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In the years 1973 to 1974, our daughter was selected, thanks to her grades, by the Welland Rotary Club, to represent Canada in Mexico as an exchange student, from September 1973 to September 1974.
The poor girl had never been away from home for any length of time, so that winter, Mom and I decided to visit her in that foreign country, the land of Tacos and bandidos. But how to get there was the big question.
By train? Maybe not, because we didn’t know their language and didn’t know which train went to Puebla.
By car? Maybe not, if we had to buy gas they might think we were asking for Tequila or some other alcohol related fuel. If they filled our tank with that stuff, then I would be stuck with keeping that boozed up car on the road and kept it from swaying and running off the pavement.
By plane? Maybe not. Too many planes get diverted to Cuba. One time my friend Jack was sitting in the front of an airplane on his way to Las Vegas. After they got up in the air and could take off their seatbelt, an old buddy of Jack who also was on the plane a couple of seats back, spied his old friend and hollered "Hi Jack!" Immediately, the pilot swung the airplane around and headed straight for Cuba.
By boat? Maybe not. Going from Buffalo through the Welland Canal, the St. Lawrence River, the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico would take too long, Our daughter could be home before we got there. Our only hope would be a motorhome with a washroom, bedroom, and the whole kitchen caboodle. You can sit in your living room while driving to your destination with no worries about where to sleep, and no need for reservations ahead.
But would we be happy with such a contraption? So to try it out, I bought an old Winnebago which had been in rental for four years. Not much left of it but it did run. For security, I asked a friend with only a wife and no kids, if he would be interested to go on a world trip to Mexico. Oh, sure, they would be honoured by the invitation and his wife would be glad to accompany us.
Of course, the real reason I asked was if that old motorhome broke down, I would have four more legs to push it. One never knew what dangers one might face on an unsheltered trip to a foreign country like the one we were planning.
In early January 1974, we started our adventure, and turned a ten-week trip into a never forgotten episode. The trip itself was such a mind-blowing experience that a book could be written about it.
At the same time, we became what I called “Addicted to motorhome travel”. Since then we have been roaming Canada, the United States, Mexico, Alaska, the Yukon and the Northwest Territories for 23 years. But all good things must come to an end, so we started to look for something more appropriate for old people, not that we belong to that group, but one would never know, we may get old sometime too.
But where should we settle down? We checked every likely place from Southern California all along the Gulf of Mexico to Miami and Key West, and decided it had to be south of a line from Tampa to Daytona. We looked at many places on the coasts and also inland. Not being in a rush, we just kept looking. Then we came to the City of Pure Water. We made a ridiculous offer on a home on the 3rd street. We camped at Happy Days on Allan Road.
One day, we met a guy who told us that his friend's home was for sale in Bet-Mar. Never heard of the place, but of course we had to check that one out too. We never found the place he described, but there were many homes for sale all by the same real estate agent, so we went to the agent. Here we learned that if you bought a home, the land or the lot was included in the purchase price. Aha, in most other parks, you buy the home and rent the lot with a downstroke, then the owner raises the rent every time he feels like it, or when his wife tells him to do so. We liked the new deal much better.
The Park was right in town, all roads were paved, and it had a kissing bridge. It was beautiful. Three clubhouses with Police protection. Volunteers patrolled the Park from 9 p.m. to midnight, all that and many, many clubs you can join. Club fees at that time were $150. This was in 1996. I thought we had caught the world by its tail. Today, 11 years later, I still know so.