We were gone last week on a very fun adventure. We flew about 2,000 miles to Orlando, FL where we promptly jumped into a rental car and headed about 200 miles up to Jacksonville, FL to visit w/ Mark's family. Mark's sister has a beautiful home right on the St. Johns River. Most of Marks family came over the weekend so we had an impromptu family reunion. They rented a huge waterslide for the kids to have fun on the first day we were there. It was a big hit. They also took us out on their boat the following day and we traveled up through downtown Jacksonville and out close to the intercoastal waterways. We didn't see any manatees but we saw pods of dolphins playing and a sea turtle while we were going through downtown. It was very cool. When we returned the kids cooled down by jumping into the river off their dock.
Cousins are fun!
Sun setting past their boat house and dock
After visiting and feasting for a few days we jumped back into our rental van and headed up north about 350 miles to Atlanta! While in Atlanta, we visited with some Five in a Row friends at the Georgia Aquarium. It was so nice to get together with these families. The Aquarium was amazing and was a huge hit with my Ocean Fantatic kids.
The Kids sitting still long enough for a group photo. We're just missing my little guy who was off falling asleep.
After closing down the Aquarium, our Atlanta resident friend, Kendall, suggested we play in Centenial Park directly across the street from the Aquarium until traffic died down a bit. We all headed over that way and had a great time seeing this beautiful park, playing on the equipment and, the best fun of all, running through the fountains that are in the shape of the Olympic Rings. After soaking in the fountains we all headed back towards our hotel and had dinner together. The kids all sat together, except the babies of course, in one booth and the adults in another booth. The kids did great and got several compliments on their great behavior.
When we drove home from Atlanta we hit the forefront of Humberto. It was a very tense scary drive back down to Jacksonville. Besides the intense flashes of lightening completely surrounding us, the only thing we could barely make out were the tail lights of the semi right in front of us. Mark followed the semi as the driver carefully picked his way down the road avoiding other cars,who, not being able to see anything, stopped on the freeway! When the semi driver pulled off the road we followed him into a truck stop. The 4 oldest kids and I ran in to use the facilities, dodging rain and lightening as we went. The interior of the truck stop was flooding and the workers were attempting to mop and squeegie the water through the doors. After we were done in the truckstop we sat there for another 10 minutes or so waiting for the storm to abate enough for us to continue on down into Jacksonville. When we pulled back onto the highway, the storm was still going strong but had died down enough that we were able to see a few feet ahead of us. I was so thankful Mark was driving that leg of our journey. I can't see well in the dark and with any water on the road and glare of headlights, I'm blinded. This type of storm would of had me in a complete panic if I were the one driving!
Once we were safely back at our hotel, the same one we were staying at the first few days in Jacksonville, I let out a long breath and thanked the Lord for getting us "home" safely. We spent a couple of hours the next day back at Mark's sisters house with Marks parents who are living there at the moment. Marks father was diagnosed with AML and is undergoing treatments at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville. After having lunch and saying our goodbyes we headed back down to Orlando to fly home.
Being so close to the ocean we did have to make one more stop just outside of Daytona Beach. The kids got to dip their toes into the Atlantic and play in the sand for a brief time before we loaded back into the van and continued our journey to Orlando.
Another storm was brewing as we were driving south and I was so not looking forward to a repeat of the night before. Our route into Orlando took us all around a huge black cloud that was full of rain and lightening. Just as we neared our hotel did we get a few splattering of rain drops.
There was a beautiful rainbow that followed us most of the way into Orlando that reminded me of Gods promises to us. It was a wonderful reminder of how God is with us always.
On the flight home my oldest grabbed the camera and took a shot of the the gulf coast. I don't know where we were exactly, maybe some of you from that region will recognize that stretch of beach. LOL We were somewhere between the FL pan handle and the Mississippi Delta. Aren't you glad I narrowed it down for you.
I have a video in my sidebar of the Atlanta portion of our trip. I'm working on the family reunion portion and will add that when I get it finished.
I love traveling, meeting new people and discovering new things but, the best part of traveling is returning home.