It’s easy to live a laid-back life here at Florilow Oaks RV Park in Bushnell, Florida, thereby making it difficult to tear away from the place for trips elsewhere in the state. On Monday there’s Mexican Train; Tuesday, hike; Wednesday, social meeting, often followed by lunch; Thursday, bike ride/hike; Friday, bridge; Saturday, movie; and Sunday, BBQ. Last month, as I was planning to join a group called the Gulf LOWs (Loners on Wheels) for a few days, followed by a trip to Gainesville, I found myself whining about the distances I would have to drive: at least 100 miles. Then I caught myself and said (yes OF COURSE I talk to myself!), “That’s it. You’re going.”
Highlights of these trips include seeing Tampa Bay and visiting the University of Florida. Given that on campus I had difficulty figuring out (1) how to pay for parking and (2) where the cafeteria cutlery is kept, I came to the conclusion that I may be too old to learn all the prerequisites necessary for a return to school. On campus I learned how to clap like a Gator fan (clap originates from elbows to hands held out in front of your body to imitate an alligator’s jaws). I also learned from my son that the campus, or more specifically the football team, is responsible for the development Gatorade. Some of the coaches realized the players were wilting in the heat because, well, it was hot and humid, and their sweating bodies were not replacing the electrolytes and carbohydrates lost to perspiration. Thus was born the concoction that came to be called Gatorade. BTW, Florida is really big on gators. Any body of water here can possibly contain an alligator. When I’m walking Missy near water, I just assume an alligator is lurking. I’ve now taught the poor dog to be afraid of snakes AND alligators.
On the subject of snakes, I finally saw a Florida black snake. Mention the black snake to anyone in Florida and they automatically say, “Oh they’re GOOD snakes.” That’s because they are not poisonous and help keep the rodent population under control. For some unfathomable reason, I assumed the black snake was about two feet long. Wrong. The one I saw was at least 6 feet long and as a wide as my upper arm. Since Floridians are so fond of these slithering reptiles and do not kill them, I understand the size of the one I saw is typical. Now a story a Floridian told me about how his dog enjoys wresting with black snakes makes sense. The only part that remains a mystery is how the dog wins.
I also took a trip to Disneyworld’s Magic Kingdom in Orlando. Since admission was $115 (!),I took as many rollercoaster rides and saw as many shows with wait times under an hour as possible, thus bringing the cost down to “only” $23 per attraction. I also searched in vain for a Cinderella watch. I remember getting one when I was young and being absolutely enchanted by the glass (OK, plastic) slipper it came in, more so than the watch itself.
When I was in Orlando three years ago I visited Epcot (very disappointing – it seems as if nothing has been updated since it opened in 1982 so it no longer seems futuristic) and the Harry Potter exhibit at Universal, which I loved. One of the wonderful features of Diagon Alley is that children whose parents buy them a wand from Ollivanders (for about $50!), can perform magic tricks at water fountains and the like. Following my reductive logic, if a kid’s wand interacts with five attractions, it brings the cost down to “only” $10 per magic trick.
Also on the subject of kids, the most excitement we’ve had at the park recently was when the goat on the small farm adjacent to the us gave birth to two little baby goats. On the occasions when the owners let the kids out of their pen, word here would spread fast and we’d congregate along the fence separating the properties to ooh and ahh over them. The billy goat who fathered the kids finally has a legitimate reason to try to butt anyone who comes to the fence. Until now, he was just mean. Now he’s protective.
After Orlando I drove down to Vero Beach to see my friend Phyllis, who I know from San Diego. Vero Beach is beautiful and I learned that yes, indeed, it is possible to get a sunburn in March.
Backing up to the “getting out of Dodge” reference, I visited Tombstone, Arizona, on my way from California to Florida. How interesting that this set piece of famous Americana involves violence. As near as I can tell, no one involved in the shootout at the OK Corral was what I consider an admirable person. Doc Holliday and brothers Wyatt, Morgan and Virgil Earp, representing the “good” guys, had less than sterling reputations.
Also, on a tour of the town, we tourists were informed that under the leadership of Chief Cochise, Apache warriors used the Dragoon Mountains as their base for raids. These mountains afforded them a great vantage point for spotting the dust raised by soldiers coming for them. Having gone without capture for close to a dozen years, the town seems to only begrudgingly grant that Cochise may have been a decent strategist. Heck, without intending to offend patriotic sensibilities here, when was the last time an American White Man held off an enemy for 11+ years? Just sayin’.
On a less cynical note, for me the highlight of Tombstone was the museum of The Tombstone Epitaph, a newspaper that has been publishing since 1880. The museum features an old hand press, which pre-dates my time in journalism, and type cases used for “hot” type, which was in use when I first entered the field in the early 1970s. The newspaper continues publication today as a monthly journal covering the West. Moved by an emotion I barely recognized — I believe it’s known as sentimentality — I became a subscriber.
PHOTOS: I cannot locate photos I took at the following locations: The Tombstone Epitaph Museum, Tombstone, Boot Hill, and Disney World Magic Kingdom with the castle in the background. Arghhh.