The Start of a Month Long Stay in Sanibel

Sanibel is one of our favorite places in Florida.  We typically visit after a string of family and friend stops along with a series of markets, so it has the added benefit of being a restful place capping a couple of months of significant driving and activity.  It is, however, expensive; as in one of the three priciest places we stay all year.  We get a modest discount for a full month stay, which brings the RV resort fee down from $58 to a bit over $48 a day.  Because of this, we want our full 30 day stay, and are loathe to compromise on this. 1-sunset

What this meant this year is that despite having our last Lake Mary Farmers Market on a Saturday, which continues into the early afternoon, we still packed up the rig and drove all the way down to Sanibel upon completion of the event rather than staying one more night in Central Florida and making the trip south the next morning.  We had to do this because Periwinkle Park could not slide our reservation even one day due to their fully booked near Christmas status.

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Rose in front of a Ft Myers area water front bar’s mural.

We woke up a bit early, I dropped Rose off at the market and helped her with the basic set up before leaving her to do the rest.  I drove back to the campground, made the rig ready for the road, drove it to a big supermarket parking lot half a mile from the market, disconnected Loki and then joined her for the rest of the event.  It made for quite the long day, but it was worth it just to finally get back to one of our happy places and not “lose” a day of our month long stay. 3-site

Periwinkle Park, by the way, is the only RV game on the island unless you secure one of the season long volunteer positions at Ding Darling National Wildlife Preserve.  What do we love about this place, meaning both the park and Sanibel?  I often compare and contrast Sanibel with Key West, and Periwinkle with the Sigsbee RV park in Key West.  Sanibel is like a more laid back and far less crowded version of Key West in some ways.  It doesn’t have the party bars and pub crawls, but it has an island mentality, easy access to the ocean and seashore, excellent restaurants, and a generally wonderful vibe.

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Sunset behind our new pop up gazebo.

Periwinkle is one of the few RV parks of the hundreds we have visited that possesses a welcoming (and clique-free) social atmosphere even new comers can enjoy.  Almost every evening at 5 PM a collection of RVers gather at the modest covered pavilion beside one of the duck ponds for cocktails and conversation.  Lots of parks have social events and activities, but Periwinkle strikes me as a cut above most.  It does not have the almost insane level of Sigsbee Park’s social activities, but it is quite lovely, and each year we come back we seem to get further involved with the regulars.

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This guy migrated to Periwinkle Parks since our last visit.  The captive duck and swan population has taken a big hit during his stay.  About 4 1/2 feet long, and smart enough to avoid capture so far.  And no worries; he’s behind a chain link fence with all the food he could want.

But why are we really here, you might ask?  For the shelling, obviously.  Sanibel’s geographic position as a barrier island mostly perpendicular to the Gulf Coast means that it captures a wonderful array and amount of Caribbean shells.  We find tulips, turkey wings, shark’s eyes, Florida fighting conchs, horse conchs, angel wings, lightening whelks, cockles, scallops, murex, olives, coquinas, and twice now the very rare junonia.  This is the place that Rose restocks her shell collection to make jewelry and other decor. 6-sunset

We have heard acquaintances report that they did’t find the shelling good at all during their weekend visit to Sanibel: this is because the shelling conditions vary as much as surf conditions.  One day Bowman’s Beach might be top notch, another day it is Blind Pass walking south, another it is Lighthouse Point.  You have to be willing to check out all the possibilities, but we have never been disappointed with our stay on the island.

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Right, no shells at all.  Place is way overrated.

While we don’t readily give up days on Sanibel, we made several exceptions this year, a couple of medical appointment visits back in Venice, and of course, Thanksgiving over in Coral Springs with Xavier, Joy, and Rose’s sister Melissa.  I had assumed we would all go back to La Vie, the wonderful Lebanese restaurant we had so thoroughly enjoyed last year, thinking this might be our new Thanksgiving tradition.  But Joy decided to do the full turkey and sides sit down meal even if it was just the five of us.

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A flavorful and tender turkey Joy made this year.

We stayed for two days before heading back to Sanibel, about which we will have a lot more to say in a coming post; this one just covers the first week or so.

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Helping out a bit at Xavier and Joy’s with coconut removal.  The juice was excellent!

 

Three more weeks in Central Florida

On the First of November I picked up the motorhome from Mr Mobile RV in Port Charlotte where he had undergone round 2 of this season’s repairs and upgrades.  After swinging by Gloria and Jerry’s in Venice we headed up I-75 bound for our first stop back in Central Florida: a weekend stay at Lake Monroe County Park.

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Our camera shy cat, tough to get a facial shot.

Since we keep things fairly loose and flexible, we had not planned far enough ahead to secure weekend reservations at our preferred CFL campgrounds.  This meant that while we would enjoy several five and six day stints at Blue Spring State Park and Trimble County Park, we would be bouncing between those locations and our back up weekend spots, starting with Lake Monroe.

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Not even dark yet and this guy is boldly foraging right beside the board walk at Blue Spring State Park.

We have stayed there many times during our five years of full time RVing, and thus I have written about it many times in this blog.  I won’t go over every little bit, but for those in the region needing a weekend place when the popular state parks are full and you don’t want to pay private resort prices, this is a good option.  For $17 a night you get a large wooded site with power and water, a marina with boat ramp, and a dump station.

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Sunset at Blue Spring State Park.

The down sides: there is no on site ranger or even a camp host, so the rules, such as quiet hours and leashed pets, are not well enforced; there are nearby active train tracks so you will have an occasional train whistle during the night, and the power plant a couple of blocks away makes a lot of industrial, steam-like noises for much of the day.  I don’t mind the place, Rose is not keen on it.

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PKM helping with the driving.

We have a good number of friends and family in CFL, but another reason for staying through much of November is we have a weekly market in Lake Mary that is usually pretty successful for us.  It is run by the city and thus managed by a paid employee, which we usually find translates into a well run venue with a low weekly fee. (Most markets tend to be run by a private citizen, often one of the other vendors, who has negotiated use of the location and charges vendors noticeably more than an equivalent city run event.) 5-mcintosh-1

We had secured permission to do four straight Saturdays plus the once a month Wine and Art Wednesday, an evening affair with an outdoor bar and food trucks.  We had good to excellent results in four out of five of those markets, but even with one less than stellar performance, we always enjoy the ambiance, live music, and other vendors at this local venue.

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The actual spring head at Blue Spring State Park.

After our weekend stay at Lake Monroe, we finally got back into Trimble Park, near Mount Dora, one of our favorite CFL campgrounds.  With only 15 sites and situated on a beautiful chain of lakes, it can be difficult to get a reservation, particularly on weekends.  We find that a lot of the campers are locals enjoying a weekend getaway.  It is a beautiful campground with every site under old growth tree canopy with most of them backing right onto the lake shore.  There is a good amount of wildlife activity as well; during our various stays we have seen osprey, hawks, alligators (small ones) raccoons, various herons and other wading birds, snakes, and of course a plethora of squirrels.  The price is right too, only $23 a night for power and water sites.

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One of the quite little inlet docks at Trimble Park.

For the next weekend even Lake Monroe was full, probably because of the long Veterans Day weekend, and we were forced to pay more than $40 a night at Twelve Oaks RV Resort.  Under normal circumstances I would call the place ideally located for our needs, but with the massive construction project going on to expand State Road 46 into some sort of superhighway, the location is actually a bit intimidating.  Twelve Oaks actually lost part of their property to the project, and every time you leave or enter you are passing through the construction.  Oh well, it was only two nights.

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Along one of the nature trails at Trimble Park.

I did my usual tour of restaurants on Veterans Day (many offer something free or heavily discounted for vets) and was quite happy with the results.  I definitely made the right decision for breakfast by skipping the absolutely slammed Denny’s and IHOP and hitting the far less crowded Bob Evans for a great country style meal.

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One of our sites at Blue Spring State Park

After that we had two stays at Blue Spring State Park totaling eleven nights, broken up by another weekend stay at Lake Monroe.  Blue Spring never fails to deliver some interesting wild life sightings.  In addition to the gar and catfish clearly visible in the crystal clear spring head, the temperature had dropped low enough that the manatees had returned.  It is always nice to see them, but their presence also means that the spring is closed to human swimmers.  I also had occasional evening visits from a raccoon and an armadillo as well.

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Manatees clogging up the swimmin’ hole again.