terryandcarol

Travels through Canada and the US

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Memphis, Elvis and much more. March 7-14

March 9

On our first day out and about we took the free shuttle to Sun Studio for their tour.  The $22 for 2 tickets was well worth the price.  Our tour guide, Launa, was exceptional and she made the tour lively and interesting with her knowledge and theatrics.  Sun Studio was unimpressively small and dingy but reeked of history.  We were “all shook up” (can’t help myself) listening to the who’s who of this small studio.

Terry giving his best Elvis impression

Terry giving his best Elvis impression

The famous Sun Studio

The famous Sun Studio

Sam Phillips opened the studio in 1950 as a recording studio, Marion Keisker was his assistant and the person who recommended Sam listen to the recording Elvis made at the studio.  Marion reported, “Over and over I remember Sam saying, If I could find a white man who had the Negro sound and the Negro feel I could make a million dollars”.  On July 15, 1954 Elvis was fooling around in the Sun studio after not being able to do justice to a recording of a ballad, when he began playing “That’s All Right” which was the sound Sam had been looking for and the rest is history.

Studio’s would send records to DJ Dewey Philips to play on his program “Red, Hot & Blue”.  On the day Sam gave Elvis’s record to Dewey to play on his evening program he played it 14 times after receiving many phone calls.

In 1955 a cash short Phillips sold Elvis’s contract for $35,000, an unheard of sum’ to RCA Victor.  The career’s of Roy Orbison, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, Junior Parker, BB King, Jackie Brenston & his Delta Cats, James Cotton, Rufus Thomas and Rosco Gordon benefited from the sale of Elvis’s contract.

The Southern Delta had its own music, the whites was melodic celtic folk music that brought country music.  Blacks had a rhythmic, beat driven music of “field hollers” a call and response where one voice sings the lead and is answered by the chorus.  Black churches began blending call and response with white music – African tradition interwoven music and worship.  Anglican hymns took on a new and different African rhythm.

In 1954 Johnny Cash introduced himself to Sam Phillips when Sam told Johnny to come back after he had written an uptempo weeper love song.  Cry! Cry! Cry! was released in 1955.  Johnny stuck a folded dollar bill under his guitar strings to get the raspy sound.  Johnny wrote the song “I Walk The Line” after talking to buddies about other guys running around on their wives.  Carl Perkins and the Perkins Brothers arrived at Sun Studio begging Sam for a chance to play. While playing at a dance he saw a dancer in the crowd trying to keep his girlfriend from stepping on his “blue suede shoes”. 21 year old, twice married and born entertainer, Jerry Lee Lewis sold 13 dozen of his daddy’s eggs to pay for his trip to Memphis.  Playing the piano like a wild man on the keys, playing with his feet and then it happened.  Whole Lot a Shakin in 1957 and 6 months later Great Balls of Fire, cemented his career.

Memphis Rock and Soul Museum is a Smithsonian affiliated museum, where you can see the entire Memphis music story.  Here the story begins in the rural 1930’s, urban influences of the 40’s and the radio in the 50’s.

One of the many performance costumes Elvis wore

One of the many performance costumes Elvis wore

Over 300 minutes of information and over 100 songs can be listened to on the MP3 audio guide tour.  This museum was our favourite music museum of the entire trip, as we recognized so many of the artists and sang along  to the songs (quietly).

Oh those Famous Peabody Ducks!  When we arrived at the Peabody Hotel at 4PM a full hour before the duck parade begins it was already crowded.  The red carpet was rolled out at 4:30 by the uniformed MC and duck wranger.  The tuxedoed wrangler told us  how in 1933 the general manager and his friend returned from a weekend of duck hunting and Jack Daniels consumption and thought it would be funny to place live ducks in the fountain.  The ducks were enthusiastically received by the quests and have been there ever since.

The ducks exiting the fountain and beginning the march to the elevator.

The ducks exiting the fountain and beginning the march to the elevator.

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In 1940 Bellman, E. Pembroke a former animal trainer taught the ducks the famous Peabody Duck March.  The ducks, 1 male and 4 female are mallards.  They reside on the roof of the hotel, work between 11 and 5 every day for three months and then retire to a farm to live out the remainder of their lives as wild ducks.

The famous part of Beale Street is only 4 blocks long and is blocked to traffic except at the street intersections, in total Beale Street starts at the Mississippi River and runs for 3 km.   Beale Street became the hub of the black community in the South.  The Blues were everywhere!  Every night club, dance hall, gambling place and den of iniquity had a stage with music.  Every street corner had a jug band that played for pennies.  The street was alive with energy.  To a Bluesman Beale Street was like New York’s Broadway for an actor.

These music notes with Names of Blues musicians are found in the sidewalk throughout the Beale Street area.

These music notes with Names of Blues musicians are found in the sidewalk throughout the Beale Street area.

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Officially declared a National Historic Landmark in 1966 .In 1977 Beale Street was declared Home of the Blues by an act of Congress.

Highway 61, The Blue Highway running from New Orleans to Memphis is a 400  mile drive through Southern music, soul, gospel, R’nB’ and the blues.

During the 60’s civil rights struggles Beale Street was a natural rallying place.

Graceland

We are staying at Graceland RV Park and Campground which is directly behind the Graceland Hotel and both are adjacent to Graceland complex.

Graceland was surprisingly small

Graceland was surprisingly small

Rear view of Graceland

Rear view of Graceland

Looking left between the back of the house and the racket ball building.  The neighbourhood.

Looking left between the back of the house and the racket ball building. The neighbourhood.

Finally I am here.

Finally I am here.

Wahoo, double discounts +60 and AAA.  We take our headphones and board the shuttle that takes us across the street to the Elvis Presley home and revisit the 70’s.  Immaculately kept and preserved the 15 foot white leather couch in the blue, gold and white living room to the green carpet on the floor and ceiling in the family room to the fabric covered walls and ceiling in the billiard room.  It is amazing and sad.  Fresh flowers bouquets from fans attest to the love the fans still feel for Elvis.

Come in through the front door and this is on the right, the living room

Come in through the front door and the living room is on the right

The Kitchen - oh my!

The Kitchen – oh my!

Love the 70's, ha ha, especially the matching carpet on the ceiling.  Family Room

Love the 70’s, ha ha, especially the matching carpet on the ceiling. Family Room

TV Room

TV Room

Pool Room, walls and ceiling covered in fabric.  Reminded me of a dress I wore in the 70's.

Pool Room, walls and ceiling covered in fabric. Reminded me of a dress I wore in the 70’s.

In the audio tour, Lisa Marie mentions her love of snuggling up in the chair.

In the audio tour, Lisa Marie mentions her love of snuggling up in the chair. The brick wall is a water feature

The incredible number of awards from record sales and humanitarian causes he supported line many walls and are floor to ceiling in the 30′ high racket ball court.  Some of his favourite  jumpsuits he wore to perform, the suits he wore to certain award events and Priscilla’s wedding dress are all on display.

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The memorial garden with his grave and those of his parents, Vernon and Gladys and his grandmother Minnie Mae Presley who outlived all of them.  A small plague remembers his twin brother Jesse Garon.   It would be hard not to feel sadness and regret while standing in the garden.  Elvis Aaron Presley January 8, 1935 – August 16, 1977.

Beautiful stained glass window wall behind the family graves.

Beautiful stained glass window wall behind the family graves.

The shuttle delivered us back where we toured the Elvis Automobile Museum, Live From Vegas Exhibit, Tupelo Exhibit, Hawaii Exhibit and his jets.  We loved listening to the music, watching his home movie’s and the movie’s he starred in.

The car Elvis gave his Mom

The car Elvis gave his Mom

Inside the jet "Lisa Marie"

Inside the jet “Lisa Marie”

His smaller jet

His smaller jet

The tour took us 5 hours to complete and the cost was $29 each.

After a long tiring day of touring Elvis we called the pink cadillac limo from Marlow’s to pick us up.  This restaurant has been on diner’s, drive-ins and dives and several BBQ shows.  Terry and I shared a combo platter, brisket, pork ribs and chicken, love, love it!!

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We explored Chucalissa a C.H. Nash Museum part of the University of Memphis. Chucalissa (chuck-ah-lizza) is a Choctaw word for abandoned house.  This site was an American Indian Temple Mound Complex.  It was home to 800-1000 people and occupied between 1000-1550 AD.  There were lots of hand’s on display for school kids.  The Choctaw practised head flattening by placing a small sandbag to the baby’s head as it lay on the cradle board.  It was though to make an adult look handsome, to improve the eyesight and make a man a better hunter.    The list of medicinal plants and their use was also interesting.

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The remains of the mount complex

While in New Orleans we struck up a conversation with a couple from Memphis who were attending there 22nd Mardi Gras.  They took the bus from Memphis to N.O. for a grand total of $4.20.  The further out you book the trip the cheaper it is thus the cheap total.  We choose Majestic Grill a recommendation from them.  Yummy burgers!  Dessert was served in 5 shot glasses on a wooden tray, choose a cake for $1.99 each, just a perfect size.  Lemon cheesecake and carrot cake.  We rode the Riverfront Trolley for $1.00 to get a little tour of the area and hopped off at the river and walked to the Cotton Museum.

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The Cotton Museum tells the story of how Memphis came to be.  Wonderful exhibits explain how the art, history and music evolved around the cotton industry.  Founded in 1812 it became a shipping port for cotton and African slaves whose hard work was the foundation of the southern economy.  The museum says one of the cities treasures, the Blues; evolved out of African rhythms, soulful spirituals, creative instruments and desperation.  The museum explained the grading and selling methods of cotton, the many uses.  It gave a very honest account of the cruelty of slavery times.   The audio tour was very informative.

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Some of the grades of cotton are:

1.  good middling white color

2.  strict middling white color

3.  middling white color

4.  strict low middling white color

5.  low middling white color

6.  stict good ordinary

Color, strength and trash were the determining factors to grading.

The last room, The Exploration Hall, explained how the cotton industry has changed since the 1940’s.  Planting methods are similar to wheat, ground temperature must be 68F at a 2″ depth.  The seeds germinate within 10 days.  Two months after planting flower buds appear and within 3 weeks the blossoms open and after 3 days the petals fall off leaving green pods called cotton bolls.  As the boll ripens it turns brown and finely split apart leaving the fluffy cotton.  We saw many cotton fields in North Carolina and Georgia, very picturesque.    Planting to harvest is approximately 160 days.

Choctaw Mound

Choctaw Mound

Civil Rights Museum

At the entrance to the museum

At the entrance to the museum

A sombre quiet museum. Unfortunately they have expanded and the grand re-opening will be April 4 so we had an abbreviated tour.  The exhibits tell of the key events in the civil rights movements, the Martin Luther King JR. assassination, the day is cronicled from the view of many people who with King, the residents, the police, the investigation, the life of James Earl Ray and the evidence.  The controversy so like the Kennedy assignation is confusing.  Ray recanted his confession, the amount of money he spent prior to the shooting with no explanation where he got this unearned sum from. The fingers points at the police, and the government agencies possibly both having been involved with the assination plot or the actual shooting.    I doubt if there will ever be a definitive answer.

At the Lorraine Motel where King was shot

At the Lorraine Motel where King was shot

We were warned by many that Memphis is not a safe place to be, to be careful, not to go out at night.  We never felt unsafe, the grocery store and walmart we shopped at we were a minority of two.

Memphis seems to be a busy city.  Services is the largest employer.  Three firms on the Fortune 500 list have their head office in Memphis; Fed-Ex (lucky us we were very close and can attest most of their planes take off between 2 and 3 am), HCA (Health Care) and International Paper, the largest paper company in the world.  40% of the US cotton is traded in Memphis.

Among the top industries are beef production, broilers, soybean, processed foods, grain products, bread, breakfast cereals, flour, beer, whiskey, soft drink, transportation equipment, industrial chemicals, paints, pharmaceutical’s, plastic resins and soap, mining limestone, coal, zinc and clays.

March 6 & & 7 – Driving through Mississippi rock n’ rollin’ to Memphis

More raised concrete roads where every little joint gives us a little shake.  Surprising number of trucks on the road, but then we begin to see huge distribution warehouses.    The roads are in rather poor condition in preparation for Memphis we laugh, as we shake, rock and roll.   The terrain changes from swamp land to rolling hills with farm land and forestry plots.  We continue to see red clay.  From 6 below sea level to 600′ above sea level.  We spend the night in Clinton which is just outside Jackson.  For $385 you can stay a month in the Mobile Home and RV Park.

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A huge Nissan plant is north of Jackson.  We see more cattle than we have in a long time.  Major industries include casinos, manufacturing including brick, tile and textiles, poultry and egg production, cotton and soybeans, wood and paper products.  One long city begins about 15 miles from the Tennessee border.  Diesel is now $3.64 and our odometer is at 25,000 kms.  We arrive at Graceland RV Park and Campground by 3 and struggle to get our TV working again.  I fear SHAW will soon block my calls.  It’s amazing what a little reset will do – damn.

February 26 – March 6: New Orleans, Mardi Gras, Parades, Plantations, Swamp Tours, Crusin’ the Mississippi

Mardi Gras colours, purple, green and gold greet our arrival into Louisiana.  Purple for justice, green for faith and gold for power.   We arrive at Pontchartrain Landing and are pleased to be on a canal just off Lake Pontchartrain.  The staff say fishing from the bank is allowed and that the fish are biting.  They have cabins, floating villas, motel rooms and 80 RV sites.    Even the over flow was full.  The shuttle to the French Quarter is now a 2 bus shuttle.  The RV Park was built on what was an industrial warehouse that was wiped out by Katrina  The 6′ cement fence across the road from the RV Park had water running over it into the neighbouring residential area during the hurricane.

We drive down to the French Quarter to attend the New Orleans School of Cooking on St. Louis and Decatur Street.  Parking was $22 for the day, with the price escalating to $50 the next day.  We will be taking the $6 shuttle from the RV Park from now on. Approximately 30 out of a possible 40 seats are occupied by 5 men and 25 women.  Pat, our instructor, entertained and enlightened us on the life, history and cooking  of New Orleans.  Her talk was so educational I offered to pay for a copy which unfortunately for me is not written but based on questions people ask and her knowledge.

Shrimp Creole being served  - view from ceiling mirror

Shrimp Creole being served – view from ceiling mirror

Shrimp Creole

Shrimp Creole

We were served yummy biscuit and molasses syrup, the visitors poured it on the halved biscuit, the resident poured it on the plate and broke off a piece and dipped.  Great coffee, iced tea and a local microbrewery beer were offered.  This was an observation class – so no work just eating.  We received copies of all the recipes.

1st Course:  Corn & Shrimp Bisque;  2nd Course:  Shrimp Creole; 3rd Course:  Pralines; 4th Course:  Banana Foster

The guys didn’t want to come with us but at the end of class I was able to get them leftover Shrimp Creole and Banana Foster.  This is definitely a recommendation and for $25 the spouse should come even if its just for the food.

We took a carriage ride through the French Quarter and strolled through the French Market enjoying the quiet before the storm.

Private residence in the French Quarter

Private residence in the French Quarter

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Friday, February 28

Plantation Tour Day – We drove 45 miles SW of the RV Resort on miles and miles of raised concrete roadways over water and swamp land.  Our first stop is Oak Alley Plantation for lunch which did not disappoint.   The live oaks lining the gated front driveway is breathtaking.  Opposite the driveway is the Mississippi River Levy, sloping away from the road approximately 30′  high.  We climb to the top of the levy and three freighters pass by us.

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Front driveway to Oak Alley Plantation

Front driveway to Oak Alley Plantation

Delicious lunch

Delicious lunch

Dessert

Dessert

Then to Laura Plantation for a 70 minute guided tour of Laura’s Creole Family Saga telling the story of 200 years of this sugar plantation. This plantation was built in 1805 and Laura was the third generation of women who were presidents of the family plantation.  Listening to the disregard and cruelties the slaves suffered compared to the life of the plantation owners and the high degree of importance they placed on their own family was difficult to hear.  But as the tour guide said “It was just the way it was”.  The tour of plantation was so informative and fascinating, if anyone is interested just google it.

Laura Plantation

Laura Plantation note the water flow through under the house. This house was built well before modern levy’s when floods were frequent.

Refrigeration - 1800's.  These glazed urns were dug into the ground where due to the high water table the cool water kept food from spoiling.

Refrigeration – 1800’s. These glazed urns were dug into the ground where due to the high water table the cool water kept food from spoiling.

Original basement beams, note the numerals etched at Laura's construction 200 years ago

Original basement beams, note the numerals etched at Laura’s construction 200 years ago

The banana plants on the plantation had all frozen due to the unseasonable cold weather.  They will be cut back and new growth will quickly reappear.  The sugar cane plants were greening up and new growth was about 4″.  Tractors and fertilizer equipment were lined up in the fields.

Among the Plantation assets are the names, age and job description of the slaves.

Among the Plantation assets are the names, age and job description of the slaves.

Frozen banana trees

Frozen banana trees

Japanese Magnolia

Japanese Magnolia

The RV Resort held a Mardi Gras Parade and Party starting at 8:30, a one float parade with lots of throws and a surprising fireworks display.  We gathered in the upstairs restaurant/lounge to listen to music and visit.

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Saturday, March 1

With the promise of a warm, sunny day we board the shuttle with our lawn chairs and cooler.  The spot to be is St. Charles Street where the parade crosses onto Canal Street.  St Charles Street is close to the end and the float participants will be wanting to get rid of all their throws we were told.   St. Charles street is a 4 lane street as is Canal Street which is the western border of the French Quarter.  Soon we are visiting with all our new neighbours while waiting for the parades to start.  As I sat and reflected on this event unfold I realize it is more than I could imagine.  We are sitting in front of metal police barracks that line the gutter on both sides of the street where the parades will go by.  Behind us are three rows of people half sitting in lawn chairs they had bought, the other half wishing they were, the people standing behind us with nets did catch the majority of throws. Behind the parade attendees is a one person wide pedestrian pathway walking or waiting for the tide to shift so they can begin to move forward.  The other side of the street is the same.

It may be hard to spot, but you can see kids sitting on the ladders

It may be hard to spot, but you can see kids sitting on the ladders

Across the street are numerous 5 step, step-ladders, where people have ingeniously built seats on top of the ladder that will hold up to 3 children.  The platform is 4′ long and about 12″ wide with back supports, dividers and a bar over the front to keep the kids in.  A parent always stood on the back of the ladder to catch throws and steady the ladder.  New regulations this year have moved the ladders 8 feet from the front of the sidewalk because they were being tipped over by people reaching for throws.  Some of the these platforms use many ladders and parade goers have brought living room and kitchen furniture, the new regulations specifically ban these items now.

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What a beauty, eh?

What a beauty, eh?

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Elvis, Elvis and more Elvis

Elvis, Elvis and more Elvis

A new neighbour was hit by a throw Friday night and it broke off a portion of her front tooth, her husband has a bruised cheek from a throw.  They have a friend whose friend rides on a float.  Each float participant must supply their own throws at a cost of $2000.  They pay $900 for a spot on the float and they have annual dues to pay to the Krewe they belong to.  The majority of the people on the floats are 50+ caucasian.  The school marching bands were 90% non-caucasian some were very poorly equipped with no regard to ergonomics given.  We were seeing them at mile 3 so they were a very tired bunch.  All the bands had a vehicle following where exhausted member could recover, they also had band supporters who walked and  carried water for the students.  Only 1 band wore track pants and t-shirts, with the hot weather the kids in the heavy military style uniforms, some wearing helmets, had lost their umph. The cheerleaders who accompanied the marching bands were wearing boots, some with taps, imagine walking 3 miles in that, omg.

"Iris Rocks" theme floats

“Iris Rocks” theme floats

"Rock ettes"

“Rock ettes”

The little one was very young.

The little one was very young.

The 10:45 parade arrives at 1 pm and the first two parades were continuous for 4 hours.  We watched the Krewe of Iris, the Krewe of Tucks and the Krewe of Endymion at 7 pm.  The police presence was strong.  We never felt unsafe, though we did hear that pick-pockets especially enjoyed the parades.  Coolers and lawn chairs left were undisturbed.  Both Terry and I got bonked on the head from 2nd level float throws while watching for 1st level throws.  It is crazy, the throws are cheap, cheap made in China crap, that people compete to get.  There is no recycle, a good 1/3 of the stuff ends up crushed in the streets.   We filled a reusable grocery bag full and gave another 1/2 again away and then only raised our arms in self protection.   Some people left with 3 of these bags full. One throw was toilet paper, try to catch this if you can as the port-potties have long run out.  Bring wipes with you!

Motorized easy chairs.

Motorized easy chairs.

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Parade aftermath

Parade aftermath

I walked into The Pearl, a restaurant on St. Charles Street and framed on the wall were copies of a James Lee Burke book, The Tin Roof, fans of Burke books will recognize that some of his books are based in Louisiana.

With the established themes, it seemed if you could dream it or imagine it there was a float portraying it.  Irreverence is the goal.

Madri Gras is a satire on the lives of kings and queens.  Each Krewe elect a  King and Queen.  An article in the newspaper interviewed one man who had decided he would like to be the King of his Krewe one day and began saving money 16 years ago.  It’s basically a political campaign with gifts given to those within the Krewe who influence others within the Krewe.

Founded in 1917 Iris is the oldest, largest all-female Krewe.  Named for the Goddess of the Rainbow and messenger to the Gods.  “Iris Rocks” was the 2014 theme.

Krewe of Tucks is known for its impudence and great throws.  Began in 1969 by a group of university students who took its name from a bar called Friar Tucks.  This year’s theme was “Tucks Lives the Sportin’ Life.

Krewe of Endymion is a super-krewe.  Founded in 1966 and named for the Olympian god of fertility and eternal youth.  There motto is “Throw until it hurts”.    The theme this year is “An Evening at the Opera”.  A super-super krewe of  2850 men has much larger floats than other Krewe’s, one float this year has 9 trains (semi truck beds) and a celebrity Grand Marshal, Carrie Underwood this year.

The Louisiana Welcome Center told us there are over 60 parades during Mardi Gras, January 6 – March 4.  Thirty-four parades were held during the time we were there.

Sunday, March 2 – Swamp Tour,

A little treat for us before departing – beignets and cafe’ au lait, yummmm

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We took the LeFletch Tour which I would not recommend, we did see numerous alligators but the guide was not a nature speaker.  I would try Ultimate Swamp Adventure or Dr. Wagner’s Honey Island Swamp Tours.  On the bus ride out we watched an interesting video called  Hurricane on the Bayou which highlighted the devastation of the wetlands and how this impacted the severity of Katrina.  The building of the levy’s in the 1930’s stopped much of the flooding that each year added nutrients to the land.  The ditching of many canal’s has allowed sea water to flow in and kill the vegetation.  We found the number of canal’s surprising and they range from Florida to Louisiana, straight as an arrow going for miles.   So the natural buffer that once would have sheltered New Orleans has dramatically deteriorated.  Amanda Shaw, a local cajun fiddle player who was 13 at time of filming, lived on the Bayou and film followed her family and how they were effected by the hurricane.

The alligator is 2 years old

The alligator is 2 years old

About 11 feet long our guide said

About 11 feet long our guide said

Bayou not a canal

Bayou not a canal

Monday March  3

Steamboat Natchez cruise on the Mississippi River.  Eating lunch and listening to jazz while cruising down the Mississippi was an enjoyable way to spend a cool, windy Monday afternoon while in the Big Easy.   Hurricane Katrina damage is still easily found, repairs continue on the docks and during our travels around the city as well.

Paddlewheeler

Paddlewheeler

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cargo ship waiting to load

cargo ship waiting to load

Homes can be seen with holes cut through the roofs.  As we sail back to dock we see a music festival and wander over.  Zulu Lundi(means Monday) Gras Festival  has two stages, numerous food and craft tents and is free.  Little Amanda Shaw, all grown up is playing and we enjoyed listening to her and watching her dance up a storm to help her to keep warm while on the stage.

Tuesday, March 4

Record cold and rains greet us Tuesday morning.  In the afternoon we troupe to the shuttle, me bundled in my down filled jacket, underwear, double socks, toque, gloves and rain cape.  We had watched the morning parade on live cam on the internet.  Pretty sparse crowds.  On Canal Street the mess left from the wilting throws is crazy, we have to pay attention as we walk as the many beads are difficult to walk on.  We try to avoid the puddles, finally decide to seek warmth in a restaurant, all are crowded with eager costumed Mardi Gras people dressed in layers and rain capes drying by their side.  Bourbon street is crowded, maybe the antifreeze will keep the masses from catching colds.  They are unconcerned.

Mardi Gras is a huge business, costumes, floats, throws, require many people to run efficiently.  It is a well oiled machine now.  Each morning as we departed the shuttle the street were clean, I could still smell the soap and disinfectant and see the bubbles in the street gutters.  A couple of hours later it returned to a sticky bead strewn mess.  My shoes became tacky just walking on the street in the Bourbon Street area. The rest of the French Quarter was pretty good but Bourbon, Royal and Canal Street were a mess.  People walked around carrying drinks in fish bowls.  It is legal to carry drinks in to go cups. There was a huge police presence and we always felt safe.

A clean street

A clean street

OMG,  lol

OMG, lol

Bar entrance rules

Bar entrance rules

The ladies making trades - necklaces for a brief showing!!!

The ladies making trades – necklaces for a brief showing!!!

I walked into an establishment for a cheap Hurricane not looking at the sign.  Pretty soon I am met by a pretty young thing introducing herself, naive as I am I told her I was happy to meet her too.  Finally looking around I realize I am in a strip club with some dancers on a stage behind glass and I swear this is true, a toothless bartender.  I read this story once in some detective novel.  LOL.

Wednesday, March 5

The 2 1/2 hour city tour proved to be very informative and worthwhile.  Reconstruction is ongoing, we were driven through areas that had 4, 8, 10 feet of water during Katrina.  New Orleans range from 6′ below sea level to 16′ above.  Many residents did eventually return, the times we took a taxi the drivers were gone for 2 years before they returned.  Rugby and Lacrosse were sports brought back to the city by returning residents and are thriving.  Shipping, tourism, oil and gas and the military are the major sources of commerce in the city.

Outside the Louisiana State Museum on display is a 24′ fishing boat used to rescue more than 400 people.  First pressed into service by a doctor desperate to save patients and then by others to continue to rescue those stranded.

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The restaurant where we had lunch served no coffee but did offer frozen strawberry daiquiri’ s for a dollar.  New Orleans full of surprises!!

Coden, Alabama, February 24-25 Gas Country

As we were departing Florida we found a hill, maybe the only one, it was the kind that if you go down fast enough your tummy does a little flutter.

There is water standing everywhere, the water table here is about 18″ and this is flat land so no run off.  A road sign warns us the highway is under water, but must be from the previous night’s rain.  The state change from Florida to Alabama would not be noticeable if not for the Welcome to Alabama sign.  More tree plantations, but the white sand mounds, home to the red ants have disappeared.  Red clay is being used in road construction.  There are considerable more brick homes than we saw in Florida we think maybe there once was a brick industry with the amount of red clay we see.

As we cross the bay into Mobile we pass an immense shipyard.  Mobile has the 12th largest port in the US.  It is also known for having the oldest Mardi Gras in the USA.

The Austal USA Shipyard is a major Alabama employer building ships for the US Army/Navy.  The number of ships lining the docks is impressive.  Vehicle manufacturing, gas processing, commercial fishing and shipping coal from northern Alabama are some of the local jobs.  We read the promise of cheap wages and no unions are bringing large corporations to Alabama.

The Bay Palms RV Resort is in Coden, about 30 minutes south of Mobile is suffering the effects from all the rain and our water outlet is broken due to a previous hard frost.  A young couple have just bought the business and are busy making changes.  Half of the 100 sites have permanent residents or snowbirds.  We were quickly invited to early morning coffee.  A group of men were making sausage, but a blade broke so we didn’t get to participate in that.  A group of 5 fisherman were cleaning their days catch.  They had gone 176 miles out into the gulf and caught a couple of small tuna, several small trout and one large trout, 48″ long and weighing in at 45 pounds.  They were fishing 600′ down and it took almost an hour to bring in this fish and 2 men to land it.  They didn’t have a knife blade long enough to fillet it.  One resident told us when there’s a catch like this one there usually is a fish fry the next night.

A walk down to the bay reveal’s murky water and many gas well platforms.  This area was effected by the BP Spill, the local commercial fisherman replaced their income by providing spill clean-up.  Fishing is back up and running.

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The resort is 15 minutes from Dauphin Island our Tuesday destination.  15 or so people were out fishing on the pier and on the jetty’s.  We spoke with a young man who was very pleased about his job working at Austal where he works as a fitter.   He had graduated high school 10 months ago and was happy he didn’t have to go to college to get a good job.

It was amazing to see the number of platforms out in the Gulf.  Looking left to right we counted 20.  Several had ships loading gas.    Very little was open yet so the island was quiet with only a few people on the miles and miles of white sand beach.  We walked around the Indian Shell Mound Park, evidence of early inhabitation.  A short stroll through the Dauphin Island Bird Sanctuary revealed no birds, too early for migration, but the short boardwalk to a little lake helped wear off lunch.  A menu at one of the restaurants offered, Skin, Legs & Tails (shrimp wrapped in bacon, frog legs & alligator) for $24.95.  No one ordered this item.

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All the new homes on Dauphin Island are built up.  Note the roof deck.

All the new homes on Dauphin Island are built up. Note the roof deck.

For $5 you can fish off this pier all day.  You do not have to buy a fishing license but you must purchase your beer from the pier store.  The best fishing in 2014 we were told will be in April, during this time the pier is open 24 hours a day.  Sting rays were being caught the day we were there.

For $5 you can fish off this pier all day. You do not have to buy a fishing license but you must purchase your beer from the pier store. The best fishing in 2014 we were told will be in April, during this time the pier is open 24 hours a day. Sting rays were being caught the day we were there.

The amount of money the south has paid for bridges and roads over water must be enormous and we are curious as to what that cost is.

February 17 – Beach time in Panama City Beach

Short distance today, long time, slow traffic, darn RV Resorts that cannot get their own addresses correct.  Note to myself to get back on board asking the prerequisite questions I have learned to ask but forgot this time.

1.  Is the wifi free for all our devices?

2.  Can we get Satellite TV, are there trees?

3.  Is the address in the campground book and on the website the actually one we need to type into the GPS?

4. Is is straight forward when we find you?  (We’ve been told, sharp left or right as you turn in, stop and wait we will come and get you)

Panama City Beach RV Resort has 70 sites and 4 apartments available.  Back-in is 370 a week or 650 month.  The 27′ sites are nicely landscaped with a concrete pads and a concrete alcove for sitting.  No picnic table, no campfire, no storage on ground or under trailer, but its just a short block to the beach which we can see from our alcove.  A 4-point deer surprised us by jumping out on the road from the ocean side, Terry was quite impressed with the size of its rack.

It is so nice to go for our morning walk on the beach and spend the afternoon on the beach.  Just a few little kids on the beach venture into the water, all adults are like us absorbing the warm sun, watching the endless waves sweeping into shore, feel the wind, and listening to the birds, the waves crash and the murmurs of conversation. We keep an eye on the fisherman hoping they will catch something but the porpoise swim by, hunting, soon the fish are jumping out of the water and the fisherman think the chances of them catching anything today has just evaporated or gone into the stomach of the porpoise.  Planes from Tyndall Air Force Base break the sound barrier as they fly overhead in pairs, the Navy Hovercraft is quite amazing to watch , chugging and growling along doing manoeuvre’s, we can’t feel the vibration but you know you would if you were close to it.  I found it hard to concentrate on my homework – studying Texas for next winter’s adventure.

Gulf of Mexico

Gulf of Mexico

Hovercraft

Hovercraft

Only a few of the 17 attendees of the morning meeting

Only a few of the 17 attendees of the morning meeting

Patches the bar across the street has a Canadian Flag up during the women’s hockey game.  The game is delayed by a few seconds from our satellite TV so the cheer’s are late.  LOL  The couple next door from Missouri have amassed a wonderful collection of impressive shells, bigger shells than anything we’ve seen to date.

The Lonely Planet touted Hwy 30A scenic drive to Destin, so we thought we would give a try.  Hotel’s, condo’s, more condo’s and hotels, the only glimpse of the Emerald Coast was we were stopped at the lights.  A bust for sure.

Those super aggressive little devils, the red ants,  got both of us this time, I stopped on our RV pad to tighten my sandals and one crawled into my sandal and by the time I got 75 yards down the road I was limping.  I limped back and while Terry sprayed to kill them one bit him on the foot.  Ice and bug after bite controls the sting.

105 Days to Hurricane Season a signs reads.  On CNN the weather map shows tornado advisory’s in the south, not to far from us.  Friday morning beginning at 2 am the wind picked up and shook the trailer, just as I was drifting off a big gust would come and then I was awake again.  AT 6:30 the thunder, lightning and rain began.  The thunder felt like it was directly over our heads, we had never felt anything like that.  By 9 the sun was shining and the streets were drying up.

February 22

The Farmer’s Market at the marina is quite small but we manage to spend a little money.  An organic cabbage for $2 and purple sweet potatoes for $3 and a little dessert.

The 17th annual Krewe St. Andrews Mardi Gras parade was 50 minutes long with 30 floats and thousands of bead necklaces in every hue thrown into the crowd.  Moon pies were also thrown, we had a taste when we got home, good thing they were free.  Estimate of crowds was 40,000, the children’s parade Friday afternoon was a success as well.

Another Farmer’s Market on the marina concourse was interesting, Tupelo Honey was a big seller.  This honey is made from the flowers of the white tupelo tree, whose flowers only bloom for 3 weeks and is known for its unique flavour.  If you have a chance buy it, it is very different but delicious.    Terry and I both agreed that the Baklava was the freshest and most delicious we have ever tasted.  The baker told us she was from Turkey and had the best teachers in the world, her mother and grandmother.  We agreed.

Pirate theme seemed to be very popular with everyone, most people at least had a necklace on.  Also hats, big hair bows and vests.  The event had over 70 vendors and many food booths, featuring deep fried alligator, turkey legs, blooming onion, chicken on a stick, green tomatoes, funnel cakes etc.

When we arrived in Historic St. Andrews we found a shady spot to watch the parade from and placed a blanket on the spot.  When we arrived back 2 hours later it was still there.  The colourful floats usually had either a band on board or music playing, the floats were far enough apart the music from the one in front drifted away before the music from the next one came into range.  All participants on the floats were dressed in various colourful costumes, pirates, mermaids, tuxedo’s and long dresses, purple, green and gold were the primary colours.

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I took this picture

I took this picture

and Terry took this one

and Terry accidentally took this one!!

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We amassed a huge collection of necklaces, New Orleans here we come.

Another big storm this morning, we were woken up by an Emergency Flash Flood Warning.  Two inches of rain in an hour with a possibility of another 2 inches.  In our travels around the city  we did not notice  any Emergency Evacuation Route’s and the office here is closed Sunday’s????  With the storm the satellite TV wasn’t working for the entire second period of the mens gold metal game.Fortunately our Spruce Grove grandkids texted us results until signal  came back on for the 3rd.  So happy to see the shutout.

The RV Resort has no organized activities.  But the Winter Residents association in the city has a lengthy list of daily and weekly activities published daily in the local paper.  There is a cost to join the organization.  Cooking classes, exercise classes, fishing, golfing, farm tours, bus tours, wood working, dancing, painting, yoga, wine tasting, music lessons etc. etc.

February 15, 2014 “on the road again,we’re on..(sorry Willie)

Our rearview mirror compass says “N”, Chiefland, then Perry and then around Apalachee Bay on a 4 lane highway through miles and miles of nothing but perfectly planted pine trees.  Perry is the Forestry Capital of Florida and is home to the Forestry College.  Pulp mills are located in Perry and Panama City.  Many closed and dilapidated homes and businesses.  No rest stops so we stop onto the approach to 1 of 3 closed fuel stations for lunch.  The 2 ransacked motels are evidence of a once thriving community.  Only the post office remains in operation.

On the way to Carrabelle Beach we pass through the Apalachicola National Forest.  Carrabelle is a one street town that stretches approximately 5 miles but we spot an IGA where the word “Bakery” is posted.  Visions of fresh IGA bread pass through our heads.

The Carrabelle Beach RV Resort has 78 spots and 8 condo’s and park models for rent.  It is a long weekend here, President’s Day, there is no vacancy.  Being the newbee’s and from Alberta we are of interest to our neighbours who wander over, which is great because we are curious about them too.  One neighbour from Tennessee has been shopping in West Edmonton Mall.   We welcome tips for the next days excursion. A pre-supper walk is very welcome, the beach across the road stretches for miles and the breathtaking white sand is being enjoyed by just a few people relishing the sun and surf.

Breathing holes for clams

Breathing holes for clams

View of Terry in the RV Resort

View of Terry in the RV Resort

February 16

West to Eastpoint we cross the bridge to St. George Island a barrier island that is 28 miles long and 1 mile wide.

On the beach for $629,000. but you better check out the new Hurricane Insurance Rates - $5000/yr

On the beach for $629,000. but you better check out the new Hurricane Insurance Rates – $5000/yr

It was too cold to go search for shells so we strolled into the visitor centre and learned the history of the Cape St. George Light that stood for 153 years until toppling in 2005.  Erosion at the base caused by Hurricane’s Opal and Georges could not be stopped.  Life was wonderful for the lighthouse families as related by the children of the keepers.  The lens was protectively removed during the Civil War and was reinstalled at the conclusion of the war.

Boaters have to be mindful of the power transmission poles on the way to St. George Island

Boaters have to be mindful of the power transmission poles on the way to St. George Island

The drive to Apalachicola was on a causeway, once again the GPS shows us driving on water.  This town of 2500 was incorporated in 1827.  Before the development of railroads, Apalachicola was the 3rd busiest port in the Gulf of Mexico.  Cotton,also known as white gold, was loaded onto ships heading north.  Sponge trade was also important.  Shrimp ships were docked waiting for the season to start in March.  More than 90% of Florida’s oyster production is harvested from Apalachicola Bay.  The town is also famous for being the home to Dr. John Gorrie whom discovered the cold air process of refrigeration and patented the ice machine in 1850.

Saskatchewan Roughriders – a conversation starter wherever you go!

Our travelling partner Orval, wore his Roughrider cap today, much to the chagrin of his wife Darlene.  While walking down the street in Apalachicola a young man stops and asks him where he is from in Saskatchewan.  The young man  is from a small town in near Unity but left there because the farm could not support him and his dad.  He has been in the US Navy for 18 years and he and his wife are planning to retire in 3 years in the Panama City Beach area due to its perfect climate and great fishing.  They provided tips on restaurants and told us where to find the Farmer’s Market.

Neighbours at the RV Resort recommended a place to stop for oysters.  I had only eaten smoked oysters, which I thought were beyond gross and I told the waitress I would not eat them raw.  Luckily for us the menu had 10 other choices.  We shared 1/2 dozen Oyster Rockefeller that were cooked with butter, garlic, cheese and spinach, who could not like that combination.  I can now say I have eaten oysters, would I spend the money eat them again, not when there is dessert.  Terry wants both he says.

Our RV Resort has concrete pads, age restrictions and very few organized activities.  The rules include age of RV, condition of RV, no storage of items on or under RV is permitted.  The sites are about 25 feet wide and beautifully landscaped, great for a couple of nights but not for the winter.  The sites are $4o a night or $750 a month.

PS:  No fresh bread or fresh anything at the IGA, the next closest grocery store is 45 minutes away.

The Florida Weather We’ve Been Waiting For

February 1 – 3, Rock Crusher Canyon RV Resort, Crystal River, Florida

We know we should do something else beside just sit and enjoy the sun, but it’s hard to get motivated.  We accept defeat and pour another diet coke.  We watch one of the resident tortoises slowly cross the road and feel solidarity.  We are taking to the retirement lifestyle with surprising ease.

February 4

A glorious day.  After a 2 hour 6 mile kayak paddle on the Weeki Wachee River we return home by 3.  Never have we seen clear rivers like they have in Florida.  This is due to the abundance of springs in the rivers.  At this state park only canoe’s and kayak’s are allowed, no motors of any type and no fishing.

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Me

Me

A sad note is that the Crystal River where we kayak to Three Sisters Springs, the manatee reserve, used to be as clear as the Weeki Wachee and Rainbow Springs.  The reasons vary depending on whom we talk to.  We have noted up to 9 tour boats transporting up to 12 people, making 5 or 6 trips a day into the spring area, add to this personal boats over arriving over a twenty year time span and you have a huge impact on the environment.  We continue to be amazed that more regulations are not in place to curtail or limit this.

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The river water was clear to the bottom the entire trip.  The refraction from the water and the current prevented us from taking pictures that would accurately show this.  We did see several schools of mullet, sheephead, turtles and many birds including a bald eagles nest with baby bald eagle heads sticking out.  The narrow river was very quick with many fast corners and if we weren’t watching we would end up in the branches and bushes growing out into the water.  Two members of the club did the Weeki Wachee dunk, got back in their kayaks and resumed their trip.  It was a hot day and they were dry quickly.

After docking and loading our kayak’s I walked down to help others coming in.  I put my purse down to help pull in fellow kayakers.  As I walked back to the truck, something bit me but I couldn’t find anything so ignored it.  I put my purse on my seat in the truck and climbed in placing my purse on the dash.  Upon sitting I am consumed by something, I look at the dash and they are taking my purse hostage.  It’s fire ants.  I swat, I crush, I whip my shorts off and try to kill these vicious little bastards.  They were everywhere inside my clothes, Terry enjoyed the free show.   I threatened him with bodily harm if he takes the pictures he threatens too. Two weeks later and the bite marks are still red and slightly swollen.

The afternoon became very melancholy when we realize we only have ten days left here.

February 5 – Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park

The park showcases Florida native plants and wildlife and it has an underwater observatory.  The springs here release 2 million gallons of water per hour.  Many of the resident’s of the park are rescue’s that could not be released.  The 4 manatees in the park have lived there 20 – 40 years and weigh in at 3000 lbs which is considerable more than their wild sisters.  Lu, adopted from a bankrupt circus, the Nile Hippopotamus is 54 years old and is the only non-native resident.  We saw large numbers of fish in the under-water observatory.  The Whopping Crane exhibit was also of interest because of their listing on the endangered species list for years and the recent films showing their flight behind the ultralight plane.  I never realized they had a red crown on their head.  Entry into the park was via a 10 minute guided boat ride as was the exit.

Snook

Snook

A 2 1/2 year old alligator whose size they control by the amount of food he receives

A 2 1/2 year old alligator whose size they control by the amount of food he receives

Black-bellied Whistling Duck

Black-bellied Whistling Duck

Whooping Crane

Whooping Crane

54 year old Lu

54 year old Lu

view on the way out of the park on Pepper Creek

view on the way out of the park on Pepper Creek

February 6 – 7

On the way to Sanibel Island we decide to take a side trip to Tarpon Springs to investigate the sponge diving industry.  This industry, was started by Greek divers who immigrated to the area in the 1900’s.  We watched a very, very old informative movie on the sponge industry at the Spongeorama Sponge Factory.  Sponge’s grow 1/2 an inch per year and grow back after harvest.  The highest quality sponge is the wool sponge followed by  the yellow sponge, grass sea sponge, silk sponge and then the finger sponge used in bouquets and flower pots.

After a walk through the museum we were entertained by the best saleswoman I’ve ever met.  She could sell next years snow to Eskimo’s.  We walk past the sponge boats to the Taste of Greece Bakery.  Terry loved the Elephant Ears and by default so did I, his treat became our treat – oops!  Elephant Ears are sort of like a flaky pie crust top with sugar and cinnamon swilred throughout.  We also shared Melomakarona, a cylindrical honey cinnamon cookie, sprinkled with honey and walnuts, we were told if we could pronounce it there would be no calories.

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We headed south through Clearwater and St. Petersburg, crossed the Hwy 19 toll bridge and stopped 1/3 of the way over at Mullet Key Rest Stop for a quick cool and windy picnic lunch by the gulf.  Just love being by the water even if we wore our jackets while we ate.

By 3 we arrived in Cape Coral enjoying the 31C temperature as we sat by the pool at the Dolphin Key Resort and enjoying refreshments from the Tiki Bar.

The next day was an easy drive to Sanibel Island but once we crossed the toll bridge the traffic was bumper to bumper.  A sign at the visitor information centre asked us to scrape the snow off our shoes before entering.

The Welcome Sign at the Sanibel Island Info Centre

The Welcome Sign at the Sanibel Island Info Centre

We found our way to Lighthouse Beach and spoke with a few of the 100’s of people doing the “Sanibel Stoop”.  Jewelry makers and artists were looking for tiny shells using tweezers  to pick up whole shell’s no bigger than 1/2 inch.  The best time of year for shelling is the fall.  These shellers carry pails, little rakes and strainers, some walk the beach and some walk in knee deep water.  However most people we spoke were like us – uninformed and out for a nice morning walk.  The fishing pier was full of fishermen who were steadily catching.  It was a great morning and 28 C by the time we left the beach at 11.

Bottom right is a kittens paw

Bottom right is a kittens paw

Note the yellow feet on the egret

Note the yellow feet on the egret

Flat Ethan in a pail of shell's

Flat Ethan in a pail of shell’s

Traffic was so bad we decided to leave.  We had planned to drive to the end of Sanibel and Captiva Island a distance of 17 miles but after 5 miles, that was it, we left.

Sanibel Island would best be visited in November and avoided December – April, we now know that for the next visit.

We drove down to Hwy 41 the southern most route through the Everglades.  Behind the 10′ fences bushes lined the canal’s.  We did see quite a few large alligators out sunning themselves.  After driving approximately 40 miles we turned north and followed Hwy 29 to LaBelle. Orange, grapefruit, cabbage, greenhouse and farming country.  We followed many trucks transporting labourers to fields.

Behind the fence in the Everglades, the green in the middle is water covered in pond lettuce I used to pay too much money for in Drayton Valley.

Behind the fence in the Everglades, the green in the middle is water covered in pond lettuce I used to pay too much money for in
Drayton Valley.

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Road kill.  Can you imagine hitting that?

Road kill. Can you imagine hitting that?

The temperature and rain fell all the way back to Crystal River where it was 12C at 9 when we arrived.

Sunday February 9

Our final kayak with the manatee at Three Sister Springs.  Too many people in the spring area so Terry and I left after 10 minutes.  A  “what if” of ours came true.  What would happen if a manatee came up for a breath under our kayak?   It happened to Terry, I heard a splash and a grunt.  He easily kept the kayak righted and was more startled than anything.  What a photo opportunity that would have been.   Later a couple in a double kayak dumped, apparently they both turned at the same time and went over, they stood up and walked to the shore to get back in.

The ice cream social in the evening makes us regret even more our upcoming departure and makes us rethink our winter settling plans.

Monday we booked cooking school in New Orleans for the guys – lol, for Darlene and me.   The guys are busy contemplating bead buying.

Tuesday February 11

Our return to Rainbow Springs River, amazingly crystal clear at 10 feet.  This river is much wider and more peaceful than the Weeki Wachee River of last week.  We did see many turtles, fish and birds, 1 sea otter and a 5′ alligator sunning itself.  Here to, the warmer weather is bringing out more kayakers.  Good thing we did this paddle early and enjoyed our lunch in the peaceful park, with a stop for fresh pie at the Front Porch in Dunnellon.  One of us had 2 pieces.

Bottom of the picture is the river bottom

Upper right corner is a turtle swimming by

Turtles

Turtles

Not the tree climbing nor the jumping kind, it swam off as soon as it saw us

Not the tree climbing nor the jumping kind, it swam off as soon as it saw us

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The kayak paddle could not touch the rocks.

The kayak paddle could not touch the rocks.

Our lunch time decorations

Our lunch time decorations

Thursday February 13 we went to Freezers, a much recommended shrimp bar.  We ordered a pound of steamed shrimp for $21.20 (what a strange price) and could barely finish it.  We were warned that it wouldn’t look like much from the outside.  Well the inside wasn’t any better, but the shrimp were delicious.   Smoking was allowed inside and so was the presence of man’s best friend.

Valentine’s Day we walked around the Crystal River Archaeological State Park, a Pre-Columbian Ceremonial Indian-Mound Complex.  This ancient site has burial mounds, temple mounds and a plaza.  Evidence suggests that this site had been in use for about 10,000 years but by the time European explorers arrived it had been abandoned for 500 years.   Archaeologists have uncovered many fragments of pottery and other items that are on display in the Visitor’s Center.

Temple Mount

Temple Mount

Back view of Temple Mound

Back view of Temple Mound

Carved rock called Stelae. The carved face is difficult to see.  Long hair cascades down from top middle at a slant to the middle left edge. The face is in the middle just below where the hair starts.

Carved rock called Stelae. The carved face is difficult to see. Long hair cascades down from top middle at a slant to the middle left edge. The face is in the middle just below where the hair starts.

The area we spent our time in is called Old Florida.  New Florida is home to traffic jams, countless malls and millions of people.  Old Florida is depressed, we see many closed shops and for sale signs.  Tourism is the number one industry.  The gal who cut my hair told me that if you want a good job “you have to make it yourself”, as in start a business. Crystal River according to the tourist information has a population of 4000 people, the entire country side is acreage’s or subdivisions.  It is a major centre in the county with 5 highways coming in all of which are 4 lane divided highways.  The RV Resort was over the fly zone for the airport and there seemed to be 15  or so small planes  a day.

The local newspaper reported an 33% increase in building permits.  There are lots of roofing companies, the shingles on most homes were faded likely from the intense heat – we wondered if they have 25 year shingles like we do.  A lot of homes had an outside screened in areas, some were over pools others were over patios.  Garage screens were also common, the screens were installed in front of the garage door’s or man caves as they are sometimes called.

Newer home in Crystal River with a screened pool.  Even the permanent resident agree there are a lot of bugs

Newer home in Crystal River with a screened pool. Even the permanent resident agree there are a lot of bugs

Crystal River, Florida, In and Around, January 2014

We arrived back in Orlando in a ferocious rain storm on January 2.  The ground crews were pulled inside until the thunder and lightening stopped, which was about 10 minutes.  But the storm caused a lot of accidents and traffic congestion.  Our luggage was 40 minutes late coming and the shuttle was over an hour wait once we got our luggage.

The evening before we flew back to Alberta in December we decided to go to Tony Roma’s.  Unfortunately they were having a grand re-opening of their corporate restaurant.  For the inconvenience they gave us $40 worth of coupons.  If the change is a success the Tony Roma’s we are all familiar with will bear little resemblance to the upgrade.  There was only 1option for ribs, 2 for steak and now a much smaller menu.  The petit steak I had though was excellent.

By 4pm Friday, January 3 we were up and watching TV back at Rock Crusher Canyon RV Resort.  While in storage at Cribb’s we decided to leave our frig’s running on propane, we set ours at 2 and the Watson’s was set higher.   There was some cool days with no sun while we were gone and we think the solar panel’s failed at some point but the fridge was working when we arrived.  The Watson’s weren’t so lucky.

We are getting very accomplished at sleeping in but woke up to a tap, tap, tapping outside our dining table window.  All the windows on the RV have the reflective coating and one little bird was trying to attack the interloper who was in his established territory.  We bought a bird feeder after we learned that squirrels will not eat safflower seeds.   The little Myrtle Warbler is the king of the castle and tries to chase the other birds away.  He sits on a bare branch about 6″ from the window and scowl’s at his reflection.  We call him Angry Bird.  The male Northern Cardinal’s are stunning, the female cardinal is not as colourful but does have a beautiful beak. Chickadee’s come but the Blue Jays do not, maybe because the feeder is in a confined area.  The Brown Thrasher looks orange to us and occasionally comes to eat.  We had some pretty cold days and were happy to see the birds come and eat.  But I am slightly concerned about something coming to eat the seeds we store under the trailer.  Especially after Ann, our neighbour told us she had a snake slither out from under her RV, she told us she screamed and jumped inside, I told her she must scream louder so I know what’s coming.

Brown Thrasher

Brown Thrasher

Female Northern Cardinal

Female Northern Cardinal

Male Northern Cardinal

Male Northern Cardinal

Myrtle Wranger, aka Angry Bird

Myrtle Wranger, aka Angry Bird

Catbird

Catbird

We store the kayak’s under the trailer and I had such a vivid dream one night, that I woke Terry up and told him there was a snake in his kayak and to be very careful when he pulled it out.  I was so certain I kinda freaked him and he had a stick handy.  We might have to get a machete like the Watson’s neighbour to dispatch them like he does but that would mean getting to close for our comfort.

Sunday, Jan 5 was spent at Fort Island Beach.  The beach, on the Gulf of Mexico, the only one in the area, is about 10 minutes from the RV Resort.  Many local families out and kids playing in the water, guys wading in the water and fishing.  People strolling up and down the beach and bird watchers out with their high powered binoculars.  The government pier is full of people attempting to catch something without much luck.  However there are lots of boats heading out, our fishing nerve tingle’s.

Monday, Jan 6 Terry and Orval attend the local Fishing Club Meeting.  It’s a new club with few members and they receive invitations to go fishing with club members and leads on charter’s.  They also host a luncheon gathering on the first Friday of the month and are told to bring the wives.  We do attend this luncheon meeting and learn lots about where to see and find the manatees, where to kayak and where to fish from shore.  Cody’s Roadhouse serves huge portions, happy hour starts at 11.  We leave full of information and great food.  Belly up to the bar though and you get a hamburger with fries for 2.49 provided you buy a beverage but it doesn’t have to be liquor.

After we leave Cody’s we check out the bridge crossing the canal into the Three Sister’s Spring and spot our first manatee, we are thrilled.

We cancel our kayaking plans because it is too cold and windy.  We drive to a pier on the Homosassa River and find a sign instructing everyone to leave the Seahorses alone, amazing us.  I’m old enough to remember being told that there was no such thing as a seahorse and being able to order them from the back of a comic book with growing instructions.

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But we did find a little seafood shop and bought grouper, freshly speared that morning, a case of to much information, and cooked crab knuckles – tasty but way to much work for so little meat.

We were told to go the “Shed” for lunch, its a great place for music on the weekend.  The only music we heard was the women shrieking as the attack birds flew by and stole the food out of their hands, I was the first shriek.  I was bringing a piece of fish to my mouth when out of the corner of my eye I saw something coming and only realized later it was a bird.  I don’t know if I screamed or threw it first – anyway the bird left with nothing to eat and my fish landed on the floor.  These birds have been doing this for awhile, they patiently wait until your guard is down and then silently swoop in and nab something.  No warning signs or anything – I guess that’s part of the weekend entertainment.  lol

Bar stool at the Shed

Bar stool at the Shed

Sunday the 12th is a much better day and the kayak’s come off for the first time the end of June.  We kayak into Three Sister’s Spring, a protected area the for the manatee to sleep and stay warm.  Rangers and volunteer’s are on the boardwalk around the spring and in kayak’s in the water to keep people from harming or bothering the mammals.  Manatees can live up to 80 years and usually weight between 1200-1500 pounds.  Babies stay with their mothers for 2 years and are nursed the entire time, the teats are located just behind the flipper, so the babies can just raise their head, get a breath and return to their business.  National Geographic Magazine wrote an article on the Manatees of Crystal River, it’s excellent, April 2013 or go to the web site and search.

Terry watching the manatees

Terry watching the manatees

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Monday the 13th we drive to Webster Flea Market, about 1 1/2 hours SE away, the oldest Flea Market in Florida.  The information provided states it has 30,000 visitors every Monday – not so sure about that but there were a lot of people.  Mainly new stuff but still to much junk for me to want to go back. But they have a lot of fresh vegetables, don’t buy until the end we were told as the prices are steeply discounted.  A cabbage for $1, 15 lbs of potatoes for $2, I never found any fresh carrots, I do not like the ones with tops off as the flavour is poor.

On our way back though we see signs advertising oranges and grapefruit, so we stop and buy the best oranges we have ever had, they are so juicy we need bibs to seat them.  The next stop was at a blueberry farm for fresh picked blueberries, lovely in my morning yogurt or in cream with sugar the way Terry likes them.

Thursday Jan 16 up early and off to the Super RV Show in Tampa and its -2C.  The Edmonton RV Show has more vendors we thought but the Tampa Show has considerably more RV’s.  I toured a 2.4 million motorhome.  Terry wouldn’t come in as everyone had to take their shoes off.  We did mange to leave a little Canadian money behind, we bought a sun shade that will work to keep the rain and wind out when we camp in Alberta and here too I guess from the way the weather is shaping up.

The bedroom in the 2.4 million motorhome

The bedroom in the 2.4 million motorhome

The view from the bed.

The view from the bed.

Sat the 18th we attended the Crystal River Manatee Festival.  The Florida Wildlife Dept opens the Three Sisters Spring boardwalk during this festival and we took the bus in to view the manatee.  Due to the cold weather there were a lot of manatee in the springs trying to warm up, in one area I counted 75.  These mammals have no blubber, looking at them you would think that’s all they have, but their backs are 2/3’s lung.  In Monday’s paper I read they closed the Three Sisters area on Sunday due to the number of manatee in the springs as the manatee numbers had reached 150 in this small area.

This is what happens on a cold day, the manatee find someplace to warm up.

This is what happens on a cold day, the manatee find someplace to warm up.

The canal coming into Three Sisters Spring

The canal coming into Three Sisters Spring

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After walking around we made a wonderful little discovery, the Cupcake cafe where they also make pies.  We’ve gone so often now the owner knows us, yikes.

Tuesday was another Kayak Club trip to Floral City but by the time the entire group got out and paddled for just a half hour, a storm was rolling in and we could hear the thunder, we scurried back and got out just before the rain started.  There is no fooling around in Florida when it comes to rain storms we are learning.  Get off the lake or river, get indoors, stop work, rules we will happily follow.

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Just before entering Floral City Lake

Someone has cancelled and Terry was able to get into the 3-day Jan 22-24 Motorcycle New Rider course at the local Harley Davidson shop.   He has had his bike license for 40 years but hasn’t ridden for years so he decided the refresher course was an excellent opportunity to strength his skills.  Eight hours of class instruction and 12 hours of riding makes for one very sore motorcycle rider.  Driving around pylons at a controlled speed and controlled stops for hours results in a stiff body.  He says the hardest part of the course was having the bike fall, the second time he lost a piece of flesh above his ankle.  He is pleased at how much he learned.  By Friday night he told me he wasn’t sure if he felt capable of riding.  I feigned sympathy but thought hooray – the best $99 he ever spent, but alas by Saturday evening he was talking motorcycle and trailers again.  However, I WILL not be a motorcycle mama, I will be driving behind with the flashers on, kidding!! maybe

Saturday the 25th was fishing charter day.  Due to Terry’s exertion at the motorcycle course he was pretty tired and was starting to feel his vertigo was coming back so I went fishing.  It was a cool morning and Captain Charlie told us we had to wait for the tide and would leave at 10, a decent time to go fishing, I don’t like the dawn stuff.  He didn’t even really want to take us out because the unseasonably cold weather usually means the fish would not be biting.  But because Orval’s nephew was visiting, Charlie scouted out a few holes and thought we would catch a few.  The fishing boat is a skiff about 25′ long.  Our seat was an unattached double patio bench, which we moved when we stopped to fish.  The trip out took about 30 minutes half of it at reduced speed as the manatees swim to Homosassa Springs through the canals we were using.  The first 15 minutes I pulled my toque down, zippered my jacket up to my nose and watched in amazement at the route we took, hoping nothing happened to Charlie as I knew we would never find our way out.  Saw grass opened up to narrow, shallow channels of water, we would take wide turns into the deepest part of the corners where I could easily see the bottom where there was maybe 4″ of water.  One time I think we jumped over the shallows, Charlie said, “I wan’t sure we’d make that one”.   The sun shone brightly, but I never took my jacket off, but did replace my toque with my cap.  Charlie provided all the fishing equipment and licence’s.  Charlie used live shrimp to bait our hooks, crunch went the tail as Charlie bit it off and then spit it into the water.  I was startled later to see the shrimp curl up on my hook, I thought he was biting the heads off.  Orval and Jason soon were biting the tails off, but not me.  I was not crossing that line.  I was able to catch 2 sea trout that were keepers, one that was over 22″ and weighed about 4 1/2 lbs which Charlie said was called a gator, and 1 slightly smaller; 2 drum, 1 sheephead, some red’s and 2 other sea trout of which none were keepers.  As usual with a charter the sea trout supper that evening was very delicious but also very expensive.  lol Though we have had more expensive salmon dinners.  While Charlie  filleted the fish I spoke to a guy on the prier who was from Thunder Bay but had worked at ANC in Whitecourt, AB installing a paper press.

Inland fishing off the Gulf of Mexico

Inland fishing off the Gulf of Mexico

Just little nibbles, hold still Charlie kept telling, they'll come back for it and he was correct.

Just little nibbles, hold still Charlie kept telling, they’ll come back for it and he was correct.

Monday was a day I wish we could have 3 times a week.  We started off on a early morning road trip to find Red’s a great breakfast place Terry had heard about.  Unfortunately they were closed so we continued to Rainbow Springs State Park in Dunnellon about 30 minutes NE of Crystal River.  We enjoyed a peaceful walk around the headwaters of the Rainbow River.  The water was so clear we could see the spring water bubbling up from the bottom of the river.  The gardens are wonderful.  In the 1920’s the river was dredged for glass bottom tours; waterfalls were built on piles of phosphate trailings.  Mining of phosphate took place in the early 1900’s.  Mastodan and mammoth fossils were found in the river.  A zoo and rodeo facilities were also built.  The theme park was closed in 1972.  In the mid 1990’s it officially became a State Park.  A roped off area offers year round swimming in 72F water.  We look forward to returning to kayak down the river.

A view across the headwaters to the swimming area

A view across the headwaters to the swimming area

We saw many birds, turtles and small fish in the clear water

We saw many birds, turtles and small fish in the clear water

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A lone flower

A lone flower

We decided on a late afternoon kayak trip into Three Sisters.  Our previous trips had been on the weekends and there were a lot of people.  Our timing was very good this Monday afternoon.  We paddled through strong winds until we got into the canal’s and then directly into Three Sisters.  There were approximately 50 manatees in the clusters of 3-5 sleeping and resting.  I paddled over to one area and just stopped.  There were 3 other kayakers and one snorkeler who had been the volunteer guard the first time we paddled in.  One manatee was so playful.  He kept coming up to the snorkeler for rubs.  The snorkeler told me to put my hand in the water but not to wiggle my fingers or make any movement.  The manatees are very curious we have been told.  Soon this large mammal was gliding under my kayak and coming up for me to rub his skin.  He rolled so I could rub his tummy.  What a thrill for me.  A young mom came in with her 2 young boys and they were so excited, I thought they might scare the manatees away with their excited squeals.  I spent 45 minutes in this one spot and watched the manatees come and go.   I even got to see a mamma and her 3′ baby come in and rest.

Shh, sleeping manatees

Shh, sleeping manatees

Note my fingers on the left side of the picture.

Note my fingers on the left side of the picture.

January 28 Kayak Club.  For some who have seen the Facebook posting I titled Lost on the Withalcoochee River, you will be reading this again but with a little more detail.  17 Kayaks take off south of Dunnellon for a 9 mile trip down the river which has no current we were told but the wind came nicely to cool us off but then we had to paddle pretty hard at the end of the trip, but with the end in site we were all happy to get off the river and especially happy to see the bathroom.  It was a splendid but longggg day.  We paddled past lots of slider turtles, birds including pileated woodpeckers, we saw a armadillo and 2 small alligators. Amused members tell us newbee’s, where there are little ones you know the mama’s are nearby. The club members gleeful told me that on the last trip on this river they counted 27 alligators.  People, sometimes a lie or two doesn’t hurt anything.  My kayak paddle now has finger notched.  More pronouncements I made about not kayaking where there are alligators I’m eating!  Our volunteer club guide did a zig instead of zag and we are headed for a detour (that’s what I call it when I get us lost when we are travelling).  We all became concerned when we no longer hear any traffic noise.  When word reached us that we might be lost murderous thoughts ran through my head.  I recalled a ATV trip near Caroline, AB where we were lost for 2 hours as we followed the leader who knew the area like the back of his hand.   We were both very tired and sore when we finally arrived at the City Park in Dunnellon.  Back home by 6:30 after everyone gathers at a local pizza place.

Note the knees, breathing tubes for the cyprus trees, above the waterline.

Note the knees, breathing tubes for the cyprus trees, above the waterline.

A few of the turtles sunning themselves

A few of the turtles sunning themselves

17 people out on the river, Terry is on the right side in the blue shirt.

17 people out on the river, Terry is on the right side in the blue shirt.

Me just after we stopped for a 10 minute lunch break.  No place to get out as either private or protected State Park

Me just after we stopped for a 10 minute lunch break. No place to get out as either private or protected State Park

At hour 5, turkey vultures begin to gather for the expected feast, Terry said.

At hour 5, turkey vultures begin to gather for the expected feast, Terry said.

Can you see the alligator?

Can you see the alligator?

Possibly 2 Heron's

Possibly 2 Heron’s

We realize our time here is coming to the end.  We have had mixed thoughts and emotions about our time here.  When we first got here and I was being bitten by all the bugs and so very itchy I swore I was not ever going to winter here.  The December weather was very warm but unseasonable we were told.  The January weather has been very cool and also very unseasonable we have been told.  I am sorry we did not bring our bikes, the kayaking has been fantastic, not sure if we will find that in Arizona or Southern California.  Terry would have bought a motorcycle and joined the motorcycle club if we were staying.  We are just getting to know people and are really enjoying our time.  If only Florida wasn’t so far away, but it still may be on the list.  Fuel is basically the same price in Alberta as are groceries, clothes are cheaper, eating out is comparable but most meals have so much food it is easily shared.  We continue to think very seriously of living in our RV full time.  Life is good, we don’t get on one another’s nerves to often.  It is a change in the amount of time we spend together, while in our home we may be in the same house but often in different rooms, doing different things.   Here we are together in a much smaller space and it is working for us.  Terry says “so far”.

Dec 7 – 11

We are keeping to a routine and looking forward to kayaking when we arrive back in Jauuary.  The Farmer’s Market in Inverness is wonderful, so great to get garden fresh vegetables.  The vegetables in the supermarkets are no fresher than the ones we buy in Alberta.  The huge Howard Flea Market in Homosassa Springs is an eye opener.  After attending the ones in the Palm Springs area in January I will not be going back to this one.    Packing, packing. Stayed in Orlando to catch the 6:30 flight out Dec 11.  Short delay in Toronto and arrived in Alberta to a mighty cold and windy afternoon.

December 3 – 6, 2013: The Florida Keys

We decided to tackle the Keys before the post Christmas invasion.  We will drive down the Gulf side and come back on the Atlantic side.

The drive takes us past Big Spring, Tampa, St. Petersburg, Fort Myers and Naples.  The land is very flat, mainly urban, many shopping centres.  Many homes are decorated with a snowman, it is hard to get into the Christmas mood without the snow.

We stop for fuel in North Port, I have just finished saying I want to see an alligator in the wild and there between the ditches of the four lane highway is an alligator sunning itself on the bank.  The two cars that have stopped for this photo opportunity both have Canadian licence plates.   On the way back to the highway we spot the truck of the animal control officer who no doubt will take the poor thing back to where it belongs and where it will be safer.  We spot lots of turtles sunning themselves along the water side.

This poor thing turned left instead of right

This poor thing turned left instead of right and now its a free ride back to the swamp

As we turn east we are on a road referred to as “Alligator Alley”.  The four lane highway is surprisingly straight, very flat and only slightly above the water line.  Us travellers are fenced in.  The north side of the highway is a river of saw grass interspersed with channels of water, south side consists of mangrove shrubs with channels of water.  The 80 mile trip had 3 spots where boat launches, piers or docks where fishing was accessible.  The view of the Everglades made us realize just how confusing it would be out there with the limited views.

Keeping the humans fenced in.

Keeping the humans fenced in.

By the boat ramp/dock

By the boat ramp/dock

Very interesting - hope it's clear enough to read

Very interesting – hope it’s clear enough to read

Scary stuff

Scary stuff

Florida has rest areas every 45 minutes, these areas are between the divided highways and usually have a police office or sub-office, covered picnic tables, local information, some have fast food restaurants and of course bathrooms.

After our 8 hour drive we arrive in very warm Key Largo.  The Courtyard by Marriott has fresh chocolate chip cookies, we all enjoy one.  The hotel is situated on a marina and the air conditioning is great.  28C feels like 34 and by morning its cooled down to 22C.  We learned as of December 15 our $140 night hotel becomes a $280 night hotel and then bumps up again in February.  Crazy.

The view from our room.

The view from our room.

We meet a family of 5 from Napnee, Ontario who are on a 10 month boat holiday/adventure.  The marina has made arrangements with the local hotels which allows their customers to use the swimming pool, laundry and bathroom facilities.  The kids love the cookies too!!

Wednesday Dec 4

Up early and off to “Mile 0″ , Key West, Florida.  Key Largo is mile 100.  Fort Kent in Maine is mile 2209 on US Highway No. 1.   We stop at mile 77.5  to feed the tarpon because so many people told us it was interesting. Payment of a dollar allows you to walk on the dock, for $3 you get a bucket of dead bait fish to feed the tarpon and by default the lightening fast pelicans that try to get a free meal.  We were told both will take a finger.

Tarpon waiting for a snack

Tarpon waiting for a snack

The fish are not captive but stay due to the free meals.  The 100 or so fish we saw varied in size from 20″ to 6′ and weigh up to 75 lbs.  Whenever we or anyone else dropped a fish it was gone with a frenzy of splashing and squawking.  If anyone is interested google “feed the tarpon in the keys” and several sites will give you the show for free.

During our trip the GPS showed us driving on water 75% of the time.  During the 100 mile trip we crossed 47 bridges, the 2 lane highway was very slow with lots of traffic, we couldn’t even meet the 45mph limit, can’t imagine what it will be like January – March.  We stopped in at an RV Resort, $125 a night to camp next to the water, it was maybe a 2.5 star resort.  Yikes!

It was almost too hot to sit outside to enjoy our lunch overlooking the gulf watching all types of watercraft going by.  We took the Conch(pronounced konk) Tour Train.  Our tour guide has lived in Key West his entire life, he spoke English, Spanish and French.  It was a 2 hour tour of a very small area, nothing really attracted us to make a second visit.  The population is approx 25,000.  In 1889 Key West was the biggest city in Florida.  We were shown “eyebrow homes”, imagine partially closing your eyelid, a low wall was constructed over the windows to keep the sun out, it had a 2′ gap between the wall and the window, but never met the goal as the cooling breeze could not penetrate the covered windows.  Key West was destroyed by fire in 1886. Brick buildings became the norm.   The Spanish called Key West,  “Cayo Hueso” – Bone Island for the all the skeletons that early explorers found littering the beach. There are no sand beaches, just crushed coral. As the tourist expect sand beaches, sand is trucked in, 100 truck loads at a time.  Lots of restaurants advertised Cuban food.  The museum on the importance of the cigar to Key West was interesting.  Famous Duval Street proudly home of the infamous Duval Crawl would probably be best seen in the dark.  We did not stay for Sunset at Mallory Square, we were tired and wanted to get back to Key Largo. We did hear many good things about this event, everyone said it was not to be missed.  By 2:30 the vendors and street performers were staking out their turf.  To do this tour over again I would stay one night in Key West and 2 in Key Largo.  Most activities are water based.  It was surprising to see no surf  but the reef’s 8 – 10 miles out break the surf so its like kayaking on a lake.  I would not go out without a guide due to all the little islands and I think it would be easy to lose your way.

Key West home

Key West home

A Bank

A Bank

Hemingway House

Hemingway House

Thursday, Dec 5

Darlene and I are snorkelling by 10 am at the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park about 2 miles north of Key Largo.  The water was pretty murky so we only saw a stingray which was about 18″ across, a small school of fish about 8-10″ long, a crab took a look at me and scurried back under its rock.    We didn’t have water shoes so it was dicey getting in.  No sand beaches.  However it was a warm morning and a very beautiful park.

Snorkelling for a Flat Ethan project for our Grade 2 grandson Ethan.

Snorkelling for a Flat Ethan project for our Grade 2 grandson Ethan.

Orval went fishing on a charter and came back empty handed.  Terry stayed with us and stood guard.  We all spent the afternoon at the hotel pool reading and finished the day off at Snook’s (snook is a type of fish) on the outside patio watching the sun sink into the Gulf.  Perfect, perfect, perfect!!

Wonderful evening at Snook's

Wonderful evening at Snook’s

Friday, December 6

While having lunch at the Fish House Thursday our table neighbours recommend we take Capt. Sterling’s Everglades Tour.  It was a great suggestion and we would highly recommend it.

Dave our guide for our educational 2 hour Eco-Tour was fantastic.  After days of seeing the huge birds soaring in the sky we finally learn they are frigates or man-o-war.  The wing span is over 6′.  They do not hesitate to take fish away from other birds.

We saw small loggerhead sponge’s, jelly fish sleeping on their backs on the ocean floor.  We toured the most beautiful site of the Everglades according to the National Geographic Magazine.  The trees there are estimated to be 2000 years old.  The seed of the Red Mango tree take 4 years to begin growing.  The 4″ pod drops off the tree and sprouts a root and then washes ashore where it attaches itself to the ocean bottom.  When a storm takes the leaves off the mangrove trees it can take up to 25 years for the leaves to grow back.

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Mangrove trees

Mangrove trees

Yes we came through that opening.

Yes we came through that opening.

The stick with the orange piece sticking out is the seed pod.  It turns into the small tree in the upper right side of the picture.

The stick with the orange piece sticking out is the seed pod. It turns into the small tree in the upper right side of the picture.

We spotted a small clump of trees with white leaves, which indicated a rookery for pelicans and cormorants.  It was quite a ways from land to keep the birds safe from the raccoons.

We saw a mullet ball.  These fish search for little fish and in doing so churn up the sandy bottom thus the change in water colour from blue to brown.

We travelled the canal’s searching for manatee’s.  We found a momma and her baby, these mammals are much larger than I thought, adults are approx. 1500 lbs.  After feeding they come into the canal’s because it is quieter, safer and warmer.  They love fresh water and will drink from a hose left just above the water.  The West Indian Manatees or sea cows the locals call them can live 60-70 years and are very gentle curious creatures.

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Momma and baby

Momma and baby

We passed through the canal cut through the key and were astonished to see the fossilized remains of all the coral, so beautiful.

Amazing

Amazing

After our tour we walked up the dock to Sundowners for lunch, our server Tim was so great and had such a great sense of humour I completed the comment card.  Our trip home was shorter going the Atlantic route past Miami, Fort Lauderdale,  West Palm Beach and Orlando,but still took us 6 1/2 hours.  We finally got to see some orchards.

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