December 31, 2020 – January 3, 2021
A quick note from the Travels with Toohey Team: We want to thank our consistent readers and those who have commented on the blog. Please know that even though we don’t reply that we do enjoy reading each and every one. It gives us great enjoyment knowing that we have sparked something in you to have you take the time to comment on our work. Thank you all and wishing you a wonderful 2021.
Move days are becoming No Big Whoop for the TWT team of professional wanderers. What started with a few passing showers was followed by breaking down of the camp, a quick hitching of the rig, and we were off. We gave the team on the turmeric production line a slight Tacoma horn toot along with a high hand wave from the window as we moved through the field and out of the gate. We made a right turn out of the drive, apparently in the wrong direction according to the Google Map Czar, but which turned out to be only a few miles farther and along roads we haven’t yet traveled.
The total travel milage for the day was somewhere in the 60 mile range which would put us at the registration building for the KOA, which is AOK, in Perry, Florida well before our check in time. So we decided to make a run into the town of Perry to check out all the fuss and grab some necessities.
Perry, Florida seems to us, and likely to you, as an odd choice of places to stay in the state. It sits in the inner western part of the Florida bend where the peninsula and panhandle meet. If Florida were made out of two pieces of wood with the panhandle being one piece and the peninsula being the other, Perry might be the wooden peg joining them altogether.
When you Google “things to do in Perry Florida” you get a small list with the number one activity being the Iron Horse Mud Ranch. This place is a monster style truck mud event center, but unlucky for us as there were no events scheduled for our time there.
Finding camps this year has been tough. This being a holiday weekend in the warm state of Florida, has been especially complicated. Add in that we needed two spots for a few nights, one spot for us and one for Lysette’s traveling nomad sister and bother-in-law as we had plans to meet up for New Years as they crossed back into Florida from their return trip to California. We found the KOA in Perry Florida, which is AOK.
So we rolled into town past the KOA entrance and into the main shopping district for stops at Winn Dixie and the Walmart Superstore, which proved to be the main town attractions. We made one last stop at PJ’s Liquor store and then headed to the Kamp. The registration and site set-up went smoothly and soon after, the little silver convertible VW bug, referred to as the toad, drove up. The occupants inside consisted of our two rellies (Australian for relatives) and their two dogs. The plan for our New Year’s celebration was to meet up later for an afternoon knock at our place followed by dinner and drinks at their rig.
The festive plan worked marvelously as did the shrimp appetizer, steak, sweet potato, and salad for dinner. We followed dinner with an attempt to play a round of Crimes Against Humanity and with me in the lead, it quickly came to an end when we were approached by a man in a hoody with a young female child asking if we had money for gas as they’d run out and needed to get home. Feeling a little concerned that he would be on the street, correction KOA kampground, begging for money with his presumed daughter in tow, was a bit much. It was also a bit much for the owner of the KOA who quickly ran the two off the property. All the while we were a bit relieved as we thought they were coming over to ask us to quiet down as we were being a little noisy.
The rush of this was quickly solved with a group FaceTime video call with the Hunt family. As always, a good lively time was had and a fun way to kick in the New Year.
The wake up was a slow groaner, typical to some other past New Year’s celebrations in my memory based on two primary factors, a late night and being over served. With the added edge of a foggy head on New Year’s day, I decided for a run which was, as expected, sluggish and not full of spectacular scenery.
We followed this up with a big ole breakfast with the rellies in attendance. Around midday, we left the KOA for a drive to check out Keaton Beach, an activity listed around number four on the things to do in Perry Florida with the Iron Horse Mud Ranch still being number one.
The drive out was along flat Florida roads, through the same foliage we’ve discussed in past blogs but now in 2021, I don’t feel like typing a detailed description anymore. As we approached the town we passed a small convenience store then drove along a small spit of land with houses on both sides, all lining the water and each with a dock. At the end of the road was the Gulf of Mexico and just prior to getting wet in the gulf, a patch of land called Hodges Park. Hodges Park includes a small sand beach about 50 yards long, a playground, and a wood boardwalk. Since dogs weren’t allowed on the beach, we decided to walk the boardwalk. Along the way, we saw a flock of black skimmers standing on the beach facing into the wind. This bird is mostly black and white over its body with a freak show sized underbite easily overlooked because of its colorful beak. Apparently the underbite isn’t freakish but a useful tool allowing them to skim the water for food while flying. (One would think watching the young learning this skill would be entertaining as a bit too deep of a skim could create a great show.) We watched them on the beach, all facing into the high winds, forming a wedge to draft off each other allowing them to rest even when simply standing. This drafting technique is usually seen when birds fly so seeing this was a little interesting to us.
We continued our walk back out along the small road taking in all the homes and how there were constructed. As you stand and look you notice the oldest houses were constructed at ground level on a concrete foundation having possibly survived all of mother nature’s wrath. The next oldest homes are on stilts around 12 feet high and appear quite normal. The newest houses however, are ridiculously high, at, and I’m estimating, 20+ feet high perched on reinforced concrete pillars. Most have some level of hoist system to get the cases of Budweiser up to the top floor and most of the highest ones had a tier that is outside deck between the carport and bottom floor of the house to make use of this otherwise unused section of space. Pretty incredible what humans come up with to sustain a beach home where Mother Nature would prefer they didn’t.
Our stroll through the community was nice, we gawked, checked prices, and speculated about the houses and their owners, even nodded to a few owners as they stepped out of their houses looking around their large political signs still proudly displayed for all to see. Most driveways had large trucks and fishing boats. We made the comment that with all the natural beauty around this place, there is likely a nice family who kayaks in Chaco sandals, who purchased their home based on the natural setting and the wildlife, and who are also the talk of the town.
We left the town interested and intrigued by what we had seen, ready to get somewhere, but ended up nowhere. On our drive out, we passed by a bar in the middle of nowhere called, Nowhere Grille, and all in our party quickly pegged that for a Bloody Mary stop on the return trip. The place was not crowed, only a few patrons, sparsely sitting at tables and a few bellied up to the bar. The owner stopped by for a chat and explained that it is called a grille “because if you put the word “bar” in there, then none of the Baptists would come.” Funny comment reminding me of the issue with semantics during my Baptist high school days where you couldn’t have a “dance” but an “activity” where we all congregated and moved to the beat of music, which was okay.
We sat outside, as all the seating was outside, and enjoyed a yummy Bloody Mary while enjoying a late lunch. The background music was some country music played loudly through the wall mounted speakers but being in the middle of nowhere, disturbed no one. The owner went on to tell us about the original owner, named Whitey, who constructed the entire place out of repurposed material. The round top tables were stone concrete storm pipes leveled with bricks and topped with repurposed wood. A fun place that we’d encourage you to stop in, especially if you are on the road nowhere and possibly near here.
We returned to camp with each of us going to their own rigs. We relaxed for a bit, showered, and then I prepped and cooked a pan version of Hoppin Johns as a News Year’s Day tradition. The rellies came by for a bowl and the champagne from the previous night that thankfully never got opened. We enjoyed a nice time and conversation, as we always do, before an early night to bed.
With the new day forecasted for clouds and rain, we decided to make the drive down to Steinhatchee, a little fishing town south of Keaton Beach. Around noon, we loaded us into our Tacoma and them with their 2 dogs into their toad, and set off. We passed by the Nowhere Grille with patrons sitting bar side, then took a left on Beach road just before Keaton. About 20 miles later we rolled into and through the town of Steinhatchee. A quaint little town with homes and business on both sides of Deadman Bay. As expected, the place and its people are centered on seafood for both business and pleasure. There were more older homes evident by them sitting low to the ground indicating they haven’t had the storm clearing hurricanes. The newer ones, as we saw yesterday, were sitting some 20 feet in the air much like something seen on a George Jetson cartoon. There was a large marina along the bay, lots of docks, businesses, and restaurants, all with the feel of a quiet, sleepy place, not over run with tourism but more families who like a nice peaceful place to sit on their porch and spend time in their small boat fishing. Be warned that most houses have porches which were screened in indicating a big biting bug population when weather is good.
Roy’s Seafood House was a prominently displayed restaurant sitting along the bay and with good reviews based on a quick search. Our hope was outdoor seating in a place with atmosphere and good fresh seafood. What we found was a closed deck and poor quality, likely not local, seafood. The waitress, not much in serving any personality with the experience either, suggested the freshest thing were the oysters in the oyster stew, so I bit on that. It turned out to be a a bowl of oysters in warm milk and butter. Not really much taste and lacking anything fulfilling, much like her personality. The others had the grouper sandwich and while it looked much better, wasn’t all that great either.
We left there and drove around a few more corners, over the large concrete bridge to the other side of Deadman Bay then out of town. On the return trip to the Keaton Beach area, Lysette’s sister had spotted a dirt road to a place called Hagens Cove Park in the Big Bend Wildlife Area on our drive out. Now on the return trip back, we made the left turn and drove a little over a mile down a gravel road to the parking area that bordered a small beach. Other infrastructure included a lookout deck two stories high, some shelters, picnic tables and one toilet facility. Based on reviews, this place rocks a great sunset and likely has amazing views of the gulf. On our day though, the fog sat on the water so the views went out only as far as we could toss a tennis ball to the dog pack. Chloe started with the ball and after all but one unsuccessful underhanded ball toss into the metal ceiling of the picnic table shed by Chloe’s owner, Lysette’s sister, making a loud clanging noise completely disrupting the quiet of the place, startling the dogs and other nearby wildlife, made the shallow water and the game was on. They ran, drank water, tussled, and rolled. It was a great spot to let them stretch and be dogs while we enjoyed being spectators to their games.
We left after a while and drove back to camp with increasing rain falling. We got home and after a brief relaxing period at our camp, were invited over to the rellie’s rig for a night of festivities that included drink and video calls with family. These calls started and ended with real music drowned out by bad singing. The music list started with some Jimmy Buffet and moved on to included Steve Miller Band’s The Joker, Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody, and the B-52’s Roam. Tunes flowed from Alaska through Montana all the way to the KOA Kamp in Perry Florida. We aren’t sure how noise insulation works in these RV’s, but no one complained or maybe there were just too scared to knock. It was fun and the best way possible to spend an evening in the KOA in Perry Florida with heavy rains.
The morning came too soon and with the above song still stuck in my head and would remain stuck for days. Now with the rain gone and some sunshine, sweet sunshine, we packed up, hitched up, hugged it out, and headed out. As always, it was great being with these rellies, a fun adventure to share with family living a similar roaming lifestyle on our roads to nowhere. Our paths will surely cross sometime again in the near future.
Perry is also a crossroads for us and our time in Florida. We are officially heading west now through the panhandle where we have a change in direction and scenery. We remain amazed at how long we have been in the state and more amazed at what this state has offered. So with that, we move west.