Six months ago I decided an RV trip was a great idea. I remember laying in bed, feeling the usual mother’s guilt about not spending enough “quality” time with my sons, Oliver and William. You see, even though they are technically “with” me most days at the campground, I felt like I was always going in a million different directions and not present with them as much as I would hope to be. And literally, as if out of a cartoon, this idea of an RV just popped in my head around 2 am…or some may think of it as more of an occupational hazard? I vividly remember telling Paul in the morning about my new vision. He was mowing the lawn and as he sat on the mower, he responded “Have fun, and good luck but I am staying here”. Fast forward, and here we ALL are 14 days into our RV adventure trip, and well, its been just that, an Adventure!
We embarked on our journey on a cold Wednesday afternoon just about two weeks ago. Duck Puddle had just purchased our “new to us” RV a couple weeks before our departure. Needless to say, the first few days of driving were interesting. There were a few nuances we adjusted to quickly, such as the need to secure items and make sure cabinets were locked before driving. Now before leaving, I feel like an airline stewardess securing a plane for takeoff , gestures and all, as you can imagine. Other roles I quickly assumed and hadn’t planned for include co-pilot, deciding and directing where we will make it for the night and also air traffic controller, (minus the cool hand thing-a-ma-jigs) directing us into spots that are made more for a mini-van than a 40 foot bus. But besides our newly acquired role, and reconnecting as a family, we are learning many things on the way already, being on the other side, as The Camper again. We hope at the end of this trip we can share our new insight and become better campground owners. Anyways, enjoy the recap of the last two weeks below!
Day 1: We headed South down 95 and made it to a New Jersey Truck Stop, but not before stopping in Connecticut to grab some food. Yelp, Google and Trip Advisor have become good friends some days, and not so good on others. I cant remember which one described the restaurant Vyne as Comfort food, but when we arrived in an RV, William in PJ’s, and myself in a pair of Nike slides, the looks on the staff made it clear they were not comfortable with us… The atmosphere, and I assume the food at Vyne is probably perfect for a special occasion, or when dressed appropriately, but we were not, so we headed across the street to a delicious and way friendlier establishment Pies and Pints. The atmosphere, service and food were all top notch! That evening, we boondocked in Jersey at a very clean truck stop, The Molly Pitcher Travel Plaza. They had a Starbuck’s which was a bonus!
Day 2: We headed to NC, which brought us to a quaint little island, which is part of the Outer Banks, called Cedar Island. We found a campground, which was at the end of the island, next to a Ferry service, and restaurant, Sharkey’s, where we got some some delicious fresh fried shrimp . We literally woke up to some long but friendly faces from the barn and a lovely beach backdrop. The next day we hit the road but when the only road off the island is closed, we turned around. Initially, Oliver and I felt as if we were characters in a Stephen King novel, but things unfolded in our favor. We headed back to Sharkey’s for lunch with some local duck hunters, then the kids got to meet, greet, feed, brush and ride the horses along the beach. Allison was an amazing instructor, if you get the chance, go see her and the horses for some riding on the beach! When the road re-opened (which was actually 5 minutes after turning around), we continued our journey south to Wilmington and stayed overnight at a Walmart. We hadn’t turned water on in the camper yet, waiting for weather to be warm enough. So Paul did some dishes in the Walmart bathroom…which he reports as a life changing experience! I know what you are thinking, and yes I rewashed them…with bleach!
Day 3 & 4: Made it to FLORIDA. Stayed with our long time seasonal campers and friends, Jim and Delores Ogden, at their winter home in the Holiday Travel Park for two nights, where they welcomed us by golf cart escort, and delicious pulled pork dinner. We enjoyed hanging with them, watching the Superbowl, voting in a crock pot contest, teaching the kids to gamble on superbowl squares, meeting another Vietnam Veteran Mike and having running water finally. Oh and getting a ride to the grocery store was the highlight if you ask me. Jim and Delores brought Oliver and I to the Publix up the road, and we finally bought groceries which was exciting! Clif bars and goldfish were starting to getting old.
Day 5-8: We were lucky to get three nights at Disney’s Fort Wilderness so we headed south to Orlando. We didn’t tell the kids until we pulled onto World Drive, and the looks on their faces made this unexpected expense well worth it. The campground itself is perfect for all ages. Its big, spacious, with plenty of trees and even a few Disney deer roaming around who didn’t seem afraid of us humans. The first afternoon and next day, we hung at the pool, with the kids enjoying pool games, kids activities, and the warm weather. They even had trivia which served as the perfect addition to homeschool instruction for the day. (Not sure if I mentioned that I am homeschooling Oliver on this journey.. .So far, its been a learning curve for both of us. He enjoys doing school work in his Jammies or bathing suit and Its nice to see him relaxed without the pressure of a schedule). We rented a golf cart for the day to explore the campground with the kids. You know walking around Magical Disney can be exhausting for these kids …and we heard about it often from them, so the golf cart was well worth the $67. The next day, we hit Hollywood studios of course given the new Star Wars attraction. It was a little tricky getting onto the Rise of the Resistance ride. We got to the park at 7:30 am but had to wait until exactly 8:00 to join a boarding group. Picture thousands of people looking at their phones at 7:55…waiting for the green light, hoping to get a spot. It was a lot of pressure I have to be honest…but again, luck on our side, we got boarding group 55. All day you have to watch for your group to be called and then you have an hour to get there. We hung out, met Chewy and Darth Vader, rode the Slinky Dog Dash and ate some giant sized hot dogs. At 1:00 they were only on group 30, so we headed back to the resort pool but not before showing kids other Disney parks by the Skyline, the water taxi and then the bus. It felt like Planes, Trains and Automobiles getting back to the campground, but it was fun…well for me anyway. Paul had a few choice words about the length of time it took, and my misunderstanding of connections between resorts. Oliver and I headed back for the ride at 4:30 when they called us. We literally made it in the knick of time, having to literally run through the park. The ride and experience itself was so worth the craziness of Disney apps, boarding groups and waiting.
Check out our amateur video here:
We then headed to the Polynesian resort where we met Paul and a fast asleep William for the Spirit of Aloha dinner. Great food, festive atmosphere and very entertaining with dancing, fire and a little cultural education mixed in, not to mention the unlimited food and drinks that just kept coming. Sadly the next day, we had to depart…with tears literally. Paul and the kids were fine and I finally snapped out of it a few hours later.
Day 9: Traveled further south to Homestead. Long day of travel but ended up at a nice little RV park with a pool and kids enjoyed an evening swim. Grilled some chicken and veggies and called it a night.
Day 10-13: The Florida Keys baby….the only place available to stay was an RV resort on Cudjoe Key. Quick sidenote…when planning an RV trip to Florida in February, its somewhat like July in Maine….with many already booked and limited availability…oh yes and very high pricing! We also had trouble finding campgrounds that allowed kids and weren’t 55 and over. Pet friendly campgrounds were also not easy to find.. But we found this place directly on the water, with a pool, a rec center, tennis courts, basketball courts, playground and store. They did have some strict rules about pets…meaning they had to be walked outside the park only. Our site was close to the entrance which made it not a problem for us, but honestly, I did feel like a criminal just walking Moose to the entrance. We booked a charter boat for sightseeing. We cruised the Gulf side on a nice center console boat with just us and Captain Clint. We stopped at some sandbars, where the kids ran around finding shells and crabs. Although we didn’t see any dolphins, we did lay our eyes on a Lemon shark and a Sting Ray The water was crystal clear with hues of blues and greens… A perfect way to see the Keys. We used Uber to get to the Marina and back. We didn’t tow a car, and so far its worked out. After checking out of the resort we headed south to Key West for the day. We walked Duval Street, Oliver enjoyed his first Conch fritters. Will enjoyed shopping at a tourist trap and picked out quite an ensemble which he insisted on wearing for the walk. We made it to Mile Marker 0 for a quick pic and watched the sunset from a waterfront playground area while the kids played. Next north to Homestead, where we stayed overnight at a Cracker Barrel.
Day 14: Enjoyed a hearty breakfast at Cracker Barrel and thankfully dodged a bullet buying more stuffies at their country store. Onto the Everglades National Park where we booked an Airboat ride and again didn’t tell the boys. We had to take route 41, which in case you didn’t know, is the original Alligator Alley. So alligators on the side of the road just driving by….very cool. The airboat ride was super fun…maybe not so much for William. He didn’t enjoy going fast and weaving with water spraying, so kept his eyes closed and played possum. Oliver loved it and felt like we were a “skipping rock coasting in the air” (his words). When the boat slowed down, Will loved seeing the alligators up close, well we all did. After the ride, there is a small educational alligator show (again homeschool check!). One of the alligators stared at William, almost trying to climb the fence in front of us. The trainer/educator shooed him away and then enlightened us to the fact that this alligator tried the same thing with a couple of other small children and almost made the fence. Well, that’s comforting, I thought….Will thought it was hilarious…he always likes a challenge.
And that’s a wrap on our first two weeks. Stay tuned for the Next blog, which will be in a week and way shorter, I promise. Hopefully, you enjoy our adventure tales and below find Oliver’s short take on the trip thus far…and our slideshow for your enjoyment!