Southern Border Adventure 2008 travel blog

Sea Dragon on a sunny day in IRB

Ready to go

Headed up La Hacienda

The Don Cesar in St. Pete Beach

Driving across the Sunshine Bridge

Ft. Lauderdale freeways

I imagined they were going to a fair or a circus

John Easterlin Park

Nature Trail in the Park

Magenta balls of beads...?

Pond surrounded by a frisbee golf course

Dad making some notes at the campsite

Local favorite - all characters welcome!

Inside Catfish Dewey's

The Seahorses just keep popping up.. this time on the big light...

I had unloaded most everything from the Sea Dragon Tuesday evening when I arrived in IRB in between the rain drops, so there wasn't too much to do to get ready for the final leg of the journey on Valentine's Day. Wednesday was a low-key day. In the evening we watched a couple re-runs of Project Runway, the only TV show I'm somewhat hooked on at the moment, as well as the most recent episode. I would've preferred Sweet Pea over Romy to be in the sew-off with Chris.

Dad had a doctor's appointment first thing in the morning, but once he was back and we'd had some breakfast we left for the Ft. Lauderdale area. It was about 10:00am. Dad was following me in his car, and I was following Maggie's directions, kind of. She wanted us to get off the island as soon as possible, but we took Gulf Blvd (the main road on the island) down to the Don Cesar Hotel - otherwise known as the pink hotel in St. Pete Beach. It added 30 or 40 minutes to the trip is my guess, since there was construction and it's not a smooth road, but it's always nice to drive along the beaches and it's definitely better than the alternative of Hwy 19 or 75. We took the Sunshine Bridge across Tampa Bay, getting onto Hwy 75 at that point. We headed South for about 115 miles to Ft. Myers, another 40 miles to Naples and then it's due East through Big Cypress National Preserve and the Everglades for another 120 miles or so. Hwy 75 is called Alligator Alley along this section of Hwy 75 so I kept an eye out for alligators, but saw none. Dad didn't seem too surprised that I didn't see any, but I thought.. you never know. There might be one who decides to check out the edge of the freeway. Part of the Everglades is two Indian Reservations - Seminole and Micosukee - but I didn't see any Indians either. There are no places to stop along the way, so you just drive across the State. I remembered the book about the orchid grower that came out a while back, maybe even 10 years back. He was a bit of a recluse if I remember right, and there was always a stiff competition to find an orchid that only grew deep in the swamps. Along the freeway you sure don't get a feel for the swampy undergrowth, but if I imagined it was all water at the bottom, it was pretty amazing.

We got into the Ft. Lauderdale area just around rush hour - great. But in some ways, that's better, because the cars can't go whizzing by you on the freeway. There's just too many cars, so it's a bit more controlled. It was easy enough to get to the park; close to Hwy 95 and the train tracks. Hmmm... wonder how quiet it will be in the park. John Easterlin is a small county park and really well taken care of. It's a little green oasis in the middle of strip malls and streets. In recent years, it has been used to shelter people who lost their homes in one of the 2005 hurricanes. But it's open to the public again. Lots of trees and shade. Perfect for hot sunny Florida weather.

I went for a walk through the Park along the Nature Trail and found black and yellow striped butterflies, some kind of dark berry on a bush, bright magenta somethings, birds and a trio of guys playing frisbee golf. They were serious about it, too. They were carrying bags that looked to be made especially for the sport, and each had several frisbees each. It took me a minute to figure out what they were up to. I'm glad I came up behind them though and not in front of them. Those frisbees go fast and far.

We headed just a mile down the road to Catfish Dewey's for dinner. It was busy! and we waited about 10 or 15 minutes for a table. Big all you can eat catfish place. The waiters and waitresses all wore flowers either on their wrist or in their hair or pinned to their shirt for Valentine's Day. They reminded me of the corsages I wore to high school proms. Dad had the catfish and I tried a white bassa fish. Both were yummy. And a Land Shark local beer. The waiter who brought the food tried to bring us two other orders first. First it was frog legs - when he asked "Did you order frog legs?" and I quickly and firmly responded "No" he kind of laughed and went in search of the right table. He came back again with stone crab... nope still not us. Now he was a little embarrassed, but off he went. The third time he came back, he walked up with confidence. I asked him, "what did you bring us this time?" He said, I'm sure I've got the right food this time and he did. There were lots of families eating out that night including a table of 15 behind us. I can only imagine how much food the kitchen prepared that night. As we left, the line had gotten much much longer. I'd guess there were about 20 people waiting outside.

We drove back to the park and settled in for the night. It had been a long day of driving, not hard driving, just a long day. Dad was reading a book he'd picked up in Big Bend and I was reading a mystery book by Patterson I think. We chuckled as we heard the train whistling long and loud, the hum of cars from the freeway and the raccoons skirmishing somewhere. And then, the carbon monoxide alarm went off, not once but twice. Geesh. No reason for it too. We were parked on the most level ground I'd been on the entire trip. And we hadn't even used the stove top. We opened up the window and roof vent a bit wider, and crossed our fingers.

If I were to win the lottery and decide to spend some of it on an RV, I have a better idea of what I'd like to have. I think I'd go as big as 25 or even 28 feet. Driving the Sea Dragon at 22 ft was not a problem once you get the hang of it which didn't take long. I'd still like a Class C that preferably has a window in the back. (Thank you Jakke for mentioning that when you showed me your RV, it's what made me look for a model with a back window.) Or I'd really take a look at Class B's and see how cramped they felt. I'd want a little bit different layout in the coach itself, maybe the kitchen in the back. Or a slide out that opened it up a bit so it's roomier for two people. I'd want a place to easily store and take out my laptop. And maybe a chair or sofa to sit on that wasn't part of the dinette. Oh, and I would definitely take a bicycle or little scooter with me so I wouldn't be tied to always driving the RV.

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