Sunday, March 25, 2012

A week with family in Zephyrhills

March 18-25, Zephyrhills, Florida

March 18th would have been my mom’s 82nd birthday and we are heading back to the place she lived the last years of her life.  They say getting through the first year of someone’s death is the hardest as the calendar moves through anniversaries that evoke different memories and trigger corresponding emotions.  Two years ago, our whole family came to Zephyrhills to celebrate my mom's 80th birthday.
My mom on her 80th with seven of her grandchildren
Leaving Cortez seems emotional on another level as it marks the beginning of our trek northward to new vistas outside of Florida. My niece texted me with plans to hold a birthday memory party for my mom, so all my family in Zhills will be gathering today at 4 p.m. to celebrate my mom.  So sweet.  I feel lucky to be in the area and to keep these connections going as it would have meant the world to my mom to know we are staying close without her to draw us together.
Jesse and Aunt Terry
While in Zephyrhills, we are staying in the same park we stayed out for the whole month of December: Majestic Oaks.  It is an Encore/Carefree park but they do not offer the Passport American 50% off discount Jan-March; however, their daily rate of $28 is terrific as the park is spacious and immaculately kept with well-maintained amenities.  Another bonus this time is that an open field lay right behind our motorhome, a perfect place for the dogs to run and play.  Our plans for the week are to visit as much as I can with my son Jesse and my aunt Terry and check out what we can do to generate more interest in my mom’s mobile home for sale—like dropping the price considerably. I also am taking the opportunity to have my haircut with Kelly at the HQ Aveda salon in Wiregrass—something I did in December when we here (ahhh, the challenge of haircuts on the road).
We had planned to go and check out the Tampa beaches while here, but just didn't feel inspired to deal with the spring break traffic that was likely to be there. One place I had always wanted to check out in this area is Ybor City, a historic area settled mostly by Spanish and Cuban immigrants, well-known for the production of Cuban cigars.  I also heard that since the economic downturn, Ybor City has become somewhat run-down, but still worth checking out.  We enjoyed a lunch of Cuban roast pork sandwhich with mojo sauce--so good and wandered around the main street enjoying the scenes in the photos below:

This week went so quickly and once again I am faced with saying goodbyes as we don’t plan to be back here until November.  It was much easier to head south and say “see you in a month or so.” I need to be mindful of the luxury this lifestyle affords us in terms of having much more time available to spend with the people we care about and having so many options of places to visit.  It has been a priority for us to seek out friends and family to reconnect with along the way and we are so grateful for this opportunity.
One of those reconnections is about to happen in Panama City Beach—our next destination.  In 1982, my close friend Pam from Crystal Lake, Illinois introduced me to Betty and Gavin, a couple she and her first husband befriended yeaearly int their marriage.  I have only seen them about once every ten years, but it is our good fortune that they have recently moved to Panama City Beach. 

Uncharacteristic of us, we have actually booked out the next eleven nights.  Throughout my research of Florida parks, the name Topsail State Park kept rising to the top as one of the finest state parks in the country.  Because of its popularity, it is hard to get in. I bookmarked Reserve America with the specific details of my request and kept trying the last two weeks.  Voila—one day at Buttonwood I found four nights available at Topsail March 26-30 and booked it.  After studying the calendar, I realized that only left March 25 (my deceased father’s bday)  for a chance to see Betty and Gavin.  I found a park  10-10-10 rated park in Woodall’s called Emerald Coast Beach RV Resort and booked it.  We also hoped to be able to stay at Gulf State Park in Gulf Shores, Alabama.  Since this time of year is spring break for many, this park was also busy, but we managed to find openings April 1-5.  Since that left March 30 and March 31 open, I looked at a map and remembered an advertisement for Navarre Beach Campground, just about an hour west of Topsail.  That is the story of how we ended up with reservations for eleven nights in a row.  We are starting to learn that making the commitment of a reservation isn’t so bad if it is in a place you know you want to be.

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