Happy Birthday to Ian! Ian, you had a big job to do as soon as you were born. You had to teach us how to be grandpa and grandma! I hope you are happy with the way we turned out, or else we have to go back into training! Now that you are into double digits, we love you double infinity!
We drove into Key West today, and spent hours aimlessly wandering around, but we didn't get lost! We were wondering what traffic and parking would be like, but it was better than we expected. With the pickup, we tend to encroach on others' spaces, so we watched for signs and ended up with street parking on the outskirts of the old town area. There are some public parking lots scattered around, but when we walked by them, they were pretty tight and would not be good for a pickup!
We found the landmark southernmost point marker. There was a line to wait to take a picture by it, and we were too impatient to start exploring, so a picture from across the street will do for me! We were hungry for some lunch, and stopped at a little French restaurant and we got to sit upstairs on their balcony. I was full-on tourist mode as we walked along, ogling old buildings, odd buildings and everything in between!
Since this was a Thursday, and midday, it wasn't real crowded anywhere we walked. We stopped in a few stores to look for t-shirts, but we didn't indulge in a lot of shopping. We were both just very interested in getting the feel of this old, old town. There's places that feel Cuban, Haitian, Mexican, and definitely a vibe of live the way you like it! You can see and hear the military aircraft up in the sky, and the Coast Guard on the water. Along with some huge cruise ships as a contrast to that! We ended up finding a shaded bench in a park to eat our dessert, Key lime pie!
We became snarled up in traffic trying to leave Key West for our trailer. There's only 1 road that can be used, and it's 4 lane in some places. But an accident had closed 2 lanes, so everyone was way backed up for a long distance in both directions. The morning traffic had been nothing like that, so we were surprised, but it makes sense.
We spent some time earlier today looking for potential camping spots as we head north in a little over a week. A lot of places have no vacancies during this busy time, so we have to dig a little deeper. We do it all online, using websites like recreation.gov, allstays app, campendium app, state park reservation systems, facebook groups and Harvest Hosts. Somehow, we always end up somewhere!
Today we drove south and east across the Everglades on highway 41. No alligator sightings, but we did see a few lovely Roseate Spoonbills and a couple eagles and lots of pelicans and egrets. I think I've always imagined the Everglades as wooded and junglyish and spooky. It's not like that! There were large open grassy areas that were part swampy, some pine groves and other trees. Very few inhabitants on this route. But since we started out in the Big Cypress National Preserve, we did stop at that visitor center. It was very nice with displays about the ecosystems within the preserve. And, I got a stamp for our National Park book.
As we got closer to Miami, we turned south on highway 997. It took us through an agricultural area with lots of landscaping businesses, orchards and vegetable growers. In Homestead we met up with highway 1 and followed it south and west along the Keys. Lots of islands and bridges! We are staying at a KOA campground on Sugarloaf Key, at mile marker 20. That means it's 20 miles from the end of the road in Key West. Very nice and fairly new campground, more fairly called an RV resort with all the amenities. Also, wonderfully landscaped with trees and plants that are suited for this climate. It's hot (to me!) and the sun is so direct! We enjoyed some pool time and walking around the drives here. Of course, I had to take some pictures of the flowers!
Today is a great day because our youngest grandson, Leo, turns 5! We love you and miss you, Leo!
Today we drove over to Marco Island, an easy 12 mile drive. Lots of beautiful homes, big apartments and condos, and not much parking for visitors! We were headed to the South Beach area, and after a few false starts, we did get into a parking spot. Barely! Driving the truck around in tight places is a challenge, makes me wish we could just retract a portion of the truck bed so we could squeeze in short spots! But we had easy access to the public beach, which was a large stretch of fine white sand dotted with umbrellas and awnings and chairs and kids digging in the sand. Perfect! We found “our perfect spot” and settled in with our chairs and books. It was a bit windy at times, and we saw some of the beach umbrellas turning inside out, so we left ours back in the truck.
It was a nice long stretch of beach for walking, too, so we took turns doing that. We talked to some family members (Art and Sharon) who vacation here often, and got a lunch recommendation that we followed up on. We went to Snook Inn and loved their grouper sandwiches. Then, we headed back towards our camp site at the state park, stopping for groceries and gas along the way. Neither of us had much need of a regular meal for supper, so ate some baguette with butter and enjoyed some TV time before bed. This spot is fairly quiet, but the opposite side of the campground is quite close to a road. I’m really glad we ended up where we did. We like to be able to sleep with some windows open if we can, and the noise didn’t disturb us.
Along the way to our next location, we needed to pass some time before we could check in. I had a solution for that! I located a quilt shop, Kay's Quilt Shop, in Fort Meyers. So I spent some time there enjoying being among the bolts again! Not a real large shop, but they like batiks, so I found a few small souvenirs to take with me!
Outside the shop I found a beautiful hibiscus. I can't help but be amazed at the varieties and colors!
We made our lunch in the trailer in the parking lot of the quilt shop, which we often do on travel days. I got a bit of time to start a new book, Thirst, by Heather Anderson. It's her account of walking the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mexico border to the Canada border. And trying to break the record to be the person who has done it the fastest. She was a seasoned hiker and had done the trail before, but it still was very challenging, especially keeping water on hand. It was more than challenging, it was grueling just to read about it! Big reflections on making a plan and sticking to it during hours of walking, day after day.
In the afternoon, we drove south to near Naples and just south of that to Collier Seminole State Park. This is the first time in weeks that we have been at a site that allowed a fire, so we got out the Solo Stove again and Bob got it going. He always loves a fire to stir. We discovered that there are a lot of mosquitoes around, and little gnats or no-seeums that can get through the screens. Thankfully, we had our new electrocuter along! We really had some fun being able to make sparks. We were left with insect carcasses all around!
A great day today! We actually washed windows all around the trailer (13) plus the truck inside and out! I can see clearly now!
We did some walking to look around this park. Bob told me before we left that red is supposed to attract mosquitoes. Did you know that? Still, I wore a red shirt and used bug spray. And I got 2 mosquito bites right through my shirt! A few pictures from our walk -
That round leaf on the left is the Sea Grape (Coccoloba). I don't know the name of the pink flower yet. And the dainty little spirals of vegetation amongst all the swampy jungly growth just caught my eye. This morning we listened in on a program by a retired ranger from this park, he had so many pictures of the birds and animals here that he has collected over years, and lots of info and stories about them. He really likes snakes so we heard a lot about them.
In the afternoon, we went to Wooten's Airboat Tours for something we've never done before! Captain Tom took us out through the swamp to look for gators, and we found a few. But we saw plenty more in the lagoon they have for wildlife. The airboats are super duper loud, so we wore headphones and still I wished for my foam earplugs! It was a clear and sunny day for it, and we enjoyed being shown the life out in the waterways. I'm glad we got to go because now I can say that's done and I don't really need to go again!
That little baby alligator sure felt different to hold than I expected. He/she was totally relaxed. The skin on the belly felt so soft and smooth, but I could tell that it felt thicker than a baby's bottom!
We moved on to our next spot, which was just recently reserved at a KOA park. We were in a conundrum a week ago. Looking ahead at our reservations, in order to secure a spot for the weekend we had found a state park, Highlands Hammock. But it was just 2 nights, and not in the area that our route would be taking us. We couldn't extend at either of the parks before nor after the weekend. We did find this last minute 2-nighter at the Fort Myers/Pine Island KOA which aligned better with our route, so we weighed the higher price at the KOA against the 119 miles each way to Highlands Hammock. Pine Island won that one. Gas being about $3.50/gall, and getting almost all of our fee back from the State Park, helped swing the needle. After driving to our new campground, we're very happy to be here. Pine Island is a small island just off the coast from Fort Meyers. It seems like this is a low key spot, without crowds. We've only explored the southern part of the island so far, but have only seen small hotels and restaurants. The pastel colors of beach houses are the theme here, even the Dollar General has the island theme!
We ate a great dinner at the Waterfront Restaurant, overlooking the canals coming in from the Gulf. We had a very good grouper basket and fish and chips. Both rated 2 thumbs up!
We went for a bike ride this morning that was a nicely paved route along the main road that runs north/south on this island. We really enjoy riding our ebikes. And it's so flat here! Instead of gravel for parking areas and roads, they use crushed seashells! And we saw a different kind of pine tree on this ride, the needles are really fine and have little nodes along them. I hope that shows up in the picture of them. They are very soft and drape from the branches, kind of like a weeping willow. Bob looked for it in his reference and it might be the lob lolly pine.
I keep putting pictures of our trailer in here, not because I'm completely obsessed with it, but because it helps me later to remember the campgrounds! Although I am a wee bit in love with it!
Today we made it to the beach! We left earlier than yesterday and found our parking spot without waiting terribly long in traffic to get there. In comparing this location (Delnor Wiggins Pass State Park) with the beach on Anna Maria Island, this one came in second. Not as much space between the trees and the water and a lot more people. The water was much calmer here and less wind. Great people watching!
I'm noticing that my recently purchased sunglasses that I can wear over my regular glasses make me look like one of those senior citizens that don't really care about looking cool anymore! Truth is, I would rather wear the nice Goodr sunglasses that I have but that's not working out! My Goodr sunglasses have a bit of a rubbery texture to the frame and they stay in place on my face.
We stayed a couple hours, moving from sun to shade and back to shade again. Back at the RV park, we lounged at the pool for awhile, it's a popular place but there is plenty of chairs and space to once again find my shade! Bob picked out a place to go for dinner, Riptide Brewing Co., where we had some good tasting beer and shredded pork and chicken sliders with their own special sauce. Very good! Then a quiet end to a very nice day.
Nothing on our schedule today, just the way we like it! We walked around the streets of this RV community, it's way bigger than I had initially thought. I took some pictures of the nice flowers and vegetation all around us.
The temp has been in the mid-80's for several days, and continues to be forecasted for that temp over the next several days. Not much wind moving, so a quick dip in the pool is the best way to cool off, then relax with some good reading.
These 2 book have been on my bedside table lately. I just finished Vanishing Acts by Jodi Picoult. I've read several of the books she has written, and have liked each one. This one has not been high on my list, the middle of the story really seems to drag on. The storyline is good, however, and thought provoking, as are all her books. She writes books about current issues and events of all kinds. The other book, Bones, is typical of the other Kellerman stories about Milo Sturgis and Alex Delaware. Honestly, I didn't even finish it because I lost interest. That's my review and I'm sticking to it!
Dinner tonight was chips and guacamole! Livin' the high life!
2/22/22- The day of 2's!
This was a moving day again, driving further south to a place in Bonita Springs, near Naples. We have gotten so good at preparing to take off that we have to slow down a little so we don't have to wait around for our reserved spot on the other end. Most places have a 1PM check-in, and we try not to get there earlier. I guess that my days working in retail realy changed my thinking about customers who disregarded start and ending times, complicating the job of the staff. I don't think that was the case in my nursing jobs, because everything we did ran on a pretty tight schedule. I remembered feeling relieved when I left that because I could leave my watch off for days!
Our spot for a few days--
We are in the Imperial Bonita Estates, a private RV community where almost all the spaces are occupied by either permanent, seasonal or long-termers. Except a few, for people like us that are searching for something in the area and have run out of luck finding something in a state park or county park. And we made these reservations in November or December, I think. You really have to plan ahead to get the good spots reserved. So if you want to stay at the primo Florida state parks next February, you need to be online on March 1 to snag a spot. And there are some beautiful beach state parks here.
There is a fantastic mix of old and new mobile homes, trailers, RV's, 5th Wheels and some that are more like modular homes. There are some really cute old ones on some of the sites, straight out of the 60's! And they are looking generally pretty good, not trashy or abandoned. The grounds are very well kept by a staff. In reading through the by-laws, there is a requirement that any newly added units have to be less than 10 years old. So the oldies but goodies will pass on, someday.
Some of the roads through the homes are pretty narrow, not really built for large trucks and rigs. Bob had a challenge to back into our spot, but he doesn't let something like that spoil the day! Later, we walked up to the pool and enjoyed cooling off there for awhile.
Bob's birthday! I made bacon and blueberry pancakes for breakfast, which seldom happens because we are both trying to maintain our slim and trim figures! That's a joke! We talked a bit about the fact that now we are both closer to 70 than to 65, so we are looking to do more of the things that we want to do while we possess the strength!
We headed west to spend time on the beach. There seems to be less public access to the beach here, most of the coastline is swallowed up by buildings, developments, condos, etc. We wanted to go to Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park because it's not too far from us and right on the ocean. We drove there, but soon realized that we would have needed to get there about the time I was serving pancakes, so the entrance was closed because all the parking was filled. Bummer. Instead, we went back to the trailer and then spent time at the pool and ate the picnic lunch there! Bob grilled us some very good steak for dinner, since I'm pretty hands-off with grilling. That's something Bob likes to do, and does it well. We talked with all the kids and grandkids through the day, and that's a special gift!
It has been getting pretty hot here in the afternoons, upper 80's. That's about 10 degrees above the normal for this time. We have air conditioning to help out and that keeps me from getting cranky. It cools off in the evening so we can sleep with the windows open. A simple pleasure!
We are spending part of this week near Ruskin, easterly from Tampa Bay. It's a small town, getting swallowed up by suburban sprawl. We are staying at River Vista RV Resort, which is part of Cove RV parks. There are improvements underway or already made to this park, one being level concrete parking pads with a little patio area, outdoor table and grill. There are a couple of new small buildings under construction, I'm pretty sure they are for laundry, maybe showers or restrooms. I know for sure it will be laundry, because right now the laundry is temporarily in a party tent in the site next to us! A little annoying, but if my windows are open I can catch bits of gossip. It's a bit of a gathering place during the day. Plus, it's free! There is also a nice facility for groups, including a big firepit and a great deck overlooking the Little Manatee River. It's nice to have comfortable outdoor spots, because it's been hot and the breeze and shade make it much better. And it's February!
Bob's birthday is coming up on Wednesday so I went out shopping by myself this morning but didn't really find what I was looking for. And since I don't know what I'm looking for, that's not surprising! It can be hard to come up with something inspiring, something of a moderate price and something that will fit in the trailer. But, just now, I think I might have thought of it! Now to find the place to purchase it! We have been generous with ourselves with some of our purchases for ourselves this past year, so we usually think of that as a gift to each other that doesn't need a birthday nor holiday to happen.
Bob is reading a couple interesting suspenseful medical mystery books. They are not by a big name author, so probably not known by thousands, unless you worked with him in the Emergency Department! Tom Combs was an emergency M.D., very good to work with, easy to laugh and I don't think I ever saw him angry! Which says a lot about him, because we worked in a trauma center in an area of the city not known for fun and games. It was mostly a wonderful clientele, but there were difficult moments to be worked through. That's why we got bulletproof glass for the entrance. Anyway, he's a good guy, and Bob says he likes the books, so maybe you should look for them! If local bookstores and libraries fail to help you track down the books (4 of them) then Amazon will help!
Big things happening for us! We are growing by leaps and bounds! Specifically, one new little boy expected in August, from our newlyweds Dan and Loti! They live in northwestern Montana, and love cozy cabins, hiking, biking, skiing, rafting and the great outdoors. So this little guy will be learning all those things, and more, following along with his mom and dad. They are thrilled with this, and so are we! Already planning a trip to visit there, and the cute little stocking caps and quilts I can make for him!
And, a new darling little puppy joining the Burke family soon! She is adorable, and the boys are so excited. They've had a pet cat but never a dog, so there will be a lot of learning going on. They live in the mountains just north of Lake Tahoe in California, and they love a lot of the same things that Dan and Loti do, so the pup will be learning, as well! She's a berniedoodle, Bernese and poodle mix. The Burkes just spent the weekend in San Francisco, a place that was home to Ben and Brita when they fell in love, got engaged and were married, so it holds a lot of special memories that they want the little boys to know about. Plus, it's just a great city to explore and visit. And not nearly as wintry as their home!
So, we have a lot more to be thankful for, as our circle grows!
Thank you for stopping by! I appreciate the time you have taken to look for and read my story. I hope you find something that you like!
Hi! I'm Pam! Join me on this journey through the next steps of life!