The Trip South: Ontario to Florida

When we were planning the trip to Florida we asked you where you wanted to go.  Both of you were interested in Broadway and desperately wanted to see The Phantom of the Opera and Wicked (a reinterpretation of The Wizard of Oz). Alex had to go to Nashville to see the home of Taylor Swift and Kathryn wanted to see the horse farms of Kentucky.  We threw in Annapolis to look at boats, Washington for the Smithsonian Institute, Arlington Cemetery, and other various monuments. We continued south to Williamsburg VA, on to see family in Kentucky,  and a Civil Rights exposure in Birmingham, Alabama before taking you to Disney for a few days.  Our goal was to be in Ft Lauderdale by September so that gave us a full month to wander down the East coast of the United States.  On July 28th we loaded up our 2006 Toyota Highlander and left Grand mommy’s house on this very cool adventure.

Alex proudly displaying the concept of packing light.

We arrived in New York City at 9pm on a Friday night with reservations at a hotel right downtown.  After living in Yellowknife for three years where the speed limit is 45km (25mph), we were like lambs to the slaughter.

Every yellow cab was, in fact, trying to kill me (all the while the girls rubbernecked at the bright lights)!

Times Square, NYC

The theatre was great and Alex is still regaling us with her renditions of “Glinda”, although, after four nights the “bright lights” just gave us a headache so we drove south to Annapolis.

Annapolis, Maryland is a charming historic town with a rich nautical past…a welcome change from the bustle of NYC.  We did three day-trips into Washington, DC which was fabulous from a historical perspective and became the basis of your fall history curriculum:  Arlington cemetery; the Lincoln Memorial; the White House (and the friendly Secret Service tour guide who showed me where to, and where not to drive…); the Vietnam Memorial, and of course, the Smithsonian Institute.

At the Lincoln Monument on a very hot summer day.

After Washington, we spent three days in Williamsburg, Virginia which was another “touch and feel” historical experience and our trip was rapidly developing into a walk through American history.  From there we veered right and drove across to Kentucky to visit your cousins and see the great horse farms of Bourbon County.  Kathryn drank it all in and even had the chance to work at a rescue farm for abandoned racehorses.  Interspersed around horses we spent a terrific week with the “Crazy Kentucky Cousins”; a relationship that you will need to maintain in later years.

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Secretariat’s grave in Kentucky
Kathryn and Cousin Michele on her Gator. A highlight for Kathryn.

We left Kentucky to go to Nashville but not before we did a side trip to Shaker Town, where the famous furniture was made by a Quaker-style religious order.  Just prior to leaving the state we stumbled across the Maker’s Mark distillery which was a window into the way whiskey was made in another era.

Nashville was a highlight for Alex and we managed to visit Taylor Swift’s high school, lots of old family cemeteries, and take in a show at the Grand Ol’ Opry.  We were going to go south to Atlanta but I looked at your mother and said that we couldn’t come this close to Graceland without paying homage to the King…so off we went to Memphis. On our first night we ended up taking a pink limousine provided by the hotel to a BBQ restaurant with an Elvis impersonator. Soon we were all singing louder than we should, and I think you were both ready to trade us in for more mature parents.

After an hour search in the Tennessee rain, we found Taylor Swift’s high school and Alex went in to see if there were any memorabilia.
When the principal heard that there was a crazy stalker from the Arctic, she invited Alex into her office to see the various articles that TS had donated to the school.
I wonder if Taylor Swift has a school photo of Alex in her blog….
No visit to Nashville would be complete without a night at the Grand Ol Opry.
Graceland, Tennessee.
Our first night in Memphis we were picked up in a Pink Cadillac and we went for BarB Q with an Elvis impersonator…no really!

We left Memphis and went to Birmingham to visit the Civil Rights Institute which was powerful, graphic and the first real exposure that you have had to the racial discord in the United States.  We came away with tremendous respect for the young men and women who faced down the National Guard troops and police dogs during the protests and the Freedom Riders who rode across the United States on buses to protest segregation. Walking through the park where the students were hit with water cannons and standing on the steps of the 16th Street Baptist church was a little spooky and I fear that today’s generation does not live up to that legacy of courage.

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The Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham which was at the centre of the civil rights protests. It was bombed several times and a little girl was killed which focused world attention on this historic church.

From Alabama, we drove south to Florida with the intent of doing “Death by Disney”.  We did two theme parks and in short order, spent any inheritance you might have aspired to receive.  That being said Universal’s Harry Potter Land really was exceptionally well done.  What intrigued us was the type of people there; admission was “suck the breath out of you” expensive and the park was full of folks who, on the surface, should not be paying the $100+ per person entrance fee.

One memorable moment for me was when Mommy went to use the washroom, and the three of us went on a ride.  As we were in line there was a sign that said, “Children under 12 must be accompanied by a mature adult,” and both of you shot each other panicked looks. Just then Mommy arrived and you two visibly let out your breath and relaxed. No kidding…and when I called you on it you both denied, danced, and squirmed.  Apparently, I no longer rate as a “Mature adult”!

Disney with “the most interesting man alive”….. “Stay thirsty my friend” XX


We arrived in Boynton Beach in early September.  Mommy had arranged to rent a condo near the beach and we began homeschooling and started boat searching in earnest.  It had been a great month full of new experiences and adventures.

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