Friday, November 28, 2008

Tortugas squirrels

Rats on Garden Key, where I live in the Dry Tortugas, are commonly referred to as "Tortugas squirrels". They are considered an invasive species and are direct descendants of the European rats that carried the Black Plague during the Middle Ages.

I am looking forward to volunteering in the "e-ratication" project and using some of my skills gained in Alaska.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The eagle has landed

After a 60-mile flight, 1,200 miles on the ferry, 4,200 driving miles and another 70-mile ferry ride, I am now blogging via satellite from Dry Tortugas! (Although the computer is sitting right in front of the kitchen door because that seems to be the only place the wireless is making it through the fort walls.) The Skype connection is working, although there is a definite lagtime.

Once I dig out from the pile of totes and boxes, I'll work on getting some great roadtrip photos and photos of what it's like 70 miles offshore.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Dry Tortugas here we come

Tuesday is the day we will be on the Fort Jefferson boat on our way to Fort Jefferson (Dry Tortugas National Park). Let's hope it isn't too windy or the 3-hr+ ride will be really, really rough.

We safely arrived in Key West and have been moving more boxes around our apartment there, the storage unit and the back of the truck for delivery to the island.

I really, really hope our Skype phone number and internet satellite connection will be working out there.

The weather has been mighty windy with a cold front that moved in ... now it's a mere 75 degrees or so. Much warmer than any summer day in Gustavus.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Top 10 reasons to avoid the Rodeway Inn in Miami

  1. It is in the runway of Miami International Airport.
  2. If there isn't a plane flying overhead and rattling the building, the police and ambulance sirens will knock you out of bed.
  3. If you are somehow able to sleep through the planes and sirens, the traffic outside will keep you awake.
  4. They will tell you they are working on the wireless internet and it will be up and running soon but that is what they have been saying for at least a week. (I think they don't have it but want to advertise they have it.)
  5. Your entire body will be really, really sore from the uncomfortable beds.
  6. The dripping faucet you hear isn't really a dripping faucet ... it's the ceiling leaking from a drip in the room above you.
  7. The parking lot is not easy to get in and out of with a Toyota Tundra towing an 8-ft-long UHaul trailer.
  8. They are pretty stingy with handing out extra towels, although not as stingy as the EconoLodge in Macon, GA where I practically had to give them my driver's license in exchange for two threadbare towels.
  9. The rooms don't have a clock or a coffee pot or any other extra "amenities."
  10. If you want to use the phone in the room to make a call, you have to get the front desk to "open a line" for you. That does not work for the length of your stay. You have to do it again every morning.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Top 10 animals met along the way

  1. Tango and Cleo, MJ's painted box turtles
  2. Bart, the bird dog that doesn't do pheasants
  3. Spike, the psychotic doberman
  4. Bonji, a split personality Bichon Frisé
  5. Bear, another Dr. Jekyl/Mr. Hyde dog
  6. Oliver, the elusive cat
  7. Miley, the Shih Tzu puppy who peed 3 times in 20 minutes (due to excitement, of course, in seeing me and Robin)
  8. Jackson, the lopey, friendly black lab/huskie mix 8-week old who couldn't always stay awake
  9. Spot, Chance, Kool, Archie, Kat and Scooter, the painted horsies
  10. Mango and Rambo, the world's fattest chihuahuas (really, they are obese and pushing 20 pounds!)

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Top 10 things I've learned on the road trip at 3,000 miles

  1. Gas prices have been much less (thankfully) than expected. Lowest price seen to-date: $1.69.
  2. Chattanooga traffic is horrendous due to a very poorly planned construction project. It somehow took more than 2 hours to make it through this small town.
  3. Someone only seems to tolerate classic rock or country. I resigned my post as road trip music director even earlier than I expected ... while we were still west of Rockies.
  4. Free high speed internet is abundant, including at Toyota dealers (I've spent several hours there already), Denny's restaurants, Shell gas stations, rest areas and a slew of other places.
  5. My brother-in-law makes awesome homemade wine. We are now traveling with a full supply of liquor to bring to the isolated island.
  6. The EconoLodge in Macon, Georgia is a place you want to avoid at all costs. Pay the $10 more for a room anywhere else.
  7. Artificially inseminating thoroughbred paint horses involves tools such as a straw and a humping station (mock-mare).
  8. Touring my home town with my mom as tour guide is a must-do and sure to make you laugh ... a lot! (But don't ask anyone for directions to David's shop because they will all tell you they can drive there but not direct you there.)
  9. Food is everywhere and really cheap ... it's no wonder most of America is fat. Ice cream cones were a mere 79 cents and a pint was $1.69.
  10. If you are driving over 4200 miles across the country with several thousand pounds pulling a loaded trailer, make sure you schedule time for oil changes and alignments.

Saturday, November 15, 2008


That's what a 71-mile helicopter ride will cost ya in the St. Louis area.

We stopped to see my brother Jim (the base jumper mentioned a couple months ago), and that's what the helicopter bill was. His insurance reportedly is only paying $5,000.

Updating the blog has been difficult due to lack of internet access and time. After leaving Utah, we traveled to spend a few days in Colorado and held a ceremony for Tasha (my doggie), we headed to see my family in Iowa. We stopped briefly in Ames for dinner with my nephew, great-niece and sister, driving through snow flurries to arrive at my mom's late late at night. Robin met an onslaught of relatives. One of them advised Robin: "They all seem normal at first but watch out! They're not."

We safely made it through 5 states all in one day: Iowa, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana and Kentucky. We stayed at a horse ranch in Kentucky and witnessed a nasty dog attack (long story but the dog is going to be OK after a trip to the vet). Robin got an 8-point buck and now we have 100 lbs of meat with us to help feed us once we arrive at Dry Tortugas.

Now, we're in Macon, GA for the night and head to Titusville to meet his mom tomorrow.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Pay-as-you-go is a no-go

During our stop in Brigham City, UT, we stopped at the local AT&T store to get a pay-as-you-go phone. We discussed our route with the salesperson and were assured the phone would work for the entire way. (You can foresee where this is going.)

Well, the phone worked in Brigham City but not for long after that. We took I-80 across Wyoming, having 5 full bars of reception the entire way. But, the message "Service unavailable" kept displaying. We could see oceans of cell phone towers (like the one my brother jumped off of), but still no service.

Finally, we stopped at a pay phone to call AT&T. Much to our dismay, we were told that they did not have pay-as-you-go service contracts set up with any of the cell phone towers in Wyoming. In fact, she told us we wouldn't have service in Wyoming at all, that Denver would be spotty coverage, Nebraska would have no coverage, and Iowa probably wouldn't have much either.

This is a big thumbs-down for the AT&T pay-as-you-go plans.