Carolina: Cruising Past 70: Spending Winter in Florida, Part 1-Live Oak, Orlando, Wauchula, Ft.Myers

Monday, March 29, 2010

Spending Winter in Florida, Part 1-Live Oak, Orlando, Wauchula, Ft.Myers

We arrived at the Spirit of Suwannee Music Park at Live Oak, Florida in the afternoon of December 24.  For the very first time I saw beautiful live oaks with Spanish moss lavishly draped from all their branches. It is a wonder they the oaks have not died.

But we had to make our Christmas Eve dinner.The kitchen was so cramped, however.  We had to make so many dishes but   record the moments for posterity, too.Disaster struck as the camera (positioned beside the turkey platter), fell as Bill was trying to slice the roast to serve. The short lens was forever doomed.  But the dinner was great and the gift-giving memorable.

We had surely established a tradition…a Christmas Eve ritual on wheels! Another great tradition, the famous Spirit of Suwannee Christmas lights, was taken down the following day as we went to mass.The next night was a concert show, a Tribute to the Eagles. The campground is the site of Florida’s biggest music events. It has several music halls for indoor concerts and a large outdoor park for outdoor music events a la Woodstock. It was also beside the great Suwannee River. But, we were anxious to head south as it was feeling increasingly cold.

We were so happy to reach Florida because we thought we could finally get some warm days. It turned out that this year Florida was going to go through its LONGEST COLD SPELL in history. Days were in 50s and 60s (some  40s) instead of 60s and 70s. Some nights went down to as low as 30s! We consoled ourselves that at least it was warmer there than the rest of the country (although once it was warmer in Kent, Wa!)  

Orlando Thousand Trails will turn out to be one of our favorite parks. We returned to it twice while we were in Florida. It is only a few miles from Disney World and Universal Studios and all the city perks we have been missing for a few weeks now. But it was not only its location that was the draw. The facilities were also great…we had an exercise room, a billiards and table tennis, a spa, and a heated pool.We did not even get to use the mini-golf, shuffleboard and pickleball courts, etc. Members are always in long lines of wait to get in.

Our trip to Disney World took us to Epcot Center, the theme park for Generation Z!  It would have been such a thrill had it not been sooooo unusually cooooold! But, even then, we became children all over again as we took on all the rides we could on that day (the lines were also very long because it was holiday season). The night was capped by giant fireworks that enveloped the giant lighted Christmas tree.

Our first stay in the Resort took us to a New Year’s Eve Dinner and Dance Party to remember. Every couple that came in had their souvenir photo taken under an arch that said: Cruise to 2010! How appropriate for all of us, I thought! There must have been 100 couples there. But for a campground with 800 sites, most of which occupied, then that is not really a big number. But it was still a big party…with the hats, the horns, the finger foods, and the drinks. I wore the Mickey Mouse ears with blinking colored lights from Epcot Center!  Past Tense was the band that rocked the night away. Bill and I sweated it out doing the rock n roll, cha cha, reggae, rhumba, swing, twist, two-step, polka, etc. At the stroke of 12, 100 balloons dropped from the ceiling and many hugs and kisses and champagne toasts got passed around.

Our first holiday without family turned out to be not sad and lonely, but fun and merry, after all.
Our next stop was at Peace River in Wauchula, Florida. This was a more ‘woodsy’ campground with the Peace River wrapping around the campsites. The warnings about alligators were all over the hiking trail that ran alongside the river. I remember being scared, not knowing that this is of such common occurrence in Florida! But it rained and the place became so muddy that I mostly stayed inside Star. 
 Besides we were just excited about our visit to the home of Bill’s friends, Glen Russell and Debbie Baxter, in Ft. Myers, Florida.  She made a great turkey (real turkey) dinner so we could experience a real holiday feast at a lovely home during the holidays (or the extension of it). It was already January 6 but Debbie kept her Christmas d├ęcor up for us to see. What I admired most was an ornament tree atop her formal dining table.

That was exactly what I was looking for to put up our collection of Christmas ornaments from places we have been before we had the RV (now we are collecting magnets which we foolishly thought were so great because they would just be hung on the RV’s refrigerator doors not realizing quickly enough that they are made of lighter material, obviously…duh). Now I just have a 2 ft. green artificial tree. An ornament tree would be sturdier and would simply fold for storage after the Season!
But I also got excited because the oranges that were piled high on her fruit basket had come from an actual tree that was in their yard! So, guess what I had to do (since we do not have orange trees in the Philippines)? Before we left, knowing that even if Florida is full of orange orchards, I could not as readily get to them, I picked all the oranges I needed for a lifetime!

Next Stops: Florida Keys, Everglades National Park, Moore Haven, Orlando, Wildwood