St. Petersburg, FL
After our short stay in Bonita Springs, we moved about 100 miles north to the Escapees co-op park called The Florida SKP Resort in Wauchula, FL, west of Sebring in the south central part of Florida. Actually, the Resort is located in Zolfo Springs, but the mailing address is Wauchula.
The Escapees RV Club has numerous camping facilities across the country. Some are campgrounds only, and some are co-ops. Co-ops are described on the Escapees Website. Descriptions of the other types of parks are available by clicking on the appropriate name in the sidebar on the site.
The photo below shows our site at the SKP Resort.
The Florida SKP Resort is a co-op rather than a campground, meaning co-op members buy a share of the co-op and pay an annual maintenance fee in order to be able to use a site. If you decide you no longer want to be a member of the co-op, you get your buy-in fee back plus the cost of any approved improvements you have made to the site. There is a long waiting list to buy into the co-op, so there is little danger of not being able to recover your costs.
Some co-op members choose to put park models on their sites and some use their sites for their RVs. Those who use their sites for RVs can choose to put their sites into the rental pool during times when they are not using their sites themselves. Those of us Escapees members who are not co-op members can then use the rental sites.
There are a limited number of rental sites and the number drops when more co-op members arrive for the winter (January and February are the busiest months). We intentionally went before the seasonal rush, and there were quite a few open sites.
Site sizes at the Resort are very generous and the landscaping is nicely done. There are a lot of palm trees along the campground roads and most of the individual sites have also had shrubs and flowers added. The Resort has full hookups, free Wi-Fi, paved roads, and most rental sites have paved pads and patios.
While we were staying at the Resort, we went to St. Petersburg, which is about an hour to the west, to visit Sunken Gardens. Sunken Gardens is another one of those places Paul visited with his family when he was a kid.
Sunken Gardens is over 100 years old. It was started by in 1903 by plumber and avid gardener George Turner, Sr. The gardens are built in a 10 to 15 foot deep sink hole, hence the name "sunken." George planted quite a few citrus trees, papayas, and other exotic plants around his home. In the '20s he opened a nursery and began selling fruits, vegetables, and plants. His nursery customers paid a nickel to tour the gardens. In 1935, George fenced the garden and began a charging 25-cent admission fee. In the '50s through the '70s, Sunken Gardens became a popular tourist attraction.
To get to Sunken Gardens, we had to drive over Sunshine Skyway, which crosses Tampa Bay. At 5.5 miles long, the bridge is the world's longest bridge with a cable-stayed main span. The main span of the bridge is shown in the photo below.
The yellow suspension cables and their shadows create interesting patterns.
The original two-lane bridge that was part of the Sunshine Skyway was opened in 1954. This was the bridge Paul and his family crossed when they were here in the late '50s. A second bridge that ran parallel to the first was added in 1969 to make the road four lanes wide. The span that was added in 1969 was destroyed in 1980 when a freighter struck a bridge pier. The bridge, a Greyhound bus, and several cars fell 150 feet into the bay. The replacement twin spans that exist today were opened in 1987.
When we arrived at Sunken Gardens, Paul was surprised at how much the area had grown up from what he remembered from when he was a kid. Although it's not right downtown, the garden is in the city. The photo below shows a portion of the well-landscaped parking lot looking toward the entrance building.
The next photo shows the small waterfall and colorful foliage that greeted us as we entered the garden.
Sunken Gardens covers about four acres; but with the way the paths wind around, it feels like it is much larger. The mature, dense foliage does a good job of hiding other paths that may only be a few yards away from the path you are on. For the next photo, the shade from the mature trees was so dense we had to use a flash so you could see our faces. You can also see how thick the growth is behind us.
Throughout the gardens, there are many beautiful, exotic flowers blooming like the one below.
Another flowering shrub that caught our eye was this double hibiscus.
There were also several cages of exotic birds including a couple of different types of parrots and a laughing kookaburra. The laughing kookaburra is a bird from the kingfisher family whose call sounds similar to human laughter. The call of the kookaburra is familiar to most of us because it has found its way into many so many soundtracks that it has come to typify a jungle sound. The kookaburra wasn't calling when we were there, but one of the parrots was. It really did add to the jungle atmosphere.
There was a larger cage with several brightly-colored macaws, which are a type of parrot from Mexico, Central, and South America. Two of the macaws were preening each other. It looked like the one on the left was saying, "Down a bit, a little lower...now over to the left...that's it...ahhhh."
Sunken Gardens also has several Chilean flamingos. Most of them were resting with their heads tucked behind their wings, but the one in the photo below was preening itself. We had never seen a bird kneeling this way.
Although poinsettias make most of us think of Christmas and cold weather, they are actually indigenous to Mexico and are tropical in nature. Sunken Gardens had these beautiful poinsettias displayed in the shape of a Christmas tree.
As we finished our tour of Sunken Gardens, we couldn't pass up a tourist photo.
From Sunken Gardens, we drove back across Sunshine Skyway to return to the motor home. During the rest of our stay, we made a Wal-Mart stop or two, did some laundry, and did a little motor home maintenance.
From here, we go to Blueberry Hill RV Resort. Blueberry Hill is in Bushnell, FL, and it is the same place we stayed for several months last winter.