As we worked our way south to warmer weather our next stop was Tampa. We normally stop here as we go south to spend time with our niece, Robin, and her two kids.
While there are quite a few campgrounds and RV parks in the area, our favorite is Raccoon Creek Recreation Area at MacDill Air Force Base. As I have mentioned before, one of the benefits of being an Army retiree is that we can stay at military bases that have a campground as a part of the Morale, Welfare, and Recreation (MWR) program. With over 300 campsites that offer full or partial hookups, Raccoon Creek is a popular destination for military campers and “snow birders.” In some of the sites you can stay as long as six months at a time. Some can be reserved for two weeks and some are set aside for stays of two weeks or less. When all the sites are full you can stay in “dry camp,” without any electric, water, or sewer hook ups. We arrived without a reservation, stayed one night in dry camp and then were moved to a full hookup site for the remainder of our stay.
Tampa hosts one of the largest RV shows in the country at the state fairgrounds. We spent the day there on Thursday and wandered through the many trailers and motor homes. It’s always interesting to see what is hot in the RV industry. In addition to the RV dealers highlighting their inventory, there are hundreds of smaller vendors that offer discounts on their items. We took advantage of this to buy a sunscreen for our awning and upgraded our cell phones. Of course we left our camera in the trailer, but I was able to take a picture of Pat with my new cell phone. My knee was still bothering me and I bought a set of crutches, the day before, to take the pressure off of it. It did make it quite a challenge to go up and down all of those RV steps!
With so many veteran families spending so much time here over the winter, they have formed their own community. There is a church service in the community building on Sunday, potluck dinners every Friday night, and many other group activities going on throughout the week. If you don’t have anything to do, it is your own fault!
On Saturday we rented a couple of kayaks from the MWR marina and took Robin and the kids on the kayak trail at Weedon Island Preserve across Tampa Bay from MacDill. It was a lot of fun and enjoyable for Pat and I to watch the three of them as we paddled across ponds and through mangrove forest on canals that made for some difficult paddling.
The next day they came to our campsite and we watched the Green Bay Packers vs. the Seattle Seahawks in the playoffs for the Super Bowl. We also took Jeremiah to the beach to chase seagulls.
Later in the week we met up with two comrades from the Ranger company I commanded and their wives. We were able meet for drinks and dinner in town. It is always a good thing to catch up with old friends and retell all of the war stories.
On our last day in town Robin’s family came to hang out. We had lunch, played games, and had pizza for dinner – just a fun time. Jeremiah was my number one helper for packing up the things we had outside and everyone pitched in to load the kayaks and bikes in the truck.
We heard that the military RV park in Key West was filling up, so on Sunday morning, January 25th, we were on the road to Key West.