Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Part I: Our month at Seminole Campground

Feb. 1-Feb 15. —North Ft. Meyers
This is the first time we had reserved a campground for a month ahead of time.  We like the Ft. Myer area and were excited to be near our new friends, Mike and BJ, again at Seminole Campground, plus I have been following a blog of a couple who were also going to be at Seminole. Vic and I were looking forward to meeting them as they are also new full-timers who have never "motor-homed" before. Mike and BJ’s friends, Steve and Diane, whom we also met in Sault. Ste. Marie, would be coming to this park for most of February as well.  Sounds like the possibility of getting my social needs fulfilled. The dogs are happy here too. This park is also one of the pet friendliest with a large off-leash area and trail and pet parades once a month. 
Mike and BJ's inviting site at Seminole

Our reunion with Mike and BJ began with a 4 p.m. whiskey tasting. You gotta love a guy who comes swaggering over in his bright yellow Keys winery tank shirt (Mike, you know which one) with a smirk on his face, then says, "Seeeems laike it's hiiigh tiiime fer some wheeskey taaastin." Mike had found a bottle of Pendleton whiskey for me (way to pay attention Mike) and a Canadian type of honey whiskey made by Seagram’s. In addition, he had the Wild Turkey brand of honey whiskey and his regular—Canadian 12.  I also had some Canadian whiskey called Ellington Reserve which I found at Total Wines.  An instant party was at hand.  I favored the Pendleton followed by the Wild Turkey honey, for just sipping.  Vic liked the Wild Turkey honey on ice, and our friends liked their regular  and the Seagram’s honey (staying true to their enthusiasm for Canadian blends. These are tough calls. So is figuring out who is cooking what for a shared meal. Of course, we always have Hogbody’s, ta fantastic whole in the wall BBQ  joint close by if we need someone else to fix dinner for us--which we did. . . .
The next day, I found the motorhome of the bloggers we were interested in meeting, John and Sharon, and decided to knock on the door and introduce myself.  I felt a little shy about it, but they greeted me warmly and seemed genuinely happy that I made the connections and invited them for a happy hour at our place later that day.  BJ and Mike joined us and we had a small feast of stone crabs (thanks to my brother Mike), cheese and crackers, and shared a few bottles of wine.  My favorite part was that it got cool enough (after a high of 80 degrees) to start a campfire with the wonderful cedar scraps my brother shared with us.  We had a terrific time sharing stories and getting to know one another better. 
Anxious to discover more beaches, Vic and I took a ride to see the Ft. Myers beach area which allows dogs on leashes.  It took about forty minutes to get there because of traffic. We love almost any beach but this one was less attractive than many of the others we have had the pleasure to enjoy. The beach area is quite wide with gray sand, few shells, and a fair number of rental areas with chairs, jet skis, etc. 

We managed to get in a good hour walk on the beach with the dogs, then decided to tour the area more by car. I was anxious to check out a campground on the ocean near here where the photo I saw looked like a Corona commercial: Red Coconut RV Resort.  It turned out to be about a mile from where we walked the beach which surprised me as the photo on the web made it look more remote. 
Photo from the owner posted
 on their internet site

The park has two areas: one directly on the beach in the sand and one across the street on concrete sites.  Both are incredibly tight quarters and the prices were high—ranging from a daily rate of $80-110, plus $8 for electric and 12.5% tax.  Even if the price was better, Vic did not like the idea of being so close to the saltwater because of corrosion issues.  We continued south down the Gulf Coast all the way to Lover’s Key but discovered we couldn’t even walk the dogs on leash there, so off we went to Barefoot Beach in Bonita Springs.  What an entrance to Barefoot Beach—paved streets lined with multi-million dollar homes complete with private tennis courts and large pools and gardeners working the lawns.  I should have done my homework better as Barefoot Beach also did not allow dogs.
Bonita Springs aerial shot--internet photo
(my private plane was not available)

We were, however, happy to have checked out these areas for days when we left the dogs at the motorhome. Our last stop of the day was an all important one at Costco for our favorite dark chocolate acaia berries and a large jar of mixed nuts.
I had seen a large Bass Pro store just off the freeway south of our campground and invited Mike and BJ to go with us and check it out.  We also wanted to see a lot that my sister-in-law Sandy inherited from her mother-in-law which was in the Ft. Myers area.  Vic and I checked out kayaks at Bass Pro but wished we had an opportunity to try the style we were looking at first before buying.  We have heard varying recommendations about sea kayaks vs. lake ones and ones you sit inside vs. on top, etc.  One thing we do know for sure is that we want separate ones; one couple we met bought a double which they later referred to as the divorce kayak.
The property turned out to be in a fairly remote and lower income neighborhood in Lehigh Acres. I took some photos to send and we headed back on a country road.  The best part of the day came near the end of our drive when we passed a back woods tavern called The World Famous Buckingham Blues Bar.  After passing it, Vic suggested I look it up on Google and see if it had a website. I doubted it would, so I was really surprised when I saw a multi-faceted one with you-tube videos of concerts and an impressive upcoming calendar of blues fests.   It was easy to convince Mike (who was driving) to turn around so we could check it out for ourselves.  It was pretty quiet at 4:00 in the afternoon, but we learned they had a large outside venue with a blues fest coming up on Saturday. We definitely plan to return on Saturday. 
Steve and Diane showed up on Monday and were quick to set up camp and join what came to be our growing circle for happy hour.  This was also the week I decided to start attending the M-W-F exercise group. I had heard they sweated to the oldies with Richard Simmons and was hoping that was not true, but it was.  Hey, just getting moving and dancing felt pretty good and the best part about Simmons was he doesn’t talk in the exercise videos. Actually, some of the songs were pretty good ones like "Proud Mary" and "Dancing Queen." This park is also a good place for bike riding or walking.  Vic and I found a two-three mile circle that we liked for the walking the dogs or just getting out on the bike. 

Lois at dance studio (studio photo)
Knowing we were going to be in the area a while, I decided to call a friend who had moved to Cape Coral from Corvallis eleven years ago.  She and I were both middle school language arts teachers and our sons grew close playing baseball in high school.  I was curious to find out how she and her husband Mike liked living in this area.  We connected and set up a plan to meet at their house the following Tuesday.  Fast forward to Tuesday. Lois and Mike greeted us with warm hospitality at their lovely home in Cape Coral.  The most surprising thing we learned about their life here is the passion they developed for dancing at their local  Fred Astaire Studio.  Lois had convinced Mike to take lessons for their son's wedding and their interest just kept going to the level where Lois won several amateur dance competitions. She even showed me a photo of herself in a Swarovsky crystal gown with Max and Tony from Dancing with the Stars by her side.  Mike also became involved in some competition and seemed to be enthralled with the whole idea.  How cute!  They invited us to their weekly practice session at the studio the following night.  Both of us suddenly felt inferior as we have never competed, but we pushed our egos aside and agreed to go. (Mike has a bet with Lois that we wouldn't show up--ha, ha.) It turned out to be an exhilarating evening dancing to a wide variety of music and watching inspiring demonstrations.  Vic even took to the floor on his own for a line dancing lesson while I visited with Lois.  The evening definitely rekindled our interest in refining our dance skills, so we signed up for a free introductory private lesson the following week.  Why not?

Zumba, an exercise routine I have always wanted to try, showed up in place of the Richard Simmons DVD on Monday. The Zumba instructor was a virtual one on Wii, but it was surprisingly fun. I love Latin music and already know the basic steps for cumbia, salsa, and merengue so it was pretty easy for me to catch on. I would love to do this on a routine basis as, unlike sweating to the oldies, the time just flew by. Definitely going to look into buying a DVD for doing this on my own.

Another highlight for socializing was the arrival of Mark and Sandy, a couple Mike and BJ had met earlier in the year at Big Pine Key.  They had just bought a new 40’ Tiffin Allegro Bus at Lazy
Days (Tampa RV Superstore) which turned out to have several issues before even leaving the lot, so, of course, these motorhome challenges were of great interest to us. We all (eight now) headed to Hogbody’s for wing night and $1.00 beer--where we found Sharon and John already at the bar--and ended up dancing to a two-man band called the Hat Boys who played everything from Jimmy Buffett to the Beach Boys. Life is Good.

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