So that’s it. Our visit to the Summer of 2018, from the Winter of 2018 is over, and we are back in Ocean City, waiting for the Summer of 2018 to get up north. If you’ve been along with us for the ride, I think you already know that it was a great trip, but on Sunday, as we were traveling up I-95, Susie and I already started our discussion about the trip. What was the best thing we did, the best meal we had, something that we learned we didn’t know, where would we like to go again, etc. We always do this after a trip, as a sort of wrap-up review, so that we can apply any lessons we’ve learned to our next trip. So, for your edification, and for our records, here’s a look back at our 3 plus weeks on the road to Florida.
First, the nuts and bolts of the trip. I re-set one of the Sonata’s trip odometers as we went across the 9th Street Bridge on the morning of Friday, February 9th. When we once again drove across the 9th Street bridge, the evening of Sunday, March 4th, that odometer read 3,241.6 miles. We were on the road 24 days, stayed in 9 hotels (plus 4 nights at my cousin’s house in Barefoot Bay, Florida), with our longest stop being our 5 days at Disney’s Boardwalk. This trip there were many more multiple days in the same hotel. We didn’t eat as many “free” breakfasts in hotels this trip as we have in the past, but we ate some very good meals out, and only made a couple of questionable choices.
This is the 4th longish road trip we’ve made in the Sonata, and once again, she proved to be a great traveling companion. While gas prices seem to be up a little more than they were when we made a trip to Florida last year, with this kind of mileage, that hasn’t been an issue! 30+ mpg is not unusual, and most times that’s going 70+ on the interstates. This picture was taken Sunday after we arrived in Ocean City.
Now that we’ve gotten the numbers out of the way, lets talk about the more subjective parts of our trip…the things we liked and those that we didn’t.
Best Hotel – This was an easy choice for us…Disney’s Boardwalk, where we had our own cottage and access to the Innkeepers Club! We’d also have to call this the winner of the Best Hotel View, as we looked out on our English Garden, and the Quiet Pool beyond our gate. We also have to list as the Best Surprise of our vacation. The room was great, the entire stay was perfect!
Worst Hotel – The Quality Inn in Darien Georgia. The funny thing is that on our second night out, we also stayed here, but it was on our return trip that we really found it to be a dump! We’d stayed in this same hotel a couple of years ago, but at that time it was a Comfort Inn.
Best Attraction – We both came up with the airboat ride we took with Jeanne and Walt, when we visited them in Barefoot Bay. It was a small airboat, we each had wireless headphones, and our guide was full of wonderful information…and he was from New Jersey!
Worst Attraction – Hands down, Weeki Wachee. Nothing like we remembered it from a long time ago. To us, a waste of an afternoon.
Funniest Place – Have you ever been to someplace, that you would only stop at, because you were taken there? That’s how Susie and I got to Yee Haw Junction (formerly called Jackass Crossing) and had a nice lunch in the Desert Inn Bar and Restaurant…a place we would have driven right by had Jeanne not been driving!
Best Meal – There was absolutely no doubt in Susie’s mind, and almost as soon as it was put down in front of her, she said that the Ahi Tuna she had a One Duval in the Pier House Hotel in Key West was the BEST MEAL she’d EVER had! As runner up, we’d have to list the great Italian meal we had on Carnavale at Villa Galace, in Indian Rocks Beach.
Worst Meal – We got to Florida City, late on a Friday. The hotels were full, the town was crowded, and we settled for Taco Bell.
Best Waiter/Waitress – We have a tie in this category, between the waiter we had at Villa Galace in Indian Rocks (who was also their sous chef, and perfectly described every dish on the menu) and Linda, our waitress at One Duval, who made us feel like we were the only people dining there that night! A great server can make a good meal into a great meal, and that’s exactly what these two people did!
Worst Waiter – Another tie here, and we have to say that in all the meals we ate out, these were the only two restaurant people we saw who weren’t hustling, and doing their best to serve their customers. The first was our waiter on our second visit to the Islamorada Fish Company in the Keys, who had no idea how to multi-task, and who therefore, took forever to get anything to you. The second was a waiter we had when we stopped for lunch one day at Duffy’s in Fort Lauderdale, who mumbled, wouldn’t look at us, told us his name 3 times, and again took forever to do anything.
Best Bar – Although we stopped at several that we liked a lot, we have to give the title to the Tiki Bar at the Double Tree Resort in Hollywood Beach, due to the beautiful setting. Located between the gorgeous pool and the Intracoastal Waterway, we spent two nice evenings here.
Best Bartender – We have to give this title to our friend Lindsey, from Jimmy Guanas at the Holiday Inn in Indian Rocks Beach. She made great drinks, we loved the conversations we had, and her bubbly personality. She made our stay! We hope to see her in the future.
Best Drinks – How can we call Lindsey the Best Bartender we had, without also mentioning that Jimmy Guanas was the site of the best drinks we had on the trip. They have an extensive drink menu, and we loved everything we asked Lindsey to make us. While we are on the subject, we also have to give Jimmy Guanas the nod for Best Bar Food that we had on the trip.
Most Relaxing Day – We have several ties for this category. We loved the pool days at Disney’s Boardwalk Inn Quiet Pool, but also the relaxing days we spent with our cousins Jeanne and Walt in Barefoot Bay. We also had the Best Breakfast of the trip courtesy of Jeanne, who made Biscuits with Sausage Gravy! We cleaned our plates!!! And…she gave us her recipe!!!
The Most Tiring Day – That would have to be the day we walked all over Disney’s Magic Kingdom, putting our Fitbits into shock as we gathered over 12,000 steps!
Our Worst Travel Day – No, it wasn’t our first two, nor our last two, when we covered 400 miles a day on I-95, it was the day we drove from Indian Rocks Beach on the West Coast, to Florida City on the East Coast. We detoured to Sanibel Island, where there was incredible traffic, and then crossed the state on the Tamiami Trail, which hasn’t changed much in probably 40 years. Compounded by extensive construction between the Tamiami Trail and Florida City, which we ended up doing in the dark. Now you know why we had dinner at Taco Bell!!
Worst Weather Day – We were blessed with incredible weather but for one day. Our one full day in Key West, started with questionable weather and lots of drizzle. When we thought the weather had passed through, we took the Conch Train tour of the town, and it poured, causing Susie to attempt to stay somewhat dry, by holding a small umbrella in front of her. It didn’t work. However, that evening we enjoyed a beautiful sunset during dinner as we ate outside at One Duval, so all ended well.
Biggest Surprise – As we pulled up to Valet Parking at the Doubletree in Hollywood Beach, somebody pulling in behind us noticed the Sonata’s license plate and started talking to us. Turns out he lives just up the road from us in Ventnor! We thought that was going to be our best “small world” moment on the trip, till our second day at the Quiet Pool at the Boardwalk Inn. Susie was talking about the recent nor’easter storm, and two ladies sitting next to us overheard us and started asking questions. Turns out that they were Roz and Nancy, who own Sun Rose books on Asbury Avenue, in Ocean City. Talk about a small world!!
Best Find – Hands down, the town of Indian Rocks Beach! Located on a barrier island off the Gulf Coast, south of Clearwater, Indian Rocks still has a small beach community feel, with just a two lane road and lots of atmosphere! We loved it so much that we rearranged our schedule to stay longer, and we are looking into returning for an extended period next winter.
Mistakes we Made – Looking back, we think the biggest mistake we made was trying to relive our memories. Into this camp we’d have to place our visit to Weeki Wachie, Susie trying to find where her Grandparents used to live in Pinellas Park, and me trying to find places in First Lauderdale that I remembered from visits with my best friend David. Memories are just that, which we both found when we tried to compare the Magic Kingdom we both remember from the early 70s, with today’s reality. Things change….
Best Decisions – #1..we went on this trip! To leave the winter of 2018, for a preview of the summer of 2018 was a great decision. To spend 3 weeks eating outside, to be wearing shorts and capris, and to have our toes exposed to the sun was nothing short of wonderful! This is retirement, and if we can, it is something we will try to do every winter, because winter sucks! #2 on our list was making a couple of changes to our itinerary, allowing us to stay longer in a place we loved (Indian Rocks Beach) and return home a couple of days earlier. #3 would have to be everything else we did…from meal choices, to most of our hotels, to places we went and things we did, we had a great time. Frankly, I think we’d both be fine with repeating the entire thing over again, because there were only a few negatives, and even those weren’t earth shattering. In short, we think WE DID GOOD!
There you have it…a look back at our wonderful visit to Florida, during the winter of 2018!