Day 16 – Florida Roadtrip – Fredericksburg, VA

Having survived yet another night in a motel, Renzo almost regretted that we didn’t go camping instead, but it really was still a little too cold in the morning. We’d need a proper set up to go camping with the kids when it’s just above freezing in the morning, not to mention that rain had been predicted.

So instead, we left the motel to go to a farm near Richmond VA to watch some sheep shearing – and to freeze there, even in the sun. The sheep was amazingly calm, but after 15 minutes the kids were more interested in going to a nearby playground, so we did.

That was enough of Richmond for us though. We considered the children’s museum there but then decided to go to Fredericksburg VA instead and to visit Mary Washington’s house. This was a very nice little museum with a lot of stories that even managed to catch the boys’ attention for a while.

They particularly liked the playroom in the garden though, which had various games, including stilts and bocce. However, the fun ended rather abruptly when Timofei managed to throw a heavy bocce ball right on Yelisei’s little pinky as Yelisei was reaching for a bocce ball himself.

So we drove screaming Yelisei with a bag of ice on his pinky to the emergency room as it was pretty blue and swollen. Of course the emergency room is the only health care for many people in America, so it was packed. We would have waited at least two or three hours there. Luckily, both Yelisei and Timofei soon fell asleep, so we skipped the emergency room. Renzo stayed in the car with the kids and I went for a walk through the old town of Fredericksburg VA.

Fredericksburg VA is a very cute town and I learned from the museum that this was basically a town of failures. For example, it took them 20 years to build some canal that in the end nobody needed. Even today, it was a nice spring day, but the antique stores were more like junk stores.

When Yelisei woke up, he was all fine again and had just a little pain in his pinky. Our sprits lifted accordingly, we found further salvation in yet another ethnic dive restaurant, this time Latin food from Salvador. Nobody spoke any English and the food was another winner.

Fully back in a good mood now, we next drove to a used car lot to check out a Toyota Tacoma that Renzo been going on about as one of his dream cars if we ever buy another car. When we were looking for this car, some dealer in Staten Island actually refused to let us test drive any cars because we were obviously not going to buy anything. Not in Fredericksburg VA – the sales guys were nicely low key and let us tourists drive his Tacoma, no problem. I was actually quite impressed with it – I liked the substantial tires, the clutch was amazing (this was a stick shift, Renzo still refuses to consider an automatic), and it had a nice front bumper – very useful for parking in Brooklyn. Definitely a car I could be driving to South America in, if it only came with a stove and sink ready for action on demand.

Next stop: Yet another motel, this time of the sketchy sort, close to Washington DC. No further incidents or accidents except that I could not fall asleep at all!

Day 15 – Florida Roadtrip – Richmond, VA

The next day we went to a Camping World RV sales lot somewhere near I-95. At each campground we walked by these RVs and trailers, I never have been inside one. Some of them are soooooo huge! And cost over $100,000. So we were very curious to see what was inside of those big ones but also what those small pop-up ones look like inside.

The big ones can sleep10 people and have cable TV, air conditioners, heat and a full kitchen as well as a shower and a toilet. The small ones with no bathroom are very small. They can still sleep four and have two gas burners and a sink. Also there is a table to eat for four. I have to say I was jealous about the indoor kitchen. But mostly because you don’t have to put it away…
We had lunch in some small redneck ville in North Carolina.

Once we arrived in Richmond VA, we decided that we were not ready for such a big city yet. So rather than planning for a downtown walk the next morning, we found a historic farm to go to the next morning and to watch some sheep shearing.

For dinner Renzo found a vegetarian Vietnamese restaurant. It was a real dive, but the food was fantastic and the owners were the most wonderful people, an elderly couple from Vietnam.

All the greater then was our shock when we arrived at the motel that we had already made reservations for on the way. The entrance are was entirely packed with dozens of high schoolers on a field trip, apparently some kind of sports team. They were pretty well behaved but we were worried about a bunch of screaming teenagers keeping us up all night.

In the end, the teenagers were quiet and what kept us up instead was some rotten wiring and/or air conditioner that decided to make a lot of noise most of the night.

Day 13 – Florida Roadtrip – Pine Island, FL

I forgot to mention that yesterday we went food shopping for the first time since the beginning of this trip and went for an oil change. All together we will have driven almost 4000 miles by the end of this trip.

In the morning we went to Pine Island beach. It was a nice small beach with a playground, cafe, and knee deep calm waters. All the ingredients for the happiness of 3 and 4 year old boys. Also there were horse shoe crabs, regular crabs that buried themselves in the sand. Also we were at some point in the middle of a swarm of black flies. All of a sudden we were covered in them and the next minute they were gone. Then everyone’s cellphone got an Amber alert. That was puzzling but thank God for Google – we found out that the Amber alert means that a child was abducted in Tampa. Apparently they let everyone in the state know.

Our kids had a blast at the beach and we stayed there as long as the weather permitted. We had already prepared for the evening rain in the morning.
Since the beginning of this trip we were carrying three pieces of tarp with us – only now we got to use it. When I had bought the tarp and opened it up in my apartment I was thinking this is huge! Now that we opened it on the campground to hang it over the table it looked impossibly small! So we managed to hang two of them over the picnic table and to cover two beach chairs. It only took us two hours. Our neighbor on the other hand had a perfect set up with expandable poles that originally served as gold ball retrievers which he now used as the center dome for his tarp. A real engineer at work.

But our construction held up well. It was raining pretty heavily in the late evening and most of the night but our table and chairs kept dry. Our tent once again proved its worth as well – no water inside at all!

The next morning we made our last campfire, slowly packed up and prepared for the long trip home, with only one extended stop, in Richmond, Virginia. No more camping – it’s cold and wet north of here, so we’ll drive right through.

Day 7 – Florida Roadtrip – Everglades National Park, FL

We got to the Everglades last night early enough to be done with dinner and all packed up by 8 pm. Unfortunately we could not enjoy sitting by the fire since there was no firewood for sale anywhere. There were many campers searching the woods for fallen branches so there was none left by the time we got around to it. It was an early night.

When we woke up it was just as cold as in Ocala but it warmed up very fast when the sun came up. This is my least favorite campground. You are camping in an open field. There are trees here and there but you can see and hear everyone. I could see the teenage girl in her leopard print FOOTED PJs and hear a four year old girl crying and calling Mommy! Mommy! Every 5 minutes. She was camping with her dad and three siblings! That dad wins a medal for patience in my book. We were done with breakfast by 9:30 and were on a boat tour by 10 am. I love the mangrove forest. I think it will be nice to go on a canoe trip here in five years.

The bad: all the food in the cafe is deep fried, there is no coal or wood for sale except at the marina store where you can get three logs for $6! So we decided to go 50 miles to the nearest store instead…

Day 6 – Florida Roadtrip – Highlands Hammock State Park, FL

We felt warm in our tent all night. Yelisei had some sniffles the day before and I was starting to be worried that he was getting sick from all this cold. I got the kids some vitamins and I guess that helped. Yelisei was waking up much less at night. So when I was unzipping our tent I realized that the inside of our rain fly was covered with a sheet of ice!! We are in Florida and it is the end of March! Our car and picnic table and our chairs were all in ice. The sun was out though and soon it melted. I started cooking breakfast in two sweaters and a down jacket and by the end I was wearing just a t-shirt.

This morning breakfast was a long forgotten Russian staple: last night’s dinner leftovers fried with eggs. It was a first time my kids seen anything like this for breakfast and it took some convincing to make them eat it. They could not believe that it was legitimate food to eat in the morning.

We picked this park because on the pictures it had lush tropical forests and lots of trails. By 10:30 we were at the head of a 20 minute swamp trail that promised alligator sightings. Just as we got out of our car a school bus full of children pulled in and went down the same trail. I thought we will never see alligators. To my surprise we did see some animals on that trail. They were a flock of beautiful birds that were having lunch in the shallow waters of the swamp. They were duck size birds with long flamingo like legs and a thin long beak that was curved down. I was very impressed. Our children were not impressed. Yelisei wanted to poop. People in front of us and people behind. It reminded me of me wanting to pee when we were hiking in Machupichu on a trail three feet wide with a wall to the left and a cliff to the right with 50 people in front and 50 in the back, all walking as fast as they can.

In any case, if you smell poop when walking down that trail, it was Yelisei.

After having lunch in the park we are on the road again to the Everglades.