Having been in the Central Florida area for most of December including the holidays, it was time to move down to our Winter home, Sigsbee Annex RV Campground on the Key West Naval Air Station. This will be our third winter stop there, with our stay lengthening with each season. In 2015 at the very beginning of our full time lifestyle, we stayed for two weeks. After completing our first full year on the road in 2016 we stayed for 48 days, and this year we anticipate something closer to 75 days here. The environment and value are just to good to pass up, and we don’t want to make the mistake we did in 2015 of leaving the balmy Florida weather in the middle of winter.
Originally we planned to stop over in Coral Springs to spend New Years Eve with Xavier and Joy, but they took off to NYC for the holidays, so we simply made a one night stop in Cutler Bay, south of Miami on our way to the islands. Our friends Lisa and Jason hooked us up with a free overnight stay in their large subdivision’s club house parking lot, which allowed us to visit with them and their three girls as well as save some money. We parked in the back portion of the lot and discreetly opened up only one slide, hidden on the far side of the rig next to the hedgerow.
By late morning we were on the road for the four hour drive to Key West, topping off gas at the most affordable place our Gas Buddy app could find along the route, just into Key Largo. This is a cost saving step for a Key West stay where the gas prices are 30 cents a gallon higher than in south Florida. In addition to the 100 mile drive in both directions, we anticipate a healthy amount of main generator use during the lengthy periods of dry camping there.
Last year we arrived in mid January, and were lucky to have a spot available immediately; for the previous three days they had turned away the late afternoon arrivals due to a full camp, requiring them to return the next morning to fill in as a few rigs left. Having learned that lesson, we resolved to show up before the absolute peak this year, and upon arrival we found the park perhaps 85% full with a decent site available. We didn’t have the astounding luck of getting one of the prized water front sites, but the one we were assigned is fine for our needs until we get rotated into the power and water hook up sites.
If you read our posts from previous Key West visits, during the peak winter season the hook up sites are completely filled, making up as they do only 20% of the campground. This means that when you first arrive you get assigned to a dry camping site and go on a rigidly controlled wait list, published every day, to move up the line and get into the hook up sites. Once in those sites, you can only stay for 14 days before having to move out to allow a drycamper to move in. The more full the campground, the longer the wait in dry camp. They gave us an estimate of 21 days for those of us that arrived at the end of December this year. Last year it was 28 days when we arrived in mid January.
Does that sound like a hardship you wouldn’t want to experience? Yeah, I get that. But consider: for $14 a day we are living in Key West. We have a house battery system for our lights, propane for our refrigerator, stove top, grill, and water heater, and two generators to take care of our electrical needs when we decide to turn them on. It’s winter, but it’s also basically the Caribbean, which means it gets hot. But on this low lying island with limited building heights and low vegetation, the ocean breezes mitigate the heat quite a bit, and when we can’t take it, we turn on the big genny to power the ACs. I figure a worst case day will entail five hours on the big Onan generator at about a day at half a gallon per hour, so maybe six buck in gas. Those days are atypical, however, and usually our incredibly efficient little Honda generator will suffice for our basic electrical needs.
The Nieves Clan joined us new years Eve for a couple of days. We have had them in our RVs before, at one point stuffing eight of us into The Big Kahuna, but this was the first time their dog, Christmas, was included. I was skeptical of how that would go, not because of the cat (frankly PKM could take her) but because the dog seems particularly excited by my presence and barks a lot. But during their visit she was great, and compared to some of our neighbors’ yippy little creatures, she was a dream.
We all participated in a big pot luck dinner New Years Eve for what must have been at least a hundred park residents before heading back to the rig for movies and games, which was particularly instructive. We went to great pains to make sure six year old Kai understood the rules of Uno and had a bit of assistance along the way, only to have her utterly decimate four of us over the course of the evening. Lesson learned: do not help the baby, the baby is just fine, and if it appears otherwise she’s faking it. We closed out the night with a movie, five of the seven of us making it all the way to midnight to count down the new year’s arrival.
And last of all, we closed out the year with a successful negotiation for the sale of The Big Kahuna to an eBay bidder, who confirmed intent to purchase and made a deposit on the last day of 2016. What a way to close out the year, and more on that transaction to follow. So Happy New Year, everyone, only a week late!