Sunday, August 13, 2017

Florida ~ It's Out There

Florida is so many places at once, long empty roads lined with oaks, cities, beaches, ponds, lakes and lots of all of that. But I think empty landscapes, dotted with cows and horses, make up more of Florida than is usually thought. Wandering around the two and four lane roads, with little traffic and lots of Mom and Pop businesses, a visitor could wonder if one was in Florida at all and be right if guessing yes.

I've been staying with Francie until we both head out to western destinations, she to Nevada, me to California. She picked me up at the I-said-I'd-never-do-that-again bus station in Ocala and we headed north to see Kirk and Pam near the obliquely named spot in the road Sopchoppy, the Worm Gruntin' Capital of the World

Porch time with Pam and Kirk (and kitties)

Wikipedia says this about the name: The town's name is a corruption of "Lockchoppe", derived from the Muskogee lokchapi (lokcha (acorn) / api (stem)), which was the old name of the nearby river.[7]

There are other theories as well, but this one seems as good as any of them. 

I'd been hearing about their place for years, but each time I drove by it, heading to the Gulf shores to camp in the Turtle, they were somewhere else. It was time!

I don't know how big the property is but it's big!
Bordering on a swamp, the feeling of being far off in the woods is strong. But nearby are beaches! Nearby being a relative term.

Kirk's shop is huge, no surprise to anyone who knows him

The boat Pam and Kirk have worked on three years now.
Launching time isn't far away.

I love this wood burning stove Kirk made, named Croc. 

One of Pam's sculptures. I'm in love.

All over the property are visual surprises.
What is it? Pam and Kirk are searching for the answer 
I have a lot of photos of the above jig, it's one of those objects that begs for an answer as to its origin. Moving parts, a serial number that I can't track down... If anyone is interested in joining the hunt, let me know and I'll send more photos.

After sitting up talking while drinking a lot of wine and looking at various treasures until the wee hours, we all turned in. Francie and I headed out the next morning, taking a detour to Cedar Key. She'd never been there and I'd not been there for over 30 years. Incredibly enough, it still has some of its old Florida charm left, though the modern world has crept in. More on that in a minute. 

When you start seeing big expanses of water, you know you're there.

Little islets dot the waters around Cedar Key and the feel of another time and places hit immediately. Out of the woods, into the zone. A Florida I remember better than the one that exists today.

We walked the main drag, a very short walk, in search of a place to have lunch. The one we wanted to go to was closed so this place was it. It was okay, the oysters were good, but nothing to say, GO HERE!

I did really like this oyster shell wall

Oysters and crab bisque, a fish sandwich and potato salad
The oysters are from a local oyster farm and they were good

This is for Jack, if he ever sees it. 

There are still some funky buildings

Street art

Of course Francie loved this. 
The car was feeling a bit wobbly and as we headed off, the wobble became a distinct bumpity bump. Getting out to look, a tire had started to split apart, as in a two foot separation, though for some (thank you, Universe!) reason it wasn't flat as a pancake. With no phone signal, we headed back to Cedar Key and the first store. Still no signal. Using the store phone Francie got in touch with AAA. Sure, we might have done it ourselves but that's why you pay AAA! 

After a long wait, the best AAA guy in the world showed up. He changed the tire and then followed us 40 miles back to where new tires could be purchased. He called ahead and with 5 minutes until closing, the tires were changed. We swapped old Florida stories and one he told us was really sad/maddening/sad. 

Apparently, as 'Yankees' as he called them, found the charms of Cedar Key, they decided one aspect that any old Florida person considers part and parcel of Florida, wasn't so charming. Shrimp boats have been banned from Cedar Key, with the reason being they were 'unsightly'. That seems so bizarre, but it's true. There were a few more stories too, the ones you usually don't hear until you've been lured by the location and find yourself in Paradox. That's why he and a few more live 'out in the woods' nearby. Oh Florida!

Since neither of us like to drive at night anymore, we found a reasonable motel to stay in, in the town of Chiefland (it wasn't on my bucket list but it did the trick), found a BBQ place with excellent ribs and called it a night. The next morning, it was back to Lake Panasoffkee.

With so much rain, the land is lush!
Yesterday afternoon, after it cooled down a bit, we took a walk to the lake. Even with all the rain, the lake is way down on water. The birds I'm used to seeing everywhere were nowhere, except a couple of anhingas too far off to do justice to with a photo.

Some dragonflies entertained instead of birds

In all of the greens, these blooms stood out in fiery contrast
Soon we'll both head out in separate directions, except for generally West, to meet up again another time somewhere. That's what friends do. 

While this trip took a curve unexpected, with a leap to the West far sooner than I thought, everything has a reason, some of which remain to be seen. Roll with it. Or fly. Life is short, carpe diem. 

Have a Sunday Funday! Do something serendipitous!

Monday, August 7, 2017

A Little Drive to Lorida

Close to the middle of Florida, in land best suited for tough creatures, like gopher tortoises and Florida Crackers, is the town of Lorida, close to Lake Istokpoga. Yes, you read that right, Lorida, pronounced Lor-ee-da. Here's what Wikipedia says about why it's called that.

Along the way. Tropical Storm Emily dumped a LOT of water around here.
Lorida was first named Istokpoga, a Seminole name, but it was afterwards changed because the U.S. postal authorities refused to accept that name, there being another post office in the state with a similar name. It was then named after an abbreviated form of Florida.[1]
A post office was established under the name Istokpoga in 1924, and the name was changed to Lorida in 1937.[2]

Yes, that makes sense. Don't call it Istokpoga because it sounds like a post office nearby but call it Lorida. Why not just call it Florida, Florida? I have no idea. But I had to find out, that seemed crazy.

And that's why there is Google! A story about Lorida gives a lot better explanation. First it was called the Cow House Settlement. Then it was called Sunnyside. And then...

"By 1930 a train station had been established in the town as part of the Seaboard Air Line Railroad. The station bore the name “Lake Istokpoga.” To make things more confusing a station was established on the west side of the lake called “Istokpoga,” as part of the Atlantic Coast Line!

To distinguish between the two, they began to refer to them as “North Lake” and “South Lake” stations. However, it didn’t help much. Mail and other goods (which were brought in by train) kept ending up in the wrong place! The station (and community) needed a new name.

I don't know if this is really old or just looks that way but I like this wall mural.
A lot.
"At that time Mary Stokes ran the post office out of their family’s general store on Bay Street. Previously spending time in Cuba, she fell in love with the word origin of her home state. Florida comes from the original Spanish meaning “full of flowers,” having the pronunciation “Flow-ree-dah.”

With this as her inspiration, she opined that the town should be renamed Lorida (which is Florida, minus the “F”). Her suggestion was well received. The rail station took her cue and the postal service followed suit, officially changing its name in 1937." 
From Lorida, Florida: Origins of a Cracker Town

Now you know the rest of the story. And so do I.

Sorry, I don't know who to credit for this photo, but
except for being a bit more beat up,
that's pretty much what the sign looks like now.
Well, you don't drive around someplace and not find out about it, at least if you are driving with me. And my brother. To his plot of land out in the scrub brush of Lorida. 

We went to plant a couple of new plants, a pineapple and a dragon fruit cactus. He heads up there every couple of weeks or so to plant something new and see how the rain is taking care of whatever is in the ground already. Keeping the place mowed down in 100 degree weather can be challenging, but worthwhile, so that's what he does. This would be a quick trip, it was hot. Really hot. 

I planted the pineapple. Grow, pineapple! Be happy!
It was too hot to do much more, so we headed to the lake.
Still in a little bit of mental culture transfer, it was nice to get out of the lanes of traffic and have green and space around. Vultures soared, looking for clean up projects and I kept my eyes open for sand hill cranes, a bird I've come to love over the years. Spoiler alert: we saw some along the road, but no photos. This time.

This is a pretty well known bass lake and very pretty too.

We could hear the rumble before we saw the airboat.

With a friendly wave, he went on his way.
Just in case you want to practice saying Lake Istokpoga
We went to look at a home a friend of Jonny's is remodeling on another part of the lake, but I felt weird taking photos. All I can say is that the rooms are big, the porch is huge, the tubs are amazing (I think there were 5 or 6 bathrooms, I can't remember, but a lot of them!). It's an older home, and will feel like an older time in Florida when it's done, except for the modern kitchen with all sorts of fun toys in it. 

On the way down the long drive, we saw two deer, but I wasn't fast enough with my camera. After that I kept it in my lap, ready.

There is a cool mini farm just getting started nearby. This is their dragon fruit section

I didn't know that's how they grow. 

There are a few of these spaceship homes around's one of them!

This massive oak is near the beginning of one of the hiking trails
that can be found around the state.
Somehow, the idea of pushing through scrub on a super hot day didn't draw me.
But the tree was very nice. Too bad the trail isn't lined with its cousins.
Of course there has to be a local country store in the mix and there is, the aptly named Cracker Trail Country Store. A little of this, a little of that and you can get your deer and/or boar dressed out while you sit on the porch, sipping your sarsaparilla. I just made that up. About the sarsaparilla.

And then it was time to head back to the city. After picking up some smoked fish dip, smoked chicken salad and Royal Red Shrimp from the fish dip guy. He makes hot sauce too. And if you order clams or salmon, he's your guy around those parts. Captain Rusty's is the name, in case you're passing through. It's worth a stop and he'll throw in some crackers because waiting to taste the dip and salad is pretty much impossible. 

So long cows! 
Have a mellow Monday. Do something moooving.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Adventures Begin. Again.

My brother took me on a roundabout drive. Well, it wasn't exactly like that, I wanted to take him on a roundabout drive. A Farmer's Market. Hey! It's Saturday, let's find a farmer's market. Well, it wasn't happening. The address took us to another address and it got sketchy. So instead, we ended up at a place I'd loved last time and loved this time even more. Tarks of Dania Beach.

It was lunch time and it was packed. So while my bro was doing the logistics, I sat at a table outside. And heard some girls saying 'Lighter?' Well, I didn't have any cigarettes but I did have a lighter, so I offered to them and that is where the adventure started. They offered me a Venezuelan cigarette. They offered me a beer. Two sisters, from Venezuela but living in the states for the last 13 years and their friend from childhood, who was visiting from their old home town, out and away on the coast. It isn't a pretty beach town, they told me, more like a desert with a beach. Ok, I guess I can skip that trip then. 

My brother had found us seats inside, so in I went, chatting with the incredibly busy but very funny staff. This place is BUSY! but every customer gets treated with smiles along with whatever amazing seafood is ordered. I guess there are other things on the menu beside seafood but...why? 

We had our beer and wine and got served our meal, or the start of our meal; one of the girls came in, ordered something else and secretly ordered us some buffalo shrimp. We ordered them another pitcher of beer. Then she asked if we'd come back outside and sit with them and of course we did. We talked and ate and drank and laughed and repeated same a few times. Then they followed us back to Jonny's and we talked and laughed some more. We talked about Venezuela and politics, South Florida and music. Life, the stuff of it.

Let the feasting begin!
Unfortunately for me, not speaking Spanish meant I couldn't say much to their friend, but they told me her story. That she'd gone to school to be a doctor and part of her clinic practice was in areas where robbery at gunpoint, as in a gun held to her head, for any drugs the clinic might have was not an uncommon thing to have happen. It didn't help much that there wasn't much to steal anyway; the clinics, as so many around the world are, being underfunded and understocked. I'd heard about people like her, but I'd never met anyone who was willing to go through that much danger to achieve her dream. It was humbling, to put it mildly. She loves her country, as do the sisters, and I was reminded of Culebra when they told me how everyone makes sure no one goes hungry in times of need. The strong sense of family within the community they told me about? I could feel it. 

Our server. I felt tired just watching her kick butt and take names
at warp speed. 
Eventually they had to go, but I'm pretty sure we'll be seeing each other again. Sooner than later. 

Have an excellent Sunday Funday! Do something surprising.