Welcome to our Travel Blog!

Hi, and welcome to our RV Travel Blog! We hope you enjoy our writings. If you are a camper, I hope you find them helpful. The posts are list in order from recent back to earliest.... so if you want to read in order that they were written, scroll down or click the "Previous Posts" on the right. Also look at the "Archive" links on the right. Our trip and family photos are in the Dotphoto.com site in the links section on the left.
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Friday, September 28, 2012

The Sting of Leaving Florida

St. Augustine, Florida
Stagecoach RV Park

After a nice dinner last night at The Reef on the beach, we prepared for our final leg home this morning.  We were in no big hurry as it is only about 7 or 8 hours north to Monroe.

Our two cats are just really into the travel routine and I think would be up to staying on the road as long as we want to.

While we were packing up to go, we saw two of our camp neighbors out walking their cats, each cat with a leash.  I didn't get to the camera in time to make a picture.  We talked about how our cats may respond to a leash!  Nikki may do ok, but princess Bobbi would never stand for it.

With the utilities unhooked, Pam turned the a/c off so I could unplug from the shore power connection.  I flipped open the power pedestal lid to turn the switch off before unplugging.  As I put my hand in to turn the breaker off I touched the bottom edge of the pedestal lid and was immediately shocked!  My initial thought was there was a short in the pedestal wiring and I would need to report that to the office.  But then I saw two wasps flying out of the box.  I had been stung by a wasp and it did sting!

In 2005 I had an incident with a yellow jacket nest near our home.  I stepped on the nest without knowing it was there and was stung approximately 65 times.  Yellow Jackets are aggressive little buggers.  I passed out in the ambulance on the way to the emergency room and had to be given adrenalin to keep me going.  Since then Pam the nurse, has insisted that I need to keep an Epipen and Benadryl  handy just in case.  She says that I may be much more sensitive to wasp stings since that incident.

I kind of played that down and thought she was over reacting, but after about 15 minutes, my hand began to swell and my arm ached.  And this from just ONE sting.  We went ahead and got on the road, and by the time we stopped for fuel in Brunswick GA - about an hour and a half - my right hand and lower arm were swollen to the point i couldn't make a fist.  And, I had hives all over my arms and part of my torso.  Wow... I know now she is right about the super sensitivity.

After a couple more hours the swelling stopped and the itching subsided and we continued north bound on I-95.
I-95 Northbound

 We arrived back at home around 7:00 PM, just in time to unload the essentials before dark and get the cats situated. 

PS.  My hand remained itchy all night but the swelling began to go away Friday afternoon.  I will certainly keep the Epipen and Benadryl with me every where I go from now on.


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Going North

It's time to pack up from Bluewater Key and head back to North Carolina.  We had a beautiful sunrise this morning.  Then after getting everything picked up, packed up, and getting the cats ready for a day of travel, we are off and headed up US-1 back to the mainland.  It's time to put the Conch Republic behind us for this year.

We encountered very little rain as we made our way north on the Florida's Turnpike, then after Ft. Pierce, I-95. 

I do have a question for any Floridian's living in the Keys:  Are tourist the only ones expected to obey the traffic laws on US-1 in the Keys?   We had several rude and nearly dangerous experiences with drivers on the Overseas Highway, both while driving the RV and while driving the Chevy Tracker during our stay.  Most of the incidences were relating to dangerous passing while I was driving the posted speed limit or even 5 MPH or so above the limit.  Do people think if they intimidate you, you will will break the law so they can get someplace a few seconds quicker?  I really don't get it.  Furthermore, in most of the cases, we pulled up next to them or right behind them again at the next stop light.

We stopped for the night in St.  Augustine Florida, at the Stagecoach RV park.  It is very near the interstate and is relatively easy to get in and out.  We unhooked the Chevy and decided to eat a meal out at a St. Augustine restaurant.  We drove over to the beach just as the sun was going down and made a couple of pictures.   All the surf and sand is quite a bit different from the calm, clear waters to which we became accustomed in the Keys.

 With the clear skys, the moon was perfectly visible in the early evening sky.
There was another couple on the beach that was able to take our picture for us.

So tomorrow we head home after a full two weeks. 

Tuesday, September 25, 2012


Saddle  Bunch Keys, Florida

We did a little swimming, snorkeling, and kayaking today.  We had a brief shower and accompanying thunderstorm in the morning, but the afternoon was beautiful.

We drove over to the seafood market on Summerland Key and while we were there we looked at a few houses for sale.  Wow is all I can say.  The prices of even very modest houses here anywhere close to the water are very high!

My last picture was of the fresh shrimp we grilled.  Tonight we upgraded to fresh Keys Lobster.  I had not grilled lobster before so I was asking a couple of people including the lady at the seafood market for some tips.  Its really pretty simple...cut the shell of the tail down the middle and grill using the shell as the holder.

We seasoned them with just a small amount of melted butter and lime juice, and a little pepper. As you can see, the results were very tasty, and didn't last long!

The evening was mild with a little breeze from the south.  The Moon has been rising very early in the day and we could not see it, but last night it was visible and I tried (with not so good results) to get a picture or two.

One more day in Paradise then we have to head back to North Carolina!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Pink Shrimp on the Barby

Saddle Bunch Keys, Florida

We had another lazy day in the Keys.  We spend most of the day at the RV park swimming and kayaking. 

The wildlife here is amazing.  I mentioned earlier the number of birds we see daily.  Lower Sugarloaf Key also has a lot of fish.  Earlier today we heard a noise that sounded like a boat blasting through the water.  It turned out to be a shoal of mullet escaping from some other predatory fish.  About 4 or 5 waves of the mullet looking like ocean waves breaking on a shoreline continuing for 30 seconds or so until they were in deeper water.  Of course I didn't have the camera so no shot of that.

Anything watersports oriented is available and done here in the Keys.  Seems that every house has a boat or two in the yard or in the carport.  Paddle boarding is popular here as well.  We saw this guy coming across the sound with his dog on the board with him.

 I have not tried paddle boarding but my sense of balance is not all that great.  I think I would have a hard time standing upright and paddling by myself, much less with a dog on board!

Mid afternoon we drove up to Ramrod Key to a fresh seafood market and bought a pound of Key West Pink Shrimp.  We grilled those for our dinner.  We had a bag of broccoli slaw (just add mayo) and some whole wheat tortillas.  This combination made some very good fresh shrimp tacos.

We are headed back to that same seafood store tomorrow go pick up a couple of Florida Keys fresh Lobster for the grill.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Sightseeing Day

Today was the first day in a week that the  clouds didn't move out with the arrival of the sun.  It rained pretty hard during the night, and when we awoke this morning, the wind was blowing from the southeast and there were heavy clouds.

We decided to tie things down and take a day trip.  First over to Key West to see what was going on there.  As usual, lots of traffic and lots of people.  We drove out to the Truman Annex and Fort Zachery Taylor to see the beach.  At the gate we were informed by the nice security guard that we would have to pay the $7 entry fee to drive in and look at the beach.  We decided we didn't really need to see it that bad, but here is an aerial view according to their web site.

 We continued back to Duval Street and wound our way around some of the other more scenic streets in Old Town. 

After that we decided to head back up US-1 toward Marathon.  There were a couple of shops there that we wanted to check out.  And I always enjoy crossing the Seven Mile Bridge.   My question is: Why do people think the MUST pass on that bridge?  I was actually going 60 MPH...5MPH over the posted speed limit.  There was a line of cars in front and plenty behind.  Three different cars felt the need to get in front of me.  Of course they couldn't get any further ahead than the few cars in front of me, so at the first traffic signal in Marathon, I pulled up right behind them.  I guess I just don't understand.

Just north of Seven Mile Bridge is a quirky gift shop with a nautical islandy theme.  A lot of pottery, Sun art, and yes, PINK FLAMINGOS!  We have been looking for a pair to decorate our RV space wherever we are, so we stopped and bought a pair.


These are the cheap kind, pink plastic with metal rods for legs.  Very tacky and just what we had been looking for.

On the way back we took a right off of US-1 at Middle Torch Key.  This leads to a short causeway on Dorn Road that goes north for several miles on Big Torch Key.  This has to be one of the most isolated Keys in Florida with a paved road on it.  Very few houses in this area.  I'm not sure but it looks like the ones that are there are self sufficient with their own power and water cisterns.

Not too far from the end of the road we pass a "compound" carved into the mangroves and Live Oaks.  It contains a building that looks a bit like a Buddhist shrine, and a very interesting sign on a pole near the road.

In case you can't read it, it says "Watch for Children"  "They Taste Like Chicken"!


Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Daily Air Show

Saddle Bunch Keys, Florida

A very lazy day in the lower Keys for us today.  We really took it easy.  I mean the easiest of the take it easy kind.  Well I take that back, we did wash a load of clothes in the laundry room here at Bluewater Key, and we took a short ride over to the Atlantic side of Sugarloaf Key. 

There is a small park with a boat launch and a parking area where Sugarloaf Creek runs into the Ocean.  Sugarloaf Creek is the way to get from Lower Sugarloaf Sound to the Atlantic Ocean.  Just offshore is the reef and a light tower.  There are a couple of picnic shelters at the parking area.  Here is a picture of Pam in one of the shelters with the Atlantic Ocean beyond.

We talked to a couple of guys unloading their kayak for a trip out to the reef for some diving.  There is alot of wildlife in the area.

Here is a picture of the coast looking NorthEast:
 And from the same spot looking in the opposite direction out toward the reef.  That is Sugarloaf Creek in the foreground.

Back at the RV park, we did some of our own swimming.  Here is Pam doing some Keys Noodling.

I mentioned the daily "Air Show".  There are always plenty of birds in the keys.  This fellow spent the afternoon watching us from the dock next door:

And of course, there is always Fat Albert, a tethered blimp with a somewhat mysterious background.  Stationed at Cudjoe Key, we can easily see the blimp from our RV site.  Pictures are very difficult to get due to the distance and the fact that he blends in with the sky.  Here is Fat Albert almost down from his fully tethered position.  Look hard and you can see him:
It is very hard to get the proper scale on a shot like this, but that blimp is about 7 or 8 miles away, and is only about 20% of his normal flying altitude!

The "air show" also includes the fascinating buildup of those big puffy clouds as the wind brings the moisture from the ocean.

We also watched an Osprey fishing in the sound today.  After several dives he brought up a pretty large fish in his talons.  Of course, I didn't have the camera ready for that one. 

Another part of the air show is watching the occasional flight of jets based out of Boca Chica Airbase.  Those pilots are awesome and to see their speed and the way they fly in such close formation is amazing.

Oh well, as I said, another lazy day in the keys.  Goodnight Bobbi.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Fire in the Cuban Sky

Saddle Bunch Keys, Florida

Another beautiful day in the Florida Keys.  I cannot imagine anything more boring than being a weather forecaster in this part of the country.  If you pull up the Accuweather Forecast for the Florida Lower Keys, it's the same every day.  With a rare exception of course; as in Tropical Storm Isaac a few weeks ago.

We pretty much hung out at Bluewater Key  all day swimming and kayaking around Lower Sugarloaf Sound.

Tonight again there were storm clouds building many many miles out over the Atlantic south of the Keys.  Last night the same thing happened.  The clouds are so far away that you can see the lightning but never hear any thunder.  So far away that you can see several complete thunderstorms.  The lightning inside and around the huge clouds puts on quite a show.  Monday night, I commented to Pam that they are so far away that they are probably over Cuba.  And when I pulled up the weather radar online, sure enough, they were over the north coast of Cuba.
Tonight we saw some of the same type of storms.  Again so far away over the Atlantic that no thunder could be heard.  I decided to try to get a few pictures.  They are a bit grainy, but the best I can offer under the circumstances.

The first few are shots toward the East.

This one is more toward the South East:



This shot is due South:

For anyone that is interested, the first 3 shots were taken at f2.8, ASA1600, with a shutter speed of 15 seconds.  The last two were f2.8, ASA800, shutter speed of 15 seconds.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Quick Trip to Big Pine and Marathon

Saddle Bunch Keys, Florida

We were awakened at about 4:00 AM with a loud clap of thunder followed by a torrential downpour.  But by 8:00 AM when we actually got up, the sun was out.  But there were big rain clouds around and it was a bit windy.

So mid morning we decided to ride up to Marathon.

As we approached Big Pine Key we could see a big blue cloud ahead, and as we passed Bahia Honda up to Seven Mile Bridge the bottom fell out.  Its a strange feeling being on such a long bridge and only able to see a few feet around you due to the rain.

Once in Marathon we went out to Sombrero Beach.  This is a nice little city park, but on a rainy Monday during school season, the place was deserted except for a couple of guys fishing on the nearby pier.
Sombrero Beach, Marathon, Florida
Time for lunch!  (Srini if you read this, please keep in mind that one of the key things I learned from you is that you cannot plan for lunch too early!)  There is a very cool place on the bay side of Marathon called Keys Fisheries.  It is a retail seafood market with a kitchen and a bunch of picnic tables around the dock area.  The grouper sandwich was good!

Pam at Keys Fisheries

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Sunday in the lower Keys

Saddle Bunch Keys, Florida

After a very early morning rain, we awoke to a beautiful day in the Keys.  The southerly breeze keeps the bugs away and it was beautiful all day.  A passing thunderstorm or two interrupted the otherwise peaceful day. 

We stopped yesterday at the local Publix in Marathon to get some fresh Florida fruit.  That was very good with coffee for breakfast under the Tiki Hut overlooking Lower Sugarloaf Sound.

I discovered I had a blown bicycle tire.  The tube and tire need to be replaced.  This is a must as part of our daily routine here includes an evening bike ride over to the next Key and around the neighborhood there.  So, a trip to the Key West K-Mart is in the cards for today.

After seeing thousands of motorcycles headed north this morning, we thought there would be not too many more, but they just kept coming out of Key West headed back home.  We got to the K-Mart and got the tire and were ready to head back to the RV.  Thats when we realized that the road construction project on the main road along the waterfront in Key West caused them to make it one way.

After driving through some of the back streets in Old Town we finally found our way back north.  Its always interesting to see the houses, and characters of  Key West.  Sorry I dont have any pictures, I was too busy trying to navigate through the tiny narrow streets.

Bike tire fixed, dinner eaten, then our ride through the neighborhood watching the sun go down.

And as I mentioned earlier, the cats enjoy the view too!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Welcome to Paradise!

Saddle Bunch Keys, Florida

There is really nothing quite like the Keys!  Particularly when you stay at a waterfront site in Bluewater Key RV Resort. 

We left the Miami/Homestead area at about 10:00 this morning.  However, I am never surprised at what we find on the trip down US-1 to Key West.

Traffic is always bad, particularly on the weekends.  The first part of the route takes you from the end of the Florida's Turnpike down to Key Largo over the new high rise bridge.  The road is still mostly 2 lanes wide with a couple of spots for passing where it widens with an additional passing lane.  It has a concrete barrier wall in the middle.   There is always some fool that thinks that by getting by another car or two and selfishly putting others at jeopardy, he can get there a few seconds quicker.  I just dont understand that mentality at all.

As soon as you cross the bridge over to Largo you begin to see that turquoise aquamarine water color.  You know then you are really in the Keys.

This time the drive wasn't really so bad.  There was a motorcycle rally poker run happening.  There must have been 10,000 motorcycles headed to Key West, the last stop for their run.  But all in all we made pretty good time.

The farther south you go, the slower the pace seems to be, and the more laid back the attitude.  Changes in latitudes, changes in attitudes?  Through Islamorada and on to Marathon.  Then you cross the Seven Mile Bridge and you feel like you have arrived.
Seven Mile Bridge southbound.

  There is no place like the Lower Keys.  Bahia Honda, Big Pine, the Torches, Sugarloaf, Cudjoe (home to Fat Albert), and the others, too many to name.

Watching the mile markers count down, mm 24 passes the Sugarloaf KOA, the Sugarloaf Lodge and the interesting Perky Bat Tower, mm 20: Mangrove Mama's Cafe,  and finally mm 15 and Bluewater Key RV Resort.

At Bluewater Key there are waterfront sites, each with their own Tiki Hut and boat dock.  The resort is actually on Lower Sugarloaf Sound on a series of Keys called the Saddle Bunch Keys.  Here is the view right out the front window of our RV.

Bluewater Key RV Resort
The weather is supposed to be isolated showers and a thunderstorm or two, but it seems like it rains hard for a few minutes, then the sun is back out.   The cats enjoy the view too!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Redlands Florida

Homestead Florida.

We left the Crystal Lake Campground around 9:30 this morning.  I-95 south again brought us through on and off showers.  Light showers for the most part, then bright sunshine.

Most of you know that I like to stop at Flying J when they are available to gas up.  The Flying J at Fort Pierce is my usual stop before getting on the Florida's Turnpike.  The Ft. Pierce Flying J is not as good as most but it is the last J headed south.  Its problem is that it doesn't have a good RV parking area like most of the others.  These stores have dedicated RV lanes for fuel, a 2 cent per gallon discount for using their loyalty card, and (normally) a parking area for RVs.  We typically fuel up, pull over to the RV area and have lunch or a break.  But this one has no place for RVs to park; and it was very busy.  We had to get our fuel, then go 20 miles south to the next rest area for lunch.   Next time I will stop at the one at St. Augustine instead.

By the way, there is a brand new Flying J in St. George SC on I-95 and it has no RV parking either.  But at least they do direct RVs around to the very large truck parking area.  You do have to share with the commercial truckers, but the parking area is so big that it doesn't seem to be an issue.

By 3:00 PM we were in the Redlands agricultural area just north of Homestead Florida.  We dropped by Miami Everglades RV Resort.  This is the RV park where we spent a couple of weeks last February. Wow, what a difference between then (peak of peak season,) and now (very off season.)  In February this place was packed choc-a-block with all types of RVs and campers.  Now it is almost empty.

This place is in the middle of a huge agricultural area where I think you can find almost any type of plant being grown on very large farms. Flowers, palms, vegetables, fruit;  its all there.  Here is a picture of a large field of ferns in those plastic pots just like you buy them at Walmart or Lowe's.

There is an excellent produce stand that we were looking forward to stopping.  "Robert is Here" is the name of the place but to our disappointment, it was closed September and October. 

We pulled onto our site in the Miami Everglades RV Resort and settled in for the night, feeling like we were parked in the middle of a large farm.  Nice and quiet.  Quite different from the little stop last night on the side of I-95.

Here we are settled on our site at Miami Everglades RV Resort.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Back to the Keys

Scottsmoor, Florida.

We are finally headed back to our all time favorite RV Resort: Bluewater RV Resort, MM 14.5, Key West, Florida.   It is really in the Saddlebunch Keys about 9 or 10 miles north of Key West, with waterfront sites on Lower Sugarloaf Sound.

It is the first time we have been in the fall.  Earnest Hemingway says autumn is the best time to visit the Keys if you can avoid the storms.  Of course this year the hurricanes are giving us a bit of a break so off we go.

Being "retired" means we are not required to conform to a work schedule, so we left on Thursday morning and planned to go as far as the Daytona area to spend the night.

We followed the usual route out of the Charlotte area and picked up I-95 near Darlington SC. other than a few showers between Savannah and Brunswick GA, the trip was exactly what we wanted:  uneventful.

The only event, if you will, was in Jacksonville, Florida.  I like to take route 9A to the east of JAX instead of staying on I-95.  However the road names have changed; and my Garmin tried to make me take a short cut.  That resulted in me taking a wrong turn off of what was 9A (now I-295 most of the way.)  No worries, we were still on major highways and soon we found our way back onto I-95 south.

 The good part is the drive over the new bridge east of JAX.  Its beautiful and looks a bit like the new Ravenell Bridge in Charleston.

 By 7:00 PM we were near Scottsmoor Florida just south of Daytona.  We pulled into the Crystal Lake Campground.  It is a vary small, kind of old campground situated on the side of a little "lake" just (barely) off I-95.  We were the only transient campers there.  There were several long term residents, but they are in the back part of the campground. It is a Passport America campground and seems to  be a good overnight stop.

Tomorrow:  On to Homestead and hopefully a stop at Miami-Everglades Campground.