Wine, Strawberries, Off-Grid Living, Kayaks, Bikes, and Alligators!

We finally left our fantastic Central Park RV Resort in Haines City, FL on Tuesday, January 24th. It will be so hard to beat that place and those people! It’s time for some cheap free fun. I’ve told you guys how much we love Harvest Hosts (www.harvesthosts.com) in our first post. With that host we stayed free for a weekend in Savannah at a flea market. This time, we stayed off-grid in a winery in Fort Pierce, Florida called Summer Crush Vineyard. Amazing. Beautiful. Funky and fun. We highly recommend Brianna and the wine tasting. There were so many different, crazy-named wines (e.g. Marlin Monroe, That’s What She Said, Not Starboard [a port-style wine. Get it?], etc.). We bought a bottle of their We Be Jammin’ and proceeded to drink it on our deck. I relaxed in the hammock while Ross played disc golf on the winery’s course. It was a perfect evening.

The next morning, we headed out to our next stop, another great Harvest Host visit in Boynton Beach, Florida called Bedner’s Farm Fresh Market. Yet another free stop, we stayed off-grid in their back parking lot at the u-pick farm. We got groceries at their market and picked a huge bucket of massive strawberries in their fields. Of course, Ross couldn’t stop singing “strawberry fields forever.” We bought so much fruit we had to break out the juicer. Ross called his brother, Scott, for the Scott-a-ritas recipe, and we made fresh fruit margaritas. I could get used to this.

Now to the part I’ve been planning: A National Parks visit. My major goal for this journey is to visit every U.S. National Park to which we can drive. The first on our list and our next stop is the Everglades National Park. We stayed off-grid at the Long Pine Key Campground just a few miles into the park. I was hoping it would be a little cheaper since there are no utilities there, but the $20 per night was worth it for everything we got to do and see. The first day we went to Biscayne National Park, which is only about 30 minutes from the Everglades. Biscayne is pretty, but 95% of the park is water so it was a quick trip with the dogs. We then drove during the beautiful sunset to Key Largo for dinner. There is another National Park around here, Dry Tortugas, but it is 70 miles by water beyond Key West which means an expensive boat or seaplane ride. We can’t “drive” there so I conceded that adventure for a future trip.

The following day we did something we haven’t done in a while when we woke up “early.” We got up at 6:45 am. When we were working the daily grind, we would have already been about to roll back to put a patient to sleep by that time. Anyhow, the dogs and Ross loaded up and we drove from the Everglades to Key West. It only took about three hours and it was a gorgeous drive. We stopped at Lazy Dog Kayak. They were fantastic. We had brought our inflatable kayaks (our awesome Sea Eagles. You can get the new models here…)

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The staff at Lazy Dogs gave us a map and let us put out at their dock. So nice! The dogs loved it just as much as we did. We saw a shark, manatee, sea star, jellyfish, and tons of pelicans while we kayaked the canals and part of the Atlantic Ocean. We also got a nice arm workout when we tried to kayak back against an outgoing tide. Ouch, but fun! After a couple hours, we parked that big ole’ dually in upper Duval and walked the whole of Duval Street. It took Ross two minutes to find a Bell’s Hopslam (his favorite rare beer ever) across from a… how do I put this tastefully? Adult entertainment house? Don’t worry, we didn’t go across that street, but Ross did get cat-called by a very large, attractive drag queen later. It was fabulous. We walked all the way down Duval while window shopping and people watching. We had happy hour oysters at a great little place called Island Dogs. I had to have key lime pie and Ross got a hand-rolled cigar as our Keys treats. We drove all the way back (another 3 hours) so we could explore the Everglades NP the next day.

And we really did. We busted out the bikes and rode probably close to 15 miles total. We rode to one of the visitors’ centers and saw three alligators around their boardwalk. They were just hanging out. One of them was on the sidewalk basking while some idiots got down on the ground to take photos just four feet away from the dinosaur. It would have been Darwinism at its finest if that gator felt like it. People are crazy. The Everglades NP is big and uniquely beautiful. It was fun to get to explore a bit of it.

Rain started as we prepared to head north to the Big Cypress National Preserve. There is a little campground in the middle of nowhere called Midway Campground. It’s on the Tamiami Trail and served as a “midway” point for the next leg of our journey. It is a small place, but it does have electrical hook ups, which we haven’t had in a few days (thank you, solar system). Between the rain and having electricity but no cell service, we got to just hangout for the day. Ross practiced his guitar while I sat down to write to keep up with you all!

Until next time…

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