Scouting for Christmas

Thursday December 3rd 2020

After another cold start to the day it warmed up to the low side of the mid seventies. This is in line with the seasonal average high temperature for the area. As the day progressed the bright blue sky gradually grew white with increasing cloud cover. It is not expected to be as cold overnight tonight.

Clouds building in over Lake Louisa

Last January when I made the reservation to stay here I expected to repeat the tourist experience I’ve had in this area several other years. Specifically, I wanted to enjoy the Christmas lights, events and atmosphere at the Disney theme parks. With the pandemic that isn’t going to happen. When you weigh the risks against what is possible and the cost it doesn’t add up. The things I like best in the theme parks aren’t running. The shows and night time entertainment are suspended for the duration of the pandemic. Rides are open, but they’re low on my must do list when visiting the parks. Outside the parks in the resort it is always nice to look at the decorations at the various hotels, but that is problematic right now as well. To get to the resort hotels you have to take Disney transportation which is limited to resort guests with reduced capacity. The only real possibility is the Disney Springs shopping and dinning area, but the entertainment there isn’t happening either.

I was out today driving around looking for neighborhoods with Christmas decorations. A daytime scout of possible areas to visit after dark to raise the chances of finding good light shows and lowering the chance of getting lost was one possible solution to my Disney withdrawal. I found a couple of residential neighborhoods with possibilities. I’ll check a couple of others during the daytime before venturing out at night. They are all a good distance from the state park.

Cool Temperatures Result in a Lazy Day

Wednesday December 2nd 2020

It was the coldest overnight temperature in the Orlando area since last January. The reported low was 33 degrees Fahrenheit in this area to the west of Orlando. Fifteen to twenty miles north was in the twenties. The bottom line is it was cold for central Florida overnight. It is not unusual unless it goes on for an extended period which it isn’t in the prediction. The temperature made it into the low sixties today. Tomorrow will see a similar increase in temperature to the low seventies after another slightly warmer night.

Inside my RV home it was in the forties when I turned up the heat this morning. I returned to bed under the covers until it was warm enough to shower in comfort. By the time I finished breakfast it was almost noon. The pattern for a very lazy day was set.

Someone thought the lily pad needed a glove.

Today I walked around the campground a couple of times and visited the two lakes the campsites sit between. The northeast wind was in my face looking out onto Dixie Lake so I didn’t spend much time on the dock. The wind was at my back on Hammond Lake, so I was able to hang around and watch the lily pads float in the wind. On a warmer day or once I get acclimated to the cooler temperatures I plan to follow the trails around both lakes.

My last walk of the day coincided with sunset. I was hopeful for a pretty sunset, but the limited clouds and dry moisture content in the air washed out a real pretty sunset. I’ve got a few more opportunities for a good sunset or two over the next week plus of sunsets.

Winter Weather Arrives in Central Florida

Tuesday December 1st 2020

As the calendar turned to December winter weather arrived in central Florida. It was in the forties when I got up this morning. The overnight low was reported in the high thirties. By the time the sun started to set in the west, the temperature had managed to reach fifty. Tonight’s low is forecast to be below freezing in some areas. This area will probably only get down to the mid thirties.

I really wasn’t prepared for Florida winter weather today. In September I experienced a few days in the sixties with cooler nights, but for the last two months the daytime highs have been around eighty in most of the places I’ve stayed. The sudden twenty five or more degree change has been chilling. This morning I had to dig out warmer clothes and tonight I’ve turned the heat on.

This morning I finished setting up camp for the next two weeks before taking a walk around the campground. Away from my tree sheltered area of the campground it got even colder. The wind coming across the lake cut right through the sweatshirts I was wearing. To warm up I went grocery shopping. It was a few days earlier than planned, but I was out of desert items to nibble on while hibernating from the cold.

The Walmart in Clermont was very busy. I haven’t seen so many people in the grocery section of a store since before the pandemic set in. The good news is everyone seemed to be wearing a mask. On the down side there were empty shelves in some areas. I came home with plenty of desert items, some meat and a few other things. If it were a warmer day, I would of spent my time more productively. Perhaps I would have taken a healthy hike rather than buying a less than healthy selection of food items. Blame it on the weather.

Travel Day to Clermont Florida

Monday November 30th 2020

If it is a rainy day there is a good chance it a travel day for me. That is the way it has seemed all fall and today was no exception. A cold front passed through the area this morning just in time to impact my travel day, but it could have been worse.

When I got up this morning the sun was out and the sky to the east was blue. When I looked to the west and north the sky was filled with thick dark clouds. The front was approaching. I got most of the outside tasks completed before breakfast. The rain arrived during my morning meal and continued hard for a little over an hour. I used the time to get the inside of the RV ready for travel. By the time I had to get back outside to finish the packing for my noon checkout, it was only a sporadic light rain. Half way to my destination the sun broke through the clouds. Unfortunately, the wind also picked up.

To get from Port Canaveral to Clermont Florida to the west of Orlando the easiest route is to take the Beach Line toll road into Orlando then continue west of US 50. I don’t go that way. My motorhome doesn’t have a toll transponder, but my car does. The combination creates a toll paying nightmare. Toll by plate may read the motorhomes license plate or it may read the towed car. Either way the transponder in the car will get read. In a month or two I might see a bill. To avoid the hassle I take a route that is about ten miles longer via St. Cloud and Kissimmee. The problem is all the traffic through the resort corridor. I probably got stopped at half of the dozens of traffic lights.

Site 50 at the Lake Louisa State Park in Clermont Florida.

I arrived at the Lake Louisa State Park in Clermont Florida just before 2:30PM. The park has had a number of changes since my last stay early in 2019. I noticed right away that the security gate had been moved in from the busy route US 27 entrance. This change was very much needed. When the gate is in use at night you used to be very concerned with passing traffic. The second big change I noticed was the addition of three rental tents for Glamping. Two of them were in use this evening. I’ll write about some of the more subtle changes sometime during my two week stay.

Last Day at Jetty Park

Sunday November 29th 2020

Today was the last day in the current string of great weather days. It was a bright sunny day with very little wind. The temperature peaked once again right around eighty. A cold front is moving across the state from the northwest. Thunderstorms are in the forecast for tomorrow morning and much colder temperatures are in store starting tomorrow afternoon.

Butterfly of the day.

This is also my last full day here. I really enjoy this RV park. The activity in the inlet and along the beach is fun to watch. I would stay here longer if I could. When I booked my stay last December I could only get this two week period. Since the disruption of the pandemic, it might be possible to stay longer, but that isn’t going to happen. I have a prepaid reservation in Clermont for the next two weeks and staying here would be far more expensive.

A freighter took the place of the Disney Wonder in the anchorage overnight. The Wonder is probably headed south to area many of the other cruise ships are using to ride out the pandemic.

All of the long weekend campers departed this morning. The speeding golf carts over filled with passengers are gone. All of the kids on bicycles, scooters and other powered devices are also gone. The RV park returned to a nice quiet place along the inlet to Port Canaveral by noon, but the day use area was still very active all day. Families come for the day complete with awnings for shelter, games for the kids and fishing poles for everyone. Out on the beach surf boards and boogie boards replaced the fishing poles in the family groups.

Blue Heron along the inlet as the sun is setting.

Tomorrow I’ll be moving on to Lake Louisa State Park in Clermont Florida on the west side of Orlando. It’s about a ninety mile drive that includes dealing with Orlando and Kissimmee traffic on the route that I take. The storm front passing through the area tomorrow might be an added complication. The state park is one of my regular stops during my Florida winter stay so I know the area well. It doesn’t have a working port to keep me entertained, but it has lots of trails and a few lakes.

Sun setting to the west.
Moon rising to the east as the sun sets to the west.

What Day is it?

Saturday November 28th 2020

Today’s weather turned into a repeat of the last three days after a slow foggy start. It took until late morning for the sun to replace the fog and warm everything up into the upper seventies with a gentle east southeast breeze.

Feeding time.

The repetitive nature of the weather only added to my confusion identifying the day of the week. Yesterday I had a few moments where I thought it was Saturday, but nowhere near as often as I thought today was Sunday. First I was confused by not finding news interview shows on the TV. Then I was confused by not seeing a mass exodus from the campground. Both were resolved by a few moments thought, but not with a deep enough understanding to prevent the idea from a return visit. This afternoon, I was confused again when I found college football games on TV rather than pro. Hopefully the external clues with get back to normal tomorrow and I’ll be back inline with the day of the week.

Bi-plane buzzing over the beach and port.

When I walked over to the inlet this morning I notice the Disney Wonder was no longer at the cruise ship terminal in the port. It had managed to sneak by the campground under the cover of darkness. Normally when a cruise ship sets sail from this port you can’t miss it. The music and lights would give it away. Once I reached the beach I found the Disney Wonder. It was anchored in the off shore anchorage a mile or so out in the Atlantic. I’m not sure if it is a legal issue or just a cost issue that makes it necessary for the ship to be out in the ocean rather than in port. The area between south Florida and the Bahamas is full of them. Today I read that the Wonder had only been in France with its sister ships since October, not for a year as I wrote yesterday. Either way it’s here now and doesn’t have a cruise scheduled until late January or early February.

Disney Wonder and another ship that looks military.

Today was a very big recreational boating day in the port and out into the Atlantic. The boat launch next to the campground has five floating docks providing enough space to launch and retrieve eight boats at a time. This morning people were busy launching boats at a rate of about three or four at a time. In the afternoon as sunset approached it was a real zoo. Boats were hovering in the channel waiting for an opportunity to land. As quickly as one trailer departed with a dripping boat, another one was getting ready to repeat the process. It was entertaining chaos.

An Active Day at the Port

Friday November 27th 2020

Today’s weather was a repeat of yesterday. It was a beautiful sunny day with very little wind. The temperature peaked right around eighty. The forecast calls for a similar day tomorrow, before the bottom falls out of the good weather. A cold front will pass through the area late Sunday and Monday. The high temperature for Tuesday is forecast in the fifties.

Disney Wonder deep in the port. Its presence makes the port look normal. Most pre pandemic days several cruise ships would be docked in the port.

Port Canaveral was more active today. Early this morning before I woke up the Disney Wonder cruise ship made its way up the inlet to the Disney cruise terminal. The ship has just completed a trans Atlantic crossing from France. It spent the last year at a shipyard getting an overhaul. The ship is reported to have a minimal crew compliment of approximately 200 and is not expected to resume cruising with passengers anytime soon. January is the earliest Disney is expected to set sail again.

Barge getting pushed out to sea.

This afternoon a big fuel barge was pushed out of the port. With the barge empty and the tug tightly in the slot at the back, it looked more like an ocean going tanker than a coastal barge. According to the marine traffic website a large cargo ship will arrive before morning. I think the big ships try to arrive when the small recreational boat traffic in the port is at a minimum. There were hundreds going in and out today.

Once again today I enjoyed watching the activity in the port and taking pictures of some of the big birds hanging around the area.

Happy Thanksgiving

Thursday November 26th 2020

Happy Thanksgiving

It was a beautiful sunny day with a high temperature around eighty. The wind was light from the southeast. Many families took advantage of the nice weather to celebrate the holiday at the beach. Others setup awnings in the day use area along the inlet to gather for cooking and eating.

Jetty Park beach late in the day.

In the campground there were other gatherings for Thanksgiving celebrations. One such gathering was at the site next door. Several related families on other sites in the area gathered at my neighbors for the holiday meal. I’m not sure the meal was successful. I watched the cook put the turkey on a charcoal fired kettle grill around 11am. At 2PM I saw the cover off the kettle grill with a very black bird on the grill. The turkey may have been fine, but it sure looked unpalatable. It was after 4PM when they finally gathered to eat, so alternative food may have been prepared.

I spent most of my day along the inlet watching the boating and bird activity. In between my two excursions to the inlet and beach, I cooked my own Thanksgiving dinner. A grilled chicken breast took the place of a traditional turkey, but I added turkey gravy and turkey stove top stuffing to the meal for homage to the holiday. It served the purpose, tasted good and was filling.

My Thanksgiving dinner.

An Odd Kind of Day

Wednesday November 25th 2020

Last night after I published my daily blog entry I went outside to watch the launch of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. The launch had been scheduled every night since Saturday, but the weather had always got in the way. At 9:13PM Tuesday night the launch happened without a hitch. It was a fairly clear night which allowed the spectacular nature of night launch to really show. The exhaust fire from the rocket was visible through the first stage cut off and second stage ignition. It might have been visible through the second stage cut off, but it’s more likely that it was finally too far away when I lost sight of the exhaust fire. This is the second and by far the best night launch I’ve observed. The first one was blocked by clouds not to far after lift off.

Recreation boat traffic through the port. Some of the boats come from the marinas deep in the port and others come through the lock from the Banana and Indian Rivers.
There was plenty of commercial traffic too.

Today’s weather was very nice. The wind was down in strength from the previous couple of days and the direction was out of the southeast. With only a few light fluffy clouds in the sky the temperature made it to the upper seventies.

The middle of the busy inlet seems like a strange place for sailing.
Watching the activity at the boat launch.

This morning I had a hard time figuring out what kind of day it was. The TV programming was clearly a week day. Once I got out into the park it became very ambiguous. All of the people and activity were more appropriate for a weekend day or a holiday. The inlet to the port was filled with recreational water craft of all kinds. The shore was lined with fishermen. It turned out the Spanish Mackerel were hitting. During the day I saw three caught by fishermen and one by an Osprey. At the beach lots of families were on the beach and in the water.

Osprey back on the high perch of the surveillance tower watching the water.
A while latter I saw the bird return with a nice fish in its talons.
A half an hour later the fish was partially consumed. Yummy lunch!

At one point this morning the boat traffic drew the attention of the Coast Guard. They deployed two boats to the mouth of the harbor. I’m not sure if they were on an enforcement mission, a rescue mission or just some kind of exercise. Shortly after I got to the inlet to watch the action, the boats departed the area for the depths of the port.

Two Coast Guard boats near the mouth of the inlet.
Bigger boat returning into the port.
Smaller Coast Guard boat.

Rude Start to a Nice Day

Tuesday November 24th 2020

The overnight temperature was just right to leave the bedroom windows open all night. Shortly before 7AM, I paid the price. Today was lawn maintenance day. The maintenance storage building is across the street from my campsite. They didn’t start mowing in the campground until mid morning, but they got the mowers out of the maintenance building and drove them through the campground to the day use area next door. I heard it all. My sleep was totally interrupted. The noise pollution in and around the campground continued until noon.

Freighter departing Port Canaveral this afternoon.

It was a nice sunny day with the high temperature in the mid seventies. The wind returned in the afternoon coming in off the ocean from the northeast. That helped keep the temperature down. Inland it was in the low eighties. Once again the beach was busy this afternoon.

Perhaps because of the unexpected early start to the day, I was lethargic all day. I still got in a couple of walks along the inlet and over to the beach in the park. One of these days I want to walk along the beach toward Cocoa Beach. Ideally I would like to have a day without as much wind as today. The next couple of days are possibilities.\

Today’s Bird Pictures