Settling in for a Two Week Activity Slowdown

Wednesday May 18th 2022

The temperature was in the mid nineties under almost full sun today. There was no wind to keep things cool, but the humidity was fairly low. The majority of the afternoon rain was well to the south of here. It wasn’t the oppressive, but outside activity was best done in small doses.

Not a particularly good specimen, but a photogenic palm tree.

I got the remainder of my setup tasks completed this morning. This is a familiar campground. I was last here in May of last year. It is a nice campground near the center of Starke Florida. There are stores and restaurants near by. The down side is there isn’t a lot of recreational activities in the immediate area. Most of the places in my interest areas are twenty miles or more away. All of that’s OK, because I’m here to relax and decompress after more than a month of activity in central Florida. Theme parks filled with people are fun, but I need alone time too.

The campground isn’t particularly busy this time of year. As a guess I’d say half of the sites are empty. The ones that are occupied have longer term residents, people working in the area, or units that only get used on weekends. I was the only one that checked in yesterday according to the woman in the office. Today I saw a handful of new arrivals. The location of the campground is good for travelers cutting diagonally across the state from the Jacksonville area to Interstate 75 north of Tampa. My guess is it will be busier on the weekend.

There are plenty of these little “guys” around.

Most of the schools in Florida end their year at the end of May. That starts the travel and vacation season around here. As the northern states end their school years in June tourism picks up. The campgrounds aren’t as full in the summer as they are in the winter, but they are usually busier than they are right now.

Travel North to Starke FL

Tuesday May 17th 2022

Today was a travel day. I was up working on breakfast before 8AM. On travel days breakfast is usually interspersed around packing tasks. Checkout time was 11AM, so I didn’t have to rush.

The only deviation from the norm this morning was I decided to back out of my pull through site. I was parked under a tree with low hanging branches. They were so low that they banged into my radio antenna and brushed the roof when the wind blew. By backing out I avoided having the branches scrape along the entire roof of my RV home. Coincidentally, there was a tree service in the campground working on tree branches. I imagine they got to my site shortly after I left. Because I backed out of the site, I needed to use the campground road to hook up my towed vehicle. There was no traffic to block and everything went well.

I pulled out of the campground about ten minutes before checkout time. My trip was north along the spine of the Florida peninsular about 150 miles to Starke Florida. Most of the trip is on US27. The last fifty miles is on US301. The US27 section is up and down hills in moderate to significantly developed areas. That equates to lots of traffic lights and lots of traffic. After passing almost through the center of Ocala, I follow US301 the rest of the way. It is much less developed and the speed limit between towns is 65. In towns it drops to at least 45. The route from Ocala north to Interstate 10 is also known for speed traps. It was notorious a few yeas ago for catching northerners, but they’ve cleaned up the behavior a lot in the last few years.

Site 52 at the Starke Gainesville NE KOA.

I arrived at the Starke Gainesville NE KOA about 2:15PM. I’ll be here through the Memorial Day Holiday. The bright sun I traveled in rapidly clouded over as I started to setup camp. A brief cloud burst of rain greeted me. It cleared as quickly as it started. The high temperature for the day was in the mid 90s.

An Afternoon Visit to Disney Springs

Monday May 16th 2022

The chance of rain was lower in today’s forecast. It was down to a twenty percent chance or rain for the day and it looks like I made it through the day in the dry area. The temperature continued its climb from last weeks mid eighties to the low nineties today. It was an overall great weather day.

Looking across the lake at Disney Springs. The balloon was grounded today.

After a leisurely breakfast that stretched into the noon hour, I headed to Disney Springs for a visit. The shopping and entertainment area was still fairly empty in the early afternoon. Early in the week Disney Springs gets less traffic. Vacationers to the Disney resort spend there time at the theme parks early in the week. Once they’ve got their initial fill of rides and shows, some groups take some time to visit the shopping area. The evening into the night is also a big visitation time because of the entertainment venues.

It was nice walking around Disney Springs without the crowds. It was possible to wander into shops and actually see the merchandise instead of the back of peoples heads. There was also space on the benches along the water to sit and watch the goings on. On my last visit, about a month ago, it was as busy as one of the theme parks.

Amphicar returning to land.

The wind was calm enough to allow the amphicars to take passengers around the lake, but it was too strong to allow the balloon ride to operate. How they can make money on the balloon ride is a mystery. It doesn’t operate in the wind or rain which are common in the area. I have seen the balloon in the air from a distance, but I don’t recall ever being at Disney Springs when it was operating.

This evening I got most of my outside travel preparation tasks complete. Tomorrow I’m moving about 150 miles to the north. I’ll be in my new location until after the Memorial Day holiday at the end of the month.

Fooled by the Weather Forecast

Sunday May 15th 2022

It was cloudy when I woke up this morning, but turned into a partly cloudy day during the afternoon. The temperature climbed into the low nineties. In the evening a thunderstorm moved into the area from the southwest. The bulk of the storm passed west to east a little south of my location. This area was just outside the severe thunderstorm warning box. Overall it was a nice day. Unfortunately, I got fooled by the weather forecast and changed my planned activities to another stay at home day.

It was partly cloudy in the afternoon.

When I woke to a cloudy day, I turned on the TV to catch the morning weather forecast. The forecast had a 75 percent chance of rain for the day. In my not quite awake state I didn’t take into account what the high number really meant. I thought I was in for a rainy day. The forecast area for the Orlando TV stations is very large. It goes from south of Melbourne in the southeast to west of Ocala in the northwest. The simplest interpretation of the 75 percent chance of rain is the worst. If you are in the forecast area you have a 75 percent chance of rain. The more complex interpretation is not as dire. That interpretation recognizes that the day is long and the area is big. Not every area will have rain at all times. Some areas won’t get rain at all.

The rainy forecast caused me to change my plans from a visit to Sea World to another stay at home TV watching day. They are currently between festivals so it would have been a regular day st the park. The last festival ended a week ago. I probably will not get back to any of the theme parks until fall. Tomorrow is my last full day in this area. I may go to Disney Springs one last time.

Yet Another Slow and Relaxing Saturday

Saturday May 14th 2022

Yesterday’s late evening thunderstorm allowed the overnight temperature to get down to a good sleeping temperature. This morning the bright sunshine set the temperature on a steady climb to the upper eighties. The wind off the water wasn’t strong enough to bring new thunderstorms in the evening. Tomorrow will be back to the summer weather pattern with afternoon and evening thunderstorms.

Wildflower blossom of the day.

This was a day to catch up on things. First on the list was catching up on my sleep. I didn’t roll out of bed until 9AM. That set the laid back mood for the day. Other than cooking some food and a walk around the campground, most of my day was spent reading and watching TV.

The campground is far from full this weekend. May is very much an in between season for tourism in this area. The snowbirds are all back in the north, the spring breaks are over and the local school year is still a couple of weeks from over. This weekend the cabins and tent sites at this campground are very active, but the RV sites are fairly empty. The fancy sites near the swimming pool are mostly empty and there are about a dozen RVs scattered over the remaining sixty sites in the lower area. This is about the same number that were here when I arrived on Tuesday.

Another Visit to Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Friday May 13th 2022

Today I continued my return visits to the Disney theme parks with an afternoon trip to Disney’s Hollywood Studios. My goal was to see some shows and hopefully find wait times on some of the rides at reasonable levels.

Mickey and Minnie’s Run Away Railroad in the Chinese Theater

I checked the show times ahead of my visit and new that I needed to be in the park by 4PM to get in line for the last Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular show of the day. Traffic in the resort area was very heavy but I managed to arrive at the park by 3:45. The line for the 4:30 Indy show was already forming. By 4:10 I was seated waiting for the show.

The stunt show only returned to the park in December after the pandemic shutdown. It has been modified to have less audience participation and generally use fewer people in the cast. It still had plenty of action, explosions and fun. I’m glad I made the effort to see it.

Next on my agenda was the Frozen Ever After Sing Along. I’ve never seen this show before, but I have read about it from several sources. The sing along part is for the kids in the audience, but the comedy by the people on stage telling the story of Anna and Elsa is very much for the adults. It was also a very fun show.

Checking wait times on rides I was very much out of luck. When I first arrived in the park three of the big newer rides were closed for technical difficulties. Later they all had waits from 65 minutes to 120 minutes. Other than the nauseating Star Tours motion simulator that I had no intention of riding with a five minute wait all of the rides had at least a 45 minute wait.

I wasn’t in the mood to wait in any of the lines, so I walked around the park waiting to see if the wait times would go down. I also checked out some of the menus at the counter service restaurants looking for a good choice for my evening meal. The only thing on the menus that was remotely appealing was the hamburgers, but not appealing enough to spend money on. Wait times for the rides were also climbing rather than going down. An approaching thunderstorm was all it took to end my visit to the park. I was home around 8PM when the rain arrived.

The two shows and the few hours of people watching made the day worth while. It is not just the attractions that the park interesting.

A Return Visit to EPCOT’s Flower and Garden Festival

Thursday May 12th 2022

Since I’m still in the central Florida area instead of the northern part of the state, I decided to continue to use my passes to the theme parks while the opportunity was available. This evening I went back to Disney’s EPCOT to have dinner and continue to enjoy the Flower and Garden Festival.

I got to the park about 4:30 in the afternoon. Most of my visit was spent wandering around admiring all the flower beds and topiaries, but did do a few things to kill time before the Harmonious Fireworks and Laser show at 9PM. The American Adventure and Soaring Around the World attractions were good for a good half hour each in addition to their entertainment value. I also got plenty of exercise with three laps around the World Showcase lagoon.

Here are some of the photos from my evening at the park.

Thoughts on Inflation

Wednesday May 11th 2022

It was another beautiful day on the low side of the averages for the date. The high temperature was in the low eighties, the humidity was low and there was a strong20 c breeze out of the east.

Blossom of the day

When I left the campground to run errands this afternoon I was immediately aware of another significant changed in the price of gas. The 10 cent change from Monday to Tuesday was increased by a 20 cent jump from Tuesday to Wednesday. The average price is now $4.50 a gallon.

The jump in the price of gas increased my awareness of the prices at Walmart as I was picking up groceries. Generally I only notice the price increase when it transitions the first digit in the price. So I noticed the things that went from 99 cents to $1.07 and the things that went from two dollars and something to three dollars plus etc… The things that increase in the same dollar value I don’t notice right away. Overall things seem to be up less than ten percent. The amount I pay at the register still bounces around in the same range.

Inflation’s biggest impact on my life style is the price of gas and the per night price for camping. They both are significantly higher. Most of the camping fees at commercial parks go up every year by a few dollars. Since the pandemic the increased demand has allowed them to go at a quicker pace. Most have gone up ten to twenty percent. Some state parks like the Florida State Parks have gone up significantly more. They added a fourteen dollar “utility fee” to the price, but they are still generally lower than the commercial parks. I haven’t kept a separate record of per night costs for camping since my first year on the road, so I don’t know the overall impact of inflation on me. I suspect it is more than the 8.3 percent national rate. All of these increases are annoying, but they aren’t going to cause any significant change in my life style.

A Quick Travel Day

Tuesday May 10th 2022

Today was a moving day. My eleven nights at Tropical Palms Resort was up at 11AM this morning. I stretched my travel preparation tasks to the last minute. It was 11:01AM as I handed my gate card to the security guard.

I only had about twelve miles to my new location, but I had to buy gas and needed to show up closer to 1PM than 11:30AM. Yesterday I scouted out the best gas station for access and cost. It was in the opposite direction from my destination. When I arrived at the station this morning, the cost was ten cents a gallon more than yesterday. I put in one credit card pass worth of gas. The current authorization level per card swipe at this station is $200 dollars. I haven’t encountered this high an authorization before. It was good for about 46.5 gallons of gas or a little over 300 miles in range. My approach going forward is going to be buy gas whenever I find easy access and a marginally better price.

Site 50 at the Orlando Southwest KOA.

Knowing the area pretty well, I turned back toward my destination on major local streets. It was still well before noon when I go into the area of the Orlando Southwest KOA. I choose to get on Interstate 4 toward Tampa rather than stop at the campground. The rest area a few miles down the road provided a good place to kill some time. I returned to the campground just after 1PM and got checked into my site. This the same campground I was at for the weekend a little over two weeks ago. I have stayed here a number of times in the past. It has enough sites that getting a reservation on short notice is usually possible.

On my way to my destination I encountered some of Florida’s famous love bugs. The front windshield and grill of my motorhome were covered with the little insects. You need to get them off quickly, so I had to spend some time with my window cleaner and a cloth after I got setup. I think the majority are gone, but will look again in the morning when the sun is at a different angle. The longer they are on the surface the harder it is to get them off without leaving a stain.

Return Visit to Disney’s Animal Kingdom

Monday May 9th 2022

I set the “On Time” for my TV to 7AM as a wake up alarm. It worked flawlessly, but I wasn’t ready to begin my day at 7AM. My plan to get an early start at Disney’s Animal Kingdom was blown when I rolled over and went back to sleep.

Tree of Life
Kevin

My day at the Animal Kingdom began shortly after 9AM. The parking lot was very full when I parked. With the parking lot trams still on a Pandemic break it was a long walk to the entrance. The lines getting through security and the ticket gates were also very long. It was a busy day at the Animal Kingdom.

If I had arrived an hour or more earlier I’d have started my visit with a ride on the Kilimanjaro Safari. This morning the wait was already 75 minutes. I wandered around the park checking out all of the other animal exhibits and wait times for the other rides and shows. By the time I completed most of my first pass around the park, the wait time was down to 60 minutes. I bit the bullet and got in line. About 70 minutes later I was boarding the safari vehicle.

The length of the line wasn’t that much longer than on my previous visits this spring, but the capacity was down. The animals were hanging out on the roads delaying the safari vehicles. There is nothing like waiting five minutes for a giraffe to get out of the way to slow down the safari ride. Our guide this morning commented on the number of animals that had blocked her way on earlier safaris.

The good news is a lot of animals were out on the savanna. Watusi cattle, zebras and giraffes were all near the ride vehicles. In other areas antelope, and rhinos were also meandering near the road. Elephants, lions, ostriches and cheetahs were also visible along the safari route. It was probably the best of the three safaris rides I have taken this spring, but I have been on better ones in previous years.

After the safari I completed my tour of the park without waiting in any more lines. The wait times continued to be very long. I got home by mid afternoon with plenty of time to start my travel preparation tasks. Tomorrow is a moving day. I’m only going a short distance. I’ll still be in the theme park areas, so a return to some of them is possible.