Now, back from the Florida excursion, it’s time to grade ourselves on how we did.
Early bailout: A. Exactly the right decision. As noted before, it is tremendously liberating to be free to make the right call at any given moment, free from constraints imposed by external considerations. By the time we got home, Wendy’s foot plainly called for attention and had we been sitting around at Chokoloskee Island, basically crippled at the campground with little to do but stare at the mangroves, we would have been scolding ourselves for not being smarter and heading home.
Trip Planning: B. Each stop in our itinerary presents several factors for evaluation: the locale of the stop (what is there to do in the area?), the campground itself, and the duration of the stop. Evaluating the stop, though, isn’t as simple as a weighted average of the scores for those three factors.
During our trip, we met, as you would expect, a number of snowbirds. These folks often stayed at a single location for months, maybe as many as six. A campground with scores of long-term residents becomes less of a “campground” and more of a retirement community. We’ve always thought of ourselves as traveling to see and do things near the campground, not participating in activities in the campground, which means that, for all practical purposes, we’d never want to stay somewhere for more than a week or two. Even in Yellowstone, for goodness sake, one would exhaust the activities in a matter of a few weeks, not months. And we’ve never seen ourselves as going someplace in order to play shuffleboard, pickleball, golf, bingo, or Texas Hold’Em. That, in turn, means that heading south for the winter means we either need to keep moving every week or two (and rarely repeating the stops from one year to the next) or we need to change our expectations and spend time enjoying living in an annual retirement community that blooms for a while and then disappears.
Or maybe that’s not the right way to think about it. In brick and mortar homes, we all have things we enjoy doing. Many RVers just continue doing those same things on the road. We met guys who play golf and go fishing while they travel, just as they would at home. I met a guy who brings his radio-controlled model aircraft with him. I’ve even heard of a guy who brings his model railroad setup with him.
So, as to this trip, which was it? A number of quick stops in succession, seeing the local sites, or longer stays, relaxing, staying warm, and doing what we like doing while there? The plan didn’t actually do either as well as I would have liked. At several stops (Cedar Key and the Everglades, for example), we didn’t schedule enough time for local sights. At Naples, I didn’t schedule enough time for internal activities. And at others (the would-be stop at Chokoloskee Island, for example), I can’t figure out what I was thinking when I booked the stop for as long as I did.
We’re planning next year’s trip, and we’re still gravitating towards the series-of-stops concept, but the jury is out. We may want to try a longer-term stop at an activity-intensive campground, just to see if it fits us.
Living in a Confined Space: A. When we tell people we spent a month in a 10’x20′ box, we are often asked how it is that we didn’t kill each other. Maybe it’s just us, or maybe Wendy harbors some secret plan that will someday put an end to these postings, but we were fine. We never felt cramped, never got on each others’ nerves (much), and never longed for the trip to end. Even in our smallish RV (at least by Class A standards) there seemed to be plenty of room for living. Based on this trip, I think it’s more likely Wendy will kill me at home than in ACE, so I count this aspect of the trip as a lifespan-enhancing success.
Overall: A. The trip was wonderful. We enjoyed every place we went. Cedar Key was a great first stop, the side trips in Sarasota were fun, the Naples RV resort was luxurious and the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary was a special treat, Everglades National Park was everything we hoped it would be, and the last stop at the Miami-Everglades resort gave us a perfect opportunity to pick off a few final checklist items and wind down before returning. The weather was cooler than we hoped for, and indeed was unusually cold, wet, and windy, but it was still way warmer than in Atlanta, so we count that as a success. And the RV people we met along the way were were, as always, friendly and engaging, and at every stop we found something special about the folks we met.
It is a testament to how good the trip was that when we returned we immediately started planning our 2-1/2 month trip out west this summer!
[Before then, we have a quick trip to an FMCA rally in Perry, Georgia, to tend to a few motorhome matters, and then a trip to Walt Disney World with Cliff, who will be hauling down his pop-up and treating the girls to their first Fort Wilderness experience. Further reports to follow.]