Currently: Midway Campground at Big Cypress Preserve 71F at six AM and no internet
We have been in this magical land of Florida heaven for so long now I almost forgot why people say they never want to come to Florida. Some who have been here say they will never come back. Others who have never been here have an image of the state that fits perfectly what we experienced on Tuesday morning when we left our idyllic waterfront campsite at Fort De Soto.
When drying to a crisp in western winters, I sometimes think it might be nice to have a bit of humidity. In some ways it IS nice. My feet are not cracking, my fingernails are not shredded, and my hair is…well..can you say fluffy? Not sure that is a good thing, however, but it feels good.
What I forget about humidity, however, is the smell. Whatever smells that are assaulting your senses are multiplied. Both inside and outside the MoHo we are often overcome with funny smells. I used an entire can of rug spray cleaner to freshen up the rig (Resolve spray works great for traveling!) I also was extremely happy to get our bedding dried out. I forgot about that clammy bedding thing that happens in high humidity.
I am laughing to myself thinking of all those readers out west who think Florida travels are just insane, especially those who read my blog who are high and dry out boondocking somewhere in Arizona. Still, it is worth it, maybe a bit like traveling in a third world country. There are lots of strange smells and lots of weird traffic, but I wouldn’t miss doing it for the world.
We left Fort DeSoto around 8 on a gorgeous sunny morning. Loved crossing the Sunshine Skyway, but it is surprising how unimpressive it seems when driving. I could see most of Mullet Key below us, and could see a great kayaking spot on the eastern edge of the island that would have been perfect for bridge views. Sorry Karen, we never made it over there for sunrise or sunset photos. You have some breathtaking shots of that view that I could never duplicate. We had no clouds around to make the skies interesting.
Neither of us had slept well the previous night because we were worried about Abby. She was unable to urinate, and at more than 12 years old it could have been anything, even too much swimming in sea water, or so we thought. I found a veterinarian on the internet, hoped the reviews were good, and chose one that was south of Bradenton, just beyond the main part of the city.
It turned out to be a good choice. At first, they said they had no openings, but when I explained our situation a bit more they suggested that we get a urine sample and wait, for what could be up to three or four hours. Have you ever wondered how you get a urine sample from a female dog? Nope, me either. However, running around behind Abby with a little wheeled gizmo with a plastic tray was interesting. It worked. Abby didn’t have an infection, but she did have crystals, and possible kidney stones. With antibiotics, an anti inflammatory, and some special food, we were happy that our four hour stop was fruitful. At the moment, Abby seems fine, but will have to be checked again in a couple of weeks.
We continued south toward our surprise destination for the day. I emailed Sherry, of “In the Direction of our Dreams”, letting her know that we were going to be passing by their camp at Oscar Sherer State Park and asked if a meeting was possible. Sherry made several suggestions and with a final email we agreed to meet at the beach just a couple of miles from their campground and right off Highway 41 on our route.
Perfect! Except when Florida traffic settles in. Shortly before we arrived at the beach location, I got a quick phone call from Sherry saying, “We are at the beach, all parking lots are full, and we can’t find a spot to park, much less a spot for the MoHo.” We agreed to meet them at the picnic ground inside the state park instead. They were amazed at the heavy traffic, the intense congestion at the beach, and said they had never seen it quite as bad on a weekday during mid day.
The minute we turned east on the State Park road, we could have been in a different world, the “real” Florida. The park was lovely, and we met at the picnic ground. It is always amazing to meet people that have been correspondence friends for a long time and to find that they are exactly as you imagined.
It was wonderful walking the nature trail and sharing stories of things we have in common. They were great trail guides, telling us all about the park and their travels, and sharing some ideas about some of our planned future travel locations where they have spent a great deal of time. If anyone knows Florida state parks well, it is Sherry. With so much time in Florida, Sherry is especially frustrated with the difficulty in getting reservations even a year in advance. She also repeatedly talked about how crowded things seem to be this year. Maybe everyone came south because of the Polar Plunge events?
When I said that Fort DeSoto was our most expensive campground on the trip, I completely forgot about the Big Pine Island KOA. I wanted to visit Sanibel Island and even with many months in advance, I could find no reservations that were anywhere nearby that were even close to a reasonable cost. The one campground on Sanibel, Periwinkle, does not allow dogs in the campground. We found a few others on the beach near Fort Myers, but they were more than $100 per night, and all the nearby state parks were fully booked back last summer when I tried to get a reservation.
I finally booked the KOA at $52 per night for the two nights we had to be there. What isn’t shown in the fine print however, are all the Florida taxes and fees that boosted our stay to a whopping $62 per night. Just plain crazy, and another reason why traveling in Florida might not be something to do very often. Throw in all the tolls on roads and bridges, and the high cost of food and the taxes on everything, and it becomes a very expensive adventure. Sheesh!
We arrived at the KOA just before sunset, in time to get set up with our full hookups before dark. It was rather frightening, actually, to see the big rig bedroom slide just a very few feet from our back bedroom window. I sort of freaked out at first as we drove down the long rows of sardine packed rigs. It felt a bit like a refuge camp. Now THIS is what they mean when they talk about a Snowbird Park? The minute we got hooked up, we turned on the air conditioning, closed up all the windows, put up all the shades and were snug and safe in our little home.
Sleeping was interesting, though, because of course the window needed to be open and Mo was wakened at three am by sewer smells. Who knows, it wasn’t ours, but there are so many people packed into such a small space I can’t imagine how the sewage is managed. Remember what I said about the smells?
I will say that our initial reaction to the park was moderated a bit before we left. These kinds of parks do have their place. Watching CNN the morning we left, there was an interesting story by Sanjay Gupta discussing loneliness in people and how it contributes to premature death even more than obesity.
We noticed that most of the people in the park were more on the elderly side, and when the sun rose, people were out walking and talking to their neighbors and visiting everywhere. I don’t imagine that very many of them are lonely.
The park is now an Encore/1000 Trails park that has a KOA franchise. About 100 residents are full time, and a couple hundred are seasonal, staying from 2 to 6 months every year.
The park was filled with huge rigs, park models, and campers with everything in between. Many folks had gardens and lots of yard art. The laundry was large and nice and not ridiculously expensive. The cable was OK, the Verizon signal had the best reception I have had on the entire trip. The swimming pool was large and well kept, there are a couple of reflective ponds and I guess fishing is the biggest recreational activity, other than talking to your neighbor.
The park served its purpose for us and we did get to visit Sanibel.
Next: A long planned and eagerly anticipated visit with John and Carol of “Our Trip Around the Sun” at J.N. Ding Darling NWR