23 Months Fulltiming, November 2016 Report

Wow, we are putting up this report only three days after the end of the month, our last post was about Sanibel, and we only left that location this morning.  Which means we are caught up to the day on this blog; I’m not sure that has ever happened!

The Distance: 977 miles, not exactly a slow month as we bounced around Florida visiting relatives for the holidays, but at least a slow down from last months’ more than 1800 miles.  December will see further reduced mileage as we settle in Central Florida for a few weeks before working our way towards Key West.  We are up to 9208 for the year, and I doubt we will even break 10K.

The Places:  Basically, we repeatedly ran along two legs of a triangle between SW, SE, and Central Florida, starting with a one night stop over at Club Naples RV Resort en route to Coral Springs.  From there it was up the east coast, pausing for a couple of nights each at Port St Lucie RV Resort and Patrick AFB’s Family Camp before hitting a new county park, Lake Monroe, north of Orlando.  We took a side tour up to Silver Springs State Park in Ocala before returning to what may be our new “go to” campground in the region, Lake Monroe again.  Then it was back to Coral Springs for Thanksgiving, across the state to Club Naples RV to participate in a couple of markets, and finally up to one of our favorite RV Resorts, Periwinkle Park on Sanibel Island.

We have gone four months straight without drycamping.  Partly this is because there are so many park options in Florida (and November is not yet peak season so there are openings,) but also because we found a great deal in Central Florida at Lake Monroe Park: less than $17 a night for power and water.  Oh yeah, also because its Florida, and its too damn hot to go without AC.  We had full hook ups for 13 days, electric/water connections for 9, and stayed in relatives houses for 8.  We were in private campgrounds for 8 days, public parks for 12 (9 county, 3 state), military facilities for 2.

The Budget:   A great month for our finances, supplemented as they were by five farmers markets.  We closed out 11% under budget for the month, which gives us a reasonable chance of being under for the year, depending on how December goes.  This was a mostly hick-up free month: only two full fill ups for Serenity, one reasonable medical bill, and a taxpayer subsidized low cost vet bill for PKM’s annual check up and shots while at Patrick AFB.  In addition to the five markets, our budget was assisted by the eight days of free parking at Xavier and Joy’s, and nine days at the very affordable Lake Monroe Park.

As for December, well, its gonna be tough.  We already have a $150 medical bill as part of our annual deductible (on the fiscal year calendar.)  We also expect to pay at least $250 when we take Serenity into the shop for various electrical work, and it might be more since the house batteries may need replacement.  And of course, there is some sort of minor holiday this month that involves expenses.  This is why we decided to go “all in” on markets until Christmas, hoping to offset some of these expenses.  We shall see!

The Drama:  Well, our electrical problems are back with a vengeance.  The 120 volt system doesn’t seem to work on a 50 amp shore power circuit and our 12 volt system doesn’t work at all when we are disconnected from power and not running a generator.  But these sort of problems pale in comparison to what we experienced in The Big Kahuna, so we are not worried, particularly since we have an extended warranty.  And speaking of Kahuna, I have had two people come out to look at him and several other calls or emails, so here’s hoping hes with new owners by the end of 2016.

The Improvements:  Nothing specific to the RV to report, but we have beefed up our vendor display kit for the various markets at which we sell Rosemarie’s jewelry.  We are using two full tables for display racks with more hanging from the tent frames.

Back in Sanibel!

Having just completed two farmers markets with the same two scheduled for the upcoming weekend, we looked forward to our six day stay at Periwinkle Park on Sanibel Island.  We are early enough in their season that we had no trouble reserving nearly a week stay, but once peak season hits in January this place gets really hard to find more than a few weekday openings.  Even during our stay we watched the place filling up with a couple of new arrivals each day.  photo Shell heart_zpsoo3xcdg3.jpg

The RV side of the park has very regular seasonal customers that are given first right of refusal on future reservations.  For those seeking more than a week here and there during peak season, you basically have to keep coming back to the park year after year such that you become known to the staff and eventually offered longer stays as openings occur. Such seasonal spots only open up due to changing circumstances of the regulars, and to be perfectly blunt about, that often means someone has died.  We have been coming for a few years, and that might be a factor in how easily we have gotten nearly week long stays these last couple of visits, but the cost is such that we are unlikely to pursue anything like a seasonal or even month long stay, particularly given the fantastic deal we get down at Key West.  photo Bay_zpsnnvs7hdp.jpg

But we plan on continuing a week here and there as long as we are RVing, and are grateful to be back again.  Our first day we did pretty much nothing but relax in the RV and recover from the weekend,  The second day saw a lot of rain so we didn’t get to enjoy the beach, though we made our traditional excursion to the public library for the free wifi and then a took a late lunch at Island Pizza, one of the few very affordable good deals on the island: two for one happy hour every day from 12-5 and $2.50 large pizza slices.  photo Happy hour_zpsmqjkfdci.jpg

By day three we were sufficiently recovered and with cooperative weather, so I dropped Rosemarie off at her favorite shell hunting section of the Island, Bowman’s Beach.  The tide wasn’t ideal, but its almost impossible to go to Bowman’s and not find a few nice ones.  And as low tide progressed forward each day, by Thursday Rosemarie was willing to get up earlier than our usual leisurely hour for proper shelling at that prime location.  photo Path to Bowmans_zpszipo2ggl.jpg

We took the downtime between weekend markets to work on a few projects as well. In addition to prepping additional jewelry for sale, I did some maintenance on both the bikes, including replacing both of my tires with salvaged ones from a bike being thrown out back Coral Springs.  My tubes had never quite recovered from having been punctured by a dozen thorns back in Idaho, and the green goo sealant put in them had now blocked the valve stem, so two free tires of a slightly larger width and tougher tread were a welcome find, as was the softer seat I took from the same trashed bike.  photo PB301429_zpsi2lsdxmi.jpg

I made the mistake of thinking I could at least do a bit of troubleshooting of our electrical system, but not only did I fail to make headway, things actually got worse the longer I played with it.  We are, unfortunately, seeing a return of the degraded 120V system issues that we experienced before Horizon RV replaced our shore power cable.  I suspect that the bad cable was masking  other problems, such a a degraded converter and automatic transfer switch.  photo Crab_zpstvx3zuf0.jpg

We hooked up in connections here in Sanibel and noticed that the rear AC and water heater, which are on the same breaker, were not working.  Once I started messing with the system, I “improved” things by making it so we had no electrical power at all throughout the RV.  Turning on the generator, however, returned not only power to the rig but even the rear AC and heater.  Remembering that we had experienced a weird failure of the 50 amp system in both Washburn, WI and Scott AFB in Illinois, but had attributed it to a bad pedestal and just used the 30 amp adaptor, I decided to try that little trick here and voila, power restored.  At that point I decided to leave well enough alone and just schedule a visit to the mechanic for what I suspect will be an automatic transfer switch replacement.  photo Ospreys_zpse4gq8zq8.jpg

Keep in mind this is in addition to the complete loss of 12V power throughout the bus whenever we operate without shore power or the generator.  I am thinking the electrical converter/invertor is going bad, and the deep cycle house batteries might also be shot.  Ah well, time to let the experts work on it.

Oh yeah, I also suffered the loss of another coffee maker, putting me in dire straights until I came up with a jury-rigged temporary set up.

Finally, we made a bold purchase of an entire bin of pencil urchin spines for Rosemarie to turn into jewelry, most likely earrings and necklaces.  Look for some of those items to soon appear in her Etsy store and be on display at our various markets.  photo Sunset 1_zpsd8fim8mp.jpg

Shooting back across the state for back to back markets in Naples

Having been confirmed to participate in two Naples markets, we dragged our usually late sleeping selves out of bed at 5:00 AM in order to have time to finalize Serenity’s road readiness, hook up Loki, make the drive across Alligator Alley to Naples, find the market manager for spot assignment, and set up our displays before the 8:00 AM start time.  We usually try to avoid driving the big rig in the dark, but the nearly empty early morning roads felt a lot safer than a late night with the drunks, and dawn broke partway through our journey across the Everglades.

The market was impossible to miss as we approached the Bed Bath & Beyond parking lot, and given the hour there were plenty of space to lodge Serenity until we got the full scoop on our vendor spot and designated vendor parking.  They got us assigned in short order, and we pulled Loki as close as we could get to unload and set up.  We have our system down pretty well and can have the basics done in 15 minutes.  photo BBB Market_zpsescwf4or.jpg

The Naples BB&B market used to be a well established event, but shut down for a couple of years and has only recently restarted, and was charitably described as still building up.  It had perhaps 25 vendors and a modest throughput of potential customers.  Perhaps due to bad timing as it was the day after Black Friday, but there seemed to be a distinct lack of willingness to browse up close or even make eye contact compared to what we are used to; and by noon we were seriously concerned about even covering the $35 vendor fee with our slim sales.  But we had the usual end of event rush and closed out with a modest profit.

We headed back to Club Naples for the night.  While I have not toured any other options in the region, all of my research suggests that they are the best value resort we can get near Naples, so they are our go to spot until I learn of something better.  Our assigned site was a lot tighter to get into than our last stay.  While the premium pull through sites are of decent size, the standard back ins are packed in a bit tight, and the position of the neighbors rigs and vehicles made it a bit of a challenge, but with Rosemarie’s expert signalling we puled it off with only one adjustment after our initial backing maneuver.

We enjoyed the clean facilities and free high speed wifi for our one night stay, but the next morning it was up early again to connect up our rig, get a bit of gas for Serenity, and make the short drive to the Pine Ridge Road Sunday market.  As soon as we pulled up we could see it was a much bigger event than the BB&B market.  Over 70 vendors were already set up with customers browsing half an hour before the scheduled start time.  This looked promising!  photo Pine Ridge Market_zpsyim4miuc.jpg

We had made some adjustments to our displays, and set up in our assigned spot between a woodworker and flower pot maker.  From the moment we had our table ready we had customers doing more than just walking by and averting there eyes.  We cleared the table fee within an hour or so and ended up with one of our better profits.  During the course of the event Rosemarie did most of the selling while I ran some errands, checked on the cat, and rearranged our RV park stays for the next few weeks.

As a much bigger event than the BB&B market, we had a much larger selection to choose from for prepared food and produce.  The bread and pretzel man nearby, the true to tradition Cuban sandwich vendor, and two of the produce stands yielded an excellent meal and take home things for our cupboard and fridge.   Next week it might be the Turkish style lamb pizza for lunch. So many options…

After we closed up shop for the day just after 2 PM, we jostled for loading position with the other vendors’ vehicles, hooked up and headed north on I-75 for the short ride to Sanibel Island and a six day relaxation and rejuvenation period before the next weekend’s events back in Naples.  It wont all be lounging about or collecting shells; we have a couple of projects to do and need to restock the displays with additional jewelry for the upcoming Naples markets.  Stop by and say hello if your in the area next weekend!

Thanksgiving in Coral Springs, and another brined and spatchcocked turkey

For several years before we started full time RVing we hosted Thanksgiving at our little condo in Miami Beach for any family and friends we could rope into coming.  We would clear out all the living room furniture, rent two long tables and chairs, and set up for as many as 17 people.  Fantastic and loud events, everyone of them.

Once we began our RV adventures things obviously changed.  For 2015 we did Thanksgiving with my mom and stepdad Tim in Wilmington with just the four of us.  Back in Florida this year we had a similarly intimate gathering at Xavier and Joy’s; just the four of us and a lot of food.

Aside from gathering with friends and families, Thanksgiving gives me the opportunity to cook another Turkey, something that has become one of my favorite kitchen oriented tasks ever since I learned the secret to making the bird come out delicious.  As many of you can attest, cooking something as large and unwieldy as a turkey has the danger of drying out a significant portion of the lean white meat in order to get the fatty dark meat up to proper temperature.   As I have no doubt written before, there is a simple two step solution to this problem that results in fantastically juicy meat of both types and also cuts the cooking time in half or even less.  photo IMG_2428_zpsanmk1lzb.jpg

I am a bit evangelical about this, so expect to hear the same spiel this time next year:  First, brine the turkey for 24 hours.  Dissolve a cup of salt and half a cup of sugar in hot water, add whatever spices catch your fancy, cool it with some ice, then completely submerge bird in the solution along with more water and a bunch of ice.  Keep the whole thing either refrigerated or in a cooler over night.  This process infuses the turkey with additional moisture that protects the fragile white meat during the cooking process.

Second, spatchcock the thing.  This is a fancy word for cutting out the backbone and then butterflying it.  This will result in a much flatter and wider lay out, which allows for more evenly distributed heat and a much faster cook time.  This year we did our 12 pounder in only 90 minutes, most of it at 350 but cranked up to 450 for the last ten minutes to brown it.  photo IMG_2427_zpsw3onakaq.jpg

We supplemented this centerpiece with short pork ribs, mashed potatoes, spicy corn, rice, salad.  Thanks to Joy and Xavier for hosting us in their driveway for another four days, and letting me create a mess in their kitchen again.  I hope to do the same to some Central Florida relatives abode over the Christmas holiday.

“All In” on markets through the rest of 2016

After the once a month craft show/yard sale type events we enjoyed on base in early 2016 at the Naval Air Station in Key West, we had a five month gap before we did another market.  Our rate of travel up the east coast simply did not lend itself to stopping for weekend farmers markets, and we did not fully understand the opportunities that were available in small towns throughout the country.  Once we slowed down we stumbled across a small event in Grand Marais, Michigan, which in turn lead to a series of eight markets during a four and a half week period as we traveled through the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and into Wisconsin.

Since that robust period we had another lengthy drought as we wandered through upstate New York, PennsylvaniaWest Virginia, and Ohio, and then sprinted south from Minnesota back to Florida.  But upon arrival in the Sunshine State, we have been able to do our research, adjust our schedule, take advantage of our nominal “local” status, and thus participate in a few Central Florida farmers markets.

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… inside a floating charm pendant

Following our recent Silver Springs State Park visit we returned to Lake Monroe Park in Volusia County for a five day stay.  But we have already discussed this very affordable county campground, so here we would rather catch you up on our plan, mentioned last post, to go “all in” on markets and vendor opportunities though the rest of November and December.  We have gotten better at finding markets at which to vend, our pace of travel has once again slowed, and we have some big bills coming in December and January. Bottom line: we expect to end November having done five events, and then do up to ten more in December before Christmas.

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Our original table set up in Key West

 

One of the key lessons we have learned is that no matter how much online research you do, nothing can compete with local connections and knowledge.  Just as the Bruce, Wisconsin market pointed us to the Rusk County Fair, our participation in the Sanford market has led us to a widening series of potential events through the region.  It is not just a matter of finding out about the existence of a market, it is also about working with the individual market managers to make your participation mutually beneficial.

Here is how it has worked out for us:  Conversations with other vendors at the Saturday Downtown Sanford Market put us in touch with the  Sunday Sweetwater-Wekiva market manager.  During our short stay at Silver Springs we filled out the appropriate forms, but did not hear back as to whether we had approval to participate in the upcoming Sunday event.  So we decided to boldly show up ready to sell and see if the market manager was game.  She was, and we had a great sales day that easily compensated for the $25 vendor fee.  While there we talked with the other vendors and got details on three other local opportunities, including the Lake Mary market (a Saturday alternative to the Sanford event), the Windemere Market (a higher end event in west Orlando,) and the Volusia County Fairgrounds Market (a Wednesday flea market style event.)

And that’s just for Central Florida!  Since we are also headed to SE and SW Florida for a few weeks, we pursued markets in those regions as well.  We struck out in the Coral Springs/Pompano Beach area (market managers simply do not return calls) and in Venice/Sarasota (county ordinances restrict anything other than produce/food vendors.) But between SE Florida and Sarasota lies Naples, which has a much more flexible market policy, and after negotiation with a regional manager we are cleared to participate in two markets, a Saturday and Sunday event, for a couple of consecutive weekends after Thanksgiving.  Then we will stop in Venice for a few days before returning to Central Florida for the series of markets there.

Even if we are approved for every event, we wont do them all; if we wanted jobs we would still be working!  But now is the time to get serious because we are expecting a lot of bills coming due in December.  In addition to the usual holiday expenditures, we also expect a repair bill for Serenity’s 12 volt electrical system, medical bills as we complete our annual checks and meet the yearly insurance deductible, and the pricey cost of staying at one of our favorite but most expensive regular RV parks in Sanibel.

So that means we need to push hard until Christmas, especially since we will be spending the first few months of 2017 in Key West, and our vending opportunities there will be quite limited, and our selling pace will slow considerably.  We are extremely grateful to the many people who have supported us with purchases, and look forward to meeting many more of you out there.  So if you are in Central Florida or the Naples region, we hope to see you at the various weekend markets.

A short trip back to Ocala and Silver Springs State Park

Though we lean towards country parks these days, there are some state parks that are “must see” visits, especially in Florida.  I have not been to Silver Springs since I was a child, but it definitely lived up to my nostalgic memories.  Only 90 minutes from our Lake Monroe Park spot in DeBary, we had a nice drive through part of the Ocala National Forest before arriving at Silver Springs.  This state park as three entrances: main, equestrian, and campground.  We mistakenly pulled into the main entrance, but it is a large drive through area with a big parking lot, so we had no problem turning around after getting directions to the campground entry less than a mile down the road.  photo IMG_2319_zpsuhmjpupu.jpg

Silver Springs campground is, simply put, fantastic.  The spots are huge, many are enormous pull throughs, most have full hook ups including sewage, and all are surrounded by nature.  After taxes and the irritating Reserve America fee, our rate came out to slightly less than $29 per night.  There are several hiking trails within walking distance of the campground, and the rangers had excellent recommendations for which to focus on based on the season.  photo FullSizeRender 8_zpsqngeducr.jpg

Three days is too short for Silver Springs, and since we were on a budget we chose to skip the famous glass bottom boat tour.  Despite our limited time and access, we were fortunate enough to see a good bit of nature during our stay.  In addition to the deer and box tortoise, we also spotted a river otter successfully hunting fish in the spring on our second morning there.  photo FullSizeRender 2_zpstoo1csqr.jpg

While in the area we also made an attempt to attend the annual Golden Corral Military Appreciation Night dinner.  While a lot of places are doing free meals on Veterans Day for those who served, Golden Corral has been doing it for 15 years. And perhaps to set themselves apart, the host there free dinner the Monday after the holiday.  We made the short drive to the Ocala location, only to find the line stretching out the door, down one side of the building and around the corner.  Good on Golden Corral, but that sort of wait was beyond our patience, and we headed to a local Italian joint instead.  photo IMG_2326_zpsobnqqidv.jpg

What a pleasant surprise!  You see a lot of pizzerias outside of New York advertising authentic NY style pizza, but most fail to deliver, so it’s nice to find one that get its right. At Fiore’s Cafe, not only was the pizza true to the New York tradition, but the service and dining environment were also top notch.  The house red wine was nice, but the giant pour made it even better.  We found this place not merely a consolation prize for the Golden Coral meal, but rather an excellent accidental discovery.  photo FullSizeRender 9_zpshfd7s25i.jpg

There are a lot of places we want to revisit, but Silver Springs really drew us in, and we would love to stay there for a week, especially after we have acquired a couple of kayaks early next year.   We are headed back towards Central Florida for a few days before Thanksgiving.  We are looking at going “all in” on farmers markets and related vending opportunities for the rest of November and through December, and have a serious line up of options that will define our travel through the state for the rest of the year.   If you are in SE, SW, or Central Florida for the rest of 2016, we would love to meet up with you.  photo FullSizeRender 6_zpsuthzhkzk.jpg

Back in Central Florida at another great county park, plus another Farmers Market

We have mentioned several times on this blog that we find county parks to be the hidden jewels of public campgrounds in terms of natural beauty and value.  So when we needed to stay at a place close to The Big Kahuna, friends and family, and the town of Sanford, All Stays revealed two Volusia County parks positioned perfectly for our needs, with prices well below the private options nearby.  Unfortunately Gemini Springs County Park is tent/dry camping only, but for the same price Lake Monroe County Park offered power and water even closer to our desired location.  photo PB101394_zps2gru9kg2.jpg

After taxes, the sites are only $17 a night!  With only 25 total spots, this is an intimate little place with nearly every site situated under an oak canopy and surrounded by nature and wildlife.  There is a bath/shower house, boat ramp and dock to the large lake, pavilions, a playground, and a couple of hiking or bike trails that cross through the park.  Site quality varies, but some of them are huge, and all but a few could accommodate our 35′ rig with room for Loki.  photo PB101404_zpshfsg6lvh.jpg

Is it perfect?  No, there are some downsides that didn’t bother us overmuch but might convince other RVers to go elsewhere.  First, while we enjoy camping under trees rather than in trimmed lots like you find in many private resorts, this time of year in Florida that means acorns, and lots of them.  Multiple times a day and through the night you will have the surprisingly loud knock on your roof from the falling seeds as wind, squirrels, and natural processes dislodge them.  Second, the electrical connections on more than half the sites are on the wrong side, while all of the water connections are correctly positioned on the right as you are facing into the site.  So unless you have a particularly long shore power cable, you may need to pull in forward to some of these sites and use an extra length of hose for the water.  photo PB101388_zps4whq0goh.jpg

Lastly, management, including maintenance, is a bit loose.  This means that the bath and shower facilities are not in great repair, the entry gate is locked with a manual combo lock each night rather than with an automatic entry code system, and the rules about site cleanliness and animals are very loosely enforced.   Our neighbors kept their pet dwarf pig tied up outside all day, even when they were gone, for instance.  At $17 we were happy to deal with these minor issues, and will likely return when we need to be positioned similarly.  photo IMG_2266_zpstehgo4se.jpg

As for why we needed to be positioned near Sanford: we found another farmers market with no significant barrier to participation, and no vendor fee at all!  Saturday morning had us making the five mile drive to Magnolia Square for the Downtown Sanford Market where we set up alongside roughly 25 other vendors: mostly arts and crafts, a couple of actual produce sellers, but only a few other jewelry vendors.  Technically running from 10 to 3, most everyone was set up before 9 AM with potential buyers already browsing.  photo IMG_20161112_110950_zpsnwla66gy.jpg

This was a somewhat longer event than we are used to, but sacrifices must be made.  Sales-wise, it was definitely slower than we expected given the size and location.  We made out OK, and multiple other vendors assured us that most Saturdays this time of year were busier and more lucrative, so we look forward to participating again this season.  We also got a visit from my Aunt Judy and her friend Marcy from Atlanta, who accounted for no small percentage of our daily sales.  Finally, we got a line on a couple of other markets in the region at which we might participate later this month, so even with slower than expected sales, the day was a clear win.  photo PB101397_zpsfeqtvh5n.jpg

We were in the Sanford area for Veteran’s Day this year, and took full advantage of the local restaurant’s offers to all the active, reserve, and veterans.  For years I have been seeing lists of free meal deals sent out, but have never been in a position to really enjoy the benefits.  This year, being retired and without other obligations, that Thursday and Friday, we visited a slew of eating establishments throughout the day.  photo IMG_2220_zpsbbjkw40i.jpg

I can give a solid thumbs up to a few surprisingly good options.  We will seriously consider eating at Tijuana Flats after enjoying their oversized steak burrito with the works; clearly a meal sufficient for two.  The Chipolte Chicken Flatbread from Chile’s, Lasagna from Olive Garden, and the Lobster and Shrimp pizza from Red Lobster were all far better than expected.  Thanks to all the restaurants that participate in this event, I know it must be a huge PITA for the staff.  photo IMG_2227_zpswyveivmu.jpg

We also marked Pad Kee Meow’s adoption day, which we are also counting as her birthday since the  documentation we have suggests we picked her up very close to her one year point.  No lit candles, apparently cats don’t appreciate fire, but we made her dress up for an extra helping of her preferred wet food.  photo IMG_2282_zpskasp7wmj.jpg

After this stop we headed up to Ocala for a few days, but will be returning to Lake Monroe Park soon as we continue to deal with selling The Big Kahuna, and plan on being at this weekend’s Downtown Sanford Market, as well another nearby market on Sunday.  Anyone in the area is welcome to come see us!  photo IMG_2254_zpsff6f2jyj.jpg  photo IMG_2263_zpsmrggevjz.jpg

Headed back North! Well, to Central Florida at least. Port St Lucie and Patrick AFB.

After our four day stay in Coral Springs we headed back north towards Central Florida.  As long as The Big Kahuna is stored there while up for sale we are trying to bias our time in that vicinity to support showings and deal with a few glitches in the house systems.  We are not in a rush so we can work our way up the coast at leisurely rate.  Passport America helped us find another low cost two day stay 90 minutes along I-95, the Port St Lucie RV Resort.

GPS led us astray, taking us down a back road on the wrong side of the park where we could see the place but had no access to it.  It was pretty obvious that we just needed to back track and continue on to the main road to find the entrance, so no big deal, but it does seem like Google Maps has been giving us more entry point errors like this of late.  photo PSL 2_zpsbu1stu2m.jpg

At $29.50 a night, PSL RV Resort is a solid value for the area, but a bit odd in several ways.  First, the only RV Park Review we found to be accurate was the most recent one from September.  Apparently a change in day to day management has resulted in a lot of improvements.  While the place may not be all that pretty, the upkeep is quite solid, and the amenities were far better than the older reviews gave the park credit for, e.g., contrary to the older reviews, we had solid, though video streaming restricted, wifi at our site, and most of the spots had cable TV available for $1 a day.  This is something we keep an eye out for when using reviews to select between competing parks: the more recent, the more accurate, as parks can improve or degrade quickly based on ownership and management.

Second, there are no lovely views within this park.  It is a big grass field centered on a currently dry retention pond with an oval road around it, RV sites on each side, the whole thing surrounded by a fence and limited vegetation.  There are a handful of large oaks, but mostly smaller varieties spaced at each site that are not large enough to provide much shade yet.  Lastly, Passport America 50% discount is reduced by the separate $4.50 per day electricity charge, regardless of whether you use a 30 or 50 amp connection.  This negative is offset by the inclusion of sales tax into the base price.   So 29.50 all in got us a nice level full hook up, 50 amp spot with cable TV and usable wifi in a well maintained and safe location, though without much to see within the park.  For those that need them, they have a few pull through sites along the entry road as well.

After two days we continued up the coast to Patrick AFB’s Manatee Cove Family Camp near Cocoa Beach.  They had mandated a full evacuation for Hurricane Mathew, and were still sorting things out in his wake.  They had plenty of open spots, but several of the nice ones were being reserved for evacuees who had not yet shown up to reclaim their sites.   We ran into the standard military base problem/GPS problem of showing up at the main gate only to be redirected to the commercial truck entrance.    By the time we figured it out we had to unhook Loki in order to back out of the main entry road.  The airman manning the gate were helpful in getting traffic to cooperate with our manuever, and after a few minutes we backtracked south a couple of miles to the proper gate.

Air Force bases are typically so much larger than their naval counterparts, and we had to circle nearly the entire thing to get to the family camp, but it was well worth it in terms of both value and appearance.  We got a full hook up site overlooking the inter-coastal waterway bay, and were finally able to use one of our five free night passes purchased as part of the Air Force’s Frequent Camper package.  Since Manatee Cove is normally $24 to $30 a night depending on specific site selection, this was the place to use that pass.  While there was no wifi, cable TV, or much of anything in terms of walking distance amenities, the location was excellent and we had all that a large military base has to offer, especially the commissary and the veterinary clinic.  photo IMG_2203_zpsvgd8id2s.jpg

That’s right, yet another subsidized service for military people, including retirees, is access to low cost pet care on bases so equipped.  We had tried to get Pad Kee Meow’s annual check up and shots done at one of our previous AFB stops, but they were full up for our limited stay.  Patrick was able to fit us in with less than 24 hours notice.  Fantastic. For $67 we got her annual exam, one year rabies shot, and three year feline distemper shot. This is important as we are finding that about 1 in 20 places we stop actually wants to see proof of rabies vaccination for pets, and PKM’s had just expired.

We spent each evening having a cocktail on the bay shore enjoying the sea breeze and watching the dolphins and sea birds.  Our last morning we were fortunate enough to watch three dolphin engaging in cooperative hunting as close as 20 feet from the beach.   When passing back through this area again, Patrick AFB will be high on our list of places to stop.

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Didn’t have our big camera for this shot, or any camera for the morning they were cavorting closer to shore.

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Crossing back across Florida to Coral Springs

I had not mentioned it in previous posts, but while we were in Central Florida we received the unfortunate news that Rosemarie’s Godfather, Uncle Carlos, had passed away from advanced stage cancer that had not been caught until it was, apparently, too late to effectively treat.  The viewing and funeral were now driving our schedule.

We left Venice after our three day maximum authorized stay and headed south on I-75 towards Naples.  We selected a one night stop at a Passport America RV resort as we were a day ahead of our intended arrival in Coral Springs to stay with Xavier and Joy.  We had a moderate sized back in spot with full hook ups for $24.  This is not a fantastic rate in general terms, but for the region it is quite good.  The price includes cable TV but not wifi.  Since the cable TV there requires the installation of a special converter box, we didn’t bother with it for our one night stopover.

The next morning it was back on the road as we crossed through the everglades and Miccosukee Indian Reservation on Alligator Alley.  Some find this 80 mile stretch boring, but we always enjoy it; there are so many large bird species to spot, and plenty of places you can pull off to see alligators.  The Tamiami Trail is even better for roadside nature spotting, but it would add a lot of time and mileage to the run, and is a two lane road much of the way and thus a bit more stressful to drive.

We arrived in Coral Springs and pulled Serenity into Xavier & Joy’s driveway, which is just big enough for us, for our four day stay.  We attended Carlos’ viewing at the local funeral home, and two days later the funeral itself at the Methodist church.  Carlos had served in the army during Vietnam, and his family arranged for a burial at a military cemetery.  We drove in the procession up to the his final resting place where another short but formal ceremony was conducted before he was interred.   Funerals are tough on everyone, but it was at least nice to see so much of the family and friends regather in Coral Springs, including Rosemarie’s sister who flew in from NYC for the occasion.

After four days it was time for us to head back north and deal with some more issues related to the sale of The Big Kahuna, but it won’t be long before we are back in South Florida.  We will spend November and December bouncing between SE, Gulf Coast, and Central FL before heading to Key West in January.

22 Months Fulltiming, October 2016 Report

We are not nearly as behind on the blog this month as last, two or three posts will catch us up entirely!

The Distance: 1,825 miles, or biggest month this year!  Once we turned south and headed for Florida with only short stops along the way, we new this would be a big mileage month. But in a nice example of how we really have slowed things up this year compared to 2015, that year saw three months with even great mileage.  Our 2016 total is up to 8,231 and it looks like we will be far under last year’s 14,296 miles.  The rest of the year will see us bouncing around Florida, possibly putting us near 10,000 for the year, but certainly not much more than that.

The Places:  We finished up our extended stay at Lebanon Hill Regional Park in Minnesota before moving south to visit my daughter near Des Moines, Iowa.  From there we made a more aggressive run south through Missouri (The Catfish Place Campground,) Illinois (Scott Air Force Base) and Kentucky (Pirates Cove RV Resort.)  Then it was three Air Force Family Camp’s in a row, Arnold, Dobbins, and Robins, before hitting Wanee Lake RV & Golf Resort in Georgia.  We finaly pushed into Florida, making Grand Lake RV Resort in Citra our first stop, followed by a return to Blue Springs State Park near Orange City.  We closed out the month with a stay at Mill Creek RV Resort south of Orlando and few days in the Bayba’s driveway in Venice.

We are up to three straight months without a single moment of drycamping, enjoying full hook ups for 19 days and electric/water connections for 9 (with three days parked in a a realtives driveway while we enjoyed the experience of sleepign in a house.)  We stayed in private campgrounds for 10 days, military facilities for 8, and public parks for ten (8 county, 2 state) and in the just mentioned relatives’ house for 3.

The Budget:   Unfortunately this was a tough month in which we ended up 23% over budget.  We had a notible repair bill, yet another moderate medical bill that caught up with us, and an unusual four full fill ups for Serenity’s 75 gallon tank as a result of our highest mileage month of the year.  And unlike last month when we participated in seven farmers markets, we were only able to attend a single selling event in October, though even that certainly helped.  This puts us a slim 1.4% over budget for the year, and we hope to make that up in the remaining two months of 2016

On the good side, We managed to bring our RV park fees down to nearly $19 a day thanks to the Air Force Bases and incredibly affordable private resorts we found through Passport America.  We enjoyed the 50% PA discount for ten days, and the subsidized low cost rate at military campgrounds for eight.

The Drama:  We experienced an odd electrical problem that was mostly resolved by Horizon RV in Valdosta, GA, though we have some additional issues that need to be addressed before we begin drycamping in Key West later this year.  Since then we are seeing some additional, odd and transient elecrical issues with our 12 volt system that might suggest a pending inverter failure.  More to follow.

The Improvements:  Uncle Dennis fixed our windshield washers (they were simply stuck and needed lubrication) and troubleshot our ongoing electrical issues, suggesting it might be the hosue batteries going bad but had the looks of something more significant.  Armed with what he told us we will be going to another RV repair facility soon.

All of our monthly reports, as well as our first full year report, 2015 in Review, are linked below.

2016 Reports:

2015 in Review