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 ;-)