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On the Road Again, and a Visit from Mom

Travelogue - April 24, 2006

Goldie This moment is dedicated to Goldie. A patient creature, Goldie maintains her equanimity even in the face of the scary unknown. Her greatest distress was when Rick dove into the water! Poor Goldie shuffled from foot to foot, crying. Otherwise she has expressed few complaints - her record on that score is far better than mine. I tell her often that I am proud of her courage and that I appreciate her company. She is a boon companion, and the bravest of cats!

Above, see Goldie berthed inside the PFD locker. The locker is adjacent to the upper helm station so I can look in on her occasionally. She usually starts out topside, reviewing scenery from atop the locker/bench (left), but before long she clambers into the locker beneath to snooze on a nest of beach chairs.

Last week we hunkered down for several days at Cape Haze anchorage, waiting for a weather window. We finally crossed Charlotte Harbor to La Marina des Collards, and then we all set out on a new journey northward in a 34' Pace Arrow land yacht!

We hit the road at 4 a.m.; Rick and Don took turns napping (below left) and driving (below right).

The 'road trip' part was about space: indoor big space with lots of room to stretch out and nap, huge windows, semi-truck tall cockpit. This contrasted with outdoor space enclosed by heavy forests on both sides (photo, above right). I reckon those are Georgia pines atop red Georgia clay!

We languished in a traffic jam on the outskirts of Atlanta for over two hours (just a li'l ole' shortcut gone awry), then coasted into Nashville and the nearest KOA after dark. On Saturday the four of us joined sister Denise and her family of five from CA, and twenty-one of Louise Collard's closest friends, in a well-orchestrated !SURPRISE! celebration of Louise' landmark birthday (18) !

It was a lot of fun, and I am glad that we were able to join the celebration! Louise was a very surprised birth-day girl and, when recovered, a gracious hostess. She is the true transplanted Southern Belle!

While in Nashville we sashayed on down the road a piece to President Andrew Jackson's home plantation, The Hermitage. I liked the buildings, the grounds and the garden: I was surprised to see red and yellow columbine, and there was a huge, gorgeous spreading magnolia. Here's a tidbit the guide books won't tell you: although lovely, the magnolia's fading blooms smell like an old dishrag.

We celebrated Easter Sunday with Louise and, in an effort to avoid Atlanta traffic, departed the next morning at 2 a.m. It was a simple matter to open the drapes, turn the key, and edge the RV away from the curb. Don's first stop was for coffee. When we pulled in we saw that the road trip gods were smiling upon us: there was a Krispy Kreme delivery van at the door! Full of fresh, sinful and delicious donuts, we were on the road again.

With Krispy Kreme in our corner (karma?) we made great time, and we pulled in to the truck stop right on time to pick up my mom. She is not prone to hang out in truck stops. Rather she had been at Dade City, FL, visiting her brother: my Uncle Don, and his wife Aunt Peggy. The truck stop was a convenient rendezvous location. She piled bag and baggage into the RV and we continued south, arriving in Punta Gorda at dusk.

We had one quiet day to get caught up with work, and we shopped for summer clothes for Millie because her Oregon winter gear was not serving her well in 87 degrees. Then off again!

It was inspiring that Millie wanted to go out in Sea Gator! We cruised across Charlotte Harbour to an anchorage that Rick has wanted to visit: Pelican Bay, at Cayo Costa State Park. Cayo Costa is yet another barrier island under protection, and accessible only by boat. The anchorage was very large; there were over twenty big boats there and we all had plenty of elbow room. That was nice.

Rick dinghied us ashore for our first exploratory venture, then he came with us the second day. We hiked to the north end of the island and looked out over Boca Grande Inlet to Gasparilla Island and its lighthouse (see Travelogue 5), then we continued our hike around to the Gulf side. That's a lot of hiking in a sauna. After a refreshing swim in the Gulf we took the proffered trolley ride back to the ferry dock, instead of walking the one mile on the dirt road as we had before.

Surprisingly, we saw more dolphins on our cruise across the Harbour than we did in the quiet anchorage, although we did see a fin or two, and we saw the backs of a coupe of manatees (no photos, sorry Julie B.), and Goldie and I even saw a manta ray swim around the boat in shallow water! Millie found it restful to spend the afternoon watching still water from the shade of the sundeck, with a breeze and a cool drink and a good book unopened.

Since Millie was our first overnight guest aboard, we didn't want to push our luck as far as bringing em' back alive. So, after a couple of idyllic days at anchor, we returned to La Marina. Our record for returning guests to shore unharmed: 100%!

We showed Millie the famous Fisherman's Village of Punta Gorda, where we enjoyed a seafood dinner and live entertainment and people danced in the courtyard until late into the evening. The tunes were all familiar. Here's one I was happier without:

"...'Cause when we get behind closed doors
And she lets her hair hang down
And she makes me glad that I'm a man!
'Cause no one knows what
Goes on behind closed doors...
Behind closed doors..."

We had another nice dinner out and, before we even went inside, the highlight of the parking lot was a stretch white limo. What the heck, so I asked the driver if we could photograph ourselves at the limo. A wedding photographer standing by did the honors. She tried to make me sprawl across the hood but a) the engine was hot underneath and b) I didn't hear her. So, no cheesecake.

On Sunday, Millie, Irene, Teresa, Lu and I ventured to a huge flea market in Ft. Myers. It's called Fleamasters, and it goes on forever. It's not a flea market where people sell collectibles from the trunk of their cars; rather it is a series of gargantuan tents and permanent tenants in booths. They sell from going-out-of-business stores and who-knows-what source. It's vast. I became separated from the ladies once last year and for an awful moment I saw myself spending the rest of my life there, ekking out a living hawking rugs and knife sets and surviving on "funnel cake". Fortunately I was rescued in time.

We bought a few articles then had lunch, followed of course by funnel cake... If you haven't tried funnel cake at a carnival of your choice, it's made by extruding a stream of sweet batter through a nozzle into a vat of hot grease. The result is a mountain-of-spaghetti shaped donut covered with powdered sugar. Yep, it's good.

Afterwards we took a long route home to see Thomas Edison's Winter Estate.

This is a wonderful place. We learned that Edison spent his winters here in Fort Myers. Among his other pursuits he experimented with plants, cultivating tropical species in the search of an affordable source of rubber (which at one point appeared to be an oversized Goldenrod). His laboratory is intact, as are his home and his neighbor Henry Ford's home; and there is a museum and plant shop (!).

The centerpiece of the estate is the nation's largest banyon tree. It was given to Edison by his friend Henry Firestone in 1925 as a 4' whip; it is now nearly 100' high and over 300' in diameter! The banyon is a member of the fig family, and its branches dribble twining streamers which, when they touch the ground, rapidly root and become trunks. And from them extend yet longer branches, and so on and so on. It is truly miraculous. These photos represent only a portion of the vast tree.

This morning, very early, we took Millie to Tampa International Airport, and now we are back here working away. We have less than one more week to spend on the water, then it's ashore with Sea Gator and us learning how to "summarize" a boat. Stay tuned.

I understand the bikes are out in Grand Teton National Park! Yay! Enjoy!

- Pat

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