Friday, 20 March 2015

Key West-Florida

This part of our journey is where we found finding a camping spot really difficult. Using our trusty RV Stays app Rose rang every park on the Florida Keys looking for a camp site. Apparently in February, unless you book well in advance you will not be staying on he Keys. Best we could come up with is a suburb of Miami called Homestead and that was it and it was only for 4 days at that. As we approached the park we looked at one another, mmm intersting to say the least. We pulled up to the gatehouse that houses a fulltime security guard, that tells us something! We passed identification and were told the gates shut at 6pm and you will need to call the security guard for access after dark, great what have we got ourselves into? We found our site, it was an abandoned mobile home site, but it was rather large. This was it no other choice so we settled in. 

Our Homestead Site

Our first trip was to Key West, a short 120 miles south a long drive but we were as close as we were going to get to it at this time of year with a fifth wheeler so a day drive was it. The road is no interstate, generally a two lane road with low speed limits so it took us a good two and a half hours to even get there. We had no trouble finding a parking spot right in town so a walking we did go. The first point of interest is the marker showing the USA southern most point. There were lots of people there and there was a lineup to get your photo taken. The good thing about the line is it gave you time to meet the person behind you and arrange for then to take your photo and you for them a great show of people working together from all over the world to achieve the same thing, a simple photo. 

Only the second time we have had shorts on

For lunch the obvious choice was the Southern most point pub so we went in sat at the bar and ordered some bar snacks and of course a couple of drinks. This place must be a goldmine it wasn't exactly hot but it was pretty busy so come summer it must really fill up. Lunch done it was time to see more of Key West. Its not to many places you can go and see chickens walking the streets and crossing the road to get to the other side and everyone gave way to them it was hilarious to see. As we walked the streets we found a line up of people near a brick fence and of course it got our attention. For those book readers we found the house of none other than Ernest Hemmingway, I must admit I don't think I have read single book of his but I did know who he was. It was an intersting site but not enough for us to pay to see. We walked a few more blocks and just enjoyed the warm day and the architecture that was Key West. 

Why did the chicken cross the road?
Stopped and chatted to this bloke carving

A typical Key West Street

As the day was Superbowl day we were mindful that we wanted to be back home to watch it so we needed to allow at least a couple of hours for the trip home. There keys were pretty amazing and i was so surprised how far it actually was to Key West, but we did it. We did stop on the way home to admire and take photos of the journey.

One of the many bridges to Key West

The water was so inviting

Although our stop was short we enjoyed it but due to the availability of sites it was just impossible for us to stay longer. Rose has again been on the phone attempting to find a spot further north up near Orlando as we need to be in the Orlando area as we have special guests from Austraila coming to stay with us in a few weeks. So its on the phone again for poor Rose as in the morning we leave and we still have no site to go to, fingers crossed we will get lucky in the next few hours.

Monday, 9 February 2015

Pine Island - Florida

As we are finding out more and more of our paths cross with someone else we have met along our journeys. Our next meeting came with a surprise, Chuck and Ceil our friends from Fredonia who look after our trailer while we are away. Originally they had intended to go to Arizona to catch up with some friends but due to circumstances out of their control they didn't get away on time so their time south was cut short. They phoned us and said they were heading to Florida for a few months, fantastic we hopped we could catch up for a "happy hour" or two. As usual we have not idea about what "winter" is really about. Gettting away from up state New York with a 45 foot motorhome towing a car is not something you can do in heavy snow and black ice. They had had both in the last few weeks and they waited for the right time, that was for the accumulation of snow to go and no icy roads. The motorhome was packed and ready and then the time was right, they hit the road and hit they road they did. 

Interstate 75 effectively runs from Buffalo on the Canadian border to the bottom of Florida a distance of some 1500 miles and many a snowbirder from Canada knows this interstate. With just short stops in the Flying J truck stops overnight they were in Florida and their new campsite within days. So our next stop was to Pine Island the same campground Chuck and Ceil were staying at. They were staying for several weeks but we could only get in for a week but that was enough, we still had places to go. We arrived and Chuck was there to greet us at our campsite a beer in hand, now thats looking after your mates. We did the usual back in with the aid of a camp worker who always seems to know best and attempts to guide us in, we have done this hundreds of times so I just ignore him and watch Rose's guiding directions. It seems whenever we have the aid of a camp worker it takes so much longer to back in, I know they are just doing their job but it can be frustrating sometimes. 

Once we are all set up we walk over to Chucks motorhome for another beer and a good catchup and of course some great T bone steaks on the BBQ for dinner. Pretty much the next week we just hung around went to the local town of St James City where we visited the "Ragged Arse" saloon for a beer and of course the local Legion Club.

One afternoon as we sat having a beer we suddenly see this "turtle" crossing the road near the camper, not something you see everyday I can tell you and he was not small and he walked with "attitude". We had heard about the common snapping turtle along with the alligator turtle in Florida. A quick read up on this fella and it states "they can be very belligerent when out of the water" that and its ability to turn its head and bite you from all angles makes him something to not pick up, but they do use them for turtle soup.

Turtle with Attitude

One thing we had read about was Sanibel Island just a few short miles away. Rose had read so much about it and the fact that it appears that every shell in the Gulf of Mexico seems to end up on this island. 

So we headed off to Sanibel Island and the first thing was the bridge toll, yep $6 to just get on the island. Once you toll is paid you head over the bridge to the island proper, this is where our problems started. I think everyone in southern Florida was on the island that day or at least trying to get on it, it took us the best part of and hour to get clear from the traffic jam. We headed north up the island and reached its northern most point. With a carpark for 10 cars only there was no way we were going to get to enjoy the beach here not withstanding they still allow people to own the beach behind their mansions something long gone in Australia. We headed back south and found another small carpark $3 an hour so we paid and went for walk. I must admit the ocean looked beautiful and yes the beach was made up of course crushed shells. 

Sanibel Island beach

Looking into the Gulf of Mexico

I then noticed a couple with what appeared like a deep fryer basket scooping from sand below the waterline. As always my curiosity got the better of me and I just had to ask what he was catching, I figured it was bait of some kind. Yes it was bait but they called then "sea fleas" a new one on me so this bloke kindly dug some out and gave them to me. Although not a "flea" they are jellyfish larvre and they call them fleas because there are so many of them and yes they do bite.

Sea Fleas

So our trip to Sanibel Island was a bit of a dissapointment for us, we must have missed the "right" beach to be at. Sanible Island was a place for millionaires and condo's and it appeared to us they want to keep it that way. There is no parking on any of the main streets or thoroughfares all the parking we found was to be paid for at $3 an hour so our trip to the beach cost us $9 not a biggy but there are plenty of free beaches out there with no traffic jams and bridge tolls.

When we made the decision to visit Florida we new it would be difficult to get an RV spot, it is winter after all but we really had no idea how difficult it would be. In the past we just went with the flow but now we had to move and all we could get was four days in Fort Myers so after another sad farewell to Chuck and Ceil we headed south to Fort Myers. 

Fort Myers was just a short drive but it was someplace to park the trailer, the best we could get was three nights so we went with that. We arrived at the park to be greeted by the lady that take s the fitness class all she could tell us was out site number and informed us we would need to come back to the office in a few hours. We headed down the very very narrow park road. This park was not made for RV's that was obvious it was made for "park" homes which essentially are delivered and hooked up to services and that was it. We needed to make wide turns and in this place it became somewhat difficult as a wide turn would entail entering someones lounge room! But with great skill we were able to negotiate the roads and find out spot. 

When we finally booked in we were informed there was a shuttle bus that ran down town for 70 cents one way, very useful information considering we intended to go down and have a drink and watch the sunset. Some other useful information was the bar down the road, called the Parrot, so we drove down as we intended to eat out and as luck would have it it was happy hour, so it was $4 pina coladas for us and they were very nice indeed. 

LIfe  is hard in the USA

Next night we headed to Fort Meyers on the trolley bus so we walked the beach, the jetty and spoke to the locals who were fishing. As we wanted to watch the sunset we had no option but to eat out again and for me the primary cook I could get used to this. A small confession though when we sighted our trailer we backed in to far so we could not deploy the BBQ, you would think with all the times we have done this we would get it right but alas the excuse works for us this stop. Again happy hour was on and we enjoyed the cheap drinks even more this time as neither of us was driving. Dinner was ho hum but it was made up by the sunset on the beach overlooking the Gulf of Mexico, its so popular people lined the beach to photograph it and once the sun was down the beach was deserted.

The Sunset was beautiful.

Rose as usual did some research on what was around to see at Fort Myers and it is known for the summer houses of Thomas Edison and Henry Ford, yes the inventor of the light bulb and the Ford motor car. Thomas Edison and Henry Ford were great friends and they both had winter houses in Fort Myers right next door to one another. We opted for the self guided tour which is a set of headphones with a handpiece and when you reach the appropirate number you select it and it gives you a commentary. Due to the hard work of the trust that looks after these historic homes they are in perfect condition and is well worth the money we paid. We spent hours looking around and just sitting and imagining what it was like all those years ago. One thing we were surprised at was the size of the houses, they were quiet small no doubt up north they had large mansion but these houses were just normal size but they did have a full time staff in their day. 

Thomas Edison's House

Henry Fords House

Lovely grounds to walk around

Thomas Edisons Laboratory

With only three days here we really did not have much time to sit around so our last night we caught the trolley bus again but went back to the Parrot for happy hour and our final dinner at Fort Myers. Could we have spent more time here? yes possibly but we did not have that option RV sites at this time of year are at a premium so after many hours Rose had found us another site near Miami and close to the keys, in fact there was not a single RV site anywhere on the Florida Keys available!

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Crystal River Florida - Manatee Country

Our next stop was only about an hours drive south of Cedar Keys to the town of Crystal River.  Crystal River is famous for the Manatees that migrate there each winter to enjoy the warm waters of the natural springs in this area.  Prior to visiting this area I had no real knowledge of Manatees but I was soon to find out what fascinating animals they are. 

We pulled into Rock Crusher RV park booked in and drove up to our site.  To start with we had a bit of difficulty actually seeing our spot as it was tucked in amoungst the trees - now this is camping!   A lot of RV parks are manicured to perfection - this one was the opposite, a llittle rustic, no concrete slabs,  but still with full hookup.   Once we were set up we switched on the TV in  the mancave to watch the Green Bay Packers play.   We were excited - finally the weather was getting warmer and we could sit outside.

Loved this spot

As we were staying at Crystal River for a week it was a perfect time for me to find a diesel mechanic to help me install my recently purchased Banks econochip. As luck would have it they had a business card for a local bloke in the reception area.  I called the number, and as it was 2.00pm on Sunday and mid way through the NFL game, I expected to speak to an answering machine.  Much to my surprise my call was answered and a time and date booked for the install the following week.  

Our next priority was to book a manatee tour - there are plenty of places to view them from a jetty or from a boat but we were feeling adventurous - we wanted to "swim" with them. Crystal River is the only place where you can actually swim with the manatees.  The Manatees are protected and there are very strict guidlines as to what you can and can't do when in the water with them.  There were 2 tours to choose from - one at 6.15 am and the other at 9.00 am.   Not that we are big fans of early mornings but we chose the 6.15 am time slot as we were told that the manatees are more active earlier in the morning.  Even though the weather was getting warmer it was still getting down to 6 degrees celcius overnight so it was going to be chilly getting into the water - thankfully wet suits were provided.  

Manatees are huge - they have a body mass of 400 to 550 kilograms (880 to 1,210 lb), and mean length of 2.8 to 3.0 metres (9.2 to 9.8 ft).  The females tend to be larger and heavier than the male and baby manatees weigh in at an average weight of 30 kilograms (66 lb)when born.   Their tails are paddle-shaped, and this is the clearest visible difference between manatees and dugongs; a dugong tail is fluked, similar in shape to a that of a whale. Manatees are generally solitary animals spending approximately 50% of the day sleeping submerged, surfacing for air regularly at intervals of less than 20 minutes. The remainder of the time is mostly spent grazing on grasses in shallow waters at depths of 1–2 metres (3.3–6.6 ft). The Florida species has been known to live up to 60 years.

So we set our alarm clock for the second time this trip and headed to the tour company down town.   We were shown a short video presentation and then fitted out with our wetsuits.  Diving among the manatees is not allowed -  you have to float using a pool noodle.   Manatees will move away from noise or splashing so staying still and quiet is essential if you want to get up close and personal with them. 

As nervous as I was, I was the first one in the water with my trusty pool noodle when the boat had anchored.  Within 30 seconds I saw this massive shadow approaching me and then, there I was, face to face with a huge manatee that actually kissed my mask.   My heart was beating so fast and hard it took all my effort to control my breathing and enjoy the moment  - I thought I would hyperventilate!  Manatees are very curious animals and have no natural predators - we were told that providing you don't go splashing about they will stay close.  At the time we didn't realise how many were swimming around us -  If I had known I might not have been quite so calm.  Rose had her own manatee experience with a mother and calf that hung close to the boat, with the mother 'kissing' her from her  shoulder down to her feet. 

 Every shadow is one of these majestic creatures

The tour time was 2 hours but after about 40 minutes the cold started to set in so I slowly (and quietly) started heading back to the boat. Just as I was about to get out a mother and her calf met me at the ladder, obviously wanting some attention.  As the mother rolled over I scratched her massive belly and before long the baby was lining up for a bit of the same.  My coldnesss forgotten I spent the next 15 minutes playing with these beautiful, peaceful creatures.  My manatee experience is one that I will never forget and would definitely recommend to  anyone coming to the area.

Something that did coincide with our visit to Crystal River was the Tampa RV show which is the largest RV show in Florida and was definitely something we didn't want to miss.  Tampa is about an hours drive south so in an effort to beat the crowds we set off early.  For those of you that remember the last time we went to an RV show in Dallas Texas we came home with a new fifth wheeler - ie our current trailer. We were certainly not looking for a new trailer this trip  but just wanted to tyre kick the new trailers and motorhomes to see 'what was new'.  Even with our early start it was a traffic jam to get into the Florida Fairgrounds as RVers from near and far  had also decided to come along to the show.  We had also arranged to catch up with some friends that we met during our last trip, the first being a wonderful lady called Beverley who we met at our very first Camping World store in Birmingham Alabama in 2012.   Beverley  and her husband are "ambassadors" for Camping world and travel the country full time. Beverly was manning the Camping World stand so we arranged to catch up. Beverly was pleased to see us again - this is what RVing is about, the ongoing friendships.  The second catchup was with Eileen and Jon who were the first couple we met on our last trip.  Jon and Eileen are full timers from Canada and spend 6 months of every year in the southern part of the  USA.  To be able to meet them here was a bonus. 

We spent hours walking and collecting phamplets and brochures.  The first motorhome we  saw as we entered the show was a Prevost.  These babies are at the top end of town selling for a cool $1.8 million USD.   So it was shoes off and a walk through, it even had brass fittings in the hookup area.  We continued around the show and soon realised we had become what I called "foot" snobs? Anything under 30 feet in length we just walked by. The only 5th wheeler that we were really interested in checking out was one of the latest Forest River Sandpiper which has a seperate second bedroom / media room. It truly is amazing how the designers can create such space in a small area.   Days end and with sore feet we headed back to our campsite, wallet intact, well done to us!

We had been told about a place called Rainbow River by our friends Chuck and Ceil and the beautiful clear waters which are fed by the warm water springs.  We walked around the national park and then paddled down the river in a hired canoe.  The water was so clear we could see all the way down to the river bed and watched the fish swimming beneath us.  We also spotted an otter diving along the river bank and turtles sunning themselves on the rocks.  The paddle down stream was easy as we literally just floating on the current - coming back was a little more strenuous but we allowed ourselves plenty of time of get the canoe back within the designated time frame.  Another recommendable experience!!

The otter that passed us by

Even found a snake on the walkway hanging in the trees

Some great small waterfalls in the park

The water was just beauful and clear

Prime riverfront properties

Paddle faster Ron!

At the advice of some of our fellow campers we visited the Homosassa Wildlife Refuge which was a short distance from our RV Park.  One of its main objectives is to educate people about manatees and the other wild life that lives in this area. One of the major programs they run is the rehabilitation of injured manatees. Apparently one third of all manatees deaths are boat realated.  The survival rate at birth is also quite low.  Once rehabilitated a manatee is fitted with a satellite tracking device and is monitored when it is  set free.  The tracking device does not hinder the animal at all and it wasn't unusual to see a couple of "floats" (tracking devices) bobbing in the water.

Once again the clarity of the water here was just beautiful as the area is fed by a number of underground springs.  The water remains at a constant 72F or 22c which is why the manatees migrate to the area in winter.   Although manatees are big unlike a whale,they have no blubber to keep them warm - any temperature under about 70 F is dangerous for these animals.  Power stations are another area that the manatees congregate to for a source of warmth as the stations pump out millions of gallons of warm water from the cooling towers.  When we left we decided to take the boat ride back to the entrance of the park - apparently it is not unusual to see alligators sunning themselves along the banks of the river as well as nesting eagles and wood ducks. 


The majestic Bald Eagle

The crystal clear water reflects on the boat trip back

Meeting and talking to people is one of the more enjoyable aspects of our travels.  We had the opportunity of catching up with Erv and Ruth Ann who we met in Two Rivers RV Park in Wisconsin on our last trip.  Erv and Ruth Ann took us out for a meal to a popular local eatery called Crackers.  The view was beautiful, the food fantastic and the company great.  Thank you Erv and Ruth Ann - we will return to enjoy your hospitality and travel advice next trip.  

Our neighbours at the Rock Crusher RV Park was a couple from Ontario, Canada - Bill and Glenda.  Bill and Glenda migrated from the Netherlands over 20 years ago and now that they are retired spend the winter months in Southern USA.   We invited them over for dinner to help us eat my special BBQ ribs cooked slowly in the weber.  Bill was suitably impressed and asked me to teach him how to cook them.  A quick trip to the grocery store to buy the ingredients a little instruction and dinner was done to perfection.  Not to be outdone Glenda prepared a special desert - vanilla icecream topped with balsamic vinegar!  Certainly a very different taste sensation! 

Bill and Glenda

Friday, 23 January 2015

Cedar Keys Florida - Clam Central

Our next stop after Mexico beach was a little fishing town called Cedar Keys.  Our good friends John and Eileen had also recommended this location and as the clam producing capital of the USA we figured that we would be able to sample a decent clam chowder which has become one of our favourite foods.

As we booked in to the Cedar Key RV Resort we looked through the tourist information brochures that lined the walls in the reception area. Two things caught our attention, the first being a "joyflight" around the Keys for a mere $25 per person for a 20 minute flight - no bookings necessary, just turn up at the Cedar Keys airport.  We were amazed that a small fishing villiage with a population of 700 people even had an airport. It sits out on one of the Keys and,as we were told later, it is the shortest public airfield in the USA. The second thing that we were keen to do was a 2 hour boat cruise around the Keys.  At $26 we also considered that a bargin. 

Despite it being quite windy we headed out to the airport the next day to see if we could do a joyflight.  There were a couple of people waiting at the fence for the plane to return so we had a wait of about half an hour - just long enough for Rose to build up the courage to get onboard such a little aircraft.  I  had never flown in such a small plane either so I was pretty excited at the prospect.  

In addition to us and the other couple waiting for our plane to return there was another group of people standing on the tarmac - they had just flown in on their private plane from Jacksonville .  Even when our plane landed and began taxiing back to the apron one of the ladies aimlessly wandered across the tarmac with her head in her phone, totally oblivious to danger she was in.  Something must have clicked because she suddenly looked up, realised she was in the way, and then in no particular hurry wandered away all without drawing breath or interrupting her telephone conversation!  Rose and I just looked at each other, shaking our heads!! 

Our plane arrives

While we were waiting for our turn we noticed a couple of fuel cans near the fence - yep this is the fuel for our plane -  no fuel truck here. 

Fuel it up Rose

Finally it was our turn, after a quick discussion, I took the front seat and Rose (photographer extraordinaire) the back. 

My knowledge of aircraft is fairly limited  but I do know that most "Cessnas" tend to be of the older vintage -  this plane was built in 1950 however much to our relief the engine had been replaced last year.   Even with our earphones on it was very noisy which made hearing what our pilot Bill was saying a little difficult.   Bill pointed out the many clam farms which cover an area of over 700 acres.  Historically long line fishing was the major industry in Cedar Keys however when this method of catching fish was banned the fisherman, having to look for another way of making a living, began farming clams.

Twenty short minutes later we were safely back on terra firma but agreed that this was by far one of the best experiences we had had and an amazing way to see the area.   

Take off
Looking back to Cedar Keys
We had done the air, now it was time for the sea adventure.  We were initially booked on the morning tour however this was postponed due to the low tides, it was so low they couldn't get the boat out.

We boarded the boat and set off with a very detailed commentary from the captain.  It was still cool and we certainly needed a fleece to keep warm. We motored around the Keys past the old lighthouse and learned that Cedar Keys was, in days gone by, the end point for the railroad from the east coast. Historically railroads played a big part on whether a town flourised or disappeared. The township of Cedar Keys reloacted from one of the other Keys to its present site as that was where the railway line terminated.

We visited some of the Keys where the migratory birds were resting and feeding with the highlight being seeing an Osprey that had caught a rather large fish.  The boat was quickly turned around so we could take a photo.  Our informative captain told us that once the bird has caught a fish it will turn it around in its claws to reduce drag.

The old lighthouse - now used by the University for reseach

A simple rest stop for the birds

Note how the Osprey has turned the fish around 

We can see you Rose!
You have to build high here to avoid being flooded

Touring done it was time to eat!  We had heard about a local restaurant called Tonie's which was famous for their clam chowder -  they had won the New England clam chowder award for 3 years running.  Two Lunch  time specials were ordered - clam chowder in a cob loaf with a choice of shrimp, oysters or fish on the side.   Meals arrived -  now the taste test - was Tonie's clam chowder as good as they claimed?  Oh yeah - it was the best we had ever tasted - so good in fact we both ordered a second helping and bought a carton of his canned chowder to take home.   Our very friendly waitress explained that Tonie comes into the restaurant every day to add his secret mix of seasonings to the day's batch -  Tonie is the Colonel Sanders of clam chowder!

Cedar Keys is a hidden gem, quiet and relaxed and definitey on our list of favourite seaside locations.

Monday, 12 January 2015

Mexico Beach Florida - On the road again finally!

As previously mentioned our extended stay in Gulf Shores was due to the pinched nerrve in my shoulder.   After nearly a month we were well and truly ready to hit the road again however we had  one more delay.

The vehicle we own is  a 2005 Dodge RAM diesel truck - has only 57,000 miles on the clock, tows well - however we had been contemplating trading it in on a newer model - I mean, a bloke can never have enough truck right?   After some research and talking to our neighbour Patrick at the campsite in Galveston, we decided to install a 'Banks Chip' and new oil air filter into the truck instead, which would give us that extra power we needed - or was that the extra power we wanted?   As it turned out Patrick owned the same model truck as we do and had the Banks system already installed - a few more discussions over a couple of beers and I was sold!  So Merry Christmas to me - the Banks IQ and Econo Chip were ordered that night and were to be delivered to Gullf Shores within the week.  

Unfortunately things don't always run to plan - we received the aircleaner within the advised timeframe, which I installed the next day, however as the IQ Chip had been dispatched a couple of days later we had to extend our stay at Gulf Shores for an extra couple of days.  Yes, only a couple of days however as any other camper will understand, when you are ready to hit the road you just want to go.

Two days later, IQ Chip received, we were all smiles as we drove out of the park heading east towards Mexico Beach, Florida.   Our good friends Jon and Eileen had suggested that we stay at Mexico Beach if we wanted a quieter, little more laid back location so Rustic Sands RV park was our destination.

After a foggy drive along the Gulf of Mexico we were greeted and directed to our designted site by Richard, the park's caretaker.  He provided us with information on what to do and where to go while in the area and warned us of a bear that roams through the park at night looking for food scraps in the large industrial rubbish bin.  The warning not to dispose of or leave any rubbish out after dark was heard loud and clear!!!  A more welcome bit of information though was that the park had its own Tiki bar which was open every Saturday and Tuesday nights.   Lucky for us it was Saturday night - a bit of live music, a couple of drinks and dinner from the grill - we were there!

All set for "Glamping"

As we found out the Tiki bar is a popular place for the local Mexico Beach residents as well as the visiting campers.  Before long we were happily chatting with some of the locals resulting in phone numbers and face book addresses being exchanged at the end of the night.  One couple, Ron and Letticia were true to their word and gave us a call the following day, offering to show us the sights and popular drinking spots in Mexico Beach.  Unnfortunately it was a rainy day so we missed the sunset at the beach bar at the El Governor Hotel but the cheap happy hour drinks helped us wash away our disappointment.  Final drinks were had at the Lookout Lounge bar which is located on the coastal time line so depending on where you stand you can loose an hour quite quickly!   As well as seriously cheap drink prices the Lookout Lounge also provides its patrons with a free dinner - we helped ourselves to fried chicken, a variety of salads and vegetables and spaghetti, folllowed by a key lime and chocolate pie.   To thank Ron and Letticia for showing us around we invited them over to our camp site for dinner the following night.  They invited another of their friends over as well - John who owns an apolostery business in Nashville.  Ron and Letticia are an amazingly interesting couple.  One of their many past times is making solid timber cutting boards which they sell through various outlets at Mexico Beach.  They source the timber for these boards from all our the world - the most unusual and prettiest in our opinion was the 'purple heart' timber which is grown in South America.  We were pleasantly surprised when they arrived that night and gave us a hand made cheese board, home made banana bread and fudge.  Such generous, lovely people.  Thank you Ron and Lettica for your hospitality, wonderful gifts and friendship.  

We are constantly amazed at the different accents thorughout the USA.  We met a lady named Susan at the Tiki Bar who was from Georgia.  The more she drank ( or maybe it was the more WE drank) her southern drawl accent became harder and harder to understand.   And they tell us we have the accent!!

Beach erosion happens everywhere - the Gold Coast in Australia and also Mexico Beach Florida

We had been told that the little fishing village of Apalachacola produces the best oysters in the USA.   As we are both quite partial to these delicasies we were happy to drive the 40 miles down the highway to establish if th this was a true statement!  We cruised the streets stopping at the Up The Creek Raw Bar - we found out later that this was one of the best places in town. 

We sat down and ordered a dozen oysters each  - I ordered Parmesan and Rose ordered the Classic Fella.  We both agreed that they were pretty good but decided to order another dozen just to make sure.  As we made our way down the stairs we more than happy to confirm  - yes oysters from Apalochocola are in fact some of the best in the world.

Great oysters

Sunsets over Mexico Beach 

As we pulled out of Mexico Beach we decided we had to go and say one final farewell to our new friends Letticia and Ron - unfortunately Ron had left early for work at the local grocery store so we only managed to get a photo of the beautiful Letticia.

Another great friendship made

We headed off keeping to our original plan to follow the coast road around the Gulf of Mexico - an amazingly beautiful drive.  One of our stops along the was at Carrabella Beach which was used for the US Army as a training beach prior to troops shipping to England for the D Day invasion. 

The plaque commemorating the many young men that trained at Carrabella Beach

If Mexico Beach was an example of what Florida had to offer we were going to be loving this state.