More time in MO

May –June, 2017 – Springfield, MO I can’t believe we spent seven weeks in Missouri and I’m having trouble accounting for where all that time went. The first week was committed to cleaning up the flood damage to our family’s river house. But the remainder of the time was something of a blur.

We visited all our doctors. We helped some friends move. And we, or I should say Jim, helped our friends with various home improvement projects.

We checked on all our rental properties and performed maintenance on those that were in need of it. One tenant gave notice and moved out during this time so we were able to get the home cleaned, painted, and re-rented ourselves. Another tenant that had been falling behind all winter agreed to move and we were able to get him out without involving the courts which I doubt would have been the case if we hadn’t physically been there.

We attended numerous social events. We visited with our son and his family. And we spent some quality time with our favorite granddaughter. She’s the one in the middle.

We did devote some time to getting our new home and ourselves organized. We had moved in such a hurry that we weren’t really sure where everything ended up. We took the rig to get a new AC unit because the factory installed one just wasn’t cutting the mustard and we also got new tires on her before we left.

Looking back on that list it’s a wonder we did get it all done. We primarily stayed in Springfield but we did leave for a few weekends. While in Springfield we stayed at a familiar campground on the south side of town.

Ozark Highlands Mobile Home Park is conveniently located in the southeast part of Springfield. Last year we came and went from this park and at the end of our visit I realized we spent enough at their weekly and nightly rates that we could have stayed there the whole time at their monthly rate for less money.

So this time I made a month long reservation. The park was kind of a pain, actually requiring a 6 page application! This was the first rental application I’ve ever had to complete for an RV space.

But in the end we saved some money. The monthly rate was only $450 plus electric and when I needed to extend our stay for two more weeks I assumed it would be at the weekly rate. Instead they prorated their monthly rate so the extra days were only $15 per day.

Two of the three weekends we did leave we only moved 30 miles to our friends’ 40 acre property in rural Lawrence County. It’s a great place for all our friends to gather. They all own travel trailers now so we circle the wagons and just hang out.

One morning while Jim helped with an electrical project I found myself free as a bird. The weather was surprisingly cool for late June so I happily took an hour long stroll on some county roads. It was a beautiful morning.

Flowers were blooming and the birds were singing.

I was soon making friends.

This pair was a little more shy.

When this fellow and his brother came barreling across a lawn at me I felt a twinge of anxiety. My fear was momentary as they just wanted to say hi but I will likely remember my club next time I’m walking alone in a rural area.

It wouldn’t be a walk in the countryside without a red barn.

This old mailbox has seen better days.

This was only one of many flags displayed along the way.

So that’s all I have to show for two months in Missouri. Next up, we head west for the summer.

An Epic Flood

May, 2017 – Bonita Springs, Fl to Doniphan, MO In all our plans for leaving Florida we had a date in mind that we hoped to go, May 5th. This was two days after my last day of babysitting and the day our rent was paid through. But we didn’t have any hard commitments that required us to be anywhere.

So we figured when the flip house got done, when Lance got sold, when we’d visited sufficiently with our daughter, and (after we made the offer on our new trailer) when we got everything moved and the Alpenlite sold or ready for storage, then we would leave. This all changed when we learned that our own Current River was forecast to peak well above the highest flood in written history.

My family and I own a lovely little home there in Doniphan, Missouri. I’ve mentioned it briefly a couple times in my posts but it is actually a very special place. My family (my father, Jim and I, my three brothers and their wives, along with the help of other family members) built the home as a tribute to my dear mother. She loved the river and the property she and my father owned for nearly 30 years on its banks and she always dreamed of a home there but died of cancer in 2008 without that dream ever being realized.

We built the house over several years. Much of the work occurred in 2010. We started it that spring and got it roofed and sided by fall. Then we spent the next several years finishing it out as time and money became available.

I didn’t realize how few pictures I had of the house until we faced losing it. But here are some over the course of its construction.

The view from the riverfront. Eventually we extended the deck across the full length of the house and got that last piece of fascia on.

And here is the front which faces the road.

The kitchen cabinets were the last thing put in. My brother built and installed the lowers a couple years ago but just finished and installed the uppers a couple months ago.

So you can see why we were concerned and why we continued to make preparations to leave Florida but with a lot more urgency.

We checked the page on the internet often where they record the water gauge in my hometown. It also forecasts when it will peak and how high it will get. We helplessly watched for several days as both numbers went ever higher, surpassing the initial estimates by many, many feet.

In the meantime we kept very busy. We hired out some work on the flip house that we had intended to complete ourselves, we finalized the purchase of our new camper long distance as the owners were home in Michigan, and we began packing for the move to our new trailer.

There wasn’t much we could do about the house but watch and wait. By the time our family realized the rising water was really a problem there was very little that could be done. The road to the neighborhood floods well before the houses do so even if someone had wanted to go retrieve any property they would have had to make that decision well in advance.

Noone imagined it getting as bad as it did. We have watched the water rise so many times in the past and seen flood forecasts that looked ominous but never got as bad as they predicted. Even if we had been there it is likely we wouldn’t have moved much.

Here is what the page looked like that we kept checking. At this point on April 30th, the river was almost 29 and a half feet above normal. We knew then that it was in the house. At that time they predicted it might go as high as 39.5 feet, which would have pretty much swallowed our house up. You would have only seen a little of the roof above the water if that had come to pass.

So we were quite relieved when it actually crested at ONLY 33.13 feet a day and a half later. This was more than 6 feet over the historic flood of 1904. Our house was one of the newer ones in the neighborhood and we built the floor just above that flood level. Most of our neighbors were several feet lower and many live there full time so we knew their troubles were way worse than ours.

We hoped that the flood water hadn’t reached our ceiling level. If the water reached the ceilings it would double the amount of work required to restore our home. But we had to wait another two days, until May 3rd, before the road was passable so my brother could go assess the damage.

My closest brother lives in Springfield, Missouri so he got down there that afternoon. Here is his initial view when he walked through the front door.

And here was our new kitchen.

He was surprised it was actually hard to tell where the water had reached. There was not an obvious water line. He finally determined it had gotten about 6 feet up the walls. There was a thin layer of silt over every horizontal surface but the vertical surfaces were surprising clean.

My other brothers from Texas showed up that first weekend and together they did the majority of the demo. They cut off and removed the drywall at 6 feet and removed the kitchen cabinets. They saved the uppers and believe they are salvageable but had to throw out the lower cabinets.

One of the biggest issues was finding a place to dispose of the trash. They were relieved when some volunteers showed up with trailers and offered to haul off all the furniture. That was a huge help.

There were no dumpsters available anywhere. They heard of a dump site on Sunday and loaded up a trailer full and hauled it there. That site was soon full. The rest of the debris, they had to throw off the front porch.

While they worked hard on the house, we worked our tails off to get moved into our new 5th wheel and on the road to Missouri. We finally left Florida on Monday, May 8th. And we were never more relieved to see this sign on Thursday, May 11th.

We stayed in Doniphan a week and our good friends, Amy and Terry, generously took a couple days off work to come help. My brother and his wife came back for the weekend. Our friend’s mother, Cindy, lives nearby so she visited almost every day bringing us amazing desserts, actually doing a load of laundry for me, and even taking a couple items we were about to throw away and cleaning them; that quilt hanging on the living room wall and my wedding dress that I had stored there.

We cleaned and continued to sort through what was left, deciding what was worth salvaging and what was a loss. We were able to finally get a dumpster and we moved the mountain of debris in the front yard into it and finished cleaning out the house. I found someone to haul off the appliances. And then we cleaned, and cleaned, and cleaned some more.

We got all that was salvageable into one room so it will make it easier to work in the rest of the house. We are not sure when that work will take place. Primarily we have to reinsulate, redrywall, and install new doors and trim. We may start it this fall or it may wait until next year. But right now we are just letting the house dry out.

The community of Doniphan along with many others along Missouri’s riverways took a real beating this spring. So many suffered so much. Just in our own neighborhood there were more than a half dozen homes severely damaged, all much worse than ours.

A hard working couple next door have an older home that was built several feet lower than ours so the water reached into their rafters. But the worst part was their windows didn’t hold like ours did. So instead of the thin layer of silt we had to deal with, the river deposited 4 inches of slimy, nasty mud in their home. The home of an elderly couple who had lived there as long as I can remember was severely damaged and their kids used the flood as an excuse to finally move them to the city and put what was left of their home up for sale.

We were lucky in so many ways; that the home was built as high as we ever imagined the waters reaching, that every member of our family is in construction and when we choose to rebuild we can, that the water heater and electrical systems still work and the HVAC appears repairable. Mostly that this was our second home so noone was left homeless and we have the option of walking away and catching our breath before deciding how to proceed.

Florida Roundup

May, 2017 – Bonita Springs, FL So we said adios to Florida after a full 7 months parked in one spot. You’d think I’d have a lot of inside information now on living in Florida and I do have a few insights although it is going to take more than one season to get to know this area. So here are some random thoughts, parting shots, and disorganized ramblings on the subject.

We LOVED our RV park. Bonita Lakes RV Resort is a gem! And if you are ever in the area off season I suggest stopping by for a while. But be careful, you may not want to leave. We met so many people that came for a week, or just one season, and now live there full time or have been coming back every winter for many years.

What makes it special are the people. The managers are the kindest, hardest working, most genuine people you could ever hope to meet. And the rest of the staff are equally nice and will go way out of their way to help you.

The residents are pretty special too. We wish we had had more time to get to know them and participate in more activities. There was certainly never any excuse to be bored.

The activities we did try we were made to feel more than welcome and invited back again. Game night, aerobics, kayak club, bean bag tournament, water aerobics; all things we only tried once because we got caught up in remodeling a house.

Some of the residents were pretty camera shy.

We did finally have a few good sightings.

Some of the more plentiful and less shy inhabitants were the lizards.

And the bunnies.

I have always wanted to see a roseate spoonbill and one afternoon right before we left one stopped by the park for a short visit.

We can’t claim to have experienced Florida during what they call “in season” because from Jan to April we were commuting 20 miles back and forth to our job site almost every day. The RV park did get awfully busy during those months with every site occupied and many parties sometimes late into the night.

The one thing that took some adjustment for us was driving in Florida. They have the streets designed in such a way that U-turns are often a necessity. You know our truck doesn’t U-turn well so this was something of an inconvenience for us.

But more importantly, if you were making a right hand turn you had to be very careful that noone in the left hand turn lane of the road you were turning onto was making a U-turn. I almost made a costly error a couple of times. Eventually I didn’t want to make any right hand turn when they had the green light often to the chagrin of impatient drivers behind me.

The other thing that was hard to get used to was the large number of pedestrians and bicyclers. They were everywhere, even more so near our RV park. The nearby neighborhoods had a large Hispanic population and walking or bicycling seemed to be their primary source of travel.

This was also primarily an issue when making right hand turns. Of course, if we hadn’t been working, we wouldn’t have been driving so often and it wouldn’t have been such an issue. And we learned to be extra cautious and attentive which we should be anyway when behind the wheel of an 8,000 pound machine.

Every local, full year resident we spoke to for any length of time had something to say about how different life was there during the other 8 months out of the year. I got the feeling that many of them shared the sentiment that this person advertised on his bumper. “Welcome to Florida. Now go home.”

So the verdict is in. We love Florida (always have) and we’ll be returning next winter. We don’t plan to be in one RV park for 7 months this time. But we will be back at Bonita Lake RV resort for some part of next winter.

We want a do over. We plan to experience Florida the way we intended to this year before we got caught up in the rat race. We expect to have lots of time to be active and healthy, to meet people, and to spend with family.

Anybody ever wonder what happened to Lance, the truck camper that we bought?

Well, we only took the one trip to Cape Canaveral with it. We did make some repairs to it. There was some water damage around the kitchen window and Jim fixed it which messed up the wallpaper. That gave me an opportunity to do a project I’ve always wanted to try, adhesive plastic tile squares.

It was so easy. The only tool necessary was a pair of scissors. And I think the results were a dramatic improvement.

When we bought the flip house we put the camper in the drive and used the kitchen to prepare our lunches until we got the kitchen in the house remodeled. We used the truck as a second vehicle, mostly on the days that I was babysitting so Jim could go his own way. We sold the topper and then the truck a week before we left.

If you don’t count the value of the work Jim put into it we almost broke even. But we did learn a valuable lesson: we’d be OK with a smaller rig in the future. We might get one to finally make that trip to Alaska someday or if we ever get tired of the road and move back into a house we’d consider a small motorhome or trailer for travel. But it does have to have a bed on the main level. We are too darn old to be climbing in and outta that over-cab bed and we ain’t getting any younger!

Welcome to Our New Home

Bonita Springs, FL – May, 2017 We had been mulling over the idea of a newer 5th wheel for a few months. Not a new one, mind you, but a newer one. We had managed to put the idea on the backburner for more than a full year since our brush with temptation in Palm Springs back in November of 2015.

But the idea kept creeping back into our psyche. We told ourselves we were just keeping an eye on the market. You know, in case something disastrous happened to our rig and we had to replace it.

We finally agreed we would seriously consider a newer rig if the flip house sold. We hoped to find something that would cost no more than half our profit from the flip house, around $14,000, plus whatever we could get out of our Alpenlite, maybe $10,000.

Ideally we would wait until we got back to Missouri because the house couldn’t possibly close until after we left Florida. This would also give us plenty of time to market the Alpenlite in a favorable market we are familiar with. So we weren’t seriously looking in Florida but we weren’t not looking. lol

We saw a 2014 Mesa Ridge by Open Range in our park that they were asking $30,000 for. We looked the 345RLS model up online and I really didn’t like the layout of the living room. I’d seen one like it before and just didn’t think it was what I wanted. And we weren’t seriously looking anyway so we forgot about it for a while.

I was talking to the manager of the RV park and mentioned we’d probably get a newer rig sometime this year. He said we’d be crazy not to look at that Mesa Ridge. That it was the best deal he’d seen in a long time. And that the owners had hardly used it and had taken meticulous care of it.

We went and looked at it and really liked everything about it. It did look brand spanking new. We decided the layout would actually work well for us.

Our favorite part is the private bath, the main point of contention with our old floor plan. We loved all the finishes, the storage, the beautiful kitchen with movable island!

It is so roomy. The living room slides are 42 inches deep!

I love having a full time dining room table again and a fireplace with heater.

Jim did some research on the brand and was satisfied. We offered the owners $25,000 and eventually settled on $28,000. It’s a little more than we hoped to pay but the rig is so much newer than we expected to find.

So there was the small issue that we were spending money we hadn’t yet made. Not very responsible of us. The flip house was under contract and the sale was going well but there were a thousand things that could go wrong. We threw caution to the wind and did it anyway.

We needed to leave Florida in a week so we didn’t have time to market the Alpenlite. No problem. Since the campground is so empty most of the summer you are allowed to leave your rig on your site and only pay $100 per month storage fee.

We figured we could sell it long distance in a month or so with the help of our daughter. But the park workers knew some full-time residents who had been living in a motorhome and were looking for more room. We sold it to them for $9500.

We’ve had a few problems with the Mesa, mostly related to it sitting for two years in Florida. The salty climate there is rough on exterior metal. It was very difficult to get the jacks up the first time. We’ve been working with them and applying lubricant and it keeps getting better but we still use a crow bar to get them to move sometimes.

The tanks were hooked up to sewer and the valves were just left open. The tanks were probably never rinsed. So the valves didn’t work and neither do most of the sensors that should tell us how full our tanks are. This is also getting better with time and care and will hopefully resolve itself.

Jim had read that a lot of people have trouble with the slide motors going out and he has already had to replace one. The good news is the replacement parts are said to be hardier than the ones originally installed in the factory. Also they are relatively cheap, less than $100, so we bought an extra.

We love some of the features available on this newer unit. My favorite is the electric awning.

If you’ve ever gotten up in the middle of the night to take down your awning because the wind unexpectedly picked up, you will understand my glee.

Jim’s favorite feature is the self-leveling jacks. At the push of a button (or several) it levels the rig and stabilizes it. The best part is it remembers the height where we pulled the truck out and returns to that position when it’s time to hook up.

It was hard to find everything we wanted without getting into a bigger rig. This one is just under 35 feet, almost 3 feet longer than our last one. But we had a rack on the back of our old one that stuck out 3 feet and held our kayaks.

We decided to get rid of the rack and keep the kayaks in Missouri where we use them most. We have enjoyed having them with us in our travels but have not used them enough to justify dragging them all over the country. We’ll carry our new inflatable kayak with us and will rent kayaks when necessary.

We have had our home for a month now and we are very happy with it. We moved into it in a hurry, then drove it back to Missouri in only three days. This is way faster than we prefer to travel but we had pressing matters to attend to at home.

We are going back and forth on what to do about solar power and/or generators. We definitely will install a solar system but can’t decide on whether to go with a very basic one or the fanciest one Jim can pull together. We’d love an on board generator that comes on with the touch of a button from inside but we haven’t really had that many occasions to use the two generators we have been carrying around. Decisions, decisions…

Flippin’ in Florida

January-May, 2017 – Naples, FL As I mentioned in my post about babysitting this winter, Jim was not twiddling his thumbs while I brought home the bacon. He did consider a part-time job and even inquired about a few but he never really got serious about it. He was sure he could find a way to make more than $15 per hour and not punch a clock.

He toyed with several ideas of how to make some money without working for someone else. He thought about fixing up an old camper and reselling it but just never found the right opportunity. He considered doing handyman work but pursuing a contractor’s license in Florida was too much of a hassle. He tossed around several ideas but hadn’t landed on one when fate intervened.

We had picked up some used bikes at a garage sale and were enjoying riding them around the Bonita Springs neighborhoods each morning. We rode into one cul-de-sac and stumbled onto a house for sale. It looked distressed, just our kinda place!

So I called the realtor and found out it was a foreclosure and was being auctioned on one of those online auction sites, zome.com. We took a look at it and really liked it, almost too much. We were sorta fantasizing about a pool and furnishings. The best feature of the house was there was just enough room to park our RV beside it.

Long story short, we lost the house to another bidder. We moped for a day or two. Then we admitted it was probably for the best.

Were we really ready to be that tied down? NO! We agreed we were not. But we did decide that buying a rental in the area, maybe even one we could eventually see ourselves living in, was not a horrible idea.

So when the realtor that had helped us with that first auction said that he had another property we should check out, we agreed. The second house he showed us was in nearby Naples in a working class neighborhood the opposite side of the interstate from the ocean. We liked it and agreed it would make a good investment.

We weren’t very optimistic about the auction process but we told the realtor how high we were willing to go and let him handle it. And he got it for us, for $7500 less than we were willing to pay. And that’s how we ended up owning real estate in Florida. Isn’t it beautiful?!

We decided to fix it up and try to resell it.

And if it hadn’t sold it would have made a great rental with good cash flow. Rentals are in high demand here.

We closed in only two weeks on December 28th. We immediately went to work. We were excited to polish this diamond in the rough and see it shine.

What? You only see coal? How bout now?

We hoped to have it mostly finished in 3 months, giving us April to sit back and enjoy our re-retirement Florida lifestyle. Of course that didn’t happen. We both worked on it pretty much full-time for the rest of our stay. Even when I babysat in the morning, I would usually go work on the house after that.

We were pretty pleased with the results. And we got really good feedback from everyone that saw it. We put laminate floors throughout.

The house didn’t have a garage but made up for it with a mother-in-law’s quarters, making it a 4 bedroom, 3 bath home, unheard of in this neighborhood and price range.

We skimped everywhere we could, painting the original bath vanities, salvaging as many of the bath fixtures as possible. We had a best case scenario budget and a max budget. We ended up scraping by just under our max budget and still didn’t do everything we wanted to the home.

We hoped to install a lanai but thankfully the eventual buyers were perfectly happy with the back yard as it was.

The sacrifice was big. We wanted to spend more time with our daughter. We hoped to explore much of the state. We certainly never imagined we’d spend the whole winter in Florida and not do any scuba diving.

Thankfully the payoff was pretty great and made up for most of it. We netted $28,000. We have worked way harder for way less before.

This was our most profitable short term flip ever. We’ve made more on homes we’ve held for a couple years but of the ones we bought to fix up and immediately resell, this is by far the winner. We have no regrets but aren’t in any hurry to do it again right away.

We are tired and ready to be re-tired again!

Lovers Key State Park

April, 2017 – Fort Myers Beach, FL We were nearing the end of our time in Florida, for this season at least, and there were so many things we hadn’t gotten around to seeing and doing. For one reason or another we had not gone kayaking with our daughter since she arrived, something we expected to do a lot of. And we had not explored a nearby gem of a state park, Lover’s Key. We decided to remedy both those items at the same time one weekday afternoon.

There is a 2.5 mile marked kayak trail through the park’s mangroves. It doesn’t look much different than the area’s rivers.

Even on a weekday it was relatively busy. We set off about the same time as a rowdy group of German twenty-somethings on a variety of water craft; one canoe, a couple paddleboards, and several kayaks. We dawdled a bit until they got out ahead of us.

I discovered this guy drying his wings. I love these creepy looking birds and but I hadn’t gotten a picture of one until now.

Manatee, dolphins, and alligators are wildlife you might spot here. Birds were the only things we saw but we did hear another couple at the launch say they had seen manatee. You’d probably have better luck seeing wildlife earlier in the day.

We later saw this beautiful guy.

If you look at the map of the park it looks like you could just put in and paddle straight to the backside of the beach and walk over to it. Unfortunately that is not the reality here. The put-in drops you into the maze at the middle of this picture.

You could kayak from the mangroves, out into Estero Bay, and eventually out to the ocean and beach. But that would be a very long haul and we had gotten way too late a start to go that far. If your goal is to kayak to a beach you are much better off launching at nearby Big Hickory than here.

We did make it a ways out into Estero Bay. Most of the floats in Florida have a very limited number of places to land so when you find a tiny beach it’s time to stretch your legs. We stopped for a bit then headed back.

Here’s Jim in our new inflatable kayak. When we went kayaking with the kayak club from our RV park, most of those people had this type of kayak. We were impressed with how they handled so we looked into them.

We wanted to try one out for ourselves and see if it might be an alternative to hauling our big kayaks all over the country. This one easily fits in our basement. We also thought it would be great to have 3 kayaks all winter in Florida so we wouldn’t have to rent one when we took our daughter with us.

We found a gently used Sea Eagle 370 on Craigslist and picked it up for only $150. It included deluxe seats which are a must. You can get the same thing on Amazon for about $325 right now. Here’s the view of it from the top.

This Sea Eagle is made for two. In fact, Jim says it handles better when both of us are in it. It carries up to 650 pounds and weighs only 32 pounds.

We are pleased with it so far and plan to keep it. It was perfect for most conditions in Florida and should be great on any lake in the country. We’ll likely use our regular kayaks in Missouri and possibly leave them there for our summer visits.

As for Lover’s Key State Park, it was a great park with a lot more to offer than just the kayak trail. There were hiking and biking trails and you could walk or take a tram to what we are told is an incredible beach. We didn’t have time to visit again before we left Florida but it will be high on out priority list if we return.

Miami Beach

April, 2017 – Miami, FL I’d been wanting to fit a trip to Miami into our winter itinerary so when our oldest daughter, Carie, expressed an interest in visiting us in Florida Easter weekend I suggested we meet there. She and her beau flew in and we made the 2 hour drive over. It was such an easy drive that our younger daughter, Heather, drove over on her day off.

I wanted to find a place on Miami Beach where we could all stay together but not be too cramped. South Beach is the most popular part of Miami Beach. About 6 miles north is what they call North Beach and accommodations were a lot more reasonable. The area seemed like a better option for a family vacation anyway.

I have surfed sights like VRBO and Airbnb before but I have never actually booked anything through them. They seemed like my only option for finding a rental with a minimum of two bedrooms and two baths. I initially searched for properties around $300 per night as that is about what it would have cost me to book 2 decent hotel rooms in the area.

I found several promising properties but the one that stood out was an apartment on a canal just three blocks from the beach. It had not two but three bedrooms and three full baths? Sound too good to be true? It was.

I messaged the host with a couple questions and they wrote back that the rate was inaccurate and thanks for bringing it to their attention. They then offered it to me for $450 per night but waived the cleaning fee. I initially thought “no way” and moved on to other options.

I messaged several other hosts offering 2 bedroom 2 bath condos in the area. Each time they replied that the units were booked even though the booking sights said they were available. I imagine they have them on several different sights and don’t bother updating all the calendars.

I was getting frustrated with this process. We reconsidered the option of two hotel rooms and did not like what was available. We looked at the three bed/bath unit again and it seemed perfect. I did not like the feeling of being duped by a bait and switch scam but I did want that unit. So I bit the bullet and made the reservation.

It turned out to be a great decision. Even though it was more than advertised it really was worth the price. Having all that space for our family to spread out really made the weekend special. Everyone had their own rooms if they needed a nap or some quiet time.

A full kitchen was great for preparing and enjoying meals together. And there was plenty of space to gather together and visit; the living room, the balcony, and this patio overlooking the canal.

By the way I stole that pic from the host’s website and it is the only one I recognized as actually being from the property we stayed at. We had the entire second story of one of two buildings that were broken up into apartment units. We arrived Thursday night and went to pick up the kids at the airport Friday morning. There was a great view of downtown Miami from the I195 bridge.

After meeting Heather at the apartment and getting everyone settled in we headed out to explore. Wynwood Walls was once a dilapidated warehouse district that has been transformed into an art district focused on graffiti and street art.

At the center is the official outside gallery which is free. Each piece is amazing and the scale is breathtaking.

It is an awesome place to get your picture taken.

For many blocks around the streets and storefronts are lined with murals. There are lots of restaurants, quaint shops, and coffee shops.

If you come to Miami do not miss this place. And bring your camera.

The next day Heather had to go back home to work so the four of us set out to visit South Beach. We did not want to mess with parking so we headed out on foot with maps of the free trolley system. We had to walk three quarters of a mile to the nearest trolley stop and then take two trolleys to get to South Beach. It was a great way to see the area without worrying about traffic. We got off around 17th Street and endeavored to walk to 1st street seeing as many of the beautiful Art Deco buildings as we could.

At 14th Street wandered closer to the beach and walked Ocean Drive where it seems practically every building is historic.

We made it all the way to 5th Street when our stomachs started controlling our actions and even though the street was lined with restaurants they just weren’t speaking to us. The kids called us an Uber and it whisked us back to our neighborhood.

There we enjoyed lunch at a local Cuban restaurant that had been recommended to us by our host. Las Vegas Cuban Cuisine was very good and gave us the stamina to make the walk home which was almost a mile. All in all we had walked about 5 miles that day so we spent the rest of the weekend with our feet up, enjoying our canal view, simple food, and good company.