A Vacation in Winter ~ Our Trip to Florida

My husband and I have never taken an extended winter vacation before.  Since we retired, we usually travel in the fall.  Actually, we had not been on a long vacation since 2011, so it was time for us to get away from the demands of life and go someplace totally different than we had previously visited.

When this year's trip planning began late last fall, we decided to go to Florida.  We weren't sure when we would go.  Finally, we selected the second week of February.  Our thinking ran along these lines: February + Colorado = wintery weather of snow, cold, and grey skies.  We planned to celebrate Valentine's Day in Florida, and the trip was also to serve as an early birthday celebration for my milestone birthday that happens next week.

The first part of February in Colorado was very warm.  Most days the temperatures were mostly in the 60s or the high 50s.  I was wearing a sweater whenever I went outside.  So, I packed my summer clothes and off we went to Florida to bask in what we thought would be even warmer and sunnier days.  As it turned out, it was warmer in Colorado while we were gone than it was in Florida while we were there.  The cooler temps in Florida didn't impact us much.

It was pouring down rain when we arrived in Florida.  Thankfully, I had packed our two small travel umbrellas.  I had not packed the kind of clothes I needed.  My summer tops I took with me were never unpacked.  I wore the same cotton lightweight blue sweater almost every day over whatever else I was wearing.  I was grateful I had thrown in my old black fleece jacket just before we left. I lived in it.   I wished I had not taken my long pants and a long sleeved t-shirt out of the suitcase just before we left home.  I also wondered why I brought summer dresses.  Not only that, I never once put on a swimming suit in Florida, and I brought two.  I always overpack, but this trip, I generally made poor choices when it came to taking the right kind of clothes.   Thankfully, I did take tennis shoes and did not rely on wearing my walking sandals during the trip.  I never even wore the sandals that I took.  Do you ever pack all wrong for a trip?  I need packing help!

As I write this, the snow is piling up in outside my window at home.  It is very cold, so this seems like the perfect time to reminisce about out time in the Florida sun, even if it was not as warm as we had expected.  It's hard to believe that a week ago, I was basking in the sun on a sunny beach.

We tried to have a variety of experience on our trip.  Today, I will tell you about:

 The Disney Experience

Neither Jim nor I had ever been to Florida before.  He has always expressed how much he wanted to go to Disney World.  He especially wanted to go to the Epcot Center.  Quite early in the morning on our first full vacation day in Florida,  off we went to the Epcot Center.  Before we left for our destination of Epcot,  Jim had used his iPhone to schedule fast passes for the rides he had in mind.  Armed with his "milk route" plans downloaded to his phone,  Jim was very excited to explore the place he had long wished to visit when he finally made it to this spot.

First stop was Soarin.  My wimpy side came out when we got to the ride.  I was just not sure how I would hand the heights, so I sat out the ride.  My husband was very disappointed that I didn't go with him, but he was understanding.  The next ride, Mission: Space, was one I for sure was not going to ride.  After checking out the vaious rides, we decided to explore the World Showcase part of the park.  Jim wanted to visit Mexico first, so off we went.

Epcot's World Showcase is certainly interesting, and we enjoyed walking around and seeing all of the various aspects of each country represented there.  While I greatly enjoyed the World Showcase experience at Epcot, after hearing about it from others for years, my overall impression of the experience was one of disappointment.  I think I had it pictured in my mind to be more like going to a World's Fair.  I remembered all of the wonderful pavilions from the various countries at the Spokane World's Fair of 1974.  I know it is not fair to compare a World's Fair to Disneyland, but I did, and Disneyland lost in comparison.  

Jim and I had a wonderful lunch at Kringla Bakeri Og Kafe in the Norwegian area.  Norway was a popular place because of the new Frozen attraction.  I ventured into the gift shop to see how much those Anna and Elsa costumes that I saw all the young girls wearing cost.  They start at $49 and go up from there.  I saw some toddlers dressed in the dress, shoes, the tiara, and carrying Elsa's wand.  Some families had more than one child all decked out in the Frozen costumes.  Parents must have a lot more money these days than I had when my children were younger!  God help these parents when these same darling little toddlers go prom dress shopping.  They will expect a very expensive gown.  

We saw so many kids at Disney World that we were actually very shocked.  We kept asking, "Why aren't these kids in school?"  We are after all retired educators.  I speculated that some might be on break from year round schools.  We wondered if some were "home schooled."  We just did not expect to see so many children out of school in the middle of the day in the middle of February.  

We spent most of the day exploring the various countries in the World Showcase.  By 5:30 we were ready for the dinner Jim planned.  He had made arrangements for us to eat at France's Chefs de France.  We both thought our meal was excellent.  I had thought we would be going to a very fancy place and perhaps I should put on a dress for dinner.  Of course, one doesn't change to a dress for dinner at Epcot, and of course there was no need to dress-up.  The restaurant atmosphere was relaxed and informal, which seemed a bit odd given the price of the meal.  I enjoyed eating at Chefs de France and would recommend it to others.  

After dinner, we were tired, so we decided to head out of Epcot and make our way to our hotel.  Realizing how far we were from the entrance, we wondered if we would make it to the gate given how worn out we felt.  On the way back to the entrance, we stopped to ride Spaceship Earth.  That was fun experience.

We had to laugh when we saw the funnel cake stand just before we left Epcot.  The funnel cake stand is the last stop we used to make at the Colorado State Fair every year.  Still very full from dinner, Jim jokingly acted like he was going to buy some funnel cake for the road.    

At the end of the day, Jim checked his pedometer.  We had taken 19,658 steps!  No wonder we were tired.  That equals nearly nine miles of walking.  We were quite proud of ourselves.

The next day, we didn't get up quite so early.  We also decided not to eat breakfast before we left for our day of adventure.  We had seen so many places to eat at Epcot, we thought we'd just eat at Magic Kingdom.  That was a very bad idea.  By the time we drove to our destination and took the ferry over to the entrance we both were starving.  Jim was beyond hungry when we finally got inside.  Because of our late start and late arrival, no place was still serving breakfast.  It was nearly noon.  The sight of others eating hamburgers and such made us both nauseous.  Finally, we were able to get coffee and breakfast fare at Main Street Bakery, which was really Starbucks.  We then had to find a place to sit down and eat.  Once we were fed, the day was off to a better start.

We really did enjoy Magic Kingdom.  We explored most of it and took in many of the attractions.  Jim again had scheduled the rides he wanted to take on his iPhone so we could have the fast pass and not stand in line.  First on the schedule was Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.  Jim didn't think I would want to go on the ride, but he was as excited as a little kid when he got to it.  I said I was up for the ride.  We took a selfie before we boarded for Thunder Mountain.  

I guess Jim didn't know how much I love roller coasters!  I haven't ridden one for years because of my heart arrhythmia problems, but I decided that since I'd had the old ticker fixed with the ablation last summer, that I'd be able to handle the ride.  Sure enough I handled it.  I had a blast.  Mostly, I just loved listening to my husband laugh down each steep hill, and around every sharp turn.  His laughter literally thrilled my heart.  Here I am making my exit from Thunder Mountain.  (The hardest part was climbing out of those little cars.  I'm not as young as I used to be.)

It was quite chilly the day we were at Magic Mountain.  In the photo above, I actually have on two sweaters, a cardigan and a pull over.  At times, I also layered on a fleece hoodie and the green windbreaker that I am holding.  

When Jim headed towards Splash Mountain, I wasn't sure if I wanted to get wet.  Also, I like roller coasters better than I like rides like Splash Mountain, but I got in line for the ride.  Wouldn't you know it?  We ended up being placed in the first seat!  From the look on our faces, you might not think we were having fun, but we were!  Yes, we were absolutely soaked, but that was ok.  We made a great memory.  

We decided to buy the photo of us on the ride.  Jim used his iPhone Apple Pay to pay for the photo.  The young clerk in the gift shop said he had never had anyone pay with Apple Pay before.  Jim was the first to use it.  The clerk was quite impressed with my soaking wet, 70ish, techie husband.  I guess we didn't look like or act like most of the grandmas and grandpas he had seen buying souvenirs for the grandkids.  

We had a terrible lunch/dinner at Columbia Harbour House, but that was really the only bad experience we had at Magic Mountain.  What's not to love about a place where I can ride roller coasters and a carousel?  

We only devoted two days of our week long vacation to Disney.  My favorite day was at Magic Kingdom, but I did really enjoy seeing and exploring Epcot also.  It was great fun being with my best guy exploring a place designed for kids of all ages.  We are still young at heart.  

More on the trip to follow...

Our Trip to Moab

This winter has been so hard for so many.
For me, it has been especially hard

I think it was the endless sieges of ill health that assailed my body that caused me to think that those days when the mind, soul, and body are renewed and energized by warm weather and sunshine would never again occur.  
Several weeks ago, I bought three bouquets of tulips.
The snow swirled around my car in a blinding storm as I brought the flowers home.
Once home, 
dressed in my snow  boots, and my warmest down filled hooded parka, I carefully made my way across the street to deliver a bouquet of tulips to my neighbor who had been housebound for weeks.  
Independent, a lover of dogs and of flowers,
this neighbor had slipped in the middle of a city street and broken several ribs.
The injury had left her unable to do much of anything.
I knew she needed flowers as much as I did.  
Once home, I arranged a few bouquets to brighten my own home.
Outside the kitchen window, the trees covered with snow provided a beautiful backdrop for the tulips and for the springtime flowers sent to me by my son for my birthday.
With flowers such as these in the house, spring could not be far away, I told myself.

The snow from this storm quickly melted.
But the earth near our home did not give me any indication that spring was coming.
I needed greenery.
I needed to see some yellow daffodils,
or some yellow forsythia.
I needed to feel the sunshine.
I needed a change of scenery.

Months ago,
my daughter had wanted to run a half marathon to celebrate a milestone birthday.
Most of my children and all of Jim's decided they would run with her.
life got in way for her, and she could not run,
nor could my other children because of injuries from training.
Jim's daughter's and his son-in-law trained all through the
and windy
We wanted to make sure we supported their efforts,
so last week my husband and I left our home and headed to Moab, Utah.

As we drove over the high mountain passes where snow was piled higher on the sides of the road than I remember seeing  it in a long time, I began to wonder what the coming of spring would mean to the high country.
With all that snow, I worried about the danger of flooding as it melted.
Not even believing that I was expressing the sentiments I felt in my heart, I said to my husband,
"I hope we have a cool spring without any early warm days."
My head and heart knew that it would be best for all if we did not see a rapid melt of all that snow.
Still, I longed for a sign of spring.

Once we were on the Western Slope of Colorado, green began to appear.
I'd hoped my mother's daffodils would be blooming as a way of greeting me to her home.
We were a few days too early for that, but one bud had a slight yellow tip.
"There is that sign of spring I needed," I thought as I walked to my mother's front door.

We only spent one night at my mother's home.
The next day, following her suggestion, we traveled Highway 128 to Moab, Utah. (click on the link to see more about this highway and see photos of it.)
We stopped along the side of the road for a moment because my husband got a phone call.
With spotty cell phone coverage, he decided to stop and take the call where he had a good signal.
This provided the perfect opportunity for me to stretch my legs, and so I stepped outside the car and took a photo of the desolate land before us.
At this point in the journey, my husband, who had never been to Moab, or traveled this route, probably wondered why I had said this would be a beautiful, scenic route to take.
If you look at the base of the mountains, you will see the mesa like landscape that are the magnificent rock formations that are near Moab, Utah.

When we came to the place where the road crossed the Colorado River,
we saw the remains of the old Dewey's Bridge spanning the river.
I asked my husband to park the car in the Dewey's Bridge Campground.
This is the view of the rocks that are on the other side of the river from the river.
I had to get out and walk now that we were in a beautiful setting.
Just look at that sky.  What a beautiful day it was.
  As we approached the bridge, I couldn't help but think how great it felt to again be out walking in air that was warm on ground that was beginning to show signs of spring.
Built in 1916, the Dewey's Bridge has a wonderful history.
The wooden plank single lane bridge was the longest suspension bridge west of the Mississippi River when it was built.
It held many memories for travelers to this part of the country before it was burned down in 2008 by child playing with matches.
Photo from internet

One can only imagine how intriguing it must have been to cross this once great bridge.

Cow now graze under where the planks of the bridge were supported by this suspension system.
(Do you see the black cows just right of center towards the bottom of the bridge?)

Jim took my photograph near the bridge site. Can you see how happy I am to be out in the warm sunshine?

This part of Utah is so beautiful and unique.  If you ever get a chance to travel Route 128, take it.
I didn't take many photos, but here are a few.

Moab, Utah is a destination place for bikers and hikers.
It is also the setting for the Moab Canyonlands Half Marathon which is held every spring.
As we drove closer and closer to Moab, we began to sense the great excitement that others who had been training all winter must be experiencing.
All along the river, camps where very hearty runners would spend the night before the big race were being set up.
I can't imagine sleeping on the ground in a tent before running a half marathon the next day.
Can you?

It was quite easy to determine where the race would begin.

Porta pottys were being set up to serve the hundred of runners who would be transported by bus to this area the next morning from Moab.  From this starting place, the runners would run 13.5 miles on Highway 128 along the Colorado River back to Moab, Utah.

I can only imagine how exhilarating this race must be.

Once we got to Moab, I thought I might try to pick up the race packets for my children even though they weren't going to be able to run the race.
They had paid the registration fee, and I thought they might want the cool shirt that was in the packet.
That way they could wear the shirt and pretend they ran even when they didn't.
Seriously, the shirts were very nice, and one can always use another shirt to run in.
I was able to pick up four packets for each of my four runners that did not make it.
I took the four energy bars that were inside as payment for picking up the packets.

I could not believe how good I felt in Moab.
The altitude of a little over 4,000 feet meant that I could sleep without oxygen.
I could walk and not suffer from tachycardia.
The sunshine helped to lift my mood.
It seemed we had truly left winter behind.

We spent the night a large rented house with the family members that had actually showed up to run.
(My children really did have good reasons why they couldn't run, I just wish they could have made it.)
Jim's two daughters and their families were there with us.
Jim's oldest grandson and his fiancé also stayed with us.
It was great to meet our soon to be newest addition to the family.
Aren't they a cute couple?

We had eight adults and five children in the house.
Jim's daughters made a wonderful pasta dinner for us that night.
The next day was the big race.
More on that later.