The last two weeks have been great. The weather has consistently been in the high 20s during the day (27-29°C) and only slightly cooler during the evening. The sky has mostly been clear, interrupted by only the occasional cloud. Any precipitation we did realize was always light and often during the evening. Often there would be a slight breeze that would provide relief from the constant 100% humidity that I have almost gotten used to.
The trip to Jolly Roger Travel Park was a short one. We travelled only about 40 miles east along the Overseas Highway to our new residence. The trip was uneventful except for the short torrential downpour we experienced. There was so much rain we almost had to stop and pull off the highway. Unfortunately there really isn’t anywhere along this highway to pull off, except if you happen to be traveling through a city, so the traffic slowed to a crawl. It was an interesting trip. We packed up and left the Sugarloaf KOA in the sun, travelled through a rainstorm and pulled into Jolly Roger, back in the sunshine.
It is a little confusing, as the Jolly Roger has a Marathon FL address (58671 Overseas Hwy, Marathon, FL). This tells you that the park is located at mile marker 58, which is located on Grassy Key. We weren’t too concerned about the confusing address, as we had previously visited the campground it wasn’t hard to find.
We checked in and quickly set up the RV in our assigned spot. It was a nice long spot right opposite the boat launch and dock. There was plenty of room to back up. It didn’t take us very long in our patio chairs to realize it would be nice to stay here another week, it was so relaxing. We only had reservations for one week; two weeks would provide a nice rest. With that I mind, I took my bicycle over to the office to see what was available. Well it turns out a site in the newer part of the park would be available for us if we wanted. Bev and I took a quick bike ride over to check it out. There was a Class A motor home occupying it but there was lots of room. It was plenty long enough to back into and was at least twice as wide as the spot we were in. We went back to the office before they closed and made arrangements to snag this spot for our second week. Well it turns out we could move to the new spot the next day. So we were on the move again, but this time, just down the road a bit.
At our new location we have to take our bikes to the dock so we can see the sunsets. These sunsets are phenomenal with the glowing orange disc sinking into the Florida Bay. There are two benches on the dock but you have to arrive early if you want a seat. Some folks bring their lawn chairs while most just sit on the dock with their legs dangling. There is quite a gathering for 7:30 with the crowds arriving as early as 7:00. Every night there has also been a minimum of three conch blowers. I guess it is some sort of tradition that they blow the conch once when the sun just touches the horizon, twice when it has half disappeared and three times when the sun is below the horizon. They are pretty good at the timing. I am not sure how they do it, as after taking a few pictures all I can see is a bright orange disc wherever I look. A deer in the headlights if you will.
On the second time I was at the dock taking sunset pictures, there was a bunch of chatter from the crowd that an 8-foot manatee had come to pay us a visit. I had set up my tripod for the sunset so I really wasn’t prepared to move and didn’t get any pictures of it. Well this creature moved from one side of the dock to just in front of the fish-cleaning table. Here someone took the water hose and provided a spray into the water. The manatee seemed to enjoy it as it would lift its head out of the water to get sprayed and then it would lift its huge tail out of the water. He/she did this for quite some time, which the crowd really enjoyed. I still didn’t get any pictures other than of the sunset.
I think I mentioned in an earlier post how the fish-cleaning table gets to be the hang out spot for the pelicans, as they wait for the fisherman to arrive. It’s no different here at Jolly Roger. We have seen fisherman throwing bits of fish into the water and the pelicans try to scoop it up. Here we got to see how persistent the pelicans could be when the head, backbone and tail of a fish were discarded. I lost count of how many times the fish changed beaks. Very interesting.
We spent an enjoyable afternoon at the Crane Point Museum & Nature Center in Marathon. It was interesting, especially since we had a guided tour, the last one of the day. All we needed to do was sit back on the golf cart and listen to the historian. It was interesting to hear how a group of concerned citizen created a non-profit organization to save a 63-acre hardwood hammock, with all its ecological and cultural treasures, from being developed into private homes and shopping malls.
On another afternoon we traveled back down US Highway 1 to Big Pine Key to visit the National Key Deer Refuge Visitor Center. Our intent was to learn a little more about these sub-species of the Virginia white-tailed deer as well as, maybe, catch a picture or two. Well it was still the middle of the hot afternoon but we got a few suggestions on where we could possibly see some wildlife from the volunteer at the visitor center. We ventured down Key Deer Blvd to Blue Hole and then on to the Watson and Mannillo Trails and stopping at the end of the road. The Blue Hole is an abandoned rock quarry that was used when the highway was built. It is full of fresh water and is sometimes a gathering place for Key Deer. Well it wasn’t that day. The site volunteer mentioned even the alligator had disappeared a few hours ago. All we could see was a large Yellow-bellied slider warming himself on the rocks. The nature trails were also a bust. As this is the winter there were no wetlands or wildlife to be seen. Everything was dried up waiting for the summer rain. I did however see a deer amongst the palms. I would never have seen it if it hadn’t moved and made the dried palm leaves rustle. He quickly vanished into the foliage before a picture could be taken. However at the end of the road we did see a doe and fawn. Boy these animals are small. The fawn was no bigger than a medium-sized dog. By the time I got the truck parked, the doe had ventured into the bush but the fawn was eagerly walking down the road. In fact the doe seemed to walk toward me as I walked around trying to get a shot set up. From here we ventured over to No Name Key, it was getting a little later in the afternoon so our chance of seeing this elusive creature may be better. Well we hit pay dirt. I was able to snap a few pictures of these small deer as they wandered down the streets of this small island. They seemed quite tame, not timid at all. It was easy to get close and get a few photos. Unfortunately they don’t take direction from the photographer very well on how to pose for the shots.
We spent another afternoon at the Dolphin Research Center. This was very interesting. They have many programs that allow the public to get to know the dolphins. You can swim and interact with them, but, of course, they want more money for that. We just hung back in the wings and watched. You should check out their website as they have a webcam going and you can see for yourself.
Today we loaded up the bicycles and took a short drive east to the Long Key Bridge. Here we parked and had a nice spin across the bridge on our bikes paying close attention to the fisher people along the path. This bridge is strictly for pedestrians and is parallel to the traffic bridge. After the three miles across and the another three back, we were pooped and ready for a cold beverage.
Tonight’s diner is going to be BBQ chicken with pasta salad. I am sure glad we picked up that bottle of wine when we were last at the grocery store. Can’t wait.
And now for the pictures.