I was tired of taking a half hour to get dressed in my snow gear to walk the dog. Being half Husky, she loved the weather- but I could take only so much. So I packed Olga, my trusty RT Adventurous, threw in the kibble, the dog and off we went. South.
I met Mike Wendland and gang for a few days, then we all headed off on our own journeys. Mike talked his way into a snazzy RV resort down by Naples, FL where he did some intense investigative reporting. He wrote a great article about the $100,000.oo lots, the added HOA fees, the golf course, staffed bar with margarita Mondays, and the view. It was a tough assignment but he met the challenge.
I, on the other hand, picked a different RV resort in Florida. I found a place that billed itself as a fishing resort in the northwest part of the state for one of my stops, which was at the other end of the spectrum from Mike’s place. Lake Rousseau RV Park and Fishing Resort. www.lakerousseaurvpark.com
I stayed 3 nights and I’m here to tell you that a long term resort doesn’t have to cost a hundred large. There are options.
This 300 lot community is family owned and operated – along with maintenance help by a few residents in return for a discount. There are no HOA fees and prices range well under $10 grand a year- give or take- depending on the views, length of stay and so on.
It sits at the south shore of a large lake and boasts great fishing. A few boat slips are available for rent and the resort has a small pool for lounging, alas, no cute bartender to bring your drinks- strictly BYO. They don’t have a golf course or savvy tour guides to take you around. It’s drive yourself- but they'll give directions if you want to head over to Crystal River to see the Manatees- a 15 minute drive. It’s close to town, restaurants and there are plenty of sights within an hour’s drive.
They’ve got a large veranda out front of the office, complete with rocking chairs, for the “porch monkeys” – regulars who confab over coffee each morning. On the porch is a bulletin board with event calendars so you can add a night of cards, bingo, sewing or the big Luau in April. (The owners supply the pig; the rest is potluck.) There are holiday parties, luncheons and birthdays. All these happen in the community room, which has a nice sized kitchen. I saw a notice posted for a blood drive, too. There’s a decent laundry along with two fenced dog areas and access to the lake. But no swimming- there are also resident alligators- it IS Florida after all!
The lots are various sizes, although I wouldn’t say spacious. And there certainly aren’t any zoning, decorating, gardening, building, vehicle parking or other such rules. It is a free for all on each site, with every sort of shed, yard art (and I use that term loosely), plantings, fence, deck, and patio furniture. Owners get to do their own thing. Residents live in every type of RV including several mobile homes.
But I will say, it was quiet. It’s far from any highway and the lake is peaceful. I may have been about the youngest person there (55), so no late night partiers and the dogs were well behaved.
There are tons of huge, mossy live oaks adorning the resort with plenty of shade and singing birds. (A resident egret comes to the back door of the store every Friday, when the bait truck arrives, to beg for live minnows.) There is a small store and the ladies who work there are lovely and helpful.
And the residents were, without doubt, the most welcoming and friendly community I have run across in my travels. I hadn’t been there 5 minutes when 2 people introduced themselves and asked if I needed anything. I would walk the dog and without fail, everyone waved or said hello. I was invited to bingo and cards every night.
It’s not fancy, no Calypso night with live music and filet mignon dinner. But everyone takes pride in the community, with many snowbirds returning year after year. I met several who had come for a few nights stay and never left. And you know- no one brings bad food to a potluck!
All in all, it’s a pretty good bang for your few dollars if you are looking for an extended stay home base down south. Or the next time we have a long polar vortex. If you budget and don’t care about HOA lot rules- check out one of the more affordable, long term resorts. You might just be able to brag about your second home in Florida without spending the kids’ inheritance.