Sponging Around


Wednesday we woke to another chilly morning (temps about 27º at 6 a.m.) but with a forecast for sunny weather.  We decided to make an exploratory trip to Tarpon Springs.Jan20 It turned out to be fun and revelatory!

But before leaving I tried to reach our RV repair guy one more time.  I have now called him twice and haven’t gotten a response from him yet.  It’s frustrating because he was quick to respond and get over here last week, seemed interested in the topper replacement job, I know he called Carefree of Colorado to inquire about the cost and colors — and then he dropped off the face of the earth.  A neighbor recommended him highly and I hate to give the job to someone else but I need to get this project moving if we’re to finish it before leaving Florida.  But not to be bothered by that little snag we headed on South anyway.

We visited Tarpon Springs in ’13 and had a nice visit.  Our daughter was talking about going there while she and Mike are visiting so I wanted to check out what may have changed, parking, routes, etc.. It’s an interesting area.  As you may know it was the home of the U.S. sponge industry for years and years.  There remains some sponging but the majority of the sponges in use now are synthetic so their business has declined from their heyday.  But, the town remains a huge tourist attraction with boat tours, gift shops and restaurants galore.  Three years ago we ate at the Rusty Bellies Waterfront Grill.  This year we decided to try Hellas Restaurant.

I’m coming to terms with the fact that Greek culture is just a little too loud for me.  But we had a quirky waiter named George (who had to from “New Joisey”).  The music was a bit too loud and there are a whale of a lot of employees milling around but the food was dynamite. We shared an order of hummus.  Peg went for the Moussaka (very good); I tried the lamb shank with spaghetti (even better than very good).  We ended up our meal with a Phyllo dough and egg custard desert called: Galaktoboureko — that stuff is to die for!galaktoboureko

On our trip home we hit a lot more traffic than on the way down; and we ran up US-19 and US-98 — and I was reminded of what it was about Florida that we never cared for:  Linear Cities!  Those of you who travel Florida a lot know what I mean — these cities that have no significant depth — being only a couple blocks wide on either side of the main road, but extend for miles along the highway.  And of course there was heavy traffic in the middle of the afternoon.  And a three car accident requiring 1 fire truck, 3 EMT vehicles, 6 squad cars and backed up the highway for “quite a distance” and we won’t say more about that.

SpongeDocks_MapIt was so delightful to sit along the dock, to enjoy the sounds of rigging on the boats, the seagulls and pelicans, and to watch the tourists.  We walked Dodecanese Street — the principal tourist street — and enjoyed to some degree the noise and hubbub.  We shared some memories and finally chose a resto for lunch (as mentioned above).2016012014112821 2016012014095411

We learned a couple things that day.  We are gradually coming to feel that this might just be our only winter in Florida.  For one thing Mike and Katy have no interest in Florida.  Peg & I had always said that we would hold off RV’ing the Eastern Seaboard until we had finished with the Midwest and the West Coast but this winter we were sort of left with last-best choices.  But the real thing is that we don’t find Florida all that compelling.

2016012014052407 2016012014112017We love that it is greener than Texas.  And when we have been in natural areas we have enjoyed the birds and critters that we have seen.  The problem being that Florida comes with enough other ’stuff’ that we aren’t into that it’s not all that fascinating.  One of the biggest detractions is the sheer number of people and the traffic — which we have been avoiding by being where we are.  The Ocala area really is a haven away from the mess that is the rest of Florida.  While I’ve been commenting (some may say complaining) about being too far from the attractions we are interested in — this day trip reminded me that a.) we never seem to find campgrounds that are any closer to services than the one where we are right now and b.) I would rather drive a long distance for groceries and such than to have closer access to conveniences through the sort of traffic we drove in on Thursday afternoon — and to have to do that all the time we were in an area.  That would be far less appealing than having longer distances to routine errands.

2016012014051606 2016012012415401I’ve come to realize that proximity is something that our 3 month stay in Milwaukee spoiled us about.  We had gotten accustomed to traveling for our needs over the last four years; and it only took 3 months to break our pattern and make us realize what we had been doing.  But the point is that we had been making that choice — to stay at campgrounds that were removed from over-much-civilization on purpose.2016012014291631

There were detracting factors about S. Texas but we were somewhat closer to most services (other than RV service outlets — we did not succeed in finding good RV servicing outlets there). The question now comes to the fore:  will we be any more pleased with whatever we find next winter in the desert (if our plans for the SW hold together)?   Quartzite certainly is not in a metropolitan area.  There are the metro area of Phoenix and Tucson and Yuma but we’ll see where we end up when that time comes.  That’s a year away.

Once again, we are coming to terms with the fact that our preferences are not common.  Florida is a great destination for a lot of people — but it’s looking less and less like some of those people are us.  Thanks for stopping by and let’s do this again tomorrow.2016012012423803e38e38

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16 Comments

  1. We have found 2 great places that are near everything, and not heavy traffic. Our first and favorite is Tucson. Great services, beautiful scenery, and a great base for day trips. This year we are in Desert Hot Springs in California. This is also a desirable area. Palm Springs is great, and traffic is not bad.
    Many like Yuma. Its the Warmest area out West, but very dusty and brown because of the agriculture.

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    1. Dave,

      Great comments and thanks. I have done more touring around AZ than has Peggy and Tucson has always been the one place that most appealed to me. I’m planning and hoping that next winter (’16-’17) we will be doing AZ. I love the mountains, I love the vegetation (such as it is), and I think I could get accustomed to being THAT dry — although that kind of dryness does take getting used to.

      I’m not sure I agree about Palm Springs traffic — it’s been a few years since being there but I seem to remember more traffic there than I care for, but hey — everyplace is getting to have too much traffic, doncha think? 🙂

      And there is more than enough to keep us busy while we’re here this year. Besides, if life give you lemon — make lemon meringue pie!

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  2. Yes, the traffic in some areas of Florida is horrendous! If you are looking for “old Florida” without a lot of crowds and traffic you need to go to the Gulf Coast. The area from from Mexico Beach to St. Marks is called the Forgotten Coast and worth exploring. Apalachcola, St. Joseph Peninsula, Cape San Blas, and St. Georgia Island are just a few interesting places to visit. Cedar Key, a little farther south, is a great little town with a couple of campgrounds.

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    1. Just wanted to add St. Joseph Peninsula State Park is one of our favorite Florida state parks with beautiful white sand beaches. We’ve been there in January and sometimes we would be the only one walking on the beach. We also have camped at Cedar Key at Sunset Isle. Not sure if you would want to spend a month at each place but you might like to take at look at them.

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      1. Thanks for the add on suggestions.

        I think we are kind of limited this year. I have called around to a bunch of parks that appealed to us for a month long stay and have not been successful. But now that our daughter and SIL have committed to a visit at the end of Feb. we are kind of locked in for Feb & March. I would have preferred that they pick at time in the middle of the month — but the only time they could get away was at the month’s end — so that locks us into 2 months.

        I’m really OK with where we are for now. The traffic is wonderful compared to Tarpon Springs — and it’s not like we are out exploring EVERY SINGLE DAY.

        If we hadn’t been hung up about making reservations we would have done this winter very much differently… and we would have done more different places for shorter terms — but it is what it is and we’re having a really nice stay in spite of the cool and wet.

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    2. I agree about the Forgotten Coast area. We went through there in ’13, and this trip we drove over from Perry to St Marks and that is lovely, isolated, and has a lot to offer. Not sure what we will do when we leave here — we have about 3 weeks to get from FL to WI — we might go that way and spend some time there if we don’t head into GA. Peggy is kind of wanting to return to Wi via Callaway Gardens and we have been considering camping at Franklin Roosevelt State Park not far from Pine Mountain GA.

      We’re here this year. And we’re enjoying ourselves, and we’ll be getting some work done on the coach, and it’s different from S. Tex. Next year we’ll try AZ (unless our plans change) and after that we’ll see where we end up returning to first. Will be an interesting decision to make after we’ve had a sampling of all three primary options.

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  3. I’m with you–RVing in Florida once was enough. We saw some great things there but we’ve now been there; done that.

    In Arizona we liked the Parker area enough to buy into a campground membership right on the Colorado River. It’s hard to beat water in the desert.

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    1. I guess the only we a person figures some things out is to try them. And that’s what we’re doing. If it wasn’t that our daughter already bought tickets for the end of February we might be tempted to leave ahead of schedule but she’s committed so we are too. Still and all — it’s not like we aren’t enjoying ourselves. It’s just not our preferred choice.

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  4. Even though I’m not an RVer, I think if it weren’t for family, I might leave Florida. Have no idea where perfect home would be but I’m sure I would have fun trying to figure it out. Though I have to admit, with the exception of the last few days, Florida’s weather has been great. I just love wearing light weight clothing all year round. I have a few winter clothes for visiting family in Virginia but other than that, my wardrobe is mostly shorts and flip flops!

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    1. The wonderful part about RV’ing is that you get to learn more about your own likes and dislikes without making huge financial mistakes. We know so many couples who did their annual vacations, thought they liked a place, moved there after retiring — only to move back a few years later after realizing they really didn’t like the place all that much.
      We’re still looking for a warm place — and maybe we’ll find one, maybe not. But we’re having fun doing it and enjoying our retirement — so what does it matter if we make a mistake here or there!
      I don’t really expect that there will be a ‘perfect place.’ Anyplace that we find will not be perfect if our family aren’t there — so in the end it is most likely that we’ll end up in WI even with the cold (and just hibernate during the winter). But we’re having fun now!

      ((THE IMPORTANT LESSON WE HAVE LEARNED IS — NEVER GET RID OF YOUR COLD WEATHER GEAR — EVEN WHEN YOU COME TO FLORIDA))

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      1. We often talk about being Florida snowbirds and moving to the Keys for winter! 😀

        Like I say, I only have a few winter clothes…but I will heed your important warning. I hope you guys aren’t freezing out there…nothing worse than being under dressed.

        I am so with you about home and family. The hardest part of Florida is being so far from my daughter and grandson. I moved here to be closer to my dad and aunt and that was the right thing to do…meanwhile, my grandson is growing up fast and I feel like I’m missing some of it. I don’t know what I would do if it wasn’t fore Skype, Facetime, etc.

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      2. Nah — we’re doing just fine. We always travel with a full year of clothing — where else would we keep it but here in the coach? 🙂
        And, I always say that just because I talk about something does not mean I’m upset or unhappy — I’m just relating what’s going on and I do try to have some fun with it at that.
        The whole mobility thing in this country is affecting our society in ways that we little appreciate. Whereas entire families — multiple generations use to at least live in the same city, if not on the same block or in the same house — nowadays not only to people move away from family — they also institutionalize them. It’s a different world than it was. And not necessarily for the better. So, I hear you! With Melanie in MPLS I’m sure if there are kids — and Drew does want kids — probably more than Melanie — we’ll need to make special efforts to see them.

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  5. Aside from saying I’ve seen it, Florida holds little mystic in my pondering mind. That said, I would leap at the chance to spend a few months deciding for myself what makes it tick. The beauty of life unscripted is nothing is set in stone. 🙂

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    1. Ponder — if you have never seen the Glades or Key West — you owe it to yourself to at least visit those two. For completely different reasons, mind you!
      I’ve said this before in my blog but the great thing about our kind of RV’ing is that because we aren’t focussed on the touristy things we get to learn what it’s like to LIVE in a place, not just visit it. And THAT is a real eyeful. Tourists get a very different view of their Utopia than residents see of the very same place.
      I’m really glad we came here this year. Florida was not high on our places-to-go list but all the other snags this autumn sort of pushed it up on the should-we-go-there-now board. And now we can take it off our list. Pure and simple. We did as much of Florida as we want — or can afford at this point in life. If we chose to spend more for rent we might be able to enjoy a slightly different Florida — but then we’d be further South with more Snowbirds and more traffic so it wouldn’t be what we really want after all. So there you have it. Now we are free to try AZ / NM next winter and maybe even bop over into San Diego for a few days for Peggy . After that we can see which of the great Southern Siren calls will capture our hearts. Gosh this is fun.

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