I’m like most parents in the sense that it’s rare I get good stretches of quality one-on-one time with my girls. Could I do a better job of making it happen? Absolutely, but it seems as though something always gets in the way.
When I was invited to take my teen on the Chevrolet Volt Sunshine Road Trip, I cleared the calendar, no excuses.
We spent four days in a car together. I know what you’re thinking, but I promise you I’m not crazy. From the Southwest Florida Gulf Coast, through the Everglades to the southernmost city in the continental United States, Key West, at the end of our journey we were closer to Cuba than Miami.
At 13, I haven’t thought of my daughter as a “kid” for a long time. But teens get tired too and watching her lulled to sleep in a moving car reminded me of a few of those “time to sleep” drives when she was a baby.
We were both tired the first day of our road trip. A flight across the country takes it out of you no matter how old you are. The Chevy folks anticipated that and booked our first night in Naples, a 40 minute or so drive from the airport. The short drive left us with time to play and stretch our legs.
Naples Botanical Garden
I didn’t think my daughter would go for anything other than time by the pool or on the beach, so I was happy when she said she wanted to go to Naples Botanical Garden.
The Garden has 170 acres of lush landscaping, gurgling water features and quiet wildlife viewing areas, but it also goes out of its way to interest and entertain the gardeners of tomorrow. Pack a swim suit, or at least a towel because the kids will most likely get wet playing in The Children’s Garden fountains.
There’s a tree house, fire tower, a screened butterfly habitat and numerous other charming gardens. The sun should dry your kids by the time you make it to the Rolling Hill. My daughter went up and down until she was dizzy. I was wiping pieces of grass off her back when she saw the water cans and working water pumps in the hidden garden.
She wandered around watering plants potted in everything from shoes to basketball hoops. We had fun in the more adult areas of the gardens too, spending a few hours wandering before she let me know she had had enough.
After dinner my daughter and I collapsed into bed and got a much needed good night’s sleep while our electric car charged in the hotel garage below. Day 1 of driving comfortably complete, all miles logged without the use of any gas. I’m not a techie, but pretty cool concept when you give it some thought.
The alarm went off at 7am, but my teenage daughter didn’t struggle much getting out of bed. Instead of getting up to go to school, she was headed to an underwater playground in the Florida Keys with some interesting scenery waiting along the way.
The drive out of Naples toward the Everglades is fairly uneventful. My daughter spent most of the time playing with the many gizmos and gadgets on the Chevrolet Volt.
I introduced her to more 80’s music thanks to the SiriusXM radio and we watched the illuminated battery icon on the dashboard, curious if we would feel a difference when the car switched over from electric power to gas. We didn’t.
It takes about 40 minutes or so to leave civilization and enter the Big Cypress National Preserve. I figured we’d blow through the Everglades as fast as possible. The thought of the big swamp just didn’t do much for us. Surprise, surprise, we wound up be thoroughly impressed.
Along with the expected alligators, herons and other critters, there were unexpected hidden gems like the smallest Post Office in the United States in Ochopee. The door slides open sideways, exposing the counter. You in essence do business in the parking lot, because there isn’t room to step in.
It was almost lunch, and our stomachs told us to take Highway 29 to Everglades City. I’m glad we were hungry. Home to a stone crab fleet, there’s plenty to see along the water.
Keep heading on the main road and you’ll wind up on Chokoloskee Island (try and say that three times fast), home to the Havana Café. Ask owner Carlos what he recommends and you can’t go wrong. I highly recommend the Cuban sandwich and my daughter who doesn’t like fish, inhaled my mahi-mahi tacos.
We had a couple of good hours before the Keys were in sight. My daughter got some homework out of the way, mastered the SiriusXM radio and OnStar before stretching out and taking a nap. A family of four would fit pretty comfortably in the Volt, so with just my daughter and I there was nothing stopping us from spreading out.
John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park
I enjoyed the quiet and admittedly sometimes above the posted speed limit ride to John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. If your kids are young take a glass bottom boat tour. My teen’s a strong swimmer so I didn’t hesitate to take a her on a snorkeling tour. Dozens of barracudas and a moon jelly the size of a large dinner plate were the highlights of the first undersea park in the United States.
Family-Friendly Cheeca Lodge & Spa
When we finally rolled into Cheeca Lodge & Spa it was dark. We were wet and tired, though not cold because I will admit to turning on the Volt’s heated seats. Yes, the heated seats were much appreciated even in the Florida Keys. From the moment we pulled in, the staff was attentive to our every need.
Our bags arrived to our room in record time and the bellboy went above and beyond taking time to hang my daughter’s sweatshirt in the closet. (He found it rolled up in the backseat of the Volt, by the way).
When the maid arrived for turndown service she had chocolate for my daughter and saw to it that my favorite tea was promptly delivered to the room.
Dinner at the kid-friendly hotel restaurant was a delicious hit. As tasty as our meals were, the highlight for my daughter might have been the sugar seahorses the waitress brought with the hot tea and dessert.
With the Chevy Volt fully charged and ready to go, I was excited to head to Key West, but had a list of things to do in Islamorada.
After some playtime at Cheeca Lodge & Spa, my daughter and I got up close and personal with a pair of dolphins named Stormy and Duffy at Theater of the Sea, then set out to determine if tarpon could actually be cute. They were fun to feed off the dock at Robbie’s Marina, but cute is not the word that comes to mind. It was the pelicans who might qualify as cute.
We had about 80 miles to cover to get to Key West. Plenty of time for more algebra homework, but along this stretch there’s also more opportunities to stop whether it’s at an intriguing roadside beach or The Turtle Hospital in Marathon.
We knew we couldn’t make it all the way to Key West on a single charge, and focused on feeling when the Volt made the switch from electric to gas. Again, we missed the moment, but in theory I guess that’s how it’s supposed to be.
We Have Arrived
Key West has a charm all its own. I would go back to Key West with my entire family. It’s a seaside cottage style town that plays the role of party destination resort when the sun drops down. Take a stroll and hunt for one of the islands seemingly thousands of roosters that roam the seaside roost.
We met many of them on our way to the Hemingway Home and Museum. But once you enter Hemingway’s gates, 44 six-toed cats make you forget all about the roosters.
The last night of our Chevrolet Road Trip, we watched the sunset from Mallory Square. I’m glad I cleared the calendar. I got a tech education while cruising the Florida Keys in the Chevy Volt with an electrifying teenager.
Chevrolet covered Dana and her daughter’s expenses during the Volt Sunshine Road Trip, but as always Dana’s thoughts and opinions are her own.
Photo credit: Dana Rebmann
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