IMG_2671_1

Key West

IMG_2657Bob and Karin, Annie’s Aunt and Uncle, were planning a vacation to the Keys before we even left on our trip. As we were trying to figure out how to stay in the keys without getting towed, it occurred to us that we might be able to park where they would be staying. So we made a casual phone call inquiring about there trip and softly placing an offer to drive them to Key West instead of renting a car. It made sense to us and we hoped it did to them as well. We really weren’t trying to hijack their vacation, truly. They thought it was a splendid idea. So we stayed in their parking space at their historic inn all week.

IMG_2647We did not want to let them down, so we spiced things up a bit as they arrived from the frigid Grand Rapids temperatures. To start we whipped up a recipe from our favorite cooking book as of late: Mushroom Risoniotto. It certainly did not let us down. We enjoyed the dish as we roared down the toll way to the only tropical piece of land in America. Once we hit the causeway, we had a second surprise: Pineapple Guava Fruit Cooler. I think we sold them on their decision at this point. At least that is what we hoped.

IMG_2650In the morning we surveyed the island for the best coffee shop with the best internet. Cafe Moka was right near where we were staying and had a wonderful assortment of french pastries that fueled us as we hunkered down and worked on our laptops. The following days this was our morning productivity slot. We arrived early every day we were there and left at lunch with coding and healthcare just a little more figured out.

Work aside we also had fun. We went snorkeling and had some great dinner experiences with Bob and Karin. One day we found a great parking spot on the beach and hoped for good wind. The wind let us down but the location was great for relaxing in the eighty degree weather.

Look here to the entire photo gallery.

_DSC1458

Miami

We emerged from the everglades with high hopes. We were about to spend some time in Miami. The pals family gladly took us in and hosted us. We took the opportunity to get some work done in coffee shops in the area, experience South Beach, and get some good Katie time in.

For some more photos check out our post here.

 

Boondocking

Everglades

We headed out to the everglades expecting little but ended up having a great time. Our big piece of advice if your ever visiting the everglades; bring or rent a canoe.

Gator Hook

Gator Hook

We spent our first night of out in the wild boondocking in the Everglades. It was a great time. There was a trailhead near where we stopped where I took some fun photos and then we made dinner and enjoyed our secluded parking spot in the middle of nowhere.

Gator Hook

Gator Hook

We had heard from lots of people that Shark Valley was the place to visit. They have a sixteen mile loop that you can bike. We arrived and felt good about not paying $44 for the tram tour and avoiding the $34 charge to rent bikes. Cheers to bringing bikes on the back of the van! Annies favorite part of this tour was finding manatees along the boardwalk. I enjoyed the 50’s moderist raised viewing walkway at the tip of the trail. Here is a quick video.

Shark Valley Gators

Shark Valley Gators

Drive to Flamingo Campground

Drive to Flamingo Campground

The next night we headed all the way to the Flamingo campground at the tip of the drivable part of the Everglades. It is a lovely drive that I would recommend to anyone. At this campground we payed our first fee for the night. A whopping $16. The night before we tried to dump our liquid grey water but found out that the pump to empty the tank decided to stop working. So we felt good about paying $16 for some solar powered showers and a slow cozy morning the next day.

Flamingo Campground Stars

Flamingo Campground Stars

Eventually we found the fuse box (which was not in the manual) and replaced the pump fuse (which was blown) and drained our tanks. This was a great relief and we then proceeded to Robert Is Here for some fresh Florida fruit.  Anyone visiting the everglades needs to try out this fruit stand, they have loads of fruit you have never even heard of.

 

The view approaching Captiva Island

Sanibel Captiva Islands

Captiva Sanibel Islands

IMG_2536

On a whim we decided to venture up to these wonderfully named islands. They evoke bahama like feeling while still be connected by bridge.  And the ride in certainly does not disappoint. The way up to the Islands we stopped on a few beaches at Fort Meyers to do some kiteboarding. A storm was moving in and the wind was great. I held my ground and was up on the water for an hour or two.

Side note, we had been looking for a Goodwill to add a few nick-nacks to our kitchen. As we were cruising on the beautiful and very slow road through Captiva, Annie spotted a store. We quickly swooped into the store and found what we needed. It was quite an unusual store. Imagine a neighborhood Goodwill in an old historic house.

IMG_2543

We hemmed and hawed through the slow road and eventually made it to the end. Upon initial inspection we did not find much more that a bunch of uninviting do-not-park-here signs. Then we stumbled upon the Mucky Duck. As it turns out Annie’s friend had recommended that we visit this place. So we got an appetizer, a drink, and a parking spot on the beach. In our parking spot we whipped up some burgers in the van while we watched the sun set over the gulf.

IMG_2544

IMG_2545

A nice parking spot on the beach