Tampa has a lot of good things going for it as a place to stay in December.
- It’s warmer than North Carolina (which we left the end of October).
- Our niece, Robin, and her two kids live here.
- The RV park at MacDill Air Force Base is a convenient place to stay.
- It’s on the way to Key West!
Seriously, we enjoy staying in the Tampa area for all of those reasons and more. We always enjoy spending time with Robin, Destiny, and Jeremiah. The fulltime RV lifestyle makes this a lot easier. You can see your family as much as you, or they, want and you don’t have to move in with them to do it!
It may have been warm in Tampa but the Christmas celebrations were in full swing. We saw lights and decorations throughout the campground and base housing areas and participated in the annual lighting of the base Christmas Tree of lights. The place was packed with base families. There were free Christmas cookies and drinks, the base elementary school chorus entertained us, and Santa rode up in a fire engine! It was a unique and enjoyable experience.
Robin took us to visit the Florida Botanical Gardens in Largo. Every year the Gardens are decorated with Christmas lights. It was fun to stroll through the display of lights and see how creative they were. Pat even saved Jeremiah from being eaten by an alligator! I was surprised to discover that the Florida Botanical Gardens were also responsible for the Weedon Island Preserve where we have enjoyed kayaking among the mangroves.
On December 16th we flew back to Michigan for the holidays (and for doctor’s appointments!). The flight was uneventful, but the weather was a bit of a shock to our system. We left Tampa with daytime temperatures in the high 70s and we were met in Detroit with temperatures in the high 20s! However, we were ready for it and I was looking forward to the possibility of some cross-country skiing.
We were, once again, welcomed by the Aten family to stay with them while we were in Lansing. We had a chance to see our son, Dave, on several occasions, got clean bills of health, and saw some old friends at Central United Methodist Church in Lansing.
Susan and Gary Aten have a Christmas tradition of having the whole, extended family over to decorate Christmas cookies and we joined in the fun. It’s great to watch their grandkids decorate, some are quick and others are detailed. However, Gary sets the standard for creative cookie decoration. What a wonderful Christmas tradition!
On December 21st we were on our way to Bad Axe for the Smith family Christmas holidays. We picked up our daughter, Elisabeth, at the Flint Airport where she flew in from Raleigh, NC. Bad Axe didn’t have the amount of snow that we had in Lansing, but I found there was enough to ski on. I dug my skiis out of our room in the old farmhouse and took a nice cross-country ski around the family farm. One part of the farm has been left to grow natural grasses and Pat’s brother, Geri, had mowed some paths through the area in the fall that made for some perfect ski trails. It was a good thing I got the skiing in when I did because it rained the next day. You have to love Michigan weather!
The next several days were spent getting ready for Christmas. Pat’s sister, Mary Lee, and her family arrived the day after we did. We all had gifts to wrap as the TSA doesn’t recommend that you travel with wrapped gifts. We all pitched in to help Marcia and Geri with their preparations.
On Christmas morning our family exchanged gifts and then joined the extended Smith family for the traditional Christmas dinner (and unofficial family reunion) at the Civic Center in the town of Elkton. The family outgrew anyone’s house decades ago and this is often the only time some of the family sees each other. As someone who grew up in a relatively small family in the suburbs I am always impressed by this gathering that has had from 80 to 100 family members attend.
That evening, back at Geri and Marcia’s we exchanged gifts and played games well into the night.
All good things must come to an end and on December 30th we flew back to Tampa. A special thanks to our good friends, Rich and Marti Witkop who took time out of their day to drives us to and from the airport.
This year our idea of celebrating the New Year was grocery shopping and getting a good night’s sleep before we hit the road for a two-day trip to our next stop, Key West, FL!