States visited: 49!

visited 49 states (98%)
Create your own visited map of The United States
Miles driven so far -
LOOP 1 (Aug 2009 - Aug 2010): 29,000
LOOP 2 (May - August 2012): 10,800

Highest altitude with camper: 11,158ft (I-70, CO)

Sunday, January 31, 2010

From Louisiana to Texas

Another early start, knowing that we had an 8-hour drive ahead, we needed to get moving. Other than it being suddenly VERY chilly (under 40F), the journey was uneventful.

We arrived at the Texarkana KOA in time for dinner, as usual the kids were amazing on the journey: 3 movies and lots of DS games probably helped!

A great sunset closed out our day.

Kongo Bars

The rest of the week went by too quickly, lots of playing for the kids of course – school and work too! We took a walk around the State Park and looked at the levees, which lead to some interesting discussions about why people would still choose to live here, even though the city is below sea level. These are the things we love about this trip, everything’s so ‘hands on’, climbing over a levee and seeing how it is reinforced; hopefully they’ll have memories of that in the future.

It was neat to see the moon up in the clear, blue sky - the days were quite 'crisp'!

We met a guy fishing along the river, he was 'kind' enough to show us the catfish he'd caught - and partially gutted - I thought Caitlin was going to throw up! He did compliment all the kids on asking lots of questions, I guess it's all a good learning experience!

On the way back from the playground, Becca spotted an armadillo. They typically only come out at night during the warmer months but when it's cold, they come out and dig at any time. It was completely unbothered by our presence so we were able to get some great photos.

Click here for more photos from our nature walk.

Jake made Kongo Bars on Friday to redeem himself after a particularly challenging morning of school. Here’s the recipe (thanks Sam for letting us ‘borrow’ this!), they were delicious – even though he went well overboard on the chocolate – he was redeemed!

3/4 stick melted butter
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 egg
stir in:
1 tsp baking powder
1 cup flour
1 cup chocolate chips
Bake in 9x9 ungreased pan for 20 minutes at 350F

The Godwin’s had Lego Guitar Hero on their wii, complete with microphone, drums and guitar so our kids spent quite a bit of time in their motorhome. We did send them all over to ours on Friday evening to have fun with the Wii Fit games (snowballing and obstacle course are popular with us), while we got to hang out and enjoy lattes – yum, we needed the caffeine kick to help get us into gear for the pack-up process. Although moving every week and putting everything away is a pain, it does mean that the camper is fully tidied and cleaned on a regular basis!

Back to New Orleans: January 26th

Click here for more photos of today.

After school, I took the kids back into New Orleans on the ferry. I’m not a huge fan of getting in and out of cities but the ferry and close proximity to everything once we got off, made this one a little less daunting to do alone.

We made our way over to the Visitor Center for the Jazz National Historical Park, walking along the riverside, passing a stage which begged for dramatics! The Park was created to interpret the origins, early history, development and progression of the uniquely American musical art form of jazz. New Orleans was chosen as the location for a National Park celebrating jazz because it is widely recognized as the birthplace of jazz. The music got its start in the dance halls, juke joints and streets of New Orleans during the late 1890’s and early 1900’s.

We’d completed the Junior Ranger program for this one after printing off the booklet online. Once more, the four of them were sworn in as Rangers. We had timed our arrival perfectly for the start of a Ranger program on the history of the city’s music. Two of the Rangers regaled us with songs and music for about an hour; they were very impressive, great on the guitar and harmonica, wonderful voices – it was a little too long for the little ones but it was worth the effort of keeping them quiet! Becca (and Carson) had the chance to join the rangers on stage for one of the 'spirituals', accompanying them on tamborines.

As promised, we made another stop at Café Du Monde, those beignets were addictive!

We took more photos with and of some of the statues that are dotted around the city. It's so diverse and interesting, definitely a place we'll come back to.

Dick and Jenny's: January 25th

Polly and Brian kindly offered to watch the kids for the evening so that Dave and I could go out for dinner together – what a huge treat! We were so grateful and located a recommended place on the western side of the city: Dick & Jenny’s. It wasn’t much to look at on the outside but the inside was really cool, the walls were covered with painted plates.

Here's the story of the plates from their website:

Dick and Jenny were close to finishing the renovations of the restaurant, when a huge plumbing bill threatened to delay their opening night. The solution to their situation came in the form of friendly investors. Dick & Jenny sold plates to their opening night dinner, offering gift certificates and plates in exchange. For 100 dollars, purchasers received a plate on the wall, hand painted by Dick himself, and 250 dollars worth of gift certificates for their dining pleasure. The plumbing was fixed, the restaurant a hit, and the plates remain a constant reminder that Dick & Jenny’s is a locals restaurant, dedicated to serving delicious food at an affordable, comfortable price.

It had a great ambiance and the food was delicious. We really enjoyed our evening out and can’t thank our kind new friends enough – kids were asleep when we arrived home too!

New Orleans: January 24th

By chance, we happened to have coincided our visit to New Orleans with the Saints' (NO football team) game against the Minnesota Vikings – this was a BIG deal, the winner would make it to the Superbowl.

We took the ferry across the river into the city and walked around for the day, taking in the amazing sights and sounds. There are TWO National Historical Park visitor centers in the city. We went to one of Jean Lafitte’s sites and watched a show about the Mississippi River, its many feeder rivers and the interesting way it joins the Gulf – a crisp line is extremely obvious as the muddy, brown river water flows into the clear, blue waters of the Gulf. We learned about life in the area through the ages. The kids made a small paper pirogue – a flat-bottomed, shallow boat, used to get through the shallow waters of the area. As with other Parks, lots of great information about the area and also, a number of listening stations playing examples of jazz.

We wandered around the city, stopping frequently to admire the street performers, some of them were amazing, playing great music. Of course, the streets were also filled with black and gold wearing football fans, shouting “Who Dat?”, apparently a much-used slogan of the city and very much in use for the football! The atmosphere was awesome, we could barely move along Bourbon Street, it was so packed. People were throwing out beads and trinkets from the balconies up above, there was very much a ‘pre-mardi gras’ feel about the place. We really enjoyed the chaos!

We had a yummy lunch at Jonny’s and sampled a famous po’boy sandwich. I found out the history of these by chatting with a local later in the week (we love to chat with people, met some great folks on this journey and learned so much from them). She explained that they’re traditionally made with the very crispy French bread, which we love, and that this was the cheapest thing around and eaten by the poor – hence poor-boy: po’boy.

A trip into the city is not complete without eating beignets – French doughnuts – from Café Du Monde. This Café is on the edge of the old French Market and is open 24/7/365. The only things on the menu are beignets and drinks; it is open to the outside and the floor is covered with icing/powdered sugar. We ordered beignets and coffee, managing successfully to divide the adults and kids, so it seemed as though the Godwin and Valentine adults had a very civilized few minutes, enjoying afternoon tea, New Orleans style!

Back at the campground, we felt obliged to watch the game, given where we were. As you can imagine, this was such a terrible hardship for Jake – very tongue in cheek, he would watch every game if he could. It was a really good game that went into overtime: sudden death, the Saints scored the first points so were successful in their bid for the Superbowl. Immediately, fireworks started going off in the distance, we were in a city of very happy fans!

Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana: January 23rd

We were able to make an early start, knowing that we wanted to stop in Alabama and Mississippi on the way to Louisiana.

We had made an online friend from the camper forum we check often: Billy. He’d given us lots of great information on places to see and visit while on the road in the south east. We contacted him on Friday night and he offered to come out and meet us while we traveled through Alabama. He came out to the Battleship Memorial Park just outside of Mobile with his kids. It was great to put a face to the name and the Park was really neat. It’s always good to learn whilst on the road.

The USS Alabama is a huge war ship that was used towards the end of World War 2, unfortunately we didn’t have time to take the tour around it. Also in the park is the submarine, USS Drum. Billy was telling us that prior to Hurricane Katrina, the submarine was actually in water but was forced onto land where it now permanently resides. The Alambama had to be towed back to its current location as it drifted out of its docking area during the hurricane. There were some fully refurbed bombers, aircraft, tanks, missiles and many other military items. The Park has a number of retired military volunteers working on the various crafts, it was a good place to stop.

Click HERE for photos of our visit to Battleship Memorial Park.

As we were leaving, Dave got a great picture of an aircraft on the roof on the camper – a new addition to our road trip??

We continued along the I10, a freeway which runs all the way across the southern part of the country, from east (Florida) to west (California). In Mississippi we headed down to the coast to make a brief stop in Gulf Islands National Seashore – we do love our National Parks! This National Park is actually in both Florida and Mississippi. The islands are constantly moving and changing as the winds and tides move sand from one end to the other and from each side. We watched an interesting show explaining this. Had we had more time, there was a boat tour option here, but time pressed on and we wanted to reach the campground while it was still light.

Driving into Louisiana and then coming into the New Orleans area was eye-opening. There is still so much evidence of the devastation left behind in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. It’s quite bizarre that in all the neighborhoods, there are houses which have been fully rebuilt and restored, mixed in with houses that have just been left as is, abandoned completely. We couldn’t imagine living in a lovely new house next door to one gutted by water and falling apart.

Thanks to advice given to us by quite a few people, we’d canceled our reservation at one of the closer campgrounds to the city and reserved a spot at Bayou Segnette State Park in Westwego, thereby saving about $200 for the week and enjoying a far prettier setting! This state park is quite the deal, only $18/night with water & electric, free wi-fi and huge shocker: free washers & dryers! It’s much harder for us to use our washer without sewer hook-up, so free laundry facilities were a huge bonus for the week (this trip is about the only time I will have excitement about laundry!).

A little later in the evening, once we’d set-up, the Godwin’s, another FOTR (family on the road), arrived for the week. Jake was especially excited about this as they have a 10 year old son as well – lots of opportunities to play loomed ahead.

The Donut Hole: January 22nd

After a very late night, we had a slow beginning to the day. Everyone perked up though, once we made it to the Donut Hole for breakfast – impossible not to find some energy once filled with plate-sized pancakes covered in chocolate chips! We bought donuts for lunch, they were SO good!

In the afternoon, we did manage to make it back down to the beach, Jake made a neat 'bed' and the others all made one each next to each other - so adorable! At the end of the day, we rode back down to enjoy the beautiful beach sunset.

For more photos of a great day spent by the beach, click HERE.

Hard to believe we were packing up again. We can certainly tell when we’ve only been somewhere less than a week, it felt as though we’d only just arrived.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

New friends: January 21st

The State Park offered an afternoon talk about the endangered Choctawhatchee Beach Mouse. We learnt that even something as small as the beach mouse has a huge impact on the ecosystem and is an incredibly important part of the food chain.

There was another family listening to the talk, with 5 children, similar ages to ours. Their grandmother, Pamela, invited us back to their house for tea and playing, as they lived locally. Our kids were thrilled to be back in a house with oodles of toys! The family lived on the Mack Bayou, their back yard went directly down to the water with a dock – it was beautiful. When their parents, Paige and Chris, arrived home (to a house FULL of kids), they invited us all back to dinner. This is definitely that southern hospitality we hear so much about! How incredibly kind, we went back to collect Dave, made a quick stop for treats and returned to find a smorgasbord of food laid out.

We spent a wonderful evening with them, Dave and Chris enjoyed a couple of pints and many games of billiards. I enjoyed chatting about our travels and listening to their stories, Pam worked in Belize and the rest of the family have been living the army life for a few years, getting ready to settle in this house that they had recently moved to. The kids were thrilled to play with each other, different toys, games and friends make for happy children.

Topsail week

Back into the swing of school after a few days off is always a bit of a struggle, especially when the weather is glorious and there’s a beach nearby!

We spent Tuesday afternoon on the beautiful beach which was just a ½ mile bike ride away. The sand is a gorgeous white with unspoiled dunes, obviously it is not at all busy at this time of year and was so peaceful. As we walked across the boardwalk, we spotted large paw prints in the dune sand and asked a ranger about them. She said that they have large black panthers and bobcats in the area.

Rain and storms came through on Wednesday, the sound of thunder is certainly magnified on the coast and the amount of water puddling everywhere was incredible.

To the Panhandle: January 18th

Martin Luther King Jr day, we read a few paragraphs about his life online and the great impact he had on recent US history.

Today was another driving day, we continued to the Florida Panhandle to Topsail Hill Preserve State Park, which had been highly recommended to us. Our ‘Exit Now’ book, which we love, as it tells us exactly what is at each exit, stated that between a couple of exits, the time would switch from Eastern to Central, sure enough, the cell phone lost an hour at almost exactly the spot of the sign!

Topsail is a beautiful park, the sites are leveled and large with plenty of trees. We’re so glad we were able to get a spot as demand is typically high.

Sadly, farewell: January 17th

Gathering together 20 families for a group photo, positioning everyone and then prepping the camera takes a bit of effort, but we managed! I think the end result was good, now we have to remember to put names to faces and hopefully meet some of them further along the road. We are grateful to have FaceBook as a connecting point for many people.

We headed out of the park around midday after a delicious breakfast provided by Kati and her crew – it was exactly what we needed – enough food to tide us over until we reached our destination 4 hours later.

A huge thank you to all the families who made the weekend so amazing, we certainly left with heavy hearts and disgruntled kids who wished they could’ve hung out a lot longer.

We stopped for one night at the ‘In and Out RV Park’ in Lake City, FL. It promised level sites with no need to unhook and delivered: a quick and easy stop.

I popped into the grocery store and was once again in awe at the lack of geographical knowledge of some people we come across (now, I am very geographically challenged but I like to think I have a fairly good awareness of where things are roughly located), today’s was: “Oh, you’re from England? Is England very far from Lake City?” “Erm, yes!” I actually thought the bagger was about to call her a name as she continued along this vein, he finally said, “England’s on a whole different continent, across the Atlantic!” She looked at him with wide eyes and said, “Oh?!” I always giggle and think, maybe I’m not doing such a bad job with this homeschool thing!

When we were staying in Key Largo, the lady in the store asked where the Everglades were, on hearing that’s where we’d spent the previous night – we were only 2 hours south of there and I really had to stop and think, did we really just leave there or was that a while ago, it was so close! I guess some people are very happy to stay where they know and don’t venture far. Each to their own, I think we’re instilling the travel-bug into our kids.

more rally fun: January 16th

After running around all morning (kids, not me!), it was time for tye-dye with the Bove’s. We had brought washcloths and socks for the occasion and the kids were excited to create some colorful masterpieces for their very own ‘crazy sock day’. When we took all the bands off a couple of days later and rinsed them, they came out well, not all of the socks looked matched and that certainly added to the fun of them.

Jetty Park has walkable beach access, which we hadn’t made use of earlier in the week due to the frigid temperatures, but now that the weather had brightened, we all headed to the beach for relay races organized by the Bennett’s. Jake managed to slash his toe quite spectacularly on a rock prior to the races but valiantly rallied to participate – competitive much?! Nate dug holes in the sand with his new friends and Caitlin settled herself a long distance away from the group to create a sandcastle.

In the evening, armed with blankets, we sat down to watch RV (the movie) on the big screen. The Dads enjoyed a quick game of Wii Bar Sports before the movie started – throwing invisible darts to an inflatable screen is clearly entertaining!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Finally: THE TOOTH!

Well, it took its sweet time but this morning, Becca's tooth finally fell out. It has been wiggly since the beginning of December, we felt certain that it would be out by Christmas but no, it hung in there.

Between Christmas and New Year, Dave threatened to tie it to the truck and pull it out - she was tempted I think but he didn't go through with it (you'll be pleased to hear!).

January continued along and she looked as though she was sporting one tooth in the center of her front row (having lost the other one a month earlier). It really did not look good, hanging off one side but not the other, not a pretty site. She kept trying to pull it but not with any force.

Finally, on Friday night, it was so loose that she could twist it every which way in full circles and it was hanging on by a thread.

She woke up Saturday morning and it was out! Ahhh, finally!

show, science, movie & potluck: January 15th

The girls were excited to join activated storytellers in the morning to be part of the show. Kimberley and Denis have been on the road for 17 years, traveling around the USA, presenting their myriad of shows to different groups and libraries. They did a wonderful show, a couple of neat fables, complete with back drops and Kimberley’s amazing talent: going through the center of a string-less tennis racket – she has some serious flexibility!

Later in the afternoon, the kids completed some fun science experiments with various ooey-gooey substances! They made boogers (lurvley!), the liquid/solid mixture with cornflour and then watched the reaction as mentoes were added to diet cola – quite spectacular. I’m pretty sure none of them realized they were learning!

We gathered together in the evening to share food and stories. The Focht’s had brought a big, inflatable screen so the kids watched the movie, Up. We also watched the great DVD put together by the Evans’ with photos from each family, documenting their journeys so far. It was cool to see where everyone had been and read a little bit about their traveling history. While we were waiting for that DVD to burn (took a little longer than planned…!), we were entertained with renditions of Guitar Hero songs on the screen: some impressive, some not so much!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Campfire: January 14th

Jake typically works through his school reasonably quickly anyway but today, knowing that rally friends were outside and ready to play, he pretty much flew through his work!

All the kids were so eager to get outside and introduce themselves to prospective new friends. I was actually surprised that they were willing to 'do' school at all but there was no griping, they sped through!

Over the weekend, 20 families came to the 'Families on the Road' rally at Jetty Park.

After an afternoon of meeting people, we all gathered close to the water for a communal fire. All rally attendees had contributed towards a ‘$ pot’, from which Kati hosted numerous activities – we were so impressed at her enthusiasm, creativity and ideas. At the fire, there were marshmallows and Starburst to roast (we’d never thought to roast starburst before, a definite hit with the kids!).

We really enjoyed meeting everyone and hearing different stories of their journeys, what they all did for work, where they’d traveled, how long they’d been on the road; I love to listen to all of that! One family, the DeMichiels used to live really close to us in PA and we discovered a mutual friend, Kathy – how cool is that?!

The kids had a blast running around and playing football in the semi-darkness – exactly what they needed. It was a great evening.

Kennedy Space Center, day 2: January 13th

After a morning of school, we drove back to KSC to take the tour buses around the complex.

The tour was well-narrated with informational mini-movies while traveling in the bus. We passed the building that houses the shuttle when they're working on it. It has enormously tall doors that take 45 minutes to open. The bottom part opens sideways, like regular hanger doors, the 7 sections above them are each on their own pulley system and stack at the very top like a deck of cards.

Nate was so tired after a couple of broken nights that he fell right to sleep, despite the ride only being 10 minutes, everyone around was 'ahhh'ing!

The Observation Tower gave us good information and insight into how the shuttle launch process worked and the work that happens in the run up to launch day. We were able to look out to the launch pad and see the new one which is being put into place for the next stage in space exploration.

Onwards to the Apollo rocket - wow! Unfortunately our camera batteries died so we had to buy a disposable at this point, interested to see how those pictures turned out. We were of course, amazed by the sheer size of the rocket, it's awesome. We waited to see the show about the first moon landing and the many mishaps in the run up to their success.

We hadn't realized how close they had come to aborting the moon landing. Neil and Buzz were basically on their own, piloting the small craft onto the surface as the coordinates were so off and other options were unworkable. We were all glued to our seats, funny, given that we knew the positive outcome!

Back at the main area, I took the 3 older ones on the shuttle simulator and Dave and Nate came up with us as VIP's to observe in the viewing area, which meant they were part of the pre-ride briefing and videos. This time, Caitlin knew what she was in for and was happily prepared! The thing that struck me while we were waiting were the multiple interviews with shuttle astronauts and their different observations and comments, so many of them attributed space exploration and their continued safety to God. It was good to hear.

We looked in on one of the 'coming soon' exhibits and road tested a couple of their 'moon landing' control panels - it was tough!

Just before closing, we had the kids run to the playground to spend some time racing around the fantastic climbing frames and tunnels. Thank goodness, this time, it was the employees of KSC asking them to leave and not us!

After a quick grocery store stop, we arrived back at the campground to discover that a few families had already arrived for the rally - there was much excitement and a need to run off immediately and play!

Jetty Park

We had a relatively quiet couple of days at the campground, it was nice to relax and just have time to do very little for a while...and play 'catch up'!

We broke out the wii fit plus and had a blast playing some of the games. I continue to beat Dave at bowling but he wins at pretty much everything else, although I was an expert ski jumper - who knew?! Their multi-player option lead to lots of family fun and laughs.

The end of the day always finds the kids collapsed on the sofa reading books and lolling around.

The highlight for the kids was definitely the playground - notice a theme here?! Playgrounds are the 'in' thing! Without doubt, their favorite activity was playing tag with Mummy (or Daddy, but he was working so I had to suffice.). I'm pretty sure that the main reason for this is because I am a far less fitter and slower version of them so spend the majority of time as the tagger. This playground has many opportunities to 'disappear' quickly, making it tough to be tagged - perfect for them, exhausting for me - but lots of fun regardless.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Kennedy Space Center: January 10th

We are camping very close to Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, so spent the day there on Sunday. Unfortunately we were not able to time our visit to a launch date, the next one is in February - however, the shuttle was on the launch pad as they slowly truck it into place a month before take off.


The ticket was valid for a second day so we focused on all the activities and exhibits in the main area and held off on the tour until later in the week.

Dave and I had visited in 2000 but a lot had changed, including the introduction of a fantastic new simulator shuttle 'ride'. Nathan was unfortunately too little so Dave took the older three, at the last minute Caitlin opted out, thanks to the multiple warnings prior to actually getting on the ride! She was able to watch the show though and also see into the shuttle holding her Dad and sibs.

The huge granite ball on a water base, displaying the constellations was quite a hit. It was extremely tough to push around as it was so wet (and cold, this was probably the coldest day!) but fascinating none-the-less.

We looked inside the mock-up shuttle (and held it up!), watched a couple of great imax 3D movies, one detailing life inside the space station, the other about missions on the moon (celebrating 40 years since the Apollo landings), wandered around the rocket garden - they looked spectacular against the sunny backdrop - admired the amazing photographs taken from the Hubble Telescope, took the robots tour and, most importantly, according to the kids anyway, played on the extremely cool playground!

I love places like these, we learn so much through play and interaction and it generates lots of questions and further discussion. Another day of education on a Sunday!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Across the state - west to east: January 9th

It wasn't in our original plan to cross back to the east coast of Florida, passing the 'land of Mickey' once again but 'Families on the Road' had planned a rally for MLK weekend and it was too much of a pull to miss.

We passed field upon field of orange trees. It was hard to get a good picture, given our speed, but it gives a good enough idea: green leaves with orange blobs!

Although the rally won't start until Thursday, our weekend driving plans meant we arrived earlier than everyone else. We are staying at Jetty Park, which is in Cape Canaveral and is adjacent to the port where all the huge cruise ships depart. As we were setting up, we watched an enormous Disney cruise ship leave, it was so close we could see the football playoffs being shown on the big screen on the top deck! We were quite jealous that they were off, heading for warmer climes...

I must just say that it is FREEZING, I do not want to forget how cold we've been in the last week. I guess we weren't quite prepared for it to dip below freezing while we were in Florida. We are realizing though that this is completely abnormal for the state, all the Floridians are up in arms and just don't know what to do with themselves. The weather alert we were reading suggested, 'adding extra layers and finding a coat'!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Wildlife: January 8th

This has been a week of wildlife, we've seen so many different birds and animals.

There was a bees' nest in the tree next to the camper. Dave spotted it earlier in the week and reported it to the rangers, they came to check it was a nest and were quite surprised at how active the bees were, given the low temperatures. This morning, a guy in a full bee outfit (as in, to be protected from, not to look like one...), came to spray the nest, it was our morning's fascination.

Shortly after he left, Dave called us outside to check out the raccoon that was wondering around our camper. He spent quite a few minutes sniffing around and then slowly went over to the next site.

Earlier in the week, Dave and Nate were outside and spotted two beautiful woodpeckers up in one of the trees next to the camper, they were much bigger than the tiny woodpecker that often visits our back garden at home.

In and around all the water by the campground were a large number of different birds, including some regal-looking tall blue herons and pelicans.

Becca came out of the bathroom carrying a small lizard, "Look what I found!", by it's tail! It wasn't terribly impressed at being carried that way and bit her! She thought she was rescuing it as we had found a lizard a couple of days previously and feared it was dead as it hadn't moved for hours. We carefully carried it to some grass, after realizing it was moving and was no doubt suffering ill effects due to the drop in temperature (know the feeling!).

I love this photo of her, we've been waiting for that front tooth to come out for WEEKS, it's just hanging there in the middle of the 'gap', she won't let us touch it, Dave's still trying to whip it out!

These sightings, along with dolphins, made for a great week of wildlife.

On edit: as we were leaving on Saturday morning, eagle-eyed Nate spotted a frog camouflaging itself in the undergrowth - he loves that he's a 'speedster' and 'eagle-eyed'!

North Beach: January 7th

This was really the only good day, weather-wise, of the week. Knowing this, we made sure that this day - afternoon, of course, school was in the morning - was spent at the beach. North Beach in Fort De Soto was ranked the #1 beach in the USA in 2005 and 2009 and for good reason, it's beautiful, the sand is super-fine and a gorgeous white; the views out over the water are incredible.

The kids and I drove over, the amount of parking available indicated that during peak season, this would be an insanely busy area, thankfully at this time of year, it was practically empty. There was a large sandbar area that we settled down in. Despite it being the nicest day of the week, I was still fully kitted out in sweats, while the kids were quite happy in shorts and T's!

There were a lot of different birds, managed to get a pic of seagull with a fish. There is a small area of the beach reserved for birds - not sure how they're supposed to know that it's their area! There weren't many birds in that area but plenty on the rest of the beach.

Dave cycled down to join us later in the afternoon and we stayed, playing on the beach and running around, playing tag at the playground, until sunset. We're so glad we opted to stay on the beach, the sunset was gorgeous. As we were leaving the parking area, we spotted a couple of raccoons, which we were excited to see, they were quite unbothered by us though, just looking for left-over food I suppose.