After a great week in Gunter Hill COE, and specifically Catoma campground, it was off to sunny Florida to do the first of our planned explorations of the Gulf coast. The goal was to find a park (or parks) that might be suitable for spending the upcoming winter months in bit warmer weather than we did for certain times last year. We know we're behind the 8-ball on doing this, as many parks get filled up earlier in the year in advance of snowbird season, but we're really not interested in the middle and south Florida parks many people look for, because frankly they're usually too expensive or too packed in and crowded for our tastes.
We don't like opening our awning and wondering if it will hit our neighbors slide-out. I don't care how warm the weather is.
And we also have a budget to consider. Sure, we can go as high as $40 per night, but we'd much prefer something in the $30 range, and some of these places are way too proud of themselves when it comes to monthly rates in the winter season. I don't care what you offer, $2,000 per month is simply robbery (unless it's for a beach view)!
So while the Gulf coast isn't as warm as the Florida peninsula, we think it is a good balance between warmer weather and lower prices – and we don't need a beach view, either.
Our base campground was Five Flags RV Park just west of Pensacola, Florida. It's a quirky little park that (like many these days), caters to full-time residents with a few transient sites for people like us.
There are doors leading out of their fence to the local convenient store and to a bar-b-cue place. One looks like you're entering an Airstream and the other just some other camper. Their laundry rooms are a couple of old modified trolley cars.
The have an old drive-in style sign at the front entrance with silly puns that change on a regular basis.
But the really nice thing is that their sites are wide, with concrete and crushed rock pads to handle just about any length or weight RV and grassy areas between. They have two different “dog parks” which double as retention ponds when it rains. Which, btw, need to be mowed more frequently. When the grass in certain areas is taller than Grover, it's too high by far. Poor Grover picked up a little slice on the bottom of one of his pads, but he's healing nicely; even if he hates his cone head.
Grover did get to see his first beach and got a stroll in some water. He was NOT impressed.
Otherwise, it's a gem of a park just about 20 minutes away from beaches, and nicely situated just 7 miles away from the Alabama border and only an hour away from Mobile Bay. We booked seven days, with the intent on scouting out some local Alabama and Florida parks first-hand, while enjoying some drive time in the Mini. Largely, we were unsuccessful in finding anything that suited our criteria both east and west of our base camp, but thanks to some fellow Open Roader Facebook friends we have a couple of other potentials to look at (via Google Earth) that just might do.
And why are we now relying on Google Earth to do our research?
Our original reservations had us staying until Wednesday morning – the 16th of September. As the week wore on, Sally's track looked like it was going to hit New Orleans; bringing heavy rain and some tropical force winds to the Pensacola area, but not much else. But then she started wiggling around in the Gulf, and her track kept getting closer to the east instead of the west. We've been in heavy winds and downpours before (although not at the same time), and we knew our 36LA could handle the early forecast for our area, but my Spidey-Sense was tingling on this storm.
Sunday night we disconnected just about everything except power, and went to bed still thinking we could either stay or go the next morning. About 4:30 AM I'm up and glancing at the latest storm track, and it doesn't look very good to this amateur weather guy (I studied meteorology in grade school). Too much rain being forecasted – as much as 20-plus inches – and the northeast quadrant of the storm was uncomfortably close to the tip of the Florida panhandle (remember, we're 7 miles from the Alabama-Florida border). Barbara and I speak briefly, and it's determined that we are going to be slides in and jacks up by 8 AM. We're outta here!
Good call as it turned out . . . As you can see from the news, we dodged a big bullet by leaving two days early.
We headed directly east along I-10 in order to stay away from the effects of the storm. The winds weren't bad – gusts to 30 MPH – and we pass through a couple of tropical rain bands, but we get to Tifton, GA and Wallydock for the night before continuing on to our go-to park in North Georgia, Leisure Acres. Here we'll be picking up our youngest daughter and our grandson Jace for a three-week trip to New England to see family and friends and get our annual seafood and roast beef sandwich fix. This trip will be a bit different than last year when we had Jace; he's older by a year and his mom is around to herd him instead of just us.
That being said, this blog will be on hiatus until after that trip, as my PC time is usually short-lived when Jace wants to hit the keyboard. We'll still do updates on our Parental Parolees Facebook page, so be sure to keep up with us using that media.
Meanwhile, it's time to break out the cold weather gear for Barbara . . . because, well - Barbara.
We're Dave and Barbara Richard, and we're planning the ultimate retirement experience - travel the U.S. and Canada in style in a Tiffin Open Road 36LA Class A motor home, play golf and stop at every weird and wacky roadside attraction we can find.