Another Slow Wednesday

Wednesday August 17th 2022

The sun broke through the clouds for a little while in the early afternoon allowing the temperature to peak in the low nineties. Most of the day the clouds kept the temperature in the mid to upper eighties. During the early evening one brief thunderstorm passed close enough to drop a little rain and blow things around a bit.

For entertainment today, I watched a tree service work around the campground. All week a bucket truck operator and another guy to cleanup the mess have been working on the trees. Most of their work during thee first couple of days was trimming the low hanging branches on the trees along the exit driveway. The trees they are working on are older trees heavily weighted with Spanish Moss. Without trimming RVs would scrape on the branches. Today they changed their target to several trees in the campground proper. They did more than trim these trees. When they were finished only a stump a few inches above the ground remained. It really didn’t take long to bring the tree down piece by piece. There are still several huge live oaks adorned with Spanish Moss that stand in and around the campground. I hope they aren’t on the chopping block.

The campground was mostly empty during the day while they were working on the trees. Only a couple of other RVs stayed from last night. During the early afternoon tonight’s residents started arriving. The tree work moved out of the area with campsites when the new RVs started to arrive for the night.

Another Winter Planning Attempt

Tuesday August 16th 2022

My day began with the sound of rain on the roof around 7AM. I scurried to make sure all the windows were closed before returning to bed. About the time my head hit the pillow the rain stopped. It was only a very brief shower. That was the pattern all day. Heavy but small storm cells dotted the whole area. While I was out driving around the north central Florida area I drove through a couple of storms and saw several in the distance. None of the storms were very big or lasted very long. When I returned to the campground there was no evidence it had rained since the 7AM storm that woke me up.

I made another unsuccessful attempt at booking a reservation for next February this morning. Once again there were only a couple of sites available with who knows how many people competing for them. When these sites go for as little as $15 a night with the senior pass there is a big incentive. Private campgrounds in the same area want $90 to $130 a night if they have any inventory available. I have a day off from my frustration. It doesn’t look like there are any sites available starting six months from tomorrow. This is so similar to the experience I went through last March trying to book this same two week period in a Florida State Park at the start of their 11 month reservation window. That’s why I waited five months for the Federal campgrounds reservation window to open.

My challenge is complicated by the fact that I’ve booked the two weeks prior ending on February 9th in the Orlando area and the next two weeks starting on February 23rd in the Naples Florida area. I’d planned to book the two weeks in between somewhere between the two locations. My normal solution to unavailable reservations in the popular areas is to head north in the middle of the state. This area is less popular and has plenty of options. With Naples being in extreme southwest Florida this option isn’t really on the table this time. I don’t like five hour travel days.

Since I’m going to have to pay a high price for a commercial RV park, I went ahead and booked one that I know provides a lot of value for the price. I booked the first week from February 9th to the 16th at Disney’s Fort Wilderness. Obviously it wasn’t the cheapest option, but surprisingly it wasn’t the most expensive place I checked either. That distinction goes to a campground in the Fort Pierce area. I still want to get a few days at my desired location before the 23rd. Then I’ll just need to fill the gap from the 16th to whenever.

Tomorrow I need to work a more immediate planning problem. I need to book a site for my next stop and the Labor Day weekend.

North for Groceries

Monday August 15th 2022

It was a few degrees warmer today. The high temperature for the day was in the low to mid nineties. Other than the temperature, the day was very similar to yesterday. There was lots of sun and not an excessive amount of humidity. The chance of rain is forecast to be higher tomorrow.

The campground emptied out this morning. All of the overnight residents and my two neighbors that had been here since Saturday departed. Only one other RV remained in this part of the campground after checkout time. Watching one of my neighbors pack up and depart I continued to be confused by their intent. They didn’t seem to have any purpose to their actions. He threw lots of stuff in the back of his truck then started the vehicle and went inside the trailer. Twenty minutes or so later he came out and hitched up the fifth wheel only to return inside the RV. A few minutes later the slides were pulled in and he returned to action outside. It was another half an hour before they departed. I’m sure people watching me get ready to depart might be equally confused, but I know there is method to my approach. Maybe there is a method to this guys preparations as well.

After the entertainment of watching my neighbor depart, I needed to make a grocery run. I am located between two Walmarts. Each is about twenty miles away. I choose to head for the one in Valdosta Georgia. I think Valdosta is a little bigger community than Live Oak Florida where the other Walmart is located. I have been to both stores on previous stays at this RV park. The store was busy and the grocery shelves were not well stocked, but I managed to get what I needed.

A Sleepy Day

Sunday August 14th 2022

It was a sunny dry day with lower humidity than the last few. The temperature peaked at ninety degrees. Overall it was a very nice day.

It was a sunny and dry day.

I made the mistake of reading most of the night. I still got up at my normal time to make another attempt at booking a site in South Florida next February. Once again I was unsuccessful. The rest of my day was a battle to stay awake.

The campground pretty much emptied out again this morning as usual. Two RVs that didn’t depart are my immediate neighbors. I’m really surprised that one of them didn’t depart. If they are still here tomorrow afternoon I’ll be even more surprised.

For exercise today, I walked around the retention pond that the campground labels as a “lake”. There are lots of resident ducks, but they don’t pay any attention to you once they understand you aren’t feeding them. A few vising ducks and an egret or two round out the bird life around the pond.

Random Thoughts

Saturday August 13th 2022

I woke this morning to the sound of rain on the roof. Intermittent light rain showers fell all morning. The afternoon was mostly cloudy with lots of threatening darker clouds on the horizon. As the day was transitioning to night a few breaks in the clouds started to appear. It was a humid day with a high temperature in the low eighties.

The clouds started to break up late in the day.

My first order of business this morning was another attempt at booking a campsite for the middle of next February. There were only two sites available today and neither were ideal, so I used it as a learning experience to see if there was a faster path to locking in a site. If I was successful it would be OK, but I didn’t care if I failed. So my failure was a success. I now know another path to clicking the right button that might work better tomorrow.

Gas prices continue to come down in this area. On Thursday when I departed St. Augustine the stations at one Interstate exit wanted $3.89 per gallon. The next exit north on Interstate 95 was twenty cents cheaper at $3.69. That seemed to be more of the norm for that area. When I got over to Interstate 75 in the middle of the state, the price of gas was down to $3.39 a gallon. Today, I drove north into Georgia where gas is typically a little cheaper. It was $3.32 per gallon in Georgia. All of these prices are a lot better than the $4.89 per gallon I had to pay in June.

Each morning I’ve been at this campground the park has pretty much emptied out each morning. When I’ve been here before there were always a few people that stayed a few nights, particularly over the weekend. That is not the case this time. I would guess that about fifteen RVs arrived on Friday night and departed this morning. Only one of the Friday arrivals was still here after the 11AM checkout. Starting around 2PM another fifteen to twenty RVs arrived.

Post Travel Day Relaxation

Friday August 12th 2022

Today began cloudy and almost cool. The overnight temperature got down into the low seventies. Full sunshine never really arrived to really heat the air. The high temperature was in the mid eighties. The good news is the rain in the area missed this location.

Some of the local residents coming out of the shade for a visit.
I think you have to be a duck to appreciate the appearance.

I was up early to make another attempt at filling my last reservation for this coming winter. The six month reservation window for the twelfth of February is a Sunday so there were more sites available today. There were more than six sites available between the two campgrounds I’m trying to book this morning. Once again I wasn’t successful, but this time I might of lowered my chances. I clicked the wrong button at the critical time. By the time I backed out of the mistake and clicked the right button I was too late. I’ll try again tomorrow.

My day was typical for a day after travel. I finished my setup tasks and generally relaxed. I am familiar with this campground from previous visits. Not much seems to have changed since my last visit in October. The retention pond has a few more weeds around the perimeter and the ducks have a new place along the shore to hide out. They came out of their place in the shade to visit as I approached that area. Once they saw I didn’t have anything to feed them, they lost interest.

Blossom of the day

Travel Day with a Little Drama

Thursday August 11th 2022

It was a cloudy morning to finish my travel preparations. Without the direct sun the temperature remained around eighty, but the humidity was trough the roof. Any exertion resulted in copious amounts of sweat. Never the less I was packed up and hooked up for my move by the 11AM checkout time. I cleared the exit as the top of the hour struck.

The travel day had its share of drama. First up I missed my turn onto the west beltway around Jacksonville. I’ve taken that off ramp many times, but today I misinterpreted the signs and was in the wrong lane. I continued north into the city on Interstate 95 to pickup Interstate 10 right in the middle of downtown. Traffic wasn’t bad, but there was a little construction. Overall it was a few miles longer.

The second issue was the weather. I ran into a couple of downpours. They weren’t thunderstorms, but the rain was heavy. It was necessary to turn on the window defroster at full blast to keep the front window from fogging up. Visibility was a challenged during the rain. It was only a light sprinkle when I arrived at my destination, but the middle part of my trip was wet.

I noticed the third element of drama as I was setting up at my new location. This had the potential of being the worst of the set. My living room slide out was out about two inches as the bottom when I arrived. I don’t know if I failed to notice that it was not completely retracted when I departed St. Augustine or if it came out during my drive. It has never come out before and it worked fine when I cycled the controls, so I’ll just watch it closely going forward.

Site 50 at the Jennings KOA Holiday.

It was just after 2PM when I arrived at my destination. I made one pause for about forty minutes at a rest area along the way to let the storms pass through and to kill time. I am at the Jennings KOA Holiday in Jennings Florida just south of the Georgia state line on Interstate 75. This is a place I’ve stayed before on the side of the Interstate. I’ll be here for a week and a half.

Last Day in St. Augustine

Wednesday August 10th 2022

It was another nice weather day. It was mostly cloudy all day, but the rain was not in the area. The wind direction seems to have changed to a more southern origin. Unlike the last few days with an east wind that caused the rain storms to form just west of here, today’s storms formed well inland and didn’t make it to this area intact. The temperature peaked in the upper eighties with plenty of humidity.

I see you too.

Note to self; stay away from schools on the first day of classes. While I was out driving around this afternoon I encountered two different schools getting out. I think every parent decided to pick up their kids on the first day of school. Cars were backed up in both directions and around corners almost a mile at both schools. Officers were directing traffic and only allowing a few cars onto the school grounds at a time. Priority was also given to the buses some of which were still arriving with the kids already out of the buildings. It really looked like chaos. Hopefully it will improve as routines get established.

Tiny flying insect on the blossom.

This is my last full day in the St. Augustine area. I extended my stay here twice, but I’m running out of interesting activities. Tomorrow I’ll move inland and north for a little more than a week. I want to be out of Florida for most of September and October to have better options if hurricanes start to head this way. Exactly where I’m going is still an unknown.

Failure to Book

Tuesday August 9th 2022

I was up early this morning to book my last reservation for next winter. At the eleven month mark, last March, I tried to book a Florida State Park reservation for the two week period starting February 9th 2023. I had no luck, so I decided to switch my focus for that period to the Army Corp of Engineers campgrounds east of Fort Myers Florida. Federal campgrounds have a booking window that opens 6 months from the start of the reservation. That was this morning.

Blossom of the day.

Over the last few days I’ve monitored the availability at my two target campgrounds. As of yesterday it looked like only three sites would be available. This morning there were only two available. I set my sights on the campsite I thought I’d have the least competition over. At 9:59AM approaching the 10AM opening of the booking widow I clicked my mouse on the appropriate field and no dice. Someone else out clicked me. The campsite at the other campground was also gone.

It looks like the number of available sites will increase over the next few days. I’ll try again and again as necessary. The middle of February seems to be a very popular time this coming winter. I will need to make a reservation at a commercial park for a few nights starting on February 9th. A quick check at a few of my standard backups in the central Florida area showed one campground with no availability. Two others had sites available, but the rates ranged from very high at $78 per night to ridiculous at $168 per night. It was less than $70 at the campground expecting the ridiculous amount when I stayed there last May. Disney’s Fort Wilderness campground had available sites for less than the $168 price, so it is a possibility as well. At least Fort Wilderness gives you enough things to do that you can believe your getting your money’s worth. The bottom line is I have some work to do to book the last two weeks for next winter.

School starts in this county tomorrow. I wish I thought about that before deciding to go to Walmart for some grocery shopping. It was very busy. Many of the shoppers included several kids in the party. The shopping carts were filled with back to school supplies and a few cloths. I avoided the special area of the store with back to school supplies, but it looked like a feeding frenzy at an aquarium in that area.

A Different Shopping Experience

Monday August 8th 2022

The sound of thunder and the specter of dark clouds were all around the area today. It looked like a tropical downpour was only moments away for much of the day, but this area stayed dry. The sun was mostly blocked by clouds, so the temperature remained in the mid eighties.

The daily rain storms during the Florida summer are mostly caused by the collision of wind coming from the east coast with the winds from the west coast of the peninsula. The water temperature in the Atlantic vs. the Gulf of Mexico along with the strength of the wind factor into the location of the developing disturbances. Over the last few days the wind off the Atlantic has been dominant causing the storms to develop inland from the east coast and move to the north and west once they form. Since I’m located about five miles from the coast, I’ve been in the clear. When the wind from the west is stronger the storms move into this area late in the day after they form inland. Obviously there are lots of other factors in prediction of the developing weather, but this simplification helps me understand the forecast.

I needed to shop for some things that aren’t available at Walmart and I wanted to be more tactile than Amazon allows. Before I began the Rambling Road Trip, Target was one of my “goto” stores. On the road they aren’t available in rural America as frequently as they are in cities. There is a Target in St. Augustine, so I took advantage of the opportunity. It has been over two years since I was in a Target.

In my opinion Target stores are more open and uncluttered than similar stores like Walmart. It is easier to find what your looking for and compare one product with another. This store was the exception to my experience. Things were jammed together and disorganized. There wasn’t a lot of open space between rows of merchandise. Overstock or not yet sorted merchandise was in the main aisles. It was somewhat of a disorganized mess. Never the less, I found a couple of items I was looking for. When I left the store I spotted storage containers in the parking lot and a sign on the side of the building saying they were open during remodeling. I didn’t see any real indicators of remodeling inside, just clutter, but I guess they have an excuse.