Friday, December 25, 2015

December 13, 2015 - Kissimmee and Celebration, FL

We were late risers today!!! Up at 9:30 am, but we really needed a good rest.  Sometimes that is what we all need to do to renourish our minds and bodies. 

A beautiful morning with not much clouds.  Perfect for sightseeing we had planned for today.

Erwin prepared ham sandwiches for our lunch while Edith was busy making travel notes for previous day’s trips.

First stop was to visit Old Town area.  There is an amusement area called Fun Spot America that is right next to Old Town.  To go on rides it is $44.95 for people who are 54” or taller and $34.95 for people under 54”.  Some rides were closed. We walked around and watched some people taking a ride.

Bigfoot Truck #7
We then walked up and down Old Town street, but there was not much activity going on.

Not too far from Old Town is a RV resort park called Tropical Palms. We stopped by the office to get information on camping fees, etc. We asked if we could drive around to check it out and we were welcome to do so.  It is a very nice campground and we might want to stay there for few days next time we visit Orlando.

We stopped at Camping World to see if they have the rubber retainer for the hooks for the Jeep. They did not have any in stock and the lady suggested that we go to Advanced Auto store, which we did.  They did not have any on hand.  

On way to Kissimmee we stopped at some places to look around and to get pictures.

We decided to go visit Kissimmee area for the afternoon, parked in downtown area, took a walk for few blocks.  Of course, most stores were closed on Sundays.  There are some interesting sculptures around the town.  There was a guy painting holiday scenes on the windows of many stores.  

We then went to Lakefront Park to check out few things.  One of them is a roadside attraction that is called Monument of States, a towering monument assembled after the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor using rocks from every state (48 of them).  Dr. Charles Bressler-Pettis wanted a symbol of American unity during the World War II.  Even the President of the United States, Franklin D. Roosevelt, sent a rock from his Hyde Park estate.

While we were walking around checking every state on the monument Erwin saw a bird perched on a pole, told Edith to check it out with the zoom lens, which she did. It was an immature bald eagle.  Poor eagle, because the crows were pecking and bothering it.  The eagle did not budge a bit.

There is a pond across the street from the monument and there are ducks and birds around.  As soon as we got there we were surrounded by Muscovy ducks.  We did not have any food for them!

We were starting to feel tired and decided to go back to the resort.  On way Edith stopped to get some pictures of some interesting places.

Edith wanted to see if she can get a picture of the sunset from Mystic Dunes golf club area and she found one that should work.  However, the sunset did not turn out to be awesome.

Rest rest and rest for the rest of the day after supper.  

Monday, December 21, 2015

December 12, 2015 - Clermont, Apopka and Celebration, FL

Edith had heard so much about the wildlife drive in Apopka, FL and wanted to go there today, since the weather was lovely.

We got on Route 192 going north, then Highway 27. We stopped to check out The Showcase of Citrus. It is a place where tourists can pick their own citrus or buy pre-packed bags.  It was established in 1961 and is a prominent spot along Highway 27.  There are groves and groves of different kinds of citrus.  There is a map telling tourists what grows within the area.  There are swamp buggy tours that tourists can ride in for one hour to see other areas. It is $20 for adults and $10 for kids.

The Showcase of Citrus Store
Swamp Buggy

Shark eating up Erwin?
The Orange Grove
Dancey Tangerines

The map to Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive that we asked the guest relations department at Mystic Dunes to print for us was incorrect.  It led us to the EXIT, not the entrance, so we had to google for a while to find where to go from there.

Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive is operated by the District’s Bureau of Land Management. It is open on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. The 11-mile drive is a one-way that begins at Lust Road and ends on Jones Road. The drive is open Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and federal holidays between sunrise and sunset. The speed limit is 10 mph.  There are several designated pull overs that allow other vehicles to go by when you want to park the vehicle, get out and take photos.  Even though hiking is allowed there are alligators in the ponds and canals, so one needs to be very alert.  

At the entrance there was a gentleman getting out of the van, taking out his photography gear.  WHOA! A 600mm lens that Edith had always wanted to have and he mounted it on one of two tripods that he owned.  We approached the guy and talked with him.  Edith asked him if he was in business selling photos. No, it is his hobby.  We shared information about photography gear and he checked Edith’s 100-400 telephoto lens and said it is a good one.  

We saw different species of birds and ducks.  Alligators were spotted, some small and few big.  Edith had a hard time getting pictures of a belted kingfisher.  It flew so fast and got so skittish when we got too close to it.  Edith managed to get one or two good photos.  One Great Blue Heron did not mind the company of few photographers getting so close to it.  Edith even joined in and was thrilled to be able to capture close up shots.  

Eastern Phoebe
Alligator (that was the biggest one we saw during the drive)
Great Blue Heron in Flight
Pied-billed Grebe
While we were cruising we were flagged down by a van behind us.  We stopped to get out and see what was up. Oh, it was the gentleman that we spoke with at the entrance. He asked us if we had seen baby alligators.  No, we have not.  So, we followed him back to the spot where there is a bridge.  There were about 18-20 baby alligators.  “Is their mama around”, Erwin asked.  No, they are on their own once they reached a foot or so.  These were about 18”.  

On our way to the exit an immature red-shouldered hawk was on top of a pole.  We were hoping to see eagles, but none were seen flying around.  We saw two birds that we had not seen before and Edith got a shot of it in flight.  

Immature Red-Shouldered Hawk on top of the pole
We really enjoyed the drive so much that Erwin wanted to go back again.  We were really hungry and went to Panera Bread, few miles out.  After our supper it was getting close to 4:30 pm and the gate at the wildlife drive closes at sunset, which is around 5:30 pm.  Let’s come back another time, we agreed.

Yes, it was a long long drive from the resort to the wildlife drive, but it was worth every mile of it.  We really enjoyed our day so much.

Friday, December 18, 2015

December 11, 2015 - Orange City, FL to Celebration, FL

Another pleasant morning when Edith went to the spring to take more videos of the manatees.  It was 62˚.

Not too many people at the spring, but there was this guy with his GoPro mounted on a tripod. He looked at Edith quizzically because she did not have GoPro with her two days ago when he was there.  He asked her if she had just bought it.  “No, I already had it”, Edith replied.  We went about our business and tried to find spots to film manatees.  There were not many manatees close by and the lighting under water was not favorable.  She was able to get some good shots.  The memory card got full, so she packed up her gear and left. 

Edith with GoPro camera mounted on the pole

Erwin started to get our Lil’ Home (LH) ready when Edith got back from the spring.  Next door campers from New Jersey had already left.  Edith transferred videos from GoPro to the hard drive, formatted the card, went back to the spring.

Edith got a couple videos done before the female ranger came and told her that underwater videoing is not encouraged. "Why?", Edith asked her. "Because it is a refuge and manatees are protected", she explained.  Edith decided not to argue with her because the day before there were two rangers who saw her doing it and did not say anything.  More visitors started to show up making it hard for Edith to try to video again after the ranger left.  

Edith was thrilled to see the red shouldered hawk on the branch of a tree that is near the staircase.  It stayed there a long while and was still there when Edith left to go back to the campsite.

When Edith arrived at the campsite Erwin and the LH were not there!  Apparently, Erwin gave up waiting for Edith to come back from the spring and decided to go to the dump station.  Actually, while Edith was at the spring Erwin was waiting for Edith's laptop to be  fully charged before disconnecting the power and when it was, he left to unload the holding tanks and just as he was finishing up, Edith showed up at the right time to get the jeep hooked up to the LH!

We had already reserved to stay 7 nights at Mystic Dunes Resort in Celebration, FL. It is a timeshare resort and we had remaining points that needed to be used up before end of the year.  
Orlando Eye
The exit to Mystic Dunes from I-4
Construction on I-4 is still going on, seems like it will never end each time we visit Orlando.  The sign said the project will be finished in spring 2016 (will it?).  Orlando Eye is the newest ferris wheel attraction that was officially opened to the public last May.

After arriving at the Welcome Center at Mystic Dunes Resort & Golf Club we asked about where we can leave our LH.  We were advised to leave it at the golf club parking lot.  We collected stuff we needed during our stay at the resort.

We were assigned to a 2 bedroom suite on the first floor in Building #30 that is right next to the swimming pool. The kitchen is fully equipped and has a stackable washer/dryer.  There is a screened porch in the back that is accessible either from the living room or the master bedroom.  The master bath has a garden tub, shower, double vanity and a separate toilet room.  

We spent the night resting and watching TV. It has been a long time since we watch TV.  We cut off cable service two years ago for two reasons: the monthly fee was ridiculously high and we had hobbies that kept us busy and did not have much time to watch TV.