Saturday, December 18, 2010

Shaking off the dust of our feet

Raquel's footprints
The dust of Stuart, Florida specifically, for they shall no longer receive us. Instead we are at the free Glades County campground at Indian Prairie Canal, on Lake Okeechobee (map). This is a wonderful little spot, on the lake side of the levee. There are a couple dozen sites here, most with stone fire rings and a few with picnic tables. Trash service is provided, but no other amenities, and the price is definitely right. Our only neighbors are one class-A and a handful of fishermen in truck campers.

We ended up here after being booted out of Stuart. You may recall when last we reported here we were at the Elks lodge in Port Saint Lucie, which was very pleasant. However by Wednesday morning we needed water, and the spigot was further away than the 150' of hose we carry. We were also only a couple of days from needing to dump, and we had been at that lodge a full week by then and did not want to overstay our welcome. So Wednesday morning we loaded up the bikes, pulled up to the building to put a little water in, and headed south the five miles to the Stuart lodge, where we have stayed in the past.

On our first visit to the Stuart lodge we liked it there so much we stayed over a week. I even wrote here later in our stay that we liked Stuart well enough that we were adding it to our very short list of places we might settle down, whenever we are done traveling. We spent a lot of money in the city, and we remembered the lodge being very welcoming, and having a short signed agreement for us to sign in order to stay in the parking lot. And so Stuart has been on our "RV friendly" list ever since, and we even spent another pleasant night there just last month.

Given all that, we had planned on staying there again this week, in the hopes of finding a nice eatery in town serving Christmas dinner. Likely we would have gone out to eat on Christmas eve as well, and probably several other nights in the course of the ten days. We had even been making some extensive plans with our friends Martin and Steph for right after Steph and Louise's January trawler training cruise, just a few miles north in Fort Pierce, that would have involved us staying at the Stuart lodge and them staying at a hotel next door or just down the block.

When we arrived back at the lodge Wednesday evening, the offices and lounge were closed, and we parked in our usual spot (map). I found someone in the kitchen area who was preparing for bingo that evening, just to let someone know we were there. So imagine our surprise when a knock came on the door a few hours later, as evening was falling. It was a pair of lodge officers, coming to let us know that parking was no longer allowed because the lodge had been cited by the city. Apparently either a disgruntled neighbor or, more likely, a nearby campground operator complained to the city, who decided to start enforcing some existing but unpublished ordinance about parking on private property. They told us we could spend the night, as we were already there, so long as we left in the morning.

We've moved Stuart into the RV-unfriendly category, and, frankly, we prefer not to spend any money at all in such places so as not to reward this sort of unfriendliness with tax revenue. Had it been any earlier in the day, I think we would have left on the spot, so as not to get the lodge in any further trouble and also to preclude any midnight knocks from law enforcement. We would have prefered taking our restaurant dollars with us. However, it was already starting to get dark, we had no ready-made backup plan, and -- this one is the biggie -- we had our mail sent to General Delivery at the Stuart post office a short walk away, and it had not yet arrived.

So we decided to spend the one night as offered. Given the circumstance, we left the scooters in the bay, and headed off to dinner at Flanigan's next door. In the morning, as we were finishing our breakfast, we spotted a Stuart code enforcement truck eying the bus, and decided that it was high time to clear out of the parking lot. With our mail still en route, we headed across town to a shopping center parking lot to see if it might arrive before we had to leave town for the night.

We got lucky -- the mail arrived at the Stuart post office first thing Thursday, and after spending an hour or so plotting a diesel purchase and where to stock up on groceries (not in Stuart), we swung by the PO for the mail and then headed west out of town. I already knew about this campground just a few miles off our route, and my guides said it was free with a 14-day stay limit.

What the guides failed to mention, and we did not find out until we arrived and saw it on a sign at the entrance, is that one needs a permit to camp here, available at the Glades County road department office, and the campground is closed from 5pm Monday to 7am Wednesday every week. A quick call to the roads department revealed that they were open till 4 and permits were free. Given they were another 20 miles down the road, toward Moore Haven, we opted to park the bus and I headed down there on the scooter, arriving a half hour before closing.

I pulled a permit for this week and also one for next week, in case we want to come back here Wednesday after spending two nights elsewhere. It's not clear that there is any permit enforcement anyway; the rules stipulate self-contained units only, and some of the fishermen are sleeping in their vans (there are no rest room facilities here). I also haven't spotted a permit in any other windshield.

Given that we expected to boondock all the way to Christmas, we stocked up on victuals before leaving civilization back in Palm City. The nearest restaurant is a tiny affair at the marina in Buckhead Ridge, perhaps six or seven miles from here up a 60mph road. A slightly larger restaurant is two miles further at Okee-Tantie, where we also found a dump station for $10 on our way in.

We'll need to find a place to stay Monday and Tuesday nights, and also find a place for Christmas dinner. One option is to head west to Lake Placid where there is an Elks lodge and a number of restaurants, and we'll probably do that on Christmas Eve if we don't head that way Monday. I am hoping that, for the two nights Indian Prairie is closed, we can just stay at the Seminole Brighton Casino about a dozen miles from here.

Top photo by otherthings, used under a Creative Commons license.


  1. Not good about Stuart. Are you going to head west? Glad you found a place to park. Now Christmas dinner. Take care.
    Ed Thomas

  2. You didn't say anything about no motorcycles allowed! Perhaps they won't think the scooters are motorcycles, or perhaps they just don't pay enough attention to even care!

  3. @Rod: They really mean dirt bikes, which is what it says on the printed sheet of rules they handed me at the road department. Plus, when I called them I told them I'd be coming on a scooter and they said nothing, and they of course saw the scooter when I showed up.

    I think the real issue is they don't want anyone going off-road, like down the levee trails.

    But, yes, if confronted, "gee, officer, it's just a scooter -- I don't really think of it as a motorcycle."


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