The Ultimate Road Trip: THE SILVER SNAIL : A solo woman's full-time RV adventure
Join me at my NEW SITE — Joyrides of America — where you can SUBSCRIBE

Cedar Key, Florida

Surrounded by brown gulf water muddied by nearby rivers and mudflats, Cedar Key is home to a rough and ready island community of clammers and people looking to get away from it all. The natural beauty is stunning and it's very low key here on this very small island. There are no fast food "restaurants", or big box stores. Clam bags lie on any available spot on the sides of the road, drying in the sunshine. Pickup trucks with barking dogs tied in the back are a common sight. Grouchy waitstaff take your order at favorite local haunts....while "homemade" fudge is sold "fresh"...though suspicious bags of dry fudge mix sit on the counter behind the display. Kids and dogs play freely outside all day and come home with dirty faces when they hear their mothers calling from the porch. A fearless, precocious little girl on a bike asked me "do you live here?" "well, now I do." "well, you'll get used to Shelby." Shelby was her dog, or might have been. This dog had approached and inspected Harley and I on the sidewalk but didn't really seem to belong to anybody. Shelby was her own dog who ran with the island children and was never on a leash.

cedar key pizza

cedar key crab shack

low key hideaway tiki bar
Low Key Hideaway Tiki Bar

neptue bar at the island hotel
Neptune Bar at the Island Hotel

cedar key osprey
Osprey are everywhere, and usually with a big fat fish.

great horned owl
Great horned owl at the Cedar Key Cemetery

lower suwanee national wildlife refuge
Lower Suwanee National Wildlife Refuge

It's a rare treat when my favorite place to be happens to be my campsite. When there weren't any neighbors around, my campsite at Sunset Isle RV was delightful. With a west-facing almost-personal dock on the bayou just right for sunsets, an orchestra of birdsong all day, fiddler crabs waging war on the ebb tide sand, shade from the whispery pines to keep the temperature down and a gentle breeze to keep the bugs away – it's the perfect recipe for paradise. Or, it COULD have been...the site is just too narrow and when there are neighbors, they're too close for comfort. The campground should really remove one of the sites here to give us some breathing room. Still, even when it's 98 degrees - with this shady waterfront campsite and a perfect bayou breeze, it's very easy to take it easy. Convincing yourself it's a good idea to go for a kayak or bike ride under the hot sun is nearly impossible. Convincing yourself to enjoy an icy cold beverage in the shade and watch the wildlife in the bayou is easy. Even getting some work done on the laptop was easy:

cedar key campsite

Kinda makes you want to go to work, right?

FIddler crabs at Cedar Key
Harley LOVES the fiddler crabs

cedar key fiddler crab

cedar key birds

An especially alarming incident happened on the road next to the campground, though, and I tell you this only to be aware, not because it happens all the time: four dogs attacked a camper's golden retriever while they were walking on that public road. Harley and I had been walking that same road every single day, until we heard that news. The dog was okay, and suffered only one puncture wound. I've been told it's never happened before, but it's worth a mention.

cedar key sunset
Sunsets can be pretty cool here.

Cedar Key kayak
It's a nice place to kayak too.


For $30, Marvin Franks took me up in his blue and white Cessna for a 20 minute tour of the island. He usually hangs out at the Cedar Key airstrip on the weekends between 12-4 with a sign. If two people go, it's only $20 each. Good deal. Fun ride. Go find him.

Cedar Key airplane tours

Cedar Key airplane tour


When island life starts to feel small and you get a craving for a bigger city, Gainesville is the place to go. Slightly over an hour away, it's a college town with a fun vibe. The best discovery of all was Dogwood Park on the west side of the city on SR 24. With 15 acres, two fresh water ponds to swim in (sans alligators), and hammocks for the humans, this is an awesome safe haven for members and their dogs to relax and play. They also have a daycare and it occured to me that maybe if Harley spent some time with a pack of 20+ dogs in a controlled environment, he might learn some things about how not to be a perv and how to behave appropriately with his own kind. Not only that, he'd have some FUN! And how much better for him to be there than to stay in the trailer all day by himself while I run errands. So, like a nervous mom tentatively dropping off her young child at preschool for the first time, I placed Harley in their care for an afternoon.

And he did awesome. It was so good for him, and me too, that I took him back there a few more times. Sometimes he loved it, sometimes he didn't but I have no doubt that the schooling he got from the pack was invaluable. It's the best dog park I have ever seen, and deserves a toast: Dirty Dog

Dogwood Park, Gainesville Florida

. . . . . . . . . . .

So, that's a wrap for Florida THIS YEAR. Florida is an intriguingly lush playground for the winter and next time, maybe even next winter, I've got a long list of new places to go that I didn't get to this time. I'd like to spend more time exploring the state's backroads and smaller towns and kayaking the springs and rivers. There is definately a lot of hidden Florida that falls below the radar, and I only just started to discover it this year.

My wishlist for next time:
Rainbow Springs
Ichetucknee tubing
Silver River monkeys
Blue Springs
Devil's Millhopper
Seaside - where The Truman Show was shot


Join me at my NEW SITE — Joyrides of America — where you can SUBSCRIBE

next stop The Latest Snail Trail Map previous stop
All images and words © Sharon Pieniak
Aluminum Photos Inspired CocktailsIn the MediaADVICE: Ask Sharon The First Snail Trail next stop About the Silver Snail The Latest Snail Trail MAP The Latest Snail Trail previous stop next stop The Latest Snail Trail Map previous stop