LIVIN’ ON STILTS
We didn’t end up going to Lake Okeechobee. I also realized I left out an “e” in the name last post, so apologies to any one offended. If only there was some sort of googling machine that I could have used to cross reference. Any who, as I was saying, we didn’t end up going to the lake. The weather was so strange. It was always warm enough to be in shorts and a tank top, but these big fluffy grey clouds filled to the brim with water started leaking on us randomly throughout the day. I took Fred on a nice long walk on one of the horse trails. He had a great time, didn’t even mind the random dollops of rain landing on his noggin.
We’ve seen quite a few different types of birds in Florida. The hawks that circle the water, dive down with a splash, and come up with a fish in their talons are probably my favorite to watch. I don’t know how the birds do it. They are so high up in the air and some how manage to spot the tiny snack, time it perfectly enough to swoop it up. I mean, I guess there is that saying, you know, “eyes of a hawk” and all that.
The giant ugly pelicans are pretty fantastic to watch as well. They look so goofy when not in flight, but then they take off, skimming the ocean so closely I’m just waiting for them to take a dip. And then, there are the turkey vultures. Those are some truly ugly dudes, but they don’t mind me and I don’t mind them. We’ve also seen some incredibly bright and colorful ones. I might have to acquire a book on birds. It’s not like they wear a sign around their necks telling you what they are, however generous that would be.
We stayed one more night at the free Dupuis campground. Tuesday, we headed back toward the coast for a couple of nights at Jonathan Dickinson SP. It was pretty early, so before heading to our campsite, we went to Hobe Sound Beach. Right as we pulled in to the parking lot, a super heavy rain began falling and we were forced to hang out in our camper for about 20 minutes before it passed and sunny blue skies emerged again. It was pretty funny watching all the beach goers run for cover.
The beach turned out to be great! Fred was allowed and I’m currently obsessed with getting sun. I promise I wear sunscreen. Hobe Sound was a nice area close to Jupiter, FL just north of West Palm Beach. Definitely more of a retirement community in these parts. So far, these super tanned mature beach goers have been extremely friendly and welcoming. After a few hours at the beach, we headed to our next home.
Jonathan Dickinson SP is giant with several campgrounds, a lot of surrounding land, many bike paths, and the Loxahatchee River on site. We drove four and half miles after checking in to finally get to our camp site. Unfortunately the service wasn’t great there, and we ended up spending about six hours in the visitor center parking lot so Matt could get a bunch of work done. The ranger that checked us in made a big deal about the rattle snakes in the area but we didn’t see any. Still no gator sitings in Florida either.
Wednesday morning, the three of us went on a fun little bike ride through the park. We rode to the river and decided against going in with all of the “SWIMMING GATORS” signs around. We had Fred and I don’t trust that little gator bait not to get eaten.
After our bike ride, we headed back to the beach. Hobe Sound Beach’s small parking lot was totally slammed full, so we ended up a bit farther down the road at another. Unfortunately, not a dog friendly beach. I did a little exploring but we mostly stayed in the camper with the sea breeze flowing. Even though only a couple miles from Hobe Sound Beach, this one had a bunch of environmental protections.
Thursday, we tried to get an oil change with the camper on. The last oil change, we were at a state park in Washington near Spokane, took the camper off and drove just the truck into town. The crew at Jiffy Lube were pretty sure we could fit. We had around five spotters, including the two of us and a guy up on a ladder as the crew member pulled the truck in. We heard it before we saw it. The AC unit was just a couple of inches too tall for the large elephant door, and scrapped a bit at the top. The driver stopped after we all yelled at him, and backed up. No damage was done, thank goodness, so we headed out of there.
Free or even reasonable camping in bigger cities has always been a struggle. A lot of the Walmarts don’t allow for overnight stays any more. We have stayed in a few truck stops the worked, but you’re right next to a highway, so not ideal. We found the Miccosukee Resort Casino, about an hour’s drive from Miami Beach (with traffic).
The Casino was fantastic! Well, at least the parking lot was. The lot was giant, with plenty of big rig parking and other travelers doing the same as us. Fred even had a bit of a grass area to do his business in.
On Friday, we continued our quest for an oil change. Matt found another Jiffy Lube, but there was no way we’d fit. We were right next to a big Kmart parking lot, decided to just take the camper off and get it done. Took about an hour, got our stilts house back on it’s wheels and we were off on a little driving tour of the area. There is a wall of super tall buildings around the Miami coast line. So freaking tall. I think most of them are apartments. I didn’t see any big brand hotel names plastered anywhere. This is the first big city we’ve driven through that wasn’t littered with homeless. I did see a few on the outskirts, but we also saw a lot of signs against panhandling. Maybe this area actually has a handle on it. Or maybe I was just blinded by the huge shiny buildings.
Saturday we were ready for the beach. Haulover Beach is in North Miami Beach. The park is massive, with a big dog and small dog sectioned dog park. The beach itself allows dogs to roam free between Towers 2 and 3, from 8am-3pm daily. Unfortunately, after a work out and showers, we got to the beach a bit late in the day, around 2pm. Fred still had a great time, and if you can believe it, started socializing a bit. We took him into the small dog park after that and relaxed as he did hot laps.
Sunday morning, without chores, we headed to Hobie Island Beach Park on Virginia Key. The beach is small, parking a nightmare, but they allow dogs! The beach itself was beautiful, with its white sands and aquamarine waters. Because the beach is in a bit of a natural harbor, the water was calm and shallow. After plenty of sun, we decided we should probably get some rum and make mojitos. We are so glamorous, we ended up sipping on mojitos back in our casino parking lot and watching Travelers on Netflix.
That little bit of rum and being a Sunday night, I ALMOST decided to go in to the casino and play some slots. Almost, but nah. I’ve actually only stepped inside one of the casinos we’ve parked in, and it was only to register for overnight parking. See, I LOVE slots. There so fun, like candy crush but you lose money. I have no problem walking away once I’m out of money. So, slots for me are not in the budget. We have eight or so more months to go, and I do plan on going in if we end up in Atlantic City. I’ll save my slot playing for then.
After the first mojito, something in Matt’s brain clicked. Our exhaust fan hasn’t been working for a few months. It’s fine in the cold, but the heat and humidity really had us missing it. He tested for power, the motor seemed fine, and month after month took the thing apart only to scratch his head an put it back together with no success. Then, magically, he opens the fuse box, and wiggles the connecting wire. The thing falls right out. He had checked that fuse a dozen times but it wasn’t the fuse, it was the wire! To after a quick tightening, all of a sudden we have a fan again! Yippee. I like to take credit for this as I made the mind jarring mojito.
We decided since we haven’t had luck finding an affordable place to stay in the Keys, that we’d just do the drive there and back in a day. Monday, we packed up early and headed to Key Largo. We stopped at a small boat launch called Sunset Point Park, and hung out for about an hour just staring at the gorgeous water.
That afternoon, I found a glass bottom boat tour that allows small dogs. The tour takes passengers out to John Pennekamp Coral Reef. The weather could not have been better in my eyes. It was warm but not too hot, the skies were clear, the water was super clear and calm providing fantastic clarity. The tour was only $30/person, which is a steal compared to some of the other touristy things we’ve paid for, and it was our only chance to get that far out into the ocean.
I was stunned by the color of the water. It was a pretty green with bright aqua blue streaking through the around the reefs. The white sand and high visibility gave us a spectacular show. The crew members were so kind and helpful, even coming up to us to off Captain Apple Fredder a water bowl. Fred actually did pretty well on the boat. On the ride out, he demanded to be held high enough to get his whiskers in the wind. He had no issue with disorientation on the boat or after when back on land.
We saw a lot of beautiful sea life through the glass bottom. My pictures couldn’t do it justice at all, so I decided to stop trying and just enjoy the show. Our guide pointed out different species of coral and fish along the way. We saw Barracuda, a lot of Parrot Fish, and even a sea turtle. We now know that most sand is a product of Parrot Fish poo, so think about that the next time you’re playing in it.
We headed to Home Depot in Homestead, around a 30 minute drive from Key Largo. We needed some insulation for our new mattress and we stayed in their parking lot for the night. We’re heading to Key West today. I’ll let you know if we made it next week.
Ariel + Matt