Florida Keys Camping for $20 a Night!

Have VW Hippie Van…Will Travel!

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A Place To Call Home

Cozumel Caravan

Cozumel Caravan

Sometimes we take the smallest things for granted in life, including ‘life’ itself.  But in the end, if a lesson has been learned, we find that the simpleness of living is priceless.  This is what I’ve come to find since we up-rooted from my hometown of Fort Worth, and relocated to Gulf-Coastal Texas.  It has been a long road to plow (as my dear Mother used to put it), but I find now that our ‘garden’ (the garden that is life) is beginning to come-in quite nicely. 

It all began the day we pulled out of Jamaica Beach RV Resort; happy to be leaving the paved-but-posh confines of the best RV park on Galveston Island.  (Our opinions…and we’re sticking to it!)  I have to admit, our past experiences with campgrounds has left us with a bitter taste for such surroundings.  JBRV would have to be an exception…if you ask me.

Either way, and even though we would miss the hot tub, laundromat, pool…playground, and the charming little Seven Seas Grocery just across the road, we remained hopeful that we’d be well-on-our-way to actually gaining a semi-permanent address on Galveston Island.  The Blessings we’ve been met with since that day have been abundant.  We have been at our island home ever since; being lucky to have a very understanding landlord who knows what it means to start from the bottom and work your way up.  He has become somewhat of a friend since we’ve gotten to know him better. He has also taken Nico under his wing by teaching him a trade that my husband had never-before learned.  It brings to mind a saying I hold close to my thoughts: We never stop learning until we are no more. 

So there we were– we had a place…but not entirely.  Our very understanding landlord had taken a chance on us–renting us a lot, even though I know we appeared a rogue bunch.  We had made a deal that if we could rent the place ‘temporarily’, and set up Camp Peniki, we’d be hard-at-it to find a better-suited living quarters…to keep up appearances mostly, since we’d live in our old Campervan full-time if society allowed.  Had it just been us (Nico and I), we would still be out there…giving in to Wanderlust.  But most vandwelling souls with little n’s find out the hard way–like we have–that we really aren’t free after all when it comes to the way we are ‘allowed’ to live or be. 

So…we had a limited time to find a larger place to put on our really great lot…with a priceless view of the sunset…out over the bayou.  I set to work searching and combing the internet, selling everything we didn’t need in storage to raise the money for our new home.  Two weeks later, with half of our belongings sold and our storage half empty, we were on our way to get our new/old place: a vintage caravan in major need of some love.  Perhaps it was the way I had called and called the man to see if our ‘home’ was still there (I had already claimed it in my mind).  Maybe it was the desperation in my voice (I’ve never been very subtle with my emotions).  I guess I’ll never truly know.  All I do know is that he (the seller) took pity on us and ended up knocking $200 bucks off the price when we showed up with cash-in-hand.  It’s a very good thing too, cause without that extra money…we wouldn’t have made it back to Galveston with our new place. 

I know I’m just one of the numerous folks who believes that Blessings often come in disquise.  This was so true for us when it came to getting our caravan-home…home.   More than 24 hours later we finally pulled into our lot with what would become a full-time remodeling job.  As that day before had gone, we’d suffered a major blow out in Liberty, Texas…right in front of a church, where the pastor had just arrived, on Memorial Day weekend.  Due to the holiday and the late hour, no tire shops were open anywhere near the small town.  The nice preacher man Blessed us with the offering of allowing us to park our travel trailer there…safely in the church parking lot for the evening.  We all headed back to my Mother-in-law’s to stay the night, with hopes that we’d find a place to buy some spare trailer tires on a holiday Sunday.  It’s great to know people when you are in a desperate state to do business when everyone else is on vacation or just off work. 

Thank God we have good family to help us pull heavy things our old VW Van can’t; nice folks who know Nico’s family back in his home town; nice sellers on C List who don’t mind taking less and giving more to a family who was in need of a place to call home.  And even though it has been a steady stream of remodeling our badly damaged and neglected caravan, I can honestly say…”It sure is a great feeling to actually ‘own’ our home.  Bought and paid for; it may be small and not so pretty to some, but to us…it’s perfect! 

It’s all in how you look at things.  From where I’m sitting, this place is really coming around.  I’ll gladly be sharing photos of our remod when the time is right.  I hope it inspires some family…somewhere, to step off the crazy train of keeping up with the Jones’s, and live within (or below) their means.  We are so-very glad we made that leap! 

Blessings your way, from our Vagabond family to yours! 

.V.. (Peace),

GVR    

St. Joe Peninsula — Day 3 of Journey Home

{Journal Entry}

‘Pulled out around 11 am and headed North on 301/27/441, we will take 441 N/W when we see it and hopefully hit 98.  *Camped at St. Joe Peninsula last night.  I met a nice Mother-Daughter (Rebecca & Nicole) camping team, set up right beside us in a Classic Serro Scotty Vintage Travel Trailer.  I loved their rig as much as they loved ours!

We sat up ’til way into the early morning….laughing and talking, tossing back a few cold ones, just having girl time.  Lucky for me, Nico is great with Baby….so I kinda had the night off.  Come to find out, they are Florida ladies.  I exchanged emails with Rebecca so we can keep in touch.

*About St. Joe*

Beautiful beach.  Had Fun fun fun!  Watched a show-stopping sunset!  We hope to return someday soon.  Loved the beach and company, though the sites are really close together and very hard to get.  I’d definitely make reservations for out next visit.

Leaving The Florida Keys

Three weeks had gone by like a blink of an eye, and our stay in the Florida Keys was coming to an end.  It was time to start heading back to Tejas.  Even though we would’ve loved to stay in the Keys forever, we had obligations with the coming of our first grandchild.  Sometimes life just works out that way I guess.

And while the anticipation of a baby is usually a happy time, our’s was bitter-sweet, as our grand baby’s father had been murdered when my daughter was just two months pregnant.  It was a traumatic experience for her, to say the least.  So, while we’d been gone for almost two months, we had known all along that we would have to be there for her in her last trimester.  She had been spending time with her dad and brother in the time we’d been gone.  She was safe–of this we were sure.

So…the morning came when we sorted through the belongings we’d somehow accumulated in three weeks’ time, and begun to rid our ourselves of the things we knew we couldn’t carry and were sure one of our new friends could use.  T.J. was glad to take the small TV we’d been using for Baby.

We said our good-byes after the van was packed to the gills, and headed back up Overseas Highway; hoping to make it past Homestead by nightfall.  I sat quietly in my ‘copilot’s’ seat until the tears began to fall.  I could not contain my sadness for leaving this place we’d called home for almost a month.  To me…it felt more like home than the place to where we were returning.  I was overcome with grief.  Nico held my hand, comforting me from where he sat.

The scene was always like a dream: the endless miles of beautiful aqua blue water, the historic railroad bridge beside Bahia Honda State Park, the old abandoned Overseas Highway that is now used more for a footbridge or for bicyclists.  I was in love with this place for its quiet calmness, peaceful waters, even the ‘sometimes stinky’ mangrove swamp.

We had bonded with Key West the evening we sang at the Sunset Celebration on Mallory Square.  I remember, as we walked to our first gig as Street Performers, looking down at the well-worn and weathered brick streets in Old Towne…thinking how I’d love to walk barefoot on them.  The pirates who’d come to Key West hundreds of years before had walked those same streets.  I was fascinated by the idea of walking in their same steps.  Hopeless romantic…I am!

One thing I know for sure — I will always treasure our time in The Florida Keys and the nice people we met, the friendships we formed.  There is a special place in my heart reserved just for Key West and Sugarloaf Key.  To me….they will always feel like home.  I pray someday…soon, the wind will catch our sails and we will find ourselves there once again.  A girl can dream…a girl can pray.

.V..

Hippies on Duval Street in the Florida Keys

Okay, so we’d been lingering a lot on Sugarloaf Key and not had too much time for Key West until…  Until we decided we had to know more of the island that our friend T.J. swore to us was ‘much better than we’d so far experienced’.  *not word for word*  We knew we’d have to make a day of it and, once and for all, see it for ourselves; Duval Street…Southernmost Point and everything in between.

In no time at all, Peniki was blaring down Overseas Highway at 55 mph and we were once again on Key West.  This time, we’d left our bikes back at Lazy Lakes and opted to go afoot.  We tried to think like the local Conchs and check out the ‘not so touristy’ spots where, in our opinions, the local-focal were likely to frequent.  In our search, we ended up at a little outdoor bistro with a tropical setting like no other we’d seen anywhere near Duval…complete with talking birds.  One Mango Daquiri later, I was sure we’d made the right decision by choosing to take a more intimate look at Key West and Duval Street.  We were fast becoming friends with the Florida Keys.

Off the Grid in The Florida Keys

We’d lost all track of time or day by the end of our first week in The Florida Keys.  Sugarloaf Key had proven to be a perfect landing spot for our little family; our old rig a welcome sight to practically everyone at Lazy Lakes.  I had the feeling that most folks didn’t know quite what to make of the ‘Hippies’ in the classic Volkswagen Westfalia Van.  I was proud of Peniki…beyond measure!

So we’d survived Publix Market that first trip to Key West; never to return again.  Winn Dixie had proven to be our grocery store of choice on the island.  As for short ‘beer runs’ and other necessities, we biked on over to Kickin’ Back Market a few miles up from Sugarloaf Key, or just made a quick jaunt over to the KOA Campground Store…right next door to Lazy Lakes.

We had fallen into a laid-back routine by our second week in the Keys:  I fed the fish right behind our camp-home every morning, Nico had his regular visits from friends for guy talk out by the street or sittin’ around our little abode.  And even though it had been our intention to ‘rough it’ while we were on this adventure, it seems the kindness of others had lavished us with a few of the ‘finer’ things of camp-life; furnishing us with a TV hooked up to cable, fans, and a few chairs we’d really needed, freshly caught Mahi Mahi steaks, and some of the best company I believe we’ve ever shared.  I really was loving life in the Florida Keys.  Still, in my deepest subconscience…I knew, we would soon be returning to the rat-race to welcome our first Grandson into this world.  If only, I thought to myself often, we could have everyone we love in one place…this place, I would never have wanted to be land-locked…ever again.

All in all, we stayed a full 3 weeks in the Florida Keys, and loved every minute of it!  After that night at T.J.’s barbecue, we were destined to sing our songs on Mallory Square, for all of Key West to hear at the Sunset Celebration.  It was an entirely different gig for us; an unforgettable experience I’ll forever cherish.  I met a man who made an impact on my life; a fellow, much more seasoned, street performer.  His name was Dr. Zeaus (spelling?), though I cannot recall his real name.  I hope someday I can remember.  Either way, we had an interesting conversation about life and the way people aren’t allowed to live the way they wish anymore…in this day and age.  How we both feel that folks are no longer really ‘free’.  I’m sure our beliefs would be met with much opposition, but to each his own.  Right?

Needless to say, Nico and I took Gypsy Vin Rose to the Sunset Celebration on Key West and the evening was truly magical!  Just as the sun was setting, we sang our hearts out; one of our favorite original songs ‘Time’.  The music…the moment…the bit of money we made from passersby…the memories made…the much-appreciated words of a stranger “You guys have great spirit.”  I’ll never…ever forget such words of encouragement.  Still, no one was ever more encouraging when it came to our music than our friend T.J.  And even though the CD we left him with was still just a rough-cut, live and unedited, he loved it just the same as if it were our polished studio work.  It was real!  As we know GVR must always stay!  To us, our songs need to flow like the water, remain free as the wind: that is the voice of Gypsy Vin Rose.  To us…anyway.

As for our thoughts on Key West, besides that first bad experience at Publix, we took rather well to the island life and the Conchs thereabouts.  Riding bikes, snapping pics, fishing, kicking back with friends, swimming, touring and lunching on Key West, and singing at the Sunset Celebration.  So many things about our three weeks in The Florida Keys, not to mention the wonderful new friendships we’d formed, are memories I’ll always treasure.  And because there is still so much to tell, I couldn’t possibly cover it all in one sitting.  I invite you to keep posted.  The adventure is just beginning!

 

 

 

Shopping in Key West

*Journal Entries from Summer 2011*

Day 20-Something (We’ve lost track by now):

Okay…!  So we’d planned on heading on in to Key West today; check it out and see what it’s all about.  Long-about noon time,  we cruised over Cow Key Channel and there we were: In the Famed Key of Keys!  I snapped pic after pic of anything…everything my shutter could capture.

It didn’t take us long to see that it was a very busy little island.  Taking the right path where it splits (A1A goes left, Hwy 1 goes right) we ended up in traffic!  Yuk…traffic!!  Of all places in the world, I never expected such hustle and bustle on Key West.  But there we were; one red light after another, waiting…waiting, to see what all the fuss is about.  Still, we weren’t seeing it.

Finding our way to the Publix Market, there were bikes everywhere out front: That was different than anything we’d seen back in Texas or along the way.  A nice change of pace, I thought to myself.  We parked and went in for a few necessities, and plenty of libations for T.J.’s barbecue later that evening.

I must admit, the view across the street from Publix was like seeing night and day; Publix was ‘Blah’…the Gulf side Marina was very inviting.  I saw houseboats everywhere!  I wanted to go live on one of them.  Nico and I dreamed of what it would be like to float around in our houseboat, without a care in the world; singing…playing music, writing songs all day or night.  The vision was nice while it lasted; thanks to the hectic frenzy inside Publix.

The energy in there was all bad!  The people were as crazy as back home; the vibes I felt from one woman were barely short of evil.  She was in a very bad mood and didn’t do much to hide it.  I couldn’t wait to get the hell out of there!   We decided to avoid Publix after that.  I was rather taken-aback by the ‘feel’ of the place and the people in it.  Publix is definitely a place I’d NOT recommend in Key West.

So…after that ‘experience’ at Publix, we decided to check out the other side of the island before heading back to Sugarloaf Key.  It was a very refreshing change from the commerce side of Key West: hotels, seawall, beaches, miles of sidewalks for riding…running…walking.  I loved the other side of Key West!  Now this…I definitely would recommend.  When you visit Key West, take the left turn…not the right.  You’ll be glad you did!

After a brief tour of the ‘lighter’ side of life on Key West, we spent the rest of our day back on Sugarloaf; kicking back a few brewskies and prepping to mosy down to T.J.’s for some laid-back fun on Lazy Lakes’ peaceful freshwater lake.

The evening was filled with fun, good food, singing and playing our music.  I do believe, after that night, T.J. is our biggest fan!  He shared a lot of insider secrets to entertaining on Key West.  To hear him tell it, we needed to share our songs at the Sunset Celebration that goes on nightly over on KW.  It was fun to imagine, but we weren’t quite sure we were ready to join the ranks of street performers.  But, time would tell!  If it was left up to our new friend, I knew we’d soon be braving the crowds on Mallory Square.  It was an exciting thought!