Tango’s Maiden Voyage

two kayaks
Our kayaks Mango and Tango. This is Tango’s maiden voyage. It shouldn’t be hard to figure out which one is which by the names.

At the end of August, Regis and I purchased 2 kayaks.  Since my kayak had to be ordered, the outfitter loaned us a kayak until it came in.  We kayaked in North Carolina and a couple times in Florida before my kayak came in the day before our trip to Maryland.  Yesterday, we were able to take my new kayak, that I christened Tango, on her maiden voyage.  Regis’ kayak is Mango.

We paddled on the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) and entered from a ramp on the east side.  It gave us a good view of some of the damage to the houses, businesses, and docks from Hurricane Matthew.  We saw the workers at one of our favorite waterfront restaurants.  We look forward to the businesses getting back up and running.

As we got further north, we paddled through the marshes.  I kept losing Regis and want to get him a flag for his kayak so I can see it above the marsh grasses.  I thought we were going to get lost back there and wind up having to spend the night.

We crossed the ICW after exiting the marsh grasses and came upon a two-seater piece of furniture sitting nicely on a bar of oyster shells.  We wondered if it floated there and someone placed it strategically in the spot.  It was too perfectly situated to have been random.  Perhaps on a future trip we’ll bring a cooler of beverages, pull our kayaks up on the oyster bar, sit on the settee and watch the yachts head south on the ICW for the winter.

We learned a valuable lesson about the current and tides.  We started off heading north thinking that would be the hardest part of the trip and heading back would put us with the wind and current on our side.  That did not turn out to be the case and I was exhausted by the time we got the kayak to the ramp.  I could barely lift it by then.  It was a fight against the current to get back.  But, it was good exercise for me and it was a beautiful day.  (I kept hearing my former personal trainer’s voice in my head egging me on!)

Last evening, I introduced Dart to my friend’s dog Chaco.  My friend lives on the beach, so we had the dogs meet on the beach on neutral territory.  Dart was smitten.  He adores Chaco.  Walking that part of the beach was sad.  There is so much garbage and pieces of people’s lives still strewn all over the beach.  It is dangerous to go in the water because there are boards and other items that can wound you or entangle you.  Many of the boards are large and have nails sticking out.  I think it will be a long time before everything gets cleaned up.

In my last post, I mentioned how much Dart likes to chase bicyclists when we are on our walks.  Most of the bicyclists know him.  On our walk this morning, as I saw two cyclists heading our way, I started my bribery overtures with Dart.  I used pieces of cheese to try to get him behave.  It worked!  As the cyclists passed us and realized Dart didn’t lunge or bark at them, one of them yelled “good dog”.

 

Living With Dart Part 1

Dog
Dart. His right eye has a little bit of blue in it. It is a brown and blue eye.

After we got back from the Keys, we headed to Maryland to visit family and friends.  Our timing couldn’t have been better.  Hurricane Matthew came up the east coast while we were in Maryland and battered St. Augustine, Florida, where we now live.  We were fortunate and our house was fine.  Others in St. Augustine were not so lucky and lost their homes or experienced significant damage.  As we came back home, we had to take a long detour in North Carolina because of the significant flooding.

We are enjoying being back home and plan to spend some time kayaking and looking for some of the birds that are beginning to arrive and pass through Florida.  We probably won’t hit the road again until January, so I thought I would take a few posts to share what it is like living with Dart.  It may give some insight into what it is like to travel with him.

I will start by describing a typical day at home.  When I wake up in the morning, I brush my teeth before I let Dart out.  He begins to whine and yip as I finish brushing my teeth because he is excited about going out.  He will not go out if Regis tries to let him out.  He waits for me.  I believe he does that because he knows that I am going to toss his flying disc for him.  He can think of nothing else once the day gets started.  I have to throw it even if it is still dark outside.  I may not be able to see where the disc is, but I can almost always hear him catch it.  He must have great night vision.  He almost never misses.

After about the third or fourth throw, Dart will drop the disc so he can pee.  If we are very fortunate, he will not pee on his disc during this process.  He will catch the disc a few more times and then poop.  Since this requires more moving around, this is when the disc is most likely to get soiled.  Usually, we make it through this okay but sometimes his disc must make a round through the laundry.  Then, we have to get a backup disc to finish playing.  Dart prefers old, grungy backup discs over new ones.

Once he has had his fill, I bring Dart in to feed him.  He waits patiently while I mix his protein, vegetables, and vitamins together.  Last January, Dart began to vomit whenever I fed him commercial dog food.  Therefore, I started making his food for him.  I use Dr. Karen Becker’s book “Real Food for Healthy Dogs & Cats” for guidance to make sure all his nutrition requirements are met.  I have no problems with him when I make his food and he is very healthy.  He has hardly any fat on him.  As a bonus, his poops are significantly smaller.  He loves his food and eats it all.  For those of you who read my blog posts last year, you may remember me saying I was going to feed the dogs money because they poop more than they eat.  This is no longer true!

Then, I get to eat and Regis makes me a cappuccino.  (That’s one reason why he’s a keeper.  He makes a GREAT cappuccino.)  I read the Washington Post and then get up to go to the bathroom.  Dart stands outside the bathroom door and starts yipping and whining.  Why?  Because he knows the next move is to go for a walk.  I come out, put my shoes on, get some treats, put on his leash, and  head out the door.  The treats are used to try to bribe him to behave.

Dart spends the first block jumping up and grabbing the leash in his mouth.  I don’t know why he does this every time and why it only lasts a short while.  As we walk, I try to avoid all people and dogs.  Dart has leash anxiety.  He is fine meeting a dog when he is not on a leash, but he is obviously uncomfortable when restrained.  He barks and sometimes growls.  Fortunately, most people in our neighborhood walking dogs avoid each other.  It’s funny how everyone does this.

I have been using the treats to try to get Dart’s mind off whatever has him riled up.  It’s working somewhat, but walking Dart is not a relaxing experience.  He also wants to chase trucks, buses, joggers, and bicyclists.  Florida has nice weather.  There are lots of dog walkers, joggers, and bicyclists.  For the most part, I am managing to get him through a neighborhood walk without too much trauma but walking in a campground is much more difficult.  I will sometimes look for a local dog park when possible so I can get him off leash when meeting with other dogs.

Dart spends all day keeping a close eye on Regis and me to see if there is any possibility we are going to throw his disc or his ball for him.  I have thrown his ball for him 500 times in one round and he shows no sign of wanting to stop.  The point of throwing the ball is to give Dart an opportunity to leap and catch it.  He will run and chase it but what he wants to do is catch it.  Most dogs seem to enjoy sleeping during the day but Dart is not one of them.  If he sleeps, he does so very lightly so that if we make any move, he is up on his feet hoping that we are going to play with him.  Sometimes, it is nerve wracking.  (As I type this,  all of Dart’s accessible discs and balls are laying within 10 feet of me and he lying here patiently waiting for me to finish this and play with him.)

Dart also gets fed dinner in the evening and then we eat.  Afterwards, we go on our evening walk.  Evenings can be more difficult because the kids are out playing and we have to try very hard to avoid them.  Lately, we have had some added obstacles.  Halloween is coming and lots of houses have decorations up like spiders and other assorted items in the yard.  Dart does not like these things.  He barks furiously at them.  He is convinced they are real and pose an imminent danger.  In our last house, we never had a tricker treater because we lived in a rural area.  We will have them this year.  I’m not looking forward to handling Dart with children in costumes knocking on our door.  He is wary of children any way and having them dressed up and at our front door will be more than he can handle.  We are going to have to come up with a plan to keep him calm.

 

Puppy leaping off deck
I knew I had the right dog for agility when I caught Dart leaping off the deck. He survived. I realized that I had my hands full with this guy.
Dog catching a flying disk
Dart is very, very good at catching discs. Now that he is six, he is slowing down a bit and doesn’t jump as high. He was awesome in his younger days.

 

Seacamp

Regis already posted about our most current adventure in the Florida Keys and I’m following up with some additional information.  I went paddle boarding Friday morning and it is astonishing how clear the water is.  I never knew the water was so shallow directly around the keys.  It was lovely and I would like to have stayed out longer but only rented the board for an hour and a half.

Woman paddleboarding in the keys
Linda paddle boarding in the Florida Keys. The campground is in the background. The blue roof on the right is the Pub. It turns out the water was so shallow, I didn’t need to wear the personal flotation device.
Tiki bar
Enjoying the pub in the campground.
Sign that says If It's in stock we've got it
Sign at the local hardware store. One of our favorites.

I attended a Seacamp on Big Pine Key from last Friday through Sunday.  It was a great experience.  I walked through sea grass beds to see the wildlife, went snorkeling on the reef, and walked through the mangroves.  I dissected a fish, entered the plankton races, and played shark jeopardy.  The snorkeling was my favorite.  I saw more varieties of fish in that few hours than all the fish I have seen all my life and I grew up by the Chesapeake Bay and fished a lot.  I did not bring a camera to the reef.

Barracuda
Barracuda
Parrot Fish
Parrot Fish
Fish
Too many fish to learn. I don’t know what these guys are.
Key Deer
Key Deer

 

We are already planning our next excursion to the Keys.  We think we will go for 1-2 weeks and see if we can find someone to stay in our house and watch Dart.  The activities in the Keys are not on his favorite list of things to do.  Although, he does like the iguanas.  I’m pretty sure he thinks they are funny looking squirrels.

We thought the rain and thunderstorms were particularly amazing.  They don’t last long, but they can be wicked.  The lightning show is awesome.  As long as you are watching a great lightning storm off in the distance, it is nice to watch.  I am not comfortable when the flashes and bangs are happening on top of me.

Regis took this video of fish in the sea grass beds.  I think most of the fish in the video are Mangrove Snappers.

Conch Republic, well close

Well we are at it again. Landrtravels is on the move. Linda signed up for a “class” through the Florida master naturalist program. Some class room stuff, lots of lab stuff, which I have to say is outdoor lab stuff and in the keys it seems like any outdoor active is going to be wet. We’ll see about the class stuff later after Linda is done and reports on it.

The plan was we pack up the RV and get to the keys a day before the class and look around. CHECK done that, Pictures and text below. While Linda is in class, Friday night through Sunday afternoon (room and board) Me (regis) and Dart, from the RV base, will go around the lower keys and scope out the RV camps. The goal being to come back maybe January/February with kayaks and snorkel gear. High on the priority list is good water access. Wait a minute, Kayaks and snorkel gear?

Yes. We got a couple of yaks and dive masks and fins and snorkels and roof racks etc. It all stems from the Master Naturalist classes. (these classes are more expensive then they appear) You see, for one of the classes the field trip was a kayak paddle on the ST. Johns River. Now Linda and I have paddled several different yaks and were not impressed at all. BUT, Linda said the yaks used on her field trip were “very nice”. She gave such high praise I had to check them out. Turns out there is an outfitter near Jacksonville that carries the very same model AND the outfitter happens to be located on a spring fed lake AND demos yaks and SUPS right out back on the lake! Well, we go there, they pull down the demo and off I go on the lake. For me it has been my knees and ankles that don’t agree the the kayaks, but for whatever reason as soon as I sat in this one I knew it was right. (love at first sit?) I did paddle up and down the lake but quite frankly it felt good from the start. We left with the vague ‘we’ll think about it’. Two days later we get a marketing post card “clearance sale” from the outfitter! Great timing, we’ll take two please!

Oh and the snorkel gear? A big part of Linda’s class here in the keys is to be IN the water. She could have rented the gear but after thinking about it, do you really want to rent something that has been in someone else’s mouth? ‘Nuff said!

Ok, I think I can hear it all the way down here. “where are the pictures?” Well I haven’t talked about anything that needed pics yet!

Route 1 sign
First one

 

Driving down through the keys bring us to another part of the country that is absolutely fabulous! The pacific north west with rain forest and volcanos and high desert, the south west with desert and canyons and buttes, and now the south east, just 1 minute of latitude from the tropic of cancer! And you can DRIVE here!

Now, when you close your eyes and imagine the tropics, what to you see?

Coconut palm trees?  Check

coconuts
coconuts

Exotic animals?   Check!

Lizard
3-4 feet long!

Sharks in the water?  Check!

 

nurse shark
nurse shark

 

Tiki bar?   Oops closed for season…. Well it not quite the tropics, is it?

Tiki bar
Tiki Bar

While my idea of the keys was of islands connected by long bridges, it is not so. Most bridges are very short. Now the land that they connect to may be very narrow, with water not 20 feet on either side of the road and just 2-5 feet lower the the road surface, but dry land none the less. Truly amazing to drive down through here.

If Seattle is to coffee shops on every corner, then the keys are to some sort of water sport every ten feet! Rent a boat, sup, kayak. Marine store, bait shop, ICE, BEER. Dive shop on every corner, not quite but still lots. There was one SKY dive sign, seemed out of place.

One more thing to note. As you might imagine it is very flat here. Our camp site is just 3 feet above sea level (if that). I think the keys are no more than ten feet above sea level. (Linda may correct me) This afternoon a thunder storm came through. It poured about an hour, maybe an inch of rain. But being so flat the rain doesn’t have anywhere to go.  4 hours later and there are still large, very large, PUDDLES, 3 inches deep, draining VERY slowly.

Sea Turtles

I have had the opportunity to accompany the Turtle Patrol recently on a patrol and several nest digs.  I plan to volunteer for Turtle Patrol next nesting season.  Anyway, 72 hours after signs that the nestlings have hatched and headed to sea, the nest is dug up.  The eggs are counted – how many hatched, how many didn’t.  Often, there are live turtles still in the nest who were unable to break through the hard packed sand.  This is often a problem on beaches with sea walls or beaches that allow vehicles on the beach.  Turtle patrol digs these little guys and gals out of the nest and releases them on the beach.

Following is a video of one little turtle attempting to head to sea and thrive.  I hope she is successful.  The turtle is most likely a she because sex is determined by the temperature, hot temperatures result in females, and it has been hot.

I know I’m not the only one who was THRILLED to watch these turtles begin their journey. On the first dig we witnessed, it was raining hard.  Nevertheless, a woman brought her two young children out to watch the turtle release.  The children were thrilled and were interested in the turtles.  They didn’t care about the rain.  Turtle patrol told the little girl they would name one of the turtles after her and some day it would return to this beach to lay eggs.  That little girl was as happy as could be and I wouldn’t be surprised if she wound up as a biologist someday.  I feel comfortable the future is in good hands when I see children like her.

Home in St. Augustine

We made it home.  We covered many miles (8,315 in the motor home) and saw lots of this beautiful country.  It was a great experience and it opened my eyes to many things about our country.  Nevertheless, it was good to be back home.

When we arrived back home, Dart spinned and barked and barked and spinned. I wasn’t sure if he would be as happy to return here as our house last year.  Yes, he was happy to be home here.  He wanted to play with his disc first thing.  It was 95 degrees and very humid but Dart was exuberant.  We played until his tongue was dragging on the ground.  At that point, he laid down at the front door and watched us empty the RV.  Yuk!  It was 112 degrees inside the RV while we worked to empty it.  I must have lost 3 pounds in water in the process.

Anyway, we finished and relaxed a bit and then headed to the ocean.  I couldn’t wait until tomorrow.  We ate dinner in a restaurant on the ocean and then watched the sunset.  St. Augustine is beautiful and this is a great home base.

Regis' feet and the Atlantic Ocean
Regis’ feet and the Atlantic Ocean
Linda's feet in the Atlantic Ocean
Linda’s feet in the Atlantic Ocean
Atlantic Ocean
Atlantic Ocean
Atlantic Ocean
Atlantic Ocean
Sunset in St. Augustine, Florida
Sunset in St. Augustine, Florida
Sunset in St. Augustine, Florida
Sunset in St. Augustine, Florida
Sailing vessel in ocean inlet
St. Augustine, Florida

Now that we are home, I want to share some thoughts about our observations on our trip.  First, I love water.  Therefore, I loved Puget Sound and was never quite the same on our way back until we crossed the St. Johns’ River in Florida.  Everything in between was too dry for me.  This probably comes from growing up near the Chesapeake Bay.

This is a beautiful country.  We are very fortunate that so many of our lands are in the public domain and accessible to all of us.  A trip like the one we made would be nothing if we did not have the access to the public lands that all Americans have.

Many towns in rural America are in bad shape economically.  They need a boost somehow.  A few towns we visited were thriving because they took advantage of the adjacent public lands and built a thriving tourist destination.  Snow Valley, Idaho and Moab, Utah come to mind.  There were other places that were nestled in beautiful country but had not managed to take advantage and thrive.  Baker City, Oregon and the areas around Crater Lake National Park in Oregon come to mind.

Much of the country is in a food desert and that is a sad, sad shame.  The big cities, especially along the coasts have all you could want.  But, many people in this country have to drive 60 miles (maybe more) to get groceries and fresh produce.  We are the greatest country on the planet.  What’s up with that?

I care about rest stops as blog followers may know.  Except for Arizona, this country is amazing in providing a place to stop for tourists and truckers.  Florida (my home state) has the best rest stops. I am not being biased, it’s the truth.  Come to Florida and find out. 🙂

It is sad to see that there are areas of this country thriving (like Seattle) and areas that are left behind (too many places to mention).  I sincerely hope the future will solve this problem and make it possible for all Americans to thrive.

I have finished this particular trip loving my country as much or more than I have ever loved it.  We have plans for future trips and may make one to the mid-Atlantic this fall and to the Florida keys this November.  If so, we will take pictures and post our thoughts.

Thank you all for following us and trying to solve our Where’s Dart challenges.  I am impressed by how many of you got it right.  If you didn’t get it right, the fact that you tried is admirable.

I can’t thank you enough for the feedback I have received on the blogs.  It helps me to know what you are interested in.  Please continue.  Also, ask questions if you have them.  I am happy to respond.

For those of you interested in the finer details of Rving, I would like to share this mornings adventure.  Since we will be storing the RV for at least a month or more once we get home, we took the time in our last campsite to prepare.   Regis had a special concoction he used to place in the gray and black tanks and then flushed them.  While working on the black tank, he started the process and then went in the RV to do whatever he likes to do in his spare time.  He forgot about the cleansing process and came out later to see soap bubbles coming out the top of the vent in the RV and running down the side.  I am really sorry I didn’t see it to take a picture.  I guess Dart and I were elsewhere.

We prepared the motor home to be stored for some time and will clean the outside sometime next week.  It should then be ready for our next rip.  Our poor Jeep looks terrible and we hope to clean it up this week-end.  Being pulled behind leaves it in a position to receive lots of dust and dirt.  Yuk!

 

Lookout Mountain

Dart was on Lookout Mountain.  Congratulations Sandy and Vicki!

We are headed home today and looking forward to it.  I am going to spend some time taking advantage of my great internet access at home.

And, I will be headed to the beach tomorrow!

Appalachians

Where’s Dart (17)?  He is in eastern Tennessee on a famous mountain.  I am including a second picture of what can be seen on top of the mountain, so if you have been there, you may recognize it.  We are visiting Regis’ brother, Mark, in Chattanooga.

Dart with valley in the background
Where’s Dart (17)? On what mountain is Dart? He is in eastern Tennessee.
img_8991-for-web
On top of a mountain by Chattanooga, Tennessee

We enjoyed steaks and corn on the cob on the grill with Mark.  Mark took us to the local mountain to see the sun set.  We missed the sunset, but the view was beautiful. We had a great time.  We hadn’t seen Mark in awhile, so it was great to catch up.

We crossed the Mississippi River yesterday at Memphis.  We saw this unusual Bass Pro Shops.  At first, Regis thought it was a casino.

Bass Pro Shops in Memphis, Tennessee
Bass Pro Shops in Memphis, Tennessee

After being out west for almost three months, the east coast appears very lush.  As we approached the Appalachians it became more and more beautiful.  Although I enjoyed seeing the increasing vegetation as we went from Oklahoma through Arkansas, I particularly loved going through Tennessee.  The countryside is wrapped in a blanket of trees.  They hug the shorelines of lakes.  All those trees bring a softness to the landscape that is appealing and relaxing.  Out west, the dryness prevents the growth of lush vegetation so you get to see the stark geology of the landscape.  It makes the landscape stunning but harsh.  Perhaps it is because I grew up in the mid-Atlantic, but I’m enjoying seeing the east coast landscape again.

We startled a couple fawns at the entrance to our campground.

Fawns running
Startled fawns

 

City Dogs and Country Dogs

Oklahoman’s have a sense of humor.  We saw the following at one of the rest stops.  Dart picked the country dog spot.

Fire hydrant at rest stop
Spot for City Dogs at rest stop in Oklahoma
Stump at rest stop in Oklahoma
Spot for country dogs at rest stop in Oklahoma

By the way, when we were passing through Texas, we saw wind turbines for miles and miles and miles and miles and miles.  It appears the  northern part of the state is covered with wind turbines!!

I love seeing the trees again!!!

 

Rest Stops

We started the process of heading back to Florida.  This has brought us back to interstates.  If you are not on the interstate out west, you have to be prepared to drive through towns that may have speed limits as low as 25 mph.  Once we got back on the interstate, we were able to cover a lot of ground quickly.

We arrived early afternoon in our first scheduled campground on the interstate and we were the first ones to arrive.  I was worried that we were the only ones there and a little scared.  I was also concerned that the owner couldn’t possibility make any money with one guest a night.  By nightfall, the place was almost full.   The campground offered a small selection of dinners that they bring to your campsite.  We took advantage and ordered two turkey dinners with stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans, and cranberry sauce.  I ordered a slice of pie and was nice enough to share it with Regis.  He said he didn’t want a piece until he saw mine and willingly ate half of it along with the scoop of ice cream.

Dinners have been available at the next two campgrounds.  There are times when it would be very convenient.  Most of the time, we have enough food and prefer to make our own dinner.  When you travel a lot of miles in a day and are only spending the night and ran out of food, it comes in handy to have dinner available without requiring you to disconnect your tow vehicle to obtain it.

At the rest stop in New Mexico and again in Texas, we saw signs to beware of snakes.  It is nice to be warned!  In New Mexico, we saw the a rest stop that had corrals for horses.  They were clearly used.  Dart was very, very interested in them.

Corrals at rest stop in New Mexico
Corrals at rest stop in New Mexico
Sign at rest stop in New Mexico.
Sign at rest stop in New Mexico. Similar signs are also at rest stops in Texas

Let me pause a moment to mention rest stops out west.  I have to stop a lot, so I greatly appreciate having the opportunity to do so without finding a bush (which you often can’t find out west anyway).  With the exception of Arizona and their closed rest stops (see earlier post), the rest of the West is very good about having rest room facilities on lots of roads, not just the interstates.  In fact, there are facilities all over the place in public picnic areas, trail heads, campgrounds, boat launches, fishing spots, etc.  When we are out and about in the jeep, I can always find a place to stop.

It continues to be exceedingly hot, which I am sure it is for most of you.  It is currently 105 degrees and we are noticing an increase in humidity.  Although we don’t like that part, it is really nice to see trees and grass again.  We are in Oklahoma.  I’m getting more excited about being headed home.  We need to better plan in the future so we don’t wind up in hot places.  It is very limiting.  Outdoor activities are no fun when it is this hot and become undo-able with Dart.  He can’t handle the heat with all that fur.  If it is going to be this hot, I may as well be in Florida where I can jump into the ocean to cool off!