Friday, November 20, 2015

Isla Blanca

It's been a couple of weeks since I posted and it's been a much needed rest for me.  We got settled in the campground and then had to pull up stakes and drive the motorhome to Brownsville, Texas to get a VIN Verification so we could get our license plates and finish up the paperwork on the purchase.  Then I've spent some time reorganizing and moving things around - it always takes a few tries until you get things in the best places!  I want to get one more piece of art replaced and then will be done, at least for now.  The long term plan is to replace the carpet with wood or vinyl flooring, remove the cornice boards and pleated shades and install woven blinds and paint the interior.  But that will all wait for a while.

I wanted to write up a post about the RV park we're staying in, in case anyone might be interested in staying here at some point.

Although winter is not their "high" season, they welcome "Winter Texans."

Entrance gate
You must have a ticket to enter, but the public can also come in by paying for a day pass.

Park office
This is actually outside of the park, but where you check in, get your mail and just generally do any other business you have.

This is definitely the most unusual park in which I've ever stayed.  Owned and run by Cameron County, I had read mixed reviews before I booked a reservations, so was a bit nervous about staying here.  Having almost 600 sites, the park is located at the very southern tip of South Padre Island, with unlimited access to the Gulf of Mexico and the Laguna Madre lagoon that separates the island from the mainland.  Besides being in a perfect location, the RV sites are generous and people, literally, come back yearly to the same site.  $100 will reserve your site from year to year, but each site is available for others when you are not occupying it.  The winter people, the summer people and travelers are welcome to improve the site in any way with approval from the office.  Most people have poured concrete patios, but some have wooden decks or just grass.  Others really go to town, building fences for windbreaks, planting flowers and trees and putting in gardens.  Park model home are even moved in for the season, then returned to storage for the rest of the year.  Now, remember, these sites are owned by the county, not the individual.  But the sharing seems to work, because in talking with people who have been coming here for years, nothing is usually removed, taken or damaged from season to season.  It's a very cheap way to have a vacation "home" in an area where the median home price is $275,000!  We were very lucky to get a site with a concrete pad and two beautiful palms trees and found out by talking to neighbors that the usual winter occupant didn't come this year due to a death in the family.

Views of the RV Park
I had to get on top of the coach to get these views!

There is a walking/biking track all around, multiple rest room/shower facilities (no laundromat, but the new rig has a washer/dryer, so no worries for me), activity center, bingo hall, boat dock, beach access just over the dunes and the people who run the show are very friendly and helpful. Welcoming and very quick to help with any problem, the county employees go above and beyond to make you feel at home.

As I said earlier, we've spent time fishing (Sid),  going to the beach and eating in great restaurants on the island and just across the bridge in Port Isabel.

One of the two pavilions on the beach
These have picnic tables, bathrooms and are a great place for viewing the gulf waters.

Beach activity
Sunny days bring out more people - most of the time, the beach is empty except for the kite boarders.

Real or fake?
You tell me!

Granite seawall
Every time I walk the seawall, I can't help but think of how many counter tops these huge granite boulders would make.

View from the beach looking north
This was taken on a yucky day, but you can see one of the pavilions on the left and a few hotels up island.

Nipper's man cave
This is Nipper's home in the new motorhome.

Sittin' on a sign in the bay 
The pelicans spend their days sitting near the fish cleaning stations and I'm getting a good view of them doing their thang every day!

Ship entering the channel to the Port of Brownsville
Although not as busy as other channels we've camped near, we still get to see some large ships entering the shipping channel.

English or Spanish?
All the signage in the park is in both English and Spanish.

We have our very own statue of Jesus...

...which may or may not be a columbarium.
Each block has the name of deceased relative on a plaque.

Interesting signage
A couple new signs I've never seen before for my caution sign collection.

A new addition to our motorized family
I call him Zipper, because I zip here and zip there every day.

My day usually starts with a mile and a half walk with Nipper around the park, then a ride down to the boat dock area, which is the best place for shelling.  Then it's off to the beach or piddling around home or some shopping or reading until dinnertime.  Evenings we either go out to dinner or to some activity in the area (we saw a great play the other night put on by the local theater group).  Bedtime and then it starts all over again. I'm not sure where the days go, but I'm never bored.  It's hard to believe we've been here almost three weeks - that's the longest time we've spent in one location since February!

I'll still be blogging about our grand adventure for the next few months, but the posts will be farther apart. I'm sure those of you in the more northern parts of the country would tire quickly of hearing about cold fronts of 75 degrees and days spent on the beach.  Don't forget about me, though, because there are more experiences still on the horizon!

Until next time...

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Leaving Florida

Our time in Florida is coming to an end.  It's hard to believe, but we've been in Florida since late August and have done and seen so many things!  Our last few days have been spent in the Destin/Ft Walton Beach area and we've mostly spent the time organizing the new coach and hitting the sugar sand beach every day.  The temperature has been in the low 80s, the humidity has been extremely low and I'm beginning to understand why people winter in Florida!

City beach, totally free, bathrooms and all!

We saw a lot of weddings on this beach!

Nipper playing fetch in the bay side

Nipper playing in the dunes

Having a talk!

 I'll leave you here with a final shore bird while we make our way to South Padre Island, TX where we've chosen to spend the winter.  I'm sadder than anticipated at leaving Florida, but I know I'll be back someday!

Until next time...

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Mexico Beach

Headed to Destin, Florida, we knew we didn't want to drive the entire way from Tampa in one shot.  We had planned to stop in Panama City, but a guy we had met in Key West had recommended Mexico Beach so we decided to see what that was like.  Oh my, I think I've found my beach town!

Florida does like its giant beach chairs!

Mexico Beach is a tiny little town that just happens to be on the beach.  While you can tell a lot of the homes are rentals, there are no large hotels, only little motels that look like they've been there since the 50s.  A few tourist shops and restaurants dot the 5 miles of beachfront, but not many.  We stayed in an RV "resort" that looked like it hadn't seen a paintbrush since the 50s, but it was nestled in the pines about 1/2 mile from the beach and had all the amenities you could want - pool, laundry, restaurant, full hookups, wifi, cable TV and live music twice a week. 

But the beach!  It was my first experience with sugar sand and I've fallen in love!  You could park anywhere along the road for free and just walk to the mostly empty beach.  The waves were continually washing in beautiful shells and it was just so peaceful.  The only bad part was the smell - because of the Red Tide that's currently happening in the gulf, thousands of dead bait fish were washed ashore.  Unfortunate, but a temporary thing that doesn't detract from the allure of the town.

5 miles of ungroomed beach

Sugar sand 

Dead fish 
The crabs were eating, but not the birds.


Take home dinner

We only had one night there, but would definitely like to go back.  Very laid back, very friendly people and a place I could probably call home!

Shore bird

Until next time...

Friday, October 23, 2015

A Surprise in Tampa

We stayed a few extra days in Tampa so we could pick up our new motorhome!Yes, Sid got a wild hair about getting something a little bigger and we decided to go and look.  Well, you know what happens when you go look at something?  You end up buying!


Side view

Living Room
This was before we moved anything in.

Other side of living room
You can see we've moved some things in.  They parked us in the delivery lot, with electricity, for two nights while we transferred everything from one to the other. 


My wonderful 4 door refrigerator
I LOVE my new fridge!  I can actually fit a gallon of milk, a gallon of tea and a pitcher of regular tea in it and have plenty of room for fresh veggies and all the other stuff!

Not as much closet storage as we had in Julie, but we're slowly getting organized to work with it. 

It's a 2007 39' Itasca Suncrusier and it's in great condition.  Much more living room and kitchen space, much less bedroom space, a little more room in the bathroom and a lot more storage space outside.  While Julie served us well for the first part of our adventure, the upcoming months will be much more comfortable in the new, unnamed one.  It's like living in a one bedroom apartment! 

We purchased at Lazydays RV in Tampa, FL and, let me tell you, they treated us very well indeed.  This place is huge - 120 acres of new and used RVs!  We could not extend our stay at the MacDill famcamp long enough to wait for delivery of the new motorhome, so they put us up, free of charge, in their on-site RV Resort for 3 days.  We were given coupons for breakfast and lunch for each day in their on-site restaurant, garbage was picked up each day and the local paper was delivered each morning.  Everyone, from the salesman to the delivery person, was in constant contact with us,  letting us know where things stood in the delivery process and, even though we purchased the unit as-is, every little thing we noticed was either fixed or replaced.  Lazydays is a family-owned business, with another store in Tuscon and three more places they have just purchased in Colorado.   Their customer service is outstanding, their prices reasonable and we highly recommend them!

Now it's off to the panhandle of Florida and more beach time.

Until next time...

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Fishing Tampa Bay

Fishing in Tampa Bay

There was no real reason for us to stop in Tampa other than MacDill Air Force Base, where we had heard a lot of RVers spend the winter.  You have to make reservations a year in advance to get a site with full hookups, but sites with electric only are available on a first-come basis.  So we decided to give it a shot and spend a few days there if we could get in.

We did get a spot and it turned out to be the best fishing spot Sid has had on the whole trip so far.  The base sits on a small penninsula jutting out into Tampa Bay, midway between Tampa and St. Petersburg.  There's a small beach, but it's really nothing much to write home about.

The best fishing was in the evening, right before sunset, and Sid took advantage of that nearly every day.  He'd either bank fish or take his kayak out into the bay.  Despite being a worse photographer than me, he did manage to get pictures of some of the fish he caught.

Jack Crevalle


Speckled Trout

He also caught redfish, amberjack, croaker, snapper and some other unknown fish.  Right before sunset, I enjoyed watching the mullet that continually jumped out of the water, some of which were 3 or 4 pounds! Bait fish that big!  Sid's bucket list got a lot shorter during our stay in Tampa.

Sunset over the bay, with the skyline of St. Petersburg to the left

And, while not technically shore birds, the campground was always full of beautiful birds for me to watch.  I got to see my first of many pink spoonbills, too!

Pink Spoonbill

Tampa held another big surprise for us which I'll detail in the next post, so stay tuned!

Until next time...

Monday, October 19, 2015

My Kind of Restaurant

I haven't blogged too much about the food on this adventure, mostly because we usually eat at home or are grabbing a quick bite somewhere that's not particularly blog-worthy.  But while shelling on Sanibel Island, we passed The Island Cow at lunch time and decided to have a late lunch.  It looked fun and funky and like my kind of place.

The front patio

Be sure to read the small print!

"Almost" free beer!

The place was full of funny signs, lots of color and had a huge menu.  The iced tea was cold and refreshing and our entrees delicious.

Coconut Shrimp Spinach Salad


If you ever find yourself on Sanibel Island at breakfast, lunch or dinner time, stop at the Island Cow and give it try - you won't be sorry.  I only wish I could transport it to Colorado!

Until next time...