Florida RV trip 2014
Roger and Linda's trip Diary to Florida,
February 5 through March 20, 2013

02/05/14 Linda and I left on the day of my birthday on our 1.5 month RV trip to Florida. It was a beautiful partly sunny day in the mid 60’s and all went well with very little traffic. We arrived at our destination Desert Edge RV resort in north Phoenix about 3:00pm. It was my birthday at age 71 today so we had dinner at the Macaroni Grill the best we could do without a long drive in this northern part of Phoenix. When we returned we enjoyed San Diego State Basketball on satellite TV. Of course our number 5 team in the nation won the game.

02/06/14 We ran out of propane in the night and the electric heater did not do the job to keep me warm. It turned out that the auto switch over propane valve went bad. I bought a new one at a nearby RV service center and spent 1 hour and 15 minutes getting it installed. This did the job and we now had heat from the main propane central heater. Got on our way about noon to Casa Grande to visit our friends Bill and Tommie Peters. They had just purchased a new house in a golf course community. We parked our trailer on a concrete pad made for RV’s having electricity. The house and back yard was very nice. The back yard had a gas fire pit which we used before dinner. Junior and Tommie are excellent cooks. We have barbecued ribs, asparagus, potatoes casserole, garlic bread, and a cherry cheese cake pie for dinner. Every thing was great. yum yum.

02/07/14 The Peters made us a great breakfast for the road consisting of fried eggs, bacon, muffins and gravy, and a big bowl of several fruits. We drove about 380 miles to to Las Cruces, NM checking into the Hacienda RV & Rally Resort. We had left overs from the Macroni Grill for dinner.

02/08/14 Yesterday I discovered an RV wash service that did outstanding job for a very reasonable price. So I hired them to do the trailer including roof and the truck for $100. They did a fantastic job and were done by 9:00am at which time I left for Fort Stockton, TX. It was a pleasant day on a good road with very little traffic. We listened to an audible book biography of president Lyndon B Johnson on the way. I decided that I liked LBJ a lot in spite of him being a democrat. We arrived at the Fort Stockton RV Park around 4:00pm central time. We had dinner at a cafe run by the family of the RV Park. To my surprise both Linda’s Chicken Fried Steak and my Short Ribs dinners were excellent. They allowed me to bring my own wine with no corkage fee. Retired very early to bed.

02/09/14 Had an excellent large breakfast at the RV Park cafe and got on our way to San Antonia, TX. It was a long boring desolate 565 mile ride through Texas to SA. Getting through town on the freeway system was real challenge as there were many turns and exits on the freeway system to our RV Park just upstream of River Walk tourist area. The
RV Park was beautiful, clean, right on the river trail 3 miles from River Walk tourist area, and quite scenic with big Cottonwood trees. We had dinner at a wonderful Mexican Restaurant across the street from the RV Park. The food was outstanding at a very low price. We took half home and enjoyed it a couple nights later. Watched the olympics and retired early.

02/10/14 Got on the road about 8:00am. Drove on across the state seeing arid desert scrub trees with scattered oil wells to Lake Charles, LA. Stayed at a nice park called A Plus Motel and RV Park. It was raining, cold 43 F., and windy, very unpleasant setting up camp. We are on the Gulf of Mexico now in French Cajun country, so we decided to have dinner at a Cajun seafood cafe and market. The food; fried shrimp, oysters, coleslaw, and hush puppies were spicy and definitely cajun spicy.

02/11/14 After a cold stormy rainy night we got up early in the dark 7:00am and had frozen waffle breakfast. We drove through the scenic windy, cold, rainy bayous about 365 hard miles to Mobile, AL. We were both fatigued, but made it to our destination and checked into Shady Acres Campground just before entering downtown Mobile.

02/12/14 Left Mobile, AL about 8:00am local time with light rain coming down. Highway 10 continued to be a good easy to drive straight and smooth highway along the Gulf Coast of the US southeastern states. Arrived in Tallahassee, Fl about 3:00pm eastern time picking up an hour due to the time change. Some light rain at a cold 44F. Checked into a beautiful pine wooded RV Park with huge level sites. Cost of one night stay is $41.

02/13/14 We left Tallahassee, the state capital of Florida about 8:00am to continue through the panhandle and the south down to our destination at Zephyr Hills which is close to Tampa Florida. Checked into Forest Lake Village RV Park a nice clean friendly park, probably 50% occupied by Canadians. We got set up and than went to visit my sister who was staying in a resort right next door. Joanne made us pulled pork sandwiches for dinner.

02/14/14 David and I went to a local club RC field about 20 miles away in ZephyrHills farm country. The last 3 miles was on a dirt sand road through farm country, orange groves, and swamps and very scenic. We then went to Lakeland for lunch and shopping. I bought a $60 honey baked ham, but then left it in a Hobby Lobby shopping cart never to be found again What a bummer $60 loss and no ham to eat. Joanne made chocolate covered strawberries for dessert at home.

02/15/14 Joanne and David took us to large flea market near Tampa today. The produce was very interesting and extensive. We then went to the coast to a place where they sell and process lots of natural Gulf Coast sponges. We learned a lot about sponges and enjoyed photographing the pretty bay front moorings where the sponge boats are located. Got home after dark and felt guilty about leaving Meghan our Irish Terrier in our trailer for 9 hours. The traffic around Tampa was gruesome to say the least.

02/16/14 We slept late today and then went to visit Rose Kimmel my aunt at Lakeland a short distance from ZephyrHills. Rose owned at nice prefabricated home on a golf course. We toured her house and then took a short walk on the golf course to a pond to view an alligator. Rose asked us to select an art piece in her home that we like to be designated for us in her will. I invited her to join us for dinner at Berns Steak House when we go next Wednesday. I made a white bean vegetable soup with Cajon Andouille sausage and corn bread with honey for dinner. The soup was one of the better concoctions I have ever made.

02/17/14 Linda did laundry. I purchased more propane at $24 per 30# tank. In the afternoon David and I went to fly RC helicopters at a large swap meet park which was not in operation today. We had lots of fun, but had two crashes; one with the Phantom by David with no damage and one by me with the Flame hex copter which broke one leg and ripped out a connector on my video transmitter, both repairable with minor cost.

02/18/14 We drove to Myakka River State Park today which is near Sarasota, FL. We did an air boat tour on a lake seeing many alligators in the water and on shore. We also did a land tram tour through prairie and jungle like habitat. It was a beautiful sunny day in the lower 80’s today and felt quite warm to us all. We brought our Irish Terrier Meghan to the park as dogs were allowed. The travel to the Sarasota park took 2 hours each way. We ate at Panera Bread when we got back. I then stayed up to watch the Aztec game on TV starting at 11:00pm eastern time.

02/19/14 We went to Burns Steak house in Tampa this evening. We took my sister Joanne and her husband and also my aunt Rose Kimmel who lives out here in Lakeland. She is 87 years old. It was a trying driving into downtown Tampa during rush hour, but we finally made it after a GPS street naming glitch. The restaurant was phenomenal with unbelievable ambiance, good service, and excellent food. Our 8” Delmonica steaks were tasty, tender, with all gristle and fat removed. Rose and I had 2 glasses of Ferrari-Carano Cabernet dry oaky red wine which was excellent. We had a side dish of creamed corn with black truffles which was to die for. After dinning down stairs we moved up stairs to the desert room, each room made of redwood wine barrels shipped from California. The coffees and desert wines were impressive. The desert was mostly very good and decadent. We had a great time and David Allen the designated driver took us back home. Yum Yum.

02/20/14 Slept very late to about 10:30am to recover from the big gourmet dinner last night. My truck would not start and I had to go out and buy two 800 amp-hour batteries from Walmart as there was no Costco nearby.

02/21/14 We decided to visit the “Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park” about 60 miles north of us. The main reason for the trip was Linda’s desire to see Manatees which this park was supposed to have. Unfortunately we only saw about 4 of them being rehabilitated in a small recovery pond. The park and electric boat ride through a bayou was however fun and very scenic. Stopped at a seafood restaurant on the coast. I had grilled grouper a bad choice and the others had deep fried fish fry which was good.

02/22/14 I made sourdough pancakes for our group this morning with real maple syrup and Blueberry preserves made by Lana Willingham. After breakfast Linda and I did a 3 mile hike in “Upper Hillsborough Wildlife Management Area” right next to our Forest Hills RV Park. It is huge; thousands of acres run by the Southwest Florida Water District. Hunting is allowed and wild pig, squirrel, and rabbit were in season right now. Next weekend the wild turkey season begins. We stayed on one the dirt roads, seeing lots of hunters but no wild pigs or snakes of any kind. Entry was free and hunters only have to pay $28 for a permit. I made pasta with spinach, corn, peppers, onions, Parmesan cheese, and garlic butter grilled jumbo shrimp. Yum Yum.

02/24/14 We all went to Epcot Center at DisneyWorld today. What a must see tourist attraction this is. We all loved it and must have walked about 7 miles seeing it. It took me two days to recover. My favorite ride in the tech area was called “Soaring: which gave you an incredible feeling that you are actually in a glider most above California land scape. We ate in the cultural area of Italy having gourmet pizza which was great. Of course every thing is pricy; entrance $100, parking $17, lunch about $30. I would however go back and pay the money gladly. If I visit my sister next year I will want to go to one of the other 4 Disney Worlds, probably Wild Kingdom. I would be nice to stay at a site hotel with a package that would be a bit more cost effective.

02/25/14 We all decided to play Bingo at Joanne’s next door resort. The event is very popular in the complex and took about 2 hours to go through all the weird games of every possible innovation Bingo card combinations. Both Linda and I scored Bingo once and doubled our entry fee each. It was fun but too long to suit me.

02/26/14 I tried a morning aerobics class, which made me realize how out of shape I am. I will be motivated to look up a class in San Diego when I get back. It is fun and very good for one’s body. We had so much fun last night that we decided to try Bingo again tonight at our RV Resort. Linda and I made no money so we broke even for two nights of Bingo.

02/27/14 We all went to the Strawberry Festival at Plant City today. A very impressive festival similar to our Delmar Fair in California. The vendor material was much different than at Delmar. David and I bought some high tech super glue $40 which I hope will repair my RC helicopter broken leg. I also bought a laser picture frame with engraved Irish Terrier replica and text that says “ I love my Meghan” for $17. We had our farewell dinner with Joanne and David at a nice neighborhood Italian restaurant in downtown ZephyrHills.

02/28/14 Spent the day packing up for our exit as Joanne and David are leaving this morning to catch their Caribbean cruise on Holland America.

03/01/14 Drove north to Tallahassee and checked into the RV park of the same name. We wanted to watch the SD Aztec mens BB team play tonight but unfortunately tall pine trees surrounding the park blocked our Satellite TV reception. Instead we watch Florida play LSU on local cable TV. Florida is very good and SD would have a tough time beating them in late rounds of the NCAA March madness. We drove right past Gainesville where the Gators reside on the way up here in Tallahassee.

03/02/14 Drove to Panama City and checked into St. Andrews SP right on the eastern coast. This park is in a beautiful island setting with wetland swamps, lakes, ocean bay views, many varieties of trees, direct access to the ocean beach, water birds galore, alligators, deer, and lots of other wild life. The sites are large with electric and water only with at least 1/2 of them having great views. Both Linda and I loved the place for $30/night and many roads, trails, and beaches accessible for getting exercise. Dogs are allowed on the road, but not the beaches. We walked about 3 or 4 miles around the park with Meghan as it was a beautiful sunny day in low 70’s. Our site was surrounded by trees but we were able to get satellite TV by delicate placement of our portable satellite dish.

03/03/14 It was rainy and cloudy in the morning. We drove to a restaurant called the “Egg and I” for breakfast. I had an upscale Eggs Benedict on a French croissant that was to die for. Yum Yum. Spent the day mostly kicking back and fixing various problems on the 5th wheel. At night we went for dinner at “Captain Anderson’s” the best seafood restaurant in the area without a doubt. The dinner was very enjoyable and Linda also liked it, especially her Key lime pie dessert.

03/04/14 We have not been cooking in the 5th wheel here, because we do not have sewer hookups. We ate at a local Waffle shop that was loaded with locals almost all employed in fishing, boating, and tourism associated business. The big BP oil spill several years ago did effect this community, but they are mostly back to normal now. The main season probably begins in April when it warms up a bit. We took the dog for a run at one of the local parks in Panama Beach. The beach’s have beautiful white sand with turquoise colored water for miles and miles. There are also many many high rise resort hotels for perhaps 15 miles along the beach. I guess all the people in the north flock in here for the beach time. It is not busy at all right now, but students on spring break are beginning to come in.

03/05/14 We drove 320 miles to New Orleans to today. Checked into an expensive $82 per night RV Park called Pontchartrain right on the lake. It is an industrial area area of town about 7 miles from the French Quarter. I was very tired so we had hot dogs and sauerkraut for dinner in the trailer. I rested for 3 hours and got up at 10pm to watch SD
Aztecs on CBS Sports satellite TV play UNLV. A very exciting close game swinging back and forth but, which SD won by pulling away with some great plays in the last 2 minutes of the game.

03/06/14 Slept in late until 8:30am and then went to the RV concierge office to order Grayline tours; Super City tour today and Oak Alley Plantation tour tomorrow. It turned out that our RV park was actually a 8-30 minute drive depending on traffic to the down town Grayline office on the Mississippi River, also the site where cruise ships and paddle wheel ships depart and arrive. The City tour gave an excellent insight into the what the Big Easy city is all about. It is just amazing to me that virtually all of this city is below sea level by 1 to 14 feet only possible because of all the pumping stations and levy sea walls installed around the city. The tour lasted about 3 hours. We met a couple from San Diego on the tour and had lunch with them in the French Quarter after the tour. We tried to have lunch at Emeril Lagasse’s NOLA restaurant, arriving just as they were closing, so we had to eat at a very mediocre restaurant next door. I could never get Linda to commit to a good restaurant reservation so I stayed 3 nights in one of the best culinary cities in the world and never ate at a great restuarant!!! Bummer

03/07/14 We left at 12 noon on our Grayline tour to the Oak Ally Plantation about a one hour scenic drive through swamps and bayous upstream along the Mississippi River to a small town where the plantation was located. The plantation was absolutely beautiful and one of the most photographed plantations ever showing up in many movies and promotional brochures throughout the country. The tour through the big house was actually conducted by the conservancy company running the plantation. Our guide was excellent and very knowledgeable about the history and operation of the original plantation activities. The bus ride back stayed closer to the river and was quite scenic. The traffic however was quite heavy and we did not get back until 5:30pm. We felt compelled to get back to our Irish Terrier Meghan who had been in the trailer for 7 hours. It was rush hour and it took us an hour just to get out of our parking lot at Grayline. We did not get home until 7:30pm. Linda would not go back into town so I just had cheese and crackers for dinner.

03/08/14 We drove about 300 miles today to Sulphur, LA near Lake Charles, LA. Checked into the A+ Motel and RV Park and very nice clean park with all amenities. We had dinner at a Cajun restaurant called Richard’s. I tried a Cajon spicy crawfish and shrimp boil served with hot butter and a Cajon sauce on the side. Both were very tasty but way too much work to remove the meat out of the shells. I had to try it once, also the crawfish are farmed raised in fields big time in this area. The crop of crawfish was small this year because of the cold weather (what global warming???). I took a nap for 2.5 hours and then got up to watch SD Aztecs mens BB team play NM State for the conference championship. SD was having a bad game and ended up 16 points behind with 8 minutes to go. Coach Fisher switched to a zone defense and it worked as NM did not know how to handle it. SD made an incredible comeback and ended up winning by 3 points. One of the most amazing games I have ever watched.

03/09/14 Drove 357 miles to San Antonio, TX and checked into the Travelers World RV Park near River Walk. The weather was intermittent rain and very cold low 50’s and high 40’s.

03/10/14 Linda did our laundry today and we also went shopping for upcoming trip to the wilds in the Texas Big Bend NP. I took Meghan for a long walk while Linda was doing the laundry,. We tried to go into the Alamo but it was jam packed with tourists creating a long line to get in, so we skipped it. It rained on and off most of the afternoon. At night I took Linda to Rosario’s the first or second best Mexican Restaurant in San Antonio. The food was great, but the service was quite slow. I had a desert crepe with carmel sauce and candy roasted pecans with home made vanilla ice cream YUM YUM.

03/11/14 Drove 347 miles to Fort Stockton, TX. The temperature got up to 88 F. I enjoyed the heat after mostly freezing for the last 2 weeks. We ate left overs in the trailer for dinner with the AC turned on. Watched the beginning of one of the NCAA mens league basketball playoffs. Enjoyed watching Gonzaga beat BYU.

03/12/14 Left late for Big Bend NP driving about 240 miles to Rio Grande Village RV where 25 campsites with full hookups exist. The last 65 miles into the park took 1.5 hours because of the curvy and bumpy road. This pristine park is huge with a mountainous desert terrain. We walked on a road from our campground down to the Rio Grande River which had quite a good flow and was very scenic with the Chisos mountains in the background. The weather clear, low 70’s, and very windy. Very pleasant if one can stay out of that obnoxious wind.

03/13/14 We got up at 6:30am to beat the crowds that tour the park hot spots. It was dark when we took off heading southwest for Castolon, an old miltary outpost on the Rio Grande River. I stopped several times as we left before sunrise and I want several sun rise photos for my web site. It was a beautiful morning with some clouds producing a nice sun rise photo. We stopped about 1/2 way and did a hiking trail with Meghan around an old home stead “Johnson’s Ranch” where pecans were grown along with some cattle ranching. Castolon on the river had several current park buildings and several renovated old buildings from the past. We spend time walking around and photographing the buildings and then drove back to camp where we did some resting in the peaceful serenity of the park.

03/14/14 We got up early again at 6:30am again to beat the crowds. Our destination today was the Chisos Mountains basin where a visiter center and a Lodge is located. This huge basin on top of the 6000’ mountain is probably they main reason they made this a National Park. The rock formations are formidable with a view to the west at one end of the basin called the “Window”. We started a 5 mile hike to the window but it was so cold up their in the 40’s with wind so we turned back after a 1/2 mile. I think I caught a bad cold up here on this day which I still have on 3/23/14. On the way back to camp we stopped at a desert oasis springs and walked a desert nature trail with Meghan. It was beautiful out there with the pristine desert flora and fauna and the unbelievable quiet tranquility of the place. Return to camp for lunch. Rested a couple of hours and then drove to Boquillas Canyon and walked a mile into the canyon on the trail. A very photogenic spot right on the river. Next we drove to the Hot Springs Historic District on a very scary steep and narrow dirt road. If you went off the edge of this road you would meet a sudden death down a steep cliff. After getting there you then have to walk about 1.25 miles down a scenic trail along the river down to the hot springs. Before the park this was a health spa for terminally ill patients. The 105 F. hot springs naturally flowed into a small man made brick pool about 3’ deep and then overflowed into the river. It was about 88 F this day so neither Linda or I went into the pool. I think all the hiking and hot weather excerbated my MS symptoms this day and it took me two or three days to fully recover to normal. We returned to camp and had a left over dinner. Watched SD Aztec’s play UNLV on satellite. SD beat them by 10 points.

03/15/14 Checked out at 8:00am and drove out of Big Bend taking the western route. We arrived in Fort Davis Texas about 1:30am and checked into a seedy RV park. We had lunch at a nice Bistro. Then we visited Fort Davis National Historic Site, a well restored fort which was used to fight the Comanche Indians and to protect emigrants, mail coaches and freight wagons on the Trans-Pecos portion of the San Antonio-El Paso Road and on the Chihuahua Trail. The fort was named in honor of Jefferson Davis (later to become the leader of the Confederates in the civil war) the Secretary of war at the time. The majority of the soldiers here were black, the first to be officially allowed in the US military. The weather was beautiful at the site. The weather changed rapidly to rain and later snow at this 5000’ elevation site. We ate in the trailer and watched TV.

03/16/14 Got the trailer ready to drive in the cold morning with snow and rain. Drove north through Texas as the weather started improving into a beautiful day. The mostly Ghost town of Valentine was amazing and I stopped for a 1/2 hour for photographs of the old dilapidated buildings. Arrived in Las Cruces and checked into one our favorite RV parks, the Hacienda. Weather was beautiful and I walked Meghan around the park talking with various occupants who were staying the winter here because of the pleasant warm dry weather. Ate at one of the top two Las Cruces Mexican restaurants for dinner.

03/17/14 Left early and drove 350 miles Picacho Peak SP just 40 miles north of Tucson AZ. Only had electrical with no water or sewer. Was very tired from long drive. We had left over Mexican food for dinner. Retired early as I was really beat.

03/18/14 Got up early and made sour dough pancakes for breakfast. Meghan, Linda, and I did a hike up the back side of peak mountain perhaps 2/3 up. This is one of prettiest desert trails I have every been on. The Saguaro Cactus and other desert flora and fauna is very prolific and beautiful in the spring of the year. Meghan was allowed to run around without leash as it was early in morning and we were alone. In the past, I have seen red fox on this trail. Apparently Javelina are also out here.

The reason we decided to stay here two nights, was that we wanted to visit our RV camping friend Greg Peter who lives at Saddle Brook, a for members only retirement community in north east Tucson. We drove about 50 miles to his house on a narrow back desert road. My diesel truck began running rough with reduced power, but we made it OK. I checked my truck oil, transmission and did a general inspection finding no problems. Greg was home from his tennis match and his wife Pam was there. They are both retired. We liked there very attractive small one level house in a desert setting with Mount Lemon in the background. The scenic area behind their house is an open space desert environment which supports wildlife; Javelina, Bob Cats, Coyote, Red Fox, birds, etc. Greg took us to lunch at one of his country club sites. The weather, atmosphere, good food, and general ambiance of the place made you want to consider this as a possible retirement site for winter residence. After lunch Greg drove us to all three sites owned by the development company of his home. As a member he is allowed to used the excellent facilities of three sites such as restaurants, tennis, golf, pools, gyms, etc. They were all very nice and inexpensive compared to San Diego area prices. We returned to Greg’s house for socialization and bit of Saint Emilion wine which I brought. Linda and Pam hit if off well as they are both natives of San Diego. We had a enjoyable visit and returned home before dark.

03/19/14 Got up early 6:15am and cooked more sour dough pancakes with dough left over from yesterday. Got trailer ready to travel. To my horror the diesel truck barely started and then would only run at 2000 rpm. I checked dealers in the area and found a Chevy dealer in Casa Grande 35 miles away was the closest. I decided to try and make it the 35 miles without the trailer. I made it travelling 35 to 45 mph, and the dealer said he could look at it today. I call my friend Bill Peter who lives in Casa Grande 3 miles from the dealer. He offered to let me use his truck until mine was repaired. I took up his offer and drove it 35 miles back to Picacho Peak SP and picked up my trailer and towed it to a nice Trailer Park that was only 1/2 mile from the Chevy deal. I was all set now if the repair turned into days. Fortunately the dealer called back and said they could fix the injector wiring harness today for $685 [pulled codes P0202 injector #2 control circuit / P2149 injector pos voltage control circuit group 2 replaced fuel injector harness and cleared codes] . I told them to proceed on this. There was another problem [pulled code for transmission valve body P0742 / cleared code and shifting correctly at this time] which caused reverse not to engage and they said they had no part to fix this and if they did it would cost $2400. They also said that the wiring harness malfunction could have caused this and it may be just fine to forget replacing this part unless the error occurs again. [pulled code for transmission valve body P0742 / cleared code and shifting correctly at this time.] We picked up truck and drove two trucks to Bill Peters house to return his truck. Visited a bit with the Peters and their house guest thanking them profusely and giving them a good bottle of French white Burgundy. We then went to a local sports bar called Dells which had wonderful pizza. We were both much relieved to have a working vehicle and enjoyed our Guinness and Hiwaiian pizza very much.

03/20/14 Got up at 6:15am and drove 320 miles home. It was a fun trip but I was glad to be home. Immediately started unloading and at night watched SD Aztec’s win their first round at the NCAA tournament game.