New Bern, the birthplace of Pepsi, and Atlantic Beach, North Carolina - Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

New Bern, North we are!!! The Cubans have arrived with their loud voices and car alarms!  Al stayed behind working and we drove to Middle Street.  Middle Street is a small street with shops and restaurants. We had breakfast at a little coffee shop. It was so cute. We walked down to the end of the street and went into the "Birthplace of Pepsi-Cola." Caleb Bradham invented it in his drugstore and he originally called it "Brad's drink." The same site now is the home of a Pepsi-Cola museum and an authentic soda fountain. We went back a second time and had Pepsi with Dad. We drove around following a trolley tour and saw some of the famous homes.

When we had nothing left to explore in New Bern, we decided to go to Atlantic Beach by the coast. We drove over 40 minutes to get there. It was enjoyable. The kids loved the waves and had a great time.   We went back to the hotel around 8:00 p.m., ordered pizza and had a picnic by the pool next to the marina.  It was a nice way to cap the evening.

Charleston horses, Myrtle Beach, Wilmington, and New Bern, North Carolina - Monday, January 29th, 2009

Monday, January 29, 2009

We woke up earl and went into Charleston to ride the horse-drawn carriage. It was straight out of a movie. We toured the homes and businesses in the area. We learned many interesting facts. We learned that the old homes with a side porch have a door in the front of the house which opens into the porch. Its not the front door of the home. The purpose of the door was to let visitors know if they were welcomed for a visit. If the door was open, it meant come on in for a visit, if it was closed it meant come back later.

Our horse's name was Bandit. He was very slow, but beautiful.  The kids got a big kick out of Bandit peeing in the middle of our tour. It was super loud. The tour guide drops a marker and calls in the address of the "accident" and then the sanitation department goes to clean it and make it smell good.  After our ride, we bought some chocolate BBQ sauce (on request) and we went back to the hotel, packed up and hit the road.

We drove along the coast on highway 17.  It's not very busy and there are homes and businesses along the way. We drove into Myrtle Beach, NC and we went to a public beach and briefly went in the water and collected shells. It looked a lot like Miami Beach, but the water wasn't as clear. We had hotdogs and fries that we were craving since we drove in. We had a nice time there and then continued driving to New Bern, NC.

On our way, off the highway, we stumbled across the USS North Carolina , a battleship docked in Wilmington, NC. We drove through the town and continued to New Bern. We arrived around 9:30 p.m. The road into New Bern was scary at night and there was alot of construction and detours.  We plan to be here for two nights and setting up camp at the Hilton New Bern right on the river.

Charleston, Mt. Pleasant, and Fort Sumter, South Carolina - Sunday, June 28, 2009

Sunday, June 28, 2009

We woke up a little late because we always end up going to sleep late no matter how early we arrive at the hotel.  We drove into town and drove around the downtown area. We drove to Mt. Pleasant and went to see the USS Yorktown aircraft carrier and then took the ferry to Fort Sumter. The ride was beautiful. The bay was choppy, but the day was sunny and nice. There was a harborfest so they had old, ornate ships docked in the harbor. There were beautiful homes on the harbor as well.

We arrived in Fort Sumter and the ranger gave everyone a short history lesson. We learned that the first shot of the the Civil War was fired there. What happended was that Gen. Anderson (the artillery teacher of Gen. Beauregard) decided to take over the fort that the confederate soldiers had built. The South made Beauregard the leader of the mission because he knew Anderson and they thought he would be able to convince him to leave. He stayed in the fort a long time with his men. Beauregard gave him an ultimatum to leave in 24 hours. He didn't leave. So he gave him another hour and then another 30 minutes. Since he didn't leave, the Confederates opened fire on the Union group. The firing lasted 34 hours and nobody was killed. Beauregard convinced Anderson to surrender. He agreed but with several conditions with the most important one being that they give him a 100-gun salute. When the men were getting ready for the salute one of them was accidentally shot by a cannon and that was the first recorded death of the Civil War.

After we left Fort Sumter, we went to the downtown area. We walked around, took many photos, went to the marketplace, and had dinner at Jestine's Kitchen at 251 Meeting Street. This is a small restaurant with authentic southern-style home cooking. It was named after a slave that worked at the original owner's home. The restaurant has been in the family since then. We had fried chicken, fried green tomatoes, fried okra, coconut cream pie and chocolate coca-cola cake. It was heavenly and highly recommended by the B-Ns (thank you)!  Make sure to be prepared to wait in line as most times there is a crowd of people outside (which is always a great sign).  Our recommendation is to go between 4:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. for a late lunch/early dinner.

We tried to go on a carriage ride but it was too late. We walked around the harbor and looked at the magnificent antebellum houses. Then, off to the hotel.

Hilton Head Island, Beaufort, and Charleston, South Carolina - Saturday, June 27, 2009

Saturday, June 27, 2009

We drove a bit around Savannah on the way out. We went to Hilton Head Island via a scenic road rather than the highway. It was nice and after several stops, like TJ Maxx and Ross for items we needed to buy and Moe's for lunch, we finally arrived at Hilton Head Island (HHI).  It is an upscale community with mostly with seasonal residents.

We parked by a playground with an amazing treehouse. It was shaped like a ship. We took many pictures there and the kids enjoyed playing on it. We climbed to the top of the HHI Lighthouse in Harbour Town. It has 114 steps. We were a tiny bit out of breath when we reached the top. They have a webcam at the top of the lighthouse and people can see you on the internet. We called Uncle Tio to look at us, but he wasn't home. By the time he got home and looked we were already gone. It would have been nice for him to see us. It gave us the idea to set up the webcam on my laptop so we can communicate with family and friends, but we haven't had time to set it up yet.

We had a lovely time in HHI. We got virgin daiquiris and sat on rocking chairs to drink them by the marina. What a relaxing and beautiful moment!  We drove to the other part of the island called South Beach where they had several beachy shops, a place called Jake's Pizza and a Life is Good store. WE love the Life is Good stores and we will see them throughout this trip.  They go into every one they see.

We drove through Beaufort, SC on the way to Charleston. It was small and cute and saw a wedding and a house set up for a reception. Jake took moss from a tree for me, because I made a comment that I buy the moss for my plants and the people here have it just hanging from their trees.  We arrived in Charleston around 6 p.m. and there was a horrible thunderstorm. It was so bad they had tornado warnings and hail. We arrived at our hotel (a new SpringHill Suites right outside of the city center in North Charleston, but it was brand new) and unpacked.  The hotel just opened weeks before on June 4. It was very clean and decorated nicely with free breakfast. We attempted to go sightseeing, but the weather was so bad and we turned back and had dinner at Cracker Barrel.  Later, we turned in to get ready to explore Charleston tomorrow.

Jeckyll Island, St. Simon's, and Savannah, Georgia - Friday, June 26, 2009

Friday, June 26, 2009

Happy 40th birthday V!

We woke up in Brunswick and had breakfast at the hotel. We drove through historic Brunswick and onto Jeckyll Island. There was a beautiful bridge connecting the two. The first thing we did on Jeckyll Island was to go to the beach. There were many sand dunes, and the sand was soft and fine. The sand felt so nice, but the water was muddy.  We really understand now how beautiful we have it with the clear, blue waters off of Miami Beach.  It's no wonder people flock to Miami and its beaches...Nada que ver! We left the beach and went in search of the plantations...we found them all together in one area.

The area looked a lot like the area where the Fernback museum is located in Atlanta, GA. We saw interesting things from the past including an old telephone. We also went to the Turtle Center. There we learned about Loggerhead Turtles. They had a turtle hospital at the center where they keep turtles that have been hurt and rescued while they get better. 

One of the reasons we wanted to go to Jekyll Island and/or the Golden Isles was to ride horses on the beach and to see the wild horses. Unfortunately, things didn't work on either of those.The minimum age requirement for horseback riding is 8. The wild horses are in Cumberland Island off of St. Mary's by Amelia Island.

We left Jekyll Island, went back to the hotel to pick up the hundred bags and then off to St. Simon's Island. On our way out of Brunswick we stopped at the Lover's Oak. It is a huge oak tree in a median that is the source of a local legend.  After driving on another beautiful bridge we arrived in St. Simon Island. One of the things we've noticed is there are many beautiful bridges all over. Also, most places have tall, impressive structures leading to their beaches or islands. The first one we noticed was in Jacksonville, Fl and it continues with St. Simon's.

We arrived in St. Simon's Island and went driving around. The golf resorts were spectacular. We ended up at a pier. There were many locals there. We saw many of them, including children, casting nets to catch crab. We saw one boy catch a huge crab and we even took a picture of it. We saw many tiny crabs crawling all over big rocks on the shore.

We walked around the beach area and they also had cute shops and a little playground. The kids played in the playground a little while. We went over to the lighthouse and explored the area, then we drove around the rest of the island. We tried to drive into Sea Island, but only the guests at the Sea Island Resort can go on the island so we were turned away. We went to TCBY and had a nice treat and then off to Savannah.

NOTE:  We had planned to stay in the Golden Isles area two nights, but it was not necessary. We were able to enjoy all the islands leisurely in one day. We drove to Savannah with all our gear ready...two laptops, MapQuest going on one of them, guidebooks, maps, GPS on my phone, etc. and we still got lost going in. Finally, we figured it out.

We wandered around Savannah enjoying its beautiful squares, parks and buildings. We drove throughout the entire downtown/historic area and really enjoyed it. As we were driving around we decided Savannah is definitely better for adults than for kids/families. We walked around for a while and had dinner at Five Guys (who would have thought!) We're trying to eat healthy and exercise on this trip...we are not off to a good start. Five Guys was NOT a healthy choice. But it was GOOD!!!!

Rather than sleeping in Savannah, we thought it would be better to sleep in Hilton Head Island (HHI), but we couldn't find a hotel. Dad only wanted to stay at hotel chains where he has points, but his preference is any of the Marriott brands. They didn't really have to many options on HHI and so we started to look for a place in Savannah. Again, they were sold out They only had availability by the airport. Since Dad didn't want to break his Marriott streak, he went in person to a Courtyard. We got a huge suite. It was nice, but there was a problem with the toilet and it smelled like smoke. Since there were no other rooms, they reduced our rate to $89. We were super happy!!!!!

We are all starting to be a bit cranky and tired. We need to set up camp in one place and be there a while to recuperate.

St. Agustine to Amelia to Brunswick AND Micheal Jackson dies - Thursday, June 25, 2009

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Woke up late-ish and hung out at the hotel waiting for Dad to return from work. We left the hotel around 3:00 p.m. had lunch at Subway and headed North on I-4. We were going to skip St. Augustine, but as I was driving I spoke on the phone with G who told me to stop just for a bit. The kids also wanted to go because they had studied about it in school. 

In the oldest city in the U.S., we went to El Castillo de San Marcus, but was closed by the time we arrived. We were still able to walk around the perimeter and take pictures. We then drove to the Fountain of Youth, which was also closed and then just drove around the historic old town.  It's very pretty! The kids liked it a lot.  We continued driving north on A1A and drove through Ponte Vedra Beach and Jacksonville Beach and enjoyed looking at the beautiful homes on the ocean. We even saw a house shaped like a lighthouse.  I reminded the kids how important it is to study and work hard to be able to buy one of those homes.

After driving a little bit, we heard the terrible news from one of Dad's colleagues:  Michael Jackson died.  It is very sad and this news and the coverage of it would follow us through this trip.  R.I.P. Michael!

Afterwards, we went to Amelia Island and tried to stay at the Amelia Island Plantation, but they were sold out. We also drove around the historic downtown area and it was very nice.  We ended up driving to Brunswick as we'd origianlly planned and checked into the Fairfield Inn Brunswick right off the highway. We will be exploring the Golden Isles tomorrow. Can't wait!!!

Shopping in Winterpark and jumping in the pool - Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

I went to bed at 2:00 a.m. this morning.  Dad went to work very early and we drove to Winterpark, FL after breakfast to meet up with the Fs.  We had lunch at a quaint Italian restaurant and it was really good. Then we shopped a bit as Winterpark has a shopping district with some restaurants. We went to the usual shops like The Gap, and also shopped at some boutiques. We even drove by Rollins College.  Our friend had to go back to the hotel to attend an online class for her Master's program and the kids went into the pool.  On the way home from work, Dad picked up dinner and we had a picnic by the pool. 

In the evening, I was able to watch my favorite telenovela (which I was thrilled about). We did Jake & Alissa's work for school, wrote in journals and exercised to the Biggest Loser DVD.  As usual, Dad and I have yet to do any research for this roadtrip we are already on. We decided it was time...even if it was just to plan the next two days...and so we did and you will see where it took us.

NOTE:  I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed because of the bag issues (so many bags and stuff to take in and out every time we check-in and check-out). On the other hand, I'm excited about visiting ALL these new places.

Does anyone smell roadtrip! - Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Does anyone smell roadtrip! - Tuesday, June 23, 2009
This is going to be a wonderful trip. We left home at 8:30 pm. It took forever to pack and get everything ready. We rushed around all day, actually all week...trying to organize everything and make it all as easy and comfortable as possible. We bought a minivan on Saturday. This was not in our plans. First we were going to fly, then we were going to rent a minivan, then we were going to buy a used minivan, but finally we bought a new one. We are very happy we made that decision. My inlaws will keep the minivan when we aren't using it for trips.  Dad was able to take lots of vacation and stop in between to work based in different cities and to attend a meeting in NYC, which is the last destination of the trip.

Although I was a little nervous and overwhelmed the past few days, I think we have made a good decision in taking this trip. I believe this trip will be good for our family. Our drive to Orlando took longer than ever. We went through a severe storm and traveled at 30 mph for about 30 minutes. There was no visibility. In addition, we stopped once at a rest stop. We arrived at our destination in Lake Mary, FL at about 1:00 a.m.

The ride was enjoyable. Initially the children each watched a video on their individual DVD players. Then, we talked and played "Getting to Know You."  Al and I told stories about when we were little. Al told them about when he was in first grade and was punished by a teacher and not permitted to participate in a Thanksgiving lunch. He didn't tell his Mom.  We all felt sorry for little boy Daddy.   I told them about my great-grandmother and how funny she was. My brother and I would ask her to say words in English and we thought she was the funniest thing because she pronounced the words incorrectly.

We talked for a bit longer, sang and even danced a little in our seats. If tonight was a taste of what this trip will be like...I will treasure the memories forever.  We want to take these 30-some days to bond, get to know eachother better, talk more, eat healthier, exercise and learn about our country. We are truly blessed to be able to do this and I am so happy to have the opportunity.