Tuesday, December 29, 2020

2020.12.29 Miami, FL

    Wynwood is an eclectic district in the urban part of Miami, Florida. It's home to art galleries, antique shops, funky bars, eateries and one of the largest open-air street art installations in the world. Wynwood Walls, a street art museum, features more than 50 murals and graffiti art by world-renowned artists. Founded in 2009, as an outdoor art museum, covering more than 80,000 square feet of abandoned warehouse walls. The murals are constantly changing and being updated.
    We attempted to visit the Wynwood Walls but like everything else during Covid pandemic, it required a lot of planning to get in. So we just drove by for a preview. It was still very unique experience. It reminded us the colorful murals in South America.

Sunday, December 27, 2020

2020.12.27 The Florida Keys

    The Florida Keys consists of 44 Islands and 42 Bridges. The Seven Mile Bridge (actually 6.79 miles long) is one of the longest segmental bridges in the world. The Keys are divided into five regions: Key Largo, Islamorada, Marathon, Big Pine/Lower Keys, and Key West. We have visited the Bahia Honda State Park, an island in the lower Florida Keys. The park occupies most of the island, is virtually uninhabited and has the best beaches in the Keys. In 2017, Hurricane Irma wiped out the Sandspur Beach and destroyed the Sandspur campground which is still closed today. There are two pretty nice beaches left: Calusa Beach and Loggerhead Beach. This Park is very popular place for snorkeling and kayaking.

Saturday, December 26, 2020

2020.12.26 Everglades National Park, FL

    Our first experience at Everglades. We did not know what to really look forward to except alligators and mosquitoes. And I have to say the wildlife was truly incredible. On the very first day we have spotted a snake, tortoise, alligators, voulchers and many different kinds of birds.
    Our camp was surprisingly quiet and I suspect that Christmas holidays had something to do with that. The National Parks campgrounds can be very rustic and this one was no exception. But our biggest problem was invasion of mosquitos every evening immediately after dusk. Even with the mosquito screens everywhere and dimmed lights, some still managed to sneak inside our RV. However we survived and now we're treating our very itching bites. Everyone who ever visited Everglades knows that mosquitoes can be brutal at this place. During our stay here we decided to rent a kayak and explore some mangrove forests. My wish was to see a manatee because I've never seen one before. And I got lucky we spotted a mother with a baby. The baby manatee was very playful and was following our kayak for a while. It really made my day.

Saturday, December 19, 2020

2020.12.19 Lovers Key State Park, Fort Myers, FL

    This is a park with 2.5 miles long secluded natural beach with piles and piles of sea shells. You can see dolphins, manatees and bold eagles and variety of other birds here. We were able to see enormous amount of birds including a bold eagle. One thing that was an unusual experience for us, was red tide. First we saw some dead fish on the shore and shortly after we both started coughing. The cough subsided shortly after we left the beach. Later that evening we learned that the red tide was spotted in southwest Florida. BINGO.

Friday, December 18, 2020

2020.12.18 Sunken Gardens, St. Petersburg, FL

    This 100-year-old botanical garden has over 500 species of tropical plants and flowers. Some of the Bougainvillea and Cuban Royal Palms here are the oldest in Florida. The garden also holds several exhibits of exotic bird species including Chilean flamingos, parrots and kookaburras as well as koi fish, tortoises and a alligator snapping turtle. It's a small garden but they have very unusual tropical plants. Calm, relaxing place to enjoy nature.

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

2020.12.15 Goodwood Museum & Gardens - Tallahassee, FL

   It is considered one of the most elegant mansions in Florida, originally a cotton plantation. The plantation home built in the 1830's is a historic museum on the National Register of Historic Places. In addition to the main house, there are 20 structures (cottages, pool and carriage house) dating from 1835 to 1925. The museum is situated on 20 acres of land with centuries old oaks and beautiful gardens. We couldn't see the interior because the guided tours were very limited due to Covid but it was still very nice just to walk through the gardens.

Saturday, December 12, 2020

2020.12.12 Florida Panhandle - Panama City Beach

    We decided to take a break from driving and settle down for a week at a beach condo in Panama City Beach. The place was very quiet at this time of the year so it was unusually relaxing. Just a few spectators every evening strolling on the beach and watching the sunset. It became our ritual as well. Northwest Florida panhandle has very unique, sugar-white sandy beaches and emerald clear waters. We did not found many shells here but we've seen plenty of birds and some were posing for us while taking photos of them. One evening we even saw stingrays jumping out of the water. What a spectacular show.
    And it's time to get back on the road.

Sunday, November 29, 2020

11/29/2020 New Orleans, Louisiana

    The weather is not cooperating in New Orleans, it is raining. And not just some drizzle, it is pouring. Well, we dig out our rain gear and off we go to explore the historic downtown. Not what we imagined it would be like, but it's still nice. It is a ghost town in the rain, just a few tourists strolling through the streets. The famous French Quarter is definitely worth seeing and the fact that the stores and pubs are closed does not bother us a bit. Colorful buildings with cast-iron balconies full of tropical plants definitely attract your attention. I'm pretty sure it would be a totaly different atmosphere during Mardi Gras. But it is COVID time and rainy, too.

Saturday, November 21, 2020

2020.11.21 Padre Island

    On the coast again. This time it's the Gulf of Mexico. Padre Island National Seashore Park in Texas is the longest undeveloped barrier island in the world with almost 70 miles of coastline. The park is also one of the last remaining costal prairies. Five species of threatened and endangered sea turtles found in the Gulf of Mexico nest on the beaches at the park.
    I wish we had 4x4 vehicle so we could drive further down to explore the primitive gulf beach. But since we don't, we anchor down in a developed camp and get some rest for a few days. We keep ourselves busy by beach walking, crab chasing and trying to take pictures of the birds who don't let us too close.

    The very first day we walked along the beach we noticed enormous amount of trash, mostly plastic that washed up to the shore. It is a big problem in Texas. They have an 'Adopt a Beach' program but it was suspended due to Covid. On the bright side we, were amazed by the presence of beautiful Portuguese Jellyfish and the Ghost Crabs. Also, there are over 350 species of birds living or migrating through the park. It is a true paradise for bird watching.

Monday, November 16, 2020

11/16/2020 San Antonio

    San Antonio is the first metropolitan area we've run into in Texas. So far, we've traveled hundreds of miles through a land of nothing, just tumbleweed and oil fields. We decided to stop here to visit the well known Alamo mission and fortress, but it turned out to be little disappointing. Only a church and a garden, worth about a half-an-hour walkaround. A few displays explaining the history of the fort and a lot of visitors, making us uneasy in these Covid-19 times.
    Fortunately, we discovered other things around San Antonio to entertain ourselves. Since the Alamo Fortress is in the center of San Antonio, we ventured to a quite unusual downtown park, the River Walk. It is a network of walkways along the San Antonio River, one story beneath the streets with many restaurants, shops and hotels. Unusual placement and really great idea how to turn a busy commercial place into an island of tranquility.
    Then, we visited the San Jose Mission, well preserved ruins of an 18th century settlement. The place was quiet, mainly because the visitor's center upfront was closed and a lot of people just turned back. Luckily, we found an opened gate behind the center and strolled inside.
    Second nice surprise was the Japanese Tea Garden near San Antonio Zoo. Nice and quiet place with ponds full of colorful Koi fish, waterfalls and nicely arranged plants.

Random facts about San Antonio:
    - San Antonio is the most visited city in Texas.
    - Charles Lindbergh received training at Brooks and Kelly fields in San Antonio.
    - Theodore Roosevelt recruited his famous Rough Riders in the Menger Hotel, still located in downtown.
    - The Milam building was the first air-conditioned office building in the US, opened in January 1928.

Friday, November 13, 2020

11/13/2020, National Parks inTexas

11/10/2020, Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Texas

    This is the first of only two National parks in Texas. We didn't have any camping reservation as we rarely do, but to our surprise, the campground was first come first served. So, we were able to secure a spot. Most people come here to hike the highest peak in Texas, Guadalupe Peak 8,751 ft (2,667m). Because it was a very windy and cold day we decided for a shorter hike " The Devil's Hall". And it turned out it was a good choice. Agaves, prickly pear cacti, cholla and yuccas are abundant in this area. It reminded us of the Sonoran Desert in Arizona. The only thing that's missing here are the Saguaro cacti.

11/13/2020, Big Bend National Park, Texas

    Big Bend National Park is one of the most remote parks in the United States. It runs along the Texas-Mexico border created bythe Rio Grande River. It is a long way from any civilization. The name Big Bend comes from a large bend in the Rio Grande River along the park boundary. The Chisos Mountains was our favorite area here. After a quick visit and just one hike we had to leave. Too many people were in the park and not enough camping spots available.
    Due to Covid-19, one campground was closed and two others reduced the number of sites. We were a little disappointed but we fully understood the situation and the reasoning. Unfortunately National Parks struggle with a crisis; just too many visitors.

Monday, November 9, 2020

11/09/2020, Carlsbad Caverns National Park, New Mexico

    Fun fact: The town of Carlsbad, which lends its name to the caverns and a national park, is named after a Czech town 'Karlovy Vary', 'Carlsbad' in German, both of which mean "Charles's Baths".
    The park contains 19 caves; only three are open to the public. The most impressive chamber at the Carlsbad Caverns is the Big Room, which is 4,000 feet (1,220m) long, 625 feet (191m) wide, and 255 feet (78m) high. The Big Room is the largest cavern chamber in North America.
    Lechuguilla Cave is well known for it's delicate speleothems and pristine underground environment. To protect the fragile environment, access is limited to scientific expeditions only. Recently an antibiotic-resistant bacteria have been discovered in this isolated cave.Carlsbad Caverns is also a sanctuary for Brazilian free-tailed bats. It is unfortunate that bats stay here only from early spring through late October. They fly to Mexico and further south for the winter. So we'll have to return to see the "Night Flight Show" some other time.

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

10/28/2020, Eighteen Thousand Miles Later

    I decided to start this blog about our travel experiences to motivate others. Or just simply letting you know about our progress, as we sometimes forget to keep in touch with our family and friends. Please don't be judgemental. I'm not a storyteller and I have minimal writing skills. So this is just a trial and the time will tell.
    My husband has been blogging for years, but his blog is in Czech, so I  decided to start an English narrative. First I had an idea just to translate his version but he is more detail oriented and it would take me at least a year to catch up.
    As many of you know, we planned to relocate to the Czech Republic in May 2020, but unfortunately the Covid-19 pandemic totally changed our plans. Our plane tickets got canceled and we had to come up with a new idea. Early this year, we purchased a new RV, this time a more compact "Winnebago Travato" campervan so we can join the booming van-life pack. I'm not saying it is always easy, because the travel during Covid-19 is definitely different. A lot more people on the roads nowadays than ever before, so it is sometimes challenging to find a place to camp.
    We started our journey in April 2020 and the first trip was to the western US. I have to admit we have an attachment  to the Wild West, the desert and cacti. I suppose this is why we keep going back there. On the attached map you can see the area we have covered in the last six months.

   Travel time: 6 months
   Travel distance: 18,350 miles

    Our preference is boondocking (camping off-the-grid). There is a lot of public land west of the Rockies and we are well equipped to stay away from populated places for weeks at a time. Sadly, some BLM (Bureau of Land Management) public lands are starting to close due to people who do not adhere to the "Leave No Trace" principles.
    After our first successful test drive through the western US we have decided to continue and explore the South (Texas, Luisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, etc...). It's the region we know very little about and that makes it more fascinating.
    We prefer to move from place to place constantly. So even if we find a beautiful area to stay and camp for a few days, next morning we decide to move on and sometimes we regret not staying longer. I believe it's the excitement to discover and see new places that doesn't allow us to settle down. This is something we still have to work on because it can be very exhausting.
    Here is a little photo snapshot of the first six months on the road.