Amanda’s Visit at Christmas – Part 2

wp-1483320410643.jpegIn Part 1 of Amanda’s Visit at Christmas 2016, I left-off on Christmas day in Ft. Myers, and in case you missed it, this has become my favorite part of Christmas – when we sing Happy Birthday to Jesus at Dave’s cousin’s house. She goes all-out, birthday cake and all. I love it, even though I believe that this time of year was when Jesus was conceived, not born. Still, it is one of the best things I have ever seen.

Afterwards, we stopped by to see some friends of ours and by the time we got back to the condo, everyone was beyond ready for bed. The next morning, I drove Dave to the boat docked at the beach and the kids and I packed up my truck and headed home. Dave enjoyed a day by himself on the boat fishing. The three of us made plans for the following day to go out to dinner and then head downtown to see Sandi the Christmas tree, sculpted entirely out of sand.

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Choreographed to music, the lights danced around, blinked, and changed color quickly. It was pretty neat. Not missing a chance to capitalize, West Palm Beach made Sandi a star – she had trailer just like the movie stars and “Sandi Swag” was offered for sale.

Here, Amanda and I sit in Sandi’s dressing area – a good spot for a photo-opp.

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The following day, Amanda said goodbye to her dad, and she and I headed north. Because we needed to be at the Orlando airport at 6:00 in the morning, we decided to drive up and spend the night. We had planned on taking the long way and stopping in Sebring to see Jonathon, which we did, although we wound up taking the long, long… long, long way.

wp-1483402366629.jpegIn hindsight, I somewhat enjoyed it. I am glad to know where River Ranch is, and am happy I can say that I have driven through it. Even more so, I am glad to know that right down the road from it are fishing and boating communities. The best part though, and yes, I know this is just weird, but to be a little scared, driving in the pitch dark between Reedy Lake and Lake Arbuckle on a two-lane tiny road with no shoulder, well, I would have rather been with no one but Amanda, and since it was indeed her sitting next to me, well, in hindsight I can say it was a bit thrilling. My “drama-fix” for the year, perhaps.

I thought I knew where I was going and it was not until I saw signs for Ft. Drum that I realized something was wrong. “Ft. Drum!” I exclaimed, “we are going to pass Debbie’s house,” I told Amanda, “that’s not right!” After chatting for a few about our friend while I tried to decide what to do or where to pull over, Amanda pulled up the map on her phone. She showed me what it said. We determined that turning around was not the answer. So we took five hours to get to Sebring. They were also some of the best hours of conversation.

After having dinner with Jonathon, we continued north to Monroe’s on the Lake in Sanford, Florida. Unfortunately, I could not avoid I-4, although I would not have known that I wanted to until it was too late anyway. I-4 was under construction, bumpy with uneven pavement like I have never seen. The six lanes of highway twisted and turned and were as narrow as could be, and with semi’s barreling through the 60 mph zone going 80 while tourists slowed down to 40, trying to figure out where to go, it made for the worst experience on the road I have ever had. Amanda even groaned when she looked at the map and saw we had 20 more miles of it to go. Finally, we made it to our hotel a little before 11, and the first thing Amanda said was, “I see why dad choose this hotel!”

wp-1483449712211.jpegSituated on Lake Monroe in Sanford, Florida, this affordable hotel had a friendly staff and nice rooms. The room we were in on the second floor overlooking the pool was nice anyway, with a mini-fridge and wood (laminate) floor. The bed was comfy and had the type of pillow-top comforter that I love. Perhaps Dave figured, with a bass fish for an emblem, how can you go wrong? I am glad he wasn’t wrong.

In the morning I took Amanda to the airport and waited around, hoping to get a picture of her plane departing. Realizing it would be another 20 minutes or so, I decided to go back to the hotel, only 10 minutes away, and take them from there. Before leaving, I took a picture of the airport, where it appears that Allegiance Air has the place all to itself. The place that reminds me so much of middle-school pickup.wp-1483449362046.jpegBack at the hotel, I saw a plane take off at 7:20. I took a video and pretended that I knew it was Amanda’s plane. Then I set out to take photos of the scenery that surrounded me. wp-1483403287918.jpegThis would be a nice place to meet up with others, whatever the occasion. I believe they also have a banquet room, and this beautiful gazebo is in a nice yard area in between the hotel and lake. I also spotted a huge grill/smoker but do not know if this is available for guests or what the story is on that. Worth checking out though if you are looking for something like this and enjoy doing that sort of thing (like us).wp-1483403287927.jpeg

 

Amanda’s Visit at Christmas 2016

Three hours north and then a half hour west in the middle of nowhere, was about all I knew of the road trip I was taking to go get Amanda from the Sanford Airport. Although not in the middle of nowhere, much of the two-lane road ran right through the St. John’s River.

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And right through a fish camp.

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Arriving at the small airport just north of the Orlando International reminded me of middle-school pickup back in the day. Almost immediately, traffic came to a complete stop, where, for about ten minutes, I waited.

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Traffic started moving slowly and I inched my way closer and closer to the terminal. Then Amanda called, she had retrieved her luggage and was on the curb waiting. It was just like middle-school pickup.

The next day, back in our neck of the woods, I spotted a new sign I thought might interest someone:

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One day, Amanda and I went downtown to take Dave to lunch. We went in to see the tree he had been telling us about, and of course, get a picture.

wp-1483302734740.jpegOur tree at home is a bit less traditional. Dave did all the decorating and I love it. “Dreaming of a black-light Christmas” is our song this year!

 

Presenting the Raffey Family Christmas Tree of 2016:
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The “pilot” Blacklight Christmas

For Christmas, we went to Ft. Myers, where, Dave and John carried on Gus’ tradition of hosting a Prime Rib dinner on Christmas Eve, followed by opening presents. Fourteen people got their fill and there were leftovers. Costco came through once again.

Dave said Gus’ traditional grace, to which Jeff and I traditionally tacked-on, “Rub-a-dub dub, let’s eat this grub!”

wp-1483303257394.jpegThen we opened presents. Here, Dave is reading the tag – To David From Santa. At some point, he looked at me, confused. “You sure this is for me?” “Yes, finish reading the tag,” I told him. Because you will always be David first here, he read. And our gift tags confirmed this.

wp-1483317210859.jpegSanta got him cookies – Butter Pecan Meltaways – to be exact. In a round tin with the cookie maker’s name written across the top it and, “a bite above the rest,” I had to try one. The name of “David’s” was a plus.

wp-1483303310748.jpegMan, am I glad that Dave does not enjoy them nearly as much as I do. We would have to fight over them. But as luck would have it, or his big, kind heart, he allowed me to eat almost the entire tin of cookies.

On Christmas Day, we did the traditional get-together at Dave’s cousin’s house. After lunch we played games and then sang Happy Birthday to Jesus.

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Visit my site on Shutterfly to see more pictures.

The following day we came home and planned out Amanda’s last few days here.

To be continued…

Big Block Party of Birds

I took this video on Christmas day in Ft. Myers. Not a rare sight for those whose yard we were in; however, I was amazed. It was really something to be standing in the middle of! And I couldn’t help but think of my grandmother. Ha ha ha!!

https://goo.gl/photos/KZ9tThdKWBPEeu2g7