February 17-23, 2013
Camping in my brother’s driveway
The past week we have been in action making the most of our time here in this tropical paradise. Two things we wanted to be sure to do was meet up with some folks we met during our stay in Hilton Head Island and see our full-time RV blogging friends, Karen and Al, whom we have been fortunate to meet in the Tampa area two years ago.
Grayson and Glennda, the friends we met in Hilton Head, told us they would be at Bluewater Key RV Resort during February and March, so we took advantage of being able to visit them in the most gorgeous RV resort down here.
Check out the artistry of the gates leading into Bluewater Key RV Resort.
Even better than the gates are the actual sites—many of them with waterfront views. Here is Grayson and Glennda’s daily view outside their motorhome. I think I could live with this.
To make the sites even more attractive, many have tiki huts which have full size outdoor living areas.
Grayson and Glennda have been coming to this area for at least ten years, so they know it well and were great hosts in taking us to Salute, a fantastic café on the north beach of Key West, and then touring us around Key West pointing out their favorite places. Vic and I had never been to the north beach area. We were very impressed with the great beaches there—something we thought Key West was lacking.
Meeting Grayson and Glennda in Hilton Head was pure serendipity as we happened to sit next to them in the bar at Charlie's L'etoile Verte. Turns out they also had a motorhome and, as long term residents of HHI, were a wealth of information about the area. They are originally from Kentucky, and in true southern fashion, are super-friendly and charismatic folks. Aside from the pleasures of sharing a very delicious lunch with them, we enjoyed seeing their site at Bluewater, oohing and aahing over their Travel Supreme motorhome, and meeting Sugar Baby, their adorable Havanese companion who greeted us at their site.
On the topic of friends, we spent a fun happy hour together with Karen and Al at their favorite spot, the Sunset Grille just next to the famous Seven Mile Bridge. It’s amazing how much there is to talk about when two full-timing couples get together. One of the topics that is always of great interest to us is sharing favorite destinations. Karen and Al split their time between their new RV lot in the northern Georgia mountains, their home-base park near Tampa (which, most importantly, is near her mother) and the Keys. As Vic and I think about our future retirement plans, when we are not on the road full-time, we also envision a mountain retreat and a tropical retreat as the ideal lifestyle.
Of course any trip to the Sunset Grille has to include a few photos of sunset over the bridge and the bar area with a “beach” and a pool just for its patrons.
One of the best highlights of this past week was going sailing with my brother Mike and his wife Bonnie on their beloved sailboat of twenty years. Even though the boat, a 40’ Tartan, lives on the dock in front of their home, they don’t get out in it much anymore. Lives change when we get older and, sadly, the boat is now for sale. But, Mike and Bonnie worked hard to get it in shape for a day sail which required going underwater with a tank and scrapers to clean the prop and boat bottom. Ugh. Wish I could have helped. Having owned a couple of sailboats before myself, I was reminded of all the constant upkeep that is required for the pleasure it provides. Makes living in a motorhome seem hassle-free--thanks to Vic and his dedication to impeccable maintenance.
Time to go sailing! We loaded up the galley with wine and cheese and other goodies and off we went. The wind was blowing pretty good at 20+ knots. Since we were all in favor of a gentle sail, Mike decided to only use the foresail or jib and not the mainsail. With both sails up, we would have been heeled over too much for it to be relaxing.
Vic is the less experienced sailor among us, so it was a special treat for him to experience the Zen quiet of clipping along about 6 knots with no engine noise. Even though we were mostly sailing under autopilot, Vic had to pretend to take the helm for at least one photo op.
The wind was coming directly from the north so we set sail northwest into the Gulf about twelve miles out. The waters around here are pretty tricky to navigate in terms of varying depth, the tides, and hundreds of lobster traps to avoid. Thankfully, GPS units combined with autopilot make it much easier to set your course in navigable waters. The lobster buoys, however, can only be avoided by constant checking with your eyes as getting the lines in the prop, even without the motor running, can be a major problem.
We headed back on a southeasterly course just in time for sunset. Unfortunately, the clouds all seemed to disappear minutes before dusk so it was not one of the more memorable skies you are likely to see here. I did, however, like this shot of my brother with the shadows of the setting sun.
When we returned to the dock around 7 pm, I became the center of dramatic attention as my foot slipped on the dock and in the water I went with a full bag of provisions in my hand. I was incredibly lucky to have no injuries as the shoreline is all rocky with sharp barnacles. The saving grace was high tide. I was double lucky to have handed the bag with my camera and cell phone to Vic before launching myself from the pier. Once I realized I was okay, I could not stop laughing. My brother wishes he had a video camera mounted on the pier to tape my ungraceful exit. This drowned rat headed for a warm shower to desalinate and think of a way to restore my pride. I was the only one who wore my bathing suit on the sail, so a swim seemed a natural way to cap off this most perfect day.
Yesterday, Vic and I headed off to Bahia Honda State Park to go kayaking. There is no end of great places to get your boat wet around here, but Bahia Honda seems to be one of the favorites. The only downside was the $4.50 per person day use charge but it turned out to be well worth it. Bahia Honda is one of the best state parks in the Keys and it has great camping sites as well. As a result, its popularity makes it one of those challenging places to reserve as you have to set your alarm for 12:01 am eleven months ahead and still may be shut out. I think it is sad that the Reserve America seems to have made many popular campgrounds less accessible to most people as one RV could block off ten weeks of availability. (They allow five 14-day stays in a row with a one day break in between each stay.) End of rant.
We learned that circumnavigating the entire island would be about a five mile trip. That sounded doable to us, mostly because we tire less easily with the Hobie Mirage Drive pedal system than if we had to paddle the whole distance. What we didn't take into account were the currents on the return part of our trip on the Atlantic side, but it was an absolutely gorgeous day with little wind and amazing scenery.
The varying shades of turquoise waters were mesmerizing. Surprisingly, we hardly saw any wildlife--no stingrays, dolphins, or sea turtles. It was fun, however, to look down into the clear water and see a variety of marine life such as sponges, sea fans, coral, and tropical fish. When we returned to the kayak launch area after about three hours, I took the opportunity to swim in the ocean for awhile and it felt GREAT. The water temperature here is about 78 now and the bottom was all pure white sand.
In between all our adventures this week, we have been enjoying shared meals with my brother and sister-in-law, watching the dogs interact and play in the water, and tending to all the normal details of life. One pleasure which might seem mundane is hanging all our laundry on the big clothes lines in my brother’s yard.
That about wraps up week two in the Keys. We leave here on Saturday, so we plan to make the most of it! Not hard to do in such a magical place. . . .