Monday, March 28, 2005

05-30 Coast Guard Station, Marathon Florida

Sun and Fun, Sarasota Fl
Camp Mars, Venus Fl
Coast Guard Station, Marathon Fl

Week 30,31,32,33 of 52
Nov 1--30

Not all those who wander are lost. Wandering through Florida, I’m reminded of my dreams years ago. I used to dream that I could live in Florida and go to the beach anytime I wanted to. I used to dream about living on an island, with palm trees next to a sandy beach and the turquoise blue green waters and sun every day.

After attending the RRV rally, which pretty much involved eating and chatting around each others campers. Along with an RV crawl which was fun. It was a way to see other RVs that are being lived in and what works and what doesn’t. I was a bit surprised that there were no organized trips to see the great attractions around Sarasota. But I guess if you only have 3-4 days, many folks would rather just veg out.

My week at Camp Mars was pretty much unplanned as I had planned to be in Ft Lauderdale. But due to hurricane Wilma, my trip to the keys was delayed a week and the campground in Ft Lauderdale has been overtaken by FEMA workers for a year.

This is where being a full timer, one sometimes has to adjust the schedule. A week later in the keys, stay only two weeks instead of 4 and skip Ft Lauderdale completely.

Camp Mars is very quiet during the week and it’s about 20 miles to the nearest town. A good time to catch up on reading, sunning and swimming in the heated pool and taking those all important afternoon siestas. Except for the sunset party on Saturday, there’s not much going on even on the weekends. That is unless your ready to start partying around 10 at night.

Florida Keys. Getting back to my dreams of years gone by. I have the warmest feeling now that I’m actually living my dreams fulltime. Oh I’ve been going to the keys for years and gone to the beach pretending to be a beach bum. But now I really am living those dreams full time and it feels so right. So much to be thankful for.

Driving the overseas highway, Islamorada, Torch key, Marathon, Pine Key, Ram Rod Key and of course Key West. Driving over the concrete ribbons surrounded by those incredibly blue waters that change from aqua to azure, to green to deep dark blues that are almost black. Palm laden Islands far off, dotting the horizon. Boats drifting with the lazy tides. Lobster buoys bobbing in the gentle waves. Ocean and Gulf touching the sky on either side of the ribbon of highway. Sun setting over water.

Following those dreams. Never giving up on them. Doing what it took to finally get there. Striving. College. Work. Saving. Climbing that corporate ladder. Making the right choices most of the time. Trying not to hurt anyone along the way. Sharing the path with those who wanted to get there too. Trying not to tell others how to live their lives. We all have our own paths to follow. That’s not always easy.

The sun set tonight on my new campsite at the Coastguard Station in Marathon Fl. My home is in the keys for a few weeks. The air is warm and fresh and a bit salty. The night is filled with stars and a full moon. My home. The keys.

Hurricane Wilma. I rode my bike around today as I do most days. Much of the debris along the overseas highway is being cleared away. But so much more has to be removed. You don’t notice it at first. Then you realize, many of the homes and hotels along the keys are not livable. Many of the trees and shrubs are brown from the salt water. But overall the palm trees are green and so is much of the other greenery that‘s salt tolerant.

I’m at the Marathon Coastguard Station where they had over ¼ million dollars of damage in private and Gov owned vehicles alone. The water surge, reaching anywhere from a couple feet to almost 10ft, actually occurred after the hurricane had exited Florida on the east coast! Many were caught off guard, thinking the hurricane had gone. The rising water lasted over 3 hours before receding back into the ocean and Florida bay. The amount of furniture and appliances alone that have to be replaced is beyond comprehension. Most everyone who had car insurance is now driving a new car in the keys.

Now they are starting to have electrical fires, now that the power is back on. They expect many more places to burn down, once the saltwater completes destroying the electrical wires in homes and businesses.

Of course it’s the older structures. The history of the keys that’s being lost. And the people. Those who were living on a shoe string will be forced out. Unable to rebuild or even rent a place.

I rode my bike out onto Boot Key. It’s in the heart of Marathon, over a bridge, past all the boats along the channel. And then you’ve left behind everything. There are no houses. Only a lonely road, half overgrown with Australian pines, mangroves and scrub trees. The smell of brackish saltwater and the sound of bike tires crunching across years old craggily asphalt with a faded yellow line running down the middle. The road leads nowhere and is only used by joggers and bike riders.

Thanksgiving will be celebrated here with many residences in hotels and motels along the way. Waiting to get there homes back to a livable condition. My friend Eric has opened up his Tropical Cottages to many who had to move out of their homes due to the water damage. His cottages were flooded, but easier to get back to a livable condition than many of the homes in the area.

Thanksgiving Day. Wow. The skies are blue, the sun is out and it’s a warm day. What better way to spend Thanksgiving than in the keys. Swinging in a hammock. Drinks on the patio. A full thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings. Including pasta dishes, salads with fresh fruit and desert to finish it all off. Meeting so many island people. Tony, a retired iron worker who worked on many of the high-rises in New York, including the Twin Towers. He’s a 100% American Indian from Upstate New York. Absorbing the life style of the keys.

Of course I miss my buddies at Silver River State park, where where I had Thanksgiving last year. I've been camping over the past couple of year but arriving in the Keys is more than camping, it's just something you just have to do, the islands, it's a lifestyle . Hoping you had a great Thanksgiving. I did.

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