Saturday, 25 January 2014

Farewell Florida

It takes some dedication to drive more than 100 miles onto a narrow chain of islands, with nowhere to go once you get to the end but back the way you came. Whilst we were driving down Route 1 watching the milemarkers count down, there were several occasions on the way where I kept thinking ‘why don’t we stop here? One tropical island is like any other?’, but thankfully we persevered and got to Key West. The beaches are nice, the bars and restaurants are great, there are a few nice parks, and some interesting museums, but what makes it really great are the people that live there.

We are always prepared for a knock on the door and a polite ‘f*ck off’ when we park somewhere that we probably shouldn’t; and so it started on Key West. Having been asked for $100 a night for a spot in an RV park, we spent an afternoon wandering some quiet residential streets looking for free places to park near the town centre. We found a shady spot outside a municipal building on a narrow residential street and settled down, waiting for the knock on the door. After the second night, nobody had complained but on our third day we came back to a note on the door. Almost anywhere in England, the note would have variously made threats of violence or police action, but in Key West, the note was an invite to wine at a house a few doors down. I’m sure Jack and Sydney, who invited us over, felt that the gesture was normal, but to a couple of Londoners, it was a first. I’m not sure if either are reading this blog, but a heartfelt thanks from Naomi and me for making us feel so welcome in your awesome house!

As it turns out though, this hospitality is not limited to Key West, since arriving in the states, we've had beers bought for us at a bar in the Keys, we've been taken out for dinner (thanks to William and Mary in Sanibel!), we've been given a lift home at the end of a night out (Thanks to Nick and his Yolo trike in Captiva Island!), and have had several offers of a place to stay all over the US. America is a great place in many ways, but this is one aspect I'd not anticipated when I arrived a month ago.

Jim, a Mercedes 1823 overland motorhome, in Key West, Florida

Sadly after nearly a week of living on cocktails and ice cream it was time for us face the music and leave the Florida Keys. We stopped overnight near to Sombrero Beach on Marathon Island, before heading for the everglades along the Tamiami trail; we parked in the Midway Campground in the middle of Big Cyprus Swamp. The everglades is a great place to visit, but for the love of god, if you are sleeping in a truck, either have fly-screens on the windows or a working air-conditioner. Not having made a cable to adapt our new 30a American mains cable to the 32a ceeform type incoming socket on Jim, we had no means to run our air conditioner, and not being sensibly prepared in many ways, we also have no flyscreens on the windows. Not wishing to die of dehydration, we were forced to open the skylights overnight; we were still hot, but had the added discomfort of being bitten to pieces by a plague of mosquitos. I have now made up a cable to get 120v (via a 30a socket) or 240v (via a 50a socket) into the truck, and I hope that we won’t spend another night fattening up the local mosquito population.

Big Cypress Swamp, viewed from the flooded Gator Trail

America has done a great job of eradicating most animals at the top of the food chain during the last two hundred years, but there are still a few great predators left in the vast wildernesses. People spend a lifetime hiking in the wildernesses without seeing a bear, a puma or a wolf, but you literally can't spend 30 minutes driving through the everglades without seeing an alligator.

An Aligator in the Big Cypress Swamp area of the Everglades

As well as being the home to the first alligator sighting of our trip, the everglades were also home to our first mechanical problem of the trip. With 485,000 km on the clock, I was expecting problems, but was hoping to get a little further than we had.

Monday, 20 January 2014

Track us live

Since my last post, we've driven a fair way north and west, leaving Florida, passing through Alabama and Mississippi and settling in New Orleans. It's a great city and we've had our fair share of fun and drama on the way here, but I'll post more about that in the next day or so.

For anyone interested in tracking out progress, I've added a hyperlink under the title banner that lets you see our current position (provided the Spot tracker is on and has battery) and where we've been over the last week.

In the meantime, here's a photo of Jim getting dirty on the loop road off of the Tamiami Trail running East to West through the Big Cyprus Swamp part of the Everglades.

Monday, 6 January 2014

It's a Tough Old Life

Life is has just been too miserable recently for me to arouse the motivation to write a decent blog post. We are in Key West where it never stops raining, every face wears a frown, and the scenery is too depressing to discuss. I knew from the moment the road left the mainland that this would be an awful place

Without being too harsh to Brunswick, it’s fair to say that we were glad to leave, and that life has improved for us since heading south. Georgia certainly has some great places to visit, but spending so long living next to the interstate left us feeling the need to start moving as soon as possible.