First Full Day at Lake Louisa State Park

Tuesday January 18th 2022

Most of December temperatures in Florida were well above normal. The first part of January was about normal. The last couple of days seem to be the start of a below normal trend. Today’s high temperature was twelve to fifteen degrees below normal. The high temperature was fifty eight in this area today.

At 7:30 this morning the inside temperature in my RV home was forty four. I turned on the heater and got back under the covers in my warm bed. After a few long busy days in a row, I took the opportunity to catch up on my sleep. When I finally got up the inside was comfortable in the seventies. It was only in the low fifties outside. It really was a nice weather day looking at it from the big picture. It was not cold and snowy or hot and humid.

Turtles on a log.

Today was a pretty routine first full day at a new location. I completed the setup tasks I didn’t get to yesterday and took a walk around the campground to check out the area. The changes from my stay in early December are subtle. The water level in the two lakes may be a little lower and the type of wild flowers that were in blossom are no longer brightening the area. I also saw fewer turtles taking the sun on one of their favorite logs. That may be a result of the cooler weather. Maybe more turtles will be out in the next couple of days which are forecast to be warmer.

The lake was much calmer today. Yesterday it was filled with white capped wind driven waves.
Cabins in the setting sun.

I got in two and a half walks around the campground today. The first was in the early afternoon, the second was at sunset and the third “half walk” was a trip out on the fishing pier to attempt to see the Falcon 9 rocket launch from Cape Canaveral. The 7:04PM scheduled launch didn’t happen. It was moved to 9:02PM. Rather than taking another cool dark walk, I just turned out my lights and watched out the window of my RV home at 9:02PM. The ascending fireball was visible in a slightly different direction than I expected, but I managed to see it. In some ways it is more impressive to watch from seventy miles away than from five to ten miles away on the coast.

Return to Lake Louisa State Park

Monday January 17th 2022

The weather has taken a turn to the cold side. Today’s high temperature was no more than sixty. The full sun was offset by a strong wind out of the west. Wind gusts near 30mph were reported in the area with the average sustained wind speed around 15mph.

Today was a moving day. I had a twenty five mile drive to Lake Louisa State Park in Clermont. This is my second two week state at Lake Louisa this winter. It has been thirty one days since I departed on December 17th. I am on a different pull trough site in the middle area.

Site 27 at Lake Louisa State Park in Clermont Florida.

Check out time at Fort Wilderness is 11AM. People start leaving early and the Disney staff is quick to clean up the sites as soon as it is empty. I needed to leave as late as possible since I couldn’t check in at the state park until after 1PM. Arriving and departing as a single traveler with a towed car to deal with is complicated. It isn’t possible to leave the car at the area Disney kindly provides to unhitch. The area isn’t big enough to park a car and still allow others to use the area. Consequently, it is necessary to use the overflow parking area near the Outpost check in area to hitch up my towed car.

I drove the car to the overflow lot around 9AM and walked back to my campsite. Working slowly, I finished packing and left my campsite at 10:45AM and drove the motorhome to the overflow parking lot to meet up with my SUV. The parking lot had filled up with arriving and departing RVs since I parked the SUV. The arriving RVs were waiting for their sites to become available and the departing ones were waiting for their owners to get back from one last theme park day. I parked the motorhome beside the car with the intent of waiting until noon before hooking up. As I waited more RVs arrived and I became partially blocked in. I could get the motorhome or the car out, but not with them connected. Since I wasn’t in a hurry I just continued to people watch.

Most of the sights were of people loading and unloading golf carts from utility trailers or the backs of big fifth wheel trailers. In addition to golf carts many of the trailers had multiple bicycles onboard. One family of five had the process down to a science. They stop in the middle of the parking lot aisle with a motorhome pulling a utility trailer. Three kids with Mom and Dad got out of the RV. The trailer was unloaded of three bikes and a golf cart. Two bikes remained on the trailer. Mom and Dad pushed the utility trailer into a parking place after unhitching it from the motorhome. The three kids got on their bicycles, Mom got in the golf cart and Dad in the motorhome and so the parade to the campsite began. I assume they came back later for the adults bicycles.

The funniest thing I saw while waiting in the overflow lot was a little kid chasing a turkey. A boy that I’d guess was four or five was running after a turkey. His Dad was chasing after the boy calling his name. I don’t think the Dad could decide if he should get mad or start laughing. A couple of minutes later the Dad walked back carrying a very upset little boy.

When 1PM arrived and the parking situation hadn’t resolved, I walked around looking for a better place to hook up my towed SUV. An area at the back corner of the parking lot had emptied out as people sites became available. I drove the motorhome out of its tight location to the open area then walked back and got the car. I was hitched up and ready to roll at 1:30PM.

A Crappy Weather Day

Sunday January 16th 2022

The same weather system that is dropping snow and ice along the east coast to the north of here had a significant impact on Florida’s weather. There were tornado warnings in southwest Florida near the bottom end of the cold front. Here in central Florida heavy wind started in the early morning followed by plenty rain. By late morning the rain started to tapper off. The afternoon was damp and gloomy. The sun never made an appearance and the temperature remained in the lower half of the sixties.

The remnants of the morning rain.

This is not the kind of day the typical Walt Disney World visitor wants to have during there visit. A cold and wet start to your day in the theme park is far from fun. The people that traveled a long distance from northern states to avoid the cold and wet braved the weather to maximize there time in the park. Many of the Florida residents that visit Fort Wilderness don’t come with the expectation of spending a lot of time in the theme parks. Some, like me on this visit, come to just enjoy the campground.

This afternoon I bundled up in a second layer of sweatshirt and continued my exploration of Fort Wilderness. I have been doing a lot of walking. The internal bus system seems to be a lot less reliable than in the past. I’ve been reading about all kinds of cost savings and cost increases at Disney World. Fewer internal buses may be one of them. Other things I’ve seen are obvious cost savings moves. There are fewer transportation boats on Bay Lake. There are still two boats going from Fort Wilderness to the Magic Kingdom. I don’t know how many places they stop along the way. They used to be non-stop. What is missing is the smaller boats that used to make a round trip from Fort Wilderness to the Wilderness Lodge on to the Contemporary Hotel before returning to Fort Wilderness.

Cleared area behind construction fences for the suspended Disney Vacation Club resort construction. This used to be a beach with trees separating it from the old River Country Water Park. The dock is also under repair.
View of construction site from the service road side. The Tri Circle D ranch and barns used to be in this area.
New Tri-Circle-D Ranch across the service road from the old location.

The Settlement Trading Post near Pioneer Hall and the boat to the Magic Kingdom is now only open from 11AM to 5PM. It used to be open from early in the morning until late at night. People coming and going to the Magic Kingdom could stop on their way for supplies or souvenirs. The Hoop-de-do review at Pioneer hall that also drew people to the area has not restarted after stopping for the shutdown at the beginning of the pandemic. The bigger Meadows Trading Post is still open longer hours.

Getting ready for the pony rides.

I walked down to Bay Lake to catch my third and last showing of the Enchantment Fireworks above the Magic Kingdom. It sprinkled a little on the way to the lake. I almost turned back, but since this is my last night, I continued. The tiny bit of rain stopped and the clouds in the sky started to clear. The wind was still very strong out of the west along the open shore of Bay Lake. On my way back the moon was out full and bright.

Exploring Fort Wilderness

Saturday January 15th 2022

Today was a beautiful sunny day with a high temperature just above seventy. The good thing is yesterday’s wind was gone. Another cold front is due to pass through the area late tonight into tomorrow morning. It sounds like we will get a lot of rain and wind with this front.

Meadows trading post at Fort Wilderness.
There are lots of azalea blossoms around the park.

I did a lot of exploring around the Fort Wilderness campground today. My fist visit to the campground was in the late eighties and I’ve been here a number of times since. The biggest change since my last visit in the spring of 2019 is all of the land clearing in the old River Country Water Park area behind Pioneer Hall and Crockett’s Tavern. They were just getting started with the construction of the new hotel on my last visit. The work stopped in March of 2020 at the onset of the pandemic. No schedule for restarting the work has been announced. I suspect the whole project will be re-imagined over the next couple of years before work gets underway again.

Fancy carriage behind a plexiglass wall at the Tri Circle D Ranch.

One of the parts of the construction that has been completed is the new Tri-Circle D ranch barn. The new barn is a large modern steel structure across the service road from the old barn’s location. About a third of the barn is open for visitors. You can checkout the horses in their stalls and take a pony ride if your of the right age. When I visited this afternoon it was bath time for a Clydesdale and a pony. The contrast in size is remarkable.

Time to towel down after a good shower bath.
Watching the boats arrive and depart on Bay Lake.
More spectators.

On my exploration today I walked around a number of the camping loops. A few sites still had elaborate Christmas decorations on display. Some were in the process of being taken down. Considering it has been three weeks since the holiday, the site residents must have been here a long time. Campers at this campground seem to be big on decorating. Most of the year it is very Disney oriented. At Halloween and Christmas the decorations are seasonal with a Disney flair.

Launch heading for the Magic Kingdom.

I concluded my day back at the beach on Bay Lake to watch the fireworks from the Magic Kingdom. Tonight I found a beach chair way down at the end of the new area of the beach with no one around. I was able to here the music and see all of the aerial shells clearly. Between the better location and the fact that I was warmly dressed tonight, I enjoyed the show more tonight.

Travel Day to Fort Wilderness

Friday January 14th 2022

Today was a travel day to Fort Wilderness at Disney World in central Florida. It was almost a perfect weather day for travel. The sun was out and the temperature was around seventy. The only down side was the strong wind out of the northwest. The gusts really bounced the motorhome around a bit.

I got on the road at 11:30AM. My first stop was at a gas station for fuel. I had allowed the tank to get below a quarter by telling myself the price of fuel would go down. It did at a few of the stations, but the one I choose had only gone down a penny or two. Other, less accessible, stations in the same area were almost ten cents cheaper. I put in two credit card authorizations worth of gas for a total of $200 and still didn’t fill the tank.

Traffic going north on Interstate 75 was heavy, but it kept moving. Once I turned east on Intestate 4 the traffic situation stated to deteriorate. At many of the intersections traffic slowed to a crawl to allow for all the merging vehicles. Nearing the end of my journey, on the outskirts of Orlando, traffic turned to stop and go. This is a par for the course. I arrived at Fort Wilderness a little after 2PM.

Site 1609 at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Campground

I had already checked in online. Disney sent a text message with my site number while I was on Interstate 4. I stopped briefly at the rest area east of Lakeland to read the details so I was able to go straight to my site without waiting in the long line at the entrance toll booths. Knowing how narrow and busy the roads are in the camping loop, I stopped at the overflow parking area to disconnect the car from the motorhome before going to my site. By 3PM I was setup and ready for some lunch.

This evening I walked down to Bay Lake to watch the fireworks from the Magic Kingdom. It is a long walk, but the internal bus system seems to be infrequent. There is a nice sidewalk to follow, so it is an easy walk. The only issue is seeing where your going. All of the golf carts on the road have very bright led headlights that are equivalent to full beams on a car. They do a very good job of ruining ones night vision every time one passes.

The beach area I watched the fireworks from in the past is not available. The area is fenced off to allow for the construction of the new Disney Vacation Club Resort where the old River Country Water Park used to be. Construction was stopped at the beginning of the pandemic and hasn’t been restarted. There are still areas to view the fireworks, but it isn’t possible to spread out as much now. It was hard to hear the music with all the conversations and playing kids. The fireworks show was great. Here are some pictures.

Last Day in the Bradenton Area

Thursday January 13th 2022

The latest cold front passed through the area without dropping any rain during the night. Today was a very windy day with lots of fluffy clouds moving rapidly across the sky. The temperature managed to climb to seventy degrees.

On my last full day at Lake Manatee State Park I spent time working on a few chores in addition to my routine walks around the park. I still haven’t fixed the problem with the front brake cable on my bicycle. Soaking the seized with rust cable in penetrating oil was unsuccessful. Today I got a little more forceful in my attempts to free the cable. It still won’t move. An online search hasn’t identified any simple replacements. The metal tube the cable passes trough and the source of the problem doesn’t seem to be part of the replacement parts I’ve found. It is looking more like I should just find a bicycle repair shop.

The bicycle is back on its rack on the back of my SUV as I transitioned from chores to travel preparation mode. It will probably stay there until next week. I got the outside day before travel tasks completed before taking my last walk of the day just before sunset. There weren’t as many walkers out today. The cooler temperature keeps more people inside. I did find one Gopher Tortoise brave enough to come out of the ground. It was taking advantage of the full sun at that point in time. Later in the day it was probably back in its hole in the ground.

This weekend is a holiday weekend. Last winter it proved to be difficult booking a stay at another state park for the weekend. My next state park stay starts on Monday back in central Florida at Lake Louisa State Park. I kept watching for a place to stay on the holiday weekend. There were sites available at the chain commercial campgrounds in the center of the state, but the rates were near $90 a night. Looking for more value for that high price, I checked Fort Wilderness at Disney World a few times. In September I found an opening for the weekend at a rate not much higher than the other commercial campgrounds in the area. I’ll be at Fort Wilderness for the three night weekend. I don’t have theme park admission tickets or an annual pass, but I’ll enjoy some resort hoping and watching the Fireworks across Bay Lake in the evening.

Already Booking Next Winter

Wednesday January 12th 2022

I was up early this morning and was able to watch the 7:21AM sunrise. It was a cool start to the a mostly sunny day. The temperature started in the fifties and peaked in the low seventies. Another cold front with a few rain showers is due to pass through the area tonight. Tomorrow is forecast to be cooler.

My early start to the day was to begin the process of booking next winter’s stays in Florida State Parks. Today was the day first day of the window I’d like to return to Myakka River State Park. There were four possible sites available today, a couple tomorrow and a few more each day after that. I got lucky and got the first site I tried for this morning. The new booking system makes it a little harder than a simple mouse click so it may take some people more than a second or two to complete the action. Overall, I don’t like the new software, but I made it work.

Mr. Gopher Tortoise thinks I can’t see him.

Once I’d booked the two weeks in the middle of December at Myakka River State Park, I went back and booked the previous two weeks at Lake Louisa State Park in central Florida. That park isn’t as popular so I still had choices. I have been monitoring the availability for the last few weeks. The specific sites I preferred at Lake Louisa State Park had been booked since my last check, but I succeeded in booking a good site. I now have four weeks at the end of 2022 booked starting at the end of November. Every two weeks from now until sometime in April I’ll be booking another Florida State Park reservation as the eleven month reservation window opens.

Vulture keeping watch at the boat launch.
Little Blue Heron

I expect to have difficulty booking the state parks somewhere along the way. There is just too much competition for sites. RV travel and camping in general is very popular in these trying times. The rule of supply and demand are also coming into play. The fees are going up significantly. Many private campgrounds have switched to demand pricing and others have just increased there prices a lot. Sites that were in the mid fifties per night a couple of years ago are now in the mid seventies at the chain campgrounds. Most of the public campgrounds are more reasonable, but more states are charging nonresidents higher fees. I can still take advantage of discounts and senior rates, but my cost per night is much higher than it was at the start of my Rambling Road trip six years ago.

New TV Installation Completed

Tuesday January 11th 2022

For the first time since early December I wore long pants and a sweatshirt today. The strong northeast breeze kept the high temperature around seventy despite the cloudless sky. This weather represents normal for this area. The last few weeks have been warmer than average. The long term outlook shows these normal conditions continuing for the next few weeks.

Strong wind out of the northeast, but lots of sun.

I finally got my new TV permanently mounted in the bedroom. Early this afternoon I went back to Home Depot for the Loctite to keep the bolts from vibrating loose. Once back at my RV home I took the TV down from its temporary mount and installed the mounting bracket with all four bolts using the Loctite thread glue. I used several garden hose washers as spacers to align the mount along the irregular shape of the plastic back to the TV. After all of the connections to the antenna, Satellite receiver and DVD were made, I tested the TV one last time. With everything tested I put the final six screws in to lock the bottom of the mounting bracket to the cabinet door behind the TV. It should be fine in the earthquakes of travel on bumpy roads.

It seemed like everything had to get used to the cooler temperature. On my walks around the state park there were fewer living creatures out and about. I didn’t see any tortoises today. The squirrels and birds seemed to be in hiding as well. Even the number of people out and about was down from most of the previous week. The wind out of the northeast made sitting at the lake shore or fishing from the boat dock less desirable an activity.

The campground had a large turn over today. I was surprised that many of the people that came in late last week didn’t depart on Sunday or Monday. It was beginning to look like a lot of people were here for a longer stay like me. Today was a correction to that impression. Tonight there are many apparent short term visitors sleeping in small tents or in a couple of cases cars.

Gopher Tortoise Day

Monday January 10th 2022

The weather pattern continued the slow change from warm and humid to cool and dry. It was sunny until late in the day when clouds started to filter into the area. Scattered severe thunderstorms were reported in the area. It stayed dry here, but the high seventies temperature dropped as evening approached.

Clouds moving in during the afternoon.

I made a trip to Home Depot for some bolts and other stuff to complete the TV installation. As often happens with projects like this I didn’t get everything I need. I was so proud of myself for finding the exact bolts I was looking for in the Home Depot maze, I forgot to pickup an additional item I needed. Another trip is on tomorrow’s agenda for Locktite to keep the bolts from vibrating loose.

While I was out I stopped at Walmart to replenish my food supply. The shelves were not well stocked for a large Walmart. Several items I wanted were missing from the shelves. Why weren’t there any boxes of cornflakes on the shelves? Both Kellogg’s and the store brand were missing. Also, I couldn’t find any bagged yellow onions. There were plenty of loose onions. There were other things too, but these are the ones that stood out as particularly odd. Is it a supply chain issue or just low staff to keep the shelves stocked? It isn’t a significant impact to me. I have enough groceries for another week and a half or so.

Vulture looking for an afternoon snack.

I only got one walk around the park in today. The weather at the end of the day was blustery and cool. My walk was during the middle of the afternoon. After seeing my first Gopher Tortoise for this trip yesterday, I saw four more today. I don’t know where they’ve been hiding, but they were out today.

Coffee and Football Watching

Sunday January 9th 2022

Today was a transition weather day. It started bright and sunny with lots of wind and ended cloudy and a little gloomy. The temperature still managed to peak in the mid eighties.

My day started with a minor coffee catastrophe. I make coffee every morning in a single serve non Keurig drip coffee maker. The first thing I do is empty the filter from the previous days coffee before placing new coffee grounds in the filter basket. The next step is to fill the water reservoir, place the cup under the filter and turn the switch. Once in a while I forget to add coffee and get a cup of hot water, but the process has been repeated so many times that I could probably do it in my sleep. This morning for some reason I filled the water reservoir first then added fresh coffee and tuned on the machine. A few minutes passed and I did a few other breakfast prep tasks before I was ready to drink my coffee. I went to grab the cup from the coffee maker and it wasn’t there. My first assumption was I’d already grabbed it and had my first drink. I looked around for the cup and found it by the stove. Thinking it was proof I’d already started to drink my coffee, I picked it up for another sip except it was empty. Where did the coffee go? Looking back at the coffee maker I found a puddle of coffee all around its base. During my first year on the road I got tired of mopping up the water when I over filled the reservoir. I put the coffee maker on a small tray. Today the tray saved me from disaster. It was filled to the brim with coffee, but it hadn’t spread to the counter, floor or nearby furniture. Was this an omen for a bad day or a good day?

Gopher Tortoise.

I spent most of the day watching the end of the regular season of football on TV. There were a couple of good games and a pointless one to watch. I managed to pull myself away for my regular walks around the park. Today I was rewarded by a view of a Gopher Tortoise. On past visits to this park, I’ve seen quite a few, but this year I hadn’t seen one until today. This tortoise was walking down the middle of the trail right toward me. It got within about twenty feet before it decided I might be a threat. I passed it about six or seven feet away while it froze in place.