Monday, March 26, 2012

Cedar Key Florida

.... where we are now, paradise! We had a six-hour drive from Destin to Cedar Key, pretty, uneventful; we did stop along the way to make sure we had "provisions" as we had heard there wasn't much on the island. I was a little nervous about the RV park where I had made a reservation for three nights, but figured, it's only three nights. I really try to do my research before I make a reservation some place, but most of it is based on the opinions of people I don't even know, so it's always a gamble. And this time, that gamble paid off, in a big way. From Otter Creek, the last "town", the 30-minute drive into Cedar Key is beautiful, lush with many trees, and a few little homes/ranches along the road, looking very different from the Florida I had previously experienced, which was only an overnight in Miami before a cruise and visiting Bill's mom in Clearwater/Tampa - all very urban areas. We crossed over a narrow causeway with water close on either side - this was my first experience with the keys. And then I spotted the funky little multi-colored trailer in front, which I remembered from the website - this was the place! 

It's not a big park but it has a certain kind of "personality" all it's own - the picnic tables are all painted in ice cream colors, as are the bathrooms. There's a cute little clubhouse where they have a few activities like karaoke, texas hold 'em, bingo and live bluegrass music every weekend. The main office building doubles as a cafe open Monday-Saturday 7-7. We settled in nicely to our little spot, but didn't get too settled as we were only going to be there a few days. Our sights were set on spending tax season in Tampa at McDill AFB famcamp. We were only guaranteed two weeks in a full hook-up site there and if there was a wait list at the end of our two weeks we would have to cycle into overflow camping with no hook-ups and then into partial hookups before we could get back into a full hook-up site. We wanted to stay six weeks so this could have meant three moves & during tax season! And we were also still going to be an hour's drive to see Bill's mom. 

Fresh fruit and vegies stumbling distance from our rv park.
We had only been in Cedar Key a day or two and I was extolling the virtues of the place to all who would listen... while writing an email like this to our friend, Maria, another full-timing nomad, I turned to look at Bill and said "if we like this place so much, why are we leaving??" I mean the whole benefit of our lifestyle is that we can go anywhere, anytime...we had only put down a small deposit at the military famcamp so even if we lost it the rates were cheaper in Cedar Key, I was in love with the town, there was free yoga five days a week, a farmers produce stand Thursday - Sunday and we could ride our bikes all over the island! 
It was quite a bit further from Bill's mom (3 hrs vs 1) but we figured instead of seeing her a couple of times a week, we'd drive in every other weekend and spend a couple of days. So off I marched into the office to see if they could find room for us - and within a few hours they had, and we could stay right where we were if we wanted! 
our site

Friday, March 23, 2012

Florida Panhandle....

FINALLY I was going to meet the infamous "Doughboy"....for years Bill has regaled me with stories from his days stationed in the Phillipines and luckily for me, this trip east, I have had the opportunity to meet many of his buddies from "back in the day". Many of them live in the Florida panhandle and I had found a sweet spot for us to stay for a week, which was plenty of time for him to reconnect and for me to meet everyone! As I have mentioned before, the military has many "famcamps" across the country - rv campgrounds that are on military bases. Usually they are in a remote area of the base, are extremely reasonably priced and most have a real "campground" feel. The military also has "recreation areas" and the Fort Benning Army base in Georgia has just such a park in Destin, FL. Benning MWR is located right on the Choctawhatchee Bay with about 30 RV full-hook-up sites, villas and a hotel. It's difficult to get a rezzie there but we did. Bill had his "old home week" with all of his buddies, and I got to put a face to the names I have been hearing about for years.  Friends, Jim and Dianne, drove down from their "ranch" in Holt to have lunch and we went up there to check out their little piece of paradise with their dogs, cows and horses! Doughboy came over to check out Bebe and arranged a fun group dinner, which was also Bill's last night of drinking for awhile - perfect timing! Most of these people he had not seen or spoken to in 30+ years.  Jim, though, was in Sacramento with Bill after the Phillipines and it was with him that he started the Sacramento hash in 1980. They roomed together, ended up buying their first condos in the same neighborhood and I think Bill met Jim's wife the same night Jim did, so they go wayyyy back! 

Destin is a very small, touristy town that neighbors Fort Walton Beach which is aslo home to the yoga studio, Dragonfly Yoga. I fell in love with this place and Bill finally had to come see what I was raving about. The only thing I was a little disappointed about was that I had expected Florida winter weather - and I was still COLD! It was definitely better than the chill in NOLA, but still not exactly the beach weather I was looking for! 

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

New Orleans here we come!

It was time to say goodbye to Austin...but it was too soon! We seem to be leaving each place wishing we could stay longer...this was not the way this year was supposed to go! We were going to take our time, no agenda, ha ha! Guess we just have to keep trying...we are on a mission to get to Tampa where we can park and be stationary during tax season so we have to keep moving. Bebe needed a "tune & lube" so we headed down to New Braunfels where friends Angie and Kevin were parked so we could have lunch and see the town they had been calling home for awhile. Kev started the "NuRVers" website which I luckily found before we started out on this wild ride and we will be forever thankful to him for providing a unique spot where we have found kindred souls and created a sense of community on the road. Kev has also provided us with an amazing amount of tips and tricks, like getting the recall on our fridge done before we had a horrendous fire like he did :(

Another tip (from the Technomads) and we were headed to Avery Island, Louisiana to see the world famous Tabasco factory. ALL of the tabasco sold in the world in processed here - it was a cool little tour and someplace to go to break up the trek to New Orleans (NOLA).

And finally we made it to NOLA!! Had rezzies at a state park campground, a free ferry ride away from the French Quarter, and had found out online that the New Orleans hash was having a hashy hour to celebrate a new brew from the NOLA brewery at Avenue unhook the Subie, hook up Bebe, grab some warm clothes because it was FREEZING and off we went to find the ferry and navigate our way around a new city. New Orleans is a super easy city to walk which is what we did all week long. We found our way to the bar and I thought I located the hashers, unfortunately we had not worn our tags (necklaces with hash names) - but I did notice a hash shirt worn by one of the girls so with that confirmation we knew our evening had taken a turn for the better!
We found out, from the locals, about an iPhone ap for the parades - you pick what parade & it will show where it's at on the route compared to where you are, so you can follow it while in a nice warm bar and when it gets close run out to see - with freezing temps, this was fabulous and we used it all week long. My birthday was just two days away and I had made a rezzie at a great restaurant (I thought) I had found on yelp, but luckily our new hash friends directed us to Ralph's on the Park  - a wonderful spot a bit uptown from the french quarter tourists. They greeted us with Mardi Gras colored balloons and a feast to die for. It had been a day of feasting as we started out my b-day at Cafe du Monde with Beignets & chicory Cafe au lait - YUMMMMMM! Then made our way to all the cute little bars in the French Quarter or as my dad would say, Rue de Paris! He made sure we went to all the places he went to when he was stationed their with the Navy during WWII. I got a free b-day drink at one of his favorites, Pat O'Brien's and they gave me a free glass, which I sent to him. 
Birthday Bloody!

Birthday Beignets @ Cafe DuMonde

Birthday Balloons

Birthday Booze!

sporting some fine Mardi Gras hair

We hit the Central Grocery where they invented the mufeletta, which Chrissy (Bill's sister-in-law) introduced us to in Smithville/Austin. She hit it almost dead-on, yummy olive tapenade, meats & cheeses. We made it to Frenchman's street to listen to the jazz & found a cute little spot where they were playing ragtime & dressed for the part as well. Being a pianist, I LOVE me some ragtime!!  

Everyday we'd get a little work done in the morning and then set out on an adventure...the weather wasn't the best but we were here for a week and going to not let that stop us. After the first day getting gouged $20 to park by the free ferry (making it not quite so FREE!) we figured out when and where to park & never had to pay again! We were so lucky that the krewes (parades) were going on most days/nights but without the gargatuan crowds so we definitely got the feel of mardi gras sans crush...

Bill taking his conference call on the ferry ride over.

We didn't make it down to the bayou or out to party with our friends doing the "locals" thing, which I knew I'd regret, but it was cold and rainy and time to move on to see Bill's friends in the revoir Louisiana!