The time had almost arrived for our 2017 Disney Cruise. But first, we had to get there. For us, road trips are always fun adventures, and we sometimes add in extra stops along the way. Join us as we take a little journey…
Sunday, June 4, 2017
Finally, the day to leave had arrived. But the day that our cruise would leave was still a few days away. We planned to take it easy getting there and then to enjoy a day or two at the beach, depending on the weather. Laura had seen some discussion on Facebook about the high chances of rain during our cruise, and the weather forecast apps on our phones also showed a good chance of rain on the days that we wanted to go to the beach. But this was our vacation, and we were determined to have a good time no matter what. Because we couldn’t very well change to another date at the last minute.
We left home in the early afternoon, having been to church that morning. We had packed as much stuff as we could on Saturday, but there were still some last minute things to pack. And we washed dishes after we ate lunch, because who would want to come home to a sink full of dirty dishes at the end of their vacation?
We were able to get everything in the car relatively easily, and we still had room for Jaylin, too, which was good because he would have complained about being left at home. For many of our past trips we had rented a car to keep some of the mileage and road wear off of our car. But this time we chose to drive our own car. It was more convenient than coordinating picking up a rental car, not to mention that most rental places are not even open on Sunday. Also, because our car is starting to get slightly older, we don’t feel quite as much pressure to keep it new any more. Plus, there is something a little more comforting about having your own car instead of driving around someone else’s, even though seeing how different cars compare can be fun sometimes, too.
Once we got on the road, we had pretty smooth sailing. Or driving, actually, because we weren’t on a ship yet. But in a way it was like we were sailing because of all the rain that we drove through. It really was not a problem for us, but apparently it was a problem for others, based on the number of cars we saw in the median along the highway. There were three cars in different places along the way, and I was guessing that they lost control during some of the heavier rain. Hate that for them.
As we drove along, we were guided by the smooth, melodic voice of Mr. T, who was one of the voices we could choose on the Waze app. Lightning McQueen from Cars was another choice, but he just was not as funny as Mr. T. “Turn right, fool!” “Go left, sucker!” The first he shouted out a command, Laura almost spit out her drink from laughing. Just about every time he would say something, we got a laugh out of it. I am always glad that my wife has a similar sense of humor to mine. It makes life much more fun. And fortunately, Jaylin knows who Mr. T is, too, so he enjoyed it as well.
We stopped for dinner at Dairy Queen in Prattville, Alabama. Laura had gotten their $5 deal a few weeks before (upgrading to from a sundae to a Blizzard for an extra dollar), and she was ready for some more ice cream. We all got the deal, and it was amazing how much food we all got for under $20. And the Blizzards hit the spot, too. Just what we needed to keep us going for the night.
We wanted to drive as far as we could go, but we also are the kind of people who actually sleep at night, and sleeping while driving does not go all that well. Knowing that there weren’t all that many places to stop ahead of us (one of the advantages of going the same way several times in the past), we stopped for the night in Dothan, Alabama, staying at a Days Inn. Not the most fancy accommodations in the world, but it would be fine for one relatively short night of sleep and then a shower in the morning.
Even with all of the extra sugar with our Blizzards after supper, it did not take us all that long to fall asleep.
Monday, June 5, 2017
We were up at 6:00 AM, because who sleeps late on vacation, anyway? Actually, we do sometimes, but not when there is someplace to be. We enjoyed the limited breakfast that the hotel offered, packed up our car, and hit the road, once again guided by the gentle voice of Mr. T.
Because we had not been on the road all that long, we actually bypassed the Florida Welcome Center when we reached the Sunshine State. Shocking, I know, because we always seem to stop there and get some orange juice. Judging by the number of cars in the parking lot, either everyone else was passing by without stopping as well, or we were on the road earlier than most people. Not a problem either way. It is just unusual to see the parking lot mostly empty there.
We eventually reached Gainesville, and we had decided to make a quick visit to the University of Florida. But first, we needed some lunch. Laura looked on her phone and found a Firehouse Subs nearby. So near, in fact, that it was on campus at the university. It was in a small center with some other things, and the parking was apparently limited. There was even a parking attendant to help us find a spot. Fortunately, someone else was leaving just as we got there, so we took their spot, and then he told the car behind us that there were no more spaces left.
After enjoying our always delicious Firehouse meal, we went to visit the University bookstore, but we couldn’t find any place to park. I realized that we are usually there on Saturday or Sunday, when all of the parking is open. But on a Monday, you have to have a permit to park in most places, and even if we did have a permit, most everywhere was full with the students’ cars, as it should be since the school is all about them, after all. So we decided to get back to the interstate and move on down the road, thinking that we might try to stop back by on our way home so that Jaylin could get stocked up on Florida merchandise.
Before long, we were flying along down Florida’s Turnpike, enjoying not having to stop and pay tolls thanks to our Sunpass. Of course, we still pay tolls with it, but at least we don’t have to stop and wait in line to pay. Gotta love modern technology.
We were trying to make it to Cocoa Beach in time to spend a little bit of the afternoon on the beach, but it looked like the rain was conspiring against us. Hopefully, that was not a sign of things to come. But it looked like the rain would set in before we could get to the beach. So we came up with an alternate plan, and we stopped off at one of the outlet malls in Orlando for a bit. Laura found a few things there, but Jaylin and I came out empty handed, which was okay.
Soon, we were back on the road again, thanks to Mr. T helping us navigate through the streets and back to the highway. One thing I love about driving on Highway 528 versus Florida’s Turnpike is that you do not even have to slow down to pay your tolls with Sunpass. You can zoom right on along at 70 miles per hour, passing all of those who are stopped at the toll booths. That was the whole reason that we got our pass in the first place, because we got tired of watching all of those people pass by while we were waiting.
We did eventually make it to Cocoa Beach, passing by the cruise ship terminals along the way. There were no ships there, but that was because any that were there had left an hour or two before we passed by. But we knew that we would be back in a couple of days to catch our ship.
We arrived at our hotel, the International Palms Resort, where we had stayed the previous summer. We got our room, which was a ground floor room near the pool, and we unloaded all of our things from the car. We then went across the street to the Beachwave store to get a new body board, since our old boards had bit the dust. Leaving the board in the car, we went out to walk on the beach for a while.
Even though our original plan had been to get in the water that afternoon, we were happy with just walking along the edge of the water instead, letting the waves wash over our feet. And letting the raindrops softly fall on us. Actually, most of the rain had stopped, leaving us with just a few sprinkles here and there. So while it was not quite what we had intended, time at the beach is still time at the beach, and we were thankful for it.
As we walked along the shore, we encountered several others who were also out for an early evening stroll. It was interesting to see how many people spoke as we met, just saying a simple, “Hello,” as we passed by. We are used to that at home, living in a small town as we do, but it is interesting to have it happen out somewhere away from home like that. Yes, Cocoa Beach is not a huge metropolis, but you never know how things are in different places. Maybe most of those out walking at that time were local folks, and they figured that most of the tourist-type people had gone when the sun left. Maybe they thought we were local, too, even though I was carrying my camera, which Laura always says is a dead giveaway that we are tourists. Or maybe they are just friendly to everyone, which is nice. Either way, the friendliness of the people just added to the pleasantness of our walk.
We walked down a little farther south than we usually walk, but we decided that we better turn around and start heading back before it got to be too dark. Not to mention that we were getting hungry for supper. Along the way, we once again encountered some of the same people as before, who had apparently also turned around and started heading back our way. There was also a man fishing from the shore, but he still did not appear to have caught any more than when we passed him before. And a few people were enjoying the waves. I suppose if you don’t want a sunburn and you don’t mind the cold water without the heat of the sun, that is a good time to be out there. But if I had put anything more than just my feet in the water, I would definitely have been cold.
Once we had gotten all of the sand off of our feet, we got in the car and drove to one of our favorite places in Cocoa Beach to eat, Rock the Guac, a small burrito place that we stumbled across a few years ago. We like their burritos, and I like their guacamole that they make fresh in the store. Once again, Rock the Guac did not disappoint, so it is still up at the top of our Central Florida eating list. There were not many people eating there at the time, probably due to the lateness of the hour.
We next drove around the block to get to another of our favorite Cocoa Beach places, Ron Jon Surf Shop. After all, I needed one more Ron Jon shirt in my drawer, and I quickly found one that I liked. Laura found some shoes, and Jaylin found a cap, and we found a few other things as well. Ron Jon never seems to disappoint us. Besides, with our hotel room key card, we got a discount if we spent over $50. Somehow spending over $50 there never seems to be a problem for us. So yes, we got the discount. You’re welcome, Ron Jon.
After that, it was off to Walmart to get a few supplies that we had forgotten, as well as breakfast for the next couple of days, since International Palms does not have a free breakfast. No big deal, because we knew it in advance. Besides, two of the three of us are not big breakfast eaters anyway, and Jaylin would have plenty of opportunities for big breakfasts on the cruise in a few days.
We then drove back to the hotel and settled in for the night, looking forward to a day at the beach that was ahead of us.
We had made it, but we still had another day before we actually boarded our cruise ship. Check back soon for more of our 2017 Disney Cruise Trip Report!