Friday, January 20, 2012

To The Keys

To The Keys

Route 27 is a long, long road that leads from Highlands Hammocks State Park in Sebring, down thru Lake Placid, around the bottom corner of Lake Okeechobee and then down towards Miami. We started out driving thru grove after grove, row after row of square topped dark green trees, laden with bright orange fruit! By the time we rounded the corner of the lake we were driving thru extensive fields of various stages of sugar cane - from its earliest young grassy shoots to the fields of tall thick and shaggy cane ready for harvest. Not missing – again – was the accompanying clouds of dark gray smoke that burns off the residue from the fields. From Rt 27 and south on Rt 997 the fields went from cane to truck farms of tomatoes, strawberries and sweet corn. Then the tropical plants and flowers came next.

Near the corner of Rt 997 and Rt 41 we stopped at a gun club for the “boys” to blow off some steam and shoot some rounds of skeet. Both said they had fun but didn’t shoot their best. Oh, well. Nancy and I took a break from sitting on the hard cold picnic bench, where we had perched to knit and to watch the guys point, yell “PULL” and then shoot at those innocent orange clay “pigeons”, by investigating the collection of multi colored empty plastic shell casings in the nearby trash barrel. The bright colors are now on N’s cell phone as her screen saver!

The Miccosukee Bingo and Gaming Casino offers free overnight parking for RVer’s and there were several besides us that were taking advantage of it. We were also told about a pretty good meal of steak and lobster tail for less than $10 that we also took advantage of! When H and I park at a casino overnight, we usually make our “donation” of $1 to one of their machines and then leave. This time it was the poker machines that we all 4 ended up sitting in front of. H made his usual donation. My donation kept working it’s way from $1.12 up to $2.80 and back down several times before bottoming out. Nancy’s disappeared also. Ron on the other hand took home $10 to replace his “donation”. AND we had each signed up for a “Players Card” which gave each player a coupon for a Buy One, Get One Free Meal”! Breakfast was going to be from their buffet line in the morning! Back out in the blacktop parking lot we settled in for the night with the lights on the casino acting as a glowing green and blue nightlight, along with all the sparkling stars above. The following morning the grackles woke us up with their raucous chatter and line dancing on the roof of the condo! A custom made omelet and fresh fruit breakfast from the buffet really got our day started and soon we were headed for the KEYS!

Route ONE can be as long as I 75 and the mile markers that run the length of this chain of islands, which are joined by causeways and 42 bridges, start out at 112 and end at “0” in Key West! The island of Marathon is at MM 50 and we parked at MM 58 in the Jolly Roger Travel Park. The park is old and the rigs are parked as close to each other as cereal boxes on a grocery shelf – especially in the two rows closest to the highway which are the “Passport America” sites! The folks parked in our row have been very nice - to our left they are from BC and the folks on the right were from Oregon The new folks behind us are from BG, OHIO! Interspersed throughout the park are gnarly, smooth red barked “Gumbo Limbo” trees. The locals call them “Tourist Trees” because they turn red and then peel!

Flagler’s Overseas Railway Centennial Celebration was held on Saturday, January 14th. Free boat rides, free entertainment and educational demonstrations were held out on Pigeon Key, a small island just off of the Seven Mile Bridge! The boat/ferry rides were poorly organized but it was still a nice ride out on the sparkling turquoise colored water! And we did get a feel for how life was back in 1908 when the Flagler’s railroad was begun and in January of 1912 when it was finally completed and he took his first train ride from the mainland of Florida, over the narrow bridges, all the way to Key West. We had all hoped to ride on the big catamaran ferry but when we saw how low in the water the 2 powerful outboard engines sat once the vessel was loaded and underway, we had second thoughts. The clincher was when we watched it get stuck on a sand bar and the passengers had to move to the far end of the boat to remove themselves from the shallow area! The young, CUTE, First Mate on the boat we did ride on, is from Michigan and we all had fun teasing him.

On Sunday afternoon, N and I attended a free craft class and made the cutest little wire and stone trees that look like weathered trees with exposed roots clinging to huge boulders. My petite 8-inch tree is anchored on a sparkly white and blue rock. The wire roots, trunk and branches are silver. The leaves are blue tiger-eyes! N’s rock is brownish gold sparkly with pieces of garnet and mica imbedded in it. Her wires are both copper and gold! Her leaves are brown/gold tiger-eyes! Each is unique!

On Wednesday evening, N and I were treated to a seafood dinner at “The Fisheries Seafood Restaurant and Market” an open air glorified wooden shack right on the Gulf. Long sturdy picnic tables and paper towels for napkins were lined against the outside retaining walls! Our orders were announced ‘ready” with song titles instead of our names! My choice for my entrĂ©e was “ LOBSTER REUBIN”. Sounds rather strange but the sandwich was layered with a good supply of lobster, mellow kraut and Swiss cheese. I spiced it up with cocktail sauce, which gave it just the right twang! Yummy fries even came with that huge grilled sandwich! H chose scallops because he was not able to get his mind wrapped around lobster AND Reuben in the same phrase!

As we pulled back into our little parking spot, I spoke to our new neighbors and welcomed them to the “neighborhood”. Pleasantries exchanged, I asked where he was from. Would you believe – Toledo and he has family still there! Rick and Traci were brand new “full timers” so H and R were sharing their vast wealth of camping/traveling knowledge. In the morning, as we were preparing to pull out, I went to say my goodbyes and H had offered our back yard if he came to Toledo to visit his family. Rick mentioned his favorite aunt so I asked her name. When he gave her last name, I immediately thought of a dear friend from my State Farm days! It is Lou Ann!!!!! I must email her as soon as I can but now we need to be on the road. It’s a long way to our next “home” for a few days - probably all of 10 miles - Long Key State Park!