For the fifth year, John and I spent New Year’s Day developing a list of things we want to do this year. In 2013 we felt the need to make a list of fun things to do during the year because we were spending so much time working we lacked the much talked about “work life balance”.
The list we created was meant to add some fun into the year by trying new restaurants, taking short trips and making use of our limited free time. Little did we know that this would become a well loved tradition.
Just as we’ve done the past four years, we sat down with the lists we’d developed to negotiate what 17 items would make the list in 2017. Since there’s no longer a work schedule to plan around, our list includes many more extended vacations, but it also includes several things that have become much loved annual events such as family weekend, our annual sunrise/sunset trip when we catch the sunrise over the Atlantic and the sunset over the Gulf on the same day and our version of a triathlon in which we take part in a biking, hiking and water activity over the course of a day or two.
Camping, trips to National Parks, museums, a play, baseball and biking all made the list this year. Of course, we’ll be squeezing this year’s adventures between visits with grandchildren so it’s going to be quite a year.
It’s not cheap to stay in Miami in February. What with all the snowbirds and events like the South Beach Wine and Food Festival. But we were determined to cheer on the Canes baseball team the final weekend in February as they hosted the Gators, without spending a fortune.
With no state park campgrounds in south Dade, John found a county park, Penny and Larry Thompson Campground. The reviews looked good and he remembered his aunt and uncle camping there in the ’60s and ’70s so we decided to give it a try.
For $17 a night (tent site), we paid less for our two night stay at Penny & Larry Thompson Campground than the daily $35 parking fee in Coconut Grove where we usually stay. And with nearly 300 sites, a community center, pool, showers and a laundry, it provided more facilities than we needed.
We set up in the area designated for tents in less than thirty minutes and then we were ready to hit the road for a night of baseball.
The campground is carved out in a residential area, and while it’s a little farther west than we’d like, at such low rates, how can you complain? We won’t be camping here in the summer months, but we’ve already scheduled another three days at Penny & Larry Thompson Park in April.
After four days confined to the house, I was going more than a little stir crazy so on Monday, we ventured to Camper World where we “window shopped” for about an hour. On the show floor were several models with doors open, inviting all to come have a look.
We traipsed through these homes on wheels amazed at many of the features. An outdoor TV and wet bar under the cover of an awning tailor made for tailgating.
Features not even found in my year round living quarters: a kitchen island, recliners, lots of leather, and even a fireplace. What luxuries compared to the Coleman stove, stadium chairs, nylon hammock and fire pit found at our campsites.
A queen size bed would be comfortable after a day on the trails, but a trailer with a garage? That seems a little over the top.
After checking out all the conveniences of these recreational vehicles, we now know how our camping neighbors are living it up. What a good way to put an end to stir crazy!
Yesterday we were invited to a friend’s house where got an up close look at the Winnebago Travato motor home she and another friend have been using as their headquarters for camping adventures. The vehicle provides all the comforts of home in a compact space, perfect for two people.
After touring Amy’s home on wheels, the four of us talked about favorite camping places, especially ones in Florida. So what better picture for today than one from 1990, taken in a motor home we purchased on the day after our youngest daughter’s birth. This motor home made it possible for us to continue traveling and make lots of memories on the road, even with three children under six.
TBT Lesson #87: Children make good traveling companions.
Fall, what better time of year to pitch a tent and enjoy spending time outdoors?
As we’re gathering our tent, sleeping bags, cooking utensils and backpacks for a camping road trip to Maine, I’d like to encourage you to go camping even if only for a single night since there’s really nothing like sleeping out under the stars.
So why is camping in the fall such a good idea?
1. It’s a cheaper way to travel. Campsites are much cheaper than staying in hotels, and you really only need a tent, sleeping bags and a few utensils for cooking. If you don’t have the basics, you can probably borrow from a friend or family member. Frequent campers usually have extra equipment they’re willing to loan.
2. The cooler weather makes sitting around a campfire the perfect outdoor activity. A pack of hotdogs, a bag of marshmallows and a couple of sticks…you’re ready for for campfire fun.
3. Campgrounds are less crowded since school’s back in session. Really, who doesn’t enjoy smaller crowds.
4. In Florida, the drier weather is more conducive to sleeping outside. The wet days of summer will soon be coming to an end. Typically, the state receives a third as much rainfall in October as in the summer months so in just a couple weeks, the weather will be more cooperative.
5. Numerous festivals and special weekend activities can guide your camping travels. Whether you’re ready for a festival celebrating music, pumpkins, art, stone crabs or bicycling, camping and fall festivals go together like cocoa and marshmallows.
6. It’s not as buggy. Drier weather means fewer mosquitoes making pitching a tent in the fall more pleasant.
7. Breakfast always tastes better when cooked outside. Bacon, eggs, hot chocolate…what a treat when cooked on a camp stove and eaten outside on a picnic table; but even a simple no-cook breakfast tastes better outside.
8. There’s nothing like a good night’s sleep in a sleeping bag curled up next to your best camping buddy.
Add a little adventure to the calendar this fall and pitch a tent.
Beginning in the early 1970s, most summers were spent in the mountains of western North Carolina. Camping, hiking, tubing, river trips and escaping the heat of south Florida. In fact, these yearly trips led me to Western Carolina University where I spent my first two years of college life and met my husband of thirty-five years.
Many summers have been spent at our favorite campground, Deep Creek, a part of Great Smoky Mountain National Park. This year Meghan and Jon joined us for a few days of camping in Deep Creek.
Campfires and breakfast cooked on the camp stove are among the highlights of the trip, but without a doubt tubing on the river is what makes Deep Creek a repeat destination. I don’t mean to brag, but I was the only one of the four of us to stay on the tube…Betty Falls proved too much for the others.
Unfortunately, the constant rain shortened our trip, but it was reminiscent of Meghan’s first camping trip to Deep Creek at age 2 months when she was the only dry camper hanging out in the back of our station wagon while the adults huddled under a tarp over the picnic table making the most of a camping trip in the non-stop rain.
As Yogi Berra would say, “It’s like deja vu all over again.”
Myakka River State Park, located nine miles east of Sarasota, provides boating, birding, camping, hiking, and bicycling opportunities for visitors.
At over 58 square miles, Myakka River State Park is one of the largest state parks and the river is designated as a Florida Wild and Scenic River.
Famous for birding, nearly 100 species are listed on the park’s bird list and on the day we visited, a Myakka Bird Volunteer stationed at the Birdwalk set up scopes and helped visitors with identification. These “What’s That Bird?” programs occur daily from 9:00-1:00.
Myaaka State Park
In addition to the self-guided walking trails (there are 39 miles available), there’s the “Walk on the Wild Side”, a guided 5 mile walk available every Friday and five hour “Photography Adventures” can be scheduled with Dick Pfaff, an expert on the wildlife in the park.
The highlight of our trip was the “Walk Through the Treetops” where we climbed a 74 foot tower for a view of the hammocks and wetlands usually only seen by birds.
Kayaking, canoeing, fishing, and an airboat tour are on the agenda for another day as well as a camping trip. Maybe a long weekend this fall at Myakka River State Park?
The $15 bargain tent may have been one of my most expensive garage sale finds. Until I purchased the eight man tent, we were perfectly happy with the small 3 person tent we’ve been using for the past two years.
But our trip to Hontoon Island State Park changed everything. We pitched the garage sale tent and loved the extra room. Space for our clothes and the ability to stand made for luxurious accommodations. The small tears around the zipper were not a problem, but the fly didn’t lay just right. How would it handle rain? And then I noticed the small tear in the seam near the peak. We couldn’t camp in a cheap tent and worry about the weather. We’d return to our tiny, but reliable tent.
However, that changed when we started packing for a three night trip during Spring Break. The weather report called for rain, not enough to prevent us from camping, but enough to convince us of the need to break down and buy a bigger tent so we could spread out and escape the rain if needed. The $15 tent was retired after two nights use and a new one costing 10 times as much replaced it.
We initiated the new tent at Oscar Scherer State Park just a few miles east of Sarasota and stayed dry despite the rainy weather so it was a good investment. Although the first night was a little cold, it was dry so we could roast hot dogs over the campfire.
We didn’t spend a lot of time at the campground since this was a beach trip, but the Legacy Trail borders the park and we rode the 14 mile round trip to Venice. The hiking trails and canoes will have to wait for a return trip.