Carolina: Cruising Past 70: Spending Winter in Florida 2-Florida Keys, Everglades, Moore Haven, Orlando

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Spending Winter in Florida 2-Florida Keys, Everglades, Moore Haven, Orlando

Our next stop was at Sunshine Key Resort at Big Pine Key in the Florida Keys. We had been in the Keys before but we just loooooved the place. It seemed incredulous to me that there is just this long narrow highway and at each side is blue-green water. I have not seen another place like it. For Bill and me, it ranks alongside the Dempster Highway going up the Arctic and Big Sur along the West Coast for their breathtaking beauty. So, even if the campground was not free, we decided to stay there for a week.  Our Thousand Trails membership gives it to us at 50% off because it also belongs to the same owners, Equity Lifestyle Properties.

The campground was beautiful.  It was on a piece of sandy land that jutted out into the sea so there was water on all three sides. We parked Star near the clubhouse. It seemed that everyone sunbathed around the huge pool where country music was provided by a live entertainer and tropical drinks were being served for free! There was an exercise room, a good country store, and a marina filled with boats. The only problem was the restrooms had no doors, having been designed for tropical weather, which was certainly not the case that winter. The showers were really coooold with the cold ocean breeze steadily coming in while one bathed.
The public bus to Key West was only $1.50 per senior but, you are not going to believe this…the bus driver asked to check my drivers’ license. He made my day! We saw more of Key West , going through more of the many shops around Mallory Square and its famous sunset and
discovering Truman’s Little White House. The other time we had seen the Hemingway House, the Southernmost Point (94 miles to Cuba) of the US, and Sloppy Joe’s, Hemingway’s hangout, where we danced up to the wee hours of the morning.  The Florida Keys is also home to unique species of wildlife such as the key deer which are deer but grow only to about half the size, to only about 3 feet tall.

But, since this time we were riding the public bus, we had to be at Sears by 7:30 pm. At the bus stop was where we met a homeless young man who slept at a shelter the night before. He usually sleeps at airports, bus depots, etc. But it had been too cold and more shelters where blankets were provided had been made available. It was way too cold for this tropical paradise…50s and 40s.

But the worst thing was that our mail which we asked DJ, our on-in-law, to forward to us did not arrive! It was supposed to get to us in Ft. Myers but it arrived late so we asked Glen to forward it to Sunshine Key Resort. We do not know what happened but it seemed that the box of mails got sent back to Seattle from Ft. Myers, then to Big Pine Key who then forwarded it to Wildwood, as we had requested It was a total of one month later when we got it. We thought…better investigate mailforwarding services! 

The next campground was a national park, the Flamingo Campground at Everglades National Park. We originally booked ourselves for 14 days there but somebody told us about the ubiquitous, hungry mosquitoes that plagued the area so we decided to cut our visit short to 3 days. We were happily surprised that the cold weather delayed the takeover of the mosquitoes. It was a wonderful campsite in a different way. It got us very close to nature and wildlife.

The Anhinga Trail was teeming with alligators, and turtles, many birds, and of course, anhingas. I counted about more than 30 alligators alongside the creek around the Trail. The Everglades Estuary had crocodiles, manatees, ospreys, etc. The manatees were playing in the water, bobbing up and down and we took many pictures. I had never been that close to such animals before; and, to think, they are all in the endangered list. It was good I did not see the Burmese python or the
Florida jaguar or I would have died!  

And plant life was not to be outdone.  The dwarf cypress forests were a sight to behold.  And the gumbo limbo trees, glistening in somber forests with red brilliance are a must-see.  They are supposedly the origin of the gumbo soups for they were used for such by native Americans.The Everglades National Park is doing such a wonderful job! And there were hardly any mosquitoes in the cool days of January 2010! And the night skies were teeming with brilliant stars!

So we started heading north, thinking surely the cold weather is over. This is Florida, for cryin’ out loud! But before heading on to ’M’ RV Resort in Moore Haven, Florida, we passed through Miami and Ft. Lauderdale to catch the ocean breeze. There was nowhere to park an RV in such crowded places though. So we satisfied ourselves with drive-by shots, photos which, interestingly enough, all got lost from our camera’s chip!
At Moore Haven the campground was undergoing rehabilitation by the new owners who bought it from a guy who ripped the member-RVers of their hard-earned retirement funds. The place had a golf course that was defunct and 5 idle mini ponds (supposedly with 2 alligators) that were meant for catch-and-release fishing of catfish, bass, trout, etc. The saving grace was the people and one night there was a big jam session of musicians that blazed the clubhouse with rocking music that we danced the night to.

On the road to our second stop at Orlando, we passed by Lake Okeechobee, 2nd largest freshwater lake in America. We could not even see the lake from the road because it was protected by tall dam-like structures all around. Much of Florida is right below, at, or slightly above sea level that the flow of water is largely controlled by dikes and dams for the benefit of wildlife, human life, and all the plants around. We understand that it is a delicate balancing act.

We finally reached our favorite campground, Orlando Thousand Trails, again. This time we met Roberta Dolan (writer of the near-completed book, Say It Out Loud, founder, Writers’ Network in Connecticut and retired elementary special education teacher) and her husband Tim Dolan )retired HS science teacher). We loved their Allegro 32.5 Class A motorhome. Roberta and I agreed to continue corresponding so I can help her rewrite the marketing chapter of her book proposal and, in turn, she can help me with starting the publication of my eventual book.

This is also when we met the oldest RVers we have so far encountered, Saul, 90, harmonica player, and Shirley, 83, contortionist, who were both part of a circus which is where they met. They have been doing this for 20 years with the same 24-ft class A motorhome (the size of Star!). But this chapter in Orlando was not as happy as the previous one since I had to quickly find a dentist…one of my fillings dropped out…and I was practically toothless in Orlando.

Next Stops:  Wildwood, Orlando, Tampa