Florida December – January 2017
Wednesday, December 28, 2016: Snowbirds to Florida
At 6PM, Mike and I leave home in Runaway, our SuperStealth demo model, with a goal of Sarasota, Florida by noon New Years’ Eve. The Christmas tree is down, the holiday things put away and the RV packed. We are tired from getting ready and this is a late start, but we want to make it to Chattanooga for lunch tomorrow with family. We stop for the night at a Flying J between Columbus, Ohio and Cincinnati.
Thursday, December 29, 2016: Running on DC only
Up at 5:30AM and on the road in 12 minutes to beat the morning traffic in Cincinnati. We do, but then crawl for about an hour when a semi is overturned on I-75. Traffic is heavy through Kentucky and Tennessee. In Chattanooga, we meet my nephew’s wife and two girls for a late lunch. It’s always fun to see them on this drive south after Christmas. Traffic continues heavy. We stop at a Flying J south of Atlanta among trucks, trailers and RVs. These truck stops are crowded at night! We watch two episodes of The Crown, which Mike had downloaded on our iPad Plus, which we use for the entertainment system.
Glitch today: When we were slowed for the accident this morning, we noticed our inverter had failed. Runaway has a lot of new technology that we are testing. We have a new inverter model, with new software, which the guys seriously stress tested. This evening, Frank helps us trouble shoot, but it continues to fail. Instead of his shipping us a new inverter, we decide to go without. No microwave, hair dryer or air conditioning, but everything else is DC. We’ll do a post-mortem when we get back.
Friday, December 30, 2016: Renaissance Vinoy, St. Petersburg, FL
This morning, Mike turns on the heat, gets coffee, and we both shower and have breakfast. Traffic is stop-and-go from Georgia to Tampa through messy rain and sleet. We stop at a truck wash to get Runaway cleaned up. Back on the road, using Open Table, we make a dinner reservation in St. Petersburg at the Marchand, Renaissance Vinoy, a historic hotel on the harbor. Mike tells the valet that we are “staying the night,” without saying we are staying in the RV. After a delicious dinner, Mike tips the valet well, tells them to keep the key since, again, we are “staying the night.” We locate the RV at the loading dock, use the keyless entry and sleep the night there.
Saturday, December 31, 2016: New Years’ Eve in Sarasota
About midnight at our Vinoy loading dock campsite, Mike hears banging and clattering of a party tent either going up or coming down, but I sleep through it. We have coffee on the hotel veranda and the valet brings the RV up. Mike gives them a tour of Runaway. We decide to stay at the hotel for breakfast. In an elegant, sunny breakfast room, I am grateful for Mike’s adventuresome spirit and my learning to trust it.
About 10AM on New Year’s Eve, we arrive in Sarasota at our friends’ house on Lido Key. At sunset on the beach we have a champagne toast, with lots of other happy people of all ages. We leave half the bottle with a large, multi-generation family celebrating in front of their motel. For dinner we go to Selva Grill and then wander around downtown where a carnival is set up. Families are playing games and enjoying the rides. A lighted pineapple is high on a pole, ready to drop at midnight. Home by 11PM, we hear fireworks as we drift off to sleep.
Sunday, January 1, 2017: New Years’ Day and abandoning plans
I wake up with a sore throat, cough and aches. This flu/cold has gone through our whole family and tends to last three weeks. We don’t want to give it to our friends here or at our next stop in Fort Myers, so we set off back to Cleveland.
We take I-75 to I-95 to Savannah and then Rt. 21 to I-26 past Columbia, SC. We stop at Panera for chicken noodle soup and then stay the night at another truck stop. It rains all night, a peaceful sound.
Monday, January 2, 2017: Back home to recover
It rains all day as we drive, listening to Pandora and trying to guess the artist before we read the name on the iPhone. At 7:30PM, I am grateful to be home.
Tuesday, January 10, 2017: Back to Florida
I’m feeling better, so at 4PM we set out again for Florida, with our goal the Tampa SuperShow the next week. We have a new inverter and the failed one is being autopsied. In Cleveland, it is 35 degrees, with about 4 inches of snow. We drive I-77 to about 60 miles north of Charleston, West Virginia where we stay at a rest stop. We eat dinner from home and listen to President Obama’s farewell address.
Wednesday, January 11, 2017: Escape to the movies
At 6AM, it is 35 degrees and raining. We have breakfast at Cracker Barrel. In Virginia, between Bluefield and Wytheville, we stop at a Visitor Information Center where we pick up flyers on things to do in the area: the New River Trail State Park; Crystal Springs Recreation Area; and Abington, VA, as well as schedules for bluegrass music in Galax and along the Blue Ridge Parkway Heritage Music Trail. On our last trip through this area, we hiked the New River Trail and vowed never to come through here again, without doing this beautiful trail along the New River. The other sites sound good, too, but it is cold and raining, so we keep driving. Late in the afternoon, in Columbia, South Carolina, to escape both the dreary weather and too much politics on SiriusXM radio, we stop at a movie theater and see Hidden Figures. This is uplifting. In Orangeburg, South Carolina, we sleep-stop at a Pilot Truck Stop. Mike and I both work on our computers. I love my adjustable footrest, which makes the turned-around passenger seat into a comfortable chaise lounge.
Thursday, January 12, 2017: Savannah and St. Augustine
The sun comes up through the fog and we continue south. At Savannah, we get off for the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge, where we drive the 4-mile observation loop through what was a rice plantation starting back in the 1700s. We get out and walk when a park service man waves us over to see a 14-foot alligator, sunning itself on a bank. We take a short walk through the former slave living compound and start to hike the Plantation Island Trial, but the mosquitoes make us retreat. From the RV, we see hawks, ducks, and a pileated woodpecker. We now push to Crescent Beach, south of St. Augustine to meet our friend John, who has been a steady supporter of Advanced RV from the beginning, and his wife. From the second story of South Beach Grill. we overlook the ocean and enjoy a delightful dinner of southern fried fish with cheese grits. We spend the night close by at a Flying J.
On this beautiful clear night, with a nearly full moon, I realize something I miss about campgrounds: enjoying an evening walk in a natural setting, sometimes with a “water feature,” and saying hello to other campers. Here at this huge truck stop, we nod to the one trucker who is out doing laps, but the massive trucks, most parked with their engines running, and some careening in and out of the parking area, are intimidating. We do two laps, but soon retreat to the camper to shut it all out.
Friday, January 13, 2017: Stopping to see friends and family
We drive down to Palm Beach Gardens and enjoy a late lunch with a friend at the PGA National Resort and Spa. This place is amazing: spread out, with five golf courses, gorgeous landscaping, and views from the hotel patio of multiple pools and fountains. Our friend takes us on his golf cart around the course where they are setting up for the Honda Classic in a few weeks. From here we drive back north a bit to Jupiter, where we get a 2-mile walk around Riverbend Park and see lots of birds, including a wild peacock. Then, we meet a cousin in Jupiter for a lovely dinner, overlooking an intracoastal waterway. We drive south again to Fort Lauderdale and sleep-stop behind the Original Pancake House, where we are to meet a friend for breakfast the next morning.
Saturday, January 14, 2017: Alligator Alley and Fort Myers
We get an early walk on the streets of Fort Lauderdale, enjoy breakfast with our friend, and then park near Fort Lauderdale Beach. We walk the beach, enjoying the lively Saturday crowd, playing volleyball, sunning and people watching like us.
We have a picnic lunch out of the camper and drive across Alligator Alley, stopping at Recreation Areas to see many birds and three alligators.
About 5PM, we arrive at the mobile home park where our friends Dave and Carol reside when they are not traveling. They are models for traveling in a Class B motor home and connecting with friends and family along the way. As they say, the Class B off-the-grid features make visiting easy since we bring our own bedroom and bath. We park between their home and their Advanced RV SuperStealth. For dinner, we go to Pinchers, in downtown Fort Myers, where the view of the lights across the river is lovely, the service is fun, and all our dinners are good – ahi tuna, mahi mahi tacos, and blackened grouper. We stay the night in our camper at their place.
Sunday, January 15, 2017: Venice Beach and Sarasota
After breakfast with Dave and Carol, we head north to Venice Beach. Mike uses their YMCA for a workout and shower, while I walk the parking lot, putter in the RV and get some rare alone time. We have a good lunch of southern cooking at Darrells and then walk Venice Beach. We drive up Casey Key Road, admiring the beautiful homes overlooking the Gulf. In Sarasota, we get groceries at Whole Foods and drive out to Lido Key, where we park on the city street next to the beach. We get another long beach walk, enjoy the sunset and have dinner in the RV. We settle for the night right there.
Monday, January 16, 2017: To the Florida RV SuperShow
Lovely morning, in the low 60’s. We walk to Lido Beach Hotel for coffee and the newspapers. Back in the RV, I get out our new NutriBullet Max and follow the directions to make a healthy and delicious smoothie for breakfast. Easy. The essential parts fit on the bottom shelf of the entry cabinet. We take a long walk to St. Armand’s Circle and back down the beach. We clean up and have lunch in the camper. Several people walking by stop to see the RV.
We drive to Tampa and park at a Flying J on Rt. 4 just minutes from the show. We walk across the street to LazyDays “RV resort” to see if they might have a spot for us tonight. They are completely booked, with a waiting list of 300! We walk their RV Resort, which has a huge, luxurious indoor swimming pool, a workout building, and rows upon rows of gorgeous Class A’s, most towing a car. We talk to the couple in the one Class B we see, a bright red Winnebago Travado. They are camping out, waiting at LazyDays for a part to come in. For dinner, we meet friends from Cleveland, and their friends from Switzerland, who are all going to the SuperShow. We “camp” at Walmart close to the fairgrounds.
Tuesday, January 17, 2017: Industry Day at the Florida RV SuperShow
When we registered for the SuperShow, campsites with services were full, so we reserved “dry camping. ” This turns out to be a tight parking lot next to the registration office, but that is OK. At the show, we meet our friends and explore the Class B’s and the assorted RV items for sale in the huge expo hall. We meet several suppliers and other RV manufacturers. We have dinner with our friends at the Hard Rock Café in the Seminole Casino across the street from the show.
Wednesday, January 18, 2017: More SuperShow, Orlando and Jacksonville
Early in the morning, we drive to Flying J, dump and fuel. In the parking lot of the SuperShow, we show Runaway to potential clients. We tour the rest of the Class B’s and meet an Advanced RV client for lunch. Next, we head to Orlando and show the RV to another interested couple. We then intend to make it to Savannah for dinner at Elizabeth’s on 37th, but traffic through Jacksonville is slow, so we stop for dinner at a new Thai restaurant there, Pat Thai, recommended on Yelp. It is good and fresh and we enjoy the young, recently immigrated Thai woman who attentively waits on us. We sleep-stop at a Pilot truck stop, near St. Mary’s, Georgia.
Thursday, January 19, 2017: Savannah and Kiawah Island
After sleeping 9 ½ hours, we catch up on emails and phone calls. At 11:30AM we arrive at the Savannah Visitors Center and get recommendations for a walking route and a place for lunch. We walk north on Bull St. to the Savannah River, enjoy a Cajun lunch at Huey’s, walk Emmet Park, and return on Abercorn, stopping in the Colonial Park Cemetery. All along the way, we read the plaques and study the monuments in the lovely squares, shaded by live oaks, to get a bit of the history of Savannah.
At 4:30PM, arriving on Kiawah Island, we park in the parking lot at our friends’ condo, surrounded by lush vegetation. They give us a quick driving tour of the island, where we see the elegant homes, golf courses and clubs. We have dinner at their home, marvel at the density of the stars in the dark sky over the ocean and sleep well for the first in nine nights out of the RV.
Friday, January 20, 2017: New River Trail State Park, Virginia
At sunrise, we walk the beach at Kiawah, then have breakfast with our friends, and set off again, grateful for this luxurious break in our RV travels. On SiriusXM, we listen to the Inauguration ceremonies. Late in the afternoon, just into Virginia on I-77, we stop at the New River Trail State Park and walk the beautiful path along the New River. This walk, plus our morning beach walk, makes this an 8-mile day. We sleep-stop at Cracker Barrel near Princeton, West Virginia.
Saturday, January 21, 2017: Back home
We eat breakfast at Cracker Barrel and set off, arriving home mid-afternoon. We’ve had another good RV adventure, seeing lots of friends, family and interesting places, new and old.
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