After last night’s rain showers as another cold front passed through the area, it was a cool dull morning. I got up long enough to turn on the heat before returning to the warmth of my bed. The sun was making an appearance through the trees by the time I got up. The temperature never got higher than the low sixties and the clouds were back around 3:30PM.
I made use of the better part of the day to take another walk along the Hillsborough River. The most notable difference today was the number of people enjoying the state park. People were doing all kinds of different things. The majority were hiking, but some were having picnics, walking dogs, or paddling kayaks in the river. The day use part of the park is still partially shutdown do to the pandemic. The concession operation isn’t open. You can not rent kayaks or canoes. The swimming pool and playgrounds are also closed.
The type of campers in the campground also changed for the weekend. During the week the sites were mostly occupied by RVs from some distance away. This weekend there are more tent trailers and tents. Families have replaced aging couples and solo travelers. It good to see that local families can use the state parks. I wonder if it is a consequence of the pandemic or if I just wasn’t noticing it in previous years.
Today began early for me. I was up before 8AM to try and make a reservation for next winter. Reservations for sites in Florida state parks starting on December 15th 2021 opened today. There were only two available at my park of choice and despite hitting the enter key at 8AM I missed out. There are no sites available starting December 16th, so my next chance will be on Sunday morning. I will keep trying for a few days before switching to a less popular park.
The weather followed the forecast with respect to the temperature, but not to much else. There was a two or three hour window of outdoor suitable weather. The day started cloudy and cool and ended rainy and windy. In between the sun was out long enough to get the temperature up to low seventies.
I spent the outdoor suitable part of the day walking along the Hillsborough River. I think I’m seeing the same animals over and over. I saw alligators in the same general area as yesterday. They seem to be the same size as the ones I saw yesterday. I also saw an Anhinga drying its wings in the same general section of river. The Little Blue Heron and the Great Blue Heron might well be the same birds, but there is less evidence to support the theory.
After three days of little to no sunshine, it was back today. By late morning the sun had won the battle with the clouds and warmed the air temperature into the high sixties before setting this evening. Clear conditions remain overnight through around noon tomorrow. The next cold front is forecast to arrive tomorrow afternoon.
Taking advantage of the better weather I explored along the Hillsborough River a little more extensively. The wildlife was a little more active. More birds were visible and others were singing their chants from the trees. The fish were visible in the clear calm waters of the river and the warm sunshine brought the alligators onto the river banks.
There were plenty of human visitors to the park too. Across the river from one rather large alligator a small group gathered. Among the people was one gentleman that seem to think he was an “expert”. He loudly proclaimed that the “crocodile” was in her nest keeping her eggs warm. Others in his party were eating up his expertise. As far as I know, alligator matting season is still a few months away and I don’t think the eggs are attended during incubation. Do you think any of his friends knew the truth? Sometimes it’s fun to overhear things and sometimes it’s just a sad. Those folks need to visit Myakka River State Park to see more than a couple of gators. The alligators on this river bank aren’t that big or plentiful.
The campsites in this state park seem to turn over frequently. Some of the nearby sites have changed occupants two or three times since I arrived on Monday. It will be interesting to see if the sites get occupied by weekenders or continue to turn over daily with travelers.
Today was a cool and gloomy day. The thick cloud cover necessitated a light on inside my RV home to do anything more than watch TV even at midday. Outside the temperature remained in the low fifties all day.
An upside to the cool, cloudy and still conditions was the lack of people out on the trails. During my late morning walk I didn’t see a soul. It was so quiet that every little noise in the woods stood out. The sounds of squirrels on the ground and in the trees sounded like far bigger creatures. A woodpecker on the far side of the river found a hollow tree that amplified every peck against the trunk. It was an interesting exercise to stand still on the river bank and listen to all the various sounds throughout the woodlands.
I took my second walk of the day early to get away from the TV and beat the approaching rain showers. Around 4PM a series of brief light showers began. They are forecast to continue into the evening. On the second walk I encountered more people out and about. It was still very still, but the sound of kids at play and barking dogs kept the more wild sounds of nature from my ears. Other than lots of squirrels the only wildlife I saw was a lone Anhinga. Unlike yesterdays spread wing pose, it was huddled up with its wings close to the body.
Between the thick tree cover and the very cloudy conditions it was a dark and dull morning. Getting started with the day was difficult. The sun made a brief appearance through the clouds late in the afternoon, but if you blinked you would have missed it. The temperature remained in the low to mid sixties all day. Overnight lows in the forties are forecast.
The first order of business today was finishing the setup tasks around the campsite. Usually that only includes taking the bike off the car and a couple of other outside tasks. This morning I found I’d stopped in the middle of things yesterday. The door to my electric cord storage on the back drivers side of the rig was still open and I had also neglected to put the cover on my tow bar. I must have been really tired yesterday after I arrived.
This morning I did some exploring around the campground. Some of the campsites are much better than the one I’m on. They have been leveled out and raised above the water level with gravel. If I’m going to stay here again, I need to make a list of the improved sites. The one I’m on is OK, but it has issues compared with many of the others.
My other two walks today were along the Hillsborough River. The river winds through the park. It has lots of pretty overhanging trees and many downed trunks in the river providing character to the rivers flow. Without the sun or general warmth, the turtles and gators weren’t out on the banks, but I suspect on warmer days they will be. I kept my walk to the developed trails on this side of the river today. On the other side of the river are two longer less developed trails that I’ll explore on another day.
Today was my first travel day of the new year. For a change it was good travel weather. It was a warm cloudy day with only a little wind.
Hooking up to depart Lake Manatee State Park isn’t easy. I have to move the car to the day use area so I have room to hook it up to the motorhome. Then after walking back to my site I can finish getting ready to depart. Before I can drive the motorhome to the car, I have to stop at the dump station to empty my holding tanks. Today it took over half an hour to wait for two vehicles ahead to dump and move on. It was three minutes after the 1PM checkout as I pulled out of the park.
I chose to avoid Interstate 75 and stay on US 301 for my travel day. The interstate is usually very heavily congested during the middle of the work day. I probably made the wrong choice. I had to deal with the backup caused by two accidents, two construction zones and several miles stuck behind a school bus. The number of traffic signals was also a pain to deal with. It took a little over an hour and a half to complete the sixty five mile drive.
I’m at Hillsborough River State Park for the next two weeks. This is my second visit. The park is located northeast of Tampa on US 301. It is an older park with narrow roads and weirdly shaped campsites. The site I’m on was very difficult to get backed into. It is on a narrow bend in the road and is angled poorly for getting backed in. A neighbor was nice enough to assist with directions. It saved having to get out of the drivers seat and check clearance around the motorhome multiple times. The site I had last time I was here was equally awkward. The location, near Tampa, is what drew me back. I had planned to attend the Tampa RV Super Show this week when I booked last February. With the pandemic, I won’t be keeping that plan even though the show is still on.
Today began even colder than Saturday. The inside temperature was 49 at 8AM. The outside was likely a few degrees cooler. Unlike yesterday it was a bright sunny day with a very light breeze. It still took a long time to warm up to the day’s high in the low sixties. The average for this location at this time of year is another ten degrees higher around 72 degrees. Maybe tomorrow.
I needed to stock up on food today. Tomorrow is a travel day, so my next opportunity would be Tuesday or Wednesday. When did Sunday become the primary shopping day of the week? It sure seems that there are more people in the store when I shop on Sunday than other days of the week. Today Walmart was crowded inside and out. I had to park a long way away from the door, but the exercise is good for me. Inside the aisles were congested making it hard to maintain distance. The good thing is masks were being worn. Most of the checkout registers were staffed, but each had a line of three or more customers. It might have taken as long to checkout as I spent going up and down the aisles.
I took may last walk through the state park and down to boat launch this evening. Tomorrow I’m moving about seventy miles north to the greater Tampa area. I’ll be at another state park for two weeks. I’ll be back to this state park in seven weeks. Checkout time at both locations is 1PM, so I’ll need to leave here close to checkout time. That gives me plenty of time in the morning to pack up. Tonight I’ll make sure the dishes are clean and a few of the big things are put away.
Today turned into an inside day. The outside temperature remained in the low fifties and a wind out of the north kept the comfort level even lower. It was also an almost totally cloud covered day. The sun made a few random appearances for five to ten minutes at a time, but it wasn’t enough to raise the outside comfort level or heat the inside of my RV home. To add to my discomfort the wind direction was hitting my RV home just right to seep inside via vents and gaps in the slide room gaskets.
I know the fifties isn’t really cold. If I was still in New England, I’d be welcoming the temperature as a winter heat wave. Even a couple hundred miles north of here, I’d be satisfied with highs in the fifties. The problem in this area is the roller coaster we’ve been on. My body and mind don’t seem to get acclimated. One day it is in the high seventies and a few days later it is back in the fifties. It is hard to plan and hard to dress for the day.
Lucky for me there were plenty of football games on TV to keep my attention inside. This is wildcard weekend for the NFL. The games today have kept my attention. Tonight is the big game for people in this area. Tampa is playing Washington. It is the first play off appearance for the Bucs since 2007. The team is packed with talent. It will be interesting to see how far they get in the playoffs.
Today was only a one walk day. Between watching the games and cooking my evening meal, darkness arrived before I got out for the second walk of the day. It’s getting dark later, but not enough for today’s activity.
A cold front passed through the area last night with a little rain. It left behind a cloudy day with a few brief periods of sunshine along with lots of wind. Being parked under a tall Live Oak with lots of Spanish Moss is nice most of the time, but not on a windy day. Leaves, nuts, small branches and the Spanish Moss all seem to come crashing down on the roof of my RV home. Nothing is big enough of heavy enough to do any damage. The problem is the moss gets hung up on things on the roof like antennas and vents. Once the moss is stuck it seems to trap some of the other falling items. Then the wind comes along and noisily drags the moss with its trapped junk across the roof. A trip onto the roof to clean things up is in my future.
While I was out driving around in the Bradenton area today, two interesting changes from my first drive of this stay early last week were apparent. The first was the price of gas. On the first of the year the price went up about twelve cents. The rapid change probably means a tax increase, but I haven’t heard or read anything about it. The other change I knew about. A nearby county park that I visited on the 30th with plans to return is now a COVID-19 drive through vaccination site. Tom Bennett park is now filled with message boards, orange barrels, white tents and parking areas for people to wait while being monitored for side effects. They are doing a steady business.
Today’s walks around the state park required an extra layer of sweatshirt. There seemed to be even less activity than usual. Curiously, the type of people in the campground for the weekend has changed. It is no longer Florida families out for a weekend with friends. It seems to be back to travelers from northern states. There are a lot of New York, Michigan, Ohio and other northern license plates around the campground. It seems that some of the post holiday snowbirds are coming to Florida after all. I don’t think it is anywhere near normal though.
Today started cloudy and cool and ended cloudy with the approach of rain. In between there was an hour or so of partial sunshine. The high temperature was about seventy. Another cold front is passing through the area tonight with some rain. Tomorrow will be cooler and windy.
I didn’t do much today. The cool morning temperature kept my energy level low. I took my usual two walks around the park, but there wasn’t much to see. No one was fishing in the lake and most of the wildlife seemed to be in hiding. At home I did more pondering and research for this years travel. I still haven’t had a eureka moment that identified a fun destination that I can look forward to. The research will continue.
Without getting political, I don’t have anything of substance to write about in this blog entry.