We took advantage of the Presidents Day holiday and headed south to wonderful Tallahassee, Florida to stay with my old friends Larry & Teri for a week of fun & sun.
We left on a Friday the 18th, after work. Big fucking mistake! Northern Virginia is beyond the pale when it comes to traffic. THE WORST!!! It took us 5 hours to get from Annapolis to Fredericksburg – and there were no accidents to explain the parking lot nature of the Alexandria/Dumfries region.
So, the start to our little excursion was not very fun. But once we got beyond Richmond, it was clear sailing down busy I-95. We had hoped to make Lumberton, NC, or maybe even Florence, SC, that first night, but settled on a nice motel run by the friendly Patels (Why do Indians own most of America’s aging motels?) in that garden spot, Rocky Mount, NC.
Our timing was perfect for the trip. Florida had been cold and rainy for weeks and we hit it just when the weather broke. We had sun and temps in the high 70s and low 80s pretty much the whole time.
We pushed south, with a brief (and totally misguided) detour to see the hellhole called Florence, South Carolina. Downtown Florence is like looking at one of those joke postcards “Wish You Weren’t Here!”
We decided to break up the drive around 2, and stretch our legs in Savannah. There were two major festivals underway (book & Irish) and the place was totally rocking out. We took the Old Savannah Trolley tour, which proved to be a terrible blunder. The trolley could barely get around the log-jammed streets and you couldn’t really see much inside the hot, cramped confines of the tin can on wheels. We ended up bailing after the third stop and just walked the sultry streets on our own. Savannah is very cool and people
We finally got off of I-95 and took I-10 in Jacksonville, and arrived in Tallahassee at 10 o’clock on Saturday night. At that point we were in a state of suspended animation after the 15 hour marathon drive. We felt like we were still bouncing along in the car even when we were sitting on Larry & TC’s lovely back porch. After many Newcastle beers and glasses of red wine, we finally fell into dreamland.
On Sunday we arose to Spring in all of its glory. The trees were in bloom and the whole place smelled like honey. Larry & TC have a really nice house in a Stepford Wives community just north of Tallahassee. Larry recently retired from the Forest Service, while Teri is the Deputy Supervisor for all of the National Forests in Florida. She is temporarily running the three forests in Alabama and works during the week in Montgomery, Alabama, staying in a hotel and then coming back home on the weekends.
We spent our first day kayaking down the Wakulla River, starting in the Wakulla Springs. Most of the rivers in the panhandle of Florida are fed by spectacular Category 1 underground springs, meaning the water is unbelievably clear. And Wakulla Springs is the largest and deepest fresh water spring in the world.
Monday was the holiday, but Larry had a master gardener class in the morning, so Inna & I went for a long hike with Teri in the very nice Brinkley-Glenn city park where a network of trails ran through a long-leaf pine forest interspersed with shady swamps and frog-happy wetlands.
After our morning walk we hooked up with Larry and loaded up our bikes for a 20-mile ride along the St. Marks Railroad Trail, starting at the south end and riding north from the Riverside Café.
TC left for Alabama on Tuesday morning. It was hot and sunny, so we decided to head for the water. We took Larry’s three kayaks and went exploring on the Wasissa River, yet another spring-fed river teeming with an amazing assortment of wildlife.
On Wednesday it was time to head into Tallahassee for an urban walk. We drove to city center and parked in a parking garage before heading off on our walk. Tallahassee is the state capitol, but not very large and easily accessible by foot. Tallahassee is a Creek Indian word meaning “old fields”. It was chosen as the state capital in 1824 because it sits equal distance from Pensacola and St. Augustine, the original seats of power. It’s an odd little town. It seems almost brand new and there are very few tall or historic buildings. The architecture is modern and uniformly white – no doubt because the summers are so friggin hot.
After a final meal with Larry, we said our tearful goodbyes and were on the road by 9, heading for Jekyll Island, Georgia. The forecast was for scattered showers all day. We didn’t get wet until we arrived on Jekyll, and even then, it was really nothing more than a mist most of the time. We ate lunch in the historic and very ritzy Jekyll Island Club, all white linen and how do you do.
We had originally planned to stay the night on Jekyll, but the weather was iffy and we wanted to get back to Annapolis so we could have Sunday to regroup and get ready for the impending daily grind. So we left paradise and headed north through lovely Brunswick and back onto I-95, stopping in the early evening in Walterboro, South Carolina where we ate at a steak house and got a room at the Princess Motel.
We got up the next morning and stopped at the Fireworks Supermarket where I picked up some serious ordinance.
All in all, it was an ideal vacation. We found sun and warmth. We got away from Annapolis and all of it’s petty village conflicts. We visited old friends. Saw some amazing sights. Played outside in some unbelievably stoner spots. And it was a pretty cheap date. Gas was the biggest expense and it only took six tanks of gas for the entire 2,100 mile excursion. Gas prices were wild. They went up dramatically after Libya caught fire, and ranged from $2.83 – $3.79 a gallon. But we can’t wait to visit Larry & TC again – maybe this fall.
In the meantime it’s back to work and we are left with but fleeting pictures that turn into fuzzy memories ...