My 2018 MLB Spring Training Grapefruit League Toyota Florida Road Trip: From Cape Coral to Manalapan in the 2018 Toyota Camry (Part 3 of 3)

While I obviously loved the entire Toyota Grand Slam Road Trip across Florida last week, I have to say that my final day of the tour stood out as my favorite.

For me, there was much intrigue surrounding the 2018 Toyota C-HR; a new vehicle which I had yet to see in person until last week at the event.

On the first day when we were presented with the vehicles, I was immediately drawn to the aqua (radiant green) colored SUV with the white top. As I began walking around it, taking pictures, I realized this was Toyota’s new SUV.

The C-HR, which stands for “compact high rider” (but is also understandably identified as a “cross hatch run”), ultimately became known to me as the “High Roller”. At least, that’s the name several of us automotive writers referred to it as.

As I am regularly loaned vehicles here on my blog throughout the year, I especially look forward to being able to travel in the C-HR with my family. I can already imagine how cool my 7 year-old son will think it is.

Day 3 started off great with the “choose your Toyota and your driving partner for the day” part, where I was instantly invited by Chris Chin to team up with him in the maroon (ruby flare) C-HR. Toyota had provided two C-HRs to help ensure each of us writers had a chance to spend at least half of the day driving one.

Something I learned about myself during the Toyota Grand Slam event was just what a niche my blog is: I am a daddy blogger who happens to write about cars a lot, as my family takes a lot of road trips. Therefore, when I feature new vehicles on my blog, I focus a lot on how much backseat space there is with two child car seats; and also, how much 3rd row seat space there is if an adult sits back there.

In other words, I write about being a parent first and foremost, and therefore, about cars on the side. In contrast, my driving partner Chris Chin (along all the other guys on the trip) are true automotive writers. That’s their main focus.

So as we were driving across the more uninhabited parts of Florida, and we made our way from Cape Coral to Port St. Lucie to see the Yankees play the Mets, he was talking about all kinds of technical stuff that I could barely follow him on; meanwhile, I was just thinking:

“This sure is fun. I like being in the C-HR. I can’t wait for my family to ride in it with me. I wonder where we’ll drive in it? Maybe North Carolina like when we drove the Sienna last fall? Or to Kentucky when we drove the 4Runner last spring?”

My thoughts were interrupted when Chris and I couldn’t help but notice that we were driving down a road surrounded by orange groves on both sides of it. With both of us being focusing heavily on photography in our writing, we decided it would be a sin not to pull over the C-HR for a perfect photo op.

We weren’t breaking any rules. This was a public road with no “private property” or “no trespassing” signs anywhere; no fences or gates.

And we were right: It made for some really cool pictures of the C-HR, in the midst of the orange grove. I particularly focused on some shots of the wheels in the sandy dirt. I felt those pictures really helped match the fun character of the C-HR.

But then, after Chris and I had captured all the shots we needed, we loaded back in the C-HR to continue on our way back on the route. He started the ignition and pushed the gas pedal, but all we heard or felt were the tires spinning.

It took me back to my childhood in the 1980s, when cartoons and movies were constantly warning and preparing me for the inevitable danger of quicksand as an adult.

Chris continued revving the engine and attempting to maneuver us out of the sand and back on the dirt road. It helped that he is truly a professional driver who tests out cars’ power for a living.

Just as I was thinking how I probably needed to get out of the vehicle and help push, the tires made their way onto the dirt road again; as there was barely a distinction between the sand on the dirt in the first place.

It wasn’t much longer until we made our way to Lake Placid, where we stopped for lunch at the Good News Juice and Smoothie Cafe; which conveniently for me on the week of my 5th anniversary of being a vegan, happened to be a vegan-friendly cafe.

Once we arrived in Port St. Lucie, I was definitely in the mood to watch a baseball game. The fact that it happened to be the Yankees playing the Mets made things that much more exciting. It was nothing short of hilarious to hear the zany banter between opposing fans during the entire game.

Plus, it was nice that we had such good seats, right behind the action, and out of the sun. By this 3rd game, I had realized how much I truly enjoy watching baseball. It’s a different mode of thinking; so much different than basketball or football or hockey.

It had been a wonderful action-packed week, but it was time for everything to come to a close. That night all of us guys had a classy Mediterranean feast at Temple Orange, the restaurant there at the Eau Palm Beach Resort in Manalapan where we were staying the final night.

Our server couldn’t help but notice our Toyota name tags, and so he decided to incorporate the Toyota logo into our dessert play. That was so cool.

After a perfect day though, I knew I needed to head back to my room, since I had to leave the hotel at 5:00 AM to catch my flight.

My hotel room was amazing. My balcony faced the ocean. I would love to go back there some day with my wife.

As if I needed to point out the obvious, it was honor to be asked to join the Toyota Grand Slam road trip. Selfishly, it makes me feel good to know that my blog’s SEO is healthy enough to qualify as a social media influencer, to this degree.

I had so much fun. I met great people. And I got to experience an exciting week of adventure and entertainment.

So yeah, my calendar is already marked for next year!

To read all 3 parts of My 2018 MLB Spring Training Grapefruit League Toyota Florida Road Trip series, just click on the link below for the ones you haven’t read yet:

An Awesome Dad Vacation (Part 1 of 3)
From Orlando to Fort Myers in the 2018 Toyota Camry (Part 2 of 3)
From Cape Coral to Manalapan in the 2018 Toyota Camry (Part 3 of 3)




Vegan Friendly Review of Boone, North Carolina: Featuring the Best Veggie Burger I’ve Ever Had in My Life!

As the Manliest Vegan on the Internet, I revealed this week that I can no longer fit into my size 31 pants, despite being a vegan for 4 and a half years. That’s right, I have undeniable gained weight and gained a dad bod. Looking back, it might have had something to do with my family recent “Road Trip to the Boonies” in the 2017 Toyota Sienna.

Why go to Gatlinburg when you can just go to Boone, North Carolina instead? Seriously, Boone is undeniably a vegan-friendly city and it also has the private woodsy atmosphere of Gatlinburg.

Sure, we cooked some of our own meals in the cabin, but we definitely enjoyed visiting some of the many vegan-friendly restaurants in Boone.

Let me start my proclaiming that I’ve now had the best veggie burger of my life! It was at a place called BBQ, Burgers, & Brews, just a few miles from the cabin where we were staying.

Openly, I admit: I didn’t specifically ask the waitress if the veggie burger was vegan. That’s how I am when I am travelling. I turn a blind eye to the possibility there are add whites in the veggie burger, knowing that traces of egg whites are consistent with the “0% cholesterol” aspect of my vegan lifestyle.

Why was this veggie burger so awesome? Let me tell you…

First off, the bun. It was big and round with sesame seeds; reminding me of what a good hamburger bun is supposed to taste like. (Again, there may have been traces of egg in the bun as well, but I didn’t ask.)

Next, the veggie burger was topped perfectly with the classic veggies I want on a burger: Lettuce, onion, and tomato.

As for the burger patty itself, it tastes so good that I legitimately feared they accidentally had served me beef. However, I’m confident wasn’t actually meat because after nearly 6 years of not eating meat, I speculate my digestive system would have immediately rejected any meat.

(Needless to say, I had no digestion issues whatsoever during my trip. Of course, becoming a vegan over 4 years ago pretty much illuminated all those problems. Before I stopped eating meat, I suffered reoccurring stomach and sinus issues.)

Lastly, the BBQ sauce! Seriously, that stuff was legit. My brother-in-law, who was sitting next to me, joked that he should see if he could get a huge gallon size container of it. My favorite was the BBQ mustard, though there were several options including sweet, spicy, and vinegar based.

But I can’t not talk about the fries and the onion petals!

Though I love fried pickles, which were also on the menu, I decided to upgrade my side (for an extra dollar or so) from fries to onion pedals. Like the burger, they went so well with the BBQ sauce.

Lucky for me though, my son didn’t finish all his fries, so I got to try them as well. They are my favorite style: big and crispy.

I endorse BBQ, Burgers, & Brews 100% percent. In fact, if you don’t visit them on your next visit to Boone, North Carolina, then it would be a crying shame. Ah, I already miss that place! But it wasn’t the only great place for plant-based food.

In addition to picking up some vegan groceries from Fresh Market and Ingles supermarkets to make meals back at the cabin…

There was of course Mellow Mushroom, a fine establishment we visit on every single road trip in the South…

And the extremely vegan-friendly Barberitos, where my family perfectly loved our burritos.

I also want to point out the glory of Higher Grounds, where we all stopped for coffee each morning. I particularly loved their spicy Mexican Mocha. But of course I would, as my recent DNA test confirmed I am like 53% Latino.

It was a fun place for the whole family to hang out before we began our activities for the day.

There you have it. If you are a vegan or vegetarian, go to Boone, North Carolina right now.

Just pass “go” and just pass Gatlinburg… you’ll enjoy Boone more anyway.

BubbleBum Travel Booster Car Seat: The Most Honest Review on the Internet! (Because It’s from the Perspective of a 1st grader)

As we were preparing for our family’s recent fall “Road Trip to the Boonies” in the 2017 Toyota Sienna, I received an email from the folks at BubbleBum, asking me if I’d be interested in testing out their inflatable travel booster car seat. My response: “Sure, if you can send it to me before our family leaves for Boone, North Carolina next week…”

It arrived in time, which means I now get to present you with the most honest review on the Internet, for the BubbleBum travel booster car seat.

Here’s why I say that. I treated this like a somewhat secret scientific experiment with my 1st grader son, Jack. I wanted to stand back and just see how he naturally responded to the BubbleBum.

He had already established he wanted the 3rd row seat to himself. So the night before we left, I placed his regular booster seat in the left seat and the BubbleBum on the right seat.

When we loaded up in the Sienna the next morning, he immediately asked, “Daddy, can I sit in my new seat?”

So already, through the process of natural selection, he chose the BubbleBum.

For the 6 hour road trip from Spring Hill, Tennessee to Boone, North Carolina, Jack sat in the BubbleBum.

But for the trip back home, I had him sit in his regular booster seat.

Obviously, you see where I’m going with this…

Once we got home, I asked him, “So Jack, which seat did you like better?”

His simple, all-telling response: “The new one.”

I then asked for details. “Why did you like the new one better?”

His answer, “I don’t know. I just did.”

So there you go. My son can’t tell you why he liked the BubbleBum booster seat better. He just did.

And as I’ve already mentioned, he naturally choose to sit in it first.

He liked it. He really liked it.

If you’re interested in learning more about the BubbleBum travel booster seat, you can check out their website here.


We are Taking a Luxurious 2017 Toyota Sienna “Swagger Wagon” for Our Family’s Fall Road Trip to Boone, North Carolina

Ah, the life of a daddy blogger… to have a brand new decked-out vehicle delivered to me whenever our family goes on a road trip. It’s pretty awesome, actually. I love getting to share the stories that present themselves, as my wife and I (ambitiously) travel across the South with a now 1st grader and a 16 month-old.

This makes the first year our family will not be travelling to California. Instead, 2017 is a year of smaller road trips for us.

Back in May, we traveled to Destin, Florida in the 2017 Toyota Prius.

Then in July, we took a fun little trip to Louisville, Kentucky (and saw dinosaurs) in the 2017 Toyota 4Runner.

Our next upcoming event will be our fall road trip to Boone, North Carolina. We will be sharing a cabin with two of my wife’s siblings and their families. It’s going to be a long drive there and back, but we’ve got the right vehicle for it.

The 2017 Toyota Sienna “Swagger Wagon” that was delivered to me feels like a luxurious spacecraft. Our whole family is psyched!

My wife is excited because of how spacious the cabin is and how the captain’s chairs, in the 2nd row where she’ll be sitting next to our young daughter, are full recliners.

Our son is thrilled because he will be able to watch DVDs during the trip, as he loves taking up the 3rd row for himself.

I’m confident our little girl is going to love the Sienna on account of being able to be so close and accessible to her Mommy sitting next to her.

And as for me?

I like knowing that as the captain of our voyage, as I listen to Jimmy Buffet’s Radio Margaritaville on Channel 24 on SiriusXM up in the front row, my family is going to be comfortable and entertained in the middle and back rows.

Could a 36 year-old husband and father be more excited about taking his family on a 6 hour road trip to a cabin in North Carolina, in a 2017 Toyota Sienna “Swagger Wagon”?

I submit that he can not.


Our Long Awaited Yet Random Drive to Henry Horton State Park on July 4th

Ever since we moved into to our new house in Spring Hill two and a half years ago, our family has always been curious about that sign on 840, advertising Henry Horton State Park; which is about 30 miles away from where we live.

The plan had sort of always been, that when we had an extra day off as a family where we had no agenda, or when we had a vehicle from one of our trips, we would finally check out Henry Horton State Park.

Well, this past week, the time had finally come.

Fresh off our Louisville trip, we still had the 2017 Toyota 4Runner. So it was simple:

This past Tuesday morning, on July 4th, our family loaded up in the “Storm Trooper” and made our long awaited yet random drive to Henry Horton State Park.

Since I had driven the entire Louisville trip myself, I wanted to give my wife a chance to drive the 4Runner. I didn’t even have to ask her if she wanted to drive. I just looked up, and she was already in the driver’s seat after I had loaded up the double stroller.

So with our son in the 3rd row seat directly behind me, and our daughter right next to me in the 2nd row seat, we began our journey.

Our daughter Holly was desperately in need of a nap, but she had a case of the munchies. So as we made our way to the legendary (in our minds, at least) state park, I facilitated her in being able to eat her cheddar goldfish.

As one would imagine, by the time we arrived at Henry Horton State Park, our little girl was finally fast asleep. So my wife volunteered to stay in the luxurious cabin of the 4Runner and through the windshield, watched the boys audition for American Ninja Warrior on the extreme playground.

My son really enjoyed the challenge of pulling himself across the obstacle course with a little help from me.

After he got good and sweaty, we hopped back in the 4Runner, as he held his Hot Wheels version of a 1985 Toyota 4Runner; which he’s had since he was two.

Clutching that older, miniature version of the vehicle that my wife drove us home in, he too fell asleep.

Of course, we would have little stop at the fireworks tent before we were back home for the day.

I will admit. There was nothing groundbreaking about our trip to Henry Horton State Park.

No cool caves. No amazing trails. No big waterfalls.

But for us as a family, it was a mystery finally solved, and a great way to spend the 4th of July together.

And that’s all that mattered.


3 Rules I Made Up for What I Wear on Road Trips, as the Modern Millennial Dad

As you may have noticed by now, our family takes a lot of road trips: Key West, Lake Tahoe, and San Diego, just to name a few destinations over the years. This is something that makes me special, as a daddy blogger. (In addition to be the world’s manliest vegan, of course!)

During our trip to Louisville, Kentucky last week in the 2017 Toyota Highlander, I realized that I’ve established a dress code for myself over the years when I travel. My simple list ensures that as I drive across America with my lovely wife and our blonde children, I will be comfortable, yet still masculine and charming, but not a slob. Here are my 3 rules:

1) Boat shoes with no socks: It’s almost like driving barefoot, but projects an image of a guy who knows how to have fun, in an adventurous, yet classy way. I picked mine up for about 15 bucks at Old Navy. Plus, they look good with just about anything else I would wear on vacation anyway.

2) Long sleeve, casual button down shirt with comfortable jeans: I’ve noticed that as the driver, I get the constant brunt of the A/C, as my son is typically on the verge of sweating in the back seat. Long sleeves and long pants keep me from getting too cold when I drive, yet I look sophisticated enough when I get out of the car for rest stops, restaurants, and hotels.

3) Classic rock-r-roll t-shirt: This sends a message that despite being a responsible grown-up with a family, I am still one cool dude. Obviously, my rock band of choice is Metallica; an American legend since 1981; just like me. But really, just choose a rock band that that’s been around at least 25 years and you’re good to go. Other options could include Led Zeppelin, Red Hot Chili Peppers, or Stone Temple Pilots.

You’ll never see me road tripping while looking like a loaf of laziness. No!

I am a man with a plan.

Boat shoes with no socks? Check.

Long sleeve, casual button down shirt with comfortable jeans? Check.

Classic rock-n-roll t-shirt? Wouldn’t have it any other way.

(Mic dropped.)


Dear Jack: Our Unexpected Trip to Dinosaur World in Cave City, Kentucky

6 years, 7 months.

Dear Jack,

About halfway during our nearly 4 hour drive from our home in Spring Hill, Tennessee to the Louisville Zoo in Kentucky, we all turned our heads to the left, as we couldn’t help but notice the giant T-Rex statue.

He was surrounded by two billboard-sized signs, in red and yellow (which are the colors used by fast-food restaurants to get people to “slow down and stop”, as that color combo subconsciously reminds them of the meaning of the yellow and red traffic lights).

The signs read this enticement:




While I didn’t immediately pull over our built-for-adventure 2017 Toyota 4Runner, Mommy and I did begin secretly muttering plans to stop there on the way back from our Louisville road trip to celebrate our 9th wedding anniversary.

After all, I pride myself in not being an “impulse shopper.” First, it must be a plan and placed on the schedule… then, it might become a possibility.

The thing is, I’ve been seeing that sign for over a decade. So to pass it by this time was more of a confirmation: Now that I have a 6 and a half year-old boy who is obsessed with dinosaurs, there has never been a more appropriate and necessary time to visit Dinosaur World.

And so we did!

You took great pride in navigating our family through the park, proclaiming the name of each new dinosaur the moment you saw it.

It was a glorious event for you. We definitely made the right decision in taking the family to Dinosaur World. And I have to admit, your 1 year-old sister loved every minute of it too!

Good thing for that giant T-Rex statue and the two huge signs right off of I-65 North. Otherwise, we would have never given it a thought.

Clever marketing on their part. It worked.