Einstein said that repeating the same action over and over again expecting a different result is a sign of insanity. If so, making reservations for the height of the season in Florida for camping and traveling are insane. Louise and I had a great time touring Florida, but there was no doubt in my mind that we were extremely lucky. For a significant portion of the trip we were staying with friends and family, and the balance of the trip was calculated to stay at those less than attractive sites that dissuade long-term campers. (ie: campsites with no electricity, water or sewer). I think that we meet a more self-reliant, independent, adventurous cut of traveler at the places with a picnic table and a view, than those places with all the utilities of home, but I think electricity in 90° weather is really nice.
The two times we stayed at a place that reservations were mandatory, we were lucky and got one at the 12th hour. There was room in the inn at Flamingo, but getting an electrical site there was like hitting the Powerball. We didn’t get one, and the staff was so nasty that we stopped asking. We slept in the heat with our dependable 12v trucker fan and didn’t sweat too much. Ah, the power of positive thinking!
I stayed in the Keys in 1972 for a month as part of a college course (no wise cracks please) and returning to spend significant time there has been on my short bucket list ever since. The day after we bought the RV, I got on the Internet and looked for a campground in the Florida Keys, and discovered they were booked in advance for eleven months, the limit of the booking window. We took a day trip to the Keys this time, and had a great time, but it involved driving eighty plus miles and the last twenty were a test, after a long fun-filled day. I hadn’t attempted to look for a reservation in the two Keys State Parks before we took off on our day adventure because I perceived it to be a fool’s errand.
Upon returning home to the real world that was another matter. The State of Florida, and many others, uses a company called www.reserveamerica.com to manage the rental of camping sites. The company gets a cut of the rental, all of the reservation fees and all of the cancellation fees. The parks no longer need employees, or computer systems to manage the rentals, and have fully rented, if not fully occupied campgrounds, at peak season.
For the park, it’s a boon. You get all the rental money coming to you, and often, although the park is all rented out, you may have 20% or more vacancies. Less wear and tear, less cleaning, less trash and so on, and, it’s not like a hotel reservation, where if you don’t show up, the hotel keeps your money and then is able to rent the room afterwards, so you never have an argument over a spot. The downside for the parks is that they have no idea how many spaces they do, or don’t, have. The parks have to go on-line to take a look, and if you know how to game the system as a patron, you can turn your allowable 14 day window into sixty days at a park or more.
Back to the point. I set to discovering when to make a reservation, and how far in advance a reservation can be made. I then started in with a vengeance attempting to make a reservation for the Florida Keys in February at either Bahia Honda State Park or Long Key State Park. I’d sit at the computer with my National Institute of Time webpage open to see the exact time, and at exactly the right time, I’d click the button with my mouse to make my reservation, and result would be’ no available reservation’. In less than a second, all the open reservations would be gone. After two weeks of this, I obtained some technology, and determined that within one one hundredth of a second after the allowable reservation time, there was no available reservations (using multiple computers too). So, after four weeks of doing the same thing, I obtained the same result, and I’m now faced with a conundrum. Am I truly crazy, and will continue to try and get a reservation until I never get a site in the Keys, or do I somehow figure out how all those other folks make a reservation in some thousandths of a second? We’ll let you know.
The trip was a success. We were very lucky and squeaked between some really nasty storms on both the way south and on the way back north. We were only nearly kamakazied twice, and the errant drivers missed both times. We found a place to stay when we really needed one. We had a blast with our friends. We fit the RV into several places I thought one would never fit. We got by with a little help from our friends. We had glorious weather while the rest of the country suffered. We saw beautiful places that I’d never seen before. Knocking on wood, everything on the RV worked, and what small things broke were fixable, and when I ignored them for the meantime, magically some of the problems resolved themselves without my intervention.
I think the most important transition, for me, on the trip, was that the RV transformed from an adventure on wheels to a vehicle that allows us to travel to neat places. I’d always been of the mind that the journey was the adventure, but I’m coming around to the idea that the journey and the destination are equal partners in the adventure. We’ll have more fun this year, and we’ll keep you posted.