Tough choices

Once in a while I’m reminded that although we are out on a long trip (seven months!) we aren’t really full-timers any more.  And there is a difference.  Any deadline, even one far away, affects your thinking.  When we were full-timers, we could slowly wander along with little concern for distance because we were always home and never getting “too far away”.

But now we are part-timers, and we have a schedule.  We need to get back to Tucson by the end of November, and we need to watch the mileage and the budget more carefully.  Every stop on our tour has to be justified in some way, because the meandering path we took so blithely before now looks more like a series of needless and expensive detours.

Our plans, made way back in the spring, included a wedding in Ft Myers FL at the end of October. This is what we call “a hard stop,” meaning that there’s no flex in the date or the location.  So we built a few other destination plans around this hard stop, including a very hard-to-get reservation at Long Key State Park.

Since then, the wedding has been moved and delayed, and we no longer have a reason to go to southern Florida, except for this reservation.   I kept it because it’s so hard to get a campground space in any of the Florida Keys state parks, and because we haven’t been to the Keys in about three years.  I like it there.

But now, facing a 300+ mile trip (one way) down to Long Key, I am thinking twice about the reasonableness of this detour.  The reservation is for only three nights.  It can’t be extended or changed because all of the campgrounds are booked.   Those three nights will cost us $129 in campground and reservation fees, plus about $140 in diesel fuel, plus wear-and-tear costs of the car (another $60) — in total, about $110 per night for our little 3-night stay.

… and the whole time I’m driving those 14 hours roundtrip south and north through central Florida, I’ll be thinking, “Is this really worth it?”

But forgoing our reservation leaves us few options.  It’s peak season in Florida and all of the good state parks are booked solid every weekend.  We really want to get some beach time, go snorkeling, watch the palm trees sway, and have a family picnic while watching the blue water and white sand. But we also need to be back in central Florida in 11 days because we have reservations at Disney World.  (See why I HATE reservations?)  So if we are skipping the Keys to save the mileage, it doesn’t make sense to go somewhere else that’s more than 100 miles away from central Florida.  That kills the option of places like Sanibel Island, or Ft Myers Beach.

This  is the classic “tough choice.”  Options are limited and nothing seems ideal.  Fortunately we are courtesy-parked with our friends Bill & Wendimere in central Florida right now, and they have extended the welcome mat for as long as we wish to stay.  This has given us a few days to think carefully before we make our next move.

After pondering, we’ve pulled out an old standby: a campground near Tampa that we have used extensively in the past and which is reasonably near a lot of things we like to do.  We’ll relocate there tomorrow, and settle into 11 days of comfortable full-hookup life, albeit at a very high price.  Instead of snorkeling off the Keys, I’ll make-believe by snorkeling off Caladesi Island or Honeymoon Island State Parks, which are just offshore in the Gulf of Mexico near Tampa.

Our reservation at Long Key hasn’t been canceled yet.  I have until Friday to do that with only a $17 penalty.  So, if anyone reading the blog this week wants to snag it, just let me know before Friday and you can have it for $110.  I doubt we’ll find anyone but I would feel remiss if I didn’t make the offer, since sites are so hard to get there.

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Editor & Publisher of Airstream Life magazine