That title makes it pretty clear what the “upcoming international trip” I mentioned in the last two posts is about. But before we could go to Cuba, we had family to visit and things to take care of throughout South Florida. Our grand total of 3 miles in January through March for Serenity was about to get dwarfed by the true start of our 2019 travels.
Normally when we leave The Keys we head up to Coral Springs to see Xavier and Joy before crossing westward to eventually meet up with Gloria in Venice. This time we had to reverse things a bit in order to balance planned work on the RV, a cat sitter, and value priced plane tickets. Though not the most mileage efficient plan, it worked out best for our needs, and we got to enjoy the Tamiami Trail (US 41) through the everglades rather than our usual Alligator Alley (I-75) route. Though you are not always quite as elevated as on I-75, we found the opportunities to see wildlife significantly better on this road, and enjoyed it much more than the alternative.
We made a one night stop at Midway Campground (you can guess about where that is) our very first Corps of Engineers park. Hard to believe we have been full time RVing for more than four years with a rather heavy road schedule and have never stayed at one of these great campgrounds before. Of course, we were winging it like we often do and had not made reservations because we did not know how far we would feel like driving that day. And we were in the middle of the Everglades with very limited reception, so working through the COE reservation system was quite impossible. Fortunately the campground had a “pay by cash or check” drop box and, after several careful readings, we were able to determine which sites were reservable and which were not, so as to be assured that we were not just pulling into a spot reserved by a late arrival customer.
It was nice, and we will likely make this a one day stop again if our path warrants. There are only 26 RV sites, they are electric only, but water and a dump station are on premises. The sites are large, and the setting pleasant, with lots of greenery all around. We stayed inside due to rain throughout the evening, but I imagine mosquitoes could be quite bad whilst in the middle of the Everglades.
From Midway it was on to Port Charlotte to drop off Serenity at Mr Mobile RV’s for Bill and his crew to fix a few minor things. Bill has worked on our rig a couple of times, and he has become the RV mechanic I trust most. I remember my grandfather had a regular mechanic, Tom, that did all of his auto repair work, so maybe Bill is our Tom. I suspect that there is some industry wide secret society that mandates that truly reliable and fair mechanics all have a one syllable first name. Anyway, Bill would work on Serenity while we were bouncing around the state before and after Cuba, and allowed us to park the rig in his lot for the two weeks we would be busy at no extra charge.
A short aside: we were very low on propane (in our fixed 24 gallon tank) after a season of extensive dry camping in Key West, and Bill advised us to top off before arriving since we would not be hooked up to electricity at his place (our refrigerator runs off propane when electricity is not available.) So we pulled into one place we had googled, only to find that they no longer do RVs. On their advice we headed to the local Tractor Supply Company. Unfortunately their propane refill station was poorly positioned, and while I was able to pull into it, I was unable to maneuver out of the station due to the parking lot configuration. We spent half an hour trying before giving up and searching the store for the owner of the pick up truck parked, perfectly legally, in the spot that prevented us from making the turn. We only fill up twice a year or so, but I need to do better research before the next time.
We stayed with Gloria and her husband Jerry for four days in Venice, FL. We enjoy this town; Venice was our first Moose Lodge, and we try to visit anytime we are in the area. Jerry is very hospitable during our stays, and while I was their IT consultant and repairman, he sprung for a family dinner at an excellent local BBQ place for the four of us plus Rose’s brother, niece, nephew, and their mother.
And while in Venice we made two significant purchases. For our trusty 1997 Geo Tracker (Loki) it was time for a new set of tires. They were last replaced in June of 2016, so we got 60K miles out of them, and it would have been more if I rotated them (the nature of the tow system and an alignment issue has caused increased wear on the inner tread of our front tires.)
And for Rosemarie, who has talked and talked about us trying to learn an instrument of some sort, we finally got her a Ukulele. We found her perfect instrument at The Rhythm Inlet. Jeff walked us through the basics, and eagerly encouraged us to pick up any of his over 150 Uke’s and give it a go or let him demo it. While we were planning on a very affordable “entry level” instrument, we ended up going a bit higher for one with excellent sound and a lovely sea themed design carved and inlaid.
This is not shaping up to be the most financially responsible months for us considering that our big trip to Cuba came right on the heels of those purchases, but we think our first quarter financial discipline will allow a month of largess. Besides, for the six days of the Cuba trip, plus the eight combined days before and after in Venice and Coral Springs, we were staying “rent free,” i.e., no campground fees.
Leaving Pad Kee Meow in the capable hands of Gloria, our last remaining cat sitter, we crossed back across Florida to Coral Springs for a two night stay with Xavier and Joy before catching our flight out of Fort Lauderdale to Cuba. Usually we have our rig in their driveway while there, so it was nice to visit without having to worry about our big rig clogging up the driveway.
Next up: Cuba!