The full title of this blog post is: “From the Carolinas to the Keys with a quick trip to Belize.” Yes, it rhymes. Yes, we took a side trip to Belize. And yes, we really are going to try to catch up on everything from North Carolina to the Florida Keys (and Belize!) in one blog post. Let’s see if it actually happens…
When last we wrote, Kevin was dropping Suzanne off at the airport in Richmond, Virginia and he was heading to Greensboro, North Carolina while she headed to Las Vegas and then onto San Diego. When Suzanne returned from her work trip she flew into Greensboro and Kevin met her at the airport. It was great to have the team back together. We spent one more night in Greensboro and then headed west to Asheville, North Carolina.
We knew two people in Asheville before the trip and now we know three. Suzanne’s friend Kim moved to Asheville from Seattle a few years ago. Suzanne’s friend Jaime moved to Asheville from Florida earlier this year. And while we were visiting Asheville we had the chance to meet Kim’s awesome girlfriend, Mercedes, for the very first time.
Also for the first time we headed off into the world with just our 4-Runner and left the RV behind. It felt strange not to have our home on wheels with us, but we were going to be coming back through Greensboro in just a few days as we backtracked to the coast and Kim and Mercedes generously offered up their dog-friendly basement apartment. It made sense to leave the RV behind and take them up on their generous offer.
Before we even arrived at their house, we met Kim and Merc for breakfast at Sunny Point Cafe when we rolled into town. Deeeee-licious. Sunny Point was just one of several fantastic restaurants we visited in Asheville. Kim and Mercedes also took Suzanne on a hike after work in the Craggy Dome area along the Blue Ridge Parkway. The views from the top were incredible! After dinner one night we checked out the local chocolate lounge, French Broad Chocolates, and we also had a chance to meet up with Jaime one morning for a coffee/work date at The Green Sage. This was our first time to Asheville but definitely won’t be our last.
As we headed back to Greensboro to pick up the RV we had our sights set on the coast. Along the way we spent a night near Raleigh and had the chance to visit Suzanne’s friend Laurie, her husband Dennis and their very cute kids. They had us over for a home-cooked meal at their house in Chapel Hill. This was Suzanne’s first time meeting Dennis and the kids and it was Kevin’s first time meeting any of the Schaecher’s, so we’re happy we had a chance to get together (Thank you for having us over for dinner on a school night!).
The next day we were back on the road. When we finally arrived at the Outer Banks we realized there was the possibility that we might never leave. The Outer Banks is a 200-mile long strip of barrier islands off the coast of North Carolina and we found a spot to park the RV just steps away from the water. We took long walks on the beach with Molly (Wylie preferred to nap). We enjoyed fresh seafood from the local markets. And we climbed all 248 steps to the top of the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, which is the “tallest brick lighthouse in America” at 208 feet.
Kevin took a series of beautiful sunrise photos from the beach one morning when Molly got him up to go to the bathroom at 4:00am. When Molly wakes Suzanne up to go to the bathroom at 4:00am Suzanne is coherent just long enough to get Molly outside to do what she has to do and then she brings Molly back in and goes right back to sleep. Obviously Kevin is an overachiever and chooses to make the most of his early morning hours.
When we were ready to leave the Outer Banks – wait, who are we kidding, we weren’t ready to leave, but it was time to leave – we had two options. We could backtrack the way we came and then head south along the coast. Or, we could head to the southern tip of the islands and take two ferries back to the mainland. It was an easy decision. Maneuvering a big RV onto a little ferry sounded like a great idea, so that’s what we did.
The Hatteras-Ocracoke ferry was free to ride and took about 40 minutes to cross. That one was easy. The Ocracoke-Cedar Island ferry is not free and took more than 2 hours to cross. Our friends in Seattle are probably picturing Washington State ferries as they read this (and we’re not sure what everyone else is picturing) but these ferries were nowhere near as big as Washington State ferries. In fact, it seemed like they were only slightly larger than the RV. So you can imagine our joy when halfway through the second ferry ride the crew started putting parking blocks under our tires and warning us that we’d be passing through a huge storm. In the end, everything was fine, but it was quite an experience to be out at sea in an RV during a storm.
We landed safely on solid ground and continued south along the coast. We spent one night at the Wilmington KOA en route to South Carolina and looked forward to settling down in Charleston, SC for a few days. When Suzanne was in San Diego for work the previous week she met Chellie Kew, founder of The Q Fund. It turns out that Chellie lives in Charleston and we were about to be in Charleston, so we made plans to meet up for dinner. Chellie is an incredible woman and has made an impact on the lives of countless children. You should definitely check out her website and read about the work she’s doing.
From Charleston we continued south to Savannah, Georgia. The highlight of our time in Savannah was an evening outing with Moon River Kayak Tours. They were able to squeeze us in for an after work kayak trip with very little notice and we appreciate it! Our guide Karen was well versed in the local flora and fauna and made our trip through the salt marshes very enjoyable and educational. (She also alleviated Suzanne’s fears about the alligators who would be trying to tip over the kayak. It was salt water so there were no alligators).
Next stop on the list was New Smyrna Beach, Florida. When Suzanne was in college she spent her summers working for Bob and Wendy Roberts at their Standardbred horse racing stable. She has them to thank for a lot of her travel experiences both within the U.S. and abroad. Bob and Wendy are the reason Suzanne was able to not only move to Italy after college but that she was able to fly there for free by escorting a few racehorses across the Atlantic on a Lufthansa cargo plane. (It’s a long story and is one of Suzanne’s all-time favorite life experiences.)
Bob and Wendy live near DeLand, FL which is pretty close to New Smyrna, so we were hoping that even with our lack of planning we would get to see the two of them and their kids, B.J. and Christina. Alas, we were not able to see them there, but Wendy’s parents, Dick and Barb, had their RV parked at a mobile home park in Pompano, Florida because a few of the horses were racing at Pompano Park that week. So we set our sites on Pompano.
In the meantime, however, we took advantage of the fact that we were so close to the Kennedy Space Center and a rocket was set to launch that week. Kevin, aka “Rocket Boy” is going to write an entire post about the rocket launch and give you all of the details you need to know. For now, you just need to know that it was a really cool experience and if you’re ever in the area when a rocket is set to launch it’s definitely worth buying tickets so you can get shuttled closer to the launch pad. Not too close, but closer.
We continued south along the coast to Pompano where we met up with Dick and Barb. Barb’s sister Carol was visiting from Ohio so we got to meet her too. We spent a night at the races with Barb and Carol watching Bob race the horses while B.J. warmed up the horses and Dick did a lot of the work behind the scenes. It’s definitely a family affair!
One way in which harness racing differs from the thoroughbred horse racing that most people are familiar with is that the harness horses start while already moving at a trot. They don’t start in a starting gate, they start behind a moving car. We’ll include more pictures below so you can see what we’re talking about, but Barb talked the race officials into letting us ride along in the car for one race so we could get a view that was up close and personal. Being back at the track and hanging out with the Roberts and Bailey families brought back a lot of great memories for Suzanne. And it was a big week for Kevin too: he checked an item off his bucket list (‘attend a rocket launch’) and it was also his first time at a horse racetrack, ever.
From Pompano it was a short drive to Miami where we settled down at the Larry and Penny Thompson RV Park. It was close to the airport and they had a storage area where we could leave the RV during our upcoming trip to Belize. As with the other two sidetrips we’ve taken during the RV trip, we had to think about where to leave the dogs. We don’t know anyone in Miami but our friend Rebecca does. So Rebecca asked her friend Allyson for recommendations. Allyson doesn’t have any dogs so she asked her friends and co-workers for recommendations. After receiving a few great suggestions we ended up going with Town and Country Animal Hospital and are so glad we did.
One of us is a little bit sensitive about leaving the dogs behind (okay, maybe a lot sensitive) but we knew pretty quickly once we arrived at Town and Country that they would be well taken care of. The staff was friendly. The place was clean. They went above and beyond to create a space where the dogs could be together in one room. And then there was Jeannette. Jeannette was the vet tech who checked us in. It was her weekend to work so she would be the one actually taking care of our dogs. Jeannette and Wylie had an immediate love connection and her obvious warmth and concern for the dogs meant that the one of us who normally sheds tears when leaving them behind didn’t even get watery eyes. We knew they were in good hands.
After dropping off the dogs and storing the RV we headed to Miami International Airport for our less than 2-hour flight to Belize. Yes, that’s right, it’s takes less than two hours to get from Miami to Belize. If we lived here we’d probably spend every weekend in Belize. Getting there from Seattle is an all-day adventure, so it was almost like we couldn’t be in Miami and not go to Belize. So we did. And it was awesome. The last time we were there – when we got engaged – we spent most of our time on the coast. This time we spent all of our time inland near San Ignacio, which is up in the mountains close to Guatemala and is mostly jungles and rivers.
We met some interesting people while we were there, our favorites being a couple from Switzerland who are in their 30s and were driving an RV from Alaska to South America almost 12 years ago when their RV broke down in Belize and they ended up just staying there. They ran a backpacker lodge for several years and now have their own solar power company. Shortly after deciding to stay in San Ignacio they got the RV fixed and sold it to a Canadian couple who wanted to move back north. You just never know who you’ll meet!
When we got back to Miami after our extra-long relaxing weekend we picked up the dogs. Wylie said good-bye to Jeannette, his very sweet Puerto Rican vet tech girlfriend, and we headed south to the Florida Keys. That’s where we are now and we may never leave. We thought we were parked close to the ocean when we were on the Outer Banks, but now we’re parked really close to the ocean. If we moved any closer to the ocean we’d be in the ocean. Life is good.