2013 … A Dream Year

angel  004What a year!  We traveled a total of 9,448 miles in Island Girl, from Florida to Maine to Canada, then south and west reaching Arizona by the end of the year.  We visited 18 states and 4 Canadian provinces.  In October we reached a couple of milestones:  one year of fulltiming and one year of blogging.

Whew!  Here’s a month-by-month recap of our dream year:

January – visited with friends and family in Miami and Ft. Lauderdale.

February – stepped back into nature at Everglades National Park.

March – a nice long stay in Funky Key West for ocean fun and an awesome air show.

April – a busy month: first north and west to the Gulf Coast of Florida for more family time, then back east to the John F. Kennedy Space Center and the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, north to St. Augustine, and north again to the Okefenokee Swamp in Georgia and the low country of South Carolina, and finally to Atlanta to see old friends.

May – visited the Smoky Mountain National Park in Tennessee, the Outer Banks of North Carolina, Washington, D.C., then ended the month in New York City and upstate New York where we visited more family and friends.

June – a quick stop in Boston and then on to beautiful Maine.

Here was our route for the first half of the year.

July – crossed the border into Canada on the 1st, and spent the month in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.  Discovered absolutely astounding people and places.

August – visited idyllic Prince Edward Island, buggy Kouchibuguac National Park in New Brunswick, then over to Quebec to the gorgeous and oh so French Gaspé Peninsula.

September – visited the St. Lawrence River in Quebec where we saw an amazing number of whales and concluded our fantastic Canadian summer in charming Quebec City, then crossed the border back to the U.S. to enjoy the beautiful Vermont autumn.

October – continued leaf-peeping in Vermont, then began our westward journey with stops at Niagara Falls, then Cincinnati, Ohio, Louisville, Kentucky,St. Louis and Kansas City, Missouri, visiting friends and family along the way.

November – a stop in Denver, where the journey began, to get annual checkups for all and check in with friends and family.  Then south to Santa Fe, New Mexico.

December – another busy month.  Traveled around New Mexico, south to Albuquerque, then further south to the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge and Las Cruces, then crossed the border to Arizona and ended our most unforgettable year in Tucson.

And here was our route for the second half

Some things we learned:

We ran a little hot this year, with an average stay of 8 nights at our 45 stops, not complaining, it was fabulous, but we’d like to slow it down a bit this year and try staying longer in each place.

We set a goal of no more than four hours driving time between stops and for the most part kept to it; averaging 185 miles per trip, but a couple of the trips were still way too long.

denver  038We stayed too far north too late into the year, and plan to head south earlier next year to avoid frigid cold and snow (although the falling snow was beautiful).

Crossing from the east coast to the west coast really took a toll on us, we were tired puppies by the time we reached Denver, and plan to stay in the West next year.

Our planning paid off in some fabulous campsites, on the other hand, we discovered that it’s best to have a balance of planned and unplanned stops.

Re-connecting with family and friends, and making new friends along the way has been one of the most important parts of our journey.

NYE2014  002And we learned to be grateful each and every day, we are so fortunate!

We wish you all a very Happy  and Healthy New Year in 2014!

~ Brenda, Hector and Angel

One Year Fulltiming!


Leaving Colorado 1

Leaving Colorado 2It’s true, we’ve now passed the one-year mark since we began our journey.  It has been a rich and full experience and yet time has passed very quickly.

Before I forget, I’ll answer a question that was asked just before we left:  What if we don’t like it?  Well, we love it.  Even though the first time I woke up in Island Girl knowing that I’d be living here for a while, my first thought was – What have I done? – I quickly came to love it and have never looked back.Isl Grl Redo  004

In fact, I was surprised at how easily I adjusted, particularly to the confined quarters. Hector and I decorated our new little 400 square foot home just as we had our other homes, and we really enjoy our interior space.

And we’re also really happy with our upgrades and our custom office space.   Hector is able to work on his Apple computer (the photographer gets the big computer) in our comfy chair by the desk, while I work on our laptop on our comfy couch simultaneously.halifax

Island Girl feels downright roomy with her 39’ length, and we have plenty of storage space.

And the journey has far exceeded our expectations. We’ve spent quality time with friends and family across the country, many of whom we’d not seen in waaay too long.  And other friends have come to visit.

Along the way we’ve also met lots of different people, learned new things, and just enjoyed spending quality time together.  We’ve visited a total of 14 states, including parts of the Midwest, South and Northeast.

We’ve experienced the lovely Arkansas autumn, Buffalo National River  024the fabulous gulf coast of Florida,Henderson Beach   080

the wild and subtle beauty of the Everglades,flower  024

and the wilder side of Florida in general. Ft Myers  056

We returned to the “black” waters of the Okefenokee Swamp,Swamp 011

and to the Great Smoky Mountains.Smokies  007

We visited the Outer Banks of North Carolina, OBX  055

and spent the beginning of our summer on the breathtaking coast of Maine.Penobscot  169

keys  021We traveled to extreme opposites; in Key West, Florida, we stood at the southernmost point of the U.S.sunset  027

And months later made it to the furthest northeast state of Maine.boothbay harbor  095

We spent just under 12 weeks in Canada, where we visited four provinces and learned a ton about our neighbor to the north.

There we saw the amazing tides of the Fundy Coast,New Brunswick117

the unique rock formations and the beautiful lighthouse at Peggy’s Cove,peggy 25

and the rugged beauty of Cape Breton Island.cape breton  030cape breton  011We traveled to the southern tip of Nova Scotia, brier 50along the gorgeous landscapes of Prince Edward Island,

PEI  161

and the spectacular Gaspé Peninsula,Perce  073

where we visited its Northern Gannet colony in Ile de Bonaventure.Perce  049

We saw the whales of the St. Lawrence River,st lawrence  115

and took many walks around beautiful Québec City.quebec city  046

And Angel visited rivers, lakes, rocky and sandy beaches, forests, went boating on various boats and ferries, and even went whale watching.River Dog  006

In total, Island Girl traveled 8,534 miles this first year.

And Hector and I have grown even closer during this journey.  Living together in such tight quarters can bring out the best or the worst in couples and sometimes both.  We’ve been married for a very long time and are very comfortable spending lots of of our time together while traveling.  Even after all of that we had a few grumpy patches along the road, but ultimately found our groove.

And, interestingly, some of the working aspects of RVing helped us to strengthen our partnership.  I named a previous post about leaving and arriving at our destinations “The Departure Dance”.  And I really do believe that there is a choreography that you both create and “perform” on a regular basis.  But it’s important that the choreography feels right for both of you.

That extends to the day-to-day chores and responsibilities as well.  Learning to support each other in a way that takes into account each of your likes, dislikes, talents and skills can make the journey much more enjoyable.

Rv Repair SedaliaAnd, not surprising to any RVers out there, we’ve discovered that things tend to go wrong in the most inconvenient of times.

The first time was on the first week we were on the road, when our water inlet broke.  Another time, our refrigerator broke down on a Sunday, the day before we planned to cross the border into Canada.

The first Hector fixed himself, the second, we found someone who was able to fix it.  But we learned that when things go wrong (not if, but when), we should:

  • Stay calm
  • Ask for advice and/or help, there is a very helpful community out there
  • Be flexible
  • Have or make a plan B

footAt the same time, it’s been difficult to be away from most of our friends and family in Denver, and we really miss them.  But we can always visit and plan to soon.

And there have been other challenges along the way; minor medical issues and having to figure out which doctor to go to in unfamiliar places.  The same for finding veterinarians.

And, less critical challenges like not having access to cell phones, internet or TV (sometimes a good thing) in some places.

But right now we wouldn’t trade this lifestyle for anything else.  And we are continually learning and growing.  For me this blog has been a huge learning experience.  I’m not the most tech savvy person, and when we began this blog, we knew nothing about blogging.  But I took on the task of figuring out how to get started, and spent several frustrating weeks using the process of elimination to figure out certain aspects of the blog.

Well, we just passed the 100 post mark on the blog.  And it’s is another example of working as a team.  Hector is in charge of the photography, I write the posts.  Then we combine the two.  From organizing how to divide the subjects to creating the final product, we support each other.   Sometimes we collaborate from the beginning, other times we work independently and get together at the end. The blog is another choreography.

departures  009

When I started writing this post, Hector wrote me a little note with some numbers and fun facts from the year.  He ended the note with “i love you still”.  And I feel the same way.

And the journey continues.

~ Brenda

The Oldest City

St augustine  037St augustine  024Ponce de Leon discovered Florida when he landed in what is now known as St. Augustine in 1513, which makes Florida 500 years old this year.  The city of St. Augustine was founded and established in 1565 by Don Pedro Menendez de Aviles and is the oldest “permanently occupied European settlement”. St augustine  042

St augustine  025St augustine  038It is also where we concluded our amazing five month journey through Florida.  St augustine  027

St augustine  045St augustine  046St augustine  050We stayed on St. Augustine Beach, which is across a bridge from the city.  The campground had various boardwalks which gave us easy access to the beach.  And, since Hector was still wearing a boot on his foot and Angel was still a little shaky in her walking, that was a very good thing.  In fact, Angel really enjoyed going to the beach and spent some time “convalescing” there.St augustine  056St augustine  053St augustine  055St augustine  051St augustine  049St augustine  047St augustine  006St augustine  048St augustine  003St augustine  001St augustine  004

St augustine  060

Wilderness Systems Tarpon 140s

We’d been planning to purchase kayaks, and after lots of research found an outdoor store and kayak specialist that carried the kayaks we wanted and the car rack components we would need to add in Jacksonville, an hour away.  The forecast called for rain so we set out for Jacksonville.   We tested our kayaks in a lake behind the store (between rain showers).   And Hector got the salesperson to purchase our roof box in the transaction, as we’d no longer have room for it.

The fine folks at Black Creek Outfitters in Jacksonville, Fla

The fine folks at Black Creek Outfitters in Jacksonville, Fla

Luckily, (most) of the rain held off while we emptied the contents of our roof box into the back seat, the staff reconfigured our rack system and added a new rack to the back,   But we drove back to St. Augustine in a driving rain storm.

St augustine  007We spent the next day figuring out where to put all of the stuff that had previously lived in our roof box and was now filling the back seat of our car.  And the answer, as it has been before was:  part goes in the motor home, part goes in the car, part goes to Goodwill and part gets shipped back home.   This meant laying everything out on our campsite and hoping it didn’t rain that day (it didn’t).  That afternoon we still had a little time to walk to the beach for a bit.

St augustine  008St augustine  009St augustine  011The next day, we crossed over to St. Augustine and climbed the beautiful St. Augustine lighthouse.  Hector actually walked up the 219 steps while wearing his boot and was getting a lot of attention.St augustine  010St augustine  017St augustine  013

St augustine  018St augustine  020St augustine  021St augustine  015The original watchtower was built in the late 1500’s which makes this the site of the oldest aid to navigation in North America.  The watchtower became a lighthouse in 1824, but a new tower was completed in 1874 in a less vulnerable location, just before the old tower fell during a storm in 1880.  That new tower is now St. Augustine’s oldest surviving brick structure.

The Junior Service League of St. Augustine restored the tower and the Keepers’ House, which had been destroyed by fire in 1970.  The Keepers’ house is now a museum of the history of the lighthouse and its Keepers.  These were very hearty and resilient people.St augustine  012St augustine  022St augustine  016

Johnny Depp?

Johnny Depp?

St augustine  040St augustine  026On a short trolley tour of St. Augustine we saw the city’s oldest cemetery, the old city gates, the fort, whose construction began in 1672 and was completed in 1696 and Flagler College, which was previously a luxury hotel.  Henry Flagler, a self-made millionaire, who founded the Standard Oil Company in partnership with John D. Rockefeller wanted to make St. Augustine the South’s playground for the rich and famous.  He built the Flagler Hotel, a luxury hotel, and hired an inventor named Thomas Edison to bring electricity to his hotel.St augustine  044St augustine  039St augustine  029St augustine  043

St augustine  030St augustine  032Walking around the city’s cobblestone streets revealed other “oldest” structures including the Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustine.  The first structure was built in the 1560’s, but this, along with multiple subsequent structures were destroyed by fires (from attacks on the Spanish by the English) and weather.  The current structure was completed in 1797.  St augustine  034St augustine  036St augustine  033

St augustine  062St augustine  061And, before leaving St. Augustine, we launched our new kayaks (still nameless) and paddled over to the outside of the fort.  It was pretty windy and choppy when we got out to the open water around the fort.  We were the only boats just on the outside of the fort so the tourists were waving to us as we paddled around.  It was definitely a different perspective seeing the fort from the water.St augustine  063

St augustine  002St augustine  064So, having enjoyed much of what Florida has to offer, we said so long and drove north to Georgia.

~ Brenda

Space … The Final Frontier

NASA  001NASA  004When I was in grade school I was completely captivated by the exploits of the astronauts of NASA in the heyday of manned space exploration in the sixties and seventies.  I wrote to all the NASA facilities for whatever information they could share.  Each of the major space flight facilities had a different info package based on their area of expertise and I amassed a pretty big pile of detailed info on all the space happenings.  I even remember sitting in school and wondering whether some maneuver which I knew was coming up had gone successfully (ie.  Translunar insertion burn at mission elapsed time of xx hours) .  Yep, I was a total geek.

So it has always been a thrill for me to visit the Kennedy Space Center, the site of most launch activities for these great and dangerous adventures.  I started going as a kid with my dad during the Gemini program and have been back many times since.  Although repetitive, each time revealed some new thing or change in the tour.  Once with Brenda we even saw a shuttle night launch.  AWESOME.NASA  002

NASA  005NASA  015KSC has a nice museum area with displays on the various programs over the years.  The early days, where the Soviets were basically first time and again (Sputnick, Gagarin’s first orbit, etc).  Which led to the space race and President Kennedy’s amazing challenge to go the moon by the end of the sixties.  Most folks may not remember that when he made that challenge, the US had only a few minutes of manned space experience.  It was a bold challenge indeed.NASA  032

The Mercury 7

The Mercury 7

The Mercury program was fairly rudimentary to learn basic manned space flight.  The Gemini program with (tiny) two manned capsules was designed to master more complex tasks.  And of course Apollo was for the actual moon landing.

Danger Will Robinson!

Danger Will Robinson!



NASA  011


One fact I always thought was cool is that each mission in sequence was designed to add one more critical skill needed for landing on the moon.  Each constituted a first, each first a feat of engineering and daring.  Space navigation, spacewalks, in orbit rendevous, communications, medical understanding of the effects of space etc. were all addressed.  Tang anyone?

Mercury Control Room

Mercury Control Room

All this was done with slide rules, electromechanical devices and early computers.  There is a launch control room for each of the programs preserved and on display where you can appreciate the state of technology of the day.

NASA  036

Apollo Launch Control

NASA  034For the Apollo launch control room, the last and most advanced of the three programs, the total computing power in all the consoles combined is less than what we have in a smartphone.  Amazing that without computers as we know them more recently that 12 men walked on the moon by the end of the Apollo program.NASA  031NASA  038NASA  039NASA  040NASA  033NASA  037NASA  041NASA  042NASA  044NASA  045



NASA  016The Space Transportation System aka Space Shuttle program followed.  And 135 missions were flown starting in 1981 with Columbia.  Including many flights to build the International Space Station since the shuttle was the only thing big enough to carry the parts.  Unfortunately two of the orbiters were lost.  The Challenger and Columbia tragedies were reminders of how dangerous a pursuit space exploration can be.

NASA  012NASA  018NASA  030Kennedy Space Center (which sits completely within the boundaries of the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge) is in a bit of transition now that the shuttle fleet has been retired and the Space Station is completed.  But as always, the tour includes some new options as a result.

One is to visit the inside of the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) where they prepared for launch before going to the launch pad.  The VAB has been closed to public tours for over 30 years, but I had visited way back when it was still on the tour.  When it was built it was the largest building in the world by volume.

NASA  019NASA  020I opted for the second tour which is an up close visit to pad 39B, site of most of the Apollo moon missions and Space Shuttle launches.  This is closer access than ever before allowed now that the pad is dormant.

NASA  021It is a massive thing, with a giant blast trench underneath to route the exhaust away.  The water tower is basically opened up to dump a zillion gallons of water under the launch tower.  I used to think this was for cooling, but interestingly, it is for sound suppression.  The water reduces the decibel level just enough to keep the sound vibrations from the roar of the rocket engines from destroying the spacecraft.NASA  022

NASA  027NASA  025You get the sense around here that things can explode, easily!  The view underneath the launch pad from inside the blast trench was very cool.  It was pretty impressive to be so close to where so many daring space adventures began.  It really gives one a sense of scale and complexity of it.NASA  023NASA  026

NASA  024NASA  028NASA  014Shuttle Atlantis is scheduled to be displayed at KSC and they are building a new facility to house her (not open until this summer, rats, guess I’ll have to go again someday).  The KSC Visitor Complex definitely has a more Disneyesque feel, with 3D IMAX movies and motion simulator rides and such.

KSC remains a working spaceport.  Satellites are still launched from the smaller pads.  Including importantly, the Space X rockets built and run by private enterprise.  There are other companies seeking to also launch their own rockets.

Pad 39A

Pad 39A

Pad 39A, the twin of 39B, has been cleared of all the shuttle specific towers and is being prepared for the launch of the next generation heavy lift launch vehicle currently under development and which will carry the next generation Orion crew vehicle into space.  Whenever that might be.NASA  017

NASA  013Anyway, it was great to visit KSC again.  America’s launch pad to the “final frontier”.

~ Hector

The Rocket Garden

The Rocket Garden

A River, Family and Rock & Roll

venice  034venice  002venice  027We returned to Venice, Florida to visit my aunt and uncle and cousins once again.  Our campsite at the Camp Venice Retreat, yet another beautiful spot, was set amidst live oak trees and overlooked the Myakka River. The Myakka River has been designated by the state of Florida as one of only two “wild and scenic rivers” in the state, a Federal designation designed to preserve the Myakka River Basin in its natural state. The setting on the river, along with an adjoining restaurant, “Snook Haven” are considered very “Old Florida”. venice  031venice  028venice  026The “Snook’s” first modern-era occupants were smugglers (smugglers in Florida, really?) seeking to unload contraband during the prohibition of the late 1920’s and 30’s.  Snook Haven’s location on a remote peninsula along the shores of the Myakka River, upstream from the Gulf of Mexico, made it ideal for them to land and ship their illegal wares to a thirsty Florida population.  Add a still for some moonshine, a mule path and you have the beginnings of Snook Haven’s role as a community “watering hole”. venice  037venice  040venice  007venice  003The setting was used for filming exotic jungle movies, including the 1931 French Foreign Legion Classic “Prestige”.  It’s also rumored to have been the setting for some Tarzan movies, a rumor that is apparently not true. Our plans for this area were very simple and included paddling on the river, visiting with family in Venice and driving over to Sarasota one afternoon. We paddled on two different days and spotted alligators (including babies), turtles, an armadillo, and many birds (of course).  As we passed various alligators sunbathing on the banks of the river, they slid into the water and submerged.  Very Tarzan movie indeed.venice  045venice  043venice  004venice  046venice  036venice  030venice  008venice  006venice  038 venice  062venice  063venice  057venice  051We spent quality time with my aunt and uncle and cousins.  My Aunt Myriam and Uncle Bob will celebrate their 57th anniversary in June (just don’t ask me how I know that).  They are witty, fun and fabulous. When I was young, I spent a couple of summers with this family.  It was during a tough time for me, just getting used to being in a second “new” place, Miami (after leaving Puerto Rico for New York), a new stepmother and just being a teenager. My cousins were always welcoming, easygoing and fun.  We met a couple of times after Hector and I were married, but it had been quite a long time since I’d seen them. My connection with these cousins, the Murphy-Vega clan, was still strong and we had a wonderful time together.   We had a lovely dinner at my cousin Dorothy and her husband Bogie’s house with the entire clan and met my cousin Mimi in Sarasota for a brief and slightly chilly walk on Siesta Key and dinner. These are two smart and fierce ladies.venice  047venice  059venice  058venice  054 venice  060venice  053venice  050venice  010venice  009We also went to see my cousin Jerry, who among other talents, plays lead guitar in the band “The Smokin’ Pineapples”.  We saw them rehearse in their awesome “man cave” also known as the Pineapple Palace.  Not that I’m biased, but the band is amazing and Jerry is a great guitar player.  It felt like Hector and I had our own private rock concert.   venice  014 venice  012venice  019A short, but wonderful visit with family. ~ Brenda

10,000 Islands, Square Grouper and Stone Crabs

everglades city  004everglades city  026everglades city  056everglades city  001Our next stop after Miami was Everglades City.  This remote city is the northwestern gateway to Everglades National Park, which we’d visited on a couple of day trips.  For some perspective, this corner of the Everglades is 100 miles from Flamingo, where we stayed for two weeks on the southernmost tip of mainland Florida.  There is only wilderness between the two, but the surrounding waters, which are part of the Park, contain over 10,000 islands.  The trip between Everglades City and Flamingo is very popular with expedition kayakers and takes nine days.  The National Park has built platforms called chickees which may be reserved for backcountry camping.

We stayed in a beautiful campground by the Barron’s River.  And we planned some shorter outings so that we wouldn’t be away from Angel too long.   Our exploration included an Everglades National Park boat tour, an airboat ride and visits to the Historic Smallwood Store and the Everglades Museum.

everglades city  047everglades city  044everglades city  054To further explore the vast area around the 10,000 islands, we took an Everglades National Park boat tour.  A pod of dolphins greeted our boat as we started the tour.   The area is quite beautiful, and we could definitely see the appeal for kayakers.   The narration included information about the animals, ecosystems and history of the area.  We even stopped at an Osprey nest that had recent fledglings nearby.everglades city  051everglades city  055everglades city  050everglades city  045everglades city  049everglades city  048everglades city  052

everglades city  034everglades city  029everglades city  030We also took an airboat tour, which went through both mangroves and grasslands.  Airboats are highly maneuverable and fun to ride, but are really loud and not the best for viewing wildlife.  But it was a great way to get to the middle of the grasslands and see the vast expanse that is the Everglades from a different perspective.  And this time, we were welcomed back by dolphins when we returned.everglades city  043everglades city  031everglades city  032everglades city  038everglades city  039everglades city  040everglades city  033everglades city  036everglades city  037everglades city  035everglades city  042everglades city  041everglades city  010

everglades city  024everglades city  021We took Angel in the car on our visit to nearby Chokoloskee, which is deep in the heart of the 10,000 islands and was once the southernmost mainland city of the U.S.  Here we visited the Historic Smallwood Store, which was established in 1906 by Ted Smallwood as a store, Seminole trading post and Post Office.   The store was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974 and remained open and active until 1982.  In 1989, Ted’s granddaughter reopened the store as a museum.  The museum’s center section has remained much as the original store, and the rest of the museum tells the story of pioneers and colorful settlers from this area.everglades city  022everglades city  023everglades city  025

everglades city  015everglades city  009everglades city  017everglades city  011everglades city  018everglades city  019Everglades City also has a colorful history.  The Museum of the Everglades displays local history and stories of more adventurers who came to Florida’s “Last Frontier”.  One of the most important settlers was Barron Gift Collier, a wealthy Tennessee advertising mogul, who now has a river and the county named after him. At that time, the only access to the area was by boat.  The Tamiami Trail, begun in 1915 to join Tampa to Miami, was financed and built by the counties.   Collier promised that if his million-acre land holding in Everglade were granted county status, he would complete the section of road between Naples and the Dade County line.

Collier’s 76 miles went through swamp, which was found to have solid limestone under it, and had to be blasted by millions of tons of dynamite.  Dwellings were built for the workers, but remained, like almost everything else, part of Collier Corporation.  Between 1923 (the establishment of the county) and 1928 (the opening of the Tamiami Trail), Collier and David Graham Copeland, whom he hired as his chief engineer and manager, built the town, completed the road and linked a full-gauge railroad to the Atlantic Coast network.

In 1947 the Everglades National Park took over the waters traditionally used by local commercial fishermen.  In 1959, the railroad stopped delivering goods and passengers.  The town of Everglades became a City in 1953 when the Collier Corporation diversified and encouraged local independence.everglades city  014

everglades city  008everglades city  027everglades city  028everglades city  046During the 70’s and 80’s, South Florida was a haven for marijuana smuggling, and the nickname “square grouper” was given to bales of marijuana thrown overboard or out of airplanes.  Many of the local fishermen-turned smugglers in Everglades City had taken advantage of  the hundreds of narrow creeks and backwater routes in the area to evade police.   In 1984, a convoy of police cars and federal agents erected a roadblock in the only highway in and out Everglades City.  At that time, this was one of the largest crackdowns on marijuana smuggling.  By mid-day there were over 200 officers and agents in the area.  The investigation into this close community of about 346 individuals took two years and resulted in the arrest of more than two-thirds of the adult male population for trafficking in marijuana.

Today, fishing and tourism are the main industries in Everglades City and the stone crabs at the famous Joe’s Stone Crabs in Miami and other restaurants in Florida are harvested here by stone crabbers.  Hector and I celebrated the city one last time with a luscious stone crab dinner, overlooking Barron’s River in Collier County.

~ Brenda

They Come in Threes

footOn our way north from Key West, we planned to stop briefly in Miami once more to see Hector’s mom, brother, sister, nieces and a few others before heading north.  We also had made some medical appointments.   And we were also planning to run some other errands including scheduling an RV repair person to work on an issue with our generator.

Prior to leaving Key West, I started to have a teary, swollen eye.  The day we left, my eye became really sensitive to light and painful.  Also, prior to leaving Key West, Angel had been limping again, and, at the time, we attributed it to her arthritis.

foot (4)foot (2)We arrived in Miami on Sunday.  On Monday, my ophthalmologist diagnosed my eye problem as a bacterial infection and gave me some eye drops to treat it.   On Tuesday morning, Hector and I noticed that Angel’s gait was worse.  When Hector tried to rub her leg, she yelped.  We realized that something was terribly wrong.  And now with Hector’s foot, my eye and her leg, all three of us were ailing.

Fortunately, we got a referral to a veterinary orthopedic surgeon and were able to get her in to see him fairly quickly.   He confirmed our fear that she’d torn the ACL on her left rear leg, and recommended surgery.  Apparently it’s common for dogs that have torn the ACL on one of their legs (Angel had ACL surgery on her right rear leg 1 ½ yers ago) to eventually tear the the one on the opposite leg.  Of course, deciding to have your 11-year old dog undergo surgery is difficult.  But we’d been fortunate enough to have found a highly qualified specialist to perform the surgery, and we decided to go forward.

foot (3)Happily, a week from surgery, Angel is recovering well, and all signs are positive.   She is not supposed to go up or down stairs, or run or jog for eight weeks, so Hector (yes, he of the boot on the foot) has been carrying her up and down the RV steps.  And she actually tries to jog when she’s outside and pulls on her leash, her appetite is back to normal, the skin on her leg looks pink and healthy and the bruising is gone.

Actually, this recovery seems better than the one from her first surgery.  We are very grateful to have found an experienced surgeon and are hopeful about her progress.  Four weeks from the surgery, we need to have her leg X-rayed as a follow-up, and we plan to do that in Atlanta.  By then, we’ll have a much better idea of her prognosis.foot  006

foot (1)As for me, my eye was back to normal in a couple of days.   Now, back to our other Miami plans.  After the surgery, by taking turns staying with Angel, Hector and I were able to see many of the people we wanted to see, make all of our doctors’ appointments and get the generator fixed.  It was a whirlwind week and quite stressful.  We are a pretty funny looking family what with Hector’s foot and Angel’s leg.  But I am thrilled to be continuing my journey with our fierce girl, Angel, and her wonderful dad.

~ Brenda

The Other Birds of Geiger Key

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White Ibis

White Ibis

Ok, I’m going to tackle a “macho” post because Hector is busy working on a ton of photos.  Here goes:

Our campground’s setting in Geiger Key (10 miles north of Key West) was beautiful, on the water, facing various mangrove islands with visiting and resident birds, fish and manatees.  And we met some interesting and inspiring people while there.

But we were also aware that one of the perceived downsides to this campground was that it’s across from Naval Air Station – Key West.

Fighter Squadron VFC 11 - "The Sundowners".

Fighter Squadron VFC 11 – “The Sundowners” fly the Northrop F5N/F Tiger

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The Sundowners play the bad guys …

This is a training base for air combat maneuvers and translates to loud craft doing combat maneuvers sometimes frequently during the day.  For some, this could be a nuisance.  Hector saw it as “a daily air show”.  And I found myself enjoying the “shows” as well.  So for us, these became the “other birds of Geiger Key”.

Caught ya!

Caught ya!

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Marines CH53E Super Stallion heacy lift chopper

Naval Air Station Key West Air Show - air showWhile we were there, Hector found out that the Blue Angels would be in town a few days after we were scheduled to leave.  Their show was to be the last Blue Angels show for an unknown amount of time due to the sequester. Immediately Hector proposed that we  extend our stay for the air show.

This island girl would take any excuse to stay in Key West, I was feeling the gravitational pull of the island.

We “splurged” and purchased $12 seats (vs. bring your own chair for free, or stands for $5).  An incredible deal, as the sitting area included a bar and port a potties so we could avoid having to walk the entire tarmac to use facilities.  This is a plus when one of us has an injured foot in a boot.

Southernmost Air show  046Southernmost Air show  029Southernmost Air show  030What can I say about the air show?  These are a bunch of crazy guys tempting fate.  Hector’s observation: these are some studly men.  It’s hard to believe what they are able to do, and even Hector’s great photos don’t capture many of the truly scary moments. Southernmost Air show  004Southernmost Air show  042

Outside loop

Outside loop

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H 101 Salto Aerobatic Sailplane

H 101 Salto Aerobatic Sailplane

Southernmost Air show  002Southernmost Air show  023There were skydivers jumping out of planes from 10,000 feet (some holding hands), small planes doing all manner of aerobatics, a soaring sailplane, a wing walker and, amazingly an aerobatic helicopter (the only one of its kind).   Southernmost Air show  024Southernmost Air show  025

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The NAS Key West “home team”, the Sundowners fighter squadron, make an appearance

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The Sikorsky SH-60 Seahawk

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The Vought Corsair F4U, WWII workhorse of carrier aviation

The Vought Corsair F4U, WWII workhorse of carrier aviation

Southernmost Air show  032And lots of military planes with numbers for names.  And Hector knows most of those names by heart.  Very manly.  And this one is an F49B37…

Southernmost Air show  034Southernmost Air show  035My favorite # 1.  The wing walker, yes, a crazy woman hangs on to the struts between the wings of a bi-plane and then walks to the top of the wings and poses while said plane is doing aerobatics.  She’s also an airline pilot, and has a massive amount of professional leadership credentials.  Wonder woman indeed (check out what she’s wearing).Southernmost Air show  036Southernmost Air show  037Southernmost Air show  038Southernmost Air show  039Southernmost Air show  040

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A one of a kind modified Messerschmitt-Bölkow Blohm BO-105

Southernmost Air show  014My favorite # 2.  The helicopter – this dude was actually calmly talking to the announcer and answering questions, all broadcast over the speakers while he was doing aerobatics in a helicopter, nuts!Southernmost Air show  015Southernmost Air show  073

The Blue Angels fly the Boeing F/A 18 Super Hornet

The Blue Angels fly the Boeing F/A 18 Super Hornet

Southernmost Air show  001 (1)And, the piece de resistance, the Blue Angels.  Beautiful planes, adorable pilots in crisp bright uniforms (where did those hats come from, anyway?), pomp and circumstance and exciting musicflyboys  002

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