Catching up on chores

Saturday January 30th 2016

Life in my RV home is not all tourist adventures like yesterday’s visit to Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Today’s blog entry describes a rather boring day. However, it is in sunny Florida, rather than winter in New Hampshire. I’m not complaining.
The first order of business was grocery shopping. This is proving to be a bit of an adventure out here on the road. When you live in one area for a long time you develop patterns for when you shop, where you shop and what you buy at each place. On the road its pure guess work.
I’ve identified two possible store brands in the area. Publix is a Florida based grocery store chain that is all over the place. It seems to be somewhat of a high end chain, but it has its quirks. The selection of products with store brands is confusing. I can’t find a store brand for items I would buy generic, but can find mostly store brands for items I’d normally buy by name; ice cream.
The other common grocery choice is Super Walmart. There are several within easy driving distance. I find Walmart good for common packaged foods like cereal, canned vegetables and pastas. They seem to be the same price here as in the northeast. I don’t buy meat or produce at Walmart. I just don’t like the selection.
I need to find a farm stand or farmers market to buy fruit and vegetables. None of the stores, I’ve been in so far have good choices at good prices. Why do I find Oranges from California in the supermarket, but none from Florida?
I’m sure there are other places to buy food. I just haven’t found them yet. Hopefully it will happen before I leave the area at the end of March. That’s where the adventure comes in.
When I got back to the RV from the morning shopping, I still had two more chores to complete. Dumping the holding tanks and doing the laundry.
Dumping the tanks is simple once you’re hooked up. Step 1; check that all connections are still tight. Step 2; Pull the valve handle on the Blank (toilet) tank and let it drain. Step 3; Close the blank tank valve and open the gray tank until it drains. Fifteen to twenty minutes later the task is complete for another week.

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Fifteen feet or so of sewer slinky

The laundry facility is about 200 yards up the road in a 10×12 foot metal utility shed. It has 4 washing machines and 6 dryers. I can do a load of laundry for $2, one dollar for the washer and one for the dryer. This is incredible cheap compared to some of the places that charge $3 for washing and a dollar for each 10 minutes of drying. Even so, I don’t regret not getting a motorhome with a washer/dryer.

A Day with the Animals

Friday January 29th 2016

Today was a beautiful sunny day with highs in the mid 60s. The Florida natives are complaining it is to cold. After two days of rain, I’m not complaining. I spent the day at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

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Animal Kingdom Tree of Life

The park has change quite a bit since I was last there at the end of 2008. The area off to the left as you enter used to host the Lion King Show and the Camp Mini-Mickey character viewing area. It is now a closed construction area for the new Avitar Land. This new attraction is scheduled to open in 2017.
The Africa area of the park has also been updated. The Lion King show is now located in this area and an additional market area has been added. The Kilimanjaro Safari, which departs from this area, has also be enhanced.
The safari used to pretend to chase poachers. This lame story line has been abandon. In its place is a longer route for the safari and new animal encounter areas. For example, I believe the wild dogs and warthog areas are new.
Another change being made to the park is the addition of a night time River show. A large seating area and other theme elements are being constructed near the theater for Finding Nemo – The Musical. The River of Lights show is scheduled to debut late this spring. More information on the River of Lights can be found in this Disney Video.
I had a good time seeing the animals, watching the shows and taking the safari. I could have done without riding the Dinosaur Attraction. It isn’t much more than a bouncy, twisty, ride on a mechanical bucking jeep. Another minute or two and I’d have had a good case of motion sickness.

I need to go back on a warmer day when some of the heat sensitive animals may be out. None of the outside tropical birds or lizards were available for viewing. The down side is that when it’s warmer the crowds will be bigger. Oh well …

Rain Rain and more Rain

Thursday January 28th 2016

Today was another foggy, rainy, drizzly day.   For the first time since I moved into my RV home, I didn’t open the motorhome door all day. Thank goodness for TV and the Internet.
The current crop of RVs, my RV home included, come well populated with flat screen TVs. I have three; one in the bedroom, one in the Living Area and a third for viewing outside under the awning. This floor plan could also have a second TV in the Living area over the dashboard, but I prefer the storage. The signal for these TVs can come from an Over the Air Antenna (OTA), a Cable TV hook-up or a Satellite dish. This campground doesn’t have cable so I’m down to two sources, OTA and DirecTV Satellite. My DirecTV comes via a big honking Winegard Trav’ler dish on the roof of the motorhome.

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The main living area TV

At this location, south of Orlando and East of Tampa, I have over 80 channel options of OTA TV. Many of these are duplicates of the new crop of “designer” networks like Bounce, Grit or Cozi. These provide plenty of options for benign noise while doing other things.
When I want to dedicate time to watching television, I need to be a little more selective. That’s where satellite TV comes in to play. I can usually find something more engrossing like an original series on USA, or another episode of House Hunters on HGTV.

After spending today vegetating, tomorrow looks to be packed full with another visit to Disney World. This time I’m heading to the Animal Kingdom Park.

Rainy Day Blogging

Wednesday January 27th 2016

Today was a rainy day caused by another El Nino cold front. The rain started overnight and continued off and on all day. This storm has not been as severe as some of the previous storms but it is producing more rain.
Other than a trip to the local Publix supermarket for a few food items, most of today was dedicated to catching up on this blog. I am now up to date and will be making every attempt to blog daily going forward. Some entries will be content full with lots of pictures. Others will be short and not so sweet like this one. Either way the entries will serve to inform my readers what’s going on and provide me with a record of events should I go back and read these ramblings about my journey on the Rambling Road Trip.

Manatee Viewing

Tuesday January 26th 2016

Today I took a road trip down US 17 to the southwest. I had a general goal of checking out the area then cutting over toward the gulf coast and visiting the Tampa Electric Company Manatee Viewing Area. I had thoughts of intersecting the Tamiami Trail (US 41) in Bradenton but actually arrived north of the Manatee River just north of Bradenton. It was interesting that the citrus groves in the middle of the state seem to end at the Manatee county line. I wonder if that is a true assessment and if so why.

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Each of the items in the water that look like floating junk is actually a Manatee.

The Manatee viewing area at the Tampa Electric Company in Apollo Beach Fl is an area setup by the power company to view the Manatees and other aquatic life that live in the warm water of the out flow from the power plan cooling systems. Today I counted over thirty noses or backs of Manatees out in the water. I know there were even more than that below the surface of the nearly 80 degree water.

There is a long walkway along the cooling canal out through a mangrove into a gulf backwater area. I was able to see many species of fish underwater and jumping out of the water. As much as I tried, getting a picture was not possible. The jumping may have been caused by the shark that gave its presence away with the classic dorsal fin above the water view.

This area is very enjoyable and I’m sure I’ll be back to check up on the Manatees.

Visiting EPCOT

Monday January 25th 2016

This is the first entry in the daily blog series. I will be making my best attempt to post a blog every day.

Last week I purchased an annual pass to the Disney World parks. I plan to use it during the next few months to see each of the parks in detail at my pace. In the past, I’ve visited all the parks but usually in a “quick we’ve got 3 days lets go” fashion. The annual pass allows me to go to a park for a few hours any day I want and I get free parking. The current single day tickets are around a 100 dollars per park depending on which park your talking about. Parking is $20 a day.
My last visit to Disney World was at Christmas time in 2008. I started my re-exploration of Disney World with a visit to EPCOT last Wednesday and another today. I plan to make several other visits to EPCOT during the Flower and Garden festival in March. This blog entry will document the two visits.

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Spaceship Earth at the Entrance to EPCOT

One general observation about EPCOT is that it needs a pick me up. All of the holiday decorations have been taken down and the flowers for the upcoming festival have not been brought in yet. Several attractions including Soaring are being refurbished. The only truly new attraction since my last visit, the Frozen inspired ride at the Norway pavilion is not yet open.

The Spaceship Earth ride, Living with the Land, Journey into Imagination with Figment, The Seas with Nemo and Friends and Ellen’s Energy Adventure were all pretty much what I remember. The Gran Fiesta Tour Starring the Three Caballeros at the Mexico pavilion is different/new since I last visited. I enjoyed it but wasn’t blown away.

The audio animatronic show at the American pavilion was interesting but not for the right reasons. I don’t know when it was last updated. I know it has been several visits since I last saw the show. My view is that it is an overly simplified version of American history that comes across as a propaganda film. I truly wonder what people from other countries think about this show. Other countries have movies showing off their attractions and landscape with a little bit of culture thrown in. This show talks about the American dream, our political system, our “great” progress with race relations both Native American and African American. I just found it embarrassing not patriotic.

While I waited for the 9PM Illuminations show, I toured many of the gift shops and country dedicated shops looking at many things I like to have, but not at the prices demanded. One jacket that looked very ordinary except for its bright orange color was over $500 in the Norway pavilion.
The Illuminations show hasn’t changed. It still has good pyrotechnics at the beginning and end with a lot of slow periods in the middle where images are projected on a globe. A good fireworks display while not as thematic would be more entertaining.

Overall, I still enjoy EPCOT and will be back for more rides and viewing.  I just wish it got a little more love from the Disney planners and builders. Given that they are finishing up enhancements to the Animal Kingdom park this year and starting on changes to Hollywood Studios, my guess is significant changes to EPCOT won’t happen until 2018 at the earliest.  I just hope they do get around to it.

January in Florida

January started with another trip back to New Hampshire. Once again I flew non-stop out of Orlando. The trip north was uneventful but the return had to contend with a snow storm during the departure in Manchester. It wasn’t anything major but it accomplished two things. It gave me my winter weather fix to remind me why I want to be in Florida and it delayed my return by an hour or so.
Winter weather in Florida has arrived. The unseasonable warm weather of December has changed to normal weather for an El Nino year. Cold fronts crossing the state from southwest to northeast bring strong to sever thunderstorms with the potential for tornadoes every few days. After each front passes the temperatures are low, flirting with records and just before the next front they are above normal. On the rainy days I pretty much hunker down and watch TV only venturing out to buy groceries or other supplies.
I made a couple of road trips south of Orlando on route 27 checking out the area. I have been looking for road side locations that sell fruit and produce. In previous visits to the area, I remember these to be quite common, but I havn’t really found any so far. I’ve been buying my fruits and vegetables at the supermarket or Walmart. They aren’t very cheap.
Also, right after my return from New Hampshire, I spent a couple of days at the Tampa RV Super Show. This is a huge RV show that has lots of RV to browse and lots of vendors to by RV related products. I went looking for items from the vendors to enhance my RV experience. I need to buy things like a tire pressure monitor and a Electrical Management System. Now that I’ve seen the items, I will buy them mail order.

I am going to consider this blog caught up. I will be providing as close to a daily blog as I can going forward.