Christmas in Key West

We spent Saturday in Key West checking out the sites, the tourists, and the Christmas decorations. We took a trolly ride to learn more of the history of the island. We learned there are 300 bars, 200 restaurants, and 100 churches. Numbers seem backwards for most places…guess that’s why Key West is so popular with young people especially! There are over 3000 homes on the island with 20 of them being on a national historic list. It’s 2,200 miles to Maine via Route 1. Greg and I both stood by the 0 Mile marker to prove we were there!

There are chickens everywhere. Key West residents call them gypsy chickens. There have always been chickens in Key West. When people stopped having chickens for every Sunday dinner many decades ago, backyard chickens gained their freedom. Other roosters were released when cock-fighting became illegal. So there are all over the city running around and crowing all day!

The shops were decorated for Christmas and there was a festive feeling in the air even though the thermometer said it was 80 degrees. Not a temperature that we typically think of as being Christmas weather. At least not in the Carolinas!

We saw a line of people waiting for their picture to be taken in front of the red symbol below but I figured a picture with no people was just as good  (because I didn’t want to wait in line). No other place in the US is further south except a town in Hawaii. This is the southern most point in the continental US.

We enjoyed our Newmar Rally and meeting many people with similar buses and similar issues. Now off to Naples Motorcoach Park for a few days before home for Christmas. Hope you enjoyed our trip!

Theater by the Sea

Today our Newmar group visited the Theater by the Sea in Islamorada, Florida. It is a marine mammal park that was established in 1946. Visitors can swim with the dolphins, California sea lions, or sting rays or watch shows in which they perform. Dolphins swim in and jump through hoops and perform lots of commands. The 17 acre site also has exotic birds, lizards, iguanas, crocodilians, sea turtles and other forms of marine life. We didn’t swim with any animals but did enjoy the shows in which they performed. Tomorrow is our last day in the Keys and we will return to Key West for some shopping/sightseeing and then have a dinner together with our fellow Newmar owners before we depart on Sunday. 

Dolphin Research Center

Today was spent at the Dolphin Research Center, a nonprofit corporation whose goal was to ensure the dolphins had a home there for life and to establish a unique education and research facility. It houses dolphins and California sea lions…and over half of the animals were born at the Center while other members have either come from other facilities or were rescued, rehabilitated and deemed unreleasable back into the wild by the Government. They now have a forever home at the Dolphin Research Center. 

The first person to bring dolphins to live there on Grassy Key was a commercial fisherman named Milton Santini. Back in the 1940s he collected dolphins for other marine mammal parks and aquariums as well as for private individuals. He created the deep water lagoons in the Gulf by blasting them out with dynamite and he then established the first facility on the grounds – Santini’s Porposise Training School. Several of the dolphins that lived in the research center starred in the movie Flipper! 

It was exciting watching the trainers with the animals…performing tricks and showing us their special training. It was clear to see that the trainers loved the animals and it was evident that they’re  deeply committed to providing all of the animals with a safe, healthy, happy home for life. The well-being of the dolphins and sea lions is their top priority. 

Fiesta Key RV Resort and Pigeon Key

A few more photos of the Fiesta Key RV Resort. The aerial view shows where the sites are located and the last photo shows our street filed with Newmar Motor Coaches!  

Click on the pictures to see them larger and in slide mode!

Pigeon Key is a small island containing the historic district of Pigeon Key, Florida. The 5 acre island is home to 8 buildings on the National Register of Historic Places, some of which remain from its earliest incarnation as a work camp for the Florida East Coast Railroad. Today the buildings house educational groups and administrative offices. There’s also a small museum featuring artifacts from Pigeon Key’s past. The island was originally known as “Cayo Paloma” which means Pigeon Key, known for the large flocks of pigeons which once roosted there. During the building of Henry Flagler’s Overseas Railroad Key West Extension between 1908 and 1912, there were as many as 400 workers housed on the island. While there, they built many bridges along the rough through the lower keys, the Seven Mile Bridge, which spans the gap between Knight’s Key and Little Duck Key.  It’s still the largest and most impressive component of what was once referred to as the “8th Engineering Wonder of the World”. Many buildings from the Flagler era remain on the island. 

The vast majority of the original bridge still exists, although the span has been removed. The 2.2 mile section to Pigeon Key is used as a fishing pier but was closed to motorized traffic in 2008 after unsupported sections began to sag. It’s being refurbished for pedestrians and bicyclists at a cost of $77 million dollars. 

Lots was learned today about the history of the Key and of Florida. We can thank Flagler for our easy access to all of the Keys! Tomorrow we will visit Key West and the Dolphin Research Center. Check back tomorrow for more pictures and information! All you Newmar owners…keep living your dream.

Pelican Lake to Fiesta Key

Last week we began another trip to Florida. We love Naples, FL so we returned to Pelican Lake RV Resort in Naples. The weather was beautiful and we were able to wear shorts and even go SHELLING. The second day we weren’t able to stay at Tiger Tail Beach on Marco Island for long because the Red Tide was making us cough. The shells weren’t very plentiful but it was still nice walking on the beach and enjoying being outside in December. As we approached the beach, we could see a haze in the air and then we started to cough. We assumed the haze was from the Red Tide. The day before it had been fine and the water was clear but day 2 wasn’t as pleasant. We enjoyed visiting the Resort and meeting some new people. Their clubhouse is amazing and I was able to work out at the gym a couple of times. The nights were cool and the days pleasant but warm. The lush landscaping makes it easy to see why this is one of our favorite resorts to visit. 

After leaving Pelican Lake, we made the short, four hour trip to the Keys. We are attending a Newmar Rally for the week to meet other owners of Newmar Motorcoaches. There are activities planned for each day and this is a great way to meet other Coach owners as well as see a beautiful area. We are staying at the Fiesta Key RV Park located on Long Key. The campground is nice and there’s even a restaurant on site which I’m sure we will be using a lot for our dinners that aren’t part of our Rally. There are about 50 Newmar Motorcoaches in the Rally and last night we had a wonderful dinner and met lots of new friends. The pelicans and iguanas were amazing to watch and I took quite a few pictures of them throughout the day. The campground also has some pretty cool rental houses along the ocean as well as the many campers that are on site. Sunsets are amazing…sunrise is on one side of the island and the sunsets are on the other. We couldn’t have asked for better weather for the trip so far. Today was an open day without planned activities so we drove the 70 miles to Key West and spent the day wandering around the shops. Tomorrow I’ll post pictures from today. Our special event tomorrow is a trip to Pigeon Key so that should be pretty exciting. Keep living your dream and fill every day with something special. 

Big Bend Ranch State Park

We visited Big Bend Ranch State Park while staying at Maverick Ranch RV Park.  Big Bend Ranch State Park is Texas’ largest state park, at over 300,000 acres. It extends along the Rio Grande from southeast of Presidio to near Lajitas, in both Brewster and Presidio counties. Just a stone’s throw from Mexico to the south, the park is in an area so remote and rugged that it has been called El Despoblado, or “The Uninhabited.” In spite of that name, this awe-inspiring region boasts a rich human history. Water sustains life in the desert, making a place livable or even welcoming. For over 10,000 years, people have settled in the canyons, mountains and valleys of Big Bend Ranch State Park, typically near water sources. The materials and structures they left behind tell stories of triumph and hardship in the sometimes hospitable but often relentless land.

The state park was much smaller than the national park but the roads there seemed to cut through the mountains more, with the large boulders/mountains seeming closer to us than in the national park. The views there were equally as amazing but time didn’t allow us to do the hiking there that we had been able to do at the national park.

Our journey home has begun and we are now working our way back to North Carolina and our home. Hope you have enjoyed our trip…we enjoyed sharing it with you. Until our next trip, keep living your dream whatever that may be.