Wintering in Florida


Some people who full-time like to plan out their whole year in advance, and can tell you where they’ll be at any given date during the year. Others do very little planning at all, and might get on the road in the morning not knowing where they’ll end up that evening.

While I admire those who can do the later, I’ve found that since I rely on the income from the jobs I take throughout the year to be able to go RVing, I need to plan out where I’m going to be next at least one stop in advance. Last winter I didn’t, and it cost me dearly in savings as I spent three weeks sending out applications in January before I finally heard back from anywhere, never mind having a choice in which job I wanted to take.

Winter seems to be a difficult time to find seasonal work, and that difficulty increases when you’ve got a prior commitment for half of the winter season. For instance Forever Resorts, the company I worked for in the Badlands, also does concessions for Big Bend down in Texas. They would have been happy to take me for the winter season, but I would have had to show up right after Badlands was done, they wouldn’t take me for just half the season once Amazon was done.

I eventually broke down and paid for Workamper News to help me find something for after Amazon, lasting until the end of March when summer jobs start opening up again. In the end there still weren’t any paying gig options that met my needs, and I decided that I was just going to do volunteer work for those three months. Not the best for my pocketbook, but good for a new experience, and I do like those.

I had a couple viable volunteer options, but ended up choosing one in Florida. It’s at the Ordway-Swisher Biological Station (OSBS)Β just east of Gainesville, run by the University of Florida. It’s a 9,000 acre nature preserve that is closed to the public and used for research and teaching. This is the first time a work camper program is being offered, there are three full hookup sites on the station for RVers. Duties are light maintenance and landscaping in scope and include cutting grass, trimming trees and brush, picking up trash, using hand tools for habitat upkeep, pulling up invasive plant species, and occasional facilities cleaning. As I said before it is a volunteer position, and I’ll work 16 hours for my site as a single, couples work a total of 32 hours.

While I wouldn’t mind trying a more traditional park host volunteer position that seem to be all over Workamper News and most other RVer job sites sometime, this sounded like a more interesting opportunity to me so I jumped on it. When you look at an opening and think “Yes!” and get excited, I think you owe it to yourself to go for it, even if you think your chances of getting it are slim.

There is another reason for choosing Florida though. As some of you know, I’m big into renaissance festivals, and I’ve been trying for years to work at one with my best friend Julie whom I use to share an apartment with in South Carolina before hitting the road. The timing just never worked out, despite us making a serious attempt to do it every year since before I even started IO.

Things are coming together to make it a real possibility this coming spring. Auditions for the Georgia Renaissance Festival are going to be in Atlanta early in February, and back when I interviewed for the position at Ordway-Swisher I told them I’d need a weekend off around that time. We’re going to audition, and plans for what happens after the gig at OSBS ends depend on how it goes. I’ve been wanting to head farther west since I started RVing, and the thought of missing the chance to do this is the primary reason why I held back. Now I’m glad that I didn’t end up in Arizona this winter, because I would not have had this chance, and it sounds unlikely that the timing will work out this well again for quite a while.

In the meanwhile, the plan is to take a part time job on the side in Gainesville to help cover my other monthly living expenses this winter. In the current job market it seems to be a lot easier to find part time work than a full time job, the trick is going to be making sure that the hours don’t overlap. I don’t know what my hours are going to be at OSBS yet other than four days a week, so hunting down that job will have to wait a while, perhaps even until I get to Florida. (Note: I will not starve if by some crazy chance I can’t land a part time job, but then I’d be cutting into my emergency fund by the end of it which of course I’d rather not do.)

Then there’s the matter of all the miles between Kansas and Florida. Amazon gets over with on December 23rd, and OSBS starts on January 6th at the earliest. That gives me two weeks to get there, a pretty generous amount of time considering how I usually drive. I’m pondering dropping down into Texas to Rice where Casitas are made and having people who know what they’re doing do some maintenance stuff on Cas on the way. While there are a couple things that could use fixing none of it is essential or something that I couldn’t get done elsewhere, but I know there are routine things that should be getting done to keep him in tip top shape, and I don’t know how to do any of that stuff. It’d be nice to get a professional to look things over.

If I go from Coffeyville to Rice to Gainesville, the trip will be about 1,350 miles, about 19 hours at the speed I normally travel. Factoring an average gas rate of $3.80, the trip will cost me about $366 in gas. I’m budgeting $800 for those two weeks between gas, food, and monthly bills, and expecting to save up $1,700 at Amazon this season. Mostly I’m just writing these numbers down here so at the end of the year I can see how close to the mark I was. Having a grip on basic accounting and budgeting is crucial to making this lifestyle work.

* * *

I think that’s about everything for now. Of course all of these plans (other than the fact that I’ll be at OSBS after this, that’s now a certain) are carved in jello. I just have had several people asking me more about what’s coming up after after Amazon so I thought I’d share. Today’s photo was taken last March at Hunting Island in SC, but it’s the closest I’ve got to what I think of when I think of Florida. It sounds like the OSBS is more pine woods and marsh than palm trees though, but that can be very pretty too in it’s own way, can’t wait to see!

It's good to share:

, , , , , , ,

40 Responses to Wintering in Florida

  1. Mike LeBlanc October 30, 2013 at 7:35 am #

    Very conversational; like walking through your mind with you! As to the comment, “..When you look at an opening and think β€œYes!” and get excited, I think you owe it to yourself to go for it”…that is EXACTLY the way I felt when I read the ad for the circus looking for a travelling teacher. Baby Girl (my Catahoula rescue) and I travelled from Texas to Montana to Illinois..the absolute best stories of my trip are something that Baby Girl and I shared….what an experience!!!

    • Becky October 30, 2013 at 11:44 pm #

      Working for the circus does sound like a pretty amazing opportunity Mike. I have a friend who ‘ran away from home to join the circus’. After finishing high school she went over to England to attend a circus school. After graduating she worked down in Chili and a few different places in the U.S. She does trapeze, silks, and lyra.

  2. David October 30, 2013 at 8:01 am #

    Congratulations on your Florida gig. We did volunteer work at a National Wildlife Refuge this past summer and enjoyed it except for the ticks loving my wife. (That is a whole different story.)

    Our experience was that they love volunteers and treat them like family. They were very flexible with us and like you, we with prior approval took time off during our gig for a family vacation.

    Best wishes on finding a fun and interesting part time job. With your attitude I believe it will come about. And best wishes for this year’s employment at Amazon. Who knows, your might even handle one of my many orders.
    David recently posted..2013-10-27 – Mexico and other stuffMy Profile

    • Becky October 30, 2013 at 11:49 pm #

      Yeah working for a wildlife refuge would be pretty awesome too. With my wild animal experience and schooling I think I’d be pretty useful. I’m looking forward to Florida, last time I was down there was Tampa to pick up Cas from his previous owners, but I haven’t spent any real time down that way. As for the ticks, I’ll keep that in mind. The 101 species of ant that live on the station worry me more, I got an ant colony inside Cas when I was parked in SC over my first summer in the RV and they were very difficult to get rid of.

      As for handling your Amazon order, it’s possible although I don’t deal very directly with customer orders. I’m inventory and quality control this year. Take care!

      • Ed April 12, 2014 at 2:34 pm #

        Hi Becky,

        Just started following your travels-beginning my own full time adventure at the end of April. First stop Ocala National Forest.

        Thought I would pass along a tip I learned from a pest control pro about ants. If they haven’t set up shop inside your camper, then follow their trail backwards to find their nest. Then wreak havoc on the nest. It may take some doing to find it, but it’s the only way I’ve found to get rid of them.

        Good luck and good times in your adventure!

        • Becky April 14, 2014 at 5:19 pm #

          First off congrats Ed, end of April, you’re almost there!

          These ants that got inside my RV in SC did have a nest inside so I had to deal with that. I just left FL on Friday, and I didn’t find a single ant inside Cas the whole time I was there, go figure. They’re hanging around my new campground in GA though so I’ll still need to keep an eye out.

          Safe travels and happy trails to you!

  3. Carolyn October 30, 2013 at 9:06 am #

    I think your FL gig will be fun. Enjoy!

    • Becky October 30, 2013 at 11:50 pm #

      I’m thinking so too Carolyn. πŸ™‚

  4. Todd October 30, 2013 at 9:15 am #

    If I were your Dad, I would be very proud of your planning strategies. Worried about your lifestyle, but proud. You remind me of one of my daughters.

    • Becky October 30, 2013 at 11:52 pm #

      Thanks Todd. My parents don’t really like what I’m doing, but they’ve come to accept it.

  5. Bob October 30, 2013 at 9:24 am #

    Be aware the Casita factory usually closes for a week around the Christmas Holidays. Check with them before you head to Florida to make sure they’ll be open when you pass through.

    • Becky October 30, 2013 at 11:53 pm #

      Thanks for the reminder Bob. I was figuring they would be closed around Christmas, I was definitely going to call before I went down there to make the timing good.

  6. Barrie October 30, 2013 at 9:32 am #

    Hi Becky,
    I have recently started following your blog and enjoy your writing. My girlfriend and I are semi retired and have a TT and pickup; we enjoy mostly boon docking. I had a Trillium fiberglass TT before my current stick built and traveled all over with it. Good luck with your Amazon gig. Then you’re off to Florida; good luck with that. BTW… I’m curious about the Amazon work camping. Although my back wouldn’t permit me to do that type of work, does Amazon subsidize the campground costs? We like space so two rigs to one spot would definitely be too crowded for us.

  7. Barrie October 30, 2013 at 10:11 am #

    Hi again,
    I found your write up on the Amazon CamperForce so I have my answer on the campground costs.

    • Becky October 30, 2013 at 11:55 pm #

      Hehe, glad you found your answer Barrie. I do try to keep that post handy this time of year because it answers all the basic questions.

      I’m glad to hear that you’re enjoying IO, thanks for commenting! I’m a bit envious of those who can go boondocking, I’m not at that point yet but looking forward to the time when I can spend the winter down in the deserts of the SW. Enjoy your TT!

  8. Rita October 30, 2013 at 11:59 am #

    Gas prices will be lower than that, I bet.

    I love your blog. I am another full-time wannabe. Right now I am trying to figure out what vehicle/rig I want. I actually sleep in my Honda Civic a lot and can make green smoothies with an inverter and an immersion blender. I just cannot see myself shifting into higher gas consumption.

    • Becky October 31, 2013 at 12:01 am #

      Haha, I had a Honda Civic two-door coup before I traded it in for Bertha. Like you I was reluctant to give up that good gas mileage and the Civic ran like a dream, but I’ve come to love my truck too, in a different way. If you’re really looking for ways to get on the road with a car, try Roxi over at She full-times out of her Prius, she’s got a little tent attachment that goes on the trunk to give her more space in it. Of course she does quite a bit of house sitting and staying with friends too so she isn’t sleeping in it all the time, but still it’s just one more way to look at the nomadic lifestyle.

  9. Reine October 30, 2013 at 12:13 pm #

    You may want yo consider a visit to Larry and Debbie at Little House Customs instead of the factory in Rice for your repairs and maintenance. You get personalized service with nice folks and free hookups. But DO contact Larry soon to schedule. FYI. The factory usually shuts down between Chrismas and New Years.

    • Becky October 31, 2013 at 12:06 am #

      Oh that’s right Reine, I’d forgotten about Larry and Debbie, and I’ve even ordered things from them before, haha. Thanks for the reminder, their location is even more conveniently located from Coffeyville, so perhaps that’s just what I’ll do.

      • Mike LeBlanc October 31, 2013 at 6:20 am #

        Is Larry and Debbie a Casita only source? What is the name of their company? Website? Thanks!!!!

        • Becky October 31, 2013 at 10:13 pm #

          Yep Casita specific,

          • Reine November 2, 2013 at 10:57 pm #

            Little House Customs primarily serves Casitas but does do some work on other Molded Fiberglass trailers such as Scamps. Larry primarily does mods to customize our Casitas to meet specific needs, such as faster gray water draining or adding a vent fan in the bathroom for older Casitas. He also installs some of the Orbital Machine Works products (see such as the tongue jack relocation plate that allows some of us to open our tailgate or hatchback without hitting the tongue jack. Larry does the work on the trailers and Debbie runs the online store. They are great folks but stay really busy so if you’re considering stopping by, be sure to contact them really soon to discuss what you want done and make an appointment. He’s only one person so when he’s booked up, he’s booked up.

  10. Kathi & Michael Williams October 30, 2013 at 1:21 pm #

    There’s a great Renaissance Fair in Oregon every year–has gone on for decades. I think it’s in early summer. And there’s tons of fruit to pick all over! Best wishes. We’re off in 2 days to Death Valley and 500 fiddlers, or some such…waiting for my big spring trip thru the Northwest! Cheers, ~Kathi & crew

    • Becky October 31, 2013 at 12:09 am #

      Sounds like fun Kathi! I’ve been to ren fests in six different states now, when I go someplace I try to find out if there’s one in the area to visit, my costume comes with me in the RV. πŸ˜‰

      And I’ve heard of that 500 fiddlers thing! I’ve actually looked into employment at Death Valley, but their RV park that employees stay it has one of those silly year restrictions on RVs, Cas is too old. Have a good trip and enjoy yourselves!

  11. Kai October 30, 2013 at 1:21 pm #

    Hey Becky, cool gig! I lived in Gainesville for 8 years, it’s a cool little college town with lots to see and do. You’re also within an hours drive or two to some wonderful parks and wilderness. Natural springs, lots of birding, daytona/st. Augustine and the soft atlantic beaches to your east, rivers to kayak and canoe. Watch out for the alligators, they annually chow down a few pets at lake alice and beyond! Overall, a great spot to winter. When you get into town, I can tell you some cools places to check out if you need any suggestions. Good Luck!

    • Becky October 31, 2013 at 12:13 am #

      Sounds good Kai, I’ll let you know when I get down there! I’m big into kayaking and the ocean. Alligators are nothing new, I lived with those for the three years I was in South Carolina. When I was looking at the species list for the station though what surprised me most was black bears! Who knew that there was a such thing as the Florida Black Bear, that’s something SC didn’t have and not something I associate with the SE. Hope you’re having a good time on the road, wherever you are right now.

  12. Tom October 30, 2013 at 2:39 pm #

    Hi Becky,
    Your average gas price of 3.81 sounds high to me.
    National average is at 3.29 right now.
    Gulf Coast average is at 3.07.
    That should save you a few dollars as long as it stays where it is.

    • Becky October 31, 2013 at 12:16 am #

      I always estimate high Tom, that way I make sure I’ll have enough. πŸ™‚ In the end though I guess high on costs and low on income, I usually end up pretty close, because something unexpected will always come up that uses up that extra money. This way, I sort of “plan” for it. Whether gas prices stay low or go up, I’m always happy to be driving a smaller rig like I have during these long re positioning drives, I save a lot over the larger RVs.

  13. Richard Myers October 30, 2013 at 3:53 pm #

    Hi Becky,

    Here in MA we have the rare combination of a Renaissance Fair in the same town (Carver) as a state forest that can handle RV’s.

    Hope you make it up here some time.


    • Becky October 31, 2013 at 12:17 am #

      Oooo, thanks for the tip Rick, I’ll keep that in mind. I definitely want to get up to New England some day.

  14. Rob October 30, 2013 at 4:15 pm #

    Good planning.
    FWIW I’m budgeting $4/gal for gas & if things change enough to make that look scary I’ll bump it up. Better too much put away for fuel than not enough.
    Have a good winter!
    Rob recently posted..Too fastMy Profile

    • Becky October 31, 2013 at 12:23 am #

      That’s my way of thinking Rob. Least with a RV as small as mine the MPG isn’t horrible.

  15. Bill and Kris Osborne October 30, 2013 at 4:24 pm #

    Hi Becky,

    Many of our full-timer friends are interested in our Amazon experience. You gave me the idea to post our day-by-day detailed experience on our blog. I did it as a separate page. Under our picture banner next to “Home” is the page “Amazon CamperForce 2013”. Maybe you can give me a critique. I mentioned earlier that I heard about your blog from a weekly podcast. You may enjoy listening to the podcast in which you are mentioned. And I think you can….Let’s try it. Go to the iTunes Store. Select podcasts and search for LivingtheRVDream. Then see if you can download LTRVD0230. It was still available when I checked today. You are mentioned early in the podcast.

    • Becky October 31, 2013 at 12:34 am #

      CamperForce is the most talked about work camping experience for RVers out there, and after seeing all the questions asked on RVing forums about it it just made sense to me to put together a few posts on it.

      I like how you organized all the CamperForce stuff in one spot, that makes it much easier to find. I think you’ve got a good start on your blog so far. I personally only do a day-by-day account of my travels when I’m actually traveling. For the majority of my year I’m parked in one spot working, and that doesn’t make for a very interesting post. I learned that what makes a blog popular isn’t talking about yourself, it’s helping other people, so if your day-by-day account isn’t going to offer some useful insight or information on RVing your readership isn’t going to grow. So when I’m in one spot, I focus more on “how-to” and philosophical posts that will provide more value.

      I can’t update my iTunes with my extremely slow WiFi here at Big Chief, but next time I run to McDonalds I’ll update it so I can check out that podcast. Thanks for the heads up Bill and Kris, have a good time at Campbellsville!

  16. jr cline October 31, 2013 at 9:54 pm #

    If you and your friend get on at the Atlanta festival. Let me know. I go to that almost every year.

    • Becky October 31, 2013 at 10:11 pm #

      Yep, it’ll make it up on here I imagine. πŸ™‚

  17. travelfables November 4, 2013 at 11:11 pm #

    Yay, for your Florida gig. I was planning to play down there myself this winter, but I’m busy fixing up an old Airstream at my shack in North Georgia. I hope ya get in on the GA Ren fest. I’ve been known to show up and heckle there a few times :). Its great fun! Have you ever thought about hooking up with the SCA? They have events all over the US.

    • Becky November 5, 2013 at 3:26 pm #

      Good lucking fixing it up. My schedule’s awfully full right now to pick up another group, although I have heard of the SCA before.

  18. Debbie June 24, 2016 at 4:42 pm #

    Hi Becky,

    Wondering how it went for you at Ordway..We are thinking of applying so it would be great to get your thoughts.

    Deb & Gregg

Leave a Reply

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.

CommentLuv badge

Powered by WordPress. Designed by WooThemes