Walking the trail around Lake Minneola

Sunday February 28th 2016

I got a better start to the day today. I got up, ate and got out of the RV. My destination was the trail around Lake Minneola in Clermont about 30 miles up route 27. Sunday morning traffic was not bad compared to a week day.
I found the trail by the lake. It was a very active trail. There were walkers with and without dogs, runners, skate boarders and bicycle riders of all ages. It was a busy multi-use trail around part of the lake. I walked the section along the lake shore. When the path turned inland among the houses I turned around. My guess is I walked three miles or so round trip.
The day of full sunshine in the low 70s with only a gentle breeze were perfect conditions for viewing the lake and the birds around the shore. In the middle of the lake was an array of buoys that broke the water surface into a grid or possibly lanes. It appears to be for some sort of regatta, but I heard one couple speculating it was for aqua-farming. The buoy array can be seen in the background of the picture of the Great Egret landing below.


Great Egret ever alert


Great Egret taking off


Great Egret landing. Note the buoy array in the lake.

This trail is in a residential area. Houses and town homes surround the lake, but there were a few birds in the trees and water along the trail. The most pronounced of the lot were the great egrets, but there were ducks and ibises in the water as well. At one point on my walk I heard a pecking sound. A closer look at a near by tree found a red-bellied woodpecker suspended under a branch digging away for insects.


Red-Bellied Woodpecker

I’m glad I didn’t bring my bicycle. It was far to crowded. If I decide to ride this trail it will be a week day. What would hold me back is the likely hood that there are significant hills leaving the area around the pond.

First time binge watching

Saturday February 27th 2016

It was a beautiful day today, but I didn’t leave the RV Park today. I got caught by the schedulers at NBC Universal. I seem to have ended up binge watching the first half season of the new series Blindspot.
The day started with indecision. I didn’t have a real plan for the day. As usual the TV was on for background noise as I search the Internet for details on possible destinations for the day. By noon I still hadn’t gotten in gear to leave the RV when a marathon of Blindspot started on the USA network.
The series premiered on NBC last fall. I had heard the promos and was mildly interested in the premise. A woman found naked in New York’s Time Square completely covered in tattoos. She has no memory of her identity or the origin of the tattoos. The FBI discovers the tattoos are clues to various crimes and government corruption. I wasn’t interested enough last fall to begin watching the series, but I got sucked into today’s marathon.
It is an interesting mystery story with some fun code breaking thrown in for good measure. The plot is complicated with bad good guys and good bad guys plus a little romance thrown in for good measure. The early episodes that deal primarily with following the clues of the tattoos are better than the episodes that get hung up on the subplots. The marathon did serve its purpose, it will get me to watch the new episodes on NBC starting on Monday, but if they don’t go back to solving the mystery of the tattoos as the primary plot mechanism, I won’t watch for long.
During one of the marathon’s slow periods I took a walk around the RV resort. A few more sites are filling up with new arrivals for the month of March. The regulars tell me that it is normal for March to be the busiest. The only complication might be the early date for Easter. Many winter Floridians are expected to head north before Easter which is at the end of the month.  I won’t be heading north until the beginning  of April.
My other accomplishment during the marathon was my planning for the next few days. I found some new places to visit including state parks and bike trails.

Lunch at Disney Springs

Friday February 26th 2016

It was a bring sunshiny cool day in central Florida. The temperature never got out of the 60s. From a northerners perspective it was a beautiful day. The natives were cold.
Today was a day with a lot of driving. When I filled the gas tank this morning, I was serenaded by a lone bird on top of one of the pumps. The acoustics were such that the bird overwhelmed the piped in music and the engine noises. I’m not sure what kind of bird it was or why it was singing. I didn’t see any other birds around that might have been the subject a mating ritual. It was the middle of a busy street area.


Singing Bird on a gas pump

The highlight of the day was lunch with friends at Disney Springs. We ate at Cookes of Dublin. It was a nice day to walk around and observe the things that have changed with other people familiar with the area.
While at the Springs I had the opportunity to get some pictures of the Amphicars in action. They were doing a brisk business today.


Amphicar afloat in the lake


Amphicar coming out of the lake

Looking at the cars in the water you wonder why they don’t sink. The passenger compartment appears to be reasonably water tight and the fat tires add buoyancy, but they only sit a little over a foot above the surface of the water. I would think a good wave from a passing boat or the wind would flood the car. However, according to the “always accurate” wikipedia, Amphicars have survived ocean voyages.



Thursday February 25th 2016

Today I did some reconnaissance. That means I drove around looking at things I might do at some future time. This was a good day to be in the car. It was very windy and not warm in the 60s.
My first destination was Lakeland Fl. I wanted to see what the spring training facility of the Detroit Tigers looked like. Joker Marchant stadium is an older stadium built in 1966. The facility called Tiger Town is being upgraded with a completion date of 2017.
As I drove around the facility I noticed a crowd along the fence for one of the back practice fields. There were players taking batting practice. The spectators lined the outfield fence. Some were using binoculars to watch the action. I’m guessing other watchers expected the players to eventually come out to the outfield. I didn’t see a good place to park, so I kept driving. I may try to see a game toward the end of March.
The other destination that I checked out for future reference was the southern trail head for the Van Fleet Bike Trail. This location is right in Poke City. I had checked it out once before, but this time I had a specific purpose for my visit. I wanted to see if the landscape was anything other than cattle range. The half a mile or so that I walked was through marsh land with spanish moss draped trees. I didn’t see any wild life except for a few small birds.


Moss draped trees lined the trail.

I’m not sure I’ll ride this section of the trail. It doesn’t have anything different than  areas of the trail I’ve already experienced.   I will either have to do the northern end of the trail or find another trail.

More about the weather

Wednesday February 24th 2016

The main theme  for the day was the weather. It started to rain at about 8:30 and ended about 4PM with a 2 hour break about noon. This wasn’t ordinary rain but severe thunderstorms with tornado watches and warnings in the area.
This immediate area was never under any warnings, but to the south, west and east of here had warnings.
I am located at the extreme north eastern edge of Polk county. This area is somewhat overlooked by the local TV stations. The Orlando stations do not consider Polk county as part of there broadcast area. If there is a big story, they’ll send a reporter, but it isn’t in their normal ambulance chasing routes. The Tampa stations do consider Polk county as part of their area. I receive one Tampa news channel on the over the air TV. Their interest in Polk county ends at about Lakeland which is about 30 miles southwest of here. The part of the county from Lakeland northeast is not well served.
What all of this means is that unless something is going on like a severe thunderstorm or a tornado warning, neither sets of stations seem to pay much attention. There forecasts don’t reference this area. The same goes for the National Weather service. Even though this location is closer to the Melbourne Florida weather office, all of Polk county is supported by Tampa for forecasts. Thankfully, the alerts are broadcast from both locations.
I have regular weather alert radios and three Apps on my smart phone. The Apps can alert me just like the radio when warnings are issued by the National Weather Service. Another feature of the Apps is “real time” radar. They receive the feed from the national weather service radar and can show the storms as they track across the area. One of them will even estimate when the rain will start and end. What would we do without technology?
Finally about 4PM the sun was breaking through the clouds and the various radars showed nothing on the way. I took advantage to get out of the rig. I ended up back over at Old Town. Today’s car display had a little more variety than the ones I saw last Friday. This display had cars from the 20s, 30s, 50s, 60s and later. They still seem to be mostly Fords.


This one is for sale


This Ford is from Ontario.

There were not as many people at Old Town or the amusement park next door. The weather is probably the cause. The people who were there were waiting for the entertainment to start, but that was delayed by the weather too. I didn’t hang around long as it was getting cool. The front had passed.

Rain Sun Rain Sun Rain

Tuesday February 23rd 2016

Nothing particularly adventurous happened today. I’m blaming the weather, but a do nothing day now and then is not a bad thing.
Starting last evening it has rain heavily for a few hours at a time twice. Between these rain showers it was bright sunshine this morning and again late this afternoon. Another session of heavy rain, this time associated with a cold front, is predicted for tomorrow mid day. After that a period of cooler than normal weather is predicted through the weekend.
Today’s mid day storms were blowing rain through my open windows. I had to close the windows and turn on the Air Conditioner for the first time since October in Mississippi. Does that mean I’ve already lost my northern hardiness? Many of the folks in the RVs around me have their ACs on any time the temperature gets into the mid 70s.
Before the rain started this morning I got a grocery run in and after the rain stopped I got the laundry done. During the mid day storms I just watched TV and read Internet news. So it was a productive day. Just not a fun filled day.

EPCOT for Dinner

Monday February 22nd 2016

Although it is raining now as I write this blog entry, today was a nice sunny day with highs in the 80s. I spent most of the day on various ‘to dos’ around my RV home. Toward evening I got went over to Disney’s EPCOT.
I didn’t really go to EPCOT for its attractions. I went for fish and chips at the UK Pavilion and to watch the fireworks from over at Disney Hollywood Studios. Since I bought the annual Disney pass earlier in the year, it doesn’t cost me anything more to just drop in to eat dinner.


Flower Bed on the east side of the entry to the World Showcase


Flower Bed on the west side of the entry to the World Showcase

The crowds at EPCOT are heavier than they were last month. This is to be expected since this is another one of the school vacation weeks up north. Disney is getting EPCOT ready for the Flower & Garden festival. It starts on March 2nd. Many of the big flower beds have been planted and some of the topiaries have been put on display. All the flowers make the park look much prettier than it did in January.


Flower Bed on the east side of the entry to the World Showcase


Flower Bed on the east side of the entry to the World Showcase


Lady and the Tramp Topiary

They are busy assembling temporary buildings for some of the bigger events. All of this is hidden from view by curtains and temporary walls. Around the World Showcase many kiosks have been put in place for Flower and Garden shops or displays. Currently they all have generic signs advertising the Flower and Garden Festival. I’ll have to come back during the festival to figure out what they are all about.

The fireworks at Disney’s Hollywood Studios are part of the Star Wars extravaganza that is Disney’s latest. When I watched them from the studios a couple of weeks ago I thought they’d be better from further away. You have the advantage of the music playing, but you are looking up through obstructions like trees. At the EPCOT International Gateway (i.e. the rear entrance) you get a good view of the fireworks over the Eiffel tower of the France Pavilion. I experimented with taking pictures of the fireworks. Some pictures came out OK, but I really need a tripod to steady the camera for the long exposure.

Another trip to the Atlantic Coast

Sunday February 21st 2016

I went back to the Atlantic coast today. It was a warm day in the high 70s that started out very clear and gradually got cloudy as the day progressed. Even the light wind at the coast didn’t impact the comfortable nature of the day.
I spent some time watching the action on the Banana and Indian Rivers. The Indian River, closes to the mainland of the two rivers, is the main passage of the Inter-Coastal Waterway in the Titusville area. The river is several miles across in this area and most of the boat traffic is on the far side. There was one curious yacht anchored out on the mainland side. It looked like a large speed boat with a box on the back for the cabins. Judging by a man standing on the bow, it might be 60 feet long but only about 15 feet high from the water line.


Odd looking yacht anchored in the Indian River


Sail boat on the far side of the Indian River

Over on the Banana River there were a lot more recreational activities going on. The boat launching area was busy launching and retrieving smaller boats for fishing and general touring. Sail boarders were taking advantage of the steady wind to get good speed.


Sail Boarder on the Banana River

Late in the afternoon I stopped at Port Canaveral to watch the Cruise ships depart. It was a real traffic jam today. There were four cruise ships departing and one Casino ship docking. The harbor patrol was getting a lot of work keeping the small boats out of the way of the larger ones. Several shrimp boats and party fishing boats were also departing and leaving as the cruise ships maneuvered.


Three of the four cruise ships in Port Canaveral

I enjoy watching the action in the busy port. I have been to the port several times this winter. Each time something different is happening. The one constant is how smoothly the cruise ships are maneuvered away from the dock and out of the port.

Shopping at Ikea

Saturday February 20th 2016

I got an idea to go to Ikea in search of cabinet organizers. I have never been to one, but I’ve heard they have lots of interesting home furnishings. It turned out to be a good experience without achieving the shopping goal.


IKEA of Orlando

To get to the Orlando Ikea, I had to travel on Interstate 4 through the resort corridor. This named stretch of highway provides access Disney World, Sea World, the 2 Universal Parks and all of the International Drive tourist dives. It has more traffic volume than the road can sustain. Stop and go traffic through the area is the norm. Sure enough, my average speed for the 20 plus miles was closer to zero than the speed limit.
Once I navigated all of the twisting streets around various big stores, I found the Ikea at the back of the Millenia shopping area. The designers of southern malls seem to like putting in curved divided roads with lots of trees. Perhaps this is to keep speeds down. Up north it would make snow removal a nightmare. It sure makes navigating by sight difficult. I was right next to the big blue building before I knew where I was.
The Ikea store was laid out as a shopping journey. While you could take short cuts right to what you are looking for, it was easiest to follow the arrows on the gray floor. You start by going up an escalator to the show room area. You then weave your way through various vignettes of furniture and other home furnishings. If you seem something you like you can write down the product code and bin location of the stock. After touring the displays of the furniture in action, you proceed back to the first floor to the Market Place area. This section of the store has products for sale in a more traditional sense; shelves, counters and stacks of merchandise to purchase. At the end of this area you can search the shelves for any products you wrote down up stairs. It all comes boxed in as small a package as possible. Ikea is famous for the assemble that is required.
At the half way point in your journey through the store there is a restaurant. It served meals at reasonable prices. My guess is they don’t make money on the restaurant. The Swedish based chain included Swedish Meatballs on there restaurant menu. It wasn’t lunch time so I didn’t sample any of the offerings.
There were many people in the store. At no time during my journey through the store were there less than twenty people in view. Every group seemed to be buying something. I made the big purchase of a $5 plastic tray. Most of the twenty numbered checkout registers at the end of trail through the store were open with a line of people waiting to make their purchases.
Living in a motorhome, I don’t have much use for the bigger furniture that Ikea sells. I probably won’t be going to other Ikea stores, unless it is for lunch.

Old Town in Kissimmee

Friday February 19th 2016

I spent most of the day at home. It was a nice day in the low 70s with a brisk breeze perfect for sitting outside between tasks.
Around 4 in the afternoon I headed over to the Old Town attraction in Kissimmee. This is the same place I tried to get to on Wednesday evening. Today the added attraction at Old Town is “Muscle Cars”. People from all over the area bring their cars to be shown.


Ford Mustangs were everywhere


A Viper


One of two antique cars

All of the cars are street legal and some are the owners daily drives. By far the most common brand was a Ford Mustang. There were a good number of Chevy Camaros both old and new. A few street rods made up of parts from many makes and two or three true antique cars stood out in the collection. I guess when I think of “Muscle Car” I’m thinking of late 60s early 70s cars. There were only a couple of cars from that era.
Next door to Old Town is the Fun Spot America amusement park. It contains a few adrenalin rising rides that you won’t see me on, but it is fun to watch. One is called Vomatron complete with warnings to spectators about falling vomit. Another called Sky Coaster is basically a 300 foot high swing. Each of these rides had a few takers, but there weren’t any lines. The lines were at the go cart tracks.


Sky Coaster. Arrow points to riders ready to be released


Zoomed in view of riders ready for release


Riders on the up swing after the drop



Spectator shield at the Vomatron ride