My Planning Saga Continues

Tuesday April 30th 2019

My day got off to a bad start this morning. One of the campground staff decided to run a leaf blower not to far from my windows just after 8AM this morning. Normally I’m awake or just dozing with the TV on at that hour, but this morning I was still fully asleep. I watched TV until near 1AM. The loud sound of the leaf blower caused me to start the day long before I was ready. Most of the morning I felt like I should go back to bed.

Most of the blossoms on the Azalea bushes are drying up and falling off. Does that mean Florida Summer is arriving?

I’ve noticed in the past that the maintenance staff at this campground prefer to get things done early before the day heats up. Last time I stayed here they ran the lawn mower around my around 9AM. I assume they wait until the quiet hours are over at 8AM, but maybe they don’t even know their own rules.

I worked on my travel planning some more this afternoon. The lack of availability in some areas has made the booking process a real puzzle. I need to determine if I can get in if I arrive a day later or leave a day earlier. When I find I can get fewer nights than I want, I have to find alternatives to fill the gaps. Late this afternoon I thought I had it all figured out. I would stay at six campgrounds for extended stays of at least 5 nights to as long as two weeks with a couple of one or two night stops to break up long travel days. I started to book more of the reservations, only to find that one six day stay in Idaho that had been available wasn’t any longer. So now I’m fully booked through the 8th of July except for a six day period in Idaho during the middle of June. I’ll work on that tomorrow.

I’ve also determined that the scope of my summer travel was too ambitious. I will leave the Olympic Peninsular in Washington for another year. I will probably only visit the Mount St. Helens and Mount Rainier areas of Washington. That will give me more time to focus on both sides of the Cascades and the coast in Oregon.

Having to find quality stops and make reservations continues to be my biggest dislike associated with this life style. I would prefer to be more flexible and spontaneous. Public campgrounds all have different reservation windows. Some parks reservation windows are twelve months ahead, some are eleven months, and others are shorter like six months or even three months ahead. Private campgrounds vary even more. If they don’t have an online system it’s as confusing as when they will answer the phone. I knew I was going to head for the Pacific Northwest last summer and started some high level planning then. The reservation windows for the public campgrounds I prefer to stay at hadn’t opened yet. I didn’t stay on top of the planning, so a lot of my current torture is my own doing. I still don’t like it.

More Summer Travel Planning

Monday April 29th 2019

The Florida dry season has is still here. The chances of rain are about a week apart. It rained each of the last two Fridays and the next chance is next Friday. When the summer humidity arrives every day will have a probability of rain in the afternoon. May is the traditional start of the wet season, but it may be late this year.

My route to the west coast.

My primary focus today was travel planning. I have my travel route outlined for my departure from Florida in the second half of May until July in Oregon. I’ve booked the Memorial Day long weekend in Albuquerque New Mexico, flowed by a five nights in the Bryce Canyon Utah area. I’ve never been to Albuquerque and spent much time in the Bryce Canyon area. Continuing north in Utah, I’ll stop north of Ogden for a six nights. I want to visit the museum at Hill Air Force base and the Golden Spike exhibit at Promontory Utah.

Things are more confusing from there. I wanted to make a return visit to the Twin Falls Idaho area, but something is going on the week I’ll be passing through that area. I haven’t found anywhere with more than single night availability. I will probably book the week nights further west in Boise Idaho. I’ve got places to stay in north central Oregon, but no surprise the availability close to Portland is a problem as the Fourth of July holiday approaches. I’ll figure it out, but it’s taking more time and energy than I’d like. Once again I’m kicking my self for procrastination.

I still haven’t figured out if I’m going to turn north or south from Portland. It really comes down to how I want to escape back over the mountains at the end of summer. There are only two interstate routes to chose from. Interstate 84 goes east from Portland Oregon and Interstate 90 goes east from Seattle Washington. There’s another possibility through Bend Oregon but I’m not sure of the routes through the mountain passes. I could go south from Portland then out to the cost and north to Washington. With this route my escape is via Interstate 90 from Seattle. The other option is go north into Washington then out to the coast and back south into Oregon. I suspect I’d end up turning back east on Interstate 84 and not see the majority of coastal Oregon if I take this approach. I don’t want to complicate my travel with the San Francisco Bay and Sacramento California areas to use the Interstate 80 option into Reno NV. That is another year.

Blossom of the day.

New Locations Can Be Disorienting

Sunday April 28th 2019

Today was very much a day of rest. I didn’t leave the RV park. The extent of my activity for the day was a couple of walks around the campground. Most of my time was occupied by reading and watching TV.

After four full days at this park I’m still disoriented. My RV home is always the same, but its orientation to the outside world changes at every stop. When the blinds are closed you need to rely on memory to identify potential sources for things going on outside the rig. In a regular sticks and bricks house where the sun rises and sets doesn’t change. Your neighbors are always in the same places and the location of large disturbances like trains and traffic don’t move. At my last stop the RV pointed east and the road noise from Interstate 95 was in that direction. I got used to hearing the cars and trucks from the front of the RV. At this park, the RV is pointed west and the road noise is off to the south east. The sound of traffic is behind the RV. To add a complication this park also has a lot of train noise. One of the main north south train routes through Florida is on the other side of the highway. The rumble as the cars move along the rails and the horn blasts at the grade crossings are a frequent occurrence. None of the noise is a real issue once I know it’s normal. Not being sure of my orientation to the noise slows down my acceptance of the noise. Hopefully me disorientation with my surroundings will go away soon.

Pork chop I grilled for dinner.

Today’s lunch was a thick cut pork chop the size of a small steak. I grilled it to perfection between TV sports programming. When combined with potatoes and a can of corn it made a good meal.

A Visit to the Atlantic Ocean

Saturday April 27th 2019

The back side of the cold front that passed through yesterday is beautiful. The temperature and humidity are lower and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky during the day. The high temperature was around eighty.

A bright little blossom.

After a slow morning drinking my breakfast coffee and catching up on various internet news feeds, I took a drive to the coast. Guess what, the Atlantic Ocean is still there. My real destination was before I reached the ocean. I wanted to stop at the Gander RV store in St. Augustine. This is the recently renamed Camping World Store. The corporation that owns Camping World and Gander Outdoors is combining some of them into Gander RV stores. My initial reaction is both brands lost in the combination. Basically they made space in the Camping World store for fishing and hunting gear. There is less space for the RV supplies a Camping World store would normally offer and there isn’t much of the clothing category of items a Gander Outdoors store would offer. Maybe this will change in the future, but right now, I don’t get it.

There were plenty of people enjoying the beach. I stopped along A1A in Flagler County at a beach just south of Marineland. There was room to park, but it was a lot busier than other times I’ve stopped in the area. The beach is narrow in this area, but it was full of people. I even saw a few people out in the water. Most of the people on the beach had some sort of wind shelter to block the gentle sea breeze. I found the breeze refreshing.

Wildflower blossoms of the day.

I got back to my RV home at the supper hour. My road trip was a lot longer than I had anticipated after I drove south along the coast from St. Augustine. I returned along a route I haven’t traveled before. The route was through some very rural areas.

More Summer Planning

Friday April 26th 2019

The rain on the leading edge of the cold front arrived around 4AM. The noise on the roof was enough to wake me up. I didn’t hear any thunder and the wind didn’t sound to hard, so I went back to sleep. By the time I got up this morning the rain had been over for some time. The morning forecast called for another line of storms just before noon, but they never materialized. Compared with last Friday’s cold front this one was a non entity.

Blossoms on a tree.

Waiting for the second wave of rain that never came I got back into summer planning mode. The rest of my day was spent with research and indecision. Reviewing what I’d already decided on I realized I was moving fast. My original thought was to only stop for a day or two in areas I’d already traveled through. The problem with that approach is travel burn out. I’ve learned that I need to stay in one location for at least a week preferably two to have enough down time to stay energized for exploring. My ideal travel model calls for staying in one place for two weeks than moving two to three hundred miles for another two week stay. I can range out a hundred miles or more in my car at each stop.

The bottom line is once I get to western Idaho and Oregon I need to slow down. That means picking stops with good things to do within a hundred mile radius. It also means selecting campgrounds that have longer term availability. The other complication is familiarity with the terrain. I’m not sure the impact of the mountains on my ability to travel around. I’m taking the relatively safe route using Interstate 84 into the area, but what routes are motorhome friendly off the interstate corridor. It requires a yet more research.

Another tree blossom attracting a bee.

This RV park has come to life for the weekend. The last couple of days the park has been quiet with many open sites. Tonight there are fewer open sites and there are other signs the park is busy. One of those signs is the Internet access. The park WiFi is slower than a snail tonight. I’m going to have to switch to the cellular data connection on my phone to get this post published.

Wandering from Starke

Thursday April 25th 2019

The positive weather trend continued today. The temperature peaked in the high eighties with lots of sun and a gentle breeze. The front originally forecast for tomorrow may arrive early over night. Either way it will be a little cooler by the weekend.

This Amorilis was planted on an empty site. When the winter resident headed north they left the plant.

I didn’t do anything today that is particularly blog worthy. I finished setting up my campsite this morning and went out for a drive this afternoon. I found myself navigating the streets of Gainesville by the compass in my car. I knew the Interstate was to the west of town and the car was traveling west so logic said I should find the interstate. It just took a lot longer than I thought it would. I could have stopped and looked at Google Maps on my phone, but what fun would that have been.

Great Egret foraging in one of the campground ponds.

Overall I was driving around for about three hours. I saw many new things, but nothing that really caught my interest. I returned to my RV home and got some exercise walking around the campground.

Travel Day to Starke Florida

Wednesday April 24th 2019

It was a great Florida Spring day. The warming temperature trend continued with a peak in the high eighties. It is forecast to make it into the nineties tomorrow before the front arrives on Friday.

Today was a travel day. I got packed and ready to travel around 10:30 with only a little bit of drama. I always watch the tow bar in the rear view monitor as I start to move after hooking the car to the RV. The tow bar should lock into place with each of the arms full extended. Once in a while only one side will lock into place. If I can continue straight for a longer distance, it will usually lock in, but I can’t turn. Today I needed to turn, so I had to start over. I disconnect the car and repositioned it before re-hooking it to the RV. It worked fine the second time.

The drive was uneventful. I stopped at the Florida Welcome Center as I re-entered the state to get my teaspoon of orange juice and generally kill time. I had about seventy miles to travel but wanted to arrive after 1PM, so I browsed the brochures in the Welcome Center for a half an hour or so. In today’s Internet age, there are a lot fewer brochures offered. Years ago there were racks upon racks of unique brochures for all parts of the state. Today they’ve eliminated a couple of racks, but also repeat many state wide guide books on multiple racks.

Site 45 at the Starke Gainesville KOA.

I was set up on my new site at the Starke Gainesville KOA by 2PM. This is my second visit to this park this winter. I was here at the beginning of February. There are a lot more open spaces now. The campground is only about half full during the week, but will probably fill up on the weekend.

Getting in Some Travel Planning

Tuesday April 23rd 2019

The warming trend continued today. It was a few degrees warmer and a little more humid. The temperature peaked in the mid eighties. The trend is forecast to continue until Friday when another front passes through with a little rain.

One proud seagull on a piling.

Today is my last day in St. Mary’s Georgia for this trip. I spent some time today on the river in historic downtown St. Mary’s. There is a lot of construction going on to upgrade the area and fix damage from the 2016 and 2017 hurricanes that passed through the area. It was a nice day to watch the construction and the activity on the river.

Blossoms of the day.

Tomorrow I’m moving back to north central Florida. I’ll be in the Starke Florida area for the next three weeks. After that I begin my summer travels in the west. I spent time today working on my itinerary and reservations. The important Memorial Day holiday weekend reservations are in Albuquerque NM. I’ll spend about ten days to get there from Florida. I will probably take a route heading northwest from the Dallas TX area, but can always stay on the southern route on I-10 through Houston, San Antonio and El Paso. The weather will drive that decision.

Fountain in the park along the river in downtown St. Mary’s GA.

After Memorial Day in Albuquerque, I’ll stop at Lake Powell on the Arizona Utah border again. Then move north through south central Utah and stop for a longer visit at Bryce Canyon National Park. From there I’ll move north along Interstate 15 in the Salt Lake City corridor. Right now my plan is to stop for three nights in the Provo area and another four nights in the Brigham City area before heading northwest into Idaho. I only plan one stop at Twin Falls Idaho before moving on into Oregon. My paper calendar is getting well scribbled on and erased as I try to lock in some dates crossing Oregon. When I first started looking at places in Oregon and Washington, the booking window for the parks I wanted to stay at hadn’t opened. Now it has been open too long so I’m juggling other options.

Shopping Day

Monday April 22nd 2019

There were a few more degrees added to the high temperature today, but otherwise it was a repeat of Sunday’s beautiful weather. The temperature peaked in the upper half of the seventies with very few clouds, low humidity and a gentle breeze.

There are still a few “spring” blossoms on the trees.

Today was a shopping day. I drove to a big shopping area near the Jacksonville airport. There is a Walmart a lot closer to my RV Home, but it doesn’t have the myriad of other stores that surround the Walmart near the airport. In addition to groceries I need some new footwear and possible other new clothes. In the end, there were too many stores and none of them were right for my needs. I may visit the outlet malls in the St. Augustine before I leave the area.

The campground is not as full tonight as it has been. I’m not sure if the snowbird travel season has let up or if it’s just a lull in the migration. Even though there are fewer sites occupied tonight there may be more people in the campground. One of the big red touring bus camping dormitories is parked here tonight. It pulled in around 5PM. The driver and assistant with a little help from the passengers got the living quarters opened and started to prepare their evening meal. I counted about twenty people in the group. It looks interesting, but sleeping in the little coffin like bed space each passenger gets isn’t that appealing. The front half of the bus looks like an ordinary tour bus, but the back is a series of bedrooms across the bus stacked three high with access from the passengers side of the bus. They also have to use the campground restrooms. I’ve seen these buses every now and then on my Rambling Road Trip. I still haven’t figured out much about them. They seemed to be marketed to travelers from Europe judging by the language I couldn’t understand.

Blossom of the day.

Happy Easter

Easter Sunday April 21st 2019

The overnight temperature got down well below normal for this area at this time of year. It was in the forties when I woke up, but by the heat of the day it was in the mid seventies. Overall, it was beautiful day. I spent the day enjoying the nice weather outside on my patio with a few walks around the park thrown in for exercise.

Beautiful blue sky visible through the pine trees above my RV home.

I saw something a little out of the ordinary in the campground this morning. About half a dozen little kids were all dressed up running up and down the park roads. They were corralled a few minutes later by adults in shorts and tee shirts, but armed with a camera. It was Easter picture time. A few minutes later a big white rabbit arrived on the scene. I don’t know if it was planned or by coincidence, but someone in the campground was dressed in a bunny suite. The white rabbit was added to the picture taking.

The closest thing to an Easter Lilly I saw today.

By noon the campground was as empty as it has been since I arrived. All of the weekenders and travelers had checked out. I was surprised that it didn’t fill up as much this evening. There are plenty of empty spaces for a change. The ebb and flow of travelers along Interstate 95 would be an interesting study.

Blossom of the day.