A Slow Sunday with a Short Hike

Sunday December 4th 2022

I had a tough time getting started today. The sounds of my neighbors packing to leave woke me shortly before 8AM. After raising a couple of blinds and completing other first thing in the morning tasks, I laid back down on the bed. The next thing I knew it was after 10AM. The campsites around me were all empty by the time I finally got my day started. It turned into another beautiful day with a sunny sky and high temperatures in the low to mid eighties.

Today I walked around the far side of Dixie Lake in the state park. The water level is high, but not to the level that the path is wet. It looked like the level had retreated from a higher level earlier in the year. There is also evidence of a few trees that needed to be cleaned up after the recent storms. The trunks with clear evidence of chainsaw cuts sat along the sides of the trail. My guess is the wet ground made them vulnerable to the wind.

The park remained very busy with day use guests today. The fishing piers on both Hammond Lake and Dixie Lake were lined with people fishing. I chose to stay well away from the chaos of little kids and adults casting sharp hooks into the water. Most of them don’t last very long before they move onto another activity. It is like the family has a checklist of things they have to do while at the park. Cast a line in the lake three times, fishing check. Throw a Frisbee for five minutes check and so on… That’s the observation of this bystander.

As night approached the park filled up again. The weekend tent campers with Florida license plates were replaced by RVs with out of state plates. Tonight I saw a fair amount from northern states. New York, Ohio and the Canadian Provence of Ontario were well represented.

A Saturday at Home

Saturday December 3rd 2022

It was warm day with a high temperature in the low eighties. The average temperature for this time of year is in the low to mid seventies.

Wildflower blossom of the day.

I got a slow start to the day once again. When I finally got out of my RV home to check out the goings on in the campground, I found a very different atmosphere from my last daytime view of the campground yesterday morning. While I was out yesterday many of the empty campsites were occupied by tent campers. It is not unusual to see tents in the state parks, but the sites aren’t well designed for tent camping. On many sites the only place to pitch a tent is on the hard packed stony gravel of the driveway. This morning almost a third of the sites are occupied by tent campers. Usually, there is a handful at best. I suspect a good portion of them are together.

Wandering around the campground and the trails in the park, I came across a lot of day guests. There were bicyclists, hikers, fishermen and kayakers all around. Even the horse riding area down the road from the campground seemed to be very busy. I didn’t get down that far from the campground, but there were plenty of cars parked in front of the horse paddock area. This park is about thirty miles from downtown Orlando. It is about the right distance for day trips for people living in the city.

In the campground I’m starting to see some signs of the upcoming holiday. A few sites are decorated with lights and a couple of blow up characters have appeared. It is early for a lot of decorating to happen. Everybody that is here now will be gone before Christmas do to the length of stay limits. I expect to see more decorations at my next stop. It is also not a state park, so decorating is probably more of a “thing”.

Six Hours at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

Friday December 2nd 2022

Despite my best efforts, I didn’t get an early start to the day. I didn’t get to Disney’s Animal Kingdom until noon. The park was very busy and many of the animals were napping. Still I had a good afternoon at the park.

The Tree of Life

Today I brought my camera with a zoom lens to the park. On Wednesday’s visit to EPCOT I only had my cell phone camera. My goal for the day was to take animal pictures. Since I came home with over two hundred pictures (thank you digital technology), I will declare my goal met. I’m only going to include about fifty pictures here.

I really enjoyed the animal puppets that are here for the holidays. The life size puppets of polar bears, a wolf, a reindeer and others interact with each other and the guests in a very lifelike fashion. For attractions, I only road the Kilimanjaro Safari. The other rides and shows had long lines that I didn’t want to wait out. The safari was about an hour wait, but usually worth it. I road it a second time with only a thirty five minute wait. It was only an OK experience today. The driver for the first safari wasn’t the best and I was seated in the last row. The driver managed to pause with the front of the truck in view of the animals, but more often than not the back’s view was blocked. On my second ride later I was in the second row, but many of the animals had already returned to their nigh time quarters.

Most of my day was spent walking around the park and trails watching the animals and taking pictures. Here are some of the better pictures.

Searching for Wildflowers

Thursday December 1st 2022

It was a little cooler and windier today, but the overall temperature is still above the average for the date. The high was in the upper half of the seventies. Tomorrow is forecast to be similar followed by a slightly warmer weekend.

“Stay away while I eat my nut.”

Last year at about this same time of year when I was staying here the first hard frost of the year happened. It was obvious since all of the wildflowers I was able to take pictures of during the early part of my stay were no longer blooming later in my stay. This year I’ve been looking for wildflowers to take pictures. They are much harder to find, but surely haven’t been impacted by frost yet. The rain during the early fall and the hurricanes may have had more of an impact. The water level in the ponds and swampy areas is high, but I don’t see any obvious hurricane impacts. I’ll hike some of the trails deeper in the park this weekend.

Today’s adventure was at the grocery store. The aisles in the food area of Walmart were still filled with displays of food for the Thanksgiving feast. I don’t know if this is leftover or if they plan to keep it all in place until after Christmas. Not surprisingly, the store was busy. I got everything I wanted and was back home in reasonable time.

I really spent most of the day relaxing. Tomorrow I’m planning on another trip to Disney. I’ll be at Animal Kingdom. If I get myself out of bed early enough it will be a morning and early afternoon visit. Otherwise, I’ll go in the early afternoon and stay until dark or a little later. The park closes at 7PM. The animals that I go for aren’t very visible after dark.

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.