Monday, April 23, 2018

Tourist for a Season

We usually pride ourselves on the fact that we aren't tourist. We try to avoid falling into the tourist attractions that are geared more towards attracting your wallet than giving you a life changing experience. If you follow our blog, then you know we love nature and we are more likely to venture deeper to find where the locals go to play and eat.

And now we'll talk about Disney--maybe the largest tourist attraction in the United States...maybe even the world.

But, here are a few reasons why we made an exception for Mickey.

First, we are Thousand Trails members and with this membership there are a plethora of parks circling the Kissimmee area. 

These parks are a great place to spend the winter months because of the warm climate, but also because you can find many families staying here as well. It is a perfect location to stay with friends, have an unlimited amount of things to do and then add on top that it is completely free with our membership, then it makes perfect sense. And for us, more savings equals more fun! I will talk about memberships more in a later blog and dive into the ones we use and why. Until then, feel free to ask us questions.

Second, Florida "residency" is another huge factor. Many RVers use Florida as their "home" state for many of its RVer friendly benefits. The Disney Florida "resident" annual passes for the weekdays are a fraction of the cost of regular annual passes. If you can show two forms of proof that you reside in Florida (at least some of the time), then you qualify for annual passes that cost under $300 per person. And they offer an amazing monthly interest free payment plan to make the deal even sweeter. To put it in perspective, with a down payment Disney cost less per month than most cable subscriptions for all five of us.

The flexibility of budgeting is one of our favorite things about this lifestyle. While traveling can cost alot when you hit up local tourist spots, our Disney experience has been like that of a local. With annual passes each trip to Disney takes the pressure off to see and do it all. 

For example, I took my youngest son, Jonathan, just for a couple of hours to Animal Kingdom to walk around and ride the Kilimanjaro Safari ride. And, then, with no pressure to do anything else, we were literally back home in 20 minutes.  Who needs a trip to the zoo? 

The other day Tom took Haley after dinner for a daddy/daughter date to Epcot to ride rides and watch the Illumination show. What a cool thing to be able to experience together and a whole new take on a night out.

Third, we travel for experiences. All experiences change us and give us perspective. Disney is magical. It calls to our inner child. Without the pressure of seeing it all on a week-long vacation at all four parks, we can really enjoy the moment and see it all one afternoon at a time over months of being here.

The parks are beautiful, each one unique and each one catering to every one of our family members in a different way. This is part of travel and we have to remind ourselves how lucky we are to live this life. We aren't on vacation every day, but some days it sure feels like it.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Through the Eyes of a Child

Post from December 1, 2017

Don’t you just love those days that you wake up and nothing goes right?  And, sometimes those days span to make up an entire week.  Ah, thank you universe.  And that is how this past week has been for us.  One thing after another.  Sad to think, all this coming off a season dedicated to giving thanks. 

Our RV has made its way to the naughty list after the last couple of long trips we’ve taken where our wheels have spent some unwanted time on the side of the road.  And I think we might be striking up a personal relationship with our roadside assistance representative (not a person I want to know so well we end up exchanging Christmas cards). 

This time it all started when we arrived in Tennessee for Thanksgiving.  We setup our fifth wheel as we’ve done hundreds of other times and Tom came to me and said, “Well, it looks like we might have a big problem.”  In fulltime travel terms that could mean so many things. And considering our house undergoes what would be equivalent to an earthquake every time we travel, then you never know what to expect.  So many things we never had to worry about before in our sticks and bricks, like “Did our TV come crashing onto the floor?” or “Did the fridge fling open and smear our pumpkin pie out across our living room floor?” or “Oh God, please tell me I put up the stairs and didn't take out any small animals pulling out."

In this case, it appeared we had some immediate issues to attend to or we would be making our permanent home Chickasaw State Park.  Grease was flung all over the rim of our tire. We weren’t going anywhere until this was fixed. Luckily, we had some friends that we met our very first year on the road coming by to reunite their daughter with Haley for the day.  He has a history of trucking and was kind enough to lend a hand replacing the bearings.  And we thought we were at least good until we got back to Florida to check things out.

So, after a lovely Thanksgiving with family and weekend of relaxing it was time to get Lightning rolling again.  We were rolling down the road only a few miles from the campground and Tom looks out his mirror only to find a stream of smoke coming out from the tire. The wheel wasn’t cooperating the way it should be--as in happily rolling.  Instead our home on wheels was on the verge of going up in flames and to top it off we were blocking the entire Tennessee road with no shoulder to pull off on here. (Boy, do our out of state tags sure look obvious here.)

So after calling our roadside assistance and having a nice Tennessee family stop (because of our eye catching out of state tags) to help us get off the road and into a nearby parking lot, our RV finally ends up in the shop for three days and we end up in the local hotel.  Our teens go with their Papa and Nina back to Montgomery because of the delay. None of this was the way the week was supposed to go, that’s for sure.

Well, after two days the repair shop calls us to tell us our RV is ready and we head there the next morning. Only when we get there our RV is on their manual jack from where the front RV leg is broken.  Yay for untold discoveries. But, we got it somewhat straightened out and fixed by the mechanic.  Still not too happy after paying them a pretty penny to replace our axles, but we think, “whatever, let’s just get home.”  Everything seemed fine until Tom starts to pull away.  “Wait, something is seriously not right. It feels like the trailer is...dragging.”  So, we walk out only to find this.

I just saw the look on my husband’s face and that pretty much said it all.  So, straining to say few words we quietly wait for the other mechanic. We won’t go into the pleasant exchanges between my husband and him when he arrived, but I will say that my husband definitely handled it better than I would have.  All I know is we spent the next 3 ½ hours waiting for them to fix their mistake.  Dog on the leash, baby on the hip, in the middle of nowhere Tennessee.

This resulted in us pacing around fuming about our situation as we feel pretty much helpless at this point. 

And then something dawned on me as I was having a little pity party.  We were upset, but our 15 month old had a smile on his innocent little face.  He was so fascinated by the wheels on the old run down school bus. He was excited to be here.  His little sweet voice repeating “wheels” as he looked around the place in awe.  What was an old junk yard shop was amazing to him.  He was perfectly content and oblivious to the turmoil we were experiencing.  How astonishing to see him soaking up this experience as if he may never spend another day in this one place exploring.  

In fact, our journey that week led us to explore Shiloh National Military Park, take a beautiful hike at a local state park, dine at the local eateries, stay in a hotel and eat hotel waffles for breakfast.  So what we were stranded and still not back on the road!  Who cares?  He sure didn’t.
He was just enjoying the moment and what it had to offer. It was a beautiful day and we had so many things to be thankful for.  Our RV was going to get fixed. 
We wouldn’t be stranded there forever. Was that moment really that inconvenient or even the past few days?  No, it was actually pretty fun and in the end everything was going to be alright. So why spend these precious moments upset when he was so obviously so happy?

And as we walked around, his excitement spread to us.  We walked around with him pointing at the birds and the big trucks going by on the highway.  Jonathan quickly reminded us that this is why we live life the way we do.  To be inconvenienced.  To veer of the path that everyone else takes. Even we need reminders to get lost once in a while. And it wouldn’t long before we’d be back on the road and back on track with our perfect little plans and no longer stuck in the middle of nowhere Tennessee.