It started to be a little cold in Easton in late December and early January so we made a few necessary repairs to our trusty steed and departed for Key West, FL on January 7, 2008. We left Easton and drove down the Delmarva Peninsula to cross the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel into Norfolk and continue across Virginia on VA 58 to it's
intersection with I-95 South at Emporia. After lunch at Hardees, Linda took over the captain's chair while I did a crossword puzzle at the mid-ship table and then went with Diesel to the aft cabin for a bit of a nap before retaking the helm in North Carolina for the remainder of the trip to South Carolina's Exit 118B.. We then continued on SC 501 through Conway toward the Carolina Forest where we arrived at the Legends Golf Community at about 6:00 PM. The security guard at the gate directed us to a proper docking location and we were soon met by Rosalie so that we could unload our going ashore outfits and a half ton of Diesel's support paraphernalia. After a transitional martini we celebrated my sixty-fifth birthday with a great dinner.
1/8/08 Rosalie drove Bill to the doctor's for a review of his 12/28 spinal reconstruction and mobility enhancement operation while Linda and I seized the opportunity to raid the refrigerator for a fine ham and eggs breakfast. I then went off with Diesel to capture some pictures of the morning. The Tebbs live next to the thirteenth hole on the Legends Golf Course so one can take much pleasure at observing the antics of those who seek opportunities to improve their skills at this venerable game.
On our return from the keys on January 25, Linda and I celebrated our sixth anniversity by again basking in the Legendary hospitality of the Casa Tebbs.
1/9/08 it was finally warm and sunny enough to head for the beach in the afternoon so we headed down town so that we could get a rare sight of the towns without its teeming horde of southern sun seekers. I must admit that I have never been drawn much to places where the primary activity is lying down in the sun but for those who are, Mrtyle Beach seems to have many advantages. The white sandy beach seems to curve on forever and the hotels and condos seem to be occupying some wonderfully varied and colorful architectural ground. I think that you would search long and hard if you were seeking the seedy side of things and even the "gentlemen's clubs" seem tastefully located and gentlemanly appealing so that dancers could have professional performances without any interruption for buffoonery or improper catcalls.
After leaving the beach we had a look at the partially completed Hard Rock Park construction site because I had wanted to get a closer look at Led Zeppellin "the Ride". Linda and Rosalie checked out a "back stage" presentation while I tiptoed around the Led Zeppellin trying to get a picture that would capture its intricacy.
On January 10,we reluctantly left the Tebbs home at 8:15 AM and drove south on US-17 across the beautiful Arthur J. Ravenel Bridge into Charleston and then on past Beaufort to rejoin I-95 south into Georgia. After a stop to secure dinner supplies we continued on past Savannah to exit 29 where we soon arrived at Jekyll Island. We immediately determined that this was a place that we would want to revisit for a longer stay as soon as possible. The homes along the five mile drive up the island are of classic human scale and we did not encounter any ugly interruptions of tasteless McMansions. I am drawn to ponder again on the problem of entropy and the tendency of most things to turn into manure over time. It's always nice to find places where the third law of thermodynamics is being fought to a draw by some injection of proper communal energy. Jekyll Island tourists can visit the many "cottages" built by yesterday's aristocratic club members and you can feel like a billionaire (for a day, at least), when you take a carriage ride through the historic district. The island also has ten miles of pristine beach waiting to be explored. The saltwater marsh, freshwater rivers, and ocean seem to be great for kayaking.
1/11/08 After a morning in Jeykll Island we departed at noon to return to I-95 and continue south toward Jacksonville. Our grumbling stomachs forced a stop at the Cracker Barrel for the Friday fish platter special paid for with our Cracker Barrel gift card given to us as a much appreciated Christmas present by George and Elaine. Then Linda headed for Wally World and I played ball with Diesel in the parking lot while she improved our larder so that we could continue on to our KOA campsite in Titusville, FL. I again used a walk with Diesel to meet many of our neighboring campers while Linda used the cell phone to make arrangements for us to be picked up at 9:15 next morning and taken to the Kennedy Space Center. I had hoped to take a shower, but found that the only facilities were labeled Women and Women Only. I walked around for a long time trying to see where I might fit into this conceptual model then approached the Women Only door to read some of the fine print that I had not been able to decipher from a distance. It seemed that in order to accommodate the needs of the balance of genders in the campsite population, certain windows of opportunity had been established for allowing women to use the customarily male half of the facilities during certain periods in the mornings and early evenings. This information required very careful interpretation because an error could be catastrophic in its consequences. I was ultimately able to do well but not without a great deal of anxiety as I first entered and then cowered upon the arrival of each new shower user.
1/12/08 We rose from a good night's sleep and I walked Diesel while Linda prepared herself for the day. I laughed about a poster that I found announcing the disappearance of a famously unlucky dog. Then we entrusted ourselves to the care of Sir Cedwick who was to drive us to the space center after a stop at the marina to pick up another couple. I wandered around the marina with the camera as Linda chatted up Sir Cedwick while waiting for the arrival of our fellow travelers. At about 10:00 AM we continued on to the space center where we enjoyed the tour with a view of Atlantis on the launch pad for a February flight, lunch, a 3D IMAX presentation, and then a terrific launch simulation "experience" before summoning Sir Cedwick at 4:00 PM to drive us back to the campground.
The space center visit and a long walk with Diesel in search of a bottle of wine set me to reflecting on what is in many ways a kind of Hall of Fame for America's cold war erectile functionality. The tour bus first takes you to the original launch facilities where multimedia note is given to the huge pulsating Soviet rockets that launched the first Sputnik and the dog hero Laika into earth orbit to be quickly followed by the triumph of Yuri Gagarin. In parallel, the flaccid failures of the American Vanguards and Explorers gave dire thoughts to the once confident Americans as to who would be reseeding the planet in the future. Soon enough, by God, the increasing monetary turgidity of the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo programs restored the national vitality and stamina. Now that we have won the really big game, the International Space Station seems like a boring game of contract bridge with unfocused committees meeting to decide which card gets to be played next and by whom.
1/14/07 After walking Diesel around the perimeter of the key and allowing him to bite the incoming waves in punishment for their unacceptable movement, I accomplished the miraculous re-engineering of our sewage system and then tackled a tire repair job on Linda's bicycle. Exhausted and unnerved by these activities, I took a mid-morning nap before we had lunch and headed for the swimming pool for a less taxing afternoon in the huge, nicely heated pool shared only by a few other couples and then a long luxurious session in a vigorous spa. It now looks like we have chosen a near perfect place to spend time and a truly perfect time to be here. The KOA resort is much less than half occupied and those who are here are about the best company that there could be. I had been more than a little freaked out by the number of semi-permanent and semi-inactive residents in our two previous campgrounds. Not that there is anything wrong with it, but the "God's Waiting Room" collective tend toward somewhat cliché-ridden conversational exchanges and look to new arrivals as a sort of break in the overall tedium of the waiting room. Here there are people who either still have or once had interesting lives that can be carefully pulled out of them during pet introduction sessions.
1/15/08 Our second morning at Fiesta Key began with the traditional morning dog walk along the water with Diesel attempting to bring the ocean into submission with vigorous barking and many bites of the salty waves. The result of this salt water consumption were projectile ejection of liquefied Wegmans, vomiting, and the deposit of urine in unauthorized areas. Fortunately, there were no other observers of this humiliating state and he was soon ready for a prolonged and vigorous game of ball that restored his good health. I have found a good ball area where each of my throws across the boating canal requires him to follow a long trek across a bridge to retrieve and return the ball. After several repetitions he was dry from his morning battles with the waves.
In the afternoon I made another trip to the pool and the whirlpool baths before finding the Internet Cafe where I could beam my important messages out onto the information highway.
On Thursday January 17, we left our nest on Fiesta Key to follow the keys along the US-1 charm bracelet through a midday lunch stop at the Bahai Honda State Park.
We arrived at the KOA Sugarloaf Resort at about 12:30 PM and I discovered that if I had only thought to mount a spring board on the top of the RV, I could practically high dive off of the RV roof and land in the swimming pool. We are only a few steps from the marina and the shower facilities. We made our reservation to take the shuttle to Key West the next day, and then spent a luxurious afternoon at poolside. Whenever an edge began to develop in our perceptions of the day, Linda would walk over to the RV and prepare some vodka and tonics. As the afternoon progressed into evening we moved over to the whirlpool baths and chatted with people from Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Canada who had reluctantly taken leave of their friends and families in the snow-belt for this lazy island exile. Everyone agreed that it is a terrible responsibility, but somebody must perform it for the benefit of the economy.
1/18/08 Nobody else signed up for the Key West Shuttle so we had to reschedule for tomorrow and spent the afternoon at the pool and by taking a walk across the old bridge to an adjacent island. We also decided to extend our stay by two more days until 1/22.
On Sunday, January 19th I took a long walk with Diesel and his much mauled soccer ball. We couldn't find enough other players for a game so we walked along a long abandoned stretch of old US-1 past a home owned by Martina Navratilova into about five miles of an apparently untouched portion of the island. Like everyone else who harbors a dream of owning a little piece of paradise, I began trying to figure out the current ownership of all this beautiful beachfront wilderness in the hope of buying it for a song or two so that I could enjoy a few years of it before the developers arrive. I mused over this folly for a couple of hours at the pool and then chose a cute little outfit to wear for our shuttle ride to Mac's Sea Garden in Key West. After Linda had secured a jaunty sun bonnet from Mac's, we walked to the nearby Half Shell Raw Bar for a half dozen oysters on the half shell and a basket of fried oysters and fries. It was difficult but possible to ignore the pleadings of a friendly pelican because we have hardened ourselves to the even more plaintiff pleadings of Diesel. The harbor is packed with participants and spectators for next week's yacht races.
With a light hearted beer buzz we continued our tour of the Key West highlights by walking along the marina and taking in the exotic sight of hungry pelicans watching skillful fishers as they filleted their catches. There were many opportunities to purchase additional beers or various objects of local artistry. When we reached Duval Street we checked in at the Hog's Breath Saloon to determine whether hog's breath is truly better than no breath at all. The margarita's were good and so were the beers so we stayed to listen to a Doctor John sound-alike and absorbed some ex-patriot chit-chat before moving on to linger awhile in a nearby shopping arena. We were stumbling and falling down a lot so we stopped to check the price for touring Key West on the famous Conch Train. At $27 a pop we decided to save our money for additional beers
We wandered along sunny Duval Street with a fabulous collection of people and things to observe. Linda needed a swimsuit so she made perusals while I held up a pole nearby. As people approached, I watched as a young woman encouraged them to venture upstairs where they might take notice of some totally naked girls. Some young men accepted the lure of the adventure and climbed the stairs to engage in the sport of it. Others came down the stairs filled with the joy of having seen the naked people. I waited and waited for Linda to complete her purchase while I nervously exchanged some chit-chat with the barker. I acknowledged that I was somewhat drawn to go up and have a look at the "bear on the bottom and nude on the top" girls but feared that my wife could at any minute approach and find me ogling the naked girls and lusting in my heart. The barker was maintaining that she would cover for me by diverting my wife's attention for a time when a quite striking blond woman walked quickly up the stairs on what I assumed was a course of action leading her to doff her duds and appear before the oglers in a way that would draw their attention. My assumptions proved to be very much in error as the blond woman very quickly descended the stairs followed immediately by a very sheepish husband who had been discovered in his erronious lechery. Much distressed by this vicarious observation of what I had earlier imagined of myself, I purchased a beer from the barker in the hopes that others woud come down from upstairs and give me a more complete awareness of the incident. Sure enough, a group of three sailors emerged from upstairs and began to chat up the barker with details of what had occured inside when the blond woman had approached the stool from which her husband had been drinking beer and observing some of the aspects of the naked women. Without any fear of his size and muscularity, she knocked him off the stool with a sucker punch and proceeded to call attention to some of his deficiencies as a husband before storming out with him being pulled along in the fierce vacuum of her wake. I quickly made my way to the safety of Linda's side in the clothing store where she was completing her purchase.
I stayed dutifully at her protective flank still shaking from the punishment that had been inflicted upon one of my gender by one of hers. We made a couple observations of discord between marital partners as the easy availability of the demon rum gave emphasis to pre-existing perceptual differences. We stopped in at Margaritaville to waste away a little more before continuing along Duval Street with the intention of selecting a restaurant for dinner while we still had our wits about us enough to weigh the complex factors involved in this decision in a town where there are so many menus and ambiances. We ploughed our way past the culinary pornography of the Bagatelle Restaurant, ogled the pets of a man who had a huge albino boa, a massive rock python, a colorful iquana, many macaws and other exotic parrot things which he was was using as props for people wanting their pictures taken with exotic animals draped in their arms or perching on their heads. With our souls tarnished by the sensuality of it all, we lingered for a few minutes near the Episcopal Church before fearing dehydration and hurrying to Mallory Square to drink more beer and observe the sunset.
After the sunset we crawled our way slowly back the Conch Republic Restaurant within hailing distance of the place where we were later to be picked up by the KOA shuttle. I believe that I followed the lead of the waitress in ordering a concept that I believe was labeled "hogfish" oddly accompanied by mashed potatoes and a mix of seven wonderfully prepared vegetables. I also was able to score several of Linda's shrimp while her attention was momentarily diverted by a huge dividing wall aquarium filled with colorful fish. After dinner, Linda rested momentarily at the shuttle stop until I returned from a reconnoiter with a pleading request for her to impose one more short walk on her blistered feet for further drinking at a truly decadent expression of an old Key West hangout for down-and-outs called Bo's. She ageed that it was worth the hobble and we vowed to spend more time there on a future return to Key West.
We laughed very much on the shuttle trip back to KOA. One of our fellow travelers described an event called Fantasy Fest which takes place in the last week of October. It seems that during this week artists along the main drag adorn the naked bodies of participants with elaborate body paint mimicking the coloration of exotic birds and animals. The canvas of these painted bodies of all ages, shapes, and sizes are observed carefully as they are turned into art forms and then paraded through the town; thus raising the already heated sensual background into a fever pitch from which even a Methodist would have difficulty escaping. Some corollary laughter was also developed over the thought over how this scene might appear to the uninitiated families who might arrive unwarned from the evangelical hinterlands of America or elsewhere.
After watching the Green Bay/Giants game with Ron and Jan we spent the remaining chilly and windy days bicycling around Sugarloaf Key before departing on the morning of 1/22 to begin our slow journey home to be back on the Eastern Shore by 1/29 to teach a class at Chesapeake College. After leaving the keys on US-1, we shopped for provisions and then drove north on FL-997 toward the southern shore of Lake Okeechobee before rounding to the east on I-27 and FL-141. In the evening we found our campsite at the Lake Okeechobee KOA in time for an afternoon nap, a swim in the pool, and a lazy evening in the hot tub with some cold weather escapees from Michigan, Wisconsin, and southern Canada.
After leaving Diesel to hang out with his friends at the Kevertin Pet Resort on Friday, March 21st we drove to Charlotte, NC to hang out with our friends and attend a Gallery Crawl in NODA, Charlotte's North Davidson Arts District.
After a mid-morning departure from Charlotte next day we drove to Easley, SC where we were very graciously hosted by other charter members of the FOB, or FOR, or FOJ Club that has long served as a sort of central gravitation point for our somewhat overlapping experiential universes. After restoring our strength we drove into Greenville for a visit to Falls Park and a sampling of a few of the many excellent taverns before returning to Easley for an evening's celebration of the anniversary of Rodger's arrival on the planet.
On Easter Sunday we rendered homage to our various interpretations of the creative force before filling the remainder of the day with more profane activities leading to an early evening feast of major proportions. Better company than Linda, Peg, Beth, Joe, Natalie, Mallory, Ridgely, Margie and Rodger is rarely to be found at any time of the year but it reached epic proportions on this perfect spring day.
After a Monday morning recap of the weekend's activities we drove across South Carolina to Myrtle Beach for a few days of festing with Bill, Rosalie, and Kim before driving with them to Charleston on Thursday. After parking the car near the Visitor's Center we got tickets for the city trolley and then walked downtown on Meeting Street past the Major James Ladson House to the Daughters of the Confederacy Building whose underpinings serve as the entrance to the market. After much market wandering, we deconfigured to walk separate paths past the Round Congregational Church, St. Phillips with its graves of Constitution signers and John C. Calhoun the former Vice President of the US, the US Customs House, and the Waterfront Park with its views of Fort Sumter and the beautiful Arthur Ravenel Bridge. Next a serendipitous trolley brought us all back together in time for a great lunch at Hyman's Seafood where I single handedly ate a "Signature" flounder that could have supplied the nutritional needs of a family of four to six.
Images of Greece 1989