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IT’S WORKING
Written By: OC Fotoguy
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IT’S WORKING
IT’S WORKING
IT’S WORKING
IT’S WORKING
IT’S WORKING
IT’S WORKING

    If you have read any of my articles and got through some of what Allen Prell of WBAL Radio fame for his morning show (do you remember Uncle Allie or at Christmas mischievous Allie Elf?) in the 1980s labeled prattle, you know that I’m satisfied when things just work. That’s all I ask; not perfection, etc. This is my 16th Adventure, when I meander across the warm places in our country (Florida, Louisiana, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Las Vegas, and maybe southern Utah when/if Mother Nature makes it warm enough there). Of course any place where it’s too chilly to wear sandals I’m out of there. Being warm when Ocean City and the north east is frigid is what this is all about.
    It all began in 1998, when I over-wintered as co-renter of a house in Deerfield Beach, just north of Ft. Lauderdale, owned by Seacret’s HatMan and got to know the southern part of Florida, which I now know as being below the smile line. That’s my imaginary line running between Ft. Lauderdale and Ft Myers Beach. Below that line all the people are happy and smiling in the winter. Why not, it’s 80 degrees in the winter. Above that line, a New England-like frown and grimace dominates the faces of the people, because it’s much colder there. Since I scouted out south Florida that winter and found Big Cypress, a little publicized huge National Preserve, just east of Naples, I have never spent a winter in Ocean City again.
    Back then you could camp there as long as you wanted for free, so why freeze my tail off in O.C., when it’s summer in the winter there? The first several years was limited to sleeping in a “pup” tent, because it was about the size of a dog house, eating mostly ramen noodle based meals, and being there for the month of February.  That was a real adventure, since I hadn’t slept outdoors in a tent or camped for more than 35 years and knew very little about what it would take to make it work. I was in a place where bears, panthers, wild boars, alligators, rattle snakes, and cotton mouth snakes were abundant, but it was warm. There was a sanipot, though, but no drinking water or electric, and I could take refuge in my jeep if it poured down rain.  The jeep was a great ride, would virtually go up a tree in 4-wheel drive, and was fun to drive, but the transmission failed on the way home the first year and the water pump went out the second year back in Big Cypress, thirty miles from the nearest mechanic. There was no phone booth and it was before cell phones, so I rode my bike to the garage for help. They installed the wrong water pump and it broke the serpentine fan belt in the engine about every several hundred miles. It got me home, but me and the jeep parted company and I bought a new Subaru station wagon which served me well for many years.
    I added the Keys the third year and another month. Then later Las Vegas, where I betted on the ACC basketball teams in March Madness, which paid my expenses there, and the Grand Canyon, then Big Bend N.P. in Texas, where I saw people kayaking on the Rio Grande River in St. Elena Canyon, so the next year I brought my kayak along so I could do it, too. Wow, what a thrill! Eventually other places in south western Florida and our south western states were added, the tent got larger and better equipped, then I moved up to my nest (a slide-in camper on a pickup truck), and the time increased to meandering for four to five months, but the same one mandatory requirement prevailed – it had to be warm or I was out of there.
    Now, I have more fun places than I can go in five months! Today here in Big Cypress (Feb. 15th), I’m guardedly thinking this may be my best Adventure ever. I may have finally learned how to do it! I’ve passed day #60, so I’m probably half way through and everything has worked pretty much as good as it could be. I’m feeling, eating and sleeping good and I’ve been warm every day. I haven’t been hassled anywhere I’ve parked my nest over night, usually for free. The meals I’ve cooked have all been tasty. The specials at happy hour, when I’m not in a remote place, have been delicious. Other restaurant food has been good enough to go back for again and again. I’ve found abundant public water spigots for drinking, bathing, and cooking.
    The entertainment in the Keys was fabulous, especially at the Green Parrot in Key West, and OC’s John LaMere and Kevin Poole are there, too, and you know how good they are, plus I heard Steve Van Zant (Free Bird of Lynryd Skynrd) at the EverGlades Seafood Festival! When I’m camping the natural scenery and serenity in the EverGlades and Big Cypress and kayaking in the warm waters of the Keys, it can’t be better - Wow! Since I’ve been below the smile line, all the people have been incredibly friendly; especially Judy and Kelly of Ocean Pines, who I shared many HHs at Alonzo’s in Key West’s harbor with 1/2$ ACBs and seafood appetizers.
    On one of the last days, I got into a thrift shop that seemed to never be open and bought the best shirt I’ve ever worn that’s similar to a Philippine formal Philippine Barong, but it has an Ecuador tag, more than 50 music C/Ds, which I’m still listening to new ones each day, several T-shirts and more for $25! I’ll be back.
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