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  • Writer's pictureInger and Jeff Latreille

In Our Own "Backyard"

~Thursday, March 23, 2023~

Day 1,013

Exciting day, feeling like a kid again, almost. We finally booked our reservations at Disney World's Magic Kingdom for next week. It’s only taken us 20 years to get back, so we’re really looking forward to reliving the magic for sure. But instead of a week, we’ll have only 2 days to pack it all in. Why? The cost. We have to keep reminding ourselves that our 2-1⁄2 year journey is not a vacation, but a way of life, at least for now. We still have budgets and all the other “normal” concerns. So we can’t go too crazy. Which is why at $180/person/day, we stuck with the 2 days. We can always add a day for instance at the WaterPark, if we really wanna go crazy. But really. How do these young families afford it? Thinking back when we did it with our kids, even flying from California, it was crazy expensive even then. But sometimes, you just gotta do it, even if you CAN’T afford it. You know what I mean? And we only did it once.

After spending about 30 minutes trying to book our reservation online, I finally gave up. They definitely make it challenging. For some reason, I could never fully get through the checkout process as it kept circling me back to the beginning. It’s always better to talk to a live person anyway, right? The Disney “cast member” as they are called, was super helpful! And boy did I get the low down, of which I needed since things have changed a bit from our last visit. For instance, the old FastPass that used to get you to the front of the line a little faster, is now called the Genie+ which also comes with a new Lightning Line. We’ll fill you in on how that works once we purchase it. But the process to get it is at the stroke of midnight before your arrival, you purchase the Genie+, then at 7:00 a.m. add your first ride. Once you’re in line for that first ride, you then add the second ride and so on, so that throughout the day, whatever rides you want to go on are stacked one on top of the other. Since we’ll be there at prime time, Spring Break, this will definitely come in handy. But what about just your entry into the park? Well, they have a trick for that too. If you want to avoid the long lines at the entrance, they have a Disney Ticket Center at Disney Springs where you can purchase your “entry card” for the park. This is the card that you show for each ride or each attraction you want to do. We’ll definitely be getting this one. But in addition to getting our “card” it’s apparently easy to spend a whole day just in Disney Springs. With over 99 shops, 68+ places to dine and over 20 shows and events, it sounds like the perfect place to visit before the main attraction of Magic Kingdom. And thank goodness backpacks (no bigger than 24” long) are allowed as well as food and drink. That way we can bring our Camelback full of water to stay hydrated on those hot days. We may consider even biking from our campground since the park is only minutes away. We’ll have to research that one.

After our busy “Disney planning”, we felt it was time to do a little exploring around our beautiful campground. Sadie joined us on this little outing where we saw kids with fishing poles in hand and kayakers launching into the Hillsborough River. Our mission was to hike the Baynard Trail,

a 2.2- mile heavily wooded hike along the aquamarine colored Hillsborough River. Crossing the river was a recently refurbished suspension bridge, originally built by the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) in 1938. And it is one nice bridge!

Along the trail, with the river below us to our left, we saw a number of cypress trees and those odd

looking “knees” as they’re called, protruding up from their roots. They are thought to offer more stability for the trees due to the wet, loose soil that they are in. Another theory is that it helps aerate the soil around the Cypress tree. And the water, oh, so clear and inviting. But trust me, I don’t think anyone would be crazy enough to jump in since it does have a few cold-blooded Florida creatures that inhabit its waters. What we didn’t know is this river is a primary source of drinking water for Tampa. On our way back to the campsite, as we were passing the camp store, we noticed a row of turkey vultures

perched on the building’s roof, some even with spread wings toward the sun, perhaps from their afternoon swim at the pool which is currently being renovated and set to re-open in 2024. It made for a pretty cool photo anyway!

Not having campfires too often, we thought having one would keep the mosquitos at bay. But not for me. I don’t know if it's my blood type or my smell, but they always decide to make a meal out of me. Not Jeff. He pretty much remains unscathed (so unfair!). I guess putting up the bug tent is necessary after all.

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