Archive for the 'Travel' Category

Fury Glass Bottom Boat

During our summer trip to the Florida Keys we spent an afternoon in Key West. I was pleasantly surprised to find plenty of things for our family to do on the often party filled island. When I found the glass bottom boat tour from Fury I quickly made a reservation for the 2 hour tour.

Mermaid

Upon checking in I was told that due to water being too rough near the planned stop at the coral reef, we would instead be heading to a coral garden on the Gulf of Mexico side of the island. They let me know this ahead of time so that we could reschedule if we wanted, but we were not staying in Key West and would only have a chance to visit on this one afternoon. So we stuck with our planned time.

Cruising Out

The “Pride of Key West” is a large catamaran that features a seated sun deck on top, and an air-conditioned viewing area below. The indoor area is complete with plenty of seating, a snack bar, restrooms, and two glass bottom hulls. You are welcome to bring your own snacks and drinks, including alcohol, for enjoyment on the cruise.

Glass Bottom

The ride out to the coral gardens was smooth and before too long the engines slowed and we grabbed seats around the glass bottom sections of the boat. One of the crew grabbed a microphone and guided us through the garden telling us about everything we were seeing and some area history as well.

Corals

It was not the most interesting glass bottom trip I’ve been on, but our kids really enjoyed seeing all the fish and various corals. I enjoyed the boat ride with scenic views out of and back into Key West.

Cruising Back

Hawks Cay Resort

Summer is not quite officially over but the kids are back to school. In the meantime I’m still trying to catch up with all of our summer travels.  The first trip we took right after the kids were finished with school was down to the Florida Keys. There aren’t a lot of hotels with a swimmable beach in the keys, but fortunately we found Hawks Cay Resort on Duck Key.

Lagoon

Hawks Cay has their own ocean fed saltwater lagoon. It is large enough for kayaks and snorkeling and is full of aquatic life. We spent a lot of time here catching little fish and crabs. There are a couple of outdoor grills nearby and food or drinks can be ordered from the wait staff who make the rounds through the lounge chairs.

Iguana

We didn’t stay in the resort building itself, instead we rented a two bedroom villa that was equipped with a kitchen, dining table, and a small area with a couch and television. While my wife and I enjoyed making our own breakfasts in the mornings and having extra space, I think the kids favorite thing were the iguanas that were living in the trees near our back porch.

Pirate Ship Pool

In addition to the lagoon, there are five pools scattered on the resort grounds. We didn’t use the adult only tranquility pool but spent considerable time at the kid’s pirate ship pool, the resort pool near the lagoon, and the sunset pool that was closest to our villa.

Mini Golf

And if that wasn’t enough there are so many family activities planned throughout the day. We competed in a scavenger hunt and also spent a lot of time on the turf soccer field. There is also a miniature golf course, plenty of tennis courts, and a full service marina.

Soccer

There is so much to do that you may not even leave the resort area. If you do it is at least 15 minutes drive to any other restaurants or attractions. We had such an incredible stay at Hawks Cay and I definitely think we will visit again in the future.

Bulldog Fishing Charters

My son Trey has really developed a love for fishing over the last year or two. During our summer vacation to Hilton Head Island my wife searched hard for a fishing trip to take our six year old and his five year old buddy. We struggled to find a boat large enough for group of eleven and eventually found it would be easiest to just have the four guys take the boys out for this trip. Once the group was reduced down to six we quickly found Bulldog Fishing Charters and reserved their 2 hour fishing trip that was marked as great for kids ($350 for up to 6 people).

The Bulldog is 32 foot long and is captained by Christiaan Politzer, a second generation Hilton Head fishing captain for over 25 years. Christiaan’s teenage son Stratton was also on board for our trip serving as first mate. Both were extremely helpful and courteous throughout our entire trip. After cruising out for awhile we had reached our fishing destination above a pile of rocks that local legend says was formed by old sailing ships dropping their rock ballasts on their way into Savannah.

Once our anchor was in, the crew immediately threw in some lines for the boys. While doing so we were told of the history of the area and how the rock pile is full of sea bass that should given plenty of entertainment for the boys. Before the lines were even in the water for a minute they had already hooked one of these black seas bass. None that the boys caught were large enough to keep, but they still had a blast reeling them in and probably caught a dozen throughout the trip.

While that was going on they also threw in some larger rods for the adults. Though we didn’t see any sharks on this short trip, we did reel in 2 cobia and thought we might have had a shark or sting ray on but it broke the line after a good fight from my dad. We had an amazing trip on the Bulldog and would not hesitate to go on another trip with Captain Christiaan in the future.

French Broad Rafting

On our way back from Hilton Head, my family I and stopped for the night in Asheville, NC and the next morning visited the nearby town of Hot Springs. I had booked us on a calm water rafting trip with French Broad Rafting.

Given that my wife and I had both rafted a handful of times in the past, I booked the unguided 4 mile trip through class I-II rapids. The minimum age limit for this trip is 4 years old, so our little one just barely qualified.

After checking in at Hot Springs, we grabbed our gear and headed immediately for the water. There was another group that was going with a guide at the same time we were, so we let them go ahead and tried to follow them. But with only two paddlers we soon lost sight of them. Fortunately they have given us some verbal directions on which way was easiest to navigate throughout our three-hour float. Once our trip was over the staff was waiting with a van to drive us back to our car and where we started.

Our entire family loved the trip and wanted to go again right away. We will definitely be back.

50 States!

Back at the end of last year, Kim and I finally visited our 50th state of Oregon. We met our friends Doni & Phil for a quick tour of Portland. Since their move to California, they have visited Portland before and were excellent tour guides showing us the best that Portland has to offer. Breweries, and lots of them! I’ll have some specific restaurant suggestions and reviews coming in the near future. For now here are some other photos of our adventures.

Now that all states have been visited, I have to come up with some other travel goals.

Lebrewski Cruise

We just hit the one year anniversary of The Lebrewski Cruise and I just realized I never posted anything about it. Once the cruise was announced, I knew it was a must do as it combined a couple of my favorite things good music (namely O.A.R.) and craft beer. I easily convinced Kim that we should leave the kids behind with their grandparents and set sail to The Bahamas. We had a blast seeing O.A.R. perform three shows, finding some new great bands such as Jared & The Mill, tasting a ton of craft beer, and seeing a couple of different ports. We would have considered going again, but unfortunately the cruise appears to be one and done. Anyway, here are some of my photos from that trip last year.

My Year In Cities 2016

Happy New Year! Below is the list of cities that I visited in 2016 with at least one night spent in each place.

  • Sevierville, Tennessee *
  • Cincinnati, Ohio *
  • Sandpoint, Idaho
  • Nassau, Bahamas **
  • Great Stirrup Cay, Bahamas **
  • Indianapolis, Indiana
  • Kansas City, Missouri
  • Effingham, Illinois
  • Williamstown, Kentucky *
  • Orlando, Florida
  • Cocoa Beach, Florida
  • Lake Mary, Florida
  • Montgomery, Alabama
  • Gulf Shores, Alabama
  • Bowling Green, Kentucky
  • Lexington, Kentucky
  • Washington, D.C.
  • West Portsmouth, Ohio
  • Portland, Oregon

* Those cities marked with an asterisk were visited multiple times on non-consecutive days.
** Those cities marked with a double asterisk were ports on a Caribbean cruise.

See also: 20152014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006

Touring The Nation’s Capital

Just before election day, my family and I took a trip to Washington, D.C. On our first day we explored the monuments via bikes rented from Bike and Roll DC. We followed that up with a trip through a visit to the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.

Our second day was mostly dedicated to the Smithsonian National Zoological Park. And we spent our last day at several museums that we had missed the day prior: Bureau of Engraving and Printing, Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, and Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.

I loved that nearly everything we visited was free to explore, which made it great for the family. If we had quickly grown tired of a particular attraction we left without feeling bad that we had wasted too much money. Our family loved this action packed quick trip to our Nation’s Capitol.

Kentucky Down Under

My family has made it to the point where more than eight or nine hours in the car while driving to or from a vacation is long enough. So we have started stopping for the night at various places along the way. On the way back from Gulf Shores this summer we stopped near Mammoth Cave to visit Kentucky Down Under. It was recommended to me from some family members and I was surprised to have never heard of it before.

Red Kangaroo

Red Kangaroo

The grounds of Kentucky Down Under not only contain the Mammoth Onyx Cave, but they over the years have expanded to include animals from around the world, with an emphasis being placed on Australian species. One of the owners is from Australia and since 1990 kangaroo, dingo, kookaburra, and emu. There are also plenty of more native farm animals, along with wolves, a large bird garden, and several reptiles.

Sulcata Tortoise

Sulcata Tortoise

The coolest part is easily walking through the kangaroo habitat where you are allowed to pet and feed them. My three-year-old could have followed them for hours. While my five-year-old was much more interested in the giant Sulcata Tortoise that was in the same enclosure.

Mammoth Onyx Cave

Mammoth Onyx Cave

Mammoth Onyx Cave is included with admission to Kentucky Down Under and all guests are assigned to a 30-minute tour time. I found this to be about the perfect length of time for our family, and I think most other families on our tour would agree. While the temperature is cool (especially on a hot day) the cave can be a little tight and dark in places. Our three-year-old found it the perfect spot to take a nap in the middle of the tour, while our five-year-old enjoyed keeping climbing on his own with a flashlight and looking for salamanders.

Kentucky is well worth a couple hour visit and be sure to check Groupon before you go as we found discount tickets were available, which made our visit even better!

Kayaking Sykes Creek

After spending a few days at Walt Disney World last week we moved over to Cocoa Beach for some relaxing in the sun. Most of the days were spent relaxing around the pool or playing at the beach. We did drive up to Port Canaveral to watch the SpaceX rocket launch, but that was the extent of our excitement until the last day, when a few of us rented kayaks from SoBe Surf and explored Sykes Creek.

Our Group With A Manatee

Our Group With A Manatee

Rather than taking a guided tour we decided just to rent the kayaks and go out exploring on our own. We met up with one of the SoBe employees at their shop and then followed him in our car out to the launching pad, less than a half mile down the road. We were given our equipment and some suggestions on where we could find some wildlife.

Manatee Attack

Manatee Attack

Once we paddled out to Sykes Creek from the launch we decided to head about 300 yards south to a little cove where we were told manatees liked to hang out. We paddled all the way to the back of the cove before without seeing more than a few birds, but as we began to paddle back out toward the main creek we were surrounded by manatees!

Belly Up

Belly Up

The giant sea cows were very slow-moving and gentle, though one of them found Nick’s kayak to be very interesting. He even went belly up to get his mouth fully on the bottom of the kayak. Immediately I was mad at myself for not bringing my GoPro as I would love to have seen what they were doing under the murky water.

Manatee Zone - Minimum Wake

Manatee Zone – Minimum Wake

We spent a good amount of time in the southern cove before paddling north to a larger cove that didn’t seem to have any manatees in it. We continued north to the Merritt Island Causeway bridge, where we spotted a dolphin. We tried to follow it as it continued north but we quickly lost track. On our way back toward the launch, we found a dolphin who was busying trying to catch a meal along the shore wall.

When we finally made it back to the launch we had been out for roughly three hours. I think if it weren’t so hot we could have paddled all day, but we still saw plenty in the few hours that we were out, and managed to get some exercise in as well.