Sunday, April 28, 2013

Mexico Beach … aka Heaven!

We took the scenic route along the Gulf Coast north from Steinhatchee to Mexico Beach. As soon as we got settled into our campground we were off to the beach. Lucky for us the beach was only half a mile from the campground. And what a beach! You remember how I gushed about Siesta key beach? Well. It might have some competition. They are two very different beaches in some ways. The thing that Mexico beach has over Siesta Key is it’s complete lack of crowds. It’s every bit as beautiful with white sugar sand and emerald green water. It’s not nearly as wide but that’s okay because there are so few people there. And it’s very long; longer than Siesta Key. You just park along side the road wherever you want. There are boardwalks to the beach spaced frequently up and down the road. Easy. The town of Mexico Beach is very tiny and completely laid back. No night life here! One market, a handful of shops, a couple of eateries and rows of beach rentals all along the beach. No towering condos or hotels. So relaxed!

We spent a week here. And we went to the beach every day. Aside from a quick run into Panama City one day for some necessities, we just soaked up the soothing combination of sun, sand and surf. We felt stress just melting away as we sat there. And yes, we do have stress to deal with just like everyone else! In fact we were going through a particularly rough patch that required us really digging deep to figure out how to deal with a particular situation. And as we sat there mesmerized, we found ideas coming forth much easier than back at the RV. It was a much needed atmosphere for us at the time and we’re so very grateful for it.

We walked and walked (excellent smooth walking beach) and we sat and stared, looking for dolphins. We saw them every day! And on one very overcast day the water was much calmer than usual and as we walked along the water’s edge we saw many stingrays swimming very close to the shore. Even though I tend to be very leery of sea creatures I was delighted! They swim so fast it looks like they’re flying, which makes it pretty hard to get good pictures of them. A couple of times one would see us and turn towards us and zoom up really close. I was torn between wanting to keep trying to snap pictures and not wanting to be stung. Self-preservation won out. We ran out of the water laughing and squealing. Cue Jaws theme music as dark sea creature approaches.......

It is ridiculously difficult to get a good picture of a stingray. They are too fast!

And then there were the sunsets....Mmmmmmmm

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Aripeka & Steinhatchee

On our way north to the Florida panhandle, we made two stops along the way. Our first stop was in tiny Aripeka which sits right on the Gulf. It's not a beachy little town. It has a very marshy coastline instead. 

We stayed three nights at Aripeka West Campground which is an interesting little place. It was recommended to us by another full-timing RV friend. Our first impression was not too good though. It had a really red-neck dumpy look as we drove through looking for a spot. Spots weren't clearly marked at all and looked difficult to maneuver into. I think we were almost ready to just leave! But then this guy who had been watching (we nicknamed him Fabio) came over and helped us out a bunch by showing us where the best spot for our rig would be. Then another guy, who works there, came over and further helped by doing a most excellent job of guiding us into our spot. And when he realized that the spot was for 50 amp, not 30 amp, he went and got us an adapter to borrow. And he even hooked up our sewer hose for us! Who volunteers for that job? 

So about this time we decided this might not be such bad place after all. And it only got better from there. The manager came over and told us about how she got her older Bounder to look much fresher on the exterior without spending a huge hunk of change. Her's looks amazing! She printed off detailed instructions and everything. We're hoping to tackle that project in a couple of months. It was something we just weren't going to bother with since (either painting or trying to shine) because it's such a costly project to have done. But now that we know it can be done in inexpensively ourselves, with some effort of course, we're excited to give it a go. 

The overall theme of this campground is friendliness. We had strangers come up to our doorstep to welcome us and give us all kinds of tips. And since all the RVs there where older like ours, we just fit in. It was kind of nice really to not stick out as the oldest RV in the place. And once we settled in and got to looking around we realized how much the place had to offer including a really cute common area with several porch swings, a big fire pit, a bar area, and even a covered pool table. And everyone got out there and hung together socializing. Honestly, it reminded me of the apartment complex we left behind in Tucson which we loved like crazy because of the way the residents were actually neighborly! 

One not fun thing we had to deal with while there, was fleas! What we never saw coming was how bad fleas are in Florida. In our entire six years living in Tucson we never had a single flea. And not only did we not have them, but we didn't even do anything to prevent them. It just wasn't an issue. But just four months of being in Florida and both Dexter and Katie Cat had 'em. Never saw any sign of them on Bijou but we went ahead and bathed her too. Oh what fun that was! And we had to get all the animals out and flea bomb the RV. Near as we can tell we are now flea free. And hoping to keep it that way. Wish us luck.

Aripeka has some beautiful sunsets on the water's edge. The pictures speak for themselves!

Our second stop was in Steinhatchee. This is another small town on the gulf. We spent two nights here. I guess there is great fishing here. We were just basically taking it easy ourselves. We did a little exploring though during our one day. 

This was taken at Hagans Cove which has an observation tower for a nice view of the water out quite aways.

Then we found a fantastic place to have our picnic lunch, Steinhatchee Falls. Perfection! We are always happy when we can have a meal with a great view. 

We dubbed this the "Rootbeer Falls" since that is honestly what the water looked like. It was even foamy! The water gets that color from the tannins in the tree roots.

Next up; Mexico Beach! See ya on up the road......

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Playing Catch Up...Siesta Key Beach

Need to get caught up on the blog. I've been in one of my "don't want to write" moods. It's laziness. Putting a few blurbs up on facebook is just so much easier, you know? But between Karin chiding me for getting so behind and a friend inadvertently reminding me that daily practice is important I have checked my bad attitude. I sometimes need to be told. Gently or otherwise. I can be stubborn. Or obstinate as my mother used to say.    :)

So after leaving Punta Gorda and our sweet moochdocking spot, we headed a bit north to Lake Manatee State Recreation Area which is in the Sarasota area. This turned out to be a great campground.  The park itself doesn't offer a whole lot to do unless you are a boater. No trails really. But that was fine since we chose it more for it's proximity to Sarasota. The RV spots were the most private we've experienced since being on the road. It was really nice to "get away" from others for a bit.

Our private dining "room"

Do you see any other campers? Neither did we!

Sarasota is a lovely area. The main attraction for us was Siesta Key. Karin had been there a very long time ago and I had never been before. But you know what? We will be back! Siesta Key Beach was AMAZING! Yes, it really is worthy of all caps. 

It's huge for starters. Very long and very, very wide. Even though the parking lots were getting close to full, the beach didn't look crowded at all. There is just so much room to spread out. And speaking of parking, it's free!!! After paying at most beaches to park this was a very happy surprise.

The water was emerald green and the sand was soft and white. We did lots of walking. Not a lot of shells if that is your thing but it makes for such easy walking.

It just blew us away how much "space" we had here.

Hmmmm......really haven't done that much writing for this post. So what was I putting it off so long for?  Good grief Brenda. Why do I do that? Procrastinate over something that isn't even a chore? Silly. I'll leave you with a few more shots (you don' even want to know how many I's fact, that's where the real work is...editing photos...but that's work that I love).

Monday, April 15, 2013


Boondocking is a term that refers to camping off the grid (no hookups..electric, water or sewer), usually on public lands for free or a very small fee. It can also be done overnight only at places such as rest areas, large parking lots or even just on the street if you can get away with it. One other way is to park in someone’s driveway, invited of course! Now if the owner of the property happens to have some hookups for you to use it isn’t technically boondocking anymore. It’s what I like to refer to as “moochdocking”.

In the fine tradition of couch surfing (where travelers can spend the night at a stranger’s house) there is now an organization where people with room for rigs to park offer their spaces to travelers in need of somewhere to stay. This is a great thing! Sometimes you need something to bridge the gap between campgrounds. It’s a money saver, convenient and a great way to make new friends.

Recently we were having trouble trying to locate an available campground in the area we wanted to visit. So we went to Boondocker's Welcome, did a search and found an available driveway right where we wanted to be. What a great experience it turned out to be! Our hosts, two very cool ladies, made us feel so welcome. They were able to give us great tips about the area and even acted as our own personal tour guides one day. This is a resource we’ll continue to make use of when needed or just to mix things up a bit. Note- If you're interested in becoming a member of Boondocker's Welcome, I have a discount code just for you! Enter TRVLBLOGSPECIAL for a 10% discount. This is valid until may 15. 

Sweet camping spot in Punta Gorda....quiet neighborhood and friendly hosts.

One of our days there we went to a beach the ladies had recommended. It was exactly what we needed after our previous stress. I'm pretty sure a day at the beach can fix most anything.

Englewood Beach

Another day Virginia, one of the ladies, came with us for some sight seeing in the area. It was great having a tour guide! Virginia recently had knee replacement surgery and has been pretty house bound during the day as she can't drive yet. So she was more than happy to come along for the ride. We went to a local fishing pier, a cute shopping complex on the water, a drive through the very quaint downtown area and finally dinner at a seafood place looking out over one of the channels.

Karin with Virginia
Charlotte Harbor
Karin makes a fine pirate but I gotta figure this mermaid thing out.

Dining on the water. As boaters went by they waved and lifted their drinks to us. And we did the same back. It was cool.   :)