Thursday February 18th 2016
Today was a perfect day for another bicycle ride on the General James A. Van Fleet Trail. It was a clear day with temperature in the low 70s.
The trail is 25 to 30 miles west of the RV park. I mounted the bicycle carrier and the bike onto the car and headed out a little after 10AM. I’ve started my first ride at the Green Pond Road trail head and headed north into the Green Swamp. This time I headed south from the same trail head.
This was a much different ride. The trail goes through cattle country and some residential areas. I didn’t see a lot of wild animals, but lots of cattle. There is some wet lands but in a normal winter it would probably be dry.
One of many cattle ranges.
I road south on the trail about 7 miles. I saw several great egret birds, some gofer tortoise borrows and lots and lots of cattle. There were black ones, brown ones and gray ones. There were big ones and little ones. That’s about all I know about cattle. I turned around when I got bored looking at cattle. Once again the trip back was into the wind. I really should plan my direction better. Last time the wind was from the opposite direction but so was my outbound trip.
Next time I’ll drive further to a different trail head. The fact that I need to go out and back to return to the car makes it difficult to cover long distances. I need to always keep in mind the need to have enough energy to return to the car. Maybe, I’ll bring some ear bugs along to listen to some thing on my phone to ward off the boredom of the monotonous sections of the trial.
Wednesday February 17th 2016
Today was another mid 70s day with bright sunshine and a gentle breeze. The TV meteorologists called it “perfect”. I don’t think that’s a scientific term, but it is pretty accurate. I haven’t gotten used to these TV meteorologists.
I had thought about going for another bike ride today, but I just didn’t get started this morning. Instead, I put the patio awning out and attached the sun shield to the awning. This created a pleasant place to read and watch TV. I am being very careful with the patio awning and the wind. I don’t have a good understanding of how much wind the awning can take. Over the years, I’ve seen a number of awnings damaged by strong winds. There was even one here in this park in December.
My RV Home with the awning out and the sun screen attached.
I am using spring and bungee cord based anchors for the awning. This gives it some additional stability in the wind. The forecast for the next few days does not call for strong winds so I am leaving it out and will watch it carefully. Once I learn how much wind it can withstand, I’ll be more comfortable. Luckily it is an electric awning so it doesn’t take much effort to put up or take it in.
About 6PM I headed over to the Old Town amusement area on US 192 in Kissimmee. I wanted to check out some of the old cars that are on display Wednesday, Friday and Saturday evenings. On the way, I heard on the radio that a major accident was blocking Interstate 4 near the area I was passing through. I don’t think it directly impacted my travels, but there was a great deal of traffic on the surface streets going away from the accident area. Still it took longer to get to Old Town than I thought it would. I waited in traffic to get into the parking area only to circle several times without finding a place to park. I’ll try again another night.
With any luck, I’ll take the bike over to the trail for another bicycle ride tomorrow.
Tuesday February 16th 2016
Today was a beautiful day with a high temperature close to 80. It didn’t start off as a beautiful day. At about 4AM my weather alert radio went off with a tornado warning for two counties including mine. A quick check of the cell phone weather radar app and the local TV channel showed the real danger to be to the east beyond my location given the direction of the storm front. I had set the weather radio alarm based on the vague reference to severe weather on the 11PM news.
My adventure for the day was an outing to the Bok Tower and Gardens in Lake Wales Florida. It is about 30 miles south of the RV park. This would be my third visit to the tower and gardens. My first visit was probably in the 1970s.
Bok Tower is a 205 foot tower built on one the highest points in Florida called Iron Mountain. It was built in the late 1920s by Edward W. Bok an immigrant from the Netherlands. The tower contains a 60-bell carillon that can be heard throughout the gardens. Today there were recorded carillon music pieces at one and three in the afternoon. Live presentations are conducted at various times throughout the year.
The gardens surrounding the tower were designed by Fredrick Law Olmstead Jr. the son of the man who designed Central Park in New York. It has many paths and varieties of plants designed to have some plans in bloom at all times of year. At this time most of the blooms are varieties of Camellias.
The overall facility is under a major overhaul. A new visitors center with a cafe and gift shop has been completed. New paths and other facilities are still being completed. The tower is having some restoration work done and the carillon bells are currently covered to protect them. I might return later this winter when the carillon may be played live and other plants will be in bloom.
Monday February 15th 2016
This turned out to be a do nothing kind of day. The weather was cloudy with the temperature in the mid 70s and a brisk wind.
I didn’t have any plans for the day. In other places or other times I would have driven around looking for something to see or do. This technique often produces interesting and enjoyable results. Here in Florida, right now, I don’t enjoy fighting the traffic. If I have a destination the traffic is bearable, but driving for the sake of driving is a traffic nightmare. It’s a Florida in the winter thing.
When I first got to Florida in December the traffic was predictable. You could avoid the heavy traffic during rush hour or around the Christmas shopping locations. After Christmas, the traffic moved from the stores to the tourist areas. Again it was avoidable. The first two thirds of January were great, heavy but predictable traffic. But now it may have reached a peak density. Everybody in the north who can wants to escape the cold. Florida is a prime destination.
The vacancies in this RV park reflect the traffic build up. When I first arrived in December, most of the daily use sites were available and the long term area only about half the sites actively in use. Many sites in the long term area had units on them, but the residents hadn’t arrived from the north. In January most of the units in the long term area were occupied, but sites were still available. Now that February has arrived most of the daily use sites are filled and very few long term sites are available. I think this fairly accurately indicates where all the traffic is coming from.
Sand Hill Cranes came to visit again. This time they were vocally making their presence known.
Residents in this park come from all over the eastern half on North America. There are at least 4 of us from New Hampshire. New York, Ohio, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Maine are well represented. From Canada I’ve observed or met people from Ontario and New Brunswick. I’m sure there are other eastern states that are represented. I don’t recall seeing any license tags from west of the Mississippi except Louisiana which might be considered under the Mississippi river.
Don’t get me wrong. I like it down here traffic and all. There’s plenty of traffic in most heavily populated areas of the country.
Sunday February 14th 2016
About noon today I headed for the east coast. My goal was to take a sight seeing cruise on the Banana and Indian Rivers. I had scouted out the tour on a previous trip to the Merritt Island and Port Canaveral area. It was not to be. Even though it was sunny and calm at the RV park, it was cloudy in the 60s and showery on the coast. I can wait for better conditions to take the tour.
That was not the only negative event today. About an hour into the drive I realized I had left my cell phone at home. I was so concerned, I actually considered turning around. It’s amazing how lost I felt without the phone. I wasn’t expecting any calls or important messages, but the security it represents was missing. The level of dependence I have developed for a little piece of plastic packaged circuitry is amazing.
Instead of the sight seeing cruise I stopped at Port Canaveral to watch the Cruise Ships depart. There were three ships leaving between 4 and 5 in the afternoon. The “Cove” area of the port was filled with people there to watch the ships leave. There were also many brown pelicans watching the spectators and the fisherman. Every bait cast got watched by the birds more intently than the guy holding the rod. Those birds have it figured out.
Watching from rear of a boat
Before returning home I stopped at one of the Cape Canaveral beaches to check on the departing cruise ships. Several people had found a use for the windy weather; kite surfing. The combination of wind and surf really gave the surfers a good ride.
Carnival Cruise Ship departing with kite surfer getting read to launch
The trip home was uneventful. My phone was on the table waiting for me. I had no missed calls, no messages and only one marketing email. I survived for 6 hours without my phone.
Saturday February 13th 2016
Today was another bright sunshiny day. It was a little cooler than yesterday with highs in the upper 60s, but less wind.
I did a lot of driving and sight seeing from the car with a couple of stops along the way. The general destination was points west and south of my starting point in Davenport Fl. The trip started with heavy traffic on Interstate 4 all the way to Tampa. Interstate 75 south to Bradenton was only a little bit better. I continue to be amazed by the volume of traffic.
Bradenton FL Riverwalk
In Bradenton I walked along the Manatee River at the Riverwalk park. This is an area along the river with entertainment venues, art, natural science displays and play grounds. There were many walkers, bicycle riders and others enjoying the afternoon on the river. I found the area just OK. If I lived in the area I wouldn’t go to this park regularly. The river view is limited by three bridges, two for cars and one for trains. It’s to bad that you can’t see beyond the bridges.
From Bradenton I drove east into the center of the state. When I got to Hardee county, toward Avon Park, I found citrus groves. I was glad to see that Florida still has many acres of groves. Over the years I’ve been coming to Florida, I’ve seen the number of groves in the Orlando area shrinking rapidly. In fact, since I’ve been down here this winter, one grove near my RV resort has been leveled. I understand that there is a citrus disease threatening the crop. It looks like housing developments and shopping centers are a bigger threat in the Orlando area.
It was a lot of driving, but I enjoyed seeing the ranching and agriculture of the center of the state. The flat straight roads made it possible to see things and drive at the same time.
Friday February 12th 2016
It was a bright sunshiny day in central Florida with high temperatures in the upper 70s. Today’s objective was bike riding on the General James A. Van Fleet Rail Trail.
About 10AM I loaded the bike on to the car and drove over to the bike trail. This is the same trail I hiked last week. There were more people riding on the trail today, but not so many that you needed to pass anyone going in the same direction. You had to watch for on coming traffic, but since the trail is flat and straight you could see them a mile ahead.
The warmer weather also brought out more wildlife. I hadn’t ridden more than few hundred yards when I had to dodge a gopher tortoise making its way across the trail. In a short span of trail I saw four tortoises on the side of the trail.
The trail runs through swampland that is well flooded this rainy winter. One of the easily spotted animals are the alligators. Not only are they big enough to see, but they are catching the rays of the bright sun. I saw at least 5 alligators. A couple of them were pretty big and could get onto the trail if they wanted. I didn’t really have and concern other than general awareness of the possibility.
A couple of Florida’s larger bird species were also present on the trail. I saw a Blue Heron and a Great Egret. I was well buy the Blue Heron before I though about taking a picture and it was gone when I came back on the return trip.
Overall I traveled about 12 miles round trip. Considering I hadn’t done any riding since last October on the Cape Cod Canal, this was enough. Coming back to the car, into the wind, I was not making any where near the speed of the outbound trip. Next time I’ll ride a different section of trail.
Thursday February 11th 2016
Today was a beautiful day. The sun was shining with not a cloud in the sky. The wind of the previous few days was gone and the temperature was in the middle 60s. The natives called the day cool but nice.
I spent most of the day doing more chores around the RV. I got the laundry done and ran the vacuum cleaner around on the floors. This motorhome has a built in vacuum cleaner. It really is over kill for the amount of area to keep picked up.
Outside I emptied the holding tanks and prepared my bicycle for some bike riding. I haven’t ridden the bicycle since I left New England in November. Unfortunately, it has picked up a bit of rust. So in addition to pumping up the tires, I had to wipe down a few parts with oil. A short test ride around the RV park proved that bike works and I remember how to ride.
At about 5PM, I needed to get out and do something as a reward for completing my chores. I didn’t have a real destination, but ended up at Disney Springs. This was my first visit in the evening. The place really comes to life after dark. There are many entertainment acts scattered around the park. I saw a cappella singing groups, folk singers with guitar, a saxophone soloist, rap groups as well as full blown rock bands. In another area there was a DJ. Disney has the whole range covered. The evening visit finally showed me something interesting about Disney Springs. Prior to this visit all I saw were restaurants and stores.
Balloon at Disney Springs in the Air.
Sweet Adeline and Barbershop Quartet at Disney Springs
Now that my bicycle is ready for use, I planning to go back to the Van Fleet rail trail tomorrow for a bike ride.
Wednesday February 10th 2016
We are still experiencing Florida cold here in the Sunshine state. It never got out of the 50s with a strong wind all day.
My Morning Visitors
After a couple of busy days, today was dedicated to catching up on chores. Chief among the chores was restocking the kitchen. I was out of pretty much everything. Without a grocery run I’d be eating from the freezer. So about noon I headed for the Walmart up the road toward Clermont.
The Super Walmart is about 9 miles away through Florida winter traffic. It seems like anywhere I want to go traffic is an obstacle. I’ve found some back road short cuts, but any time your on a main road, you’ve got lots of company.
My refrigerator is now restocked. It will be good for another week with a few quick stops at the Publix down the street. I just don’t like the prices and choices available at Publix for many things. (Since this is the second blog entry I’ve talked about grocery shopping, I must really be hung up on food.)
Later in the afternoon I did another couple of laps walking around the park. The park has filled up more now that February is here. Several sites are still open and some park model units aren’t occupied. There are several residents from Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Ohio and New Brunswick Canada. The northern origins of others are disguised by Florida License plates.
My Afternoon Visitor
Tuesday February 9th 2016
Florida winter weather continues here in the center of the state. In didn’t get out of the 50s today and the wind was blowing strong. They are predicting lows in the high 30s or low 40s with a wind chill in the 20s over night, but I’m nice and comfortable in my RV home.
This afternoon I went back to Disney’s Magic Kingdom. I thought the low temperatures and being late in the day the crowds would be manageable. It looked promising in the parking lot as I parked a lot closer than last week, but once in the park it was jammed. The park was open until 11PM. People were still arriving when I left at 7:30PM.
Today I caught a few more rides and shows. My old favorite, the Carousel of Progress, is showing its age. While they updated the last scene a few years ago to be more current with technology, it’s already outdated. The other concern is the actual mechanical features of the revolving theater. It is a very rough bumpy transition as the theater seating moves.
I rode the Undersea Journey of the Little Mermaid. This is a new ride since I was at the Magic Kingdom in 2008. It a fun ride that imagines you are under the sea sharing the adventures of the Little Mermaid. The bright color and the characters are very well done.
Country Bear Jamboree
One of my favorite shows at the Magic Kingdom continues to be the Country Bear Jamboree. The singing bears continue to entertain my simple tastes. I wouldn’t be to surprised if this attraction gets replace once Disney comes up with something better for the space. It was not well attended considering the number of people in the park.
Leaving the park was more of a challenge than it should have been. The boat transportation to the parking area was not running and one of the two monorail routes was not running. This resulted in a very long line waiting to get to the parking lot. Eventually, they got the other monorail line running.
I probably am finished with the Magic Kingdom for this visit to Florida. When I come back later in the year I might venture to the park again. The other Disney parks are still in the running for more visits.