2021 – FLORIDA TRIP

Animal Kingdom

January 21st (weather today: 76 & sunny)

We arrived at the Animal Kingdom at 8am. The kingdom is only a short 10 minute bus ride from our campground.

Disney’s Animal Kingdom is a zoological theme park. It is the largest theme park in the world, covering 580 acres. Animal Kingdom opened on Earth Day, April 22, 1998, and was the fourth theme park built at the resort.

The park is dedicated and themed entirely around the natural environment and animal conservation, a philosophy once pioneered by Walt Disney himself.

We visited the animals on a safari truck and rode the rides (even the intense Expedition Everest backwards roller-coaster & Avatar).

We’ve noticed the Disney photographers aren’t doing too good of a business – maybe it’s because they all have signs that say “masks must be worn during photos”?

Like yesterday, crowds were light and lines were almost non-existent. We also took a free animation drawing class in the park.

Tomorrow we visit the Magic Kingdom.

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Epcot Center

January 20th (weather today: 72 & sunny)

Last night, took a bike ride through several campground loops just before dark, then played Bingo at the outdoor movie complex.

After breakfast this morning, we took the Disney bus from our campground, to Epcot.

Epcot (Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow) opened on October 1, 1982 and was the second of four theme parks built at Walt Disney World, after the Magic Kingdom. Spanning 305 acres, more than twice the size of the Magic Kingdom park.

Epcot is dedicated to the celebration of human achievement, namely technological innovation and international culture, and is often referred to as a “permanent world’s fair”.

We walked the park and explored the rides and areas made to resemble different countries of the world.

The park looked almost deserted, with wait times for rides about 3-4 minutes, with most with no wait. Mask wearing was mandatory inside buildings and outside.

We kept seeing three birds following us throughout the park. Couldn’t decide if they were Egrets, Seagulls or Old Crows. We named them Joanne, Carol and Rose.

We got to ride the new SkyLiner between Epcot and several hotels. It’s just like the old Disneyland ‘Skyway’, but faster and more modern.

Made it back to camp at 7pm.

Tomorrow we visit Animal Kingdom.

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Fort Wilderness Resort- Walt Disney World

January 19th (160 miles today)

We Left Lake City, Florida at 10am.

Traveled south on I-75 into the Wildwood area, then south-east on the Florida Turnpike, into the Orlando area.

We arrived at the Disney Fort Wilderness RV Campground Resort (72 degrees and sunny) at 1pm. We had both reservations for the resort campground (a must!) and reserved entry passes into the Disney parks.

Fort Wilderness is a premium RV resort with large full hook-up sites, strong WiFi and close to all the Disney amenities. The park has 799 campsites for RV’s & tents, and 409 wilderness cabins, all surrounded by pine and cypress trees.

The reason we always pick this time of the year between the holidays & Mardi Gras, is for low crowds, comfortable temperatures, and no humidity / thunder storms.

There are local buses that run throughout the park (we brought our bikes), larger buses that run from Fort Wilderness to the nearby parks and boats that run between the campground, other Disney hotels and the Magic Kingdom via Bay Lake.

Even though Disneyworld is currently at 30% capacity daily, staying on the Disney property guarantees us entry into the parks. If not at 30% after guests enter, then season pass holders can enter, then the general public, until the 30% capacity is reached.

We’ll be staying at Fort Wilderness for 11 days.

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Lake City, Florida

January 17th (274 miles today)

We left the Santa Rosa Rest Area at 9am.

The area is known for the nearby Naval Air Station – Whiting Field, where many many many years ago, a young US Navy Cadet, “Flower”, allowed the Florida soil to bang into the bottom of his T-28 trainer. No one was hurt per the Naval folklore.

We traveled through the Tallahassee area and into the far north-central area of Florida.

Arrived at the Lake City RV Park in Lake City, Florida at 3pm. Lake City is known as the “Gateway to Florida”.

We stayed here two years ago and found it clean, quiet and with full hook-ups. Checked the pond for gators – none seen yet.

This stop allows us to do laundry, fuel-up and stock up on groceries, before heading south to the Orlando area.

We’ll be in Lake City for two days, then off to Walt Disney World on Tuesday morning.

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Milton, Florida

January 16th (304 miles today)

We left the Atchafalaya Rest Area at 7:30am and continued east on I-10 towards Mississippi.

We passed through Lafayette and Baton Rouge, over the Mississippi River, then took the I-12 bypass, north of the downtown New Orleans area, before driving over the Pearl River and into Mississippi.

We had lunch at the Mississippi Welcome Center along I-10.

We continued driving through Mississippi, Alabama and into the panhandle of Florida. That’s traveling four states in one day!

We arrived at the Milton / Santa Rose Rest Area (east of Pensacola) at 2pm. We were met by a fellow Arctic Fox owner (Norman & his dog Cooper) who lives nearby, for a visit.

This large modern rest area is busy during the day, but quiets after dark.

Tomorrow, we arrive in Lake City, Florida for a two night stay.

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Atchafalaya Swamp, Louisiana

January 15th (172 miles today)

Since we had a short drive today, we didn’t leave the Beaumont area until 11am.

We traveled only about an hour east on I-10, until we crossed the Sabine River and into Louisiana….”Gator Country”.

We arrived at the Atchafalaya Rest Area near Henderson, LA at 2pm. The surrounding swamp is the largest wetland and swamp in the United States.

Located in south central Louisiana, it is a combination of wetlands and river delta area, where the Atchafalaya River and the Gulf of Mexico converge.

The large, modern well lit rest area has separate parking for cars, RV’s and large trucks. There’s 24hr security at the facility & free 24hr WiFi for the parking areas.

We even visited the two facility mascot gators – “Bud” & “Lois” in the back swamp area.

Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama have some of the nicest rest areas & welcome centers we’ve ever visited.

Tomorrow, we enter the western Florida Panhandle.

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It’s a Gusher… OIL !!!

January 14th

After a leisurely breakfast, we drove into town and our first stop was the Texas Fire Museum – Home of the ‘world’s largest working fire hydrant’.

Housed in an old 1927 fire station, several of the trucks are from the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. The bottom floor still showed where the horses were housed, that pulled the old equipment. The second floor, still houses the current Beaumont Fire Department command offices.

Next we did some banking, filled one of our propane tanks and topped off our fuel tanks. We also stopped to see the downtown Saint Anthony Cathedral Basilica.

We then drove to the Spindletop Museum just outside Beaumont. The weather was a nice sunny 71 degrees.

At the beginning of the twentieth century, the Southeast Texas economy, like that of most of the South, relied on subsistence agriculture, but cattle ranching and the lumber business were also important.

Southeast Texas had another resource – oil – but the amount underground remained a mystery. There was some limited drilling for oil in the late 1800’s…. until the “Lucas Gusher” at Spindltop in 1901. The discovery of the Spindletop oilfield had an almost incalculable effect on world history, as well as Texas history.

The site of the original Lucas oil well (see photograph below) at Spindletop, is on the grounds of the Lamar University. We walked through the old early 1900’s buildings at Spindletop, including the barbershop, livery stable, dry goods store, saloon and post office and many others.

Tomorrow we are off to the middle of the Atchafalaya Swamp, to a rest area in Louisiana

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Beaumont, Texas

January 13th (227 miles today)

After a beautiful sunrise, we left Luling, Texas at 9am and started today’s continued journey on east-bound I-10. We were in cattle country, with small ranches and farms.

Some viewers have asked how many miles do we travel per day?

We average +/- 300 miles per day @ 60mph. Since we’re retired, there’s no need to speed between our destinations.

We also avoid driving after dark and stop every 90 minutes or so, to stretch our legs. This all makes for a much more enjoyable driving experience.

Half way during today’s drive, we traveled through the Houston area. We diverted from I-10 to the north of the downtown area on the I-610 Loop, to avoid downtown traffic.

Traveling east, we can tell it’s starting to get warmer and the nighttime freezing temperatures should be a thing of the past….at least for a few weeks until we’re on the way home.

Arrived at the Gulf Coast RV Resort at 1pm to a sunny 60 degree temperatures. This large RV park is modern and has full hook-ups.

We will be staying two days here in Beaumont.

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Luling, Texas BBQ

January 12th (234 miles today)

It was down to about 22 degrees last night, but we had a warm and quiet night. We left at 7:30am to get an early start.

Continued east-bound on I-10 through Kerrville, San Antonio and Seguin. Traffic has been light through Texas – just trucks and few RV’s.

Arrived at the River Bend RV Park in Luling, Texas at 12pm. The quiet family-owned RV park is right along the San Marcos River.

After unhooking our truck, we drove a short distance into town.

We walked through the small town, of course stopped at the local quilt shop, then picking up dinner at the City Market BBQ.

The old fashioned BBQ joint (where all the locals eat) was suggested to us two years ago and we LOVED IT!. Got our meats & ribs to take back to our RV to eat.

Tomorrow we arrive in Beaumont, Texas for a two night stay.

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Sonora, Texas Rest Area

January 11th (257 miles today)

We left Van Horn at 9:30am after topping off our fresh water tank. Weather today was in the 30’s all day. There was snow along the interstate in the higher passes, from yesterday’s snow storm.

Continued east on I-10 and stopped at the Fort Stockton Walmart for groceries and lunch.

Arrived at the Sonora Rest Area (250 miles west of San Antonio) at 3:30pm for the night. Sonora and this part of Texas in the next couple of days, is rich in oil history and active oil & gas production. There are thousands of wells all along the local countryside.

Near our rest area, on the night of April 2, 1901, William Carver, a member of Butch Cassidy’s Wild Bunch, was shot and killed in Jack Owen’s Bakery by Sheriff E.S. Briant and his deputies. Hopefully there’s no gun play tonight.

Tomorrow we’re off to Luling, Texas for a night’s stay and some great BBQ.

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Yeeee Haaaw…… Texas !!!

January 10th (283 miles today)

After a cold night outside (we were warm in the trailer), we continued east-bound on I-10 at 8am.

We traveled through Deming (re-fueled) and had lunch at the Las Cruces Rest Area. Their 25 foot high Road Runner can be seen for miles.

We soon entered Texas and through the El Paso area where I-10 straddles the border with Mexico, sometimes only a hundred feet away. We also stopped at the Border Patrol check-point east of town. No hitchhikers found.

Arrived at the Van Horn RV Park (temperature 33 degrees) at 2pm, in Van Horn, TX. It’s a large quiet RV park we frequent when in the area. This overnight stop will allow us to dump our waste tanks and fill-up with fresh drinking water. Tonight’s forecast is 22 degrees.

Van Horn (elevation 4,012) began in the 1850’s as a stage / mail route and later a train stop. Today it’s a small town with a hotel, fuel stations and a few restaurants.

Tomorrow we are off to the Sonora, Texas area.

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Lordsburg, New Mexico

January 9th (210 miles)

We left the Phoenix TA Truck Stop at 10am, for a short drive continuing through the Sonoran Desert along I-10.

Except for larger cities like Phoenix and Tucson, there’s not much out here except fuel stations, rest areas and truck stops.

We drove through Tucson and had lunch at a I-10 rest area near Dragoon, AZ. The rest area was at a 5,000′ elevation surrounded by large boulders. This is the area where Cochise led the Apaches between 1861 to 1872.

We entered New Mexico and at 2pm, stopped at the New Mexico Welcome Center in Lordsburg.

We’ve stayed here in the past. The quiet lot is away from the highway, but close to a Border Patrol station down the street & a large truck stop across the highway.

For the next three days in New Mexico and western Texas, we’ll be in colder weather, but hopefully no snow showers.

Tonight’s forecast is 23 degrees … That’s -5 below zero with the wind chill !!!

Tomorrow we continue into western Texas.

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Phoenix, Arizona

January 8th (320 miles today)

We left the Indio area at 8am and traveled east on I-10 towards Phoenix.

The Colorado River is the border into Arizona and afforded us with our first diesel fuel fill-up since leaving home.

Our truck’s two tanks (85gals total) allows us to travel 850+ miles before refueling. The price difference between expensive California and Arizona was 70 cents per gallon, which was well worth the wait.

We had lunch at a I-10 rest area in the middle of the Sonoran Desert.

Before we got to Phoenix, we diverted to I-8 (truck bypass route) as to not have to travel through the downtown area.

We arrived at the TA Truck Stop about 55 miles south of Phoenix at 3pm. The parking lot is gigantic and is off the freeway. We can also grab a bite to eat at the nearby A&W.

Tomorrow we’re off to New Mexico.

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Indio, California

January 7th (263 miles today)

We left Bakersfield at 10am to fog and temperatures in the 40’s. Traveled east on Highway 58 over the Tehachapi Pass and into the Mojave Desert.

We stopped for lunch at the rest stop in Boron (home to the Borax company). We took this route today, to bypass the crazy Los Angeles freeways & traffic to our south-west.

After lunch, we continued south on Highway 395, through the Redlands area and onto I-10. We’ll be staying on I-10 all the way east to Florida.

We arrived at the Spotlight 29 Casino at 3pm to 75 sunny degrees! Even though we won’t go inside the casino, the RV parking lot is large and away from the truckers parking area.

Tomorrow, we’re off to the Phoenix area.

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Bakersfield, California

January 6th (307 miles today)

We left home at 9am and traveled south on I-5 through Sacramento and into the central California Valley.

No rain today, but light fog and temperatures in the high 50’s. We stopped near Tracy at a rest area for lunch and continued into mid afternoon to Bakersfield.

We arrived at the Flying J Truck Stop, just north of Bakersfield, at 3pm. The trick to staying overnight at a truck stop, is to arrive before dark to get the prime parking spots in the far back lots, away from the restaurant & fuel pumps (noisy all night).

Tomorrow we head to the Palm Desert area along I-10.

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