with parents at Las Olas Beach

The Rents are Back in Town!

Tuesday April 28, 2015

parents overlooking Ft. Lauderdale

My parents are in Fort Lauderdale visiting us, and this is the first time I have seen them in nearly two and a half years.  Sure, there was that time in March ’13 where they had bought plane tickets to meet us in Panama where we never showed up (still in Florida!!) or when they were just about to pin down a condo in Turkey this past fall when we had to phone them and say “Guess what?  We bought a boat in Florida, so we’re not actually going to make it to the Med!”, but this is the first time they’ve been able to catch us in a place we said we’d actually be.  Cause let’s be honest.  The middle of Florida beats out all those places anyway, why wouldn’t we want to spend the next 9 months of our lives here?

With all of those previous mis-plans however, a two bedroom suite was booked in Fort Lauderdale and plane tickets were purchased with the hope we’d still be around when they arrived.  Luckily for them, we were.  Since we’re still vehicle-less at the moment they took a night to settle in before making the run out to Indiantown to pick us up and wrap us in extremely long bear hugs that had been postponed for way too long.  A tour of Serendipity wasn’t necessary since they’d been on her a few times in Michigan but we did get to show them the newest project on our hands.

Finding the most stable ladder we could find, we guided them up to the mess that is currently Daze Off to show them what kind of trouble we had gotten ourselves into.  My mom was quite optimistic and kept commenting on all those house flipping shows you see on tv and said, “You can do the same thing to this boat.”.  Let’s hope she’s right.  My dad, who has built four of our houses himself, could easily see the long road we have ahead of us.

Loading all our belongings plus Georgie into the rental car, we made our way out of the marina only to head further into the center of Florida.  My grandparents (on my dad’s side) happen to live only 90 minutes from where we are staying and since the whole fam happened to be here (well, enough of us anyway) we couldn’t miss out on a trip to see them.  A few hours were spent in their house catching up on the past year of our lives, and also watching how Georgie interacted with their two cats.  For once she actually wasn’t the dominating one chasing others down, but instead cowering behind curtains and pretending she was invisible.

When it was time for an early dinner the six of us piled into our cars and made our way out to a nice restaurant where Matt and I excitedly chowed down on the first steaks we’d had in probably over a year.  Extra bloody for me….mmmmm.  When the plates were clean and we’d stuffed enough biscuits and cinnamon butter into a doggy bag to last us all week, we took the long road back to Fort Lauderdale.  Traveling through the one road that leads through the Everglades going east, we found ourselves in a traffic jam due to a terrible accident. Unfortunately, areas like this are definitely prone to car and truck accidents.

Directly in front of us was a biker gang and their supply vehicle.  Since no one was making any progress forward we’d see plenty of people stepping out of their vehicles or off their bikes and wandering around.  Lots of the bikers were meandering back to the support vehicle which was directly in front of us to grab bottles of water…but then a few of them looked like they were reaching into a cooler to snatch a jell-o shot and throw it back.  The first time we were confused, but then we watched it happen again and again.  Just before traffic began inching forward I was tempted to go up and ask for one myself.

Once at the condo we were greeted with all the luxuries we’d been missing for so long.  Air conditioning, storage space for all our belongings, television, and a bed we could actually spread out in and let our feet dangle off the side.  Come to think of it, the AC might have been the best part of it all since the boat has been getting upwards of 95 degrees every afternoon lately. It didn’t take us long to settle in and even Georgie had fun exploring all these new and unknown spaces.

parents on Daze Off

Georgie at grandparent's house

Jessica with parents and grandparents

4.28.15 (3)

 Since Matt and I had spent a good month in Fort Lauderdale with Serendipity last year, we decided to tak my parents to our old stomping grounds including Pier 66, the marina where we luckily had a friend that let us tie our dinghy to his boat since there are little to no dinghy landings around here.  Driving toward the shore we had them park the rental car just past one of the main lift bridges that we always used to have to traverse to get to the grocery store, and took a stroll up to the center to give them an idea of what kind of yachts were kept in this area.  Spoiler alert: not small ones!

Taking in a luxury that none of us will ever be acquainted with, we walked back down the bridge and into Pier 66 so they could get a look at some of these yachts up close.  Matt and I told them a story of how we had been here just a year ago with his mom and step-dad and had seen Steven Spielberg’s mega yacht parked right up on the side with it’s 30 or so full time crew members taking a break in the galley, and how we’d thought it would be the largest thing we’d ever see…until we arrived in Sint Maarten a few months earlier and saw yachts that doubled the size of his.

yachts at 17th St. Causeway

Matt & dad at 17th St. Causeway

mom & dad at Pier 66

Next item of the day was lunch and Las Olas Beach. Even though the sky was overcast and rain was threatening to pour down at any moment and there was no way we’d spent our afternoon sunning ourselves in the sand, it was still worth checking out.  Before we could get there though we ran them up to the highest floor we could reach to give them a glimpse of Lake Sylvia and where we had Serendipity anchored for a month last year.  The perfect little protected area just off the ICW where we even felt fine leaving her on her own for a 2 day run down to Miami.

It wasn’t quite as impressive as when the sun is shining and everything is bright, so after just a few glances back and forth we went back to the car and Las Olas.  Just like Ocean Drive in South Beach, there is a huge strip of restaurants that advertise their drink specials more than what is on their menu.  And while a few of those beer buckets did look tempting, we had plenty of those back at the condo and good food is what we were really after.  When we’d passed by the happy hour hot spots, I remembered that when we were here last year a friend had recommended a little place called Lulu’s Bait Shack as a good place on the beach to grab a bite to eat.

Situated right between Hooters and Fat Tuesday, Lulu’s wasn’t quite the authentic fish shack that it’s name might suggest, but it looked quirky and fun and was certainly different than most of the other restaurants around. Perusing the menu, both my mom and I ordered a Lulu’s exclusive ale while the boys went for the bigger domestics on special, and I thought gator bites would be a nice little lunch, especially since I didn’t like the way the ones we encountered on the St. Lucie River were looking at Georgie on our way into Indiantown.

When lunch was over we took a quick stroll through the sand and realized the rain we’d been seeing off the in distance was probably going to hit us sooner rather than later, so we packed it in for the afternoon.

Two years has been much too long since my last visit with my parents, but I’m so overjoyed that not only are they here now, but we’ve been able to squeeze so much into our time together already, plus all of our time has been spent together.  Sightseeing in the afternoon, dinners back at the condo, and finishing off our nights with a movie and ice cream.  I an tell the rest of this week is going to go by way too fast!

overlooking Ft. Lauderdale

lunch at Lulu's

with parents at Las Olas Beach

Las Olas Beach, Ft. Lauderdale

Matt & Jessica 2

A Letter to my Family

Friday May 30, 2014

Matt & Jessica 2

 Don’t worry about us, we’re all smiles now.

(Photo courtesy of Lahowind)


Ha, what was I thinking posting something on the blog last week about having a major meltdown about our Atlantic crossing without sharing any of my hesitations with my parents first?  Here they are sitting at home, thinking everything is fine and we’ll still be leaving in just a few days time, and then BAM, they see something online with me basically running in circles yelling ‘Oh my god, We’re going to die!!’.  Yeah, not one of my smarter moves.

The good thing about getting that blog post up though was so any future ocean crossing cruisers know they’re not alone when that ‘Oh s%*t, what the hell are we doing?!’ moment comes up.  If you stop and think twice about your actions and if you’re doing the right thing, then you can know you’re not alone.

The other reason, and I think I knew this before I published it, is that by publishing it, it would help bring me a little perspective.  In all honesty, I know we’ll be ok, whatever we decide to do.  If it’s to wait for the perfect weather window and cross the Atlantic, try for that but find ourselves running down to Grenada instead, or deciding that the Atlantic just isn’t in the plans for us this year.  I needed to actually hear other people telling us that we’d be ok.  And the support and positive energy you’ve all sent our way has been amazing.   I feel a new vigor like we can actually handle this, and any nerves I had before have now given way to excitement.

With that being said though, it still doesn’t make up for freaking out my family like I did.  I’m sorry family.  Don’t worry about us.  We’ll be smart in our planning and always trust our gut.  And just to smooth out any wrinkles and ease any worry that my previous post might have caused, here’s a follow up on the subject.  A response I sent to my dad after getting a ‘Why didn’t you tell us what’s been going on?!’ email from him that will also let all of you know our most up to date plans:


Hi dad.  Sorry to freak the rest of the family out with my ‘Freaking out’ blog post.  I did want to contact you and mom about our most recent plans, but we’ve still been trying to figure out what they are.  Our departure date of June 1st is totally out the window now, so we’ll be around here a few more days.  (Don’t ever think I’d leave without letting you know!).  There’s actually a number of things keeping us here for about a week longer than expected.

  •   Georgie.  Nope, everything did not go according to plan there. Getting her into the EU seems like one of the hardest projects we’ll ever have to tackle. There was never specific information online about exactly what we needed (or maybe there was too much and I couldn’t make sense of it) and the vets we had talked to before seemed clueless about what was actually needed, only giving us small tidbits of information here and there, so that when we showed up at the USDA yesterday it turns out we did not have all the papers that were required.  Everything we found before (and what the vet in Fort Lauderdale told us) is that we just had to show up to the USDA with an up to date health certificate.  Which we got from the vet in Guatemala, and then added the record of Georgie’s rabies titer test.  It turns out that we needed to visit a certified vet one more time within 10 days of our departure for them to say that she’s healthy, has all of her shots, and THAT’S what we bring to the USDA.  So now we have another vet appt for Georgie on Monday, can drop the paperwork off to the USDA right after, and pick up the signed and notarized copy the next day.


  •   We’re missing a few shipments.  Last Thursday we ordered a lot of things from this online boating store, things that we needed in order to complete projects on the boat before we could leave, like caulk to make sure we fix whatever leaks we’ve been finding.  Ones that we’ve been able to semi-ignore in the past but shouldn’t for an ocean crossing.  We even paid extra for 2 day shipping so that we’d have it by the weekend and get right to work.  Well, that package hasn’t gotten to us yet and is now actually missing.  We put in a claim with the USPS, but we think we’ll just have to get reimbursed for the money of what was inside.  It looks like on Monday when we rent a car to take Georgie to the vet we’ll also have to swing by West Marine and buy all the stuff that was in the box just so we have it in our hands.  Then, we need about 3-4  rain-free days to complete those projects.


  •  The weather.  That was what my worry in the freak-out blog post was mostly about.  Not so much the two other boats that were lost and thinking for sure it would happen to us.  As everyone is telling me, hundreds of boats successfully make the crossing each season, it’s just the ones with problems that make the news.  One of the boats that was abandoned actually had issues last summer and lost their rudder, the same exact boat that made us go through and put an emergency rudder in after hearing what happened to them.  I won’t go too far into it, but it may be questionable if that boat was sound enough to handle that kind of crossing.

So..more with the weather…this past winter seems to have screwed up global weather patterns and things seem to be settling in later than normal.  The kind of weather we’re seeing out there right now is typical in that area for March or April, but not for late May.  We’d never leave unless we were 100% confident about ourselves and the passage, which is also part of what that post was about.  A prelude in case we end up in Panama or the Eastern Carribean.  Not too likely, but we need to have backup plans and I thought I’d introduce the possibility of them now so no one is thrown a curve ball in case we one day show up a few thousand miles from where we originally thought we’d be.  ‘Hey, guess what we just decided today on a whim….we’re going to Panama!!’.

Something I’ve been keeping my eye on, and Matt has actually come around to the idea in the past day or two as well, is to go much further south than we originally planned.  The only thing that had us hesitating to still make the Atlantic crossing is the bad weather that’s been starting off the NE coast of the US, near NY and CT, and then making it’s way east out into the Atlantic.  Most of it dissipates about 500-600 miles off shore though.  The original plan was to ride the Gulf Stream north of Bermuda and then start cutting NE where the North Atlantic current runs, a route normally followed due to trade winds and currents.  What we’re now looking at doing is waiting for a window of 4-5 days of south wind off Miami and then get just north of the Bahamas and cut east.  We’d follow that for the 500 miles or so that all the bad weather has been happening above us, and then turn NE toward the Azores.  Normally people don’t do this because there are constant east winds in that area making it almost impossible to head in that direction, but with a few good days we should be able to do it and it should help us avoid all the depressions off the east coast that have been causing us to worry.

So, that’s all that we’ve been up to lately.  Sorry to freak anyone into thinking we’re certainly going to perish out there.  We’ll constantly have weather updates at our fingertips and are hoping to be able to send short texts from our satellite phone every couple of days giving our location and letting you know we’re ok.

 I don’t know when our new departure date is, but I’ll make sure to call you before we go.

 Love, Jessica 




Matt conducting electricity

Photo Caption Day: Museum of Discovery and Science

Tuesday March 18, 2014

Matt conducting electricity

Of course Chris and Jack’s first day in Florida would come complete with clouds and the threat of rain.  The sunshine state?  Not feeling so sunny today.  After some running around town yesterday and showing them how the bus system works when you actually choose to use it (long story where their car rental facility was quite far from the airport) we spent the evening researching indoor activities we could do today.

Through separate searches but at the top of the list for both groups, was the Museum of Discovery and Science.  Geared more toward kids than adults, we weren’t going to let our elderly and childless status stop us from having fun and exploring all the exhibits featuring sections on aviation, weather systems, and the human body.  Throw in an IMAX movie about the South Pacific and a simulator on an Everglades airboat, and we were having such a good time that they had to kick us out the door at closing time.

Matt with flight simulator

Matt:  “If you can sail a boat, you can fly a plane”.  Ok, maybe he didn’t say that.

Jessica with flight simulator

Con-cen-trate!  There are lives at stake here!

Jessica w/ foam airplane wings

Don’t ever trust me to fly a plane, I have my wings on backwards.

Crystal with foam airplane wings

“I can feel the wind in my hair!!”

Matt w/ foam airplane wings

I don’t know.  I think the blue skies and clouds really make it feel real.

Jack with flight simulator

If I understand these instructions correctly, first you put your right leg in, then you take your right leg out.

Matt at flight simulator 2

I can do this in my sleep.  It doesn’t even take two hands.

afraid of falling

Afraid of heights?  Let us show you what it feels like to fall backwards.

Jack surfing

True blue surfer?  Maybe not.  That’s ok, the rest of us weren’t either.

Matt & Jessica in ambulance

“Think anyone realizes we’re not registered to do this?”

Jack & elephant

“Just scratch him behind his heel, he’ll purr like a kitten.”

Jessica in shark's mouth

I know how I got in here, I’m just not sure how to get out..



sunset, Cay Caulker

Unfortunate E-mails

Wednesday December 18, 2013

sunset, Cay Caulker

It’s our last day here at Cay Caulker, we finally found a weather window to leave tomorrow for Mexico.  First we need to make a ten mile jaunt up to San Pedro at Ambergris Cay and out the cut there, and from then on it’s another 200 miles up to the well visited Mexican island of Isla Mujeres.  After spending an extra unplanned week here in Belize, we decided that we don’t have time for Cozumel, as originally planned.  Running behind schedule as much as we are we’d like to be in Isla for Christmas, maybe New Years, but after that we want to take the first window we can get to Florida.

A few last minute things had to be taken care of today, such as checking the weather one last time to make sure our window hadn’t changed since we last checked.  It hadn’t, which was our only good news for the day.  Each of us also received a disheartening e-mail from a family member, one much worse than the other.

The first one was from my mom, letting me know that the package of goodies she was having meet us in Isla Mujeres was actually sent back to her due to issues with customs.  You may be asking yourself what’s so bad about this?  Yeah, I wasn’t going to be rewarded with Skittles in a few days, and Matt’s going to have to wait a little longer now for some Snickers, but that’s not the bad part.  The reason it was returned to the States was the same reason we were so desperate to get it.  It contained a new debit card for us.

We had an issue with ours back in late September, just when we got back to Guatemala from South America.  Matt was in town taking out money at an ATM, using a different bank than we’re used to because that one was closed.  A few days later we found out the information had been cloned because all of a sudden, TONS of transactions began popping up in the Dominican Republic, removing $200 at a time, one after another, until $1,800 had been taken out in about 24 hours.  This did not make us happy campers.  Obviously.

Luckily we had two things working in our favor.  The first is that we never keep more than one months spending money in that account at a time, meaning that for whomever stole our information, they couldn’t drain us of all our money.  The most they could get out of us one months budget, which is a terrible thing to happen, but it wouldn’t break us.  The other thing is that we work with a wonderful company that has anti-theft protection and refunded all the money back to our account.  Matt tells me that any decent company will do this for you, but if you’re curious as to who we use, it’s Capital One 360.

Ok, back to the e-mail.  Our new debit card was turned away from Mexican customs since apparently you can not send any form of money to this country from the United States, including debit cards.  Apparently there was an issue with the toothpaste also included, but whatever, I’m going to focus on the card for now.  SO, now this means that we HAVE to make it to somewhere in the US to get our new debit card since there’s been so much difficulty getting it sent anywhere else.  We tried to have a new one sent to Guatemala as soon as the whole issue happened, and even though the company states it was signed for, it never made it into our hands.  For the past 10 weeks we’ve been living off our credit card, our cash reserve, and even one Western Union wire transfer.  It’s been a hassle and we’ll be so happy once we have an easy way to get our hands on cash again.

That was our first disheartening email of the day.  The second one came from Matt’s mom letting us know that Matt’s grandmother passed away the previous evening.  The same grandmother that we planned our visit back to the States this past August around, just to get in one more visit with her.  Hearing the news, we were both shocked and crushed.  We knew she hadn’t been doing well, but as Matt put it, she had always been the Energizer Bunny.  She just kept going, and going.  We’d hoped she’d still be going strong when we got back for good, but that had just been wishful thinking on our parts.

There are a few things we have to be happy about though.  One of her last goals was to make it to 90 years old, which she did back in October.  Through some tremendous planning on Matt’s mom’s part, she received over 100 cards in the mail for her birthday.  We sent a post card from Guatemala, which I don’t think ever made it, but we had my mom get one in signed from us while she was sending her own.  Another is that she passed without any pain.  In fact, just minutes before she went she was playing with her nearly two year old great-grandson, talking and laughing, a huge grin on her face.  For her, I can’t think of a better way to go.

I’m so glad we had the good sense to make it back to see her one last time this summer.  Life is full enough of regrets sometimes, we didn’t want missing time with her when it really counted, to be another one.

One Out of Two Ain’t Bad

Thursday February 28, 2013

Time to get back to reality a little bit today. We do have a boat getting ready to go in the water, and as much fun as we’re having taking time away from it, we can’t neglect it now that we’re so close to the finish line of going back in the water. In all honesty, we should have had the day open to do whatever we pleased with it, but there were rudder issues once again. While we were having our fun at Disney yesterday, Serendipity was lifted once again so they could remove the rudder, put a proper fitting bushing on, and place it all back together. Upon inspection though, we realized an issue with how it was put back together. It was done through one of the vendors through the yard, by a newbie that’s not familiar with sailboats. This kid had actually put in backwards. Yes, backwards. Matt had to spend over two hours packed into the lazarette getting it straightened out while I ran back and forth, handing him tools. Eventually it was all straightened out and put back together the way it should be. These are the times I’m very happy to fall into my pink role of cooking and doing dishes and not getting stuffed into dark and greasy corners. Unless a nut or bolt falls into the far reaches of a nook and I’m summoned into the cave to dig it out.

 We may have let ourselves sleep in a little this morning, but it was still near 2:00 once we finished this project and got ourselves presentable enough to go out. After seeing our photos of when we had gone to Blue Springs State Park to see the manatees, Matt’s mom was wondering if we’d be willing to make the trip out there once more with them while they were visiting. We didn’t know how long we’d be able to stay, with it now being so late in the afternoon, but we were up for it if they were. Making a call to the park just before we left, I inquired to see how many manatees were spotted at the park that day. When we had gone last month with Chris, the count was near 120, and of those we probably saw 50 swimming through the creek. Today…there were only 5 spotted. I relayed this to Crystal so see if she still wanted to go, driving an hour out there to take the chance that we may not see anything at all. Since Matt and I had already been there and had already seen dozens, it wouldn’t have been a big loss to us if we didn’t see any. Crystal was ok with that chance too, and we piled into the car to head out.

It was a beautiful sunny day, albeit a bit windy, and I was excited to see the springs in a new light. Literally. Last time we went it was blustery, overcast, and even misted a little bit. Not that I didn’t enjoy that trip A TON, but I love sun and warmth. Turns out I should have been wishing for the opposite. As we entered the park we spoke with the ranger for a moment and she stated that the low number of manatees today compared to when we had come a few months ago was due to the warm weather. I remembered hearing from Chris before that they flocked to the springs when all surrounding areas were cold, since the waters in the spring always stayed a toasty 70 degrees or warmer. I just didn’t know how quickly they hightailed it out of there once the surrounding waters warmed up a bit as well. We were hopeful as we stepped out of the car and walked to the dock that overlooked the creek. This is where we had been surprised the first time by close to 40 manatees all hanging out in this area, as well as schools of hundreds and hundreds of fish.

The anticipation grew as we peered out over the water, but there was nothing there. Not a single manatee and not a single fish. The sunshine that I had been so excited to see just moments earlier was also now casting a harsh glare on the water, making it impossible to see into the water in some areas. The breeze was also kicking up ripples, making it hard to even see the empty sandy bottom. This was not an ideal day to come here. Not for manatee or fish viewing anyway. But on the bright side, the area was still beautiful and there were plenty of trails to walk. Meandering through the sidewalks and boardwalk, we constantly peeked out at the creek at every opening, still hoping for a manatee but not really expecting one. By the time we had gotten to the end of the creek where the spring was, we had seen a few gar fish, but no manatees. And to make matters worse, the setting sun was throwing a glare right over the opening to the spring, making it impossible to see. Matt and I felt so bad that we had made the hour drive all the way out here to not see anything the area was known for, but Crystal and Jack just seemed to be happy to be out with us, and the sun and warmth didn’t hurt. The area was still beautiful with it’s picturesque Spanish moss and palm trees being blanketed in the glow of a setting sun. Maybe the day wasn’t a total waste after all.

The Happiest Place on Earth

Wednesday February 27, 2013

When we were surprised with Matt’s mom’s visit on Monday, it didn’t even take us 30 minutes after them knocking on the hull for us to start planning out our time with them here.  Since we were unfortunately no longer going in the water during their visit, we needed to think of other plans to occupy our time together.  As soon as Matt’s mom asked, “What do you guys want to do this week?”, we simultaneously responded, “Disney World!!”.  We were half joking at first, but then pretty serious.  See, we already had two free day passes that were given to us from our friend Chris, and without ever getting to that side of Florida our whole stay here, it was looking like they were going to go unused.  We even almost gave them to our new friends on Tango, as they were going to be heading there anyway, but didn’t see them again before they left the boat yard and never got to pass on the passes.  So there they were, just burning a hole in our wallet, and I couldn’t imagine leaving the country without someone getting use out of them.  Now that there was a car at our disposal again, as well as willing participants, why not let those people be us?

Getting picked up bright and early at 7 am, we began the two hour drive from St. Augustine to Kissimee. At least three of us were getting super psyched in the car, acting like we were little kids and this was our first trip to Disney World. I even hijacked Matt’s phone to find a clip of ‘It’s a Small World’ to listen to during the ride. I can’t lie though, I really like Shrek’s ‘Duloc’s’ version better. “Please keep off the grass. Shine your shoes, wipe your….face.”.

Our goal that morning had been to get there just after opening, giving us the full day to try and fit in as many rides and attractions as possible. We did get to the parking lot around that time, but oh my god does it take forever to actually get in the park. First we had to take a shuttle to the ticket counter, and then take the monorail to get into the park. Losing that extra hour, we thought we were going to have to start nudging people out of our way just to get to the rides we wanted to go on. Luckily, even though the crowds looked large, the Magic Kingdom is a big place and after sprinting to Space Mountain, we found out the lines weren’t very long at all. Only 15 minutes! There was so much walking through corridors that we barely even had time to stand still before getting on the roller coaster.

 We ended up seeing and doing so much, I think we squeezed the whole park into one day. You may have to play a little dirty to do it, but it can be done. If you also shove adults and trip little kids, you too can experience all of these during one visit:

  • Space Mountain
  • Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin
  • Stitch’s Great Escape
  • The Barnstormer
  • It’s a Small World
  • Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
  • Pirates of the Caribbean
  • Swiss Family Treehouse
  • The Hall of Presidents
  • Haunted Mansion
  • Tomorrowland Speedway
  • Astro Orbiter
  • Peter Pan’s Flight 
  • Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room
  • (Splash Mountain was closed!)


I’m just joking, no kids were purposely tripped, we just got really lucky with very short lines. We did have a panic when we first got there though, of ‘How are we going to fit this whole park into one day, especially since we arrived later than planned?!’. But by the time the clock struck six, even after finding out the park was staying open an extra hour that night, we were exhausted and ready to go home. No fireworks for us this time, just some milkshakes on the way home and the promise of a bed. It was an absolutely perfect day, and I couldn’t be more thankful to Chris for giving us the passes, and to Crystal and Jack for going there with us. Thank you, all three of you, very much!






Believe It….Or Not

Tuesday February 26, 2013

We woke up to some pretty bad thunderstorms today, which normally for Matt and I, would just mean sitting on the boat and taking advantage of our internet.  But since his mom and step-dad were in town, we didn’t want to ignore them and I spent a little time using that internet access to find some fun things we could do indoors.  It was kind of fun to find out what all the ‘tourist’ spots in the area were, since usually the only places we visit in town are the bars and restaurants.  Jumping on Trip Advisor, I searched the highest rated things to do in town.  Narrowing it down to three, I came up with a tour of a well preserved boarding house from the 18th century, a tour of the Pirate Museum (full of actual pirate information and artifacts), and the Ripley’s Believe It or Not Museum.  Since we were not the ones who went through all the trouble of traveling over 1,000 miles last minute, I gave the options to Matt’s mom to let her pick.

She ended up deciding on the Ripley’s Museum, with the option to go to the Pirate Museum afterward if we still wanted.  I had never been to a Ripley’s Museum before, so I didn’t really know what to expect, but they had done a ton of them over family vacations and assured me it’s not as corny as advertisements may make it look.  She was absolutely right.  As soon as we walked in the door there was a giant sculpture of Captain Jack Sparrow, made with spare metal parts from the movie set.  Just past that was a Lego photo made by someone from our home town.  All through the museum were little interesting and intriuging artifacts and bits of information.  We actually had a really great time and spent over two hours taking in all the information and sights.  We never did make it out to the Pirate Museum afterward since we walked out of Ripley’s into pure sunshine and warm weather.  We used it to do a little driving tour of Anastasia Island, running a few errands, and made the finishing plans for our trip to Disney World trip tomorrow!!

Captain Jack Sparrow.

Originally made for Art Prize.

Vampire Killing Kit.

This was made from popsicle sticks.

Frickin Bieber.

It took me forever to realize these people weren’t real.

Lights Out

Thursday January 31, 2013

My last few days in Arizona were very nice and relaxing.  I did attend a Jazzercise class with my mom on Tuesday morning though, and I’m still having trouble sitting down!  I’ve been bending my knees a little bit and letting myself fall the rest of the way.  Those women really know how to make you sweat!  Now don’t think I’m too out of shape, I was doing all the advanced moves, but there were a lot of women in their 50’s and 60’s keeping right up with me.  My legs were jell-o as I walked out the door, but not weak enough that I couldn’t jump behind the wheel and drive us home.  It had been almost six months since I’ve driven any kind of vehicle, and I think I did pretty well at it.  I’m sure it fit right in with the rest of the snow birds, running a few lights, and suddenly slamming on the breaks.  (I’m just kidding, I only did that once)

Getting ourselves cleaned up it was another day of shopping, where I think I can say I’m successfully stocked up for the next few months to come, getting everything I need that I may not be able to outside of the country.  It may have been more clothes and make up, but the way I see it, this will hopefully be my last girly shopping spree I get for the next four years or so.  If the boat gets back in the water and things go according to plan.  So I see it as necessary and won’t even worry about where I’m going to fit all of this new stuff once I get back.  But that day I didn’t go crazy, it was just a few small things that are replacing old things I already own.

The next day was spent around the house relaxing, and doing a faux packing to make sure I could bring back all my new things.  Even with a newer, bigger bag from my mom, it of course did not fit.  But that’s what UPS is for, and the rest of my belongings should be arriving a few days after me.  Then it was off to a wonderful day of electronics where nothing was behaving as it should.  I tried to make a spreadsheet to print boat cards on, and after the three hours, literally, it took me to get up our name, boat name, and website, my mom and I found out we couldn’t print the cards.  My laptop wouldn’t connect with her printer, and her computer couldn’t open the ‘Open Office’ document I had used to make the spreadsheet.  That’s ok, I can live with that kind of hassle.

The real kicker came that night when I was trying to do work on my new laptop and my password wasn’t working to log in.  Truth be told, I had been having that issue for a few days, but just dismissed it since I still had my other laptop which has all my photo editing tools, so I was on that 90% of the time anyway.  But yesterday we really wanted to get to the bottom of it, and dedicated four hours to trying to solve the problem.  This included a call to Best Buy where they stated that if we didn’t buy their plan, they couldn’t do anything to help me, and a call to my uncle who’s in IT, but not familiar yet with Windows 8.  Finally and thankfully my dad was messing around with different options of the password I thought it should be and was able to get in.  Why did I ever add a 2 to the end of my password?, I never do that!  But once it was fixed and the stress was gone, I was able to enjoy the last few hours of my vacation sitting around and unwinding with my parents.  Can it really get any better than watching Mrs. Doubtfire with a bowl of popcorn in you lap and an ice cold Pepsi next to you?

Then it was back to the grind today, two flights and two thousand miles to get back home.  It was much more fun getting through security this time though, with two laptops to take out, and when they ran my bag through the scanner three times I thought I might not be getting on my flight at all.  I still have no clue what they thought I was carrying with me that my things needed to be inspected that closely.  But all was well and after holding the line up for only about five minutes, my bag came through and I was on my way again.  In the sky and ready for electronics to come out I happily grabbed my now fully charged Nook, woo hoo!, only to find….it wouldn’t turn on.  WTF?!  Really, electronics?  Still?!  Luckily for me, the guy in the seat next to me was watching Limitless on his touch pad, and must have known I was peeking over his shoulder because he left the captions on.  Thanks airplane guy!

Landing in Jacksonville, I was greeted by Matt, who looked exhausted from his hard day of labor on the boat.  He told me he had completely lost track of time and thought it was much earlier than it was when Chris came knocking on the hull to bring him to the airport.  His clothes and hair still had a little bit of dust on them, but after a week away, it was the best thing I could have ever seen.  We met Chris at the van, and then in a total surprise to me, we went to dinner to a place just up the road called Sticky Fingers.  It was a BBQ restaurant, and between the three of us we split the ‘Ribs for Two’ meal, coming with more food than we could all put away.  Our platter came with four slabs of ribs, each with a different sauce, and even one dry rub.  It was all delicious, and as usual when we go out with Chris, I was ready to fall into a food coma when we left.

Back on the road and coming into St. Augustine, we drove around town for a little as it was the last night before the ‘Nights of Lights’ are shut off until November.  It was actually really sad as we drove past, my face pressed up against the glass, knowing that the next time we’re out everything is going to look a little less magical.  Part of me wanted to get back to the boat, grab the camera, and run back out to capture all the beauty that we had admired, but taken for granted for the past two months.  As we pulled into the little side streets of the Lincolnville Historic District where our marina is, it hit me that I really felt like I was coming home.  This wasn’t just some random city that we were passing through anymore.  All the streets and buildings were comforting and familiar, and as much as I still want to get out, I am really going to miss it when we leave here.

Punching in the code for the gate and walking into the yard, it felt really good to be back.  Climbing up the ladder and expecting to immediately be bombarded by my furry little friend, Georgie, in true cat fashion, completely ignored me as soon as I walked through the door.  Then I saw what Matt was talking about in the email yesterday.  He was not lying about the mess.  The last step of the companionway was missing, all of our belongings lay out across the floor, and there was only one small spot to sit.  I didn’t even know what to do with my bags I had just brought back, there was no place to put them.  But this has to mean progress, right?  That something was actually done in my absence.  It may be an extra cramped space to get used to, but if I close my eyes hard enough, maybe I can pretend I’m back at my parent’s house, sprawled out in the queen size bed that I have all to myself.

“And kick, ….. and sweat…..”

Three hours to make this?  I don’t even know how that happened.

She’ll Be Coming Around The Mountain When She Comes

Monday January 28, 2013

Since I’ve already done a few mommy/daughter days on my visit here, it was time for a daddy/daughter day.  Back when we were first planning this little side trip out to Arizona, and the whole 7 days it took from when they asked to when I left, I was asked what I wanted to do while visiting.  At the top of my list was to do some mountain hiking.  Back when Matt and I had come here a few years ago my parents had brought us out to Piestewa Peak, and the two of us had a blast climbing up to the top.  Or more accurately, my brother and I slowly climbed to the top while Matt ran it, came back down to get us, and went back up again.  Since I didn’t have anyone as nimble as me to do a hike to the top of a mountain with, we changed plans so my dad could take me to Mt. Lemmon, just outside of Tucson.  Although there are trails that lead all through this mountain, there is also a long and winding road that leads up to a ski resort and a little town at the top.  This sounded like something we could handle.

First things first though, my dad had to get a little work out of the way and visit one of the local colleges in Tucson to do a little recruiting/informational seminar.  This meant a 5:30 wake up call for me as there was still a two hour dive before the 8 am meeting.  Having chugged a coffee on the way down, I quickly cracked open a Monster Energy drink as soon as we hit the cafeteria, trying to recover from the five hours of sleep my busy brain left me with.  But there was wifi and guilt free time to do work on the blog, so I happily sat among the students while my dad went to do his thing.  I was even feeling, shall we say, half awake by the time he came back to pick me up.

Since the dark weather cloud was still hanging over my head, the weather for the day was forecasted to be slightly less than favorable.  We had encountered downpours almost the whole ride down (Really Arizona?  That much rain in one visit?), and there were many low lying clouds covering the tops of many of the mountains we passed.  My big worry was that we’d get to the top of this 6.500 ft mountain that’s supposed to offer beautiful views into the valley, and not be able to see anything but the dense fog in front of our faces.  Temperatures were low as well, high 40’s while we were driving through the valley, and my dad declared that for every 1,000 feet you go up in elevation, the temperature drops approximetly five degrees.  Still starting over 2,000 feet over sea level we only had about 4,000 feet to go up, but that might equate to a drop of 20 degrees in the temperature!  That would put us under freezing, and might even give me the chance to see snow.

As we drove along the stretch that led to the road at the base of the mountain we saw one of those flashing roadside signs, blinking ‘ICY’, and we just laughed.  Dismissive at first, and then we began to watch the temperature drop.  Just a few degrees here and there, but it was enough to make us keep a close eye on the roads.  As we drove up, there was a drastic change in scenery every 1,500 or so feet.  The bottom most level was filled with rocks and cacti as far as the eye could see.  Even though there was 20 miles from the beginning of the road until you reached the town, we kept rising in elevation and left the cacti behind for small trees and shrubs.  By this point the temperature had also dropped into the 30’s and we were taking that ‘Caution, Icy’ sign very seriously now, as we were in a pickup truck without rear wheel drive, and skidding on these icy roads could have very dire consequences.

It was also around this time that we had reached those clouds that had been hanging so low in the air.  Visibility went down to just a hundred feet in front of us.  There’s such a strange sensation when you’re driving at the edge of a cliff with only a guardrail protecting you from a thousand foot drop, and not being able to see a thing past the guardrail.  I still can’t tell if it was giving me a false sense of security, not being able to see what was down there, or the images in my head which were probably 10x worse of what was down there.  Which is strange because normally I’m not scared at all of heights and love the thrill of looking over the edge of a cliff.  Maybe I’ve finally realized that we’re not as invincible as we all think we are.  There were a few more times when my heart jumped up as the temperature had dropped below freezing and we’d hit a slick spot in the road, tires spinning for just a second before kicking back into gear again.

The little bits of snow that we had seen here and there on the side of the road were now beginning to cover everything and the pine trees we were now passing were caked in icicles.  We had finally reached the top of the mountain though, at 8,200 feet.  Doing a quick pass of the ski slopes we then turned on to the main road of the town and pulled into one of the restaurants for lunch.  As we started walking up to the door my dad observed, “I think I just saw a snow flake”, at which point we both looked up, but couldn’t tell if there was snow falling from the sky, or if just a few flakes had blown off the trees in the high wind.  Rushing inside to get out of the cold, we took a booth against a side wall, trying to keep away from the windows that were letting frigid air in.  My dad talked about the few times he had come up before with my mom, and how they always talked about renting a cottage up there for a weekend, as each time they had come before didn’t seem like long enough.

As he was telling me this, we both kept glancing out the windows to see what the weather was doing.  It had in fact begun to snow.  Just a light little dusting at first, creating a picturesque postcard scene of the mountain.  We browsed the menu, ordered our food, and by the time our drinks hit the table it was no longer just a dusting out there, it was snowing hard!  Still watching, we made little jokes about how we were probably going to have to skip having our wine while sitting out at one of the picnic tables further up the road, our original plan after lunch.  By the time our food came, it was a whiteout outside.  And to make matters worse, the wind was still blowing, hard.  When it would die down we could see the flakes falling directly down from the sky, but most of the time it was coming in sideways, and sometimes swirling in circles.

At this point we were worried about being able to make it back down.  Even though the food was amazing (Come on, a shaved beef brisket dip with sweet potato tots?  I can’t say anything bad about that), we were starting to rush through our meals, allowing ourselves to get going again as soon as possible.  Looking at my dad I was still able to make one crack.  “You know how you wanted to stay in a cottage here?  Maybe that will be tonight”. Keeping an eye to make sure things didn’t get worse, he was still confident with the weather as it was, and wasn’t ready to leave quite yet.  Paying the tab we got back in the truck, digging out the winter coats we had brought for just this reason.  Driving up the road a little more he wanted to show me the picnic area that him and my mom like to visit, full of boulders and trees, and described as pure heaven.

Driving the one mile up the road to this area, we got there and found they had closed that section of the road!  Gates had swung out to keep any vehicles from traveling down it, and we were now shut out.  From what I could see, it did look like it would have been beautiful, and I still jumped out of the truck to snap a few pictures.  Since that plan was now out, we decided to stop in the general store for some of their famous fudge.  Talking to the guy behind the counter we made some comments about the snow and he replies with, “Yup, we’re supposed to get about 6-8″ today, but the good thing is, they haven’t closed the road down yet”.  Excuse me, did I hear you right?  6-8 inches of snow?  Roads closing down?  This was all we needed to hear before jumping back in the truck to make it out while we still could (fudge in hand, of course).  Possibly sounding a little too much like my mom on the drive down I kept giving my dad instructions of “Make sure to go really slow, we’re not in any kind of rush.”  “If someone comes up behind you, just pull over and let them pass.  Don’t feel the need to speed up because they’re on your tail”.  I know, I know, I’m terrible.  But plunging off a cliff in icy roads was not something I felt like experiencing that day.

We were able to get out of the snow just fine, and as soon as we hit 6,500 ft, the snow disappeared, and the skies cleared up.  It was still cold as hell out (we hit a low of 25 near the top of the mountain), but at least now we could stop at all the little scenic looks and get out to see the views.  They were much better this time around, now that we could actually, you know, see.  Stopping near the bottom we did finally enjoy our wine and cheese, the now 45 degree temperatures feeling like a heat wave compared to where we had just been an hour ago.  But even wine can only keep you warm for so long, and as soon as the clouds rolled in and the wind kicked up again, it was back in the car and on our way home.

The views from up here are a-m-a-z-i-n-g!

Snowball fights in Arizona, why not?

Fountain Hills

Sunday January 27, 2013

I always thought I had a dark cloud hanging over my head as far as weather goes, but now I know for sure.  When I left Florida the temperatures had taken a dive into the 50’s and 60’s, while my parents in Phoenix, had finally warmed up out of a cold spell and were enjoying nice sunny, 80 degree days.  As soon as I got to Arizona to join them, everything flipped.  Matt is now enjoying nice days in the 70’s back at the boat, and here I am in Arizona, in the cold and rain.  Yesterday rained from morning until night, accumulation 1.25 inches, more than 1/4 of their total rainfall last year!  Yes, that dark cloud likes to sit just above wherever I may be.

Yesterday wasn’t a total waste though.  Armed with some research and new information, we went back to Best Buy and left with a new Samsung Series 3 for me.  Then after a little time at home trying to figure out how Windows 8 works (it’s easiest for those on a touch screen, but I’m getting used to it), I eventually sat it down to do some good ole TV watching on the couch.  House Hunters International and Pepsi really do make for a great Saturday afternoon.  Then it was off to the grocery store where I picked up ingredients for my famous homemade meatloaf (Ok, it’s only been made twice, but each time, it was spectacular), and then gave my mom some cooking lessons back at home so she’d be able to replicate it.

Waking up this morning there were still clouds abound, but my mom and I were not going to let it stop us from going to the area flea market that is held each weekend.  I went with the thought of not actually purchasing anything, but more just to have fun looking around at all the booths.  First on the list though was to hit up their breakfast counter, and holy crap, they have some incredibly good things for really cheap.  I think these heavy retiree/snow bird areas have it right.  Walking past the stalls once more I was left with “If you see anything you need…” to which I thought “Ok, yeah.  I’m going to find soooo much stuff I need here for me or the boat” (insert sarcastic tone).  But then little things started popping up here and there.  “Hey, this microfiber brush would be great for keeping the solar panels clean.”  “Cool, a collapsable strainer, and look, a skillet splatter cover so now I can cook Matt his fried fish!”  (Assuming we eventually catch something).

Slowly the backpack kept growing more full as I also found a wide brimmed hat for Matt and something called the Hip Klip that my mom’s friend had shown us the other night, a cool little mini-purse that clips on to your pants and lets you carry around small things likes ID, money, and a phone or camera without having to worry about holding on to it, or even better, someone trying to steal it off you.  Knowing how often I misplace things when we’re out and about, I think it was a very wise investment.  Just grabbing a few more small things like yummy dip mixes (I plan to eventually copy the ingredients on my own), we were tired and hungry and on our way back home.  Four 1/4 mile stalls is a lot of browsing!

Later in the afternoon after the weather had cleared up just a little bit, the three of us decided to make the drive out to the Scottsdale area to check out Fountain Park, a 64 acre recreation area with a very large fountain in the center of it’s man made lake.  This fountain goes off every hour on the hour for fifteen minutes, and has a spray that shoots over 500 feet in the air.  Packing up a cooler of wine and cheese we sat at one of the picnic tables, trying to get out of the nippy wind that kept biting at us.  When the fountain did go off, it was a beautiful sight, but it’s a shame that we couldn’t have gone there on a nicer day.  As soon as the water trickled to a stop we were back in the warmth of the truck, looking for the next sightseeing attraction.

Since we were so close, we made our way over to Old Town Scottsdale, a place my parents had taken Matt and I on our first visit out to Arizona a few years ago, and I remembered it being fun with some nice window shopping as well.  As soon as we parked and got out of the truck we were greeted with live music playing from inside a bar where a young crowd looked to be having a very good Sunday Funday.  We stuck to more reserved things and went browsing inside shops, looking at works of art and Southwest and Native American decorations for the home.  Next door at a souvenir shop we looked at funny graphic tees and coffee mugs, and I was also able to finally get the friendship bracelets for me and Stephanie that we have been talking about for the past three months.  They were supposed to have been made by hand, but shhhh, I’m cheating.

With my ‘homemade’ gift in hand we walked by the 1,000 jewelry shops lining the streets, all selling sterling silver and turquoise bracelets, necklaces, and rings.  At the end of the street a sign with old shop milkshakes caught my eye, and with live country music ringing out the door we stopped to look over the menu and debated staying for dinner.  With none of us wanting to stay for a rendition of ‘Stand By Your Man’ we thought a milkshake to go would be the best idea.  Getting a strawberry shake whipped up at the old fashioned soda counter, I waited excitedly like a little kid, barely snapping a photo before digging in to the sugary goodness.  Taking it back to the truck, we began the drive back home to couches and relaxing, a rainbow littering the sky behind us as we left.