Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Tater Tot goes to the beach!

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Sweet little Tater Tot went on her first vacation, and what a great vacation it was. We all left home around 2 p.m. Aunt Ry-dee rode with Tater to help keep her occupied during the long ride. They spent the majority of their time watching movies. We arrived in Daytona Beach at 4:30 a.m. After checking in at the hotel and opening up the doors between our adjoining rooms so Tater could roam back and forth, we headed down to the beach.

In the dark, the ocean sounds like a scary monster. The loud roar of the crashing waves frightened her, and she wanted no part of it. The sun started to make its way over the horizon, and she watched the sun rise over the Atlantic. The dolphins always appear at sunrise. She spotted a couple leaping out of the silvery water. Tater saw the birds skimming the water. She got her feet wet after she was able to see what was making all the noise. A crab came scurrying past her. It was time to grab breakfast, but she had to make a snowball out of sand before we left. In her first two hours at Daytona Beach, she watched the sun rise over the ocean, saw dolphins and a crab, watched birds skim the water for their breakfast, stuck her toes in the water, and played in the sand. How great is that?

Mama & Dada Tater and sweet Tater at sunrise

Our adopted son arrived, so we headed out for a bit. After grabbing a quick bite, we headed to Ponce Inlet to walk the boardwalk over the jetty. Uncle Cade grabbed a few seashells for her, and she saw a dead stingray down on the rocks. Surfers for Autism was holding an event, and she saw a surfer. She also saw someone parasailing in the distance. Tater waved at the people on the boats as they headed out of the inlet and out to sea. We hopped back in the cars and drove around through the park so she could see the lighthouse. It's the tallest one in Florida, but I don't think she was very impressed.

We headed back to the hotel to greet our extended family. Little Tater had not yet met her Uncle Cade, Uncle Lane, Aunt Savannah, and Miss Lori. She loved them all right away. They all headed down to the beach to play in the water while Gran (who had not slept in about 24 hours - #teamnosleep) grabbed a quick nap. Tater watched planes dragging banners across the sky and Uncle Lane surfing the waves on his boogie board. She had a great time. We were all sad to say goodbye to Lane, Savannah, and Lori at the end of the day. Her uncles, Caleb and Cade, decided to hit the mall, so the rest of us headed out to a thrift store and some souvenir shops. I scored an Aigner purse at the thrift store. How lucky is that? Two years in a row I have found Aigners at Daytona Beach. When the sun set, everyone but Gran and Pappy headed to the boardwalk to ride the rides and play games. They also caught the fireworks show over the ocean near the bandshell. (Every Saturday during the summer there are fireworks over the ocean and over the river.)

The entire group slept in on the second day. We were tired. We drove half the day and all night before spending a very busy day at the beach. Anyone who knows Florida knows it rains every day during rainy season. Most of the time it rains for (seriously) five minutes, and the heat and sun dry it up in no time. A rare cold front dipped down into central Florida, so the rain was going to stick around. Flash flooding was forecast. Not a problem. You head north or south to another beach. Since we have been both north and south, we already knew all the places to hit. A quick check of the radar showed the front staying over Daytona Beach and south of it, so we headed north up A1A. Yes! Tater got to ride up A1A (Beachfront Avenue!) 

She loved seeing the ocean alongside the road on the trip. We stopped at Marineland Beach in Flagler and rushed some family pics before the rain started. 

Tater at Marineland Beach

Mama & Dada and little Tater

Tater's family

The full bunch...with a distracted Tater and a wild-haired Gran

Once the rain started, we headed further north to Saint Augustine - the oldest city in the U.S. Mama Tater saw the pirate ship in the bay as we crossed the drawbridge over the Matanzas. One more trip over the Matanzas and we were headed to one of my favorite spots - Vilano Beach. Vilano Beach is situated on the inlet, so the waves get pretty big. Mama Tater was surprised by it. Vilano was always where we went to hunt seashells since the entire beach was covered in shells. Gran was saddened when she saw that Hurricane Matthew had destroyed its coastline and took much of it out to sea. There were still shells, and there were plenty of sea turtle nests along what was left of the beach. Tater managed to get a bag full of shells before we left.

Vilano Beach on our 2015 trip (Note the blue house in the far left corner)

The remaining Vilano Beach 2017 trip (And there is the blue house from the first pic)

Turtle nests on Vilano Beach

Uncle Caleb and Uncle Cade grabbed the skateboards out of the trunk and skated the strip like they normally do. We all met at the pier. 

Our normal pic at Vilano Pier, but Tater's first!

Mama Tater spotted a shell in the water, and she had Dada Tater climb under the pier to retrieve it. 

See? I wasn't kidding.

Tater saw the Saint Augustine Lighthouse across the bay and made friends with a cute pup on the pier.  

Saint Augustine lighthouse

Our quick lunch was gone, so it was time to head to one of our favorite restaurants - the 180 Vilano Grill. Tater tried calimari, and she likes it. (Gran never did care for it.)

Tater enjoyed 180 Vilano Grill.

I have to commend the staff at 180 Vilano Grill. When we first arrived, the lady gave Avery a plate of dough and told her to make five balls so she could bring her a surprise. They took the plate and brought out this after she was finished with her dinner. They took her dough balls and made donut holes, covered in powdered sugar and served with whipped cream and syrup. She was a happy Tater.

It was dark. There is an upside to being in Vilano after dark, and it is what makes it one of my favorite places. I always say it's like Route 66 meets beach town. The sidewalks are adorned with mosaic tile. The pier and the pavilion at the beach have turtle designs in mosaic tile. The buildings? They have their original neon, and it is absolutely gorgeous. I always hear the song "Life Is But a Dream" in my head, thanks to the movie Cars. Mama Tater said the same thing.

The rain had moved out by the time we made it back to Daytona Beach, so we all headed to the boardwalk. Mama Tater and Tater rode the kiddie rollercoaster. Pappy and Aunt Ry-dee rode the swinging pirate ship. Dada Tater, Uncle Cade, Uncle Caleb, and Pappy took turns throwing money away at a basketball game. Dada Tater ended up making a shot in the oval hoops and Tater nabbed a stuffed dog. Uncle Cade scored a red jalapeno pepper. We all worked on getting tickets to add to Tater's stash from the night before. She walked out of the arcade with a ton of items. Uncle Caleb and Uncle Cade stayed at the boardwalk while we headed back to the hotel. 

It rained between the hotel and boardwalk, but, as always in rainy season, it had stopped before we got to the hotel. We decided to take Avery out to hunt ghost crabs. She grabbed her bucket, and Pappy grabbed the flashlights. She was terrified when she first saw them scurrying toward her, but Pappy gave her a flashlight and she started hunting them down. She started telling everyone not to hurt the babies (the little ones). Tater would lean over the bucket and talk to them. They caught a bucket full. Two were pretty big and really angry. That didn't stop Dada Tater from picking some of them up with his bare hands. 

It was after 2 a.m. when we finally made it to bed. The next morning was tough for everyone - time to start making our way back home. Tater was very upset when Uncle Cade left to go home to Georgia. Mama and Dada Tater wanted to stop by the Daytona International Speedway before we left. She walked around with Uncle Caleb. She really needed uncle time after she said goodbye to Uncle Cade. She adores Uncle Caleb, so it cheered her up a bit. We pointed out the pace car, but she quickly informed us it was a police car because of its light bar. 

We hopped back in the cars and headed toward Jacksonville. There was no way we could go through there without going to Whataburger. Not one of us was ready to leave the beach, and we had talked about stopping somewhere in the gulf to play for an hour or two before we continued home. We were running late, and we wouldn't have time. Mama and Dada Tater decided to head to Jax Beach and play. They took Aunt Rylie with them, and they found a nice hotel on the beach and spent the night. Pappy, Gran, and Uncle Caleb headed toward home and ended up sitting still in five lanes of traffic when we hit Atlanta. We rushed the rest of the way home so they could make it to work at 5 a.m.

This was their view from their balcony. Mama and Dada Tater, Rylie, and Avery had a great time in Jacksonville.

Little Tater Tot's first trip to the beach was great, and she had a really good time. She keeps asking when we're going to the beach, and she asks Mama Tater if Dada Tater is at the beach when he goes to work. She still misses her Uncle Cade. Gran, Pappy, Uncle Caleb, and Aunt Rylie may return during Christmas break, but Tater's brother or sister is due not long after Christmas and they won't be able to make the trip with us. Hopefully they'll be ready to travel next summer. 

Wrapping it up, Tater loves being a beach bum. Mama and Dada Tater are pretty fond of it, too. They're ready to make the move when we are. 

Best Wishes,


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