Hauling down I-10

Rosepine, Louisiana

We arrived in Rosepine after a solid seventeen hours of driving! Today was pretty uneventful—we ate Subway only a hundred miles before stopping for gas next to a Cajun seafood hole-in-the-wall that looked awesome. Such is life, however, when you’re trying to make miles, quick food is the need at that point.

Basin bridge across Atchafalaya Basin

These long days are hard but still wonderful; I’m so happy I came. We’ll go an hour not talking but it feels good to be rolling down the road observing the country around you. Of course, this way of traveling also reminds me how much I can’t wait until the next time we’re able to just cruise at our own speed so I can stop to hold the baby alligators at the tourist trap, eat awesome food, and poke around small towns.

The place we should have eaten lunch.

Continue reading “Hauling down I-10”

Florida in one night

We left the house this morning at about five-fifteen and headed for Spokane—just the start of a long day of travel. On the flight, we talked a bunch with a gentleman in our row and shared with him our travel plans. He and Forrest kept up a nice banter (I looked up from my book to chime in from the aisle seat frequently, though!). As we touched down in Phoenix, we asked him if he would like to join us for lunch.

At lunch, we talked about a whole range of things—the conversation was quite spirited at times. I had so much fun! Meeting people on the road is one of the best parts about traveling so this happy meeting really brightened our day, not to mention that our layover flew by.

The flight to Ft. Lauderdale passed quickly enough and soon we were landing at the airport ready to meet our new van. The seller, Danny, picked us up at the airport and took us to his house. After he showed us all the features of the van and we had a chance to inspect it, he called for a bottle of prosecco to toast to the van’s new life and some pictures to document the transition.

Inside, we signed paperwork and shared travel stories—it’s always so wonderful to talk with others who love travel as much as we do. We were pleased to be able to assure him that the van is destined to have a future life full of adventure. We also learned that tomorrow will be the first time the van’s been out of Florida!

We finally hit the road at almost 11 and started heading north. We stopped for McDonalds in Palm Beach (and of course we chose the fancy McDonalds that didn’t have WiFi) and I took this sweet picture with the retro arches…actually turned out pretty cool.

About Orlando, Forrest decided he was nice and awake and sent me to bed. I was awoken at six in Tallahasee—my turn to drive!

Interstates are like McDonalds…

“Interstates are like food at McDonalds. Not so much a meal as a solution to a problem.” -Glasseye, Sprinter Forum

Unfortunately for us, this weekend will be heavy on both the Interstate and McDonald’s solutions but despite the frantic pace, I’m super excited to be hitting the road with Forrest again for a few days. (Sprocket, we miss you!)

I’m flying to Florida this morning with Forrest to pick up this sweet ride:

We land in Ft. Lauderdale at 8:30pm and have to be back in Coeur D’Alene, Idaho for class at 6pm on Monday.

I’m going to be blogging as much as I can (no smartphone for Team 3Up)…mostly from McDonalds.

Day 18: Everglades National Park to Brunswick, Georgia

We hopped out of bed in semi-darkness pretty happy to be done with the awful night. We drove the thirty-some miles down the park road to the Flamingo Visitors Center. We drove through lots of grassland and arrived to find that there wasn’t much left of the visitors center. Hurricane Wilma in 2005 had done some serious damage and wiped out the lodge that had been there and the rangers offices and visitors center are due for some serious reconstruction. After Forrest got some coffee at the mariana and we tried to keep Sprocket from chasing the crows and vultures we headed for the Christian Point hiking trail.

Coating ourselves in bug spray we bid Sprocket adieu at the car for a nice hike through the swamp. 25% DEET wasn’t enough to protect us from the mosquitos and horse flies and we gave up the hike after about a mile, although we did see some pretty bromeliads (or “airplants”). Back at the car we decided we’d seen enough of the Everglades and it was time to get out of Florida.

So we drove. And drove. All the way up Florida on I-95. We did take a short break in St. Augustine, Florida. St. Augustine is America’s oldest city, it was founded in 1565! We checked out the old fort (just missed the final tour) and walked around the old buildings. It was cute but very touristy. We finished out the day at a Sonny’s Barbeque near Brunswick, Georgia and stuffed ourselves before heading to bed.

Day 17: Key Largo, Florida to Everglades National Park, Florida

Pulling out of our hospital campspot, we headed down the Keys trying to make it to Key West before the major tourist rush began. The drive was pretty but not quite what I’d expected. Precious waterfront real estate wasn’t about to be wasted on the road except where the islands were so narrow it was absolutely necessary.

In Key West, we put Black Dog on the leash and walked around a bit. We walked around the downtown tourist core, along the water (no beach) looking at the giant cruise ship docked there, and checked out the piers (“Sail at 2, $26 each and puppy can come!”). We chose not to partake in any of the sails to keep our money available for less touristy activities. All in all, I wouldn’t go back but Forrest went back so I could see it!

On our way out, we stopped at Ann’s Beach where we went swimming with Sprocket. He’s getting to be quite a swimmer but I think he feels like the “Responsible Puppy” (his version of responsible person). He gets quite upset if we make wining noises to tease him and swims over to us as fast as he can (which is pretty fast!). He also doesn’t like it when he can’t see both of us at the same time. He’s like a water sheepdog! After our swim, we rinsed off our salty puppy and ourselves and headed out of the Keys.

Driving through Homestead, FL on Day 15 we’d seen lots of restaurants that looked fantastic: El Salvadorian food, Peruvian food, Mexican food, etc. so we drove back that way for dinner. The place we chose to eat at advertised Nicaraguan food but I’m pretty sure what we had was fantastic Mexican food. I had a shrimp dish cooked with onion, garlic, and red pepper…it was amazing! Forrest had chicken quesadillas that he raved about.

We had been hoping to reach the Everglades on May 1st so that the new parks pass we’d have to buy would be good through Memorial Day of 2011, but we were running out of things to do in Florida so we headed for the park anyway to see if we could buy our pass as a May pass or possibly hope the booth wouldn’t be manned at 7PM. F repeatedly told me that it was my responsibility to “sweet talk” the ranger at the booth for a May pass which I fully accepted. Pulling up to the entrance, I politely told the ranger that our pass had expired and we needed to buy a new one but asked nicely if he could punch it for May. He smiled and faux whispered, “I think I can do that.” Forrest was so excited to explain our trip to the ranger that he immediately launched into the story of how we’d driven 4,500 miles to be there before he realized the ranger had already agreed. He says that he didn’t say that and was commenting on how easy it is for girls to get what they want. I laughed.

In the park, we headed for King Palm to do a short hike before it got dark. We hiked the Anhinga Trail. We saw lots of birds, turtles, swamp rats (aka alligators), and heard lots of frogs. I decided it was the noisiest national park I’d ever been to. As we walked out on one of the viewing platforms we spotted a gator swimming from across the pond, in the gator-y silent way it glided under the platform on which we were standing and just hung out there. After our hike, we headed to Lone Pine Key campground, set up camp, and tried to take Sprocket on a walk but were turned back by the mosquitoes.

Excited for a night uninterrupted by traffic sounds or light, we crawled into bed early. Quickly we realized that the mosquitoes were smart enough to fly around our cracked windows and attacked us. We grudgingly rolled up the windows and suffered through the most stifling night ever. Sprocket was rather unhappy and was being attacked by bugs. F and I would wake up and hunt the remaining mosquitoes and toss around hot and unhappy. Finally it was over…phew.

Day 16: Indian Rocks, Florida to Key Largo, Florida

We woke up at the rather leisurely hour of 7:30 and packed up our stuff. Forrest did take the opportunity to watch the morning news before we left the condo for the Lighthouse to get some doughnuts for breakfast. After winding our way though St. Pete to I-275, we cruised to Naples. We picked up some lunch and headed out US 41 to Big Cypress National Preserve. We tried to go on a hike in Collier-Seminole State Park but were driven back by the bugs. We applied bug spray before trying again on the boardwalk at Cypress Bend in Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park.

Passing into Big Cypress National Preserve we were on the lookout for “The Loop Road” for some exploring. It was so awesome! We saw lots of alligators and lizards. The road was considered “impassable” but the woman at the visitors center told us we should be fine as long as we had 4-wheel drive…our front drive shaft is enabling better gas mileage by waiting in Moab. 🙂

Gator Bait

After the adventure of the loop road, in which “Gator Bait” had to stay in the car the whole time, we drove to Homestead, FL where we got some Cuban/Latin food at Marco’s. The food was really good: we had churrasco (thin charbroiled steak) with a really unique sauce and fried yucca (roots that were like unique french fries) and they even had outdoor seating so Sprocket could join us!  Following our delicious dinner we headed for the Keys and are spending the night in Key Largo before heading further southwest tomorrow!

Day 15: Tampa, Florida to Indian Rocks, Florida

We got up bright and early and went to Carol’s house in St. Pete and cleaned her gutters and fixed a leak in her roof. She had a fenced backyard so Sprocket got to hang out, although he mostly slept on the shady side porch. After the morning’s work, we got lunch at the Portabella Grill and then headed for the beach.

Carol had to rush back to Tampa but her grandson, Anthony, happened to be hanging out at the beach condo. Forrest and I made a quick run to the store and bought Sprocket a soup bone. Back at the condo, Sprocket chewed his bone while F and I read the New York Times. It didn’t take F too long to suggest that we go swim in the gulf some. I’ve never turned down swimming in salt water and wasn’t about to start then! We had a blast splashing around in the most perfect temperature salt water. While we were out there, we spotted Anthony in the waves. Anthony deemed the water still a little cold (!) so we all headed up to the pool. Sprocket got to come down and join us. He hid out in the shade and made friends with the man hanging out in the shade.

After we both decided we’d had plenty of sun, we returned to the condo where Sprocket chewed on his bone some more and we did some TV watching. I got bored after awhile and took Sprocket on a walk. We had chicken for dinner and then headed for bed–listening to the sounds of the waves!

Thanks so much to Frank and Carol (and their family) for making our stay in the Tampa area so enjoyable!

Day 14: Lloyd, Florida to Tampa, Florida

We hit the road bound for Tampa with no real plan about what we were going to do between Lloyd and Tampa. As Tampa approached, we realized we’d need to find something to do with ourselves until Carol and Frank got home from work. Not really knowing where to begin, we called Roxanne and Brandon for some advice. They directed us to Cigar City Brewing (very nice directions by the way!). As we pulled into the nondescript parking lot to our dismay we found that they were closed on Mondays.

Fortunately, Tim was kind enough to open up the tasting room for us. We sampled their Humidor Series Grut, Madura Brown, and Jai Alai IPA.  The Grut is an old European style of beer brewed without hops and, like most of Cigar City’s Humidor beers, it was aged over cedar. We both found it quite yummy. The Madura and Jai Alai were both good too. He also poured us tastes of Swamphead Brewery’s Wildnight Honey Cream Ale and Cottonmouth Belgian Whit.

After our tasting, we headed to downtown Tampa and walked along the riverwalk. We also checked out Plant Park right next to the University of Southern Florida campus. After our walk around, it was time to head to Frank and Carol’s. After relaxing next to the pool for a bit while Sprocket played with their dog Uta we went to the Mellow Mushroom for dinner. Carol has been reading our blog and though we’d really enjoy the beer list there. She was certainly right! We ordered a sampler paddle and had Oskar Blue‘s Gordon IPA (Longmont, CO), Left Hand’s Milk Stout on nitro (also Longmont, CO), Dogfish Head‘s 90 Minute IPA (brewed in Milton, DE), Flying Dog‘s Doggy Style Pale (Aspen, CO), and Stone’s Ruination Double IPA (San Diego, CA). Our pizza, the house special, was also fantastic!

Back at the house, Forrest and I both got showers and Sprocket spazzed out a bit before we all headed for bed where Forrest and I caught up on our History Channel watching a bit before we crashed.

Day 13: New Orleans, Louisiana to Lloyd, Florida

We got up and hit the road this morning trying to be sure and miss Jazz Fest traffic. We cruised right on out of Louisiana and into Mississippi. We didn’t find much to do along I-10…we tried to check out the Mississippi Sandhill Crane wildlife refuge…but it’s closed on Sunday. In Alabama we didn’t find much to do either–we got gas and continued on to Florida.

Then we hit Florida. We checked out Blackwater River State Park–that doesn’t let dogs on the beach. Fortunately, we’d seen some other people cut off on a road prior to the park that wound through the pines and popped out on the river just east of the park. Sprocket did some more swimming and Forrest and I enjoyed the sunshine. Some Floridians had lots of suggestions of places to party and they were quite nice to Mr. Wiggles.

Pushing east on I-10, we picked up lunch at Whattaburger in Clearview and set out for Chattahoochee. After a walk around the city park we decided to push through Tallahassee before stopping for the night.