Sunday, October 25, 2015

Leaving Florida

Our time in Florida is coming to an end.  It's hard to believe, but we've been in Florida since late August and have done and seen so many things!  Our last few days have been spent in the Destin/Ft Walton Beach area and we've mostly spent the time organizing the new coach and hitting the sugar sand beach every day.  The temperature has been in the low 80s, the humidity has been extremely low and I'm beginning to understand why people winter in Florida!

City beach, totally free, bathrooms and all!

We saw a lot of weddings on this beach!

Nipper playing fetch in the bay side

Nipper playing in the dunes

Having a talk!

 I'll leave you here with a final shore bird while we make our way to South Padre Island, TX where we've chosen to spend the winter.  I'm sadder than anticipated at leaving Florida, but I know I'll be back someday!

Until next time...

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Mexico Beach

Headed to Destin, Florida, we knew we didn't want to drive the entire way from Tampa in one shot.  We had planned to stop in Panama City, but a guy we had met in Key West had recommended Mexico Beach so we decided to see what that was like.  Oh my, I think I've found my beach town!

Florida does like its giant beach chairs!

Mexico Beach is a tiny little town that just happens to be on the beach.  While you can tell a lot of the homes are rentals, there are no large hotels, only little motels that look like they've been there since the 50s.  A few tourist shops and restaurants dot the 5 miles of beachfront, but not many.  We stayed in an RV "resort" that looked like it hadn't seen a paintbrush since the 50s, but it was nestled in the pines about 1/2 mile from the beach and had all the amenities you could want - pool, laundry, restaurant, full hookups, wifi, cable TV and live music twice a week. 

But the beach!  It was my first experience with sugar sand and I've fallen in love!  You could park anywhere along the road for free and just walk to the mostly empty beach.  The waves were continually washing in beautiful shells and it was just so peaceful.  The only bad part was the smell - because of the Red Tide that's currently happening in the gulf, thousands of dead bait fish were washed ashore.  Unfortunate, but a temporary thing that doesn't detract from the allure of the town.

5 miles of ungroomed beach

Sugar sand 

Dead fish 
The crabs were eating, but not the birds.


Take home dinner

We only had one night there, but would definitely like to go back.  Very laid back, very friendly people and a place I could probably call home!

Shore bird

Until next time...

Friday, October 23, 2015

A Surprise in Tampa

We stayed a few extra days in Tampa so we could pick up our new motorhome!Yes, Sid got a wild hair about getting something a little bigger and we decided to go and look.  Well, you know what happens when you go look at something?  You end up buying!


Side view

Living Room
This was before we moved anything in.

Other side of living room
You can see we've moved some things in.  They parked us in the delivery lot, with electricity, for two nights while we transferred everything from one to the other. 


My wonderful 4 door refrigerator
I LOVE my new fridge!  I can actually fit a gallon of milk, a gallon of tea and a pitcher of regular tea in it and have plenty of room for fresh veggies and all the other stuff!

Not as much closet storage as we had in Julie, but we're slowly getting organized to work with it. 

It's a 2007 39' Itasca Suncrusier and it's in great condition.  Much more living room and kitchen space, much less bedroom space, a little more room in the bathroom and a lot more storage space outside.  While Julie served us well for the first part of our adventure, the upcoming months will be much more comfortable in the new, unnamed one.  It's like living in a one bedroom apartment! 

We purchased at Lazydays RV in Tampa, FL and, let me tell you, they treated us very well indeed.  This place is huge - 120 acres of new and used RVs!  We could not extend our stay at the MacDill famcamp long enough to wait for delivery of the new motorhome, so they put us up, free of charge, in their on-site RV Resort for 3 days.  We were given coupons for breakfast and lunch for each day in their on-site restaurant, garbage was picked up each day and the local paper was delivered each morning.  Everyone, from the salesman to the delivery person, was in constant contact with us,  letting us know where things stood in the delivery process and, even though we purchased the unit as-is, every little thing we noticed was either fixed or replaced.  Lazydays is a family-owned business, with another store in Tuscon and three more places they have just purchased in Colorado.   Their customer service is outstanding, their prices reasonable and we highly recommend them!

Now it's off to the panhandle of Florida and more beach time.

Until next time...

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Fishing Tampa Bay

Fishing in Tampa Bay

There was no real reason for us to stop in Tampa other than MacDill Air Force Base, where we had heard a lot of RVers spend the winter.  You have to make reservations a year in advance to get a site with full hookups, but sites with electric only are available on a first-come basis.  So we decided to give it a shot and spend a few days there if we could get in.

We did get a spot and it turned out to be the best fishing spot Sid has had on the whole trip so far.  The base sits on a small penninsula jutting out into Tampa Bay, midway between Tampa and St. Petersburg.  There's a small beach, but it's really nothing much to write home about.

The best fishing was in the evening, right before sunset, and Sid took advantage of that nearly every day.  He'd either bank fish or take his kayak out into the bay.  Despite being a worse photographer than me, he did manage to get pictures of some of the fish he caught.

Jack Crevalle


Speckled Trout

He also caught redfish, amberjack, croaker, snapper and some other unknown fish.  Right before sunset, I enjoyed watching the mullet that continually jumped out of the water, some of which were 3 or 4 pounds! Bait fish that big!  Sid's bucket list got a lot shorter during our stay in Tampa.

Sunset over the bay, with the skyline of St. Petersburg to the left

And, while not technically shore birds, the campground was always full of beautiful birds for me to watch.  I got to see my first of many pink spoonbills, too!

Pink Spoonbill

Tampa held another big surprise for us which I'll detail in the next post, so stay tuned!

Until next time...

Monday, October 19, 2015

My Kind of Restaurant

I haven't blogged too much about the food on this adventure, mostly because we usually eat at home or are grabbing a quick bite somewhere that's not particularly blog-worthy.  But while shelling on Sanibel Island, we passed The Island Cow at lunch time and decided to have a late lunch.  It looked fun and funky and like my kind of place.

The front patio

Be sure to read the small print!

"Almost" free beer!

The place was full of funny signs, lots of color and had a huge menu.  The iced tea was cold and refreshing and our entrees delicious.

Coconut Shrimp Spinach Salad


If you ever find yourself on Sanibel Island at breakfast, lunch or dinner time, stop at the Island Cow and give it try - you won't be sorry.  I only wish I could transport it to Colorado!

Until next time...

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Shelling on Sanibel Island

People come from all over the world to shell on Sanibel Island, an island off the west coast of Florida, near Fort Meyers.  I couldn't wait to spend a day there, hoping to find that perfect shell just waiting for me to pick it up.

Shells, instead of sand, on the beach

The day we chose to go to the island was the day after Tropical Storm Erika dumped about 4.5" of rain on the RV resort in which we were staying.  It was still a bit drizzly, but, to be honest, it felt sort of good after all the heat and humidity we had been enduring.  So, off we went.

Standing water on the streets in the resort

Dressed to go shelling

We visited three different beaches while on the island, looking for shells, and all three were as different from each other as could be.  All of them, though, had tons and tons of shells and, surprisingly, most of them were whole.  We spent the day doing the "Sanibel stoop," the hunched over walk of those looking down for shells.

Three different beaches, three different environments

I noticed several interesting signs while on the island.

Parking was $2.00 an hour; not sure if this guy paid or not.

Never heard of a gopher turtle and still have never seen one!

Stingray hop
Is that a new dance?

And the take for the day?  Well, it was better than expected and worse than I had hoped.  Didn't find that huge conch shell I was hoping for, but did find a whole lot of different colored shells.  Pretty common, I know, but not for someone who's never lived by the sea.

Every shell is different.

My prized find of the day
I picked this one up and it had what appeared to be something inside it.  Turns out that it did!

This hermit crab had taken up residence in my perfect shell.  
Sid told me that hermit crabs poach these shells for their homes, plus he looked a little withered, so I didn't feel bad about making him move.  If the shell had been "alive" I wouldn't have been able to keep it.

A type of shore bird I hadn't seen before

We had a great day shelling, eating lunch at a local cafe and enjoying the cooler weather for a change.  I guess I'm just going to have to break down and buy one of those beautiful conch shells after all!

Until next time...

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Miccosukee Indians

Never heard of the Miccosukee Indians?  Neither had we until we came across this tourist attraction on the Tamiami Trail in the Florida Everglades.  Originally part of the Seminole tribe, these people were those than remained in the area after the forcible relocation of Indians after the Seminole Wars.  They banded together and were officially recognized by the Federal government in the 1960s.  They are fiercely independent and still practice many of the ways of their ancestors.

This "art" piece greeted us in the parking lot.  A little tacky looking, we weren't sure the entrance fee would be worth it.

Entrance to the village

This attraction is well worth the price of admission, if only for the opportunity to tour the museum on the grounds.  The village itself is a bit Disney-esque, but does educate the visitor about traditional practices, with tribe members cooking, carving and sewing. The Miccosukee are a very closed tribe, preferring to keep their traditions such as song and dance, to themselves.  Rich in history, they do run a casino, but many of the tribe still hunt and fish in the old way, the women do patchwork and make baskets and all pass along these traditions to the youth.

Sample basketry

This structure is called a chickee and is the preferred home for some to this day.  Several of these structures are built within close proximity with each having a separate function such as sleeping, cooking or gathering.  The chickee can withstand hurricane force winds and provides all the protection needed in south Florida.

Traditional patchwork
Each of these samples represent patterns that have meaning to the Miccosuckee.  For example, the orange one is fire; others are crab or turtle or other things that the women use to tell a story.


Unfinished carving

Sample carved goods

A little hokey, we watched the alligator "wrestler."   He made it a point to tell us the alligator wasn't "trained"; rather that it took skill and care to handle the gator.

Alligator "wrestler"

The star of the show

Getting up close and personal

The gator pond contained alligators of all sizes; babies, teenagers, adults and old guys.  Apparently, they live peacefully with turtles because the pond contained several of them as well.

Best friends?

Alligator skull

Sid riding a Florida panther

Me and my live alligator buddy

Like a lot of things we've done on this trip, this unplanned activity was well worth the time spent.  We learned about a proud people who, despite the government's desire to banish them, banded together and are thriving on their own terms.  If you ever find yourself in the Everglades and think there's not much to see, think again and visit this attraction.

Since we had opted for a quiet boat ride, we still had a ride in an airboat on our bucket list.  With a newly found respect for the Miccosuckee people, we decided to give them our business and take a second ride through the Everglades.

View from the airboat

Another view
At first glance, it kind of all looks the same, but there is quite a variety of grasses and flowers.

A Miccosuckee home
A cluster of chickees built on a platform in the middle of the wetlands, this home is still used for gatherings today.  These homesteads are dotted throughout the Everglades.

Can you see the alligator?

The ride in the airboat was fun.  The young man driving did some trick steering on the way back, to give us a little thrill, I guess, and it was interesting to drive straight at a huge clump of grass and clear it without feeling a bump or anything.  So, another bucket list item checked off!

I knew I couldn't leave Florida without trying alligator.  It was okay, but I don't think I'd put it on the menu on a regular basis.  

Gator bites
Tastes like chicken!

We ended up spending 5 days and 4 nights in the Everglades.  We spent time watching the resident alligator and Sid did some fishing in the lake in the campground until the gator would put a stop to it.  He would allow the fishing for a little bit, then would come, Jaws-like, across the lake to wherever Sid was standing.  Funny! I'm still not sure why anyone would choose to live in an area with a climate like the Everglades but I guess it takes all kinds.  Our visit was enjoyable and yours will be, too, if you get a chance to go.

Until next time...