Back to The Keys with the Sunshine Statesmen

Last year, while we still owned our ’78 GMC Motorhome, we committed to attending the final rally of the 2013-2014 season with the GMC Sunshine Statesmen.  As I have mentioned before, this is a fantastic group of helpful and enthusiastic classic GMC Motorhome owners, and once you’re a member they don’t kick you out if you shift to “SOB” (Some Other Brand) status. So last weekend we packed up the Big Kahuna and headed south towards Marathon Key for three days of fun, sun and comradery.  

Our intention had been to wake up early on Friday, pick up the bus at our storage lot on the Opa Locka Coast Guard Station (thank you, tax payers, for this heavily subsidized and secure storage option available to all military retirees) to start the 2.5 hour drive deep into the Florida Keys.  Some of you may recall that last year we took a one night, two day trip this way in the Silver Shell, and absolutely loved the very affordable state park we had spent the night in during that trip.  So on a whim, I started daily checks of the Florida State Park reservations website, knowing that our preferred location is extremely popular with RVers and campers, and thus very hard to get into on short notice. 

This tactic, emphasize enough I can’t.  People change their minds, plans alter, life happens, and so the attentive and persistent can often find last minute openings at the popular places through daily checks of the reservations sites.  This process paid off last year for our short notice trip to the Keys, and again when the remarkable Gamble Rogers State Park opened up for us the night before we needed it during our trip South with the bus, and for the third time we got lucky, locking in a one night stay at Bahia Honda State Park for the night before our planned arrival at the GMC Rally in Marathon. Thursday afternoon I left work a bit early, Rosemarie and I loaded up the bus, and delayed only slightly for repair of an air system leak near the windshield wiper controls that I had discovered the previous day during my preparatory checks, we headed south towards Big Pine Key.  We beat rush hour traffic and enjoyed a scenic and relatively low stress three hour drive, arriving in the very early evening in time to explore, do some geocaching, and enjoy the perfectly positioned sunsets that Bahia Honda offers.  ImageImageImage

The next day we snorkeled in the protected bay, explored the bridge overlook, found one more geocache, and then packed up the bus for a short trip up to Marathon Key for the rally.  We have been having a battery charge problem of late, which we resolved with a fast charge, and the reverse gear solenoid still needs replacing, but our mechanic Mario at Diesel Outlaw, had shown us a short term fix that allows us to get the bus into reverse gear until he can make permanent repairs.  So after a 30 minute drive north we arrived at the Jolly Roger Travel Park in time for cocktail hour with the GMC Sunshine Statesmen. Image

Spoiled as we are by wonderful and low priced state parks, as well as a couple of Passport America affiliated private parks (PA membership proffers a 50% discount at these spots, referrals available!) I was highly skeptical that this private park would be worth even the out of season rates ($74, more for the premier locations near the seawall).  But the GMC club negotiated a 25% discount, the park is fantastic, the managers are some of the most helpful and enthusiastic we have encountered, and the amenities are top notch. Image

Our friends, the Nieves, joined us the next day with their three girls, and we all enjoyed the cute salt water pool, outdoor cabanas, and of course the protected snorkeling area.  This lagoon is teeming with Florida lobster!  The entire seawall is lined with them in every crevice.  In addition to the thousands of near shore fish species, big hermit crabs, gorilla crabs, and coral banded shrimp, we also got lucky with a small nurse shark completely out in the open.   ImageImage

The Big Kahuna is set to comfortably accommodate four adults, but with an air mattress in the dining area and a tiny, kicking, squirming, early rising child stuffed into the foot of one bed, we made it work for seven for one night.   We followed a leisurely morning at the lagoon and pool with a grilled lunch and an early afternoon pack up and departure.  Rosemarie and I are starting to get the arrival and departure routines down to a smoothly flowing process of delineated responsibilities, often involving my assigned role of mild to moderate swearing and her assigned role of calming influence, and with only a bit more battery drama we were off and running for the 2.5 hour return drive home. 

Geocaching!

The untold want, by life and land ne’er granted,
Now, Voyager, sail thou forth, to seek and find.

― Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass

As Jay Leno, or at least a parody of him, would say: “Have you heard about this? Have you seen this?” This being geocaching. We had heard about this adult version of GPS-enabled Easter egg hunting last year, and decided to give it a try. What fun! The gist of it is that participants have hidden thousands upon thousands of caches throughout the world, and posted the GPS coordinates, descriptions, and hints on the main website. Registered users can check the site or a mobile app for caches near them or in any designated area, and navigate to the caches, find them, and log it in to keep track of your finds. It is far more fun than I am making it sound, and is great for learning about an area or breaking up the monotony of a long trip. The range of difficulty, by which I mean both the terrain and cleverness of the hiding spot, varies from easy to very difficult. Rosemarie and I started with a couple of caches a dozen blocks north of our condo in Miami Beach, and have since enjoyed the hobby during out trip across Alligator Alley, in and around Punta Gorda, and most recently in Bahia Honda State Park in the Florida Keys. As this is a rather esoteric subject that might not be of interest to many of the tens of readers we have, we will be keeping most of our geocaching information and posts in a separate tab, which you can find near the top of our site just below the header picture of the Big Kahuna bus.