Sunday, January 2, 2011

Vacation in Florida

On December 11th, when I left work at noon, Terry, Danielle, Adam & Trinity met me at King's Auto to leave for Orlando.  As I walked out of work a loud BOOM of thunder sounded as huge flakes of snow started to tumble out of the sky.  The temperature was 36.  When I arrived at King's Auto, a 10 minute drive, the temperature had already dropped to 32 and was plummeting. 
We pulled out of King's Auto in Coralville at 12:45 p.m., heading south just ahead of the blizzard that was bearing down on the Midwest.

Stephanie & Danielle checking out a new camera

 We arrived in Orlando about 1:00 p.m. on December 12th.  A bit road weary we checked in, unpacked and took showers.  Stephanie, Clay and Sophia arrived about 4:30, they had flown down.  Their flight had been delayed about two hours, they brought news of the bitter cold, blowing snow of the Iowa winter tundra.  We made a provisions trip for food, and then sat down around the large round table to plan our strategy for the next 5 days. 
Monday morning dawned - COLD.  After breakfast, we purchased our theme park tickets for the week. Terry and I had decided we would take Monday to visit my Uncle and Aunt in Port Richey.  We arrived about 2:00 at their home.  We had a lovely visit, had a quick bite to eat and then drove back to Orlando.  It was so great to see my father's brother, Roger Ruchotzke and Aunt Marlene.  It had been many years.

Enjoying T-Rex Cafe
While we were in Port Richey, the rest of the King clan was exploring Downtown Disney.  They had a fun time exploring all the sites, shops and places to eat.  The kids love T Rex cafe.  I had seen this establishment in the Kansas City area a couple years ago and knew that it was a great place for kids. 
Monday night, we all sat and watched a couple movies on DVD.  The couch in our room was big enough for everyone.

Tuesday morning again was cold, we bundled up and headed for the Island of Adventure and Universal.  First order   of  business was to buy myself some socks, as my warm clothes had been accidentally left at home, so I borrowed a fleece jacket and made do.  I had to buy toe socks to wear with my sandals though, it was just too cold!  What a better choice than those from the book Cat in the Hat!!  

Many of the rides were closed due to the cold, most of the water rides and some of the roller coasters.  We made our way through the park looking at all the attractions, riding rides, and trying to keep in touch with each other.  How did we do this before cell phones? 
Adam and Trinity were ecstatic.  Sophia was less enthusiastic.  Although she loved Cat In The Hat. 
Sophia with Cat In The Hat
We rode some great rides, they even got me on the Fire & Ice ride.  I kept my eyes closed the entire time!  LOL!!  I did not volunteer to go on it again.  Harry Potter's castle was wonderful.  The lines moved along quickly.

Danielle and Adam enjoyed all the roller coaster rides.  Trinity was not so sure, but she did venture on some of those that seemed less wild.  She really liked the inside rides.  
After many hours, we went over to Universal Studios and enjoyed many of their rides and attractions.  They held a Macy's Christmas parade that we watched while drinking hot cocoa!  All sorts of balloons and floats, even one person that was in the parade, who yelled to Danielle, "Where in Iowa?  I'm from Cedar Rapids!"  Danielle was wearing her "Iowa" sweatshirt! What a small world we live in!
The whole group at Busch Gardens

Adam & Trinity enjoying one of the rides
We all piled into the van for a short trip back to the rooms.  We stopped for some carry out of hot soup and sandwich fixings.  After a quick bite, I filled the large jacuzzi in our room with hot water, we put on our swimsuits and piled in.  It was great to warm our boned chilled bodies!  Bed time came early!
Wednesday morning, we ate breakfast and then took the hour drive to Busch Gardens in Tampa.  The sun was shining but we were armed with coats, gloves/mittens and stocking caps, as well as granola bars, apples and fruit roll-ups in our pockets.  What a great park!  They had fabulous rides, the animal exhibits were wonderful, and once again it was not a busy day, so there were not waits for any of the rides or exhibits.  Sophia did not feel well.  She seemed exhausted from all the walking.  I held her while Terry went on rides with the kids.  She just wanted to sleep.  Terry, then, held her, while I went on a couple water rides.  She woke up during a wonderful ice skating performance.  We went through the kangaroo exhibit and she really came to life when she saw the ducks and swans, which is a favorite pastime at home during the summer months at Beaver Park, which is just down the street from their house.
Trinity, Adam, Danielle & Terry as we enter Harry Potter's castle
On Thursday, after breakfast, packing sandwiches, bottles of water in the cooler, granola bars and apples in our pockets, we drove to Sea World.  It had started to warm some, so stocking caps, mittens and coats were not needed.  We first went to the manta ray exhibit, we were able to feed, and touch the rays.  Very neat.  We, next, went to feed the dolphins.  What an absolute awesome experience!  (Next time I AM going to Discovery Cove!)  Off to catch the water rides, as well as their roller coasters.  The exhibits were great.  We all split up and went our own direction, to do something each of us was interested in.  We did all gather for in Shamu Theatre for the noon show.  It was less dramatic than those I had seen in the past, but fun just the same.  Stephanie, Clay and Sophia went back to the rooms as Sophia really was not feeling well.  Terry and I took in a couple of the shows and walked around looking at the lovely exhibits.  At dusk, Danielle, Terry, Trinity, Adam and I all got in the van back to the rooms.  Stephanie had made black bean soup, which was wonderful after our long day at Sea World.  YUM!  The kids and Danielle went down to the pool to swim for about an hour after dinner and then off to bed!
Adam & Trin @ the ocean
  •  Friday was going to be our wrap it up day and to be the warmest and best weather all week.  We got up again to a hearty breakfast of oatmeal and bananas.  Danielle, Adam, Trinity, Terry and I headed for the coast.  Danielle and the kids had not seen the ocean, so off we went!  It was about a hour drive to Cocoa Beach, but the day was sunny and the breeze light.  It was as magnificent as I had remembered.  Danielle and the kids were in awe.  We did the normal picking up shells, and then, we took our shoes off and did a bit of wading.  As time progressed, Adam and Trinity took their shorts off, and then their shirts and played in the surf.  They LOVED it.  Although too cold for most visitors, these two enjoyed their time, and did not want to leave!  About noon we loaded back up in the van, and drove back to Orlando, quick showers and a change of clothes and we went back to the Islands of Adventure to take in some of the rides that we were not able to ride on Tuesday!  We were SOAKED!!  Even at 75, being soaked to the skin was not a  pleasant experience, and Terry and I made sure we stayed in the sun!  We ended our visit to Islands of Adventure about 6:00, again went back to the rooms, grabbed a quick bite to eat, changed clothes for the 3rd time and went back to Sea World to catch a couple of the evening shows.  What a delight!  There is something about the park at night that was very different from the day visits.  The sea lion and otter show was fabulous, and the Believe show in Shamu theatre was incredible!  Danielle and the kids, who were not sure they wanted to go again, were very happy they did.  Just as we were about to leave the park, I noticed the light show on the lake had started, so we stayed and watched it.  What a lovely end to a good vacation.  Crazy with things to do and places to go, but it was such a relaxing ending, we were happy to head back to the rooms about 10:30, knowing that we would be heading home on Saturday morning.
Sophia & Stephanie @ Downtown Disney
Saturday morning, we had our bags packed and watched through gray skies for the rain to start.  Danielle took Adam and Trinity down to the pool for a swim after breakfast, and just before they came back it started to pour, we packed the van quickly and were on our way north by 10:00 a.m., leaving Stephanie, Clay and Sophia to one more day of Florida fun in Orlando.
We drove through the rain through most of Florida and some of Georgia.  We hit snow just north of Saint Louis about 4:00 a.m.  It was a light dusting, but snow just the same.  We pulled into the driveway at 6:38 a.m. to pick up the keys for Danielle's home and took her and the kids home.  We pulled back in about 7:00 and unloaded.  Vacation was fun, but it was great to be home!

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