Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Running from the Storm

The state park where we're volunteering has called an emergency evacuation from Tropical Storm Nicole; they told us yesterday at 1 pm to pack up and move out by sunset. We were on the road by 3. We've been through many hurricanes in Texas so this isn't too scary for us. Since this is a very minimal sized tropical storm we're not too worried about it. We actually didn't run too far; in fact we broke all the rules and headed south! We moved to Sugar Loaf Key which is only about 10 miles south of where we were. The other volunteers are here too.

This KOA gets 5 stars because they were so nice to give us FREE camping because we're refugees! They have a beautiful pool, a hot tub, a poolside bar, a marina and fishing area, and a beach with a water trampoline, rock climbing float, and jungle gym! So far this evacuation has been like a vacation!

We love silly signs... Luckily our cats don't smoke!

The storm is expected to hit tonight. The weather service predicts it will cruise by to the east of us and actually make landfall on the mainland/Miami area. We're keeping a close eye on the weather channel and keeping the awning rolled up till then!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Having too much fun to blog!

Bahia Honda Key in Florida is a very small island but there's plenty to do! This week we've been swimming, snorkeling, lobstering, biking, and generally having a great time living in paradise! We have miles of beautiful beaches within easy walking or biking distance! If you're ever in the area its a great place to camp; they have several tent and RV sites that are right on the water! The volunteer workers are a very close community and everyone is very friendly. Well, I can't write much because we're getting up early to hop over to Key West and go scuba diving!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Keys!

If you take a look at our Datastorm map on the right side of this page you'll see that it looks like we're in the middle of the ocean! Well, almost.... we're in the Florida Keys! We've settled into Bahia Honda State Park and will be volunteering here for the next 3 months! We're living on a small island which is about 4 miles long and less than a quarter mile wide. When not working for the park we'll be swimming, snorkeling, diving, kayaking, and fishing! This place seems real nice and I think we'll love it here! We haven't taken any pictures yet but we'll post some as soon as we can!

Everglades NP

The Everglades .... it just sounds so... Primal. Wild. Unfenced. On your way into this huge National Park you will see this unusual road warning sign - a Panther Crossing!

The park pretty much covers the entire southern tip of Florida, excluding the Keys. It is so massive that it has FIVE visitor centers! We entered the park from Homestead, FL. This side showcased endless miles of swamps. Grassy swamps, forested swamps, and jungle-y swamps. Being from Southeast Texas and familiar with South Louisiana, we found the scenery to be very familiar.

We attempted to hike on a boardwalk through the jungle-y area but we were chased off by hoards of blood-thirsty mosquitos darkening the skies. Well, at least back home they spray poison to kill those tiny flying monsters!

One of the most interesting things we learned while we were there is that the Everglades are FAKE! Because of agricultural and residential water use, the park now has to pump thousands of gallons of water into it to keep it swampy! Millions of gallons of water devoted to the alligators, crocodiles, and mosquitoes! We only stayed there one night and were ready to move on to the Keys!

Saturday, September 18, 2010


In Boca Raton, FL we discovered the continental US's first kava bar. Kava is an herb similar to Chamomile that is calming. You can find it at most health food stores with medicinal herbs. Its totally legal, too! The owner is from Fiji where Kava is part of daily life like coffee is a daily drink for many Americans. We enjoyed learning about different kinds of Kava from Jefferey the Fijian and the bartender. We tried some and were told to shoot, not sip, since it tastes quite bitter. Yep, maybe its an aquired taste but not something you want to drink with dinner! I've used Kava extract from the health food stores before for anxiety.
It was fun to go to a bar and socialize and have a quality kava drink!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Manatees and Manta Rays

We've been visiting my awesome aunt and uncle in Jupiter, FL. Today they took us out for a day on their boat playing around Jupiter and Palm Beach. We didn't bring dive gear but we did go snorkeling off their boat. In our seven years of scuba diving together we have seen some beautiful sea life and today's snorkeling ranked up there with the best! Our first snorkeling site was a rock jetty which was covered in barnacles and a variety of corals and urchins. We saw some of the usual suspects - parrot fish, sargent majors, and other common reef fish. We found a large trumpet fish and then a huge puffer. We also saw a large group of cuttlefish! I'd never seen them before. These squid-like critters are very cool because they can change color in a way that would put a chameleon to shame. We found about 15 on today's dive which is pretty amazing. One of these strange guys kept waving his tentacles over his eyes. We don't have an underwater camera right now but here's a photo of a cuttlefish from Google:

As we were coming back towards the boat I turned and suddenly only about 10 feet away from me was a huge sea creature the size of a couch! And it was barreling down on me! I actually screamed underwater out of surprise. Then I realized it was a manatee who is one of the most gentle creatures of the sea. This particular manatee was in quite a hurry to get away from another snorkeler who was chasing it. People frequently get so excited when they see a creature in the wild like this that they want to get closer, maybe touch it, and don't realize that they are actually chasing him and he wants only to go on his way unmolested. I let him pass but it was so cool because we have seen manatees and even snorkeled with them in Florida's springs but we had not seen one in the ocean before! I just love manatees and I always tell people that they are just like huge underwater dogs! They love to be scratched (when they're in the mood) and they can be very playful and when happy they will hug themselves with their stubby flippers and roll upside down. Picture a puppy rolling on his back with his four paws up in the air. Now image it underwater. Imagine it looks like a cross between a hippo and an elephant and is the size of a full-size couch. That's a manatee!

On the next dive we went to a patch reef in the shallow waters in front of the ritzy Breakers Hotel. We were swimming along, watching the various reef denizens and schooling fish. The water was fairly clear and warm. Suddenly Chris points excitedly to my right side. There's a manta ray there!

This is the largest species of ray but this "baby" was only about six feet wide! Neither Chris or I had ever seen a manta ray so what an awesome treat. And this guy decided to hang out! The manta played on the reef swooping around us for about half an hour; we got to free dive next to it, swim under it and right above it. He would swim past us to just out of sight and then he'd turn and come back to us. Rays look just like they are flying when they swim. We were flying high after such a great day out on the boat! Thanks so much for taking us out, Jacqui and Jim!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Almost Had a Bad Wreck!

We were driving the motorhome down I-95 near Palm Beach yesterday. We had just switched drivers at a rest stop so Chris could get some work done while I drove. It had been raining on and off for a couple of hours so the roads were wet. Traffic was getting heavier as we neared the city. We were chugging right along in the far right hand lane going 55 Mph. Out of nowhere, a small car pulled into my lane and slammed on his brakes! So I smash our brakes to the floor. Things start sliding all over the motorhome. All of a sudden another small car comes sliding sideways from the opposite side of the road across the median and four lanes of traffic! He spun in a donut and somehow landed safely in the grass on the right shoulder without hitting any cars on his way across! Still the first car was in front of me with his brakes on and we're not going to slow down in time! If we hit we'll crush him! I laid on the horn. Now, Chris has always made fun of our motorhome's horn as being "squeaky" but I promise there was no squeak this day. "NNNAAA! NAAAA!!" it sounded like a fog horn! Luckily the car got the message and pulled off to the shoulder and we were able to pass safely. Besides some things moving around in the cabinets and all of us getting shaken up we're fine. The motorhome is fine, the Jeep is fine. It's a happy ending for what could have been a really horrible wreck! Of course it all happened in the blink of an eye and really its just really wonderful that everyone made it out okay!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Final Frontier!

We've found a really nice RV Park called Manatee Hammock which is right across the water from Kennedy Space Center. We're literally a 5 minute drive from the space center! The entrance tickets were a little expensive at $41 each but we decided to go anyway. The tickets do allow you to visit the space center two days and they really have a lot to see and do! We did a tour of the center, from finding out where they assemble the shuttles to how they move the rocket to the launch pad. They have an IMAX theater where we watched a movie about the Hubble telescope and they have multiple museum areas and learning centers.

Shuttle Main Engine

We toured mock ups of the shuttles. We especially loved comparing the astronaut's life to our RV living. The astronaut toilet and showers are way bigger than your average RV bathroom! However the astronauts had WAY more storage space; the floors, walls, and ceiling of the shuttle are all drawers and cabinets! RV'ers also have much nicer bedrooms than astronauts.

Space Station Bathroom

Now that's STORAGE!

Astronaut Bedroom

I guess the moral of the story is: If you want to do something cool like traveling in an RV or exploring space, you must be willing to accept that your accommodations will not necessarily be spacious! But it's worth the sacrifice!

Friday, September 3, 2010

RV drama

Today we had some fun trying to get into a new park. After a long hot day on the road, we were assigned a space which was a very tight fit for the rig; we were getting lined up between two trees... with only inches to spare from the trees on each side of the motorhome... when the RV died. It just up and died while we were completely blocking the road and snuggled up in between these two trees. And it wouldn't start again. We looked at each other and said, No Way. This is not happening!

Well, Chris put on his work clothes and started puttering with the engine to try to get it started again. The park office was really nice about it and routed traffic around us for a couple hours while Chris worked on the RV. Finally a neighbor said he'd hook up his truck and tow us out of the middle of the road. We got the chains hooked up, he had his truck in gear, and Chris tried the engine one more time... VAaRooooM! What was wrong? I asked. Duh, Chris says, it was still in gear! We'd both completely missed the fact that when it died we'd forgotten to put it in PARK! Of course it wouldn't start in gear! Wow, we feel stupid. At least we were finally able to finish parking and get the AC turned on! What an adventure! After all that hot work we decided to "cook" Subways and cold beers for dinner and then swim in the pool for a bit.
Here's the Conquering Hero!

Atlantic Ocean!

We can now say we have driven all of Interstate 10 and seen both coasts. Our RVing thus far has brought us from Texas to California then up to Oregon and Washington, through Idaho to Utah, back through Texas again, and we have now reached the Atlantic Ocean. Here are two comparison photos of when we hit the Pacific versus the Atlantic.

Pacific Ocean:

Atlantic Ocean:

This coast is SO much warmer and the RV spots are dirt and grass instead of the concrete parking lots we found in California. We're loving Florida!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

New Orleans (around here they say N'or-Luhns)

We finally left Texas and are on our way to Florida. We're traveling at a leisurely pace and New Orleans is a fun town and its right on the way. Chris and I have both been to the French Quarter before but not since before the hurricane. Besides the addition of a "Hurricane Katrina" tour to the many tours available in town, the Big Easy seems pretty much the same as we remembered it.

We're staying at nearby Fountainbleu State Park. There is a pretty little hike through the swamp to a boardwalk on the water. This is a great little state park; its just 30 minutes from New Orleans, 5 minutes from a city with lots of shopping, restaurants, and grocery stores. As long as you enjoy the deafening sound of a million frogs singing at night (which we do!) its a convenient base from which to visit the city without having to drive an RV through it.

We started with beignets at the original Cafe Du Monde. Mmm these french donuts are essentially a lump of fried bread covered in enough powdered sugar to drown a crazy ant. The famous cafe is actually kind of a dump, but it is a Bakery Icon and the food was great. A street performer actually rode up on a bicycle and serenaded us while we ate! Then we wandered through the shops of the French Quarter for a couple hours and ended up having a beer on Bourbon street. It was kind of fun but we've decided we're getting too old for music that loud! We much preferred the froggy chorus at the state park. :)