Writing this a few weeks into the U.S’ COVID-19 pandemic, it feels a little surreal to put words to the month of January that are all happy smiles and fun times, but that is what January gave us. Our blissful ignorance of what was to come allowed it. So, no more talk about novel coronavirus impacts until I get this blog into our March adventures and challenges.
For several years now we have timed our arrival to Sigsbee campground on the Key West Naval Air Station for shortly before New Years Day. We do this partly out of nostalgia: when we began our full time lifestyle in December of 2014, we drove to Key West in late December to symbolically start our adventures at the southernmost point of the continental states. So there’s that, but mainly it just works for our schedule; we can finish our one month in Sanibel and then hit family and friends across the state during the holidays before landing in our winter campground home.
Plus there is the fun benefit of getting to Sigsbee just in time for the polar bear plunge! Sure, the water is probably 70 degrees, but a big group of us pretend it is way colder. We gather at the shoreline at the end of the dry camping area, and wade into the Gulf Coast waters out to chest deep, and take a “standing” and “plunged” photo. Then we have an hours long potluck party, the first of many for the season.
When we arrived and checked in at the MWR office, we were, as is procedure, taken on a golf cart ride around the campground in order to select out spot out of the half dozen or so available sites. With nothing on the water front row available, our choice was exceptionally easy: this site with a mature mahogany tree in our living area.
What a great site. Perfect in every way.,except one: are you familiar with mahogany nuts? They are pear sized hard shelled contraptions with five thick outer sections that, in January, explode open and drop to the ground. To the ground, that is, unless something is in the way, e.g., the roof of an RV. If you have not RV’d let me tell you that the roofs are like the skin of a drum; an acorn dropping from twenty feet up sounds like a baseball. It’s lovely during a rain, but hard objects sound like projectiles. Our first night we must have had a fifty of the mahogany shell portions hit our roof and jerk us from peaceful slumber.
I solved this problem the next morning by climbing up on our roof and using ropes, poles, and other implements of destruction to jerk and shake loose every possible mahogany nut section I could. It worked: over the course of our remaining three weeks in this spot we had very few roof drop echoes.
Oh, apparently we are bowlers now. Among the many, many activities that Sigsbee campers participate in (and there are so many that you really must pick and choose if you value sleep and your liver) is a Monday and Wednesday afternoon bowling session at the Boca Chica base lanes. It’s great fun for all skill levels, though the better bowlers are likely to walk away with a bit of cash since we usually have a men’s and women’s high score for each round, along with a poker game with a card issued for each spare and two for strikes.
Did we do some markets? Of course we did some markets! We have, with a few exceptions, transitioned away from weekly farmers markets in favor of seasonal and annual fairs. This is particularly true for the Lower Florida Keys, where once we did three weekly markets and now only do special events. Our first for the winter season was the Lower Keys Chamber of Commerce Nautical Expo (not to be confused with the weekly Big Pine Key Nautical Flea Market.) We had solid success with this expo last year, which encouraged us to lock in our same site with a deposit for this years event. We absolutely killed it this year, and have already secured our 2021 site. This two day event on Big Pine Key is a very fun affair with live music, multiple food trucks, and scores of vendors.
Rose is always on the lookout for fun and interesting things to get us out of the RV and interacting with the world. We tend to take turns being the “home body,” but when she wants to hit the town she makes a special effort to make it enticing for me to do the same. She hit it out of the park by finding Stand Up Science, a comedy road show orchestrated by Shane Mauss, who has appeared on Conan, Kimmel, Comedy Central, Showtime, BBC, and the Joe Rogan Experience. The continent travelling event entails Shane doing a cerebral science oriented stand up bit, followed by a local scientist’s presentation, then a local comedian’s bit, another local scientist, and finally a Q&A with all five on stage. It was wonderful, and I highly recommend it for anyone on the tour route.
We hit our Moose Lodges, three of them in fact. Last we were in The Keys, we did not particularly enjoy the one on Key West proper, but they have made some great improvements, turning this formerly smokey den into a great little bar. We also hit the sprawling Moose facility on Big Pine Key, which is, I think, our favorite of the five in The Keys. Finally, we ventured up the road to the lodge on Marathon, an interesting and welcoming place situated behind some warehouses where you would never expect to find a social club.
Our timing for the Marathon Moose was poor; they had no food available, though the bartender had strong opinions about where we should eat and guided us to Sparky’s Landing. What a great suggestion! We had a cocktail, craft beer, and a dozen very fresh, very tasty baked oysters encrusted in various things at an affordable price. Highly recommended.
We just love all the restaurant options in The Lower Keys. In addition to the new (for us) Sparky’s Landing, in January we reacquainted ourselves with Big John’s Pizza (for the fantastic meatball calzone, not for the actual slices.) El Mocho (Cuban slang for someone with a missing finger) is Rose’s top choice for authentic and affordable Cuban fare and will always enjoy our patronage, whether it is for a simple pan Cubano y cafe con leche (Cuban toast and coffee with milk) or the once a week special of ox tail with rice, maduro (sweet fried plantains) and garlic chick peas.
Of course, no visit to Key West will ever be complete without a visit to Lucy’s. Formerly the host of almost all Sigsbee Taco Tuesdays, in the last couple of years the crowd has split off to other venues, such as Old Town Mexican or the newly discovered Tuesday event at the poolside Hilton Garden Inn. Maybe it is all nostalgia, but I love Lucy’s, and will always consider it our go to Taco Tuesday event.