Sunday, February 15, 2009

A Tale of Two Camp Sites

Hi all -- Dianne here.   This blog is a study of contrasts.   There are all kinds of camp sites, obviously; no two are alike.   The contrast between our two sites this week just has to be shown!   

We left the KOA in the Florida Keys on Wednesday, February 11 for two weeks at the Corps of Engineers campground at Franklin Locks, just east of Fort Myers.  These camp sites are very hard to get; I sat perched on my computer last August 11 at 10:00 a.m., the moment they opened up, in order to reserve one of the handful of sites that became available that day.  I could not tell on the computer from the reservation map what the sites really were like, so I picked site #10.

  WOW!!  Our first clue as we pulled in to register was the campground host saying, "You have the best site in the campground.  People will be asking you how you got this site." 

  We weren't really expecting as much from this campground as our next one, another Corps of Engineers campground east of here at Ortona, also on the Caloosahatchee River.   To say this is a pleasant surprise would be the understatement of 2009!

Roger here...

This story really starts with our arrival at the Key West campground.  The KOA staff had people who assisted everyone as they maneuvered into each site - an absolute necessity there.  We took a few photos of the telephone pole that was less than a foot from two of our windows

 - a lot of back and forth to get this close, but necessary in order to have any space at all outside the RV door.

  The sites were gravel.  They were exhorbitantly expensive.  Everyone was packed in like sardines. The slide-out from the RV next door was only a couple feet from our picnic table, which was only a couple feet from our RV.  When we left, we had to ask the people on our other side to move all of their patio chairs and tables so that we could back into their site to exit.  It took two KOA staff members to get us out of the site.

In the sense of fairness, we knew ahead of time that the campground would be expensive and crowded.  There were also some very positive aspects to the campground.   ALL the staff members were extremely friendly and helpful.  I am sure that their positive attitude diffuses a lot of stressful situations.  The amenities were also excellent.  The pool was excellent.  The adjacent bar area was excellent - beautiful views of the small beach, turquoise water, bridge, and marina.  There was a boat launch and marina on-site (no traveling to launch).  An excellent band played a couple of the nights that we were there.  The camp store was upscale.  Key West was only a half hour away.  There was a small area to let the dogs off-leash.  

In retrospect, it really depends on what you want.  Dianne and I tend to prefer calm views and serenity to the hustle bustle.  Dianne will talk about our current beautiful site.

Dianne here --  Talk about serene!   It's so calm and quiet here at the Corps of Engineers campground at Franklin Locks that when birds fly over us, we can hear their wings flap.   From our patio we can watch boats, yachts, even a paddle wheeler go through the lock.  We are situated at the point of an island in the Caloosahatchee River.   We have a view of water from both sides.  There is an eagle nest in a dead tree across the river, and we can watch the pair of bald eagles who live there roost in the tree.

  They also usually fly right over our site at least once a day.  (I have included a photo of them perched in their tree, but hope to get a closer shot of them flying over while we're here.)

Every evening we sit outside on our patio, have a glass (or two) of wine, and watch the sunset.  

 More than once I have muttered to Roger, "It just doesn't get any better than this!"    (I am a cheap date).

We have watched Tarpon cavorting right at our doorstep, 

and other 3- to 4-foot fish of unknown type leap out of the water right in front of us.  The egrets, ibises, and anhingas line up on the buoys right at our site and put on quite a show during the day as they find their dinner. 

 We are able to launch the "SS Minnow" right from our site into safe waters.   

The first evening we were here, after we were all set up and enjoying the patio, we had a discussion of whether we'd ever had a site this good before.   The only one that might equal or top this site is the remote site we enjoyed in the summer of 1998 right on the north rim of the grand canyon.   I'm including a photo of Roger at that site. 

 (As a side note, the reason I am able to include this old photo is that I spent the summer scanning our photo albums onto the computer so we could take our photos with us without the bulk and weight, and so that we can show them on our digital photo frame.  It took a lot of time to do it, but it was time well spent.)

Our site at the Grand Canyon was something we could not do now in our large motorhome.  At the time we camped there, we had a tent that fit onto the back of our minivan.  We were  60 miles from the nearest civilization down a gravel lane, in a free camp site the park rangers directed us to.   Our patio chairs were set up literally on the edge of the north rim.

I don't expect to ever be able to top that camp site, but this one here at Franklin Locks is about as good as it gets in a motorhome. 

 I look forward to other happy surprises down the road as we continue to explore this beautiful country!

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