Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Key West


After a short visit to Big Cypress National Park, we continued further south to the southernmost point of the continental United States – Key West!

On Monday, December 30th, we drove down US Route 1 as far as it would take us.  Called “the Overseas Highway”, the drive itself is quite the adventure.   Sometimes we were driving with water on each side of us, and sometimes we drove as slowly as 35 miles per hour! 



We arrived at Naval Air Station Key West, also known as Sigsbee NAS, and parked our RV.  But that’s all we did was park – no hookups again.  None whatsoever.  This was our first time fully dependent upon the mechanics of the camper to survive.
“No hookups” means you park in the middle of a field.  Luckily, there was a fine bath house with showers, toilets, and sinks, plus a laundry room, only a short walk away.  But for living in the camper, we minimized the need for electricity and water as much as we possibly could.  Since the weather was so temperate, we didn’t need to run our air conditioner while we were there.  In the evenings when it started to get dark, yet we weren’t ready for bed, we ran the generator for a few hours in order to provide lights and to recharge the camper’s battery.  We used jugs of water in our sinks and toilets, which we refilled near the bath house.  Our refrigerator ran on propane while we were there.  And thankfully our wastewater holding tanks didn’t need to be emptied until we were ready to leave Key West.  Yes, we managed to survive several days without being hooked up!  Quite an accomplishment when there are eight people living in the camper!



Key West is well-known as a preferred vacation spot for the LGBT community.  We were hesitant to visit Key West due to concerns that it would be "in our face", but we figured that since we were staying on the naval base that we would have minimal exposure to it.  We did venture into the city several times during the daytime, but I was pleasantly surprised that it wasn’t anything like I was afraid it would be.  Sure, there were several obvious examples of LGBT couples, but it wasn’t as “on display” as I had needlessly worried it would be.  The LGBT couples that I saw were actually quite… “normal”.  Imagine!

However, even with that, we did choose NOT to venture into the downtown area for New Year’s Eve celebration.  If it had been just Stephen and I, we might have.  But we just didn’t feel that the atmosphere of New Year’s Eve festivities was something we wanted our kids exposed to, LGBT or not. Instead, we went to another side of the island to the Boca Chica military beach and chose to miss out on the midnight "Lowering of the Conch Shell" that is traditional on the island. 
 
The Boca Chica beach is owned by the military, so it’s not open to the public.  As a result, we pretty much had the beach to ourselves!  Imagine, a private beach in Key West!  We had a great time that evening and stayed until past sunset.  The kids discovered some amazing wildlife while we were there.  We found a small conch on the beach (and it was alive!), several lion fish and clown fish, a huge crab, and many jellyfish.  Afterwards we headed back to our camper for a quiet and private “ringing in of the new year.”

 

















Early the next morning, while the new year's revelers were sleeping off their previous night's excesses, we rented snorkeling equipment and drove to the Zachary Taylor State Park which is renowned for its coral reef.  It’s a destination for snorkelers, to be sure.  However, since it had been so unusually windy since we arrived at Key West, the water was churned up.  Steve and the boys couldn’t even see their own hands in front of their faces once they were in the water.  Tried as we may, snorkeling was pretty much a bust.  We stayed at the park until lunchtime, and then returned to the naval base to do some shopping for souvenirs.  Not a bad way to spend the first day of a new year!








On Thursday, January 2nd, I had the opportunity to meet some fellow Escapees whom we have coincidentally been following down the east coast since Boston.  Preston and Andy are a fun couple who, like us, are “living the dream” of fulltime RVing.  They keep their travel blog (called “Epinephrine Adventures”) at www.epi-rv.blogspot.com, and they even mentioned me in their post of January 8th!  We had a short visit, but I really liked both of them and hope our paths cross again someday.

 

Later that day, I took the kids into the city for a glass-bottom boat tour.  We bought the tickets for a discount through the naval base, but it was still a bit of money for seven of us!  Regardless, it was a fun adventure.  But again, since the water was churned up, we didn’t get the best viewing possible.  We did see some neat things on the ocean floor, about seven miles from the shore.  It was a fun afternoon.  It was too bad that Steve had to miss it due to being required to telework that day, but the kids and I made the most of the experience regardless.




On our way home from the glass-bottom boat tour, we drove past the southernmost point of the continental U.S. I had hoped to stop for a picture, but it was so crowded and there was nowhere to park, so we saw it from the car window add we drove past. At least we can say we've been there!
 

On Friday, January 3rd, we packed up our camper and headed back up Route 1 to the mainland.  Key West is a unique place, sort of half Caribbean and half Savannah or New Orleans.  I am so glad that we took the time to drive down and experience it, as we might not get the chance to go back.