Another Day for the Birds

Friday April 30th 2021

The bright sunny day was prefect to return to the Merritt Island National Wildlife Reserve. My destination today was the seven mile Black Point Wildlife Drive. The drive is along gravel roads atop dikes between marshes. The marsh area is home to many varieties of birds, alligators and other wildlife. Today I didn’t see any gators and the bird population was limited. I blame the time of year. Most of the migratory birds have already headed north.

Marshes along the Black Point Wildlife Drive.

Many of the birds I did see were hard to identify. I suspect I was seeing some birds in mating plumage and others were older juveniles changing to their adult feathers. The wildlife drive wasn’t too busy. I only saw about three other cars while driving and a half dozen at the observation tower trail parking lot. It was easy to stop in the middle of the road when you spot something interesting.

I did some more driving around checking out various sights before returning to the campground. The park is in full weekend mode. The campsites are a little too close together for all the people and activities on the weekend.

Another Visit to Port Canaveral

Thursday April 29th 2021

Last night as I was getting ready for bed I had the opportunity to watch out the window the latest SpaceX launch. The Falcon 9 booster lifted another sixty small internet relay satellites into orbit. I’ve seen a number of launches from outside view points, but this was the first one that I watched from inside. Somehow the fact that I was watching from my RV home made the sight all the more spectacular. It was like the launch came to me rather than my having to go to it.

This afternoon I took another trip to Port Canaveral. I thought I might see the expended booster coming back into port on the landing barge. It was probably too soon. The area of the port that I saw the last booster on my Monday visit was empty. I spent a couple of hours wandering around and sitting in the shade watching the water from the Cove restaurant and entertainment area of the port. I might have stayed longer if I had a more comfortable seat. The lack of a back rest on the bench I was sitting on started to get to me.

Azalea lined path from the parking area to port.

It was a sunny, humid and warm day in the eighties. Once again the breeze off the ocean kept the temperature down. Watching various types of vessels moving around the port was a pleasant way to spend some time. Between boats I watched the fishermen trying to catch Spanish Mackerel while avoiding the interest of the pelicans. The birds seem to think a fish on the line is fair game. The pelicans went without any fish from the fishermen today, but the fishermen didn’t catch anything either.

I headed back to my RV home a little before 3PM. Checking the port webcam this evening I saw the Disney Dream cruise ship at its terminal. If I had hung around another hour and a half, I’d of been able to watch the ship arrive. The maritime traffic web site reports that it arrived around 4:30pm. Likely it will be gone in the morning. The cruise ships seem to come in just long enough to take on supplies and rotate crew members.

The campground is busy tonight. There were empty spaces earlier in the week, but tonight it seems to be full or close to it. Some of tonight’s residents will probably be here for the weekend, but I’m sure there will be turnover in the morning.

A Slow Wednesday

Wednesday April 28th 2021

I don’t have a lot to write about in this blog entry. My desire to maintain a regular commentary with recollections of my Rambling Road Trip compels me to write a few words. Once again this entry will be more about the weather and grocery shopping than anything exciting.

A discussion about today’s weather is really only worth about one sentence. It was a beautiful day with a nice sea breeze that kept the high temperature in the low eighties.

Today’s activity was focused on the chores of life. I did some cleaning around the Rv for a while before venturing out of the RV park. My destination was the Walmart about ten miles away in Titusville. My quick consumable groceries like bread, milk and orange juice were in need of replenishment. Last year at this time, during the stay at home period, I would have just raided my freezer and made other things stretch. I’m back to a pattern of grocery shopping at least once a week.

I’m not sure if it is Walmart in general, or just this one, but the signs requiring masks are missing from the entrance area. An employee was still wiping down the carts and appeared to be counting capacity. Most everybody was still wearing a mask in the store. This is consistent with public opinion and local government action in the area. People are clamoring for lifting county mask mandates and government officials are trying to be very cautious. In the last couple of days three of the area counties have established gradual approaches to lifting mask requirements that correspond to lower virus positivity rates and increased vaccination levels. That along with the stepped up information campaign to get people vaccinated seems to be the way for the next few weeks. Let’s hope we are on the path back toward a more normal flow of life.

Merritt Island NWR Visit

Tuesday April 27th 2021

After a slow start to the day I got motivated around noon. My destination was the Merritt Island National Wildlife Reserve. The sea breeze is keeping the temperature down making today a great day to tour in the reserve.

The Merritt Island NWR is across the Indian River from Titusville. It encompasses land that is also part of the Canaveral National Seashore and the Kennedy Space Center. It is usually a good place to see birds, gators and manatee. Today was usual. The reserve is working under confusing pandemic precautions. The visitors center is only open Friday to Sunday in a tent in the parking lot. The nature trail at the visitors center was open today, but I saw more people than wildlife.

The manatee viewing area at the Haulover Canal is currently closed. It is unclear if it is for maintenance or COVID reasons. I saw signs that indicated both reasons. The boat launch area on the other side of the drawbridge from the viewing area was full of empty boat trailers. Most of the boats were probably in the canal. There were a lot of people fishing in the canal, although I didn’t see anything caught.

Brown Pelican

I didn’t drive the seven mile Black Point wildlife drive today. In the past I’ve seen alligators and lots of different bird species on the drive. I’ll make the drive another day while I’m in the area. Overall I was surprised at the lack of birds. I saw a couple some pelicans and a couple of egrets, but I didn’t see any herons or ducks. One of the birds I thought was an egret turned out to have brown color coloring on its back when I looked at the picture I took. Now I’m wondering if its something else.


A Visit to Port Canaveral

Monday April 26th 2021

Yesterday’s rain and humidity was long gone this morning. Today was a warm day in the eighties with a nice breeze and not a lot of humidity.

After completing the setup tasks it was too humid to struggle with yesterday, I took a drive around the area. I didn’t have any real goal in mind beyond filling the car’s gas tank. I ended up at Port Canaveral. If I could have gotten reservations at Jetty Park, I would have been staying there rather than my current location about thirty miles away.

Sailboarders on the Banana River.

My first stop along the way was at Kelly Park on Merritt Island. The nice little park and boat launch on the Banana River is a great place to watch water activities. I’ve seen kite boarders in the past, but today was a day for sailboards. There were people of various skill levels on the river. One guy was speeding back and forth taking full advantage of the wind, while several others were struggling to stay upright. It was more fun watching those with less skill crashing into the river before getting back up on the board.

Once I got to Port Canaveral I parked at The Cove. The dinning and entertainment area of the port was busy but not as busy as it could be this time of year. All of the restaurants were set up for socially distant dinning, but I wasn’t there for that. I stopped to watch the activity in the port. None of the Cruise ships that call the port home were in port. It is cheaper for the ships to anchor out in the waters between the US and the Bahamas and only visit the port when they have a need. The Port is struggling without the cruise traffic, but is still busy with shipping.

SpaceX Falcon 9 booster.

Along side a bulkhead on the north side of the port was a barge with a used SpaceX booster rocket. I think it is the booster that lifted the Crew Dragon 2 capsule into space last week. It is a very large soot covered cylinder, but if you didn’t know what it was you would probably dismiss it as a piece of junk. It would be interesting to see the cranes take the booster off the barge so it can be transported back for refurbishment.

The port is used a lot for NASA related activities. A set of rocket engines for NASA’s next moon capable rocket is in route from Louisiana. I’d like to see that arrive at the port in the next few days. I’ll keep checking on the internet to see if I can deduce when it arrives.

Another Rainy Travel Day

Sunday April 25th 2021

I was up by 7:30AM to allow plenty of time to get ready to depart before the 11AM checkout. The early morning weather report described a severe thunderstorm with a possible tornado northeast of Orlando in the Flagler beach area. The front the storm was associated with was moving slowly south along the Florida peninsular.

It seems like many of my moving days this winter have had bad weather. Certainly my last move in the middle of April was very wet from start to finish. Today’s weather was not as long lasting. I managed to get packed up and depart the Davenport area around 10:45. The storms had still not reached the area. Traffic in the Kissimmee area was heavy. As I traveled east the sky to the north kept getting darker and darker. The bad weather was getting closer. Once I was east of St. Cloud and clear of the congested area, I turned northeast and ran straight into the rain.

I was on a narrow 2 lane road with plenty of oncoming traffic. My windshield wipers were on full speed along with the defroster to keep the forward visibility in the acceptable range. The oncoming traffic was visible provided the drivers had remembered to turn on their headlights. To avoid hitting the oncoming traffic it was necessary to travel through the puddles on the side of the road. It was a tense twenty five miles or so before I reached Interstate 95. The rain let up as I traveled north.

Site 109 at the Titusville Kennedy Space Center KOA.

I arrived at the Titusville Kennedy Space Center KOA at 1:15PM. It took two and a half hours to travel ninety miles. The rain had let up completely. I was able to setup without getting wet from the rain. The high humidity helped to get me wet from perspiration. One more brief shower passed through after I was setup, but the front is now well south of the area. Most of the week is supposed to be warm and dry.

A good nights sleep is on the menu for tonight. The knowledge of inclement travel weather didn’t allow for a very satisfying rest last night. I would certainly like a few dry travel days for my next few moves. I’ll be here until the middle of next week.

Last Day in Davenport

Saturday April 24th 2021

Today’s weather is on the wrong side of the roller coaster. It was cloudy and humid with the possibility of showers. Another cold front is moving in from the northwest. The forecast for tomorrow calls for scattered thunderstorms. It doesn’t seem to be as severe a forecast as the last couple of storm fronts to pass through the area.

There wasn’t much on my agenda for the day. I split my time between relaxing and catching up on a few chores. Tomorrow is a moving day, so I also got started on picking up and packing up. Checkout time is 11AM. It will be a busy morning.

I’m heading for the east coast of Florida for a week or so. It will be about ninety miles along mostly local roads. Hopefully traffic and weather won’t be a big issue.

Visiting with Turtles and Gators

Friday April 23rd 2021

I thought today would be a good day for a bike ride. My bicycle didn’t agree. The recent rain got into the front brake cable and thoroughly gummed up the works. A few minutes of struggle and copious amounts of penetrating oil didn’t result in a working brake. I left the oil to do its thing and headed off to the bike trail for a walk.

Van Fleet Rail trail looking north from the Green Pond Station parking lot.

Today’s exercise was a 2.5 mile walk from the Green Pond parking lot on the Van Fleet rail trail to the bridges that cross moving water on the Polk County Lake County line. If I had my bicycle, I’d have gone a few miles further north along the trail. The part of the trail I walked is straight and flat all the way.

County line about 2,5 miles north of the Green Pond Station Parking Lot.

The bridges over the moving water is the first area with significant wildlife to observe. The swampy water was full of turtles and alligators. On one side of the bridge there were little turtles and big turtles taking the sun on logs and clumps of vegetation. Nearer to the bridge there were several small alligators hovering in the water with their heads out and on high ground.

The other side of the bridge from the turtles was home to a few more little gators and a couple of bigger ones. They still weren’t huge gators. A little further up the trail at the second bridge a full size adult gator was taking the sun. There weren’t any turtles or little gators around. Perhaps that is how the gator got so big.

When I got back to the campground late in the afternoon, I expected to see the sites filled with weekend campers. I had a couple of new neighbors, but overall the campground still had many empty spaces. I don’t get what drives occupancy at this park. It was mostly empty the first week I was here. Last weekend it filled up and it remained busy most of the past week. Yesterday and this morning it emptied out and it doesn’t seem to be filling for the weekend.

A Visit to Bok Tower and Gardens

Thursday April 22nd 2021

Today was the perfect day I’ve been waiting for to visit Bok Tower and Gardens. The weather was bright, sunny and not too hot. Best of all there was an Earth Day carillon concert.

I like to visit the gardens when I’m in this area during the spring. It has been a few years since my last visit. They have completed some upgrades and expansion to the gardens. The main walkway is now paved and carves a longer path through the gardens. This late in April is a little late in the spring to see all the Azalea bushes in bloom, but there were still some to go with all the other flowering plants.

The gardens were busy, but there were still plenty of benches to sit and listen to the birds or the carillon. Everything was very pretty and the half hour long carillon concert was enjoyable. I took lots of pictures some of which I’m including here.

A Day of Meandering

Wednesday April 21st 2021

The weather has returned to the good side of the roller coaster. It was bright and sunny in the mid eighties today with very little humidity. The next couple of days are forecast to be similar.

I set out today to explore the area to the northeast of here in the direction of a vast void of roads supporting through traffic. That vast area is Walt Disney World. Things are changing quickly. The area to the west and northwest of Disney is getting developed at a rapid pace. The land on both sides of the 429 toll road that passes north south on the far west side of the Orlando Metro area is loaded with construction. New housing developments, shopping centers, office buildings and even a hospital are in various states of completion. In another few years it will look just as developed and congested as the areas north, east and south of Disney World.

After winding my way through the construction zones and circumnavigating Disney, I ended up well northwest in Minneola. I parked at the Minneola trailhead to the South Lakes bike and walking trail. The trail runs west to east in southern Lake county from Groveland through Clermont and Minneola to the West Orange Trail at the Orange county line west of Orlando. I walked a short way along the trail that parallels old state route 50.

The Minneola trailhead is a park with a playground, ball fields and a skateboard park. The section of trail I walked was a moderately hilly paved path. The tree lined shaded walkway passed between houses and open land. One area was lined with azalea bushes. I went a little crazy taking pictures of the red blossoms. The trail was moderately busy with eastbound bicyclist, but I never saw any heading west. I need to come back some time with my bicycle (I think I’ve said that before).

Getting back to my RV home was a challenge. The traffic late in the afternoon was very heavy. I seemed to catch every red light and even had to wait more than one cycle at a couple of the intersections. As with most metro areas there are certain times of the day you don’t want to be on the road.