Rain, Rain and More Rain

Thursday December 20th 2018

Today was all about the weather. The latest cold front moving in off the gulf brought strong winds and heavy rain. It rained lightly off and on over night. Around sunrise the first line of thunderstorms arrived. The sound on my roof was loud enough that even at full volume I couldn’t hear the TV from ten feet away. Thunder and lightening punctuated the rain from time to time.

A minor flood behind my RV.

Around seven thirty the first severe weather warning was issued by the National Weather Service. A tornado warning was issued for an area five or ten miles north of my location and moving away. I am familiar enough with the counties, towns and roads in the area that with good information I can localize the threat pretty quickly. When you aren’t familiar with an area you’re at the mercy of the graphics on TV or the radar image on a smart phone. The TV was useless this morning. Either the station didn’t have the right graphics software or the weather talker on duty was inexperienced. It was probably a little of both.

The first wave of storms was gone by nine. Three to five inches of rain were reported around the area and the main wave of storms was still moving in from the west. Walking around the outside my RV during the lull in the heavy rain, I found puddles four or five inches deep behind my RV. The campground loop road was also flooded not far up the road from my site. Before the day was out there were reports the county route from the campground back into Sarasota had flooded areas too.

Campground road flooding.

Around eleven this morning the weather radar showed the next line of storms was moving inland from the Gulf of Mexico. The rain and wind were picking up outside my RV. Around eleven twenty the weather radio and my cell phone both went off with alerts. A tornado warning had been issued. One of the areas mentioned in the warning was Myakka State Park. It’s a big park, but I wasn’t taking any chances. I grabbed my weather radio, cell phone and bicycle helmet and went across the street to the bathhouse. Four or Five other people had chosen to take refuge there as well. It’s a concrete block building that provides some shelter from the wind.

There may have been some wind rotation in the area, but it wasn’t at ground level. The threat was over after ten to fifteen minutes. The challenging part was finding a lull in the rain and navigating around all the big puddles to get back to my RV. The worst of the storms were east of the campground by early afternoon, but light rain continued the rest of the daylight hours. The TV continues to issue flood warnings and wind warnings for tomorrow.

I always have an idea of my options for shelter when I arrive at a new place, but this is the first time I elected to take shelter from the weather. This summer in the tornado prone states of the mid west I was lucky. The severe weather was always somewhere else while I was there. After I had moved on I heard of severe weather in the areas I had already traveled through.

A Tale of Two Days in One

Wednesday December 19th 2018

The morning began bright and sunny with a nice red sunrise. The temperature started climbing from the low fifties to a high in the upper half of the sixties. By noon the good day was over. The leading edge of the approaching front brought rain to the area for an hour or two. It was followed by a cool threatening day with a few brief rain showers. Not too far north of here it rained all afternoon. The rain is forecast to be back with a vengeance tonight and tomorrow. Three to four inches of rain are possible. There is also the possibility of severe thunderstorms and a slight chance of tornadoes tomorrow.

Blossom of the day.

I didn’t do a lot of blog worthy things today. The weather even kept me from visiting the birds and alligators. Since I was up early enough to see the red sunrise, I didn’t mind an impromptu nap on the coach this afternoon. It was a little longer than expected, so sleeping tonight might be an issue particularly with the sound of rain on the roof.

Driving and Construction

Tuesday December 18th 2018

Today was a few degrees warmer than yesterday with very little wind. It was a beautiful day, but still described as below normal temperatures by the TV weather talkers. I spent a lot of time behind the wheel of the car driving around the area.

There is a great deal of ongoing road construction in this state. It starts on the road from the state park to the interstate and resumes a little ways north on the interstate. All of the road improvements have a sign that describes the activity and its expected end date. The descriptions aren’t very helpful and the end dates are mostly in 2020. Hopefully it’s quality work, because it sure is slow work.

In addition to the construction, traffic is also getting heavy. People are arriving in the area for Christmas and/or the winter. The number of out of state license tags is increasing. When you put construction and traffic together you get a mess. I saw stopped traffic and a few fender benders in many of the construction areas today.

A pair of gators keeping warm in the sun.
Alligator in the water watching the Great Egret carefully. Lunch time?

At the state park, the birds and alligators are oblivious to all the people and traffic. The gators continue to take the sun on the river bank and the birds are finding plenty of food in the river. Today one of the gators actually took an interest in one of the birds. Nothing came of it, but I thought I might be witness to the food chain in action.

View upstream of the Myakka River as sunset approaches.

Return of the Crazy Cardinal

Monday December 17th 2018

When I was at this campground in March, I was located three sites down from here. A little red bird I named the Crazy Cardinal decided that my Motorhome needed to be attacked. I described it in my blog entry here.  This morning the Crazy Cardinal returned to wake me up shortly after seven. He repeated the same performance from March several times this morning. From the bushes about five feet from my dining area window the bird launches itself at my windows. Then he returns to the bushes and stares at the RV before repeating the process.

Starting position watching the RV closely. (picture taken through the window)
Getting ready to launch.
Darn that big thing is still there.

I do not understand what this behavior is all about. I’ve had it happen one other time to a lesser degree at another campground. This cardinal, which probably isn’t the same one as last time, is very intense at this behavior. I don’t think it is attacking a reflection it thinks is a rival. There just isn’t that good a reflection. There aren’t any bugs on the windows to eat, so I’m at a loss to figure out the reason. The one thing I’m sure of is how it annoys me.

Not as many alligators out of the water on a cool day.

The impact of the weekend cold front has arrived. It was a cool day with the temperature in the mid sixties. The wind was strong out of the north most of the day. Still, it was a warmer day than I had in Las Vegas at this time last year. I didn’t mind the weather there because I expected it to be cool to cold. Here, I expect it to be mostly warm. This weather roller coaster goes from a day or two around eighty to a day or two closer to sixty. The transition to cold is usually accompanied by rain and thunderstorms with lots of wind. Wednesday night and Thursday is the next big cold front in the forecast. I can’t wait! Yuk!

I need binoculars to be sure, but those big white birds may be white pelicans.
Great Blue Heron has found a nice lunch.
Roseate Spoonbills coming.
And going.

My late morning bicycle ride was cut short by the cold wind. I wasn’t dressed for it. Later in the day I drove to the back side of the park to visit the Bird Walk. The Bird Walk is a boardwalk out into the marsh along the edge of Upper Myakka Lake. There were some serious birders there with spotting scopes and lists to check off. I needed to bring my binoculars to see the birds out in the lake. I’ll go back better prepared another day. At the end of the day I took one more short bike ride to the Myakka River. The gators had ready gone to the bottom to stay warm.

Sunset over the Myakka river.

Why did I do that?

Sunday December 16th 2018

Today was one of those days where you ask yourself “Why did I do that?” more than once. It started with buying gas this morning. I had intended to buy gas in the Orlando area on Thursday, but I didn’t get around to it. This morning the first thing I needed to do once I left the park was fill the tank. The cheapest price I found was ten cents more per gallon than it was in the Orlando area. This was the first “Why did I do that?” of the day.

A couple of gators taking the sun.

The second kick in the pants of the day was a compounding of the first. When I was in Manatee county a few miles north of Sarasota, I saw gas for sixteen cents less than I paid in Sarasota. I need to remember that each county in Florida has a different tax structure when it comes to gas. Usually the price difference is not as dramatic. It was close enough between the counties in the Orlando area that you couldn’t be sure if it was tax or the natural variation between stations. On the other hand, Brevard county on the Atlantic coast had an eight to ten cents per gallon higher price.

Time for lunch. 
Another yummy morsel found. 

The next time I asked myself the question was on the way back home from my wandering in the Bradenton area. I stopped at the biggest mall in the area. It wasn’t for shopping or anything necessary. I just thought I’d check out the Christmas decorations. They were less than impressive. The question is why would a sane person get into all the traffic and park half a mile away on a weekend day before Christmas.

Roseate Spoonbill

I stopped doing questionable things when I got home. Riding my bicycle around the park was a very positive experience. There weren’t as many gators near the road today. It was probably too late in the day. I found plenty of birds willing to pose for photographs or at least not fly away before I snapped a picture. I’ve included a few in this blog entry.

Sunset over the Myakka River

A Potpourri Kind of Day

Saturday December 15th 2018

It was potpourri day. Both the weather and my activities were a very mixed bag.

Blossom of the day.

When the cold front arrived last night it really rained hard and long. It continued to rain off and on all night. Around ten this morning the rain let up and it began to slowly clear up. The sun made a brief appearance around noon before the clouds and rain started to creep back into the area. The temperature followed the same pattern. It went form the sixties in the morning to a high around seventy five only to return to the sixties.

Big alligator on the bank of the Myakka River.

My activity for the day were equally varied. I unloaded the bicycle and rack from the car for my stay here shortly after it stopped raining. Once the sun started to break through the clouds, I set off on a short ride to the Myakka River to visit the local alligators. There were a few of the modern day dinosaurs taking the sun on the banks along with a bird or two. I returned to my campsite with a plan to return later in the day, but the weather had other ideas.

Roseate Spoonbills

Back at my RV home after the bike ride, I switched modes from exploring to housekeeping. The laundry facility is right across the street from my site. I took the opportunity to replenish my clean clothes. It was nice not to have to sit in a little room with a bunch of noisy machines and guard your dirty clothes as they get washed. This washer and dryer were on the outside of the bathhouse in view from my site. I could do other things at home while the laundry “cooked”.

Great Egret

In between the unique events for the day, I made a couple of walking loops around the campground. This facility is very popular with people from the north. Unlike, my last stop at Lake Louisa state park, the majority of the sites are occupied by non Florida License plates. I have neighbors from Maine, Ohio and Virginia.

Travel to the Sarasota Area

Friday December 14th 2018

I hate rainy travel days. The rain began about 10AM just as I started some of the remaining outside tasks necessary to get on the road. It continued until I was almost at my destination just east of Sarasota FL. Once the rain stopped, the wind picked up and blew the RV around on the road. Between the rain and the traffic the hundred and thirty mile drive took nearly two and a half hours.

It remained mostly dry for the remainder of the daylight hours. I was able to get setup for my two week stay without getting wet. The rain was the precursor to a slow moving storm front that is expected to pass through the area tonight. It has been sitting off the coast in the Gulf of Mexico most of the day. Once it passes the temperature will again drop from today’s seasonable mid to upper seventies to the low sixties. The same storm front is causing issues up the entire east coast this weekend.

Site 70 at the Myakka River State Park in Sarasota FL as seen from the campground road beside the site.

I’m at the Myakka River State Park in Sarasota county. I stayed here last March for a couple of weeks and really enjoyed the park. There is good hiking and biking opportunities. Hopefully, the wildlife will be just as plentiful as it was in the spring. The only wildlife I don’t want to see again is the Crazy Cardinal that kept running into the side windows of my RV home.

Quick Visit to the Magic Kingdom

Thursday December 13th 2018

It was a warmer day today, but the wind and clouds were back. The high temperature for the day was in the low seventies during the brief time that the sun broke through the clouds late in the day.

This is my last day in central Florida until the middle of January. Tomorrow I travel about 130 miles to the Sarasota Florida area. While eating breakfast this morning, I made a spur of the moment decision to visit Disney’s Magic Kingdom. My goal was to see the Christmas decorations and maybe checkout a ride or two if the lines weren’t too bad.

Wilderness Lodge lobby Christmas tree.

I arrived at the Magic Kingdom parking lot around noon and preceded to turn a simple visit into a minor adventure. Instead of going straight to the Magic Kingdom, I took the monorail to EPCOT and caught a bus to the Wilderness Lodge to see the big Christmas tree in the lobby. I took the launch from the lodge to the Magic Kingdom. I didn’t experience any of the drama associated with Disney’s buses and monorail that has been common the last few weeks. They’ve had door issues on the monorails and one bus rear ended another one in the EPCOT parking lot earlier this week.

Cinderella’s castle at the Magic Kingdom

When I got into the Magic Kingdom people were lined up to watch the afternoon parade. I took this as an opportunity to catch a couple of rides in Tomorrow Land with shorter wait times. Once the parade was over the wait times were quickly back to near an hour on many of the attractions. I made a loop of the park checking out the decorations and proceeded to the exit. It was another hit and run visit to a Disney park that is possible when you have an annual pass.

Statue of Walt and the mouse.

Back at the campground I completed most of the outside packing tasks. I’m not going to rush out of here tomorrow, but rain is in the forecast for tomorrow. The worst of it is not due until later in the day, but why chance it. I still have plenty of inside travel prep to do after a two week stay.

Christmas at the Magic Kingdom

A Day of Wandering

Wednesday December 12th 2018

It was a great weather day today, but still cold by Florida standards. The temperature got to the mid sixties, with very little wind and bright sunshine. I would mind if today’s weather was repeated a few times. Unfortunately, tomorrow is forecast in the seventies and Friday will be warmer still with rain.

My new friend the turtle on the log. Once you know where to look he’s seems to be there every day.

I spent the morning watching TV and drinking my breakfast coffee while the temperature improved from the overnight low in the mid thirties. In the afternoon I visited a few stores without buying anything. It was mostly a form of exercise that broke up my wandering drive around the area. I continue to be amazed at the volume of traffic at times. Three lane roads can be completely full of cars between traffic lights at busy times of the day. At other times the road can be almost empty. The concerning thing is all the housing development underway. In this area of the state every time a citrus grove needs to be replanted either because of tree damage or age it seems to be sold to a developer. So much of the open land is being developed into condos or tightly packed housing. What will the traffic look like when the new homes are occupied?

State Park cabins on the far side of Dixie Lake at sunset.

Back at the campground late in the afternoon I walked around the sites. It looks like every site is occupied tonight. Most nights before tonight a few sites were open. The character of the residents has also transitioned. Tonight there were far more people out walking or being walked by dogs. One lady was even “walking” her well groomed standard poodle from her electric convenience vehicle.

Washed out sunset tonight. There just wasn’t the right amount of water vapor in the air.

Christmas Decorations at a Few More Disney Resort Hotels

Tuesday December 11th 2018

The thermometer said today was even colder than yesterday. From my perspective it still required the same number of layers of clothes, so it wasn’t any worse or any better. It’s just different from the last few Decembers I’ve spent in Florida.

Today was a split mode day. The first have of the day I was in regular living mode and the second half I was back in tourist mode. This morning I started to do the laundry, but found I was out of a critical ingredient. I used the last of my Tide Laundry Pods the last time I did a load of wash. The pods are easy to store and carry to the laundry facilities, so I prefer them over a container of liquid soap. I made a run to Walmart for laundry supplies and quite a few other things including a cooked chicken for lunch.

By the time I got home and ate some of the chicken for lunch, it was time to turn into a tourist. My plan was to go to EPCOT, visit a few of the attractions then slip out the International Gateway entrance and check out the decorations at all of the EPCOT area hotels. The idea was to use the walk around the five hotels to kill the time before the Illuminations nighttime show. My timing was off. It was only 7:30 when I got back to EPCOT after my resort hotel tour. With the temperature in the mid forties I chose to return home rather than wait around for the show. Here are some of the pictures I took.

Disney’s Boardwalk

Gingerbread Village in the Boardwalk lobby
Christmas tree in front of the Boardwalk Resort Hotel

Disney’s Yacht Club

Christmas Tree in the lobby of the Yacht Club Resort Hotel
Village and train track

Disney’s Beach Club

Gingerbread Carousel in the Beach Club Lobby

Swan & Dolphin

Chocolate Santa’s village at the Swan
Christmas tree in the Dolphin Lobby