Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Key West Botanical Garden and the Cemetery

Common GallinuleJust outside of town from Key West on Stock Island you can find the Key West Botanical Gardens. There is a modest entry fee of $5.00 per person but for that fee you will Mermaid Artget a brochure that tells you about the gardens and tells you what you are seeing at various stops throughout the gardens. The gardens host a wide variety of plant life that are endemic to the keys and it also has a nice display of rare palms on the premises.

With scattered freshwater ponds and art sculptures there is even something for the birdwatchers as well. I have been a birdwatcher for a very long time. I started bird watching when I was a budding Biologist for Texas Parks and Wildlife back in the day. And as such, I have a “life list.” What is a life list? – you White Ibismay say… Well birders are a quirky lot of people (so we fit in well here in the Key’s) and there is a bit of competitiveness with many of them. So what they decided to do was come up with various lists of birds that they have seen here and there. The most well known list for birders is their life list or a list of birds they have seen during their lifetimes.

I bring this up because here in the botanical park I got two “lifers” or birds that I had never seen before to add to my life list. The White Crowned Pigeon and the Grey Kingbird were two birds I had never seen before my visit to the Keys. It has been a long time since I added a new bird to my list so this was a treat. So whether you are a plant person, art lover or a birder I recommend a visit to the Botanical Garden’s near Key West.

After walking in the gardens we headed into Key West to pay a visit to the local cemetery to check out some of the headstones that we had heard about. There is a free walking tour guide at the main entrance of the cemetery or one can be found on line via a google search. The cemetery has tombstone from back in the 1800’s and there are many highly esteemed and influential “Conchs” buried there. A Conch, by the way, is a local resident of Key West.

I told you I was sickThe cemetery is quite large and it is fun looking for the tombstones that have quirky comments on them such as “I told you I was sick” or “I’m just resting my eyes.” There is even one lady who on her tombstone self-proclaimed herself as the Admiral of the Conch Republic Navy. So if you are looking for something free to do in Key West make sure to visit the cemetery and look for the quirky tombstones (click on any of the photos to enlarge them).

I’m just resting my eyes    Admiral of the Conch Republic Navy

After a fun filled day we headed over to the Hogfish Bar and Grill on Stock Island for Happy Hour. Hogfish Bar and Grill is indeed a Road Treat and although it is hard to find it is definitely worth it. After a few cold frosty beverages it was back to Bluewater Key Resort where we enjoyed a nice dinner of Pasta with Salmon in a Spicy Cream Sauce. Enjoy everybody!!!


Monday, June 27, 2011

Mallory Square Sunset Celebration…

Key West 016If you talk with anyone about Key West and ask them what things are a “must do” while you are visiting this southernmost city in Florida you most certainly will hear about the Mallory Square sunset celebrations. After all there is more to life in the keys than Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville – Isn’t there? So what is the hype about the Key West sunset celebration that is held at the very well known Mallory Square?

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Mallory Square is the one place in the world that a large gathering of people celebrate the sun setting each and every day of the year. At Mallory Square you will not only find throngs of tourists along with a smattering of locals but you will also find a collection of street vendors and street performers. They are there, of course, to make a few bucks from the tourists before the sun sets. If you like juggling with fire and not so good singers then this event is for you.  It was exactly what I expected it would Key West 072be – a large crowd of tourists being conned shelling out a few bucks for a fun evening… This may be a fun time for a lot of people but is not really my cup of tea!!!

I am not all that into large crowds of people and the Mallory Square sunset celebration was what I expected of this type of event. Not only is everything in Key West between 7-10 pm overpriced in this area but parking is at a premium as well. However, despite my reservations we attended this “must see” event. Now I am a believer of making the best out of any situation so even here we were at least treated to a nice sunset and some acrobatic birds. It is also a good place to do some people watching and it was relaxing sitting on the dock of the bay... watching the sunshine pass away…

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Key West 096Sailboats passing by, motorboats whirring by, and catamarans crammed full of tourists at 39 to 59 bucks per head were on the horizon all there to see the sun set here. I must admit there are really nice sunsets down here in the Keys but we are able to see them just as well from the deck on the salt water canal behind out RV.

At least now we can scratch this off our list of must do things for Key West and although we won’t have to do it again but you never know if the urge hits us we may just be in town tomorrow and do it all over again. We have many more things to do during our stay here in the lower keys and many more sunsets to see…

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Trading tan lines…

Key West 032Key West 044We have been in Key West for a week now and have been here just long enough to realize it is all we expected it to be… hot, humid, and fantastic!!! While there aren’t any really beautiful beaches like we encountered in the Caribbean there are a couple of nice beaches in Key West. We already visited Higgs Beach so the next beach on our list was at Fort Zachery Taylor State Park.

Fort Zachery Taylor State Park is a 54 acre state park that has a lot to offer. Besides the beach and snorkeling in the park there is a historic fort from the mid 1800’s that was used during the civil war. Later in history it was used during the Spanish-American War and by the 1940’s the Navy took it over. Now designated a National Historic Landmark it is a must see when visiting the Keys.

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Our main goal on this visit was to check out the beach and the snorkeling. There are a lot of Australian pines which provide shade for the picnic area as well as providing shade along the edge of the beach for people like me that like to control how much sun I am getting. We seem to be getting quite tan none the less…

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After laying out our beach mat we donned our snorkel gear and set out to one of the three rocky structures about 100 feet offshore to check out the undersea life. Snorkeling from the shoreline in the keys will yield some small hard and soft corals so if it is corals you want to see this is not the place to see them. The rocks however, shelter a wide diversity of critters and fish and is a fairly enjoyable snorkel in the Keys without spending big bucks to go out on a boat.

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After a long snorkel it was back to our home at Blue Water Key Resort I have become aware of the fact that my Texas tan lines have changed… I use to have white feet with the classic “golfer’s sock tan line” but after a week in the Keys I now have brown feet and ankles with the “classic flip flop tan lines”… Life is tough here in the Keys… think we will stay a bit longer…Key West 022

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Key West comments…

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Key West 045Happytrails said it had been many years since they were in Key West and agreed with 1my use of the word "quirky"  when I described the town in a single word… Quirky is probably an understatement when describing Key West. This town is a collection of local people who are either misfits, outcasts or adventure seekers (I haven’t figured out which ones we are yet since we seem to fit in rather well). With its eclectic architecture and  mystical ports right down the roosters and chickens found throughout downtown Key West – quirky can only be one of many descriptors of this town.

Wheelingit mentioned Jimmy Buffet and the beautiful beachy photos but one thing that surprised us (and may you too) is that Key West and the Keys in general don't have a lot of sandy beaches. Instead they have vast shallow flats that are rocky in nature and more suited to sitting in a chair and not laying on the beach...

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John and Carol asked if we like to kayak and were recommending Blue Planet Kayaks that they took a trip with this past winter. We appreciate the tip (and love hearing from anyone with tips in general) and thought we would share this with you as well. When we first started RV'ing I knew I wanted to buy a kayak but was uncertain if my bride felt the same. Once we got here in the Keys the camp host let us borrow their one man Kayaks and we took a spin and practiced getting on and off of them in the water to snorkel. The end result is that we are now in the market for two kayaks... more research to do for me.

Key West 100Sherry said she was glad we took the chance to come down here so she could live vicariously through us. She was also curious as to where my bride saw the workamping position ad. I am not sure where she saw it but I first stumbled onto it in the irv2 forums. And we too are glad to have given  MargieAnne the opportunity to have a walk down memory lane to reminisce about her visit to the Keys.

Key West 099Kenny And Angela and Kevin and Ruth said they both enjoyed Key West! And FULL-TIMERS loved the original Margaritaville... We haven't taken the trolley tour but have followed around the conch train and listened from afar as they told historical tales to the tourists. By the way the locals in Key West are referred to a Conchs… We have even seen flags for the “Conch Republic” as they remind us of Texas and are quite proud of who they are.

And like George and Suzie Yates when we first visited the keys we were tourists while on a cruise ship. The last few days while we were in town we got to watch a couple of Carnival cruise ships leave Key West and it reminded us of those times waving goodbye to the Keys ... the only difference this time is now we get to stay as long as we like!!!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Key West… take 1..

2011-6-18 things look different here

“Things just look a bit weirder in Key West…”

Since we are just 10 minutes north of Key West it only makes sense for us to make several visits into the quirky town made famous by Ernest Hemingway, Jimmy Buffet and others. So our first jaunt had us wander into town to check out our surrounding since we will be here a month or more.

what we saw a lot of the time at Higgs Beach...There are three grocery stores here – Publix, Albertsons, and Winn Dixie. Key West is a larger town than we thought but parking in Key West is not an easy task even in the summer (known as the slow season) unless you want to pay a lot to park. Free parking is available but you really have to seek it out. The best free parking we have found so far is along some of the residential streets near Duval. They have on street parking that has spots marked with residential parking, handicapped, or left blank. The blank spots are “free for all” parking so if you can fit into it then you can park there. Make sure not to park in a residents only spot or tickets and hefty towing fees are in your future.

2011-6-18 even the gulls are pantingDuval Street is the same as we remembered it with all the touristy shops, expensive restaurants and bars, and interesting people to watch. We wandered around town and found where some of the Key West icons were such as the restaurant Blue Heaven, Mallory Square, and the original Margaritaville. After walking around town for a couple of hours we sauntered over to Higgs Beach.

Higgs beach is a free public beach with coconut palms and Australian pines providing a good deal of shade. You need the shade in Key West during the summer because even the birds are hot and panting… We laid out our beach mat in the sand under an Australian pine and relaxed and 2011-6-18 bluewater key 005people watched for a while. There was a Cuban family barbequing under one of the shelters which provided us a lot of humor. As they were carrying on and talking we thought we were in an episode of “I Love Lucy”…

I called this blog Key West take 1 since we will be making many trips into this quirky town to just walk, shop, eat, drink and be merry… I am sure we will have more to share about this laid back town after we visit a few of the happy hours…

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Bluewater Key RV Resort Site 8…

2011-06-16 Bluewater Key Resort side area2011-06-16 Bluewater Key Resort back deck2011-06-16 Bluewater Key Resort looking down the canal2011-06-16 Bluewater Key Resort front

Well with all the questions about the site we have landed on I decided it best to continue to blog a bit more about this site and what got us here. We were sitting pretty in South Carolina when the bride got a wild hair and thought we should apply for a work camper opening in the Florida Keys. I said why not and the next thing you know we are down in the Keys!

2011-06-16 2011-06-16 Bluewater Key Resort on deck looking at RVWe didn’t get a work camper position but we were asked to come on down because they liked our credentials but didn’t have anything for us now since they had just hired someone for the summer position. We were given a discounted rental offer and the hope of a future work camping gig after they got to know us. We thought it all over and figured that even if we never work camped in the keys this might just be the best opportunity we had to go down and stay a while since everything was booked for the winter when we originally planned to go down to the Keys.

2011-06-16 Bluewater Key Resort right behind our RVSo with the normal offseason rate at 59 per night for 11 or more nights and the offer we had at 40 per night for a month-long stay, we decided it was worth a go… and so here we are… So 1200.00 per month with taxes comes out to 1350.00 per month or 43.00 per night. Way over our budget but this is the Keys and as it appears we may very well be on the marquis spot for RV’ers in all of the Keys! So whether or not we get a gig out of this is not important to us as much as we got this location off our bucket list.

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So on to the site… these sites are amazing! I could not imagine that there were sites like this anywhere but yet here we are in a site that looks like it should be on an episode of “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. Yes the back porch area is larger than the site we are parked on and yes it adjoins a salt water canal. And yes it can seat 21 people in the chairs and they provided for us this many seats on the lot without any needed use of our chairs needed. Crazyyeeee… Yes!

So the pictures in today’s blog are photos of the site and the surrounding area. If you hover your mouse over the pictures you will get a detailed description of what the picture is of. This just goes to show you if you seek out opportunities sometimes they will slam your door down and the next thing you know you are living a life’s dream… and so we are…

Friday, June 17, 2011

Our first ouchie and we made it to Bluewater Key…

2011-06-16 Long Beach Key to Bluewater Key Resort 004Our last morning in Long Key State Recreation Area was memorable… Why? Well we made our first “ouchie” on our motorhome. I knew when we left College Station, Texas on March 2nd that this day would eventually come. I use to work with rock climbers who always mentioned that if I took up the sport it would “when I fell” not “if I ever fall”… well, the same is true in RV’ing!

In RV’ing it is not “If you will damage your RV” it is “When you will damage your RV.”


Well it was finally our turn… As I was backing out of site 24 I heard the dreaded crunching sound of fiberglass cracking… YIKES!!! So I stopped and moseyed out of the motorhome to survey the damage. It appears as if a small wooden fence (unnoticed before I had started backing out) had pushed against the driver side front corner and scraped quite a bit of paint off it… and the crunch sound was the fiberglass cracking under the pressure of pushing against the unmovable fence. Fortunately the crack is underneath the front corner and out of sight. I will still seek assistance to see if it should be patched or not but after our first ouchie I think we will survived it rather well.

In RV’ing “You should carefully look both high and low before backing out and pay attention to unmovable objects that may be hiding in tall grass.”

2011-06-16 Long Beach Key to Bluewater Key Resort 010     2011-06-16 Long Beach Key to Bluewater Key Resort 011

With another valuable learning experience behind us we headed south again with our final destination just a little over an hours drive away. The going was slow even in the 55 mph zones as there was just enough construction and slow movers on the two laned highway 1… At mile marker 15 we slowed and as we approached mile marker 14.3 we saw the sign for Bluewater Key Resort.

2011-06-16 Long Beach Key to Bluewater Key Resort 006

Turning left off highway 1 we met the workcampers who guided us to our site – number 8. We backed in to it and leveled and put the slides out and as we got the RV in order we sat down and it suddenly hit us that we were in the Keys!!! Most of the pictures in this blog are of our site – number 8. We really can’t believe how spacious and well appointed it is. We were so fortunate to have taken the offer to come down in the summer and experience it…

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Our first day in the keys was exciting…

We left Jonathan Dickens State Park at about 9:00 am and headed south down the Florida Turnpike to Long Key State Park. We had purchased a mini Sunpass (a stick on transponder for the toll roads) at a local CVS the other day and had activated it online. We were advised to do this since we planned to take a lot of the toll roads south around Miami and using this device would save us 20 percent off of the tolls.

100_5152We got on the turnpike near West Palm Beach and drove on it till the last of it in Homestead Florida. Now here is where we did have some excitement on the road this day. We planned to fill up with diesel at the last service center on the toll road so we would be pretty full when we got to Bluewater Key. Well we pulled off the exit only to be advised that trucks and rv’s needed to stay right for diesel. So we did and found ourselves going right back on the turnpike… so no diesel here!!!

So a little further down the road we exited the turnpike right before Highway 1 where we planned to stop at the southernmost Walmart in Florida since everything in the keys is quite a bit more expensive. We stopped for one last haul of groceries and beverages. Getting in and out of the Walmart parking lot was not too bad (by the way they had signs everywhere that RV’s are not allowed to overnight there). From here we looked for a diesel stop when we saw a RaceTrac right before getting on the Overseas Highway to Key Largo.

Here is where the fun began… 100_5151I knew it would be a tight fit but was sure we could do it. So in we went and we planned to take the easy number 1 pump but by the time we had lined up it was apparent that we would block all the other 14 pumps of cars from being able to exit if we filled up here. So we turned and went down to pump 16 (the last one) so we wouldn’t be blocking the traffic flow. Boy was this one tight and by the time I got us near the pump it became apparent we were going to have to unhitch the toad so I could make a backup maneuver to put us near the short hosed pump designed only for trucks not RV’s. After a few choice words and $150 dollars of fuel we left the station…

We stayed unhitched and both drove out of the gas station to find a better spot to re-attach the toad and then it was back down highway 1. An exciting experience I was sure we would have to do one day… check it off the list! The drive down highway one is slow even during this “off season” as we hit several red lights and several slowly moving vehicles. The road has quite a few quite a few stretches of one lane traffic each way and construction areas along the way.

Along the way we passed beside the eastern boundary of the Everglades National Park to our right and Barnes Sound to our left. The color of the water here in the upper keys was every shade of blue imaginable and reminded us both of our stops in the Caribbean. We slowly made our way through Key Largo as I could hear in my head several Jimmy Buffet songs. Then we passed John Pennekamp State Park (where I hoped to stay the night but it was always booked up). Next was Islamorada before we finally hit our destination for the night in the middle keys at Long Key State Park.

100_5153Our site (number 24) is right on the waterfront where we can see miles and miles of blue water. We set up and went out for a snorkel during low tide. The area in front of us is an expansive shallow area with a mixture of sponges and grass beds. Not particularly great for snorkeling but I did see my first lobster in the wild (a 2 pounder to boot) and we saw a nice sized puffer fish.

So here we are in the Keys!!! I am writing this blog as I sit listening to the morning surf with the azure waves steadily crashing onto the narrow strip of white sandy beach. As I enjoy my morning coffee I am reminded how fortunate we are to be here… life is grand!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Tomorrow we will be in the Keys!!!


It is hard to believe but tomorrow we will be in the Keys. We were planning on staying in Jonathan Dickens State Park another day but an opening at Long Key State Park opened up and I booked it this morning for tomorrow. It is just under 100_5147200 miles from here and about 60 miles from Bluewater Key so it will be a perfect transitional park to get us n the mindset of the keys.

Having said that we have enjoyed our day in J.D. state park near Jupiter Florida. This is a great park for the proximity to all the county beach parks in Jupiter, Juno and Palm Beach! This park cost about 28.00 per night (all taxes included) and is a great park proximal to a lot of neat places…

So what did we do today? We woke early and had coffee and chilled until about 10:30 this morning. We decided that we should spend the morning in the park so we road 100_5149our mountain bikes to the river and back which was about 9 miles but it was all on pavement so it was a fairly easy ride. We got see some desert tortoises and Osprey so it was fun. We stayed at the park until we ate lunch.Around 2:00 pm we decided to go over to Coral Cove Park to lounge around the beach and do some snorkeling. This park has some pretty decent snorkeling so we enjoyed our early afternoon snorkeling and lounging on the beach. Saw some moray eels and the wifey saw a shark – Yikes!!!

After we were done snorkeling we went to a pub on the beach for a cold beverage. This pub sits on a beach with blue water and a boat dock. The name of the place is the Square Grouper. I read about the name and apparently a square grouper is basically a 100_5148bale of marijuana that has washed up on the beach. It appears this happens frequently enough (when the coast guard is paying the drug runners a visit) that they have made a name for it – Square Grouper – pretty clever I think.

So tomorrow it is off to the keys… Wow, never thought we would live there I our lifetimes but here we go for a month or two stay…