Thursday, July 5, 2018

FINISHING FLORIDA!


For our summer trip with the kids, we decided to go to Florida. While we were there, we planned to complete Florida by visiting the final 21 counties we needed – as well as a couple of counties in Georgia.

We flew into Fort Myers late Saturday night, picked up our Nissan Pathfinder at the airport, and immediately headed to our hotel for the night – the Homewood Suites by Hilton Fort Myers Airport. The following morning we drove the five hours to Key West. The day was overcast. So the daily sunset celebration at Mallory Square didn’t happen. But we still had a good time. After a 190 Octane drink from Fat Tuesday’s, and dinner at Denny’s, we drove up to Marathon and spent the night at the Holiday Inn Express & Suites.




On Monday we headed north to pick up our first new counties of the trip. We went northwest and went around the west side of Lake Okeechobee – which is virtually impossible to see from any roads that go around it. But we did manage to take a side road to get a good look at it. We then went north on HWY 721 and entered Highlands County. Once we reached HWY 70 we headed east and entered Okeechobee County. We continued east, entering St. Lucie County, and got onto I-95 North. From there it was a straight shot up the coast, entering Brevard County (where we’d been before) as well as two new counties – Indian River and Volusia. We arrived to our hotel (the Hyatt Place Daytona Beach) in Daytona Beach Shores. Our hotel was right on the beach, and was absolutely gorgeous. That night we even went “crabbing” on the beach.










On Tuesday we set out for Orlando. A straight shot would have taken us just over an hour. But we are county collectors! So naturally, we headed north on I-95 towards Jacksonville. We picked up Flagler and St. Johns Counties before getting off the highway to take a side trip to the Castillo de San Marcos fort in St. Augustine.





Once we left the fort, we got back on I-95 and continued north. We entered Duval County and went around Jacksonville. We then entered Nassau County. Shortly thereafter we got off the highway and headed northwest on HWY 17. A few miles later we crossed the Georgia state border and picked up Camden County. We then turned around and headed back.






Although we reentered Nassau County, our next new county was also in Georgia. We headed southwest and eventually crossed into Georgia again, near the city of St. George, picking up Charlton County. From there we headed south and entered Duval County again. Once we hit HWY 90, we turned right, went a couple of miles, and entered Baker County. We then doubled back and took HWY 301 south near the city of Baldwin. We stayed on it for quite awhile, picking up Clay and Bradford Counties. Once we got to the city of Hawthorne, we got off, headed east a couple of miles, and picked up Putnam County.



From there we headed south again, hit a couple of counties we’d picked up on a previous trip, and got onto I-75. Near the city of Bushnell we got off the interstate to pick up Citrus County. It was an eight-mile turnaround out of our way. But… no county left behind! We even saw a chicken sitting on a pick-up truck. We then hooked up with HWY 301 again and picked up Hernando and Pasco Counties.




At this point we headed directly to our hotel (The Hilton Garden Inn Orlando at Sea World). Along the way we entered Polk County as well, our last new county of the day. The kids were less than thrilled that what could have been about an hour of driving turned into seven hours.


On Wednesday we spent the day at Sea World riding rollercoasters and watching the dolphin and whale shows. When we left that evening, we headed straight for our hotel in Tampa – the Home2 Suites by Hilton Tampa USF Near Busch Gardens. While traveling via I-4 we entered Hillsborough County.







On Thursday we spent the day at Busch Gardens. We rode several rollercoasters. But the highlight was the Falcon’s Fury inverted giant drop. It was such a rush we did it several times. When we went to the parking lot at the end of the day, we found a Barbie car!






Once we left the park we needed to get to our hotel in Fort Myers for an early flight back home the next day. Our hotel (the Hyatt Place Fort Myers) would have been about a 2:20 minute ride. But we added 30 minutes to it because we still had a few more counties to collect! We got onto I-275 and took the bridge over Tampa Bay. Halfway across we entered Pinellas County. We drove through St. Petersburg staying on the interstate and drove over the Bay again to the south. Halfway across we then entered Manatee County. From here we had one more county to go! Shortly after we were off the bridge, we got off the interstate onto HWY 64 and headed east for about 30 miles. Near the end of that 30 mile trek we pulled over to take a picture of the Hardee County sign. After we entered it, Florida was complete! From there we drove the final hour to our hotel, arriving after midnight. It was almost 1:00 when we actually got to bed. A few hours later (3:45) we got up to get to the airport for our 6:10 flight.


When it was all done, we had picked up 23 new counties in both Florida and Georgia. Florida became our 13th completed state. (14 if you include Washington D.C.) So what’s next? We have a tentative plan to drive to Montana in August. And there may be a California trip in November. Stay tuned!


                                                NEW COUNTIES - 23
                                                TOTAL COUNTIES FOR 2017 - 67
                                                ALL TIME COUNTY TOTAL - 1784