In the past week, we have been seen parts of the Gulf coast of central Florida on our pilgrimage to here that can be easily overlooked by the casual visitor to the Sunshine State. There’s a summary.
A day at the beach. We have enjoyed the local beach here near St. Petersburg. This isn’t yet high season for tourists so the people who are here on the beach have definitely spent lots of time in the sunshine, judging by their very tanned bodies in widely varying conditions of fitness. Many of them wander along the beach for long periods of time, hunting for shells and shark’s teeth (one woman told me this when I asked her). There are the hard-working and very serious sunbathers, equipped with water, big towels, and lounge chairs, methodically turning themselves, like so many toasted marshmallows, under the sun.
This isn’t a clothing optional beach but we observed a man who really pushed the limit in a bright red g-string that definitely assured he had the most minimal of tan lines. One afternoon we watched an older couple wiggle out of their wet bathing suits, right there in the late golden light of the afternoon, sharing their tan lines as they pulled on dry shorts and t-shirts and paddled off.
And little kids still spent hours building castles in the wet sand, still chased after the brassy sea gulls, and still squealed with delight at the first cold splashes of waves on their little bodies. Life at the beach.
Holiday weekends. Campgrounds go through a complete metamorphosis on weekends, but this was our first holiday weekend in a campground – Thanksgiving. What happened? The locals came into the campground and outnumbered those of us passing through. There were often clusters of families traveling together – kids, bicycles, dogs and a trailer or two that included at least one flat-bottom bass boat. In one campsite, there was an assembly line that appeared around meal time. Think of it as the group’s designated “food court”. Here, the firepit was burning from early morning to late at night. The collapsible lounge chairs, always occupied by the adults, huddled around the firepit like sentries protecting the fort.
In another campsite, outside TVs on the massive trailers called “fifth wheelers”, were fired up and ready to go at sunset, broadcasting whatever football game was available. Tiki lights were lighted. Strings of tiny white lights dripped from the tips of the awnings. In other campground, kids armed with fluorescent glow sticks and LED flashlights raced up and down the campground, fighting imaginary battles with invisible opponents in the growing darkness. And for anyone nearby, no viewing of the nearly full moon in the night sky would be possible. OK, it’s just a weekend and this is part of the experience of living on the road.
Why walk if I can drive? The small motorized vehicle of choice around here is the golf cart. Golf carts show up at campgrounds where folks use them to get from their site to the bathrooms, to the fishing area, or to the playground. One camper had a nifty little doggie basket on the front of hers so Fido could come along for a ride.
Golf carts can apparently be driven on the roads because at the Publix in Sun City, there is a designated parking area just for customers’ golf carts. Recently, Peter went to an AA meeting at a busy intersection in the nearby town and the parking lot was full of the ubiquitous golf carts. They are more fuel efficient (they are electric) than cars, so there is something to think about there.
A study in contrasts. Living on the road means planning for routine medical/dental care and we are fortunate to have family we can turn to for ideas. With a recommendation from my cousin who lives in Sarasota, we had scheduled appointments with a local dentist and made our appearance as “new patients”. It was great. We have benefited from the national network of CVS Pharmacies that makes it easier than ever to get the rarely needed prescription phoned into our main CVS location in Keene and “transferred” to wherever we are in the country.
Sarasota is a wonderful place with lively arts scene and lots of great options for food and it reminds us of what we love about visiting cities. Tucked into the strip mall, right next door to the dentist office, was a really fine little German bakery with outstanding Kaiser rolls, brown sugar cookies that looked like they would melt on the first bite, and apple strudel right off the cover of Bon Appetit. It is the juxtaposition of these improbable combinations – dentist, strip mall, German bakery – that catches our attention as we travel around the country.
After leaving downtown Sarasota for our campground, we drove along busy Fruitville Avenue at rush hour, and in bumper to bumper traffic, we passed three interesting scenes. First, a hip young couple, with a tiny dog that was coiffed and dressed to the nines, sauntered along the street, window-shopping the block filled with antique stores.
Next we passed a teenage young man wearing a red shirt, black baggy knee-length pants and red socks and matching red athletic shoes. He was by himself but he looked to me like the lone representative of some unseen team, perhaps ahead of him and waiting for him to join in and round out their ranks in some yet-to-be played game.
And then we passed three women, and one man, on bicycles heading east. The remarkable detail here is that the women were dressed in what we have seen Mennonite women wearing, a close-cropped short white bonnet and solid colored, long sleeved cotton dresses. The man was wearing a white cotton shirt, dark trousers. They had baskets on the front of their bicycles and paper bagsful of something in the baskets.
What are the stories that are waiting to be told? How remarkable that for these brief moments, our lives intersected and even if they never noticed us in our shiny silver truck with the conversation-starting “Live Free or Die” license plates, it didn’t matter. They were gifts to us, and that is enough.
Peter and Liz continue their pilgrimage to here, visiting the Gulf beaches of Florida and enjoying the people-watching, as they travel the U.S. in their Airstream.