December 15-30 Florida and Georgia

Enjoyed a week Moochdocking in Marilyn and Ron’s (Greg’s parents) driveway. Ron and I both got Meta Quest Virtual Reality headsets. They are really unbelievable. We played a lot of Beat Saber and Resident Evil. Greg doesn’t like games but was able to explore so many areas of the world virtually, even outer space at the space station. I couldn’t really enjoy any of that as it made me motion sick and I would immediately have to rip off the headset.

From there we headed north to Georgia to surprise our friend Tia. She is one of Greg’s entertainer friends from the ships and will be out performing at a bar called Flashback on the 22nd. We stopped along the way at an awesome campground called Hog Island. We stayed at site #2 for 21 bucks. Practically had the whole place to ourselves. We had a nice campfire and checkout was not till 2 pm so we enjoyed a very lazy morning.

From there we drove in toward Jacksonville. The weather was crappy and cold so we were hoping to go see a movie. That was a bust as there were no theaters on the route so we stopped instead and had a nice shrimp and crawfish boil at a The Juicy Crab Restaurant. It was really good. Then we fake shopped in all the stores in that area. We drove 6 minutes down the road and decided to spend the night at the Loves Travel Center. Our original plan was to spend the night at a State Park on the beach but the weather was miserable and we would have only had an hour of daylight so that’s how we wound up at the Loves.

Next day we drove to Georgia and into even more cold weather. Tia was singing at Flashback bar and grill. We surprised her pretty good and she was so happy to see us. We had dinner there and enjoyed the show. That night we stayed in Tias driveway. Her house and her neighborhood are amazing. I always forget to take a picture of her house, it’s one of those kind of houses where a description just doesn’t do it justice. We had a nice morning reminiscing about Greg and Tias time on the ships together.

Next day we needed to head south as a brutal cold front was heading our way. We made it back to Florida just North if Daytona beach. The traffic was terrible. All the last minute shoppers were out and the roads were packed. We stayed with a few other Van Dwellers at the Loves parking lot. Had some Arbys for dinner and headed out bright and early. We needed to get further south as we woke up to 20°. So thankful for the heat in the van. I would never have gotten out of my sleeping bag if not for that heat. We drove down to the Hardrock Casino in Hollywood Florida. It warmed up to 55°. Still pretty chilly but better than where we were. Finding 72° is pretty much not gonna happen any day soon so atleast we can keep warm and hopefully win some money at the casino.

We had a nice dinner after checking out every menu of every restaurant in the casino. We decided on the Bol Asian place. It was excellent.

Woke up Christmas Day at the casino, went inside and did a little more gambling. The slots are always looser in the mornings and we managed to win our money back that we lost the night before. It was still super cold and rainy. I went to the local church here on Christmas Day at 11 am which was surprisingly empty. I think because I chose the English speaking mass and most of the other masses were either Spanish or Creole. They had a beautiful handmade nativity scene with all little handmade shepherds and lambs. It was pretty amazing. I wish I would have taken some photos.

St Stephen’s church

After Mass we decided to head to Key West. It was 10° warmer down there and we were pretty cold. Don’t get me wrong, it was still cold and walking was chilly. We parked the van in a free lot and walked all over the place.

We had a nice dinner at some Caribbean Restaurant on DuVal street. The Keylime pie was the best I have ever had.

Next day we headed out. We parked over by the water and enjoyed the scenery. There were a bunch of Shrimping boats in the distance which was pretty cool.

We decided to head over to Ernest Hemmingways house to do the tour and get out of the rain for a little while. Every other tourist in Key West had the same idea as us. It was jam packed. We decided not to do the group lead tour but instead just wandered around the house and the grounds. Ernest Hemingway apparently had a fascination with 6 toed cats. I guess he breezed them and they lived there in his house. I guess I would have more info about this if I actually participated in the guided tour.

We decided to spend another night stealth camping in Key West. This is no easy task as it is illegal to sleep in your vehicle in this town. The campgrounds are over )200 for one night and there are not sites available anyone. So Stealth camping is the only option. We have become quite good at it so don’t really worry as much as we used to about getting the “knock knock.” We found a nice spot on the street across from the Dairy Queen and headed back to Duval Street. It continued to rain all afternoon and night. We had a bite to eat at Duffys Lobster and steak House.

Woke up to another yucky, rainy cold morning but not as cold. Thankfully it’s starting to warm up and we will probably head to a campground today. We both could use a shower for sure.

So we woke up to Roosters crowing and had a nice morning at the local tea and coffee shop.

Roosters

Then we headed out of Key West in search of a shower. We went to the Bahia Honda State Park. It was full so no chance of getting a spot anywhere in southern Florida. People reserve their camp spots here 11 months ahead of time. we love making no plans but this is the downfall in spots like this. We did manage, however to park the van in the beach lot and then walk over to the campground and take showers. We are very good at blending in. It felt so good to be clean again.

After our visit at the State Park, we headed out of the keys and back to the Mainland. The traffic going into the keys was crazy. Like Friday night Hamptons traffic on Labor Day weekend. We were heading to Everglades National Park where they have 2 campgrounds. 2 very basic campgrounds with no hookups of any kind so we figured there would be lots of spots for us to choose from. Much to our surprise, the campgrounds were both full. So plan B was another night of stealth camping. Now that we were showered and clean, I was oK with a few more nights of stealth camping. Although we both are missing the freedom of being in the woods with the doors open and awning out. So we decided to head back to the Hardrock Casino just because they are camper friendly. The place was pretty crowded because Chapelle was performing. We both lost but had a good night sleep.

The light show on the guitar hotel is awesome.

Next morning the sun was FINALLY out. It has been so cloudy here that we actually lost refrigerator power for the first time. Our solar panels on the roof keep the batteries charged so that we are never without refrigeration. But after 5 days of clouds and no electric boost from a campground, it was inevitable that we would lose the fridge. It was fine though cause we connected the jackery to the fridge. The jackery is a portable battery system that we use for situations like this. It looks like the sun will be out now for weeks on end so we don’t have to worry about our solar panels and batteries anymore. Now we have to worry about the van being too hot.

We drove to the Hollywood North Beach Park, paid 10 dollars for the day and opened up the doors to air out the van and enjoy a nice day on the beach. We walked the boardwalk for 2 miles. So many restaurants and shops and really good people watching. The beaches were packed with people.

Last night we left the park and headed to the Bass Pro Shops parking lot for the night. There are 6 RVs here for the night. We had a nice fish dinner at Islamorada Fish Company.

I think I spoke too soon about the solar cause the fridge went out again last night. The problem is the winter sun never really rises high enough in the sky to give us a good dose of sunlight. Today we are going to head back to that beach park and put out our portable solar panel. That will give us an extra hundred watts to try and top off those batteries.

I forgot to mention that we got a new water jug and a battery operated water pump/faucet. It’s been so nice refilling our water bottles and jugs and washing up. We also installed the new hardware for the pantry doors. We bought super strong magnets to keep the doors closed while driving. They are so strong that I could barely open the doors. With the new handles, they are easy to open and look pretty darn chic. we also bought a new security camera which helps ease our minds when we leave the van alone to go exploring.

We did a social experiment today and left the solar panel out while we went for a bike ride on the board walk. The experiment was a success and the solar panel was here when we got back.

Poke bowls for lunch

We left the beach park at 5:30 and headed to Publix to get some dinner. They had stone crabs there. Stone crabs are Greg’s favorite. The problem with Stone Crabs is that they are ridiculously expensive. They can cost up to 75 dollars a pound and weigh a lot because the shell is super hard and thick. They had them at Publix for 35 a pound so we bought 4 small ones. To me they tasted like any other crab I’ve ever had in my life and they were super hard to get the meat out of the shell. So for me, that’s a one and done.

The casino, the stone crabs and Bass Pro shops

We also bought some fried chicken at Publix. It was really really good. We ate this feast at the Bass Pro Shops parking lot. There were way more campers tonight than there were last night. We also met a very friendly cat.

I met some lady walking her dog who recomended the Dr. Von D. Mizell-Eula Johnson State Park. This park is right across from the cruise terminal and only 6 bucks to get in. The intracoastal is on one side and the oven is on the other. It’s such a nice park. So we spent the day and got to watch 4 cruise ships going out to the ocean.

Huge ships

That night we went to Jackson’s Ice Cream Parlor which our friend Laurie recommended. It was, hands down the best icecream we ever had. The sundaes were 20 bucks each but worth every penny.

We headed back to the Bass Pro shops lot again. That place is great and everyone that stays is very respectful and leaves early in the morning before the store even opens. We noticed in this area that there are a TON of French speaking Canadians. So many van dwellers and RVers that head down here from Quebec. practically every person we speak to has a French accent.

Woke up bright and early. Don’t really have much of a choice in this Florida heat. We headed back to the state park because we say that the 6500 passenger cruise ship was in port today. Today is New Years Eve and we will probably head back to the casino for a fun night tonight.

Below is the December calendar of expenses for Diesel and for camping.

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