Postcard from Florida- 4

28 Jan – 4 Feb 2010
(Sugarloaf Key, Ramrod Key & Key West)

Sugarloaf Key KOA at night
KW street fair
Out for a walk on Noname Key

The trip to the keys was great: cafe con leche with cheese toast at 5 Brothers on Ramrod Key every morning; trips to town to get connected to the internet (voice & data cell service 300-400 yards off the Overseas Hwy is crap except for SMS messages); visited some old haunts; went for a great walk with Michael & the dogs on a key that was used by the military to train for the Cuban invasion; we cursed the noseeums a lot; got the truck serviced; and generally enjoyed ourselves. The last day the heavens opened up and we had a real gully washer… sans gullies. Must be time to leave.

2 Feb – 18 Mar 2010
(Clewiston & Sefner, FL)
We pulled out of Sugarloaf on 2/4 with the engine acting weird. It was misfiring at certain speeds and running poorly at others, so it made for a vary nervous drive to  the Miami area. The keys aren’t where you go to find diesel service and there’s no Ford dealer until you get to Miami. So we pushed on, avoiding the worst engine speeds. There is nowhere to pull off to the side of the road with a big 5th wheel in tow till you arrive at Largo.

We finally made it to Florida’s Turnpike and pulled off at the first rest area where I stopped the engine. I was digging for the Good Sam emergency road service card and for no good reason I tried to restart the engine… which ran perfectly. Oh great. Does this mean I could have stopped and restarted the engine 100 miles back and not had the miserable drive?! I don’t want to think about it. [ Note: After we got back we learned we had 1 bad injector which was replaced under warranty by Bob Turner Ford in Albuquerque, NM ]

Burning cane nearby

So off we went to Clewiston where we stayed for a couple nights. Then 2 nights stretched into 4, then another week. Finally we thought this was silly so we asked for an additional month ($550/mo + elec. at the time vs. $840/mo + free elec.).

The downside of Clewiston (motto: “Sweetest Little Town in America”; essentially a company town which exists because of US Sugar) is that the park is in the middle of the cane fields.US Sugar has a new process which eliminates burning the fields to harvest, but the independents still do it the old way: burn the fields (takes about 30 minutes, then let it cool) then cut the cane. This photo shows what it looks like right after they light the cane. Looks bad but the truth is I never did see soot on the rig.

It isn’t that the KOA in Clewiston is a gorgeous, one-of-a-kind park- it’s actually pretty old with very little updating that I could see. Rather it’s the people that stay here that make it special. We had a great time and look forward to coming back.

Glen, Dale and Doug with the flag

And the Canadians were wonderful. Especially after they won Olympics gold in ice hockey against the USA. They wanted to make sure everyone knew how the match ended, so a few got into the back of a restored 1957 Chevy pickup and drove around the park waving the maple leaf and yelling the news. Such thoughtful people. (&^%#@%!)

Back-row, but facing open pasture (to the right of the road)

Right after we moved to the rear of the park into the long-term area we had the awning fall off. That’s when I realized it had happened before and one base was re-attached to and area of very thin sheet metal with no support. It was a miracle it hadn’t fallen off earlier. I spotted a pair of holes in the coach sidewall that had been filled which looked to be the place it had originally been installed so that’s where I re-re-located the awning base.

The awning was the last straw. We’d been repairing the Montana all the way across country and there seemed to be no end in sight. Especially since I’d seen that the water heater had developed a slow leak and the electric heating element stopped working. It was likely the next to go.

Since we had been enjoying traveling with the dogs so much, we decided to spend a couple weeks looking at new fifth wheels to replace our Montana which had the front lounge (model 3655FL). Turned out Montana had a new (2010) version of the FL which we looked at. In our view, they had screwed up the design plus it was another 2′ longer than ours. So we passed on that. We looked at several brands but kept coming back to the Montana. Eventually we decided on the 3400RL (RL = rear lounge) with the Moving-to-Montana and Hickory Edition options packages and started looking for a unit on a dealer’s lot.

New (right) beside old ready to move our stuff

We located what we wanted East of Tampa. Lazy Days in Seffner, FL- supposedly the largest RV dealer in the US. They had a 2010 Montana 3400RL equipped with the options we wanted except slide toppers and 5.5 kW generator. Next thing we knew we’d bought a new Montana and Lazy Days would install the generator. The toppers would have to come later. [ Note: We’ve since learned slide toppers can be a hazard as they can’t be rolled up in a heavy wind without retracting the slide they’re attached to. If they had a way to retract separate from the slide, we’d still be interested in adding them. ]

The guy running the tug was amazing as he snaked the new rig past the open slide of the old one!

We towed our 2003 Montana to Seffner and expected to leave the next day with the new rig. One nite stretched into 2 then 3 and pretty soon it had been a week of living in a delivery area that had a layer of dirt/dust that would destroy any carpet. Plus it was a dry-camping area (no water, no sewer) only intended for a 1 or 2 nite stay. Apparently not much happens at Lazy Days (and you ask “Didn’t you pay attention to the name?!”) till you get pissed because, after a week of waiting-waiting-waiting, we were out of there 2 days after I vented. Our rush about leaving was because it was getting to be time to file taxes and we needed to be in Santa Fe for that since we didn’t bring everything with us. We won’t let that happen again!

We eventually got the rig back to Clewiston, spent a week of getting settled in, then we were off to Santa Fe after a great St. Patrick’s Day meal of corned beef and cabbage.

About bruce10b

Celia and I are full-time RVers wintering (and now summering!) in Benson, AZ. The 2 bernese mountain dogs that initiated the name of this blog are gone but forever alive in our memory.
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