Tampa South RV Resort is located in Ruskin Florida. The park sits right on Little Manatee River which leads out to the Gulf. I personally love water and seeing their website pictures that is what sold me on this park. The office was very accommodating, and we were then escorted to our lot and to my joy, a gentleman took my job of directing Tommy into the space.
Amenities include a heated pool, laundry, and washrooms. For playtime they do have a pool table, horseshoes and shuffle board. When staying at Tampa South there are many close by beaches including Anna Maria Island. Another plus is it’s close proximity to Busch Gardens and all that the Tampa area has to offer.
Tampa South is a Good Sam park but they do offer a lower nightly rate for us Florida residents, and also offering a discounted summer special on a long term stay for Florida residents. Just an FYI, I was told that in the summer there are kids and their joyful sound is liked by most so if you are still raising youngin’s they are welcome.
Boat storage is available dry or docked in the water. No on site boat ramp but there are a few very close by. As I said before Little Manatee River does lead to the Gulf and the fishing is awesome. A fish cleaning station is also provided on the dock. Wait did I say dock, personally this is my favorite part there’s a beautiful dock with a little walkway on the river, and there is ample sitting places to watch the sunrise or have a little cocktail as the sunsets. The latter is more my speed I hate those mornings as much as Garfield.
One last note Tampa South is not pet friendly so please keep this in mind.
Tracie and I have been neglecting to get started on our video posts, mostly out of fear and embaressment. We just finished setting up camp at Fort Pierce / Port St. Lucie KOA and while sitting there cooking some lunch, I grabbed my phone, started the video camera, and thought to myself “well here we go”.
Check out our video, and hopefully we wont be so nervous on the next one LOL
The next stop of our camping adventures was to Belle Parc RV Resort in Brooksville Florida. So the other day I had the thought no one is going to trust our reviews, we never write anything bad. Well, upon arriving at Belle Parc I thought 2 things. First I blew it picking out a campground and here it is our first not so nice review. O.k. as silly as it may sound even though I am the one directing not the one driving, tight spots make me super nervous. So you probably know where this is going by now. the park is set up on a hillside with roads more on the narrow side than some parks we have visited. Hence our first impression was on the nervous side, I am going to tell you right off the start this was the first campground ,we sat at, on that day of departure and brainstormed on how oh how can we stay?
Upon arrival Tom went into the office, where he was walked to the site personally and one of the workers actually helped us park. I was very impressed by the service and friendliness. I don’t want to give the totally wrong impression, our site that day was our tightest yet but I cant tell you every site is this way, nor did we have trouble getting in the space. Once parked, the camp set up, and our sigh of relief exhaled we went for a walk to check things out. Now that once intimidating hillside was actually a beautiful sight.
Accommodations at Bell Parc include laundry, a very nice gym with beautiful views of the lake, clubhouse, pool and spa, and very nice restrooms. I believe ownership has traded hands within the last few years and they are working hard at renovating the park. In addition they are building more campsites. So everything looks new and cared for. There is a lake on the property which the clubhouse overlooks. Behind the clubhouse is a public fire pit and dock to enjoy the views. The dog park which is important to us was beautiful, large fenced in, with a nice picnic table for us humans. One more note to add is that this park is very active, between events happening there, and also outside planned day trips.
The Carefree Homosassa RV resort was a very nice find, not too far from home, and we will be going back for those quick weekend getaway trips. This time around we opted to stay at a campground that was just a little less than hour away from home, located on the Gulf coast side of central Florida which is where we like to roam and play and were very familiar with the area from many day trips. The nice part was we didn’t have to drive home at the end of the day, and we all know how being away from home, the chores around the house that you “should” be doing but are not, cant bother you.
Let me start with the reviews I saw online after getting our reservations, which I neglected to look into earlier thankfully! I saw several negative posts about how cramped, small, impossible to maneuver, “my awning couldn’t open because it would hit my neighbors slides”… and other bad reviews so I got a bit concerned to be honest. But having experienced and stayed at other Carefree Resorts locations and being impressed, I couldn’t help but wonder, and also knowing the only time people jump online to review something is when they are mad about something, and I had to keep this in mind. Well surprise, we had a very nice site, plenty of room to get in and out, our awning and slides on a 32′ travel trailer were miles away from the next site, and as well, when we walked around the campground, I couldn’t see the problem areas except for maybe a couple of sites located on road bends which would be hard to maneuver and back in an oversized trailer or RV that isn’t intended for that sized site. Many aspects of the campground looked new, and Carefree did just take this park over not too long ago, so it makes me wonder if the site layouts have changed for the better and the old reviews no longer have merit…I honestly don’t know but I couldn’t see what they were complaining about.
This campground is located just off the Homosassa River and about 10 minutes south of Crystal River. There are lots of activities to see and do in the area, including fishing, snorkeling, kayaking, walking along the river front, bike riding and the list goes on. You are situated about a mile or so from a major boat ramp, bait store, restaurants and hotels in whats known as Old Homosassa, we love the area. About a mile in the other direction is a wildlife park called Homosassa Springs WIldlife State Park, which is a great park and a zoo with walking trails. A little farthe north maybe about 10 minutes is Crystal River and the Kings Bay water front area again which has state parks, great waterfront restaurants and just a great atmosphere, another one of our favorite local areas to go hang out for a day.
The Campground was very clean, bathrooms were beautiful in the location by our site, again looks as if they were recently redone. The roads are all paved, the sites all had picnic tables, I read somewhere that fire rings are available, but I didn’t see any or ask for one so I cant say for sure. The free cable with the site gave us around 25 channels which were perfectly clear, our site had all 3 plug sizes, 20/30/50 Amp in the box, and the water seemed fresh, no odors or discoloration and we drank it and cooked with it and no problems. The grounds were very pretty with lots of big mature tress, several waterways and ponds, a nice fountain in the pond at the entrance, so your first initial view upon arrival is very nice. The office staff we dealt with upon arrival were nice and gave us clear directions to our site and best way to approach for ease of backing in.
I will say in a little side story here is that they do run a tight ship and the office manager is right in top of things. Unfortunately and quite embarrassing for us, we got spoken to by the office manager for something our guests kids had done without us being aware of, messing around in the empty site next to us. It was professionally brought to our attention, the matter fixed and dealt with and everything was fine, but I am sharing this to show that this is a campground where you can feel good and know that things are being watched over, no crazy noisy partying, everyone was nice, grounds well maintained, maintenance and clean up crews always driving around doing little clean up jobs of sites and grounds, when someone would leave we would see them checking and raking and prepping site for next guests.
Since this is getting a little long and I could type away forever, Im going to conclude here that we had a nice stay at Carefree Homosassa RV Resort. The reviews I saw online and were looking to confirm about tight spaces, I just honestly couldn’t see, sure they were not all monster sites, some were larger than others, but not one did I think to myself wow thats too close. If you have a large trailer that you are not confident in navigating into some smaller areas, discuss that with the office, there are sites meant for different sized trailers. Not every one needs a pull thru, and not everyone needs a small site for a popup camper, this place has something for everyone’s needs. We will be going back as this is the area we like to hang out at and not having to drive home at the end of a day in the sun is…well….priceless. This one gets a thumbs up for approval…Happy Camping!
Last weekend we found ourselves heading a couple hours to the complete opposite side of the state of Florida from the previous weekend. This time we headed east and went to the Flagler Beach area and stayed at the Bulow RV Resort which is one of Encore’s campgrounds. We had a very first initial contact when calling in our reservation, the woman on the phone was very helpful in making sure our desires were met to be in a certain area under some big Oak tress on the opposite end of the place from the main entrance. This was decided when Tracie and I took a ride through the campground about a month earlier while we were in the area visiting some family and saw one of those little brown state signs with an arrow saying campground down this road. We saw the sign last second, turned around and said to each other lets check it out, and we were glad we did. Great location and about a mile inland from the coast so we were protected from the cold winter winds at the ocean front. We originally took a short side trip to look at a couple places on the beach for camping, but were immediately reminded of the strong winds and cool constant breezes that frequently happen in the winter months so we thought wed wait til spring for those locations and found Bulow RV Resort buried in the old Oak trees just a mile away…perfect spot for a winter getaway.
Now back to our initial call, we saw where we wanted to be on our first drive thru with our car when scouting out the area, away from everything and under some big old Oak trees. When we called to reserve our spot, we mentioned where we wanted to be, the woman asked if we were sure, as she was alerting us to the fact of no sewer hookups and made sure we were OK with all that, which I respect greatly her honesty, and proceeded to do a little finagling and got us in the perfect spot! I made sure they has a waste tank dump area which they did, so we were fine for several days of no sewer hookups, and dumped and flushed the tank on the way out, no biggie. And now time to pay, she told us the price which I felt was very reasonable, but then she proceeded to ask if we were Passport America members(we are not) , my answer was no but why? and she said we could have saved 50% off the rate. I felt that was very customer orientated and impressive. Two thumbs up to the office staff.
The grounds were what I feel a campground is to be like, from my old days of camping as a kid. Some paved roads, some dirt roads, we parked on grass, some pads and pull through spots were available, but majority were grass sites under trees, with water, electric and free cable hookups, oh yeah and free WiFi and we were right under the antenna so our service for WiFi was great. There was a large heated pool with very warm water in it, but the sad part it was so cold the weekend we went, not a person was in it, not even us. In the center of the campground area was a large metal building, guess what it was…yup a BAR! The bar is open Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights from 7 pm to 2 am, which leads us to the only problem we had. Noise late at night as the bar crowd was walking around. Campgrounds are generally very quiet after midnight, but here there were people walking and talking heading back to the bar or to their sites which kept making our dogs bark, so it was tough to get some sleep. Now dont get me wrong, these were NOT drunken and rowdy type people, just walkers and talkers and when its sooo quiet, it seems you could hear a mouse fart, talking seems extra loud on a cold dark night, and the dogs were uneasy as well. Next to the Bar and building, there was a play area with a playground, miniature golf, and an open area for a small game of football, baseball, volleyball, horseshoes or whatever you’d like, its just a groomed and taken care of open space in the middle of everything. At the far corner from theentrance and ofice, we found a fully fenced in dog park running area, it was pretty big to, if I was to guess I would estimate it to be about 60′ x 100′, with poopy bags and a garbage can, and a sitting bench. There was also running water in the dog area if you feel your doggie needs a drink.
As far as location to other areas and things to do, very close and I mean very, to several parks with hiking and biking trails, right next door was the Bulow Plantation state park with some walking trails, a nice long dirt road for biking, a burned out sugar mill and just a nice place to visit on the Bulow Creek, which leads to the Halifax and inter-coastal waterway. Next time we go, yes we will be back, we will bring our kayaks as we found many inland waterways I would love to discover among some marshes and wooded areas, and there’s a nice secluded little boat ramp right next door at he Bulow Plantation State Park.
To sum it up, Id say this campground was very adequate and well maintained. Not one of your high end plush and new fancy dancy places but I honestly liked the old country feel and back to basics this location had. It was very nice, very clean, people and long term residents were friendly, the ones we met at least, so I would have no problems recommending someone to check it out.
For New Years Eve weekend we took our camper to a friends property which is about 2 hours north of us in Old Town, FL where they have some acreage and a nice cabin. There is plenty of room for us and our camper there at the property and a last-minute change in everyone’s plans had us going up there a day early and spending a quiet New Years Eve, we sort of kind of invited ourselves a day early as we weren’t supposed to arrive until the next day on new years day. A few cocktails, some campfire stories, some somores and then the old age quality kicked in, and maybe the alcohol, but we went to bed around 10:30, never even made it to midnight.
On Friday our friends invited us along for a ride to a small old town called Horseshoe Beach to check out the sights and stop for some lunch, so Tracie and I went for a ride along. What a nice little find for a quiet little get away, and best of all there was a small county park at the end of one of the roads in the very small town which ended in a big circular lot right at the water’s edge of the Gulf, with 8 campsites that had 30A/50A power and water hookups, situated right off the circular drive. In the middle of the loop was a small restroom/bathhouse facility which functioned just fine but had no hot water, just the bare essentials, but it was fairly clean. After seeing and checking this little park out and liking the surrounding small town feel, we decided we wanted to spend a night there. On Friday when we were there, only 4 of the eight sites were occupied, and its a first come first served basis, so it is a little risky. On a side note here we did find the local marina and they had about 4 or 5 campsites there also which even had sewer hookups, so that was going to be our backup plan if the county park on the Gulf was full. The ride in down a long lonely road was something along the lines of 20 miles from the nearest big town, Cross City, so you just have to accept the fact there may be no campsites available when you head out there, I’m sure it gets busy during good fishing and scalloping seasons.
We arrived on Sunday around 12 in the afternoon, and the park was deserted, we had the whole place to ourselves. I will admit it was kind of creepy spooky being all alone out there, but that feeling didn’t last long, we got used to it. A couple of hours later an elderly couple pulled up next to our camper in a pickup truck, lightly tooted their horn, and it was the county employee coming to collect the nights fee of $20. If you’re a Dixie County resident the fee is only $10, but for everyone else it is $20 for the night includes 30 or 50 amp service and a water hookup.
The views were spectacular, very tranquil and serene and no better place to enjoy a morning cup of coffee. The only other people we saw over the 2 days we stayed were the local fisherman who used the boat ramp of the county park to put in their fishing boats, it looked like they were doing some crab fishing, but I am not positive.
Overall the facilities were very adequate, there were some covered patio areas with picnic tables between several of the sites, the grounds were clean, the restrooms were fairly clean as much as one could expect from a place as this, and the small fishing town feel that was surrounding was kind of neat, places like these are disappearing fast.
The top 2 aerial photos were used with permission from Compass Realty North who can be found at www.compassrealtyNFL.com or (352) 498-2400 and they said they also have properties and sites available for rental for campers and RV’s to use. As we were walking around the area we did notice many empty lots that had what looked to be full RV hookups and sewer hookups, and I would think these are some of the lots they have available for rent.
It was a perfect end to a great New Years Weekend! Thanks Jamie and Sara!
Now remember we are very new to camping with a travel trailer so all the new experiences we encounter, we are sharing with you. On a recent trip when we were supposed to meet up with some other family members who also have a camper, they had a blow out on their 5th wheel camper and were stranded on the side of the road. After several phone calls and a couple of hours lost they were back on the road with a new tire and a lesson they were about to share with us. Trailer tires may look great, but the damage happens from the inside out many times.
Turns out, all tires have a date code stamped into the side of the tire and this is a 4 digit numeric code indicating the week and year a tire was produced, not installed on a vehicle, but produced. Their tread was in great shape so they were under the assumption that their tires were good and they were unaware of the date stamp and short life term of a trailer tire. Their tires it turns out were 4-5 years old, about a year or two beyond the expected service life of a travel trailers tire even if the tread is good.
Learning this info, I started crawling around our tires on our trailer as we had just bought it used a couple months ago and the model year was a 2011. Turns out we had a mix and mismatch of tires, varied date codes from 1 to 3 years old, and we even had 3 load range “E” very heavy duty tires on three of the axles, and one light weigh load range “C” tire on one hub. Not the greatest of scenarios and I sure wasn’t happy remembering the service department stating they had checked out everything on the trailer as a pre-delivery inspection. Now of course on our ride home I was very anxious about the tires, just having experienced someone else in our group having a blow out and doing very minimal damage to their fender-well area. They were told of stories of flooring being ripped out, kitchen cabinets being destroyed and plumbing and gas lines being damaged from tires and tread pieces ripping through the floor, as they come apart and continue down the road til one has a chance to get over to the shoulder safely.
I did a lot of reading up on this tire date subject and life expectancy of a trailers tire and it seems to be on the cautious side of two years to the accepted side of 3 years, and the push your limit side of 4 years. Taking the average of several tire sites and manufacturer suggestions, it seems that 3 years was the general accepted life expectancy of a tire. Also as a little side note, one article said that even with fresh tires, and you have a blow out on one side, its a good practice to replace both tires on that one side, as the tire which didn’t fail was subjected to weights above the rating it was designed to handle and could have been damaged as well. I had ours all replaced with brand new load range “E” tires which are more than enough for our camper, actually a bit of an overkill, but dragging it all over the state of Florida it has been handling the road wonderfully with no sway, and I dont hold my breath every time I hit a pothole waiting for that one light weight and out of date tire to explode and destroy the underside of our trailer. There is a price I am willing to pay for peace of mind, and 4 new tires are the price., and I expect to replace them in 3 years even if the tread looks good. Check your date codes and save a huge repair bill, the cost of 4 new tires was only a bit less than $500 all said and done. Way cheaper than a road service call if you dont have a roadside assistance plan, and even cheaper than repairing your camper’s potential damage from a tire failure.
In our posts in the tips and tricks section we are creating, we are going to post some of the items we were a little confused about and needed some help with. If we needed some help and explaining on these items, we are sure others out there could use some advice to, and our first confusing situation came up with the black water and gray water tanks, their differences and how to hook up the drain pipes at a campground or dump station. So here’s what was explained to us and I hope it helps you!
Black Water Tank
The only water that gets stored into your black water tank is the water from your trailers toilet. The sinks, showers, and any other rinse down system where the water is caught does not go into this tank. Gray Water Tank
This tank holds the water that goes down the drains in your kitchen sink, bathroom sink(s) and the shower drains. None of the water from the toilet gets stored in this tank at all.
OK so now we have differentiated between the two tanks and understand their purposes, that will help in understanding the draining procedure outlined later in the article. Inside the rv/trailer, you will have a control or switch panel, and on that panel will be a group of small push buttons and a series of small lights to act as a gauge. When you need to know and watch how much each tank is holding, all you do is push down the button that is labeled for the tank you desire to read and look at the indicator lights. Now one thing that comes to mind as this is being written, I have not learned yet thankfully what happens if the tanks get overfull, or is there some safety feature to stop the flow back into your trailer or RV. Maybe someone could comment on that situation, remember, we are always still learning.
Now its time to hook up and drain your tanks. Don’t worry it’s not all gross and nasty and disgusting, and if done right you will hardly even smell anything bad. I did say hardly, not you won’t. Now it’s time to get out your flexible hose sections, all the fittings and elbows, and lay them out on the ground by the campers tank drain port. Also one additional item we purchased as a suggested buy from a fellow camper, was a short piece of clear plastic see thru drain pipe so you can watch the filth or cleanliness of the draining water, it helps. I like to put the clear piece up at the RV/trailer side where I can see it as opposed to the end at the drain hole in the ground, which may be 15-20 feet away and hard to watch.
So here’s the basic steps to hooking up properly and staying clean
1 – Make sure both the gray water and black water tank drain handles are pushed inward to the closed position before removing the cap.
2 – Remove the cap from the drain port and install the clear plastic see-thru drain pipe extension if you have purchased as was suggested to us. If you don’t have one, this is the time to install your first length of flexible pipe by lining up the round nubs on the port and the retaining tabs on the pipe. Now twist until you feel them bottom out and seat securely. Check to see if you have enough hose length to reach to the sewer hole fitting at your site, if not its time to add-on another section of pipe, just line the nubs and retaining fingers up, and again twist real hard and tight until the nubs hit the end of the retainer slot.
3 – Now remove the screw on plastic cap from the sewer drain fitting in the ground at the site. At this point we will take the fitting with a 90 degree elbow and with all the different thread sizes on it, and gently screw it down into the ground pipe. DO NOT over tighten this it is not necessary, just make it snug and either unscrew or tighten, which ever is easiest to get the elbow to point in the direction of the flexible hose. Now as with the hose when attaching it to the trailer, line up the nubs of the elbowed fitting and the retainer fingers on the hose, and once again until you feel and see the nubs have seated all the way to the end of the retainer slots.
4 – The final step is to install the pipe support apparatus that accordions out to match whatever length you need. The higher end starts near the trailer and the lower end should be at the ground sewer pipe fitting. Now gently lift the hose and slide the slanted supports under the hose to give it a downhill slope to allow all the water and material to flow away from the trailer and into the ground pipe fitting.
That’s it, you are now hooked up and ready to drain your tanks. The first tank you will always want to drain is the black water tank. This is done because there will be some substance to the material coming from that tank and running through the hose. After the black tank is drained you will follow-up and drain the gray water tank and that acts as a flush for the hose and washes most of the material down into the sewer pipe. To drain the tanks all you have to do is pull, not twist the handle, but pull the T-handle that is for your black water tank. Start out slow and watch for any leaks in the hose and fittings. Once you are confident there are no leaks open the valve to allow any solids to flow out past the valve and into the hose. Watch the progress in the clear pipe extension and close the black water tank when the flow stops. Now open the gray water valve in the same manner. Since we have already determined there are no leaks, open the valve all the way and let that water flush and rinse the solids from the hose into the sewer. When both tanks are drained, close the valves and you are done. Not so bad, my biggest fear each time is that there will be a leak and make an embarrassing and stink mess, but so far so good!
The purpose of leaving the valves closed unless draining the tanks, even when parked at a campsite, is you want to always keep some water in the black water tank to keep things from drying out and crusting up in the bottom of the tank and on the level sensor( that’s another experience and story for another time), and you want to gather as much gray water as possible to act as the flushing water for the hose after draining the black water, really pretty simple and basic once someone explains it all…I hope we have helped ease some anxieties of draining those tanks.
Feel free to leave any other helpful thoughts or ideas in relation to thet waste tanks, the more input, the better informed we will all be
P.S. and don’t forget to throw a black water/waste tank deodorizer with beneficial bacteria down the toilet after you drain the tanks and with your first flush. After draining, I like to go in the trailer and throw a deodorizer packet in the toilet, flush the toilet and then keep the water running for a little bit to get a few gallons into the bottom of the tank.
Tom & Tracie
This following video shows a perfect example of all the written procedures above. Watch the video and it will all come together and make sense.
Last night I was poking around the internet, and while looking at some travel and camping sites, I came across a term called boondocking. As I usually do when I want to look a term up, I grabbed my phone and went onto Google and did a search and found lots of info. Well a couple hours later I finally put down the phone due to the battery being almost dead, but learned so much about the term boondocking and so many services available related to the activity. In short its free camping for a short stay, no hookups, and only allowed in specified areas, and thats a very very brief description. I learned there are sites and apps dedicated to finding boondocking locations, pay websites and services where you allow people to stay on your property, and in return you are granted access to a list of thousands of locations that are offered by fellow members.
Having several acres of unused property at our home, it peaked my interest as what an awesome way to meet fellow RV & Trailer campers. I will continue to look into this great idea that is new to us, but wanted to just share our new findings and experiences, which is what this blog is all about. Boondocking–check it out!!
I am including this link to rv-camping.org and their page which explains in greater detail what boondocking is all about, enjoy!
Our first camping adventure was to Dunedin FL and we stayed at Dunedin Carefree RV Resorts . As a first trip I think we may have been immediately spoiled for many campgrounds to come as this place was incredible. The first impression I got when pulling into the driveway was how well the signage was for a newbie like me to follow and find the registration office and where to park so I wasn’t in the way, all the lanes were very well marked on the very new road pavement. Next the staff were extremely pleasant while signing us in, provided us with a site map, and even drew a line on the site map showing the best and easiest route to get to our pull through site