I Dreamed I Saw Saint Augustine

St.AugustinePostcard

It was going to be a great day. I even had a ready-made title for this blog.  I was going to life a song title by the one and only, Bob Dylan. We only had about 120 miles to drive from Brunswick to St. Augustine, FL.  That’s not even enough to break a sweat–that would come later.

The Interstate traffic was moderate and the wind was at our backs.  If we were on a sailboat named Silver Heels, I would put a rope on the wheel and sit back with a mug of iced coffee.  But doing that is next to impossible in a Ford Escape–not to mention the safety and legal issues.

Yes, the day was going to be one of those casual drives followed by a visit to “the oldest city in the U.S”.  This was the land of the Fountain of Youth.  This was the city with an old church and a pirate museum.  This was the city with a trolley tour where you can get on and off at your whim.  This was the city that probably had 5-star ice cream cones.

What could possibly go wrong?

Of course, Murphy’s Law states without qualification that: “If something can go wrong, it will”.  And it did.

Bogart famously (and prophetically) said that: “It doesn’t take much to see that the problems of three little people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world”.  That’s as true as it gets.  Unless, it’s just two people with a backed-up toilet in an RV park just outside of St. Augustine.  Late on a Thursday afternoon.

The unthinkable worst case scenario had risen up from a small molded plastic bowl and sucker-punched us in the lower abdomen.  I will spare you all the details.  I will certainly spare you any photographs.  But, (no pun intended) we tried all the approaches we could think of.  We had the KOA guy come with a snake, a bucket and an extension of the black pipe that is used for draining the grey and black tank.

Matters only slightly improved–and then deteriorated back to square one.  The KOA pamphlet had an ad for Tom, who would come out to fix RV’s.  Mariam made the call.

“I’m retired,” he said.

“Can you un-retire for just this once and help us out?” Mariam pleaded.

“Sorry.”

Three phone calls later, we found a an RV repair company that were willing to make the trip and try to make things straight.  In short, he came, he snaked–he fixed it all.  We were flushed with joy.

But, it was 6:35 pm by the time he drove away.  There would be no sightseeing to what has been described as a “most beautiful city.”

I took a shower and rinsed the sweat and soil from my very aching body.  I went into the office and bought five post cards for $1.00 (+ tax).

Earlier in the day, at the Florida Welcome Center on I-95, I picked up a free litter bag, a state map, and a little pin for my lapel.  The pin is shaped like the state.  Mariam, after glancing at it, thought it was an alligator.

FloridaPin

“No,” I said.  “It’s a little model of the state where we shall spend the next two months.”

There you have it.  I’m left with a post card and a dream.  In my vision, I walked the streets of the old city.  In my dream, I found the Fountain of Youth.

Back at the Welcome Center, I was sending a text to my son.  I saw an elderly couple walk back to their car.  They might be looking for that Fountain too.

“Is that Mariam and me?” I wondered

I answered myself.  “Probably someday, Pat, just find a more muted pattern for your Hawaiian shirt.”

OldFolks

[This little post is dedicated to Ratso Rizzo.  As portrayed by Dustin Hoffman in Midnight Cowboy, his poor broken and sickly body never made to the Welcome Center.]

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A Last Look At The North Country: A Journey For The Right Hemisphere

Colby

This is a good-bye of sorts.  I drove into Saranac Lake this afternoon to pick up a few last-minute goodies, I see that the recent rains have taken so much of the brilliant foliage that, a few days ago, dazzled your eye against the azure sky.

I heard the word “snow” in a recent conversation.  I drive past Lake Colby and I take a picture.  I stop near a lonely cemetery on a hill and take a picture of Whiteface.  A grey-haired gentleman sporting a pony-tail was gazing through his camera that was set up on a tripod.

“A few minutes ago there was a double rainbow,” he said to me as I pulled my iPhone out of my jacket pocket.  “There might be another soon.”

“Wish I had the time to wait,” I said as I snapped my photo and got back into my car.  The Rolling Stones were in my CD player.  The song was: Wild Horses.

“Wild horses couldn’t drag me away…” sang Mick.

I almost felt sorry to be leaving this place.  This contradictory country with its beautiful, bug-less Autumns and it’s breezy quiet afternoons.  And, its thumb-numbing cold in January with typical temperatures of -28 F.  It’s absolute silence when the snow falls.  It’s loneliness when friends have gone home–away from their summer places.

As I write this at 9:40 pm on October 14, we are packing the final items into our R-pod.  The sky is starry–the afternoon showers are gone.  I can see my breath as I stand in the yard, in the dark, in the chill and quiet of our last night in the North Country.  In the morning, our friends from the other end of the loop of our road, Garondah Road, will see us off as we head south–and away from the coming winter.  Darcy and Judy have helped us with so many things this summer.  We didn’t climb the mountains we said we would, but we biked and hiked in new places.  In a few days, they will begin their 13-hour drive back home in Camp Dennison, Ohio.  Yes, they live in one of the fly over states, but they are fine people anyway.

Our first stop is Jersey City RV Park near Liberty State Park.  Mariam will be attending a few meetings as we pass a week in NYC.  Part of the time we will be ensconced in a hotel just a block from Macy’s.  We’ll have dinner with my son, Brian and his girl friend, Kristin.  Then it’s back to the RV park in Jersey to pick up the r-Pod and head for the sunny south.  Our destination? Fort Myers, Florida.  We will be settled there until the end of the year.  Then, having had my fill of sand, sun, golf and shopping malls, we will work our way along the Gulf Coast to points west.

I will be stopping in my college town in Northeast Louisiana–first to show Mariam where I spent my late teens and then to lay flowers at a grave of someone who was and is very important to me.  It’s been over forty years since I last saw my friend–and that’s a long time to wait to put flowers beside his headstone.

Steve, I’ll be by soon.

Where to after that?  Perhaps as far as Palm Springs–maybe even Death Valley.  But I have chosen to use this time to give my right brain a kick-start.  I’m not going on this trip without coming back without improving something in my creative hemisphere.  I’ve decided to leave my banjo behind because that will require practice and I’m ready to accept the fact that I may never have the ability to make music.  But, I will have plenty of sketch pads, charcoal pencils and some watercolors with me.  I have stated my terms to myself.  I will not try to analyze anything–I will observe and draw and write.  And I will read.  I have a library of books that I’ve planned to read for decades.  Can you believe I haven’t read “David Copperfield” yet?  It’s on my shelf.

I also have a strange destination to aim for.  It’s a town in the middle of the Mojave Desert, at the edge of Joshua Tree National Park.  It’s called Zzyzx.

There is a real story waiting for me there.  I hope you will follow my blogs as I make my way to this odd little place.

Yes, it’s a good-bye of sorts–but we’ll be back.  We’ll be back like the muds of Spring and the mosquitoes of June and the sparkling waters of Rainbow Lake.

Up here in the North Country.

Whiteface