First Time Having a Daughter Stay with us

Lee has a serious case of hitch itch (the desire to move along which strikes some RVers who stay in the same place to long) but I am viewing the move with mixed feelings.  I’m comfortable here in Largo.  I know where the grocery store,  etc. is, plus I’ve finally learned the roads, but now we are going to move on.  Don’t get me wrong, this is definitely not the place we want to put down roots…it’s way too congested for us, but I am comfortable. It’s funny how quickly you can get into the habit of a place.  Plus Rainbow Village has really provided a great long-term visit experience. I’ve written more below, but I would absolutely recommend it if you’re looking to stay in the Clearwater area for more than a month. Lee washed the RV, truck, and car and accomplished numerous other outside chores.  As a side note, washing RV’s is not allowed in many campgrounds so you really need to take advantage of those that do allow it.  It looked very pretty when he was done although he was adamant about not washing any particular side in full sun (something about hurting the finish and decals) so the chore did stretch out throughout the day as the sun moved.

In one of the periods where we were waiting for the sun to re-position, we went to an Asian market.  I have numerous recipes that require pretty specific asian ingredients that you just can’t get at a regular store so I was excited when he stumbled across a full-sized Asian market.  What a terrific experience! I almost want to put the $106 we spent into the entertainment category. I had a blast and the store was very neat with extremely clean restrooms and people at every check out lane to assist.  What a refreshing change from most standard grocery stores.  They had live fish in tanks for sale (including eel), tons of ingredients you wouldn’t find anywhere else (complete pigs feet, dried squid,etc.) and lots of items imported from China, Vietnam, Thailand, Japan, and Korea.  I was attracted to those labels that were almost solely in a foreign language for their authenticity and luckily the price label on the shelf always had an English translation.  I did have to google a couple of things though to make sure I was getting it right but it was tons of fun.  An entire aisle of noodles for example…how cool is that?

Best Asian Market I've ever been to

Best Asian market I’ve ever been to!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday we took our time getting ready.  It was a short drive (less than 2 hours) to Apopka and we couldn’t check in until after 1pm.  Normally on a travel day we like to get up and out, but the short hop allowed us to take our time.  The driving went perfectly and when we arrived at Magnolia County Park it was absolutely beautiful.  There was a lake across the street, huge peacocks in the yard, and it was a very nice and clean facility.  So we had big smiles on our faces when we walked into the office…until the camp host said he didn’t think we would fit in Site 11.  I was confused by this as I specifically stated in my phone call we had a 4o foot fifth wheel and allowed the camp host to book our site.  The host didn’t understand what had happened but suggested we drive back in our car first to see what we thought.  We drove the route and although we did think we could squeeze into the slot, unfortunately we did not see how we could get out of the park as the last turn to get out was very tight between two low hanging trees.  We also couldn’t drive back the way we came because the right pulling out would have had us hitting the electrical pedestal.  So here we were in Apopka during spring break with Katy and Micah on their way to stay with us, and no site to be had.  To the credit of the park hosts they were very nice and they called several state parks for us to see if they had a spot.  There was one about three miles away which accommodates horse trailers but unfortunately they were not willing to guarantee anything beyond Thursday.  Since I wasn’t willing to wing it with the kids, I started to push Lee a bit to see if he could try to make the spot work and finally he held the truck keys out to me.  This was pretty effective as I realized I wasn’t willing to chance it so why should I expect him to do it?  At that point we started looking and found a park called Lost Lake that takes Passport America.  Lee called the number and we drove there, but the camp office was closed.  Luckily there was another couple waiting and the owners (taking their first day off in three months) sent over someone to help us and the other couple.  We got a huge pull through site with 50 amp and full hookups and although the weekly rate of $210 for this site had no Passport America discount we were happy to have it.  Under normal circumstances we would not stay here, but the kids will mostly be at the parks or Cape Canaveral so really we only need a place for them to sleep and me to work.  The wifi is really strong and although the park is pretty run down the people seem pretty nice and frankly I was glad we found a place at all at that point.   I will say it’s the second time we have tried to stay at a State or Local park where we were assigned a site that we simply could not get into.  Lesson Learned is to have more discussion with these type of campgrounds when making the reservations.

Because we got in on Sunday and the office was closed, the camp host told us to just come check in and pay tomorrow.  We were quoted $210 a week over the phone, and we knew the Passport America price we were given would not apply to the site we were in.  What we didn’t know until the next morning was that they were charging us $35 a night for 9 nights and then an extra $10 for each of the kids for each night, which was yet another $90.  By the time we found this out it was late into the first night and we were totally set up.  So we paid $370 for one week in a very mediocre park.  The kids offered to make up the difference, but we weren’t going to make them pay for our mistake so…Lesson Learned is when finding a second site don’t just take the first thing that comes along.  Take some time to research again even if that is inconvenient.  I did go back later and called the owner we had spoken to and she said she would refund the $90 but when we went to the office the person working there said she didn’t know how to do it. By the time we left at the end of the week, she had figured it out, so we did ultimately get the refund. However, we would absolutely NEVER stay here again.  See at the bottom of the page for my detailed campground review.

The kids came and so the week was really fun.  We looked at our budget in advance and talked about how to handle it.  We have $350 a month for entertainment and dining out, so obviously that wasn’t going to cut it.  We didn’t mind going over some but this could quickly turn into a $1,000 week so we talked through it first with each other and then the kids when they came.   The deal we struck was the kids paid for one of us to go to a park and we would drive them and pay for our own food.  Lee went to Universal Tuesday and Wednesday and I went to Epcot with the kids on Thursday. Because they didn’t have to pay for a hotel room or car rental it made the vacation far less expensive for them and because we went separately and tried to keep food costs down it made it affordable for us.  Plus the kids went with Lee to the store and we planned out some meals to make at the camper, and they chipped in for some of the groceries, and we bought some really nice steaks to make for dinner at the campground on Friday night.  Saturday we all went to the Kennedy Space Center together and everyone paid their own way  (which was more affordable because the ticket prices are so much lower their.)  Altogether we still blew the budget some, but it wasn’t a complete disaster which was good for everyone plus sets a good precedent for future kid visits.  When you have more than one and want to be fair, everything you do (in our case) needs to be multiplied by three so I feel pretty good about how the visit turned out financially .

Enough of that now onto the good stuff: here are pictures of the two days in Universal Studios which Lee, Katy, and Micah did.  Katy and Micah are huge Harry Potter fans and really the purpose of the whole trip was to see these two mini parks within the two Universal parks. Universal has put half in one park and half in the other, pretty much forcing you to by a two -day park hopper pass (they give you a third day free, but despite the costs the kids (and Lee) had a really good time and were gone from park open to closing time both nights.

Kat bought a wand at HArry Potter world in Universal which is interactive with displays in Diagon Alley

Kat bought a wand at Harry Potter world in Universal which is interactive with displays in Diagon Alley

Great shot of the dragon breathing a fire ball

Great shot of the dragon breathing a fire-ball

The Hogwarts train actually rides you from the newer section of the park to the old one

The Hogwarts train actually rides you from the newer section of the park to the old one

 

 

 

 

 

Thursday, Kat, Micah, and I went to Epcot.  The first time I visited the mouse I was 5 years old (see picture below), and I love Epcot the most.  Micah has never been to any Disney park at all, and chose Epcot as his park to visit so I was thrilled to go.  We had a great time in all the countries eating a little snack in almost every one and the kids drank a little something in everyone as well.  We were there open to close and definitely got our money’s worth.

My dad and I in Disney the year it opened

My dad and I in Disney the year it opened

Katy had a nice chat with Alice

Katy had a nice chat with Alice

Hook was awesome

Hook was awesome

Katy and the Crocodile

Katy and the Crocodile

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Kat and Micah at the Tequila bar …they had a jalapeno and cucumber margarita that they said was delicious

 

Micah, me, and Kat at this great Moroccan restaurant at Epcot

Micah, me, and Kat at this great Moroccan restaurant at Epcot

Micah with his huge man crush on Aladdin

Micah with his huge man crush on Aladdin

Tinker Bell was talking at me ...freaked me out a little

Tinker Bell was talking to me about pixie dust …freaked me out a little.  Kat loved it

Micah was nice enough to put on every weird hat I found for him

Micah was nice enough to put on every weird hat I found for him

So I thought this was a bear and put it on not knowing it was a beaver which as Micah says is funnier

So I thought this was a bear and put it on thinking I would freak Lee out …but it was a beaver which totally cracked Micah up

These made me laugh

These made me laugh

Nice to see Katy can still be silly

Nice to see Katy can still be silly

Hydroponic Garden in Epcot

Hydroponic Garden in Epcot

Loved the Topiaries

Loved the Topiaries

The frozen topiary was really pretty

The Frozen topiary was really pretty

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Friday we all took the day off and chilled.  Everyone was pretty pooped from all the walking, even the kids.   We went around Apopka a bit….which I truly am not that found of…and looked for some Roadside Attractions.  The only neat thing I found was a beautiful Buddhist Sanctuary I stumbled across (only 3 miles from the campground).

Buddhist Sanctuary

Buddhist Sanctuary

Buddhist Sanctuary

Buddhist Sanctuary

Loved the Buddha

Loved the Buddha

The dragon was very cool

The dragon was very cool

 

So I was a bit bummed, but on the way back to our site we saw the coolest bus in our campground.  It’s owned by a couple that train entertainment cats and it was AWESOME.  I would have loved to have met them but didn’t see them around, but the bus speaks for itself.  Interested in the story…check out CircusCats.com 

The front of their bus was awesome

The front of their bus was awesome

Circus Cats .com

Circus Cats .com

Seriously you can't make this stuff up

Seriously you can’t make this stuff up

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Saturday we went to the Kennedy Space Center and I was pleasantly surprised by how interesting it was.  First of all they have RV parking close to the entrance for only $15 (so you can pop out and make your own lunch) and they also offer free dog kenneling.  The complex has its own bus tour which includes several buildings and we got to go very close to the launchpads.  It was a terrific combination of adult experience with enough interactivity for kids and adults alike and well worth the $50 admission price.   As a bonus, the space complex is completely surrounded by protected wetlands so there are opportunities to see wildlife.  We saw our first wild gator, an eagle, turtles, and numerous other birds.  A retired engineer was in one of the buildings and he explained to me how the lunar module reconnected with the command ship after landing on the moon.  Really interesting conversation and the engineer said, “I understand why people think we faked it.  I worked on the projects for 42 years and I am still amazed at what we managed to accomplish with 1960’s technology.”  Really enjoyed my conversation with him.   My only disappointment was how small and isolated the astronaut memorial site was.  I vividly remember the Challenger explosion that killed the first civilian teacher that went into space and unfortunately the Saturn rocket building really downplayed the two explosions that killed entire crews and significantly set back our space program.  But other than that I was incredibly impressed by the entire experience and Highly recommend it if you are in the Titusville area.

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Kat and Micah at Kennedy Space Center

Kat and Micah at Kennedy Space Center

Assembly plant is the largest single story building in the world

Assembly plant is the largest single story building in the world

This huge transporter moves the rockets from the assembly building to the launch pads

This huge transporter moves the rockets from the assembly building to the launch pads

The launch pad and water tower being worked on by Space - X

The launch pad and water tower being worked on by Space – X

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These fences curve inward because apparently alligators can climb a 6 foot fence...yikes!!

These fences curve inward because apparently alligators can climb a 6 foot fence…yikes!!

Interactive movies were great

Interactive movies were great

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This eagles nest has existed since before the Kennedy Space Center was built

This eagles nest has existed since before the Kennedy Space Center was built

Our first alligator in the wild

Our first alligator in the wild

Full size Saturn Rocket

Full size Saturn Rocket

Dave worked for NASA as an engineer for 42 years and he answered some questions I had

Dave worked for NASA as an engineer for 42 years and he answered some questions I had

The beds were weird you have to zip yourself into them so you don't float away

The beds were weird you have to zip yourself into them so you don’t float away

You think RV toilets are bad in space you have to watch your pee and poop on a monitor to make sure none floats away

You think RV toilets are bad? In space you have to watch your pee and poop on a monitor to make sure none floats away

Slides aren't just for kids !! It went fast

Slides aren’t just for kids !! It went fast

Read this is your a Colbert fan

Read this if you’re a Colbert fan

Memorial plaque for the astronauts who have dies

Memorial plaque for the astronauts who have died

Sunday was the kid’s last full day and they went to Magic Kingdom, but we went to visit our rally friends Mario and Ellen.  We haven’t seen them since April of 2014, and it was great to catch up.  Ellen is finally retiring after 27 years in the same locale and although they are planning on taking long RV trips, they decided they don’t want to full-time quite yet.  So Ellen is fulfilling her dream of living on the beach and selling her very nice modular home near Orlando.  The house was really open and airy and the 55+ resort was super friendly. She’s selling it for under $50K and is willing to owner finance if anyone is interested! So Ellen and Mario will be part-timers living in their home at the beach in the winter and traveling the country or staying in their mountain campsite in Northern Georgia in the summer.  Speaking of that, Ellen has a beautiful 1-1/2 acre full hook up wooded lot near the Appalachian Trail in Northern Georgia.  She rents it out by the day, week, or month and offers a 20% discount to all her friends.  The monthly rate is only $360 (all-inclusive) and it looks like a great place to hang out if you’re trying to manage your budget and want to explore that area.   If you’re interested send her an email at EBendana @ yahoo.com, and mention you saw it here.  We spent several hours with them and one of the coolest things was we walked through an abandoned orange grove next to her community. We picked a big bag full of tangerines…totally yummy right off the trees, and saw the ponds on the property.  Hopefully we will get to see her and Mario in either South Dakota or Montana this summer as they are planning a 4 month trip which will be in  the same area we are staying.

I know this is a very long post, but I wanted to mention that having four people in the rig went much better than I expected.  We had plenty of hot water for 4 showers in the morning if we used the propane to help the water heater recover, the kids kept their stuff in our bedroom in the daytime which kept down on the clutter, and because I found I could be in the room with them for longer stretches.  Still spent a lot of time outside and with at least some of us out most days it worked really well.  I would definitely be up for trying it again.  And finally, speaking of the kids, Micah proposed to Katy at Magic Kingdom and they came home engaged!!!  I was so glad that we were here when it happened.  We really like Micah and they have been very happy the last four years together.  And in case anyone is wondering, we talked about the money for the girls weddings before we came on this adventure.  It was important to me that the money was set aside just in case, so we should be all set there.  Plus, now that we are mobile, we can spend more time with her prior to the wedding.  Pretty exciting all around!!

 

The newly engaged Micah and Katy

The newly engaged Micah and Katy

Lessons Learned

  • When making a reservation at a State or County park be very specific about your length and height when talking to the camp host.  Don’t only talk about the site but also discuss getting in and out of the park.
  • If you have daughters and plan on paying for their weddings, set that money aside before you embark on this life.

Campground Review

Rainbow Village  11911 66th Street Largo, Florida   4 out of 5 pinecones

A really great 55+ community that will take younger couples.  It is centrally located to St. Petersburg, Clearwater, and Tampa and within 2 hours of Bradenton, Arcadia, and Fort Myers.  Indian Rocks Beach is only 15 minutes away and despite the fact that it is located in town, the park itself feels somewhat isolated. With over 65% of the sites taken by permanent or seasonals, I would not recommend the park for short stays but really liked it for the 10 weeks we were there.  The park has outstanding laundry facilities, a billiard room with 5 tables, large pool, card room, library,  and a huge rec room.  There are numerous activities every day and since many of the folks who are there are french Canadian many of the activities are offered on alternating nights in either English or French.  The management was terrific, the people living there were incredibly nice, and it was exceptionally clean and well maintained.  We stayed in site #433 which was tough to get into but worked great for us once we were there.

Magnolia Park 2929 S Binion RD Apopka, FL   3 out of 5 pinecones

Small state park in Apopka Florida is reasonably priced in a beautiful setting.  The sites are on the small side and the entrance and exit would be extremely tight for a 40 foot rig.  We chose to not stay here because we did not think we could get our fifth wheel through the exit.  The camp hosts were very friendly and tried to find us another location to stay in.  I would definitely recommend it if you have a smaller rig, but I was disappointed that the person I spoke to on the phone was not completely accurate on whether or not my rig would fit in the park.

Lost Lake RV Resort   3400 S. Clarcona Rd, Clarcona FL 1 out of 5 pinecones

Absolutely the worst park I have stayed in so far. The Lost Lake is basically a hole in the ground that used to have water in it.  Lots of permanent residents in very old and very poorly maintained vehicles, but I will say the people who lived there were all very nice and friendly.  We were told the 50 amp pull through we were given did not honor the Passport America discount but they had no other sites available.  When we pulled up there was no one in the office and we had to wait (with another couple) for over 30 minutes until someone came to give us our sites.  The next day when we went to pay we were told it would be an extra $90 for my daughter and her fiancée to stay with us for the 7 days.   Eventually we did get the $90 refunded but it took multiple trips to the office.  Visited the restroom on the way in and two of the three toilets weren’t working. Used it again on the way out and there was no toilet paper. I would never go there again and absolutely do not recommend it.

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5 thoughts on “First Time Having a Daughter Stay with us

  1. Sounds like you had a great week with the kids and an awesome time visiting all the attractions. It was hard to tell who had more fun, you or the kids????

  2. What a fun filled busy week! Congratulations on the engagement. You have a lot of work ahead of you with the wedding planning. But oh so much fun! We have lots to talk about when we are sitting on the beach in May!

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