Another Cool Winter at Winter Garden

We have grown to enjoy the Winter Garden area on the Northwest side of Orlando, Florida. We finally address the issues with the Jeep with a local mechanic. As always we are blessed with the lifestyle. We were even more blessed this year with visits from friends and family who escaped the exceptionally cold and snowy Wisconsin winter this year, as well as Oma spent an extended stay in Minnesota with our family there.

Jeep Resolution!(?)

Well, there were numerous issues identified with our 2017 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, a/k/a Rubi.  A local Winter Garden Facebook community group recommended a local mechanic that was known to address these sorts of issues in numerous types of vehicles. Jason put together a 9-page summary of all of the events associated with the problem that started way back in Wisconsin in September. Dozens of different trouble codes, several shops and Jason replacing parts as well.

There were compounding problems, that we exacerbated by each other. There were two ultimate causes of the problems. First, when we bought Rubi the alternator was running high voltage and burned up some wiring. The dealer replaced the wiring harness and did a horrible job. Second, lots of people working to figure out the problem that started in September caused more damage to that wiring. This then caused more issues with cylinder damage which led to low pressure issues and misfires.  After all, that was addressed the shop ultimately recommended a full engine swap to address the final error code.

We drew lots of looks as we drove through downtown Winter Garden, with the Jeep in tow behind our rental car, on way to the local mechanic! Unfortunately, the problems with Rubi got so bad she would not even start. We even had three different rental cars in a three-week period due to issues. December 2022 was not a good month on the wallet with all these issues we had to address.

After all that, Jason purchased an online technical handbook subscription that small shops can purchase. Every code recommended changing the oil as the first step, no one had done that yet. After changing the oil the codes immediately went away.  We suspect that the wrong-weight oil was used in an oil change in September back in Wisconsin. All of this generated thousands of dollars in repairs that ultimately may or may not have surfaced at some point.

This was all stressful, self-defeating, and just plain aggravating to address over a four-month period.  We still do encounter the P0394 “Bank 2 Camshaft Position Sensor 2/2 Intermittent” error code, but it is only when facing a strong headwind, cresting over a hill bucking into the wind and Rubi tries to downshift. Odd, yes, and ultimately we hope to be able to address this at some point.

Thanksgiving 2022

We arrived the weekend before Thanksgiving 2022 and stayed through the second week of March 2023 this season. The drive down from Tennessee was fortunately uneventful and we arrived two weeks before our “long-term” stay started using our Thousand Trails two-week perk.

We had the honor of volunteering several times over the holidays, spending a brief few important moments with the kids and their families at Give Kids the World Village. Amberville has accessible amusement rides outdoors, a train built by Universal Studio that surrounds the park, mini golf, bowling, a huge model railroad, arcades, and remote control boats!
By complete circumstance, we were at Animal Kingdom during the Merry Menagerie when the stores put out their limited supply of “little blues” penguins. A fan favorite of the puppets over the years and now we have one at home too!
What can be more precious than a “little blue” penguin lover and her little blue friend?
Jason “rescued” this little penguin without knowledge from the penguin lover herself and he scored special brownie points for this purchase!

After traveling from Tennessee to Winter Garden we found a small leak had started under the kitchen sink. More repairs on this ole’ motorhome.

Since going on the road in 2017, plumping repairs have gotten much easier because home builders are using more Pex than ever in their builds. Now you can easily buy parts for RV’s plastic-based water systems at any hardware store. Between Tennessee and Orlando, the travel must have jostled some of the plumbing under the kitchen sink. We suspect previous owners had replaced the faucet at one time, but the “pipes” under the sink were original and the seals had started to leak.

Christmas 2022

What do good Omas do when they see their grandaughter’s favorite characters meeting and greeting at Hollywood Studios? Well, they get a photo with Vampirina Hauntley of course!

Christmas time is always fun at Walt Disney World, and it is even more fun when you can share it with your Wisconsin friends. We had a great time when Jason was able to take a vacation so we could spend those two weeks with Mark and Katrina.

Epcot is known for selling “dining packages” for several combined events. We dined at the rotating Garden Grill full-service dining family-style restaurant in the Land Pavilion so that we would have priority seating that evening at the Candlelight Processional. The Garden Grill is a “character dining” experience, where several of the characters will stop by the table so you can have a quick pose. Note Mickey’s wearing his farm outfit because he has been working in the garden!
A classic Walt Disney Christmas tradition is the Candlelight Processional held at both Epcot Center in Florida and Disneyland in California. The story of Christ’s birth has been proclaimed in this event every year since 1958, with exception of 2020 for pandemic reasons. We combined this with a meal at the Garden Grill restaurant in the Land Pavilion to get the “dining package” for priority seating. While still not back to the pre-pandemic size it was still very impressively moving.
While Mark and Barb kept their feet firmly planted on the ground, Katrina and Jason enjoyed checking out the Aerophile balloon from above Disney Springs. These two have tried for years to ride this 8-minute tethered balloon above Walt Disney World and the weather finally cooperated this year. There are Disney Vacation Club (DVC) discounts available, but there are no discounts to Annual Passholders by Aerophile.
The Night of a Million Lights fundraiser for Give Kids the World was held at a seasonally closed water park this year. Jason, Barb, Katrina, and Mark all enjoyed some festive snacks, Christmas music, and of course a million lights!

We ventured out in the area more based on some recommendations from local Youtube Chad Gallivanter. One of these was some amazing German baked goods! It filled the gap of not being home for our traditional Christmas cookie day tradition.

Lots of yummy carbs in the Yalaha Bakery case, but on top are some amazing gingerbread houses. We watched a family decorate their gingerbread house using the kit they purchased there. The test of many restaurants is whether we would return or not, and we did!
The Yalaha Bakery has a wonderfully shaded biergarten to sit outside, listen to some live music, and watch some gingerbread houses being decorated.

Christmas morning was downright frigid with temperatures actually below the freezing mark locally and with a windchill down into the lower 20s! We had frost on the windshield and even saw some icicles hanging on our way to volunteer at the Village.

We had several nights of under-freezing temperatures in December, including on Christmas morning. We drove by this home in Winter Garden that was using water to protect the fruit trees in their yard.
Water freezing on the trees provides a protective layer against the cold outside air. Christmas Day’s freezing temperatures were prolonged enough to develop a very thick coating on the trees.

January 2023

Oma headed back to Minnesota for 11 nights and that turned into 17 nights because she was having so much fun with the little one. Meanwhile Jason was back in Orlando tending to the cats, working every day, enjoying some Disney time on his own in the evenings, getting projects done on the motorhome, and volunteering at Give Kids the World village solo.

We knew exactly where this damage occurred because of the driveway that we were forced to go out of at a Cracker Barrel. The rock guard smashed up under the motorhome and was bent, ripped, and hanging by half of its fasteners. Fortunately, there were multiple that kept it from completely tearing loose in the middle of the road. Jason later was able to bend it back and drill new holes offset from the original. This guard is barely a year old and it looks like it has been through many battles.
In front of the “boundless playground” at Give Kids the World Village, Jason stops for a break from driving the shuttle on a cold morning in Orlando. In the lower 40s on this day, the wind chills are pretty brutal at 10 mph when making rounds on the 80-acre property for four hours. There were a couple of times Jason “suffered” in Florida cold when Barb was in Minnesota “suffering” there. There was even a time in which Minnesota was warmer than Florida! The Canadian families didn’t mind though, they were all in shorts and short sleeve shirts!
Jason forgot to lower the lid on his work laptop and Ricco found a great place to warm himself in the cold of several cool nights we had in Orlando this year. Typically he has to position himself on a small router on Jason’s desk but he was enjoying every minute of this full-body heater!
The “Golden Trumpet” trees blossom golden yellow throughout Florida in the spring. They seem to all be on a different spring season across the Orlando area, with this one first blooming the earliest in January at Magic Kingdom. Other trees were just blooming as we left in the second week of March. They are not very aromatic but they are brilliantly colored.

February 2023

Jason’s parents surprised us with a couple of day notice that they were escaping from Wisconsin’s winter and would be joining us in Florida for a couple of weeks. Amazingly, we were able to get a spot in the same resort with us. This pushed us to check out some new sites around the Orlando area, some great, some not so great.

Unlike the glass bottom boats at Silver Springs State Park the Mermaids at Weeki Wachee Springs Theater is really a once-in-a-lifetime sort of thing. You need to experience them once, and really only once, in your lifetime! Very cheezy, historic, and very Florida! We were there on a weekday and the park was very quiet, however, the afternoon show we were at was an at-capacity full house.
Does something become a tradition once you have done that twice? If so, then our tradition is to have Valentine’s Day dinner at Boatwright’s Dining Hall at Disney’s Port Orleans resort. We park at Disney Springs and take the resort boats over to the resort, enjoy dinner, and a lazy return to the Springs.
Our tour on the glass bottom boats was captained by Captain Oscar who has been at the controls for over 45 years! The boat tour is actually worth a repeat. We experienced this first in 2018, each tour is a new experience because of the ever-changing river environment below. We saw manatees, snakes, and tons of fish of course.
Jason’s parents Bruce and Luane (from left) attentively checking out the underwater world on the glass bottom boat tour at Silver Springs State Park.


March 2023

We stayed an additional 10 days using the Trails Collection of our Thousand Trails membership. We had to change sites because our three-month site had been rented out already by the time we were able to sign up for those days when the 60-day booking window opened. No problem, that was actually a good thing because it gave us a chance to make sure all systems were a go on the motorhome.

We finally achieved our Jeep Badge of Honor from the Ocala National Forest. This is about one hour Northwest of Winter Garden. Lots of sand and dust this time of the year, fortunately, no mud!

We extended our stay into the steamy Florida months to experience Barb’s favorite festival at Epcot Center, the International Flower and Garden festival. This also gave us an opportunity to volunteer a couple of more times at Give Kids the World Village, where Barb found out she loves to be the village shuttle driver!

One of Barb’s favorites at the Epcot Center International Flower & Garden Festival is the orchids on the walkway to the right of the Mexico pavilion pyramid. Hundreds of various styles of orchids are displayed.
There were numerous new topiaries this year at Epcot’s International Flower and Garden festival. Some of these figures made from live plant vegetation are just elaborately amazing.
We were hopeful that we would have our first “in-show exit” from a ride! We were “stranded” on Frozen Ever After at Epcot for about 10 minutes. The work lights came on, announcements to stay seated, and then ultimately the ride resumed later. Oh well, at least it was not Small World!
In 2021 Spaceship Earth got an upgrade of thousands of programmable LED lights across the sphere. One of our favorite shows programmed to music is “Rainbow Connection” and it is even better if you can catch the classic Monorail shot at the same time!

More and more repairs on the motorhome this time around too, good thing we stayed just a little bit longer! As the motorhome ages, we are having to replace more and more parts more frequently due to aging.

The rear air conditioner cover on our 2008 motorhome was original and over the years you could tell it was getting brittle. It is important to get on the roof and door regular inspections to find these sorts of failures. Fortunately, this had failed on the “external” side of the AC system and rain did not get into the motorhome. Of course, coordinating the delivery of a new one in today’s “supply chain” world was tough but we finally did get it days before we were to leave Orlando.
We had to get a mobile tire repair service out to address the passenger side outside rear tire. In the 10 days, we had been sitting here it had completely lost pressure and the inner bead released from the rim. Just one more reason why it is important when you are on a long stay to continue to “exercise” all of the systems periodically to ensure they are not decaying. The tires are new from the summer of 2022. The tech believes it was a faulty valve core and directed us to use a different type of valve cap to protect the cores.

What’s Next?

We head up and out of Florida across the Gulf Coast to Texas!

On the way out of Magic Kingdom for the last time this season, Mickey gave us a big wave of goodbye.

“See ya real soon!”