Part Five: Vistamar and Okeechobee

        Vistamar Villa looked like just the kind of place I was looking for. Not quite right by the beach but only a short walk away. A nice enclosed area with a pool, palm trees, and lots of places to sit around. And the rooms were very nice. All that was available at the time was a suite but it wasn't that much more expensive and it was bigger than some of the apartments I've lived in over the years.

        After a few false starts I was able to connect to the wireless and then I tested out the pool. Not a big pool, but very nice. Lots of tiny lizards scurrying in and out between the hedges. I walked over to the nearby beach area and then set off in search of a pizza place. I found one a few blocks away: a 24 Hour Diner right next to a t-shirt shop with some of the most revolting t-shirt slogans I've ever seen. I spent the rest of the evening relaxing by the pool, doing a little writing, and trying to figure out where to go next.

        After moving everything out to the car the next morning I went to turn in my keys and found out that the room was available for one more night if I wanted it. So, I moved everything back in once again and enjoyed another day alternating between the beach and the pool. The place was all booked up for the weekend but I liked it enough to book it for a full week starting Monday. After searching around a bit I decided to spend the weekend tenting at the KOA campground a couple hours north in Okeechobee.

        When I got to the place the next day I realized that it was, like so many Florida campgrounds, mainly an RV park. I set up my tent next to a couple big motor homes. My tenting options would be much broader if I didn't need the wireless internet connection all the time. The place had a very large pool, though I was still pretty well the only one using it. What is with these people? It wasn't that the pool was too cold. In fact, it was too warm for my liking.

        My opinion of the pool being too warm changed dramatically by the time the sun went down. Just a few hours north of Fort Lauderdale and yet the temperature seemed to drop an extra 10 degrees at night. So nice to be working at the laptop by the pool, getting a little chilled, and then jumping into the warm pool or the warmer hot tub.

        I ended up striking up a conversation with an older woman at the pool the first evening. She was in the pool when I came by late in the evening with my laptop. She called me a chicken for not coming in the water. Obviously, I had to prove that she was wrong. She was probably in her 60s and was excited about a big hike she was going on the following day. The Florida Trail Association was having their annual "Big O Hike", which is a 9 day / 109 mile hike around Lake Okeechobee. (They do the whole hike in stages, getting shuttled back to nearby campgrounds after hiking 10 to 15 miles each day.) We must have talked for several hours. I ended up staying in the pool half an hour after it officially closed, not wanting to face the cold air. I bumped into her a couple more times over the next few days. She'd show off her latest set of blisters on her feet after the day's hike.

        The place was pretty nice, though there were mostly seniors there. It had a golf course and driving range as part of the campground and everyone seemed to be driving around in golf carts everywhere. I was very extravagant and paid $1 for a round of mini golf. "Yes, it's just me," I had to explain to the guy when I got the putter. He told me that I could play as many rounds as I wanted as long as I skipped the final hole, which swallows up the ball. I ended up just playing two rounds. As I explained to him afterwards, I won the first round but was beaten so terribly the second round I had to quit.

        Another highlight of the place was all the wild birds...

        I spent most of my time hanging around the campground pool, though it did start to get a little annoying when they started playing Christmas songs all day long on the radio station. I did a lot of work on my Ithern story and worked on the web site some. Went to a buffet where I ate fried chicken, pizza, mashed potatoes, cornbread stuffing, and hush puppies. Still not quite sure what the hush puppies were but they tasted like a cross between onion rings and doughnuts. I end my visit to Okeechobee with some more evidence of the strange eating habits down here...

on to the next page...