Key West

Say what you will about Key West, we enjoy our visits there.  First of all, it’s warm and sunny while it’s cold and snowy at home.  But more than that, the drive down Overseas Highway is very pretty, the seafood is wonderful (if you look in the right places), it’s casual and free-wheeling, and a bit crazy.  For a few days it’s great fun.

img_0673As campers we don’t have a lot of options.  We stay at Boyd’s Campground on Stock Island.  It’s crowded and you are packed in like sardines, but it is well run, friendly, and convenient.  Because we’re such a small camper they plunk us into a waterfront site that is not unpleasant.  It’s nothing like the beauty of the Florida keys state parks but for a few days, we’re OK with that.  Besides, the keys state parks camp site reservations are absolutely impossible to get.  We’ve tried for years and have finally given up.

img_0650For us, a typical day starts with coffee and breakfast in the Bambi, then a ride into downtown with the pups for a Cuban coffee.  We take advantage of the cooler morning hours to explore the town, as the dogs aren’t much good in the afternoon sun and heat.  Schooner Wharf, Duval Street, and various neighborhoods all hold unique charm.  It is delightfully dog-friendly.  Even the Audubon House Museum allowed the pups inside for a tour.

By mid-day we are all thirsty and hungry.  Lunch is generally oysters and Key West Pinks (shrimp), and something cold to wash them down.  While we sample a broad variety of watering holes for a this noche, our favorites are the Smokin’ Tuna Saloon and the Hog’s Breath Saloon, which tended to have plenty of bar stools available at that time of day and were dog friendly.

Afternoons, when it can be pretty hot, are a good time for errands, Bambi work, maybe a snooze and activity about the campground.  Water sports are also tempting, but generally not an option for us with the dogs.  We also would have liked a day trip to the Dry Tortugas, but once again, no dogs. 🙁

This year also brought us the Patriots unbelievable performance in Super Bowl XI.  We began the game at our favorite Stock Island restaurant, Roostica, surrounded by New England fans.  When the chips were down we headed back to the Bambi, where we witnessed the spectular finish.  Wow.

After a few days, we are ready to roll out again.

 

The Real Florida

This is our eigth winter camping excursion into Florida.  The first year, it was all about finding great spots near the water and seeing standard destinations that were “must-see’s” for snowbirds.  fullsizerenderOver time, though, we learned to scratch a little deeper under the surface.  We discovered, among other things, that there is more than south Florida and beaches.  Most of all, we discovered Florida State Parks. Continue reading The Real Florida

Newfound Gap: The Great Smoky Mountains

One of our favorite rides on our trip south is the trip over Newfound Gap across the Smoky Mountains. It is different each time we do it.  This trip the ride was punctuated by the damage left by the November fire. It was above freezing when we left Riveredge Campground in Pigeon Forge, but the temperature dropped quickly as we climbed towards the peaks and it started to snow.

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Continue reading Newfound Gap: The Great Smoky Mountains

The Smoky Mountains On Fire

This past November, right after Thanksgiving,  I was watching the morning news and a quick alert flashed across the screen about fires in The Great Smoky Mountain National Park in Tennessee. It caught my attention because we love the Smokies, we love Gatlinburg, and we even have a certain affection for the craziness of Pigeon Forge (ever heard of Dollyville?)
A day later, the wildfires in the National Park had exploded into a full-blown emergency and flames were licking at the mountain village Gatlinburg itself. The town was evacuated.  Vacation housing and resorts in the area were at risk or, in several cases, consumed by fire. Continue reading The Smoky Mountains On Fire

All things fun (and tasty) in the life of the Beards