40 Months Fulltiming: April 2018 Report

Still catching up, but less than three weeks behind now!
The Distance:  841 miles as we really pick up the pace, working our way out of Florida.  Running total for 2018 is 1674 miles.   May will likely be a significantly higher mileage month.
The Places:  We departed Coral Springs and crossed to the southern Gulf Coast with stops at Koreshan State Park, Venice (twice,) Sanibel Island, and Fort Myers.  We then made our way north and out of the state, along the way spending time at Wekiwa Springs State Park and O’Leno State Park to visit cousins before crossing the Georgia border to begin our stay at Wanee Lake Golf and RV Resort.  This worked out to 10 nights in state parks, 11 in private campgrounds, and 9 in relatives’ houses.  Of those 21 days in campgrounds we had 17 days with full hook up connections, and 4 with just power and water.
The Budget: We barely squeaked under by 0.4% this month.  The lack of markets, increased gas expenditures, a full fill up of the big propane tank, and eight days at our most expensive park were just offset by the nine days staying free or nearly so with relatives.  We remain well under budget for the year so far, though May could be a challenge with what I anticipate will be three or four full fill ups of Serenity’s 75 gallon tank.
The Drama and the Improvements:  We purchased a new under water point and shoot camera, the very affordable Fujifilm XP 120, so some of our pictures should start looking better, though admittedly we still use our smart phones for most of them.  After years of coming to the island to shell, we found a Junonia in Sanibel!  And I have a nearly new mountain bike thanks to Rose’s brother Jerry; he had an extra one with a bent rear wheel, and I happened to have a spare wheel from my Key West bicycle repair days.  Other than that, most of the improvements were performed on Gloria’s new house in Venice.
Our monthy reports so far this year:

 

 

And here are our 20172016, and 2015 annual summaries which include monthly report links.

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Last week in Florida: Venice, Wekiwa Springs, and Gainesville

On our way north from Sanibel we stopped in to Gloria’s, initially intending on staying a few hours before moving up the coast a bit to spend a weekend at MacDill Air Force Base.  With the weather forecast worsening, we decided to once again forego our Tampa area plans and stay in Venice a couple of days, particularly with Venice Ranch extending their $5 a night storage fee offer in the empty lot next to Gloria’s house. 

So it was another 48 hours of gardening and errands, for which we were rewarded every day with more excellent cooking.  PKM continued her daily hunting practice, slightly reducing the population of lizards, but mostly just getting some much needed exercise.

PKM getting her nails trimmed.  She doesn’t fight, but she doesn’t cooperate either.

From there it was back to Wekiwa Springs State Park for a few days of relaxation,  reorganizing, and prepping our rig for a multi month journey through the northern states and beyond.  For those interested in this excellent central Florida state park: if full hook up (as opposed to electric and water only) is important to you, make sure you check your reservation carefully; while most sites have sewage, about a quarter of them do not.

Our last site at Wekiwa Springs State Park

From Wekiwa we made the short drive north to Gainesville, securing a one night reservation at O’Leno State Park.  We had timed our visit for a weekend so that Cousin Rob and the twins, Maeve and Nola could camp with us.  Colleen was working late shifts and unable to join our party, but we made the best of it with a quick dip in the O’Leno River, a nice campfire, and smores for everyone.  There may have been some beer and other spirits consumed as well.

 

We also handed off our gift package we had been collecting for the girls, consisting of our highly coveted casino playing cards, books from the Sanibel Library $1 a bag sale, some balsa wood airplanes (a true hit with the twins) and assorted other trinkets.


While O’Leno is a nice wooded state park, the river has almost zero visibility due to high tannin leakage from vegetation, and so is not exactly an ideal swimming spot.  Next time we are passing through Gainesville we will plan a bit further in advance so that we can secure one of the sites at Florida’s newest state park, Gilchrist Blue Springs.  Rob says it has some of the best swimming springs you can find, so we look forward to an even better family camping experience, hopefully this Fall as we are making our way back to Key West.

A skink we found while geocaching with the twins.

We closed out April with a run up to South Georgia, but more on that next post.

Back to Sanibel. And yes, we found a Junonia!

For those not in the know about Junonia’s, I’ll make that clearer down post.

After leaving Gloria’s in Venice we made the little over an hour ride back south and across the causeway ($12 for our two vehicles) to Periwinkle Park, one of our perennial faves, with Rose focused on replenishing her shell collection, and hopefully adding some new and interesting things to it.  After setting up camp we celebrated our arrival with a quick drive around the island and big fried chicken meal at The Pecking Order.

Our corner site at Periwinkle Park.  Almost ideal.

We had asked for and been the spot we had during our visit in December, #227, which suited our space, privacy, and cat needs particularly well.  One of the lessons learned is that what is good in one season might be awful in another, as we found out parked under a wonderful large ficus tree of a particular species that produces massive amounts of little purple squashable berries throughout the spring, and we were there for prime bombardment season.   

This is about three days worth of droppings.

As for the shelling, it was pretty spectacular.  We hear reports from people that were disappointed in their Sanibel shelling.  We can only conclude that they went to the nearest beach and didn’t change things up by trying other parts of the island with a willingness to walk a ways; conditions change, and shelling on one area may be poor one day and great the next. 

One of the shell mounds Rose found. A couple of feet deep in places.

The closest beach to our park has only occasionally been good, Light House Point is sometimes quite decent and frequently just so-so, but the miles in between Bowman’s Beach and the Sanibel-Captiva cut have been a reliable producer for Rose.  I frequently drop her off at one end and pick her up hours later with her net bag weighted down with her haul.

Half way through our stay our friends from Sigsbee Rusty and Charito joined us; we had adjust our dates to assure we would have overlap with there stay.   The four of us, or in pairs, had many great outings over the course of three days.  Rose and Charito had a fantastic day of shelling from Bowman’s Beach, while Rusty and I did some geocaching, during which I finally cleared every physical cache on the island, some of which would have been particularly difficult without Rusty’s geosense. 

We did a part driving, part walking tour of Ding Darling National Refuge, including sections Rose and I had missed during our previous tour.   We were fortunate enough to see a mama gator and a handful of her recent brood in one of the canals of the estuary.  Can’t recommend this place enough for those on the Island, and with an annual national park pass (or senior lifetime pass) you get in for free. 

Another strong recommendation: the Sanibel Library.  Lacking a cable internet connection, we rely on our Verizon cell data plan, which has gotten progressivly better over the years, but even their “Unlimited” plan has some built in restrictions, strangling download speed for each device once you reach 15 gigs.  With these restrictions we have become local library hounds, frequenting them for the free wifi, but often running into unexpected benefits.  We saw a birds of prey live demo, a concert by the local chapter of the Sweet Adelines, and a presentation on the solar eclipse (along with free viewing glasses), as a few examples.

The park does not allow dogs, and the few cats there are inside animals, so the local rabbits don’t have much in the way of self preservation training.

This year the Sanibel Library came through big time.  Due to renovations their normal $10 annual membership fee was waived, and by signing up we not onl had access to books, DVDs, and a surprising assortment of other items, we were also able to check out passes to the island’s nationally renowned Shell Museum.  During past visits we had just not been convinced that the $15 a head admission would be worth it.  But with our library passes we were able to get in free, and the four of us thoroughly enjoyed it.  By the way, the library also has passes to the museum and Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife (CROW). 

In addition to return visits to The Pecking Order and the very affordable Island Pizza, we finally got around to trying what may be Sanibel’s most famous eatery, The Island Cow.  It did not disappoint.

OK, lets get to that Junonia.  In terms of Florida Gulf Coast shelling, the prize find is a Junonia.  Its not the biggest or even the prettiest shell from the region, but it is the rarest.  Thanks to our trip to the Shell Museum, we learned why it is so unusual to find them: they are not living near shore like nearly every local beach find, but rather lives 150 miles off shore in a couple of hundred feet of water.  So to get to the beach, it has to be rolled a heck of a long way mostly up hill.

Honestly, I never expected that we find one; people have been coming to Sanibel for decades without even finding the broken remnants of one.  Heck, I had already started planning to just buy one for Rose’s birthday: $50 bucks gets you a decent medium sized one.  So: on our last full day in Sanibel, Rusty, Charito, Rose and I parked at the small public lot near the Sanibel-Captiva cut, and were walking and shelling along the shore, finding large mounds of shells to dig through. 

This one had a lot of damage, and was not the Florida Horse Conch I kept, but it had a cool crab inside it, so photo.

We eventually passed a group of three people in chest deep water with mask and snorkels searching in the low visibility water, and successfully finding half a dozen large Florida Horse Conchs (a great find in and of itself.)  Thus motivated I joined them, and in short order found my own Florida Horse Conch (our first.)  This was, I though, the topper for the day.

We moved on down the beach, and I went back in thinking we might find another big conch.  , and as I pushed along the bottom I saw it, the tell tale regularly spaced brown spots on the off white background rocking gently on the bottom.  I snatched it, still only half believing that I had found one, and rushed out of the water shouting for Rose.  It was undeniable, Junonias are quite distinctive and don’t have any particularly close imitators in this region.  Besides, we took it on a victory tour which included the Shell Museum, our favorite local shell shop, and three of the other RV sites that showed signs of a serious sheller.

So there you have it, our highly successful and fun eight days in Sanibel before we start moving north in earnest.  Next post: A short stop at Gloria’s again before nearly another week In Wekiwa Springs State Park north of Orlando.

Four days in Venice with Mama Gloria before backtracking south to Ft Myers.

We left Koreshan State Historic Site and headed an hour up the road to Venice, where Rose’s mom, Gloria, had recently purchased a new home at Venice Ranch Mobile Home Estates.  After some negotiation, they gave us a very reasonable daily storage fee for Serenity in the empty lot next to Gloria’s new place.

Serenity’s storage spot next to Gloria’s “Little Shack”

This was somewhat new territory for my mother-n-law: living on her own, sole ownership of a new place, establishing complete independence.  We came prepared for labor since her new “Little Shack,” as she calls it, needed some work, and she had way too much “stuff” for the square footage there.  So we all set to work: moving furniture and sorting out basic maintenance, but also doing one of my favorite activities: selling stuff on Craigslist.  After some discussion, we identified ten or so bulky items; things she just didn’t need and couldn’t reasonably store, and so up for sale they went.  In our short stay there we made five sales, and what didn’t sell she either re-purposed or it ended up at Goodwill.

Another one of Rose’s Cricut productions.

During our visit we were happy to have a couple of visits with Rose’s brother, “Baby” Jerry and our niece Laura and nephew DJ.  Both are working teenagers, finding there way in a world with no small degree of confusion as to job security and future prospects.  Special thanks to Jerry for helping me change out Loki’s leaking head gasket, as well as identifying the source of his coolant leak, since repaired.

Florida’s unpredictable weather altered our plans for a two day visit to MacDill Air Force Base, and instead we extended our stay at Gloria’s, enjoying a plethora of Puerto Rican dishes while we continued assisting her in getting the house in order.  PKM loves Gloria’s new place; she has a screened in lanai that provides out door like stimulation, the yard and bushes are crawling with lizards, and every now and then something truly interesting comes to visit.

This rabbit came every evening we were there.

The wood stork was particularly enjoyable.  It stayed for half an hour, jostling for position with our cat, moving from one end of the porch to the other as kitty pressed up against whichever screen panel was closest to this oversized bird.  We figured that the previous owner fed the thing since it exercised such devotion to this site.

After four days we packed up and headed back south, stopping in Ft Myers for one night before our Sanibel reservation.  Rose wanted to check out Ft Myers beach, so I found a Passport America participant, Groves Mobile Home and RV Park, that fit our needs.  Though our check in customer service was excellent and the park appeared very well maintained, the roads are quite tight, as are the sites.  With some maneuvering we worked ourselves into a nice site with a couple of big trees.

We then made the short drive to Ft Myers beach and found it… wanting.  Granted, there is still some Spring Breaker activity going on, but in general we thought it way to kitchy and touristy.  Crowded and filled with trinket stores, bar after bar, and little else, it reminded me a lot of Cocoa Beach; just not our thing.  Regardless, The Groves was a solid prepositioning point, since we were able to transfer to Sanibel in less than half an hour the next morning.  More on that next post.

Working our way out of Florida with visits to both coasts: Coral Springs and Koreshan State Historic Site.

As mentioned in our March in the Keys post as well as the March Report, we ended the month with a drive up to Coral Springs, staying with Xavier and Joy for four days.  We timed the stop to overlap with two of Rose’s sisters’ visits there.  Dolores, Josh and Tamiri flew in from California, and Melissa from New York.

Tamiri opening her Easter basket from us, with lots of Cricut enhanced items.

The city of Coral Springs does a massive Easter Egg “hunt” for the local children, with dozen’s of volunteers organizing the kids by age group and having separate “heats” for each group.  The plastic eggs are scattered quite liberally all over the ground and hay bails in the designated area, and no child walks away without a few.  Niece Tamiri certainly got her share. 

Somehow we did not take a pic from the big Easter Egg Hunt, but here is one from the private, Tamiri only hunt Dolores arranged at Xavier and Joy’s house.

We also enjoyed a great afternoon at Melissa’s friends Ralph, who threw a taco barbecue event for us with wayyyy more food than we could eat.  Ralph’s cousin visiting from Georiga is a chef, and the results of his work were clearly indicated by those of us that had to have just one more taco before lolling in a semi stupor waiting to digest. 

Ralph, Tamiri, and Bardock, who is named after the father of Goku from the Dragon Ball Z anime series, because geek.

We also were fortunate enough to have our time in Coral Springs include Easter, and managed to bring together a decent sized gathering of family and friends for a robust meal.  Which is another way of saying I cooked a full turkey, again using my never-failed-me three step process: brine it overnight, get the butter and herbs under the skin, and spatchcock it.  I love this recipe so much I would make at least three turkey’s a year given the opportunity. This year I managed to get an even better surface browning thanks to a tip from Ralph’s cousin. 

For our last day in Coral Springs, Rose and I hit a couple of Best Buy stores to pick up one of her long time wish list items: a new waterproof point and shoot camera.  I had narrowed the field to five contenders, of which we were able to find three to compare in person.  Surprisingly, Rose was perfectly happy with one of the less expensive options in the group, the Fujifilm XP120.  For a compact camera it has a nice big screen, easy controls, only one water tight door to deal with (some models have two),  and will certainly be suitable for the shallow water snorkeling we enjoy. 

From Coral Springs we crossed over to the Gulf Coast for a short stay at Koreshan State Park near Bonita Springs.  It is an odd place, founded by a utopian religious group called the Koreshan Unity, that, as best I can tell, were very arts oriented, had a few hang ups about with whom and for what purpose their members had sex (surprise!) and believed we were all living inside the earth, not on the outside surface.  Huh.  Anyway, the group petered out in the early 20th century and the last surviving member deeded the Unity’s land to the state, which eventually turned it into the Koreshan State Historic Site. 

Our site at Koreshan State Park.  Reasonably spacious with some privacy.

The property is beautiful, and deviates from the scrub forest setting that many of the states central and southern properties have.  We also encountered some wild life, which we would most definitely have missed had it not been for our sharp eyed and keen of hearing cat.   She found two black snakes ( or possibly one snake two times) while we were having cocktails (Rose and I, not the cat and I) one evening. 

Another night she was pressed up in full alert mode against the window behind the kitchen sink, a place she knows she’s not supposed to be.   Her demeanor suggested something interesting, and upon investigation we found this. Awesome.  Good cat. 

These things are nearly blind, and I was able to get right up to him, close enough to touch while he was foraging wood ants.

Koreshan’s location allowed for easy day trips to three beaches on Rose’s shelling radar: Lover’s Key State Park, Barefoot Beach County Preserve, and Little Hickory Island Beach Park.  We tried out Lover’s Key first, using our new Lifetime Florida State Park Pass for free day use entry.  It is an excellent state park with plenty of parking and a really nice beach a few hundred yards from concession and parking areas, and even offers a tram service for those that might have trouble with that distance.

The beach itself was quite nice, and we were lucky enough to be there on a day with relatively clear water.  Aside from The Keys, most of the Florida Gulf Coast beaches we have visited have had terrible water visibility, so it is nice to luck out and have reasonable near shore snorkeling.  While the shelling was limited, once in the water we spotted plenty of live fighting conchs, a horse conch, large lightening whelks and an olive snail. 

Florida Horse Conch

On the way home from there we made a scouting run by Little Hickory Island to help decide between there and Barefoot Preserve for the next day’s outing.  It looked like a nice enough beach but pretty similar to Lovers Key, but much more crowded, so we spent our last full day Barefoot Preserve instead.  This was the right decision.  It is a long beach, and therefor easy to find spots that are not particularly crowded.  Though the water was not as clear as our day at Lover’s Key, the beach shelling was significantly better, and we had compared for a longer beach stay than normal, using our fat wheeled market wagon to tote our cooler, lounge chairs, snorkel gear, and beach umbrella.

We closed out the day with stops at a couple of local thrift stores before setting in for a calm evening to ourselves before heading to Venice to see Rose’s mom Gloria the next day.

39 Months Fulltiming: March 2018 Report

And just like that we are now only one month behind in the blog, and expect to close that gap decisively in the next few days.

The Distance:  192 miles, 2 of which were between dry and full hook up spots in Key West, with the remaining 190 miles coming as we left The Keys for Coral Springs.  The annual mileage is up to 833.  April will really see the miles start to build as we meander through and out of Florida.

The Places:  NAS Key West for four weeks and then two days at Xavier and Joy’s.  That means 28 days in the military campground, and two nights in relatives houses.   We enjoyed 15 days in full hook up, and 13 dry camping, and 2 in a house.

The Budget:  After two months nicely under budget, March saw us 9% over.  Four factors contributed:

  1. We only had two markets, and they were kinda of busts.
  2. Our round of annual medical treatments started producing the expected bills.
  3. We really denied ourselves nothing, hitting the restaurants with far great regularity than usual, and even springing for an entire case of wine.
  4. We had an out of town wedding, and those always cost a bit.

We are still well under for the year so far, though the next few months will be a budget challenging as we begin our travels North.

The Drama and the Improvements:  Last month we moved forward on improvements to our inside decor.  This month we worked our annual maintenance on Loki and the big house generator.  We also learned, after more than two years of living in this rig, that our water heater, for some reason, runs off the house battery electrical line and can kill those batteries in short order.  One more thing to monitor when we are not hooked up!

And here are our 20172016, and 2015 annual summaries which include monthly report links.

Update to the Where Are We Now page

While keenly aware that we fell 3 and 1/2 months behind on the blog while we hooped it up in Key West, I had forgotten about the need to update the Where Are We Now tab, which languished in even greater delinquency; nearly five months behind!  I fixed that tonight, completing the 2017 map as follows:

 

And then established and brought up to date our 2018 map:

 

The savvy reader will note that, as of May 3rd, this updated map include nine travel stops about which we have not yet blogged.  Clever you.  Rest assured: that number will be down to seven by May 5th, and the blogging streak I am on will have us up to date within a week.  Maybe two.

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. 

38 Months Fulltiming: February 2018 Report

We have closed the blog delinquency gap from 3 1/2 months to 2 now, and will have it down to 1 within a couple of days.

The Distance:  2 miles as we shifted from our full hook up spot to dracamping and back again at Sigsbee Campground in NASD Key West.  Total for the year is now 643 miles.  We expect March to be another low mileage run, but things will pick up in April as we begin our travels for the year.

The Places:   Just NAS Key West for the entire month.  So for this month it was 28 days in a military campground, no nights anywhere else for me, though Rose did have her monthly trip up to Virginia.  We had 19 days with full hook ups, and 9 days of dry camping.

The Budget:  Another great month for the finances; we finished 23% under budget thanks to cheap campground fees, very limited gas costs (since we hardly moved the big rig, all we had to do was keep the tank full enough to run the big generator) and a series of 11 market days.

The Drama and the Improvements:  Our biggest gripe about Serenity is the low quality of the interior and the bland decor.  The former means things inside are really showing wear, the latter just doesn’t suit our aesthetic tastes.  So we have resolved to make headway on this while we are in the Keys, and continue improvements during our travels.  We started with finishing up painting the bedroom area and then tearing out the old never used couch back there and installing a crafting work bench.  This cost us very little, particularly since the work bench is made from recovered boat deck and trim scattered along the coast from Hurricane Irma.

The other notable drama event was the final failure of Serenity’s starter battery.  When we went to leave our full hook up spot for dry camp early in the month, turning the key produced not a wit of electricity.  I got help from some neighbors with a truck starter device and made the move, but this left us with two questions: can the battery be saved and what is causing the electrical drain that killed it?  The first answer was resolved within a couple of days when my attempts to recharge it failed.  As for the latter, we still don’t know for sure, but the replacement battery from Napa is not giving us any difficulty.

Next up: Our last month in Key West until Winter.

January Monthly Report

And here are our 20172016, and 2015 annual summaries which include monthly report links.

February in Key West: (most) things return to (almost) normal.

In our January Key West post we listed the many ways things were just different this year compared to our previous winters in The Keys, mostly as fall out from Hurricane Irma.  As the season wore on, however, more and more of the Sigsbee Campground regulars arrived, and with them the social environment that so defines this place returned as well.

PKM trapped this Iguana after it had the audacity to walk through our camp site.  The thing tried to run up the side of our neighbors’ RV but could not get a grip.

A couple of days into February we shifted back to dry camp, but were fortunate enough to be assigned a waterfront location giving us not only an unobstructed ocean view, but since the original waterfront row was closed off to camping, we also had a large swath of greenery between us and the water.  Making this spot even better where our neighbors, a line of five of us that spent many an evening in our mutual back yards enjoying more than a few cocktails, excellent food, and great conversation.

Our second dry camping site, which eventually had five of us in a dangerous party line: Mike & Jenny, Sue & Bob, Steve & Deb, Terry, Rebecca & David

With infamous party starters Eddie and Tina’s return to Key West, the large scale celebrations began in earnest with a big Hawaiian themed party that must have had a hundred people present.  It seemed like every few days someone was hosting a big event, such as Leonard’s always well attended fish fry, or an impromptu concert with the local talented musicians at the unofficial sunset point.

One of several large parties this season.

Though weather seemed less conducive to swimming this winter,  there were enough nice days to warrant a large “float” in the calm and crystal clear waters just off the dry camp landing.  This is another one of those things absent in January that made the month feel “off.”

Finally had good weather for a float.

Taco Tuesday at Lucy’s returned to the preeminent mid week outing for a large contingent of Sigsbee RVers, though there was much debate as to whether the quality had gone down hill.  As such we did not attend them as regularly as last year, and I found a nice Tuesday evening alternative in Denny’s Secret Sirloin Steak Special, available only at their bar, it included a perfectly acceptable 8 oz steak with two sides for $6.95.  Hard to beat that if you’re on a budget.

Not just good, but obviously good for you as well, right?

Having raved about a pier side brunch Rose and I enjoyed years earlier, Steve & Deb were easily convinced to give it a go despite the pricey $44 a head.  That includes unlimited Mimosa’s and an extravagant buffet replete with prime rib, sushi, stone crabs, oysters and dozens of other options.  It is one of the best brunches I have ever had.   Suffice to say everyone left happy and full. 

In addition to a couple of favorites from previous years (Lucy’s, Kennedy’s, Bistro 245, Hogfish) we explored a handful of new restaurants this season.  We had a great evening out with a happy group at Geiger Key Marina (which turns out to have the same owners, and thus menu, as the Hogfish Grill on Stock Island.)  We enjoyed an excellent smoked salmon and cream cheese bagel platter at Goldman’s Deli, and a drinks included sunset cruise for Deb’s birthday. 

Our big group at Geiger Key Marina

Our friends from Whidbey Island, Bruce and Nancy, were making a lengthy RV migration across the country and ended up in the middle keys for a few days.  We were able to meet half way, at No Name Key near Big Pine Key, where they proclaimed the Cheeseburger Pizza there the best they have ever had.

Nancy & Bruce at No Name Pub

Rose made another trip up to Virginia to see Linda and the rest of the family, while I held down the fort in Key West.  I used the time to finally address the poorly arranged situation in the rear of our rig: a couch that never sees use taking up valuable real estate.  I ripped that sucker out and built a work bench for Rose’s crafting using found wood left over from Hurricane Irma boat wreckage.  Total cost: zero dollars, though I will have to buy a large plywood section to finish the floor.

The fishing continued unabated, with our best outing on Leonards big Twin Vee boat.  The highlight was Steve’s shark that was big enough to keep and get a handful of nice filet’s off, which prepared properly are absolutely delicious. 

Shark, before.

We continued our aggressive market schedule, though narrowing our choices to just the Wednesday Sugarloaf and Friday American Legion events, along with the annual Gardenfest at the Botanical Gardens on Stock Island and the Naval Station Family Day gathering.  All told we had ten market days in February.  Not quite a record for us, but pretty solid for a short month.

Shark, after. Served on tostones with avocado.

Rose continued expanding our market offerings; having buffed up her shell hoarde at Sanibel in December, she went all in on Mermaid Crowns.  We are also finally ahead of the holiday curve and with Easter approaching she started taking basic bunny ears and jazzing them up a bit.  It wasn’t just the kids buying these things.  Finally, she put her new Cricut machine to good work producing cheese plate/trivets and glassware with Key West or Sigsbee themed logos.

We also enjoyed various markets as buyers or just lookers without having to vend ourselves.  Key West’s annual open air Art Fair and the once a month market at The Restaurant Store were particularly interesting.

We still had nearly a month to go in the Keys, and the combination of constant social activities and aggressive market schedule began to take its toll.  For March, we would need to slow things down a bit.  More on that later.

Here is Nazir.  Nazir can fly.  His father is pleading with him to come back down.