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Monday, May 12, 2008

Back to the Island

It has seemed like a long winter. It was not a particularly cold one, just long, and dry. The Piedmont area of the Carolinas and Georgia, and some other areas of the Southeast have been under extreme drought conditions for nearly a year, maybe longer. So I cannot and will not complain about the chilly, wet spring we have had. But it did seem to make Winter seem longer.

But as Jimmy Buffett sang in the Leon Russell song:

I hope you understand,
I just had to get back to the island.
And watch the sun go down,
Hear the sea roll in.....
Hear the night bird cry,
Watch the sunset down,
I just hope you understand,
I just had to go back to the island.

And get back to the island we did!

Key West and Blue Water Key Redux.

Last year we went to Bluewater Key RV Resort just outside of Key West at MM 14 on US1. We were so taken by the place that we decided then that we would return. Now this may sound strange, but we went back, stayed in exactly the same site (#74), and did almost nothing for the entire week. Yep, nothing. There are not many places that I would want to return and stay again, but Bluewater Key and the Lower Keys are one of those rare places. We could have stayed, and stayed, and stayed...

Why would you want to leave this?

Sunset from our dock at Bluewater Key

We were so lazy, we didn't even make any more pictures this year. There are several reasons for this:
We even stayed at the same campground at Flagler Beach (Gamble Rogers Recreation Area) on the way back. There is where the story really gets off of last years trip... last year we were on site #14 at Gamble Rogers, this year we were on #12.

We did do a couple of things different this year. First, we drove down to KW in 1 1/2 days. We left home at about 1:00 PM on Friday, and drove all the way to Palm Coast FL, arriving there at about midnight Friday night/Saturday morning. That is where it got a little interesting.

A few days proir to leaving, I phoned the Wal-Mart in Palm Coast and spoke with a member of management. I ask if if was OK to spend the night in their parking lot in our RV. I was told that it would be fine as long as we were out of the way by first thing in the morning. To me first thing is anytime before 7:00 AM, so this was no problem. So as the hours rolled by along with I-95, that Wal-Mart parking lot was looking pretty good.

We got there a few minutes before midnight, and as always, I went in to ask the managers permission. I was then told that there was a city ordinance against any overnight parking. She said that I could do it "at my own risk", but may get a knock on the door by PC's finest in the early morning hours and would have to move. We chatted a few more minutes about it and I decided that the risk of that actually happening may not be that great. Besides, where else were we going to go at 1:00 AM... back on I-95? Thats where we were eventually headed anyway; either with or without sleep! So we decided to try it.

We pulled over near the back of the parking lot, as far away from the street as we could get, and still out of the way of any other store traffic. I didn't feel too guilty because there was one 18 wheeler parked there too. By 12:45 we were asleep, and didn't wake up until about 6:30 when the sun was comming up, and the delivery trucks were moving in. After a quick cup of coffee, we were back on the road.

Now for an editorial comment: One of the quickest ways to get an argument started on some of the RV related Internet forums is to mention parking overnight in a Wal-Mart parking lot. For some reason it just seems to rub some people the wrong way. I see absolutely nothing wrong with parking in a lot like that for a few hours sleep. Not "CAMPING" mind you, but getting some rest while on route to your destination. If campgrounds and RV parks want to take advantage of these in transit overnight stops, they should provide a place where RVers can get in and out easily, no hookup's required, and stay open all night. I don't think there are many campgrounds that would have welcomed us at that hour, for a few hours, for a few bucks.

From I-95 near Jupiter Beach we took the Floridas Turnpike. I think it was a total of about $18 bucks by the time we hit US1 south of Homestead/Florida City, but well worth dodging all that traffic between West Palm Beach and Miami, and the hassel of that 30 miles or so of US1 between the end of I-95 and Florida City.

Since we were doing so good with our time, I decided to take the Card Sound Road through Largo, going past Alabama Jacks and crossing the swinging toll bridge. With the bridge construction on US1, this seemed like a more scenic route. Just after turning left onto Card Sound Road, we came up behind the first of about 1000 bicycles on that route. There was a charity bike-a-thon fundraiser going on. Just our luck, but I do hope they raised a lot of money. It then took us over an hour to make it down that 20 mile stretch back to US1.

Our Week in Paradise!

Finally at about 5:00 PM we were in our "One Particular Harbor"; our site in Bluewater Key RV resort. We had most of our meals during the week there, usually after a swim in the clear, warm water. We did venture into Key West a couple of times for dinner and to check out the action on Duval Street. Here's a picture from the Sloppy Joe's Duval Street web cam:

That day we had dinner at El Siboney, a great family run Cuban resturant. The next time we went to Key West a few days later, we walked around, bought the kids souvineirs, and had dinner at Pepe's. Pepe's has been in the waterfront area for 50 years or so and still serves up great seafood.

One day we did venture up to Big Pine Key, and over to No Name Key to see the Key Deer. There is actually a Key Deer preserve on Big Pine, but we saw none there. But there were several subdivisions we rode through where the tiny Key Deer had come into the area to eat the grass. We saw numerous Key Deer there.

No Name is also deserving of it's name. There is nothing there to be named! It is quite isolated, with only a few houses. Several construction sites appeared abandoned.

On the way back we stopped at the Sugarloaf Lodge. Their restaurant was open, so we ordered a couple of fresh grouper sandwiches to go. Those we enjoyed from our Tiki Hut next to the water back at Bluewater Key.

Most late afternoons found us on our bicycles riding around the RV resort, the neighborhood next door, and the larger island just north of us about a mile up US1 in the Saddlebunch Keys. We always managed to stop someplace and watch the sun go down...that seems to be a required activity in the Conch Republic. Not a bad way to end your day...