Sunday, February 21, 2016

Florida trip part 2

So I left off last time in Livingston, TX.  Driving across central Texas on these state and federal highways (as distinct from the Interstate) was really a lot of fun.  Traffic was not heavy and you get to go through towns along the way.  Also you get to see the farms and ranches which I, as an old country boy, enjoy.  One thing I notice especially in Texas is that most ranches will have an elaborate gate where one leaves the road and enters the property.  It doesn't matter if the house is 100 feet off the road or half a mile, there is a big gate usually with a bar over the top with the name of the property.  Funny, I don't notice it in any other state but Texas.

The other thing we really noticed was the number of goats!  I imagine everyone has this vision of Texas as being filled with cattle.  Well, not the part between Austin and the Louisanna border.  That's goat country!  But all good things come to an end, even the almost 900 miles (1,400 km) across Texas and we finally made it to Louisanna.  We wanted to spend a little more time in Louisanna this trip but were planning on doing it on the way home so while Eastbound we just kept 'the pedal to the metal'.  A contributing factor was that the weather was just crappy:  rainy and chilly.  We stopped for the night in Breaux Bridge, LA at the Cajun Palms RV park; with something over 300 sites.  The sites and interior roads are all concrete; they have swimming pools and all that jazz.  They also have a semi-captive restaurant next door - Crawfish Town USA.  We ate there and my wife had to try the childs portion of crawfish - a mere 2 pounds!  (Yeah, almost a kilo.)  She thought they were ok but a lot of work for little meat and she definitely was not up for sucking out the head as our server suggested.

The next day we managed to make it part of the way across Alabama.  It was a pretty quiet park and I don't even remember the name!  Then it was off to Florida.  We decided to drop down to highway 98 along the Gulf Coast so drove through Panama City and along the coast to Carrabelle, Fl where we stopped for the night.  Our park was across the road from the gulf but the weather was still not cooperating.  We went into town for dinner at a place recommended by the camp manager:  The Fisherman's Wife.  Well, that was a disaster.  They served my wife peel-and-eat shrimp that were just nasty.  Then the owner came around to tell us the shrimp were 'moulting' and that's the way they are.  Ha!  They were either overcooked; over frozen or something but they were lousy.  They did finally find some shrimp that were breaded - they were twice the size of the peel-and-eat and actually good.  Still, bad seafood in Florida?  Nah.
Who would want to stroll that beach?  Not me!  So we hit the road again.  We stopped for lunch in Perry, FL at a place called Goodman's BBQ.  The parking lot was full and we had to park the rv in a dirt field next door but the food was excellent!  We switched to US 19 and headed south in Perry.  It is not very heavily traveled because it roughly parallels I-75 however we did find two state patrol officers checking for speeders!  We never speed because I'd just feel too foolish getting pulled over towing this huge trailer but I'm sure those guys were out there for a reason.

We pulled in to our relative's house about 16:00 and spent the next few days visiting them and many of the local restaurants!  We also got to visit the Homosassa Wildlife State Park.  That was fun!    The place started as a commercial park and they had all kinds of animals.  Then it was taken over by the state and turned into a native Florida park where all the plants and animals had to be native to the state.  Well, for some reason they couldn't get rid of their hippo, Lucifer.  So the state legislature made him an honorary resident!
He's a big guy!  They also have gators, snakes, a Florida panther, black bears and LOTS of birds.

It was a good time as always but we had places to go!  We used to live in Palm Harbor, Fl which is a suburb in the Tampa-St. Pete area so that was our next stop.  We managed to hook up with the folks who were our next door neighbors and had a great evening with them.  But South Florida was still calling!

We made it to the Outdoor Resorts campground on Chokoloskee Island in the Everglades.  It is a condo park where the sites are owned by individuals and their rigs just sit there.  It was a nice enough place but the manager was far from friendly and the actual park was pretty tight for travelers.  There were many turns that were too tight for even moderate sized rigs.  For $80 a night it was not great but at least they had wifi!

This is what I would call the western side of the glades but the park service calls it the Gulf Coast.  And we had a great time checking out the park.  One of the things you can do is take a tour through some of the Ten Thousand Islands area.  We enjoyed our tour even though the dolphins were pretty shy.

There were plenty of birds around including this flock that just couldn't be close enough to the rest of the guys!

Honestly we really enjoyed just being out on the boat.  It's a rare treat for us desert dwellers.  We wore our jackets though! Florida maybe but a long way from being warm!  It was about now that we started seeing about visiting the Keys.  We were soon disabused of any idea of visiting Key West or anywhere near it!  RV parks were all full so our visions of Key West and the Dry Tortugas went away.  Instead we headed for other side of the Everglades.  We found a spot outside Homestead, Fl and headed for it.  On the way we thought we might check out Shark Valley, Miami entrance to the park.  Well, for starters it's nowhere near Miami!  Secondly it is TINY!  They have a very small parking area as well and when it gets crowded they have a plan:  you can't go into the parking area until someone else comes out!  Well, shit!  Now we are in the line of cars towing a 30+ foot trailer. No way can we turn around; we just had to wait until enough people came out then drive through the lot and get on our way.  They did have maybe two spots for RVs but that was it.  Not the way we wanted to spend our time!

So it was off to the country park.  This place is in the middle of an agricultural area west of Miami; tons of gardens, nurseries, etc.  It made for a long drive to anywhere but it was nice and quiet!  In fact we ended up spending four nights.  The eastern entrance to the Everglades park was pretty quiet but it was rainy the first time we went so that was pretty disappointing.  The second time it was nice, still wearing jackets, and we got to do a couple hikes.  Here we found a trail built up over the swamp.  Again there were tons of birds including this guy who liked to walk across the plants; he barely got his feet wet!
We also got to see this guy.
That was taken from about 6 feet away (2 M) and behind a fence.  There were some folks over to my left trying to get a nice toothy portrait of him.  What were they thinking?  He may have been in a national park but no one told him about not being a wild animal!  It is a wonder that there aren't more tourists attacked. 

Another day we decided to drive down into the Keys and just have lunch somewhere.  Traffic was pretty heavy and we started thinking we were lucky not to have gotten a space down there.  We went as far as Islamorada and found a place for lunch around Mile Marker 85.  Still a long way from Key West and MM 0!  The restaurant was called "Yahoo's" and we ate outside on the deck.  Yes, we had to wear our coats but at least we got a nice view!  Really though, wearing your coat in the Florida Keys.  There is just something so very wrong about that.
Gotta keep trying to get that boat fix! 

I'm thinking this has gone on long enough.  This is as far south as we got so next time we'll be on the way home with a few stops along the way.

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