Carolina: Cruising Past 70: Spending Winter in Florida, Part 3-Wildwood, Orlando, Tampa

Monday, April 5, 2010

Spending Winter in Florida, Part 3-Wildwood, Orlando, Tampa

We wanted to stay longer in Florida because even if it were cold here, how much warmer could it be up north? So we upgraded our Thousand Trails and Resorts of Distinction memberships to include free stays for 21 days at a time, park-to-park,  in some 200 campgrounds all over the country (also some in Canada and Mexico and other affiliates at 50% off) with benefits extending to our children! So we proceeded to Three Flags Resort in Wildwood, Florida for our first ever 21-day stay at one place, finally to do some nesting. And there we discovered a whole new world of the RV cruising lifestyle...what what I will write about in another post as the second stage.

That was where we met Dottie and Joe who had a 26 ft fifth wheel, the kind we wanted to upgrade to (to give us personal space, allow us to entertain friends for dinner, and invite our family to stay with us for a week or so). Surprise of surprises…Dottie’s fave games are scrabble and upwords! Our short tour of the RV quickly became a 3-hour visit. Joe and Bill talked for hours about man-stuff and I whipped Dottie in upwords. Next game? Scrabble on Friday. And on Saturday we visit one of the great flea markets of Florida!
We scouted the locale and found so many interesting places within 10 miles…1) the small city of Wildwood with its thrift shops and other small-town goodies, a freeway stop with 4 big truck stops at the intersection, and the lively community of The Villages, a group of small gated communities of 77,000 (mostly senior) people and 40,000 golf carts!

Yes, the golf cart is the major means of transportation…quite the city of the future…electric golf carts running around from recreation centers to shopping malls to golf courses! And every day is a Vendors’ Night (booths) and dance at a Town Squares. The Villages also has many lakes to paddle boats in, little preserves to take nature walks in, and lots of gardens, both vegetable and ornamental. Houses range from $100,000-$1,000,000. There are 2 Town Squares, 4 shopping centers (Walmart is also there, of course), 2 medical centers, a Lifelong Academy, and other necessities for a relaxed lifestyle (albeit not cruising). So we decided to return to Wildwood for another 21 days after a brief stay (our third) in Orlando.

The Marion County Flea Market was huge, with over a thousand booths. We found dvd movies for $1 each! After our shopping spree spending all of $20, we went to a big buffet and suffered for it that night. The following weekend we went to my first ever Chili Cook-Off at The Villages. There must have been 50 booths and we could have a taste, for $5, of as many as our tummies could stand. Mine could only take about 20, Bill did a lot more. And, that night, our little tummies suffered badly all over again!

Three Flags Resort at Wildwood became so much fun because there was Bingo/Ice Cream Socials on Mondays, Gospel Concerts on Sundays, Concert/Dance on Saturdays, Potluck Dinners and Karaoke on Wednesdays, and Jam Sessions on Thursdays. With scrabble/upwords with Dottie, bridge with another couple we met, and Texas Hold ‘Em with 4 other guys, we had an activity every night! Who said retirement would be so boring? There was indeed merit to longer stays and some nesting.  It is true...both Bill and I are confirmed social animals!

Back in Orlando, we met Robert and Wanda who have, like us, have been married for only 2-3 years. However, he is 14 years younger than she, the complete opposite of Bill and I (Bill will get mad at me for this though)! We had several visits…at the potluck dinner, their fifth wheel and then at the spa. Nothing really much happened except the Fantasy RV Tours presentation when we briefly considered the Australia/New Zealand 51-day tour. But at $30K per person we thought… no, we will just plan our own tour…hopefully we will make it for $10K for the 2 of us, buying an RV there and selling it after a month or so. There we met one guy who thought the same and we agreed to keep in touch and maybe do the tour together.

But the significant thing that happened was that we got to view a 27-foot fifth wheel at the RV show on the lot...and the rest is history! I wrote about what happened next in the post entitled, Buying Our New Home. It is also worthwhile to note that on the way to Tampa, where Lazy Days is located, we chanced upon Dinosaur World in Plant City.  There were 150 life-size fiberglass dinosaurs and we had our fill of playing and having our photos taken with the menacingly looking creatures.

And so after Frantic Days (Kurt, the Lazy Days salesperson, thought this quip about the #1 RV dealer in the country was so good), we returned to Wildwood to nest in our brand new home. The next days were indeed, as they promised, lazy days as I lounged around in the luxury of about 300 square feet of bright new home space! I kidded Bill that we actually had 6 rooms…an office/den, a living room, a kitchen, a dining room, a bathroom suite, and a bedroom PLUS 2 TVs and 2 vehicles!

Joe and Dottie had been eagerly waiting for us to get back. Dottie and I had missed playing our word games. She gave us holy water to bless our new home and car. We also went to First Friday mass and Adoration. Another day Bill and Joe went fishing (the picture is of an alligator that watched while they fished!) and Dottie sewed and I wrote. She even repaired Bill’s jeans and my jacket! We had a great fish dinner of bass that night. Dottie fixed cole slaw, I made potato salad and a taste of Filipino salad! Dottie showed us her progress in strip quilting and how to make rosaries, one of her ministries. Bill gave her a Mater Dolorosa rosary (7 beads).

Bill’s birthday this year (3/10) was pretty special. He had 2 cakes, 1 for each party. I made pancit bijon for the potluck dinner at 4:30 pm and the karaoke night at 6 pm. The following day I made beef salpicado, garlic rice, and green beans casserole. Dottie made him lemon pie for dessert. But the reason it was most special is because he is now 66 and he begins to draw on his social security on a maximum basis. His lifetime work is finally paying off!

But the following day, Joe and Dottie had to leave to go back home, making their way up the East Coast. I woke up thinking that we should give them a going away present (very Filipino practice). So I found a cameo pin with blue flowers (blue is her fave color) for Dottie and we found 2 nice key chains, 1 from Canada and another from Taiwan, for Joe.

And then we met Silly Willy and Fluffy, real-life clowns whose ministry is to give the gift of laughter to as many children as possible. They operated a humor blog bearing their clown names which already had 50,000 visitors in just a year and a half. They came to our home and helped me with some best practices of blogging. What you are reading now is the result of their friendship. The best thing about a cruising lifestyle is this…you have time to meet many different people and discover their beauty. There is indeed a Master Coordinator.

Next Stops:  St. Augustine and Daytona Beach