Thursday, January 29, 2009
We close up and head west ASAP. Not far into TX, after not much more than an hour of driving, we encounter fog. It’s a misty fog that freezes on the windshield. Quickly. Becomes more of a drizzle. Wipers, defroster, and de-icing fluid aren’t enough to keep Tuzi’s big front windshield clear. Particularly troublesome is ice that blocks my view of the rearview mirrors. We plug in our electric space heaters and hold them up to the windshield. We drive exit to exit for a while, stopping at each to scrape and melt ice. Finally, at the Alanreed exit, where there is a general store, liquor store, deli (they sell packaged sandwiches), motel, filling station, Route 66 gift shop, and post office, all collocated and all belonging, it appears, to the same owner – anyhow, for any of those services you pay the same nice lady – we decide to stop for the duration. (Alanreed’s motto is: See Alanreed, all from one spot. I should have asked if Alan is home.) I hadn't realized there was a campground when I pulled in. Primarily, I was just going to buy some de-icing fluid. The word from Amarillo, 60 miles down the road, from the nice lady in the Alanreed general store, our Amarillo friends - the Sooters - and travelers from that direction, is that the fog is thick and roads are getting icy.
I ask, Do you have a campground? Nice lady says Yes, we do! (my exclamation point). We’re in no hurry and there’s no reason to take risks, so we pull into the campground (maybe five sites) and hook up. We’ve got a 3/4 full propane tank, 50 amps of power, and satellite TV to keep us warm and entertained.
Because of the continuing freezing drizzle we decide not to open the slide-outs. If ice built up on the awnings that extend over the slide-outs, that could be a problem and if ice got into the mechanisms, we might not be able to close the slide-outs until the spring thaw. Also, there’s less space to heat with the slide-outs closed. We’ve each got our own space. I’ve got the front TV and reclining chair. Susie’s got the back TV and bed. We’ve each got space heaters that we can conveniently aim and thus not use the furnaces to heat the whole interior space.
Late in the afternoon another motor home pulls into the campground. The driver hoped to get to Indianapolis by Thursday to do some work (work ?) there. But between Amarillo and here he saw an overturned semi and decided that was enough. On the Weather Channel most of the ice-storm attention is focused on further east, so things are definitely not going to get better for him as he goes.
Tuesday. It’s still cold (11 in Amarillo) and apparently icy, though semis are rolling at moderate speed on I-40. No other traffic that I can see, though. Tuzi’s got a nice coating of ice on the windward side. Roy Sooter calls from Amarillo and says the word there is don’t drive if it’s not necessary. Also, when I walk over to get a newspaper, the parking lot is ice-coated. So, we sit another day. Hoped it might clear up by mid-day, but it didn’t. So, we’ll spend Tuesday bundled up here. By evening, though, there is a little sunshine and a nice sunset. Forecast is promising for tomorrow. We’ve got enough propane for another night, so no problem. Getting a little low on water, but the only way to get more water into our tank is to move to another slot, with a still-functioning spigot. That’s too much trouble and we’ll be OK if we skip the showers, I fearlessly claim, so we stay put.
So, too, is our Indy-bound neighbor. I visited him briefly and he said his furnace quit during the night. He was up around 5 am working on that. While the furnace was out his water lines froze somewhere, so they were without water and he was trying to find the right place to apply some heat. Of course, we can buy drinking and toothbrushing water from the general store, or, if worse comes to worse, rent a motel room if our motorhome systems don’t work. They and I (not Susie, though – she has her standards) can also use the general store’s bathrooms, so I don’t offer them a share of our dwindling water.
It's good we stopped where we did, and fortuitous. I don't think there are any RV parks in the 60 miles from Alanreed to Amarillo. There is a nice visitors center not far down the road and we probably could have done a day there using power from our diesel generator, but we wouldn't have had a walk-to grocery and gift shop.
When I went up to the Alanreed command post for some provisioning, I browsed a Route 66 guidebook. There were a couple of pages on Alanreed and I learn that the nice lady in charge is named Dixie Crockett. I take it that Route 66 afficionados know her or know of her. I buy a postcard and she autographs it.
Here is an Alanreed picture from the above link:
I remember stopping here once on a previous Tuzitrip to get gas. The price was outrageous and the driveway out of the station was a mess - potholes, broken pavement. Vowed never again, but conditions change. Now the station's price display, where all travelers can see it, shows last summer's prices - $3 plus for gas, $4 plus for diesel. The pumps, though, show current prices.
By the end of Tuesday, we’re both getting a case of cabin fever, as Susie says, the fidgets. I’ve run out of books to read. I’ve played a lot of Palmpilot Scrabble and solitaire. I write up our days here for eventual posting. I know I should/could be working on my class notes or textbook, but can’t get motivated. Susie reads and watches TV. Every once in a while when we turn too many electrical things on, I have to go outside and reset the breaker. We’re on 50 amps, but still cross that threshold occasionally.
The day’s saddest words: No wireless networks within range.
Here's the Texas panhandle scene:
We bid farewell to Alanreed and Miss Dixie. I-40 has been sanded and it's clear. We head for home - 340 miles. When you're within a day of home, it's hard to resist. After Amarillo there's no sign of previous ice. We've dropped our plans to go by Corona, NM, to see Susie's brother. Charlie and Sue are in Albuquerque this day. You may recall, you persistent readers, that we started this trip by dropping plans to go by Corona. Also, more deja vu, in NM we encounter a strong crosswind from the north, as on Day One, but not so fierce. We stop in Tucumcari for a pig-out lunch at the Flying J's Country Market buffet (New Year's resolutions kick in tomorrow). The weather's much warmer there than where we've come from. We've been shedding ice from Tuzi all along the way.
Here's the traditional almost home picture through the windshield:
Between Cline's Corners and Moriarty (say 40 miles from home) a semi pulls alongside and the driver gestures, pointing down, I think. Oh, No! What could be wrong? More deja vu. I pull over and check tires, Tuzi, even on top, and the Explorer. Can't find anything dangling or damaged. A couple of basement compartment doors are not latched. They can't really swing open, but I suppose wind gusts could cause them to lift and fall occasionally. However, it's unlikely anything could fall out. Nothing is missing. The doors were probably frozen in the morning when I made my pre-departure check. Anyhow, we proceed and nobody else has any issues with us. We get home around 3:30, unload just the essentials, and make ourselves at HOME.
It's been a great trip, even with the problems we encountered. Susie gets teary just thinking about the family cruise. A very special time for all of us. Odometer says Tuzi covered 4700 miles.
Susie and Rob
Saturday, January 24, 2009
Still eschewing interstates, we caught up with US 64 crossing Arkansas. It runs straight west on a route that runs north of I-40, bypasses Little Rock, then becomes intertwined with I-40 at Conway, NW of Little Rock. From past experience, I know I-40 in eastern AR has rough pavement (or construction) and lots of semis. Anyhow, them's the reasons for taking 64. Found it to be generally 2-laned, but with frequent passing lanes. Also, paved shoulders, good pavement, and optional loops around most of the towns along the route. And it's flat - Mississippi River Bottom Delta Land. Not much traffic except for Wal-Mart trucks coming from somewhere. All of which makes for more serene driving.
Anyhow, while driving in a slow-traffic lane at one point, I saw the flashing light of a vehicle leading two wide-load trucks hauling modular houses coming up to pass me. I pulled further to the right and slowed down because we were approaching the end of the passing lane. The houses passed, followed closely by two semis. By the time these all passed, we were essentially standing still at the end of the passing lane. All of a sudden we saw the semis making emergency stops, smoke rising from skidding tires. Well, there was a bridge just past this three-lane section and apparently the house-haulers suddenly braked because of oncoming traffic on the bridge and that caught the semis by surprise. Fortunately, no collision (Semi Hits House on Bridge was the headline I could see).
At Conway, to save time we got back on I-40 and stuck with it for a while until the pavement went bad, so it was back to US 64. At this point both roads are following the scenic Arkansas River valley. Late afternoon, so we eventually got back on I-40 and got to a campground in Van Buren, just three miles from the OK border. Eight hours on the road today, longest since we left Jordan Lake. Up next: family weekend in OK.
We've driven I-40 across eastern OK several times in recent years, often in a motor home and it is so rough (worse than Arkansas!) that I have repeatedly composed letters in my head to the Governor, but never got them on paper and in the mail. Want to tell him to put a billboard up at key points, with his face, telling travelers: "I sincerely apologize for the condition of Eisenhower's magnificent interstate highway system in our great state and promise to fix it quickly." Now I wondered if the Obama stimulus package would expedite the work. After we got to Edmond, I saw a newspaper article that said OK was in for $544 million in highway funds. Now my letter will ask that it be spent on I-40.
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
Tuesday morning. Very light dusting of snow here in Statesville. TV talking breathlessly about snow in Raleigh and other parts of the state. Called Mike and found out that sure enough they were on a snow day - schools and many offices closed. Thanks, Karen, for the weather alert. We could have been snowed in in the Parker's Creek campground - not the worst situation in the world, but still glad to be this far along on our trek home.
Tuesday was pure relaxation, watching the inauguration festivities. We barely left the motorhome. It was cold, 15 in the morning.
Here's a picture of another motorhome in the campground - Tuzigoot3? Or, 8? Hmm. Ain't she cute!
Update on sideswipe incident. Way back in the first week of our trip (also known as tripfromhell week), you may recall that Tuzi got slightly sideswiped while we were driving through MS on the way to Red Bay, AL. I had talked briefly to my State Farm rep just after the accident, but hadn’t followed up, what with cruising and everything else going on. While in Cary, I talked to State Farm again and they told me I should report the incident to the other driver’s insurance company. Also, I should not have the damage repaired until an evaluation was made by that company. Based on that advice, we canceled plans to go home via Red Bay to get damage repaired by one of Tiffin’s guys who has his own moonlight RV body shop. I e-mailed that insurance company and told them about the incident. On Saturday I got a call back. Rep said the other driver had not reported the accident, but when contacted, claimed it wasn’t his fault. I said I’m pretty sure I was in my lane, but because I wasn’t looking in rearview mirror at the time I didn’t see him overtake and hit me, so I can’t be absolutely certain. This rep said she was just making an initial quick response from the weekend desk; I would get an official response Mon or Tue. She said I should file claim with State Farm in case her firm denied my claim.
Well, Tuesday I got the call. Agent didn’t say anything about blaming me for sideswipe, but asked if I had a repair shop in Albq that I would use and said their claim rep would contact me when we got back to town, with the implication that they would pay for the repair. We shall see.
Wednesday morning we filled up with propane, handled some business via FedEx, and continued west. From Statesville we took I-40 to Asheville (US 64 meanders all over western NC, so we abandoned it) and then angled SW to the very tip of NC.
For the most part US 19/74 in SW NC is a four-lane parkway, The Great Smoky Mountain Expressway. Then, all of a sudden, you're plunged into the Nanatahala Gorge. No more expressway. This parkway photo is from the inernet.
The gorge contains the Nanatahala River, a noted whitewater river. Judy and I were through here years ago and learned that the Olympic kayak and canoe teams trained here at the time. Susie and I came through the gorge in TuzigootOne a few years back. For about 20 miles the highway is narrow and winding. Lots of river-running and rafting outfitters along the way and warnings to watch for slow-moving rafting buses. Not much traffic, though, this time of year vs. the summer tourist season, so it wasn’t difficult, just slow. When traffic piles up behind me, I like to find a spot and pull over, but in these tight stretches there aren’t many opportunities, and those that are there pop up so quickly that you don’t have time to stop. Here's an internet picture.
We had plans to spend the night near Chattanooga, but we spent more time on local roads than anticipated (still standing my pledge to reduce our time on Interstate highways), so started to look for a campground while still in NC.
After the Natahala Gorge, just past Murphy, NC, at about 4 pm, we spotted a large, very modern RV park (all hookups conveniently placed in one fixture – wow!). Only two RVs parked there, though, out of more than 100 slots, so the campground looked closed. Nevertheless, we were ready to stop, so took a chance and turned in to the entrance. OPEN the sign proclaimed. Just fill out a registration, deposit money, and park. Water, electricity, and cable operable. No wifi that evening, but did get a connection the next morning.
We wouldn’t have turned in if the park had been empty, but two rigs were enough of a lure to get us in. Susie speculated later, since there were apparently no people in either rig, that these were just decoys, like a duck decoys on a pond, designed to lure travelers in. The parked rigs were really just ones that the campground owners are storing and using as a decoy. Whatever, it worked and we enjoyed our stay. Here's a picture taken the next morning - still cold, in the teens.
Susie had expressed the desperate need for a hair cut, so that was another reason to stop – we’d seen a few hair salons driving through Murphy. After we settled in at the campground, Susie got her hair done - she looks mahvelous - then we had dinner just across the parking lot from the salon – southern cooking: ribs and meatloaf.
Thursday. Still cold. Low Th morning was 15 degrees again.
At Murphy, we had rejoined US 64 (on which we had driven from Jordan Lake to Statesville, for those who are following us on your maps). Continuing west on 64, just into TN, we went through another narrow, winding gorge. This is the Ocoee River Gorge, actually tighter to drive than the Nanatahala with rock overhangs to watch for and oncoming trucks. This is the site of the 1996 Olympics whitewater events. Big parking lots and vantage points along the way. The river is nearly dry right now. Flow on the Ocoee is controlled by three TVA dams, so it can be dialed up or down, as needed.
Got into the Chattanooga area in time for brunch and recorded-book exchange at a Cracker Barrel, then took freeways, rather than US 64, through Chat. Magellan took me off I-24 on to US 41A, continuing west to reconnect with US 64. 41A turned out to be another thriller – very steep (7% grade), long, winding descent from the Cumberland Plateau to where we joined US 64 which, here and on west, is (in large part) a 4-lane parkway. If I’d gone a few miles further on I-24 to next exit, we would have had a parkway instead of the 41A joyride.
The US 64 parkway is called the David Crockett Parkway. David? .
Born on a mountaintop in Tennessee
Greenest state in the land of the free
Raised in the woods where he knew every tree
Killed him a b’ar when he was only three
David, David Crockett
King of the wild frontier
Just doesn’t sound right. However, I read on Wikipedia that Crockett preferred David over Davy, so the parkway namers honored his wishes.
That song ran through my head all afternoon. Why is it I can remember that and I can’t remember what I went to get in the bedroom a few minutes ago?
Much more of 64 is parkway than my 2005 atlas shows, so it was mostly nice driving, but there are several gaps where construction is happening, or land is being cleared. This is beautiful, rolling farm country. Also many nice multi-columned Tara-like, or -lite houses in the country and attractive small towns along the way. Sure hope the Obama stimulus package has funds to expedite completing the David Crockett Parkway. That’ll be a great drive. We drive the Memphis-Nashville I-40 route fairly often. It’s mostly tree tunnel. Next time I’ll take a US 64-based routing.
By afternoon the weather is much warmer. Feeling good. Stopped for ice cream.
Our objective for the night was the Pickwick Lake State Park. The reason that was the objective is because the S.P. is adjacent to the village of Counce, which, our Road Food book says, is home to an outstanding and unique catfish restaurant, the Pickwick Catfish Farm Restaurant. The fish served are raised right there. Also, as an alternative to outstanding fried catfish, you can get “Pickwick’s marvelous cured and smoked catfish.”
Well, we parked Tuzi in the almost-deserted, very nice wooded campground , then headed into Counce to find the Catfish Farm. I had called the number given by Road Food and got a message that that number was inactive, so that was an troubling note. Made one pass through town and didn’t see the Catfish Farm. Went back to a grocery store, bought some vittles, and asked directions. Nice lady said, Go west about a mile or mile and a half, just past the RR tracks, down into a holler, and there it is – on your right, set back from the road. Really good catfish. We had gone that far and not seen a thing. With specific directions, surely we’ll find it.
By now, it’s dark and where we think we’ve been told to look there’s nothing with lights, period, much less one that suggested a place to eat. Went on down the road and turned around in a bar’s parking lot. Susie says, Go ask someone in there about the restaurant. Oh, yeah, they said. Go back the way you came, at the bottom of a steep hill, before you get to the RR tracks, there it is, set back from the road, in an old filling station. Really good catfish. I returned to car reeking of smoke - me, not the car. We still couldn’t find it. Turned down a couple of side roads, didn't find anything and in both cases we soon had a car behind us as we searched for a place to turn around. Well, in one case, wouldn’t you know it? when I pulled into a driveway the car behind me had to stop and wait until I got out of his/her driveway.
Susie says let’s try it again, so we go back and forth on this stretch of highway again. Nada. The place is only open Th-Sun, according to Road Food, but maybe they took this Th off. We’re departing on this route tomorrow and maybe then we’ll see the Catfish Farm and file it in our memory book for next time.
Nice lady in grocery store had said, if Farm is closed, the restaurant across the highway from the store has a catfish special on Thursday and it's really good, too. So, we followed Plan B. Restaurant was crowded, we waited and did enjoy the smalltown café atmosphere and the catfish.
Our route on Friday morning took us down the road where the Catfish Farm Restaurant was supposed to be and, sure enough, there it was. It was a building that was totally dark the night before. We had even turned in their driveway, but not where we could see the unlighted, hand-painted sign on the front of the building. Well, it turns out that we had been the victim of outdated information. The above website, which I hadn't Googled-up until writing this posting Friday night and miles away, says the restaurant is only open Friday-Sunday. Duh! We'll be back, if the Catfish Farm is still in business. The above website says the place is for sale.
The big business in Counce, besides catfish, is a PCA (Packaging Corporation of America) plant that makes paper from trees. That was of interest to us because son, Matt, used to work for PCA in Grand Rapids, MI. Other PCA plants convert paper to corrugated cardboard and boxes (packages). Matt had not been to this plant, so we took a picture. Looks pretty impressive and there is a steady stream of logging trucks hauling the raw material into the plant.
Well, this has gone on long enough, or more.
Susie and Rob
Monday, January 19, 2009
After the tour, we found the Charleston Crab House for lunch. It has a nice waterfront view. Newspaper clipping on the wall quoted Serena Williams saying it was her favorite Charleston restaurant. Note the upside down sign. The owner is a friend of the folks who do the Flip This House TV show and they had remodeled the restaurant and flipped the sign to commemorate the event. I tried the house specialty - she-crab soup, containing roe and crab meat. Very tasty. The reference says orange-hued crab roe was added to crab soup to give it some color. Susie didn't want to even think about it.
After lunch we did some more driving and gawking. The tour had taken us by the original Citadel campus downtown, so we drove to the current campus a little further out.
The above Charleston link, to Wikipedia, focuses on the Citadel's role in the Civil War. Cadets from the Citadel fired on a Union ship entering Charleston harbor three months before Fort Sumter was fired on. Sherman spared Charleston from destruction, as he had earlier spared Savannah.
Though we had lunched rather well, we decided we would (over-) indulge again, this time stopping at a seafood grill near our campground. I had seen shrimp and grits on the Crab House menu and decided to try it here. The reference says "shrimp grits" is a traditional Low Country breakfast, now fancied up. But, grits isn't just for breakfast any more. (Do you remember Bubba, in Forest Gump, listing all the ways you could fix shrimp? I'm sure shrimp grits was in there.) Mine had some spicy brown gravy over the grits, with shrimp arrayed over that. Good stuff.
So, that was our Charleston day.
Susie and Rob
Thursday, January 15, 2009
Decided we'd like to see Lake Okeechobee, that big hole in the Florida peninsula. This is the second largest lake wholly within the US, after Lake Michigan. So, we chose a route that bypassed Miami (and its toll road that we contributed to generously on the way down) and angled up to Okeechobee. Bypassing Miami took us through downtown Homestead and then through a long rural stretch lined with nurseries. So this is where all the landscaping palm trees, in the various varieties, and other flowers and shrubs come from! (Which reminds me: After our Key West guide had talked about various Democratic presidents who came to KW, he pointed out, for balance, at one point: two Bushes.)
At the town of Pahokee we stopped and walked up on the dike surrounding the lake. Been there, got the picture:
Not the greatest shot, but it'll have to do. From the internet, here's a satellite picture and a more interesting snapshot. Pahokee's at about the 4 o'clock position on the lake shore.
From Okeechobee we angled over to the coast and found a nice RV park near Vero Beach. I always wanted to make it to Vero Beach when the Dodgers had their spring training there, but didn’t. It was described as an idyllic setting, what spring training used to be like before it went bigtime. Now, alas, the Dodgers’ spring training camp has moved to Arizona in, I’m sure, a more revenue-driven atmosphere.
When we got to Jacksonville I called my brother, Lael. They were moored there before and after Christmas making preps for their big sail, but I didn't know if they still were. I said, We're in Jacksonville. He said, We just sailed into Key West! Oops. If I'd only called two days earlier. We did do them the favor of pointing them to the Hogfish Bar and Grill. They're going to wait for a good weather window for crossing to the Panama Canal. Maybe we can meet them in Tahiti some day.
Thursday, we proceeded north, avoiding I-95 and its brethren. Took us forever to get out of the Charleston environs, but we have a day and a half to get to Raleigh, so no sweat. To the extent possible, we struck out generally straight north, ending up on US 1 in northern SC (didn’t see any wayward Key West trolleys). Along the way the terrain changed from coastal low, flat country to rolling farmland and woods. Also, some very charming (to our eyes) small towns in both SC and NC – stately, well-maintained homes, wrap-around porches, nicely landscaped, … . Wanted to stop in a couple towns, but convenient parking places didn’t pop up when we needed them. I generally try to keep my eyes open for a country café, but today we had lunch on crackers and cheese in a shopping center parking lot. Then just a mile down the road we passed a barbecue joint that is apparently the local favorite, with room for big-rig parking, too. Darn!
From our Trailer Life campground guide, we picked a campground in Pinehurst, NC, only about two hours from our Cary destination, which is the Jordan Lake state recreation area west of Raleigh. Well, in spite of our GPS’s best efforts, we missed the fairly obscure turn-in to the campground. The Plan B entrance required a “sharp right turn” and that was too sharp and steep to negotiate with low-hanging trees to boot. Also, there were no signs, commercial or official (the little blue RV symbols) indicating there really was a campground down these uninviting roads, so we kept on going. This part of NC has many golf resorts, but I guess golfers don’t drive RVs (though some pro golfers do, I know), so there was nothing else in the area. It was late afternoon, but we decided we could get to Jordan Lake before dark.
We just did, but by the time we had selected a camp site (out of a couple hundred available – the Ranger who collected our payment said we were probably the only persons camping, what with a forecast low of 19 degrees) it was dark. I knew ahead of time that the Parker’s Creek campground was the only one open, so that’s where we were headed. Been there before, but not absolutely sure where the turn-off was and whether it was north or south of the highway and couldn’t program the campground into the GPS. I was going to do this sort of just-in-time planning (find a campground map) in the wi-fi-equipped campground in Pinehurst. Saw a brown state park sort of sign that mentioned Parker Creek, but not campground. I turned off, not wanting to risk overshooting our destination. Sun is sinking lower. No applause tonight. It was soon apparent that this was not the road. So, we’re winding down a narrow, wooded country road, not knowing when, if ever, we could turn around. Susie says we need a circular driveway and, like a miracle, a church appeared with such a driveway. One low branch swiped us, but we got turned around. Back on the highway it wasn’t long until we saw a sign alerting us to campgrounds and telling us which lane to get in for Parker’s Creek. It doesn’t take a GPS to find a campground here. Backing in to our site in the dark was an adventure, but with great deliberation and patient discussion we did fine. Managed to keep warm enough on a very cold night. Here's a picture of ice sculptures on the lake shore the next morning - formed by waves splashing onshore.
Mike had started assembling his and other cruisers' pictures into an album using the versatile Blurb software - free on the internet and Saturday, he, Susie, and I worked on selecting photos and formatting the album. Karen and Jason worked on assembling a large Star Wars Lego space ship and Karen continued helping on the album, also. Going to be a great memory book for all the Susie-cruisers.
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
The sea wall and moat surrounding the fort were for protection from hurricanes as well as attackers.
Susie sunned on this beach while I climbed around the fort. We both tried snorkeling a bit, but there wasn't much of snorkel appeal in this area, at least when we were there. There is a coral reef 100 yards out, but we weren't too keen on flippering out there. We were keen on relaxing and reading on the beach.
What a colorful group!
Talk about a shock. We're in Charleston, SC, this morning and it's 36 degrees. Maybe we should go back to Key West. Actually, we'll be going to Raleigh tomorrow.
We drove through rain all day yesterday, but today is forecasted to be sunny, in the 50s.
Susie and Rob
Saturday, January 10, 2009
Friday we did our best to do Key West. We started by driving down to the site on Key West that is the southernmost point in the continental US. Got the picture to prove it.
Susie loves these geographical extremities. In New Zealand she got misty-eyed when we were at the north tip of the North Island (thinking how far it was over that ocean to home and family) and at the south end of the South Island (again moved to ponder our global remoteness). Right after the above picture we had breakfast at the southernmost beach café in the US, right across the street from the southernmost hotel in the US.
Across the Keys, US 1 is called the Overseas Highway. There are 42 bridges along the way. Here's a picture of one of them -seen from where we stopped for lunch on the way down.
After the tour we walked the shops a bit. Any resemblance between these two lovelies is purely accidental.
Somewhere on the streets we encountered an honest panhandler: Would you give me a dollar to buy beer. I promise I won’t waste it on food.
After the airboat ride, the half-dayers were picked up and taken back to Naples. The rest of us got lunch in the former train depot in Everglades City - all you can eat shrimp peel and salad bar. Plus, gator bits appetizers - tastes like chicken.
The afternoon boat excursion took off from the National Park dock in what is called the 10,000 Islands region of the Everglades. Main objective was to motor out to where the dolphins hang out. When they're in the mood they will follow the boat, surfing the wake. We found dolphins and enjoyed watching them arc out of the water, but they wouldn't follow the boat. Guide said they were too involved in sex play. Oh, look. He's trying to flipper. At this point my camera batteries died (or overheated) and I found that my back-up batteries were also dead (sometimes rechargeable is not rechargeable), so no picture. Just use your imagination.
Our guide, the boat driver, not Kenny at this point, told us about a particular tern that is nature's windvane: when they perch on a channel marker or elsewhere, they face into the wind. Often they're in pairs because one good tern deserves another. However, some terns face away from the wind because tern about is fair play. I suggested that when terns cluster together that should be called a ternament. Just a barrel of laughs on that boat.
In browsing the museum's books (including the White Trash Cookbook), it's apparent that there is much interesting history in this area and many unusual characters. One of those characters is Totch Brown, who founded the excursion company that did our airboat trip.
A little later we drove down a country road paralleling a stream, or ditch. Many gators in this area. We found one on our side of the ditch, and Kenny got out and took pictures on our cameras.
Here's a picture he got on my camera. Note that this guy's left paw is missing (the gator, not Kenny). Kenny "knew" this gator, so he invited us all to get out and get a close-up shot - mine is below.
I asked what it would take to make this gator move. Kenny said if he slapped him, he would probably just slide into the creek. At this point it's pertinent to recall Kenny's first words to us before we even left Naples. In Florida, NEVER stand next to any body of open water, anywhere, any time! When we were by "gator creek," I asked if there had ever been any tourists disappear from here. We just don't know, he said ominously.
Last stop on the way back to Naples was a roadside gator exhibit, where you could hold one. This is a four-footer, muzzled, and essentially a pet.
The young Sooner got his chance, too.