Thursday, January 30, 2014

Thoughts on our 2 month stay, early plans…


imageWhen we first booked a two month stay in Bonita Springs for the months of December and January (our longest stay anywhere) I must admit I was worried that I would run out of things to do or see. We did a lot while we were here and there were even a few things I thought we would do that we didn’t do. We frequented the beaches here, I fished a little and we even made one trip into the Everglades.  We visited Naples, Fort Myers Beach, made a road trip to Bradenton to visit RV friends, went to Tampa for the RV show and even went over to Vero Beach on the east coast to visit Sharon's relatives. Although we never made it to Shark Valley or Key West like we hoped, we have both enjoyed our repeat stay in Bonita Springs, Florida. We even got some champagne one day and celebrated “our simple lifestyle.”

The park we chose this year, Imperial Bonita Estates, is a nice park overall. Though it is not necessarily a beautiful park as compared to some resorts we have stayed in. What made it nice for us was that it was large in size making it easy to take long power walks and bike rides. The Imperial River slices through the southern part of the park and it has been pleasant to stroll over to it.  We have even been able to watch the Manatees as they have made their way this far upriver due to the 59-60 degree ocean waters.


Like most parks with snowbirds and other semi-annual resident populations who socialize with one another year in and year out, getting to really know the people here wasn’t an easy task. We did meet a lot of people and even fell into a small group of people we found to be fun and really enjoyed their company. But like every other snowbird park we have been to, unless you are a regular winter visitor it is understandably hard to become part of the “cliques”.  So we realize we simply have to be comfortable hanging around on the fringe. Despite the challenges, we are still not yet inclined to return to the same park every year but may return to this one again someday.

imageFunny that I say getting to know “residents” can be difficult since we have gotten together a few times with some RV friends from Canada that we first met at another snowbird park here in Bonita Springs two years ago. They are the same couple we toured part of Niagara Falls and Toronto, Canada with this past summer. So we do occasionally meet people who become more than simply acquaintances… That is another benefit of this lifestyle, meeting and making lifelong friends along the way with folks we might otherwise have never even met.

Saturday we will move over for 4 days to Whispering Creek Campground in La Belle, Florida and then we head back over to Tampa to get some new tires on the RV. From there it will be to Hillsborough River State Park for a few nights and then north on Interstate 75 to spend a week near Mayo, Florida along the Suwannee River. From there we start our westward trek which includes a stop at New Orleans for some Mardi Gras fun… Any tips from others who have experienced Mardi Gras would be greatly appreciated as we will be "newbies" to this experience.  Hope to see you down the road…

Monday, January 27, 2014

Wow our two months here is about up…

vero beach 028vero beach 009Wow, I can’t believe we are nearing the end of our two month stay in Bonita Springs. It is almost time for us to spread our wings and fly once again…One of the reasons we stayed for two months was to get a long list of things done and the other obviously was for the weather. However, when the weather isn’t so great it provides an opportunity to get some of the items on the list done… What did we get done while here?

Well the first major task we tackled was to wash and wax the car and our motorhome. As many of you know this is a huge task but with some determination we got it all done. I prefer to use a paste wax called Meguiars, which requires a lot of “wax on” wax off” action and after four days we did complete the task. We generally do this once per year on the motorhome and more often for the car.

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We also got quite a few items that needed repairing or maintaining finished while here at Imperial Bonita Estates:

  • lubricated tow bars – silicon spray added to all surfaces
  • added a felt liner to our rebuilt TV cabinets
  • hung TV trim – ordered 14 wood plugs from Tiffin to complete the job
  • fixed mirror in bedroom – the matting frame need gluing down
  • fixed hallway mirror - the frame was coming apart and is now fixed!
  • checked out lights for CRV-RV – tightened all connections and checked continuity
  • oil change for car – done, they allow that here at IBE
  • fixed light for sink water pump – $2 bulb at Radio Shack
  • fixed entrance steps – ACE hardware and some creative work provided the means
  • caulked window vent on window by door...weep vents need caulk to not fall off
  • got printer working again (otherwise we were going to toss it) – successful fix so I ordered new ink, Yes!
  • replaced sleep member bed remotes – big job but well worth it as we now have a wireless remote instead of the two wired remotes. Now all we have to do is not lose it…

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What was really nice was have an address with a mail box as we were able to order a lot of items from Amazon and EBay, such as:

  • renewed registration RV – done but at a price,sigh
  • ordered new glasses – got two pair (extra just in case) nice to have an extra pair when traveling like we do
  • bought and replaced burnt out fluorescent overhead lights – ordered a box of 12 on EBay for about 1/2 the cost at Camping World
  • bought 8 by 20  shade screen for outside – ordered one from Amazon and love it!
  • bought new rubber sewer doughnut – somehow ours ran away…
  • ordered new laptop battery and chargers - after 3 years it was time
  • ordered new charger and battery for phones – after 3 years it was time
  • backed up our computers – we really should do this more often, I do know better!
  • purchased awning tie downs – flea market finds… $2 per stake!

Fort Myers Beach Boat Ride 003It was a big list indeed but at least we had two months to get all the work done. Another item on the to do list is to get our plans in place for our exodus from Imperial Bonita Estates. That item, unfortunately, isn’t quite yet completed but Hey!, we still have 5 more days here!

We do know that we will head to La Belle for four days and then up to a Camping World in Bartow, Florida to have some new tires for our RV. We bought two new tires in the last 8 months so it is time to replace the other four and we hope that task will be scheduled Feb 5th. From there we will likely stay for week around the Suwanee River and then migrate over to the Forgotten Coast. i guess I better start calling some parks to see if they have space available…

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Visiting a Del Webb Community in Florida…

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As Sharon and I are about to enter our third year of full-timing in our motorhome we often talk about what we would like to do at the end of the road. Now, don’t get any ideas as we are still having a wonderful time traveling all over our beautiful country!  However one of the main reasons we began RV travel was to search for the next “retirement spot” suited to our lifestyle.

Del Webb Community 002When we landed in Florida our first year, we quickly fell in love with the state, especially the southern coastal areas. Now that we are visiting in and around Bonita Springs Florida for the second time in the last two years we decided to go check out one of the local retirement communities, Del Webb. It is located in its own town of Ave Maria but our GPS recognized it as existing in the town of Immokalee, Florida.

This short 30 minute drive from either Bonita Springs or Naples enters into a community in the middle of what was once farmland. Del Webb has communities all over the USA and the one we visited here is still in early development as there were many new homes under construction. We were hoping to be able to tour one of the smaller homes to see if we like their size.  Given that the past 3 years has had us living in 400 square feet in the RV, we have come to the conclusion that 1200 square feet or less should be more than adequate for our post RV life.

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We did look into a few larger homes but had no opportunity to tour and get a feel for what the smaller ones would be like. We drove around the neighborhood streets noticing how clean and beautifully manicured they were as they should be since the HOA fees are rather high.  There are also additional annual fees as well as hefty upfront charges when buying here. There was a golf course on the property with at least one alligator lounging on the shore of the adjacent waterway.  The neighborhood also had a massive and impressive "Oasis" club with a huge pool, hot tub, party areas, craft rooms, full gym, etc.  It also looked brand new. All throughout the neighborhood and to the town center were huge, wide walk/bike paths.  We saw several couples biking on this sunny day.

Del Webb Community 005We next drove over to the Ave Maria town center built around a beautiful, unique and large Catholic Church.  Across the street is Ave Maria University, a private Catholic University in its 10th year accommodating 1200 students.  We noticed that although small, the university also had very nice sports facilities.  There were quaint little shops in the town center but also lots and lots of vacancies as this project began just before the housing bubble burst.  As we walked all around the center we saw a mixture of younger and older people enjoying the outdoor seating.  I must admit that most everyone we saw seemed to be smiling and really enjoying their day, There were even isolated wetland areas for seeing wildlife. We even spotted a couple of glossy Ibis… Perhaps a community such as this could be in our future…. who knows???

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

A Reunion in Vero Beach, Florida…

vero beach 028As planned we traveled to Vero Beach after leaving the Tampa RV show. We ventured over to the other side of Florida to visit Sharon’s cousins on Friday and Saturday. Just before making our way over to their condo we stopped at one of the local parks for a view of the Atlantic Ocean. I love how the surf nearly always seems more robust and louder on the east coast than anywhere on the west side of Florida.

vero beach 010After our seaside stroll we headed over to the condo where Sharon’s cousin’s wife Penny greeted us. Cousin John was still on the way back from the airport after picking up Sharon's other cousin, Nancy, whom we hadn’t seen since we lived in San Antonio, Texas over 35 years ago! Needless to say we were anxious to see her and very glad John coordinated this reunion. When Nancy finally arrived we all sat around and enjoyed catching up over dinner and drinks.

The weekend was a lot of fun as the cousins had many opportunities to reminisce. Penny and John were perfect hosts leading us on scenic walks to the beach as well as in and around town. We conversed, laughed, looked at old pictures that we had scanned and played some imageiPod trivia games .Penny and John are looking at perhaps purchasing a condo in the area and we could surely see why Vero Beach appealed to them. Everything is within walking distance and the town is lively with abundant art and entertainment venues. On all our walks we noticed that the town and surrounding neighborhoods were perfectly manicured. A boardwalk built along the beach a couple of blocks from their condo beckoned us so we made several trips day and night to enjoy the views. By Saturday morning the time had come to make the trip home to Bonita Springs. Fond farewells were made and we hit the road with the plan to see Lake Okeechobee on the way home.

vero beach 030When we saw the first turnoff for a trail along Lake Okeechobee we pulled in and walked out onto a pier. The lake was quite large as was evident from the pier because water stretched from horizon to horizon. As we got back on the road we encountered some road construction that delayed us over 30 minutes. After the traffic began to flow we were certainly glad we had stopped at the first pullout for Lake Okeechobee as there were very few other opportunities to see the lake from the road.

The central part of southern Florida was not all that scenic. It was dotted with citrus groves, sugar cane fields and other agricultural croplands. We passed avero beach 011 few RV parks along the way but concluded that we would probably spend no more than a few days at any one of them. Certainly we wouldn’t stay several months during the winter as there looked to be very little to do beyond enjoying the lake and towns were few and far between. I suppose if we stayed with a lot of friends or needed to save on camping fees we might consider staying a month or so.

Anyhow after the drive we were glad to be back home and are now sorting through all the stuff we gathered at the Tampa RV show. With less than two weeks before we leave, the next few days will be used to start picking out our next locations to camp in February as we make our way North out of Florida.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Tampa RV Show and Visiting Friends…

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Wow the last few days have kept us pretty busy… First we left last Thursday to head north in our CRV to attend the Tampa RV Show. We had heard a lot of good things about this show and decided that we should finally visit it. We only had to drive 100 miles of the 150 miles to Tampa since we were invited by our RV’ing friends from Illinois to spend the night with them in Bradenton. The plan was to have a nice visit and then attend the show together. We showed up around 3:00 pm and were greeted by Mike and BJ.

vero beach 002Shortly thereafter the first bottle of wine was opened as another couple we know from Illinois, Steve and Diane, joined us. Steve is the fellow who flew us in his airplane when we visited Illinois this summer so it was great seeing the two of them as well. More wine was opened after other friends also joined the reunion.  Pam and Vic, whose blog is Travelin’ in the BigEZ, made the evening complete and what a feast we had thanks to everyone who brought goodies to compliment dinner made by Mike and BJ.… We had such a wonderful time catching up with our friends that the time flew by and I can’t believe I didn’t even take a picture of the event!

The next morning we all met for breakfast and then headed to Tampa.  After paying the parking fee we purchased our tickets and entered the first of two buildings packed with exhibits to begin our day looking at any and everything RV related… We were especially hoping to find camping opportunities since we have yet to make plans for our February trek out of the state of Florida.

vero beach 001We were lucky to score loads of either free camping or special priced camping coupons at several campgrounds on our planned exodus route north. I also found a nice LED replacement for our fluorescent lights. I will have to read up and see if they are worth buying… We also enjoyed walking in many of the new RV’s on the lot and there were tons of them. We even checked out a 3.6 million dollar custom Prevost and although it was really cool I just can’t see how it is all that much better than what we have for a whole lot less cash!!!

There was no new RV for us since we didn’t really see anything that we liked better than our current rig… well....... at least one that was in our price range…

vero beach 004By 2:00 pm we were pretty exhausted so we bid farewell to our friends and grabbed a bite to eat before heading west. We coordinated a visit with one of Sharon’s cousins and his wife from Michigan and another cousin from Pennsylvania who were staying in a condo at Vero Beach. On the way over to Vero Beach we checked out a few RV parks but the only one really nice one worth mentioning was the Westgate River Ranch, thanks to a commenter Flowergirl for pointing this one out as we may have missed it otherwise. A really beautiful and well appointed RV park in the interior of Florida.

We really enjoyed visiting Sharon’s cousins on Friday and Saturday but more of that later as the blog is long enough…

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

More Beach Time and Short Term Plans…

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bonita in january 027Wow this two month stay is sure going by fast! I wondered how we would handle staying in the same spot for two months especially since it is in a location we have been  before.. For the most part we have enjoyed this stay as it has allowed us to fall into sort of a routine much like we had when we were working stiffs.The difference being that included in this routine, is quality beach time…

Our favorite beach to visit is on Little Hickory Island. Nestled among the million dollar homes is this nice white sandy beach with 10 free parking access points along the road. The parking is very limited so a bit of luck is needed especially in January yet we have found that if we go a little after lunch we normally score a free parking spot.

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Along this beach  most often do a little fishing and Sharon relaxes with a book. After I fish a bit we meander along the shoreline for an extended stroll to check out the shells, the surf, the ever present dolphins and  to watch the abundant pelicans diving in to the “all you can eat sushi bar” nailing baitfish on nearly every attack into the water. We find it is always fun to watch and admire the skill these birds posses in sighting and catching the bait fishes.

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As January approaches the mid point we have planned a small road trip that will include a stop at the Tampa RV show. The Tampa RV Show is one that we have always wanted to attend so this year we will do just that. Unfortunately it is 150 miles from here but lucky for us as some of our Illinois RV’ing friends are staying in Bradenton and asked us to come for a visit and to spend the night. We decided that was a great idea allowing for not only the fun reunion time with these good friends but the opportunity for all of usl hit the RV show together on Thursday..image

Sharon’s cousin who we visited near Detroit this summer is staying near Vero Beach and wants us to visit as well. So after the RV show we switch Florida coasts and visit him as his sister, another of Sharon’s cousins, flies in Thursday.  We will stay Friday and Saturday and then amble our way back over Bonita Springs.  On the trip back we will be checking out some of the interior Florida RV parks.. We are actually looking forward to this little Florida getaway and a break from our new Florida routine… And who knows, maybe we will even be able see some of you at the Tampa RV show on Thursday!!!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Rainy Day RV Repairs…

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With the downturn in the quality of our weather we have had to stay inside more than we would like and that means lots of  togetherness time. We have noticed there is one thing that all successful full timers have… the ability to stay long periods of time inside confined quarters with their spouses ;) ;) ;)  Not only love, but friendship seems to be the key to success…

So with the dreary weather in our area I looked at my to-do list of items to address before leaving here in February. One item on the list was to repair the front steps again. The first time I had to repair the steps was to replace the motor that retracted them. I believe my steps are a little out of alignment possibly due to the occasional banging into a curb when extending in those times we maybe parked a little too close to a curb. Anyhow recently one of the rivet/bolts attaching the steps to the RV came out and because of its style of attachment it can’t be reused easily.

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I considered removing the steps and placing them is such a fashion to allow me a way to pound the bolt in such a way as to buttress the end to keep it attached but that seemed like a lot of work for something that may or may not succeed. So I went over to the local Ace Hardware store and was able to purchase a bolt and some spacers that allowed me to fabricate a similar rivet/bolt. After using the hacksaw to get the spacers to the right length I assembled the fabricated rivet/bolt and installed it into the step. Thankfully it worked like a charm and all  (original on left and fabricated one in lower right picture) the parts cost less than two dollars (finished product below pictures). Much better than having to spend over a $1000 for new steps…

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The next project was to repair our Sleep Number bed as our remotes were no longer readable due to the LED displays failing. It therefore became difficult to know which setting the bed was on. We could adjust it by feel and comfort while stationary but we have also discovered from experience the need to lower the number in travel especially when we ascend in elevation.  Elevation causes fluctuations in the settings so we found it is wise to lower the number  when climbing in elevation and then reset it back to our favored number when stopped. I called the Sleep Number support line to find our I couldn’t replace our wired remotes since they only make wireless systems now.

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Fortunately the unit was still under warranty so we were able to purchase on a prorated basis ($134.00) a complete pump system with one wireless remote rather than two individual remotes. It was really easy to install and most all the work was getting the bed apart just to get to the pump. It is so nice now not using remotes tethered to lines that sometimes got tangled or stuck behind the bed. Now we have one wireless remote and best of all it doesn’t stay lit up like the other wired remotes did. We hated the “night light” feature the other remotes provided us…

So with the dreary weather and the repairs behind us we are back to the beach and spending our together time in the wide open sunny spaces…

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Cold Air and Starting to Make Plans to Leave…

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Fort Myers Beach Boat Ride 001With the change in weather here it has given us time to stop and think about where we will go from here. Sunny and warm Bonita Springs became cloudy and rainy for a day and then nice the next day only to have the temperature plummet into the 50’s for  the high today. We even got down to a low of 40 degrees last night which is the coldest day we have experienced in nearly three years. Our strategy of trying to stay where it is warm had worked pretty well to this point.

It was so cold this morning that I didn’t even hear the Red Shouldered Hawk that typically screeches from the top of a light pole here in the park every morning around 6:30 am. Nature’s version of the rooster I can only presume… I have enjoyed watching the pair of hawks that Lovers Lane SP FL 018apparently resides in the park most likely along the Imperial River that border’s it.

Surprisingly there is a lot of wildlife in the park considering we are in the city of Bonita Springs. We have an occasion cotton tailed rabbit and an abundance of squirrels that we have tried in vain to keep out of our newly planted herbs. We have lots of vesper sparrows in the park and the fish crows come through often enough. White Ibis are seen occasionally milling for earthworms in the grass and I even spotted an immature bald eagle atop a tree inside the park. Poor bird didn’t know what to make of all the racket the crows were making just below him in the tree and I watched as the crows occasionally buzzed around his head till he finally got bothered enough to leave…

Lovers Lane SP FL 056Wildlife and wild lands will be in our plans for the upcoming summer season as we plan to make our way back out west. We don’t have many specific plans yet other than we have booked some time at one of our favorite RV parks, Betty’s, in Abbeville, Louisiana. We also booked a week at Bayou Segnette State Park in New Orleans as we will treat ourselves to a trip to our first ever Mardi Gras. From there we will spend some time in Texas visiting our old home town and then our son and his family. From Texas we will continue westward. We are thinking about spending some time in Utah, Colorado, Wyoming and Montana focusing on National Parks and scenic lands. Likely we will conclude the year by wintering in the San Diego area and possibly somewhere in Arizona. However, as many full  timers know these plans are always subject to change….

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Lover’s Key State Park and Katie “Gets it”


Katie’s last few days were jam packed with activities. One last request was a trip to the beach so one afternoon we drove over to Lover’s Key State Park beach access. We had been going to Bonita Beach on Little Hickory Island but wanted her to see the really neat dead trees that line the shoreline at Lover’s Key.

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Right after we set up at Lover’s Key we spotted some dolphins just offshore working a school of fish. Seeing dolphins always makes a day to the beach just a little bit better. I tried my luck catching some bait for fishing but there was none to be had so I took the fishing gear back to the car. When I returned I suggested we walk the beach to see the trees at Lover’s Key beach.

Sea shells were abundant in the powdery white sand along this stretch of the Florida coastline. Exoskeletal remains of horseshoe crabs were also scattered along the beach. Missing this time were the brittle starfish that were plentiful the last visited this same beach two years ago. But the “exoskeletal” trees were still present and what great photographic opportunities they possess due to their artistic beauty… It really is hard to have a bad day at the beach!

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We also played plenty of cornhole or beanbag toss, whatever you may call it. We also played several games of shuffleboard, attended a few pot locks, as well as an impromptu happy hour or two…  Katie spent about 16 days here and it was fun watching her become a part of this RV community.  She immersed herself in our lifestyle. and enjoyed getting to know many of our new winter friends.  When it was finally time to go back to her home in North Carolina she was very sad to leave us and all her new winter friends.. We were very glad she had the time to spend with us where she could really experience our lifestyle… If she never “got it” before as to why we chose this lifestyle for our early retirement she most certainly “gets it” now!!!

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The time came to drop her off at the airport and bid her a fond farewell… Before Katie made the trip here she had to quit the job she loved as a Physical Therapy Assistant and is now about to embark on a new journey as she starts her Doctorate in Physical Therapy. I wish we were able to fund her schooling but unfortunately she will need to take on student loans.  She will have some debt after school but pursuing this dream of hers will open up a new lifetime adventure which we can’t wait to see unfold...

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy New Year!!! Photo Fun at the Beach…

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Lovers Lane SP FL 047What a great year it has been… 2013! We left Texas at the start of 2013 and made our way east. Along the way we reconnected with our past during a visit to College Station, Texas and then took our time to explore southern Louisiana. We discovered that we really love the southern Louisiana area because of the great food and zydeco music tipping the scale.

Next we made our way through southern Mississippi ,Alabama and drove once again through Atlanta, Georgia even though we had previously promised not to ever do again… it wasn’t so bad this time through! Then it was a brief stay in South Carolina then on to North Carolina where we visited with our daughter. Our next trip took us north where we had a fun stay in Airy, NC where Mayberry RFD was. Next up we visited with our friends in Virginia where I stopped by to surprise them to help bring in their hay crop.

Lovers Lane SP FL 048From Virginia we headed into western Pennsylvania where we had an exceptionally fun time in the city of Pittsburgh… what a neat city it turned out to be. We left Pittsburgh as we headed to Niagara Falls, NY where we took a mini-vacation to stay in a hotel in Canada while basic solar power was added to our rig. After making our way to Toronto to visit with some of our RV’ing Canadian friends we chose to spend the summer doing the Great Lakes tour. Some of the highlights were visiting the Henry Ford Museum with Sharon’s cousin and his wife, exploring the shoreline around Traverse City, Mi, visiting Mackinac Island and watching the sailboats in a huge race coming in under the Mackinaw Bridge. Other highlights were exploring the Upper Peninsula, the town of Marquette, the Keweenaw Peninsula, Ashland, Madison and Wausau Wisconsin and we simply loved our stay in Green Bay where we were fortunate to be able to enjoy a Green Bay Packers Tailgate. And oh my, we also tasted cheese curds for the first time… yum yum!!!

Lovers Lane SP FL 050As summer wound down we headed back south with a fun visit to the city of Chicago, its waterfront, the amazing architecture, deep dish pizza and its cool Bean. It was then great to visit more RV’ing friends in Illinois who took us to Moonshine, Burl Ives grave and even took us up in my first small airplane ride… what a fun time that was... We were also able to reconnect with some softball friends in Indiana where we also enjoyed Turkey Run State Park. We also traveled through Kentucky to visit Nashville Tennessee once again. Nashville is a city we visited several times before so this time we discovered it lost some of the luster it once held for us.

Lovers Lane SP FL 054Finally we spent some time getting to know Alabama better and then made our way along the Forgotten Coast of Florida that we found we simply loved…. We plan to spend more time in that area on our way back west next spring. A trip to the Mayo Clinic for our annual physicals in Jacksonville, a visit to the Tampa Bay area and we ended up in Bonita Springs a place we wintered a few years back. We wondered if we would like it as much as our first winter here and have found that we do… it is such a great wintering spot and one I am sure we will return.

Now we feel ready to bring on the adventures and excitement ahead in 2014!!!