Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Best of 2014 - Part C

[From Craig]  This "best of the year" thing is so much fun, I couldn't resist making of a page of my favorites.  Happy New Year!

Best of 2014 - Part II

Too many images make for big files to download.  This is a continuation of my favorite images from 2014:

If you enjoyed these, check out Part I. And this was just a small fraction of the great memories we made.

On to 2015 and beyond!

Best of 2014 - Part I

The following is a small selection of best of moments in 2014.
I made it into two posts so the download would be faster. If you enjoy, chck out Part II.

We had so many good times and saw so many great places it was very hard to cull down the number of images.  These are in no particular order, neither by date nor favorites. 

No words are needed to remind me of when and where.  If you're curious about any, post a comment and we'll get back to you...

More in Part II.

Friday, December 26, 2014

John Pennekamp - Beach Snorkelng

Note: snorkel practice did not yield any useful pictures!

After spending money on some good goggles to go with our new snorkel tubes, we decided we had better use them!  I'm not sure where we would use them, once we leave the Keys.  Craig says "South Padre Island", but what I see on the web varies a lot in opinions as to the clarity of the water there. We'll see. It does look like we could snorkel in Southern California if we have good wet suits.  I wonder if we can rent them.  But I might be scared of sharks!  Lots of seals and sea lions lure sharks.

Anyway, on Sunday we went over to the beach in Pennekamp, and gave it another try. Although we didn't see very many fish or other beautiful things, we both gained a lot of confidence. Neither of us used flippers, since the waters were so shallow and rocky it would have been difficult to walk on the bottom with them.  I found wearing a thin, stretchy long sleeve shirt that I had bought at Old Navy last year was enough, and it wasn't cold enough to need a wet suit. It is a bit like a "skin" in fabric. Craig wore a long sleeve tight t-shirt and he was OK too.

We practiced some more on Tuesday. We got out to a "simulated Spanish galleon" which turned out to be a bunch of old cannons and an anchor in 10 feet or so of water. Not spectacular, but good for our experience and confidence.

On Friday we went to Sombrero Beach in Marathon.

It was a nice beach for swimming, but terrible for snorkel practice because it was very sandy and the water was murky with sand and bubbles.

We came back to Pennekamp and tried the other beach from the one we'd used before. The water was clear, and we practiced over sea grass beds.  Not many fish at all. 

But, at one point I saw something very big in my side view.  It was a very large tail. I did not see the rest of this fish because it swam away so fast!  It may have been a tarpon.  

My overall feeling is that Hawaii will be a good idea in the future!

We are talking about coming back to the Keys in two years time. If we do, I would plan on doing a private, guided reef snorkel trip. I might be able to swim off into the sea a reasonably long distance, if I had a guide to help me if I got into trouble. By myself, off a well-populated boat, I'm not so sure!

I did try flippers at the Sombrero beach in Marathon, but as soon as I went face down with my legs extended, my legs both cramped up something terrible.  I was only in four feet of water, but I had to fight to get upright.  I would be afraid if I was in the open sea without a guide.

Saturday we will be puttering around the rig getting it ready for its first drive in a month.  You know, tire pressure, battery check, and possibly running the generator for a bit.  Sunday we'll be leaving the Keys and heading north to Jupiter, Florida.  

Sadness at leaving paradise, but anticipation of new adventures!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Saturday, December 20, 2014

More about Living in the Moment, and our adventures at John Pennekamp SP

In my last post I wrote about the feeling of "living in the moment". It does not happen all of the time, but making an attempt to be there happens to me occasionally now, when it almost never did before.
Joanne commented she was concerned she would be too much of a planner and always thinking about where they would be each day.  My thoughts are, if you spend some time planning and making reservations ahead, you can stop worrying about the future and live in the now. I only worry when I don't have a plan.  Although some do like the feeling of being able to choose their overnights as they go. Different strokes for different folks.

(From Craig) Just wanted to alert anyone out there that eats food, of a terrific new snack that I found.  Wheat Thins new Sweet Onion flavor, combined with your favorite spread like low-fat cream cheese, makes the best and most satisfying snack that I've tasted in years.  If your food store doesn't stock them yet, just ask the manager to do so.  If he doesn't, you'll know you haven't been as nice as you should have, in 2014. :-)

We have had some interesting experiences this week.

On Wednesday we went on a glass-bottom boat trip from here at John Pennekamp SP, and got to get a look at the coral reef from above. The viewing windows were smaller than I expected, but we did get to see lots of coral, sponges and fish. We even saw one sea turtle swim by.

Corals come in hard and soft varieties, but some that we thought were "hard" waved in the currents, just like trees in the breeze.

I was told the Florida coral reef fish are not as colorful as those in Hawaii, and having seen some of them in the visitor center's aquarium, I was not disappointed by their somewhat drab colorations. It was just wonderful to see them in a wild ocean setting.  No keepers were feeding these!

Note: The pictures we got of the coral were better than those of the fish, but at least there were fish!

On Friday we went on a four hour snorkel trip. I have to start by saying I have never been a "boat" or a "water" person. In fact up until the last few years I was reluctant to go on boats, and downright scared of swimming in lakes.  Heated swimming pools are more to my liking. But as I have gotten older I have wanted to try some of these things, and snorkeling seemed like fun.

Craig was a little nervous, but I was all gung-ho as we got suited up in wet suits and boarded the boat at 9 AM with about 30 others. The reef is several miles from shore, and during the half hour it took us to get there, our captain and his first mate Stephanie told us about the reef and helped us adjust our equipment. She talked to each of us individually or as couples, and learned who had never snorkeled before. We felt like we were in good hands.

When we arrived at our first stop, the more experienced people jumped off the back of the boat, or went part way down the ladder and did a sort of belly flop into the sea. Then it was my turn. I was not at all afraid and flopped in.  

OH MY! Although the sea was as quite calm, it felt like the waves were huge. I had never had flippers on before, and they felt like weights on my feet. I started flailing around, the snorkel mouthpiece felt wrong, and I forgot to breathe. I was close to having a real panic attack.

Stephanie was watching me carefully, and when she saw I was in trouble she talked me back to the ladder. It was only a few feet away. When I got to it I held on, but couldn't get my flippers off to come back aboard, so one of the other snorkelers helped me.

I was very disappointed in myself, but felt I just couldn't do it. 

Craig's first time in lasted a little longer, but he too had some troubles. The flippers didn't work for him, perhaps because he uses a frog kick rather than a flutter kick. Also he had a hard time breathing. He too came back aboard quite quickly. But he went back for a second time without the flippers and although he didn't make it out to where the others were, he did swim about a bit.

If this had been the short trip, I would have been done, but we were to make three stops, with most of an hour water time at each. Here I was, 45 seconds in the water and back on the boat!

Stephanie suggested I try just going down the ladder,  getting into the water, and just hanging there for a while to get the feel of things. Knowing I was being cared for, I gave that a try and found I wasn't afraid as long as I could hang onto the ladder. I didn't have my flippers on, so I was able to get back up the ladder without help. I think this made me more comfortable too. Knowing I wouldn't be stranded in the water.

At our second stop, I was able to go down the ladder, hold on to it and get my mask into the water.
Picture from the web

I saw fishes! Lots of fishes. 

I kept a firm grip on the ladder at all times, however. After a short time I came back aboard. 

At our third stop, the Captain suggested I try hanging onto a rope that was tied to the boat and a float ball. That worked for me.  I was able to get about eight feet from the boat, float face down, breathe, and still feel safe enough. 

Barracuda from the web
I never got out to see the reef which was at least 30 yards from the boat, but I did see a barracuda just cruising along and several moon jellies. 

I can see fish in an aquarium any time. But I was actually snorkeling and that was enough for this trip and
I am satisfied, and even a bit proud of myself for not giving up. 

We may try this again sometime.

Craig also did better each time he went in. and although he too did not go all the way out to the reef, he was able to see more than I did. We have bought each other goggles as Christmas presents, and will be wading out at the beach next week to practice in some shallower waters. 

Have you tried anything new lately? 
How did you do?

Sunday, December 14, 2014

More Alive

I've been preparing my next post that was to be about a day in Key West, but decided to post this instead.

Tonight I realized I felt more alive, and more content than I have in years. I was just sitting outside the rig in the dark listening to the crickets or whatever bug is making the noise, when I realized I was living in the now. 

I am no longer waiting for something.  

This is it, and I am very comfortable with the here and now.

I often talk to other RVers, either full timers like ourselves, or people enjoying a few days in the parks.  I am often asked if I have any regrets, and the answer is a resounding NO!

I am not looking back, nor am I looking forward.  I am enjoying the days as they happen, good or not. 

Although it is a challenge some of the time, I really enjoy going to a new place and discovering new things. After a week or so I feel like the place is home, but I am also ready to move on.

This life may not be for everyone, but I am SO glad we gave it a try.

I waited a long time to be here. 

Now is my best time.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Catching up from the Keys

Oh my! Only two more nights at Long Key State Park before we will be pulling out and driving all of 35 miles to our next destination in Key Largo.

These are some of the things we have enjoyed while here:

A short but magical walk thru a dense mangrove forest. It went from the Highway to the Florida Bay side of the park in 1/4 mile. It really felt jungleish!

Watching our next-door neighbor fishing with a net. He didn't catch anything, but it was interesting.

Visiting other beaches on the Keys. Bahia Honda State Park has a wider beach than Long Key, but there are no RV spots as close as ours is to the water.

We also drove thru Curry Hammock State Park to check out the RV spaces.  We really did luck out in getting a spot at the best park! Especially since it was my second choice. I have since heard that Bahia Honda is known for being very noisy and "a bit of a zoo".

We never seem to tire of watching the little shore birds hunting for goodies in the sand just a few feet from the Alfa.

One of our walks was a four mile stroll down the old section of the seven mile bridge that is closed to traffic, but open to walkers.

Birds seem to like it as well.

The colors of the water were beautiful. We had a moment of excitement when we saw a manta ray breach a short distance from where we were standing. Seeing animals in the wild is always a bit more exciting than seeing them in a zoo or aquarium.

Of course,
during the weeks we have been here we have sampled some of the unusual seafood offerings available at the many competing casual eateries. Craig tried the Konchwurst sandwich, and I had a Lobster Reuben. Both were good, but I don't think they will sweep the country as food fads.  We also took some fresh Hogfish filets home and cooked them on the grill. It was a very nice, mild white fish.

As we drove back and forth along the Overseas Highway we couldn't help noticing the Turtle Hospital in Marathon. We had met a couple of their people when we had the above lunch, and decided a visit would be interesting.

Part of the educational tour was viewing one of the vet techs giving a turtle a blood transfusion. The healthy donor turtle was resting in a bin in another room.

We saw many turtles in different pools. These are two of the Green Turtles who were in rehab after surgery to remove some benign tumors. Green turtles are mostly brown, with each having a unique coloration. They are called green turtles because their flesh and fat becomes green from the plants they eat.

I think this was the prettiest one. Did you know sea turtles shed layers of keratin off the top of their shells as they grow? 

We also saw some of the turtles who are permanent residents of the hospital because they would not be able to survive in the wild if they were released. We fed them by tossing "Turtle Chow" into the water. They are also fed romaine lettuce from the local grocery store.  

During these two weeks we have had to drive up to Maimi, over 100 miles, twice so Craig could have some dental work taken care of. He needed to have a root canal redone and also some painful oral surgery. He seems to be doing fine, but he is still on pain killers and antibiotics so we are taking it easy.  If he feels up to it, we want to spend the afternoon and evening in Key West tomorrow. It is his 70th Birthday.

Moonrise from our picnic table.