Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Hanging out in the Keys

Nov. 13-20, Marathon, Florida

Blue Heron on front of Crane Point Museum

The drive to the Keys over the causeways surrounded by water and swaying palm trees passing scenes that look like a Corona commercial can’t help but put you in a lighthearted mood. It’s no accident that Jimmy Buffett’s “Margaritaville” is the theme song here echoing from many of the tiki bars that populate the drive along U.S. 1 South. With my brother’s driveway as our destination, we were a bit more subdued than going to an RV resort but we were looking forward to hanging out with family, appreciative of the break from costly overnight stays—especially here in the Keys. We have everything here but a sewer dump and even have a view of the water—Dodge Lake, a man-made body of water that serves as a canal with easy access to the Bay of Florida—from our expansive windshield. We do indeed feel lucky to have family in such a special place of the country.  Back in the 70s when my first husband and I lived in Missoula, Montana, we thought the ideal life would be to split our time between two amazing places Montana and the Keys. Jimmy Buffet concurred as he had a ranch in Livingston, Montana in the Paradise Valley and a classic plantation style conch house in Key West before finding a more remote retreat in Palm Beach, Florida.

A main attraction of our presence here in the driveway has to do with watching four “cousin” dogs interact.  Our Portuguese Water Dogs, Jetta and Rico, instantly recognized that they were about to relive one of their best memories of last year, having free reign in their cousins’, Buddy and Marley, yard with free access to swimming.  Oh Boy. Jetta and Buddy, the oldest of two male Springer Spaniels, are the only ones willing to swim over their heads on their own.The other two dogs mostly splash around near the shore. Jetta, being the only female in in the group, has to establish her dominance right away and then the boys give her first choice on the tennis balls and water toys. It is fun to see the dogs having such a good time as it is rare that they can experience such freedom other than visiting dog parks. There is a challenge here though in terms of bugs that can harm the dogs—ticks abound—and, as a result, we needed to make a trip to the local vet to purchase a special tick collar. There are different threats for dogs here vs. Oregon where Heartworm from mosquitoes is still rare. Fleas, mosquitoes, ticks, sand fleas, and mites are all common problems here for dogs so we had to have them tested for Heartworm and decided to put them on a flea and Heartworm combination pill called Trifexis, but this combo medicine does not deal with ticks, mites, or sand fleas. Thus the decision to purchase special collars (like the old day of flea collars) for tick and mite repellant, and hopefully, sand fleas too.  The Oregon environment was much easier for dogs to deal with but we have learned from traveling to different regions of the country that it is better to be proactive about keeping these potential canine challenges under control. (Not to mention the possible ingestion of poisonous Bufo toads or the rare chance of meeting with a large alligator).

One of the things we are really looking forward to doing here is kayaking. Last year when we were here we did not have our Hobie kayaks yet. I would like to combine some of these outings with saltwater fishing,  So far, we have spent most of the past week settling in and visiting with family which has been great. I also researched the local Zumba opportunities and came up with a great little studio less than three miles from my brother’s home. The instructor is the best I have had so far. They offer two levels of classes: Zumba Gold and Zumba Fitness. I quickly learned that the Gold class was low impact and more of an introductory class.  The cool thing is that I can go to one class or the other every day except Sunday. Having easy access to Zumba classes is now a high priority for me wherever we travel as it is my favorite form of exercise and it is just plain fun.

We managed to get out on the water in the kayaks right from my brother’s dock a couple days ago.  The lake he lives on has a canal that is about 300 yards long leading into the Gulf or what is more properly called the Bay of Florida. There are some good places to explore close to here such as the Crane Point Nature Center, but we discovered small white caps out on bay, so our kayak exploring on day one was a bit limited by the dark skies and rough water. The good part was just being out on the water in the sunshine and indulging in my new obsession of looking for large shells in the shallow water.  With recent weather reports in Oregon showing massive amounts of rainfall, extremely high winds, and relatively cold weather we are clearly thankful to be in a sunny, tropical climate—a major intention of our retirement plan.

With meals being a central source of pleasure, we have been quite indulged the past week.  As soon as we arrived here we were treated to my sister-in-law’s homemade chili, and then we have alternated meal preparation with only one escape so far to happy hour at one of the local sunset bars, Lazy Days. We have been happy to discover that the Keys have decent grocery store options now, as my father lived here in the 80s and had to do most of his shopping in the Miami area for storing up on good food.  There are two major grocery stores in Marathon: Winn Dixie and Publix. Both have good prices and most everything you could get on the mainland, so that makes it a little easier to get by here if you are not having most of your meals out. There are, of course, several good spots for buying fresh seafood which is, as my brother says, rivals the abundance of berries and fruits in the Willamette Valley in Oregon. We are really looking forward to enjoying the Key West lobsters, pink shrimp, grouper, and hogfish to name only a few of our local favorites, We actually already indulged in the pinkies at Lazy Days where happy hour from 3-6 is half price on all call drinks and shrimp are four for a dollar.  Good times.

While we were at Lazy Days we took a self-guided tour of the new RV park and pool that they recently added to the Marathon Marina.  No motorhomes were in the small lot of eleven sites, but we sure were impressed with the setting.  We could not find anyone with information about the rates, nor could I find anything on the internet, but we definitely would like to find out if a stay here would be even remotely affordable.

Today we woke up to a cloudy sky and temperatures in the low 60s. The locals were all dressed in sweatshirts and jeans. I even saw someone at the local grocery with a fur-collared hood! Tomorrow is a cooking day to contribute to our Thanksgiving feast as I am in charge of all the sides, including homemade bread. Wishing all of you out there a special day for acknowledging all the blessings in our collective lives. Namaste.


  1. Love that closing Turkey. I found Zumba to be a very challenging class. It is definitely a work out to music. Sounds wonderful being in the keys, kayaking and cooking. I know you'll enjoy. Happy Thanksgiving!

    1. Thanks Sherri. Wishing you a wonderful Thanksgiving too.

  2. Your pictures are making me anxious to get back to the Keys. We'll be there Sunday, barring anything unforeseen. I sure hope it warms up a bit when we get there. That new rv park looks very nice, but I'll bet it's very expensive, especially this time of year.

    Be careful with the fleas. I know from experience that people can track fleas into the house or Rv. So even though the dogs are on a preventative, they can also bring fleas inside. We have gotten fleas in our motorhome and our cats don't step foot outside!

    Hope to see you when we get there!

    1. I sure respect your knowledge about fleas, especially with Al's expertise as an exterminator!
      Enjoy your Thanksgiving with your mom and safe travels to the Keys.

  3. It's always a great adventure reading your blog even though we get to share some of those adventures. Enjoy!!

    Mike and BJ


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