Monday, April 17, 2017

Florida 2017: Part I in Which We Travel from New Hampshire to Safety Harbor, and Get Settled

On Friday, January 27th we loaded up the truck and the RV, and started our now annual drive to Florida for the month of February. We're trying something a little different this time. Since we have the RV, why not hitch it up and extend our winter escape by a couple of weeks on both ends? The only catch is the RV isn't winter-proof so we have to get south of anything resembling winter before we can use it. Catherine is willing to put us up for a night, so our first stop is in Fairfax, Virginia. This works well, or it should have anyway, but in our quest to avoid driving the RV through NYC and Baltimore we go wayyyy out of our way, west into Pennsylvania before crossing into Maryland and heading east. It's a beautiful drive but we probably lose an hour at least by doing so. We'll have to figure out a better route when we head home.

Saturday morning we waste no time getting back on the road. We have another long drive, this time all the way to Hilton Head Island. We arrive after dark, but Lee has no problem backing into our spot. This will be our home until Tuesday.

I take the dogs for a short walk while Lee gets the trailer set up. When I get back Lee says "we may have a problem." There is water all over the bathroom floor. We have a leak, but at first he doesn't know where it's coming from. I keep the dogs out of his way, and periodically go outside to turn the water on and then back off. He finally figures out that the leak is coming from the toilet, and eventually figures out why. When he winterized the RV he blew water out of all the tubes and valves, except one. Now we have a cracked flush valve, and no functioning toilet.

Now that he knows what's wrong Lee can turn off the water to the toilet, but we have running water in the sinks so we're okay. We can use the park's bathroom for the time being, and we have a temporary "chamber pot" for that first night.

In the morning Lee researches his options. It's Sunday so a lot of things are closed until noon. In the meantime we decide to try out the Sunday brunch at the park's restaurant. Wow! Beautiful view and amazing food. Lee has fried chicken and biscuits, I have smoked salmon and grits. Usually when we go out to eat one entree beats the others and is declared the "best" but this time they both are so good there is no clear winner. Oh and the Bloody Mary's with smoked plobano peppers are amazing too.

After brunch we decide to take the dogs to one of the dog friendly beaches so they can get some exercise. They've been cooped up in the truck for two long days and have lots of yayas that need to get out. On our way out we stop at the office to meet Lily, the thirteen year old Westie that belongs to the real estate agent for the park. She is less than thrilled by the sudden invasion by three dogs, even if they do look like her. She makes her objection known immediately and our dogs give her a wide berth.

They realtor suggests that we try Fish Haul Beach. It has a nice nature trail and lots of open beach where the dogs can run to their hearts content. It's great except Cosmo ends up back on leash before very long because he won't mind his manners with other dogs we meet that are on leash, even though he is not.

Back at the RV Lee has a solution to our broken valve problem until he can get a replacement part. The shower has a handheld nozzle and it will reach the toilet, so we can use water from the shower to flush the toilet. We are back in business!

Jan 29th, Monday. After a short run around the RV park in the morning we decide to try to take the dogs for a walk in one of the Hilton Head’s nature preserves. The only problem is they are all closed due to damage from hurricane Mathew last fall. But there seem to be nice bike paths all over the island so we park in a little pocket park and start walking along one of the paths. Totally by accident we end up at another really beautiful ocean view, Alder Beach. We leave the dogs on their leashes but walk closer to the water to watch the dolphins playing in the waves. By the time we walk back to the car we have walked over 4 miles. It's frustrating that my back and leg still hurt, off and on. I will start trying to reduce the amount of pain meds I take, but I get to a certain amount and the pain comes back. It's nerve pain, so sitting for long periods makes it worse, and walking is more uncomfortable than running.

Jan 30th, Tuesday. We head to The Villages. We are going to visit Mimi and Sel, my aunt and uncle. Mimi is my father's youngest sister. It's only a five hour drive so we take our time leaving, and get to the Wildwood  KOA Kampground by 4 pm. The people in the front office are very friendly, but this campground wins the award for worst RV park we've stayed in so far, hands down. It's crowded. The campsites are tiny, with no privacy. The lots are not level at all. The roads are sandy. I take the dogs for a walk while Lee sets things up. It's definitely a challenge to get the RV level, in fact, we appear to be in danger of rolling right off our jacks, which would be very bad. Lee moves the wheel chucks around so that we feel more secure, but it still makes me uneasy.

We drive over to Mimi and Sel's. We bring the dogs, but their sweet little dog Scooby doesn't like other dogs, especially in his own space, so we leave ours in the big soft-sided crate out in their garage. It's a chilly evening, so it's no problem. We go to dinner at a nearby restaurant. It's so nice to see them, talk, catch up on all their grandchildren and their activities. We'll see them again on our way home, but we'll stay in a different RV park!

In the morning we take the RV over to the place where we are going to store it for the month. We don't need it in Safety Harbor and we don't have a place to park it there either. So for $60 it's in a safe place and we don't have to think about it until we're on our way home.

It takes longer than we thought it would to get the RV settled in its new home. We need some lunch but the traffic around the Villages is terrible this time of year because of all the snowbirds. We finally find a Subway at a gas station. Then we can make it through the short drive to Safety Harbor.

We arrive in Safety Harbor around 3 pm. Our nice rental house looks as great as ever, and the construction next door is finished so it's nice and quiet too. We walk down to the Raw Bar for dinner. The oysters are from the gulf so we get grouper bowls instead. I get a margarita too. We're happy to be back in our second home.

When we got back to New Hampshire people asked me how we liked our vacation. But it really doesn’t feel like a vacation. Its more like Florida is just a warm, sunny, beautiful place to continue living our lives. Lee has brought his industrial sewing machine along, so he can continue working on his boat projects. I have brought my embroidery and my camera, plus I can write, bike, and take boxing and other fitness classes at the spa.  Its fun, and enjoyable, but not an earth-shaking experience. We like it this way!

In the evening of our first night we walk over to the house that Dr. Pauls is renting for the month. When my friend Catherine visited last year she enjoyed it so much that she and her sisters found a house for their father to rent for the month, and the sisters (there are four) are taking turns staying with him. Joan, the second sister, is here for the next couple of weeks. We invite them over for dinner tomorrow. Its fun having friends in town! We feed them chicken a la Becca, a family recipe that involves a cut up chicken and a tangy tomato sauce. For dessert I bought dessert bars from Joey’s Biscotti, a bakery just a couple of blocks away. They come in many different flavors and the bars are huge. Each one is like a mini cake; we can split them four ways so we can have a taste of each one.

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