Walterboro, SC to Bonita Springs, FL – October, 2016 Jim and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary on October 5th. We always imagined going somewhere extra special to mark this momentous accomplishment. As the date loomed closer we tossed around ideas but the timing wasn’t right for a trip. We finally realized that the way we’ve been living since we retired makes every day extra special and is a continuous celebration and we really didn’t need to do a lot different to make this one day stand out.
So to mark the occasion we decided we’d spend a few days in St. Augustine, Florida. It’s a town we’ve always wanted to visit and never managed to. And it was conveniently on the way to our next destination to visit family a little further south on the Atlantic coast.
We left South Carolina on Monday to make a two day trip of the 4 hour drive from Walterboro. We had heard about hurricane Matthew at this point but it didn’t look that threatening. We weren’t blind, just optimistic and figured we could always change direction if necessary.
I found a Passport America park half way to St. Augustine in Brunswick, Georgia with full hookups for only $22. The Golden Isles Vacation Park had very mixed reviews so I was not expecting much. We were very pleased to find a well maintained and laid out park with a nice pool and easy access to the interstate.
Later that day the storm forecast worsened. Jim was up watching hurricane coverage in the middle of the night and decided St. Augustine wasn’t such a great idea. I found a Thousand Trails park that was in the middle of the state that we could go to the next day. We planned to spend our anniversary there and watch the storm to decide our next move.
The good news was that our Thousand Trails zone pass didn’t expire until the end of October so our reservation at Three Flags RV Resort in Wildwood Florida wouldn’t cost us a dime. This gave us the luxury of making a reservation for the full 5 days we had planned to stay in St. Augustine. We were able to cancel the somewhat expensive beach adjacent resort we planned to splurge on for our anniversary and since they were ordered to evacuate within the day they didn’t charge us a cancellation fee.
We moved to Wildwood on Tuesday and Matthew wasn’t forecast to hit until Friday so we put deciding our next move on hold for a couple days. We were optimistic we could ride out the storm in this camp 75 miles from the east coast. And we were hopeful that the whole mess might blow by so we could continue to our Sunday reservations on the Atlantic and visit my family.
In the reviews of this Wildwood, Florida campground everyone kept referring to something called the villages. Turns out The Villages is a massive retirement community that was planned around three town squares. Each square has its own personality but they all offer a variety of shopping, dining, and entertainment options and are open to the public. One of the coolest things The Villages offer is free live entertainment in all three squares every evening at 5.
We decided to visit one called Lake Sumter Landing and enjoy some shopping and a lunch out for our anniversary. We figured we’d visit the other squares over the following days and catch some of the evening concerts. Lake Sumter Landing had several blocks of unique shops. One gift shop had a gentleman playing an organ for its customers.
True to its name the area was situated lakeside.
The golf carts outnumbered cars here and many were very fancy. They had their own system of streets coming to and from their gated subdivisions.
We had plenty of options for lunch but chose Cody’s Original Roadhouse and enjoyed our anniversary meal very much. All anyone in the restaurant was talking about was the hurricane and it was interesting to hear about it from the residents’ point of view. We got back to camp to an unexpectedly sunny afternoon and were able to spend a couple hours at the campground’s pool with cocktails to top off our special day.
By this point we had gotten word that our family on the east coast was evacuating their homes. We also got a call from the campground we were scheduled to visit the next week informing us they were shutting down and didn’t know when they would reopen. The winds in Wildwood were forecast to be in the 40 mph range during the hurricane and although we felt confident we could ride that out we didn’t see the point if we wouldn’t be able to head east after the storm passed.
I was able to move up our reservations at the campground we planned to visit the following week. It was 7 miles from the gulf and the winds were forecast to only be in the 20’s. We left early on Thursday and hightailed it to Bonita Springs so we could get settled and batten down the hatches before the storm arrived.
Hurricane Matthew didn’t have much of an effect at all where we were. The winds stayed in the teens all day and we got some drizzle but no downpours. We drove to the beach for a walk midmorning and it was blustery with high waves but made for a nice outing. We were grateful to hear in the following days that our family returned to only minor damage on their east coast properties.
We are very excited about our winter plans. I’ll share more about that and our new campground next week.