First Winter as Snowbirds

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I thought I'd start this blogging effort to share our experiences as First Time Snowbirds in Florida. It has been our dream/plan for a long time to do this every year as long as we're able to travel. I retired 8 years ago, but continued to work part-time until recently. Wife retired 5 years ago, and still works occasionally, but is fortunate enough to set her own schedule. We live in Maryland, so the winters are not terrible. We both grew up in the South though, so cold/snow/ice are not our favorite weather.

We bought the Reflection 337 about 18 mos ago, after owning a Keystone Cougar 5W for several years and a few TT's and pop-ups before that. We've pulled it maybe 5K miles and spent about 100 nights in it in those 18 mos. We find it very comfortable for us. Our tow vehicle is a 2011 F250 CC 4WD short bed with a gas engine. (Should have bought a diesel. Next time!)

Anyway.......We had the usual wonderful Christmas holidays with family, kids, & grandkids in Maryland but were as excited as a puppy with two tails about getting started on our great adventure. After 10+ days of rain at home in late December, we headed for the "Sunshine State" on Dec 30th. It rained the entire 3 days of travel down here, and has rained the 3 days we've been here at Riverside RV Resort, Arcadia/Port Charlotte, FL. The sun will come out tomorrow though!

Aside from the rain, the trip south was uneventful. Total of 1050 miles over 3 days. Averaged 9.3 mpg. Stopped overnight at Camp Pedro, South of the Border, SC for the first night and at a KOA in Starke, FL the second night. Both were fine for overnight stops. We left the 5W hitched up both nights due to the rain and arriving after dark.

All the systems onboard have worked fine so far. We have used everything from the fireplace and furnace to both AC's. The MaxxAir fan I had installed in the kitchen along with the "Dry" setting on the AC have helped tremendously in removing the humidity. I had winterized in November so I was a bit anxious about hooking up the plumbing. The only mishap was of my own doing. I had neglected to turn the outdoor shower valves off after winterizing, so they ran open for about 30 minutes after I hooked up to water. I don't think much ran into the basement or undercarriage, but I plan to check closely in the next couple of days.

For the past several years, we have spent a couple of weeks in Florida doing RV Park reconnaissance on both coasts. We decided on the Gulf Coast and found this place last winter. We put our names on the waiting list for a site and got lucky. We are about 5 miles NE of I-75, away from the hustle/bustle and traffic of places closer to the coast. We wanted a quiet area, and a large lot. This place is a bit pricey, but suits us well. It is 30-45 mins to the Gulf Beaches, and about 10 mins to a multitude of restaurants in Port Charlotte. We think we'll be very happy here. There are over 400 FHU sites, along the Peace River and surrounded by cattle ranches and citrus groves. Our site is huge and backs up to a large lake with a couple of fountains in it. We've just been chillin' and resting up since we arrived. Will finish setting up the site in the next few days and post some photos when the sun comes out. We haven't toured the entire facility yet, but did see one Solitude (Michigan tags) and one Momentum here today. (( ))

We got a contract on the sale of the big house in Maryland between Thanksgiving and Christmas and have navigated through most of the associated hurdles. We'll have to return maybe a couple of times to finish moving out and attend settlement in February. We're putting what's left there in storage and will look for a small condo when we return in April. Have already penciled in the Ft Myers RV Show later this month, the Plant City Strawberry Festival, and the Arcadia Rodeo in March. I'm sure we won't have any trouble filling our days. We have several retired friends living in various parts of Florida, so we'll be doing some visiting with them also.

Until next time......

Ken & Wilma


  1. Justaguy's Avatar
    Good blog. Please, post pics. I have been told that FL is very crowded this time of year. Would like to hear your perspective.

    Good luck and safe travels.
  2. WhittleBurner's Avatar
    Nice write up.
    Justaguy, we are in Bradenton and it's VERY crowded in this area. I 75 can slow down pretty good. BUT we don't have to shovel snow. Worth the tradeoff.

  3. Lingerlonger's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Justaguy
    Good blog. Please, post pics. I have been told that FL is very crowded this time of year. Would like to hear your perspective.

    Good luck and safe travels.
    On our previous visits to this area at this time of year, we have definitely found the areas close to the Gulf Coast crowded with heavy traffic. And the traffic seems to be heavy all day.
    We've lived & worked in the DC/No VA/MD area for years, so "heavy traffic" is a relative thing.
    Friends who live along the Gulf Coast year round tell us they certainly look forward to the snowbirds going back home in April so things can get back to normal. I was surprised that summer beach/vacation traffic is less than during the winter.

    I haven't figured out how to post photos in a blog yet, but I have posted a couple on the GD Owners Facebook page.

    Found out today there are at least 2 Momentums and a Solitude here at Riverside RV.

    Updated 01-05-2016 at 09:06 PM by Lingerlonger (Typo)
  4. Justaguy's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by WhittleBurner
    Nice write up.
    Justaguy, we are in Bradenton and it's VERY crowded in this area. I 75 can slow down pretty good. BUT we don't have to shovel snow. Worth the tradeoff.

    We sure have thought about FL instead of AZ but the crowds have thrown us a curve. Thanks for posting.
  5. WhittleBurner's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Justaguy
    We sure have thought about FL instead of AZ but the crowds have thrown us a curve. Thanks for posting.
    Funny, we have thought seriously about trying winter in AZ or TX. But with el ninio possibly hanging out next winter too , FL may be slightly warmer.
  6. LCBoyer's Avatar
    We are in Florida City, weather is nice and crowds aren't too bad unless you go over to Miami for some reason
  7. Lingerlonger's Avatar
    A little over two weeks into our first snowbird season, and we're still enjoying it.

    The weather has not been good. Cooler temps than I expected. Tornados to the north of us and tornados to the south of us. We haven't had any damage, but the wind has been strong several days. Lots of rain also, but no leaks so far. We've been using the fireplace every morning and actually ran the furnace a couple of times. We have a projected low of 38 degrees tomorrow night. Folks who have been coming here for several years tell us this long stretch of cool weather is unusual.

    I guess the biggest disappointment has the poor WIFI service. I picked this park partly because of the internet service arrangement they had last year. You could contract with the local cable company to have your own modem and network on your site through the cable connection. This year, the entire park has been put on WIFI and they don't have enough bandwidth to handle it. Improvements, fiber service to the distribution point, have been promised but not installed yet. We have made a few trips to McD's, Starbucks, or Panera Bread, etc to do some bulk uploads.

    We bought a couple of used bikes the first week and have been riding daily. It has been so cool, we don't spend that much time outside though. Have taken a few field trips south to Ft Myers (30 miles) and explored Port Charlotte & Arcadia nearby. Fleamaster Mall fleamarket in Ft Myers was worth a visit, but just once. We've spent a couple of afternoons doing laundry and had occasion to find and visit a Walk-In Medical Clinic today. That wasn't too big of a nightmare.

    Been checking out the local BBQ scene; haven't found a really good one yet. The "Smoke Pit" in North Ft Myers was the best so far. Have been taking part in a few of the resort's scheduled activities. There's something for everyone.

    A Reflection 337 from Vermont pulled in a few days after us. They were here last year and plan to stay the season. There are two Solitudes in another section of the park, but we haven't met them yet. A little over 400 sites here.

    Still no issues with our Reflection. Everything is working well. We're enjoying the new Oxygenics shower head, the upgraded kitchen vent fan, and a portable convection oven. Although we have had to spend a lot of time indoors, we're not suffering from cabin fever at all. There's plenty of room in here for the two of us. And enough storage that we can keep things looking neat. We have the small fridge, could really use a larger one, but are making do.

    Have posted a few photos here:
    Hopefully, those are viewable.

  8. Lingerlonger's Avatar
    What were we thinking?!

    As I mentioned in the initial posting, we are spending January thru March in SW Florida, but had planned to return home to Maryland a couple of times for appointments and to settle on the sale of the house.

    First trip back was this weekend. Bad timing! Blizzard on the east coast. Largest single storm snowfall amount in Baltimore (BWI Airport) in history. 30 inches fell from Friday afternoon thru Saturday evening.
    We had reservations to fly back on Saturday morning, but moved them up to Thursday evening. (We did get to go to the Ft Myers RV Show on Thursday. A bit disappointing.) We haven't accomplish much back at home except fight the blizzard. I have a small John Deere lawn tractor with a snow plow, but it is overmatched when the accumulation gets above a foot. So I ended up plowing three times, twice during the height of the storm. We survived, and today was a glorious sunny day. Photos at:

    We will do some more packing up over the next few days, make our appointments if offices open up, and drive back to Florida by Wednesday probably. Next trip back will be in late February for settlement and we will hope we don't come back to another record setting blizzard.

    I'll pack a cooler full of snow to take down to Florida to show the locals.

  9. WhittleBurner's Avatar
    What timing, couldn't be worse 'eh. If it makes you feel any better the past couple days have been windy and cool , barely hit 55*. Woke
    up to temps of 37*. We are beginning to scout parks out of the city where traffic is a bit less. We'll be checking out where you are. Not sure when but if you are around we'd like to say hi!
  10. Lingerlonger's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by WhittleBurner
    What timing, couldn't be worse 'eh. If it makes you feel any better the past couple days have been windy and cool , barely hit 55*. Woke
    up to temps of 37*. We are beginning to scout parks out of the city where traffic is a bit less. We'll be checking out where you are. Not sure when but if you are around we'd like to say hi!
    Hi Marcy & Gary
    I noticed the 37* temp and FROST WARNING for Arcadia/Port Charlotte in the forecast. It was 9* here this morning.
    We're hoping to be back at Riverside by the weekend. We're on site 417 in the Lakes area of the park. Will send you a PM with our contact info.

  11. Lingerlonger's Avatar
    Packing up and Closing out:

    We're finishing up our 3 month stay this week and will be heading north to Maryland on Friday. We plan 4 driving days to get there, less than 300 miles each day. Several folks have warned about heavy traffic on the southern legs of I-75 and I-95 this time of year. We have seen maybe 1/4 of the snowbirds leave this park already though, many wanting to get back home by Easter.

    We've enjoyed our first winter in Florida, especially the last month. We returned to MD again in late February to do the final moving out and settlement on the sale of the house. Mission accomplished; glad to have that behind us. Weather has been great in March, lots of sunshine and temps consistently in the upper 80's. Had another tornado in the area (5 miles away) in late Feb; no damage in this park. I did pick up several roofing shingles and bits of insulation on our site after the storm.

    Our daughter & grandkids came for a 5-day visit during Spring break. Took them to Sea World in Orlando and an Air Boat ride on the Peace River. My lovely bride and I haven't done much more touring around. We did make it to the Strawberry Festival in Plant City in early March. That's worth doing at least once. We've mainly just been relaxing and recovering from the stress of moving out of the house. We firmed up our reservation to return to the same park, same site in Jan 2017.

    The Reflection 337RLS has performed flawlessly. No leaks during the storms. The only thing that broke was one of the sink strainers; $3 replacement at ACE hardware. The blue lights under the bedroom slide stopped working; haven't worried about figuring that out yet. One day the awning rolled up backwards, but I suspect that was just operator error. We're very pleased with our choice of RV. With so many units here, it is pretty common to see mobile RV Techs in the park on a daily basis.

    We really do like this location. We enjoy being away from the heavy traffic area, but everything we need is just 5-10 minutes away. We will probably do a bit of landscaping next year to make "our" site a little less sterile. The only disappointment is the internet service. Tengo Internet provided by park-wide WIFI. (It has been Tango Uniform much of the time.

    We may attend the Rally in Elkhart again this year. It will depend on how soon we can find a new, smaller place to live in Maryland. Until then, or when we happen to meet you down the road........ Safe Travels & Happy Camping!

    K & w
  12. Mark&Colleen's Avatar
    Hi Ken & Wilma, do you still winter in this park? We will be snowbirds for the 1st time next winter and managed to get a reservation here. There looks to be lots of room on each site. On my list is working out internet and TV connections. I am wondering if they have improved the wi-fi service as you mentioned you were disappointed in it there. Do they have cable hookup for TV at each site?

    Thanks for any info you can share.
  13. Lingerlonger's Avatar
    Hi Mark - Yes, we're in our fourth year at Riverside RV Resort and have reservations for next year (Jan - Mar). Welcome to Riverside.

    The park has 3 sections. In the oldest ("Standard"), the sites are a bit close together, but most will handle all size rigs. There is lots of shade in that area. In the "premium" and "elite" sections, sites are much larger, but there is generally no shade.
    The free wifi is still marginal and not available park-wide as I understand it. WIFI is good at the office, and "available" in the newer sections of the park. We generally rely on a Verizon Jetpack hotspot for
    our internet.

    The newer sections of the park have cable TV, approx. 50 channels. The old section does not have cable as I understand it.

    I'll try to send you a PM with my contact info and will try to answer any more questions off-line.

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