Goat Yoga and Other Happy Occasions

September, 2018 – Springfield, MO We spent the four weeks following our Round Spring trip in Springfield. We had committed part of our summer to helping our oldest daughter, Carie, finalize her wedding plans. She had made all the important decisions and planned an amazing event. We were just there to help her any way we could.

There wasn’t really all that much work to do but we wanted to stay in town so we could handle anything that came up. Our days were not terribly exciting. I concentrated on getting 3+ miles of walking/running in every morning. I seem to be fighting a losing battle with the scale lately but I was determined to look my best for the special occasion. We also got our bikes on Springfield’s trails as often as possible.

Most afternoons were spent doing a little shopping or running errands as we made and then crossed off list after list of wedding details that needed attended to. Carie works weekdays so we kept our weekends free to collaborate with her. We also tried to squeeze in as much quality time with our friends and family as possible. We were lucky to not have any vacancies or major projects necessary on our rentals this summer but we checked on each of them and took care of minor maintenance projects.

Last spring I had read about a small farm offering goat yoga just outside of Springfield. I though it sounded like fun and suggested organizing a girls’ night kicked off by goat yoga for those involved in the wedding and for the groom’s family. It would give us all a chance to get to know each other better. Everyone seemed amenable so we set the date for the Saturday after Labor Day.

That particular weekend turned out to be a very rainy one in Missouri as a result of Hurricane Gordon hitting the Gulf Coast earlier in the week. The effect on our date with the goats was uncertain until we finally got a message that goat yoga would take place in the barn where a fresh layer of hay had just been added. Everyone seemed excited that it was a go and we showed up with a total group of 9 ladies ranging in age from 8 to a little older than me.

I would guess there were 30 or so participants all together in the barn. There was ample enough space although it was a little darker than it might have been if we had assembled outside in the yard. Most of the participants were women but there were a few guys in attendance.

The yoga instructor came in and told us what to expect and what we could and shouldn’t do. She then introduced us to her husband who was to act as goat wrangler. Then they went out to fetch the goats.

They brought in around a dozen goats. The goats had been holed up in other barns all day because of the rain so they were a little frisky. They roamed around checking out the big barn but not really showing too much interest in their visitors.

After telling us about the individual goats we got down to yoga, sorta. The yoga was really just an excuse to be on the ground and interact with the goats. We got down on all fours (not sure what yoga pose that even is) and, with a little nutritional encouragement from the goat wrangler, the goats would walk across our backs. By the way, rather than sharing pics of our group in awkward positions, the ones in this post are of various other participants in the barn.

The goats were not miniature goats. Most were pretty large. It’s hard to explain what them walking across my back felt like. Funny is the first description to come to mind. It didn’t hurt (usually) but it wasn’t especially pleasurable either. It was just a unique, odd sensation that made it impossible not to laugh.

Next we did downward facing dog.

You actually waited for a goat to climb on your back while you were on all fours and then raised your rump to the correct position. Here I am in all my glory.

Most of the poses were more photo opp than yoga but it was all good fun and everyone had a great time. The goats were running around, often head butting each other as goats will do. Here are two about to do just that.

You did have to watch out as they could get a little wild. And these animals were not potty trained so they would occasionally go on somebody’s mat. Here is our goat wrangler with one of the crew on his shoulders.

The couple who run the farm are incredibly nice and you could tell they really loved their animals. I felt the $20 per person fee was very reasonable. The experience was a hit with all involved and it had its intended results, we all got to know each other.

That was very important as we would see a lot of each other in the coming weeks. We had a bridal shower, a rehearsal dinner, and the actual wedding to come. We are very lucky that the family Carie married in to is a large, warm group of people and it was such a pleasure to become friends with them.

The week of the wedding I came down with a severe cold. We were far enough ahead in our preparations that I was able to take a couple days off to rest. I was then able to rally and hold it together for the important events with a pocketful of cough drops and a tube of hand sanitizer ever present.

We did so much visiting during the rehearsal dinner that the day of the wedding I sounded like Kermit the Frog. The wedding went off without a hitch though. The weather was perfect for the entirely outdoor event. The ceremony was touching. And the reception was a blast.

The next day I woke up with absolutely no voice. I could barely get out a whisper. We ran the necessary post event errands and then we zoned out the rest of the day. Our plans were to leave town the following day.

Echo Bluff State Park

August, 2018 – Eminence, MO We had plans to meet our friends at Round Spring Campground the weekend before Labor Day. We realized we didn’t have anything going on the week before that required us to stay in Springfield so we left town on Monday. We had a tough time deciding where to go but finally landed on spending a few days at Missouri’s newest state park, Echo Bluff.

Echo Bluff was only a few miles from our weekend destination. It wasn’t quite open the last time we ventured this way in July of 2016 so we had never been there. And it is said to be frequented by the wild horses of Shannon County which I have always wanted to see.

We didn’t have to wait long. Soon after we got set up Jim spotted some horses near an old barn across the road from the campground. I grabbed my camera and headed that way.

I stayed on the sidewalk with a guardrail between them and myself, quite a distance from where they were, hoping not to spook them.

I was afraid they would leave when they noticed me. I was totally unprepared for what actually happened. They spotted me and started galloping toward me! Doesn’t the one on the left look a little maniacal with that hair?!

I hurriedly walked back to Jim who was coming to join me. I didn’t know what protection he could offer me from three crazy horses but I was pretty sure my old farm boy would know what to do. Thankfully we didn’t have to do anything. The horses reached the road, stopped running, and calmly walked past us. They must enjoy messing with the newcomers!

It turns out that these three horses, though part of the wild herd, choose to stay in and around the state park. In fact they appear to be a bit of a nuisance. We saw them being shooed out of many a campsite while we were there.

The pony especially seems to have no fear of humans and, of course, no training. This combination can make him quite the pest. One day he tried to eat our welcome mat. We put it away after that.

The park turned out to be a delight. Sinking Creek runs through the park. It is clear and warmer than the many spring fed creeks and rivers in the area. There are many places along its banks to wade and there are a few decent swimming holes to enjoy.

The park includes cabins and a lovely lodge, both of which had fairly reasonable rates.

The lodge’s back deck looks out on the park’s namesake, Echo Bluff.

The campground was beautiful each morning with mist rising from the creek and the sun rising behind the hills.

It was the perfect park for my morning walks. It was far from crowded in the middle of a week after local schools had started. There were exactly three miles of pavement between the campground, the lodge, the cabins, and their fabulous playground.

On Friday we made the big 3 mile move to Round Spring Campground. I shared the details of Round Spring Camp and Cavern with you on our last visit two years ago. I kept telling my family and friends that they had to make this float with us but it was so hard to get an RV site at the campground. I looked in May and this particular weekend, the one before Labor Day, was the only one they had any RV sites left. They happened to have three and we snapped them up.

As the date approached I started to worry that this group was not going to enjoy the float. The water was a little low in August so it wasn’t moving as fast as it does in the spring and a 9 mile float was longer than they usually like. Jim suggested that we look into putting in at Current River State Park which is around halfway.

This park does not have an official launch but when we visited several years ago they said they were working on one. Their website and everything else we could find on the internet suggested there was not one but we decided to drive over early Saturday morning to see what we could find out.

Several of us arrived soon after 8 am Saturday assuming they would be open. The gate actually said they did not open until 9 am so we parked at a nearby trailhead and walked past the gates. Soon after we began our walk to the river the gates were opened a couple times by employees arriving to work.

About the time we got to the main area of the park a gentleman pulled up and introduced himself as the park’s superintendent. It was still well before 9 but he offered to open the buildings for us and proceeded to give us an outstanding tour. Having been to the park before, we were most interested in showing our friends the gymnasium.

We were impressed with the diamond patterned ceiling which doesn’t have any boards more than a few feet in length. According to our guide this is one of only two examples of this construction still standing in the US.

We had never had the opportunity to tour the rest of the buildings before. Our guide opened each of them and gave us a ton of information on each. The whole property was a corporate retreat for a box company in its heyday.

There was a main lodge which included men’s quarters. Later they added a ladies dorm. And this building on the right was the pool hall.

One of the more interesting features of the buildings was the fireplaces which were all built with formations from a nearby cave, now closed. I realize from a conservation standpoint this is an atrocity, but it was done a really long time ago so we might as well appreciate how unique it is and how much craftsmanship it took.

After an hour tour we asked him what we came there for “Could we launch our kayaks from the park?” He informed us that yes we could but the best place to launch was pretty muddy at the moment and he wouldn’t recommend driving down there. Also he said we would have to have our vehicles gone by the park’s closing at 6 pm.

We headed to camp to load up our boats and get the rest of our group. We then drove back and put in. The place we chose was a bit of a haul and not terribly easy to launch but I think with a little more investigation we could have found a better launch in the park.

We had a great float. This launch cut the 9 mile float to less than 4 which was much more to our group’s liking. There was no need to paddle and plenty of time to fish. We stopped at practically every gravel bar and then spent almost an hour at our favorite spot, the confluence of Sinking Creek and the Current River not far above our takeout.

We enjoyed our time in this area very much. This visit cemented our opinion that this is one of our favorite areas of Missouri. It is nice to know that visitors now have additional options for camping and lodging in the area and another option for starting or stopping a float on the beautiful Current River. FYI: the local outfitters will pick visitors up and return them to their lodging in either Round Spring Campground or Echo Bluff State Park and they offer several great floats on the Current, most of which are around 9 miles long.

I Beg Your Pardon, I Never Promised You a Rose Garden!

Along with the Sunshine, there’s gotta be a little rain sometimes.” Lynn Anderson sure nailed it in her 1970 hit Rose Garden. It was released the year I was born and a favorite song of my dear departed mother who was known to regularly break out in song. So though I can’t specifically recall her singing me those exact lyrics when I threw a childish rant, I am still quite sure she did, and that she is the reason they, and many other lyrics, pop into my head, and usually out of my mouth, when an appropriate situation arises.

RVing is not all rose gardens, unicorns, and rainbows. I wouldn’t want to be accused of glossing over the pitfalls and troubles that sometimes go with the lifestyle. I try to tell it like it is in my posts and include in my accounts the bad with the good as in “A Great Weekend and One Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.”

But honestly there are a LOT of minor inconveniences and annoyances that it would just seem petty for me to bring up on a regular basis. But it also seems almost dishonest to never bring them up at all. So here is my top 5 list of the worst things about fulltime RVing.

Sometimes RVing Stinks! There, I’ve said it. Living in close proximity to your sewer system is usually the culprit. But why are you smelling your gray or, god forbid, your black tank? It is not always the easiest question to answer.

Example #1 When we first got our Mesa, it smelled really awful every time we changed locations. We thought it had to do with the actual movement of the trailer. We finally realized that trailer was so much more airtight than our last, that when we opened the slides it was pulling air from our sewer traps. All we had to do was open a vent or I often just hold the front door open a crack while I extend the slides and now it pulls fresh air into trailer instead of sewer gases.

Example #2 Our Mesa has a mechanical sewer vent in the basement. For some reason the manufacturer didn’t run the vent for the shower all the way through the roof. This results in a less than pleasant smell from our gray tank that sometimes emanates from under our kitchen sink. We thought the mechanical vent had just malfunctioned as they sometimes do, but we replaced it and it didn’t help. So we finally taped a plastic grocery bag over it, leaving some room for it to still work, and remarkably, it’s no longer a problem.

Example #3 The water from the bathroom faucet of the Mesa really smelled terrible. It didn’t make sense that the same water coming from the shower or the kitchen smelled just fine. It was just that sink.

This went on for months and was really annoying. We avoided using that faucet at all. Jim tried everything he could think of, even taking the faucet completely apart and cleaning it.

Finally, while perusing an RV site one sleepless night, he read that the clothes washer supply lines, when not in use or properly shut off, can somehow cause this. I still don’t exactly understand the how or why of it. But since he drained those lines and then closed the valves to them it has been fine.

Unfortunately it is not only your own sewer system you have to contend with. When you are in a trailer park you will often find your neighbor’s sewer dump in your front yard. You have no control over how or when they dump their tanks. If they want to do it in the middle of the family reunion you organized at your picnic table that is their prerogative.

They don’t make them like they used to. Our newer 5th wheel, which we love living in, just wasn’t built as sturdy as our old Alpenlite. Like so many things these days, it just wasn’t made to last. There are more durable models still out there but they are way, way out of our price range. There are also many less well made models available.

That brings me to the reason this song came to mind this particular morning and prompted me to finally write this post. On the way from Florida to Missouri one of our rear jacks stopped working. Jim announced that we had sheared a shear pin.

The same thing happened to the other rear jack about this time last year. Jim took that one off, finally located a new shear pin, and rebuilt it. So he knew what was necessary and he wasn’t prepared to tackle that project in the panhandle of Florida.

In order to get us moving again he did have to climb under the slide and remove the jack, which was not a minor project in itself. We’ve been making due with 3 jacks since then and Jim has worked on the jack several times and every time he puts it back together it shears the new pin. He’s finally decided that the jack is slightly bent and we’ve got a new one on the way.

My point is this. Jim is very mechanically inclined. He chooses to do the work himself. He wants to know how everything works so if we are in the middle of nowhere he can handle any situation. And he likes to save money too.

If he had to call for help or take the trailer into the shop every time there was an issue then we would be out some serious dough, occasionally homeless, AND probably dissatisfied with this lifestyle in general.

Where am I?! It is not at all unusual for it to take me a full minute or so to remember what is outside the thin walls of my trailer when I wake up, be it the middle of the night or at dawn. OK, that doesn’t sound like such a horrible dilemma.

But often sleeping in strange places night after night can be a challenge and disorienting. More often than not we are in an RV park, packed in like sardines, where other residents arrive late into the night or leave ridiculously early. Our neighbors are often celebrating their weekend or trying to enjoy their vacation and quiet time does not seem to apply to them. We try to go with the flow in these instances and are grateful that at least we don’t have to get up and punch a clock the next day.

That leads me to my next issue, lack of privacy! As a weekender, this is not a big deal. You’ll go back to your minimum quarter acre, your six inch walls, and your privacy fences on Monday.

However, if this is your whole existence then it is what it is. So if you are trying to enjoy your tiny patch of grass and one of your many neighbors is blasting some godawful music, having a fight with his girlfriend, or even enjoying (hopefully) marital relations on the other side of that 2 inch wall, well there is not much you can do about that. Boondocking is usually a dream, however if you are on public land and someone chooses to park right beside you, you are also out of luck.

Where the H E double hockey sticks is IT? Can your favorite and least favorite thing be the same?! I have a love/hate relationship with the amount of storage in my RV.

We once owned a large home. We also had an office in town with an apartment upstairs in case we didn’t want to drive a whole 30 miles home. And, of course, we had a travel trailer as well.

I swear we once owned a half dozen refrigerators. The only thing I disliked more than taking more perishables home than we needed, was getting home and having to waste gas to make the 10 mile trip back to the nearest grocery store for whatever we couldn’t live without.

I was constantly looking for stuff: tools, clothes, kitchen gadgets, etc. etc! I hated buying things we didn’t need because I couldn’t locate them. Usually as soon as I broke down and replaced an item I had given up on ever seeing again, it would magically appear.

My favorite thing about full time RVing is that practically everything we own is within a 50 foot radius. If it is not inside the trailer, in the truck, or in the basement of the trailer, then it just does not exist in our universe.  You would think keeping track of things in this limited space would be simple. Not!!

There are 44 cabinet doors and drawers in this trailer plus a large underbed storage area. There are plenty of places for us to lose things. Then we have a large basement which is thankfully accessible from both sides of the trailer. More often than not, whatever we are looking for is right in the middle of it and requires us to unload almost everything before we can reach it.

When we first started I was determined to stay organized. I made notes and drew diagrams of where everything in the trailer was stored. I even redid it a couple times. But I finally gave up.

The good news is we have the time to look for things and reorganize our storage areas as often as necessary. And when looking for one thing we often run across something else we forgot we even had. Sometimes we are very happy to see whatever it is and sometimes we realize we must not need it very badly and it joins our donate pile.

That’s all I have to say about that. That was a lot of words but I got it into one post and now I can go back to focusing on the many positives of having a location independent lifestyle. For us, they far outweigh the minor inconveniences and occasional unpleasantness.


Road Trip

Florida to Missouri – May, 2018 We completed our road trip from Florida to Missouri in 10 days. We made it back to Doniphan for Memorial Day weekend. We stayed there two weeks and have now relocated to Springfield where we plan to spend a few weeks.

After Top Sail we visited my dad and stepmom who live east of Birmingham, Alabama. From there we got an early start one morning and made the 5 hour drive to West Memphis, Arkansas where we stayed one night at Tom Sawyer’s RV Park. We paid $35 for a full hookup, gravel pull-thru site with our Good Sam discount.

We have considered staying at Tom Sawyer’s a few times in the past. But usually we get that close to home and find the energy to continue on. Not this day. We were happy to make to the I55 bridge and didn’t care to go another mile.

We were totally whipped and ready to throw in the towel even though it was only noon. We were also very intrigued by several awesome sounding bike paths in the Memphis area, one of which would have allowed us to ride over the Mississippi River. We hoped that after we had lunch and some rest we would be refreshed enough to load the bikes up and go have at least a short ride on one of them.

Unfortunately some storms moved in during the afternoon and ruined that plan. So we made a plan B. Jim has always wanted to visit Memphis’ Bass Pro Shops ever since it opened in the Memphis Pyramid.

From our campsite in West Memphis it was an easy 10 mile drive to reach it. Their parking is under a pretty impressive collection of overpasses. I liked how they framed the downtown skyline.

We have been to many Bass Pro stores but this one was one of their more impressive ones. Here’s Jim trying to decide where to begin.

Once you enter, the glass elevator in the middle of the pyramid is pretty hard to ignore.

You can ride it 28 stories to the top where there is an observation deck and a restaurant. The cost to ride the elevator was $10 per person. We would have paid it except for 2 things: I had forgotten my camera and it was raining pretty hard. We decided to save the experience for another day. Maybe we’ll even spring for dinner at the top someday.

This Bass Pro has the unusual distinction of having a hotel right in it. The screened balconies of more than a dozen rooms can be seen in this photo. I bet it would be a fun place to stay.

We wandered and enjoyed all the usual Bass Pro departments and a few unusual ones. The only thing I needed was a pair of sunglasses as I had made it out of Florida with only one pair and left that pair at my dad’s. But this store doesn’t just sell sunglasses.

They have a department where you can design your own custom pair and they will make it for you in a few minutes. No, I didn’t inquire what the price for that would be. I just held out for the next Walmart.

They had the usual Bass Pro fish ponds but some of these fish were gargantuan.

We wrapped up our tour of the two stories of merchandise without buying a thing. We headed back to camp as the storms where subsiding and wandered along the riverbank a bit. The campground has park benches spread out all along the riverbank and we enjoyed watching the barges go by.

The next morning there was a pretty nice sunrise over the river.

We made the short 3 hour drive to my hometown the next day. We spent the next two weeks working on my family’s river house and enjoying the Current River. They say the snakes are pretty bad this year. This one was right at the bottom of our steps one afternoon.

I don’t remember having so many foggy mornings.

It was just a year ago that we experienced An Epic Flood. My dad and older brother had reinsulated, sheetrocked, and painted over the winter. Jim and I hung the doors and trim and it is now ready for furniture. Fingers crossed that we don’t have to go through that again.

Home Improvements

Goodland, FL – January, 2018 January was the coldest month we have ever spent in Florida so it wasn’t appealing to go boating very often. On a few of the nicer days we did boat out in the afternoon and start exploring our new home waters.

We spent one morning in a class offered by the Coast Guard Auxiliary that was devoted to navigating the waters around Marco Island. It was extremely helpful and made us more confident about venturing to some places. We also learned of other areas with too many obstacles that we’d rather avoid.

We spent most of January finishing the projects we had planned for this season on our little house. We had several guests scheduled to visit us starting in early February. We wanted to get all our work done so we could just rest and enjoy their company when they arrived.

On all but the chilliest days the weather was pretty great for tackling outdoors jobs. It was better than our first month here when we tried to get most of our outdoor work done before 11 because it was too darn hot to do much after that. On the coldest days we concentrated on our indoor projects.

For a home that flooded during the hurricane, it had remarkably little damage. A tidal surge had swept through it and reached about ankle deep in most of the house. Apparently it exited quickly though and that prevented the damage from being worse.

The previous owner had cleaned the flood damage really well but had not removed the ruined laminate flooring that was in most of the house. When we demoed the flooring we found a lot of dust and some mud still under it. We were glad to get down to the subfloors so we could get it scrubbed clean and dried and know what we were living with. The plywood below the laminates was in extremely good shape and required no additional work.

We replaced the laminate flooring with vinyl planks. They are very similar to laminates but they are waterproof and, thankfully, they were much easier to install. They look great and are comfortable to live with and easy to keep clean.

The paneling in the master bedroom had wicked the flood water and swelled up. So we had to cut it off and replace it with wainscoting to the bottom of the window sills around the room.

We were prepared to do this in the remainder of the house to clean and disinfect any water damage in the walls. We removed several baseboards throughout the house. Remarkably we didn’t find any others where the water had gotten into the walls.

Other than that the house required very little interior work. I love the paint color the previous owner had used to paint most every surface. I was able to get a custom match at the paint store to paint the new wainscoting and touch up around the house.

Jim had to solve one major plumbing issue. The septic started backing up within a few days of us moving in. He ended up having to dig up the septic inlet and found that it was poorly designed 60 plus years ago with a 90 degree turn into the tank AND that, more recently, the inlet pipe had sunken below the inlet hole and someone had made a pretty crappy (pun intended) repair.

He did the right thing and dug up the whole area so he could raise the pipe and add several 45’s to replace the 90. He also added a cleanout which doubles as a place to dump our RV. The good news is that it didn’t end up costing much to fix. It just required several days of hard work and sweat.

We found some other poorly plumbed items in the house, like drains that were just stuck together and not even glued. But other than the plumbing, we have been extremely happy with the quality of workmanship that went into the house before we owned it, like the beautifully tiled shower.

FEMA had tarped the entire roof after Irma but there were no signs that it had actually leaked. In late December we finally removed the tarping and decided it could be repaired which was a huge relief. The before picture is of the worst half of the roof. The after picture is of the other side which had much fewer missing shingles.

We spent a good part of 3 days replacing damaged roof tabs and filling a gazillion holes from the nails used to hold the tarps down. It’s not beautiful but it hasn’t leaked and it’s such a low pitched roof you can’t see it from the ground. The color of the new tabs will eventually blend with the old as they weather.

Most of our budget and effort went into the backyard and the dock. One of the very first things we did was have a hot tub delivered. More than anything about RVing we miss our hot tub. We looked for used ones but couldn’t find a good deal so we splurged on a new, two person tub.

We covered an uneven back porch with a deck.

The palm tree scene on the left is a privacy/sun screen. The south facing back yard can get brutally hot. We recovered the old dock with new decking and enlarged it slightly.

Then we joined the two with a boardwalk and covered much of the back yard in gravel.

Finally we added some decorative lighting.

I’d guess we are about halfway done with everything we hope to accomplish on this home. But the remainder of the projects can, and likely will, wait for next season. As far as project homes go this one is probably the least amount of work of any that we have ever bought.

There are a couple things I feel obligated to pass on in case anyone is considering such an investment. First: I think it is unlikely that you could find anyone to finance such a property. Despite its upgrades, this home is essentially a very old manufactured home that does not qualify for any traditional financing.

We were lucky to have a line of credit (LOC) set up with some of our rental properties as collateral. We arranged it to finance our flip house last season and since we sold it, the LOC was just sitting there. So we were able to make a cash offer and close in two weeks.

Second: We were barely able to insure the property. At first, I wasn’t very concerned about this. The land is worth the majority of what we paid for it so if it burned to the ground we felt we could recover most of our investment anyway. Only later did it dawn on me that no insurance meant no liability insurance, now that would be just plain irresponsible to go without.

I checked with a couple local agents and it wasn’t looking very good. Thankfully I have the majority of my rental properties insured with a real estate investment group and they were finally able to cover the home with a basic policy that will cover fire and, most importantly, provide liability coverage. It does not include hurricane or flood coverages though so, fingers crossed!

We Bought a House, Again!

Goodland, FL – November-December, 2017 We were pretty sure we were going to invest in another home in Florida this year. We had several possible scenarios we were considering: another flip house, a rental, or a home of our own. Once we got the boat, a waterfront property was our primary focus, one we could stay in or near and work on this season while enjoying having the boat out the back door. What we decided to do with it at the end of the season (sell it, rent it, or keep it for our use next season) was moot as long as it was a good deal.

We spent some time looking north of Bonita Springs in the Cape Coral area. We found some really good possibilities there but for some reason we just couldn’t get excited enough about any of them to pull the trigger. I don’t think we’ve ever bought a house we weren’t crazy excited about so we procrastinated and didn’t make any decision at all.

Mid-November, when I was almost recovered from what I assume was the flu, Jim asked if we could take a Sunday drive to a house he had seen on Zillow. He had saved it to his favorites list when he first saw it for sale last summer (yes, we were trolling Zillow for homes in Florida while we were sitting in the mountains of Colorado). He was really taken with the property although it was way more than we wanted to spend at $235,000.

In October, post Hurricane Irma, he received a notification from Zillow that the home’s price had decreased almost $75,000. He was curious to find out if it was totally demolished by the hurricane or just what exactly would justify a price drop of 75 grand! So we made the one hour drive south to Goodland, Florida to check it out.

We drove by and couldn’t see any obvious signs of damage. We called the agent and after some back and forth were told she could show it in about an hour. We had come out this way last year to check out real estate and although the property we looked at was disappointing, the area was awesome.

We finally met the agent just after lunch and were really excited by what we saw. The house had flooded during Hurricane Irma, but the damage was fairly minimal. As is typical for us, we toured the property for a whole 20 minutes and then made an offer. We made a strong bid and hadn’t left ourselves a lot of room to negotiate so we were really pleased when our original offer was accepted with no haggling.

So here is our latest investment. Most of these pics are from the listing. I’ll share my after photos with you in a later post. This is what we got for $150,000.

The house is a 1950’s single-wide trailer with a 12 x 16 foot addition which is used as the master bedroom.

Then, sometime in the 90’s, a 12 x 21 foot lanai was added. It was later finished out and is currently a great room large enough for living and dining.

Eventually a roof was installed over all three sections of the home. The total home is small, just like we like it at 700 square foot.

The trailer has been completely redone and even though the tires and axles are still under it, it was totally overbuilt and you cannot feel any movement when walking in it. It consists of a relatively large kitchen:

A bath (yep, that is a porthole):

And the original bedroom. The last couple occupants used it as a closet. A 10 x 8 closet! I don’t think so. We’re calling it a second bedroom and will likely put a double bed in it for guests in the near future.

The lot is also tiny at just under a tenth of an acre or around 4,000 sq. feet. In fact, when one of my relatives first heard that we had bought a place in Florida with 4,000 sq. ft. their first thought was “what the hell are they thinking buying a house that large?!” Later they realized that was the square footage of the entire property, not the house, which made a lot more sense.

There is an outbuilding for tools, extra storage, AND a washer/dryer.

The best part about the property is that, though small, there is plenty of room to park our 5th wheel in the drive.

OK, maybe not the best part. Did I mention there is a canal out our back door?

The yard and dock need the most work.

I am looking forward to sharing the improvements we have planned when they are finished.

You may be wondering “Is this it? Are they settling down?” The short answer is NO. We definitely plan to enjoy this little slice of paradise this season and next. After that we may sell the place or we may rent it out either seasonally or annually. Decisions, decisions,…!

Fakahatchee Strand State Park

Copeland, FL – December, 2017 While out exploring one morning Jim and I ran across the Fakahatchee Strand State Park. It is a strand swamp, which means it is a linear, water-filled channel with prairies on each side. Fakahatchee happens to be the world’s largest, at 22 miles long, and the only one with a mixed royal palm and cypress tree canopy.

Our first stop was at the Big Cypress Bend Boardwalk which is right on the Tamiami Trail about 20 miles east of Naples. There is a pond out front with fish jumping, birds wading, and upon our arrival, a very large alligator sunning himself not 15 feet from the highway.

I took that picture from the safety of a bridge over the pond. We then found the path to the boardwalk. We walked a short distance beside some water keeping a close eye out for that fellow’s cousins. We soon reached the boardwalk which offered protection from ankle biters and we could spend more time looking at the amazing surroundings.

Some of the Cypress trees were HUGE.

And these lovely flowers were pretty common.

I later learned they are called swamp lilies or sometimes string lilies.

Some of the most intriguing trees were those that appeared to be being choked by a vine.

Turns out it is actually the roots of the Strangler Fig which starts out as a seed deposited in the top of a host tree. It then sends down roots to the ground and they entwine and often kill the host tree. This one literally looks like the fig is a fist wrapped around the host.

While reading the signs at the boardwalk we realized we were on the edge of a very large state park. We decided we might as well see the rest of it. A little further east on Tamiami and a few miles north on Hwy 888 and we reached another entrance to the park.

We took the park road called James Scenic Road for about 8 miles. It was scenic, and extremely rough! But it was worth it.

We had only gone a couple miles when we saw a gator. He was right beside the road and perfectly still. He wasn’t even inclined to twitch an eye muscle as I took his photo from the safety of my passenger seat.

A short distance later was a second one. He was more active. He had his head resting on some grass by a tree and moved it back and forth a couple times. Maybe he was just scratching an itch.

We saw a half dozen more laying on the edge of the water beside the road. We then saw a very large one crossing the road probably 300 yards ahead of us. He was a monster, longer than the road was wide. By the time we reached the spot he had crossed there was no sign of him.

We decided we had had enough rough riding for one day and turned around a little short of the road’s end. We’ll make it all the way on our next trip. I took a turn at the wheel dodging potholes and let Jim enjoy the scenery.

He was hoping to see a baby alligator and he saw a fairly small one, although probably not a baby. It was about a foot and a half.

The swamp was really quite lovely. The water was perfectly still and the reflection of the trees in the water was intriguing.

If you are in the area or passing through on the Tamiami Trail this park is well worth the stop. We definitely plan to visit again.