Holiday Festival at Disney’s ECOT

Wednesday November 30th 2022

Today’s weather turned out to be pretty good for a visit to Disney’s EPCOT. It was a warm day in the mid eighties. The day transitioned from cloudy to sunny and back again. A cold front passed through the area around 4PM with lots of threatening weather, but little actual rain. The temperature retreated quickly into the seventies and lower after the front passed.

I got to EPCOT at 1PM. My goals was to see the Christmas decorations and shows. The Holiday festival is my favorite Disney Christmas experience. The park is well decorated, some of the rides get Christmas overlays and most significantly there is plenty of live entertainment. Today I walked around the World Showcase twice looking at the decorations and watching the various Holiday entertainment. The Voices of Liberty were in Dickens era garb to sing Christmas Carols in the American Adventure rotunda and listened to a couple of Santa Clauses describe the Christmas experience in their native lands.

Voices of Liberty
Gingerbread and frosting representation of the American Adventure building. It is located in the American Adventure Building with a couple of others.

I watched, well mostly listened to, the first Candle Light Processional performance of the night from behind the theater. The people that got stand-by seats waited over an hour for the 5:15 show. Being out back I got to see the choir arrive in their bright yellow robes. Maybe another time I’ll attempt to score a walk up dinning package at the Regal Eagle quick service BBQ restaurant. That is probably the easiest way to get a seat.

Choir in yellow lined up to enter the American Adventure Theater for the Candlelight Processional show.

It has been a few years since I had an opportunity to visit EPCOT during the holidays. I don’t think the Living with the Land ride had a Christmas overlay the last time I visited during the holidays. Today it was a pleasant surprise. The decorations in the garden were impressive.

I didn’t hang around for the closing fireworks show. I watched the light shows on the Space Ship Earth glob before leaving around 7PM. I was home before eight. Next week I want to return to see more and tour the resort hotels behind EPCOT. The decorations and gingerbread houses at the resorts are always interesting.

First Day at Lake Louisa State Park

Tuesday November 29th 2022

The day began cloudy, but soon cleared into a sunny day with a bright blue sky. The humidity was down and the temperature climbed into the low eighties. The normal high for this day is in the upper seventies.

Today was a relaxing day after two days of high activity. Resting up before another active day tomorrow was my primary goal for the day. I finished up the outside setup tasks that are normal for my first full day at a new location. The car is now ready for driving around the area without the cumbersome addition of a bicycle rack and towing equipment. It is ready for an excursion tomorrow.

Walking around the campground and one of the trails in the park, it doesn’t look like a lot has changed since I was here in the spring. This park was closed for a week or two after hurricane Ian in October, so I thought I might find some signs of damage. The only thing that might be related is a slightly higher water level in the two lakes near the camping loops.

Travel Up the Road to Clermont

Monday November 28th 2022

After Sunday’s adventures at SeaWorld, I didn’t get a lot of sleep last night. I was up at 7:30 to get ready for a twenty five mile travel day. Checkout time was at 11AM and I hadn’t gotten as much stuff done as I wanted. There were still several dirty dishes to clean up and the outside tasks hadn’t been touched. Working tired meant I had to be careful not to make any mistakes.

I had everything stowed and the slide rooms pulled in a few minutes before eleven. One of the pull through sites across the street also emptied out this morning. I took advantage of the space to hook up the car for towing. It was a couple of minutes after eleven as I pulled out of my home for the last five weeks. I back on a two week schedule for the most part this winter.

With twenty five miles to travel and two hours to kill before I could check in, it was clear I needed to find a place to park for an hour or more. My solution was to get on Interstate 4 west for eight miles to a rest area. The only problem was all of the parking spaces were full. I reversed direction at the next exit and found the last available space at the east bound rest area. The detour to park added twenty miles to my twenty five mile drive, but it got me in after the 1PM checkout time at the State Park.

My other adventure along the way was attempting to buy gas. The first station was very crowded and already had two RVs taking up space waiting to get to the pumps. There wasn’t any room for me to wait. My next attempt had similar issues. It wasn’t as busy but the available space was limited. I would have blocked access to most of the pumps for arriving customers and there was a pretty good chance I’d get blocked in as well. Consequently, I burned time and gas, and arrived at my destination with a little better than a quarter tank of gas. The first thing on my travel agenda when I leave here in two weeks will be buying gas.

Site 48 at the Lake Louisa State Park in Clermont Florida.

I’m at a familiar stop. The Lake Louisa State Park in Clermont Florida will be my home through the twelfth of December. The easy access to nature, hiking trails and water is closer to my kind of place to stay than the RV park I was at for the last five weeks. My site is tucked away in the corner of the camping loop at the end of the road. It was a bit of a chore getting backed in, but the result is perfect for my stay. Once I finished most of my setup tasks, I crashed. Some food and a nap followed.

A Visit to SeaWorld

Sunday November 26th 2022

I’ve been planning to visit SeaWorld since their Christmas season began on November 11th, but weather and other events kept me from getting there. Today was the day. The weather wasn’t perfect, but it was good enough. It was a very warm and humid day in the mid to upper eighties. A cold front passed through the area around 7PM and dropped a little bit of rain, but it didn’t get in the way.

I didn’t get as early a start as I had planned. It was shortly before 11AM when I departed the RV park and noon on the dart when I cleared the entry gate at SeaWorld. During the first half of my visit I did all of the traditional SeaWorld shows and viewed all the animals. The Dolphin and Orca shows were as good as ever. The sea lion and otter show is OK, but there is more emphasis on the comedy of the hosts than the animals. Here are some pictures from the traditional SeaWorld animal part of the day.

The Christmas part of my SeaWorld day really began around 5PM. There were a few things like Santa Claus, Rudolph and an Elmo Christmas show going on all day, but I was interested in the evening entertainment. The two big shows I watched were the O Wondrous Night and Winter Wonderland on Ice shows. The Ice show was very similar to the show I saw last year and was followed by the park closing fireworks.

The O Wondrous night show wasn’t staged last year because of the pandemic. It is a telling of the Nativity from the perspective of the animals that were there. A donkey, dove and lamb represented by puppets tell the story of their contribution to the birth of Christ. Their egos provide a comic edge to the story which is primarily told by the chorus singing Christmas Songs. At the conclusion of the show real animals join the singers and dancers on the stage. The animals included goats, sheep, miniature horse, llama, lots of doves and 3 camels for the wise men. It was a nice show that could have been good if the volume was a little lower. Here are the more Christmas type pictures.

Saturday Not Sunday

Saturday November 26th 2022

My day started in a confused state. It was a cloudy almost foggy morning which kept things darker than normal well into the morning. When combined with the holiday weekend, I thought it was Sunday morning for at least the first hour of the day. When the Sunday morning TV news programs didn’t come on, the day’s true identity finally entered my foggy brain. Later in the day the confusion returned a few times. Things like “Why is a college football game on TV?”. It’s Saturday not Sunday.

While my brain seemed to remain cloudy all day, the weather start to clear up by the middle of the afternoon. The sun allowed the temperature to climb to near eighty. It remained very humid and tomorrow is forecast to start the same way. The only difference is tomorrow’s high is forecast to be in the mid eighties.

There are some big turtles in the front pond at the RV Resort.

Another reason I keep thinking this is Sunday, is the fact that I’m moving on Monday. Sunday would be my normal prep to move day, but I am still entertaining hope of going to SeaWorld on Sunday. Consequently, I’ve been doing some of my travel prep tasks today. Putting five weeks worth of clutter away is a big task.

The residents of the RV resort continue to decorate for Christmas. More lights and blow ups were setup today. Nothing extraordinary, but lots of festive color is getting added to the sides of the park roads. I’ll have to find somewhere else to get my holiday light fix since I move on Monday.

Another Day More Traffic

Friday November 25th 2022

The day began very similar to Thursday. It was cloudy and gloomy with plenty of humidity. Thankfully, it didn’t stay that way. The temperature climbed into the low to mid eighties under bright sunshine by afternoon. The humidity even seem to moderate some.

Traffic on the roads was terrible. I expected issues near shopping areas and on the Interstate, but there was plenty of traffic everywhere. The one major shopping area I passed was overflowing. I had no intention of stopping, but plenty of others were braving the mass shopping experience. When I crossed over Interstate 4 the east bound lanes were at a crawl. These were all expected, but Florida route 33 from Lakeland north toward Clermont was also filled with traffic. The road is more than twenty miles west of the Orlando metro area. It is usually has only a few cars visible at any time. My guess is other people though it was a good way to avoid the mess as well.

Activity has returned to the RV park. The usual motion of golf carts around the park resumed this morning. Many of the cart drivers were heading for the social scene near the pool. They aren’t there for swimming. They just pull up their carts near each other and have an extended conversation about the meaning of life or at least their thoughts of the day.

The ducks and sandhill cranes were back around the pond this afternoon. You can tell the birds that live here most of the time from the passers by. It is possible to walk within ten feet of the locals, but the strangers take flight as soon as they see you approaching.

I finished my futile search for a great replacement location for the middle two weeks of December. There were no available sites at any of the parks that came close to the nature experience at Myakka River State Park. Most of the places near the coasts or Orlando were full or cost eighty to one hundred plus dollars a night for a close packed site in a mobile home park like environment. Instead I booked the two weeks at the new RV park in Ocala that I stayed at in August. There isn’t much to do at the park or in the immediate area, but it is a nice park and the sites are well spaced with good amenities.

A Not Turkey Day

Thursday November 24th 2022

Happy Thanksgiving

I had a questionable plan for the day that I decided not to implement. The day started very humid and cloudy. It was very similar to yesterday. The forecast called for possible showers in the afternoon. The showers didn’t arrive in this area. The sun was out at sunset and the temperature reached the upper seventies.

Before I got up this morning I was planning to go to SeaWorld today. My theory, which might be completely wrong, was that it would not be very busy today. The logic I used was that Disney World and Universal would collect most of the tourists and the locals would be at home eating turkey. I never tried to validate my theory. Between a sleepy start to the day, this morning’s weather and my uncertainty about the potential attendance, I changed my plan and stayed home. Maybe I’ll go on Sunday.

Since I was staying home, I had to cook my Thanksgiving Dinner. I could have gone with some form of chicken, but decided that a pot roast was a good non traditional alternative to turkey. I loaded up the slow cooker with the pot roast after browning it some in a frying pan. To the mix in the slow cooker I added a couple of onions and a few carrots. I took a short cut on potatoes by baking them in the microwave. Four hours later I had my Thanksgiving feast. For dessert I had a slice of Apple Pie with vanilla Ice Cream. There was nothing to complain about. Well, maybe the dishes.

The RV park was very quiet today. The usual compliment of people running around in golf carts was missing most of the day. It wasn’t until near evening that I started to see movement. It also looked like a lot of people went out for the day or longer. I saw signs earlier in the month about a Pot Luck dinner in the club house this afternoon, but I wonder if it actually happened. There didn’t seem to be much activity in that area when I was walking around this afternoon.

Traffic Overload

Wednesday November 23rd 2022

It rain a little overnight. The showers I heard were very light and short. This morning it was close to being a foggy morning. The cloud deck was very close to ground level and remained there for most of the morning. In the early afternoon the sun broke through for a very short reminder of a sunny day. It wasn’t long before the sky darkened and a gentle mist dampened everything. The temperature peaked in the mid seventies.

I made the mistake of leaving the RV resort this afternoon. The traffic rapidly reminded me that it was the day before Thanksgiving. Traffic on the US route that passes the front of the park was the worst I’ve ever seen it. The was a steady line of traffic in both directions. In front of the park traffic was moving at normal speeds, but less than a mile up the road the traffic thickened and slowed to ten to fifteen MPH. As I drove along the road, it looked like the traffic in the other direction was even slower. The parking lot for the Publix supermarket appeared full with more cars turning into the shopping center all the time.

I didn’t have any particular destination, but chose to stop at the Home Depot. My intent was more to turn around than to go shopping, but I went inside to kill time. I hoped that time would allow the traffic level to drop. The Christmas decorations for sale in the Home Depot were impressive. They had a complete selection of inflatables and plenty of fake trees. It would be easy for someone decorating their home for the first time to spend a thousand or more dollars on decorations and not be done.

The other seasonal indicator was the presence of black plastic covered displays in the aisles around the store. They were clearly getting ready for Black Friday sales and didn’t want people getting into them before the start of the sale. I have no idea what was hiding under the plastic.

Traffic hadn’t improved when I got back into it heading home. My average speed over most of the eight miles home was around ten MPH. My guess is the traffic on Interstate 4 was worse and people switched to my route as an alternative. It was a primary way south and west from Orlando before the Interstate.

Clouds Clouds and More Clouds

Tuesday November 22nd 2022

The weather forecast called for rain today, but as of 9PM it hasn’t rained yet. That doesn’t mean the sun was shining. In fact the clouds just seemed to get thicker as the day went by. Despite the missing sunshine the temperature reached the mid seventies.

Once again, I allowed the weather forecast to dictate my day. My plans for outdoor activities were put on the back burner and I focused on inside activities. Today that was a lot of internet activity looking to fill the feared gap in my winter reservations. Yesterday I heard that at least part of my reservation for Myakka River State Park in the middle of December was canceled. With no guaranty that the last eight nights will not get canceled, I am looking for a place to stay for the entire two weeks.

There is no availability at the public campgrounds for more than a random night or two. The larger commercial RV parks have at least a few vacancies for the two week period, but they are at a premium price. The smaller commercial campgrounds are full. The further north I go in the center of the state the cost becomes more reasonable. Near the coast the premium prices remain. I will probably book a site at the RV resort in Ocala I stayed at in August. It is a new park that opened in July and hasn’t fully booked the winter with snowbirds. The downside is the location. I will basically be traveling north seventy miles for two weeks, then south one hundred fifty miles for two weeks before returning north one hundred and seventy miles for the another two weeks.

Today seemed to be decorating day at the RV park. The resort staff decorated the common spaces for Christmas and many of the residents took the opportunity to decorate their sites. This evening the area was very colorful. I was laughing when I saw the display in the picture at the top of this blog post. Who decorates outside for Thanksgiving?

Another Slow but Dry Day

Monday November 21st 2022

The weather forecast for today was the same as for yesterday. I was expecting a day filled with rain, but none fell. While the sun was only out briefly, the day was a total opposite. The temperature climbed into the mid seventies and it was a generally nice day.

I woke around 7:30AM to the sound of construction. The park model home behind my site was getting a new roof today. They stripped the roof and put on new shingles before noon today. It is a good thing the weather forecast was wrong. Sleep was out of the question with all the noise, so I got an early start to the day. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to bed early Sunday night and it was a restless night. My energy level was not high today.

It was a normal slow day. I did a few chores around my RV home and got a couple of walks in around the RV park. The sandhill cranes and the peafowl were missing from the park today. In there place I spotted an Anhinga drying its wings and a bunch of turtles taking in the limited sun.