The Tamiami Trail and Big Cypress

We were tired after such a big day before, so we slept in until after 8AM.  I made a breakfast of pancakes and sausages, coffee & OJ while Louise rinsed out the stuff from the beach. The RV was a mess, so we cleaned it up, and tried to take some spots out of the rug that we had gotten early in the trip, with limited success. I had stepped in something in the Carolinas that had something in it that really attracted dirt.

I completed some comment sheets I obtained and gave then my fifty cents on Flamingo and Long Pine Key campground that involved ownership by the personnel, and how the park service via Congress is in the process of abandoning the personnel and the parks. We spoke with Kate and Scott, the campground hosts, who take care of things for free, in return for a spot to stay and electricity, and asked them to pass RK4_4003onto Gretchen, a camper we met earlier on the east coast of Florida weeks earlier, that there was camping in the keys at Long Pine Key in the primitive section and it looked really nice even if the bathrooms were fairly far removed from the primitive sites.  The world is truly a small place. Always be on your best behavior.  The conversation evolved into a really nice discourse regarding how things get done at the park, the broad ecosystem, and places to look for on the next leg of our trip.

We said goodbye to Tenai, a sweet woman, and the ranger that mans the booth and helps make the campground as nice as it is. Then we picked up some water at the dump site, since the water was good, but we had to repair the water station, as the compression nut had come loose, the valve jammed, so no water came out.  There was the same problem a couple of days before. After we filled up, I checked the gauges inside the RV and none of them seemed to make any sense.

Exiting the park, we stopped at the Anhinga trail. It was the third time we were there, once in the day, once at night and this time it was completely different than either of the previous two times.  There were more fish, more turtles, less birds, fewer alligators, but the area is still the ‘Jewel of the Everglades’ a top notch location.

I went to the visitor’s center in hopes that I could find the hat was looking for, but we determined that the hat in question is only sold at the marina. While we were in search for a hat, we met a couple from Strasbourg France, and gave them some tips as they were planning on tent camping at Flamingo.  We told them what we felt were the highlights of the park, and gave them some hints on what to see and when.  We were so well treated when we were in France I felt that I just had to pass it on.

We were headed to Collier-Seminole State park, so I had the GPS lead us through the back way, and as a result we didn’t pass any gas stations.  We finally located on the corner of the back road and the Tamiani Trail. The Tamiani trail runs generally across Florida from Miami to Tampa through the Everglades. What I had located was the last fuel depot before the 75 miles or so on the Tamiani Highway that had nothing.  Diesel was 20 cents more than the most expensive diesel than I had seen before, and not knowing the area, I took off into the heart of the Everglades without a full fuel load.  Don’t do that!, The gas station was the last one until we were almost at the State Park, and that one had fuel for fifty cents more than the most expensive place we’d seen.  We saw plenty of Airboat places, Indian villages & tourist traps, people fishing in the canal, and the occasional alligator, but no fuel stops.

The further we travelled west, the cleaner the water was, the more birds we saw wading, hunting and hanging out.  There were more cypress, some in spring foliage and more alligators in the roadside canal.  There was no place to park or pull over.  There were no cross roads, turnouts or anything to even dump a smart car. Much less a 24’ RV, but we saw a 12’ alligator as road kill on the eastbound lane. That was a first.

It had gotten really late, so we had lunch at visitor center. In the middle of having a relaxing meal, a knucklehead in rental RV tried to kamikaze our RV (he wasn’t Asian, but both of the RV’s he was trying to ram moved right away.  It looked like a very peculiar pinball game.  The rental RV driver left the rear end of his rental sticking halfway out into the exit lane after everyone scattered.  When we were in Mount Rainer NP, a fellow from southern California named ‘Tweed’ gave me advice about rental units and their drivers. ‘Tweed’ was right on the mark.

RK4_4034At 2:30 we arrived at the easternmost visitors center for the Big Cypress National Preserve, saw a movie, got instructions on what to see & investigate, asked and received information on fuel.  In front of the building they had a pond with some really big alligators.  We did the tourist thing, did the gape and gawk, and took off for further west.  RK4_4025We arrived at the boardwalk that led into the cypress slough.  The place was beautiful; the cypress trees create a micro ecology apart from the ocean of grass that surrounds.  It was one of the most beautiful places that we saw during our tour of Florida.  I took some great pictures of storks and snowy egrets.

The first fuel station was a Marathon Station and they were selling diesel for $4.50 a gallon, I went to leave, drove for half mile, and then thought better and as I turned around the fuel light lit. It’s always nice to make a decision and then have it be obvious that it was correct.  We bought 10 gallons, and headed west.  The area looks like pictures I’ve seen of the Euphrates Delta, with reeds, palm trees, and canals.  We’ve travelled extensively, and we’ve never seen a place like this in the US.

We located the park, and got in just before they locked the gates at dusk. It turned out that the woman at the registration desk was from Phillipsburg in NJ, it’s always a small world.  The site I selected on line was the last one at the park.  It was listed as a 15’ RV site.  I thought “Who the heck makes a 15’ RV? I’ll fit in.” We found the site, and it was really a small tent site and not rated for RV at all.  The campground is most congested & cramped camping spot we have ever been.

RK4_4047The couple in the next spot, Ken & Diane, are originally from Ithaca, have 2 sons, and moved to Florida bought a RV built on a Sprinter chassis after a long time looking, and were on their almost maiden trip. Ken said it was OK that we were a little close, and explained to Louise what I wanted to do regarding backing in the RV into a spot as tight as my niece’s front yard in Miami.  Ken expertly backed me in missing everything by at least 6” with plenty of room to move out the slide out.  Success! New friends, a shared cold beer and a spot to spend the night.  We hooked up the RV, and since the site has water and electricity, we will sleep cool and humidity free this evening.  It’s the first spot we’ve been at with electricity in over a week.

We gave Diane a tour of the RV.  Thank goodness we keep it tidy.  Ken has a smaller motorhome built on the 2500 Mercedes chassis with a very large bathroom in the rear.  The vehicle is a 2006 with 83K on it; I thought that it was brand new to look at it. Gave him a beer for helping me in – he earned it. We  talked for a little bit, but he was in the middle of dinner, and it was later, so I made macaroni salad and cooked hot dogs for dinner, turned on the AC and slept like babies.