Saturday December 31st 2016
The temperature got up to normal for the area today. It was in the low 70s with a strong wind. Tomorrow it will be even warmer.
This morning I looked took a walk around the campground. There are several sites waiting for the after Christmas rush to arrive. In the past I’ve driven north after vacationing around this time. The southbound side of Interstate 95 has been chock full of RV coming for the winter. Other sites in the park have rigs on them that appear to be empty. My guess is there owners are on a trip home for the holidays.
This park has a different mix of license plates than the park I was in last winter. The plates here are heavy on the Midwest states with only a few from the eastern seaboard or Canada. Oddly, there’s even one from Oregon. The park I stayed at last winter had mostly eastern seaboard and Canada snowbirds. The difference may be as simple as the nearby Interstate. Interstate 75 comes down from Michigan and Ohio whereas Interstate 95 comes down from the northeast.
Looking west toward the mouth of the Little Manatee River
On my walk I stopped by the sitting area that overlooks the Little Manatee river for awhile. In addition to the docks at this campground, there are docks up river at the next campground or mobile home park. I keep expecting to see boat traffic but the river has been quiet. This morning’s low temperatures may be the reason.
This afternoon I went south to Sarasota for Lunch/Dinner with friends. The restaurant overlook the Intercostal waterway. It was far from quiet. There were many boats both fast and slow running up and down the waterway. A couple of sailboats even needed the drawbridge to be open to pass through.
I find it hard to believe that tomorrow is New Years day. I need to finish my blog entry summarizing my thoughts on this year of travel. I’ve been working on it for a few days now, but it isn’t done yet.
Happy New Year everyone!
Friday December 30th 2016
The cold front moved through last night with a brief down pour. As a result it is ten to fifteen degrees cooler today. I have a long sleeve shirt on for the first time in a long time.
Today is moving day. I moved my RV home about 30 miles north to the town of Ruskin Florida. The Tampa South RV Resort will be my home until the end of January. Last nights cold front had a couple of annoying level impacts on my travel today. The rain storm left a puddle on top of the slide out room awning. When I bring in the slide Niagara Falls crashes down the side of the rig. The other annoyance is the high winds on the backside of the front. The Motorhome got pushed around pretty good on the drive.
Site at Tampa South RV Resort. The grown is covered with crushed shells. It’s not snow.
This is a fairly typical RV park. The sites are only as big as they have to be and there are a good number of park models. So far it has been a friendly enough place. This park is squeezed between highway 41 and the Little Manatee River. The road noise doesn’t seem to be too bad, but just the other side of the road is a train track. So far two trains have gone by. Train tracks and RV parks always seem to have an affinity. It is not unusual to hear a train in the middle of the night when staying at an RV park.
Today seems to be a big arrival day at this park. The guys in golf carts have been busy bringing the new arrivals to their sites. I arrived just as a Motorhome was being lead to their site and as I was escorted in, another rig arrived. Some of the big rigs had an interesting time getting into their assigned sites. All of the arrivals kept the noise level high most of the day, but it has quieted down nicely.
The resort has fishing docks and boat moorings on the Little Manatee River. When I checked it out this afternoon, there were several day use boats tied up. I had expected it to have cruising boats, but maybe they can’t get this far up river. Also, the water level looked low. A sand bar area was visible on the far bank. It’s a good chance the docks are just for the park residents boats.
Tomorrow is supposed to be a little warmer and by Sunday the idea of a cold front will be long forgotten. New Years day should be back in the 80s about 10 degrees above normal.
Thursday December 29th 2016
The warm sunny weather continued today, but it is forecast to change tonight. Friday and Saturday are scheduled to be cooler than normal in the 60s. Today was a day of preparations.
The primary task was getting ready for the move tomorrow. I had Christmas decorations to take down in addition to usual outside stuff that I take care of the day before travel. The inside stuff can be done in a short time tomorrow morning. Since I only have a short distance to travel, I won’t be in a rush.
The second task for the day was restocking the cupboards and refrigerator. A trip to the Super Walmart was much less hectic than before the holiday. They still had close to the pre-holiday number of cashiers on so there were no lines. I haven’t resorted to preparing grocery lists so I need to go up and down the aisle to trigger my memory. I often return home without something significant. Luckily, that didn’t happen today. I also didn’t come home with many unplanned purchases.
While I was out I also did some scouting for a good place to buy gas in the Motorhome. I can’t stop at just any gas station. I need to be able to get in and out of the station without too much difficulty. I found a few possibilities. The one thing I noticed is that the price of gas went up fifteen to sixteen cents yesterday. I’m not sure if it is supply and demand or some new tax. Either way it is going to cost more to fill the Motorhome tank.
My friend the tortoise had no interest in me today.
Back at the campground I took one final walk around the park. I saw one of the Gopher Tortoises out in the open. It wasn’t interested in my attempt to say goodbye. It steadily moved along away from me. I guess there is no reason to come back and visit.
Wednesday December 28th 2016
After spending yesterday driving and sight seeing all day, today was a stay at home day. It was a little cooler today, but still higher than the seasonal norms. There was nothing to complain about the weather and hard to write about in this blog. Writing about the weather when I don’t know what else to write about is one of my bad writing habits. It isn’t going to work tonight.
The highlight of the day was a half an hour spent lake side. One little heron was putting on a show as it bounced around looking for lunch. I sat on the bench with my camera snapping pictures. I’ve include three in this blog entry.
Watching to the right.
Watching to the left.
The heron was the only significant wildlife I saw on my walk today. As usual there were lots of geckos running around to stay out of my way as a walked along. The little things usually scramble onto a tree or shrub and watch as I walk by. If I show any interest in them they run around the trunk and up the tree. The first couple of times it is amusing.
One of the advantages of staying home today was cooking a big dinner. I’ve had a couple of pork chops in the refrigerator for awhile. It was either cook them or freeze them time. I chose to grill them and eat one along with a baked potato. The second one will get added to something like rice for another meal later in the week. For the most part the supplies in the refrigerator are now current. Nothing is going to spoil in the next few days.
Tomorrow is my last full day at the Lake Manatee State Park. On Friday I move up the road about 30 road miles. It’s a lot less as the crow flies. I’ll be spending the month of January in Ruskin FL on the shore of the Little Manatee river.
Tuesday December 27th 2016
Today’s adventure was a trip to Bok Tower and Gardens in the central part of the state. It took a couple of hours to get there, but it was well worth the trip. The gardens and the Pinewood Estate were decorated for Christmas.
The remainder of this blog entry is made up of some of the photos I took today.
Bok Tower across the pond.
Close-up of the side of the tower.
Poinsettias were used liberally as a decorative element
Christmas tree in the Visitor Center
Tree in the 1944 Christmas decoration in the Pinewood estate. This tree is in the day room.
Christmas tree in the Pinewood Estate Living room
Pond in the gardens
Brazilian Red Cloak?
Monday December 26th 2016
I woke up this morning and the clock read 9:30. While I might chose not to get up until 9:30, I’m usually wake up by 7:30. This late start set the trend for the entire day.
I lingered over my morning coffee and reading, before starting my daily walk around the state park. The sun was high in the sky and the temperature was in the 80s by the time I set out. Today I took a trail that I hadn’t been on yet. I didn’t see any wildlife on the walk, but I saw plenty of evidence that it exists. The edges of the trail and occasionally the trail itself have holes where animals have been digging. In most cases the holes seem to be from animals looking for bugs and other small food. A few of the larger holes are probably burrows for tortoises.
The wind today was brisk. All of the shore birds were on the far side of the lake sheltered from the wind. The state park side had all of the loose water plants blown tight to the shore. The boats getting loaded at the boat ramp were covered with green plants. It was so bad that you could follow a trail of green plants up the road toward the exit.
A Great Egret on the far side of the lake.
Late this afternoon I decided to see a movie. The Star Wars Rogue One buzz had raised my interests. I arrived at the theater complex to find a nearly full parking lot. People were heading into the building in large groups. I should have been suspicious, but I parked in the back of the lot and headed into the building. In the lobby the crowds were lined up to purchase tickets or redeem certain kinds of online purchases. The line was longer than I saw at Disney World a couple of weeks ago. I had half an hour until show time, but after 5 minutes I hadn’t moved. The odds were against me making it into the theater before the feature started, if I succeeded in purchasing a ticket at all. I decided to try again another day.
I think my overall patience was low today. First I bailed on the movie then I bailed on watching the sunset on Anna Maria Island. The backlog of cars going over the bridge was long. At first I thought it was a raised drawbridge, but it was just very slow moving traffic. After moving 100 feet in five minutes I turned around and headed home.
The moral of this story seems to be don’t sleep in. It turns the entire day upside down.
Sunday December 25th
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all.
My Christmas tree.
Today tied the record for the warmest Christmas day in the Tampa area. It was around 85 here today. It is forecast to be warmer than the 70 degree norm for most of the week. I really like the weather, but I can’t equate it with Christmas.
After Christmas dinner with friends it was time for the beach. Unfortunately, other people had the same idea. The parking lot at the award winning Sarasota County Siesta Key Beach was overflowing. A continuous stop and go flow of cars up and down the parking aisles didn’t produce any available space. I ended up at the beach on the south end of the island. There were a few parking spaces available.
The beach was full of people taking the sun and many that were actually in the gulf water. Walking along the water line, the water seem to be about 70 degrees. Not uncomfortable by northern standards and probably a little warmer than the Atlantic Ocean water I experienced at the beginning of the month.
Going to the beach on Christmas is becoming a habit. Last Christmas I traveled from my campsite in the Orlando area to Coco Beach on the Atlantic. I’m much closer to the gulf coast today. Next Christmas will be another story. If all goes according to plan I’ll be in the southwest next Christmas. The Pacific will probably be a little too far away for a day trip. Maybe Christmas of 2018 the habit will become a tradition.
Traffic all day has been heavy. I don’t know when people took time to open presents, eat or socialize. The local roads and the interstate were all full of cars going somewhere. I got back to the campground a little after 5:30. Usually the campground is settling in for the night by then, but tonight there has been a lot of cars returning to the campground. So the heavy traffic on the roads continued into the campground.
Saturday December 24th 2016
Today was a two tortoise day. On my walk through the state park I saw two of the slow moving shelled creatures. The first was in the campsite across the road from my site. It was in front of the trailer parked at the site. How it got there and where it was going is a mystery. It was gone when I got back from my walk.
Tortoise visiting the next site.
The second tortoise was in the day use area near where I saw one a couple of days ago. This one was a little more animated. It moved its head to track my movements around it. Both of the others froze when I got near them. It was nice to see proof that the animal was alive.
Tortoise in the day use area. This one was actually smaller than the one in the campground.
Most of the day was as sluggish as the tortoises. Until I left the park around four I watched a lot of television. The NFL football early games were entertaining, but once again the AFC game was not the Patriots game. Today the local market game was the Dolphins vs. Bills. I kept my eyes on the update scores across the bottom of the screen for the Pats score more than I paid attention to the game.
Little Blue Heron in the weeds at the lake.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.
Friday December 23rd 2016
I changed things up a little today. I went for my walk around the park this morning. Today didn’t start with fog and clouds like the last couple of days. It was sunny from the start.
I don’t know if was the morning time frame or that more people are off from work, but the lake was alive with boaters and fishermen. One group of 3 adults and about 7 kids were working on launching 4 kayaks and a canoe for some paddling and fishing. It was like watching the keystone cops. First they had to figure out what life vests fit what kid, then they tried to figure out what kids would be in what boat. Inevitably, the kid that ended up in a single seat kayak didn’t have a clue how to paddle a kayak. After watching this “show” for ten or fifteen minutes I continued on, but they still hadn’t launched.
Toward the end of the day I went out to run some errands otherwise known as shopping. Once again I didn’t remember it was two days before Christmas until I arrived at the store. I think my conscience still equates cold weather and snow with Christmas. The parking lot was close to full and I had to park in left field. Inside the store it wasn’t too bad. The isles were passable and the checkout lines were only one or two customers deep.
With a certain amount of false confidence I decided to try the stores at the next exit north on the Interstate. There is a Kmart and an Outlet Mall at the that exit. My luck started to drain away. The interstate was moving at about 30mph for the approximately six miles to the exit. The congestion on the surface streets getting to the Kmart was heavy. It took two traffic lights to get into the parking lot. The shopping at Kmart was a bust.
Outlet mall without decorations. The palm trees don’t work well with my idea of Christmas.
The next stop was at the Outlet mall. I was hoping to see Christmas decorations and maybe buy a Christmas present for myself. My luck continued on the negative side. There were next to no decoration in the mall areas or any of the stores. I almost bought a windbreaker style jacket at the Columbia Sportswear outlet until I calculated the price. After all the discounts the price dropped from $189 to around $60, but quality wise it was only a little better than a Walmart special at $40. I don’t like these games or I’m just being cheap.
Traffic returning to the campground was much better. With every mile closer to home my luck returned to be used another day.
Thursday December 22nd 2016
The weather forecasters fooled me again today. I thought the forecast was similar to yesterday and it started out that way. The day began very cloudy and cool. Yesterdays pattern had the sun breaking through late in the afternoon. My interpretation of the forecast for today was a slightly earlier clearing resulting in a few degrees warmer afternoon. Well, it cleared by 10am and got rather hot. It was a great day; just not what I thought it would be.
I went area exploring again today. So far every time I’ve departed the State Park I’ve turned right toward the gulf coast. Today I turned left at the main road followed by a right about a mile down the road. I passed through cattle land, a few citrus groves and a whole lot of nothing. Eventually I arrived at the outskirts of Port Charlotte. It wasn’t my destination, but it was my guess for my return to civilization based on the compass direction I was traveling.
I found the Tamiami Trail, route 41, and pointed the car to the north. This road was the complete opposite of my outbound trip. I passed strip mall after strip mall interspersed with new and old housing developments. In Venice I drove through the old downtown out to the gulf coast.
Venice FL inlet.
The South Jetty of the Venice inlet was filled with people enjoying the December day. Some folks were fishing from the jetty, but the majority of the people were sitting along the inlet waiting for a boat to go by. There was not a lot of traffic in the inlet. Out in the gulf a few boats were visible, but it didn’t look like it was a big boating day. Christmas is probably on peoples to do lists rather than boating. The parking lots for all of the retail business were full and other commercial business had empty parking lots. The holiday vacation has begun for many people.
From Venice I continued back north on the trail until I found major road heading inland to Interstate 75. The interstate was slow but steady. I got back to camp around 3pm. I had time for another walk around the state park before dark.
On my walk I finally got a good view of one of the gopher tortoises that I’ve heard in the brush and even saw the back end of during one of my earlier walks. This one was taking the sun in the day use area about 20 feet from the cover of the brush. It wasn’t real happy to see me taking pictures. It seemed to freeze as I got close. I took a few pictures than moved away to let it continue sun bathing or whatever it was up to.