Tag Archives: fishing

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

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

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 :(((

 

Life in Key Largo

 

Sunset from our campground, Calusa

Sunset from our campground in Key Largo

We have been in Key Largo for almost two weeks now. We returned to one of our favorite campgrounds from last year, Calusa Campground, staying in the same site.   We were able to get it for 7 weeks, which was awesome as this is kind of our last hurrah. When we leave at the end of February, we will start our journey home to Washington State (we refer to it this way now, as most people think Washington means DC). This campground is our little slice of heaven. It is a mixed bag of full time owners who either live here or come in for weekends and a small percentage of people like us who are transients trying to soak up the low-stress lifestyle of The Keys.

Mike soaking it all in

Mike soaking it all in

Our site, tent is for nighttime to avoid the bugs.

Our spot on the bay.  The tent is for nighttime to avoid the bugs.

Our spot is right on the bay and Mike is able to fish daily. He landed a small shark the other day, which was pretty exciting. His hope it to catch the big one, the Tarpon that everyone is after. I have been walking every day, trying to get in my 10,000 steps, and we are using our bikes a lot. We have a Publix grocery across the street and there is an amazing fruit stand next door that we hit every few days. We have great neighbors on either side of us. Nick & Sherry from the Ft. Lauderdale area work during the week, then come down on Thurs for the weekend. Pete & Bonnie from Minnesota are renting like us. One of the best parts of the park is the huge pool, only about 50 yards from our site. We have been using it a lot, a great place to meet people too.

Mike's big catch, a 3 foot Nurse Shark

Mike’s big catch, a 3-foot Nurse Shark

The Manatee's come right up to our site, they like the fresh water

The Manatee come right up to our site, they like the fresh water from the bucket

Mama and Baby Manatee

Mama and Baby Manatee

We have been cooking a lot at home, but have enjoyed hitting local places including Jimmy Johnson’s Big Chill Happy Hour. Mike can get half-priced peel & eat shrimp and wings and Tuesday is ladies night, which means that my drinks are free. One day we drove about 30 minutes south to Islamorada to see Candy & Cheryl, who we met on a cruise last year. They own a few of the souvenir shops at Robbie’s Marina. We showed up out of the blue, but Cheryl was there and bought us a beer and we spent an hour catching up. They have a great thing going there and it was nice to reconnect.

Ladies night at the Big Chill

Ladies night at the Big Chill

One day we went to Brew on the Bay, the annual Key Largo Brewfest. We love “lucking” into these types of events. This one was pretty cool. There were 30+ breweries there, the setting was amazing and surprisingly it wasn’t very crowded. There were a few of the usual breweries that we seem to always see, but most of them were ones that we have never sampled before including a few from the Keys. There were multiple bands playing, yummy food and overall a pretty great atmosphere.

Brew on the Bay

Brew on the Bay

Taps right on the side of the car

Taps right on the side of the car

This was the day of the game vs Carolina. Ran into this Panther fan.

This was the day of the game vs Carolina. Ran into this Panther fan.

We have really settled in nicely to our temporary home. This is the longest, by far, that we have stayed in one place. I struggle a lot with feeling like we aren’t really doing anything. I mean, we are busy with everyday type of chores and exploring, but the days just seem to be slipping by. I have this ridiculous feeling of guilt at times, but then I snap out of it and remember to embrace this time. Soon enough, we will be home working again and daydreaming about our time on the road. Now is the time to live in the moment!

Up next…Seahawks game on Sunday! It has been fun flying our flags. AND, our great friends, Sunny & Mitch Cameron, arrive on Friday for a week. Can’t wait to see them and share our lifestyle with them!

Soaking it all in!

The water is just so blue!

We love the nightly sunsets

We love the nightly sunsets

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.