The Lime Cider Chronicles

Russ Caipen

 Ramblin'


  The following is a journal of my adventures as I travel the great state of Florida.  



Saturday
August 1, 2009


 Today I  joined the ranks of the unemployed.  The company that I worked for was sold. 
 I know it sounds terrible, but it's not.

After 7 years of being "on-call"  24 hrs. a day, 365 days per year, I am finally going to get some serious fishing in and a little R&R.

Monday, August 3rd I will turn in my keys and officially be unemployed and homeless.

 All work and little play has allowed me to be able to take a little time off, and I've got a plan...


    
Road Trip!  

                                                                                                              

 
Last lunch with Merecorp at Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. in Madeira Beach, FL Kerry, Nancy and William.

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Sunday
August 2

5:30am~Met up with Mark, Chris, John, Marty and his son Chris to fish Fort Desoto. The water was pretty clear and the floating grass was being blown against the west side of the bay that we were fishing. There were mullet schools and baitfish everywhere but the bite was off. I believe that the extremely slow incoming tide was to blame.

It was nice being on the water and knowing for sure that I was not going to get called to fix an air-conditioner.

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  6:20pm~This is the last night in my apt. One final trip to the storage unit and when the alarm rings at 6am I will walk out the door and go somewhere else... probably fishing.

 I'm breaking down my desk-top pc and will be on a lap-top from here on out. I bought a Virgin Mobile, Broadband2Go card so that I can stay connected.
 I'm excited to see what the future holds.

M0nday, August 3

 I'm going to need a bigger truck than my Ranger in order to be able to carry my kayak and luggage.
 I looked at and test drove several trucks before deciding on this Ford F-150.

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Tonight I stayed at a cheap motel off of US 19 in Pinellas Park.

Tuesday, August 4

 Did a lot of running around today. 
 I have decided to keep my Ranger for awhile so I took it to my friend Rick who has agreed to store it for me until I get finished "Ramblin'". 

 Went to my insurance agent to add the new truck to my policy. Hit up the Wally world for some more camping equipment and Auto Zone to pick up some accessories for the new truck.

 I met my brother at South Beach Bar and Grill for a "Happy Hour" beer and will be staying at his apartment for a few days. I have a sweet view of Johns' Pass and hope to fish there tomorrow.

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Wednesday, August 5

 Woke up this morning to find major thunderstorms moving in from the Gulf.
I decided to stay in and catch up on computer related issues.
It rained most of the day, but it was nice to relax.

Tomorrows weather looks better and I have a compelling urge to be on the water. 

 

Thursday, August 6

The weather was perfect this morning, so after breakfast I launched my plastic fishing machine in hopes of finding something to make my reel spin backwards.

When fishing in or near a Pass, you never know what you might catch. I started out around some spoil islands looking for my friends, Mrs. Snook and Mr. Redfish.

I had a big Red follow my top water plug for 20' before jumping on it but I was disappointed when the lure popped out of it's mouth shortly after taking it.

The tide turned and the flats began to flood quickly. Schools of fry bait were everywhere and casting around them produced a few decent Trout, several 5lb. class Ladyfish and even a small Mangrove Snapper.

I decided to go to the deep part of the Pass and see what I could find. The current was strong near the bridge which is still under construction. I put a shrimp immitation on a jighead and was casting it around some structure. I had fun catching a juvie Red Grouper, a couple of Jacks and more huge ladyfish. 

It's was a nice change of pace.

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Friday, August 7

 Spent today doing final preparations  for my road trip and the Club "Fish_N_Munch" tomorrow. 

 My brother made dinner on my last night in town and it was one of our favorites as we were growing up.

 Moms special recipe, "Tater-tot Casserole". 

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Saturday, August 8

 Woke up at 4am, as I do every Saturday morning. Sleeping in is for weekdays.

 This Saturday morning is a very special one to me. Not only is it the day that I will start my road trip, but it is also one year to the day that my fishing partner Nik Comeau and I started a kayak fishing club.

 On 08-08-08 the first "official" HardCore Kayak Anglers Club trip took place at a little island near the mouth of Tampa Bay known as Joe Island. It stormed that day and only 6 guys launched.

 Today 08-08-09 we met at our clubs' birth place on it's birthday. 30 members attended and a good time was had by all. 
   

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Several Snook, Redfish, Trout and other various species of fish were caught. Around noon we all met back at the launch site to talk about fishing and have a cook-out.

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  4:00pm

 
After 12 hrs. of fun, I was tired but I loaded up my things and hit I-75 north. I stopped in Ocala and got a room at a Good Sams Motor Inn. Affordable, clean, conveniently located. Did some laundry, surfed the web and crashed early.

 Sunday, August 9

 After a big breakfast, I got back on the highway. I missed a turn and ended up taking the "scenic" route.

      *note to self: Buy a gps when you get back to civilization.


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 I arrived at my first destination, Jacksonville.
Located in the north east corner of the state, it is also known as "The First Coast".
 I spent several years of my life there, but that was over 15 years ago. I am anxious to see what changes have been made.

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 First order of business is to secure a camp site at Hanna Park.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kathryn_Abbey_Hanna_Park

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After setting up camp and grabbing a shower I headed to Jax Beach to see what had changed. I found that they had replaced alot of the run down housing with big condos and upscale bars and restaurants.  The formerly blighted area had been transformed into a place that the Jacksonville community obviously looks forward to visiting. I found it a nice change.  

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 10:00pm

 
After enjoying some night life, I made my way back to camp where I started a fire and hit the sack.

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  Monday, August 10

 I slept great in the tent, it was very comfortable.

 I walked down to Lake Hanna this morning since it is only a couple of hundred yards away from my site and saw a lot of baitfish action but recieved no love with my Spook or shad tail. After breakfast I took a walk to the beach with a combo and a few lures. It's a lot different than west coast beaches, they actually have waves here.

  I contacted the Jax Kayak Fishing Club on thier forum requesting a fishing partner or tips on fishing the area.   I also stopped by B&M Bait and Tackle in Mayport and asked for tips. I recieved some great information and look forward to posting a fishing report in the near future!

 When checking the tides I was surprised to see that they have a 4-5' tide swing in 4 hrs. WOW

http://www.jaxkayakfishing.com/phpBB/index.php


Tuesday, August 11

 I took the advice that I was given by James at B&M Bait and Tackle and Stevefishes from JKFC, launching from the Oak Harbor boat ramp which only is about 5 mins from my camp site. The tide was wicked low at 6 am and it was the perfect opportunity to see what the the area looked like. There are no grass flats in this region only oyster bars and marsh grass with deep, muddy bottomed cuts and creeks. This areas "slam" consists of a Flounder, Redfish, and Trout. The local inshore baits present are shrimp and finger mullet and the water is a dark, tannic color. In trying to match the hatch, I decided on a Spook jr for a mullet immitation and a 1/4oz D.O.A. shrimp. I noticed that their shrimp are dark so I went with a Smoke color.  

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 The tide was so low that the schools of finger mullet had no place to hide. For a couple of hours Trout were feeding on them heavily and throwing a Spook along the edges of the channel and creek mouths was an almost guaranteed hook up. The trout were fairly small 13-19" but provided non-stop entertainment until the tide came racing in. Good thing I had made my way toward the ocean and was able to ride the current back to the launch. The tide so strong that I don't think I would have been able to pedal against it successfully.
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4:30 pm

 When I left Jacksonville in the mid 90's My best friend was Luis Agiullar. At nearly 7' tall and with a voice as deep as thunder, this strong giant of a man was known as "Chief". He was very intimidating at first glance but when you got to know him, you realized that he was a gentle, caring person that was grossly mis-understood.
 He lived a hard life and because of his stature, he was always sought out by guys that thought it would be an accomplishment to fight him. He hated that and always tried to avoid altercations.

 I lost contact with Chief over the years, but often thought of him.

 Tonight I went looking for my friend. The beach has changed so much in the past 15 years that I thought my search might be unsuccessful. I went to the only pub that we frequented that was still open and asked the bar tender if she knows a guy named Chief. 

 She says yes and tells me that he was stabbed to death a few years ago.

 What a sad and unfitting end to such a good mans life.
 
 I wish that I had gotten back here to visit before it was too late.
                                            
   R.I.P. Chief
 

Wednesday, August 12

 I went to the fishing pier that was built on Jax Beach to see what was biting. I found out that the water temp is 78 degrees but they have had some cooler pockets come through and they are catching Kingfish! I didn't see any landed, but heard reports of 30-35lb smokers.

 Tomorrow I plan to launch from the beach, weather permitting. It is supposed to storm tonight.

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 Thursday, August 13

 We had some serious thunderstorms overnight and the tent only leaked a little bit. I went to the beach and even though the winds were calm the water was still rough.
 
 I decided to try another inshore location that was recommended by members of  JaxKayakFishing.com.

 Dutton Island Preserve is a state run park that is located on the ICW a few miles from the mouth of the St Johns' River and the Atlantic Ocean.  It is gated and does not open until 8am so I had to kill a little time.  I ran into Jax Kayak Fishing.com member and forum moderator, Keith aka "Dreads". He is a very nice guy and he took the time to tell me a little about the area before we launched.

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It turned out to be worth the wait as shortly after launching from the floating dock, I found myself surrounded by baitfish that were being attacked on the surface by Trout and Redfish. The tide was low and everything, including myself, was trapped in a rather large, deep trough. It was exhillarating to see all of the action that was taking place around me. Shrimp and baitfish were flying everywhere.
 
On about the third cast of my "dark water" Spook Jr, this sweet 24" Red jumped on it.  It's not my biggest Redfish ever, but I recieved a great sense of accomplishment just from being successful in an unfamiliar area.

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 For the next half an hour it was Trout after Trout. Then the tide came in and the fish were able to move, this seemed to shut the bite down. I looked for a Flounder for a while using my DOA shrimp and even some Gulps but had no luck. I was sure hoping to complete that slam today but there is always tomorrow.


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 Friday, August 14

 I had high hopes of fishing the beach this morning since the winds were calm. I was bummed to see that the surf was still high.

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 I tried another recommended location known as Little Talbot Island. This spot is north of the St. Johns River and the quickest way to get there is to take the "Ferry".

 It is a very fishy looking place but when I arrived the tide had already flooded the area and I only caught 2 small Trout. Storms moved in early and I got off the water around noon.

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I decided to find a dry place to grab lunch. The Mellow Mushroom has a cool atmosphere and good Pizza. A slice of pie big enough to surf on and an ice cold beer for $5.
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Saturday, August 15

 I went to Jax Beach for breakfast and wandered out on the pier to see if anyone was catching anything. When I got toward the end, a reel started screaming. A local fisherman who had a Blue Runner suspended battled this nice 35lb. Kingfish. 

The photo is bad because my lens was fogged on the inside. Must have gotten some moisture in it. When I got in the truck I opened the port let the A/C blow into it which cleared the fog.

 

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 This guy fought his fish for nearly 30 minutes which put me running late to break down camp on time. 

 At noon, I was traveling south on A1A. This small highway runs the entire east coast of Florida. There are miles and miles of beautiful, undisturbed coastline and dune systems. 

 I almost stopped in St. Augustine for the night because I heard that Judas Priest was in town to do a concert. I had only traveled 30 miles from Jacksonville, so I decided to continue a little farther down the road before stopping.

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 I reached Daytona and rented a room across from the beach. Since there are so many hotels here and there are no special events taking place right now, they are competing for business. Dozens of places offering $32-$50 rooms across from the beach and $50 and up for ocean front. I look at a room before taking it and after seeing a few I chose a clean little room at The San Marina Motel. It's across from the beach but the main sellers were new beds, free hi-speed wi-fi, fridge, micro, and large newly re-modeled baths. 

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 Sunday, August 16

 After sleeping in the heat for the past week, a real bed and air conditioning was NICE. So nice, that when I woke up this morning, I went down and paid for another night.

 I grabbed some breakfast and then went to a car wash to remove the camping and fishing grime that had accumulated on the "Street Boss" and the Hobie. 

 I saw the news for the first time in a while and was surprised to see all of the activity coming off of the Cape Verde Islands. This is a bad time for Hurricanes, I've got fishing to do dammit!lol

 I soaked up some A/C and got caught up on some computer stuff and then went to the beach. The winds, surf  and tide were up and the beach was closed to vehicles, but that didn't keep people away. 

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 Monday, August 17

 Checked out at 10am and hit the road. I took my time as I hugged the coast and saw the sites. It is very nice when you get close to the Ponce Inlet. A1A doesn't go over it so you have to double back and get on US1 for a few miles. I know what you are thinking... Russ still doesn't have a GPS. You are right but I am going to get one soon.

 I eventually made it to the Titusville area.
I have been here once, about a month ago with a few HCKAC members. We fished the "Whale's Tail" area of Mosquito Lagoon and so I know a little bit about the place.

 I found a hotel in Titusville that isn't fancy or anything but it is right on the Indian River and has free Wi-Fi which is important as I was spending about $20 a day just using the "air-card".


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 I made a post on Orlando Kayak Fishing Club requesting tips and fishing partners.


http://www.orlandokayakfishingclub.com/forum/


 Tuesday, August 18

 This morning I launched from Peacocks Pocket on the Indian River Lagoon. I hoped to be protected from the south east winds because of its location, but they keep the vegetation low by burning it off every few years. This morning early it was nice and calm and I had a few blow-ups on top, but around 9 or so the winds and rain came up quickly. I got off the water after it started pouring.

 I picked up a GPS from a WalMart Super Center this afternoon. I was going to get the TomTom but the salesman and the sale made me go with the Magellan.
 No more wrong turns for me.


Wednesday, August 19

This morning I met up with several members of the Orlando Kayak Fishing Club at the "Beacon 42"  boat ramp on the Merritt Island Preserve near Cape Canaveral.

 It was great to meet Fred, Dennis, Ed, Ernie and Mike. It was very nice of them to invite me to join them.  We proceeded to make our 3 mile trek to Widgeons Bay near Pardon Island in Mosquito Lagoon at dark-thirty.

Mullet and other baitfish were creating quite a spectacle as they scattered triggering a bioluminesent glow. Unfortunately I was unable to capture it with my camera.

 As the sun rose behind an ominous cloud, we threw various lures at some giant Redfish. 

 Fred hooked up to a slob that was lost boatside but the rest of us had to settle for Trout and Ladies.


 Thursday, August 20

 I was sure hoping to get on some of the famed Lagoon Redfish, but after 3 unsuccessful trips I must admit that I'm a little discouraged. I know that the windy conditions are to blame.

 I took the day to catch up on some computer stuff like where to fish next and where to stay.  I recieved some good tips and am looking forward to heading a little farther south. I miss Snook! I also put the HCKAC Sept. Fish_N_Munch notice together and sent it out. 

 This afternoon I met up with my Uncle Bill. I grew up around him but haven't had a chance to spend much with him in the past 25 years. He lives in Mims which is just outside of Titusville, we met at the Moose Lodge on the Indian River, had a couple of cold ones and talked about life. 

Priceless...
 

Tomorrow I'm going to give it another shot. Different area, highly recommended.


 Friday,  August 21

 This morning I woke up and headed to KARS Park and the "No Motor Zone". When I arrived the security officer said, " The Coast Guard just called and told me to close the launch since the shuttle is on the launch pad." 

That's a major bummer to me because I stayed at the hotel an extra day just to fish it. At that point I said to myself  "it's time to move south".
 
However, in the back of my mind I know that on Sept. 1 my storage unit rent is due, temp. tags on truck expire, and  my "hold mail" request is over and I will need a P.O. box after that. I am the closest to Tampa that I will be on my trip and since I am not ready to stop, I made the 140 mile trip "home".

After taking care of things, I headed back and slightly south to the Sebastian Inlet area. It was storming and dark when I got back to the east coast, so I grabbed a room for the night.

It was a long day but I am good on everything until October 1. I feel as if a weight has been lifted from my shoulders.

Now I'm ready to catch some fish. 

 Saturday, August 22

  I awoke fully rested this morning and made my way to the Long Point Campground which is ideally situated just inside the famed inlet.
 


 Check it out, a camp site with  grass and it's own private launch.

 
After setting up camp I made the short journey to Port Canaveral where I met my cousins Amy and Patrick for lunch at "Grills". It was very nice to see them again and to find out that they are both doing well.


 Sunday, August 23

 11:30am

 I hit the water early this morning at low tide and made the trip to Sebastian Inlet. The tide was just starting to turn and I was bumping "buck-tail" jigs along the bottom in hopes of Flounder or Snook.

 The Inlet must be lined with boulders, because I lost every jig that I had.

The tide pushed me west and onto the flats that are just inside and to the north of the inlet. I caught several 15 -17" Trout and a Snapper. I saw 1 large Redfish but no Snook.

 11 pm

 Just got off the water and it was beautiful out, except "Flipper" and his buddies decided to fish the same flats as I did. It was a spectacle watching them throw mullet around like toys, but they sure messed up the fishing. I caught a few Trout and an East coast sunset, but I'm still determined to get a big "linesider" out of this area.

 

 Monday, August 24

 Early
 I was optimistic when I launched into the Sebastian Inlet area again this morning. This time I made my way west toward Intra Coastal Waterway (ICW).

There were more small Trout, mostly on suspending twitch baits and soft plastics, but no other fish.

 Noon
 Check out time at the campground.

 While I have enjoyed my stay here... "I've got to keep on moving".

 Destination Ft.Pierce Inlet.


 Afternoon

When I arrived to the Ft. Pierce area, the first thing that I noticed is that it is mainly an industrial area rather than the tourist based coastline that I have seen so far in my journey. There were "Labor Pools" on almost every corner and I had a hard time convincing myself to take the only hotel that I could find that was reasonable. 

 Actually the room at the Super 8 was very clean and well maintained despite being surrounded by body shops, rail-roads and abandoned buildings.
 

 After touring the area and talking to some locals, I heard tales and was able to see the effects of  Hurricane Jeanne in 2004 whos eye sat off of the coast and beat the area to a pulp for several days.  

Unfortunately while in the process of recovering, the recession kicked in and you can literally see where the construction and rejuvenation came to a screeching halt.

Tuesday, August 25

 I have recieved tips from reliable sources that the islands inside and north of the Ft.Pierce Inlet hold some big fish and so I was on the water at sun-up hoping to hook up!


The tide was low and turning as I made my way across the channel, so I ventured east into the mouth of the inlet and let the current pull me backwards. This allowed me to cast my lures parallel to the deep-cut shoreline of the north side of the inlet which is bordered by a State Park.

 I missed a Trout that had to be close to 30" when it tried to inhale my topwater plug so I stayed at that point and threw every lure in my box trying to get the fish to strike again.

 The water started ripping so I let it take me to Coon Island and the other spoils that surround it. Oddly there are no sea grasses there but it has some very nice deep pockets scattered around as well as a great flow. There was lots of bait and schools of mullet around as well as some big fish eating them, but I could not get them to take my offerings.

 I might have to change my name to "Snap Cider".


10:30pm

 I went back this evening and had similar results so... I'm ready to relocate. This time I'm going quite a bit farther south before stopping.


Wednesday, August 26

 I set out this morning, not exactly where I would stop. As I made made my way down the coast at 35 MPH, I was amazed at how beautiful our state really is.

 My favorite named town is Hypoluxo, but the best residential beaches that I saw were from West Palm to Pompano Beach.

When I reached Miami it was rush hour and the traffic was horrendous so I kept on moving hoping to get a place to stay on the outskirts of town. The next thing I know, I'm in the bad part of Homestead but I had to stop. I grabbed a cheap room and settled in for the evening.

Thursday, August 27

 I hit the road on a beautiful sunny morning, fully rested and ready to see the "Keys". I looked over and saw "Robbies" so I had to stop. I have long heard stories of the large Tarpon that you can feed by hand there.
 It was truly amazing to see these fish so unafraid of humans and agressively feeding. If you ever make it down here, you've got to do this!

http://www.floridakeyswebcams.tv/robbiestarpon/
 

 
 
After playing with the "Poons" for a while, I continued south to my destination Key West.
 Since I've been in motels for the past few days, I decided to camp again. Unfortunately, I only found two parks and they wanted $65 per night for a small piece of dirt. Rooms go for $100-$160 except this one, which was actually decent.


Friday, August 28

  Today, after a Sloppy Joe at "Sloppy Joes",  I contacted HardCore Kayak Anglers Club brother Chris Meakin. He is working in Key West and I had hopes of getting together with him to do some fishing.


 

I met up with Chris at Shanna Key Irish Pub & Grill after he got off work. As you can see, he is doing very well.

We had a great time and I was overwhelmed when Chris offered his spare bedroom to me for the weekend.


 Saturday, August 29

 This morning we loaded up our kayaks and launched at Boca Chica Beach, a few miles north of Key West. This pristine area appeared to be prime for fishing and we were not disappointed. Chris kicked it off by fishing the edge of a weed line with a grub tail jig which produced this Yellow-tail Snapper.

 After a bit of exploring, we dicovered a nice deep canal that had been dredged to allow residential boat traffic. Since the tide was low, the fish were stacked up thick in and around it. Chris hooked into a Shark while fishing the flats that neared the "cut".

Out of the corner of my eye I saw saw something surface. Upon further inspection I see several Tarpon rolling at a junction in the canal system. I motioned Chris over and we stood on the edge of the flats in 2' of water with big fish rolling mere feet from us in deep water. We were giddy with excitement from the opportunity that we were presented.
 
 After some tackle adjustments and a few deep breaths, I cast a D.O.A. Bait Buster to the pod and Chris chucked a bone colored Spook Jr. at them.We put several 30-40lb. 'Poons in the air but could not keep them on the hook.
 We played with them for awhile but eventually they caught onto us and stopped biting.

Saturday P.M.

 I made my way to Key Wests Duval St. after dark and enjoyed the spectacle of debauchery it is famous for.

 


 Sunday, August 30

  Chris' friend Aaron was in town from Delray and suggested that we go to Bahia Honda Key and dive for some Florida Lobster aka "bugs".  There is a beautiful reef there that is adjacent to a some patchy grass flats and a bridge. We launched our kayaks and dove in 4'-7' of water. Many bugs were found but only 2 were keepers.

Of course I had to do a little fishing.

As we made our way back to the launch I spotted a Barracuda cruising the edge of a deep hole. I cast a top water plug at him and it was instantly attacked. Having never fought a 'cuda before, I was amazed that the fish fought so hard and jumped several times.


 Monday, August 31

 Wow, I can't believe that I have been "Ramblin'" for an entire month already!

 This morning I am leaving Key West and heading north. Not sure where I will stop but I plan to fish some more of the Keys before making my way to south west FL.

 Here are some more pics from downtown. There are almost as many Chickens here as there are bums. 



* I am going to continue to blog but I will start a new "page" to make it more user friendly. Please go to the top of the page and click on the Still Ramblin' tab located in the navigation bar if you wish to follow me on my journey.
 
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