Riverbend, our southern home. A planned seven week stay. How great that was going to be. All the time in the world. Yes, all the time in the world to make sure our site was ready for our renters (our site is rented from mid-January to mid-March), accomplish a few projects, celebrate the holidays, do some serious socializing, relax, do some walking and biking, run some errands, relax some more, run some more errands, zoom around in our golf cart, relax some more, socialize some more, walk some more and eat out a few times.
But here I am writing this from our next destination (we left on January 6th) and we’re wondering what exactly did we accomplish? Could it be that all that socializing and relaxing upset our plans to accomplish our intended projects? Most likely!
Back to our arrival at Riverbend. As we pulled into our site, we were excited to see our spiffy newly painted site pad which was painted over the summer by one of the maintenance guys here. It momentarily looked great although the color was a little lighter than we expected.
Of course, between the coach, the van and the golf cart, it didn’t take long for it to get all marked up again with tire tracks, footprints, etc. requiring several major scrubbings during our stay using a dense soft brush and Dawn dish washing liquid detergent. We did learn from a few other owners that it helps to thoroughly soak the pad with water before pulling the coach into it to minimize the tire marks. We won’t know how that works until we return mid-March but everyone says it does – hopefully they are right. Hmm, if not, I wonder if pavers are in our future?
We wanted the pad to be clean for our forthcoming renters so on the day of our departure, we moved the coach over to the staging area, then returned to the site where Rob spent a couple of hours scrubbing the pad while I rinsed. Took a lot longer than expected. Gee, we never had to do this when we just rented a site!! Ah yes, the joys of ownership. Hmmm, maybe next time, we’ll pay someone to do it?
Here’s are some updates on what we did do during our stay…..
Creating a tropical paradise….
Once settled in, our first order of business was to tackle the landscaping. Last spring (2015) we had talked to two different landscaping companies but we weren’t impressed with their lack of follow through, plus it didn’t make sense to plant new plants just before our departure north and before the heat of the summer. So we were on the hunt to find someone else. At a nearby local nursery we met Isaiah, owner of Southwest Florida Smart Scapes. How fortunate that was! What a very knowledgeable, very professional, hard working and personable young man!
During our initial meeting with him at our site, we discussed what we wanted. We only had two basic requirements – to remove several diseased Queen palm trees that were pretty ugly looking and to add color to our existing rather blah landscape. He asked us if we had any special plants that we wanted, but being from the north and not familiar with tropical trees and plants, we were totally clueless (and with my black thumb, you don’t want my advice on anything green) so we left it in his very capable hands to turn our site into a tropical paradise.
Boy, did he ever! Several days after our meeting, he showed up with his work crew – a woman and a young man. First came all the destruction. In one day he had removed a total of 15 palms (13 Queens and 2 diseased pygmy date palms), gave haircuts to several other bushes and removed several more. Once everything was cut, Isaiah had to grind down all the stumps. What a lot of work that was! We thought our site would look naked after all those trees had been removed but we had several more palms that were healthy, so surprisingly it didn’t.
Healthy palms we kept included a few Queens, four Pygmy Date Palms, two Washingtonians, two Carolina Cedars, at least one Foxtail palm, a Triangle Palm, a really cool Pine Screw Palm, several small Areca palms and a few low growing Palmetto style palms (not exactly sure what they are). Not to mention the huge Royal palms that line our streets.
Then the fun began as we watched the transformation from very plain, somewhat overgrown surroundings to a very lush, very colorful paradise! Two new trees (a Sylvester Palm and a Weeping Bottlebrush Tree), several bushes (a Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow and a Lady of the Night) have been installed along with 84 other new plants including Crotons, Croton Mammies, Plumbago, Red Hot Hibicus, various variety of Bougainvillea, Song of India, Taro, Primrose, Foxtail Ferns, and Louisiana Red Copper Leaf. Pictures are at the end of this post. After a new layer of dark colored mulch had been laid down, all the vibrant colors really popped. Much to our surprise and joy, by the end of our second week, we had our beautiful, lush tropical paradise!
Before Isaiah and his two helpers even finished, people were stopping as they drove, walked or biked by to comment on how beautiful everything looked – a few of them hired him on the spot to help them with their landscaping needs. We didn’t deserve any praise – all we did was write out the check! And by the way the cost was surprisingly reasonable.
Since we won’t be here all the time, to ensure that our new plants continue to thrive we have hired Isaiah on a monthly basis to do maintenance (pruning, weeding, fertilizing, applying insecticide if needed, etc.).
If you live in the Fort Myers area and have landscaping needs, we highly recommend Southwest Florida Smart Scapes!
Bathing the beast….
When we arrived here, the beast was totally covered in a layer of Kentucky dirt and mud so after the landscaping was done we arranged for Larry Fields and his crew from Mobile Wash (they have detailed our coach during previous visits) to give our baby its annual bath, waxing and buffing. Boy, do these guys work hard! Great job making the beast squeaky clean and oh, so shiny!
Speaking of beasts and critters….
Check this out on YouTube video we took of the wildlife at Riverbend as seen from our site!
And quite frequently we’d see a bale (yes that is what a group of turtles is called) of turtles sitting on the fountain! No cameras were rolling so not sure whether any of them were launched into the air or if they just quietly slid into the water when the fountain came on.
From a tamer, less wild perpective, we met Max, a 22 year old tropical bird, who kept Terry and Deb as pets. Riding in the golf cart or perching on Terry’s shoulder for a stroll around the resort were his favorite activities.
And there was always more fun….
For the holidays, we joined in the festivities for both Thanksgiving and Christmas at the buffets served in the clubhouse. Way too much food! At Thanksgiving they provided the turkey, stuffing, gravy and mashed potatoes. Everyone had to bring a pot luck dish so with 150 attendees you can imagine how much food there was. Repeat performance for Christmas – turkey, ham and fixin’s were served. Very festive and fun!
The day after Christmas Rob’s brother, Jeff, his wife, Michelle, their twin girls, Sienna and Olivia, and their son, Christopher on vacation from Chicago stopped by. They were on their way from Sarasota to Marco Island so they stopped by for lunch. Always wonderful seeing family!
New neighbors, John and Bobbie (and their very cute pooch, Ellie) from Miami, bought lot #264 next door earlier this year. They are eagerly awaiting the arrival of their new 2016 Tiffin Allegro Bus coach due to arrive mid-January. Unfortunately we won’t get to see it until we return mid-March. During brief visits to Riverbend (John is still working), we went out to breakfast with them several times at the Saturday morning Breakfast Boys breakfast at the clubhouse and to the Alva Diner. Great people, lots of fun!
As for dining out…
The Forrey Grill, Labelle
Went here with friends, Jerry and Gay from Riverbend. Rob and I had the Capellini Caprese – angel hair pasta topped with tomato, basil, and garlic, served with the salad bar and garlic bread ($12.99). Very good (sorry no pics) food and a fun time! The prices here are a bit on the high side we think.
The Clambake Restaurant, Fort Myers
A new (well, new to us) restaurant that we tried during our stay. We liked it so much we ended up going back for a second visit.
Interesting that this restaurant is owned by people who are from West Warwick, RI (Rob grew up in Warwick). We were anxious to see if their claim that they served “Authentic New England Styled Seafood” was true or not so we stopped there for a late lunch one day, choosing from their special menu served daily between 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. Each entree on that menu ($12.99) includes a choice of clam chowder or salad. I had the chowder followed by fried oysters and oven roasted garlic potatoes. Rob had the chowder and broiled haddock with fries. Everything was excellent! On the wall of the restaurant are photos of various RI, MA and ME landmarks and New England sports celebrities, all of which we could easily identify.
We went back a second time with Clayton and Gail (friends at Riverbend who are from Maine) just prior to our departure. I once again had the chowder, fried oysters (they were so good the first time, I couldn’t resist) with string beans. Rob had the fish and chips ($14.95) from the regular menu. Also on the menu are fresh Ipswich Clams (whole belly) but we haven’t tried them yet. They also have a Lobster special for $22 which isn’t bad even by Maine pricing standards! So yes, we agree they do serve “Authentic New England Styled Seafood” and do a pretty good job at it!
Bianca’s Ristorante, North Fort Myers
Being in the area gave us an opportunity to have dinner with dear friends, Chris and Bob, who used to live in RI and were active members of the East Greenwich Yacht Club, but are now permanent residents in Florida. We met at their beautiful new home in Heron’s Glen for cocktails where they showed us the kayak that Bob just finished building in their garage. Wow, what a beauty (the picture doesn’t do it justice)! Not surprised at the quality of it – Bob spent 12 years building their gorgeous catamaran Masquerade (since sold) back in RI. He currently is an active wood carver at the Wild Child Art Gallery in Matlacha.
We had dinner with Chris and Bob at another favorite, Bianca’s Ristorante in North Fort Myers where I had my usual Chicken Marissa ($18) – chicken sauteed in lemon and wine with sun dried tomatoes, topped with goat cheese served with gnocchi. Rob had their Lasagne Bolognese ($15). Love this place – the food is always delicious, the service is excellent and the ambiance is so cozy. And having dinner with wonderful friends makes it even more special. Fun evening!
Alva Country Diner, Labelle
Besides the places already mentioned we had breakfast, lunch and take out at the Alva Diner. Breakfast was always good, typical greasy spoon kind of food, usually their daily special bacon and cheese omelet ($4.59) or just bacon and eggs ($3.49 weekdays). For take out we did a bucket of Broaster Chicken which is always oh so good. For lunch we tried their open faced pork roast sandwich and meatloaf with mashed and gravy. Delish!
We went to Mel’s Diner several times, twice for breakfast and once for lunch at two different locations. Now here’s a great example of doing right by the customer. On one particular visit, we waited a very long time for our order – other people who came in after us were being served. Then when the order finally arrived, my poached eggs (yes, I succumbed and had corned beef hash) weren’t cooked medium as ordered. Instead the whites were totally runny (yuck) so I sent them back. Without saying anything to our waitress, the manager came over and said that my meal and coffee would be deducted from our check and gave us a 20% discount for our next visit. Now that’s great customer service!
When we went there for lunch, I had the Sanibel Salad which had grilled chicken, lettuce greens, craisins, candied pecans, blue cheese crumbles, cucumbers and chicken tossed with a honey bacon vinaigrette ($9.59). Rob had the Hot Brown which had turkey, ham, tomatoes and Applewood smoked bacon on Texas toast and topped with their signature cheese sauce ($8.99). Both totally yummy!
Two Peas Cafe, Labelle
Another place we’ve been to in the past. Cute, good service and good food. I had my usual two eggs with bacon ($6.50) and Rob had their Country Breakfast ($6.95). A little pricey for what you get, so we like the Alva diner better, at least for breakfast. Haven’t tried lunch there or any of their homemade pies. Well, that’s not entirely true, we did have a piece of their pie. Bobbie and John had bought a coconut cream pie and couldn’t eat it all so they gave us a piece to try. Oh, my, it was soooooo good!
So that pretty much wraps up our stay at Riverbend. We hated to leave but we know that it will only be for two months. You might be wondering what our plans are. Well, our first stop was a brief stay at Myakka River State Park, then we’ll be joining the Entegra Coach Owner’s Association Rally at the Tampa RV Supershow from January 13th to January 17th. After that we’ll be wandering around Florida visiting a few more of our favorite state parks. Then we head over to Alabama where we’ll stay at Gulf State Park in Orange Beach. While there, we’ll get a chance to visit with Rob’s aunt and uncle, Linda and Herb, who just sold their house in RI and Joan and Jim, our friends from the Oregon who sold their condo last spring. Both couples have officially joined the full timers club! Congrats to them!
For anyone who is interested here are some photos of the individual plants and trees that were planted on our site: