03 June 2010

Second Half of Florida Vacation

05/18/2010 cont.

- We reach our destination and just marvel at all these islands held together by mangrove forests.

We have the first cabin but it is still pretty far from the main road. 

This is probably the place that frustrated us most.  Through no fault of either our own nor the proprietess, actually.  The Saturday before we leave on Thursday (and two days before I give my finals) our main credit card is compromised.  This is the card that our deposit was made with and that White Gate Court would soon be placing the last of our payment.

The credit card company closes the account and will issue a replacement next week.  No guarantee of when the new cards will arrive.

So I send off a frantic email to WGC and place a phone call to apprise them of the situation.  We do not hear anything from them until Monday (the day I am buried in giving and grading finals, remember), when I am told a check will be fine as long as it arrives by Saturday.

We mail a check, request an email as soon as it arrives, and hope for the best.  I check email every day (when we have signal) and never get a "check arrived" notification.  Bill finally calls Saturday morning and gets a human.  Oh yes the check arrived and an email was sent yesterday. 

It was either never sent or eaten by the 'net.

Crisis averted and we arrived yesterday with good light left.

The birds are neat (the Herons and Egrets arrive around dusk every evening, where they are fed on the porch) and the girls got to meet a poodle something and four Basset Hounds.  One hound is 12 years old and almost completely white.  She reminds me of several other older dogs I know of as well as the old gal I rescued off the street the day before we left.

Wednesday before leaving (and just before I take our youngest to his breeder for the vacation) I head out to grab the mail and see a very old and decrepit poodle mix wandering in the neighbors yard.  I've never seen the old gal before.  I coax her over to check for a collar or some identification.  She has none.  I carefully pick her up and take her into the backyard where Bill gets her some water and we observe the poor old gal.  She has very little hair on her back, several large tumors, numerous moles, and severely sun damaged skin.  I can not imagine what kind of life this poor gal has endured, and I can not imagine what I'm going to do with her. 

Taking her to a shelter will be an instant death sentence.  I can't let her go, we are too close to the highway and I do not know what would happen to her.  I do not think I can talk Bill into a fourth dog, and she looks like she needs some immediate medical care.

Maybe Mom will watch her for me while I am gone? 

I place two phone calls to neighbors and ask if anyone recognizes this little gals description.

Shortly thereafter I get a call from my breeder buddy, i need to leave with the monster now!!!  I race off with Massimo, and return an hour later to no old gal in the backyard (I nicknamed her Sweet Pea).  Apparently her frantic owner, looking for Molly, had shown up 10 minutes after I left.

So, all is well that ends well, so far.

- We take the girls down to the dock and shallow water.  But would not you know, they have no interest in wading.

I can coax Delta in to her ankles, but not any further.  Skyla is having none of it.

- Awaken to a lovely morning and head down to sign in the dogs. 

- We have a lazy morning just hanging out on the beach and playing (the humans that is, the girls are not too sure yet) with our duplex neighbor Heidi, lovely golden retriever.  Oh, her owners are neat too.  :)

- We nap several hours in the room while the storms rage outside.  The sky has been charmingly cloudy most of the day.

During the height of the storm, we noticed a lizard clamoring up the chains hanging from our gutter.  I hope the pictures come out.

- I wander the area with the girls as Bill heads out for pizza.  I love the trees in the area, but I wonder how many are native to the Keys and how many are imported.   

We believe that Bill will never return, when he finally pulls in with our take out order.  Bill reports GPS problems once again.  This time the unit tried to take him to an adult entertainment establishment.  Not what he was anticipating.

I am sure it was a very nice place (eye roll) but they probably do not sell pizza.

He finally found the pizza shop "Tower of Pizza" and brought home stuffed grape leaves, Greek Salad, and pizza. 

- Looks like some new dogs showed up.  It is a Golden Ret. festival.

- Bill snorkels in the bay while the girls and I hang out and read.  I'm trying to push past my sun reaction, but it is not fun.  I've still got the rash on my upper chest and my arms are covering in red micro rash dots.

Bill reports a crab menacing him in the shallows.

-  Today is a read, wander, and relax day.  We head up north to the Winn Dixie for more fruit juice.

- The wind blowing through the palms causes the leaves to flutter in the breeze, sounding like bird wings.

- Drive to Key West.  We pass several Ford Model Ts.  I cannot tell if they are original or kit builds.  The guys driving look a little cramped in the driver's seats.

- Long Key park does not allow dogs on the beach, not surprised.  There is a dog beach in Key West.

- Marathon is a complete little city in and of itself.  It is hugely populated.

- Once again the GPS is way off.  It sends us to the wrong side of the road and to the wrong establishment.  Shame on you Garmin!  Who made your maps?

- Key West blew Bill's mind.  He was amazed at the number of residential properties and rather expected everything to look like the north side of the island.  Businesses with strong tones of French Quarter New Orleans commercialism.

There are simply way too many tourists in Key West, and this probably is not even the busy season. 

- Went to dog beach listed in dogfriendly.com at Vernon and Waddell.  It was a little disappointing.  The little bit of land sits right next to a restaurant, and there is no ambiance to speak of ... except for the homeless guy crashed out against the fence. 

Skyla was not as disappointed as me.  She went into scent overload and wanted to experience all of the smells available ... even some of the ones that took her near the water.

- Delta keeps trying to tow her handler, and Bill is getting irritated.  Delta walks well when her collar is very high on her neck or when you stop every five steps and tell her not to pull.  Otherwise you are left skiing behind the Delta boat.

- Exit on Big Pine Key and head north to find out more about the local deer. 

We cannot find the visitors center but I want to head out to the big lake at far north of the the island.

We start seeing wildlife refuge signs, no trespassing.  But the lake is just a bit further, so we continue down the road.  As we turn into a small boating subdivision, I start seeing little deer all over the place.  We got pictures of four, but saw at least eight.  They are cute little miniatures ... seemingly halfway between the girls size wise.

- We have copied down a for sale address to check on later.  A mobile search turns up a $500k price tag on a house just over 1k feet square and just over a tenth of an acre in lot size.  Can you say wow?!?   

On our way back to the overseas highway, we decide not to attempt the visitor's center.  After all when you can see the deer from the car window, why bother to knock yourself out on a sign search.

- Stopped for a snack at Veterans Memorial Park near mile 40 on Little Duck Key.  Leashed pets allowed, seems to be a pet friendly beach as well as park.  Great dining tables right on the beach, and plenty of shade.  Recommended for a short to medium length stop.  No overnights allowed.

- Late afternoon and evening spent relaxing at the dock.

- My sun rash has not itched today as it has in the last week.  It also has not been as red and ugly looking.  Perhaps the immune response is beginning to fade?  I hope so.  I wonder if I should check out tanning booths?

(I can see the conversation now, "But Ma'am, you have twenty-five minutes left!". "No thanks, I only need five.")

- Today is another lounge around day.

- We get slathered up for snorkeling today, and Bill goes out first.  I read and play around on the computer.  There is very spotty wi-fi available here at WGC.

Bill returns with a report of cold water and nothing much going on.  He is a little disappointed at the snorkeling here.  But at least he finally got to see what the Keys are all about.

For myself, at his declaration of cold water, I decide I can put the swimming off another day.  My fat layer just does not seem as insulating as other peoples.  I generally chill very quickly.

- So we lay out in the shade of the trees as lunch rolls around.  And back inside our cabin we arrive.

- Lunch is followed by a lazy afternoon nap.

- Back down to the pier for sunset.  I never realized how quickly the sun sets.  But it makes sense ... we are moving 1100? mph?  And what is the diameter of the sun?

- After sunset we wander the compound some more.  Bill carries a flashlight and finally spies a crab in the holes we have found near the water.  The girls have spent quite a bit of time buried past their eyeballs, snouts firmly pressed into these holes.  Have we finally found something Skyla would hunt?  Seafood?  Or landfood, as the case may be?  Given the opportunity, she would quite happily dig up whatever has buried itself a foot or more down.  And I would normally let her ... Except all the holes are in or very near grass.  I can not help thinking that grass is exceptionally hard to grow in these environs.  And so Skyla remains unfullfilled.  

On the way back to the cabin, Bill notices a snake climbing trees, hunting in the hollows of the craggy bark encircling the trunk.  I snapped a couple of photos, but it was getting fairly dark.  It is a corn snake, Elaphe guttata

- The mornings adventure was to Windley State Fossil Park.  This is a quarry that fossilized coral was pulled from.  It gives one a good idea about the substructure of these islands.

The dogs loved the walking trails, we took all four.  Both humans spent half the time skiing behind their respective dog.  All passersby heard was, "No pull Skyla."  "No pull Delta."  "Stop pulling!"

They were entranced by the smells and could not wait to see what was around the next bend.

- The GPS worked, once, here in the Keys.  We used it while pinpointing a place we wanted to go for dinner.  It pointed us to the right place.  Wouldn't you know, they are closed on Sundays.

- Back home for resting and relaxing.  That 85 degree F walk felt a lot warmer. 

- I head out to snorkel near sundown.  I see wrasse like fish that are fascinating to watch, lots of crabs, some corals in various forms, sea grass, sea disc like plants, a school of small fish, and a slender fish that mimics detritus, hanging vertically in the water, getting close to the school, and then - lunge!  He missed the strike that I saw.  I also saw a bunch of fishing line in the water, but when I reached down to take it away, the line retracted quickly into a living organism.  Hope I did not hurt it!

- The day ended with the Lost finale.  Huh, so the sideways time was supposed to be some kind of limbo land?

I guess some stories were meant to be left unanswered.

Having lost interest in Lost halfway through the series, this last season has re-captured my attention.

Loved Rose and Bernard, Hugo, and Claire and Charley.   

- What are we going to do on this, our last full day?

- My goodness, what is this? The GPS unit has a second address correct?  Oh, lucky day!  We have arrived a Founders Park.

- Take the girls to Founders Dog Park.  It was lovely.  Large, comfortable size.  Plenty of seating for chatting with other dog owners and lotsa shade for dog and human alike.

Skyla settled in quickly, even though this is her first dog park.  She let some dogs know she did not like them, and she went up and sniffed others.

The Delta brat had a lot more trouble settling in.  She got a little disgruntled with a ten month old puppy, trying to "defend me" at one point.  Nipped first aggressive response in the bud.  After about two hours, another dog arrived and Delta took an instant dislike, snapping and egging him on several times.  I attempted extreme control measures and she settled down after the second attack.  Luckily his owners were understanding of these first timers, and did not figure Delta could actually hurt a dog so much bigger than her own size.  We left shortly after their arrival so that they could enjoy the park.       

Definitely recommend and plan to spend more time in dog parks.  The girls are fine with humans, but other dogs can make them uneasy.

The girls are now thoroughly crashed out in the room as we tackle packing strategy for our exit tomorrow.

- We discuss going to Founders park to snorkel, but I fear Bill will not be happy.  It was not mentioned as a prominent snorkel area.  After some back and forth, we decide to make the drive to Key Largo and Pennekamp State Park.  Pennekamp houses some of the local coral reef, and allows dogs ... as long as they are leashed, don't even think about going on a beach, and stay away from all buildings etc.

I saw at least five different species of fish and was thrilled by the variety of coral.  Fan shapes and hard shelled varieties grew between the sea grass and polyp organisms.

- After a shower back at the duplex, off to dinner at Kaiyo, a Japanese sushi and modern fusion restaurant.  Dinner was delicious.  It was also one of those experiences where you order something just because you have never seen anything like it before. 

The girls were a hit out on the dog porch.  Of course.

- On the way home, I watch a lightning storm off bayside way.  I love to watch storms. 

Took the girls out for a walk before bedding down for the night.  Delta lost her cool when I stepped over her.  Luckily I could keep the girls from each other, but I probably looked a sight in my skirt with two dogs and leashes tangled around me as a miniature brown dog tried to get to a regular sized brown dog.  Grrr.  Delta, stop being such a spaz.  


- Leave the Keys.

Good Points About White Gate Court
- Nice porch area for eating, communing with duplex neighbors, and watching the storms.
- Lots of dogs to meet and hang out with.  If you do not have dogs and want a vacation with them, do not worry, there are plenty to go around.
- Fairly complete kitchen setup.  No measuring cups or spoons though.  Bring your own.
- Sizable rooms in my opinion, though the bathroom seems like a serious afterthought.  I wonder if it is a retrofit ... especially since the bathroom and bedroom floor is raised by five inches.  The drain tube for the shower would require such.
- Lovely location when you want a relaxing vacation.  South of Key Largo by quite a bit.  But far North of Marathon and Key West.  Easily accessible, but not close enough to be severely effected by their traffic concerns.
- The grounds are kept up amazingly well considering the dog and human traffic.

Bad Points about White Gate Court
- There is no fluorescent lighting here.  It would really cut down on energy usage ... I think.  Then again, there are two air conditioning units in our half of the duplex, and they were set incredibly low.  Maybe the average tourist uses so much energy via the AC that energy saved with fluorescent lighting would be nominal.
- The proprietess is a very heavy smoker.  FYI, you will be exposed to this in the office area.  I started to get a headache after a couple of minutes.  I do not notice a smoke smell from our room.  However, everything is pretty strongly perfumed.  Which always makes me wonder what someone is trying to hide.
- There is so much polyester and nylon in this room, it is stifling at night.  As someone who never sleeps without a sheet and a blanket, year round, I've been single sheeting it and sweltering.  It makes naps and nighttime very uncomfortable.  I finally looked at our sheet content, 50/50 ... meaning 50% cotton and 50% polyester.  I'd recommend bringing your own sheet set.
- The price seems kinda high for something that is only marginally kept up.
- No stick pots and pans that are losing their coating.  The owner would blame that on the renters, but a perusal through the cupboards reveals one appropriate utensil for non-stick cookware ... one.
- Kitchen soap is so watered down it has lost most of it's grease cutting ability.  I used it to clean pizza sauce grease from a skirt before washing.  It did not come out and I've ruined a fun little summer skirt in my color.  Shoot!     
- The hot water heater must be on its hottest setting.  I've scalded myself four times before I stopped turning on the hot water to wash my hands.
- The rooms are overloaded with furniture, specifically a really uncomfortable plastic rocking chair that trips you up every time you try to get around it.  A regular side chair would be a great deal more useful.

- Stopped at a turnpike station for gasoline and to walk the girls.  As Bill filled up, I walked with the dogs as the skies began to open up.  Near a tree, I saw what I thought was a plastic snake, until it started to move.  Hurry back to the truck to grab the camera and run back ... no snake.  It's gone already.  Wander, wander, wander.  Bill is waiting in the truck ... and two steps ahead is a curled up yellow rat snake, Elaphe obsoleta quadrivittata .  I could have stepped on her!  What a gorgeous set of markings.

- Stay in La Quinta in Ocala.  Not a lot of food places within walking distance.

The local Hilton has stables nearby and we walked the grounds with the girls.

Ocala La Quinta
- I had no idea you could still get microwaves that had no power adjustment and no turn table.  Wow, talk about a dinosaur of the early electronic age.

- We check out and head down to Kanapaha Botanical Garden in Gainesville.  I am hopeful that we can spend at least an hour or two kicking around because Bill has booked a hotel just an hour down the road.  I cannot imagine what we will do in dog unfriendly Florida for an entire day!

No worries.  We spend more than six hours at the botanical extravaganza, and all four of us are exhausted by supper time. 

I love Kanapaha Gardens.  I could see myself working there and am busily thinking of ways to incorporate some of what I saw in my own yard.

I was most interested in the native garden, which I admit needs to be expanded, drastically.  However, the amazing Bamboo garden and various water features more than make up for the lack I could find.

My only beef with the gardens would be lack of trash receptacles.  As expected, you are asked to dispose of your trash in trash cans throughout the gardens.  We never found any.  So either they are not present, or they are very well disguised.  Our doggy bags are permeable for better circulation of oxygen to help the contents break down faster.  Which means you can smell the contents of the bag through the bag.  Which means you really do not want to toss these bags inside an enclosed building.

We saw two Black Racer snakes, Coluber constrictor priapus.  One was sunning itself along one of the waterways, and the other seemed to be hunting in the bulb garden.  We also saw a coiled black hose where one of these guys could hide really well.  Glad they are neither aggressive nor poisonous, though we try not to bother snakes regardless.  There are just some species you are willing to get closer to than others, you know?

We easily walked several miles today.  The girls are so tired that even though it is 30 minutes past dinner, they prefer to snooze rather than remind us of the time.  :)  This means very tired pups!

- Stay in Lake City Red Roof Inn.  Overcharged for dogs.  Bill is unhappy.

- We have used up an almost entire bottle of 12 oz Wonder Wash soap.  It has been body wash, shampoo, and occasional hand soap for almost two weeks now.  Good stuff.

- My darling Bill has quickly turned into my little Mowgli in the last couple of weeks.  Due to melanin production ability bequeathed by his ancestors AND his fanatical refusal to wear sun screen, my honey is getting dark.  I'm simply getting more freckles.  And I HAVE been wearing sunscreen, daily.  Though I will admit to skipping my legs a couple days, they are still pale.

I have seen an enormous amount of damaged skin on this trip.

- Bill awakens me at 7 o'dark thirty to head out.  I can sleep in the truck.  I dreamed about how difficult it was for me to get a job at Kanapaha Gardens.  :)

I have never had such spotty wifi as I have here at the Red Rood Inn in Lake City, Fl.  I am so not impressed with this place.  There were three hairs in the shower when I got in last night.  They did not belong to anyone I know.

- Because we both felt rested and settled, we drove the entire way home.  We stopped for pizza and sandwiches at Grains of Montana in Biloxi, which is where we had planned to stay the night. 

- We arrived about ten at night, having been waylaid by major traffic in Lake Charles and difficulty navigating Beaumont.  We had stopped at Schlotzky's for dinner. 

Good parts of trip
- It was so nice to get away. 

- Florida, on the east coast, is still fairly comfortable in late May.

- The dogs, the dogs, the dogs.  We enjoy vacations without them, but a trip with them ... we try things we would not otherwise (We say - I do not know what it is, but they allow dogs, let us check it out) ... They are great ice breakers and conversation starters (Fellow Vacationers and Locals say - We have been trying to figure out what kind of dogs those are?) ... Dogs mature and gain so much confidence on a trip (Dogs say - Instead of being fearful, I will tackle this new adventure with glee!) 

Bad parts of trip
- Everywhere we went, the combustion engines of equipment were racing.  There is always someone blowing leaves, mowing the lawn, pressure washing walls, etc.  They sound horrible and smell worse.  Talk about a holiday dampener.

- People who will not clean up after their dogs.  Dog excrement is stinky, slippery, and darn near impossible to clean off a shoe.  While many people cite the parasite damage feces can introduce to an environment, I can tell you about further damage it/they do to the plant environment.  Feces are almost pure fertilizer very high in nitrogen.  They provide breeding ground for insects, archea, and bacteria. Now one dog placing droppings one time on an area is not going to have a large effect.  However, when you have many dogs in a fairly small place continually adding high nitrogen loads, everything starts to burn from the fertilizer overload. 

It would be much better to clean up and either dispose or compost the feces.  (There's not much one can do about the urine but encourage lots of water drinkage and hose down commonly used spots.)

I use BioBags dog feces bags.  There are biologically unstable and will break down over time.  You can throw them away in the trash or toss them into a compost pile.

- People who will not leash their dogs.  Do not let your dog race up to mine.  My dogs probably will not attack but they are not used to strange dogs doing a nose plant in their faces. 

For the sake of all dogs concerned, please keep control of your dogs.

I've journaled this entire trip on an iPad.  Here are my thoughts. 
Good things about the iPad
- They were not lying about battery life.  This thing goes and goes and goes.  I think I've charged it five times now in the entirety of time that I have owned it.
- There are a bunch of free apps.  Solitaire, mahjong tiles, Pac-Sam, Checkers 360, Teragati, Sudoku, Crosswords, and Documents lite are getting regular workouts.  As are all the free ebooks I have downloaded.     

Bad things about the iPad
- The keyboard is not conducive to long strings of words.  A quick text, fine.  Several pages of journal, and I guarantee you will spend almost as much time fixing mistakes and the automatic word fixes and punctuation as you do typing the journal.
- The ads, the ads, the ads.  How disgusting they are.  I finally just deleted several promising apps because the ads were so ridiculously intrusive.      

First half of Florida Vacation


- Headed out at o'dark thirty for the wilds of Mississippi

- Stopped at several places along the way, checking the girls regularly, they seem to be settling quickly

- stopped for subway at New Iberia, friendly people and adequately staffed ... Regular huge lunchtime crowd

- BH walked the girls and we drew a small crowd, I always forget how much attention the girls garner

- reached Biloxi fairly early and checked into the La Quinta on  957 Cedar Lake Road, fairly clean but on the third floor and right next to the elevator; walk down stairs to back area and poop pick up area ... the exterior door does not have a lock ... is not that illegal?  Calling all criminals and homeless entities, freebies at La Quinta.

- on the ride down, some lady is on the elevator and immediately leans forward to pet Delta, she's surprised when she gets barked at; both girls are huddled next to Bill and "obviously" uncomfortable ... when a dog is scared, ignore it and leave it alone

- eat at Grains of Montana pizzeria, delicious pizza AND fresh smoothies that don't come premixed AND a lovely dog patio (probably an exterior dining establishment to most, a dog hangout to those of us with furkids).  The girls were very well behaved.

- another o'dark thirty departure ... crappy La Quinta breakfast.  At least the girls got an egg and a strip of bacon.

- I ate leftover pizza, mm tastey

- more stops with the girls

- reach "Si Como No" on Flagler Beach later in day, right on A1A

- The girls say, "Oh my goodness, there are other dogs here!  I'm going to bark and snap because they scare me!"  "Arf, arf, arf, go away, I do not want to be friends because I am a brat!"  And that is the extent of friend making the girls have deigned to pursue.

- Luckily the house dog, EuBear, is a great big lovable fellow who does not take the girls' antics to heart.  Whew.

- Si Como No is a perfect vacation spot for us.  We walked around the property and down to the beach where we terrified the girls with the biggest bathtub they have ever seen!

- South of St. Augustine and north of Daytona, Flagler is a sleepy tourist destination at most.  There seem to be a lot of transplanted locals which makes for a more laid back atmosphere.

- Dinner was pizza at the local Carmine Celery pizza shop.  Awesome shop with doggy seating outside.  Great crust.  Okay, so the chef overshot the halfway point with cheese by about an inch.  It was still a huge pizza with plenty of leftovers.  The girls liked it too.

- Back to our room for a walk along the beach at late dusk.  No wonder beach babes have such sculpted back sides, it really is like walking on quicksand, every step took us back halfway.  I was exhausted after a quarter mile.  The girls did much better. 

- The beach is not a soft sandy beach.  The shells that make up the beach have not been pulverized to that point.  So you do have to take some care along the beach, though even my thin skin got away without any damage.  It was much easier to walk barefoot than Keened.  (The KEENs that began self restricting before the trip.  The soles began coming off my flipflops.  Bill glued them for me, and they are fine.   They have been in fresh water a dozen times, but most of their life has been spent in the bottom of my closet.  I am not impressed with the quality of their glue.) 

- Back to the room for a shower and a last outside break for the girls.  I swear I will not sleep because the fridge is a little noisy and the road noise is very obvious through the open windows.  Oblivion within 30 minutes of head hitting pillow.  :)

- All humans and pups slept through the night.

- Awaken to a beautiful day and clear skies.  We spend all day sacked out in and around the room.  It is still comfortable in the room with the windows open.

- Granola and an apple for breakfast.

- Pizza and a banana for lunch.  While settled on the porch with lunch a thirsty little lizard joins us.  He/she comes to drink the condensation from the cup of fruitjuice.  Unfortunately we spooked him away with the camera so I do not know if we got any decent pics.

- Wile away the hours sleeping, watching TV, and playing on the iPad.

-  I go out to chat with our host Marti, and she is busy enough that settling our account would be better tomorrow.  And since she does not need our room for tomorrow, we are welcome to stay as late as we want.  When is the last time you heard that!

- Dinner once again at Carmine Celery, where the noisy individuals and smokers drive us away from the little outdoors dining establishment.

- Flagler beaches are pretty steep.  A great running workout for the girls and me.  It is so nice and quiet with the sound of the surf.

- Our duplex neighbor has two Collies, one is a Husky mix and the other is full blood.  They are very sweet and easy going.  Why aren't your girls as excited to see us as we are to see them?  "Sorry pups, I'm a bad dog mom."  Time to figure this dog park stuff out.

-  Our eastern neighbors are having party in the tiki hut outside.  I think the alcohol is getting a little loud, but they do knock off sometime around 10:30 pm.

- Sleep in to 7:30.

- Granola and banana for breakfast.

- Talk to our Collie buddy as we prep for departure.

- Left over pizza for lunch.

- Check out around noon and take A1A south.

Good Points about SCN
- Location, cross the road to the coarse sand beach.
- Room set up is fairly efficient with a microwave and a refrigerator.
- Awesome porch area.  Great for relaxing and eating.  We spent one entire afternoon here.
- Very relaxed atmosphere.  You are not bothered by housekeeping.

Bad points about SCN
- Very relaxed atmosphere.  If we had a question we needed to ask it when the proprietor/ess were around.
- They do not have up to date knowledge of the area.  A recommended restaurant had gone through two owner and name changes.  This could be due to their impending retirement and concentration on a big move and financial environment, etc.
-A lot of visitors do not leash their dogs, which is only a problem when their dogs feel free to wander up to your aggressive dog.
- There are no compact fluorescent lights in the room, and many of the incandescent lights are unscrewed.  Bill says he did this in his old condo all the time.  The lights were far too bright.

- Daytona looks like a nightmare of tourists and condos, yuck.  There are also a lot of "No Dog" signs at the beach stairs in Daytona.

- Florida is not very dog friendly.  Considering that it probably has more coastline and beaches that any other state in the contiguous US, I find this surprising.  Apparently they do not need the extra dollars that dog owners would bring on vacation with them.

- We pass a swamp boat/air boat on hwy 1.  Males vs. Females: Bill, "How many cylinders were on that thing?  Three or six?"  Kira, "I do not know. I was paying attention to the seating arrangement.  Seats three, there is a bench for two in front and a tall single in the middle."

It catches up a bit later and Bill confirms six cylinders in a boxer/helicopter engine arrangement.

- Bill goes in to get our Oceanside room, and I'm prepping for a nasty smoke filled habitat that you would not make that horrid relative of yours sleep in.  But wouldn't you know it has a lovely view with no discernible scent and the area is spacious.

- The girls still can not get settled in the elevator, ten stories is a long ride for them.

- Panera for dinner.  While they have doggy seating in front, Bill wants to eat in our private dinning retreat, complete with oceanview.  I give in, after all, how often will we find ourselves in a room such as this? 

- We wander the area with the girls and check out the pool and surrounding land.  Girls are getting a lot of attention and some guy that I will assume was very drunk stopped me and would not break off.  "No I'm not surprised there is greyhound racing nearby, but I do not particularly approve of the industry anyway.  So I really do not have anything constructive to say to the light in your eyes because you have another gambling option."  Ick!

-  My evening shower reveals a sun rash on my upper chest.  It is itchy and keeps me from sleeping well.

- Wake up late after finally having fallen back to sleep.  Bill has taken care of the girls all morning while I snoozed away.

- Chest still itchy.  Better stay away from rays today.

-  Need to email my Melbourne buddy and tell her I'm a stones throw away from Melbourne Beach in Melbourne ... Florida.

- Lunch is Panera sandwiches from yesterday and then off for the great snorkel search.  See we have equipment from ... well ... I guess Hawaii was about fourteen years ago.  So my fins disintegrated in the meantime, as did Bill's mask and booties.  We needed to update some of our equipment.

So we visit Sea Scuba, with is apparently run by an old curmudgeon.  The man yanked a mask out of Bill's hands and Bill decided that would not be the place to buy.

On to Dixie Dive, nice place, with neato equipment.  The prices seem reasonable and they have a mask and fins that Bill likes. 

On to Hatts Dive Shop where they carry an equipment list similar to Sea Scuba (and better prices, by the way).  But it just is not quite the quality and ambiance that Bill is looking for.  Back to Dixie Dive.

I am now the proud new owner of a pair of Tusa fins and Bill has a new mask by Aqua Lung and we both have new snorkels ... our old ones are not dead, but it would make snorkeling difficult should they break down during the Keys portion of our trip.

- Dinner was planned for a local vegan restaurant I found on happycow website, alas they are not open on Sundays or Mondays.  Hence a second venue needed to be chosen and a quick search unearthed Banzai Sushi & Thai Restaurant.

BSTR is delicious.  I got a veggie sushi dinner and Bill got a cornucopia of sushi sides, including octopus ... I really enjoyed octopus sushi back when I ate meat.  I did not drool while watching Bill devour his arm bits, but I may have sighed in reminiscence.

We got Banzai take out and ate in our private ocean view dining room.  I'll take back all the snarky comments I have made to Bill about the sushi and (fill in the Asian food of your choice here) fusion restaurants we've passed over the last couple of days.  Banzai was a great meal and the owners were very helpful and knowledgeable.

- We have had rain all day, from drizzle to downpours (difficult to drive in) and they gave us a wonderful surprise after dinner ... a complete rainbow visible from our balcony.  I got completely inadequate pictures off the railing.  Beautiful, absolutely beautiful.

- Take our new toys, ahem equipment, down to the pool to test them out ... all are go.  
-  Guess it is not snorkel problems after all.  I've never learned how to properly clear a snorkel after a dive.  I've sucked in a bunch of sea water, and pool water for that matter, into my lungs.  Makes it kinda hard to breath.

Bill keeps telling me that I will figure it out.  But he always says that ...

Maybe he is right though.  Rise to the surface, blow really hard, and hope your inhale is dry.  It is working so far.        

- Up for packing. 

- Take everything to the truck.

- When we return to our room, the door is open, even though a "do not disturb" sign is hanging from the handle.  This door is heavy and slams shut when wide open.  But it catches on the metal plate if shut slowly.  I have had to pull it shut after the dogs go out. 

I am unhappy housekeeping broke the sanctity of our room.  I realize people leave the sign behind, but we had not even turned in our keys yet.  Additionally, leaving the door open was incredibly foolish.  Anyone could have walked in and stolen what we had yet to take to the truck.  We were eager to be on our way after that experience.

Good points of hotel:
- Great view
- Plenty of towels
- Nice room
- There really are not a lot of set dog rules.

Bad points of hotel
- There really are not a lot of set dog rules.  Do not go into food and drink areas.  That is about it.  What about the bar in the pool area?  What about the loungers in the pool area?  We went around and on both and no one called foul.  But maybe that is the point.  If you are responsible with your dogs, they can go anywhere.  If you are not responsible, the management can kick you out.
- No fridge or microwave.
- Need to clean and fix up the external hotel, it is a bit of a criminal attractant at the moment.
- They need to stop feeding feral cats on the property.  I wonder how much damage those cats do to turtles?
- They have no signage that tells dog owners the beach is off limits to dogs.  We knew because we did a lot of research, but I bet most people do not know that Brevard County fines you $500 per incident ... if you are caught.  We saw a lot of unleashed dogs on the beach.
- The in room lighting is incredibly low level.  There simply was not enough light to apply makeup, even in the living room with exterior light coming on through sliding glass doors.
- Poorly operating door to rooms.  Dangerous if let go at apex of swing due slamming shut from weight, and unable to close without assistance if closed from a short swing.
- Hilton talks about the lovely amenities they will have waiting for your pup.  There are none. 
- The hotel computer printout is way off and Bill addresses the situation before checkout.  They fix it and we take one last stroll through the compound before heading off "the Keys way".  Several days later, I check the credit card bill.  They have charged all those removed bill charges, again, to our credit card without approval and after we took care of this issue the first time!  Grrr.  Another long phone call to Hilton where it us not their fault.  It is the "computer's" fault.  Does this mean the extra charges are going to show up a third time?

- Head out and pick up flea repellent from Indialantic Emergency Vet, nice guy.  Especially since I left all flea meds at home.  And found three fleas on Skyla yesterday.

- We attempt to stop at Walton Rocks Beach, which is an off leash dog park, but the GPS cannot find the address and the phone cannot pull up directions.  Needless to say, we never found it.

We finally stop at another park (right across the street from a park that does not even allow dogs) where we snack a bit and coax the girls into drinking some water. 

- At one of the turnpike stops, there is a sensor activated stream of water for windshield cleaning.  Every love bug in Florida is swarming right now, and vehicles and most especially windshields are covered in bug bits.

They are even coming into the car on humans and animals.  Bill had trouble getting rid of one group, he finally handed them to me and said, "Please send this couple on their way."

-  Bill is starting to grumble about food, so I start mentioning names as we approach, it is do much easier for a passenger to pick up things than a driver.  He ignores me.

-  We are nearing Homestead, the last major city before the long drive to the Keys, and Bill requests that I find a specific gas station.  So I set the GPS unit humming.  And I direct him to the closest station I can find.  Which ends up being behind us a bit.  However, we miss the right turn off and the GPS reroutes us through busiest part of town and all the munchkins being released from their school jails.  "Freedom, freedom, free at last!"

And the station is closed and Bill is irritated.  Saying he ran into the very same thing in Michigan.  Old data.

He also says this detour has not been worth it. 

Well, by this time I'm tired of being ignored and stop mentioning chain stores as we pass. 

We stop at the "wrong" station to buy gasoline and head out to the Keys.  Bill turns to me and says, " How can you not be starving?  When you are hungry you throw a fit!". And he is right.  I get really headachy ... or at least I used to when my blood sugar fell too far. 

I turned to him and said, "I ate dates at the stop and I had a chocolate nut bar back in the car."

To which Bill replies, "You are married to a nut bar!"

And I continue, "Furthermore, I have mentioned chain after chain of restaurants and you have ignored everything I said.  So I do not know what you want!"

"I was hoping for a Quizno's," Bill turns great big puppy dog eyes to me.

Argggg.  We passed one, on the correct side of the road a mile and a half ago.  But I had stopped speaking by then.  And, of course, we were too far to turn back now.

So I get to listen as Bill gets hungrier and hungrier on our long trek to Mordor, I mean the Keys.

Husbands, tell your wives what you want.  When we get irritated, you do not get what you want and you have to put up with an irritated wife.  We all lose on that one.

- Stop at a Subway finally.  He chows down and starts to feel better.  My metabolic menace, uh husband, has lost 20 to 30 pounds since we married.  And I stressed to him that he does not have the reserves that he used to, and needs to watch his food intake regularity more closely.