A beach and a rally
It took me a long time to get around to writing this blog post because I didn’t want to write this post. I don’t want to dislike something so much, particularly a beautiful state park, that it makes it hard to write something about it. But that is what happened with Anastasia State Park. I thought time and distance would temper my opinion but no, I still don’t like Anastasia and I probably won’t stay there again if I can help it.
The park itself is in a beautiful location: on the beach about three miles from the beautiful city of St. Augustine. The beach is wide, clean, and empty (in January). The town of St. Augustine has a ton of things to do and is absolutely beautiful. The state park is huge with lots of photo opportunities and quite a lot of things to do.
So what is so bad about it? The campground. The campground is everything I hate the most about campgrounds in one squishy, claustrophobic package. The campground has 124 sites, 80 RV sites and 44 tent sites. The sites are spread out on six loops that wander through the woods. The park lists five sites that will hold a 40′ RV and 16 additional sites that will hold an RV 35-39′ long. 27 sites are for RVs 29′ or less. The campground provides water and electric and an abundance of shade. Our site, #80, is rated for a 36′ RV though we could have fit two of our short buses in the space. So why the hate? I need to say here that the Campsitephotos.com photo of the site is much closer to reality than the ReserveAmerica campsite photos of the site. And even that picture must be a couple of years old as the tree and shrub cover seems to have grown exponentially (like my claustrophobia here). The site was easy to get in to – it is parallel to the top of a loop so it is an easy back in, which is what we did. At first, we didn’t back in too far as the connections are closer to the front than the back. We got out to check our slide clearance and could have stepped right into the tent of our neighbors who were setting up on our right. So we got back in and backed up a ways (we needed to use extension cords and long hoses to reach water and electric) and set up. We sat down for lunch and realized our windows had a perfect view of our neighbor to the left – into their trailer and their camping area – and since we were a little higher than them, we could look down at everything they did.
We were there for three days. Two days it rained or wanted to rain so it was dark in our little tunnel, and cold and damp. One evening, the water shut off. We had water in our fresh tank so it wasn’t much of a bother. For one day, the electric went out. It had been marginal anyway, averaging about 109V, and we had our solar panels. Okay we didn’t have our solar panels (nothing penetrated the deep shade we were mired in) but we did have healthy batteries with a charge. It probably would have been less bad had it been sunny or warm. Or if we had had a different campsite. Or if it had been closer to the beach (it was about 1.5 miles to the beach).
We did manage to spend a dry afternoon wandering around St. Augustine and the fort. I love the city, its architecture, its age.
Gratefully, we left Anastasia State Park and headed to Lazy Days Campground in Seffner, Florida. Back in December we found out about a Fleetwood Rally in Florida and since we would be there, we signed up. As far as private campgrounds go, Lazy Days is pretty good. They have excellent hook ups, enough space between campsites to be comfortable, and a large clean laundry room – all things we find important in a private park. They also have a pool, tennis courts (or is that pickle ball?), a huge clubhouse, and wide easily navigable roads.
The Fleetwood Rally wasn’t quite what we expected but we did have a lot of fun. Our previous rally experience is limited to Escapees, which packs each day with seminars and talks. This rally was much more laid back, with few seminars, and a lot of time to mix and mingle with attendees. In fact, it seems more a reason for old friends to gather somewhere warm; the fact that next year’s rally (same time, same place) is already over half booked with this year’s attendees bears that out. Over five days there were three dinners, three open (beer and wine) bars, and about a dozen talks, seminars, and crafting opportunities. There was also a flea market, a vendor show, and a Fleetwood RV mini-show. The best part was the opportunity to have Fleetwood techs repair up to two functional or safety problems with your RV.
When we first signed up for the rally, we had the opportunity to sign up to have the techs look at two problems we were having with our RV. We really don’t have many so it took us a while to think of one – the hesitation in our landing gear (leveling jacks). The first one was easy – the bracket holding our microwave snapped on an Alaska road and we still didn’t have it fixed. It was still on the wall but we had a piece of wood holding up one side in case of a really bad bump. The jacks took ten minutes to diagnose and ten minutes to fix; they replaced our touch pad (we pay for parts, they provide labor). Unfortunately, they did not fix the microwave problem, though they did provide me a part number to replace it.
We met many great RVers at the rally. Most were snowbirds or locals but all had something to share and we learned quite a bit from their experiences. One important lesson is that we have been extremely lucky with our Fleetwood Bounder. Considering this is the only Class A we have ever owned, we have not had half the problems others seem to report (with both Fleetwoods and other products). We also learned that Fleetwood is opening or planning to open more factory service centers which seems to be a good thing according to other owners. From our limited experience and their knowledge, RV dealers are awful to deal with when trying to get repairs.
We spent some time browsing the hundreds of Class As on the lot at the Lazy Days dealership located right next door to the campground. We spent some time in the new 2016 Bounder and came away glad we got the 2014. The two big changes that we wouldn’t want to live with: the driver’s side understorage doesn’t come out with the slide and the windows barely open. To increase the amount of pass-thru storage, Fleetwood separated the storage from the slide. For us, the inconvenience of having to crawl under the slide to get to anything outweighs the added storage space. And the windows (everyone loves the flush mount windows) now only open just a little bit at the bottom, barely wide enough to get a breeze let alone any real air circulation. But it looks nice… One other thing we noted, the cargo capacity on the particular 33C we looked at lost about 800 lbs of cargo capacity. For us, it kills any thoughts of trading in ours. Right now, that 800 lbs. is made up of solar panels and wiring, batteries, and fresh water. Losing that would mean a lot less dry camping and boondocking, two things we just aren’t ready to give up. Of the dozens of other Class As we viewed, none of them had the complete package that suited us quite as well as our current short bus: layout, cargo capacity, sturdiness. While we really want to get rid of the carpet and newer models have much less, there was too much of a trade off to get that. So we decided that next year, we will replace our carpet ourselves.
All in all, the Fleetwood Rally was a great experience and, by our calculations, free! Or maybe my math is lousy. The cost of the rally was $299 for five nights of camping. But, take out three dinners ($20 X3 =$60) and 12 beers ($3 X12 =$36), you are down to $203. Lazy Days gave us coupons for four free breakfasts, and five free lunches at their RV store. And the food was pretty good. We ate two lunches there – burritos and stuffed shells – and ‘saved’ another $20. We got our leveling gear touch pad for $146 with tax; online, the cheapest I could find it was $256+tax – a $110 savings. Plus, we saved probably a $100 or more in labor at an RV dealer, who would charge us at least an hour of time. So, with the meals and the beer and the part and the labor, the campground charges were essentially free! Which is a great thing when you are on a budget.