Friday, January 26, 2018

Super Friends, Sunsets, National Park but Not so Super Bowl

We had a busy time this week in the Keys enjoying the sunsets, hanging out with friends and a quick trip to Biscayne National Park near Homestead. We went to the Art Under the Oaks to check out the local arts and crafts but I did not take any pictures. The weather has improved with warmer temps and mostly sunny skies.
We started the week with fellow Pennsylvanians and Steelers fans Sue and Denise. We were all prepared for a big win but as you all know it did not end well. 
After the disappointing game we had a real spread of food to console us. Joe made a great fish stew and everyone else contributed great dishes.
Beth and Dick.
Jim and Chris.
Jean and Gary
Sue and Dennis
Joe and Kathy, it was also their going away party as they have moved on to Central Florida.
George and Linda. Linda complained that her eyes were closed...... I took another picture later in the week - Dilly, Dilly!!!
We wanted to get the Biscayne National Park stamp in our book so we did a day trip out of the Keys. This is a unique national park that is made up of a very narrow strip of land on the mainland, the northern most keys and coral reefs but most of the sights are under the water of the bay.
The visitors center has interesting displays of what the coral reefs are like with the various plants and sea life.. 
Most of the shoreline of the park is covered with mangrove trees that are great for nesting birds and controlling erosion, especially during hurricanes. Irma did very little damage here. 
There are also exhibits about the many ship wrecks that occurred here over the years and a few of the larger keys that were once inhabited.
It is hard to see but the skyscrapers of Miami Beach, 20+ miles away, can be seen on the horizon. It was cool and windy the day we were there so we will have to return some time to get out on the water in a kayak or one of the excursion boats to get an up close look at the reefs and mangrove forest.
We always look forward to the sunsets here. The group usually gathers on the dock or at the tiki hut to watch the ever changing sky. This is a panoramic picture of one that was beautiful but not lighting up the high clouds.
A closer look at the same sunset.
  The best sunsets are the ones that reflect off the water.
We are amazed at how long they last. Sometimes the sky is still orange an hour after the sun has sunk over the islands.
Another Sunday, another football game. Tim and Patty are die hard Pats fans so we know who they are cheering for. Even though the Steelers were not playing we too got together and enjoyed the food and drinks while rooting for the ?????????
Shawna and Lance, who have only been fulltiming for six months, joined us.
Ray and Laura are Packers fans so they did not have a team in the game either. John was rooting for the Vikings so he went home disappointed after the second game.
Gary was the only Floridian here and even though he is a Dolphins fan he was rooting for the Jags. Nanc had to console him after the game.
New Englanders Linda and George sure were happy with the Pats comeback. It would have been a lot more fun for us if Pittsburgh had been playing (and beating) the Pats, but we still managed to have a good time.

This is our last week in the Keys. On Tuesday we will be heading to Betty's RV Park in Louisiana. It will be a four day 1100 mile sprint . We will be there for two months and are looking forward to seeing many friends there and enjoying the music and food. 

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Welcome to the Keys

We moved to the Florida Keys Elks on New Year's Day for the month of January. We have found that traveling through Miami on the holiday is easier than on any other day. This is the sixth time we have been to the Keys and the fifth time we have stayed at the Elks, so our time here is more about having fun with friends rather than touring and seeing new things. Of course escaping winter's chill is very high on why we come this far south. While there have been a few cooler than normal days, it has been no where near the -6 our friends in WashPA are experiencing as I write. 
Our view for the month is the best we have had in our time on the road. We can sit in Opus and watch the birds and boats coming and going.
We arrived at 2PM and were happy to see the group was gathering for a New Year's celebration. Here are ladies Beth, Mary, Sue, Chris, Patty, Mary, Linda, Kathy, Jean Nanc and Laura.... 
....and the guys Gary, Dan, Billy, Dennis, George, Jim, Jim, Joe, Dean, Steve and Tim. We have met about half the group on our earlier visits and are looking forward to getting to know the new people.
One of the local Elks showed up in a Model T to help us ring in 2018 in style.....
....including a Keys tradition, the blowing of the conch shell at sunset. The sunset was not one of the best but it was a different way for us to ring in the new year.
The north wind brought some cool weather that left this white stuff piled up on the beach. No it was not sn*w, just a bit of sea foam from the rough water. 
There are always different activities happening at the Elks. The Paint and Sip evening was a huge success with many painters and sippers. 
A few of the RVers participated and had a fun time. Dan was the only guy and the next day we found that there is much more to him than his painting.
He is also a great chef and cooked a wonderful Thai meal for the group. He had something for everyone including a vegetarian dish for Nanc. As you can see by his shirt the meal was very spicy. 
Nothing brings this group together like food. Many of the RVers gathered to enjoy Dan's excellent food and the beautiful Florida weather.
We have several favorite restaurants here in the Keys but we always look forward to finding new places dine. One day we went to Mrs. Macs where Joe had this interesting whole fish. Another day we had sushi at Maki Sushi and Thai. We give high marks to both.
RVers are always ready to help others when they have a project. Gary (left) had to replace the TV in his rig. George and I pitched in and after several trips to the local hardware store, we modified the old bracket and mounted the new TV. Guess what? The new one did not work either and when Gary checked, it turned out the electric outlet in the rig was bad not the old TV. Oh well, it kept us out of trouble for the day. 
One of our favorite things to do at the Elks is to watch the sunset. They are not spectacular every day but they are always different. Our blog's heading picture was taken here.
The group gathering for the sunset.
We checked out a couple places that have music. The Ocean View Pub, owned by former Steeler Gary Dunn, has a great jam session of Tuesday evenings. If you like rock and blues this is the place for you.
Another new to us restaurant, Morada Bay, has really good food and a great outdoor water view. We had a fun time there with Joe and Kathy.
Another evening we went to the Pilot House for music and dinner. It had been a rainy afternoon and right as the sun set, the clouds cleared enough for a beautiful sunset.
We drove down the Keys one day to check out the damage from Hurricane Irma. South of Islamorada to Layton there is still a lot of debris piled up from the storm.
While this home was damaged, the houses that are built out of concrete came through the storm in much better shape than mobile homes and those built with wood frames.
Long Key State Park was totally destroyed. This spot used to be lined with RVs. All the sites are gone and the park will not be opening any time soon.
Trailer parks were hit very hard. Several are closed, creating a housing shortage for many people who work in the Keys. While most hotels have reopened, there are several that are still closed and will not be opened this season.
Another fun evening at the Elks. Sue finally got up her nerve and sang at the karaoke....
.....and Joe got Nanc on the dance floor. We really have a great time with all the people at the Elks.
Joe is always up for a fun time. Kathy took this picture when he served as Santa's elf for the kids Christmas party at the Elks. Since Mary Lou is selling her place in Jupiter, we are hoping to get into the Elks next winter before Christmas so we can join in on the holiday fun.  

2017 Travel and Campground Reviews

This is a link to where we visited and the campgrounds we stay in during our 2017 Travels.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Grand Time in Jupiter

For six of our eleven years on the road we have wintered in Florida. Every year we have stayed in the sunshine state we have spent the holidays at Jonathon Dickinson State Park near Jupiter. Our WashPA friends Mary Lou and her husband Jack (who passed away in 2011) have wintered there since 2005 and it has always been great celebrating the season with them. We really like the Jupiter area, but this may be our last time staying here as Mary Lou has put her condo on the market and is moving back to WashPA.
We have done this enough times that we even have a few traditions. On the day of our arrival Mary Lou (right) has us to her place for dinner. This year we were joined by her neighbor Kathy. It was a fun evening getting caught up and planning what we would be doing during our visit.
We have several places we like for dinner and music. A stop at the Square Grouper for a bit of music is always on the list. It's a funky outdoor venue with a name that has a hidden meaning. Look it up.
Another evening we stopped by the Double Roads Tavern where we have been for the Jupiter Jazz Society's Sunday jam session. It was open mike electric night and the music was great. We had an interesting time talking to the harmonica player who is an attorney from Charlottesville, VA.
On Christmas Eve we tried a new place, Juno Beach Fish House.  We added it to our list of great local restaurants in the Jupiter area.
There is something wonderful about taking a dip in the pool on Christmas day. You know it had to be really warm (hot) for Nanc to go in the water.
My personal Polar Bear Club requires that I take a dip in the Atlantic on Christmas. It's not the same as a dip in the Mon in Pittsburgh, but it is very refreshing. 
The three of us on the beach when it is freezing up north is wonderful.
Many Floridians have the same holiday tradition.
Another tradition for our stays here is that Mary Lou makes one of our favorite dishes linguine with clam sauce for Christmas dinner. This year she invited her neighbors from across the hall Jack and Mervat for dinner. They are from Pittsburgh and live on the same street as my brother. It was a grand time which included a great meal, time spent with friends and to top it off, a Steelers win!
Without a doubt our favorite restaurant in Jupiter is the Food Shack. It is in a strip mall and does not look like anything special, but the food is the best. If you are in the area don't miss it.
If you go to the Food Shack on Wednesday evening you get to hear Pam and Dave, one of our favorite local groups. They do a great variety of pop music.
Our stay was not all fun. I have been trying to figure out how to permanently install a new battery temp sensor for a long time. The original one that was installed as they built the rig went bad and I have been running the new one on the ground when we are hooked up. This was a good place to get under Opus and I figured out a path that would work. It took a couple of trips to Napa and Ace for material, but the job is finally done. 
There is always an argument about whether the sunsets are better in the Southwest or in Florida. I'm not sure which is the best but we love seeing them in both places.
We found a place in Tequesta, Locanda Rustica, that has great Italian food and live Jazz on Friday evening. We like that many of the venues in Florida are geared to the "older" set with music staring and ending early in the evening. 
We went to Riviera Beach to visit Manatee Lagoon. It is a viewing area by a power plant were the manatee gather when it is cold. Unfortunately or fortunately it was not cold enough to attract many sea cows but we did get to see these three huddled in the far corner of the lagoon.
In addition, there were many tarpon and we also spotted a bull shark so the day was a success for viewing sea life.
This is what it looks like when it is really cold. We had mixed feelings about not seeing a lot of them. It would have been neat, but it also would have been cold. We heard from Mary Lou that after we left and a cold front came through the place was packed with manatee.
At least we got hugged by a sea cow. It you are in the area, Manatee Lagoon is a worthwhile stop.
This is Oceancrest, the building Mary Lou lives in. It is right across the street from the ocean. If you are in the market for a place in Jupiter here is a link to the information about her place.
 We had a fun evening ringing in the New Year. We started with dinner at Seasons 52. It is great being able to sit outside for New Year's Eve dinner. We then went to the Maltz Jupiter Theatre to see the Capitol Steps, a group that prides itself for putting the "MOCK" in Democracy. They are equal opportunity offenders who make fun of  both political parties with songs and skits. We went to Mary Lou's place to watch the ball drop and ring in the new year. We had a great visit with Mary Lou over the last six weeks and wish her the best as she plans to move back to WashPA full time.

On New Year's Day we moved to the Florida Keys Elks for a month long stay. There are several people here who we have met on previous visits, so we are looking forward to a fun time. The weather has been cool but NOTHING like they are experiencing up North.