The weather forecast this morning called for a sixty percent chance of rain at 10AM and a higher percentage as the day progressed. It wasn’t forecast to be dry until late evening. My response to the forecast was a decision to stay at my RV home today. I didn’t have to. It didn’t start to rain here until almost 5PM and it hasn’t been bad in this specific area.
I’m beginning to understand that there are some unique characteristics to the forecast of rain on the Florida peninsular. In other areas I’m familiar with, like the northeast, most rainstorms are associated with fronts that pass through the area. They are wide area events that can be forecast and timed fairly accurately. Here the types of rainstorms in the summer are far less predictable. The wind coming in off of the ocean waters surrounding the peninsular come into play along with the difference in temperatures over the land and sea. The intersection of winds from the Atlantic and winds from the Gulf of Mexico cause lots of local weather conditions. The bottom line is more often than other areas of the country the storms form right over your head and may not travel very far before they dissipate.
My current thoughts on the weather forecasts in this area are as follows. I think you need to interpret the percentages in the forecast differently. If they are declaring a percentage of probability of rain in means that somewhere in the forecast area there will be rain. The percentage relates to how likely it is you will be under the rainfall. For example, this morning at 10AM it was raining south of Jacksonville, so the call for rain in the forecast area was correct. The rain was forty or so miles south of my location so I was on the dry side of the sixty percent chance of rain in the area.
I’ve always been cautious about the weather. In this area, at least with daily rainstorm predictions, I think you have to just do what you plan and adapt if it rains. That’s a tough challenge for me.
Walking around the RV park this afternoon before the rain I observed a lot of empty sites. Some of the departures were surprising. The people across the road from me that were going to work everyday last week, packed and departed this morning. Their work assignment must have been over. The characteristics of the clientele at this RV park continues to engage my curiosity. There are a lot of empty sites tonight, but I know there isn’t any room for me after Friday. More people must be arriving all week.
For last few days the weather forecast has called for increased rain and thunderstorms today. As late as this morning, the forecast called for thunderstorms with heavy winds and over an inch of rain possible. They got it wrong. The temperature got into the lower nineties and the clouds started to build in the early afternoon. In southern Georgia, to the north of here, some heavy storms passed through. In this area a few rain drops fell, but it was primarily a wind event. There were a few wind gusts that I’d guess were in the 45 to 60mph range. Today’s overstated rainy forecast is now tomorrows forecast.
With the threat of weather, I got started with my exploring for the day shortly after breakfast. My destination was an area on the map labeled the 7 Creeks Recreation Area. It located toward the Atlantic coast from here. There are several different preserves, parks and trail heads along the creeks that wind between islands and marsh land before you get to the actual barrier islands along the coast. In this area the barrier island is Big Talbot Island. Little Talbot Island is to the south near the St. Johns River and Amelia Island is to the north.
The parks and preserves in the 7 Creeks Recreation area are run my the county, the state and the National Parks Service. I visited three today, but the conditions and the threatening weather didn’t allow for any real hiking. I visited the Pumpkin Hill Creek Preserve State Park, the Betz-Tiger Preserve and Cedar Point Preserve. I passed several other trail heads scattered between ranch land and rural homes. From the signs and reviewing the web pages there is an extensive system of more than thirty miles of trails. I also stopped at a canoe/kayak launch and a boat launch. With the exception of the boat launch, I didn’t run into any other people. The location is now on my list to return in better hiking weather. Perhaps that will happen this fall.
The wind that came through the RV park this afternoon caused some excitement. Several people were not prepared. I saw at least two trailer awnings that were up over the top of the trailers. The residents had left for the afternoon with the awning out. The awning catches the wind and acts like a big sail. Even when they are anchored down wind from the wrong direction will cause havoc. Today I think the residents of both trailers lucked out with only minimum damage. Often the wind will destroy the awning or the support arms.
It was a nice hot weather day. In this case, nice means it didn’t rain. The temperature peaked just shy of ninety with a little less humidity. The forecast says tomorrow will be a pay back day. Significant rain and thunderstorms are in the forecast.
The only event of significance today was a run to Walmart for groceries and a couple of other items. The store was moderately busy and unfortunately not well stocked. The shelves were all full. They just didn’t have the expected varieties of product. For example, neither of the two brands of butter substitute I buy were on the shelves. There space was occupied by other brands. I don’t know if this is a supply chain issue or a local preference issue.
The RV park has filled up for the weekend. There are still empty sites, but the reservation web site says they are occupied. I suspect that reflects the residential nature of the park. People had the site booked for at the much cheaper monthly rate and left early or they have gone somewhere else for a few days and will return.
The temperature climbed a few more degrees into the upper eighties today, but the humidity was a little lower. The wind pattern has switched from out of the southeast to more of a southwest origin. The result was the afternoon showers came later and from a different direction. This area only got a few random drops of rain. The real storms weren’t far away.
I spent most of the day working on chores and maintenance around my RV home. The most successful task was adding a little tape to my reflective sun shield for the front window. I needed the extra help keeping the sun’s warming glare out of the motorhome. The tape adds enough stiffness to allow the shade to stay between the blind and the glass without sagging.
My least successful chore was getting the laundry done. Each of the three times I checked all six machines were in use with at least one person waiting. I’ll either try earlier in the morning or try the other laundry facility in the RV park. I think that room has more machines.
The temperature returned to the upper eighties today with a little more humidity than yesterday. The rain storms were scattered, but one lingered just to the west of my location. It only dropped a few sprinkles on my area.
Over the last few months I’ve gotten into a lazy pattern of behavior. Most days I don’t leave my RV home until noon or a little later. In the weather pattern around here that is the start of the worst part of the day. Showers threaten or move in every afternoon. I have to take advantage of the better part of the day and get out by 10AM at the latest. Today, it was after 1PM before I departed the park. The changing sky caused me to return to my RV home by 2:30. Once again I hadn’t closed all the windows.
As I mentioned in a previous blog entry, this RV park is filled with many families in temporary living situations. The occupants are gone during the day presumably to work. The kids are gone during the day too, even though school is out for the summer in this area. The park is empty of people most of the day. Late in the afternoon into the early evening everybody returns. In addition to the usual group of construction type workers, I’ve seen a couple of people in military uniforms and one woman in hospital scrubs, so there is a diverse group staying here.
It weather was just a little bit less humid today. The rain showers were more scattered and managed to avoid me. I had one close call while on the southwest side of Jacksonville this afternoon, but I managed to stay in the sunshine all day. The temperature was a few degrees higher than yesterday. It peaked in the upper eighties.
Today was a potpourri of activities. The morning was dedicated to a few chores around the RV. I keep finding new places that the dust settles after a few days with open windows to allow the air to blow through. A few minutes of cleaning was necessary to rid the rig of some dirt.
The afternoon was occupied by a forty plus mile drive each way to my mail forwarding service. It is easier to pick up my mail directly when I’m in the general area. Finding campgrounds that will receive mail or post offices that deal with general delivery is a real challenge. The last two time I used general delivery I got lucky, but was informed by the clerks that I should have had it sent somewhere else.
When I got back to my RV home, I went back into planning mode. I booked two more reservations, so I have a place to stay until the end of the first week in July. The difficult to book Forth of July weekend is no longer hanging over my head. At the same time I’m booking forward into the summer, I’m working on booking backward from December into the fall. I have one more issue to resolve before I book November and the last half of October. Planning takes up more of my time than it should, but it is better than the alternative. Arriving at a campground and being told there is no room is the worst feeling. The scramble that follows is never fun.
For the last week or so I’ve been lucky. The forecast rain and thunderstorms have been missing my location. Today, mother nature made up for it in a big way. The rain line was slow moving. It appeared to settle in right over top of my RV home.
The rain started shortly after the lunch hour. Initially it was light enough that not traffic noise on the interstate drown out the sound of the rain on the roof. The windshield of my RV home and the street were completely wet by the time I got around to closing all the windows and vents. Not long after I had everything buttoned up the volume of rain exploded. The sound on the roof was a steady roar. The early part of the storm was not accompanied by any thunder and lightening, but about an hour in to the rain it became a thunderstorm. The thunder and lightening were right overhead.
The rainy conditions continued most of the afternoon and into the evening. The last hour or so of daylight has been mostly dry. A few drops of water continue to fall in the very humid air. I’ve been hiding out inside the RV with all the windows and vents closed and the AC blasting. The only positive point is the closed windows and the noise of the AC dull the sounds of the road noise from the interstate. My decision not to venture out on the roads was proven correct by reports of flooded roads and traffic problems on the evening news. I got in one walk around the campground right after my evening meal. I came back with damp hat and a few rain drop indicators on my shirt.
Tomorrow and the next few days are forecast to be dry and hot. The humidity is going down a few points, but not too far. This is summer in Florida after all.
The cloud cover and moderate southeast wind kept the high humidity from making the day uncomfortable. The temperature reached the mid to upper eighties, but as long as you were in the breeze it was comfortable outside.
I spent the morning slowly drinking my coffee and eating breakfast. Most of my attention during the meal was focused on catching up on recent blog and vlog entries. The internet is good here. Later in the day I ventured out of the RV park to explore the local area.
After driving around a few roads I was familiar with and a few that were new territory, I ended up at a small park and boat launch under the Interstate 95 bridge over the Trout River. Jacksonville is very much a river city. It occupies ground on both sides of the St. Johns River. The Trout River is a smaller tributary river that empties into the St. Johns near the downtown area. Interstate 95 crosses the Trout River a little ways up river from the confluence. The river is still near enough to the Atlantic Ocean to be subject to tidal conditions. Today while I was there the area near the boat launch was mostly mud except for a clearly defined channel from the ramp out to the middle of the river.
I spent an hour or so in the shade under the trees along the river bank. There was a lot of Canadian Geese calling cards on the ground. A few of the geese were hiding out under the I-95 bridge. Other birds like Herons and Egrets were looking for food out in the mud flats. For the most part the birds were staying away from the people in the park area.
Back at the RV park later in the afternoon I resumed my internet research for future places to stay. I’ve planned in the next few weeks but can’t lock it in until I make a phone call during business hours this week. I’m also considering returning to this park for the month of November. Longer stays are fairly economic at this park.
Today was a cloudy day in the mid to upper eighties with lots of humidity. So far one slow moving rain storm has passed through the area. There is the possibility of another later this evening. Shortly after noon, when I was finishing up my walk around the park, a dark line of clouds appeared on the southwest horizon. It took until 3pm for it to arrive overhead and drop some rain. While the storm was overhead, both the western and eastern horizons were much brighter. The moderate rain lasted for close to an hour. Clearly it was a narrow band of rain that was moving very slowly.
My focus for the day was getting settled in here at the Pecan Park RV resort for my two week stay. After finishing up the last few setup tasks, I took a walk around the park. Many of the residents at this park seem to be using the park as a short term residence. There are a lot of families with preschool and school age kids from other states. This is the weekend for these working families. There was a run on the laundry facility and a lot of chores seem to be underway around their sites.
This RV resort is one of the new style large RV resorts. It is laid out in a very regular pattern with multiple straight rows of RV sites. To over simplify a little the resorts are produced with a bulldozer and road graders. First they find land that is high, dry and relatively flat. They clear all the trees with the bulldozer, smooth the ground, establish proper drainage and layout long parallel roads. Then they trench and lay utilities. The next step is to cut in all the sites along the roads add concrete, gravel or pavement to taste and voila you have an RV resort. Adding buildings for restrooms, fitness centers, laundry and pool facilities adds value and changes it from a park to a resort.
Pecan Park RV Resort is one of the better examples. They have left a reasonable amount of space between sites and they have planted a few trees to replace some of the ones bulldozed during construction. The other thing that makes parks like this work is economy of scale. Adding sites doesn’t increase the operating costs proportionally. It just increases the capital outlay.
When I was here in 2016 the park had around 200 sites. To expand they needed to get creative. The new area of the park I’m staying is a long way from the older front section. It seems like you are winding down a road for over a mile, but it is probably less than half of that. The winding road was build by filling in a narrow corridor through a swamp. They have added lots of drainage and retention ponds to manage the water. The new section of RV park is on the next available high ground. It has about 100 sites with its own pool, laundry, play ground and other facilities. It is also much closer to the Intestate and further from the Jacksonville International Airport flight path.
I really like this park as RV parks go. State Parks in the woods with ponds and wildlife are my preference, but as commercial RV parks go, this one is pretty nice. I will be returning when I have an extended window of time. This park’s price structure clearly favors longer stays.
Today’s rain and thunderstorms stayed away from my location. There were lots of clouds in the sky to keep the sun from doing its worst, but there was plenty of humidity. The high temperature was in the low to mid eighties.
I was up early to prepare for my short move back into Florida. The humidity made the outside tasks uncomfortable. I was dripping by the time I was ready to travel. It was just before the 11AM checkout when I pulled out of the St. Mary’s KOA. The trick was going to be how to stretch a twenty mile journey into a two hour trip. The official check in time was 1PM and I wasn’t certain how much before that I could get away with arriving.
My first stop along the way was to top off my gas tank. Gas prices in Georgia are twenty cents or more cheaper than the Jacksonville Florida area. There was nobody in line behind me, so I took my time adding the thirty two gallons of gas to fill the tank.
My next stop was six miles down the road at the Florida Welcome Center. It was much more active today, than it was in the middle of last week when I stopped. The inside is much different than it was a few years ago. Businesses are not publishing as many brochures as they used to. They are more focused on an online presence. Only every other slot is filled in the massive brochure display walls and many of those are repeats. Many of the consolidated publications have QR codes to scan with your phone to get directly to the businesses web page. I spent an hour wandering around the Welcome Center and listening to the radio in my RV before continuing on my way.
I arrived at the Pecan Park RV Resort at 12:45 and was able to check in without a problem. The park has expanded since I was last here in the late summer of 2016. I’m in a new area that is very near Interstate 95. The wall that separates the highway from the campground is less than 100 feet from my RV home. I knew it was going to be the case before I booked, so I don’t have any issues. The old area is right under the landing pattern for the Jacksonville International Airport. This section has a little more distance from the planes flight path. The trade off is plane noise or truck noise. It all doesn’t make much difference when all the windows are closed and the AC is on.