Work-wise, today was much like yesterday. We worked on drywall finishing at Dennis’s house on Big Pine Key in the morning and on painting and odds and ends at Danny’s house on Sugarloaf Key. There is a group of volunteers here from First Baptist Church in Atlanta and some of them have been helping us at Dennis’s.
When we arrived at Danny’s after lunch this big white blimp was in the sky above us. We saw it on Sunday also and Carolyn told us it a Tethered Aerostat Radar System operated by Customs and Border Patrol to assist in interdiction of drug and illegal immigration traffic. She actually calls it “the eye in the sky.” It wasn’t watching us.
Then tonight we got to enjoy a Christmas cantata performed by the Lower Keys Community Choir and the Keys Chamber Orchestra. Our team leader Carolyn played French horn in the performance.
Today was our first day back at work on a project in several weeks. We of course began our day like we do every day regardless if we are working a project, with devotion time. Today Gene and Carolyn shared a little different reading of 1 Corinthians 13, the love chapter. Just a little reminder what’s really important. Carolyn played her french horn for our music accompaniment. Thanks Carolyn and Gene. We discussed our work plans for today and then met another group of volunteers working with the church this week.
We then drove about a mile to one of the homes the NOMADS are currently rebuilding. At Dennis’s home the entire team (Gene and Carolyn, Ron and Mary, Elaine and Anne and Max) worked on sanding drywall and a few did a little mudding. This home was flooded by the storm surge of Hurricane Irma when most of the structures on the island received 2-4 feet of salt water. We think Dennis’ house was on the low end of that but since he wasn’t allowed back into his neighborhood for some time, by then the water and wicked up all the drywall and mold had begun to grow. It happens very quickly. The house was gutted. Prior to our arrival NOMADS had already installed all the drywall except for one closet. They also began the finishing process. Today the team did a lot of sanding and applied a little more joint compound.
At lunch we headed to another home about 20 minutes south. NOMADS have also been working in this home previously. We are now working on finishing up the last items so it will be ready to move in. We hope to have it completed before Christmas. It was a busy but good day.
Today started with an inspirational – and unconventional – morning worship at our host church, Big Pine United Methodist Church. It was unusual for us that we had not heard a single song in the order of worship. After the service the church hosts a light lunch which was very good and very welcomed.
This afternoon Gene and Carolyn, our team leaders, drove us around to see the houses we will be working on this week. Both houses have had a lot of work done by the homeowners, contractors, other volunteers and NOMADS. It looks like we will spend the week finishing drywall, painting and a lot of odds and ends.
They then drove us to Key West to Kermit’s Key Lime Shoppe so Carolyn could get some Chocolate Dipped Key Lime Pie on a Stick to take home to her daughter when they leave next weekend. Of course, we had to try it, too.
This evening Gene and Carolyn hosted the team meeting in their RV because another group was using the church. They even provided us with delicious grilled burgers and key lime pie. We are looking forward to getting back on our purpose.
Yesterday, we actually were able to post our previous blog post while sitting at the Knaus Berry Farm in Homestead, FL. We had a wonderful internet signal there. We learned of Knaus Berry Farm on our last trip to the Keys while Barry and Donna were visiting. The Knaus Berry Farm is a huge working farm growing all sorts of produce and this time of year wonderful strawberries, lettuce, carrots etc. They have U-pick areas as well as a produce market for those who choose to let someone else do the harvesting. As wonderful as all of those items are, probably the biggest draw to the public is the bakery. They ship produce all over the country but the locals come to the bakery. The cinnamon rolls are amazing. We watched them pull ours out of the oven. Can’t beat that for fresh. They also have garlic knots, cheese rolls, key lime pie, fruit pies and wonderful strawberries. However, the longest line is always for the cinnamon rolls. Don’t worry we didn’t eat the whole dozen. We bought enough to share with our camp hosts. We also went to another favorite place of Donna and Barry. Robert is Here, is a big produce stand with all sorts of exotic fruits grown locally or all over the world. Most importantly (to Donna), they also have key lime pie milk shakes. We just had to drink one for Donna. Yep, it was as good as we remembered.
We also spent some time driving through the Big Cyprus National Preserve. Such a peaceful restful place, unless you are really afraid of alligators. One of the largest we saw was in a large drainage ditch across the road from our campground. We definitely stayed in after dark when we could no longer see if we might be stepping on something that would not appreciate the step. While almost all the gators we saw were simply basking in the sun appearing to be asleep, we know they can be vicious. When we visited the Oasis Visitors Center we met another member of the RVillage group from Michigan. He and his wife are work camping at Preserve. Sounds like fun.
Today was our last day to be in travel mode for a while. We had a beautiful sunny drive down through the keys enjoying the gulf and ocean scenery on both sides of the road. Beautiful!! On our arrival we were greeted by our team leaders whom we know well and are looking forward to spending the next week with them. Since arriving and setting up we have already seen several of the endangered Key Deer. The key deer are a subspecies of the white tailed deer like we have in Alabama. It is the smallest of the north American deer and live only in the lower Keys. From talking to our team, they have seen so many deer, they don’t think they are really endangered. Haven’t researched that subject, but I do know that since the are so protected around here the deer are certainly not afraid of humans. The National Key Deer Refuge is about ½ mile from our campground so we are sure we will visit there and gather more information sometime over the next few weeks. We do know that many of the Refuge buildings were destroyed during Hurricane Irma but a new Nature Center has recently opened. We have also been out walking in the Florida sunshine to see what’s in our neighborhood. Looking forward to a really good project.
We have been in travel mode since Tuesday morning. After a wonderful visit we left Johnston, SC and our family a little after 8:00 enroute to Gainesville, FL. We had a pretty easy drive south. We drove SC 25 to I-16 to I-75 to Waldo, FL – just north of Gainesville. We stayed in a commercial campground, Dixieland RV Park. This was our first commercial campground in quite a while. Everyone was very nice but we remember why we like COE and state park campgrounds better. The sites are always so close together in commercial campgrounds. We began Wednesday with breakfast at Classic Cafe, a little restaurant at the park. They gave us a 15% off coupon when we checked in so of course we needed to give it a try. We enjoyed our breakfast. It was good but not really anything special. We also did a little shopping, and stopped and looked at some RVs. In the afternoon we visited Lake Alto Preserve and did some nice hiking out in the woods around the lake. The trails were nice and wide, probably so hikers can spot alligators sunning themselves. One of us was happy we saw none. It was a nice quiet day in the preserve. Very relaxing.
Thursday, we were again in travel mode and drove south to Midway Campground in the Big Cypress National Preserve on the Tamiami Trail. Except for a long delay due to a wreck causing traffic backup north of Naples it was an uneventful day. We did notice that the sun became brighter and the temperature much warmer the further we drove. It was 38 degrees in Gainesville Thursday morning and by the time we arrived at Midway about 5:00pm our camp hosts greeted us in shorts and short sleeve shirts. Nice! Today will be another play day before we head on down to the keys and prepare to go to work. It is a beautiful Florida morning – no jackets today. Don’t know when we will actually get this posted because we have a very sketchy signal here at Midway.
This week was a very busy, but wonderful week. We are so blessed.
Monday was FRED’s annual checkup at the Freightliner Service Center, so we were up early, and in line at 7:45 am to register FRED in for his appointment. Quick and easy. Then the waiting began. To pass the time we went to some of the local stores and outlets to begin our Christmas shopping. Actually didn’t make any purchases. Surprising. We had lunch at Daddy Joe’s a local seafood and barbeque restaurant. It’s a funky little place with an interesting décor. We had the prime rib sandwich which was very good. We would definitely go back. After our late lunch we returned to wait on FRED, expecting his work to be complete by 2-3 o’clock. When we were still waiting at almost 5:00 we were beginning to get concerned. Shortly after 5:00 our technician came to tell us FRED was back in his campsite and everything was complete. We were surprised that they found a kink in the coolant tubing that required them to actually unbolt the engine and pick it up a little, re-route the tubing and refasten the engine. Fortunately for us all of that cost was covered by Freightliner because it had to happen during the build and we are just fortunate that it never caused a real problem.
After a good night of rest, we left Gaffney Tuesday morning in route to Johnston, SC to spend the holiday week with Max’s brother and sister-in-law, Randy and Debra. Except for a long delay on the interstate due to construction we had an uneventful travel day and enjoyed the start of our visit. So good to see our family. Wednesday we all four went exploring and shopping in a close-by town -, this time actually making some purchases for the great nieces. Thursday was a quiet day at home, with most of the day spent in the kitchen cooking for Friday when we actually celebrated Thanksgiving with Randy, Debra, David and Jen, Phillip, Lauren, Dorothy and Tabitha. It was a great day with lots of food and fun. We decorated Christmas cookies with Dorothy, played some games and visited. Saturday it was back to the four of us and we just enjoyed the day together and worked on a Christmas puzzle and Max entertained one the cats by throwing leaves in the air just outside the window. Today, we really enjoyed worshiping with Randy and Debra at their church which was beautifully decorated for Christmas. It’s been a great visit. We have one more day here in Johnston before we head south. We will update you next when we are on the road. Hope everyone had a great holiday, remembering to be thankful everyday.