Theme Park Alley

I love theme parks, but not so much for the rides, shows, and attractions. More so for the themes they create and general people watching. I love the facades, their attention to details, lighting, and efforts at making it believable. It is an escape from reality even though in the back of your mind you know just outside those walls the real world is waiting. Not that the real world is bad, but it’s just more of the same.

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I feel her pain!

The bad part of the parks are the crowds, waiting in line, overpriced and mediocre food. But we tolerate it to give our minds that quick vacation from reality. It’s not a relaxing day on a sunny white sand beach in the tropics. Thats a whole different diversion, one I also love. But if you don’t plan and schedule your day at a theme park to hit as many rides as possible and see everything, it can be relaxing and fun. Especially if you are solo and have no plan of attack. Just wander, people watch, active photography, and jump into lines when they are short.

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I seriously could have used someone to wheel me around by the third day.

With my newly acquired Olympus Pen-F, and a need to get familiar with it and see what it can do, I decided theme parks are as good as anywhere else to run it through its paces. I’ll post a few entries focused mostly on photography, which is one of the key reasons I decided to be dumped into the theme park madness. No tips or hints getting around the parks, no tours of each ride, just photography  I found interesting along the way.

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These guys were everywhere. Seems like either a lot of fun, or very monotonous.
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A gaggle of girls in Tinsel Town. Hollywood Studios.
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Somewhere in Morocco. Epcot.
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Disney Eye Candy

No talk, no text, no bull. Just images for the eyes….

I decided to take in a few days at Disney since While in the area. I checked into Fort Wilderness as transportation would be easy, and I’ve never stayed here before. Very nice campground, although pricey for what you get. But, you’re in the Disney Bubble so everything is easy and convenient.  There is some value to that.

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Boat dock leading the unsuspecting into the Disney ‘bubble’. Once in, there is no escape.
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Part of the campground at Disney.
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Was treated with a great sunset.
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Another image from around the campground.
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Fort Wilderness beach area.
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People watching on the boat. I took a round trip just for something to do.
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More of the gorgeous sunset…
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…and even more 🙂
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More people watching.
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Not exactly my dream 😉  But fun.
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More gators and snakes.
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Being a super hero, I thought he might be able to help me with my radio failures and propane debacle. He just looked at me sideways when I asked. Captain America my ass.
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The monkeys area real, and I will use them when I have to.
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More pins and stickers for my wall of fame.
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Of course more Spanish moss.
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I wont be here long enough to enjoy the beach.

The Villages. ‘Golf Cart City’

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Spanish Spring Town Square

Or more correctly known as ‘The Villages’, but I’ll just call it Golf Cart City as it seems more appropriate. It is a 55+ active retirement community not far from where I am staying.  I made another trip here today to explore a bit more and grab some lunch. Last visit was for groceries, I didn’t have much time to explore.

 

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Nightly entertainment offered every night.

Spanish Springs Town Square, where these pictures were taken, is part of ‘The Villages’. There are a multiple town squares, no shortage of restaurants, shopping, and entertainment all centered around the many town squares. Overall the Villages have 48 golf courses, multiple lakes, 11 parks, tennis, bocci, pickle ball, and on and on. The population is around 100,000, and the Villages cover 38 square miles. All the services needed to support a population of that size seems to be present.

 

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I think the golf cart to vehicle ratio was about 1:1, seriously.

The golf carts are not for golfing, although some did have a set of golf clubs on the back. Most are for transportation around the Villages, between the town squares, shopping, post office, community centers, activities, and so on. There are even tunnels to allow the golf carts to cross under highways and major roads, so you can explore the entire community via golf cart.

 

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A sitting area around the springs in the town square

There was always something happening somewhere, and the town squares have nightly entertainment. Its a pretty interesting place. If I have time I’m going to pick an evening and see what the entertainment is all about. People were lining up chairs to save their spaces as early as 2pm, so it must be popular.

 

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Shops and restaurants lined the streets, much like an outdoor mall.

 

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Spanish Springs Town Square, hmmm. Ok, I guess it fits.

 

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Another view of the entertainment area.
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The ‘springs’ from another viewpoint
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I think this is one of the outdoor bars for the nightly entertainment. There were a several spread around the square.

 

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Looking back into the square.

 

Quick Update, and Planning Southern Trip

Sadly, the van has been put away for the next month or so. It will see sunshine, warmer temps, and ocean breezes further down south but not until the New England weather is in full swing. For the next few weeks it will be spending it’s time in the city, in the cold, buried in snow and waiting. Forecast shows temps below 0F in the coming weeks. Yikes!

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We live in a rural area with some steep hills, and without 4 wheel drive the van would be locked in for the winter once it snows. So we stored it at a friends house in the city with easy access to the highways. A quick getaway assured between snow storms.

Prior to storing it, I did a full winterization, clean up, and prep for the trip south. My first few days of the trip will be boondocking while it’s still winterized.  This presents some challenges but most are easily dealt with. Water will be restricted, but all other systems such as heat, stove, refrigerator, propane, and generator will be operational.

Boondocking without running water isn’t hard but does take a different mindset. Conservation and waste/water disposal are the two key issues. Anything put down the drains will freeze and could crack pipes and cause leaks. Disposing of used water anywhere but the internal drains is important.

I’ll use store bought water for cooking and drinking, and paper plates and cups to avoid the need to wash dishes.  The bathroom is the real issue, specifically showers and toilet use. I can use public restrooms, so the toilet probably won’t be needed save the early morning wake up when I just don’t feel like getting out in public. And in those cases I will just flush with RV anti-freeze. Otherwise, I’m usually traveling and within easy reach of a public restroom.

I can wash up and shampoo my hair from a basin in the sink thus skipping a full shower. It’s only for the two days it will take to go from New England and enter into the southern region. If I really need a shower during that time, a Planet Fitness gym comes in real handy, where I can get in some exercise and a shower at the same time.

Once out of the New England cold and into warmer temps, I can revert to normal water use for the rest of the trip. I’ll winterize again as I approach the cold weather on the return trip.

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The L-39 is back together and tested. It only needs new landing gear cylinders to be ready for my trip. I plan on doing a lot of flying and taking advantage of the warm weather and sunshine.

In preparation for the trip I’m also preparing the RC airplanes. Routine maintenance, preparation for a maiden flight, turbine run ups, and a new engine for the Yak.  I completely gutted the L-39, took everything out, closely inspected all equipment, and put it back together and tested all systems. Once I replace the landing gear, she is good to go.

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Kingtech K85G1 turbine on the Navy Cat sport jet.

I basically did the same for the new acquisition, a Falcon 120 sport jet with a Kingtech 85 turbine. It’s a great every day ‘go to jet‘ for general flying.

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Last snow before moving the van to the city resting spot.

As much as I enjoy winter in New England, I am looking forward to putting the snow in my rear view mirror for a spell, but I want to make sure I get back in time to catch the tail end. I love winter the best the first few weeks of snowfall, and the last few weeks before spring arrives. But I could easily pass on February and early March.

Roadtrek Communications Upgrade

For my upcoming extended trip out west, I plan on boondocking in some fantastic spots with gorgeous views and wide open country. However, that leaves me smack in the middle of nowhere. No matter how high I hold my cell phone and recite “Can you hear me now”, there will be no response. I’m fine with that. Cut the cord for a while and just enjoy being unconnected.

However, in an emergency I’d be alone. Literally all alone. No lifeline. No one to call for assistance. No help on the way.

I do have an amateur radio license,  and those radios can talk around the world under the right conditions. But they are usually stationary stations due to the size and type of antennas required.

While talking around the world would be nice, I really just need a range of a hundred miles or so. VHF radios on the 2 meter band work well when there are repeaters within 30-50 miles. Out west the repeaters are spread thin in the boondocks. They will be useful when present, and I have a VHF/UHF radio installed to call for help on those repeaters if needed.

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The above shows the radios for 2m/70cm/10m and CB bands. These are fed through two antennas mounted at the rear of the van, one for 10m and 11m, and the other for both 144mhz and 440mhz. These radios cover communications up to a 50 miles radius.

For day hiking, I will setup the VHF/UHF radios in the van on Cross-Band repeat. This allows my portable hand held radio with a limited 5-6 miles range to communicate with the radio in the van, which will then re-transmit my signal using higher power and better antenna and on a longer range frequency. Any responses received and will be transmitted back to my portable. This effectively gives me the same long distance range as the higher power radio in the van as long as I am within 5-6 miles of the van.  The solar panels and battery bank in in the van has the capacity to power the radios indefinitely when sunny, or a solid week in the dark. It’s a good backup emergency communications plan.

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The recent update is a Yaesu FT-450D (abov) that will cover the high frequency bands for longer distance communications. Using this radio I can reach out easily for hundreds of miles, across multiple states, or across the country. Even with a less efficient portable antenna, I should be able to communicate in a two hundred mile radius from my location. The portable antenna could quickly be deployed when needed, and would be packed and stored to be used if needed for long range communications.

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Along with the handheld radio and spare batteries, I’ll also have my pack filled with the essentials. I’m looking forward to exploring, hiking, and mountain biking out west. Its been a long time since I’ve been out of the wooded Northeast and into something more flat and desert like of the west.