Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Long Key State Park Week 2, Sometimes the Doldrums Set In

Here we are in the middle of week 2 at Long Key State Park and the doldrums have set in.  We've been lucky to have the kind of breezes we have been enjoying-but they are gone baby gone.  Early morning when we sit out having our coffee there is a nice breeze, but by 8 am it's gone and it's eerily still.  The water and sky somehow look huge when there is no wind.  It feels like you could get lost out there very easily.  And when the tide is out it feels like you could walk for miles before the water got up to your knees.  The Keys have their own special magic.

Depending on the time of day the skies could be bright silver white or deep blue with huge puffy clouds.  And the water can go from steel blue to shades of blue and green in a heartbeat.  That's what I love about this area-it's just stunning and so peaceful watching the changes.

We finally got a little wind and that night we had an amazing lightening storm-I almost crawled under the bed with Hailey it was a little scary having the sky light up so much  !  But that was just one day that the wind actually blew  the umbrella a bit.  We are back to the doldrums and when there is no wind guess what?  There are armies of mosquitoes !  And for some reason these little guys in the Keys are fearless-Deet they say, I don't care about your stinkin Deet, I'm coming to get you -and get me they did.  These little guys leave huge welts too.  Needless to say I've been inside a lot this week.

Jim went out in the kayak several times and wahoo, he caught a sponge.  Shhh don't tell him I told you.  He won't appreciate the humor.  Although I'm sure he had a fish on that just took his line into the sponge and broke away.  He won't live this one down for awhile.

This little guy comes around every time the tide goes out, I still haven't figured out what kind of bird he is.  Anyone know ?

And I think these guys are Whimbrels according to our little birding book. We've seen egrets,pink spoonbills,herons,a few pelicans,lots of gulls and some small sandpipers.  There are lots of crabs around the campground along with lizards and huge iguanas.  The iguanas avoid humans and when they see you they run away like little Velicoraptors !

We haven't been doing a lot of cooking inside-too hot and it's a challenge to cook outside while trying to battle the huge flies and the mosquitoes.  One day I made these little sliders adapting a recipe I had for my "Oregon Tuna Melt" sandwich.  I wasn't sure how they would taste without being grilled but they were delicious and now I have a new keeper recipe .

Long Key Tuna Sliders:
Makes 8 small sliders or 4 hamburger bun type sandwiches
Two 6-ounce cans albacore tuna 
1/4 cup finely diced red onion 
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil 
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar 
 3 tablespoon minced basil 
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper 
Salt and freshly ground pepper 
8 Hawaiian bread slider buns 
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard 
 3 tablespoons  mayonnaise 
4 slices of Swiss cheese,each slice cut into 4 pieces so you end up with 16 little squares 
8 1/8-inch-thick lengthwise slices of kosher dill pickle or bread and butter pickle

In a medium bowl, mix the tuna with the onion, olive oil, vinegar, basil,mustard,mayonnaise and      crushed red pepper. Season with salt and pepper.

Slice the Hawaiian Bread buns in half and  place a slice of cheese on each half.Spread the rolls with a scoop of the tuna salad mixture. Top each mound of tuna with a sliced pickle. Bring the two halves together, sit back and enjoy !

If you want to try the Oregon Tuna Melt you can find the recipe by clicking here.

The one day I did fire up the microwave I blew out the power. I don't what I was thinking,problem was I wasn't thinking.  I had cooked most of the pizza in the convection oven and thought it was done.  I turned the air conditioner back on and when I looked at the pizza I thought ,hmm ,just a few more minutes, so I popped it back in the oven for 3 minutes.  Well when the air conditioning is going full blast Ruby just doesn't have it in her to run the convection/microwave at the same time so the power went kaput !  Jim was out walking Hailey and I thought oh my gosh , he's going to kill me.  It's 92 degrees outside and getting hot inside-how are we going to sleep ? No breeze,no air-I felt like stealing the little raft that's been anchored off our campsite and heading for Cuba.  Before Jim got back I discovered how to reset the generator but I had to break the news to Jim that he had to climb under Ruby , in the sand, in the heat.  Gosh this man must love me .  Generator reset,lesson learned, air conditioner back on and delicious pizza for dinner.

What you ran the air conditioner and the oven ? Sheesh

Another doldrum day in paradise

So it's Wednesday when I'm writing this, about 830pm and we can hear some pretty loud thunder and the sky is lighting up like a hundred flashbulbs going off.  Maybe we'll get some rain, maybe just maybe we'll get some wind ! No matter what this sure is an awfully pretty place to "enjoy" the doldrums in.

Happy Trails my fellow windwatchers and safe travels.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Loving Long Key State Park

We found our haven from the crowds and traffic at Long Key State Park.  Everyone told us we should try for Bahia Honda, but there were no sites to be found , except for a few 1 night openings here and there.  When we first arrived at Long Key we were booked into Site 20.  And because of our late booking we were ending up with 3 days at Curry Hammock down the road a bit and then a return to Long Key with 6 campsite changes in 2 weeks-yikes !  I had been keeping an eye on the sites and quickly discovered site 42 opened up for a week.  The kind ranger at Long Key  helped us switch and rebook; thus eliminating the drive to Curry Hammock and cutting our campsite musical chairs from 6 site changes to 3..wahoo!  There really isn't a bad site here-each one is along the ocean-some have more shade than others but you really just can't beat the view. We definitely love this campground.

  Super moon rising

A lot of campers bring small boats and kayaks that they launch from their campsites-you can pretty much walk out about 500 yards and the water only gets waist deep and that's during high tide !  Next time we visit we will definitely bring the kayaks.  The campground has very nice and very clean showers; hookups and a dump site.  There is also an ice machine (not always working) and a pretty nice nature boardwalk.  If you stay here try to book the odd numbered sites-if you are in an even numbered site you have quite a distance to the hook ups.  Our electric wasn't a problem as we have a 35ft cord; but the water hookup required 2 hoses. In the odd numbered sites the hookups are closer and right on the edge of your driveway.

Our move to site #42 where we will be for 7 days.

 This is where we sit for morning coffee and a cold beer or two in the afternoon!
The skeeters chase us inside at night (even with a ton of  Deet spray)

 So far we are on day 3 and nothing but clear skies-there was a threat of a storm coming up from Key West but that quickly blew north

Our campsite visitor during low tide 

 The campground is on the East side of the Overseas Highway but the restrooms are elevated and you can stand on the deck and see some great sunsets to the West .

 The second night of the super moon was just a gorgeous as the first; and this night it was a beautiful golden yellow as it rose in the sky.

We discovered a place in Marathon Key that will rent you a kayak for a week for only $89 and they will deliver it and pick it up at the campground.  That is a lot less expensive than the $17 fee for 2 hours that the campground charges !  I think Jim is going to rent one and try fishing further out than he can wade.  I'm not allowed in the water until October so I shall sit obediently on the shore line dipping my toes in the water :(

We are approaching the 3 month mark since we left the condo in May and time really has gone by so fast.  We have learned that we will avoid summer camping in Florida in the future-all I can say is thank goodness for air conditioning.  It wouldn't be so bad if I could swim and cool off in the water but I can't .  I'm looking forward to mojitos on our deck back home in September !

We have also learned that heat + traffic + confined spaces= argument !  We are both learning and practicing more patience with each other.  I think my frustration level is much higher than Jim's because of the medical things I'm dealing with.  So I'm working very hard at trying to stay in the present moment; daily readings of "Peace is Every Step", by Thich Nhat Hanh help me  and if all else fails a cold beer  helps cool things off too !  It's hard to believe that we have been on the road since January 5th (with the little 6 week remodel/medical break in between).  We both feel so blessed to be able to live the life we have and to be able to enjoy it together.

Happy Trails to all you moon travels.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Watchin the Sun Bake-Key West

Nibblin' on sponge cake,
watchin' the sun bake;
All of those tourists covered with oil.
Strummin' my six string on my front porch swing.
Smell those shrimp
They're beginnin' to boil.
Wasted away again in Margaritaville,
Searchin' for my lost shaker of salt.
Some people claim that there's a woman to blame,
But I know it's nobody's fault.
Margaritaville  Jimmy Buffett

I don't want to give my age away, but it's been almost 30 years since we were in Key West.  Things have changed-and that's a giant understatement.  We didn't recognize the town as we roamed around.  Of course we remembered the bars-we were much younger and that's all we did when we were here -watched the sunset and hit Captain Tony's and Sloppy Joes ! Well, not that we are party poopers, but we don't drink as much as we used too but we still had a great time on this visit.

When I was looking for a campground for us to stay at I found Boyd's and liked the idea that they were right on the edge of town-NOT.   They put us in a tent site but charged us for a premium RV waterfront site-we negotiated a better site since they refused to negotiate the price in the tent site.  Then we had trouble with wifi,trouble with cable,trouble with the 110 and the shoreline was filthy-garbage all over !
Okay I'm finished complaining; for the premium price we paid we would have expected more than condescending I'm sorries. We definitely won't return here again. They get wonderful reviews but for the life of us we couldn't figure out how !
Moving on to the fun time we had in Key West:

We had so much fun with our little electric car rental from Sunshine Scooters-great people and we highly recommend them. We did the  24hour rental so when we returned to camp we charged it overnight and we were ready to go in the morning.

I will tell you that when we drove Ruby, our Roadtrek into Key West on our last day there-we had no trouble at all getting through the narrow streets-gotta love our Class B Roadtrek !

 The Episcopal Church in downtown Key West

 Loved the architectural elements on the old Strand Theater

When we arrived downtown we discovered it was time for the  Lobster Festival -right down the middle of Duval Street-lucky us !

 Jim has a new favorite-my Szechuan Stir Fry with pork -my new favorite too

 Brunch one day was a BLT with egg on a flour tortilla-yum.  And lunch the next day was a grilled Caprese Pannini-mozzarella,basil,fresh tomato -double yum !

We had the best Cuban food here for lunch -it was recommended to us by one of our Roadtrek friends and we highly recommend it too !

We definitely didn't let our bad experience at Boyd's ruin our visit to Key West.  We had a blast. The people were warm and welcoming; the drinks cold and strong; and the heat-well hot and humid-just like we remembered.  We're heading up to Long Key State Park for 17days before we head home.  And we are both looking forward to leaving the traffic and crowds behind.  Will we return to Key West-oh most definitely ! 

 Happy Trails my little conchs and parrot heads !  Safe Travels

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Key Largo-Lost in a Hunter S. Thompson Novel

"The Edge...there is no honest way to explain it because the only people who really know where it is are the ones who have gone over ".       Hunter S. Thompson

From the moment we arrived at this RV Park we felt like we had stepped into a Hunter S. Thompson novel.  Everyone had a story-the blond from Cuba; the Mickey Spillane type taxi driver from Brooklyn; the long haired surfer looking owner; the lovers who came out of their room at sunset every night.  Spend a few weeks here and you can write the great American novel..or at least a few really good short stories.  Seriously-everyone was very cool and laid back and our time camping here kind of grew on us.

When we first pulled in we thought oh oh ,it's really a trailer park where people live and work and not an rv resort.  Turns out it's a weekend type resort-most of the spots are occupied by permanent residents who live and work in Miami and come down to Key Largo for the week-end.  They keep their campers and boats here and have a really sweet little place to stay and it's on the on the water.

It's clean,only 1 bathroom though for 30 plus sites; the owners are doing what they can a little at a time to upgrade. They take good  care of it and their guests. While staying at private parks is usually not our thing we definitely would come back here-the people are very interesting and very real-no fake personalities-what you see is what you get.

Our little friend catching some rays on the dock

We spent most of our time sitting here under the shade with the fans and breeze off the water cooling us.

Hailey got her Key Largo groove on !

Heading for a dive off the patio to catch her Wubba in the water.

This dog appears to be the captain taking his owners out for a spin !

For the short time we were here, 3 days, we witnessed some gorgeous sunsets-everyone heads down to the docks at sunset time with their drink and partner of choice-very laid back.

On the morning we left, the bay was eerily calm and glass like-so pretty and the water was so still that you could look straight down and see the fish-like being in a glass bottom boat.

We haven't been to the Keys since the early 80's, so I don't know why we were so surprised at how much it has grown, but we were surprised.  Guess we expected the quiet mellow life that we remembered-but everything changes.  People are still really nice and very welcoming everywhere we went and oh so willing to share their life story with you. And we heard them all !

We are driving down to Key West and enjoying the gorgeous scenery as we go.  Hailey is dreaming of manatees and swimming with dolphins-what a life.

 I started baking again on the road !  But let me tell you about this cool product I found at Target to make pizza with.  Usually I make my own pizza dough but just didn't have the energy or time to wait for the rise. So I spotted this Flatout Artisan Thin pizza crust and grabbed it immediately.  It's perfect for those of us on the road who like good cooking but don't want to spend so much time in the little Roadtrek kitchen. The directions suggest you prebake the crust to crisp it for about 4 minutes-next time I will crisp it for about 6-8 minutes.  Then add the sauce,seasoning,toppings and cheese-pop it in the oven or on the grill and voila in about 30 minutes total prep and cook time you have a pretty good tasting pizza.  Yes, I know it's not homemade but it's pretty darn close ! Their website lists all their products and some great recipe ideas.  Try it and let me know what you think.

This was before I baked it-sorry no after pictures-it was so good we scarfed it down before I had a chance to take pictures !

Flourless Chocolate Raspberry Cakes

I know it's crazy that I got back into the mood for baking in 90 degree heat and 99% humidity-what can I say ?  When the mood strikes, I go with it !

These are great for the "on the road" life style.  Easy to make,minimal ingredients and they stay so delicious and moist for days-if they aren't all devoured immediately after baking them.

Flourless Chocolate Raspberry Cakes
from the Kitchen McCabe
Serves 12
Serve these little raspberry chocolate cakes with a dollop of whipped cream or a side of fresh raspberries or both !
8 oz. Chocolate Chips, 60% cacao content or higher
14 T. (1 3/4 sticks) Butter, diced
2 T. Seedless Raspberry Jam(or I  use just fresh raspberries crushed in a sieve to strain the seeds out-reduces a little bit of the sugar)
4 large Eggs
1/4 c. Sugar
1 T. Vanilla Extract
Powdered sugar, for dusting
12 Raspberries, for garnishing
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Grease a non-stick mini bundt cake pan(12 mini bundts).
Place the chocolate, butter, and jam in a saucepan. Melt over medium/low heat, stirring well, until chocolate is melted and the mixture is well combined. Remove from heat and cool to lukewarm, stirring often, about 10 minutes.
While the chocolate mixture is cooling, whisk the eggs, sugar, and vanilla in a large bowl until well blended, about 1 minute. Gradually whisk in the cooled chocolate mixture.
Divide the batter among prepared dishes. Bake cakes until a tester inserted into the center comes out with some moist batter still attached, about 20 minutes.
Let cool slightly and then invert the cakes onto a sheet of parchment.
Dust cakes with powdered sugar and top each with a raspberry.
Serve cakes warm, room temperature, or cold.

Bon Appetit and Happy Trails to you my little road warriors,chefs and bakers !  Safe travels.