May 04, 2020

A Rendezvous in Daytona Beach

This post represents another installment in The Big Switcheroo series – tales from last spring’s epic journey from the northeast to the Florida Keys and back – involving family, friends and an extraordinary range of adventures.

Throughout the entirety of our marriage, Alan and I have maintained a constantly evolving Travel Bucket List.  When travel was restricted by our employment and the need to plan around an allotted number of vacation days, we added additional items to that list much more frequently than we checked any off.  Alan and I (happily) share the same tastes in travel, and our adventures over the course of 40+ years together have been eclectic, to say the least.  While we have certainly traveled to many places for many reasons, National and State Parks have always represented the majority of entries on that Bucket List, sharing space with tourism hot spots like Myrtle Beach, Disney World, Virginia Beach, Pigeon Forge, Alaska, Hawaii and the Gulf Coast of Florida, as well as quieter, less popular vacation destinations.  As time went on, more and more of the “must see” National Parks were checked off the Bucket List, so that by the end of 2017, the first full year that both of us were retired from the workforce, the scope of our travel plans widened to the point where the focus was not so much, “What’s the next National Park?,” but more like “Where shall we go next and what shall we do along the way?”  Suddenly, the possibilities seemed endless.

It was that question that drove the travel planning for this three and a half week trip to Florida and back.  The entire journey was built around two specific items – the tickets we were holding for a performance at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville and the week of vacation time the kids had pulled to join us at Disney World in celebration of our daughter’s graduation from barbering school and our bonus kid’s graduation from college.  (That “bonus kid” would be our son’s long-time girlfriend.)  Beyond those two date-restricted activities, we were free to build whatever we wanted into the itinerary, so that’s what we did and now, as we left Georgia, the fun and the adventures continued.

Crooked River State Park ~ St. Marys, Georgia

It was a bittersweet farewell to Crooked River State Park and the Cumberland Island National Seashore, as we would have loved to linger and enjoy the coast of Georgia for a longer period of time.  But, with an eye on the clock and breakfast plans in place, we headed south toward the Florida state line on a Sunday morning in May of last year.

Friends come into our lives for a variety of reasons and seasons.  I’m lucky enough to have at least a half dozen friends from high school with whom I’m still in touch.  Unencumbered by a career, kids and the other responsibilities of adulthood, my high school years were carefree, and the kids I considered close friends were all raised by parents with solid values who welcomed their children’s friends into their homes and readily provided rides to and from our activities.  While I didn’t exactly like school, my high school years were good ones; my life at home, my friends and some excellent teachers were a big part of that.

When the last details of our visit to Disney World and our kids’ travel plans were finally nailed down, I contacted my friend, Pat, who has lived in the greater Daytona Beach area for years.  Pat was the first of my high school friends to get married, and I still remember the matching grins on Pat’s face and that of her new husband, Jack, as they exited the church on a Saturday in June all those years ago.  They headed south early in their marriage, but we stayed in touch over the years, sometimes doing a better job than others.  Sadly, Pat lost her beloved Jack nearly four years ago.  Their two kids (Ella and Phillip, who are, naturally, no longer “kids”) live nearby which, I’m sure, is wonderful for all three of them.

It seems to me that, when friendship runs deep, time and distance mean nothing.  When I emailed Pat out of the blue to ask about getting together for a late morning breakfast on the Sunday we were due to check in at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Campground, the reply I received was nothing less than extremely enthusiastic.  Despite the fact that the suggestion came on short notice and with a whole list of restrictions (looks like it will be late morning but we won’t know the exact time until we hit the road that morning, have to be back on the road by 1:00 p.m. to have time to check in at Fort Wilderness and get back to the airport in time to pick up Kyra, need to meet someplace with a large parking lot that is easily accessed with a pickup truck and a 32’ trailer – poor Pat!), my high school friend immediately rose to the challenge and came back with several viable alternatives for a breakfast get-together that was highly anticipated by everyone involved.

The suggestion to meet at the Metro Diner on International Speedway Boulevard in Daytona Beach was spot on – for both food and parking.  Not only had Pat and her daughter, Ella, corroborated on the restaurant suggestions, but Ella was able to join us for breakfast, as well.  It was Ella who figured out that it had been 18 years since we had last gotten together at a time when our kids were young and we were vacationing in Florida.  The minute Pat waved us over to the table, the years fell away and we picked up right where we had left off – not missing a beat and laughing like the teenagers we once were.

Alan, Ella, Pat and me

Following our breakfast, Pat and Ella took the twenty-five cent tour of our travel trailer, and it didn’t take Ella long to start thinking about working remotely in an RV.  Pat didn’t look all that convinced, but only time will tell.

I’ve described our travels in the spring of last year as “involving family, friends and an extraordinary range of adventures” and that really is true.  Breakfast with Pat and Ella was the third time Alan and I enjoyed time spent with friends on this trip, adding depth, meaning and wonderful memories to our travels in Virginia, Tennessee and Florida.  It must be the excitement of catching up with those friends that reduces my brain cells to mush because (as with friends Kathy and Albert in Nashville) I forgot to take a single photo of any of us together.  Pat and Ella saved the day, as Ella had asked a staff member at the Metro Diner to record our visit for posterity, and she was kind enough to pass that photo along for inclusion with this post.  Thank you, friends!  We had SUCH a delightful visit!

As early afternoon rolled around, Alan and I said our goodbyes to Pat and Ella, and set the GPS for the House of Mouse.  Fort Wilderness, the campground on Disney property, had been on my Bucket List since I first heard camping friends talking about how much they loved it more than ten years prior.  Our usual preferences tend toward State and National Park campgrounds with few, if any, amenities.  Now, it was time to see how the other half lived.   


  1. How frustrating for me to discover no errors, save the questionable capitalization of 'bucket list.' (It certainly wouldn't be unlike you to do that just to see if I would mention it.) A record of good times with family and friends is always a perfect thing to memorialize as you did. Don't feel alone in the frustration of forgetting to take photos. (It's one of my few imperfections.) Glad you had a good time; it showed in your post. Stay well!

    1. Our travels have always been focused more on "seeing" than "visiting," although we often did manage to meet up with a friend or family member along our route. On this particular trip, we hit the jackpot, connecting with three sets of friends plus Alan's brother and sister-in-law. Unfortunately, I'm so much more a photographer of scenery than a photographer of people that few photos exist to document the good times we enjoyed. As for the capitalization of "Travel Bucket List," traveling is such a high priority for us that we consider our bucket list to be a proper noun which, as such and as you know, should be capitalized. There was one phrase I was concerned about, but I re-worded it to eliminate the chance that my favorite proofreader would comment on it. Whew!

  2. Mary,
    Our trips are more about "seeing" as well but, it's so easy to re-connect now with social media and we find old friends almost everywhere we go. It makes for a lot of fun, and gives Helen someone to talk to besides important!

    1. Truth be told, Joe, Alan and I aren't social media users, but we've managed some great connections on our trips nonetheless. One of the best was in 2007: Friends who live in Colorado were heading home from the mid-west, while we had been out west and were heading back east. We met at a steakhouse in the middle of Nebraska and had the best time! That's still one of my favorite memories from that trip. I trust that all is well with you and Helen - I'm depending on you to keep it that way! Stay well and take care!

  3. How nice that you were able to get together with your friend! We always look for potential meet-ups with friends, family, and fellow bloggers when we travel. A trip to the northeast we took several years ago provided all three: a visit with a blogger friend in Toronto, a several day stay with family in Vermont, and another multi-day stay with my oldest friend (since we both were toddlers) and her husband in the fingerlakes region of New York. It was a very memorable trip made so much richer because of these connections.

    1. Okay, Janis, you win! My oldest friendship dates back to first grade and I thought THAT was pretty amazing. But friendship since toddler time - that's even more than amazing! Good for you! Your trip to the northeast sounds very much like our trip to Florida - so much fun! (Just not enough photos.)


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