Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Road Tripping USA Part Seven

Author’s Note
I belong to Angels Abreast, a breast cancer survivor dragon boat race team in Nanaimo, British Columbia, Canada. Every four years the International Breast Cancer Paddlers Commission IBCPC) holds an international festival somewhere in the world. In the spring of 2013, my team received a notice that the IBCPC had chosen Sarasota, Florida, USA, to hold the next festival in October 2014.
     We decided to attend and while the other members were going to fly down, tour around some of the sites and head home I wanted to see more of the country and meet some of the people. My husband, Mike, and I drove from our small acreage at Port Alberni, British Columbia, on the Pacific Ocean, to Sarasota, Florida on the Atlantic Ocean.
     Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine the people I would meet nor the beautiful places I would see nor the adventures I would have on our ten week, 18,758km (11656 mile) journey. On the thirteenth day of every month in 2016 I will post a part of my trip that describes some of the excellent scenery, shows the generosity and friendliness of the people, and explains some of the history of the country. The people of the USA have much to be proud of.

 Road Tripping USA Part Seven    
When we left the Florida Keys we drove to Del Ray and began looking for a campsite. Our GPS, named Lola, showed us that there were two south of us, but we didn’t want to go back. We went to two Walmart stores but neither one of them allowed campers. There was a KOA 30 miles away. Mike wanted to try for it but I convinced him to look for a parking lot. We found one in a strip mall with a few stores. Once settled we went and did some shopping.
     The stores closed and the parking lot was quiet. It was the night of the fall time change. As I put our clocks back an hour I pictured the extra hour of peaceful sleep I would have.
     It was a cool night so we closed our windows before going to bed. I was having a wonderful sleep when suddenly there was a loud knocking on our door. It jerked me awake. There was another louder knock, knock, and someone yelled. “Franky, Franky, wake up.”
     Mike and I looked at each other but neither of us said anything.
     “Franky, Franky, open up. I got forty dollars.”
     We remained quiet hoping the person would go away. But he kept it up. “Franky, Franky open up. It’s me. I got forty bucks.”
     He was not to be discouraged and kept banging on our door. “Hey, Franky, Debbie come on. Let me in. Open up. It's me. Come on, let me in.”
     Finally Mike opened the door. “We’re not Franky and Debbie. We are from Canada.”
     "Oh, sorry, sorry,” he apologized. “Franky and Debbie have a camper just like this. I thought it was Franky. Sorry. Sorry."
     Mike told me that he was sure the person was a woman and when he told her we weren't Franky and Debbie she began crying and left.
     We discussed Franky and Debbie possibly being drug dealers and if we were in a motorhome just like theirs maybe it would be best if we left. So we dressed and decided to look for a place to see the sun rise over the ocean. At Lake Worth Beach we pulled into a parking lot.
     Mike and I walked to the beach and on the morning of his 68th birthday we stood, hand in hand, with our feet in the Atlantic Ocean and watched the sun rise over the water.
     We wandered up and down the beach and though it was only 6:30am there were a lot of people walking in the sand, doing tai chi on the beach, surfing, and wading in the water. It was a very popular spot early in the morning. There was a long fishing pier and it cost me $1.00 to walk out on it. It was crowded with fishers.
     We wanted to eat breakfast overlooking the beach so we watched for a restaurant as we drove. But there were either houses or beach on the ocean side of the road. And there were bushes to block most of the ocean views. At Juniper Beach we found a parking spot along the road where the bushes were shorter.
     Mike had his birthday breakfast of cold cereal while watching the waves break on the sandy beach of the Atlantic Ocean.
     After enjoying the view for a while we continued down the road to the Blowing Rocks Preserve. I took the Sea Grape Path to the Main Dune Crossover viewpoint and watched as the waves hit a short wall of rock along the beach and shot into the air. This is part of the largest outcropping of Anastasia limestone on the Atlantic coast of the United States. It would be best to visit during high tide or winter storms when the spray can reach 50ft (15m) high.
     From there I walked about a quarter of a mile on the Dune Trail to the northern end of the beach. In the summer loggerhead, green, and leatherback sea turtles come ashore here to lay their eggs. From March to October visitors are supposed to leave the sand alone so that the eggs will hatch.
     We were travelling north on Highway 95 when Mike saw a sign for a Waffle house. He decided he wanted some for lunch. When we walked in we could choose between a table or stools at the counter. I pointed to the stools.
     “No, you can’t sit there,” the woman wiping the counter said.
     “We can’t?” I looked at her and she seemed serious even though the other waitresses were snickering.
     She shook her head. “Nope.”
     “It’s not even reserved for Canadians?” I asked.
     “Well, okay,” she said. “Come and sit down.”
     I looked at the menu she placed in front of us. Mike was going to have his waffles but I wanted to try something different.
     “What are grits?” I asked.
     “It’s boiled cornmeal.”
     Sounded good to me and I ordered some.
     “Do you want cheese or sugar with them?”
     I didn’t have a clue. “What do you like?” I asked her.
     “I prefer cheese.”
     So I had grits and cheese for my lunch. We enjoyed our food and conversation.
     After we ate we headed to Orlando and registered at Wekiwa Springs State Park to await our friends from Germany, who coincidently had planned a trip to Florida at the same time as we.
     Ducki and Sabine pulled in with their rented motorhome and parked in the site beside us. We sat and visited at the picnic table by our camper. We had a few drinks and then supper in our camper.
     The next day we walked on the Wet to Dry Trail then took the trail around Sand Lake. We went to the springs and Mike and I swam in the cool water while Ducki and Sabine sat on the hillside and watched. The water is crystal clear and that is because millions of gallons of cool water flow through the springs into Wekiwa Springs Run each day. This joins Rock Springs Run to become the Wekiva River.
      The Seminole Indians of the area used to be called Creeks. In the Creek language Wekiwa means ‘springs of water’ and Wekiva means ‘flowing water’.
     We had supper at Ducki and Sabine’s campsite and visited well into the night.
     After breakfast we said goodbye to Ducki and Sabine. It had been fourteen years since we’d seen them last in Banff, Alberta, and we vowed not to let that much time go by before seeing them again.
     As we drove, I programmed the town of St Therea’s into Lola. She asked us if I wanted Allenbelle Road. Not knowing better, I agreed.
     Along the highway we stopped at a roadside table where a man had set up rows and rows of honey and syrup. We bought some cane syrup and some Tupelo Honey, which we’d never heard of.
     “The honey is made from the Tupelo gum trees that grow along the Apalachicola and Chipola rivers,” he explained to us. “The bees are placed on platforms above the river’s edge and they fly through the Tupelo-blossom-laden swamps to gather their nectar for honey.”
     I tried some and it does have a very unique flavor.
     When we reached the small town of Sopchoppy, Lola told us to turn onto Allenbelle Road. We realized her directions were wrong but I said let’s see what she wanted to show us. It turned out to be a cul-de-sac behind some trees off the highway. We drove past the four or five houses and then were back at the highway again. We considered it another adventure courtesy of our GPS.
     As we waited for traffic to clear a black man came over.
     “Do you have seventy-five cents for me to buy a coffee?” he asked.
     “We sure we do,” Mike said and reached into his pocket for his change purse.
     “Well, it would be nice if you had a dollar or two so I could get some breakfast.”
     “Okay.” Mike pulled the bills out.
     “It would be great if you have five dollars. I could really get something good to eat for five dollars.”
     Mike gave him a five dollar bill.
     “I’ll pay you back if you are from the area.”
     “Don’t worry about it,” Mike said. “We’re from Canada.”
     “Oh, Canada,” he said. He looked at our motorhome. “Did you drive all the way from Canada in this?”
     He told us that his father had been stationed in North Dakota years ago so he’d lived near the Canadian border for a while.
     “Are there any black people in Canada?” he asked.
     “Yes, there are a lot,” I said.
     He thanked us and walked away.
     As we drove east we caught glimpses of the Gulf of Mexico to our left. The houses along there were on stilts because of insurance. Depending on the area, a house has to be so many feet above sea level. If the area is at sea level the bottom floor might have to be 12ft (3.6m) above the ground. If the area is eight feet above sea level then the bottom of the house has to be 4 feet above ground.
     We wanted to have a picnic on the beach so we headed to Carabelle to find a park that showed up on our map. Along the way we saw some empty waterfront lots for sale on the Gulf of Mexico. Some had driveways so we pulled into one and parked. We had our lunch overlooking the blue waters of the gulf. Afterwards, we strolled along the beach and I walked out on one of the docks. Then it was a lovely drive along the shoreline into Carabelle.
     Carabelle lays claim to having the world's smallest police station, which is actually a phone booth and a bus stop bench beside the highway. Prior to March 10, 1963, the police phone was in a call box bolted to a building. However, tourists passing through would make long distance phone calls on it. The box was moved but still the unauthorized calls persisted. When the telephone company decided to replace its old phone booth with a new one, the old booth was taken to house the call box. It was moved to its present location and while it protected the policemen from the rain, tourists still made their phone calls. Finally, the dial was removed.
     When we left Carabelle we passed the park that we had been looking for. There were picnic tables with shelters, a nice beach, and lots of people but we had had a dock and the place to ourselves. It doesn’t get any better than that.
     As drove we were sometimes beside the water and sometimes in the trees. We went through East Point and crossed the 4 mile (6.4 km) long bridge to St Georges Island. St Georges Island, which is a barrier island, is 28 miles (45kms) long and 1 mile (1.6km) wide at its widest part.
     We found a public access to the ocean and walked down to the beach to put our feet in the water of the Gulf of Mexico. I found it cooler than the Atlantic Ocean. I went to the Cape St George Lighthouse.
     The lighthouse was built in 1833 but partially destroyed in a hurricane in 2005. It was moved to its present site and rebuilt. It has a 92 step circular stairway to the top floor then an iron ladder to the light. I had a 360 degree view of the gulf and the town below.
     A man had a fruit stand near where we parked. We bought a large avocado, a pineapple, a red onion, and some tomatoes and tangerines. All were Florida grown and very fresh.
     The old bridge that used to connect the island to the mainland is now used as a fishing pier. Mike sat under the bridge and fished. He had no luck.
      We continued along the coast to Panama City and stayed at a Walmart downtown. Across from it is a building that is upside down. Even the palm trees in front of it are upside down. I asked the greeter at the Walmart what it was
     “Well,” he said. “A few years ago a hurricane come through and picked that building up and turned it upside down.”
     “Yeah, right,” I said.
     “Hey, I did tell that to one woman and she believed me.”
     “So what is it, really?”
     “It’s actually part of an Amusement Park.”

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