Sunday, December 29, 2013

A Boat Ride and Getting Ready for the New Year…

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Boat Ride Fort Myers Beach 002When our new friends, Art and Betty, asked if we wanted to go on a boat ride we were quick to say yes. What a great day we had on their boa!. We left from the Lover’s Key State Park boat ramp headed toward Fort Myers Beach along the bay. It wasn’t long before we spotted a few dolphins parting the waters and leaving a wake behind them. 

We were also able to admire the nesting Ospreys foraging for fresh sushi in the bay waters. The beautiful tangle of mangroves all along the shoreline offered refuge for the various egrets,herons and the occasional ruddy duck. Then on the other side of the bay it was populated with condos and homes from all types of socioeconomic classes. Many of the homes had huge screened lanai’s with pools and/or hot tubs in the enclosures.

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After a few hours of boating and sightseeing along the bay, we stopped and had a nice lunch at one of the waterfront cafes. The food was okay but nothing exceptional however the cold beers were pretty tasty… After lunch we took the leisurely boat ride back to Lover’s Key. The three of us had a great time boating.. What a great day…Thanks to our new friends from Michigan, Art and Betty!

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These past few days have been a flurry of other activities and on a few of those days we found Katie asleep on the couch. The old folks are wearing her out! We are so happy to have her here making good memories and giving her a great vacation before she goes back home to start graduate school.The new year is right around the corner so Katie and Sharon are planning for a fun New Year’s Eve… Before we know it will no longer be 2013 as 2014 is approaching. We wish all of you a very Happy and Prosperous New Year from down here in Bonita Springs, Florida! Cheers!!!

Friday, December 27, 2013

Love having an address again and more fun…

xmas 2013 004We had a great Christmas and really enjoyed having Katie here. We also got to Skype and watch the grandkids open their presents in Texas too. Have I mentioned having an address has been a real life saver as we were in need of many necessary and wishing for some luxury items. Sharon’s laptop battery was fried as well as both our laptop chargers. It’s been fun tracking them as they make their way down to us and we received them on Christmas Eve. We had a great Christmas and we even got the number one item on our wish list! The one “luxury” item we both wanted was a shade extension to our awning. It too arrived just before Christmas and we were happy to see the size we ordered was just right for us. We were amazed at how much cooler and more pleasant it makes our sitting area outside. Money well spent for sure…

bonita beaches 002Recently we also had an LED indicator light go out on our water pump “on/off” switch. It annoyed us a lot as we never knew when we had left the water pump on. With the help of a fantastic step by step document I took the switch off the cabinet and took it apart and was able to locate the burnt out LED. I checked with the local radio shack for a replacement LED lights but they were out of then and we had to order one that they would ship to our address. Did I mention we love having an address. Replacing the LED was a bit tricky using the soldering iron as the LED is in such a tight plastic housing but I eventually got it soldered and we now have a “on/off” water pump LED indicator that works… and only 2.99 for parts and I even got a spare bulb as they came in a two pack!

egretMeanwhile, the weather has been ideal so Katie insisted we take her to the beach. I fished while the ladies laughed while trying to master the art of throwing the cast net for bait fish. There is definitely a learning curve to throwing the net just right. We’ve watched many a video with instructors who make it look easy. I can’t say my technique is pretty but I do manage to catch bait fish so for now I am happy with that. We had a friend that always stayed nearby when we brought the cast net back in, a snowy egret. The entire time we were at the beach he/she was lying in wait should any bait fish escape to secure a free fishy snack, or as I called it, bird sushi. Indeed he snagged a couple of bait fish so his patience paid off. We had a great time except for Katie managed to step on a razor shell and cut her foot toward the end of the day, but otherwise it was a near perfect afternoon of fun.

IBE with Katie 009That evening one of the Wisconsin neighbors near us invited us to Happy Hour to taste his collection of homemade wines. Everyone was told to bring party food so Sharon and Katie made some sausage cheese Kolaches warm and fresh from the oven. It turned out to be a huge event so we met more people from the park. One couple we met playing cornhole (beanbag toss) mentioned they have a boat and invited us for a boat ride the next day. They didn’t have to ask twice so we have future plans for a boat ride The homemade wines were pretty darned good as I tried a strawberry one that was lightly dry and nice, a blueberry one that was a bit sweet for me and a plum/blueberry was that was, well… just plum good!!!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

More fun with Katie and Merry Christmas to all…

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Still enjoying our visit from Katie as we took a trip down to the Everglades where we showed her some swampland that encompasses so much of southern Florida. She was able to see lots of big alligators as well as the abundance of butterflies and birds that area always has to offer. Her favorite sighting was a bald eagle who soared over our heads and she was in awe of its sheer size and power.  A little further down the trail we spotted an eagles nest, so it was indeed a successful trip.

On the way back it was nearing evening so we pulled into the town of Naples where we strolled the downtown areas of 3rd Avenue and 5th Street.  Katie really enjoyed the Christmas lights and decorations. Based upon the weather here you would never know that the winter solstice passed and it is nearly Christmas. The decorations along with a little people watching we found ourselves experiencing a bit of the Christmas cheer.

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Another trip we shared with Katie was one over to the greyhound track Fun in Bontia Springs 020during “Dollar Days.” Dollar Days features dollar hotdogs along with dollar draft beer so it is always an inexpensive way to enjoy a long afternoon. Katie learned all about the greyhound racing industry and how it has changed over the years.  She even placed a few bets as we did. We won a couple of races but no big score yet it helped pay for a few of those dollar beers! It was still a great time watching the dogs and having a good laugh at some of our not so lucky picks. And  of course you just can’t beat dollar beer and dollar hot dogs to round out a day of fun.

Lastly, I want to wish all who read this prose a very happy holiday season and may your Christmas time be joyous and delightful!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Winter Fun in Florida with Katie…

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Like last year once again our daughter Katie flew down to visit for the Christmas holidays. She really seems to like hanging out with us and enjoys the RV as much as we do. She is going to need this break as she left her job and is returning back to school in January to pursue her Doctorate of Physical Therapy.

It has been a bustle of activity since her arrival beginning with the weekly Cornhole (bean bag toss) tournament. Amazingly Katie and her partner came in second. Those college games must have kept her game in top form. Our new friends in the park embraced her just as warmly as they have us so we are certainly glad we chose this location.

tableWe also introduced her to the local farmers market and flea market nearby. At the flea market, Katie and Sharon found a free side table they had to have for our outdoor area to hold our happy hour drinks and snacks. They were so happy with their find even though they ended up carrying it all the way home since they walked to the market rather than taking the car. I am not a shopper so I stayed home fixing some of the items on the to-do list we made.

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We have a few more ideas for entertaining Katie while she is here as this will be her last big vacation for awhile since she is starting her doctorate in January. For now we are simply savoring the Florida sunshine and it’s near perfect weather.

Our Christmas shopping is about done and we look forward to preparing a nice dinner here at home with Katie. In looking ahead to the New Year we have begun shaping up a travel plan as I am sure not long after Katie leaves, I will be feeling the “hitch itch” and be ready to hit the road again soon…

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

A List for Buying the Perfect RV- Reflecting back…

our new motorhome 2-2010

imageLooking back at some old notes I made when we first started looking at buying an RV to fulltime in, there was a list of items we felt were important to us to have. Seeing list nearly three years later I thought it would make a great topic for a blog especially for those just now looking at what RV to buy for their future fulltiming needs.

Let me set the stage… we knew absolutely nothing about RV’s except what we had read online. Now we have nearly three years of fulltiming experience under our belts so I thought I would go back and comment about each item on the list given our last three years of experiences. Below is our original list with my comments added after each one…

1. It needs to *feel* comfortable – it turned out to be an absolute must item and one we found when we finally found the “right one” for us

2. a living room/dining room slide – we have two slides and love our large dining/livingroom slide

3. a bedroom slide – we love these slides too as it makes it nice and roomy

4. nice size kitchen with double door fridge – cabinet space and storage is critical

5. sturdy shower door – we have no problem at all with the door

6. We wanted a bedroom with a queen bed (walk around) with night stand/shelf (for book, glasses, drink) and a dresser and closet –we  have this wand love having all these items

7. less than 5 years old – buying used saved money and it was "broken-in"

8. less than 25000 miles – ours had fewer miles than I would have preferred for breaking-in a  diesel engine

9. under $65k, out the door – this would have been nice but we were over by about 50%

10. prefer double pain windows- we have them and although they may fog in between panes and need replacing ($$$) they are excellent for providing a sound barrier as we hear hardly anything through them

11. ice maker separate from the frig –we love having this

12. At least a 10 cubic foot Refrigerator – we double door fridge is a must have for any RV’er who cooks a lot in their home

13. need 3000 lbs carrying capacity for our stuff – we have a bit less and would prefer 3000 lbs to make us worry less about uneven loading

14. Insulation Package – sure helps in the heat and cold, better insulation equals better results

15. Adequate space on both sides of bed for ease in making it – luxury item but one we love having

16. Convenient access to dump valves – I think we found that nearly all have this

17. Large Pantry – important to us as we cook a lot in our RV

18. Large windows and lots of them – great for when we have those scenic stays

19. Space for at least two house batteries – more the merrier – wish we could store 4 now for any future solar needs

20. Tinted Windows – yes, yes, yes – allows us more privacy in narrow RV slots

21. Black Tank Back-Flush – very important but again we found most have this

22. Desk Area – we don’t have this but don’t really miss this item since I can use the dining table for a temporary desk

23. loads of storage inside and in the basement – we feel his is very important to a fulltimer

24. light cabinets and interiors – we have lighter wood interior cabinets and feel it makes it brighter and roomier feeling inside

25. at least one "all the way thru" storage in basement – we don't have this and would love to have one, although we have done fine without it

26. Make sure the bin doors outside are large enough: Imagine a folding lawn chair, can it fit through the door? – or buy smaller chairs ;)

Well, there you have our list we initially created over 3 years ago when looking for our perfect RV. I think this list works well for both Class A’s or 5th Wheels but we chose a Class A. Sure hope our experiences help out those that may be just entering the market with little to no previous RV experience.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Doing a whole lot of nothing…

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Knowing that we will be staying here for two months has us doing a whole lot ofBonita Phone pics 032 nothing. Normally we don’t stay too long in one spot so we usually kind of hit the ground running. Our typical travel day ends at our next RV park or destination where we take about an hour or so to get all set up then eat a quick lunch so we take a drive to see where we are and to reconnoiter our surroundings. Sharon was caught off guard when we first arrived at Imperial Bonita Estates because we didn’t do that… we didn’t do anything.

She later asked why we didn’t drive around and I figured it was for two reasons… one we had already been here before and two we were staying for two months! That is nearly twice as long as anywhere we have ever stayed! Which got me to thinking about all the little things we have been overlooking that we could repair. Not to mention we could catch up on a lot of small but important routine maintenance items. There are also some things we needed to order to replace some broken or poorly working items and now that we have a bona fide address this is certainly the time to get things ordered and delivered.

Wow  I didn’t know that bona fide was two words until spell checker threw a fit when I made it one word. Guess you can learn something new everyday… Bonita Phone pics 038Speaking of which we are planning to try to begin learning some French since we have the Rosetta Stone for French.  However in my first attempt, I realize we are experiencing issues with our microphone on the laptop right now… maybe it doesn’t like my accent. Or else it is one more thing that needs fixing (sigh).

Back to the story… Our first day here I made a list of items needing our attention and have been ticking one off nearly each day  However I find that I am also adding at least one as well. After twelve days it is encouraging to see quite a number of items scratched off the list. The hugest undertaking we attacked right away was to wash and hand wax the motorhome and CRV!  Another big item nearly accomplished is I have finally drilled and hung the trim pieces on our TV cabinet. All I need to do now is order those small little wooden plugs that hide the screw holes from Tiffin in Red Bay. They have them for less than 15 cents each… perfect! But we have done lots of little things as beaching Bonita Springs FL 018well such as cleaned and siliconed our tow bars, renew our registration for the RV,  fixed the trim on a mirror in our bedroom, fixed our shade on our living room window and even ordered some stuff we need such as new glasses for me, replacement light bulbs and an awning shade.

It's not all work and no play as Sharon has settled into an exercise routine and I am a regular at the Wednesday Cornhole tournament.  (To clarify, cornhole is a beanbag tossing game… not something X-rated)  We are also enjoying our Christmas lights every evening and socializing here and there, so all is well here in Bonita Springs...

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Settling in at our site in Bonita Springs FL…


clip_image001We have been back in Bonita Springs for nearly 10 days now and the time has been going by rather quickly. Sharon expressed her feelings about returning in the last blog and most of which I tend to agree with. However, I am not as convinced as she that this may be our part of our eventual exit plan from full timing. I will admit there are a lot of very positive attributes most of which is the wintertime weather. While much of the country has been in the deep freeze here in the southern reaches of Florida the temperatures have been consistently in the eighties with the seven day forecast showing much of the same. The picture of the USA map was sent to me from a friend in Texas and looking at where we wintered a month last year it shows 43  degrees in the Rio Grand Valley for that day.

Bonita Beach 005We are starting to relax and enjoy our park as we have begun to meet new friends. As a result we have spent more time in the park that I would have thought but it has been productive. We even have had time to wash and wax both the Motorhome and the CRV. Abbey looks quite well all shined up and is now ready for next years travels. We are once again planning to travel west next year and have even firmed up plans by reserving one of our favorite parks along the way, Betty;s RV Park. We should roll in there on March 6th for a two week stay or maybe longer if we get caught up in Betty's web.

One of the things we like most about staying at a place for at least a month is it allows us to order things on-line that we need. We are actually staying here at Imperial Bonita Estates for two months, the longest we will have stayed anywhere so far. This allows us time to get a years supply of some medicine as well as time for me to order some new glasses as I am very hard on glasses. Also, since we are staying longer I have ordered an awning screen online as well…Sharon is also making a list of things to order so It sure is nice to have our mailbox key for a while…

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Sharon’s take on Back to Beautiful Bonita Springs, Florida…

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Bonita Beach 002Our very first winter after Rv’ing only about 6 or 7 months we decided to try a month in Bonita Springs Florida as our winter escape. We really enjoyed it wishing we had booked longer. So this winter when we decided to return, we went ahead and booked two months. So impressed was I the first time around that when people would ask me where I would go if we had to stop RV’ing, I would answer Bonita, Springs Florida! I sure hoped I would feel the same way this time around.

Upon returning our immediate response was joy in finding the weather to be absolutely perfect. It is amazing that just a short way from our last stay in Tampa, it has been a full ten degrees warmer here! And the overcast weather we had been experiencing has become a distant memory. Every day here has been even more glorious than the one before. The traffic is not as bad either and we have entered into full relaxation/vacation mode.

We of course as the first order of business had to return to the nearby beach to see if it also was as we remembered it. Oh my goodness it was gorgeous….more so than my memories. We spent over an hour walking down the beach with waves lapping at our ankles as I choked back tears as the beauty just tugged at my heart. Yep! Bonita Beach 004This is like coming home. I just love it here.

The Happy Hours in the area are very generous in their pricing and last either from 3 to 7 or 4 to 7 depending on the establishment. We remembered Buffalo Chips as a fun place and returned to enjoy some hot wings and nice cold beers along with free popcorn. Our neighbors in the park have promised there are several more fun places we missed the first time around so we are looking forward to exploring those with our new friends. It has been another plus that this park is among the friendliest we have ever stayed in.

Bonita Beach 006Continuing our walk down memory lane, we went to our favorite Saturday Farmer’s Market in town and although it changed locations, it did not disappoint. We came home with a bounty of fresh fruits and veggies to fill our fridge .

I love longer stays as we have tied down the awning, brought out lights, Christmas Decorations and our other favorite homey treasures. We have made lists of some new accessories for our home so shopping online will be the task of the month. I even have a mailbox key with a real address and a recycling bin! And so happy am I to be here I think I may sneak a peek at some properties available here for future reference (wink)…

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Margie Francis Hinton, A Tribute to my Mom…

stuff062I find I hard to believe… the lady who brought me into this world is no longer a part of it… My mother has passed away after living a full 87 years!

I was born in 1955 in the  town only 17 miles from where she died.Now I will return on Saturday to lay her to rest.. My father proceeded her in death by more than 10 years and now she will at last be rejoined with him.

My parents grew up in the tail end of the depression and much of what they taught me was based upon the hard life education they gleaned from that era. When I was born my father was enlisted in the United States Air Force after having served in both World War II and in the Korean Conflict. I am so very proud of him… but even more proud of my mother who was left behind and who through her strength upon his return from conflict built a family in the midst of uncertainty in light of his wartime disabilities.

My sister was born three years before imageme.  By the time I was born my parents had settled down only 17 miles from the place they would both eventually perish… how odd that is to me to reflect that this is where my life began. I didn’t live very long in Wichita Falls, Texas because from there my father’s military service carried us throughout the USA, over the Atlantic Ocean and all over Europe. While my father was solving military issues my mother steadily cared for her children. She was not only my mother, she was my cub scout leader, my Little League coach… my compass in life….

imageExtraordinarily I lived in many states and overseas in Germany but my mother made it seem so innocuous to me. How perfect it was as a child to be so clueless to your surroundings… what a perfect mother to protect and shield her children from all the shortcomings of society. Yet she instilled in me the values so important to humankind.

As I grew up and entered my teenage years there is no doubt that I was quite a challenge… after all I was a teenager during the waning years of the flower power era… hippies, drugs, sex and rock and roll! It must have been so hard for those of her generation to understand the sweeping changes about to occur in the youth of America. Yet she endured and continued her teaching of values, mores and simply what was right… integrity, honesty and trustworthiness. Steadfast and good traits one would hope to find in any human being.

Oldphotos824I left the house when I was barely 18 and like my father enlisted in the military… the United States Air Force. Unlike my father the military way of life was not my calling and I was honorably discharged after one term of service during the Vietnam era. I never saw Vietnam as I was entrusted to oversee the maintenance of many Minuteman Missiles capable of delivering nuclear warheads to places unknown. After leaving South Dakota and returning back to Texas it wasn’t long before I found my soul mate Sharon and we were married in 1975.

Oldphotos847We were married nearly 6 years when I told my mother that it was unlikely that she would have any grandchildren from us… She cried, but little did I know when I informed her of that decision Sharon was pregnant with our first born child and her first grandchild… she was elated!. Eight years later we thought there would be only one grandchild for Margie but Sharon was once again pregnant and Margie had a granddaughter to go along with her grandson, the first of both for her…

Sharon and I raised our children with same values my mother taught me… She was very proud of both of them… I only wish she had been able to know them and my son’s family better but as my parents aged health issues seemed to plague them keeping them very close to home. Could we have visited more? Certainly. However life has a way of accelerating when you least expect it and before we knew it the kids were graduated from high school and leading their own lives.

Crazy to think how fast time travels when yet there are times that it seemingly crawls at a snails pace. Then before you know… life ends and no longer exists… it did so for my mom on December, 3, 2013… Mom, I am so glad you are no longer in pain!

I Love you Mom and please say hello to dad for me…

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Imperial Bonita Estates, Bonita Springs, Florida…

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Sunday morning came with Katie and her roomie packing to head back to North Carolina while Sharon and I packed up in order to be ready to head south just before lunchtime. Both Heather and Katie were interested to see what it takes to ready the motorhome for travel.  Katie even wanted to bring in one of the slides. Before we left Katie and Heather also wanted to ride in the motorhome so they rode with me in Abbey to the main gate while Sharon drove their car behind me. They both seemed to enjoy this brief encounter and especially the beach time they got even though the weather wasn’t perfect…

bradenton florida 007As Katie and her roomie headed east we pointed Abbey south onto the Interstate Highway. We only had a short drive of a little over 100 miles, just the way I like it. Traffic was light until we got near Fort Myers and then it picked up quite a bit. Soon thereafter we began to see signs for Naples signaling we were getting close.

As we turned west off the highway at our exit we only had about two miles left to go. We entered the park, Imperial Bonita Estates (IBE), around 2 pm. and noticed that they had already put up some Christmas decorations at the main entrance. We drove over to the office only to find it closed. They did however have packets near the door for arrivals that day and ours was in the stack.

As we looked over the information we were a bit confused as to which site we were on and with no one there we were a bit worried.. Finally I noticed that we had nametags and on the nametag under our names was “C201” which I assumed had to be our site number. So we looked at their map to locate our site and could only find one site that was site 201. Still a bit confused by the letter C in front of the site number we drove over in the CRV to look it over.

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We almost always visit the site we are about to park on in the CRV or on foot so we can look it over for any possible “issues” in getting the RV in it. We also discuss our strategy of how we want Abbey to sit on the lot and how we will back into it so Sharon and I are on the same page. I don’t know if I ever mentioned this or not but our backup camera also has a speaker volume control. I crank up the volume to maximum when I am backing up the rig because I can easily hear Sharon directing me which requires a whole lot less hand motions. Now I have to admit I only figured this out after about a year on the road and I could tell that parking the rig became a whole lot easier and less stressful for Sharon once we started using it, Now I can see why so many people use walkie talkies so it is nice that ours is built in…

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Once parked and set up into our new home for the months of December and January we took a stroll around IBE to see what amenities it had that would be useful during our stay. The park is a typical southern Florida over 55 park in that there are a lot of park models with RV sites scattered throughout it. We also noticed right away that it is a friendly park as we many of the residents struck up conversations with us as we strolled through the I 002neighborhood.

They have a nice pool, varied recreational opportunities such as tennis, a putting green, shuffleboard, pool, ping pong and horseshoes but lacks two items that we wished they had: an exercise facility and a hot tub. So we will have to come up with our own exercise routine during our stay and Sharon has already made use of the large patio we have for that. Apparently more activities will appear on the calendar in January when another wave of guests arrive.  Overall we are very satisfied with our site and our new home for winter.  We really look forward to relaxing and staying far away from the chill of North America’s winter…

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Thanksgiving and a visit from our daughter…

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We had a few cold days here in Bradenton, Florida… well, at least cold for this part of the world. Just before Thanksgiving we had the pleasure of reacquainting with some  RV’ing friends, Eldie and Jeanie of Where's Eldo? They were RV’ers when we first met them in Naples a few years ago but now they have settled down into a sticks and bricks home not too far from where we are staying. We were hoping to cross paths again and luckily they were available.  The took us to a really nice place called the Blue Rooster where had dinner and drinks while enjoying some live blues music. Jeanie and Eldie were so happy to find their place to settle.  We told them we have yet to find the it place for us and they assured us that when we find it, we will just know much like they did. We really had fun meeting up with them once again and will try again to do so upon our return to this area in the future.

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We were looking forward to Thanksgiving as our daughter, Katie, and her roommate, Heather, had planned to escape the cold of North Carolina to visit us. So although the weather turned chilly we created a fabulous Thanksgiving feast and really enjoyed their company. Turkey, dressing, green bean casserole and of course all the important sides and deserts were cooked in the motorhome and laid on our table. Before long we were all gorged and simply lounged around the rest of the evening.

bradenton florida 010Post Thanksgiving the weather improved considerably even though it was still a tad chilly. Given the warmer temperatures we headed out for Coquina Beach near Cortez, Florida. Still too cool to do a whole lot of laying out on the beach we still got in some nice hiking along the water’s edge. Katie and Heather were even able to sneak in a little sunning as the sun peeked out of the clouds and warmed up things a bit more.

bradenton florida 016Saturday we will hit the beach once again for the North Carolina girls to get their sand and surf hit and then Sunday they have to head home. Sunday is also our last day here as we will pack up and head 100 miles south to Bonita Springs Florida. This is where we will winter for the months of December and January at Imperial Bonita Estates. We are looking forward to our return to Bonita Springs and reacquainting ourselves with the area we first wintered at in 2011…