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WestWard
Written By: OC Fotoguy
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    On the last day of February, I pulled out of my annual stop in the jungle of Big Cypress.  Weeks in the Keys and in the jungle happen in the beginning of my Adventure each year, because it’s always warmer here than any other place in the U.S. in December to the end of February, but from here my destinations are not as certain except I go where the weather is nice.  My first stop was back to Immokalee.  There I knew I could park overnight at the casino for free in spots designated for RVs, charge my batteries, that my solar panels feed with reddy kilowatts on the electric hookups at each spot.  With all the cloudiness my panels needed some help, so I’d have electricity to run my computer.  The casino’s purpose, I’m sure, is that the RV owner will spend plenty of money gambling at the casino.  I never even put a nickel in a slot machine.  The downtown is a short walk away and there’s a diner there with wonderful food.  Lots of comfort food like meat loaf.  I had chicken and dumplings with three sides for less than $10!  The sides: fried egg plant, okra & tomatoes, and greens were enough quantity for a meal!  Delicious and so was the chicken and dumplings.  On my walk back to the casino I saw two artists hand painting a Wendy’s Sign.  I was surprised that a fast food place would go to the trouble to hire an artist.  Back at the casino I sipped a couple cold ones and enjoyed their TVs.  Immokalee was a new stop for me.  I’d driven through, but this year I decided to check out Dinner Island, a Florida State facility recommended by the game checker at Big Cypress.   I not only found that it was a delightful place to camp with few people and almost no requirements, but Immokalee has a wholesale vegetable market, the diner, and the casino, so I came back a second time.
    The next morning I headed for Fort Myers Beach, which is an annual stop, too, but finding a place to park my nest for free without getting chased is harder each year.  There was a place right on the beach yards from Estero Bay that was out of sight from the road under an osprey nest.  I could put my kayak in the water and enjoy a scenic secluded place.  It was right next to Lover’s Key State Park land outside of Bonita Beach and on the east side of the bridge to Fort Myers Beach, so it was outside of those jurisdictions.  I guess too many people abused the spot, because now there’s boulders blocking the way and no overnight parking signs.  Across the road is Lover’s Key State Park beach, which is delightful to walk because I always see bottom critters that I’ve rarely or never seen that have washed up on the beach.  I start my walk near the little Carlos Pass Bridge and follow the beach to the Gulf and then walk as far as I can towards Bonita beach.  This year I saw a fisherman land a fish as a great Blue Heron watched and hoped it would be a throw back and it could get an easy breakfast.  I saw a little star fish, a sea snail, a string of Welk eggs, and a sea urchin covered with shells.  Why were the shells clinging to it?  I’m not sure, just a natural spectacle to me.
    I return to my nest by way of a road through the State Park.  Sometimes I see a manatee in water the road passes.  I’d spent the night in a parking lot near where I began walking. When I got close I saw a county fuzznik standing by my nest.  I said good morning to him and he said he’d seen my truck early this morning, but didn’t want to disturb me.  I thanked him for the courtesy, then he said I could not park there overnight any night anymore.  So I moved across the bridge into Ft. Myers Beach to a shopping center several miles away, parked there, and spent the day by having lasagna in the Island Grill restauran. I put my receipt on the window in case someone objected to me being parked there, and caught the free bus to the other end of the island, walked up on the high bridge that spans Estero Bay at Matanza Inlet, taking some photos from the bridges; then sipping a couple cold ones at the Mermaid, one of the only old bars that’s left from twenty years ago when Jimmy B’s bar was close by and rocked with a band at HH.  It’s long gone now, replaced by condos and new places.  None appealed to me, so I walked the beach some more, then caught the bus back to my nest for HH.
    Pincher’s is located in the former Holiday Inn there, has a good HH with live (opposed to dead) music and is on the beach to watch sunset.  Afterwards I moved my nest to a secluded spot near the back of the parking lot and sipped a couple more cold ones at the Island Grill.  The next day I was off again, crossed the high bridge, passed where an old shopping center was and saw there was a megamart there, now.  I stopped, checked for no overnight parking signs, there were none, and noticed it was on the route of the free F.M.B. bus.  Maybe this would be next year’s overnight spot or at least my plan B spot.   
    My next spot was Siesta Key, a place where I take what I get.  As I walk their beach I see that there’s been a sand sculptor working and their alligator almost looks real!  Their downtown has a bunch of touristy bars/restaurants.  I chose one where I’d been before, Aaron’s Fish Camp.  It had a different name then, but there were plenty of seats at the bar and I needed to eat.  There was a guitar guy that could almost sing for entertainment.  I liked the concept of HH (happy hour) from 12-4 in the afternoon.  This is Siesta Key.  I’m not sure when siesta is supposed to be but an afternoon HH is fine with me.  I ordered a pulled pork sandwich which hit the spot.  It came with carmelized Brussel sprouts, quite a different twist to Brussel Sprouts.  They were absolutely delicious!  I struck up a conversation on each side of me with friendly people and found out that January was pretty brutal here ... rain, wind and chilly temperatures as in Key West.
    By four o’clock it was time to move my nest (slide-in camper on a pickup truck) to my night spot in the Bank of America parking lot near Captain Curt’s at the Stickney Bridge.  One of the basics of my travel method is finding a place to park overnight where I won’t get chased.  The sign says customers only and I had my business account at this bank in Ocean City, so I qualified!   Captain Curt’s has delicious file fish on the menu and you get a huge portion, so it’s a don’t miss.  The entertainment at their outside bar in the late afternoon is usually very good; this evening not so much, though.  Good time for extra sleep.  I’m in charge and I have no schedule.  I may wake early and I’ll love life!
Bob R  o.c.FotoGuy
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