Beach Babies

Some folks find solace in the woods, some shopping on fifth avenue. Most of us Hollands! find refuge at the beach. So, spending a month winding up and down the coast of Florida was nothing short of pure bliss. We started in the Panhandle at Pensacola Beach, making our way south to Naples, ducking down to the Keys all the way to the Southern Most tip of the United States, then back up the Atlantic side through South Beach, Melbourne and finally St. Augustine. IMG_0897Each Florida beach is as different as the grains of sand, each showcasing their own unique beauty. Our favorite beach along the panhandle was Pensacola Beach and if it had been warm enough we probably would have been there everyday. Unfortunately, it was in the 60’s and being north on the gulf meant the water was not much warmer. However, we couldn’t resist throwing on a sweatshirt and sitting seaside, enjoying the emerald-green water, and fine pearly white sand. And, the bonus of Pensacola Beach is that you have access to the shallow calm waters of the Bay and just an eighth of a mile on the other side of the island was the rolling waves of the Gulf. So depending on your mood you could go from one side to the other in a single day.

IMG_1220Our favorite beach in Naples was Clam Pass. It’s $8 to park but they had little gulf cart trolly’s that took us to and fro, starting in the parking lot and ending at the cafe/beach. They had lawn chairs/umbrella’s for rent but we preferred to just take our own supplies and walk down the beach setting up right at the mouth of the pass. The cool thing about this beach is that if its low tide you can hunt for hermit crabs and clams and during high tide the surf is perfect for body boarding. Plus the water is actually warm. On a side note, we’re sand snobs, and prefer the soft powder. Clam Pass with its slightly grainy sand mixed with shells, just makes the cut. IMG_1138Having never been to the Keys and only seeing photos, we weren’t sure what to expect regarding the beaches but we did know that the water was a crystal clear mix of emeralds and blues, so that alone drew us down. However, once we arrived we realized that our ideal of a sandy beach wasn’t going to be met. Rather, we would find delight sitting by the water on a grassy patch to catch a sunset at our campground on Ohio Key or swimming directly off the dock. The waters were calm, and warm which offered the perfect scenario to bring out the blow up raft and lounge in the water all day long. We still longed for a proper beach day and found that Bahia Honda State Park appeased our desire enough by offering a little strip of sand/shell mixture to plop our beach chairs and umbrella on. Most of our time there was spent floating in the knee-deep water. On the actual island of Key West, we parked down near the docks and walked the mile across the island to Higgs Beach to take a quick dip in the ocean and cool off. It’s a small city beach with a long jetty for people to walk out on. The sand was simi soft and the water pretty clear consider how many people were swimming. We were delight by the large demographic of beach goes and specially made note of the unique swimwear at the beaches in Key West.

IMG_1197South Beach, Miami rocked! The water was warm, waves were light and fluffy, and the sand was soft yet grainy with yellow hues.  It’s a city beach and has all of the fixings  of a scene straight out of CSI Miami minus the murder. There were umbrellas, cabana’s, restaurants, and bars all up and down the coast line. With the hustle and bustle of city life all around us, this beach was very reminiscent of Bondi Beach in Sydney, Australia. We only got to spend a short morning visiting to this beach and would definitely make it more of a priority next time around. IMG_1256If you’re looking for the surf, Melbourne is the place to be in Florida. Satellite Beach to be exact. Our son loves to surf and had he more time and known someone with a board, he would have loved for us to hang here a bit longer than we allowed. The sand was grainy and the water was cold but the waves were epic. It wouldn’t be where we would want to spend a whole day camped out watching little ones build sand castles but for the purpose of getting in and riding some waves, this beach fits the bill. The only draw back for us was that besides the beach itself, kinfolk in the area and a little burrito stand called Da Kine Diego’s Insane Burritos, Satellite Beach seemed to be lacking in cultural draw. There was just one long double lane road that ran the length of the peninsula and had strip malls or condo’s on either side. We’d go back but probably only to hang with our kinfolk who happen to live there in the winter months. IMG_1362St. Augustine as a destination was probably our favorite. Everything about the area, the history, quant little town, and the beach was fantastic. Unfortunately, we only had one night in St. Augustine. We camped at North Beach Camp Resort, a privately owned RV Park. The sites were a bit above our price range but we were thankful for the opening specially since it was Easter Weekend. The resort was like something out of a Fantasy Island episode, with beautiful live oaks enclosing each site, a pool, shuffle board, restaurant beach side as well as a restaurant river side. The beach was similar to Melbourne in that it was cold and the sand was grainy, however the waves had a gentle crash to shore and was perfect for sea shell hunting. Ideally, we’d hit this one again. Maybe they’d be up for a barter. We’ll do a concert in the park for a week of camping. Wouldn’t that be something! If we could, we’d probably go back to most of them but if we had to pick only one we’d probably pick Pensacola Beach or really anywhere along the panhandle. We’d probably wait until late April or May to visit this area just to give the water a bit more time to warm up. Have you been to Florida? What were your favorites?

4th of July Family Caravan

The Blumreich family, our first community caravaner’s, joined us over the 4th of July weekend.

blumreichbus.jpgWe picked up Eric, Jodie, Emma and Clara on a Thursday in front of their house and began our trek south towards the beautiful town of Galena, IL. Our first stop Beloit, WI for the Blumreich annual family gathering. We enjoyed a potluck style meal, played yard games, sang songs and enjoyed fireworks.

The next morning we packed up and drove about three hours before pulling into the Palace Campground, which sits just outside of Galena. We discovered this little gem last summer and knew the Blumreich’s would appreciate the vintage aspect of the facility, including an old school pool with diving board and mini-golf course. Everything about the campground reminds us of camping back in the 1970’s and in a world that is constantly upgrading there is something nostalgic about that. It would be the ideal setting for most of the Chevy Chase ‘Vacation’ movies.

PalaceCampground.jpgWhen we arrived at the campground and set up three tents, one for Jodie, Eric and Clara, one for Graciana and Emma and one for John and Les (Eric’s parents). Then we all settled in for a fantastic weekend.

We enjoyed swimming, mini-golf, a trip to the city center to see all of the historical artifacts and shops. We shared meals, bon fire’s and song. We observed each other families, with the most encouraging conversations revolving around the joys and woes of parenting teen’s and pre-teens.

It’s no easy task to be a parent to any age group and it’s affirming to share our journey with other parents in order that we might know that our struggles are perfectly normal, that we aren’t the only ones going through it, and that we are not alone. Likewise, it was good for our children, specially our 16 year old’s, who sometimes believes that the grass is greener on the other side. They were both able to work through drama, share dreams and desires, and hopefully gain perspective by being in such close quarters.

thehollandsgalena.jpgOur ultimate purpose for going to Galena was to perform for the Galena Performing Arts Festival, which rounded out the weekend nicely. The concert was held in the historic Grace Episcopal church and was a fantastic setting. Seating about 80, we packed the house to over 150.

We were a little leery about how our children would transition from enjoying the lazy weekend with friends to performing, but they did a fantastic job. Funny enough, that day, I had spent quite a bit of time myself in the pool and personally couldn’t hear much during our performance with all of the water in my ears. However, everyone else picked up the slack and this one will go down as one of our favorite settings and behind the scenes moments. Including, Eric’s helpful hand in set up/tear down, Emma’s thoughtful prayer for us before our show, a tender moment when Craig introduced Graciana as our “beautiful” daughter, Banjo’s fun antics on stage, and the Malik family driving in from Mt. Vernon, IA to see us and say hello.

On our drive home, I asked Eric for constructive feedback on what it was like to travel with our family. He responded, “your future guests will have to be pretty laid back.” Ha! I know we beat to a different drum and we are thankful that the Blumreich family took the plunge to be our first caravan guests. We are thankful for their willingness to swim upstream with us merrymaking nomads. We love you Eric, Jodie, Emma and Clara.

Santa Fe, New Mexico

Santa Fe is one of our favorite places to visit. It is a city filled with history, creativity and wonder. It is the capital of the of New Mexico and was originally occupied by a number of Pueblo Indian villages with founding dates between 1050 to 1150. One of the earliest known settlements in what today is downtown Santa Fe came sometime after 900. Later, Don Juan de Onate led the first effort to colonize the region in 1598, establishing Santa Fé de Nuevo México as a province of New Spain.

Santa Fe, previously known as the Royal Town of the Holy Faith of Saint Francis of Assisi, is at least the third oldest surviving American city founded by European colonists, behind the oldest St. Augustine, Florida (1565). The Adobe architecture is striking and we were impressed with the city’s efforts to maintain the heritage of this building style. 

We spent most of our time visiting the historical churches in Santa Fe.

Said to be the oldest standing church structure in the US. The adobe walls were constructed around A.D. 1610
San Miguel Mission, Said to be the oldest standing church structure in the US. The adobe walls were constructed around A.D. 1610
The Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi, commonly known as Saint Francis Cathedral. It is the mother church of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe.
The Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi, commonly known as Saint Francis Cathedral. It is the mother church of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe. The cathedral was built by Archbishop Jean Baptiste Lamy between 1869 and 1886 on the site of an older adobe church, La Parroquia (built in 1714–1717).
At the end of the Old Santa Fe Trail stands the Loretto Chapel, home of the Miraculous Spiral Staircase.  It has been the subject of legend and rumor, and the circumstances surrounding its construction and its builder are consideredmiraculous by the Sisters of Loretto and many visitors.
At the end of the Old Santa Fe Trail stands the Loretto Chapel, home of the Miraculous Spiral Staircase. It has been the subject of legend and rumor, and the circumstances surrounding its construction and its builder are consideredmiraculous by the Sisters of Loretto and many visitors.

20130225-132843.jpgThe Sisters of Loretto relate the story as follows:

Needing a way to get up to the choir loft the nuns prayed for St. Joseph’s  intercession for nine straight days. On the day after their novena ended a shabby looking stranger appeared at their door. He told the nuns he would build them a staircase but that he needed total privacy and locked himself in the chapel for three months. He used a small number of primitive tools including a square, a saw and some warm water and constructed a spiral staircase entirely of non-native wood. The identity of the carpenter is not known for as soon as the staircase was finally finished he was gone. Many witnesses, upon seeing the staircase, feel it was constructed by St. Joseph himself, as a miraculous occurrence. The resulting staircase is an impressive work of carpentry. It ascends twenty feet, making two complete revolutions up to the choir loft without the use of nails or apparent center support. It has been surmised that the central spiral of the staircase is narrow enough to serve as a central beam. Nonetheless there was no attachment unto any wall or pole in the original stairway, although in 1887 — 10 years after it was built — a railing was added and the outer spiral was fastened to an adjacent pillar. Instead of metal nails, the staircase was constructed using dowels or wooden pegs.

After our tours of the churches we went to the art district and enjoyed many of the galleries on Canyon Road. We ended our tour at Kakawa Chocolate House. The following quote is from the 1928 Santa Fe Fiesta Program and describes the flamboyant vibe in Santa Fe.  “This year we are making a studied conscious effort not to be studied or conscious. Santa Fe is now one of the most interesting art centers in the world and you, O Dude of the East, are privileged to behold the most sophisticated group in the country gamboling freely… And Santa Fe, making you welcome, will enjoy itself hugely watching the Dude as he gazes. Be sure as you stroll along looking for the quaint and picturesque that you are supplying your share of those very qualities to Santa Fe, the City Incongruous… Be yourself, even if it includes synthetic cowboy clothes, motor goggles and a camera.”

Later we explored the Santa Fe Rail Yard park It’s a 10 acre park designed to show off Santa Fe’s creativity while maintaining the rich rail yard history. We had a lovely time exploring the park and taking photographs.

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We look forward to visiting this fun city again down the line and highly recommend it as a vacation destination.

Galena, IL

Although we prefer to park and stay with host families, on occasion we pull into an RV park and spend a few days on our own. These are photos from our two night, mini-vacation in Galena, IL.

If you’re ever passing through this part of the country we highly recommend a stop in Galena.

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