Friday, June 13, 2014

Crooked River, Congaree, and the Carolinas

6/13/2014 Congaree National Park, South Carolina

I’ve made it to another National Park! At 8am! So the Visitor’s Center isn’t even open! Ha! I ended up dozing in a Walmart parking lot due to the rest stops having very wordy signs that might as well just state “no overnight parking” but it’s got all this “blah blah for the courtesy of motorists blah” preamble. It’s not courtesy if they can’t have a little nap without worry! But yeah, Walmart actually had less noise than a rest stop (which is by the road and all that) until the weed whacker dude showed up, but rest stops are away from populated areas, so I feel they are safer.

Anyway, Georgia! I departed Florida in the mid afternoon and headed North to Georgia. My goal was Crooked River State Park, which was just across the border on the east side. I didn’t want to roam too far for a campsite. The park was closed but this semi-ranger told me to just set up camp and pay in the morning. Which I did! Grabbed a spot by the woods. It was a nice campground, though barely full. Lots of spots and amenities. It seems that the Pacific Northwest is the odd one out when it comes to paying for showers, because it’s been free at every State Park I’ve been to thus far. So I set up tent and got a good rest in, despite my spot being near an apparent deer thoroughfare.

I paid up in the morning and got a patch. Then I spent a little while scrap booking and properly organizing my car. Decluttering and all that. I’ve absolutely overpacked and could have so much more space. The big tub of art supplies & books & papers is going… very unrifled through. Oh well. I’ve still got a ways to go on this journey, it could come in handy somehow. I should read more that’s for sure.

I took a little amble on a hike in the park. It rained a bit, but I brought an umbrella. There was a bird watching platform but I lack binoculars and Mom’s ability to identify birds.

Atlanta may be a major city, but I didn’t feel like driving 5 hours West just to check it out. Five hours on the interstate is both a lot of driving and gas. So I went to Savannah. I cashed in this Barnes and Noble gift card I’ve had for a few years and got the new Edward St. Aubyn book. Then I went to Jiffy Lube and got the second oil change of this trip. In the previous two weeks of this journey (hit the six week mark) I drove 3937 miles at 42.8 mpg. So better mileage than driving through Texas but more miles due to the five nights I spent across Florida.

So onwards and Northwards! I went to Tybee Island for the sunset and some official Atlantic Ocean toe dipping. There were people fishing off the pier and one guy caught a shark, which I think you have to throw back. I didn’t see if he did, but there were enough witnesses so he oughta. I’m to the Atlantic! Coast to coast! Gulf Coast doesn’t count like the Strait of Juan de Fuca doesn’t count.

Driving into the sunset is very overrated. And blinding. But I made it across the border, got to a rest stop, changed into jammies, noticed the sign, and just went to the nearest Walmart.

So now I’m at Congaree NP waiting for the park to open. I’ll spent the day at the park and then probably continue up to North Carolina. It’s not that far away. Dunno what else to do in this state beyond dousing myself with insect repellant.

6/14/2014 Stephen & Erin’s in Durham, North Carolina

I’m at Erin and Stephen’s in Durham! Stephen of Odd Owl (formerly) and Erin his 8 months pregnant wife who is a writer and is awesome. Basically cool people that I can stay with for a little bit. And it’s been awesome talking with Stephen about life and travel and all that. He’s a smart dude. Well versed in navigating life. I need to sit down and work on my game plan. What order do I visit the next states, what do I want to see in each state, who is in each state, who has the numbers for those people, etc. So I think that’ll be my Durham focus. I’ll slow down a bit and work on that. Plus I have a few friends in the area I wanna see, so yeah. It’s great to see familiar faces and to have full conversations. I’m looking forward to wandering around tomorrow with the two of them. I know some good people in this life of mine.

Congaree National Park was swell! It was a swamp, but not swampy. There was a board walk and well marked flat trails. I did the longer loop, and it was a slow meander. The air smelled really good and the light was just nice that time of morning. It was also a canoe friendly park, so something for Mom to take note of. At noonish I hit the road. I set my sights on Columbia, because it was close. I swung by Walmart to see if they had watch batteries and other cheap staples for the road. I also got some $6 running jersey running shorts because they would be more comfy to wear for longer drives than jean shorts. And I was right! I was so much more comfortable the instant they were on. Comfort is important.

Once I got some pep in my step again, I headed north east outta Columbia and BOOM I was in North Carolina. 20 states down, 28 to go! I arrived at 8ish and was well fed and well conversed by E & S. Such generous hosts! I think I’ll have fun in this state. Glad to be with friends.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

soaked safari

Leanne is letting me do my laundry at her place! She is so awesome, and her fiancee Ben is nice as well. I hope to hang out with them again some day in the near future and not far future.

And they have a guest bedroom! And I was able to sleep there and they made breakfast and it's so excellent. And I'm doing my lau-oh I already mentioned that. So yeah, it's great. I'll head off to Georgia in a bit. Find a campsite and camp.

But first: Animal Kingdom! Leanne works for Disney, so she is able to get guests into parks, but she needs to accompany them so it isn't like "oh hey here is a ticket". Still, it's nice to have the option to just swing by a park late in the day and check out a few things and pop back out. No hassle for ticket costs and whatnot. But before we went to the park, I had to get to Orlando. I arrived at 1:30ish and we hung out. A thunderstorm came rolling in, so we delayed going out to lunch till it passed. Leanne and I share the same great grandpa, but it we branch separately out from there. I should make a family tree.

We got lunch at a nearby ale house. I got seafood mac n cheese and the days pint special. She got zingers. Hurray for zinger left overs! Then it was park time. Free parking! And with the pass we did the special finger print light activated thingy where it lights up when you hold your pass to it. Very... Big Brother. But by Disney!

Crowds were starting to leave, and the weather wasn't looking good. We got in the short line for the Safari ride and it started to properly rain. The ride was covered, but not on all sides. I sat on the window side, so I got wet. Oh well, it's just water! My shoes got totally soaked through. Those poor shoes. Getting so thrashed.

The Safari ride was fun. Got to see giraffes and zebras and gnu and elephants. Seemed like they had pretty good space to hang out in, and not of them were sitting in a corner looking depressed. Apparently there used to be a "poacher" story arc, but it was taken out. Now the Animal Kingdom park has a Wilderness Explorer activity like from the movie Up. There is a lot of mythology with the parks as it turns out. I knew a bit about it from this podcast I listened to about Disney's Haunted Mansion.

The rain continued, but we were undaunted! We went to the dinosaur ride, which was indoors. A nice little on a track ride with flashing lights and time travel. Fun and fast. So Animal Kingdom celebrates animals of the past, current, and imagination. Which is why there is a Unicorn parking lot (we were parked in Giraffe). It was a damp squelch back the the parking lot trolley pick up. I got a crushed penny tho, so yay! Adding to my collection.

At home pajamas were put on and telly was watched and I met Ben. And I proceeded to have a very nice sleep.

So yeah, Georgia! Going to start knocking the states off.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

accio margarita!

The Florida Turnpike has some lush rest stops, I tell you what. I just can't tell if I could have slept at one, instead of at the I95 one, which wasn't bad it just didn't have WiFi. I spent 6 hours of driving to get from Key West to the rest stop, as there were none until after Palm Beach/Springs/Whichever Palm. Saw a bit of Miami, but it was late and I wasn't going to stop. Thankfully the driving was very easy, with the only congestion happening in Key West Proper.

When I left you dear readers, I was heading to the Everglades. It was a nice little bit of driving south from Silvia. Not long, not short. Just right. I took the toll road bit of 75 south that is actually 75 east but they call it south because it's one of those south/north interstates, it just happened to go straight east/west across the Everglades. The sun set in a magnificently beautiful array of colors. There was a double rainbow that arched in full across the road. The sky went from teals and turquoises in front of me, to flaming orange and deep reds behind. Colors that reminded me of Morgaine Faye and no photo could do it justice, especially the duality of view of my mirrors reflecting punches of orange in the blue of the upcoming horizon. Magnificent.

There was a brush fire, and the embers glowed in curves against the matte black of night, with the glow illuminating the smoke. It wasn't an imminent threat. Hope it didn't do too much damage.

The I75 rest stop was nice. Had a little Everglades display and plenty of privacy and security.

In the morning, it was just a mere hour to get to the Everglades. The nice thing about getting the majority of your driving done at night, is you get right to your destination in the morning. I may have done so much driving on Monday, but right now I'm about an hour away from Leanne's, but I'm in no hurry because she works the night shift so I'll let her sleep in while I blog my blog(she has today and the next few days off).

Everglades are really the boaters National Park. There are hikes, but to really see it you have to take a boat tour/canoe path. So very much Mom & Dad. I took a Ranger led hike, though the dude leading it was an Americorps intern who was very charming and it was his 4th time doing the Anhinga Amble. There were birdies and plenty of crocodiles. There was even a croc hanging on the side of the path, but he backed off when we walked past, but not after hissing. We also heard some roars of crocs. That was neat. I walked another little loop after that and drove down to the Flamingo Visitors Center, which wasn't fully open. It's sort of the off season for the park. And Monday isn't exactly the most hoppin' of days.

From there I headed out of the park, and down to Key West. It was 3 hours of driving, but it was a lovely drive. Island to island by bridges. Long bridges, short bridges. A nice journey, but damn so long.

I parked in a garage and walked down to the water front. Officially as far south and east as I can go. It's all north & west from here! Well Maine will be a bit of east, but still.

I got some conch fritters and ate them while watching the the sun go down, then I went in search of a margarita. I arrived at Muse with a minute left on happy hour and I slapped down tree fiddy and got my margarita! It was icy and perfect. I drank it on the roof top patio while the sun went down. I had the space to myself. Why didn't more people want to sit up there? It was great. It was nestled in trees, with strung up lights. It was nice to have that little peaceful space. I worked on post cards and read and just sat and looked at the sky.

What can I write about being on the far coast? It was so physically far from anywhere I've lived, but not so far from what I know. The people I know may be far away, but I'll return to them. I just have to drive on. Monday probably contained the most driving I've done this far in a single day, in terms of hours. Not sure of miles. I'm not watching miles, though I do know I'm coming up at 6 weeks on the road. The 12th I'll rest my odometer. And I'll need another oil change before I leave Florida. Then it's Georgia! And South Carolina and North Carolina. I know a lot of people in NC.

But first: second cousin Leanne who lives near Orlando.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Florida: the early days

6/5/2014 8:22pm Big Lagoon State Park, Pensacola Florida

I’m taking Florida slow. It’s a long state, and I want to go to the tip of it. Why must there be a national park at the tip? Why can’t there just be nothing and then I can continue on? Oh woe. Oh well. It’ll take all of tomorrow to get near St. Petersburg, and even then I’ll probably do the rest stop thing before continuing on. Leah put the word out there so hopefully I can have somewhere to crash.

But I’m getting ahead of myself: Alabama! Easy driving. I gained an hour when I crossed the state lines, and that hour has yet to take itself back. I picked up this pamphlet for this chevre place, but when I finally located which city it was in (the map on the pamphlet was ambiguous and my GPS was being difficult) it was soooo far out of my way. Tip: if you are going to put a pamphlet in a welcome center, include a map of your state with a little star showing just where you are generally located.

So I continued south. Through Birmingham. Lovely skies, but very warm. My friend Alicia didn’t get off work till late, so I had some time to cruise around Montgomery. I got some iced tea and sent off some postcards. I wandered around the Riverfront. I melted from the humidity and had to change my shirt because of it. I don’t know how people can live with this humidity all the time! I guess lots of A/C and not going outdoors. Montgomery was weirdly vacant for a city of its size. Not a lot of traffic or congestion, but it seemed built in a way that there should have been more. I found my way to a mall and enjoyed their a/c for a while. At 8 I returned downtown and met Alicia at the Riverfront Baseball Stadium. She used to work there so she had free vouchers for the game and coupons for food! Yay! The Montgomery minor league baseball team is the Biscuits and their mascot is some “biscuit loving beast” that looks like some weirdo ant eater thing. Very odd. The Biscuits didn’t win, but it was fun anyway! Nice to get a bit of Americana in on this America trip. We wandered around a bit and talked, but she had work in the mornings so we said out goodbyes.

I made my way south, and the second rest stop forbade overnight parking so I backtracked to the first and slept there. Got an 8amish start and 3 hours later I was at the Gulf of Mexico! The Alabama Gulf Shores State Park was full, so I continued East into Florida and Big Lagoon had space! So I got a spot there. Nice to have camp set up early in the day, and to have shower facilities. After I was refreshed, I got my swimsuit on and headed to the beach. And there was a National Park beach which had an entrance fee which my annual pas covered. I’m now two bucks from making it pay for itself. And since there was a fee, the beach wasn’t all that populated. I spent 3 hours alternating swimming and reading my Kindle. I applied sunblock at reasonable intervals. Reasonable to prevent sunburn but still with some allowances for tan. I’ve never been tan, so that is something I’d like to try to achieve on this trip. I want to come back to Washington not looking at all like a Washingtonian.

I went to Sonic for the first time, and got a shake and some onion rings, but only after being trapped in some heinous traffic. Such bad traffic here! And wow the hotels are just massive, one after another along the beach totally obliterating any view the people on the other side of the road would have. Why are they so big? Could they ever be possibly filled up?

So the shake was good. I watched the sunset down at the lagoon and a Heron strut by me. Now I shall retreat into my tent and hopefully I haven’t been bitten by too many mosquitos. Check out is 1, so that is nice. Ample time to sleep in, pack up, and plan. Once I leave it’ll be a lot of driving, so what’s the rush?

I wonder how long Florida will take me? I’ll have to see how long it takes me to get down to Key West and Tortugas National Park.

6/8/2014 10am Silvia’s Place, Sarasota, Florida

To answer how long Florida will take me: a while. But I took the scenic route, so spending the entirety of the 6th driving was my own doing. I was so excited about the possibility of sleeping in that I forgot about how hot it gets in a tent. My own private sauna. So 8ishamish I got up and quickly packed up my tent before I got too hot. Then began the drive. I took 98east, which curved along the coast of Florida. Very nice, with plenty of pretty Gulf views, bridges, palm trees, and goliath hotel complexes. And it took hours. Hours and hours. It wasn’t a fast road, and it went through many towns so there were lights. But it was good on fuel economy to not go 70mph down an interstate.

But that fuel economy gets less appealing when you’ve been driving for 5 hours and still have 3+ more to go. My goal was Gainsville, which was on 75 and then to go on to a rest stop. The sun was setting at the first rest stop and it was set when I got to the second, where after I paid for an ice cream bar from an ice cream vending machine in nickels, I went to sleep. But oh I forgot to mention: the first Friday of June is National Doughtnut Day, so I procured a free (with beverage purchase) doughnut at Dunkin’ Doughnuts in celebration. Viva doughnuts!

It was a quick drive to St. Petersburg. A relatively quick drive. Hour and a half, tops. Which is the Santa Cruz to San Francisco time.

I arrived at the Dali Museum at 9:30, but it doesn’t open till 10. I paid to park there, with the full intention of leaving my car there while I walked around the city, regardless of if I was in the museum or not. Suck it! Plus with a dude there watching the cars, it was probably a safe spot to leave my car.

The Dali Museum is neat but I kinda feel that if they don’t have a temporary exhibit going, the admission should be cheaper by about five bucks. But audio tours were included, so I got one of those. So I had never ever seen any of Dali’s HUGE paintings before. Like the later year stuff. Massive detailed well painted things. He can paint, he just didn’t. There was a quote of I think Gala’s that once you’ve seen the Melting Clocks, you never forget it. Which is true. Dali tends to fall out of favor with art students once they get to be sophomores. Some sort of shedding of past interests for favor of more nuanced/informed ones I guess. Either way, his stuff that wasn’t the surrealism was really awesome. I don’t mind his surrealism, I just think some of it gets a bit repetitive.

The museum was made to hold these people’s collection of his work, so it was a nice array from his life time. His early work was nice to see in its clumsiness. But damn the later work! I just wish there was some Philippe Halsman. I really love his photographic collaborations with Dali so much. Halsman is one of my favorite photographers, and they didn’t even have any of his postcards! They had a 16 buck card set. And they had the photobook he did with Dali “Dali’s Mustache” but it was priced at $20 but on the display copy you could see it was suggested at 12.95. Rip off!

So I left the museum and pulled up my gps and entered “brewery” and Green Bench Brewing was a mileish away, so I went there. I got diverted into Morean Art Gallery Place Thingy, where they had a free print exhibit. There were three separate shows: a collab between artists and their printer, student prints, and… something else in between. I really liked the Alex Katz prints but they were priced exactly as much as they knew they were worth. That’s why you buy prints from people starting out! I have a nice little print collection, plus the several print portfolios I’ve been in. Anyway, some of the artist that I really liked were Trenton Doyle Hancock, Malcolm Morely, Bradlee Shanks, Eri Holschen Almazan, Jay Wallace, Yuji Hiratsuka, and M. Robyn Wall. The exhibit mostly made me think of how amazing the printmakers are that I know. Robin Milliken, Heather Birdsong, Alyson Provax, Anthony Roberto, BT Livermore… yeah I know some great people.

Green Bench was hoppin’. I got a pretzel and after a couple samples I went with the coffee pot bayou porter. I was the only one who ordered it. Many people favored the Green Bench IPA.

Same place, same date, 2:53 pm

We went to the beach. Lido Beach. I swum a bit and read in the sun. Got some rays on my upper thighs. I have an ombre tan on my legs right now, due to the varying lengths of the shorts I wear. And my pink skin is starting to be less pink. Hurray! After the beach we went to an Indian restaurant which was having a lunch buffet and I had two plates of various curries and rice and a plate of salad and rice pudding. Silvia asked why I ate so much. Well, I don’t know when I’ll get another big meal? Some days I don’t each much on the road. And now I’m good to go for the rest of the day.

But where was I? Oh yes, Green Bench. I had a my beer and snackums and chatted with the bartender. Lots of beards, which surprised me considering how warm it was. And the bartenders were wearing cute shorts that cut off right above their knees. I like those length of shorts on guys, especially when they have nice gams. I should go to more breweries and oogle more bartenders.

It was a nice walk back. I returned to the Dali Museum and gave the exhibits another eye ball before I headed out to Sarasota. I paid the toll on the bridge in more nickels and dimes. I need to get some cash in the advent of more toll roads.

Didn’t take long at all to get to Silvia. She made me an omelette and heated up some left overs and fried plantains. I’ll never need to eat again once I leave Sarasota! In the evening, we went to Ocean Blues and listened to the music. Silvia sweet talked the dancing instructor dude, who was the only other person my age at the bar, to dance with me. Hee hee hee.

But seriously, I was the youngest by 20 years, and that’s being very generous. There was a singles meet up happening and the guys just didn’t try at all! They were wearing tees tucked into jeans while the ladies had nice tops and dresses and skirts, and their makeup was done well. Just generally good looking gals and men who couldn’t be bothered! Tsk tsk.

I got to sleep in a bed again. That was nice. Woke up before 9! I was expecting to sleep in for way too many hours. So now I guess I shall take my leave. It’s been lovely but I must go further south.