When my day turned into a country song.

All these things happened last Thursday.  The first part happened to me, the rest happened to my coworkers..

 

Stranded by the side of the road

No luck with repairs

Shut the hood, a long walk awaits

No phone service here

Pull up along side

Told him not to give up hope

It’s an easy tow into town

As I pull out a rope

Life ain’t all palm trees and sunshine

There are bumps along the way

But give a stranger a chance

Be rewarded in faith

We’re on this rock for a while

Or so the story goes

Best to take things as they come

Learn to keep what to take

And what to let go

Ground’s washed out at the river’s bank

A victim of summer’s rain

Not to worry, a little bit of work

And he’ll bring it back again

Drive the tractor up to the edge

Watch a heron fly

Hit the gas instead of the brake

Think that he’s gonna die

Life ain’t all palm trees and sunshine

There are bumps along the way

Hit reverse in a panic

Keep backing up till you feel safe

We’re on this rock for a while

Or so the story goes

Best to take things as they come

Learn to keep what to take

And what to let go

Cleaning up around the bend

Picking up debris

The boy sees large weathered log

Must’ve been a strange looking tree

Imagine his surprise

Reaching out for the branch

Came a whip from a tail

Followed by a violent splash

Life ain’t all palm trees and sunshine

There are bumps along the way

Keep focus on what you’re doing

Don’t become gator bait

We’re on this rock for a while

Or so the story goes

Best to take things as they come

Learn to keep what to take

And what to let go

Oasis

Waves of distortion hung low in the air as heat radiated up from the parched earth. A silhouette floated across as the soft crunching of footfalls broke the dead calm.  The man squinted his eyes beneath his wide brimmed hat in defense his late afternoon sun. His gaze finds the skeleton of a tree that draws him to it.

Crunch-crunch-crunch

Tucked in a bow, he finds a nest, poor and sloppily built. Inside of the nest sat three chicks, freshly molten from their baby fuzz.  Nude and hot, they look to the sky with open beaks.

The man reached into his bag and pulled out a bottle and straw. The man grimaces as he feels the weight of it.  Shaking the bottle, he heard the splash of remnants. Not much, but some. Dipping the straw into the bottle, he proceeded to quench their thirst, one by one.  Each chick was allowed three pulls all the water was gone.  The man looked up to see their mother sitting on a perch, staring down at him.  He noticed an insect caught in her beak.

Backing away, he nodded to the lady before putting away the bottle and straw. The bird flew to the nest as the man moved on.

Cheese in the Cabbage

It’s amazing what you can ignore in your own back yard.  Since my move to Florida, I’ve been to Orlando, Miami, South Beach, St. Augustine, Sebring, Tampa, and Key West.  Along the way I’ve hit Disney, Universal Studios, Bush Gardens, as well as botanical gardens, music concerts, book fairs, and other places of gathering.  And yet, for all this, I almost missed a major landmark and cultural icon.  Cabbage Key.  Heard of it?  No, you’re not sure?  Hmm. Ever hear the song “Cheeseburger in paradise” by Jimmy Buffett?  Yep!   That’s the one.  Cabbage Key and The Cabbage Key Inn are the inspiration for that song and have been featured heavily on many travel and food shows up and down the television channels.

So how did I not see this for so long?  One reason is that you can’t drive to Cabbage Key.  There are no bridges that cross over to the little island and no roads there once you’re on it.  That means travel is limited to boats and water planes.  (Ok. You could technically swim it, but with hammerheads, blacktips, and lemon sharks swimming the intracoastal, I wouldn’t advise it.)  The other reason is that I thought it was much further up the coast.  With a week off, it was a perfect time to correct this mistake.

Taking the King Fisher out of Fisherman’s Village in Punta Gorda.

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Carol and I enjoyed calm waters as we steamed leisurely up Charlotte Harbor.  Passing the Island of Boca Grande, a few dolphins swam up to join us.

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The First Mate explained to us that the dolphins were not swimming alongside the ship, but were actually surfing the wake.  Cheers and clapping encouraged the finned coupe to jump through the air as they surfed just under the surface.  They also enjoyed giving the closets viewers an unexpected shower as the splashed close by the side of the boat.

After stopping at Cayo Costa state park to let off some passengers for the day, we continued south for another twenty minutes before reaching our destination.

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I was surprised by my findings.  Cabbage Key is small!  I was expecting an island three times larger.  At only 100 acres, it holds five houses, the inn, a water tower, a maintenance shop and a quick nature trail.

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Cabbage Key Inn has wonderful views and the restaurant is covered in the most expensive wall paper I’ve ever seen!   Carol counted over four hundred dollars on the pole alone.

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The wall paper may be a dull green, but the drinks are vibrantly colored.  Carol enjoyed the sweetness of the Chambord Margarita while I indulged in the classic Golden Margarita.  It may have only been two in the afternoon, but why not?

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When you go to iconic places, you have to try the food they’re known for:  Lobster in Maine; Pulled pork bar-b-cue in South Carolina; Paczkis in Hamtramck. Likewise I just had to have a Cheeseburger in Paradise.  I was not disappointed.  Thick and juicy, this perfectly sized burger featured lettuce, tomato, onion, topped with gooey melted cheese, all on a toasted bun.  It doesn’t overload the bun but compliments it.

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There is one deterrent to island life though.  With such limited space, there are no fries with any meal.  In fact, nothing is fried at the restaurant.  There is no cost effective way to store the new and used oil as well as shipping it over to the mainland for proper disposal.  On the bright side, every ingredient is guaranteed fresh as it is brought over on a daily basis.

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After our lunch, Carol and I walked off some calories touring the nature trail.  Full and content, we relaxed as we rode the still water home.  Cabbage Key and the inn found a place in our hearts just as we left a little of us to mark our visit.

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Why I didn’t go camping this summer.

Summer is a great time of year for camping, unless you live in Florida.  With a mix of high temperatures and high humidity, storms come on almost a daily basis.  Unfortunately, this year, they not only came, they stuck around.  The rain this year seemed non-stop since June and made any thoughts of camping an exercise in futility.

I was lucky enough to get one half decent hike in, but that too was cut short due to lightning flashing in the sky and no practical safe spot to hang around in.

Hopefully the rainy season will come to an end soon.  The air felt wonderfully drier than it has in weeks.  A night under the stars sounds so good right now.  But until then, a glimpse of what held me back.

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Pinball Wizards

 

Summer is ending quick, but there is still time for an epic adventure.  You can still enter the Pinball Run.

The Pinball Run is a ten day rally that starts in Portland, Maine and ends in Key West, Florida.  Normally a drive like this would take anywhere between two and three days, depending on how you drive.  The wizards behind this run have allowed you a whopping ten days to do the trip.  There is one little quirk to this I haven’t mentioned.  This run is on mopeds.

Yep. Mopeds.  Those two wheeled machines that many seem to own, but few will admit to.  If there was ever a vehicle definition of counter culture, the moped is it.

If that wasn’t enough, the organizers of the Pinball Run have limited the size of the engines to 50ccs.  That means you get to ride roughly 1,800 miles at roughly 30 miles an hour.  Doing the math, you’re doing an average of 180 miles per day for six hours of riding; not counting lunch, breakdowns, construction, gassing up, bath room breaks, elevation, and other goodies.

All this with other riders and most likely an angry horde of traffic behind you the entire way.

Motorcycle riders like to show their toughness by doing runs called “Iron Butt”.  These are rides from 1,000 to 5,000 miles in one to five days respectively.  Now I will admit that those are tough long distance challenges, but none of these have the added stress of traffic looming behind you, waiting to pounce like an angry lion.  In my opinion, the Pinball Run is every bit as challenging.

To make it easier, teams are allowed.  You can have up to three riders taking shifts, or you can have three riders each on their own moped.  If one breaks down and can’t be repaired, that rider can become a shift rider on one of the other bikes.

While I may not be going to this (I don’t even own a moped.) it’s always fun to imagine how I would do this.

First is the bike:  I’d go as new as possible.  I know nothing about these machines and want the most reliable one I can get my hands on.  It needs to have good sized wheels on it to handle all the potholes, bumps, dips, and railroad crossings I’ll encounter while helping to give a smooth ride.

Image from diytrade.com

 

I also want racks on it; front and back.  I’m going to be on the road for ten days.  I’m going to need clothing, toiletries, snacks, water (not too much, mind you), tools, small repair kit, tire repair kit, and other odds and ends.  Weight is an issue with such a weak motored vehicle, but a balance can be made.

Second is safety gear:  Helmets and motorcycle specific clothing are always the smart thing to wear when riding on a motorcycle; They are even more important when on a moped that does not have the power to get out of the way.

Third are maps:  The organizers recommend either a GPS or a GPS app for your smart phone.  They even go so far as to show different ways to keep your smart phone or GPS charged during the run.  This is done because there are check-points along the way.  That’s all fine, but I’d go old school.  My original adventures used maps and they must still be useful since RoadRunner Magazine still prints them on their last page every issue.  Besides the guys over at Pinball dissed analogers.  Someone’s gotta show them what’s up.

Fourth is a computer or tablet of some kind:  If you think I’m going to do this and not blog about it, you’re nuts!  This thing just begs blogging.

Fourth and a half is a camera:  Gotta get pics.  With so much to see, it’d be a shame not to share.

Fifth is some goofy mascot:  A stuffed animal, action figure, pet fish, a trip like this just screams for something out of the ordinary leading the way.

With all this, I’d be good to go.  How about you?  Would you do this run?  If so, what would your set up be?

And for those who can’t get enough, here’s some links.

http://www.pinball-run.com/Welcome

https://www.facebook.com/pinball.run

Oh, and if you’re a woman making this run, tell the organizers that you want a beefcake drawing to even out the cheesecake one.  It’s only fair.