Well here we are, we finally made it to Florida and are officially Florida residents. We have been preparing for this stop for awhile, making sure we have all of the paperwork in order to transfer the titles for the truck and RV. This includes having the VIN's verified by a police officer since we won't be able to haul our big 42 ft'er over to the Green Cove Springs Tax Assessor's office for them to eyeball it themselves. We tried to have Hall County Sheriff verify it while staying at Don Carter State Park in Gainesville, GA but the officer refused since it was for an out of state entity. We tried again at Crooked River State Park in St. Mary's, GA and the sheriff there filled out the paperwork and made it official by calling the VIN's in to ensure they were not reported stolen. Bonus, that was done! Why not wait until we get to FL to have the sheriff there do it, you ask? Well you see, me being the Type A planner, which I admit I need to relax on a bit, I had us arriving to our site in FL on Sunday, December 23 and our appt to do all of this, being the day after Christmas. There was no window of opportunity to have it done then and I certainly did not want to press our luck on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. We were also getting new drivers license and plates for the vehicles. Alot to do and FL makes you make an appt for all of that. Not sure how it was any different than walking in at that time because we had to wait 20 minutes, just like anyone else walking in.
Again, being that planner, I had 4 seperate, paper clipped packets ready to go with everything requested, for each transaction we were needing. I think the lady really appreciated that because it helped her to keep everything straight. Well after an hour we were done with titles and plates for the vehicles and were on to our drivers license. Wow, nice to see you can still review your picture and have a different one taken if you want. I did not want to press my luck and took the first one, with windblown hair and all! Wohoo pretty!!! Then it was RIck's turn and everything was fine until it came time for the eye test. You know, the little black box, read the 5th line and you pass. Well, not so easy for Rick with his no line trifocals. He was contorting into all types of interesting positions to find the area of his glasses that were for far away and could read line 5. After more than 5 minutes of trying and walking away and trying again, he thought he found the sweet spot. Ok, now let's read line 5. Huh, why do his letters not match mine and why is there a number??? I could tell by the ladies face he was not close. Oh crap! All that went through my mind is, hell I am going to have to drive from now on because they are not going to give him a driver's license because he can't pass the eye test! How the hell am I gonna tow the RV that I have never even pulled around the block?? Well, she was VERY forgiving and let him try again, and again and even gave him hints. He finally got all but one right, which was enough to pass. Whew...that was a close one!!! Looking back now, I am belly laughing, but at the time I was sweating it!
So after almost 2 hours, we walked out with FL titles and drivers licenses in hand as well as plates for both vehicles. I thought for sure something would have to be mailed to us, which leads me to being thankful for our mail service. We declared residency in Green Cove Springs, Clay County, FL which is where our mail forwarding service, St. Brendan's Isle, is. Clay County is considered a more rural county with cheaper insurance rates. Another bonus for choosing St. Brendan's Isle is that they have really good information about declaring FL residency and welcome you to call and they will walk you through the process and help you streamline the process for your situation as much as possible. They were so very helpful and I would recommend them to any other full-timer needing a mail service and FL address. You actually get an official street address not a PO Box and the folks there are so helpful and friendly.
In planning our time in Green Cove Springs to establish residency, I needed to find a RV park close since I knew we would be making more than one trip there for mail, licenses, etc. My search led me to Mike Roess Gold Head Branch State Park. This would be our first FL state park and we were looking forward to it since our GA state parks were excellent stays. Well, our luck was about to change. This park was nice enough but the campground we were in was just not our thing. It was mostly weekend warrior campers on extended stay for the holidays and the sites were open and nondescript, basically just parking in a sand lot with no vegetation really between sites. I had picked a more open site at the entrance to a loop since I read reviews that the sites in the loops were hard to navigate with a big rig and there were low branches. Upon arrival we were greeted by our neighbors on either side walking through our site and riding their bikes through it. Ok, I can overlook that since no one was currently camped there, but when that continued even after we were there and even AFTER we asked them to kindly use the road to get back and forth to each others sites, I knew this was not going to be a good stay. It was really unfortunate and sad because we were supposed to be there for two weeks through Christmas and New Years. Not a good way to spend your holidays! So not only was this going to be our first Christmas away from family and traditions, we were going to be somewhere we were not pleased with. Well we made the best of it for Christmas but made plans to move after we had all of our business in Green Cove Springs completed. While we were there we did take advantage of hiking on some of the trails which were nice. We had a quiet Christmas and face timed with family, so at least there was that.
The nice thing about this lifestyle, if you don't like your neighbors or where you are, your house has wheels and you can move. That is indeed what we did. On Thursday, the 27th, we pulled up stakes and made our way south to Recreation Plantation, just outside The Villages. We had stumbled upon this RV resort when we went to visit my aunt and uncle a couple weeks earlier. This is an adult community with mostly permanent homes, a transient camping type area and a brand new section that is being developed. The sites are full hook-up, including cable tv and dedicated wifi at each site. There are two clubhouses with other bathhouses throughout the park, warm, salt water pool and spa, and lots of activities. The really unique thing they do, is for those who are first time visitors, you get your first night free. So on top of a cheaper weekly rate, we got a night free. Win, win!! Everyone was soo friendly and welcoming and we really enjoyed our time there. This could be a location we come back to for a longer stay.
While in the area we were able to spend time with my other aunt and uncle who have a home in The Villages. It is really amazing to see how large and sprawling the area is. There is every store you need and sometimes several of them. We definitely found some great food while we were there and did alot of walking to try to counteract all that goodness!
While in the area we visited another state park to really see if we just hit an off state park or if they were all the same. We visited Lake Griffin State Park just south of us in Fruitland Park. The campground was a bit better but still small for big rigs. We did see a couple wedged in there but the sites were right on top of each other, with little vegitation. We did enjoy a picnic lunch down on the canal and would have entertained the idea of putting our kayak in but the launch area was closed for renovations. We did visit the prize of the park, which is a 400 old live oak tree. It is the second oldest oak in FL, with the first being near Gainesville, FL. Standing next to this tree was very humbling and the pictures can't really do it justice because the tree is soo big!
Ringing in the New Year at Recreation Plantation truly made up for our bad site at Christmas. With all of the Christmas decorations packed away and the RV cleaned up, we are ready to head to Fort Wilderness at Disney for a wonderful time with our boys, who are flying in from Wisconsin. More on that to come...
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