Posted February 24, 2018 – Narrated by Carmen
I can show you the world
Shining, shimmering splendid
A new fantastic point of view
No one to tell us no
Or where to go
Or say we're only dreaming
A whole new world
Don't you dare close your eyes
A hundred thousand things to see
Hold your breath it gets better
Every turn a surprise
With new horizons to pursue
Let me share this whole new world with you
A Whole New World by Alan Menken / Tim Rice
Now, we find it hard to believe …
… Disney World was never on our wish list.
Florida was about recapturing memories of my happy childhood and showing Jim what a real beach looks like.
There was no Disney World when I lived in Florida during the 50’s and 60’s … but my sister, Deborah, kept pushing us to go.
“Nah. We’re all Disneyed-out.” I said.
Disneyland opened in 1955 when Jim was one year old. Two years later, he walked through those gates at least three times a year – the annual family trip plus the Cub Scouts or Boy Scouts and then the church trip, too.
When our son came along we continued the annual Disneyland pilgrimage, driving that hour-and-a-half to Anaheim from San Diego and back – arriving home in the wee hours.
I avoid crowds whenever possible, so Superbowl Sunday or rainy mid-week school days worked best for us. One year it rained in Anaheim on Superbowl Sunday and we had Disneyland almost entirely to ourselves. We saw more employees in the park than visitors on that day and Chris rode Space Mountain at least six times without having to exit his front row seat.
Score. Best Disneyland day, ever.
We’d never been to Disney World, but my sister, the nurse, knows me and how I am about crowds …
“Sister, listen,” she told me, “If you camp at Fort Wilderness mid-week in February and take the little ferry to the parks, it won’t be uncomfortable for you. You shouldn’t miss it.”
Deb is my maven. She knows all the best gettin’ places and all the best stuff and how and when to get it. Without her, I’d just be wandering aimlessly in the marketplace.
So, last November while researching Disney World, this happy vision of our rig, Beauty and The Beast, pasturing in Walt Disney’s spacious Fort Wilderness began to take hold.
But, oh my, a treat like this could blow a hole in our “Average Campsite Cost Per Night” budget!
So, I wished upon a star and applied for press passes and, voila! Just like that …
… the gates of Disney World opened and Living In Beauty got all dressed up for the ball!
I owe my Sis a big hug! It’s Day 5 in our luxurious premium campsite and we still have four days of fantasy ahead!
Contrary to the advice of nearly every Disney blogger out there, securing a reservation at Fort Wilderness only weeks in advance was indeed difficult, but certainly not impossible.
Persistence on Jim’s part to check Fort Wilderness’ openings several times a day did the trick.
Since there’s no penalty for cancellations with 5 days notice, openings appear almost daily. Watching the Disney website closely, Jim gradually expanded a two-day premium campsite reservation (made two months in advance) into a 9 day/8 nights epic Disney Extravaganza!
Jim also wrestled up last minute tickets to the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Review and Be Our Guest.
Tonight we’re going to Mickey’s Backyard Bar-B-Que and tomorrow night to the free Campfire Sing-a-long and movie – Jim’s also trying for tickets to the Spirit of Aloha Dinner Show at the Polynesian Villiage, and I’ll bet he’s successful.
But, to afford all of these unexpected delights we had to pull out the full-time RVers secret weapon: Boondocking.
On our way to Disney World, we dry camped – at little to no expense – in some of the most enchanting places in the Land of Sunshine.
Journeying toward Disney World’s Fort Wilderness in true American adventuring style we slept on beaches, bunked down in forests, and discovered historic wilderness areas.
Here’s how we did it:
We left Lazy Days RV Resort in Tampa – which had a great dog park – and tried to get a first-come-first-serve space at Edward Medard County Park which, due to the Florida State Fair, was full. So we day-camped for free at Medard and moved on to Seffner and slept there, compliments of Cracker Barrel.
We scouted out the Clearwater area, and spent the night at the Cracker Barrel nearby.
We woke at 6AM for breakfast at Cracker Barrel and day-camped for $5 at Sand Key Beach.
Just before sunset, we drove to Tarpon Springs where there was no camping or Cracker Barrel or Walmart parking but, thankfully, Saint Ignatius of Antioch Roman Catholic Church is kind to travelers and gave us permission to overnight in their parking lot.
The parking at the church felt very safe, so we secured our rig and walked a couple of blocks to a dog-friendly local pub where we crashed an amazing birthday party featuring a great live band!
Surprisingly rested, we woke early and found free all-day parking, just a few blocks away in Tarpon Springs, right beside Silverking Brewing Company and spent all day Sunday touring the fascinating historic district.
Sunday evening, with a growler full of IPA from Silverking, we drove to Wesley Chapel and found a tranquil spot in the Cracker Barrel parking lot where a determined sand crane roosted.
Had breakfast early at Cracker Barrel and drove twenty-four miles to Serenova Tract Water Management District Campground at Land O’Lakes.
There was no way, in a single day, we could hike all twenty-one miles of beautiful trails in this protected, gated campground – but, we managed to enjoy the trails throughout the day.
Then, at sundown, we made a big spaghetti squash dinner with turkey bolognese sauce.
This is one of the most beautiful free campgrounds we’ve ever seen, and to think that we could have stayed for two weeks…!
On any normal day, it would be difficult to leave the tranquility of Serenova behind, but this was the day! We were on our way to Disney World! The Grand Finale of 17-weeks of Airstreaming Through Florida!
We think Walt would be proud of our “magic carpet ride” to Disney World where our whole new world meets his …
…because like he said, “If you dream it, you can do it.”