Palm Trees Replace Pine Trees

Preparations for Christmas in Wisconsin comes with some build-up rituals that are very classic. Beginning with shorter days and longer nights, generally it gets colder and colder (and colder) to the point that white stuff begins to fall to the ground and then sticks. It is time to put up the Christmas tree, whether that might be going out to cut just the right one and hoping the needles will stay on until Christmas day.

In Florida most of those rituals don’t exist and Christmas Eve is now upon us with the fanfare we had to develop. We have decorated the RV now for Christmas by putting up lights, garland and some of our favorite “bobbles” that we kept in the “basement” of the RV. We hung our stockings with care of the electric fireplace. One of the fun things of this travel based lifestyle is we can see in person some of our YouTube favorites in their hometown.

To get into the spirit we saw Voctave, an acapella group in the Orlando area we follow on YouTube, at Rollins College. On the edge of Rollins College, which happens to have the distinction of being the alma matter of Fred Rogers the children’s TV icon, we found the tasty BurgerFi, a national franchise, with some pretty unique flavors with fresh never frozen ingredients.

Grocery Shopping Nightmares

Contrast of Sour Cream in Florida to Wisconsin’s Old Home

Grocery shopping has been a bit of a challenge. It takes about twice as long to find groceries in the local stores and even in Walmart. We try to “circle the store” and keep to the fresh products, which many of those are more local brands. It took Jason more than 5 minutes to just find sour cream in the dairy case, we are so used to looking for a specific shape and look to the products. There is no Kemps or Old Home in the dairy case, and the local brand is a different shape. Plus the local brand uses the same shape container for sour cream, yogurt and cottage cheeses. We are trying to find the local veggies and fresh products, the advantage of being below the snow line.

Friday afternoon Jason took a half day of vacation and we headed 40 minutes south to the Tampa area. We visited the “Ybor” (pronounced E-bar) community established in the 19th century where artesian cigar makers came together to build many of the world’s largest hand rolling factories. We picked up the streetcar trolley at station 1 and rode it throughout the system, returning back to Centro Ybor where we got off to explore. All walks of life from all over the world came together in one area with one common purpose, cigar making. The area has been rebuilt in the last decade and offers some trendy places to dine, shop and a multi-screen cinema to draw in people to the area. Just on the edge of the Centro Ybor is a small museum, takes about 15 minutes and 5 minutes of that is a great video about the history of the area. An interesting tidbit from the video, was about the lecturers who read to the cigar making workers from various literary works such as Shakespeare and news of their home newspapers. There were many beautiful social club buildings where each of the ethnic groups would come together to build their communities in the new world. We purchased some souvenir clothing here and enjoy a gourmet popsicle in the warm weather.

We continued our festive preparations for Christmas and drove West to Pine Island Beach on the gulf coast. This beautiful and sandy county park is well maintained, picturesque and what you envision as a typical palm tree laden Florida beach. The water was warm and it was not too busy on a Saturday since it was “only” 80 degrees that day. Barb loves to call her sister from the beach to share the experience over Facebook video messenger. This beach was different from South Carolina in that it was more a park like setting with services including a little cafe, picnic pavilions, umbrellas and chairs for rent, and plenty of groomed sand for lounging.

Since Disney Annual Passholders are blocked from visiting during some of the craziest times of the year, we have some time in the evenings to ourselves. Jason has completed installing the 1,500 watt PowerDrive inverter in the basement with outlets under each side of the bed and in the bedroom dresser. The gray outlets are fed through the inverter from the two batteries in the basement. We are preparing for dry camping when it is needed. We exercised the 3,500 watt Champion inverting generator for its “monthly” run to ensure the batteries can be charged, as well as run Jason’s work equipment and air conditioning if needed. So far we have been pretty shy at finding off-grid locations to ensure Jason is able to work, this really prepares us for other options in the future.

Christmas Eve was a bit rough, we made it to the local church service on both the eve and day services. It was tough watching the River Falls service on our way home, strongly brought the missing home and family to life. Christmas Day we participated in the Escapees traditional potluck Christmas dinner with the other members here at the park. It was a good time to talk with others and to enjoy each others company on this holiday.

We miss you all back home in the North,
Merry Christmas, Barb & Jason

Nights Stayed23: December 11, 2017 - January 2, 20187: Feburary 11-18, 2018
Parking SiteSite 46 for the duration
Sumter Oaks RV Park
4602 CR 673
Bushnell, FL 33513
Site F-5
Blueberry Hill RV Resort

Bushnell, FL 33513
RestaurantsCoyote Rojo
Chuck's Odd Couple Restaurant (breakfast)
Big O's Home Plate (burgers)
Howie's Family Restaurant (breakfast)

From Winter Garden RV Resort notes:
AttractionsDisney World & all the fun (75 minutes East)
Pine Island Beach Park (45 minutes West)
Centro Ybor, Trolley (45 minutes Southwest)
Dade Battlefield State Park ($3/vehicle) (15 minutes North)
WELS ChurchesGrace of Spring Hill, FL
Emmanuel Lutheran of Zephyrhills, FL
Remember for Next TimeC Y Western Co (clothing)

The chinese restaurant West of Walmart is horrible.
AT&T Coverage4G LTE poor to great, depending on whether the service is horrible when overloaded over the holidays. Using a directional antenna on the WeBoost helps, we can change the direction of the antenna to a different tower that is not so overloaded.4G LTe Excellent

Full bars 30-50 Mbps down and 5-10 Mbps up. Latency good between 40 and 50 ms. At the highway it is not the same story, so the sector of the tower covering the RV park is much better.
Verizon Coverage4G LTE good4G LTE Excellent
WiFi CoverageNone, not providedThere is a WiFi service, but impossible to get in because of all of the hotspot interference.
Anytime FitnessA good quality gym in Bushnell, FL, by Walmart (showers were pretty dirty though)
Mail ServicesCan receive packages via USPS and UPS at main address, First Class mail is forwarded to the mail service in Livingston, TX. FedEx delivers directly to the site when the site # is in the address.UPS and FedEx will deliver directly to the site if you include the site number in the address. USPS delivers to the office and then the office hides it on you. Really they put in the mail room and don't tell you there is a mail room. But they do have a good process for those that are here permanently.