Moving Day

Homes on either side, canal in back and more private than before

Homes on either side, canal in back and more private than before

We liked Venture Out so much (proximity to Key West, secure, quiet, easy access) that early on Russ checked into how we could extend our stay. We ended up adding 6 nites to our time at RV474 and booking 11 nites at RV105 through Jan 31. Canceled our very pricey week up on Long Key and pushed out our arrival at (the very affordable) Southern Comfort RV Park in Florida City where we also chopped off time at the end to make only a two-week stay. Florida City didn’t look appealing in the “fun things to do” department and Russ wanted to visit the Everglades for a few nights after Florida City. If you are wondering, “pricey” is $100/night (or more) and reasonable is in the $40-65 range. Northeast RVing is not cheap by any stretch and the FL Keys command top dollar for parks that often are mediocre at best.

Site 105 was a luxury spot on one of the resort’s many canals and I was happy Russ was the one who booked it, not me. Moving day, Jan 20, one month after we’d arrived- time flies uh? This was easy; a short drive through the resort and we got to practice departure preparations. We’d checked out the spot several times and knew we would fit perfectly. Headsets on. I park Bonny a few sites up and Russ positions Annie to back in. One of our new neighbors comes out (we have houses on both sides) and a guy in a golf cart hangs out to watch the show. Yes, a motorhome backing in is major excitement here in Denture Out (oh did I say that?)

Unfortunately for the crowd, the show was boring. That’s why we use headsets. :-) Only one almost oops when I forgot to look up and see that Annie was about to get acquainted with a tall palm. Kudos from the adoring crowd and we got hooked up, with chairs and awnings out in no time.

What is white, in the sky and not a cloud?

The blimp as seen from the Overseas Highway

The blimp as seen from the Overseas Highway

When we arrived in continental U.S. paradise, there up in the sky… a balloon, an advertising balloon, a blimp??? After seeing this guy in the sky day after day, Russ finally did the Google thing and we learned (once again) more than our brains could hold. Yes folks, we have Keys Disease. :-)

Blimpie, otherwise known as “Fat Albert” floats tethered above Cudjoe Key except for when he comes down for high winds, re-fueling or routine maintenance.

Fat Albert is a large white blimp that’s tethered to a truck at the blimp base on the backside of Cudjoe Key. It’s named for the cartoon character by the same name. It’s actually a Tethered Aerostat Radar System or TARS. Nine other TARS exist throughout the country. Their primary mission is to provide low-level radar surveillance along the southwest border of the United States and Mexico, the Straits of Florida and the Caribbean in support of federal agencies involved in the nation’s drug interdiction program.

A close-up photo of the blimp at rest

A close-up photo of the blimp at rest

The secondary mission is to provide North American Aerospace Defense Command with low-level surveillance coverage for air sovereignty in the Florida Straits. The aerostat radar data is available to NORAD and U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Basically I think this means Big Daddy is watching!! As in monitoring suspected drug smuggling flights, fast boats smuggling Cubans, weather, any low flying plane and other potentially harmful activity. The cost to operate is more than $500 dollars per hour.

Fat Albert is helium filled. He can be raised to a maximum 15,000 feet, but stays at 10,000 feet tethered to the blimp base by  cables with a maximum breaking strength of 26,000 pounds. He measures 175 feet long, 58 feet across and the tail wing from tip-to-tip is 81 feet. It can lift a payload weighing 1,200 pounds.

Look closely, you can see the tethers

Look closely, you can see the tethers

We have a great view of this guy, being on Cudjoe Key and all. We’d seen him before, in our Nov 2007 trip to Key West. Looking through our bazillion photos we found a folder named “Key West Trip- Benj’s” and there was one of the blimp. :-)

 

Glazed Donuts

Some may recall that we are donut hunters, searching out the best local donuts to take us to donut heaven. The tiny bakery we’d seen on our first visit vanished and try as we might, even asking around, we couldn’t find the darn place. So much for Cronuts. But as we walked down Whitehead after visiting the Shipwreck Museum, toward our car and the Impossible Things Bead Emporium, on Eaton Street sat “Glazed Donuts”. If that name doesn’t spell it out for you then welcome Martians to Earth! With a look and feel lifted out of NYC tempered with Keys ambiance, the classy joint sat conveniently next to the Tropic Theater with a Marilyn Monroe statue on the sidewalk.

Next door to Glazed Donuts

Next door to Glazed Donuts

Open 7am to 3pm, we just made it at 2:30. Ten to twelve standard offerings are individually displayed in clear cubbies on the counter to allow for pondering and drooling on yourself, not the donut. A metal bakery rack sits off to the side with fresh donuts. I got a glazed to go and we each chose one for the next morning. Oversized so you don’t feel too bad about paying $1.50 (others cost more!) the dough of the glazed donut reminded me of Britt’s slight egg-y flavor, but these were larger and not quite so close to a French cruller texture.

Maple brown sugar with candied bacon was excellent; the Chocolate Lovers disappointed

Maple brown sugar with candied bacon was excellent; the Chocolate Lovers disappointed

Even better fresh on-site a few mornings later. A couple about our age sat at the window table. When I got up to buy a third one, the man asked me, “is this the best donut you’ve ever had?” To his credit he didn’t crumble when I told him “no” but it was darn close. But when he asked if I thought the place was franchise-able; well that was an easy, Yes!! When we left he had a few more questions for us; so be watching for a Glazed Donut shop in your town someday. :-)

Key West and the Glory Days of Wrecking

????????????????Another jaunt into Key West led us to the Shipwreck Museum where we learned more than our brains could hold about “wrecking”, or the business of salvaging ships.

When Florida officially became a U.S. Territory in 1821, Key West became the center of one of the most lucrative businesses in history; that of salvaging ships. Several events spurred this on. In 1822 John Simonton, the first land owner of Key West, helped convince the U. S. Congress to create a new district for customs collection for the south Florida coastline. Soon after, President James Monroe designated Key West as the Port of Entry, which meant that wrecked goods from foreign countries, with payment of duties, could now be handled locally. A booming business was born.

In 1825 Congress enacted a law prohibiting the carrying of wrecked goods on the Florida coast to any foreign place and required all such goods to be brought to a port of entry in the U.S. This drove out any foreign competition and now even more duties got paid through the customs house in Key West. The next important event was when Congress established a federal court in Key West, locally known as the “Wrecking Court”. The court licensed Wreckers and oversaw the business that was rapidly propelling Key West and her 800 or so inhabitants into a place of wealth.

So how many ships wrecked on the reefs fringing the coast of the Florida Keys? On average, about one per week! In the 1850s Key West was easily the richest city per capita in the United States; in the two years of 1855 & 1856, 151 ships required some sort of assistance from “Wreckers”. Talk about the boom years!

I'll drink to that!

I’ll drink to that!

The business was quite organized and the court judges punished infractions. The sloops and schooners that rushed to the aid of wrecked ships were owned by either the sloop’s captain or a separate individual. The crew, the captain and owner all shared in the profits derived when the salvaged goods sold in the huge markets and warehouses in Key West. Only the first sloop or schooner to reach the poor wrecked ship got the money but it was not uncommon to share a portion with others who assisted.

View from atop the tall watch tower

View from atop the tall watch tower

Ships carried a wide variety of goods: fabric, hard goods, silver bars, coins, marble, even pianos. The citizens of Key West lived well; perhaps that helped offset the mosquito laden oppressive heat of the summers. Even now I wouldn’t want to spend summer in Florida.

The lowest level of the museum was a former cistern and our noses detected that musty -salty-water odor right away. Among other items it housed a wide-screen TV that ran a 14 minute narrated story using old movie footage and a place we recognized immediately; Mystic Seaport with the Charles W Morgan in the background.

Annie Feels Pretty

Not our best work but it gets the job done

Not our best work but it gets the job done

Hi All, Annie here. You know I may not have been born in the south, but I got here as darn fast as I could. Born in 2007 in Forest City, Iowa I spent my formative years around North Carolina, but what happened during those years I will keep to myself!  Since September 2014, however; you can follow along with me, and Bonny and those two people who greatly prefer warm and sunny to cold and snow.
For Christmas Santa brought me a new hub cap to replace the one that went walkabout in Brunswick, GA. This one is an aftermarket one with no “Freightliner” wording but Captain Russ got two for the price of one and cheaper shipping than the OEM version so when another one falls off, I won’t be feeling a bit naked very long.

Shiny, new but lacking the OEM name

Shiny, new but lacking the OEM name

Santa also promised I’d get four tire skirts to make me feel like a proper southern belle. They are to protect the tires from sun damage (don’t we all need that?) when plopped somewhere for a long time. Whether they really help or not is debatable but since my owners already had the Textilene (used to make Ortolan’s sunshade) and snaps ringed the wheel wells, it was a no-brainer I guess. So the other day, after a 6-day illness delay (oh, not me), I finally got my snap-on skirts.
Some RVs have ones that sit directly on the tire while others are more like mine only they snap on above the wheel well and hang flat like a square cover.  I like mine; they make me feel like a lady.  So, how about a few “LIKES” or comments for me and my new look ? :-)

Lori chimes in:  right, one more thing to add to the “Departure Checklist”!! Occasional use only thank goodness. Thought I’d show you our view this morning; a very, very windy one and the most we’ve seen since Dec 1. The view looked better in real life; the shades added a surreptitious element that didn’t translate well when photographed.??????????????????????????
Now for a ladybug update: as of Thurs Jan 8 we are down to only two found wandering around inside. We like to think they are cleaning since ladybugs eat certain kinds of mold and mildew that we can’t see. :-)

Feeling Young Again

IMG_0957 (800x677)

Tracy, Chris and I

Some of you will remember s/v Sanuk and our (younger) friends Tracy and Chris who we first met in Vero Beach Nov 2010. They’d owned Sanuk, a Baba 30 (Hull #1) for only a short time so we thought they were joking when they talked about buying a catamaran and even borrowed one of our catamaran books. You may recall that we stopped to visit them in Crisfield, MD last October when we cruised down the Chesapeake on our way south. Yes, lovely Sanuk would be up for sale this winter. She’s spent the past few summers in the Keys, with her owners heading south to spend more time with her every winter. Ah, what a great life.
Marathon is roughly 27 miles up the chain from Cudjoe Key. No Name Pub wasn’t worth another visit so we met at Boondocks on Summerland Key for a catching-up dinner and a rousing game of mini golf- the only mini golf course in the Keys supposedly. We didn’t keep score but I’m sure the ladies ruled the night; me with the first (surprise) hole-in-one and Tracy with two. The guys, well they each managed to land a ball or two in the ponds. :-)

Russ goes fishing

Russ goes fishing

The moon was full and even with the iPhone we got a pretty decent shot.?????????

Chris won a snow cone (this place doesn’t give away free games) and grape was the fun flavor he chose.

I snuggle with Chris while Tracy cooled off in the ladies room!

I snuggle with Chris while Tracy cooled off in the ladies room!