Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Half Way…

Now that we’ve been without internet for a week or so, readers are going to have to blog through a few different events…

We’re now officially half-way into our trip because I have to be back for business by May 15. I’m relieved to say that we just squeaked in on budget, and that we still like each other enough to go for another five-and-a-half months.

I know I concluded the last blog by stating that we were hitting the road but, before we left Bonita Springs, we decided to take in the annual Tastes of Bonita Springs, which was being held just down the road from our park. It started at 11:00am so we figured we could sample a few things and be on the road by noon. Food tickets were $1 each and most menu items cost two to four dollars. We bought twenty bucks worth of tickets and had small portions of: baby back ribs, crab cakes, coconut shrimp, a beef slider, chicken wings, a slice of charcoal roasted pizza and frozen, chocolate key lime pie on a stick.

Pictured are the Tastes of Bonita:

Later we pulled up stakes and drove to Pleasant Lake RV Park near Bradenton. As advertised, there’s a lake in the middle of the park and a large, heated swimming pool too. We took a long walk and a swim before Janice made Pulled Pork Tostadas and something akin to a Waldorf Salad, only better, while I watched the Pats beat the Colts, barely.

We rolled into Fort Desoto County Park about 1:00 and headed straight for the beach, which won The Best Beach in America award in 2005. It’s a nice beach but not as nice as some we’ve seen. We spent the afternoon walking and getting wet before heading back to camp for Country Style Ribs, (we’re not really sure what they are either) but Janice put them in the crock pot and finished them on the BBQ. They were fall apart delicious and were accompanied by mixed greens with blue cheese, cranberry, walnut and red onion salad, topped with maple/balsamic dressing.

Pictured is North Beach at Fort Desoto State Park.

In the morning we went for a long walk around Fort Desoto Park, which is an 1138 acre island. Later we drove to St. Pete’s Beach, where Tweetie and Art’s condo is, and then to Madeira Beach, Dunedin and Palm Harbour, all the while scouting potential RV parks that we might want to make a prolonged stay at. There was only one that was up to snuff, but a little expensive for our tastes, so we’re going to give Zephyrills, north of Tampa Bay, a try to see if we can find the park that is famed for having a lot of Canadian musicians who hang there for the winter.

As soon as we got back to camp we headed for the beach and made a couple of calls. One to Charlie, who isn’t going to be able to make it down here, and the other to Tweetie to let her know we were going to have to pass on the offer pf the condo, however much it would have been appreciated. If Tweetie and Art had been there it would be a different story.

Pictured below are: St. Pete’s Beach and Tweetie and Art’s condo.

Our camp neighbours at Fort Desoto are a large family with teenagers. The parents were out the other night and, as we were sitting outside after dinner listening to some quiet music, suddenly the hip hop music at the teenagers’ got cranked so loud we couldn’t hear our music at all, and we were sitting right next to it. Janice, like Frank Zappa’s mother in Joe’s Garage, yelled, “Turn it Down.” When nothing happened she marched over and turned the ghetto blaster down herself. A sullen looking male of fourteen or fifteen years of age said, “Hey, don’t touch my music.” Janice, hands on hips, stared him down - that was the last we heard of it.

Not long after I met Janice she took up kick boxing. Every time she’d drink Tequila, she’d go up to the biggest guy in the room and give him a shot in the Solar Plexus. Gasping, they would look unbelievingly at the five-foot-one, hundred-and-ten pound female in front of them and, as their composure returned to them, start laughing. Sometimes these encounters would end up in friendships, while other times it got us into trouble. Fortunately the trouble was never too serious, but I eventually gave her an ultimatum: Either give up kick boxing or give up Tequila. She gave up kick boxing.

The morning after the teenager’s music incident, it was sunny and hot as I made a few calls to parks we’d found in Zephyrhills via the internet. A woman at Southern Charm RV Park said that she believed that hers was the musical park. We pointed the truck north and drove through Tampa Bay, which is not very memorable on a drive-by, and kept going another twenty or so miles to Zephyrhills.

As soon as we pulled in to Southern Charm, and booked our spot on Lucky Charm Way, a woman named Suzie walked over and introduced herself. She immediately predicted that we were in for a prolonged stay at the park. “Mark my words,” she said.

Later, as we walked around the park, we found a lot of outgoing people that confirmed that, yes indeed, this was the park where there were a lot of resident musicians. There were also four volleyball courts, a big bike riding group, a canoe and kayak group, a bowling club and of course a shuffleboard league. In the clubhouse, next to the pool and hot tub area, there is a library and a billiards room with three new tables.

In the morning I played volleyball for the first time in about seven or eight years. There were twenty-five players of all skill levels. We drew numbers to form teams and I ended up on a kick-ass team that none of the others could touch. That only lasted three games though as numbers were re-drawn and I ended up on a team that lost three in a row. Good fun and exercise but, man, was I stiff the next morning when I showed up for men‘s volleyball.

Janice, who’s never been much for volleyball, either walks or swims laps.

Some of the volleyball players were musicians and I was invited to jam that afternoon. The host of the jam is a banjo/guitar player who, it turns out, was mentoring some less experienced guitar players, so it was a little dull for me.

When we asked at the office what price they could offer for us to stay for the month of December, our jaws almost dropped when she said, “We have a December special of $199.00.” The reason we were so surprised by the $199.00 is because there regular rate is $38.00 per day or $399 a month. The parks on the coast, twenty miles away, charge anywhere from $800.00 to $1,200.00 per month. Our cable TV and high speed internet connection is going to be another $115.00, but that still only brings our total to $315.00 for the month, so the cable/internet connection is already ordered for November 30. The busy season down here is January/February, thus the December special.

Suzie was right - we’re staying.

On the Saturday morning we joined a group to go on a twenty-five mile bike ride. We rode the first half to a great little restaurant in Florida City and had breakfast before heading back as a group. Again there are all levels of riding ability, and stamina, but we were pleased to be able to keep up to the lead pack. Janice and I decided that we actually rode an equivalent thirty or thirty-five miles because of the smaller wheels on our fold-up bikes.

Pictured is the bike group at the trail head. Almost all of them ride twenty-seven speed recumbent bikes that are easier on the arms, wrists, back and butt. They wouldn’t work so well in hilly BC though. Also pictured is Janice's shot of a spot along the trail.

On Sundays there is an open jam at Zephyrhills Community Park, about two miles from our resort. Janice dropped me off and there were half a dozen groups formed wherever there was stand-up bass. Small crowds surrounded each group. The idea is that you can sit in with any group and anyone can join your group as they choose. It’s mostly bluegrass and old-time country, which is not my bag because the old time country is pretty boring for a drummer and any kind of a backbeat is poison to bluegrass players so, again, not a good fit so far. I did stay at the jam and play for an hour or so but it was pretty boring.

Readers might be able to tell that I’m starting to miss playing music on a regular basis. Just s few months before we left on our Intermission I was lucky enough to get together with some really good songwriter/musicians who happened to like my Cajon playing. They are: Songwriter, Chris (Doc) Dougherty on acoustic guitar and vocals, whom I’d played with a few times in the past; Songwriter, Gary Neilsen on acoustic guitar and vocals, whom I’d never met before; James (JR) Adam on lead acoustic guitar and Dobro, whom I‘ve played with in rock/funk/blues bands for the past thirteen years; Sylvie Johnson on mandolin and vocals, whom I’d never met before and Perry Tucker on electric stand-up bass and vocals, whom I’d seen around town but usually when he was heading his own band, on guitar. The band had only played a few gigs by the time Janice and I left but we were having a lot of fun with our weekly practices, and with regular make-shift get-togethers called Safety Meetings on Friday evenings, where a large cross section of people bring appetizers and either just hang out or play music.


Another bike ride this morning. It was promoted by our neighbour, Jim, to be an easy seven-mile loop where we would stop in the middle at Pannera’s Bread for lunch, or whatever. We did stop for an iced coffee and a bagel but the ride ended up being twenty-two-and-a-half miles because they decided to go around a few more loop trails. It seemed easy today compared to the ride the other day though. Most of these paved bike trails in Florida are abandoned railroad beds that the counties take over and convert to non-motorized traffic trails.

Pictured is the bike group at Pannera’s Bread.

By the way, did you know that Microsoft dictionary doesn’t recognize the word ‘blog’? And Janice felt bad when she discovered that she’s older than the word ‘Astronaut’!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Bonita Springs...

Some of you know Sam Stewart who worked with a bunch of us at the North Shore News so long ago. Sam and Fiona moved to Saskatchewan a couple of years ago so that Fiona could accept a position teaching at a university there. Sam is originally from Saskatchewan but, still, he emailed this morning to say that it’s getting painful to open my blog because it was minus twenty-seven there and he shoveled snow twice the day before.

Janice says, “Bummer Sam.”

Here’s a picture of what the holiday season looks like in the tropics.

We experienced a great little Tortilleria that we had spotted on our walk the other day. Like a couple of other small Mexican restaurants in the area, it was tucked away unobtrusively. Besides ourselves, the only other people eating there were Mexicans and, as we suspected, the food was very authentic. I had a spiced pork taco and a fish taco while Janice tried the Gordita with spicy Mexican sausage and a tongue taco. She coerced me into trying the tongue but it was too beefy and meaty and had way too much flavor for my liking. The bill totaled $11.81 for the food and two bottled waters.

Now that we’ve taken in most of the area on our morning walks, we’ve discovered that our RV park is situated pretty well smack in the middle of an almost exclusively Mexican neighbourhood. The locals encountered are mostly shy and retiring, not usually making eye contact. As soon as we say "Hi", or "Olah" though, their faces light up with big, warm smiles and they become welcoming and courteous.

Okay, so we’re now officially Snowbirds. Yup. We’ve played outdoor shuffle board on several occasions and I recently succumbed to an invitation to play Corn Hole with the guys. I know! Who named it that anyway? Actually, the old guys here call it Bean Toss. You score points by tossing a bean bag at a board with a hole in it. There’s a little more to it than that, but three games only take about a half hour or so,which makes it quick enough to particpate in. Alright, I admit it - lately, Janice and I have even been playing shuffleboard in the evening, under the lights.

We went to the beach to watch the sunset last night. Pictures of the sunset at Bonita Beach follow as well as a couple of bird shots. I know that the two silhouettes are Pelicans and I'm pretty sure Steven Hornstein can fill us in on what the other one is.

We have a couple of options now facing us about how to spend the next few months. Janice’s old friend, Janice Doyle (Tweetie) and her husband, Art, have invited us to use their condo in St. Petersburg for the month of December. While that offer is very generous and much appreciated, it kind of depends on whether our friend, Charlene (Charlie) Jenneson, would be able to join us there. Its looking kind of unlikely but we should know the answer to that in a day or two. If that doesn't work out, our original intention was to go to Mexico, and we found out today that there is a three-unit convoy of people from Kamloops and Agassiz leaving for La Penita on the west coast of Mexico on January 3, from Mesa, Arizona. There is also another alternative - just keep touring around the southern states and fly into Mexico to meet friends who are doing the usual two-week vacations. Hmmm…

We also need to book back into Canada within the next few months because BC Medical has this inane policy that, once you’re sixty years old, you have to report back into the country every six months or they cut off your medical coverage. I call that Age Discrimination. Anyway, it gives us an opportunity to see our families for a few days sometime during the holiday season, so we need to book some cheap flights to Vancouver - but from Tampa or Mesa?

We went to a local bar/restaurant the other day called Buffalo Chips, which is just a long block away from our RV Park. We had a draft beer each and six big, award winning chicken wings, all for $6.00. The wings were even better than claimed and the sports memorabilia adorning the walls, including a signed warm-up cloak worn by Muhammad Ali, were captivating.

Pictured is Tim scoffing wings and beer at Buffalo Chips.

It's been a week already since we booked into the park here, so it's time to move on. Yesterday we drove to Sanibel and Captiva Islands, about an hour from here. They're very upscale, with mutli-million dollar homes lining the waterfronts. Sanibel Island though has a huge bird sanctuary where we saw all kinds of exotic birds, including a Spoon-billed Rosietta which resembles a pink flamingo, until you get closer, in which case it looks like a long-legged pink duck.

Today we're heading north, with no particular destination. Tomorrow though we'll book into Fort Desoto Civic Park where we hope to encounter some Manatees...

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Everglades and the west coast of Florida…

We left Bahia Honda about 3:00pm and drove the two hours north to Homestead, to the same RV Park we had stayed in on the way down. It was only an hour or so from The Everglades.

It was Saturday and the parking lot at Everglades State Park was full so we had to park the rig out on the highway and walk into the park. Highway 41 is the northern border to the park and is known as Alligator Alley for good reason. We weren’t in the park five minutes when we spotted the first one. Not two minutes later the monster you see floating down the river in the picture below appeared. Driving west from the park entrance we saw dozens more gators.

Pictured are some gators and some wild birds spotted at Everglades State Park.

We stopped at Naples on the West Coast of Florida and stayed the night at The Neapolitan RV Resort.

Pictured are pelicans on some pilings at Naples Beach. There's also lots of white sand at Naples Beach but I didn't want to keep rubbing it in...

All of the RV parks around Naples are expensive so we drove north to Bonita Springs where we’ve booked into Bonita Lake RV Park for a week.

Pictured is the pool and the 'lake' at the back of Bonita Lake RV Park.

We went for a long walk our first morning in Bonita Springs and were finding it too weird to see all the Christmas wreaths and other decorations down here in the tropics, and so early. Yesterday, riding in the truck in the heat of the afternoon, with the windows wide open, we heard Brenda Lee's Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree!

Today we visited the sand castle exhibition at Bonita Beach and I'm glad we didn't go a couple of days earlier when there was a fee to get up close. Compared to the sand sculptures we saw at Harrison Hot Springs a couple of years ago, it was lame.

Pictured is one of the sand castles at Bonita Beach. We only included it to show you how well janice's new camera works. She dropped her old camera in the sand the other day and it stopped working. We were told that it would cost more to fix than replace, so she's now the proud new owner of a Nikon Cool Pix.

Later we stopped at Hickory Park Beach, pictured below, and did some body surfing - not pictured.


We had a request for Janice’s recipe for crab cakes so, here it is:

1 egg lightly beaten
¼ cup mayonnaise
3 tbsp flour
¾ cup Panko bread crumbs
¼ cup finely chopped red onion or four green onions
2 cloves fresh garlic crushed
1 to 2 tsp of hot sauce or Sambal - depending on tolerance
¼ cup of Cilantro or Parsley chopped
1 lb Crab meat, picked over for shells

Mix egg, flour, mayo and hot sauce until well blended
Stir in everything else
Shape cakes using about 1/3 cup of mixture for each cake
Refrigerate for at least an hour
Melt equal parts of butter and olive oil (about 2 tbsp each) in a pan and cook cakes over medium-high until crisp and golden brown

They taste great with Mango Salsa.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Keys and The Southernmost Beach Hotel...

We’ve just experienced what might be one of the best vacation destinations anywhere. Certainly the Southernmost Beachside Hotel in Key West, owned by my old friend Robyn and her husband Dale, (our new friend), is situated on one of the most desirable pieces of real estate in North America - on the southernmost point of the US, bordered by clear and colorful ocean.

The 279 units are pretty well split evenly between two parts: The Southernmost Hotel occupies the property across the road and the Southernmost Beachfront Hotel, with two classic homes that have been refurbished and made into bed & breakfasts occupy the waterfront side of the road. It’s luxurious, casual, comfortable and welcoming, and the location is nothing less than spectacular. Key West is the southernmost place in the US and the hotel occupies the southernmost piece of land in Key West.
Pictured are some random shots of the Southernmost Beachside Hotel, including the restaurant, the pool at night and views from our room..

Five minutes after we were introduced, Dale said, “Let’s go have lunch in the restaurant.” It seemed less a question than an order. Crossing through the huge pool area, we approached the El Fresco style restaurant, which is exactly what you'd wish for in the tropics. It has a roof but the rest is pretty well open air. Dale recommended that everybody try a cup of the new seafood chowder before lunch, which was all exceptional.

It didn’t take but a few minutes observing our surroundings, and talking to our hosts, to realize that we were immersed in a real going concern. The restaurant was bustling, the staff were hustling but attentive and a lot of people were enjoying themselves at the beach, around the pool, in the restaurant, at the pool bar and generally lazing around the property. Dale is very focused on business. Our first impression was that he was a very intelligent businessman, but we were a little concerned that his focus might be so intent as to make him uninteresting to us, and vice versa.

Dale went back to work for the afternoon so Robyn took us to our room, which was one of the nicest rooms in the hotel, with it’s own deck overlooking the water and the pool area. The hotel is at the quiet end of the mile-long strip called Duval Street, where restaurants, bars, galleries, gift shops and night clubs abound. Robyn took us for a guided tour. The World Cup Power Boat races were on and we could see them racing around the harbour from the cruise ship pier. We passed the home of Ernest Hemingway and then stopped for a Margarita at the Blue Heaven Bar, which Hemingway frequented, and where, from time to time, he reportedly engaged in an old fashioned punch-up.

Pictured is the Blue Heaven Bar. The back is open air, where we had our Margaritas at the bar, under the Banyan trees.

Janice and I went back to our room to enjoy the sunset from our deck, showered, and then met Dale, Robyn and another friend of theirs from Aspen, Eddie, at the poolside bar for a drink before we all headed back to the restaurant for dinner. Dale paid the bar bill. Again, guided by Dales’ suggestion, we all had the Yellow-Tailed Snapper which is indigenous to The Keys and rarely found anywhere else. Delicious. Dale wouldn’t even let us leave the tip.

It turns out the eighty-three-year-old Eddie, who looks more like he’s seventy-three, is a retired women’s casual wear manufacturer from New York City. He and Dale are championship Bridge players who travel the country to various tournaments.

Pictured are the sunset and the moon from our room.

Dale and Robyn are young for their ages. They go about their rotuines and activities with vigor and pleasure. Dale pointed out that he turned sixty-eight-and-a-half the first day we were there, while Robyn is three years younger than I am, but looks more like fifty. Later, when I asked if she had any grey hair she said, “Sure, lots. But I have a living will. If I’m ever in a coma, or otherwise indisposed, my hair is to be colored at least every two weeks.” Their full-time home is in Aspen, Colorado, but they also have a deluxe suite in the hotel for the winter months.

They travel the world extensively and are eyeing a trip to New Zealand next. Dale started out as a lawyer but became a hotelier when he was sent to lawyer the sale of the hotel and decided he should buy in. While Dale works, Robyn recreates. When we first got back in contact, after Big D’s death, I asked Robyn what she did and her reply was, “I’m a professional recreator.” It might sound trite but they both have children from previous marriages, a new grandchild, and I know that Robyn's also involved with organizing a lot of philanthropic causes and events in Aspen.

Janice and I went for a long bike ride in the morning while Dale worked and Robyn attended her Zoomba class before working out in the on-site gym.

Pictured are the hotel property from the seawall and another shot of the water near there.

We found out later that Dale and Eddie spent the afternoon playing in a Bridge tournament where they placed third out of eleven teams - something about the way Eddie played a pair of threes. Dale didn’t miss the opportunity to harass him about the play later.

Robyn met us at the pool and, after lounging for a bit, she invited us to try Paddle Boarding. Juan, who runs the beach operations for them, gave us a quick demonstration before we headed out to sea. We caught on pretty quickly so we decided to paddle for the point where we could get a view of the cruise ships at dock. We turned around and that’s when we discovered that a pretty brisk headwind had developed. It took us at least a half hour of hard paddling to get back to the hotel. A lot of fun though, and none of us even got wet.

Back at the pool we had a dunk and a round of Mojitos before Janice and I went back to watch the sunset and shower before meeting everybody back at Dale and Robyn's suite for dinner, which turned out to be a feast that started with Stone Crab (my new favourite kind of crab), served cold with a sweet mustard sauce, and followed by steamed asparagus and sautéed lobster. All accompanied by cold white wine.

It was great to get re-acquainted with Robyn and to make a new friend in Dale, who, while very much focused on "Putting heads in beds", is also interesting, funny and engaging. They have a great life together.

Pictured are: Janice and Robyn, Dale, on the left, and Eddie serving up some lobster. The Stone Crab, which indigenous to the area, are harvested by trapping them, removing one claw and throwing them back to re-grow the claw.

After dinner, when we took leave of our hosts, Janice and I decided to take a walk up the strip. There's a vibrant music scene in Key West and we half expected Jimmy Buffet to appear from behind every corner. Not half a block from the hotel we heard some cool music coming from the deck of a big house which had been converted into the Cork & Stogie. The music was being provided by a young singer-songwriter named Kevin Bowes. He had a large following of young, hippyish, locals and some of his more memorable tunes were Rasta Pasta and and You Make The Money. We had had several glasses of wine under our belts so Janice asked the operators if it would be alright for me to accompany him on Cajon. They agreed and so I kind of insinuated myself on Kevin, who was a little apprehensive. It was near the end of the night so I only got to play a few tunes with him but the audience was appreciative and he was very complimentary when we were done. On his way out he gave me one of his CD's.

In the morning we Janice got up early to take a picture of the sunrise from the hotel pier.

Dale and Robyn had invited us to stay another day or two if we wanted, but this was one welcome we didn't want to wear out. I’m not often envious of people, but wow…

We figured we might stave off the shock of actually having to drive North by stopping halfway up the keys at Bahia Honda State Park. We couldn't camp because the park is booked months in advance, but we did spend another idyllic afternoon swimming and snorkelling.

Pictured is Bahia Honda State Park, another one that has won The Best State Park in America a couple of times.

Next stop: The Everglades...

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Incredible beaches and flying Blue Angels…

On our last day at Melbourne we woke to pouring rain, which we haven’t seen for weeks because Florida never got one drop of rain in October. No rain for a month is very uncommon for Florida, because it usually rains every day for half an hour or so. Of course the rain delays the Space Shuttle so I guess we’re just not destined to see it at all.

Janice made crab cakes last night and we had been out late enjoying the warmth of the tropical breeze.

We made it to Southgate Village RV Park in Vero Beach about noon the next day, after losing the owner’s cell phone number and then getting lost for half an hour because our GPS, (Susan) couldn‘t cough up the address.

We met with Ed and Judy, (BJ’s sister and her husband) at their spacious and modern condo on a private golf course in Vero Beach. The weather had turned cold and rainy so we sat on their covered deck for a couple of hours and swapped stories about Lisa and BJ.

Just kidding Lisa. Well kind of…

We did lots of walking around Vero Beach and drove to Fort Pierce, killing time, hoping that the launch would go off on Friday. But, no, they had to hold it back for another crummy little gas leak. I’m starting to think they do this stuff on purpose. There are thousands of people who come to the area for the launch and, the more delays that NASA announces, the more the frustrated tourists hang around, spending their money.

Today is Saturday, sunny but cool. We’re pulling up stakes and heading for somewhere more southerly.


Well, now I know why they claim that Vero Beach is the official start to the tropics. No sooner had we hit the road then, when I looked to my left, the ocean had turned all the beautiful shades of turquoise and green that makes it undeniably tropical.

From Palm Beach through Miami Beach the mansions are truly incredible. Many of them have the Atlantic ocean on one side and the Intra Coastal Waterway on the other. Double waterfront if you will, with the accompanying fifty or one hundred-foot yacht gracing a slip out front - or is that the back? I never truly realized until now just how much money I don’t have. The West Vancouver waterfront, in comparison to what we’ve just seen, would be the weak, crippled, little sister.

There was nowhere to park the RV near Miami Beach so we had to be content to do our people watching from the traffic snarl on Highway 1. We reached Homestead, at the head of the Florida Keys, just after lunch and decided to go and explore Key Biscayne National Park, about ten minutes away.

On the way to the park we noticed people pulled over to the side of the road and were trying to figure out why when suddenly a screaming roar ripped the air, coming from our right. We barely had time to duck when one of the Blue Angels shot by, three feet overhead. Okay, maybe three hundred feet. We pulled over and were treated to the complete Blue Angels show that lasted half an hour or so. Incredible, and free too.

Pictured are a few moves provided by the Blue Angels, that were the finale of a two-day air show that we had been unaware of, as well as a shot of Miami from Key Biscayne National Park, where there wasn’t really that much to see, unless you’re a scuba diver.


We arrived in The Keys in less than ideal conditions because, while we could tell that the colours of the water would have been breathtaking under sunny skies, the cloud cover dulled the effect. Still, it is beautiful if a little unearthly here. The waters are very shallow for miles around and there is no height of land over five or six feet.

We set up camp at Curry Hammock State Park, which has twice won The Best State Park in America award. We were very lucky to get our spot right on the water because the park is usually booked months ahead. We had gone online and been able to book it less than a week ahead due to a cancellation. Last night at a camp fire on the beach we had people complaining that they’d been coming here for seven years and had never been able to score a waterfront campsite.

Cuba is just ninety miles from here. Janice raised the ire of one of the Floridians at the camp fire, a retired dentist from Sarasota, when she asked about the ‘Wet Foot/Dry Foot’ rule that some other people we’d met had mentioned to us in passing. Apparently this rule applies to the Cubans seeking refugee status. If they’re caught with one foot in the water or on one of the bridges here, they can be deported. If they have both feet on terra firma, they’re then treated as refugees.

The dentist replied aggressively, “Cuba is where all our problems come from. You let one in and pretty soon they have all their family here too.”

Janice replied, “Well, it must be terrible to hate the place you live in so much that you’d risk your life to get away from it, leaving your family behind and getting onto a piece of plywood or an old car hood to attempt crossing such dangerous waters” The dentist’s wife replied, “They don’t hate it, they just want a better life.”

I think they were still cranky because the Canadians had snatched their waterfront campsite. So I shot back, “Duh!” and then kicked sand in their faces before we left.


Luckily for us, one of the other Floridians, who had been to Cuba in 1999, interjected, “North Americans need to go there to witness the complete and “abstract” poverty the Cubans are subjected to.” While we appreciated his coming to our defense, I’m pretty sure the ‘abstract’ instead of ‘abject’ part, which he repeated a couple of times, kind of tore a hole in his argument as far as the dentist was concerned. It was effective enough though because it seemed to shut the argument down though. I guess nobody wanted to challenge somebody who‘d actually been there.

Pictured is the sunset from The Seven Mile Bridge near our campsite.

Today, Tuesday, we woke to sunny skies and temperatures that were forecasted to reach back into the 80‘s so we decided to rent kayaks from the park office. Just $21.00 for a two-person kayak for two hours. The water is shallow just about everywhere around here and the Mangrove forests grow right to the water’s edge, which makes for interesting critter watching. As we rounded the last little island, headed for home, we ran into a lot of Pelicans, Cormorants and a Heron all perched within fifty feet of each other.

Pictured are: Tim about to get launched; Janice finding the end of the Mangrove tunnel and Janice’s shots of some birds.

Later we went to Sombrero Beach at Marathon, where the swimming and snorkeling are excellent due to the firm sand and calm, clear water. It is somewhat cooler than what we’ve been spoiled with lately though due to the Gulf Stream mixing with the cooler water of the Gulf of Mexico.

Pictured is Sombrero Beach and sunset at the beach right out front of our campsite at Curry Hammock State Park.

As I send this off I'm sitting on the deck outside our room at the Southermost Hotel at Key West. It's a truly fabulous facility and unbelievable location. I'll detail the goings on with our generous hosts, Robyn and Dale in the next blog.