Deb’s sister’s, husband’s, niece invited us for a visit in Belleair, FL. “Oh goodie, let’s go to the beach.” Clearwater Beach sand is exceptional, and the day we visited the surf was really kicking up, “Kicking”, ha ha I sound so “Dude.” Jennifer and Victor suggested we eat at Crabby Bills. “Good idea, I have never tried stone crab.” “Orders up.” Fun day!
Fort Myers Beach, Bonita Springs Beach, Naples Beach, Clearwater Beach, Belleair Beach, Sanibel Beach, Captiva Beach, ya know I’m gonna say it right? “Life’s a Beach”. Ha ha. OK, enough horsing around, let’s hook up the trailer, motor for four hours south, and check out to “The Keys.”
I’m so naïve, I truly thought “The Keys” would provide miles of beach walking. It surprised me when Jennifer told me “The Key’s” were mostly coral, not sand. “You don’t know until you go.” I can be so naïve, Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Mexico, 125 miles of Keys connected by bridges, I truly thought there would be lots of sand. Jennifer would know, she lived on “The Keys” for years.
On “The Keys” Florida Highway 1, AKA Overseas Highway is one road in, one road out. It’s a busy road ranging from 25 MPH to 60 MPH. Forget about finding a quiet, secluded campsite. U.S. Route 1 is a major north–south highway that serves the East Coast. It runs 2,369 miles, from Key West, Florida north to Fort Kent, Maine, making it the longest north–south road in the United States.
What do we know about hurricanes, tropical storms, 20” rainfalls, storm surge, and NOAA updates; we’re from Minnesota. Hurricane Eta hit Nicaragua’s coast as a powerful Category 4 hurricane, then turned and headed towards Florida. Average wind speed of 43 mph and gusting to 71 mph were forecast for our location. One road in, one road out, how is this going to work? Our rig gets pushed about pretty good in 20 mph winds.
We decided to leave Sunshine Key, and travel north180 miles to a county campground near Lake Okeechobee. Measuring east to west, it was in the center of south Florida. There, in South Bay, Florida the max wind gusts forecast was 40 mph. We stayed in South Bay for three days. Lake Okeechobee area is mostly sugar cane and canals. South FL is kind of like the New Orleans area with a lot of canals, pump stations for water management, and air boat ride advertisements.
Twenty-four hours after we left Sunshine Key a county wide mandatory evacuation for RV’s was issued. Tropical Storm Eta had maximum wind speeds of 65 mph as it struck Lower Matecumbe Key, which is about 20 miles from Sunshine Key. Driving back, we did see downed trees, standing water, and a lot of wrack along the shoreline. No major damage.
At what wind speed does a 30’ travel trailer tip over? I wonder. Our neighbor at Sunshine Key RV Resort evacuated and parked their 40’ Tiffin (large motor coach) between two semi-trucks, kept the slide outs in, and they were uncomfortably buffeted side to side. Before we evacuated it was suggested we fill the water tank, grey water tank, and black tank to increase a lower center point of gravity. We did not do that. Tropical storm Eta was a learning experience.
It was all fun and games before Eta. Walking in the evening, sunsets, sight-seeing, swimming, bike riding, kayaking, learning about dolphins, watering manatee’s, and trying local cuisine.
Bike riding on The Keys is not that great. Bike trails are alongside the overseas highway. On one of our bike rides we did meet, and pray with Tony. Tony was walking on the bike trail with crutches. Tony had worked for 40 years catching fish for major aquariums. Due to previous injuries and then incurring a diver’s condition called, “The bends” he was paralyzed from the neck down eighteen months earlier. He was happy to be walking, and graciously received healing prayer.
Watering manatee’s is fun and relaxing. On Grassy Key we visited a Dolphin research center. Casey, one of the handlers hung out with us for about 20 minutes after her session. She was so excited about her work. I mean really, working with dolphins. How fun is that? Did you know dolphins being mammals need to drink fresh water? How much fresh water is in the ocean? Answer: not much, fresh water is acquired from the food they eat. Casey shared with us that their veterinary believes feeding water to the dolphins is the single best thing they can do for the animal’s overall health and longevity. At Sunshine Key Resort when we saw Taylor, and Kristen giving a manatee fresh water from a hose, it was clear why they were doing so.
Taylor does high end, rocket science, complex finance arrangements for large companies. He does it remotely from their travel trailer. Kristen is also getting her higher education learn on remotely. The past two years I’ve hunt, and pecked, and experimented with internet connectivity. Taylor has is down and he enlightened me with some ideas and websites. I didn’t have a thimble full of enlightenment for Taylor. Taylor and Kristen accepted prayer for his business and Kristen’s degree. That’s something.
Road Trip To Belleair
Beaches And Cuisine
Bahia Honda State Park
Sunshine Key RV Resort
Dolphin Research Center
Tropical Storm Eta (ay-ta) and South Bay RV Campground