66 Months Fulltime RVing: June 2020 Report

The Distance: 332 miles once we left Sanibel and worked our way north through Central Florida into the northern part of the state.  2020 total mileage is up to 786.  1-june-route

The Places:  We spent 23 more days at Perwinkle Park in Sanibel before finally heading out.  We had three days at Wekiwa Springs State Park, then one night at Trimble Park near Mount Dora, and ended the month at Gilchrist Blue Spring State Park.  That’s 23 days in a private park and 7 in public parks (6 state, 1 county.)  We had full hook ups for 26 days and partial (power and water) for 4.  2-sanibel-palms

The Budget: Like last month, we were significantly over budget again: 17% this period.  Which is a bit frustrating because our daily camping fee was significantly lower than the previous two months since Perwinkle Park started charging out of season rates on June 1, bringing their average daily fee on a monthly rate down to $33.50 from nearly $48.  Wekiwa, Trimble, and Gilchrist were even lower ($29, $23,and $21, respectively.)  Also, we did not have to spend a dime on gas for the big rig since we had filled up shortly before arriving in Sanibel.


Rose on her B-Day: Pretty fantastic for 55…

The problem was a failure on our part to keep things well reigned in (we have gotten a bit looser with our spending after three months in COVID semi-isolation,) a complete lack of market and/or vending opportunities to pad the budget, plus two or three significant and only semi-expected major expenditures.  We finally had to replace Rosemarie’s iPad after nursing it along for years with a wonky screen, a full brake pad and rotor job for Loki, plus a new battery for the tracker as well.  Take away the either the iPad or the Loki improvements and we would be slightly under budget.  Ah well, there will always be things like this that need doing.


…meanwhile, here’s PKM and me.

The Drama and Improvements:  We continued our electronics upgrade plan with a new iPad for Rose, a no-cost scrubbing of her Macbook’s files to open up a lot of space and extend its life, and the aforementioned brakes and battery for the Tracker.    5-gator

Final Florida Stop on Our Way to the Mountains

Our last Florida stop: Gilchrist Blue Springs west of Gainesville, Florida’s newest state park, and one of our favorites.  It is a popular place for campers, but especially for day users, for whom the park limits vehicle access to a certain number, then closes the gates for a few hours, reopening sporadically to allow in new cars if space permits.  I want to reiterate that this is not like Wekiwa Springs State Park’s policy of closing once the parking lot is full, and then reopening for five new vehicles as soon as five exit; at Gilchrist it can quite literally take hours to get in if you were not in the first group.  Thus, on weekends and during the summer months, day users are well advised to arrive quite early, i.e., before opening time, and wait in the likely already formed line.


For us campers, the hard part is getting reservations.  The campground only has 18 hook up sites, which means that availability is limited, particularly on weekends.  We felt lucky to secure a five day run, Sunday through Thursday, on relatively short notice, particularly since schools are closed and the locals are filling the parks with their travel trailers.  One of the volunteer rangers seemed to believe that the park was well into planning major improvements that would see the entire RV section moved up the hill to the more spacious area closer to the entry road.  We will monitor that process during our twice a year visits.  2-rose-boardwalk

I screwed up a bit on day one of our stay: while making the reservation I got it in my head that our spot, #11, was the same one at which we stayed last visit; the site with the moderate oak tree nearly centered on the entrance, which complicated the back in process.  Upon arrival and check in my assumptions appeared confirmed by the ranger’s remarks, something about the challenge of getting into out reserved site.  So we headed on down, unhooked the tracker, and after a bit of maneuvering got backed in and fully set up.


Centered is “not our site,” but we stayed there anyway.  On the left, note the oak tree at the entrance.

An hour or two later another camper arrived, couldn’t find their spot, consulted the ranger, who knocked on our door.  That’s right, I had parked in the completely wrong spot, #5, due to following my assumptions rather than looking at the actual map and signs.  I apologized to both the ranger and the arriving camper profusely, during which I learned that the new arrivals had the exact same days reserved as us.  4-nature

I offered them the choice of using our actually reserved site, or waiting the half hour it would take for us to disconnect, pull in slides, levels, and awning, and then vacate.  No pressure, we would be happy to do either, but they elected to just take our site.  I did feel bad, because it took them a long time to get their trailer backed in properly, though the oak tree in “our” site would likely have made it just as problematic had we switched back.  Lesson learned #1 from this post: check your damn site number!  6-dappled-water

Anyway, cousin Robb and the twins, Nola and Maeve, joined us that first day, though they could not stay the night due to previous commitments.  They had been at the park for hours before we arrived, having utilized the previously mentioned “arrive early and wait in line” strategy to secure entry.  The girls actually spotted us drive the rig by while they were all on a lunch break back in town.  They helped us complete our set up and then it was spring time! 6-maeve-spring

Having purchased the park from private owners a couple of years back, the state has made some limited “improvements,” by which I mean they have removed things they found unsafe, or rather, liability issues.  The boardwalk, which previously extended the full 1/4 mile out to the Sante Fe river, now only goes a couple of hundred feet, well short of the old jumping off point for rowdy teenagers.  The jumping platform, previously positioned directly over the main spring boil, has likewise been removed; which means no more fun of jumping and flipping off the roughly 10′ high structure, but also the spring itself is now safe to free dive.


Robb down about 20′, where the main spring comes out of the base rock.

The latest change, a real heart breaker for me, is the closure of the secondary spring head to swimmers.  Located a couple of hundred yards from the main spring, the secondary spring was barely known to the majority of the day use crowd, and provided a near private natural swimming pool to those of us in the know.  I suspect they closed it for more liability concerns as it had no easy ramp entry point, but nature preservation is apparently the stated reason.  Ah well, it was good while it lasted.


The secondary spring, now closed to swimming.

Here’s another bit of drama (fortunately not ours) with an obvious lesson that occurred during our stay.  While hanging out with the cousins that first afternoon, we noted a huge dust cloud trailing a pickup truck and travel trailer combo screaming along the main entry road.  This is a road that, even once beyond the lengthy washboard section, I still drive at perhaps 15 mph or less in our rig.  This truck was easily doing 40.  An hour later as we were all walking towards the spring, this same rig maneuvered aggressively around the campground loop, apparently to better position for her site, doing at least 20, probably more like 25 mph.  Keep in mind this is a narrow loop with tight turns and numerous trees that most parks would have long ago pared back.  10 mph would be a safe maximum speed.  She rounds a left hand bend behind us and comes to a sudden, crunching stop when the trailer’s extended wheel and fender creamed into an oak tree.  She failed to take into account two things: the trailer is wider than her truck, and the trailer does not follow in the tracks of your truck, but rather cuts the corner as you turn. Thus: tree. 9-nola-spring

At first it looked like minor cosmetic damage to the fender, but as another camper and I worked to maneuver her out without causing further damage, we noticed that the front left wheel of the two axle trailer was way out of alignment, i.e., pigeon toed inward 10-15 degrees, indicating to our amateur eyes a broken axle.  We got her out from the tree, convinced her to stay at least one night (she was, as most would be, very upset and thinking about just leaving immediately,) and advised her to call her manufacturer and discuss options for perhaps removing the front wheels to make a slow and steady single axle drive to her home 60 miles away.  She did stay a couple of nights, but as I understand it, blew off our recommendations about making calls, and elected to just pray that she could make it home in “as is” condition, broken axle and all.  Lesson learned #2 from this post: drive slow in campgrounds people, for many reasons! 10-jack-spring

Pre-COVID we would have done what we usually do in small but quaint towns: hit the local shops, thrift stores, breweries, Moose Lodge, and a couple of restaurants.  We skipped nearly all of that, though we did make a return to High Springs Brewery for a fantastic couple of beers, served in their spacious outdoor sitting area with almost no contact with the staff, much less any other customers.  Even their indoor seating is basically open air, with masks and distancing we felt pretty safe.


PKM does not love this, but she tolerates almost anything.  Good kitty.

On our last full day the cousins returned, this time for an overnight tenting experience.  Like most kids, the twins love a campfire and smores, and Robb delivered with a rousing fire.  The evenings are quite warm as you can imagine July in Florida always is, but one of our fans hooked up to our outdoor socket helped make their large tent a bit more comfortable.  What a great visit, we always enjoy our time with cousin Robb and family, and hope that our next visit Colleen can join us as well.


One of the great things about camping with cousin Robb is that he always takes charge of the campfire, it never fails to light, and it is always big. 

As mentioned in the last couple of posts, we are on our way out of Florida, but we have not mentioned any particular plans for the rest of the summer and fall (or winter and spring, for that matter.)  Lacking a coherent itinerary like our pre-COVID intention of making a counter-clockwise tour of the Western US and Canada, plans now long abandoned, we do have three motivations driving us: get out of the raging COVID hot spot formerly known as Florida, get out of the heat-ravaged-and-it’s-only-going-to-get-worse oven (also known as Florida,) and satisfy as best we can our wanderlust with some travel.  For now that means heading generally towards the Carolina mountains.  Over the course of the next three weeks, things firm up considerably.


Swimming plus family and kids: exhausting for all.

Next up: June report, then more cousins, this time outside Atlanta. 14-the-twins



Working Our Way Out of Florida: Wekiwa Springs & Trimble Park

On June 24th we departed Sanibel headed for Wekiwa Springs State Park.  Forgive this digression, but a matter of local historical and linguistic importance rests on whether you use the spelling and associated pronunciation “Wekiwa” (ending in “wa”) or Wekiva” (ending in “va.”)  I believe I addressed this issue briefly in a previous post (which I can not yet locate,) but have since delved into it a bit more.  While this seems like a small matter, consider:

  • The state park and the springs are officially called Wekiwa Springs State Park.
  • The river fed by the springs is officially the Wekiva River.
  • Most, though not all, of the surrounding residential neighborhoods and businesses, if they incorporate the name at all, utilize the “Wekiva” form.
  • The road passing along the state park is officially Wekiva Springs Road…
  • … until it leaves Seminole County and enters Orange County, whereupon it becomes Wekiwa Springs Road.

PKM checking out the sights from the Sanibel to Fort Myers causeway.

This is insanity.  Petty, minor, and for most people irrelevant insanity, but insanity none the less.  So what’s the cause of this confusion?  I have run across two explanations: first, that the Native American Creek name for spring is “Wekiwa” but the Creek name for a river fed from a spring is Wekiva, and early white explorers attempted to meet proper spellings, but no one told the road and neighborhood naming committees of the nuanced difference.  One part of this is true: the Creek name for spring is, apparently, Wekiwa, but the rest is pure fiction, having been linguistically (there is no “v” sound in Creek) and historically debunked.


Even the entrance from a main street into Wekiwa Springs State Park is beautiful.  If only the would make a second lane so that arriving campers don’t get stuck behind a line of day use people that often have to wait for people to leave from the frequently full spring parking area.

Apparently the real story is one of bad translation due to a soft pronunciation of the second “w” in Wekiwa, leading to a century of dueling spelling preferences that eventually divided at the county line.  You can read more about it in this fun and informative Orlando Sentinel article.  Many thanks to Jim Toner and staff for sorting this out 21 years ago.  I will attempt to use the officially designated spelling for the spring, river, businesses, neighborhoods, etc, but I grew up in Seminole County, so I may occasionally default to “Wekiva” when “Wekiwa” is the proper spelling.  Mea culpa.


Fresh papaya from Rose’ dad’s trees.  

Anyway, we headed towards Central Florida, with a slowly increasing sense of urgency to get out of Florida.  The states multi-phased reopening plan had commenced in early May (phase 1) and expanded in early June (phase 2.)  If you care to examine the COVID data for Florida, especially daily new cases, you will see a statistically significant move upward in the first week of June, which accelerated by the second week.  Since the virus has a lag time for exposure, symptoms, and next generation exposure, this is exactly what epidemiologists feared would happen.  If your morbid curiosity induces you to look even deeper, the daily new death stats paint an even clearer picture: lagging, as you would expect, about a month behind actual new cases, they began a distinct upward trend in early July.  What fun.


Our site at Wekiwa.

Exhausted from all the COVID talk?  I get you, but it has rather dominated everything these days, and that obviously includes our RV plans.  Accordingly, when I read these 2020 blog entries years from now, I want to know the driving factors behind the decisions we made, and COVID is a big part of that.  Anyway, moving on.


A bit of drama: at first we thought the old battery was no longer holding a charge, but it turned out to be a corroded connection point along the positive battery terminal.   

We did not do a lot of fun camping and spring related activities this Wekiwa visit, just a few short strolls down the marked paths and what not.  Son Jackson was able to make an evening visit with us, which we were all comfortable with given our isolation in Sanibel and his careful distancing in preparation for beginning his Physician Assistant program this month.


An evening stroll along the well marked paths.

We had three days at Wekiwa Springs, with a one day gap before our next stay near Gainesville at Gilchrist Blue Springs State Park.  Unfortunately, the day we needed was a Saturday, the hardest to secure at our popular preferences, especially on short notice.  While casting about for an overnight spot at various state and even a couple of private resorts along our route, we found a last minute cancellation at one of our favorite spots: Trimble County Park near Mount Dora.


The fire pit behind our site at Trimble Park.

Not only is it at one of our faves, but the individual site, #13, is our favorite in the small park, being lake side and with no neighbor on the right (living) side of the spot.  We made the best of our one day and night there, particularly the reliable wild life sightings we always see.  This time herons and the small gator that frequents this end of Lake Beauchamp made appearances.


A different view.

And that’s all for Central Florida. Next up, a return to Gilchrist Blue Springs and a visit with cousins during our final days in Florida, at least until we return… someday.


One of the big heron’s that frequent the lake.


Final Weeks in Sanibel

After an unexpectedly long but productive stay in Sanibel, nearly 10 weeks by the first of June, we had decided that three full months would be enough, after which we would make our way out of Florida.  So we took our last 23 days and made the best of our time on the South West coast, drinking in all that (mostly) safe social distancing would allow.


PKM admiring the picture clarity in our new (installed in March) smart TV.

We took care of some final medical appointments, got our prescription meds in order, prepped the rig and tow vehicle for travel, and visited Rose’ mom in Venice and dad and stepmom in Coral Springs.  But mostly we enjoyed Sanibel Island and her wonderful beaches, wildlife, sunsets, and shells.


The beaches occupied a lot of our out and about time, and we worked to vary our routine by visiting beaches we might have skipped over during the first ten weeks on the island.  While we still made frequent bike trips to the closest beach (Nerita) and lighthouse point, we also made sure to include the bay side of the island, which might not offer great shelling, but had very calm and clear waters, most unlike the ocean side.  3-beach-gulf-side

For a car trip, Bowman Beach will always be our go to spot: the parking is a bit steep at $5 an hour, but we know the area and the best spots for shelling, places that the crowds either don’t know about or have a hike apparently too long for most.  We can march out well beyond the scattered groups and have stretches of pristine sand nearly to ourselves.  We count the number of new sea turtle nests along the way to the big piles of shells ready for pouring over and digging through.  4-shelling-rose

We also celebrated Rose’ big 55th birthday during our weekend visit with Xavier and Joy!  As always, Rose gets her favorite cake: strawberry shortcake.  b-day

This year we made frequent evening walks to the Sanibel Reclaimed Water system across the main street from Periwinkle Park.  I know that doesn’t sound tempting, but the series of ponds, islands, and surrounding swamp forests serve as a natural protected habitat for an extensive variety of wildlife.  This is where we see the most herons, egrets, anhingas, and gallinule’s, but also plenty of alligators and more rabbits than I thought could exist in such a small area.  5-wildlife-birds

While we would often see one of the larger, at least for this island, gators in one of the major ponds, we also stumbled across a full dozen baby gators in a tiny pond along the boardwalk trail.  We later spotted mama gator in an adjacent pond, but in this tiny little body of water no more than 15′ by 10′ and perhaps 2′ deep we found the full brood of little guys, along with two snakes neither big enough to pose a threat to the foot long gators, nor small enough to serve as a meal for them. 6-wildlife-gators-and-snake

During these last weeks Rose shifted much of her crafting time towards working on various resin projects, including cup turning, ornaments, and pendants.  The cups gave her hell; they require additional steps, involve a rotating rather than still object, and since they use a lot more resin and other supplies, Rose was unwilling to let any of them go as a learning event.  It either came out perfect or it was getting stripped and done over.  Here is her new heavily blinged insulated cup.


And yes, we are aware that saying has two meanings.  That is the point!

We also started making near daily visits to the animal enclosures, including the monkey cages were one of the squirrel monkeys had recently given birth, and would usually come down to say hello and show off her new born clutching onto her back.  From there it was to the main duck pond filled with not only local species, but many wing clipped exotics collected by the (previous?) owner over decades.  Even the wild ones have gotten very comfortable with visitors, coming right up the the fence to beg for food.


We are having trouble getting the baby monkey picture loaded, so until we sort it out, enjoy this unusual and beautiful tree we passed every bike trip to Lighthouse Point.


Edit: problem solved, here is the baby and mama monkey picture.

Finally, we stopped by the parrot area, with the facility serving as a rescue center for many exotic former pets who outlived (or perhaps merely outlasted the patience of) their previous owners.  With the crowds gone or reduced for months, the birds were vary eager for visitors and stimulation, with some begging not just for interaction, but also to get pet; you just have to watch out for the sneaky ones that pretend to want a neck pet just to lure in an unsuspecting but delicious finger.  9-parrots-jack

We have thoroughly enjoyed our three month stay on the island, and consider it to have been an excellent place to hunker down while assessing our options as the pandemic raged.  Having said that, it was time to move on.  I addition to a bit of stir crazy, we were growing increasingly concerned with Florida’s multi phase “reopening,” complete with full beaches, bars, and shops.  10-jack-rose

So excited to be back on the road but more than a little concerned about probable significant increase in COVID cases, we hit the road June 24th headed towards Central Florida.  More on that next post.  11-sunset-2