, but you can still spend as much time there. The grounds are beautiful…

… and the play areas are great.

Andrea’s waterproof camera really came in handy. I took quite a few videos that I can show some of you when we get home.

One of the main attractions in Aquatica is a large man-made beach that is next to the 2 wave pools. There were loungers everywhere, and people enjoying the sun. The wave pool was great, and the kids had fun. Matthew wore a life jacket for most of the day, which made him more brave than normal.

The play area pictured above is called Walkabout Waters, and it is one of those large forts that the kids can climb. There are buckets that spill water, spray water, and other water effects. Once the kids make it to the top, there are also a couple of water slides.

Probably the best attraction at the park is called Roa’s Rapids. It is kind of like a lazy river, but a little faster. There are no tubes allowed, but the water is fast enough and shallow enough that you just float/bob along. It is awesome! There are areas that go a little faster, as well as some water effects. In the right spots, you could basically “surf” along the bottom and you’d keep moving forward. Matthew must have said, “Surf’s up!” about 20 times. Christine liked it to, but I had to hold onto her the whole time.

At some point during our visit, I asked Lisa if I was pink, and she said no. By the time we got home, all of us were pink like lobsters. Nobody was complaining of any pain, so hopefully it is just the colouring.

It looks like we are headed to SeaWorld again on Wednesday with Grandma and Grandpa, and then going back to Aquatica again on Thursday.

March 2011 Trip to Florida – Day 9 (Monday)

On Monday we headed off to Busch Gardens again. This time, we took the free shuttle out there. Grandma and Grandpa dropped us off so they could have the van. Grandma ended up going to a clinic and has bronchitis. She got a prescription and is hoping to feel some relief soon.

The shuttle was a big tour bus (bathroom included), so that was definitely the way to travel. Lisa said that the bus driver reminder her of the bus driver in the one scene in Enchanted (if you’ve seen it, you’re probably smiling right now). She also had “bulging eyes”, kind of like what you see in Ripley’s or Guinness. She was very nice and kind of funny. We watched part of Shrek the Third on the way, and before we knew it, we were there.

We had gone through most of the park last time, so we just did the same thing again. The kids played for a while in the Sesame Street Safari of Fun, we watched some of the crazy people ride the crazy roller coasters, and we saw lots of animals.

We did try to see a few things that we hadn’t seen last time. In the Jungala area (Andrew’s favourite area), there was a brief show with some performers dressed up as a walking stick, a crane, and frog.

In that same area we also saw some models of various skulls and paw prints. A very nice lady was telling us about some animals, and asked if we wanted to see a snake. The boys of course said yes, so she went and got one for them to hold.

For some reason, one of the boys favourite exhibits is in Egypt. They were fascinated by King Tut’s tomb.

Probably the only drawback of taking the shuttle there, was that you are at the park for the entire day. We were in the park by 11 am, and the bus didn’t leave until 7 pm to bring you home. We thought it might be hard to fill the time, but it went by fairly quickly. At the end of the day, we went to see a Cirque du Soleil type show called Cirque Dreams Jungle Fantasy. The performers were dressed up as various animals. There were 2 girls that could bend in ways we’d never seen. There were a couple of other people who did some aerial tumbling as well as a couple that swung on ribbons (you know… the kind that hand from the top of the stage). Overall it was very impressive.

On the way out I had someone take a picture for us.

As I mentioned before, Busch Gardens was way better than we had expected. It will definitely be something we recommend to others.

It looks like we’ll be headed off to Aquatica (the SeaWorld waterpark) today, and then we’ll head back to SeaWorld tomorrow with Grandma and Grandpa again joining us.

March 2011 Trip to Florida – Day 8 (Sunday)

Sunday was a nice relaxing day. We went to Church in the morning (Grandma and Grandpa stayed home since they weren’t feeling well). The Sacrament Meeting was very good. The last speaker did a particularly good job speaking about the need for more kindness in the world.

When we got back, the kids swam, Lisa relaxed in the sun, and I got lunch ready. We all had “quiet time”, and then swam some more in the afternoon.

Christine is just like the boys were at her age. She says she doesn’t want to swim, but then wants to play in or near the water. We tell her she has to put her bathing suit on, and says no, and then comes back and says she wants to put her bathing suit on. Once she gets in, she puts her face in the water on her own and has a great time. I’m sure she’ll get more comfortable as time goes on.

After dinner we went for a short walk. We saw lots of small palm trees (which Matthew loves) and a spider about the size of my thumb being eaten by little ants. Gross! As we came back to the house, the kids got a picture taken in front of an orange tree in the back yard.

Jeff and Ryan came by after the ball game, but before dinner to say hi to everyone. Jeff also helped me give Grandma a blessing. Jeff and Ryan then headed to Chef Mickey’s for dinner. They got back after midnight and left Monday morning around 5 am, so we didn’t see them again.

After a restful Sunday, we are headed back to Busch Gardens on Monday for the day…

March 2011 Trip to Florida – Day 7 (Saturday)

It’s hard to believe we’ve been here for a week now! At least we still have another week to go 🙂

Today was supposed to be a slower day, but it didn’t really turn out that way. Grandma and Grandpa weren’t feeling well, so they stayed home while we went out. We went out for breakfast at Sizzlin’ Grill. They have a breakfast buffet that is $3.99. It wasn’t world class meal, but hey, for that price, you can’t complain too much. There was loads of food (eggs, ham, oatmeal, sausage, cereal, pudding, jello, salad, ice cream … I know, a weird mix), but for the 5 of us including tax and tip it was only $30.

After that we headed to Hawaiian Rumble Adventure Golf. It was a gorgeous day today, so it was nice to be outside enjoying the sun. Christine was free since she is 3, and Lisa was keeping score and taking pictures, so we just had to pay for the 3 boys.

At one point, the couple behind us saw Lisa taking a picture of us and offered to take a picture of all of us.

Andrew tried hard and did fairly well. Matthew would never let the ball stop and just keep hitting it, and would then tell us he only had 2 or 3. Christine would just randomly pick a number. “Christine, what did you get on that hole?” “Um, 17.” I think her total score was something like 170.

After golfing, we headed back to Downtown Disney again for the boys to buy the LEGO that they wanted. We also walked around a bit further up the walkways. We got as far as the Harley Davidson store, and got a picture of each of the kids on a big bike.

We also went to Shell World and got some groceries.

After being out for much of the day, we went back to the house and swam for an hour or so before dinner. After dinner the kids had their showers and then headed off to bed. Christine went to bed a little early, and when Andrew went in to sleep in the other bed in her room, we found Christine asleep slitting up. Her leg looked a little uncomfortable, too.

The rest of us just vegged out for the evening.

Sunday will be another day of rest, and then Monday we think we are headed back to SeaWorld, Tuesday to Aquatica, and Wednesday back to Busch Gardens. The week’s weather looks like it is going to be awesome!

March 2011 Trip to Florida – Day 6 (Friday)

On Friday, we spent most of the day in Dunedin, Florida. Jeff and Ryan slept over, and we got up and swam in the morning. It was a clear day, but rather chilly. After swimming we had scrambled eggs and real bacon (not turkey) and then got ready to leave.

It took us less than 2 hours to get there (I wish we could say that about the trip home). The girls (Lisa, Grandma, and Christine) dropped us off at Jeff and Ryan’s hotel and they went off to shop. They had intended to go to the beach, but it was just too cold.

We got to the ballpark early, and saw the New York Yankees taking batting practice. The game was a “premium” game (it cost more), but unfortunately the Yankees had a split squad. Half the team was in Dunedin to play the Blue Jays, and the other half was at another ballpark to play another team. We got the “B” team, so there were only a couple of recognizable names.

We walked around the ballpark and checked out the gift shop and the concession stand. Matthew ended up getting a very cute stuffed toy that is a big round blue jay. Andrew got a baseball that has the word Jays on it.

The starting pitcher for the Jays was Kyle Drabek. He is one of the highly touted prospects the Jays have, so it was nice to see him pitch. He did very well, and pitched for 4 innings. I don’t know if it was because the Yankees had their B team there, but the Jays had a great game. They won 10-3 and hit a couple of home runs and 17 hits. The Yankees only had a few hits, a couple of errors, a couple of wild pitches, and hit a batter. Not a good day for them.

The boys wanted to eat from the moment they got to the park, but I told them they had to wait until after the 3rd inning. We then went and got nachos, frozen lemonade, pizza, pop, and more.

Near the end of the game, Matthew asked me how much longer the game would be. I told him 2 outs, and he misheard me, and blurted out “2 hours?!?!”. Several of the spectators around us thought that was funny. I explained that 2 outs would only take a couple of minutes and he was good with that.

After the game, we got a couple of signatures. Andrew also got his baseball signed by Brian Jeroloman, one of the catchers.

After the game we walked back to the hotel and met the girls. Jeff and Ryan checked in and we drove home. Unfortunately, Friday at around 4:30 means heavy traffic through and around Tampa. It took us 3 hours to get home.

Even with the long drive, it was worth it to go to our first Spring Training game.

I think that Saturday will be a little slower. We need to get our rest for another trip to both SeaWorld and Busch Gardens, and at least one trip to Aquatica.

Oh, and here are some more plates that we’ve seen over the last few days:

  • Quebec
  • South Carolina
  • Nova Scotia
  • New Brunswick
  • Colorado
  • West Virginia
  • Oregon
  • Rhode Island
  • We also saw another one that said Birthplace of Golf on it. It was an American license plate (not Scotland), but we couldn’t tell which state it was from.
    UPDATE: Alisa found out that it was South Carolina, so as you can see from the list above, we already had it.