The Southern Half of Florida

Monday, March 5, 2012

Got up this morning in Port Richie and started driving south.  As always, we tried to drive along the road closest to the coast.  In this case that road took us through Clearwater and then over to the little barrier islands along the coast.  We mistakenly thought we would be driving along the beach.  In fact we saw little glimpses of beach between hotels and motels and restaurants.  We were driving on state highway 699.  Eventually we came to the end of that highway and the end of the island.  That was the best part of the drive.  We drove along a sea wall on the eastern side of the island.  There we lots of people fishing and lots of birds watching the people fish in hopes of gleaning the fish harvest.  Lucy loved it and got a few photos.  

We had to back track a few miles to get to a bridge to the mainland so we could continue our southward trek. When we got to Sarasota we decided to put in for the night.  We found a place called Sarasota Lakes RV Resort.  It was very nice and our space was backed up to a lake where Lucy found more birds to photograph.  

After we were there and all hooked up and settling in, a terrible noise began from above.  We were apparently directly below the final approach path for the Sarasota Airport.  Lucy, being the bird photographer she is, decided to go after the big game.  I think I heard her mumbling something about lemons and lemonade or something like that.  So for a good part of the evening Lucy sat perched at the door waiting for an opportunity to shoot a big bird.  She got a couple of good ones.  Luckily at about 10:00 the noise stopped, perhaps due to some ordinance about noise reduction.  We will never know, but we are grateful.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Up again this morning and headed south.  We drove along in a perpetual city until we came to a place where we had to turn east or obtain passage on an airboat.  We decided to turn east and the city ended.  Then something occurred to us.  We had seemingly been in a city since we got to Springhill. That is down half the length of the west coast of Florida.  We were getting a bit tired of city driving, so the turn east was a pleasant change.  As it turns out we were driving right across the Everglades.  We expected to see alligators or crocodiles and snakes and such.  What we saw was lots of water and trees and bushes and birds.  It was only 100 miles across to south Miami.  After the drive it occurred to us that we had driven most of the length and all the way across florida with out seeing even one hill, much less a mountain.  What a strange part of the country we are in.

We found our way at last to a Walmart in south Miami and availed ourselves of their generous hospitality.

Another curiosity; As in southern CA, AZ, NM, and TX, it seems that a majority of the people in south Miami speak Spanish as their main language.  Now I’m not saying this is good or bad, but for those who feel the need to pick a language as our official language, it seems that it would be good to first consult this very large segment of our population.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Up this morning early.  We were a little excited about driving down the Keys today.  We listened to the weather report and found that it would be just fine except for one thing.  The wind is supposed to blow from 20 to 30 mph today.  Now I am getting used to driving in the wind, but there is one thing that makes me nervous when I drive in windy conditions and that is driving across bridges in windy conditions.  So the thought of driving the 120 miles down to Key West in the wind was not a pleasant thought.  We looked at the 10 day forecast and found that we would have to wait an entire week before those conditions improved.  After some discussion and a very nice breakfast at a Cuban Restaurant we decided to go for it.

Having never been to the Florida Keys, my only reference for what to expect was what I have seen in the movies or on TV.  So my perception was of mostly a highway out across the ocean with little wisps of land in between.  In fact the opposite is true.  It is mostly land.  Sometimes very narrow strips of land, but land nonetheless, with lots of relatively short stretches of bridge.  There are two bridges which are quite long, one 7 miles and the other perhaps 3 miles, but most of the time there were long stretches of land connected by short bridges.  The wind also seemed to die down substantially as we got closer to the end, Key West.  When we recovered from the shock that this area was not at all what we expected, we began to enjoy the place for what it really is.  A beautiful combination of land and sea resembling a string of green pearls on a background the color of aqua marine.  The color of the sea in this area is unlike any thing I have seen in nature.  I always thought of the color aqua as something you see on a pallet, but never in nature.  Now I understand the color aqua and will never forget it.  I could not stop looking at it.  And it went on and on.  Another thing that seems unreal about this place is how insignificant you feel when you think about the fact that you are a tiny dot on a thin sliver of land at the confluence of 3 great bodies of water, The Gulf of Mexico, The Caribbean Sea, and the Atlantic Ocean.  Viewed on a global scale or even the western hemisphere, you can’t even see Key West, yet here we are driving down the street of that city.

That city is quite old and has a very colorful history.  The population is less than 25,000, but it plays host to 2.8 million visitors a year.  Ernest Hemingway lived here.  Harry Truman spent many vacations here.  It is also the home of a large Naval Air Station.  It is the southernmost tip of the contiguous states.  In 1982 Key West made a failed attempt to declare it’s independence as The Conch Republic.

We drove around the city for quite some time before it dawned on us that we were very likely not going to find a place to park our van.  So we drove around trying to see what we could from the van.  We saw quite a lot.  The streets were barely wide enough for two vehicles to pass side by side and there were cars parked on the street.  We often had to move over to one side and wait while a car went by and then take our turn while other cars waited.  The homes and other buildings are very old in some cases in poor repair.  In other places the buildings had been kept up and were very nice.  All over the city there were chickens running free.  It was very odd to us but no one else seemed to notice.  C’est La Vie

We drove around for quite a while and began to think about where to stay for the night.  We remembered seeing a very nice park about 35 miles up the Keys from Key West.  We decided to head for that place for the night, then decide if we wanted to come back to Key West or head on back north.  When we got there, we realized we should have called first.  They had vacancies, but they wanted $112 per night for it.  We decided we could not justify that kind of cost for a camp site for 1 night.  We then discovered that there were no sites in the Keys for less than $100 per night.  Then I remembered what Piere, a man we had met from French Quebec, had told us.  He said you could stay in the K-Mart parking lot on Key West.  He said he had done it many times.  I called K-Mart and the manager told me they did not own the lot and could not tell us one way or another.  He did tell me that he had seen many people parking overnight there and no one ever bothered them.  We decided to chance it, so we drove the 35 miles back to Key West and had a nights sleep in the K-Mart/Albertson’s parking lot.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

I realize I have strung a few days together here for this post.  I don’t like to do that for a number of reasons, but mostly because if I don’t write daily I forget things that I would have liked to tell you. And if I do remember everything it makes for a very long post. If I am working a few days in a row and we are sitting in one place, it’s okay to do that because there is usually nothing interesting happening.  But the last few days were very eventful and I have probably left out much that I would have included had I written daily.  I will try to do that as much as possible from here on.

So we got up this morning and found a little breakfast at a place called Camilles. I had a scramble with lots of veggies and ham in it along with some home fries and a pancake.  (don’t tell my doctor about the pancake)  It was quite good.  Lucy had eggs benedict with smoked salmon.  She said it was the best eggs benedict she has ever had.  Let me tell you that it is really a rare occurrence to get that kind of accolades from Lucy. Often we go to a restaurant that I think is excellent and Lucy thinks it is just so-so average.  So if you are in Key West you need to find Camilles and have breakfast.  You don’t need an address, just ask almost anyone for directions to Camilles.

Well we drove around a bit more on the narrow streets.  We saw the southernmost beach, the southernmost hotel, the southernmost street, and the southernmost point.  We saw thousands of college age students walking hither and yon.  We had enough and headed north.  We found a place to stay in a town just north of Fort Lauderdale called Port Saint Lucie.  The RV park was designed by the same people who designed the sardine can.  We stayed one
night to get rested and then headed north again.

Friday, March 9. 2012

We bought a car today.  It seems more and more we come to places we would like to see more of, but there is just no way to park the beast, so we just drive on.  RV parks tend to be a bit off the beaten path, so it is sometimes difficult for us to stay a day or two and see the sights, because it is a hassle to hook up and then unhook to go to town and hope to find a place to park and then back to the park and hook up again.  There are also those times when I have to work, so we stay a few days in a park and Lucy is stuck watching me work.  So we bought a 2011 Ford Fiesta that weighs about half as much as the towing capacity of the van.  Our salesman was a singer named David Santiago.  He was a very personable and funny guy.  It was the most entertaining car deal I have ever been a party to.  He is also a great singer.  He is going to be trying out for The Voice for next season.  As we test drove the car, he sang to us and I must say he is quite good.  He told us he sang the national anthem for the Mets game a while back.  It is supposed to be on YouTube soon so I will try to post it when I see it.

We have to stay here a few days while they get the car fixed up with the needed towing apparatus. It actually worked out okay because I have a couple of jobs to do while we are waiting.  We found a very nice KOA in Fort Pierce, just north of Port Saint Lucie.  Last night we had some thunderstorms, today was a beautiful day and as I write this we seem to be having more thunderstorms.  So for the next few days we are waiting and I am working and unless something unusual happens this will be my last post for a few days.

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2 Responses to The Southern Half of Florida

  1. Carol Vincent says:

    Oh my gosh! Sounds like a great trip and I’m glad you are buying a car! You will be able to see so much more. I loved hearing about Key West, and camping at Kmart. You made it work!
    Bill and I are in the process of finding a house to buy here in Casa Grande. We may be seeing you this summer-our plans are changing daily.
    Enjoy! Enjoy!
    Bill and Carol

  2. Terri says:

    This brought back many good memories. I made the trip to Key West often – I just love that little island. Did you see Hemingway’s cats? He was a cat lover and bequeathed the house to the cats basically, with enough money to guarantee them and their offspring many many decades of good care and a gorgeous house to call home. When I would stay I’d watch the sunrise on the Atlantic side and then wander across the island slowly until I ended up watching sundown on the Gulf.

    You should have taken the air boat ride – that’s when you experience the wild side of Florida. Despite the deafening noise (must wear ear protection) of the boat, you’ll see amazing birds, turtles and yes, lots of gators.

    I took Alexa down last Memorial weekend for Disney, lots of pool time, Daytona and an awesome canoe trip. She had a great time but said it was too hot. hahaha – if she only knew what it’s like there in August, now that’s hot. She’s such a little Oregonian, happiest in the cool rain.

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