Who’s the Blogger?

Before we go further, you might want to know a little bit about the guy who is writing this blog…

Houses on wheels have been my curse and my comfort. I grew up in a not-so-nice trailer park and was teased a lot about it as a kid. We lived in a series of trailers, 18-ft, 27-ft, and 45-ft. Why do I remember the dimensions? Well, because when you live tiny, every additional bit of room is a cause for celebration. And I’m here to tell you:  Bigger IS better. At least in trailers!

My top bunk was just a few feet below the ceiling and being lulled to sleep by the patter of rain on the roof is still one of my favorite childhood memories. As crazy as it sounds, 60+ years later when I’m out camping in my RV, I look forward to a shower or two just to relive that memory.

Geo LTP

Where was HGTV when we needed it???

My parents worked hard to provide a good life for us. As humble as it was, the trailer was home and it was filled with love. My mom was a wonder. In addition to creating the most amazing pies and cakes in that little kitchen stove, she kept everything neat and clean. Living in a trailer meant that everything had a place and we learned to put things back where they belonged.

Of course, there were some issues with four of us living in such small quarters. My dad loved country music and bluegrass. My mother was different – she loved classical music. And it was her dream for me to become a violinist. What? Hearing me practice the violin was not exactly what dad needed after a day of work at the steel mill. And my brother was a very active little boy. With his antics and my infernal scratching, my poor dad would sometimes have to escape to the nearest watering hole for some peace and quiet. But in the end, we all survived.

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A violin lesson in the living room

My violin teacher, Walter Bialek, came to our home for lessons. When I was about 10, he said to me, “George, you’re a flower in a swamp.” Huh? I didn’t know what he meant at the time but I never forgot that strange comment. Jumping forward a few years, I began my career as a high school teacher of vocal music and strings. After a few years, I left teaching to live in New York City and perform in shows and on cruise ships.

 

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Drummond & Starry – Mediterranean cruises – 1970s

That was an exciting time for this kid from the trailer park and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. But after a while, like most singers, I had to get back to making a steady living. Due to the oil embargo and recession, music teaching jobs were few and far between. So, I returned to college to become a recession-proof elementary school teacher. I taught 4th, 5th, and 6th grades. And I finally retired as a guidance counselor in Venice, Florida.

During my last 10 years of work, spending weekends in Florida’s state parks with my dogs was a great way to relax, clear my mind, and reminisce. Now that I look back, I see I’ve come almost full circle. Although I pushed trailer living to the back of my mind for a long period of my life, I find I’m still fascinated by these amazing little houses on wheels where, as the saying goes, we spend a fortune to live like we’re homeless.

Anyway, thanks for reading. We hope you’ll enjoy our stories.

Pippin (4)

 

 

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Little Florida Critters

When we moved from Maryland to the Gulf Coast of Florida in 1996, we were surprised to find that we sometimes go for months without rain. So, the mosquitoes aren’t too bad most of the year. But a day or two of showers provide the conditions for an explosion of the critters. Camping near a swampy area after a rain can be a real no-no, especially in the summer. Rainy season (usually thunderstorms) is June through early October. The sign below could be us at Paynes Prairie State Park a few summers ago.

Mosquito

Other annoying insects are the “no see ‘ums” that you don’t see until they bite you. Dawn and dusk are the worst times. I’ve also been dive-bombed by some deer flies. Larger than a house fly, their bite feels like it’s taking a chunk of flesh. I feel bad for the deer! Luckily, they move slowly enough for your to swat them to death in retaliation.

Some of the worst pests have migrated up from Central America and, apparently, are still marching northwards. (Tomorrow could be your lucky day!) One of my first mistakes in Florida was absent-mindedly stepping on a fire ant hill. These little red-colored critters seem to have organized armies. Just touch a fire ant hill and watch them go crazy! And do they sting!!! Believe me, there is a reason they are called “fire” ants.

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Medium Florida Critters

While the insects are bothersome, there are some Florida critters that can kill you.

Binski and I were taking a walk through the campground at Alafia River State Park, a beautiful state park slightly off the beaten track and a favorite for trail biking. I was admiring one of the RVs, not paying much attention because we were in a well mowed area of the park. Then, I felt a tug on the leash. Something had caught Binski’s interest and he was on his way over to take a look.

Rattler

As you can see, what caught his attention was a 6 to 7 foot diamondback that was moving from a pond and across the campsite where a camper had tethered his dog just a few hours before. The snake slowly slithered under the RV and into an open field beyond.

Prior to that day I usually walked two dogs at a time, each pulling in a different direction. Since then I almost never take more than one so I can keep a close eye. Luckily, this rattlesnake was in the open where it could be easily seen. But it was an important lesson about becoming complacent.

If yours are like mine, when you’re walking on trails, they like to go to the edge near the brush, a potentially dangerous place. I’m now wary now of letting them do that. And, although I love retractible leashes, I keep the leash short when I take them on trails.

I saw a bobcat a few weeks ago at Oscar Scherer State Park, just moseying through the campsites looking for chihuahuas. (Hopefully just kidding.) Anyway, it was the first one I’ve seen in the wild.

There are lots of armadillos and big turtles, squirrels and rabbits. And, for those unfamiliar with Florida, we have zillions of little lizards. But they are cute.

Big Florida Critters

Florida is beautiful but it can be a wild place. And developments are often located right next to the habitats of some of the big critters. Shamrock Park in Venice, Florida borders a community where many of my students lived. It’s located on the aptly-named Alligator Creek. When some neighborhood dogs went missing recently, animal control was called, and this is the big boy they found. From the looks of that gator’s belly, he has sure been chowing down on something. There are tales of finding dog collars in the stomachs of nuisance gators.

Venice Gator

There is a community just north of Venice where residents living along the ponds divide their back yards with a chainlink fence. They give the gators a setback of 10 feet or so along the bank of the pond for lounging in the sun, which they seem to like to do in the winter when the water is cool and the sun is warm. The fences offer some barrier of protection for their pets. I’ve heard, however, that if a gator wants to get beyond a chain link fence, he’ll find a way. Kinda gives you chills, thinking about it. We owned one home here on a pond, but it’s not really a priority for us anymore…

The Moral of the Story

Most of the time, camping in Florida is calm and cozy. But, as you can see, it’s wise to keep your eyes open and anticipate dangers for your pets.

After reading through today’s blog, if you’re still interested in Florida camping, stay tuned to Doggystylerv.com. Have a great day!

George and the Kids

Florida Camping

The State Parks

Most of our doggy adventures are in Florida’s state parks. And we are lucky to have so many of them to sniff around in. According to tripsavvy.com 50 of Florida’s 161 state parks offer camping facilities.

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Lake Manatee State Park – I could swear I saw a squirrel!!!

During the warm months, June through October, sites are generally available. However, during “season” which is December through early April, when the “snowbirds” are here, it’s nearly impossible to get a reservation. Like everyone else, I have to book sites 11 months in advance, and be one of the first on the ReserveAmerica website to get them!

In the parks in winter, we see as many license plates fom the northern states as from Florida. Lots of folks visit us from Canada, some of whom are tenting in temperatures in the 30s. Of course, we’re freezing but I assume it’s relatively cozy for them compared to where they live.

God Bless A/C – Camping in the Florida Heat

If you camp in Florida in the summer, try to book a shaded site if you have pets, just in case the a/c goes off for some reason. The summer sun here is brutal and the inside temperature can escalate in minutes.

If you’re not hooked up to shore power, be sure your generator is in excellent working order to power your a/c. In fact, in the summer the a/c is my biggest worry since I do have to leave the dogs alone from time to time. When it’s hot I try not to be away for more than a few hours at a time. It’s a bummer, but their safety comes first.

We’ve all seen the flickering lights and heard that gasping generator sound when something cycles on that draws extra power. In my current RV my generator has shut down when my refrigerator compressor cycled on. It has even decided to shut down when I’ve put out a slide.

Yes, I know that in a perfect world my generator should easily be able to power my refrigerator and my a/c. But what I’ve decided to do is run only my a/c on the generator. I keep my refrigerator running on propane so there is no extra draw or cycling while I’m away that might cause that finicky generator to shut down.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Doggystylerv Disclaimer

We canines who have been RV-ing for awhile know that there are websites where people share mechanical tips and suggestions for repairs. Doggiestylerv.com is not one of them. Our dad is not a mechanic and can’t offer that kind of advice (even though likes to think he is pretty smart).

On the other hand, our dad has had seven RVs over the years, so he’s had his share of puzzles to work through. We know that each RV comes with its own little quirks that can drive you crazy as you try to figure out what the hell is going on. This is his latest rig and he’s had issues with it already! And, boy have we heard some interesting words as he tries to figure things out!

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Anyway, what we can offer are things that worked for us in resolving some of those little RV quirks, especially about traveling with pets. That is part of what we’ll be sharing with you on Doggystylerv.com.

We hope some our experiences will be helpful!

Copilots 4

 

The Family – Mandy and Anya

A few years after Diva passed away, we wanted another toy fox terrier. We found one on the Petfinder.com website and I drove all the way to the Humane Society in Inverness, FL to pick her up. She was as cute as could be.

Where is dinner

Where’s dinner?

As I was signing the paperwork, the lady pointed to another small dog and said, “She is bonded to this sweet little girl, Anya, and they have become quite a pair.” She told me that Anya had been at the shelter for 10 months. Apparently, no one wanted her because she wasn’t pretty – she had unusual coloring and one odd-looking eye. Of course, we decided to take her as well. As I started to leave, the lady looked at the dogs and said, “Come on girls, it’s your lucky day!” And, as you can see below, it was. They went from a cage at the pound to lounging in the sun.

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Neither dog knew how to walk on a leash, so the process began to train them for their upcoming RV trips.

Mandy and Anya have turned out to be sweet dogs, although little Mandy can be a bit spunky. She does not share her master well. Anya is an all-around well-balanced girl and she has assumed the role of mommy in the family.

https://www.petfinder.com/

 

The Family – Rico the Psychohuahua

Rico is THE BOSS. After all, he is a chihuahua.

We got Rico from Underdog Rescue in Bradenton, Florida who rescued him from a high-kill shelter in Central Florida. He was found on the streets when he was about a year old. He must have been through a lot of trauma because he had night terrors for a year after we got him. Binski seemed to know his new friend was scared and he helped him feel at home.

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When we first got him, he was fussing with another dog. I decided to pick him up and put him in another room to show him who was boss. Big mistake. Needless to say, I learned quickly who was the boss.

Rico is the smartest dog we have. And he is very spoiled. When he eats, which is only once a day and never before mid-afternoon, he requires an audience. Every meal is a command performance; the other dogs have to be there to watch. He could be an ad executive because he knows how to advertise. When he has a treat, he perches it in the most conspicuous place. This one was just sticky enough to cling to the side of his bed.

Rico and bone (2)

Rico has been a challenge but, after four years, he has calmed down and is learning to trust. He shows me he loves me by snuggling next to me and by running to me when he is scared. Rico “takes care of us” – at home he makes sure all of us are in the door before he will come in. And he goes from room to room to check on us. He has found his family.

Like any self-respecting chihuahua, Rico likes to lounge in the sun. He prefers a patch of dirt outside but a pillow near a sunny window will do in a pinch.

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It’s good being king!

 

 

The Family – Binski

Little Binski is the lover in the family. His real name is Dobbin but we call him Binski (long story). We got this little rat terrier as a puppy and spoiled him rotten.

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When he was a puppy he tormented Cody but they became inseparable.

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Binski is a cuddler and likes to sleep under the covers. Apparently, he was taken away from his mother too soon and he still nurses on his blanket. He is really a baby. When he is hungry (which is always) he stands on your feet to remind you it is time to toss him a treat.

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At about six years old, he developed glaucoma. We tried prescription eye drops but could not control the pressure. So, sadly, we had to have his eyeball removed. The surgeon did a great job. Even with just one eye, he has a great sense of direction and can almost always guide me back to the RV. And as you can see by that doggy smile, he loves those walks.