Monthly Archives: December 2014

Days 334-338 Jetty Park at Cape Canaveral and Cocoa Beach

On Sunday we left Disney World for a short drive to the coast. It was hard to leave all the excitement and running around, but we had to get back to school. I knew we would miss all the good food, too!

As we pulled into the Jetty Park campground, we realized that we were right smack dab in the middle of where the cruise ships are moored. They are huge! There were 4 in at the time, and we were counting ourselves blessed that we weren’t in the middle of all the traffic for people to board. The ships were the large ones, carrying approximately 5,000 people. That would not have been fun with the RV and tow taking up most of the road.

We quickly headed out to the beach, and it was beautiful. You could walk for miles south, but north was the river and then on the other side, Cape Canaveral itself. We were going to take the tour, but we ran out of time. After the silly Johnson Space Center in Houston, no one wanted to give up our precious non-school time for an iffy tour. We looked it up online instead. The shell collecting wasn’t great, but the views were spectacular – blues, purples and pinks in the sky at the same time.

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Later that day, I was sitting at the RV table when I looked up as a shadow filled the huge front window. It was one of the cruise ships leaving and even from 1/4 mile away, it filled the window! I ran out to take a picture and then kept going closer because of the noise – all along the river people were standing with drinks in their hands, yelling and cheering for the ship. I asked a local and they said people do it every day – tourists and locals alike. The younger kids were running along the river with the ship. Quite the festive atmosphere. For a moment I wished I was going wherever it was going, and then I remembered I was already on an adventure!

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We spent our days doing school at the local library and coming home the first day, I noticed a sign for I Dream of Jeannie Street. Duh! We are in thee Cocoa Beach! They have one local TV channel that plays the show quite often, and watching it, I realized that they really did use a lot of real local places in it. The kids couldn’t believe that we used to watch the show, and Dan and I couldn’t believe it ran for 15 years. We didn’t watch it that long. Still, fun to see all the local spots they referenced. Wouldn’t have known they were real unless we visited here. Worth the drive and we had a productive few days.

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Day 332, Eliza’s 15th Birthday at Magic Kingdom

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The professional photographer had Eliza pose like this and I took a picture, too.  Of course I did – it’s her birthday!

Whew that went fast!  Our little girl has been a young lady for years now, but 15 sounds so grown up!  Not too old to wear the ears we bought her, though, and I was proud of her.  She also wore the button that said “It’s My Birthday” most of the day, and cast members and other tourists wished her  a “happy birthday” all day long.  Tons of tourists wear the big buttons – Anniversary, First Visit, 23rd Visit- and when you wish them whatever it is, they just beam.  Of course, if we are stuck in line with them I have to talk to them about it, which my family just loves.  I love hearing people’s stories.  Just love it.  I’d share more of them here, but I really do want to respect people’s privacy, especially when they tell you something serious.

Today, however, was all about Eliza and celebrating her big day. Which is why we are here in the first place!  We were going to only come for her birthday, and then somehow it morphed into the whole week.  If we hadn’t stayed at Dave and Claudia’s for a month, we wouldn’t be able to afford this week, so thank you Dave and Claudia for helping us give Eliza this week.  She was really looking forward to it and it helped get her through all the tough on-line schooling she’s been doing.

Eliza had a list of rides we still hadn’t done, and many of them were in the new Fantasyland.  Which was filled with toddlers and babies screaming and crying non-stop.  Agh!  Help!  We already paid our dues in that regard!  We could only stand it for a little while, then we’d go do an “older” kids’ ride.  My favorite was a little play called something like  “Talking with Belle.”  After winding our way through the set of a house, we filed into the second room and stood behind a fake fence.  The cast member asked for all the kids to come forward, and mine weren’t budging from our back row spot.  When the wall opened up and we went into the next room, all the kids that wanted to participate were given parts in the play.  After practicing their parts – spoon, guard, tea cup- we went into the next room.  The parents and non participants took seats on the long benches, and Belle swept in, wearing a beautiful yellow gown.  They all acted out the little play, with a narrator helping the story along.  At the end, each child who participated was able to get a picture with Belle, and I joined the other moms who were wiping their eyes.  It was adorable. Belle was so gracious with the kids and you could tell the little ones were into the magic.  One little girl knew this Disney story by heart, and Belle was really sweet with her.  And the young man who played the guard wasn’t too cool to get his own picture with her.  It was so well done.  Disney at it’s best!

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For her birthday dinner, we rode the monorail over to the Floridian resort and we got to see the gingerbread house in their lobby.  This resort is a little too upscale for us; we do better at campgrounds.  Dinner was great and we rode the monorail back to catch our boat.  It had been a long, wonderful birthday for our young lady, and we were so happy she enjoyed herself.

Day 331, Hollywood Studios at Disney World

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This is Eliza and Dan, riding the bus to Hollywood Studios, about a 15 minute ride.  We were up early again because the park was closing at 4 p.m. for an employees “Years of Service” party.  We found out the day we checked in about all the early closures, and we were bummed. We had planned on staying in parks longer, but instead we were having to get up early and cram it all in.  Still, we’re here, so we’re going to enjoy it.

I didn’t carry a purse today, so we were able to go through the line quicker, and we took off running for “Toy Story”.  It’s a game/ride that you sit in and shoot at targets for points.  Last time we were here, we waited 90 minutes in line with a Fast Pass, and we weren’t able to get a Fast Pass this time, so we didn’t know what we’d face.  We were in good company, with about 50 other people hustling to the line.  It sounds funny to type that in, but when you’re there, it’s worth running to miss waiting an extra hour.  I think of it as “cardio” and since Dan and I can barely keep up with the kids when they run, it’s always hilarious.

We got there in pretty good time, and quickly walked through the huge waiting area and to the cars.  You put on 3-D glasses that are adorable – bright yellow squares that appear clean, we hope.  The ride itself is a blast and we’re not sure if the counters were working for the score, because Nate and Dan’s car beat Eliza and I by a hundred thousand points.  My accuracy was the best, but I had the least points.  I’m sure there’s a lesson there.

We had free time before our next Fast Pass, so we strolled down the back street and into the history of Walt Disney.  There are trophy cases full of his first cartoons, and it was interesting to see that Mickey Mouse didn’t get cute until later in the process – when he wanted to make him a star, a friend and fellow artist drew Mickey with eyes that moved – and that added more complicated expressions to his face.  They also made his belly a little rounder to be cute.  We were the only guests in the theatre, and we enjoyed the 20 minute movie.  The cast members(employees) made a big deal of the fact that we were the only ones and I was waiting for the kids to tell him that their nerdy parents made them come in, but luckily, they didn’t say a word!

We headed to the Rock n Roll roller coaster next, and rode it twice in succession. This is my favorite ride here!  The music is Aerosmith, played loudly, and it really makes the ride more fun.  You could barely hear people screaming over it as we looped up and around and then continued for another minute.  After Cedar Point and learning about how fun long rides are, we think Disney should step up the ride time, too.  But this ride is excellent!  We went out and ran to the standby line and rode again.  Dan sat by the exit, held our coats, and watched the parade of tourists go by.  Many of the rides take pictures of you on the ride now, and ours was hilarious.  We saw other peoples’ that were obviously staged – they knew where the camera was and did crazy poses – but we weren’t that organized.

Next we went to find Eliza’s favorite lunch spot from 2011 – only to find that it is closed on Thursdays!  We were so disappointed.  I promised that I’d make her a caesar salad and we’d stuff it in a roll, but we both know that it wouldn’t taste as good as 2011.  We will have to practice to get it to taste decent and not be soggy.

We spent the rest of the afternoon watching shows, watching people, and eating snacks. We were so tired.  (Read, Dan and I were so tired.)  We took the picture below as we were leaving the park, and Dad said if we were doing a Christmas card this year, we should use it for our photo. We’re not.  We got up early.  We’re still tired and happy, that’s us.

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Day 328, The Magic Kingdom at Disney World

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Off we go! We were up really early to ride the first boat over to the Magic Kingdom and after scanning our bracelets to get in, we headed quickly to the indoor theatre for pictures with Mickey Mouse. We only had to wait 20 minutes in line, and we didn’t mind because when we were here in 2011, the line was 90 minutes long. When we got into the private room with Mickey, I was pleasantly surprised to see him interact with the kids by doing a corny magic trick. He actually took the time to make each one of them laugh, too! We knew it would be a different adventure this time because the kids are teenagers, but I was glad to see them enjoying the magic already.  You have to be child-like when you’re at Disney World!

It was also funny to hear Mickey talk to them – what a great voice.  Then he beckoned Dan and I forward for the family picture. Below is our August 2011 picture to compare to our picture today. Wow, how time flies.  I cry just looking at the two pictures and it makes me so glad we are doing this huge adventure as a family.

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This is our picture from today!

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Done with Mickey, we ran for Space Mountain, because it was still “extra magic hours” for those who stay on property, and we were hoping the line wouldn’t be long. We were right! We went running inside and almost all the way to get into the cars. Dan hadn’t gone off coffee like he did for Cedar Point, but we thought this ride would be tame enough that it wouldn’t make him sick. Ooh, how wrong we were. He almost passed out while the rest of us were having a blast. You can guess who was laughing and screaming, and by the picture they took, we got to see that Nate was looking all calm and cool. We felt so bad for Dan – Day 1, Ride 1, and he was already sidelined.   Darn.

We had fun until about 2 p.m., when the heavens opened up and the largest raindrops I’d ever seen proceeded to pelt us silly. I mean, really silly. We had a Fast Pass for Splash Mountain that we used just as it started, then Dan and Eliza rode Thunder Mountain and said it was so good, Nate and I had to go again with them. As if we weren’t wet enough, we stood in line briefly and then hopped on the outdoor train. To be moving fast and having your face hit with rain while trying to hold on – it was so fun. We will never forget that ride!

Our poncho’s had been left in the rig, so we quickly went to the Haunted Mansion. I knew the waiting line was under a canopy, and we were hoping the rain would be done by the time we got done being scared. I wasn’t as spooked this time, but I could still remember going the first time to Disneyland and having my older brother scare me to death on this ride! 42 years earlier! Of course, I told the kids and they were so happy to hear yet another of my stories.

The rain still hadn’t let up when we emerged from the dark ride, so we headed nearby to the Hall of Presidents show. It was packed with people wanting to be inside like us, but we were able to get a seat. As we left, we talked about how funny they made the life-like robots look to represent each President and wondered if they did some really lame on purpose?! Do you think Mickey is a Republican, Democrat or Independent?

By this time, it was 430pm , and we were cold, wet, and tired. We decided to head home and change clothes and then see  what we were up for next. Turns out all we were capable of was dinner and bed. Another perfect day.

Day 327, The Drive to Disney World

We did 6 days of school this week – hard labor each day – so that we could have the next week off and play at Disney World! The drive from the beach to the Orlando area wasn’t too crazy, and we just kept getting more excited as the miles flew by.

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The Happiest Place on Earth – here we come!

The check in at the Fort Wilderness Campground was easy because we stayed in the rig and talked to a lady at an outdoor booth. Leave it to Disney to make it easy from the start. They have such amazing customer service standards.

Our campsite was nice – mostly paved and Dan easily backed in. We quickly got everything hooked up and set up and hopped on our bikes to go explore. It was 75, sunny, and low humidity. We headed to the Settlement area first, and tried to figure out where to take the boat in the morning to the Magic Kingdom across the lake.   There was a tiny sign way out on the dock that we had to stand nearby to read, and it wouldn’t be the last time I was wishing for bigger signs at Disney World!

We went to the big swimming pool next, but it was packed full and there were tons of kids in diapers, so we kept riding to the other smaller pool in the woods. It was perfect! Long enough to lap swim, a hot tub, and not too crowded. We rode back to the rig and got our suits on and then rode back and swam for awhile. We were ready to celebrate Eliza’s birthday week!

Day 323, Anastasia Island library

We are camping in St. Augustine all this week, and it’s been fun. Not at all what we expected, but still nice. The campground itself is huge, with large, tree lined sites sporting enough shade to keep the air conditioning off in the rig. I was disappointed when we pulled into the campground because it wasn’t right on the beach, but when the wind started to blow, I was happier. Nice to have the protection of 1/4 mile of land.
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Unfortunately, probably due to the trees and lack of cell service, we’ve had to find the local libraries.  Went to the nearest one first thing one morning, only to have a sign on the front of it read “no locals”.  It was a library on the little Flagler college campus in downtown St. Augustine, and the librarian said it was for students only.  ONLY. We’d already paid for parking. Oops. So we went to a second one where they wanted us to sit at a corner table – and the wifi didn’t work at all. They said they weren’t sure when it would be on again. The third one turned out to be our spot for the week – the little local Anastia Island library, tucked in the middle of a shopping mall. One busy library, we were lucky to get a table each day and Dan and I only had to pay $3 to use the wifi on their computers for 3 hours. (We miss that great regional library in Arizona – huge windows, $5 for a month of wifi, really nice staff – each time we hit a new one.) The picture below is of the fountain outside as we were leaving after a long day. I have been collecting shells and rocks this whole trip (to make a great art project upon return home), but we were all joking that this shell is one I couldn’t fit in the RV. Well, I could. I’ve already channeled Lucy from The Longest Trailer and have rocks tucked away where yo wouldn’t expect them.

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I walked on the beach every day, and took this picture the first time. The sky was beautiful, a late afternoon of color and sea smells and a bag full of shells. Heaven. It felt like I was floating as I walked and walked and I was loathe to head back to the RV and fix dinner.

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At the end of our stay, we still hadn’t seen the downtown area or fort, so Eliza and I headed out to explore. We didn’t realize it was going to storm so hard, so we were freezing the whole time. We had no interest in anything, didn’t want to shop at all, but admired all the tourists out in full rain gear, bearing the cold. I had really wanted to take a tour of this fort because St. Augustine is the first civilized city for Florida and the fort played a vital role, but when we got there, I actually asked Eliza to just hop out and take a picture, and then could we please go home? She was game of course, and took this great parking lot shot.

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We were laughing on the way back to the rig that we didn’t feel like playing tourist now, that we just felt more like part of each community we were in because we were there for a whole week, and doing things just like the locals – working out, grocery shopping, hitting the libraries, renting movies. This is our version of normal for now and I like it!