Florida Keys part 3: Eastern Marathon Key, April 22 – 29, 2023

We were quite happy to see our beautiful campsite at Curry Hammock State Park, which is a 30 minute drive from Bahia Honda State Park. It is a smaller campground, with newly rennovated facilities. It was a welcome change from the previous park, which could use some updates. The campground and beach are on the Atlantic/south side of the key, so we had sargassum seaweed fairly close to our site. It was only an issue when the wind shifted and blew from the south.

The weather was still very hot and humid. The low dunes around the campground blocked most of the breezes. We spent mornings walking around the campground and beach, hiking and booking campsites for next year. We didn’t paddle because the seaweed was pretty bad. Unlike Bahia Honda, Curry Hammock does not monitor the bacteria levels. We spent afternoons out, going to the air museum, finding fish markets and happy hours. We went to several local places, but our favorite was Keys Fisheries Upstairs Bar (aka Shannon’s Shuckers and Shakers).  There was a great view, affordable drinks and good food. We met 3 separate sets of people from Michigan. One guy lives in the same town that we do. Another couple owns a home where Dave grew up.

We cut our stay short because of the heat and the smell, opting to return to the cool ocean breezes in Flagler Beach. On our last day, we left early because strong storms were moving in. We wanted to  get to mainland before they hit. We learned that there had been a tornado warning overnight and all the campers had huddled in the restrooms. We plan to make sure we don’t miss something like that again.

View of our campsite from the beach at Curry Hammock State Park

The view from our campsite at Curry Hammock State Park
At the Marathon Air Musuem, run by the southermost chapter of the Experimental Aircraft Association. It was great chatting with the guys, both pilots, who were working that day.
An airplane, owned and still flown by the 87-year-old pilot who works at the museum.
Marathon Air Museum, Marathon FL
Autographed photo of the Blue Angels at Mount Rushmore
Marathon Air Museum, Marathon, FL
A WWll Navy coat and broken propeller.
Marathon Air Museum, Marathon FL
We really enjoyed looking through this copy of Life Magazine from 1939, 
Marathon Air Museum, Marathon FL
1940 Chevrolet ad in a November 1939 Life Magazine. I worked on many Chevrolet vehicles in my career. In 1940 my mom wasn’t even born yet.
Marathon Air Museum, Marathon, FL
1940 Sea Ray ad in a November 1939 Life Magazine. Dave’s mom worked for Sea Ray, long ago. The family has owned several Sea Rays.
Marathon Air Museum, Marathon, FL
Marathon Air Museum
It was the first time I read this quote by Henry Ford. It’s now one of my favorites.
Marathon Air Museum, Marathon FL
We frequently saw American White Ibis in the Florida Keys campgrounds
A waterspout near Curry Hammock State Park. I was freaking out, but nobody else seemed to care.
Sargassum seaweed along the shoreline, near the beach at Curry Hammock State Park
A small iguana in our campsite. They are an invasive species in South Florida and can grow up to 5ft. in length
Curry Hammock State Park, Marathon, FL
I noticed this hole while we were backing into our site. I was relieved to later learn it was the home of a crab and not a snake.
Curry Hammock State Park, Marathon, FL
A gecko checking out our RV interior
Curry Hammock State Park, Marathon, FL
Slushie held a conference with his new friends, the gecko, the crab and the iguana. I heard them discussing auto insurance.
Curry Hammock State Park, Marathon, FL
This place is known as the best for local stone crab. We tried it just days before stone crab season ended. It is a sustainable seafood, as the claws grow back after being removed. Note: served with mustard sauce (no butter!)
Keys Fisheries Upstairs Bar, aka Shannon’s Shuckers and Shakers, Marathon, FL
Keys Fisheries Upstairs Bar, aka Shannon’s Shuckers and Shakers, Marathon, FL
A shark near the dock at Keys Fisheries, Marathon, FL
Keys Fisheries Upstairs Bar, aka Shannon’s Shuckers and Shakers, Marathon, FL
Keys Fisheries Upstairs Bar, aka Shannon’s Shuckers and Shakers, Marathon, FL
Hiking on the trail in Curry Hammock State Park. I was on high alert the entire hike, looking out for snakes. I almost walked into a spider web with a very scary-looking spider. I was very happy when the hike was complete!
Hiking in Curry Hammock State Park


Floriday Keys Part 2: Key West – a couple of day trips between April 7 & 21, 2023

While we were staying at Bahia Honda State Park, we took a couple of day trips to Key West. We were happy to find a parking lot that would easily accomodate our heavy duty pick-up truck. Next year we will consider taking the shuttle bus that runs between the park and Old Town. We may even spend a night there, so we can experience the sunset festivities at Mallory Square and being on Duvall Street at night.

We used to go to Key West in the early 2000’s, before we bought our place on  Maui.  They were short, fun, care-free trips, usually with friends. We used to stay at the Ocean Key resort, with rooms overlooking Mallory Square, for about $150/night (now $400 – $800/nt). We would rent bikes, spend afternoons at the pool and evenings out on the town. At that time, we were flying somewhere 4 – 7 times a year, so a shorter trip allowed me to use fewer vacation days.

The first thing we noticed was how crowded everything was and how heavy the traffic was, compared to past visits. We actually limited our walking on Duval Street for that reason. We went to the famous Southernmost Point buoy for a photo, but were shocked to see people lined up on the street, waiting their turn for a selfie. Rather than stand in line for 25 minutes, we skipped it. I’m not sure what was more surprising – the amount of people waiting or the fact that they were politely waiting in line.

We spent some time in the historic seaport district. It was quite busy, but seemed less touristy than Duvall Street. We had a great dinner at the Waterfront Brewery. The first visit, we sort of wandered Old Town, around aimlessly. The second time, we mapped out an itinerary and made sure we saw some historic sights.

Note: The beaches on the south side of Key West were unindated with smelly  sargassum seaweed, I think it’s a pretty rare occurence, but I would recommend checking the seaweed status anywhere in the keys, or even Florida, before going.

Sloppy Joe’s Bar – Ernest Hemingway’s favorite bar. We went there many times, about 22 years ago. We attempted to return a couple of times this year, but the place was packed, with no empty seats (even mid-day).

Irish Kevin’s Bar. We had a beer at Irish Kevin’s, which was not nearly as crowded as Sloppy Joe’s. We think the poor quality of the live music that day may have been a factor.  We also went to this place many years ago.
Ernest Hemmingway’s house. We toured it many years ago. The highlights for me were seeing his writing desk and the polydactyl cats, who descended from his original cats.
The Key West lighthouse, built in 1848, after the original one was destroyed in the 1846 hurricane. They raised the tower 20 feet in 1894 because the surrounding trees grew and blocked the light.
This Banyan tree is pretty small compared to some in Hawaii, but it’s still pretty impressive.
This historic building is now a condominium. It was The Marine Hospital from 1845 to 1943.
Cornish Memorial African Methodist Epicopol Zion Church, founded 1864, built 1885
Sunset Pier, Key West, FL
Built in 1890, this was a two-family residence for the Navy Commandment and Paymaster. In 1911 it was converted to a single family residence and later became the vacation home of Harry S. Truman
President Truman’s 1950 Lincoln Limo (one of nine in various US locations)
A Gumbo Limbo Tree at the Truman Little Whitehouse. We later saw this type of tree growing wild on a hiking trail in Curry Hammock State Park
This was the United States Weather Bureau building from1911 through 1951.
The Weatherstation Inn building served as residential housing for the U.S. Navy from 1952 until 1974, when the base closed. It opened as a hotel in 1997.
The Custom House, next to Mallory Square, built in 1891, is now a museum run by the Key West Art & Historical Society
The Whistle Bar, Upstairs from The Bull. We had to stop there for old times’ sake. We had a great time people-watching there many years ago with friends Paul and Nancy. I remember Nancy yelling “Look! It’s the silver guy!” and he looked up at her. He was riding his bike home from his sunset gig at Mallory Square, still completely silver, from head to toe.
The view from Geiger Key Marina. We stopped there on the way home one night for dinner. They had live music and fabulous tacos. I had hogfish and Dave had tuna.

Florida Keys Part 1: 1 day in Hobe Sound then Big Pine Key & Western Marathon Key, Apr. 7 – 21, 2023

We spent 22 days in the keys, in 2 different state parks and we took day trips to Key West. This post covers the drive into the keys, the first campground and the surrounding area. Part 2 will cover the day trips to Key West. Part 3 will be about Eastern Marathon Key.

Jonathon Dickenson State Park, Hobe Sound, FL

We traveled from Flagler Beach to Jonathan Dickenson State Park in Hobe Sound, near Jupiter, FL. It was a great 1-day stop, to break up the long drive. We have met many campers who regularly drive 8 – 15 hours in a day, to get somewhere quickly. We don’t like sitting too long and prefer to see as much along our route as we can. There are 2 campgrounds at JD and we stayed in the newly renovated Pine Grove loop. The gravel sites are really large and flat and include water, sewer and electricy.

Bahia Honda State Park, Big Pine Key, FL

The drive to Bahia Honda State Park was a very long one. We expected lighter traffic on a Saturday, but it was Easter weekend and we believe people were heading to the keys for Easter break. What should have been a little over 4 hours was actually almost 8 hours.  Our campsite was designated for a rig over 30 feet when we booked it, last year. It was changed to 24 foot maximum after Hurricane Ian. We realized that, while trying to book sites for next year. We weren’t notified that we couldn’t camp there, so we decided to show up and give it a try. We were able to fit by angling the RV, but it was tight.

We really loved our campsite with views of the sunset, fish and birds. We were able to launch our paddle boards from our campsite. Swimming was not allowed (except at the beach) ,but that didn’t stop anyone at the campground.  We explored the entire park by bike and on foot. We spent most afternoons away from the campground, seeing as much as possible in the area, including Key West. Mainly we were wanting to cool off, as afternoons were very hot and humid.  We also learned that happy hours were quite affordable, so we took advantage of being able to go out without throwing off our financial plan.

Jonathan Dickinson, Hobe Sound, FL
Live music and watching the boats at Blue Pointe Bar and Grill, near Jonathan Dickinson Stae Park.
Our campsite at Buttonwood Campground at Bahia Honda State Park. We were about a foot from the Gulf of Mexico. I’m pretty sure this rig has never been so closer to salt water and I’m certain this is the furthest south it has ever been.
View of Bahia Honda state Park – Calusa Beach with Buttonwood Campground beyond, from the old bridge.
The Bahia Honda Bridge, now part of Bahia Honda State Park, was originally built by Henry Flagler as part of the Florida East Coast Overseas Railroad and completed in 1912. After much of the railroad was destroyed in the 1935 Labor Day Hurricane, the bridge was converted to a highway. It was replaced by the current bridge in 1972.
Placard on the Old Bahia Honda Bridge. Chevy must have developed an early version of shock absorbers. This was obviously before warranties and car insurance.
Sunset Grille & Raw Bar, Marathon FL
Looking at photos of this place and at their website helped me to get through Oct – Dec, three cold, boring months (not going out at all or even seeing the sun) in Michigan. I was not disappointed at all. It was close to the park and a great way to escape the sweltering heat and humidity at our campsite. Always a nice breeze, plenty of shade, a pool  and a very affordable happy hour.
Sunset Grille & Raw Bar, Marathon FL
Hanging out with the bartender on her day off. Like many people we have met during our travels, she is a reverse snow bird. She and her husband live and work in Marathon, but head to New England for summer.
This manatee was checking me out at the marina, in the park. Bahia Honda State Park
Early morning walk on the Old Seven Mile Bridge. Like the Bahia Honda Bridge, it was originally part of the overseas railroad, built by by Henry Flagler as part of the Florida East Coast Overseas Railroad and later became a highway. When the new bridge was built, the old bridge was converted to a paved 2.2-mile walking and cycling path connecting Pigeon Key and Marathon Key. There is a plan for a 60-passenger tram to shuttle people across, sometime this year. The parking area is also used by people fishing nearby. Oddly, there are no restroom facilities.
Big Pine Key, FL
The Key deer, the smallest subspecies of white-tailed deer, is an endangered species. Night time speed limits in the area are lower than daytime, to help protect these animals.
Burdine’s Waterfront, Marathon, FL
We had a casual, delicious anniversary dinner at this upper level restaurant. They are famous for their burgers so Dave had one and I had a shrimp burger. It was fun watching all of the boat traffic below.
View looking east over the marina from Burdine”s Waterfront Bar and Grill
Cabins at Bahia Honda State Park
Loggerhead beach, the main day-use area, located on the south (Atlantic) side of Bahia Honda State Park. The Sargassum seaweed conditions grew progressively worse while we were there. They finally closed the beach due to bacteria levels. The smell was horrifying. Luckily we were in the Buttonwood campground on the gulf side of the park. Calusa Beach, on the gulf side remained open and seaweed-free.
No Name Pub on No Name Key. This place was built in 1931, before the 1935 Labor Day Hurricane, which detroyed Islamorada and parts of the Florida East Coast Railway. It was originally a general store that sold bait and tackle. No Name Key was the location of the ferry heading north from the lower keys. I am guessing Hemingway drank here.
Inside No Name Pub.  It is estimated that there are 500,000 dollar bills affixed to the ceiling and walls. (There does not appear to be a fire protection sprinkler system.)
View of our campsite from the bridge
Bahia Honda State Park
View out our back window at Bahia Honda State Park
The nightly sunset gathering under the bridge. The camp hosts brought about 20 conch shells (with sanitizer) so the campers could participate in the “blowing of the conch” ceremony at sunset.
Kiki’s Sandbar Bar and Grille, Little Torch Key, FL
Kiki’s Sandbar Bar and Grille, Little Torch Key, FL
Sand sculpture at Bahia Honda State Park
Slushie, enjoying a beautiful sunset


Jacksonville Beach and Flagler Beach, FL – March 25 – April 6, 2023

On our way to Flagler Beach, we spent one night at Kathryn Hanna Abbey Park, in Jacksonville beach. It’s a city park. The park has 1.5 miles of beach and 20 miles of hiking and biking trails. The beach was beautiful and uncrowded for a Saturday during spring break season. The campsites were pretty small and challenging to enter or exit with a larger RV. The main reason we don’t plan to return is that the route to get into the park took us through a high-traffic area of downtown Jacksonville, which also seemd to be a bit unsafe. That particular detour was not worth being at that park, for us.

We were happy to return to Gamble Rogers State Park in Flagler beach again, the next day. This was our third year camping at the small, casual surf town.  There are no high-rises and no big hotels, so the town has not lost it’s charm like other towns, such as Daytona Beach or Destin. It’s a top destination for bikers, but our observation is that they are mostly mellow retirees enjoying freedom after a lifetime of work. We know of a great seafood market in the area, where we get local shrimp, tuna, wahoo and  mahi. We also really appreciate food and drink prices at the local restaurants (ex: $3 for a beer at  happy hour, compared with $12 in Destin)

There are many hiking trails in the area, but I was still recovering from a couple of injuries, so kept my walking to a minimum.  We had mostly great weather, so Dave surfed often and we spent time on the beach. By chance, one of my closest friends, Felecia, has been vacationing in the area for many years with her family, and they happened to be renting a house nearby, with friends. We spent an afternoon visting them and had a great dinner.  I also had breakfast with Felecia one day and lunch and shopping with the girls, another day. It was really fun.

The highlight of this campground is that the campsites are just steps from the beach. We can hear the ocean 24/7 and watch beautiful sunrises every day.  We don’t mind the lack of pavement or grass, to be so close to the ocean. There is another campground across the road, on the river, which has very large crushed gravel sites, surrounded by grass, We have noticed that each campground has it’s own vibe. At Gamble Rogers, people are mostly quiet but really friendly. We have often seen people here that we previously met here or at other campgrounds. We will return next month, as we head north toward home.

Campsite at Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park, Jacksonville, FL
Campsite at Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park, Jacksonville, FL
The beach at Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park, Jacksonville, FL
Sunset at Gamble Rogers State Park
High Tides at Snack Jack, Flagler Beach, a casual oceanside restaurant. The building sustained some damage from Hurricane Ian. After being closed for several months for repairs, it’s looking better than ever.
Gamble Rogers State Park
One of my favorite Florida wildflowers, Sunshine Mimosa, aka Powderpuff at Gamble Rogers State Park
One of my favorite Florida wildflowers, Sunshine Mimosa, aka Powderpuff at Gamble Rogers State Park
Time at the beach with Felecia. We have been friends for almost 30 years
View of the Flagler Beach fishing pier, from the deck at Funky Pelican. The pier is now closed after Huricane Ian destroyed it Sep. 2022.
View of the beach from the deck at Funky Pelican
The campsite across from ours at Gamble Rogers. I took this photo for Dave’s dad. Dave’s parents, Gary and Shirley, camped at countless places across the country. They always camped in a tent and over many years drove a red Dodge Caravan.
Dave surfing just after dawn, Gamble Rogers State Park
Pelicans at Gamble Rogers State Park
Sunrise at Gamble Rogers State Park