Sunday, July 31, 2016


OLD US enjoyed our week in Naples, FL,  and the surrounding areas of Collier County.  Our convenient base was Naples, and neither RV or myself had ever been to Naples, so now we understand why so many people love this area and why it is home to a large population of second home owners.

Naples was founded in 1866 when a group of speculators bought 8700 acres of oceanfront land, subdivided it into building lots and built a pier and a hotel.   Naples, considered a popular and charming beach on the Gulf of Mexico, is more than 10 miles long and noted for its cleanliness and pristine white sand.
Naples Beach

Naples Beach
Naples is one of the wealthiest cities in the United States with the highest proportion of millionaires per capita.   Guess those land speculators had a good return on their investment based on all we saw.

Naples Beach Home
Naples Beach Home
Naples Beach Home
The local economy is based somewhat on tourism; however there are many employers in the area.  The Fifth Avenue South and Third Street South Streets are the focal points for Naples high end shopping in the historic downtown area, along with over 100 art galleries and sophisticated restaurants.  When it's time to snack or eat you can choose between a swank beachside resort or a funky beachside bar.  
Naples Florida - Historic District
Naples Florida - Historic District
Naples Florida - Historic Shopping District
Naples Florida - Historic Shopping District
Naples Florida - Historic Shopping District
Naples' Fishing Pier is one of the area's better known landmarks, not only during the day but definitely at sunset.  Hundreds of people show up every evening to celebrate the end of another beautiful day.
Naples Pier
Naples Pier
Waiting on Sunset  - Naples Pier
One of the reasons this pier is such a draw....

Everyone is welcome to fish on the Pier
in Naples, FL
The birds are fishing as well! - Naples Pier
No license required
The end of another beautiful day in
Naples Florida
We are leaving the coastal beauty of Naples and heading toward rural Old Florida.  We've enjoyed becoming familiar with our native state, and now we're driving to another destination -  the Everglades, cowboys, citrus, sugar cane and sod agricultural areas,  and through the scenic route of the area around Lake Okeechobee.   Florida has so much more to offer than just beautiful beaches!

Friday, July 29, 2016


Since Ol' US had never been to Marco Island, RV and I were looking forward to getting a Marco Island fix and enjoy the island life.  Well just get back if you think this is a casual, laid back visit.  Marco Island has grown at an explosive rate during the past 50 years mostly due to the extraordinary vision of Deltona Corporation's Mackle Brothers.
Welcome to Marco Island, Florida
Marco Island, Florida
The Center of the 10,000 islands
After crossing the bridges into Marco Island very little water was in sight anywhere except canals and an area of a public boat launch we accidentally discovered.  The island, one of 10,000 on the Gulf of Mexico, is beautiful and full of vacation clubs, multi story condos, multi story world class resorts, homes, and tourist magnets.  There were 3 beach access points throughout the island - Tigertail Beach, South Beach and Residents' Beach, but we weren't aware of that.

Marco Island Multi Story Buildings on Gulf of Mexico
Marco Island Vacation Clubs and Resorts  
We learned the median price of a condo this summer is $475,000. for a 2 BR, 2 BA, 1,000 to 1,200 square foot condo.  Prices vary by location on the island of course.  Similar beachfront condos have a median price of $525,000.  Some of the terminology might be water direct which means there are no bridges on the way to open water; water indirect means there is a bridge, or perhaps 2, to go under and inland means no water access.  This goes on and on.  Homes on the beach have a median price of $8,500,000, etc.  We think we better stick to RVing a little while longer.
Residential Areas 
There is an interesting historical area of the island where a historic inn which was built in 1883 and was the home of Marco Island pioneer Captain Bill Collier, hence Collier County.  We had lunch in this quaint area and felt the $35.00 we spent on lunch was quite steep for 2 sandwiches we ordered at a window and our order was brought to our table.
Historic Area of Old Marco Island

Historical Area of Old Marco Island
While in the area we visited the next adjoining, more casual or laid back fishing village,  Goodland.  It was practically deserted since this is not "season", but that gave us a chance to see what exactly is on the island.  
No doubt when you arrive that this is a serious fishing village! 
Practically deserted in the off-season!

The Old Marco Lodge in Goodland, FL
Goodland is known for the quirkiness of the annual Spammy Jammy which followed in the native Indian tradition of warding off the coming season's threat of storms and hurricanes.  Spam, the staple food when there is no electricity to cook, and hurricanes always threaten the most at night when you are in your pj's.  So every June everyone brings their best Spam creation in their PJ's, and experience a bit of quirky Florida at Goodland's Little Bar - next year for the 25th year of craziness.
Little Bar in Woodland
Spammy Jammy Headquarters
This town spares no expense in throwing a party!!!

Sunday, July 24, 2016


How does one get to Chokoloskee?  Follow the signs on east US 41 (Old Tamiami Trail), turn south on Highway 29, and when you get to the END OF THE ROAD, you are in Chokoloskee!

Looks like the way to the 'END OF THE ROAD'
Chokoloskee, FL
You'll pass through Everglades City, Everglades National Park, Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge prior to arriving in Chokoloskee.
We are tempted to stop - but on we go!
We'll check this out on the way back!
Everglades City - Beautiful tropical city 
Everglades City, FL
All of this is a jaw-dropping experience and you arrive at one of the most historic fishing villages in the USA, Chokoloskee, FL.   Our friends told us about Outdoor Resorts RV Resort in Chokoloskee, and we had wanted to visit ever since.  Fishing, boats, birds and all Florida natural resources are in abundance.
Our destination - Chokoloskee, FL
Many RV sites have boat slips
If the mahi saw this they would probably take off!
Outdoor Resorts Marina
Chokoloskee, FL
Outdoor Resorts - Chokoloskee, FL
At the end of this blog you too will be eager to enjoy the variety of fresh seafood available from one of many famous local restaurants, such as City Seafood, Triad Seafood, Camellia Street Grill or the Oyster House Restaurant.....or Joe's Stone Crabs in South Miami Beach.

While visiting Chokoloskee we drove to Smallwood Store, a historic Indian trading post and general store, now a museum.  Smallwood is the "down and dirty" version of the true story of this area, not intended as a roadside attraction.  The descendants of Ted Smallwood now lovingly maintain and display the items sold, bartered and traded by the early pioneers which hold an important historical significance for this area.
Smallwood Store and Museum
Chokaloskee, FL
Smallwood Trading Post and General Store
Chokoloskee, FL 
Smallwood Trading Post and General Store
Chokoloskee, FL
Old Chokoloskee Post Office and
Havana Cafe - Chokoloskee, FL
Smallwood Store was opened in the center of the whole 10,000 islands in the early 1900's.  Items in the store museum date from the 1800's through the 1960's.  The old trading post is on the water so there is always a lovely breeze.  The history of this area of Florida started about 1,500 years before the arrival of the white man. The Calusa Indians, the original inhabitants, were eradicated when smallpox was brought by the Spanish explorers.

Everglades City is a small fishing town about 35 miles south of Naples and 80 miles west of Miami.  Today, the very skillful stone-crab fishermen live on the Barron River, as well as several, unpretentious seafood restaurants.  As a matter of fact, a favorite world renowned restaurant, Joe's Stone Crabs on South Miami Beach, acquire their stone crabs in Everglades City.

Unfortunately, we missed stone crab season,  October 15 to May 15.  This is so the crabs can grow back their missing claw, which should grow back in about 18 months.  You may already be aware these crabs are harvested, not killed.  The off-season helps protect the crabs from over-fishing.  We noticed in several places the barnacled traps in piles on the side of the road...much like the lobster traps you see in the Keys.

NOTE TO SELF AND RV:  Stone Crab Season is 10/15 - 5/15.

Chokoloskee Yachts
Part of 10,000 Islands near south end of Chokoloskee
In closing, Chokoloskee is a Seminole word that means "old home", and is a town in Lee County, Florida.  Chokoloskee is an unincorporated community started in 1874.  The earliest residents farmed, fished, caught turtles, and hunted alligators and local wildlife.

We made it to the end of the road....who's next?!

Thursday, July 21, 2016


Google Maps has saved my sanity many times.  Having been the co-pilot and chief navigator for many years,  I am only the messenger now.   That doesn't mean I'm not inwardly panicking when it seems like we are in the middle of nowhere by the directions that are being given, but I am now confident we can find the way back....something I never felt comfortable with my Garmin, TomTom,  Magellan or even Streets and Trips.

Thank goodness for Google Maps today!
You better turn here or you'll never find it!
Sod Farm 
We've arrived - Solomon's Castle,
 Ona, FL
We are making preparations to move south so we (I) wanted to get one more out of the way quirky destination off my bucket list.  This would be a most unique and unusual place near a "smaller-than- small" town called Ona, Florida.  Think we hit the "quirky" jackpot!
Solomon's Aluminum Castle 
Solomon's Aluminum 12,000 sf,
3 story castle
Solomon's entrance - Black and White Knights
Solomon's Castle, about 30 minutes north of us, on roads through the middle of large cattle ranches, sod farms, lush Florida woodlands,  and sleepy curvy rivers.  The owner and artist, Howard Solomon, now 81, has strategically built a castle made of discarded aluminum printing plates, and it is known as "the world famous" Solomon's Castle (12,000 square feet, 3 story), and the Boat In The Moat Restaurant (a 60' replica of a 16th century Portuguese galleon).
Howard Solomon - Artist, Entrepreneur and a
Handy Man
  This reminded me of the old Florida attractions you "used" to see frequently, but this is a "destination" tourist spot in a remote area of Hardee County, Florida.  This attraction has been featured on BBC, PBS, CNN, Spanish National TV, Animal Planet, Better Homes and Gardens Network, the Associated Press, Gannett Publications, The Wall Street Journal, The Boston Globe, The Miami Herald and newspapers and magazines from around the world, and more recently on our blog "RV THERE YET".

Trojan Horse at entrance to Solomon's Castle
At first glance this appears to be brick...actually
it is hand stamped paint
The entrance tile to Solomon's Castle
Surprisingly, we weren't the only curiosity seekers.  About 30 other visitors also took the informative tour of the castle, galleries and workshop decorated with more than 80 interpretive stained glass windows and countless repurposed metal sculptures.
Every piece of sculpture is repurposed!
Repurposed sculpture and art
Repurposed cart that was originally featured in
Saturday Evening Post
Repurposed Train 

Castle Furnishings
Elephant sculpture made from several 55 gallon drums
toenails are shells
Lion Sculpture made from a 55 gallon drum

Original woodcarvings done by Solomon

Stained Glass Windows on Castle

Third Story of Castle
  Afterwards, RV and I enjoyed a delicious homemade lunch in the on-site restaurant, The Boat In the Moat, which is on a moat complete with a lighthouse, stained glass windows and an adjacent pavilion.
The Boat In The Moat Restaurant 

Interior of Restaurant

Interior of Restaurant - The Boat In The Moat

Mr. Solomon still actively creates wonders within the castle with his interpretation of his unique view of the world.   This is a family business filled with 4 generations who also live in the castle along with the old family cat.
The Family Cat - now about 18 years old
 While a lot of Solomon's work is tongue in cheek he has managed to repurpose and create unique art in a most enjoyable way.
Lush Florida Landscaping 

As we leave Solomon's Castle we have enjoyed the day!