There’s nothing like a three week road trip to change your outlook and when we drove to Florida for an escape from the winter in Canada we had the time of our lives! The best thing about driving instead of flying is you get a chance to see the changing scenery and as we drove South on I-95, passing through New York State, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, The Carolina’s and Georgia we were better able to appreciate the size and beauty of the area.
Of course the highway doesn’t always have the best views for sight-seeing but since we only had three weeks for the trip we decided to take the main road and get to Florida where we were planning to do our car-camping and exploring.
When we saw our first palm tree it was really exciting! The temperatures had been steadily rising as we drove South and by the time we hit the free orange juice stand at the Florida Visitors Center we were bathed in sunshine under blue skies and a warm wind we rarely feel up in Quebec in January!
We stayed in hotels on the drive down but once we hit Florida we started the camping! Our Salsa Vibe had all of our belongings and the comforts of home that made this car-camping so different from our backpacking trips. We had our camping gear and coolers and hiking gear and even our beloved espresso machine so we could have a morning Cappuccino at the campsite picnic tables!
We did a basic counter-clockwise route through the entire state, stopping first at Fernandina Beach then driving West to Lake City and the Osceola State Park on our way to Apalachicola on the Gulf of Mexico. We camped and explored, hiked and swam and saw so many different birds and creatures along the way that we were constantly stopping to take pictures. In the evenings, as we sat around the campfire or watched the sunsets we could talk about all the sights we had seen that day before we tucked ourselves into our small tent for the night.
We then made our way back East across the Suwannee River towards Bald Point on Ochlocknee Bay and Manatee Springs State Park before crossing Central Florida and driving down the East Coast towards the Canaveral National Seashore. The drive down highway 95 between West Palm Beach and Miami was a bit crazy and while it was neat to pass the colorful homes, surf shops, golf courses, beaches and typical Florida retirement villas in Boynton Beach, Boca Raton, Pompano Beach and Fort Lauderdale, it was also the most stressful part of the trip due to the traffic and when we got a bit lost in Miami we felt like we could have used the help of Horatio Kane and the CSI team for protection in some of the rough neighbourhoods we accidentally found! Gulp!!
We drove to the Keys and made a short trip to Key West but found it a bit touristy and preferred the snorkeling and laid-back areas near Key Largo where we saw some awesome corals at Pennekamp State Park before heading into Everglades National Park and the Shark Valley Slough where we came face to face with alligators, huge birds, and incredible lush swampland and open fields!
Our last night of camping the temperatures were unseasonably cold and approaching the freezing level so we were actually a bit glad to know that it was time leave Rainbow Springs to start the drive home to Canada. After that cold night we were glad to spend the last few nights of our return trip in hotels where we could have hot showers and sleep on fluffy mattresses and pillows instead of lying on a thin inflatable mattress and brushing our teeth with pond water!
The drive from Florida to Quebec took us about three days so we enjoyed two nights of hotel continental breakfasts and take-out suppers instead camp cooking and as we got further North we started seeing more and more snow reminding us that even though it’s hot and sunny back on the beach, February is approaching and we enter Canada where it is certainly winter and we were back to the land of tuques and mittens!
What a great 21 days we had! The driving was fun and DD and I really bonded as we got to spend a lot of time in the car chatting, listening to the local radio stations and only occasionally coming to blows over map directions!!