Christmas Lights and Palm Trees

'Tis the season... for palm tree, www.marianamcdougall.com. Picture of "Welcome to Daytona Beach" sign

In Daytona Beach, we celebrate as we eat delicious food and take in a Christmas lights display. And in Ocala, art of a different kind awaits. 

Christmas Lights & Palm Trees in Daytona Beach and Ocala, Florida, www.marianamcdougall.com. Picture of American flag, palm trees, and Christmas lights in front of Daytona International Speedway

Dan’s birthday

It’s his day, and the smiles on each of our children’s faces decorate our RV beautifully. One of the many reasons we love this lifestyle is the simplicity of it.  I’ve never been one to spend much time (or money) decorating my home, as there are so many other things I’d rather spend my time and cash on. I’m fortunate to have married a man who shares my vision of life being about accumulating experiences rather than things. So on his birthday, there are no fancy decorations, but there is plenty of joy.

 

Father and three children sitting around the dinner table

 

We spend money on the things we like: travel and food. We bought some delicious meals from Cracker Barrel to celebrate 39 years of this wonderful man being earthside. We enjoyed two orders that contained plenty of food for all of us: fried shrimp with fries, salad, and fruit, and country fried steak with mashed potatoes, salad, and green beans. Our small party and “ordering in” put a smile on Dan’s face, and seeing him happy always puts a smile on mine.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Dan is my rock, my everything. He helped me get through some of the worst years of my life, when I didn’t think I could be loved by anyone. When I’m down, he props me up, and when I’m up, he’s right up there with me. Before we even said or vows, Daniel understood and embraced the meaning of “for better or for worse,” and for that, I consider myself blessed.

Man sitting at a table with a lit birthday candle in a bowl.

 

I wish I could say the cake I made for his birthday was as lovely as my declaration above. Alas, a lesson was learned this day. Never place anything on the bottom rack of the RV oven. The tiny thing gets way too hot. But we were still able to salvage the top of both layers, smother it in some runny icing, and the taste wasn’t half bad. And “Happy Birthday” and “Feliz Aniversário” were sung, while my love looked on, happy that another wonderful year is starting. To finish the night with a cherry on top, we went to see some Christmas Lights.

Welcoming the season with Christmas lights… and palm trees.

 

Daytona International Speedway Façade

 

The light show is beautiful, and it’s obvious a lot of thought and work has been put into it. The Daytona International Speedway is aglow with neat displays, including one of a thrill-seeking Santa performing a motorcycle jump.

 

Christmas light displays at Daytona International Speedway

 

LED-clad carolers “sing” the night away, as indicated by musical notes that glow above their heads, as if moving through the air on their own. Race car wheels give the impression of movement, as perfectly timed lights glow in succession. Finally, an archway of lights bids goodbye to the cars that pass through it.

 

Daytona Speedway light show

 

While the displays have been built for cars to slowly drive through, we see it all on foot. Firstly, we’d rather not bring the RV through these tight spaces, and secondly, you can get a fairly good view for free by just walking by the display (the cars are charged for driving through, and “party buses” are charged a higher fee).

After taking in the light display, we do a little walking along the busy avenue. The night is just on the cool side, but the palm trees and party atmosphere make up for it. The antique cars would be more enjoyable to look at if their drivers didn’t insist on pushing them to make the loudest noise possible, while rudely cutting people off in traffic. As pedestrians, the noise isn’t fun for the children, but we’re safely on a sidewalk that has a guard against the busy traffic on the other side.

The day has been wonderful, and we’re ready for a good night’s sleep. Tomorrow, we’ll head to Ocala.

Sculptures of epic proportions

As we drive along towards Ocala, a mix-match of giant sculptures catches our eyes. The children beg to stop, and I’m intrigued enough to convince Dan to cater to their request. This is the oddest mix-match of yard art and pottery I’ve ever seen—but there are more surprises waiting for us further into the open air store.

 

Aluminum elephant and giraffe

 

A giant aluminum giraffe stands guard as you pass underneath it through the gates of the Barberville Yard Art Emporium. A life-size, multi-coloured elephant stands nearby, and further to the right, King-Kong climbs a giant Eiffel Tower that stands taller than my 6’2″ husband. As I look at these giant cast aluminum sculptures, I can’t help but wonder: if someone buys one of these, how do they transport it home? It appears the store does deliver, so I suppose if you are inclined to buy a life-sized metal giraffe, you won’t have to worry about renting a truck.

 

Barberville Yard Art Emporium, pottery shelves

 

As we walk around the large yard, we see the largest assortment of sculptures and pottery I’ve ever laid my eyes on. The sculptures aren’t really my style, but it’s interesting to look at them and to ponder the amount of work and time that goes into creating each piece. I’m not completely engaging with the place… until we arrive at the very back.

 

Teakwood furniture at Barberville Yard Art Emporium

 

Here, detailed pieces of gorgeous wood furniture invite you to really admire the art and craftsmanship of the people who made them. I have a soft spot for wooden furniture, so I spend quite a while looking at many of these pieces. The one that catches my eye the most is a bench with an eagle carved on its seat back. The level of detail of each of these wooden wonders could have you enraptured for hours. But the human-made objects aren’t the only attraction here.

The cute little green creature sits still, perched on a steel support for the shelving unit holding diverse sculptures. The children gaze at this tiny little “lizard,” and they call it, and they are fascinated. This little gecko is adorable. I’d forgotten how often I used to see them in my home country, until I look at this little guy now. When I was a kid, I was afraid of them. Now, after so many years without seeing one, I’m filled with wonder at their movements and the awareness they show of the world around them. This little guy knows he’s being observed; we can tell. But he just sits there, calmly taking in the giants standing around him, ready to bolt if needed.

 

 

The gecko isn’t our only friend here. A cute little black kitten, who was apparently abandoned at the yard, also makes our acquaintance. She was rescued by the owners, and wears a bright collar. The children love her friendly nature, but after a while, she gets up and goes elsewhere, and so do we.

 

Black cat walking by colourful pottery at Barberville Yard Art Emporium

 

While there are many interesting pieces of art here at the emporium, the ones that really draw me in are those amazing benches, tables, and other pieces of teakwood furniture that, compared to Ontario prices, are highly affordable. Alas, there is no way to transport these in an RV, so we get back on the road towards Ocala.

Ocala, Florida

Forest in Ocala, Florida

 

The day is gray, butt he weather is warm, and the beauty of the forest invites you in. A well-cared-for park among the trees, Coehadjoe Park is a great spot to spend the day with young kids. Some teenagers enjoy the park as well, with their mother joining in the fun.

Obstacle courses are challenging for children and adults alike, and there are small details to find everywhere you look, from the animal footprints on the cement walks, to the small, almost real-looking owl on the playground tree.

With plenty of parking, getting into this park with the RV was easy.

 

A father observes as three children walk through an obstacle course in an Ocala, Florida playground.

If there’s any doubt that to get children physically active, all you have to do is set them lose in an outdoor play area, today I guarantee all your doubts can be erased. Because today, I played like a kid. And my muscles are feeling it. The teeter-totter at this neat playground is high enough and strong enough for a grown adult to play on. The kids and I laugh and squeal as we go up and down. Being on this thing works my quads better than squats (without destroying my wacko knees). And then there’s the hanging off of things, and the pushing kids in the swings… if you want a workout without working out, take your kids to the park.

After a great time playing together, we have a great night’s sleep before moving on to Lake City.

 

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