2. Always summer in the sunshine state…Florida 2.2008

I finally made it to the keys!  I wasn't impressed by Key Largo (the lady at the Visitors Center was about the least friendly person I've ever met), so I just kept driving...to the next key...and the next key and the next one.  I did find a place to camp tonight; it's next to a wildlife refuge for "Key Deer"...they are really tiny deer...and endangered species and this key "Big Pine Key" is where most of the deer are (I don't know how'd they'd get off unless they went on one of the gazillion bridges).  Going from key to key you have to get used to the many bridges..but this photo on the right was a doosy of a bridge...seven miles long  (I know that would creep some of you out.)  The water is so many different colors of blue...it's really beautiful


After checking into my campground, I took of as fast as I could for Key West...33 miles south.  (cock-a-doodle-doo) I'd heard of the celebration they hold every night at sunset on DuVall street...but I didn't quite make it in time to see the sunset.  The historical part of Key West is filled with people in party mood, walking around drinking (it's allowed on the streets), laughing, lots of shopping and eating.  (cock-a-doodle-doo)  I toured around for awhile, ate a piece of Key Lime Pie, then decided I'd better head back...I had 33 miles north to go, eat some dinner, set up my tent, and create tonight's entry on the web site.  Here's just a few photos of Key West...but it's much more fun than the photos show. (cock-a-doodle-doo)




Well, I've had some cheese and one of Sara's yuengling beers and my tent is set up.  It's been a lot of driving today, but I wanted to see country I hadn't seen before and I certainly did that.  I'm not sure what I have planned for tomorrow...actually I don't have anything planned, just some ideas floating around in my "roomy" head....guess we'll just have to see what tomorrow brings....


(have I mentioned how much I love my phone?  it's great to be out here in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by water and islands and trees and tiny deer; sitting in my car and able to get an internet connection.......I just love that technology!)

february 9th---day 6

This was my campsite last night...and I slept great...no rainfly needed 


I woke up at 6am, and walked down to end of the campground to watch the sunrise...spectacular!


When I checked out from the campground, I was headed towards a bagel shop for coffee, located in a small strip mall with a grocery store and some other businesses.  (cock-a-doodle-doo)  I forgot to mention that last night when I was in Key West driving downtown, I kept hearing cock-a-doodle-doo over and over and over....when I began looking around, there were roosters everywhere.  Now this morning, when I pulled into the parking lot to get coffee, I begin to hear cock-a-doodle-doo, coming from all sides and middle of the parking lot.  I then remembered a story told on "Sunday Morning" (it's a TV show I watch) about rooster-round ups in a Florida town...pretty unusual


This is the car I rented on this trip:  it's a Chrysler Sebring...and here's my review if you're interested.  I would NEVER rent one again.  I only rent convertibles because I like the open air...not because I necessarily want a sporty car which is why I have rented PT Cruisers in the past (even though SOME people think they're a piece of crap!) 

My beef with the Sebring is this: to have the top down, first you need to secure this piece in the trunk; then you push a button inside and the trunk opens up and sucks the top back in and tucks it away...sounds easy and good, but there is NO trunk space...I can only get one small bag or one tiny cooler back there...this means all my luggage rides in the back seat (thank goodness I'm by myself) and EVERYTIME I get out of the car, I have to put the top back up.  Also, the trunk lid is very heavy with no handhold or anything....you have to be a brut to close it.

The Cruiser retains all it's trunk space, and also just has one button inside the car to put the top down.  Then it's easy if you're making a stop, to just lock all of your belongings in the trunk, leave the top down, and get on with whatever you're on your way to do.  So ends my review of the Sebring

After getting my coffee and photographing the roosters, I headed back north to Bahia Honda State Park and spent some time there hanging out on the beach...it was peaceful and quiet, a little overcast, and beautiful



Someone at the campground told me about the Pigeon Key Art Festival taking place today.  So after my time at the beach, I went back north.  It was really a cool place and everyone was having a great time.  There was live music, lots of food, but the art was really neat!



I fell in love with these hand painted wooden bowls.  The Artist, Janis Childs from Key West, and her guy were so nice and I visited with them for a long time...and I bought one of her beautiful bowls to remind me of my travels to the Keys.



The art down here definitely reflects the good life of the islands


I would have love to have a piece of this art...it all sure made me smile



I stopped once more before I left the keys at a place called "Annie's Beach"...you can really see how shallow the water is.  As I was crossing bridge over bridge to leave the Keys, I was amazed at all the different colors of the water: turquoises, dark and light blues, pale greens and once in awhile, a bright streak of green...like there was a day-glo light under the water.  I thought if viewed from the air, the water in the Keys must look like a "map of many colors"


After leaving the art festival and the Keys, I stopped along the highway at a Starbucks.  The person behind the counter helping me, was about 4'2"....I almost offered to buy her a cup of coffee and see if she just wanted to "hang out" and visit awhile...but she was working

My next stop was Everglades National Park.  This sign is for the "Florida Jaguar"...or maybe it's a marketing ploy by the local CVB just to make visitors go "ahhhh" and be on the constant lookout...with camera ready... for these mighty beasts


I stopped at the Visitors Center to inquire about the camping, food available, things "not to miss". In the bookstore I purchase an Everglades Bandanamap...this is one of the corny things I collect...and for the most part, the company that used to make them has quit.  I have about a dozen from different National Parks, and almost always take one when I go backpacking.  I took this trail (paved, lots of people, kind of zoo-like) and saw my first "live" alligator (see last year's trip to Marco Island); one was just laying there and never moved; the other was jumping around trying to catch fish or on some major caffeine trip, but it was really neat to watch.  The banks along this walk or very steep; I guess that's to keep the alligators away from the people, which is fine by me


and many kinds of really cool birds


I was obsessed with the bromeliads growing on the trees; they were huge!


This is one of those "hidden pictures".  There are two egret nests with babies in them in this tree.  The photos don't do it justice; I watched one of the mothers regurgitate food into one of the babies mouths...way, way cool!

I was trying to make it to the campground by sunset...it's 38 miles from the Visitors Center.  There is one road going through the park; it's 55mph and not a lot to see from the car.  But I did make it to see the sunset, and it was magnificent!

  The camping sites were right by the water...it was really neat.  I had asked the Ranger earlier about any lodges and restaurants here in the park.  Some of the National Parks have the most beautiful lodges...but some don't. The Ranger told me they used to have a couple of lodges and restaurants, but three hurricanes in 2005 wiped them out.  Later I drove by the remains. I don't think they were originally exquisite like Yellowstone, Glacier, Teton and some of those, but it's still sad to have them wiped out....and on a much more selfish note, there was no place to eat.  I had waited to get anything to eat all day, in hopes of a fantastic meal overlooking the water.  But my fare was purchased at the tiny Marina store not too far from the campground.  I bought chips and salsa.  When Danny and I are traveling we usually, at some point on the trip, buy locally made salsa, chips and local beer, park at some amazing site, and munch away.  I had brought some of Sara's favorite beer from Orlando (only this was a Black & Tan) and had one left....so dinner tasted good, but I really missed my guy and my favorite travel partner


This was my campsite and home for the night!  It was cool being so near the water...I heard "things" jumping in the water until way, way past dark.  There was just a sliver of the moon out; but it was still beautiful; and after the sunset, there was an amazing orange glow!


Last night I ended my entry by saying how amazing technology was... I guess as long as you find yourself somewhere you think is remote (such as last night), but where there are really a gazillion people, hotels, restaurants, and t-shirts shops, the high tech things will follow you. And then there are nights like tonight.  I'm at the southernmost part of the park, where there are only tents, RV's, small bath houses with only cold showers, a tiny Marina store and a wonderful view of the water...there is no cell service. And some things are as they should be


february 10th---day 7

 I woke up early, about 5am and just enjoyed the quietness of the morning and the darkness.  I got up about 6am, took down the tent, packed up my stuff and trekked to the car.  While I didn't exactly see the sunrise from where I was, the sky was still wonderfully beautiful


 I decided on my way back to the northern end of the park, to stop at all the lookouts, ponds, lakes, etc. that I had missed last night. 

I think the trees are amazing here...there are so many different kinds. This particular tree had roots going from the branch down to the water


 These flowers were everywhere...sometimes looking like a bush and sometimes in huge vines towering up to the sides of trees...I think they look like some kind of wild petunia


 I stopped at this lake trying to get a photo of the sky...then I looked down into the water...yep....it's an alligator or a crocodile...I don't know which.  This time there were no deep troughs or anything to prevent the animals from just strolling out to where you're standing.  There were two other people there...a husband and wife...with major photography equipment


The gator started swimming parallel to the shore, then just stopped in front of the guy and turned and had a stare down with the him....then he turned a little more and stared at me.  I couldn't get the gators face any closer with my camera, but looking through the binoculars verified he was one creepy looking dude.  His eyes were gray-green; super freaky.  The wife was pretty nervous telling her husband the gator was way to close.  The husband/wife moved on and I got back in my car.  By this time I could see about three more gators swimming around.  About that time three cars pulled up and a park service van hauling canoes.....oh no...I wasn't sticking around to watch that!   


Buzzards are everywhere down here...in the trees, in the parking lots, circling around in the sky...it's a little creepy


When driving the 36 miles from the Visitors Center to the opposite end of the park, this is what you see most of the time.  There are little turnouts for the lakes, ponds, etc.  Also, there are put-ins for canoes.  I was noticing the hiking trails that were marked from the side of the road...just small pull-outs for your car, then it looked like you would just disappear into the woods...not even much of an opening in the trees for the trail


This was the other campground in the park...looks nice too


I left the Everglades, jumped back on the Florida Turnpike and headed towards Orlando.  I needed to be back between 5pm and 6pm, so I knew I could play a little longer.  I stopped at Jupiter Island, enjoying the sunshine and just sitting on the beach for an hour or so.  It's very, very windy at this beach, so the kite-boarders were having a great time...it really looks like fun!  The waves here were the biggest I've seen in Florida and the loudest too


 My next stop was Hobie Sound...just as windy...but lots more people.  I only stayed a short time here


I got back on the Turnpike and made it back to Orlando around 5pm, made a few phone calls, dried out my tent, and showered.  Sara had worked another 33 hour shift and had been asleep for a few hours.  We decided to go to Thornton Park to eat a place called "Dexters"...it was yummy


Tonight is our last night together...she's back at work early in the morning and I'll be off to the airport to catch my flight


I have really loved seeing and visiting with Sara...she's so happy (and sleep deprived). 

It was fun to travel to a part of the state I haven't been before-the keys were great.  My favorite parts were the quiet, scenic beaches; the colors in the water, and those bridges were kind of cool too.

Watching the shuttle launch was perfect and a unexpected surprise for this trip. 

I'm excited to go back and see Dan, but not too excited to shed my swimsuit and flip flops for the cold, dreary, February days in Kansas.

Thanks for sharing my travels....I have a tentative trip planned to Washington in May, but my next "definite" plans are in July (what a trip that will be...stay tuned), but hopefully something will come up before all of that to take me away to some place new...or a great place I've been before.

keep exploring,



some random thoughts


bring lots of money for the tolls-I've probably spent about $40 so far

I see why people move, visit, live here in the winter...I've worn my swimsuit top and shorts for the past two days--NICE!

I never mind "sand-in-your-stuff"; it's a great reminder you've been to the beach---what a lucky girl

I think the best way to see the true Everglades is either by canoeing or backpacking in backcountry....just driving on the road isn't enough...with that said, I wish to do neither of the above-mentioned due to a fear of alligators

I will never get tired of seeing sunsets or sunrises....my favorites are over to the ocean

I wish I knew how to surf, kite board, windsurf, sail, and snowboard

Why are there so many buzzards in this state?

Some people are way-too tan---eeek!

I love watching all the retired people down here and in the RV parks...they're biking, jogging, walking, swimming, and active in so many ways and mostly smiling, smiling, and happy....good for them

I don't miss the cold and snow happening in Kansas...that being said, Crested Butte has a lot of days below zero and has received 250" of snow already this year

I wonder how many shades of blue there are in the water in the Keys

Medical Residents work way to long and hard

Why are there only roosters and no chickens?

home   1

 vikhill@gmail.com                                                                                                                                                    © Vicki Hill 2022