Monday, July 20, 2015

Florida Round-up...

We originally planned on spending only February in Florida.  But, it turns out we were pretty naive about the amount of planning it takes to spend a winter amongst Florida snowbirds.

It seems that most folks make reservations at RV parks and campgrounds a year (or two) in advance.  Since Bill and I tend to fly by the seat of our pants we had a hard time finding places to stay, especially in southern Florida.  We could have axed southern Florida all together, but it would have meant missing both the Everglades and Cayo Costa State Park, two of the places that we'd been especially excited to visit.

So, instead, we decided to extend our time in Florida and do a bit of scrambling to procure campsites.  And I'm so glad we did.  Here's a photo round-up of some of the places we visited and things we saw (and some tips for wintering in Florida at the end of the post)...

Grayton Beach State Park...

 Florida Springs...

The Everglades...

Cayo Costa State Park (One of my very favorite places.  Bill and I camped on Cayo Costa a few years ago.  You access the island by ferry and no cars are allowed.  This time we just went for the day.)...

We lucked into a campsite at Key Largo...

After the Everglades and Key Largo we drove up the east coast of Florida and stayed in Jupiter and St. Augustine, both of which were really wonderful.  We went on a ghost tour in St. Augustine and Bill did some fishing while the dogs and I looked for Seashells.

If you'd like to spend the winter RVing in Florida, here are a few things to keep in mind...

1. Plan ahead!  If there's a place you know you'd like to stay, especially if it's a popular destination, like Sanibel Island, the Keys, or the Everglades, book a place to stay well in advance.

We ended up finding places to stay, however we were often farther away from each place of interest than we would have liked and we often ended up at very crowded or not-so-nice RV parks.

If, like us, you don't want to plan too far ahead, keep checking the reservation system for State and National Parks.  We lucked into a spot on Key Largo because someone else cancelled their reservation at the last minute.

2. Be prepared for the expense.  Florida RV parks are some of the most costly that we've been to.  There are often nice amenities like clean laundry rooms and showers, shuffle board or horseshoes, and convenience stores, but you'll pay a premium.  Something to consider if you're on a budget.  (If you're a member of Good Sams or AAA, you'll usually get a small discount.  Passport America discounts don't apply during the winter months in Florida).

3.  It's hot!  Even in February and March we were glad that most of the places we stayed had full hook-ups, which meant that we could plug in and therefore, use our air-conditioner.  When we stayed places that didn't have hook-ups it got pretty uncomfortable inside the RV.

If you're traveling with pets, make sure you don't leave them alone in a too hot motorhome.  This might require some planning ahead if you'd like to spend the day out and about without Fido.  We boarded the dogs once or twice while in Florida, both so that they could have some playtime with other dogs and to give them some time in a nice, cool place.  Some doggy day care facilities require a temperament test before you can board your dog with them.  You might need to take your dog in ahead of time before the facility will allow your dog to play with other pups.

So, that was Florida in a nutshell!  Stay tuned for New Orleans! :)

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Catching up...

Oh, hello there!  Um... things have been much quieter than we intended here on the blog.  It turns out that figuring out how to live, work, and get around in an RV has taken up much more time than we thought it would.

While we were getting ready for this trip, I imagined lots of evenings spent relaxing around the campfire.  I pictured rising early to watch the sunrise with a hot cup of coffee in hand and I figured I'd have lots of time to put together informative and carefully crafted, weekly blog posts.  (Heh!)

I think we've had maybe two or three campfires and relaxation has been minimal.  And while there has been copious coffee drinking, I have yet to wake up before sunrise (although, Bill has had several pre-dawn photography outings).  The one morning that we tried to eat breakfast outside, we we're quickly swarmed by mosquitoes.  And, well, the blog posts definitely haven't been weekly.

Even though the hoped for romance of the situation and the reality of things are not quite the same, we've been to some wonderful places, met some really interesting people, and seen some amazing things.  I don't regret setting out on this adventure even the tiniest bit.  

We spent the month of June at home in Colorado where we took care of some business-y kinds of things (including a quick trip to NYC for me) and did lots of hanging out with family and friends.  Now we're back on the road and are working our way north.

With six months of RV life under our belts we have a much better idea of what works and what doesn't.  We've made some plans and goals for the next few months, one of which is to share more about our travels and to keep this blog more up to date.

In an attempt to catch up on the last few months we'll do a series of short posts about some of the places we've visited.  And I'm also hoping to do a post or two about what it's like to live and work in an RV.  Stay tuned for those catch-up posts, but for now, here's a glimpse of our last couple of days in Cody, Wyoming.

We hope you've been well, wherever you are!
:) Brooke

PS: If you're ever in Cody, Wyoming, be sure to visit the Buffalo Bill Center of the West!  They have a wonderful natural history museum, an extensive exhibit about the life of William F. Cody (aka Buffalo Bill), a great Western Art museum, and not-to-be-missed exhibits on the history of the plains indians.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Giving a hoot in Ocala

I recently had the opportunity to spend the afternoon with Kenny of the Ocala Wildlife Sanctuary O.W.L.S. in Ocala, Florida.  OWLS works to rehabilitate injured animals, and reintroduce them to the wild when possible.  Non-native animals and those that are permanently disabled cannot be returned to the wild.  A lucky number of these animals have found a home at OWLS.

The third part of the operation at OWLS after rehabilitation and reintroduction, is education.  The resident animals are used as ambassadors for visiting school groups and troubled youth, many of whom have never seen wildlife up close.  As Kenny explained, it's really difficult to care about wildlife conservation if you don't understand what you're protecting.  Allowing kids to experience wildlife up close, and in many cases touch or feed the animals gives them an experience that can't be replaced by TV.

Thank you to Kenny for taking his valuable time to show me around his facility.  Thanks also to Kenny and his staff for continuing this labor of love.


Thursday, March 26, 2015

Beach Finds...

Last week we stayed at Flamingo Campground in the Everglades.  The campground was quiet and spacious (and a bit buggy).  There was no cell service, which made keeping on top of work a bit difficult.  But there were hundreds of white butterflies flitting around and the sunsets and night sky were wonderful.  I'm glad we went to this out of the way spot and would happily visit again.

After the Everglades we headed north up the Atlantic coast and stayed at Jonathan Dickinson State Park.  After catching up on some work we visited Hobe Sound Beach.  While Bill was surf fishing, the dogs and I went on a stroll and found lots of lovely sea things.

Now we're in St. Augustine, Florida and are working our way back to the west.  I'm looking forward to heading back towards the land of excellent barbeque.  :)

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Fort Myers and Sanibel...

On Sunday we drove from Orlando to Fort Myers.  Other than an exciting and noisy incident in which a sharp turn caused the cupboard door to fly open, thereby ejecting all of our pots and pans and knocking over the dog's water dish, the three and a half hour drive was easy peasy.

Now we're parked at a crowded but nice RV park in North Fort Myers.  (Bill had just completed the super awesome task of emptying our gray and black tanks, hence the yellow gloves).  This morning we drove about an hour to Sanibel Island where we strolled on Lighthouse Beach and found lots of beautiful seashells.  (Beach combing is pretty much my very favorite way to pass the time). 

Hopefully we'll squeeze in a few more beach combing expeditions before we continue south to the Everglades.  But, for now, there's work to be done and we're glad to be hunkered down in air conditioned Daisy.

Happy Trails!

Tuesday, March 3, 2015


When we started this strange and lovely adventure I was in the midst of several big work projects and there wasn't any time to figure out the kinks of working whilst living on the road.  Deadlines loomed and Bill very kindly brought me food and washed all the dishes and walked the dogs while I stayed hunched over my drawing and painting. 

Now my project load has eased a bit and after two months of full time travel we're slowly figuring out our routine.  When Bill isn't out taking photos or dealing with RV maintenance stuff, he works at the kitchen table.  My headphones are getting lots of use since Bill doesn't usually want to listen to The Gilmore Girls or Harry Potter.  The dogs, who were both initially really nervous anytime we were driving the RV, seem to have gotten into the swing of things.   

Trouble still pops up now and again (the very warm days we're having are a bit of a struggle in our little oven of a motorhome).  But illustrations are being completed, photos are being taken, delicious food is being eaten, and the air conditioner (although quite loud and a little smelly) works pretty well. 

Last week we were in Silver Springs, Florida where Bill went kayaking, saw a manatee and lots of turtles and alligators and visited the Ocala Wildlife Sanctuary (which I hope he'll tell you more about soon).  And this week we're in Orlando where we'll visit Universal Studios and Disneyworld. 

But, for now there are drawings to finish and photos to edit.

I hope you're well wherever you are!  And if you have suggestions of places to visit in Florida or the south, I'd love to hear! 

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The First Six Weeks On The Road

The first six weeks of living on the road has been a learning experience for everyone.  The original plan was to leave Colorado sometime around November 1, 2014 and leisurely head south into New Mexico.  The thought was that if we kept heading south, we could essentially follow autumn, and would then spend most of the winter at Big Bend National Park in Texas.

For a variety of reasons (a delay with the solar power installation, trouble having the tow system set up, and an unexpected surgery, etc.), we ended up not leaving until New Years Day.  While the concept of starting the new year with a new beginning certainly has some symmetry and romance to it, the reality of going RVing in Colorado on January 1st fell somewhere shy of romantic.  A couple of days before we left, the temperature was -24F, but as we were actually leaving, it had warmed up to 10F above.

The day before departure

Our RV (since named Daisy), ran like a champ, and really the only problem that the cold caused, was that we weren't able to fill our water tank so we weren't able to use the sink, toilet, or shower.

When we left my parent's house in Greeley, CO at about noon, it was sunny, with a clear forecast, but by the time we got to South Denver the skies were grey and thick with snow.  I-25 was icy and snow-packed from Centennial over Monument Pass to Colorado Springs.  Towing a car for the first time while driving in the snow made for a white knuckle experience, but we took it slow and didn't have any problems.  We got to Pueblo, CO well after dark, and crunched through the ice to a small RV park.

The next morning was shockingly cold but clear, and after a quick bowl of oatmeal we were on the road as soon as possible.  (Lack of any running water really tends to speed up the morning routine).

From Pueblo we headed east, a general trend that we would keep up for weeks.  We zig-zaged down through the plains of South Eastern Colorado, cut across the few miles of the Oklahoma panhandle, and into Texas.  We spent two nights in Dalhart, TX in order to let a snow/ice storm blow through.  Dalhart was cold, but not Colorado cold.

Sunset Dalhart, TX
The next day it was off to Amarillo and beyond.  For anyone familiar with Amarillo, you know that to the north of town are miles and miles of hills and badlands.  Well, remember the snow/ice storm that I just mentioned?  Towards Amarillo it was more on the ice storm end of the spectrum.  I'm still not sure how we managed to get up that tilted, ice skating rink that was the road, while towing a car.  We watched the semi-truck in front of us get part way up the hill in front of us three times, only to slide back down sideways each time before he finally made it to the top.  I'd just like to officially thank the wonderful people at Goodyear Tires for their good work and dedication!

After a quick lunch at the Big Texan Steak Ranch in Amarillo, it was on mercifully dry roads that we drove to Abilene where we spent the night at our first Wal-Mart.  Up early again (really early this time, as that's when all of the truckers leave), and on to Austin.  Hooray for sunshine!   For the first time we could go outside without our coats (at least for the first couple of days).

From this point on we were able to slow down to allow Brooke to get some work done.  We spent the first night in Austin at a private RV park where we were able to take showers and get the RV cleaned up.  After that we drove 10 minutes down the road to McKinney Falls State Park, the first of many beautiful Texas State Parks.  This one was especially nice as it was half the price of the private RV park, was in a beautiful forest, and was within Austin city limits.

Lower McKinney Falls, Austin, TX

After Austin we spent a week at Pedernales Falls State Park in the Texas hill country.  The Pedernales river flows through the park, and has cut a canyon into the underlying sandstone.  The water has shaped a series of pools, slides, potholes and small waterfalls, which are really spectacular. 

Heron, Pedernales Falls State Park, TX
Pedernales Falls State Park, TX
Following Perdenales, we drove for 4 or 5 hours to Stephen F. Austin State Park which is just west of Houston.  This was near the site of the township of San Felipe, which was the political center of the origins of Texas.  For the first time, we started seeing lots of Spanish moss in the trees, which made us feel like we were getting to the South.

Dawn on the Brazos River, Stephen F. Austin State Park, TX
From Houston we drove about as far south and east in Texas as it is possible to go.  Our last Texas State Park was Sea Rim State Park near Port Arthur.  This is the heart of Texas petrochemical land.  While Sea Rim park itself was a small piece of preserved shoreline, the horizon in every direction was either full of refineries or offshore oil platforms.  At night it was eerie with the clouds lit up from below by the orange glow of sodium lights and flames at the refineries burning off the gas.  From our camp sight I could count around 30 platforms.  Sea Rim, while isolated and exposed (we had no cell phone service or internet) had a certain stark beauty to it.  It was just unfortunate that the pollution was so bad.

Beach at Sea Rim State Park, TX
Great Egret, Sea Rim State Park, TX (this photo was shot about 200 yards from the other photo).
Next up, out of Texas and into Louisiana.  It was smooth driving across the bayous of southern Louisiana into the Crescent City, New Orleans.  We stayed at a great Louisiana State Park called Bayou Segnette.  This state park was located within the greater New Orleans metro area, but was in a natural setting, which to my way of thinking was the best of both worlds.

Crawfish, gumbo, and shrimp and grits.  Friendly people, and chicory coffee.  Po-boys, oysters on the half shell and bourbon bread pudding.  Did I mention that the food was pretty good in the Big Easy?  New Orleans is definitely on our list of places to go back to when we get the chance.

Louisiana fast food, New Orleans, LA
Then it was out of the Big Easy and into Florida via Mississippi (we had time to stop for a barbeque lunch that ended up feeding us for three meals, and Alabama, where unfortunately it was so foggy that we couldn't see anything of the beautiful city of Mobile.  We rolled into Pensacola in the afternoon, and drove out to Fort Pickens, which is part of the Gulf Islands National Seashore.  Absolutely spectacular.  The sand is so white that it looks like drifts of snow in the moonlight (but because I'm from Colorado, maybe that's just how I see the world;).

Patterns drawn in the sand by sea oats blowing in the wind.  Gulf Islands National Sea Shore, Pensacola, FL.

After a week at Pensacola, we went to Black Water River State Park for one night, and then down to Grayton Beach State Park on the Gulf Coast near Destin for a few nights.  Brooke and I had been to this area before, and were excited to go back.  More delicious food, and more stunning white sand beaches.

Grayton Beach, FL

From Grayton Beach we drove for the better part of a day across North Florida to get to Otter Springs near Gainesville.  I was excited to come here because it is the center of the highest concentration of natural springs in the world.  The geology here is like swiss cheese with underwater rivers and caverns.  Where the water comes to the surface, it is often so clear that it's hard to tell where the air stops and the water begins.  Some of the springs are in state parks, and many others are privately owned.

So that was the short, short version to bring us up to date.  We'll do better about posting from now on as we get things figured out.

February 20, 2015
Otter Springs, FL

In the beginning...

This is the story of a Man and a Woman, and a dog and another, smaller dog, and an RV.  For many reasons, we were in need of a change, a restart, and some different scenery.  We discussed the idea of living in an RV full time with the dogs, Domino and Olive, and they were on board, so we sold most of our stuff, rented out the house, and hit the road.

D-Day (Departure Day) January 1, 2015

These are our continuing adventures...