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Grand Tour of Florida Journaling
March 2 -
March 21, 2002
These are journal entries written about taking my 77 year old mom with me on an RV Grand Tour of Florida. A great time, but I just haven't gotten around to doing picture pages on it.

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March 2 - 15, 2002 - Mom's Journey

Mom arrived on March 2 to join me on the grand tour of southern Florida. She was especially excited because we arranged a visit to the Magic Kingdom before we left Orlando. We saw the beautiful magic castle again and then headed out for the world tour at Epcot. That was truly a great day - my mom was like a little kid - her eyes lit up at Cinderella's show, also, and she was so grateful Don could push her around in a wheelchair so that she could see everything. There is so much of the world to see at Epcot there's no way she could have walked the whole way. She was sure that was a dream that had passed her by and that she'd never see Disney World, so it was doubly nice to make a liar out of her and to see the universe prove again that you should never really give up on your dreams.

Our first stop after leaving Orlando was Palm Beach. We drove around and gawked with mouths agape at the rich folks' waterfront homes there and wondered what it is like to have such an outrageous amount of money. Although I fully understand and believe that money can't buy happiness, I can't help but wish I had some of the stuff money does buy, since I already have the happiness. Like my mom says, "I don't need to be filthy rich - but I wouldn't mind getting a little dirty!"

But I was rich enough to go on to Key Largo where I had my date with the dolphins. I was so excited even though it was a little cool and cloudy and the water was breathtakingly cold. But I was also breathless about being in the water with a family of 3 dolphins. The trainer has them perform "behaviors" for us, including pushing us by our feet through the water, belly rubs and hand (or fin) shakes, holding on to their dorsal fins as they sped through the water and holding the hoops they jump through for us. I was surprised at how large and powerful these magnificent creatures are and it was a very special treat to have such close interaction with them, even if it was more "staged" than I would have preferred. My fantasy was to have some kind of a spiritual close encounter with a dolphin - it wasn't that (at least on a conscious level), but it was truly a once in a lifetime experience. I had paid the $10 extra for Don to be able to observe and take pictures because I wanted a visual document of this event. However, his vantage point was not great and I was not at all satisfied with the results of the pictures. So I called the next morning before we left and asked if I could just get on the platform with the trainer and have my picture taken next to a dolphin. Another cosmic example of a lucky "accident" because my second visit with the dolphins turned out to be almost as good as the first. The trainer allowed me to sit on the platform with her and I got to touch them again for as much time as I had spent the day before. Believe it or not, though, even though we had brought 2 cameras, 1 ran out of film and the other out of battery juice before the visit ended. However, we still got some good photos and greater memories.

Mom really enjoyed a glass bottom boat tour. I've always thought it was a shame that she's had such a fear of the water following a near drowning as a youngster. She loves the ocean as long as she doesn't have to get in it - whereas one of my favorite things to do is to be completely immersed in water. I love to snorkel and it looked like there were lots of great opportunities in Key Largo, but the weather was too cloudy and chilly to get in the water other than for the dolphins.

Once we got further into the Keys, we had better weather at Bahia Honda, where we had a great time walking in the shallow sparkling water and getting a kick out of the pelicans' nose dives for fish. We enjoyed the Sunset Festival which is held each night at Mallory Square at the tip of Key West. You stroll around watching crazy juggling acts, trained dog and cat shows, high wire walkers, listening to one man and reggae bands, then go sip pina coladas at the waterside cafe watching the sun make its way to the sea. Even though the lack of clouds to light up and capture the rays meant a less spectacular sunset, we all still clapped when it disappeared on the horizon. Just another day in Paradise...

We then spent the night at Everglades Nat'l Park and were amazed at how close you can get to the myriad of birds, alligators and other critters who inhabit the refuge there. We took tons of pictures of the anhingas, woodstorks, great blue herons and ibis.

We visited the Coral Castle which we were drawn to after seeing it on the Travel Channel. It really was pretty cool - supposedly no one has even yet figured out how this one little man built this coral compound in the 1920's. Each section of wall is 8' tall, 4' wide and 3' thick, weighing about 13,000 lbs. How he maneuvered these massive boulders using very rudimentary tools is remarkable, especially the 9 ton gate which is so perfectly balanced that it can be moved using one finger.

We really loved Sanibel island - famous for its profusion of seashells on the seashore. It was interesting how every section of the small island we walked had different types of shells.Of course, no visit to Florida would be complete without a visit to Sopchoppy - where we ended up after missing a turn and wound up having to stay the night at the Mayfair Motel & RV Park - certainly not one of the highest class of campgrounds we've visited. We didn't notice until we were driving out of the lot that they had a feature we missed: their driveway sign boasted of their "Sparkling POO." I never realized how important the letter "L" could be until it was left off of that word.Speaking of bathroom humor, my mom will always remember the Florida moon - not the one in the sky, but her own. One of the funniest things that had us laughing until tears threatened to drive me off the road was when she went back to the bathroom while I was driving. She didn't close the door tight enough and at a very critical point for her the door flew open. Now, there's a huge double window that is on the wall directly across from the bathroom. I heard my mother shriek, "Help, the door is open and I can't get off the toilet to close it!!!" Anyone driving by my motor home at that point would have been treated to a view of my mom's butt on the toilet and she was not at all happy about that prospect as she could see the cars whizz (pardon the pun) by. Since I was driving I could be of no help except to drown out her combination of laughter and screaming with my own. Thank God a curve in the road resulted in the door swinging itself shut and as far as we know, no police reports were made about a little old lady mooning Florida motorists.I don't know if it was in any way due to that incident, but my mom did say this trip served a two-fold purpose - it fulfilled a dream she always had of traveling in RV - and it also cured her of it. She realized she had either outgrown it and does not feel it would be the life for her, at least not at this point in her life. That's another reason I'm glad I started this while I'm younger than most people in this full-time RV lifestyle. I'm "set in my ways" enough at 50.

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