58 Months Fulltiming: October 2019 Report

The Distance:  1,708 miles as we finished our sprint to the East Coast in Virginia, then down to Florida, where we bounced around between Venice and Central Florida.  This brought our 2019 total to 8,758 miles.  1-route

The Places:  We had a few days in Virginia Beach to see Linda and family before turning south for a visit with Mom and Tim in Wilmington, NC.  After a one nighter in Florence and a two day stay at a the military campground in Kings Bay, we returned to Florida and enjoyed four days at Gilchrist Blue Springs, with Cousin Robb, Colleen and the twins coming over from Gainseville to hang with us. 2-pkm

We totaled up 7 days at military campgrounds, 4 at a state park, 6 at private resorts, and a whopping 14 in the homes of family and friends.  This gave us 8 days with full hook ups and 9 with partial (electric and water.)  3-img_4845

The Budget:  A little better than 6% under budget.  Spending nearly half the month with family and friends and a budget bolstered by a very successful market really helped to compensate for the big gas bill associated with over 1,700 miles.  4-dscf4484

The Drama and the Improvements:   Mr Mobile RV knocked out a slew of repairs and improvements for us this month: water pump replaced, hydraulic problems resolved, automatic stairs fixed, under storage lighting rewired, roof spot sealed, and our tow receiver extended and a bike rack welded on.  Whew, hoping for no drama until we get back to him in March. 5-img_4754

 

Venice, McIntosh, Venice

Our return to Florida had thus far been rather straight forward: visit family near Ocala then head south for the big ceremony in Lake Mary.  From then until we reached The Keys, however, things got complicated with lots of inefficient bouncing around the state for various purposes. 1-venice-4

We started that process with a trip down to Venice, which has become a key location for us during both the late Fall and early Spring since we can stay with Gloria and Jerry, see doctors, and make repairs and do maintenance on Serenity all in one go.  While we would normally not get to Venice until a few weeks later, we took advantage of our early return to Florida to do all those things even though it would complicate our route planning.  2-venice-3

We always have a great time in Venice.  We get Gloria’s excellent Puerto Rican style cooking, Rose’ brother, nephew and niece all live nearby, PKM gets to explore an entire house (and obsessively track the rabbits that visit every evening,) we visit local Moose Lodges, and hit the plethora of thrift stores in the region.  This year they introduced us to the Thursday morning Englewood Farmers Market.  It is a quite nice and good sized event that we enjoyed and made a few purchases, and then finished the afternoon off with bar poker at the Englewood Moose just blocks away. 3-moose-1

On Friday we picked up Serenity from Mr Mobile RV in Port Charlotte and back tracked northeast to Grand Lake RV Resort for a two day stay in order to participate in our second annual McIntosh 1890’s Festival.  Grand Lake RV is ideal for our McIntosh event: it is perfectly positioned ten minutes away from the festival, and honors the Passport-America 50% off rate ($24 for a large, pull through, full hook up site.) 4-venice-1

We really killed it at last year’s McIntosh Festival after getting accepted as vendors when someone else cancelled at the last minute.  Having participated once, we now get the right to remain vendors each year as long as we make payment and show up.  Grand Lake’s close location really comes in handy since you have to be set up and out of the roadways by 7 A.M. the morning of the show.  So we were there before dawn setting up, and like last year, the early bird shoppers were already walking around with flashlights well before the official start time.  5-mcintosh-1

We killed it again this year, better even than our previous excellent result.  Cousin Robb and the twins drove down and hung out with us for a good portion of the day, with the girls helping with sales in both traditional ways, i.e., handing over items and collecting money, and a couple of non-traditional ways, e.g., standing on the customer side of the tables loudly complimenting the merchandise and expressing surprise at how affordable it all is.  Yes, a bit shady, but they were pretty obvious about it and it was all in good fun.

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Nola, Robb, and Maeve.

After the show we packed up and spent one more night at Grand Lake, reveling in the success of our first event since our last market in Marquette six weeks back.  The next morning it was back to Venice for more work on Serenity, medical stuff, and Gloria’s birthday.  Unlike last year we did not dress up for the neighborhood Halloween party, but I did knock out a quick pumpkin carving to honor the night.

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My quickie Siamese cat pumpkin carving.

As far as our repairs and upgrades: Mr Mobile RV added an extension to our tow receiver and welded a bike rack to it, significantly improving our bike storage.  He also fixed the nagging hydraulic problem we had been working around for a year which had been causing our slides, usually the left rear one, to slowly work itself out while we were driving, and our leveling jacks to not recognized when they were fully retracted.  This one required a lot of troubleshooting time to isolate the specific component causing the issues.

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If you are a fan of Mixed Martial Arts, and the UFC in particular, you will probably get this pic. 

Those were the main two things, but we gave him a lengthy punch list, from which he was able to knock out rewiring the under storage lights, changing a loose connection on the automatic stairs, replacing a failing water pump, and spot fixing the roof sealant, extending that warranty by a year.  He did all this in eight days despite having a parking lot full of motorhomes, mostly Class A’s, awaiting his attention. 9-family

Next up: October report and then three weeks back in Central Florida.

CFL, LMHS, HOF

After departing Gilchrist Blue Springs State Park we headed south to a group of towns on the north side of Orlando.  Normally we would stay at one of two state parks (Wekiwa or Blue Spring) or at a few county parks (Kelly Park at Rock Springs, Lake Monroe, or Trimble.)  They were all full up, at least for the three day weekend we needed at the times we checked, so we opted to lock in reservations at a private RV resort, Twelve Oaks, rather than work our usual “check multiple times a day for last minute cancellations” method that has served us so well in the past. 1-hof-4-rose-i

Twelve Oaks, at a bit under $41 a night with a veteran’s discount, and currently positioned directly beside very extensive highway construction, is not exactly cheap.  But it was the best positioned option for our specific reason for visiting this specific town on this specific weekend. 2-hof-2-inductees

Which was my induction, along with five other former Lake Mary High School athletes, coaches, and staff, into LMHS’ inaugural Hall of Flame class.   It was a great honor and the ceremony was top notch.  I got to meet up with coaches and a couple of people I went to school with that I haven’t seen in 35 years.  We had a cocktail hour, a catered meal, a well conducted ceremony complete with short video montages for each inductee.  And yes, a whole lot of speechifying.  3-hof-3-bio

The only down point was that both my parents ran into complications forcing them to pull out even after having secured the pricey tickets, and in Dad and Marcia’s case had already driven down from the panhandle.  Ah well, we had an aunt, uncle, cousin, son and daughter-in-law available to fill in for an overall fun and nostalgic night.  4-hof-1-family

 

Back to Florida!

After our four day visit with Mom and Tim in Wilmington, we headed due south towards the Sunshine State, but at our traditional, somewhat leisurely pace.  We stopped for one night at Swamp Fox Campground in South Carolina, a perfectly serviceable full hook up park within the Passport America discount system; so $23 for our stay.  We followed this with two days at Eagle Hammock, the RV Park on Kings Bay Naval Base1-swamp-fox

This campground and the one at Mayport Naval Station have been on my list to check out for sometime now.  It is a relatively small campground that has an interesting method of dealing with overflow campers once all the full hook up sites are full: They begin splitting sites, with the first rig getting full services and the extra rig getting electricity (whichever amperage the first rig is not using) and water (off a splitter.)  The camp hosts were very helpful and well organized, getting us into one of the biggest split sites still available.  On a nice lake with access to the good sized commissary and exchange complex this place was well worth it at $17 a night. 2-ga-sign

Sunday morning we pulled out and headed for one of our favorite Florida state parks, Gilchrist Blue Springs.  Purchased from private owners by the state a couple of years ago, it has technically been renamed “Ruth B. Kirby Gilchrist Blue Springs State Park,” but I’m only typing that out this one time.  In addition to the beautiful springs and woodland trails, it’s less than half an hour from cousin Robb and Colleen’s house, so they and the twins are able to come out to the springs and hang with us, work and school schedules permitting.

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A successful geocaching hunt.

This they did, with Maeve and Nola getting an extra holiday from school so they could tent camp on our site for a night.  We had an excellent visit with all the expected activities: swimming, snorkeling, short hikes, geocaching, nature encounters (deer, wild turkey, giant cypress trees), a campfire, and smores.

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The main spring

The quaint town of High Springs is 15 minutes or so from the park, and provides all the things you would want from small town America: a few restaurants, an ice cream shop, a craft brewery, a barber, thrift stores, a weekend farmers market, small groceries, and various artsy little shops.  On our last day we hit the town’s very best Mexican Restaurant, El Patio, and High Springs Brewing Company for an excellent flight.

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The twins and “Aric” a 350 year old Cyprus. 

As I have written before, Gilchrist Blue Springs State Park is not for everyone: two miles of washboard entry roads, tight maneuvering to get to the sites, all of which are on dirt, and tree cover preventing easy connection for those with satellite TV.  But we love it, and plan to stop every time we can fit it during our exit from and return to Florida each year.

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The less visited second spring

Next up: back to Central Florida, I get honored, and we begin five weeks of rather chaotic bouncing around Central Florida and the southern half of the Gulf Coast.  7-pkm-leaves

 

 

Working our way down the Atlantic Coast: Wilmington

Our entire route from the UP to Florida was determined exclusively by where family and friends happened to be.  We met up with Nick in Green Bay, Chris and Amy in Burlington, Andrea in Chicago, and Linda and crew in Virginia Beach.  We continued that plan during the second week of October when we made the long run down to Mom and Tim’s in Wilmington, with a brief stop in Castle Hayne to store Serenity at Jack’s Boat and RV Storage Lot.  This is the same place we used the last two visits to Wilmington, and if you have the need, we recommend him.

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PKM not enthused about getting underway again.

The Fords have been trying to downsize from their large historic home for two years now, suffering through a last minute buyer pull out, major hurricane damage (Florence in 2018) and the complicated repairs and insurance issues resulting.  Shortly before our arrival they managed, finally, to sell their old place and move into a spacious townhome in a newly built development nearby.  You can see the palpable relief on their faces finally having a long ordeal completed, and it must be a pleasant change to transition not only to a smaller and more manageable home, but also one in which every single board and fixture is brand new.

Restaurants and other excellent meals always feature prominently in our Wilmington visits, and this time was no exception.  Rosemarie made a fresh shrimp, spinach and quinoa concoction for one of our dine in meals while Tim put his Big Green Egg to use to make sliders for another.  We had a great lunch at Peno’s, a Greek fast casual place in town with fantastic hummus and gyros.  And as always, at the top of our culinary priority was the Wednesday evening wine pairing event at Sweet and Savory.  Six wines matched with six small courses for a very affordable $25. sweet-savory

Over nearly five years of full time RVing, our wardrobes have become decidedly casual, but in preparation for a upcoming formal event, we have been hitting thrift shops and discount stores to make ourselves presentable.  Mom and Tim found us an excellent local thrift shop that took care of most of my outfit in one shot.

Mom and Tim had this crazy plan to rent van to haul a mattress and box spring down to Central Florida to give to Aunt Judy, a venture that would, in my general opinion, have cost more than the value of the items and taken about 18 hours of driving, round trip.  Since we were headed that way eventually anyway, we stuff the mattress and box spring into our rig, living without the dinette for a week until we were able to make delivery. mattress

Next up: Our return to Florida after a brief stop at another military campground.