Update to our Geocaching Tab

Continuing our blog overhaul, we have updated our rarely used Geocaching page in order to make it a bit more relevant and useful considering that this is a significant hobby and a surprising number of people find there way here after a geocache related Google search. Now, rather than edit the Geocache page with any new information, we will instead post GC related things on the main Home page, and maintain a link list to these posts on the Geocache page.

The reason for this has to do with the limitations of our free WordPress account, which allows separate posts with their own discreet link addresses only on the main page, whereas the other tabs are limited to simply editing the existing information.  Thus, those that officially follow the blog do not receive an email alert if we add information to them like they do when we post a new entry on the Home page.  That limitation is perfectly acceptable for the rarely updated About Us and Rosemarie’s Etsy tab, and even for the Where Are We Now tab that is more of a convenient reference, but is less useful for the way we want to discuss Geocaching.

So check it out, the newly overhauled Geocaching tab, with a few paragraphs of explanation for the uninitiated at the top, followed by what we think will be a growing link list of relevant posts, followed by the original un-linked entries by date.

One more stay in Sanibel before crossing east to the FL Atlantic Coast

As we have mentioned in multiple posts, Periwinkle RV Park on Sanibel Island is one of our favorite places to stay.  Despite the price ($55/night during the seven month[!] high season, no club discounts, very limited monthly discount), the fantastic location, interesting grounds, beach oriented activities, and sense of community among “The 49ers” in the RV section (so named after the number of RV sites) make it, by our measure, worth the price for at least limited periods.  It is why we named Periwinkle one of the top three out of the 31 private RV campgrounds we visited in our 2015 year end wrap up.

Kitty on table

Pad Kee Meow, clearly pleased to be back in Sanibel.

So as we approached our planned departure date from Venice, and then learned that our hosts for our next stop were feeling under the weather after only recently returning from a cross country vacation, we scrambled to find an RV park somewhere generally along the route.  Periwinkle fits that bill perfectly, and to our surprise this very popular and usually full winter destination happened to have a six day opening.  So we locked it in and returned to the place we had left just over two weeks before.


I am the Jack Cousteau of shelling.

Our average RV stay in 2015 was three days, so a six day stay anywhere is a luxury; a six day stay in Sanibel, though?  Top notch.  Now whatever beach, sunset location, island specialty store, restaurant, activity, social gathering or wildlife area at which we felt shorted during our previous stay got a visit from us during this one.


Shell display at the entrance of the Sanibel public library

The downside of this visit?  The weather.  We had a good amount of rain and wind during our earlier stay in December, but this week surpassed that greatly.  Two days of heavy rain, high winds, flooding, and even a 30 minute tornado warning received by automatic text that had us darting for the first the closest cement block building.  Thus we spent half an hour with 25 of our closest friends the shower house.


Back on the beach!

No worries though, we had four days of decent weather to enjoy the island, and we took advantage of the time, especially after the day after storm passed, to shell on the nearest beach, finding a good variety of interesting things washed shore.  Aside from actual shells, Rosemarie added to her growing hoard of sea urchin skeletons, and we even found a lightening whelk linked egg casing, which dries out into a pretty interesting decoration.


The latest shell haul.  Note the Lightening Whelk egg string on the far right.

We also took a few hours to explore J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge, a pretty amazing bit of mixed fresh and salt marsh-like land that serves as a major bird sanctuary. Aside from the man ospreys, we spotted at least one bald eagle, multiple types of heron (including a couple of apparently rare birds), cormorants, wild ducks, anhingas, and a significant flock of roseate spoonbills.

I also continued my quest to “clear” the more than one hundred geocaches from the island.  The pursuit of said caches led to us meeting Ken and Ginny, who are responsible for placing and/or maintaining nearly half of the caches on Sanibel, as well as a couple of dozen more in other places.  Not only did we have geocaching in common, they are seasonal RVers currently volunteering at the Darling National Wildlife Refuge.  We met up with them to exchange stories and pick their brains about volunteer work in various desirable national or state parks in exchange for free RV camping.


Pad Kee Meow’s first bike ride. She joined me for social hour two evenings.

Rosemarie also attended a class on shell crafting at the Sanibel Community House. The art involves creating things out of shells.  Yeah, I’m failing at explaining this, so here’s a few examples.  Made entirely of shells:

Now, Rosemarie aspires to that level, but the $2 class was a basic intro, allowing all participants to make a basic periwinkle flower, all supplies, er, supplied by the hosts.  It also introduced techniques and tools to the participants that they might not otherwise have encountered.


Rosemarie’s Flower.

After six days we loaded up, pulled in the slides and leveling jacks, disconnected, and headed for I-75 South towards Naples and then east to Fort Lauderdale and Coral Springs. We remain in touch with the Periwinkle staff, hoping for another surprise opening in late March as we start working our way north through Florida, visiting friends and family along the way.

Update to our About Us & Our Rigs Tab

It seems this is the time for updates!  Now that we are settled into one campground for a month or more we are pushing out a flurry of posts to catch up, modernize, and clarify. Just as we did for the “Where Are We Now” section, we just completed an overhaul of our “About Us & Our Rigs” (previously just “About” which seemed a bit vague) tab.  Again, in case you never noticed those sections, just below the header picture of our Serenity RV you will find a line of hot links to information about us and our rig, our location and routes, Rosemarie’s Etsy shop, and our Geocaching hobby (Also due for a major update, coming soon!)

First stops of the new year: Momma Bayba’s and Oscar Scherer State Park

We departed Rambler’s Rest RV Resort on New Years day, having bumped up against their Passport-America blackout months.  Winter is the high season for Florida RV parks, and those that are PA affiliates cease offering the discount for anywhere from three to six months.  Between two different visits this December we were fortunate enough to take advantage of the 50% rate at Rambler’s for nearly the maximum 14 day annual limit, and we are likely to be back sometime in late 2016, but for the rest of the winter its not an option.


Unlike our foolish departure from The Sunshine State in the middle of winter last year, we don’t plan on leaving Florida this time around until the spring.  This means finding affordable campgrounds in the state during the peak season.  We could spend the entire time at the Key West Naval Air Station, but we don’t want that to be our only option, especially as we work our way north come April.  Thus we have been doing some research to find alternatives in Venice and other Florida locations near family and friends.


The one back in site we occupied during our five day stay.  The other two spots were pull throughs.

We looked into Camp Venice Retreat, just up the road from Ramblers, but during the peak season it’s $70 per night ($67 per if you book a full week,) too rich for our blood.  We drove by a couple of other private parks that we knew to be part of the Encore Resort group, as is Ramblers, but they are also high priced with no high season discounts.  We passed a few more affordable private campgrounds, but as they did not look appealing we focused on the various state and county parks.  We usually consult the RV Park Reviews and Campendium websites, and the former had several very positive reviews for Oscar Scherer State Park.  We also started bringing it up in conversation with other RVers, soliciting opinions and advice.  During the cocktail/social hour gathering at Periwinkle RV Park, one of the guests gave an enthusiastic endorsement of Oscar Scherer as well.


Pad Kee Meow is cautiously optimistic about the park.

As expected, its a popular campground this time of year, but fortunately not as hard to get in as Bahia Honda or any of the other Keys state parks.  We were able to secure five days, but only by making three different consecutive reservations at three different sites.  Ah well, not ideal, but we really wanted to experience some other campgrounds in the region. IMG_4315

Oscar Scherer is a nearly 1400 acre park with a tidal black water stream, a small swimming lake, plenty of hiking and biking trails (including the paved Rails to Trails legacy trail) and is a significant bird sanctuary.  The 96 site RV campground is located along the South Creek tidal stream, with about 2/3 of the sites backing directly onto the creek shore.  Like most of the Florida State Parks at which we have stayed, the campground is heavily wooded with plenty of green space privacy between the sites.


Kitty helping with dinner preparations.

Almost all spots have 30 amp electrical and water, while sewage is handled by a dump station at the entrance.  The only negative I can think of: the water connection at many sites is very far from your usually RV connection, requiring up to 100 feet of hose!  If you stay here, call the park to ask about the water connection so you can bring extra hose if needed.  Since we only had 25′ we just used our stored water and water pump after topping off.


Another view of one of our sites, they all had lots of trees and bushes on three sides.

The hiking and biking trails are great, though the latter can be a bit of a sandy slog in spots.  I took advantage of both to do some geocaching, and in a future stay with hopefully less rain, I hope to find the rest within the park boundaries.  The Nature/Learning Center offers free wifi in an adjacent screened in porch, 24 hours a day. We found it quite usable for basic internet use and even video streaming depending on how many other people were present.


Kitty found three moves in five days to be exhausting.

Last comment, while the entry road is wide and easily managed, the bridge crossing the South Creek into the campground is a bit tight due to the high railings on one side and the flexible pole barrier separating the pedestrian walkway on the other.  I mention this not so much as a knock on the park, but rather as a lesson learned regarding my poor method of hanging our bikes on the rear ladder rack.  Notice how far out the wheels stick on my left in this picture?


Bike wheels sticking out a bit further than even the rear view mirror.

Now see all those yellow poles in this pic of the bridge I borrowed from fellow full time RVers and bloggers Bill and Nancy?


Yeah, I slapped pretty much all of those with the bike tires on the way out.  My set up was probably in violation of some traffic safety rule, and I have since found a better, safer method of racking them.


That’s better.

After leaving Oscar Scherer we headed nine miles back down the road to Bill and Gloria’s (Momma Bayba) where we third visit within a month.  They are always welcoming, letting us park our behemoth in their driveway, providing a room, and welcoming our cat.  And oh do we always eat well.  Sometimes it’s bill grilled pizza, once my brined and spatchcocked turkey, but this time it was Gloria’s alcapurrias.  We arrived just in time for me to assist in the final few steps, which is ironic since fifteen years ago when Rosemarie took me to New York to meet her mom, the first night I helped with alcapurrias as well.

So, any other Florida campground recommendations? We are particularly looking for places in the southern third of the state, in central Florida near DeLand/Lake Mary, and a bit further north near Gainesville.


Update to our Where Are We Now Tab

With the close out review of our 2015 adventure, now is the time to make changes to our current location tab.  If you have not noticed them before, just below the header picture of our Serenity RV is a list of tab buttons that lead to some additional information about our doings, comings, and goings.  In the new and improved Where Are We Now tab (previously titled Where We Are, which seemed grammatically shaky, at best) I have retained the full 2015 map and list of campgrounds there, but have inserted at the top a new travel map and list for 2016.  Check it out, and maybe some of you happen to be in the same general location, so let’s meet up!


One Year Fulltiming, 2015 In Review

A bit over a year ago we took The Big Kahuna down to Key West to start our full time RV adventure, committed to two years, possibly more.  We have had far more drama and mechanical difficulties than we ever anticipated, but have no regrets about the lifestyle we chose.  Now having shifted to a modern, though still used motorhome, we are hoping for a bit less drama in year two.  Before getting into our plans for 2016, here is a summary of our first year in a format similar to our monthly reports, but with additional data, particularly about the diversity of our RV campgrounds, the discounts we took advantage of, and our favorite places.

The Distance: 14,926 miles between the two motorhomes, about 95% of it in The Big Kahuna.  Had the bus not been down for repairs or upgrades for more than four months of the year, we would have broken well past 20,000 miles.  As it was we had to cut out the entire New England region and part of the upper midwest from our planned clockwise circle of the country.  Of note, our highest altitude in the RV was 11,158′ crossing the continental divide at Eisenhower Pass, our lowest was -282′ in Death Valley.

The Side Trips: Other than eleven miserable days in Odessa, TX during a significant cold snap (16 degrees!), we didn’t exactly suffer during all those times when the bus was in the shop.  We took vacations to Hawaii and England, and spent time with family in California, Florida, and North Carolina.  Poor us!

The Places:  We spent 244 days living in the RV and 121 staying with family or in hotels. Breaking that down by places first, and then by days:

  • During those 244 days we went to 88 different RV overnight spots (91 if you count the three repeat visits) in 26 states!  This includes 34 private parks (three were repeat visits), 23 national sites (national parks, recreation areas, forests, and BLM land), 18 different state parks, 5 municipal/city/county parks, 7 mechanic/repair shop parking lots, 2 military facilities, and 4 “stealth” parking spots or family/friend driveway sites.
  • The 121 days not in the RV were spent at eight different homes of family or friends in Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, California, Oregon, and London.  In most cases we came back for a second or even third visit.  We also stayed in 15 different hotels.
  • Breaking it down by days: while in the RV we stayed in private parks 91 nights, military campgrounds for 6, national/federal areas for 42, state parks for 55, county/city/municipal parks for 13, and “stealth” or driveway parking for 8.
  • Outside of the RV we stayed with family for 75 days and in hotels for 46.
  • Another way of looking at those 244 days in the RV: we had electrical hook ups (at least 30 amp), usually with water, frequently with sewage, for 178 days, while we dry camped with no connections for 66.

Money: We broke our annual budget by about 12%, and that doesn’t count the money-sucking black hole for The Big Kahuna’s work.  We will end that artificial, double-bookkeeping method with the sale of the old bus upon completion of the latest transmission work.  All repairs and upgrades for Serenity will count against the regular budget this year, making for a more honest system.

We learned a lot about living on a significantly reduced fixed income, and have made adjustments to keep ourselves in line.  Primarily, we have gone to a daily accounting system rather than a loose “figure it out at the end of the month” method.  As stated in the 12 Month Report: Monthly Income minus monthly recurring bills, minus 1/12th of annual recurring bills, the result divided by days in the month.  All significant purchases must wait until we have built up enough positive balance to buy them.  We did pretty well in November and December, and have started out January on track for being under budget as well.

The Discounts and Clubs:  We spent almost all of 2015 as members of a wide array of RV clubs and travel discount organizations.  The two most useful for us: An annual national park pass ($80) and a fifteen month Passport-America membership ($44).

  • We went to 21 National Parks as well has numerous National Recreation Areas, wildlife refuges, and forests.  Most of the parks and some of the others have entrance fees ranging from $5 per car to $10 per person.  The $80 annual pass covered all of those, paying for itself multiple times over.
  • We stayed at private RV parks on the 50% Passport-America discount for 34 nights, saving anywhere from $12 to $35 a night.  Easily, clearly, overwhelmingly worth the $44 annual fee.
  • We also held annual memberships with Good Sam ($25), Family Motor Coach Association ($50), and AAA (at least $60, more for each additional family member covered).  I also have my retired military ID card, which led to an occasional RV park discount.  Between these four programs we received an approximate 10% discount for 29 nights in RV parks during 2015.  By my rough math, that is worth about $100.
  • The problem, or challenge, is that these four options overlap significantly, i.e., when you can get a Good Sam discount, the same park often offers an FMCA, AAA, or military discount.  Complicating the analysis, each of these programs offers benefits beyond just park discounts.
  • We have been on the fence with regard to our Good Sam membership.  It seems to be the most consistently offered discount, and there are benefits associated with purchases at Camping World stores.  But the overlap with both AAA and my military discount, as well as the limited shopping we do at the frequently overpriced Camping World stores, we are leaning towards letting this membership expire in February.
  • We used the FMCA membership to get the lowest price on Michelin tires, but see no reason to keep it since I can’t recall a single park that offered an FMCA discount exclusive of our other discount options.
  • AAA provides me a peace of mind for when my wife, son, or daughter may encounter difficulty on the road, as they have all experienced several times during the past half decade.  I have committed to keeping it for 2016, and look forward to seeing if the combination of a AAA and retired military discount will make up for dropping FMCA and Good Sam.

The Breakdowns:  It’s a bit difficult to account for our breakdown time since we started the year “taking advantage” of breakdowns to also do elective upgrades. The best I can figure is this:

Favorite Private RV Parks:  As mentioned above, while in our RV we stayed in 88 different sites, including 31 different privately owned RV parks.  This is a tough call, but here are our top three private parks, and a handful of honorable mentions:

Favorite National/Federal campground spots:  In general, we were very disappointed with the full service campgrounds within the national parks.  Usually operated by contract consessionaires, we found them overpriced, very crowded, tightly squeezed, and quite run down.  Contrast that with our surprise at discovering fantastic national recreation, forest, and refuge areas, as well as a few excellent BLM land areas.  Our top three, and a handful of honorable mentions:

Favorite National Parks:  We so love national parks, which might be obvious from the 21 we visited this year.  Its really tough to rank these, but here are our top picks, and for once we had to actually separate a Rosemarie from a Jack favorite:

Favorite State Parks: Man we love these, especially the dozen or so we in which we have stayed in Florida.  Our top three and a couple of honorable mentions:

Favorite municipal/city/county parks: OK, granted, we only stayed in six of these, but like the national recreation areas, county parks turned out to be hidden gems:

Favorite Military RV Parks: We only stayed in two, and we loved them both.  But, and this is a big “but,” we are a bit down on staying on military bases willy nilly: the added hassle of getting on base and complying with extra layers of aggressively enforced rules means that we only stay when the financial benefit is great, as it was in both Key West and Monterrey.

  • Key West Naval Air Station: There is simply nothing comparable.  For $13 a night   you can park a couple of miles from downtown Key West. The nearest private RV park alternative is more than 30 miles away and $90 a night during peak season. Want even cheaper?  Or closer to the action?  How about $8 a night for dry camping in the Coast Guard annex less than six blocks from Mallory Square.  Ridiculous! Thank you tax payers!
  • Monterey Golf Course RV Campground:  In another ludicrously expensive area, the military comes through with an affordable option.  Full hook up sites for $26 a night in biking distance from the seaside action in Monterrey.  Loved it.

Least Favorite places:  I don’t think it particularly surly to point out a few places we truly disliked among the 88 at which we stayed.  Note our disappointment with the contracted full service parks within the National Parks:

So that’s it, our 2015 year in review.  Since closing out the year we have spent January at a Florida State Park that we had not previously visited, and stayed with relatives for the remainder of the month before heading south towards the FL Keys.  Soon we will catch up with posts about all of that, as well as an explanation of our 2016 plans.  Hope we can meet up with all of you sometime during the year.

Individual monthly reviews for 2015:


12 Months Fulltiming, December 2015 Report

Wrapping up 2015 with this monthly report, not to be confused with our separate and soon to come “2015 in Review” which will include additional information such as some of our lessons learned and favorite locations and parks.

The Distance: 753 miles, one of our shorter months, really.  Of note is that most of that mileage was in the new motorhome, Serenity.  The Big Kahuna remained in Charleston for the transmission rebuild, while we headed south through Georgia and back into Florida.   Our annual total distance for The Big Kahuna is distance for the year is 14,926 miles, all but 727 in the old bus.

The Places:   We spent the first week at two North Charleston repair centers, WW Williams and General Diesel before buying our new motorhome and continuing south.  After a one night stopover at Golden Isles RV Resort in Brunswick, we reentered Florida, crossing southwest to Trimble County Park in Mount Dora.  From there we continued SW into the Venice area for a short stay to visit relatives before heading south to one of our favorite parks, Periwinkle RV on Sanible Island.  After a full week there we returned to Venice for a week stay at Rambler’s Rest.  We stayed with family for two days, in private parks for eighteen, in public (national, state, and county) parks for three, in parking lots for seven, and in a hotel for one.   So for the 28 days we lived in our RV this month we had full hook ups for eighteen, partial (power or power and water) for three, and drycamped for seven.

The Budget:  We took out a loan to buy the new motorhome, the repayment of which will of course be included as part of our monthly bills.  Knowing this, we really started cracking down on our spending, shifting from a somewhat half hazard monthly or weekly accounting to a daily spending limit:  Income minus monthly recurring bills, minus 1/12th of annual recurring bills, the result divided by days in the month.  All significant purchases must wait until we have built up enough positive balance to buy them.

Tightening the belt allowed us to stay slightly under budget in December despite the expensive private RV resort stays and the usual holiday expenditures.   The relatively short mileage, cheap price of gas, smaller tank on the new motorhome, nine days dry camping or in a relative’s driveway, and significant Passport-America discount at Rambler’s Rest and Golden Isles helped a lot as well.  The Big Kahuna expenditures will remain in a separate ledger until he is sold.

The Drama:  The Big Kahuna’s big transmission failure and subsequant week sorting it out was our biggest incident, though buying a new used motorhome probably counts as drama as well.  Once we started south in Serenity, we had very little if any, just the usual process of learning a new vehicle and adjusting to it.

The Improvements:  A new motorhome!  We hope our 2007 Four Winds Hurricane 34S will result in much less drama, and since it is generally new, we don’t anticipate doing much in the way of improvements to it.

11 Months Fulltiming, November 2015 Report

Yeah yeah, I know, it’s already 2016 and we are just getting to November’s report. But aside from these tedious reports our last post on Rambler’s Rest pretty much caught us up in terms of our actual campground stops.

The Distance: 1916 miles, a pretty solid month of cross country progress, especially considering that The Big Kahuna was stationary for nine days around the Thanksgiving holiday.  We continued south and east in accordance with our ever-evolving route back to Florida.  We also had our 550 mile round trip journey to Virginia.  Our annual total distance for The Big Kahuna is distance for the year is 14,173 miles.

The Places:   We finished up a three day stay in Clinton State Park in Kansas followed by two days at Roaring River SP in Missouri, a far too short one day stop in Oklahoma’s Natural Falls State Park, four days at Hot Spring National Park, an overnighter in Tennessee before crossing into Kentucky to see Mammoth Cave National Park.  We had two unfortunate days in Pigeon Forge, TN, before finally reaching the eastern seaboard with three day stay in South Carolina’s Sesquicentennial State Park, during which we picked up Pad Kee Meow and visited Congaree National Park.  We turned slightly north headed for Wilmington with a two day stop at Carrollwoods RV Park in Tabor City, NC, after which The Big Kahuna needed a tow into TTT Truck Repair in Wilmington.  During that week we took Loki to visit Linda and Jayson in Chesapeake, VA before returning to NC for my mom’s Big Red Wine Birthday bash and Thanksgiving.  We closed out the month with a stop in James Island County Park outside of Charleston, SC.   We stayed with family for nine days, in private parks for seven, and public (national, state, and county) parks for 14.   During the 21 days in campgrounds we had full hook ups for eleven days, partial (power or power and water) for eight, and drycamped for two.

The Budget:  With our continued acknowledgement that it is artificial, discounting repairs to The Big Kahuna we came in 6% under budget.   Yeah us.  Now that we have purchased a newer motorhome, we will begin maintaining a more realistic and honest budget that incorporates repairs and upgrades, but since we will be selling The Big Kahuna all expenditure related to his repair will go in a separate ledger.   Otherwise, we kept on budget this month due to limited expenditures on entertainment, only having to fill the huge diesel tank once, staying at the incredibly affordable state parks in the midwest, and using that passport America rate for all four of the private RV parks

The Drama:  It wouldn’t be Shell On Wheels without bus drama, now would it?  We managed to avoid it with our hill climbs getting out of Roaring River and Sesquicentennial State Parks, but they were close run things with The Big Kahuna really struggling to get up both grades.  We didn’t know it at the time, but thi was a symptom of degraded internal transmission pressure which would come to full failure the next month.   We had our nearly catastrophic stuck tire in Pigeon Forge.  And, of course, we had a combination of starter and transmission problems crop up again in North Carolina, leading to another tow and a starter replacement.

The Improvements:  Well, we have a new starter, and that’s it.

Our last stop in 2015: Rambler’s Rest in Venice

We left Sanibel Island on Christmas Eve, heading 80 miles north to Venice in order to spend Christmas with Rosemarie’s mom, Gloria and stepdad, Bill.  When in Venice we tend to spend a couple of the days in their driveway, but the bulk of the time at Rambler’s Rest RV Resort so as not to wear out our welcome.

Myaka RIver from the dock

Myakka RIver from the dock

We first stayed at Rambler’s in our first motorhome for a rally with the Sunshine Statesmen GMC club, and impressed with the park we have come back a couple of times each year for the same reasons we come back to Periwinkle in Sanibel: a real and rare welcoming sense of community, with added bonus of getting the Passport-America 50% discount on up to two weeks there a year, excluding January through March.

It is a large park with a couple of hundred sites, the bulk of which are near permanently occupied by “park models.”  A park model, as I recently learned, looks like a small version of a pre-manufactured home, but is technically an RV, complete with axles and running gear underneath.  The advantage of this over a “double wide” mobile home is that they are not subject to property in Florida, and the restrictions and regulations on them are less onerous for both the owner and the park on which they sit.  The disadvantage is the size; they are restricted to 400 square feet in most states, though Florida allows up to 500.  This effectively means that you will have roughly a 12′ x 37′ foot home with a couple of popouts.  Most owners tend to compensate for the limited size by adding a full length enclosed lanai along one side.

Our neighbor's park model, festooned with decorations and plants.

Our neighbor’s park model, festooned with decorations and plants.

About a quarter of Rambler’s Rest is set aside for the more traditional type RVs: 5th wheels, travel trailers, and motorhomes.  Most of these sites are together in the loops on the west side of the park, though there are a few spots scattered through the other sections as well.  We always request a spot down near the Myakka River, finding that we enjoy the quick walk to the dock and the social atmosphere of that section, sacrificing proximity to the club house and pool.

Our site during our most recent stay. One of a handful available to traditional RVs near the Myaka River.

Our site during our most recent stay. One of a handful available to traditional RVs near the Myakka River.

Rambler’s Rest has a plethora of social activities, one of the reason we like to come here.  With the holiday schedule and family events, we weren’t able to participate in much of them this year, but we made sure to get back to the park in time for the golf cart Christmas parade.   This year 28 carts powered through every street on the grounds with heavily decorated holiday themed carts.

I spent maybe half of the evenings down at the dock for an unofficial cocktail hour, watching a handful of the avid anglers fishing in the river.  Live shrimp seemed to be the bait of choice, with one of man pulling in a 23 inch red drum.  We also continued to work on leash training the cat, attempting to get beyond the “she will wear it but we have to follow her around stage.”  Unfortunately we end up with a lot of this: OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We spent Christmas with Gloria and Bill, all of us pitching in to make Christmas dinner for the four of us plus their neighbors Chris and Tom.  I made a turkey; brined and spatchcocked of course, while Bill and Gloria made all the sides, including gravy derived from the turkey parts and drippings.   This meant a fantastic meal with lots of turkey leftovers from the 14 pound bird.  We still have some 0f Bill’s turkey soup in the freezer.

The week was a continuous feast, with Bill taking us to a great New York style pizzaria of which even Rosemarie approves, and the 50 cent raw oysters Wednesday special at Left Coast Seafood Co.   We closed out the year with a New Years eve dinner with the four of us plus Rosemarie’s nephew (DJ), niece (Laura), brother (Jerry) and his brand   fiance (Kim.)

All in all a very satisfying final stop for 2015.  I know we never got around to posting our “11 months full timing report,” and we are now overdue for the 12 monther and an end of year wrap up.  All of that coming soon, so just hang in there:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Back to Sanibel and Periwinkle Park

The great thing about having hit 16 campgrounds in Florida during our January and February meander out of the state (in addition to another half dozen during weekend trips before we started full timing), is that we now know some of the best RV spots to which we can return, as well as which ones we don’t have much interest in seeing again.   So while we tried something new in north central Florida, as we moved further south and to the Gulf Coast, we knew for certain we wanted to go back to Sanibel and the only RV campground on the island, Periwinkle Park.

Causeway onto Sanibel and Captiva Island

Causeway onto Sanibel and Captiva Island

Periwinkle is mostly mobile homes, but on section of the park is dedicated to traditional RVs.  These 49 sites are very difficult to reserve during peak season as the owners and managers have discarded both a market based model and “first come, first serve” reservations in favor of loyalty to those customers that are loyal to them.  In other words, the long term, repeat seasonal guests are given first chance to reserve, and then it is open to us newcomers. Working  your way into becoming one of those preferred customers apparently takes years, coming back season after season for the short stay openings or during non-peak months.   Eventually your name will bubble up as openings occur among the ranks of the veterans.

Sunset on the beach

Sunset on the beach

This was our third time coming to Periwinkle, and our longest stay yet, a full week just before the peak months of January, February and March.  We, and those previously mentioned regulars, keep coming back for the location, the uniqueness of the park, the reasonable price given the demand, and for the sense of community among the residents, particularly those in the RV section, the “Forty-Niners.”

Live Sand Dollar, found these by the dozens just off shore less than an inch below the sand.

Live Sand Dollar, found these by the dozens just off shore less than an inch below the sand.

As an example of that sense of community, some years back the residents banded together together to enlarge one of the pond-side covered decks, making it suitable for the number of people showing up every night for an unofficial social hour.   Another example: the owners of Island Cinema, a small movie theater on the island, partners with Perwinkle Park to have a private showing of first run movies on many Saturday mornings.  Thus we got to see Star Wars; The Force Awakens for $5!

This is one of three private parks at which we have stayed where we felt that since of community and social interaction among the residents, the other two being Rambler’s Rest in Venice and Bay Breeze in Alabama.  So it is no surprise that we are becoming repeat attendees at the two Florida sites, with full intention to get back to Bay Breeze eventually as well.

The shell haul for the week

The shell haul for the week

As for Sanibel, it was great to park our RV in one spot for a week for a reason other than a break down.  We took our bikes the short ride to the beach nearly every day.  Rosemarie shelled on three different beaches, hauling in easily her biggest catch ever during a long walk from Bowman’s Beach towards Blind Pass.

During several of Rosemarie’s outings to the beach for shells, I occupied myself working my way through the unusually large number of geocaches on the island. Between our last stay and this one I have found about 50 caches.  Another trip or two and I should be able to clear the island.

If there is a negative to Sanibel it is the cost.  While Periwinkle’s rate is expensive by our standards at $55 per night, it is probably below market value as evidenced by the difficulty to get a site.  It is the rest of the expenses that got to us: $12 just to get our motorhome and tow vehicle across the toll bridge.  Groceries and supplies typically 50% more than off island prices.  Gas 35 cents more per gallon.  The lesson, which we seemed to have forgotten from our last visit, is to stock up completely before crossing the bridge.   We’ll remember next time.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA