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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!