“Alright, we’re off,” Ron said. With his words, we began our annual trek to Florida at 7:13 a.m., with the final destination Collier Seminal State Park: today’s destination, Palmetto Shores in South Carolina.
Traffic delayed our arrival at Palmetto Shores by an hour. Uneventful, we enjoyed a serene drive, chatting about life and love. Crocheting granny wheels, I began a camping blanket for the shop. Using twenty-one colors with a white border helps pass the time as the miles slip past.
After enjoying the fire, we headed inside for an early evening.
The resident chef, Ron, grilled pork chops for dinner, then baked chocolate chip cookies (we buy Nestle Toll House’s cookie dough) in the toaster oven. The camper smelled amazing and the cookies tasted even better as we watched “A Boy Called Christmas” on Netflix.
Leaving Santee at 9:45, we didn’t cross into Georgia until 1:07 p.m. South Carolina’s two-lane highway creates a bottleneck for those traveling south.
“Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Quebec, not a South Carolina to be seen,” Ron said as he read the license plates of our fellow travelers.
Finally, at 4:33, shy of seven hours, we arrived in Starke, FL, for the night. Only traveling 285 miles today, our four-hour easy day became a test of patience. We decided not to let the circumstances steal our joy, found a book, “Frozen River,” to listen to, and made the best of our day!
“Platter for two,” the gentleman beside us said when I asked the waitress what she recommended. Sitting with his wife, he spotted a gray goatee with two curly tendrils on each side. “We get it every time we come,” he said, enthusiasm gushing from his eyes.
After a visit to the dog park, we pulled out of Starke at 7:33 for the final leg of our trip to Collier Seminole.
“325 miles to go, about five hours of driving, God willing,” Ron said as we left.
On the road, we had a deep theological debate about God’s love, our purpose, and the meaning of life. Christmas confirms God’s love for the world and our place in it. Without love, we wouldn’t exist. Loving God and others fulfills our life’s purpose.
“We made it, puppies,” Ron said at 1:33 when we pulled into Collier Seminole. With easy traffic, good weather, and a well-written book, the drive passed quickly.
Jeep should pay our neighbors!
Living commercial, Christmas lights around the roof, matching camper, kayaks, and precisely parked Jeep, totally the company’s target market!
“I know something you don’t remember. We were sitting at Yorktown Pub. We looked it up on our phones and found this place for $20. We booked it right there and then.” Ron said, grinning from ear to ear.
“Sounds like us,” I responded grudgingly. I hate it when I don’t remember.
But that’s how Ron and I started camping at Collier Seminole State Park in 2017. Staying on the same site we did that first time, having tried several others, I think I like this spot best!
Returning to Christmas Eve Service at the Family church felt like coming home. Every year, they donate traditional service that warms the soul. And the worship leader, wow! Always a treat!
Christmas day came with steady rain, highs in the lower seventies, and Christmas movies. After opening stockings, we watched Snow Day, then Jack Frost. Ron looked for new RVs on his laptop while I crocheted a starburst, granny square throw.
Our Crusader will turn ten years old in 2024. The weather has faded her exterior; use shows its age on the interior. We either invest money in new axles or look for an upgrade. We’ve decided the time has come to trade in the old girl.
Tuesday began with yoga for me and pickleball for Ron at the YMCA. My class on the gymnasium floor refreshed my body after long travel days and a rainy day cooped up in the trailer.
Ron enjoyed playing pickleball, happy to again engage in the fastest-growing sport in the country. Much kinder to his knees, he snagged balls his opponents didn’t think he would reach.
“Sir, the office just called. You did not stop at the gate when you came through,” said the elderly camp ranger, radio in hand, her seatmate listening quietly.
“Oh, I didn’t realize. No one was there, so I kept going.”
Standing by the camper door, holding my phone and wallet, I listened silently, keeping my facial expressions in check until I saw how the scenario unfolded.
Moments before, the white-haired lady almost hit us. Driving a camo green gator with a small bed attached for hauling, not paying attention to the stop sign, lost in conversation with her companion, the dumpster hid our big diesel from her sight. Brakes screeched, and gravel skidded as she came to a halt.
And now she sat reprimanding us about stop signs. Irony surrounded the situation.
“Yes, sir, you must stop at all stop signs in the facility.” After assuring her it wouldn’t happen again, she pulled off.
“That includes you,” I said as she pulled away. Out of earshot, she didn’t hear, but Ron and I chuckled at the hypocrisy.
Joe, our waiter at Speak Easy, made lunch enjoyable. When he came with my second glass of wine, Ron watched hesitantly as I poured my remaining first glass into the second.
“She knows her wine,” Joe said.
“Yeah,” I replied.
“You stick to beer, and she’ll handle the wine,”
“Yeah, Joe. Sometimes, I don’t need his input.”
“Point made,” Ron said as we all enjoyed a moment of laughter together.
God bless Joe and his family!
After lunch, we noticed a fog-like haze over part of the island. Deciding to find out what caused the smoke-like haze, we chased it around the island, passing the high rises that reminded me of Miami, all sitting on the beach; we came to the island and ended with no more answers than when we started.
Passing by the vibrant pink flamingo, it stood out amongst the lush grass and tall palm trees. Florida does love its pinks…houses, flamingos, roofs, reminding me of the Golden Girls. Driving around the island and viewing the million-dollar homes on the waterways has the feel of money.
With a 2:16 tee time, we could only play nine. Choosing to walk, we had the privilege of using brand-new walking carts with seats.
“That’s their maiden voyage,” the starter said when we finished.
The slow play made us thankful for the attached seats as we waited to tee off. Ron humorously took a picture of me taking a picture of us. With the weather in the mid-seventies, the sun shining brightly, and a slight breeze blowing, we thoroughly enjoyed our time on the course, refreshing and renewing.
After golf, we had enough time to return to the Crusader and feed the pups, giving them a long potty break. While Ron cared for Sophia and Rocco, I prepared for sunset beach yoga. Ron reminded me of it at lunch, and when I found out they offered a 5:30 class, I couldn’t resist. Sunset at 5:43 made for a dark ending to our practice, but the full moon glowing overhead broke through the darkness.
Ron found a wifi spot and worked. Unfortunately, hackers never stop, and a bot attack on his primary account needed attention. Wanting to collect shells before class started, Ron dropped me off early, and I discovered a very crowded beach, and few shells, not collecting any.
Deciding to record the sunset and yoga session at a fast speed, I set up at the end of the row. Feeling uncomfortable about recording myself, I set the tripod close to avoid disturbing anyone else. Ironically, the ladies behind me had a photographer with them who spent most of the class in front of me, taking pictures of them. Pleased with the video, I would set the camera farther away if I did it again—lessons learned in videoing.
After breakfast, we did a little thrift shopping at the Bargain Basket, and donated our old 10×10 we never used.
And we discovered Marco Island has a farmers market on Wednesday mornings. Filled with tent after tent of goodies, Master of Sitting held my interest most.
Ro served us lunch at Stan’s Idle Hour. Because we lost a day, we feel rushed trying to fit in all our favorite places.
“The top five players. The top 8 or 9 get to play at home. There’s 17 on the team.”
“Did you get to play?”
“Yes ma’am I did.” Joseph replied, in eighth grade, he finished his first season of varsity golf. Partnered with him and his father, Matt, we enjoyed playing with them at Eagle Lakes Golf Course. From Kentucky, Joseph’s grandparents lived close by.
“Technically we played a four and half hour round,” Ron said as we sat waiting to tee off on 18.
Slow play marked the day, with 8 minutes increments in tee times, not surprising. But annoying, and hard to gain or maintain any sort of rhythm.
“I feel like we’re paying homage to Toby by coming here. Cheers to Toby!”
Ron lifted his half-full plastic solo cup and I raised mine, toasting to Toby who met his Maker here in 2018. Living a long life, our Toby boy took his last breath at Marco Island Veterinary Clinic. We came to Harold’s afterwards, not knowing what else to do.
And so we remembered Toby today with lunch at Harold’s.
“Oh my gosh, you’re going to be three sheets to the wind.” Ron
“It’s the end of the bottle, so bartenders tip,” said the bartender.
“God bless you Pedro!” I said, after he told me his name.
This one, dear Lori, is for you. Thank Pedro for the heavy pour and God for the blessing!
I love and cherish you beyond words!
Evening at the campground doing laundry.
Beach yoga to close out our trip to Marco Island.
At 10:29 I climbed into the truck cab, ready to head north. Waiting while Ron hooked up the trailer, never want my help because, he “has a system,” I started work on Valentine hearts for the shop. Ron put the truck in gear at 10:50 when he finished dumping.
“Head north,” the GPS said.
Site 79 at Starke, arrived at 5:55, just before office closed.
Ron checked us in at Mt. P at 3:43, site B24
Sitting by the fire, doing a little worshipping of God while listening to “Hallelujah” from Christmas Eve service, thinking about the year to come.
Ron and I fast every January, and pray for the year ahead. We have every year of our marriage. Dry January for both of us, no sugar or gluten for me.
Monday anniversaries a year since the blood clot formed in my leg, hospitalizing me. We will drive the same drive we did a year ago, the one when I didn’t get out of the car and stretch my legs. The one that caused the blood clot to form.
So we’ve started compiling our prayer list:
- No hospital visits for either of us.
- We would like an “even keel year, like a drive through Ohio.” (A friend said that to me, my favorite saying from the week, her prayer request as well.)
Still formulating the list, but those start the list for us.
Started New Year’s Eve out with brunch at Lynda and Mike’s with our LCC family. Delicious food, wonderful community and a brief message from Mike about the next series made for a perfect Sunday morning.
Afterwards we headed back to the camper and let the dogs out. I enjoyed a two hour nap while Ron researched RV’s.
Lynda cooked filet mignon for dinner using Miss Kitty’s recipe. Grateful to have time with good friends.
Back at the trailer we started packing for the trip home and cleaned the carpets. Then slept for an hour before watching the annual pig drop at the KOA. Upping their game, fireworks illuminated the sky as the band played Auld Lang Zine.
“We’re leaving at dawn,” Ron said as we crawled back in bed. In reality, we left at 7:29 and arrived at the storage facility eight hours later to drop the trailer off and make the twenty minute drive home.
Another Florida trip in the books, praise God!