My 2018 MLB Spring Training Grapefruit League Toyota Grand Slam Road Trip: An Awesome Dad Vacation (Part 1 of 3)

Yes, it’s true that just two weeks ago I made my big TV debut on The Lifetime Network. But a few weeks before I obtained my 15 minutes of fame, Toyota had already reached out to me and invited me to join them on a road trip across Florida; to be part of the 2018 Major League Baseball Spring Training Grapefruit League tour.

Now that I work from home as a freelance writer and social media specialist, I didn’t even have to ask to time off; like I used to when I worked in an office. Instead, I just had to (quite easily) convince my mom to take care of the kids for a week. And as for my wife, she was more than happy to let me go out for a 4 day road trip with a bunch of other guys who also write about cars for a living. She was all for it!

Toyota made it clear in the invite that they would be taking care of everything: My flight to and from Florida, all my meals, all my hotel stays, all my entertainment; and of course, brand new Toyotas to drive from Orlando to Fort Myers to Port St. Lucie. So yeah, as you can imagine, it was an awesome trip!

It was a welcome culture shock, as a stay-at-home dad who works from home, to enjoy the finest hotels (like Loews Portofino Bay at Universal Studios featured in many of these pictures), restaurants, and entertainment; while driving brand-new cars and meeting other guys who were a lot like me.

The vehicles I had access to included the blue (and also a maroon) C-HR, the silver Camry, the red Corolla, and the newly redesigned white Prius.

Over the course of three days of driving, we saw three baseball games:

The Pirates vs. The Braves at Champion Station in Orlando on March 5th

The Orioles vs. The Twins at Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers on March 6th

The Yankees vs. The Mets at First Data Field in Port St. Lucie on March 7th

The folks at Toyota even had a special Atlanta Braves jersey with my name on it, for me to wear to the Braves’ game. In fact, when the whole trip was over and I got back to Nashville, I had a Toyota backpack stuffed full of Toyota swag.

So as you imagine, there was no need for me to buy any souvenirs for my kids. I simply brought home all the Toyota goodies and my kids basically thought it was Christmas!

This is just my 1st of 3 posts about my amazing experience. Stay tuned for the 2nd, when I share about my day of driving the 2018 Toyota Camry, and the 3rd, featuring my experience in the 2018 Toyota C-HR.

I love being a daddy blogger!

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)

 

Dear Jack:  Our Break from the Real World (Ride the Lightning 2017 Toyota Prius Road Trip)

6 and a half years.

Dear Jack,

After nearly a week of adventures in Florida, our vacation was coming to an end. The treasure hunt. The go-karts. Watching UFC and the ongoing Harry Potter movie series before bedtime at the condo.

Undeniably, our family’s “Ride the Lightning” tour of Destin would not have been the same without Uncle Joe and Aunt Rebecca there with us; as they drove over from Pensacola to join us. I’m so glad you got to spend quality time with them, as they stayed at the condo with us for the last part of our trip.

At Miramar Beach, you got to attack Uncle Joe at the beach with goopy wet sand. He just went along with it.

Back at the condo, you were able to introduce him and Aunt Rebecca to the Jack version of the rules of Monopoly…

It had more to do with “unlocking” the animals from the kennels after making enough money to buy them.

Even your sister played. She was eager to get her hands on that money…

While it might sound crazy to say that we took you and your 1 year-old sister on a 7 hour trip to Florida, and back, I’m just grateful we were all able to get away with it.

We needed a break from the real world. We got it.

And our successful trip proves that we can, and will, do it again.

I loved how on the last day together, as we had lunch at Whole Foods, Aunt Rebecca asked you, “Jack, I’m going to miss you. Are you going to miss me?”

Very emotionless, very monotone, and without any thought, you instantly mumbled back:

“I dunno.”

You may not have the capacity to truly express missing someone yet, but I can answer for you:

Yes. Yes, you will.

Love, Daddy

Dear Jack: Our Go-Kart Race against Uncle Joe (Ride the Lightning 2017 Toyota Prius Road Trip)

6 and a half years.

Dear Jack,

After our lunch at Don Pedros, in which I took Mommy’s food to her out in the Prius, as she stayed back with your sister who was asleep, we made our way to The Track to race go-karts.

This event was a year and a half in the making, as it didn’t work out last time we were in Destin, due to rain, and then you falling asleep in the car.

You and I were in the double go-kart and Uncle Joe was in the single. We were about halfway back in the starting line-up and he was the very last. However, his kart was faster than ours.

For 4 fast and furious laps on the 3 story spiral track, you and I did our best to pass other karts; as we learned how much the downhill loops made it possible to pass other people if we rode the inner track and sort of bumped the other go-karts of the way.

At the beginning of the final lap, I looked back and saw Uncle Joe gaining on us. I spent half of that final lap with my head turned around to keep an eye on him, to make sure I kept him blocked out from passing us. You even said, “Daddy, turn around, we’re going to crash!”

But we didn’t crash. And we didn’t let Uncle Joe pass us.

I guess in the end, we technically tied him, though. Because by the end of the race, we finished middle in the line-up of the double go-karts and Uncle Joe finished middle of the single go-karts line-up.

The three of us walked back to the Prius, nearly talking over each other, as we excitedly recalled the details of the race.

It is obvious that we will have to visit The Track every time we go back to Destin! I even heard you mumble something about wanting to race cars when you get older…

Love,

Daddy

Dear Jack: Our Day Trip to Pensacola (Ride the Lightning 2017 Toyota Prius Road Trip)

6 and a half years.

Dear Jack,

Mommy has 7 brothers, so that means you have 7 uncles on her side of the family. And since most of them live in different states scattered across America, it can be quite difficult for you to get to know them.

Fortunately, last week while our family was in Florida, you got to spend some great quality time with Uncle Joe and Aunt Rebecca. They recently moved to Pensacola, from northern California where Mommy grew up. (You remembered him from a couple of years ago when you swam at his pool).

Our condo was in Destin, which is just about an hour away from Pensacola.

So we took the 2017 Toyota Prius on a one hour drive to visit them, along with Grandma, for lunch at Jaco’s.

After we dined on pizza (mine had avocado instead of cheese to suit my vegan needs)…

We visited Uncle Joe and Aunt Rebecca’s new house, which is currently under construction.

You were less interested in the grand tour and more focused on putting yourself to work outside in the hot Florida sun.

Using a scrap piece of marble counter top, you smashed rocks into powder. Uncle Joe didn’t even pay you for your labor!

Well, actually, I take that back… He and Aunt Rebecca followed us back to Destin and stayed with us the rest of the week- and our first day there together in Destin, he took us out to lunch at a wonderful Mexican place called Don Pedros.

While we waited for the food to arrive, Uncle Joe and Aunt Rebecca helped you download fun dinosaur games on their phones for you to play.

As I sat across from the three of you, it became very obvious I was truly witnessing the dynamics of a young boy who was naturally enjoying getting to know his uncle and aunt.

But there was much more fun to come, as we then ventured over to the go-kart race track!

To be continued…

Love,

Daddy

Dear Holly: Your Little Feet and Hands in the Sand for the 1st Time (“Ride the Lightning” 2017 Toyota Prius Road Trip)

1 year, 1 months.

Dear Holly,

It was everything I had hoped it would be, seeing your reaction to the ocean and the sand and waves.

As your Daddy, it was so rewarding to see your precious little toes in the sand. I got to see how you used both your hands at the same to pick up the sand then let it run through them.

It became very obvious to me that if you could, you would be perfectly happy spending all day out there on Miramar Beach.

But your favorite part was when I took you into the water. As you wore your “Sweetie” bathing suit that I adore on you, I stood with you in the shallow water and lifted you up as each new wave came to you.

You just loved it! You weren’t afraid of the waves at all.

There were a few times when, as I lifted you up as a bigger wave splashed, you would shake like you were crying. But each time I looked down and saw your face, you were laughing instead.

I know it was asking a lot of you, at just one year-old, that Mommy and I took you on a 7 hour road trip to Florida with your brother.

Fortunately though, you slept through most of the driving as we journeyed on in the 2017 Toyota Prius Three. Perhaps it’s not necessarily normal for parents to drive all that way to take such a young little girl to the beach… I don’t know.

What I do know is, I’m glad our family was able to make this trip happen. And because of how well you handed it, you’ve now got Mommy and me convinced that our next trip to Florida doesn’t have to be another year from now.

Hmmm… maybe this fall? Yeah, we might need to make that happen.

Love,

Daddy