Florida spring training trip

Yet another trip to Florida. Can I do it? The drive is kind of long and lonely but direct on I-95 Southbound from Richmond. I am leaving late on a Friday to pick up some miles on the first leg of the journey. I made it as far as Rocky Mount, NC. Then I cleverly tried to use Hotwire after midnight and booked a room for the next night. Haha. I tried to sleep in the Wal-Mart parking lot again but was having trouble falling asleep so headed down the road a piece, only about 30 miles as it turned out, ending up in Kenly, NC.

2015-03-01 09.48.37I had noticed the lighthouse gas station, Kenly 95, on the road on other trips but was so tired I did not even see it when exiting the freeway at 4 AM, too tired to drive any further. It is kind of a Wall Drug of independent gas stations on a smaller scale. There is a very nice vintage truck inside and, for a Minnesota boy, the treat of a Caribou coffee..

I managed to make it as far as Jacksonville, FL on Saturday where I found a hotel for the rainy evening not wanting to try my After Eight search for a place to stay. At least it was a lot warmer than in Virginia.  I was up relatively early the next morning after a good night’s sleep and off to Jacksonville beach, which I had not been able to visit on the previous trip because I ended up doing some work from the Jacksonville Beach Library.

2015-03-01 11.30.49There was a nice beach town close to the beach, selling the usual T-shirts, souvenirs and tokens of remembrance. I even got a parking spot close to the beach as it was not that warm and few people had gotten up that early on a Sunday. I found a nice coffee shop to read the local newspaper, the Florida Times Union. After finishing the paper, I headed out toward Port Orange, where I had booked a room with an AirBnB host some distance from the beach. There were two watering holes under the A1A causeway on the river side of the barrier island, Our Deck Downunder and DJ’s Deck. I am not much of a restaurant crowd- sourcing, nasty, raving maniac review reader but would investigate and find out for myself.

20150301_175740After careful consideration, probably partially based on the beer list, I decided for the latter as there was music playing in the incoming fog and there were an assortment of seafood choices on the menu. I hadn’t seen oysters on a menu in a while so chose half a dozen and a catch of the day fish sandwich. Wow, what a mistake. The oysters were small and the adductor muscle had not been severed so one had to scrape oyster morsels off with a fork. Obviously not oyster cleaning experts. And the only options for the catch of the day was fried and not grilled, possibly because the pieces of fish were small.  That said the fish is the sandwich was over-fried. A pretty amateur fish adventure. All TVs were tuned to NASCAR, the QuikTrip 500 from Atlanta, as important as baseball, football and college basketball had been to me in previous lives. Then on to the AirBnB place away from the water with a gruff host and his mother-in-law apartment, rental suggested by his daughter. A Giant TV with only a BlueRay connection.  I suppose I did not need to watch TV anyway.

I was out the next morning and off to Ft. Pierce as a final destination on US1. I stopped in New Smyrna Beach and a walk around the Canal Street historic district. A cup of coffee and the local paper. I found the coquina Turnbull ruins, which very much resemble the Castillo de San Marcos in St. Augustine.

20150302_122636There seems to be a mystery surrounding who actually built the foundation.

From there it was back onto US1 heading south. I stopped once again in Sebastian, FL. I walked along the Indian River as the day had turned beautiful and it was shorts and Hawaiian shirt weather again. {Squid Lips (27.827061, -80.472251)}.

I drove on to my next overnight destination of Ft. Pierce. I parked uptown looking for a place to eat and ended up wandering around the downtown. I sat down in at the bar at Yellowtail Grill & Raw Bar,  which had such poor service with so few customers that I just walked out and headed for the water. Or maybe I was just very hungry  I finally saw the boats, and the bars by the boats, and popped into Original Tiki Bar and Restaurant for a cool beer.

2015-03-02 18.44.58The unfortunate thing about Florida is that everyone is so old, you know, at least one high school graduating class before mine. And it is a bar and everyone is getting silly. And the New York refugees are so LOUTISH or is that just loud. And there was a Harley rider smoking at the bar, stinking up the only available seat at the bar. So one drink and on to the next bar on the other side of the {harbor, quay, boat dock). There was hardly one at Cobb’s Landing and the fish tacos were mediocre. At the appointed hour I headed to the AirBnB place for the night. A bit away from the water, but cheaper during this high season. A nice bedroom let out by a woman with Parkinson’s, although I would not have noticed if i had not been informed.  She was a music teacher and regaled me with stories of her stringed instruments, mandolins, guitars and some Peruvian instrument with special tuning.

From Ft. Pierce on the Atlantic side of Florida it was now on to the Gulf side to visit the Minnesota Twins spring training site in Ft. Myers, including a trip past Lake Okeechobee. The town itself did not seem to be much although it had a courthouse and a park between the shops and the highway. It was warm and partly cloudy at this stage of the morning. After a refreshing  iced coffee at Serenity Coffee Shop the goal was to get to the Lake for a brief walk along the berm, the barricade surrounding the lake and preventing it from spilling over into the river.

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Lake Okeechobee was vast and flat and fully encompassing ones field of view on the horizon. After a short walk along the berm it was back in the car to drive across central Florida. Kind of scrubby looking cattle country but unlike the land in Wyoming in Montana there were palm trees sometimes dotting the pastures. And there were RV parks where retirees and snow birds could enjoy the warm weather and perhaps lower prices than either coast. I thought I knew the route without the GPS, as it had cut out, but I must have geographically drifted off. A quick check of the Florida highway map set me straight and I unintentionally passed by the Twins ballpark, part of CenturyLink Sports Complex, which allowed picking up a ticket for the game the next night.

Then it was on to Ft. Myers Beach to see if I could go for a walk on the beach and dip my toes in the Gulf. I crossed the causeway from the San Carlos Island, the last island before the island that is Ft. Myers Beach and saw that parking gratis on the island was nearly impossible. So I turned around and headed back to the Main Street Park and Ride lot on the San Carlos Island, parked and walked across the causeway. It was a nice sidewalk and the bicycles were not being ridden but walked which made the walk to the beach quite civilized. The college kids were out in force and the beach was covered with people when I got there. I took a stroll up the beach and headed to get a bite to eat.
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There was a very nice view from the causeway on the return. The dinner at Dixie Fish Company consisted of shrimp and corn chowder and smoked fish dip, and was very pleasant with the breeze from the harbor drifting into the not too full bar.

Then off to stay with another AirBnB host. Up in the morning and time to get some groceries and a haircut and check out a farmer’s market. Although I thought I had arrived reasonably early at 11AM, I was wrong as the causeway backup to Sanibel Island was too long for me. So turned around and headed back to Ft. Myers Beach for an extended walking day as the Twins game started at 7:30 and I had anticipated an afternoon game but had not actually read the tickets. Oh well, flexibility in all things when on the road.

20150304_135506I had plenty of time in the sun to administer multiple applications of sunscreen throughout the day during beach walking. I did succumb and have a couple of beers at the bar overlooking the beach. I had the opportunity to overhear a couple of retired or semi-retired long haul truckers discussing their approaches to driving. The one fellow liked to just take loads a short distance and would take lots of time to go, say, from Florida to Indiana while the other fellow had lots of long distance driving stress from the past, that he brought up more than once. There were some Twins jerseys in evidence on the Beach but there were also lots college and pro logos from colleges and teams from all over the Midwest and east coast.

The game was not that interesting as with my poor aging eyes I could barely see the plate from the outfield seats. The ballpark was very nice, smallish with a walkway all around the perimeter. One of the beer vendors commented on how March was the perfect time of the year in Florida, in the high tourist season of March and April. When the rains and oppressive heat arrived later in the year, it was definitely not as pleasant.

20150304_191355As I had no place booked for that evening, after the game ended I headed up Interstate 75  toward Sarasota. As i was too tired to look much further, I exited the freeway at Florida 72 and stayed the night at the adjacent Days Inn. Refreshed the next morning, the travel brochures indicated that Siesta Key had the whitest sands and nicest beach in These United States, probably also claimed by other beaches as well, but that was obviously the place to be that morning. I got to the beach a bit earlier than the day before, finally finding a parking space near the beach, after failing to find one in the shopping district. The sand was very fine grained and incredibly white, >95% quartz according to the brochures.

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I walked up the beach from the beach parking spot and ended up in the little shopping area and got a coffee at a little coffee shop_____, which served no low calorie sweeteners because they were produced in GMO bacteria. I guess the complaint is that for aspartame “The host microorganism is cultured and the large peptide containing the repeating Asp-Phe (aspartame precursor) sequence is harvested therefrom.” Industrial microbiology at its finest. As consuming straight sugar makes me kind of twitchy after a couple of minutes and is generally not good for maintaining a proper blood sugar level, I have given up on using it. Nothing really matches the taste of sugar. Splenda (sucralose) is a chlorinated sucrose and is actually too sweet and has a different sweetness on the tongue than sugar. The blue packs (aspartame) and the pink packs (saccharin) have a bit of bitterness. Stevia is not as sweet and also has some bitterness. This non-GMO nonsense is off the charts of reality.

But back to the Siesta Key beach and a walk back to the car, where I then headed back north on I-75 toward Jacksonville and then Richmond. I managed to make Brunswick, GA by dusk and exited the freeway to get some BBQ at Sonny’s BBQ on US 341, New Jesup Highway. There was whole different crowd here compared with all those retirees in Florida.

 

 

 

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