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.

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Three Weeks in the Florida Keys

Day 2 on Sugarloaf Key:

For us…this morning was a new beginning.  The light of day had brought with it a better view of Lazy Lakes Campground and the clear water lake beside us.  More of our new neighbors stopped for a friendly ‘hello’ and to tell a few tales of their younger days when they either owned or knew someone who’d owned a Hippie Van like Peniki.  Still, we seemed to be frowned-down-upon by the more ‘uppity’ clan of big-riggers; the ‘old codgers’ I call them.

All in all, the folks at LL are turning out to be a pretty warm bunch of retirees, part time beach bums, or full time ‘conchs’ as they so lovingly refer to native residents or transplant natives of The Florida Keys.  Again, our new friend T.J. happened by on his bicycle…on his way down to a little store called Kickin Back, a mile or so down Overseas Highway.  Being the nice person he is, he asked if we needed anything while he was there.  Lucky for us, we were well packed, and at that time only needed to buy more ice for our ice box.  The campground office sells ice and is really laid back on when campers pay.  Like I said, Lazy Lakes is just the place to go for a relaxing vaca in the Keys.

For most of our first full day on Sugarloaf Key, we’ve lolly-gagged about on our bikes with baby in tow, met a few more nice locals, and relaxed for the first time in days; got a little fishin’ in too.  We ended our day with a few brewskies by our trusty old VW Van, overlooking the myriad of fish from the ‘backyard’ of our new place in the Keys; however temporary it might be.

Tomorrow will be a busy day when, in addition to the barbecue we’ve been invited to at T.J.’s, we will head in to check out Key West, pick up a few more groceries and supplies…and see how the local ‘Conchs’ live.  I can hardly wait!

Travels: A VW Westy & Hippies at Heart

Day 22 In the Florida Keys:

Woke up….packed up a partially set-up camp, deciding to leave and explore Key Largo.  Gotta find a WiFi signal soon.  A little while later, stopped at a little sandwhich shop near the Publix Market and used the internet there.  We met a few nice folks–Kim the shop clerk and Brent the owner of the shop.  I got Kim’s FB info and we decided to keep in touch.

Had initially planned on heading to Big Pine Key to camp for a few days; at least until we went and checked the only available spot at Breezy Pines RV Campground.  It was a ‘no go’ there!  Bad energy and too many shady looking characters.  We ventured further down…closer to Key West, even though it was late in the day.  I’m glad to say, after much fear we would end up w/o a spot for the night, we landed at Lazy Lakes on Sugarloaf Key.  This is a happy and peaceful place to be.  Love it here!

Road Trip in a Hippie Van to the Florida Keys


Day 21: Leaving Sebastian Inlet, Headin’ to the Florida Keys–

Up by 8:30 or 9ish, ‘did laundry and packed up the van for the final stretch of our Peniki adventure road trip.  ‘Got on the road late b/c we had hot dogs and good conversation with our neighbors Eddy and Suzanne.  Nice People!  We’ll have to keep in touch.

‘Thinking we’d head straight for Key Largo today; per a tip from Eddy, we decided to  take the Toll Road straight on down and by-pass Miami this time around.  I had really had my heart set on seeing Hollywood Florida, but our new friend Eddy said it’s just a lot of hype, souvenir shops and the like.  Still, I want to see it…someday.

Visited the ATM, bought diapers and wipes, fueled up the van and we went in search of Florida’s Toll Road.  In the end, the toll road proved to be way too fast-paced for our old classic VW.  I was a mess when it came to nerves, but Captain Nic kept it steady and calm; even when we thought we might get mowed down by the crazy drivers who aren’t still stuck in the 70’s…goin’ 55 mph.  :  )  The left side service station exits, right off the ‘fast lane’ really didn’t help our case any at all. At one point, some flaming idiot came past in a fury, yelling some stupid shit!  I wanted to catch up to him and put the Whoopass on him….but the van never could catch the maniac.  LMAO

Finally, after hours and many miles of chaos on the toll road, we rolled in to Key Largo at about 9 pm or so, quickly found a campsite (as fast as we possibly could anyway), and ended up at The Key Largo Campground and Marina…just off Overseas Highway and within walking distance to Publix.  We paid WAY too much for the lot w/ a water view, but at last….we had arrived.  A BIG sigh of relief fell over our camp and ourselves as we went about constructing a partial set-up for the night.

Camp was finally put together and we were more than ready for bed by about midnight.  Luckily, the baby slept through it all.  ‘Will see tomorrow what this place looks like; if it is worth the $$$ we spent, though I doubt it is.

All in all, it had been a pretty good day’s travels.  Peniki had taken us all the way to the Florida Keys and God had blessed us in so many ways.

*Remembering* Nico met a nice man from Haiti who was working at the Key Largo Burger King.  I remember thinking of how much farther he had traveled to a new land, by comparison to our own travels.  I thought to myself: If this brave man can come all this way and make it work, we should be able to as well.  I dared to dream.

A Volkswagen Westy & Hippies at Heart: Saint George Island, Florida


Day 17:

Had breakfast and got ready for a nice day at St. George Island Beach.  ‘Loaded up the bike trailer to the limit, and we were off!  Fun…fun day!  ‘Found a Pirate’s Booty of seashells!  Yayahhhh!!!

Headed back to camp and started a campfire to grill Bratwurst sausages.  While the fire was stoking, I headed out to buy ice from the camp-hosts and ended up meeting Rob’s wife Anne.  Nice lady!  We ended up chatting for over an hour and meeting other passersby out walking their dogs.

Later that night, Nico played guitar for Nixi and we settled in…after showers.  It had been a good…good day.  Lovin’ every minute of St. George Isle!  No words to describe…

A VW Westfalia & Hippies at Heart: Grayton Beach to St. George Island, Florida


Day 16:

Met a nice couple from Gainesville, FL this morning who bought a copy of our CD (First one sold!!  Yay!!!).  Huck told us that he’s a native of New York State and his wife Leah is from Colorado.  They had two sons, and they were there at Grayton Beach SP on a family camping trip.  Nice people!  I hope they keep in touch.

We finally hit the road at around 2 PM (Ugh!!), leaving Grayton Beach headed East on 98.  It was a nice drive with no complications.  Yay!!  ‘Arrived at St. George Island State Park after passing over a three-mile-long bridge and snapping a few pics of the lighthouse there on St. George.  While we were stopped at the Ice Machine, an older couple pulled up in a golf cart wanting to snap a pic of us; the Hippies in the VW Van.  Too Kewl!

Arriving at SGI SP, we paid for a couple nights and set to work on camp.  ‘Met camp-host Rob West from Pennsylvania while buying firewood for our campfire-to-be.  Settled in for the night after setting up rig and cooked a bit on the fire.  Turned in at a reasonable time…for a change, but didn’t get much sleep (for a good reason, this time).  Nico and I made up for lost time.  Yayah!

Not bad for a day’s work!  We were lovin’ St. George Island so far.

A VW Westfalia & Hippies at Heart: Grayton Beach State Park


Day 15: 

Finally…time to sit still and enjoy the beach.  We paid for 2 nights, and boy…was I ever glad we did.  Nico loved it at Grayton as well.  The beach was a wonder of white sand and perfect waves.  We surfed as much as we possibly could on a surfboard with ‘no wax’!  Whoooaaa!  Slippery when wet!  Lemme tell ya!  But…even still, we had a blast being kids again!  It seems having a little one in our forties has brought a bit more of the kid out in the both of us.  Gotta love that!

Even though this particular day was rather a blur of fun, surfing, exploring, biking to the beach and around the park and such; even a bit of foraging for wild blackberries…growing beside the park road, it was just what the doc ordered.  By day’s end, I actually felt fulfilled and rested…all in one.  And while Nico had gone to take a shower, and baby slept soundly beside me, I found my Zen and wrote a song; singing the tune into my Zoom recorder…just so I wouldn’t forget what had come to me.  It’s an upbeat…beachy…reggae-ish kind of islandy sound.  I can hardly wait to get the music right on it so we can record.  The day was  a success…if only for that reason, though there were so many more reasons for a girl/Mom/Wife to feel blessed.

Happy…Happy Day at Grayton Beach State Park.  A wonderful place to see on Florida’s Gulf Coast.  I know we will visit again.