We’ve been using the iPhone apps to find cheap gas ($2.99 to $3.19) and have usually ended up at truck stops (Pilot/Flying J being our favorite) which are quite interesting both for the people in and around and for what they carry. You can find everything imaginable to run in the truck in the dash outlet such as popcorn poppers, toasters, mini ovens, along with great tools and gear. They always have a section with local souvenirs and the ones in Louisiana had whole selves full of alligator parts such as heads, feet and teeth.
Tomorrow we will be finally arriving in Florida and spending a night at our first state park, the Suwannee River State Park, in northern Florida. We most likely won’t be enjoying the warm weather until we hit the Tampa/St Pete area the following day and even more south of there at the Keys. Although it has been cold thus far we can’t complain since it has not snowed or rained a day yet on this trip. I see a thunder storm predicted for a day we at the Keys which may be exciting.
We have been staying at privately owned parks since there aren’t any state or national parks on this route that have hook ups until we reach Florida. We found such a variety of places to stay with two retirement centers as oddly standing out as being fun places. Yes, trailer retirement centers exist in the desert AND were fun. We were surprised at the feeling of community at the one in Casa Grande in particular http://www.rvonthego.com/fiesta-grande.html. Half the sites had large side by side trailers with porches that were fairly permanent and the others had large buses or trailers. One trailer was for sale for 34K that had two side by side trailers with large windows and wrap around porch. People put in little cactus gardens but mostly they didn’t have any maintenance and some just did the “rock thing”. It was a bit like being on another planet.
In the evening large groups of people gathered on some porches as the sun went down. We could see three groups of about 8 people each on elevated porches from out campsite. I can’t recall ever seeing such a community spirit in any campground. It was filled with people riding bikes, walking around, riding carts and everyone waved to everyone else...including us. The place was jumping and was all in the open since there were not any enclosed yards. ln the morning we saw many people up early walking to a center with exercise mats. Everyone said hello to us and wanted to talk as we walked the dogs down the lanes.... Burrito Way and Taco Lane. It seemed as if people were escaping the cold since the license plates were from northern states such as South Dakota, Minnesota, Montana, Washington, Utah, and Ohio. I never thought I would stay in a place such as this but in the winter it’s an interesting option for $395 per month. We saw that many had fixed up their little plot to reflect their personality which was fun. Another senior housing that takes overnight guests that was in the desert was http://www.laketamariskdesertresort.com/Pages/default.aspx It is very close to Joshua Tree National Forest
Even though I was tring to make reservations 7 months in advance I had a difficult time finding availibility in southern Texas due to what I was told was an oil boom. Whole towns did not have any room so I had to change the trip a bit and found a place in down town San Antonio, TX called the Blazing Star Luxury RV Resort. Luxury RV resort? This was a first for us and we found it to be a beautifully groomed place with big beautiful trees and a perfect cement pad with railings to make a porch. We stepped into another world in that place! The office looked like a southern plantation with its large columns and that was only the office. The privately owned places are often a bit too groomed for my tastes, but they have full hook ups for our camper and they have lots of amenities such as pools and laundry. http://www.blazingstarresort.com/Thank_You.php It was the day of the Niners win and one big rig had a large flat screen TV on the side of his bus that was so large we could see it 4 sites away and up a hill. I know that I’d NOT like to have that next to me. This is not the sort of place people go to get away from it all since it appears that they bring it all with them!
In Louisiana and Alabama we found ourselves at sites that only had big trailers that housed men that worked in the oil fields and not a single big bus with the usual retirees. Big trucks, rigs and men were the norm for a switch. We are getting such a slice of Americana at all spectrums. Once we get to Florida I made reservations for state campgrounds which will be a welcome change to more natural settings. I must add that I have actually liked ALL of the places where we have stayed for their unique qualities.. It has been quite entertaining. Many are small family owned places and make you feel at home. http://www.ftstocktonrvpark.com/
The woman at the office here in Alabama wanted to talk about how financially strapped the area has been due to natural disasters and the economy. It’s a sweet place with big trees and a pond with ducks that enticed the dogs. The whole campsite area has mowed grass with trees with birds including a beautiful woodpecker. What a switch from the oil men. http://www.paynesrvpark.com/
This has definitely been an interesting observation of people. We have enjoyed the variety and seeing how the retires have reinvented their lives to fit their needs. Many people are what is known as full timers in their RVs and trailers and they just move with the weather going south in the winter.
One man sold his house to his sister in Brownsville, TX and then parks his trailer on the property he used to own so he can use the pool. He made a point of the fact that he does not pay any property taxes now. In the winter he takes his trailer to FT Stockton, TX and works as a waiter at the Roadrunner Cafe, a cafe in the campground that claims to be the best little cafe in Texas. He seems to be enjoying his life. Upon his recommendation I had glass of Texas White which was better than I had expected along with some Texas BBQ.
We passed on the Boudin and Cracklin that we saw advertised on billboards. I imagine that we will get enough fried foods in Florida. We had the refrigerator and freezer pack with home cooked food when we left to make the long days easy for us. We will be spending five days in New Orleans on our return and definitely be getting some local cuisine then.
We’ve been up before sunrise each day, on the road by 8:30 and arrive at destination about 3:30 with a little daylight to hook up and walk the dogs. We make several dog stops along the way and stop for food, but it’s mostly driving all day. This is certainly a new experience for me since I have spent most of my life flying places and have never driven across county. It’s quite a different experience that feels right. We see so much more and don’t have to deal with airports. The accommodations are quite cozy and comfortable. We feel like such road warriors since when we finally get to spend two nights in one place we will have driven for 10 days straight. We have seen every sun rise and sun set so far and they have all been beautiful. We are lucky. Life is so fleeting and I am glad we are able to enjoy these moments.