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)

 

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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

2017 Toyota Prius Three: Child Car Seat Space in the Back Seat/Putting the Car in Reverse and Park

As you may have recently read, my wife and I recently took our two young children on a 7 hour road trip from Spring Hill, TN to Destin, FL and back in a 2017 Toyota Prius Three. While I would definitely consider the Prius to be a compact vehicle, never once was space an issue for our family.

There even were times when my wife, who is 5’ 6” and 119 pounds, sat in the back seat between our 6 and a half year-old son in his front-facing booster seat and our 1 year-old daughter in her rear-facing car seat, as my wife needed to play with our daughter after she woke up from long naps.

 

While obviously, squeezing in between two kids’ seats wasn’t ideal or comfortable, it was possible. She made it work.

Out of curiosity, I tried sitting back there. I did it but it was quite a struggle. I’m 5’ 9” and 162 pounds, so I would say that a person any larger than me wouldn’t be able to accomplish this task.

Another thing that a 2017 Prius Three driver might need to know is how the gear shifter works. It’s different than what you’re likely used to, but once you get used to it, it’s almost simpler and more fun.

By default, the shifter is over to the right side. You have to slide it to the left, which places the car in neutral. From there, simply shift down to reverse or up to put the car in drive.

 

To place the vehicle in park, slide the shifter back to the right side, then simply press the “park” button which is right next to the shifter.

Hopefully my family’s recent road trip and vacation has been able to provide you today with useful information on the Toyota Prius Three.

This is 36: Taking Shifts with My Wife, As the Baby Sleeps in the Car

As you know, our family recently spent a week down in Destin, Florida for a family vacation over Memorial Day weekend. As you can imagine, with a 1 year-old little girl in tow, we largely had to base our schedule and activities around her sleep schedule.

For example, on the way down to Florida, we left our home in Tennessee immediately after an early dinner so that we could get to our condo in Destin by 1:30 AM. This created an environment for our daughter to be able to sleep through the entire drive. Granted, we only stopped once during the 7 hour trip for a bathroom break; to help ensure she didn’t wake up.

Since this formula proved effective, we did the same thing for the drive back home from Florida. That’s right- just 2 bathroom breaks during the 14 hour round trip.

Uh… impressed much?

We continued to cater to our daughter’s slumber throughout the course of our vacation.

One day we took a day trip over to Pensacola where one of my brothers-in law and his wife have recently moved. After we toured their new home which is currently under construction, everyone decided to walk through some of the model homes in the surrounding neighborhoods.

So my mother-in-law and her husband (who were also in town for the weekend), my brother-in-law, his wife, my wife, our son, our daughter, and I successfully toured two model homes.

But as we drove to the next neighborhood, our daughter had fallen asleep in just a matter of minutes. I volunteered to stay in the driver’s seat of the 2017 Toyota Prius Three as our daughter took her afternoon nap behind me in her car seat.

There in the driveway of that model home, I pulled out the classic 1984 Ride the Lightning album by Metallica to enjoy for myself. Fortunately, the symphonic distorted electric guitars helped keep my little girl asleep. She’s not too picky when it comes to music, yet.

Even after my wife and son returned from the tour of that model home, they returned to the car, only to inform me that there was yet one more model home to visit before we made our way back to Destin.

Honestly, I didn’t mind one bit. It was peaceful and relaxing for me. It gave me not only a chance to think, but a chance to help my wife out by giving her some time to see something new and exciting and to take a break from constantly caring for a baby.

Of course, it was no surprise that less than 24 hours, my wife would be taking the next shift of “chill out in the car while the baby sleeps.” Because for lunch the following day, as went out for Mexican food for lunch, our daughter had fallen asleep in the car.

So I took my wife’s order, then eventually brought her food to her roadside, while the rest of us ate inside the restaurant.

This is just how it has to be right now. We’re used to it.

This is 36.