Monday, April 28, 2008

Ten-Day Tune-Up

We spent 10 days in the RV as sort of a “tune-up trip” before heading out on the 3-month summer trip. This way we can make note of things we forgot, etc., so we don’t do the same thing on that trip. But not only are we “getting the kinks out” we’re also having FUN!

We arrived in Ft. Myers Beach, FL, on Friday, April 18. After getting settled in, we went to Anthony’s for dinner. We had very good dinners and the view was marvelous.

On Saturday, we drove the 40 miles or so to Immokalee where there is an Indian casino. (What? You’re surprised?) Anyway, Julian had some pretty good luck (I didn’t) and we walked out of there even for the day. How much better could it get?

Sunday found us driving around Cape Coral and Pine Island. The island has more nurseries than I’ve ever seen in that small a concentration of land. They must have great growing dirt out there.

We stopped at the Sandy Hook for lunch. The food was good, but not great. The atmosphere was fun. These “totems” were outside the restaurant. (Click to make the photo bigger and see the faces better.)

We spent the afternoon reading, napping, generally relaxing. We had great weather during this trip and sure did enjoy it.

We had dinner out again, at a restaurant called Chloe’s. This was the best food of the whole week and it was really great!

We drove to Sanibel and Captiva Island on Monday. Our first stop was at a public beach where we walked and looked for shells. They were certainly plentiful.

And the birds were having breakfast; I think some were eating scallops, right out of the shell.

We drove the entire length of both islands and then headed back towards home. We stopped for lunch at Jimmy’s Pink Cadillac near our campground. Very 50’s and the food was really good, too.

On Tuesday morning we went to Estero Island, the actual beach area of Fort Myers Beach. We parked the car and walked out onto the pier. These guys were pretty used to people, apparently, because they let me get pretty close.

We walked a good part of the “tourist” area, enjoying the sights.

Wednesday’s entertainment was a drive further south to Bonita Beach and Naples. It is so pretty in that area. And there’s LOTS of money there. Some of the houses on the beach seemed way too big to be single family dwellings. But if you have enough money, you can have anything, I guess.

We had lunch in a great little sidewalk café and then headed out to the Naples pier. It was beautiful out there. It was fairly busy, too, for being off-season. We saw several dolphins playing near the pier. They were hard to get pictures of, but here are a couple of our attempts.

We went out to dinner again, our last night in Ft. Myers Beach. We picked Fishmonger’s and were not disappointed. We’ve been so lucky in finding great food everywhere we travel.

We packed everything back up and headed south on Thursday. We traveled to Homestead, which is southwest of Miami. We got settled into our campground and then our friends, Ken & Stacy, came over for the evening. It was sure fun seeing them again after nearly 2 years. (We met them the first summer we spent in Maggie Valley, NC.)

We spent Friday with them also. They own an avocado grove and park their RV (they are full-timers) amongst the trees. It’s a gorgeous setting. The weather was great and we were able to sit out on their patio and just drink in the location and the friendship.

Saturday morning found us packing up again and heading back north. Ken had showed us an easier way to get to US27, without taking the turnpike and the interstate through the city. This also took us right past another casino. Well we had to go in for their buffet breakfast, which was really very good. And hey, why not play a machine or two while there? We walked out with an extra 60 bucks, minus the cost of breakfast. So it was worthwhile, wouldn’t you agree?

Then we drove on to Sebring and our friends’ driveway. The first order of business was to clean off the front end of the coach. It’s love-bug season and a lot of them gave up their lives as we drove along. We could barely see out of the windshield. They have a high acidity and it’s important to get them cleaned off quickly so as not to pit the paint.

We met this couple when we first moved to Royal Highlands. Mary Jo is a fabulous cook and she and Julian have developed a sort of culinary war. They each challenge themselves to come up with something different and it’s been going on for years.

She told us ahead of time that she was serving something that she guaranteed we’d never had before. She wasn’t kidding! Dinner that night was pickled rabbit and pickled frog legs. It sounds a bit bizarre, but I have to say it was very good! Plus she had some tongue on hand and she made me try that. I was leery, but it pretty much tasted like roast beef.

On Sunday, after a great breakfast at a Mexican restaurant, we went fishing. Unfortunately only one little, scrawny fish was caught and returned to the water. But we had a good time in the great outdoors.

Just across from where we were was this osprey nest. We could see a couple of chicks in it. One of their heads is sticking up in this pic.

We spent the rest of the day at their house just enjoying each other’s company. We had another terrific meal of fried catfish.

After blueberry pancakes for breakfast on Monday, we headed back home. I am pretty sure we’ll need to go on a diet since we ate so incredibly well over the past 10 days. But it was worth it. We had another great time!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

From Bummer to Boone

Yesterday, we sat down to make the initial reservations for our Summer Trip. It's only two months away and definitely time to get on it. We are using Coast to Coast resorts whenever possible, as we can save quite a bit on nightly rates. Our plan was to spend two weeks in Banjo Creek near Asheboro, then three nights in Stone Mountain State Park (where they don't take reservations). Then on to Maggie Valley for a month, beginning July 8.

We hit a big obstacle at our first campground. We wanted to stay through July 4 and leave on July 5. Well, they don't let CtoC members in at that low rate over holidays. OK, so we called them directly to see if we could come and pay the higher rate for whatever holiday dates they required. But NOOOOO - they are already booked to capacity with a waiting list. Bummer!

So we booked only 10 days at Banjo Creek (near Asheboro, NC), leaving on June 30. Getting into a State Park campground without reservations would be next to impossible on those dates, so we needed to fill all the time between then and July 8 somewhere else. After trying several places and still being unsuccessful, we finally stumbled onto Flintlock CG in Boone, NC. They had space available over the holiday, so we'll spend 8 nights there.

All this is a prelude to saying how excited we are that this "problem" occurred and put us in this current situation. We did some research and found out that there are TONS of things to do around Boone, including Stone Mountain (so we won't give that up), Grandfather Mountain (which I've always seen ads for) and fireworks & the 47th Annual Roasting of the Hog on July 5 in Beech Mountain. What could be more fun!

So it works out in our favor - we'll get to do WAY more stuff in a part of NC that we've not had a chance to see thus far. And all because of a silly rule that keeps us from spending all that time in Banjo Creek!

Sometimes a big negative can spawn an even bigger positive!

(Our current planned departure date is June 19. We'll be traveling this year for 108 days. And, absolutely, I'll be blogging it! You'll have to wait till then to see where we go after North Carolina. Stay tuned!)