To be successful as a full time RVer, you have to be flexible and have faith. Oh, and a good sense of humor goes a long way! And so far in 2016, we’ve needed all of these and more!
Like most of us, we choose to “winter” in warm climates. But we’re not big planners – so we only had a few things we hoped to do the two months we planned to be in Florida. First, we applied to be volunteer work campers last January at TopSail Hill Preserve State Park and had hoped we would start the winter there for the month of January, and then visit friends in Ocala on our way to Sebring. We didn’t get the position, so we headed straight to the Sebring area to be with family (and help my mom prepare her house to be sold after the passing of my step-dad). We had planned to spend a few days in Ocala, Florida to visit with members of our “spiritual” family, our former pastor who re-married us and his large family. We also hoped to see our dear missionary friends in Miami at some point, possibly meet them around Sebring. And then I have a friend who has a complicated life. She can only be seen on certain days, so I had hoped to visit her on one of those days while in central Florida. All we managed to do was spend the month in Sebring, plus more time with my mom; we couldn’t meet up with our friends from Miami or Ocala, but I was able to see my one other friend miraculously. Our initial planned date didn’t work out, so it looked like we would miss each other this winter. But due to the below circumstances, I was able to see her on Leap Day. That truly was a gift of a day!
As we have written many times before, we do love the beach and mountains. In the winter, the beach is a bit better than the mountains unless you are in the southwest (so we hear). We do trust our fate to our Lord and He nixed the volunteer opportunity, directed us to our legal residence where my mom lives and then had us settle in Lake Wales for three + weeks to repair our RV. We were then able to see mom a few more times before leaving Florida. (She will live closer to our daughter, so we will see her more while in Virginia.) Things always have a way of working out. But the city of Lake Wales is not near a beach nor a mountain. 😁
Now the good news is that we were camped in a parking lot with full hook ups for free. OK, so that’s not so glamorous but the price is right. We were told it would take between five and ten days for the repairs.
ADDED info: The only thing they couldn’t do was repair or replace our MCD Wheel Cover Glide Trac. Bill’s previous line of work (auto insurance adjusted) had him scouring salvage yards for parts. But this collision center couldn’t help us. We were referred to Visone RV Automart near London, Kentucky. We made it there and got the part in June. Read about it here.
We finally finished all repairs on business day 16, and are VERY happy with them! And that was Leap Day, so it was really a gift. But we couldn’t help but wonder why it takes so long for RV parts to arrive? And then we had a bit of an issue with our new dryer we had installed in October from Camping World, Myrtle Beach. That’s a long story (more about taking so long for RV parts to arrive), so lets just say we were able to get a new dryer installed from Camping World, Bartow, just 15 minutes away from our parking lot! But the date that finally occurred was on on February 26. In spite of it taking much longer than we were told for both the RV repairs and the dryer, things just couldn’t have worked out better.
For 10 years, we lived in Sebring, Florida, just 30 miles south of Lake Wales. It’s a direct route and we have actually driven through and around this area many times. Most notable were our visits to Bok Tower. We had no idea there were also three fantastic preserves/state parks in the area.
But first a bit about the historic Bok Tower. We first visited it while we were just visiting Bill’s mom one year, around 1996 or 1997. Then we took our daughter during Christmas during one of her visits. And then we rode the motorcycle there for a day trip. We love beautiful gardens so we enjoyed spending an enchanting day walking around them. From the official website:
Bok Tower Gardens boasts one of the greatest works of famed landscape architect. The meandering, historic landscape garden was designed to be a contemplative and informal woodland setting offering a series of romantic recesses and tranquil resting spots, picturesque vistas and breathtaking views of the Singing Tower. Acres of ferns, palms, oaks and pines fashion a lush backdrop for flowering foliage and the spectacular seasonal color of azaleas, camellias and magnolias (a highlight of our spring peak bloom season) showcasing an ever-changing work of art.
We actually thought that was it for Lake Wales attractions. Oh how wrong we were! While here for our 22 days, we hiked at the Tiger Creek Preserve five times, once at Lake Kissimmee State Park and once at Alan David Broussard Catfish Creek State Park. We also had some serious rain storms so we had to find a dry place to walk in between storms. We discovered a nice walking trail around Lake Wailes, so we visited it three times. The rest of our time here was going back to Sebring a few times, shopping and taking care of the issues with the dryer.
Tiger Creek Preserve – As a reminder, this Preserve “is named after the pristine blackwater stream that forms its spine, the preserve contains hardwood swamps, hammocks, scrubby flatwoods, pine flatwoods, sandhill and longleaf pine/wiregrass habitat. Nature unfolds all year long – visitors may enjoy seasonal wildflowers and blooming grasses, or anticipate the return of the swallow-tailed kite.
“The Highlands Trail is a 7.2 mile, sandy loop trail that takes visitors through a beautiful, open pine woods area called the “central highlands.” Please allow 4 hours. A shorter side trail, the Patrick Creek Loop, crosses Patrick Creek and enters a forested wetland. Allow 2 hours.”
We wrote about our first two hikes in this amazing preserve, here. We had to return three more times after these two hikes. What a gem! There are a variety of trails so we had five very different hiking days here.
We’ll share a few pictures from our attempt to hike one of many trails, the Patrick Creek Loop Trail, and then of our last and longest hike. On February 26, the day we tried to hike to Patrick Creek, there were no signs warning it was flooded. We hiked part of it, until we hit the part where the “bridge” went underwater. And then our final day hiking, February 27, we decided to go all the way and hike to and around the Highlands Loop again. (The first time was to me, our best hike in a long time!) That’s when they finally put up a sign the Patrick Creek Loop Trial was closed due to flooding but also that the Highland Loop was closed for trail maintenance. The sign was dated March 2016, but since it was February 27, so we decided it wasn’t closed yet….
Let’s now link the discovery of this preserve back to Edward Bok. It was part of his vision to create a preserve in this area, not far from his home in Lake Wales. He created a sanctuary now known as Bok Towers and Gardens. Bok was born October 9, 1863 in Den Helder, Netherlands. When he was six, his parents immigrated to Brooklyn, New York. His life story is truly a rags to riches tale. His lucky break came at age 19 when he was hired by a relatively new publisher, Henry Holt and Company. He made several career moves and finally at age 26, he became the editor of the Ladies Home Journal, where he served for 30 years. Within a few years he married his publisher’s daughter and they went on to be a power couple in philanthropy and well known to appreciate music and all things cultural.
His accomplishments were pretty amazing, in addition to being a prolific writer, he was concerned with American homes. He not only wanted to see homes to have some form of style, he wanted to see homes that every family could afford. He crossed the lines of architects by promoting the idea of “bungalows” as an affordable home. Even President Theodore Roosevelt made this comment:
[He] is the only man I ever heard of who changed, for the better, the architecture of an entire nation, and he did it so quickly and effectively that we didn’t know it was begun before it was finished.
We loved our visits there and were sorry we didn’t go back to the Bok Gardens this time. We highly recommend it if you are ever in the Lake Wales area. They were only about 10-15 minutes away from where we were “camped.”
Lake Kissimmee State Park – This was 20 miles away and well worth the drive. Florida definitely has beautiful state parks. I’m not very original, so it is easier to just copy from the official website about all this park has to offer. All we did was enjoy the hiking!
Florida’s cowboy heritage comes alive with living history demonstrations of the early Florida “cow hunters” in an 1876-era cow camp. White-tailed deer, bald eagles, sandhill cranes, turkeys, and bobcats have been seen in the park, located on the shores of lakes Kissimmee, Tiger, and Rosalie. Visitors enjoy boating, canoeing, and fishing in the picturesque lakes. Nature students can hike over 13 miles of trails to observe and study the abundant plant and animal life. Six miles of trails are open to equestrians. A large, shaded picnic area with pavilions is available. The park has full-facility campsites, as well as a primitive camping facility. The youth camping area can accommodate up to 50 people. The dark skies make stargazing a popular nighttime activity for campers. Located off State Road 60 15 miles east of Lake Wales.
We hiked over 7 miles here. It was just an amazing adventure for us. We saw a number of armadillos, a few Sandhill Cranes and heard lots of turkeys gobbling! The Forest Rangers had been doing some controlled burns to help with the foliage growth (common in Florida’s dense forests) so that may have chased other wildlife temporarily away. The best way to tell about the hike is with this slide show:
To be continued in Lake Wales, Part 2.