Sunday, February 26, 2012

First Week in St. Maarten

Time it usually does when you are having a blast. Our arrival in St. Maarten was uneventful but when we returned to the airport to pick up Clayton and Bryna, I turned into a sobbing mess. It was just overwhelmingly great to see them, to have someone to talk to (other than each other) and to see a couple of very close friends from "home". Any way, once we got them to the villa, the fun began, and it didn't stop for the next 7 days! Here is a synopsis of our week...

Saturday- After settling in, we went to Jimbos for dinner and had a fabulous meal and a few extra delicious Margaretta's!

Sunday- We spent a good part of the day at Baie Longue and Plum Bay swimming and playing in the surf. Dinner was at Pineapple Petes! After dinner we went to a new club in Simpson Bay called Prive and indulged in my first Hooka....awesome!

Monday- Spent the day in Phillipsburg and then had dinner at the villa.

Tuesday- This day was a mess. In the morning we found out someone had stolen the Chelmo's check card number and spent a good part of the morning contacting the bank, the store where we were sure the theft occurred and , finally, the police. In the afternoon, we went to Simpson Bay Beach and tried to relax a while. We returned home to shower and go to Grand case for the Tuesday night parade and street fair, when we discovered an entire bag of Jeff's watches were missing. We assumed they had been stolen but continued with our plans for the night. After getting home, our housekeeper called and informed us she had moved the bag/watches and hidden them "for us". Thanks.

Wednesday- Spent the afternoon in Marigot then returned to Grand Case for dinner on the beach at Calmo Cafe. We then drove back to Simpson Bay and hit up two local beach bars....The Buccaneer and La Bamba.

Thursday- Beach day at Happy Bay, dinner at the villa and Maho for some shopping and cocktails at Sky Beach.

Friday- Sailed the Bluebeard to Anguilla for the day. Dinner at Lee's.

Saturday- Bryna and I did a little more last minute shopping in Marigot and Simpson Bay. Lunch at Topper By The Sea and then we were forced to drop our buddies off at the airport. Jeff and I sat at the Marina Bar so we could see them fly overhead then had a late dinner at Skipjacks.

Today, Jeff and I tried to pretend it was really the first day of our "normal" St. Maarten vacation and spent the morning trying to convince ourselves we had just arrived! We went to Karacter Beach Bar for a Sunday morning beach drink then headed to our fav spot on Simpson Bay Beach for some sun and fun. The waves were quite huge today and with Simpson Bay being all sand (no rocks) we indulged in some great body surfing. After a nap in the sun and a corona, I headed back to the water for one more session. About 10 minutes in, I got hit by the wave of all waves and it face planted me in the sand bottom the ripped me up and over. I must have looked like a pretzel for a moment. All the while, I thought about the fact that I was now going to be a quadriplegic since I heard I big snap in my neck and excruciating pain. I managed to get to my knees (body function...yeah!) and crawl to shore. Not a great experience and really quite scary. That'll teach me!

Tonight we had a great salad at the villa and watched the sun set over Simpson Bay. A night of rest and (for me) recuperation. Tomorrow ????

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Biking,biking and more biking

The week has been dragging on slowly. We decided it wasn't worth the time or gas to go all the way to Palm Beach so we have been hanging at the campground and biking various stages of the LOST. Wednesday we actually had a really nice ride as the winds had died down and the alligators were out in full force, which we are able to see from atop the levee trail. That was a pretty fun ride.

The alligators around the campground have been enjoying the warmth as well. I saw several on the banks of the canal right by our site and we've also seen them in the big pond and the far end of the canal (which winds almost entirely around the campground). So they are all over.

Little 3 footer

This guy was about 6 feet

It's super fun to see them. We have been watching a new show called "Gator Boys" (they own a alligator farm in Homestead,FL and also do removals of "nuisance" alligators). These guys may be a little nuts but they are so good with the alligators and rarely do they even have to use force. Makes me think these little guys aren't as bad as they have a reputation for being! I just don't get why they get so many calls to remove alligators from what is thier natural habitat (ponds and canals and such). If they aren't bothering people, and they probably won't if they aren't fed by well-meaning idiots, leave them be. After all, they have been here a lot longer than us! Anyway, I am growing quite fond of the lethargic, prehistoric little fellas.
Tonight we are attending a pot-luck for the campground. Awefully nice people here and one couple is even babysitting Xena for us while we are in St. Maarten.
We are taking our laptop with us but anticipate poor, if any, internet service so there will be no posts for 2+ weeks. The day we get back, my BFF, Lucy, arrives as well. In fact we all get into Fort Lauderdale a half an hour apart. We will all return to the BP together Saturday, March 3 and then Lucy and I are going to the Keys for a few days. Jeff was invited as well but he declined saying "You need some girl-time". Pretty sweet of him, and pretty true! So until March.....

Monday, February 13, 2012

Biding Our Time

Jeff and I are in a funk! I think we are more than a little tired of running around and researching and deciding how to spend everyday. And we are anxious to get to St. Maarten and see our good buddies, Clayton and Bryna. CAN NOT WAIT!!! Kind of puts an unfair damper on the south central Florida area.
Saturday turned cool and gloomy so we headed toward Palm Beach to do a few errands. We really only made it as far as West Palm Beach but it was a very pretty area, typical in the upscale Florida way. A lot of high end cars, leopard prints and Cubans.
Sunday was extremely cold, windy and rainy so the entire day was devoted to napping! And it was lovely. I curled up on the couch and did my best Xena routine the entire day. Leftovers topped off the lazy day and the TV was on the entire evening. Yawn....
The weather improved today so although my body was telling me to have another nap day, we got out the bikes and hit the Lake Okeechobee Scenic Trail (LOST), which runs along the top of the Herbert Hoover Levee around the entire lake. Honestly, it doesn't look at all like a lake from where we started out. More like a basin or Bayou.
It was a nice paved trail for about the first 2 miles then turned to gravel. After a few more miles we got the pavement back but were "busted" buy a construction company security for riding in a construction zone. Presumably there was a sign down trail that pronounced it "closed". Well, there was no sign. But we were made to exit the trail and take the 12 inch shoulder on the nearby state highway. After a few miles of that scary business, Jeff and I sneaked back to the bike trail for the remainder of the trip home.

About the only crop in this area, and the only real interesting thing is sugar cane. In fact, this county grows about 70% of the countries sugar cane, due to the weather and the Everglades soil. All around us, during our ride, were burning fields of sugar cane. I later found out that before harvesting the cane, they burn the field to remove any leaves, blooms, weeds, etc. This makes cutting the cane possible. There are sugar mills in South Bay and Clewiston. The use almost every part of the plant...the liquid for sugar and the remains of the plant for fueling the processing. The fires are brief, lasting only 15 minutes and burning 40 acres but they were popping up all around us. And because there was some wind left, there was ash and smoke in abundance.

After we got home I confess...I took another nap! Then I made us a good chicken dinner. Tomorrow we will try the trail going the other way, if the whether cooperates! If not, it may be pedicure day. I have been jonesing for a pedi since Mesa....gotta get pretty toes for St. Maarten!

Our Campground

Friday, February 10, 2012

From the Shore to the Lake

Lake Okeechobee, that is. The second largest fresh water lake in the U.S. We arrived today and after a small snafu regarding our spot (we had been assigned a 30 amp spot and wanted a 50 amp spot) we got settled in a very nice, large, cement padded (50 amp) spot that is just over the levee from the giant lake. Two unfortunate things about this otherwise lovely park....bugs and road noise. We are adjacent to the highway and the truck noise is awful (we were warned). The bugs were a surprise but I guess it's to be expected away from the gulf shore and near fresh water breeding grounds! We'll survive, after all, we're use to bugs in Minnesota.

We had spent yesterday driving down to Fort Meyers area. First thing we did was drive over to Captiva Island. I kind of figured this "shelling capital" would be busy, touristy, and expensive but I underestimated all three. First off, a $6 charge just to drive onto the island (Clearwater was free, Fort De Soto $ 0.50 and Gasparilla $2!) Then the traffic....bumper to bumper almost the entire island. Then you pay to park at a beach, another $2/hr. Etc,Etc... We took a walk on the beach and split. Frankly, I have more shells than I need and the shops and restaurants crowded with tourists held little appeal to me. The beach wasn't even as nice as the ones we had been on farther north and even the water wasn't as pretty. Just a lot of people doing the "Sanibel Stoop" ( picking).

We returned to the mainland and headed toward Fort Meyers Beach. Just prior to crossing the bridge (free!) we stopped for lunch at the Nauti Turtle. Very nice marina-side bar/restaurant. We enjoyed a sandwich and beer and the great view of the marina.
After lunch we went over to Fort Meyers Beach. After snaking through the town traffic jam, we found a parking spot just a block from where we were to meet up with some new friends we had met in Aransas Pass, Texas. Teresa and Bill are also new to full-timing and are currently staying in Bonita Springs so it was the perfect opportunity to meet up and enjoy their company again. Their friends, Stacy and Dan, were also along so we had the added bonus of two new friends!  But we still had a few hours to kill before our date so we walked along the main street and down to the beach. This area is by far the worst beach town we have seen so far. Dirty, crappy surf shops and a bunch of run-down bars beach-side full of some real low-lifes. The entire "tour" took about 1/2 hour so we settled on buying Jeff a cigar and then finding a spot near the beach to relax until it was time to meet Bill and Teresa.
Finally it was time to head to SOB (Smokin' Oyster Brewery) and it was a great relief to find our friends and also a great bar/restaurant that they had chosen to meet us at. We had "taken" to these two at first sight and, again, it was just a blast of an evening. Stacy and Dan were equally wonderful and extremely entertaining. It's always nice to talk to people that understand the RV lifestyle, good and bad. But it was also nice just to talk and laugh about things completely NON-RV related for a change!

Dan,Stacy,Teresa,Jeff,Lisa and Bill!
After some beers and laughs at SOB we headed to Nervous Nellies for a late dinner. Another great pick by Stacy, we were able to sit out on the upper level deck and enjoy the beautiful night air. Jeff and I had about a 45 minute drive home so after dinner we headed back to the BP.
We will be spending the next week (re)packing and preparing for St. Maarten, trying to find a "babysitter" for Xena, and exploring the 120 mile bike trail that circles Lake Okeechobee on top of the levee.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Beautiful Florida

Today we drove the 30 miles to Gasparilla Island. This island was named for the Spanish pirate, Jose Gaspar and all over Florida, towns have celebrations but there is only one Gasparilla Island, which includes Gasparilla State Park. We took our bikes and were super pleased to see a "privately owned and maintained" bike trail which ran the length of the island. So we went to the very end (about 8 miles), parked at the state park headquarters and set out for about a 12 mile ride in 80+ degrees and searing humidity. Jeff was more than a little uncomfortable but the ride was flat and easy so it went pretty fast.

We took a run through one of the neighborhoods that was not gated and saw dozens of the cutest tortoises. A women walking stopped and told us a bit about the endangered Gopher Tortoise. He is the Florida State Tortoise and he digs big holes in the ground for his den and for Mama Tortoises eggs.
He looks grumpy but we weren't really bothering him too much. Pretty soon he crossed the road, presumably to go find his girlfriend for a little mating! On the way back to the starting point we stopped at a few beaches. Great shelling all over this island. The water gets bluer and clearer with every mile south we go and this water was stunning.

It's just so sad that the residents of this island (and there are plenty, and they are old) have to live in such poverty (sarcasm) and despicable environment (sarcasm) with such horrible weather to boot (more sarcasm). We saw a few houses for sale, one lot with a price reduction listed on the sign ($395,000...yes, just for a lot. And this was not even on the water).

Must be rough is all I have to say. They tool around in their golf carts, talking on their cell phones. And then there was the 16 year old we saw driving his spankin new Mercedes -Benz. Wow.
We arrived back at the trail head and shed our tennies in favor of flip-flops for a long beach walk. Lots of birds... Pelicans, gulls, egrets and osprey.

Old pilings lined with Pelicans

I managed to pick up another bag full of pretty shells and we both managed to get a little more tan. We have 11 days til St. Maarten so we need to either get that base naturally or resort to the tanning bed and that, frankly, would just be wrong. When we have had so much natural, free sunshine to indulge in....
Life is good