I'm a big believer in having a dash cam.
Here, from our archives, is a good example of why:
Don Bell was cruising down a rural county road near Burleston, TX, just south of Ft Worth, listening to an audiobook in his 2015 Roadtrek 190 Popular Anniversary Edition, on his way to his Grand Prairie, TX home from New Mexico. He was going about 45 miles and hour.
Then, in the blink of an eye, it happened. A pickup driver pulled out in front of him. Bell slammed on the brakes but it was too late. His dash cam captured the crash.
“I had the dash cam working,” he wrote me the day after the crash. “It captured my absolute innocence in the accident — showing that the pickup truck driver simply pulled from a dead stop at a stop sign out into my ongoing lane of traffic! Thank you for your blog, for many reasons, your dash cam recommendation among them.”
Here, watch for yourself. Below is the crash video.
Neither Bell nor the driver of the truck were injured. He says the insurance adjuster indicated his RV will likely be totaled as there was extensive engine damage.
“The police (Tarrant County Sheriff’s department) came upon the scene within about two minutes after the collision, during a normal patrol.” he notes. “The police cited the pickup driver for failing to yield to oncoming traffic.”
He has advised both the police and his insurance company that his dash cam captured exactly what happened.
That's a great story in and of itself, another example why I think we should all have a dash cam. This is the dash cam we have. It's admittedly a high endunit. Cheaper ones are available.
But, as it turns out, there is so much more to this story. Don Bell is one of the most inspirational Roadtrekers I have ever encountered. Please read on for his story.
First, where he was coming that day.
“I was returning from a weeklong trip in northern New Mexico to celebrate the 50 years of love my wife and I shared. She died last month from the complications of our 10-years struggle with Alzheimer's Disease. It was a glorious trip such that this accident, in the scheme of things, was just a little unpleasant blip.”
But there's more.
“I intended to retire about 10 years ago (at age 61) from my modest oil & gas exploration and development proprietorship,” he recounts. “But some of the debilitating symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease affecting my wife’s quality of life and my spousal responsibilities began showing up.
“We had intended to retire onto a sailboat. Sherrill and I organized our finances such that a sailing retirement could have been lived had health circumstances permitted. Instead, I knew that we had a very expensive medical future to manage. I realized that I needed an additional $6,000 a month, month-after-month, year-after-year, for an unknown duration for medical care — with no long-term care insurance — and that fact required an immediate change of plans!
“The oil & gas exploration business I knew best is very complicated, time-consuming, requires long periods away and is financially risky. I needed to find a sound business which was not mentally demanding, and also would permit time to care for Sherrill and to enjoy our love as best we could. I began selling pencils and pencil sharpeners as an Amazon professional merchant — still do.
“Two years ago I moved Sherrill to an assisted living facility because I could no longer safely and effectively manage her life on my own in our home. I moved nearby the facility so I could be with her. The disease, however, progressed to the point we needed a much more personal kind of care by uniquely trained professionals, particularly because she ceased knowing me and our relationship.
“I moved her to a wonderful facility offering and actually delivering exceptional care for persons with dementia. I purchased the Roadtrek so that I could live in the facility’s parking lot as needed and useful — to be with her as much as possible and to be her ever-present friend and advocate — and potentially as a future 4-wheel ‘sailboat.'
“The whole experience, to the end, gave me an opportunity to love Sherrill in ways I never imagined and she reciprocated as her mind allowed in many amazingly tender moments. Despite the disease, the intensity of our lives together this past ten years has been wonderful.
“Having lived full time in the Roadtrek for a year convinced me that it could be a good life and so I have decided to live it. I still intend to sail, but look forward to land-based experiences. Once my Roadtrek is repaired or replaced, I’ll be taking to the road doing as you suggest in your blog.”
Amazing, story, huh? Amazing guy.
I had one more question. It was about the audiobook he was listening to at the time of the crash. Turns out, there's a story there, too, and some more inspiration.
“I am listening to a lecture purchased through Amazon’s Audible program called: ‘At The Edge of Uncertainty: Discoveries Taking Science By Surprise' by Michael Brooks,” says Bell. “The audible books are on my iPhone. I tend to emphasize lectures in science and humanities with a particular emphasis on areas I know nothing about and/or have not kept up with as knowledge and discoveries advance. At 71, much of what I learned from high school and college studies I have either forgotten or the fields of knowledge have been supplemented by more recent discoveries and analyses.
“I listen to a wide variety of formal lectures and non-fiction books because I am interested in the subject matter, but also so that I have at least a conversational knowledge of about any subject a person I meet cares to discuss. Many friendships fell away over the past ten years, but I like people and their stories and experiences, thus I’m hopeful I’ll be a good conversationalist and make new friends throughout my RV travels and lifestyle.”
It's been a few years since Don sent us that video and photo. But every time I start or dash cam, I think about that image and why having a video record of an accident is so important.
Mike and Jennifer's Favorite Places in Florida – all 3 ebooks!
We RVers may wander far and wide but it’s true for most of us that we end up with some favorite “Go-To” places – places that draw us back again and again.
Florida is one of those places for us. And we know it is for many RVers looking to get away and explore during the winter.
That's why we've created three guides, covering Florida's Atlantic Coast, the Gulf Coast, and the Keys.
Each of these guides is a seven-day guided exploration of one of the coasts. And each stop is a curated view of the best things that we’ve enjoyed on this trip and want you to experience.
Altogether these guides are over 300 pages of content!
FAQ's about Florida Gulf Coast beaches of interest to RVers
What is the weather like along Florida's Gulf Coast?
The weather along Florida's Gulf Coast can vary depending on the time of year and the specific location. In general, the area experiences hot, humid summers and mild, pleasant winters.
The Panhandle region can be quite cool in January. It is seldom below freezing, but daytime highs are typically in the 50s. It warms up about 10 degrees each month.
You can also generally add about 10 degrees for every 150 miles you travel south down the Florida peninsula.
By the time you hit Naples, daytime highs in January are in the comfortable 70s.
Did Hurricane Ian destroy many beach campgrounds on the Gulf Coast?
While it severely damaged almost two dozen RV parks and campgrounds, about 8-10 campgrounds in the Naples-Ft. Myers area were completely destroyed. Most of the damaged campgrounds have been repaired and reopened.
Check with the Florida Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds if you have questions or concerns.
Are there any websites that can help me get a reservation for a Florida beach campground?
One of the best resources we can recommend is called Campnab. This service monitors parks for cancelations and sends you an alert when an opening matches your criteria. That said, it isn’t magic. The app doesn’t create availabilities.
The service works – but it is not free.
Campnab offers two ways to use the service. The first is individual pay-per-use scans. These watch for vacancies at a specific park for a specific date. These work well if you know exactly when and where you intend to camp. Pay-per-use scans cost $10 – $20, depending on how frequently you want them to check availability.
The second way to use the service is through a membership. These typically run monthly and are tailored to those who camp more frequently or are looking to maximize their chance of finding a site. Membership allows you to scan multiple parks and/or dates simultaneously. With memberships, you pay a monthly recurring fee ($10, $20, $30, or $50), depending on your needs.
Are there places in Florida where you can literally camp on the beach for free?
Not many. And they are very pricey. If you want to sleep directly on the sand in an RV, you'll have to stay at a developed commercial campground like Camp Gulf on the Emerald Coast or an RV resort like Big Pine Key Resort in the keys. Some state parks like the Gamble Rogers State Memorial Recreation Area in the Atlantic Coast or Bahia Honda State Park in the keys or Fort Desto State Park near St. Petersburg have beachside sites, too.
But are there free, unrestricted RV beach camping spots in Florida?
Sorry, none that I know of that would work for RVs.
There is unrestricted camping on wild beaches on a couple of islands, but you need a boat to get there, and it is for tent camping only. If you want to sleep directly on the sand, there is Anclote Key offshore Tarpon Springs, and Shell Key in Pinellas County. Another favorite is Keewaydin Island between Naples and Marco Island but that area remains pretty devasted from Hurricane Ian.
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