The final severe weather event of the last several days of unsettled weather began about 5AM this morning. I woke to the sound of heavy rain on the roof. When I got up to check the windows, my phone indicated that there was another tornado watch for the Florida peninsular as well as a couple of severe thunderstorm warnings to the east of my location. At my RV home the weather was a lot of wind driven heavy rain and maybe some thunder and lightening. I closed the windows and went back to bed. The rain was coming to an end when I woke up a little before 8AM.
The day turned into a bright sunny day with much lower humidity, but oh boy was it windy. The reports indicated the wind was steady over 20 mph out of the west northwest. There were gusts much stronger. My slide room awnings were flapping in the wind and a few small branches fell from nearby trees. The temperature peaked in the very comfortable low eighties. If you could ignore the wind, it was a very nice day.
The RV resort returned to sleepy mode this afternoon. The weekend RVers were gone by the 11AM checkout. As the day progressed the people who leave their RVs here during the week closed up and departed. The place went from noisy and active to quiet and laid back. I much prefer the current state.
This evening the weather delayed launch of the Falcon 9 Heavy rocket from Cape Canaveral took place. I interrupted the creation of this blog to go outside and watch the rocket’s red glare. It is such a clear night that it was possible to watch the rocket in the eastern sky for several minutes. I didn’t see the boosters return. I am too far inland. Watching the launch from the Jetty Park on the coast is obviously better, but there is something special about seeing the red glow climbing into the night sky from about fifty miles away. It was a nice way to end the day.
It was overcast and humid this morning. The forecast called for thunderstorms in the late afternoon and again during the night to follow. Sometime during the day the forecast changed. A tornado watch was in place for most of the Florida peninsular south of Ocala and it started to rain with the rumble of thunder in the distance early in the afternoon. This evening the tornado watch remains and the forecast for the overnight is very confused. Some forecasts are calling for severe weather overnight and others are down playing the severity. I guess it means stay tuned.
Around noon I drove to Disney Springs to check out the shops and entertainment. I fully expected it to be busy since it was a Saturday, but the weekend also brings out the entertainment. There were several solo artists and duets on the various stages around the area. Local school groups were also using the main stage to entertain. Bigger and more well known bands take the stages later in the evening.
I wandered through the whole area and stopped in a few of the shops. The crowds weren’t bad for a weekend day. Inside the shops there was plenty of room to move around. On the paths and walkways you had to have patience behind the large groups that travel abreast blocking the way for passers by. Overall pretty typical for Disney crowds.
The rain moved in earlier than I expected, so I cut my visit to Disney Springs short. Instead of having an afternoon meal under an umbrella in the rain, I returned to my RV home and cooked my own meal. The rain held off at the RV park until later. I was able to get in a brief walk around the RV resort. One of the little alligators was crossing the road in front of me as I took my walk. It didn’t know if it should retreat or hurry across the road so it froze and just looked at me. I gave it plenty of room and it finally continued on across the road back into the water.
It was cloudy and wet this morning. As the day progressed a few light showers passed through the area. The forecast called for thunderstorms possible severe through evening. They erred on the side of caution. The area of concern shrunk to an area on the east coast of the Florida peninsular during the noon forecast, but the off and on light showers continued for a while longer. As night approached the clouds started to give way to clearing. The bottom line is the weather threat kept me from doing anything outdoors that wasn’t near shelter.
I spent the day watching TV and chasing random information on the internet. The weather wasn’t bad enough to prevent me from getting in a couple of walks around the RV park. The retention pond in the park is home to several small alligators. Today two were on the bank doing their best imitation of a downed tree branch. I walked to within fifteen feet of one before I changed course. The little gator didn’t care.
As the afternoon progressed the park started to become more active for the weekend. New RVs arrived to occupy some of the empty sites and people arrived to occupy many of the RVs that remain vacant during the week. There seem to be a lot of people that park their RVs here as weekend vacation homes.
This evening I walked up to the Old Town Entertainment District. Friday night is the Muscle Car Show and Cruise. There were close to 100 cars tonight including about a dozen Corvettes. The engine noise as the cars cruised up and down the Old Town cobblestone roads is impressive.
The day began sunny with the temperature climbing quickly and ended with the area under a severe thunderstorm watch. About 5PM the TV weather talkers started to monitor severe thunderstorm warnings and then tornado warnings. All of the storms were east and north of here, but the TV did a good job of spreading fear. They have to heed the warning and convey the concerns. It would be devastating if they failed to communicate the message and life and property were lost. This immediate area only got some light rain. The current severe thunderstorm watch ends at 10PM, but a line of strong storms is coming in off the Gulf of Mexico overnight. Another watch or even a warning is possible overnight.
I tried to get moving quickly this morning. My plan was to get to Disney’s Animal Kingdom shortly after its 8AM opening. Even cutting my breakfast short, it was still around 9AM when I arrived at the park. By the time I got to the Safari Ride at the back of the park the posted wait time was fifty minutes. They were wrong. It took about ninety minutes before I boarded my safari truck, but my wait wasn’t over yet. Just after we pulled away from the loading platform all of the trucks stopped. Usually this happens when an animal decides to block the road. Today it was a mechanical problem. One of the trucks broke down. Everybody had to wait another half an hour before things got moving again. The trucks in front of us had animals to watch during the wait. Our truck didn’t even have any animals to watch. We were only a hundred feet or so from the loading area.
It was around 11AM when the safari began. The animals had retreated to the shade at the sides of the savanna. It is better ride early in the day or later toward evening to see the animals out in the open and active. All of the animals were a good distance away from the safari truck. Many were lying down and possibly sleeping. Overall it wasn’t one of the best safari rides I’ve taken.
Following the safari I walked the Gorilla Falls trail to see the gorillas. As I proceeded by the monkeys and through the bird tent I saw a lot of people walking against the prescribe direction of travel. It is not unusual to see one or two people back tracking out of the attraction, but this was different. I soon found out why. Just before the gorilla viewing area the path was blocked. The gorillas weren’t out and it looked like they were doing maintenance in the area. I soon became one of the people moving out of the attraction against the grain of traffic.
It was about this time that cutting my breakfast short this morning started to come back to haunt me. I was running out of energy and starting to feel lots of little aches and pains. A quick cup of Pineapple Dole Whip soft serve tasted great, but didn’t fix my energy levels. I continued to walk the trails in the park checking out the animals and other sights. All of the attractions had very long lines and wait times. The crowd level seemed to be high today. I completed one circuit of the park. On a good day I would have returned to some of the animals again or wait in line for one of the shows. Today I headed for the exit. I was back at my RV home by mid afternoon.
Today was forecast to be the worst day of the week weather wise. Area wide they probably nailed it, but in this immediate area it hasn’t been bad. The storm I experienced at EPCOT yesterday also fell on my RV home. It started to the northwest and dropped a significant size and volume of hail. This afternoon it was the area to the east of here that got the hail. The TV weather and news teams were focused on a severe storm with two inch size hail in the Melbourne Florida area. Slippery white stuff on the ground in Florida is not the norm. In some areas the hail needed to be shoveled just like snow. As of 9PM the severe thunderstorm watch has expired and this area has only gotten medium intensity showers with a little bit of a distant light show.
I spent the day at home today. My car spent the day about a mile and a half away getting its brakes replaced. I took it over this morning and walked back to the RV resort. This evening before the storms arrived here I walked back over and exchanged a large amount of money for the pleasure of having a car that will stop on request without complaining. Knowing a garage was nearby was one of the reasons I booked this resort for a two week stay.
In this blog entry I am including more of the pictures from yesterday’s trip to the International Flower and Garden Festival at Disney’s EPCOT. I took a lot of pictures of the butterflies and beautiful flowers as well as the topiaries that the Festival is famous for.
The weather forecasters missed the prediction again. They were calling for scattered afternoon thunderstorms less sever than Monday. The day began cloudy and muggy and transitioned to mostly sunny in the mid afternoon. The sun added a wrinkle to the mix by heating the atmosphere a little more than expected. A severe thunderstorm warning was issued for this area and a very strong storm hit the area around 5PM. By seven it was all over and the sun was trying to come back out as it set in the west.
Assuming today was the best weather day for in the next few, I went to Disney’s EPCOT this afternoon. The International Flower and Garden Festival is going on. The park was filled with bright flowers and colorful gardens. It wasn’t particularly busy today and it got even quieter after the severe weather drove a lot of people out of the park. I managed to stay dry by riding rides and wandering in the shops. It was a long day for me. I was at the park for almost nine hours, rode half a dozen rides and ate a couple of times.
I’m only going to include a few of the pictures in this blog entry. Tomorrow’s blog will contain some more pictures and more details on my visit. The highlights for me were the plentiful number and types of butterflies in the butterfly tent and the pretty orchids at the Mexico Pavilion. I also enjoyed listening to the Voices of Liberty at the American Adventure Pavilion.
The big change today was the weather. For the first time in months the forecast rainy day rang true. There have been days with a storm or two, but they never really measured up to the forecast. Today was different. The day began cloudy and very humid. The first strong shower arrived around 10:30 in the morning. That was well before the forecast start of the rain. Mother Nature didn’t want to confuse the weather forecasters so she held off on the bulk of the rain until about 2:30PM. A severe thunderstorm watch for the area was in place from 2PM until 8PM. Some heavy storms dropped water on my RV home fairly consistently into the evening. More is in the forecast all week.
Before the rain really got going in the afternoon, I made a run to Walmart for groceries. The Walmarts in this area are a little different. They cater to the tourists that visit this area every day. A big area at the front of the store is dedicated to Disney merchandise. It is mostly tee shirts, sweatshirts and other clothing with characters, celebratory words and other festive stuff. You might see one or two in a Walmart in other parts of the country, but here there is a few hundred square feet dedicated to them. In the food part of the store there is a bigger selection of candy, snack foods and heat and serve type items.
The clientele is also different. In the past I’ve seen foreign visitors wandering around the store in tourist mode trying to understand how everything works. Today I just saw a few people stocking up for their stay in the area with lots of snacks and breakfast foods. I overheard a discussion about what each member of the travel party would eat and how many meals they needed to be prepared for. The Walmart I shopped at is surrounded by rental properties.
I attempted to get in a walk around the RV park this afternoon, but the rain got in the way. The first five minute or so was fine, but then a few drops of rain started to fall. By the time I got back to my RV home it was coming down hard. About three minutes after I got inside the rain stopped, but I wasn’t about to try again.
The humidity was down today after the latest weather front passed through the area overnight without fanfare. The generally clear day allowed the temperature to climb into the upper eighties. The weather forecasters continue to predict lots of rain possibilities during the current week.
I started my day early to work on a reservation for next winter. Yesterday was the day I was supposed to book my next two stay in a Florida State Park, but I forgot until I was in bed last night. Luck was with me this morning. Not only did I manage to book a site, I was able to book it for eleven months from yesterday. The race to book sites wasn’t heavy enough yesterday to consume all the available sites. The only down side is it isn’t the best site, but it will do.
Since I was up early I was able to get an early start to the day. My destination for the day was Sea World. This my first trip since December. I arrived at the parking toll plaza about 9:30; half an hour after park opening. It was a few minutes before ten before I was in the park.
Grip of the Day: Sea World needs to hire more parking support staff. This morning I followed the long line of cars to the far end of the parking lot. At one point I passed a parking staff member that was clearly counting the cars. A half dozen or more cars after I passed by, he diverted the remaining cars in another direction. Those of us entering the end parking lot were left to ourselves. There weren’t any obvious open parking spaces. It was everyone for themselves. Cars were going up and down aisles in every direction. Some drivers were getting boxed in forcing them to wait for things to clear before backing up. I finally stumbled on a section of open parking spaces and got parked. I am so used to Disney that parks you very carefully.
I had a fun few hours at Sea World, but I only saw one show. My timing was terrible. If you time things right you can do all three of the big shows in sequence. I missed the 10AM Dolphin show by a couple of minutes. Doing other things while the Dolphin show was running I ended up in the wrong area of the park at the start of the Sea Lion show. I managed to see the Orca show by killing time watching the Sesame Street Parade. There were only three showings of each show today. Before the next sequence started in early afternoon I was running out of other things I wanted to do. The next Dolphin show was full before I got there. I am not a roller coaster fan. Sea World has several that draw lots of visitors. Today, most of them were closed. This made the competition for other attractions high. Other than the Dolphin show, the only attraction I wanted to see that I missed was the penguin encounter. The wait time was close to an hour.
There is a lot of construction going on at Sea World. They have been building a new coaster between the entrance and the big outdoor stadium for over a year. The construction blocks the entire lake shore in that area. It was a big obstruction after the Christmas show in December. On this visit I encountered another construction blockage. The area between the Penguin Encounter and the Sea Lion Stadium is closed for construction. To get from the Penguin Encounter to the rest of the park you need to backtrack toward the front of the park. To get to the Sea Lion Feeding area behind the Sea Lion stadium you need to travel backstage along a walled off pathway. I don’t know what they are building or how long the detours will last.
Either the weather prognosticators got the forecast wrong, or I didn’t understand them, because it didn’t rain at all today. I expected afternoon thunderstorms, but all we got was cloud cover. The temperature peaked in the high eighties.
I spent the day doing chores around my RV home split between periods of eating and TV watching. It was a very mixed activity day including two walks around the RV resort. This evening I walked up to the Old Town Entertainment area between the resort and the main road. The area has shops, restaurants and live entertainment. Tonight there was a band playing on the main stage and a Classic Car show and cruise throughout the Old Town area. There were a lot of restored “muscle” cars, a few contemporary corvettes, camaros, and mustangs and lots of other restored products of the sixties and seventies. There was even a restored corvair convertible.
Beside Old Town is the Fun Spot America amusement park. They have every kind of ride imaginable. If it has a chance of separating you from your last meal, they have it at Fun Spot. You can pay to get dropped from high up on the end of a cable, spun vertically around atop a fifty foot tower, or spun horizontally around a rotating axis to name a few of the ways they try to “amuse” you. There were also other classic amusement park rides like roller coasters, go carts, and bumper cars. I was amused by watching other people partake of the ride experiences.
Tonight was the busiest I’ve ever seen Old Town and Fun Spot. I’ve visited the area several times since 2016. They have expanded the area a great deal since then. There are new restaurants in Old Town and new rides at Fun Spot. On most of my previous visits there were empty shops in Old Town, but this time there didn’t seem to be any vacancies. The area was really filled with people and activity tonight.
Add a little bit of humidity and some wind out of a more southerly direction to yesterday’s weather and you get today’s. It was a generally sunny day with a high temperature in the upper half of the eighties. According to the TV weather talkers there were thunderstorms to the east this afternoon. Tomorrow is forecast to have more thunderstorm potential in the afternoon and next week has a very summer like weather pattern with plenty of afternoon and evening storms. The over two months of a dry weather pattern seems to be coming to an end.
When I went to bed last night I planned to be very active today. A visit to Disney’s EPCOT this afternoon was part of my plan, but this morning everything changed. I was dragging. Yesterday was a travel day with all the accompanied activity and tension. I needed a recovery day before dealing with the crowds of a theme park. I finished my setup tasks around my RV home and got reacquainted with the RV Resort.
After hurricane Ian in September I read that part of this resort was flooded, but I didn’t see any signs of flooding today. The only related thing of note was the water level in the creek that passes through the campground. It was higher than it was last year. I suspect the water level is artificially controlled since there was only a trickle on one side of a culvert passing under a campground road and a filled channel on the other side. The filled channel was enough water to be home to a small alligator. I thought I was through with them after leaving Myakka River State Park, but there was a young three footer here.
The campground seems to be a little more occupied this year than last year. There is an interesting mixture of long term and short term residents. In the long term category there are some standard snowbirds, some general long term residents and some sites that seem to be used as a vacation homes near the theme parks. It is also odd to see sites with lawn furniture, awnings, storage boxes and miscellaneous hookup equipment with no RV. Did they go away for the weekend?