Holiday Roadtrip, Part 3: Partin Cattle Ranch, St. Cloud, Florida

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Words can’t even describe how peaceful it was to stay on our friend’s family ranch for their wedding. Located in St. Cloud, Florida, the ranch we stayed on was 10,000 acres yet part of the bigger Partin Cattle Ranch. Our friends, Anna and Jarrod Cowell, live on the ranch, which is home to multiple houses of their families.

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I’ve never spent time in Florida’s “country”, and it’s a little different than the country scene I’m used to at home. Their “forest” includes tropical ground cover and the occasional palm tree. It also includes critters like armadillos, deer, gators, bald eagles, and they’ve even spotted the occasional bears and a panther. Anna also kept talking about some “skunkape” but I’m not so sure about that one.

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We spent our New Year’s Eve here with our friends around a campfire after taking a late night drive around the ranch spottin’ gators. Except each time we spotted eyes they belonged to cows. Bummer. As the ball dropped at midnight, our friend Nick popped the big question to his girlfriend Stacy, so that was really exciting. Hopefully another fun wedding around the corner?

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We stayed in “Pa’s House” and it was like a dream to stay in a country ranch home overlooking pastures of cattle with the windows open and the breeze a blowin’. By the way, on a 10,000 acre cattle ranch, I guess you fence your houses in and let the cows roam free. Our favorite afternoon was the day of the wedding, because the groom’s party was spread out through the house chilling out. We had cooked a big breakfast together, ate it on the front porch while soaking up the rays of the 78 degree sun. This made us all sleepy, so some of us took naps. It delighted me to lay down in Pa’s room atop a hand-sewn quilt, windows open, reading a book until I fell asleep.

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It was tough leaving this place, but the good news is that we can always go back to visit our friends. Jarrod kept saying that we all needed to go get a cabin somewhere together  like the movie “Grown Ups,” but I was like “What the heck do you think we’re doing now?” Haha. We grabbed a few ripe oranges off a tree for the road and reluctantly began our journey back to Indiana.

 

Congrats to the newly weds, Anna and Jarrod Cowell. Ain’t she purdy?

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Miss some of our travel memoirs? Check out other posts from our New Year’s Eve roadtrip here:

Holiday Roadtrip, Part 1: Gatlinburg

Holiday Roadtrip, Part 1b: South Carolina

Holiday Roadtrip, Part 2: Savannah

Holiday Roadtrip, Part 2b: Crossing Florida’s State Lines

Holiday Roadtrip, Part 3b: From Florida thru Nashville and Atlanta

Jenny


Holiday Roadtrip, Part 1: Gatlinburg

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We’re roadtrippin’ our way to Florida for the new year and stop one was in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. We drove down from Indiana during a snow storm, and I hate to say it but my momma was right–the roads were treacherous. We barely escaped FOUR wrecks! We were happy to make it to our rental that night.

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We stayed in downtown Gatlinburg at the Mountain Vista Luxury Rentals in Baskins Creek #311. It’s a two bedroom, very large condominum. Although it was by no means a picture-perfect mountain cabin, it was awesome. We felt like we were at home. I even cooked a few meals there to save us money. I made butternut squash seasoned with thyme, sea salt, and cracked pepper tossed with olive oil and pecans. I threw it in a ziploc and packed some seasoned chicken breasts in another baggie. Served with some Christmas leftovers of rolls and raw veggies made for a fast, easy dinner.

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I must say that we were disappointed by Gatlinburg. I’m not even going to talk about Pigeon Forge, other than to say drive around it if you can. But downtown Gatlinburg is a mile of stores selling cheap trinkets like crystal figurines and airbrushed shirts. There were tons of tourist attractions too, but we’re not into that. Also, the food choices are horrendous. There’s hardly anything healthy, fresh, nor whole. We tried to go to their one health food store but found it closed, despite the holiday hours posted on the door stating it should be open. I also tried to visit the local coffee stores in the morning, but apparently no one gets up before noon.

 

We hit the same road blocks–literally–when trying to visit other areas. I really wanted to take the driving tour through Cades Cove, a historical 11-mile loop with preserved cabins and barns from the 1800s. If you’re looking for some antiques and primitives off the beaten track, we stopped at several along the TN-73 scenic highway along the way to Cades Cove, though we never made it there. That road was closed due to snow. So we went across the county to another road that is known for good photo-ops to find it closed as well. Rats. So my advice is not to go to Gatlinburg in a snow storm. Here’s the photos we did catch.

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We did get a couples massage while in Gatlinburg. It was actually back in Pigeon Forge. The idea of it was super fun, but I can’t recommend the place we went to. We also enjoyed some very nice steaks at The Peddler. Our server even had the kitchen make me special vegetables that were butter-free because of my dairy allergy (that was a great treat for me!). And our tip when visiting The Peddler is to avoid the wait by heading straight upstairs to their “Lodge.” It’s first-come-first-serve seating, and the windows stretch floor to ceiling, giving a much better view of the river than their main dining room offers. I’d also recommend visiting the Coffee and Co. Their coffee was locally roasted and yummo, and I drooled over their selection of hand-stamped jewelry, handmade wallets, and natural clothing line.

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I just don’t understand the hype over Gatlinburg. It just wasn’t a fit for me – it’s not my type of shops, not my type of food, and not my type of scenery. We must have been spoiled while in Yellowstone National Park when we visited a while back, because the Smokies just didn’t compare in beauty to the mountains in Montana and Utah.

So onward we go, hopefully to warmer weather!

Jenny