20 January 2008

Family Vacation in Orlando (With No Mice!)

By January the holidays may be technically past, but we still had one more holiday get together for the season: a week in Orlando with my family at my parents' timeshare in Orlando. Drew and Michelle took time off to join us and brought their twin 17 month old girls Katya and Nadija. The last time we saw the twins was over a year ago, when they were barely able to crawl around let alone talk or exhibit much personality. This would be our first chance to get to know them as people.

Michelle's father and step-mom live outside of Orlando as well, so Drew, Michelle and the girls stayed with them for the week. They arrived a few days before we did, so they spent a day at Disney World before we got there - so that we didn’t have to. We managed to spend 6 days in Orlando without going to a single theme park!

We did spend 2 days at Kennedy Space Center, which it turns out is more of a theme park than we think it should be. We were simultaneously awed with humankind’s accomplishments and disappointed with its inability to convey those accomplishments without resorting to the "science is hard" mentality. On the second day we took the bus tour which included stops at the Saturn V pavilion and the launch pad (which happened to have the Shuttle Atlantis awaiting its February 7th launch.)

The most enjoyable event was our airboat ride on the St. John’s River. For those who haven’t been, an airboat is a flat-bottomed boat whose sole means of propulsion and navigation is a large fan mounted to the back of the boat. The fans on those boats can be pretty loud - particularly since you are sitting right in front of them - but this outfit’s boats were equipped with individual headsets so that everyone can still communicate while the boat is roaring along.

The weather for most of the trip was not exactly what most people would associate with Florida; most days it reached only into the lower 60’s. The morning of our airboat ride was particularly foggy; our ride was beautiful and surreal, but by the end we were all pretty wet.

We saw tons of alligators on this trip... sorta. Because the air temperature was so cold, the gators stayed warm by staying in the water. The only parts we could see were their 2 eyes and the tip of their nose, all of which quickly disappeared beneath the surface as we approached. We must have seen around 60 gators on our airboat ride, but none quite as closely as the 1-year old gator on display back at the boat launch.

We even managed to stay out of the Orlando chain restaurants during our trip. Because the timeshare had a full (but small) kitchen, we were able to cook several of our meals there. Mike and Cindy (Michelle's family in the area) opened their home to us as well; we enjoyed lots of relaxing time and great meals with them. Their neighbor has some pretty fabulous, sweet lemons on his trees which he encouraged us to try. They made great lemonade, despite what Nadija's face might lead you to believe.

There was lots of relaxation time, whether it was wandering through the shops or sitting by the pool reading (until it started raining).

Unfortunately, we couldn't completely relax during the trip. Our home back in Trout Lake had us worried for two reasons: (1) Snow. We'd gotten a ton of snow this winter, and we knew we weren't through. But what if we got more snow while we were in Florida? Since we had been clearing it ourselves, there was the possibility that we'd come home to a driveway that had too much snow and couldn't be plowed. We monitored the weather and thankfully didn't have to come up with a mitigation plan; no snow. It stayed pretty cold, so the snow stayed away. But that brings me to (2) Furnace. Over the past few months, our furnace has started to give us problems. Occasionally the thermostat would fail to turn the furnace on, and the only way to clear the issue was to flip a manual reset switch on the furnace. Of course the problem got worse right before our trip, leaving us in a bit of a lurch. Thankfully our neighbors Harry and Judy were available to be on call in case we needed them, and I was able to setup a system so that we could monitor the temperature in the house via the web. (See, nerdliness does have its rewards.) We did actually have to call in our reset brigade twice during our vacation.

You can’t travel to Florida and not come back with citrus, right? We bought ½ bushel of grapefruit and ½ bushel of honeybell tangerines (also known as Minneolas) and somehow managed to fit them in our suitcases and carry-ons without going over the baggage weight limit or breaking our backs. When we returned, we gave some of the fruit to Leif for taking care of Max, and some to our neighbors for saving us from furnace hell. Man, that was some good fruit, particularly the tangerines.

And now, we'll end with the obligatory niece photo gallery!

- Mike (& Corinne)

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