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Thursday, July 21, 2016

A TROPICAL HEATWAVE


Yeah I know, what did we expect coming here in the summer. And in vacation time too! We must be nutty.

As soon as we return to Miami we are hit by the humidity. The skies are overcast & storms are threatening. Sounds like Brissie on a hot summer’s day!   We are heading south to Key West. In fact every man and his dog are heading there. It is a long weekend here, and as they are few and far between everyone wants to make the most of it. We actually tried a few weeks ago to book a camp spot in one of the State Parks – and got laughed at. They are booked up months ahead! So we are planning to wing it. Maybe a free spot. There is one on Sugarloaf Key, but the sign says no vehicles allowed, & the overhanging branches would not be too good on GR2. But there is a camp ground right here – so in we go, digging out the KOA voucher we were given last year. Thank goodness they accept it because the site costs $115 per night! And it isn’t even on the beach.

We leave early as we have a big day planned. Off to the very crowded Key West. By the time we finish walking around the old port area we are covered in sweat (and it’s only 10am!) A drink & some delicious key lime pie does the trick. We decide to explore the rest in the air-conditioned cab of GR2.

Time to head back north. We plan to pop in to one of the State Parks to get on a snorkeling trip – but when we arrive there is a massive queue of cars, just to get in. Bummer. Not our thing at all. We quickly talk ourselves out of it & head off the Keys. Moral of this story: Don’t revisit places you have great memories of – it just disappoints.

We have an appointment to keep in Orlando on Tuesday to collect our new awning, so we head north, deciding to avoid the busy coastline. So instead of beaches we are passing alligator infested swamps. We spy a large parking area beside an airboat ride place and decide to try our luck there camping. We are sent on our way, but told to go over the road to a boat ramp (yes another one) and are given vouchers: 2 for the price of one – they open at 9am tomorrow. We sit on the jetty watching one lonely alligator & 3 cars hooning in the carpark.

So we do an airboat ride after all. Can’t resist the cheap price – just as well as it only lasts 30minutes! Then a wander around their zoo – all rescue animals. It will probably be the only panther we see as we missed the one crossing the road! And so on to Orlando. Today is Independence Day so naturally I have checked online to see where there will be fireworks – and I am in luck. Orlando has a big display, and of course we need to be there tomorrow! Yay!! It is a long drive on very quiet back roads hugging the side of the huge Lake Okeechobee. As we near Orlando we follow the GPS to the fireworks, find a carpark & head in to Lake Oela – right in the centre of the city. Many hours of sitting waiting, people watching & generally getting bored they start. Not bad! As a fireworks connoisseur I enjoy them – especially the grand finale with gold streaks raining down. Of course it is traffic chaos to get out, but we don’t have far to go as we plan on staying at the Fiamma workshop. They don’t know of course – but it works well.

By 8.15 the next morning the new awning is inside GR2. It has to be put in through the back window. Then we head to a Camperworld workshop to get it installed. Fingers crossed they can do it early as we are booked in at 12. All installed before 12, so we can leave the city and head to Ichnetucknee State Park. I have read that you can float down the river in tubes & maybe see otters. We arrive too late to do the float so head in for a swim & snorkel in the Blue Hole. A fun way to cool off. Decide to stay at O’Leno State Park so we can do the float tomorrow. On a side note here: walking around the camp area in the evening we note that every single caravan/Rv has their aircon on and are inside. What a pity on such a lovely evening. Actually it is more like envy on my part – a nice cool night instead of a sticky sweaty one.

By the time we get back to the river the long float is full. There is a max of 1250 allowed on the 3hr float. Max of 2000 on the shorter floats! Crazy huh! Well short float it is. We head in with our 2 big tubes & pay for the tram rides. Eventually leaping in the water with heaps of others. But despite the crowds it is magical. The water is dark, trees overhang & we are finally cool. After our 90min float we have lunch, then head off to do it all again. By the time we finish it is 5pm – so really time to head on, and before we know it we are in Georgia. All we can see in every direction is swampy land & trees. On the map I see the huge Okefenokee Nat Wildlife Refuge – maybe there will be a carpark. Before we get to it we find a flat spot off a little back road – but no sitting outside tonight or we will be carried off by bugs.

We reach Savannah by late morning. The plan of attack is to park on the riverfront & explore on foot. Well that is not to be. These carparks are not suitable for us – we find a spot on the street and oh boy it is so hot. That tram ride looks much better than walking. So we get onto one of them for a tour of the city. When we stop at the visitor centre we see a row of motorhomes – we should have come here first. We discover that we can overnight in the carpark for a mere $8. So we collect GR2 and head there. Then we can explore town in the slightly cooler evening, eat out at a seafood restaurant & sit in the carpark all evening chatting to a lovely young German couple. All the other motorhomes have left.

We are slowly heading north towards The Outer Banks – a string of islands just off the South Carolina coast. In fact John has already booked the ferry – he is so organized. We start meandering north trying to keep off the motorways. At this point it proves a bit pointless as even the smaller roads are big highways with lots of traffic. There are lots of massive housing estates – mainly gated, & and of course all the attending shops, shops & yet more shops.

We hadn’t planned on going to Charleston, but as it is so close it seems a pity not to pop in. So this time we head straight to the Visitor centre – but the carpark is full. So back on to the street! We book a 90 minute Historical van tour to get an overview. Then get off to have a final look around. Again it is hot, so we end up collecting GR2 and doing the rest inside GR2’s air-conditioned cab.

Lots more driving to do as we have a ferry booked tomorrow. Thankfully there is a bypass around Myrtle Beach as the whole area is wall to wall cars. That night we are hit by a huge storm – scariest ever. Thunder & lightening seems to crash right in to GR2. The lightening is spectacular & the noise deafening. By Saturday we only have 130 miles left to go, so we can slow down. Slowly the houses, shops & towns peter out. The peninsula gets narrower, the marshes bigger. The road ends at the ferry. Murphy’s Law: because we are early, the ferry is running late. Oh well time for a coffee & chat.

It is a 2 hour ferry ride, so we arrive on Ocracoke Island early evening. We drive through the tiny township, stopping at the lighthouse for a few photos, before heading on to the State Park Camping Ground right beside the beach. It is lovely to spend most of the morning swimming, before heading out at checkout time. Explore the rest of the island – by simply driving down the narrow strip of land. As we near the end of the island we find the queue of cars waiting for the ferry….Sunday afternoon & the wait is ages. Then an hour crossing. From now on there are bridges & causeways. Time to hit the ocean again before setting off to explore this island.  It gets more built up as we drive (we are getting nearer to the bridges connecting to the mainland) It may be a challenge to find a camp spot. We decide to head as far north as we can. The map looks as if the houses peter out- well they don’t. They only stop where the road heads on to the beach, and we don’t have a permit $50 to drive on it. So we find a spot where cars park to go to the beach. It is just emptying out as we arrive at dusk, and when we head off it is already half full. It is kind of sad that there is so little beach front left in these lovely places.

Well we head back down the island to visit the Wright Brothers National Memorial. This is where they tested their planes. There are markers showing the short distance they flew, a replica plane & a bit of info. Time to leave these islands and head inland towards the mountains. We are hoping it will be cooler there.

See y’all soon.

 

 

 

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