For my next assignment we could hardly wait to get to the sun and beaches of Tampa, Florida. I managed to get a travel assignment at the hospital I had worked prior to traveling. I was looking forward to working with some old friends. Taking this assignment was appealing not only for the warm weather and familiarity, but because my grandmother was going to live with us to help care for our son, Carter. It seemed like an easy decision. We didn’t have to worry about housing and we knew things would be just as we had left them.
We set out from Pennsylvania where we had been stationary for almost 8 months and headed south. Brad and I were very eager to get back on the road. However, we were leery about traveling with a newborn for a 1,200 mile road trip. We took our time making frequent stops along the way. After the first 4 hours of screaming and crying, Carter did fabulous! We decided to drive all the way through since Carter was doing so well. By the end of the weekend we were settled back into our cozy little house and ready to start another adventure.
My grandmother at 73 years old is still an avid beach-goer. She, Carter, and I spent many days with our toes in the sand. We would just talk and watch the waves roll in as Carter slept in his beach tent. My grandmother worked a full time job and kept herself busy most of the time. Spending lazy days at the beach was a great way for her to relax and for us to spend quality time together.
During this assignment Brad’s mother and little sister, McKenna, flew in from Ohio to visit for a week. Brad and I could hardly contain ourselves. We were so anxious to get into kayaks and get back into the water, something we had loved to do when we lived in Florida before traveling. We decided we would take Mckenna on a kayak adventure through the mangrove trails. Oh boy, was that a mistake for more than one reason. We should have probably planned a trip that wasn’t so labor intensive. The mangrove trails are a good distance from Dunedin Beach where we launched. It was exhausting, but we made it. We started through the trails only to be attacked by a swarm of mosquitoes. I have never seen anything like it before. As soon as we entered the mangrove canopy they instantly attacked and were relentless. We decided we had to turn around, mind you, we were in 14’ kayaks and the trails were enclosed and about 7 feet wide. Trying to turn around in such a tight space was quite the task. We didn’t know if we should laugh or cry. We finally made it out with itchy red bites everywhere, but alive.
Our next adventure was to spend the day on Clearwater Beach. Brad, Mckenna, and I swam out to a sandbar to do some snorkeling. As I have my face in the water looking around, I hear Brad saying, “What is that?” I stand up to see this huge dark shadow in the water about 50 feet from us. It was moving slow towards us and thankfully decided to veer off to the right. A little too close for Mckenna and my comfort. We high-tailed it back to the shore, leaving Brad to fend for himself against the possible shark (could have been a manatee). Again, we all survived.
A few weeks later my sister, her husband and their 6 year old daughter, Alana, came to visit. The ladies took the ferry boat over to Caladesi Island, while the men decided to kayak over. Caladesi Island is one of Brad and I’s favorite places. It was the perfect beach day, until the black clouds started rolling in. Brad and Keith decided to head back with the kayaks to beat the storm. That was another bad kayaking decision. They were pelted by pouring rain, surrounded by lightning and winds with nowhere to go. Brad refers to this story as “the day I almost died.” This was his second flash of death related to kayaking, so I may have trouble getting him back out on the water in the future.
Part of our plan for going back to Florida was to have some help with Carter. As I mentioned before, my grandmother was a very busy lady. We often joked with her saying she was “like living with a teenage girl.” Let me elaborate. When she wasn’t working, she was out with friends until late at night. When she wasn’t out with friends, she was on the phone. We would work hard trying to get Carter to sleep and as soon as he would drift off to dreamland she would pull into the garage, setting the dogs off into a barking tizzy or slam the door when she came inside. By the time my 13 weeks were coming to an end, we were packed, ready to hit the road and even though she won’t admit it, I think my grandma was ready too. She lived her life for those 13 weeks trying to walk on eggshells so she “didn’t bother us”. I am thankful for those lazy days on the beaches that I spent with my grandmother, but also thankful we live the gypsy lifestyle of frequent change.
When we left I didn’t even have an assignment lined up yet; we just knew we couldn’t stay there any longer. We loaded up our shiny new utility trailer full of baby items and headed back to Ohio for a family visit. After three weeks had passed, I finally got a job in California. Definitely not ideal to track across the country again and this time with a newborn, but we did it. We were excited to get to see Northern California since we missed out the last time we were on the west coast.
The scenery wasn’t exactly what we had envisioned but it was nice to get away from the Florida heat and humidity. Check back in a few weeks for more on our adventure in Roseville, CA.