I slept in this morning for the first time since last Sunday. The Disney experience encouraged an early start to the day even though I ultimately resisted the challenge. Today started cloudy and gradually became sunny allowing the temperature to climb into the mid eighties. The weather pattern is now a summer one. There is the threat of thunderstorms every afternoon and evening. Today it wasn’t quite humid enough to result in storms in this area, but the chance is higher tomorrow.
The primary activity of the day was settling in at the campground. I did the last few setup tasks after a relaxed breakfast that lasted most of the morning. In the early afternoon I set out to explore the changes to the campground since my last visit. My first observation was the water level in the stream that passes through the campground is very low. In some areas it is only a trickle through a mud flat. In other areas there was enough water to support a young alligator. It still had its juvenile camouflage and was about three feet long.
They have also expanded the campground into an area that was used for storage. A number of new sites with concrete pads have been built, but haven’t been opened for use yet. In other areas I think some of the park models on leased lots have been removed. There are still plenty of the little cottage style models painted in Caribbean pastel colors all over the place. Some are used for rentals and some are owned.
The campground is not full, but very active. It has a combination of long term residents and travelers. I saw license plates from a wide variety of states and provinces. The furthest away was from California and the most frequent non Florida plate seem to be from Minnesota. Late in the day the number increased when another Minnesota trailer arrived on the site next door.
Today was checkout day at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort. I had to be off the site by 11AM. I moved my car to the overflow parking lot shortly before 10AM and moved the motorhome off the site just before 11AM. I hooked up the car for towing in the overflow parking lot after killing more than two hours. There is a lot of activity to observe in the overflow lot. Many people coming and going are hooking up utility trailers to tow their golf carts. Most of the regulars believe a golf cart is a necessity or maybe just a status symbol. There are also drivers from local RV rental services bringing rental RVs off the sites into the parking area to wait for the next tenant later in the day. The area is a mad house particularly on a Friday.
Shortly after 1PM I pulled out of the overflow parking lot for my fifteen minute drive to my next destination. There is a strictly enforced 1PM check in time at Tropical Palms RV Resort in Kissimmee FL. I was setup and ready for lunch by 2PM. Over the next week and a half I’ll recover from the hectic pace I inflicted on myself over the last week and visit the Disney parks a few more times.
Fort Wilderness is a very nice camping resort. Last January I really enjoyed my stay. I didn’t visit the theme parks at all that time. When you put visits to the theme parks into the mix all of the bad parts of Fort Wilderness come into play and you don’t get a real chance to enjoy what the campground has to offer. Disney transportation from Fort Wilderness is my biggest complaint. The buses require to much waiting for unknown lengths of time.
To avoid the wait and at least keep moving when going from the campground to EPCOT I got creative both times. The first trip to EPCOT on Monday afternoon I took the boat to the Magic Kingdom then the Monorail to the Transportation and Ticket Center followed by the other Monorail to EPCOT. Returning to the campground in the evening the bus was packed even though I didn’t wait for the park to close. For my second visit to EPCOT on Tuesday evening the bus to EPCOT which also serves the Wilderness lodge didn’t have room onboard for the Fort Wilderness guests. The next bus was twenty minutes away, so I took the bus to Hollywood Studios followed by a boat to the EPCOT International Gateway Entrance. In that case I got to the part of EPCOT I wanted to visit faster than the bus to the main entrance.
My basic issue is having time to really enjoy Fort Wilderness. If you go to the park in the morning and stay all day you have no time for wandering around the campground and using the recreational facilities. If you come back to the campground after a morning session in the park, you don’t have much time before you need to start back for any evening activities. The only time I had to explore a few of the areas in the campground was Thursday afternoon when I didn’t return to the theme parks.
My basic advice for campers that want to visit the theme parks is if you are an early riser that can take advantage of the morning early entry half hour for guests staying on property then you might have value in staying at Fort Wilderness. If, like me, you aren’t taking advantage of the early entry then staying off site for almost half the cost may be better. You’ll have to be able to drive to the park and pay for parking, but the cost differential still works out. Driving from many places off site doesn’t take any longer than using Disney transportation.
After a long day yesterday I didn’t even try to get an early start today. The first item on today’s agenda after breakfast was completing yesterday’s blog entry. I posted the details of Wednesday activities and back dated it to the appropriate date. It is available here.
I arrived at Magic Kingdom about 11AM to pick up where I left off Wednesday night. Once again it was very busy. Simple rides that I road Wednesday night with very little wait had 30 to 50 minute waits today. Most of my time in the park today was spent wandering around checking for anything new since my last visit. I managed to see Mickey’s Philharmagic with the new scene based on the movie Coco before I got in a fifty minute wait for the Haunted Mansion. They were using an extended queue area that looped along the Rivers of America. I probably only waited forty minutes.
The long wait times and crowds raised my frustration level. I made my way out of the park via all of the shops along Main Street USA only to spend another long wait for the boat back to the campground. It was about 2PM when I got back to the campground. Overall it was a very short park day. Since I bought a pass good for most week days for a year, I don’t have to worry about value of my visit. If I were a traveler visiting Disney on vacation I’d have to spend as much time in the parks as possible to get the value from the expensive ticket. That’s what creates all the rushing and tired people on the Disney transportation system.
This evening I watched the Enchantment fireworks from the campground beach. The fireworks seem so much bigger and significant than they do when watching from inside the park. The castle is clearly the focal point inside the park. The fireworks are just used as added decoration to the overall show. To me the inside the park show and the fireworks seen from outside the park are two different shows. They both are great.
Tomorrow I move on from this stay in Fort Wilderness. With all the focus on visiting the parks, I didn’t get a chance to really enjoy the resort. I’m not moving far. I plan to visit the Disney parks again over the next week.
It is Thursday morning as I’m writing this entry. Wednesday was a long day and I reached the theme park exposure wall at about 10PM in the evening. Overall it was a fun day.
Once again I gave up on the early entry to Disney’s Hollywood Studios. I just can’t get motivated early enough. It was about ten in the morning when I entered the theme park. The crowds were heavy from the start, but I was met with a character sighting. Daisy and Donald Duck were greeting visitors.
Hollywood Studios has always been my least favorite park. I had high hopes that all of the changes since my last visit would increase its standing, but it didn’t climb the ladder of enjoyment. The new Star Wars themed land and the Mickey and Minnie’s Run Away Railway ride are all new since my last visit. The Star Wars land is a very well done immersive experience. I’d like to try the Rise of Resistance Ride, but it has incredibly long wait times. Sometimes they are over three hours. While I was there it was down for technical difficulties. The other ride is a motion simulator which I tend to avoid.
Broken rides were a theme at Hollywood Studios during the day. At one time there were four rides down. The impact was even longer lines at the open rides. I waited an hour to see Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Rail Road. It was well worth the wait. It was the only ride I road at Hollywood Studio’s to go along with three shows. I was back at my RV Home in Fort Wilderness by 2PM.
In the evening I took the boat to Magic Kingdom. My goal was to see the Enchantment nighttime spectacular from inside the park. It is combination of projections on the castle and fireworks. While I waited for the 9PM show, I got a head start on riding some of the rides planned for Thursday’s Magic Kingdom visit. I road Buzz Lightyear and People Mover in Tomorrow land then ducked into the Voyage of the Little Mermaid while a quick rain shower passed through the area. I squeezed in one more ride in before the fireworks. For the first time that I can remember I road Winnie the Pooh. The last time I was in that building the ride was Mr Toads Wild Ride.
The wait for the Fireworks show began a half an hour before the show. It was necessary to stand in one place surrounded by thousands of other people and patiently wait. The show was very good. I still prefer watching the actual fireworks from outside the park, but you get so much more watching from inside the park surrounded by thousands of unknown people.
Today was my first full day at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Campground. I had a park reservation for Disney’s Animal Kingdom. One of the advantages to staying on site is early entry to the theme parks. A half hour every morning some of the rides in each park are open for people staying on Disney property. I wanted to take advantage of that feature, but it was just too early for me. Animal Kingdom opens to the general public at 7:30AM. Early admission starts at 7AM. To get there using Disney transportation I’d have to leave my RV home at 6AM. I set the alarm and tried, but it was no use. I needed sleep more than a ride to Pandora.
I made it to Animal Kingdom by 8:30AM. The Kilimanjaro Safari had a posted 45 minute wait. It was only 35 minutes, but some of it was walking through a very long extended queue area. The animals were all out, but this particular driver didn’t slow down much to allow for decent pictures. In addition to the safari ride, I wandered around the whole park checking out the various animals between watching two shows. I saw the current version of the Lion King show which has several social distancing accommodations incorporated in the production and the new Kit Tails show.
Animal Kingdom Animals
Celebration of Festival of the Lion King
The lines for many of the other activities at Animal Kingdom were very long so I returned to my campsite shortly afternoon. I took a nap to re-energize for my return to EPCOT in the evening. The night time Harmonious show was well worth the return visit.
Today was a short travel day to Disney’s Fort Wilderness Campground. As is the norm for travel days I was up before 8AM. The checkout time was 11AM, so I had plenty of time to get ready. I pulled out of the Orlando Southwest KOA right at the checkout time.
I had completed the early online check into Fort Wilderness on Saturday with a request for a noon check in. They only promise 3PM, but as I was approaching the Disney area I got a text message with my site number. When I arrived at Fort Wilderness I went directly to my site. I was setup a few minutes after noon.
My plan was to visit the Flower and Garden Festival at EPCOT today and stay until closing time to watch the Harmonious night time show. It didn’t happen that way. I arrived at EPCOT shortly after 3PM and started wandering around checking everything out. Not only is the park filled with flowers and topiaries for the Flower and Garden Festival, but many things have changed since my last visit in the spring of 2019. Most of the old Future World area is filled with construction walls and a few completed new buildings. There was lots to see and lots of other people doing the same thing. It was very busy.
My first mistake of the day was my decision to ride Test Track. The regular standby queue had a seventy minute wait, but the single rider line was much shorter. The single rider line is used to fill in gaps created by the size of parties in the regular line. The ride got stopped for maintenance twice while I waited, but I was in a ride vehicle in about twenty minutes. My day turned sour on the ride. Some rides cause me to become motion sick. This one has come close in the past. Today it came a little closer. For the next hour and a half I was not a happy camper. I slept through the ten minute Awesome Planet film by design and I had an early dinner. These activities got me back close to normal, but I was tired.
I completed a loop around the World Showcase and road a few more rides like Finding Nemo and Living with the Land. By 8PM I was starting to really drag, so I decided to skip the night time show and head back to my RV home. It took almost an hour on a packed bus to get home.
I woke up this morning to the sound of rain on the roof of my RV home. It wasn’t in any of the forecasts I had heard, so it was a surprise. Before I could get up and close the windows it stopped only to start again a half an hour later. The second burst of rain was as short as the first. The first half of the day was cloudy with occasional sunshine. A few more very dark clouds passed through the area before the clouds gave way to complete sunshine with lots of wind. The temperature peaked in the low eighties.
Wandering around the campground today I found several changes since my stay last year. None of the changes involved improvements to the sites. Instead they moved the dog walk and added an agility course to the compound. The old fence was removed and the area reseeded. There is also a bounce pillow in the field near the new dog run. I don’t remember this kids entertainment contraption, but it could have been there. Roles of artificial grass were waiting to be used in more improvements to the recreational elements of the park. None of these “improvements” have any value to me. I would prefer they repaved the roads, fixed broken concrete patio pads and generally improve the infrastructure.
Tomorrow I am moving on. Once again it is a very short move for a little longer stay. Next up on my Rambling Road Trip is a four night stay at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Campground. It is less than twenty miles away. Unlike my last quick visit to Fort Wilderness in January, I plan to visit the theme parks this time. I have park reservations at each of the four theme parks starting tomorrow through Thursday. The last time I was in any of the theme parks was spring of 2019. A lot has changed since then. It is likely to be a very busy week.
Check out at the KOA is 11AM. I’ve requested a noon check in at Fort Wilderness, but there is no guaranty. I may be waiting in the outer parking lot until 3PM or later. It all depends on how fast they process the sites once people leave. Fort Wilderness also has an 11AM checkout.
Today was a travel day. My week at Lake Louisa State Park was up. It would have been nice to stay longer, but additional days were not available when I booked. Since I want to stay in the central Florida area for another couple of weeks, I only moved about 20 miles south to the KOA in Davenport.
I did a good job of dragging my feet getting ready to travel today. I managed to depart my site five minutes before the 1PM checkout time. The drive south on US 27 was uneventful. Traffic was heavy and I wasn’t in a hurry so I traveled slowly in the right lane all the way. It is a good thing I didn’t have a long travel day. The wind out of the east was broadside to my direction of travel. It often required two hands on the wheel. I arrived at the Orlando Southwest KOA between 1:30PM and 2PM. I’ll be here for two nights.
I have used this park for similar purposes in the past. It is good for a few nights stay between other longer stays. The sites are close together and not huge, but it is a good location, generally clean and well managed. Last April was my last visit after spending two weeks at Lake Louisa State Park. I was here for more than a week while I waited for my second COVID shot time slot. The campground is a lot more popular this year. The front of the campground where I’m staying is almost full tonight. Last year I kept wondering where everyone was.
The weather pattern is starting to change. The humidity is increasing and the chance of rain is too. I don’t plan on doing much tomorrow other than convincing myself that it is a Sunday. This is my last confusing and unusual Saturday travel day during this stretch. I’ve been thinking it was Sunday all day today.
The weather pattern established over the last couple of days continued today. The day began cloudy gradually giving way to partial sunshine. The dominant weather feature was the wind. It was very strong out of the northeast and east. The temperature peaked near eighty.
Unlike yesterday I didn’t let the less than perfect weather change my plans. I got the active part of the day started around 11:30AM executing the plans I originally intended for Thursday. First up was a stop at Camping World in Kissimmee for a new reflective sun shield for the front window of my RV home. The one I’ve been using for the last couple of years has fallen apart.
This Camping World location has been here for more than forty years. It was one of the first Camping World locations outside of Bowling Green Kentucky long before the current corporate monopoly acquired the catalog based store. The store has changed and expanded several times over the years. Another change took place since my last visit. A large portion of the floor space is now dedicated as a design center. The merchandise aisles have been moved all around in a layout that doesn’t make a lot of sense to me, but I’m not a retail designer. I found what I was looking for on the second pass around the store and resisted the urge to buy things that I don’t really need or are cheaper elsewhere.
My second stop of the day was at Disney Springs. The retail and entertainment venue was really busy. All of the stores and restaurants seemed to have plenty of customers. I lucked out on the timing of my stop for Fish & Chips at Cooks of Dublin. There were tables available outside and I only had to wait behind two other groups to order. While I was eating the line extended out the door. The Fish & Chips are worth the wait.
I walked around the entire Disney Springs venue checking out a few of the stores and I paused to listen to one of the High School music groups preforming this afternoon. There are many groups from schools in the northeast enjoying Disney during spring vacation week. The group I listen to was from Pennsylvania.
When I got back to the campground late this afternoon, the occupants and the atmosphere had transitioned to weekend mode. There are a lot more kids and tent campers. Walking around the campground before sunset was a challenge dodging bicycles, scooters and footballs in flight.
The day started cloudy creating a very gloomy mood. There were a few sunny breaks later in the day and the wind picked out of the east. The temperature peaked in the high seventies which is a little low for this time of year in this area.
The unexpected weather impacted my day. My day started very slowly as there was nothing to encourage me to get out of my RV home. I had planned to head into the tourist area of Kissimmee today. Instead I dragged myself out of the RV for a walk around the campground in the early afternoon. The campground was in its midday lull in occupancy. Today’s departures had happened and the new arrivals were yet to show up. The good news was the Washing machine was available. Over the next two hours I completed washing and dying my last load of laundry.
My second walk of the day was a little longer. I hiked around Hammond Lake. That is a lot less impressive than it sounds. It is only about a mile along a very flat wide path. Hopefully tomorrow I’ll get moving a little more quickly in the morning and execute today’s plan a day late.