Florida Trip Recap, Part 1

We completed another family Roadtrip-with-a-capital-R this past week, this time to “The Sunshine State” of Florida to visit my sister-in-law and niece.

As with our Virginia trip last year, CJ spent many hours crafting an amazing itinerary that detailed when we had to leave, when and where we were to stop for breaks and meals, and of course, turn by turn driving directions.  She also spent many weeks off and on finding car-and-age appropriate activities for the girls, and then a morning organizing them into care packages.


Anal?  Absolutely, but it saved our sanity on multiple occasions.  Honestly, the trip would have been a disaster had I planned it.

We got on the road ugly-early one Thursday morning (5:15 am).  We had just crossed into Indiana when we nearly hit a deer (it came within 2 feet of the car).  Good morning!

One of the activities that we had the girls play was a road-trip scavenger hunt.  You look for things like buses, motor cycles, water towers, etc..  Here is the list of the items that should have been in the scavenger-hunt “bonus points” section:

*) Metal elephant
*) Giant rooster statue
*) Tank, apparently inactive, and parked in what looked like a restaurant parking lot
*) Sail boat on the highway
*) Life size T-Rex statue
*) Giant (inflatable) gorilla holding a firework the size of my couch
*) Giant bulldog (at least 8′ tall)

Why should these have been on the scavenger-hunt?  Because we saw all of these on the drive down – most of them in Indiana.  Our first major stop was at the Indianapolis Children’s Museum, which had several Transformers floating around, including this one:

Lucy as Autobot

Meet Lucy Prime.  One of the few times the red-eye actually adds to the picture.

Another exhibit that Katherine and I checked out was their dinosaur exhibit where you could dig for a bone.

Kat digging for Dino

It was surprisingly difficult to chip away at what looked like a gravel-glue mixture.  In the 15 or so minutes Katherine and I were at it, we made very little progress.  It was fun, nonetheless.

The museum also had a large Lego exhibit, showing off some sweet looking models.



My favorite was a mountainside built out of Lego, with every possible kind of transportation you could imagine – here are a few of my favorites:




Back in the car, one of Katherine’s activities was tracking our progress down the country on a map of the US.

Kat with Map

At one point, though, the map got the better of her.

Map Winning

“Uh, trapped…”

When we got to Kentucky we stopped at one of the caverns that offered tours.  The one we stopped at boasted being a one-time hiding spot for Frank and Jesse James.  As the story goes, they had just robbed a few banks, and took to hiding out at this cavern for four days, waiting for the heat to blow over.  When they made their way back out the mouth of the cavern, they were greeted to several lawmen who were waiting for them.  They found another exit from the cavern, and continued on their crime spree.


And if you can’t tell what the girls are doing, here’s another look:

Close up of girls

Yep.  Those are MY daughters, people!  Again, awesome use of red-eye, if I do say so myself.

The tour was actually a boat tour.  About 15 of us climbed aboard with our guide, and immediately had to duck to avoid the cavern ceiling.  As we were all doubled-over in our seats, our guide kindly pointed out that this part of the tour will only last 25 minutes (yes, he was kidding).

Humor-aside, I actually experienced a short burst of claustrophobia – I was in a boat, thinking about the millions of pounds of rock that was now hanging inches above my head.  Once we got past that point, though, the rest of the cavern was 30 feet or more tall, so no ducking was needed.  But, of course, we had to go back out the way we came in…  All in all, it was a very cool experience (figuratively and literally – there was easily a 20 degree difference between the parking lot and the carvern itself).

Once we were off the tour, we bought the girls a couple of bags of sand so they could sluice for gemstones. 

Sluicing A

Katherine wisely commented that they probably put one gemstone in each bag, so that the kids would get something.  The cashier heard that and with a lot of humor in her voice, responded, “Oh yeah, at LEAST one in each bag”.

Yeah, at LEAST one:

Sluicing B

The next day we made our way into Alabama.  The rest stop that greeted us sported a Saturn 1B rocket.

Saturn 1B

We pulled out a couple of foam planes that had rubber-band launchers, and let the girls stretch their legs (and arms) a bit. 

Airplanes A

Airplanes B

After several crashes, they got the hang of it, and were getting good flights out of them.

We got back on the road, and headed toward Birmingham.  The Ford Explorer that we rented for the trip had a touch screen interface for most of the controls.  For the music controls, it would show (among other things) the current song playing.  CJ, who was driving at the time, glanced down and started laughing uncontrollably.  When she recovered, she explained that she looked down to see what time it was, and her eye was caught by the largest thing showing – the name of the song, “One Day Too Late”.  Vehicles talking smack?  Oh, this won’t end well.

Later that day we stopped in Birmingham for lunch and to walk through Kelly Ingram Park.

Birmingham Statue A

Birmingham Statue B

Those were pretty much the highlights of the trip down.  Keep reading for the next post for our time in Florida, and the drive back.