Monday, July 25, 2016

The Summer of the Two Beaches

Before I start back to school and assign the quintessential "What I did over the summer" essay (HA! like I have ever assigned such a typical essay!), here I am about to write one.

For those who are keeping up with my New American Dream adventures, let me first inform you that because of our decision this year I have already set a precedent.  I have been to the beach THREE times this calendar year!  I can't recall ever having gone to beach more than twice in a year and that was in the care-free days of my teenage years when friends invited me along.  I want to record our trips so far this year and share the great things we have done.  Otherwise, we would just be that weird family who lives in a travel trailer, right!?

I am calling this the Summer of the Two Beaches mostly because there were TWO of them, but also because they were completely different in many ways and contain their own distinct memories.  But before we start with the summer I should share our first beach trip way back in April for Spring Break vacation.  It is important because it was the first time we took our new home along for the ride. We had already planned for a beach vacation in our old travel trailer, but since we had purchased a new "home" we decided to complete all the renovations before April and take her out for a shake down trip.  Then we could decide what else needed to be done before we were to live in it.

The trip was the first time I had been to beach for spring break since I was a teenager.  We decided to stay at St. Andrews State Park in Panama City Beach, Florida.  We also had Grandparents along with us on this trip which would definitely prove the seating and living capacity of our new house.

The weather was beautiful most of the time for this trip.  We spent time just hanging outside playing games and talking into the night.  There were days when the wind made it too cold to even sit on the beach, but we did it anyway, and the boys were in the water until their lips turned blue.



At St. Andrews State Park there are two ways to enjoy the water: you can hit the waves on one side of the jetty or snorkel in the calm waters on the other side of the jetty.  We did both on multiple occasions.  Thomas and Noah enjoyed the wave erosion the most...


There is great fishing and boating around the area and much to my chagrin, the boys went fishing one day.  I was jealous at the beautiful day they had on the water!
 

 

 

It was a great trip and I was thankful that we were able to spend it with family.  The lessons we learned that week were quickly added to a long to-do list that we would complete in the next two months.

We quickly booked out next beach trip for the third week of June, which would be our first trip after fully moving into the trailer and living in it for about two weeks.  The SECOND beach trip in a year!! I felt ecstatic!  Our trip to St. Andrews was great, but we still enjoyed St. Joseph State Park in Port St. Joe, Florida better, so that is were we headed in June.  The water is always clear at St. Joseph SP and you can stay within walking distance of the beach there.  It is very secluded and we wondered how much Verzion reception we would get this go round (we had none the year before).  Also, between April and June the weather in Florida turns brutal.  The ONLY place you can get relief from the heat in right on the beach, otherwise you spend your time in a puddle of your own sweat!



The other thing about Florida weather is that it controls every aspect of the ocean.  We arrived in the midst of a wave of late afternoon thunderstorms, which is typical in the summer, but it turned the ocean to a BEAST!  The waves were so powerful, the Park Ranger shut the beach down one of the days we were there.  They were having to rescue people out of the water multiple times as day.  If you are not aware of what the ocean can do, you are automatically in danger.  I would not let the boys in the water without one of us being in with them.  Those who are reading this and know my children personally are aware by now that this was the BEST time they had ever had at the beach.  Those waves were theirs to conquer and that is what they did.  I could not get them to leave the beach most days.  It amazes me how much energy and determination they can have sometimes!

 



 

Just like at St. Andrews SP, at St. Joseph SP you can enjoy monster waves or a calm lagoon on the bay side of the peninsula.  We spent part of one day snorkeling in the bay sea grass.  Snorkeling is one of my favorite beach activities.  I had never snorkeled as a kid because we never spent time in calm lagoon water.  I love watching the sea creatures as I float peacefully in the water. It is fun to collect all the fun things you find in the ocean as you snorkel.  We collected several hermit crabs, bait fish, and I even found where a fish laid her eggs!




Once we returned home from our first trip, it was time to start planning the next one!  This was a new exciting time for me to be able to think of all the possibilities of travel without worrying about the money.  I knew we were planning to go somewhere over the 4th of July weekend, but I wanted to avoid crowds and anywhere that would already be booked.  I planned a trip that would incorporate some roadschooling into our adventures.  We planned for a trip to coastal Georgia and would spend 4th of July on Jekyll Island.  Beach #2 here we come!

We decided to stay off the island because we would be making trip up and down the coast to various Historical Landmarks, so we chose Coastal Georgia RV park right off I-95 in Brunswick.  We got the last spot available for the entire weekend!  This was actually the first time we have stayed in a place that could call itself an RV park.  We have spent most of our trips even in the older trailer in State Parks and small campgrounds.  This was luxurious to us!  We had a nice concrete slab with picnic table and FULL hookups.  The park had a pool, laundry, and meeting pavilion.  We also chose this park because they were hosting a BBQ for the residence on Sunday evening.  It was fun to get together with everyone in the park and celebrate the 4th.

We spent one day with friends from Savannah at Fort King George State Park in Darien, Georgia.  It is a complete replica of a British Colonial Fort.   Even though the day was hot, we had a great time!  



 





 We also visited the historic Hofwyl-Broadfield plantation.  It is a rice plantation from the early 1800s with the original buildings still in-tact.  It remained in the same family until the 1970s when the last owner died and willed it to the state.  All the original family furniture, dishware, silver, and relics are still in the house.  Thomas and Noah got to hold the family treasure: a captain's Civil War saber.

 

 I think I was more impressed with the massive Live Oaks on the property!



The next day we spent the morning at Fort Frederica National Park.  The boys were not as impressed with this as they were with the actual fort replica the day before, but I enjoyed imagining this small colonial village created by Oglethorpe and the fort that protected Savannah from the Spanish.  It is all just an archaeological dig now, but that is probably what I was more interested in.  I wanted to discover some long lost relic too!

We spent the afternoon and night of the 4th on Jekyll Island.  We visited the Sea Turtle Hospital and then hit the beach. 

 Unlike the other two beaches we visited this year, this was the Atlantic Ocean.  It is an entirely different experience than the Gulf.  For one, tides are extreme here.  When we arrived it was a extreme low tide and it didn't even resemble a beach.  It looked like a third world country mud hole!  There were no waves and the water was completely mud.  But the benefit to low tide is the extreme sand bar the goes forever out into the Atlantic.  We were able to walk out were the fish would be swimming along the bottom in just a few hours.  We collected several live sand dollars while walking out on the sand bar and into the clear water.  As the tide started to come it, the boys were able to enjoy the water a little more and catch a few waves.  This is when Thomas was stung by a jelly fish!  As we walked onto the beach that day we heard some people talking about the extreme amount of jelly fish in the water, but you can't tell my children that!  They think they are invincible.  Thomas was a brave soul and took it a little better than I expected.  Nick took him to the Fire Station/Medic on the island and they sprayed his sting with anti-venom.  It was so successful that he even got back into the water!!  He decided that if he didn't go to the exact same spot he was in before he would be O.K.   

We also knew we were staying to watch the fireworks that night and picked a spot on the beach far inland so that the tide wouldn't get us.  It was funny to sit and watch people have to move their spot all day to get back from the in coming tide!  
 

Around dinner time we cleaned up a little and walked over the Tortuga Jacks right on the beach for some food.  The best thing is that is was Air conditioned and we got virgin daiquiri in a coconut pirate!  


The boys playing in the water until the sun went down and then dug in the sand until the fireworks started.  It was a long and hot and eventful day!

As we end our Summer of the Two Beaches, I can see that this choice that we made has brought us closer together as a family.  I have tons more pictures and memories of the summer that have nothing to do with travel.  We have spent the summer in very close proximity 24 hours a day and it hasn't harmed us at all.  We have new goals and new adventures planned, but for right now we are planning to continue with our typical, ordinary lives in an extraordinary way.  This life we have chosen will change us for the better.