Now that we’ve been without internet for a week or so, readers are going to have to blog through a few different events…
We’re now officially half-way into our trip because I have to be back for business by May 15. I’m relieved to say that we just squeaked in on budget, and that we still like each other enough to go for another five-and-a-half months.
I know I concluded the last blog by stating that we were hitting the road but, before we left Bonita Springs, we decided to take in the annual Tastes of Bonita Springs, which was being held just down the road from our park. It started at 11:00am so we figured we could sample a few things and be on the road by noon. Food tickets were $1 each and most menu items cost two to four dollars. We bought twenty bucks worth of tickets and had small portions of: baby back ribs, crab cakes, coconut shrimp, a beef slider, chicken wings, a slice of charcoal roasted pizza and frozen, chocolate key lime pie on a stick.
Pictured are the Tastes of Bonita:
Later we pulled up stakes and drove to Pleasant Lake RV Park near Bradenton. As advertised, there’s a lake in the middle of the park and a large, heated swimming pool too. We took a long walk and a swim before Janice made Pulled Pork Tostadas and something akin to a Waldorf Salad, only better, while I watched the Pats beat the Colts, barely.
We rolled into Fort Desoto County Park about 1:00 and headed straight for the beach, which won The Best Beach in America award in 2005. It’s a nice beach but not as nice as some we’ve seen. We spent the afternoon walking and getting wet before heading back to camp for Country Style Ribs, (we’re not really sure what they are either) but Janice put them in the crock pot and finished them on the BBQ. They were fall apart delicious and were accompanied by mixed greens with blue cheese, cranberry, walnut and red onion salad, topped with maple/balsamic dressing.
Pictured is North Beach at Fort Desoto State Park.
In the morning we went for a long walk around Fort Desoto Park, which is an 1138 acre island. Later we drove to St. Pete’s Beach, where Tweetie and Art’s condo is, and then to Madeira Beach, Dunedin and Palm Harbour, all the while scouting potential RV parks that we might want to make a prolonged stay at. There was only one that was up to snuff, but a little expensive for our tastes, so we’re going to give Zephyrills, north of Tampa Bay, a try to see if we can find the park that is famed for having a lot of Canadian musicians who hang there for the winter.
As soon as we got back to camp we headed for the beach and made a couple of calls. One to Charlie, who isn’t going to be able to make it down here, and the other to Tweetie to let her know we were going to have to pass on the offer pf the condo, however much it would have been appreciated. If Tweetie and Art had been there it would be a different story.
Pictured below are: St. Pete’s Beach and Tweetie and Art’s condo.
Our camp neighbours at Fort Desoto are a large family with teenagers. The parents were out the other night and, as we were sitting outside after dinner listening to some quiet music, suddenly the hip hop music at the teenagers’ got cranked so loud we couldn’t hear our music at all, and we were sitting right next to it. Janice, like Frank Zappa’s mother in Joe’s Garage, yelled, “Turn it Down.” When nothing happened she marched over and turned the ghetto blaster down herself. A sullen looking male of fourteen or fifteen years of age said, “Hey, don’t touch my music.” Janice, hands on hips, stared him down - that was the last we heard of it.
Not long after I met Janice she took up kick boxing. Every time she’d drink Tequila, she’d go up to the biggest guy in the room and give him a shot in the Solar Plexus. Gasping, they would look unbelievingly at the five-foot-one, hundred-and-ten pound female in front of them and, as their composure returned to them, start laughing. Sometimes these encounters would end up in friendships, while other times it got us into trouble. Fortunately the trouble was never too serious, but I eventually gave her an ultimatum: Either give up kick boxing or give up Tequila. She gave up kick boxing.
The morning after the teenager’s music incident, it was sunny and hot as I made a few calls to parks we’d found in Zephyrhills via the internet. A woman at Southern Charm RV Park said that she believed that hers was the musical park. We pointed the truck north and drove through Tampa Bay, which is not very memorable on a drive-by, and kept going another twenty or so miles to Zephyrhills.
As soon as we pulled in to Southern Charm, and booked our spot on Lucky Charm Way, a woman named Suzie walked over and introduced herself. She immediately predicted that we were in for a prolonged stay at the park. “Mark my words,” she said.
Later, as we walked around the park, we found a lot of outgoing people that confirmed that, yes indeed, this was the park where there were a lot of resident musicians. There were also four volleyball courts, a big bike riding group, a canoe and kayak group, a bowling club and of course a shuffleboard league. In the clubhouse, next to the pool and hot tub area, there is a library and a billiards room with three new tables.
In the morning I played volleyball for the first time in about seven or eight years. There were twenty-five players of all skill levels. We drew numbers to form teams and I ended up on a kick-ass team that none of the others could touch. That only lasted three games though as numbers were re-drawn and I ended up on a team that lost three in a row. Good fun and exercise but, man, was I stiff the next morning when I showed up for men‘s volleyball.
Janice, who’s never been much for volleyball, either walks or swims laps.
Some of the volleyball players were musicians and I was invited to jam that afternoon. The host of the jam is a banjo/guitar player who, it turns out, was mentoring some less experienced guitar players, so it was a little dull for me.
When we asked at the office what price they could offer for us to stay for the month of December, our jaws almost dropped when she said, “We have a December special of $199.00.” The reason we were so surprised by the $199.00 is because there regular rate is $38.00 per day or $399 a month. The parks on the coast, twenty miles away, charge anywhere from $800.00 to $1,200.00 per month. Our cable TV and high speed internet connection is going to be another $115.00, but that still only brings our total to $315.00 for the month, so the cable/internet connection is already ordered for November 30. The busy season down here is January/February, thus the December special.
Suzie was right - we’re staying.
On the Saturday morning we joined a group to go on a twenty-five mile bike ride. We rode the first half to a great little restaurant in Florida City and had breakfast before heading back as a group. Again there are all levels of riding ability, and stamina, but we were pleased to be able to keep up to the lead pack. Janice and I decided that we actually rode an equivalent thirty or thirty-five miles because of the smaller wheels on our fold-up bikes.
Pictured is the bike group at the trail head. Almost all of them ride twenty-seven speed recumbent bikes that are easier on the arms, wrists, back and butt. They wouldn’t work so well in hilly BC though. Also pictured is Janice's shot of a spot along the trail.
On Sundays there is an open jam at Zephyrhills Community Park, about two miles from our resort. Janice dropped me off and there were half a dozen groups formed wherever there was stand-up bass. Small crowds surrounded each group. The idea is that you can sit in with any group and anyone can join your group as they choose. It’s mostly bluegrass and old-time country, which is not my bag because the old time country is pretty boring for a drummer and any kind of a backbeat is poison to bluegrass players so, again, not a good fit so far. I did stay at the jam and play for an hour or so but it was pretty boring.
Readers might be able to tell that I’m starting to miss playing music on a regular basis. Just s few months before we left on our Intermission I was lucky enough to get together with some really good songwriter/musicians who happened to like my Cajon playing. They are: Songwriter, Chris (Doc) Dougherty on acoustic guitar and vocals, whom I’d played with a few times in the past; Songwriter, Gary Neilsen on acoustic guitar and vocals, whom I’d never met before; James (JR) Adam on lead acoustic guitar and Dobro, whom I‘ve played with in rock/funk/blues bands for the past thirteen years; Sylvie Johnson on mandolin and vocals, whom I’d never met before and Perry Tucker on electric stand-up bass and vocals, whom I’d seen around town but usually when he was heading his own band, on guitar. The band had only played a few gigs by the time Janice and I left but we were having a lot of fun with our weekly practices, and with regular make-shift get-togethers called Safety Meetings on Friday evenings, where a large cross section of people bring appetizers and either just hang out or play music.
Another bike ride this morning. It was promoted by our neighbour, Jim, to be an easy seven-mile loop where we would stop in the middle at Pannera’s Bread for lunch, or whatever. We did stop for an iced coffee and a bagel but the ride ended up being twenty-two-and-a-half miles because they decided to go around a few more loop trails. It seemed easy today compared to the ride the other day though. Most of these paved bike trails in Florida are abandoned railroad beds that the counties take over and convert to non-motorized traffic trails.
Pictured is the bike group at Pannera’s Bread.
By the way, did you know that Microsoft dictionary doesn’t recognize the word ‘blog’? And Janice felt bad when she discovered that she’s older than the word ‘Astronaut’!