Saturday, May 21, 2011

Florida for a Month!

 I have been wanting to chronicle our trip to Florida which took place in March and April.  We left out on March 11 and returned April 12.  Things have been going non-stop since we returned and I have not had the time or the inspiration to sit down to write this blog....until tonight.  I felt the urge to write and decided, before this trip is a distant memory, I'd better put down on paper our experiences and events that are due a mention!First of all, let me say that Florida came about for us because of a wedding invitation to Wayne's nephew's wedding.  It was to take place on March 26th....on the beach in Sarasota!  Ummm...nice...we wanted to attend and since we had a 5th wheel parked in our yard with only one short weekend trip under our belt....this would be a great place to start our "extended" trips.    So, we decided to accept the invitation and plan to pull the Paradise Pointe to a camp ground close to the wedding spot.  Now, plans got extended when we were invited by my daughter and her husband (Alicia and John) who as travel nurses were finishing up their last month of assignments in the Orlando area., to camp next to them.   So, as planning would have it....a two week camping trip to a wedding extended to a month!  I mean, really, a two week stay next to them cost the same as a month taking advantage of the monthly discount!  So, with a phone call we were booked for a month's stay.    We would be parked next to our daughter and her family who had been in Florida for 4 months living in a KOA in Davenport.......close to the entry gates of Disney World (they have 2 kids and love Disney).  Alicia worked at Tampa General and her husband worked in a hospital in Cleremont.  They only worked 3 shifts a that left plenty of time to play and with Mimi and Paw Paw living next door for a month we could help out with the kids so they could work shifts together.  We were anxious to be with Julia 9 and Joshua 6....they had been traveling with their parents for nearly 2 years so we had not been around them very much.  They are home schooled....or as they call it "road schooled"!

On Friday, March 11  at 9:00 AM we were ready to pull out of the driveway...loaded with everything we thought we'd need!  Darn...with my check of the lights....back lights and turn signals not working on the trailer.  Ok, no big deal....the RV place is close by and it was on our way out.  So off we went, staying on the frontage road....going slow....we made it to the shop.  Luckily they jumped on the problem quickly....the wiring for the brake plug in in the back of the truck was not wired ....with a $65.00 charge and 1 hour of lost time....we were back on the road. 
Headed east on traffic....bumper to bumper....all the way to the beach turn-off at the east side of the Florida Panhandle...why all this traffic???  FIRST WEEKEND OF SPRING BREAK!  Well, we didn't time this trip correctly!  So, other than the brake lights and the traffic the trip was smooth so far and uneventful.  Until.....40 miles from our intended campground for the evening we decided to pull off for a fuel stop....not yet learning that we should only go for "truck stops" and "travel centers" we were looking for "cheap" fuel and stopped where it was less and sometimes found ourselves in a we did this one last time.  After fueling the truck...we were in a situation that required us to turn right out of the station and then make a u-turn....oh oh......don't turn too sharp.....yep....trying to avoid a big hole in the road....Wayne make a sharp left turn and the next thing we heard was crashing glass and metal grinding.   YIKES....our back window was being busted out by the front end of the trailer!!!   To make matters worse.....we were approaching a red light....both of us looking behind to see the damage that was unfolding.....and to see our boxer (who was laying on the back seat) being pelted with glass....I noticed the red light...screamed....husband  applies the brakes and Boxer goes flying onto the floorboard.  I think my blood pressure spiked 50 points at that moment.

Phew....after catching our breath....assessing that the Paradise Point did not sustain too much damage...we continued on wind blowing in through the back window....temps were dropping as it was now dusk and we were freezing......yes, it's March in Florida...but the cool weather was still hanging around.  I won't bore you with the conversation to our night's destination...but the enjoyable trip had just turned into a nightmare.  Well, maybe I'm being too dramatic...but my thoughts were:  how in the world would we fix this.....get parked for the night....hoping it would not rain and would Wayne get disgusted and cancel this trip before we even get l/2 there? 

Well, I know, as RVing people will tell us.....this is nothing in the whole scheme of happens and we were serious's just a lesson learned the hard way...and these lessons always come with a $$ price! 

We arrived at the Arrowhead Campground after dark...another lesson learned....too hard to set up in the dark.  We had originally planned to stay hitched....but now with the broken window and the glass covering the backseat and floor....something would have to be done to the truck that night.   Thank goodness the spot was a pull through....that made it easier.....Wayne worked like crazy to get us level, set up and in doing all of that in the dark...I learned another lesson.....make sure you check the position of the trailer as to the distance of the slide outs from any tree, etc.  Only after he had all hook ups done did I notice I could not extend our living room/dining room slide.  I was not about to say a word!!
Now let me stop at this point and let you know that my Boxer, Coco, had never been on a trip before much less living in a camper....out of her familiar environment....she hated when we'd go into our trailer to pack or work in it....she never wanted to be in there with us and here we are this night in a very tight  situation inside of our living area!  Also another tidbit of info.....she's 45 lbs. and has arthritis so she cannot climb into our truck or into the trailer.....she must be lifted every time!  So, lifting we did and we introduced her to "camping" in a not so wonderful way (broken glass and tight quarters)  ....oh well, when we did get to our destination she will think that the trailer is a mansion compared to this night!

Wayne returned from vacuuming the glass out of the truck and he visited WalMart for supplies to cover the back window...  He had bought rubber car floor mats and duck tape and there you have it....waterproof, windproof, and looking like a big boo-boo!!.

The first night in our camper was just a quick bite to eat, showers and bed......trying to convince Coco that she would have a place to sleep...remember...we only have two slides and the largest one was not extended!  It was tight....but we found a place for her bed and we and she made it through!

So, that was the first full day of our long-awaited trip.  The second day was uneventful....being careful and also being amazed at our Boxer.  Coco is a great traveler....she slept almost the whole trip each day and when we would stop she was more than happy just to stay in the truck.  In fact, when we tried to get her out to potty....she would be very anxious to return to the truck.  Stopping at truck stops seemed to make her very nervous with the engine sounds, etc.  She just didn't quite know what to make of what we were doing or where we were taking her!  Thank goodness the weather was leaving her in the truck was OK.

At about 5:00 PM March 12th we arrived in Davenport....with happy hugs and greetings from the family awaiting our arrival.  Now for the next "problem" to solve.....the campsite was not very level.  Backing the trailer in was tricky to say the least and then.....mistake #3....unhitching BEFORE you know it's hooking back up pulling forward....putting down boards....backing onto the boards on one side....whew...thank God my son-in-law John was helping....I think for a second time Wayne would have wanted to pack it up and head back home!  The KOA was nice, but we were in the "extended" stay part and the sites were not level and there was a definite lack of trees!
As you can see....Coco was getting adjusted to her new "home".  She fell right into the routine of leash and bathroom walks 2 - 3 times a day.  She loved being out with us and when we had to be gone she was perfectly OK with being left inside to sleep until our return.  The Fleetwood Discovery is what my daughter's family has lived in for the past 2 years as they have been travel nursing from California to Florida!

For the next two weeks we settled in to camper living and visited family south of Orlando in a town called Lake Placid....a quaint little So. Florida town known for it's murals painted on the sides of the downtown historic buildings.     Julia and Joshua look like they are painted right in!

With the help of my insurance company we did find a great collision shop to put the truck for repairs to the back window and also the roof of the had a little, no , a big dent.  They only kept it a week...didn't have to remove the whole roof top...just worked out the "kink" and replaced the window...and we just had to pay $250!!  Yeah!  Keep in mind...hubby is still feeling badly for what happened and it will take him about a week to relax and enjoy this trip.

Saturday, March 26th was the beach wedding in we took the 2 hour drive down south to that beautiful town and beach...I think it's considered the most beautiful beach in USA.....and it certainly was a beautiful day:
 The James Family
 we were "burning" with no sunscreen
 Happy Bride and Groom
Wade and Laryn

For most of the time we filled up our days and nights with Disney.  We decided to purchase an annual pass since we were so close and could go every day.  Also, we had planned to return in December for the Christmas lights and decorations.

It's very enjoyable to visit the parks when you don't have a "time limit".....when you don't have to worry about seeing and riding everything in 3 or 4's a good thing because it was Spring Break for the entire time we were in Florida and DisneyWorld was crowded every day.  One day I just had to leave and retreat back to my little abode in Davenport just to "decompress" from so many people....babies and teens on their spring break trips!  This Epcot picture is of the last evening we were in town....we decided to close out our trip with a leisurely trip to Epcot and the world Showcase....this one evening the crowds were light....and the weather was fabulous.....we had a very relaxing stroll!
Speaking of weather....for 99% of the trip the weather this time of the year in Florida was excellent...warm days and cool nights.    Just 3 of the 30 days we were there we were confined to the trailer because of rain and sometimes tornado warnings....well....this was another lesson we had to learn...where to go in the event of threatening weather....thank goodness we were close to the bathhouse....we took that little trek twice!  Luckily both of the storm fronts that threatened central Florida were during the daylight hours and the tornados went north and south.      For the future....and in case of nighttime storms....I will be purchasing a weather radio!
This is how it looked from our back window during the day of the 18 hours of rain!  We got to experience how the close quarters would feel in bad weather....I have to say it wasn't that bad!! :)  However, after two days we did get a little "cabin fever"!!
The last week we were in Florida my oldest daughter Natalie and her son Hunter (almost 3) came to visit and do the Disney thing.  We had a great time with the family reunion and enjoying watching Hunter experience Disney for the first time!  He was quite the little trooper with all of the lines, etc.  Here he is patiently waiting for the tram!
As the time was coming to a close for our stay in Florida....we had some visitors to our little condo on wheels.....Wayne's brother who lives in Lake Placid drove up for lunch and to see our home away from home:
We actually had room for everyone to sit and enjoy a nice afternoon!  They were impressed with the storage we had in our 5er.  I've looked at several larger rigs and have to say for the size we have....the storage inside with the cabinets  and the pantry are plenty....I didn't even have everything filled! 
We pulled out of the KOA in Davenport on April 11th and planned to just "wing it" for our night stopover.....the traffic was much lighter going home and we decided to stop over in DeFuniak Springs, FL at the Juniper Lake campground.   Now I know this picture doesn't look too great...but it was a private campground with a very quiet and serene feeling...the lake was beautiful and the campers meet each evening on the deck for drinks and snacks and each morning for coffee.  We joined them around 6 PM to meet them and enjoy a little social.    This is something we didn't experience in the KOA in FL....mainly because the section we were in were full timing and mostly younger families who worked and kids in school....but the camaraderie we love was not there. 
I really regret that we could not have stayed a few days in this lovely little campsite....the owners were lovely and the people were friendly.  But.....we had appointments to keep at home and so our month-long trip had come to an end.  We did experience one last "cool front" coming through the state that night....however, the weather didn't get too that was fortunate.
Here are the things that we learned from this experience:
1.  Don't travel on the first Friday of Spring Break! :)
2.  Only look for travel centers when needing fuel.
3.  DO NOT MAKE SHORT U TURNS while towing.
4.  Bring leveling blocks and ramps!
5.  Have a weather radio
6.  We could live in close quarters!  This is probably the most important!!
7.  I could live with a small kitchen ( I love to cook!)
8.  Living w/o a bathtub was not as bad as I thought it would be! :)
10.  It's best to arrive BEFORE dark
I'm sure there are other lessons...but I guess I'll end with that....hope you have enjoyed my recap!

1 comment:

  1. Looks like you had a great trip. Definetely a good read. I need to get a new rv in pa and head down to FL. I haven't been in years.