We just wrapped up a month-long stay in Clermont, Florida for our ninth Chick-fil-A opening. (Clermont is a residential area 30 or so minutes from Disney World. It’s a surprisingly calm and non-touristy place for being so close to a major tourist destination.)
Sometimes, travel day (when we move from one assignment to the next) is a relief. This time, it was a little sad.
It’s always a little sad to leave a place where we know all the street names and can finally get around without a GPS. It’s also sad to leave behind a place where we’ve found favorite spots that we frequent often. In this case, I was sad to leave an assignment that Kaleb flourished in, one that made him feel so empowered, respected, and appreciated. And I was sad to leave behind such a great Chick-fil-A team filled with friendly people and supportive leaders.
But the one things that never changes about this program is that everything always changes.
My go-to place in Clermont has been Waterfont Park beside Lake Minneola. (The number of lakes in that area surprised me!) I like to find a go-to place at each assignment — somewhere I’m always happy to go anytime I’m bored or going stir-crazy in the hotel. The criteria for this go-to place: peaceful, free, and a place where I can spend as much time as I want.
When you pull to the four-way stop in front of Waterfront park, all you see in the distance to your right is water — that view seems to makes me reflexively take a deep, deep breath and relax.
This place was my oasis from any stress, brain fog, or anxiety. But I found several other neat places in the area too.
Since we aren’t in Florida often, we jumped at the chance to hit Disney for a few days with Kaleb’s family. Since I’m not a big animal person, I wasn’t too excited about Animal Kingdom, but I ended up absolutely loving it. (Avatar ride, anyone?) Hollywood Studio’s new Toy Story Land was extremely detailed and creative. And the Magic Kingdom’s Christmas fireworks show at Cinderella’s Castle was — of course — magical. I even conquered my fear of roller coasters! — the small ones at least.
For some local flair, we visited the Showcase of Citrus, a produce farm where you can pick your own fruit, pet animals, ride a 4x4 through their many acres, and sample and buy all kinds of locally-made goodies. My favorite part: their creamsicle drink. It’s layers of orange slushy (made with 100% local orange juice, oranges, and ice) and frozen yogurt. Total yumminess!
Then there was the President’s Hall of Fame. Among other presidential memorabilia, it houses a giant, incredibly detailed replica of the White House. Since I’ve tried to tour the White House twice and haven’t made it in, I figured this replica was my closest shot to seeing inside for now. The designer built it on a 1in:1ft scale, and he revises the interior to match each new president’s interior design. The detail was amazing — down to candy jars on desks and working telephones and TV screens!
Another night we hit up Disney Springs for dinner. We ate at Velcro’s Burgers, walked through the shops, visited the Christmas Trail of Trees (literally 30 min before it closed for the year!) and rode a hot air balloon! For a guy who loves roller coasters, Kaleb was way more nervous about it than I expected. But he survived.
The rest of our days were filled with work for each of us, learning from the wise business people around us, time at the park, time by the hotel pool (yes, it was open in December!), journaling, reading, and lots of iced vanilla chai lattes and waffle fries.
Our hotel for this assignment had opened just a few months before, so everything was so clean and modern. It was a welcome change from some of the older hotels we’ve stayed in — the ones with stained carpet, bright orange couches, and a slightly musty smell in the hallways. Alas, there was no oven or stove top burners in the room. But it wasn’t a big deal this time since we were only there a few weeks (thanks to going home for the week of Christmas), and because I had my Instant Pot, and mostly because I wanted to eat at all my favorite Southern restaurants I’ve missed while in the Northeast. Looking at you Zaxby’s and Sonny’s and Krispy Kreme!
Our time in Clermont easily made our list of favorite assignments so far, and we were sad to leave it and all of its Florida charms behind. Now, it’s on to Tucson, Arizona!