Our Viva!

Gamble Rogers Memorial State Recreation Area • Flagler Beach, FL • DEC 25, 2014

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We woke up to a quiet, warm Christmas morning in Fort Pierce. We had promised not to buy presents this year (other than for Tybee and Zoe), because the Viva was our gift to each other. However, Santa Claus did bring Linda “The Art of McCartney” double CD, a collection of Paul McCartney songs performed by other recording stars. Rick loved Alice Cooper’s version of “Eleanor Rigby,” and it was only fitting that Santa Claus brought him a ticket to Alice’s concert in Orlando in February.

We watched the Harley campers across from us break down camp and pack their gear. Their large tents folded to a compact size that fit the trailers they towed behind their bikes--really cool! They soon hit the highway and then we did the same, after one last visit to the KOA’s Dog Park.

Traffic was very light, and it was an enjoyable, leisurely drive back up to Gamble Rogers SRA. We had Site 23, with a nice view of the ocean. The weather was perfect--but Christmas is the one day of the year that we miss freezing temperatures, snow on the ground, and a roaring fire. Well, let’s take a little of that back. After nearly seven years in Florida we can probably do without the freezing temperatures and snow, but we still had to have the roaring fire. We took Tybee and Zoe on a long walk, then bought two bundles of firewood and started our campfire just before dark. It burned for several hours and was simply wonderful--a clear sky with countless stars, the sound of the crashing surf in the background, and the warm flickering of the campfire. Truly, Heaven on Earth.

Another beautiful sunrise greeted us the next morning. After walking the dogs yet again (the most exercised dogs around) and another stroll on the beach, we said goodbye to our favorite campground and headed home. We had so much fun that we vowed to make Christmas in the RV an annual tradition.

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Fort Pierce / Port St. Lucie KOA • Fort Pierce, FL • DEC 23 - 24, 2014

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We were in no hurry to leave Gamble Rogers SRA, so we gave Tybee and Zoe a long walk, then took turns going to the beach while the other stayed in the Viva with the dogs. It was late morning when we finally headed south. We followed A1A and stayed along the coastline as much as possible between Flagler Beach and Fort Pierce. We saw a thousand, maybe two thousand places we would like to live. The trip was somewhere under five hours--we were on holiday time so we weren’t watching the clock closely.

After missing the entrance to the KOA the first time, we circled back and pulled in to register for our three night stay. We were assigned a site near the front of the campground. We had chosen Fort Pierce because we heard the downtown Christmas lights were beautiful, and the KOA offered a shuttle for campers to get to and from the downtown area (too far to walk).

Well…our first disappointment was when we found out the shuttle was not operating. The second disappointment was when we drove into the campground and saw that it was basically a large gravel area with few trees and little privacy. There were just two amenities--a well-used cornhole game and a Dog Park. The latter was actually one of the best we have found in our travels. The KOA, though, wasn’t what were expecting or wanting for our Christmas vacation, especially with no shuttle to downtown.

While Rick connected the Viva to services, Linda did a search to see if any sites had opened up at Gamble Rogers SRA. Almost all of the sites are booked eleven months in advance, but people do cancel. By chance, there had been a cancellation for Christmas night, on a site overlooking the beach. Linda asked if I would mind cutting our stay in Fort Pierce to two nights and driving back up to Flagler Beach for the third night. The look on her face made her preference very clear. After securing the online reservation at Gamble Rogers SRA, she went to the KOA office to let them know we would be staying two nights instead of three. The KOA host felt bad that the shuttle was not in operation and actually gave us a refund for the third night. Nice gesture! Using Rick’s Macbook Pro, we streamed Christmas music via Bluetooth to the Viva’s six speakers--four inside and two outside. We later went to sleep (or tried to) in the bright yellow glow of the security light near the KOA office. Sweet dreams!

Early the next morning we took the dogs to the Dog Park. It was a large fenced area with several tunnels and a teeter-totter. Zoe loves to be off leash and able to race around. As the interior of the Viva is confined, it helps to have a place where she can burn off a lot of energy.

Because there was no shuttle, in late morning we unhooked the Viva and headed downtown to check out the sights. Linda had heard that Fort Pierce had a beautiful Christmas tree downtown, so we wanted to check it out before returning at night to see it all lit up. When we saw it we had a good laugh, because the tree looked identical to the Christmas tree we have in downtown Mount Dora! There were a few palm trees wrapped in strands of lights, and that was it. For comparison, including the fantastic display at the Mount Dora Boating Center, there are literally millions of Christmas lights in Mount Dora. But lights aside, we greatly enjoyed the downtown Fort Pierce area, and would definitely return.

We walked along the waterfront and saw a fisherman in an area clearly marked “no fishing” catch a large fish. We were very happy to see the fish wriggle out of his hands and fall back in to the water once it was unhooked.

We stopped for lunch at Cobb’s and met an interesting server named Heather who is also a slam poet. Hope to check out her work someday. We were able to get vegan food that was great, and we dined outside with a nice view of expensive boats lining the harbor. We also enjoyed watching several manatees frolicking about.

We returned to the KOA and hooked up. Six Harley riders--3 middle-aged couples--had arrived and were tent camping directly across from us. They had an amazing setup, with tents and tables and chairs and grills and whatever. Somehow they hauled all of that in small trailers behind their bikes.

The weather was absolutely gorgeous all day. Even at 4:26 p.m. on December 24 it was 84 degrees! We streamed Christmas music again, then after dark we followed an annual tradition and watched “Christmas Vacation.” Except for Zoe, who watched “The 12 Dogs of Christmas” on her iPad. Then it was time to await Santa Claus. No way would he be able to find us in Fort Pierce!

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Gamble Rogers Memorial State Recreation Area • Flagler Beach, FL • DEC 21 - 22, 2014

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An eventful day! It started with Rick running the Mount Dora 5K race. Despite only sporadic training, some nagging injuries, and of course his advancing years, he won his age group (by over 4 minutes!) with a time of 24:35. Overall, out of a field of 404 runners, Rick finished 27th. Not bad for an old guy! Next year he’ll do the half marathon again.

Linda was getting everything ready for the trip while Rick was downtown running. After the race and a quick shower, Rick did his share of packing and then the Viva was loaded and ready to go to Gamble Rogers SRA.

Our campsite for both nights was Site 17. Odd-numbered sites are closest to the ocean. The view varies by the amount of vegetation growing in the dunes, but almost every site has a great view. Even-numbered sites are on the other side of the drive, a difference of maybe 30 feet, and the views are still good. We will take any site we can get here, but we do prefer the odd-numbered, beachside sites.

There were large puddles of water everywhere when we pulled in. It was mild, but too windy for a campfire. Winter officially arrived at 6:03 p.m., and we had to pinch ourselves to believe that we were camping on the beach in our Viva on the first day of winter!

Monsoon rains set in overnight, and there were more puddles and bigger puddles than the day before. Sunrise was beautiful, as always. We followed our normal routine here by walking the dogs, taking walks on the beach, and sitting in the Viva and being mesmerized by the view for hours. We went to High Tides at Snack Jack for a late lunch/early dinner of great vegan burgers.

In the morning we’re heading south to Fort Pierce!

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