Today’s weather was a clone of Saturday. The high was in the upper seventies with a northeast wind. There were a few clouds in the sky to hide the sun from time to time, but it was an overall nice day.
I slept with the bedroom windows open last night. It kept the room at a nice sleeping temperature, but it also let all the outside noises filter in. This RV park is situated near the major north south railroad corridor in the state. Some very loud and long trains pass along the tracks. During the day the noise gets absorbed into all the other noises, but at night it is the dominant noise. There are many grade crossings to the north of the park that the requires the train to sound its whistle. To the south of the park there are only a couple of crossings. That makes it easy to figure out which direction the train is going. You just need to figure out how long before the rumble of the passing train you hear the whistles start blowing. These facts are the result of a lot of study last night. For some reason I started listening and waiting for each new train rather than rolling over and going to sleep. There were three or four over the course of a couple of hours.
As a result of my late night studies this became a slumber Sunday. I slept a little later in the morning and nodded off for an hour during the afternoon. To a certain extent, trains fascinate me. I’ll have to guard against a similar study session tonight or it will become habitual.
This campground never really got into weekend mode. The last few parks have gone from quiet mid week places to very active and noisy places on the weekend. This park did fill up more, but with less active people. There were fewer families and more couples to go with the long term residents. Many of the long term residents seem to be workers in the area for a few weeks or months. It was quiet during the day on Thursday and Friday of last week. I expect it will be similarly quiet this coming week.
Today’s started cool in the sixties and slowly climbed into the mid seventies. There was a little more wind out of the north than Friday, but overall it was a very nice day.
On my walk around the RV park this morning I discovered a multitude of ducks. The retention pond at the back of the campground has turned into a duck nursery of sorts. There were many big and small families of ducks swimming in the water and napping on the banks. The pictures in this blog entry are all of the ducks in the pond.
I spent most of my day relaxing and working on travel plans for the summer. One thing I observed was the nightly prices seem to have gone up. The first places I check in a new area are the franchise campgrounds and the more heavily advertised places. Near tourist draws like Nashville some of these campgrounds want over one hundred dollars a night for sites that meet my RV configuration. Once I do a little more digging and find the less visible places that may be a little further away, the price comes down to a more reasonable number.
The other “gotcha” I’m seeing more is the campgrounds refusing to book a 30amp site to a class A motorhome. They are assuming that an RV built with 50amp service can’t survive on a 30amp site. Most of us know how to reduce our usage to avoid tripping a 30amp breaker. They use interesting excuses like “incompatible” or “fire danger”, but that’s what the breakers are there for. The reality is they want to make sure they fill the more expensive 50amp sites. It’s not the best idea plugging a 30amp RV into a 50amp line, but they’re willing to allow that practice. It could burn up the cord connecting the RV to the pedestal. It is reasonable to fill the 50amp sites with 50amp RVs before renting the 30amp sites to 50amp RVs. Just don’t get creative with the explanations.
My planning challenge continues to be finding places that I can stay longer near plenty of things to do. Weekends at popular tourist or recreational draws are already booked. The places that have weekend openings are designed for travelers and are usually near interstates further away from the things one would want to do. I know the longer I wait to book sites the worse it will get, but a lot of the longer stay issues have been around since I started looking at options in December and January. It’s not hopeless, just complicated.
The temperature recovered from yesterday’s sixties into the mid seventies. It was nice comfortable day about ten degrees below the normal high for this date.
This was one of my usual lazy post travel days. My energy and enthusiasm level were low. I watched all of the morning TV news programs from bed, before dragging myself out of bed and starting the day. Breakfast and reviewing the news on the internet took the rest of the morning.
During the remainder of the day I finished setting up camp and took a couple of walks around the park. It hasn’t filled up for the weekend as much as I thought it would. Most of the RVs here are long term. Many are getting used as weekend retreats for people in the nearby cities of Gainesville and Jacksonville. It was quiet during the day, but toward evening there were more people around.
As has been the case recently it was a wet travel day. All morning long as I got ready to travel it rained lightly. Near the noon checkout as I was hooking up the car the light rain turned heavy. I was more than a little damp at the start of my journey.
The rain didn’t last long as I drove inland. Most of my hour and a half journey to Starke was in dry conditions. Other than the first few miles the entire trip was on state highways. When I arrived at the Starke Gainesville KOA it was apparent that the cold front had passed through. It was cold. During the rain in St. Augustine the temperature wasn’t too cool. During the mid afternoon in Starke it was barely over sixty degrees. Yesterday afternoon was around ninety. Today was thirty degrees cooler.
I’ll be here for eleven nights before I move on to catch up with the reservations I made for the Memorial Day holiday. This location is a compromise. A better location at one of the state parks was only available Sunday to Friday next week. If I took that reservation I would have had to move two more times and find two other places to stay. This is a nice campground. The only issue I have is the travel distance to the interesting things to do. This is my second stay here this year. The last time was at the end of February. There were a lot more people here then.
The day began very sunny with very little breeze allowing the temperature to climb fast. It was around 90 degrees by mid afternoon when the thunderstorms arrived in the area. The worst of the storms were to the north of this location, but there was a good hour of wet weather.
I didn’t leave the RV park today. My car gas tank is only about a quarter full. The shutdown pipe line from Texas up the east coast has caused a run on gas in this area. Officials say that there is enough gas to go around if people followed there normal patterns, but that’s a level of trust it is hard to muster. The lines at the gas stations has resulted in many stations running out of gas. I decided not to push my luck and save the gas I have for important activities. The pipeline was re-energized this afternoon and the backlog should be cleared by the weekend.
This is my last full day in the St. Augustine area. I’m moving about sixty miles inland tomorrow. I have enough gas in the motorhome to make that move. As usual, I got many of the outside tasks completed this afternoon before the showers arrived. The pattern of moving on a rainy day seems to have returned. A cold front is passing through overnight and tomorrow is forecast to be a rainy day.
This was a slow day. I got a few chores accomplished and just hung around my RV home. The weather was threatening all day. Late in the afternoon a line of showers passed through. It last about an hour from first rain drop to last.
Florida is in transition from a winter weather pattern to a summer weather pattern. The periodic cold fronts that pass through the state form northwest to southeast is the winter pattern and the afternoon showers crossing the state based on the strength of the sea breeze. There is another cold front coming tomorrow night, but in the mean time the heat of the day is causing the summer thunderstorm pattern.
Usually I experience the summer pattern in August and September when I return to the state from my summer travels. Every year my departure from Florida seems to get later. In 2016 I departed in early April and was in New England before May arrived. The next year I headed west at the end of February to spend March in Arizona. By the middle of May I was already in Idaho. In 2018 I left Florida at the end of April and was in Michigan near the end of May and slowly heading back south before going north again in the fall.
In 2019 I departed Florida in the middle of May and made a quick dash across the south. I spent Memorial Day weekend in New Mexico and the fourth of July in Washington state. Last year I didn’t spend the winter in Florida. I was in Las Vegas from November to March before going to ground for the months of April and May in Arizona to sit out the pandemic stay at home orders. By the Memorial Day weekend I was starting to gradually move north and east.
This year I planned to stay in Florida until the end of May. I thought it was going to take that long to get the COVID shot, but that task was accomplished by the middle of April. Technically, I’ll be in Georgia on the 24 of May, but the campground is within spitting distance of the Florida state line. My summer journey begins at that point. Now I just have to figure out where I’ll be staying beyond the general category of the Southern Appalachians.
I woke up to the sound of lawn mowing this morning. While I slept a little late, it was still before 9AM when the rude noise started coming in my windows. I know they have to mow to keep the area looking nice, but the noise always seems to get on my nerves. It doesn’t really make a difference what time of day they mow. It hits my mood in a negative way and I have no idea why.
The Atlantic coast was much quieter today. All of the traffic and overflowing parking lots were gone. I found plenty of room to park at all of the parks and beaches along route A1A south of St. Augustine. My destination was the beach beside the Marineland aquarium. It was low tide so there was plenty of beach to explore. At high tide the beach is narrow. The area has several rock jetties that are mostly under water at high tide. They are intended to help prevent beach and dune erosion and preventing the inlet to the north from filling with sand.
It was very hot and muggy while I was at the beach. Looking back to the northwest toward my RV home, the clouds were thickening and darkening. Rain was not high on the forecast, but it sure looked like it might happen. I had not thought to close my windows and vents, so I started back after less than an hour roaming around the beach area. As I got closer to my RV home I could see the storm clouds were still a good distance away. I took a slower route back through the old town part of St. Augustine.
I was back in my RV home for about five minutes when the rain started to fall on the roof. In the two minutes it took to close the windows and vents the rain increased from a gentle shower to a loud roar of falling rain. Two minutes after that it was over. It remained cloudy and threatening the rest of the afternoon and evening. The forecast increases the chances of rain each day for the next three.
It wasn’t as cool last night, but it still encouraged a good nights sleep with the windows open. The daytime conditions were much warmer and more humid than Saturday. The only comfort saving condition was a strong breeze.
The RV park was a hustling cacophony of activity this morning. All the weekend residents were packing up to depart. Loud diesel engines and the grinding electric motors on jacks and slide outs kept the quiet away. It continued from shortly after 8AM until the noon checkout time. Later in the afternoon, when I turned from my day’s adventure, the atmosphere was completely different. The quiet was welcoming and obvious.
I usually don’t venture out of the RV park to obvious tourist destinations on weekend days. For some reason I ventured out today. I started to wonder about the sanity of that decision when I was waiting in traffic for the third green light to get through the first major intersection. It was so slow that I expected to find an accident blocking the road, but it was just the volume of traffic. Eventually I got clear of the traffic near the main roads and into only moderate traffic on the barrier island south of St. Augustine.
My plan for today’s outing was a stop along the Atlantic Ocean and maybe a walk on the beach. In my head, this is a shoulder season without many tourists looking to use the beach. In practice half of northeastern Florida seemed to be at the beach today. Traffic along A1A was a continuous line. As you approached every beach access the sides of the road were lined with parked cars. The parking lots were completely full and enterprising merchants were charging $10 to use their parking lots. I kept driving south to Flagler Beach before turning inland and returning to my RV home on the Intestate. There was never a real opportunity to stop.
The RV park is in its midweek quiet state. During my late afternoon walk I saw almost half the sites were empty. All of the hibiscus pictures in this blog entry were taken during the walk.
It was unusually cool overnight. I had to pull up the blanket early in the morning to stay warm, but it still turned into a beautiful eighty degree day. The humidity and warmer temperature is forecast to return tomorrow.
My destination today was the Deep Creek Conservation area run by the St. Johns River Water Management District. There is a 2.7 mile loop trail in the northern section of the conservation area that I wanted to explore. It turned out to be a nice exercise hike. I had hoped to have a nice wildlife exploration hike, but I didn’t find any significant wildlife. The most plentiful member of the animal community present were insects. In some areas the swarms of bugs were very thick.
The trail is mostly a wide grass lined path on high ground. It passes through swampy areas and pine forests as it meanders through the ground between the trail head on the highway and the St. Johns River. In a couple of areas I was glad it was a dry time of year. The trail was filled with mud that I needed to carefully negotiate. I thought I might find wading birds or other water fowl in the wet areas, but nothing was visible. Sounds from deeper in the swampy areas indicate there was life somewhere in the swamp. I enjoyed the walk, but I don’t think it warrants another visit.
The conservation area is only about twelve miles southwest of the RV park, but I took the long way home. I drove north along the east bank of the St. John’s River along a road lined with Live Oak trees draped with Spanish Moss. There were homes on the east side of the road and long docks out into the river on the west side of the road. It looked like a throwback in time. My return to the campground was about thirty miles.
The weekend has finally arrived. I thought Thursday was Friday until near the end of the day when the wrong TV programs showed up on TV. This morning I was back to thinking it was Saturday until the regular weekday morning TV programs showed up. The TV must be my calendar. Whatever day it was, the weather was perfect. It was a bright sunny day with low humidity and a high temperature around eighty.
Today’s errand was getting the oil changed in my Honda CR-V. I like to use Valvoline Instant Oil change franchises or Jiffy Lube as a second choice. I had planned to get the oil changed in the Orlando area where there were plenty of both franchises, but didn’t get around to it. The count down percentage indicator on my dashboard came on while I was on the Space Coast. The options in that area were poor and in this immediate area they didn’t seem much better. This afternoon I drove 40 miles to the western suburbs of Jacksonville to the nearest Valvoline Instant Oil change. It’s worth it to go where I know what to expect and they have at least some of my vehicles history. In addition to the oil change I also had them change the serpentine belt. Ten years and 125 thousand miles put a few cracks in the old one. A broken belt is one of the last things I need.
Traffic on the highways was heavy. Trying to avoid the traffic I came back on secondary highways. The substitute for traffic seemed to be school zones and school buses. It took longer to get back to my RV home and wasn’t much less intense. The Friday afternoon congestion continued into the RV park. There was a line of RVs checking in. Navigating to my campsite at the back of the pack was delayed by two new arrivals backing into their sites. The weekend is here.