Even though this was a leap year and we had a bonus day in February, the month still managed to fly by, way too quickly. Our first destination was spending a few days at Markham Park, a Broward County park outside of Fort Lauderdale. Markham is a little pricier than campgrounds we typically stay at but on the plus side is that it is close to Lucille’s aunts and is one of the better deals in that area.
While there, we got in lots of quality visiting with the aunts as well as helping with some minor projects needed. Besides handling issues with computers and other electronic devices, Larry built a privacy enclosure around the a/c unit and trash cans – looks pretty classy now! All too soon, our time there was up – on to Sabal Palms RV Resort in Palmdale, one of our favorite places to relax. When we were there last year, we picked out a site in the new area – great choice! We have a great view of the pasture and the park’s resident cows and bulls and one of the ponds out the rear window – we spotted one of its alligators that first day. It was great catching up with Bill, Jane, Faith and others who have been here for months – coming back here is like being with family.
Our mornings typically start with a 2.5 mile round-trip walk out to the highway, picking up litter on the way. We picked up several huge bags the first week but eventually the litter pick-up was minimal. It sure does look a lot neater when you approach Sabal Palms to see the ditches trash-free. After our walk, Larry cleans the swimming pool, a job he volunteered for last year and for which Dave, the manager, was glad to pass on during our stay here. Dave and his wife Sue are kept busy non-stop managing the park, and with the new sites – more paperwork and maintenance. The park now has 110 full hook-up sites, free wifi, picnic tables, and fire rings with the first load of wood provided free of charge.
In addition to visiting our friends here in the park, we drove up to Frostproof one day and met Ron and JoAnn for lunch. Lucille worked with JoAnn back in the early 70s – Frostproof was a convenient halfway point for all of us. We then all proceeded to visit with Harry and Marie, who stay seasonally at a campground in Frostproof. We saw Ron and JoAnn a few weeks later, meeting them at Woody’s BBQ in Lake Wales, helping Jo celebrate a birthday.
Valentine’s Day weekend kept us hopping. Dave, formerly a chef and now campground manager at Sabal Palms, dusted off his smoker skills and prepared some scrumptious ribs and chicken for a special meal, complete with all the fixings – he hasn’t lost his touch! After our feast, we quickly cleaned up the clubhouse and set it up for a Neil Diamond Tribute by Keith Allyn. When he’s not performing at his theater in Branson, Missouri, Keith tours the southeast, either putting on the Neil Diamond tribute, a Roger Miller tribute or his comedy act – Allyn Unhinged. We thoroughly enjoyed the concert, learning about Neil Diamond’s musical history and the stories behind some of his songs, with some comedy sprinkled in. Keith looks very much like the young Neil Diamond and his singing is very similar. Well worth catching his act if you are a Neil Diamond fan and Keith is in your area.
One weekday, we joined Bill and Jane with hopes of attending a festival and rodeo at the Brighton Seminole Reservation but found out when we got there it wasn’t till that weekend. But the trip was not made in vain – we got a personal tour of the Florida Seminole Veterans’ building in Brighton, newly opened in 2010, located on the reservation. The building itself is amazing – a five-pointed star, the only one of its kind in the US. Displays of Seminole memorabilia are in the building’s hallways, as well as a wall of fame showcasing the Seminole military vets over the years. There is a huge auditorium for conferences and meetings and a section for Veterans’ Services – quite impressive. We then went on to the nearby casino for lunch – good food but pretty noisy and smoky, as most casinos are.
Habitat friend Ron, and his four-legged companion Buddy, pulled in for a month’s stay at the park. Ron made a day trip to a destination that didn’t allow dogs so we Buddy-sat for the day. We also walked Misty often, a very spirited two-year old collie owned by park resident Faith while she was recuperating from some medical issues. Always fun to get in our dog-fix.
We ended up the month by driving up to Sebring with Ron and meeting with Highlands County Habitat for Humanity volunteer coordinator, Jennifer, for a tour of their facility, their ReStore and the subdivision where homes are being built for qualified homeowners. Jennifer introduced us to construction supervisor Allan, who took over the tour showing us the ‘green’ homes they are building. Allan gave us a great tour of these homes built with Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs) - foam cores sandwiched between sheets of OSB (oriented strand boards), pre-built at the factory, complete with holes cut out for plumbing, electrical and other construction needs, and easily assembled at the job site. These panels are very eco-friendly, very efficient for heating and cooling, and add minimal cost to the construction up front which is recouped in future utility savings. They also use all gas appliances, including gas-operated tankless water heaters, which provide hot water on demand. We were all quite impressed with these ‘green’ homes – it would be interesting to help build one of these houses on a future Habitat build.
And so ends our first month in paradise-like weather in Florida – more of the same activities (and hopefully more ideal weather) in March. We then start heading north with a few days’ stop in Americus, Georgia, to meet and greet the folks Lucille is working with at the Habitat for Humanity offices; exploring the Crooked Road in Virginia; visiting with family near Laurel, Maryland; continuing on to our NOMADs project in Rhode Island before ending up at our site at the Klondike Camping Resort in Otis, Massachusetts by the middle of May.