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Random words, pictures and thoughts of one who always wishes to be on the mind's road to discovery!

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Connecticut River Valley, New England, United States

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

On The Road Again

Hello roadies! 

Sorry there was no update last night but Tuesday is about the only good TV night all week--NCIS,NCISLA and White Collar.  So where did I leave off? Ah, yes, Daytona and dinner with the Doyles.

Couldn't sleep even though we'd gotten in early, by around 730 actually. I watched the race with Bill until 9 when he retired. Since I just don't get watching cars go round and round in ovoid patterns with no apparent change, I watched Cold Case. At around 945, during a commercial, I decided to check to see if anything interesting had happened. Imagine my surprise at the conflagration! When they showed the incinerated car and truck I was positive that at least one of the people had died. What a miracle they both survived relatively unscathed. Guess those precautions and emergency measures work smoothly. Anyway, went back to Castle and then to bed at 11, my usual time. Everything was pretty well packed but at 6 am I was wide awake and, though I tried, there was no getting back to sleep. Got up, had breakfast, got the food from the fridge they we were taking with us and organized the rest so that Bob and Trish could find it easily and, hopefully, use it or leave it for Jack and Kate, who are arriving for bike week. By tennish, we'd patted the dogs one last time, hugged BandT--well, Bill shook hands--and mailed the Netflix DVD's and postcards to Barb and Aunt Shirl and were on our way--across the causeway bridge--sadly, for the last time--heading West on Rte 44.

At first blush the landscape looks like home--forested on two lane roads--but upon closer examination it is evident that the forest is nothing like ours. Lots of oaks and what we assume are all considered palm trees, with a very think understory of palmetto and other very thick vegetation. There is no walking through these " woods "--one must hack through them.  Soon, this gave way to open pasture with wooden fences. Ranches--Bill says there are lots of cowboys in Florida. I don't know but there are lots of cows. In time, too, we came upon a small swath of citrus groves and the trees were quite heavy with oranges. In truth, it was amazing how few groves there were and we saw only one roadside stand selling HoneyBells--it was on the other side of the median and we thought we'd encounter others--but no, so we did not have any citrus so far.

Before Eustis we came to Fl 46 and headed down to Mt Dora which is a cut little town with quaint buildings. It is not an easy walking town, however, with unlevel sidewalks, hills and valleys and little alleys. We drove around and admired some of the old architecture. The found 441 and continued on our way reconnecting with 44 and arriving in Tavares. We had gotten a bit hungry by that time and I spotted a little diner with the cute name Soup to Nuts.

As we headed toward the dining area a young man stopped at a booth and indicated we should sit there. Bill asked him if he was Michael and, smilingly, he said yes. I gave them both a quizzical look and they just laughed. I said to Bill--there must have been a sign and he said Nope, Mike and I are old buddies and Mike said yup. What a pair! So to remember him forever I took a picture of our old family friend, Mike as well as several shots of the fun diner playing Brenda Lee singing I'm Sorry among other great hits of the 50's and 60's. As we left, I also turned and took a snap of the sign that should have tripped me on my way in. Sometimes, lately, I'm terribly oblivious of my surroundings---and I'm usually so observant. Another sign of the golden years??

Moving along we came into Leesburg and I gave Jack and Pris a buzz to let them know we were near. Pris said not to eat and I had to tell her we had stopped. On we continued through Inverness and on back roads to the beautifully landscaped home away from Vermont of our friends.

We haven't seen them in about five years it seems but within minutes it was as though we saw each other just a few days ago. It is so neat when a friendship picks up right where it left off no matter how much time has passed. We all gathered together and caught up on kids and, for them, grandkids. Old times, recent times, old shared friends, travels in common and on and on. In what seemed like minutes it was dinner time--Bill and Jack went outdoors to grill the biggest pork chops --as big as small steaks--and delicious. Pris and I remained in the kitchen as she steamed veggies and made up a salad. The meal was just wonderful and the conversation continued to flow. Jack and Bill both have such humor that laughter is a constant or almost so.

Pris had gotten fresh Florida strawberries and though absolutely stuffed--I didn't finish my chop and truly hope they  used it--how I hate discarding food, especially such quality -----there was no way I could pass on shortcake with real whipped cream. Bill is not a dessert guy and, though he'd declined any, when he saw those berries, he quickly changed his mind.

When we got back to the motel I googled around until I found Verne and Jean Batchelder's address in Florida. Verne taught with us at TA and now is one of the biggest horseman in the Hanoverian world. They have two ranches--one at home and one in Woodsville, Fl as it turns out. We knew they were in the Ocala area but had no idea how close they are to Jack's. Emailed Jack the link to the ranch and how to contact Verne.  I emailed VandJ and said we just want to get out of Florida, so we'll visit next time we come down. I dropped the ball on that one--if I'd been more organized perhaps the six of us might have been able to get together. But hopefully JandP will reconnect and we'll see VandJ in Vt.

This morning I was awake again at 5 or so and hadn't slept really well. I think the change in venue and bed probably played a roll but by 913 we were once more on our way.The Quality Inn in Crystal River where we stayed is located on 19 and that is the almost only road that heads to Tallahassee. If you look on the map and at my pictures you'll see that there isn't much along that road all the way to Perry, about 148 miles away. The road actually reminds me of the Taconic Parkway in New York. A nice quiet, scenic road with little traffic and tiny towns.

Chiefland was the first of any size but buildings are for sale and empty storefronts for rent. I felt like a ghost town. Coming along the main street strip the steeple rising above these flat identical buildings was so incongruous. From the side it was really stranger than straight on but either way it was noticeably weird.

Crossing the Suwannee River was really neat except for the fact that you couldn't really see it and when it became visible it was fields away behind a tall tree line. Some of the towns were so small that, though they were on the map, there was no sense of going through them. Pineland was a trailer with a sign that said Pineland. Until I looked down at the map I thought that was a trailer park name. Sadly, this road does not go through a very affluent area --repo shops, and mobile home parks.

Perry is good sized and we stopped to get gas and plan out our route around the Gulf and avoiding Tallahassee. Picked up 98, turning west but also south to the coast. It took a little while to actually get to the coast but the drive was pleasant--two lanes--some logging trucks but only two that I can recall going our way, a couple of land yachts, and a few bicyclists. Had to laugh at one lady biker with a flashing red light on the nape of her helmet. Looked ludicrous though, I suppose, a practical safety device.

Lots of creeks and rivers drain across the road and form nice lazy backwaters that are quite picturesque. Much of the area along 98 are wildlife management areas, or managed logging area. Sometimes there would be open fields with only a few mature trees--Bill said this is a common forestry method, or at least was when he studied forestry in college. It is called the seed tree method where everything but some healthy old trees are removed and those trees are left to reseed the harvested areas. Makes sense--especially with the fairly long growing season.

At Ochlockonee Bay we arrived at the Gulf Shore at last. Crossed the mouth of the Bay into St Theresa and came to a boat launch across from which is Alligator Point. The small cove formed by the point and mainland is filled with shellfish farms and their borders are marked by tall poles protruding from the water. The fog above the water was pea soup thick. Visibility disappointingly limited. Nevertheless, it is the Gulf and it is sparsely populated in comparison to the Atlantic and Southern Gulf shore.

As we continued along through St James and Lanark Village the windshield looked as though we had driven through an atomizer's mist. The temperature dropped from 78 to 60 degrees in a ten mile stretch and yet the air remained humid, humid, humid. All during the drive the a/c on 1 was too cold with the windows open but not cool enough with the windows closed even turned higher. Windows open without a/c was simply oppressive. To put on a jacket meant that you'd die when you got out of the car. A very strange occurrence to us anyway.

Eventually we arrived in Carravelle. It wasn't until I reviewed my pictures that I realized how ancient a community it is. :)  We drove around the little park along the Crooked River and through the tiny streets. Both here and in several of the prior communities it looks as though there has been storm damage though not very recently.

At the western end of town we came to a tiny restaurant--2 Als. I ordered a sweet tea and I think I got at least a liter in a huge cup--and several times the waitress asked if I wanted it topped!!!! Naturally being in the Apalachee, Apalachicola area, I had a fried oyster basket WITHOUT those darned hush puppies. I told her--I won't eat them so please, don't serve them. And unlike a couple of other servers I've had down here, she listened!

Sated once more, (we just don't eat well on these trips at all, do we?  Bill had a delicious looking Spanish hamburger basket. ) we proceeded across the looooong causeway and then causeway bridge that connects Eastpoint to Apalachicola and around the bend into Port St Joe and the Mainstay Suites. We've never stayed in this Choice Privilege holding before but I don't think you can beat the price. I reserved a one queen room for 80.99 plus tax. The lady at the desk upped us to two queens without telling us but when I asked about an upgrade she said, you know, you've been so patient while I took care of the lady before you and two calls and you are Diamond Elite, I'm going to put you into a King Suite. Which floor would you like, 1st,2nd or 3rd. We opted for 1st and because she was so gracious I awarded her one of my 1000 point vouchers that CP provides me to give to employees who recognize us as good and frequent guests.

So, in current parlance, we ended our day with a win-win experience. What could be better??  And with that our good friends, the Ponds bid you a fond goodnight.  Somehow the maps I packed for the Southern tier have disappeared but we will probably make Biloxi tomorrow. Until then, be well and take care.

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