Saturday, September 5, 2020

Chapter 31 - Florida

At the end of my last post I stated, "My next post will be a photo journal of our time here in Florida." Apparently I'm a clairvoyant because... that's what THIS is!

During our 4 months in the beautiful southwest gulf coast of Florida, we had the opportunity to see and do a ton of amazing things, including kayaking in scenic rivers (with alligators), snorkeling in azure blue waters over colorful coral reefs, and experiencing close encounters with dolphins, giant rays, manatees, sharks and yes, alligators. And even though you should see them, I'll spare you the 500 or so stunning sunrise and sunset pictures and just give you a sampling of some of our favorite moments. 

The bottom line is... Florida is SO much more than Ft. Lauderdale and Disney World. Take a look.

 Kayaking

The house we were at sat on a canal that led into the Peace River. When we first got there we borrowed the owner's kayaks, but within 2 weeks we had our own inflatables. This picture is a typical morning on the river. We tried to get out and see the sunrise at least 3 times per week, and it ALWAYS looked this beautiful.

7 AM on the Peace River

Our amazing inflatables

Orange River in Fort Myers, FL - one of our favorite kayak spots

Us on Shell Creek as seen from a friendly local's drone

Shell Creek - we kayaked 6 miles up this river from our house to the dam
Oh, and 6 miles back as well





Alligators are in all the rivers and creeks around there, but they're not interested in kayakers. We think.

Beaches

Nothing defines southwest Florida better than its white sand beaches. Although Charli and I and not interested in "sunbathing" we do very much enjoy them for walking, having dinner at sunset, swimming and snorkeling, and a favorite of ours - collecting shark teeth! Because of a certain way the ocean floor slants at Venice Beach, shark teeth have been collecting there for millions of years and if you're patient you can find a bunch.

This is how you do it

And this is what you get!

Tip-toeing Ibis trying to sneak past us

Key West and the Dry Tortugas

Charli and I love Key West. We took our kids there about 10 years ago and wanted to go back ever since. This year, however, we booked a trip to the Dry Tortugas and Key West was the launch site, so we were thrilled to get a chance to go back and do a little camping at the same time.

From Mallory Square at sunset - of course

I've never seen clouds do this before - but it is very cool

Our beach-side campsite

The theater I performed in with Livingston Fury in the mid 80s

Historic Fort Jefferson at the Dry Tortugas

Not my picture but an accurate representation of what it's like to snorkel here

Leaving Fort Jefferson

Dry Tortugas as seen from a sea plane (internet photo - I don't have a sea plane)

A gull and and girl

Until next time... I hope you enjoyed our slide show!

Bye-bye!

Monday, July 6, 2020

Special Edition - House Sitting vs Coronavirus - July 6, 2020

irony [ahy-ruh-nee] - an outcome of events contrary to what was, or might have been, expected.
So, I ended my last post in March with this... "Besides, how long can a pandemic last? I mean come on."

Uh... ya. Allow me to update what we've been up to since then.

When I wrote that post I mentioned that 3 of our house sits had already cancelled, but it didn't take long until the remaining U.S. sits cancelled as well. And after Canada closed its borders indefinitely our hopes of staying in Victoria Island and Vancouver were over. But what really stung was that we also had to cancel our vacation plans to Banff, especially after getting so lucky with our 1-in-4500 chance of securing our campsite. But hey, losing out on a little R&R when 130,000 people have died kind of puts your problems in perspective. Sure we would have to make other plans, but there's always next year. God I hope there's next year.

So what happened after we lost our entire calendar of house sits for the next 5 months? Nothing short of a miracle actually.

Shortly after that last post, a couple from Punta Gorda, FL listed an ad for a 4-month house sit that started less than 3 weeks after our current house in CA. Yeah, it was during the blistering hot summer but we didn't care. It was a house to live in and it was for 4 months! So apply we did and accepted we got. Yay!

Then, when it came time to leave, we rented an Airbnb for a few weeks in Phoenix so we could spend time with our son and his wife before we headed over to FL. Because when you only get to see your kids a few times a year, opportunities like this are a dream come true!

From there we pointed our car eastward and headed to Florida. But in these times you don't just come barging across the border, you now have to stop and promise the folks at the reception center that you'll be good and stay inside for 2 weeks. THEN you can go out and get infected by the locals. Fair enough.
Do you promise not to spread the virus?
Ok, we've got your information. Now go to your room!
On April 24th we arrived at our new "home" and settled in quickly. The bottom line is that we absolutely love it here. The Gulf coast is ripe with "old Florida" landscape, rivers and mangrove forests, all teaming with wildlife and beautiful flora. And because this house sits right on the Peace River, Charli and I bought inflatable kayaks right away. This has allowed us to immerse ourselves in the area and experience incredible encounters with animals of all types, from sweet, playful dolphins to scary looking alligators and sharks, who just want to be left alone.

Navigating the mangrove tunnels in Ted Sperling Park

Flipper flipped me out!

See ya later...

Red Shouldered Hawk
Ibis Elba

My next post will be a photo journal of our time here in Florida, which will not be easy, seeing as how I've already posted 350 pictures to our Google Photo album for this house sit alone. But that is a good problem to have. And don't worry, I'm not going to make you look at all of them.

Two hundred at the most. I promise.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Special Edition - House Sitting vs Coronavirus - March 26, 2020

House sitting can be a complicated proposal... a perpetual roll of the dice if you will. In order to secure a solid schedule in close proximity with minimal gaps between sits, several things have to happen. For example, consider the fact that every house sit has a specific start and end date and geographic location. This means if you have a house booked on June 1st for 30 days, the only house sit you can apply for next has to be after July 1. From there you have to consider how far away the next house is and how long it will last.

That's why, coming into 2020, Charli and I were pretty happy with our upcoming year. Not only had we secured a reservation to Banff National Park of Canada in September, but we had successfully managed to lock down the entire 8 months ahead of it with a string of house sits that gradually moved us up the west coast, ending in Vancouver just one week before.

It was a beautiful thing. In the house sitting world this was a near perfect lineup...
CA - Orange, Santa Cruz, Vallejo
WA - Camano Island, Bellingham, Everett
Canada - Victoria Island, Vancouver, Banff

... one sit after another slowly leading us up to Canada over 9 months, with nary a gap in between, until the big payoff of a full week of vacation at a place we'd only dreamed about until now.

Deemed by many as one of the most beautiful places on earth, we had been trying to squeeze a trip to Banff into our schedule for the last 2 years, but the wild cards of house sit bookings never allowed it to happen.

But then last year we decided to do it differently. Instead of letting the available house sits steer our Prius around the country, we decided to commit to a date in September and then figure out how to fill our stays to lead us to Banff. And with a little bit of luck and a lot of careful planning we did just that! Everything was all set.

Except...


December 31, 2019: The first symptoms of 2019-nCoV appeared in Wuhan, China. 

January 19, 2020: The first case of COVID-19 showed up in Washington state.

January 24, 2020: Charli and I successfully secured our campsite reservation at Lake O'Hara in Banff National Park of Canada.

You see, there are only 30 campsites available at Lake O'Hara and they are only available between June 19 through October 3rd. The only way to reserve one is to log onto their web site at 8 a.m. on January 24 and pray to the great grizzly bear above that you are lucky enough to get through and secure one. And if you don't get one within 5 minutes the entire season will be booked and you will not be camping at Lake O'Hara this year. HOWEVER... as low as the odds were, I was one of the lucky 4500 people who got through and our fate was sealed. We would be camping at Lake O'Hara in September! It was a glorious morning.

Now fast forward to February 26 as Charli and I send our home owners off on their 6 week adventure while we take over their house and care of their sweet dog Jax. The "Coronavirus" was now in full swing as dozens of countries around the world were reporting infections and cruise ships were in quarantine. It definitely was starting to get serious "over there" but because there were only a few reported cases in North America we still didn't see any major reason for concern. Surely it would wind down soon.

This, of course, leads us to today - March 26. As I write this all international travel has been put on hold, 22 states are under a mandatory "shelter in place" quarantine and the National Guard has been deployed to help assist. Needless to say, our future house sits are no longer secure. In fact, 1/3 of them have already cancelled.

Fortunately, when it comes to being flexible, Charli and I are in the best position possible. We have everything we need in our car, and driving 1000 miles in any direction is just another day for us. In the meantime we still have a sit booked in mid April... at least for now. But even if that falls through, we will still be fine. We have lots of friends and family who have offered us shelter, and Airbnb is always an option in a pinch. Besides, how long can a pandemic last? I mean come on.

Because they don't last forever, right? Especially until like September... right?

RIGHT?

Please don't leave me!