The cure for cabin fever?
Rent a cabin.
"Life is gooood," said Keith Kilmer, 13, as he floated in the sparkling blue pool of the Cape Kennedy KOA Kampground in the north Brevard community of Mims. Keith's family of four had escaped to the comfort of an air-conditioned cabin after Hurricane Charley left their east Seminole County home without power.
"Hey, school's out, so I'm kickin' back," said Keith, whose Jackson Heights Middle School was among thousands of area schools that were closed, most until next week. "Here I can swim, watch TV, and even play my PlayStation."
Throughout Central Florida, families have sought escape from the heat and stench of powerless homes at malls, movie theaters, bookstores or even their own cars.
"We've just been taking drives to get some AC," said mother of five Kelli Donlevy, 30, of Deltona, whose gold Chevy minivan was pulled over for a pit stop at a Kangaroo Express convenience store in Geneva.
With no water and power "we tried staying home for a couple days, but it was miserable," she said. "I have family in Orlando who just got their power back on, so we're headed down there."
Having school canceled was especially stressful for parents whose streets were littered with downed power lines that made it too dangerous to send kids outside.
"This is unbelievable. I cried more when I found out school was out for a week than I did when the tree hit our house," said mom Diane Jaffe, 44, who has been living without power in Orlando's Colonialtown neighborhood. "I mean, I'm trying to take a tree off a power line with a chain saw, and I have to keep looking back over my shoulder to make sure my 6-year-old son is OK."
Jaffe was among the joyous parents who were dropping their children off Wednesday at the Orlando Science Center, which mobilized to offer all-day "Camp Charley" for area kids.
Working parents faced a juggling act, with kids out of school.
"I took mine to work yesterday and didn't get much done," said Debbie Cunningham, 45, business manager of Davidson Design Group in Orlando. Earlier she had taken the day off and let the kids hunker down inside her home.
"Lego blocks, cars -- my living room was covered," Cunningham said. "But I was busy hauling limbs outside, so it was fine. The house can be cleaned later."
Teenagers were taking the opportunity to hit the beach.
"It's like summer again," said bikini-clad Ashley Green, 16, at the wheel of her Ford Focus, having just returned from a visit to New Smyrna Beach with her bikini-clad friend Rishel Jimenez, 14. "The water was nice. It was really crowded there."
Others were busy trying to help their parents and neighbors clean up.
"I just try to stay busy because if you don't you're going to sit and realize how much you're sweating and getting eaten by bugs," said 21-year-old Brad St. George of Geneva. "And at meals, it's kind of like we're camping. We go outside and eat on the porch."
Life without AC is miserable. But families were remarking that the lack of electronic distractions such as cable TV and computers was kind of neat.
"It helped us bond as a family," said Matt Sklar, 17, of Sanford, who played board games with his parents until their power was restored Sunday.
Meanwhile, back at the Mims campground, business was booming.
"We've had a lot of people coming in. Whole families of multiple generations," said manager Carol Nilson, 65, as she reached for the ringing phone:
"It's a great day at KOA. This is Carol. . . . Yes ma'am, I have two one-room cabins. For how long? . . . It depends on when you get your power back, right? . . . I thought so."
Carrie Alexander of the Sentinelstaff contributed to this story.Nancy Imperiale can be reachedat email@example.com 407-650-6323.