Thursday, February 28, 2019

Jetty Park, Port Canaveral, Florida

I am writing this on February 28th from South Central Arkansas. We have a great campsite on Lake Ouachita. We are expecting some freezing temperatures over the next few days, so we will stay put for a bit and let that pass before continuing our move north. This entry is from a time about 4 weeks ago.

We left South Bay RV park on Sunday, February 3. We headed up the eastern side of Lake Okeechobee, and then over to Interstate 95. We exited on highway A1A over to Port Canaveral. This is a major cruise ship port, so the roads are excellent and well developed. The total drive was about 165 miles.

We have been to Jetty park before, but never stayed here. We have some great friends, Bill and Lisa, that like to come down to Jetty park each winter and spend three months. This park is tough to get in to, so I was surprised when I checked on line and found one site available for 2 nights. I immediately booked it.  Then I sent a note to Bill and Lisa and told them we were going to make a stop. They claimed excitement.

We had a decent site and we got set up without unhooking. We had plenty to do right here in the park for the 2 days we would be there.

This is not a great picture, but this is what you do at Jetty Park. Cruise ships are leaving most days. You just sit by the cut and wave at the people on the decks as they depart. This shot is taken about 100 feet from Bill and Lisa's site.
We had a site back in the fenced in area of the park, but Bill and Lisa like it out here along the canal. They do not have electric, but they do have water. They camp in a class B Roadtrek. We had water and electric and payed about $45 per night.

Here are the sites along the canal.
We arrived on Super Bowl Sunday and they were having a pot luck at one of the shelters. We joined Bill and Lisa there and spent some time catching up. We then went over to watch the cruise boats go out and I was also watching a few sailboats coming in from a day of sailing.

The security for the ships is impressive. We saw Sheriff boats and this Coast guard boat with a manned machine gun on the bow.

First out was the Carnival Liberty
Then Royal Caribbean's "Oasis of the Seas"
The Oasis of the Seas is huge. It even has an atrium with some internal balcony cabins.

You can see the internal atrium in this shot.
We then went to our rig and watched the Super Bowl. Fun times with great friends.

The next morning, Bill and I went for a long walk. We went out to the fishing pier to check how the fishing was, and then down the beach to see how the surf fishing was going. . You can fish on this pier without a license if you are staying in the park. I did not fish while we were there and as a matter of fact have not fished at all on this trip. Something wrong with that!

Later in the day it warmed up and we decided to spend some time on the beach.

Kim and Lisa
We were able to watch a number of ships come in and out of the port. There is a submarine base right across the channel from the park, but there was no submarine activity while we were there. This is also where they bring the rocket boosters after they were recovered after a launch from Cape Kennedy. We really enjoyed the activity and see why people come here year after year.

That evening we were able to see one of the beautiful blue Disney ships head out.

After the channel had cleared, three tugs brought in this huge tanker. Bill has an app on his phone that allows him to listen to the radio traffic. It is pretty cool to hear what they are talking about and know what is about to happen.

We finished off the evening with a campfire with a bunch of folks from the campground. We had hot dogs and then smores. It was a great visit, but too short. We had to move on the next morning. The only problem was that we did not have reservations. That turned out to be an interesting day. I will write about it in my next entry.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Back to South Bay and Surprise Visitors

We are still in Northern Louisiana. We are heading north tomorrow. We hope old man winter is done for the year, but we will see.

This entry goes back four weeks ago. We left Everglades NP on January 27. We decided to go back to the park that we had used as a jumping off point to head down to the Everglades. So, we backtracked the same route to South Bay RV park. We went right back into the routine that we had established during our previous visit. Daily 3+ mile walks along the levy and Kim joining the other ladies in the park in walking and then doing yoga. We planned to stay a week and enjoy some down time after the previous few weeks of being busy. It did not turn out that way.

That all changed on the first night we were there, when we made contact with some friends from Arkansas. We had seen Dick and Cathy at the beginning of this trip when we were in Russellville. They told us then, they were going to come to Florida, but had no schedule. They decided to see if they could get into our park. They were scheduled to arrive on Thursday of that week. When they pulled in they parked in a spot directly across from us. We always have an awesome time with these folks, so we got right to it.

The first morning they were there the girls were doing yoga, when I had a knock at the door. I was in the shower, so I threw on some shorts and much to my surprise a police officer was at the door and told me that the RV next to us was on fire and I needed to get out of my rig. I quickly got dressed and watched as the firemen were doing their job. The rig was lost, but thankfully no one was injured. We got some smoke in our rig, but not bad. Kim spent some time over the next day helping them get packed up to head home.

Dick, Cathy, Kim and I went on a driving tour of the area. We checked out a couple of other RV parks in the area, none were as nice as the one we are at. Then we went to dinner at a very authentic local Mexican restaurant. The food was very good, but they had a drink on the menu I decided to try. It was a mixture of beer and tomato juice. It was terrible! The server told me it was a hangover cure, I guess that was the problem, I did not have a hangover. Next door was a Mexican grocery. It was very cool to see all they had. We did buy a few items to try out later. That evening Kim made a Key Lime pie that was amazing. The only problem was that I had to share it.

On Saturday, we decided to take a long driving trip back down to a different section of Everglades NP, called Shark Valley. It is just made up of a visitor center and a long paved road out into the park. You can ride bikes, take a tram or just walk. We decided to just walk. We saw a bunch of wildlife.

A mother Alligator with a baby just below her right front leg.
Blue Heron
This big Alligator looked like he had been in a fight. He had a open wound on his snout. It was mating season, so probably caused by another male. 
This is the best look I had of a Wood Stork the entire time we were in the Everglades. 
Shark Valley is certainly an interesting place and worth it if you are in the area. We then decided to go over to Big Cypress National Preserve. They have two visitor centers right along highway 41. The preserve is a combined effort of the National Park Service, local hunting and recreation groups all working together to preserve and enjoy this amazing place. It is a very swampy area with lots of amazing wildlife and plants. We enjoyed the exhibits and an excellent movie in the VC and then took a short walk on a boardwalk where we saw more alligators than I have ever seen.

As we continued our drive through the preserve, we saw hundreds of alligators. They were literally every 100 yards and some of them were huge. It was a long drive, but a fun day with some great friends.

The next day was our day to head north, so we took some pictures to remember our time together.

Me, Kim, Cathy and Dick. We never quit laughing when we are together.
I really liked this one of you two. 
We were heading north to meet up with another couple that we have also met since we have been on the road. Travel to new places is great, but it is the people we meet along the way, that make this lifestyle truly amazing. I will write about that meet up in my next entry.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

South Florida with Friends - Part 2

I am writing this from Northern Louisiana. We have been moving to the west since we left Florida 2 weeks ago. We are now ready to turn north to see family in Arkansas and Missouri. We won't move north for at least a week. It is cold up there and we don't want any part of that.

In my last entry, I wrote about our friends that had joined us in South Florida. After two full days, we decided that we wanted to see a bit more of the Everglades NP before we left in two days. Kim and I decided to tour the northern points of interest. We started with the Mahogany Hammock. The park is full of these small islands of growth in the sea of grass and water. These start as a single tree or bush and then slowly trap soil and over many years turn into a little oasis of life. This one had some of the largest Mahogany trees in the US.

This Ibis was in the parking area and posed for a picture.
There was a nice boardwalk through this hammock. As you can see it was a bit cool with rain in the forecast.

Kim standing next to a very large Mahogany tree
This is a Spider Lily, that you can see in the park.
On our drive we noticed this sign. We have crossed many mountain passes in our travels with elevations listed over 11,000 feet. We thought this one was pretty funny.

We then went on to Royal Palm. It was awesome and is a "must see" place in the park. Bob and Linda were going to meet us later, so we met up with them and then brought them back and did Royal Palm a second time in one day. Pictures to follow. We met Bob and Linda at a pretty cool place. It is called, "Robert is Here". This is a huge fruit stand and picnic area. Robert was placed out on this corner when he was six years old to sell produce. He did not sell anything his first day, so his parents put up a sign to let people know that Robert was indeed here. We even were waited on by Robert himself. He was great and gave us some hints on how to prepare what we were purchasing. Best hint: squeeze key lime juice on fresh mangoes and other produce to enhance the flavors. We had to have a fresh made milkshake. They were amazing.

"Robert is Here" Fruit stand
We then returned to the park to check out Royal Palm. The area is a series of boardwalks and trails. There is the plenty of wildlife to see along the way.

Florida Gar

Purple Gallinule

We then went back to our campsite for dinner. That was the one night that we had a few mosquitoes. The next day we drove over to Doyle's condo in Miami Beach. We wanted to take Doyle out to dinner to thank him for the awesome hospitality while we were there. It was a cool, blustery day, but we still had to take a walk on the beach.

Another Kim on a beach photo

Bob on a beach

Kim and Linda on Miami Beach
 We went out to a local Italian restaurant for dinner that was very good. Thanks for picking up the tab, Bob! We then went back to the condo. I wish I had taken some pictures of the view from the deck during the day, but here is the awesome view at night. There are docks on the water side of the condo. Doyle has offered to let me rent a slip if I ever need it. That just may work!

The next day, it was time for us to move back north of Everglades NP. We had reservations back at South Bay RV park. We had fun time with our friends in South Florida and really enjoyed South Florida overall. It is my hope that we will be back soon and maybe see it all by water. 

In my next entry, I will write about our time in South Bay. We had some surprise visitors and did some amazing nature site seeing. 

Saturday, February 16, 2019

South Florida with Friends - Part 1

I am writing this entry from central Mississippi. We are continuing our slow move to the west. We have found many great campgrounds that are fairly empty. We are back in cooler weather, but we do need to use our entire wardrobe. At least that is what I am telling myself. For now, though, I will write about a few weeks ago.

When we left Missouri, back in November, we had talked to two of our partners in the ranch about getting together in South Florida this winter. Bob and Linda were going to fly down and spend a week in the Miami area. Doyle has been coming to South Florida for much of his life. His father purchased Coopertown, the oldest Air Boat operation in the Everglades, many years ago. He spends a couple of weeks managing the operation each month to help his father as he gets a bit older. He owns a condo over in Miami's North Beach. Bob and Linda were planning to stay at the condo while they were in town.

Bob and Linda arrived late in the day on January 22. Doyle was already in town along with his wife Dawn. We planned to meet at Coopertown on January 23 and get a personal tour with Doyle and Dawn. We were very excited to see the Everglades from Doyle's perspective.

Here is a shot of the operation. The big boats with 5 bench seats are used for most visitors.
This was our crew: Doyle back right and Dawn next to him (along with thor), Bob and Linda in the middle seat (sorry I got your eyes closed Linda) and Kim and I sat up front. 
Doyle can drive one of these airboats like a sports car. We went for a fun ride and then he stopped and started educating us about his love of the Everglades. There has been significant changes in the plan by the National Park Service in the past few years. One major change is that they bought the Coopertown operation and leased it back to Doyle's father for 10 years. Doyle knows that most visitors want to see Alligators and he showed us plenty of the them.

There are three gators in this shot

There is a very large gator in this shot

Doyle did not limit our tour to the regular trail. One of the things that he is very proud of is the many movies and TV shows that have been shot at Coopertown. They include Africa Queen with Humphrey Bogart, Miami Vice, Flipper and Gentile Ben. He showed us what was left of each of the movie sets and much of the history of the area. 

The Everglades are an amazing ecosystem. Doyle showed us how to survive if we were ever stranded out there and told us some amazing stories about the area including two major Airline crashes. Hurricanes have significant impact on the area, but the area has natural ways of adapting and surviving.

These large trees were knocked down two years ago, but they continue to survive. 
We had an amazing day. I can't thank Doyle enough for the personal tour. 

The next day we decided to drive down into the Florida Keys. We had no intention of making it all the way down to Key West. None of us had ever made the drive, so we just wanted to see what was along the way. 

We were a bit surprised to see the amount of civilization along the route. I had envisioned small keys and mostly bridges, but instead we went for long stretches on land with no view of the water. When we finally saw the beautiful blue water, we stopped to get a better look.

Beautiful water, but fast flowing current through his cut. I was dreaming about boating in this area.
We saw this guy and a few others on the rocks. They were huge!
We stopped at Robbie's for lunch. Decent food great view.

It was after lunch that we decided to drive on down to Key West. We clearly did not get the whole experience, but we decided to make a walk around and down to the southernmost point and take the picture. 

I was enamored with the sailboats off shore, but was also watching the sky. We had to hurry back to the car to keep from getting wet.

This one is for you, Bob!
That was a recap of our first two days together. They were both full days, but we had two more memorable days to come. I will write about those in my next entry. 

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Long Pine Key Campground - Everglades National Park

We are currently in Central Alabama. We are moving back to the west. We expect to be in southern Arkansas by Early March and Missouri by late March. We don't move very fast, but we are making progress. We are also staying at awesome places that I can't wait to write about, but that will have to wait.

We left Flamingo on Sunday, January 20 and drove the 35 miles north through Everglades NP to Long Pine Key Campground. It is amazing how different this campground is than Flamingo. We were at about 5 feet above sea level, but this place is not swampy and full of tall pine trees. The bugs did not bother us other than one late evening when we tried to eat dinner outside. The trees did impact our ability to totally live from solar power and it was also cloudy and rainy much of the week we were there. The good news is we were now close enough to Homestead, Florida to get good Verizon cell signal and full OTA TV. As soon as we arrived, I tuned on the TV to watch the AFC and NFC championship games. I am still having trouble believing how they turned out. During the week, I cycled both generators that we carry to give them some fresh gas. I have made the mistake of not doing that in the past and it took me a while to get one of them running correctly again.

Our site at Long Pine Key. We loved the seclusion provided by the palmettos and other plants that surrounded the site.

We had a nice sunset the first night we were at Long Pine Key.
I started the week by taking a long walk around the campground. The area is sitting on a limestone plateau that lifts it up out of the surrounding grass lands. There is a beautiful clear lake in the middle of the campground. We then decided to make a trip outside the park over to Biscayne National Park. It is only about 30 miles away on the Atlantic coast. The day was windy and rainy, so we decided not to paddle. It looks like an awesome place to kayak around the islands and maybe even some snorkeling in the reefs.

You can see two kayaks in this shot. It was fairly windy and we did not want to paddle on this day.
I did not take many pictures at the park. There is a small marina, but most of the visitors center was closed due to the government shut down. We walked the 1/4th mile boardwalk out into the bay which gave you some nice views of the tops of the reefs and the Atlantic beyond. We did have a very enjoyable conversation with another couple that was visiting the park. They are part time RVers from Virginia that had a bunch of questions for us and an offer to park our boat on their dock if we are ever up in the Chesapeake Bay. Meeting cool people is the best part of our lifestyle.

We will only count Biscayne Bay NP as a "drive-by" visit. That means that we did not really experience what this park has to offer. We will have to return and get on and in the water to see what this place is really all about.

The next day, our friends Bob and Linda were flying in from Missouri to join us and enjoy south Florida for a week. I thought about including our time together in this entry, but it would be way too long. We did a lot in the 4 days we spent together. I will write all about that in my next entry.