Author Archives: Mike

Trip Summary

Greetings family, friends, and followers! We have had a few requests from you all to summarize our two-year adventure, so here it is, as best we can remember:

Days on the road: 745 Days, May 16th, 2013 to June 1st, 2015. (We are still using the MoHo, at least through the 24th of June, so the total nights will be more than stated above when it is all completed.)
Miles driven in the MoHo: 2,700 miles from Texas to Seattle – bringin’ her home in March 2013.
MoHo miles from time we left Seattle to returning: 29,405 miles. (Miles driven by Traci: 0)
Miles driven in the car: 26,920 additional miles above the MoHo miles, side trips when we arrived at our destinations. (The car was also towed behind the MoHo for all but about 200 of the 29,405 miles.)
Generator Hours used: 63
Avg. MPG in the MoHo: 8.29
States visited: All of the lower 48, as well as British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario
Number of campgrounds: 164 different places, several we returned to a second time.
Favorites state(s): Utah – National parks; Florida – Keys disease
Least favorite states: Not going there!
Great Lakes we dipped our feet in: All 5
Most expensive campground: $126
Least expensive campground: $15 (We had several free nights at friends homes.)
Avg. nightly campground cost: $43.66
Longest stay in one state: 148 consecutive days in Florida
Longest stay in one campground: 48 days, Key Largo, FL at Calusa Campground
Places we could live: Rapid City, SD (Mike): Marathon, FL: Denver, CO (Traci)
Number of birds hit: 4
Number of bugs hit: Millions!
Deer or other larger mammals hit: 0
Rock chip on MoHo: 1
National Parks or Monuments visited: 34
Favorite Hike: Narrows slot canyon, Zion National Park, Utah
Breweries/wineries visited: Dozens!
Number of pictures taken: Well over 15,000!
Selfies taken by Mike: Too many to count!
Stormiest weather: Kansas City, MO – Thunderstorms shook the MoHo! In St. Louis, MO we were in a Tornado Warning, but no issues thank goodness. Shreveport, LA – we sat in the front seats and watched the lightning!
Baseball Parks attended: St Louis – Busch Stadium (Mike’s favorite); Cleveland – Progressive Field; Boston – Fenway Park; Denver – Coors Field; Baltimore – Camden Yards.
College Football games attended: WSU vs. Cal and UW vs. Stanford (both of those on the same day!), UW vs. ASU, Iowa vs. Northern Iowa, Nebraska vs. Illinois and Mississippi St. vs. Arkansas.
Major Sporting Events: Kentucky Derby and Masters Golf Tournament

Looking back, we realized this is a very impressive list, seems even more so after researching all of our travels. We are now spending 10 days in Puyallup at the fairgrounds, using this as our home base for our volunteering at the US Open at Chambers Bay. We are looking for a place to live in the Bellevue/Eastside area, jobs, and selling our beloved MoHo. What an amazing adventure for sure!

Back in the Northwest – almost! 5/3/15 – 5/16/15

Flathead Lake, Polson

Flathead Lake, Polson

As many know, Montana is a big state and there is a lot of diversity in the landscape, more than we realized. We planned our trip through with several stops along the way, spending two weeks, and seeing a lot along the way. Our first stop was the Billings KOA, located right on the Yellowstone River on the western side of town. We made the most of the day we were there, driving though the downtown area, hitting a brewery, rock combing on the rivers edge, and a fire at the campground before retiring for the night. We enjoyed the stop and campground, a great start on our journey through Montana.

Enjoying the campground in Billings, building a fire

Enjoying the campground in Billings, building a fire

Our next destination west along I-90 was the Bozeman KOA, which is actually about 10 miles SW of town. This campground was odd for a KOA, no security with open access roads in and out, a not so great neighborhood, and plenty of construction. Not the quiet retreat we have come to enjoy. The weather was typical for a mountainous area, with plenty of rain, even a spot of snow and some sunshine; it is spring in the Rockies. We spent one day on a trip to the Big Sky ski area and the Lone Peak Brewery for lunch and a beverage; a very beautiful area, reminding us of Whistler, another familiar feel of home. Another day we spent milling around the downtown area doing a little window-shopping and checking out the Montana State campus. We had an amazing meal at the Montana Aleworks, the best meatloaf I have ever had!

Gorgeous views enroute to Bozeman

Gorgeous views enroute to Bozeman

On May 5th, we celebrated Traci’s birthday. We have come to find it sometimes difficult to locate that special place to celebrate events like this; unlike when we are home we have a list of great options to choose from. We had talked to some folks the evening before at the Aleworks, and had a few recommended stops for Cinco de Mayo. We ended the evening at a local Mexican restaurant near the KOA, and thoroughly enjoyed the night. Traci found her giant-sized strawberry margarita, and I had plenty of Tequila choices. But, the best part of the place was watching the staff panicking behind the tiny, poorly laid out bar, with no direction from the manager. One of the biggest nights of the year, and they were very unprepared for sure.

Birthday Girl with her strawberry marg!

Birthday Girl with her strawberry marg!

Our last day in Bozeman was our errand day. The weather was wet and cold, only in the high 40’s and we just made our way around town hitting the usual stops, Costco and Safeway. We did laundry and got the MoHo ready for our next stop, a two night “boondocking” outside Helena.

We woke up to snow in the lowlands, Bozeman

We woke up to snow in the lowlands, Bozeman

We started out the drive with a quick stop at the local RV shop to top off our propane tanks, and use their air to ensure our tire pressure was good. The 90 mile drive was lowlighted by construction on Hwy 287 after we left I-90, an area that was basically a ten mile stretch of gravel road and potholes, but there was no way around it. We arrived at our destination, the Riverside Campground, just below the dam on the Missouri River, east of Helena. This was our first and only adventure into “dry” camping, no hookups at all. I had made this choice of accommodations, basically looking at the map and finding what looked like a very secluded place on the water, and it was all of that and more! I made a reservation on the riverside and glad I did, each night was busy with people looking for the same type of place we had. With dry camping and no hookups, it changed a lot of our routine. We had very little of our normal items, having to run the generator for power, making coffee, etc. We rationed our water, making sure we did not run out, and just a different feeling along this journey. I got my Montana 2-day fishing license and spent a lot of time on the river, when the wind was down, and caught a couple pretty Rainbow Trout. There were a lot of people on the water and along the shoreline fishing the whole time we were there, clearly a favorite place for the Helena locals.

Our amazing spot at the Riverside Campground, doesn't get any better than this!

Our amazing spot at the Riverside Campground, doesn’t get any better than this!

Fishing at sunset, top side of the dam in the background

Fishing at sunset, top side of the dam in the background

We took a drive one day, turning out of the campground and heading up a dirt road over the hill towards the tiny little town of York. There was a lot of fire damage around. The majority of the people living out here seem to want to get away from society. I could see how someone wanting to hide could get lost in the hills around this area. After driving to the end of the road outside York, we went the opposite way to cross back over the Missouri River and found a great campground with an even better viewpoint above it, some fantastic views for sure. We returned to the MoHo for an evening campfire and dinner, with the peace of no electronics. The TV was off and my phone had started to act up so it was off, a strange quietness. I was glad we made this stop, albeit for only two nights, a stop that felt much more like camping than what we have been experiencing this trip.

One gorgeous view after another on our drive

One gorgeous view after another on our drive

The lake above the dam

The lake above the dam

We really loved this area

We really loved this area

Our next destination was the Polson Motorcoach Resort and KOA, a very nice campground. We had visited this area a few years ago, staying way up on the north side of Flathead Lake nearer to Kalispell, so it was somewhat familiar to us. One of the first things we needed to get done was figuring out what was going on with my phone. We hit the Verizon store first thing when it opened and had some amazing customer service from the manager Shanice. She ordered my new phone, set to arrive the next afternoon. After a great greasy lunch at Swanees, we drove south to the Kerr Dam just outside Polson. We walked the 350 steps down the trail to the overlook of the river and dam complex. After a few photos, we returned to the car, both huffing a puffing from the trip up those very same steps. We returned to the MoHo for dinner in and to enjoy the views from the park. The campground is very well laid out, located on the western side of town overlooking the local airfield and lake with the mountains in the background. It is one of the prettiest places we have stayed in a long time, and with the familiar feel of the northwest!

We had a great view of Flathead Lake from our site

We had a great view of Flathead Lake and the mountains from our site

Looking down on Kerr Dam and Flathead Lake/River.  It is higher up than Niagara Falls.

Looking down on Kerr Dam and Flathead Lake/River. It is taller than Niagara Falls.

The next day we made the drive up the east side of Flathead Lake towards Big Fork. We had visited here before, but wanted to go back. The day was good for driving, not warm or wet, but a good day for sightseeing. We made a couple stops at the local breweries in the area, the first one at Flathead Lake Brewing and a great IPA I very much enjoyed. Then we proceeded into Kalispell, stopping at the Kalispell Brewing Company, just missing their free glass giveaway for that day, celebrating American Craft Beer week. My stomach was growling, and that was on purpose, as I was looking forward to our next stop, the Moose’s Saloon for pizza and ice cold beers. It was just as we remembered, we left full, and headed back to Polson to get my new phone, set to arrive that afternoon. We picked it up, then returned to the MoHo for the night. A great day driving around gorgeous Flathead Lake.

The next morning was wet and cool, one of those days to just hunker in for awhile. Traci woke up and asked for some coffee. When I went to make it for her, our worst nightmare was clear, we had a mouse in the MoHo! I spent the next 90 minutes cleaning up the kitchen area cursing myself, as I had bought some traps a week ago thinking there might be a little guy in the storage area, but never set them, damn! We had run into several people along the trip that had this happen, and I knew I could get it handled; it just put a downer on our stay quickly. That night I set the traps, and the next morning we had our culprit, sorry little guy. We did some additional cleaning and left the rest of the traps out in the MoHo, hoping he was a loner.

The next morning, with no new vermin, we made our way to our next stop, the Missoula KOA. We got set up quickly, and decided to take advantage of the nice day and take a drive into town for some exploration. We headed to the campus of the Univ. of Montana, a neat place located right up against the hills on the east side of town. We stopped at Kettle House Brewing, packed with a biking tour group on a brewery ride around Missoula. It was also graduation weekend, so there were a lot of people celebrating everywhere we went. We made our next stop at a place called the James Bar for linner and happy hour, and it was very good food and beverages. We returned to the MoHo for the night, liking this place already.

A great meal at the James Bar in Missoula

A great meal at the James Bar in Missoula

The M on the hill for Montana State.  There is a popular hiking trail that goes up to it

The M on the hill is for Univ of Montana. There is a popular hiking trail that goes up to it

Our last full day in Missoula, we started out early and hit the farmers market on the river; lots of veggies and some produce, and tons of people out enjoying the morning. We wandered up into town, and came across two more outdoor markets, one just crafts, and the other foods, all within about a 10-block area. We stopped at Big Dipper Ice Cream, nationally known, for a tasty treat. The weather started to get wet, so we decided to find some breweries, and there were plenty of choices. We found three places along our afternoon travels, finishing at Big Sky Brewing by the RV Park and free samples! As you can tell, Montana definitely has a great craft beer scene! We returned to the MoHo for the night, realizing that this was the two-year anniversary of our departure from home on this adventure, and coincidentally our last night we will spend outside of Washington State.  Next, we head to Clarkston, WA for a quick stopover before visiting friends in Walla Walla, Yakima and Wenatchee. The adventure is nearing its end, and it sure has been amazing, beyond what we could ever put into words!

Brave souls surf on the Clark Fork River that runs through town

Brave souls surfing on the Clark Fork River that runs through town, Missoula

Traci enjoying her salted caramel ice cream from Big Dipper

Traci enjoying her salted caramel ice cream from Big Dipper in Missoula

New Mexico, some seriously high desert 4/13/15 – 4/22/15

View from the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge

View from the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge

After leaving Texas, we made our first stop in Carlsbad, NM, staying at the KOA just about 12 miles north of town. A nice, quiet park with an in-house BBQ restaurant, serving up some good food. Our stay here was only for two nights, as our goal was to see the caves at Carlsbad Caverns National Park. We had done some caving in South Dakota, so we were excited to see the differences. The park service was set up differently here, with the majority of the cave open to people via a self guided tour, instead of a ranger led tour. This was nice in that we could go on our own time, but it did give us less information as to what we were seeing. The entrance is a huge opening and drops to the main room, some 750’ lower. Now remember we have been in the flats of the east coast for some time, so this little hike down was a wake up call to our legs! Both of us looked at each other and said, “wow, my legs are heavy and feeling it, can you say out of shape?” The caves did not disappoint, with some beautiful structures all around. The size of the great room here is truly awesome, some places over 100’ high. So glad we decided to head here, one of those places you must see to believe.

Walking down into the entrance to the Caverns

Walking down into the entrance of the Caverns

View looking back up once we were down inside

View looking back up once we were down inside

Formations in the cavern

Formations on the ceiling of the cavern

Inside the Great Room of the Cavern

Inside the Great Room of the Cavern

Mike

The pictures just don’t do this natural wonder justice

We made an appointment to get the MoHo serviced here; replacing the fuel filters and getting an oil change, on the day we headed out. There was only one place in town that could do the work, a very busy truck repair shop, with a corner on the market. After licking our financial wounds, we headed north to Albuquerque, and our campground at the American RV Park on the west side of town. A nice park with a very new area we were placed in, a good place to explore the city from.

Carlsbad, NM is known for an alien landing, so these little green men are everywhere around town

Nearby Roswell is known for a supposed UFO landing in the 40’s, so these little green men are everywhere around town

We made our way into town the next day, exploring and getting the lay of the land, making a quick drive through the Univ. of New Mexico. We ended up in the Old Town area and had a nice lunch outside, as the weather had warmed enough to sit outside. The food here is spicy, known for their red and green chile sauce. We wandered through some of the galleries, and I spotted something in a window that looked familiar. We went in, and there was an artists’ work that we had run into back in Sedona, and had liked a lot back then. We spent about 30 minutes here, and eventually walked out with our money in our pockets. But I am sure we can call back and get some stuff shipped to us when we get settled, it was some amazing art work for sure. We spent another day here exploring some of the Petroglyph National Monument. The rock carvings date back to about 1,100 AD, amazing that the drawings still are etched into the rockery. The area here is also known for some vino, so we made an afternoon of visiting some of the local wineries. We did learn that NM is home to the first wineries in the USA, dating back to the 1,600’s. We bought a few bottles, needing a few bottles to replenish the fridge.

Old Town Albuquerque

Old Town Albuquerque

A good example of the many petroglyphs

A good example of the many petroglyphs at the National Monument

Awesome desert landscape

Awesome desert landscape

There is a Breaking Bad Tour in this RV that is like the one in the show.

There is a Breaking Bad Tour around town in this RV that is like the one in the show

The mighty Rio Grande River

The mighty Rio Grande River

Wine Tasting in Sante Fe and my new Beagle friend, Sparkler

Wine Tasting in Albuquerque and my new Beagle friend, Sparkler

Our next stop was Santa Fe, staying at the Santa Fe Skies RV Park, about 80 miles north. A nice short drive, after some very long drives the past few weeks. We got set up and headed into town right away, as we had a lot of time because it was such a short trip up. We found the old town area, and just did a quick drive through, wanting to return later in our stay and explore more. We stopped at the Capitol building for a quick walk around, then to the railroad district where we found the Second St. Brewery for a late lunch and couple of really good beers, before returning to the park. When we got back, we noticed that there were some really big rigs in the park; one had been unloading their Porsche from the enclosed trailer they haul behind their coach. We have seen some nice coaches over the trip, but this was amazing. Then we realized there were more than one of these “Mack-daddy’s” in the park, eventually about 22. I did some quick research online and found out it was a Newell owners rally, and we just happened to be there at the same time. These massive 45’ motor coaches (ours is 40’, but seemed tiny compared to these) sell for about $1.7-1.9 million. That is about $40 million in motorhomes, truly impressive rides! We just loved walking around and looking at the beauty that can be bought when money is not an issue.

Our spot at Santa Fe Skies Campground, great sunsets

Our spot at Santa Fe Skies Campground, great sunsets

The next day we decided to head north, and take a drive up to the Taos area, about 80 miles north. We took some “back” roads on the way up, the High Road to Taos, stopping in a few small towns along the way. We eventually got to Taos, and walked through the central area. It was quiet, as this town is more of a skiing town, and April is not a tourist time of year for them. We then headed east, and made the drive around the Enchanted Circle loop, some 80 miles around the mountain just northeast of town. Taos is at about 7,000’, and this drive took us up to over 9,200’ in elevation. A pretty area to explore with a few more high mountain towns and ski resorts along the way. When we ended this portion of the drive, we then headed to a place about 28 miles northwest of Taos. We stopped at the Taos Mesa Brewery for a beer, and then crossed the Rio Grande River Gorge Bridge, some 680 feet above the river! My destination here was a tiny little piece of dirt that my Grandfather Miller had won in a drawing back at the 1960 Worlds Fair in Seattle. Nobody in the family had ever seen the property, so since we were close we made the venture out to find it. Unfortunately for us, there were no good roads in or out of the area I needed to get too. We tried a couple rutted and rocky roads that others in the area had traveled, but our car was not made for that type of travel. We got as close as possible, took a couple picture as the hail/snow was starting to fall, and got out just before the dirt turned to mud and we would have been stuck. We then turned back south for the two-hour drive back to Santa Fe and watched as the sky opened up all around us, some amazing views of mother-nature’s beauty.

Santuario de Chimayo, a legendary place for curing the sick

Santuario de Chimayo, a legendary place for curing the sick

San Francisco de Asis, a church that painter Georgia O'Keeffe

San Francisco de Asis, an 18th century mission church that captivated painter Georgia O’Keeffe 

Rio Grande Gorge Bridge

Rio Grande Gorge Bridge

The storm was starting to settle in

The storm was starting to settle in

We were driving right into it

We were driving right into it

The next day in Santa Fe we returned to the downtown area and walked around, again a bunch of galleries and artists everywhere. We found a little roof top bar at the La Fonda hotel for a cool beverage, and then made it to The Shed for lunch, a recommendation from one of the winery owners we had met. It was busy, but we got a table, and were so happy we made it our choice, very good authentic NM food! We were both stuffed, and eventually made it home, wanting to see the MoHo as we had scheduled a local guy to give the old girl a much-needed bath. Would have been nice if the rain had held off a few days, as it had already rained a bit and kicked up some dust onto the windows, but at least the heavy layer of road grime was gone.

Downtown Santa Fe shopping

Downtown Santa Fe shopping

Rooftop Bar at La Fonda Hotel

Rooftop Bar at La Fonda Hotel

Our last day in Santa Fe, we returned to town and hit another couple of breweries and recommended restaurant, the Blue Corn Café and Brewery. Traci said this was probably the best Quesadilla she had ever had, and she is a bit of an expert; again, very good beer and food, leaving us full and satisfied. We relaxed back at the park, and started to get ready for our trip the next day to Raton, a halfway point between Santa Fe and Denver.

We made it to Raton, and stayed at the KOA in town. It was odd as we had made the reservation online, and when we arrived the office was closed for lunch, but our reservation was on the board, so we made it to our site and set up quickly. We stayed here one night and left the next day for Denver, without any interaction with any of the staff, a first for us. While in Raton, we made a drive out to the Capulin Volcano National Monument. This was a volcano that you can drive up to the top and peer down inside the crater. It was stormy that day, and we actually drove through a bunch of hail on the roadway, a bit slick like snow. With the storms in the area, the N.P. Rangers closed the hiking trails around the crater, but we still could get a great view of the area, as well as a pack of mule deer in the upper portions of the crater. We headed back to the MoHo, after another back road drive, seeing only 3 other cars over the 50-mile trip back to Raton via that route. We were way out in the middle of nowhere, and it was some beautiful country. So glad we made time on the trip to explore New Mexico more, very dramatic high desert country with amazing geological formations around. The cold temps were definitely a shock to the system, but worth it to see this area.

View from the top of the Capulin Volcano

View from the top of the Capulin Volcano Road

Wow, what a hangover! 4/1/15 – 4/7/15

A sad day leaving Florida after our 5 month "residency"

A sad day leaving Florida after our 5 month “residency”

We officially started our return trip back to the NW, estimating it will take us about 7 weeks. The decision on when to leave Florida was postponed 4 times, as we were originally scheduled to leave Feb. 21st, then March 7th, then March 21st, and finally April 1st. As Traci mentioned before, there is this little thing called “Keys Disease” and we both came down with a severe case. But the hardest part of it all has been the days since we left, several times a day asking each other can we go back, should we just turn around now?? We both knew we would eventually have to return home, but the hangover from that place still stings and we have already been gone for a week. I keep thinking of a line I read in another blog we follow, and it said something like “where else in the world can you drive to a tropical island” and that best describes the Keys. I know for sure, we will be back!

With our extended time in the Keys, we are now making up for lost time, with some longer driving days scheduled for a while. We have had days of 250-380 miles, a lot longer than we would like. We did two nights in Arcadia, FL, two nights in Cedar Key, FL, a night in Eastpoint, FL, and a night in Hattiesburg, MS (our 5-month stay in Florida finally came to an end). We have already filled up diesel twice within 6 days and prior to that it had been Nov. 23 as our last fuel stop. Fortunately, fuel prices are still under $3/gallon. We are going to hit Shreveport, LA, then Dallas, TX for a couple days, a stay or two in western Texas and time in Colorado to see friends, before we get to our next area of exploration. We are focused on getting to New Mexico, an area we did not spend much time in yet, as well as Wyoming and Montana, so we will slow down a bit before we arrive home in late May. Click here for an update on our general itinerary.

Our spot in Arcadia at Riverside RV Resort

Our spot in Arcadia at Riverside RV Resort

There was a baby gator living in the lake that came up onto the grass

There was a baby gator living in the lake that came up onto the grass

A great bar in Arcadia - The Nav-A-Gator

A great bar in Arcadia, The Nav-A-Gator

It has been a challenge locating places to stay along our journey this past week, as many of the parks on our travels have already been booked up full. We are hearing that a lot of people, like ourselves, who stayed south for a bit longer due to the extended winter in the NE. Nobody wants to go home to snow; so many are taking their time to drive north, making it a bit more difficult for us to find accommodations.

Cedar Key, FL - considered "Olde Florida"

Cedar Key, FL – considered “Olde Florida”

Another thing we have noticed, at least for the first few stops, was how much different the ocean and Gulf of Mexico has looked. When we were in the Keys, especially Marathon, the water was picturesque blue. But as we have moved north, the colors have become grey and in some cases brown with the brackish waters of the coastal areas we have stayed. Did I mention we really miss the Keys!? Also, now that we have turned north a bit, we have come to the realization we will not see an ocean for at least a couple months, as we journey through the country back home.

Eastpoint,FL - they harvest A LOT of oysters here

Eastpoint,FL – they harvest A LOT of oysters here

I know the tone of this post sounds like “poor us” and that is not it at all. We have been so taken aback by how much we enjoyed this last portion of our trip, it really has been like a long hangover, and it is not getting much easier to get over it. I would have never thought I could move from the NW, but that door may have opened following this portion of our journey. But for now, we are making our way NW, and we will keep you updated as to our adventures along the way.

Enjoying opening day of the Mariners at our campground in Eastpoint

Enjoying opening day of the Mariners at Coastline RV Resort in Eastpoint, FL

Super friends and a return to the Super Bowl!

The crew in Key Largo

The crew in Key Largo

When we last wrote, it was right before the NFC championship game Seahawks vs. the Packers. That night was clearly crazy for us Hawks fans, and one we will all not soon forget. Traci and I celebrated with horns honking from the MoHo and hugs from our neighbors, we might have been having too much fun, but who would have thought we could pull out that game. Way to go Hawks!!

Mike kayaking, John Pennekamp State Park (before the Cameron's arrived)

Kayaking in John Pennekamp State Park, Key Largo (before the Cameron’s arrived)

We spent that next week in anticipation of visitors, our great friends Sunny and Mitch! We drove up to Fort Lauderdale to pick them up on a Friday night, and sat through the 3 hour return (normally 1.5 hour drive) but it was all good as we had plenty to talk about on the road trip home. That night Mitch and I enjoyed a feast of Stone Crab; I had picked up 3 lbs. from some guy in a parking lot restaurant we were eating at a day before, all for $25. (Normally the local stores sell it for $26 per lb.) Afterwards, we set up the MoHo for our weary travelers to get some rest, and got some sleep.

Saturday we woke and ate breakfast in, and then it was off to another local event, this time the Stone Crab and Seafood Festival of Key Largo. The venue was the same as the Beer Fest a few weeks prior, so we knew right where to go, but this time we got to take our guests. The event was much more crowded, lots more vendors and food booths, and the weather was a bit cooler, with plenty of wind. The weather did not dampen our spirits, the beverages started to flow, and we had a blast. We found a couple of trinkets that we could not live without; including what Mitch called “the greatest life changing purchase ever!” The Bevfridge, a mini beer/wine/pick your poison cooler that holds ice around your beverage, and guarantees that your last sip will be colder than your first, and it was so true according to MD. The Bevfridge traveled with us all week, and was put to a lot of good use; I might have to get one myself. We left the festival and headed to the Big Chill, one of my favorite places here for dinner. The wings in this place are second to only the Carolina Ale House in the SE, and we had a great view from our table in the cold wind that night. We returned to the MoHo, and played Dominoes, what a fun first full day!

Stone Crab and Seafood Fest, Key Largo

Stone Crab and Seafood Fest, Key Largo

Sunday brought McMiller’s for breakfast, and then we made our way to the pool that afternoon. The weather had turned a bit cooler, highs down to the upper 60’s, but also a lot less humidity. After getting our dose of vitamin D for a few hours, we returned to the MoHo and loaded the cooler for an evening cruise on the water. We neglected to mention in our last post that we had rented a pontoon boat for 5 weeks of our stay, wanting to surprise our guests. The evening was calm, and I took them out to where I had been fishing, even catching a Sea Trout for the group to witness. We then made our way out to the middle of the bay for what we all would agree was one of the best sunsets ever, a truly remarkable sight!

Fishing off the sweet  Parti Kraft"

Fishing off the sweet “Parti Kraft”

Sunset 5:58pm

Sunset 5:58pm

Sunset 6:07pm

Sunset 6:07pm

Sunset 6:13pm

Sunset 6:13pm

Sunny and the Sunset

Sunny and the sunset, vacation mode

Monday Mitch and I were scheduled to go backcountry sight fishing with a local guide, but we decided the night before with the high wind forecast to postpone the trip till later in the week when it would hopefully improve. So, instead, we made the best of a cold windy day and showed our guests many of our local watering holes. We started at the Island Grill on the ocean side and enjoyed the views and spotty sunshine, and introduced them to Key West Ale, one of our new local favorite beverages. We then made our way up to the Pilot House, with the glass bottom bar, and had a few appetizers, again while enjoying the views of the marina there. Our last stop of the afternoon was to Shipwrecks, the same place I had bought the Stone Crab we enjoyed a few nights before, and had a few more appetizers and beers. We hurried home to catch the sunset, not nearly as spectacular as the night before, and another evening of dominoes and laughter.

Dominoes!

Dominoes!

Tuesday we hit the road and made our way to Key West. We had made a reservation to stay down there for a night, as it is about 100 miles away, but takes about 2.5-3 hours due to all the traffic and slow speed limits in the Keys. We checked into our hotel, and made it quickly out for lunch on Duvall Street. Full of food, we showed our friends the town, including the “Smallest Bar in Key West,”  Sloppy Joes, and capped it all off with a wonderful sunset near Mallory Square at Sunset Pier. We then made our way back toward the hotel, and stopped off at a wine bar for a bottle, then on to dinner at a nice little Italian place close to the hotel. After a great meal, Mitch and I headed home, while Sunny and Traci stayed out for a couple more beverages, before making their way home. Another awesome day with great friends.

Worlds Smallest Bar, Key West

Smallest Bar in Key West

Sunset Pier, Key West

Sunset Pier, Key West

Key West Sunset

Key West Sunset

Traci & Sunny on Duvall Street

Traci & Sunny on Duvall Street

Wednesday we checked out of the hotel and went to breakfast/brunch at the Banana Café, a neat little old place that had great food, and most important, open seats for us. We then drove up to the north side of town, stopped for a beer over the marina, before making our way towards home. A quick trip to Key West, but plenty of great memories for sure. On the way home, we made a stop at Robbie’s, a place Traci and I had been before. Here is where people can “Feed the Tarpons.” We went out to the dock, and there were dozens of the massive fish in port. With a bait bucket in hand, we fed these giants, while watching others doing the same. We then made our way around the village with all the vendors, and then returned to the car for the remaining drive home. We got the cooler loaded up and headed out to the bay again for the sunset, not going out too far as the boat was not sounding very strong. We had a nice evening on the water, and returned to order some really bad pizza from a local joint, an early night to bed, as Mitch and I were going fishing in the morning on our rescheduled trip.

Robbie's Marina, Feeding the Tarpon

Robbie’s Marina, Feeding the Tarpon

MD and I woke early, out of the MoHo at 7:00AM to meet our guide at the marina by 7:30AM. We got there and met Captain Barry Hoffman as scheduled. After a few minutes of talking, it was agreed by all that the trip should be canceled. The water temps in the area where we were going to try to fish were in the high 50’s and many of the fish do not liven up till the water temps are around 70 degrees. We thanked Captain Barry for his honesty, saving us and costing him money, but in the end the smart decision was made. We returned to the MoHo, and joined our wives back in bed and slept for a few more hours. The winds kicked up as predicted, so we made our own party in the tent outside the MoHo, playing more dominoes, and just enjoying each other’s company. (We probably would have tried to hit the pool at some point, but it was closed for a “massive leak”; no idea when it will get repaired, remember we are in the Keys and nothing gets done quickly around here.) Nearing the late afternoon, and all of us hungry, we headed out on the boat to a couple restaurants a few miles away, the Bayside and then on to Snook’s for dinner. Fortunately it was a partial moon and not too cloudy so I could navigate us home in the dark, and we finished our dominos tournament and off to bed.

On the Pontoon...

On the Pontoon…

Captain Miller

Captain Miller

MD chillin' with his BevFridge

MD chillin’ with his Bevfridge

Sun & Mitch at the Bayside

Sun & Mitch at the Bayside Grill

Sunny & Traci at Snook's

Sunny & Traci at Snook’s

Friday brought the end of Sunny and Mitch’s visit, but not before one last trip out in the boat. The day was perfect, almost no wind, and very clear skies, so we made our way out to the “blue water” beyond the local mangrove islands. We turned off the engine and just floated for an hour or so, before having to make our way back to the MoHo to head to the airport. It was a great finish to a fantastic visit with awesome friends. We are so glad they came down to stay with us for a week, and enjoy our lifestyle with us on this journey. Thanks Burn and Mitchell D. – love you guys, Baby G and E!

Sunny took this very cool pano shot

Sunny took this very cool pano shot

Happy Cameron's!

Happy Camerons!

 

This shot was clearly taken BEFORE the game.  Don't need to rehash what happened. :(((

This shot was clearly taken BEFORE the big game when we were all smiles. We don’t need to rehash what happened :(((

 

Fishing, fishing and more fishing! 12/21/14 – 1/3/15

Catching Blue Crab right from our site!

Catching Blue Crab right from our site!

We returned from the cruise to Everglades City and the MoHo was there waiting for us at one of our favorite parks from last year, Everglades Isle. This time around we were fortunate enough that we were able to leave it plugged in, so the fridge did not go on the blink like last year when we left it for the 9-day cruise. We parked in the same site as last year, site #5, right across from two airboat companies on the Barron River. It felt great to get home and sleep in our bed, and have all the comforts we have come to enjoy in our 350 square foot home on wheels.

Fishing on the docks

Fishing on the docks

Some of you may remember we stayed here last year, but only for 5 nights, this time we decided to make it 2 weeks. Now two weeks may sound like a long time in one place, especially for us, but we were able to find plenty of things to keep us busy, especially fishing for me! The park was set up about 5 years ago and they spared no expense building this place. One of my favorite areas of the park is the massive dock that runs the entire length of the park. There must be over 125 boat slips that can be used by guests, or purchased or rented by locals, but the best part is it offers great access to the river and the fishing. I did not fish every day, although Traci might think I did, but I did spend a lot of time catching and releasing the local species. As you can see from some of the pictures, the river was very bountiful, and I had a ton of success. For me it was like reading a book, super relaxing and I very my enjoyed that aspect of this place.

Red Fish

Red Fish

Large Black Drum, gave to landscaping crew

Large Black Drum, gave to landscaping crew

We waved our flags proudly!

We waved our flags proudly!

As it was December, we were here for two holidays, Christmas and New Years. For Christmas, the park had a huge potluck dinner, with everything you could imagine. One of the park residents BBQ’d turkeys and another made the ham. There was everything and more you would come to expect at a holiday dinner, a very fun celebration away from family and making new friends. For New Years, it was much the same, with an array of appetizers and snacks, with champagne from the park staff; it made for a very enjoyable night. We actually made it up past midnight!

New friend Chris & Kris at the New Years Eve party

New friends Chris & Kris at the New Years Eve party

Amazing sunset from the clubhouse

Amazing sunset from the clubhouse

With us being at Everglades Isle for 2 weeks, it gave us a chance to get to know people in the park. Many of the nights we made our way up to happy hour in the clubhouse, a great venue that hosted the holiday events, but was so much more than just a clubhouse. (There is a full theater, spa, free laundry, super nice restrooms with towels, gym, etc.) Each night from 4-7PM was happy hour at the bar, and Shirley and Norma were there to make just about whatever anyone wanted. This year we met many of the other campers, some renters like us, others that own their sites. (The sites are for rent or sale, and those purchase already were the owners, not to be confused with the park owner Mark who was also around much of the time.) Our first night we met Steve and his wife Mary Lou, and they were just wonderful. Always around, their smiles were infectious. Then there were Nancy and Lonnie, whom I think we met last year, but only briefly. Lonnie actually captained the resort pontoon boat one day for the group, out to the 10,000 islands area, a fun trip for sure. Another couple, Kristine and Chris from Ontario, we spent a couple very fun nights with. They hosted us for dinner one night and we had them over for cocktails another and rang in the New Year together. We hope to meet up with them again on the road, or maybe back in the Pacific NW sometime, and their two dogs, Pepper and Beau. There were many others that we were introduced to, some of which were only there for a few days, but the clubhouse and happy hour really brought everyone together, a truly unique aspect of Everglades Isle.

Pontoon Cruise into Everglades National Park

Pontoon Cruise into Everglades National Park

White Pelicans at Indian Key

White Pelicans at Indian Key

The town itself is small, and we did eat out a few times, even once back up at Naples on a grocery run. (The grocery store in town is what we would consider a glorified mini-mart, just not a lot to choose from, but there was a single pop-up tent fruit stand a couple days a week at the post office that helped with keeping us well stocked with the produce we needed.) But, most of the time we cooked at home, and that helped save us a lot of money here. With the town being so small, we also rode our bikes just about everywhere. I would go to the fruit stand or bait shop and be back in minutes, very handy for sure.

Blue crab for lunch

Blue crab for lunch

We made a return trip to “Alligator Alley,” well at least the one I consider. Alligator Alley is what many in Florida call highway 75 from Naples to Miami. But running in the same direction to the south is Highway 41. Off Hwy 41 there is Hwy 831, Turner River Road, that runs north, and we had visited there last year. This highway turns into a dirt road very quickly, but has a fresh water canal that parallels it and is home to hundreds of gators, tons of turtles, and all sorts of odd-looking native birds. Many people do not know of this little place, but we got a tip last year and enjoyed returning to see the wildlife.

One of the many alligators we saw

One of the many gators we saw

Everglades Isle is one our top 5 parks (We have stayed at about 145 now) we have be fortunate enough to say at twice now, but much of the overall experience goes to the managers of the resort, Janine and Ralph. We met them last year, and they remembered us from that short time, starting with the initial contact to make our return reservation. They both work basically every day, it seems like they were always available with answers to any question or challenges. Ralph spent a couple hours one night trying to get the new WiFi system back up and running – and was successful! Janine was there to answer questions, cut my hair, make us a drink while lounging at the pool in the afternoons, etc. Without these two, this place would not run like the well-oiled machine it is. Thanks you two! Again we can’t say enough of how much we enjoyed this park and stay, and maybe someday we will get the chance to return. Now, onto Key Largo!

Margarita's by the pool on or last day

Margarita’s by the pool on our last day

 

Central and Western Florida

The MoHo all set up in Ft. Myers Beach

The MoHo all set up in Ft. Myers Beach

Hello folks, sorry it has been awhile since our last post. We spent a couple days in Gainesville, with the idea of going to the Florida vs. Eastern Kentucky football game that weekend. But Mother Nature chose otherwise, as it was cool and rainy so we stayed in and relaxed watching football at home. The game was a blowout as was expected, so it was a good thing we kept dry and warm. Definitely a college town, we drove all around the area and did not find a lot of other things to do or see, just a stop over on our way south I suppose.

Our next destination was the Orlando area. We found a park on the SE side of town, the Orlando SE/ Lake Whippoorwill KOA. Again the weather here was poor at best, lots of wind, and plenty of showers, so we did not do a lot. We spent a day driving out to the theme park area, but at close to $100 per ticket per day plus parking, we just did not feel like going into any of them, just not our cup to tea. I was surprised at how spread out the area was. Orlando is a big city with tons of tolls, you can’t go anywhere without paying a couple bucks just to drive on the freeways, certainly an expensive town to live in.

Our spot at the KOA in Orlando

Our spot at the KOA in Orlando

Next, it was south to Tampa, and a Thanksgiving spent with Bill and Emily Lee. We had stopped in and spent time with them last year, closer to Christmas, so this time it was the other major holiday. They made all the fixings for the Turkey day celebration, and even enough for some to take home. It was great visit spending the day talking and watching football, especially the Seahawks demolition of the 49ers! So glad to make this a destination on the trip south and we may even see them on the way back up in the springtime.

Our next stop was a return to Ft Myers Beach. We had found this place last year, Gulf Waters RV Resort, but only had time for a quick two-night stay. This time we booked a week, and we were so glad as it was one of the nicest parks we had stayed at.  The park sites are for sale, so it allows the owners to do major modifications to each site. We loved walking the park and looking at all the different ways people had staged their sites; many with brick pavers, others with built-in BBQ’s or fire pits, a very cool setting. The other great part of this stay was the beach. We were only 3.5 miles to the beach, close enough to get there when we wanted, far enough we did not have to deal with the traffic. It can be tough to get there on the weekends, as the two lane bridge gets backed up, so we tried to go in on the off hours.

During our stay it was the final weekend of the American Sandcastle Building Championships. These folks can do wonders with a couple of tools, some Elmer’s glue and a lot of sand. Fun to walk around and see what people had created, and re-done, as the weather ruined about half of the projects during the week and the artists had to rebuild many of their works.

Sandcastle Competition, Ft. Myers Beach

Sandcastle Competition, Ft. Myers Beach

Another day I spent fishing. I have gone deep-sea fishing, done a lot of shore fishing, but never been out on a party boat. I chose the Sea Trek, with several others to choose from, it just seemed like a decent boat. The half-day of fishing was really a full day, with departure set at 9:30AM and returning to the dock at 4:00PM. The trip out to the fishing grounds took about 2:15, so we did not get a pole in the water till just after 11:30AM. Fortunately for me the boat was only about 1/3 full, so the mate John was not overloaded with customers. Each person was given a pole and a spot on the rail, with a bucket of cut squid for bait. Within a few seconds, someone on board was bringing in the first fish and it was wild to see just how many fish were caught so quickly. Over the next couple hours, the captain moved the boat a couple times when the fishing slowed, trying to get us to a better spot. I did catch one larger fish, a Triggerfish, but it was not in season so it had to be returned to the ocean. At about 2:00PM, the captain had the anchor pulled up, and we headed back to the marina. Fun to be out on the water for the day, and now I can say I have experienced this type of fishing. I probably don’t need to go again, but great for those not used to fishing, or for a big group or family. Also, the cost was fairly reasonable at $70 for the day. I brought home about 7-8 Grunts, and John filleted them for me at the dock, and then it was on to the MoHo for dinner. A simple white fish, not a lot of heavy taste, quite good for dinner. (No, Traci did not have any, as many of you know she is not a seafood fan.)

My catch for the day!

My catch for the day!

Another day we made the drive north to the Sanibel and Captiva areas. These little islands are what I would consider barrier islands, long and narrow, protecting the mainland from the ocean, or in this case the Gulf of Mexico. There was a main highway that runs through the center of the islands, and in some of the more narrow places, you get to see the massive homes that the wealthy have built here, and the landscaping to match. Very relaxed area, with great views everywhere. We drove all the way to the northern most point we could access (restricted for resort guests beyond the public road). We stopped at a deli, grabbed some sandwiches, and headed back to the beach for some sun and fishing. But the rain showers arrived just as we got set up on the beach, so our picnic was cut short, but still a fun day for sure.

Captiva Island right before the rain started

Captiva Island right before the rain started, a great spot.

It was great to return to a place we had already been for a longer visit. We are now just arriving in Naples, staying at the very nice Naples Motorcoach Resort. Here we hope to have some more pool and beach time and possibly get in some golf and more fishing. Then onto another one of our favorite places from last year, Everglades Isle, for a couple weeks before we go onto Key Largo for most of Jan. and Feb. We are so glad we chose to stay south for another winter season, not missing the cold snowy rain at home in the NW, just our friends and family!

Naples Pier, Go Hawks!

Naples Pier, Go Hawks!

A great bar we found on the Isle of Capri

A great bar we found on the Isle of Capri, out toward Marco Island.