Category Archive Travel

The Conch Republic

Finally the chill of winter is wearing off the Conch Republic.  Though still in the 50’s, the sun is out and the Northern wind has ceased.  Soon we hope to feel those famous warm temps!

Meanwhile Tim and I have stayed busy working and living on the Sunshine Key.  We are surrounded by Snow Birds who flock to the Keys each year for sunshine and camaraderie.  Though we are some of the youngest around, everyone greets us like old friends.  It’s truly the friendliest small town in America, even if everyone’s “homes” are on wheels.

Restless Natives
Restless Native

Today’s work day was halted abruptly when a guy who found an iguana hanging out in a tree above his RV brought him around the camp to show off.  Tim and I piled out of the van for evidence of exoticness in our chilly home.  Surely with an iguana in camp there must be warmer weather around the corner?

It's Gettin' Warmer!
Fewer Layers, Getting Warmer

Our work day was again paused as 5:00 rolled around.   Over the last two days as the clock strikes Happy Hour, we hear a distant sound:

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In the quiet evening, the faint tune is joined by another…and another.  At 5:00 the residents of the Sunshine Key raise their conchs and toast the end of another day.  Cocktail hour follows as folks emerge from their RV’s to meet and greet their neighbors.

By Request, a Gratuitous Ring Shot

Next on the agenda is a spectacular sunset that lights up the sky with reds, purples, and golds.  Tim and I have discovered our favorite spot for the day’s encore pageant.  We head out of a mangrove forest to the end of a secluded pier overlooking Bahia Honda to the West.  From our box seats we watch as cranes glide inches above the water, schools of fish dart between the mangrove roots and the sun sets behind the distant palm trees.

World Famous Floriday Keys Sunset
Sun Sets on the Conch Republic

The longer we stay, the longer we push out any other plans.  We may never leave.

Record Setters

As we huddle in Frank on the Sunshine Key while 30 mph Northern winds blast above us, Tim and I reflect on the dubious records we’ve been a part of over the last 5 months.  Though our trip was designed to escape Wyoming Winter, we feel like we have a stormy stalker.

Beach Hut
The Palm Trees Blow

For the period between October-December, Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia have set records for the most rain EVER since they began recording 115 years ago.   Our October-December was spent in…you guessed it: Delaware, Maryland and Virginia.

This November alone was Virginia’s 2nd wettest in 115 years.  December was the wettest.  Yeah we were here then too.

Snow in S. Florida?
Snow in S. Fla? Miami Speculates

While we were in Miami, the coldest Orange Bowl ever was played.  Today the temperatures dropped to 35 degrees, coldest since 1970.

2096 Miles to Jackson Hole
Even in the Sunshine Key, Jackson Hole is Represented

Now we can’t really complain since our home of Jackson has been facing -20 degrees every night, but come on…we’d be ecstatic with even an AVERAGE low.  But all that being said, we’re grateful for what we’ve got, at 55 degrees we are warmer than just about everywhere else in the States.

Sunshine Key Sunset
Wintery Keys Sunset

We hope the chilly weather will break by Thursday and we’ll see 70 degrees for the first time since we’ve begun our trip. Meanwhile, we’ll turn the heater on and snuggle in for a wintery evening in the Keys.

The Floridian

Tonight we spend another night in Homestead, Florida. Frank’s new hubs have been ordered from Sportsmobile. They are slated for arrival tomorrow morning, at which time Armstrong Ford will move like lightening to get them installed and get us out of here. We’ve become like family and just like family sometimes can be, they’ll be glad to see us leave.

Palm Paradise
Palm Tree Paradise

We’ve spent the last two nights shuttling between our hotel room at the Floridian and the Starbucks across the street. Though not luxurious with its orange and green tropical motif, the Floridian has all the required attributes for a hotel:  stone’s throw from a Starbucks, easy walking distance to groceries, fridge in the room, kitty corner to the Ford shop, and cheap.  After bleeding money for 2 weeks, cheap is very welcome.

Room 234 at the Floridian
Room 234 at the Floridian Hotel

We’re ready to head south.  Tomorrow the temperatures continue their slow creep towards 70 degrees. It’s not a moment too soon.  This morning I went to turn on the heat in the room.

“What’s that smell?” Tim asked.

A trickle of smoke came out of the heater as 5 years of unburned dust smoldered in the rarely used unit.  The trickle built momentum.  We decided that though it was probably fine – just some dust – we didn’t have a fire extinguisher if things got out of hand, so we better turn it off.

Instead we continue our southern Florida experience in sweatshirts and jeans, hoping for some good news tomorrow.  I see our luck turning!

We’re in Miami, B$@ch

Cruise Ships
Cruise Ship Parking Only

Tonight on our last night in South Beach, we reflect on the moments of this unusual but hilarious, chilly vacation.  Frank’s still in the shop and in the meantime we’ve traveled to South Beach Miami in a UHaul Cargo van for an unexpected 4 day detour from our stay in the Keys.  We all packed for traditional Southern Florida weather, so this week was all about adaptability as the temperature plunged to damp 30’s at night and brisk 50’s – 60’s during the day.

South Beach
Chilly South Beach

Here we share our highlights:

Bradshaw and Shell Reunited Again

Steelers Win!  And what a game it was.  The pregame tailgate was about 65% Steeler fans and their momentum carried the team.  Other than Green Bay, I am not sure you will ever see such a loyal fan base.  Even die-hard Miami fans had never seen their stadium taken over like they did on Sunday.

Fins Up
Landshark Panaroma
Steelers Victory

Delano Hotel.  Just 6 blocks down from our humble Carlton, towers the Delano, Madonna’s inspired South Beach icon.  We’ve all been to nice properties, but as Keri and I walked through filmy curtains to elbow out Georgio Armani models to get our 7$ Coronas at the bar, this was very very different.

Beach Paths and Palm Trees.  Even as Arctic winds blazed across the sand,  the beauty of this place shines through.  Tim and Jimmie were disappointed that the famed bathing bikini beauties stayed inside, but there was no doubt that the beaches, architecture and physiques of South Beach are incredible.

Sunrise South Beach
Miami Sunrise

Avatar in 3D.  Okay, this isn’t a Miami exclusive experience, but what an experience that movie is.   We donned our snazzy 3D glasses and sat back for the best use of a half billion dollars since the Bear Stearns bailout.  Obama only wishes his money went so far.   We all went to bed exhausted after feeling like we’d run miles through Pandora’s jungles.

Avatar 3D
3D Never Looked Better

Tomorrow, we’ll sadly drop Jimmie and Keri at the Miami Airport and then return to Homestead where Frank sits waiting for his new hubs.  Hopefully Friday we’ll be on the road again, we’ve had a great time in South Beach, but it will be good to be reunited with our home once more.

Need More Black Eyed Peas

Since the Ball dropped on America, our lives have become more and more surreal.

After our Black Eyed Pea Breakfast, we packed up and went to the beach.  The weather report called for rain, but the sun was sparkling and the temperature in the 70’s. It was cool for the locals but just right for us thick blooded Rocky Mountain folk.

On the Beach
Beach time in 2010

We spent the entire afternoon with good music and sunshine, watching the kite boarders off in the distance. Clouds rolled in at about 3 so we went back to camp for showers.  By the time we’d pulled in, the sprinkles began. 15 minutes later we were drenched with rain.  Tim and I took shelter in our tent as the water pooled up around the sides.  The deluge ended about an hour later and we emerged to a beautiful sunset.   We cleaned ourselves up and cabbed back to town for fish sandwiches at BO’s Fish Wagon and hilarious entertainment at Captain Tony’s, Florida’s oldest Bar. Here Buffett got his start.  Hemingway, John Kennedy, and Pacino have all graced its dingy doors. It’s a mecca to not be missed.

Saturday morning Tim and I woke up early with a plan. Today we hoped to pick up fixed Frank in Homestead and then find a place to give Jimmie and Keri their surprise Christmas present. We packed up camp, visited the US’s Southernmost Point and were on the road by 9 heading to Miami.

90 Miles to Cuba
Key West's Famous Southern Most Point

After traffic jams all the way up the Keys, we arrived back to Armstrong Ford. Frank’s hubs were getting remachined and were on the way back to dealer as we arrived. Time was ticking. The rental car had to be returned by 3 if Frank was going to be ready.  But if the hubs didn’t work, we had to keep the car through the weekend. It was 2:45 pm when the hubs arrived.  All the mechanics gathered around to look at the work and agreed these were going to work. Tim hopped in the car and returned the car to Enterprise just as Enterprise closed up for the weekend. Keri and I went to the grocery store to restock our supplies for Frank.

As we stood in line for the checkout, I noticed my phone had 8 messages. DON’T BUY ANYTHING, Jimmie Shell said.  The hubs didn’t work. The bolts were slightly offset and Frank’s wheels still didn’t fit. Now we had no place to stay, no car, and nobody in Homestead was open.

We needed a little morale lift for the troops so Tim unveiled Jimmie and Keri’s Christmas present. We had 4 tickets for Sunday’s Steelers/Miami game at Landshark Stadium. We had to get north.

Frank Substitute
Frank's Sub

It was time to get even craftier. With no rental car places open on Saturday, we took the next best thing.  A UHaul Cargo Van.  We loaded up everything we’d need for a tailgate and made a reservation for South Beach Miami and got on the road.

King James - South Beach
The King in his Castle

South Beach on a Saturday is rocking.  After checking into the Carlton Hotel, we hit the streets to explore.  We settled into a pizzeria on the corner of Empasado and Washington and people watched, ate delicious thin crust pizzas and toasted to Frank’s substitute and good friends.

Dinner on the Boulevard
Dinner on the Boulevard

Despite our plans being turned upside down, our Florida posse has bounced back. Now we sit in the parking lot of Landshark Stadium with our $19.95 a day UHaul cargo van celebrating the Steelers. We’ll need more New Year’s luck for Frank on Monday, but today we are enjoying a beautiful day in Miami!

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