Florida - September 2011

Day 8 - rest day - Jacksonville

Monday 26th September

As is fairly typical at Patti’s house, there were various people around when we got up this morning. I love staying at Patti’s house, as there’s always a buzz of activity and this very much reminds me of what our house was like when I was growing up. Ben was up and about so it was good to get the chance to see him also.

We had organised ourselves into the car and onto the road by around 10:00. Both Joey & Jennifer were a little cranky this morning so we decided to stop sooner rather than later for breakfast. We weren’t long out of Palm Coast and heading North on I-95 before Sandy spotted a Denny’s and so this immediately became our choice for breakfast this morning. Fortunately, this provided the energy needed to perk everyone up a bit - especially the kids - and thus we eventually made it all the way to Jacksonville and, as an added bonus, with our sanity in tact.

The plan was that we would photograph the baptism ceremony for Jayden, Patti’s Grandson. The SatNav delivered us directly to the church in question and the two of us leapt into photography mode just as soon as the mass service that was already in progress there was finished and the dozen or so family members were appropriately gathered. It was a very nice ceremony and we managed to get some very nice shots from just about every angle.

The baptism party went on from the church to have lunch, whilst the four of us made way over to the St. John’s Market Place shopping centre for a spot of retail therapy. It’s almost like we were never away. We knew all the landmarks around town and everything was very familiar. Whilst at the shopping centre, I took the opportunity to pop into the local Apple store to pick up a new battery for the laptop and a cover for the iPad that we had bought for Joey just prior to leaving Melbourne. As it turned out, we found a better iPad cover at Target and so I had to walk back to the Apple store to return the one I bought there. They made no fuss at all in taking it back and this took the edge off of the arduous walk through blistering temperatures to get there and back twice.

We had again hoped to spend some more quality time with Carlos & Kristy today and so I called them to let them know what time we might be swinging by. As luck would have it, they offered to meet us at the shopping centre instead, so this afforded Sandy the opportunity to fill the shopping trolley just that little bit more. After I made use of the one-hour photo processing centre in Target, which actually took only around 30 minutes to produce the 130 or so prints chosen from the baptism volley of shots, all six of us stopped in at the local McDonald’s for a spot of late lunch. Carlos, being a Paediatrician and with and extremely giving nature, spent some time discussing with me Joey and some tips and techniques for managing his condition. This was for me an absolute goldmine of very useful information and I was gratified to hear that, actually, we are doing nearly everything already that we could be doing to ensure that Joey’s needs are being met. I trust Carlos implicitly, but more than that, I respect his opinion - and not just because he’s a very good Paediatrician but also because he has already raised three children in such a way as to be a model for Sandy and I to aspire to. If Joey and Jennifer turn out half as decent as Carlos & Kristy’s kids, we can be satisfied that we will have done well by them as parents.

Following the late lunch, we all made our way back to Carlos & Kristy’s house. We weren’t planning on travelling down to Palm Coast to spend the night at Patti’s again until the early evening and so we were fortunate to have a few more hours to spend with our very good friends. With plenty of light still left in the day, we packed up the kids and made our way over to the club-house for a spot of frolicking in the club-house pool. This the kids really enjoyed and I also had fun with the underwater camera and just relaxing in general for a while. We have very few friends with whom we can just relax and be ourselves with no airs or graces but the Arangos are definitely in that small minority of very good friends. As the shadows started to grow longer, some distant storm activity was brewing and we moved the kids from the pool to the playground for a bit. Late afternoon eventually turned into early evening and we all went back to Carlos & Kristy’s house to freshen up before heading down to Palm Coast. I bathed the kids and showered myself and we were then going to head out but we were having such a good time, we hung around for a bit longer. One of Carlos’ laptop computers was in need of some repair work and so I helped out with some soldering. Unfortunately, the part that actually needed soldering, the power cord connector, was embedded into a small printed circuit board. The only way to gain access to this, as we eventually found out, was to completely de-construct the entire laptop into it’s constituent parts. This we eventually did and I managed to solder the component we were aiming for but it was by this time well past our planned departure time and we had to bid farewell. It would be interesting to see if Carlos was able to reconstruct the laptop again from the myriad constituent parts that I left on his dining room table. Saying goodbye was a very sad affair. We will truly miss the whole family deeply and I can honestly say that this has been the best part of our holiday so far.

Sad as it was, we finally left the Arango family and Jacksonville as a whole. The one-hour trip down to Palm Coast was uneventful but, as predicted, Joey was still wide awake by the time we got there, although Jennifer did fall fast asleep very soon after getting under way.

Here at Patti’s house, we spent some time chilling out with various of the current house occupants and showing the photos that we had printed earlier in the day. We’re now tucked up in bed and recharging our batteries (both figuratively and literally) for the coming trip to Kennedy Space Centre tomorrow morning.

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