America through the Windshield--Getting to Know the First Americans travel blog

Monday February 27, 2011

We headed out of the Keys today. We are usually on the road by 9:30 or 10:00. No need to hurry; we each have our duties beginning the night before we leave and on the day of departure after we have breakfast and get dressed. We always take the time for a puppy walk. Heidy is always ready to get on board and ride with the “slides” as Greg pulls them in. Andy stays outside as long as possible. He shares one of Brenda’s jobs on this day. He and Brenda walk around and monitor each of the four slides as they are pulled in and locked in place for traveling. Our exit from the Keys was easy; there’s only one way to drive out of the Keys, US Highway 1. We crossed each of the Keys as we headed north. Our trip began with a beautifully sunny day and ended with thunder storms (prior to our arrival and during the night ) at our overnight campground in Kenansville, Florida. (Before we were able to pull out the next AM Greg had to literally sweep the Spanish Moss off the roof of the RV and the slide outs. The rains had been so hard that the loads of moss had been washed off the oak trees.)

We learned that the little Heartbreak Hotel we passed at a nearby intersection on the way to our campground was actually the hotel that inspired Elvis Presley to write his hit Heartbreak Hotel. Darn! Now we know why there was a State Historic sign near the front of the little pink building. Unfortunately we did not stop—I would like to stop at each and every one of the historic markers; however, the RV driver doesn’t see the need, especially when it does not fit into the time schedule.

Tuesday February 28, 2011

We were up and on the road again, heading to Tallahassee, Florida. On most RV travel days Brenda has the camera either in her lap or close by. She does miss some good shots every now and then, like the other day when we drove past a field that had a crop that was 2 to 3 feet high when we saw something rather unusual moving in the field. As we took a closer look we realized that it was one black dog and one white dog greeting each other; however, all we could see were their happy tails sticking right up almost touching and making a black and white heart for the briefest moment; and then the moment was over—NO shot, the camera was on the floor.

It is so much fun as we drive along and truly watch the miles fly by. Today we started off by seeing a pickup truck with the driver’s dogs in the pickup bed. It was pretty obvious that this was a routine outing—a man and his two best friends were on the back roads of the farm checking out whatever was on the agenda for the day. The south is blessed with birds of prey. We have had the opportunity to see dozens of ospreys and eagles in flight and to see them on their nests high atop great poles. We have read that eagles and osprey return each year to their nests, continuing to redecorate the original nests and continuing to enlarge the nests. The larger nests can weigh up to 2000 pounds—so amazing how Mother Nature has the circle of life all worked out for all of God’s creatures. We saw more gigantic nests today.

Today we passed by thousands of acres of Herford and Brahma (beef) ranches. Seeing cattle grazing on these beautiful grassy pastures is quite a magnificent sight that is a big part of Florida. Today we actually saw a cowboy on his horse moving a few head of cattle. Both he and his faithful companion (looked like an Australian herder dog) were easily urging the cattle to move along the fencerow in their effort to move them to another area of the farm. This was a bit bittersweet for us as we remembered the summer that we spent three weeks in the midwest, driving past thousands and thousands and thousands of pasturelands and farmlands hoping to see a cowboy. We wound up seeing only one cowboy during our entire trip. He was just out of the city limits of Cody, Wyoming . This little town was our destination for the Buffalo Bill Museum. We were delighted and shocked that we had finally gotten a quick glimpse (and a photo due to a quick stop alongside the road) of a real American cowboy at work on the range. Not an open range—those were part of the West before the Europeans/Americans arrived. After their arrival the fences were built and the open ranges came to an end.

Of course we often laugh and talk about what we see and read on bumper stickers, homemade signs and billboards. Today we actually made a note of an advertisement on a gigantic billboard, “Black Angus, it’s what vegetarians eat when they cheat!” No offense to those friends who are vegetarians; however, we do have a very true story about a first time meal with a new friend who had a burger at our home then told us weeks later that she was a vegetarian—NO name to be shared of the guilty or innocent.

We saw a strange sight today—old school buses that had been drastically altered. The cabs and the first two rows of seats were intact; however, all of the other seats were gone, as well as the top and the windows. The old buses appeared to be souped-up pickup trucks. We never figured out why these alterations had been made. Could it be that this makes a good truck (versus a tractor and wagon) in the field for gathering and loading vegetable crops or would it be a good way to get hay from the barn to the cows in winter? Maybe we’ll get an answer some day.

Horse ranches are a common sight in the center of Florida. These ranches sport magnificent pastures outlined with wooden white or black fences. Wooden fences are most important, don’t want these magnificent beasts to walk into wire fences and get their delicate legs tangled. The successful horse ranches had piles of hay on the dry winter grasses or they had green grasses for these beautiful creatures to graze on throughout the day. Today we saw the backsides of many of the ranches. We could see the horse paddocks and even the personal race tracks or jumping fields where the horses would prepare for their futures. However, there were a few times when we saw the grandest of entry gates to some of the ranches with equally grand pillars and fences. Only a few of the ranch homes could be seen; the ones we could see from the road were usually the older palatial colonial mansion styles with the grand white columns and circle drives. The newer ones were always out of sight from us commoners driving on the roads and highways.

It was so exciting to see that the South’s early springtime was arriving. We saw lots of camellias (they bloom from December through March) showing off their brilliant blossoms against the thick waxy leaves of the shrub. And, we saw dogwood trees starting the opening of their blossoms as they eagerly welcomed the warmer days just as the redbud trees were waving their branches in full bloom. And, the azaleas are beginning to dress in their very finest blooms. Finally, we are experiencing the southern springs that I experienced. I’ve waited 29 years to once again have spring’s arrival in March. Viewing these magnificent signs of spring sprinkled throughout the woods, along fencerows and holding places of honor in old and newer gardens kept us in smiles all day long. Plus, how could we not appreciate all of the wild flowers that were waving their dainty blossoms along the roadsides, popping up in ditches and playing along the fencerows.

We knew we were getting to the northern borders of Florida when we began to see pecan orchards. They are just so stately as one looks down the rows for thousands of yards. Often the grass was super green under them and then there were those orchards that had only brown winter grass. We also saw orchards that were no longer loved and obviously no longer being harvested. They appeared rather sad and forlorn with broken limbs scattered across the weedy expanses. No green buds or signs of green on any of the trees. We guess the days just are not warm enough for the pecan trees to think spring.

Evening of February 28, 2012--Buffett Concert

Even though we thoroughly enjoyed the Florida countryside, today our travel was more special and purposeful. Our destination was a bit more exciting than usual. When making our reservation at this “almost in-town RV Park”, Greg discovered that Jimmy Buffett was performing (one night only) at the Tallahassee Leon City Civic Center. We had time to set up, take the dogs for a walk, make a grocery store run and prepare dinner . Then we headed out for the concert. Parking was easy and less than a block away from the Center. We could hardly believe our good luck! We had gotten floor seating in a great location for a discounted price and there were no long lines to enter. HOWEVER, our good luck appeared to be gone as the ticket lady attempted to scan our tickets stating that there was a problem and that it was necessary for us to go to the Ticket Window . We then learned that the tickets were double sold, therefore we would need to follow up with the agency that sold them in order to get our refund. “NO BUFFETT CONCERT” was looming over enthusiasm; and then our good luck returned when the Ticket Agent handed us two tickets that had just been returned. They were seats that gave us front row seats on the left side of the center—no one in front of us, only the safety railing; no one seated to our right with Greg seated on the stair aisle. We had a clear view of the stage, even when those seated on the floor were standing. We were seated near the “free-throw” line and could see the performers on stage and see the oversized screens on either side of the stage.

WOW! What a great performance!! This was our first Buffett concert. We expected the parrot-heads, but not all of the grass skirts, leis, Hawaiian shirts, cowboy hats and margaritas. We soon knew what Beth Siuta meant about there being a “Buffett following”. Add to the mix Buffett was at his home-college, Florida State University. The college students were everywhere and living in the age of the 1960s right along with all of the senior citizens and their offspring who were reared with Buffett music.

As the band members entered the stage, Buffett came on stage to introduce the beginning act (a trio having great voices, with two guitars and a trumpet; but we did not get into their three songs) and to state that he would soon be back out. The majority of the ticket holders were on their feet for the entire performance , only sitting down for the introductory trio and during the one-song performance of a Gautier (pronounced “go-shay”), Mississippi police officer who was a struggling song-writer with a song about Buffett. The song was recorded and forwarded to Buffett for his review. It was partially ballad and very much a country-western style as the songwriter did his best to tell Buffett’s story and to ask for his assistance. Being impressed with the effort, the young man and having respect for a fellow musician, he had been invited to perform at several of Buffet’s concerts with Buffet returning to the stage to perform the song as a duet.

We were awed by the quantity of individuals and musical instruments that were integral to each and every song: bongo drums, steel drums, traditional drums with one musician each, two female vocalists one playing a guitar, two keyboards with one musician, steel slide guitar (as in country music), bass guitar, lead electric slide guitar, second electric guitar each with one musician, one musician playing trumpet and a variety of other instruments and Buffett with his many guitars. The music was blasting and the entire center was rocking to the music with Buffett in his shorts, yellow tee shirt and matching wrist sweat bands in beach bare feet. The music, the audience, the musicians rocked to “oldie goldies” for almost two and a half hours. The full stage back screen continually showed tropical scenes and sailor themed shots that added to the performance with one set of slides depicting Buffet’s early years as a child and as a performer. We never grew tired of the music as we relived songs, the 1960s and sang along to Cheeseburger in Paradise, Son of a Son of a Sailor, Margaritaville, Changes in Latitudes Changes in Attitudes, plus many more. We realize that we were super lucky to stumble across this concert as we moved from southern to northern Florida in transit to Georgia. We were very lucky to be in the right place at the right time. We were only 15-20 minutes away from home, our RV Park.

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