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Lots of short stops over the past few weeks! Between January 14th and January 26th, we stayed at 5 different campgrounds! Whew that’s a lot of moving around. For those non-RV’ers out there, it means hitching/unhitching, connecting/disconnecting sewer, electric and water and satellite, bringing the slides in/out, putting away/taking out all the stuff that accumulates everywhere inside plus a lot of other nitty gritty tasks. All of it can get a little tiresome when you are doing all of this every other day!
But the good news was that our list of things that we wanted to do in the Tampa area was almost complete – the only remaining “to do” left was to pick up the exterior sunscreens we ordered at the Tampa RV Show.
On Tuesday morning, we left Lazy Days around 11:30 am for another very short trip, 31 miles, to Alafia River State Park in Lithia, FL. We made reservations here because it was much less expensive than Lazy Days ($11 per night vs. $51) and it was a little closer to Prompt RV in Winter Haven where we would be picking up the sunscreens and other covers for our tires, mirrors and wiper blades.
Check out time at Lazy Days was 11 am; check in time at Alafia was 3 pm, In a car it is easy to kill time but in a big rig not so easy. As hard as we tried to slow roll it, we were early, arriving before 1 pm – we had hoped the site we reserved (#24) would have been vacated by the time we arrived. No such luck! At the ranger station, we were told that our site was still occupied but they most likely would be leaving shortly and that we could pull over on the right hand side of the entrance road.
We noticed as we were waiting that there were a number of high voltage power poles passing near through the area – on top of each was an osprey nest so we watched a few ospreys flying around and feeding their babies while we waited. After waiting about 45 minutes, the ranger came over to let us know our site had been vacated and we were good to go.
Opened in 1998, the 6,000 acre Alafia State Park is located on what was once a phosphate mining site along the South Prong Alafia River and offers some of the most challenging off-road bicycle trails due to the radical elevation changes found in the park.
It is home to 17 miles of pro grade bike trails, ranging from beginner to advanced. When we checked in the ranger told us there were some “easier trails”, “not easy” he joked but “easier than the other trails and helmets were a must!” Well that immediately squashed any thoughts I had of biking on any the trails off the main road. But not to worry if you are not into mountain biking, horseback riding, hiking, fishing, camping, picnicking, birding, canoeing and kayaking are a few of the other offerings at Alafia.
The big rig friendly campground has two asphalt loops, Alafia Lake and Lonesome Lake with a total of only 27 sites, all with water, 30/50 amp electrical service, a picnic table and fire ring. There are no sewer hookups at the site but there is a dump station.
Between the two loops, central to all of the campsites is a bath house and a sheltered picnic pavilion with a lovely view of one of the small lakes. Most of the sites are pull thrus but there are a few back in sites, the majority of the back in sites seemed to be on the equestrian oriented Lonesome Lake loop.
Our particular site #24 (Alafia Lake loop) was 60′ long, very spacious and was located right next to the road (all of the pull thrus were) but it still had quite a bit of privacy as the coach and car blocked the driver’s side outside sitting area. Our view was of a vast and private natural area at the center of the loop.
Once we were settled in, we sat outside for a bit, enjoying the nature all around us and watching the birds flitting about in the trees and the ospreys circling overhead. It was a beautiful day, temps actually climbed into the mid-70’s which was nice after all of the cold weather that we have been experiencing.
But that one day of warmth wasn’t going to last – on Wednesday, another cold front was going to bring temps in the 40’s. Luckily we’re still south of the panhandle as yet – good thing since they are being hit with freezing rain and snow. Tough on everyone there since Florida is not equipped to handle ice and snow.
After awhile, we decided to take a walk around the campground and the one mile long nature trail. As we walked along the nature trail, I was startled when I saw something moving between the trees. At first I thought it was a bear but then realized it was a wild pig. Another couple walking towards us said that since it was black with a white collar around it’s middle, it was most likely a Hampshire pig (he used to raise them), probably a domesticated one that had escaped from a local farm. I think it was more scared of us than we were of him! It was a nice walk.
After returning to the coach, it was a quiet evening.
On Wednesday morning, despite it being another overcast, chilly day with a threat of showers, we headed towards Winter Haven to pick up our sun screens, stopping for breakfast at Fred’s Country Kitchen in Winter Haven.
Until we were seated we didn’t realize they had a breakfast buffet called the Marketplace which was pretty extensive including scrambled eggs, hash browns, home fries, bacon, sausage, pork chops, fried chicken, grits, oatmeal, cereal, fresh fruits, and an assortment of pastries.
Normally we aren’t keen on buffets – we usually don’t eat that much to get our money’s worth and sometimes the food tends to be overcooked and lukewarm. But we tried it anyway and were pleasantly surprised – the food was excellent.
Interestingly they have two prices for the buffet – the Waist Not Want Not $6.49 price and Regular $8.49. We asked the waitress what the difference was – to get the $6.49 price, you “take what you want. Eat what you take. Fred’s momma said you get a discount for a clean plate.” If you don’t finish what you put on your plate you get charged the higher price. Hmmm, that’s a pretty interesting way to keep people from taking too much food – hit them in their pocketbook!
Plant City which is east of Tampa, is in the midst of strawberry country. Very few orange groves like we have seen in the eastern part of Florida but instead rows and rows of strawberry plants. It’s not like we needed this after the big breakfast buffet but we wouldn’t get another opportunity since we would be leaving the area the next day.
The place was mobbed and there was a long but fast moving line at the shortcake window. From what I’ve read that is the way it always is. Since we had just finished breakfast, we decided to get it to go. Good thing – it was huge! In addition to the shortcake, they have fruits and veggies so we bought some oranges, ruby red grapefruit and a quart of strawberries.
After we left Parkesdale, we drove through the historic district of Plant City. It was cold and raw and it had started raining by the time we got back to the coach so we didn’t have a chance to try the sunscreens. That will have to wait until we have some better weather.
Once we were back at the hacienda, we justified having the shortcakes for lunch – after all, the shortcake might get soggy if they sat around for too long and the whipped cream had already started to melt. It was oh so good and oh so filling – the bowls felt like they weighed two pounds and that two pounds just sank in our tummies! After such a big breakfast and the shortcake, supper consisted of a salad and even that was overkill!
So by the end of the day, it was mission accomplished in the Tampa area. On Thursday morning, we headed to our next stop where we will be for a week.