When I was little, I used to secretly make fun of Mom whenever we were getting ready to go on a trip.  I mean, seriously, she was obsessed with the weirdest things!  All the toilets had to be clean, the beds made, the whole house vacuumed, the refrigerator sparkling.

And while I still can’t exactly explain the compulsion to have everything clean (other than the thrill of coming home and everything is already done… except the 15 loads of laundry you managed to dirty on the trip…), I can now sympathize.  My list of things to accomplish before we walk out the door tomorrow is far more focused on household chores than actual packing.

Still, things are coming together, and we are super excited.  We got our rental car today, which is always a thrill, simply because you don’t know what it will be until you get there.  Our car for the week is fabulous (for us) – a 4×4 2014 Jeep Patriot.  Plenty of room for us and all of our gear (plus a million souvenirs we’ll pick up along the way) for the next nine days.  (I was going to post a pic, but the world of technology is not cooperating!)

Even though tomorrow will be a long day of driving (and is going to start very early), we can hardly wait.


So Tom had last week off from work, and we spent most of our time tooling around central Ohio.  There’s actually tons to do!  We totally felt like we didn’t accomplish everything we wanted to.  After all, there’s still canoeing on the Hocking River, the Motorcycle Museum, Amish Country, the Glass Museum, and lots of other stuff on our list.  I guess we’ll just have to reserve them for Saturday explorations.

At any rate, I thought I’d share some pictures from our exciting week.  :-D

Sunday: Old Car Show in Lancaster

(I love Camaros.)

(Mary Rose dreams of owning a Nomad.)


Monday: Wayne National Forest’s Wildcat Hollow Trail near Corning, Ohio:

So yeah, basically this trail just wandered around through the woods for about 10 or 12 miles, lol.  It was lovely, but not terribly interesting.  We did kind of feel like explorers, though, because the trail was really narrow and sometimes hard to find.

My favorite part about this trail was how there were no bridges, so we would just scamper across creeks as best we could…  and there were a lot of them!

There was also this abandoned schoolhouse along the trail.  It was kind of creepy.

…Especially the old piano.

After the schoolhouse, the trail wandered through these pine woods that were actually planted by someone originally, as you can tell by the straight rows.

We also found an abandoned oil well, also creepy.

Then, just when we were thinking about eating lunch, something appeared through the trees.  Could it be?

Yes, it was a picnic table in the middle of nowhere!  Perfect.

On the way home, we wandered all over these back dirt roads, some of which were  maintained by the Forest Service, some of which were legit township roads.  It was very exciting, especially when they would get extremely narrow and we were just in the little Turtle!

We also came across this delightfully modest outhouse…  with no door…

Our adventure reached a temporary setback when it deadended into this pond!

But we eventually made it home, and got ready for the next day’s excitement…

Tuesday: COSI with Isaac & Susan!

Okay, seriously, besides the awesome coal mine at the old COSI (which mysteriously didn’t make the shift to the new…  hmm) what does everyone remember the most??

Of course, lifting the car!  How awesome was that?

So, honestly, I didn’t even know that Tom had the camera in his pocket until we were almost done with the day, so I don’t have that many pictures of COSI.  But we had a great time exploring and doing experiments and learning a thing or two, eating lunch, looking at dinosaurs.  The day was hot and muggy but we were in the air conditioning and obviously weren’t going to be affected by the weather, right?

…until we started to leave and it was POURING rain!

But we and the dinosaurs survived (though damp!) and a good time was had by all!

Wednesday: Dayton Air Force Museum

Okay, so if Tom hadn’t gotten sidetracked by Monty Python in high school, he definitely would have become an astronaut, or at least a pilot, so he has a really soft spot for aircraft.  And I just like looking at planes even though I don’t know anything about them.  Combine that with the fact that the museum is free, and you pretty much have the perfect day lined up.

I really don’t know what any of these planes are, and Tom isn’t here to tell me, so I’m just posting the ones I think are extra cool.


I know this one: the SR-71 Blackbird, my personal favorite.  :-D


A personal hovercraft…  who doesn’t want one of these?!


Thursday: Hanging Out at Home (read: Sarah Gets a Clothesline!)

Friday: Franklin Park Conservatory (Butterflies!)

We want to live in a greenhouse just like this one.  How cool would that be?

That’s me on the other side of the log, but you can’t see very well.

Tom and I both love bonsai trees.  They’re awesome.

This has to be the happiest fish pond in the world…  full of brightly colored fish and huge glass balls!



So, that pretty much wraps up our happy week.  Nothing like vacation in Ohio!!!

Sooooo after visiting the southernmost point in the continental United States, we dabbled our feet in the ocean at the southernmost *beach* in the continental United States, and then wandered up a side street back towards the pavilion where the big sunset celebration is held every evening.

Key West really is a pretty little town once you get away from Duval Street.

We really enjoyed these dogs sunbathing on the roof.

Not quite a perfect match, but awfully close!

So the sunset celebration was very populated, but still a fun feel to it. I really enjoy the whole concept of celebrating something as simple, daily, and unchangeable as the sunset. Even here where we’re staying, every evening finds all the guests out on the dock bidding the sun farewell.

The only sad part about us spending a day in Key West was the loooonnnng drive back to Key Largo, not nearly as interesting in the dark, I’m afraid. But we survived and tumbled into bed as soon as we arrived.

Yesterday morning, reenergized, we headed down to Islamadora to visit another tourist trap, Theater of the Sea.

Actually, as far as tourist traps go, this one wasn’t too bad.  We didn’t opt for the ludicrously expensive ‘swim with the dolphins’ package, but the general admission ticket got us into several cool shows–parrots, dolphins, and sea lions–plus we got to wander around the park and see all sorts of nifty stuff.

The parrots were great, actually.  They’re very intelligent and colorful, which makes them fun to watch.  I keep teasing Tom that I want to get a parrot as a pet, but we both know that neither of us is up for the ridiculous amount work and effort that goes into parrot-ownership.  But that didn’t diminish our enjoyment in watching them perform.

It’s really sad, but I still can’t get video action going on WordPress, so you all are really going to miss out on some epic videos, especially of the dolphins.  Ah well.

The way this park works, you just roll from one show to the next until you’ve rotated through all of them, so we went straight from parrots to dolphins.

I have to confess: Tom & I are both a little creeped out by dolphins.  Just one of those things.  But they are impressively intelligent, and this place put on an excellent show.

This is how most of our pictures came out, lol, which is part of the reason we switched to video.

The sea lion was next.  I really like sea lions’ faces, all whiskery.  Another excellent show performed by a very intelligent animal.

This park was also a rescue home for wild sea turtles.  We took a guided walk, learning about various turtles, fish, sharks and reptiles in the park.

Overall, this park was a win.  It was beautiful, educational, entertaining, and interesting.

We headed a bit further south after we were finished there, to Curry Hammock State Park.

A beach!  We’ve discovered that the Keys aren’t really famous for their beaches, being way more into the whole coral reef/mangrove mud flats kind of scene, but there are a few beaches around.  This one was very shallow for a long way out, so nice wading and, sadly, no waves.

We waded and wandered and admired all the tiny, tiny crabs!

So amazing, really.

We drove back north, getting home in time for the sunset.

This morning, Tom got to fulfill one of his life’s dreams.

He parasailed!  haha you couldn’t pay me to do such a thing, but he was pretty stoked, although he does fear that the smiley face parachute somehow detracts from the manliness of the whole situation.

After our parasailing adventure (I did enjoy the boat!) we poked around another park, stopped at a random flea market, and picked up a couple of things for our last supper in Florida.

We mostly hung out here at our motel this afternoon.  It’s a pretty pleasant place to hang.

We chillaxed in the pool, kayaked around the bay, and just enjoyed life.

And, sadly, printed off tomorrow’s boarding passes.

But the truth of the matter is that, while this has been an awesome vacation on every level–Tom & I have had an absolute blast–we’re both home-bodies at heart and are almost as excited about getting home and back into the groove as we were about leaving in the first place.  Especially since we’re coming home refreshed, relaxed, and tanned.  :-D

PS I’ve discovered that if you click on the actual picture, it will bring up the whole thing in a separate window, which is nice, especially since the sea lion’s whiskery face got cut off. :-p


Okay, so because I’m old and we’ve been getting home so late (read: 21:00!) I haven’t posted the last couple of evenings.  But trust me, they have been very busy days, in that lazy-vacation sort of way.

On Wednesday, we drove alllllll the way down to Key West, which is actually almost 100 miles from where we’re staying, so a bit of a haul.

Key West itself…  think college town on steroids.  Lots of bars, lots of crazy stuff.  In some ways, it totally reminded me of Guatemala–brightly colored buildings & clothes, chickens running loose everywhere, people in floppy-brimmed hats & sandals, crowds milling about, stores that were just completely open to the street.  But in other ways, it’s so obviously American…  prices, alcohol, & pushy people.

So overall, totally glad that we went, but not really a place I’m anxious to visit again.

Key West was by far the most crowded place we’ve been all week (which is saying something).  Traffic was crazy, and we were glad to tumble into a parking garage and do most of our touring on foot.  Our first major stop was the Ripley’s Believe It or Not Museum.  Who doesn’t want to see lots of things with two heads???

(As if weasels aren’t creepy enough with just ::one:: head.)

So most of the museum was full of stuff that was really gross, like how Indian tribes used to kill each other and shrunken heads and torture devices from the Spanish Inquisition (which I totally didn’t expect), so Tom had a great time and took lots of pictures that I’m not including in our family slide show that Isaac & Susan will be watching.

But I think ::everyone:: can appreciate this car covered entirely in dimes!

So after that we basically wandered all the way down Duval Street, popping into random stores, getting some pizza, and watching people all along the way.

Eventually we made it to the southernmost point in the continental United States.

Only 90 miles to Cuba, you know.

And somehow, Key West has become the “Home of the Sunset” even though I’m pretty sure that the west coast would have something to say about that.

Okay, so more later because we’re off yet again.  Tom wants to go parasailing…  we’ll see what happens!


Although really the adventure itself isn’t Part II, but the post is.

So anyway, more pics from the Everglades…

This is the trail we really wanted to walk down but didn’t because of the crazy mosquitoes.  Considering the path follows an old canal, it just didn’t sound like a great plan…

Isn’t this a great sign??  3 FEET ELEVATION!  GET OUT THE OXYGEN MASKS!


Our last walk of the day ended up being a very popular nature walk, which we didn’t know until we started walking it.  There were birds and alligators everywhere!

I really like the way this Great Blue Heron’s reflection is so perfect.

I’m exhausted today so this entry may not make sense.  It’s not even 20:00 yet and I’m already thinking longingly of bed.

Today, after another amazing breakfast, we headed north to the Everglades for the day.

Our first stop was a tourist trap, the Everglades Alligator Farm.  The place was great.  There were SO MANY alligators!

We also got to take an airboat ride there, which was fairly awesome.  We watched a dude wrestle and alligator, too.

Ironically, my favorite animal there was actually the Florida panther. I really want one for a pet.

As an aside, does anyone know how to upload videos to WordPress?  Because I have a really happy one of this panther washing his face just like my cat Clarence does at home.

We watched a show with snakes and one with gators that involved some mild alligator-wrestling, always a plus, and then headed to the more legit tourist trap of the day, Everglades National Park.

I have to say that I’m not terribly impressed with the organization of this particular park, but we managed to find our way around.  We hiked several short trails.  The scenery is unlike any I’ve seen before.  This whole area is just a very strange habitat.


More pictures will be forthcoming tomorrow…  I got sidetracked by supper and other things, so it is now definitely bedtime.  Stay in touch!!!

You know how some kids complain about how boring their parents are, and you always shrug it off because you know they’re exaggerating?  Well, if I ever have kids, they won’t be exaggerating.  Tom & I love being boring, which is why large portions of our vacation so far have been spent kicking back, watching the sun set, or rise, or just hang out in the sky.

We slept in crazy this morning, not rising until almost 07:30, with about an hour prior to that spent using the internet on Tom’s phone to look up important information on the differences between alligators and crocodiles, and reading stories about alligator/crocodile attacks.  I’ve not a doubt that we will use ::all:: of that information.

After an epic breakfast (the kitchen in our cottage + grocery shopping at Publix yesterday = Tom still cooking awesome breakfasts hundreds of miles from home) we tooled a few miles up Key Largo to visit John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park.  Most of the park is underwater, but even though neither of us are big swimmers/scuba divers/snorkelers (we’re boring, remember??) we still found plenty to do.

We got the first ride of the day in the glass-bottomed boat out to the coral reef.  I didn’t realize how far from the shore we would have to go.  It was a long ride through the mangroves and then quite a ways across open ocean.  The boat was traveling at about 18 knots at that point.  We were informed by our tour guide that that translates into about 157.3 mph, but later he told us he was exaggerating…

Still created a pretty good wake, though!

Neither of us had ever actually been out on the ocean, so that was pretty spiffy.  It was also the biggest boat I’ve ever been on, by quite a lot.  (I think second place is currently being held by Tom’s john-boat.)

So when we got to the reef, it was amazing how much we could see!  Luckily, Mom had graciously given us a going-away gift of Dramamine.  We sat, with our feet dangling, leaning on a rail, watching the underwater world slowly slip by as the boat would jerk forward, then backwards, then side-to-side, allowing all the passengers opportunity to see what was going on.  We saw tons of fish and coral and even a huge stingray.

This sort of shows what we saw, but I couldn’t come up with a viable way to make the pictures anything like what we were actually seeing, so I gave up and just enjoyed watching and reveled in the fact that I wasn’t feeling seasick.

The ride back, through the mangroves again, was quiet and happy.  The weather today was warm again, mid-70’s, and sunny.  It was pretty windy out on the water, though.

I rather like mangroves, actually.

When we got back, we took a short walk through the woods to finish settling our stomachs before lunch.

Coffee grows in Florida!  However, I guess this wild variety isn’t good for brewing.  Still, it sort of brought back Guatemalan travel adventures.

The whole time we were walking through the woods, on this trail and on another that we took later in the afternoon, we kept hearing a small something scampering through the leaves on the forest floor.

Turns out, they were the most adorable lizards ever!  They were only about two-three inches long.  Tom snapped this great pic of one that stood still barely long enough for his portrait.  Upon research, I think that they are brown anoles.  Go here to see a great picture of an anole showing off his bright red throat flap.  We saw one doing that today, but couldn’t take a photo.

For lunch, we ate from the concession stand at the park, sitting out in a happy picnic area watching the water.  We were visited by some local wildlife there as well.

These birds (I believe they are white ibises) were virtually fearless and quite demanding.  Kind of like sparrows, except significantly larger and with more intimidating beaks.  And yes, we illegally fed them, right under the “Do Not Feed the Wildlife” sign.  (Don’t tell Grandma…)

I actually took a video of us feeding the birds, and also of yesterday’s alligators swimming, but have yet to figure out how to upload them to WordPress.  Ah well.

After lunch, we took a few more meandering walks before heading back to the hotel.  Traffic is crazy here on the Keys, so it took us a bit of time to travel the fiveish miles.  We did stop at a few tourist-trap stores, but didn’t purchase anything.

Back here, we went swimming, then took the peddle-boat out on the bay.  However, we did not see any manatees.

We walked down to the another tourist-trap store and bought postcards, and the 50th anniversary “party edition” of Dr. Suess’s One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish. (I think the “party edition” means that the cover is really, really shiny.)

Then we sat out on the dock here and watched the sun set over the water.  Now Tom has chicken on the grill, and I’m getting very hungry.

So, even though Timmy informed me that we are incredibly boring, since we haven’t gone para sailing, scuba diving, jet skiing, or jumped out of helicopters, we’re still having a great time just hanging out where it’s warm and sunny!

So wow, I’m actually on a vacation to someplace lots of people want to visit:  the Florida Keys!  Tom & I flew down to Fort Lauderdale yesterday, with a three-hour layover in Tampa Bay, hanging out in the airport watching people.  We got to FL about 20:30, collected our rental car (a white Pontiac G6 GT, woot!) and took off.  We stopped at a hotel an hour or so later in South Miami, exhausted, and crashed out for the night.

Neither of us have ever been to Florida before, and we’re quite fascinated  by the plethora of palm trees.

This was the view from our hotel room this morning.

After breakfast, we started wending our way south.  Our destination was Key Largo, but we took a very meandering route, stopping a couple of places at Everglades National Park.  We’re planning to go there and spend more time later this week, but today we stopped at Chekika and took a walk.

The weather is amazing…  sunny, not at all humid, and today the high was around 77*, so basically perfect.  It was so nice to just get out of the car and stroll around.

Anyway, the reason Chekika was exciting, was because we saw alligators!  Along the walk there was a small pond, and there were at least half-dozen baby alligators swimming around in it.

Here we have three alligators swimming together…  they were each about 12-24in long.  There was also one decent-sized gator, probably 4ft long, just tooling along.  We watched the alligators for a long time.

I also saw this intriguing bird.  I haven’t figured out what it is yet, but I quite enjoyed watching it catch bugs out of the air while it just sat in the tree.

These are tomatoes!  This picture doesn’t begin to show the magnitude of this field.  HUGE!

This snowy egret got a bit annoyed as we stalked it for about a mile along the road taking its picture.

After we wandered around Chekika, we started south again, heading for the main entrance of Everglades National Park.  Tom has decided that everyone in Florida makes a living buying and selling pottery and palm trees to one another.  We stopped at one of these many garden-outlet kind of stores.  All of the pottery is vibrant and exciting.

Even walking around a garden center can be interesting when you’re in a totally different climate.

We’ve concluded that it’s probably a good thing that we flew here.  Otherwise, we’d probably be heading back to Ohio with a whole carload of stuff.  As it is, this probably won’t fit in our carry-on…

Anyway, eventually we made it to Everglades National Park.  We stopped at the main visitors’ center to get some information so we can go back there to more thoroughly explore later this week.  As it was, we mostly just had time for Tom to tame a wild cougar.

Now we’re happily established in our little cottage here in Key Largo.  We stocked up on groceries for the week and are getting ready to do some local exploring.  It’s a quiet place with only about 20 rooms/cottages.  Everything is bright and cheerful and pleasant.

Our home & car for the week.

Well, that’s all for today, but hopefully more will be forthcoming.  Stay in touch!


And so, here we are in Ohio…  not much to say, really.  The drive was good; we survived; and I really love Ohio.

So far in my life, every trip I have ever been on–and there have been many–my favorite part is getting back home.  I’m just a quiet, routine-oriented girl, and I love Ohio.

I even made it home in time to go to the farm and feed my babies…  all is well.

Stay tuned…  not sure when the next trip will be, but you can be sure that it will be full of thrills and adventures as always.  :-D

Until next time, Happy Trails!


So apparently, before we left, people would ask Timmy where our family was going on vacation and he kept saying that we were going to spend the whole week in Gettysburg.  It’s been a running joke, as we obviously didn’t make it to Gettysburg until yesterday.  But what a lovely week we had once we arrived!

This is my fourth time to Gettysburg; it’s a really neat place.  The most recent time before yesterday was actually this time last year, when Mary Rose & I were on our way home from visiting Seth.  (You can actually read about that trip on this blog as well.)  I hadn’t been there in several years, so that was my first time in a new visitors’ center, which was built in 2008.  There is a very nice museum there, plus this center now houses my favorite part of Gettysburg–the cyclorama.

That painting alone is worth the trip.  It’s beautiful, and was painted quite soon after the actual battle.  The artist actually visited the battlefield with veterans from that battle to gain insight and perspective for his painting.  It was on display for several years in Boston before being moved to Gettysburg for the fiftieth anniversary of the battle.

There really isn’t much to say about Gettysburg.  It’s cool, but not breathtakingly beautiful like the mountains we’ve been driving through all week.  We enjoyed the museum, drove around the battlefield, and then spent the afternoon wandering around town; there are dozens of interesting shops.

Abe is always patient with visitors and willing to answer our questions.

View from Seminary Ridge along the Confederate lines.

View from Little Roundtop at the end of the Union line.

Isaac was really getting into the reenacting!

Backstory…  when Mary Rose & I were at Gettysburg last year, we discovered this tree at the top of Devil’s Den and just thought that it was amazing.  Just as Mary Rose took a picture, a car popped up on the road, ruining the picture.  No biggie, we figured we take another…  except the camera died.  So yesterday we were fulfilled by finally getting this picture… and several more.

Timmy is so cool.

Lunch at this great little cafe that served bottled pop and HUGE portions of French fries.

On the way back to Hagerstown, we stopped at a random Goodwill before arriving at the hotel and meeting Seth, who had driven down from Marietta (PA) to join us for supper…  leftover pizza from the night before!  It was fun to visit with him, especially since he won’t come home to Ohio!

Now we’re getting ready to load up and head home.  No exciting plans for the ride home except survival… we’ll see if it happens!


Sarah E. McCafferty

July 2021

it’s in the past