Monument Lake Campground

Y’all, I’ve been trying to post this for a few days now but my pictures weren’t loading… I persevered and conquered!!

We headed out to Midway Campground in the Big Cypress National Preserve to camp a week until a campsite back at Jonathan Dickinson became available again. It’s a small federal campground nestled in the southern part of the preserve, right along the Everglades National Park. This is alligator territory, folks!

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The campground is small, sites ringing a small pond about a quarter mile around. They have electric hook ups at the RV sites but NO WATER. You can fill up with potable water at their expense. But also no shower facilities….

Unfortunately, after one night, we realized we couldn’t stay our full week. 1) we could only walk Indy around the pond. Domestic animals are not allowed on trails in any nearby areas due to…. wildlife. Alligators, panthers, etc. Apparently the dogs’ scents are not welcome in the area. 2) No cell service.

I don’t mean to sound poshy. (As if living in an RV is hoity toity…) But we’re running a business folks. We need access to cell service for our hotspot to work so we can work on our computers. And make business calls.

So the next morning we headed just 8 miles down the road to Monument Lake campground, another federal property. Apparently it’s where the cell tower is located!! It’s also a small campground with sites surrounding a pond – but at least twice as big as Midway. It was a bit over a half of a mile loop so we didn’t get quite as bored walking and running it. (Although you should have seen the looks we would get when we ran! People could not help themselves from commenting on how many laps they’d seen us go ’round. Hey, 4-6 laps is our workout!)

The only note about this park – it’s only dry camping. But if your rig can swing it it’s worth it! Quiet, beautiful scenery and wildlife. And the camp hosts were great! We checked in and they gave us a heads up on the seafood fest going on in Everglades City, 20 miles down the road. It was a great choice!!!

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One day Mike and I headed out to bike a bit so we could get the closeup photos of the alligators. It’s unbelievable! They were everywhere in the canal. Rest assured, they were all on the opposite side of the canal.

HISTORY NOTE: We were biking on Rt.41, also known as the Tamiami Trail, originally built in the 1920’s to connect Tampa and Miami. All along the two lane road there is a narrow canal. More research revealed the canal was dug to provide fill dirt for the road. 

While out riding we stopped for a short hike at the Kirby Sorter boardwalk and were able to capture some beautiful pictures.

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You can click on any of the images to enlarge. I’m bummed my panoramic doesn’t look better in the blog. It looks much better in a picture viewer!!

But the most unique aspect of this campground was the need to hold Indy close each time we opened the door to take him out to check for alligators. Yes folks, all campsites are on the lake (let’s get real. It’s really a pond.) And there are alligators in it. At least two that we could tell. One seemed to keep at the other end but one seemed to like the edge at our campsite. S/he never came up on the ground (as far as we know) but we could see s/he resting on the rocks or in the weeds on the waters’ edge most of the time we were there.

We probably wouldn’t have noticed it at all if it hadn’t been for Mike. One of the first afternoons we were there he had hung the hammock on the camper. While relaxing he watched the gator swim all the way down the length of the pond, towards him, and set up shop right in front of him. Front that moment on we kept a pretty close eye on our canine “gator bait” (and ourselves)!!

Definitely a campsite we’d recommend!!

Oh GPS, I used to love you….

We had a Garmin but gave it to Mike’s daughter when we bought our new Ram in December. It came with in-dash sat-nav. Mike hadn’t been thrilled with the Garmin’s method of giving directions anyway. He missed turns all the time and blamed it on the device. I just think he can’t follow a GPS…. But he’d been conditioned to follow Apple maps on his iPhone which still puzzles me that the app didn’t direct him into a lake on occasion….

It seems Mike gets along better with “Janice”, our Ram GPS system. We named her so because it seemed a fitting name for a pushy know-it-all. (Apologies if you are a Janice and are not, in fact, pushy and a know-it-all.) I now call her “Janet” because, although I couldn’t put my finger on it when we first got the truck, I realize the voice and method of direction-giving reminds me of a Janet from my past. I’ll leave it at that.

Janet/ Janice usually is pretty good as far as sat-navs go. But as anyone who’s ever used a GPS system knows, there are always hiccups in the system. We found a doozy around Fort Lauderdale on I-95. I tell you this to possibly avoid the same issues.

Imagine a “spaghetti junction” and then knock it down a degree or two. Several sweeping sections of interstate and highways intermingling in one place. It’s Florida, so it’s not built skyscraper high like in Texas. But lots of “Right lane for I-95S” then that lane splits into 95S and a local highway. Sort of confusing. But not if you have sat-nav, right??!

Unless it appears the state of Florida has done an immense amount of construction and renamed/rerouted/relabled a bunch of exits and your GPS has no idea any of this has occurred.

You know when your GPS tells you to follow 95S (even though that logically doesn’t seem right based on where you’re headed) because it’s next direction is to “stay left onto 95 NORTH!” Um, 95N has it’s own exit now and unless I jump an overpass with this truck AND MY FIFTH WHEEL, we just missed the exit.

It’s one thing if this type of hiccup happens once. It’s a freaking comedy when you can’t get where you’re going because direction after direction is incorrect. AND you’re pulling a 5th wheel. As you know, there is no last-minute lane changing to grab the correct exit when hauling your rig. So we were back and forth, north then south, up and down I-95. Finally we just gave up and kept driving.

Where were we headed? To Seminole Casino Coconut Grove (or some such place.)

Where did we end up? Seminole Hard Rock Casino – because we passed it on the highway, gave up and just went there instead. It worked. Free overnight parking. (But not really “free” after all the money we spent at restaurants and bars. Oh, we may have gambled away a whole $15…..)

So, why didn’t I pull out my map and navigate? Simply because all I have is an atlas. And we’re in no hurry. It was quite the joke after a while. All a day in the life of RVing!

Tri, Tri and Tri Again!!

Third time’s a charm, right? Well, for Mike it is, anyway. He’s a runner and I convinced him to do a triathlon. I had already done two and I was hooked. He said he was interested but there were some hurdles in the way.

“But I don’t have a bike.”

No problem. I snookered him into his first 100 mile charity bike ride in September of 2013. And he even agreed to do it again the following year!! And we recruited more friends to do it with us each year!

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“But I don’t swim.”

A lot of people who run and bike don’t do tris because they aren’t comfortable swimming. I was like that too. I had worked with a tri coach for the swimming part. But I ended up signing us up for a free tri swim lessons at our local YMCA. (we’re members. FREE is AWESOME!!)

I would be lying if I said, “and that was it. I signed us up and we did a triathlon.” Let’s just say there were a few bumps in the road.

  • I might regret putting this out in public, but Mike wasn’t too thrilled with the swimming part. And when I say “not too thrilled” I mean he went into it kicking and screaming complaining. No matter what I suggested, – the Y lessons, my tri coach, etc. – he was not happy with the results. Here’s the part I’ll probably regret – honestly I think he was just frustrated, like a lot of people, when you’re athletically inclined and come across something that just doesn’t come to you naturally within 30 minutes, you’re stumped. And he was as stumped as a dead tree in cleared forest. He was never in danger of drowning, no matter what stories he might try and tell you – he’s been in and around water his whole life. But he eventually got comfortable enough with it – and prefered swimming in a wetsuit. Go figure… Swim cap heads    20141205_152144
  • MISSED TRI #1 – We ended up dropping out of the first tri I signed us up for – I TAKE FULL RESPONSIBILITY. Turns out I needed unexpected surgery a month before the race and there was no way I would be in any shape to do it. And because we’re the cutesy, vomit-inducing couple that we are, we HAD to do it together. It was Mike’s first tri, after all!
  • MISSED TRI #2 – The second tri I signed us up for is also COMPLETELY MY FAULT. Seriously, I schedule shit. I plan ahead. Months and months in advance. I cross T’s and dot I’s. But the tri we were going to do was part of a weekend extravaganza of races. And I accidently got the right race on the wrong day. And I couldn’t have been lucky enough to think the race was on a Saturday when it was on a Sunday… Noooooo. That’s not how the race gods work. Those bitches like to laugh and laugh at you when you realize Saturday morning as you’re at the GREAT NEW YORK STATE FAIR, your tri is starting without you because you thought it was Sunday.

So when we decided to RV full-time I had the fantastic idea of doing Mike’s first Tri in Naples, FL. Friends of mine had flown down from NY the year before and done it and gave it good reviews. It was an ocean swim, (Mike LOVES the ocean!!), and flat bike and run courses. It sounded like a great first tri!

And so we did!! In wetsuits, ‘cuz that ocean water was chilly!! As it turned out, I happened to find Mike during the swim, and again, because WE’RE BIG, LOVEY DORKS, we did the rest of the course together. As we approached the finish line we held hands. (awww!! *eyelash flutter* ) The MC could be heard saying what a cute picture it was going to make.

No, no, a cute picture it did NOT make. An AWFUL, HILARIOUS picture is what it made!!

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BWAHAHAHA!!

But, seriously folks…

We did it!!

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And he swears he’s hooked and wants to know when we’re going to do the next one!

Favorite Food Blogs… so far

I’ve mentioned that cooking in a camper can be, ahem, challenging. The burners are small, even though I have three of them. They sit in a triangle shape with the front burner being so close to the edge that not only does it only get part of the bottom of my pan but I have to make sure I don’t catch myself on fire! But of course, the burners are too far apart to try and sit a pot squarely in the middle of them or just between two of them. Clearly people who design camper stoves are not real cooks. Just an observation.

I will say our new (to us) camper has a slightly taller oven. By maybe 4 inches. Don’t knock it. Camper ovens are like men’s pensises – every inch counts.

Although I love cooking with gas over electric there are still these small hurdles to get over. I’ve decided to forego the 5-star meals and just concentrate on getting food on the table. And since I don’t have a lot of space to store a bunch of exoctic ingredients like I’m used to the double upside to this arrangement is relatively inexpensive recipes!

So, what’s important for me in a food blog?

  • Pictures. I prefer them but they are a must when asking Mike to pick something. He is not capable of listening to a list of ingredients and letting me know if it interests him or not. Which I suspect is true for a lot of people – they can’t comprehend ingredients. Just a finished image. Hey, whatever works for you!
  • Simple ingredients and preparation. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE to really cook and get in there and try and do chef-y things. But right now I have found that I cannot do that in a camper. (My paella pan and dutch oven do not fit into the oven. That’s a problem.) And I only have so much room to store ingredients so I’d better use them pretty regularly.
  • Healthy food. This is last on the list because, well, it just is. This used to be at the top of my list before I met Mike…. But I have found there was a constant struggle between the two of us revolving around “what tastes good” and “what’s healthy”. He’s a meat and potatoes kind of guy. With a side of gravy. I’m not. So we try and agree to meet somewhere in the middle. We’re getting there….

I’ve always been a fan of Let’s Dish. Full disclosure – I know Danelle personally. I went to grad school with her hubby eons ago. Danelle and Glen have three boys. THREE! She cooks for FOUR men! Ok, so the youngest isn’t a man yet and the middle one is in pre-man stage. But aren’t growing boys notorious for eating a family into debt? But don’t take my word for the awesomeness of her recipes and her easy-to-use blog. She’s a professional food blogger. And photographer. She shows images of each dish. LOVE IT! Her food is uptown foodie meets real life,” which is a perfect description. I made Mike the Brown Sugar & Balsamic Glazed Pork Loin (which is sooo simple) for his birthday when we first started dating. I’m pretty sure it’s what sealed the deal to our long-term relationship. *wink*wink*

The newest blog I’ve found is Budget Bytes. Honestly, I can’t remember where I came across Beth’s blog. But I love it. Her focus is providing great recipes on a budget. (Duh) She too posts an image of each recipe. I love how you can search a type of food and you get thumbnails to browse through. This is a great feature for Mike!! I’m especially in love with her Spinach Rice Breakfast Bowls! She’s right, they look weird but are fantastic! They are SO filling!!!

I’ve been leaning on these two blogs mostly but have also grabbed a recipe or two from Erin at Well Plated. I need more time to go through her healthy offerings. But I can say her Cranberry St. Germain Cocktail went over fabulously at Thanksgiving!

I will add more as I find them but these are the top of the list!!!

Bon Apetit!

Florida Panhandle

Big Lagoon State Park

On our way back east for the holidays we stopped in the Florida panhandle at Big Lagoon. It’s a relatively small park but had gorgeous views. Beautiful boardwalks, trails and small beaches.

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Indy LOVED the sand…

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The Condensed Version

I bet I know the questions you’ve been dying to ask but are too afraid to ask them. “Are they still RVing? Did they break up? What’s going on? Why haven’t there been any blog posts?”

I’m happy to report the following:

Yes, we are still RVing!! We are currently in south Florida, around Jupiter. It’s gorgeous here!

No, we did not break up. As a matter of fact, we are now engaged. 😉

There has been quite a lot going on and I’ve been exceptionally lazy and unmotivated to post about it all. Sometimes when you live through it you just don’t want to talk about it over and over. But things have settled down so I’ll condense it.

We spent the holidays with my dad in South Carolina. We had been thinking of eventually upgrading our camper to something bigger than our 26′ pull behind. The two driving forces were 1) a bigger cooking area and 2) a bigger space to accommodate the two of us and a big dog. (A cat really doesn’t take up much room.) We had very specific things we wanted in the camper and we wanted to buy used so we figured it would take us close to a year to find what we wanted. In the meantime we thought it best to get a bigger truck to be prepared for when we found the perfect camper and wouldn’t be stuck without a way to tow it.

So we bought this beaut! A 2014 Ram 3500 Dually Laramie. She’s AWESOME!

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Well, she was until this happened a few days later on the interstate, with less than 500 miles on her. Luckily we weren’t towing anything.

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I will spare you the days and days of details and finger pointing between Ram, the tire manufacturer, etc…. But in the end it turned out to be caused by valve stem bolts not being tightened and therefore the stem coming out and blowing out the tire. The bolts were loose on two other valve stems…. I’m still dealing with the dealership in NC to try and get it rectified. (you know, like getting myself reimbursed for a new tire, etc… ) It’s been tough because we bought the truck in NC and we are full timing RVers so it’s hard to get anything taken care of but I’m sure we’ll get it done!

In the end it was a good idea we got the truck because as luck would have it, we found the perfect camper. In Georgia! So New Year’s Day we headed to Macon. I had already wheeled and dealed with the sales person via text and email over the previous several days. Had sent him 22 pictures of our trade and exactly what we were willing to pay. After a few days he sent me a worksheet that he had said was signed by the manager.

DEAL! We were driving to come and get her. I texted him when we were a few hours out. He said ok, he’d meet us there.

We showed up and were told our sales guy didn’t work on Thursdays. Um, he said he was going to meet us.

Crickets. You could hear crickets chirping. Sales reps looked at each other. We looked at them. They looked back at each other. Finally one had the mind to step in and say that he’d take care of us until our guy got there. Perfect.

But our guy never showed up.

So another condensed version, we got a new sales rep, had to spend the night in the parking lot of Camping World Macon and our original sales rep got himself fired. On the upside, the staff (by now everyone knew what had happened to us) was exceptionally friendly and treated us great. They hooked us up with power at night in the parking lot. Our new rep, Tressa, would even knock before she left at night to see if we needed anything.

So now we are the proud owners of a 39′ Keystone Raptor 5th wheel toyhauler.

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After our fun “upgrade” we headed to Naples to participate in Mike’s first and my third triathlon!!

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I believe Mike is hooked. He keeps asking me when we are going to do our next one!!

And to round out our news update – January 28th is my birthday and also when we went on our first date. Michael decided it would be an excellent day to also ask me to marry him.

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So that is the condensed version that brings you up-to-speed. Hopefully I won’t slack off from here on out. We plan on being in south Florida for a few more weeks so we’ll see what fun adventures are waiting!