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

Crossing Time Zones 4/7/15 – 4/13/15

IMG_2849We have definitely been on the move! We have crossed two time zones and 4 states, climbed more elevation than we have in a long time and experienced some crazy weather. Our travel days have been pretty long to make up for the extra time we spent in the Keys. And with a moving MoHo comes the typical issues with a home on wheels. I guess we are making up for the months we were parked in Florida. We took a huge rock chip in the front windshield, but our insurance company paid for a fill. Our check engine light kept coming on when we were climbing some pretty big hills. Got the MoHo in for service and turns out we just needed to replace our fuel filters (thank goodness that was it!). The A/C is making funny noises, but we haven’t had to use it much with the cold weather, so we’re avoiding that one for now. And, one of our back slides is having issues and looks warped. Not sure what we’re going to do yet, as it does retract most of the way. As everyone in the RV world says, “it’s always something.” Enough about that!

We had quick one-night stops in Hattiesburg, MS and Shreveport, LA. Not much to report for either place except we did make a donation to one of the casinos in Shreveport. Also had some very stormy weather complete with a spectacular thunder and lightning show right outside our window. The next stop was Dallas/Ft. Worth, TX. I had been there for a girl’s weekend last February, so was ready to show Mike some of the places that we had visited. Our 3-night stay at the Texan RV Ranch was perfectly situated between Dallas and Ft. Worth allowing for exploration of both places.  On the first day, we headed out to the Ft. Worth Stockyards. We had a great time walking the streets, checking out Billy Bobs (world’s largest honky tonk), watching the cattle run and Mike dining on all-you-can-eat ribs. We were back to the RV Park before dark, so not quite the same experience I had with Shelly & Sunny, but still fun to see the area again. The next day we drove into downtown Dallas and it was pretty quiet as it was Sunday. We walked around the area where the JFK assassination took place, hit a local Farmer’s Market, then decided to get back to the MoHo to watch the final round of the Masters. Hard to believe a year has passed since we were there. Glad to see Jordan Spieth get the green jacket!

The dance floor Billy Bob's - reminded me of Urban Cowboy

The dance floor at Billy Bob’s – reminded me of Urban Cowboy (empty because it was the middle of the day)

The Cattle Run

The daily Longhorn Cattle Run

Mike getting after his Texas BBQ Ribs

Mike getting after his Texas BBQ Ribs

Dallas, TX

Dallas, TX – the people in the middle of the street are standing where JFK was shot in his motorcade; shooter was in the far right window, 2nd from the top

Stormy and cold weather were heading our way, so we decided to get out of Texas and drive straight to New Mexico to avoid the heavy rain and flooding.   The drive to Carlsbad, NM was one of the worst we have had due to the crazy weather and wind. Looking forward to our time in NM and exploring an area that neither one of us have been before.

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

Keys Disease

Enjoying St. Patty's Day

Enjoying St. Patty’s Day

Yep, we’ve got it! We are now on our 4th and final extension down here. We officially leave the Keys on April 1 and unfortunately that is no April’s Fool Joke. It is time for us to start making our trek northwest toward home. If we had unlimited funds, I think we could possibly set up shop here for awhile. Well, I know Mike could, but as most of you know, it takes me a bit longer to make these types of decisions. But, I do know that we have absolutely LOVED our time here and Marathon has been such an unexpected surprise. It is such a great community and we have met more great friends here than we have combined on all of our travels.

We just love our campground.  The Tike Bar in front is where everyone hangs out

We just love our campground. The Tiki Bar in front is where everyone hangs out, right in front of our MoHo.

Here are a few things we have been up to the past few weeks.

Marathon Seafood Fest
This is the 2nd largest event in all of the keys and luckily for us, it was just down the street. We went with our new friends, Greg & Carol who are staying at the campground and Gene & Sandy, friends we met last year who are working down here for the winter. It was a toasty day, so we actually didn’t stay long at the festival. Enough time for a few cold beers, a sampling of food and a stroll through the merchandise booths.

Mike, Sandy, Gene, Carol & Greg at Seafood Fest

Mike, Sandy, Gene, Carol & Greg at Seafood Fest

Enjoying the Seafood Fest

Enjoying the Seafood Fest

St. Patrick’s Day
We had a great time for St. Patty’s. Our campground is right on the border of an area called Key Colony, which is a nice neighborhood with a few fun bars. A group of us from the campground decided to ride our bikes for a St. Patty’s Day pub-crawl. We hit 3 bars and drank our share of green beer and cocktails.

Mike & I, Randy & Lea, Greg & Carol sporting our green!

Mike & I, Randy & Lea, Greg & Carol sporting our green!

Happy St. Patty's!

Happy St. Patty’s!

Fishing/Boating
Mike was able to go ocean fishing five times! He went once on a charter with some others in the campground, twice with our neighbor Ron, and twice with Greg & Carol. I actually went once with Greg & Carol and what an exciting trip it was. We heard the familiar spin of the wheel and it was clear that Greg had a big one on. As the fish got closer to the boat, it looked like he had a shark hooked! Actually, he had landed a pretty big fish that a 7-foot hammerhead shark had latched onto. The shark held on until about 10 yards from the boat. All that was left was the head of the fish and a hammerhead circling us for about 10 minutes! It was pretty wild to witness.
On some of the other trips, Mike caught Snapper, Bonita, Jack Crevalle, Wahoo, Mahi Mahi and Blackfin Tuna. This has been pure heaven for him to be out on the water fishing. For one of the Thursday night potlucks at the campground, he grilled up the Snapper, Wahoo and Tuna for all to sample. It was very tasty and oh so fresh!

The shark chasing the fish in

The shark holding onto the fish as Greg reels it in

He was a big one!

He was a big one!

Mike and his Jack Crevalle

Mike and his Jack Crevalle

Wahoo!!!

Wahoo!!!

Snorkeling/Huka
Friends from the campground, Randy & Lea, organized a day for us to get out to the reefs. This area is extremely popular for diving and snorkeling. They are both certified divers, but we are not, so Mike opted to snorkel and I decided to try something called Huka (also known as Snuba). It is basically diving, but your tank is on a raft at the surface that you are tethered to. This allows you to breathe underwater, but you are still only about 15 feet from the surface and a dive master is with you monitoring the tanks. I was a bit anxious at first, but got the hang of it quickly and really enjoyed it. After that was done, I had the chance to snorkel with Mike for awhile. We stopped at two separate reefs, The Donut and Coffins Patch. We saw tons of fish, coral and sea plants. I even saw a small nurse shark. The day couldn’t have been more perfect – the clearest visibility in weeks and water temp of 80 degrees. Not bad!

Do I look anxious?  Practicing how to breathe

Do I look anxious? Practicing how to breathe

Randy & Lea

Randy & Lea surfacing from their dive

Mike’s Birthday
March 24th was the big day and he had a great one. It is always odd to be away from home for holidays and events that we usually celebrate with friends and family. But, he heard from many and was definitely feeling the love. We started out with a nice breakfast out and then had a relaxing day around the campground. Then, we ended up at one of our favorite bars, Keys Fisheries, for sunset and cocktails. Capped off watching Star Wars back at the MoHo (his choice, not mine).

Celebrating Mike's Bday at our favorite bar - can you believe that view?

Celebrating Mike’s Bday at our favorite bar – can you believe that view?

Biking the Bridge
The famous 7-mile bridge is at the south end of Marathon. This is the iconic bridge that is shown in movies such as True Lies. An old bridge parallels the current one and is open for pedestrian and bike traffic. It provides a great vantage point to look for marine wildlife and beautiful views of that blue Florida Keys water.

7-mile bridge behind us

7-mile bridge behind us.  We’re on the old one.

End of the road!

End of the road! You can see the current bridge to the left.

Pretty views

Pretty views

Favorite Restaurants/Happy Hours
We have been sampling many of the local places and have found some great spots!
No Name Pub – Best pizza
Tarpon Creek – Best happy hour food and a bonus that we can walk there
Cabana Breezes – Cheap Wings/Shrimp with a great ocean view
Frank’s Grill – Best Italian, a total hole in the wall. We had a nice joint b-day dinner here for Mike & Greg
Burdine’s Chiki Tiki – Best Burger and Fries
Hurricane – Coldest beers in town
Keys Fisheries Bar – Our favorite spot with the absolute best view
Sunset Grille – Best party bar/Sunday Funday
Stuffed Pig – Best Breakfast (Banana Bread French Toast – OMG!)

Never get tired of seeing the Manatee - they love to drink the fresh water

Never get tired of seeing the Manatee – they love to drink the fresh water dripping off the boats

The Florida adventure continues

Our spot at the Bonefish Bay RV Park, a hidden gem

Our spot at the Bonefish Bay RV Park, a hidden gem (we are on the far left)

We have been in Marathon for the past two weeks (4 months now in Florida) and have absolutely loved our time here. Marathon is located in the Florida Keys about midway between Key Largo and Key West. We have driven through it a half dozen times, but never really gave it a second thought, until someone suggested it as a place for us to stay. We were fortunate to get a spot at the Bonefish Bay Motel & RV. It is a pretty small and basic campground, but probably the friendliest park we have stayed at of our 150+ campgrounds over the past 20 months. We have met more people here and been more social than we have in quite some time.

The location of this campground is perfect for everything there is to do in the area. Our time here has been very relaxing and a mixture of spending time at the park with new friends, out on the water or at the beach and checking out happy hours and new restaurants. We are currently scheduled to leave here on March 21, but we are considering extending until the end of the month. That will then give us 6 weeks to make our way across the country for our return to Washington in mid to late May. I just can’t believe how fast our two-year mark is approaching.

Check out all the pics below:

Beach Day at Sombrero Beach

Beach Day at Sombrero Beach

Annual Pig Races at the Stuffed Pig Restaurant

Annual Pig Races at the Stuffed Pig Restaurant

The Pot Bellied pigs ran a little slower...

The Pot Bellied pigs ran a little slower…

Sunset Grille "Sunday Funday"  Gotta love a bar with a pool!

Sunset Grille “Sunday Funday” Gotta love a bar with a pool!

Pirate Party - Arghhhhh!

Pirate Party – Arghhhhh!

New friends Randy & Lea

New friends Randy & Lea

Thursday night potluck at the Tike Bar with live entertainment!

Thursday night potluck at the Tiki Bar with live entertainment! Our site is perfectly located right in front!

Tik

Sunset at the Tiki Bar

Our Key Largo campground neighbors, Nick & Sherri, drove down for the day to visit

Our Key Largo campground neighbors, Nick & Sherri, drove down for the day to visit

A day on the water with new friends (Greg & Carol) and old friends (Gene & Sandy)

A day on the water with new friends (Greg & Carol) and old friends (Gene & Sandy from Everglades Isle last year).   Mike, Greg and Gene chillaxing!

Carol, Me and Sandy - happy boaters!

Carol, Me and Sandy – happy boaters!

 

Our time in the Keys is over…or is it?

The blue water of the Florida Keys

The blue water of the Florida Keys

I can’t believe we have been at our spot in Key Largo for 7 weeks. It has been so nice to be settled and living like locals for this extended time. What a treat for us to have returned to one of our favorite places. We are packing up now and the original plan was to start our journey northwest at this point. Well, the beauty of this lifestyle is that our plan can change. We found a spot about 50 miles south of here in Marathon that had space for us for 2 weeks. Yippee! We just weren’t ready to leave the Keys, so are thrilled to have found a place to go. This is high season for this area, so somehow we lucked into a place with availability. When Mike called a few weeks ago, they had just received a cancellation, so we were in luck!

Calusa Campground from the water

Calusa Campground from the water

Spot #233 at Calusa Campground

Spot #233 at Calusa Campground

Relaxing at our site

Relaxing at our site

The weather the past 4 weeks has been unusually cold, so we are hoping the temps come back to normal over the next few weeks. Last night, it was a low in the 40’s and the wind has been fierce. We haven’t been able to use the boat much in this wind which is really too bad. But, Mike has enjoyed using it as his fishing vessel. We loved having it and so convenient to be able to tie it up right at our site and be out on the water in minutes.

Mike and his big catch

Mike and his big catch

Mike doing his thing

Mike doing his thing

Sunset on the boat, a little chilly

Sunset on the boat, a little chilly

February has been pretty mellow for us. Getting over the shock of the Superbowl loss took us down for that first week and personally I still cringe when I think about that last play. Damn, but I have come to accept it…kind of. One Friday, we met up with friends Sandy & Gene who we met last year in Everglades City. They are working at the KOA in Sugarloaf for the winter, so we met halfway in Marathon at Sombrero Beach. Had a great day catching up and relaxing on the beach, then a nice dinner. We’re looking forward to seeing them again when we get down to Marathon.

Another great sunset

Another great sunset

Another day, we drove up to Miami, about a 2-hour trip with traffic. Both of us have only been in the airport there, so seeing South Beach was on our list. It was a beautiful day, not too hot, so perfect for walking around. We checked out the beach and walked down the main drag that parallels the beach. It was a Tuesday mid-day and crazy busy which seemed shocking. We hit a few places including the Clevelander and Wet Willies. We left to drive back early afternoon, so didn’t experience the nightlife, but I can only imagine how crazy it would be.

South Beach, Miami

South Beach, Miami

The rest of our days have been filled with pool time (finally, they fixed the leak and it reopened after a 2-week closure), walking, reading books, riding our bikes, seeing movies on bad weather days, sunset watching, cooking and fishing. So, pretty relaxing to say the least. Tonight, we’ll hit our favorite happy hour at the Big Chill and get packed up for our hour commute south tomorrow.

Fat Tuesday at Snappers - crawfish boil!

Fat Tuesday at Snappers – crawfish boil!

Valentine's Day happy hour

Valentine’s Day happy hour

Beer tasting at Islamorada Brewery

Beer tasting at Islamorada Brewery

Gotta love a band playing on a Pontoon Boat

Gotta love a band playing on a Pontoon Boat

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 :(((