A Sunset Walk Around Curry Hammock State Park

A Sunset Walk Around Curry Hammock State Park

We kicked off our shoes and took a stroll around the Curry Hammock beach at the end of the day.

 1CurryHammockBeachShoes

We knew we were on the “wrong” side for the spectacular sunsets that the Keys are famous for, but we wanted to see what sunset we could. The beach was empty and very peaceful. One of the things that surprised me the first time we came to the Keys was the absence of waves on the beach; it reminds me more of a lake in that respect.

 2CurryHammockBeach

We had heard that some people reviewed Curry Hammock State Park and said the beach was “dirty”. I’d like to dispel that notion… the beach is NOT dirty. It IS lined with seaweed that washes up, a very natural occurrence on beaches; and also important to the marine life, though there is much more here than in most places.  I found this information posted in the park:

“The sea grass that washes ashore starts to rot in the sun.  With the help of bacteria, it breaks down into detritus, the “organic soup of life”.  There are micro-organisms that are the base of a complex food web that eat the detritus and bacteria.  It is the bacteria that sometimes gives off the smell some folks call “low tide stank”.

So it’s not something we want to go away, or be “cleaned up” as I’ve seen suggested. It belongs there! And honestly, the smell is not very bad at all and it’s only at low tide, which looks like this:

 CurryHammockSeaweedBeach

Some people are squeamish about stepping on the seaweed to get to the water, and it can feel odd. The sea floor has a LOT of vegetation and is somewhat soft, but not unpleasantly so. If it’s bothersome, the solution, of course, is a pair of inexpensive water shoes. (affiliate link)

So… a lot of this:

 5CurryHammockSeaweed

…makes a home and feeding ground for LOTS of these:

 6CurryHammockConchShell

But don’t gather them to take them home, all those little conch and mitra shells are home to hermit crabs!

Along the way we encountered this interesting looking object that appears to have been in the water for some time:

 7CurryHammockLobsterTrap

We later discovered it’s part of a lobster trap. Seafood, of course, is a huge industry in the Keys and the traps are everywhere, even piled along the roads:

 8KeysLobsterTraps

We finally reached the end of the beach just as the sun was setting. Here’s the southwestern view:

 3CurryHammockSunsetSW

Even when we turned around to head back, we got another pretty view to the northeast:

 4CurryHammockSunsetNE

I’d say the sunsets are fantastic no matter where you are in the Florida Keys!

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Our Curry Hammock Friends

Our Curry Hammock Friends

Besides the gorgeous ocean view we had in Curry Hammock State Park, we had some visitors too!  The park has been maintained nicely as a natural Florida Keys setting and some of the original inhabitants still make it their home.

One afternoon we noticed this guy hanging out near the BBQ grill….

CurryHammockCrab1

We were amazed at how big he was!  As we looked around more closely, there were the crab holes that any beachcomber is familiar with, but these ranged in size from about the size you could slip a fist into all the way up to some that would have no trouble accommodating a bowling ball!

CurryHammockCrabHole

The crabs around our site were obviously used to humans invading their territory, but they were wary and I had to put a long lens on the camera to get a close-up of this handsome guy:

 CurryHammockCrab2

Since I’d never heard of crabs living off the beach, I did a little research and discovered some interesting facts about Florida land crabs:

~They can be found as far as 5 miles inland and return to the sea only to drink or breed.

~They live in burrows that can be several feet deep, but at least deep enough to allow water to seep in for moisture.

~They can grow as large as 6” across the body, excluding the legs.

~Giant land crabs are primarily vegetarians but will occasionally eat beetles or large insects.

~Egg-bearing females are more white, the males are blue-ish grey.

~ A female may produce 300,000 – 700,000 eggs per spawn, but very few larvae survive to become small crabs. The larvae are eaten by fish and other aquatic animals.

Another day, we had a visit from what appeared to be a female:

 CurryHammockCrab3

Curry Hammock was filled with wonderful “local inhabitants”.  Besides the crabs, I was amazed to see iguanas running around very much like your average tiny lizards common to the rest of Florida. Keep a sharp eye out and they can be seen along the side of the road driving down A1A. Alas, they are VERY fast and quite camera-shy!

iguana1

There’s so much to see around the park, and many good photo opportunities. Before we venture away from the park, we’ll take a walk around and out onto the beach. Sign up for the email list to make sure you come along with us around the park!

Curry Hammock State Park-Our Home for a Week!

Curry Hammock State Park-Our Home for a Week!

So we hitched up the paddleboard trailer and headed south for the Florida Keys!

RVwithSUPTrailer

We had a bit of trouble as I mentioned in the last post and were lucky to have the trailer and a selection of “just in case” tools along, but I’m not mechanical… I’ll let Andy tell you what happened and how we were befriended by a local:

“On the way to Curry Hammock SP, crossing the bridge into the Keys I had to lock up the brakes. All of a sudden the truck was pulling to the left badly. I was able to get into Key Largo and stopped near the Napa Auto Parts. My brake caliper was smoking bad. At 3:30 pm on a Saturday, the Napa guys were great, they called around to several mobile mechanics and none wanted to work. A guy in the store asked me what was wrong and said he would check it out, he was very well known by the Napa guys so I figured what the heck. He saw the caliper was stuck and offered to help. In no time he had it off, Napa had the parts pulled and he put it all together, bled the brakes and we were good as gold. He charged me a hundred bucks, I paid and tipped him. He even offered to go to Curry Hammock if I had any trouble while vacationing. Anyway the guys name is Derek McKinley, owner of Fantastic Mobile Detail. He deserves kudos and if anyone needs help in Key Largo or RV detailing call him at 305-522-4960. He did us right and it’s good to know a resource while on the road. Kudos to the Napa store, they did everything they could to help.”

All this didn’t take as long as I feared it might and we arrived at Curry Hammock State Park around 5:30 pm.

We’re here!

CurryHammockSPsign

Andy backed in the trailer and the RV and got us all plugged in and the water running-there are no sewer sites at Curry Hammock.

We had decided to bring our EZ Up shelter (affiliate link) and we were glad we did!  We set it up over the picnic table, Andy secured it with a tie-down strap and between it and the awning on the RV we had plenty of shade for eating and lounging. EZ Ups live up to their name, with a couple of practice tries they’re a snap to set up. We bought ours for farmers markets and craft fairs but it now we’ll also bring it whenever we camp!

Here’s our site all set up!

curryhammockspcampsite

Half the sites at CHSP are “on the water” but don’t really have direct access to the beach, but it’s a very short walk to get to the water.  We had a lovely view in site 19!

CurryHammockSPsite19

We had a chance to walk around a bit and get acquainted with the park. It was very clean and well-maintained. The bath house was a few steps away and it was in great shape. We caught a wonderful Florida Keys sunset that I wanted to share with you:

CurryHammockStatePark

While we were there we had some surprising visitors, some local guys that hung out around our site. They were a little shy at first, so it was hard to get a picture. Can you see our new friend in this shot?

findthevisitor

They got a whole lot more friendly and I got some cool pictures that I’ll post next time! Sign up for the email list to be sure not to miss it!

Happy Trails! or… How the SUP Toyhauler Worked Out

Happy Trails! or… How the SUP Toyhauler Worked Out

I’ve had some requests for more information on how the racks for the paddleboards were constructed (as well as how the trailer made the trip), so here’s a bit more detail.  Keep in mind this is not a “plan” or a “schematic” as Andy was working mostly with re-purposed PVC from a previous project. The PVC pipes we had were 1 ½” in diameter. Andy first measured the height and width of the kayaks and the SUPs to determine how much space each needed, as well as allowing space for the curve of the paddleboards.  We needed space for two kayaks and two SUPs so he constructed three units like this:

FirstUnit

In some pictures you’ll notice the ”joint” areas were also re-purposed as some have holes going to nowhere and others have cross bars inserted, but even the open spaces came in handy for attaching bungie cords.

The bottom and top of each unit were capped off with External Mounting Caps from ACF Greenhouses, a company that sells supplies to build greenhouses and furniture from PVC. The caps have tabs for screwing into the floor and for screwing the shelf on top:

racktop

 

bottomrack

The total length of the finished rack unit is 8’ which fits the plywood sheet on top and handles the length of the SUPs while allowing for the curve of the nose ends to go into the front of the trailer. Midway up, a bar runs down both sides of the unit to secure it together and the top of the unit is anchored to the side of the trailer with L brackets for added stability. The plywood shelf on top is 40” wide, so the inner width of the unit is about 36”.

PVCunitsInstalled

 

Lbracket

 

The boards themselves are lashed to the racks with bungie cords to prevent their sliding around:

6boardsbungie

3boardsbungie

 

Bungies were also used to secure the paddles to the top rack:

topshelfback

As you can probably tell, we’ve returned from our trip to the Keys and the report is…. the trailer was fantastic! It towed great and did the job exactly as we had hoped. We had room for some more “luxuries”  that were easy to stow in the trailer, like our hammock and stand from home, an extra folding table, and a couple of beach umbrellas,  as well as our EZ-up for quick shade, which we put over the picnic table that was at our campsite.

It was very windy the week we were there, but we left the EZ-up in place and Andy secured it with a tie down. He’d brought along extra tools “just in case” and indeed, Murphy came along and the tools were needed for an RV repair.  The trailer also enabled us to bring along a large 152 quart-7 day cooler which we brought drinks in, saving the refrigerator space in the RV for food. We added ice a few times during the week and had cold drinks for the whole trip.

It may sound like we took a lot with us, but we really didn’t. What we took were bigger pieces that were easy to set up and left out until we packed up to go home. Things were easy to access in the trailer because it wasn’t overloaded.

trailerback

It made our campsite quite comfortable:

curryhammocksite

We had a wonderful time with lots of interesting stories to share, not the least of which are the visitors we had to our site….

That’s the next blog post so make sure to sign up for the email list and come back to share our adventures in the FL Keys!

What Do You Get When you Combine….

What Do You Get When you Combine….

…these:

CrackIngredients

Believe it or not these humble ingredients render this thing of beauty:

aftercrack

A craving-satisfying, sugar-high-inducing wonder that’s so addictive, we call it “Crack”!  It’s famous among my friends and family as I have given away (almost!) as much as I’ve eaten since the day the recipe came to me years ago.

It’s been a while since I made this, but I posted the pic of the ingredients on Facebook and immediately lots of friends knew exactly what I was up to and wanted some!  Much as I’d love to, I can’t make deliveries, so I’ll share the recipe here.

As all my favorite recipes are, this one is simple:

Preheat oven to 350.

Line a large baking sheet with foil and spray with non-stick spray.

Lay out saltine crackers to line the tray.

Melt 2 sticks of butter (must be real butter).

Stir in 1 cup sugar and simmer for a few minutes, then pour over the crackers.

Bake for 5 minutes, remove from oven and pour two 12 ounce bags of chocolate chips evenly over.

Turn off oven and return pan for 5-10 minutes until chocolate begins to melt.

Spread chocolate evenly with a wooden spoon.

Chill pan a few hours until the chocolate hardens like this:

crackcooled

At this point the foil should peel away from the back easily and you can break the crack into pieces:

crackpieces

Keep it in a zip-seal bag in the refrigerator as it melts quickly!

Enjoy!

 

Rack ‘Em Up!

Rack ‘Em Up!

The SUPs and kayaks need racks in the toyhauler-in-progress and the designer has been designing away.  In the garage lurked some PVC pipe from a previous project. Now it has a new cool purpose in life!

I heard a saw running and went out to investigate….

Cutting1

Soon the first unit came in to be admired…

FirstUnit

Then it went into the trailer for sizing and more measuring….

FittingFirstUnit

As you can see the kayaks will go on the bottom two spaces and the paddleboards on the top two. So after more measuring and cutting of the PVC…

Measuring

MoreCutting

…two more units were born and a plywood shelf cut for the top of the racks for extra storage of chairs, lifejackets or paddles.

Once the whole unit was constructed, the caps on the top and bottom of the legs were screwed into the floor and the shelf on top.

PVCunitsInstalled

The kayaks and the SUPs were loaded in and it all fits nicely.

FullPVCracks

 

pvcRacksFromSideDoor

By the way, the kayaks came from IrishWaterDogs, a wonderful organization dedicated to healing injured military veterans through kayaking and the outdoors by getting them out on the water. The sale of the kayaks is a fundraiser for them.

There’s plenty of room for Andy’s long 11’6” board, my 10’ and both kayaks in the nose of the trailer.

SUPfitsTrailerNose

Job well done, Andy! Can’t wait to hit the road!

AndyWithSUPracks

 

 

 

Checkered Floor for the Win!

Checkered Floor for the Win!

This is such a win, I have to show you the finished product first!

FloorAfter1

It looks fantastic!

 

We decided to go with the full-sheet vinyl and we were thrilled to find this cool black-and-white checkerboard! At around $40 the price was right and the other pieces looked too much like a bathroom or kitchen floor anyway. This was one of those rare shopping trips when the coolest option also fit the budget the best!

Here’s a reminder of what it looked like after painting:

FloorBefore

First we attempted to roll the flooring out in the trailer and cut to fit inside, but that was a no-go.

FloorUnroll

So it came out into the garage for measuring and cutting. It was easy to handle.

FloorMeasure

Then we laid it back out inside the trailer…

FloorRolledOut

… and Andy adjusted the fit….

FloorAdjust

…and did the trimming.

FloorTrim1

A little more detailed trimming needed to be done around the side door.

FloorTrim2

The we pulled one half over the other side and put down some adhesive on the floor. We then rolled that half back over and pressed and flattened the vinyl back down and then repeated on the other side. We just did it by hand, with towels to slide over the vinyl and work it down flat.

And there it is… a winner!

FloorAfter2

Looking more like a toyhauler now!

Next step is the racks. The designer assures me the design process is under way! Sign up for our email updates at the top of the page under our picture to keep up with our progress!

Utility Trailer to Toy Hauler-The Transformation: Part 1

Utility Trailer to Toy Hauler-The Transformation: Part 1

It’s here!

After our 3-week wait, the soon-to-be paddleboard trailer came home and it’s time to get it ready; the Keys are only a few weeks away!

We used the 3-week wait to plan how to finish out the inside to best haul the SUPs and the kayaks. We decided that since it would be home to wet, drippy things, the first step should be to paint the unfinished wood interior to give some protection from the moisture. In the garage resided an almost full gallon of white semi-gloss paint, so white it would be!

To protect the floor from dampness, and our feet from splinters, the next step will be a layer of some kind of vinyl flooring, probably a full sheet style, rather than stick-on squares. The back door of the trailer folds down like a ramp, so a coat of non-skid paint will go there as we’ll often be barefoot when loading and unloading the trailer.

Andy has been designing the rack system and planning other helpful storage options like pegboard for hanging things, or hooks and bungie cords. I am boggled by the options hardware stores have for getting a job done and making stuff work. Why do men seem to have better tools for their jobs than women? Sorry, off on a tangent!

So the day finally arrived and we got the phone call that we could come pick up the trailer! Here it is:

 

TrailerOutsideBefore

Trailer with spare tire

InsideBefore2

Looking in from the back door

InsideBeforeBackDoor

Looking back from front door

Even though meticulous measurements had been done, keeping in mind Murphy’s Law, the first order of business was to make sure it would really fit in the garage…..

TrailerFitsInGarage1

TrailerFitsInGarage2

It fits!

SUCCESS! With the originally calculated 5” to spare!

Andy picked up a nifty tool to move the trailer in and out of the garage and around the driveway as needed without having to hook it up to the RV or the truck. OK, some of you may not be impressed, but I haven’t spent any time around trailers of any sort and I thought this trailer dolly was quite clever.

 

AndyTrailerDolly

This makes things easier!

The next morning we popped open the paint can and got ready to paint!

GettingReadyToPaint

Getting ready to paint

 

Since the inside of the trailer is only 5’ tall, of course we both had to stoop over when we stood inside, and in the interest of saving wear and tear on (ahem!) our almost 50-year-old backs, I grabbed the lawn chairs and set them up inside. Perfect solution! We could reach the top and bottom of the walls easily…  it’s much more efficient, even though it looks lazy!

InsidePainting2

InsidePainting3

It was an easy job with such a small area, and the fact that we weren’t worried about getting paint on the floor since it will be covered up with vinyl. Also both of us are of the mind that “it’s a trailer!” so we weren’t striving for a Better Homes & Gardens-worthy final product. There are places where the paint absolutely would not take where it was caulked in manufacturing to keep water out; neither of us is stressing over those! We did roll on two coats to cover more completely because we had the paint on hand and sealing it was really the goal.

Andy did have to stand up to paint around the area where the serial number is affixed inside… we figured we’d better not paint over that!

 

InsidePainting1

Watch out for the serial number!

All told the job only took about an hour and a half, even with waiting to roll on the second coat. We’re quite pleased with the end result:

InsideFinished2

InsideFinished1

Next step: flooring!  Sign up for the email updates at the top of the page to keep up with our progress!

How do two paddleboards get to the Florida Keys?

How do two paddleboards get to the Florida Keys?

Very thoughtfully!

For one thing, one doesn’t just strap an 11.5’ and a 10’ board on top of a Class C RV like one would strap surfboards onto a vehicle. Add in two kayaks coming along for the kids and you can begin to see the logistical problems.

AndyPaddleboard

We can’t do this all the way to the Keys!

Andy investigated many options, the most feasible seemed to be a vertical solution via a flat rack mounted on the back of the RV, similar to those used to transport a wheelchair behind a vehicle. While this would work for the kayaks, the problem was that at the height the rack had to be mounted on the RV, the 11.5’ board was still soaring almost 5 feet past the RV roof-line! No bueno.

The next option was a side-mount for the paddleboards and the rack-in-the-back for the kayaks. But why do both? Ok, how about a small light kayak trailer to be pulled behind the RV? Surely this could be modified for paddleboards too. This was investigated and ruled out for cost-efficiency. So back to the side and back rack idea?

But, it’s not just getting them there…. It’s also keeping them safe once they arrive. Like at night, when everyone is asleep. Or when we’re away from the campsite eating conch fritters.

Andy assured me, there are locks made so the boards and the kayaks can be locked onto the racks. Hmm… as my Daddy used to say, “Locks are made for honest people.” Forgive me, rack-lock-makers, but I still don’t think I’d sleep easy with our very portable water toys out on display 24/7.

So Andy investigated modifying a flat trailer, in essence building not only a rack system but a cover for it as well that could be locked up. He wanted something short in height that could be stored in our garage, as this would also be the place we would store the paddleboards when we weren’t using them.

We went and looked at flat trailers, and Andy described our issues to the salesman, who promptly informed us that a closed-in trailer like those used for motorcycles could be ordered just a foot shorter in height than the usual. No price difference.

paddleboardtrailer

Soon-to-be Paddleboard trailer!

After a little mental math, we realized that the cost of customizing a flat-bed trailer and ordering the ready-made were almost the same. Plus we would no longer have the ordeal of doing the job ourselves, a simple rack system would be easy to install in the finished trailer. Besides, it would give us extra room to pack and store some things that would be nice to bring along. We’re pretty minimalist in what we pack, and the RV storage is adequate but doesn’t stretch to include extras. So the trailer was ordered, and the 3 week wait for it to be delivered began…..

We waited 3 weeks but you’ll see it here tomorrow and watch as we begin to prepare the inside! Sign up for the email list at the top of the page to get updates on our progress!

Countdown to the Keys!

Countdown to the Keys!

We leave in less than a month!

Even with our love of beaches and the tropics, the Florida Keys is our favorite destination!

Despite my growing up in northeast FL, and Andy’s spending some childhood summers in south FL, somehow neither of us had ever visited the Keys. So there was no question where we would spend our honeymoon last April…. and we loved it!

Florida Keys

Florida Keys

So last July, Andy booked reservations at Curry Hammock State Park for our vacation this year. Most of the state parks in the Keys fill up fast, and June was the earliest available.

It’s coming fast, so it’s time to prepare!

Here’s the To Do list:

1. Meals! While we will eat out some to experience the fantastic local seafood and key lime pie, one big advantage of RV’ing is doing your own meal planning. Eating out for every meal on vacation is definitely hard on both the diet and the wallet! Plus with the RV, we don’t have to get up and venture out onto A1A three times a day.

That being said, I’ve already described my perspective on cooking, and RVs don’t have very spacious kitchens, so meals have to be simple. Besides, there’s lots of other things we’ll be busy doing… like paddleboarding, sightseeing and hammock-laying! So I’ve got some tried-and-true travel recipes in my blue notebook that I’ll share as the plan comes together, but I’d like to hear of some new ones that you love so, please, send me your favorite one!

2. Prepping the RV-We have a 2001 Coachmen Class C which is in great shape overall but with a bit of age on it, it’s got minor issues we need to fix. Last year we discovered it had a leaky front window, which Andy removed and re-sealed. This worked…. mostly, so he’s still looking for a way that will work completely! With the discovery of the leak came the realization that the upper bed (ours!) had to be replaced, along with the curtains in that area and the privacy curtain, all of which were musty.

3.Paddleboard Prep-This takes two forms… finding the best way to transport them and keep them secure at night, and getting comfortable enough on them to get the most out of our trip! We just picked the sport up last year and while it was easy to learn the most basic aspects, knowing some key techniques like turning in less than a 50 yard radius and changing foot-stances with some agility will make our paddleboarding in the Keys completely enjoyable!

4. Activities-We have some things we know we want to do, places we want to go, things we want to see, but we’d love input from those who’ve been there and have inside knowledge or special favorites! What do you recommend as a must-do?

So come along and follow us as we get ready and head the Keys!

Be sure to sign up to get our updates by email at the top of the page below our picture.