Well, we made it. On Wednesday, January 8th we crossed the border into the Florida panhandle, passed Pensacola and Destin, turned right just before the capitol in Tallahassee, and made our first night stop on the beach near Panacea on Ochlockanee Bay. That’s just down the road from Sopchoppy, home of the annual Worm Grunting Festival. Someone has to get the bait.
Not a bad first impression of Florida.
Since this was our first time in Florida (aside from business meetings where you see only airports, convention centers and hotels. I’m looking at you Miami Beach) we first went to a campground near Zolfo Springs. That’s sort of in the middle of the state, south of Clearwater. The great thing about that location is it’s only about an hour from Tampa, an hour from Sarasota or an hour from Punta Gorda. It made a good place to rest up, while we poked around looking at different areas. We found lots of places we liked.
While we were looking for interesting things to do we realized that in a few days the worlds biggest RV Show would be taking place in Tampa. Sweet. We were disappointed in how small the Seattle show was in terms of RV add ons, classes, vendors, etc. Tampa had lots to look at. What’s more, it’s where David and Gyung Huntsman’s daughter Jenny lives with her family. She came to meet us for dinner on the riverwalk downtown. It was easy, as the restaurant was only 5 minutes from the ballet studio where she needed to pick up Noelle. Its was a blast to see them both so far from home.
One thing we’ve been doing a lot of is bicycling. Now bicycling in Florida means peddling all the time. No really, all the time. It’s flat as a pancake and you never get to stop and coast like you do where we’re from. On the flip side, you never have a hill, except for a street overpass. At least when you’re at the top of those you can see where you are. They are the highest points around. In Venice, we found the holy grail for bicyclists….a Bike and Brew shop. Bike parts…and beer. Actually we found another of them in St. Petersburg. Liking this aspect of Florida.
Of course, you can’t go to Florida without doing some beach time. Being the fair skinned, NW/Scottish/Scandinavian folks that we are we knew we had to get some protection. I love the web sites that let you research the very best beach umbrella, and chairs, and then order them. Prime delivery works at the campground when you’re staying two weeks. So in just days we had the tools to be beach bums. Ah, the life.
As we’ve rolled across the country we’ve been keeping our eyes out for a good used canoe. We knew we needed a way to enjoy the lakes and rivers we’re finding out here. The search went on with little success until Sarasota where we finally found our girl. Her name is Flo. We’ve had a couple of chances to take her out. She’s a nice red Old Town canoe. I think Karin likes it, but she still has her head on a swivel looking for gators and snakes. We did find lots of birds, fish and even spotted a Manta Ray under us in the keys. I think Flo is a great addition to “Team Endless Song.”
The Florida Keys were exactly what we hoped they would be, warm and reasonably quiet. Until, of course, you get to Key West. We were staying at a park called Fiesta Key, just North of Marathon. It’s about halfway down the Keys, so it was a great base for us to jump out and look at the areas North and South. All the way south, at the end of the road, is Key West. I’m torn. Downtown is a cruise ship, tourist, destination. Sure everyone’s laid back…but it’s too commercial now. Not like it “used to be.” But if you look hard, and get away from that downtown core. The older, slightly seedy, live and let live part is still around. You just have to look a little harder to find it.
And since we’re in the Keys…we had to make a Key Lime Pie. Mmm. First we bought a piece from a shop in Key West that is really known for it. Kermits. And it was lovely…and as it should be, not green. We wanted to taste theirs so we had a standard to judge against.
We also decided not to kill ourselves trying to find and juice Key Limes. They are not everywhere, and if you don’t find them and try to use the normal limes we get in stores it’s not going to work. We bought a bottle of Kermits concentrate. We also got a commercial crust as we realize we don’t have any pie tins on the trailer.
So this pie is a cook and then chill it pie. Since we didn’t want to stay up, we decided the best strategy would be to bake it….then chill over night. I’d get up and whip the cream. Pie for breakfast. Mmm. Don’t judge me. It was fantastic
After most of a week in the Keys it was time to turn the rig north toward the busy Southeast Florida coast. This is our next base for two weeks to explore Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Pompano Beach, etc, and it’s our jumping off point to ride and canoe in the Everglades National Park.
One last point about the Keys, we want to come back. We’re already looking at places to stay, but next time we’ll book a year out so we can get a site for a whole month.