Key West Road Trip
October 19 to Nov 1, 2009

Phillips Family Get Together and Roadtrip
(Favorite Photos)

Meg, David, and Tooty
On Tooty's wonderful front porch/garden in Key West

Bob & Shirley
With the shrimp David and Meg prepared

Bob and Ellen
Between their long walks and swims

David and Mom
Shrimp soon to be devoured

Meg and Bob
In front of Tooty's back garden wall

David at Smather's Beach, Key West

Shirley, David, and Tooty
With ferocious pool guard dog

Tooty's backgarden table
Where we dined

Toasting With Raw Oysters
David, Dad, hands of Meg and Tootie, appalled Shirley the photographer - at the Raw Oyster Bar

Bob & Shirley's First Tent Camping Road Trip Begins

Shirley in Fruit and Spice Park
Homestead, Fl.

Bob next to Sausage plant

Notes, Sunday, Oct 25: Our first stop of the day was in Homestead, to visit the Fruit and Spice Park. We recommend this to anyone. We saw and sampled fruits we had never heard of. Bob found a banana and other fruit lying on the grounds and ate them, which is allowed. If you visit be sure to take the guided trolley tour.

Later, as we were driving through the Big Cypress National Preserve, we stopped at a visitor center. In the ponds out front, we saw adult alligators. Not too long after that, we picked our campsite (Monument Lake Campground, not marked on any of our maps, but on the NPS website) near a quiet lake with the warning sign you see below. We saw a small alligator just a few feet off shore. When I told my sister Meg about this, her reaction: "Tourists! You do know that alligators come up out of the water at 30 miles per hour. And you camped near there?"

First place we choose to camp
Big Cypress National Preserve, Fl

We disappoint other guests by leaving in the morning
They and about a dozen others waited so patiently

Notes, Monday, Oct 26: We stumbled on the Hillsborough State campground because of road congestion on interstate. Besides the suspension bridge, there were waterfalls/rapids. Walking along river in forest Bob went back to see a squirrel making racket, then saw a large owl nearby, who took off silently through the dense canopy. This is a pretty campsite with nice showers. We went to nearby town for laundromat.

Mid-day stop at boardwalk through cypress forest
Vine reminded us of Beetlejuice monster

Shirley on suspension bridge
Our second campsite - Hillsborough River State Park, Fl

Notes, Tue/Wed, Oct 27/28: St. George Island is a spectacular campground. We arrived under "red flag" conditions, so surf roared. We immediately set up camp, then walked on beach. No one else on beach, which went for miles. Protective bathhouse built on stilts overlooked the beach, so we ate dinner there and enjoyed the winds and surf. Campsite had a few mosquitos and lots of RV's. It was so beautiful we decided to stay two nights. The RV hookup included 4 frogs (find them all below).

Next day after eating breakfast in a local restaurant (Bob had thick waffle), we climbed the St. George lighthouse. They were miffed that the Federal Government had prevent them from operating it during tourist season because it would disturb turtles, although every other lighthouse on Florida panhandle was allowed to operate. We then visited St. Joseph Peninsula, where the sands were noticably whiter. We walked on beach and Bob swam. The day was calmer "yellow flag".

We visited the library in Appalachacola and toured the local shops, also saw the shrimp boats docked at the wharf. Ate dinner at Harry A's restaurant in St. George.

The bridges from the mainland to St. Georges, and to St. Josephs, are a sight to behold. Huge and white spans climbing into the sky, each visible from the other.

Stop at Sugarmill on way to St. George
Dates back to early 1800's

Shirley on the beach at St. George island

Bob cheering as he enters surf at St. Joseph's

Find the 4 frogs.
We think the light in the box attracted insects, which attracted frogs.

Notes, Thu, Oct 29: We drove in pouring rain through Georgia and Mississippi to get to Louisiana. Rain let up when we got to Tickfaw State Park, which unabashedly describes itself as built in Tupelo Swamp - the usual alligator warnings. It was buried in the middle of nowhere, requiring us to drive on smaller and smaller roads.

We picked the driest tent campsite we could. Lots and lots of mosquitos. When we were in the tent we saw hordes of them trying to get through the netting.

The camp has a raised bathhouse and laundryroom. We met an incredibly nice guy who was formerly a film critic and had spent years on the road. We learned a lot from him as we talked late into the night in the air conditioned, mosquito proofed, laundry room. In particular, we learned about the National Park senior pass, $10 for life, which gets you into any national park, forest, or corp of engineers campground for 1/2 price, and lets you enter the parks, etc. for free.

We took no pictures of Tickfaw and were glad to leave it in the morning.

Notes, Fri, Oct 30: We drove in pouring rain through Louisiana to Hot Springs, Arkansas. We could not take the scenic route we wanted because the roads were flooded out.

Flooded city park, just before road closed sign

We stayed the first night in Hot Springs at Lake Catherine State Park, arriving at the campsite late. We saw several deer wandering around. There was an industrial complex across the lake from the campground and the noise from the nearby vending machine at the bathhouse was irritating. We decided to spend the next night at Hot Springs National Park. We took no pictures of Lake Catherine.

Notes, Saturday, Oct 31

The campground at Hot Springs National Park was the prettiest we stayed at throughout this trip. We camped just above a river where we watched that evening as a kingfisher flew up and down the river just above the surface several times.

Campsite at Hot Springs National Park

Shirley enjoying breakfast at campsite.

The weather was perfect. Clear blue skies and warm temperatures. We thoroughly enjoyed hiking in the park and walking around Hot Springs. On the trail we saw both lizards (including the nothern fence lizard shown below - thanks to Gail at the Hot Springs NPS for identifying) and a beautiful speckled snake (speckled king snake, which eats other snakes).

Along the trail to Goat Rock in Hot Springs National Park

In town we visited the Fordyce Bathhouse - now a museum run by the park service with the original equipment and furniture. The hot springs still come into it. We were flabbergasted in reading that once upon a time, people tried to cure syphillis by injecting, breathing, and being patted down with mercury.

It was Halloween, so children paraded up and down the sidewalks, collecting candy from merchants. The children were so cute. We saw a beautiful princess and her sister Wonderwoman, among others.

We walked the promenade, had gumbo for lunch, bought a National Park senior pass, filled bottles with hot spring waters (142 degrees F), went to the top of the Hot Springs tower (for half price), which gives magnificent views of the surrounding mountains.

Shirley fills jug from the hotsprings

Bob touches the 143 degree water

We went back to the campsite and watched the kingfisher. Then spoke with a couple who were down on their luck - he was a cook out of a job, they were living in their van, headed towards Kansas in hopes of finding work. They were very nice to talk with.

We went to bed that night in the nicest of all campgrounds, thankful for the weather and such a wonderful day.

At around midnight, the family from hell, perhaps let loose for Halloween, pulled into the campsite next to us. They boasted about how it was time for everyone to wake up. (Quiet hours are from 10pm until 6am). Made a fire in the grill a few feet from our tent and got it to flare up beautifully from time to time. After an hour, a little after 1 AM, we got out of our tent, took the couple of steps to theirs, and politely asked if they could wind things down. They said sure. Then continued. At 2:30 AM they decided it would be really cool to howl like coyotes as loud as they could, which they did. Around 4 AM they finally quieted down.

We got up at 6:45 AM and very, very noisily packed away our gear and left. The two boys in the tent were awakened, we are afraid.

Notes, Sunday, Nov 1

The trip back to Kansas was with beautiful weather and scenery.

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