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Old 08-29-2012, 04:32 PM   #1
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Trip to Vero Beach and then 2 days at Universal

My family (me-39, DH-39, DS-15 and twin DDs-13) just did 4 nights at Disney's Vero Beach resort and then added on 2 days at Universal to see the Harry Potter stuff. We left our house, in MD, on Friday 8/17 at around 3:30pm. We drove to Fayetteville, NC and stoped for the night. We got a nice room at Holiday Inn. We checked in and crashed for the night, got up early and got back on the road. HI didn't have a free breakfast, so we hit a McD's drive through. We drove about 6 or 7 more hours and stopped at Port Orange, FL (near Daytona Beach). We checked into, around 4 pm, a Country Inn and Suites that seemed deserted. After a quick stop in our room, we regrouped and headed out to check out Daytona. We found a cool pier restaurant called Crabby Joe's. We had a nice dinner and DH and I shared a pitcher of beer. While we finished the pitcher, the kids ran down and goofed off on the beach. Then, we left and drove down to the main part of Daytona Beach where the little boardwalk thingy is (with rides and shops). We hung out there for a bit (got some more drinks and the kids got some funnel fries) and then headed back to the hotel to get some sleep.
Van packed.

Holiday Inn in Fayetteville

View of our kids on beach- from Crabby Joe's

Me and kids with Daytona Beach in background
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Old 08-29-2012, 05:12 PM   #2
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We got up on Sunday and had breakfast in the hotel. We hit the road around 9 am or so. We got to Vero Beach around 11 am...way before check in time at 4:00. I did online check in 10 days before, so I went right up and she had us all checked in super fast. We booked a 2BR villa with our DVC points and requested a top floor (and in building 15). We were told that the studio part (we had a lock off...so a studio and a 1BR that combined into a 2BR) of our villa was ready and we could use that and that they would text us when the 1BR part was ready. We parked in the ground floor garage and carried all our bags/stuff to the elevator in the garage and took it to the top (3rd) floor. We got exactly what we requested and had a great ocean view.

We changed into swim suits and grabbed some beach stuff from our van and headed to the beach, stopping first at the poolside food counter for some lunch. We had a yummy lunch (neat choices here...and they took our TIW card) and then made our way to the beach. It was breezy and never felt too hot, but my family ended up badly sunburned this day. We spent a few hours on the beach and eventually I got the text that our room was ready (around 3:00...we noticed folks were still checking out of it at 12:00 while we were in the studio getting into our swim suits...check out is by 11, so I am not sure what happened there).

One DD and I left the others at the beach and went to our room. We checked it out, got changed into dry clothes and headed off to find a grocery store. There really isn't anything near the resort and we had to drive off the island and about 10 minutes to the Publix. We got some things, mostly breakfast, drinks and snacks...and then went back to the resort. The family was all in the room when we got back. We all cleaned up while a late afternoon/early evening (to be a regular occurrence) storm hit. We made ADRs for the family dining place there (Shutters) for 7pm. So, we headed over and had a yummy dinner (there was no wait and the service was wonderful plus they took our TIW card). We didn't really do much else...just checked out the resort and hung out in our room (DH and I on the balcony with drinks).

The next day was a nice beach day and then we decided to go off resort to find a nice place to eat an early dinner. We ended up at Fish Shack. It was another drive off the island and an odd location, but the food and drinks were good and the atmosphere was neat. The kids got dessert and LOVED it. We left there and stopped off at a grocery store to look for the Hunger Games movie (had just come out on DVD and my kids were dying to get it). It was perfect because the storms hit and we just sat in our villa and watched Hunger Games. DH informed me that he booked us on an airboat tour for the next morning and we had to be there at 7:45 and it was 40 minutes away...ugghhh. So, it was early to bed for me.
My kids to the left of my toes

Studio part of our villa where my girls slept

Sunrise

Our balcony was on the left

Rainbow over resort
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Old 08-29-2012, 05:40 PM   #3
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Got up early the next morning for the airboat tour. We drove about 40 minutes and got to this:


It was really interesting and fun. We saw lots of wildlife (which is why DH booked it so early in the day...he was told that was the 'prime' time and it was). Had a great tour guy. And here is some of what we saw:









Afterward, we stopped at IHOP for breakfast and then went back to the resort. We decided to stay out of the sun the rest of the day because some of us (not me ) had bad sunburns. We went to the Green Room for some food (light food) and drinks and then walked around. We did a late night swim after the daily storm passed. I sat in the hot tub (I could because I didn't have sunburn...).

A picture of the Kitchen/living area of the villa (where DS slept). DD on her laptop that had terrible internet access (notice DH gave up on trying to get online)


to be continued...Universal is coming up and it was fun!!
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Old 08-29-2012, 10:26 PM   #4
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The last day at Vero we slathered on the sunblock (and some zinc on my DS's nose) and went to the beach early...like 10am. This is when I realized that folks had been saving pool deck chairs. Every chair had a towel draped over and there were tote bags saving tables. I glanced around to see if there was any empty spots and there weren't many...if any. It wasn't a big deal to us because we weren't going to go to the pool, my kids weren't interested. It was just interesting to note and if my kids were younger, we'd probably want to use the pool and would have been irritated. There was also a daily schedule of various activities for the kiddies and my kids also weren't interested in that. It was mostly things for younger kids like making a t-shirt or doing chalk art. They had movies at night and a campfire, but we never did any of that either (my kids didn't want to...I guess they are past all that).

So, we went to the beach early because my mom had messaged me that it was supposed to rain all day. Well, we spent many hours out on the beach and it never rained (not until the usual late afternoon/early evening storm). We ate at the poolside counter place again for lunch. They had orange dole whip soft serve ice cream that I had to try...mmmm, good.

We went back to our villa around 2 or so...I made everyone come in so as not to exacerbate the sunburns. We packed up (heading to Universal the next day) and got ready for dinner. I thought we'd find another place off resort, but DH wanted to just go back to Shutters for convenience (and to try the flat iron steak our DS had the 1st night). We were the 1st patrons that evening, showing up right as they opened. We sat in the sun room area and watched the storm hit that night. The power even flickered. We had another good dinner here and then went back to our villa (after stopping at the gift shop for a couple gifts for the Grands). DH and I detoured over to the park area across the road from the beach area of the resort. They have a lot of neat stuff across the road...basketball, volleyball, jogging/bike path, etc. But it looks like that stuff never gets used. Seems like wasted space.

We went back and packed our things into our van. Then, I played a game with the kids. We got up early in the morning to head over to Universal. We have only been to US one time when the kids were like 4 and 6. We have never been to IoA or stayed at a Universal resort. We were looking forward to it and to Harry Potter. DH and the girls head down to the van as I do the once over of the villa with DS. By the time DS and I get to the van we expect to see the last bags loaded and them sitting there waiting for us. Instead we see them standing outside the van with all the bags/stuff they carried down laying on the ground. And they are staring at something on the van....a huge something the size of my entire hand. It's the biggest dang spider I have ever seen and it's taken up residence in a groove on our sliding van door. Holy cow!

So, we throw everything in the trunk and all get in the van on the other side and drive over to the main building to check out. While DH runs in to check out, I get out and spray our cat-sized companion with bug spray (with deet). Bad idea as he scurries INTO the van door which sends my girls into quite a panic (I am not so calm either). Crap! DH comes out and yells at me for messing with it (he was going to knock him off the van with the rolled up resort statement/bill...ha...yeah right) and another resort guest notices all the commotion and joins us in the task of finding and terminating our extra passenger. We eventually decide to open van door to see what we can see. There's our big fella in the door frame...all splayed out and looking super large. Yuck! I freak and close the door back up and then open it and close it again. I did NOT want that thing to shuffle on into our van...that would make for a long miserable drive to Universal. On the last closing I see him curl up (like when they are dead) and start to fall off the frame. By the time I open the door back up, he is gone...and we never find him. He should have fallen into the door track or onto the ground, but we couldn't find him. So off we go...to Universal. DD won't sit in her seat that is next to that door, so DH sits there and I drive and DD sits up front with me. Thank goodness the drive only took 1 hour and 45 minutes...easy peasy.

We got to Universal's Hard Rock Hotel around 10 or so. Our room isn't ready, but we dump off our luggage with the porter and get our park tickets and Express passes and all that stuff. We head over to US...a nice quick walk and we're there. No lines to get in...nice! So far...so good.



We grab a quick couple of pastries for breakfast.


Our room at the Hard Rock (that wasn't ready at 10, but was ready soon after)
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Old 08-30-2012, 08:43 AM   #5
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DH was irked that we wasted so much time on the spider situation and thought we'd be getting to US too late and that there would be lines/waits (like at WDW). It was a Thursday and the waits were not bad at all....like 10-15 minutes. We knocked out a lot of stuff at US pretty quickly, so we then decided to head back to Hard Rock and check out our room (that was ready around 11...wow, not bad) and get our luggage brought up. DH stayed at US to ride a couple more rides and the kids and I went back.

We had some trouble trying to figure out how to get back into the hotel. We went in through the pool (have to use your key at the gate like at Vero Beach)...and it was a sweet looking pool area (too bad we wouldn't be there longer, so we could use it). We finally got up to the lobby and took our luggage ticket to the desk and asked for our stuff to be brought up. We went up to floor 5 and our stuff arrived right behind us. He brought everything in (we had a lot because we had packed for the 4 days at Vero and the 2 days at HR all in one bag each plus we had a 6th bag with toiletries...not packed very wisely...and I had a small cooler, 2 laptops and an airbed for the DS) and I tipped him $8 (wasn't sure how much...we tip the porters who take our bags on our cruises $1 per bag...DH tipped the guy who took our bags from our van $4 and he was not the same one who brought the stuff up to our room).

The room was nice and big (bigger than the standard rooms at WDW...though we are DVC and get a 1BR or 2BR villa, but have stayed at POR in a standard room for a week and 2 nights at CR in a standard room and it was TIGHT as are the studio parts of our 2BR villas). We had a view of the check in parking area. I was freshening up when DH arrived. We all drank some water and cleaned up a bit and then we decided we could not wait until the next morning to see the Harry Potter stuff, so we headed over to IoA.

We walked out of the hotel and saw a boat (ferry) had just pulled up, so we hopped on with just a handful of other folks. We were at Citwalk after a short nice boat ride. We walked over to IoA and went right to Harry Potter. It was crowded there, but not to where you couldn't get through. We did the little roller coaster and DH did the big Dragon one by himself. He said it was 90 seconds of terror . The kids and I got butterbeers while he was on it. We got the frozen ones and DS and I liked them...DDs not so much and they tossed theirs. One thing we noticed was that the rides at these parks are shorter than over at WDW. They are done in the blink of an eye. Just when the little HP roller coaster was getting good, it was over.

Another negative is that you can't carry a bag on the rides. Over at WDW, they have a netted holder on the rides for you to stash your stuff in...at Universal they tell you that you must put your stuff in a locker. They have lockers by all the big rides, but there is always a mob of people around them and it looked like you had to pay to use them (though the ride workers said 'free lockers'...they had machines to pay...not sure how they were free unless you could store your things w/out locking the locker for free, but who wants to risk their stuff getting stolen). When we rode the mummy ride at US, earlier in the day, I had a camera that they told me I had to put in a locker. So I sat the ride out while DH and the kids went on it. Then, DH sat with the camera while the kids went on again but with me. The line was so quick that we could do this easily. After that, I left all my stuff in our room and didn't carry anything (except my waterproof safe thingy that hangs around my neck and can fit in my pocket for the rides). We had the Express pass and we used it, though we didn't really need to. It was nice that we could use it on almost every ride (just not a couple things at Harry Potter).

The DH and Kids really wanted to create their own soda, so we had lunch at Richter's Burger Co when we were over at US earlier in the day. We got burgers and sodas that we could create our own (like I got Coke zero and added cherry flavor...DH added raspberry). We had 2 coupons (from booking through AAA) for free refillable cup things and we got them here, but you can only refill at the parks and not at the hotel. With not being able to take bags on the rides, we left the refillable cups in the room. That's not very convenient (WDW lets you refill them at the resort, which is where we use them most). We also could get AAA discounts at many of the places we ate at and even at the Hard Rock hotel's gift shop. All these discounts come in handy because the prices are high...even with discounts the counter lunches came to $50 and the sit down dinners were about $120 (at both Vero Beach and Universal). DH really wanted to do the meal deal they offer, but I saw the negatives to that. It's $20.99 for as much as you want from lunch to dinner. But it's only taken at 6 quick service places (3 at each park) and does not include drinks plus it's for 1 park. If you want to use it at 2 parks, it costs $24.99. After our AAA discount, we spent about $10 pp for quick service lunch and I like to do sit down dinners. We'd have to eat 3 QS meals to get a deal out of it since you pay for your drinks.

We did the wet rides and got absolutely soaked. But I love the wet rides, so I didn't mind and it was hot out. They have human driers that all 5 of us could stand in and try to get dry. It costs $5 for quite a long time (we left before it was done). We were still pretty wet though, so we headed back to the room to change. I have a couple prissy teenagers who just HAD to change. Thank goodness it's fairly quick and easy to get back to the hotel from the parks (not like WDW where we'd sit on a freezing bus for 45 minutes). We really knocked out almost everything in the 1st day...just need to get in the Harry Potter castle and wand shop (we plan to go for the extra morning hour the next day and go right to the castle). We change and clean up and talk about dinner. I think DS and DH went to the gym (which they did a few time at Vero too). Later, I found out that we paid $20 for them to use the gym (and they only went once...yikes). We also did not get free internet, so we didn't pay for it (much to the kids dismay). There is also an added fee per day to park at the hotel. And if we got a cot for our DS, that would cost us extra too. Cha ching...cha ching, it just adds up (this is not like WDW, where all that is included but maybe you pay more for the room...I dunno. We are DVC, so we use points to book our stays at WDW).

So for dinner I was wanting Italian...we had tons of seafood all week and I was wanting something different. We went to Pastamore at Citywalk. DH and I shared a pitcher of delicious sangria...yummm! I got chicken parm and the kids got flat bread pizzas, side salads and calamari. They also got desserts and said they were fantastic (especially the peanut butter pyramid thingy). This place does a kids buffet for $9.99 and if my kids were a bit younger, they would have done that. Again, they gave us a AAA discount. The chicken parm and dish my DH got (can't remember what) was small portions, but enough for me. We went back to US after dinner...DH was in love with the mummy ride. The parks close kind of early (8 and 8:30...not like WDW where they stay open later and have extra late magic hours). DS and DH head back to the hotel while the girls and I stay for the new fireworks show. After a few minutes of not being able to see/hear it all that well, we decide to leave. We go back to the Hard Rock and I set up DS's airbed and organize the room a bit. We call it a day.
Not many picture since I left my camera and stuff in the room midway through the day.




EDITED TO ADD: the second to the last paragraph
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Old 08-30-2012, 09:54 AM   #6
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The last fun day of our vacation ...so sad it's almost over.

We get up early...even DS does not complain as we are all very excited to see the castle. We get dressed and rush over to IoA. We get there and get in line to get in. We get in and head right over to HP and directly to the castle. There really isn't a wait yet, so we walk right through and get on the ride. I get motion sick and I REALLY felt it on this ride. Halfway through I had to close my eyes and work real hard NOT to barf. I think it was so bad because my stomach was empty, so after the ride (which the rest of my family LOVED) we checked out how long the wait was for Olivander's wand shop (35 minutes...the best we heard anytime we asked, but my kids didn't want to do it, they wanted to eat) and then went to the 3 Broomsticks for breakfast. They had set meals to chose from that included drinks and cost $14 pp. We did it and it was a waste of $$. The food wasn't all that great (just go for the pancake breakfast here folks) and was expensive for breakfast. I got a non-frozen butterbeer with mine and it was sooo good (better than the frozen IMO and my DDs tried it an liked this one).

We ran around all day (at both parks) and did everything we wanted. We ate lunch (DH's pick) at the International Food and Film. I wasn't hungry and took a pass. It was a neat place...like a food court in a mall where you can pick Italian, Chinese, American. My family all got Chinese and said it wasn't all that great (like at a mall).

We went back to the Hard Rock. This is when the guys went to the gym actually (not the day before). The girls and I walked through the pool area and checked out the bar/food area since I didn't eat lunch earlier. My little ladies didn't want to sit with their mom while she got something to eat. So we went in and checked out the shop/ice cream counter. I offered to get us all something from the ice cream counter (nice lunch for me), but they turned up their nose......what? I was shocked. They grabbed some candy and a soda and I again took a pass and we scooted on up to our room.

Everyone got cleaned up and we decided to go back to the 3 Broomsticks for dinner (not sure why). One DD wanted to get a wand and/or a chocolate frog from HP, so off we went to IoA. By the time we got to the 3 Broomsticks, it started to storm. We ate and again it wasn't all that great (DDs and DH got the giant turkey leg which seemed like it was a ham leg actually and was too tough to eat. I got the rotisserie chicken and it was dry. DS said his fish and chips were really good. The kids and I all got the non-frozen butterbeer....yummy).

We walked out into a light rain and asked how long to get into Olivander's...45 minutes...uggghh. It was the last thing left on our list, so we did it and what a big fat waste of time. It actually took about an hour, in the rain, to get in. They take in about 12 at a time and pick just 1 kid to do the demo with. It wasn't any of my kids. The demo is about 3 minutes and then they hurry you out into a very packed wand shop where you can buy a wand. My one DD wanted a wand so badly, but we couldn't even get up to the shelves so we left. There was a wand cart outside earlier, we thought we'd go get her a wand there. Since it was raining, the cart was not there. There are also wands in a main store out near the entrance to IoA and we stopped in there but my DD decided not to get a wand (I think she wanted the wand to choose her...she's so cute).

DH and I left the park and went to Citywalk to have some drinks at the Airplane bar (Margaritaville). The kids went over to US. We sat and people watched for a while. I had a big freshly made sangria. It was good and I only needed one . I popped in the Margaritaville store as I needed a gift for my mom. No luck, so we made our way back to the Hard Rock. The kids were already there and they wanted to go swimming in the pool. They went while I packed up and DH watched TV. They play movies on a screen at the pool each night, so the kids watched a bit of Spiderman while they swam. I ran down to the Hard Rock gift shop and got my mom a shirt (they are a bit for the younger type...I hope she likes it). All packed and ready for bed and we notice the DS's airbed has a hole. We call and ask for a cot to be brought up ($25 fee we were trying to avoid). It took about 30 minutes for them to bring it and I only had $2 to tip him. Oh well...fun time over...next up is the ride home .
Waiting in the rain for the wand shop (pics taken via cellphone)


DH at the Airplane bar


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Old 08-30-2012, 10:25 AM   #7
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Got up the next morning and wanted to be on the road around 8am. We checked out via the TV in our room (nice) and carried all our junk down to our parked van (long walk and down lots of steps...not nice). We were driving out of the lot around 8:10 am. Our GPS said we'd get home (in MD) areound 9:25 pm. DS and I wanted to stop for the night somewhere but DH was itching to get home. 9:30 didn't sound too bad and with stops for gas and to eat, I was thinking we'd be home by 11 pm (at the latest and if we hurried at our stops, maybe it would be earlier). So, we pressed on....bad idea. We did a quick fast food lunch and a couple quick gas stops and a couple quick rest area stops to use the potty...we were on a roll, but then we came to a stop on 95. There was an accident and it took us 45 minutes to get by (went about 3 miles in 45 minutes). Then, we stopped for dinner at Ruby Tuesday for the salad bar (time to get back to healthy eating) and we thought it would be quick...not. DD ordered ribs and other DD got sliders and salad bar and DS got pasta. It took forever, they were so slow. That ate up some time and then we hit rain...hard rain in northern VA. We got in around 12:15 am...uggghhhh. It was painful and I told DH that I won't drive to FL again (we've done it 7 times now in the past 5 years that we've lived in MD and I am done with it). The drive to FL wan't bad because we stopped 2 times along the way, but driving straight home was the pits and he ALWAYS wants to drive straight home.

So, that's it. It was fun, but not something we need to do again anytime soon. Probably won't go back to Vero Beach. It was nice, but we have DVC points at Hilton Head and that is just fine for us and closer. We lived in NC for 10 years and LOVE the beaches there too. We are also fond of the Savannah/Tybee Island area. So, no need to go back to Vero. And not sure if we need to go back to US either. Maybe with the kids when they are grown with families of their own. Though I did like many things better at US than at WDW. We hate the lines/waits/crowds at WDW which is why we are going in January for our next trip. And we are flying .
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Old 08-31-2012, 10:15 AM   #8
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.....We left our house, in MD, on Friday 8/17 at around 3:30pm....
........what were you THINKING??!??!?
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Old 08-31-2012, 10:17 AM   #9
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Got up early the next morning for the airboat tour. We drove about 40 minutes and got to this:


It was really interesting and fun. We saw lots of wildlife (which is why DH booked it so early in the day...he was told that was the 'prime' time and it was). Had a great tour guy. And here is some of what we saw:







....our family has always wanted to do this....was it worth it? And, may I ask, what was the cost?
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Old 08-31-2012, 10:30 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by lovin'fl View Post

...By the time DS and I get to the van we expect to see the last bags loaded and them sitting there waiting for us. Instead we see them standing outside the van with all the bags/stuff they carried down laying on the ground. And they are staring at something on the van....a huge something the size of my entire hand. It's the biggest dang spider I have ever seen and it's taken up residence in a groove on our sliding van door. Holy cow!

So, we throw everything in the trunk and all get in the van on the other side and drive over to the main building to check out. While DH runs in to check out, I get out and spray our cat-sized companion with bug spray (with deet). Bad idea as he scurries INTO the van door which sends my girls into quite a panic (I am not so calm either). Crap! DH comes out and yells at me for messing with it (he was going to knock him off the van with the rolled up resort statement/bill...ha...yeah right) and another resort guest notices all the commotion and joins us in the task of finding and terminating our extra passenger. We eventually decide to open van door to see what we can see. There's our big fella in the door frame...all splayed out and looking super large. Yuck! I freak and close the door back up and then open it and close it again. I did NOT want that thing to shuffle on into our van...that would make for a long miserable drive to Universal. On the last closing I see him curl up (like when they are dead) and start to fall off the frame. By the time I open the door back up, he is gone...and we never find him. He should have fallen into the door track or onto the ground, but we couldn't find him. So off we go...to Universal. DD won't sit in her seat that is next to that door, so DH sits there and I drive and DD sits up front with me. Thank goodness the drive only took 1 hour and 45 minutes...
....I wouldn't have sat next to that door EITHER!
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I've been BOO'ED!!!
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Old 08-31-2012, 11:44 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by kimmar067 View Post
....our family has always wanted to do this....was it worth it? And, may I ask, what was the cost?
It was worth it...even worth getting up at sunrise and driving 40 minutes too. It was $45 pp and we gave him a nice tip. I would def recommend it. It's called Marsh Beast tours.
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Old 08-31-2012, 11:45 AM   #12
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........what were you THINKING??!??!?
Ha...I know. We went 301...which I hate because of all the stop lights. It was actually not bad...a little heavy around Waldorf.
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Old 09-01-2012, 07:16 AM   #13
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Thanks for sharing the report and pictures.
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Old 09-02-2012, 12:30 PM   #14
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Thanks for writing a trip report! Great pics too. I don't think I would have been able to enter that Van till your extra passenger was captured. ICK!
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