Tuesday, March 21, 2017

#36 - Tuesday, 21 March 2017 - Flamingo, Everglades National Park, Florida

I have extended my stay at Everglades National Park by another two nights. That is evidence of what a strange duck I am since most other campers are leaving early. The mosquitoes are vicious. It is uncommon for them to drive people out this early in the year. I’m enjoying myself, but I feel sorry for the tent campers. The more prepared have enclosed areas over the picnic table, but it is impossible to keep the little bloodsuckers out. When I return to my Wheelhouse after being out on the trails, just opening my door long enough to bring my cameras and other stuff inside allows a dozen of the ferocious biters inside and I have to hunt them down. On the trails I wear my Insect Shield impregnated hiking clothing, including balaclava and a bug net over my hat and head, and first coat myself with a frightening amount of Deet.

I just returned from driving up to the Flamingo Visitor Center to use the wifi to post some more images to Instagram. Please look for photos there. I’ll do an all photo post here soon to highlight a few of my favorites, but I don’t see a reason to post pix here on a regular basis. I recommend following my Snap story (exoticfauna) for snapshots from the road like travel, food, drink, people, etc.

Of course, you won’t find people pix often as I am solitary and not much for selfies. That isn’t to say I don’t have interesting conversations with interesting people along the road. One of my favorite books is Rush drummer Neil Peart’s Ghost Rider [highly recommend this amazing memoir of loss and healing on the road]. After losing both wife and daughter within just over a year of each other, he was broken and in need of healing. He took to the road on a BMW touring motorcycle and drove 40,000 miles. At the time it looked like the Toronto rock megaband Rush was finished. Perhaps I’ll examine the fact that after losing my dear mother and precious dog has also put me on the healing road in a future blog. For now, the comparison I am making is that he wrote of the brief but rewarding friendships he would make along the way. He had the additional problem of being famous, albeit much less recognizable than his bandmates. Like me, he is someone who keeps mostly to himself and immerses himself in books. Stardom isn’t something he is comfortable with so casual conversation is something he sought. I’ve already met all sorts along the road. My preference to wild places and natural and state parks puts me in contact with many birdwatchers and other nature lovers. I just spent about thirty minutes talking about birds, snakes and spiders, travel, life on the road, and more with Joe, the park ranger who mans the campground entrance wearing a bug net.

So, during my conversation with Joe, I booked two more nights and will depart Friday morning. That gives me more time if I do decide to head out to the Keys. It’s a four hour drive each way, plus the time there of course. I can come back at any time as the park entrance is open 24 hours. If I could have booked a site at either Pennekamp State Park on Key Largo or Bahia Honda State Park midway down the Keys, I would stay there for awhile. As it is, snowbirds have everything booked, even expensive RV resorts. It is easier for me to just make a day trip and leave my RV anyway as I get twice the gas mileage without the RV and the Keys aren’t the best place to be driving around a rig with a total length of 53 feet.

I’ve been looking into where to head next, but with limited internet I haven’t spent much time on it. There are some places I still want to explore in central Florida so I decided to return to Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park. The weather is perfect there, the mosquitoes aren’t severe, and it is a wonderful and centrally located place to camp. So I will return there for another five nights on Sunday and afterward begin heading north. I’ll have some cell signal and be able to research spots as I head north toward the panhandle, perhaps staying in the Appalachicola forest for a few days and then head west. I don’t plan to stop in Alabama, but may stay somewhere in Mississippi for a couple days so I can have dinner with my friend Dr. Brent Hendrixson at Milsaps College in Jackson. I plan to spend some time in the field later this year with him and his students. Then through Louisiana I’ll likely avoid Houston by shunpiking toward Austin. I have a series of six e-books written by an RV boondocker that are directories to places to camp free off the grid in the southwest, and each volume has many recommendations for roads that circumvent more populous areas.

Today I have decided to spend most of the day working on the Journal of the BTS. I have content for two issues and need to get the work done so I don’t have it on my mind any more. I have finished the 2017 Northwest Zoological Supply annual catalog I have been doing the writing, design and layout for. I sent a final draft a couple days ago and am waiting for Alex to tell me if it is good to go.

I think I will have dinner at the Buttonwood Cafe, which is the restaurant at the Flamingo Visitor’s Center. I believe I mentioned it during a blog entry during my mid-January visit here. Hurricane damage closed the original restaurant and the National Park Service seems to be taking its sweet time to spend some money restoring. The current Buttwonwood has screen walls and sits below the closed second level restaurant. The kitchen is an attached trailer like you’d see at a State Fair. I’ll stop by the visitor’s center for wifi to send this and visit social media. Tomorrow I will either spend the day visiting photo spots here one last time or, if I wake ambitious, I will head out to the Keys for the day. Write soon…

Cheers, MJ

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