Day 18: The Dry Tortugas, Egg Farts, and Speedo Stan

Since the trip began, I have longed for the post-Disney camping in the Florida Keys. More specifically, I looked forward to the ferry out to Dry Tortugas National Park, the 3rd-farthest national park in the country. It is roughly 100 miles from Cuba, 70 miles from Key West, and 300 miles from Mexico.

Basically, we taxied out to the middle of nowhere. Just us and an old, crumbling Civil War-era fort with coral growing along the walls.

To begin a day in the Keys, you need the right shirt and a cup of fruity coffee. So, I finally got my Jimmy Buffet goin’. I’d been waiting for the right moment to wear that shirt.

We began the day with another bright and early wake-up — rise at 5:30, in the car by 6:00, to drive to Key West and board the Yankee Freedom III for a 2-hour ferry out to the islands.

The old fort was a fascinating sight in the middle of the ocean with nothing else in sight.

After a tour of the fort, we got our snorkel gear from the ferry company and added another new experience for our family. We snorkeled in the shallow reef around the island. It was interesting seeing all of the little fish in the area. When hiking the upper walls of the fort, we even saw a few large barracuda swimming in the reef below.

Addie was disappointed that we didn’t encounter any sharks or sea turtles on the trip.

Speedo Stan

We did, however, encounter a different living creature — Speedo Stan. At least, that’s the name I gave him.

On the ride out, he was as concealed as they come. Jeans, baggy shirt, cap. But, on the island, all bets were off — as were most of his clothes. Speedo Stan was there to make the most of the occasion in nothing besides a little blue Speedo and his — ahem — snorkel.

Libbie thought he was hilariously gross.

Egg Farts at Camp

Jumping back to our arrival in the Keys, we were struck by, of all things, the smell. It was an aroma we encountered last year in Yellowstone when we stood beside the sulfur pots. The girls regularly refer to the stench as “egg farts,” like when someone has eaten too many deviled eggs at a family reunion.

At first, the girls attempted to lay SBD blame on LaShera.

But, soon enough, we discovered that it is something specific to the shallow waters of the keys and the bacteria that live in the muds below them. When the wind turns just right, it smells a bit eggy.

I even turned the propane off during the night because I was concerned that if we did have a leak, I wouldn’t be able to detect it.

The stench doesn’t follow everywhere in the Keys. But, we haven’t quite figured out the differences in geography that cause it in key locations (pun intended).

Key Deer

The campground does have a healthy population of key deer. They aren’t the least bit shy. The girls walked outside our camper door to feed them some grapes.


Even after a day in the hot sun, the girls were intent upon us going to the campground swimming pool. Since the grounds had just wrapped up happy hour, everyone else in camp when back to their campers. We had the pool to ourselves.

Then, one of those south Florida rain storms rolled through with a bit of lightning. So, we bounced out of the pool. After a change of clothes, we spent the event playing ping pong, pool, and cornhole in the campground clubhouse.

While I’m not the most enamored with our campsite at this campground, they do have great facilities. Plus, the ocean is about 30 yards from our back bunk.

Playlist: Car Dance-off 1

When people think about camping, they often think about the checklist to get the food, gear and clothing. But, for us, there is always an additional to-do to get to-done. Music selections.

Inevitably, on a 6-hour drive, one of the children will say, “Daddy, can you play some music?” On that front, I never want to disappoint.

One day, I have a goal to mashup all of the car sing-alongs and dance-offs from our years of camping. Until then, use your imagination and jam out to my first Car Dance Off playlist.

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Playlist: Valentine’s Day — Travel, Nature, Distance & Longing

Beginning in 2013, I started crafting Valentine’s Day playlists for my lovely wife, LaShera. It started as a cute idea and has since become an annual tradition.

She waits patiently every year until exactly February 14 before peeking at the fresh list. That’s quite the act of self control, considering we share a Spotify account, and she has 364 days to watch its contents grow.

Those lists will only ever become public if she decides to share them.

However, revisiting the lists this year, I noticed recurring themes related to travel, locations, nature, distance and longing. So, I thought I would share a special list with you, pulling from those tracks related to those themes.

You won’t find the traditional love songs and ballads. These aren’t your typical “greatest of 90s love songs.” These are tracks specially curated for my one and only, from my eclectic musical tastes.

More than anything, this is a tribute to my greatest travel companion — my wife. The opening song is decidedly not related to the theme. However, it holds a special place for me, so I thought it would be worthy as the starter. Enjoy.

NOTE: I always promise to give warning if lists may not be intended for the full family. And, given the flirty nature of that special relationship of a husband to wife, a few of these songs, are not designed for a family car sing-along. But, if it’s you and your significant other, turn it up and enjoy.

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Playlist: Uptempo Driving 1

If you know me, you know I am an audiophile. There is art in all styles of music. And my children would tell you that we are just as likely to queue up some clean hip hop (emphasis on clean) as we are a gospel track or indie ballad. With nearly 80 hours of drive time each summer, we have plenty of time for discovery.

In playlist 1, we went a little introspective and low-key. The emphasis was on the lyrics and poetry.

Sometimes you just need a pick-me-up while driving. Sometimes the lyrics don’t matter nearly as much as the feeling the song conveys. This playlist has a bit of that. (But, some of the lyrics are still spot on.)

Enjoy a smattering of uptempo indie rock, a touch of hip hop, even an instrumental track. Give it a listen.

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Road Trippin Playlist: Perspectives on Life — EP 1

If you know me, you know I am an audiophile. There is art in all styles of music. And my children would tell you that we are just as likely to queue up some clean hip hop as we are a gospel track or indie ballad. With nearly 80 hours of drive time each summer, we have plenty of time for discovery.

For me, a few tracks make it into regular rotation. Those are typically songs that are a bit introspective. I like to call these “perspective on life” tracks.

We’ll save the rumbling, rambling stuff for a future list. For now, let’s start off chill. I have identified the lyrics from the songs that resonate most deeply for me.

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