After a fun filled, busy time at Disney, it was time to slow the pace down again and we found just the place in the Emerald Coast! We headed north from Orlando to the panhandle of Florida, with a nice drive up I-75. Since it was over a 6 hour trip to our next destination, we decided to break it up with our first stop at a Boondockers Welcome location. For those that do not know what that is, it is fellow RV'er's or travel enthusiasts, who share their property with those travelers passing through, usually for just a night or two. It is all done online and you can see pictures of the location, learn about the hosts, what amenities they offer, any rules that must be followed (such as no generators or campfires) and read past reviews of others stays. Well we found a gem in Casa Rodriguez in Live Oak. It is off the beaten path on acreage outside of town and you park in their yard, close to the house and they offer 15 amp electric and the ability to take on water if needed. Not all hosts offer this, so it is definitely a plus when they do. Did I mention the stays are free and you pay a small annual program subscription, which is well worth it! These locations are nationwide, even in other countries and we will certainly be seeking out Boondocker spots as we head out west.
After setting up, we then headed in to Walmart to pick up a few supplies and have dinner. I had found a BBQ place in the area on Yelp, Big Wood BBQ, and it did not disappoint! You know it was a local favorite when they are busy on a Monday night in this small town. People rave about their deep fried, smoked short ribs and we just had to try them. They were delicious! Very tender and moist. Their other BBQ was delicious as well and the baked beans reminded me of the calico beans we always had at family get togethers...yumm!
In the morning, after a peaceful nights sleep, we bid farewell to our wonderful hosts and continued to head west on I-10 to our final destination of Topsail HIll Preserve State Park in Santa Rosa Beach. As we got closer we started to see first hand the devastation Hurricane Michael left in October. We were awestruck with the amount of damage this far inland and the many miles it stretched on I-10. Again, pictures do not do it justice and it was surreal to see in person all the damage and just how long the clean up takes from a storm of this magnitude (155 mph top winds).
We stayed at Topsail State Park for 10 glorious days. Topsail is a gem and unlike almost any other state park. It was a private RV resort until the state purchased it in 1998. There are 156 sites, most with FHU and the remaining handful are being improved as we speak. They also have 22 tent sites and 32 cabins and bungalows for rent. This is a very popular state park nestled on the pristine shores of the beautiful Santa Rosa Beach. This beach is beautiful! There is a tram that takes campers and day use visitors down to the beach since it is a bit of a hike, but can be walked or biked as well. There is also 5 rare coastal dune lakes and numerous hiking paths. We enjoyed many walks on the beach and paths. We even tried out electric bikes, which were great and we may look into them further this summer.
We really enjoyed our time here and were excited to finally meet (sort of) some folks we follow on their blog. You see I say sort of because 3 years ago when we were at the EAA in Oshkosh, WI...way before we left on our full time travels, Rick met a lady (Debbie Miller, of We Are The Millers + Rick) at the park and struck up a conversation on her RV, a Grand Design Momentum. At the time we were really narrowing our RV search and were just about set on the Grand Design Solitude, so he wanted to see how she liked her G.D. unit. Rick remembers that meeting well, however, Debbie must have several full time miles under her belt and was foggy on the meeting, so it was sort of funny when we told her that story when we finally met them at the park. THey are volunteering as cabin support staff and are really enjoying it. We had fun relaxing, eating and sharing travel stories. We also met several other volunteers while we were there. A great crew and we hope to come back and volunteer there as well.
We enjoyed a good bit of time at the campground, visited Grayton Beach State Park, drove the 30A coast, went to Destin and took a Dolphin Sunset Cruise. The cruise was starting out as a bust for seeing dolphins, but the sunset really made up for it because it was spectacular! Finally, during the last 30 minutes of the cruise, someone spotted a dolphin out to the side of the boat. From then on we saw several dolphins frolicking in the bay. Even better, we used travel card points to purchase the cruise, so we didn't have to pay a penny! I love it when things work out like that!
We also had some great food during our stay. We went out for pizza and $1.40 beers with the Millers at the locals pizza joint, Fat Daddy's Pizza. The pizza was delicious and the beers were just the right price! We met another workamping couple there that the Millers volunteered with at Grayton Beach and learned of their trials and tribulations at another volunteer job they were at. It's is those times that you are thankful your home has wheels to move on down the road.
We also had lunch one day, as we drove down 30A, at Cowgirls Kitchen in Rosemary Beach. The food was delicious and it was Happy Hour all afternoon so some of the food and drink choices were $5 each. Score! We had some absolutely delicious street tacos and queso/chips. Sitting outside enjoying the beautiful scenery in Rosemary Beach was a plus. This community is so beautiful and looks to be quite pricey!!
Our time at Topsail was quickly coming to a close and we had a couple to do's we needed to complete before we left. One was defrosting the freezer. If you remember back in Indiana we had tried a trick we saw on one of our Facebook groups to put thin plastic cutting boards lining the back wall to make defrosting easier. See that post here. Fast forward almost 3 months and we need to defrost the freezer. Well I am here to tell you that it worked soo slick! I emptied out all of food from the freezer, pulled the shelves forward and then slid the plastic sheets out with all of the built up ice on it. As you can see below, there was just a bit of ice left on the upper right where the plastic sheet did not go up as high. I think we had this done in less than 10 minutes! That was a good bit of frost too!
The morning of our last day, Debbie and other volunteers invited us to a breakfast they were having. What a great way to wrap up our time at this wonderful park! Did I mention the folks there are awesome???
We are now heading out on our sprint out west to Mesa, AZ where we start our next workamping gig on Feb 1. We will make the 1,727 mile trip in 5 days since our reservation at the park starts on Monday, the 28th so we can get settled and ready to start our jobs. These are going to be some looong days! We have some planned stops along the way and then winging it for the last 2 nights. Wish us luck!!!
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