So, it was Christmas Day, and after the presents were opened and the breakfast was eaten, we looked at each other and said, “Well, now what?” One of us said, “We should go to Florida for a month.” Someone pipes in, “Yeah, that sounds like a great idea!” So, we did.
Okay, it didn’t happen exactly like that, but we are on our way to Florida. And we did leave on Christmas Day. But, the plan started taking place a few months ago. I mean, really, why not, right? We (and by we, I mean me and Vence) strongly dislike cold weather, he has the month of January off, and we homeschool. Oh, and add to the equation that some of our best friends live in Bradenton, FL. All of that adds up to, “Let’s go to Florida!” Harriet was getting restless too. She hasn’t been out since we parked her in June. She needed to move her tires and get out on the open road. She had rested long enough.
We pulled out in the afternoon on Christmas and drove southeast. (You might notice that this time we are pulling a car!) We stopped for the night in Kentucky at a Pilot Truck Stop. (One thing that is going to be obviously different on this trip as compared to our last is the casualness of the schedule. We actually have no schedule, no reservations, save one — Disney World. We have a plan to visit the “Happiest Place on Earth” January 11-15.) After a stop at Walmart to buy the things we forgot (there is always something, isn’t there?), we continued southeast into Tennessee to our first destination: the Great Smokey Mountain National Park. The beauty of this place has blown me away. The first thing I noticed after getting out of Harriet at the campsite was the smell! One of the greatest flaws of the World Wide Web is that I cannot send the smell to you. We are surrounded by evergreen trees, so imagine the smell of fresh pinewood (not the artificial smell of candles). Amazing! There are beautiful mountain springs and rushing rapids everywhere. And the trees, the trees, oh the truffala trees! Oh, wait, wrong story. But the trees here are stunning. There are varying types of trees — tulip trees, oaks, and many evergreen varieties, just to name a few.
Sunday we spent the morning driving around the Cades Cove Historical Loop. There are 18 stops along the loop which include homes of the first families to settle in the cove and the churches those families built. An interesting fact for history buffs is that this national park was formed through the purchase of land. For instance, the families of those first settlers owned much of the land around the cove. When forming the park that land had to be purchased from those families. Other national parks were not formed in this manner.
Of course Minnie Mouse worked on completing a Junior Ranger badge! After an afternoon run to the nearest Camping World we stopped by the Sugarlands Visitor Center to ask a ranger a question in order to complete the requirements. Then, she took her oath and received her badge! Thank you, Grandma, for the wonderful vest. Ranger Maggie was very impressed!
The past two evenings in Harriet have been delightful. I was reminded why we are doing these trips. The first night the three of us all sat in the little living area doing our own things (Vence reading, Madeline coloring, me crocheting), and yet we were together doing them. Sunday evening we ate dinner, cleaned up, and then spent the evening playing Apples to Apples Disney version (thank you Aunt Mindy!). It is precious time. The joy of just being together without distractions. It is one of the main reasons we didn’t come home from the last trip and immediately sell Harriet. She provides us with space to create special memories.
Monday morning, Vence worked on Harriet, repairing a leak on the roof, while it was raining! Then, after lunch we headed further south toward Atlanta…so, I’ll see you at the next stop.