Sunday, January 31, 2010

Off To The Races

Monday we are headed to Tampa to spend time with our good friends from Brimley; June and Earl. Earl's sister and brother-in-law come to Florida every year to attend a week of stock car races in Tampa, and then continue to follow the circuit a few months before heading back to Michigan. We will be staying at East Bay Raceway Park watching races and visiting from February 1st-8th. Last we checked the space shuttle launch was scheduled for February 7th at 4:30 a.m.!!! June and Earl will go to watch it with us. If June and Earl are interested we'll go to Disney World while they're here. We'll be off the internet during our stay in Tampa, unless we happen across some free wireless. Roy and I have discussed heading up into Alabama or Georgia next, but the temperatures may make us want to stay further south. Most likely we'll meander towards Texas. I'm studying my estate garden books to see what influence that might make on our decision. Later Dudes and Dudettes! Marilyn

Friday, January 29, 2010

Prin, Sugar, and Charles

The fur babies are settled in, and have routines established. Everyone is doing well. Sugar was at the other end of the couch sleeping when I got ready to take this picture, but ran to hide when she heard the click of the camera being turned on. She is extremely camera shy. Her ears are fine tuned to the sound of the camera. She runs when she hears it, or sees it pointed at her! We're working with her on allowing pictures, as we are anxious to capture her beautiful smiling face! She's enjoying being a traveler. Sugar is quite the activities director. She lets me know when she's had too much sitting around. If I get in shape, I'll owe it to Sugar making me get out and walk. Both Sugar and Prin are doing extremely well getting used to the activities and noises of city life.
Charles weathered his trip South riding in the camper. He seemed to thrive on the excitement of things crashing and banging. I imagine that it could be invigorating like facing the trials of life outdoors. He has lots of windows to look out of, and isn't showing any interest in the door except to watch birds and squirrels. To the left of the door you can see the cool modification Roy made to this end table cabinet for Charle's litter box to go in. The dogs can't access it. Charles also has a neat den in the enclosed couch base. He can access it by going over the back of the couch. We keep his dry food and a blanket there. It's nice that the dogs can't raid his food dish. Charles has become quite the Daddy's Boy! Roy and Charles enjoy teasing each other, having breakfast together, and even enjoying petting and holding time! We're really glad we brought him along.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Life in the RV Park

I've never thought of Wintering in an RV park as being for me, but I think we all wonder about it a little. We'll be trying it out through the end of January thanks to the wonderful manager that made it possible. Here is the view through the front window of our camper. Below you can see how tightly RVs and non-mobile units are packed in. We're told that the space behind our camper is ours to use, but being so close to both our neighbors windows we don't feel comfortable taking the dogs there. We are choosing to take the dogs out of the park to do their necessaries. There is parking room only in the front.
Despite the close proximity in which people live there is a spaciousness provided by people opening their homes to nature and being active inside, or away from their properties. Particularly in the morning, but throughout the day, people are walking, riding bikes, or driving scooters and golf carts. They walk dogs, take their parrot for a ride, socialize, jog, and go to the community activities. Mornings have shuffleboard, crafts, coffee and donut socials. There are wonderful wide paved walkways outside the park where one can walk, or drive their golf cart to the local businesses. There is a swimming pool and the park has a pond for paddle boats. In the evening there is bingo, cards, and presentations. People here are independent, but social, too.
This type of trailer home is common in the park. The section next to the screen room appears to have been a camper at one time. A company produces a screen room made to attach to trailers. There are also stationary expansions that can be built on. I've seen various roof styles. Some are small slightly peaked rooves that cover just the camp trailer, and can be purchased to coordinate with the screen room. Some are larger to cover the added expansion. Our neighbors expansion runs the length of the trailer and provides another 4 feet of width. In the above picture the roof covers the whole expanse.
This cute yellow trailer is across from our location. Our neighbor says it can be purchased for $12,000. The lot rent for 6 months occupancy in the park is $3,660 lakeside and $3,564 for a regular lot. If a person wants to stay extra months, it's $80 per month. To stay year round the lake lots are $4,149 and regular lots are $3,843.I can see the appeal of Wintering in a friendly active park like Ellenton Gardens, but for now Roy and I look forward to traveling the wide open spaces.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

January 22nd-25th (Lessons Learned)

We left Cross City Friday traveling highway 19, with the idea that we would boondock at a Wal-Mart or Truck Stop Friday and Saturday. Those are the days the rates go up, and Passport America isn't accepted. We expected to be into a campground by Sunday so we didn't replenish our water tank. There was water in the tank, but it was hard to judge how long it would last. We were out by evening! Lesson learned: When planning to boondock, fill-up your water tank, as well as, empty the others! We purchased 6 gallons of water (88 cents each) and with only some slight inconvenience were okay. We chose to push later into the day, although we knew we shouldn't. We found ourselves driving at night, entering a thick fog, and not finding a place to stay. The book I mentioned listing Wal-Mart locations would have been very helpful. Entering a suburban business strip within Spring Hill we happened across a very polished Wal-Mart within a huge strip mall. We had the company of 4 other RVs. We were blessed with two days of abundant sunshine, shorts, sandels, windows and door open to take in the breeze, good food, and shopping. The RV books we read mentioned looking at free camping nights as money that can be spent on other things. Roy and I treated ourselves to some expensive shoes with great support for our increased walking. Roy took advantage of Saturday's great weather to work on a short in the trailer lights. Sunday we left Spring Hill with another lesson to learn. Roy had set the dog's cables on the trailer near the hitch area so that when he finished putting things in the back of the truck the cables would be put in last and easy to get to. We later discovered they didn't get put away and had drug on the ground. Ouch! There went $40. One cable we had just purchased a few days before. Roy assured me he won't do that again! Sunday we made it to Anna Maria Island. It is in the Bradenton area, and connected by a bridge. We toured the island from top to bottom. The northern half seemed representative of any expensive American-developed beach resort. There were condos, hotels, private homes, and rental properties. We toured without stopping, as parking wasn't available for RVs. The southern half of the island was more middle class and had long stretches of beach. We discovered that when visiting Roy's mother 30 years ago we had been at Bradenton Beach on the island. We didn't realize at the time its location. Dogs weren't welcome on the beach or even in a park close to it, so we moved on. Once again we didn't seek a campground early enough and had to look after dark. Being in the city we weren't finding campgrounds, Wal-Marts, or truck stops. We saw a sign for a major truck stop chain, but when we got there it didn't have a truck lot like they usually do. We were informed that the only truck stop with a lot was north of Tampa on Interstate 75. That was about 60 miles from our location. The clerk gave us directions to a very small Wal-Mart in a less than desirable section of town. It's the first we've encountered that had a security guard driving the premises! We were given directions to another Wal-Mart only 4 miles away, but in a nicer area. Our free camping money was used for a nice sushi dinner at a Japanese restaurant in the mall! The weather that night was warm and muggy, but with a nice cooling breeze. After listening to aluminum blinds banging and clanging all night, we've learned that privacy tinting on the windows will be a necessity so that the blinds can be pulled up on breezy nights. Recall regarding camping experiences with blinds clamped down on the bottom and curtains is that curtains flap wildly doing away with privacy and clamped blinds whistle and rattle. I saw a cling type privacy tint at Home Depo that I want to try. We may have to get it professionally done, if I can't fit it to the windows neatly. After a muggy night of inadequate sleep and feeling pretty greasy, we were desperately ready for a campground. My thoughts were of how those of a less adventurous nature or having a home to return to would have been ready to quit. My thoughts were nearly there, but one has to forge on knowing that it's just a rough spot due to inexperience. The morning was a mental exercise in finding a place to call home. Being in a city, which way do you go? How do you find an affordable RV park when all the ones in our Passport America guide were costing $40 a night with no discount given. We still have a week and a half to be in the area! We don't have internet access, and weren't feeling like driving around the city looking. I got the idea of borrowing a businesses phone book. That worked well. In the future we may watch for places to pick-up a phone book as we drive around a town. Roy called a couple of places before becoming discouraged with the prices. We decided we would pay a $40 fee for one night to get a shower and refresh the camper. Roy chose the campground with the host that sounded the friendliest over the phone. When we pulled into Ellenton Gardens RV Park, Roy spoke with the manager about our plan to stay just one night as we couldn't afford the areas high prices for a week. Amazingly the manager offered to let us stay a week for $114!!! That's the Passport America price. The rate for this time of year is $228! Wow! So here we are in a prime location central to Tampa, Bradenton, Palmetto, and Sarasota with full hook-ups learning about life in a Florida retirement community! We feel like quite the jungle cats seeking out our food and dwellings the last few days! So far so good despite learning a few lessons! :-) More on retirement community living next ;-)

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

January 20th-21st

We left the safety of having full amenities at Florida Springs RV Park in Bonifay only knowing that we were headed for the Anna Maria Island area. It was a little scary for both of us to head back out into the unknown. We knew RV park prices would be higher in the tourist areas, and possibly out of our budget range. In researching campgrounds we saw that in tourist areas the 50% discount provided by Passport America is not honored December through April. Our safely net plan was to boondock, and then head back to the lower prices in the rural areas, if needed. Boondocking is the RVer term for free camping. A well-known boondocking site when traveling is Wal-Mart parking lots. There is actually a book listing Wal-Mart locations across the country! RVs tend to cluster in the front corner of the parking lot. I'm finding Wal-Mart camping to be satisfactory. The lots are well lit, have security cameras, are reasonably quiet, and have grassy areas that are great for walking dogs. The main RV need is room darkening devices for the skylights, windows, and door. Boondocking in rural areas with public lands would consist of parking your RV anywhere you felt comfortable. I'm looking forward to that, when we go West. Our first night away from Bonifay we stayed in the parking lot of a RV store in Tallahasee called Camping World. Maybe it was because it was closing time and we made a reasonably large purchase that they allowed us to use their full hook-up camper space reserved for new RV purchasers. Pretty cool for allaying our fear of dealing with the unknown! That night we got a taste of high winds and a downpour. Being in the camper gave us a real sense of experiencing the storm up close, and being thankful for having a dry place to escape it. While in Tallahasee, Roy purchased a metal detector. Metal detecting will be a great way for him to have time to himself and get some exercise. We're both determined to work on our health. The next day we did some sightseeing through the saltwater swamp and coastal area of Florida. Below is a picture of a community called Dekle Beach. It is on highway 361. The picture shows some of the older homes. The newer ones are built even higher up on cinder block stilts.


We pulled into a campground called Southern Comfort in Cross City near bedtime. This was the first campground we encountered after our coastal tour. Luck was with us again, as our Passport America applied and we got our full hook-up site for the night for $14.50 (normally $29). The weekly rate is $162 plus tax and the monthly rate is $235 plus tax and cost of electric.

We enjoyed this park, as there was a field where the dogs could run. They had lots of fun!

I've been experimenting with different leash combinations to find one that is easy on me and seems comfortable for the dogs. This combo uses two 6' leashes attached to the end of a retractable leash. It works well for Sugar, but Prin can't seem to figure out how to keep from getting tangled. I'm using a binocular case for my poop scooping supplies. It's discreet and serves the purpose well. *Writings on RVing the tourist hotspots during prime season to come!*

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Seacrest Wolf Preserve

This is how the road to the wolf preserve looks after a night of rain. It rained throughout our visit, but not so much as to drench us. The owner of the preserve had an interesting story to tell as to how he and his wife came to have a preserve. It started when his wife lost her 4 Siberian Huskies to rattlesnake bites. Someone they knew offered her a couple of wolf-dog hybreds. With this simple start and the help of many volunteers, Seacrest Wolf Preserve came to be.
This old wolf was the only one tame enough to pose for a picture. He is the Beta in his pack. We learned that it isn't the largest and strongest wolf that becomes Alpha, but the one with the right attitude to hold the position. Several wolves were in small fenced areas within the larger habitat as it was mating season. Wolves give birth only once a year, and only during April and May. The preserve has 4 packs. Each pack has a large fenced enclosure with rolling hills, a deep pond, woods, and open areas. You can see the fencing in the background. It's 10' chain link with barbed wire at the top. There is another 4' of fencing coming out across the top of the ground along the base of the fence. It has a light cover of dirt. They have an electric fence wire beside the chainlink to keep the packs from fighting through the fence. A lesson for the guys was to be learned from the wolves. It seems getting between two fighting females is a bad place to be. One male wolf had half his ear bitten off and another lost his leg!
Some of you may know that Roy and I used to feed raccoons at our home in Brimley by cracking open the patio door. I finally got to hold a couple! They were soft and these two didn't seem to be smelly.
Here's Roy with an Artic fox. The guide said they turn black in the Summer!

Here is my skunk friend. He lives in the house with the owners! He is said to be litter trained and seeks opportunities to be on the owners lap like a cat. Isn't he cute!







Monday, January 18, 2010

video
Marilyn and a new friend she met at the wolf preserve.

Friday, January 15, 2010

The Cost Of RV Park Life

Although RV Park prices vary, here is a synopsis of one scenario. At Florida Springs RV Resort in Bonifay, the fee pays for electric, water, sewer, wi-fi, and trash pick-up all right at your campsite. Cable t.v. is coming. The nightly rate is $33 plus tax, the weekly rate is $165 plus tax, and the monthly rate is $375 plus tax. Go to the Florida Springs RV Resort link for a nice slideshow of the park. There is a great RV club called Passport America. It allows for 50% off nightly rates! It costs $44 for an annual membership. You can join it at any participating campground and start reaping the benefits right away. Go to our link to check out the details of the benefits of joining. It's obvious that it quickly pays for itself. We're told that each RV park sets the nights that it applies to. Here it is Sunday-Thursday. The 50% discount does not apply to the weekly and monthly rate. When staying in a private campground, we learned that prices are negotiable based on how empty they are. There is a program called Workampers where people can prearrange to work off the cost of their campsite. There is a website listed as Workampers where people can shop for work opportunities in areas where they will be RVing. At Florida Springs RV Resort 20 hours of work pays for a weeks stay. That's not many hours out of a retiree's week, and I think it could be lots of fun. I was told by a person on the Workamper program that the jobs one is willing to do and the number of hours a day or week a person is willing to work is negotiable. As she told me, she doesn't clean bathrooms. That was good to know as that was my drawback to any interest in the program. Another campground fee saver is membership in the Good Sam Club. This club is $29.95 per year and offers many perks. It reduces the cost of its participating campgrounds by 15%. See our link for details. In shopping at Camping World we found that they offer an annual membership for $14.95. By joining the Presidential Club you get a 10% discount on purchases. Our first purchase discount paid for half the cost of joining! See our link to Camping World. We'll report on the cost of other camping arrangements as we encounter them.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

For The Love Of Nature

Being in Florida during freezing temperatures, an animal loving friend has brought to my attention the effects the cold temperatures in the South have besides damage to the fruit crops. In some parts of Florida, Iguanna's are freezing and falling from the trees. I've heard of some rescue efforts. Manatees and sea turtles die when the water temperatures drop. Manatees, affected by water temperatures below 68 degrees, are congregating in mass in power canals seeking higher temperatures. We haven't seen any of it here. I've heard of some rescue efforts going on in the Bradenton and Anna Maria Island area. I've been researching the internet on how to get involved, but with minimal results. I'll keep looking. We were packing up to leave Bonifay today to head for Bradenton, when the campground owner told me about a wolf sanctuary in this area. Wow! It sounds like too good of an experience to pass by. Seacrest Wolf Preserve is the largest in the Southeast U.S. (www.seacrestwolfpreserve.org). Tours lasting 2 1/2 hours are given on Saturdays. I've read they allow close interaction. We'll be sticking around Bonifay at least for another week! We can use the time for some more camper projects, geocaching, and internet research. Marilyn

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Geocaching

Today we went geocaching. This is the coolest one we found. It was high up in the large tree to the right. We were pondering how to get it down, when Roy discovered it was tied to fishing line on the end of a bamboo sapling!!! What a clever hiding spot! While out touring the backroads we noticed "no trespassing" signs in abundance. We had to wonder who all these trespassers are that people are fending off. With the woods being a tangle of scrub, and full of swamps, who would be invading people's property? Makes me think there may be Marijuana fields in there! I'm finding Florida to be a strange mix of poverty, wealth, polish, and wilderness all intermingled.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Exploring

Today we spent some time exploring nearby communities. We didn't discover anything exciting, but enjoyed checking out the area. We found that a lot of stores seem to be closed on Saturday. The temperature was a cool 34. Roy picked up some Blu-ray movies, and we're anxious to settle in and see the difference.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Relaxing Into Our New Life

Monday night we pulled into Florida Springs RV Park in Bonifay, Florida to request use of the shower facilities, and ended up staying the night. We were headed for Key West to escape the cold. The nights rest felt so good we registered for another evening. By Wednesday we decided a week of the same would be even better. We've registered for a stay through Tuesday the 12th. It's only Friday the 8th and we're already thinking another restful week sounds good! A great deal of mental and physical recuperation is needed! We feel very much at home in the RV Park, Bonifay, and Chipley. This areas upcoming 60-70 temperatures will suit us more than the 80s we might eventually get in Key West. It will help us acclimate. Although we sometimes feel we should be out doing vacation things, we are quite content for now relaxing into our new life. We have purchased a Dell Inspiron laptop with a 17" screen for our on the road computing. It is amazing, and there's a lot to be learned about what it can do. One great feature is that it will upload pictures off the camera memory stick and save them without the process of hooking a wire into the camera and going through several steps to save the pictures! That will be nice for our blog posts. Roy is working on installing a 32" flat screen t.v. today! He will have to modify a wall to hold the weight. I'm enjoying quiet time, and occasionally puttering with organizing cabinets. The furry crew seem content to spend lots of time resting, too. It's been a hard 8 month push reorganizing our life. Once recuperated we'll be ready to play!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Camping in Bonifay, Florida

Well, the mad dash to warm weather has paid off. It's a little warmer then Michigan. Last night was down to 26 and the high today is expected to reach the mid 40s. We were hoping to throw away our coats, but that will have to wait a few days. Next week we should see mid to high 60s and even 70 if we are lucky.
The camper is becoming home at a good rate. Every day we make organizational headway. We still have 2 or 3 counts of things we only need 1 of. Marilyn has set up a Goodwill box for the extras. We are starting to see the modifications that will make life better. Today I am hoping to work on reorganizing the truck. My to do list is getting too long and I may have to reorganize it.
This morning sometime we plan on returning to Chipley for a look around. It is a small town about 10 miles east with lots of shops and a park to walk dogs. I need to do more measuring and study up on the new TV/DVD setups. We are already thinking about kicking back and watching a movie.
For now the sun is up and sky is clear.....been that way every day so far? Whats with that? Strange just to see the sun.

RJ over morning coffee :-)

Friday, January 1, 2010

Paint Your Wagon And Come Along

Today's the day we head south. We're borrowing the lines from Paint Your Wagon to describe our plans:

Where are you going? - We don't know.

When will you get there? - We aren't certain.

All that we know is we are on our way!

(Next post from the road!)