Done – For Now
Map of trip:
Headed home through country we have been through several times. Staying in parks we have been in before. Re-seeing sights and sites. Still very fun and beautiful. Not my favorite to do interstates but there are no other options really where we are. If you happen to be in eastern Utah sometime, I heartily recommend I 70. Take it from east to west. Could be done as part of a visit to Moab area. Take Utah 128 northeast from Moab to I 70. Bit of misdirection but outstanding drive along the Colorado river through a spectacular canyon. The drive west to Salina, UT is constantly changing wonderful landscapes. Do it east to west for best views though.
Tomorrow to Ely, NV and the day after to Reno and back into grandparent mode. It has been a great trip. Time to do some catching up and start dreaming on the next one.
For the last two days the weather in Iowa and Kansas has been beautiful. Temps in the 80’s and clear, totally cloudless skies.(And no humidity ). News weather forecast last night hinted at very slight chance of isolated rain tomorrow (today) afternoon as a front moved through followed by clear and warm days.
About midnight last night we heard distant thunder to the south west. Thunder continued off and on for an hour or so. Then it started to become more regular. Still far away. About 1:30 or 2:00 am it started to rain gently. Rain of varying intensity (never down pour rate) for a couple of hours with thunder more regular. About 5am the lightning started accompanied by thunder very close and very loud. AND – very constant. Several lightning/thunder episodes a minute. At one point the lightning and thunder was literally every 5 seconds for several minutes. Forked and sheet lightning. So bright it made night look like day. So intense that even when the strike/flash was 8-10 miles away (per counting time between lightning and thunder) everything was bright as day. This display continued for over 2 1/2 hours as cell after cell passed over us.
Above is a screen shot from a radar app on my phone. Several things to note: First -This shot was taken late after things had started to wind down. A bit earlier the storm band was solid (and wider) from lower left to upper right. Second – The blue dot in the lower left is our location. Third – this is a static shot and does not show the movement of the storm. The storm moved from south west to north east basically along the line defined by the front instead of the whole front moving sideways. Forth – that storm is about 1000 miles long from end to end. Fifth – Given our location and the direction of the storm movement a very large part of the storm passed directly over us for over seven hours.
Take weather forecasts with a grain of salt .
Updated map of this trip:
The last couple of days we have been crossing the eastern part of the Great Plains. Traveling Interstates where we had to but state and local roads where available. Much nicer way to travel. The roads are good, the traffic is light, and the scenery is great. Close up look at many sides of rural America. Neat to see the transition of agricultural product and the change in the land as you move from east to west.
One small irritation while driving. Both days have been done in a steady head wind or cross wind of 20 mph or more. Just have to be vigilant.
Today we visited the Oz Museum in Wamego, KS. Nice little town a few miles off the interstate in northeastern Kansas. The museum has over 2000 items on display (out of over 8000 they own) dedicated to L. Frank Baum, and all things related to The Wizard of Oz. There are several videos discussing the author, the story, the movie, and the place of all in Americana and world wide.
Shuttle from Oz to Kansas
Last few days we have been taking a sleight detour on our way back west. Went to a small town a little east of Iowa City. Home of HWH Corporation. They make leveling jack systems for motor homes. Also actuators for slide outs and other things. About ten weeks ago one of our leveling jacks broke a retraction spring. Replacing it on the road at a RV repair shop or even at home would be a challenge. HWH makes many systems using several different springs. Choosing the correct spring and then having it shipped to somewhere and then installing if in fact correct spring was chosen would be a large investment in time and possible $$$. I figured that we would be in the same half of the country and when traveling from Florida, Iowa is not much out of the way, so why not go to the source to get the job done. Exchanged a couple of emails and when we left Florida called to set up an appointment. Very nice lady set up a time that we could make by traveling a little harder for a couple of days and would get us in before the weekend (and a two day layover in nowhere). Got there a little before noon Friday. Basically drove right in to repair bay. Two hours later, including their lunch break, the springs on all four jacks were brand new (turned out two different springs were required) and the system was checked out as fully functional. They only charged for a half hour of labor although he was working on coach over an hour. Fast, friendly people, and the job done right with the right parts. Good experience from start to finish.
35 miles west of HWH is the Amana Colonies. Group of small villages established by a religious group long ago. Not Amish, Quaker, Mennonite, or other ‘name’ religious group. One of the colonies is where the Amana appliances were developed and made. Still are made there but are now part of Whirlpool company. Although tourism is certainly a goal, the feel is more historical, educational, and hand made talent. The colonies are home to a number of fine crafts. Rug weaving, wood working, furniture making and repair, clock making, fine arts, quilting, wine making, craft brewing, year round live theater (non profit !!!) doing Broadway level productions, several very good restaurants (good hearty food served in a simple setting) at reasonable prices, museums, and more. There is also a very large, very nice RV campground also very reasonably priced. We stayed there and spent today touring much of the colonies. Many of the establishments have craftsmen working in them during the week. It was a weekend so we only saw a couple of spots with activity going on. Visiting during the week would be a lot of fun. Standing only a few feet from a loom weaving a rug for example or watching fine furniture being crafted from the shop floor. We had a good day and saw lots of interesting things.
Last night we stayed in a RV park in Tuscumbia, AL. Happens to be the birthplace of Helen Keller. This morning, before heading up the road, we visited the site. Very nice!
We went early and were the first visitors of the day. Received a very good talk and tour by the very nice docent. She told the history of the house and grounds (nearly 200 years old and looks new) and a very good enlightenment on the lives of Helen Keller and her teacher Anne Sullivan.
On many tours we hve taken of historic places and homes the sites have been furnished with period era replacement items. Here, more than 85% of everything is original. Pictures, furniture, tableware, rugs, bedspreads (hand embroidered, pieced, and quilted crazy quilt that is the most impressive quilt I have ever seen), clothing, and much more. All the very items touched and used by Helen Keller and her family.
Highly inspiring visit. I recommend anyone anywhere near this area go out of their way to visit this spot.
Clothes worn by Helen Keller and her mom. Rug (hand woven) is a gift to Helen from a foreign country – don’t remember which. Bedspread is a crazy quilt done by her aunt. It is amazing! Sue has some close up pictures.
See photo below.
Small cottage next to main house. Originally used as an office but the Keller family lived in it for a while. Actual birth place of Helen Keller.
Room and possibly the bed where Helen Keller was born.
The loblolly pine in the center background of this picture was grown from a seed that went to the moon and back. The seedling was given to Ivy Green (name of Keller estate and grounds). They call it the ‘moon pine’.
No comment needed
Stage near rear of property where productions of “The Miracle Worker’ are given every year.
If any one is interested, here is a map of our trip so far.
Headed toward northwest Alabama.
Stopped off in Huntsville at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center. Very cool place. Most are more aware of the Kennedy Space Center and the Space Center in Houston. The displays and attractions in these places are more geared toward tourism and entertainment. Huntsville is where all the research and testing of all phases in the development of rocketry was and is done. Outstanding museums clearly explaining the evolution of rocketry and space travel from the German V2 to the Saturn V and beyond. The emphasis here is more toward education but done in a very fun way. Lots of hands on and simulators and interest grabbing displays. This is also the home of Space Camp. Facilities we saw for that looked like it would be lots of fun.
Mockup used for size and weight testing
Saturn I rocket. Used to test many systems in preparation for development of Saturn V. There is a Saturn V on display mounted horizontally in a huge museum building.
Lots of rockets and aircraft on display.
We are now headed north in Alabama. Today we spent a couple hours touring the Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site. Very interesting. Actual buildings - restored, rebuilt, of ‘ghosted’ – where Black pilots were trained during WW II. Many displays, videos, and movies, inside and out, on the function of various locations on the site and on the many trials these men faced both in action and and at home. Well worth a visit.
Further north on US and state highways (avoiding freeways) through eastern Alabama. Sue’s comment, ‘'Looks like rural America’'.
Yesterday I briefly mentioned what we saw of the storm. Last night we watched several news broadcasts. Evidently the strongest part of the storm went over Tallahassee. Lots of falling tree damage to buildings and power. Some beach washout. This morning we drove about 40 miles into Tallahassee to get gas. Along the way we saw occasional downed trees along the freeway. Some from breakage and some from waterlogged roots. Into town to go to Costco. Went through several intersections with no traffic lights. Got to Costco and things looked normal. Gas station was open and a few people pumping gas. Saw a number of gas containers being filled in addition to cars. Costco store was open but neighboring were dark. After getting gas we went into Costco to get a couple of things. Saw lots of shopping carts filled with ice and charcoal and restocking of both going on. Several people buying lanterns. Recently set up aisle of portable generators for sale stacked two wide and about 40 long.
Costco was on aux. power. Much of Tallahassee was with out power and predictions of repair were as far out as two weeks.
Driving west of Tallahassee we saw some more wind damage and signs of lots of rain having fallen.
Last night, in Fort Wilderness campground we started getting light rain about 10pm. No wind or other storminess. Rain continued much of the night. Did not hear any wind but this morning everything was covered with dead pine needles. A few pine cones and small branches on the ground also. Headed north expecting to see evidence of a major storm passing through several hours earlier. Saw nothing other than very clean roads (washed by rain?). Wondered what campgrounds might be like in area of storm landfall which was a good break point for our day. First one we called was in good shape except power in that area was out. Second one we called had phone problems and we could not get through. Went there any way to check. They were open, had space, and had just got phone service. Campground shows signs of big wind – lots of small tree branches on ground – but no sign of water damage or damage to structures. Owner said she did not sleep much last night. She is from Chicago and not familiar with violent storms. Must have been pretty intense for a while. Right now the sun is out and temp is in 90’s.
No posts for last week. No time to sit and compose. Six days of pretty much nonstop go from early morning until late night.
Tuesday while still in holding campground we drove to Disney Springs. Area of upscale shopping, dining, and entertainment. Everything $$$ and more. Parking is free though. Left car and took shuttle bus to Polynesian Resort. Had our first Dole Whip soft serve. Wandered the resort and then along the lake to Grand Floridian Resort. Shuttle bus back to Disney Springs and car.
Saturday morning we drove 25 miles to the Disney property and checked in to Fort Wilderness Campground. Hooked up Carbus and then took a variety of transportation to do some exploring. Campground bus to boat landing. Boat to Wilderness Lodge Resort. Explore Wilderness Lodge on foot. Another boat to Contemporary Resort. Monorail to main transportation hub. Bus to Animal Kingdom Lodge. Explore satellite lodge on foot including viewing African animals on savanna. Shuttle to main lodge for more exploring and animal viewing. Bus to Polynesian Resort. Another Dole Whip (Yum!). Monorail to Magic Kingdom entrance area. Boat to Fort Wilderness. Campground shuttle bus to camp site.
Sunday we drove car to Animal Kingdom Park. Staying at a Disney resort comes with free parking throughout the property. IF parking is free, personal car is most time efficient way to get around.
Monday we drove to EPCOT.
Tuesday we drove to Hollywood Studios.
“Frozen” sing along. This was fun show
Wednesday we drove to Magic Kingdom.
Thursday we took a variety of Disney transportation to visit EPCOT and then Hollywood Studios using the boat canal between the two parks. Bus to Polynesian. Another Dole Whip . Monorail to Magic Kingdom. Boat to Fort Wilderness.
Good week! We saw and/or did every thing we wanted to in each park. Thanks to Julie we had rough itineraries for each park and Fast Passes in place for the most impacted attractions. As it turned out we only used three or four Fast Passes over the whole five days though we had three preset for each day. Combination of early start, efficient approach plan for each park, smaller crowds the last couple of days, and occasional luck. We had a couple of 30 minute waits but everything else was much shorter if at all. Pretty much we did not stop moving all day, every day. Will take a few days for us to recharge.
Will try to add a few more pictures and maybe some daily description later.
Dole Whip. Best soft serve ever.
This week we are located in a Snowbird park about 15 miles south of Disney World. Large park (very large) pretty much filled with ‘mobile’ homes (most of them now have roots) with a scattering of spaces for RVs. Very nice place with lots of activity facilities. Must really hum in the winter.
Monday we drove up I 4 through Orlando to Sanford, FL. Home of Boss Laser. Birthplace of my laser machine. Spent over an hour with a sales rep. No sales talk. Just tips and techniques for using my machine and possible resources. Showed us the assembly warehouse where I saw several of my model machines as well as some very large (work beds larger than a sheet of plywood) models. I doubt any of you are looking for a laser cutter/engraver but if you are I don’t think you can go wrong with Boss Laser. The machines are built in America with a mixture of American made and high quality imported parts. Packaging and shipping are outstanding. My large heavy machine was snugly secured in a wooden crate and traveled 3500 miles without a scratch and worked out of the box. Support is the best I have ever seen anywhere on any product or service. Questions or issues are addressed quickly and dealt with rapidly. By text, over the phone (instant software fix and setup tweak) or by next day mail if needed. Every contact with every individual (from receptionist to sales to head of tech support) by phone, email, and now in person has been pleasant, supportive, and productive. They are interested in you and happy to be of help.
Tuesday we went to Disney Springs. Formerly Downtown Disney. Expanded, upgraded, etc. Still geared to upscale shopping but does have attractions, food, and entertainment. Each individually priced. Disney Springs is a major hub for the Disney bus system. We took a bus (free) to the Polynesian Resort (by way of Typhoon Lagoon). Quest, in addition to seeing the grounds, was to get a Dole Whip. Found the Pineapple Lanai, literally a hole in the wall window serving one item. Only other place to get Dole Whip is in Magic Kingdom which we couldn’t go to ‘till next week. Got cups of Dole Whip, pineapple soft serve, and sat in hotel lobby eating ice cream, watching people and using Disney internet on our phones. Walked from Polynesian to Grand Floridian along the lake shore. Passed the hotel pools and water parks, the wedding chapel on the lake, and the resort beaches. Including the beach where an alligator grabbed a small child recently. The beaches no longer go to the water. There is a fence and between the fence and the water is a ten foot zone of coarse rock breakwater. The effect is a very difficult area to traverse. Nothing short of a tank could cross it let alone an alligator. There are now signs mentioning alligators but they are small, low key, and easy to over look. The state park we stayed in with alligators in pond had huge signs with easy to read and understand wordage. I know Disney doesn’t want to scare its’ guests but minimalizing warnings seems poor. Back on a bus to car at Disney Springs (free parking) and then home to Carbus.
Wednesday – early drive to Universal Studios. Good close up parking in garage, quick visit to will call kiosk, brisk walk to back of Universal Studios park and into Diagon Alley. Walked right on to Harry Potter ride. After ride we walked the Potter area, visited shops, and had a Butter Beer (Sue regular, me frozen). Then to train (going through wall) to Hogwarts area of Islands of Adventure park. Again walked right on Potter ride. Then walked Hogwarts area and shops. Walked around rest of Islands of Adventure park. Much of it is geared to young kids or enormous coasters. We were about to go on Jurassic Park ride when it was closed down because of weather. Walked back to Hogwarts and took train back to other park. Still raining so had lunch at Leaky Cauldron in Potter area. Supposed to be something ‘to do’. It was ok. A bit pricy but I guess some of the price is the experience. Dessert was ice cream from the ice cream shop (next to the butter beer shop). That would be a fun place to go back to. Lots of different and very intriguing flavors. Left the Potter area and walked through the rest of the Universal Studios park. This is the original park. Took several rides in that park. Back to Potter area to take train again (10 min wait this time). Over to Jurassic Park ride. 30 minute wait but fun ride. Back on train. Another butter bear(both frozen) and then walk to park exit. On the way out we came face to face with a parade headed our way. Stood on sidewalk and watched parade/show. Large floats, costumed characters, performers, etc. The parade stops and the entire cast does a dance routine. Interesting to see three blocks of dancers lined up doing the same dance routine. Somehow dancing Minions and cartoon fish didn’t quite do it for me though. Finished our exit and back to car. Judging by vacancies in garage, our day out lasted many who came after us.
Two more days for rest up, laundry, etc. and then we start our Disney Experience.
The last few days we have been slowly working up the west coast of Florida, marking time prior to heading inland.
Mostly just sight seeing. Like the Atlantic side, the Gulf side of southern Florida is pretty well developed non-stop. There is an ocean but seeing it is difficult. Homes and hotels on just about all the beach front. Where there is a narrow access path there is no parking for blocks, if at all. We did find one very nice public beach with good parking on the southern tip of Anna Maria island. Mid-week, off season so not crowded.
Went to DeSoto National Historic Site. Interesting to learn about him and his quest.
This tree is outside visitor center. A Gum tree. It is in crisis. It has lived well beyond the normal time for that species.
Today we went to Weeki Wachee Springs State Park. Long time tourist attraction now owned and run by the state of Florida. Fun place. Two sides to it. One side is a waterpark with slides, pools, playgrounds, volleyball courts, lots of lawn space. Very well attended by families with kids of all ages. The other side has three attractions/shows and space for functions. One show is an animal (actually reptile) demonstration. Brief, up close introduction to several different reptiles. Second attraction is a boat ride down the out flow river from the springs. Short trip on the meandering, jungle like river to see some wild life and nature. Third attraction is the Mermaid Show. Under water theater where ‘real’ mermaids perform for about 45 minutes. Fun show. Well choreographed and performed.
Tomorrow we head inland.
After dinner last night we took a stroll around the pond in front of our campsite. Met this guy.
In the Everglades there is a plant called the Strangler Grape. Seeds of the grape take root in the bark of trees deposited by birds or wind.
Young Strangler Grape (broad leaves) attached to Palm.
The grape sends roots down the host tree to the ground.
The roots of the grape spread and expand around the trunk of the host tree eventually surrounding the trunk. We saw trees with trunks completely surrounded and covered by thick Strangler Grape roots.
Only time the carbus has briefly dropped into low gear was over Monarch Pass at 11,312 feet. Handled the one above with out any problem.
Smallest post office in the United States. 8’x8’.
On to the west coast of Florida.