The following is a trip log written mostly from memory on the plane on the way back from Florida. As the destination was not exotic, we didn't send our usual 'secret'  link to this before we left. One of the reasons, is that our main goal of this trip was to surprise our friends Lynne and Murray by dropping by their Marco Island winter getaway unexpectedly and uninvited. The surprise was a immense success. Unfortunately my aim to video the surprise didn't really happen as our plans we abruptly changed when we 'broke in' to their complex. The pictures and some video tell the story but it is better described in person.
Once again, we are writing this log for our own purposes as we often forget some of the details of our trips.

Tuesday February 3, On plane

The holiday actually started on Monday as instead of trying to wake up and get driven to the airport at 4:30am, we decided to use my gift certificate that
I bought in a lot at a silent auction at Dan Klimas golf tournament last year. It was for one night's stay at the Airport Sheraton.
Although our flight was at 7:00, instead of having to wake up at 3:00am, we had the luxury of only getting up after 4.
To my surprise, even at 5:45, there were quite a few people in the lobby getting on the free shuttles.
The driving conditions on Monday evening were not good and they probably would have been worse in the morning.
The good thing about staying at the airport the night before is that the rush to get ready is not the same. Since it doesn't really matter what time you check in to the hotel, you can leave your house on your own schedule. The ideal hotel to stay in would be the airport Marriott since you just have to walk out of the lobby into the airport, it takes the shuttle worries as well. There is a price to pay for this luxury however as rooms at the Marriott will dent your travel budget.

We tried to do an online check in on WestJet on Monday morning. It worked for Myrna however it said that I had to present myself to the counter at the airport.
The reason, I found out at the airport, was that I was randomly chosen for extended security clearance. That added a few minutes in the process of going security but no biggie. Everything was running smoothly ..... until our plane went to the de-icing area on the tarmac. At minus 25 Celsius, de-icing is a must. One of the de-icing crew noticed a small dent in the tail section of the plane. We then had to go back to a gate for a closer inspection. We ended up taking off 2 hours later than scheduled. Ah, the joys of travelling. As I am writing this, we should be landing in Orlando but it will be a while from now.

Note to self: We chose a flight to Orlando because we liked that it was non-stop and the price was good. Other destinations were either way more expensive or involved 2 or more planes. The problem with a flight to Orlando is that the child to adult ratio is way up there. This particular flight had many children, including loads of 0 to 1 year olds. Praise the lord for noise cancelling headphones except that the piercing cries could not be electronically eliminated. The other thing that headphones cannot eliminate is odour. Either there was a lot of diaper changing on the plane or some of the surrounding passengers were still converting on the Super Bowl chilli to a gaseous matter. We just had some major turbulence, so hopefully that scared enough people to get rid of all the gas at one time.

Thursday February 5, Leaving Orlando
Today we slept in until 9 as yesterday was a FULL day at Universal Studios. Got into the park at 7:50 am and left there at 7:00 pm. We were tired little campers. We really enjoyed the Harry Potter sites which were amazing feats of engineering. We were a little embarrassed as we know absolutely nothing about Harry Potter. We may have to do an HP marathon when we get home. To say that we took some roller coaster rides would be an understatement. We were shaken, rattled and rolled. Paul did a final count and we hit 22 rides with only two repeats. I think one of the highlights for Paul was having a Duff at Moe's Bar. As we were having supper at the "The Kitchen" at the Hard Rock, Homer and Bart came in and posed for pictures with the guests. I think Paul was upset because he didn't get a picture alone with them. Bart took great pleasure in messing my hair. To be fair, he did that to most of the ladies. Once we hit the sack, I think we were asleep within 10 minutes. The Hard Rock Hotel is very nice and the staff are extremely friendly and helpful. The only negative comment I can make is regarding the scent they infuse into the air in the common areas. It can be overpowering at times.

Thursday February 19, Coming home on the plane

As you can see, the last time we updated this log was 2 weeks ago. It's been a busy 2 weeks and we haven't really had time to write anything in this travel log. I have an hour left in the flight so I will try to encapsulate our last 14 days.

Treasure Island: When we left Orlando for Treasure Island it rained for most of the 2 hour drive to the coast. Fortunately it stop as we crossed Tampa Bay. The weather for the next 4 days in Treasure Island was great but not too warm as it was for most of the trip.
By pure luck, Ron and Joan Fitzmorris had arrived for their 15 day vacation in T.I. They invited us to stay with them since they had a 2 bedroom suite at the Crystal Palms Resort. They were in Room 504 on the fifth floor with a great view of the gulf across the Gulf Boulevard. Ron and I played golf on Friday and Sunday. Friday's golf was a little wet because it had rained over 2 inches on Wednesday night. It was great staying with ROn and Joan as we tried a few places for supper and had four happy hours enjoying the sunsets. On our last night, we treated them to a dinner at the revolving restaurant callers Spinners since they wouldn't let us pay for our share of the suite.

Marco Island: Our next stop, was Marco Island. We drove down the 75 for our longest drive (4 1/2 hours with the stops). It rained most of the way but it stopped almost as soon as we got to our motel. The next 4 days in Marco were cloudless but a little cool for the time of year. Within minutes, when we checked in to the Boat House Motel, we saw 3 dolphins from our deck looking out to the inlet. We were looking forward to sitting there to watch the dolphin parade for the next 4 days but we never saw another one there for our entire stay. Our major goal on Marco Island was to surprise our friends Lynne and Murray. The only problem was that they live in a secure 6 building condo complex. We didn't even know what unit they were in except that they were in building A. Once we broke in to the complex, we were going to go to the marina (the Pelican Pier) where everyone knows Murray and Lynne. As we made our way to the marina, we unexpectedly ran into Murray who was on his way there. In truth he actually ran into us but since we saw him coming, we had time to hide behind a bush to surprise him. To say the least he was stunned and thought that somehow Lynne had arranged this surprise attack.
He brought us up to see Lynne in their condo and to say Lynne was surprised is a major understatement. She was shocked and remained that way most of the evening. The next 4 days are a blur as we visited many establishments and ended it all with a nice lasagna supper on our last night. Marco Island was voted #1 island destination in 2014 by Tripadvisor, even ahead of two of the Hawaiian islands. It not hard to understand as Marco is beautiful and inviting. The flip side of that is that the prices for accomodation seems to have skyrocketed. We left Marco a little tired but it was an amazing 4 days.

Cape Coral: This was our shortest drive between stops except we managed to stretch a 90 minute drive to almost 5 hours by taking the shore road and stopping for lunch at Junkanoo's on Fort Myers Beach. Our stop in Cape Coral was to visit Sharon and Rick. Myrna has known Sharon since grade school and they moved to Florida permanently many years ago. We attended their daughter Stephanie's wedding in June 2014 north of Mont Tremblant. What they didn't know, is that we had videotaped a lot of their wedding and I had spent a few days editing the raw footage to a somewhat presentable product. They were very pleased with the final cut and we actually watched it on both evenings we were there. Our 2 night Valentine weekend stay was great with 2 dinners with the family and their friends Laurie and Jeff. On Valentines day, even though it was too chilly to be out in open waters, Rick and Sharon took us out on the canals in their boat. The sun warmed us up so we didn't feel the cold. As a bonus, we saw several dolphins at fairly close range. The short stay with Rick and Sharon was a lot of fun.

Bradenton: Part 4 of our Florida was 3 days with the cousins graciously hosted by Lynn and Chris in their new home on the inlets of Bradenton. Since Bradenton is only 90 minutes from Cape Coral, the cousins delayed their early Sunday starting time at Peredia Golf course so that we coud play with them. By our 1pm tee-off, the weather was perfect. We then had our 19th hole at Beef O'Brady's with a good helping of Wings and Fish and Chips. The next day, the boys played a twilight golf round in the wind at the 'big' Preserve at Tara Golf course. Although that course was not in great shape and no one really enjoyed their round, I managed to shoot an 80 even after a triple bogey. While the boys were away, the girls sneaked out to the Ellenton outlets to spend our hard earned cash, which they did. The 3 days with the cousins was, as usual a good time. Lynn and Chris were wonderful hosts once again and made us feel at home as they always do.

Back to Treasure Island: From the start, we had planned to return to Treasure Island because I had left my hard case golf bag there as it was taking up a lot of room in the trunk of our Nissan Altima. So why not squeeze in another golf game with Ron. The drive from Lynne and Chris to Treasure Island is only 45 minutes so I had booked a 10:15 starting time at Seminole Lake Golf club. The only problem was that it had rained quite a bit overnight and it was cold and windy. The result was the worst game of golf I have had in a few years. Our original plan was to stay at Treasure Island long enough for the Tampa traffic to be gone. We finished golf at 2pm, but it was so cold that we decided to head to Orlando before the rush hour traffic and relax in our hotel the night before our flight home. We checked in around 5:00 on the 18th at the Country Inn and Suites near Universal Studios. It was around 4 degrees as we walked around looking for a restaurant. We wanted to try a restaurant called Cooper's Hawk Winery but the wait at 7:15 was over 90 minutes. We ended up at a brew house with 44 different beers on tap. I didn't get a chance to try them all.

We are leaving Florida just in time as there are frost warnings for tonight in all of Florida north of Lake Okeechobee.

Epilog: While the weather has warmed up in Florida, we can't say the same for back home. The coldest February on record they say. Even with the fact that we cold in Florida, the weather back here is punishing. Hopefully March 2015 will come in like a lion in this the year of the lamb.

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