The journey to mile zero

A road trip to the deep south | Part 4: a Florida birthday special

The final part of this travel series to the deep south encompasses a magical journey to my daughter’s fourth birthday interlaced with Joycee’s birthday week make for a double celebration.

It is a different charm the Florida keys bring when traveling with children. The elaborate open sea and fragile look of its 113 mile stretch of concrete and steel bridges connecting miniature delicate islands defined by little green mile markers bring you to your own space of tranquil disposition and a road trippers dream of a beautiful scenic route. The blue and turquoise water with shades of shallow and dark blue hints a wonderful world under. The children’s smiles and bridging conversation of seagulls and water creatures play along with the soft gust of wind. Giggles that spark flutters in your soul with waves nearby undisturbed by the glistening ocean floor. These are the time you live for and absorb genuine memories of them.

Traveling along the great coastal and open road from Jacksonville, Daytona, Orlando, fort Lauderdale, Naples, Miami and the Florida Keys each with a special birthday candle to blow. 

India interrelate a birthday full of balloons on an upper-deck rooftop inviting the warm Miami beach with palm trees and vibrant streets below. She invites friends to her one of a kind destination party painting sea creatures on wooden canvas with bright punctuating colors. These bright colors follow through the night with cheers and laughters muffling the awakening Miami nights along its board walk.

What is Florida without visiting the world of Disney’s Magic Kingdom with children. We took a nice ferry ride along with her friends to a grand entrance into the park. We made it a full day trip and I brought along the fuji x-pro 1 (with 2 lenses) and my favorite flash q20. It did not feel like I had a camera on my neck with me the whole day. A sling bag to carry a few water bottle and a foldable stroller is all you need to enjoy the stroll in the park.

Shot with a portable and pocket size off camera flash- flash q20

We stayed at the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress to enjoy an upgrade suite and amenities like this pedal and canoe on the lake. We took advantage of what the pandemic offered and enjoyed the open 1500 acres of space for hiking, bicycle rides and swimming the pool’s swim-through cave all to ourselves.

As we continued our journey along the coastal highways and down to the keys we made small trips and stopped by the Kennedy Space Center and stayed at the world’s most famous Daytona Beach for few days. We soaked up the sun strolling along its boardwalk and enjoying the beach with washed up jelly fish in the morning building sand castles around it and tunneling water ways digging up tiny crabs and sea shells. Navigating our way down to the very tip of Florida through the many beautiful lakes and rivers interconnecting to the nearby ocean made up for the many miles of drive.

The water ways of Fort Lauderdale ties in the scenic and picturesque river pathways that align with the skyline of building and blue skies you don’t mind getting lost in. Its white sand beaches and generous park like the Hugh birch state park will surely make for a day trip of fun and adventure for the whole family.

Schedule and rent a quadra-cycle and navigate the scenic Biscayne bay in Miami pulling up in pristine Atlantic beach, rocky shorelines and pathways leading you to a lighthouse or just a private secluded picnic area. I can’t think of a more fun time and experience than cycling through sunny day turn to nimbus cloud weather and wind gust picking up as we pedaled along the bike path. Rain drizzle quickly pouring bullets and water pockets that soaked everything in its path making clamorous laughters, ardent giggles, panting in excitement- tripod position and cheeks locked in complete paralyzed smiles. These are the unexpected surprises in ‘sunny’ Florida!

We met up with a high school friend that introduced us to a wonderful Peruvian meal. The red shallot sliced thin delicately placed on the tuna cut over lime juice, and minced ginger bring back a wonderful memory of how my grandparents used to make them in our own filipino version tying it all in to an already wonderful sunny Florida beaches and Island memory. And oh, one order of a mango thai chile please!

The camote, fresh seafood, plantain chips, chica morada (purple corn drink- the kids favorite as well) and savoury dish make for a wonderful meal and memories of family and home enjoying each others company reminiscing the past.

As we continued on our journey south we made our way down a quaint and scenic city by the gulf of Mexico to Naples, Florida. This charming city is a stark contrast to the high sky rise and bustling Cities of Florida that nature lovers find a solemn and peaceful retreat. A breath of fresh air. Quite a welcome surprise. Hyatt regency coconut point resort and spa in Naples gave us a wonderful welcome to our own paradise suite island room surrounded by mangrove in the bonita bay. A quiet retreat to enjoy coffee and a nice evening sunset make for this dream destination hotel. A lazy river around a quiet corner, play pad and water slide for the kids to enjoy.

On early morning glow there is a shaded path into a lush forest pathway of mangrove. It takes you to a ferry and boat landing for a days escape to the white sandy beach of lovers key state park. This untainted two mile stretch of sugary white sand shoreline makes for a relaxing escape worlds apart from many coastline beaches.

As you travel along the overseas highway through the Florida Keys make sure to stop by the Bahia Honda state park on mile marker 37 in the lower Florida keys for a nice picnic, stroll and maybe a dip in the beach with the historic railway bridge spanning in the horizon.

As the odometer increased in numbers and the mile marker turn zero I couldn’t believe my little princess was turning four. Time was fleeting, blurring its path of wonderful memories and sunny blue skies. We finally made it to the southern most point of the united states. I welcomed a generous hug as my daughter blew her key lime pie candle in the open by the water fountain with the sea turtles idle is surprise as we sang a happy birthday song. This could have not been any better birthday surprise for her and a celebration full of wonderful memories.

The process of writing these stories are a way for me to go back in time and remember the generous life I am given because of my family and the wonderful memories I hold because of them. Pursue them. Make every minute a memory to cherish. Gather as many laughters as you can. Our inheritance are the remaining years we have with each other. Climb those mountains together. Share the generous handful scoop of ice cream, build sand castle as much as you can and invite them to sing a favorite open road song as you zoom by memory lane together.

The series ‘A road trip to the deep south’ | Louisiana | Alabama- Georgia | Savannah | Florida |

Continue to follow us on this journey as we go back in time and re-visit our travel to Europe. Be blessed and strive for the positive. Be kind and enjoy life. I appreciate the coffee! See you next Thursday.

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