We all, from time to time, need time to recharge; to just have extended time away from work and engage in recreational activities beyond the scope of just our day(s) off. And so, we take vacations. I’m very lucky in that I work for a company that provides Paid Time Off (PTO) that replenishes based on how many regular hours worked (as compared to other places I’ve worked that give a flat x number of days/weeks per year). Unlike some people, I actually use my PTO throughout the year as it accumulates (albeit sometimes it gets used for sick days instead of for fun). The trick is to try to allow enough to accumulate to be able to take extended time off. This year, I managed to save up enough to take a full week and a day (the extra day is to recover from the drive back home).
My in-laws are members of a time-share called BlueGreen Resorts. Typically, they use it to book trips around Myrtle Beach, SC because it’s relatively close to where they live in North Carolina, but last year we went to Gatlinburg, TN and this year, we went to Orlando, FL and stayed at BlueGreen’s The Fountains Resort. This is by far, the nicest one of BlueGreen’s facilities we’ve stayed at; two pool areas (one of which has an adjacent indoor pool; the larger pool has a water slide), a clubhouse (with a coffee shop and two bars) and we managed to get a three bedroom suite on the top floor with a private balcony. Also, our building was right next to the clubhouse, so we didn’t have far to walk to get to the pool (for that matter, our balcony overlooked the pool area).
As I begin writing this, it is already a little after 6:00 PM on Friday; we’ve been here since Sunday, and I find myself lamenting the fact that I have to be back at work on Tuesday. While this week has gone by seemingly to fast, we’ve had loads of fun and gotten to do things we normally wouldn’t get to do.
Sunday, August 3 – The Long Drive
The in laws came down to Atlanta on Saturday, stopping in Charlotte to pick up my brother in law so we could all leave together on Sunday to head to Florida. I took the first shift driving, so I could navigate us out of Atlanta, since we actually live north of the city and we had to go through downtown to get to I-75. My father in law did most of the driving after that, but Roxanne did take a turn at the wheel for at least a couple of hours. Five people crammed into a Chevy Equinox meant frequent stops for stretching (not to mention lunch and potty breaks), so though we left Atlanta around 8:00 AM, we arrived at our destination at around 4:30 PM. Still, I’d say we made pretty good time.
Dinner the first night came from Domino’s Pizza which is conveniently located on the resort property.
Monday, August 4 – Just another day in Paradise
We were all still pretty tired from the trip the day before, so we pretty much hung out around the suite. Since we had a full kitchen, we made a meal plan and found the local Wal-mart so we could get groceries for the week and pick up a few things that we had either forgotten or weren’t able to find before we left for the trip. All-in-all, Monday was pretty much a throw away day with much napping and just using the free wi-fi, but we did get to enjoy the pool for a couple of hours.
Tuesday, August 5 – “Today’s my Birthday?”
Roxanne actually forgot her own birthday! Truthfully, I think her dad was the only one that actually remembered because all of us had already lost track of days and dates. For the most part, this became a pool day and more relaxing around the hotel suite, but I did manage to get an overpriced Piña Colada. Dinner was made in the room (Hamburger-Potato Casserole).
Wednesday, August 6 – I’m on a Boat!
Roxanne’s dad’s original plan was to get her tickets to see Blueman Group at Universal Studios, but she decided she wanted something else as her birthday present. So, we drove about 40 minutes south to Boggy Creek Airboat Rides and took a 30 minute ride around Lake Tohopekaliga in Kissimmee, FL. Later, we went to Outback Steakhouse for dinner.
Thursday, August 7 – I see the SeaWorld
The trip to SeaWorld was our big, planned event for this vacation trip. We got up and stopped by the guest services office to pick up day passes for the I-Ride Trolley since that was much more convenient than trying to fight for parking, especially since there was a trolley stop right at the entrance to the resort property. Cost was probably a bit more than parking would have been, but it was way more convenient. Also, if you ever visit SeaWorld, do spring for the all-you-can-eat armband ($32.99 per person); when you weigh the cost of the armband versus the cost of even just one meal, it’s worth it (Roxanne observed one family order sandwiches at a Panini shop pay around $50 for just three combo meals).
We went to three shows (Blue Horizons [dolphins and birds], One Ocean [killer whales], Clyde & Seymour Take Pirate Island [sea lions, an otter, and Sir Winston Walrus], and Pets Ahoy [dogs, cats, a rat, a pig and a skunk – this one was indoors and we went to it as the rain started]). And, of course, we did a ton of walking; our favorite ride was the “sit my fat ass on this bench and rest ride”. Oh, and I almost forgot, we did the ride for Antarctica and got to see penguins in a very air conditioned indoor area (32˚F).
Friday, August 8 – We’re Flyin’!
One of the things we didn’t get to do at SeaWorld on Thursday was go up in the 400-foot Sky Tower because by the time we got to the point in our day when we wanted to, they had to close it due to the thunderstorm (let’s be honest, it’s a big damn lightening rod!). So, on Friday, we got our bird’s eye view of Orlando (or at least part of it) by taking a helicopter tour from Air Force Fun. My grandfather was a helicopter pilot in the U.S. Army, but I had never been up in a helicopter before. It was pretty amazing, and I’d love to do it again sometime when we can afford more than just a 5-7 minute flight. Dinner was rosemary roasted chicken with potatoes and carrots in the room.
Saturday, August 9 – Screw it, I’m Going Back to Bed
Roxanne and her mom decided that they wanted to go to Downtown Disney. The rest of us opted to stay in the room; my legs had decided they had had enough adventure (and walking) for one vacation. So, I enjoyed sitting on the screened in balcony doing some reading and general internet surfing before finally deciding that a nap was in order. They returned just after lunchtime, and made grilled cheese sandwiches for lunch. After lunch, I did laundry then Roxanne and I finished a game of Uno we had started a couple of nights before (I mounted a dramatic 92 point come from behind victory). Dinner was left overs since we were leaving the next day and needed to use up the groceries we had left.
There was some discussion about heading to Old Town after dinner so we could watch the classic car cruise, but we ultimately decided to stay at the resort and go ahead and get packed up for the trek home.
Sunday, August 10 – On the Road Again
Once again we crammed all five of us into the Chevy Equinox (along with luggage, not fat with accumulated swag and non-perishable groceries) and head back to Atlanta. Roxanne’s day drove the first leg and when we stopped for lunch and gas, Roxanne took over for a couple of hours with me taking the last 111 miles so I could navigate I-75 through downtown Atlanta. We opted for the chicken dinner combo from the Publix deli and pretty much just settled in for the night. The in-laws will heading out Monday morning to drop my brother-in-law off in Charlotte on their way back to Fayetteville, NC.
All-in-all, despite being quite exhausted from all of the walking, this was one of the best vacations ever. We all get to scratch a couple of things off of our bucket lists (the airboat and helicopter tours) and we got a lot of good pictures to remember our trip to Orlando, FL. And for the record, when people say it rains in Florida every day, they aren’t kidding. It really did rain at least once a day, every day we were there; and it was hot and humid. I enjoyed the visit, but I don’t think I’d want to move to Florida any time soon.