April 25 to May 2, 2023

The 10 ambassadors (7 from Big Canoe and 3 from Southwest Florida) had a fantastic trip, all driving to their hosts from north Georgia/Fort Myers area, the Big Canoe members ride sharing. FFGO has 69 members, an active group living outside Orlando and socializing with each other.

Our hosts were Lynn VanHorne, journey coordinator, and hubby Kurth, a perfect gentleman and assistant with his wife, and a passionate diver.

Our Welcome Picnic was the second day, Wednesday, due to our arrival at different times. The welcome picnic was at a Winter Park rustic environment, Mead Gardens. It seemed everyone in the Club participated in the feast! Afterwards we headed downtown to Morse Museum for a tour, followed by a pontoon boat ride on the Winter Park chain of lakes and dinner at a Turkish restaurant.

Thursday, we headed to Canaveral National Seashore/Apollo Beach in the New Smyrna Beach area and walked the Turtle Mound boardwalk, an historic midden, lunched at JB s Fish Camp, traveled to the Visitor Center and Eldora State House, and drove to sugar mill ruins before dinner at 4 Rivers Smokehouse.

The Midway Airboats 1 hour ride on the St. Johns River Friday was a blast, viewing lots of alligators and birdlife. Orlando Wetlands Park, the first large scale, manmade wastewater treatment wetlands in the world, was the scene of another picnic lunch. There were no trams available that day, so hot walks were in order or getting to know each other in the shade. Dinner hosting at club members homes was planned that evening.

Saturday, we enjoyed walking at Lake Eola Park in downtown Orlando and gawking at the locals enjoying the park. Relax Grill had a big lunch menu and adult beverages, including draft beer. Games Night at different homes with pizza, salad and beverages was our dinner venue.

Our free time was spent Sunday at the fabulous Orlando Shaky theater, performing the play Kinky Boots to the amazement of our Big Canoe members and hosts!

Monday was another highlight, a picnic at Rock Springs, Kelly Park which most of us swam/snorkeled/walked in the clear freshwater springs, a very popular park, and later, a wonderful ending at the Farewell Party. Alan was the host of the Who Am I game that tested our host club s knowledge of our group, a very interesting game. The winner, Mary Jane DeVault took home a Big Canoe cookbook! We each gave Alan tidbits of information about ourselves that he used to match the ambassadors.

We drove away Tuesday hugging our hosts for a super week and on to our next adventure with Friendship Force. The outdoor, old Florida theme was right up my alley!

Mary Ellen Johnson