After our amazing week with family, we set off on the second month of our trip where we will be more on our own in the van and will have significantly fewer friends and family to stay with. Let the “van life” begin! We set off on a long drive south from Lake Worth to the Florida Keys. With less than two days to spend in the Keys, we knew we could only do a select few things and we knew it wouldn’t be nearly enough. Based on recommendations, we made sure to stop at Bahia Honda State Park. The crystal clear blue water was absolutely stunning and we spent some time snorkeling near the shore, seeing colorful fish, shells, and all sorts of sea plants. After an obligatory margarita, we had a lovely warm night of camping (and our first experience with biting bugs – ouch!). The next morning we woke up early to drive to Key West where we (briskly) walked along the charming streets, checked out the southernmost point of the United States, and found the Mile 0 marker sign for a quick photo op.
Sadly, we needed to leave the beautiful Florida Keys to head back north. I will certainly want to come back some day to spend more time in this beautiful area. We didn’t have any key lime pie or meet Jimmy Buffet, so there certainly is reason to return!
Heading north through Florida, we stopped briefly in the Everglades and Big Cypress. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to explore these incredible parks, but we did see some amazing gators, jumping fish, and unique birds as we drove through.
Our last stop in Florida was Crystal River, an area known for manatees! The river has several areas with warm springs where the manatees like to gather to keep warm during the cold winter months. We rented kayaks and took a nice paddle down the tropical palm-lined waterways. The manatees were absolutely adorable. They mostly gathered in the springs, which are roped off so people can’t bother them, but every once in awhile a manatee would swim right by or under the kayak. They were so cute when they would poke their noses above water to breathe!
We then had to rush across the United States in quite a hurry in order to make it to Arizona by March 7th. I will explain the reason behind this in the next post. So we zipped through the southern states (passing through Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana) stopping only to sleep for a few hours before waking up to drive again.
We had a lovely, but far too short, stop in Austin, Texas. It was raining the whole time we were there, which apparently never happens, so we didn’t get the full Austin experience. Our Austin stopover started with the devouring of delicious tacos with Steve’s friend from childhood and his wonderful family. Next we met up with one of my dearest friends from teaching in NYC and her boyfriend at Live Oak Brewery to have samples of wonderful beer and then indulged in some excellent authentic Texas BBQ. Yum!! We also got to meet their wonderful kitties Jim and Bob. The visit was too short and I really hope we can get back there soon. Austin looks like a great city and I have a feeling Steve and I would really enjoy spending more time there! This was yet another reminder of the amazing and generous friends we have sprinkled across this vast country.
We then continued driving west, putting miles and miles behind us. We made a brief stop in Marfa, Texas to see the famous art instillation of a Prada store in the middle of nowhere. It was certainly an odd sight to see a designer store in the middle of the desert. We walked around, took some photos, and continued on our way.
Finally after spending a night at a rest stop in New Mexico (they have free overnight parking/camping at their rest areas – amazing and quite rare!) we made it to Arizona to begin our hike of Havasupai. To do it justice, Havasupai needs its own blog post, so more on this later!
For now I will say that rushing across the country was not very fun and I really do not enjoy long stretches of driving. I feel like we are missing so many awesome things and I get very bored! We tried listening to our own music, the radio, and podcasts. Nothing really worked at holding my attention for longer than an hour. Next, I think we will try an audiobook, but I will need something light and funny. (A friend of mine mentioned that Cracker Barrel does an audiobook borrowing program – I might have to check that out!) Does anyone have any recommendations for things that might help keep me awake and alert for long stretches of driving? Leave suggestions in the comments!