Not All Who Wander Are Lost

Not All Who Wander Are Lost
January 17, 2017 - Florida Keys

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Florida Keys Adventure

When we were planning our winter in Florida for this year, we debated whether we would take our 42 foot fifth wheel to the Florida Keys. I did quite a bit of research, and we decided we would not tow it down there. Rather, we would drive down for a few days and stay in a hotel.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, we did just that. We left around 8:30 am and expected the trip to Key West to take about 5 hours. We had the choice of taking I-95 or the Florida Turnpike. I didn't want to pay tolls, so we took I-95. That was a mistake. Traffic from Palm Beach through Miami was terrible. We lost about an hour in bumper to bumper traffic. So, we decided to stop in Islamorada for the night and continue to Key West on Wednesday.

We stopped at a visitor center and got some recommendations of things to do. Our first stop was at a wild bird sanctuary where we saw lots of rescued birds. As you can imagine, lots of them were pelicans. This Little Blue Heron was sitting on a rock out in the bay.

Our next stop was Robbie's Marina. The place was crowded, and seemed to be a real tourist trap. They had an area where you could feed bait fish to large tarpon fish in an enclosed area. We each paid $2 just to watch. The tarpon weigh about 200 pounds. Plenty of people were feeding them. The pelicans were quite aggressive trying to get the bait fish from people, even nipping at their legs. An employee was using a stick to try and keep the pelicans at bay.

Here's one of the tarpon grabbing a fish from a guy. We were told the tarpon don't have big teeth, but I wasn't sticking my hand down there.

Our next stop was at a hurricane memorial. On Labor Day in 1935 a severe hurricane hit the Florida Keys. Winds over 200 mph and a barometer reading of 26.35, the lowest ever registered in this hemisphere, did severe damage throughout the Keys and killed about 500 people. The remains of 300 of them are buried at this memorial.

Next we visited the Islamorada Brewing Company where Kevin sampled some local brews. After that, it was check-in time at our hotel.

We had a reservation at the Days Inn in Islamorada using our Wyndham reward points. Our room was right on the ocean. Most places to stay in the Florida Keys are small and privately owned. Not many chain hotels. The Days Inn was clean, but showing its age. Our bed was comfortable and the view was great. The rate would have been $269 for the night, so this was a great use of our reward points. Here's our view.

We got settled and then headed to Lorelei's Beach Restaurant for dinner with a sunset view. This place was recommended by the bartender at the brewery and did not disappoint. Tables are set up in the sand on the beach with a beautiful view. There was even some very good live entertainment. We had a tasty meal, but the setting was the best part.

This interesting boat went by. It is actually for rent. I never expected to see a pink Cadillac driving on the water. Clever name, too.

The sunset was spectacular. I took lots of pictures, but here's one of the best.

These cool mailboxes were in a truck bed in the parking lot. Perfect for a house here.

We had a good sleep, and were up in time to watch a fantastic sunrise in the morning.

We enjoyed a bagel at the free breakfast included in our stay, and drove about two hours to Key West. We had actually been in Key West in 1995 with our kids as a cruise ship stop. One of the reasons I really wanted to drive down, was to experience the Overseas Highway, which is 126 miles long with 42 bridges. I was surprised how much land there was along the way. There are many more keys than I was aware of. The views were beautiful all the way down. The longest bridge is seven miles. Did you know the Spanish called the islands keys, and the name stuck.

We had purchased a City View Trolley Tour in Key West on Groupon. Finding parking for our full size pick-up truck in Old Town Key West was quite a challenge. We finally found a spot for $19 for the day. Most all parking costs a fee. Good thing we got a deal on the trolley tour. Key West is full of tourists and cars, making it quite crowded.

The tour was informative with eight stops to get on and off. Of course, we had to get off at the Southernmost Spot in the United States and stand in line to have our picture taken at the marker.

This is Hemingway's house. We weren't interested enough to pay for the tour, but lots of people were going in. Seems Hemingway was quite a character and made quite a few enemies in his time here.

Across the street is the Key West Lighthouse, which has been here since 1848.

The famous statue of the sailor kissing the nurse was on display in front of the Art Museum. It was just placed here last week. It had been touring around the country. We actually saw the same statue in San Diego seven years ago. It is named Embracing Peace, weighs 15,000 pounds, and was made by Seward Johnson. The original title for the piece was called Unconditional Surrender, but the name was changed for political correctness reasons.

We walked a few blocks to get a picture of mile marker zero on US Hwy. 1. It is the longest north/south highway running over 2,000 miles from Key West to Northern Maine.  Maybe someday we'll have to get a picture of the northern most point. Key West is very much a tourist town, relying on its 3 to 4 million tourists every year to support their economy. It seems fitting there is a shaved ice cart under the mile marker.

One of the stops was along the old wharf area which now has charter boats, jet ski rentals, shops and restaurants. We stopped at the Waterfront Brewery to quench our thirst. Kevin tried some local beers and I had a delicious apple pie hard cider. The outside of the building had a very nice mural painted on it.

We walked to the Truman Little White House which is a building on the decommissioned naval base in Key West. Truman spent over 100 days here during his presidency. Other presidents who have used the house during their term are Taft, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Carter and Clinton. It's near the water, but has large buildings behind it, so no water view.

We had dinner at a nice outdoor restaurant called Caroline's on Duval Street, the main tourist street in town. Of course, I had to order key lime pie for dessert.

While in the Keys, we stopped and bought a Sun Pass to use on the Florida Turnpike for our trip back  home We weren't going to deal with that traffic nightmare on I-95 again. The pass was $5, and the total tolls on the way back were $10.35. Well worth it.

We really enjoyed our two day visit to the Florida Keys. We saw quite a few RVs on the highway. We also saw some of the RV parks. We're happy with our decision not to take the fifth wheel down here. The RV parks we saw only had a few sites with water views. Most of the sites were inner rows without views. They also looked very tight with narrow roads. It was a good decision for us to visit in the manner that we did.

We're going to need a few days rest now after our mini vacation.

Don’t wish upon a star – Reach for one!

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Fort Pierce, Florida

It's hard to believe it's been two weeks since I posted a blog. The time has flown by, but we haven't been doing anything too earth shattering.

We left Gulf Shores on December 31st and drove about six hours to Casey Jones' Campground in Lake City, Florida for one night. It's a nice little campground close to the interstate with full hook-up pull through sites. Perfect for one night. As it was New Year's Eve, there was plenty of activity. The people behind us were from Minnesota and invited us over for a little party. We went over for a bit, and met several people who spend the entire winter at the park. This would still be too far north for our liking. We're looking for warmer weather.

On Sunday, January 1st, we continued south to Road Runner Travel Resort in Fort Pierce. We're here for a month to explore the area and visit with our friends Harland and Kim who are at a motorcoach resort in Port St. Lucie, about 20 minutes south of us.  Our park is decent. It is older, but seems to be maintained pretty well. There is a small pond in the center of the park with sites all around. Those are definitely the nicest sites. Our site is across the street from the lake and is fine.

I would estimate about forty to fifty percent of the winter visitors at this park are French Canadian. When doing our daily exercise walking, we mostly hear French being spoken wherever a group of people are congregated. We don't find this park to be very friendly.

Fort Pierce is on the Atlantic side of Florida, about halfway between Orlando and Miami. The town itself seems to be fairly low income with lots of houses and businesses with bars on the windows. Luckily, the RV park is actually north of the town in a safe area. The outlaying parts of Fort Pierce seem okay, and there are some condos along the ocean that are nice.

We took a drive last week on Hwy. A1A on the outer banks island between Fort Pierce and Vero Beach. We drove about thirty miles, but didn't see much. The island looks so small on the map, but from the road, you can see buildings or trees, no ocean. We did stop at a couple of nice parks with beaches, so were able to do some walking along the beach.

Harland and Kim invited us to their resort last week for dinner. They purchased a lot a few years ago at St. Lucie West Motorcoach Resort. They had had a tiki hut with outdoor kitchen and seating area built and lots of beautiful landscaping done to their site. They back up onto a pond with a waterfall making for a beautiful view. I was having such a good time, I forgot to take any pictures.

On Tuesday, Harland and Kim came to our park and we had a little happy hour. Then we went to Cowboys in Fort Pierce for their Tuesday special of 50 cent wings and 50 cent draft beers. The food was very good and the company was even better. Again, I forgot to take pictures.

I've been doing some sewing. Korey and Cathryn commissioned me to make a quilt for a baby friends of theirs had. I shipped it off on Monday. Hope they like it.

Last evening Kevin was outside and called me to come out and see the moon rise. It was sure pretty between the palm trees.

We have plans to drive to the Florida Keys next week and do some exploring. We're not taking the RV, but rather staying overnight at a hotel and then exploring Everglades National Park the second day.

The weather has been pretty warm, with a few cool days last weekend. It is more humid than I was expecting and we've had rain several times.

Don’t wish upon a star – Reach for one!

Friday, December 30, 2016

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

We left Gulf Shores, Alabama at 5 am on Dec. 21st for the sixteen hour drive to Wisconsin. Our fifth wheel stayed behind, as it is too cold in Wisconsin to bring him along for Christmas. We stayed a few nights at our son Eric's house and a few night's at my mom's house with Korey and Cathryn. The drive was long, but uneventful. We arrived in Wisconsin around 9 pm on Wednesday night and saw plenty of snow on the ground.

Korey and Cathryn drove from Nebraska on Friday, Dec. 23rd. They had a pretty stressful drive with snow most of the way. Luckily, they arrived safely and we all went out for a fish fry on Friday night. The snow sure was pretty. Here's my mom's backyard.

We had a great time visiting with family and friends. Christmas Eve and Day were spent with our kids and my mom and brother and his wife. Lots of laughs and love. Here are a few pictures.

My little brother Ron and his wife Laura, and Kevin and myself.

My side of the family.

There is a house in the town my mom lives in that has gone all out with Christmas decorating for many years. We drove past, and I got a kick out of the neighbor's house.

The week flew by, and before we knew it, it was time to go home again. We left early on the morning of Dec. 28th with a temperature of 14 degrees. By the time we arrived in Gulf Shores at 9 pm, it was 68 degrees with 99% humidity and fog. What an adjustment. We had to turn the air on to dehumidify for a bit. We were very happy to be home, find our fifth wheel in perfect shape, and sleep in our own bed again. It's always nice to visit, but it feels so good to be home again; even if your home is on wheels.

Tomorrow we leave Alabama and head to Fort Pierce, Florida for the month of January. We really enjoyed our stay at Gulf State Park. The park sure filled up while we were away. Lots of snow birds spend the winter here, but it is not warm enough for us. We're heading further south into Florida for the rest of the winter.

We hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas. We wish you a Happy New Year and a peaceful 2017!

Don’t wish upon a star – Reach for one!

Monday, December 19, 2016

Christmas Decorating RV Style

We're in our seventh year of full time RVing, but that doesn't mean we don't decorate for Christmas. It's not as big or elaborate as when we owned a house, but it still makes us happy.  Here are a few pictures of decorations inside our fifth wheel. I have more; this is just a sample.

Here's the outside this year. It was a warm evening with a full moon adding to the Christmas lights.

We've spent Christmas at several different locations in our travels. It seems people in RV resorts do more decorating than at the state park we are at this year. However, there are a few RVs that are really lit up. Here are a few examples.

It's a little dark, but here's Santa in a hammock between two palm trees with presents in front.  Lots of decorations related to camping and RVing.

It was such a beautiful evening when I walked around to take the pictures. The full moon was shining through the huge pine trees. Natures own decoration.

Last Friday we went to a ranger guided walk at Gulf State Park Pier. We learned lots of interesting information about the state park, the pier, shore birds and Gulf fish and mammals.

Quite a few people were fishing off the pier, and plenty of birds were looking for a snack. We learned that this pelican is named Sam. He was rescued by the Nature Center in the park several years ago and treated for a broken wing. The band on his leg lets them know he is the same one. He's chosen to live at the pier since he was released back into the wild. He's very tame and quite the bandit.

He stole a fish right off of the rod of this lady. He's also been known to grab fish right out of the bucket. Here he is stalking her along with another pelican. They are both brown pelicans, but Sam has the white head which means he is at least three years old. Brown heads mean they are younger than three years old.

After he stole the fish off of her rod, he had some trouble getting it down his throat. He worked at it for a few minutes to get it in the right position to go down head first. Very interesting to watch.

There are plenty of alligators along the Gulf. The state park has several long time residents. This is Lefty who has been here for years. She hangs out in the same location year after year. One day we saw her with two babies on her back. We found out the babies were born near the end of August. Another day she was in the water, and her babies were hanging out along the shore. I think there were five babies, but they blend in so well, it was hard to tell. You can click on the pictures to enlarge if you don't see the babies.

We had quite a bit of rain last night. Alabama has been in a severe drought all summer, so this rain is really needed. Wednesday we leave for Wisconsin. I'm so looking forward to spending Christmas with family.  I did some holiday baking yesterday to share with everyone while Kevin watched football,

Don’t wish upon a star – Reach for one!

Thursday, December 15, 2016

National Museum of Naval Aviation

Yesterday we drove about 30 miles to Pensacola, Florida to tour the National Museum of Naval Aviation. Admission, parking and tours are free. What a great place to learn about the history of aviation for the Navy, Marines and Coast Guard. And, it is completely funded by private donations; no tax dollars used here. The plane out front is like the one in the movie Top Gun.

We got there just as a trolley tour was boarding to drive around and show visitors some of the planes parked outside. Unfortunately, the guide was very difficult to understand. We only were able to get less than half of what he was telling us.

Many of the planes have interesting histories. This plane was the only plane allowed to fly after all air traffic was halted on September 11, 2001. It brought firefighters from Georgia to New York to help with the rescue efforts.

Lots of the planes are kind of funny looking because their wings are folded up or back. That's common for many Navy planes so they take up less space on an aircraft carrier.

Many planes here have been rescued and restored. This one was pulled from the bottom of a reservoir in California. It will eventually be restored to like new condition. Hard to believe as its in lots of pieces right now.

After our trolley tour, we joined a walking tour of the museum. Our guide was Bob Thomas, a retired Navy pilot. He guided us through the museum for over 1.5 hours, and was excellent. He told us so much history of the planes. His tour made our visit so much more enjoyable.

The museum chronicles the history of planes from their invention through modern times. I didn't realize that planes were even a part of WWI. This was a WWI German fighter that was the best plane of its time.

This huge "flying boat" plane was the first to cross the Atlantic in 1919. Only ten of them were built. This is the only one left in the world.

The Navy is very proud of its Blue Angels. There are several displays about them. These four are hanging in the atrium. They can be viewed from below and above. Very cool.

Our guide, Bob, served aboard the USS Midway during the Vietnam War. He was part of the evacuation of Saigon. He told us a story we'd never heard before. After the US evacuated the embassy, lots of South Vietnamese helicopters flew out to the Midway with refugees. The Midway had over 4,000 refugees on board when all was said and done. Just before they were going to leave the area, a small Cessna plane flew over. The pilot dropped a note to the deck letting them know he was a South Vietnamese Air Force Major and had his wife and five children on the plane. He had one hour of fuel left and asked that they move the many helicopters on the deck so he could land his small plane.

The commander had his men push some of the choppers into the water to make room for them. This pilot had never landed on an air craft carrier, but he managed to land his plane and save his family. The crew were so moved by the event, that they raised over $10,000 in a day to help them. The family ended up settling in Florida where they opened a restaurant; and all five children attended college. The small plane was shipped to this museum, and has been on display here ever since.

We really enjoyed our visit. Many planes are the last of its kind left in the world. A great look into some of histories amazing moments.

Don’t wish upon a star – Reach for one!