Monday, May 21, 2012

St Augustine

St. Augustine is the nations's oldest city - who'd a thunk? We parked in the visitor's center rv and bus parking lot, which ran us a pretty penny considering we were just boondocking, but the location was fabulous being about 1/2 mile from everything. We unhooked our bikes (the best way to see this city) and set out for an adventure. We had reservations at The Floridian which according to YELP! was the best place in town; very different menu and everything was "regionally-authentic, fresh from the source cuisine." At the back of the restaurant was a doorway that sported a sign reading "County Line" on top of it. They had beer and wine available, but to order you had to go through the door, crossing the county line, and pay for it; then they would bring whatever you ordered to your table. Guess there are a lot of different ordinances regarding liquor sales in this city, actually it seems all over Florida it's like that. We had a great dinner and cruised the city a bit on our bikes before heading "home".  The next morning while grabbing breakfast we caught more people taking pics of our bikes - we always get a big kick out of this, one woman must have taken 50 pictures and Bill overheard her saying something about using it for her postcards.

We went to see the Lightner Museum which showcased relics of America's Gilded Age on three floors. "Costumes, furnishings, mechanical musical instruments and other artifacts give you a glimpse into 19th century daily life." The diversity of items in the museum was amazing. A lot of Indian history, a mummified child's tomb, a stuffed lion, a rattlesnake skin about 6 feet long, furniture, clothing, housewares and just about everything you could imagine. I forgot my hat and when I went back in to retrieve it I wandered into an area we hadn't seen and it was a huge ballroom with marble floors and pillars - I could just imagine a scene from one of the many books I had read from that period. We also went to see the Castillo de San Marcos. This fort took 23 years to  build, from 1672-1695, and was impenetrable through 300 years of war and storms.

We stopped into see "The Monks Vineyard" and almost never left! Bill spotted a bottle of "Ovila" brewed with the monks at the Abbey of New Clairveaux in Vino, CA and Sierra Nevada Brewing in Chico, Ca, where we had originally drank this beer. It is my favorite beer and we promptly ordered it, pulled up two of the 3 stools at the bar where we were entertained with the life history of the owner and all his woes. We tasted a few other things, including a yummy port I just had to own and finally extricated ourselves without buying the place, phew!

While in Cedar Key we fell in love with the Datil pepper sauce at Kona Joes. They had it bottled in St. Augustine where they are famous for their "most beloved treasure," the datil pepper (pronounced like daddle). We bought a few bottles from Kona Joes, but were really looking forward to seeing what was available in St. Augustine. We ended up at The Pepper Palace where they had over 60 feet of pepper products to sample, from mild to wild - Bill was in heaven! We had fun sampling and then bought a bag full for us AND to share...who knows if you'll be the next one to receive a special bottle! 

Bill had hoped to spend another night and hit the beach but we were kind of under the gun to keep moving north to make the Delfest Bluegrass Festival in Maryland over Memorial Day weekend...oh well, gotta have something to come back and see!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Camping with the Naturists

Our friends Sini and Bob spent quite a bit of time at this park and raved about it, so, needing a place to stop between Key West and Savannah this looked like the perfect spot. We love to go to clothing optional hot springs and have been to quite a few; Bill has been to nudist parks before for hash weekends but this was going to be a first for me. The weather had been quite warm, but when we arrived in Fort Pierce it was cool and windy, not exactly the weather I would pick for running around in the buff! But perfect for hitting the hot tub, which we did as soon as we set up. It had been a long drive from Key West and we were happy to grab a quick dinner and have an early night.

The next day I headed out to do a little grocery shopping while Bill did some RV maintenance - IN THE NUDE! We run around naked in the rv quite a bit but it's an entirely different experience doing chores and stuff outside naked! They have a nice big heated pool with tons of new rafts and noodles; great music was blasting from the speakers, we had our cocktails and some snacks, some reading material and a nice overcast day in the high 70's - we were quite comfy to just chill at the pool all day. Bill really needed a day to do absolutely nothing and that's just what he got. At 6pm there was a pizza party and then they were playing a couple of movies in the club house. There we all were - eating pizza, drinking wine, shmoozing - all sans clothing. They passed out bags of popcorn and we settled in to watch the movie and it kind of just felt, well, normal! Everyone was incredibly friendly, no freaky people checking you out, just regular people, with regular bodies. There are a ton of these campgrounds all over the country and I am sure they each attract a different kind of crowd, but this one was cool and I'd recommend it if you're in the area and want to have a different kind of experience.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Key West

In our quest to explore the far corners of the country, we needed to visit the southernmost point in the U.S., Key West, Florida. The Florida Keys are a string of islands, or Keys, that extend for more than 100 miles south and east from the southern tip of Florida. Key West is the last island in the chain that’s accessible by car and is only 90 miles from Cuba, closer than the nearest Walmart. The remoteness of this place has made it a popular tourist destination, which means it’s expensive.

When you’re in touristy areas like this the military RV parks really come in handy. Most all of the campgrounds charge over $100/night out here, but Sigsbee Naval Air Station has a beautiful park, right on the water for $21/night – and we scored a waterfront site – very, very sweet! The snowbirds had gone home and there weren’t too many people here, but during “the season” they pack them in like sardines and boast that they’ve never turned anyone away. The park is just a couple of miles from the action on Duval Street and was perfect for us.

In order to get onto the base in Key West, you need to have a DOD decal on your windshield. We had tried to get a decal when we were staying at the Academy, only to discover that the Air Force no longer issues them—makes sense since they check IDs at the gate all the time now. So, we stopped on Boca Chica Island at the naval base and got our decals there. We now have Key West decals on both our vehicles and Bill gets a salute whenever we approach the gate.

It was a 4-hour drive from Miami, and after our rude wake-up call, we were both pretty exhausted by the time we got to Key West. We hooked up quickly and made our way to town to have what YELP called “the best burger on the island.” We ordered the requisite Coronas and sat outside and inhaled our burgers. They were pretty good, but I was just starting to feel the effects of our stay at Sanibel Island and realized that I had been eaten alive by the vicious NoSeeums. We went home and I crashed for about 48 hours – loading up on Benedryl and covering my body in every kind of topical anti-itch medicine that I could get my hands on. I actually felt ill, like I had a fever too – it wasn’t good, but we had air conditioning and that helped. Unfortunately for Bill the best antidote was tea tree oil, which I use for everything, but he cannot deal with the smell. I tried to stay in the bedroom and he got a lot of work done while I was catatonic, so that was good!

Wednesday mid-day I was feeling a little better so we packed up our beach stuff and headed to the Southernmost Beach Café to spend the day at the beach. We had heard that all of the beaches in Key West were topless and a few were clothing optional – the word on this beach was that it was topless. They don’t have great beaches in Key West, but this was also supposed to be one of the better ones….well, if that’s true, that is pretty sad! The bar/café was right there and you could rent a chaise and umbrella too if you liked, but we had our chairs and umbrella and staked out a nice spot in which to chill. Their key lime margarita was the bomb! We did notice a few topless girls but they were very subtle and put on their tops when they went into the water or the bar, so when in Rome… The water was a great temp and you could walk out pretty far but the beach was covered in sea grass that really stunk – they had a tractor working all day to try to clean it up, but that only made the smell worse.
Having margaritas at Margaritaville

Anyway, we had fun in the sun, but somehow I got sunburned - it wasn’t bad enough that I was dealing with the bug bites, I guess! We decided to stay another day since we hadn’t yet made it out to do the “Duval Crawl” and the weather was cooperating.  Thursday we started with a fabulous breakfast at Sarabeth’s in an historic 1800’s clapboard landmark building and then had a fun day walking Duval from one end of the island to the other. We met some fun people, listened to a lot of music, bought the requisite margarita at Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville and did a little shopping. We went home for a nap and then went out for one of the best meals we have ever had at a little restaurant called Azur. The service, the food, the wine – everything was fantastic! We couldn’t leave Key West without checking out a bit of the night life - on the roof of the Bull & Whistle Bar is “The Garden of Eden” which is a clothing optional nightclub. We had to walk up a gazillion stairs (in high heels with my broken toe, and bug bites, and suburn!) but when we got to the rooftop the music was pumping and we were ready to party! 

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Unexpected diversions are the spice of a nomad’s life!

Our original “plan” was to spend a couple of days on Sanibel Island and then go to Naples on Sunday where we would park in front of Bill’s cousin, Karen’s home…but you know what happens when you plan! Our friend, Panty Free (hash name) had tagged us in a post on Facebook to let us know that Milton, who is a hasher in Florida, was looking for some crash space along his route from Louisiana back home to Miami. I connected with him and found out that our dates did not match up, but when he heard we were close by, he said he had plenty of parking at his warehouse loft should we need it. That got me thinking about the long drive from Naples to Key West – about 6 hours of car driving which would definitely mean at least an additional hour or two in Bebe AND Miami was right on the way.

In the meantime I connected with cousin Karen to firm up our visit and found out they were dealing with a medical emergency and all plans were up in the air. Things sometimes are just “beshert” (meant to be)! We rescheduled everything, drove down to Naples the next day to have lunch with Karen, and dinner, with more of Bill’s friend’s from his Air Force days in the Philippines. Oh, and did I mention, there is a TRADER JOE’s in Naples?! It’s the first and only Trader Joes in Florida and just opened a few months ago. Bill and I were having major Trader Joe withdrawals as the last time we had shopped there was in January, in Palm Desert!! We had run out of our favorite corn rye bread two months ago and had a pretty long wish list of our other favorites – so shopping we went, and it was good, and there was much rejoicing!

Anyway this gave us the opportunity to change our plans and drive into Miami on Sunday and break up our trip to Key West a bit. When I mentioned this to Milton, he told me that Miami H3 (the hash) was having their annual Hippie Hash on Sunday at noon and that we should really try to make it in for that. The hippie hash coincided with the annual Miami Hippie Fest with music, vendors, and everything hippie! It was going to be a stretch, especially for us, because even if we’re all packed up to go it takes us at least an hour to bring in the slides, unhook all the plumbing and electrical, and hook up the car and on top of all that, the drive was about 4 hours. But we were extremely motivated, I mean a HIPPIE HASH – how perfect was that?!
my new hippie hat

I woke up in the middle of the night and realized that I had broken my toe the night before when we were out watching the Super Moon rise at Sanibel Island, but I was not going to let a little broken toe keep me from the hash, that’s for sure.  We got up early, everything worked out, we made it with time to spare and had a great time.

One thing a lot of people don’t know about me is that I am Jewish and have a very strong Jewish identity. While growing up and also while raising my children I was quite involved with my Temple and with the Jewish community. Moving to Tahoe and living on the road has taken me far away from all of that, but if I was to describe myself with just a few words, one of them would definitely be Jewish.  While at the hash one of the girls/harriettes mentioned that she was Jewish and I had a feeling (especially in Miami) that she wasn't the only one there that was, it made me feel all warm and squishy.

Milton invited us to his friend's boat for a BBQ in the Miami harbor that evening.  As we were walking up to the boat I noticed that one of the guys on it was wearing a kipa (yarmulke) – definitely Jewish! I had a little bounce in my step, as I got on the boat, cuz I'm always excited to be around “my people”. We brought a tri-tip and some bok choy to BBQ and some beer and appetizers too. There were about 8 people there and the talk was all about “CouchSurfing.” Milton and his roommate (Jake) live in a warehouse/ loft type building and have quite a few couches – they do a lot of traveling and CouchSurfing and host a lot of CouchSurfers as well. Here is the wikipedia description of CouchSurfing. We were not the first RV he had invited to park at his place!
The weather was perfect, the sun was setting over the water, big, multi-million dollar yachts were coming in and the harbor quickly became a magical place as Milton bbq’ed our yummy food. While there I asked if anyone was a doctor, nurse, or an emt – I wanted a professional opinion about my toe! And guess what, there just so happened to be a Jewish doctor on board! More Jews…I was in my element, and YES, my toe was broken! I got some good advice, we had an awesome time. and when we got back to Bebe two thoroughly exhausted people fell into dreamland only to be awakened at 7am with a pounding on the door. Now for us to be still asleep at 7am is pretty much a miracle in itself and it was amazing that after being on the road for 2 years this was our first time with one of these wake up calls. From what I hear they’re usually from the cops at 3am…guess the other business tenants in the warehouse were doing some work early Monday morning and they wanted us OUTTA THERE, pronto! So groggily we put ourselves together and got on the road for an earlier than usual start to Key West.

On the road again....

As much as we LOVE Cedar Key, we had been there for two months and were both ready to move on and see the rest of Florida!  Our first stop was in Tampa to have lunch and see Bill's mom one last time before settling into our campsite at Fort Desoto in St. Petersburg. Other nomads had raved about this state park and we were lucky to snag 2 nights here. On the weekends this place is supposed to be crazy busy with people but during the week it's very quiet and we pretty much had the place to ourselves. We set up quickly and got on our bikes to do a little scouting before sunset. For sunset, our site right on the water was the perfect place to settle in with a cocktail and listen to the birds while waiting for the glorious show. The next morning we were itching for some exercise and went out for a 4 1/2 mile run to check out the beaches. We could definitely spend some more time here!

Nomadic friends Eric and Karla had told us about Sanibel Island and it was a must see on our tour. We had reserved 4 nights here and had no idea how magical this little rv park was. There was a bird sanctuary with the most beautiful cockatoos and parrots...they all loved to talk up a storm and one really enjoyed Bill's wine and one enjoyed his finger! They had a separate area with black swans, lemurs and ducks everywhere. I hear that during the season the Periwinkle Trailer Park is packed pretty tight but we had plenty of room to stretch out in. We went for 2 more long runs, one on purpose and one because we got VERY lost. Bill was so happy to be getting in the groove of running again. We found a fabulous gourmet market that had some yummy beers and the most amazing pastries.

We drove out to Captiva Island to see The Bubble Room - what a trip! This place has so much stuff crammed into every nook and cranny. We had heard the food wasn't that good (except for their Orange Crunch Cake) so we just got an umbrella drink and wandered around.

We ended up at The Mucky Duck, a restaurant with a huge outdoor bar on the beach and live music and settled into our Adirondack chairs to wait for the's a tough life, all this waiting for sunsets!

The next day, Cinco de Mayo and the Super Moon collided and we found the only Mexican restaurant on Captiva Island. We ended up at an overflow table outside, in the front of the restaurant which was kind of cool. Ordered a pitcher of margaritas, some guac and enjoyed the action on the street. When Bill went to order a shot of tequila from the bar he was told they didn't have any and that the margaritas were from wine! We were flabbergasted - a Mexican restaurant without a liquor license! And, hello, could you have told us this BEFORE we ordered the pitcher!
Dining at Cantina Captiva

It was a crazy night on more than one count, but we got our Mexican fix and drove over to the Green Flash to wait for the Super Moon to rise.

I had no idea that the islands, Sanibel and Captiva were INFESTED with NoSeeums...a little tiny black blug that took an extreme liking to my flesh. So while we were spending all of this time out doors in the May humidity, i.e., wearing very little, I was getting eaten alive. I was not to discover this until several days later, just after I realized I had broken my toe on the dock while waiting for the moon to rise :(
Super Moon over Captiva Island, Florida, May 5, 2012

Madeleine in the USA

Bill's daughter Madeleine moved to England just about the time we took off on the road, so it's been about two years since we have seen her. She got her masters degree at Cambridge and then moved to London for a two-year theater program. Madeleine was coming to the states on her two-week break and after visiting her mom in Arizona, we flew her out to Tampa to spend a few days with her grandmother and us. The timing was perfect and broke up her trip back to the UK. We all camped out at Grandma Doano's house and had a blast. 

Before Madeleine arrived we went with Doano to the Dali Museum in St Petersburg.

We went back the next day for burgers and rum runners on the beach at the Bon-Aire Motel. 
(thanks for that tip, Maria!)

It was great to see Madeleine, she is happy and having an amazing experience in London- the visit was short, but sweet!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Trailer Trash Hash

This is the story of the Trailer Trash Hash House Harriers. Those who know us, know that we met at a Hash House Harriers run in Walnut Creek. If you don’t know what the Hash is, quite simply it’s an international “drinking club with a running problem.” We drink, follow trails marked with flour and chalk, then drink some more and sing a few songs. When Debby and I left Lake Tahoe to begin our full-time RV adventure, we left behind what we thought was one of the best hashes we’d ever run with, the South Lake Tahoe Hash, or SLuTs for short. Being dedicated hashers, we planned to find kennels to run with as often as we could while on the road and occasionally set a trail for our friends. 

Sam, Tracy, Schelby and I on trail in Quartzite 
One of our first stops after leaving Tahoe was at Quartzsite, Arizona where we spent the month of January dry camping with a group of NuRVers on BLM land. After talking about hashing with our new friends, we decided the only way to explain the hash properly is to set a trail, so that’s what I did. It was short and sweet and intended to give our new friends a taste of hashing without killing them. Let’s just say this was not a group of serious runners. At this point we were referring to ourselves as the SLuTs on Tour, but since the SLuT hash really belonged in South Lake Tahoe, we knew we’d be needing a new name.
"Chalk Talk" before the first Cedar Key Hash 

It was more than a year later, in Cedar Key, when we set our second trail. We found ourselves there with Brian and Maria, who we met while at Quartzsite and took to their first hash in Phoenix - they had hashed a few times by this point. Also staying at our RV park were Chris and Cherie, friends from Camp Nomadia at Burning Man and Jeannette and Dennis, also NuRVers we met in Slab City at New Year’s this year and we had dragged them to their first hash in Austin. Chris had hashed before so was very excited about the possibility of running a trail in Cedar Key and kept the pressure on me to set a trail before they and their friends Anne and Elliott left. Our new friends Amy and Levi were also anxious to give hashing a try. After only a couple of days of scouting, a trail was born and starting at the Tiki Bar at the Low Key Hideaway, where we were joined by Pat, who had also hashed a few times before, and a virgin that didn’t make it past Tuesday on the days of the week song. In honor of the success Kansas had been having in the NCAA championship tournament, the pack was decked out in blue and red. The trail went well and we had a short circle in Cedar Key before heading back to the Tiki Bar for more revelry, including a naming for Brian—“Rock Cock.” 

Just Pat sporting his awesome find to decorate his Easter bonnet
I persuaded Brian to help me set the next trail the following weekend on Easter Sunday. This would be Brian’s first time haring, so we needed to plan things thoroughly, especially transporting the beer. Everyone wore their finest Easter bonnets and enjoyed a beautiful trail with lots of island shiggy and a few tick checks. Turns out the On In was on private property and we got busted by the owners, but they just told us to clean up after ourselves and let us finish circle. Maria took over as RA when Bill refused to give himself a Down Down for the trail and she proved she was a natural. Dennis earned the name “OBP” because of the truth serum he drank regularly at the Tiki Bar. 

Knowing we needed a new name and logo for the hash, a group of us convened at Pat and Cindy’s house to brainstorm. Given that we all live in RVs, the “Trailer Trash Hash” was a no-brainer for a name. That abbreviates to TTH3, so a couple of vowels were needed and the “i”s won. So the SLuTs on Tour became the TiTi Hash. After a night of drinking, singing, and drawing, the group came up with a fantastic concept for the TiTi Hash logo and less than 24 hours later, Jeanette had drawn it up for us. It’s a smashing success.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Nomadic Reunion in Cedar Key

It's incredibly difficult to tell about 2 months spent in one place - especially when one doesn't keep up their blog regularly! But definitely the highlight of our time in Cedar Key was the convergence of so many of our nomadic friends. We fell in love with the place in less than 24 hours and that was even before we got to share it with anyone or discover the Low-Key Hideaway! I've talked about our time with Sini and Bob and alluded to our fun with friends at the Low-Key but here I will attempt to give you a little insight into our camping with friends Maria & Brian  and Jeanette & Dennis. Maria & Brian started full-timing just about when we did and we met them when we boondocked in Quartzsite in January 2011. They are our kid's age and we love them and their crazy dogs Buddha & Ernie, hell we now even love the JayHawks, who, as KU alums, they are crazy about!! They have a tricked-out "class C" rv and work and travel, just like we do. It was Maria I was extolling the virtues of Cedar Key to when we decided to change course and stay there for 2 months and it was Maria who said...we're on our way! They camp a little differently than we do - they like cities (with breweries) & because of their size and no slide-outs they are able to park on the street. This is also advantageous for them as they do not tow a car but use their bikes to get around. Quite often they will work out of libraries and coffee houses while we have only worked either in Bebe or just outside of Bebe.
working outside of Bebe.......
  But I digress...I was a little worried that I had convinced them to come to this sleepy little island town with NO breweries and that they might be bored! But no need to worry, they had been moving quickly across the country and were ready for a little "chill time." They stayed for a month (first time they had a long-term campground stay) and had a blast. Jeanette and Dennis are a little older than Maria & Brian and they also sport a sweet little class C & and they also like city life. Both Maria and Brian and Bill and myself had met the Cheddar Yeti clan this New Year's at Slab City. They've also been full-timing for about as long as we have. We were all moving across the U.S. in waves but everyone wanted to come see just what I was going on about. Our "Nomadic Krewe" was supposed to get together in NOLA for Mardis Gras but I needed to get stabilized for tax season so it never happened; it had been since January at Slab City that this motley crew had all assembled. And we didn't miss a beat...we road our bikes all over Cedar Key, we converged on the Tiki Bar for happy hours & pot-lucks, we had bbq's and shrimp boils and March Madness viewings; we spent a day out on North Key Island, we kayaked, we fished, learned to catch & eat crab, hung out at The Big Deck Raw Bar where we met Amy & Levi and just had more fun than you can even imagine. All this during tax season, Bill's annual sobriety, and everyone working.

Towards the end of April we had more nomadic visitors - Chris & Cherie who are fellow burners and who helped us with a lot of techy stuff as we started this gig. They were in the area and needed to "cut loose" just a little, and their online followers Clark & Elaine came to meet them in person. More of their friends, Ann and Elliot, managed to find us all in Cedar Key as well...and as you can imagine, much fun ensued......

I just have to mention that we all missed Sam & Tracy and Kev & Angie who we spent the month with in Quartzsite last year...maybe next time!

See our next blog for the official start of the Trailer Trash Hash...