Tag Archives: Florida

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

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.

White Sand Beaches! 11/10/14 – 11/19/14

DSC02915

We left Gulf Shores, AL and made our way east to our next stop, a short 80 miles down the coast to Fort Walton Beach and Destin, FL. We decided to make it a weeklong stay, as the rates at the West Destin RV Park were very favorable for 7-nights. The park was set up very well, four rows of pads, all very level brick pavers, with nice picnic tables and good spacing and landscaping between each site with gorgeous water views. This place was situated on the bay side; in this area of Florida, there is a long outer shoreline that has a few breaks in it to allow for the water to flow in and out to the huge bay behind. The park had access to the ocean side/Gulf of Mexico across the street, as they are part of the Ramada Hotel and allow the RV park guests to use all the hotel facilities, nice relationship.

West Destin RV Park, great views Choctawhatchee Bay

West Destin RV Park, great views of Choctawhatchee Bay

When we arrived, the weather was perfect, a nice couple of days in the mid-70’s. As the week progressed though, Mother Nature brought down some cool air form the middle of the country, with highs in the mid 40’s/lows in the 20’s for several days, along with a strong north wind, and it was downright cold! Many of our neighbors, who stay here for several months during the winter, were thinking about heading even further south to avoid the unusual cold. Fortunately for us, we were already planning on that. But in the meantime, we had some things to do around the area.

Mike exploring the beach, Bay Side

Mike exploring the beach, Bay Side

First priority was to visit friends, Pat and Allison Bunker, and their new baby boy, Hudson. We spent last Christmas Eve and Day with them on our way through, and Allison was about 7-8 months pregnant at the time, so it was a treat to meet the little man after being here last winter and not getting a chance then. We made our way to their home in Panama City Beach one evening for Pat’s famous homemade pizza and it was an awesome treat to once again be around friends and in their wonderful home. Thanks you guys, hope to see you in the spring on our way back to the NW!

Mike and Baby Hudson

Mike and Baby Hudson

The Bunker Family

The Bunker Family

Another item on our list here was another repair, this time to our large shade awning. The motor had quit a week or so back, and although we do not use it a lot, we needed to get it fixed. We called a local repair guy, Charlie from Gulf Coast Mobile Services, who came out right away, ordered the part, and was back a few days later to install it. He was perfect to work with, wish all of our needed repairs went so smoothly.

Several days we spent walking on the beach. As I mentioned earlier, we were able to access the beach across the street at the Ramada, and we went over whenever we wanted, and took in the peacefulness of the off-season. We basically had the beach to ourselves every time we went over. The sand here is the purest white you will ever find; almost like powder it is so soft. The water is very clear, with porpoises off the beach, a long fishing pier, and sunsets that are amazing. The town and beach were super quiet, being the off-season before turkey day, lucky for us.

The turquoise water of the Gulf of Mexico

The turquoise water of the Gulf of Mexico

Destin behind us from Norriego Point

Destin behind us from Norriego Point

Near the end of our week stay, the weather at our next planned stop of Tallahassee was looking really cold, lows in the low 20’s were forecast. We decided to extend our stay in West Destin for 3 nights; not a lot pulling us to Tallahassee, and we really liked our park. The weather was still cold, but at least we had the beach and bay to look at, and it was only going to get down into the low 30’s, not as bad. We even had a chance on a cold afternoon to go see the movie “Dumb and Dumber To.” If you remember one of our earlier posts when we visited the Today Show in NY, they did a big promotion for the sequel to one of our all time favorite movies, and it was finally time for its release. Great to see Harry and Lloyd on the big screen together again!

The weather turned cold, but the same amazing view!

The weather turned cold, but still the same amazing view!

We also had time to take in some of the local restaurants here. I think our favorite was a tiny little Airstream trailer, The Other End, turned bar/restaurant overlooking the bay in Destin. Great location, with cold beers complete with free coozies, wish we had found it earlier in our stay. We also ate at McGuire’s Irish Pub, and as luck would have it, we showed up right at the beginning of happy hour, ½ price double Martini night! The most interesting thing about this place is the money – an estimated $1.6 million in $1 bills stapled to the walls and ceiling – everywhere you look were $1 bills, signed by people from all over the world, hard to describe this without seeing and way too dark to take a quality picture. We hit up Miller’s Ale House for the very disappointing Seahawks game, but a very fun place to watch NFL on a Sunday. We also ate at Jimmy Buffets place, a nice little Mexican place, both on the Harbor Walk in Destin Bay, as well as drinks one night at AJ’s. Fort Walton Beach and Destin both had a ton of options, and we were glad to have made a stop here on our way back into Florida. Next stop Gainesville, then on to Orlando for a few days, and Tampa for Thanksgiving with the Lee family!

Mike looking out at the Bay from Destin Harbor

Enjoying the sunset from Crab Island Cantina at Destin Harbor

Go Hawks!

Go Hawks at Miller’s Ale House

Loved this outdoor bar!

Loved this outdoor bar, The Other End

Sunsets, Sunrises and Fishing! 1/15/14 – 1/21/14

Sunrise in Key West

Sunrise in Key West

Moving to our new spot at the campground has made a huge difference. We actually have had room to spread out and we back right up to the water. A perfect place to kick back in the evening for sunset and morning for sunrise. This second week in Key West we have definitely been in relax mode! We have been cooking more in the MoHo and I have been getting in my exercise and reading a lot while Mike continues to fish.

Our new spot at the campground!

Our new spot at the campground!

A few highlights this week:

Fort Zachary Taylor State Park
We found a sandy beach – yay! It was a beautiful day so we packed up the chairs and cooler and headed out. The beach itself was pretty littered with seaweed/debris and the water was very rocky; we had to have sandals on. But, it was a great place to kick back for the day and read my book. Mike tried fishing for a bit, but no luck.

Southernmost Point monument
This was the most touristy thing we did this week. We waited for a non-cruiseship day so that it wasn’t so crowded, then went into Key West to get the obligatory photo. Hard to believe we are only 90 miles from Cuba!

90 miles from Cuba

90 miles from Cuba

Sunset Cruise
Since we had already seen the amazing sunset from the land, we decided we wanted to see it from the water. We opted for Sebago and the Appledore V, an old schooner. There were only 8 other people onboard with 3 crew and they provided appetizers and cocktails. This sounded better than the crowded party barges we had seen go out. It wasn’t a crystal clear day and the wind had definitely picked up, so we weren’t sure how it was going to go. I actually had to make a last minute jacket purchase because I didn’t dress warmly enough. Well, the clouds made for a fantastic sunset. We had a great time getting to know our fellow passengers and crew and would highly this company.

The sister-ship to ours in the foreground

The sister-ship to ours in the background

Sunset cruise!

Sunset cruise!

Seahawks Sunday
This was the perfect day! We started off at the local Seafood & Arts Festival down the road. It was a small little event, but they had a lot of fresh food, some local craft booths and a great beer garden. $5 for the first beer with a souvenir mug, then refills were only $3. And you didn’t have to stay in a restricted area to drink. What a great concept! Then, we stopped at a local bar right on a marina, Hurricane Hole, with a great outdoor area. We had a late lunch and ended up watching the first half of the Denver/New England game. A fun group of people there. Then, it was time to head back to the MoHo to gear up for the big game. We ended up watching it outside and had a lot of interest from our neighbors and other campers walking by. One guy actually sat down and watched the last quarter with us. I was pretty nervous the entire game, but felt the relief and excitement along with everyone else on that final play! Mike promptly got up and sounded the MoHo horn. It was close to 10pm, but had to do it!

Go Hawks!

Go Hawks!

We sent this to our favorite Washington winery, JM Cellars to post on their FB page.

We sent this to our favorite Washington winery, JM Cellars to post on their FB page.

Bahia Honda State Park
This was about an hour drive for us away from Key West, but so worth it.  Someone had recommended this park for kayaking, so we decided to go for it.   We tooled around in the beautiful blue/green water for a few hours, then decided to take advantage of some beach time.  This beach was about the same as the one we had been to before with lots of seaweed, but there was a sandbar to wade out onto.  It was about 50 yards of knee high water with a very sandy bottom.  Much better! When we got back to the car I noticed something on the windshield.  There was a note and full sized Coug Flag.  It said, “Of all places to run into a fellow Coug. Enjoy!”  He must have seen my license plate cover.  So very cool.   I couldn’t believe it.  I will have to pay it forward.

Kayaking at Bahia Honda State Park

Kayaking at Bahia Honda State Park – the picture doesn’t do the color of the water justice

My new Coug flag!

My new Coug flag!

Fishing Charter
Mike had wanted to do this for 2 weeks so he finally booked a 6-hour charter with 4 other people. I stayed home and did some errands and more or less just relaxed. The boat caught 6 fish consisting of mackerel and dolphin fish. Mike reeled in two of the mackerel. It was a beautiful day out on the water and he loved it! Even brought home some of the dolphin fish to grill up. I think a fishing boat is in our future at some point.

Mike's catch for the day

Mike’s catch for the day

Today it is pouring down rain so it has been a good day for us to get packed up. We head to Ft. Lauderdale tomorrow to meet my mom who is flying in from Seattle and then we get on Ruby Princess for a 9-day cruise on Thursday. We will leave the MoHo in Key Largo where we have a week booked after the cruise. Bon Voyage Key West.

Chillaxing in Key West – 1/7/14 – 1/13/14

Sunset in Key West from Mallory Square

Sunset in Key West from Mallory Square

We have been in Key West for a week now, halfway through our stay here.  This is part of the trip that we had planned quite some time ago and Mike spent a lot of time researching where to stay.  We landed on Boyd’s RV Resort because it was the closest to the town of Key West and we were able to get a spot on the water.   Upon arrival, we were very disappointed.  This place was a zoo, absolute chaos.  The first spot they gave us, we couldn’t fit into.  And, it wasn’t on the water.  After talking with the office and going back and forth for about an hour, we got settled into a spot that would do, but still not on the water as we had expected.  Disappointed to say the least, but they were able to find a water spot we could move into on the 14th.   I think we have been spoiled with our last few parks, because this place just did not measure up.  Crowded, extremely tight spots (we can’t even extend our awning), not paved and very noisy.  We would not recommend this park.  In fact, we tried calling around to see if we could fine another park, but everywhere was full.  Stay tuned for an update when we move to our new spot.  I am trying not to dwell, but that is not in my nature.  Mike of course is doing better with it than me.

Sunrise (Mke took this - I was sleeping)

Sunrise!  Mike took this – I was sleeping : )

Ok, so now that my rant about Boyd’s is out of the way, let’s focus on the fact that we are in Key West!  This place is like no other.  Blue, blue water and everyone is in full vacation mode.  A relaxed, party atmosphere to say the least.   Our first full day here, we decided to head into Key West to see what it was all about.  The RV Park is at Milepost 5 and town is Milepost 0, so we are fairly close (the best thing about our park – location).  There were 2 cruise ships in town, so it was busy and crowded.  We parked and the first experience we had was seeing Guy Fieri roll down Duval Street in his red Camaro filming for Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.  He stopped at a light right in front of us.  For those of you who know me well, I LOVE celebrity sightings!  We then stopped in at Sloppy Joes (famous spot that Hemingway used to frequent) for a beer that turned into three.  There was a live band playing, we met a couple of fellow RVers and ended up chatting with them for awhile.  Left there and walked by a place on the street, the Smallest Bar, which really was the smallest bar.  Mike could touch both sides of it with outstretched hands.  There was a young couple there who we hit it off with, Joe & Kate from Toronto.  A few more drinks and Fireball shots and that’s all she wrote.  We ended up bar hopping with them the rest of the night and having dinner at Margaritaville.   By the way, they have the same concept of “to go” beverages that New Orleans had.  Needless to say, we did up Key West right on our first night in town.

Guy Fieri filming on Duval Street!

Guy Fieri filming on Duval Street!

Our new friends Kate & Joe at the Smallest Bar in Key West

Our new friends Kate & Joe at the Smallest Bar in Key West

The rest of our time so far hasn’t been quite as crazy.  We had to get that first night out of our system before we could hit a more mellow and relaxed mode.  We have been back into Key West twice.  Once on Seahawks Football Saturday for brunch at Blue Heaven (highly recommended to us from Craig Gambino and it did not disappoint – banana pancakes)!  We walked up and down Duval Street, then decided we wanted to watch the game from the comfort of the MoHo so we could utilize the DVR function if needed.  It got a little interesting, but we came away with a victory!!!!  Another day we went into town in the late afternoon for an early dinner at Fogerty’s, then to Mallory Square for the sunset celebration.  The square is located on the south end of Duval Street and faces to the west.  We were there on a Sunday night and the place was packed.  Street performers everywhere.   At about 5:55pm, we watched the sun disappear into the ocean and everyone cheered (see main photo at the top of this post).  If you’ve never seen this phenomenon, it certainly is an incredible sight.  This is a nightly celebration and I’m sure is crowded every night.  There were also tons of boats out in the water, so we may look into a sunset cruise for another night to experience the sunset celebration another way.

Brunch at Blue Heaven, Key West

Brunch at Blue Heaven, Key West

Go Hawks!

Go Hawks!

We have also had a chance to use the kayaks!  One day we took them out right from the RV Park, which definitely was convenient.  The wind kind of kicked up on us though, so made for a good workout on the arms to get back.  But, being out on the water is just hard to beat.  Another day, we drove back up Highway 1 about 5 miles to Geiger Key.  The weather was perfect and the water was oh so blue.  It was so clear and varied among 3 or 4 shades of blue and green.  It is also so shallow in places; even hundreds of yards from shore, we could get out and stand in just 2 feet of water.  We saw a turtle swimming and tons of huge birds.  Mike fished and got a few nibbles but nothing to reel in.  On the way back to the take out spot, I had a manatee surface right next to me and it scared the doo doo out of me.  This thing was huge and I thought it might tip me over.   Possibly an over-reaction as they guys are apparently gentle giants and probably more scared of me, but it just really startled me.  After we got back on shore, we continued to watch this guy surface, which was very cool to see!

Kayaking!

Kayaking!

Saw this guy hanging out on the bulkhead

Saw this guy hanging out on the bulkhead

We’ve had a little bit of everything weather wise. Rain, wind, sun and of course the humidity.  For the most part, it has been great weather though and typically in the high 70’s.  Mike has been getting his fish-on daily and has been enjoying trying out different lures and locations.   He typically gets up early and heads out for a few hours while I snooze away and have a leisurely morning.  We have really settled into the laid back atmosphere!  We are looking forward to another week here to continue to kayak, fish and explore new areas. I’m sure we’ll head back into Key West a few more times, but there are so many other “Keys” to explore.   We are trying to balance the touristy stuff with off the beaten path experiences. One thing that has surprised me is there are not a lot of beaches.  I had in my head that we would take the kayaks onto a beach and sit at an open-air bar with our toes in the sand.  This is not the case, mostly marina’s/bulkheads to launch boats (there are A LOT of boats around here) and then the islands that are lined with mangrove trees.  In fact, I haven’t seen anyone swimming from the shore, just people out in boats.  Not a big deal, but just funny how your expectations aren’t always accurate.

I hope the New Year is treating everyone well.  My resolution is to continue to embrace what we are doing and try to let things roll of my shoulders when all doesn’t goes as planned.  This is a challenge for me, but I’m working on it!

Alligators, Turtles and No-see-ums, Oh My! – 12/31/13 to 1/6/14

Everglades, FL

Everglades, FL

We headed out of St. Petersburg and kept going further south on the Gulf coast of Florida. We drove about 3 hours to the town of Ft. Myers Beach, about an hour north of Naples. We arrived at the Gulf Waters RV Park, and checked into site #855 on a private little lake. This was another great resort, tennis and pickle ball courts, a big clubhouse with a pool off to one side, and the best part of all – huge wide sites to park on. We set up and headed over to the beach, across the only bridge in and out of the area, and it took some time with all the traffic. We pulled over and took some pictures, walked on the white powdery sand, I got my Florida fishing license at the local marina, then we decided to head home and make tacos for New Years Eve. A quiet night in sounded pretty good.  We made it up to 11:00PM, and that was it, not bad for us!

Ft. Myers Beach - New Year's Day

Ft. Myers Beach – New Year’s Day

The next day we wandered back to the beach, and after searching for parking for 45 minutes, finally found a free spot in a city lot, as it was New Years Day. We went out to the beach and it was crazy how many people were out enjoying the sun, it was only 78 degrees! Grabbed a beer for a walk on the beach and then went to a little hole in the wall bar for more beverages and some food. We hung out and people watched for a while, then it was time to get back to the MoHo for the Rose Bowl and some real food – Chicken Wings! We enjoyed the days’ college football bowl games and turned in early. This area would be a great place to spend more time, but we were on a schedule to get to our next spot.

The next morning, we left Ft. Myers Beach and headed to Everglades City, about a 2 1/2 hour drive, just the kind of distance I like! Along the drive, we were surprised by a road sign we saw frequently, “Warning – Panther crossing.”  We have all seen the deer signs and elk crossing signs, but Panthers? We did not see any along the route, but it did peak our interest. We arrived at the Everglades Isle RV Resort around noon. When we pull in to most parks, we stop at the front to check, as we did here. We went into the office, and immediately realized this was not your average RV park. The office was just a tiny little corner of the massive clubhouse. After checking in, getting the MoHo set up, we wandered the grounds of the park. The clubhouse had it all; a full service bar, open nightly for happy hour at 4:30PM, nice shower facilities with complimentary towels, free laundry, a well-equipped gym, a movie theater and a nice little spa. The outdoor pool and hot tub were just off the main clubhouse, and there was a small mini service bar out there as well and a boat ramp. This place was top of the line. We returned to the MoHo and our site was perfect. We faced the Barron River, just 10 feet from the front of the rig. There were airboats coming and going up and down the river constantly, and tons of pelicans everywhere. Our site was one of the best we have stayed in yet. Plenty of room; very deep so we could set up anywhere on the pad and not feel too cramped, and very wide so we could put out our Dream Turf – the artificial grass we carry along with us. The only problem we could find here, were the No-see-ums.  If you haven’t experienced these before, they are like mosquitos but worse because you can’t see them.  Their bites turn into little red spots and they itch like crazy.  We both got our fair share of bites.  We relaxed for the afternoon and headed up to happy hour at 4:30PM and we were greeted by the bartender Sandy. She was staying just a couple sites down from us, and was working her first night behind the bar by herself, and she was perfect. We enjoyed getting to know her each night at happy hour and hope to meet up with her and her husband Gene this summer in NY. We headed back to the MoHo for dinner and catching up on some college football games.

Sandy, our Happy Hour bartender

Sandy, our Happy Hour bartender

The next day we decided to take an airboat ride with Speedy’s. We got on board, and the driver took us back into the Mangroves, which are the main foliage here in this part of the Everglades. We meandered slowly through the tight, little, narrow passageways. Each turn it seemed like the route was getting tighter, but the captain knew his way. Then, he decided he had given us enough time to get used to the feel and sound, and he finally hit the throttle, and we are suddenly whizzing through the Mangroves! We emptied out into an open area and the captain did a full 180 and we stop on a dime! OK, now this was what we were expecting. We sped in and out of the Mangroves and grasslands for the rest of the one-hour tour, and then returned to the dock.  It was pretty windy and cold, so no alligator sightings unfortunately. We headed back to the MoHo, headed up to happy hour and ended the night with dinner in the quiet comfort of our home.

Airboat ride through the Mangroves

Airboat ride through the Mangroves

We were bundled for the ride!

We were bundled for the ride!

The next morning I headed down to the bait and tackle shops in town. I had been fishing off the dock in front of the MoHo when I have had time, and I was needing to replace some gear and find out how and what to use locally. (All my fishing gear is based on the trout/salmon fishing in the Northwest, not what is used here in Florida).  I returned and headed out on the dock, and just had a relaxing morning, and yes I did catch a couple Sheepshead.  That day was cool, and the forecast was spot on, as the rains started around 11:00AM and it poured most of the rest of the day. We did a few chores around the MoHo, Traci got a massage at the spa, and then we headed to happy hour to watch the early NFL playoff game in the clubhouse.  We headed to a local restaurant for dinner. Everglades City has about a dozen restaurants, and we were getting lots of info from our fellow RV park neighbors on what was good. Well, we missed that night, dinner was not worth finishing, let alone bring any leftovers home, oh well.

Fishing from our RV spot

Fishing from our RV spot

Sunday we woke and it was much better weather. We relaxed in the AM and headed to a Cuban restaurant for lunch, just down the road in the next little town of Chokoloskee, another recommendation.  For the afternoon, we opted for a drive one our neighbors had told us about to see some alligators.  We turned off Hwy 41 onto Turner River Road.  There was a viewing dock set up for people to watch for alligators, birds, etc. We walked out on the dock, and there was not much to be seen, except for a ton of fish in a little wetland. (The Barron River we were staying on is very dark in color, as it mixes with the tides and the Mangrove leaves. These leaves stain the water a brown color, much like a tea bag, and it never is clear to see into). It was nice to see into some water, and actually see the fish swimming and all the plant life. We walked the length of the dock and thought we could see a small alligator off in the distance, but were not sure. Across the road about 50 yards, there were a few people making a bit of noise, so I headed over to see what was going on. Low and behold, there was a gator over there. I peered down to the area people were pointing, and this dude was huge! I would guess it was 13-14 feet in length, and that is no fish tale! (One lady nearby said she was a lifelong Floridian and had not seen one that big ever!) I positioned myself around the monster for some great pictures, keeping a safe distance, using the comfort of a bridge to view him sunning himself in the warm afternoon heat. We returned to the car and headed north on Turner Road. Alongside the road was a canal/river. We saw hundreds of gators, dozens of turtles, and all sorts of huge birds. Many of the animals were just sitting on the rivers edge, as if they were posing for us, pretty amazing how much wildlife was here. We completed the 17-18 mile drive and headed back to the RV park, a great side trip and can only thank our fellow RV park neighbors for the inside tip.

This guy was at least 13 feet

This guy was at least 13 feet

Turtles!

Turtles!

Kind of eerie how they float atop the surface

Kind of eerie how they float atop the surface

Gator party! Funny, that the one guy was just laying on top of the others

Gator party! Funny, that the one guy was just laying on top of the others

The next day, I did some fishing for a couple hours, Traci relaxed at home getting some of her to-do’s done and then we headed out for the afternoon. We never used the kayaks here, as the Barron River had some serious current, and we had talked to another couple that had actually become trapped by the current and not able to return to there vehicle. They had to flag someone down to help get them back to their car, so we decided to stay off the water.  We went to the Everglades National Park and took a guided boat tour of the 10,000-island area, just between the coast and the Gulf of Mexico. The captain and narrator gave us a lot of good information on the water/landscape. We got all the way through and out to the gulf, and were greeted by several dolphins feeding and playing. This was a great way to see this area, especially if you do not have your own boat. We returned to town, and headed to a late lunch/early dinner. We went to Camellias, another local place recommended by our neighbors. This was the best meal we had in town, by a long shot. We both were craving hamburgers, and they were prepared perfectly. Washed the food down with some ice cold beers and it was a great ending to the day…talk about a “cheeseburger in paradise!”  We returned to the RV park, and headed up for our last happy hour. It turned out to be the busiest night yet and we stayed for a couple hours, chatting with the rest of the RV park guests that came up that night. We headed back to the MoHo and turned in early as we were heading to Key West tomorrow for the next 15 days, one of our most anticipated destinations on our journey!

p.s. Traci & I want to wish you all a Happy New Year! May 2014 be a great one!

Pelicans in Everglades National Park

Pelicans in Everglades National Park

Dolphins playing

Dolphins playing

On our boat ride through the 10,000 islands

On our boat ride through the 10,000 islands

Kicking back at Camellia's

Kicking back at Camellia’s, Everglades City