Sunday, March 28, 2021

Key West, FL - March 2021

We ventured down to the wonderful city of Key West, FL the past week as a get-away and to celebrate Jeff's 61st birthday. We had originally planned to take a Caribbean cruise for the week but the situation with Covid and cruising made us cancel - prior to when the cruise ships cancelled. As luck would have it, we were able to snag a spot at the closest RV park to Key West - Boyd's Key West Campground.

The Campground

Boyd's has the distinction of being less than 5 miles from old town Key West, just across the bridge on Stock Island. The entrance is welcoming even though one might not think so looking at the largely industrial/trailer park areas around it. The staff is extremely friendly and welcoming. They are also fantastic at getting you into your spot, which can be a challenge. Yes, the campground is a bit tight, but once in your spot it really is not noticeable. If you are one that must have a huge amount of space around you - this and not any campground in this area will be suitable for you. We never really noticed how tight it was once we were settled. The sewer connections are at the back of the spot, so even though there is not a lot space between that is not close to where you would be sitting outside your rig.

It's tough to get a reservation here, especially last minute, but it is well worth it, Yes it is pricey but to put your rig so close to Key West comes with a price  - real estate is a premium in this part of the world.

If you like to cook up some fresh fish, directly across from the campground entrance is a great fresh fish market called FishBusterz. You never know what they may have. We looked around one day and they had halibut, which we would have gotten if we were cooking at the campsite that night, but we were not. Two days later Jeff walked over to get dinner and they had lion fish. We had always wanted to try this and it was some of the best fish we have ever eaten. Lionfish are not indigenous to Florida waters; and are, in fact, destroying natural wildlife. It was good to see such a high pile of it at the fish market because that means they are getting caught and removed. Jeff fried it up in the skillet using Zatarains Southern coating.

On Stock Island there are also several restaurants available. Our first night we walked down to Hogfish Bar and Grill. Great little place at the marina with fantastic drinks and food - Jeff highly recommends the seafood enchilada and Beth recommends the hogfish.

Old Town Key West

We had our bikes with us and rode them into Key West several days. The Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail can easily be accessed a few blocks up from the campground. This takes you off the main road and along the water side of Roosevelt once you cross the bridge from Stock Island onto Key West. It is approximately five miles from campground to Mallory Square at the top of Duval Street.

Describing Key West to someone who has never been can be a rather daunting task. Key West is a wonderful town for eating, shopping, and drinking. There are so many places once can find to just settle back and watch the ships or watch the people. There are iconic spots that one must simply visit to say they went. There are also a lot of attractions that must be seen, in our opinion - the Southern Most Point (see a short video of our bike ride there below), Hemingway's House, Butterfly farm, Little White House, Fort Zachary Taylor, and so many more. 

This trip we made a journey down to Blue Heaven on Thomas Street for Sunday brunch. Their lobster eggs benedict are absolutely the best and they have the best Key Lime pie in all of Key West, according to Jeff who has had it all over town. Well worth the wait to eat there.

Birthday lunch/dinner was specifically set for one of the oldest iconic places on Duval Street - Sloppy Joes Bar. This is one of those must have meals along with a fantastic frozen drink called "Pain in the Ass"  - they simply go together great.

A couple of days we stopped by the Sunset Pier to enjoy a drink and watch the water activity. This is an absolutely wonderful place with great drinks and what appeared to be great food (we did not eat, only enjoyed some nice frozen cocktails).  It is right on the water so you can watch the activity and would be wonderful for sunset if not out on Mallory Square for the daily sunset festival.

We did manage to take a snorkel trip out to the barrier reef with Fury Watersports. We had one trip booked but due to conditions they had to change it to  the Gulf side coral bed. We switched over to go on the bigger catamaran that could handle the choppiness of the ocean side barrier reef. The trip out was great, crew was wonderful and the water was chilly. We were able to rent wetsuits for $10 that helped. The visibility was not great as the strong currents were making it a bit hazy. The trip back to the pier they had an open bar with beer and margaritas. All in all a good trip, but we had wished the water visibility had been better.

Overall we had a great trip - only wishing it could have been longer. We did have a "poop incident" trying to empty the black tank. Unsure what may have be clogging it. We have never introduced any foreign objects to the tank, but the prior owner seemed to have let it dry at some point and we are getting pieces of "peanut brittle" type debris. That saga continues.

A short ride to the Southern Most Point

S. Roosevelt Beach

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Where Am I Going and How Do I Get There - Part 2

We previously discussed trip planning and tools that we use for our adventures. This post will concern itself mainly with how we use and google maps to plan a trip. This is not going to be an in depth training session on RV Trip Wizard. It is a powerful tool with many options that deserves more attention - and they provide excellent help/support for using the product. We will be explaining at a high level how we plan our trip using RVTripWizard. Within the tool you can find decent documentation, a support community and how to videos. 

Choose a Destination

Of course, the first step is choosing where you want to go; not necessarily a specific campground but at least a general geographical area. Once that is chosen RV Trip Wizard can show the campgrounds in that area. There is an option to turn off/on that displays known campgrounds (and if you know of one not on the map you can submit it to them for it to be added). You can select a campground on the map and get a plethora of information, reviews and a direct link to the campground's website. 

During our destination selection (and during choosing stops along our route) we also utilize google maps. This is not for the actual routing since it does not take RV specifics into consideration. We use Googlemaps to look at specific campgrounds and read reviews. Reviews are also available with RVTripWizard from We also use satellite view (which is also available inside RVTripWizard) to see how things look. This can especially be handy when looking at fuel stops as it can show the room you have to maneuver.

Creating a Trip

For the purposes of this post, we will use our current plan for a trip to Key West we are taking in a few days. This trip begins at our home and ends at Boyd's Key West Campground and includes two fuel stops. When we create a new trip it will present windows that allow us to input our starting location, date of trip and several tabs of information about your rig and route preferences that will help in routing the trip (avoid tunnels, avoid tolls, etc). Once added, you can then add the campground found when doing initial plan and add it after "last stop". The route will then be generated and you will see mileage and travel time (based on your options of travel speed in the trip settings).

The routing may also show when you will need fuel, based on your trip option preferences. We have  an 80 gallon tank and we have our option set to warn we are down to 25 gallons based on trip routing. RV Trip Wizard has "filter" options that can show numerous items on the maps - rest areas, gas stations, dump stations etc. You can select which you wish to see on the map and turn them off with a one click option. So, for example, you chose a fuel station on the map you want to make a stop. You open the details and simply add to last stop (selecting the stop you want it to follow). The new POI is on the map and the table shows mileage and time. 

As a note, in the case of fuel stops, edit the stop and add the amount of fuel you plan to add. The option window will show how many gallons used as well as remaining. We usually simply add fuel to bring the remaining back to 80 gallons. If you have input a cost per gallon the trip costs in the table will also be updated.

Below is a screenshot of our completed trip plan from our home to Boyd's in Key West with two fuel stops. Take note of the route as I have turned off the option to show all campgrounds and filters. Also, the table on the left shows details. Notice the small wrench at the top right of the table - that has all the options you can set for your trip as well as being able to export the trip details. Also notice at the bottom of the table a button that allows you to automatically set the return trip options - unless you are full-timing and just keep going (one day soon for us 😁) The only thing missing in the table is the number of nights we'll be at Boyd's, available when you edit the stop. Once added the dates in the first column will update appropriately.

We have used this trip planning tool for quite some time and find it to be the best overall planning aid. I work on longer trips and modify as I go along - for example, I have been planning our Alaska journey for about 6 months, off and on. I open it up, work on it and then save it. I also create trips with desired destinations and then go back to them once we are ready for that planning and add more specifics. For example, we have an old west tour that has stops of the points of interest. Once we decide to start planning we'll go back in and start looking and adding campgrounds in the area. 

For a longer trip, below is our current Alaska journey that includes a side trip to Michigan so we drop our guns off at a family member to avoid Canada issues. 👮 I have selected campgrounds that currently are open, knowing it will all have to be reviewed as we get closer to this adventure. I also have to add more stops from Michigan to our Canada entry point. I have minimized the table on the left and the POI on the right so it only shows map - lot of zooming and scrolling for this trip to be planned - but will be worth it. 

So that's an overview of how we use RVTripWizard for planning. In the next part we'll discuss how we take the trip data out of RVTripWizard and use Excel to actually add timings that help with our trip schedule and outlook. 

Stay tuned...

Saturday, March 13, 2021

Installing Dirt the Devil CV1500 with Vroom

So, a few weeks ago we made a post about our newest upgrade purchase - the Dirt Devil CV1500 Vacuum with Vroom extension hose. 

This upgrade will provide a central vacuum and we can finally do away with our dust buster and broom/dustpan. The Vroom hose extends up to 35feet allowing it to reach front to back in our rig. We can quickly and easily extend the hose, use it to pick up small or large jobs and then retract it quickly. Having a couple of dogs this will help keep things in line (of course Jeff spreads some dirt too). 

The Dirt Devil bag that is available is not paper but a paper/cloth hybrid. It can hold a lot of debris without fear of it busting. It is located in the top of the unit and is an easy job to replace. It came with three bags and we ordered a few more 3 packs from Amazon just to be prepared.

Here is our video of the installation. Jeff did this and is still making some minor adjustments to the overall hose - and his back may need a bit of adjusting too after crawling around under the sink. 😄

Please bear in mind, this is his first video ever and had no one to hold the phone while creating it. He'll get better and will be doing another one that involves our awning tie down/poles to keep the awning out all the time (except for gale force storms 😬). Feel free to comment or ask questions - just be nice.