Since our arrival here at Riverbend in Labelle on December 20th, we haven’t done a lot which seems to be our modus operandi on this trip. Lots of relaxation mixed with doses of exercise by biking and walking around the resort, the usual breakfast excursions, enjoying some of the many activities at the resort and the holidays, oooohhhing and aaahhhing over a few beautiful sunrises and sunsets, visiting with friends and family. Not a heck of a lot of sightseeing. But been there, done that!
Every Saturday morning, the Riverbend Breakfast Boys (volunteer owners) put on an all you can eat breakfast from 8 am to 10 am which includes your choice of a made to order omelet or eggs any way you like, two types of scrambled eggs, sausage patties, biscuits with sausage gravy, pancakes, coffee and juice all for $6. Such a deal! There’s no saying no! We’ve gone to the breakfast twice now and will probably do so again on the day we leave, Saturday, the 4th.
It’s not only good food but a great opportunity to meet some of the people here. We spent some quality time with renters June and Ronnie and their friends, Mary Jo and Larry as well as owners, Gerry and Fred and a lot of other people. Hard to remember everyone’s name! Unlike some other Class A motor home resorts we have visited, everyone here is super friendly!
Another very nice, very interesting couple were Carrol and Joyce, seasonal renters who own the Turner Camps which are 10 cottages that they manage in Old Forge, New York in the Adirondacks. Before Joyce had some health issues and they had to sell their boat, they were long term sailors, sailing around the world and spending 14 winters in the Caribbean. Boating and RV’ing seem to go hand in hand – we’ve met so many RV’ers who also are (or were) cruisers. This past summer they went on a safari in Kenya and Tanzania. Fun people to talk to!
After consuming way too much food at breakfast, it was time to burn off some calories by watching (yeah, that’s a real calorie burner – NOT) the battery operated, remote controlled FN3 and G scale RiverBend trains chug along the 1500 feet of track. Each of the 110 hand made wooden buildings is named for one of the RiverBend owners.
Because a lot of the snowbird owners have not come home to roost here yet, only four trains were running and not all of the buildings had been put out but it was still fun watching them. Here’s a You Tube video created by the RiverBend and Southwest Florida Railroad Club that gives a little of the history and shows how they set up the trains. Imagine this display of buildings (but not the tracks!) has to be created and then put away each Saturday! What a lot of work!
In addition to the trains, since the last time we were here, a RiverBend International Speedway has been developed. Originally, a simple oval was created next to the trailer storage area but then the storage area was expanded so the speedway was moved to some unloved property next to the sewage treatment plant.
Boy, they went all out building the speedway! Not only do they have the actual speedway, they constructed two large spectator viewing areas using pavers making it easy for spectators to bring their lawn chairs to view the action which happens twice a week. Every Monday the owners bring out their electric or gas powered remote control cars for a test spin and then on Friday there are actual races. This You Tube video of the races will show you how very cool this racetrack is!
Now if the trains and the remote controlled racing cars are not enough examples of the “boy toys” here at RiverBend, every Wednesday the RiverBend Yacht Club meets at Grand Lake (one of the four small lakes inside the resort) to sail their remote control boats. Unfortunately with Christmas and New Year’s Day falling on the Wednesdays that we were at RiverBend, we never had the opportunity to see these.
Then of course, if you really want some exercise, there are four brand new pickleball courts which were developed in 2010-2011. We’ve never played but we hear it is great exercise and a lot of fun! Rob was wishing we were staying longer so we could learn how to play.
And if you are sore or tired from all of these activities, there is always the pool and 2 hot tubs to wash away those aches and pains. If quieter sports are your game, then take a turn at the shuffleboard courts or a rip roarin’ game of horseshoes. No lack of activities here!
After all the wheels rolled by, we settled in to watch the rest of the Pats/Ravens game. Since it was such a nice day outside, we decided to watch the game on our outside TV which was a first. What was even better was that they won (41-7). Here we come Super Bowl! The evening was topped off by a beautiful sunset.
Speaking of the holidays, on Christmas Eve they had a “dirty” Santa party where $10 gifts were exchanged. Called “dirty” because someone could come along and take your gift. We decided to spend a quiet evening in the coach where we reminisced about the many Christmas Eves that we had spent with Rob’s parents.
On Christmas Day, we went to the Christmas buffet which started at 4 pm. For $6/person, turkey, ham, mashed potatoes and gravy was provided. The rest of the multitude of food was provided by every one who signed up for the event – we were asked to bring some type of dish for the buffet table.
With approximately 200 attendees, you can imagine how much food there was. Yours truly decided to make a really easy dish I made every Christmas for our family dinner – Curried Fruit. Our table was one of the last to be called – it was almost gone by the time we went up to the buffet. We met several other very nice couples at our table, giving all of us a chance to share RV stories and to talk about the places we’ve been. Very enjoyable!
I realized on Christmas morning that this was the first Christmas in over 25 years where I didn’t have to spend weeks planning, shopping, decorating, cleaning and cooking. It was a day of mixed emotions, though – nice that day not having to not have to jump out of bed at the crack of dawn to start cooking but a little sad being away from family and missing those who are no longer with us!
We were finished at the buffet by 5:30 pm – with no dishes to wash or food to put away, we were in the “what do we do now” mode! Well, to work off all the calories we had just consumed we went for a bike ride. Definitely not something we could do back in New England on Christmas Day! Wonderful and strange all at the same time to be celebrating Christmas surrounded by palm trees, wearing shorts, riding bikes, and basking in warm temperatures.
On Monday, December 30th, Rob’s brother, Jeff and his wife, Michelle and their twin daughters, Sienna and Olivia (almost 16) and their son, Christopher (9), came for a visit. They are from Chicago but had been in Florida to celebrate Christmas with Michelle’s mother who lives in Lakeland. Since they had planned to visit the Ft. Myers area anyway, it was a good opportunity for all of us to get together. After they arrived we walked down to the Speedway to watch the races for a bit, then walked down to the river. Once we were sure they had worked up an appetite, we returned back to the coach where we grilled some burgers. Fun visit! We don’t get to see them that often so we especially enjoy the antics of the kids. They will be heading back to the very cold single digit temps in Chicago, arriving home on the 5th, just in time to go back to school and work.
There were more festivities on New Year’s Eve – a buffet followed by dancing and New Year’s Day, another buffet. Not being big New Year’s Eve people, we had our usual wild night – a nice dinner, watching Dick Clark’s Rockin’ New Year’s Eve party on TV with all of the frozen spectators – and falling asleep, Rob on his couch and me sitting in my recliner. But amazingly the spirit of New Year’s Eve awoke us just before midnight so we could watch the ball drop! Hello 2014! Seems like just yesterday we were ushering in 2013 – boy, the older you get the faster the time flies by! Wishing everyone a very healthy and happy New Year! !
Originally we had planned on leaving on Friday, January 3rd but when we heard that Dave Horton, owner of Horton’s Seafood Restaurant in Providence (“Frankly Scallop I Don’t Give a Clam” is the motto of his restaurant) was putting on a fish fry on the 3rd, we decided to stay an extra day. Ah yes, a taste of New England amidst the palm trees and without any snow!
Shortly after we arrived to the fish fry, our meal started off with 2 big bowls of New England Clam Chowder which was piping hot. Good thing, we needed a little heat to warm us up after bicycling to the club house – a cold front had moved in overnight and temps were in the low 50’s with a strong breeze. What a difference a day makes – on Thursday it was in the 80’s and humid. But I ain’t complaining, temps in our former neighborhood in Norton, MA the night before were close to zero degrees with a wind chill well below zero with lots of snow!
Just as a note, all of the cooks, servers, bartenders, and clean-up people at any of the events are volunteer owners. Our particular server this time happened to be Dave Horton’s wife so we had a nice chat with her after we told her that Rob grew up in Warwick, RI. She and Dave retired from their restaurant business in 2006 (now their daughter runs the business) bought a site here at RiverBend where they stay for six months during the winter. Their coach is easy to spot as it is plastered with a huge “Go Pats” and “Red Sox” banners! After the delish clam chowder, we were served a huge plate of fish & chips with cole slaw. So good but so very filling! Luckily we had only signed up for one dessert which was an apple blossom (pastry filled with apples) with ice cream. Too bad we’re leaving, beginning on January 6th, Benders restaurant here at Riverbend will be open every day.
After we finished eating, we moved over to another table to sit with June and Ronnie, who we met on our first day there – they were sitting with their friends, Mary Jo and Larry, also from Virginia. Nice visiting with them again for a few minutes. June and Ronnie had recommended Quail Run RV Resort in Tampa where we’ll be staying when we go to the Tampa RV Super Show so perhaps we’ll see them again.
So that pretty much covers our stay at RiverBend except for a few visits to the local restaurants which I’ll write about separately. After reviewing what I had written, I guess that even though we didn’t do a lot of sightseeing, we kept pretty busy. Since we so enjoyed our stay here, we’ll be sad to leave here on the 4th but it’s time to explore other places. Perhaps we’ll visit here again next year – and maybe stay a little longer!