Slow Day in Starke

Tuesday January 31st 2017

What a difference a couple hundred miles makes. It got down to the mid to low 30s last night. When I got up this morning it was 48 degrees inside the motorhome. The temperature returned to the mid 70s by afternoon. I am in norther Florida so this type of weather is not unusual. It is not forecast to be as cold tonight.

I got a slow start this morning. This is partly because of the cold, but also because of my busy day yesterday. I woke up this morning with a couple of new aches and pains. I bumped my knee at one point yesterday. It hurt for a couple of minutes than went away. This morning it was stiff for awhile. Just one more reminder that the years are accumulating.

This campground is right on the busy north-south US highway 301. The area is very commercial with a strip mall next door and a car dealership and Walmart a short distance the other way. Across the busy highway is a busy railroad track. There is no way this area would be called quiet, but it isn’t bad in the campground.

This campground is mostly filled with winter residents. There seem to be very few sites for shorter stays. This afternoon I saw 3 units turned away from the full camp. Since I wasn’t watching all the time there were likely more. This is a friendly park. People greet you with a good morning or hello as you walk by. This is very unlike the park I spent the past month at. My sense is this park has more RVers than snowbirds in residence. The basic difference being the RVers have less of a sense of ownership that people coming year after year to the same place develop.

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Little Blue Heron in the drainage pond.

Other than a trip out for groceries and to check out the town, I spent most of the day sitting outside reading. I took a couple of walks around the campground. There is drainage pond that isn’t only partially full in this winter dry season. Even so, they have beware of Alligators signs up. I indication that any were present, just one lonely little blue heron.

Travel Day and Circus Train

Monday January 30th 2017

I departed the Tampa Soutn RV Resort in Ruskin Fl shortly after ten this morning. I manuvered the camper around on my site to make room to hook up my car so I wouldn’t block any of the campground roads. That wasn’t difficult, but getting out of the campground with the car hooked up was a slow, tedious process. Other challenges to my travel to Starke Florida were to come.

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Site 35 at the Starke Florida KOA.

The next challenge of the day was the wind. The wind was blowing strong from the west today. I fought a cross wind all the way up Interstate 75. It requires more concentration, and increases the impact of fast moving tractor trailers passing. I passed a couple of towed RVs (i.e. trailers) that were having a much more difficult time with the wind. I thought one of them was going to loose control for sure.

I also needed to fill the gas tank on the way. The station I planned to get gas at was packed with cars, trucks and RVs. Getting in and out of the station wasn’t possible, so I continued on my way. I start looking for gas before I get to a quarter of a tank so I had a good margin of travel. At the first rest area on the Interstate I did a Google map search for another gas station. I use the satellite view to scope out the access to the station. The gauge showed less than a quarter when I put 56 gallons of gas into the tank.

The next two challenges were routine. The interstate was blocked by an accident. I was completely stopped for ten to fifteen minutes followed by five or six miles of very heavy traffic. All of this was followed by a decision on which route to take off of the Interstate. My built in GPS and Google were at odds. Google’s route looked better, but it doesn’t understand I have a big RV like the built in GPS does. Once I saw that many trucks were following the Google route, my decision was easy. I followed the Google route and let the built in GPS “Recalculate”.

I arrived at the KOA in Starke FL after traveling for about four and a half hours. I’ll be here for three nights. The campground is much better than the one I left. This campground has grass instead of crushed shells. The distance between sites is thirty or forty feet instead of the twelve I had for the last month. The nightly rate is even cheaper here.

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Long and curios train with a mix of vehicles and cargo boxes.

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It’s the Ringling Brothers Circus Train.

The trip north was not all challenges. I had an opportunity to see a soon to be extinct thing. I traveled parallel to the rail tracks carrying the Ringling Brothers Circus train. It was a very long train for the east with at least two engines. My speed was a little faster than the train so I was able to pass it from back to front over several miles. The back of the train contains flatbed cars with circus containers, construction equipment and personal vehicles. The front of the train had passenger style cars and matching enclosed storage cars.

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Train pictures taken through the windows as I traveled parallel to the tracks.

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Sleeping cars, office cars or something similar.

Since Ringling Brothers has announced that it will shut the circus down at the end of May, I feel lucky to have seen the train. I’m not sure if this is the unit that was in Tampa over the weekend or the other unit. From the circus’s website it could be either unit heading for the Carolinas for next weekends shows.

Travel Preparation Day

Sunday January 29th 2017

The first half of the day was all about rain. It rain over night into the late morning then struggled to dry out for the rest of the day. The temperature stayed in the mid 50s all day.

This is my last day at the Tampa South RV Resort. Tomorrow I’ll start my way west for the month of March in Arizona. My first stop will be about 200 miles north of in Stark Florida. I’m not going to spend a few days in that area before turning west.

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Today’s Pelican Picture

Since I’ve been here a month, a lot of stuff needs to be packed up. The longer I stop, the more things get left out of their storage locations. I’ve got the outside preparations complete. The bicycle has been loaded on its carrier and the RV’s wheel covers have been stored. Inside, the dishes have are clean and stored away along with the appliances that came out during my stay. The coffee maker is the only appliance left for the morning.

I also took advantage of the laundry facilities at this resort. They have five washers and dryers in a very clean facility that aren’t too expensive. I don’t know when I’ll have my next opportunity to catch up on the laundry. It takes time and a decent looking facility. When I’m on the move the dirty laundry usually accumulates until I need something that’s dirty, I start running out of clean clothes or I stop for more than a night at a campground with good facilities.

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Today’s flower picture

I plan to get underway around ten in the morning. This will mean I have to get up when I wake up. I can’t turn on the TV and role over like I’ve been doing lately. It is always difficult to get into travel mode after being in one place for a month or more.

Manatees at Last

Saturday January 28th 2017

The weather has turned from above normal temperatures to below average temperatures. Today’s high was in the mid 50s. It was a cloudy day with a breeze off the water that made feel even cooler.

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Manatees in the cooling canal. Each smudge in the water is one or more manatee.

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Closeup of some of the manatee out in the canal.

The good news is it brought the manatees into the power plant cooling canal at the Manatee Viewing Center. It’s really an interesting symbiotic relationship. The cold weather means more power needs to be produced to heat peoples homes. The increased heat from the power plant puts more heat into the cooling canal warming a bigger area of water. The manatees seeking water over 70 degrees come into the cooling canal in greater numbers. The water temperature in the cooling canal today was over 80 degrees but air temperature was in the 50s. Earlier in the month when the air temperature was near 80, the water temperature was only in the 70s. Today was the first day I saw three out of four smoke stacks putting out smoke. Earlier in the month there were only one or two stacks with smoke coming out.

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Manatee nosing up for air near the viewing platform.

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Two manatees coming up for air. Notice the scars on the near one.

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Manatee moving under the viewing platform.

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Barnacles on the back of a manatee.

There were many manatees out in the canal and several up close to the viewing platforms. The scar patterns on some were clearly visible. Others had barnacles on their backs. Many of the manatees hover just below the surface with their backs above the surface others swim along breaking the surface periodically with their noses to breath. I think most of the manatees are swimmers, not hoverers. Since I counted over 30 hoverers, it is a good bet there were close to a hundred manatees in the canal. The informational monolog played on the PA system at the viewing center says they have seen over 300 during extended periods of cold weather.

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Bird picture of the day.

With the manatee up close to the viewing platform, the fish that are normally visible seem to be elsewhere. There still in the canal because an occasional fish will jump out of the water as you watch for the manatee to surface. Considering that all of the action of the birds and even the spectators above the surface was slowed down because of the cold, the action in the water was fun to watch. I saw one bird and all of the visitors were bundled up and moving slowly. Other than the folks at the viewing platform rails watching the manatee, the longest line was at the concession stand for coffee and hot chocolate.

An Indoor Kind of Day

Friday January 27th 2017

The cold front that started to impact the area yesterday moved through last night. There wasn’t any significant stormy weather, but the temperature started to fall. Today’s high temperature was in the sixties. The high tomorrow is predicted to around 60 degrees.

The gloomy weather put me into a food focused mood. I had hot cereal for breakfast. The last time the oatmeal was out of the cabinet was last spring. It really hit the spot this morning. I imagine it will start a trend of oatmeal for breakfast until the warm weather catches up with me.

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Today’s Pelican picture. They are sheltering from the cold wind.

Next up on my food focused day was baking some brownies. I have used the convection oven for muffins but this was my first attempt at brownies. I used a mix designed for an 8×8 pan and it came out fine. Unfortunately, they are already half gone. The extra walk around the campground was not nearly enough exercise to offset the minor gluttony.

The next culinary experiment was cooking up some stew beef to serve over noodles. It could best be described as beef burgundy with out the burgundy cooked on the stove top. I’ve cooked similar concoctions before, but this is the first time in the RV. It came out fine after an extended low and slow cooking. I only had to reset the smoke alarm once. The slightest wisp of cooking odors will set it off. I need to look into swapping this detector for one designed for kitchens.

The cooking jag, kept me at home all day. This morning I watched as several RVs departed the campground. I suspect after a month or so in residence. They were here when I got here. Later in the day new tenants arrived for the vacated long term sites and weekenders arrived for the few transient sites. I suspect my site will not be empty long after I leave on Monday.

A Slow Day in the Tampa Bay Area

Thursday January 26th 2017

Today was one of those days that I let the weather get in the way. There was nothing really bad about the weather, just a handy excuse to do nothing.

The day started out foggy and humid. The fog lifted, but clouds remained through the middle of the day. Just as I was getting ready to go out in search of something fun to do, the forecast storm front arrived. I should have just kept going. If I had any real plan, I probably would have. As it is I turned the TV back on and picked up my tablet. The wind and rain only lasted a few minutes. The afternoon turned out to be partly cloudy, a little less humid and warm. It was too late. I was focused on reading with the TV providing background noise.

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Pelican picture of the Day

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Flower picture of the Day

The fact that I haven’t been on the run every day to see things tells me I’ve been in the area too long. It isn’t that I’ve run out of things to see, just that I’ve hit the high points and need to search for more fun things. I can do that before I return to the area next year. I’ve been in Florida for close to 6 months now. I’m winding down here in the Tampa Bay area and I’m looking forward to getting on the road in the next few weeks.

More Manatee Viewing

Wednesday January 25th 2017

It was another nice January day in Florida. I don’t take that for granted. It is one of the reasons I adopted this nomadic life style. I can be where the weather is more comfortable in the winter and the summer. The storm front that passed through here Sunday into Monday as heavy rainstorms hit the northeast as a wintery mess. My last winter in New England, the 2014-2015 winter, was a record for cold and snow. It helped spur the move into the motorhome.

When I leave here next week I’ll be going north to go west. I anticipate much cooler temperatures and more rain. As long as I stay on the southern route along Interstate 10, I should be OK. Ice is and a little snow is possible, but I’ll watch the forecast and hole up for a day or two as necessary.

Today was focused on house cleaning. I dragged the vacuum cleaner hose and attachments out of the basement and chased the dust bunnies around the floor. For the last month I’ve had the windows open during the day while staying in dusty locations. Things inside got a good coating of wind born dust. I need to pickup some furniture polish to help clean the dust from the counters and woodwork. I don’t carry a mop, so I had to get the big sponge and a bucket to wash down some of the floor. I may live in a motorhome, but I still have to clean.

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A manatee nose on the left and a tail on the right. The picture was a few seconds late for the whole back that goes with the tail.

This afternoon I made another trip over to the Manatee Viewing area to get my nature fix for the day. The manatees were near the viewing area, but not right beside it. It was possible to see some of the identifying scars on the back of a couple of them. Naturalists keep track of the manatees by recording the patterns of scar tissue caused by boat props on the animals backs. Even though I see lots of signs on waterways warning to boaters to travel at idle speed and be on the lookout for manatees, they continue to be hit by boats.

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Two manatees in the glare from the sun. The one on the left has three parallel white scars and the one on the right has a single white scar.

I spent about an hour watching the manatees and fish in the cooling canal. There were fewer visitors at the view center today. One of the retired power plant employees that volunteer at the center indicated that the mild winter thus far was thought to be the reason the number of manatee was lower than usual. With January coming to an end, the temperature is going to start to go up. This may be a slow year overall for manatee. When the gulf and rivers remain warm enough they will stay in those locations because there is food. The cooling canal doesn’t have anything for them to feed on.