A Winter Escape: Florida, February-March, 2022
Part 1: South through Florida to the Keys
February 14, 2022, Monday: Departing for Florida
This morning in Cleveland it is 9 degrees and we still have one and a half feet of snow. We are ready to depart for warmer weather. Driving Makani Kai, a 6-year old van turned in a few weeks ago with almost 100,000 miles on it, we set out in light snow under the cloudy sky we’ve seen for most of the last month. It feels good to be traveling again, since we have done so little of it for the last two years. The van is great, except for the worn out windshield wipers and squirters. About noon, in Parkersburg, West Virginia, we are following signs for a Wendy’s when Mike suddenly sees a Mercedes Benz dealership, the only Sprinter dealer, we learn, in the whole state. Luckily, they fix us up with new windshield wipers and one new squirter, and repair the second one. Near Bexley, we stop at the Tamarack Marketplace for a walk around the arts and crafts displays. There, we pick up take-out for dinner. At the TA Travel Center we park for the night.
February 15, 2022, Tuesday: Lunch in downtown Chattanooga
We are on the road by 6am, in time to see the full moon before it sets. It is only 18 degrees, but once the sun comes out, it warms to 60 degrees. In downtown Chattanooga, we meet my sister, her husband, and my nephew and his wife at the Old Gilman Grill for an excellent lunch. Traffic is heavy into Georgia and through Atlanta. South of Macon, we stop at a Love’s truck stop for the night.
February 16, 2022, Wednesday: Micanopy and Lakeland, Florida
At 6am, the clouds are like lumps of charcoal in a dark blue sky. About 7am, the rising sun backlights white clouds. Still heading south on I-75, just below Gainesville, we pull off to visit the historic, small town of Micanopy, settled in 1821, a place we stumbled onto a few years ago and continue to enjoy visiting. We eat lunch at The Old Florida Cafe, where the young guy at the counter recommends the Cuban sandwich with pulled pork added, not on the menu. It is delicious, with a side of beans and rice. We sit at an outside table under a huge live oak tree and enjoy the 72 degree temperature with a breeze. We walk down the street to a bakery/cafe where we have cappuccinos and pecan pie. At last, with no deadlines, we feel that we are able to slow down.
About 3:30pm, we arrive at our friends’ house in Lakeland, Florida, where we have a walk through a local park, shower, and go downtown for dinner at Harry’s Seafood Bar and Grille for good New Orleans-inspired fare. We spend the night in the camper parked at our friends’ community Clubhouse.
February 17, 2022, Thursday: Bok Tower Gardens and Arcadia, Florida
After breakfast at our friends’ house, we drive to Lake Wales and tour Bok Tower Gardens, an oasis of lush greenery, trees and flower-lined paths. The stunning 205-foot-tall Singing Tower is made of marble and sandstone, and decorated with tiles and carvings of birds and animals. We are lucky to hear a 60-bell carillon concert played from the top of the tower.
We drive south on Rt.17, and pass Bowling Green, we pull off to Paynes Creek Historic State Park. This is the site of a trading post, now gone, built in 1849 on the northern edge of the Seminole reservation, where Seminoles attacked and killed a white man and injured another. After this incident, the U.S. Army built a line of forts across the northern end of the Seminole reservation. Fort Chokonikla, built here, was the first, but it was abandoned after a year, because the troops were sickened by mosquito-borne illnesses. We walk the short path out to the empty site of the former fort.
Mike looks at a map of Florida, and since we do not need to be in Sarasota until tomorrow afternoon, we decide to explore. We continue south through fields of cattle and citrus orchards to the town of Arcadia. There is a church on every corner, it seems, and Mike is going between a few asking for permission to park in their lots. A guy sitting on his porch across the street asks what Mike needs and says that we can park in front of his house. Thanking him, we park and walk up the street to The Yellow Deli for an iced tea. Seeing their large flat parking lot, Mike asks them if we can park the night there and they give a friendly yes. When we take a gift certificate from the Deli to the guy who said we could park in front of his house, he tells us that tonight there will be karaoke at The Old Opera House up the street. We explore the town, walking past many antique shops, a large western wear shop, buildings past their prime, and the old train station that once made this town a thriving hub. We are surprised to see signs announcing the annual rodeo to be held here next month.
In the evening, we walk over to the Old Opera House, built in 1902, and, like most other buildings in town, it is in need of repair. We climb three stories of continuous steps to a small auditorium with an ornate stage. Some talented kids are singing their hearts out. Two guys sitting in front of us offer us beer and water from their cooler. They say they are hosting karaoke and other events to raise money to restore the Opera House. They tell us about the kids who are singing and the adults who perform later. We donate to the cause and, for a short time, we feel part of a sweet community.
February 18, 2022, Friday: Lunch on Longboat Key
We have coffee and avocado toast in a cute downtown bakery in Arcadia and head to the west coast. Near lunch time, we take a short walk on Longboat Key where we see three wild peacocks. We meet my great niece, a student and tennis player at IMG in Bradenton, for lunch at Shore, overlooking the bay. After lunch, we drive to the home of friends in Sarasota, where we will attend a wedding.
February 19 – 20, 2022, Saturday and Sunday: Sarasota wedding
Saturday morning we go to a downtown art show. In the evening we attend the wedding on a cattle farm northeast of Sarasota. Sunday morning, we depart our friends’ home and find the trailhead for the Legacy Trail southeast of Sarasota. We bike about 18 miles round trip on an easy trail. Driving south, we stop for a short visit with friends in Fort Myers. We take Rt. 41 (Alligator Alley) east and camp for the night at a primitive campground where the mosquitoes are so fierce, we do not go out of the camper.
February 21, 2022, Monday: Big Pine Key
We continue east on Rt. 41 and at Homestead head south on US Highway 1. We stop at the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park for a walk. Since they have no campsites available, they give us a list of private campgrounds in the area, but they are all booked, too. Mike is sure that we can simply pull off on the roadside, but we see a lot of “No overnight parking” signs. Big Pine Key Campground, where we have reservations starting Friday, luckily has a rustic spot available tonight. We pull into this huge campground, tightly packed, and find our no-services spot next to a lagoon, where a few reddish heron stalk. We walk the campground and find it friendly and clean, with lots of trees and vegetation, and views of the Atlantic Ocean on one side and the Gulf on the other.
February 22, 2022, Tuesday: More Big Pine Key
After a quiet, comfortable night, we are fortunate to be able to extend our stay here until Friday, when we will move to our ocean view site, booked months ago. Our neighbor, originally from St. Petersburg, Russia, tent camping with his girlfriend originally from Laos, helps us set up our 6’ X 6’ Clam shelter. We shop at Winn Dixie for groceries and Bealls Outlet for hats and beach towels. At dinner time, we walk the campground and stop at a site with a Sprinter 144, where a guy is starting to cook a one pot dinner of chicken curry on a single burner camp stove placed on his picnic table. It smells delicious. He is originally Pakistani and his wife is Indian from Kenya and now they live near Chicago. They invite us for a one pot dinner tomorrow night.
At the rec hall this evening, Rockin Randal, with a good voice and decent guitar playing, performs country rock, blues and pop, ranging from James Taylor to Johnny Cash. Because this is Tuesday, Feb. 22, 2022, a few women are wearing tutus over their shorts and t-shirts. Most people seem to know each other well. They sing along and the dancing gets pretty raucous. I have a momentary worry about this being a COVID superspreader event, but all the doors and windows are open and there is a stiff breeze.
February 23, 2022, Wednesday: Hiking on Big Pine Key and sharing dinner at the campground
We hike along Long Beach Rd south from the campground for about 2.5 miles one way, through Long Beach Estates, where houses, new and old and some under construction, dot the road, with the ocean on one side and the Gulf on the other. Many houses have signs saying “Private Property, No Trespassing, Keep Out.” One tie-dyed color sign says, “No trespassing by hippy turtle lovers (or anyone else)!” In the brush, we see three key deer, the small endangered deer that live only in this area.
We shop again at Winn Dixie, mainly to get a key lime pie to bring to tonight’s dinner. The first to arrive at our new friends’ campsite is a small male key deer, with eight point antlers, his head a little taller than the picnic table he is sniffing at. Another guest is a retired postal worker who has been tenting here for three months. She provides a two burner Coleman camp stove and another pot. We have wine with a crunchy Indian snack, a delicious spicy noodle dish, and key lime pie for dessert. Our host, an amateur astronomer, brings out his binoculars to help us identify the stars in this amazing dark sky.
February 24, 2022, Thursday: Big Pine Key Movie Set
On their way out of the campground, our hosts from last night stop over and we “tour” each other’s vans. Mike and I walk Long Beach Road again. Yesterday, Mike noted that one house under construction was unusual, with walls two stories high and no second floor. Today, Mike asks one of the workers if this is a new construction method. The worker laughs and explains that this is a set for a movie that will start filming here next week. We walk out to the ocean front and see the bright yellow painted facade that looks real.
Late in the day, we walk The Old Seven Mile Bridge, between Big Pine Key and Marathon, which was part of the original railway bridge through the Keys, built between 1905 and 1912 by Henry Flagler and destroyed by The Labor Day Hurricane of 1935. This walkway goes to Pigeon Key, one of the original work camps for the bridge builders, restored just last year, but we turn around before we get that far. For dinner, we stop at Lazy Day South in Marathon, recommended by a couple on the bridge, but they are booked. We make a reservation for tomorrow night and tonight luckily get into The Lighthouse at the Faro Blanco Resort. We each have simply prepared, fresh catch of the day that is delicious.
February 25, 2022, Friday: Settled in at Big Pine Key
We move to the “oceanfront campsite” where we face the US-1 Overseas Highway bridge that spans the channel between Spanish Bay of the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. Today, we bike Long Beach Drive, then drive to Bahia Honda State Park to walk the beach. We stop for a picture with the remnants of the Florida East Coast Railway in the background. We listen to a local folk band for a while.
For dinner, we go back to Marathon to Lazy Day South where we get an ocean view table. The sunset view is outstanding, but the food is mediocre. Before bed, we sit by the campground campfire and hear a young Cuban Miami guy, who has been coming to this campground since he was six years old, tell us about “free diving” here for spiny lobster (no claws) and scallops.
February 26, 2022, Saturday: Biking to No Name Key and enjoying camp steak dinner
Today we bike the path alongside the US-1 Overseas Highway toward No Name Key and find No Name Pub for lunch. Mike has forgotten his wallet and I have two $20 dollar bills tucked in my bike shirt pocket, so we figure we can share a burger, get two iced teas, and have money for a tip. While waiting for a table, we talk with a couple from Virginia, whom we invite to join us when we get a table. They both are recently retired from the US Environmental Protection Agency, so we enjoy talking about their work and the ever changing political climate for environmental work. They share a lot of tips about exploring the Keys, since they have come here many times. When our combined bill comes, they have me put down $20 and cover the rest. For dinner, we take steaks over to our friends at the original rustic campsite, where he grills them over a campfire, along with fresh asparagus. With salad, fresh bread and watermelon and cookies for dessert, it is a perfect collaborative camp dinner.
February 27, 2022, Sunday: New neighbors at the campground
This morning, Mike fries eggs on our induction cooktop, set up on our small folding table outside the van. This is the first time we have ever used the cooktop and it works great. We drive to the library to use their WiFi, but it is closed on Sunday. We stop for a Cuban sandwich for lunch. Back at the campsite, we walk Long Beach Road again and see that the movie set is progressing well.
Before dinner, we invite our neighbors at the campground over for a beer. They bring crackers and goat cheese. They are from Virginia, she is recently retired and he is still doing commercial real estate. He has been coming here to fish for years and this is her third visit. They tell us about places in the Keys where they like to eat. Getting to know neighbors is a benefit of camping that we are only recently learning and it adds to the richness of our trip.
February 28, 2022, Monday: Two week mark
We have been on this trip now for two weeks and feel settled into the relaxed life of the Keys. This morning we do laundry and after lunch take a bike ride on Long Beach Road, going back and forth twice. We dip in the pool.
March 1, 2022, Tuesday: Biking the Lower Keys
Today, we take a long bike ride, first north on the bridge that runs parallel to the US-1 Overseas Highway where bikes, walkers and fishermen and women enjoy the traffic-free road. At the end, we turn and head south. The bike trail that runs along the Overseas Highway is great, except when we come to a bridge and have to merge onto the shoulder of the highway. While the traffic whizzes by, I focus on the views of the turquoise water and deep blue sky. At Ramrod Key we turn back and stop at a Juice Bar and vegan deli for good wraps. It turns out to be an 18 mile bike ride. We drive to the Monroe County Library to use their WiFi and do some grocery shopping. Our neighbor returns from fishing excited that today he caught two fish on one cast. Tomorrow, we head to Key West and the southernmost point of the U.S.
Part 2: Key West, back up the Florida East Coast, and Sprinting Home
March 2, 2022, Wednesday: To Key West
We pack up our campsite at Big Pine Key Campground and head to Key West. At Cudjoe Key we stop for lunch at Square Grouper, where we both have the fish of the day special, yellowtail snapper, and share a piece of their excellent Key Lime Pie. This is a place to return to. We check into Boyd’s Campground on Stock Island just east of Key West. This is like moving from the country to the city. Since Boyd’s is packed with Class A’s, walking around feels like walking between skyscrapers. Our campsite, however, is among smaller RV’s and tents along the water.
March 3, 2022, Thursday: Dry Tortugas National Park
We are up early to take a taxi to the Yankee Freedom III ferry launch where at 7:30am we board a catamaran with about 200 other people for the 70-mile, 2 hour 45 minute boat ride to the Dry Tortugas. Since today’s passage will be rough, they recommend taking Dramamine. I pop the two they provide for $1.00. After an hour and a half, the waves kick up and I start to feel queasy, but do OK. Soon we see the massive, low, red brick structure that is Fort Jefferson, built during the Civil War to protect U.S. shipping and defend the Gulf of Mexico from potential enemies, and surrounded by a moat. The wooden sailing vessels of the day transported all the brick and stone needed for this structure, built by workers and slaves in the tropical heat. Water and food were scarce and many died of mosquito-borne illnesses. During the Civil War, Fort Jefferson was used as a Union prison, where the most famous prisoner was Dr. Samuel Mudd, who set the leg of John Wilkes Booth, after he shot President Lincoln, and was subsequently convicted of being a conspirator. The fort, never completed, was closed in the late 1800’s. We walk the Moat Wall and explore the two beaches. Back on the boat by 2:45pm, we arrive in Key West at 5:30pm.
Walking along posh Eaton St, we come upon the Eaton Street Fish Market, where we enjoy lobster rolls and a blackened mahi mahi sandwich. We continue to walk down Duval St., buy some chocolate, and hail a cab back to the campground.
March 4, 2022, Friday: Truman Little White House
For breakfast, we enjoy Cuban coffee and delicious chorizo, egg and cheese wraps at the Cuban food truck parked at the campground. We bike into Key West to visit the Truman Little White House, where we are lucky to arrive in time for a terrific tour. The guide portrays Truman’s time here with lots of stories of who visited and the important events that occurred here, like the creation of the Marshall Plan and NATO. We bike to Eat It Raw for an excellent lunch of fresh tuna poke and blackened yellowtail snapper. At Books & Books @ The Studios of Key West, part-owned by the author Judy Blume, I buy The Last Train To Paradise: Henry Flagler and the Spectacular Rise and Fall of the Railroad that crossed an Ocean, by Les Standiford. This was recommended by someone at the campground and by the librarian at Big Pine Key as a great story of the building of the railroad that first opened the Keys. On the bike ride back to the campground, we pass the beautiful beaches on the south side of Key West. Before dinner, sitting on the pier in front of our campsite, we share beers with our neighbor and watch the sun set. Although, at first Boyd’s Campground felt like “city life,” we have settled in here and enjoyed the setting and people.
March 5, 2022, Saturday: Back to Big Pine Key
At our final morning at Boyd’s Campground, we eat breakfast at the Cuban food truck and enjoy the story of the young chef who owns it. After dumping the tanks and filling with fresh water, we head back to Big Pine Key. We shop at Winn Dixie and head out on Key Deer Blvd to the Blue Hole, a quarry lake, where we see two alligators, several tarpon, a yellowtail snapper and an osprey. We walk farther out Key Deer Boulevard to two nature preserves and walk the looped trails, which are marked by informative signs about the freshwater holes, the flora and fauna of the area, and the history of Big Pine Key development from a naturalist’s perspective. Because of rising sea levels and the shortage of freshwater water, this area is preserved from further development.
March 6, 2022, Sunday: Laid back Sunday
Today, walking along Long Beach Road near the movie set, it looks like the production company has rented out about a dozen properties to park equipment trucks, lighting, costume, and food trailers, and 1990’s model Mercury Marquis, like undercover cop cars. Back at the campground, we swim at the pool and catch up with our friends. It feels good to be part of the Big Pine Key Campground community again
March 7, 2022, Monday: Pigeon Key
I “work out” at Water Aerobics, which is surprisingly challenging. We drive up to Old Seven Mile Bridge and walk the two miles out to Pigeon Key, where we are lucky to arrive in time for a talk and tour led by a knowledgeable volunteer. This was one of the work camps built for the men building the bridges for Henry Flagler’s Florida East Coast (FEC) Railway, the 153 mile extension from Miami to Key West, finished in 1912. We hear about Flagler, the construction methods used, and the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935 that destroyed the railroad, the same history told so well in Last Train to Paradise. Using remnants of the destroyed railroad and in some stretches building right on top of it, the Overseas Highway was completed in 1938. Now, from the new Overseas Highway, completed in the 70’s, a few of the original railroad bridges still stand, like skeletons of past days. In some places, they are restored for biking, walking and fishing piers.
In the evening, we stop over to see our friends from Virginia and they share Key LIme Pie with us.
March 8, 2022, Tuesday: Hot day at Big Pine Key
Today is the hottest day we’ve had, at 84 degrees and almost no breeze. Both Mike and I do Water Aerobics with a friendly group. Late in the morning, our friend from St. Petersburg and his girlfriend come by to say goodbye. After lunch, we walk Long Beach Road, where we find a steady breeze. The movie set is abuzz with friendly people and the street is busy with multi-passenger white vans coming and going. Later, we go to the pool where there is shade and a cool breeze. A guy there tells us that the movie being made is called Big Monkey, starring Vince Vaughn as an undercover cop.
March 9, 2022, Wednesday: Last day of enjoying Big Pine Key Campground
We do Water Aerobics again and then head out on our bikes for No Name Pub for lunch. After a good grouper “basket” we peddle to the end of No Name Key and out several short streets that end at the Gulf. Wanting to get 20 miles of biking today, we peddle out to Key Deer Blvd and once close to the Blue Hole, we turn back. We are whacked by a head wind all the way to the Overseas Highway. When we get back to the campground, we’ve done exactly 20 miles. We go to the pool to cool off and rest. Our friends from Virginia invite us to their dining tent where we enjoy beers, share snacks and relax with lots of laughs and good conversation. We are sorry to say goodbye to them.
March 10 – 14, 2022, Thursday – Monday: Ocean Reef, Key Largo
After one last Water Aerobics session, we break camp and do laundry. By noon, we are headed for Ocean Reef on Key Largo, where Mike has a weekend meeting with a Cleveland business group. We are able to park the van in a regular parking place by the marina and move into the hotel for four days. Every day we check the power in the van, which lasts the whole four day stay.
March 14, 2022, Monday: From Ocean Reef to Walmart parking lot
We depart Ocean Reef and head to Fort Lauderdale, where Mike will have another business meeting starting Sunday, so we have almost a week to explore more of the east coast of southern Florida. We have no reservations. I call the state park reservation number about any nearby Florida State Park with camping, but there is nothing for tonight. Luckily, we can get a space for Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. In Fort Lauderdale, where the traffic is brutal because of spring break, we visit friends and get groceries at Whole Foods. The only place we find for the night is the parking lot of Walmart, west of town.
March 15, 2022, Tuesday: Jonathon Dickinson State Park
After a walk through Holiday Park in downtown Fort Lauderdale and a good lunch with friends at Foxy Brown, we head north of West Palm Beach to Jonathon Dickinson State Park, a welcome oasis after the hub-bub of Fort Lauderdale. Named after a Quaker merchant, who in 1696 wrecked near Jupiter Island, a few miles northeast of here, this park looks like acres of dry, scrubby land, with low palmettos and high slash pine trees. Through it meanders the Loxahatchee River estuary, trapped between the Eastern Flatlands and the Atlantic Coastal Ridge. We are lucky to get a site at the River Campground.
March 16, 2022, Wednesday: Biking Jonathon Dickinson State Park
We bike 16 miles along smooth paths and roads, and climb the observation tower at Hobe Mountain, an ancient sand dune and the tallest natural point in South Florida at 86 feet. We can see the Atlantic Ocean, the Intercoastal Waterway and acres of this park’s austere sandy scrub land. There are miles of mountain biking trails, over sand dunes and ridges. In the afternoon, we work on our computers at the porch of the Visitor Center, waiting out a thunderstorm.
March 17, 2022, Thursday: Canoeing the Loxahatchee River
We canoe the Loxahatchee River, a brackish waterway lined with mangroves, cypress and slash pines, where we see three alligators, one little blue heron and lots of jumping fish along our 3 mile paddle. It is great to be on the river, with a cool breeze amid the lush green. We visit the Trapper Nelson Interpretive Site, where we catch a tour led by a park ranger. To us and the 20 or so people who arrive via the park pontoon boat, he explains the story of the “Wildman of the Loxahatchee,” who from the late 40’s to 1968, hunted and trapped these lands and hosted visitors at his “zoo” and camp.
Our days here have been very hot and humid. Like most of the other campers, when we are at our site, we retreat to our air conditioned van. Tonight after sundown, we walk the campground under a full moon, which illuminates the profiles of the sparse dead slash pines.
March 18, 2022, Friday: More exploring Jonathon Dickinson State Park
We start the day by walking out to where the volunteer ranger told us we would find scrubjays, a modest sized blue/gray bird, found only around here. We finally spot one at the top of a dead tree, where we learn later that it is serving as a “sentinel” for its family residing in the scrub below. On our way back to our campsite, we see two more scrubjays. We hop on the bikes and peddle all the paved and semi-paved surfaces around, for a total of 17 miles. This park attracts lots of mountain bikers, who are able to ride many miles of challenging paths over the up and down sand dunes. After lunch at the van, we join a volunteer ranger for a guided river walk, where we learn more about the natural area, the local culture and the practice of “prescribed burns” that keep the scrubland healthy. It’s another hot and humid day, so after showers, we retreat to our air-conditioned camper.
March 19, 2022, Saturday: The Henry M. Flagler Museum, The Breakers and Fort Lauderdale
Tonight, we will be back in Fort Lauderdale for another business meeting, so after dumping, we head back south. In upscale Palm Beach, we stop to visit the Henry M. Flagler Museum. Since we both finished Last Train to Paradise, we have become obsessed with Henry Flagler, who started amassing his fortune with John D. Rockefeller at Standard Oil in Cleveland. A week ago, at Ocean Reef, I passed the book on to friends from Cleveland who were heading to Key West and would be meeting us in Fort Lauderdale tonight. As we enter the Flagler Museum, coming down the grand staircase are these same friends! After reading the book, they too have become obsessed with Flagler. We tour the fabulous 100,000 square foot Gilded Age mansion, built in 1902, and in the pavilion in the back, see Railcar #91, the private railcar that Flagler took to Key West when the Florida East Coast Railway was first completed in 1912. For lunch, the four of us go to The Breakers, the luxury beachfront hotel built by Flagler in 1896, for a very expensive lunch. Tonight, we check into The Pillars in Fort Lauderdale, a block from the beach.
March 20 – 22, 2022, Sunday – Tuesday: Heading home and discovering another National Park
Mike’s meeting over, Tuesday morning we head north on I-95 to South Carolina, where looking at a hard map, I discover Congaree National Park, southeast of Columbia. In backwoods and swampy rural South Carolina, we pull into the 27,000 acre Congaree National Park. Designated a national park in 1976, it has only wilderness campgrounds. At 6PM, we park at the Visitor Center, now closed, and take a brisk walk along the 2.5 mile boardwalk through towering trees rising out of the old-growth floodplain. One bald cypress is over 130 feet tall and several loblolly pines appear nearly as tall. At one point, the boardwalk is underwater, so we have to loop back. When we get back to the camper at dusk, a Class C is parked next to us. Mike knocks on their door to ask where they are going to camp tonight and is happy to find another scofflaw who will ignore the “No Overnight Parking” sign.
March 23, 2022, Wednesday: Home
After a quiet night, we are up and out of Congaree National Park by 6:30am, well before the Visitor Center opens. By 7PM, we are pulling into our driveway in Cleveland, in a cold, blustery wind. Snow is predicted, but the crocuses are up, so spring will come soon. In the meantime, we remember almost six weeks in the warmth of Florida, moving from the west coast to eastern South Florida, with planned and unplanned routes, stops, and adventures. We learned a lot of history from reading about Henry Flagler and seeing his legacy through eastern Florida. We met kind, generous and interesting new people, who enriched our travels and became our on the road community. We visited several “Real Florida” State Parks, two National Parks, and a couple of private campgrounds in the Keys, with a bit of boondocking, all in our comfortable, nimble camper.