Evaluating Our Winter In Florida

The wide, flat beach (at low tide) at Daytona Beach, Florida continues to be a popular spot to drive, park, and play. Fine grain sand beaches border the state on both Atlantic and Gulf coasts.

Now that Betty & I are back in Friendly Manitoba for the summer, how do we assess our recent visit to Florida? First, it can be said that so many northern snowbirds winter in Florida that a story about our tour of the state does not constitute news for anyone outside of our immediate friends and family. In reality, as we age and our memories fade, this review is as much for reminding ourselves about our winter adventure, as informing others.  Of course, this kind of assessment is purely subjective, but hope you can still enjoy the read.

The Weather

Bet catches some rays at Siesta Key near Sarasota, Florida

One of the main reasons snowbirds winter in Florida is to escape the potentially brutal cold of a northern winter, and to enjoy the mild and sometimes tropical temperatures in the south. These days regional weather can be quite unpredictable, but there is no doubt we picked the right state to visit this year! (Fingers crossed that Arizona has a warm winter next year, as that is our anticipated destination.) January, February, and March were all warm months in Florida, with many days and weeks moving into the stinkin’ hot range, where the beaches beckoned and margaritas kept us cool and lubricated. Flip flop weather indeed!

The Campgrounds

The popular, hard-to-book campground at Bahia Honda State Park in the Florida Keys.

From trying unsuccessfully to book sites in the Florida Keys state parks eleven months in advance, we knew certain popular spots would be inaccessible. Betty & I prefer to stay in national and state parks, but as it turned out, nearly all southern Florida state parks were fully booked for the winter. During our travels we were able to pick up a day or two at some nice parks, but often there was nothing more available.

Our campsite (#4) in Tiger Bay State forest, on the outskirts of Daytona Beach, was one of only six in the Bennett Field Campground. Each site is approx. an acre in size!

We had not previously stayed in Florida State Forests, and found them to be a great, cost-effective alternative, especially since we are now better equipped for boondocking. Some state forest campgrounds came with electricity and/or water and a dump station, but you couldn’t always count on services being available. Some of our best extended stays in Florida were at beautiful unserviced state forest campgrounds.

Our Pine Island Boondockers Welcome camp spot was nestled in the palms at a palm tree farm.


Growing in popularity for us and others are Boondockers Welcome and Harvest Host locations. All of our experiences with both organizations were positive, with some clearly rating as trip highlights.


Betty watched the river go by at Larry’s wonderful boondockers property near LaBelle, Florida.

Betty & I generally steer away from private campgrounds, but the Ocala North RV Park in Reddick, Florida is one we would consider again, especially if they could find the correct Scottish spelling of the town’s name. lol.  Some of the county campgrounds were very pleasant, including Markham Park and T.Y. Park in the Fort Lauderdale area, and Manatee Hammock Park further up the coast at Titusville.

Traversing The State

The view of the Atlantic Ocean from our site (#2) at Gamble Rogers Memorial State Recreation Area.

Unlike Manitoba, Florida has invested in providing wide, smooth roads for travellers. Despite a few rough construction/congestion patches on I95 through the Gold Coast area, most roads were well-marked and a pleasure to drive. In planning our adventure, we estimated that we would drive 7,916 miles on this portion of our overlandish odyssey. Our odometer told us we actually travelled 8,026 miles, so we weren’t far off.

Our free Harvest Host campsite: Far Reach Ranch north of Orlando.

Many snowbirds find one preferred site, and book it for the winter. Because this was an exploratory trip, we chose to visit most of the state, working our way across and down the gulf coast to Key West, and then up the Atlantic side to Amelia Island.

Hanging out with Mickey
Betty, Georgia, Valerie, Kevin, Isabella & Graham


Meeting our kids and grandkids at Orlando’s Disney World in February was, for sure, a highlight of this memorable journey. We pray that those fond memories remain with them, as they will with us, for a long, long time!

Future Trips?

We certainly hope that this was not our last visit to the sunshine state. If we return, would we replicate the most recent trip? The answer is “no”. Not because there was anything wrong with exploring as

Our campsite at Picayune Strand State Forest, on the outskirts of Naples, Florida

much of the state as possible in the time available. But now that we have done that, we have identified some of our favourite spots, and would like to go back and stay longer at a few preferred locations, instead of almost constantly being on the move.

While we still value spontaneity, we would aim for a better Internet

A wonderful view from our campsite at Curry Hammock State Park in the Florida Keys. The site was only available for one night.

connection in order to book Bahia Honda, Curry Hammock, and John Pennekamp State Parks (and Long Key, if it re-opens) in the Florida Keys. We would also try for a beach side campsite at Gamble Rogers Memorial State Recreation Area north of Daytona Beach as well. Not as congested, Big Lagoon State Park on Florida’s panhandle – with nearby Gulf coast beaches at Pensacola – was also a favourite.

A nice picnic spot at Curry Hammock State Park.

There is obviously much more that can be said about the people, places and attractions we visited in Florida, but this little vignette is beginning to exceed my preferred blog post length. We now have hard copy and electronic files related to each of our trips, and are accumulating info for upcoming adventures. If future travels are anywhere near as outstanding as this past winter in Florida, we’ll be more than happy! Here’s hoping that your journeys are just as joyful and jubilant!


Another great beach day near Naples, Florida.

Lost In Time & Space

Betty adds Illinois to our map, after a harrowing drive around Chicago in a heavy rain storm.

It has been somewhat disorienting to make the journey from the summer-like winter heat of Florida to the early spring-time weather in Winnipeg. While the rest of the continent was chilling, Betty & I spent January, February and March of this year under the balmy Florida sun. Light clothing, sunscreen and bug repellent were de rigueur. The grass was green and lawnmowers buzzed. Tropical plants and trees lined Florida’s highways and byways. Flowers bloomed profusely wherever we travelled. The ocean and beaches beckoned and we were in flip-flop heaven!

We crossed the border from International Falls, Minnesota, to Fort Frances, Ontario, and spent a pleasant, free night at a roadside park beside the Rainy River in Fort Frances.

Then as we gradually moved up the east coast during April, the leaves began to revert to buds. And by the time we reached Winnipeg as May began, the trees were devoid of their lush foliage! Ice was still present on some lakes in Ontario’s Lake of The Woods, and roadside patches of snow marked the landscape. We felt the chill breezes and watched the old leaves blow across the dormant grass, and sensed that fall was in the air.

Roadside snow was still present when we stopped for lunch at Falcon Lake, Manitoba in early May, 2019.

But apparently it’s not…  While we still need to keep a heater running in our plumbing bay and the campground water is not yet turned on, Betty & I have been assured by family and friends that winter is over and spring is on its way! We are not yet rushing out to buy flowers for our “yard”, but will take their word that better weather lies ahead.

If you are reading this in the northern hemisphere, let us together hope that the cold dark days are behind us, and a warm bright season of flip-flop heaven is soon to come!


Our campsite (#168) at Town & Country in Winnipeg, awaits summer foliage.
Graham adds Wisconsin, the 37th state (+ District of Columbia, which may still become a state) to our sticker map. These, and 6 provinces, have all been visited since December, 2017. It’s time to slow down a little!

The RV Hall of Fame

Betty leads the way to the RV Hall of Fame in Elkhart, Indiana.
The RV Hall of Fame floor plan is designed like a road, with RVs of all ages, shapes and sizes along the way.

As full-time RVers, Betty & I encounter motorhomes, 5thwheels, and trailers of all shapes and sizes while traversing the continent. It’s always fun to see new and different features designed to make life on the road more enjoyable.  Some units are larger and can carry more “stuff”.  Some are smaller and more aerodynamic, achieving better fuel economy. There is no one size that fits all. Everyone has preferred features, and nowadays, RVs are manufactured with a broad range of possible accessories from which to choose.

A scale model of an RV assembly plant is on display.

It turns out that approximately 80% of North American RVs are manufactured or assembled in and around Elkhart, Indiana. So it is not untoward that Elkhart is the home of the RV Hall of Fame. And it also makes sense that dedicated RVers make pilgrimage to this site, if they are in the vicinity.

We are seeing more retro versions of this travel trailer on the road these days.

As mentioned in our last post, Betty & I crossed back into the U.S. at Detroit, Michigan and travelled southwest through Elkhart on our way past Chicago, under Lake Michigan, and up the other side to Canada again.  We had stopped in Elkhart on previous trips to tour motorhome assembly plants and purchase hard-to-find parts, but we had never visited the RV Hall of Fame. While this leg of our journey was relatively brief, Betty & I thought we’d take the time to check out the exhibits there.

One of the first exhibits visited was this 1913 Model T, with all-wood travel trailer.






Either an extra large toaster, or an early Airstream. lol
A 1964 Coachmen motorhome.
Betty examines a 1957 Teardrop trailer, which has returned to popularity.
A 1954 Holliday Rambler came well-equipped for its time.
This 1939 trailer was designed for aviator Charles Lindbergh.
This is a 1969 Pace Arrow by Fleetwood.
The Pace Arrow dash has evolved a little over the past 50 years.
One of my favourite vehicles was this 1931 housecar used by celebrity Mae West.
Mae West’s housecar had a back porch, just like some new toy haulers!
Betty checks out the 19′ 1967 Winnebago. (BTW, while I told one RV repair shop that we were from Winnipeg, our bill listed our address as Winnebago, QC. lol)
A 1974 GMC motorhome. The 1973 -78 models were well ahead of their time in styling and features.
Hundreds of toy RVs are on display at the RV Hall of Fame.
More miniature RVs on display at the RV Hall of Fame in Elkhart, Indiana.

























If you catch the wanderlust, it is worthwhile to research all available options before choosing a mode of transportation. There are lots of RV choices out there, but whichever you opt for, enjoy some time exploring our great continent and its wonderful inhabitants.


Betty says “Indiana wants me. Lord I can go back there!”

Crossing The Border (Yikes!)

Almost all travellers who have crossed international borders have stories to tell.  As Forest Gump might put it: “Crossing the border is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get!”  Well, yesterday Betty & I got an unusual surprise, which I hope never to repeat…

My preface to that story is that a motorhome is not a car, and it is not a commercial truck. That may seem obvious, but as a driver I am regularly challenged to make a split-second decision as to whether I want to act like a car, or act like a truck, while driving our continent’s highways and byways.

Permit me to provide a few examples: When approaching a highway rest area, a sign will direct car traffic in one direction, and truck traffic to a different parking area. If we were to follow the cars, our motorhome would not fit the parking spaces. So we go with the trucks unless, as mentioned in an earlier post, we are on the Ohio Turnpike and can go to dedicated RV parking. Yippee!

A very special Ohio Turnpike RV parking space, complete with electrical hook-up..

When we fill up with gas, we prefer to go to Flying J truck stops that have dedicated RV pumps, because we are too big to manoeuvre around many car pumps, and do not use the diesel at the truck pumps.

Resting at a Flying J truck stop in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, on our way to Florida in December, 2018.

Yesterday we entered a toll road where the “cash only” lane was too narrow for us, and the “EZ Pass” lane was listed for oversized vehicles. We only had cash, but chose the oversized lane behind some 18 wheelers.  When I pushed the elevated ticket button, the ticket came out of a car slot which was 4’ lower. Despite calling for “go-go-gadget arms” there was no way to reach that ticket, so Betty had to get out, retrieve it, and return to her seat before the barrier went back down again.

A little car follows our motorhome wherever it goes.

Well, there are many more examples I could provide, but I’m sure you’re waiting with baited breath to hear about our border crossing adventure. In context, you must understand that the road through Windsor, Ontario leading over the Ambassador Bridge to Detroit, Michigan, is under construction. In fact, the bridge itself is on life-support, and we believe our gps was constantly trying to get us to go hundreds of miles north to the Blue Water Bridge between Sarnia and Port Huron in order to save our lives. In retrospect, maybe she (Samantha is our gps) knew something we didn’t!

Trucks were instructed to use the outside lanes prior to the bridge, but then switch to the inside lanes at bridge approach. We shifted from the curb lane, through the truck traffic, to the car lanes, only to find those lanes merged again with the trucks a few hundred feet (metres?) up the bridge approach. Most of the bridge was single lane, with trucks and cars combined. Beyond the crest – as we approached U.S. Customs – commercial truck traffic was diverted to the far right, with car traffic to the majority of kiosks on the left. Car traffic was fairly light at that point, with cars lined up at 3-4 of the check-points. But one of the OPEN check-points toward the right had no cars waiting, so that’s where we went. BIG MISTAKE!

If you enlarge this pic, you can see a small “auto only” sign under some of the large, lighted OPEN signs at U.S. Customs in Detroit, Michigan. It is easy enough to read while stopped, but not so much when you’re coming off a bridge and  negotiating merging traffic in a motorhome..

As I began to pull up to the first set of bollards I was able to read a small sign (under the huge lighted green OPEN sign) that read “auto only”. Well, at that point I was too close to the bollards to turn, and cannot back up with the Smart 4 wheels down on behind. The border officer left his post to frantically tell me to move my vehicle away from his lane, but that was easier said than done. I began to disconnect the car and Betty & Charlie came out to go in the car, as is our practice when we disconnect. But the flustered border officer insisted they go back in the motorhome, until he realized that I wasn’t going to be able to drive the car and the motorhome at the same time!

Betty was allowed to leave the motorhome, but the dog had to stay with me for some reason. She quickly grabbed her passport and drove through the checkpoint after I backed up and moved to the only line – on the far left – that had a small RV sign below the auto lane sign. Of course, because the Smart was the first car through after that lane re-opened, Betty was way ahead of me.  I had six cars slowly making their way through Customs in front of me, so called her to see where we could meet up on the other side. To my surprise, her phone rang on the dash beside me. Oops!

When I finally reached the Customs officer, he asked me all the routine questions. But where do I go with the answers? “Are you and the dog travelling alone?” No. “Where is your wife?” I don’t know…  It just went from bad to worse, with him arguing that I should have backed the motorhome up with the car on the back, even though I did that once in Austin, Texas, resulting in serious damage to the Smart’s steering column. By the end of our conversation, he was leaned back in his chair, telling me all the spots in Wyoming and Utah we needed to visit. I was just anxious to get out of there are get back on the road again.

Well, to make a potentially longer story short, I found Betty and the Smart on the side of the road, beyond the toll booth, and we were able to hook up (literally. Lol) and continue our trip to Elkhart, Indiana.  Just another day in the adventurous life of the Ramblin’ Reddochs.


Graham adds Michigan to our sticker map, with a not- soon-forgotten entry! Michigan seems like a dream to him now…