Seems like yesterday we left Minnesota, anticipating the warm winter and cool ocean breeze only Florida can bring to realize we’ve been here for 5 months. And this is our first Florida blog post, yikes!
It’s not that writing about our experiences isn’t important, it’s that with social media posts, working and just living that the blog gets put on the back burner. Which we apologize for as blogging is a cool way to journal our travels and keep everyone up to date. We will be better at blogging!
From the Atlantic coast to the Gulf, we have walked on many beaches and seen many pretty sunsets. In no particular order: New Smyrna, Tarpin Springs, Clearwater, Venice, Daytona, Ormond…. We hoped to get down to the Keys before we leave but that will have to wait until next time.
We chose Florida for the winter for a variety of reasons besides the warm winter weather. Our first year on the road we were suppose to be in Florida through the winter but plans changed so it’s always been something we wanted to do. Previously, we had been in the desert during winter months but we missed being by water and seeing more then the color brown. As we have traveled we have meet some great people and along with some family, we now know a lot of people in the Florida area. It was a goal to see friends or family at least once a month, which we have done! It’s been a joy catching up with friends we haven’t seen in 10 years and seeing mountain friends on the beach. The best bonus was seeing Brad’s parents, Grandma, Aunt and Uncle and Jen’s sister and her family and another time Jen’s cousin and her husband from Illinois. We saw manatees, went on hikes, saw tortoises, collected shark teeth and had lots of beach time. Priceless!
Something we didn’t know before coming here was the many warm springs in the state. Brad’s Grandma gave us a list of places to see so when we looked into the locations, we were amazed at the beautiful spring water color and were delighted we could experience the springs at many different state parks. The park we enjoyed most was Rainbow Springs State Park. There are easy walking trails through cypress tree draped in Spanish moss, man made waterfalls (still pretty!) and the highlight, the springs. The springs water is year around warm (72 degrees) and the water color ranges from blue, green, turquoise and is so clear. We rented a kayak to explore and are happy to report no alligators sightings, just calm waters and lots of native birds.
Seeing a rocket launch was a must during our stay here and due to weather cancellations and our availability, we only had to reschedule about 5 times. But we finally made it out to Cape Canaveral Seashore to watch a launch from 7 miles away from the Kennedy Space Center. We arrived early (2 1/2 hours) before the launch to get good parking and viewing spot. We planned to hang out on the beach prior to the launch but it was so windy, even hiding under a blanket we felt the sand hitting us like needles. At exactly launch time, we saw the Atlas 5 rocket take off, shooting quickly into the sky and then disappearing into space to deliver a weather satellite. A very cool and quick experience!
When in Florida, you need to get out on the water, right? And we did! A Grand Teton friend that Brad worked with at the marina lives in Florida and he took us sailing! It was Jen’s first time sailing and we are happy to report no sickness or injuries. It was a perfect sailing morning with the wind blowing at 15 knots and the sun shining. After leaving the dock, we all took turns at the helm and went under the Sunshine Bridge in Tampa Bay. Next we sailed to Egmont Key State Park, which is only accessible by boat. We anchored a few feet from shore (saw a few dolphins) and swam to the beach. The Gulf water is warmer then the Atlantic but it was still chilly in January! The three of us walked around, learning the fascinating history of the island, seeing many tortoises and collecting seashells. After swimming back to the boat, we headed back to the dock, with the motor on since there was no wind. It was a perfect Florida day and are so grateful for the experience.
Florida is home to the manatees and though we saw them with my family from the deck at the Tampa Bay power plant, we wanted to see them closer. That took a boat ride, wetsuits and snorkels! We swam with the manatees at Crystal River through River Ventures Tours (highly recommend, everyone there was AMAZING and made sure we were enjoying ourselves) and LOVED it!! Brad pointed out the first manatee to me and it was so big I thought it was a rock! Manatees swam in front of us, below us and we saw a cow with her two calves! No touching the manatees, that’s against the law, so we gently glided around only using our hands and stayed still as the manatees passed. We would have stayed there all day if we could (the wet suit keeps you warm for only so long) and back on the boat we warmed up with hot chocolate. Manatees are nurturing, gently giants that are endangered. They are being killed by boat propellers and their food source is polluted. We loved seeing these animals up close and hope one day soon they will be off the endangered list.
We leave in a week to start traveling to Minnesota, where we will be until October. Since the marina in Minnesota has an on-site apartment for us to live in, we are leaving the RV in storage in Florida. Meaning, packing up what we need to bring, what we can leave behind, and getting the RV ready for storage (we want to ward off moisture, bugs and mice) so we will be busy until we leave!
We are sad to not be the mountains this summer but excited (and a little nervous) to see what the North Star State has to offer. Happy Trails!