Our spot in Key Largo, Calusa Campground
Written by Mike:
After returning from our cruise with Traci’s mom, we drove back down to the Key Largo area to get the MoHo out of a short-term storage lot. The first thing I did was check the fridge, as we were not plugged into any power source, so we were running the entire 9 days on propane to keep the food cold. Fortunately we had emptied the fridge out as best we could prior to departure, as it was barely even cold when we got back. Something was not working and we had to toss just about everything inside, as it almost all was either unfrozen, or too warm to feel safe about. (Odd that it would not have kept everything cold, the propane was still over half full in the tank?) We got settled at the Calusa Campground in Key Largo, spot #233. (This was exactly the site we reserved, no bait and switch tactics like we had to deal with at Boyd’s in Key West!) The site was on the south side of the property and backed right up to the water, kayaking and fishing at the ready! Our first night was a bit hectic, as we were fighting the darkness, and dealing with the fridge issues. We rushed over to Publix grocery to restock the fridge, after a 9-day cruise our stomachs were quite expanded and wanted to make sure we had plenty of food on hand. When we got back, we noticed that the fridge had not started to cool off much, even though we were now running on power vs. the propane. (Note: this is Saturday evening about 7:30PM, the night before the Super Bowl.) I decided to put everything into coolers before bed just to be safe, and ran back out to load up on ice.
We woke the next day and no changes to the fridge, so it was time for a call to a repair technician. We left a message on Sunday and did not expect to hear back till Monday, and that was when they called back. As for the rest of the day, not a lot going on….well….maybe….the Super Bowl!! We were both amped up a bit, trying to hold back on our beverage consumption till at least a few hours before kickoff. (East coast kickoff times suck – did not start till 6:30PM). We started watching outside and after a few minutes decided to head in, as the mosquitoes and no-see-ums were out in force. What a great game, the Seahawks drilled the Broncos, and sorry to say it, a really old looking quarterback Peyton Manning! At the final whistle the MoHo air horn sounded and the whole campground knew who had rooted for! The 12’s were represented in Key Largo!
Monday we spent at the MoHo, the technician arrived and said we needed to replace the cooling unit and it would take several days to get one here via truck, as it is a hazardous material and can’t be shipped overnight. We submitted the info to our MoHo insurance folks, and they did not cover our model, as it is part of a $48 million recall and class action lawsuit. I spent a lot of time researching the issue, and kept a close eye on the fridge. There was some responsiveness from the fridge, and it was starting to cool off a bit better, and slowly making ice again. With a $2,500 repair bill looming or a $5,500 replacement to another model, I thought we should make sure it was dead before dropping the cash. (It has been limping along since, and I am just going to have to keep a very close watch on the temps to make sure we are keeping everything in the safe zone, so far so good a week later.)
We had the Seahwawks parade broadcasting on all cylinders! We were missing home big time.
Tuesday we headed down to an area called Islamorada, about 25 miles back down the highway south. When we were on the cruise, and ported at Princess Cays, we met a couple of ladies that live and work down there and told us we should come down to see the area. They specifically had a couple of souvenir shops at a resort called Robbie’s. This little spot had it all; fishing charters, a nice restaurant and bar, several small shops, and the most important part, a dock that you could feed the Tarpons. Tarpons are some really large fish in the Key’s and are a very prized catch-and-release sport fish. (I had seen many a show on TV about these fish and was very interested to see them up close.) When we arrived, Cheryl and Candy both greeted us as we entered one of their booths. (We originally planned to try and go down there on Sunday mid-morning, but with the fridge acting up, just could not make it work.) They are both retired teachers, and were out working that day, odd for them as they usually are off on Tuesdays. Cheryl instantly became our host, and took us out to the dock to feed the Tarpons. You get a bucket of baitfish, and walk out to the dock, making sure to protect the bait from the very aggressive and huge Pelican’s. Tarpons do not have teeth, so you can let them take the bait right out of your hands, if you have the guts to leave your hand out there. These Tarpons were huge; some of them were over 5 feet long and weighed upwards of 80-90 lbs! I tried a couple of times to let them take the bait from me, but my natural reaction was to jerk my hand back every time they came up for the bait, I basically wimped out! Traci and I then sat down for some lunch at the restaurant, and when we finished, there was Cheryl to show us around some more. She took us back to their 5th-wheel trailer that her and Candy share on the property, and we sat out and had a couple beverages, and then headed back into the market area for some shopping. When we were done, we said our goodbyes and headed back to the MoHo. We really enjoyed the unplanned, unannounced visit with Cheryl and Candy, and hope to spend more time down the road with them. If you are ever in the Keys, be sure to stop at Robbie’s (Mile Post 77.5 on the north side), feed the Tarpons and get some new Sunglasses!
Hard to tell, but these Tarpons were HUGE!
With the MoHo parked right on the water, I spent a lot of hours out fishing right off the bulkhead behind us. One morning, after very little luck, I actually reeled in a very nice sized Blue Crab, and he immediately became breakfast for me that day. Another evening, we were watching the sunset, and I discussed with a couple other guys about how to catch certain types of fish I had seen. Getting the scoop was great, but it also meant several trips to the bait and tackle shop for me to up my game. One morning, about 11:45AM, I hooked into something huge, as my pole bent in half and it was game on. For the next 30 seconds I was doing everything in my power to keep this monster on the line, and then he jumped, a massive Tarpon was on the end of my line, and then gone! I was shaking with the excitement, and a couple other campers were all smiles as they witnessed the short, but exciting event. Needless to say, now I am going to get him, and another couple trips out to the tackle store and he won’t get away next time, if there is a next time.
The blue crab I caught right from our spot
Another great thing about being on the water and fishing so much was what we were able to see around us. Almost daily, we had Manatee’s passing by, sometimes they even came over to visit us against our bulkhead, and are they massive! (Just imagine a cow swimming up to you, the most gentle of giants, very fun every time!) Another evening we saw a shark swim by, again very exciting, needless to say we were not going to swim after seeing that guy go past. There are tons of Pelican’s, Egrets, a ga-zillion Mullet fish jumping constantly, a horseshoe crab (look that one up), and I even witnessed a dolphin in our little cove. There was always something outside to watch, and it made the lack of fish catching a lot more enjoyable.
The Manatee family
We have eaten out a few times, and it varies across the board. We noticed that there are a lot of happy hours, although we usually miss them as we are on a different schedule most days. One of our favorite places was Jimmy Johnson’s Big Chill. They had a live band playing, at happy hour I got a ½ lb. of peel and eat shrimp for $5.50 and 20 chicken wings for $9.50; great deals, better food, I thought about never leaving! The nice thing about Key Largo is that the land is very narrow, and once you get off the main highway, even just a block, you find a lot of hidden little gems to dine right on the water and take in the sites. There are little marinas and restaurant’s everywhere, and most of them are reasonable and good quality food, just have to get out and try it all.
Sunset at the Big Chill
Much of the rest of our time has been spent at the pool, a very warm pool that was probably close to 80 degrees. The weather has been great with just a few rain showers that haven’t lasted long. We are both getting pretty tan! Traci has been walking almost every day and there is a great local fruit stand right next door that we have frequented. Trying to cook as much as possible at home too. Weekdays this campground is relatively quiet, and the pool fairly empty. But come Friday, the hoards arrive, and it becomes a different place. Lots of loud Latin music, kids on bikes, golf carts everywhere, and a whole lot more boat traffic in the marina behind the MoHo. But, we have really loved our time here at Calusa. In fact, one or our favorite spots so far. So relaxing and the nightly sunsets just can’t be beat. Actually, we were scheduled to leave on Monday Feb. 10th, but enjoyed the place so much decided to extend three more nights and make it a long drive up to Jacksonville, our next destination.
Happy Hour at Snook’s