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January 2005 Blog

Saturday, Jan 1

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Happy New Year everyone!  We mostly enjoy the day relaxing, walking on the beach, reading a good book, etc.  What a way to start the year.  Oh yeah a little work was done.  Mac took out 2 of the old batteries and installed 2 of the new ones in there place. 

 

Sunday, Jan 2

We go down to Truman Annex.  Mac had heard that it was a ďprivateĒ beach for military and families only.  Itís right next to Fort Zachary Taylor State Park.  We had a great time walking the beach, the water is too cold to go swimming.  I might go swimming when the sun is shining bright and the weather is really warm, but today isn't too nice for swimming. 

Chris enjoying the beach at Truman Annex.  Note the crowded public beach in the distance.

Sometimes military service IS rewarded :-)

Thereís a small clubhouse that is open for lunch during the week.  We spoke with the recreation center staff member on duty about all the various places we can go see in Key West.  Military and also retired military can get discount tickets for things to do and see.  There are lots of places to go see that we are looking forward too. 

After walking the beach we decide itís time for lunch.  We leave the tourist area and head back and stop in at Captain Bobís Grill Steaks and Seafood right on Hwy 1.  Mac gets the seafood platter and I decide to get the coconut shrimp.  Boy was the coconut shrimp delicious!  Iíve had coconut shrimp before at Shells but this doesnít taste anything like that.  We canít decide if itís because the coconut may be fresh or the shrimp or what but it was very good. 

We then go back to the base and go over to the marina.  Mac goes inside to find out the scoop on renting boats.  I walk over to the dock and am shocked that I can see down into the water all the way to the bottom.  This is the first time Iíve ever been able to see the bottom under the docks.  I really expected some pollution here in the dock area but itís clear.  There were lots of fish to see in the water and there were several pelicans sitting around on the docks.   

Monday, Jan 3

Back to work today since weíve not been working for the holidays.  Mac and I decide to phase in working slowly.  We get up a little before 7 and I do some searches until around 9.  Then I work on updating the blog today.  This afternoon I did some more searches and Mac has been working some too. 

It will take approximately one week for the batteries to reach their full potential.  So every day we run the generator for about a half an hour to fully top off the batteries.  While it was running today I vacuumed the carpet which I canít do on just the batteries.  Mac also worked a little more on the shelf heís building for the 2 other batteries that we have yet to install.  Daily I go for a walk on the beach, I love looking for shells, watching boats go by, looking in the water, etc.  The water hasnít been that clear here but today it was very clear.  We hear that itís because itís been so windy and the water got stirred up.  It still seems windy to me, but I love being able to see the bottom.  Iíve also started cleaning up the beach.  I wonít go so far as to live in a tree to save the owls, but I can do a small part for the environment by recycling and using solar energy when possible.  No, no Iím not some kind of liberal, just someone who is in awe of clear water when it is found. 

Update, January 14, 2005.  We've been very busy!  Today is Jan 14th and Chris is writing an update.   I've been posting additional photos to our December blog, and I plan to write some more in the Technical section about the evolution of our electric power systems (solar, inverter, batteries, charger, etc.)   Let's just say for now that I've been having fun :-)

Every day I go down to the beach and walk along looking for shells. I sometimes do this twice a day; I enjoy it so much. I pick up shells and if I donít want it I will throw it back into the water so that some hermit crab can use it for a new home. Sometimes Iíll pick up a shell and it will still have the ďcritterĒ in it. Iíll throw it back in the water too so that it can continue to live. Iím saving all the shells I like and when we are ready to leave Key West Iíll use my favorites to make a memory jar. Iíll use the sand from Truman Annex and my favorite shells of Key West and it will be better than the ones they sell in the store because it will 100% be of what we have seen and picked up ourselves. All the shells that I donít use Iíll throw back into the water so that they can be recycled by nature.

Mac has worked some every day on building the battery bank and power center in one of the storage bins under the RV and heís finally got it all finished. He will write in detail about it in the technical section.

We donít watch much TV; but there are a few shows that we enjoy watching. Of course watching the news when there is a need to know is important too. Weíve always been able to get one of the Big 3 before so we havenít needed to get any satellite TV before. Here in Key West using only our TV antenna we only get one station and itís in Spanish. We havenít watched any TV since weíve been here. There is so much to see and do that we donít really miss TV at all. But still there are times when some mindless entertainment or watching the news would be nice, so we are still debating getting a TV receiver added to our Datastorm.

Saturday, January 8

We bought a table today for outdoor use. Itís big enough that we can cook at one end of it and eat at the other end. It folds up for storage under the RV also. Now we need to get a propane stove for outside cooking and we will be set for outdoor living. Well, I did see a really cool item that I JUST HAVE TO HAVE. Our neighbor has a propane rotisserie for cooking AND I WANT ONE. They have cooked lots of stuff on it and it works great and I MUST HAVE ONE.
 

We bought this table at Home Depot.  Most of the camping tables we had looked at seemed to be too small, and too lightly constructed.  We hesitated on this one because it's heavy (about 40 pounds) and does take up some storage room.  On the plus side, it's big enough to be really useful, and seems sturdy enough to endure daily use of fulltiming vs. occasional weekend camper use.  It's about 3' wide and 6' long.  Legs fold up, then it folds in half to carry, so it's about 3 x 3 when folded.  Top is heavy white plastic.  I'll take a pic soon and post here


We have shopped at the commissary here on Sigsbee and it is small with not much of a selection. The exchange doesnít have much in the way of wine so we have been shopping off station also. There are 3 grocery stores that we have found and visited. Thereís a nice Publix, which has a good wine selection according to Mac, thereís a big Albertsonís and thereís a Winn Dixie. They are all on US 1.


Sunday, January 9

Mac and I were talking recently about wouldnít it be weird to see someone that we know during our travels around the country; well it happened today. I was standing outside of West Marine waiting for Mac and when a couple walked by and I recognized the woman as someone I had worked with in Tampa. We talked some and it was great to see her.

Then we were sitting outside our RV and a gentleman rode up on his bike to tell us that he has a Datastorm also. Mac recognized him from the TE convention he went to back in April in Las Vegas. Itís a small world isnít it.

One of the more unusual items to see in Key West is the wild chickens running around. Every where that you go you will probably see or hear one of the wild chickens. I was reading the local newspaper and found an ad for nuisance chicken or animal removal. In Tampa it would be alligator removal and in Key West itís chicken removal. I wonder whatís for dinner tonight?

Monday, January
10

We went to Truman again and watched the sun set. Isnít it pretty? I walked on the beach looking for shells and playing tag with the water. Mac was watching brown pelicans diving into the water fishing. Another beautiful day in paradise.
 

Filmstrip of 7 photos.  Sailing ships out for a sunset cruise.

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I love watching sea birds.  These brown pelicans had located a school of fish.  They circled and dove for their supper, coming up with a fish more than half the time.  While I watched they each must have eaten a dozen fish!

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A pair of brown pelicans on the hunt


Wednesday, January 12

We went to the yard sale at Trumbo. It was held for the RVers to sell any of the stuff they want to get rid off, etc. There was some really nice stuff but we didnít need any of it. We did find a solar panel like the ones we have already for sell but it was a little pricey. Later after the yard sale was over Mac offered a lower amount for the solar panel and now we have another panel to install. I think Mac said weíll 100% self sufficient when that panel is installed.

 
Yes, it was a very nice find.  A Kyocera 120 watt panel exactly like our other 2.  It's 5 years old (manufactured in Feb, 2000) but it seems to be in very good shape, and solar panels can last 20+ years if not physically damaged.  I'll have some photos in a week or two after I install it.  I was thinking about making my own mounts, but I believe I'll just order the same mounts as our others.


Thursday, January 13

In these past few weeks weíve just been enjoying the nice warm weather. But it was a little too warm and sticky today. We stayed outside in the shade a lot and tonight we ran the air conditioner to cool off the RV before we went to sleep. As they say itís not the heat itís the humidity. The humidity was around 81% today and I believe the temp was about the same so it made it a bit uncomfortable and sticky today.

Friday, January 14

Today we moved to a full hook-up site. Weíll be on this site for 2 weeks and then rotate back to dry camp. We woke up early this morning so we decided to get up and get stuff done. We worked for over 2 hours on the business side and then packed everything up for the move to our new site. We went to the car wash here on station and washed the RV and the car. We went to lunch while we were waiting for our new site to be available. After we got on our new site and hooked up it started to storm. (When you wash your car, it rains.  When you wash your motor home it STORMS donít you know). It stormed for a few hours and thereís a chance of rain for the next few days.

TRAFFIC IN KEY WEST

Every place has it's little idiosyncrasies when it comes to traffic and drivers.  Those irritating, frustrating, and sometimes dangerous things that seem to be a "cultural norm" for the area. 

In Tampa, it was running red lights.  It was an epidemic.  Sometimes 2 or 3 cars would zoom through after the light change.  It's so bad that you can't trust a green light, you need to pretend you're at a stop sign at every intersection. 

In Boston it was "lane bandits", or that's what I call them.  They're entering a very busy street from a side street, and they want to go South (turn left).  So, as soon as the Northbound lane is clear they'll pull all the way across the lane, waiting for the other lane to clear.  You come along and they're blocking your path.

Well, I've discovered an annoying quirk here in Key West.  People don't want to let you back out of a parking spot.  Imagine you're in a large parking lot, parked beside an SUV so of course you can't see who may be approaching.  You carefully and slowly start crawling out of the spot so other drivers can see you.  After taking 15 or 20 seconds to move 3 feet you hear a horn blare, and someone speeds past behind you. 

I've seen this happen three times now.  It happened to me yesterday.  I was backing out as above, and heard the HONK HONK.  Well, I stopped and blew a "HONK HONK" in reply.   The person was stopped behind my car.  I got out and went to talk with them (maybe they wanted to apologize?).  It was a woman, early 30's, and she told me, with a French accent, "stupid man, you almost cause an accident, couldn't you see me?!".  I told her no, I couldn't see her, and asked her how she expected me to do so through the body of the SUV.  I also asked her why she couldn't have been polite and let me exit the parking space.  "It's a nice space" I said, "very close to the building, wouldn't you like it"?  Apparently not, she drove away, again calling me "stupid man".  LOL

Saturday, January 15

Mac needed to go down to West Marine to crimp some cable so away we went. While he was doing that I walked across the street to a cute shop and looked around. They had cute prices too, so I didnít stay in there very long. 

After Mac was done we went to Kmart and looked around. I was looking for some small throw rugs to put around the coach. Kmart just doesnít have anything. They carry Martha Stewart junk and I canít stand that stuff. So then we went to Sears, nothing there either. Then we went to Pier One, nothing there either. In the same shopping center we saw a Ross so we decided to walk down there and see if they had anything. We were walking down and window shopping and in one of the stores I saw a woman I recognized. I had to stand there a few minutes to figure out where I knew her from. It was Kia from the Trading Spaces show on TLC. There was a young couple with her and they had on blue Trading Spaces shirts so I assume that they were doing the shopping for the show. Iíll have to tune in and catch the Key West episode. I wish we could have seen Paige also.

At Ross we found several nice throw rugs for only $7-8 each. They will wash nicely in the top loading washers. I also found a nice beach bag to carry all my stuff over with me to the bath house at shower time when we are back to dry camping. I had been using a bag I already owned but when I put every thing in the bag it was overflowing and Iíd have to carry the towel separately. We asked the cashier at Ross where the locals shopped for home items. She said, of course at Ross but she also told us of another store that we will check out soon.

After all the shopping we were hungry so we went to an early dinner. I wanted grouper so we went to the Sunset Grill here on base right down from the marina. Weíve eaten there several times and itís good food. The grouper sandwich is huge!  I eat just the fish and fries and leave the bun. We had grouper sandwich at a local restaurant and it was just pieces of grouper and cost almost $12.00. This sandwich is a large piece of grouper and cost just less than $10. Good bargain and good food. Just a note: Iím not a fish eater; but it seems that since Iíve quit smoking fish taste better, even shrimp taste better. Beef and chicken still taste the same to me though. Isnít that strange, only seafood taste different?


Sunday, January 16

Today is cloudy and windy again, we decide to go down to Duval Street and play tourist for a few hours. We drove down Duval Street until we see stores weíd like to visit and then we find parking as close to these blocks as possible.

For those who donít know me a short explanation: I have a knee that is in need of replacement. My doctor recommends putting off the surgery for as long as possible due to my young age. So I walk with the assistance of a cane and try not to walk or stand for long periods of time as suggested by the doctor. But sometimes YOU JUST GOTTAí LIVE! So we went walking and shopping on Duval Street and played tourist.

I bought a pink flamingo T-shirt that has the flamingos spelling out Key West. I also bought a really nice large bag for carrying all my stuff that has pink flamingos and other tropical stuff painted on it. Then we went to the Hard Rock so that Mac could get a T-shirt, which he collects. There was a cat named Robert sleeping on the counter. Heís a really laid back cat. We decided to not eat there today but to save it for another visit. We decide to eat at Jimmy Buffetís Margaritaville restaurant; it was pretty good food and an interesting place to visit.

We played tourist for about 3 hours and then decide to head on back. We stopped at Blockbuster and rented 2 DVDs. One was The Blue Collar Comedy Tour Rides Again. We laughed so much and in some places so hard that we cried. After watching the DVDs I decided to read some and Mac decided to play some poker online. We wound staying up till after 3 in the morning! I told Mac that I was going to call in sick but Mac told me that I should have read my employee manual regarding the companyís strict observance of federal holidays. Yea for my boss, heís a great guy!

Monday, January 17

Even though we stayed up until after 3 a.m. last night we got up early today. Some habits are hard to break. Itís another windy day but the sun is shining. This morning weíve been goofing off and reading items of interest on the internet. I found an interesting web site for identifying the sea shells that Iíve found http://www.seashells.org/seashells/seashellidentificationguide.htm.  It contains good clear pictures of sea shells along with itís scientific name and other information about the shell.

Key West Parking Lot Etiquette Update

Back on the 14th I made an observation about rude drivers speeding behind you as you attempt to back out of a parking space.  Chris reminded me about one incident we both saw a week ago where the "honker" was driving too fast for a parking lot and was going the wrong way! 

Today it happened again.  Chris was backing out of a slot at Publix (a big grocery chain here in Florida).  A small SUV in a big hurry sped by with a HONK HONK.  This time I can confirm it was a "local" (Monroe County tag).

For a place that's supposed to be friendly and laid back, some drivers here in KW sure seem to be rude and in a hurry!  What's up with that?!  Anybody know, send me an email.

Wednesday, January 19

It's really hard to concentrate on your work with such a beautiful ocean 100 feet away. :-)  We did manage to get some work done today.  We also went on a thrift store shopping trip to Summerland Key and Big Pine Key. 

Chris reads about a book a day at times.  On average 5 to 6 a week when she's going strong.  So, we look for bargain books at Salvation Army, 2nd hand bookstores, etc.  Often prices are as low as 50 cents a book.  Today we found about 10 books for Chris, and didn't pay over $1.00 each for any of them.

We worked some in the morning and then drove up Hwy 1 to some of the other Keys as mentioned by Mac. For lunch we went to a local restaurant that was recommended to us by a sales clerk. Mac ordered Conch Fritters and I ordered a Large Key West Pink Shrimp basket and we shared the food. Conch Fritters arenít that great to Mac or to me. Mac says he will try the Fried Conch next. Key West Pink Shrimp are large and very tasty. I looked up Key West Pink Shrimp on the internet and learned this: 

There are four species of commercial value shrimp in the Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic waters. Theyíre categorized by four major colors: brown shrimp, pink shrimp, white shrimp and royal red shrimp. The majority of shrimp harvested in Florida are the pink species. (Pink shrimp found along the Atlantic coast are usually brown; those found along the northern Gulf coast are often lemon-yellow; and those found in the Florida Tortugas are pink.) Pink shrimp have the ability to change their color to blend in with their surroundings. Along the Florida Keys, they turn an exotic bright pink to match their tropical habitat. The flavor of Key West Pinks is a combination of sweetness and richness.

We havenít got over the beautiful colors of the water here in the Keys. We stopped at a public boat launch to admire the water color and to watch a sail boat being launched. After we got back home we went for a walk on the beach and of course, I looked for shells.



One thing that we have noticed here in Key West is how much the locals love animals. As mentioned previously there are chickens that run around wild here. A lot of businesses have a cat or 2 around. You will also see a lot of locals take their dogs with them everywhere. Some restaurants even allow dogs in. I havenít seen that personally, but was told so by a dog owner here in the RV Park.

 

January 22:

We decided to run up to the Flea Market on another Key (Big Pine Key).  Itís not a large flea market but it is crowded. Most of the stalls have new items like t-shirts, jewelry, etc.; there were some interesting items of art also. There was one stall of RV items, small parts and such that Mac was in for a long time. There was one stall that had throws and pillows for a great price. We bought a throw for the couch and some pillows to match. (It looks great on the couch). There were many items of interest at the flea market. After we finished at the flea market we came back home. Traffic on the weekend is really heavy and slow. There is only Hwy 1 to get to any of the Keys. It is mostly a two lane highway with speed limits of 45 in most places and sometimes 55. If there is an accident or anything to block the traffic the drive can take hours. I have heard where itís blocked due to an accident for half a day. Fortunately, there were no accidents this day.

January 23:

Rainy windy day so we are staying inside. We rented the movie Dodgeball and I was very surprised. It was funny and not too stupid. Some comedy movies are just too stupid to even be funny. Dodgeball was very good.

January 25:

We run up to the Salvation Army Thrift Stores on several different Keys. We also decide to run up all the way to the one in Marathon. The Salvation Army in Marathon is small and overpriced. The books were individually priced so they were high. There were not many clothes which I was surprised to see. Usually there are tons of clothes at the Salvation Army Stores.

We went to a local restaurant for lunch. Inside was very crowded so we ate outside. A lot of restaurants have some place for outdoor eating here in the Keys. This restaurant had a patio area with tables and umbrellas set up. One thing that was odd to us was hanging from the umbrella was a clear bag of water; like the bag you get when you buy fish at the pet store. We asked our waitress what these bags were for and she said that they keep the flies away. Weíve never heard that one before, we donít know if itís a local belief or just this one restaurant. There arenít many flies in Florida. We noticed that when we moved to Florida and in our travels around Florida we have not seen a lot of flies.

January 27:

The weather is perfect today. Mid 70ís, sunshine, no clouds, just enough wind to cool a sweaty brow. Wow, another day in paradise. We very much enjoyed this day. In the afternoon we decided to run over to Truman Annex so that I could walk the beach and look for shells. There were some people in snorkeling, we walked in the water and it felt cold to us. I guess you get acclimated to the water temperature. I want to try snorkeling very much. We werenít wearing our bathing suits today so we just walked

January 28:

Moving Day! We move back over to dry camping today, our two weeks are up for full hook-ups. Weíre looking forward to dry camping since it is cheaper and we have all this solar energy. The move itself only takes a few minutes to drive down the road. Itís all the packing stuff up to move and then unpacking it again that takes up the time. Actually we were packed, moved, and set up all by 10:35. We didnít have to move off the site until 12:00. Mac installed the newest solar panel on our RV so now we have 3 solar panels. We put out all the awnings, hung up the flamingo lights, put out the table and chairs and we are all set. We were tired from all of our work today so we decided that since itís Friday we would have fish for dinner. We had Grouper sandwiches and they were huge as usual and tasted great.

January 30:

Today is supposed to be the warmest day this week so we decide to go over to Truman Annex and rent some snorkel equipment and go snorkeling. The water here at the dry camp is so smooth it looks like glass. When we got to Truman the water was really churned up, lots of seaweed, the water was cloudy with sand and you couldnít see the bottom. Itís amazing how much difference there is from one side of the island to the other. The air temperature was about 78 degrees and the water temperature was about 73 degrees. Boy did that feel refreshing!  We did manage to finally get in the water and paddle around some. The water was too churned up for snorkeling. We decided to come back home and go snorkeling here since the water was so smooth. The water was very smooth but felt colder. We did finally get into the water and did some snorkeling. Iíve never snorkeled before and WOW, it was great! I loved it. Itís amazing to see the fish in their natural habitat, to see the grass waving with the waves and to see sponges and various other sea creatures. We snorkeled around until we both couldnít stand the cold water anymore and our teeth were chattering. We decide that we will go out to the coral reefs in a few weeks when the water heats up just a little more. Weíre also going to buy our own equipment.

Weíve been grilling out just about every day and tonight we tried grilling sweet potatoes. Sliced and grilled with a little olive oil and they were very good. Weíre going to keep grilling different vegetables and see what we really love the most. We also had chicken that was marinated in Lowryís Garlic and Herbs Marinade and it was very good too. Mac says this is the best marinade that heís ever had; but then again the man loves his garlic.

Continue to February blog
 

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