Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Collier Seminole to Long Key

Collier Seminole State Park, Naples FL to Long Key State Park, Long Key FL

We had an early departure at 8:30 to hopefully have a quick trip to Long Key. The distance was about 190 miles. We were traveling for the first part of the trip on the Tamiami Trail which we heard about last night. The ranger talked using old photographs he had collected from the days when the trail was built (20’s primarily) Reminded us of the stories told on building the Alcan Highway during WW II only the problems were quite different.

Yesterday was the first day I have not done the journal in the evening so I am playing “catch-up” on Monday morning sitting in our shade room looking out over the quietly lapping waves on Long Key. We are about 25 -30 feet from the surf. There are two small mangrove trees maybe 30 feet out in the sea, a small sail boat anchored off to the right, several pelicans playing around and the sun peeking up behind one of the mangrove trees. These mangrove trees will be out of the water when the tide goes out. It is 8:30 AM and the tide is high now. It is very peaceful as people are just beginning to stir in the campsites around us. This campground is long with 60 sites all along the beachfront. We have water and electricity at the site and a nice bath-house about 3 campsites down on the road side of the campground.

Now that the scene is set I continue to report on yesterday. We observed the water much higher in the canal that borders the road than it was on our trip along this road last January. There are alligators and many birds along the way. One new bird we have seen this year is the wood stork and there have been hundreds. As we came close to Miami we took a road directly south to Homestead totally missing the sprawl of the city. There were numerous nurseries and farms along this road. We stopped and purchased a few fresh fruits and veggies at one of the many road side stands. We did need to find a Wal-Mart or Target though since our mattress has sprung a leak. Ben thought he had fixed it but each night along the way it has required attention – the last one we had to add air twice during the night….not good. So as we entered Wal-Mart into the GPS as we entered Homestead and Florida City. We visited what we will dub as the “busiest Wal-Mart in the World” .We found a mattress, the few groceries we wanted and then got in line to pay. There were only 3 lanes not open on a Sunday at 11 AM – we were in line for a good 30 minutes and none of the other lanes were any faster. Two people in our line must have been buying a month’s groceries their carts were so full. One woman bought a 25 pound bag of tortilla flour! It was an interesting hour in that store.

The trip down US1 was about as expected, sunshine, turquoise water, motels, resorts, restaurants, and tourist stops that line the highway. We did notice a lot of “For Sale” signs on properties. We reached Long Key State Park about 1:30 and found our campsite #16 and ate lunch looking out over the beautiful ocean. After lunch we put up our screen room tent. The wind was strong Ben says 15 mph, but we had never put it up in any wind before…it took us a while but it got up and is really a great asset to our camp. We walked on the beach, watched people para-board, and did a good job of playing beach bum-did nothing for the afternoon. About 4 on a trip to the bathroom Jane noticed a sign that said don’t forget to change your clocks for daylight savings time! We had lost an hour!

Last year as we drove down this way Ben saw a Seafood Buffet that he vowed to eat at the next time we were here. So we traveled back about 15 miles to eat one of the most extensive seafood buffets ever. They touted 80 items and I guess that was true although I did not eat all 80! Ben had raw oysters and mussels which Jane skipped. We both worked our way through a huge pile of crab legs. Jane had peel and eat shrimp. Then we had grouper in some type lemon sauce, fried shrimp, another type fish in a mango sauce, several seafood salads, paella and the best seafood chowder I have ever eaten. They also had a stir fry section where you picked out the veggies and seafood and they prepared it with pasta for you. We skipped that. Then they had lots of desserts – we had key lime pie, a lemon-berry bar, and flan. Nothing was bad – everything was good. The place was huge and we saw them carry huge pans of crab legs out at least 3 times while we were there. The Restaurant – Whale Harbor Seafood Buffet - at Mile Post 83.5 was packed for most of the hour we were there. Great choice but – only once a year!

We drove back to camp, figured out how to unlock the gate, and hassled with changing out the new bed. It was fine but not as easy to pump us as our other one. Of course the other one was $150 and this one was $35 – I guess you get what you pay for. I expected the other one to last a lot longer than 2 years so I will hunt out all the papers when we get back home!

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