A Travellerspoint blog

It Lives

Resurrection, Pep Boys, After Market car parts

sunny 75 °F

OK, it has been a weird couple of days and there will be a much longer blog entry coming that will deal with the ups and downs of the last few days.

But, here it is. The Torrent is alive. It is going to get a cheap-ish fix and we are going to drive it back to Canada. Pep Boys is an auto repair chain in the US. They have all the after market parts necessary to fix the front end of our car at a much reduced cost from what the Chev dealer wanted.

They also have a product that will help with the head gasket problem...it seals leaks, at least temporarily.

So, we will be back on the road home on Monday, with the Torrent and the boler attached. We will take a semi direct route back, but we will camp our way home, so there will be more blog entries.

We now expect to be back in Nova Scotia before the end of April. We will then deal with buying a new car once we get home.

YAY!! We are excited to have our old buddy back and hope it will get us back home...we expect it will.

Posted by Rooseboom-Scott 08:40 Comments (2)

Obituary - 2006 Pontiac Torrent VIN 2CKDL73F966146049

All good things must come to an end :(

Two days ago we began having some braking problems with our Pontiac Torrent tow vehicle. We were unsure what was going on, but we were also having some problems with the car overheating while idling. So we booked a service appointment with Regal Chevrolet, in Lakeland Florida for 7:15am on Wednesday, April 6 for an analysis of what was wrong and what might be required to repair the issue and get us back on the road.

At 9:00am we got the terminal diagnosis. The Torrent had blown the right side strut, which supports the wheels and the ABS braking system, which is why we were having issues when we hit the brakes. The repair involved changing both struts on the front of the vehicle, at a cost of about $1,750. The second, and worse issue was the overheating. The car had a blown head gasket, which was caused they figured, by advanced age and the extremely rusty underside of our 10 year old vehicle. The cost to repair/replace the head gasket was $2,250. So, our great little tow vehicle would cost over $4,000 US to get her back on the road, which is slightly over $5,000 Canadian.

It didn't take us long to make the decision to put our loyal vehicle out of her misery. There will be a new blog on the route forward from here in a couple of days. This blog will eulogize our trusty steed that is headed for the crusher.

We bought the Torrent in May, 2011, about a week before we bought the boler. The original meeting between tow-er and tow-ee was a bit stormy. On the second day out the boler hopped off the trailer hitch and we had to do a re-attachment at the side of the road on Digby Spit. But they eventually learned to live together.

But the pair really came into their own when we had 2 feet added to the boler hitch and after that they were off and running. The Torrent and boler paired on trips totaling 350 days. The Torrent faithfully hauled the boler through 9 of the 10 Canadian Provinces, and 31 of the 48 states of the USA.

The Torrent had 70,000 kilometers on her odometer when we took ownership and this morning, when we shut her down for the last time it read just over 233,500 kilomters. In 5 years she had put on 163,500 kilometers and this past winter went through her 10th rough Nova Scotia winter. Age and distance had done her in.

Here is a picture of her from a month ago, at the launch of our current adventure:

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So, as Jenny and I pause to reflect on her passing, we can only come up with one thing to say...right to the end she did her job...it falls to us to not have noticed the signs of her failing health, for they were all there. To launch her onto a 20,000 mile journey only to have her fold up and die after just 4,000 miles is tragic.

The need to replace her, in Florida of all places, is another story, for another day. This blog entry is all about our now departed Torrent. Rest in peace, old steed. You have nothing to be ashamed of...you did your job, and very well indeed. We kept the license plate holder from the front of the car, with the Canadian flag, as a memento.

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Posted by Rooseboom-Scott 10:00 Comments (4)

Days 26, 27, 28, 29 - Keys and Everglades

Tamiami Trail, Alligators, surprise campground,

sunny 77 °F

Day 26 - Friday...after a long day in Key West, we spent this day in relaxation and reading. We only bestirred ourselves to do a bit of snorkeling in the afternoon. Otherwise, a couple of beers, some cheese and crackers and a good day off.

Day 27 - Saturday - our last full day at Bahai Honda. We chatted with our neighbours Jeff and Sally from Indiana about trip plans and places to stop along the way. One of our favourite things is to get tips on great places to see and do things along the way.

We started our day with a sunrise walk along the shore at the far end of the park. We had the place to ourselves and headed out a nature walk trail for 1/2 a mile and then came back along the beach. On the way back there was a lot of plastic debris on the beach, so we did our part and picked it up.

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Jenny caught a great photo of a flock of shorebirds:

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Beach garbage:

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We snorkeled for a second time, testing out our underwater camera to see if it worked...it did! The snorkeling was difficult because of wind and tide direction, with both of us feeling a little sick to the stomach from the constant rocking.

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It was very hot once again (93 degrees) and sunny and the rest of the day was taken up with relaxation and getting ready to pull out the next morning. By bed time we had most of the tear down done.

Dy 28 - Sunday - We left Bahai Honda early in the day with plans to have a short visit to the Everglades National Park and then head on the Ft Myers for a motel night. The Everglades were a bigger attraction than we thought they might be. There were really no bugs to speak of at the Visitor Center so we headed out to see some alligators on the Anhinga Trail boardwalk. Lots of sightings of guys who looked just like this, some bigger, some smaller:

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We saw one devour a fish, but got no photos of that event. We did come across a group of characters in the parking lot. Cheeky black headed buzzards. They provide tarps and bungee cords to cover your cars. The buzzards will eat the windshield wipers and any other rubber they can rip off your vehicle.

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We left the main visitor center and stopped just up the road at the "Robert is Here" vegetable and fruit stand. The milkshakes are excellent and we stocked up on local fruit.

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We took the Tamaimi Trail, at one time the only way to cross the Everglades, before I-75 was opened in the 1980's. There is a scenic loop about half way across and we had decided to drive that loop on our way across to see what could be seen. However, when we came upon the MItchell Landing Campground and found it completely vacant, we decided on the spur of the moment to camp there overnight, without electricity for the first time on this journey. Eerily quiet overnight, we could hear owls in the trees hooting much of the night.

Day 29 - Monday. We awoke early and headed out to try and see some more wildlife. We cruised along the Tamaimi Trail for 3 hours stopping at lookouts and boardwalks along the way. We did come across a fine example of a strangler fig:

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We stopped for a late breakfast at a Perkins Restaurant in Naples, Fl and then checked out our future plans at the local library where we go good internet access for the first time in days. We picked out a motel in Clearwater Fl for the night and headed off, planning to follow Highway 41 all the way. After 90 minutes on stop and go traffic through Naples and Fort Myers, we changed over to the Interstate. That entire section of Highway 41 is an endless strip mall...nothing but shopping! Argh.

The day ended in a fairly decent motel, a bit dated, but the internet works and the room is clean. Tomorrow we are headed to Hillsborough River State Park for a few days of hiking and checking out the area around Tampa Bay. Next blog will be Friday/Saturday. Good to have you all on board and we hope you are enjoying this blog.

Posted by Rooseboom-Scott 18:26 Comments (5)

Day 24, 25 - The Keys, Part Two

sunny 91 °F

Day 24 – Bahai Honda walkabout. After our day in Key West we decided to take an easy day and just hang around the campground, but that pesky laundry needed to get done. So, after a morning walk around the campground and trip up to the railway bridge we thought we had better run into Lone Pine Key, just 8 miles away and get our laundry out of the way. We headed out around 10:00 am figuring to be done and back by Noon. We’d looked on-line for a laundromat but could not find one listed, so we stopped at an information kiosk and got the bad news. Due to the extreme cost of water here, all laudromats locally had shut down. The only choice was Key West, 37 miles west or Marathon, 45 miles east. Well we could live another day and we were planning on going to Key West anyway on Day 25 so we would just incorporate laundry into our second trip to the end of the keys.

A quick bit of grocery shopping and we headed back to Bahai Honda. Much to our surprise, the road into the campground/day park was absolutely full of vehicles, all trying to get into the park. Even though we were registered campers there was no quick way in. Each day visitor must stop and pay the entry fee, so the line-up moves at a snail’s pace. It was exactly 30 minutes for us to get back into the park. The employee on the gate says most campers just avoid going out during the peak period. This park fills up with day visitors almost every day, as many as 1500 of them. There are numerous beaches, boat launches, snorkelling tours, kayak rentals, etc. The day visitors all have to be out at sunset leaving the place quiet for the campers.

The railway bridge is quite interesting. It was built over 4 years or so beginning in 1900 and was only in use as a railway from 1905 to 1912, but spans the entire length of the keys. It was later converted into the road, but was essentially destroyed by a hurricane in 1935. The remaining trestle is closed to foot traffic as it is not safe.

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We took an afternoon swim to cool off, once again it is about 90 degrees here and the lovely heat just bakes your bones. The rest of the day was relaxing and reading in the shade.

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Day 25 – Key West, evening version, the disappointment of the key lime pie

We headed out fairly early for Key West. We had laundry to get done, and Jenny wanted to get a haircut as well. We’d found the Truman and Grinnell Laudry on-line and headed there first. The owner is a Cuban who bought the place a year ago and said he is doing well enough with the business. He has a contract with the US Navy that gives him enough money to cover his basic costs and the rest is gravy. He says he does not want to be rich, just comfortable. The wash was $9.75 for all our laundry and another $3.25 to dry...very reasonable. We chatted with a local woman who works for the food chain Winn-Dixie, which would be very similar to our Sobeys back home. She said it was an OK employer and she was happy to have a job that allowed her to live comfortably in Key West.

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Jenny had made an appointment with a hair salon just out of downtown and we headed in that direction looking for a place for lunch. Sometimes you find a hidden gem and Key Plaza Creperie was all that. A family owned and operated breakfast and lunch place. We shared a whole wheat crepe with smoked salmon and brie and a Mediterranean Salad, for a total cost of $26, including tip. Seriously, if you go to Key West, you should try this place out...excellent food and service.

Jenny got her haircut, $50 including tip, and looks great. We did an afternoon walkabout, after finding a place to park downtown, again $11 for 4.5 hours of parking time. We popped into the Library for a bit of internet time. Libraries are great for this kind of stuff and this one was very good.

It was now 3:30 pm, 93 degrees and full sun. This is when we began our walkabout and a made a couple of errors in direction that cost us time to visit the Audubon Gardens. We walked at least a mile in the wrong direction and got caught in a dead end and had to walk a mile back to get where we were supposed to be. By that time it was too late to tour the garden as they were closing to host a wedding. We were baking at that point and decided to stop for a margarita down on the harbour, at El Meson de Pepe, a Cuban restaurant right at Mallory Square, where the nightly sunset celebration takes place. This celebration is a Key West tradition and people gather here to celebrate the setting of the sun and the beginning of a wild night of bar hopping, eating, etc. The margaritas were good, but $17 for two was a bit steep. We decided to take a walk along the harbour and then come back to El Meson de Pepe for supper.

We walked along the waterfront, where there are boat after boat taking tourists out for a sunset cruise. There must have bee 30 good sized boats, all loading up for the trip. Really touristy. The rest of the waterfront is restaurants and bars catering to the sunset crowd. There is every conceivable tourist shop along Duval Street and in the area surrounding Mallory Square.

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We returned to El Meson de Pepe at 6:00 pm for supper. We figured an hour to eat and then we would check out the lead-up to the sunset in the square. Supper was just OK, we tried a platter of sorts, roasted pork, a shredded beef stew, served with plantains, yellow rice and black beans. Adequate, but not as spicy as we would have expected. The worst was yet to come. Our Key Lime pie dessert was served and we were quick to discover that the crust was burnt, which gave a pretty awful aftertaste to an otherwise excellent tasting desert. The waiter brushed off our complaint and said just to eat the parts that were on top. Thus ended the prospect of a good tip for this guy!! Supper was $51.88 and the tip a miserly $4.

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The lead-up to the sunset is a bunch of street performers, doing the usual lame stuff you find along seashores everywhere, and hawkers of crappy tourist stuff. I lived in Victoria for 20+ years and this is no different that what you would see on the inner harbour there. Cruise ships also stop here. There were several thousand people in the square and we hung in to close to sunset, decided to head off back to the campground. We walked almost a mile back to the car and the bars and restaurants were hopping by 7:45 pm when the sun had set. We left Key West to the young people who would likely party long into the night. Those days are long gone for us.

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Our final impression of Key West is a good one. The daytime is for people like us who want to see the old city and its attractions, the night is for the young, who want to drink and party and enjoy all those things we used to when we were young.

Posted by Rooseboom-Scott 13:45 Comments (1)

Days 21, 22, 23 - Florida Keys, Part 1

Bahai Honda State Park, Key West, Funky street art,

sunny 89 °F

Our reservation wasn’t until 3pm at Bahai Honda State Park so we dawdled the morning away at the campground in Key Largo. We had just a 60 mile drive to the park. It was Easter morning and the Keys were full of people. The Key Largo Kampground is a co-op, 165 or so R/V lots that are all owned individually, but managed together. Well over half of the lots have permanent R/V’s on them, some quite elaborate. When the owners are not in residence the R/V can be rented and is managed by the co-op. Some would rent for $250 per night and up in peak season. There are 20+ lots that are vacant and rented out to people like us, passing through. Many of the R/V sites are on a boat slip and your boat can be moored right with your R/V...sweet! Our rate for the vacant site was $65 plus tax, but hey, we did not book in advance and were grateful to find a place when we arrived unannounced the night before. The washrooms were adequate and the facilities were pretty good.

We headed out at close to Noon with plans to do a bit of shopping along the way to refill our fridge. Some stores were closed for Easter Sunday and some were not...it was going to be hit or miss. We did manage to find one open and stocked up, very close to our State Park. Luckily, our site was ready when we arrived. We got the camp set-up and settled in to relax in the now 90 degree heat. Our Canadian constitutions are not handling this increase in temperature well and we have no air conditioning in the boler. Also, our fan is very small, just 4 inches across and pushes little air. So off to K-Mart we go and pick up this little beauty, which is proving to be a life-saver. It has been on constantly since we returned from buying it!

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Bahai Honda State Park is full 365 days a year, reservations must be made 11 months in advance and this was the only reservation we made when planning this whole trip. It was the basis for our March 7 departure date. The park is also open to day visitors, from 8am to sunset. When the sun sets, the day visitors leave and the park belongs to the 125 campsite holders. The washrooms and showers are pretty good although there is no laundry and Wifi is only available at the camp store. But the Keys themselves have everything else you could want, plus beautiful scenery and a warm ocean. Kayak rentals, snorkeling tours, etc. are all available for a price. Lots of birds as well, this one is an Ibis:

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Wifi:

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The heat flattens us out for the first night and most of Monday. We are slowly acclimating as we go about our day. Frequent showers and lots of resting in the shade highlight our first full day in tropical heat. We did go to an outlet store and Jenny bought a light dress for wearing around the park and I bought some light weight shorts and sleeveless T-shirts. We briefly waded in the ocean and the breezes down by the shore helped cool us off. We’ve slept well both nights so far, under our new fan. Internet access is good, but you must wander on down to the camp store to access it. They have picnic tables and power outlets if you need to hook up.

Tuesday, day 23 of the trip, was our first visit to Key West, at the very end of the road. Parking on the street cost $2 an hour and we prepaid $11 to get us to 1:30pm. We had breakfast at Pepe’s, an institution, open since 1909. We arrived at 7:30am and the place had a good crowd, a significant number at the bar, having an eye-opener, we presume. Breakfast was good, but the coffee was just barely OK.

We started our walking tour by heading over to the historical harbour front, where fishermen have been heading out for 350 years. Key West has a permanent population of around 20,000 and probably as much as 100,000 tourists at any one time, depending on the season. It is still very busy there, with this being Spring Break for several areas of the US, so we were not alone. Roosters roam free here in Key West and there are plenty of them, fighting over the very few females we see:

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We stopped for a good coffee, iced for Jenny, hot for me and continued our tour heading first for the Southernmost point in the US. People were lined up for pictures with the post, so I just snapped one and Jenny cut out the unknown poser.

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Our tour took us to the Hemingway House, where Ernest Hemingway wrote about 70% of his novels. Entrance fee is $13 per person. The house is pretty well done up and the tour guides knowledgeable. One really neat feature is the 6 toed cats. When Hemingway lived there back in the 1930’s he adopted a 6 toed cat from a sea captain. The house is still home to many six toed cats, who have the run of the place. They are very used to the people who come in and are very friendly, not to mention entertaining. The cats are all well maintained. If you have ever read and enjoyed a Hemingway novel, this is the place to go for a splash of Hemingway history. He died in 1961 at the age of 62. Now, in 2016 he has been dead for more than 54 years, but there is still interest in his house in the Keys.

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While wandering about we came across a fellow in his front yard. There was a for-sale sign on the house and we asked about prices. His house, plus the one next door were on the market together for $1.5 million. The lots are 25’ x 90’ deep. We saw many closed and boarded up houses in our walk and also a significant number of houses under renovation.

Our lunch was at a Cuban restaurant, our first experience with a Cubana Sandwich. Essentially, it is a bun sandwich with meat, cheese, sauce, grilled in a press and served with french fries. We shared a sandwich and each had a beer before wandering back to our car to begin the 37 mile drive back to the campground. US highway #1, which runs the length of Keys is the only road option and is chock-a-block with traffic all the time. Originally we thought it might be the effect of the Easter weekend, but now, mid week it is still as busy as all get out!

WE came upon some very interesting street fol art: The first one has a note in the window saying "out of gas, be back in 20 minutes"

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We will be heading back to Key West, only our next trip will be in the afternoon, and we will stay for supper and the sunset celebration that takes place on the docks every evening.

Gas prices have been pretty good on the trip. We have paid the equivalent of about $0.50 a liter for gasoline since leaving home. The low has been $0.42 in Jersey City and the high of $0.54 a liter here in the Keys.

Shortly after we got back to the campground we got to experience a Thunderstorm...it lasted 45 minutes, brought over 2 inches of rain and took down our awning and soaked everything that was outside the boler...wow, just imagine a hurricane with this going on for 24 or more hours.

Posted by Rooseboom-Scott 06:25 Comments (1)

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