Travel Day to Fort Wilderness

Friday January 14th 2022

Today was a travel day to Fort Wilderness at Disney World in central Florida. It was almost a perfect weather day for travel. The sun was out and the temperature was around seventy. The only down side was the strong wind out of the northwest. The gusts really bounced the motorhome around a bit.

I got on the road at 11:30AM. My first stop was at a gas station for fuel. I had allowed the tank to get below a quarter by telling myself the price of fuel would go down. It did at a few of the stations, but the one I choose had only gone down a penny or two. Other, less accessible, stations in the same area were almost ten cents cheaper. I put in two credit card authorizations worth of gas for a total of $200 and still didn’t fill the tank.

Traffic going north on Interstate 75 was heavy, but it kept moving. Once I turned east on Intestate 4 the traffic situation stated to deteriorate. At many of the intersections traffic slowed to a crawl to allow for all the merging vehicles. Nearing the end of my journey, on the outskirts of Orlando, traffic turned to stop and go. This is a par for the course. I arrived at Fort Wilderness a little after 2PM.

Site 1609 at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Campground

I had already checked in online. Disney sent a text message with my site number while I was on Interstate 4. I stopped briefly at the rest area east of Lakeland to read the details so I was able to go straight to my site without waiting in the long line at the entrance toll booths. Knowing how narrow and busy the roads are in the camping loop, I stopped at the overflow parking area to disconnect the car from the motorhome before going to my site. By 3PM I was setup and ready for some lunch.

This evening I walked down to Bay Lake to watch the fireworks from the Magic Kingdom. It is a long walk, but the internal bus system seems to be infrequent. There is a nice sidewalk to follow, so it is an easy walk. The only issue is seeing where your going. All of the golf carts on the road have very bright led headlights that are equivalent to full beams on a car. They do a very good job of ruining ones night vision every time one passes.

The beach area I watched the fireworks from in the past is not available. The area is fenced off to allow for the construction of the new Disney Vacation Club Resort where the old River Country Water Park used to be. Construction was stopped at the beginning of the pandemic and hasn’t been restarted. There are still areas to view the fireworks, but it isn’t possible to spread out as much now. It was hard to hear the music with all the conversations and playing kids. The fireworks show was great. Here are some pictures.

Last Day in the Bradenton Area

Thursday January 13th 2022

The latest cold front passed through the area without dropping any rain during the night. Today was a very windy day with lots of fluffy clouds moving rapidly across the sky. The temperature managed to climb to seventy degrees.

On my last full day at Lake Manatee State Park I spent time working on a few chores in addition to my routine walks around the park. I still haven’t fixed the problem with the front brake cable on my bicycle. Soaking the seized with rust cable in penetrating oil was unsuccessful. Today I got a little more forceful in my attempts to free the cable. It still won’t move. An online search hasn’t identified any simple replacements. The metal tube the cable passes trough and the source of the problem doesn’t seem to be part of the replacement parts I’ve found. It is looking more like I should just find a bicycle repair shop.

The bicycle is back on its rack on the back of my SUV as I transitioned from chores to travel preparation mode. It will probably stay there until next week. I got the outside day before travel tasks completed before taking my last walk of the day just before sunset. There weren’t as many walkers out today. The cooler temperature keeps more people inside. I did find one Gopher Tortoise brave enough to come out of the ground. It was taking advantage of the full sun at that point in time. Later in the day it was probably back in its hole in the ground.

This weekend is a holiday weekend. Last winter it proved to be difficult booking a stay at another state park for the weekend. My next state park stay starts on Monday back in central Florida at Lake Louisa State Park. I kept watching for a place to stay on the holiday weekend. There were sites available at the chain commercial campgrounds in the center of the state, but the rates were near $90 a night. Looking for more value for that high price, I checked Fort Wilderness at Disney World a few times. In September I found an opening for the weekend at a rate not much higher than the other commercial campgrounds in the area. I’ll be at Fort Wilderness for the three night weekend. I don’t have theme park admission tickets or an annual pass, but I’ll enjoy some resort hoping and watching the Fireworks across Bay Lake in the evening.

Already Booking Next Winter

Wednesday January 12th 2022

I was up early this morning and was able to watch the 7:21AM sunrise. It was a cool start to the a mostly sunny day. The temperature started in the fifties and peaked in the low seventies. Another cold front with a few rain showers is due to pass through the area tonight. Tomorrow is forecast to be cooler.

My early start to the day was to begin the process of booking next winter’s stays in Florida State Parks. Today was the day first day of the window I’d like to return to Myakka River State Park. There were four possible sites available today, a couple tomorrow and a few more each day after that. I got lucky and got the first site I tried for this morning. The new booking system makes it a little harder than a simple mouse click so it may take some people more than a second or two to complete the action. Overall, I don’t like the new software, but I made it work.

Mr. Gopher Tortoise thinks I can’t see him.

Once I’d booked the two weeks in the middle of December at Myakka River State Park, I went back and booked the previous two weeks at Lake Louisa State Park in central Florida. That park isn’t as popular so I still had choices. I have been monitoring the availability for the last few weeks. The specific sites I preferred at Lake Louisa State Park had been booked since my last check, but I succeeded in booking a good site. I now have four weeks at the end of 2022 booked starting at the end of November. Every two weeks from now until sometime in April I’ll be booking another Florida State Park reservation as the eleven month reservation window opens.

Vulture keeping watch at the boat launch.
Little Blue Heron

I expect to have difficulty booking the state parks somewhere along the way. There is just too much competition for sites. RV travel and camping in general is very popular in these trying times. The rule of supply and demand are also coming into play. The fees are going up significantly. Many private campgrounds have switched to demand pricing and others have just increased there prices a lot. Sites that were in the mid fifties per night a couple of years ago are now in the mid seventies at the chain campgrounds. Most of the public campgrounds are more reasonable, but more states are charging nonresidents higher fees. I can still take advantage of discounts and senior rates, but my cost per night is much higher than it was at the start of my Rambling Road trip six years ago.

New TV Installation Completed

Tuesday January 11th 2022

For the first time since early December I wore long pants and a sweatshirt today. The strong northeast breeze kept the high temperature around seventy despite the cloudless sky. This weather represents normal for this area. The last few weeks have been warmer than average. The long term outlook shows these normal conditions continuing for the next few weeks.

Strong wind out of the northeast, but lots of sun.

I finally got my new TV permanently mounted in the bedroom. Early this afternoon I went back to Home Depot for the Loctite to keep the bolts from vibrating loose. Once back at my RV home I took the TV down from its temporary mount and installed the mounting bracket with all four bolts using the Loctite thread glue. I used several garden hose washers as spacers to align the mount along the irregular shape of the plastic back to the TV. After all of the connections to the antenna, Satellite receiver and DVD were made, I tested the TV one last time. With everything tested I put the final six screws in to lock the bottom of the mounting bracket to the cabinet door behind the TV. It should be fine in the earthquakes of travel on bumpy roads.

It seemed like everything had to get used to the cooler temperature. On my walks around the state park there were fewer living creatures out and about. I didn’t see any tortoises today. The squirrels and birds seemed to be in hiding as well. Even the number of people out and about was down from most of the previous week. The wind out of the northeast made sitting at the lake shore or fishing from the boat dock less desirable an activity.

The campground had a large turn over today. I was surprised that many of the people that came in late last week didn’t depart on Sunday or Monday. It was beginning to look like a lot of people were here for a longer stay like me. Today was a correction to that impression. Tonight there are many apparent short term visitors sleeping in small tents or in a couple of cases cars.

Gopher Tortoise Day

Monday January 10th 2022

The weather pattern continued the slow change from warm and humid to cool and dry. It was sunny until late in the day when clouds started to filter into the area. Scattered severe thunderstorms were reported in the area. It stayed dry here, but the high seventies temperature dropped as evening approached.

Clouds moving in during the afternoon.

I made a trip to Home Depot for some bolts and other stuff to complete the TV installation. As often happens with projects like this I didn’t get everything I need. I was so proud of myself for finding the exact bolts I was looking for in the Home Depot maze, I forgot to pickup an additional item I needed. Another trip is on tomorrow’s agenda for Locktite to keep the bolts from vibrating loose.

While I was out I stopped at Walmart to replenish my food supply. The shelves were not well stocked for a large Walmart. Several items I wanted were missing from the shelves. Why weren’t there any boxes of cornflakes on the shelves? Both Kellogg’s and the store brand were missing. Also, I couldn’t find any bagged yellow onions. There were plenty of loose onions. There were other things too, but these are the ones that stood out as particularly odd. Is it a supply chain issue or just low staff to keep the shelves stocked? It isn’t a significant impact to me. I have enough groceries for another week and a half or so.

Vulture looking for an afternoon snack.

I only got one walk around the park in today. The weather at the end of the day was blustery and cool. My walk was during the middle of the afternoon. After seeing my first Gopher Tortoise for this trip yesterday, I saw four more today. I don’t know where they’ve been hiding, but they were out today.

Coffee and Football Watching

Sunday January 9th 2022

Today was a transition weather day. It started bright and sunny with lots of wind and ended cloudy and a little gloomy. The temperature still managed to peak in the mid eighties.

My day started with a minor coffee catastrophe. I make coffee every morning in a single serve non Keurig drip coffee maker. The first thing I do is empty the filter from the previous days coffee before placing new coffee grounds in the filter basket. The next step is to fill the water reservoir, place the cup under the filter and turn the switch. Once in a while I forget to add coffee and get a cup of hot water, but the process has been repeated so many times that I could probably do it in my sleep. This morning for some reason I filled the water reservoir first then added fresh coffee and tuned on the machine. A few minutes passed and I did a few other breakfast prep tasks before I was ready to drink my coffee. I went to grab the cup from the coffee maker and it wasn’t there. My first assumption was I’d already grabbed it and had my first drink. I looked around for the cup and found it by the stove. Thinking it was proof I’d already started to drink my coffee, I picked it up for another sip except it was empty. Where did the coffee go? Looking back at the coffee maker I found a puddle of coffee all around its base. During my first year on the road I got tired of mopping up the water when I over filled the reservoir. I put the coffee maker on a small tray. Today the tray saved me from disaster. It was filled to the brim with coffee, but it hadn’t spread to the counter, floor or nearby furniture. Was this an omen for a bad day or a good day?

Gopher Tortoise.

I spent most of the day watching the end of the regular season of football on TV. There were a couple of good games and a pointless one to watch. I managed to pull myself away for my regular walks around the park. Today I was rewarded by a view of a Gopher Tortoise. On past visits to this park, I’ve seen quite a few, but this year I hadn’t seen one until today. This tortoise was walking down the middle of the trail right toward me. It got within about twenty feet before it decided I might be a threat. I passed it about six or seven feet away while it froze in place.

A Slow Saturday

Saturday January 8th 2022

It was a sunny bright day with the wind out of the northeast. The high temperature for the day was in the low eighties. Tomorrow is forecast to be the last of the warm days. Another cold front on Sunday night will usher in a week of weather in the low seventies.

Today was a slow day with a few chores accomplished and my usual two walks around the state park. There was the usual level of heightened weekend activity. A few campsites turned over and the day use area had many picnics taking place. All the activity seemed to keep the limited wildlife in hiding. The usual complement of common birds and squirrels were not around today. I only took a few pictures today.

Bicycle Repair Attempt

Friday January 7th 2022

There were a few very brief periods of rain overnight as the cold front passed through the area. The only impact on the today’s weather was the wind direction switched from the south to the northwest. It was still a warm day with a high temperature in the upper seventies.

A beautiful sunny day with a light wind out of the northwest.

I’ve been carrying my bicycle with me on the Rambling Road Trip. It rides between campgrounds on a rack attached to the back of my SUV which I tow behind the motorhome. At most stops I take the bike and the bike rack off the back of the car, but I seldom use the bicycle. It stays locked to the picnic table or the ladder at the back of my motorhome.

A couple of weeks ago, at Myakka River State Park, I tried to use the bike. After I filled the tires and hoped on the bike, I discovered a problem. The front brake was seized. This had happened once before. Water runs down the brake cable and gets caught in a metal tube just before the caliper connection. Rust builds up between the cable wire and the tube. Last time, it was a simple task of adding a little pressure and some oil. This time it wasn’t as straight forward. I ended up drenching the area in WD40 and putting it aside until another time.

Today was the day to work on the bicycle. I disassembled the connections around the offending area and tried to work the cable free. It was still refusing to cooperate. This time I left the offending area to soak in a little dish of penetrating oil overnight. I’ll try again in the morning. The next option is to buy a new brake cable. I also need to replace the rotting bicycle seat. It may also be time to seriously consider if it is worth dragging the bike around the country with me.

A Slow Day with a Few Chores Accomplished

Thursday January 6th 2022

As the next cold front approaches the area, the sun and clouds had a battle for dominance of the sky today. Every hour or two the sky would change from bright and sunny to dull and cloudy. Even with the clouds the temperature climbed into the low seventies.

Today was a day of relaxation with a few chores thrown into the mix. My breakfast meal time extended until near noon as I chased various threads of information on the internet while sipping my coffee. My first walk of the day which followed showed less turnover in the park today. It looks like the weekend residents have started to take over the park. All most all of the vehicles are from Florida. Earlier in the week there were more northern state plates.

Many of the campers have arrived with canoes, kayaks and boats. Lake Manatee seems to be getting more use this year than during many of my previous visits. Each day when I stop by the boat launch area on my second walk of the day I see people returning from an afternoon of fishing. Some report catching a fish or two, but most come back empty handed. I just enjoy watching comedy or occasionally drama associated with loading the boats on their trailers. In the last three days I’ve seen one boater get a little wet after a slip and another come close to damaging his trolling motor after forgetting to raise it.

New TV

Wednesday January 5th 2022

The first half of the day was cloudy. Over the remainder of the daylight hours the sun gradually became the dominant presence in the sky. The temperature peaked in the low to mid seventies. The lack of clouds at the end of the day will allow for more radiational cooling and thus a colder overnight.

Wildflower blossom of the day.

In yesterday’s blog entry, I wrote that I knew where to find the Best Buy to buy a new TV. That turned out to be a little optimistic. I set out shortly after the lunch hour to drive to the Best Buy in Bradenton FL. It didn’t appear to be located in the area I expected it to be located. At a traffic light I pulled up Google Maps on my phone and asked for the “nearest Best Buy”. A list of three came up and I selected the first one in the list assuming it was the closest. Google had me turning south at the next intersection. I was uncertain on the accuracy of the instruction but followed the direction. With each passing intersection I became more certain it was taking me on a wild ride. Once I got to the airport on the Sarasota Bradenton line, I gave up on Googles direction and reversed direction until I found a parking lot to stop and reassess my route. When I selected the Best Buy from the list at the traffic light, I’d selected the one in Sarasota. The Bradenton store I was seeking was right around the corner from the traffic light I started following Googles instructions.

He sees me taking his picture.

At the Best Buy I found the TV I identified on the internet as appropriate on display. I verified that it had the correct orientation of mounting wholes. Everything was looking good except they didn’t have any in stock. I found a similar LG TV in white instead of black. An interrogation of the sales associate collaborated that it was the same TV in a different color plastic. It took twenty questions to get that simple answer. I bought the white LG TV. Getting home was a lot easier than getting to Best Buy.

Bracket on the cabinet door with the wire access in the door.
Bracket on the back of the old TV.

Back at my RV home it took only a couple of minutes to get the old TV disconnected and off the cabinet door. The mounting bracket is in two parts. The part attached to the wall implements a French Cleat to hold the TV up. The part mounted to the TV forms the part that hooks over the cleat. The mounting bracket will fit on the new TV, but I’m going to have to get some longer screws and some spacers to allow it to hang straight. I have it hung temporarily tonight.

New TV hanging from the bracket. I need to get some longer bolts to complete the installation.

The new TV is a Smart TV. It took longer for it to boot up and answer the questions it demanded that it was to get it hung. Getting used to its features and using the remote is going to take some time and study. How easy it will be to change the configuration and find new channels when I move remains to be seen. For now I can watch TV in the bedroom again. Figuring out what to do about the bigger TV in the living area is still an issue.