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Even in summer, RV campers find high ground along the lower Myakka River

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ramblersrest"Do you hear the woodpecker?” asked Sheri Teeter, enjoying sunset from a deck overlooking the Myakka River. Once I stopped talking — I talk way too much when I’m interviewing people — I could hear her bird in the distance.
Thock-ck-ck-ck. Thock-ck-ck-ck. Thock-ck-ck-ck.
“I love woodpeckers,” Teeter went on. “There’s one that pecks on my camper in the morning.”
We were talking at dusk in the Ramblers Rest RV Resort in Venice. This kind of campground is packed in the winter, but I wanted to talk to the handful of people willing to brave the hot, buggy days of summer. Carl and Mary Lou Smith, a semi-retired couple from Kentucky, sat on the deck of their mobile home with Teeter.
Carl drank beer, which he said helped keep the mosquitoes off his bare back. Mary Lou smoked a cigarette and told me about her side business of baking and selling pies. It was a beautiful evening. Palm trees and scrub oaks draped with Spanish moss framed a fine view of the Myakka. Mary Lou had a little pair of binoculars, so I asked if she was a birder.
“No,” she said with a grin. “I was watching that alligator out there.”

Basic CMYKMyakka River KOA
Downstream, just past the U.S. 41 bridge, I stopped at the Venice/Myakka River KOA. For young people untutored in ’60s Americana, KOA stands for “Kampgrounds of America,” a nationwide chain of parks. The Myakka River RV park has been open for 29 years, according to manager Sharon Crum, but it joined the KOA only two years ago.
“Why should we sit empty in the summer?” she said. “Now we get people from the East Coast and people from Tampa. They want to get out of the big city.”
Even in summer, lots of visitors are from up north. Joe Saenni, a retired construction worker from Pennsylvania, had just arrived in Venice. He had his tools out, working on the front hatch of his recreational vehicle. I asked how he chose the Gulf Coast for his vacation.
“That’s a good question,” Saenni said. “I just felt like going. I could be here a week, I could be here a month.”

River rambling
Back at Ramblers Rest, things are quiet. Many of the campsites are vacant and many of the trailers are empty. Ron and Rosann Malmgren are Chicago retirees who divide their time between Kentucky, Key West and Venice. They have a few doctor’s appointments to keep, so they’re making their first summer stop at Ramblers Rest. I asked Ron how it felt.
“Well,” he said, sweat dropping down his face, “it feels like what I expected.”
The Smiths, who still work part-time, first moved to Ramblers Rest in 2002. They had to decide whether to live near the entrance to the park, where all the amenities are, or in the rear of the park, near the Myakka.
“We chose the river,” Carl said.
Mary Lou says just looking out at the water helps keep her cool. I told her I can’t wait to get another look at the river. Later this week, I’m supposed to drop by and pick up one of her coconut cream pies.

Last modified: July 24, 2013
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