Coral Springs Thanksgiving

After our final market day in Central Florida we headed south to Coral Springs, a bit north of Fort Lauderdale, to stay with Xavier and Joy for a few days.  We couldn’t afford for this stop to be pure leisure: we needed to get some things done in preparation for our upcoming month long stop in Sanibel and the markets in the region.  This meant hitting the craft stores to refill supplies, stocking up on groceries since things are noticeably more expensive on the island, and an afternoon at our storage facility to retrieve some things, put away some things, and reorganize it a bit. 

While in Corals Springs Joy helped me turn this batch of Jackson’s peppers from this…

For most of the last 15 years we have hosted or co-hosted Thanksgiving dinner with Xavier and Joy.  I do the turkey (brined and spatchcocked) with the rest of the immediate family providing other courses and side dishes.  We have hosted up to 17 people, but in recent years it was just the four of us and felt a lot less special.  So this year we changed things up and skipped making the meal all together in favor of a dining out at a great restaurant.

…into this

Yes, most places are closed for the day, but if you are in a reasonably large metropolitan area you can find plenty of options; establishments that stay open to cater to just the sort of folks like us that are not up for the hassle of making a big sit down meal.   We did some online research, but it really takes phone calls to sort things out as most of the restaurant websites did not explicitly address their holiday hours.   We narrowed it down to a few ethnic options before selecting La Vie Lebanese in nearby Pompano.

PKM being taunted by this guy.  He’s real tough when there is glass in between them.

What a great choice, everything was fantastic!  The decor, service, and especially the food exceeded our high expectations.  We started with an appetizer sampler platter of hot mezza dishes to share, and followed up with most of us selecting one of the lamb offerings.  The portions were large enough that we ended up taking a good amount home, and it was still delicious warmed up for lunch the next day.  I think we may have a new Thanksgiving tradition on our hands. 

The food was too delicious for us to even remember to get a picture of it once it came.

Our Central Florida Routine: Bouncing Between Wekiwa Springs and Lake Monroe

Having secured and prepaid the vendor fee for four Saturdays at the Lake Mary Farmers Market, we scurried back to the region following our five day visit to Venice.  For our two and a half week stay we would end up spending the majority of our time at Wekiwa Springs State Park, but with two weekends at Lake Monroe County Park.

PKM did not enjoy her birthday costume…

As I have mentioned before, this is almost a pattern for us.  We prefer the public parks over private resorts in this region, with Wekiwa and Blue Spring State Park being our top two.  But with weekend availability difficult to secure without long range planning, we often end up at the very affordable and usually more easily available Lake Monroe site for a few days.

… but she sure enjoyed her “cake.”

We started with three days there, punctuated by our Saturday market, the second of our four.  We had great success, even better than our first week at the market, which we really needed after our big upgrade and repair bill on Serenity from October.  Then it was back over to Wekiwa Springs for the middle of the week.

Aside from the fantastic first magnitude spring, we really love Wekiwa for the wildlife.  Every visit we are almost assured of seeing wild turkeys, deer, wood peckers, and box tortoises.  Our weeks there this season were no exception with multiple sightings of all those, along with a brightly marked yellow rat snake down next to the spring itself.

Son Jackson was able to join us a couple of days there, and we snorkeled and free dove around the main spring a lot more than I recall ever doing.  Nothing deep or dangerous: I have zero interest in cave diving, besides, you can only get about 15 feet down before the outflow pushes you back up.  Even though the water temp is pretty steady at 72 degrees, the shorty wet suit I bought at a community yard sale in Key West really made a huge difference in how much time I could comfortably spend in the water.

Jackson and his brother Hollis visiting for the day.  Can’t think of anything that goes better together than power tools and drinkin’.

Then it was back to Lake Monroe for the long Veterans Day weekend and our third Lake Mary market.  We had just “so-so” results, lower than the first two Saturday’s.  A year or more ago we would have been quite satisfied with the sales that day, but our expectations have risen quite a bit as we have increased our inventory and become more selective in our market participation.

PKM and her new friend the gopher tortoise

At least Veterans Day was a rousing success.  Quite a few restaurants and other businesses offer free or discounted meals and services to vets over the weekend, and we took advantage of this through several sit down meals and a car wash.  The highlight was Texas de Brazil, one of the better Brazilian style steak house chains, where Jackson and Andrea joined us for dinner.

If you have never tried this type of restaurant, I highly recommend it.   You pay a set fee for the huge salad bar (it has a lot more than salad) and then the wait staff brings different cuts of meat directly to your table and slices off a select portion based on your preferences.  I believe they had 16 different cuts of steak, pork, chicken, and lamb available.  My $50 meal was free, the rest of the bill was discounted.  If you have vegetarians in your group, or just someone not enthused about massive quantities of meat, they can choose the salad bar only option for significantly less, and it is a great meal in and of itself.

Our diligent monitoring of the Reserve America site paid off when we managed to secure a full week at Wekiwa Springs due to a cancellation, allowing us to finish off our Central Florida time at our preferred location.  We participated in our final Lake Mary market for this season, and it was straight out disappointing.  It is difficult to correlate sales fluctuations when so many factors can effect them.  It may be timing since we were far enough away from Christmas and too close to black Friday, or perhaps the “oh a new vendor lets check them out” effect has worn off.  Here’s hoping that our upcoming Naples market is better. 

We did a lot of geocaching in the area, just as we have at nearly all of our stops ever since Stepmom Marcia reignited my enthusiasm for it back in early September.  If you cache in an area enough you usually find a that a high percentage of the caches are placed by the same few hobbyists.  It’s always interesting to discover their patterns and tendencies.

Some of the caches are quite big, like this ammo can out in the scrub forest.

This time it was Bobby Bear whose hides I spent a lot of time searching.  His caches stand out in that he has a, shall we say, stricter interpretation of the difficulty ratings.  All caches are assigned a difficulty rating from 1 to 5, and a terrain rating on the same scale.  A 1.5 difficulty is usually an easy find.  Many of Bobby Bear’s: not so much.  Whenever I pursued one of his hides I mentally doubled the rating he assigned so as to have realistic expectations about how hard it would be. 

Others are pretty tiny, just big enough for a scrap of paper to act as the finders log.

Our geocaching took us as far south as Orlando, were we stopped in at yet another Moose Lodge for a drink before heading home.  I think this is our 26th Moose Center we have visited since joining up in Venice, FL years ago.  If you RV or otherwise travel a lot within the US, we recommend joining one of the various lodge-type organizations.  Being a member provides you with an additional option for social interaction, a place for very affordable drinks and food, and some of them have RV spots either free or very cheap. 

Next up:  Down to Coral Springs for an unusual Thanksgiving.

46 Months Fulltiming: October 2018 Report

The Distance:  855 miles, way less than our huge September route, but a solid amount of movement as we explored The Panhandle, Central Florida, and part of the Southern Gulf Coast.  In 2018 we are up to 9,141 miles.

Zig Zagging our way across the state.

The Places:  We entered Florida on the 1st of the month and stayed five days at Topsail Hill State Park where Dad and Marcia are work camping.  It was our first stay at this excellent state park, but the red tide was strong during the latter half of our stop.  From there we headed east to Tyndall Air Force Base’s Family Camp, planning on a three day visit, but had to evacuate a day early as Hurricane Micheal came straight for us.  We fled east to Gainesville, staying with Cousin Robb and family for four days before backtracking a short bit to stay at yet another new Florida park, Gilchrist Blue Springs State Park for a full week. 

At Topsail before the red tide became a bit too much to enjoy the beach.

We began our Central Florida rounds with a move to Grand Lake RV Resort near Ocala in order to be positioned for the annual McIntosh Festival at which we had recently been accepted as vendors.  After that it was back to one of our favorites in the region, Trimble Park near Mount Dora for five days.  Unable to extend our time there, we went to our go to weekend spot for this area, Lake Monroe County Park.  We closed the month with a run south east to Venice to visit Rose’s mom, Gloria, and other family members.

The dog costume parade at the Lake Mary Market.

October saw us in public campgrounds and with family for the majority of our days: 18 days in public parks (12 state, 6 county) and in the homes of family for 8.  We stayed at a military park for 2 days and a private resort for 3.  We had full hook ups for 10 days, partial (electric and water) for 13, and the aforementioned house living for 8. 

The Budget:  Despite a few very successful market days, we ended up 65% over budget, almost the exact amount of our big repair and upgrade bill from Mr Mobile RV.   That also puts us over budget for the year for the first time, and by an amount that will be very difficult to claw back with only two months left.  Normally I think we could do it with a bit of an austerity plan and more aggressive market participation, but the remainder of 2018 includes a full month at one of our most expensive parks, and there is a major holiday coming up as well.  Yes, Winter Solstice is spendy for everyone, I’m sure.   Ah well, we will get as close as we can. 

We have done A LOT more geocaching ever since being re-inspired about the hobby by Stepmom Marcia back in September.

The Drama and the Improvements:   As reported here, we did some major work at the very end of this month.  We originally planned on just replacing the main awning fabric, fixing an awing strut, and doing some roof seam calking.  But our front A/C failed and the guy I trust to do honest work recommended we not just nurse our 11 year old roof along with seam filling, but rather reseal the whole thing.   Which we did, it looks fantastic, appears to be easier to keep clean, is reported to be helpful in climate control, and comes with a renewable warranty.  So yes, we think we made the right decision, but it did cost us!

Our monthly reports so far this year:

January Monthly Report

February Monthly Report

March Monthly Report

April Monthly Report

May Monthly Report

June Monthly Report

July Monthly Report

August Monthly Report

September Monthly Report

And here are our 20172016, and 2015 annual summaries which include monthly report links.