It seems like we often start the new year in Tampa, FL. Normally it is our last stop before we travel to Key West for the winter. This year we planned to leave the trailer in Tampa while we took our side trip to SCUBA dive in Bonaire. So it would be early February before we headed to the Keys. However, we heard from some friends that the RV Park in Key West was full and they were turning people away. We called down and verified that this was definitely the case. As a result we decided to stay in Tampa.
Spending time with our niece, Robin, and her kids was the highlight of our time in Tampa and we had a lot of fun with them. Jeremiah was always wanting to throw a Frisbee or football. MacDill AFB has a nice bowling alley and bowling was a fun time. I don’t think they had ever been taught how to bowl, but they got better with every frame. Destiny had just received her learners permit and I rode with around the base on Sundays so she could practice.
One of Tampa’s best natural areas is the Weedon Island Preserve. We have always enjoyed paddling the kayak trails and we spent the better part of a day paddling in the mangroves of Weedon Island.
The RV Park at MacDill AFB gets free passes to the RV Show in Tampa. This is reportedly the largest RV show in the country. Even if it isn’t, it is certainly the largest one that we have ever attended. This is the third year we have attended and we enjoyed it every time. In addition to RVs to tour, there are seminars, and exhibits from suppliers and vendors of RV equipment and supplies. One good thing that comes out of each visit is that we validate that we really like our own fifth wheel trailer.
Near the end of January we flew to the island of Bonaire in the Dutch Caribbean for two weeks of SCUBA diving and snorkeling. Bonaire is my favorite place for diving and this trip was special because our daughter, Elisabeth, was able to join us.
We returned to Tampa in early February and were able to spend more time with Robin, and her family. Pat’s sister and her husband, Mary Lee and Welton, flew down from Milwaukee and we had a great time together. We spent time at the State Fair (this is the fifth state where we have attended the state fair). It was interesting to see how much the kids enjoyed the animal exhibits. They seemed to get a big thrill watching the chickens and roosters. When Robin joined us after work, she insisted that we watch the pig races. I had never seen a pig race and it was really funny, probably the highlight of the visit. Of course one thing I have learned is you just can’t go to a state fair without having a funnel cake!
One of the last things we did before Mary Lee and Welton flew back home was spend some time at the beach on Honeymoon Island. This is a very popular spot, but even with hundreds of families on the beach we didn’t feel crowded. We sunbathed, tossed a football around, and went kayaking. The highlight of the day was seeing a couple of pods of dolphins playing just off shore. Here’s a video of the dolphins.
One of our daily activities was our exercise walk every morning. We discovered a nature area just north of the campground. There is a nice pond with a group campsite. It’s a relaxing place, away from the traffic providing a nice, quiet place to walk. There is plenty of wildlife in the area.
We had an unexpected surprise when our sister-in-law, Maureen, called to say she was in Orlando for a conference and did we want to meet her that afternoon? Of course Robin was up for this, so we piled into her car and off we went. We met Maureen and a colleague at Disney Springs (formerly Downtown Disney) and had a great time wandering through the area, sampling Ghirardelli chocolates, watching Jeremiah build and race a Lego block car, watching the Amphicar at the Boathouse, some street performances, and dinner at the Earl of Sandwich.
On Saturday morning, March 12th we bid farewell to southern Florida and began our journey to Washington State. We plan to arrive by May 25th, taking our time and seeing interesting sites along the way.