Afternoon at the Animal Kingdom

Friday October 21st 2016

This afternoon I went to Disney’s Animal Kingdom park. I was armed with two Fastpasses. One was for the Kali River Rapids Ride and the other was for the Kilimanjaro Safari.

The Kali River Rapids Ride is a wet ride so I made sure my scheduled time was at the heat of the day 4PM. I needed to kill some time after I arrived at the park, so I started with the Maharajah Jungle Trek. A Kimodo Dragon and a tiger were do a good job of posing and drawing a crowd. The warm sun allowed the Kimodo Dragon to be the most active I have ever seen. I also lucked out and got an up close view of the tiger moving around. They are usually basking in the sun far from the viewing area.

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When I finished with my jungle trek it was time for the river rapids ride. The line to get in the Fastpass entrance was much longer than the standby line, but this was offset by the length of the line once you walk the long round about path to the boarding area. The standby line was listed at 50 minutes and even with the various Fastpass backups it probably didn’t take more than 15 minutes until I was ready to get wet. The 12 person rafts go up a ramp to rapids that are advertised to be class 4, then after traversing the top of the hill drops you back down “over the falls”. You can’t avoid getting wet. Purely by luck, I stayed a little drier than some of my raft mates. The ride was closed for rehab last winter so I didn’t get a chance to enjoy this ride. It was worth the wait.

My Fastpass time for the Safari was 6:20. I had two hours after the river rapids to dry out and do other things before the safari. I walked around the park looking for a snack and a place to sit and watch the crowd. I found the snack, but not the place to sit. This park doesn’t have many places to sit that aren’t in restaurants. It was warm enough so I was dry in 15 minutes and finished with my snack soon thereafter.

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Taveta Golden Weaver

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Merrkat

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The other rides and shows either didn’t interest me or had lines that would get in the way of my up coming Fastpass. I took my time on the Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail watching the merkats and the gorillas. The merkats are very community oriented. One stands guard with the others eat, work and play, then they switch off. The gorillas are family unit oriented with the silver back male keeping his mates and young nearby. The single adult males have their own area. The gorillas were near the viewing areas today.

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Black Rhino

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After spending more time than I would normally spend on the Gorilla trail, I still had more than an hour until my safari time. The standby time for the Kilomanjaro Safari was only 20 minutes so I decided to get in line. I could use my Fastpass for a re-ride. It is a good thing I did. I was able to see many animals and get some good pictures. The second trip around was as darkness was arriving. The route the vehicle took was shorter and it was very difficult to get clear pictures.

On the way out crowds were gathering around the tree of life. The animal carvings on the tree are highlighted by flood lights and lasers to tell a story. I caught a little of it but kept moving toward the exit. Disney still hasn’t come up with a complete nighttime show even though they have completed all of the seating areas around the wide area in the river by the Finding Nemo theater.

Visiting a Turtle

Thursday October 20th 2016

After three active days, today was a stay at home and do errands kind of day. It was a slow morning. Between watching TV and surfing the Internet I was just finishing my morning coffee as the morning ended.

I took a walk around the campground to kick my self into a higher gear. Much of the lower area of the campground is reclaimed swamp land. To dry it out several streams and retention ponds have created. Wildlife has claimed those areas as habitat. They have bench seats with large umbrellas around the area to use to observe the wildlife. That’s exactly what I did; watch the wildlife.

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A very tropical scene with five birds. Can you find the Blue Herron?

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Zoomed in view of the birds. The herron is in the middle.

At one of the containment ponds I watched a ripple in the water move from the far side toward me. It was to small to be an alligator so I was betting on a water snake. It turned out to be a turtle. It would pop its head out of the water every few feet for air. When it got close, I’d estimate it was a foot and half or more long.

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Turtle popping its head out of the water for air.

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The turtle just below the surface of the water.

Later in the day I went out for a drive and for groceries. My drive route took me to the nearby town of Celebration. This is a planned community that was originally designed by the Disney Corporation. The center of the town is setup in a historic sort of Art Deco motif with park facilities. I wanted to stop and walk around but they were setting up for an event. Streets were blocked off and parking was scarce. So I continued on to the Publix grocery store and back to the RV for the evening.

EPCOT International Food & Wine Festival

Wednesday October 19th 2016

This afternoon I went back to EPCOT for more of the International Food & Wine Festival. I was a little more prepared today. I had booked two Fastpass reservations for rides and I was prepared to be more original with my choice of food for supper.

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EPCOT Spaceship Earth

There are two attractions at EPCOT that I want to see. Both the Frozen Ever After ride and the updated Soarin Around the World experience are new since my last visit in the early spring. I was successful in obtaining a Fastpass for Soarin. I will continue to check other days for a Frozen Ever After Fastpass. I know I can get one for my December stay at Fort Wilderness, but I want see it sooner.

Soarin Around the World is terrific. The original Soarin focused on California, this version goes to sights all over the world. The experience starts flying low over polar bears and ice flows only to be surprised by a whale breaching in front of you. As you fly through the splash from the whale returning to the sea the video transitions to flying above elephants only to transition to other areas. Some of the highlights include kites flying over the Great Wall of China, going around the pyramids of Egypt, flying with Hot Air balloons in Monument Valley and flying around the Eiffel Tower. This is really a fun experience.

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Muppets entertaining the crowd

My other Fastpass was for the Journey into Imagination ride. I really like Figment the featured character on this ride. The ride is showing its age, but I enjoy it. The depiction of computers as flashing lights and magnetic tape reels is anachronistic. The current generation finds it hard to believe that computers were ever that big and clunky. If they knew how slow they were compared to today’s cell phones they’d be even more amazed.

This visit I came prepared to eat and drink at the Food and Wine Festival. The kiosks around the park sell different International foods and wines. The food is in small portions costing between four and eight dollars. The wine choices are similarly priced, but you get closer to a normal portion for the cost. To have enough to call it a meal, you need to purchase more than one mini entree.

For my dinner, I started with a spicy shrimp dish from Australia combined with a Chardonnay. It was tasty and not overly spicy. Since it only contained 3 medium sized shrimp another mini entree was in order. A little while later I chose a Beef Burgundy dish with a Merlot and Cabernet blend wine from France. The two pieces of beef on a three inch round by three quarters of an inch thick mashed potato glob was also very good. I was tempted by a few other choices but will leave them until another time.

I left the park about 7:30. Waiting around for the evening entertainment would mean walking around the world showcase another time or two to kill time then fighting the crowds to exit at the end of the night. I chose to come home early.

Touring Disney Resorts

Tuesday October 18th 2016

Today’s adventure was at Walt Disney World. I didn’t go to any parks, but toured some of the resort hotels instead. I gave Disney transportation got a workout.

My tour started at Disney Springs this afternoon. I had a hot fudge Sunday at Ghiradelli’s using the dollar off coupon I got at the Food and Wine festival. It still is a very expensive Sunday, but good. From the Springs I caught a launch to the Port Orleans Riverside resort. The ride up the canals passes the Sarasota Springs resort and one of the golf courses. It was very picturesque with quite a few wading birds along the way.

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Along the bank of the canal leading to Port Orleans Riverside

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Small period patrol boat following the launch in the canal through the golf course.

From the Port Orleans resort I caught a bus to the Magic Kingdom. The bus takes a route through lesser developed areas of Walt Disney World. There were a couple of deer along the side of the road. One father on the bus attempted to convince his kids that the deer were Bambi’s children. Even at about five years old, the kids weren’t buying it. I think the father had a little to much Disney cultural indoctrination.

The bus drops you off at the entrance to the Magic Kingdom. It was organized chaos with departing day visitors and arriving visitors for the separate admission Halloween Party trying to pass through security. I bypassed the crowds my getting on the resort Monorail to the Polynesian Resort.

The Polynesian Resort had its own crowd scene with people waiting for dinner reservations at the Ohana restaurant and another line for the Luau. I walked from the Polynesian to the Grand Floridian resort checking out the beach area along the way. After the death of a child to an alligator attack last spring, Disney has put up a fence between the beach sand and the water. It sounds really strange but way it has been accomplished looks fairly natural. If you hadn’t been there before or you didn’t know the why behind the fence you think anything of it.

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Beach with fence and 6 feet of heavy boulders around the Seven Seas Lagoon at the Polynesian Resort.

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Fence and boulders between the beach and water at the Grand Floridian resort. It looks normal.

From the Grand Floridian, I took the Monorail back to the Magic Kingdom to pick up a boat to Fort Wilderness. The crowd at the Magic Kingdom had more arriving visitors for the Halloween party this time around. People were really into it. I saw people in costumes from the complete range of Disney movies and animation. The only restriction was visitors couldn’t wear masks. There was plenty of face paint used to get around that restriction.

At Fort Wilderness the Halloween theme continued. Many campsites were heavily decorated. There weren’t as many sites decorated as I’ve seen during Christmas, but the decorated sites were just as over the top. As Halloween gets closer there probably will be many more sites decorated. I grew up with decorating for Christmas, but the concept of decorating for Halloween has never set in.

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Halloween decorations at Fort Wilderness

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Halloween decorations at Fort Wilderness.

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Halloween Decorations at Fort Wilderness by an avid Greenbay Packers fan.

I returned to Disney Springs by bus to pick up my car and return home. The Springs at night is more alive than during the day. Live music is played throughout the complex and acts like jugglers and mimes are performing. I didn’t get to check out the lanterns in the river that I saw during the day light. That means another trip to Disney Springs after dark.

EPCOT Food and Wine Festaval

Monday October 17th 2016

I got up this morning with the general plan to do something interesting today. This afternoon a more detailed plan of going over to Disney’s EPCOT to eat was put into action. I arrived at the park about three thirty and proceeded to join the crowds.

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EPCOT Food and Wine Festival

There were a lot more people at EPCOT than I had expected. The Food and Wine Festival must be a successful draw, because the crowd level reminded me of the holidays not October. I’ll be able to judge better after I see how busy the other parks are. I had to park at the back of the second section of parking lot. All of the times I visited the park last winter, I never had to park as far away as today.

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Festival Center

I really didn’t know what to expect of the Food and Wine Festival. It turned out that the primary feature is food kiosks around the park that sell International foods and wines. In hind sight, it’s pretty obvious that’s what it would be, but I hadn’t thought it through ahead of time. I had planned to have Fish & Chips at the British Pavilion. A better plan would have been to find something more unique from one of the kiosks. Now that I know what it’s all about, that’s exactly what I’ll do next time.

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Chef Mickey holding a skewer of green.

Most of the kiosks served small reasonably priced (for Disney) portions of food that could be paired with a wine from the region. I saw many things that interested my somewhat limited palate. The American Pavilion even had a kiosk selling lobster rolls.

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One of the Flower beds with fall colors.

The festival center is in the building between Ellen’s Energy Adventure and Mission Space. It originally held life science related attractions like the motion simulator ride through the human body. It has only been used for special events for many years now. For the Food and Wine Festival it had a couple of restaurants with white table cloths, a couple of lecture areas and several shops. You could buy cook books, wine and Ghiradelli chocolate. Ghiradelli was even giving out samples and discount coupons for the shop at Disney Springs.

One of the things I look forward to at EPCOT are the gardens and plantings. They are usually very bright and attention drawing. This time they were all in muted fall colors. Browns and purples were very prominent. It seemed appropriate for the season and the event, but it didn’t live up to my high expectations. There was one big topiary of Chef Mickey barbequing.

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One visitor to EPCOT that didn’t seem to care about the crowds.

I only went on two rides; the Living with the Lands boat ride and Spaceship Earth. These are favorites that only had 20 minute waits. Had I planned better, I would have made Fastpass reservations for some of the other rides. The new Frozen Ever After ride had a two hour standby time. I’ll try to make Fastpass reservations for another visit in the next two weeks.

Sunday at home

Sunday October 16th 2016

It was another partly cloudy day with a couple of significant scattered showers. When it rained it was brief but intense. One of them came at the breakfast hour causing my whole day to slow to a crawl. My car never left the campground.

I spent the morning watching “how to” shows on TV and the afternoon watching football games. The football games weren’t the one of interest to the local population, not to my northern tastes. My phone kept me up to date on the Patriots game, but it’s not the same as actually watching it.

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Go-Carts climbing the first of three decks on one of two multi-level tracks at Fun Spot America Amusement Park.

About four, after the first set of football games, I went for a walk that ended up back at Old Town and the Fun Spot Amusement park. It is not nearly as busy on a Sunday afternoon as it was Friday and Saturday nights. I wanted to take a picture of the Go-Cart track to better explain my comments about traffic jams in yesterday’s blog. I got the pictures, but there were no collisions while I was there. The number of people using the Go-Cart track was about half of the number last night. Also, there didn’t seem to be as many aggressive drivers casing problems on the track.

Most of the weekend campers departed today. I have new neighbors on one side and the other side will be leaving tomorrow. Having the weekend campers depart on Sunday is to be expected. Kids need to go to school and the parents to work. The odd thing about many of the long term campers is that they departed the first thing in the morning. Usually campers that leave their equipment at the campground long term, will not return home until late in the day. They try to get the most out of their weekend at the campground. A lot of these long term campers were gone by the time I finished breakfast. A minor mystery that I don’t think I’ll solve.

Tomorrow I need to get a little more active. Spending time at my RV home is enjoyable, but there are things to see and do in the area.

Demolition Derby Go-Carts

Saturday October 15

Today started with rain and end with clouds and wind. In between it was a partly cloudy day in the 80s. Overall a good day to do very little.

As is common for my first day at a new location, today was a slow day focused on getting acclimated to the park and the area. I took a couple of walks around the resort and encountered some of the resident wildlife. There are several bodies of water in the park that birds hang out in and around. Why am I seeing more birds here than earlier in the week at the larger lakes in Lake Lousia State park? There are also a high volume of warning signs about alligators and snakes that would indicate either now or at sometime in the past an alligator or two was in residence. Of course they may have been put up by the parks lawyers when Disney had problems with gators last spring.

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Some of the bird residents at the campground

The big trip for the day was to the grocery store. Around noon I went to one of the nearby Walmart Superstores to stock up on meat, bread and a few other essentials. I’ll have to try another one next time. This Walmart appeared older. The aisles were barely wide enough for two shopping carts to pass.

The fun part of the day was this evening. I walked up to Old Town and the Fun Spot Amusement park. Saturday nights at Old Town are for Cruisers. Many antique cars and hot rods were on display along with their proud owners. Several were decorated for the Halloween holiday with skeletons, spiders and other seasonal elements. The cars were getting a lot of attention.

Next door to Old Town at the Fun Spot Amusement area, the go-cart tracks were getting as much attention as the antique cars. There are two fancy go-cart tracks that climb spiral ramps 30 or 40 feet in high then descend on wide sweeping turns. I watched about 8 rounds of rides on the two tracks. Every round had a major crash or traffic jam. The more cautious drivers aren’t moving fast enough to make it up the hills without bogging down. The slow drives get rear ended by the faster go-carts. The collisions are loud, but nobody got hurt. It sure kept the guys manning the ride running up and down the track.

A short travel day

Friday October 14th 2016

It was another mid 80s partly cloudy day with an occasional very brief rain shower. This has been the weather pattern all week. The only difference is it is getting a little more humid and a couple of degrees warmer.

Today was a travel day to the Tropical Palms Resort and Campground on route 192 in Kissimmee FL. This is a big resort with campsites and rental cottages. I’ve stayed here a few times in the past for a couple of nights. This time I’ll be here for two weeks thanks to a good Passport America rate.

Tropical Palms is located behind Old Town and the Fun Spot America amusement park. I visited these attractions a number of times last winter. I’m now in walking distance so I will be over there more than once during my stay here. The down side of the location is the congestion on route 192 every time you leave the park.

I only had about 30 miles to travel today. I tried to take my time getting packed up and into travel mode this morning. My goal was to leave between 12 and 1 so I’d arrive after the 1PM check in time. It is very difficult to complete my travel preparations slowly. I need to keep going at a steady pace so I don’t miss any significant steps. I was ready to go shortly after 10. I took another walk around the campground and watched some more TV to kill time. I moved the RV to the Dump station at noon and took my time dumping the tanks. I was on the road at twelve thirty. Even with heavy traffic I was setup on my new site around 2PM.

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Site 749 at Tropical Palms Resort and Campground.

This campground has several groupings of camp sites interspersed with areas of rental cottages. Other campgrounds intermix rental cottages and RV sites. I like this approach better. The cottages are all different colors in a pastel color pallet. Along with plenty of Palm trees, it really gives a tropical look to the area.

The campground is all decorated for Halloween. Events for the holiday are beginning this weekend and ramp up to bigger events at the end of the month. Thankfully, I will have moved on by the time the actual holiday arrives. Rig decorating, haunted houses and trick or treating are not my ideas of a good time.

Return to Disney Springs

Thursday October 13th 2016

This afternoon I went east to Disney Springs. This shopping and entertainment center formally known as Downtown Disney has opened a new section called Town Center since I was here last winter. It was about 25 miles through construction and heavy traffic.

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Disney Springs is decorated for Halloween.

My first observation is that the road construction on Disney property continues. New bridges and access ramps for Epcot Center Drive inbound from I-4 over Buena Vista Drive are much closer to completion, but I’d guess they have a few months more until they are completed. New road construction has been started over near Hollywood studios. They are building a pedestrian bridge over World Drive. It looks like cast member parking is moving to the other side of the highway.

At Disney Springs my first observation is that the second parking garage called “Lime” to go with the previously finished “Orange” has opened. Between the two garages a massive Disney transportation hub has been opened. The completed landscaping around the bus loading areas looks nothing like the muddy construction site of last winter.

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One of many mosquito kiosks.

As you enter the Springs from the parking garage, you’re meet by the first of many opportunities to fight back against the mighty mosquito. Disney has established kiosks with information pamphlets and bug repellent. I’m not sure if this is just PR to help with tourism in light of the Zeka virus or if it has an actual positive impact. I saw 5 or 6 stations at Disney Springs none of which were getting any business.

Remodeling of the Planet Hollywood restaurant into the Hollywood Observatory is almost finished. A brick entry building has been created and the outside has been almost completely wrapped in futuristic gray vinyl or fabric. It closed at the end of last year and is scheduled to reopen in the fall of 2016. It looks like they may keep to the schedule.

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The new Hollywood Observatory restaurant looks almost ready to open.

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The center section of the globe is ready for its gray wrapper.

The new Town Center section is separated from the Landings section by a river with a blue painted bottom. The river is filled with lamps and multicolored globes. I imagine it looks very nice at night. The shops and restaurants in the Town Center area in brick and stucco buildings are more upscale than the other areas of the Springs.

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Water area that separates the Landings from the Town Center section of Disney Springs. The objects in the water are “floating” lamps.

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Closeup of one of the lamps in the river.

In the other sections of the park work has begun on updating some of the older venues. The former Fultons Crab House is being changed into The Paddlefish restaurant. It looks like it was stripped to the studs and re-assembled. All of the insulation and interior wall board is currently visible.

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The new Paddlefish restaurant under construction.

Tomorrow I’m moving to the Tropical Palms RV resort. This is right in the middle of the action on highway 192. I’ll be able to visit Disney Springs and the other parts of Disney with less travel than today.

A Day of Rest at the State Park

Wednesday October 12th 2016

It was a changeable day with the high temperature around 80. One minute it would be sunny and the next it would be raining. It never rained for more than a minute or two just long enough to make you seek cover. One good thing about the rain was a rainbow in the eastern sky late in the afternoon.

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Rainbow in the eastern sky.

This morning I took a couple of walks around the park. The campground is located about 3 miles into the park between Dixie Lake and Hammond Lake. Both lakes have fishing piers accessed from the campground area. A couple fishermen were using the Dixie Lake pier this morning, but they hadn’t caught anything.

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Shoreline of Dixie Lake.

When I’m out exploring the park, I’m looking for birds, ground animals, even alligators anything animal not human. I’m just not finding any. I hear birds, but they are staying in the trees. My guess is the migratory birds haven’t returned yet and other types of animals are deeper in the woods. This area looks ideal for deer, but I’m not looking at the right time of day.

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Dixie Lake with the State Park Cottages on the far bank.

Late in the afternoon, I went out for a drive to check out the area. This is not new territory. I was in this area for four months last winter. The biggest difference is the traffic. The volume of cars on the road in October is significantly less than January. During the winter it seems like every other car has an out of state plate. This time of year very few non Florida registered cars are on the road. I bought groceries on my tour and returned to the campground.

As I’m finishing up writing this blog entry, the sound of fireworks from the nearby theme parks can be heard. The sound really travels a long way, but you’d need to be at altitude to see them.