Americana: Bruce adventure: Family enjoying winter on the beach

Last October, the Bruce family loaded essentials into their minivan and set off on a new adventure. Their plan was to travel the United States, having as many diverse experiences as possible, strengthening family bonds and learning about America is turning out well.

They stay a month in each of their rental houses, and have now gotten into a groove for wherever they go.

Since Brandon works from wherever home happens to be, he ne some level of privacy. Daily meetings and consultations require quiet, so the family plans quiet times in their home school routine to accommodate him as well as the family. In Santa Rosa Beach, Florida, a piece of patio furniture served as a desk and a large closet worked well as an office. In their current home in the Orlando-Kissimmee area, they bought a desk off Craigslist for $15, which they will leave behind when they go.

Though the homes where they have stayed have all been a bit snug for a family of six, they have found that some have offered a completely different lifestyle. In Santa Rosa Beach, they were close to town and the older boys loved the freedom of being able to walk to a movie or to the store. Beach excursions are common and water activities are usually a daily event.

Ironically, they had planned to spend the holiday season in Florida for the joy of being out of the cold and snows of home. But for three weeks of their stay, a record-setting cold snap dropped temperatures 30 degrees below normal.

Christmas was low key. They spent it video chatting with family and going to the beach. In recent years, Nichole and Brandon had decided to give their children experiences rather than stuff for Christmas, and in that mindset, and given the fact that they were already in Florida, the main gift for the whole family was a Caribbean cruise.

It was hard for them to wait three weeks after Christmas to receive the gift, but when the time finally came, the family loved it. Though Nichole and Brandon had anticipated the children would miss their friends as they spent the year traveling, until the cruise, they had not realized how much the children miss being with kids their own age.

They enrolled immediately in the ship’s kids’ activity area and made friends with other children in the area right away. By the end of the cruise, they had friends all over the ship.

One stop on the cruise was at the U.S. territory of St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands. Though lush with tropical splendor, the white beaches are several miles from the harbor. Tourist taxis are expensive, so Brandon decided the family would do like the locals do and ride the bus. Of course, the bus took longer and dropped them a distance away from their destination. As they walked along the roads, they were drenched by a sudden downpour. But the beach was spectacular.

The beaches of St. Thomas are lined with reefs close to shore. Sea fans, anemones, sea urchins, brilliantly colored fish and other exotic corals seethe in the warm sea.

A few years ago, Jeff and I also enjoyed snorkeling off the beach at Secret Harbor, St. Thomas, at the recommendation of our daughter-in-law. We also enjoyed snorkeling at Emerald Beach on the other side of the island. The scenery above the water is not as spectacular at Emerald Beach as at Secret Harbor, but the snorkeling was even more terrific.

I stayed out a little longer than the rest of the family and saw a reef shark between me and the beach. I remember it like a cartoon where my legs were moving so fast they were nothing but a rotating blur as I made a dash for shore.

Nichole says so far, seaside Florida is at the top of her list for a return visit. In a couple of weeks, they will leave the Orlando area and move on to Hilton Head, South Carolina. Both sets of grandparents are coming to visit them at Hilton Head.

They are hoping to explore Savannah, Georgia, Charleston, South Carolina and Tybee Island, Georgia.

Only in America, God Bless it!