Tuesday, December 28, 2010

We Moved Early (Key West, FL)

About the time I was creating the last post the Campground Host came by our site and told us to move to a full hook up site.  Apparently there were some cancellations so we moved 23 December which was a couple days earlier than I expected.  We were mighty fortunate to get a waterfront site, although we were required to park in a direction that did not allow the ocean view out our big back window that we've enjoyed previously.  Still the oceanfront sites are very limited, so we consider ourselves very lucky.
Our new campsite
Our check out date is now 6 Jan 2011.  We moved early afternoon and spent the next couple hours cleaning.  Our home is not large but we try to give it a fairly thorough cleaning each time we move and often more frequently.  With two adults and two dogs in a small area the dirt could pile up quickly.  We continually battle dog hair but the boys are worth the effort.  Please notice that Laska is smiling and Bo looks like a thug!  That's fairly accurate!

The weather on the 24th was nothing short of "marvelous darling."  Early afternoon we road our bikes into Key West.  We're about 3 miles from downtown.  We spent the next 3 hours just riding around.

  We cruised along Smathers and Higgs Beach. 

While there we stopped to have some Hawaiian Shave (no D) Ice.

 It fell far short of the real thing but it was fun none the less.

We wandered through town and passed the southern most point.  It was so crowded there that folks were lined up at least 25 deep, just to have their picture taken by their spouse or whomever.  We kept moving, stopping every so often to enjoy the scenery.

Eventually we made our way home.  As the day concluded we sat outside in our comfy chairs, it was still about 75 degrees, watching the sun set. 

I was reading and Debbie was knitting.  This typifies our current lifestyle.    We had pork tenderloin for dinner.  Nice!

Christmas Day was very low key.  We do have a cute little tree but that's our only holiday decoration.
Space, weight and storage you know.

The campground hosted a Christmas dinner.  They provided turkey and ham.  Attendees brought side dishes, desserts etc.  My guess is that there were 100 - 150 people present.  The meal was outside and it was again in the mid 70's.  There was plenty to eat and we had great conversation. 

Sunday brought much cooler temperatures and I mean a whole lot of wind. 

We have a roof top satellite dish that we decided to lower (push a button)I to ensure it wasn't damaged.  Other then walking dogs, we stayed inside all day.  We watched a couple movies in the evening.

Yesterday we drove back to downtown Key West.  Our plan was to tour the Ernest Hemingway House.  To our surprise about a million other people decided today was a great day to go downtown.  The little town fills up quickly.

We parked (that can be a trick) in the Westin garage at $4 an hour.  Once downtown, you can easily walk anywhere you want to go in town.  We strolled through town headed for the Hemingway House.  When we arrived we found that the line went on forever.  We'll return after the new year.  We strolled on and eventually stopped at a quaint little french bakery and had apple cinnamon croissants.

We strolled some more and then returned to the humble abode.


Saturday, December 25, 2010

Naval Air Station Key West (Key West, FL)

We arrived at the Naval Air Station Key West (NASKW) Sunday afternoon, 19 Dec.  To our surprise and satisfaction we're quite comfortable with this type of camping.  Part of what makes this so easy is that we are permitted to run our generator from 7am until 11pm.  We actually only run the generator for a few hours each day.  We do start it first thing in the morning, as do many folks, to prepare that all important coffee.  In a pinch "we" (I don't drink coffee), could fire up some instant on the stove or use an old fashion percolator.  But since we can, we plug in the Mr. Coffee.  We, as do many folks, also run it throughout the evening so we can watch tv.  We expect to move to a full hook up site on or about  26 Dec.  There is one question that won't be answered until we move.  Our fresh water capacity is 66 gallons.  By the time we move we will have been dry camping for about 7 days.  So the question is can we make 66 gallons last a week.  I go to the bath/shower house  for most of my needs.  So the 66 gallons allows Debbie to shower etc in the camper, we wash dishes, brush our teeth and so on.  We have purchased a few gallons of water to drink, make coffee, water the dogs etc.  If we run out, which I don't think we will, then we'll likely haul water to the camper to replenish our water supply.  Potable water is available within the campground.  A related subject is battery storage capability.  We have one cheap, and I'm  not sure deep cycle,  battery.  We will at least purchase a very good quality deep cycle battery.  There are other options like using 2-6 volt golf cart batteries but I'm way down on that learning curve.   Boring, but these are important considerations.  I guess we think they're important because we plan to do much more dry camping in the future.
Our campsite Naval Station Key West

We still have this water view out the camper's back window - how lucky can we get? 
So our life here is quite easy.  We sit outside in the lovely weather and read.   We do lots of walking, with and without the dogs. Ride bikes. (We had to buy bike helmets, required by the military) We go to the dog park. Today we cruised the keys just north of Key West.  We went to a unique "attraction" on Lower Sugarloaf Key.  It's the all famous Bat Tower.  It was built in 1929 to attract  bats to eat mosquitoes.  The tower still stands but the bats never came.

World famous bat tower on Sugarloaf Key

I fixed the roof.  I'm still oozing stupidity!

We may not "talk" between now and Christmas so Debbie and I want to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas!!!!!!!!!  We'll "talk" before the new year.

Happy Holidays

Duane and Debbie

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A Week of Leisure and Fun (Big Pine Key, Fl)

Monday it was comparatively cold.  We rarely went outside other than to walk the dogs.  Debbie never got out of her pjs and robe.  I'm talkin sexy!!  While at our Ranger's Night Sky program, he told us that there was to be a meteor shower of significance Monday night after midnight.  It was in the 40's and maybe 25 mph winds but I rose to the challenge to have a look.  Here at Bahia Honda there's a large section of bridge that was first a train trestle and then on TOP of the trestle a portion of the original US 1 was built.  You can now walk way out on the bridge to watch a sunset, check out the ocean or watch a meteor shower, storm, or whatever.  So that's where I went.  It was cloudy but the clouds kept shifting so I was hopeful.  Shall I say the weather was deadly on the bridge ... well at least mighty cold.  I was getting a crick in my neck so I laid down on the bridge to ease my view plus the curbing blocked some of the wind.  There I was facing the elements like a wild adventurer solely for the purpose of seeing a shooting star or two.  Impressive?   No but it was fun.  In the passing of an hour I may have seen a dozen.  Debbie decided to stay home in the warm bed, consequently... no pictures.

Tuesday I began what was to become a routine of attending Ranger Programs.  Remember this past Saturday we went to the Night Sky program.  I skipped Monday's program but Tuesday I attended what was simply a nature walk.  Pleasant and interesting.  Wednesday I went to a great hour long talk about Henry Flagler building the railroad from Miami to Key West.  Thursday was a beach walk.  Friday, the staff of Bahia Honda put on a skit about Henry Flagler and his railroad.  It was mostly just  a narrative history of Henry Flagler.  It was nicely done with an audio system and costumes. There may have been 50 people in the audience.   Friday at 8pm I returned to the outdoor theater by the beach to watch a movie about sharks.  So there I sit wearing light pants, a T shirt and sweat shirt. I call that my dress clothes! I'm watching a movie about sharks, the sound of the surf is in the back ground, a great breeze, and palm trees swaying overhead.  TOO GOOD!!! 

OK, back to the calender.  Wednesday Debbie and I cruised.  We decided to visit the Navy Air Station in Key West (NASKW).  As a retired national guard person I have all sorts of military base privileges that we rarely utilize.  That's beginning to change.  NASKW has great camping right on the ocean.  We knew of it but wouldn't commit to it without first checking out the accommodations. We're going! The sites are great and a real bargain.   We had to scramble and change some of our reservations, but we love the Keys and especially Key West so we know it will be worth it.  We'll move over to the base on 19 Dec when our reservation at Bahia Honda ends.  The deal at the base is that all the sites with full hookups are normally full each day.  So when you first arrive you will be assigned a dry camp site which means no utilities.  They have a system of rotation so that currently, after 6-8 days, we will likely be on a site with full hook ups.  Our camper has an on board 12 volt battery system that runs the on board water systems, lights and even the bedroom TV.  Propane runs the frig and heat if we need it.  We also have two barely used Honda generators that we bought from a fellow volunteer in NC so between the hours of 7am and 11pm  we can have full power if we want.  I'm told that 90% of those dry camping use the Honda generators.  They're quite quiet but I'm sure there's some form of generator etiquette so we'll see how often/long is reasonable to run them.  A good measure of the success of this type of camping is that some folks spend the whole winter dry camping at NASKW. So we'll  now spend at least the next 3 weeks in Key West.  Before leaving the air station we also took the dogs to a dog park very close to the campground to play.  The 4 of us had a nice time there.  On the way home we ran by some houses that Debbie located just to see what a modest house in this area costs.  It would be doable, so who knows?

Thursday was another great Keys sort of day. The weather was beautiful so we took our bikes to ride
 2 1/2 miles out the old 7 mile bridge to Pigeon Key.  Years ago Pigeon Key was the site of a work camp for the Flagler Railroad.  Later it was used as a maintenance site for housing men who maintained the bridges and  railroad. Lots of old buildings, pictures, memorabilia etc.  The site was interesting enough (you might notice that currently I'm kind of caught up with Flagler) but the bike ride out and back was way cool!  Even worked on a little birding.

Old and new Seven Mile Bridges. The old bridge (on right) is  now closed except for portions available to bike riders and walkers.

Old bridge with Pigeon Key on left below 

Yep, it was windy.

But what a view!

Cormorants playing by the bridge

After that we took our bikes to Big Pine Key which is dominated with the Key Deer Wildlife Refuge.

There's a paved bike trail that runs through the middle of the refuge.

The deer here pay humans no attention
Now these deer are entirely beyond the cute scale.  They range is size from 2-3 feet.  There are about 600 of them in the refuge and the refuge is open to the entire Big Pine Key community.  Consequently they just sort of wander where they want.  So we've now seen dozens.

While there we rode bikes for a few miles and stopped at a couple nature trails to stroll.

Saw a deer or two there plus a sizable iguana. 

This guy looks like he's running away, but really he barely payed us any attention

Everybody here talks trash about the iguanas.  They're not native and they don't have any predators so they multiply rapidly and eat everything in sight.  But from a touristy point of view, they seem pretty cool to us.

We didn't realize they had such long tails!
We finished the great day with a stop at the No Name Pub.  It's been a local hangout since the 30's.

The decor is currently part of the appeal.  Nearly every square inch of the walls and ceilings are covered with dollar bills.  People sign them, leave messages or contribute something philosophical.  I can't say it's pretty, but it's darn unique.

We enjoyed a dietary selection.  We began with nachos for two and finished with a large pizza.  Debbie had a couple beers.  Now you tell me we're not living right!?

Appetizer before our large pizza.  What pigs!
Can you believe it? I'm not done.  Friday was a nice slow pace.  I went to the skit in the morning and later in the afternoon we launched the new inflatable kayak.  We haven't had a great opportunity to get it in the water mostly due to weather, water temperature (we might fall in), wind or tide.  Friday was one of the warmest days. The ocean was a little choppy for the maiden voyage but, come on, I'm an adventurer!  The beach area water is never more than a few feet deep.  So we launched.  It was just me.  Debbie will need kinder, gentler conditions for her to get her sea legs.  It was great fun.  There will be a learning curve.  But after all, we do have life vests.

Today is Saturday the 18th.  We're not doing much.  Debbie's been doing some knitting and I'm sure she has been on the internet.  I went to the post offfice to pick up some super duper roof tape (Debbie ordered it on line)  to repair the torn rubber roof.  Oh yes, an ugly reminder of my stupidity.  I talked to a few folks in the park (imagine that) and rode my bike solo.  Later Debbie and I rode bikes for awhile and walked a short nature trail here in the park.  It's been raining a little.

Nature trail along the beach just before the rain

We go to the Navy Air Station tomorrow.  We've had beautiful sunsets here and we wanted to get one last shot.  We were not disappointed.

We are going to have SteakUms sandwiches for dinner.  Shall I say goodbye?



Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Key West and More (Long Key, FL)

Our last couple of days at Long Key SP were full of sea life. On Tuesday, 7 Dec we went to the Turtle Hospital on Long Key.

It's the only certified turtle hospital in the country.  Their mission is to treat/rescue sea turtles that aren't doing well on their own.  They have an interesting visitor center plus multiple tanks and pools housing turtles that are awaiting treatment/surgery, recovering from surgery or are simply housed there because they can't be returned to the sea.

 The staff does a great job of bringing personality to the turtles and the place seems full of love.  If you love turtles, then the Turtle Hospital is a great outing.

Turtle Hospital Resident
The next day we went to the Dolphin Research Center on Grassy Key. 

This was kind of like a behind the scenes tour at Sea World.  You can easily spend the day there.  Each half hour they have a new program.  The programs include small setting talks by staff members about all subjects related to Dolphins.  All these programs were well presented.  But the most exciting programs were those poolside.  These programs were conducted by the trainers so you had the opportunity to watch the dolphin's training up close.  This included all the Sea World tricks and maybe more.  Listening to the dolphins talk was delightful!  It was just another great day.

The dolphins loved to talk.........



And Jump....

And Jump....

 And just chill after all that jumping!

They splashed and played

And this guy even painted a t-shirt!

This fellow took a walk with his trainer

Waving goodbye (kind of)
9 December we traveled 30 miles to our next camping spot at Bahia Honda State Park.  The setting here also has us right on the water although our view is largely dominated by a bridge.  Again the road noise is significant but it's just so great to be here in the keys.  This park is much larger than Long Key so it's a great place to ride bikes and stroll the beach.  Also we're now only about 30 miles from Key West.

Beach at Bahia Honda State Park

The second night here we attended a mighty unique ranger program.  The subject was the Night Sky.  We assumed it was going to be about stars etc. To a small degree it was, but it was more about light pollution and enjoying the clarity of a dark sky. The program was held at a small outdoor "theater" by the sea. It was very dark!   The ranger was a very pleasant fellow and his presentation included a dude with a guitar.  The ranger would share some info, pause with a poetic quote and then the  guitar man would kick in with a song.  It was quite unique, very pleasant and  informative.

We've gone to Key West twice since we've been here.  On the 10th we went to the Zachery Taylor State Park which includes Fort Zachary Taylor.  Debbie loved the fort...not,  but she was a good sport.

Here's the history in case your interested

Inside the Fort

The view from the top of the fort was pleasant
We  had great lunch at a quirky fish place and wandered the main drag, Duval Street.

B.O.'s Fish Wagon

Unique and fun!
We capped off the outing with a visit to the Sunset Celebration at Mallory Square.  For those unfamiliar, the community of Key West celebrates every sunset in grand style.  Of course the main attraction is the setting sun.  But in addition to standing there looking west, you are entertained by a wide variety of street performers.  Plus, there's lots of vendors selling stuff you can't live without.

Statues around Mallory Square.  The artist is a statue as is.........

the fellow lying under the statues.  Gotta love the Key West sense of humor!

This street performer was sooooo good (and funny)!  Loved him!

Sunset View at Mallory Square

12 December,  we went back to Key West.  This time we took our bikes and spent some time just riding through neighborhoods checking out the unique dwellings.  Many of these places we might call shacks but they call them hundreds of thousands of dollars.  We spent some time at the free Eco-Discovery Center.  Then cruised to the "other side" of Key West where we found some great beaches and another wonderful location to watch the sunset in a more sedate setting.  While there Debbie was endlessly entertained with some  pelicans diving for their dinner. 

Pelicans getting set up for their dive

We couldn't tell if they ever got anything

The day is ending

And the pelicans fly away into the sunset
Finally we eased on home.

Today is very windy!  We're  just "chillin" at our campsite.  Shortly we're headed for the post office to, imagine this, see if we have any mail.  Being on the move means that we (which means Debbie) must keep our mail forwarding service advised of our location so they can forward our mail to general delivery.

Happy Sunset,