Adventures: This one in Florida

Amelia Island, Florida 2017

We ran away to sunshine and spanish moss over winter break last month with our kids. Everything in me inhales deeper at the base of a live oak trunk with it’s arms swaying above me dressed in spanish moss and salty air.

I. Love. Florida.

Amelia Island, Florida 2017

Our destination was Amelia Island and we stayed at the Omni Plantation Resort.

Amelia Island, Florida 2017

We were able to find an incredible deal on priceline.com for the rooms and a rental car, and bought our plane tickets through a deal site that kicks back to our tuition bill, which is always helpful. When we checked in to the hotel we had no idea that it would be this amazing. I had researched and googled and planned an itinerary but seeing it in person and getting an ocean front room was another story entirely.

Amelia Island, Florida 2017

In my “House Keeping” series I talked about budgets (you can read that here) and one of the things I don’t think I mentioned was that we set aside a bit of each paycheck for vacations. It’s a separate savings account and the amount we budget for just gets automatically deducted from our paycheck and directly deposited each time we get paid. Lickety split. This is how I budget, actually, I have separate accounts for a number of different things.

Amelia Island, Florida 2017

I would absolutely go back to Amelia Island. It’s just inside of the Florida state line from Georgia so the southern charm is heavy. The history of Amelia Island and Fernandina Beach was rich and fun to explore.

A few things I really wanted to do were unavailable when we got there – but here’s our tips for a weekend getaway:

We flew into Jacksonville which is about 35-45 minutes away from the hotel we stayed at. So renting a car was the best option for us to get from the airport to the hotel. It was also nice to have a way to get around outside of the resort, where food was cheaper and being a tourist was more available. Inside the resort is beautiful, and I would recommend renting a golf cart (if you rent at the end of the day you get to keep it overnight for the cost of 2 hours, win!) to really be able to see the vastness of the estate. It is amazing, full of beautiful pockets, parks, lakes, neighborhoods, beaches and pools. Plus restaurants, shopping villages, a spa and more.

Amelia Island, Florida 2017
Amelia Island, Florida 2017

Definitely look for shark teeth on the beach, we came home with 3. We think. They might be shark teeth or they might be suspiciously shaped shells. Either way, the hunt was fun. This is the beach our hotel was sitting on. Gorgeous.

Amelia Island, Florida 2017
Amelia Island, Florida 2017

We had our own pool at the complex we stayed in but the main hotel had a larger, warmer pool that we spent most of our lounge time at.

The hotel also has a great calendar of events, some of them free to guests. We took advantage of all the things that sounded fun to us. A fire one night with s’mores, a tour of their apiary and Seelings Project with the head Sous Chef for the property, partaking in the donut wall for the holiday weekend.

Amelia Island, Florida 2017
Amelia Island, Florida 2017
Amelia Island, Florida 2017
Amelia Island, Florida 2017
Amelia Island, Florida 2017

Food:

Resort food is very expensive, but buying 4 adult meals every meal is too. We tried to eat at great local places that wouldn’t break the bank and we tried a couple of the restaurants in the resort as well. I think our favorite was The Patio Place on Sunday morning. A local brunch spot with good coffee, savory crepes, and amazing atmosphere.

The cheapest meal we ate was a $5 hot and ready pizza from Little Caesars on Saturday night. It was magnificent.

Amelia Island, Florida 2017
Amelia Island, Florida 2017
Amelia Island, Florida 2017

We walked around the historic part of Old Town after breakfast, just taking in the shops and scenery. We like to find a local book store every where we travel so we waited for their shop to open so we could browse.

Amelia Island, Florida 2017
Amelia Island, Florida 2017

Fort Clinch State Park:

For the next few hours we explored Fort Clinch State Park but we didn’t pay the entry fee for the actual fort. We walked to the beach and saw the fort from the outside, watched the tide change, looked for shells and watched fishermen. We also spent some time exploring the woods and climbing trees before we took a small hike to look for alligators.

Amelia Island, Florida 2017
Amelia Island, Florida 2017
Amelia Island, Florida 2017
Amelia Island, Florida 2017
Amelia Island, Florida 2017
Amelia Island, Florida 2017

The hike we did was The Willow Pond Trail and we spotted 5 alligators. Which means I think there were probably like 12. And you know, they’re just laying in wait in the water about 5 feet from my sandaled toes.

Amelia Island, Florida 2017
Amelia Island, Florida 2017

Oliver was very interested in keeping us all safe. šŸ˜‰

Amelia Island, Florida 2017

There’s only one in the photo above, can you spot him?

Amelia Island, Florida 2017

And there are 4 in this above photo. Probably more that we didn’t see. Tricky!

After some more time at the pool and our only “resort” experience with poolside pina coladas (omg, so yummy) we decided to try to rent bikes and see more of the complex. When we got to rental place we noticed that it would actually be cheaper to rent a golf cart than to rent 4 bikes – and because we were so close to closing time, the 2 hour minimum rental for a golf cart turned into an overnight rental as long as we had it back by the time they opened the following morning (which was 9 am).

If you know my son, you know that this spoke his love language more than anything else all weekend.

BEHOLD!

Amelia Island, Florida 2017
Amelia Island, Florida 2017

We were able to see so much more this way – it was one of our highlights.

Amelia Island, Florida 2017
Amelia Island, Florida 2017
Amelia Island, Florida 2017
Amelia Island, Florida 2017
Amelia Island, Florida 2017

Monday morning we had the golf cart back by 9 am, grabbed breakfast at the resorts “market style” morning deli for the second time, went to the beach one last time, checked out the nature center and helped the kids shop for their souvenirs with their money.

Amelia Island, Florida 2017
Amelia Island, Florida 2017
Amelia Island, Florida 2017
Amelia Island, Florida 2017
Amelia Island, Florida 2017

We checked out at 11, drove back to their airport, and came home.

Amelia Island, Florida 2017

A perfect amount of time for a getaway in the sun in the middle of February in Michigan.

Until the next adventure.

šŸ˜‰

If you can’t sing, be the song

Hi. I’ve been thinking a lot about you lately. “You” being this side of me, I suppose. Going through old photos and boxes of letters recently we found the letter Aaron wrote to his groomsmen before our wedding. He titled it his Single Man’s Swan Song, it was an ode to a former piece of him, a letting go of the old and an invitation to take on the new alongside of him. In true Aaron-fashion he was the first of his buddies to get married (to have a kid, a business, etc) and he owned it. His place in his story, and his clear decision to add a partner to his life with an invitation extended to his confidants to continue the journey with him … but also with us.

We laugh now when we read his letter to his friends but it really stuck with me. I’ve been wondering if this is my Swan Song to this part of me. A farewell, a goodbye, a letting go. A distance but an invitation to the change. It has long since been my goal to be authored and published. To walk into a book store and see my name on the spine of a book. So, as one does at the end of a year or season or extended period of waiting, I re-evaluated my goals. This entire year has been one evaluation after another.

Do I want this?

Is this for me?

Can I walk in this?

Will this hurt me?

Does this help me?

Where is this moving me?

Am I ready?

Slowly, ever so slowly, I’ve noticed that whatever desire was in me to be known on paper has changed. To see ink printed with my words, as satisfying as that is, hasn’t worked out. I’ve tried and mostly failed. And that’s ok. I’m not sorry I tried, or sad that it didn’t work out, or even hung up on the idea that some day it surely will. Maybe I’ve already written my book. Likely, I’ve written many in these archives. Scores of seasons and transitions and living – all recorded. All ready ordered.

So some of it goes unwritten, who cares. Some of it doesn’t get archived here, but maybe, even better, it gets archived on the hearts of my children. It bubbles up out of the mouths of my dearest friends who walked this road with me, maybe one day they’ll tell part of my story for me when I no longer can.

And maybe, just maybe, I tell my story a little differently from here on out. Maybe I start talking. Maybe I start speaking. Maybe I start sharing. Maybe I start profusely sweating and blacking out on a stage while words fall out of my mouth and instead of carrying these chapters with me, maybe I let them out.

Who knows?

I sure don’t. 12 years ago when we decided I would stay home and be a mom I had no idea that a decade later I would still be writing. That, at one point, this writing would bring in a full time income and a community of complete strangers who got me through some of the hardest seasons to date. For anonymous people to mean so much to a person, it might be borderline, but also? It was a lifeline. It was my lifeline.

I’m plagued with What’s Next lately, not like I have been before. I’m not frantic for something to distract me, I’m curious as to where this is all going. What have I been doing to prepare myself for what’s next all these years? I live on standby right now, with one parent who runs a company the sacrifice to the family is that changes, big or small, need to be leveled at a baseline. Here’s how far we can stretch and still bend, together. But this, this is where we break. We have to know where that point is. And we do, we know that point – so I continue to be a mom. I continue to freelance photography and when I stop being afraid of query letters – it’s how I continue to write outside of this space and flex those muscle’s too.

Should someone get sick, should the kids have a break or vacation from school – I’m on standby to supervise. I’m the constant parent. But I have a constant partner.

Aaron and I celebrated our 13th wedding anniversary this past August. It was delicious. I wrote (on Facebook) that I finally trust in marriage. God, it’s beautiful. I don’t deserve this life but I get to keep living it. It’s not lost on me that marriages all around me fall down. That friends suffer loss, that my own family suffers loss. I’ve spent the better part of the last thirteen years with my back against the wall waiting for the suffering to befall my house. Surely it was coming, I was due. And if I wasn’t going to suffer loss of love, I was up to bat to lose a life.

Ever so subtly I started backing away from the wall and embracing the vulnerability of stepping in with both feet. I would say something out loud and Aaron wouldn’t shun me. I would stand in front of him, naked in spirit, and ask him if he could see me and he would dance with me. I would sit next to him while he held our babies and I would whisper “is this pretend?” and he would look at me and promise with his eyes that I could trust this. I’ve cried a lot this year (spoiler alert!) because I didn’t know. I had no idea.

How can this be? For me?

It is. IT IS IT IS IT IS IT IS. This is for me. !!!!!!!! HOLY SHIT THIS IS FOR ME.

And I have no more words. I’m not searching for anything, I found it.

xoxo
Jodi

Day six, seven, and eight.

We left Montana and knew that by the time we stopped for the evening on day 6 we would be in Washington. As we were driving through mountains and crossing boarders and stopping for gas or bathroom breaks – the closer we got the more I started to recognize where we were. The smells were familiar, the backdrops were from my memories.

I was getting excited and ready to be there but I was also apprehensive and nervous. Gut checking my expectations, leaving them behind to just experience whatever was in my today. Right now. There was a song (even before we left) that I had started listening to that made me cry every time. A line in the song has to do with finally having a family, I don’t know, I’m sentimental I’ll give you that, but this was more. I was belonging to something, somewhere. And we were almost there.

The first place we stopped we decided to pass on (a first for the trip) and we kept heading west until we found a campground in the middle of nowhere. It was someone’s yard. The town looked like it was out of a movie set from the 30’s and even the bank was closing. There was one restaurant, the grocery store had closed. One gas station with $3 kleenex that we bought them out of. We ate dinner at the only restaurant and went back to our camper for the night. Trains were frequent and loud but the sunset was the most beautiful thing I had seen.

Drove a long way to see this today.

I think I was wary on day six. My nerves were a little shot, we had the first experience of a disappointing stop, the build up of arriving was starting to cap … it was time to land.

The next morning we got up and on our way, hitting up a breakfast spot along the way and making it to Fort Worden for our last night on the road.

Fort Worden, WA Day 7
Fort Worden, Day 7
Fort Worden, Day 7
Fort Worden, Day 7
Fort Worden, Day 7
Fort Worden, Day 7
Fort Worden, Day 7
Fort Worden, Day 7
Fort Worden, Day 7

If you don’t mind some home-video and can stomach a walking camera and a newbie figuring out how to focus and manage changing light … well then give it a go:
Fort Worden

We made our first fire of the road trip, ate our first s’mores. Met our neighbors, thought we lost the kids and as we watched a creepy yellow van with his windows card-boarded up drive slowly out of the park I saw myself on the local news begging for my children’s safety and return … in reality, while we were running around and looking for them, they were collecting shells and having hot chocolate with our neighbors. So, I pooped my pants, metaphorically. But also, what the four letter words. We slept soundly that night, feet away from the beach and all in one place.

Day 8 was here! By my calculations we had a small drive to our final destination so we could spend some time at Fort Worden, but also in Port Townsend doing some sight seeing and shopping and lunching and generally things not having to do with sitting in a car. And we did. Slowly ambling around Port Townsend, getting lunch and coffee, and our first souvenirs.

Fort Worden, Day 8
Fort Worden, Day 8
Fort Worden, Day 8
Fort Worden, Day 8
Fort Worden, Day 8
Port Townsend, WA Day 8
Port Townsend, WA Day 8

We even packed up and spent more time at Fort Worden at their Whale exhibit and their Marine learning center with the kids before we got back in the car and started driving … then suddenly stopping in a long line of cars headed for a ferry that you would need a reservation to board. Which we did not have.

Fort Worden, Day 8
Fort Worden, Day 8
Fort Worden, WA (day 8)
Fort Worden, WA (day 8)

I loved this place.

So our last day of travel was supposed to be a teeny little trip. But it turned out longer and bigger than we thought – and included a ferry for the kids and an eventual arrival at our house with actual beds that night.

We were almost home.

Montana: Lewis and Clark State Park

We landed in Montana on the 5th day – I’m pretty sure Aaron did some driving because he kept taking videos of the mountains while driving. He was seeing this landscape for the first time, winding hills dotted with cattle. An endless horizon and blue sky. He wasn’t just a passenger, finally šŸ™‚ I remember being pretty excited about this development.

Montana is windy. Just, you know, like 25 mile an hour winds on a vista. That same vista our little pop-up camper was parked for the night in the open air between mountain peaks. We had conquered rain and thunder, clapping skies and sheets of rain. We had been through heat and fevers and the flu. Wind though? We didn’t really know what to do with wind. (Video of wind)

Montana - Lewis and Clark State Park

So we played games.

Montana - Lewis and Clark State Park
Montana - Lewis and Clark State Park
Montana - Lewis and Clark State Park

We walked around the camp ground for a bit and read some signs: we were in bear territory and on the menu for dinner? Sausage. Eggs. Breakfast for dinner … inside the camper.

Montana - Lewis and Clark State Park

Montana - Lewis and Clark State Park
Montana - Lewis and Clark State Park

The crackling of the stove and the smell of cooking breakfast with wind whipping through our camper, the kids sitting at the table playing games with snacks, and Aaron finally functioning as a human. This was a new normal by day 5. Rugged, dirty, take it as it comes living.

With Aaron’s new found sea legs for traveling he was also all of a sudden aware of time passing. And how much more opportunity there was to FILL THAT TIME WITH SEEING EVERYTHING. We laugh about it now, but his being sick for the first 5 days was really a blessing. We actually traveled. He can take about 2 hours in the car before he needs to stop and look around. About 30 minutes before he starts complaining about being in a car. And yet, we love to travel this way.

Which meant that after dinner we started asking around wondering if there was anything “to do around here.” We hopped back into the car for a little field trip.

Montana - Lewis and Clark State Park
Montana - Lewis and Clark State Park
Montana - Lewis and Clark State Park

And this was the new soundtrack to my days:

Montana - Lewis and Clark State Park

Water and birds, all kinds of hidden bugs singing, little feet stepping, constantly parenting, and always wide-eyed wondering.

We were almost there. I started seeing sunsets behind mountains and recognizing the smells in the air. I also stopped showering thinking the next place wouldn’t charge $3 for five minutes of water … Note to self: keep quarters.

Mt. Rushmore and the Black Hills.

On day four we woke up to birds chirping and the kids playing right outside the camper door.

Center Lake Campground, Custer State Park

They were cleaning their rocks, you see. Completely busy and unaware. The air was clean and the coffee was on it’s way. We fell in love with camping in Custer State Park.

Center Lake Campground, Custer State Park
Center Lake Campground, Custer State Park
Center Lake Campground, Custer State Park
Center Lake Campground, Custer State Park
Center Lake Campground, Custer State Park
Center Lake Campground, Custer State Park
Center Lake Campground, Custer State Park

After breakfast we packed up and headed out for the day. Mount Rushmore was on the schedule, driving through the Black Hills and Custer State Park was probably our favorite day of the trip out west. It was breathtaking and a good amount of time outside of the car at the monument meant the travel time was mostly anticipation between stops.

Day 4: Mt Rushmore

It’s also the only place we have a photo of all 4 of us šŸ™‚

Day 4: Mt Rushmore

We had a great time learning more about how Mt. Rushmore was made, blasted out of the mountain side. How long it took, and what the presidents meant for the country at the time. The kids also spent their souvenir money at the gift shop: surprise surprise, they bought stuffed animals.

Day 4: Mt Rushmore
Day 4: Mt Rushmore
Day 4: Mt Rushmore

We had lunch and learned that President Jefferson was the first guy to introduce ice cream to the states. His recipe was on a plaque – and everyone was eating expensive tourist ice cream. (Except us, oh well!)

That night we stayed in Buffalo, WY at a KAO. There was a creek rustling through our backyard, we had amazing neighbors, and it was the first night we built a fire on the trip.

Buffalo, WY Day 4
Buffalo, WY Day 4
Buffalo, WY Day 4
Buffalo, WY Day 4

Day 5 we started driving through Montana and paying for showers…