Thursday, November 24, 2016

2016-35 Saint Cloud Florida, Settling in for the Winter Season


Campground:  Shelter Cove Condominium. 

hibiscus flowers, native to Hawaii
bloom year round in Florida 

Osceola County, Saint Cloud Florida

Oldest building in St Cloud, a former bank
it is now the Chamber of Commerce

In my last report I shared some information about the Rv community that I purchased an Rv lot in.  Today I’ll share a bit more information on the surrounding community of Saint Cloud Florida.

St Cloud was founded in 1909 as a retirement community for Civil War Union veterans.  They were offered five acre lots for $50.  It was common in Florida to name the streets in a town after states.  The north/south streets in St Cloud were initially named after states that supported the Union, New York, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, etc. later, as the town grew, other states were added.

antique shops

tea rooms

two hotels, this one will become an
upscale condo

another historic hotel and shops

the City hall sits at the end of the main street

the Hunter Arms will be renovated soon

Osceola County which is just south of Orlando is 90% rural farm land consisting mainly of cattle ranches and orange groves.  The St Cloud area initially got it’s start as a sugar cane producer and processing area.  But quickly died off and the plantation was sold.  St Cloud was incorporated in 1911 and has expanded dramatically since then.  Doubling in size in the past 15 years.  The size of the city is controlled by voluntary annexation based on supply of water/sewer availability.  Much like most areas in Florida, if they can get water/sewer/electric service to an area, the town continues to grow with little or no development plans other than, if we build it, they will come.

less than a half mile south of my Rv complex

how cool to have zebras as neighbors

and of course cattle ranches as next door neighbros

St Cloud:  Population 43,316
Osceola County:  Population 310,211
Income level:  low; $20,00 per capita, $49,000 per household.

downtown St Cloud

Shelter Cove is about a mile east of town off of I-192 and another two miles NE on Nova Road.  The two mile drive on Nova road consists of a new housing community current under construction, a couple of large cattle ranches, scrubby marsh forests and finally the entrance to my community on the left and an older established community bordering a chain of 5 lakes on the right hand side.  If you continued on Nova Road for another 20 miles, you would see a smattering of houses but mainly cattle ranches surrounded by forests and pine hammocks with the occasional canal linking the numerous lakes and wetlands.

I drove over to the seaside town of Melbourne 43 miles east the other day.  It’s pretty much a straight shot along I-192 along a four lane divided road with grassy median between.  Passing mile after mile of flat grassy planes dotted with long leaf pines and cabbage palms.  Cattle ranches and the St John’s river flowing north to Jacksonville.

A quick drive at 65 to 70 mph until one hit’s the town of Melbourne proper with traffic lights every other block, slowing traffic to a crawl.  The old part of town is a very active shopping/eating destination.  One I didn’t get a chance to explore near the noon day hour as every parking spot was filled along the 8-10 block stretch.  The beach side is divided from the town proper by an inter coastal waterway with bridges leading to the resort side with it’s miles of sandy beaches and the Atlantic Ocean.  A university, aerospace industry manufacturing buildings and an international airport take up large chunks of land in town.

Back in my neighborhood, the short drive along Pine Grove Rd heading towards my nieces house, I pass by a gentrified ranch along Lake Lizzie with separate paddocks for Brahma bulls and a heard of zebras.  All with views of the lake.  Expensive real-estate for some very contented animals.  White egrets, blue herons and tall sand hill cranes with their red patched heads can be seen along the roadside water ditches and lake side.  Driving through St Cloud the other day, a pair of sand hill cranes sauntered slowly across 4 lanes of traffic, stopping all traffic including a police car with flashing lights and sirens blaring in a hurry to get somewhere.  Needless to say the cranes took their time walking across the road.  They are a protected species and they know it.

I’ve attended two events in town.  The first is a monthly get together of bluegrass musicians providing free entertainment for a group of perhaps 20+ listeners.  It takes place at Peghorn Nature Park in one of their buildings recreating an historical farm community.  The musicians were a bit rusty in the onset of their playing, but quickly meshed together and provided some great bluegrass music.

Peghorn Nature Park

and yes bananas can grow in central florida

Peghorn Nature Park

a fun day listening to bluegrass music

the youngest member, played numerous instruments

The other event held at the St Cloud Civic Center was a Thanksgiving celebration and thank-you to the community.  Held a week before Thanksgiving, it was a great way to enjoy a “free” meal with locals from the community, meet the new major and a few council members.  A free raffle was held with numerous gifts given out, but I didn’t win anything.

Thanksgiving Dinner at the Civic Center

Many other events are held at the Civic Center and the next one I’ve got on my schedule is a free movie.

I described the drive east on I-192 heading to Melbourne earlier in this article.  Heading west thru Saint Cloud along I-192, traffic is busy through town but one is able to catch mostly green lights on a good day.  Once you are out of St Cloud, entering Kissimmee, you can forget about actually moving anywhere quickly.  With added traffic congestion and numerous traffic lights to stop your progress you are now in the midst of tourist haven.  Jam packed with all those tacky touristy gift shops, restaurants, hotels/motels and finally all of the Disney Worlds, Sea Worlds, gator world etc.  Not for the faint of heart or any sane person.   There are a few back roads, but at this point I’m not willing to share them with you the reader.  Preferring to keep those back roads as congestion free as possible for now anyway.

St Clouds two screen Theatre

along 10th street

the two screen theater

Living just 15 minutes from downtown St Cloud is a major plus.  It may be a small town as far as the historic part goes, but it has some great advantages.  Like the two screen movie theatre that plays current movies.  I went there the other day to see “Fantastic Creatures and where to find them”.  The movie has only been out a few days and anywhere else would have been super crowded.  Here in St Cloud, it was a small crowd and only $6 for seniors.  By the way, I loved the movie.

Happy Thanksgiving from St Cloud Florida.


Bluegrass Music and pics from around Shelter Cove

Saint Cloud Florida

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

2016-34 A Member of the "Landed Gentry"

Shelter Cove Rv Condominium 

A member of the Landed Gentry

Shelter Cove, one of the canals I have a
partial view of from my RV lot

Campground:  Shelter Cove, Lot 55.  Owner.  Daily cost to own and maintain the lot:  $4.91 not including electric charges.

my Open Range Roamer, resting on my new rv lot

I ended my travel reports after entering Florida’s panhandle and central Florida region.  Enjoying a few of the state parks (half off Florida Senior rate of course) before I headed towards my winter stay in Saint Cloud Florida.  And that’s where I’ll pick up the story.

A 100 mile journey to Saint Cloud Florida

My last step of the journey this year was from Silver Springs State Park in Ocala to Saint Cloud Florida.  Saint Cloud is just south of Orlando.  The drive would be exactly 100 miles, much of it on the Florida Turnpike.  The Florida Turnpike is like a super highway crossing diagonally from Ocala to the south eastern Florida coast giving the weary northern traveler a quick way to get as far south as possible.  The natural vegetation of pine trees and large spreading oak trees gradually being replaced by palm trees of every variety.

a beautifully landscaped entrance

I arrived at Shelter Cove by noon and after punching in the access code, the large iron gate swung open to let me enter the gated Rv community.  Passing the swimming pool and clubhouse, I continued down the main road to the corner lot on Pine Island Drive.  My home away from home when ever I’m traveling through Florida.  The lot has peak-a-boo views of one of the canals that opens up onto Center Lake , one of six lakes connected by canals .  So in a sense I have water views from my new Rv lot.

looking out towards the gated entrance to the park

I have hookups on both sides of the lot
and can set up in either direction

After spending approximately two weeks on the site getting set up, visiting with friends as well as my sister Dorothy and her daughter Kelly and family, I drove into town to complete the sale of the Rv lot on Monday, Nov. 7th, 2016.  After obtaining a cashiers check from my bank, Fairwinds Credit Union, signing a dozen legal documents at the Title company, I became a part of the “Landed Gentry” for the first time in my life.  Oh I’ve purchased many a vehicle in my day including pop-up campers, and more than a few 5th wheel campers and of course the mobile home I lived in while working in Orlando, but I’d never actually owned any property/land that is.

Fairwinds Credit Union
I’ll tell a secret that I’ve never told anyone before.  During my working career, I new I would have to remain anchored basically to one location or job/career path.  Of course I’d always wanted to be a gypsy or vagabond, free of the constraints of being tied down.  So to make me feel that I could always move or be that gypsy at heart, I never purchased a house or land that was “stuck” to the ground.  My mobile home in Orlando even through in a nice mobile home community, was leased land so it was never permanent.  After all  the mobile home had axles and wheels and could theoretically be moved at any time.  It wasn’t tied to the ground.  Well, ok, actually it was tied to the ground so it wouldn’t blow away in a hurricane, but that’s beside the point.  It gave me the feeling of being somewhat free during my working years.

inside my 9X12 shed
just added some storage shelves

view of my corner lot and shed

near boat ramp and location I saw my
first alligator on Center Lake 

another view of my camper from the road

a set of new outdoor chairs

a typical row of Rv's on one of the main roads
it's called millionaire row

And now, hear I am purchasing a concrete pad with a shed for additional storage with all the standard RV hookups, electric, water, sewer, and even cable tv and phone lines if I want to connect to those services.  What’s nice about the Rv lot is that I still will have the freedom to move on or off the lot at any time I wish.  And of course I’ll be able to lease out the Rv lot to others when I’m not occupying it.  A pretty smart investment to my way of thinking.

new pygmy palms and a fox tail palm will
soon be planted here

So let me take you around the community I’ve moved into, Shelter Cove.  Near the front entrance sit’s the recreation building which has the look of a two story boat.  Next to it is the swimming pool which included some nice lounge chairs and shade for the ever present sunny days in Florida.  Across the street under large spreading oak trees are a couple shuffle board courts and horse shoes.

clubhouse and pool

The main roads are normal two vehicle width streets and most of the side streets are narrow one lane looping streets that come back onto the main road.  My Rv lot is fairly close to the two canals and Center Lake.  A short walk continuing past my corner Rv lot is the lake and there sit’s the castle like building which houses the exercise room and laundry facilities which has views of the lake.  Not a bad place if one has to do their laundry.  The washers and dryers are $1.50 each and I might add the washers are very large and hold lots of clothes.

some of the exercise equipment

exercise room and laundry with views of the lake

Center Lake, view from Laundry room

Most all of the homes along the canals and lake have docks with boats and wonderful decks for sitting and enjoying the water views.

homes along the canals

across the street corner from my RV lot

many homes along the canals and lake are park models

the look of an old fish camp

my camper in the small unit right of the palm tree image

these are the views I enjoy on my morning and evening walks

The park was foreclosed on around 1992 when the owner couldn’t pay the couple million dollars in back mortgage/bank payments.  The U.S. Government purchased it for around $450,000 at auction and somewhere along the way, the tenants were able to form an association and purchase the land back from the Government.  The park almost closed completely back in 1989 when a court order said, fix the decrepit sewer and unsafe water or close down the whole park.  It has been a long gradual upswing as new buyers move in, update their sites and make nice improvements.  A management company oversees the community and the owners have an elected board that decides on upkeep and improvements.

I particularly like the Rv lots and park model homes along the canals and lake and if one became available at a reasonable price, I would probably snap it up.  With the intent to keep the current Rv lot I’ve just purchased and lease it out.  But that’s down the road a bit and the site I’ve just purchased will suit my needs for some time to come.

first time visitors, Ruth and Pat

I enjoy walks through the park in the morning and evening before sunset and when my dear friends, Ruth and Pat came to visit, I borrowed my neighbors golf cart and gave them a tour of much of the Shelter Cove community.  Including some of the wooded areas and undeveloped Rv lots.  Shelter Cove still has lots of potential down the road for development.  One section at the end of my road, Pine Island Drive, sit’s the boat ramp and just beyond that is a storage area for trailers and campers.  Just beyond that are a couple of old paved roads where another section of the park had been laid out for development but never completed.  There’s even one more peninsula that could be developed and would provide many more Rv sites right on the water.

one of the two large banana patches

one of the trails in the surrounding wooded property
owned by the members of Shelter Cove

exploring the trails around the park

Pat and Ruth enjoyed the wooded section that passed by a hidden lake, two huge clumps of banana trees and trails that led us into a heavily wooded area arriving at the boarder of the communities property and a mysterious dark looking canal filled with pea green plants floating on top of the water.  The occasional branch whacking Pat on the head as we passed some low hanging trees.  He was sitting on the back end of the golf cart with no canopy over his head.

golf cart touring

On Wednesday, I headed up to the clubhouse for their first meet and greet coffee and donut get-together.  The clubhouse is a two story affair and I learned early on, the second floor is not used at all.  One of the members is a retired firefighter/captain and after he had the building unofficially inspected, the second floor  is considered to be unsafe possibly since it is not handicapped accessible. Apparently it would require building an elevator and re-doing the stairwell, which to my unprofessional view looks to be in great shape.  The retired captain mentioned that the kitchen stove was also removed for safety reasons.

there's always an impromptu chat around the park 

coffee and donuts 

a relatively small club house

kitchen, minus a stove

The main room on the first floor is very nicely appointed and even has a fireplace which I could see behind a stack of folding chairs.  The room has tile floors which contributes to a very harsh echo sound when even a few people start to talking.  Not sure how they will be able to have Thanksgiving/Christmas dinners in such a small space.

The clubhouse can be reserved for private parties.  No other clubs are formed during the winter months except for the women’s Sunshine Club.  I understand one gal has had line-dance classes in the past.  Fortunately the small town of Saint Cloud has numerous activities throughout the winter and a very active senior center which I’ll check out.  One of the first events coming up is a free Bluegrass jam session in one of the local parks, so of course I’ll be attending that event.

I’m going though the necessary things like getting a mail box and key assigned to my address here in the park.  Checking with Leeland Management Company in a few days to have my access code and entry pass keys set up in my name/phone number which will enable me to let folks enter the condo compound through the front gates.  And I’ve already had the electric put in my name and didn’t even have to put down a deposit.

The last thing I’ve done at this point is order a number of pygmy palms and a foxtail palm for the current rock bed planting area on my corner lot.  They should be installed by 22 Nov.

Needless to say I’m settling in.  Hopefully after a short while, I’ll be able to start planning a few adventures and trips to visit friends who live through the state of Florida.

you might want to click on the image to enlarge the view
yellow dot is my new RV lot

So begins a new chapter in the Rv lifestyle.  But as my regular readers know, it won’t be long before I’ll be heading back out on the open road for another adventure.


Shelter Cover pictures