The first trip of the year was one to remember. The picture kinda tells the story. As always it's important to go with the flow. It was the day after Thanksgiving and the kids and I were making an impromptu trip down to the park. It was going to be a quick visit, we were only going to stay at the campground and do a little paddling about. No big deal. The drive down on the turnpike had been super quick. As always I was happy to leave the city and farm land behind and get into the park. Oddly, it all went wrong when I turned off the radio We were twenty miles into the park when i turned it off just to hear the wind . I noticed almost immediately all my gauges nose dived to zero and things started running a little sluggish. I'm a terrible mechanic but having owned a series of crappy cars in my life i knew i'd lost my alternator. A few more miles and we were lurching along at 15 mph and I knew we were doomed. The battery was fried and I managed to roll it off the road into the grass before we rolled to a stop. Talk about the middle of nowhere. It's a beautiful but stark place to be. A turkey vulture swooped overhead in keeping with the mood. We got a jump and managed to limp another half a mile down the road , so close to a place called Mrazek pond that we pushed the truck the last hundred yards to a little paved area off the shoulder of the road. ARRRGGGG! We were so close , only about six miles from the end of the road at Flamingo. 
 It was a "what the hell are we going to do now moment" and as I stood there scratching my ass on the side of the road a emergency plan slowly started to develop. 
  A couple stopped to ask if we were ok. They had a a truck and offered to take us and our gear to the campground. It was getting later in the day so I thought that would be a good idea. I didn't want to spend the night with kids on the side of the road. I quickly threw most of our stuff in their truck and we  were soon at the campground..
  One of the first things I'd noticed was that the mosquitoes were exceptionally thick for this time of year.  I wasn't totally surprised because I know how bad they can be but I also knew that in a month they would be much less. I marveled at how some of the campers strutted around in shorts and short sleeves. Crazy. I knew they would be regretting it.
 We set up the tents  so we could have a place to get away if need be and I told the kids to behave  while i trudged the half mile to the only phone in Flamingo (there is no cell phone service)
  I first called my friend Pete, I knew he had the means and the time to run me down a knew alternator and battery, unfortunately he was in New that wasn't going to work. I then tried Gamal, he didn't sound thrilled but was willing to do it. I told him I'd call him in the morning when I had figured out the money situation. The sun was starting to dip in the sky and I wanted to get back to the kids.
  They were fine and giggling and all that. I collected a little fire wood, made some coffee for myself, and made a quick meal of Thanksgiving leftovers for everyone. We than went for a nighttime walk through a rather spooky campground. I knew if we stayed on the path it would eventually lead us back to were we started but the kids had no confidence in my plan. Still they seemed to enjoy the spookiness of it all.
  The stars were amazing. So bright. The milky way was positively jumping out at us. I made some hot coco for the kids and tried to make some jiffy pop popcorn. That didn't work so well and I burned most of it. The kids were safe in the tent and laughing and all, so i took a moment to wander down to the sea shore. The path from the year before was gone so I had to bushwhack it across a field to get there.  Florida bay is beautiful anytime but at night, reflecting the stars it's stunning. I just sat and meditated on things for awhile and then wandered back to camp to catch some Z's.
  In the morning, my son, my daughters friend Cortney and i walked back to the phone. I asked my daughter Tabby to stay with the campsite so the vultures wouldn't have there way with our stuff.
  Cortney wanted to call her mom. I was a little against it but I couldn't argue with a young kid that wants to talk with their mom. It turned out to be a great idea .Rose was down in the park within 4 hours, complete with auto parts. Unbelievable. I will always owe this wonderful person a great debt of gratitude.
   By late afternoon I was getting close to having the car back together. I was a little frustrated because i didn't have the right tools and I also didn't feel like driving home in the dark with a truck i didn't really trust. I suggested to Rose that she go ahead and take the kids back to Fort Lauderdale and i would stay the night with the truck. they thought i was crazy but agreed.
 A nice guy stopped to try and help me. We ended up drinking a few beers on the road side just BSing. He was all motivation saying "come on man we can have you home tonight" but i was tired and hungry and the sun would be down soon and i thought it better to wait. He said good luck and told me he'd try to come back and check on me in the morning.
The mosquito's came out thick at sundown so i climbed into the truck and had a little to eat. I was sleepy and as the last rays of light faded away I drifted off to sleep. I awoke much later just in time to see a spectacular moon rise. I fell asleep again and woke up just before sunrise. I wondered across the road to check out the pond and was amazed, it was teeming with life. Hundreds of birds of all types were milling about, the pond was bubbling from all the fish jumping. i thought to myself, this would be a great place for an alligator, as if on cue a six foot gator slide by just feet from me. Beautiful.
The sun was up and i was feeling rested. I diligently redid all the work I'd done the day before. I wanted to be careful and not make a stupid mistake. In the end it all came down to brute strength. I had to get the belt up onto the alternator and with out the right tool it was just a matter of strength. I climbed up into the engine and positioned myself above everything. I gave my best heave ......failure. Man!.....I know i can do this. I gave myself 5 minutes to gather my strength and gave it another try. Success!!!!  I patiently put everything back together, packed up my stuff and got ready to turn the key.
It was all or nothing now. Bingo! it started right up. I gave a quick look to make sure the belt was tracking right, spun the truck around and headed home.