Hello from just west of Lake Okeechobee! We’ve got a few days off before our next three gigs, so we found a free campground out in the middle of nowhere for a couple nights of boondocking. I’m writing this from beneath a gorgeous, starry southern Florida night sky.
First and foremost, remember how I mentioned that we had an unusually large number of spiders in the van? Well, that hasn’t changed, but we did pick up a new breed of unwanted hitchhikers… we have a TON of ants living in the van. The good news is that they seem to have a hard time getting inside the living space, but the bad news is that there seems to be at least a hundred in the frame, if not more. How we managed to pick up so many practically overnight, I’m really not sure. We have ant traps out and it seems to be helping, but now we get to kill ants and spiders every single day. A luxurious lifestyle indeed.
Last week Wednesday we stayed at yet another Florida State Park, this one just north of Jupiter FL. It was only overnight, but the electrical hookups gave us access to one very important feature and the holy grail in hot, humid weather: our beloved AC unit. The warmth has been nice, but without any windows to crack in the back of the van, our little roof vent has a hard time circulating air back there. At midday in 80 degree weather with the sun beating down directly on the van, it gets HOT in here. Needless to say, having the air conditioner running even just for the one day was a very welcome reprieve. We also refilled the water tank, and (knock on wood) it looks like everything is currently holding! No visible leaks, no pooling of water in the storage space. I’m sure the war isn’t over, but I do believe we’ve won this battle.
Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday we had three gigs on the Treasure Coast – this is part of the Florida coastline south of Orlando and north of Fort Lauderdale. I’m happy to report that we still haven’t had any bad gigs! I feel like I’ve done a really great job at booking us at venues that are a good fit for our type of music overall. We had great nights at all three venues this week. Notes Music Room in Stuart gave us a small crowd with a lot of character, the Brewhouse Gallery in Lake Park gave us the most attentive and engaged audience of the tour to date, and Square Grouper in Jupiter gave us a gorgeous stage in a beautiful bar with very generous patrons. We made a whole bunch of new fans, we sold lots of merch, and overall we really enjoyed ourselves as musicians over this past weekend.
As travelers? Hang on folks, we’re about to do a 180. Allow me recommend that you do not attempt to come to this part of the state in an RV unless you have confirmed campground reservations every single night. In my last post I mentioned that we’ve always been able to find places to park without too much difficulty. In this part of Florida, because of the amount of the RV tourism here and the money to be made from it, there are very few places to park for free. I would have loved to have gotten us a campground reservation for the weekend, but those are entirely booked up by snowbirds months in advance – we’ve been lucky to get the occasional night or two at the campgrounds we have spent time at as is. So, we found ourselves at one singular Flying J truck stop for four nights in a row, and between a half hour to an hour away from each of our three gigs. Not ideal, but manageable for the most part.
Now allow me to share my beef about the Florida Turnpike with you. We found a service plaza that was substantially closer to two of our gigs this weekend on the Turnpike. In Orlando, we stayed overnight at a nearly identical one on the same Turnpike without issue, so I (foolishly) assumed this would be better than making the long yet predictable drive back to the Flying J on Saturday night. So we left our gig in Lake Park and headed for this service plaza. When we get to the entrance for the Turnpike, it says “Sun Pass Only”. Sun Pass is basically the Florida equivalent of EZ Pass, which is all well and good. But unbeknownst to us, in Florida some of these tolls won’t take your regular American currency. If you don’t have one of these Sun Pass things, you literally cannot get on the highway. We had to criss-cross back and forth over this road until we found an entrance that did allow non-Sun Pass holders to enter. Then, twenty minutes later, we arrive at the service plaza to find large “No Overnight Parking” signs plastered all around the parking lot. So much for consistency. Now it’s approaching 1am and we get to drive back down the Turnpike towards the Flying J, looking for an exit that allows us to get off and surprise, there are certain exits that you can’t use without a Sun Pass either. We did finally find one, and ended up at the Flying J around 2:30 in the morning.
Moral of the story? Come to the Treasure Coast and see all the pretty beaches and beautiful nature, but definitely get a Sun Pass if you’re vacationing here. That amount of stress was approaching Macon-gas-station-incident levels.
We’re here at the Dupuis Management Land campground until Thursday. There’s no hookups here, so we’re running solely on battery power and whatever water is left in the tank. We made dinner with propane (boiled spaghetti on the camping grill), and there are no electric lights, so dinner was cooked entirely by flashlight. But for a free campground, it’s not a bad spot. The land is beautiful, there are hot showers in the bath house, and there’s no light pollution from any of the nearby cities – I haven’t seen the stars so clearly in a very long time. Not a bad place to spend our one-month anniversary of being on the road! Valentines Day marks a complete month, and I truly cannot believe it has already been that long. It feels like it’s been a couple long weeks at most. The good news is that I think we’re both really enjoying all of this. So much so that we’ve already started planning the next tour after our month-long break back in Buffalo in June & July. I think we might do this for quite a long time if things keep going the way they have been. And truthfully, I would much rather be fighting our water system and municipal parking laws than I would ever want to wake up in my old apartment and go back to working nine to five. I don’t believe that we’re “supposed” to be doing anything particular with our lives, nor do I believe in destiny, but I do know that I’m happier than I’ve been in a long time now. Here’s to a great first month and to many, many more.