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Author Topic: Snowbird Report  (Read 1854 times)

Gordon Groff

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Snowbird Report
« on: May 26, 2014, 11:13:02 AM »
Sorry I've been away from the forum for so long.  It's been a busy time for us and it's taking a while for me to put on my RV'in hat again.   :)

Anyway, as background, I've been hanging around this forum for many years and based on much of what I learned here, as well as RV experiences we have had over the years, we bought a new Tiffin Allegro 35QBA in 2010 in preparation for the big day when I could kiss my job goodbye and hit the road.  It finally happened last fall!  So, on Jan 1, we headed out for our First Snowbird Trip: A 3 month expedition to Florida and the Gulf Coast.

Our goal was to explore the gulf coast and we did this staying at 19 campgrounds, 1 - 2 week, 4 - 1 week, 9 - 4 night, 5 - 2 night.  This had us spending our longer stays in the deep south  (Keys, Fort Myers) during the coldest part of winter, then stepping around the upper gulf in March, ending up in Corpus Christi, TX (Mustang Island) as our last "destination" stop.

First - let me say that we LOVED it!  While we have had extensive RV experience as the kids were growing up, my wife and I were unsure if we'd enjoy the extended lifestyle with just us and the dog.  That question has been put to rest.  YES!

Some learnings and observations:

While we greatly enjoyed and found something really interesting to explore at every place we visited, now that we've taken the whole smorgasbord, the next time we winter in the southeast, we'll go for extended stays at our favorite spots with less moving around.  It was interesting to note that the pattern we noticed for most snowbirds is that many find "their" place in the sun and stay there.  This creates a winter family at those campgrounds where the folks know each other and meet together every winter.  Very cool communities!

4 nights is perfect if staying in a state park without full hookups.  Our gray tank holds 4 days of showers.

Computers and connectivity:
I made a last minute decision to bring along our desktop iMac.  So glad I did!  It's an all-in-one, so it's easy to simply set the monitor face-down on a bunk bed to travel and set it back up on our passenger dash to operate.  I vastly prefer a large monitor and separate keyboard/mouse than using our iPad or iPhone.  Yes, we have a keyboard for our iPad, but the ergonomics and screen size of a desktop are really nice, as is a mouse over a touchscreen.

Most campground WIFI networks are barely usable and not at all during "prime time" when folks are all online. Using our Verizon data worked great pretty much everywhere.  Very nice.  But.....  I did a super STOOPID!!!
While our phone hot-spots are password protected, it turns out that when I tethered the phone to my iMac, it created a WIFI network called "Gordon's iMac".  I did not know this.  Found out when a fellow camper at Mustang Island State Park, came over and said "Hi Gordon!".  We had never met before.  He was an IT guy and put two and two together as his wife had been enjoying terrific internet access using "Gordon's iMac" WIFI for the past few days and he saw my iMac on my dash.  Duh...  That explained where all my data was going and the slow-downs I was experiencing at times.  I was feeding whole campgrounds free internet virtually the entire trip!  Yikes!  I gave the guy who told me about it a box of chocolates and a big "Thank you!".  Too bad we did not discover this until our last destination.

Downsides (have to report the bad with the good, right?):

GPS - We ended up at one point on a one lane dirt path through woods with NO way to turn around, no way to pass if another vehicle came the other way and no way to back up.  After that experience, before heading to a new destination, I google-map it, satellite-view it, write down written directions, and compare to a paper Rand-Mcnally.   Back to the good-old days!

Gassing up - It was a constant source of tension for me (I tend to fret over possible problems perhaps more than they deserve) to locate a gas station that I could pull through with our toad.  Since we're a gas rig, diesel stops were not always the answer.  I found only 1 place with a billboard advertising "RV gas" along the highway.  I really like to gas up before reaching a destination.  I would take a chance if an exit looked promising and try to cruise the area to find one whose pumps were oriented for a pull-through.  I did not like this.  Always had the fear of getting to a place I could not turn around or a station where I could not get through.  It's virtually impossible to unhook our toad if we get into a situation and are not straight.  While my fears turned out to be overblown, and we did not really have any significant problems for our entire trip, I just don't like traveling into a possibly bad situation.  The best thing to do is to gas up on departure after cruising the area in our car.  Anyway, like I said, this is an overblown fear, but an unwelcome source of tension for me non-the-less.

Costs:
Everyone worries about fuel.  Yes it's expensive.  Our rig gets about 6mpg.  But... It's NOT the biggest expense.  I did not really try to economize on our campground selections either.  I just wanted to be where I wanted us to be regardless.  Anyway, our final costs were virtually identical to my estimates before the trip:
4800 miles. $2755.00 fuel.
Campground Fees Approx. $3,700.  Total gas plus camping $6,500.00. 
With entertainment/dining estimated at $100/day=$9000. 
Total Estimated for Trip is: $15,500.

Total cost turned out to be $15,800.  Surprisingly close!  Sounds like a lot, but that's for 3 months on the road.  I'm OK with that. The biggest expense is not gas or campground fees, but our daily expenses for attractions, tours, groceries and other shopping.

Conclusions:

1. We love it and will do it again!
2. We also love being home.  It's been hard to commit to planning next year's trip.  Very much enjoying our home and yard in the springtime.
3. We picked a REALLY good winter to get out of Dodge (OK, Pennsylvania)!
4. Southwest next year??

Gordon
Gordon and Sweet Nancy
2010 Tiffin Allegro 35 QBA
2010 Honda CRV Toad
8Lb. Papillon

Foxysdad

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Re: Snowbird Report
« Reply #1 on: May 27, 2014, 12:06:20 AM »
Nice write up Gordon , we have been snowbirding for 5 yrs now and can relate to all you adventures and fears. Love being home in the spring and summer and in Tucson AZ in the winter.
Happy trails
Howard Kelly, Sherry Bryon, and our furry creature Foxy
Comox B.C. Canada
2005 Chevy 2500 Durmax
2011 Trail Blazer trailer
Always looking for SUNSHINE

Life is short, dance like no one is watching

Howard R

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  • Posts: 541
Re: Snowbird Report
« Reply #2 on: May 27, 2014, 08:32:01 PM »
Gordon,

Good report ... yes it is a great way to travel.

If you haven't tried them yet, while we don't tow a car yet, most Flying J's have an RV island that allows a pretty easy pull thru for fuel.  They prefer after fueling you pull forward or even go park in another part of the lot ... even if you go inside to pay for some reason.  Most of the time we don't have problems with folks not pulling forward, but it does happen.  Also most have parking for RV's in the front area which we use overnight when in the "traveling mode".

Works for us and they usually have propane and a dump station (for a fee) if needed.

Howard
2001 Fleetwood Southwind 35R
V10   F53
2003 Jeep Liberty Toad
Minnesota

Oldedit

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  • Posts: 423
Re: Snowbird Report
« Reply #3 on: October 21, 2014, 09:41:09 PM »
Great report. Just what I am looking for. Only wish you had listed your favorite parks.
2013 Itasca Reyo T 2012-
2006 Roadtrek Adventurous Mercedes (Freightliner)
Colorado 2009-2012
Toad: 2016 Jeep Patriot Stick with Blue Ox
Member Colorado Columbines WIT Chapter

 

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