Markel Family Summer Vacation–Day Five

Last Saturday we sadly said goodbye to Orlando at 4:30 a.m., and began the long drive home (actually, the long drive to Ryan’s parents’ house, because driving all the way home from Orlando in one day would have been a disaster!). We did have a few stops planned along the way, though. We started by driving up the Space Coast. In some ways, it was like time had frozen there since the 1960s. We passed by so many cute motels that were just like I had imagined from the days of the space race. And they all had great vintage road signs…but it was too dark to get good pictures of them!

Anyway, the sun did come up eventually…just in time for us to drive through Daytona Beach, which was where we supposed to say in the first place, and see the sun rise over the ocean:

We drove a little farther up the coast, and stopped to stretch our legs at St. Augustine Beach. We weren’t there for long, but we got to take a nice walk, collect seashells, and dip our toes in the water. It was so exciting to see the Atlantic Ocean again!

We then drove into St. Augustine (the oldest continuously occupied European settlement in the United States), right over the Bridge of Lions:

And stopped to take a walk around Castillo de San Marcos, which is the oldest masonry fort in the continental United States.

We then turned toward Jacksonville, where we stopped at the Wawa again…I have to admit, for a gas station, they make great sandwiches!

After driving through a different part of the state than on our way in, and looking for both bears and alligators (and not seeing either), we said goodbye to Florida:

And made the interminable drive back across Georgia. Even I was happy to finally see Tennessee, even if it did mean going back through the Smoky Mountains:

And so our second Markel Family summer vacation came to an end. I’ll be taking a closer look at the fun places we visited in the coming days, though, so the vacation fun isn’t over yet!

Markel Family Summer Vacation–Day Four

The fourth day of our summer vacation was a much-needed day of rest and relaxation at our amazing hotel. Ryan rented us a poolside cabana for the day, and we enjoyed hanging out in the pool, going down the water slide, building sand castles, and playing ping-pong. A storm sent us to our room for a bit, but we had fun watching cable TV, and the children even got their first room service experience when we ordered a pizza!

After it got dark, we enjoyed one last walk around the property:

And then Ryan and I went down to the diner to share a sandwich:

Up next…the long drive home, with a few stops along the way!

Markel Family Summer Vacation–Day Three

Last Friday was a HUGE DAY for us. We started early in the morning, because the SpaceX Dragon was scheduled to launch from Cape Canaveral at 5:42 a.m. I wasn’t sure if we’d actually be able to see anything, since Orlando is over an hour away from the launch pad, but we thought it was worth a shot…and our early morning efforts were rewarded! We not only saw the rocket go up, we also saw the separation stage, and Turkey and I even thought we heard a rumble during lift-off!

That wasn’t even the biggest moment of the day for us, though, because Friday was Universal theme parks day for the Fab Five and me (Ryan spent the day in Daytona Beach at the CEO fighting game tournament, which the reason we went to Florida in the first place)!

Our main goal at Universal Orlando and Islands of Adventure was seeing as much of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter as possible. Our trip to Legoland was a dream come true for Turkey, but walking in the footsteps of Harry Potter was beyond Bunny’s wildest dreams! So once we were in the gates, we made a beeline for Diagon Alley. We got to see the shops just like we were in the movie, and our first stop was at Ollivander’s to buy a few interactive wands. We also got to see things like the Knight Bus, Sirius’ motorbike, and Platform 9 3/4 (which is where we headed next, to board the Hogwarts Express!).

After getting off the train, we found ourselves in Hogsmeade, where there were more shops, places to use our interactive wands, two fun rides (including Chickadee’s second roller coaster), and an opportunity to meet some of the participants in the the Triwizard Tournament.

While we were at the Islands of Adventure property, we also visited Seuss Landing, which was a fun and very colorful part of the park:

We walked back over to Hogsmeade (in the rain, of course) to eat lunch at Three Broomsticks:

Once the lightning stopped, Turkey and Ladybug tormented me by riding the Incredible Hulk coaster at Marvel Super Hero Island:

We then took the Hogwarts Express back to Diagon Alley, where we stopped at the Leaky Cauldron for Butterbeers:

After Chickadee and I waited for The Bigs to ride Escape from Gringotts, we visited Springfield: Home of the Simpsons, and went on a fun virtual reality roller coaster:

And got donuts at Lard Lad…they were ENORMOUS!

After walking through Diagon Alley a bit more, we took the Hogwarts Express back to Hogsmeade, where I finally remembered to ask someone to take a picture of all six of us. I can’t even begin to describe how much fun it was to share the experience with the Fab Five and see their reactions to everything!

After 12 hours at the parks, we finally boarded the shuttle bus back to our hotel. We were all exhausted but extremely happy…it was a fantastic day!

Up next…a relaxing day at the hotel, which we all needed!

Markel Family Summer Vacation–Day Two

Last Thursday, we had one vacation event planned, and it was a big one, especially for Turkey…we went to Legoland! While everyone was looking forward to going, Turkey in particular has always dreamed of visiting Legoland, but he was starting to think that our trip to the Legoland Discovery Center in Chicago last January was as close as he was going to get.

We had such a fun time! We went on as many rides as possible, including Chickadee’s first roller coaster (she was not a fan!). We also really enjoyed the Miniland, which included landmarks from Florida, the U.S., and, of course, Star Wars!

One of the highlights of our visit was the water skiing show, which included life-size minifigs on water skis!

When the regularly scheduled afternoon thunderstorm popped up, we decided we had seen everyone we wanted to see, so we stopped at Publix (again) and then at the Wawa gas station, which Ryan was very excited about.

Back at the hotel, we went for another swim, and then took a walk around to see more of the retro sights.

Thursday was a busy day, but wait until you see all we did on Friday!

Markel Family Summer Vacation–Day One

It’s been three years since our first real family summer vacation, so we were all very excited when things worked out for us to go on another road trip this year, this time to Florida. Actually, I was a little worried that the trip wouldn’t happen, because things fell apart Father’s Day weekend. We salvaged it, though, and even though it ended up being a slightly different trip than we were planning on taking, and we didn’t get to do everything we had originally planned, it ended being a far superior vacation than I had imagined!

We left very early in the morning from Bowling Green, KY,  a week ago to make the drive to Orlando. I was kind of dreading the drive, partly because of how long I knew it would be, but mostly because the Smoky Mountains were an inevitable part of the trip, and we did not have a good experience driving through them three years ago. Everything was fine, though, and even I had to admit it was a pretty drive!

After the mountains, we had to drive through Georgia for what seemed like an eternity. Did you know that Georgia is an incredibly boring state to drive through? Except for Atlanta, which is not boring, but does make me rage-y, because the traffic is always terrible! We were all unbelievably happy to see the “Florida Welcomes You” sign, even though we still had a few hours left in the car before reaching our destination!

Before we arrived at the hotel, we stopped at a Publix grocery store to pick up a few supplies. I love checking out new grocery chains when we travel, and Publix did not disappoint…it might be my new favorite grocery store, and I wish we had one closer to home!

We did finally arrive at the hotel, the Cabana Bay Beach Resort on Universal property, what seemed like several days later, and I’m not going to lie…I cried when I walked into the lobby for the first time. It was just like I dreamed it. The resort has a 50s/60s theme, and it was perfect for me. There was nothing I didn’t love about it!

We had just enough energy left for a swim and a walk around the pools after our very long day:

But then it was time for bed, because we had big plans for the following day!

Markel Family Weekend Getaway–Day Six

Last Monday morning, it was time to say goodbye to Pheasant Run and Combo Breaker.

But we weren’t quite done with our trip. We headed east, for a visit to the Chicago Botanic Garden, where, despite the extreme temperatures, it still looked like spring!

We then drove to the south side of Chicago to try one of the Windy City’s specialties: Rainbow Cones. We were not disappointed!

We took the long way south to Normal, where we had one last taste of Chicago at Portillo’s before heading home:

And so our vacation came to an end. We have more fun trips planned for this summer, but I’m already looking forward to next year’s Combo Breaker!

Markel Family Weekend Getaway–Day Five

Last Sunday morning, we celebrated the Holy Trinity at St. John Wheaton. We didn’t say the Athanasian Creed, but we did get to have donuts after the service!

Following church, we hurried back to Combo Breaker. I had to take a picture in what I’m calling a “Sailor Moon Bound” Pinup Girl Clothing outfit with my Sailor Jupiter lanyard that Ryan bought for me before the trip:

And, as always, we had to get a family picture with the big Combo Breaker screen in the background:

We went for one last swim:

And then returned to Combo Breaker, to see the Guilty Gear final, which Bunny was very excited about:

We celebrated my 1st 39th birthday a few weeks early with my mom at the Schnitzel Platz, where I got to hear “Happy Birthday” played on cowbells after dinner!

Back at Pheasant Run, we visited the arcade one last time:

While we were doing that, Ryan received a medal for the third year running…this one was very special!

We saw some of the Dragon Ball top eight, but it was getting late, so we headed back to our room before the final. Turkey watched it on my phone while the rest of his siblings fell asleep watching…more Food Network!

That was (sadly) our last night at Pheasant Run, but we still had a few fun activities planned before we headed home on Monday!