So after two months on the road in our camper van, a Winnebago Travato 59K, what have we learned? In short we’ve learned that we love it! We’ve learned that we’ve been lucky with the weather. We can count on one hand the days we’ve had to hunker down inside due to rain or extreme cold, well cold in Florida kind of cold.
We’ve also learned that it’s the overall experience that really matters most… it’s what counts. When we look back it will be hard to remember individual moments of this trip in our van to a place we thought we knew pretty well. It will be the overall experience that we remember most. How it felt. What we saw for the first time… over and over again. It will be the feeling of never worrying about a parking lot being too full or crowded or whether we can squeeze into a convenience store for gas. That will be accompanied by the smiles of not having diesel fuel all over our shoes and the floorboards of the truck, since our van uses gas we no longer have to fuel in the 18-wheeler lanes which are covered in the smelly fuel.
And because the van has opened up a wider range of places for us to experience, the whole state is literally our oyster, we have learned… actually learned. 60+ year olds have learned. About a state that we thought we knew a lot about since we’ve wintered here the last 6 years, but we’ve realized that we knew very, very little about the real Florida that we’ve come to love on this trip. By not staying in one metropolitan area and traveling from coast to coast and north to south we’ve explored in places that we would have never been before. Like this week’s stop at Lake Kissimmee State Park and their infamous Cow Camp.
I know what you’re thinking… a cowboy reenactment… oh boy… that will be Disney Land cheesy. I was thinking the same thing. But we hopped on our bikes and made the ride from our pretty awesome campsite out to the camp, which turned out to be a restored actual cow camp… from one of the primary, most used, biggest of the area cow camps. Like you, we didn’t know what the heck a cow camp was and especially didn’t know what a “Florida Cracker” was and how that all fit together. But being out in the middle of nowhere in our van gave us the opportunity to experience this first hand for ourselves. And the experience was one we’ll remember for a lifetime. We’ve always thought of Florida as, you know, The Sunshine State… or the land of oranges and palm trees. We had no idea that the first cattle ranges in the US began here nor that the infamous Texas Longhorn cow actually got it’s start as the Spaniards brought a small herd of them here to Florida. Those cows morphed into scrub cows that learned to live in the harsh conditions of the Florida ranges and also became the big-horned cows most of us think of when we think of a cow or bull… a Texas Longhorn.
So how did we learn all that? We got to sit down at a Florida State Park with a park specialist whose job is to educate those who are interested in finding out more about these cow camps and these days gone by. Over coffee, horses, cows, one bull and a whip demonstration we learned a lot. And, unlike Disney World like theme parks, we were the only ones there on this Sunday and that one on one time with this very knowledgeable young man was… well… an EXPERIENCE. One that we’ll never forget. But it will make up a small part of the experience of being able to roam from area to area, town to town, park to park as we explore Florida at our own pace and in our own way, in our own van. We’ve learned that when young people hone in on something, like say living in a van, we that are older should make it a point to pay attention and learn from them. We think they (and we) are on to something. This living your life day to day in a small, comfortable home on wheels leads to lots and lots of experiences. And isn’t that what we all want from life? To experience it?