After we left the resort, we had 6 whole hours of just family time. It would turn out to be the only time of exclusive Button time we had for the whole trip- not including drive time, but that doesn't count, does it? We decided that we'd have lunch at The Olive Garden since we don't have one in Cool Springs, which I've always thought was weird. We seemingly have every other restaurant known to mankind tucked into every corner and crevice here- but no Olive Garden. So let me hop off my bunny trail here and back to Kissimmee. We decided earlier that morning that it just wasn't possible to go to Disney World. So instead we decided to spend some time and $$$ at the outdoor mall that was close by. It was hot. We were hungry. The mall was huge. We bought some cute stuff. We left. We had lunch.
We finally arrived in Riverview later that night and unloaded the car for the 3rd, and thankfully final, time. There were trips to see grandparents and a trip to beautiful Anna Maria Island. When I was a kid we spent all of our beach time at Siesta Key. My parents had a boat and we practically lived there in the summer. When I was a teenager we went to Cocoa Beach because my brother started surfing. When I started college I went to Clearwater Beach. But in my later years in college I started going to Anna Maria Island. So it was really nice to be able to visit there again. At the main public beach they have a little beach restaurant which is usually just a hamburger and hot dog stand. At this one you could get a chicken Caesar salad, fish and chips, crab cakes, etc. and the food was pretty good too. So we had lunch and hung out with most of the Johnson clan. Then later as the sun was setting we took the *free* trolley to an ice cream shop that was across the street from their historic pier. Travis and I walked on the pier for a bit and even though it was dark, you could see that the water was very, very clear.
A couple of days later we went to Trav's Uncle Dan and Aunt Vicky's house for a cookout. They live on a lake and have built a beautiful home in stages over a few decades. The latest addition was a screened in porch that rivals any type of outdoor space I've seen before. We always have so much fun when we go there. Travis always plays some sort of game with his brothers and Pop. This time it was extreme Frisbee. And the little kids made a swimming pool of their hot tub. The long drive to see them aside, it was a very relaxing day.
Then came our very last day and a trip to John's pass (the thing I've been waiting to blog about). Admittedly the area is touristy and there is more than one shop selling faces made of coconuts or Christmas ornaments made from starfish (which I personally think is a travesty) but they've added a whole new floor with a pretty cool rock-n-roll themed art gallery and a sunken pirate ship themed shop from which we bought a lighthouse Christmas ornament. Mostly because the guy was very nice and seemed a bit desperate to sell something. The main reason that I wanted to go there though is because my M-I-L told me that every time they go there they see dolphins. And my sweet Chloe wanted nothing more than to see dolphins. So after a bit of browsing and ice cream eating we walked the boardwalk while Travis and Chloe were feeding the parking meter. And of course that's the exact time that Joyce saw a fin break the surface of the water. We frantically called Travis to get back quickly but by the time they go there the dolphins moved farther out and every time they broke the surface Chloe couldn't see it- mostly because she didn't know what she was looking for. I started praying quietly that she would be able to see dolphins and I didn't know it but Travis and Joyce were too. I had to leave to take Halle to the potty and looked back and saw Chloe looking longingly and very disappointed toward the water. And I prayed some more. As Halle and I were coming back from the little girls room on the new 3rd floor, Travis and Chloe came running toward me excitedly yelling that they'd seen dolphins. A "bunch" of them! I was very happy for them but I wanted to see them again and closer up than I had. So I hurried to the rail overlooking the water and I saw them. Big beautiful dolphins that were so close I could see their faces when they broke the surface. There were 5 or 6 at a time and they seemed to enjoy the attention- as dolphins usually do. So we got what we went for. (I just tried to upload pics of that but there was an error and I don't have time to try again (a guy is supposed to come give me an estimate of how much it will cost to repair the driveway- I'm really nervous) so I will probably post those later).
The next morning we said our tearful goodbyes (especially Chloe, the poor thing was sobbing) and headed home. It was a beautiful yet thoroughly exhausting time that we probably won't replicate for a while.