2008 Keys 2 Canada travel blog

Florida rain

the ruts and water on the road weren't bad here

but the picture doesn't show the wind

the rain slowed as we neared Tampa

the Camping World store

a 'stranger in Paradise'

Lazy Days service center

Oops - make that 'Service Pavilion'

Heaven's shuttle

Cloud 84 in RV Heaven

We finally make it to RV HEAVEN - Sunday, November 30

Sunday morning found Manatee Springs in the midst of a drought ending rain. It began before dawn as a ‘gully washer’ and by first light it was a certified ‘frog strangler’. We dawdled around hoping it would stop, but instead it got progressively worse. By 9:00 we were beginning to worry that the sand roads might get too mushy to hold us, so I braved the downpour to disconnect and we headed out.

It takes more than a monsoon to soften Florida sand and the campground road gave us no problems whatsoever. Unfortunately we could not say the same for the freeway. Highway 98 has a strange deformity. The slow lane where trucks travel has two distinct ruts in the pavement. Frog stranglers fill the ruts with water, making any speed over 45mph feel like you’re going to hydroplane right off into the ditch. And even if you don’t hydroplane, you’re putting out a wall of water on each side that is big enough to surf on. To add to the problem, the speed limit is 65mph and a lot of the traffic is going that fast.

If you drive in the fast lane to avoid the ruts full of water, you are constantly having to move over to let traffic past. The alternative is to stay in the slow lane and fight it, all the time wondering if you will have any brakes left should you need them.

The only good part was watching someone come flying up behind us in the fast lane, then moving over into the water to let him past and seeing him suddenly back off when he saw the wall of water he was going to have to drive through. It wasn’t much but you have to look for the humor where you find it.

If you stay on the road long enough you learn that there is no weather bad enough that it can’t get worse - and so it did on Sunday, turning from a normal frog strangler into a Category 5 Frog Strangler when the wind came up. Sensible drivers started pulling over. The rest of us kept going but at a lot slower pace. As visibility got worse we slowed still further, and when it disappeared altogether we slowed down even more. But the point is we didn’t stop! I’m telling you all this to set the stage for our arrival in Tampa and our entry into RV HEAVEN.

The rain finally slowed to a drizzle and we made the rest of the trip in relative ease. We found our exit, and sure enough - there was the Lazy Days complex right in front of us. What we weren’t prepared for was the G-R-A-N-D-U-E-R of it all! Lazy Days is to RV parks what the Biltmore is to ‘the projects’. Only more so.

At 150 acres you have to see an aerial photograph to appreciate the size of the place. It’s so big they have their own shuttle just to take you around the complex. The campground is called the Rally Park and at 300 sites it’s big enough to host the largest RV group-outs. Parking spaces and campsites are made to handle the biggest rigs on the road, so a little guy like us can almost get lost in our own campsite.

There is a Flying J gas and diesel station on the premises, as well as a Cracker Barrel restaurant and a Camping World store. There is a service facility with 273 bays, and a collision center that can fix everything else that could possibly break. The waiting rooms are plush affairs with big screen TV, free Starbucks coffee, free breakfasts and free lunches. There are free seminars going on several times a day, and the staff is so friendly and helpful you begin to wonder if you’ve stumbled onto a set of The Stepford Wives.

Or to put if more accurately - you begin to wonder if maybe you’ve died and gone to heaven?! You think back to the monsoon you just endured. Did it kill us and we just don’t know it yet? That happens in the movies all the time. A guy dies and wakes up in heaven, and it always takes him a little time to realize it. You look around at the perfection of everything. You take another look at the receptionist. Could she really be St. Peter in drag?

At this writing we still don’t know if we’re dead or alive. On the ‘dead’ side there’s the fact that they gave us two nights free and the fact that our body work estimate came out $1,500 cheaper than I’d expected. But on the ‘alive’ side there’s the fact that the ‘free breakfast’ is just oatmeal, and the gas station price for regular went up six cents a gallon before I could stop there and fill up.

The jury is still out and I guess we won’t know for sure until we see whether we get home on the 8th or not. That’s a long time to be in ‘limbo’ but the price is right and so far Tampa is looking good.

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