Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Swimming With Leaves

I am the navigator. I'm not in the league of Ferdinand Magellan of Vasco da Gama but I do pride myself on enjoying mapping and studying places to visit and backroads and so forth so I decide the route. That is a blue job aboard Gannet 2. I wash up, I navigate ...
I proposed a backroad drive to St Petersburg from our I-75 overnight stop and the admiral agreed so I led off in the van and she followed in (Dale's) Fiat 500. My first target was a Mexican store south of LaBelle, a place known to us where we got an early lunch, barbecued ribs rice beans a giant hot pepper and grilled onions with more corn tortillas than you can eat. Oh yes, I thought, I remember why we are going to Mexico. I took Rusty for a walk and if you have watched the Walking Dead, a series that held my interest for a while, you will know why I found the tin fence so fascinating. It didn't look "walker" proof to me.

Florida back roads are long and straight and boring except when they aren't. If you only know the state from I-95, The Turnpike or I-75 you really don't know Florida at all. This is cowboy country, fields dotted with huge spreading oaks, clumps of cows lounging in the shade, orange groves and small towns lived in by proper Southerners. You may have heard the joke about the further south you go in Florida the further north you arrive. My neighbors on Cudjoe were from Connecticut...

Orange crates piled high on a trailer. Orange season is when you want to be traveling as you can smell orange cakes being baked at the various processing plants...it just smells like that to my sweet obsessed mind. The prance stands open and you should stop and buy the sort of Florida orange juice your grandparents stopped for when they took winter breaks. Or you can stick to I-95.

Rusty cares not one jot for any of this, so while Layne was exercising her Mexican Spanish ordering lunch he took me on the scenic route behind the Azteca market.

We took our lunches back to the air conditioned van where Rusty was lying in State. 

Then we collapsed into a carb coma. ice you have traveled with a motorhome, be it ever so small going back to a car without a bed or a toilet or a comfortable place to sit becomes a hardship. Layne asked me if I had any twinges when we passed motorcyclists droning the long straight road and I could say without doubt, none whatsoever. I do think I'd like to settle some where rideable if I am still active after this journey. I'd like to ride back roads to lunch or perhaps to a friends place but I think motorcycle touring has been superseded in my life by the comfort of parking and sleeping wherever I want.

Layne took her Fiat (now Dale's Fiat) by the direct route while I meandered across Florida, driving roads familiar to me as we have explored the state in all directions, but lovely nonetheless. Finally I had to get on I-75 to cross the Sunshine Skyway bridge to St Pete. Layne called and said she was off to Trader Joe's to buy more coffee to replace the stuff I accidentally threw out in my frenzy of stuff anti-gravity and I got to stop and sit. After I walked Rusty.

There is a bike path from St Petersburg and happily we walked the trail before the afterwork crowd slipped into their spandex and rode with concentrated ferocity down the trail. And then up the trail as my walked dog and I sat and did some more thinking.

There were no No Overnight Parking signs here as it is a basic rest stop and scenic area. Actually I have slept at the main rest stops either side of the bridge but this little pullout was a new find, all to ourselves.

Inevitably I got the call and had to move on.

There was a northwest breeze produced by the tiny cold front that reached this far south so I pulled out my Pico chair and sat in the shade with the breeze and caught up with my correspondence.

Rusty at home.





I didn't say it wasn't hot work walking in the blazing sun, I just said the breeze was nice and cool...

Rusty was ready to sit and think as he so often does. We sat and thought in companionable silence watching the occasional mad cyclist steaming by, and I could have sat till dinner time followed by bed followed by a night of uninterrupted repose. However...

We got to Dale's where he grilled grouper and we asked about the pool in front of the pool house where we are staying. He said its got a few leaves in it that fell from the tree. He sounded dubious about the whole thing. We said we swam all the time in the canal behind our house. No one else on our canal did. One neighbor wittered on about alligators as though having missed their chance for the past six years they were about to invade the canal and drown us for dinner. Another neighbor went on about barracuda as though we were swimming with deadly missiles but I got used to barracuda swimming alongside when we were snorkeling in the Bahamas years ago. I never saw any in the canal and I suspect their reputation comes from James Bond movies not real life, as usual. The waters looked green and unappetizing on windy days and the implication was there might be bubonic plague in the canal, but despite all those holy terrors we swam every opportunity we got and were none the worse for it.

There really weren't very many leaves in the pool and we enjoyed the cool refreshing waters a great deal. Obsessive me swept up the easy to catch leaves but swimming back and forth with not an alligator in sight was very relaxing.

Dale is a good man, smart, funny to talk to, eccentric and wide awake to the ways of the world. He made his life in technology and now he's retired he sits and thinks and he doesn't even need a van to do it.

A few leaves in, a swimming pool, a long silent alley to walk Rusty along, pretty homes, big oak trees and no deadline to go home and start work. I think Layne and I have stumbled on something good here. For now.