Should Couples Plan Solo Activities On Vacation?

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Vacations and dream trips often take up residence in the highlight reels of our lives. We spend months and sometimes years looking forward to them and don’t we love the opportunity to explore new places together? As different people, though, we also take an interest in different things. Should people then plan some solo time while on a trip to explore personal interests that might not be what their significant others are interested in? 

I’m the trip planner and activity organizer in our house and try to include activities I think my husband would enjoy, but where I like shopping, I know he hates it. Where my husband loves a long bike ride, I only have enough stamina for about 10 miles but he would easily prefer to go 30. When on cruises, my husband likes eating breakfast in the dining room in group seating and I don’t. It’s morning and I don’t want to sit next to strangers and chit chat before I even have coffee. Should we just compromise? Most of the time that’s a yes.

After 27 years of marriage and A LOT of compromises (mostly on my husband’s part, I must say), lately, I’ve been trying to put forth an alternative: “you ride your ride, and I’ll ride mine. It’s okay if they’re different because we’re different.”

As individuals, we have distinctive preferences, and maybe they are meant to be enjoyed as individuals. A few separate pursuits can easily be managed on one trip together, can they not?

Solo time can be as simple as an hour apart in a theme park to linger a little longer in places of interest or to go eat what your partner might not enjoy or has to avoid due to allergies. It can also easily be a little time away enjoying separate activities or tours. My husband’s not a big fan of napkin rolling, but I thought it was fun on our last cruise. Obviously you should be considerate and plan ahead though, I don’t suggest just waking up and saying ‘see ya at dinner, today’s my solo day!’

The majority of life is a compromise, that is what life is like together as a couple and a small price we pay to love and be loved. But it’s also healthy to plan mutual time apart to do things our partners either can’t do or aren’t interested much in doing, especially on a trip to a place you may never get to see again. Make memories together and on your own time too. Plan some alone time into your next adventure and pursue some of your unique interests, then bring back your stories to share over dinner.

I think independent time is time well spent. My husband thinks this idea is a trap, LOL. What do you think?

What’s it Like to Eat in a Jailhouse? – Downtown Sanford Dining

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The City of Sanford’s central downtown is undergoing a healthy re-development. One benefit being the surge of new eateries that are re-claiming many of the forgotten brick-front buildings. The process of creating the new out of the old has opened up creative experiences for visitors to explore. The Old Sanford Jailhouse is one such establishment (website).

The Jailhouse presents as an upscale restaurant, one where you are enclosed by weathered brick walls and iron grates, are gently lit by cut crystal chandeliers, and welcomed by a casual but well-appointed menu (view menu).

Rustic architectural details allow diners to engage with the building’s storied past.

The building’s successful transformation was the determination of The Sirica Family, owners of The Old Jailhouse. Their well-planned design and their dedication to preserving the original architecture kept the initial intent of the building intact, earning them the Historic Preservation Award by the Sanford Historic Trust.

We visited The Old Jailhouse for dinner on a Wednesday evening. Streetside parking and seating were plentiful.

After dinner, we headed out on foot a few blocks down to the marina (website).

We took in the view and were greeted by sailboats, houseboats, and even a steamboat (website).

We closed the day under the swaying palms at Veteran’s Park (website).

Even though the evening started out in jail, this ordinary Wednesday night turned out to be another day well spent in Florida.

Asian Lantern Festival: Into the Wild

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We may have found a New Year’s tradition to continue enjoying the season of lights after the holidays: The Asian Lantern Festival! Our local zoo is running this after hours event from November 20th – January 12th 2020 from 6pm to 10pm nightly.

We weren’t sure what to expect, and were surprised to find giant illuminated ‘lanterns’ which are sculpted wire forms covered with a silk material. They are each lit from inside with many standard sized light bulbs attached to the interior of the wire forms. They were both much bigger and brighter than we had anticipated. We were expecting a large christmas light display, but this was something we had never seen before.

We entered the exhibit throuh a walkway flanked by whimsical crescent moons and stars which looked a lot like bananas. They tower over my 6’3″ husband as you can see in the photo below.

As we followed the winding path, we discovered large scale lanterns representing some of the animals that make their home at the zoo. Music also accomapnies visitors and changes upon entering the different event areas.

Some of the lantern animal exhibits included life sized giraffes and an oversized animated alligator whose jaws open and close. We tried to get a peek at the resident animals but they were mostly sheltering down for the night. We glimpsed a few behind or boarding the festival exhibits, such as the donkey behind the giraffes. Overall, the zoo animal enclosures were dark and most animals were unable to be seen.

The chinese dragon was the largest lantern by far, which seemed to be near as long as a football field. It’s hard to tell the scale from the photo but those are some pine trees on the left bottom corner of the screen on the last two humps of the dragon.

There were food vendors and drink stations, and a small arts and crafts tent. The event was very well manned with numerous volunteers guiding you at every turn, including parking attendants. The event was very popular and slightly crowded even on a Wednesday night after Christmas, I would think a weekend would be extremely crowded. The cost was $50 for 4 tickets or around $18.60 each. It was a magical mesmerizing evening and I plan to go again next year; an unexpected opportunity to carry a little luminary magic into the new year.

Visit The Most Amazing Snorkeling Spot In Florida!

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Devil’s Den: The Best Snorkeling In Florida

Where is the best place to snorkel in Florida? That would be the magestical Blue Hole in Devil’s Den, Williston, Florida.

The entrance to the spring head is via these steps which looks more ominous than it really is. You must duck at the bottom depending on your height to get to the platform which is currently submerged due to rain. When we went, it was waist high. We stood there for a few minutes to acclimate to the 72 degree water which at first is cold, but just takes a minute or two. Other people just went right in.

The spring is crowded on weekends, we went on a holiday weekend, which of course has a few more visitors. They do limit the number of people who are in the den and there is a rotation of people coming in and out. This is about as full as it gets. It’s most crowded on the entry platform pictured below where people are getting in and out.

There was still room to explore once you got off the ramp. Some of us lingered on the ramp a little longer than others ; ) It was cold! But I was fine after about 3 minutes, lol. Here is Jeff patiently waiting for me…It really is magical. Felt a bit like a set for an episode of Star Trek. They give you a 2 hour limit and that really is plenty of time for one day.

The park has a few other diving ponds (see below) however they were closed the day we went.

They have food trucks, picinic tables, and a few games but other than that, the spring is really the only attraction at this campground which is small and basically just dirt, grass, and trees. So when camping here, you will want to venture out for some fun beyond the spring. 

We enjoyed this ice cream shop : )

We also recommend a day trip to Rainbow Springs State Park to go tubing which is about a half hour drive from Devil’s Den. Here’s a video to get a glimpse of what tubing is like at Rainbow Springs. You need to rise and shine, because the park limits the number of visitors and often fills up by 10 am and you will see lines of cars waiting for people to leave so you can get in. Rainbow Springs does have a nicer campground than Devil’s Den, but it does not have the full hook ups that our rig needs.

Happy Camping!

RV Camping Near Gainesville, Fl: Gold Head Branch State Park

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Mike Roess campground has separate tent and RV camping

Gold Head Branch campground is a big park with excellent sites for both tent camping and RVs.

There is also plenty to see and do. We hiked and biked and explored our big backyard all weekend. 

Can’t remember the last time I explored a ravine, glad we took the time to walk down by the little brook carving its way out of the Florida pine.Fitbit says I climbed 14 floors! Who knew there were hills in Florida!You never know what you’ll find out there  Happy trails…

What’s It Like to Camp at Fort Clinch State Park?

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We’ve been asked what it’s like to camp at Fort Clinch and were lucky enough to snag a cancellation for the MLK long weekend.

The January temperature was perfect though a bit chilly at times for our beagle.

Fort Clinch State Park has two campgrounds –  one on the oceanside and the other on the riverside. Our site was on the beach with a walkway a few sites down that led directly to the ocean and these hammocks.

We were close enough to be lulled to sleep each night by ocean spray and rumbling tides.

Each morning we went for a walk on the private beach (no dogs allowed).

We walked down to the pier that is currently closed from hurricane Matthew. 

and on Sunday I even got up early enough to see the sunrise over the ocean. Heavenly!

Here’s the view coming back from the beach. There are a few sites (#7 – 10 shown here) that have a slight view of the ocean. The rest are closely nestled in the dunes or sand scrub.

Warning, there are sand spurs in the grassy area around the sites. We had to pull a few out of Penny’s paws and chose to keep her on the pavement when out walking.

Each day we rode our bikes around the park.

On the road to the riverside campground, I spotted mushrooms as big as dinner plates. Upon further investigation I learned these are known as Jack O’Lantern mushrooms. Fun fact – they are bioluminescent! They contain the same enzyme as fireflies! Who knew?

Had I known, I would have gone back to see them in the dark. They are also poisonous, so don’t eat them.

The riverside sites are are few steps away from more spectacular views. Though, none of the sites are on the water or have actual water views, they are shaded which the beach sites are not. 

And then there’s the fort!

There are also mountain bike trails and gorgeous hiking paths between hidden waterways to explore as well as the towns of Amelia Island and Fernandina Beach.

Reservations for the park can be made at Reserve America, and you will probably see that most days are full. But, if you check back in regularly you will see cancellations, especially the week before you are looking to camp. It’s worth the trip, Fort Clinch is our favorite Florida campground so far!

 

Summerlin Dock and Park, Fort Pierce

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Summerlin Dock sits behind the Saint Lucie History Museum on the South Beach Causeway- same causeway as the small Smithsonian Aquarium.

This park with shaded pavillion and bathrooms nearby offers beautiful views of the Indian River Lagoon.

Fishermen frequent the dock and we were lucky enough to happen by a baby shark splashing around in one of their buckets. Fascinating fish, fun, and family…day well spent.

Into the Woods! Exploring Florida’s National and State Forests

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Not many residents know that Florida has 37 State Forests. Visitors to north, west, and central Florida will find many diverse woodlands waiting to be discovered.

Start with a map of The Florida Natural Scenic Trail which spans 1000 miles of our often under explored outdoors. The trail offers hikers quiet paths from roadside trails to remote wilderness.

In addition, Florida has four National Forests!

It’s recommended that children spend 30 minutes outside, 3 days a week. I would certainly say that’s good advice for adults as well. Take some time this weekend wandering into the woods. It’s sure to be a day well spent.

Read Me a Story

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My Dad read to me a lot while I was growing up. First, he read me children’s books and then as I grew, we would take turns reading chapter books aloud in our living room. I remember many nights spent reading Roald Dahl books –  Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, James and the Giant Peach, and The Fantastic Mr. Fox.  We read Tolkien together too in addition to the armfuls of chapter books I devoured on my own each month.

Then, when I was nine years old, I wrote on my Christmas list that I would like a baby brother. As luck would have it, Santa obliged! Soon my baby brother Eric arrived and in turn, a second round of children’s stories were read aloud in our home. I can’t tell you how comforting it was to return to the sound of those stories while in the mire of my middle school days. I didn’t realize how much I had missed them.

When it came time for me to read Canterbury Tales in my high school English class, my Dad and I read some of that aloud at home together too. I can still remember my Dad’s deep voice wrapping around Chaucer’s famous prologue…”Whan that Aprille with his shoures soote the droghte of Marche hath perced to the roote.”

I soon went on to college and, to no one’s surprise, I declared myself an English major. I’ve paged through an enormous amount of literature in my life and layering my life with stories was the best thing my Dad ever did for me. I am now grown, married to a wonderful husband, and we have raised two sweet daughters of our own who my Dad spent many hours reading to as well.

Today, I find the calendar will soon arrive upon the first anniversary of my father’s death. He spent the last years of his life struggling from severe illness. He spent the last few days of his life in ICU and then finally Hospice. His last conscious night was spent in ICU with me sitting beside him, quietly praying, trying to be strong but not really knowing what to do. Our ICU nurse asked my Dad if he would like to listen to music, and yes, he thought that would be nice. So she graciously let her phone play by request through the night as my Dad drifted away.

I just now realized he might have liked to hear a story.

It’s good to enter life with a story, it’s good to go through life with a story, and it’s good to leave life with a story too. – Holly Hinckle Flint

In memory of Craig D. Hinckle, born into this world in Rutherford, New Jersey, November of 1940, departed this world in Kennesaw, Georgia, March of 2014.

My Dad and I outside our home on Prospect Place, Rutherford, NJ in 1968