Last post I offered up two competing route plans for our 2017 adventures; one that took as back west like in 2015, the other east like in 2016, but left it unanswered as to which we chose to execute. The answer is “The West” plan.
After departing Mount Dora we headed north to visit cousin Robb, Colleen, and the twins, Maeve and Nola. Unfortunately I misunderstood their Spring Break plans and we were unable to connect since they were not even in Gainesville. Promising to catch them in the fall, we simply accelerated our departure by a couple of days and turned northwest towards the panhandle, researching a one night Passport-America stopping point on the fly. We made it as far as Quincy, just passed Tallahassee, for a stay at Beaver Lake RV Park, a no frills place conveniently located just off I-10. Full hook ups in a grass field for $20, not too shabby for Florida in the early spring. If I had more time to research we would have aimed for Pat Thomas Park just a few miles further off of the interstate, but with near perfect five star reviews and only $15 a night.
The next day we pushed on to Pensacola, planning to stay at the Blue Angel Naval Recreation Area with our Key West friends Bob and Michelle. Unfortunately I had misjudged the season and assumed they would have sites available without reservation. Wrong! We had to do some scrambling, but ended up at another military campground, Oak Grove, a few miles up the road, We got their last full hook up spot, but at $27 a night it was a bit more than we are used to paying for military campgrounds. It was, however, a great location, with decent amenities and a very short walk along the boardwalk to a nice beach.
The next morning we went back to Blue Angel having gone through the reservation process like we should have done in the first place. Blue Angel actually has two RV campgrounds: Anchor cove, which is heavily wooded, provides power and water only, and is on compact dirt/gravel sites, or Battleship Row which is a bit less wooded and offers either full hook up or electric and water only sites, most on concrete pads. Bob and Michelle were in Anchor Cove, and at $15 vs the $23 a night charge, we were happy to join them there. They had scoped us out a great site just across from theirs, and we pulled in late morning ready for a solid three day stay.
Remember those plans we wrote up last post, especially “The West” option? There is a saying in the military that the first casualty of battle is “the plan,” and between Gainesville and Pensacola is where our’s began to need, shall we say, serious adjustment. First, having selected the western route, we decided to take advantage of the very, very affordable yet ostensibly high quality dental care available in Los Algodones, Mexico. But someone, and I wont say who (except that their name rhymes with Hosemarie) had procrastinated getting a new passport after his or her old one had expired. This meant emergency applications with additional expedite and overnight delivery fees and an adjustment of our westward sprint.
Before I move on to other factors that had us adjusting our schedule, let me say how much of a pain in the ass the US passport application and renewal process can be, and hopefully save someone some trouble. First, we googled passport application locations, which took us to a post office. (We did this in our RV, with Loki hooked up, on our first day in Pensacola before we even checked into the campground.) They told us that only certain USPS offices do passports, they weren’t one of them, and pointed us to another office. That office informed us that yes indeed, they would be glad to process it, once we had made an appointment, which was not available until next week. BUT, they pointed us downtown to the courthouse were we could get it done easily since they had, like, six full time passport people. So we manuevered Serenity, Loki in tow, through some narrow streets in downtown Pensacola only to find that the court house (with one employee working this issue) does not do passport renewals, only initial issues. The bottom line is this: don’t go to the post office or courthouse at all, just print out the forms from the online website, get your photo taken at a CVS, and submit the whole thing yourself.
OK, back to route plan revisions: My Dad and Stepmom Marcia are also full time RVers and they too are working a western route for 2017. In 2015 and 2016 we had been unable to coordinate a joint RV venture despite occasionally being within striking distance. I think this was because we were all new enough to full time RVing and wanted to work our plans, and not be subject to the fluid demands of others. But in late 2016, beginning with our joint stay at Wekiva Falls followed by their visit to Key West, I think we had sort of mutually decided to make a bit more effort in 2017.
So a couple of days after we checked in to Blue Angel, I thought to ask about the ability to sponsor friends and family in the park, something just not possible in the ultra high demand Key West Naval Air Station. We got a green light, I called Dad, who was at the time headed for the panhandle anyway, and after some negotiation they cancelled an existing reservation and pushed on to Pensacola. They flexed their schedule by skipping past some central panhandle locations, and we flexed ours by extending our three day stay to a full week.
So we had about four days to hang out with Bob and Michelle, who showed us around town and across the FL_AL boarder for a meal at the world famous Lambert’s, home of the throwed rolls. We have been to our share of what I’ll call “Southern Comfort Food” type restaurants, and this is near the top. A ridiculously large amount of food because pretty much every entree is a big portion that comes with two hefty sides, and then top that off with the constant “pass arounds,” an assortment of additional sides that the wait staff brings around in unlimited buckets, except for the freshly baked yeast rolls, which are, as you might have guessed, thrown to you. And even with that amount of food, they don’t bat an eye at giving you a take out box that you can fill with those pass arounds for your next several meals at home.
Dad and Marcia arrived and we had three days to hang out with them, enjoying several fine group meals, a lot of wine, and a few hours at the truly impressive Naval Aviation Museum on the base.
Eventually it was time for all of us to move on: we were still sorting out our revised schedule but wanted to sprint through the south at least as far as New Mexico before slowing down, and they had reservations in Alabama and Mississippi. Though we would be a bit ahead of them on the westward march, we figured there would just might be additional opportunities for us to RV together down the road.