After a month in Sarasota, it felt good to be on the road again, heading northwest into the Florida panhandle. Ironically, the further more we drove north, the deeper we were in the Old South. We passed an enormous Confederate flag flapping in the breeze and began to see signs advertising "cracker" this and that. For us "cracker" is a pejorative term, but here it was obviously a matter of pride. The heavy traffic and retail shopping opportunities dwindled and we began to share the road with trucks carrying lumber. After a day spent mostly driving, we are camped in a gorgeous spot ten feet from the ocean at a quiet campground - half the price of Sun-N-Fun and with no organized activities, of course.
As we drove we thought about the last month and our goal to make a comparison between Fun-N-Sun and the similar campgrounds we have enjoyed in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas. To be honest, as much as we enjoyed the last month, it was hard to get over the price. Camping in Florida in the winter is pricey compared to other warm spots, but this campground was three times the cost of our Texas favorite, which was far from the cheapest one in the valley.
We liked Sarasota a lot. In terms of shopping and services, it felt a lot like home. It seems to be a major stop for older stars touring the country and we could have seen many famous folks perform. The professional theater in the area is professional indeed. It was easy to find things to do. While we enjoyed some of the campground activities, we did not really need them here. The Rio Grande has a culture of its own, so close to the Mexican border. Less familiar and far less expensive.
It was great to be close to the beach, but not so close that the January winds over the cold water brought a marine layer of fog over us. In Texas we had to drive an hour to get to an equally nice beach.
The campgrounds in Texas are strictly for the over 55's. Fun-N-Sun makes an effort to attract younger folks year round, and we saw more unlined faces than we're used to, but it was clear that the older set predominated nevertheless. We were camped on the main drag and it was a rare day that an ambulance and/or fire truck didn't go by. The day we got there, the office was in a tizzy because someone had just died. You hang around with old people, there are going to be ambulances going by.
Buying a cheap mobile home at Fun-N-Sun might be on our horizon someday, but the size limitations that allow them to evade paying property taxes, lessen their appeal. We could pursue the same mobile home purchase in Texas and buy a double wide with much more living space, but the real estate tax question still needs to be answered.
In Texas the campgrounds offer cheap entertainment starring folks from Branson; in Florida the campground shows cost a bit more, and the entertainers had lots of experience on cruise ships. At the Texas/Branson shows we had to bite our tongues during the the rah, rah America-first patriotism and goody two shoes family performers. The FL shows were more our taste.
We met people at Fun-N-Sun who told us it was the best campground in the country. When we asked them where else they had been, we got blank looks. We're sure we'll be in Florida again some winter- at Fun-N-Sun, not so much.