Saturday, March 18, 2017

#34 - Saturday, 18 March 2017 | Flamingo, Everglades National Park, Florida

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! I type this from my campsite in the Flamingo Campground at the extreme southwestern tip of Everglades National Park whilst drinking a Jameson’s & ginger ale. Sláinte!

I don’t have any Irish blood. However, I’ve loved my trips to Dublin and I do love Irish lasses, whiskeys and stouts. Since they don’t have any drunken days of celebration for someone whose father was born in the Transylvanian Alps and whose mother’s ancestors came from Sweden and Luxembourg, I am happy to claim Eyre at least one day a year.

I am now along the ocean at the southwestern tip of Everglades National Park. I am sort of “off the grid” here. I still have electricity at my campsite and can power my lights, electronics and use A/C and electric water heater and such, but I had to fill my potable water tank for the first time. There isn’t a water service at the site so I finally am testing the 49 gallon water system I will use off the grid. So far I have been able to hook directly up to a city water spigot. Using the tank means that I have to turn on my water pump to pressurize my lines. The Wheelhouse has a 66 gallon total capacity grey water tank. This is where the sinks and shower empty. I have it split into two separate tanks as the kitchen is in the rear and the bathroom is in the center. I have a 33 gallon black water tank, which is where the toilet drains. I’ve been able to go a week without dumping the tanks, and now that I am not hooked up to unlimited water I am going to practice my real “off the grid” mode. This means taking “military showers”. No luxurious hot water running non-stop. It is get a little wet. Wash completely and rinse as quickly and using as sparing an amount of water as possible.

But the “off the grid” aspect that will be most difficult for me is not having internet. I have Verizon service for my iPhone. It has the most extensive coverage and the LTE is fast. However, it’s very expensive and their data plans suck. That said, I finally realized that I was paying more for 16GB of monthly data than their Unlimited plan. Of course, the thieves don’t tell you that or upgrade you automatically. But after going from 4 to 8 to 16GB of data and then still going over and paying overage charges, I investigated and now have no data worries. However, even with Verizon’s excellent nationwide service, there are places where signal is weak or non-existent. Here at the tip of the Everglades, I have no service at all. The Visitor’s Center has wi-fi so I will use it once a day and have to go cold turkey and suffer withdrawal. That may sound dramatic, but I am a guy who sleeps with his phone – and usually his iPad and MacBook Pro as well! I am online until I pass out and when I wake during the night I check email and social media. Things are going to have to change, and I fully admit that the change will be healthy. I’d love to get to where I only was online while drinking morning coffee or having a nightcap before bed.

As I drove out of Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park, I encountered about a dozen white-tail deer dispersed over about one mile of the crushed shell entrance road. Most people would name the horse as the most beautiful animal alive, and I’d be hard-pressed to argue against them, but I certainly would rank our ubiquitous deer species among the top ten. Once I hit the paved road I came across a fox trotting across the street. The drive was about five hours with a stop for restroom and takeaway food. Due to staying an extra day at KPPSP I arrived at Everglades National Park a day behind schedule. My five-night campsite reservation was prepaid. I asked if there was any availability if I wished to extend my stay, and the ranger kindly offered to give me five nights so I wouldn’t lose a night or the money. So, now I am here in ENP until midday on Wednesday.

I have nothing planned afterward. I’m going to look at my maps and other references and see if there are any must-see Florida stops. I can’t go any farther south except to explore the Keys. I don’t want to participate in the weekend traffic bustle, so I intend to leave here early Monday morning and drive at least as far the Key Deer Refuge. These dwarf cousins of the white-tail are on my bucket list to photograph. If all goes well I’d like to make it to Key West. I’ve never been there. I just have to see how late I can get back into ENP and the Flamingo Campground. As I’ve written, Flamingo is the southwestern extremity of ENP. The park entrance is 40 miles away. Then you have to go east back toward Florida City and then south to the Keys. Flamingo to Key West is 187 miles that takes almost four hours. When I leave here I am likely to go up the west coast of Florida and camp a couple more places (state parks when possible, but RV sites are fully booked most everywhere …) before I reach the panhandle and my eventual path west.

Check Instagram tomorrow or Monday for crocodile and osprey images ...

All the best, MJ

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