January 2010


We traveled from Rincon, Georgia; down to Sunrise (Ft. Lauderdale), Florida; up to Palmdale, Florida; and finally to Wakulla Springs, Florida.  Total distance towing was 955 miles.

This month seemed to have revolved around our truck - a 2003 Ford F550 with a Fontaine conversion bed – starting with a truck bed recall issue and ending with black and white smoke pouring out of the tail pipe and strange knocking noises coming from under the hood as we were heading north on Interstate 75.    Here is how the rest of the month went - we’ll fill in the blanks on our truck adventures as this update progresses.

We left Camp Carr at the beginning of the month, heading to south Florida and hopefully warmer weather.  Alas, it would be several weeks and miles and sniffles before we experienced typical warm sunny Florida sunshine. 

Coincidentally, as we were heading south, Pat, Yvette and Lucille’s mother Rita were on their way back from visiting Rita’s sisters near Fort Lauderdale.  We called them periodically to give them traffic updates of problems on the northbound side of the interstate – it seems everyone decided to return from their holiday travels that day.  They had stopped for lunch at a Cracker Barrel near St. Augustine and waved at us as we drove by on the interstate, at least we assume it was them.  All we saw was a gal in red with a short woman standing next to her waving at us.  Yvette tried taking a picture of us but she must have been waving when she took the pix – she got a great shot of the sky and a tree!

Our first stop was Patrick Air Force Base, near Satellite Beach, hoping to visit with friends and family in the area while there.  Unfortunately, Lucille had picked up a pretty bad cold and sinus infection and rather than infect everyone she ran into, we practically hibernated our three days we stayed there.  This time of the year, the military campground is full with RVing military snowbirds so we spent our three day stay there in overflow.  Because we’ve stayed at Patrick several times, chances are good we’ll run into folks we know and this time was no different - Robbie and his black goldendoodle Happy arrived the same day we did.  We were as surprised to see him there as he was us.  One afternoon was warm enough to sit outside and play catch up on our respective travels.

Next stop was Markham Park in Sunrise, a county park within the Fort Lauderdale city limits but secluded enough to feel like you’re in the country.  Our first destination as soon as we got hooked up was a walk-in clinic to get Lucille some meds.  We had less than a 15-minute wait once we got there – wow!  Thanks to Lucille’s aunts for not only giving us the name of the clinic but preparing some homemade veggie soup and brownies that we picked up before hibernating for a couple of days, waiting for the meds to kick in.

Larry had noticed that our batteries for the inverter were getting weaker, so after much research, he determined that Costco had some suitable replacements.  Off to shop at Costco one afternoon for batteries and other goodies.  On the way back to the truck, we noticed the truck bed was sitting higher than normal.  When we got back to our site, Larry checked it out and noticed a bracket had broken, part of a recall Fontaine had had and not fixed by one of the previous owners.  He spent that afternoon working on a temporary fix until Fontaine shipped us replacement parts and we could locate a repair shop to do the work.  This particular bracket keeps the truck bed from shifting side to side and before he did the temporary fix, it was hanging loose, too close to the fuel lines.  With the price of fuel, we certainly didn’t want the lines cut.  After the fix, Larry decided the bracket was secure enough to tow our trailer when we leave the area.  Fontaine was having trouble finding a repair shop nearby – the one shop they found told Larry they work on big trucks only.  Another option was Tampa, but that was over 200 miles away.  As long as we could safely tow the RV, we’d leave the area as planned and get set up in Palmdale.  If repairs took longer than we thought, we knew there would be no problem in leaving the RV in Palmdale rather than extend our stay at the very busy (and expensive) Markham Park.

Speaking of Markham Park, besides the campground (large sites with lots of room between neighbors and full hookups), there’s a very popular dog park, a shooting range, a model airplane field, bodies of water for model boats as well as the real thing, several sports fields, astronomy programs, and more.  We’d hoped to explore the park during our stay there but Fort Lauderdale was experiencing some of its coldest weather with bitter winds – not too friendly for biking and hiking.  And while Lucille was starting to feel better, it was Larry’s turn to get a cold.  Neither one of us had a lot of steam and energy to do much more than be slugs.

Our main purpose, though, in being in the area, was to help the aunts with whatever they needed done.  Larry troubleshooted some computer issues for Lorraine as well as doing minor household tasks.  Lucille did what she does best – talk!  We made one side trip to Palmdale to visit with friend Linda before she left to fly back to Ohio to help celebrate her mother’s 99th birthday.  She will return to the area but after we’ve already come and gone from Palmdale.  Harry and Marie picked up pizzas on their way down from Frostproof. We enjoyed visiting with them as well as with Rich, Linda, Bill and Jane.   

Our week’s stay at Markham Park flew by – time to move over to Sabal Palms RV Resort in Palmdale for the rest of the month.  It amazes us that just a few miles away from the busy Fort Lauderdale metropolis are flat open undeveloped and uninhabited areas, surrounded by marshes and cane fields.  US 27 heading west from there is such a great drive – no traffic, four lanes, scenic views of the canals and fields and wading birds and alligators and raptors. 

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We like Palmdale for the time spent with friends (and gators) as well as the relaxed atmosphere.  We had a small birthday celebration for Marie when they visited from Frostproof. 

We arrived at Sabal Palms mid-morning and were greeted by managers Sue and Dave and led to our site.  We are in the same area we were in the past but sewer has been added to all the sites – woo hoo!  We still have a gorgeous view out our back window of not one pond, but two!  Since Frankie and Donna bought Sabal Palms in 2008, they’ve made many improvements, such as adding a larger pond, updated restrooms, community kitchen, dog park, upgraded pull-through sites with sewer and added another seven back-in sites.  A swimming pool is in the works for next season.  But it’s still a peaceful and tranquil campground with loads of charm.  Several friends we’d met on prior stays came by to say hi while we were setting up – what a nice welcome back.  Sabal Palms, for some reason, is the only place we ever truly relax.  We would love to have stayed there longer than the almost three weeks we were there, but our volunteer work at Wakulla Springs State Park starts February 1st. 

Back to the truck….before making plans to drive to Tampa to fix the truck bed problem, Larry checked in LaBelle, about 20 minutes from Palmdale, and found an RV repair shop capable and willing to do the repairs.  Friend Bill offered to transport Larry back and forth, an appointment was set up, and after having the truck a full day, the shop got the work done, at no cost to us because it had been a recall issue.  Going to LaBelle was more convenient than driving all the way to Tampa and back.

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Palmdale is a small town with big birds.  Sandhill cranes walk through the campground as they please.

Folks have asked us how we managed to find this sleepy little campground in this sleepy little town.  We’ve got Harry and Marie to thank, having met them at a campground in Moore Haven several years ago.  We quickly became friends.  They mentioned Sabal Palms, their next destination. One afternoon, while we were camped in nearby Fort Myers, we drove out to visit them and the campground to see for ourselves what the hoopla was about.   While there, we met Rich and Linda, who had been going there for several years.  It didn’t take long to hook us and we’ve returned several times.  Earlier this year, we get an email from Marie – due to health reasons, they are hanging up their RV keys, which happens eventually to all of us.  But the big news is that they’d bought a park model in Frostproof, as did Rich and Linda – they bailed on us!  After going up to see them at Southern Pines RV Resort in Frostproof, we understand why they chose that particular park – lots more folks there and lots of activities going on.  But we still like Sabal Palms and plan on returning there next year.  Besides, Frostproof isn’t that far away and we’ve enjoyed the most wonderful meals at the Orange Box Café just around the corner from their park. 

All too soon it was time to leave Sabal Palms.  We’d decided to make the approximate 370 miles to Wakulla Springs State Park in one day, getting an early start from Palmdale.  We had hooked up to the truck the night before, enjoyed the weekly Sunday breakfast at the clubhouse, then hit the road before 8 am.  Because the Orange Box Café was en route, we made a quick stop to pick up grapefruit and other produce there.  Imagine our surprise to see Harry and Marie just arriving there for breakfast.  Next time we leave Palmdale heading north, we’ll make plans to enjoy breakfast with them.

You know what they say about the best laid plans….Just before we picked up the Florida Turnpike, Larry noticed excessive black smoke coming from the truck’s tail pipe.  He stopped at the first service plaza on the turnpike and after checking under the hood, determined there was nothing so critical we couldn’t continue on. Just south of Lake City, we stopped at another rest area on I-75 because now there were strange knocking noises coming from under the hood.  (We had decided to stick to interstates mainly because of all the stop and go traffic on the secondary roads but once the truck problem appeared, we felt we’d have a better chance of safely pulling over if necessary.)  Luckily, we made it to Casey Jones Campground, less than ten miles from the rest area – plenty of room for us to stay there, for as long as we needed.  I called Jackie, the volunteer coordinator at Wakulla Springs, and let her know that we were having vehicle problems so they wouldn’t expect us that night.  To give you an idea of how much smoke there was….when the camp host was guiding us to our site and helping us line up with the utilities post, he had to take a guess as to where to stop us because the truck was inadvertently providing a thick smoke screen. 

By this time, it was iffy if the truck would even start again.  We were lucky it had cooperated until we got disconnected. After we got set up at our campsite, Lucille called the Good Sam Emergency Road Service and started a file with them so when we lined someone up on Monday to fix the truck (this happened on a Sunday), they’d send out a tow truck to get the truck there, wherever there may be. 

And so the month ended….but jumping ahead so you don’t think we’re still in Lake City – the truck was fixed in a few days and we arrived at Wakulla Springs State Park just three days later than planned.  One of the truck’s injectors had gone bad and had contaminated the oil with fuel, so there was quite a bit of labor involved in getting the systems flushed and operational again.  Rountree-Ford treated us fairly and got us back on the road as soon as they could.  They also arranged for a tow (bad weather elsewhere kept Good Sam ERS tied up so we’ll file for reimbursement).  The Ford dealer also had an arrangement for reduced rates at the local Enterprise rental car agency. 

Coming up:           February and March at Wakulla Springs State Park; a week at Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center in White Springs, Florida; then we start heading east and north, stopping to visit friends and family on the Eastern Shore of Virginia and the Washington, DC area. 


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