"Could I have this dance for the rest of my life?" - Anne Murray

Monday, March 28, 2016

Southern Florida

So here's what we've been up to lately.  For January and February we were parked at The Great Outdoors in Titusville, FL.  We stayed there a few years ago and met our good friends Nick and Cindy. We returned to spend some time with Nick and Cindy again and to get some repairs and updates done on the RV. We also made some new friends, Phil and Barb, who we hope to see again later this summer in Ohio. We did end up getting new carpet, and we love it, but with the repairs - what's to love?

Anyway, the time at The Great Outdoors seemed to fly by and before we knew it we were on the road again on a mission to explore southern Florida before it got too hot. On our way south the hydraulic pump for our whole leveling and slide system pooped out. Turned out the bushings were shot. We had just pulled into a nice campground at Savannas Recreation Area, but we couldn't open our slides or drop our jacks. In our rig, when the slides are closed, we can't get to anything but the kitchen sink, the refrigerator and the control panel. So we were without a change of clothes, toiletries and or a place to sleep until we could get it fixed.  I won't bore you with all the details, but four costly days later we were back on the road on our way to the Flamingo Campground in Everglades National Park.

As we set up our campsite the mosquitos were so thick we had to dig out the unused bug shirts we've been carrying around for over five years. Thank goodness we had them and bug spray or we'd never have made it through that first day.  After that though a strong wind started to blow and kept the mosquitos away for the rest of our week in the southern Everglades. While there we took a boat ride and a great ranger guided paddle through the mangroves. We took a few nice hikes along the main road into the park, but though we saw the crocodiles and alligators that hang around the visitors' center at Flamingo, we were surprised at how little wildlife we saw of any kind. One great sighting was a pair of very vocal and active barred owls on the boardwalk Pa-hay-okee Trail.

Barred owl

Crocodile at Flamingo Marina

The next stop on our southern Florida tour was Chokoloskee, a teeny tiny island (built on an ancient Calusa Indian shell midden) on the west coast, south of all the development, where there is not much more than an RV park, a few blocks of homes, a Cuban restaurant and the historical Smallwood Store.

We stayed at Outdoor Resorts of Chokoloskee, a very unique RV park.  Most of the sites back up to the water and have a deck and a boat launch. Those that don't, have free access to a couple of boat launches on the property.  The park has three beautiful salt water pools and spas, tennis courts, activities and lots of lovely landscaping. It is an ownership park with smallish sites pretty tightly packed together. It does rent a limited number of sites for limited nights, and we got one of those for a week, at an uncomfortably steep price. (This season is turning out to be uncomfortably pricey all around, what with repairs and Florida's high campground prices. Oh well, it happens sometimes. This too shall pass.)

Onward to Arcadia, FL, where we stayed in a truly exemplary park called Riverside RV Resort, right on the Peace River, a favorite among paddlers. It has huge sites, several free boat launches, a wonderful dog park, pool, adult activities, and it's super friendly and clean. We'd highly recommend it. From there we visited Naples (spiffy), The Ford and Edison Winter Estates (interesting), Sanibel and Captiva Islands (too crowded) and Brohard Paw Park.

The. Best. Dog. Beach. (east of California.) 

Happy Honey at Brohard Beach

Next we moved South Bay RV Campground, a county park at the southern tip of Lake Okeechobee. We are so often surprised and pleased at the quality of county parks, and this is one of the best yet. It has nice clean, large sites in an attractive natural setting, at a reasonable cost finally!  We're just here for a couple of days before we go to Jonathan Dickson State Park on the east coast. We'll be in Florida for a few more weeks, then we'll start traveling gradually northward.

Update: We found another great off-leash dog beach in Jupiter, FL. This one is even bigger. It's at the corner of Ocean Blvd. (A1A) and Marcinski Rd. There's plenty of free parking and the beach is free too.