Exploring the Everglades and Disney World with my grandparents in 1993

Tonight I’m continuing a travel story from my previous post Flying to Florida alone when I was eleven.

Like I mentioned in that post, normally I write only about what I remember from looking at something like an object. But coming across my journal from this 1993 trip, I thought I’d try something different and read it first and then see what I remember. So this post is a combination of my exact words from the journal, as close as I can type it, and my additional memories I have to add, while recalling the experience almost 25 years later. I’ve omitted just a couple of lines referring to a brochure I can’t find and corrected a few grammar errors. But for the most part, it’s typed as I wrote it.

So for a quick recap: It took me a really long time to get down to Florida to meet up with my grandparents who were on an extended vacation there. If you haven’t read my previous post, you just gotta quick catch up on that first. It involves a major detour, a phone call from the flight tower, and a bus ride with the pilot!! Here it is again if you missed it: Flying to Florida alone when I was eleven. Meet me back here when you’re done.

The adventure continues with pelicans!

Second day in Naples, Florida 3/26/1993

“Because of the extremely long day yesterday, or you might say that early morning, I slept in until noon. We went to the beach at 2:00 and came back at 3:45. I saw really big birds called pelicans. They were all over in the trees, in the water and on the beach. One was right next to me so we took a picture of the pelican and me. After we went to the beach we went to the store and got some food. Then we came back to the condo and waited until dinner was ready. We ate pork, potatoes, corn, sauerkraut and milk. We ate on our porch. After dinner we sat and watched “Wheel of Fortune.” Then we went down to the pool and swam a little bit. After swimming Dad and Mom called. It was nice to talk to them. Then I came in here and started writing. Well I better go to sleep. Good night.”

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Okay, I love how excited I was about the dang pelicans! But also how I mentioned everything we ate! That cracks me up. I’m 75% German so the potatoes and sauerkraut is just so fitting, but a little funny and out of place since we were in Florida by the beach. I do love the pictures though. To have warm sand on my feet and see the ocean I’m sure was such a great way to start my stay and make up for the crazy time I had getting down there. And of course, anybody born in and around the 1980s with grandparents can probably relate to the passion for “Wheel of Fortune” too. Gotta keep that routine. I’m sure I didn’t mind.

Everglades and Alligators, Oh my!

Third day in Naples, Florida 3/27/1993

“Today I went to the Everglades and saw at least a dozen alligators and lots of birds too. I went on a boat ride and saw bird nests in the channel markers that are like big think logs stuck in the water and have numbers on them. Then the nest is inside the numbers. I saw at least three Great Blue Herons. Wow, was it exciting! Then later we went on a boardwalk. We saw baby alligators. They were very cute. When we got back to the condo Grandma and I went swimming. Grandma really wanted me to swim good so I practiced and practiced. Something I forgot to say was that on the boat ride we also saw dolphins. They didn’t follow the boat like we wanted them to but we saw a couple. I also saw turtles.”

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Okay, I distinctly remember thinking that it looked like we were in a wild nature show while driving through the everglades. My grandparents had driven down there because they stayed for a few months. So, we took my grandpa’s red Buick, with the white top, down streets with alligators literally outside my window. I seriously don’t know why I’m standing outside the car and pointing at one this close! What!? This was not a zoo folks. I’m fairly certain I was safe, but I sorta also question this picture. I guess it shows my no fear kind of spirit, but can’t say you’d get me doing that now. No way.

As far as the swimming goes, my Grandma loved swimming! I’ve written about this before but this picture of me and her in the pool with one of my feet touching the bottom has stuck in my mind forever! I remember her saying something like “Just float Annie! See how I do it?” My sisters and I used to laugh, because floating like this was actually kinda, sorta, super challenging. But I’d always give it my best shot. She was such a confident person in her body when she was swimming, and l love remembering her this way.

Handwriting to friends and addressing postcards

Fourth day in Naples, Florida 3/28/1993

“Today we went to church. After church we went to a card shop and Grandma and I wrote a lot of Easter cards and post cards. We went to the beach and swam at the pool. We also went to the fishing pier and saw lots of pelicans. One guy caught a crab by accident.”

This journal entry just blows my mind! We used to hand write so much more when I was younger. My grandma had beautiful handwriting. My mom still does. But Grandma took time out of her vacation and bought Easter cards and postcards to send to people. She loved to keep in touch with her friends and because my Grandpa and her had lived in so many places they had a lot of friends, all over the place really. But she always told me to keep in touch. She’d say to me how important your friends are and that it’s worth it to make an effort to check in on people. It means a lot to them and makes life a lot better when you’re older like she was.

Swimming, playing tennis and seafood!

Fifth day in Naples, Florida 3/29/1993

“Today Grandma and I played tennis and went swimming in the pool. Then we visited my Grandparents’ friends who they used to be neighbors with when they lived in Madison, New Jersey. Then we went to Barefoot Beach. Later we went to Isle of Capri restaurant. I ate fried grouper. It tasted very good. Later we watched awards on TV.”

Playing Tennis, Naples Florida 1993
Playing Tennis, Naples Florida 1993

My Grandparents were super active people. I am totally reminded of this reading how many times we used the pool, and here in this one how we played tennis. I don’t even like tennis, but we did it. They loved walking, exploring new areas, and eating a variety of local foods on their trips. I’ve always been pretty adventurous with new foods myself, so having a chance to try a fish I had never had before stands out to me in this. I feel so lucky to have had the opportunity to experience all of that.

Sun poisoning and shrimp

Sixth day in Naples, Florida 3/30/1993

“Today Grandpa and I played tennis and then swam. We packed bags because tomorrow we are leaving. I got a bad rash on my hands. While shopping, a lady said that it looks like what I have is sun poisoning. We bought shrimp and had that for dinner.”

Eating shrimp, Naples Florida 1993
Eating shrimp, Naples Florida 1993
Sun Poisoning Drawing, Naples Florida 1993
Sun Poisoning Drawing, Naples Florida 1993

Well of course I do remember this quite well. I actually drew a picture of my rash! It was pretty bad and was the first time I had ever gotten sun poisoning. I’ve since then gotten it a couple more times. I have very sensitive skin, always have. But being from the Midwest and not having had much sun exposure prior, it makes a lot of sense. I also am not quite sure how good they were at helping remind me to put suntan lotion on. I know my Grandma always emphasized a hat and said she didn’t want to get too much sun because she’d get wrinkles. But she had a hard time convincing my Grandpa to wear much sunblock, I know that.

Eating shrimp that you had to take the shell off of sticks in my mind too. I do remember this quite well. I remember loving the taste but being sorta grossed out having to pull the black spine out of the back of the fish. That took a little getting used to, but again an experience that I feel gave me perspective on where food actually comes from.

For the love of shopping

Last day in Naples, First day in Orlando 3/31/1993

“Left for Orlando. Drove for four hours. Saw orange groves. Stayed at Howard Johnson in Buena Vista. (Spanish for beautiful view) Went shopping. Came back, ate and then went shopping again.”

I don’t remember any of this, but it doesn’t surprise me. My grandma loved shopping! She always had coordinating jewelry and shoes and looked so put together. My Grandpa usually looked pretty dapper too. But I also think the walking around was good exercise too and was just something we did to take a break from the car.

Something I never wrote about, until now

What I do remember though, that I never wrote about until now, is the day we packed up from the condo. I remember seeing a different side of my Grandparents I had never seen before. They were so frazzled trying to get the car packed after having been living there for a few months. It seemed like they had accumulated more stuff than they had brought down and Grandpa was having a hard time fitting everything in the truck.

Now I was accustomed to packed cars, extremely packed cars. When we’d visit them for Christmas and had to come back with all our gifts and toys in our station wagon we were always so over packed. There was hardly any room for us to sit. I remember looking at Grandpa’s car with the whole backseat to myself and thinking, what do you mean it’s over stuffed? This is nothing!

(This picture below I added on: 1/30/2019) It shows what I’m talking about above. This is me in the back of our family station wagon coming home from Christmas in Milwaukee at my grandparent’s house. You can even see a gift bag there next to me. I came across it while writing my next post and just had to circle back to include it here. No, I wasn’t going to be wearing a seat belt. But, like I’ve said more than once before… things were different then. Looks like even my dog Skipper had to be squeezed in!

Our packed car going home after Christmas (a few years later)
Our packed car going home after Christmas (a few years later)

I also remember my Grandma scurrying to purge condiments out of the fridge last minute. It was a bit crazy. I mean, we’re talking trying to decide whether we could fit the ketchup and leftover mayonnaise or not. Anyway, at only eleven years old I do recall telling myself I never wanted to think when I was older that someone at the age of eleven couldn’t be as mature and observant as I was right then. I made a mental note.

I realized how good they were at making things look perfect a lot of the time. I never saw the chaos. This was a glimpse of reality for me and I learned something. It continued on in the car ride next as we left Naples. They’d bicker sometimes and get on each other’s nerves like I had never seen before. But, I’m thankful too that I could see how nobody’s perfect, we all have different sides of us and that traveling can be stressful too. I remember telling my Dad about it and him just shaking his head. He obviously understood.

Where my dreams came true!

Second day in Orlando, Florida 4/1/1993

“Today I got up at 6:30 and went down to eat breakfast. Caught 8:00 Disney World bus and we were off to the Magic Kingdom. Since Grandpa bought a four day pass you can go anywhere and just go where ever you want. So after the Magic Kingdom we took the monorail over to Epcot and watched the light and fireworks show.”

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This is just pure joy. I had finally made it back to Disney World! I always remembered going to eat in China at Epcot and sitting there with my Grandparents. I had tea from a teapot for the first time too. In 2011 when I went back to Epcot with my husband I walked back to that same restaurant just to sorta nod to my Grandpa who had passed away by then. I remember him getting tickets to fly to China for my Grandma the Christmas of 2001, I think. But they never got the chance to go. I’m not quite sure why, but My Grandma had a stroke in 2002 so perhaps the timing of that was the reason. But I do love looking at my Grandpa smiling in this picture and imagining how this was as close as he got to going I guess.

“Honey, I shrunk…”

Third day in Orlando, Florida 4/2/1993

“Because of the very long day yesterday we woke up sort of late, 9:00. We quickly got dressed and went down to breakfast. Then caught the next bus to MGM. MGM is basically all about how they make movies and special effects and stuff. It was fascinating!”

Honey I shrunk the kids, MGM Orlando Florida,1993
“Honey, I shrunk the kids” MGM Orlando Florida,1993

I loved the movie “Honey, I shrunk the kids.” This picture is of me standing by an over sized roll of camera film made to make me look like I was shrunk. I loved that! We still used camera film then too, no digital cameras then, so it definitely puts a time stamp on this as well.

Tacking on a road trip

Last day in Orlando, Florida 4/3/1993

“Today we packed our bags and were off to go as far as we could north to Virginia. There we would meet my parents at my aunt and uncle’s house in Virginia Beach. We all hated to leave Florida but I’m sure planning on coming back in the future. We only went halfway so we stayed in Florence, North Carolina that night.”

The rest of the way to Virginia 4/4/1993

“Last night my Grandma and I worked out in the weight room. We also watched TV and went out to eat. Today we drove the rest of the way to Virginia. At about 4:30 we got to my aunt’s house. My parents weren’t there yet but they arrived about an hour later. Boy was I glad to see them! We visited for a while and then went back to the hotel.”

I kinda forgot that we drove up to Virginia to meet my folks at my aunt’s house. But this aunt was the one I mentioned in my last post that used to live in Scotland. My uncle was in the navy so they moved a lot and lived all over the place too. But, I’ll leave the rest of my trip stories for next time.

This concludes the Florida portion.

Do you have a favorite family trip memory that sticks in your mind?
I’d love to hear your story. Leave a comment below.

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