Winter in the Garden Again

We returned to our state of residence again for our fourth three-month-long “winter” in Winter Garden, Florida, again, December 1, 2021, to March 1, 2022.  (Spoiler alert, we left before March 1, more about that in our next post.)


DC to Florida

A couple of lessons were learned on these two travel days.  First, don’t leave at Noon from DC on Sunday after Thanksgiving! It took over 4 hours to go 90 miles south out of the DC metro area.  Once we got out of that mess it was pretty decent sailing. Barb had a bad migraine and was able to lay down while Jason continued pressing the pedal to get us south away from the forecasted snow in the Virginia and North Carolina area that night.

The second lesson is to go with your gut feeling about your safety. We usually do not mind staying overnight in Walmart parking lots and it is rare we don’t feel safe when we do. However, we stopped in at the Walmart at Lumberton, NC, and decided that was not a good idea. We use to scout out locations and this one seemed OK but it had not been updated in a while When we pulled into the parking lot there were surveillance camera trailers with flashing red and blue lights parked all over the parking lot. Jason went in and talked with a manager who said it was OK to park, but when pressed about any crime issues in the area she stated, “I sure would not stay here overnight.”  So we pressed on again, finding that there was the Lumberton KOA the next exit South from there. We had a quiet, but expensive ($64+tax) and also safe, night there.

Rested up from the long and nerve-racking day before we were ready to go at daybreak and made it to the Winter Garden RV Resort by about 6PM.  Of course, we had to make a stop at the Florida visitor center that was once again serving fresh orange juice!

Winter Garden RV Resort

Most campgrounds in this area have seasonal site packages where you get a steep discount when you book and pay for three months.  As with everything, the costs to stay have increased, but it is still under $25/day for the site, water, trash, pools, etc.  We were a little upset though to learn that the site we had selected had still not been repaired since we had left in March of 2021. The concrete pad on the site was being heaved up by a tree root and the park had not yet repaired it after we complained last spring. So we got moved to a much less desirable spot with very little space.  It was quiet, level, and served the purpose anyway but was not walking distance from the pool as hoped.

Florida has some spectacular sunsets! Site #254 at Winter Garden RV Resort.




In the south Christmas parades whether on the street downtown or as a flotilla on the water is a big thing! Mr. and Mrs. Clause wave to everyone after dozens and dozens of area business and organizational floats cast candy to the crowd. Saturday morning, December 4, 2022.


On Christmas Day we spent the time at “Give Kids the World” as ticket takers and guest greeters. Barb was sporting her light-up penguins helping guide guests through the line.

This year we volunteered for Give Kids the World Village assisting in different capacities to help raise money for Make a Wish families visiting the Orlando area.  One silver lining to CoVID was the birth of the “Night of a Million Lights” fundraiser event that happened when the Village was closed to visiting families. Volunteering gave us something to do during the blocked-out periods when we cannot go to Disney during the peak holiday times. We did this on several nights including on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve, and even on our wedding anniversary on January 2nd. It gave us a chance to get out, interact with other volunteers, and all for a great cause.  We met many Disney Cast members that were completing their volunteer hours and many of those are ex Wisconsin or Minnesota residents who relocated to Florida to work for the mouse.

On the evening of our wedding anniversary, we volunteer for our last night of the season. The second annual “Million Nights of Lights” Give Kids the World Village bussed guests from an off-site parking location to the Village. Barb is posed and ready to take on the several thousand people that will come through the line this evening to enjoy the lights.


After our shift at Give Kids the World as “tram loaders,” we stopped to enjoy the lights on the Christmas tree walk. Each tree was decorated and sponsored by a different business. The “Night of a Million Lights” is just an amazing place to walk through in the cool crisp air of a Christmas Florida evening.


Spotted on the backlot in the volunteer’s area of Give Kids the World Barb had to stop and pose with her cute little friend.


A great way to start out Christmas lunch with Chef Art Smith’s Homecomin’ southern-style deviled eggs at Disney Springs.


Both of us had an amazing meal at Chef Art Smith’s Homecomin’ for Christmas lunch. Barb’s southern-style eggs benedict sporting bacon and gravy on a grit pancake with a side of smothered mashed potatoes.

Sun Country to Minnesota

We made the decision that Barb was going to fly to Minnesota to spend time with our daughter and her family there in January. This was a tough decision to make. Sun Country airlines we very good at honoring the special requests for seating and for ADA assistance at both ends of the trip. Travel went very smoothly and Barb had an awesome time in the super cold snap of January in Minnesota.

Insert photos from Barb's trip here? 
Oops, Barb took no photos because 
she was having such a good time! 


Class B Vans?

Those that have followed us for a while know that our current 39′ class A motorhome was a surprise! We had set out to find a 21′ foot class B van and ended up in class A instead. We continue to watch the class B market and still are thinking about the nimbleness that a van could bring to travel.

So Jason headed to the Tampa RV show to meet up with some friends from Wisconsin while Barb was up north with the family. We continue to have our eye on the new Winnebago Ecko “B+” format.  But the Arriva by Coachouse was also spotted with a great fold-out office space integrated with the driver’s seat.  Many of the manufacturers are finally starting to understand that working adults traveling full-time are a viable market for them.  We continue to watch and wait. Mostly our hesitancy now is having to travel with our two geriatric cats and their paraphernalia that takes up so much space.

Many of the class B van manufacturers are recognizing the need to have an office space for the “work from home” “craze” that has boosted their sales. The Arriva class B by Coach House has taken that up a notch with a solid answer to the need.


50th Anniversary

This is the “year of the 50th” anniversary of Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World in Florida. Lots of shimmering iridescence trim, merchandise, and magic.  This year we felt very comfortable with the pandemic situation and the way Disney was managing the it, even with the significant case numbers in Florida.


Jason tries to take Valentine’s Day off from work each year and we try to do something special. Our plan to enjoy the beach was kabashed because of the cold weather (like the 50s and 60s sort of weather) so we went to Disney and enjoyed the day! We topped off the day with dinner at the Boatwrights Dining Hall with prime rib and creme brulee!

Best prime rib meal on Disney’s property at Boatwright’s Dining Hall at Port Orleans Resort.


The Valentine’s meal with an amazing ending of Mississippi Mud Creme Brulee with chocolate ganache, chocolate gluten-friendly shortbread cookie, garnished with fresh strawberries, and more ganache.


Magic Kingdom

One of Barb’s favorite times of the year at Magic Kingdom is when the Tabebuia/a> trees sprout their brilliant yellow blooms.

Epcot Center

Godzilla’s attack the Disney railroad town outside of Germany at Epcot Center! Every house has little anoles lizards sunning themselves on each roof.


As part of Disney World’s 50th-year celebration, Epcot Center’s entry plaza and spaceship earth got a light show facelift. Thousands of flashing LED beacons on Spaceship earth and floodlight provide for a brilliant show set to different musical scores. Of course, the “Monorail!” classic photo shot tops the evening’s view.


Even though we leave Florida before the official beginning of the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival many of the topiaries and the flower beds appear at the end of February.


The college students are back at Disney and you can tell by Epcot Center’s International Flower and Garden Festival has many 50th Anniversary themes in celebration of Magic Kingdom’s 50th year. It is great to see this level of “magic” return to pre-pandemic rituals.


During Flower and Garden Festival every view is spectacular!


There is a ramp-up to the Mexico pavilion pyramid to the right and there is always some sort of exotic flowers open. There were more than 100 orchids flowering here at the end of February.


Just an insect-friendly random patch of flowers outside the Odyssey at Epcot Center.


Hollywood Studios

Barb has become a crack shot on Hollywood Studio’s Toy Story Mania! Disney continued to require masks through the end of February 2022. We often would also wear masks in tight spaces like in ride queues. Generally, we felt safer on Disney property than in other places like packed Orlando restaurants. After two winter seasons at Disney, we never did pick up CoVID from Disney.


In many cases we feel the new character greets at a distance are less awkward and more people can enjoy the greet. Here Chip and Dale could “work the crowd” and whole families could pose with the characters easily.



We did put down a deposit on a “premium site” immediately across from the North pool for next year. We are looking forward to another year of Disney because we also renewed our annual pass for the coming year.  So I guess that sets it! We are going back to Disney!