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  • Writer's pictureWm Bracknell

Florida & Disney with the Grandson - 2013

February 10-25, 2013

We had planned to leave on our trip to Florida after church, but it snowed about three inches, so church was canceled, so after brushing the snow off the van and our little teardrop camper, we hit the road about 11 o’clock. Our first night's stop was at a couple's house on Lake Marion, South Carolina. We had worked with them in the Virgin Islands as volunteers at VIERS. They lived on their sailboat out in Lamshire Bay during the time they were in St. John. We arrived just before supper and had a nice light meal with them. They had taken a trip to Antarctica since we last saw them. They said that now they have visited all seven continents. They showed us photos of that trip and some souvenirs from other trips. We were off early the next morning after a continental breakfast. We made it to our destination of Juniper Springs in the Ocala National Forest the next day.

I discovered that one of the wheels on the trailer had a problem. It was not rotating true thus causing an abnormal amount of wear to the tire. My first though that somehow I had the wrong size bearing or the bearing wasn't getting tight enough. I borrowed a small jack from the fellow from the adjoining campsite and tried to make some adjustments.

Our plans for this trip was to enjoy the company of our daughter, Karissa and our ten year old grandson, Dustin. They were flying down to Orlando from Raleigh and we would pick them up at the airport. It would be Dustin's first flying experience. Karissa did not even tell him they were flying until they were on the way to the airport and even then did not tell where they were going except that they were going to meet us for a vacation. We came seperately because after our Disney adventure, we were going to keep Dustin with us and spend a week camping in the warm Florida weather. Dustin was in a year-round school program and would be on break for another week.

We spent a day at Juniper Springs in the Ocala National Forest and a visited to a very interesting establishment nearby that sold all kinds of yard art, much of it Mexican. It also had some life sized statues and animals. While we were out, I stopped at a auto parts store to get a axle washer and a couple of cotter pins to see if I could correct the malfunction with the trailer wheel.

The next day we moved down to Alexander Springs where I planned to do some snorkeling, for some reason I did not work up enough nerve to dive into the cool springs at Juniper Springs. After leaving a yard covered in snow, it is difficult to think about swimming even in the marginal 72 degrees. Actually, it is quite comfortable once you get use to it. There were a couple of guys in the spring that would dive down to the bottom which was about 15 feet deep and explore around almost as if they had air tanks. It was amazing how long they could hold their breath.

On Wednesday, we left the campground just before lunch and headed to Orlando where we had a reservation for five days at the Floridian Hotel. We checked in after lunch and found a corner parking spot for the Pod. Before securing the bikes, I took a bike ride around the area just to see what restaurants were available for future reference. We had to pick up Karissa and Dustin at the airport at 7 pm so I had time to take a swim in the pool while Rhonda relaxed and read a magazine.

We tried to time our arrival at the airport pick up point outside baggage claim so we would not have to park. We also were able to connect by phone and everything went smoothly. It was almost 8 pm by the time we stopped at a Denny's halfway back to the hotel for supper. We were excited to be able to have the Disney experience with Dustin.

Our room had two queen sized beds, as it turn out there was an extremely wide cushioned window ledge, just the right size for Dustin. Sometime Dustin has the tendency to move around (toss and turn) while he is sleeping. This does not make for a good bed mate, so the window ledge worked out great. We supplied him with some bedding from the Pod and he did great.

On Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday we visited the Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, Disney MGM Studios and Epcot. We got a later start on Saturday, because someone had broken into the passenger side door window of the van during the night and we had to wait for the county deputy to take a report and then we took it to a Safelite dealer to schedule an appointment and have them tape some temporary plastic over the opening and vacuum the cubes of glass. The culprits had tried to get into the Pod also but only damaged the window screens in the two doors. We had removed pretty much everything from the van before leaving it in the lot, but the thieves did get a cheap portable DVD player, leaving all the kiddie DVDs.

We had planned to go to Universal Studios on Monday, but Dustin had theme parked out. We went by to the Safe Lite dealer in a Sears at a mall to get the window installed. After lunch, Dustin and I rode the bikes around the hotel area. They had some good sidewalks for a distance from the hotel. Later, he spent time in the pool.

On Tuesday, we took Karissa back to the airport and we headed to Wekiwa Springs State Park. There was a large natural spring there and we had gotten Dustin snorkel, mask and flippers which he had used at the pool. He loves the water and I thought it would be great for him to swim in a place other than a pool where he could use the gear to see fish and the area where the spring boiled out of the ground.

After setting up our campsite, it did not take long for Dustin to meet some other kids staying in the campground. It was a true blessing. He was having fun with them and we did not have to figure out how to keep him entertained. They rode their bikes around the campground roads and back and forth between our site. We spent sometime snorkeling around in the large rock edged pool of water surrounding the springs.

The next day we rented a canoe and went a few miles down the Wekiwa River which began in the springs. He got his first look at alligators in the wild and wasn't keen on getting too close. We headed back to the canoe launch when the skies started to look threatening. A little while after we returned, it started to rain so we headed over to a nearby library so we could check email and Dustin could hook up to the internet and play some games. I bought some used paperback books at four for a dollar. The rain had let up before supper and Dustin reconnected with the other kids in the campground and the bicycles were rolling again.

On Thursday, Dustin was back having fun with the kids in the campground while Rhonda and I took a ride down a park road to a natural area. After lunch, we went back over to the springs with our fins, mask and snorkel. The campground kids were there with their parents so Dustin joined them in the water. The family were checking out so so they had to leave a short time later. Dustin and I spent another hour in and around the springs.

The next day we packed up about mid-morning and headed down to Bradenton to meet up with an old hiking buddy who I hadn't seen in over twenty-five years. He had moved to Florida after his father had retired from the post office in Clayton. Since I had last seen him, he had gotten married to a lady with a child, they had separated, she committed suicide and he had a double lung transplant. We had called and made plans to come by his house and the go out to eat. He had not changed much except being heavier and of course twenty-five older. We had a nice lunch at Cracker Barrel, caught up on what has transpired over the years and headed north up on I-75 to a state campground on Silver Lake.

We set up camp and rode the bikes around the area. Dustin was soon playing with a couple of younger kids across the way. The Withalocoochie State Trail was just outside the park, so I took a twelve mile ride (six up an back). We made a campfire after supper from wood someone had left at a near by campsite. We were close enough to Ocala to pick up several tv stations so we watched a program before calling it a night. It was cold the next morning. It had dropped down into the low thirties which is a little unusual for central Florida. Rhonda and Dustin had gotten chilly in the pod.

Sunday morning, it was even colder in the upper twenties. We packed up and decided to begin making our way home. We stopped outside of O'leno State Park so I could ride the eleven mile Ichetucknee to O'lene Trail and add it to my trail collection. We headed up I-75 and the over to I-10 to go around Jacksonville. Before we got around town, a tire blew out on the Pod. I put on the spare but because of the wheel problem, the condition of the spare, and the chilly nights, we decided to get a motel room and get a new tire the next morning. Monday morning after a new tire on the pod we head north again. It was an all day ride to his grandma's in Welcome, N. C. and Dustin withstood the arduous trip by playing games on the e-reader and playing with my ipod. We left him with his grandma to finish our his week before ending his school break and we made it home with another tire showing extreme wear.*

*(On our next trip with the pod, I followed the pod, riding with a friend and came to the conclusion that the axle appeared to bent on the right side. Shortly afterward, my friend and I replaced the axle and I have not had a problem with excessive tire wear since. It took three tires to wear our quickly before I realized the axle was bent. As I think back, there was an event on the 2012 fall trip to New England when I felt and heard an extremely hard thud. At the time, I thought it was just a pothole, but to bend the axle laterally it must have been some vertically embedded in the road ).

Overnight Stays

Sun Feb 10 Friends home (Gunters) Marion, SC.

Mon Feb 11 Juniper Springs, Ocala N F Silver Springs, Fla

Tue Feb 12 Alexander Springs, Ocala N F Altoona, Fla.

Wed Feb 13 The Floridian Hotel and Suites Orlando, Fla.

Thu Feb 14 “ “

Fri Feb 15 “ “

Sat Feb 16 “ “

Sun Feb 17 “ “

Mon Feb 18 “ “

Tue Feb 19 Wekiva Springs St. Pk Apopka, Fla

Wed Feb 20 “ “

Thu Feb 21 “ “

Fri Feb 22 Silver Lake Cmpgrnd, Withlacoochie St. Forest Brookville, Fla.

Sat. Feb 23 “ “ “

Sun Feb 24 Travelodge Motel McClenny, Fla.

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