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Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Traveling Daze

I'm currently traveling and don't know when I'll get a lot of time to write. My lovely wife and I are fine, just having some long and busy days.

-Sixbears

Drifting into Island Time



It doesn't take a remote island in the far Caribbean to slip into island time. Any island will do. (Except Manhattan, but it's a special case). In fact, it doesn't even take an island to slip into island time.

My lovely wife and I were supposed to meet with my daughter and her friends for ice-cream early in the afternoon. Then their lunch was pushed back and our ice-cream date did too. No problems. We were all set to meet up with them, but then some other stuff happened.

This time it was my lovely wife and I who slipped into island time. Our neighbor decided to wrangle the water snake hanging around his truck. That provided some entertainment -and a very angry snake. Finally, he got it loaded up in a bucket and hauled it to another part of the campground.

Of course, we started talking, and talking and talking. It's pretty common for long term campers to share information about different campgrounds. It's fun to hear about interesting places we've yet to go to. We also had the pleasure of sharing information they could use. By the time we got done talking, my lovely wife and I were the late ones.

Eventually, we all met up and had a great time. To make up for our late start, we hung together much later in the day. It's all good. There's always tomorrow.

-Sixbears

Monday, February 26, 2018

From the Ocala to the Treasure Coast



It was a long hot drive down from Salt Springs down to Long Point Campground. We checked in with plenty of time to catch my daughter after she came out of class. We dined with her and her friend. It was great to catch up.

Later we ended up at a bonfire and drum circle at the beach. It was the last fire permit of the season as the turtles will be laying their eggs soon.

Looking forward to catching up with our daughter at least one more time before she has to fly north.

It won't be long before my lovely wife and I will slowly make our way to Texas. We will be visiting her parents and younger sister. Later we will be heading back to Florida and over to St. Augustine. Lots of miles to travel yet this season.

-Sixbears

Sunday, February 25, 2018

The Difference a Year Makes



Last winter I was sick and injured. My lung problems were acting up, made worse by the cold dry air of a New Hampshire winter. Then I dropped a bundle of fire blocks on my leg which got badly infected. Lacking mobility, I hung around the house, getting no exercise and snacking too much.

Now I'm in Florida for the winter. My lungs feel good -like they were never injured. I'm physically active and eating less. My clothes fit a lot looser. The damage to my leg is slowly getting better. It swells up less and feels stronger. Hardly any pain lately too.

I really do miss my family and friends. However, I think they understand that this is something that I have to do for my health. I'm turning sixty in a couple weeks. While I firmly believe that age is just a number, it's getting to be a big number. I can only claim to be middle-age if I assume I'm going to live to 120. Maybe medical science will make that possible, but I don't even have basic medical insurance.

With that in mind, taking care of my heath is necessary. There are too many adventures I want to have yet.

-Sixbears

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Things that work, things that don't



Okay . . . now that my lovely wife and I have been on road for a number of weeks, I have a few more observations.

I've already gone into some detail about my dissatisfaction with the thermoelectric cooler. It's fine if there's plenty of grid power, but too power hungry for off-grid use.

The Straight Talk hotspot works, and works in places with marginal cell phone coverage. That's the good part. The bad part is that it's nearly impossible to know how much data you are using. The cell phone app is nearly useless. The minutes aren't cheap either.

Right now one of my big pet peeves is with the Windows 10 operating system. When my back was turned, it did a massive update. That rendered the computer useless for hours, plus ate up a lot of my expensive data minutes. The icing on the cake is now my mouse doesn't quite work right. When I get some down time in Texas, I'm going to wipe Windows off the computer and install Linux.

My bike has been super useful and fun. The old Jamis Explorer is holding up. It got covered in road salt on the way down. The chain needed a lot of lube, plus the pedals started to squeak badly and also needed work. Now it's running well. Using it all the time.

One of my off-grid deep cycle batteries just failed. It's one that was badly abused, so I'm not too surprised. I had my doubts about it lasting when I loaded it up in the van.

The van itself is running Okay. I discovered the AC had failed when I got down here. That was annoying as I spent big bucks getting it fixed last summer.

The dehydrated foods have worked out well. Overall they've been pretty tasty. Often they've saved us having to make a trip into town for more food. Also, not needing refrigeration is nice since the cooler has been marginal.

The Sawyer water filter is working great. It really makes a big difference in the quality of our drinking water. Well worth the time and effort to filter all our drinking water.

The snorkel gear has been nice to have, especially when diving in the springs. I did not get a chance to use it down to Key Largo do to weather conditions, but the springs have been amazing.

Every year, after we've been on the road a number of weeks someone will make the assumption that we live in our van all time. I guess we do it well enough to look like full time gypsies.

-Sixbears

Friday, February 23, 2018

Possible Solo Trip?



One of the adventures on my list is sailing trip down the ICW (Intra Coastal Waterway) from Virginia to southern Florida. Almost did it last year as we nearly bought a boat in Massachusetts. At the last minute I backed out. It was just as well as I would have run into the hurricane somewhere along the way.

My lovely wife isn't too keen on that particular trip. However, she doesn't mind if I did it on my own. To avoid most of the bad weather, the trip should be started no later than the month of October. A solo trip changes the logistics quite a bit. The first thing is that I could do the trip in our Oday 19. It's a small boat, but with just one person in it, it's big enough. The boat would not need a lot of upgrades for a solo adventure. In fact, the vast majority of the work needed for the trip is stuff we plan on doing anyway.

Some people claim the ICW can't be sailed, only motored. There are those who've done the whole trip without an engine, so it can be done. The Oday can sail with the smallest puff of wind, so it should be up to the task. Currently, it only has an electric trolling motor for an auxiliary engine. The motor can move the boat at about 3 knots, which is good enough. I would add more battery storage and a larger solar panel.

There's a number of ways the trip could work. One way is to have someone come with me as I tow the boat to Virginia. Then my driver can take the van and trailer back to New Hampshire while I sail south. At the end of my journey I'd find a safe place to anchor, moor or dock the boat. I'd fly home for the holidays. Afterwards my lovely wife and I would drive down with the trailer. We'd spend the winter doing a mix of camping and sailing.

The thing about adventures is that I'm always thinking about the next one -even while currently on an adventure.

-Sixbears

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Shout Out to Spud

Hey Spud! Can't seem to find your contact info. Must have left it back home.

Please contact me at:

sixbears@hotmail.com

-Sixbears

A day at the spring

Not much going on. Riding my bike a lot. Instead of taking the van to pick things up at the nearby stores, I've been using the bike.

My lovely wife and I did some snorkeling at the springs. Wonderful place with plenty to see. It's pretty amazing to dive right into where the water bubbles out of the rock.





Only big drawback to the park is that the free wifi is only near the office. My lovely wife and I walked up to use it after the office closed. There's a nice picnic table outside. Only problem is that the office doesn't get a breeze and the bugs ate us alive. I'll have to either post earlier or take the van up and hunker down inside away from the bugs.

-Sixbears

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Camping at Salt Springs



My lovely wife and I moved to the other side of the Ocala National Forest to Salt Springs. It's an amazing natural spring. Due to its salt content there are salt water fish in the middle of the Ocala. Looking forward to snorkeling the springs.

Before we left Clearwater Lake a guy came over and practically begged me to look over his trailer's solar electric system. He'd bought a small home built trailer. It was a neat little rig, well put together. Unfortunately, the new owner had no idea how the solar electric stuff was supposed to work.

His wife was particularly worried about it. It was a small system, but pretty well installed. It had a weird little charge controller/DC power center that took me a moment to sort out. Outside of that it was very straight forward. In fact, for a small system it had a couple of safety shut offs. That was part of the problem. The new owner would actually disconnect the solar panel from the battery because he had figured the switches wrong.

I assured the guy's wife that the system was very safe. She made her husband write down all my instructions. While I was at it I suggested a couple of easy upgrades if he was so inclined. It was fun to figure out the electrical set up. It really only took me about 10 minutes to sort it all out.

We've been having a great time and meeting people. I think we meet more people at the campgrounds without electric power. That gets people out of their campers more. They seek out conversation instead of watching TV or surfing the net.

That being said, we are staying at the section of Salt Springs that does have electric power. I'm using the opportunity to top off my off-grid batteries. Also, I can run my power hog of an electric cooler. With that in mind I picked up some fresh food. Even with fresh food, we decided to have a Mountain House meal for dinner due to the ease of preparation.

-Sixbears

Monday, February 19, 2018

Late Night Around the Campfire



It was a good day. We started with good coffee then moved on to a kayak trip around the lake. By evening we had some wonderful conversations with interesting people. The best part of travel is all the fascinating people along the way.

However, we are moving on to a new campground today. New things to see. New people to meet.

One of the fun things about staying at campgrounds that don't have electric power is checking out the way people deal with that. For a certain number, they just get a gas generator and continue with business as usual. Others have cobbled together some clever alternative energy systems. It is pretty funny to see some redneck looking guy complain about “getting his a** kicked by Ohm's Law.”

I've seen a lot of home brewed power systems out here in the National Forest. Also go some good leads on a more economical way to replace my home's battery bank. This has been a very good stop for me.

-Sixbears

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Wise Strogonoff



My neighbor at the campground said he's been eating vegetarian a lot more. None of the meals in the package I got from Wise have real meat in them. I asked him if he wouldn't mind trying a package of Wise brand strogonoff and telling me what he thought.

He said he followed the directions exactly. He found the meal was a little too soupy. After an additional five minutes on the stove, it was perfect. According to his tastes, the meal needed a little extra salt. That's better than having too much salt, as you can always add salt to taste.

What was his verdict? Overall, he thought it was pretty good. As a former military man, he claimed to like it much better than an MRE. So there you have it, one more opinion on dehydrated foods.

Speaking about dehydrated foods, I've been pretty happy with Harmony House Soup Mix, Dried Vegetable. I got the 12 ounce quart sized jar through Amazon. Sure, it works good in soups, but sometimes I rehydrate it and use it as a vegetable side dish. My lovely wife and I had those veggies, rice and some cheese as a light lunch.

Ease of preparation, food quality, no need for refrigeration and compact storage makes dehydrated foods a winner. I definitely will buy more of them in the future.

-Sixbears

Saturday, February 17, 2018

The Traveling Lifestyle



There are big differences between traveling as a lifestyle and traveling on vacation. The first thing about vacations is that they are much shorter, a week or two, usually. My lovely wife and I have been on the road for a month and half already. We have many more weeks to go.

Living on the road, eventually you have to do the laundry. That's not the sort of thing people on vacation tend to do. Laundry can wait until they get home. With us, it doesn't matter if we are in a vacation spot or not, the laundry still needs to get done. As I write this I'm wearing dress pants and a paint stained shirt. Yep, it's laundry day!

Budget is an issue. On vacation, blowing the budget is almost part of the tradition. After all, when is the next time you'll ever get to do what you are doing? If it takes more money to experience everything, what the heck? When living on the road, we do catch some special things, but the budget matters. We are going to need enough money to go the distance.

We also tend to avoid the big tourist traps. As often as we've been to Florida, we've only been to Disney World once. That's back when the kids were little -and we were on vacation.

This holiday weekend the campground is full. People will be trying to squeeze as much activity in the few days allotted to them. By Tuesday, the campgrounds will be half empty again. The people left will be the long term travelers. Few of us are going to party hearty, as that's not sustainable on the long run. For us, it's all about the long run. Frankly, there's a lot less pressure when you don't have to experience everything in a few days. Sometimes just sitting together with new friends having great conversations is good enough.

-Sixbears

Friday, February 16, 2018

Lost Day



We lost a day somewhere along the way. My lovely wife and I discovered that it was nearly impossible to find a campsite in our area. We were supposed to check out of Clearwater Lake on Thursday. Our reservations had a four day gap. Not thinking, we forgot it was a holiday weekend and everything was booked up. Everything. We could not even get into wilderness sites. Finally, we checked to see if there was room in the campground we were already at.

As luck would have it, Clearwater Lake had exactly one last campsite available. We moved in immediately before someone else could take it. Now we are set with reservations until the end of the month. Looking good.

We've met some interesting people here in the campground. It's been my experience that the cheaper Federal places have more people who think outside the box. That's where you see the funky rigs and non-conventional people.

The more expensive places tend to have newer and more conventional rigs. They drive in, connect their water, electric and hook their TV dishes. Their stories aren't nearly as fun as the folks living in a converted utility trailer.

I had hoped to write a blog on Wednesday. Being Valentine's Day, I took my lovely wife out to dinner. That's after moving to our new site. We spent a good part of the morning burning up computer battery power looking for campsites on the Internet. After our dinner, the computer battery and the hotspot battery were both dead. When I moved, I hadn't hooked up the auxiliary solar electric system to the van yet. Charging the laptop and hotspot would have been a hassle. It was late. We were tired, and heck, it was Valentine's Day.

-Sixbears

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

The good and the bad of off-grid camping



This trip we've camped in areas lacking grid power a lot more than ever before. The van has a 100 watt panel mounted to the roof, feeding a 12 volt deep discharge battery. Tied into that is a dual 12 volt outlet jumper and 1000 watt inverter.

I use the 12 volt outlets a lot. One usually charges my cell phone. The other runs my c-pap directly on 12 volt. That's a huge power savings. The regular AC cord has a power converter that drops the voltage from 120 AC to 12 DC. Not only is the DC cord more efficient, it will run the c-pap even when the battery is too low to power the inverter.

Before I left home I snagged my small solar electric system out of my beach shed. It's a 50 watt panel, charge controller, and a 12 volt battery, plus a 400 watt inverter. Since it's all portable, the panel can be placed in the sunnier parts of our campsite.

I planned to mostly run my computer off that system. However, with the heat and humidity we've been getting, it's been powering a fan a lot too. That really puts the system to the test. It mostly keeps up. There's a third deep discharge available if the main two get too low. It's the battery that was running my sailboat.

Whenever we stay at a campground that provides electricity, I make sure to charge all my batteries to the max.

The ugly part? It's no surprise that it's the 12 volt cooler. Cheap thermometric coolers using a Pelitier circuit are known to be power hogs. Compressor types are more expensive, but a lot more efficient. I wanted one, but my lovely wife pointed out our budget constraints so we made do. The solar electric system does not keep up. It runs fine on grid power, but we've been off-grid a lot this winter. Sometimes we even use ice in the cooler, which is a big no no. However, if the cooler dies because of it, I'll happily throw it away.

We've stayed off grid a lot this season. That has allowed us a lot more camping options and saved us considerable money. (enough to pay for a compressor cooler, hint, hint)

-Sixbears

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Distance and Perspective



When we are home we make plans for traveling. When travelingwe make plans for home improvements. That's not quite as backwards as it sounds.

The home projects can seem overwhelming. It's easy to get distracted from one job to another. Being away from the house we have perspective. Somehow it's easier to set priorities. We also are more likely to considering changing major things that would not even occur to us back home.

For example, we've decided to change our water heater from a 40 gallon tank type to a tankless heater. Since the house is shut down and the plumbing drained, the job is partially done already. Rather than go through the trouble of hooking up the tank heater again, my efforts will go into installing a new heater. The old tank can be repurposed as a preheater running off the woodstove during cold months. That part of the project can wait until the end of summer.

Since the power is shut off, it will be a good time to do a couple annoying little electrical jobs before the power is turned on again.

My guess is that after four months or so living as road gypsies, we'll appreciate the house a bit more. Unless, of course, we decide we really don't need a house at all.

-Sixbears

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Accidental Sailor Girl



There I was, walking around the Clearwater Lake campground when I saw an interesting VW camper van. It's a real classic, and with solar panels on the roof to boot. It looked really familiar for some reason.

Then I ran into someone I recognized. It was Pete walking his dog. His girlfriend, Kourtney, was at the van. We had never met, but I've been a fan of Kourtney's youtube channel, Accidental Sailor Girl, for a long time.

https://www.youtube.com/user/AccidentalSailorGirl

I introduced myself and told them I was a youtube follower. That evening we sat around the fire and had a wonderful time and most excellent conversation. Always a pleasure to talk sailing and sailboats with people who are living the dream.

They are just as nice in real life as they appear on the channel. It was a treat to get to know them in real life. Pete invited us to stop in at his shop in St. Augustine when we are in the area. My lovely wife and I invited to our place in New Hampshire when they are in the area.

So that's why my blog was late getting posted. Sometimes you live life instead of writing about it.

-Sixbears

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Relocated



My lovely wife and I headed out from Lucie Lock Campground and moved up the road back to the Ocala National Forest. We are trying a new campground for us, Clearwater Lake. First observation, it isn't much of a lake. More like an ambitious puddle. Okay, that's a bit of an exaggeration. It is big enough to have a swimming beach, so there is that.

My lovely wife has been doing the campground booking. A lot of times there are photos of what the individual sites look like. She picked a huge site that gets more sun than most of them. That's important when running on solar energy.

We just got here, but there are a few things we noticed right off, besides the size of the lake. The bathhouse is large, in excellent condition and very clean. The whole campground appears to be very well maintained. That's a credit to the people who are running the place. Someone actually cares.

I expected a campground around a lake to be buggy. Surprisingly, it's not that bad. Maybe it's a good day and they will come out in force later. Time will tell. We are here with the weekend crowd. That mean's there's a lot of a locals. My guess is that by Sunday night the place will be nearly empty.

We are booked in here for a about week. After that, we aren't sure where we will go. We have some days booked at the end of the month on the Treasure Coast. What happens between our stay here and going there is anyone's guess.

-Sixbears

Friday, February 9, 2018

Wise Foods and Mountain House



The good news about both companies is that they put out perfectly edible food that's compact and easy to prepare.

Mountain House generally gets a slight edge on flavor, but that might be because they use real meats instead of soy substitutes. They also get good marks for ease of preparation. However, they are more expensive.

Wise products are all good. Last night we tried their version of chili and macaroni. It was perfectly tasty, but the Mountain House version gets slightly higher marks. The Wise version is spicier, so that could be a plus or a minus, depending on taste.

Wise has more actual food and calories in their pouches. The assorted bucket we got has more variety than the Mountain House bucket. If budget is the major concern, and you aren't afraid of having some soy products in your diet, got with Wise.

What am I going to do? Personally, I'm going to buy from both companies. That gives me more options and better variety. If we are really hungry and don't mind getting a pan dirty, Wise products are a good choice. Sometimes we don't want to dirty a pan and want to eat off paper plates so we go with Mountain house. If you are really hardcore you can east it right out of the bag.

It has been handy having dehydrated foods in the van. We don't worry about refrigeration. You can carry a lot of food in a fairly small space. That has made it nice when camping in more remote locations. Knowing there's a lot of meals in those buckets gives peace of mind.

One more thing, ignore the suggested servings sizes. Yes, they might be “normal” servings. If you'd add in a salad, bread, and dessert. That's not what you get them for. Often it's all that we have for a meal. Sometimes we'll add fruit or bread -if we have it.

In general, I'm happy with my purchases and will buy more in the future. Nobody sent any meals to test. They were bought out of my own budget.

-Sixbears

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Barging In



You never know what's going to motor past when you camp along the river.


We had a pleasant night in the tent. It was nice and cool. We didn't even put the rain fly on, so there was tons of ventilation. I could always run the fan in the van, but it's not like a fresh breeze.

The ranger came around with a paper telling us what they'd do in a shutdown. We'd have until Friday at 10 a.m. to leave. Power and water would be shut off and the gates locked. Since we planned on heading north on Friday, that's not a big deal for us. However, the campground we are booked into next is also Federal. As of Wednesday afternoon it looks like Congress will work out a deal in time.

I've been doing a lot of biking here. There's a nice visitor's center next to the campground. They claim to have wifi, but it's so weak and slow that I went back to using my hotspot.

Mostly we've been sitting by the river watching the world go by. Lot's of interesting boats on the water and plenty of wildlife to keep us entertained.

-Sixbears

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

St. Lucie Lock



My lovely wife and I are set up at the campground at St. Lucie Lock, Florida. It's a small campground, eight RV sites, three tent sites, and a handful of marina slips. The RV sites are very hard to get into. In fact, we are staying in our tent. It's funny, as most of our stuff is staying in the van, which is just across the road from the tent site.

The tent sites are probably the prettiest, as they are right along the river. They have nice covered picnic tables, fire rings, and grills. There is no electric. I've set up my small solar electric system to provide power for things like the computer I'm writing on.

The day started with a minor problem. One of the front tires on the van was low on air. Those huge tires take about 80 pounds of pressure. My little air compressor was able to bump it up to 65. I was able to drive to a PEP Boys about 15 miles away. The tire guy found a nail in the tire. It cost less than $13 to fix.

My lovely wife picked up some breakfast sandwiches from a nice little Cuban place. We had just enough time to finish breakfast before they took in the van and quickly fixed the problem. It was less than twenty miles to our campsite so we were not rushed at all.

We had the spaghetti Mountain House dehydrated meal for dinner. We really enjoyed it. All the Mountain House meals were good. My assortment bucket contained the spaghetti with beef, rice and chicken, and chili mac, a bean, beef, and macaroni noodle concoction. I think our favorite is the rice and chicken. However, a lot of people praise the chili mac. One thing I noticed on the spaghetti, the ingredients say it may contain up to 2% soy powder. For those avoiding soy, that's something to keep in mind.

One big advantage of the Moutain House is the ability to prepare it in the bag. We discovered it keeps the food warm for quite a while. One time we could not get to the meal right away, and it was still piping hot thirty minutes later.

After some primitive camping we really enjoyed the hot showers. We are booked for three nights, but I'm told if the government shuts down again,this park will be closed and everyone kicked out. There will be a lot of people looking to make other arrangements, at a time when all the campgrounds are full.

Let's hope for the best.

-Sixbears

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Weird Stuff Happens Out Here



Said the Fish and Wildlife officer. I asked her what kind of weird stuff. Well, she said, there was that time a guy dismembered his wife just down to the end there. They never did find most of her body. Turns out this is also the area they release alligators that show up in people's swimming pools. Normally they release them at the far end of the park, but there's a six footer they dumped in the canal on my doorstep. We keep the dog away from it.


Yep, that's the area where we are camping. Pretty isn't it? The only problem we had was from the party animals, but the officers sent them on their way. It was quite Sunday night.

One the tricks I learned about free camping spaces. Leave a place keeper tent set up. That way no one takes your camping spot when you take the van into town. Apparently, technically, this is a tenting area only, but the officers don't enforce that. They said they'd only have given me a hard time if I'd tried to back in a 32 foot long motorhome.


My new friend Mikey came through with the eggs. We woke to find three dozen of them in a coffee container by our folded up camp chairs. I got to thank him later in the day. He says he might show up in the morning with some of his homemade sausage.


We are actually enjoying our stay here. It's not that far into town, so we get out to civilization now and then.

-Sixbears

Monday, February 5, 2018

Strange Night at Free Camping



Well that was interesting. My lovely wife and I had set up camp. A young man pulled in beside us and asked about camping. He and a couple friends wanted to try camping but were unable to find room in any campgrounds. Us snowbirds had filled up all the normal campgrounds.

I explained to him how the permit system worked. He wasn't sure there were any sites available. The young man seemed like a nice kid so I said we would not mind if they camped next to us. There was plenty of room.

Right after dark the guy shows up with his friends and starts trying to figure out how to set up camp. I wasn't paying much attention, but then there was another vehicle stopped and a lot of flashlights were moving around.

I got out of the van and was greeted by two deputies from the Sheriff's Department. They were checking camping permits and seemed somewhat surprised to see we actually had one. Since we said the young guys could camp on our site, they were covered by our permit and were fine.

Right about then a whole line of pickup trucks and other vehicles showed up. They were loaded up with everything needed for a wild party. Everything, that is, except a camping permit. The deputies moved them on. I don't think the party animals were very happy about that.

By then it was pitch dark and the young men were struggling with the tent. They'd never been camping before. I flipped on the van's flood lights. My lovely wife and I showed them how to set up a tent. Later I helped them get their charcoal grill going.

Randy, Christian 1 and Christian 2, turned out to be pretty nice guys. They shared their grilled hot dogs with us. They never get to see the stars living the city and were amazed. My lovely wife pointed out a few constellations to them. It was a pretty good evening.

Every now and then pickup trucks would roar by, playing loud music, hooting and hollering. They looked like the same ones who didn't have a camping permit. They didn't cause any trouble beyond that. However, it was nice to have an additional three young men staying on our site.

So how did my lovely wife feel about the whole experience? She thought is was interesting. We plan on staying the next two nights we reserved. She also feels like she might like trying this again. She's a trooper.

-Sixbears

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Down the Road



Friday was a long day. We drove from Midway campground in the Everglades to Ortona Lock South. The drive wasn't too bad and Ortona is a nice place. We spent the afternoon puttering around, walking the dog, checking out the birds, meeting the neighbors, and watching boats go through the lock.

After sunset we went down to the bath house and caught up on things. We knew we were heading to primitive camping, so we took advantage of the showers, laundry and wifi. My lovely wife worked her magick on the Internet and was able to book another week later on in the month. Our winter is filling in nicely.

By the time my lovely wife was done with the computer it was late and I was tired. The laundry had finished at about the same time so we were done for the night.

Saturday we moved into a primitive campsite for the next three nights. There is not a lot here, but it's free, so there is that. One of my blog readers, Spud, suggested we look into Florida's free campsites and here we are. Not many wives would pick such a primive place to stay. I'm in good company. The cell signal is strong, and I can get some writing and Internet business done.

I had a nice talk with the rough looking character running a brush hog. Nice guy. He's going to bring us from fresh eggs from his chickens on Monday. He also told us where the bass hang out if I needed something for the frying pan.

There are some other campers around, but the sites generally are far apart. However, there is one right next to us that might get filled up. I'm told there are some sketchy folk down the end doing cocaine. That's interesting. On the other side of me down the road a couple families have set up a fishing camp.

We are booked for three nights here. Then it's back to Federal campgrounds. Those campgrounds are thought to be “primitive” but they have bathhouses with hot showers.

-Sixbears

Friday, February 2, 2018

Long Day

Long day. All is well. Too tired to write much more

-Sixbears

Midway!



We are spending the night at Midway Campground. Surprise, surprise, it's about midway across the Everglades on rt. 41.

My lovely wife and I decided to check it out. So what does this campground have to offer? It's a pretty good place if you have a big RV with significant power needs, like air conditioning. Power is offered in 12, 30 and 50 amps. Our power draw is pretty humble. We have a small fan instead of AC.

The campground is clean and well maintained. Sites ring a small gator pond. There's a single bathhouse, and it lacks showers. There is a pump out and one source of potable water. While most of the campground is geared to bigger units, there are some tent sites.

So far the people here are pretty friendly. Mostly it's northern folks avoiding cold winters. However, I had a nice talk with a Georgia man who was also escaping the cold.

It's funny. Everywhere we go, people feel pretty lucky to find a place to camp. Most of them lined their camping sites months in advance. They are all surprised to find out we've been getting making our reservations just days before. When people make reservations so far in advance there are last minute cancellations. We keep scouring the camping sites on the Internet, like Reserve America and the various government sites. As soon as spots open up, we lock them in.

The van is pretty handy as we can fit into a wide variety of sites. We just spent a week in Key Largo in what is officially called a tent site. They let us in because our van fits and we don't have AC drawing a lot of power. However, if a regular RV site opens up, we can use those too. Due to our solar electric system, staying on more primitive off-grid sites works. Worse come to worse we can stay at truck stops and Walmarts.

On our way out out of the Keys we stopped at a West Marine. Those are dangerous as they have lots of nifty marine things but at high prices. Sometimes they are the only place that carries what you need, so what can you do? We stopped in because we needed 5 feet of bungee cord. Before we got out, we had a new cooler bag, boat parts, new mask and snorkel for my lovely wife, and assorted odd and ends. A lot of stuff was marked down 75%, plus we had a couple of gift cards. Final damage was thirteen dollars, which wasn't too bad at all. We even got the bungee cord.

Internet by way of my Straight Talk hotspot is marginal. I wandered around with the unit, looking for a strong enough signal to get this blog out.

-Sixbears

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Only so Many Hours



It's amazing that I find time to do any writing at all. The morning started with a free coffee and doughnut get together at the campground. My lovely wife and I got into a nice discussion with some people. All of us had to take the visit outside as the clean up crew was about to kick us out.

I called about snorkeling charters but all of them were shut down due to the weather conditions. The winds have been relentless. That's one reason why we did launch our kayak. No sense going out just to struggle against the wind.

Instead I decided to go for a long bike ride. Well, I hadn't planned on a long ride. It just happened. By the time it was over my legs felt like rubber. Peddling here can be deceiving. There are no hills, so I didn't think heading down the road was going to be a problem. Coming back the wind was against me the whole way. That made a difference. Of course, I'm an old fat guy so it will be a while before I'm in the condition I want to be in. There are truly ancient people who putter along further than I go. When a bike becomes your main mode of transportation, you get good at it.

After a late lunch I hopped in the pool for most of the afternoon. My days are full. I'm getting a lot more exercise this winter than last.

My lovely wife and I are leaving the Keys for a bit. While it's nice here, it's the most expensive place we stay. Our budget will benefit from seeing other parts of the state. We can always come back later in the winter.

-Sixbears