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  • Writer's pictureRuth Mcbride

Someone is up to their old tricks!

And just like that…we are on our way home to Fort Erie, Ontario, Canada!

Newman waiting patiently for us at the end of our driveway in Florida!

We have had a fabulous winter in Florida. Our first full winter in Florida since I retired in January 2021!

It’s hard to leave behind these beautiful flowers in our front window!

And these gorgeous sunsets from our backyard on Wedgewood Drive in Plant City. Ah…palm trees! Almost a distant memory now as we head north!

So what did we do all winter in Florida?

Let me see…where do I begin?

A new palm tree planted in our front yard. Our new Pygmy date palm also known as a ‘Phoenix Roebelenii’.

We also renovated our laundry room and had to purchase a new washer and dryer too since our dryer vent was blocked with lint and burned out the dryer unfortunately.

I found some chairs for our backyard on Facebook marketplace which we had to drive 1.5 hours to purchase, but we felt we had a ‘start the car moment’ with the price of these beautiful chairs!

New comfortable chaise lounges for the lanai.

We didn’t spend all of our time working on our house though. In January we went to the Tampa RV show with St. Stephen and his lovely wife Karen!

We were ‘just looking’ and didn’t end up buying anything at the show….but we were definitely tempted!

We celebrated our neighbour Gerri’s 75th birthday in January with her requested meal of meatloaf!

It was nice to be able to socialize freely with our neighbours who are also fully vaccinated!

We perfected the art of homemade ‘thin crust, well done pizza’ on the Green Egg over the winter! The ‘Half Baked Harvest’ cookbooks that Richard bought me for Christmas were very handy for great new recipes to try.

Think crust well done pizza…so yummy!

One of the highlights of our winter was having friends from Canada come and visit us!

Doug and Heather Kurtin flew down in February for a visit and it was so nice to be able to pick them up at Tampa airport with a world famous strawberry milkshake from Parksdale in Plant City.

One of the reasons Heather agreed to come down to Florida was so she could play with me in Lone Palm Golf Club’s Lady Member Guest Day! And then when Lone Palm needed more ladies to play in the event, I was able to commander a few more Canadian friends to come and stay with us and play in the Member Guest!

The theme was ‘Gasparilla’ or pirates!

Nancy Davis, Janet Baccardax, me and Heather Kurtin. I think we ’rocked’ the theme quite well with our matching black golf dresses and pirates hats! I’m not sure the members at Lone Palm knew what hit them, but when the Canadians show up, we are always ready to ‘rock’ a great theme!

Janet ‘Lady B’ Baccardax and me ended up winning 3rd Low Gross for the day which got us $35 in the pro shop in Lone Palm ‘bucks’!

We even stayed in theme during lunch, and we were the only team that dressed up!

It sure was nice to visit with everyone who we have not seen in forever! The only wish we had, would have been a bit warmer weather to go in the pool and eat outside during everyone’s 2 night visit!

Since Doug and Heather Kurtin were not down for the Masters this year, the boys decided to get into the spirit of the Masters in March. I think they look quite dapper, but we didn’t let them leave the house with their green jackets on!

The new shelf under the TV (which is also new), sound bar and sub woofer was installed by Doug Kurtin when he was down. Dougie always likes to do projects so I also had him install the rain chain at the front of the house that we had bought last year in Astoria, Oregon. So many projects, so little time with Dougie!

While Doug and Heather were visiting we also went on a road trip to a Clubcorp golf course in Oldsmar, Florida.

East Lake Woodlands was a long drive after our round, but we made up for it by getting our new favorite fast food to eat at home from ’Culver’s‘. Culver’s has the best walleye fish sandwich’s, and not to mention great ice cream; which Doug and Heather preferred to eat before their dinners!

We really enjoyed playing at our golf club - Lone Palm Golf Club - this winter. We even decided to go for dinner inside a few times at the club.

One Saturday evening at Lone Palm at sunset. The sunsets are spectacular over the pond that is on the left side of the 1st hole.

We also tried out a public golf course in Lakeland, Florida that we had heard a lot about.

Cleveland Heights Golf Club in Lakeland. We saw a lot of Ontario license plates in the parking lot of this golf course. Cleveland Heights was the golf course that Mr. George Jenkins (founder of Publix grocery store chain and the man who had Lone Palm Golf Course built) was told he could no longer play with his buddies as a ‘5 some’, so he had Lone Palm Golf Club built in 1965 by Dick Wilson. Dick Wilson also designed Arnold Palmer’s famous ‘Bay Hill’ Golf Club and Doral’s ‘The Blue Monster’.

I joined the Ladies League at Lone Palm in January and enjoyed playing with the Ladies every Tuesday morning until yesterday morning.

1st tee at Lone Palm Golf Club. I enjoyed getting to know all of the ladies and also golfing outside of Tuesday mornings with my friend Cathy Nice. It’s the first year that I’ve actually gotten to know people at the club since we were never down long enough before to actually meet anyone. With no tee times, its hard to meet people since we were never paired up with anyone else..

We played the couples golf at Lone Palm in February and March.

We paired up with Doris and Tom Lyons and we came 2nd the first month and tied for 1st the second month. We were a ‘force to be reckoned with‘ as Richard likes to say in a 9 hole scramble!

Doug Kurtin bought me some very special Prov1 golf balls while he was visiting and I decided to play one of the special balls on St. Patrick’s Day.

1st time playing this special golf ball!

And a very special result! 2 over par!! And 2 under on the front nine!! My best score ever at Lone Palm Golf Club. It must have been the golf balls and the company since we were playing with Dick and Evelyn Grant our new friends from the club, who also live in Walden Lake in Plant City, and who spend their summers in Maine.

But the winter wasn’t just about golf! We also got to see a Spring Training baseball game in Lakeland one afternoon, before getting rained out in the 6th inning.

At ‘Publix Field at Joker Marchant Stadium’ in Lakeland, we watched the New York Yankees play at the spring training camp of the Detroit Tigers. After we left because of rain, the Tigers beat the Yankees in the 7th inning, before the game was called for rain.

While Heather Kurtin was visiting us in February she had a club fitting done at Lone Palm and ordered new golf clubs! Having new clubs ordered was a great reason to come back and test them out in March!

The new ‘PINGALINGS’ as Heather likes to call them! And boy do they go farther than the old ‘PINGALINGS’!!! Watch out ladies at GREYSTONE Golf Club in Milton…Heather’s going to be tearing up the course soon, once the course is open!

While Heather was visiting we went to the downtown Lakeland Farmer’s Market and bought some ‘Night-flowering Jasmine‘ bushes for our side yard. Richard planted them for us and do they ever smell beautiful when we are in swimming in the pool!

Heather enjoying the beautiful orchids at the market.

I also played in the Publix Invitational Golf Tournament at Lone Palm in March.

Unfortunately my two rounds at this tournament were probably the worst rounds I had all season in Florida. Oh well, sometimes the mind is willing, but the body just isn’t’ able…or vice versa!

I was able to celebrate my birthday in Florida this year, which was definitely a nice treat. A lot warmer than last year’s big birthday in cold and rainy Tofino!

Our neighbours Gerri and Ray hosted me for my birthday with Gerri making her very extra special eggplant parmigiana and her mother’s delicious carrot cake recipe…my favorite cake!

Our pineapple plants are thriving and its kind of sad to be leaving when we know in a very short time that we will have ripe pineapples!

It looks like Gerri will have to go and pick our pineapples once they are fully grown, since we’re going to be gone when they are ripe!

And speaking of being gone…We decided we had better get home to Canada after we looked at our days outside of Canada since 2020. The Canadian Snowbirds Association has a great online calculator which we used to count the number of days we’ve been out of the country over the last 3 years. It’s amazing how quickly those days add up! Since we want to be able to come back to Florida in November, we needed to leave and be home by April 15th. So backing up how long we wanted to take to drive Newman home, we thought leaving the Tuesday after the Master’s would be a good day to start driving. Of course I also wanted to play one last Tuesday round of golf with the Ladies League at Lone Palm with my friends Doris and Cathy!

So yesterday while I played golf, Richard did the final packing of Newman and after we both had quick showers and closed up the house, we were off!

Getting ready to leave yesterday!

We headed out of Plant City on the I4 towards Tampa and then exited on the I-75 northbound. We are taking the I-75 since we know it is an easier road to traverse in Newman. We’ve had enough of heavy mountain driving with Newman in the past few years!

The traffic was great heading up the I-75 and all was going smoothly on our drive. We felt like being in Newman again was like wearing a comfortable pair of shoes. Easy Peasy! And then of course Newman had to act up!

As someone was passing us, they signalled to Richard to look in his rear camera. Sure enough, the engine compartment hood had flown open at the back of Newman! We were in very busy traffic near Lake City, Florida and there was no way we were pulling over on the narrow shoulder to fix the problem. Richard drove to the next exit off the highway and we pulled over at a service station,where Richard was able to take a rock and jam the compartment shut.

We got back on the I-75 North and all was going well, until we hit a bump and sure enough the engine compartment hood popped open again. We drove along until we could get off the highway at a nearby Rest Stop and Richard took a bungee cord and wrapped it around the compartment door to keep it shut. Not the most elegant solution to the problem, but hey ’if the shoe fits?;…..

Bungee cord solution to keep the engine door down. Oh…and the rear bumper flap went up over the muffler when Richard went to get a diesel fuel fill up before leaving yesterday. Oh Newman! There is always something going on with you!

Last night we stopped at a great little campground just off the I-75 in Cecil, Georgia. $35 for the night with full hookups and we could take our pick of any spot in the row that was vacant.

As we set off this morning Richard decided it was time to wear his new ‘West Coastee’s‘ t-shirt from Vancouver Island. ‘Campers Gotta Camp’ is the name of the t-shirt. I think its really appropriate that every class of camper is shown on this t-shirt!

Don’t get that shirt dirty Richard emptying the black tank!

Goodbye Cecil Bay RV Park. A nice quiet spot, despite being so close to the Interstate.

It’s easy to know where you’re going when it’s always the I-75 Northbound!

Our first stop today was going to be ‘BUC-EE’S’! We had seen signs for ’BUC-EE’S’ yesterday when we were driving and thought that we might get there around lunch time, which is exactly what transpired.

BUC-EE’s has expanded outside of Texas and their billboards definitely are highly visible along the I-75.

Very clear instructions on the ‘BUC-EE’s’ signs!

Welcome to ‘BUC-EE’s’!

We were able to top up our diesel fuel at $4.25 a gallon which was the cheapest diesel we have seen along the highway. ’BUC-EE’S‘ does not allow trucks to fuel up so their prices are very competitive, as they know that consumers will stop for their clean bathrooms, great merchandise and wonderful food!

This place is huge and all manner of branded ‘BUC-EE’s’ merchandise is on sale in the store.

A warm welcome from ‘BUC-EE’!

The ordering system for food was self service. I think I’m the only one in the store with a mask on besides Richard and the employees.

The food station where they prepare all of the tasty sandwiches.

Since we were in Georgia I had to buy some sugared, cinnamon, roasted pecans to try. They were quite good, but a bit sweet, so I might have to bake with them instead of eating them.

The fancy ‘BUC-EE’s’ crystal wine glasses…I passed on these.

I couldn’t resist this crazy t-shirt though!

I am not sure anyone will get the ‘BUC-EE’s’ reference back in Canada, but hey, its a crazy fun t-shirt so what’s not to like?

Poor Newman. He looks a little ‘battle worn’ at this point in our trip!

The last time we stopped at ‘BUC-EE’S’ in Texas I had bought Richard a Texas beef brisket sandwich we he really enjoyed, but unfortunately, it was very hard to digest. Today I bought Richard a delicious roasted turkey sandwich for lunch. YUM, YUM! Much easier on the tummy and really good value too at $6.95!

After stopping at ’BUC-EE’s’ we checked our timing and decided we could get past Knoxville by the end of the day. I had scoped out a Good Sam campground called ‘Volunteer Park Campground’ and was able to book us a full hook up site for the night online, while we drove along. Of course just as we got outside of Knoxville, the traffic got very heavy during their ‘rush hour’. Not exactly what we wanted to happen at the end of a long day of driving!

We were glad to leave the rush hour traffic behind and were looking for our exit to I-75 North when our Garmin RV GPS let us down once again!

As we exited the highway looking for what we thought was our campground for the night, the road just ended. The GPS did not specify that we needed to take EXIT 3A off the highway and instead said to take EXIT 3! We could see the exit we needed to take from our vantage point overlooking the highway, but instead we ended up taking a scenic tour through a residential neighbourhood on roads that were not rated for Newman’s weight, as we attempted to get back on the I-75 using ‘Google Maps’ on my iphone. Grr! What’s the point of having an RV GPS if it doesn’t give us the correct directions?!!!

Finally! We arrived at Volunteer Park Family Campground at 7pm this evening instead of our planned arrival at 6:25pm.

From the entrance this RV park looks a little crowded!

Newman is definitely jammed into this spot! It sure is good we don’t have Jerry along with us or we don’t know where we would park him!

Look at how crowded this place is!

Our neighbour who looks like they live here permanently enjoying some fresh air listening to her 2 YAPPY dogs as we got set up for the night.

Thankfully the weather is still nice and warm as we are enjoying the air conditioning and peace and quiet inside Newman for the evening. Newman definitely fits into this ‘hillbilly’ heaven RV camp in Tennessee with a bungee cord holding the back engine hatch down. Yeesh…..!!!

We hope to spend 1 more night on the road and be home by Good Friday as long as Newman behaves! Everyone please keep your fingers and toes crossed that we get home safely in Newman with no more hiccups along our journey home! We don’t need anymore ‘tricks’ from Newman over the next few days!

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