St. Augustine, FL

May 1-4, 2010 We stayed at North Beach Camp Resort, just a few hundred feet from a long stretch of sand and 4.5 miles from St. Augustine.

Lunch at Aunt Kate's, in the campground, by the busy intercoastal--wee boats, mega yachts, a skittish turtle, raucous gulls, white and blue trimmed clapboard bait and tackle shop, and a tabby cat mean enough to warrant it's own warning sign at the pier.

Blackened fish soft tacos with sweet potato fries, pico, spicy ranch sauce and sweet potato puree. YUUUUM!!!

Our first stop in St. Augustine, the oldest continuously occupied European-established city in the U.S.: Crucial Coffee Cafe, a tiny old wood shed-like structure with tricky sloping floors, great java and the coffee condiments resting inside an old brick fireplace.

St. Augustine has a busy waterfront (even a pirate ship), three great used bookstores, many heritage buildings, boutiques and much history around Spanish (first explored in 1513) and French exploration and settlement attempts followed and overpowered by British and English American attacks, then British rule, then a second Spanish rule and, finally, American settlement. That's the short, short version. Spanish colonial buildings still remain, including St. Augustine's most popular attraction, the Castillo de San Marcos national monument, the fortress, which we did not tour. In fact, we chose a leisurely route and only read about the city's historic highlights.

Music drifts from patio bars and grassy courtyards as we wandered the main streets.

No shortage of kitschy art and other vibrant sights:

We're not shoppers yet we found some charm in the area, worthy of a day, but I was eager to get back to the beach.

-P

Sweethearts in Haverhill, FL

April 30, 2010 Even though our European trip came to end, we had more to look forward to when we arrived back in the States.

We had a lovely visit with Wil and Antoinette Hartsuiker in Haverhill, Florida, our fellow POGgers. The weather was great and the company even better. We also enjoyed their splendid home, a sanctuary of sorts, and the bus barn too; it was the first time the barn hosted two busses and we all liked the look! :)

Our gracious hosts took us for a beautiful drive around the area and some great beer before we had to say goodbye too soon. We look forward to catching up with our Sweethearts (Hartsuiker translated) again soon!

-P

Play Time in Key West

March 3, 12, 17 & 31, 2010 If you know us well, you know we love live theatre.

"Shirley Valentine" is a delightful and quirky one-woman play about an English housewife, Shirley Valentine, who trades her life for a journey of self-discovery via an adventure in Greece. Joan O’Dowd performed the comedy at Red Barn Theatre, a small theatre in an old red barn--surprise!--that was built as a carriage house in 1829.

We caught "At Last Light", locally written and produced and performed at the chic Tennessee Williams Cabaret Theatre. "At Last Light" is about a woman who returns home to make peace and in doing so, uncovers secrets about herself.

Next up: "The Full Monty" at the Waterfront Playhouse but this version, a racier version that opens with a stripper, takes place in New York. Yes, they do go the full monty and, yes, they do blind you with a hundred blazing white lights so you can hardly see a thing. Hardly.

Source: Waterfront Playhouse site

We spent our last night at the hilarious "Bitch Slap!", also at the Waterfront Playhouse, a first rate venue.

"Bitch Slap!" stars Christopher Peterson as Bette Davis, Randy Roberts as Joan Crawford and Vanessa McCaffrey as Hedda Hopper. Yes, Christopher, a man, plays a gruff and surly Davis while Randy, a man and a real beauty as Joan, plays an ultra poised movie star.

"Their show-biz feud over roles, billing, Oscars and men was legendary. So what would happen when the two screen queens agree to appear together in "Whatever Happened To Baby Jane?" Enter Hedda Hopper to record (and manipulate) the diva smackdown. "BitchSlap!" and its three stars brilliantly capture the behind-the-scenes theatrics during the filming of the movie."

Source: Waterfront Playhouse site

Christopher and Randy can also be found at LaTeDa Crystal Room, in various personae.

It turns out there's a recipe for a Bitch Slap!

Bitch Slap

1 oz  vodka 1 splash 7-Up 1 oz gin 1 oz Everclear alcohol 1 oz light rum fill with lemonade

Mix vodka, 7-up, gin, everclear and rum together over ice in a highball glass. Fill with lemonade, and serve.
When in Key West go, go, go to the theatre!
-P

Grave Sights

We drove by this cemetery a few times. I had wanted to wander through it each time, but we were always en route to something somewhere: a reading, errands, a play, live music.

Luckily, Ernie and Pat also enjoy old cemeteries and they stopped just for us so we could browse the grounds.

They led us to one of the most popular tombstone epitaph:

We also came across "I'm just resting my eyes" and "Oh, sure".

Some gravesites are sinking. Some go back to the mid 1800s. Newer graves are above-ground vaults.

Some have personal touches, like this shock of colour and a handmade stone, repaired with some kind of ... putty.

The handwritten inscription reads:

Aleida Marie Blanco Feb 21 1928 - Mar 8 2007 Loving mother of 4 children "Mi casa es su casa" Loved to shower in the rain Loved papaya, sour sop + dancing

Isn't that nice?

This is one of my favourite views, which includes the "I told you I was sick" and "I'm just resting my eyes" epitaphs:

More than once we found a water pump spout within a grave's borders and a wide array of tropical flora creates a park like setting.

About 100,000 people are buried here, more than three times the current population of Key West.

-P

Writing Workshop

[caption id="attachment_4383" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="Lloyd reading at The Secret Spot following writer\'s workshop"][/caption] March 20,2010 - Key West, FL While in Key West I decided to participate in a writer's workshop sponsored by The Studios of Key West. We had two great instructors Hallie Ephron, sister of Nora Ephron, the writer of many great screenplays like When Harry Meet Sally, Sleepless in Seattle, Julie and Julia, and You've Got Mail. Hallie is book reviewer for the Boston Globe and successful novelist. Our other instructor was Roberta Isleib, a writer with several successful mystery series and President of Sisters in Crime and chairs the selection committee for the Edgar Award.

We had a small group of fiction and memoir writers that critiqued each others works. At the end of the two day workshop we met at The Secret Spot a local night club and had a series of reading over cocktails. -L

Braille Blues Daddy

Sat, March 13, 2010 - Key West, FL Bryan Lee, a blind blues player from New Orleans called the "Braille Blues Daddy" played his 95 Gibson Les Paul Special and rocked the house at the Green Parrot Bar with his band . We stayed through two sets from 10 pm to 1 am. Brent Johnson played two custom-made Telecasters and slide on a Gibson SG. We danced and watched them play through a history of blues.

He has played the last fourteen years as a regular at the Old Absinthe Bar in the French Quarter, New Orleans, LA. -L

Fave Key West Haunts

Hog's Breath Saloon where the bartenders where thick rubber gloves and shuck oysters behind the bar, rather "The Pig Pen". Oysters and live music ...

... are mainstays at Hog's Breath. Above: The Massacoustics, the lead cut out his telecaster guitar to accommodate his mandolin. So, you can eat, drink, listen, dance and ...

make a pig of yourself too.

HogFish Bar & Grille is a five minute walk from Boyd's Key West Campground, by the waterside on Stock Island. It's famous for its hogfish dishes and live music lineup. I especially liked the baja style fish tacos and we always like the yeungling (amber) ale.

Raven is a local favourite, a solo female guitarist with a smoky voice. She comes by it honestly-- smokes a lot. She can even pass off Johnny Cash's voice. She did both his part and June Carter's part in "Jackson"--a duet with herself. It was oddly impressive. We won't forget it.

Toko Irie, originally from Grenada, played the kettle drums and reggae and never stopped dancing during the entire set.

Schooner Wharf. Don't go for the food, go for the drinks and music. Michael mans the stage most days, along with his dog (sleeping in the guitar case behind him).

No live music, but awesome coffee and free wifi at Cuban Coffee Queen.

Conch Republic is another waterfront bar and restaurant, but it's right downtown. The 80-foot bar features old rum kegs (they serve over 80 kinds!) and a 1200 pound antique copper still.

There really is a Conch Republic. "The Conch Republic was born on April 23rd of 1982 in response to a United States Border blockade of the Florida Keys. Since the United States Government insisted on treating the Keys like a foreign country; Key West Mayor Dennis Wardlow seceded from the Union, declared war, surrendered, and demanded foreign aid. During the intervening years the U.S. never reacted to the secession, thereby establishing sovereignty for the Conch Republic under InteRnational Law Governing 'adverse possession between sovereign nations'.

The Conch Republic has it's own passports, and has had citizens and Diplomats received by thirteen Caribbean countries, Mexico, Sweden, Russia, France, Spain, Ireland and Germany. The Conch Republic has Conch-sulates in Switzerland, Havana, Maine and New Orleans.

The Conch Republic has as its stated Foreign Policy, 'The Mitigation of World Tension through the Exercise of Humor'."

Green Parrot Bar wins a few mentions throughout our Key West posts. We could count on first-rate musicians every time. Plus, they have free popcorn and they have Kevin, a wild yet impressive dancer in a red and yellow felt hat who attracts his own audience.

We really enjoyed J.C.'s Lonesome Soul Revue "sound check" at Green Parrot, loved that "old fashioned r&b rock'n'roll".

You can check out the music yourself. The Green Parrot has a live webcam.

A poor wee picture, but not to be missed is The Cafe, a vegetarian restaurant on Southard.

One of my favourite dishes is the falafel with feta and labanese salad in a pita served with sweet potato fries and lime curry dip followed by sage tea, or you could have the thai curry, or kung pao, or Lloyd's absolute favourite, the super rich Vegetable Stuffed Portobello Mushroom with goat cheese cream sauce. Everything comes in huge and de-lec-ta-ble! Soooooo good!

-P

Common Key West Sights

Men as pretty as women. The ultra fit and fat. Pink Maxi Taxis. Flip flops. Sunburns. To go cups sploshing with beer. We noticed the decline in roaming dogs and cats, but the chickens still hold court.

Cyclists and bougainvillaea everywhere.

Some cyclists with homemade bamboo carts and snappy dogs.

Most houses are modest. They have porches, picket fences, coloured shutters, but some are more grand than others.

Hmm...

Now you didn't think we'd miss the books, did you?

-P

Friends in Warm Places

March 3, 2010 We wish we had a photo of our friends, Ed and Sandy, who we met almost two years ago at a POG rally and here and there at other POG rallies since. Actually, we do have a pic. It's from Port St. Lucie (February). Sandy's playing the mandolin and Ed's playing the upright bass:

Ed's awesome classic truck is our souvenir pic. We caught up with Ed and Sandy after Ed showed us around one of his projects, a 65' WWII mine cable tender boat he's restoring. It's a tough boat with a fascinating history.

Thank you Ed and Sandy for a lovely visit. We look forward to more soon. Maybe Maine?

It's always a pleasure to make a quick connection with someone you've never met. We met Bill at Green Parrot, a local's favourite hangout, and the bar we frequented for a lot of outstanding live music. The more we chatted with Bill, the more we found we had in common, from our preferred music to books, and travels, and even how we met our spouses. Then, we kept running into him and his charming wife, Kathy, at Studios of Key West events.

So, we thought a lunch was in order, at least. We noshed at The Shrimp Shack, a great little eatery right on the waterfront: old sails for awnings, picnic tables, a shrimp boat anchor butting the pier.

Bill gifted us with a copy of his Key West Graffiti book, which is a vast collection of quips and quotes from all over Key West, even from bathroom stalls. It's an entertaining book full of both funny and thought-provoking maxims. Also, they invited us to their 25th wedding anniversary party and we had a truly wonderful time with them and their good-humored friends. Bill and Kathy know how to throw a party! Thanks, you two, for everything! :)

Shrimp Shack/Fishbusterz seafood offerings to go:

We were doubly fortunate in that we met Ernie and Pat in the campground. Ernie and Pat's 1991 Prevost (same vintage as ours) initially drew us in. They're POG members too. Before we knew it, we talked quite some time away so we schedule a play date. ;)

Pat and Ernie took us to the fabulous El Sibone, an authentic cuban restaurant.

We shared a whole day, a nice drive through the parts of Key West I had never seen, a stop at the Waterfront Market for iced coffee and gourmet goodies, and an old cemetery. If you know me, you know I love old cemeteries (photos to come). We carried the conversation well into the evening and it went by so fast! We really hope we can meet you again at the Maine rally, you two. Thanks for the super time!

We never feel more fortunate than when we can share our travel experience with the characters we meet along the way.

-P

Boyd's Key West Campground

March 1 - April 1, 2010 The waterfront sites, which "rent" at the daily rate, means no breaks for a month+ stay and almost double the (already high-priced) expense. But it is nice, yes?

The campground is a five to ten minute drive away from downtown Key West and it has its own beach. It's a tiny beach, not always accessible, but offers a good view.

We walked the waterfront a lot and often had company:

The pelicans congregate and patiently wait for a fisherman to fillet their fish (grunts, mostly, and the odd hogfish which, supposedly, tastes a little like scallops) and fling the rest to their huge gobs.

They are quiet as can be until a fishermen flings leftovers. Then it's a tug of war between as many as four birds at at time.

Sometimes we escaped to the only quiet area, the Tiki Garden. This is bipolar tiki kitty, who nuzzles up and helps to type, or just preens, or attacks a typing hand for no particular reason at all:

No tiki dogs available.

-P

P.S. - Campers, if you're choosing an off-water site, do not book a site in the second row from the street. Anywhere else will be better, in our opinion.

Second Anniversary

March 1, 2010 - Key West, FL Two years ago today we bought the bus and started full-time traveling around North America. We met many interesting, unusual, and friendly people. We saw some of the greatest natural wonders that exist. We have listened to great music, viewed wonderful art, drank rich coffee, eaten extraordinary meals, and we are still not finished. After wintering this month in Key West, we  take a Trans-Atlantic cruise to Spain and Italy then fly back after spending time with our talented friend, Dennis Cigler in Rome. After flying back from Rome we will head to Canada and look forward to seeing all our Lunenburg friends for the Folk Harbour Festival the first week of August.

Eric, Debbie, and Jay Faires are going to join us on a tour of Nova Scotia in their new Prevost bus; it is a beautiful Liberty conversion. We'll tour around Cape Breton for the rest of August with them  then head west through Canada and winter in Southern California next year.

Then we don't know, maybe go home for a while. We will let that decision come in its own time. Until then we are enjoying our trip and hope you who are following along as arm chair travelers are enjoying the trip also. Our best to everyone. - L

Rock Bottom

Feb 24 - Mar 1, 2010 Leebo's Rock Bottom Bar that is...

The bar is aptly named and, at once, a highlight and lowlight of our visit to Chokoloskee Island. Though the bar is little more than a rough screened in porch--wrapped in plastic (seriously)--with a concrete floor, three picnic tables and one mobile propane heater to hover by, it offers some of the best live music around.

Leebo, the owner (second from left) charmed me from the start. "We got kissed by angels. Twice," he said as he pointed out the dimples in our cheeks. Derek (far right) has awesome jiggy dance moves that I could never hope to grasp. I tried.

Leebo's Rock Bottom Bar is the kind of place where the owner/bouncer/guitarist has to cut his own cousin off the drink and show him the door, where the father of a toothless ultimate fighter named Tank shares his bag of popcorn with the entire crowd--all eight of us, where dogs are welcome, and where locals bring their own Tequila Rose to shoot back by the plastic pill cupfuls.

One of my favourite things about Chokoloskee Island is the view from our campsite. Constant activity: a big stretch of rippling water, pelicans, fishermen, kayakers, etc. An osprey snagged a big fish right in front of our site, and that was a sight!

Just as delightful, the Havana Cafe across the street.

If you have the chance, try the huevos rancheros, even if it's not on the menu. It was on the menu one day then scribbled off the menu the next after the owner mother and cook son argued about the dish. However, if you talk nice to the server, she'll sweet talk the cook and you can still have some. :)

We drove the Tamiami Trail to Clyde Butcher's gallery of photography. On the way we saw comorants drying in the mangroves, egrets, vultures, a "wild hog bbq" at a rundown fire station, and gators.

More Chokoloskee Island to come...

-P

"Shadow Country" Country

February 27, 2010 We listened to Peter Matthiessen's "Shadow Country" en route to Chokoloskee Island, to stretch our Chokoloskee Island experience.

"In 1898, 42-year-old Edgar J. Watson became a living legend when a book credited him with shooting the outlaw queen Belle Starr nine years earlier. The descendant of a prominent South Carolina family, the legal or common-law husband of five women, the father of possibly 10 children, a leading pioneer on the southwest coast of Florida and a man killed by a large group of his neighbors in 1910 ..." in the land of walking trees, the mangroves.

Established in 1906, the Smallwood Store Ole Indian Trading Post and Museum stayed open and active until 1984.

Here we were told that Chokolskee isn't really an "island" at all, rather just a huge mound of seashells accumulated by early inhabitants, the Native Americans, with a smattering of soil on top.

In 1887 Ruby Tigertial, a Seminole native, wore at least two hundred strings of beads. "It was an effort for her to move her head ..."

Not a fitting souvenir for two vegetarians: "White Trash Cooking I" and "II".

Ha ha ha! Okay, not so funny... kinda creepy.

-P

Bras for the Cause

While in Port St. Lucie the local residents hosted a Bras for the Cause charity auction where many designed and modeled fancy bras. We raised $12,000 for breast cancer research.

As you can see, everyone had a great time. - L

Jamming in Port St. Lucie

Feb 19, 2010 - Port St. Lucie, FL We left Bradenton early to meet 18+ other Prevost owners from POG (Prevost Owners Group) for a week of fun and good conversation. We drove over early and met with Eric, Debbie, and Jay Faires and some of the local POG members that stay at the Port St. Lucie Outdoor Resorts for the winter. This is a lovely motor coach resort and we recommend it highly. We checked out the local guitar shops, while the Eric and family went bus shopping.

A few days letter all the other busses started arriving and we had an impromptu jam session between our busses.

Jay was playing lead on Dan's borrowed Fender. Later in the week Jay brought out his Les Paul Traditional and rocked the house. He is the most musically talented 13 year old I know. Can't wait for him to get introduced to Celtic music this summer.

Joe played steel guitar at the Grande Ole Opry for years and toured with many country bands before retiring. He joined us on steel.

Then Sandy sang while Jay played Ed's bass. -L

Friends in Florida

Feb 6-14, 2010 I learned to cruise and dock a 47' twin-engine trawler in Bradenton so returning to the area brought back a lot of good memories. This time we made many more memories with the help of new and dear friends. For that we are immensely grateful.

Pat and Bob, two treasured friends from Nova Scotia, met up with us at our campground, Holiday Cove RV Resort, in Cortez, Florida near Bradenton. We were really excited to catch up with them, and they were our first homegrown visitors in our (almost) two years on the road!

A visit with the Rutherfords is always a pleasure, no matter where, and it was like they brought a little piece of home with them. I don't mean the cold. That was here already... :/

Lloyd pounces on the opportunity to show Pat how to make absinthe, the proper way. ;)

After a run down of the news with Pat and Bob, and us, and back home, and our trips to and around Florida, we ventured out to Anna Maria Island, just across the bridge from Cortez, and dined at Rod and Reel Pier restaurant.

The wind threatened to blow us off the pier, but we made it:

Our fellow Bluenosers also had more time to spend in nearby Port Charlotte and we hoped to gather again before either of us left the area, but we had to zip to Bradenton for a bus repair and missed our chance. We hope we can make up for it in August.

Next! Our favourite Tennessee family, the Faires family. We were so happy they could spare some time to visit before they headed for Port St. Lucie, and not just because they could join us for our first ever romp in a Guitar Center.

Jay, Lloyd, Debbie, Eric, and my ancient guitar:

Yep, we hauled 'em off to Tampa to play. Here's Jay trying out an electric guitar immediately after doling out his autograph to the lady in the jean jacket--not his first autograph by the way. Jay's thirteen, but you could never tell so from his guitar playing. He inspires us immensely.

And he teaches us, a lot! :)

We strummed, we sampled, we ate, we talked and talked. We had a great time, as always, and looked forward to reconvening in Port St. Lucie in just a few days.

Our second surprise in Cortez was the arrival of Don (Debbie's brother), Tracy (daughter of the man who build the largest miniature circus in the world, which we show in another post), their daughter Lisa and Lisa's friend (oops! I forget her name). We enjoyed conversation and dinner at Moore's Stone Crab Restaurant. Then Don and Tracy showed us around town and led us to the best ice cream joint. We thoroughly enjoyed our visit and look forward to a repeat.

Though we meet a lot of special and, often, interesting people it's rare that we can spend time with true friends and to share time with so many in a week filled our hearts. We adore you! Thank you for making it possible to be with you.

-P

Howard Bros. Circus - Sarasota, FL

“Ladies and Gentlemen . . . Step Right Up and See the Largest Miniature Circus in the World – the Howard Bros. Circus!”

The Howard Bros. Circus, complete with eight main tents, 152 wagons, 1,300 circus performers and workers, more than 800 animals and a 57-car train, is on permanent display in the Ringling Circus Museum’s Tibbals Learning Center. The Howard Bros. Circus is a ¾-inch-to-the-foot scale replica of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus when the tented circus was at its largest (circa 1919-1938), and occupies 3,800 square feet in the 30,600 sq. ft.-Tibbals Learning Center. The “largest miniature circus in the world” was created over a 50-year time span by master model builder and philanthropist Howard C. Tibbals of Tennessee and Florida. - Source: www.ringling.org

A new photo gallery of over one hundred photos is in the sidebar to the right.

Do not miss this the next time you are near Sarasota, FL. -L

Homosassa Springs State Park, FL

February 3-6, 2010 We took a boat to "The Fish Bowl", the biggest fish bowl we've ever seen. In the underwater observatory, we were the fish in the bowl. :)

These gentle, vegetarian giants wander from snack to snack in the fishbowl.

This 10-footer spun and spun and spun around the viewing station.

Caretakers supplement the manatees's diet of sea greens with vegetables, like lettuce, and vegetable pellets. Each manatee eats about 10% of it's body weight each day: 200 pounds of lettuce! That's a lot of salad...

It seems they have three modes: eat mode, play mode and relax mode.

This 6+ footer swam to the shallows until its belly could rest on the sand so they could sun their back.

Because it's been unseasonably cold in Florida for the past few months, Florida is experiencing their largest "manatee kill" ever. The placid mammals just can't handle the cold. Sad.

These ominous gators fare better:

A boardwalk trails through the park by a large waterfowl pond as well as birds of prey, native mammal and reptile exhibits and more, including an obviously not native hippopotamus left over from a circus. Florida residents balked at the plan to euthanize the hippo when the circus closed. Now it's a naturalized Floridian citizen.

Flamingos:

Egrets:

Sandhill crane:

The one redeeming quality of Nature's Resort RV Park (there's nothing "resort" about it) is across the street: Marguerita Grill which features margaritas as big as our heads and interesting eats.

And that's our Homosassa experience.

-P

Manatee Springs

January 31-February 3, 2010 Manatee Springs State Park

I've wanted to see manatees for years, and this was the best view of one:

I know, you can't really see it. The light spot in the centre is just a glimpse of its back. We heard them more than we saw them. Every few minutes a telltale snort revealed the position of a breathing manatee.

All but one of the park's gentle giants are difficult to spot in the dark water. This one (easily an eight footer) has a buoy-like tracking device tied to its tail.

Even though we caught just a glimpse I was thrilled. :D

We walked the boardwalk under cypress and tupelo trees in search of more manatees down the spring and by the shores of Suwanne River. Instead we found huge sluggish fish, cormorants drying their wings in the sun and black vultures haunting the leafless trees.

For our fellow RVers: We had an excellent site and excellent sights at Yellow Jacket RV Resort. That's the bus peeking out of the bushes on the right.

A nice view of the Suwannee:

-P