Day 4 of our journey got off to a great start, with a visit to the Florida Caverns, in Marianna, Florida. Just minutes from our hotel, we had the opportunity to tour Florida’s only tour-guided, dry cavern (there are apparently plenty of guided tours of underwater caverns in Florida).
Jennifer led 16 of us on a 45 minute tour of the cavern. We were worried that we would get cold, since we forgot to pack any light jackets or shirts with long sleeves. However, this turned out to be the warmest cave we’ve ever toured. The cave tour only goes down to a depth of 50 feet, and most of our tour probably took place 20 to 30 feet underground. At one point, there were actually tree roots exposed in the ceiling of the cave.
This cave had your standard formations you would expect to find: stalactites, stalagmites, bacon, draperies, and soda straws. The Florida Caverns were once at the bottom of an ocean floor 30 million years ago. Jennifer pointed out to us in several locations where we could actually see seashells embedded in the limestone. The kids liked “the Christmas room” (you’ll have to ask them for details), and the part where we got to touch a stalagmite (felt kinda gross!). Mallory became great friends with the tour guide, much like last year. At one point, she even got to lead the group for a short distance while the tour guide turned off some lights in a room we had already passed through.
The Cavern has been popular for a long time. Native Americans used it, as well as the Spaniards in the 1600s. It was used as a hideout by Seminole Indians during the Seminole War, and by Civil War soldiers.
The Visitor Center was built by the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps), as well as performing all the work within the cave to make it tour-able. Growing up, I was familiar with the WPA, but only recently have I heard much about the CCC. The men who worked in the CCC during the depression era, would make $1 per day, $30 per month. They were required to send $25 of that back home to their families. The CCC offered an opportunity for men to engage in healthful, outdoor work on projects of definite practical value to all people of the nation. (This concludes today’s history lesson.)
After the tour, we met up with KK and PK (they decided to pass on the cave tour) for a picnic lunch in the Days Inn parking lot. That was not our first choice, as we were actually looking for a City Park somebody had told us about, but since we couldn’t find the Park, and the Days Inn parking lot had a huge tree in it, we set up shop there.
At 1:00, we hit the road for Orlando, and we drove on Eisenhower’s Interstate Highway System the entire way. WHOA! You can really make some good time on those roads!! We got into Orlando about 7:00, and with some minor, yet expected, navigational issues, we first located a Wal-Mart to pick up some groceries, and then arrived at our Vacation Villa at 9:00. (That is not a lot of detail for 8 hours of our day, but when you drive on the Interstate, you’re not expecting to see anything exciting.)
We LOVE our Vacation Villa (“rent house”). It looks even better in person than it did on the Internet when we booked it 4 months ago. We utilized the previously referenced “Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World”, which told us about a website called www.vbro.com, or “Vacation Rentals By Owner”. We would have never found this site if it were not for the book. So far, the book has earned TWO BIG THUMBS UP.
We avoided rain the entire 4 days, until we got to Orlando, and at this point, the skies opened up and it was a downpour while we were inside Wal-Mart and on our way to the Villa. Since we have our luggage on top of the van, we are running all our clothes through the dryer tonight in order to have something to wear tomorrow.
KK & PK drove to the Orlando airport to pick up the Happy Couple, and Erin’s brother Adam, as they were to arrive around 10:30 p.m.
We’re all very excited about Thursday, when we will tour the Animal Kingdom Park at Walt Disney World.