We're in the midst of summer vacation...whoo-hoo! We finished up our school work a couple of weeks ago and have been busy having fun Florida style...pool, beach...well, that's pretty much it. Ha!
We took a mini vacation the week after we finished school, a sort of history field trip of northern Florida.
The planned itinerary: two nights of tent camping in Ocala National Forest with a trip to the history museum at the University of Florida and a trip to Silver Springs in Ocala, one night in a hotel in St. Augustine, the oldest city in the United States, and one night in a hotel in Tallahassee, the state capital, with lots of stops at important historical places along the way.
What happened in real life? Rain, mosquitoes, a vomiting child, exhausted parents and a vacation cut one day short. Somehow we still had a good time.
We drove down to Ocala in good weather but it started raining as soon as we got there. Hoping it would blow over, we went and checked in at the campground and went right away to check out the fresh water springs that had drawn us to that particular campground. Before we even saw the signs, the kids spotted the alligator in the swimming area. Cool to look at, not to swim with.
The beauty of the spring was not disappointing however.
Between the rain and the swimming area closed until sometime the next day, we gave up and headed to the closest hotel that could fit our family (well, six of us anyways...we consider Anna a bonus since hotels that fit a family of seven are pretty much nonexistent).
The next morning it stopped raining long enough for the kids to get some swimming in before we headed to Silver Springs.
My dad met us there and the rain held off all morning so we had a good time. They are slowly turning Silver Springs into a state park, so there wasn't as much to do as I remembered from nine years ago when we went but there was enough to fill up a couple hours.
Glass bottom boat ride...so fun!
Animal safari jeep ride
Shortly after, it started pouring rain. We tried to drive to the east side of the national park to see if maybe we could past the storm that was moving west, but it was useless. After grabbing some ice cream in a tiny central Florida town, we decided to just go on to St. Augustine and camp at a state park there.
We did and it was terrible. LOL
If you look closely, you'll notice a theme to the pictures...kids scratching. Apparently that rain that went through hatched a ton of mosquito eggs because they were everywhere. And they were hungry. Bug spray didn't help, they swarmed around the citronella candle and as soon as the smores were eaten, we spent the rest of the night in our van watching a movie and in our tent. No relaxing by the fire while the kids run around having fun. No visiting with nearby campers or enjoying the stars at night. We zipped ourselves into our tent, swatted any mosquitoes that had sneaked inside, applied Benadryl cream to bug bites, and I read a book aloud to keep five kids from going crazy inside 65 square feet of space.
See the bag of trash in the picture below (top left corner)? When we made a mad dash for the van to escape the crazy mosquitoes, we failed to take that bag with us. When we returned after a short drive, a raccoon had ripped it down and dragged trash into the woods behind our tent that Chris had to go and collect in the dark for (my) fear that raccoons would be surrounding our tent all night to finish it off.
Makes you want to go camping, right?
And a couple hours after everyone had fallen asleep, I woke up to my three year old vomiting next to my head. Several times throughout the night.
We packed up as the sun came up and left as fast as we could.
The problem? We couldn't check into our hotel until that afternoon. We had a sick child, tickets for a city trolley tour and museums and were two days into our vacation and just not having much fun. We loaded a roll of paper towels and a pack of wipes into our backpack, a couple changes of clothes for Anna, and started our tour of the city.
Anna was very worn out that day, but only got sick once. However, since she does't use a stroller much anymore, we didn't bring one and we ended up holding her all day. So she's not in many pictures. And PS: Holding a sick child and taking photos of our vacation in not easy.
Old Jail Tour
Fort San Marcos
Fountain of Youth...they gave out paper cups full of it and it was pretty gross, worse than tap water. My kids wouldn't drink more than a sip.
The next day we took the trolley tour all the way through the city and had a great guide. Anna felt a little better and the kids were happy we didn't get on and off all day to walk everywhere. We really would like to go back and spend a few days so we can see everything without being in a hurry.
The very spot where Ponce de Leon landed.
Below, "The Old Senator", a 600 year old live oak tree in the middle of the Howard Johnson hotel grounds. Live oak trees usually only live a couple hundred years. We didn't realize it when we booked a hotel here (it was one of two that could fit six people) but the trolley tour stops at that tree, making it very convenient for hotel guests.
It really is a great city to visit, full of history and beautiful as well.
We left late that morning for the next stop on our "North Florida Field Trip", the state capital, Tallahassee. We had a few history tours/museums planned there but decided that morning that we would only tour the Old Capital and then go home, skipping our hotel stay.
It was also a very good museum and the kids enjoyed the scavenger hunt they have for the kids to do as they look at everything.
The problem ballot from the 2000 election. Confusing? It would seem not, if you can read and know what an arrow means.
The "new" Capital in the background.
And that was the end of our history field trip of north Florida. Not the smoothest vacation, but we get to add it to our bank of memories.