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What a wonderful vacation we had in Florida! Jane and I, and our daughters Melody, 24, and twins Rachel and Rebekah, 15, packed up the clam shell luggage carrier and back seat of our Toyota Highlander and headed east toward Daytona Beach, Florida to spend a week with Jane’s sister Gail’s family from Delaware and a couple days with her brother Kirk. We spent the first night in DeFuniak Springs, Florida, then continued on to Daytona Beach the next day.

The weather all week was hot with no rain, but the Atlantic water was cool and crisp and felt very invigorating. We hit the beach almost every day of our trip, sunbathing, walking along the beach, and body or boogie board surfing the ocean waves. In the evening, we went to our favorite restaurants. You see, Jane’s family moved to Daytona Beach the first time in 1965. Then, when her dad retired, they moved into a nice mobile home around 1981 where they eventually lived out their days. So our family, the Ochterbecks from Texas, Jane’s sister’s family, the Mears from Delaware, and her brother Kirk Warren, who lives in Lakeland, Florida, would meet in Daytona on vacation each summer for at least 20 years.

During the week we visited the Ponce de Leon lighthouse in Ponce Inlet. Some of us (not me this time!) climbed the 203 steps of the lighthouse to the top of the 175-foot tower. Another day we toured, for the umpteenth time, the Angell & Phelps chocolate factory, a Daytona landmark since 1925. Needless to say, we thoroughly enjoyed “forcing” ourselves to eat some delicious chocolate, and, of course, brought some home with us as well.

Several of the adults enjoyed breakfast one morning at the Starlight Diner, another popular dining establishment billing itself as an “Iconic 1948 diner dishing up American classics in a retro space with red & white vinyl booths”. We left that place completely stuffed. In fact, I don’t even think I ate anything for lunch that day!

Our evening dining excursions were also at our favorite restaurants and dives. The first night we ate at Aunt Catfish’s On The River, meaning the Halifax River which runs just inside the coastline. The place was packed as we waited for an hour for a table, so we moseyed down the river pier. But it was worth it—I enjoyed an appetizer of oysters on the half shell, then the main course was blackened snapper. A super salad bar had everything a salad bar should have and more. All in all, a thoroughly enjoyable evening!

The next night we visited another of our favorite haunts called DJ’s Deck, or, as we’ve always called it, “Down Under the Bridge” in Port Orange. The website states “DJ’s Deck is a family-owned-and-operated seafood restaurant under the Dunlawton Bridge, on the northeast side overlooking the intercoastal waterway. Our restaurant is located in our Marina which is also about two blocks from the beach.” It’s definitely casual as you sit outside on picnic tables under tiki huts, feel the cool breeze, and listen to live Jimmy Buffett-style music playing in the background. But the seafood is as fresh as it gets. I had a two-meat combo plate of broiled scallops and fish, with sides of French fries, cole slaw, and incredible hush puppies. And usually we finished the evening by stopping at the nearby ice cream shack for soft serve cones, but, alas, this night we were all too stuffed to stop!Caught the 'Big One' at Aunt Catfish's Restaurant

Midweek, the men had a night out at a more upscale restaurant called Stonewood Grill & Tavern in Ormond Beach. I ordered the 9-oz filet mignon which was done perfectly, their Herb Scented Buttermilk Whipped Potatoes, and a side salad with bleu cheese dressing. Why did I order the 9-oz cut and not the more appropriate 7-oz cut? Because I could….

Another evening we waited an hour and a half to be seated at a popular local joint known as Charlie Horse Restaurant in Ormand Beach. It’s famous for its “all you can eat” crab legs, hence the long wait because when it’s all you can eat, people take a long time to eat. We’ve had their juicy ½-lb. hamburgers in the past, so when we were finally seated, we were definitely hungry! It was a little disappointing for those who ordered the Philly cheese steak, since being from Delaware they knew what a Philly cheese steak should taste like. I thoroughly enjoyed my cheeseburger, however, probably because I was so hungry I could’ve eaten the basket it was served in!

Later in the week we drove to Stavro’s Pizza House IV in Ormond By The Sea. No one seems to be able to pronounce it correctly, but no one really cares because all you want to do is dig into their delightfully authentic Greek salad and that hot, melty-cheesy, just right crust pizza that forces you to eat another slice…and another…and another…and, well, you get the picture!

So at the end of the week we said our goodbyes to Edwin, Gail, and their three kids as they headed north and we headed west. Strangely enough, my seat belt in our Highlander seemed to be stretched out quite a bit further than it was on the arriving trip. Hmmmm, must be the result of the incredibly shrinking seat belts in these Japanese vehicles. Of course, it had nothing to do with me eating my weight in meals this week. Oh well, I’ll start my diet and workout next week! Ciao!

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