Just before Laura and I booked our trip to Cuba in 2012, we also brought one of these offers (after much deliberation, duplicate phone calls to the company, and receiving the same information). The package included 3 nights in Orlando, FL, a 2 night Bahamas cruise and 2 nights in Fort Lauderdale, FL. The bonus, 2 nights in Las Vegas, NV that we used last September when we caught up before I flew home to Australia for a bit of a break.Unfortunately, or fortunately in our case, the package didn’t include flights, just accommodation. Laura had always said that she’d love to drive down to Florida when we decided to use this package, so what better way to start our year traveling than with a trip to Orlando, a chance to live every childhood dream and visit Disney World and then spend a couple of days relaxing aboard a Celebrations cruise liner to the Bahamas and two days on the beach in Fort. Lauderdale?
And so the trip to Florida was born.
Deciding a route to take on any road trip can be mind numbing. Neither of us aren’t necessarily against making the most of every opportunity to see something, but after numerous attempts to fulfill our traveling desires, we agreed that too much time in the US was going to drain our budgets significantly and that the drive from Saint Catharine’s to Orlando would just be that. A means to an end. Straight down the Interstates with very little detours.
Initially we had planned a route that would take us to Washington D.C., America’s capital and home to all things political, but after crossing into the US later than expected on Friday afternoon we altered our plans and hit the I90 toward Erie before heading south on the I79 towards Pittsburgh, PA for our first night.
Now you would think that with over twelve months to plan for this little adventure we are on, we would have at least our first nights accommodation sorted.
Don’t be silly… What happens if you want to change plans? (And let’s just say this is not the first time this has happened to us on the road… Helena, Montana ringing any bells Laura?)
So on our first night we learnt a couple of things:
1. Perhaps being very carefree still requires a small amount of planning.
2. KOA campgrounds have a ‘no tents after dark policy’
3. The iPad can save loads of time when you can check availability of cheap hotels (read Super 8’s) and book online.
Night one was also the night we discovered Sheets, a fresh alternative to service station convenience stops and food on the go.
Day two had us up and back on the I79 early. The further south we drove along the greying bitumen into Pennsylvania and West Virginia, the more evident it become that spring had sprung. The new tree buds and pink and white cherry blossoms reminders of a new year and new beginnings.
Onto the I77 crossing from West Virginia to Virginia, we drove through some spectacular scenery that is the Appalachian Mountains. Their peaks only recently cleared of snow and the signs of winter still lingering with the coolness in the air.
Night two, thankfully we had organized. Friends back in Calgary had arranged for us to stay with family, so with a slight detour east we headed along the I40 towards Apex, NC.
What we found were amazing hosts that welcomed us into their home and lives and shared with us amazing travel stories of their own and a quaint little town that can only be described as peacefully beautiful.
From Apex, NC we hit the I95 and continued our journey southbound, through South Carolina before enjoying some typically southern lunch in Savannah, Georgia at Ronnie’s – think southern fried chicken and BBQ pulled pork sandwiches…YUMMO, at a typical American diner.
From Savannah we continued to follow the I95 hoping for glimpses of the Atlantic ocean to our east or even the opportunity to view one of those stately homes, you know the big old white ones that you see in the movies with the big columns out the front, only to have them blocked by the tall trees and dense foliage of the creeping vines.
Crossing the St. Mary’s river and into Florida we found Waldo (Aussie’s think Where’s Wally) before cruising into Gainesville, FL and spending the night with another gracious host, Laurie.
I first met Laurie back in 2011 when I came to Gainesville to visit with my cousin, Maree and her husband Jonathan while they where living and working aboard at the University of Florida. Ree had worked some of her magic and arranged for us to stay with Laurie on this trip and it was just the rest and relaxation we needed after a long day driving before tackling the hustle and bustle that lie before us in Orlando.
Pat and Larry and Laurie we thank you from the bottom of our hearts for opening up your lives and your homes and accepting us in (as do both our families).
While it was only a short drive for us to Orlando, it seemed like forever, but eventually we saw the first signs for Disney World. We had arrived at destination no. 1.
It’s a surreal feeling waking up and knowing that for the next unknown months of your life you will be waking up to your own time. Treading your own path.
What started as a dream in Veradero, Cuba yesterday become a reality and we are now living the life that so many others only dream about.
After packing our lives into Faith (very nicely too I might add), running a few last-minute errands and taking in a quick tour of Lake Ontario, we hit the road. Destination …… south!
Crossing ‘Rainbow Bridge’ at Niagara Falls, ON life continued for everyone else like it does day in, day out. Hundreds of visitors lined the viewing platforms on both sides of Niagara Falls, while others took a closer look from the water on the ‘Maid of the Mist’ boats as they closed in under the thundering falls. The mighty sound of falling water from both the US and Canadian falls carrying to the bridge were we sat idle enjoying their majestic beauty. Waiting to cross the US border.
With passports in hand we edged closer and closer, before finally being approved and allowed to enter the US.
Hello to our new lives.