Buttonwood Bay RV Resort, Sebring Florida

November 26th, we pulled into Buttonwood Bay RV Resort in Sebring, Florida. We had called several days earlier to reserve a spot until December 1st as we weren’t able to reach Highland Wheels, the park where we had reservations for the winter; our phone calls and emails went unanswered.

As we pulled into the driveway, we were impressed by the beautiful landscaping, lush flowerbeds, a fountain, and a very well maintained office and driveways. The receptionist was welcoming, very professional, and gave us several handouts about the resort and the surrounding area, a calendar of activities, and map. Many different types of activities were offered, art and music classes, crafts, cards, dominoes, bingo, exercise programs, many types of sports, and various forms of entertainment. The resort had two swimming pools, a hiking trail, direct lake access, shuffleboard & bocci ball & tennis courts, a mini golf course, a small cafe, library, mailboxes, two recreation halls, craft rooms, billiards and card rooms, a large laundromat, an exercise room, and many more amenities. We had an escort to our site, and after setting up the motorhome, we headed for the Recreation Hall to sign up for the Thanksgiving Dinner the next day.

Neighbors near our site told us that our friends from Platteville, Richard & Laurie Graney had the spot reserved right across the street from ours; they also told us the site we were given was available for the winter-the people who reserved it had to cancel due to illness. We were anxious to check out Highland Wheels to make sure it was a place we would want to stay for several months, and to find out why we hadn’t heard from them. We arrived at the park shortly before 5:00 pm and the office had a closed sign in the window. We drove around the park and were dismayed to see many concrete slabs cracked and broken up, weeds and trees/bushes in need of trimming, a general unkempt look to the park, and several mobile homes and campers that were unsightly or had junk in their yards. After seeing Buttonwood Bay Resort, it was such a contrast in extremes; we knew that we wouldn’t be happy staying at such a rundown place.

We talked about our misgivings all the way back to Buttonwood, and decided to ask if our site was available for the winter, and if it was, we would cancel our reservation at Highland Wheels. We were elated to hear that we could have the site, and reserved it for December through February. The rates were quite a bit higher than what those at the other park, but considering all the activities and amenities offered, the atmosphere and well maintained condition of the resort, and because electricity and water were included in the monthly rate; we decided the cost was worth it. We were willing to cut back on entertainment and eating meals out; we could ride our bicycles to the various buildings in the park where events were held. This would save quite a bit of money on gas as we wouldn’t have to go to town for mail or movies or to restaurants.

After a few days at Buttonwood Bay, we realized our decision to switch parks was right on. Highland Wheels had finally called us back, and agreed to refund our deposit. Joan’s brother Lyle and his wife Cindy had decided to join us at Buttonwood Bay and reserved a site for January and February. We were ecstatic to hear this, as we missed family so much last winter. It will make time away from our family much easier to bear this year.

Our friends, the Graneys arrived at Buttonwood Bay the Monday after Thanksgiving, and we were happy to see them again. They will be staying for at least 3 months, and we have camped with them many times in the past and really enjoy their company. Their dog Teddy gets along well with our cat Smoke. We have met so many people already since arriving at this park, and am sure we will enjoy our time here. The weather has been beautiful, and it has been sunny most days, only raining once so far. The park has so much to offer, a person could be busy every minute. So far, we have attended only two activities; one was the Thanksgiving dinner and the other was Coffee & Donuts on Monday. People here are generally very friendly, some are naturally more outgoing than others. All seem to be very happy here, and many have lived here in the manufactured homes or park models for many years. Altogether there are almost 1000 lots, including the RV sites. Yesterday, December 1st, many RVs came in for the winter; people tell us that even more will arrive after Christmas. They expect the park to be full, and more events will be added after January 1st.


Buttonwood Bay has direct access to Lake Josephine.


A couple we met shortly after arriving; we ate Thanksgiving dinner with them and her parents.

picnic area

Covered picnic area near the lake.


Many varieties of birds call this area home with marshes near the lake.

Upper New York State, Vermont and New Hampshire

Covered bridge in New Hampshire

Covered bridge in New Hampshire

We left Canada over the Lewiston bridge and into upper New York State. We stayed in a campground in the heart of the Adirondacks, spending several days driving numerous scenic roads within this area.
We then drove into Vermont, enjoyed a few days there, stopping at numerous picturesque villages and hamlets. We saw several covered bridges in Vermont and New Hampshire. We enjoyed exploring various scenic byways, driving through both the Green Mountains in Vermont and the White Mountains in New Hampshire.


Another covered bridge.

Another covered bridge.


New Hampshire was the next state on our list. Here too, we found many covered bridges, the White Mountains, took a 6 hour ride on the Conway Notch train from North Conway into the mountains, went on more scenic drives, and conquered Mount Washington, the highest peak in the eastern states.





View from the Notch Train as we went through the White Mountains in New Hampshire


View from the top of Mount Washington, NH.










In the  meantime we were sampling wonderful meals on our day trips, having made a promise at the beginning of our journey to sample local specialties in each region we traveled. We made stops at local wineries, bakeries, and farm stands or markets to purchase staples as often as we could. We also explored many little towns and hamlets, enjoying many old buildings, some from the 1700s.


Niagara Falls


American Falls

Our time in Canada flew by quickly. Our campground was in such a scenic area, close to the Falls and situated on a wine and cheese trail. We spent one day at Niagara Falls, and another day exploring the countryside-stopping at wineries, bakeries, farms and orchards, artisan cheese makers, and window shopping at quaint little shops.
Our day at Niagara Falls was cloudy but warm, it wasn’t crowded either at the visitors center or at the Falls.

We spent only 3 days in Ontario, but met many interesting people, including other full timers. Our journey to the east coast was proving to be an easy one, and we left Canada with fond memories, wine and cheese.

Carriage rides

Carriage rides

Horseshoe Falls

Horseshoe Falls

On the Road Again

We had a farewell picnic for family and friends on September 13th. On the 14th we finished packing up everything from almost two months of staying in one place. September 15th we said goodbye to Ranger Dan and Mud Lake.
By evening we had covered over 250 miles and stayed at a campground in western Michigan. The second day we managed to get to Port Huron, Michigan, where we camped nearby. By that time, Smoke was getting pretty anxious about all the driving so we decided to take a break and do some sightseeing the next morning.
Port Huron has the oldest lighthouse in the state, and we both are lighthouse fans so that was first on our list.



Next on our itinerary was a riverside park dedicated to those lost at sea. It was at the base of the bridge to Canada, with a great view of the Canadian skyline.



Then we headed to downtown Port Huron for some window shopping, and had lunch at the Woodfire Grill. The food was very good, and we enjoyed the rustic ambience.
By the time we got back to the camper, Smoke was much calmer and we were able to get across the bridge into Canada and through the checkpoint with only a few plaintive meows.
We decided to stay at a small campground in Jordan Valley, about 25 miles west of Niagara, which would save on camping fees. We hadn’t realized before arriving at the campground that it was on a wine trail and close to numerous wineries, farm markets, and cheese factories.

Mud Lake

We are enjoying our new jobs as camp hosts here at Mud Lake. Although it isn’t as busy as the Blackhawk County Parks we hosted earlier this summer, we have met some very nice people and several other full time RVers.
Our site is so handy to the bath house, both shelters, and to the ranger’s house, where the gator and other supplies are stored. Because there haven’t been many people camping during the week, we have had lots of leisure time.

Our camp host site is right next to the bath house.

Our camp host site is right next to the bath house.

Our site viewed from the main road inside the campground.

Our site viewed from the main road inside the campground.


Playground across the road


Looking out from our campsite.

Continue reading

Enjoying July

We stayed at a variety of campgrounds the latter part of July. Swiss Valley Park near Dubuque is one of our favorites, but will allow camping for only 14 days at a time. We stayed there as long as we could, and while there we talked to the head ranger Brian about becoming camp hosts for Dubuque County. He told us that all their parks, with the exception of Mud Lake, had camp hosts for the remainder of 2014 season. Massey Marina had a permanent camp host, Findleys Landing and Swiss Valley were covered till fall closing, but Mud Lake had no camp host all season. We filled out an application, then headed for Grant River for a couple of weeks.
We stopped in to talk to Brian again when we returned to Dubuque in early August. Our motorhome was getting an oil change, so we had a few hours to waste. Brian offered us the job as camp hosts at Mud Lake, for the remainder of the season, and we accepted.

When we arrived at Mud Lake later that day, we couldn’t park at the camp host site as it was occupied. There were plenty of sites free so we chose another and two days later moved our motorhome to that site. Because they hadn’t had a camp host for so long, they had been using the camp host site for a handicapped site. It was next to the bath house, close to the wood shed, and had a cement pad. It did not have sewer hookup, but did have water and electric. The ranger who lives at this campground, Dan, was new to the job (about one year), and very helpful. Our duties were to help people register, keep the main shower house/bathrooms clean and stocked with supplies, and to check the pit toilets for paper. We were to notify the ranger on duty of any problems that came up, or if we needed anything.

We were happy to have a free RV site for the rest of our time in the Dubuque area. We hoped for lots of visits from family and friends, and planned some family visits of our own.

Troubled Times

The latter part of June and most of July was spent trying to stay one step ahead of disaster. After leaving Big Woods we stayed at Blachawk County Park just a mile away. A few nights later a thunderstorm came through with 70 mph winds. About 7:30 pm that evening the tornado sirens sounded and all the campers, along with their pets, headed for the main bath house. We huddled together in the showers until the worst of the storm passed through. We put Smoke in his carrier as we fled the camper, and he was very tolerant of being cooped up for over an hour.
Branches were down everywhere as we drove back. David had to pull a large branch away from the door so we could get inside. It had poked a small hole in the door, and several in our outdoor mat. Otherwise, we were very lucky to have survived the storm with almost no damage. It continued raining all night, and by morning, the nearby river was rapidly rising. The ranger advised all campers to leave. As we made our way out to the freeway on Lone Tree Road, we saw quite a bit of storm damage from the high winds. Several roofs were patched with tarps, many trees were down, and power was out in parts of the Cedar Falls area. We decided to head for Hickory Hills in LaPorte City as our next family camp out was at that park in a few days.
We enjoyed visiting with Ranger Al, some of the regulars at this campground, and had a great time with family that weekend. The weather was mostly sunny and warm.

June 24th, we left Hickory Hills and headed for Grant River in Potosi WI. We planned to stay there until July 3rd, when several in the family had reservations at a campground in Charles City, Iowa. Our aunt and uncle were having a 60th anniversary party at their home, a short ride away. During our time at Grant River, the water was high, but flooding wasn’t expected along that area of the River. The campground was filling up quickly by the end of June, all the reserved sites had been taken for the July 4th weekend, and people were bringing in campers to the walk in sites.
Meantime, the dreaded fish flies had moved in by droves, covering campers and trees and making it almost unbearable to sit outside very long. It rained several days in a row. The river got higher, water creeping up the banks. By July 1st, a couple of the lowest sites were under water, and the camp host told everyone that evening the campground would be closing July 2nd. The electric would be turned off at 8AM that morning.
We got up at 6:00am, and couldn’t believe how much the water had risen overnight; several of the roads in the campground were under water, several inches deep. It didn’t take long to pack up camp as we had put everything away outside the night before.

Invasion of the fish flies!

Invasion of the fish flies!

July 2, 6:00 AM

One of the roads in Grant River Park.

One of the roads in Grant River Park.

Water kept rising as we reached the main road of campground and made our exit.

Water kept rising as we reached the main road of campground and made our exit.

We headed north and west, stopping for the night at a small campground in Clermont, then at the R Campground in Charles City where we spent several days. Some of Joan’s brothers and sisters camped with us. Besides enjoying an aunt and uncle’s 60th wedding anniversary, there was time to attend several of the July 4th events in Charles City, do a little shopping, and have coffee downtown. July was turning out to be a good month after all.

Big Woods

Our next opportunity as camphosts started June 1st, for 2 weeks, at Big Woods Lake in Cedar Falls, Iowa. This campground has mostly full hookups, a small tenting and electric section, new bathhouse/shower building, and a large cabin. It is located adjacent to Big Woods Lake, and has direct access to paved bike trails. Free WiFi is included, and it is high speed and reliable. As camphosts at Big Woods, our duties were light, checking on bathrooms and stocking toilet paper and paper towels, sweeping out showers between cleanings (done every Monday and Friday by park employees), selling firewood and assisting campers in finding sites and answering questions.


The camphost site at Big Woods is close to the ranger’s house, and the fire shed is on the site, making this job very easy. We enjoyed our time here at Big Woods, working in a smaller campground, with less daily duties. Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday most weeks are very quiet; allowing camp hosts to take time off to run errands, visit family or friends, or enjoy time away from the campground.

While at Big Woods, Joan’s brother Lyle and his wife Cindy camped there for a couple of days, and we visited them at their home several times, and we enjoyed eating meals out with them. We have some favorite stores we go to whenever in this area, a great coffee shop in downtown Cedar Falls, and bought several items at Camping World.
Father’s Day was spent at Lyle and Cindys, and we enjoyed seeing their children and grandchildren. We had plans to see our son David once we got back to Dubuque after June 22nd to celebrate his birthday, as well as Father’s Day.
Our time in Cedar Falls/Waterloo area went quickly, and we decided to stay at Blackhawk Park just a mile away after our camphosting was completed. Our annual Potter Family (Joan’s family) campout was scheduled for June 19th through June 22nd at Hickory Hills in LaPorte City which is just south of Waterloo. Rather than drive back to Dubuque to get mail we had it mailed to the Cedar Falls post office. We then headed for Blackhawk Park, where we would camp a few days before we went to Hickory Hills.

Hickory Hills

We arrived at Hickory Hills shortly after noon on May 18th, and set up camp in the Camp Host site. Al Funke, the park ranger stopped by shortly after we arrived to give us the keys, along with change we would need for selling wood; he couldn’t stay very long but left camp host instructions and told us he would be back later to further explain our duties. He was true to his word and returned that evening. We enjoyed visiting with him, and learning about the camp host responsibilities.

View of the campground and lake from the Camp Host site. We never got tired of this beautiful view.

View of the campground and lake from the Camp Host site. We never got tired of this beautiful view.

Smoke, the camp host cat.

Smoke, the camp host cat.


Our campsite at Hickory Hills, with full hookups.

Our campsite at Hickory Hills, with full hookups.










The first few days we hosted at Hickory Hills were quiet. Several campers pulled in, their owners filled out the registration envelope and paid for their campsite and then left to go back to work until the start of the Memorial Day weekend. All of the reserved sites were taken months before, so all that remained were the “first come, first served” sites. By Tuesday evening many of the non-reservable sites were occupied, and by Thursday evening only a few campsites were left. The hill across from the cabins was dotted with tents, with more tents perched behind RV’s and next to cabins. People who had brought in campers earlier in the week returned to the campground in droves, and by Friday night the campground was filled with happy campers.

The campground is full.

The campground is full.

At first, our job as camp hosts was easy; Tuesday night Dave sold a few armloads of wood. We cleaned the bathrooms on Wednesday morning and again on Thursday morning. By Thursday evening Dave was selling wood by the wheelbarrow full, and we were making frequent trips to clean and restock the bathrooms and showers in the bath house. Friday and Saturday became very hectic; we were thinking that maybe we made a mistake in volunteering for weeks which included a holiday weekend. People had lots of questions about registration, some of the rules, and some needed help figuring out the whole process being new to camping. We went to bed very late, and got up early in order to keep up with everything we needed to do.

But by noon on Sunday, most of the campers were gone. “Tent Hill” was bare, with only a few smoldering fires in the fire rings. A lone flip flop and a few pop cans were all that remained to indicate that hundreds of people had been in the campground over the weekend. We made a final cleanup in the bathrooms and showers; scrubbed everything down, and disposed of the trash. We collapsed in a heap afterwards, and got some much needed rest in our lounge chairs. After we felt a little better, it was time to get the “gator” from the ranger and collect all the reserved and reservation slips, leaving those on the posts of the campsite which were still occupied; only a few campers remained. We made a quick pass through the park, collecting any trash left behind; there was less than half a bag which we thought was remarkable considering how many people had been there-some for almost a week.

Although we had both felt somewhat overwhelmed with our camp host duties over Memorial Day weekend, we had to admit that in general the campers were very well behaved and didn’t make that much of a mess in the bathrooms and showers. Considering how many people used the facilities, it could have been much worse. So many campers thanked us for helping them, for answering questions, and everyone seemed to be having a great time. It made us both feel much appreciated, and it did our hearts good to see how happy people were to be enjoying the warm and sunny weekend; especially the children.

Smoke did a great job as Camp Host Cat. We set up his tent under the awning of the motorhome. He stayed outside with us many hours each day, while Dave was selling wood, and Joan helped people with registering. We found that it worked better if we sat outside where people could see us. Our campsite was close enough to the registration booth that we could greet people as they came in and answer any questions they had. Many people were intrigued by Smoke, none had ever seen a cat in a tent before and he was definitely an added attraction at Hickory Hills. Each time Joan took him for a walk around the park, people would stop to see the cat on a leash, would want to know how he was trained to walk like that, and the children especially enjoyed getting close up with such a friendly cat. Smoke received much petting and attention during our stay at Hickory Hills.

We will be returning to Hickory Hills as camp hosts for two more weeks in August. Both of us really enjoyed our first experience of volunteer work at a campground; it is definitely something we will do again as long as we are able to handle the work.



So much has happened in the past few weeks.  We stopped at the UPS store to pick up our mail from the last 6 weeks and there was also a cardboard box of magazines and catalogues (several month’s worth) they had set aside for us. We have been very satisfied with their mailbox service.

Both of us have had our yearly physicals with labs. Joan has had a mammogram, saw a foot doctor and had an eye exam. We have a couple more appointments during the summer, and hope to be finished with all our medical needs by early September.  We have also been taking care of business at our bank, stopping in to see family, friends and old neighbors here in Iowa.

We left Swiss Valley Park May 5th, and set up our Motorhome at Grant River Park, near Potosi Wisconsin. It is a Corps of Engineers park along the Mississippi River, with great views of the river, and beautiful sunsets. It is one of our favorite campgrounds, and a favorite with retires, as a site is only $8-9.00 with a senior pass. We reserved a site until May 18th when we will leave for Hickory Hills campground in LaPorte City where we will be camp hosts for two weeks.

The weather has been cooler than normal since we arrived at Grant River. There have been many thunderstorms and it has rained almost every day. The rangers have been on the verge of closing the campground several times. The Mississippi River has been over flood stage from about May 7th through May 13th. We have kept a very close eye on the weather reports, and flood warnings. Several campsites in the park, as well as the road to those campsites were flooded up until a couple of days ago. The camp host, and rangers ride through the park often, making sure that none of the campers here are in danger of being trapped by the floodwaters.

Surprisingly, the campground is mostly full on the weekend. During the first week of May we had the campground mostly to ourselves from Monday through Friday morning, however this week (now that the floodwaters have receded) campers have been pulling in each day. The camp host says that all the reserved sites will be full by the weekend, and she expects most of the other sites will also be taken. It is very cool today and tomorrow, and won’t get up into the 60s and 70s for a few more days.

We are looking forward to warmer weather, and to seeing the sun again. Both of us enjoy being outside most of the time, but haven’t been able to spend much time outside the last two weeks. We have made a couple of trips into Dubuque to visit Dave’s sister and her husband and to do some shopping. We also went to Lancaster, Wisconsin a couple of times; there is a factory in Lancaster that builds modular homes and has free scrap wood that makes excellent kindling. We loaded up on this free wood for future campfires, and did laundry while in town. Spent a day at Platteville, stopping at the Goodwill store, Menards, and Walmart for some groceries.

Most of our time has been spent at the campground. Some friends who were also neighbors of ours from Dubuque joined us May 9th, and another couple from Platteville who camp here frequently joined our group a few days later. They are friends and camping buddies for about two years now. It has really helped pass the time with faithful friends to keep us company. We sat outside around a campfire with all of them, whenever the weather wasn’t too cold and wet!

We are looking forward to our weeks ahead as camp hosts, and if it doesn’t stop raining, we may be building a boat, as Noah did.