Sunday, November 24, 2013

From The Villages to Zephyrhills

November 15-24, 2013
Zephyrhills, Florida
Majestic Oaks RV Resort

fish shack

Our stay at Southern Oaks RV Resort  was a bit unplanned but turned out great as we enjoyed exploring The Villages, having lunch with my brother in Dunnellon, and meeting friends of my family for dinner while we were here. The Villages, called by some Adult Disneyland, is a bit of a phenomenon. It was designed to be a self-contained retirement community that provides a wide spectrum of shopping, medical, recreational, and housing options. There are three town squares now within a 6 square mile area, each with different themes, and housing developments to match, plus dozens of churches, golf courses, recreation centers, and entertainment venues catering to a population close to 100,000. One of the most unusual aspects of the design is that it is also accessible by golf cart. Supposedly, one could live here and only use a golf cart for transportation.

These photos below are of Lake Sumter Landing, the most developed town square in The Villages. This area is built around a large man-made lake that offers boating and fishing for recreation. The town is supposed to look a little like Key West, or a waterfront fishing village.

sumter square2

golf carts in town

hummer golf cart

Another big attraction here is live entertainment and happy hour every night in the town squares. We learned there was a Sadie Hawkins celebration going on in Brownwood Square, so we checked it out and were entertained by a Dixieland Jazz band when we were there. This square is the newest addition, opening a year ago, with the theme of the Old West.

dixieland band at brownwood

The sidewalks in Brownwood have exposed brick and the streets are lit with what are supposed to look like gas lanterns.

brownwood sidewalks with exposed brick

brownwood street lamps

The first time we were here, our friends gave us a tour, and, while we were curious about this retirement community, we did not feel compelled to spend any time here. It seems that the full-time RV lifestyle calls us to evaluate almost every place we go as a candidate for our eventual settling down phase. Since we were in the area again, we thought we would do more exploring on our own. If you want to learn more about this place, I found an interesting website with an article called “50 Things to Think about Before Buying a Home in the Villages.”

sumter lake

Regardless of what you think of this type of lifestyle, it does look like fun to zip around on all the special golf lanes to your favorite restaurant for dinner or to a polo match. A downside, however, is the “Stepford Wives” quality of this designer lifestyle with limited diversity in age, race, socio-economic levels, and political views. And for those who seek solitude in a natural environment, this would not be the place for you as the home lots are small and landscaping must conform to the HOA regulations.

We happened to meet a wonderful couple at GarVino’s Wine Bar in Lake Sumter Landing (one of the village squares) who were eager to share their enthusiasm for Village retirement. They had just purchased a home here in April after renting for a couple years. Their description of the place is “summer camp for adults.” They seriously do have classes or workshops for almost every imaginable hobby or avocation. This couple were avid pickleball, tennis, and golf players. They each had their own golf car and they clearly were living a very active lifestyle here. They even invited us to try pickleball with them, have cocktails at their home, and zip in for dinner to one of the squares in their four-seater golf cart. We wished we could have taken them up on this offer, but we had made plans with my family friends that day.  On the bright side, they visit Sarasota often and we vowed to get together when they come our way later this winter.  We appreciated hearing their first-hand enthusiasm for this place, but neither of us can imagine ourselves as “Villagers” at this time of our lives.

Another outing while we were in this area was to visit my oldest brother Bob and his wife Carol. Bob is a busy guy running the National Parachute Test Center in Dunnellon, but he managed to break away from the airport to join us for lunch. We had just enough time to catch up on one another’s families and his work at the test center which is always fascinating. Fortunately, we will be able to spend more time with him on Thanksgiving and at his annual holiday party the week of New Years.

I spent the last day in Summerfield (at Southern Oaks RV Resort) cooking a meal to take to a couple who have been friends of my family since the 60s. We try to see them every year we come to Florida. He is 85, blind, and still sharp as a tack, but you never know how many more years we will be able to enjoy their company. They live in Spruce Creek, a Del Webb development, just north of the Villages but they still have a home in Upper Michigan which they retreat to May-October. 

16 will and sharon 80th 2011

After visiting with them, we left the next morning for a short stay in Zephyrhills where I have lots of family. My mother used to live in Zhills before she passed away in 2011, so it is a place I have been coming to visit since she moved here in 1999. We found a park that we like to stay at here, Majestic Oaks RV Resort,  because of its proximity to my family (brother, nieces, and aunt), reasonable price, and spacious sites. We also like watching the daily drop of numerous skydivers from our patio as we are just a mile or so from Skydive City, an internationally known skydiving club. The folks in this park are quite friendly and seem to be drawn to the strong sense of community here, the good amenities, and central location to shopping, airport, medical, etc. It is, however, a misnomer to call it an RV Resort—maybe a Park Model Resort would be more like it.

majestic oaks

My family’s connection to Zephyrhills goes back to the 1950s as my sister-in-law’s family owned orange groves here. It was a different kind of place then, but now many of the farms and orchards are turning into Super Walmarts and strip malls. Kind of sad. . . . If I did not have family in the area, Zhills would not be a place we would spend time. It is too far from the beach and has a rather depressed economy. We will stay here through Thanksgiving as my niece is having us all at her home—about twenty or more folks--something we are looking forward to in terms of family connections and holiday cheer.

Our plans for this two-week stay here tend toward the more mundane—read, play cards, catch a few movies, wash the motorhome and Jeep, bathe and groom the dogs, and, for me, spend time with my aunt whose husband passed away last year.  She is my godmother and the only living sibling out of my mom’s family of six. 

There is a very nice pool here and tennis courts, so we are also hoping to take advantage of these two amenities in terms of exercise or just lounging—if the sun comes out!  (It has been rather cloudy, humid, and a little rainy since we arrived.) December will be here before we know it and we will be returning to one of our favorite spots in Florida, the Gulf Coast in Cortez, near Anna Maria Island. We are looking forward to an extended stay of two months there with plenty of beach time! 


  1. Wish I could do such a nice summary of 9 days. It would make blogging a lot easier. Wonder if there is a pill I could take for blabberfingers. I have a friend who has stayed in the villages for past 3 winters and I've always wondered what it was all about. Thanks for this information. Now I at least have a clue. Very nice that you can be with your family on Thanksgiving and visit with your godmother. I am very envious of your great planning in being able to spend 2 full months in one place. I don't think I've ever been to Crotez or Anna Maria Island. I'll look forward to hearing about it.

    1. You are no blabber fingers; I just take the liberty of posting less frequently. And don't suffer the illusion of me being a great planner, we wing it more than we probably should, but have learned we need a reservation if we want to be near the beach during the winter months in Florida.

  2. We several friends that go to the Villages every year. They love it. They said there is an area just for people from Ohio and a section specifically for our county. They stay in that area and love knowing just about everyone.

    Glad to hear someone is having great weather. Texas is having the strangest weather. Houston is COLD and very WET....yuck!!!

  3. crud we leave here on Dec 1st and we are so close to Cortez... just can't seem to be at the same spot at the same time...

  4. We are finally headed into FL tomorrow! Sure hope it is warmer than it has been trying to get there!

  5. We have spent a fair amount of time in the Zephyrhills area, as my mother spent a number of years there in the winter. Lots to do there.

    1. I need to find out what you like to do in Zhills! We do like kayaking the nearby Hillsborough River.

  6. Enjoy your time near family and lots of lazy days! Hope the sun cooperates!

  7. You almost had me sold on the Villages until you mentioned HOAs. We suffered through one at our last stix-n-brix. Never again. Sad, but I would fit in there nicely, after all, don't they need a Village Idiot? ;c)

    1. We agree about avoiding HOAs!

      They say there is something for everybody in The Villages, Paul.

  8. We have also visited the Villages and found them quite interesting...even if it is not for us. I think we had dinner one time in Zephyrhills at a Maine Lobster place? Looks like you all are enjoying your time there! Happy Thanksgiving!


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