We have left the keys and begun a leisurely trek north, with stops planned at the towns of many a friend and relative. First up: Coral Springs to spend two nights in Xavier and Joy’s driveway. After departing Bahia Honda we headed up the Overseas Highway and onto the Florida and Sawgrass Turnpikes, arriving in the later afternoon, along the way having been reminded how little we miss Miami traffic. We were able to visit not only with Xavier and Joy, but also Uncle Carlos and Auntie Joan the day after our arrival.
Our schedule had been determined by a special event, Roseann and Anthony’s surprise engagement party. The party was the surprise, not their engagement. They already knew they were engaged. Their friends Rosalee and Vinny created an outstanding event in their backyard, with a ridiculous amount of gourmet and Italian food provided by several guests. I think this was the single most Italian thing to which I have ever been. Of the 13 men attending, there were four Anthony’s, three Vincents, two Josephs, and two Salvadores. Oh yeah, Ivan and I also attended, everyone else was Italian.
Monday morning we headed across Alligator Alley towards Naples before turning north towards Sarasota. A bit under four hours later we crossed the bridge onto Siesta Key for a six day stay at the Turtle Beach County Campground. Reservations during peak season are difficult to acquire, and the prices are quite steep, perhaps the most expensive place we have ever stayed with the exception of our desperate night at a resort near the Coachella festival.
Thus we were that much more disappointed by what we encountered: major construction and beach renovation directly in front of the campground. The county was going all out to restore the beach after years of major erosion, and trying to get it all done before the start of turtle egg laying season in May.
Accordingly, bulldozers and other heavy machinery were in operation all day, and getting to an undisturbed or quite section of the beach required a bit of a hike. Having paid through the nose for a scarce spot we felt a bit tricked; no one mentioned the project when we made the reservation, and the refund policy required you to request it days before your arrival, even if you simply wanted to shorten the stay.
The campground is medium-small with only 40 spots, but they are crowded in a bit tightly, and if it wasn’t for the empty spot across from ours, making the backing turn into our site would have been difficult. The place is full hook up, including sewage, and offers free “RV campground typical” wifi, which is to say, partially working part of the day. You are paying for beachfront access here, but even without the restoration project, I am just not sure it is worth the $62 per night after taxes.
We made the best of it though, hiking up the beach to get clear of the construction, drives through the rich neighborhoods, and exploring the two restaurants across the street. We can report that the draft beer happy hour special may be better at the Turtle Beach grill, but the food was top notch at Turtles Waterfront Restaurant. We can strongly recommend the crab meat nachos with a carafe of Pinot Grigio.
We also crossed back over the causeway bridge to visit the local Moose Lodge. This is one of the better ones from the dozen or so we have seen. A thriving club with plenty of regular members, the affordable prices we are used to, and a calendar full of special events. We liked it enough to come back the next evening for wings and trivia night. I am proud to report that even though Rosemarie and I were the only two on our team (most teams had a table full of people, six or seven) we still tied for third place.
We closed out our last day with a couple of miles of “shell hiking” along the beach before rigging our home for the short trip to Gloria and Bill’s the net morning. Next year we will take a pass Turtle Beach and manage our Venice area stays between The Bayba’s driveway, Rambler’s Rest and a couple of the local state parks. Any recommendations appreciated.