Spring 2021-Part 3

Low Key Hideaway

Monday, April 12 at North Beach Resort, we walked the dawn beach above St. Augustine, headed north this time, and we covered about 2 miles.

Packed up and left North Beach about 11A headed for another place JB had recommended to us—the only place that did not refund our reservation $ last year when everything shut down because of Covid-19, forcing us to cancel our spring trip (2020). Instead, this place had given us a “good-fer” to use during 2021. It was the spot the farthest south on our itinerary, called The Low Key Hideaway just outside of Cedar Key, FL (near Gainesville on the Gulf side of the state).

I must say, due to all the Plague madness happening in early 2021 in Florida, we had our anxieties about going there at all. 

As it turned out, we were SO GLAD we did. This place was definitely unique.

Traffic was such that we had no where to pull off to have lunch, so we had arrived hungry and doubtful. The sites were chock-a-block, and full of BBBs (Big Beige Boxes). Also, the sites sat directly off the highway, which headed straight into the funky town of Cedar Key. Looking west, however, was a tidal marsh that was full of wintering birds and, once a day, pretty gorgeous sunsets.

The Tiki Bar part (full name of the place is Low Key Hideaway and Tiki Bar) did not serve food, so we plopped Roomba into site #4, unhooked the truck and went in search of lunch and some provisions. Cedar Key has a decent quick-stop grocery store, with a deli serving pizza (when open) and Boar’s Head meats and cheeses. 

Finished the set-up after eating a good Greek-style pasta salad, and hummus and crackers for lunch (all from the grocery). Low Key Hideaway also has 5 motel rooms, and the RV sites and motel guests all share two toilets and one shower. Of course the BBBs rarely used the facilities, having their own, and taking advantage of each site’s sewer hookup (which we didn’t use until departure).

One notable delight about the facilities (and the walkway to the Tiki Bar) was that the “entry” to the yard area of the motel proper was a trellis on which was blooming some beautiful, sweet-smelling white jasmine. I pause to inhale the aroma every time I walked through, and it was very special.

We decided to check out the Tiki Bar after our late lunch, but there were significant numbers of folks in there and unmasked. Jack, having had both of his Covid shots, fetched a couple of beers for us—good local IPA brews but not not on draft, unfortunately. So we got cans and plastic cups and enjoyed our beverages as the sun began to approach the tidal marsh.

Right behind our site was an elevated deck—intended to be shared by the RV users, so we weren’t supposed to leave our furniture on the one I’d hoped was “ours”—and this was a very nice place to enjoy the sunset. On this first night in FL, we were blessed with a good breeze from the gulf that kept the bugs at bay, but I stayed pretty much slathered in bug dope our entire time there. Mosquitoes were most definitely a plague at this spot.

There were also a pier-and-dock, plus a large yard adjacent to the Tiki Bar for the guests’ use, and seating everywhere for small gatherings, including on the dock, and a bench swing in the RV yard. The Tiki Bar filled up every evening and folks were milling everywhere as each night’s sunset approached.

Our first sunset (7:51P), at low tide over the marsh, at Low Key Hideaway:

After our two Tiki Bar Florida Ales, we had an urgent need for hot dogs, so Jack returned to the grocery for some Boars Head dogs and buns, and we had quite an enjoyable dinner on the deck closest to us, accompanying our dogs with a couple more beers from our own cooler At first uncertain having our own beverages would be allowed, Jack checked with Maureen (owner) and she said it was fine. We were allowed to wander around with our own beverages anywhere we wanted, except into the Tiki Bar itself.

The downside of this place, and what we had expected: No one wore masks—not in the grocery, not in the restaurants, not at the Tiki Bar—NO ONE wore masks in this part of FL. Having had only one of my two vaccinations, I wore mine nearly always, and stayed well away from strangers.

We had slept in with the windows wide open to enjoy the breeze—since the sites had little shade under sparse palm trees, we generally needed the AC during the day, but hoped the nights would be as nice (except for the swarms of mosquitoes) as our first night.

Early on Tuesday, April 13, I took my binoculars out to our tea/coffee spot on the deck and saw MANY very cool birds. As we drank our hot beverages, the tide receded and the daubing birds were having a field day.

A pair of osprey nested nearby, and out in the marsh I spotted:

  • Roseate spoonbills
  • White ibis
  • Green heron
  • Pelicans galore
  • Egrets
  • Gulls

And many “confusing shorebirds” that I couldn’t ID because I didn’t have my guide with me. A special treat was the occasional call of a Bob White quail from the wild area of growth near the road and above the waters of the marsh. We heard it/them on several occasions during our stay at this strange, memorable, tacky place.

Out in the marsh in the center of our view from the deck is a large-ish island covered in scrubby trees that the pelicans have adopted as their roosting spot. I watched 4 of them sunning and a fifth, which had evidently decided it was sunned enough, dove into the water for an ungainly morning bathe, splashing and frolicking for a long time.

The wind died back to nothing by 9:30A and we carried our breakfast into the Clam to avoid the biting bugs. While eating, we watched an army of skinks or lizards (whatever) dancing and inflating their red balloon throats. Whether it’s mating or territorial, I didn’t have a clue, but it was fun to watch. Directly beside the Clam is a palm tree, and there were so many lizards in the trunk (where the fronds once grew and had been cut off) Jack decided it was a lizard condo, with each unit having a “balcony” on which the occupants stood to perform their displays.

We took a couple of local rides, straight out from the campsite and toward the airport, along roads weaving among neighborhoods. We saw an enormous tortoise walking along the road in front of a bungalow, and were able to use the long, straight (flat) drive into the airport for some cardio work. Our tootle reminded us of a trip to FL a few years ago, and made us miss Mark and Angela, fellow Alto trailer owners with whom we enjoy cycling.

After lunch, we took another local ride that took us to a long boardwalk across a finger of the marsh, leading out to a park called Cemetery Point. There weren’t too many people out on a Thursday, and we enjoyed poking about, and noting another osprey nest just off the point in an old snag.

On our return, we called in an order to a restaurant called Steamers, near the harbor in Cedar Key, and ate fried seafood for dinner, sitting on “our” wooden deck. The meal was extra-good and we would highly recommend Steamers—in fact, we ate take-out from there a couple of nights.

After dinner, we had an opportunity to see lots of birds in the marsh as the evening waned and the tide ebbed. 

Wednesday, April 14 (Happy Birthday, Mary!) was a morning high tide, so not too many birds to be seen, although it was pretty off “our” deck, as I tracked a hunting egret in the deepening waters.

We drove out from Low Key Hideaway to the Nature Coast State trail. This trail forms a T with several trails interlocking. The “vertical” runs from Chiefland north to slightly beyond Fanning Springs. It was time for us to do laundry and we googled something that looked promising in Fanning Springs. 

So we began at the FS trail head and rode ~9 miles to Chiefland, where the Rail Depot had been converted to a pretty park with picnic tables, trail head parking, and Chamber of Commerce/Visitor Info structure. Out back were public toilets to serve all uses.

We ate a snack in the welcome shade, turned around and rode back to Fanning Springs.

  • Stats:
  • Temp = 85
  • Ride Time = 1:15
  • Distance = 18.5 mi
  • Average speed = 14.88

Found the laundromat, and Jack got his clothes done, but my machine never filled up with water, even though it went through its cycle, so my clothes remained dry and dirty. Rather than invest an additional couple of hours, we left so we could catch the fresh seafood place next door to Low Key Hideaway before they closed.

Unfortunately, the only fresh seafood they had were clams and oysters, neither of which we had interested. Happily, he had some freshly-frozen salmon that we thawed and Jack grilled it to perfection! We had some leftover go-withs and (as usual) thoroughly enjoyed our meal.

The night in the trailer was quite uncomfortably hot, and some of the biters had managed to get indoors, so I didn’t sleep at all well. Thursday, April 15 dawned still, damp, and thick with humidity.

We drove back to the Nature Coast State trail, to undertake the horizontal part of the T—Cross City to Trenton, west-to-east. But before we got there, we drove through the Lower Suwanee River Reserve, off the main drag north from Cedar Key, thinking it might be a low-traffic cycle opportunity. Saw this tortoise along the roadway—possibly a gopher tortoise?

Indeed, it is a 9-ish mile (one way) “nature drive” of packed limestone through different ecosystems. And while it is shady due to the resident trees, we would bet the farm that it stays close and buggy year-round. Still, it might but a future cycling opportunity.

We parked at the Cross City trail head, out in the industrial section of the community. The paved path starts toward Old Town and for a good 4.5 miles, it is bumpy/lumpy pavement running directly beside Rt. 24/19 with little shade. Happily, the day we rode was slightly overcast, so we didn’t bake. The remainder of the 4.5 miles of the trail to Old Town was better, both pavement-wise and shade/location-wise. We found the OT trail head at about mile 9, hoping for a true rest stop (with toilet) but found none. Across the train trestle, and you have a full 10 miles, but nary a toilet along the entire “top” of the T (20 miles round trip). 

  • Stats:
  • Temp = 75
  • Ride Time = 1:30
  • Distance = 21 mi
  • Average speed = 14.3 mph 

Found another laundromat in Old Town to wash my clothes. This one was slightly nicer than the one in Cross City.

We decided that another Steamer’s dinner was required for our final night at the Low Key Hideaway. Not having to cook allowed us to partially break camp before the expected overnight rains arrived. 

And we thoroughly enjoyed our “World Famous” sunset over the tidal marsh of which we had become so fond.

Now, if you’re intrigued by what we experienced, and think managing a VERY! small campground and motel with a crazy bar, you have the opportunity!

Might be worth a call—at least it was available in April of 2021. I’d visit again if you were running Low Key Hideaway . . . .

Long Ride to Deal Island, MD (Ap. 17)

I have fallen behind in my blog posts of our Eastern Shore trip. We have had some anomalies with our connectivity here at Janes Island SP. It’s been strange enough that Jack and I have come up with some interesting “conspiracy theories” about the military base nearby reaching out to block our signal or to choke our access; or maybe it’s all those political posts I’ve been putting up on Facebook.

Whatever it is, we found that we might get good cell signal for a minute or two, and then for no apparent reason, it falls into the pits, and one cannot even download email. At first this did not happen, but the longer we were at the camp, the less we were able to use our cell service. And the variations seemed to have absolutely nothing to do with how many people were in the campground with us (who might have been clogging the channel with their own data downloads). We kept asking ourselves, “Did they (THEY) find us again?”

Maybe it was construction-related. There was a broken water main while we were there, so maybe they cut a fiber or cable link in addition. Who knows? Anyway, I’m back and since I’ve been actually writing the blogs without uploading them, here they are, late but full of what I know you are looking forward to in terms of each and every tiny detail <grin>.

April 17, 2017

Even though the forecast was for showers all day, we set out to do a longer training-style ride (as opposed to a neighborhood dawdle), after being fortified with cinnamon rolls baked in the Omnia oven.

Once we’d loaded the bikes on the hitch-rack, we set off for a ride marked on a bicycling route map that we now know to be completely inadequate and inaccurate. The Big Idea was to ride from Princess Anne out to a peninsula that included a small spot called Mount Vernon and its harbor where the water meets the land. Those 8 miles (according to the map) would be repeated back to PAnne, grab some lunch, and we’d head land-ward (the opposite direction from PA) for another 8 or 10-mile spur out and back, pick up our car and drive back to camp. We thought that perhaps we’d log 30 miles or thereabouts.

Arriving in Princess Anne, we found few “municipal” parking areas near the start point for our route. And PA is just “meh” in terms of meal options, so we revised as we drove.

I had been perusing a more robust map (including smaller street indications WITH NAMES!) and, discovering that the ride to/from PA is a long, straight, flat, rather boring, heavily-trafficked artery to the Mount Vernon harbor, I thought we might do better to stay closer to the water, despite the ever-present wind and offshore storm clouds.

So we parked at Mt. Vernon harbor (which, to be honest, was at least 2-3 miles longer than the map’s reported 8 miles), and set out on an exploration of the district.

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Mt. Vernon derelict.

We rode into a wildlife management area off Mt. Vernon’s “point” with a few homes along a dead end road. The ditches and waterways were full of life, including a raccoon wading along fishing, I suppose, and some turtle action in an area that was too muddy to see much of what the pair were doing. Upon reaching the end, we reversed back around to the main church, which serenaded us with a long, long bell chime for the mid-day hour. As we rode away from Mt. Vernon, we were still hearing the song at 3 and 4 minutes past noon.

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Our route did go up the long, boring road toward PA for a while, but turned off on Black Rd, which would hook up with another long, straight, flat road headed out to a peninsula called Deal Island, and beyond that, a harbor town called Wenona. In the map included, I marked our route out and back in black pen.

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Xs mark the beginning, turn-around, and end of the route, marked in black pen. The return took an extra road called Fitzgerald to cut some of our time on #363.

Boring down through the headwind along that road (363 or Deal Island Rd) was a slog. There were lots and lots of birds, though, including nesting Osprey, egrets, and blue herons. Most of the area toward the end was wildlife management preserve. We crossed a high bridge onto Deal Island proper, and I began looking for the “cottage” we spent a lot of time at in Deal when I was young. It was a family time of crabbing off the dock and swimming (while avoiding jellyfish),  swinging in the group hammock, and getting browned cedar thorns and sand burrs in our feet.

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Didn’t see a thing that was familiar, but then again, that was about 50 years ago now.

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We left Deal proper and crossed another waterway into Wenona where we rode down to the harbor, hoping against hope that there was any place we could get food, because we were both quite hungry (and had even shared one of the granola bars I had brought for emergencies).

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By 2PM and with 26 miles under our butts, we found a splendid eatery called Arby’s Dockside Bar and Grill. It was a local place, so open, and had all the local personality one might want to find. AND good eats.

ArbysSign0117Web

We were greeted by a vivacious (very loud) young lady of about 8 years. Later we heard that she is the youngest of 3 generations of women running the joint. She promptly got us some menus and a couple of bottles of water from the convenience store attached, and we settled in, overhearing conversations around us, among the locals and the staff/owners (not sure the waitress/cook/mother to our greeter’s status).

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Young Greeter is foreground right, her mother is cooking in the background behind a counter.

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Mike is the local barfly, having a Bud Lite and moving outside (upwind and not very far away) to smoke the occasional cigarette. There was another woman of undetermined connection jawboning with him, and once Greeter’s mom took our orders and began cooking, the volume amongst the group increased by a considerable number of decibels.

Greeter had a younger (much!) brother toddling about whom she bossed more than she bossed us, and rather than speak to one another when a phone rang or a dog wandered in or a question was raised, they simply shouted across the buildings for answers or demands.

We learned that everyone was quite weary of Greeter’s “underfoot” presence due to the fact that her Spring Break was one day from ending. She was interested in everything about our bicycles and gear, while the adults were interested in our trip (where and when we started the ride, where we were staying while visiting, etc.). Their questions and interpretations of our answers might have been one clue about why they always shout at one another: we had to raise our voices to let them know the correct answers to our questions.

“You’re staying in Rumbley?”

“No, Janes Island.”

“You started your ride to here from Rumbley?”

“No, Mount Vernon Harbor.”

“Where’d they say they are staying?” one asked of another.

“We live right next door to Janes Island,” a third shouted over someone else.

It was all very amusing and good fun, even though it sounds frustrating. Maybe we have good feelings about the chaos because we were so very hungry and the food was better than good. It was excellent. And we made it disappear in short order.

Jack got a fried oyster basket (with hand-cut fries) and I got a burger with fries (also hand-cut). She piled on extra oysters for Big Jack and, although they didn’t serve water or have any ice for our water bottles, we added into our tally four bottles of water from the cooler, plus a couple of Snickers bars for the return trip (jet fuel) and generously tipped our new friends.

The return was very much like the outbound, except the wind had changed direction as the storm that we were riding into, but which never rained on us before lunch, moved across the horizon so we were riding toward it again. Still, it wasn’t nearly so strong as that off-the-bay wind we endured outbound.

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Storm brewing.

We did pause along the way to rest our parts and stretch our backs; shared a Snickers bar; and stopped at a pretty little church with graves including the last name of a good friend, so we took photos.

DashiellChurch0124

Having skipped the repeat tour of Mt. Vernon on the return, we carved off a couple of miles and ended up back at the car with a couple of tenths of a mile short of 50. Neither of us wanted to stay in the saddle long enough to round it out, and the storm looked like it was blowing up for sure (but it never hit us), so we loaded the bikes and drove back.

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Crisfield area map, with Crisfield circled center bottom. Toward the top you’ll see Princess Anne and the penned-in route of our ride.

A quick stop at a random grocery store for Gatorade and a salty snack, and after we fixed ourselves a quick dinner of pasta-and-pesto, we were again treated to an extraordinary sunset, which has become a looked-for routine from our tree house. I have to say, our site #23 is truly a perfect spot from which to view sunsets in April.

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As the sunset faded, we began hearing calls over on Janes Island. At first we thought it might be some of the water birds, but it was too dark for them to be anything but silent and still. We didn’t think there were many mammals at all, and likely few-to-no predators over there, but nothing but night predators would be making those noises. Sometimes they sounded like cat calls, and sometimes they sounded like foxes. I thought the latter, as unlikely as it might sound, could be the case, because I remembered seeing a low-slung critter with a long bushy tail scampering across the road in front of the state park earlier, and had guessed it was a fox.

Eerie noises from the wild-wild marshland across the way; an area that looks pristine and friendly to ground-nesting waterbirds — “sitting ducks” so to speak, for nocturnal predators. By about 9PM all was quiet again across the Creek (that we learned the locals call “Dougherty Ditch”).

Tootling About

April 16, 2017

Easter Sunday. Most folks are leaving the campground today. We thought it would be a good idea to stay close to take some small advantage of the “changing of the guard” during the day.

The neighbors on both sides are sticking, as are we.

But I walk around the place late on Sunday and find that it’s a bittersweet feeling, with everyone who was packed in here yesterday gone today. Nice to have the quiet and the extra “elbow room” but I walk by the now-empty spot where the folks were celebrating a birthday in a great gaggle of friends; I walk past the empty spot where the “base camp” for another great mass of folks distributed among 3 or 4 sites now sits forlorn at the end of the row, a large group having an absolutely splendid time, all managed by the wife of the guy who was “hale fellow well met” to everyone he saw; the big dog with the perfect manners in the spot near the bath house . . .

Still, the quiet is truly special, so I don’t dwell on the lack of bodies surrounding us today.

Did I mention the pollen? We had just enough rain last night to wash some of it off the car, and it all puddled on the road. I included my foot so you might get some perspective.

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The road shows at the top of the photo, the gravel of the campsite below, near my foot.

Earlier, while most folks were breaking camp, we took off on a dawdle around the campground, and then left via the main drag (Plantation Rd) to head toward Crisfield, for a low-key tootle. Here are some photos from the campground area, followed by pix of what we saw along the way in and around Crisfield.

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Gulls along Daugherty Creek.

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In the far reaches of the photo, you can see white-roofed condos in Crisfield from the Janes Island SP dock at Dougherty Creek.

These images are from our ride into and around Crisfield.

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Turbine0097Web

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Defunct crab restaurant specializing in steamed crabs, a remnant of which lay abandoned in the parking lot (below).

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Those self-same condo/apartments visible from the state park’s dock, shown from the bay side here.

No photos, however, of some interesting sights. A guy in what appeared to be a sheriff’s cruiser was feeding an enormous flock of chickens, geese, ducks, seagulls, etc. from his car, in an empty lot. I’m guessing he was throwing bread to the birds, and they were fighting, tussling, vie-ing for crumbs, and procreating all over the place.

Took some video of the turbine that I cannot upload because it was pretty loud, although in the vid, the regular wind off the bay was loud enough for the camera mic.

A sign on a paddock that read, “Please don’t feed fingers to the horses.” (I thought that was brilliant).

Lots and lots of cemeteries, large and small. The United Methodist Church seems to be the dominant group hereabouts.

New birds spotted along the route:

  • Snowy egret
  • Pelicans
  • Great blue herons
  • Laughing gulls
  • Northern harrier
  • Cormorants
  • Wood ducks

Returned for a relaxed time at camp in the quiet, and grilled brats with grilled summer squash and rice for dinner. Lovely warm night with Roomba showing off his best with the lights shining.

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