March 2006


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We went on a Kayak adventure tour today. I made reservations for two single kayaks. Good plan! I really enjoyed myself and didn’t flip the kayak or run into any bushes! Of course Ray managed to keep his upright this time. Guess he learned his lesson in Hawaii. I didn’t want to chance it <EG>. We will be renting some kayaks again this summer at Lunga Park for sure.

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We saw lots of dolphins and Manatee’s on our excursion. The guy who owned the company and was the lead guide was pretty crabby. Good thing for him that he doesn’t need repeat customers.

I did get to pet/scratch a Manatee. Wow! These are great big guys! They would get up under the kayak and push you around a bit. Not too scary but a tad unnerving.

Other than a short bike ride we have just enjoyed the warm weather and each other.

Yep, so far we are still getting along. Ray went and got his haircut today and I had a whole hour to myself!! Whoopee!!

Ray is outside cooking some chicken up on the BBQ and I am supposed to be fixing a salad and vegetables. Instead I am here writing this so you all won’t give me too hard a time upon my return about my lack of posts.

Left the Everglades and made it to Fort Pierce. Stayed 3 nights
enjoying full hook-ups. This is the first non military or
National Park stay since we left home. That means it was also the
most expensive. But… Ah, hot showers in our own trailer.
Letting the water run while I do dishes. Speaking of dishes..
using the real dishes and not paper plates. TV as long as I want
to stay up! Funniest part was how quite it seemed. Normally
whenever we use water the water pump kicks in and rumbles. So,
when we are hooked into campground water we don’t need that.. thus it
is really quite when you flush the toilet. Well, it was funny to us. 🙂

We stayed the extra day so Ray could watch the air show held at the airport
adjoining the campground. But, he got a touch of a stomach virus
and didn’t want to stray to far from our trailer. (Don’t need to
go into detail here)

We left this morning for Manatee Cove Campground at Patrick AFB in Coco
Beach. Today is Sunday and most stuff is closed. We are
going to check out the ITT office in the morning to see what tours/discounts
are available prior to making any plans.

We are planning on a kayak trip to see the Manatee’s. I want to make sure it
is single kayaks.. (Remember Hawaii!)

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Wow! What a great time we had. Spent four days in Big Cypress National
Preserve, and another three in the Everglades National Park..

We planned for this visit after we stopped here on our way to Key
West. After talking with a park services employee on our first visit we
knew we wanted to come back and experience the swamp walk and the canoe
trip.

We called and made our reservations two weeks out as advised, and
were assured we made the list. So.. off we went to head back up the
keys to Big Cypress. I had also wanted to stop at the Indian Casino
located at the corner where we turn to enter the Everglades.

We finally made it to Midway campground at 2pm after a late start
from Key West. Hooked up the trailer to the electricity, woo hoo!!, and
turned on the air conditioning. This was the first time we had
electricity that wasn’t from the generator since we left Midway on our
way down. I was pretty jazzed with being able to run the air. We then
took off to see the Indian Casino and Bingo. Well, for us it was a
bust. The best part was the $6.95 steak and lobster dinner. The place
was packed! The only slot machines open were the $5.00 ones or the
poker machines. We passed. When we checked on the Bingo, it didn’t
start again till 11pm. So we passed on that too. Guess we just aren’t
gamblers because we never did go back.

We took a drive on Loop Road on Friday. I saw more alligators than I
thought were in the entire state of Florida along the road. They were
just laying on the sides of the road sunning themselves. Lots of birds
we had never seen before were fishing in the ditches and ponds along
this road as well. After the drive and picture taking we just relaxed
for the afternoon.

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Saturday, we were scheduled for the canoe trip. Ray has never canoed
before and after capsizing the kayak last summer in Hawaii he was a bit
nervous about this trip with alligators and all in this river. The trip
was a four hour adventure with a National Park Ranger as a guide. We
saw lots of wildlife to include fish, birds, and of course more
alligators. Really enjoyed the nature talk from the Ranger and we both
learned a lot about the watershed and plants, animals of the
Everglades. Ray spent the first hour trying to paddle by sitting in the
bottom of the canoe. He finally got up on the seat.. but we still
managed to run into bushes and branches. We, I, made a command decision
that if/when we get kayaks it is going to be two singles.

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Sunday afternoon we took the “swamp walk” a walk through the
sawgrass. Wasn’t too long a walk, only about a mile, of course most of
it was through the mud and knee deep swamp water. We got a close view
of an abandoned alligator hole, and many Cypress trees and plants.
Again we learned more about the plant life and history of the
Everglades. Pretty cool, although I still have mud under my toenails!
Monday we packed up and moved to Long Pine campground.

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We took the long route, insert we got lost, and settled into the
Long Pine Key campground early afternoon. This means we are back to no
power = no air conditioning. The ranger told us about a night program
at Royal Palms but we passed and just stayed in for the night.

Tuesday we decided to drive all the way to the end of the road to
Flamingo area. There is a large picnic area right on the waters edge.
This area was hit pretty hard with Katrina. Then when Wilma blew a 8
foot saltwater surge inland the damage was done. This area has a lot of
sand, and saltwater damage to the grounds. The echo pond is now
saltwater and will never be the same. There use to be a restaurant and
a lodge, cabins and marina.. all were damaged. Word was that only the
marina would be restored. Really a shame. There was a campground out
there but was very dusty and open and not nearly as nice as Long Pine
Key Campground.

All along the way were these nature walk trails. Ray and I stopped
at all four of them! Didn’t see nearly the wildlife we had experienced
at Big Cypress. We were pretty disappointed. We still enjoyed the
experience. That evening there was a nature talk at the campground
amphitheater. Again this just awed us with all the department of
interior has done as is doing to preserve our land. Lots of pictures
and more information to absorb. We were advised to not miss the night
walk at Royal Palms, you know, the one we passed on previously.

Wednesday we prepared for out move northward. We visited Royal Palms
that morning and again saw LOTS of wildlife. This is the dry season
here and with the water drying up it causes the birds and alligators to
congregate in smaller areas. This was the best display of wildlife we
have seen. We took more nature pictures, and had a nice dinner.

After we applied lots of bug spray, we headed off to Royal Palm for
the Night Walk. WOW!! This had to be the highlight of our visit. The
guide, Lionel, was well informed and shared his love for nature and the
Everglades with us. We walked on down to the river along the boardwalk
and were greeted with a feeding frenzy among the alligators. Lionel
said he had never seen such a display. The alligators were swimming
about and herding in the fish. There was lots of jaw snapping and
splashing going on.

We all held our flashlights on the display that continued for
approximately 30 minutes. The walk continued when the settled down. We
then walked out to the end and were able to gaze at the night sky while
we were told about which stars where which. This was a nice end to a
great visit to the Everglades. We are really glad we took the extra
days here.

We are currently in Fort Pierce, FL. Have lots more pictures to share with anyone who wants to see them when we get home.

We are leaving today to head back to Big Cypress.  I made reservations for the swamp walk and the canoe tour.  Hope we can get into Midway Campground again.  Will post pictures when I have connectivity again.

Got word Steve, my boss, found his new digs in Arizona.  (Retirement home??)  Go Steve!!

Tina finally made it. We did our best to show her a whirlwind tour of Key West. We picked her up around noon on Friday. Our first stop was to El Siboney for Lunch, then back to change clothes and head for Mallory Square for the Sunset.

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Tina had fun getting a henna tattoo. I tried them twice and both times they just didn’t work for me. Bummer. Seemed to work great for Tina. I will have to keep up with her on how long it lasts.

We, just us girls, went out to dinner at Sloppy Joes and then bar hopped a bit on Duval. Finally had to call it a night around 11. Ray came and picked us up and we hit the sack.

We also visited the butterfly conservatory and the Mel Fisher Maritime Museum.

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Finally we topped off the visit with a snorkeling adventure. Unfortunately Tina, like Ray, doesn’t like breathing threw the tube. Rats. Another potential snorkeling buddy bites the dust. I love to snorkel!

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Saturday – Spent yet another day riding the bikes downtown. Getting pretty good at this. Maybe I will finally commit to riding the whole way downtown for the base. Stumbled upon yet another art/craft show down by the wharf today. After talking to one of the sailboat companies we found your tomorrow is the Wreckers Race. Too Cool! And, we are going with them! We also can bring Sparky! Really hoping it is a beautiful a day as it is today. We were told there are usually 100 sailboats of various sizes that participate in this event. Hope to get some good pictures.

Sunday – I did it! I finally rode my bike all the way downtown and back! We decided to ride down to the wharf because parking there is very difficult. We left plenty early for the 12:00 boarding time. Ray did have to stop for a bit and walk out a leg cramp. Other than that we made the trip without a problem. I was proud of myself. I had really dreaded the idea of riding downtown without the safety net of the truck. Of course, now Ray thinks we should do this everyday.

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This is not our Schooner, this is the Liberty, same class/size. Just wanted to give you an idea of the type of ship we were sailing.

We boarded the Albacore Schooner for our cruise to the reef and back. This race is when local captains, crews and passengers race the seven miles to Sand Key on a quest for bragging rights.

This really was a seven mile race to the reef and they were not messing around. With all the sails up we managed to obtain a speed of 8.2 knots. The guy who was responsible for the schooner had a handheld gps and of course I had to ask about our speed. We won the race, in our division, and lots of hooting and hollering was going on. Was fun to be on the winning schooner.

We invited another couple we had met to join us for the afternoon.

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(Cheryl and Denny – from Waynesboro) We were also allowed to take our “friendly” dog with us. All was well till the return trip. Lunch buffet was put out.. Good sandwiches and salads along with plenty of beverages to include wine/beer/champagne and sodas. Cheryl didn’t make it but a few minutes after lunch. Sparky started acting pretty sluggish not long after that and finally had to puke. So, the only two who didn’t make it back to shore without getting sick were in our party!

Tina has obtained yet another ticket!  She is scheduled to arrive Friday at 11:30.  I am really excited about her upcoming visit.  She promised to NOT miss this flight.

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