Well, I made it to the Sunshine State. It was kinda on the cool side the past few weeks but as you can see above, the weather is going to warm up to be more Florida Winter like. It will be nice not having to run the fireplace at night to keep the chill out of the RV. I spent my first week in Tampa so that I could attend the RV Supershow. Now I’m in Bushnell, FL (my legal domicile) for a month of R&R and visiting with family and friends.
Tampa RV Supershow
I’ve been a regular attendee at the Hershey, PA RV show for more than the past 20 years. It has always proclaimed itself as the largest RV show in the country. Also, the Florida RV Supershow held in Tampa each Jan also bills itself as the largest RV show in the country. Hard for me to tell who is correct, but I can say they are both humungous shows, with thousands of RVs spread across hundreds of acres, requiring many days to truly see all that there is to see. However, there were many things about the Tampa show that I did not like. First, there were crowds of people (not unlike the Hershey show), but those crowds milled around in what seemed like very narrow pathways, made even worse by the fact that they allowed folks to bring their dogs to the show. Don’t get me wrong, I am an animal lover, but with this many people huddled around an area, going in and out of lots of RVs, walking shoulder to shoulder, this is no place to bring your dog.
They also had trams running around inside the show, weaving around and honking at all the people. It just seemed like way to much to me. But even among the crowds, I did manage to participate in a meetup with a famous RV family (Less Junk/More Journey – pictured to left – lower right) who not only have a well followed YouTube channel, but were also featured in the recent movie release titled RV Nomads. I’ve been following Nathan and Marissa and their RV journey for a couple years now, and it was really cool actually meeting them.
One brand of RVs featured at this show in FL that I’d not seen before in PA was the mega-bucks motorhomes from Prevost. Pictured right is what features and amenities you can get for a cool $2.4M. They are so plush, you had to remove your shoes to walk inside, could not open any cabinets or sit on any furniture, and the back bedroom was roped off so you couldn’t even enter. Ah, if money were no object!
Area Flea Markets
On down days, I checked out a few flea markets in the Tampa and Bushnell area. In Tampa, I visited a market known as Fun Lan – held within a still operating drive-in theater. The market runs during the day Thu thru Sun, with movies running nightly all week. It was a small local market, but was a fun hour or so walk. Next, I drove down to Bradenton to visit the the Red Barn Market. This was a mostly indoors venue, with hundreds of dealers in a 80,000 SqFt building. Most of the items here were new stock, and not my favorite. However, I do have to give this place kudos for having an indoor bar among the many dealers. Great place to grab an afternoon brew. Lastly, I visited a combo farmers and flea market located near my location here in Bushnell. Known as the Sumter County Farmers Market and Webster Westside Flea Market, it’s only open on Monday, and is probably the largest market I have ever been to. It was a cold morning after a full day of deluge rain the day before, and was probably 30% filled with vendors. Even at that, there were easily a couple thousand vendors present selling their wares. It was so big and spread out, I was not able to even see all of them with over two hours of walking around. I even got lost towards the end with no clue where I had parked my truck. I’ll be going back to this one a couple more times in the coming weeks – truly a fun event.
Visit With Friends & Family
I’ve had the pleasure of meeting up with friends and family since I’ve been here in Florida. I have three brother who live in FL, and was fortunate to host two of them and my sister-in-law for a lasagna dinner here at the RV. After the requisite RV tour, we took a stroll around the small, but charming campground that I call home. Then we sat around, chatted, and stayed warm around an LP fire pit while the lasagna was cooking. Some VT Rhubarb wine and some NY Finger Lakes red accompanied dinner. It was a nice day with family who I’d not seen for just over a year, so it was nice to catch up.
I also had the pleasure of once again reconnecting with Laura – my high school sweetheart (after meeting up with her back in Aug while I was in NH), along with a mutual friend Michael – who I’d not seen for several decades. Laura flew down to Orlando for a work-related event, and Michael lives in FL over on the Space Coast. So, I picked up Laura in Orlando, and the two of us drove over to see Mike. We had a nice lunch at a place called Black Hammock – a combo restaurant, gator sanctuary, and a place for air boat rides, that sat along the water on the Indian River. Sadly the weather was miserable, so no boat ride. But, Laura and I were fortunate to hold a 3 yr old, well behaved gator. It was surprisingly soft, which now explains why they are popular purses. Mike then took us around the area, driving past Cocoa Beach, Cape Canaveral, Port Canaveral, and along Patrick AFB. We saw cruise ships, rocket launch areas, and Air Force cargo and fighter planes. It was a very fun day, and was great seeing Mike and Laura again.
Last, but certainly not least, I reconnected with a former Air Force buddy that I’d not seen since 1980 – almost 40 years ago. Scott was not only my roommate at my first Air Force duty station – Little Rock AFB, but was also my partner in crime off duty. He and I both worked part-time as projectionists for a local movie theater called the Other Center Cinema in North Little Rock. It was a family owned and operated place, complete with Ma, Pa and the kids, and even grandma and grandpa. It was a fun place to work, and Scott and I have many, many wonderful memories of our time there. One in particular was the world premier of the movie “Buck Rogers In the 25th Century” – staring Gil Gerard. Gil was college roommates with the owner of this little theater, and with that association, the premier of his movie was held there. As you can see form the picture at right, it was a tuxedo event for Scott and I, and featured an after movie party at a local country club with lots of Hollywood stars and other celebrities. Looking like we both aged pretty well over the 40 years! Scott now lives in a retirement community here in Florida called The Villages. So, I spent the better part of the day there and got the grand tour of the place. I have to say, it was amazing and very compelling as a retirement destination. With 120,000 residents, this golf cart centric community has lots to offer. This includes several village centers with shops and restaurants galore that also host live music nightly, over 30 golf courses, hundreds of clubs featuring every conceivable craft and hobby, and a beautifully landscaped community. A very nice place with so much to offer. It was a great day catching up with an old friend, and experiencing his retirement lifestyle.
I’m saddened by the fact that much of the country is experiencing bitter, arctic cold, but at the same time grateful that I don’t have to partake in that mess. I’ll remain here in sunny/warm Florida for the next few months, touring around and continuing my friends and family visits. I’m looking forward to watching the Super Bowl with my family on Sunday, and experiencing what I hope to be a 6th victory for the New England Patriots. Till later, stay warm and safe travels.