Friday, June 21, 2013

Vacation: Day 3 (posted by Steven)

Friday, June 14th:  This was our first full day in Key West.  Like the day before, I took the boys to breakfast so Tiffany could sleep a little more.  This time, Tyler stayed and snuggled with Tiffany.  The first adventure on our agenda was a 28-mile wave-runner tour around the island.   We had to check-in by 9:30am, for the 10:00 tour.  Luckily, the tour company (Barefoot Billy's) was on our hotel's property.

This is where we put sunscreen on all the children and waited for the Crews and the other Fegers to get to our hotel:
While waiting for the staff to fuel the wave-runners, the kids found coconuts and cracked them on the rocks.  They ran out of coconuts to crack, so we tried hoisting Dylan up a palm tree to get more.
After a short briefing by the staff, we were ready to go. Isaac & I went on one waver-runner, Dylan went with Andre, Noah with Darren, Malia with Corrie, and Barbie was on a single.  Tiffany stayed at the hotel with Tyler.
All the kids loved the wave-runners.  It was a bit choppy on the Atlantic side of the island, so Isaac flopped around like a rag doll.  He was brave though and most of the kids said that this tour was their favorite part of the 5-day vacation.  The tour stopped in a few locations.  At one stop, the guide pointed out one of Oprah's houses.  At another stop, we saw a family of dolphins.  Some of the dolphins came right up to the wave-runners, but I wasn't ready with the camera. Sorry.  We also got about 20-30 minutes of free time to ride around on our own.  Andre let Dylan drive almost this whole time and Isaac got to control ours.

Since our hotel passed out free watermelon in the mornings and had bowls of fruit for the taking, this is what Tiffany & Tyler did while we were gone:
 And this:
 Then this:
Each day, our hotel also offered different craft activities for kids.  So after the tour, the kids painted starfish and wooden iguana/lizards. We missed the activity the day before, which was making shark teeth necklaces, but Tiffany asked the the activity person for some materials from the day before to fix Dylan's alligator necklace that we just bought for him at the gator place on Day 1 of the vacation. Not only was Tiffany able to fix Dylan's necklace, but they also gave her a shark's tooth for the kids.
Then the kids went swimming.  This is right before, I flipped the kids over:
and a friendly staff member gave the kids popsicles:
We then ate lunch at Willie T's.  This is another place that we usually go to at least once per trip.  As you can see in the photos, they have tons of $1 bills all over the walls.  The kids wanted to take the money.  While waiting for our food to come, Noah posed on stage:

Tyler slept through lunch:
While walking down Duval Street after lunch, we came across this place that had some delicious-looking fudge in the window.  We couldn't resist and went in.  This is me talking the kids into getting a less expensive treat, so Tiffany and I wouldn't have to share our fudge:
After lunch, we went back to the hotel.  We tried to get the kids to nap, so we could stay up a little later.  I was the only one who slept though.  Then, it was back to the pool.  I gave Tyler a swim lesson and he made some good progress on kicking/wiggling to the wall on his own with his face in the water.

While I stayed at the pool with Dylan and Tyler, Tiffany took Isaac to go hunting for small hermit crabs that were all over the rocks on the shoreline.  This was one of Isaac's favorite things to do:
For dinner we had pizza at Rick's.  The place is actually called Angelina's, but we've always called it Rick's because we sit in the small courtyard in front of Rick's bar.  Dinner here is always a top priority on every trip to Key West.
 Tyler was glued to the video games while waiting for the pizza:
 While eating pizza, spiderman happened to walk by.  He was sweaty, but the kids didn't care:
After our pizza dinner, we headed to Mallory Square a little earlier than the night before so we wouldn't miss the sunset again.  On the walk there, Tiffany broke her flip flop when somebody stepped on its back, but Barbie and Andre saved the day by buying her some new flip flops.  They even matched her shirt! We bought some juice drinks that were served in a pineapple shell.
Isaac (and his shirt) couldn't get enough of this pineapple.  Even though they were hollowed out pretty well, he managed to scrape out more of the lining:
We watched a few street performers: 
 The kids wanted to watch the Fire Lady again:
We thought the night was over after heading back to the hotel, but as we walked by the pool area, the kids noticed that the hotel was having a "dive-in" movie night.  The kids initially said that they just wanted to watch for a few minutes from a distance, but then Isaac noticed that there were some empty lawn chairs much closer to the screen so we eventually moved up to watch The Lorax all the way to the end.

End of Day 3.

Vacation: Day 2 (posted by Steven)

Thursday, June 16th: As most of you know, Tiffany likes to sleep in as much as possible.  So I began Day 2 by taking the 3 boys to breakfast in the lobby of our hotel.  I then brought Tiffany breakfast in bed.  Our only objective for Day 2  was to drive about 126 miles from Florida City to Key West.  It could have taken us about 2 hours.  Instead, we stopped about every 15 minutes, so it took us about 8 hours.  First, we stopped at Diver's Direct at MM 100.  We didn't buy anything, but the kids found lots of "treasures."  They filled their pockets with pieces of broken hangers and the little plastic tags from the hangers that indicate the size of the clothing.  Dylan even found a shark's tooth in the store. Dylan turned it in to the cashier, who told him that he could keep it.
We then drove about 10 minutes to a place that sells pottery, tikis, and other outdoor decorations.  We thought it would be a good picture to have the kids in pots, but Tyler refused to look up.
We then realized that he wouldn't look up because there was a big moth buzzing around his feet.  I caught the moth and surprised Malia with it because I knew that she would love it.
There was other cool stuff at this place:
Tiffany later confessed that she was the one who wanted to stop at this place because she wanted to buy me a big outdoor clock/thermometer to put out by our pool.  We then stopped at a place with a giant lobster outside (MM 86.7).  Got Butter?
This place actually turned out to be really cool because there is a small village behind this store.
Next, it was already time for lunch.  We hopped back in the van and drove a few miles to Whale Harbor, where we had been a couple times before.   
Tiffany loved her portobello sandwich.  Our first stop after lunch was about 5 minutes away- Robbie's at MM 77.5.  We stop at Robbie's to feed the tarpon pretty much every time we go down to the Keys.  This was the first time for the kids.

After Robbie's, we had our longest leg of the trip without stopping, which was about 40 minutes.  Tyler had a chance to take his afternoon nap.  We pulled off to the side at the beginning of the 7 Mile bridge because Ron Crew told Darren that there was an iguana nest there. I was skeptical, but agreed to stop.  
 Ron Crew was right, we saw at least 5 iguanas there.
This is actually the old 7 Mile bridge that is no longer open to vehicles and runs next to the new bridge.  Tiffany stayed in the van with Tyler because he was still napping.
Before getting back into the van, I asked the kids if they needed to use the restroom.  They said no.  Then, about a mile onto the 7-Mile bridge, Isaac said that he needed to go.  This was the only unscheduled bathroom stop of the entire road trip, which is amazing.  After our brief bathroom stop, our next plan was to try to see Key Deer on Big Pine Key.  Key Deer are an endangered species of deer that are not found anywhere else in the world.  Every time we drive down to Key West we all try to spot one grazing, but we have only been lucky a couple times in the past.  This year, we drove off the main highway, through the refuge to try to get a glimpse of one.  We drove down a long road, until a dead end.  We turned around a bit disappointed, but on the way back to US1, Darren's car spotted 2 in the distance.  We did u-turns and parked the vans on the side of the road.  We got out to take photos.  Unfortunately, the kids were more amused by the tadpoles in the puddles by the road.  As we were admiring the 2 in the distance, something amazing happened-- another deer came out of the trees behind our vans and came up to us.  It was obviously looking for food, but it's a $10,000 fine if you feed one of these.  He hung around even though we didn't feed him.  
Here is the first deer we saw in the distance.  Up to this point, this was probably the best view we have ever had of a key deer:
 Until this one came up behind us:
The kids liked the non-endangered tadpoles better:
 Isaac brought a tadpole back in the van.  We didn't know until later.  
The last stop before our final destination, was the Bat Tower on Sugarloaf Key (MM 17).  In 1929, this bat tower was built so that bats could help control mosquitoes that carried malaria.  However, when the bats were put in the tower, they all flew away.  We actually couldn't find the tower at first.  There were no signs and you couldn't see it from the main highway.  So against my natural instincts, I asked for directions and we found it.  Tiffany was crazy enough to climb up it.  She confirmed that the bats never returned. Also, Isaac's tadpole was released back into the wild in a puddle by the Bat Tower.
After we left the Bat Tower, Dylan said that he was disappointed because there was no one at the tower dressed in costumes.  I guess we should have been more specific.
We then drove the rest of the way into Key West (MM 0).  We did a quick loop around the island while listening to One Particular Harbor to get us into the Key West spirit.  We then arrived at our resort, the Casa Marina:
The Crews stayed at the Southernmost Hotel nearby, and Andre & Barbie stayed at a bed and breakfast a couple blocks away.  Even though we had a full day head start, the amazing thing was that Andre & Barbie left the Tampa Bay area just that morning and arrived in Key West only about an hour after us.  They didn't get to see the giant lobster though.  After we all got settled-in, we met at Fogarty's for dinner.  We love the food there and usually eat at Forgarty's at least once per trip.  
 Do I have anything in my teeth?
 Captain Jack Sparrow:
 This is acceptable in Key West:
 We tried to make it down to Mallory Square for the sunset, but missed it.  We did get to watch the Fire Lady perform though:

End of Day 2.