A visit to Florida’s Lake Griffen State Park

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As some may know we purchased our new, 2018 Roadtrek Class B this past December but due to some medical issues we were unable to schedule our first trip to check out all of the systems until now. I am happy to report that we did finally get away for a couple of days to test out all systems in our “Sunset Princess” and our shakedown cruise went off even better than expected. All systems operated efficiently with the exception of the on-demand hot water heater which I need to research but with the temps in the 90’s here in Florida the cold water tap was actually warm enough for our needs this time!

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Our Class B is a completely self contained 19′ vehicle for camping, sightseeing or escaping the paths of looming hurricanes. It has a generator on board, full bathroom, sofa that makes into a queen-sized bed, microwave, two burner stove, furnace, refrigerator and a 24″ color TV with surround sound. We purchased it because with two bad knees Niki can no longer negotiate a car seat in a standard Detroit automobile. This has swivel seats making life a whole lot better.

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We set-up at Lake Griffin State Park located between Ocala and Orlando. Not really a destination Park but serene and quiet especially in the middle of the week. The Park has full hook-ups which is our preferred way to travel and makes a Simplicity SRT our perfect choice.

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The lake itself is about a mile from the campground with a canal that connects the two. The campground rents canoes and kayaks and there is also a Ranger guided tour of the waterway probably available on weekends.

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The restrooms, shower section and laundry area were spotless, brightly lit and well maintained.

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This Park has 40 campsites including seven pull-throughs of varying lengths. All sites have electricity and water and seven have sewer hook-ups with ten having 50 Amp service. We chose site 9 but would recommend sites 10 and 11 as being longer and more spacious and also having full hook-ups.

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There’s a beautiful boat ramp, dock and picnic area where canoes and kayaks may be rented. It’s located at the head of a 1,000′ canal that leads to the Dead River which empties into Lake Griffen. There are massive old oaks dripping Spanish moss throughout the Park including a mammoth old oak near the entrance and said to be the second largest in the State.

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I have attached some photos taken in the Park. Their are several Nature Trails and the children’s play area includes a swing for wheelchairs that I had not seen before. They do a lot with and for children including camps in the Summertime. We found the staff to be most courteous, conscientious and smiling. It’s apparent they love their jobs.

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One of our favorite things is to visit the locals favorite restaurants when we visit a new area. Our first was a visit to the “Original Stavros Pizza Restaurant” nearby in Leesburg at the suggestion of the Ranger on duty. It is a beautiful restaurant inside. Though some of their dishes may be excellent the Italiian subs we ordered were not. They were wet with dressing to the point of puddling and the taste was not up to par.

Another evening we tried the La Palma Mexican Grill and the outcome wasn’t much better. Niki and I both had the Chimichanga dinners. The refried beans had a burned taste and the chicken chimi’s were tasteless. The rice was pretty good. All in all we should have patronized the American Legion Post only a short distance from the campground.

Lake Griffen State Park is located at 3089 Hwy 441-27 in Fruitlnd Park, Florida.
Website: https://www.floridastateparks.org/parks-and-trails/lake-griffin-state-park

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Planning that next RV trip

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Our website averages at least one or two emails a week asking us for help plotting an RV route. Usually it’s either someone with a brand new RV or often an RVer just asking for suggestions as they plan a trip into parts unknown to them.

You may have heard or seen us mention before that the only thing we like better than an RV trip is talking about RVing. The problem is that to plan a trip correctly or at least the way that has proven tried and true for us there are a number of questions that need answering up front to do it right.

That being said we have updated our “Planning Page” (http://www.snowbirdrvtrails.com/research.htm) on our website and outlined the steps we take in planning each new voyage into uncharted territory. We always chart it beforehand!

A big part of the fun of a trip for us is the planning. On our page you’ll find all kinds of information and resources that we use to keep our RVing about the fun of the trip and not the worry that can accompany tackling the unknown.

Have a look. If it helps you with your trip planning we’re happy. Many people like to fly by the seat of their pants which is fun for them but that’s just not us.

After you try our suggestions for planning and if you have any questions we’ll be happy to try and answer them. We do answer all emails. You’ll find our email address also on the Planning Page.

Safe travels and always enjoy the journey,

Jack and Niki
snowbirdrvtrails.com

4 Season Campgrounds in the Northeast

We had a reader just send in a new addition for our list of campgrounds that are open all year in the Northeast. Our list includes campgrounds in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York State, Rhode Island and Vermont.

View the listings at http://www.snowbirdrvtrails.com/offseason.htm

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The newest listing is in Pilesgrove, New Jersey.

If you know of any “Open All Year” campgrounds in the Northeast that we
may have missed please send us a note.
-Thanks, Jack

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Send us an email to
snowbirdrvtrails@gmail.com
with your question or a comment
We will respond

It’s Winter – let’s talk Summer camping!

Jack asks, if you have a minute won’t you come sit by the campfire and we’ll chat? It’s Winter and the perfect time to talk about camping next Summer.

I’ll start. As kids growing up in the Northeast we endured Winter. We couldn’t afford snowmobiles and ATV’s but we made our own fun.

After high school, fun with the Military and entering the work civilian force Winter took on a whole different meaning – like starting out every morning in a cold car, always looking forward to going to work in the dark and coming home from work in the dark. All  while trying to stay warm and keeping the car on the road.

Yes my friend, “cabin fever” can be a very real threat.

But that’s when I learned I had a love for golf!

Well, actually not for the game of golf itself but rather the sunny, blue sky days and green grass venues from where they always broadcast the tourneys. I admit I spent a considerable amount of Sunday time watching them and daydreaming while it was snowing and blowing outside my windows.

I guess at some point in my life I really and truly decided I did not care for Winter at all!

Unfortunately my career was based in the Northeast and Winter was really hard to ignore. It usually begins to slowly creep up on you from every direction and by late February it has taken up entirely to much space in your mind – my mind at least.

Fortunately for the last few years before I retired I shared office space with a like-minded individual named (don’t call me Ronnie) Ron. Ron and I both loved Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Though we vacationed at different times we would spend countless hours each Winter planning the perfect Myrtle Beach getaway – what to see, where to go, what restaurants to try, etc. To make a long story short we spent many more hours planning the next trip than we actually spent going on the trip. You know what though? It got us through the worst parts of Winters.

Once I retired and Niki and I started RVing, Winters took on a whole different meaning. In fact we started looking forward to each Winter as much as the Summer. That of course is because when the leaves started falling we started packing our little home on wheels for the trip South to a warmer Winter, old friends and familiar places.

You may have heard or seen me mention on our website (snowbirdrvtrails.com) that we always took our time coming or going. No quick three days down and three days back for us. At one time we did have to scurry like that but soon decided it’s really not what retirement should be about.

In our travels North and South we normally take a month coming and going. A different route each time and normally different campgrounds in different areas to explore. One motto we have pretty much followed is “Last out of a campground in the morning and first to arrive at a new campground in the afternoon!”

After our first 1,500 mile trip where we spent a night in each campground and put in as many miles as we could each day, we arrived at our destination so tired we were ready to sell the trailer! That’s when we decided that on the return trip we would travel no more than 250 – 300 miles each travel day and spend at least two nights in each campground to explore a bit of the area. Eight years later that’s how we still do it.

That brings us up to today and this very Winter of 2018. No doubt it may be sub-zero and  snowing and blowing where you are. You may be at work, you may be at home snowed in or you may be retired and actually enjoying warmer weather. Wherever you are let’s you and me do some planning and looking forward to the warmer weather to come. You know that time when the snow is gone and you can air out your camper or your tent and get ready for the fun to come.

I know many of you are still working and have to plan your vacation days with the destination in mind rather than the trip. I understand that. We were also there as well not so long ago.

With that in mind let’s just talk about areas and campgrounds past, present and future. We have over 38,000 miles on the road and are closing in on nights spent at 200 campgrounds so far. I am going to start posting some of our favorite campgrounds and areas we have visited in our travels. It may be an area you have visited or that you might be interested in visiting one day. Maybe you know a special place we need to visit near there or elsewhere. Maybe you are thinking about where you plan to RV, camp or visit on your next adventure. What ever the case you are among friends around this campfire and we invite you to join the conversation.

Fellow campers we’ll get through this Winter thing together!

I do apologize in advance for any writing errors. Niki usually edits my articles but I am just winging this one and we’ll talk about whatever makes you happy.

The first campground I would like to bring up that we like is somewhat centrally located on the East Coast. It’s located in Mt Airy, North Carolina and called “Mayberry Campground”. The name is appropriate as the town is the birthplace of Andy Griffith. We have camped there several times coming and going and we find something different and interesting each time. The people are friendly, the food is good and the prices are right.

Mayberry Campground is open year-around and located off Exit 11 of I-74 at 114 Bunker Road, Mount Airy, NC. The campground is gravel, full amenities and has both pull-through and back-in sites. It is a Passport America “half-price” campground.

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Before I go further let me say I am not a paid spokesperson for Passport America but I talk about them a lot because we are lifetime members and stay at PA campgrounds at least 75% of the time. The club is not for everyone but if you travel a lot it is definitely worth it (or I wouldn’t be suggesting it.)

Mount Airy and Mayberry Campground are both located on what we feel is our favorite route South from the Northeast.

(Our video pulling into Mayberry Campground.)

Mayberry Campground is located on part of the former 2,000 acre farm belonging to Chang and Eng Bunker, famous Siamese twins of the 1800’s. The twins – forever conjoined – had a prosperous farm as well as 2 separate and prosperous families. They married 2 sisters and had 21 children between them. They kept 2 separate homes, alternating 3 days at each home.

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THINGS TO DO IN MT AIRY:
Visit Andy Griffith’s “homeplace” at 711 East Haymore Street. Less than a mile away you’ll find the real “Snappy Lunch” and still making the “famous pork chop sandwiches”. It’s next door to “Floyd’s Barbershop” and “Opie’s Candy Store”. Just a little farther down Main Street you’ll find “Wally’s Garage” and “The Courthouse” with a recreation of the jail set office and cells we remember from The Andy Griffith Show. That’s also the place to sign-up for a real “Andy Griffith Squad Car Tour” of Town in a vintage Mayberry Police Car like Barney and Andy drove.

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Not far away you’ll find the Andy and Opie statues in front of the “Andy Griffith Theatre” and the Andy Griffith Museum where they have hundreds (perhaps thousands) of artifacts and memorabilia from Andy’s career on stage, TV and in the movies and as a singer and comedian. The Museum’s lower level has an exhibition of material from Eng and Chang’s life as well.

We do dine out a lot on our trips. We like to find the local “Mom and Pop” restaurants that the locals rave about. You may have seen me mention this before but we have two questions we ask of the hosts or locals at any new stopover – What is the “must-see” thing or place locally that you must show your friends and family when they come to visit? The other question is “What is your favorite locally owned restaurant with great homecooking?” The answers usually supply us with much to see and do on our next day.

If the following sound a tad like reviews it’s because they are. It’s what we also do on our website. We put our own two cents in on the good, the bad and the ugly in campgrounds and restaurants that we find. If we have not eaten there or not camped there we don’t review them. I am happy to say we have only found two of Niki’s “Deliverance” campgrounds in our travels.

On our very first visit to Mount Airy we had dinner at “The Copper Pot”. Real Southern home-cooking served by cheerful ladies with lovely North Carolina accents so thick you almost need an interpreter. Good food and Great people – the feeling is real down-home friendliness.

We also have tried a lunch spot suggested by the campground and backed by many good reviews on the Net. It’s called “Little Richard’s Smokehouse BBQ”. We like BBQ and have sampled it in about every State East of the Mississippi. This place is our new favorite for BBQ done right. Tender and juicy – slow cooked over hickory coals for 16 hours and truly finger lickin’ good. The sides are homemade as well. For sides we both tried the mac & cheese and turnip greens accompanied by a large basket of hush puppies. They have a soft drink – new to us – called “Cheerwine” which is cherry flavored and also tasty as were the warm blackberry cobblers we had for dessert with vanilla ice cream (of course!).

We can also recommend Tlaquepaque Mexican Restaurant & Grill at 2123 Rockford Street. I can’t pronounce it either but it’s a small restaurant with a talented chef. Both of our meals, traditional Mexican combos, were really delicious.

So have you been to Mount Airy and/or Mayberry Campground? What did you like or didn’t like. Did we miss something?

Where are you headed on your next adventure. Come pull up a stump by the campfire. The coffee pot is on and we have your cup waiting.

Jack
(To be continued.)

On the Road Again… and Again!

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As many of our friends know, we sold our 5th Wheel and F-250 this past Spring. The steps were just becoming too difficult for Niki to negotiate and still call it fun. My eyesight is not what it once was and I was uncomfortable guiding our ten ton missile down the road amongst all the crazies on the road that believe an RV can stop on a dime.

That was then. We spent the Summer off the road – the first in eight years – and we decided we missed it a bunch, so the logical answer was just to downsize a bit. We took delivery of our new home on wheels today. These Roadtrek Class B’s are amazing!

It is equipped with a generator and inverter for boondocking (if we were so inclined.)

Included also – Awning, AC, furnace, two-burner gas range, microwave, furnace, back-up camera, 24″ TV with BluRay CD/DVD Surround Sound, 5cu. ft. fridge, pull-out pantry, electric sofa/bed.

More adventures, routes and stories to come. We are Niki and Jack and we invite you to join us.

More on our website at http://www.snowbirdrvtrails.com/

Where’s the Autumn foliage in the Carolinas?

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Niki and I just received a shout-out from Kathy and Larry the owners of
Rose Creek Campground and Cabins in Franklin North Carolina. They have done a lot of work since becoming owners of this hidden treasure with a gem mine right next door and an abundance of waterfalls within 20 minutes drive. It has a small town USA feel and they are open all year. They tell us they are also doing monthly RV sites for the winter months  for snow birds that want to stay closer to home for the holidays . (They are nearest our purple route – http://www.snowbirdrvtrails.com/purpledot.htm) in the blue ridge mountains.) Contact them through their new website: http://www.rosecreekcamping.com/

Disclaimer: We have no connection with Rose Creek other than we like to mention new and interesting campgrounds when we hear about them. This is not a paid advertisement. -Jack & Niki

Can we talk about good eats?

Let’s talk about Restaurants and good food along the major East Coast RV Routes.

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Alligator bites on Clearwater Beach

Niki and I find that the best way to feel – and yes, taste – the local flavor of an area is to seek out the locals’ favorite places to dine. You meet people and you get a better feeling for what it might be like living in an area. Of course, the other benefit is that you find some delicious local tummy fare along the way.

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“Michigans” at the original Clare and Carl’s in Plattsburgh, NY

If you share our interest in RVing, exploring and good food – or I should say good food and good value – or maybe just looking for a good suggestion to grab a bite on your trip, we have broken down our lists three ways.

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Dining along East Coast RV Routes

First we have a BIG list from our Snowbird RV Trails files – Restaurant Reviews by State – from Maine to Florida and from the Outer Banks of North Carolina to Arkansas and the Mississippi River.

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Afternoon tea at Upper Canada Village

Secondly – Florida has been the home base in our travels and consequently we have visited more eateries here than any other State. Enough so that the Sunshine State Restaurants deserved a page or two of their own.

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Desserts to die for on the Sponge Docks in Tarpon Springs, FL

Now as Florida residents, the Tampa Bay Area is the epicenter of our lives which includes Tampa, St. Petersburg and Clearwater Beach along with all of the surrounding picturesque smaller Towns. We, of course, continue our “hobby” of finding good places to eat in this area.

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Things to do and places to go in Tampa Bay

We publish online our local Tampa Bay Visitors Guide which we update constantly. It’s always a work in progress. On the website we have a section devoted to dining in this area with special emphasis on where to Find Cheap Eats in Tampa Bay for our out-of-town visitors – Snowbirds, Spring Breakers, family vacationers and all other beach goers and sun worshipers who want to see and do all there is in the area but still stay within their budget.

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Waterfront dining in Hooters of New Port Richey

We hope you enjoy our “lists” and find them useful to you. If you would like to comment or maybe add a favorite of your own for us to visit, we’d like to hear from you. Send us an email to snowbirdrvtrails@gmail.com or tbsnowbirders@gmail.com.

Until we cross paths, we wish you safe travels and to always enjoy every journey.
Jack and Niki

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Lunch in Skene Manor – Whitehall’s “Castle on the Hill”

 

What’s the best Winter RV Route from New England to Florida & the Gulf?

What is the best RV route from Canada and the Northeast  South in Winter? We often receive that question from RVers that are still working and just have some precious vacation days to spend in the land of palm trees, gentle breezes and gorgeous sunsets.

We also hear it from retired folk like ourselves that are simply getting a late start heading South due to health, family or other commitments.

We have put together a page to begin addressing it with maps, some suggested stopovers, photos and reviews at

http://www.snowbirdrvtrails.com/besteastcoastwinterrvroutesouth.htm

There are many variables for each person’s trip. How many miles do you want to go on a travel day? Do you like to stop in RV Parks, rest areas or truckstops? How do you find a Northern campground that’s open all Winter? There are many other questions to consider.

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We have attempted to answer some of those questions on our page. It’s a start and we invite you to consider it then send us other questions you may have to and we’ll do our best.

Safe travels,
Jack & Niki
snowbirdrvtrails@gmail.com
http://www.snowbirdrvtrails.com/

What does it cost to be an RVing Snowbird?

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A Snowbird RV Route North from Florida

Niki and I are RVing Snowbirds. Each Spring we feel the urge to be on the road again and heading North for cooler Summer temperatures. Then along about September we begin to feel those Northern nights cooling down and the leaves beginning their Autumn change. That’s our signal to start packing up for our journey South to spend the Winter months in the land of palm trees and warm Gulf breezes.

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Our Snowbird RV Route South to the Sunshine State

We have spent the last eight years as Snowbirds and moving our Fifth Wheel with the Seasons. We’ve taken different routes on most trips and have pretty much covered the best North and South RVing routes from the Northeast to the Gulf Coast and Florida, and from the Atlantic seacoast to the Mississippi River.

You probably had many of the same questions we had starting out, like will we be able to afford this kind of lifestyle? Well, we have kept a trip diary from those early days and have been sharing what we have learned both here on our blog and on our website at snowbirdrvtrails.com.

We have a great deal of information on the website including photos, videos, dining & campground reviews, RV route maps, and sections on Workamping, Fraternal (Clubs & Organizations) and Off-Season Camping in the Northeast and how we plan the trips as well as tips on repairs and additions we have found useful for our rig.

We’ve just added a chart that breaks down the actual costs on two recent Snowbird trips. For comparison we show the stats on a quick seven day trip North to spend the Summer Season in the Adirondacks and compare it with a long and leisurely 17 day trip to spend the six Winter months Season at a nice RV Park on the “Sun Coast” section of the Gulf in Florida. You’ll find the mileages and the costs for gas, camping and dining as well as the Seasonal rates at both destinations and our costs for propane and electric.

You’ll also find links to the photos, reviews and trip reports for each trip. As always, if you have any questions send us (Niki and Jack) an email to snowbirdrvtrails@gmail.com and we will do our best to answer you.

Safe travels and enjoy the journey,

Jack and Niki
Snowbird RV Trails