Monthly Archives: January 2013

Hi-ho, the glamorous life

Someone recently pointed out that we share a lot of our fun adventures but not much of our daily lives.  I wouldn’t want anyone to get the idea that it’s “all fun – all the time,” so here’s my best attempt at sharing the not so glamorous side of being an intrepid explorer.

Grocery shopping:  You know how it takes forever to find what you want at a grocery store you’ve never been to before?  Imagine doing that EVERY time you go shopping.  Now imagine that you don’t recognize any of the brands.  Now imagine that you have a refrigerator the size of a footstool and you need to go grocery shopping every 2-3 days.  We spend a *ridiculous* amount of time grocery shopping.  It usually takes us two complete trips through the store, not including backtracking, before we can get to the registers.

Laundry:  Sometimes we get lucky and find decent laundry facilities, but usually we’re at a Laundromat or using the ancient machines at the campground.  The nice thing about Laundromats is that they tend to have functioning machines that are available.  The bad thing about Laundromats is that they usually broadcast Judge Judy at deafening levels.  The good thing about campground machines is that you don’t have to listen to Judge Judy.  The bad thing about campground machines is that they’re usually in use by someone else, and you never know if they’ll fully dry your clothes.  This is especially problematic in humid climates where nothing air-dries.  Of course we have days where we have no access to machines, and we wash everything by hand.  When we went swamp walking, I spend over an hour hand-washing our muddy clothes.  This was two days after hand-washing the salty clothes from our dip-netting adventure.  Fun!

The road less travelled:  In general, we try to avoid interstates freeways.  Small roads tend to be prettier, and we often stumble on interesting adventures.  Sometimes, however, the small roads look like this:

Backroads

Backroads

We spent 3 hours driving from stop light to stop light and strip-mall to strip-mall when we could have covered the same distance in an hour on the interstate.  Sigh.

Bugs:  Have I mentioned this before?  Oh, yes, more than once.  But I’m not sure I can fully express the amount of effort we expend bug-hunting.  We never know what kind of flying critters will invade our tent at each new campsite, and often we’re caught off-guard.  When this happens, we’ll spend the entire evening with magazines in hand trying to destroy the invaders.  Sometimes duck tape is the weapon of choice, but never is the battle pleasant.  The worst part is when an evil skeety sneaks in after you’re in bed and it spend the rest of the night buzzing your ear so that you can’t sleep.  And don’t forget the time spent washing the squashed bugs off the ceiling.

Maintenance:  Like any good house, our truck and trailer need regular maintenance.  We have a few tools, but when things break, we generally have to make a trip to the hardware store to kludge a repair.  Last week we spent almost 2 hours at Lowe’s trying to fix one of the bike racks.  In that time, we made 4 separate purchases and 3 separate returns.  We finally used a file and zip ties to fashion a fix.  The week before, we repaired one of the windows with duck tape and thread.

Paperwork:  I don’t know what we would do if we didn’t have online bill pay.  But even with it, paying bills is a pain.  Especially since we don’t have the regularity of direct-deposit paychecks.  I do all of our banking from the discomfort of the local McDonald’s.  This is fine for regular expenses.  But when something unexpected comes up, it’s a total pain.  We have no easy way of getting mail.  We’re often out of cell range for days at a time.  E-mail is sporadic at best.  Even our modern, digital world isn’t geared toward nomadic lifestyles.

So that’s the not-so-glamorous side of being an intrepid explorer, but wouldn’t trade the experience for anything!

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Day 182 – Swamp monsters!

Yesterday we left the Everglades and headed to it’s lesser know sister park, Big Cypress National Preserve.  Lucky for us, our campground is much less buggy than the Everglades, and we enjoyed a bug-free evening.

Today we arrived at the ranger station as they opened in the hopes of getting a spot on the Swamp Tour.  We lucked out and snagged two of the coveted spots.  Robbie opted to stay behind and do a little gator-gazing.

After donning lace-up shoes and long pants, we grabbed a hiking stick and followed the ranger into the swamp.  The “trail” starts as a muddy track that does it’s best to suck the shoes right off your feet.  Each step is an adventure, as you don’t know if your foot will sink two inches or twelve!  But soon we were fully immersed in the swamp.

Immersion learning

Immersion learning

Swamp monsters!

Swamp monsters!

We wound our way through the swamp doing our best to not trip on a submerged root and end up drenched.  Eventually we made our way to the edge of a gator hole, where a gator was busy sunning himself.  Thankfully he was only 4 feet long, so we didn’t need to worry about becoming gator food.  C really liked this carnivorous plant that floats in the swamp and produces dainty purple flowers:

Thanksfully it didn't eat her fingers

Thanksfully it didn’t eat her fingers

When we returned to the ranger station, our shoes looked like this:

What shoes?

What shoes?

After hosing ourselves off, we joined Robbie for a little gator viewing.  Over the course of the day, C counted over 200 gators!!  C took this picture of a 12 foot gator being used as a lounge chair by a smaller gator:

This looks like a comfy spot

This looks like a comfy spot

 

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Day 180 – Eaten alive in the Everglades

I really hate biting bugs.  REALLY.  HATE.  They seem to leave C alone, and thought they bite Robbie, the bite is the worst part.  I, on the other hand, get eaten alive, no matter how much bug protection I wear.  No-see-ums seem to find me particularly delicious, and their bites become phenomenally itchy.  I even had to buy hydrocortisone cream to keep me from going crazy.  Last night, something got under our sheets and went to town on my feet.  My feet itch so badly that I want to cut them off and walk around on stumps!  I will gladly take grey, rainy days over warm nights filled with no-see-ums.

Anyhoo…  Other than the bugs, we’ve had a great time in the Everglades!  When we visited Florida 4 years ago we spent a bunch of time on the prairie, so this time we camped in Flamingo (the southern tip of the park) and explored Florida Bay.

Our first day there, we tried our hands at dip-netting during a ranger-led program.  He gave us the nets, and we tromped into the ocean up to our waists to look for interesting sea critters.

Who needs swimsuits?

Who needs swimsuits?

When we found something interesting, we put it in a bucket on shore.  When we finished, the ranger explained what we found and let us touch most of it.  We learned a ton about the grasses, seaweeds, and critters that occupy Florida Bay!

C and a hermit crab

C and a hermit crab

The next day, we rented a canoe and headed out into the bay to explore.  The entire bay averages only 3-5’, so our lifejackets seemed like overkill.  Unfortunately, we were paddling against the tide and the wind, in waters that were in places only 8 inches deep.  Steering proved challenging.  But we did much better than two canoes we passed filled with novice paddlers.  Let’s just say they took the scenic route along the shore.  We eventually reached Snake Bight (bight…bite, get it?) which at low tide was absolutely teeming with birds; wading birds as far as the eye could see!  We parked ourselves as best we could in a swift current and watched them hunt and peck around in the muck for tasty morsels.  I wish Bubba and Mimi could have seen it.  This picture really doesn’t do it justice, but every little white or brown dot is a bird.

Lots o' birdies

Lots o’ birdies

We set a new family record for number of ranger programs attended in a National Park: 6 programs in 30 hours!  Boo-ya!

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Day 176 – Snorkeling in a sombrero

On their last day in the Keys, Bubba finally started feeling better, but Mimi came down with the bug.  So we left her to rest and hit the open water to do some snorkeling!  The winds were picking up, so the ride out was pretty bumpy.  C and Robbie even did a little “boat surfing.”

Surfin' the Keys

Surfin’ the Keys

But we’re intrepid explorers, and intrepid explorers do not get seasick!  We snorkeled at Sombrero Reef, a key that was long ago submerged in a hurricane.  Unlike our usual snorkeling adventures in quiet coves in Hawaii, this was out in the open ocean with 3-5’ swells.   I felt a little nervous when the swells raised us up then dropped us suddenly to within a few feet of the reef below.   I held on to C’s hand much tighter than usual.  But we saw lots of beautiful reef fish, giant corals, and a couple of barracudas.  Bubba even saw a sea turtle!  Unfortunately, I forgot to bring our awesome waterproof camera, so we have no photos of us in the water.   We snorkeled until C’s lips turned blue.  I had to laugh when Robbie, the man who practically lived on a surfboard in his younger years, climbed out of the water with a bad case of the queasies.   Thankfully, the ride back was smooth and beautiful.  C even got to drive the boat for a while!

Captain C

Captain C

We had our final dinner with Bubba and Mimi and bid them farewell.  It was so fun to have them with us for part of our journey!

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Day 174 – S is for Sea Turtle

Yesterday Mommy-o, Daddy-o, Mimi, Bubba, and I went to the sea turtle hospital.  When boaters or divers see injured turtles they report it.  Then a rescue team comes out to take the turtle to the hospital.

We did the tour of the hospital and turtle tanks. The tour started as a presentation about the five species of sea turtles that inhabit Florida, all of which are endangered.  The five species are: leatherback, loggerhead, Kemp’s ridley, green and hawksbill.  After that, we looked at the sea turtle surgery room.  There was a TV screen that showed pictures of turtles on the surgery table, and one turtle was about 6 feet long!  When we were walking to the turtle tank we passed by what is now storage, but used to be a motel.  Also, the motel pool is now used for permanent turtle residents (hee hee!).

Saying 'hi' to a patient

Saying ‘hi’ to a patient

One of the most interesting turtles had external tumors.  The tumors looked like kneaded erasers stuck on the turtle.  Another interesting one was a hatchling.  It was so tiny and cute!

This is smaller than my hand

This is smaller than my hand

I also liked looking at the one with bubble butt syndrome.  Bubble butt syndrome happens when a boat hits a turtle’s back.  A sea turtle’s lungs are right under the shell.  When the boat squeezes the turtle’s lungs, the air has to go somewhere, which is right under the back of the shell.  This makes the turtle float.  Since sea turtles eat sea grass, when they’re floating on top, they can’t get food because sea grass is on the bottom.. The turtle hospital puts weights on the turtle shell to allow the turtle to dive.  But just like we lose hair, turtles lose their shell plates.  So eventually the weights fall off.  When the weights fall off, the turtle’s just floating back on top again.  Because of this the turtle cannot be released into the wild.

Can you see the weights on it's shell?

Can you see the weights on it’s shell?

After the tour, we went over to the gift shop to see if anybody wanted anything.  I chose to do the adopt-a-turtle program.  You pay $35, but Mommy and I split the price.  Next, you choose which turtle you want to help.  The money you paid helps that turtle.

I didn’t know working hospitals could be that fun! 🙂

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