While staying in the Tampa Bay area for about 2 months, we enjoyed quite a bit of time in the city of St. Pete. There is so much to do there – from arts & culture to outdoors to restaurants and more! You decide what fits your hobbies and tastes, but it’s definitely worth a visit to St. Pete!
Saturday Morning Market – This market is held on Saturday mornings from October to May from 9-2 in the Al Lang Field Parking Lot. While it boasts itself as a one of the best markets in the country, we didn’t wholeheartedly agree with that assessment.
It is mostly prepared food vendors with a few crafts people scattered about and a handful of farms selling fresh, local vegetables and other items like honey. It was super crowded and hard to enjoy. We did buy a few fresh veggies from the farms.
Since we’ve traveled the county and particularly enjoy local markets this one did seem anything special to us. Maybe if we knew all the neighbors and wanted to socialize with friends, it would be a fun place. However, we found it lacked in real, local take home food options like fresh veggies and fruits. If you go to grab a bite to eat and socialize with friends, you might enjoy it more than we did.
Dali Museum – A museum devoted to Salvador Dali. We suggest you go on Thursday after 5pm because entry is only $10. Since it’s the cheaper admission evening, expect it to be a crowded. We enjoyed the oddities of his work and then followed it up with a stroll down the main street of St. Pete, Central Ave., for some dinner. There are tons of restaurants to choose from, so pick what looks good to you.
Fort de Soto – This is a county park which offers camping, biking, beach, kayaking and picnic areas. We enjoyed spending a day here and launched our kayaks right into the water. It was awesome exploring the islands surrounding the park which was covered in huge shells, some the size of my hand! There is also an historic fort to explore and learn a little about the history of the area. We did not camp here, but from what we hear it is tough to get a spot. Book early!
Sunken Gardens – This is a 4 acre botanical garden in the historic area of St. Pete. It has beautiful plants as well as flamingos, parrots and other wildlife. Go on groupon or other coupon sites to find cheaper entrance to the park. We did and enjoyed a nice picnic followed by a stroll through the gardens. It’s a nice place for an afternoon stroll and some relaxing.
Tampa Bay Devil Rays play at Tropicana Stadium right in the heart of St. Pete.
Museum of Fine Arts – We didn’t visit the museum, but we hear it’s great. You decide if it’s your thing.
Coffeepot Bayou – Located in the northeast history area this bayou offers a park and a path alongside it to walk, bike, run or simply relax. It is also a good place to look for manatee. We did spot several and enjoyed walking down this beautiful street. The park has playground equipment for any children in your group. No charge for parking on the streets surrounding the bayou.
Florida’s largest used and new book store will not disappoint. We literally could have spent hours in here. The employees are friendly and helpful, there are stacks and stacks of books to look through and lastly, a friendly, cute cat to pet and even feed a treat. An employee saw us enjoying the cat, so he gave us a treat to give her. We definitely had a special time at this great book store and we think you will too!
If you enjoyed this post, you may also like our post about visiting Tampa Bay. There is so much to do in the area, we had to break up the two areas. We don’t think you’ll be disappointed with the area since it offers so much!
When we decided to spend 2 months in Tampa, I honestly didn’t know what to expect. All I knew was we wanted to experience a new place, attend the Tampa RV Show and go on a cruise without flying anywhere; the area met those goals and surpassed our expectations. Read on to see how we enjoyed our time (and you can too) during your visit to the Tampa Bay area.
Visit the Tampa Bay area
Parks and nature
Nature is plentiful in the metro area. There are lots of parks, ocean activities, wildlife viewing, kayaking opportunities and more! We tend to enjoy nature and being outside more than other activities.
Alderman’s Ford Park This place, for me, was a hidden gem. This is a county park which was quiet, had a wonderful loop trail and an extended boardwalk area along with a great canoe/kayak launch. There is a small fee of $2 to park here which I found totally worth it for the solitude. There is also a nice playground should you be traveling with kids. You can also have your dog on leash throughout the trails.
Lithia Springs Park – This is a county park which offers a natural spring that continuously discharges 72-degree water and serves as a nice place for swimmers to cool off on hot summer days. It also has a first-come, first-served campground which looked nice. You could visit both this park and Alderman’s Ford together as they are only about 20 minutes apart and your entrance fee to one will be accepted at the other.
Lettuce Lake Regional Park – A great park for wildlife watching and exploring the boardwalks. This park also has a small fee, $2, to park and explore. Get out and see the wildlife. Bring a camera, picnic lunch and enjoy nature.
TECO manatee viewing center – This is a boardwalk viewing area to see manatee. The local power plant uses the bay water to cool the plant and then releases the warm water back into the bay. Well, the manatee discovered the warm waters and enjoy floating about. They built a totally free boardwalk to observe the mammals. There are also a few short hiking trails which should not be ignored. They are quiet and peaceful. Be aware since this is free that it gets crowded! I found taking the trails a nice break from the crowds of the boardwalk area and parking lots.
Museums and inside activities
Ybor City – This is the history of Tampa! We learned a lot by walking around, visiting the little museum and visitor’s center and soaking in the vibes of this historic district. You can do everything from ride the historic street car, smoke a hand rolled cigar and watch them being made, learn about the history of the city of Tampa, partake in the nightlife and visit the historical buildings and museum. There are also free roaming chickens which added to the old city charm. This is an area of the city that is being revitalized, so we’re sure it will be different when you visit. However, we think it’s worth a stop. There are many restaurants to choose from and nightlife seems to be abundant.
Florida Aquarium – From everything I heard about this place, it should be a good time. However, we did not visit it during our visit. Pair it with a walk on the Riverwalk.
Henry B. Plant Museum – This place is a historic hotel which looks amazing from the outside. It has the oddest architecture and you’ll know what I’m talking about when you see it for yourself. We didn’t tour it, but we think we would if we had more time to explore.
Breweries – Over 80 breweries are scattered throughout the Tampa Bay area and probably more are opening each year. Take your pick. Some of them offer food, while others have a food truck parked outside and the rest usually allow you to bring food into the establishment to consume with your beer. We enjoyed Coppertail Brewing (great food here too!), Bootleggers (bring your own food), Cigar City (food truck), Ybor City Mead and Cider (food in the area) and more! Seriously, there are too many to list.
Columbia Restaurant – The oldest Spanish restaurant in Florida serving up what we hear is delicious food. Visit this famous establishment in Ybor City and possibly even enjoy some flamenco dancing along with your dinner.
There is everything from seafood to Italian to Mexican to vegan restaurants. We won’t listing them all because there’s always yelp for those reviews. Plus, they are always new places opening which might be worth a stop. Find one that suits your taste buds.
Festivals and special events
Strawberry Festival in Plant City (about 30-45 minutes away) – I wish we had one more week in the area, so we could attend this 11-day festival. Held in the beginning of March every year, I’m thinking it would be a blast to attend. I wish I could tell you more, but I’ll leave it to you to explore further.
Gasparilla – A festival lasting 6 weeks where pirates invade the city of Tampa. It starts with a 4.5 mile parade where 500,000 people watch as pirates float down Bayshore Blvd tossing beads at a rowdy, mostly drunk crowd. The festivities are land and water based. Watch out for the boats lined up on the water because they throw water balloons at you!
The weeks following hold all kinds of events with pirate themes including a half marathon, 5k, and more! Don’t miss this very local tradition.
Take a Cruise – Tampa is home to a cruise port which the following cruise lines depart from – Holland America, Royal Caribbean and Carnival. We really enjoyed a week away to the western Caribbean and it was really great to take a Lyft from our RV park to the port.
Tampa RV Show – This is one of the largest, if not the largest, RV show in the country and it runs every year at the Florida State Fairgrounds in January. It is huge! There are tons of RVs to walk through, 2 exhibit halls, a workshop arena, food vendors and more! You can also pay to park in the parking lot for $20/night. Your $10 admission is good for two days, if that tells you anything. You can walk for miles and spend hours walking through so many different RVs from class As to Bs to Cs to travel trailers and more.
Beer, Bourbon and BBQ Festival – We happened to be in the area during this fun little festival held Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park. Actually, we found out about this festival on LivingSocial where we purchased discount tickets. This company produces festivals all year long, so keep an eye out for one that fits your schedule and tastes.
It was really a fun-filled afternoon with tastings galore from so many breweries and distilleries. The tastings are included with your entry, but you have to buy any BBQ or other food. The weather was perfect for 2018 and we enjoyed listening to the music alongside all the tasty beverages.
We coupled this activity with a stroll down the Riverwalk, which we thought made for a perfect day. Parking downtown is free on the weekends which was an added bonus!
Tampa Riverwalk – a nice path to stroll the river in downtown Tampa. You can pair a walk here with a meal at one of the nearby restaurants or a visit to the Aquarium. There is also a water taxi, if you get tired or want to experience the water. This is dog friendly and they even have doggie stations.
Busch Gardens – Who doesn’t know about this place? We didn’t visit, but know that some people would enjoy a day or two here.
Disney, etc. – Disney and the attractions of Orlando are only an hour plus away. Take your pick to explore the parks and tourist attractions around the area. You could even spend a night or two there as Disney has its own RV park, Fort Wilderness. If you’re a Florida resident, search around for the resident discounts.
If you’re in the area and looking for more to do, read our post about St. Pete. There’s even more fun activities and places to explore.
During our recent cruise vacation, we met lots of new people. The first question usually asked was of course, where are you from? Our answer never wavered from we live in an RV and travel all over, so we don’t really have a from. Some people loved this idea, but then it came up of what do we miss from our “old” life. Isn’t it hard living on the road away from familiarity?
Well, yes and no. There isn’t a one word answer here. All things have their ups and downs, right? You definitely give up familiarity with travel, but you get so much more. We’re ok with the trade-off.
How we turn the downs of travel into ups
Family and Friends
Yes. It can be hard being away from family and friends; we miss family at times. However, traveling has allowed us to see more family. We travel to them. Travel allowed us to be near Paul’s family for a whole winter and we celebrated birthdays, Christmas and even met up for breakfasts with the family.
While we miss having a friend nearby for a last minute dinner, happy hour, hike, etc., we have met so many new friends on the road. It’s been awesome meeting amazing new people and finding them again later in a new place. Social media has allowed us to keep in touch with both friends and family and to know when our paths cross. We have had some great times meeting people all over the country. We can also travel to cities and towns to visit with old friends, so it’s all good.
Heck, we can even meet up with friends and family in new places which allows them to travel as well.
So many people ask us why we don’t have a washer and dryer in our RV. Our answer is why would we? It’s not only heavy, but takes up valuable storage space. We honestly enjoy going to laundromats as it takes so much less time to get multiple loads of laundry done. In 2 hours or less we can wash and dry 3-4 loads! If we have a washer and dryer, that would take all day to get done.
Plus, we can wash blankets and the dog bedding easily. Win win in our eyes.
It’s a basic need that everyone must do. It is also a constant struggle to find the brands and things we like in new places across the country.
How have we adjusted?
Well, grocery trips are an adventure most of the time. It takes us a little longer to find things and we’ve had to search for natural or health food stores for some of our needs. We’ve never gone hungry though and we’ve always adjusted to whatever is available in a given area.
If possible, we find it helpful to go to familiar brands of stores. For example, Kroger stores are all over, especially the west, but they have different names. It’s not hard to find the local Kroger store and then it’s actually quite a familiar feeling inside.
We also love Trader Joe’s and will almost always stop at one if it happens to be in the area. It’s familiar and has some of our favorites. Plus, there are always seasonal items which are fun to discover.
It’s all part of the fun of travel. Seeing new cultures even within the USA and experiencing different food. Worst case scenario is buying dried goods off of Amazon, if we can’t find it in a store. Problem solved.
We have always enjoyed getting outside for exercise. Traveling hasn’t changed that one bit. It has actually made it more fun and exciting since we’re always exploring new trails, waterways and neighborhoods. We can hike in amazing places to see beautiful new scenery. We can run new neighborhoods and trails. Trust us when we say we saw many new trails as we trained for our half marathon in December.
So travel has allowed us to expand our exercise routines and certainly not made them boring. This wouldn’t be the case if we always enjoyed working out at the gym.
Heather has also discovered the App, Down Dog, which has allowed her to continue to practice yoga in our home on wheels. The only challenge with yoga is keeping the dogs off her mat while she’s down on the floor. However, with a little training they seem to have learned that the mat doesn’t mean a new dog bed and know to leave her alone during this quiet time.
What we miss during our travels, but don’t NEED to live?
Heather enjoyed taking baths when we had a large bathroom. It was her relaxing time with a book.
How have we dealt with that?
Well, it’s not a necessity. It’s a want or need. To fill that void we enjoy hot tubs or hot springs whenever we can.
Heather also enjoys a bath whenever we have one available to us like a hotel, friends house or even on the cruise. Yes, we had a bathtub in our stateroom on the cruise! How awesome is that?!?!?
It sounds like a strange thing to miss, but Heather really enjoyed her monthly book club with friends. It not only made her read books she might not have otherwise picked up, but it was so much fun. Sharing a meal (potluck style) and chatting always made for a fun evening and there is definitely a void there.
She still hasn’t found something to fill that void, but again it’s a want not a need.
Coupons and rewards programs
When living stationary, we enjoyed coupons from the local grocery stores and even frequent buyers programs, if, for example, we went to the same coffee shop. We find our grocery bills are a little higher on the road without those coupons and little extras from retail stores.
We also earned a gas discount by shopping at the local grocery store and filling up at their gas stations. We got around this by joining a national gas rewards program and using our camping memberships to get some discounts as we travel.
It’s certainly not a deal breaker for us, but it is a new normal and adjustment.
This might seem like a simple thing to miss, but it’s not easy finding a good vet who knows our dogs. One of our dogs has a lifetime illness that’s not widely known about outside the southwest US and it’s not always easy to get him care outside of our old vet. He requires annual blood work and daily meds due to the illness. As he starts to age, the medicine is also taking its toll on him.
Thankfully, we were able to visit with our familiar vet when we were back in Colorado which was really nice. Our vet has also been very understanding and helps us out over the phone at times. It’s been a blessing having such a great animal hospital who supports our travels and our dogs.
Keeping them up to date on vaccines has been easy enough. It’s the records that are driving us crazy. We have a paper folder for all their records because they have received vaccines all across the USA including Texas, California, Colorado and Florida. These vaccine records are needed anytime you see a new vet or need pet sitting services. This is where being away from familiarity is hard, but not a deal breaker. Just another adjustment. We can handle it.
We’ve adjusted and we make it work, but it’s not easy and we miss the familiarity of our old vet clinic.
Heather had a few regular volunteering opportunities that she really enjoyed. It was not only fun, but fulfilling giving back to a community. It’s a little harder to do that on the road, so for now we’ve forgone volunteer opportunities.
Maybe down the road we can do a volunteer vacation or find some way to give back that doesn’t require a weekly or monthly commitment. Again, this isn’t something we need to live, but something that adds value to our lives.
See what I’m getting at? It’s all about making new normals and adjusting to what’s available. What are some of your new normals after living on the road?
So as 2017 comes to an end, we sit and reflect on our accomplishments and adventures of 2017. As we go through the photos, we can’t believe the adventures we’ve had! What amazing memories and experiences all in one. After reminiscing and discussing our favs, we share with you, our readers, a year in review!
To whet your appetite we’ve checked off bucket list items including experiencing the Oregon coast, seeing both sea otters and manatees in the wild, visiting Jasper and Banff National Parks in Canada, witnessing the total solar eclipse, attending the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta and more!
In numbers, we’ve
Driven over 25,000 miles
Visited 17 National Parks and Monuments and countless state parks and wildlife refuges
Explored 14 states and 2 Canadian provinces
Visited over 45 craft breweries, cideries and wineries (Yes, we like good beer and wine.)
I mean I can’t even grasp we did all that in one year! Wow!
Let’s begin with our accomplishments.
Ran a Half Marathon
First, we both successfully trained for and completed a half marathon! This has been a goal of ours for a few years and it finally made it on the list. Originally, we registered to partake in the Everglades Half Marathon. Then Hurricane Irma came along. The race course was under water and the event was canceled.
Well, Heather quickly did some research and found another one just over an hour from where we’d be parked. Heather made it all come together (needed our dogs watched for the night so we could stay in a hotel near the race) and we completed the half on a HOT sunday morning in West Palm Beach. Woohoo!
We became Florida residents!
Is this seen as an accomplishment? We believe it is.
It signifies we completed all the paperwork necessary for our full-time RV life. It certainly felt like a huge weight off our backs and meant our move from sticks and bricks to RV life was complete! Woohoo!
This was the year we got solar! Paul installed our solar system himself which was a huge accomplishment in itself. In addition, having solar allows us to boondock (be off the grid) more often. Although at times we find it to be a challenge finding non-campground spots, we do enjoy the end results of finding quiet places for parking our home.
It definitely gives us more flexibility with where we park which is nice. When we get tired of being close to people or we simply want to be surrounded by nature, we boondock. It also saves us money which we can spend on other fun things like beer and wine tastings.
Ladies first, right?
Heather’s photography is now hanging in a beautiful fine art gallery in old town Albuquerque! This is super exciting and she’s really happy to build a lasting relationship with a wonderful gallery. So, if you’re passing through the Albuquerque area be sure to check out Romero Street Gallery to see some of her nature and wildlife photography.
On the other side of work for Heather, she has officially earned the title of Enrolled Agent from the IRS. Enrolled agents are Federally recognized in the field of taxation and have unlimited practice rights before the IRS. This means she is not restricted by state lines as to which taxpayers she can represent. This marks the start to her continued education and learning as she works to grow a tax business specifically for RV Entrepreneurs, Tax Queen.
Plus, she’s got something big on the horizon related to this, so keep your eyes open for her next big thing!
Now for Paul’s accomplishments.
Paul and his business partners got their very first contract for campgroundbooking.com and all have been working diligently to get that up and rolling for its January 1, 2018 release! It has been over a year in the making and I’m so proud of all their hard work.
Paul also successfully completed an 8 month contract for a company that built software to connect emergency responders with problems at big events. It uses drones, GPS devices, detectors and alarms to know exactly where issues exist and hopefully avoid some lousy situations. Pretty neat, right?
Now onto our fun personal adventures.
We’ll start with our trials because we can certainly laugh about them now.
Trials and frustrations
Getting Stuck in Sand with the RV
First off, one of our biggest mistake this year was getting stuck in the sand near Great Sand Dunes National Park. However, we amazingly got ourselves out of the situation with no outside help! Now that’s an accomplishment and a trial all rolled into one. To read about that fun time, visit the post.
Dog Health Issues
Second, we had three visits to emergency vets for an injured/sick dog. If you’re just tuning in, we have two dogs who travel with us. This year adventuring took their toll on each of them from skin infections to a “brain event” (aka a mini-stroke) to an infected paw that took over a month to heal up. It’s been one wild ride with these two, but everything is back to normal and they continue to love smelling and exploring new places all the time.
Next up was the trial of having mice in our RV. I believe every traveler experiences this at some point and let me tell you, it is no fun to deal with at all! What we learned from this lesson. Have ALL food in plastic containers. We also now have Fresh Cab packets all over our “basement” and in hidden areas. Read more about that lovely story and learn some ways to deal with them over here.
Lastly, was the trial of dropping the trailer off for some routine maintenance. Keep in mind we live in our RV and you can’t simply drop off a 5th wheel for the day for maintenance. The repair shop kept our RV for almost 3 weeks!
The hardest part of it was getting an appointment during “busy” season and then making the shop honor our appointment. RV repair shops typically don’t allow people who didn’t buy an RV with them to receive maintenance during the busy season. Yes. It is truly frustrating scheduling maintenance with an RV.
Thankful for a great friend for letting us crash at her place, dogs and all. However, it’s not easy being out of your home and routine for almost 3 weeks, so it took its toll on us.
Last but not least, the fun stuff!
We purchased kayaks in the spring and are quite happy with our new toys. We have kayaked lots of places including Lake Louise and other places in British Columbia and Alberta, along the coast of Oregon, on lakes and rivers in Montana, Washington, Colorado, Florida, Texas and more. It’s been a wonderful, relaxing and peaceful experience having a new way to explore places. Read more about our kayaks and our first experience with them here.
We sort of felt like we were hot spring chasing this summer. We were fortunate to visit all three commercial hot springs in the Canadian national parks of Jasper, Banff and Kootenay. While we enjoyed them, we prefer a more rustic natural setting. We found that in Idaho where we had to hike to soak in the natural springs and also in Colorado where we visited some amazing natural hot spring pools. In the end we love hot springs. Who doesn’t?!?!
Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta
This was a bucket list item for us and it amazed us. A truly magical experience in a great city. Read all about the experience and get some tips for attending yourself here. While we were exhausted after all the early mornings, the experience was definitely worth it.
Experiencing the solar eclipse
We purposely put ourselves in the path of the total solar eclipse and it surpassed all expectations. We also scheduled it to meet up with Heather’s sister and her boyfriend who were camping across the country on an extended holiday. It was the perfect long weekend full of laughs, adventures, family time, new friends in the RV park and of course, the total solar eclipse.
Becoming a little more flexible
Becoming a little more flexible with plans and changing them to experience something unique. If you follow us at all, you know that Heather is a photographer. Well, she learned about the Superbloom of 2017 happening from all the winter rain in southern California and couldn’t resist re-routing us to experience the bloom ourselves. It was worth it! Read all about it here.
By now I have either bored you to death or wowed you as much as myself with all our experiences, trials and accomplishments. Hopefully, it’s the latter and you can’t wait to see what 2018 brings us.
What were some of your 2017 accomplishments, trials and adventures? What’s on the books for 2018?