Welcome to the Sunshine State

Our general plan for this trip was to slowly meander south to the Florida Keys, avoiding highways and stopping for points of interest all along the way, and then to head west and visit Big Bend National Park in Texas before finishing out the winter in New Mexico, Arizona, and southern California. The meandering and “stopping at points of interest along the way” didn’t take nearly as long as we thought it would, since we bee-lined south to avoid freezing temperatures that would damage the camper and to find warmer temperatures where I would feel better. After only 3 weeks of total travel, we entered Florida, which was our 8th state and the first one that I had never been to before. 

The “Welcome to Florida” sign greeted us at the state border

We entered the Sunshine State under ironically cloudy skies and spent the night in Cary State Forest. Since I was still recovering from my cold and it had started raining, we broke camp pretty early the next morning and headed south. I was using an app called Campendium to select campgrounds to stay at, and the campground that had the best ratings that seemed to be the right travel distance for the day was Lake Louisa State Park.

I attempted to make a reservation online and found what you might expect in December in Florida – it’s peak travel season, so it’s difficult to get campsites at the last minute. I found a site at Lake Louisa that was open for two days in a row, but only the second day was reservable online. One the same day, it was first-come, first-served. We reserved it online for the second day and hoped to arrive to get it for the current night before someone else did. 

When we arrived at the park, we were relieved to find that the site we hoped would be open was still available, and we settled in.

Spanish moss-draped trees framed a misty view of one of the lakes

We could tell that this was a natural haven amidst the built up area surrounding Orlando. The scenery was filled with several lakes and with a mix of tall conifers, mixed hardwoods, short citrus trees bearing sour yellow-orange fruit, and large fields of shrubs, including many with clementine-like fruit.

Some kind of sour orange that grew throughout the park, which had once been a citrus grove

We found out some important issues with our camper at this park. The first was that we had a leak. When we had the camper checked out before departure, we thought it might need some re-caulking here and there, but the RV service center didn’t see any need for that. From the time we had purchased the camper two months before, it was watertight, but as it rained during our stay at Lake Louisa State Park, a steady drip of water came in through the window by my pillow. Having just solved the condensation issue, I though we were done with excessive moisture, but this proved to be something we would have to deal with (by lining the window with a towel) until we could get it repaired at another RV service center. 

The second camper issue we discovered here was that the refrigerator doesn’t work if the camper is parked slightly off-level. Even if the lot seems to be flat, the fridge’s evaporation process will not work if it isn’t completely level. This became very obvious since we were staying two nights, and by the time we pulled out the breakfast fixings on the second morning, they weren’t cold anymore. To fix this, we have been really cognizant of parking as level as possible and using blocks of wood to level us out if a site isn’t flat enough. Eventually, we would like to fix it completely by replacing the cooling mechanism (George’s exact words were “the guts of the fridge”) with a compressor. 

When the rain ended and the Sunshine State began to live up to its name, I knew that Pippin, who had grown a magnificently fluffy winter coat, would have a hard time going for hikes and dog walks in the heat.

It was starting to feel a lot like summer, especially during this walk with Pippin’s full fluff. (I did not document the de-fluffing process.)

I had packed the clippers that I use for his summer hair cuts and set to work trimming him at our campsite. It’s always a day of great sadness for me when I have to removed any of Pippin’s fluff, but he seemed relieved to be rid of the extra insulation, and once the weather turned even warmer in the next couple of days, I was happy that he was cool enough to explore comfortably with us.

I had no idea just how much there would be to explore at our next destination, Highlands Hammock State Park, where we would stay for several days during the Christmas holiday. But more on that next time.

Ever on!

Published by Librarian on the Run

Embarking on a year-long road trip across the continental United States

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