Four more weeks in Key West, then starting our journey around Florida.

This was our fourth winter in Key West, and each year we have stayed longer than the last.  Even with our delayed arrival a week into January rather than late December as we had originally planned, we stretched our time in paradise to two months and three weeks.

 

March is when the true exodus begins for the Key West Sigsbee and Trumbo Point campers as they head, north, most far north it seems, for their permanent homes or full time RV adventures.  Sure, some linger into April or May, heck a few die hards stay all year, but the RV population dwindles rapidly as you enter the second week of this month.  There are two major effects from this.

Just another social gathering on Sigsbee.

First, the dry camp rotation shortens considerably, dropping from a peak this year of about three weeks in late February to a mere two weeks by mid March.  In past years unaffected by hurricane damage the rotation peaked at about five weeks, so this has been a nice year for getting into full hook up all around.  This month we completed our second full hook up two week allowance, shifted to dry camp for three weeks, and then back to full for nine days before departing on the 30th.  The site options in dry camp also opened up nicely; we did our last dry rotation not in water front, but one row back from it.

Our last dry camping site, one row back from waterfront. 

The second effect, at least this year with the late start for many of the campground regulars, seemed to be a frantic increase in the party schedule and social activities as everyone works hard to get in one last hurrah or perhaps a departure celebration of some sort.  Like last year, the most memorable and interesting must be Cinco de Marcho, an obviously made up holiday which allows the Sigsbee crowd to combines elements of all of the actual holidays that we will not spend together.  Thus elements of Cinco de Mayo, Easter, and St Patrick’s day feature prominently.

 

This year, the event paid homage to the seemingly defunct Sigsbee Shuffle parties from past seasons by moving the celebration, via decorated bikes, golf carts, and other means, through multiple hosts before ending the evening at Eddie and Tina’s (natch.)  We signed up as hosts, putting out our market tables in the serendipitously empty lot beside us, and throughout the hours leading up to the event ended up with at least six other cohosts lending their time, food, drinks, and decor to our party spot. 

We continued to be a bit more liberal in our restaurant outings than usual, with returns to Kennedy’s, Hogfish, Lucy’s (of course), Angelina’s Pizzeria, both Rick’s and Irish Kevin’s for drinks, the on base Sunset Lounge, and, at Steve and Deb’s urging, a second go at Bistro 245’s awesome Sunday brunch. 

A great evening at The Boat House for their wonderful half priced appetizers

Though intending to include El Siboney, a Cuban eatery on Stock Island receiving rave reviews from our friends, we never managed to fit it in to our plans this winter, but intend to make it a priority next season.  We did make a quick stop at the extremely affordable El Mocho, also on Stock Island, for some warm Cuban bread, and having seen some of the other offerings, we plan to return.  Stock Island lacks the craziness of Key West, especially downtown Key West, and thus the atmosphere and prices are better.  We are now up to four destination restaurants there between the two Cuban joints, Rustica, and Hogfish.

On the market front, after working about ten events a month for five straight months we were feeling burnt out, and as we entered March our sales dwindled, probably because of the decreasing number of tourists.  In response we elected to take a pause from markets for a while.  The Lower Keys were no longer producing for us, and we don’t expect to be in one place long enough to do more than a couple or one shot markets until June at the earliest.

We made one trip out of the keys during this month to attend long time friend Mathew’s wedding to Ana Lucia on Key Biscayne near Miami.  It was a lovely and intimate ocean front wedding with an excellent reception at a local marina restaurant’s top floor room overlooking the bay.

We kept our costs down by using a free hotel night certificate on the verge of expiring, which allowed us to stay in the very ritzy Confidante Hotel on Miami Beach.  We also enjoyed very low priced transportation via our first ever Lyft rides to and from the wedding.  Aside from our first timer’s sign up discount, Lyft offers an option to keep costs down by selecting the ride share option, which, if there is room in the car and demand, allows the driver to pick up other passengers and thus distribute the fee across more than one party.  Neat if you are not pressed for time or allergic to strangers! Let us refer you, use code Jack73005

The balcony view from our Miami Beach hotel

With Dennis and Ginger getting their little flat bottom fishing boat down to Key West for the first time, we had several more angler outings that were mostly successful.  We had a solid half day on the water with Dennis, Steve, and I hauling in a good number of Lane Snapper, Grunts, and Porgies.  Ginger joined us for another successful round, and Rose did the same, with our ever growing stash of fish beginning to crowd the freezer. 

Dennis’ boat.  The little Suzuki Sidekick has no trouble pulling it up the boat ramp.

We pushed it too much though; on a day when the weather report was decisively wrong we went out in worsening conditions, caught almost nothing, and managed to get one of our crew pretty sea sick.  We look forward to more outings on Dennis’ boat, but we are gonna check those conditions a bit more thoroughly first.

Marina fish cleaning station.  If you want any of the catch, you gotta help with the cleaning.

With our time in Key West coming to a close and a lot of travel planned this year, March meant a maintenance for everbody.  Rose continued her upper back pain management plan, and Pad Kee Meow had her annual check up and rabies shot at the make shift vet clinic on Sigsbee Annex manned by personnel from Patrick Air Force base two days per month.  It came as no surprise that she is considered over weight, tipping the scales at 15.7 pounds.  Accordingly, we have sought out new cat food with a lower calorie per cup count, and are being a bit more strict with her portion control. 

Maybe a bit chunky, but still looks beautiful in close up!

As for the inanimate members of the gang, Loki got an oil change; I sprang for the high mileage Mobil One full synthetic so I don’t have to change very often.  Same goes for Serenity’s big Onan generator, though I do still need to change the spark plugs and clean the spark arrestor.  We also did a full restowage of all of the under belly compartments, shifting market related items to the less accessible areas, reinstalling Loki’s back seat, and attempting to purge or sell as many unused things as possible.

Even though we have owned and lived in Serenity for more than two years, we are still learning things about her, particularly the odd house electrical distribution system.  Though we don’t have a single standard electrical outlet that runs off the deep cycle house batteries, it turns out that the water heater does, in fact, run off of them.  We found this out the hard way: by killing the house batteries, of course.

Another one of Rose’s Cricut creations.

After we got them charged back up, it took some trial and error before we found the culprit.  Limited dry camping and frequent generator use had hidden this problem from us for a while, but the extended dry camping time in Key West ultimately exposed it.  We are now a lot more careful about turning off the water heater whenever we are not plugged in.

In our waning days we finally got around to doing two things we should have done years ago.  First, we got over to the waterfront recreation area on Truman Annex, yet another piece of navy property in Key West.  It provides a different beach combing experience and some really pretty tide pool type areas. 

Second, I finally picked up a Florida State Park lifetime pass.  This is free to all Florida veterans with any degree of service related disability.  I have a very small amount, but it’s enough to get the pass.  This does not do anything to lower the camping fees, but for day use in any FL state park we now get our car in for free.  Nice!

Two days before the end of the month we said our goodbyes and headed up the road to Coral Springs where we would spend time with Rose’s sisters, niece, family and friends at Xavier and Joy’s.  More on that in a future post. 

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