What we have learned

Any adventure has to be undertaken with a sense of fun but also knowing that there are certain things you will be exposed to and they, in turn, will provide you life lessons.  We have been “schooled” many times on this trip and would like to share a few of those lessons with you.

  1.  Direct TV in a motor home only works when it wants to and NEVER when you are in an area that has absolutely nothing else to do.
  2. Your cell phone will work beautifully until you really need it – then all bars will disappear as though they are ethereal mist.
  3. Long haul truck drivers are not your friend.  They exist to terrorize motor home’s in particular, having a jealous streak about our on-board bathroom,
  4. Cars, especially old Cadillac’s and anything with rust are also not your friend – they just hate everybody and you happen to be the biggest thing in their path.
  5. The more you need fuel the further away the next fuel stop will be – never, ever pass up the opportunity to buy gas.
  6. On the same topic, $4.89 cents per gallon is not really expensive if you need fuel.
  7. America needs to re-invent the roadside diner – Denny’s, Arbys, Micky D’s and Burger King do not meet up with the “On the Road” ambiance for “Mom’s” diner.
  8. Someone either very creative or very sick came up with the names “Whataburger” and “In-n-Out burger”.
  9. If you are in the middle of nowhere (literally) it is possible to make a gourmet meal out of a can of tuna fish, a box of rice and two withered zucchini.
  10. Your dog will have a sudden onslaught of paranoia ONLY when you are sailing down the road at 75 MPH and they decide that the floor directly under the drivers feet is exactly where it is safest for them to be.
  11. There is a difference between “Rest Stop” and “Rest Area” – one of them has a bathroom.
  12. Every single grocery store or drug store you encounter will require you to become a “member” to get their discounts – resulting in you having three pounds of “membership” cards -all for businesses not located where you live.
  13. State Patrol vehicles spend an ungodly amount of time camped out on the median of the road – don’t they know there is a crime wave out there?
  14. Every bolt that you think is tight should be checked because it probably isn’t.
  15. It is virtually impossible to find a Seahawk’s  football game anywhere but on the west coast.
  16. It’s true – Starbucks is everywhere – and they still make a mediocre cup of coffee.
  17. The people in Louisiana win, hands down, as the friendliest people we encountered.
  18. Most of the people vacationing in Florida are not happy people to begin with, and their trip to get to Florida only made them crankier
  19. If you have a choice of turning left or right – you will pick the wrong one.
  20. Always believe a “Dead End” sign.
  21. If you buy something at an RV store it will cost four times more than at a hardware store.
  22. Your credit card company, knowing that they have you under their thumb, will put a fraud alert on your card shutting it down for no particularly good reason at all.
  23. All that stuff we packed back in October, you know, the “essentials” – not so much did we need most of it.
  24. And most important, there is magic in virtually everything  – you only need to be open to see it.

So, now you know everything we know – which, frankly isn’t much. We will be back in the Pacific Northwest soon having enjoyed this time on the road and looking forward to further adventures in the not too distant future.

Life is Good.  Thank you for joining us on our trip

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The caravan

We have been traveling since Saturday, and moving at a pretty good pace – I guess once you round the final pole you just naturally want to sprint for home.  And, frankly, we are traveling through some areas we have already visited and then there is Texas – we commented previously that there was a lot of nothing in Texas – and even going down the Southern route through Houston and San Antonio there is still not much to report.  Houston was a real eye opener – and sinus closer.  This is the most polluted city I have seen since being in Beijing China.  As you approach Houston from the East you begin to see a fog/haze and we both commented on – “Hope that’s fog”  Wrong.  It was not fog, but a heavy layer of smoke and pollution – I assume that it is not always this way that perhaps the air has been unusually stagnant, but it was appalling.  We actually drove I-10 through the center of Houston and could only view the tall buildings through a heavy gauze haze – much like the Puget Sound fog – but different.  There has been surprisingly little traffic up to this point – perhaps because of the three day holiday – but for whatever reason we are grateful.  Then we hit Houston.  Although the traffic is not like the stop and go, bogged down Seattle freeway traffic – it has its moments.  I wish to go on record that I believe the single most dangerous thing any driver can do is drive 15 or more miles under the speed limit on the freeway – not only do they endanger themselves but create situations that are extremely dangerous for trucks, cars, and of course, Moby and the Jeep.  You just move along at a nice pace, everyone doing the same thing and suddenly – Bam – there is someone that can only be referred to as the “flat tire on the wheel of traffic progress” and so begins the swerving, slalom weave and dodge – all the while they seeming to be oblivious to the chaos they have caused.  There, I feel so much better.  Got that off my chest.

Through Houston, safely, and on towards El Paso with thoughts of possibly stopping at the Alamo – but first, a nice three course meal at Arby’s and refueling Moby.  As we leave the pumps we hear a clunk behind us and having had a little problem with our hitch not being firmly attached to Moby while we were in Texas (North) we get out and check.  Nope, those tack welds have held just fine thank you – Onward and westward we go for another couple of hundred miles and are finally approaching San Antonio – time to fuel up again – it’s much easier outside of a major city – more truck stops with room to maneuver.  In we go, out of Moby we jump and I head to the bathroom. Upon my return Bill says “Hey, take a look at the front of the Jeep” .  Being the dutiful wife, I do as he says – and you know what?  The OTHER end of the hitch, the one attached to the Jeep has dropped two of its four nuts that keep the silly thing attached to the bolts that hold the whole thing together. And to get to the bolts, so that you can attach new nuts is a virtual impossibility without a lot of tools we don’t have and a car lift.  So our “hitch connection” from the Jeep is in drop down mode, the bolts are still there but by the time we actually figured this problem out we have bent the hitch, not irreparably, but temporarily.  So, now we are a caravan of two – Bill driving Moby, me driving the Jeep,  Lucy riding with me.  It’s kind of a modified Smokey and the Bandit – at least now I can run interference for Bill when he needs to change lanes – always look on the bright side, right?  We figure that we have three days until we get to Yuma (actually 1078 miles – I Googled it) and instead of messing around with this on the road we will continue our caravan to the West – Yuma mechanics, here we come.  Have your tools ready.  Life is good – a marriage will last forever if you travel in separate vehicles.

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27 with gratitude

This morning I celebrated the completion of my 27th year of living alcohol free – 27 years to grow, 27 years that I was granted because someone had the courage to say to me “Are you sure you want to continue to live this way?”  27 years that enabled me to experience new adventures, new joys and even new sorrows – all with a clear mind and future looking attitude.  No, not every day, sometimes old habits die real hard – and although I may not have been drinking my “thinkin’ was stinkin” as they say – and I am one of the them.  There is not a day that goes by that I don’t thank my higher power and the love of friends and family for this clear and precious time I have been granted.  I heard something on the radio today that somehow seemed so very appropriate:

“Some people stay in hell because they are familiar with the streets”.

I am so glad that I found new streets to explore.  Life is very good – one day at a time.

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If North is Up…..then where the hell are we?

We have found the end of the road….and now it is time to turn around and head back to where we started.  We are heading UP to Whidbey Island as opposed to DOWN to the Florida Keys – always interesting to me that north is up and south is down – I’m sure it has to do with maps although it would seem counter intuitive in the southern hemisphere and right now it makes me feel like a salmon swimming up-stream – Anyway….we are off.

Leaving the Keys was hard – I think that you could spend a lot of time and money getting to know this area – but several factors are not in our favor including the curse of old age knees and the fact that the weather really SUCKS here right now. Wind and rain and actually, a temperature of only about 62 degrees daytime which is virtually frigid here.  Have you ever seen someone in flip-flops, carrying a fishing pole and covered up by a heavy parka – we are definitely not in Kansas anymore. So we are off…Bill is humoring me by using the old “We’ll go for an air boat ride in the Everglades” trick.  And SURPRISE!  It is working.  I believe that on my bucket list this rates right up on the top of the list.  The trip North (UP) the Keys is 110 miles to Homestead and fortunately we are going against the weekend traffic which gives us a chance to drive slow – you know, like the people that we used to shake our fist at – and bid one last farewell to the beaches and amazing turquoise water.  Crossing the last bridge out of the Keys we are through Homestead Florida and up highway 997 which appears to be the fruit, vegetable, and nursery capital area of Florida – you can get any type of fruit and vegetable or a full size (like 60 feet tall) palm tree – Bill says no tree – wouldn’t fit in Moby – but would fit on top – he’s not gonna buy this idea. Soon we are making a Western turn (should I call this left – sure why not?) and driving down Florida Highway 41 – a narrower two lane road that skirts the northern (UP) side of the Everglades and winds through the southern (DOWN) side of Big Cyprus National Reserve. Now, sometimes when you are riding in a motor home you see things that you don’t want to because you sit up so much higher than the cars around you – don’t ask exactly what, just use your imagination. But this journey of 60 miles we are blessed to be in Moby – because we can see over the guard rail and view the……ALIGATORS!  Yup, lots and lots and lots of them – and some of them are quite large – in the 10 to 12 foot range.  They are hauled out of the swamp and laying on the banks or sides of the road – later I was to find out that this is somewhat unusual behavior for this time of year in the Everglades but the water is cold (couldn’t get a definition of cold – probably not the same as Puget Sound) so they haul out to collect warmth from the sunlight as they have no means to control their body temperature and if they are not warm enough they are unable to digest their food – all together now – Awwwwww, that’s so sad. I do believe that this is the first time I have seen an alligator of any size, let alone several hundred of them and it is quite an experience.  They seem so docile and lazy, what with just laying there and sun bathing.  I know that’s not the case – but allow me a short fantasy.  So we continue on thes highway – still slowly, still with people shaking their fists at us – at least they are using all their fingers – until we get to the turn off South (DOWN) to Everglades City which is on the northeast (UP-LEFT) side of the Everglades.

Following the directions of the lady on the phone we proceed down a paved road and turn off onto a dirt road, follow this down (she promised me we could turn 60 feet around down here) to the air boat terminal (yes, they do have a terminal) and pull off to the side.  If we are going to turn around down here it’s going to be by levitation.  The only path to turn around takes you over a three foot drop during which time we will either high center Moby, the Jeep or all of the above.  After a little conversation –

Me: “Hell, you told ME we could turn around”

She:” Well you can with a little work”

Me:  Do you have a concept of how long 60 feet is?”

She: “I drive a Mini Cooper”

– Oh that explains it. Well so do I!  Finally two of the air boat captains show up and actually come up with a plan to get us turned around which involves a vacant ship yard, a locked gate and one of them telling us “Don’t listen to her – she don’t know what the hell she’s talkin’  ‘bout”, we get turned (UP, LEFT, DOWN, RIGHT) around and parked totally blocking one complete side of their parking lot.  OK – NOW can I get my ride?   Wandering down to the terminal we find out that one of the boats is having a bit of mechanical difficulty which is fixed in about 30 minutes and we are finally boarded.  This is a small boat tour with only six people and the captain – but they send two boats out together – safety in numbers I guess – We have headphones similar to those worn in small planes by pilots and passengers so we can clearly hear and communicate with the captain – no small feat over the road of a Chevy 454 engine attached firmly to a 13’ flat bottom boat with no rudder only air foils for direction control.  And no life jackets, you fall off so sorry – no refund and you are probably stuck in the mud.  OK, I get the rules.  Kind of climb in, sit down, shut up and hold on.SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

This is the most fun I’ve had in a while – we are seeing land basically built from plants – all the islands in the Everglades are built by the onslaught of  three types of Mangrove trees.  These are the foundation of the islands and hammocks of the area.  There are vines and trees and brackish water which is black, shiny and, I am informed, about six (6) inches deep in places.  Due to the lack of rain in the area the marshes are almost entirely salt water at this time – usually they are a brackish mixture of salt and fresh water.  This is not good for our viewing of critters but after several flying turns (UP, LEFT, DOWN) we find a large open area with…..Mr. Gator….big Mr. Gator…This fellow is about ten feet long from nose to tail and I am informed by the guide,  he has 82 teeth – OK , gonna believe you – did you count them?SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

82 teeth....really

82 teeth….really

It is again unusual for him to be hanging in this area as the water is pretty cold for him – didn’t stick my hand in to find out – mama didn’t have no fools, nope.  And it is a he as the she’s only grow to about 8 feet.  He is able to hump up his back to take in the heat from the sun and this is a great opportunity for him to hit the Everglades “Fill Yer Belly Deli”. We sat and observed him for about fifteen minutes then off again like the wind. There really is no way to describe this experience, hope the pictures give you some perspective.

Passage through the 'glades

Passage through the ‘glades

Mangrove made islands

Mangrove made islands

Even had music as we are flying through the trees – nothing too silly, just the theme song from Top Gun….OK, maybe a little hokey….real hokey….but fun.  After about an hour we head back to the dock with the other air boat and stop in a small cove to visit these little fellows.

Rocky Racoon

Rocky Racoon

Apparently they are pretty tame having unfortunately been fed by some of the other guide services.  We do give them a drink of fresh water,

Little drinky poo

Little drinky poo

take a few pictures, hope they don’t fall onto the boats and get mad, and then head off (RIGHT) back to the terminal.  Check!  That’s off the bucket list – but may have to do it again just ‘cause it was so much fun.  Our goodbye send off came when this guy landed on our boat and rode in with us – lazy fellow for sure.

Our uninvited guest

Our uninvited guest

Mr. and Mrs. O'Brien's winter vacation

Mr. and Mrs. O’Brien’s winter vacation

 

Climb off the boat, remove Moby and the Jeep from their parking lot thus allowing others to park and go out on their tour and head off north (UP) the road. No we saw no giant anaconda, pythons or any other slithery thing while in the swamp.  Yeah for us!

We are taking I-75 North (UP) through Florida and turning East (LEFT) onto I-10.  These are major roads, should have no trouble either driving or finding a place to park for the night.  Best laid plans of the O’Brien’s. Ended up, late, at a Florida Rest Stop that had two signs “No Over Night Camping” and “Patrolled by Armed Security”.

rest stop  Figuring we had a great safe place to flake out what with this “security” and with it fast approaching our bedtime, we pull in, close the curtains, climb into bed (Lucy’s not too sure about this as we can’t put the bedroom slide out and she’s not sure where the heck she should sleep) and go to sleep figuring if anyone really had a problem they would bang on the door and kick us out.  2829243733_8c7773fbfaWoke up at 7:30 this morning figuring that

A:  They should read their signs more often and B:  Glad we had armed security that didn’t notice a 60’ rig in their lot.  The amazing powers of observation.  We are now about 110 miles from the Western (LEFT) edge of Florida, firmly planted for the night in the Florida Springs RV Resort, and will continue our leftward journey tomorrow.  Life is good….and full of surprises.

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Someone tell that rooster it’s 4 AM!

Yup – he’s back, actually he and his friend are back. Apparently there are two roosters here – the one originally living under Moby and another who is blind – yup – blind – so question me this, how does he know when the sun comes up?  Answer – He doesn’t – just crows, and crows and well….you get it. Then, somehow, at 7 AM – almost on the dot – they (as in both) take off to wake up the rest of the camp – I’m thinking they know about time change or something – anyway, they are cute, if annoying, and we just have to deal with it, so we will. But with ear plugs. Never met a seeing eye chicken before.

Finally drug ourselves out of bed and got fixed up to head into Key West – this is the day for the sailing trip.  Still a little concerned as it was gray and breezy – weather report indicates that this will pass through.  Funny, they have the same saying down here – if you don’t like the weather just wait ten minutes and it will change.  OK – bring it on folks!  Friday must be a non-work day for highway workers – all construction has come to a halt and the roads are filled with bicycles, scooters, cars and other forms of transportation.  They rent  electric vehicles down here which are  cute, small, silent and I’m sure deadly -people tend to drive them like their big SUV’s – and that just isn’t going to work with the amount of cars on the road. Basically they are glorified golf carts but somehow they are being mistaken for rental Camaro’s. Fatality count has increased from 1 to 3 on the highway sign since we got here – pretty sure it’s bicycles and electric vehicles involved. And you kind of have to chuckle because the same people who at home, in Minnesota or Illinois or where ever, would have on bicycle helmets to ride or knee and elbow pads to skate are free, sans helmet, sans pads,  and daring their insurance companies to deny their claims in the future.  Amazing, truly. Same goes for the motorcycle riders – many of whom need to master the art of not driving off the road because you are looking at something.  We know, we have done that ourselves.

Which brings me to the subject of roadside memorials, something I have been wanting to mention in this blog for quite a while.  During our roaming’s we have seen many and varied types of these memorials from the standard cross with flowers to bumpers of cars with names and dates on it and even one very large cross covered with horse shoes – trying to tell me this person was lucky?  Seems to me that if you want to remember someone who died in a car or any type of vehicle accident, you would want to remember their life not the place of their death.  Just sayin’ and just my opinion.  I can hear someone out there telling me to continue on or close down – it’s onward and forward.

So now we are in Key West proper and wandering through the city.  It is much larger and cosmopolitan than I would have thought – having a predisposition to believe that Hemingway, a narrow windy piece of asphalt, some well dressed transsexuals and lots of bars both colorful and plain would make up this town.  But we finally found the older part which lived up (or maybe down) to my expectations and decided to lunch at The Hogs Breath Saloon – rather a dump of a place with great food and live music for lunch. Great little wall coverings too. SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA  SANYO DIGITAL CAMERAThe piano player and horn player did a fabulous blues/jazz set as we ate – and I got my Conch Fritters – which, in retrospect, are basically a corn fritter with a real tough, rubbery and fairly disgusting looking black something in it that must be the Conch (pronounced Konk because you want to do that to you head when you are done).  But at least I can say I ate one more food on the road. And remember, their motto is “Hogs Breath is better than no breath at all.”  OK – not sure what they mean but let’s go with that. One other important element of The Hogs Breath is that they have an internet bar camera http://hogsbreath.com/keywest/index.php/hog-cam-bar-cam/      

If you click on the above link you get a live picture of the bar so, of course, people stand up, call their friends on their cell phone and then make fools of themselves in front of the camera – We know, because Bill did.  SYou wave, laugh, say “Can you see me now?’ and generally, well, look pretty foolish.  Good entertainment if you are bored.

Lunch being done we walk around some more, no – we don’t need no “genuine Cuban cigars” hand rolled right here in Key West – how does that work, what with making them genuine Cuban? No, we have all the three of ten buck T-shirts we can handle.  Same with incense, candle holders, pink flamingos, but we NEVER pass up a piece of key lime pie. It is just better down here.  But it’s time to head for the dock and our sailing trip about the America 2.0 – you know, the fabulous boat we are going on the sunset sail on with 16 of our closest friends.  Well……you must not have wished hard enough for us to have fair winds and following seas because the gusts are 35 knots and this trip is not happening tonight either.  Guess if God wanted us to sail he would have had us build our own ark or something.

Making the best of a windy situation we continue walking around and find the Coyote Ugly Bar which frankly offendSs me in so many ways I don’t think I can count them – but at 4 PM there are already ladies, and I’m using that term judiciously, dancing on the bar.  Please!

This would be my “not amused” face.SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

We touch the Southern Most Point in the continental US, visit Hemingway’s place, see the Southern White House and head back to camp.  All in a days work for us traveling types.  Nice dinner, some more great music but not sunset, laughs with our friends.  It’s all good.  One thing I forgot to mention, I think the damn rooster is following us – he showed up in Key West with his lady friend.  He was actually eye-balling my Key Lime Pie.  Be careful bird, be very, very careful.  I can be real mean if I want to be. SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

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At the end of the road…..

After a journey of more than 6500 miles around the edges and through the middle of the US we finally arrived at the end of the road – Key West Florida.  Actually, we are staying in Sugarloaf Key which is twenty miles from the end of the road.

We arrived here on Wednesday about two o’clock and had time to set up our campsite, get settled and then head out to Geiger Key and some entertainment – We had made some friends at Disney World and met up with them again here.  They, being far more experienced at visiting the Keys, have become our part tour guides part hosts.  Their friend plays music at this little backwater cafe/bar  and we ventured forth to partake in the local food and drink.

Geiger Key Entertainment - Yup, open mic night

Geiger Key Entertainment – Yup, open mic night

Thought that this slogan was somehow extremely appropriate of the attitude of the Keys:

The Backside of Paradise

The Backside of Paradise – look closely

I probably should mention that everything we have seen thus far down here is either a “fish camp” , a “marina”, an “RV park”, or a “resort” so take that for what it’s worth.  Dress is whatever you throw on, food is almost exclusively served in baskets with plastic forks and costs a fortune, and a lot of what is on the menu is all new to us from the Pacific Northwest.  Last night I had Hogfish – sounds pretty bad – looks worse in the flesh -but was actually delicious, moist, white fish very firm and sweet – OK – nuf of channeling some gourmet – basically I just like to eat.  Next stop I need to find conch – finally learned to pronounce it “konk” now need to eat it. But the highlight of the evening was the sunset and listening to music as the sun sets beats pretty much anything else we have done – great way to bring closure (yes, I hate that word but sometimes it works) to this trip.

S

Sunset off the dock – Yup, that’s a pelican

You put the lime in the coconut and drink it all down.....well you get it

You put the lime in the coconut and drink it all down…..well you get it

So, after a fun evening with friends, lots of laughter, good food and beautiful surroundings we headed back to Mobi and Lucy, who, as a matter of fact, loves this place because it has a place where she can swim in warm water and fat doggies float in the salt AND they have a rooster running around so she feels like home.

Lucy's pet rooster

Lucy’s pet rooster

We are, or were, going to get a good nights sleep and embark on exploration in the morning – but, well, actually, Lucy’s pet rooster decided to take up residence under Mobi and started off about 7 AM this morning – so much for the sleeping in part of the trip.  Somehow, this must be karma over the post on yesterdays blog – remind me to stay away from chicken/rooster issues hence forth.

Found out in the morning that chickens, roosters and cats are somewhat of an indigenous species in the Keys and we had better get used to it – so we shall. Today the plan was to explore and then join our friends and some of their friends and sail away on a 102 foot sail boat that they had chartered for a sunset sail.  OK – this sounds like fun!  It’s been warm and sunny and we had some beach time, pool time and now head into Key West Harbor  for our sail on the America 2.0 . Full bar (whatever) snacks and fun here we come.

America 2.0 just prior to our sail..

America 2.0 just prior to our sail..

 

As we prepared to board this magnificent boat the captain informed us that a “small squall” was headed our way and maybe the trip would have to be delayed about 30 minutes – and then the wind came up, the rain came down, those pretty blue skies turned ugly black and had these funny bright flashes in them – so hey, having been through this in New Orleans – we deferred till tomorrow night, ate a big dinner, had a big desert of key lime pie (hey, we ARE in Key West) and headed back for Mobi – more adventures tomorrow – we wish you fair winds and following seas – actually we wish US fair winds and following seas.

Life is good. Sailing tomorrow.

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Just for the heck of it

My thought for the day:

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Life is good!

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