January 18, 2018 – Thursday Day one of the second part of Our Great North American RV Tour
After spending a good portion of the winter in south Florida it’s time to head north and continue our RV tour. We left home, Princeton BC Canada late August 2017, almost 5 months ago, we crossed the border into the US last October almost 4 months ago.
We are limited to 6 months in the US for a 12 month period so we need to cross back into Canada before the end of March. If we stay in the US longer than 6 months the IRS can tax our income.
We’re heading west for the 1st time in 5 months beginning our long journey homeward. Highway 80 and then north on highway 75. Our destination today is Springhill, Florida, an hour north of Tampa on highway 41, and another ‘boondocker welcome’ host, the Katz family.
As we headed west the landscape changes from flat sugar cane fields to rolling hills of brown grass and pine trees with Halloween moss blowing in the wind.
After a couple of hours we needed fuel, Lynda found Pilot Travel Center on the GPS in Ellenton, south of Tampa. Travel Center is a false statement, it was too small for RVs to maneuver.
Ralph and I were forced to squeeze our rigs down a narrow alley to turn around…… after much jockeying and bad language we were able to fill up.
The rest of the day’s drive to Springhill was pleasantly uneventful complete with a stop for lunch and in a sunny church parking lot.
We arrived at the Katz family acreage mid-afternoon to semi-cloudy skies and high 60’s. This is our second visit to the Katz family, we stopped for one night on our way south.
The Katz family grassy front yard is set up perfectly for 2 or more RVs. No sewer connections but several electrical hookups one with 30 amps which Ralph graciously suggested Lynda and I use.
Our site even included a wood burning fire pit, a bonus, campfires have been rare since leaving Canada except for Ralph’s propane pit.
Since moving to this property the Katz family have lived in their class ‘C’ RV. Small quarters for two adults and two growing boys.
They are trying to decide what to do with the dilapidated house which was on the property when they bought. Tear it down and build a new house or rebuild it.
The 2 ½ acre treed flat property is partially cleared with an ATV track winding through the trees, no doubt built by the boys.
The property is home to 20 chickens, 4 ducks, 3 pigs and one rooster that crows all day long. When the rooster crows the ducks chime in as if to drown out the rooster…..too funny.
This is the first time in my life I realized where the expression “getting my ducks in a row” originated. The ducks travel around the property in single file, …….a strange sight.
Friday January 19 – Day 2
A very cold morning greeted us, 27 degrees, the coldest in 7 years according to local news. In fact, the cumquat and strawberry farmers were concerned over losing their crops.
The temperature warmed quickly as the sun rose in the southern sky. We’ve planned several excursions during our visit to Springhill. Our hosts recommended a visit to the beach and the world famous Weechi Wachee Springs.
The sandy shores of the Gulf of Mexico at historical Bayport is a beautiful spot with a tropical forest and several varieties of seabirds populating the shallow shore waters. The cost to enter the seaside park was $5 per car.
We enjoyed a late lunch at a local bar on the way back to camp, all you can eat fish and chips for $9.95, all the fish you can eat but no extra fries unless we ordered another side………strange.
Our next adventure was Weeki Wachee Springs, a 3-hour kayak trip down the spring fed river. A spectacular experience, paddling the warm slow-moving crystal-clear waters meandering through the dense jungle on a bright sunny day.
Tropical birds, fish and even a mischievous raccoon habit the river. We were warned, if you stop for lunch along the river shores be aware of the raccoon, it has no fear of humans and will steal your lunch given the opportunity.
The Weeki Wachee River kayak tour was a highlight of our trip to Florida.
We arrived back at camp to a new boondocker family, a mom, dad, and a seventeen-year-old son. The family was on an eight-month traveling sabbatical. The parents were both nurses.
That evening we enjoyed a campfire with our hosts and new boondocker friends. The boys buil a huge bonfire from brush left from clearing the property.
By the way,….. Katz is not the family name of our hosts, they created the name from the first letter of each members names.
Ralph, Lois, Lynda and I enjoyed a relaxing rest of our stay exploring the rural neighborhood on our bikes. The terrain is mostly flat with few hills so not much exertion was needed. I was surprised to see several abandoned properties with vacant homes?
January 24, Wednesday Day 7
After an emotional so long with our hosts, it was time to continue our journey. A warm sunny morning as we pull onto highway 19/68.
Our destination today is another ‘boondocker welcome’ host code name ‘swanee16’. Traveling time should be about 2 hrs depending on how many stops.
We are in no hurry to leave Florida, the farther north we travel the colder the weather. Short travel days are a bonus, we arrive at our destination early with plenty of time for setup before happy hour.
We retraced our route we had taken two months previously, through small towns surrounded by large swamps of mangroves.
The contrast between the densely populated coastal areas and the sparsely populated interior Florida is unmistakeable.
As we headed north the temperature dropped and the skies clouded over spitting a few drops of rain. A rare occurrence since we crossed the border from Alabama.
From Old Town on highway 98 we turn left and follow the Suwannee River south towards the Gulf of Mexico. The Suwanee River flows south from Georgia draining the Okefenokee Swam.
Unfortunately, every 5 years or so the northern rains become too much for the Suwannee to handle and it bursts its banks flooding thousands of square miles.
Most houses along the river are built on stilts to compensate for the periodic flooding.
We arrived at our new ‘boondockers welcome’ hosts suwanee 16, aka Butch and Judy, early afternoon. Their relaxed warm welcome made us feel instantly at home. We became instant friends.
Butch helped us park and set up our rigs at the two RV sites next to the river. Each site had 30 amp. power, water, and a rare bonus at ‘boondocker welcome’ hosts, sewer connections.
Their property is surrounded by vacant land and mangrove swamps. Their beautiful custom built home suited their riverside location perfectly.
Butch explained he bought the one hundred plus acres surrounding their property to keep neighbors at a distant. His only neighbors are his sister’s vacant property on one side and son’s summer home on the other.
Once settled Ralph and I helped Butch gather firewood from across the road for evening campfires.
Butch and Judy are great hosts. Judy lead Lois and Lynda on several local hikes and took them shopping and lunch while Butch entertained Ralph and me with chores around their property.
Our five days at Suwanee 16 flew by, highlighted by a trip on Butch’s boat down the Suwanee River for lunch at a quaint riverside café and a stop at Manatee Springs State Park.
Evenings were spent playing cards in Butch and Judy’s beautiful home or telling life stories around the campfire. Some great memories were created in those five days with Butch and Judy.
Unfortunately, all good things come to an end, it was time for us to move on and leave our new friends.