Well, it’s been awhile. Last time you heard about our travels was the drive from Jonathan Dickinson State Park in Hobe Sound, FL to Riverbend in Labelle, FL where we had reservations for the month of December. Staying in one place for a month or more is pretty unusual for us at least during the winter – we’re usually running at a pretty hectic pace, exploring here, there and everywhere and in an exhausted state despite all the fun we were having. But not this year, well, at least for the month of December. Read our detailed review of Riverbend.
When we first arrived, it seemed like a month was such a long time but somehow the month whizzed by and only a few of the many projects that
we, er, Rob wanted to accomplish still didn’t get done! Since this was our third stay here, we didn’t spend any time sightseeing but between socializing (a lot), running errands, two visits to Palm Truck (yes, we had another chassis problem…sigh… more about this in a separate post), the hours we spent walking and/or biking each day and just plain relaxing, there just wasn’t enough time to focus on projects.
Socializing? Riverbend is such a friendly community, we met a lot of new people, making new friends and catching up with old friends. When I started my walking regiment, I jokingly complained to Rob – my feet didn’t hurt but my arm did – from waving back to everyone who waved at me from their site or golf cart as I circled the resort.
Last year, we met former sailors Joyce and Carrol Turner from the Adirondacks in NY – they were back again for a return six month stay – so good seeing them. They had friends who had two cats and were buying their first coach site unseen. One of the Riverbend owners has several sites where he parks RV’s that he has for sale. On the advice of Joyce and Carrol, they bought a 1999 Fleetwood Discovery that was parked on site #9. Since they were newbies to the world of RV’ing, they called us prior to their arrival at Riverbend the end of December, looking for advice on introducing their cats to RV’ing and tips on keeping them from destroying the furniture (something we’re still trying to figure out). Once they arrived at Riverbend, we invited them, Joyce and Carrol over for cocktail hour. Nice folks!
One day while I was walking wearing my lovely gray Entegra T-shirt and my trusty Fit Bit (whoops just to clarify I was wearing more than just these two things), a woman drove by in her golf cart, yelling out “I have one of those” (the T-shirt that is). Turns out she owned an Entegra Anthem coach as well as a site at Riverbend. She and her husband were fellow New Englanders from Ellsworth, Maine. After a lengthy conversation, we parted ways. Later that afternoon, she (Gail) and her husband (Clayton) stopped over at our site. A new friendship was quickly formed. We frequently got together for dinner or to just hang out together. One day we visited the Franklin Locks.
Besides all that, here are some of the other highlights of our stay at Riverbend.
The Beast Has A Spa Treatment
First on our agenda once we settled in was to arrange for the beast to have a spa treatment – our poor baby hadn’t been thoroughly washed since we left RI so she was sorely in need of a bath. Mobile Wash was the company we hired last year to detail our coach so we arranged for them to perform their wizardry, making the beast look as pretty as she could be during our stay.
The guys arrived on a Wednesday morning to wash and scrub her, then came back on Friday for the waxing and buffing. Based out of Naples, they also service the Fort Myers area. Great company, very professional and hard working staff. Highly recommended and well worth the cost!
Dining In & Out
Yes, I know I had previously posted about my New Year’s resolution to walk 10,000 steps per day and to eat healthier but how could I possibly deprive Rob of an occasional visit to a local breakfast joint? Our eating out was a lot less than usual but we did visit a few of our old haunts in the area.
Alva Country Diner
We arrived on the 1st and on the 2nd off we went to the Alva Country Diner for breakfast. Ah yes, their omelet of the day (usually with a massive amount of bacon & cheese for only $4.59) with home fries and toast is one of our favorites. Delish as usual with lots of leftovers!
On another night to give the cook a night off, we ordered from their take out menu – a bucket of broasted chicken (12 pieces) for $11.99 with a side of mashed potatoes and gravy. Really good, lasting for several days! Beats KFC any day – less greasy and better tasting!
Two Peas Cafe
On another day, we went to the Two Peas Cafe in downtown Labelle where we had a pretty standard breakfast – 2 eggs, home fries, bacon and toast ($6.50). Very good although it didn’t seem as good as last time, perhaps because of what we ordered. Since the last time we were there, they’ve expanded their dining room and are now open for dinner Wednesday – Friday nights. Boy, oh, boy do their desserts look good! Not to worry, we didn’t buy any! Otherwise I’d have to walk 50,000 steps!
On Thursday, December 11th, we drove to Heron’s Glen in North Fort Myers (about 45 minutes away) to meet up with our friends, Chris and Bob from EGYC. Since they sold their boat this past summer, they won’t be spending their summers in New England – they are officially full time residents of Florida! They recently moved from their first house in HG to a bigger house which we were quite anxious to see. Wow, very nice and even though we had seen it from the outside last year before their closing, it was much bigger inside than we expected. Although they have plans to do some additional remodeling, lots of time is spent in the lanai, pool and hot tub! Congrats to them on their beautiful new home!
After the tour of their new home, we drove to Bianca’s Restaurant which is the same restaurant we went to last year. Being the creature of habit that I am, I had the same thing I had last year, Chicken Marissa, which was chicken sauteed in lemon and wine with sun dried tomatoes, topped with goat cheese and served with asparagus (at least the asparagus was healthy). Rob had the Veal Saltimbocca – veal sauteed with mushrooms and sage in Marsala wine, topped with prosciutto, spinach and mozzarella cheese, served with spaghetti. Delicious food, great ambiance and a wonderful time with close friends! We’ll miss them next summer!
Although we had an opportunity to attend the Christmas Eve Dirty Santa Party at the Clubhouse, we opted to stay home. For dinner I made one of our favorite recipes (Shrimp Pernod which was delicious) followed by a quiet evening.
On Christmas Day each year, beginning at 3:30 p.m., Riverbend hosts a buffet dinner, providing ham, turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, all for $7 per person. Not a bad deal! Everyone who attends must bring a dish so I did my usual Curried Fruit. Oh, my, so much food! I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many string bean casseroles in my life! We sat with new friends, Gail and Clayton, Penny and Rick and Gerry and Gay. It was a fun time! Though it seemed strange that we were done and back at the coach by 6:00 p.m. What to do with the rest of the evening? Why, take a much needed walk of course!
Farmer’s Market Restaurant
When we dropped our coach off for service at 8:00 a.m. one morning at Palm Truck in Fort Myers, the service manager recommended the Farmer’s Market Restaurant for breakfast. Located in an industrial area, it wasn’t much to look at from the outside but the food was good at reasonable prices. We both had two eggs with bacon and toast. Not sure what type of bacon it was but it was thick and delicious!
Just before we left Riverbend, we made a trip to Sam’s in Fort Myers to stock up. On our way, we stopped at Mel’s Diner, another place we visited last year. Love their 50’s decor, complete with Betty Boop next to a 50’s model car as you come in the door. Prices are a little bit more than what we like to spend but the food is excellent and well worth the higher prices!
Since Rob was suffering from corned beef hash withdrawal because he hadn’t it in a while, he had two eggs on home made corned beef hash ($7.59). I had a delicious western omelet ($7.39). Both were served with their yummy home fries (thin sliced potatoes fried on the grill).
Don’s Steak House
A couple of days before we were scheduled to leave Riverbend, Gail and Clayton asked us to join them for dinner at a local restaurant, Don’s Steak House in Labelle. Rob and I both had their baja (type of white fish) fry. Food was good although I don’t think we would hurry back. Sorry no pictures!
Saturday Morning Breakfast Boys
Each Saturday morning between 8:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m. at the clubhouse/restaurant, the Breakfast Boys (a group of volunteers) would serve an all you can eat buffet breakfast consisting of scrambled eggs, sausage patties, biscuits and gravy, pancakes, or a made to order omelet, juice, and coffee for $6 per person. On several Saturdays, Clayton and Gail picked us up in their golf cart at 8:00 a.m. so we could join them for breakfast. Good food!
After breakfast we would stop by the RiverBend and Southwest Florida Railroad. With it’s 11 trains (FN3 and G gauge) the railroad has 1200 ft. of track, a 35 ft. long handmade trestle, 105 buildings and was recently voted the best garden model railway in the state of Florida. Because it was still early in the season, the railroad wasn’t operating at full scale but it was still fun to watch anyway.
Bringing in the New Year
It was a quiet New Year’s for us. Riverbend has a big party but our original plan was to leave on the 1st so we opted not to go. Besides we’ve never been big NYE celebrator’s, usually spending the night with a special dinner, watching TV while trying to stay awake until the ball drops in Times Square. That’s how it went again this year. To achieve my 10,000 steps, we went for a walk heading to the river. Across the river, people from a youth camp were shooting off some fireworks, obviously not professional ones but pretty good nonetheless. After we returned to the coach, we both fell asleep but managed to wake up just before midnight. On New Year’s Day, there is another buffet dinner with pork roast, sauerkraut and boiled potatoes but we didn’t sign up for it, again because we were originally planning to leave on the 1st.
Our next destination was our annual visit to Disney where we had reservations beginning on the 4th. We originally made reservations at Adelaide Shores in Avon Park (halfway between Riverbend and Disney) beginning on the 1st but we were having such a good time at Riverbend, we just decided to extend our stay there until the 4th.
Over the past few years, we have often stayed at places that we liked the first time, but perhaps didn’t like so much the second or third stay and never returned. This was our third time at Riverbend and it has been just the opposite, in fact, we have liked it more and more each time. So that started us thinking…we’ve always said that we would never buy a site/lot in one of these Class A resorts, after all a motor home is for motoring, not for parking, right?
All I can say is times change! But buying a site – why would we change our minds about that? After our recent boat search in Ft. Lauderdale, we’ve been seriously rethinking whether a bigger boat made sense. A lot of money for something we would only use four or five months out of the year and highly unlikely to ever present a return on investment. Buying a site here would be way cheaper than a bigger boat and might actually pay back over time. With the real estate market here pretty much bottomed out (but starting to rebound somewhat) and prices a lot lower than we had thought, the timing just might be right. Oh and by the way Riverbend has free (to owners) dockage on the trans Florida Intra-Coastal Waterway (ICW), so hmmm…
On top of all that, as we moved south this year we experienced significantly more difficulty booking “good” campgrounds on short (less than 2 months) notice. “Good” means low cost full hookup destinations and for us that is primarily Florida State Parks where our average rate is less than $13 per day. We think at least part of the reason for the site shortage is the improving economy and lots of baby boomers hitting retirement and driving a massive boom in the RV market. By owning our own site we would always have a place to go. And we will always have the option to rent it for part or all of the peak season (Jan, Feb, Mar) and recoup virtually all of the expenses for the entire year. That leaves us a “free” place to stay Oct, Nov, Dec, April & May – and beyond too, but we’re not ready for a Florida summer just yet! That’s not to say we would just plant ourselves in one spot for months at a time, but we would have a great base to return to after occasional excursions to favorite places. Plus bookings at those places could be very time flexible. Expenses here should amount to around $450/mo including taxes ($50/mo less if we homestead it), which is not much more than the $13/day state parks, yet peak rental rates run about $2200/mo. The math seems favorable.
Plus owning a site would give us a home base and a place to stay or store the coach in the south if either of us has a health issue. And when we need to bring our coach in for service, it’s especially hard and stressful on the cats because we can’t leave them inside. But because each site at Riverbend has a minimum 14′ x 10′ coach house, having our own site would give us a place to leave the cats for the day. Oh, and did we mention the boat dockage is free? The list goes on and on.
So did we or didn’t we? Guess you’ll have to wait to find out!