Day 12– Feb 7, General Wandering, Tampa & Tarpon Springs


Driving – 200+ miles, countless hours

Walking – 1 mile

Tarpon Springs holds the highest percentage of Greek Americans than any other city in the US. Have I piqued your interest yet? No. Me either. So, why are we heading to Tarpon Springs on a beautiful blue-sky day instead of arriving at the Busch Gardens parking lot? I’m wondering the same question, but for my husband, the answer is simple. Antique Stores!!

I’ll be honest with you, I love antique stores about as much as Mike loves Space Mountain. Well, that’s not exactly true since antique stores don’t make me physically ill, I just get bored in them. I can amuse myself for a few hour’s wandering, and if it’s a “real” antique store with truly old and beautiful things I’m more interested. But places like that are few and far between, and Mike’s not really looking for those kind of stores anyway since his focus is on all things moto-related, and they didn’t make much in that category before the turn of the last century.

We got a decently early start from Orlando, and had to wave goodbye to our final Mickey sighting of the trip:

Our plan was to check in with our hotel (Comfort Suites) first just in case they had a room ready. I wanted to use their printer so I could get a list of antique stores in the area. The gal at check-in was amazingly helpful. They didn’t have a room ready, but she said she’d call as soon as it was. She also looked up Antique stores and even called a few to ask about what else was in the area. Turns out there wasn’t much in Tampa proper, and we’d already explored Ybor City last year, so I had her search the online yellow pages further West towards Clearwater. Nothing there, but up the coast a ways we found Tarpon Springs which had 5 listings, all big enough to keep Mike happy for hours.

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Day 10– Feb 5, Universal Parks

Driving – Zero.
Walking – 6.7 miles

Last night when we were doing laundry, we talked to the super-helpful front desk folks, and to a couple of people who happened to be getting off the free Universal shuttle, everyone agreed that the 8am shuttle would get us to the park in about 20 minutes tops.

Armed with this information, and our eternal cheap-i-tude, we decide to save the $15 a day and take the shuttle. Our driver was freakin’ hi-la-ri-ous. Seriously, a big black guy with a gorgeous smile had us all singing The Wheels On The Bus. All of us, even Mike, and the super-cool and beautiful Italian couple who looked like newlyweds. Everyone. We had the same guy for every shuttle ride. Love someone who isn’t afraid to look silly, and just makes his potentially boring job so much more fun for himself and everyone around him.

Sure enough, we pulled up in front of Universal Citywalk at 8:15, and were in line at Islands of Adventure before 8:30.

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Day 9– Feb 4, St. Augustine and a drive back to Orlando

Driving – 122 miles, 2 hours.
Segway – 10 miles
Walking – 3.5 miles

Our last morning in St. Augustine. This has been a much more relaxing 3 days than the rest of the trip so far, but we’ll be ramping back up to normal “bananas” speed tomorrow, with Universal Studios.

Today we’ve got another Segway tour planned with Cary at 10am, so we have a relaxing breakfast, then pack up the car and check out of our hotel. We’ll be leaving the car in their parking lot until we’re ready to go this afternoon.

We pick a different residential street that’s sort of in the main direction we’re wanting to go, and start wandering. More old houses and beautiful gardens surround us on this quiet morning, along with local wild (and not so wild) life:

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it before, but Mike is a cat magnet. I could be carrying a trout in one pocket, and a tuna in the other, and cats would still go up to Mike instead of me. They just love him!

This town is a great walking town, it’s all flat and everything is close by. There are a few places on earth where I swear I would NEVER drive, and Old Town St. Augustine is one of those places. I wouldn’t even enjoy riding a motorcycle or bicycle through here – roads are too tight, traffic is too dense, and drivers are even more dense! I think having a hotel within walking distance of Old Town, and then walking is the most relaxing way to experience this place. Continue reading

Day 8– Feb 3, St. Augustine

Driving – 20 miles
Walking – 3 miles

We had a heck of a time trying to decide what museums were worth our time in St. Augustine. There are some that either sound really cool or really tacky, and it’s impossible to know which side of the dial they’re going to fall under until we actually plunk down our hard-earned cash and check them out.

We couldn’t decide if the original Ripley’s Believe it or Not would be good, or “Not”, but after checking out the gift store (cheesy) we decided the “Museum” would probably follow suit.

Another one we weren’t sure about was the Fountain of Youth Tourist Trap. I mean, the main reason not to visit it is that it’s so boring that even Ponce De Leon probably didn’t stop here. Sure, the story goes that he made first landfall here and tromped around in the swamps with his woebegone group of Spanish explorers – all with an average height of under 5′, and an average lifespan of under 50 years. Here they encountered natives who must have seemed like some sort of super-race, some nearly 7′ tall and living well into their 80’s. Nearby was this natural spring where a stinky sulfur water flowed in abundance. The theory is that Ponce De Leon took a look at the natives, took a look at his buddies, then looked at the spring and determined that this must be some sort of Fountain of Youth because how else could these “savages” survive so long and grow so tall? Continue reading

Day 7– Feb 2, St. Augustine

Driving – Zero.
Segway – 6.5 miles
Walking – 6 miles

I may be blonde, but I’m not totally stupid all the time. During my planning for this trip, I looked at all we had scheduled before we arrived in St. Augustine and I knew we’d be tired. Now, most sane people would look at that and simply determine that this morning would be a good one for a bit of a sleep-in. Well, Mike is not “most people”. When he gets tired, he feels like it is his body giving up on him, and instead of giving in, he fights it and just pushes harder.

I’m sure this is a great personality trait if you’re a Navy Seal, but not so good when you’re vacationing with a wife who has more sloth-like tendencies than she likes to admit to.

I’ve learned that if I want us to slow down a bit, I have to create something in the itinerary that will force us to do so. So, this morning we have a Segway tour (no walking!) scheduled at 10am (sleep in late!).

Last night we checked in to our room at the Comfort Suites in old town St. Augustine:

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Day 6– Feb 1, Disney World, Hollywood Studios, then drive to St. Augustine

Driving – 133 miles, 2.5 hours
Walking – 3.75 miles

Well heck, how did we get to the end of our Disney World time so soon? Could it have something to do with the fact that we’re flying through this vacation at the speed of sound? Probably.

Fortunately, after today, things will slow down a bit, I promise!

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Day 5– January 31, Disney World, Epcot

Driving – Zero. Let those awesome Disney Bus Drivers do the work!
Walking – 6.6 miles

It’s funny, I always thought we walked more at Epcot that any of the other parks, but this time that wasn’t the case – with MK’s criss-crossing for FP winning out at nearly 2.5 miles more. That said, if we’d hopped from the back of the park to the front a few times, I’m sure we could have padded our Epcot number considerably!

This morning we’re starting out with Test Track – well, at least I am, since Mike finds it’s slightly more than he can easily handle without Dramamine, and he’d rather not take a pill just for one ride.

I decided to use the Single Rider line because there is no one in it, and a few people ahead of me in the regular line. I’m surprised that they do have cards and kiosks to build your own car here, I take about 30 seconds to just push random buttons and “create” my car. Since I’m completely alone through this area, I decide to continue on quickly instead of taking pics (sorry) because I want to stay ahead of the regular line.

Well, my plan definitely works because when I get to the ride load area I am completely, totally, absolutely, alone. The Cast Members are chatting amongst themselves and don’t seem ready for guests, it’s actually a bit eerie.

My hastily-created car scans properly into the system and I am loaded in my personal chariot, with empty cars in front and behind me as far as the eye can see.

This is weird. Continue reading

Florida 2013 – Day 1 – January 27, Key West


Driving – Florida City to Key West, 124 miles, 2.5 hours.

Walking – 7.5 miles.

This is the first year that I’ve been smart enough to bring my pedometer with us. I clipped it to my backpack strap and left it there the entire trip so all I’d have to do is remember to check it every evening to see how much we’d walked. It worked great!

Our day started early this morning, as we wanted to beat the traffic on that awful mostly two-lane road that takes you to Key West. Well that, and Mike wants to be first in line wherever we go. I never had to talk him into the Rope Drop mentality, he already drank that Kool-Aid years ago (I blame the Navy).

We’ve been to Key West once before, but our drive out and back was done in the dark so we didn’t get to see much. This time we were treated to a beautiful sunrise:

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Florida 2013 – Day Zero – January 26, Travel Day


Driving – Terrebonne Oregon to Portland Oregon. 137 miles, 2.5 hours.

Flying – PDX to Fort Lauderdale via Southwest. 12:05pm departure, 9:55pm arrival, 7 hours.

Driving – Fort Lauderdale Intl to Florida City. 63 miles, 1 hour.

Well, it’s finally here, and I hope I’ve got everything packed. I feel like I’m missing something because both suitcases are remarkably lightweight. I always quail at the sight of everything laid out and ready to be packed – I feel like there’s no way it’s all going to fit, but somehow it does:

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