Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Manatee Hammock Campground, Titusville, Florida

Manatee Hammock is a nice county campground – right on the water overlooking the Atlantic Ocean and Kennedy Space Center.  The sites are various sizes – some smaller for tents and some large for big rigs like us.  We have 50-amp, full hook-up service at a Passport America rate of $15/night, plus tax. We'll stay here a couple days or so and explore the area. 
Easy and affordable - no matter where you are! 

Monday, April 29, 2013

Gumbo Limbo Nature Center, Boca Raton, Florida

 While visiting Suzanne’s parents, we took a bit of time to visit the Gumbo Limbo Nature Center to see some of their resident turtles in rehabilitation from illness or injury. There’s a short walk to the tanks which house the recovering turtles (leatherback, loggerhead, etc..) where you also pass a surgery room with a window to watch if you’d like, and a large outdoor sea tank with local fish.

The goal of the Gumbo Limbo Nature Center is to promote education and conservation of sea turtles, which also includes nesting concerns (light pollution) and the release of hatchlings that wouldn’t otherwise make it to their destination – the ocean.

We enjoyed our visit; the price is a $5 per person donation if so inclined, and everyone we spoke with was incredibly nice and educational.

This is the board by the recovery tanks that shows why each patient is “visiting.”
Easy and affordable - no matter where you are! 

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Cleaning the RV, Lake Worth, Florida

We'll admit we're not the best at cleaning the outside of our rig or truck. Back home, we rarely cleaned out cars -  at least the outsides - they just get dirty again. :-) But it was time to do the RV, so that's how we spent the day.  For those of you traveling, you know that it's sometimes difficult to find an RV park that will let you wash your rig at your site, but John Prince Park allows it, so we had no excuse not to - bummer! :-)

We rock-paper-scissored to see who had to get on the roof and clean that ~ yup, Suzanne won. But she still had to manage stuff one the ground, as well as take a couple photos~

Zoey also had a job - she watched for squirrels and kept them at bay.

So now that our rig is cleaned, we're hoping for much better gas mileage! :-)

Easy and affordable - no matter where you are! 

Saturday, April 27, 2013

John Prince Park Campground, Lake Worth, Florida

We are staying at John Prince Park Campground in Lake Worth, Florida again (we were here last November) visiting Suzanne's parents.  As we said before, this really is a great park.  There is a large lake (see photo below, that is the view from the back of our rig), green grass, tons of places to walk, and reasonably priced for the area. (Full hook-ups on the lake are $31/ngiht, plus tax.  Also, if you stay six nights, get the 7th night for free.) This is quickly becoming a favorite park of ours.
Easy and affordable - no matter where you are! 

Friday, April 26, 2013

Snorkeling Photos from John Pennekamp State Park, Florida

We got the photos developed from our disposable underwater cameras from our snorkeling trip a few days ago – well, not great. Mostly due to the limited visibility since it was a rough weather day and this affected the water quality. But here are the best ones ~ enjoy!

Easy and affordable - no matter where you are! 

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Dolphin Research Center, Grassy Key, Florida

The Dolphin Research Center (DRC) is a couple minutes away from Jolly Roger Travel Park and we had heard good things from guests at Sun-n-Fun, so we thought we’d give it a try. 

Although there are numerous experiences one can purchase (swim with the dolphins, paint with the dolphins, researcher for a day, etc…) we decided to go with the basic $20 per adult admission. (We did save $5 on two-adult tickets with a coupon we found in one of the many coupon books in the Keys.)

The mission of the Dolphin Research Center is, in part, to research and learn about dolphins, thus be able to teach in an effort to coexist. It’s difficult to describe the center – it was not “zoo-like” at all. In fact, the dolphins are in “pens” (for lack of a better word) in the bay, and they are able to get out when they want to (which is very rare) via openings in their “fences.” They are served three to five meals a day, yet there are still fish swimming around their enclosures if they want to do a little fishing/munching on their own. 
The research the DRC focuses on a variety of cognitive and behavioral functions, such as number sense  (i.e. this much is less than that much) or recognition of two objects being the same. Of course, the dolphins learn various aerobatic behaviors as well.

 We really enjoyed ourselves (spent about four hours). The DNC has program after program, all narrated and educational.  We learned a lot about dolphin behavior and every employee, intern, and volunteer were incredibly nice and full of information.

The DNC has a few sea lions as well, by the way.  
  Here's a dolphin painting and the final product ~

And a couple more dolphin shots~

The last thing we wanted to do is try some legendary stone crabs. We hear they are expensive, but wanted to try them anyway.  We ended up going to the recommended Keys Fisheries, Market & Marina in Marathon – they had $2/claw stone crab and we each tried one. Yeah, okay done. :-)  It was okay, but not as sweet as Alaskan King Crab or our home-grown Oregon Dungeness crab. We happened to both order the stone crab chowder, which was excellent! (How can something with that much cream & butter be bad?)
So we definitely recommend both the Dolphin Research Center (get there early in time for breakfast – we saw them weigh each dolphin as well, something they do monthly – plan at last half a day, if not more) and Keys Fisheries, Market & Marina – a great day in the Keys!
Easy and affordable - no matter where you are! 

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Driving the Lower Keys, Florida ~ Part 2

And we arrived in Key West! 

We were surprised at the size of Key West – for some reason we expected a smaller key with quaint shops and such. Instead we found ourselves in a decent-sized town with chain restaurants, large stores, etc…

We eventually found the Visitor’s Center which was not easy to find and which lacked any kind of hospitality in any form. In fact, it seems as if the employees work on commission and earn money by selling tickets and suggesting restaurants that earn them a kick-back - what!?  Yes, this was the Visitor’s Center, where we expect unbiased information and nice people – so far we were not loving Key West.

We found parking where we could fit (the truck doesn’t fit in most parking garages due to its height) and estimated we’d stay three hours or so, and paid $7.50 at $2.50/hour. Here’s where we were reminded that there are genuinely good people in this world (sometimes it’s easy to forget). When Suzanne came back from getting the parking ticket that goes in the window to show we’ve paid, Brad was chatting with people who saw our Oregon license plate – they’re from California (neighbors, when meeting in Key West). Suzanne casually asked Brad if he remembered the sunscreen, since now it was sunny skies, no longer pouring rain, and she was wearing a tank top. He replied nope, he forgot. Okay, conversation done. The woman of the couple with whom we were chatting (less than a five minute conversation) walked a few feet to her car and came back with sunscreen for Suzanne and gave her a huge dollop! A small act, but meaningful and thoughtful.

We meandered the wharf a bit – we always enjoy seeing boats, then headed to Duval Street – the hub of tourist activities.  Here’s what we were expecting of all the keys – quaint (expensive) restaurants, small shops, ticky-tacky tourist stuff, etc..   We’re not big shoppers, but we did enjoy a few art galleries and a couple stores, especially for their air condition, because it may have been raining in the other keys, but it Key West, it was HOT!  We eventually arrived at the most southern point – lots of people taking pictures. We’ve now been to the most southern, western points in the continental United States - guess we have a goal now, for the rest.
The very hot walk back took us past Hemingway’s House (we didn’t pay the $13 per person to go in) with the 6-toes cats and more shops. One thing we really enjoyed about Duval Street was that this was where many sea captains built their homes - if one can look past the stores, the buildings/homes are amazing - stately and majestic.

So we “did” Key West in a couple hours. There is more to do – like enjoy the restaurants (although we did get an icy cold strawberry-lemonade), shop more, and go boating, fishing, etc…. The town, for us, had a college-feel and we’re glad we visited, but have no plans to return. 

Easy and affordable - no matter where you are! 

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Driving the Lower Keys, Florida ~ Part 1

We decided to meander south and see how far we got today, exploring the various keys on our way to Key West, with the intent or “doing” Key West another day.

After Marathon Key is the infamous “7-mile bridge,” a concern for a few people who do not like bridges (i.e. Suzanne). In actuality, this one was nothing – yes long, but it didn’t go WAY HIGH or into very deep water - in many parts, if the truck went flying off the bridge towards an impending death by drowning while trapped in a vehicle gasping for air, we could stand up and walk to the nearest key. :-) In fact, driving over the bridge was quite cool!

We decided to head to the National Key Deer Refuge on Big Pine Key to see some of the endangered Key Deer native to the area. We saw plenty of deer (their tiny guys, in fact Zoey is about as bit as some females) and took a quick stop in the Visitor’s Center.  There are a couple hiking trails, but it was pouring rain, so we staying in the truck for the most part. 
One very interesting thing we saw was this sign on a person’s fence – now this is not the neighbor one brings a Bundt cake when they move-in:

Eventually we found ourselves on No Name Key, a popular destination if only for the name. The well-known No Name Pub is known for the pizza and their No Name t-shirts, however we chose the Caesar salad (Suzanne) and Grouper Sandwich (Brad). Both good and large portioned, however slow service. Speaking of service, we noticed that all of the waitstaff – bartender & hostess included – smiled and were pleasant, but not our waitress – to any of her tables. We said something to the hostess at the end of the meal, who replied with a genuine apology and said she hears it all the time (so fire her). We decided that since part of eating out is to enjoy the experience as well as the food, in the future if we have a grumpy person waiting on us again, we’ll ask to move to a different section of the restaurant. One can be new, one can have a bad day, but you put on your “game face” at work.

Back to the truck in the still pouring rain, we continued south….and then found ourselves in Key West. More on that, tomorrow! :-) 

Easy and affordable - no matter where you are! 

Monday, April 22, 2013

Jolly Roger Travel Park, Grassy Key, Florida

We’re staying at the Jolly Roger Travel Park for a few days to explore the middle and southern Florida Keys. Being a Passport America park, it’s more reasonably priced than other parks in the area (generally ranging $60-$100) at $37 to $39.50 a night, plus tax. It’s a nice park, each site with 50-amp service, full hook-ups and cable. There’s a dog walk area, swimming pool, water access (boat and swimmer) and the nicest staff we’ve met. 

However….. they have the strangest practice we’ve encountered ~ each RV’er with a dog must leave $30 (cash) at the front office as a “deposit” of some sort that will be refunded if all dog rules are met. The rules are the typical – dog on leash, clean-up after, no pooping in someone else’s site, etc…. We assume it’s a cash deposit since anyone can refuse to pay if attached to a credit card payment. Yet we wonder….are there cameras watching where Zoey squats? What of she can’t hold it until she gets to the dog park? Do we get warnings first? Are they written or verbal warnings? Is there an appeals board? Why isn’t a rule “no yappy dogs,” they’re always a problem. Yes, these are all tongue-in-cheek queries, but in 10+ years of RV’ing (all of them with a dog), we’ve only once been charged extra (Desert Rose RV Park in Fernley, Nevada: $2 a day and Suzanne’s is still bitter about it) and have never had to put down a deposit. Strange, very strange……. We’ll let you know if we get the $30 back! :-)

On another note, here's a sunset picture from the campground~
Easy and affordable - no matter where you are! 

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