Sunday, November 18, 2018

Sunset from Grassy Key, 10/28/2018

Arriving at Jolly Roger RV Park on Grassy Key in the early afternoon, we settled into our site that is only about 200’ from the bay side of Marathon. Taking our doggie, Sadie, for a walk along the park’s seawall, we saw our first sunset in the Florida Keys.

And it did not disappoint. We are looking forward to many more!

Key West Walkabout, 10/29/2018

Ahhh, the Florida Keys. We have been looking foreword to our one-month stay in Marathon since we booked it. We arrived on 10/28, and decided to head south (60 miles) for a visit to Key West the next day. It is the southernmost point in the Florida Keys that can be reached by motor vehicle. 

Key West is 150 miles south of mainland Florida and was “discovered” in 1521 by Ponce de Leon. It became part of the United States in 1822. The shallow reefs gave rise to industries like wrecking, salvaging, salt manufacturing, and turtling making it the richest city per capita in the US in the mid-1800s. Henry Flagler’s Overseas Railway opened in 1912 connecting Key West to Miami. The Overseas Highway followed. 

Our first stop was in Key West was Higgs Dog Beach, a wide sandy beach with a rocky shore line.

After some frisbee time, our doggie, Sadie, had fun meeting and playing with a fellow Australian Shepherd, Bear, on the beach and in the water. It’s best to get Sadie a little worn out before taking her for a walk on sidewalks with a lot of foot traffic!

Sunbathingsnorkeling and kayaking are popular activities here. 

memorial to 294 African menwomen and children (who died and were buried in unmarked graves at Higgs Beach in 1860) is located here. The US Navy intercepted three slave ships rescuing 507 people from the Wildfire; 513 from the William; and 417 from the Bogota. Those buried here perished from the conditions on the slave ships during the crossing of the Atlantic despite the medical care, clothing, shelter and food provided by the Navy in Key West. About 1,000 survivors departed for Liberia by the end of the summer, but hundreds died before reaching West Africa. What a tragic chain of events in our nation’s history...

Driving the short distance to Duval Street, we found a parking space along the street (and paid at the parking kiosk in the middle of the block). We walked a block over to Whitehead Street where the Key West Lighthouse (built in 1847) can be seen. Because we had Sadie with us, we did not do the tour. It is 88-steps on a narrow, wrought-iron staircase to the observation deck. An admission fee ($14/adults) is required to enter the gated grounds. 

Nearby, on the opposite side of the street, is the house where Ernest Hemingway, and his second wife, Pauline, lived during the 1930s. Tennessee Williams was a frequent visitor and wrote his first draft of A Streetcar Named Desire here in 1941. Again, the area is fenced in and there are, reportedly, about 40 cats (descendants of the ones here during the Hemingway years) on the grounds. A tour of the house is $14/adults. 

We walked a block over to Duval Street, named for the first territorial governor of Florida (1822-1834). It is the “main strip” in Key West and the location of many well-known barsrestaurants and shops. Signs were still on display promoting Fantasy Fest 2018 (that ended on 10/27). A tradition that began in 1982, Fantasy Fest is a 10-day bacchanal (I love that word!) celebrated at the end of October that has become a legendary tradition.

Jimmy Buffett arrived in Key West in 1971 and the island has been associated with him his famous song, Margaritaville, ever since. Below is the entrance to his first cafe and souvenir shop. Many inns and shops were still decorated from Fantasy Fest. Both the rooster and clock are iconic sights on Duval Street. 

The old Strand Theatre is now a Walgreen’s, of all things. But at least it has not been torn down! 

As we walked along Duval Street we came to StPaul’s Episcopal Church, first established in 1832. I grew up in the Episcopal church and always enjoy visiting them throughout the country (but I did not expect to see one on Duval Street!). Multiple church structures were built and destroyed (by hurricanes) over the years here. The current structure was built in 1919, the stained glass windows installed in 1920, and the organ installed in 1931. A $1M renovation was completed in 1993. 

The famous Sloppy Joe’s Bar was Ernest Hemingway’s local bar and hangout. Willie T’s is also a very popular restaurant and bar with live music

Key West has the wonderful, laid-back, subtropical vibe we had hoped it would. There is so much to see here...we will be back!

Kozy Kampers RV Park, October 22 to 28, 2018

Rating:  2.0 on a scale of 5

Location: The best thing about this park is the location. It is close to everything: 7 miles to the Atlantic; walking distance to some stores; many restaurants, shopping centers, etc.; and close a Florida Turnpike exit. When we were looking for a place to stay between New Smyrna Beach and Marathon in the Keys, this was a good location in Broward County.

Lot size: The lots here are quite small, even though we had a “premium” pull through, concrete pad with full hookups (#52). There are many long term residents crowded into this park with some very old rigs, mostly in back-in sites. The roads are narrow and we were glad we did not have to back in with so little room. 

Here are some views of the other sites. There was a cute tiny house in the site next to ours. 

Amenities: Located behind the office is a recreation hall (although it is locked off hours). There are picnic tables at some lots, but there was not enough room for one at our site. The wifi was typically too slow. A nice laundry room is located in the rear of the office building next to the restrooms (4-digit code required to access). 

Cost: $231/6 nights = $38.6/night

Management: Check-in was easy enough here and a map is provided to find your site. I found it a bit odd that the office door is locked, even during business hours. Maybe there is concern for crime, I don’t know. Brochures for area attractions can be found in the office.

General Comments: After we left this park, I accidentally had our mail shipped there. Because I had a tracking number, I knew it had been delivered there. I asked them to mark it “return to sender” so it would go back to our mail service. They assured me they would, no problem. Well it’s been about 10 days, and the package has not been returned yet. After three calls to Kozy Kampers, they tell me they do not know if they returned it, but that it is no longer there. I have to be honest, I am very suspicious about this. Our mail has NEVER made a mistake in almost 5 years, so I know where the problem is...  We’ll see what happens. 


A Visit to Biscayne National Park, 10/23/2018

Even though it is 60 miles from where we were staying in Fort Lauderdale, we didn’t want to miss the opportunity to visit Biscayne National Park

The Dante Fascell Visitor Center is located in Homestead, FL, but 95% of the national park is comprised of water. The Keys in the park are only accessible by boat. There are many sunken shipwrecks, now archeological sites, that are popular dive/snorkeling locations. The Maritime Heritage Trail has been established for those interested in seeing them, but taking artifacts is strictly prohibited. 

Kayaks and canoes can be rented and launched into Biscayne Bay near the Visitor Center. 

But, our doggie, Sadie, took the opportunity for a quick swim at the kayak launch. 

Boat tours are offered by the park service to Boca Chita Key, but, alas, dogs are not permitted on the island. (When we were in the Everglades, dogs were allowed on boat tours!) The tours depart from the visitor center. 

boardwalk leads to a small peninsula where there is a trail.

The mangrove wilderness was once considered “a form of wasteland.” Environmentalists realize that the mangroves are vital to the survival of wildlife in the area, particularly fish and birds. They also provide a measure of protection from storm surges and hurricanes common to the area. Below are red mangroves, identified by their stilt-like roots. 

In 1513, Ponce de Leon sailed across Biscayne Bay in search of the Fountain of Youth. Their are great views of the bay from the trail. We could see Miami in the distance (about 50 miles) from this location.

Cormorants seem to enjoy sitting on markers close to the shoreline. 

When we reached the end of the trail, we saw the Colonial Bird Protection signage. In the distance are pelicans and terns

We loved the views of the bay from this trail! 

Returning to the Visitor Center, we enjoyed the exhibits about the coral reefs and marine life in the park. 

The National Seashores and National Parks almost always have a “please touch” table that allows visitors an up-close look at the indigenous flora and fauna. I always love spending some time checking them out (although John thinks I am a little crazy). 

Biscayne National Park is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year (along with Redwood National Forest in CA). Also shown is the iconic Boca Chita Lighthouse

As we were leaving the park, we caught a glimpse of several manatee. Can you see his nose sticking out of the water in the first photo?

We enjoyed visiting this park, but will plan a boat tour the next time we get here. That’s really the best way to enjoy this national park. For additional information about Biscayne National Park, go to