Fort DeSoto Park Campground

Address: 23500 Pinellas Bayway, South Tierra Verde, Fl, 33715
Telephone: 1-727-582-2267

Dates Stayed: 12/27/2016 – 12/29/2016

Rate: $41.81 per night (including taxes and fees)

Location

This campground sits within beautiful Ft. DeSoto Park, a Pinellas County park. We arrived on Tuesday afternoon and, as expected, there wasn’t much traffic, so we got to the campground pretty quickly, which is right off the main road running into the park.

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Check-In

Since we do not currently tow our car, Amber and Christopher followed in our car while I drove Irving the 30 miles to the campground. Checking in was a pretty quick. I pulled Irving in front of the office while Amber and Christopher checked in. They were in and out in about 10 minutes. Amber drove the car to the campsite while I navigated to it, but finding my way to the campsite was a hair raising experience. The map was a little confusing and I ended up driving our 36.5 ft. motorhome to the south end of the campground, which is for vans, pop-ups, and tent camping only…no RVs permitted. I could not believe that I made it through that end of the park since the roads were extremely narrow, but I finally made it to the north end of the campground and our campsite.

Camp Site

Our Campsite

The site is back in and with the incredibly narrow roads, it was pretty difficult to get in the camp site. The camp site (223) is very level gravel and our automatic leveling jacks had no problem leveling quickly.

The services included at the site are 30/50amp electric and fresh water (1 spigot). For dumping, there is a dump station, but no sewer connections at the campsite. There is no cable TV, so you will have to rely on what you pick up from your over the air (OTA) antenna, if you have one. The county parks we have researched in Florida are pretty much no frills and this was no different. It is all about getting away here.

There is a picnic table and a grill at the campsite. We brought charcoal so we could cook hot dogs and s’mores and it was great to have the heat of the fire since the nights were cool while we were there. There was not a lot of light pollution and we could see the stars very well.

Our site backed up to the Gulf of Mexico
Gulf of Mexico behind our campsite
Horseshoe crabs are abundant

WiFi & Cellular

I was on vacation during the Christmas holidays, so I didn’t need to work during this trip. There is no public WiFi in Ft. DeSoto, so your only option is cellular. We have AT&T cell service and we could get a signal, but it wasn’t very strong. This is definitely a good place to get away from technology and spend time with nature. If you absolutely need WiFi, there are plenty of businesses outside the park, close by to poach from.

Facilities

Ft. DeSoto has beaches, kayaking and canoeing, bike trails, a historic fort and much more. There is more to see in the Tampa Bay area, but this campground could be a destination in itself. We were told a few times that this park was amazing for camping and it was true. If you’ve never been to Ft. DeSoto, it is an absolutely must camping destination.

There are buildings that we assumed were shower and bathroom facilities, but we didn’t use them this trip. We can’t comment on their cleanliness.

Conclusion

We very much enjoyed our stay at Ft. DeSoto Campground. Our campsite was tucked among mangroves and palm trees and great views of the Gulf of Mexico. It is very close to home and we would definitely stay there again.

Irving Is Now Home!

We picked up Irving yesterday after over a mouth at the dealership. Our slides are working great, our 1/2 bath door is opening all the way, the wallpaper on the passenger side front is fixed and the windshield is brand new. He is now home and on his pad in our yard where he should be. Next, our trip to Ft. Desoto park on Tuesday! Look for the review shortly.

Irving Has Been At The Dealership For A Month

You can read about our issue with Lazydays and their service department here. I don’t need to rehash the details. We found another highly rated dealership to have Irving serviced and we dropped him off on November 8th.

Unfortunately, on the way up to the dealership, about 1.5 miles from reaching the destination, a rock hit the windshield and put a crack in it. So, in addition to the other issues we needed to have looked at, we had to submit a claim to our insurance company for a windshield repair. RV windshields are not something that dealers keep in stock, so one had to be ordered. That took two weeks. Some panels also had to be ordered for the inside driver side walls which took some more time. We are closely approaching a month at the dealership and we got a message from our service advisor saying that the windshield is in and they may have it installed by the end of the week.

Fortunately, we didn’t have any trips planned during the holidays, so a month wasn’t such a big deal. However, we had the coach plugged in at home and kept it climate controlled so that we could keep the moisture at a minimum. We are definitely going to go over the coach to make sure we don’t have any issues before we take it home.

If you haven’t had your coach in for service yet or you are thinking of getting a coach, we have learned that getting service is a VERY long process, so be prepared to be without it for a while.

Dumping Gray and Black Tanks The Right Way

Before we started using our coach, I did tons of research on various topics. One theme was evident on the forums I read and videos I watched. Dump your tanks right so they don’t smell up your coach when you open the gate valve on your toilet.

I found this EXCELLENT video on dumping your tanks the right way and we have done this every time with great results. Doing this from the start can keep your coach from having that…smell.

Slide Maintenance

I mentioned in a previous post that we heard a very loud sound from the front, driver’s side slide while going to and returning from our trip to St. Augustine, FL in September. We made an appointment to have it looked at, but in the meantime, Amber called Winnebago and talked to a person that said it was a very common problem and we should find the YouTube video on lubricating the gibs in the slide mechanisms on either side of each slide.

I ordered the lubricant from Amazon and when it arrived followed the video’s instructions. Once I did that to all the slides, I noticed that bringing them in and out was much less noisy and a lot smoother. The real test would be driving to see if it made noise.

Today I drove Irving to get a couple of other issues taken care of at a dealership nearby and there was no noise at all. The ride was smooth and was very happy this appeared to work. If you are new, like us, make sure you add this to your maintenance list.

Lazydays RV and Our Service Experience

I have already written about the state of the RV industry’s problem with service departments and specifically Lazydays RV in Seffner, FL. You can read that post here.

Our saga with Lazydays continues as it relates to the service appointment we have scheduled for Monday, October 24th. Amber has been trying to get in touch with our service “advisor” since Monday, October 17th. Since this will be our first ever service appointment, she wanted to know what we should expect as far as waiting for the RV or dropping it off, the plan for getting our issues addressed, etc. With no call, she was getting pretty upset and commented on this Facebook post mentioning that their customer service is beyond poor. A service manager replied with her contact information and Amber called her and left a message.

When the service manager and Amber did speak, she assured us that having an appointment would guarantee that a service “advisor” would look at our issues at our appointment time and a technician would look at it at some point during the day, but the issue with our slide may be a harder issue to diagnose and may require parts that take a while to order. I even talked to her and made it clear that if we only found out what was wrong with our slide (if anything) during our appointment and parts needed to be ordered, we’d consider it a success. We would then bring it home and return when the work could be done. After the call, we decided to drop Irving off on Sunday and see what we found out on Monday.

We headed our for our normal Friday night dinner out and out of the blue, Amber received a call from our service “advisor”. I heard part of the conversation since I was getting Christopher and I a table and situated. When I heard something like “…so we could get a mobile RV service tech and it would be the same thing…”, I figured the call wasn’t going well. Our food had been delivered to our table and Amber was still talking to our “advisor” in the lobby, so I knew it was a tense conversation. I told her that her food was getting cold and I knew there was trouble by the look on her face.

Her first sentence was something like “…he basically told me the complete opposite of what the service manager told me…” He told her that if we brought our coach to Lazydays on Monday and waited, he could not even guarantee that a technician would look at it that day. He said that three people who had appointments today (Friday) did not get their coaches looked at and had to be moved to Monday. He also mentioned that it’s possible that our coach would not even be looked at for 4-5 days after dropping it off. Amber also said that he had a terrible attitude, although he was, at least, trying to be civil.

My pet peeve…being lied to. Even the though the service “advisor” is abrasive, no doubt from working in an insane environment, I believe his rendition of the story more than I do the service manager based on other stories I have heard on RV forums. This means that the service manager was simply telling us what we wanted to hear, most likely so we wouldn’t bomb their Facebook posts with negative comments. I would do that, Amber would not.

The bottom line. We will NOT be taking our RV to Lazydays for service. I have a zero tolerance policy for a complete lack of customer service and being lied to. It’s probably going to be tough to find a reputable service provider for our coach, but I am willing to try. If consumers continue to take this disrespect, this lack of service will not stop.

Faulty LED Replacement

Replacement LED Light

WARNING: WE TOOK EXTREME PRECAUTIONS BEFORE WORKING WITH THE ELECTRICAL IN OUR COACH. WE UNPLUGGED FROM THE 50 AMP RECEPTACLE AND SWITCHED OFF BOTH THE CHASSIS AND COACH BATTERIES. I ALSO TESTED THE WIRES I WAS GOING TO BE CUTTING WITH A VOLTAGE TESTER, MAKING SURE THERE WAS NO CURRENT. PLEASE BE SAFE WHEN WORKING ON ANYTHING ELECTRICAL IN YOUR COACH.

It’s a bit disconcerting when you have things go wrong with a brand new coach…well, any coach really. We started noticing that one of the LED lights near the dinette was flickering and sometimes did not light at all. Then, sometimes it seemed to work fine. A quick search on a couple of RV forums mentioned a particular model of LED light that had a bad batch where the soldering was not right. I suspected we had at least one of those lights, so I pulled the light assembly out of the roof and found the part number which matched the known bad batch.

I thought about making a service appointment to get it fixed, but as you may have already read in a previous post, I am not very happy with lead times for service appointments at Lazydays. I then thought about purchasing some new lights from Amazon, but I didn’t think it was right to have to buy a part that was defective.

So I ended up emailing the manufacturer and explained our issue. They took full responsibility for the bad batch and sent up not one, but two new LED light assemblies, which we got days after making the inquiry. In the meantime, another LED light right above our cooktop started acting funny, so it was a good thing they sent us two of them. The lights sat for a long time and then we noticed on our St. Augustine trip that the LED light in the half bath was acting up also. Geez…

When we got back from St. Augustine, I emailed the manufacturer again, explaining the situation and they said they would send more lights. I finally decided to get off my butt and replace the original two that were faulty, I was putting it off because they were “hardwired” into the wires in the ceiling with crimped, not screw, caps to keep the wires together. This means I had to cut the wires, strip them and then attach the new light assembly. I am not very handy, so I knew what to do, but just wasn’t confident.

I had my plan an it worked great. As you can see in the picture, I got the two faulty LEDs replaced in about 15 minutes. When the other lights come, I will definitely have the confidence to do it again.

The RV Industry Is Letting Its Customers Down And They Don’t Seem To Care

As many of you know, we have had our coach since June. There were some issues with it that we got fixed during the delivery stay at Lazydays and there are a couple of minor issues that we need to have taken care of when we get around to making our first service appointment. Unfortunately, during our last trip to St. Augustine, a new issue popped up. Whenever we go over a rough road where the coach bounces up and down, there is an ugly noise coming from behind the driver’s seat, we think it’s the slide.

Our next trip is scheduled for the first week of November and we figured we’d get Irving in for service before then. So we call Lazydays and the first appointment we can get is at the end of October. If this isn’t bad enough, the person Amber talked to said that if parts are needed, it could take weeks to get them.It was at that point Amber brought up a great point. We were given a year parts and labor warranty, but if we can’t get a service appointment for a month and it takes weeks to get parts, we really don’t have a one year warranty.

Part of me understands that Lazydays is the largest RV dealership in the world, so they must have a massive amount of customers to service. However, they also have a ton of service bays, so they should be able to service a large amount of customers at time. Another part of me believes that Lazydays cares more about selling RVs to people that giving them amazing service and that makes me angry.

So we made our service appointment, but Amber wanted to call Winnebago to see if there are any other options available, mainly a mobile RV service provider. She described the issue with our slide, which is our biggest concern at the moment. The person she talked to mentioned that the problem she described was something they hear about a lot and directed us to YouTube to find some videos on lubricating our slide gibs. She also asked whether the long wait for service appointments and parts were common. He said it is. Even the Winnebago representative said that the first appointment at their factory wasn’t until the end of November.

How exactly are all the things I have mentioned in this post acceptable to the RV manufacturers? I read on forums all the time that people do their own maintenance because they don’t want to lose the use of their RVs for long periods of time. This is really the issue here. How is a one year warranty a one year warranty when you may potentially lose the use of your coach for a percentage of that year for a potential manufacture defect?

I am actually thinking about seeking a legal opinion on this matter, but I am not optimistic.

Stage Coach RV Park

Address: 2711 County Road 208 Saint Augustine, FL 32092
Telephone: +1 (904) 824-2319

Dates Stayed: 09/21/2016 – 09/25/2016

Rate: $46 per night (10% discount for AAA & Good Sam)

Rating:

Location

This campground is just over 1/2 mile from I95 exit 318. We arrived on Wednesday afternoon and there wasn’t much traffic, so we go from the exit to the campground pretty quickly. As the week progressed into the weekend, the intersection where CR208 meets SR16 meets got very busy, so plan your route well. With tall trees and lots of shade, this is the kind of campground we envisioned staying at.

Stagecoach RV Park
Stagecoach RV Park

Check-In

Checking in was a pretty quick. We stopped just past the front door of the office and got out. Christopher and I went into the office and told the woman we were checking in. She knew who I was and had a packet of information ready for us. She asked if were towing a vehicle and I said no, so we didn’t need the mirror tag for a vehicle. We given directions to our camp site (straight ahead) and off we went.

Camp Site

Campsite #40
Campsite #40

The site is pull through, so we were parked and lined up in a couple of minutes. The camp site (40) is a very level gravel and our automatic leveling jacks had no problem leveling quickly.

The services included at the site are 30/50amp electric, fresh water (1 spigot), cable TV and sewer. We attached a splitter to the water spigot to make it easier to clean our black tanks when we left. There is cable television at this site and when we scanned for channels, we were able to receive a handful of local stations and some cable stations. Not a huge selection, but enough to make some TV before bed a decent experience.

Patio with Picnic Table
Patio with Picnic Table

There is a picnic table at the campsite. No grill, unfortunately, but we are looking for a portable grill to bring on our trips to allow us to grill outside anywhere. No big deal.

WiFi & Cellular

We arrived just after I finished work for the day, so I didn’t need WiFi for the rest of the day. The WiFi was very strong and relatively fast. I had to work the entire day the next day and there were several disconnects, but it was reliable enough for me to work. As with any WiFi, the more people who are on it, the slower it gets and this is no exception. I noticed the WiFi degrade as the weekend approached, but I did not have to use cell service at any time during the trip. It’s a win when I don’t have to use cellular data to work!

Facilities

This campground is no resort. There is no pool, a few swings and a basketball court, that’s it. If you are brining kids and like a campground to have lots of amenities to take advantage of, this may not be the place for you.

Right before leaving and after cleaning our black tanks, I used the bath facilities to shower before checking out. It was very clean and well kept with toilets and showers.

Conclusion

Our 2016 Winnabego Vista LX at Stagecoach RV Park

We very much enjoyed our stay at Stagecoach. Our campsite was pull though, large with plenty of space between neighbors. We would definitely stay there again when we want to visit St. Augustine.

If you want to see the sights of St. Augustine in a campground that is about 7 miles to downtown, this is the place for you. We do not tow a car right now, so we relied on the trolly sightseeing tour to pick us up at the campground and bring us to the trolley depot to pick up the sightseeing tour. It was good for getting around, but when the weekend came, it got very busy and took ages to get from one place to another. We also used Uber for direct transportation to sights.

There are other campgrounds that will offer more amenities, like a pool and activities for the kids. If that’s what you need, Stagecoach is not the place for you.