South to Ortona

Monday February 28th 2022

It was a travel day, so I was up early. The warm weather of the past two plus weeks was missing. A cold front was moving in keeping the morning temperatures in the fifties and low sixties under a very cloudy sky. I traveled south in the cloudy conditions for the first 150 miles before the sun started to break and the temperature climbed. Passing through the boundary between cool and warm weather was a windy event. My RV was pushed around on the highway by the wind for the last hundred miles or so. The temperature climbed into the eighties.

Site 13 at the Ortona South Army Corp of Engineers Campground.

I managed to get on the road by 10:30AM. Once I reached Interstate 75 traffic was heavy. Every lane had traffic moving at the speed limit or above all the way from the Ocala area to the Sarasota area. At least it was better than the northbound lane. It was stopped in several areas. South of Sarasota the traffic let up a little. Changing lanes to maintain a steady pace became possible.

I arrived at the Army Corp of Engineers Ortona South campground after four and a half hours of straight driving. The one gas stopped I planned to make was a congested mess, so I arrived at my destination with a quarter tank of gas. I’ve stayed here a couple of times before. It should make a nice home for the next two weeks, but it is a different kind of park than I’ve been staying at for most of the winter. My site is out in the open without shade or any real break from the wind. I will probably have to turn the Air Conditioner on during the afternoon on the hot temperature days to come.

Last Full Day at Rainbow Springs State Park

Sunday February 28th 2022

The fog rolled in overnight and held on well into the morning. It was near 10AM before a sunny blue sky was overhead. Even with the slow start the temperature got to the mid eighties. A cold front is forecast to arrive late tonight or tomorrow morning. Some rain is possible tomorrow.

There weren’t a lot of these little yellow wildflower blossoms when I arrived here. Now there are plenty and I’ve taken their picture most every day.

This is my last full day at Rainbow Springs State Park. I’ve enjoyed my stay, but I am ready to move on. On my walks today I took many of the same pictures I’ve already taken. The one thing that was different was the antics of the people. During the entire length of my stay the kayak and canoe launch was used as it was designed and the beach area next door was used for the occasional swimmer. Today people didn’t seem to get it. During my first walk several boaters were using the beach area to launch their kayaks while the nice easy boat ramp next door was empty. Later in the day I found the exact opposite situation. People were swimming from the kayak ramp while a canoe and a pair of kayaks were trying to land. The beach with a sandy bottom wasn’t getting used.

Lots of paddlers today.

I spent most of my time between walks getting ready to travel tomorrow. It will be a long travel day, so I want to get an earlier start than I’ve been getting on my last few moves. I’ll try to get on the road by 10AM for my two hundred and sixty mile drive. Most of the trip will be southbound on Interstate 75. It is not the shortest route, but it should be the easiest driving. I have about fifteen miles to travel before I get on the Interstate and another forty to fifty miles after I get off the Interstate in the Fort Meyers area. The shorter routes cut both of the corners off, but go through many towns with lots of traffic lights.

Watching the Fish

Saturday February 26th 2022

Central Florida was the warmest area in the continental United States today. Even south of here in the Miami area wasn’t as warm. The high in this area was in the upper eighties. There wasn’t much wind and the humidity was high making for a rather uncomfortable day for February.

What big eyes you have!

I was up early this morning to make another attempt to book a reservation for next winter in another Florida State Park. My attempt last Wednesday was unsuccessful. Today I was successful booking a two week reservation in the Orlando area for the end of January into the beginning of February. I will have to book 3 nights in a commercial park to fill the gap between reservations, but that can wait a few weeks. My outline of a plan for next winter is completely blown up, but I’m getting reservations at some nice parks nonetheless.

Wildflower blossom of the day.

The early start to the day resulted in a lazy pace for most of the morning. It wasn’t until close to noon before I got out for my first walk of the day. My neighbors were busy with a very elaborate process of packing to leave. They have a big diesel motorhome that they pulls a box trailer. In the trailer they carry kayaks, a golf cart and two big motorcycles. The box trailer is so big they had to park it in the reception area parking lot. I won’t miss the noisy motorcycles at all.

The river was just as busy and congested today as it was last weekend. Today seemed to have more paddle boards than kayaks, but they were all having fun. I spent a long time sitting on a bench watching the fish in the clear water. The ones near shore weren’t as big or exotic as the ones the snorkelers and scuba divers were seeing out in the middle of the river. One women who came in from snorkeling was very excited about the big gar she saw. At only a couple of feet it wasn’t very big for the species, but I let her thing it was huge.

Sluggish Day

Friday February 25th 2022

The overnight temperature only dropped a little below the sixty degree mark. This allowed the daytime temperature to rise quickly to the mid eighties high for the day. There were some clouds in the morning, but by the end of the day it was a clear blue sky.

There were plenty of clouds in the sky early in the day.

I am not particularly susceptible to allergies, but sometimes the pollen level will get to me. Today was one of those days. As soon as I stepped out of my RV home, my nose got congested and my eyes started to tear up. I’m not sure what particular pollen was in play, but something was in the air. A breeze came up later in the day and cleared the air enough that I wasn’t feeling the impact anymore.

Wildflower blossom of the day.
Fish in the clear water.

The campground is transitioning into weekend mode today. There was a lot of turn over this morning. Many of the rig that departed have been here since before I arrived. Once again the key feature of the new arrivals is the paddling equipment. They may be staying in tents, vans or small RVs, but they have plenty of kayaks, canoes and recreational equipment. The river will be a zoo again this weekend.

The wild side of the river.

It was late in the afternoon before I had the energy to take the first real hike of he day. This morning I only walked to the river and back, but before sunset I walked the main trail system out behind my campsite. I hoped that the late hour would bring some of the area wildlife out of hiding. There are plenty of signs of animals bigger than squirrels, but they were still in their daytime hide outs. Even the water birds along the river were not around this evening.

Another Visit to the Head Springs Area of Rainbow Springs State Park

Thursday February 24th 2022

The above normal temperatures continued today. It was a humid day with a high temperature in the mid eighties. People in the area are starting to find the water in the river a welcome relief. Many people were heading into the head springs area of the state park to take a dip in the springs. The wide hillside lawn area was rapidly filling with towels and blankets as people stretched out in the sun to dry off after a quick dip. I was just back at the park to wander the paths and take some more pictures of the Azalea blossoms.

Water Lilly

Azalea Blossoms

Turtles and Birds

Disappointing Day

Wednesday February 23rd 2022

It was a foggy start to a very warm day. By around 10AM the fog had lifted and the sun started to make an appearance, but it never completely won the battle for the sky. In the early afternoon another layer of clouds moved into the area, but was mostly gone by sunset. The temperature peaked in the mid eighties with lots of humidity.

Today didn’t get off to a good start. I was supposed to make my next set of reservations for next winter at 8AM this morning. Last night I did all the research and identified ten possible sites at two different State Parks to try for this morning. The one thing I didn’t do last night was set the alarm clock. As it turns out I was awake early enough, but I didn’t remember my important task. It was around 11:30AM when I remembered what I was supposed to do at 8AM. By the time I checked the online booking system, all of the sites were booked.

I like these little yellow blossoms. They are also about the only thing in blossom.

I’ll try to book a two week stay for the end of next January into early February again in two or three days. Once I’m successful, I’ll reserve a commercial campground to fill in the gap between state park stays. That is the same technique that found me staying at Disney’s Fort Wilderness this past January. Good things can come from disappointing mistakes.

Most of my afternoon was spent in the car driving around the area. It ended with a stop at Walmart for my latest grocery restocking. The checkouts were busy, but the number of people in the store didn’t seem to be that bad. I had a difficult time finding all of the things I wanted. It may have been supply chain issues or it may have been that I didn’t know where to look. Somebody seems to have stirred up all of the aisles in the store. The aisles weren’t in the same order I’m used to finding in Walmart and some of the similar items were spread across multiple aisles. I found Strawberry Jam with the snack foods. It is usually with the coffee or bread. Crackers for soup are usually with the cookies, but I couldn’t find them anywhere. Even with all the searching, I still spent more money than I usual spend restocking my food supply.

Lazy Tuesday

Tuesday February 22nd 2022

It was another nice weather day. With a little more humidity than Monday the temperature reached the low eighties. Each day this week is forecast to be a little warmer. Some record highs are in danger of being surpassed.

Today turned into a lazy day. I started reading various articles on the internet during breakfast and didn’t come up for air until early afternoon. My plans outside of the campground were scraped. It was back to my two walks of the day around the campground and down to the river.

The “Nature” trail at the Rainbow Springs State Park Campground.
Wildflower Blossom of the day.

There was a lot of turnover in the park today. Some of the rigs that have been here since I arrived last week pulled out this morning. A few others that arrived recently just changed sites to extend their stay. By mid afternoon the empty sites were getting filled with the new arrivals. Judging by the boats on the roofs of arriving vehicles, about half the people staying here are into paddling.

I have often thought about having a kayak, but it isn’t really practical carrying one around the country with me. Even the inflatable Sea Eagle brand kayaks are heavy and fairly bulky when you take into account all the stuff that goes with it. If I used it often, it might still be something to do, but judging by how often I use my bicycle it wouldn’t be worth it. There are fewer places to use kayak than a bicycle.

Another view of Mr. Wood Duck.

Goldielocks and the Three Screwdrivers

Monday February 21st 2022

My second week here at Rainbow Springs State Park started with another great weather day. It was a sunny day with a few fluffy clouds. The temperature continued to climb from Saturday’s low around seventy. Today the high temperature was around eighty.

A sunny day with lots of fluffy white clouds.

Today was an RV home maintenance day. The pressure sensing switch on my water pump broke a while back. The switch senses when there is a demand for water based on an open faucet and turns on the pump. As long as I’m hooked up to water at the campground, it is a non issue. I don’t use the water pump when I’m connected to water. Unfortunately, I’ll be staying at a couple of places without a water hookup during the second half of March. It is time to fix the problem.

Water pump mounted to the wall inches from the water tank. It is surrounded by water lines, heat ducts, electrical wires and the vacuum cleaner line. The area circled in red is the switch on top of the pump I need to replace.

I have the replacement switch that goes on the top of the water pump. The problem is getting access to the pump to switch the old for the new. The pump is mounted to the wall of the basement storage bin with the water tank with four screws. The tank blocks access to two of the four screws. In addition to the water lines going to and from the pump, there are electric wires, heating ducts and a vacuum cleaner line in the same space as the pump. My best option will be to replace the switch on top of the pump without removing the pump.

The smallest actual screwdriver I have was too big. It wouldn’t fit in the space between the switch and the top of the bin.
Putting a screwdriver bit in my vice grips met the height problem, but was too long. I handle of the vice grips was blocked by too many other things.

The next challenge was finding a tool to remove the screws holding the switch to the pump. I was reminded of Goldielocks and the three bears. In this case my first choice in screw driver was too big. My second choice was too long. The third choice worked for a few turns, before it was also too big. I need to find a tool that is just right or another way to access the space with the pump. Tonight I’ll think about other ways to get at the pump. Tomorrow I’ll go tool shopping.

This special little right angle screwdriver I found in my tool box worked for a minute or two. Once the screws were an eight to a quarter of an inch out this device also became too tall. If it only had the Phillips head it would work. My last choice solution could be cutting off the other end to make it shorter.

On my daily walks to the river I found a slightly calmer level of activity. There were not as many power boats, but the number of paddlers was just as plentiful. The people paddling in kayaks either can’t see or don’t know the significance of diving flags. There were several very close passes between kayaks and divers this morning.

Sunset over the Rainbow River.

River Action and NASCAR Action

Sunday February 20th 2022

The temperature peaked in the low to mid seventies after a cool start. It was in the forties inside my RV home when I first got out of bed this morning. I retreated to my bed for another hour after turning on the heat.

Mr. Wood Duck

This is probably the last morning I’ll experience in the forties this Florida winter. The remainder of my stay here is forecast to be very warm. The forecasters are talking about the possibility of record highs in the upper eighties to ninety degrees by the end of the week. Next Monday I move to the southern part of the state for all of the month of March. Overnights in the fifties during March are coldest usually experienced in that area.

Every winter in Florida I seem to have my travel pattern somewhat backwards. I seem to be at my furthest north location in January and February. For next year I was planning on reversing that pattern, but it hasn’t worked out. When I attempted to book the two weeks in the middle of January, I wasn’t successful booking a state park east of Tampa. The alternative I found was even further north than I am now. On Wednesday of this week I need to book the end of January into the beginning of February. I will try for a reservation in the center of the state planning on moving south as the winter continues.

Today was the Daytona 500 NASCAR race. It is a big deal in central Florida. The local Fox television channel has been broadcasting from the track since Wednesday. This morning they were there once again. The Fox network coverage took over in the afternoon. I didn’t need all the hype to remind me to watch the race. It is on my agenda every year. I wasn’t completely glued to my TV, but I did watch most of the race. Wrecks near the end of the race took many of the name drivers out of the race. A rookie, Austin Cindric won the race as the field wrecked behind him.

I took my usual two walks today and got in some more time watching the action on the river. Similar to yesterday the river was filled with various types of water craft and people enjoying the clear river. I continue to wonder what it looks like as the temperature really gets hot.

A River Watching Day

Saturday February 19th 2022

It took until late morning for the sun to make an appearance after the clouds and rain associated with the latest cold front passed through the area. The high temperature was much cooler today and the wind was out of the north. As long as you were in the sun it was very comfortable. The temperature peaked around seventy degrees.

It was a bright sunny afternoon after a cloudy start to the day.

Between my daily walks I spent some time watching the action on the river. When I first arrived at the kayak launch and beach area the river was rather empty. The only real action was from a party at one of the houses across the river. Within a few minutes everything changed. A few Kayaks appeared from the south followed by the start of a flotilla of up stream bound jet skis. From the other direction a diving flag on a buoy followed by a pair of snorkelers and a diver came down river. There was a flood of activity in the river and it wasn’t even the popular season for recreation on the river. I can only imagine how congested the river is in the high season with floating down river on tubes added into the current mix of boating, swimming and diving activities.

The river began quiet.
Three of more than ten jet skies slowly moving up river.
A group of divers moving down river and some paddle boards coming up river.
Divers, Jet Skies , ka
A pair of swimmers joined the mix.
More of the group of water craft.
Things starting to calm down again.

The atmosphere at the campground was very much in weekend mode. Unlike the laid back atmosphere during the week, kids were playing in the grass areas and campfires were burning at many of the campsites. There was also a steady parade of kayaks getting dragged to and from the river. This is very much a paddler’s campground.

Wildflower blossom of the day.