Attention everyone, we have an announcement to make: we’ve decided that we could get used to waterfront living. Yes, it’s true. We live close to the water in Seattle, but we don’t live on the water. For the past few weeks, however, we’ve been living on the water. And we like it. That’s one of the benefits of RV living. If you don’t like the view from your kitchen window then you just pack up and head down the road a few miles and find a view that you do like. Fortunately for us, we’ve been finding plenty of views to like lately.
While we were in the Florida Keys we stayed at Long Key State Park. This park is about halfway between Key Largo and Key West and has all of the amazing waterfront views that the Keys are famous for without all of the tourist traffic. We backed the RV right up to the beach and made ourselves at home. Seriously, check this park out on a map; the location is incredible. We couldn’t figure out why every space wasn’t taken, but then we realized that snowbirds need full hook-ups and these spots only had water and electric. Therefore, we were able to get a spot with virtually no advance notice. Hooray for being spontaneous!
While we were in the Keys we took a day trip to Key West and found ourselves at the “Southernmost Point in the continental United States.” We realized while we were there that this was the furthest we would be from home throughout the duration of this trip. For months we’ve been heading away from home and now with every mile we drive we’ll find ourselves getting closer to home. It’s a strange feeling. Oddly enough though, shortly after reaching the furthest point we’ll be from Seattle on this trip we actually saw some familiar Seattle faces. More on that in a moment.
When we were finally able to tear ourselves away from the views at our home in Long Key, we packed up and headed north. We drove across the Everglades, saw lots and lots of alligators and then headed north along the coast until we pulled into the driveway at our friend Liz’s parents’ house in Bonita Springs, Florida. The house backs onto a canal and our waterfront living continued. We saw turtles sunning themselves on logs, watched lots of different types of birds come and go and had a quick sighting of the local alligator who lives in the cove at the back of the property. It was the perfect place to spend a quiet couple of days. It was also fun to see where Liz spends Christmas every year with her family.
From Bonita Springs we headed north towards Tampa/St. Petersburg. We knew where we wanted to stay that night – it was the park our kayak guide in Bar Harbor recommended a few months ago – but unfortunately this was on a Saturday and they wouldn’t have room for us until Sunday. We found a place to park nearby and planned to move in the next day. However, there was an issue with this plan: Kevin was leaving the next morning for a work trip and his flight left before we would be able to settle into our spot at the park. What to do now? (Insert dramatic music here).
As it turned out, we only had one option: Suzanne would have to park the RV all by herself. Now, let’s be clear, Suzanne has parked this rig many times before – many, many times – but we usually park it as a team, especially when backing into a spot (as opposed to using a pull-through). One of us drives and one of us guides. This whole self-parking thing would be a first for her. When we awoke on Sunday morning we packed everything up and moved the RV as close as we could possibly get to our new spot. The kind folks at Fort De Soto Park let us check in and park the RV in their overflow parking lot even though it was well before check-in time. The previous residents were still in our spot and overflow parking was as good as it was going to get. Suzanne drove Kevin to St. Petersburg-Clearwater Airport where he was flying to Greensboro, NC on Allegiant Air (and for some reason Allegiant makes multiple pre-flight announcements about not bringing your own alcohol on board and not boarding while intoxicated – what kind of airline is this? Or, more specifically, what kind of customers does this airline typically have?) Kevin said good-bye and told Suzanne that he trusted her and her RV skills completely and then he followed all of that up by saying: “Just don’t burn it down.” Well, she didn’t. She backed that thing up like a pro, into a narrow tree-lined spot, off of a narrow tree-lined road. It may have taken more time than usual and she may have had to hop in and out of the RV multiple times to gauge the angle at which she was backing, but she did it. No one got hurt. Nothing got damaged. It was a success. (Tom Gooch: you would have been proud.)
After parking the RV, Suzanne took a quick shower and made sure the dogs were settled in and then she hopped in the toad and headed south a few miles to meet up with her friend Samantha for lunch. Samantha is a friend from Seattle, via Atlanta, via Event 360. She and Suzanne work together and, like Suzanne did a few years ago, Samantha moved to Seattle to work on the Seattle 3-Day. She just so happened to be in Florida this week to participate in the Tampa Bay 3-Day Walk with her mom and Suzanne is thrilled that they had the opportunity to meet up for lunch. Even better, Samantha brought her mom, Rita, with her. We met Rita last year when Samantha and her husband, Craig, were planning to move to Seattle, so it was great to see her again. We met at Woody’s River Roo Pub & Grill and Rita almost went home with a new motorcycle.
We saw these two again a few days later when Kevin was back in town and there was a larger gathering of Tampa Bay 3-Day walkers. We saw our friend Laurie – who used to live in Seattle – and a few of Laurie’s awesome sisters and friends. We saw our friend Sharyn, who has never lived in Seattle but is basically Laurie’s long lost sister even though they’re not technically related. We saw our friend Aubrey and her friend Stephanie, who both live just south of Seattle. And we saw our friend Keri, who used to work with Suzanne and lives just outside of Tampa. This group was all walking 60 miles over the course of three days to make a difference in the fight against breast cancer and we are so, so happy that we had a chance to see them right before their journey.
Suzanne is also happy that she had a chance to see her friend Jen and meet Jen’s adorable dogs. Jen is another friend from work who happens to live in the Tampa/St. Pete area. Last month Jen and her dog Maya adopted a 2 1/2 year old dog named Biggs (seen here on the right in the photo). It’s obvious how much everyone in this cute family loves each other already. Biggs is a perfect fit and it was wonderful to see how this amazing dog went from being homeless to having a wonderful loving home with the best mom possible. Just one of the many reasons why we love Jen. Our dogs didn’t have the chance to meet up while we were in town but we hope that will happen next time. There was already plenty of dog cuteness during this visit and having all four dogs in one place at the same time might just have been a dog cuteness overload.
When Kevin returned from Greensboro Suzanne was eager to pack up and head on down the road. We’re at the point where we start getting antsy after being in one place for more than a few days and Suzanne had already been at Fort De Soto for five days. If you look past the aggressive squirrels who liked to run up and down the roof of the RV and the ongoing ant problem, Fort De Soto was a nice place to stay but the open road was definitely calling. So we packed up and headed out.
Our spontaneous planning continued to pay off when we landed another great waterfront spot the next night. We had a few different RV parks on our radar and Samantha’s mom, Rita, had recommended a few great areas along the Gulf Coast of Florida’s panhandle. We ended up at Ho Hum RV Park in Carabelle, FL for the next two nights. Despite Kevin taking issue with the name of the RV park (“How could someone name their business ‘Ho Hum’?” he asked) we ended up staying for two nights and were impressed with our not-so-ho-hum view. We were surprised at how much we loved this area around Apalachicola and St. George. It’s been called “the forgotten coast” in newspaper and magazine articles so please forget that you heard about it here. It’s still a sleepy little area along a beautiful stretch of beach on the Gulf Coast and we hope it stays that way. We may just turn the RV around and settle down there.
From Ho Hum we continued west along the coast and found ourselves in Gulf Shores, Alabama. Again we found ourselves with a waterfront view and again we found ourselves amazed by how beautiful the Gulf Coast truly is. We had no idea that Alabama looked like this! We plan to enjoy these white sand beaches for a few days and it looks like we’ll have them all to ourselves.
While white sand beaches on the Gulf Coast may be what paradise looks like for us, apparently our friend Rebecca’s house in Washington is what paradise looks like for our cat, Gonzo. We received this picture via text last week from Rebecca: The accompanying caption was: “You weren’t going to eat that, were you?” Oh Gonzo, we miss you buddy. And we’re so thankful for friends like Rebecca and Alan and their four-legged kids who have welcomed you into their family. We’ve been on the road for 5 months now and are making our way back to Seattle. We’ll see you on down the road!