Everyone has been so kind to me, but you knew it was going to backfire eventually, right? I have an interesting bath time experience, steal a bug-gut kiss, sweat like a local, ride a bike without wheels and get my butt in a sermon. Let’s get Tampa and Sarasota!
I forgot in my last post: The half way map update!
Then we got this guy:
We’ll worry about that later…
Tuesday, November 7th (cont.)
I left Jacksonville and headed down I-95 to my next hosts. I had never met Wayne and Linda before, but they were far from strangers. Linda was my Mother’s best friend at Wausa High School. They ended up finishing their academic careers as co-salutatorians. (though the statistical improbability of this feat surely points to some measure of collusion) 🙂
My Mom sent them my info and they reached out to me, offering me a place to stay. Their home was directly on the path between Jacksonville and Tampa/Sarasota, so I accepted graciously.
My hosts and their Harley:
As we texted back and forth, coordinating the details of my arrival, Linda informed me that the “east” garage door was open. In case I didn’t know that I was going to stay with some true Nebraskans, I knew now. (In case you don’t get it: Nebraskans like to refer to everything with cardinal irections. Ex.: “I just had surgery to get my west knee replaced”….OK, that might be a bit of an exaggeration, but you get the point.) It was dark when I arrived, but they had a garage space open and ready for me. We chatted briefly before they took me out to supper.
We went to a place called Aunt Catfish. Though it was a Tuesday night, the place was packed. Always a good sign. I decided to get the shrimp and grits, which was amazing. I enjoyed our conversations over dinner and back at their place that evening. It was easy to get to know them.
They farmed in the Oxford, NE area before relocating down to Florida. A lot of their family is in the vicinity now too. I enjoyed seeing lots of antiques from their farm as well as Linda’s artistic quilts (though I did not photograph any… 😦 ). In some ways, I felt like I was back in my home state.
Another one of my Dad’s Jesus portraits:
Wednesday, November 8th
I had a wonderful night in a cozy bed. Wayne and Linda made me a great breakfast and I showed them my Swedish egg coffee recipe. After breakfast, I withdrew myself to their sunroom to do some catching up. I always hate to withdraw myself from real, live people in order to document my memories, but they seemed to understand my need to get some writing done. I’ve had worse office views.
They also gave me those freeze dried meals on the table. Those are cost prohibitive for me to buy, but they are the pinnacle of tent food.
After lunch we took care of “business,” signing Annie and getting a group photo. Though I was with them for less than 24 hours, they took care of me as generously as possible. It was wonderful to get to know them.
The only negative thing about my stay with them was the fact that Linda did not have any incriminating stories about my Mother to share with me. I guess she was just too good of a kid. 🙂
Well, time to drive across the state. There’s not really a good way to do this. Florida isn’t really the place for scenic drives. I took a highway for a bit, but spent the rest of the day on the freeway.
I stopped on the edge of Orlando, just briefly, at the University of Central Florida. I will go to great lengths if I think something is kind of funny. Nebraskans should get this:
The tolls around Orlando are the worst kind. You stop at the first one and pay $1.25. “Not too bad,” you think. After the sixth one of these toll booths, your faith in humanity has been thoroughly squelched.
My destination was Sarasota. Once again, I had hosts! Arden and Marcia, my Uncle and Aunt in Saskatchewan, were some of the first characters to appear in this story. Remember this wonderful family?
(The Gustafsons: Where the ladies wear stripes and the men don’t wear shoes. We have some strange traditions.)
They had reached out on my behalf to a couple they knew from the time that they lived in Portland, OR: Roger and Wendy. Roger is originally from the Sarasato area and now pastors the Sarasota Community Church. Wendy also works at the church, seemingly doing every other task that a pastor does not do. 🙂
I arrived at their place shortly after dark and was welcomed warmly. We were not strangers for long. I also got to meet their daughter Bekah. I had a relaxing night getting to know my hosts and talking about things to see and do in Tampa and Sarasota. I went to bed at a decent time, wanting to be up early to take on Tampa.
Thursday, November 9th
Roger was up prior to me and made me an Americano before hitting the road. They have an industrial espresso machine from when Wendy used to own a coffee shop in Portland. What a treat!
I got started a little later than I would have preferred, but the traffic was still fairly sparse when I made it to the Sunshine Skyway (the bridge across Tampa Bay).
There was very good photo-op by continuing on a section of the old bridge that was now a fishing pier. Unfortunately, it cost $8 to get out there. A little steep for a photo. I decided that I would pony up the dough on my way back if I didn’t find a better photo in the city.
I found a place to park for free on Harbour Island and walked over to the waterfront area. It is really well done.
They have a whole display about the Indian Wars, when the Seminole people were expelled from the region. Some really sad times in our history. Here is a very Florida-esque quote from a soldier fighting in the war
I also learned that this place was not the original area referred to as “Tanpa” by Native Peoples. That name applied to Port Charlotte, further down the coast. Some Spanish sailors mistakenly (and apparently incredulously) landed at the wrong port. They called it by the wrong name until it stuck. (I cannot corroborate this story online, but I know where the plaque was!)
I probably wandered about 2 or 3 miles on foot, just checking things out.
My next stop was the neighborhood called Ybor City. This was a Cuban community that grew up around a booming cigar industry. At one point, Tampa was the cigar capital of the world.
One of the most interesting anecdotes that I learned at the Ybor visitor centor, was about “lectors.” As workers labored tediously, rolling cigar after cigar, the lector would be sitting on a tall podium reading to the workers. He would read about current events, educational topics, short stories, even novels. Family members of the workers, after joining the men for lunch, would often hang around the factory during the afternoon just to hear how a story would end. I don’t know why I found this so interesting. 🙂
I really like this picture. This might be Tampa:
Jose Marti, the “Apostle of Cuban Freedom,” spent lots of time in Ybor City. He raised lots of funds and championed the cause for Cuba’s independence on these streets. There’s a nice statue of him.
I was sort of at a crossroads. I’d seen lots of Tampa, but did not feel like leaving quite yet. I decided to continue my day with a fun activity: A water bike.
(less trunk space than I am used to)
The price was a bit steep, at $32 for one hour, but I decided to splurge. I got some wonderful views of the city from the water.
Rowing teams who have competed here have painted many of the seawalls.
From the water, I had observed some unique silver spires towering above sunbathing study-ers at the University of Tampa. I made this my last stop in Tampa. (for the Architecture, not the sunbathers…I promise)
On my way back over the skyway, I pulled off for a free photo of the bridge. This was as good as I could do without paying $8. 🙂
One more observation about Tampa: I don’t know if I’ve ever been anywhere else where there are more people sweating. Not profusely, mind you, but nearly exclusively. It was probably about an 80 degree day, nothing too oppressive. Maybe the sweat glands of locals just get used to turning on automatically? Not sure. Moving on.
A full day. Let’s make it fuller! I decided to start exploring place number 48 of 92: Sarasota. I knew that visiting the beach at Siesta Key was obligatory. It is ranked as the number one beach in America. It did not disappoint!
The sand is white and powdery, made mostly of quartz. This allows it to stay cool, even on scorching days. Geologists believe that the sand is what’s left over from Florida’s Appalachian mountains. Seems like a good trade.
The depth increases very gradually as one wades out. Also, the waves are very gentle. It was almost the complete opposite of my jagged, violent Atlantic beach. These factors make Siesta Key an ideal beach to bring kids.
Some people were swimming in wetsuits, but the water felt pretty good to me. I splashed around and floated lazily, gently bobbing in the waves. This adventure isn’t all about bears and snow flurries. There are some good parts too. 🙂
Daylight was waning, so I decided to return to my host’s home. It was fairly cloudy, so I doubted the sunset would be any good.
As I rode away in my swimsuit (no one really glanced twice at this sort of apparel), I could see the brilliant colors dancing in my mirrors. So could you please just pretend there is a beautiful sunset picture posted below? It would make me feel better about my mistake.
Isn’t it perfect?
I had a quick bite to eat with my hosts before they headed off to church. Bekah was going to be leading worship for the first time on Sunday and their team was rehearsing. After they left, it was time for me to clean up.
Disclaimer: The following story has nothing to do with my quest, but it is too good to omit. Life is made up of moments like the following one. 🙂
Attached to my room was my own bathroom, complete with a full size jacuzzi tub. Having a soak looked like the perfect way to wash off my Tampa sweat and Sarasota salt-water.
I was most excited about having a tub where the submersion of my knees or torso are not mutually exclusive actions (seriously though, do short people even fit in standard tubs?), the jets were just a bonus. Another addition was a bottle of bubbling mixture that was on the bathroom counter.
Oh! How festive!
The back of the bottle indicated to “add generously” to the tub. It is with the word “generous” that I found I have a problem. You see, there are some bad sides to being treated so wonderfully by so many people. It leads to all sorts of confusion about traditional semantics. I would learn the hard way that I have developed an inflated sense of generosity.
My bath filled up and I got ready to hop in. Upon plunging my first foot into the bubbly mixture, I realized that the bath was at least 50% filled with bubbles. Furthermore, I neglected to reserve enough displacement space to accommodate a full size Nebraskan. If I were to get in, the bubbles would spill everywhere.
No worries….I’ll just get rid of the bubbles
Yeah….not so much. I absolutely could not figure out how to “unbubble” them. This meant that my only solution was to remove them…
But where do I put them…
There were no exterior windows, so shoveling them outside was not an option.
Hmmm…I’ll just do what you do with anything else that you don’t want: Flush them down the toilet!
I shoveled in a full batch, very proud of my creative solution.
I flushed the toilet and watched the bubbles sink…then raise back up with the water. None of them left. I was left with only one other option, to drain out more water, but this further exacerbated the problem of the water/bubble ratio.
Ultimately I had a fairly relaxing time…or at least as relaxing as possible when drowning in a sea of sweet smelling, exfoliating oppression.
I met the family at the church and got to listen in on their rehearsal. Roger and Wendy gave me a full tour of the building. They really love serving there and have no plans of going elsewhere.
I’ll embed the Sunday Service below. It is a really good one, especially Roger’s remarks about the Texas shooting the previous week. I make an appearance at about 34:45.
Sometimes I wonder if this trip is all worth it. Then I remember that a pastor kind of talked about my butt in a sermon. 🙂
Friday, November 10th
There were still some bubbles in the toilet when I woke up.
We began the day with multiple courses of coffee. Friday is a day off for both Roger and Wendy, meaning they only do about 80% of their normal work. Ahhh….ministry. 🙂
I had told them about Swedish egg coffee and they seemed intrigued. The pressure was on. I was making my concoction for real coffee people!
…it was probably the worst pot of the trip. 😦
…but they were very gracious. 🙂
We went out for an Amish breakfast buffet, which was absolutely wonderful. It took loads of restraint to walk away without every cubic inch of one’s innards crammed.
As we walked out, Wendy nonchalantly handed me a folded bill. “Roger and I want you to have this.” It was $100! I didn’t know what to say. What a generous act. Can you imagine how much bubble mixture I will put in my next bath?
Back at the ranch, Wendy made me a vanilla breve (like a latte, but with half and half). I was still searching for my quintessential Sarasota picture. Roger and Wendy told me about a statue called “Unconditional Surrender” which sparked an idea. They saddled up on their Magna and we rode off.
They helped me get into position for the perfect shot. I give you Sarasota:
The statue is based off the iconic photo of the timeless kiss between a sailor and a nurse after the end of WWII. I think this is one of my favorite pictures so far. The outtakes are pretty good too:
My wonderful photo crew:
Nothing left but the ceremonies.
As Annie fills up, alternate angles must be considered.
Wendy took care of Sarasota:
Roger took Tampa:
I also met their neighbor, Kate, who I believe set the record for shortest time between meeting me and leaving a comment on my blog. Congratulations. 🙂
What wonderful people across the state. There are some definite crazy Jesus people down here.
Wow…I think this is the longest post I’ve written so far. I couldn’t find a good spot to split it. I don’t think there’s anything left to say…or kiss.
Stay bubbly, everybody.
Realtime update: I’m at a McDonald’s in Vicksburg. I used the last traces of daylight to set up my tent on some unutilized land by I-20. I hope it’s still there when I go back. 🙂 Tomorrow I will finish up in Vicksburg, then head towards Little Rock, AR. Then I turn my sights home. I will be saving the Missouri song stops for a later time. I’m ready to be home. This loop is already over two and a half months. What a trip. 🙂