Amy Foster


We had no idea how popular Florida was with RVers during the winter until we tried to book reservations two months before our trip…only to learn that many Florida winter RV spots book up eight months to a full year in advance.  This made it slightly challenging to find places to stay near popular destinations such a Naples during the month of February.

However, while researching for our trip we were lucky to stumble upon the website Campendium which shows all camping options in your search area from free BLM land (public land) to spendy RV resorts. In addition, users can leave star ratings and detailed feedback about the condition of the site, how level the sites are, what amenities are included and even the strength of cell signal in each spot (3 bars AT&T 3G, 2 bars Verizon 4G, etc.). This last bit of info is super helpful on our trip given that Max is working remotely and needs to be connected during the work week. Using Campendium we were able to find a nice RV spot at Belle Mead Campground in Picayune Strand State Forest that was roughly 45 minutes away from the Naples pier for $20 per night with reservation or $10 per night first come first serve.

Picayune Strand Campsite

You can see why so many snowbirds come to Naples in the winter because the beaches are beautiful, the weather is warm and it just has that Tommy Bahama upscale relaxing vibe to it.  In the three days that we had there, we spent most of our time on the beach between Naples Old Pier and Naples New Pier as both were good places to relax and for Max to shoot seascapes. I loved how every night about 30 minutes before sunset the local residents would come down to the beach with a picnic blanket and a bottle of wine to watch the sunset.  Just as the sun dipped below the horizon you could hear a round of applause as everyone clapped for that night’s performance.

Naples Old Pier
Naples New Pier

In addition to relaxing on the beach, we got some much needed trailer maintenance done during our stay in Naples. After our bug situation in the Everglades, Max purchased clear silicone caulking and applied it around all of our window screens to prevent further bugs from flying through any small cracks.  We also finally bought the right connector so that we were able to hook up two Lead Acid Marine Batteries to the trailer giving it one extra day’s worth of power. So now with two batteries we officially have two day’s worth of power when “off the grid”.  We’re still contemplating purchasing solar panels, but for right now are getting by with two batteries and a generator.

Prepping for Double Battery Install

I mentioned that Max is working part-time remotely on this trip, but I haven’t shared much about his other big time commitment and passion – photography!  My husband Max is an extremely talented landscape photographer which is a big reason why we decided to go on this 14 month US adventure.  His biggest constraint with photography is not having enough time in the field to shoot, so this trip is perfect as it allows him to work a couple hours, but also gives him the ability to shoot at sunrise and sunset in new locations without worrying about being to work at a certain time each day. Flexibility is key when it comes to outdoor photography, as the weather can change at any moment and you need to be at the right place at the right time to produce amazing work like he does. I’ll be posting more of his photos on the blog as we go, but if you want to see his current portfolio you should check out his website at

Naples Old Pier by Max Foster

The next stop on our route was Everglades National Park, the first National Park of our trip!  Most national parks are created to preserve unique geographic features; however Everglades National Park was the first created because of its biodiversity.  It is home to endangered species such as the Florida Panther, American Crocodile and West Indian Manatee to name a few.  The Everglades is also the only place in the world where you can find Alligators and Crocodiles together in the wild due to the unique climate and geographic location.

After getting settled into our campsite at the Long Pine Key Campground, we headed out to shoot sunset at a small pond nearby.  Max and I had a bet going as to who could spot the very first alligator in the park and the winner would get a splurge meal of their choice. We both scoured the pond and nearby areas for alligators, but saw none.  Just as the sun was setting, I spotted something really small moving in the water.  As it swam closer and closer to us we realized it was a baby alligator and there were four others swimming toward us as well.  They were really cute, but we knew that wherever there were baby alligators, mama wasn’t far behind!  Between that and the crazy amount of mosquitos that swarmed us at the onset of dusk, we left and headed back to Big Red.

That night while we were making dinner, we noticed small bugs flying around our ceiling lights.  At first we thought we accidentally let them in through the door when we opened the RV, but even after we caught most of them their numbers kept increasing! Our doors were closed and we had screens on all of the windows, so how were they getting in?  After closer inspection with a flashlight from both inside and outside the trailer, we noticed that many of the window screens are not flush with the wall, which left small openings for bugs to fly in. Unfortunately, that meant we had to keep all of our windows and doors closed in the 85 degree weather until we were able to get to a hardware store to seal up those cracks.

The next morning we set out for the Anhinga Trail. This trail is known for being able to see American alligators up close as the boardwalk rises above the marshes and waterways.  Because this is such a popular trail for visitors to the Everglades, the full parking lot also attracts another type of visitor – vultures.  We were shocked to learn that vultures at this particular parking lot like to eat the soft rubber on cars, so if you are the unlucky one in the lot you may come back to see the soft rubber shredded on your car.  Given the severity of the problem, the visitor center provides large tarps to cover your car on a first come first serve basis. Luckily, we were able to get one of the tarps and escaped unscathed after our visit. Oh and most importantly, we got to see several alligators on the trail!

A trip to the Everglades would not be complete without a stop at the Flamingo Visitor Center, also known as the end of the road. While not in the best condition due to recent storms and lack of funding, the area around the visitor center provided a great way to see more unique wildlife.  As we strolled the boardwalk around the saltwater lagoon, we saw several manatees up close eating the vegetation off the side of the docks. These massive gentle creatures are on average 10ft long and weigh up to 1,300 lbs with females generally larger than males.

Given that the Everglades is the only place in contiguous US where crocodiles are found, we really wanted to see one. We heard the best place to view them is behind the Flamingo Visitor Center’s general store at the confluence of where the saltwater and freshwater meet.  As we waited to see a crocodile appear, I noticed kayakers calmly paddling up and down that very same water way.  Part of me wanted to kayak the waters, but the other part of me was screaming “are you crazy?” However, I came to my senses on the basis of not wanting to spend money on the kayak rental. After waiting there for what seemed like an hour with no sight of crocs we both disappointedly walked back to the car.

Outside the Flamingo Visitor Center
Outside the Flamingo Visitor Center

As were in the parking lot ready to drive away I heard a boy yell “Crocodile!”  I immediately jumped out of the car and ran over to see a 12ft crocodile slowly swimming from one side of the water way to the other.  At the same time, an unsuspecting kayak was coming back from their paddle up the river and their parents were yelling at them frantically to move to the other side!  A park ranger showed up, but didn’t seemed phased by the kayak in the water with the croc situation. I asked the park ranger about it and he said they have never had an “incident” with humans and crocodiles even when kayaks have tipped sending someone overboard!

The ranger could tell I was still a bit uneasy about the idea, so he suggested we sign up for a ranger led canoe trip the following day where we’d canoe through mangroves in search of alligators and crocodiles…and it was free! Ranger led…safety check, free of charge…budget check – now I certainly couldn’t say no!

Crocodile Sighting!
Crocodile Sighting!

That following morning we launched our canoe at Nine Mile Pond through the mangroves in search of alligators and crocodiles.  Even though we weren’t able to spot the resident 14ft crocodile “Croc-zilla”, we had a great time going deep into the water jungle and spotted a few alligators along the way.

Canoeing 9 Mile Pond
Canoe Selfie

Lastly, to top off our Everglades trip we stopped at the famous Robert is Here Fruit Stand in Homestead, Florida which is known for their fresh key lime milkshakes and hard to find tropical fruit.  While a bit on the spendy side, ($40 for a key lime milkshake, guanabana banana smoothie, a mango and a guanabana) the fresh tropical taste brought us island vibes without the cost or hassle of a plane ride.

Bienvenidos a Miami!  As mentioned in a previous post, we had planned our month in Florida ahead of time, however; Miami was the only place where we didn’t have reservations as there are very few RV spots near the city and the few that exist book out months in advance. So we left the dates open in hopes of finding a last minute cancellation and kept calling around.  Two days before arrival, we called Embassy RV Park (30 minutes north of Miami) and left a messaged asking if they had two nights available.  The park manager called me back almost immediately to tell me that while they were fully booked with seasonals, they could make an RV spot temporarily available for the weekend by having us park on the side of their shuffle board court. I said we’d take it!

Miami Beach

We were thrilled as we had been looking forward to going to the Miami Yacht Show near South Beach. Up to this point in the trip, we had been wearing athletic clothes almost every day so this was an opportunity for me to dress up a little, put on some makeup and feel a bit more girly and glamorous! Good thing I spruced up a bit, because the Yacht Show was the epitome of flaunting what you’ve got with men in Italian suits wearing their Rolexes, to countless women wearing designer shoes and one in particular carrying her Hermes Birkin bag (they start at $10,000!) with her little dog in it!

We thought once we paid the entrance fee we’d be able to walk the docks and occasionally board a yacht or two to see the interior.  Well, that turned out to be partially correct for used yachts, but if you wanted to get close to a new yacht and have the opportunity to board you had to sign up in that company’s database, give them the specs of your current yacht and tell them what you are looking for in your next yacht purchase.  The conversation often went like this… “Hi, Nice to meet you. So what type of yacht do you currently own? Well, we don’t own one yet, but we’d love to take a look around. Gotcha, well tours are for serious buyers only.  Are you interested in purchasing?  Not at this time, we are just browsing.  Ok, well feel free to come back when you are interested in purchasing.”  You can see where this is going…so we basically got to see the yachts from the dock, but didn’t get to tour any unless we wanted to bullsh*t our way through.

Miami Yacht Show
Miami Yacht Show

Man, sometimes I wish I was a better schmoozer for situations such as this, but I really suck at it!  We had just been rejected from one yacht that was for charters only, so I said to myself, “I paid to get in here so I’m going to tour a dang yacht!”  I put my game face on and the next yacht we tried to tour the guy actually let us board.  When he asked me about my interest in the yacht I asked him what the cost was to charter for a week…he then gave me a funny look and said, “This boat is for sale, not for charters.  Are you interesting in purchasing?”  Argh, failed again!  We still had fun at the Yacht show, but it proved that the $25 per person entrance fee only gets you so far as you need to already own a yacht (or pretend you already own one) if you wanted access to the full experience.

Finally Touring a Yacht!
Finally Touring a Yacht!

After the Yacht Show, we relaxed with some Pina Coladas on the beach and strolled the board walk toward South Beach. On our walk, we had a good laugh at the juxtaposition of our past life vs. our current life.  Nine years earlier we had vacationed on Miami Beach, spending the days near the beach or hotel pool, going out to fancy dinners each night and clubbing at the hottest nightclub in Miami (LIV @ the Fontainbleu).  Now, we had quit our full-time jobs, were on a 14 month road trip living in our RV “Big Red” and were on a budget of $100 per day. This meant that between the RV Park and the Yacht Show there wasn’t anything left over for fancy meals on the town. Guess that’s part of our new found RV life!

I should mention here that though my career up to this point had been in merchandising for Target either directly or indirectly, we have now gone to the “dark side” and become avid Walmart Grocery shoppers.  Why, you might ask? Well, first and foremost, Walmarts are EVERYWHERE. Even if you are in the middle of nowhere, there is likely a Walmart within 20 miles from your location.  Good luck finding a Whole Foods, Costco or Target in some of these places!  Secondly, if you are on a budget, Walmart is cheap and has a much better grocery selection than Target (Sorry Target, but you probably already knew that!). Third, if you want to be efficient with your time, consistency helps so being able to find the same produce and brands everywhere we go cuts down on grocery shopping time. Oh and lastly, Walmarts always have massive parking lots which makes them easy to maneuver and park our 28’ RV. So keep an eye out on People of as you never know when we may be featured. 😉

Anyway, it was after dark when we got back to our RV the night of the Miami Yacht Show. We made dinner, cleaned up and noticed a few ants here and there crawling inside Big Red.  Max took care of the ones he saw and suggested we get some ant killer the following day to nip it in the bud. The next morning we woke up to a full on ANT INVASION!! The ants were literally everywhere…in our cupboards, inside food packaging that had been rolled and sealed with a clip.  They were inside our fridge, in our laundry hamper, in our wardrobe closet, etc.  To be clear, we are super clean people!  Max could even be considered OCD clean, so we really couldn’t believe this was happening to us!?  We never leave any food out, always hand wash our dishes after every meal and Max sweeps our floors 8 times a day!

Ant Invasion!
Ant Invasion!

After tearing our place apart trying to find what caused this invasion, we still could not find anything specifically that attracted them.  It wasn’t until a couple hours later after Max came back with ant killer that we realized we were parked on a giant ant hill!!  The ant killer helped to decrease the number of ants invading Big Red, but what we really needed to do was to get the hell out of there!  After leaving Miami, it took us a week to get rid of all of the ants, but we eventually got back to living sans ants.

After leaving Ormond by the Sea, we were driving south toward Jupiter Island, when Max suddenly noticed he had four inches of play in the steering wheel…not good when you are towing a 6,500 lb trailer!  So we called several Chevy dealers to see who could service it the next day and provide a loaner vehicle. Luckily, we found one near Jupiter with an opening and they were able to fix it in half a day as it had been caused by a single loose bolt.

Our new campsite for this leg of the trip was at the Dupuis Campground in the South Florida Water Management District on the east side of Lake Okeechobee which was FREE! It was a 45 minute drive from our daytime destination of Jupiter Island, but the price was right. In researching for this trip, we found that prices for places to stay with an RV vary greatly from expensive RV Resorts ($60-$100 per night), to mid-range State, National & County Parks ($25-$40 per night), to inexpensive/FREE Land Management Areas, BLM land & various boondocking options (FREE to $15 per night). Granted the more you pay the more amenities you typically have (water, sewer, power, laundry, proximity, etc.), but if your RV has enough power and tank holding capacity you can still camp very comfortably “off the grid”.

Our goal is to spend less than $100 per day on gas, food, & campsites, so if we stay at an expensive RV Resort right on the beach we try to offset it by staying at cheaper places other nights. For being free, this place was fabulous. It had fire rings, picnic tables, hot showers, water, an RV dump station and horses!  However, we didn’t spend a lot of time there other than sleeping as we wanted to make the most of the beaches Jupiter Island had to offer.

Dupuis Management Area Campground

Jupiter Island, Florida was made famous in recent years by celebrities building mega mansions such as Tiger Woods and Celine Dion. It definitely has an upscale vibe to it, but the public parks and beaches are open to everyone and should not be missed.  Our favorite beach was Blowing Rocks Preserve on Jupiter Island. The parking lot is really small, so it’s best to get there early.  The beach has what’s called the Anastasia Rock Formation visible along the shoreline which makes it uniquely beautiful.  We loved the fact that due to the small sized parking lot, we felt like we had the beach almost to ourselves.  We also enjoyed Coral Cove beach just down from there which has ample parking, beautiful white sand and gentle waves.

To cap off the day, we wanted to do a little paddling. DuBois Park is a great spot as its right on the Jupiter Island inlet connecting the Atlantic Ocean to the Indian River. It has everything from beaches to shaded grilling and picnic areas, a kayak launch area and public boat docks.  Since we brought pack-rafts along with us on this trip, we thought this would be the perfect place to try them out. A pack-raft is similar to a blow up kayak, but much lighter and more compact; making it easy to put it in a backpack for a hike and blow it up when you want to cross or paddle down river.

My plan was to paddle down river to see the mansions that line the shore, however; after paddling for an hour and not getting very far Max suggested we turn around to make it back before sunset. Really glad we did, because paddling up river in pack rafts is not for the faint of heart.  There were several points where we were paddling as fast as we possible could and were still going slowly backwards!  Finally, after finding several breaks in the current, we were able to inch our way up river until we made it safely back to the park.  Jupiter Island was definitely worth the three days we had there and we wish we could have stayed a day or two longer, but our first month on the road was already booked in advance so we had to keep on moving.

Anastasia Rock Formation

At this point in the trip, just as we were getting more comfortable with day to day living in Big Red, we were faced with the challenge of short battery life in our RV.  We found that with basic usage of LED lights, water pump, fridge, etc. our single RV/marine lead acid battery was lasting us only one day.  After that we would have to get out the generator to recharge it which gets to be a pain after a while. So the plan is to hookup a second battery for the time being so that we can get at least two day’s worth of power before having to recharge…more to come on this later.

After 1,500 miles on the road in freezing temps, we were thrilled when we finally made it to our first destination at Coral Sands Oceanfront RV Resort – a resort right on the beach in Ormond by the Sea, Florida. We arrived after dark and got to work hooking up Big Red to electric, sewer and water.  Knowing we needed to de-winterize Big Red, we pulled out the RV manual to find the instructions and start the process.

To our surprise, the only thing it mentioned was sanitizing/flushing the tanks, but there was nothing about de-winterizing. Thinking it couldn’t be too hard, Max went ahead and hooked up the water to start flushing out the tanks. Immediately, water starting shooting out of tubes underneath our trailer! Max then tried the city water hookup option (instead of the fill tanks), but water continued spilling out everywhere. Slightly concerned at this point, I grabbed my phone and did some quick internet searching on “How to De-Winterize Your RV?”.  After all, it couldn’t be that hard, right?  We quickly learned that RV plumbing is very model specific, so internet instructions for a different RV aren’t going to help us decode ours.

Coral Sands RV Resort

After trying and failing for over an hour to figure out a fix, we decided to throw in the towel and call an RV repair shop to de-winterize it for us the following day. At 9PM on Friday night, we called RV Tim’s mobile repair shop to leave a message and to our surprise he answered the phone.  Not only did he answer on Friday night, but he spent the next hour walking us through step by step on how to de-winterize our trailer. Thanks to RV Tim, we learned that there are eight different hidden valves behind wood panels that need to be turned on or off during the de-winterizing process. What a guy…would highly recommend if you need any RV assistance in the Daytona Beach area!

It was past 10PM when we finally settled into our RV that night and we still hadn’t eaten dinner. Exhausted with a completely empty fridge, we went to the closest open restaurant nearby, IHOP, and finished the night with some comfort breakfast food.

Ormond by the Sea is a quiet little beach town, just 20 minutes north of Daytona Beach.  It was the perfect spot to relax and adjust to living in our new tiny home. I’d love to say the adjustment was a breeze, but there were lots of things that still took some getting used to like cooking with a travel sized stove and limited counter space. After bumping into each other 50 times while making dinner, we realized only one person can be in the kitchen at a time due to the tight quarters. So now one person makes dinner while the other is on dish duty as we definitely do not have a dishwasher. We had a great four nights there and continued our journey south towards Jupiter Island, Florida.

I can’t believe it’s already been a month since we left on our 14 month road trip across the USA driving from Minnesota to Florida.  A lot has happened that we want to fill you in on, but first and foremost – yes, we are still alive and no, we haven’t gotten sick of each other just yet. 😉

As we sort of expected the first month presented a few obstacles, starting with winter weather.  We had originally planned to leave on Monday, February, 5th, but woke up that morning to a forecast for 6 inches of snow in Iowa.  After a little deliberation, we decided we’d rather be safe than sorry, so we pushed out our start date until the following day.  Good thing we waited!  When we drove through Iowa the next day, we saw more than 25 cars stuck in the ditch from the previous day’s snowstorm.  Luckily, we made it through to St. Louis, MO with no problems.

Neither Max nor I had been to St. Louis, so we were fortunate to have family there to stay with and be our tour guides around the city.  We did the obligatory Gateway Arch tour which provided some amazing views of the city, then ate lunch and had a few cold ones at the Anheuser Busch brewery.

Our plan after leaving St. Louis was to spend a couple nights in Nashville and mosey our way down to Florida; however we scrapped that given our delayed start and seeing that Nashville temperatures were still dipping below freezing at night.  Our Winnebago travel trailer “Big Red” is a 3 season trailer, so the furnace doesn’t work so well when it dips below freezing.

From St. Louis we drove to Atlanta and boondocked at a petting zoo/animal farm for our first night in Big Red.  It was in the mid-40s when we arrived that night, so we piled the blankets on our bed, turned the heat on and hoped for the best.  When we woke up the next morning it was freezing inside as the heat had stopped working due to the low temps!  We made some coffee and oatmeal to warm ourselves up and then hit the road for Florida.  Somewhere on the interstate between Atlanta and Jacksonville, someone may have found a nice little present as we realized our bumper caps (that hold our RV disposal tube inside the bumper) had fallen off and along the way our sh*t tube flew out…time to get a new one!