Sunday, February 16, 2014

More Florida Travels And People - Day #20 Until Day #29

Well, it seems the faster I go the behinder I get, at least with regard to journaling here in the blog about this trek. I'm envious of those nomadic travelers and bloggers who actually keep up with their travels. Although, I have noticed that one of the nomads I follow, Glenn Morrissette of "To Simplify," has dropped back from his almost daily posts he was doing a year and a half ago to, typically every two to three days (two days being the average). It's really hard to travel, explore, take photos (which I often forget to do until it's too late), rest and reflect on all that is and has happened and then write about it. But, write I should for as my friend and business colleague, Dave Yoho says, "Even the faintest printed word is better than the best memory." (paraphrased).

Day #20 & 21

So, we're going to test my memory beginning with Day #20 (I'm composing this on Day #47, Yikes!) I left the Florida RV Supershow in Tampa in the late afternoon of Day #19 and headed to Hudson, Florida. It really wasn't that far, however, since I avoid (or at least attempt to avoid) the interstate and toll road highway systems, I ended up going through the city of Tampa at rush-hour on a Friday afternoon. Tampa is a large city. Large cities are all prone to heavy traffic and gridlock during rush hours. Tampa did not alter that factor. I finally made it to Hudson by around 6:00 PM and met up with my Vandweller hosts, Marshall and Allison Ellgas. They were staying at a home that belonged to one of Marshall's clients and doing some significant repairs and remodeling to. We got My McVansion parked on the RV pad on the side of the house and powered it up. We engaged in some spirited conversation, ate some tasty dinner that Allison prepared and retired to our various habitats for the night.

Saturday, Day #20, was a quiet day off the road for me, as was Day #21 (Sunday). Marshall had caught, what appeared to be a crummy cold, so Allison and I kept our distance (though after a week's incubation period, that cold manifest itself in yours truly). I got some writing done and took care of some necessities. By Sunday Marshall was feeling a bit better, good enough to notice how dirty My McVansion was, so he pulled out his pressure washer and the two of us gave the van a much needed bath. By golly, it was sparkling again and while not looking as good as new, it definitely looked a whole lot better than before.

Day #22

Monday, Day #22 was departure day from Hudson, Florida and my new friends, Marshall and Allison. We took some photos and I was off for Sebring, Florida and a visit to a friend who had formerly lived in Winchester, Virginia and belonged to a singles group I had been a member of. Once again, I set a course to follow the Blue Highways and avoid the interstate system. I had contacted Gary and we agreed to meet at a pre-determined time at a pre-determined location and then catch some dinner. The timing worked perfectly. I had a terrific day of seeing the Florida countryside and after Gary Pinnell, a reporter for the "Highland Today" newspaper in Sebring, and I met up, we adjourned for a pleasant evening of Thai food and conversation. Gary, after a long career in journalism is now an aspiring novelist. We discussed his plans for his book and his publishing objectives. I then retired to the Walmart Motor Inn not far from the Thai restaurant for an evening of sleep.

Day #23

Tuesday,  Day #23 was my day to explore the Sebring area. It was a very nice area. I decided that I wanted to see the old, downtown, historic area of Sebring and hopefully find a great local place for some breakfast. I wasn't disappointed. Downtown Sebring has a large, circular park in the center with stores all around the outer perimeter of the circle and six streets radiating from the circle. I parked My McVansion on the circle and notice that, as I opened the door, there was the pleasant sound of 50's and 60's music emanating from the park. It was very pleasant, especially to one who had grown up when that music was popular. I walked around the circle and checked out all the little shops and offices before going down one street where I had spotted Linda's Bookstore. I love checking out used bookstores. Now, I seldom buy anything because I just don't have room for much more in My McVansion and I know if I start adding "stuff" I'll soon have no room for me. But, I took a look through the massive stacks and spoke to Linda herself who told me she had in the range of 80,000 to 90,000 books in the store. WOW! Now, that's a lotta books.


I had noticed a place called Dee's Place diagonally across the street from Linda's Bookstore and knew it was a cafe. I was hoping it would be one of those small, hometown type places where the locals all gather. Again, I wasn't disappointed. It was a bit larger than I thought it might be, but still appropriately sized. I ordered some corned beef hash and a couple eggs over easy and the accompanying home-fried potatoes. It met my expectations as I eavesdropped on the local patrons chatting about the kind of things local folks do. Most of them were immigrants from the northern states who had retired to the Sebring area.

Upon finishing my breakfast, I completed my walking tour of downtown Sebring before climbing back into the cockpit of my micro-condo on wheels. My next destination was, of course, the Sebring International Raceway. To be honest, this was all I really every heard of or knew about Sebring. The raceway is ten or twelve miles outside the city at the regional airport (actually, part of the raceway is on some of the old WW II runways). I checked out all I could actually see of the 3.74 mile race course with its 17 turns and curves, gathered some photos and then headed back to the main business district of Sebring. 

I needed to do some laundry, so I found a Laundromat and completed my mission. I then arranged to meet Gary Pinnell for dinner again at a Mexican restaurant that was located on the shore of the very large Lake Jackson that the city of Sebring surrounded. Nice restaurant, great ambiance as we sat on the covered outdoor terrace looking over the lake, very good food and more great conversation. 

We parted ways and I made my way back to the Walmart Motor Inn for the night, planning to leave the next morning for my next destination, Port Charlotte, Florida and another of my blog readers, a (currently stationary) vandweller and an all around interesting guy, Tommy Head.

Day #24, 25 & 26

I got up, cleared the rig for travel, had some breakfast and programmed my GPS for Tommy's house in Port Charlotte. Again, the route took me on the Blue Highways of Florida toward another destination that I'd never been before and it was also the southerly most point on the west coast of Florida and the Gulf of Mexico I'd ever been. I drove through more cattle and citrus country and actually, without knowing it, had driven through one of the highest elevations in the State of Florida. Obviously, it wasn't very high if I hadn't noticed it. Actually, the highest elevation in Florida is the lowest elevation "high elevation" of all 50 states. 

Tommy Head is a boat broker and was tied up until around 5 PM, so I planned my arrival for the time he was going to be at home. The timing was pretty perfect again and I joined Tommy as he took his dog, Porsche, (yep, like the German car) on her evening constitutional. Tommy has a small, very typical 50's/60's style Florida home with his 22 foot Winnebago and Mazda Miata parked out front. We spent a few hours becoming acquainted and then, since I was already parked and powered up, retired to our respective habitats for an evening's rest. Tommy had to work for the next couple days, so it gave me time to explore the local area and take a short visit to Punta Gorda, a pretty and historic town on the other side of Charlotte Harbor from Port Charlotte.

Thursday and Friday were relaxing days. I found a pretty little park on Charlotte Harbor and parked there in the shade and worked on some writing projects as well as some client work. Again, Tommy and I enjoyed interesting conversations as he related some of his vandwelling experiences and boat living experience from a few years back. Once again, I found another friend through my blog and vandwelling who was a unique, interesting, enlightening and generous fellow.

Day #27

Saturday, Day #27 saw Tommy off in the morning to meet with a prospective boat client. But, when he returned he suggested that we head out to Gasparilla Island where its largest town, Boca Grande and the Gasparilla Island State Park are located, and so we did. In many ways it was like going back in a time machine to a kinder and gentler age when things seemed more refined. Boca Grande is an upscale community with some full-time residents and some vacation home residents. The only access to the island is by a two-lane, privately owned bridge. The speed limits are slow. The lifestyle appears to be slow. The little downtown area is small and quaint and there are no supermarkets or chain type stores. The center piece of the town is the Gasparilla Inn, an elegant, "old world" (as in the late 1800's/early 1900's) style wooden hotel, very southern in design. We parked and walked through the main floor of the well maintained old beauty. We also visited the old lighthouse on the beach at the state park. Tommy wanted to make sure we stopped at the old Whidden's Marina, established in 1925 and it is true to it's nearly 90 years of operation.

On the way back, to Port Charlotte, Tommy took me through a huge area that had been developed as a housing project, probably 40 or more years earlier. The roads were paved and the electrical service had been installed, underground, street signs were in place and there were even stop signs at the intersections, but not a single house had ever been built. Tommy showed me a lake that he'd take his dog to and allow her to swim. The area was very flat and had few wooded areas. I guess, in a way, it was very eerie. We headed back to Tommy's place and chatted for a while before retiring for the night.

Day #28

Sunday was Day #28 and it was a damp day. Tommy decided that we'd go visit some of the interior part of the Florida peninsula, more specifically, the Arcadia area. Tommy is, in addition to being a boater, vandweller and RVer, a "biker" as in motorcycle. So we drove over through Arcadia and visited the little towns and also visited a couple Biker Bars that Tommy has spent some time at over the years. These places were pretty much what you'd expect, but they were definitely cool. It appears that the bikers are typically travelers, much like RVers and vandwellers from all over the country. Most of them seemed to be folks from various walks of life, often professionals like lawyers, engineers, etc. who came through this way to escape the winter in other parts of the country.

Day #29

Today, a Monday, I had a telephone conference call scheduled with the Legends of the Speaking Profession Selection Committee of the Veteran Speakers Retreat that I had formerly coordinated for 12 years. While I've retired from the VSR coordination responsibility, I still serve on the Legend's selection committee. I made my way to the beautiful little park in Port Charlotte overlooking Charlotte Harbor, parked My McVansion in a shady spot with a gentle breeze wafting through the van on this sunny day with moderate temperatures. The call went off as planned at precisely 10:30 with three members (including me) calling in from various parts of Florida, one from Phoenix, Arizona and one from Morris Plains, New Jersey. Business was transacted in about an hour and my day was free.

So, I made my way from Port Charlotte on a day trip to Fort Myers where I visited the Edison/Ford Winter Estates and Museum. If you recall, last fall I had visited the West Orange, New Jersey main laboratory of Thomas Edison where my father had worked until his death in 1967. The museum in Fort Myers complimented the New Jersey facility (now a National Historic Park) and told even more of Edison's story along with his long time friendship and collaboration with Henry Ford and Harvey Firestone. At the Fort Myer location, Edison and Ford created a botanical laboratory where one of the main projects was to create new ways to grow and cultivate rubber trees for the rapidly growing requirement of rubber, especially for automobiles. 

Once again, a day well spent and a great learning opportunity. I returned to Port Charlotte for one more night at Tommy Head's house before beginning my northward journey on Tuesday morning.

The next episode of this first Trek of 2014 will pick up with Day #30 as I headed up to Sarasota, Florida. Tune in next time for more Travels with Ed.

No comments: