Thursday, August 14, 2014

Florida Vacation

As I mentioned in my previous post last month we took vacation to South Florida to see family and work on the house. I don't know how much of a vacation it was though, at least not so much for me. I thought traveling with one small child is hard enough, try two. Just getting to the airplane is a huge ordeal. Since I'm a contractor I don't get time off right now. So I had to cram a 40 hour work week in 4 days before vacation and another in 3 days after. I also got to work a little remotely while I was gone. So it wasn't much of a vacation but I did end up getting a couple days to relax.
 
We left on a Friday afternoon and got there early Saturday morning. At 2 AM we are standing around in Avis trying to get our rental. I already had reservations to pick up the car from FLL and return it downtown the next morning, which really means re-sign paperwork, and it would have saved me $400 for the week. For some reason it cost a lot more to rent out of FLL than any other place including Miami Airport. The agent said its because they are expanding the airport. So the agent didn't like the fact that I was only renting for a couple hours from them and then going to another location so he was working on removing all the fees for me to keep me at the same rate and return to FLL.
 
So as we are waiting Natalie puts her purse and new-ish Nikon DSLR camera on the ground behind me and goes over to some chairs to feed Zach. Now it's two in the morning so there's no one else around at this time. So a couple minutes later two guys come up behind me with no luggage wearing wife beaters, athletic shorts, and running shoes. Remember this is an airport. They said something to the effect of let's hang out here and they were leaning up on a support column talking. I knew what was going on so I kept looking out the corner of my eye. I wanted to just grab the camera and the purse but I would have looked like a racist grabbing my stuff the minute two black guys show up. So eventually I call over Adri and start playing with her in line. Now I had my eyes on them without looking like I'm watching my back. They immediately left. So I called Natalie over and told her what happened and the guy at the counter said they have robberies all the time.
 
I'm always watching my back especially when I travel. Before one of our trips I happened to see a show on a girl that killed a German tourist on his honeymoon leaving the Miami airport. And this is one of many reasons I also pack heat when I travel. So after we do all the paperwork the agent says his shift is over so he's going to walk us out. In reality I knew it's because he thought those guys were up to no good. As we left they came back in and got in line behind another couple. Natalie got nervous and wanted me to load the car as fast as I could but I had two car seats and so much luggage I had to put a suitcase in the front passenger seat. So I wasn't in a hurry. Besides by now I have my gun ready and loaded. Of course she's worried they might have a gun. I'm not. I saw what they were wearing and if they have a gun on it means they'd probably have to reach up their butt to get it. So we left without further incident but it was a fun start to our vacation.
 
We spent the next 11 days getting rained on. No joke. I think its funny because normally after the 4th of July there is a couple weeks where the rain calms down. Every year my parents came out to visit at that time we had a lull in thunderstorm activity. But the last two years we have gone out there for vacation it has rained every single day on us. So we weren't even 2 minutes on the road and the rain started.
 
So the first day out there I slept in late then went to the house to meet up with my tenants. The next day I had to get up early and start working on the house. They usually go to church but they decided to skip that day and ordered a pizza and invited me to eat lunch with them. We spent the next hour talking politics. Put me in a room, or my patio, with two Texans and let me talk politics and I'll never shut up. Haha. I finally had to get back to work because Natalie's family was over for Adri's fourth, fourth birthday party of the year. Yes she has had four birthday parties for turning four. That is what happens when you don't live near family. I ended up getting back late, dirty, stinky, and wet. It had rained on me for an hour working on the yard that day. Lucky for me I had brought three shirts every time I worked on the house but it still wasn't enough. I probably should have brought 5 plus a towel.
 
 
I think it was Monday I worked on the house again and Tuesday we met up with our friends Tim and Rikki at the Hardrock. The week is all a blur to me. But Wednesday and Thursday we went down to the keys. The plan was to stay at the Hilton resort in Key Largo but we had to change them last minute. So we went down there Wednesday and went to Robbie's Of Islamorada to have lunch and feed the tarpon. Pretty much did the same thing as last year but this time with Zach and this time we would stay the night and make it a two day trip. So after feeding the tarpon we went to Anne's beach, a little pullout off the highway and hung out for a couple hours. The water is really warm, correction, really hot there. The Atlantic is something like 87 or 88 but at Anne's beach the water is probably 95-97 because it's so shallow and it's not moving. The water is so shallow that Adri and I walked out about 200 yards and played on a sandbar.
 
After hanging out at Anne's beach we drove to one of our favorite restaurants, Habanos, about 1/8 a mile up the road,. We then went to our hotel for the night. This is when I wish I had been at the Hilton. Had we gone to the Hilton we could have been chilling in a hammock by the water all night. However at this hotel the only water access was the marina. We got the kids to bed and went to have a pina colada which we had to drink fast because the Marina closed at 9. When we got back Adri was still awake so I sat on the patio with her and watched lightning for the next hour or so before heading to the Jacuzzi with Natalie which was barely any warmer than the water at Anne's Beach.
 
The next morning we got up and went to one of the best state parks in the country, John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. We were there for a whole 15 minutes before a thunderstorm came in really close. For the next couple hours we got to see lightning a couple  miles northwest of us and hear the thunder. Some how the storms never made it to us. After swimming for a bit Adri and I rented a kayak. This was the best part of my vacation. I had second thoughts about doing this because I didn't know how Adri would do in a kayak. I had only tried kayaking once and it must have been the worst kayak ever because I couldn't go anywhere, it just kept flipping over on me. These kayaks were different. They were extremely stable. So stable I could have taken my phone and taken pictures but I didn't. I wish I had.
 
So Adri sat in the front of the kayak, I was in the back, and we, well I, paddled a couple miles through the mangroves and around the beach. They gave me a big laminated map however I still made a couple wrong turns. On one wrong turn I went through what they call the tunnel, a bunch of mangroves growing across the water. It was tricky to navigate through but I made it. I was surprised how well behaved Adri was on our Kayak ride. I thought she would be moving around and making the kayak rock but she sat still, she was smiling the whole time, and we didn't have any problems. She did keep reminding me to stop rocking the kayak though when I paddled too hard.
 
The day after Key Largo we had a busy day. I took the family by the house to see everything I had been working on, we met up with our friend Sherie at Hollywood Beach, then met up with my friend Kiko and his family for dinner. We walked about ten blocks to a really good Argentinean restaurant. At Hollywood Beach they recently changed the parking lot. I thought this was pretty cool. They now have cameras over ever parking spot with a red light when it's taken. The light turns green if it's available. So at the entrance it tells you how many open spots there are and what level they are on. However you still have the occasional  moron holding up traffic waiting for one spot on level 2 when they know there are 12 on level 4 and either way its the same distance to the elevator. You just can't fix stupid.
 
Our second to last day there was probably the second most fun I had. Natalie and I used to have passes to Flamingo Gardens. Back when we were dating a saw a commercial for this place so I decided to check it out and we loved it. After our first visit we got annual passes and we have been there several times. We used to take Adri when she was a baby but it's probably been three years since our last visit. So on Monday we met up with our friend Ofeilia and her daughter at the park. As we were driving we could see the thunderstorms building up. Of course in Florida you never know if it's going to be a 15 minute storm or an all day event. So we got our tickets and the minute we got in the park the rain started. We spent the first hour hiding under a pavilion where we put the girls in their swimsuits and let them play.
 
After over an hour of waiting I went and bought some ponchos and we walked around the park while it drizzled on us pretty much until we left. I wasn't going to let rain ruin my day and I still had a great time. The park was pretty much empty since everyone had given up on waiting and left, it was cooler than normal, the air was fresh. What not to enjoy about that? Not only is this park a botanical garden but they're also a sanctuary for injured animals like bears, panthers, bobcats, alligators, eagles, hawks, etc...
 
 
Zach's first flight.
Adri wanted the window so bad. Ten minutes into the flight and she was out.
At Three Palms Cuban Cafe. That is one big tostone.
One of our favorite restaurants for years. Scrubys in Miramar. They closed the one in Tamarac recently.
In my right hand my Alphonse Mango. In my left the best mangoes I have ever had, my Valencia Pride mangoes.

Even Zach loves mangoes.

At Hard Rock in Hollywood.



Adri knew the names of all the ponies. I thought she might be just making it up but when I looked at the tags she was right.

Driving to Key Largo. 

I really miss this about Florida. Cloud formations and scattered thunderstorms. We drove 45 minutes with storms all around us without getting rained on, not even a drop.


Right past Jew Fish Creek.
At Robbie's Of Islamorada.


Look at that lil stud.
Feeding the tarpon.


















We put Zach in front of a really powerful fan and his smiles were priceless. I couldn't get a picture of them though.























At Anne's Beach





Adri and I are about 150 yards out. You can barely see me right in the middle of the pic.






A crab we caught at Anne's Beach.

Anne's Beach
The light blue is where the path is that we walked out to the sand bar. It was in the same spot last year.

At our hotel. We sat outside for a while before bed watching the lightning.



Zach playing with the bottle. We likes knocking it over.





Adri swimming on my back at Pennekamp. This spot was rocky and slippery so had to  hang out to me. There's something like 20 cannons in the sand 150 feet offshore in the shape of a ship wreck here. They are authentic cannons that were planted there.













This is where I went kayaking. Just follow the paths through the mangroves.
Adri and I took a swim under a bridge by the kayak rentals. It was quite a bit cooler here than at the beach and probably 10 degrees cooler than at Anne's Beach.

Someone got stuck.

On our kayak ride. This was at the end of the ride. We passed up Natalie and her mom sitting by the gift shop.






Zach's idea of fun time.



 
At Shell World.
 
Hollywood Beach.





 
 
After playing at the beach we met Kiko at a park at Johnson Circle before going to dinner. It's a pretty cool park in not quite the best area. I liked all the bamboo and trees. 


Showing Zach the black bamboo.




Adri playing with Kiko's daughter.
  
A heliconia at Flamingo Gardens. As of right now they have 61 varieties of heliconia.

 
 
 
 
 

Weather doesn't ruin the fun for the kids. I think some grown ups need to learn from them.

 
 
 
 

Zach unsure what he thinks about thunder.


Adri showing me her panther face.
Tram ride. They took us past the highest natural point in Broward county. Second only to mount trashmore it's something like 24 feet above sea level. My house is 11.8 feet above sea level.
A dwarf banana mat.
More bananas

This papaya broke off but didn't die. It was growing towards the ground but is now looping back towards the sky.

Driving threw the mango trees.

 
A massive tree, and the picture doesn't even get the whole tree. The girls are standing next to it.



I thought this was the coolest thing. Those are not vines growing on that oak. That is dragon fruit (a cactus). I have seen small dragon fruit plants growing on the oaks in other parts of the park but never a plant that big. They even had flowers and fruit on them.









Torch Ginger.

Smelling the apricot ginger.

 
Couple pictures with the family.






 
 
 Adri with a bamboo stick I got her from the house. She keeps telling me she wants a walking stick so now she has one.
 
Going home