June 10th, 2015 (Ocala, FL) - Hotels are expensive! You'd think that with all the complicated websites created to help you find the best deal, the price might actually go down. So much for technology. We haven't been on a camping trip in about five years. It was time to drag the tent out. Granted summertime in Florida is not ideal for camping but with a little luck you can get away with it. A few days before our trip the air conditioning in our car died. So much for luck.
It was my wife's vacation so we were not going to let anything stop us. I went through Reserve America to pay for a site at Santos campground and then I signed up for the Hump Day Hustle race on the Santos Bicycle Shop website. On the big day we were blessed with many miles of overcast skies with intermittent rain which cooled things down for the long drive. The normal 90+ weather can drop 20 degrees in a good storm.
|The Skills Center and Trailhead are adjacent to the Campground|
Once arriving in Ocala we suddenly realized that we had forgotten our pillows and blanket. No need to rough it. We bought new ones at a Dollar General. Checking in at the camp was easy. We told them our name and received a placard for our rear view mirror. It had our site number and the combination to the front gate (The park locked up at 6pm). We set up our tent and put in an inflatable mattress then set off to get something to eat.
Since local eateries are a big part of trips like this I felt the need to take note of where we went. For lunch and dinner, we went to Mojo Grill. It is located on RT 27, only 3 miles from the campground and has a fantastic selection of burgers/wraps and beer. The reason we came back for dinner was that it was also where they held the awards ceremony for the mountain bike races. For breakfast we ate at B D Beans Cafe, also on RT 27 about 3.7 miles away. This artsy shop has great prices, decent Java Dawg coffee and real personality. It is a hidden gem worth finding.
|B D Beans Cafe in Belleview|
Every camping experience has its Pros and Cons so here is a quick run down
of what we noticed during our short stay.
Pros: With mountain bike trails, a skills park and a bike shop all within walking distance, this is an ideal place to pitch a tent. A one night reservation cost $23. (As compared to $98. at a local hotel). Since it was the off season we were able to pick from many empty spots. Every site has water & electricity, a fire ring and a picnic table. None of the sites are farther than a hundred feet from the bathrooms/showers (Which DO have hot water).
Cons: If you have good ears, you might not get a restful night's sleep. We could hear everything. Noises from the other campers, cars on the nearby road, planes flying overhead and a train in the distance. You never felt like you were sleeping in the woods. We hardly slept at all but that was mostly because of the humidity.
Would we return? Hell yes! Mark your calendars for the cooler fall and winter seasons but definitely give this place a try. It is inexpensive, accessible and ideal for mountain bikers. Space is limited so be sure to reserve way ahead of time. The spots can handle RVs as well as campers and tents. There is an 8 person per lot limit. Need emergency supplies? Firewood, snacks, beer and much more are available right across the street at Greenway Bicycles.
If you want to know what the trails are like, be sure to read my other articles.