Last summer we ventured down I-95 into Florida to scope out St. Augustine. We loved it there and we found it difficult to do everything we wanted to do in a week. So this summer we decided to go back to finish what we started.
We pretty much made up everything on the fly. Starting with a 30 second Google search for food near Blufton, SC. G found "Cheeburger Cheeburger" and we took the next exit. It was a classic style burger joint complete with Betty Boop cardboard cutout, real burgers and delicious shakes. G had been in the car with me for 3 hours at this point, thus the fake smile.
The shakes were really good. The kids shared a chocolate and I had a s'mores. So good.
The sugar rush gave us the push we needed to get to Florida. This was our 3rd floor balcony view for the week.
Last summer we ate our way through town and found some favorites. Saltwater Cowboys was one and it was first on our list of return meals. That's a plate of real crab cakes, hushpuppies and cheese grits. Spectacular.
The night before we left, I picked up a set of 3 special lenses for the iPhone. The lenses screw into a clip that just clips over your phone lens. They're not great quality (they were $4 in the checkout aisle at Walmart) but they're super fun. I had the most fun with the fish eye lens.
For at least a week, G was showing me photos and videos of sea turtles hatching and racing to the ocean. We were hoping we'd get to see that happen, but when we inspected all the marked turtle nests on our first night, we saw that the nest were all fairly new. The next morning on my beach run I saw a brand new nest being marked off and I stepped over the mama turtle's tracks back out to sea. That's all the sea turtle we got all week.
The kids and I made a cool drip castle.
After a morning on the beach we drove into the old city and visited our all time favorite restaurant, Mojo's Old City BBQ. It totally lived up to our 364 days of craving it. So good that we immediately agreed to eat there again before the end of vacation.
We walked our BBQ off and saw some cool things. There's plenty of cool shops and lots of sweet treats in town.
That's the family standing in the gate to the city.
The next morning during my run I decided to go ahead and run all the way to the pier. The pier is just over 2.5 miles from our condo. The BBQ and seafood was heavy but I figured I needed the extra miles. About a 1/4 mile from the pier a high school running team passed me going the opposite direction. I went on to the pier, took a few photos and then headed back. I'm a bit competitive when it comes to running, so even though I was feeling it, I could see some of the running team just ahead. I sped up and eventually passed about 5 of them before getting back home. I was feeling good about myself.
Then I promptly blew those burned calories on french toast at Georgie's Diner.
After breakfast we checked into the St. Augustine Alligator Farm. The kids loved it.
The big albino crocodile.
A very large American Alligator.
After we saw the whole place, we gathered with a crowd for the big feeding show in "the swamp". We were "smart" and found a shaded spot to stand under a tree. The trees were all filled with these big, loud birds. The big, loud birds all had full bellies and did not seem to like the crowd gathered under their nests. Just before the feeding show started, one of them pooped on my arm. I looked up and he was looking at me. I'm pretty sure he aimed.
I was lucky it was a small amount, but I was unlucky enough to get hit again on the hand by a smaller amount a few minutes later. I wasn't sticking around for the third time. We quickly left the shade and headed for an air conditioned bathroom to scrub the nasty off my arm. I got pooped on! That was the kids' favorite part.
I think this sign was my favorite part.
After the gator experience we hit the beach in the afternoon and stayed out until we were hungry.
I played around with the macro lens.
Violet caught this cool fish in her net. She kept him in her bucket of water for a while and they bonded. She named him "Shelly".
Shelly posed with her for a photo before returning to his family in the sea.
The sand was very fine and soft on the beach. Any sort of sand sculpting was going to have to be done by carving into the already packed sand. This meant a lot of careful digging. But the beaches there are so wide and spacious and people were leaving to go eat so no one bothered us.
The next day we went into the city again to goof around and eat.
The kids on the waterfront.
G and Blue
A lookout tower on the fort.
G and Blue on an old cannon photobombed by a tourist.
The fort again
While we were exploring the town, a big crowd of actors came walking down the street in costumes from St. Augustine's history.
We asked for a photo and the conquistador put his hat on Blue.
In town we snacked on milkshakes and waffles from Cousteau's, fries from the place formerly known as French Fry Heaven and we sort of had a meal at Scarlett O'Hara's. We finished the day with a game of shuffleboard.
The next day's adventure involved driving into Orlando to visit Disney Springs. G went there on a work trip last fall when it was called Downtown Disney. They've added all sorts of new things since then and since going to the Disney parks will cost you an arm and a leg, she thought they would like this and it still be affordable.
I know it almost sounds like torture to take your kids to just outside of Disney and not actually allow them to go inside. In fact, there's a good This American Life episode about this exact thing. But honestly, they absolutely loved every minute of it. And there was so much to see and do, they're heads were spinning all day.
The Lego store was the biggest hit of the day. Blue was overwhelmed by the giant Lego sculptures. That was the 7 Dwarfs.
Buzz and Woody in Legos.
They'd both saved up money for months to spend at the Lego store. They were thrilled to be inside picking things out.
Blue with Lego Hulk.
A giant Tinker Toy sculpture.
We left Disney Springs and stopped by Maggianos for dinner and the kids were still visibly thrilled about life.
The ride back to the coast was quiet with Blue catching a nap. But they perked up in time for some ice cream to cap off the day.
Blue was exhausted.
Running at the beach is always great. The views are exceptional. We had a good weather week. Last year it rained at least 5 minutes every day were were in Florida. This year it was hot, but not unbearable and it only rained once and that was late the night before we went home. It was perfect.
One of my old Winthrop students lived near St. Augustine for a while and last year she gave us some great food recommendations. She sent us to Metro Diner for dinner and it was very, very good. This year G wanted to go again so we tried it for breakfast. Equally as good.
We all needed the morning to recover from the Orlando trip so after a nap we took over the beach for the afternoon. We skim boarded for a while and carved a giant Kabuki face in the sand.
The afternoon breeze was really comfortable and the beach cleared out completely as everyone took off for dinner.
Just before dark, we took our sandy, sweaty, stinky bodies to try the Sunset Grille. Then we did some nightswimming in the pool before bed.
Then we were down to our last full beach day. We were missing our dogs and kinda wanting to shower in our own shower and sleep in our own beds. But we also didn't want to leave the beach and we didn't want vacation to be over. The sweet dualities of life.
So we stayed on the beach as long as we could. We skimboarded, boogieboarded, splashed and buried kids in the sand.
And then as promised, we went back to Mojo's for another great meal.
That's the super-old cemetery across the street from Mojo's.
The last night walk on the beach.
More fun with the fish eye lens.
This is a cool photo G took of Blue skimboarding. She took it with the Kindle and we have no idea how it did this. Very cool.
The last day I got out a few minutes early for my run to see the sun rise as I ran.
The thing about a sunrise is that it happens so fast. Its easy to forget the sun is always moving in our sky and it's only when we have a reference point like the horizon that we notice that it never stops or slows down. There's something in there about time and how we spend it. Something about making the most of it. "Gather ye rosebuds while ye may..."
The coolest thing about the place we stayed was the flamingo mural. Classy.
But the adventure was not over yet. On our way home we stopped off in Savannah. Blue was an infant the last time he was there and Violet had never been.
We were just there for lunch so there wasn't a lot of time for history lessons but maybe when they learn about things in school they'll have a visual reference.
The cargo ship made a lasting impression, though. We watched a tug boat go by the waterfront and a few minutes later this giant ship crept by us. They were convinced it was going to hit the bridge.
We waited until it cleared the Hwy 17 bridge before heading to eat.
After lunch we made the last leg of our trip home where we were greeted by three very happy dogs.
On the drive down I-95 an 18 wheeler blew out a tire beside us. It was loud and scary. We slowed down and he did not. This led to about a mile of driving behind the truck as it shredded it's back tire into hundreds of black chunks and threw them at our car about about 70 miles an hour.
Ants. We had them. They greeted us on the kitchen counter when we arrived for a relaxing vacation. As irritating as they were, they were not allowed to ruin our fun. We sprayed them daily and we turned the dining room table into the kitchen counter for the week. You can't control the things that happen, but you can control your reaction to them.
Skimboarding is hard. For years we've laughed at the kids attempting it and busting their butts on the hard sand. Last year there was one stashed in a closet and we decided to try it. Slapstick comedy ensued. We were sore and covered in bruises after just a few minutes. This year we bought one and got some more practice in. We got better, but we were still hilarious. Blue is still sore and I'm lucky to be walking.